Damien Woody Coming Back?

In an interview today with Pro Football Talk, Daily News beat writer Manish Mehta said it is likely that offensive lineman Damien Woody will be back with the New York Jets in 2011 at a “reduced rate.” This corroborates an earlier report by ESPN’s Rich Cimini and makes sense considering how the long the lockout is anticipated to drag on.

The original thinking behind releasing Woody was that second year player Vladimir Ducasse would step into the role but considering his inability to work with the coaching staff due to the lockout, handing the tackle spot off to such an inexperienced player probably isn’t the smartest thing in the world. If the Jets brought back Woody, it would also show they weren’t impressed with the job Wayne Hunter did filling in for him last season, since they could bring back Hunter on a cheaper contract than Woody as a veteran fallback option.

Despite a handful of injuries last season, Woody has been very good for the Jets the past three years and has still only missed a total five games in that time. There is no reason to think he can’t give them another productive season at right tackle and he is still a safer option than Ducasse or Hunter.

While we are talking Jets offensive line, D’Brickashaw Ferguson made the NFL Network’s top 100 players in the league list at #79. Santonio Holmes came in at #76. They are only half way done with the countdown so far and I’d expect Nick Mangold to be in consideration for a top 20 spot and Darrelle Revis to be somewhere in the top ten.

NBA Finals Preview and Prediction

TOJ’s NBA Finals preview at Gunaxin. Can Dirk Nowitzki and company save us from suffering through a Miami title?

Five other observations and predictions for the NBA Finals…

1. A key factor in this series is how much DeShawn Stevenson, the Mavericks starter who usually barely plays 15 minutes a game, can slow down Dwyane Wade or LeBron James if given the chance. Most people are assuming he will cover Wade considering the job he did on him during the regular season (2 points in 30 minutes) but if LeBron starts going off, will they slide Stevenson  over? Don’t forget the old Stevenson/LeBron beef from the 2008 playoffs, when Stevenson was on Washington and LeBron was on Cleveland which was big enough to pull in both Jay-Z and Soulja Boy.

2. How much longer can the unexpected renaissance of Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion last? Dallas is going to need Kidd to continue to spread the floor with his three point shooting and outplay the Mario Chalmers/Mike Bibby combination the way he should. Marion will be part of the committee thrown at slowing down LeBron and needs to continue with his surprising offensive contributions to compliment Dirk.

3. Will Dirk Nowitzki still have what Udonis Haslem did to him in 2006 floating around in his head? Yes, the supporting cast is obviously important but the only way Dallas is beating Miami’s big three is if Dirk remains on the level he has been this entire post-season. He needs to play like an all-time great to pull off this upset, especially with the tear LeBron has been on.

4. Even if the previous comments may not indicate it, I do think Dallas will sneak this series out in seven. They have that “team of destiny” feel and I think they will get revenge for what happened in the 2006 Finals. Dirk will remain at the level he has been this post-season and I think the supporting cast will hit enough big shots. Beyond Dirk, Dallas is a collection of former all-stars (Kidd, Marion, and Peja Stojakovic) with one final shot at a ring and I think they will answer the call in a big spot. Miami is going to get their titles eventually, I just don’t think it will happen in year one.

5. It is too bad this series won’t be on TNT. You can’t beat that studio show.

A Trip To Yankee Stadium: A Brief Encounter With History

“Yankee Stadium is one of the few places in America that can feel alive on a Monday Night”
– Anonymous

I walked out of the grand concourse subway station. I was not supposed to get off there. I was supposed to get off at Yankee Stadium, but because I drank two small nips of Southern Comfort on the subway ride uptown, I forgot I was supposed to get off at Grand Central and transfer from the 4 to the 5. Someone was apparently trying to close what seemed like a very large post office right outside the subway stairs. People were protesting. They were not happy. When 25% of The Bronx is underemployed, people do not take that walk from some work to no work lightly. And why should they? The financial district should have been arrested and forced into manual labor after the mess they created.

