TOJ 12 Pack: New York Jets Post-Draft Predictions

Turn On The Jets gives out 12 post-draft predictions for the 2012 season

The New York Jets had open media availability yesterday and the top stories of the day were Tim Tebow’s dog, Darrelle Revis hating the Patriots and where Tim Tebow doesn’t live. Unfortunately, if you are looking for a 12 pack of information on that you are on the wrong site and should instead read some of the local newspapers. Instead I give you a 12 pack of post-draft predictions for the Jets 2012 season. If you are looking for more reading throughout the day, check back later this afternoon as Chris Gross will finish up our draft pick analysis by looking at Quinton Coples. I will also provide links to our other articles covering the rest of the picks.

On to the predictions…

1. Wayne’s World – The Jets opening day starter at right tackle will be Wayne Hunter. Should you be thrilled about this? Probably not, but perhaps this article from our good friend Jeff Capellini will make you feel better. It has become clear the Jets are content to let Hunter and Vladimir Ducasse battle for the position. While I think the organization would love to see Ducasse win, I think Hunter is the day one starter in camp and is steady enough to hold off Ducasse who hasn’t shown much of anything through two years. Tony Sparano will feel better going with a guy who has over a season of starting experience instead of the unproven Ducasse. For those who are asking, I do not think Austin Howard is a factor in this competition. If he was, the Jets wouldn’t have paid Hunter 2.5 million to comeback. They would have just let Howard compete with Ducasse.

2. Slow Safety – The Jets opening day starting safeties will be LaRon Landry and Eric Smith. At this point, I don’t think they will add Yeremiah Bell and even if Jim Leonhard returns, I don’t think it will be in a starting role. Look for rookie Josh Bush to be a factor in a centerfield type role when the Jets go to three safety looks and for rookie Antonio Allen to get on the field as a blitzer or to fill in for Landry if he gets hurt.

3. Out Wide – Braylon Edwards isn’t coming back. The Jets wide receiver depth chart will be Santonio Holmes as the starting flanker, Stephen Hill as the starting split end and Jeremy Kerley as the slot receiver. Behind them, I expect Chaz Schilens, Patrick Turner and Jordan White to stick as backups. White could be relegated to the practice squad unless he shows value on special teams.

4. Must Addition – The Jets will add a blocking tight end at some point. How can you run Tony Sparano’s offense without a single blocking tight end on the roster?

5. Where The Rookies Land – As I mentioned previously, I do think Stephen Hill will start from day one. Quinton Coples will be a de facto starter on the defensive line but will be rotated through with Mike DeVito, Muhammad Wilkerson, Marcus Dixon and Kenrick Ellis. Demario Davis will be a key special teams player and play in some defensive packages, same for Josh Bush and Antonio Allen. Robert T. Griffin has practice squad written all over him. Jordan White could join him unless he sticks as the #5 receiver and a special teamer. Finally, I think Terrance Ganaway will beat out Bilal Powell and be the third rushing option behind Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight.

6. Everybody Loves Tony – Leading up to the regular season, Tony Sparano will be one of the most popular men in the Jets organization with fans and players, simply because of how much everybody disliked Brian Schottenheimer.

7. Puppy Eyes – Tim Tebow’s popularity will be at a fever pitch heading into the season. He has already won over the media and skeptics of the trade with his quotes and smiles. Listen, I won’t argue that Tim Tebow seems like genuinely a great human being. It is good to have a player like that part of this organization. I also won’t argue that he works his ass off to get better. However, Mark Sanchez works hard too. Mark Sanchez is a better quarterback than Tim Tebow…by a good amount. If the Jets are going anywhere this season, it is with Sanchez as their starting quarterback and Tebow as a versatile weapon off the bench. Don’t forget that, regardless of how many times Tebow smiles for the camera.

8. Bounce Back – Santonio Holmes is going to have a very good year from start to finish. Why? Great football players are motivated to bounce back from down years and I don’t care what you think of Holmes personally, he is a great football player and the Jets top playmaker on offense. I think he will use everything the media has said about him as fuel. So let him keep being snippy with them, as long as he is catching touchdowns.

9. K-Ball – Josh Brown is going to be the Jets kicker this year, not Nick Folk. TJ Conley isn’t going to be the punter either. You could tell from Mike Westhoff’s quotes last week that he wants no part of Folk and Conley for another year.

