New York Jets Need Breakout Season From Keller & Greene

For the past two years the New York Jets have been known for and for a large part, been carried by their defense…these are the type of things that happen when Rex Ryan is your head coach. However, the offense made substantial strides in last year behind quarterback Mark Sanchez, who was supported by one of the best offensive lines in football, a playmaking group of wide receivers and a better than expected season from running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

In year three of Sanchez’s career, with likely changes coming to his group of receivers and Tomlinson now a year older and ready to embrace a third-down role, he will need more production from tight end Dustin Keller and running back Shonn Greene.

In 2010, Greene was a mild disappointment only finishing with 766 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. However, he never really received the chance to be a lead back on a week to week basis. This will be his year to prove he can carry the load as a number one back and considering his talent, the team’s willingness to run the ball, and the Jets offensive line, there is no reason he can’t run for 1200+ yards. With Tomlinson in a reduced role, Joe McKnight a question mark, and Bilal Powell only a rookie, the Jets need Greene to lead the way on the running game that has been their trademark the past two years.

When they throw ball, Dustin Keller should have the opportunity to become the number two option behind either Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards. When he had this chance in weeks 1-4 last year, Keller racked up 19 receptions, 254 yards, and 5 touchdowns. If he could produce at that level for an entire season, he will be the Pro-Bowl tight end, he has the talent to be. Keller struggled to get opportunities once Holmes returned from suspension last season and after week 4 didn’t score a single touchdown the rest of the year.

For the Jets offense to continue to move in the right direction, it is crucial young players like Keller and Greene reach their potential this season when provided with bigger roles.

NBA Draft: Where Will Kemba Walker End Up? Other Draft Rumors

TOJ at SB Nation NY on where local product Kemba Walker could end up in tonight’s draft.

The draft rumor mill is in full swing —

  • Walker could go anywhere from the Raptors at number 5 all the way to the Pacers at 15.
  • Despite Cleveland having the 1 and 4 pick, they are expected to be active for a third lottery pick. Good for them attempting to expedite their rebuilding process.
  • Tony Parker, Steve Nash, George Hill, Jonny Flynn, Monta Ellis, Andre Iguodala, and Eric Maynor are all names being thrown in around in trade rumors. However, I don’t expect the Knicks to make a move for a veteran.
  • There is such a wide range of players the Knicks could end up with at #17, it is hard to project. I wouldn’t be shocked if somebody like Jimmer Fredette or Walker fell to around 14 or 15, if they made a splash by moving up. However, I’d personally rather see them trade up to get Chris Singleton, who will probably be off the board by number 9.
  • It sounds like Cleveland is just about locked into Kyrie Irving with the first pick but Minnesota with the 2nd pick? Well, that is anybody’s guess…could be Derrick Williams, could be Enes Kanter, or they could trade out.

New York Jets Free Agency: The Other Guys

There has been no shortage of talk about the appropriate fates in free agency for Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie, and Brad Smith…but what about the other unrestricted free agents the New York Jets have to make decisions on?

Shaun Ellis – Personally, I think it is a smart investment to bring Ellis back on a one or two year deal to help him mentor rookie Muhammad Wilkerson. He is also a leader in the locker room who clearly has plenty left in tank, as evidenced by his performance against New England in the playoffs last year. Unfortunately, I could see the Jets not matching his contract demands, especially after his request for a restructured deal last season didn’t happen.

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets let him walk.

Brodney Pool – He came on strong at the end of last year and finally began to look like the playmaker the Jets signed him to be. Pool should command a good amount of interest in the open market, so it will be up to the Jets to determine how much of an upgrade he is over Eric Smith.

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets bring him back.

Trevor Pryce – Rex Ryan compared Muhammad Wilkerson to a young Trevor Pryce and he would be a cheaper, although less productive, mentor to the rookie than Shaun Ellis. I could very easily see the Jets choosing to bring him back over Ellis in order to save money.

  • TOJ Votes – Let him walk.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets bring him back.

Tony Richardson – Likely to retire and if he decides not to, the Jets aren’t going to bring him back considering they have John Conner ready to step into the starting role.

  • TOJ Votes – Retire T-Rich, you had a great career.
  • TOJ Predicts – T-Rich retires.

