Three Moves the Jets Need to Make & A Rant on Mike Freeman

First a quick rebuttal to Mike Freeman of CBS Sports:

Mike Freeman of CBS Sports wrote an article (http://www.cbssports.com/columns/story/11849129) the other day where he pours it on Rex Ryan and the Jets organization as a whole. While I can understand a little bit of where he is coming from, he goes way overboard and makes a few questionable statements.

Yes, I understand Rex Ryan is a rookie head coach and may be doing a little too much talking for his own good. Yet, he didn’t say anything that outlandish or out of line. He is an accomplished defensive coordinator in this league and there is no reason he can’t have confidence in his group of guys or not stand in awe of New England’s past success. The guy never guaranteed anything or disrespected any of the Jets opponents.

Here are a few of Freeman’s excerpts, with my responses:

“Typical Jets: patting themselves on the back even before the season begins. The New York Jets — kings of June wind sprints.”  — Typical? When is the last time the Jets have patted themselves on the back before the season begins? I don’t remember many Junes where the Jets have been made any kind of bold proclamations about the upcoming season.

“Not certain about the rest of you, but I would love to see an organization with the sort of losing and embarrassing history of the Jets, oh, you know, win before the head coach starts beating his chest and running his mouth like he’s Big Pussy from The Sopranos.”  — Yes, the Jets don’t have one of the most illustrious histories in sports. However, the past decade they have been one of the better franchises in the NFL, with playoff appearances in 1998, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2006 along with a .500 or better record in 1999, 2000, and 2008. Big Pussy from the Sopranos? Oh yes, clever reference since the Jets play in New Jersey but why Big Pussy, why not Paulie or Tony?

“Remember these are the Jets. It was this team that made one of the worst acquisitions in recent history with Brett “The Vikings love me/they love me not” Favre.” — Of course it is easy to say acquiring Brett Favre was stupid now, but at the time the Jets were universally praised for acquiring a hall of famer to fill the one glaring hole on their roster. Nobody was thought it was a bad acquisition when the Jets were 8-3 and had just blown out the undefeated Titans in their building. Yes, Favre and the Jets melted down the stretch but if it is another team that Freeman doesn’t hate, that’s on Favre not the organization for taking a chance by bringing him in.

“Ocho Rexo sounds just as silly as pops. He’s the guy with a larynx larger than his biceps who has had a few too many beers taking on the biggest, meanest guy in the bar. Challenging New England the way he has without a win under his belt puts Ocho Rexo in the same category as Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Rex has failed to also show the current division champions, the Miami Dolphins, a modicum of respect”— Did he challenge New England or did he just say he wasn’t going to “kiss their rings?” Should he kiss Bellicheck’s rings? Should the Jets play scared of New England because they won a few Super Bowls a few years ago? The Giants weren’t scared of the undefeated Patriots and they beat them up. Ryan also never disrespected the Dolphins (unless you consider his what his defense did to the wildcat last year as disrespect) he only talked trash to one of their average players, who came at him first.

“This season, after the Jets win five games and Mark Sanchez is a bloodied mess, Ryan’s faux bravado and words will haunt him.”— So now because Ryan is a confident guy the Jets are going to be a 5 win team? It sounds like some wishful thinking by Freeman, but why would a team that won 9 games last year and added Bart Scott, Lito Sheppard, Jim Leonhard, Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, Donald Strickland, and Marques Douglas become 4 games worse? Also, why will Mark Sanchez be a bloodied mess, because he is playing behind one of the top five offensive lines in the league? An offensive line that is returning all 5 starters and their top two backups, all of whom played together in every single game last year. An offensive line that has pro-bowlers Alan Faneca and Nick Mangold on it…yea, I think Sanchez will make it through the year in one piece.

Three Moves the Jets Need to Make

1. Don’t Trade Thomas Jones –  This is more in the “non-move” category but the Jets need to find a way to make Jones happy for this upcoming season. It would be foolish to trade away a workhorse pro-bowl running back when you are going to start an inexperienced quarterback. I know they like Shonn Greene but give the rookie a year to develop behind Jones and Leon Washington before you start giving 15-20 carries a game. I am not saying the Jets have to give him a long term contract, but they could advance him his signing bonus from next year or reach some kind of compromise.

2. Keep Monitoring the Plaxico Burress Situation – If Burress is going to be able to play football this season, the Jets should take a chance and sign him, even if they only get him for 12 games. Burress is a legit number one receiver who would provide a huge security blanket to either Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens. He would also allow Jerricho Cotchery to go back into his more natural #2 role. The Jets offense would be pretty difficult to stop with Burress and Cotchery split out, Keller at tight end and Jones and Leon Washington in the backfield.

