New York Jets: Now Is Ducasse’s Time To Shine

Some of the more encouraging reads this off-season related to the New York Jets have been about the work second year lineman Vladimir Ducasse has been putting in to improve.

The Jets took a risk in last year’s draft by selecting Ducasse in the second round. Despite having good size and potential, he was from a small school (UMass) and the Jets planned to move him from his college position of left tackle to left guard. He struggled heavily picking up the playbook in the summer and was easily beaten out by Matt Slauson for the starting job. Ducasse also fell behind Robert Turner and Wayne Hunter as the top backups on the offensive line and never saw meaningful reps last season.

Now for the second straight year, the Jets have released a veteran offensive lineman in hope that Ducasse can fill the void. Last year it was Slauson who beat him out to take over for Alan Faneca, this year the Jets will hope that after moving Ducasse out to right tackle he can take over for Damien Woody. Veteran Wayne Hunter will likely be re-signed to compete with Ducasse and as insurance, but you know the coaching staff will be pulling for the second round pick to seize the position.

Despite the lockout, it sounds like Ducasse is motivated to live up to his expectations and has put together a grueling workout regimen these past few months. Ultimately, he will have to master the Jets playbook and show he can hold his own consistently in a game situation. The transition back to tackle should help, considering how much time he spent there in college.

If Ducasse can’t beat out Hunter this summer to be the starting tackle, it likely indicates the Jets made a mistake by selecting him so high and may have to continue on their search for a long term replacement at right tackle.

Plenty Of Work To Be Done On Rex’s Pride And Joy

The number of question marks surrounding the New York Jets defense heading into the Draft is at a somewhat worrisome number. Rex Ryan is a great defensive mind, who has the ability to get more out of less, yet the Jets have holes to fill at all three levels of their defense if they want to remain among the league’s elite units.

Defensive Line – Even if the Jets decide to re-sign Shaun Ellis (which they should) and Trevor Pryce doesn’t retire. They still need both a defensive end and a defensive tackle to improve their depth and youth at the position. Phil Taylor out of Baylor has been a very popular pick for the Jets in mock drafts and his selection would likely allow Sione Pouha to get some work at end. However, spending a first round pick on Taylor or somebody like him shouldn’t stop the Jets from potentially adding another lineman later in the Draft or via free agency (if it ever starts).

Linebacker – The long term replacement for Bryan Thomas needs to be found as the Jets look to improve their pass rush. If the right defensive lineman isn’t available at number 30, Akeem Ayers and Justin Houston have been linked to the Jets. Both players have question marks surrounding them, yet they would have a year or two to function as only pass rush specialists behind Thomas as they learn to become full-time players. The Jets could also use depth at inside linebacker behind David Harris and Bart Scott. Josh Mauga and Jamaal Westerman don’t seem to be any more than special teams players at this point.

Secondary – It is time to accept the fact that the Jets will always need corners and safeties as long as Rex Ryan is their head coach. Everybody is worried about the Jets front seven, while forgetting three of their top four safeties are free agents, along with two of their top three corners. They need to decide what they are doing about bringing Antonio Cromartie, Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, James Ihedigbo, and Drew Coleman back, along with supplementing the position through the Draft and likely a free agency move or two. Personally, I think Pool will be brought back to start opposite Jim Leonhard and they will add a safety later in the draft to groom behind him. At corner, the Jets better pray Kyle Wilson is ready to take his game up about five notches if they let Antonio Cromartie leave.

One Day At A Time: Why Football Is A Drug And Why Love Is Not The Answer

If you are reading this, you probably like football. That or you are a fan of actual aircraft ignition sequences. I am guessing those people are few and far between. I too like football, but it is not because I am what most call a football “fan”, I am a football freak. I fall asleep to SEC Network replays of Auburn vs. Georgia or Alabama vs. LSU. Why the SEC you ask? Because they are the only conference that has actual games worth watching over and over and over until you can literally recite the entire game blindfolded play for play…And they are the only one that lets you watch for free.

