It's summer break for the New York Jets, but the mailbag continues (for this week, anyway):
@RichCimini: If the Jets had an elite quarterback -- heck, a top-10 quarterback -- they would be a Super Bowl contender. A great quarterback raises the level of those around him, and the Jets have enough pieces to be a serious contender ... if only they didn't have a giant question at quarterback. But I understand the question; you're looking for a non-quarterback answer.
Assuming there's improvement from the special teams, the Jets don't have any glaring weaknesses, but I'd say the biggest concern is the offensive line. This is an older group on the decline. Three of the five starters on opening day will be at least 30 years old, and one of them -- Ryan Clady -- is coming off major knee surgery. If Clady is healthy, he'll be an upgrade over D'Brickashaw Ferguson, but I don't know if it'll be enough to offset the inevitable slippage at other positions. Nick Mangold, 32, is a warrior, but Father Time is undefeated. There's a reason why Mangold was rested through much of the offseason program. If Mangold gets hurt, the entire unit sinks.
Pass protection won't be an issue if Ryan Fitzpatrick is the quarterback -- he saves sacks with a quick release -- but the run blocking could be an issue. Matt Forte won't break as many tackles as Chris Ivory, so you could argue the run blocking will need to be better than a year ago. I have serious questions about that.
The Jets also need a No. 3 option in the passing game to take some pressure of Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. Do they have that guy? Forte is a proven receiver, but you don't want to play him 50 snaps a game. Maybe it can be Bilal Powell or Quincy Enunwa. Is there a tight end in the house? We'll see.
There are some questions on defense, namely the young linebackers, but this still has the potential to be a very good unit. A word of caution, though: The Jets faced a lousy bunch of quarterbacks last season, allowing them to dominate in some games. The level of competition will be considerably higher this year. In addition to Tom Brady, they will face Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco and Andrew Luck. If the Jets have deficiencies, they will be exposed by this group of quarterbacks.
In the NFL, it usually comes down to quarterback play. You need a good one, and you need to prevent others from being good.