Reviewing Mike Tannenbaum’s Draft Picks

Most New York Jets fans are appropriately big supporters of General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, his aggressive nature has kept off-seasons entertaining and helped shape the Jets into one of the league’s best teams. With the NFL Draft rapidly approaching, let’s take a look at every selection Tannenbaum has made since taking over as GM in 2006 —

2006

  • Round 1, Pick 4 – D’Brickashaw Ferguson
  • Round 1, Pick 29 – Nick Mangold
  • Round 2, Pick 49 – Kellen Clemens
  • Round 3, Pick 76 – Anthony Schlegel
  • Round 3, Pick 97 – Eric Smith
  • Round 4, Pick 103 – Brad Smith
  • Round 4, Pick 117 – Leon Washington
  • Round 5, Pick 150 – Jason Pociask
  • Round 6, Pick 189 – Drew Coleman
  • Round 7, Pick 220 – Titus Adams

This was one hell of a draft for Tannenbaum to start his career with. It was a bold move to take two offensive lineman in the first round for a first-time GM, especially deciding to pass on quarterback Matt Leinart, who would have been an extremely popular (but in hindsight an extremely stupid) selection. Ferguson and Mangold have developed into the foundation of the Jets offensive line and are both Pro-Bowl caliber players.

Yes, Kellen Clemens never panned out and the highlight of Anthony Schlegel’s career was muffing an onside kick, but he compensated for it by getting Eric Smith, Brad Smith, Leon Washington, and Drew Coleman in later rounds, who all turned into major contributors on playoff teams.

2007

  • Round 1, Pick 14 – Darrelle Revis
  • Round 2, Pick 47 – David Harris
  • Round 6, Pick 177 – Jacob Bender
  • Round 7, Pick 235 – Chansi Stuckey

Another terrific draft for Tannenbaum who traded up to get Darrelle Revis, who is now the consensus best corner in football and David Harris who is a Pro-Bowl caliber inside linebacker. Bender never amounted to anything but Stuckey turned into a quality player who was an important part of the Braylon Edwards trade.

2008

  • Round 1, Pick 6 – Vernon Gholston
  • Round 1, Pick 30 – Dustin Keller
  • Round 4, Pick 113 – Dwight Lowery
  • Round 5, Pick 162 – Erik Ainge
  • Round 6, Pick 171 – Marcus Henry
  • Round 7, Pick 211 – Nate Garner

Without question Tannenbaum’s worst draft and probably worst overall few days as the Jets GM. Gholston was a complete bust, Ainge had serious drug problems and was suspended multiple times, Henry and Garner never played a regular season snap for the team. Dustin Keller has obviously been an important part of the offense and Lowery has been a serviceable role player but the Gholston pick hurts.

2009

  • Round 1, Pick 5 – Mark Sanchez
  • Round 3, Pick 65 – Shonn Greene
  • Round 6, Pick 193 – Matt Slauson

Two more trade ups that have paid early dividends for the Jets. Say what you want about Mark Sanchez, he certainly has looked the part of the franchise quarterback the Jets drafted him to be by winning four road playoff games in his first two years. Greene was a disappointment in year two but his terrific playoff stretch in his rookie year helped carry the Jets to the AFC Championship Game. Matt Slauson is now the starting left guard and was steady in that role last year.

2010

  • Round 1, Pick 29 – Kyle Wilson
  • Round 2, Pick 61 – Vladimir Ducasse
  • Round 4, Pick 112 – Joe McKnight
  • Round 5, Pick 139 – John Conner

The jury is still very much out on this draft class but the early returns weren’t very good. Wilson struggled heavily his rookie year and barely contributed. Ducasse was beat out by Matt Slauson for the left guard spot and will now compete to be the starting right tackle. McKnight showed up to camp out of shape and didn’t give any meaningful reps all season. Conner showed potential and will be the starting fullback this season.

Assessing Jets Needs Heading Into Draft

A quick run down as we are now less than a month away —

1. Defensive Line – If the season started today, the Jets would be starting Mike DeVito, Sione Pouha, and Marcus Dixon up front with Ropati Pitoitua and Matt Kroul as the top backups…enough said. They need another player or two here and will likely spend their first round pick on the defensive line unless an outside linebacker jumps off the board. The Jets should also work to bring back Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce to improve their depth and to mentor the rookies brought in.