Why don’t I watch NFL Replay you ask? Because it costs money, and the NFL ownership group as a whole may be some of the most greedy, white glove jerks I have ever seen in my life. Next to Senators of course. Oh sure, they’ll come to training camp and dance around and have real cute conversations with various coaches and first round draft picks, but have you ever seen an owner flying coach at an airport? Or refinancing their house because of the impending lockout? Let’s not get sidetracked here, on to the beauty of the game:

I like finesse in sports and I like size, which are essentially the two ways football can be broken down. Peyton Manning and Julius Peppers: that’s a little size and finesse, Kris Jenkins has the size…Darrelle Revis has the finesse. So what is so intriguing about football? 22 people on the field, each relying on each other to make either a defensive stand or move the ball down the field. Why am I actually breaking this down? This is not football 101. Go to Wikipedia for that…

Football can suck you in, you start to analyze the basics…quarterback…running back…receivers….but then, as you look closer, it all opens up:

To compare to another sport, basketball only has 10 people on the court and people score left and right, anybody can put up points at some point in the season, not ANYBODY can score a touchdown. And no single player “scores” a touchdown. Football players are, for the most part, specialists, basketball players have offensive and defensive duties. You can’t change your basic lineup, going small or big like they can do in basketball. Danny Woodhead would not last 3 minutes on the Lakers. In football, if the defense struggles, the offense has to lift them up and vice versa. Football players are held to a smaller set of responsibilities yet you live and die by them. It is very hard to be the Knicks in football.

The intricacies of offense and defense in football are so vast that trying to analyze one pre snap formation with a team like the Jets could leave you scratching your head, especially when you have 4 or 5 guys switching POSITIONS (Kris Jenkins at linebacker!), audibles and counter-audibles, but that is what we call the “technical stuff.”

Football, for the literary amongst us, is 21st century theatre, Broadway sucks despite what Sanchez says, and football is as good of a narrative as any imaginable. With the amount of coverage given to football via ESPN, NFL Network and the Internet, it is dissected more minutely than postmodern novels. There are analysts who make statements and analysis of analysts statements which are the analysis of the players statements, it’s like an Italo Calvino novel. You are on a train. You are a character in a novel taking place on a tran, etc…

One of the overwhelming reasons I love football is because it is not built for the elite, models don’t go to football games, and if they do, they aren’t showing up in a miniskirt and heels. Unless you count those degenerates in suites and “coach’s clubs”. (As a sidenote, if Rex Ryan could handpick people for his coaches club, I doubt 15 people in badly tailored suits would be first on the list). People don’t show up 40 minutes after kickoff to a Giants game, unless they are talking their way out of an arrest or so drunk that they had to stop to puke every 15 feet from the shuttle to the entrance.

It unites the strange and the straight laced, it turns friends to enemies and enemies to friends, it creates debaters and theorists, dreamers and detractors:

Amongst the working class, there is not much to look forward to on a given week. Life, in general, is a series of mundane events highlighted by orgasms, credit card debt, and free shots of tequila. So to be part of something that you know millions of people are part of, to hear the screams from adjacent apartment buildings and to be walking by a bar downtown and hear the roar after a touchdown or an interception, is indescribable.

I would argue that most football people, if given the choice between a beach in LA or a sports bar in Manhattan during football season, would gladly stand for 6 hours nursing the same warm beer in a bar that smells like piss and desperation, and leave the beaches for out of work actors to “contemplate their life choices.”

Maybe we are spoiled in Manhattan to have both the Jets and the Giants…but don’t question the passion both teams create, and remember this, they’re rooting on Park Avenue and they’re rooting in Harlem. The stockbrokers have jerseys on and drug dealers have jerseys on.

We’re all a part of it, whether we are in a bar, at the stadium, or as I prefer to watch, on the rooftop of an East Village duplex, with beautiful women cooking Fillet Mignon and pouring unnecessarily strong mixed drinks, even in December.

TOJ Mock Draft – Version 1.0

AJ takes his first crack at projecting the first round in the NFL Draft…

1. Carolina Panthers- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

People with more inside information than me seem to think Carolina is leaning towards a QB and a “face of the franchise,” Cam Newton would be both

2. Denver Broncos- Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

Another rumor floating around is that John Elway would love to draft a QB at this spot, but I don’t see that happening if Newton is picked #1overall.  Dareus is a disruptive player that any team would love to have.

3. Buffalo Bills- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

I don’t think I need to tell anyone how bad the Bills were against the run last year, they need an anchor for that new 3-4 they implemented, and Von Miller isn’t good enough against the run to warrant this pick.

4. Cincinnati Bengals- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

If I am a Bengals fan, and thank god I’m not, I would be praying they take Green in this pick instead of Julio Jones.  Green a natural born route runner who could provide an immediate impact.  He also has the best first name in the draft.

5.  Arizona Cardinals- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Cardinals need to get their QB situation together; John Skelton might be a good story out of Fordham, but Larry Fitzgerald deserves better than him.