10. Big Plays – Look for an increase in Dustin Keller’s yards per catch this season, same goes for Holmes. Anthony Fasano was posting higher yards per catch than Keller in Sparano’s offense and Keller has much more athleticism than him.

11. Annoying Training Camp Stories About Things That Will Have No Impact On The Jets Season – Anything related to Tim Tebow’s personal life. Any story on Matt Simms. Excessive coverage of Hayden Smith. Amateur psychology pieces on Mark Sanchez’s facial expressions during press conferences and practices. Rex Ryan looking skinnier (no joke).

12. Low, Low Expectations – Expect most people to pick the Jets to finish either 3rd or 4th in the AFC East, with a record between 6-10 (pessimistic) or 9-7 (optimistic).

New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: Receiver Stephen Hill

Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets second round pick, wide receiver Stephen Hill

The 2011 New York Jets lacked many assets to make them a playoff team, as displayed by their .500 record. Among their several missing pieces was a big, playmaking, wide receiver that could stretch the field and open up the offense. Plaxico Burress fit the “big” bill, but having been over a full year removed from football, he lacked the speed to create any separation from defensive backs, and his presence hardly garnered any respect from opposing defenses. The Jets desperately needed to add a speedy, home run threat to their offense this offseason, and that may be just what they got in their 2nd round selection, wide receiver Stephen Hill.

Having come from Georgia Tech’s triple option offense, it is difficult to get a diverse sample of film on Hill to evaluate his receiving skills. In fact, during a 20 play stretch against Georgia last year, the Yellow Jackets ran the ball 18 times, while passing just twice. However, during that sample of plays, Hill was able to display his terrific blocking skills. What makes his blocking so effective is that he works his hands and feet tremendously. His hand placement is near perfect the majority of the time, complemented flawlessly by his ability to move his feet with the defender. Hill is also very aggressive and stronger at the point of attack than one might expect him to be. He blocks right until the whistle, and has shown he can crack down on toss sweeps, displaying some pancake blocks along the way.

As far as receiving skills go, from the small sample of plays that the offense did actually throw the ball last season, Hill stands out. He repeatedly showed the ability to blow by man coverage, and proved that he can adjust to the ball very well. The quarterback play at Georgia Tech last season was subpar at best, so there were many plays where Hill had to comeback for a ball or adjust his route to make the play. His speed can certainly hurt opposing defenses as well. Several times last year, Hill was able to take advantage of any cornerback that peeked into the backfield, blowing by the coverage, while the safety was usually one step too slow to make it over in time.

Hill also has very strong hands and does a good job of utilizing them to catch the ball. Of all the film I reviewed on him, not once did he catch a pass against his body. He can make the highlight reel plays too, as he displayed numerous amazing one handed catches last year, most notably the one against North Carolina.

Hill is excellent after the catch. Besides the obvious fact that he is extremely fast and agile, he is also much stronger than you would expect, and he proved to be very difficult to bring down. Hill has a very rare combination of size, speed, and physicality that could make him a nightmare for defenses as he develops down the road.

What is also appealing about Hill is that he seems to have a blue-collar mentality. Although he came from a run first offense, that didn’t necessarily utilize his skill set to the greatest extent, Hill showed no sign of moping around like a typical diva wide receiver that wasn’t getting the ball. Instead, he went out and continued to work on every play, whether that meant blocking or running routes. This speaks very well to his character, something this team needs, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

The biggest concern about Hill is how he will adjust from the triple option scheme to an NFL type offense. Although his route running is much better than I expected it to be, he still has a lot of work to do in this area, specifically on underneath routes, in order to ever be a true number one receiver. He also sometimes tends to focus on the run after the catch, before actually catching the ball, which caused for some drops last season.

Hill is a raw product. He has all the physical tools needed to make him an elite NFL wide receiver, but it will take him some time to develop. He clearly has tremendous upside, and the Jets offensive scheme will play to all of his strengths, which is going to make him an early contributor. He is big, strong, fast, and a great blocker, while he also has the ability to stretch the field and be the long home run threat that New York’s offense lacked in 2011. Hill will be able to create separation between the 20s due to his tremendous speed, while his height and jumping ability will make him a valuable red zone threat.