2. Outside Linebacker – The Jets need to improve their pass rush and in the 3-4 that means having outside linebackers who can get after the quarterback. Bryan Thomas is a solid, consistent all-around player but the Jets need more speed and athleticism off the edge to compliment Calvin Pace.

3. Secondary – The Jets could still use a play-making safety to pair with Jim Leonhard. Kerry Rhodes was a bust in Rex Ryan’s first year and the Eric Smith/Brodney Pool platoon from last year could stand to be improved. If Antonio Cromartie leaves via free agency, the Jets may also need to look at the corner position due to Kyle Wilson’s struggles last year.

4. Wide Receiver – This is under the assumption that either Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes isn’t on the team next year. The offense could use a player with some upside to develop behind Jerricho Cotchery.

5. Backup quarterback – They need a long term answer to the question of who will be Mark Sanchez’s backup, especially since he has had more than one injury issue in his brief NFL career.

6. Offensive Line Depth – With either Wayne Hunter or Vladimir Ducasse moving into the starting line-up to replace Damien Woody and Robert Turner’s status uncertain for next year, the Jets could use another lineman who is versatile between the tackle and guard spots to provide depth.

Is Dustin Keller A Top Ten Tight End In The NFL?

ESPN continued their positional power rankings today, by ranking the top ten tight ends in the league. Dustin Keller of the New York Jets ended up coming in at number 12, only a few votes away from cracking the top ten, which looked like this —

  1. Jason Witten
  2. Antonio Gates
  3. Dallas Clark
  4. Vernon Davis
  5. Chris Cooley
  6. Tony Gonzalez
  7. Kellen Winslow Jr.
  8. Mercedes Lewis
  9. Brandon Pettigrew
  10. Jermichael Finley

What are your thoughts, besides why the hell isn’t Antonio Gates number one? Personally, I would have a hard time arguing for Keller to crack this list and think number 12 is an appropriate spot for him.

Keller is yet to have a breakout year in his three NFL seasons. Last year was his best, as he finished with 55 receptions, 687 yards, 5 touchdowns. There was a brief period over a three game span early in the year when Keller looked ready to jump to an elite tight end, pulling in 5 touchdowns and 241 yards between week two and week four. However, after Santonio Holmes returned from suspension Keller quieted down and didn’t score a touchdown or record a 100 yard game the rest of the season.

Despite flashes of brilliance and the elite athleticism that made him a first round pick, he hasn’t been consistent enough to merit top ten status. He has also been somewhat held back by the Jets breaking in a rookie quarterback and operating a run heavy offense. It will be interesting to see if they open things up more and one of their receivers doesn’t return in free agency, if Keller can make the leap to a consensus top ten player at his position in the league.

Rex In Effect – A Brief Guide to the Buddha Wisdom Of The Largest “Personality” In Football

TOJ would like to introduce another writer to our staff, Justin Fritze, who will occasionally be providing us with some feature material and a unique look at our New York Jets. Justin is an arts and culture writer who graduated from Baruch College, here is his debut piece for TOJ —

“No, we don’t fear anything”

Rex Ryan

Head coaches have nightmares about it. Offensive lineman spend hours trying to figure out how to block it. Offensive coordinators respect it. It is a Rex Ryan defense, and it would like to meet your quarterback.

Rex Ryan takes pride in his defense. If you don’t believe that, take a look at the cover of Sports Illustrated after the Jets beat the Patriots in the playoffs. A quarterback with three Superbowl rings is not supposed to look like that. However, when Calvin Pace is attempting to rip your shoulder completely out of the socket, walking off the field under your own power starts to take precedence over passer rating.

Rex Ryan, unlike his father, was not a sergeant in the army, but he spent enough time with the ’85 Bears to understand what it takes to lead men. Buddy was part general, part inspirational speaker. In a sense, magical. How else could you explain Mike Singletary playing like he was 10 feet tall? How else could you explain 7 pass rushers, that in certain situations, eerily resembled the hounds of hell?

To all this chaos, this sheer destructive force, there was a formula of efficiency. Work them hard, work them until they do not miss a single step, until you can call their audibles, until the defense OUTSCORES the opposing offense.