6. Cleveland Browns- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Haden and Peterson at the corners? Scary.

7. San Francisco 49ers – Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

If I’m Von Miller I am not happy about dropping this far but this would give the 49ers a very good and young linebacker core, which they could build off of.

8. Tennessee Titans – Robert Quinn, DL, North Carolina

The Titans would obviously love for one of the top two QB’s to drop to them, or maybe they think about trading up, but at this point, they should pick the best player available, which is exactly what Robert Quinn is

9. Dallas Cowboys- Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida

Pouncey Tweeted that he would be surprised if he weren’t a Cowboy next season after he visited with the team.  Hey, I’ll go to the Looney Bin with you bro.

10. Washington Redskins – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

The Redskins have more holes than Augusta and should be happy to pick up a quality receiver here at #10.

11. Houston Texans – Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

Once considered a top 5 pick, Bowers’ draft stock has taken a hit because of questions about his knee coming off surgery.  But he’s got the talent, and a combination of Bowers and Williams would have Peyton Manning shaking in his boots.

12. Minnesota Vikings – Cameron Jordan, DE, California

Jordan has great ability and with the Vikings most likely set to lose DE Ray Edwards, they are going to need someone to fill his role immediately

13. Detroit Lions – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

The Lions have been doing a funny thing lately, drafting quality players, they will continue the trend this year by drafting Amukamara who is flying under the radar a bit because of super-prospect Peterson.

14. St. Louis Rams – Corey Liuget, DL, Illinois

The Rams two biggest needs are probably WR and DL. They aren’t going to pick up Green or Jones, but should be very happy to pick up Illinois’ Corey Liuget who is good against both the run and pass

15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

This has been a popular pick for sometime now, Ingram is the type of hard runner that Tony Soprano loves, but I mostly put Ingram here because I don’t want to think about him going to the other division rival with one of their two picks

16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

Aldon Smith is the physical lineman Jack Del Rio is looking for to solidify his defensive front.  Smith could potentially transition to an outside linebacker, but the Jags would try to use his athleticism with his hand in the dirt.

17. New England Patriots – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

Kerrigan is known around the league as a pretty safe pick.  While his ceiling is not as high as some of the other prospects at the DE position, he is a proven football player who is smart on the field and was productive throughout his collegiate career.

18. San Diego Chargers – J.J. Watt, DL, Wisconsin

J.J. is flexible enough as a defensive lineman to play the 3 and 5 technique.  A true Big Ten guy, Watt is a smart and high energy player who always seems to be around the ball.

19. New York Giants – Tyron Smith, OT, USC

The Giants get an absolute steal here with Tyron Smith, while they would love to get an interior linemen like Mike Pouncey, Smith is the best lineman available in the 2011 draft and at this point cannot drop any further, the Giants get a gem here and will find a place for him on the field.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Muhammed Wilkerson, DL, Temple

If you followed my Prospect Watch at all you know that I really like this guy and I think he should be at the top of the Jets wish list for this draft.  Unfortunately it probably won’t happen as his stock has been steadily increasing since the draft season began.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Another prospect out of Offensive Line U (BC) Castonzo is considered NFL ready.  The Chiefs had a surprise season last year and they will attempt to form a foundation for future consistent success, and there is no better way to do that than sure up your OL.

22. Indianapolis Colts – Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Carimi and Castonzo could flip flop these picks but either way, the Colts are going to have to improve a line that has been in steady decline for the last couple of years.  The Colts will hope Carimi can improve a Colts run game that struggled all last year.

23. Philadelphia Eagles – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

After a dormant first half of the draft OL lineman are coming off the board fast in the meat of the 1st round.  The Eagles will want to make sure they protect Mike Vick as much as they can or he will only be around for one or two more years.

24. New Orleans Saints – Adrian Clayborne, DE, Iowa

Like the Jets, the Saints ran into problems getting to the QB without blitzing last year.  Clayborne comes from a great program in Iowa and it shows in his discipline during the games and on the practice field.  He drops a little because of a medical condition restricting movement in his arm, but it didn’t seem to bother him too much in college and he should be prime for a productive pro career.

25. Seattle Seahawks- Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Locker has had to work his behind off after having a sub-par season at Washington.  The Seahawks’ QB problems are well documented, Hasselback belongs in a retirement home and the Whitehurst trade was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.  A training camp competition between Locker and Whitehurst could be good for both players.