3. Sign Another Veteran Tight End – I am still not comfortable with an aged and banged up Bubba Franks or a converted defensive lineman, Kareem Brown as the #2 tight end. The Jets are in major trouble if Dustin Keller gets hurt. There are still veterans on the market who could provide 20 snaps a game as a blocker.

5 Things We Learned From Jets Minicamp

First a few updates:

1. The Jets released tight end Martrez Milner yesterday, which is a good sign for undrafted free agents Jack Simmons and J’Nathan Bullocks both of whom had pretty good OTAs. Kareem Brown has also progressed nicely at tight end and might be able to handle splitting the #2 spot with Bubba Franks.

2. Plaxico Burress’ trial is apparently going to be pushed back until sometime in 2010, which improves the chances of him being able to play this year. Everybody is expecting him to receive a 4 game suspension from the league though, which is something the Jets will have to consider if they are going to sign him. Regardless, it seems they have a genuine interest in bringing him in.

3. Congrats to the Pittsburgh Penguins for winning the Stanley Cup and congrats to the Orlando Magic for choking away game 4…can you make some free throws? The ghosts of Nick Anderson are still haunting this franchise.

5 Things We Learned From Jets Minicamp:

1. It’s going to be a tight one – The battle for starting quarterback that is, which is bad news for Kellen Clemens. The Jets veteran has been consistent and shown a good command of the offense but hasn’t done anything spectacular that is making the Jets regret trading up for Mark Sanchez. On the other hand, Sanchez started out slow but progressed nicely over the past month and is proving to be a quick learner. The guy is getting one of the most complex defenses in the NFL thrown at him everyday in practice as a rookie and handling it pretty well. I’d be shocked if Sanchez isn’t under center week one against Houston.

2. Receivers Battling – Chansi Stuckey has begun to pull away as the #2 receiver behind Jerricho Cotchery. Stuckey doesn’t make many mistakes and catches everything he can get his hands on. He had a pretty good season last year and if he wasn’t phased out of the offense in the middle of the year, probably could have been a 45-50 catch guy. Brad Smith is making his usual acrobatic catches that excites the coaching staff and is probably the #3 receiver now. David Clowney had a case of the drops the past month but has too much talent to fall too far down the depth chart. Wallace Wright impressed the coaching staff and will be on the roster in September because of his special team skills, but he may be working himself a spot on the offense.

3. Defense Rules – The consensus has been that the Jets defense is miles ahead of the offense right now. It makes sense since the Jets are being led by an inexperienced quarterback and were without Thomas Jones and Leon Washington for long periods of time. Beyond that, the Jets defense is just pretty damn good. Kris Jenkins should be even more effective than he was in last year’s scheme, Darrelle Revis remains a lockdown corner, and Bart Scott has added some intensity and swagger to the unit. This is a very deep and talented group, especially when you throw Calvin Pace, Kerry Rhodes, Lito Sheppard, Shaun Ellis, and David Harris into the mix.  

4. Making a Name – Eric Smith, James Ihedigbo, Marques Murrell, and Jamaal Westerman all have impressed the coaching staff and look like locks for backup positions on the Jets defense. Smith recorded 5 interceptions in 3 days this past week is a good #3 safety, Ihedigbo will likely be the #4 safety and has some experience from last year. Murrell could see reps off the bench as a pass rusher and is pushing Vernon Gholston for time. Westerman is an undrafted free agent who the Jets love. He has been working at inside linebacker, after playing defensive end in college.

5. Swagger – The Jets new head coach has tons of it, throwing himself into a verbal battle against both the Patriots and Dolphins. This team couldn’t have a more different personality than they did last year, when Eric “10 hour bus ride” Mangini led without any emotion. Rex Ryan put it best, the Jets aren’t in the AFC East to “kiss Bill Bellicheck’s rings.”

Sanchez Ends OTAs With a Bang

Today was the Jets final OTA, which means tomorrow begins a quiet period for the Jets and the NFL in general until training camp starts up at the end of July. Here’s a run down of what happened on the field today with some analysis, along with a look at what to expect for the next 6 weeks until training camp starts on July 31st:

1. Mark Sanchez responded to a quiet start by closing the Jets OTA on a very high note. He was forced to resort to dump offs in his first 11 on 11 series and was intercepted by Eric Smith, who recorded his fifth take away in two days. However, in his final 11 on 11 series Sanchez gave his coaches, teammates and fans something to feel good about for the next 6 weeks. After hitting Wallace Wright with his first pass, he found David Clowney three straight times and then closed the drive with a 17 yard fade for a touchdown to his new favorite target, Wright. Yes, it is only going for 5/5 with a TD on one 11 on 11 series but still it shows the progress Sanchez has made in the past few weeks. Kellen Clemens played relatively well today also. Rex Ryan stated that he was encouraged by the competition and believes it is about even so far.