Hill and the Jets are seemingly a perfect fit for each other. With the offense that Tony Sparano is going to implement, a run heavy scheme with a desire for “chunk” plays, Hill is the ideal wide receiver. He should be able to block and stretch the field for the Jets right away, while working on developing a more balanced game for the future. Quarterback Mark Sanchez will likely enjoy having Hill in his weaponry because the former Georgia Tech product fits his skill set so well. Yesterday at Turn On The Jets, Joe Caporoso noted that one of Sanchez’s strongest points is his play action pass. Hill’s ability to stretch the field should prove to be a vital weapon on these play action passes as he will be able to take the top off of any defense and really open the offense up.

Editor’s Note – Physically, Stephen Hill has everything you would look for in a number one receiver. What is most encouraging is the mental attitude he brings along with the physical skills. It is not easy to be a wide receiver in a run heavy offense but Hill embraced it and blocks with a skill and tenacity that his highly admirable. He is coming into the perfect situation with the Jets. He is not ready to be a number one target because his route running is too raw, however with Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller on board he doesn’t have to be. Hill will see favorable match-ups and be able to focus on being a deep threat this year and in time can develop into being this team’s number one receiver. I think five years from now, we will remember this as the “Stephen Hill draft.”

New York Jets: Building Towards A 4-3 Defense

The New York Jets are putting the pieces in place to spend more time in the 4-3 this season

Rex Ryan has never been hesitant about using a variety of defensive looks since becoming the head coach of the New York Jets. However, they have predominantly been a 3-4 team. After a disappointing 2011 season, it appears the Jets will looking to use more 4-3 alignments this season and will be looking for different things out of a few key players in their system.

Surprisingly, defensive line has developed into the deepest position on the Jets roster. They have one of the best nose tackles in football in Sione Pouha, a promising second year player in Muhammad Wilkerson and one of the league’s better run stoppers in Mike DeVito. Behind them, Marcus Dixon was very good off the bench last year at both defensive end and defensive tackle. Last year’s third round pick Kenrick Ellis has the physical potential to be a force inside and Martin Tevaseau is a capable rotation player. Finally, they surprised many by selecting defensive end Quinton Coples in the first round.

On the other hand, the Jets have many questions at linebacker outside of David Harris. Calvin Pace is coming off his worst season with the team and appears to have lost his burst getting after the quarterback. Bart Scott is also coming off his worst season with the team and is a major liability on passing downs. Bryan Thomas is going to be 33 years old and is coming off major surgery. Aaron Maybin is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker and is predominantly just a pass rush threat. Demario Davis has plenty of potential but is ultimately still a third round rookie.

Outside of Maybin (who is built like a safety), the Jets have asked their linebackers to lose weight and improve their speed. Pace and Thomas are going to spend more time being pure linebackers instead of having different formations where they put their hand in the dirt because the Jets have enough capable defensive lineman.

It is a smart move by Rex Ryan to cater his defense to his depth chart. These is no need to fit square pegs in round holes. You play to your strengths and the Jets strength should be their defensive line more so than their linebackers. Ryan wisely hired a defensive line coach in Karl Dunbar, who was coaching a 4-3 in Minnesota to help with this adjustment. The Jets have a versatile front with most players being able to slide between defensive tackle and defensive end. Ryan should be able to send out a myriad of lineups that could both stop the run and rush the passer.

For example, a line-up with DeVito and Pouha at defensive tackle with Coples and Wilkerson at end, should be capable against the run while still getting push to the quarterback. On third downs, you could slide Coples inside to defensive tackle, bring Aaron Maybin in at end and then replace Bart Scott with Demario Davis or an extra safety to get after the quarterback.

Regardless of what the Jets de facto starting line-up ends up being, expect to see four to five defensive lineman getting major reps throughout the game while a player like Bryan Thomas could end up playing less than 50% of the snaps. It is also hard to see a scenario where Pace and Scott don’t see a decline in their reps.

The Jets strength on defense is cornerback and defensive line, Rex Ryan should be smart enough to build his game-plans around these two positions.