26. Baltimore Ravens- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Smith could be a great fit for Baltimore, he has great speed and a high ceiling, with some teaching from a veteran Ravens defense, he could really shine in years to come

27. Atlanta Falcons- Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA

Ayers has dropped in this draft and it is very possible that if he slides this much a team could trade up and grab him.  Nevertheless, the Falcons are looking for a future replacement for John Abraham and someone who could take some reps from him immediately.

28. New England Patriots – Brooks Reed, OLB, Arizona

The Patriots spend another pick to improve their defense and they pick up another quality player in Brooks Reed.  A pass rushing specialist with some serious size, Reed would fit perfectly in the Patriots defense.

29. Chicago Bears – Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor

The Bears pick up a player who has got to be high on the Jets board.  A prototypical NT, Taylor could potentially be a beast playing the 3 technique in the Bears 4-3 defense.  They do need a OL but any prospect might be a reach at this point so the rich get richer as the Chicago defense improves tremendously with this pick.

30. New York Jets – Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for.  Everyone knows that the Jets DL is in most need of an adrenaline shot, but Rex is creative and can get anyone to play hard for him.  I think they should wait until their 3rd round pick to start working on the DL.  This leaves us with pass rushing specialist Houston, who could excel in the role that Jason Taylor played last year until he is groomed enough to be a full time starter.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Harris brings the speed and athleticism for a nickel/ dime package corner.  If he can figure out some character issues and get serious about playing the game he could be a very good NFL player.

32. Green Bay Packers- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

Here we go, the defending champs, The Packers pick up the best player available here in Heyward who suffered a bit of a drop.

12 Pack Of Jets Off-Season Thoughts – Edition #11

As reliable as Chad Henne throwing an interception in a big game, the 12 pack is back with another edition. A friendly reminder to follow Turn On The Jets on Facebook and Twitter. For today’s 12 pack we are going to count down the 10 most important players to the Jets getting over the hump and making it to the Super Bowl in 2011, along posting some links and our usual weekend video clips —

Ten Most Important Jets In 2011 –

10. Santonio Holmes – Everything we have heard this off-season indicates that he will be back with the team and that he is now their top priority after taking care of David Harris. Holmes needs to be the number one receiver the Jets are going to sign him to be on a consistent basis.

9. Jim  Leonhard – The Jets defense needs a healthy Leonhard quarterbacking the secondary, especially with the spot opposite him a major question mark with Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, and James Ihedigbo all free agents.

8. Calvin Pace – Regardless of who the Jets draft this year, Pace will be their top pass rusher entering the season. The Jets need a full 16 game season out of him, where he finally reaches double digit in sacks, which he should be more than capable of in this system with his skill set.

7. Dustin Keller – Based on the assumption that Braylon Edwards won’t be back, Keller will need to take on a bigger role in the offense and become the team’s primary red-zone threat because of his size. Even if Edwards returns, Keller needs to keep growing and become a reliable outlet for Mark Sanchez.

6. Kyle Wilson – Based on the assumption that Antonio Cromartie won’t return despite TOJ writing 1200 articles this off-season begging for the Jets to re-sign him. Wilson needs to be able to handle the daunting task of being the corner opposite Revis Island, along with stepping up in the return game on both punts and kicks. Even if Cromartie returns, Wilson needs to improve as a nickel back and be better on returns.

5. Vladimir Ducasse/Wayne Hunter – One of the two of them needs to step into the right tackle spot to fill in for the recently released Damien Woody. The Jets offensive line has been a major strength the past few years and they can’t afford a major drop off because of one player being released. The coaching staff will obviously be pulling for Ducasse, last year’s second round pick, to seize the job. However, if he isn’t up to the task, Hunter must be more consistent than he was last season when he stepped in for an injured Woody.

4. Nick Mangold/D’Brickashaw Ferguson/Brandon Moore – Don’t ever forget how much of the Jets success the past couple of years is from having such a solid, consistent center, tackle, guard combination.

3. Shonn Greene – The Jets need a lead back who can carry the load on a weekly basis and this is Greene’s year to show he is that guy. 2010 was a disappointing season for the second year back, who got off to a slow start and never became the workhorse he showed he had the potential to be during the 2009 playoff run. Greene has the physical ability to be a 1200-1400 yard back, but can he stay healthy and consistent enough to achieve those numbers?

2. Darrelle Revis – The Jets aggressive defense is predicated on their corners being able to shut down receivers in single coverage. Darrelle Revis needs to stay healthy and play at the level he did in 2009 and the second half of 2010, especially with the uncertainty at the spot opposite him.