I got past the crowd and started walking down River avenue, which had the hills of a San Francisco slum. I couldn’t quite tell the burnt red factor buildings apart, but I was supposed to go in one and walk up to the 5th floor.
On the 5th floor I couldn’t quite tell the small grey cars apart but I finally approached one that looked friendly. The trunk had a cooler full of bud light. This would most definitely be a Monday night to forget.

The walk to the stadium was something unlike I had ever been a part of. You walk under the subway for a while, passing dump after dump until there it is, this gleaming tan colossus, lit up like Vegas on a Friday night. You get so caught up in staring at it that you forget you have two very busy streets to cross. Once across you see the entrance, and luckily, because we were doing our best impression of Miami Heat fans, we got to the stadium about 40 minutes after first pitch.

Perhaps here was the point that I should have had the good sense to stop drinking. There was no need to consume any more, especially because I was under the influence of a prescription medication for my rather weak night vision. But no, I was going to gleefully pay $12 for a beer, yes, in fact, give me two. I would be the king of the bleacher creatures, no price too high!

Now, I am of course a gentleman, so instead of waiting for a female acquaintance to buy her own beer, I decided to buy one for her. Except I soon found out that at $22 for two bud lights, chivalry can send you to the poor house rather quickly.

At a certain point, like all fans of baseball games, you are asked kindly to leave once the game is over. Apparently I did leave under my own power, smiling and tipping my cap to NYPD on our exit. I then proceeded to prance down the street until we reached the parking garage. Everything past that is fuzzy, right until 8:45 the next morning when I woke up and realized something was very much wrong.

What i was supposed to do, was get up at 6:45, wake my sister up, and get to the train station to take the 7:10 to Manhattan, which would get me into Penn about 8:30 with enough time to get to work by 9am. This did not go as planned. As soon as I turned my head, I felt everything sloshing around like someone hit me up side the head with a bat and poured vodka down my unconscious throat. Which may have happened. I have hired a private investigator to look into it.

I did in fact make it to work that day, and felt like dying at various points throughout the day. It was wonderful, that feeling like at any point you could throw up sausage, peppers, red bull, bud light, bud light, jolly ranchers?

Postscript: Baseball

Considering there are 81 home games to 8, you can understand the chance of seeing something at a football game that you have 9 more games to wait for in baseball. Which is why most people show up in the 3rd inning. To be honest, I have had a love/hate relationship with baseball my whole life. I played little league, but as I found the intricacies in sports like football and basketball, baseball seemed like a relic. It’s boxing and slow dances. Sunday drives and dinner with the family. We move faster now, we think faster, (for good or ill) and for all our advancement it remains the same as it’s always been. Chess for old men. But there is beautiful music made that people play chess to.

New York Jets Free Agency Rumor Round-Up

Track all of the latest New York Jets free agency updates on TOJ’s stream at SB Nation NY

A few comments on how the New York Jets will approach free agency…

1. Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t going to happen…so get the dreams of the two best corners in the NFL being on a single team out of your head. The Jets aren’t going to break the bank for him with so many free agents of their own, including a cheaper option than Asomugha at corner in Antonio Cromartie.

2. Regardless of Asomugha not happening, the Jets still need to address their cornerback position either by bringing back Cromartie or by signing somebody else like Ike Taylor or Jonathan Joseph. They didn’t draft a pass rusher and it is doubtful they will find a high impact player in free agency, hence they need as much coverage as they can get. Other corners they could look at include Carlos Rogers, Richard Marshall, Chris Carr, and Fabian Washington.

3. If I had to guess today, I would still say it is more likely that Santonio Holmes comes back before Braylon Edwards. However, I am more confident today than I was when the season ended about both of them coming back. Edwards has already gone on record saying he would offer some type of a hometown discount and if Holmes does the same, you never know what could happen. I don’t see any way Brad Smith ends up coming back. Another team will give him more money than the Jets will be willing to offer along with a bigger role on offense.