New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: Linebacker Demario Davis

Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets third round pick linebacker Demario Davis

When watching game film of New York Jets’ 3rd round pick DeMario Davis, one word comes to mind: Boom! The Linebacker from Arkansas State may very well be one of the hardest hitters in this entire draft class. Among that, Davis possesses a very balanced skill set that gives him the potential to be an absolute steal as a third round selection. The young man that has recently drawn comparisons to Ray Lewis from the Jets coaching staff, in terms of his demeanor, attitude, and leadership ability. He proved that he can excel in all aspects of the game during his career at Arkansas State.

Other than being a very tough, hard-hitting player, Davis also possesses the read and reaction skills needed in a good linebacker. One of the best traits in his game is that there is no hesitation in his reaction time whatsoever. When a hole opens on a run play, or a pass rush lane on a blitz, Davis is very fast to hit the seam, which gives him an immediate advantage in making plays. He is able to fly to the ball from anywhere on the field, aided partly by his impressive speed, but primarily from his instinct and vast knowledge of the game.

Davis also has elite speed and athleticism as a linebacker. He is extremely fast and explosive out of his breaks, and can transition between his movements very smoothly. He has shown the ability to rush the passer from both the interior and off the edge, which is going to make him a very versatile weapon for Rex Ryan and the Jets’ defensive coaching staff. He has a good arsenal of pass rush moves to couple with his tremendous speed, which should make him a valuable asset to a defense that had so much difficulty getting to the quarterback last year.

What Davis needs to work on the most, to truly be able to succeed at the next level, is his ability to shed blockers. He is usually fantastic at taking on the lead blocker in the hole, always using the correct shoulder and superior aggressiveness to blow up the fullback or wrapping guard as they come through, however he struggles to defend straight on blocks from offensive linemen. Davis too often allows linemen to get into him, making it virtually impossible for him to regroup in time to make a play. He needs to improve his hand action to be able to strike a quick move and get off the block immediately, rather than wasting time getting tangled up with the blocker. Effective handwork will also assist Davis in avoiding cut blocks, something that became frequent against him as last season progressed. When a linebacker plays with as much intensity and tenacity as Davis does, some offensive players tend to shy away from contact after a while throughout the course of a game. This may not necessarily happen at the next level, but in the event that it does, improved handwork will allow Davis to avoid this more often than not.

Davis’s coverage skills are not great, but decent. What works best for him in pass coverage is his physicality and speed. He is very aggressive against receivers coming over the middle, or backs out of the backfield. His technique in coverage is far from perfect, however he was able to mask that in college due to his outstanding speed. This is something that he will need to improve upon at the next level, where the majority of offensive backs and receivers are going to be faster than he is. These are simple coaching points that will be made once he gets into camp.

What is most impressive about DeMario Davis’s game film is his motor. He is constantly moving all over the field, sideline to sideline, regardless of the situation. He is very tough, and hits just as hard, if not harder than any defensive player that was taken this year. Davis was also a very good special teams contributor, as there were countless plays last season in which he blew up blockers and ball carriers alike during his time on the kickoff team. This will likely be a large part of his role with the Jets this season, so his experience here is extremely important.

Davis brings an intimidating presence to the field. While watching him on film, you can just feel the attitude he plays with. He is passionate, a natural leader, and seems to want it more than anyone else on the field at all times. He has been very productive during his time as a starter at Arkansas State. Since 2009, he has compiled 201 tackles, 7 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 4 interceptions. Also, as previously stated, Davis is extremely fast. He ran a 4.61 40-yard dash at the combine, but was reportedly in the low 4.5 range at his pro day. Either way, his extreme tenacity, speed, leadership ability, and versatility make him a perfect fit for the Jets.

Davis is a Rex Ryan type player, and he should have a tremendous future in New York. As for this year, expect to see him in some sub packages, most likely on third downs as either a blitzer or in coverage. He should have a heavy role on special teams, something he will undoubtedly succeed at, while learning the defensive system behind David Harris and Bart Scott. Eventually, he will be the successor to Scott, and should form a very potent duo on the inside with Harris in the future.

Editor’s Note – Davis is a bit raw in some areas but I think he is a player Jets fans are going to fall in love with in the coming years. His motor and speed reminds me of what we saw from Aaron Maybin last year, except Davis has the tools to be a complete linebacker. Look for him to contribute in sub packages and be pushing Bart Scott heavily for playing time all season, until ultimately taking over for him next year.

