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