4. If the Jets lose Braylon Edwards, I am not against giving Randy Moss or Plaxico Burress a shot (no pun intended). Chad Ochocinco or Steve Smith is going to command too much money, yet the Jets should be able to get Moss or Burress on a cheap, short-term deal. The recent talk makes Moss sound like more of a possibility and I might be crazy but I think he could be productive for the Jets on the outside, especially with the attention Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller, and Jerricho Cotchery need to receive in the slot.

5. In the less likely case that Edwards returns and Santonio Holmes leaves. I think the team should focus on signing Green Bay’s James Jones. Edwards is going to cost less money than Holmes so if he leaves, the Jets would have more money to invest in a longer contract to a younger player with more upside, like Jones.

6. Outside of Croamrtie in the secondary, I think the Jets will focus on getting Brodney Pool back to start at safety and then work towards getting either Eric Smith or James Ihedigbo back as a reserve. Drew Coleman is very up in the air. It depends on how they decide to handle Cromartie.

Dirk Is A Bad Man & Other Thoughts On Western Conference Finals

Perhaps we were expecting too much from the young Oklahoma City Thunder in only their second playoff appearance or perhaps they just ran into the wrong player at the wrong time.

We knew how good Dirk Nowitzki was before these playoffs started. We didn’t know he was about to rip off a playoff run of legendary proportions, that is going to change how he is viewed historically. If Dirk finishes what he started, you can expect plenty of people to start rearranging their all time top 20, 15, and maybe even 10 player list…that is how much of a monster Dirk has been in these playoffs.

It almost feels like destiny that the Mavericks will get another shot at the Miami Heat (sorry, Chicago is done) to right the wrongs from 2006, when the NBA Finals MVP should have been the referees, not Dwayne Wade. Let’s hope this year’s Finals aren’t decided by the whistle…

As for the Thunder, the young pups clearly weren’t ready for the big stage yet, particularly Russell Westbrook who was the x-factor coming into this series and simply didn’t come through. Oklahoma City won a single game this series and in that game Westbrook didn’t see the floor in the fourth quarter. He spent way too much time missing shots and way too little time running the offense, while making sure Kevin Durant and James Harden were getting enough touches.

Last night was a perfect example, 28 shots is too many, especially when they are coupled with only 5 assists and 3 turnovers. Westbrook is an immense talent and hopefully this year’s playoffs will serve as a valuable lesson to him because with a nucleus of himself, Durant, and Harden this team should be right back to contending for a title next year.

Underappreciated Lineman Anchor Jets Defense

There was no question the New York Jets needed to upgrade their defensive line this off-season. They had issues with their depth and struggled to consistently get after the quarterback. However, that doesn’t diminish the fact their defense was ranked third in the NFL last season at stopping the run and managed to generate enough of a pass rush to knock both Petyon Manning and Tom Brady out of the playoffs.

Two-thirds of the Jets starting defensive line are relative no-name players who don’t necessarily fit in with their big name, big talking counterparts. Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito have both very quietly developed into quality NFL starters and are a big part of why the Jets defense has been so successful the past two years.

Pouha has admirably stepped in for an injured Kris Jenkins in both 2009 and 2010. Jenkins was released this year, leaving Pouha as the official full time starting nose tackle. He is coming off a career year, where he racked up 59 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 recovered fumbles. A 3rd round draft pick of the Jets in 2005, Pouha has fought off early injuries in his career and multiple coaching changes to develop into the starting nose tackle on one of the league’s best defenses. The Jets drafted Kenrick Ellis in the third round this season, who should be able to spell him and could eventually develop into his replacement a few years down the road.

Mike DeVito is an undrafted free agent from Maine, now entering his fifth year with the Jets. He has clawed his way up from being an extra body in training camp, to the practice squad, to a rotational player and now finally to being a starting defensive end. The Jets showed confidence in him before last season by letting Marques Douglas walk in free agency, which left the starting job to DeVito. He responded with 59 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, and 2 forced fumbles. He is a good fit in Ryan’s scheme and is solid against the run.