There was a certain point that Buddy would let off, like the scene in Full Metal Jacket where Gomer Pyle transformed from slow and dumb to a complete killing machine. Except there was no insane bathroom scene involving rifles and major malfunctions.

“Rookies get you beat, I don’t play with rookies”

Buddy Ryan

When Dave Duerson was drafted to the Bears in the 3rd round of the ’83 draft, Buddy Ryan was forced to cut one of his players, and gave Duerson fair warning that he was not happy about it. “I had to cut a hell of a kid to keep your ass on this team, I didn’t want to, and I hope you prove me wrong, but I’ll tell you this, if you don’t, I’ll be one sad son of a bitch”. It can be assumed then, that Buddy Ryan had little respect for college players, even if they did play at Notre Dame.

When you look at it, the NFL is a completely different game than college football. The purpose of most college football programs, in simple terms, is to develop a system that best hides the glaring weaknesses of its formations, and simultaneously makes the coach look like a genius so he can get a winning record and thus move on to a bigger and better job. Despite a term like “pro style offense” , no team in the NCAA is even close to a professional caliber offense/defense. Because of this, rookies, especially defensive rookies, can cost you the game. (See Kyle Wilson v. The Ravens).

“When we gave up 31 to Miami, we knew Buddy couldn’t walk tall, and we wanted Buddy to walk 6’8

 – Dan Hampton

It’s no secret the Ryan family likes to talk about their team. With a fanbase as prideful and cynical as the Jets, praise is boasting and failure is expected. Things like playoff victories over the Patriots cause grown men to embrace and weep tears of joy all over the five boroughs. We do, of course, live in the age of the headline, the tweet, the misquote, and so when Buddy Ryan told his players, on the eve of the 1985 Super Bowl, “you’ll always be my heroes”, it is not much different than Rex Ryan saying “I believe we have the best defense in football”

It’s the same because they know that their players have heart, that they have pride, that they believe there is a duty to go out an play like someone is disrespecting their coach. That is why the Ryan family is great for football, because they understand the importance of every game, the importance of every play.

“I’m confident. There is no question about it. We’re going into the game expecting to win. I’d be shocked if we don’t. Absolutely would be.”

Rex Ryan

If Rex Ryan had the social demeanor of Bill Belichick people would assume that his method is that of a cryptic genius, but then he wouldn’t have guys like Kenny Phillips or Antrel Rolle slobbering all over him like 16 year old girls at a Justin Bieber concert. That is the inherent duality of the New York coach persona. There is the guy on the practice field, in the locker room, and then there’s the guy who has to appease the media in the press conference.

Despite the overblown quotes, the absurd amount of attention paid to offhand remarks, games are not lost and won amongst members of the media. Rex Ryan knows football and the press, he watched his dad become beloved and a villain. With that sort of run through, he plays it until fact and fiction are blurred into some strange inter-zone. What you read in the paper may sound real, but seeing and hearing are two different senses.

Case in point, when Darrelle Revis was questionable to return after a strained hamstring, the transcript read “no, I don’t think were going to play him at all”. The video of course shows a beaming Rex trying to choke back a smile.

Sometimes I thank god Rex Ryan is a football coach and didn’t end up as something like…um…..well let’s say a right wing political speechwriter. Imagine it…war hawks being unable to suppress their massive excitement….political parties forming around him…he would make Oliver North look like a punk. Yes, Rex Ryan is a 21st century renaissance man.

Good or Great, Rex Is Perfect For The Jets

This week’s “Hot Button” issue at ESPN.com is the question of whether Rex Ryan is overrated as a head coach. The debate they post is focused on whether he can claim to be a “great” head coach or not.

It is hard to say whether Rex Ryan is overrated, since there are such inconsistent feelings about him around the league and “great” is too subjective in this case to say whether he is or not.

I do know this, Rex is 20-12 in his two regular seasons as the New York Jets head coach and has won four playoff games, which statistically makes him the most successful coach in franchise history. The brash talk has been backed up by wins on the field, wins that have come while breaking in a young quarterback, which make them that much more impressive.