Steve Weatherford – Despite an inconsistent performance in the playoffs, Weatherford was still pretty good overall last year, especially at pinning teams deep. Considering the musical chairs they played at punter before Weatherford, I think the Jets will bring him back…besides, who else is bringing the shake weights to camp?

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets bring him back.

Wayne Hunter – Originally it looked like he could compete with Vladimir Ducasse for the starting right tackle spot. I now think because of the lockout, the Jets will opt to bring Damien Woody back and have Ducasse spend a year learning behind him at the position, which likely means good-bye to Hunter.

  • TOJ Votes – Let him walk, spend the money on Woody instead.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets let him walk.

Lance Laury – A special teamer, who was fairly quiet on special teams for the Jets last season. However, they are very thin at linebacker.

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets let him walk to give more of a chance to players like Josh Mauga.

Eric Smith – A versatile safety, who is also very good at special teams. The Jets will ultimately have to choose between him and Brodney Pool and I think Pool projects better as a starter opposite Jim Leonhard.

  • TOJ Votes – Let him walk.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets let him walk.

Drew Coleman – Struggles in coverage, but he is a playmaker at the nickel back position. The decision on Antonio Cromartie could go a long way to determining his fate. He isn’t helped by the fact that the coaching staff likely wants to give more reps to Kyle Wilson, who was a first round pick last year.

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets let him walk to give Kyle Wilson and Marquice Cole more playing time.

James Ihedigbo – An effective blitzer in many of the Jets packages and a good special teams player, who seems to be a Rex Ryan guy.

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets bring him back.

Nick Folk – Inconsistent at times last year but I don’t see the Jets just handing the job off to Nick Novak.

  • TOJ Votes – Bring him back.
  • TOJ Predicts – Jets bring him back.

As for Kellen Clemens, I think we all know he is gone. Perhaps if Justin McCariens didn’t have a bad day back in 2007, things would have went differently…

NBA Draft Preview: Will Knicks Make A Major Move?

A whole mess of NBA Draft Coverage

TOJ at SB Nation NY on why the lack of elite talent should make for an eventful night tomorrow

The Knicks plans for the 17 pick remain up in the air

Could the Knicks deal for a veteran point guard?

Personally, I don’t think the Knicks will make a move for a veteran point guard. I am not crazy about the thought of trading Toney Douglas for Jonny Flynn, as I think Douglas is already comfortable with the system and can the hold the fort better for another year as Chauncey Billups’ backup. Flynn has injury concerns and hasn’t been anywhere near as productive the past two years as Douglas.

Even though his scoring would be exciting, the Knicks can’t be giving up assets to move up to obtain Jimmer Fredette. They can’t afford another major defensive liability. If they are adamant about going with a scorer, I’d rather see them go with Marshon Brooks who has more potential to develop into a somewhat decent defender.

Considering their need and who will likely be available, Chris Singleton out of Florida State probably makes the most sense for the Knicks. If he is gone, I don’t have a problem with them looking to Alec Burks or Josh Selby, who Carmelo Anthony is apparently pushing very hard for as fall-backs.

An Inside Look At Jets Camp Lockout

Enjoy the third episode of Sione Pouha’s “Life of a Lockout” series with an inside look at Jets Camp Lockout:

  • Good to hear that Mark Sanchez thinks Kyle Wilson was the most impressive player on the field.
  • Mike DeVito has some serious moves in touch football.
  • How good is your Bart Scott impression? Check out the his new contest…

Also check out some footage from Jerricho Cotchery’s recent surprise birthday party

NFL Free Agent Primer

A quick look around the league at a few intriguing unrestricted free agents at each position, if the 4th year players will be UFAs as expected in the new labor deal —

Quarterback

  • Alex Smith – It sounds like the 49ers will bring him back for another year but the former number one pick should attract some interest.
  • Bruce Gradkowski – Good backup, even though they won’t pursue him, I’d feel much better if he was the Jets number two quarterback than Mark Brunell.
  • Matt Moore – There are rumors the Dolphins could sign him to compete with Chad Henne…yikes.

Running Back

  • Ahmad Bradshaw – It will be interesting to see how much money the Giants will be willing to throw at him. He is an explosive player but has a tough time staying healthy.
  • Ricky Williams/Ronnie Brown – What will the Dolphins backfield look like in 2011?
  • Cedric Benson – Hard to see the Bengals letting him go anywhere, especially since they will likely be starting a rookie quarterback.
  • DeAngelo Williams – A proven big play back who should command a hefty contract on the open market.