2. Back to the wide receivers, Ryan heaped the praise on Wallace Wright today who had a very strong set of OTAs. Wright hasn’t been mentioned much as a factor at the wide receiver position but don’t sleep on this guy. He did pretty well in 2007 when given the chance and could work his way into the rotation this year. Brad Smith made an acrobatic one-handed grab today and Ryan talked about his belief that Smith could be a dangerous slot receiver. He has all the physical talent necessary for the position but needs to show he can be consistent in games, not just practice. Chansi Stuckey continued to play very well is looking the part of a number two receiver. David Clowney has struggled with drops occasionally but still is flashing his speed and big play ability on a daily basis. If the season started today, Cotchery and Stuckey would be the starters with Smith probably receiving the next most reps, followed by Clowney and Wright.

3. Ryan singled out linebacker Marques Murrell for praise today. Murrell has flashed decent pass rush skills in the past and may be able to work his way into the rotation on defense, especially if Vernon Gholston doesn’t step up. Jason Trunsick and Murrell provide the Jets with solid depth behind their group of starters.

4. As I mentioned before, Eric Smith had another strong practice and has made a strong impression on Ryan who raved about him and James Ihedigbo as guys who provide excellent depth behind starters Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard. Smith should see plenty of action on defense in nickel and dime packages and could even push Leonhard for reps if he keeps playing this well.

5. Kris Jenkins has been getting moved around a little bit on the defensive line, seeing some reps at end. He has actually been held out of some drills because of how dominant he is up front, according to Ryan. Howard Green and Sione Pouha have looked good so far as Jenkins primary backups.

6. Apparently the Jets quarterbacks have given up throwing at Darrelle Revis who looks every bit of the lockdown corner he proved to be last year. Dwight Lowery had been quiet but flashed today with a sack and a pass breakup. Lowery was a Mangini guy, so it will be interesting to see where he fits in Ryan’s new defense. He has very good ball skills but lacks speed.

So what to write about for the next six weeks, while the Jets retreat back to their homes for some relaxation before they head to upstate New York for training camp? Fortunately, I never get tired of discussing this team and have plenty of ideas on how to fill up this blog every day. Overall, this may be a slow time for Jets news but it won’t be here. There is plenty to write about: the quarterback battle, the questionable depth at receiver, the ongoing contract issues with Thomas Jones/Leon Washington, potential trades or free agent signings, examining how the Jets can attack their AFC East rivals, breaking down the schedule overall, predicting who will make the roster, looking at camp battles, and providing closer/statistic based breakdowns of the Jets starters, key reserves, and bubble players.

Where to Begin? Recapping an Active Week of Jets Football

I’m back from vacation and finally finished going through the massive amounts of Jets stories/happenings from the past eight days. I was able to follow what was going on in Vegas to an extent but I was beilacked out from any type of updates in Mexico. Fortunately, there was no shortage of information or sources to read through all day today about everything that has been going on in the world of the Jets, here’s my extended reaction and opinions in an attempt to catch up, followed with regular, daily updates for the rest of the year starting with coverage of practice tomorrow:

First a few vacation thoughts:

1. It was my first time in Vegas and it met and exceeded expectations. I was lucky enough to actually win some money, thanks in part to hitting on Leon Washington’s #29 on the roulette tab.

2. American Airlines? Can you give me something to eat? A five hour flight from Dallas (we had a stopover) to Jersey and nothing more than some ginger ale…give me a break. I almost stormed first class in search of a sandwich but figured the risk outweighed the reward.

3. Cabo is one hell of a place…really beautiful. Obviously, I will let you know if I get the swine flu but from my perspective there was absolutely no danger in traveling there.

Back to the trash-talking, swaggalicious Jets:

1. Who isn’t excited about AFC East football this year? There is no need to repeat all of the quotes that have been thrown around by Rex Ryan, Channing Chowder, Kerry Rhodes, Joey Porter…etc but the trash-talk is flowing in full force already in June. I think Ryan’s quote about “not kissing Bellicheck’s rings” is music to Jets fans/players ears. I also don’t think there is anything disrespectful about what Ryan said. You can’t be standing around in awe of New England’s past success and expect to beat them out in the AFC East. The Jets need to be aggressive and hit the Patriots in the mouth to show they aren’t going to back down from them. I don’t care about regular season records, neither of them made the playoffs last year and they split their regular season games, there is no reason the Jets shouldn’t expect to beat the Patriots at home in week 2 this year.

