General manager Mike Maccagnan and his staff are in the process of formulating their offseason strategy, which means evaluating the 5-11 record and figuring out ways to improve the New York Jets.
Looking back at 2017, I've come up with four numbers (courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information) that help explain areas that need to be addressed:
Number: 19 -- fourth-quarter sacks allowed, the second-most in the NFL.
Explanation: The Jets' fourth-quarter struggles, a storyline throughout the season, can be pinned on a few factors but pass protection is chief among them. The pressure percentage was 28.5 in the first three quarters, but it spiked to 33.5 in the fourth (29th). At times, they put themselves in obvious passing situations because of penalties and negative plays on early downs, putting too much stress on the protection. Most of the time, they just didn't block well enough.
As a result, they allowed more fourth-quarter sacks than every team except the Arizona Cardinals (22). It had a direct impact on Josh McCown's performance, as his QBR was only 21.2 (27th) in the final quarter.
Remedy: Maccagnan must upgrade the personnel on the offensive line. The Jets haven't used a first- or second-round pick on a lineman since 2010 (Vlad Ducasse, second round). They also can fix the problem by making a scheme adjustment; they had only five pass-blockers on 16 of the 19 sacks. In other words, there was no help from a running back or tight end on those plays.
Number: 10 -- touchdown passes allowed by the base defense (four defensive backs), most in the league.
Explanation: First, let's say this: The Jets yielded a total of 30 touchdown passes, tied for second-worst behind only the New York Giants (32), so it's not like the pass defense was good in general. But why did it struggle so much in the base?
The stats suggest it wasn't a lack of pass rush. In fact, the pressure percentage was 31.2 (12th). That means it was a coverage issue, and a big part of it was the inability to cover the tight end. The base defense allowed a league-high five touchdowns to tight ends, two more than the next-closest team.
Remedy: Rookie safety Jamal Adams was responsible for most of the TE coverage, and he suffered his share of hiccups. The Jets believe in him and they expect him to improve with more experience. In terms of personnel, they need better cover corners and faster linebackers. Buster Skrine should be the No. 3 corner, not the No. 2. At least three of the four linebackers in the base must be able to cover. As a coverage linebacker, Darron Lee wasn't as good as advertised. Like Adams, he needs to improve.
Number: 3.27 -- yards per attempt on running plays up the middle, which ranked 30th.
Explanation: The Jets had no power running game, which forced offensive coordinator John Morton to do some strange things. (Remember the three straight passes from the goal line against the Carolina Panthers?) They were much more efficient when running outside the tackles, as they averaged 4.75 yards per carry (18th).
Obviously, the offensive line must take the brunt of the blame, but the running backs were partly responsible, too. They averaged only 1.58 yards after contact (23rd), proving they didn't have a back who could break tackles or make defenders miss.
Remedy: They can start by replacing center Wesley Johnson, who struggled at the point of attack. Running back Saquon Barkley would solve the running back issues, but they'd have to get lucky for him to slip to the sixth pick.
Number: 66 -- the number of play-action passes, 30th in the NFL.
Explanation: This one is hard to figure. The play-action pass could've really helped the Jets, especially in the games where they actually ran the ball effectively, but Morton all but ignored it. Too bad, because it would've created better spacing for a passing game that was smothered at times.
For context, consider this: The Minnesota Vikings led the league with 139 play-action passes, a great strategy that helped put Case Keenum -- a quarterback with limited ability -- in a position to succeed. McCown was solid in play-action situations (85.7 passer rating), yet he was under-utilized.
Remedy: Morton needs to do a lot of self-scouting in the offseason, if he returns.