Wide Receiver

  • Santonio Holmes/Braylon Edwards/Brad Smith – Mike Tannenbaum just shakes his head.
  • James Jones – Very talented player who could really thrive with a bigger role.
  • Lance Moore – Productive slot receiver with a knack for making big plays.
  • Steve Smith (NYG) – Hard to see the Giants letting him go anywhere.
  • Plaxico Burress – I would guess the Eagles, Rams, or Jets.
  • Randy Moss – Somebody will give him a shot.
  • Sidney Rice – The Vikings will probably give him the money necessary to keep him.
  • Terrell Owens – Still TO…but coming off a very productive season.
  • Steve Breaston – Under the radar a little bit on this FA market but has potential to be a very good number two receiver somewhere.

Tight End

  • Kevin Boss – He had injury issues last year but has been consistently good since becoming a starter.
  • Bo Scaife – Should be able to catch on somewhere outside of Tennessee where he will get more opportunities.
  • Daniel Graham – Good blocking option.

Offensive Line

  • Doug Free – Hard to see Dallas letting him walk after a better than expected year.
  • Jared Gaither – Should be one of the most sought after offensive lineman on the market, as he isn’t expected to re-sign with Baltimore.
  • Jermon Bushrod – He has stated he wants to return to New Orleans but it remains to be seen if the Saints will pay to keep him.

Defensive Line

  • Cullen Jenkins – Brother of Kris…most people don’t expect him back in Green Bay next year.
  • Mathias Kiwanuka – Good pass rushers are always hard to find.
  • Ray Edwards – He isn’t expected back in Minnesota and could provide a solid pass rush to many teams. Cleveland is reportedly very interested in him.

Linebacker

  • Paul Posluszny – He has struggled with injuries but has the potential to be a key part of a young and improving Bills defense.
  • Matt Roth – Don’t be surprised to see the Jets make a run at him.
  • Stephen Tulloch – Had a good year in Tennessee and should be heavily pursued by multiple teams including Detroit and Buffalo.

Secondary

  • Nnamdi Asomugha – He will command a monster contract. Expect the Texans, Redskins, and Eagles all to be in the mix.
  • Antonio Cromartie – Considering how much Rex Ryan loves corners and their defensive system, there is a pretty good chance he will be back despite the high cost.
  • Jonathan Joseph – A quality starter who should get decent money in this market.
  • Carlos Rogers – He could be a good fallback option for the teams who can’t sign Asomugha or Cromartie.

Specials

  • David Akers – The long time Eagle could be testing the market.
  • Ryan Longwell – Another veteran who should find a home somewhere, if not immediately than when training camp starts.

As Football Gets Closer…

For a refreshing change of pace, the news associated with the NFL Lockout today seems to be positive. Maybe I am being an optimist but from everything being reported today, I’d be shocked if NFL free agency wasn’t kicking off within the next couple of weeks. A few of the more interesting tidbits coming out of the today’s discussions were the following:

  • Starting in 2012, there is going to be a full 16 game Thursday night schedule to help generate revenue.
  • The players apparently are going to agree to 48& of all revenue generated by the league, the details of changing the rookie wage scale aren’t in place but it will be tweaked.
  • All players with 4-6 years of service will be unrestricted free agents.

The last point is a key one for the Jets because it means Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, and Brad Smith will all be unrestricted free agents, instead of restricted. The Jets won’t be able to keep them with a one year deal and all three are going to command substantial money on the open market, especially Holmes and Cromartie.

Braylon Edwards is also an unrestricted free agent.

It is going to be a furious few weeks of free agency when it kicks off and it will be a few weeks filled with tough decisions for Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets front office. How do you prioritize Holmes, Edwards, Cromartie, and Smith?