Personally, I love Rex’s bravado. It has provided a much needed shot in the arm to this organization. The Jets have become a national team and there isn’t a coach in the league that more players want to play more than Ryan. This was a team that was buried in irrelevancy only a few years ago and had no identity or direction.

It shame that the same bravado from Rex that many of us love, limit some of the credit he receives from others. People get so caught up in his sound bites, they ignore his production on the field. Rex has always been true to his personality and I applaud him for not changing it to fit some pre-conceived notion of how a NFL head coach should act.

How could you ignore the game plans he came up with to beat the Colts and Patriots in the playoffs last year? Do you remember the superlatives being thrown around about the “unstoppable” Patriots offense, before Rex and the Jets defense embarrassed Tom Brady and company in their own building?

Say he is overrated, say he isn’t “great”, say he talks too much, but the bottom line is Rex Ryan provided more positive memories for Jets fans in the past two years than any other coach did in his entire tenure, outside of Weeb Ewbank. Heading into the 2011 season (if it ever comes), the Jets are one of the top organizations in the league and their head coach is one of the primary reasons for it.

12 Pack Of Jets Off-Season Thoughts – Edition #9

The 12 pack is back on Friday where it belongs, after a special Thursday edition last week. As always, a friendly reminder to follow Turn On The Jets on Facebook and Twitter. Today, I will be summarizing where I think the Jets stand at each position and what the appropriate moves would be at those positions this off-season. Check back a little later in the day for a mock draft round-up as well.

1. Quarterback – Mark Sanchez took major strides in the right direction in the second year of his career. Despite his inaccuracy and inconsistency, he has the “it” quality all great quarterbacks need to succeed. He plays better when the spot is bigger and has quickly developed into a leader on the team. The Jets plan to bring Mark Brunell back as his primary backup, which is a foolish and shortsighted decision that could kill their 2011 season (if it ever occurs). They should investigate a better, younger veteran option like Bruce Gradkowski, Tyler Thigpen, or Billy Volek.

 2. Running Back – Despite a somewhat disappointing 2010 season, I remain confident that if given the proper amount of carries on a weekly basis, Shonn Greene can be a capable lead back. LaDainian Tomlinson should move into being the primary third down back and occasionally spell Greene. Joe McKnight also needs a shot on offense this year and should be given a few series as the third down back, split out wide occasionally, and have a package of plays to get him involved. John Conner will be the starting fullback, which means Tony Richardson will likely announce his retirement sometime relatively soon.

3. Wide Receiver – The Jets should prioritize getting Santonio Holmes back before Braylon Edwards, which they seem to have. Getting Edwards back would be a nice luxury but it shouldn’t come at the cost of Antonio Cromartie returning to the team. It has now been revealed that Jerricho Cotchery played through last season with a herniated disc in his back, explaining some of his struggles. He can handle the starting role if needed and I think will bounce back with a big year in 2011. It sounds like the Jets are interested in Brad Smith returning, but if the price gets too high they can afford to let him leave. My guess is that it is about 50/50 on seeing him back next year.

4. Tight End – One of the main reasons I think the Jets can handle Braylon Edwards departing is Dustin Keller. He can assume a bigger role in the passing game and provide the size on the outside that Edwards did last year. Matthew Mulligan is poised to become the primary blocking tight end with Ben Hartsock not returning, and should see plenty of playing time. Jeff Cumberland remains an intriguing prospect, who could factor into the Jets plans, especially if Edwards doesn’t return.

5. Offensive Line – Thank god we have Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and Brandon Moore. I believe Matt Slauson will continue to develop into a quality starter at guard. The battle for right tackle will be one of the biggest in camp, between Wayne Hunter and Vladimir Ducasse. Hopefully, Ducasse can pull it out or it means the Jets wasted a second round pick on him last year.

6. Defensive Line – The Jets need to add two or three players to their defensive line rotation, while getting younger and faster. Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito will return as starters and I’d like to see the Jets get Shaun Ellis back on a short term deal so he can finish his career where he started it, and can mentor whomever the Jets draft to replace him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kris Jenkins return at a cheaper price. Marcus Dixon and Ropati Pitoitua will both be given chances to become part of the rotation and both have flashed potential.