The Jets first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson will likely replace Shaun Ellis in the starting line-up, if not this year, than likely next year. He should provide a pass rush out of the defensive end position, while DeVito can continue to plug up the run.

When discussing the Jets defense, it is usually names like Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Bart Scott, and Calvin Pace that come up first. However, don’t discount the production they are getting from blue-collar players like Pouha and DeVito.

New York Jets Defense: Getting Their Quarterback Back

An encouraging tweet was sent out today by New York Jets safety Jim Leonhard, “Great 1st workout today. 2 miles, 13:30 min, 5% Incline. Guess who’s getting healthy.”

We have heard all off-season that Leonhard is ahead of the process in rehab from his season ending injury of a broken tibia and it continues to sound like he will be 100 percent when the 2011 season starts (whenever that will be). Despite not putting up big stats, Leonhard is an integral part of the Jets defense who serves as the quarterback for their secondary. To this day, Rex Ryan still blames a big chunk of the Jets 45-3 loss to the New England Patriots this past year on Leonhard getting hurt the Friday before in practice.

His knowledge of the defense and ability to shift calls, along with move around the formation is a key part of how the Jets defense attacks. It will provide a major lift to their secondary when he returns this season, regardless who is starting opposite him.

Despite his reliability, Rex Ryan has made the right decision by saying he will keep Leonhard off punt returns this year. He is too valuable to the defense to risk getting hurt on a return and beyond that the Jets have plenty of other options, including Jerricho Cotchery, Kyle Wilson, and Jeremy Kerley to put deep.

Braylon Edwards: What A Difference A Year Makes

January 9th 2010…the New York Jets knock off the Cincinnati Bengals in the wild-card round of the playoffs, boosted by a surprisingly strong performance from an offense that had struggled down the stretch of the season. They managed to produce on this day despite a lack of support from their supposed number one receiver, Braylon Edwards who only registered 2 receptions for 15 yards and had a perfectly thrown touchdown pass drop through his arms.

The game was an addition to a somewhat disappointing season for Edwards. He showed flashes of the big play potential the Jets traded for when they acquired him before week 5. Yet, there was no consistency. Edwards had 45 yards or less receiving in six of the Jets last seven regular season games, followed by the previously mentioned weak peformance in the wild-card round and a quiet divisional game with 2 receptions for 41 yards.

It started to turn around for Edwards in the AFC Championship Game, when he pulled in a 80 yard touchdown reception on a beautiful double move to give the Jets a first half lead. In the biggest of moments, Edwards responded and made a play that demonstrated his true potential in the Jets offense.

Approaching the 2010 season, he received rave reviews for the work he was putting in during the off-season. While everybody was understandably excited about the acquisition of Santonio Holmes, the coaching staff kept mentioning the extra effort they were seeing around the facility from Edwards.

The work paid off in 2010, as Edwards was the Jets best all-around receiver from the start of the season to the end. There were no more dropped passes, no more inconsistency…just a week in and week out, physical presence for the Jets both on the outside and over the middle. Unlike most receivers in the league, Edwards is willing blocker who provides a big boost to the Jets running game. He didn’t have as many highlight reel game winning catches as Santonio Holmes but that doesn’t mean Edwards was without his share of clutch receptions.

Before the 2010 season, it was seemed to be a no brainer that it would be Holmes over Edwards who would receive a long term deal with the Jets. It looked like even more of a no-brainer after Edwards DUI incident. Yet, the answer to the question seems a little foggier right now. Ultimately, it will depend on how the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is worked out but it would be foolish to write off Edwards chances of returning to the team at this point.

Last January, I wouldn’t say Edwards was that popular at all with fans. Now, I would say he is one of the more popular players on the team. Especially after repeatedly expressing his desire to return this off-season, while Santonio Holmes has been much colder about his loyalty to the Jets. It won’t be a popularity contest that determines who gets the money from Woody Johnson but it has been impressive how far Edwards has came with the Jets in only a year and a half.