Personally, I rank them in the following order —

  1. Santonio Holmes – The best overall player of the group, who will also command the most money. He comes with off the field risks (including a new pending casino investigation) but he is a uniquely talented playmaker who is one of the most clutch players in the sport.
  2. Antonio Cromartie – The Jets are a defensive minded team, which means you don’t prioritize two receivers before a cornerback, regardless of how well Braylon Edwards played last year. Cromartie did an admirable job in 2010 opposite Darrelle Revis and unfortunately Kyle Wilson didn’t show enough in his rookie year to make anybody believe he is ready for the role opposite The Island.
  3. Braylon Edwards – He is coming off a terrific year and adds a physical dimension to the Jets offense in both the passing and running game. However, you can’t keep everybody and I doubt the Jets will have the money to bring him back after paying Holmes. I think Dustin Keller could replace a large degree of his production if used properly and that Jerricho Cotchery will be much better in 2011 because his back will be healthy. Also if the Jets are desperate for more height on the outside, they could pursue Plaxico Burress or Randy Moss on a short term, cheap deal.
  4. Brad Smith – An incredibly versatile player, but obviously the fourth most valuable. A team will likely offer him more money and a bigger role on offense, making it very hard for the Jets to bring him back.

Jets Front Office & Coaching Staff Staying Sharp Through Lockout

It has been impressive to see how dedicated and organized the New York Jets players have been throughout the lockout. From “Jets West” to Darrelle Revis taking Kyle Wilson under his wing, all the way to their recent “Camp Lockout,” they have maintained a sense of organization and dedication needed to remain a Super Bowl contender. Fortunately, the team’s front office and coaching staff hasn’t been slacking off either.

In an effort to hear new ideas and stay sharp, the team has brought in a variety of coaches and executives to pick their brain on new concepts both on and off the field moving forward. Dan Reeves, who played and coached in nine Super Bowls, was recently at the Jets complex and before him, former Washington Redskins coach, Joe Gibbs spent time with the coaching staff.

Former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator, Tom Moore came to Florham Park to break down offensive film and there is now a rumor he could join the team as a consultant, which will surely make all those Brian Schottenheimer haters out there happy.

Mike Tannenbaum took it upon himself to meet with Bill McDermott, who is the co-CEO of SAP AG, a leading provider of business software and Kevin Plank, the CEO and founder of Under Armour to pick their brain on running an organization. It is a savvy move by the Jets GM to take time to learn from successful, talented people and work to constantly improve.

It remains to be seen how much all of these visits will help in the upcoming season but it is encouraging to see the entire organization not resting on their success from the previous two years.

Where Will The Jets Go Cheap?

There will inevitably be some tough decisions the New York Jets front office will have to make when free agency starts. Certain positions are going to see a higher concentration of money spent, while others will be forced to be handled more cheaply with hopes of younger players stepping up. Where will Mike Tannebaum decide to invest the most?

Wide Receiver – We know money is going to be spent to keep either Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards, but would the Jets invest enough in the receiver position to keep both, or perhaps one along with Brad Smith? It doesn’t seem likely considering this is a run first offense, but they may want to insure Mark Sanchez has the best weapons possible at his disposal to help him flourish into a top-tier quarterback in the NFL.

Defensive Line – The Jets could go young and not pay up to bring Shaun Ellis back and also not work to coax Trevor Pryce out of retirement. However, they will be putting a high amount of pressure on first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson to produce immediately and relying on unproven players like Ropati Pitoitua and Marcus Dixon to play large roles on the defensive line rotation. If they can’t work something out with Ellis, it would be smart to at least bring Pryce back on a cheap, one-year deal as insurance.

Offensive Line – When the Jets released Damien Woody this off-season, the original plan seemed to be allowing second year player Vladimir Ducasse battle with veteran Wayne Hunter to take over at right tackle. Hunter filled in for Woody a few games at the end of last season and is also a free agent, but would cost less to bring back. Now with the way this off-season has been affected by the lockout, can the Jets risk thinking Ducasse is ready to compete for a starting job and have somebody like Hunter as the only alternative or will they pay up to bring Woody back for another year? They also need to decide if they are going to bring back versatile back-up Robert Turner.

Secondary – Antonio Cromartie is going to be a highly sought after free agent and if the Jets decide to let him walk, they will be taking a risk at corner opposite Darrelle Revis by hoping Kyle Wilson is ready to step in as a starter. The Jets could always look to sign a free agent to compete with him but if they are going to spend money on a veteran, why not just stick with Cromartie who is comfortable in the system and handled the job well last year? They also need to make a decision at safety, where Brodney Pool will probably cost more than Eric Smith but provides better range and long-term potential next to Jim Leonhard.

Linebacker – The Jets could go into the year with their current depth chart and hope a player like Jamaal Westerman or Josh Mauga steps up as an option in certain packages and as reliable backups or look to bring back Jason Taylor or sign a free agent to support a position that is relatively thin.