1. Mark Sanchez – Was there any question? It always starts and ends with the quarterback. Similar to how Sanchez took a step forward in 2010, the Jets need him to do the same thing this year. He will given more responsibility on offense and likely be asked to throw more than he has in previous years. Sanchez needs to get his completion percentage closer to 60 and should able to get near 4,000 yards passing next season, while keeping his interception total in the 10-13 range.

Weekend Links

– Keep up with your Gunaxin reading with a suggestion of things certain NFL players should be doing during the lockout and the John Madden Scale of Rating Women. 

– Good read on lockout frustration.

– Joe Namath coming to HBO.

Weekend Video Clips – Rex Sox are 0-6, so laugh at Boston edition

TOJ Question – Who Will Jets Take With 30th Pick?

http://newyork.sbnation.com/2011/4/7/2096941/new-york-jets-draft-needs-defensive-line-outside-linebacker-top-the

TOJ at SB Nation NY begins his position by position preview of the NFL Draft for the New York Jets, starting with summarizing their top needs.

I also took a little informal Twitter poll of who a few other fellow Jets writers/bloggers have the team taking with the 30th overall pick, with the first round only three weeks away —

Manish Mehta (@TheJetsStream) “I think they trade up for OLB…. I’m going with [Akeem] Ayers.”

Brian Bassett (@Brian_Bassett) “I’ll go Baylor NT Phil Taylor.”

Deb B (@LilMissNYJet) – “Pending Taylor off the boards by #30…….I’m picking Brooks Reed. I want him over Akeem Ayers for OLB need.”

Jeff Capellini (@GreenLanternJet) “I still think Phil Taylor should be the pick if he’s available. If not, [Marvin] Austin or [Justin] Houston.”

Chris Celletti (@ChrisCelletti) “They have to go best DE available…likely Phil Taylor.”

Kiera Massette (@KieraMassette) “…I really like the idea of Marvin Austin.”

For the record, TOJ is taking Phil Taylor as of right now.

I also asked Jason La Canfora of NFL.com about the chances of the Jets getting Temple DT/DE Muhammad Wilkerson and he respondedlooking doubtful. Things could change but low 20s could be lowest he falls.”

New York Jets: Change Of Philosophy On The Way?

Arguably the greatest thing Rex Ryan has brought to the Jets organization has been an identity. An identity built around being a physical team who is led by their aggressive defense and running game. This identity has brought confidence and a long missing swagger to an organization desperately in need of it.

The Jets were about as “Ground and Pound” as you could be during their 2009 run to the AFC Championship Game. The less Mark Sanchez was throwing, the better their chances were of winning. Their defense was consistently coming after the quarterback in all situations and in all match-ups.

The 2010 Jets team that made it back to the AFC Championship Game took a step away from the 2009 “Ground and Pound” identity. Sanchez threw 143 more passes in the regular season and the Jets had 73 less rushing attempts. Rex Ryan showed an ability to win big games without a defensive game-plan built around the blitz, most notably against the Colts and Patriots in the playoffs.

Their off-season moves prior to the 2010 season indicated this step could be coming. They traded for Santonio Holmes, despite recently trading for Braylon Edwards. LaDainian Tomlinson was signed, partially because of his ability to catch the ball out of backfield better than Thomas Jones and Joe McKnight was drafted, who had a reputation for being a very good receiving running back.

What will be interesting to see on both sides of the ball in 2011, is if the Jets continue to become more pass happy on offense and more willing to occasionally embrace (gasp) zone concepts and a less aggressive approach on defense.

An early indication of this could be the priority given to bringing back wide receivers Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards compared to cornerback Antonio Cromartie. If the Jets are going to bring back their top two wide receivers and say bye to one of the better man to man corners in the league, you would guess they plan on throwing it a little more in 2011 and laying off the bump and run on defense somewhat.

The real question on offense, will be if Mark Sanchez can handle a more pass-centric attack. Can he become a guy that gets up around 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in a season, while limiting his turnovers?

It remains to be seen if the Jets truly have a number one back. Shonn Greene still has to prove he can carry the load, LaDainian Tomlinson is a year older and ready for a limited role, and Joe McKnight has accomplished nothing at the NFL level yet.

The last two years we watched Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers throw their teams to Super Bowl victories, will the Jets attempt another step closer to that approach or go back to their 2009 “Ground and Pound” ways?