7. Linebacker – The Jets need to improve their depth and find a long term replacement for Bryan Thomas, who can rush the passer. I don’t expect Jason Taylor to return to the team. Calvin Pace needs to put together a full 16 game season and reach his double digit sack potential. It would be nice to see more impact plays from both David Harris and Bart Scott, but especially Scott.

8. Secondary – I don’t know if there is a Jets writer out there who is more pro bringing back Antonio Cromartie than me. I am not the number one person in his fan club but in terms of how this team is constructed, he is needed back before Braylon Edwards is. Kyle Wilson gave no indication that he is ready to start and Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery are better suited to be role players. Personally, I don’t think the Jets can swing Nnamdi Asomugha in the free agent market and why go get somebody else besides him when Cromartie is already comfortable in the system? They also need to decide what they are doing at safety opposite Jim Leonhard. The team will likely pick between Brodney Pool and Eric Smith to return, and I’d go with Pool because of his upside. I also wouldn’t object to taking a long look at UCLA’s Rahim Moore with the 30th overall pick.

9. Special Teams – The new kick return rules could arguably limit Brad Smith’s value as a returner and might make somebody like Cromartie or Joe McKnight a better fit. Rex Ryan has said Jim Leonhard won’t return punts anymore and that the job will be split between McKnight and Jerricho Cotchery, which I agree with. Leonhard needs to stay healthy for defense. I expect Nick Folk to remain the Jets kicker in 2011 and for Steve Weatherford to eventually return.

10. Coaching – My guess is that this will be the last year for Brian Schottenheimer before Bill Callahan takes over as the offensive coordinator and Mike Pettine’s last year before he gets a head coaching job, leaving the defensive coordinator position to Dennis Thurman.

11. Front Office – There is no reason not to be confident in Mike Tannenbaum’s ability to navigate through this difficult off-season. However, he needs to get the most out of his six draft picks this year, after the Jets have only walked away with seven players in the past two years, many with question marks still around them.

12. Weekend Video Clips – Sanchise Edition

How To Use LaDainian Tomlinson In 2011

One of the more interesting quotes from Rex Ryan out of the league meetings, was the following on their running back situation —

Rex on Joe McKnight “”I think he’s earned more opportunities, he could play ahead of Shonn and LT in some things. He’s earned that. Clearly, we have a 1-2 punch with Greene as our bell cow and LT. But I think this kid Joe McKnight has earned some reps.”

The first question might be, is how the hell did McKnight earn some reps? I assume he is talking about his strong performance in the season finale against Buffalo and perhaps he did some good work in practice. McKnight did also flash a little bit on special teams and nearly blocked a couple of punts.

Regardless of his overall lackluster rookie year, I do agree with Ryan, the Jets need to give McKnight a shot to contribute on offense. They spent a fourth round pick on him and there is no question that he has plenty of talent, speed, and versatility. Ideally, you want him to develop into the team’s long term third down back.

Ryan calling Shonn Greene the “bell cow” is also encouraging and corroborates what have heard about Greene taking over as the lead back in 2011. It is time to see if Greene has the make-up to be a 1200-1300 yard back and the only way to find out is to give him around 20 carries each week.

If everybody develops the way the organization is hoping for, the Jets will be set at fullback (John Conner), halfback (Greene), and third down back (McKnight) for a long time. However, where does that leave LaDainian Tomlinson in what will likely be his final year in the NFL?

We all saw how impressive he was the first half of the 2010 season but also saw how he gradually wore down. Tomlinson did rise up in the playoffs with a big game against the Colts and a solid effort against New England but then seemed to burn out again in the AFC Championship Game.

He will only be a year older in 2011 and with more reps needed for both Greene and McKnight, it will be on Brian Schottenheimer to figure out how to get the most out of him.

Outside of the leadership he provides, Tomlinson still has value to the Jets offense. He should be the primary third down back, with McKnight being gradually groomed into the role. Tomlinson can also contribute in short yardage, and can spell Greene for a series or two each half.

If Tomlinson’s touches are limited to around 10 a game, the Jets should be able to get a productive season from him, with LT occasionally providing big plays and giving them a consistent weapon on third down. He is a good check down option for Mark Sanchez and with Tony Richardson and Damien Woody likely not returning in 2011, he will be a necessary veteran voice in the huddle.

I will post it any chance I get —