I think it is comedic how concerned the Dolphins are about what analysts are saying about their team in June. They should enjoy flying under the radar and let all the pressure be on the other AFC East teams and then worry about sneaking up on everybody again. What do they care if Vegas sports books are picking them to win 8 games this year? The whole Channing Crowder/Rex Ryan exchange is a little more light-hearted than people are making it out to be. Of course now that I said that, watch the two of them rumble at the 50 yard line before the Jets/Fins Monday Night game.

Crowder also came after Mark Sanchez and Kerry Rhodes. His comments on Sanchez basically claimed he was soft because of his photo spread and that Chad Pennington/Chad Henne were tougher because they wouldn’t do that stuff. All I know is that if Sanchez isn’t throwing 4 INT’s in a playoff game like Pennington or riding the bench like Henne, he can take all the pictures in GQ he wants. Obviously, he needs to produce this year to silent critics of his photo shoot and critics in general.

Crowder went below the belt by saying Rhodes should worry about his off the field problems. Rhodes isn’t a suspect in any criminal investigation and never called out Crowder by name. All Rhodes did was post on twitter his belief that the Jets would have the best defense in the league. I love the confidence of the group and the support he received from other players and Ryan who backed him up, but still you need to show it on the field first before saying you are the best overall in the league.

Regardless, how different is this team from Eric Mangini’s group of robots from last year? I love the new confidence/emotion/swagger but it remains to be seen if it will lead to an improvement from 2008. I would take a group of 11-5 robots over a 7-9 group of trash-talking, emotional players. As of right now though, I agree with Kris Jenkins…hiring Ryan was an even better decision than building their new state of the art facility.

2. Mark Sanchez signed his contract today, which is for 5 years and about 50 million dollars making him the highest paid player in Jets history…pressure, anyone? It is great that the Jets wrapped this up long before training camp, which will allow Sanchez the best possible opportunity to win the starting job and excel in Brian Schottenheimer’s offense.

Turning the focus to on the field, Sanchez has been making steady progress and has flashed better than expected arm strength. The general consensus is that quarterback battle has been about even so far, with Kellen Clemens probably having a slight edge. However, you still have the feeling that inevitably Sanchez is going to keep improving and lock down the starting job by week one.

3. Leon Washington spoke to the media and made it clear that he wants a “fair market value” deal. He showed up for the last week of voluntary workouts as a goodwill gesture but no deal appears imminent. Can we please give this guy his money? He is too valuable to the Jets offense and special teams to be missing any parts of training camp. Thomas Jones still isn’t talking to the media and there are rumors circulating that the Jets may look to trade him this summer. I know they like Shonn Greene, but why trade away a pro-bowl running back when you are going to be starting an inexperienced quarterback? The Jets need to find some way to placate Jones for this season so Green has a year to learn behind him and carry a lighter workload. In 2010, I’d feel much better about Green/Washington backfield than I would in 2009.

4. Chansi Stuckey seems to be creating some space in the battle to start opposite Jerricho Cotchery. Stuckey is the most accomplished guy in the competition, runs fluid routes, and has great hands. He is probably better suited to be in the slot as a #3 guy but if he is the best guy, he deserves to start. Wallace Wright has been flashing a little bit on offense and did show some potential in 2007. Over at tight end, Dustin Keller has had a strong May/June and even drew a compliment from Bart Scott, who said he could be a top 5 receiving tight end in the league. Kareem Brown is also making strides in his transition from defensive end to tight end. Also, if you asked me if I would want Plaxico Burress for 12 games this year…the answer would definitely be yes.

5. On defense, Eric Smith pulled in 3 interceptions the other day and has played well in OTAs. He provides good depth behind Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard. Inside linebacker Jamaal Westerman continues to be a favorite of Ryan, who can’t stop raving about him. Ahmad Carroll has also continued his strong play at cornerback and could see some time on defense this year.

6. The Jets cut punter Eric Wilbur and re-signed Reggie Hodges…thrilling stuff in the punting battle. They also signed LB Craig Kobel and cut LB Nate Harris and DL Brian Schafering.

Tomorrow: Coverage of Thursday’s OTA and more reaction to AFC East trash talking.