New York Jets: Getting The Most Out Of Mark Sanchez

After breaking down the tape, here is how Tony Sparano can get the most out of Mark Sanchez this year

While staff writer Chris Gross has been spending his time in the film room breaking down the New York Jets draft picks, I have spent the bulk of the my time in the film room going back through Mark Sanchez’s first three years as a NFL quarterback. There is no reason to sugarcoat the reality, this is a make or break year for Sanchez. There isn’t a backup quarterback in the NFL breathing heavier down the starter’s neck (for the wrong or right reasons) than Tim Tebow.

Sanchez has had more success in terms of winning football games than any other quarterback in franchise history, outside of Joe Namath. Unfortunately for him, NFL fans and New Yorkers in particular have a short memory. Right now all everybody can remember is Eli Manning hoisting up his second Super Bowl trophy in five years and Sanchez flaming out at the end of last season, most notably against those Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

So for better or worse, Sanchez’s time needs to be now. I have seen every snap he has taken since coming into this league but I wanted to go back to confirm my observations, with a particular focus on his best games and his worst games. What are the elements that went into the game plans that made him successful? What was missing in the games he struggled in? What is the best approach for Tony Sparano and the new offensive staff to take in order to get the most out of their starting quarterback?

Let’s start with a few general observations before getting into a specific games –

Pros

  • Sanchez’s arm strength is not an issue. A common misconception about Sanchez’s game is that he lacks the arm strength to make all the throws necessary in a NFL playbook. He actually throws a very good deep ball when given the opportunity and has zipped plenty of passes into tight windows through bracketed coverage. Brian Schottenheimer did not ask Sanchez to throw outside the hashes a high percentage of the time but he has completed his share of deep outs and comebacks.

  • He is a very good athlete. Sanchez is more mobile than people give him credit for and has an ability to extend the play. This has been a gift and a curse to him throughout his NFL career, as it has led to big plays and head scratching interceptions.

  • He throws well on the run/is a good play action quarterback. It is head scratching why Brian Schottenheimer didn’t move the pocket more last season with the Jets suspect line. Sanchez throws very well on the rollout and has consistently succeeded off play action throughout his career.

Cons

  • Coverage/Defense recognition. Many of Sanchez’s interceptions come from him not recognizing a defense properly, most notably not taking into account a defender playing underneath his target in a zone. The only solution to this is film study.

  • Quick Trigger. When Sanchez is getting poor protection his defensive recognition goes from questionable to non-existent. He will often lock into to his first read and if that isn’t open, look immediately to his check down with an inaccurate pass. There have been times he has extended a play with his legs and created something down field, which is something he needs to do more often. Sanchez also must do better with blitz recognition pre-snap.

  • Accuracy Inconsistencies. A factor in Sanchez’s low completion percentage throughout his career has been working with a different group of starting receivers every year of his career, including a few who couldn’t get separation. However, he is too often hot/cold when it comes to his accuracy. Sanchez must find a way to break himself out of slumps quicker.

The best stretch of football Sanchez played in his career, came in week 2-4 of the 2010 season. When he posted the following stat lines against his divisional rivals

  • Week 2 – Vs. New England – 21/30, 220 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
  • Week 3 – At Miami – 15/28, 256 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
  • Week 4 – At Buffalo – 14/24, 161 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs

What were the common denominators in these games? Three key things: Dustin Keller, running the football, and limited passing attempts. Keller had 115 yards receiving against New England with a touchdown, 98 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns against Miami, and 28 receiving yards and 2 more touchdowns against Buffalo. An involved Keller means a productive Sanchez.

The Jets ran the ball well in all three games, going for 136 yards, 146 yards and 273 yards respectively. In each game, they averaged well over 4 yards per carry. Finally, they kept Sanchez’s pass attempts at 30 or under. The offense was well balanced but tipped slightly towards running the football.

It is interesting to note that Sanchez had one other very strong stretch in 2010 in week 9-11 that broke with the trends from the earlier stretch.

  • Week 9 – At Detroit – 22/39, 336 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
  • Week 10 – At Cleveland – 27/44, 299 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
  • Week 11 – Vs. Houston – 22/38, 315 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Note that despite Sanchez playing well, he turned the ball over in every game because his pass attempts went above 30. The Jets also didn’t run the ball as well producing 110 yards, 172 yards and 103 yards respectively and never cracking over 4 yards per carry. The Jets did win all three of these games but all were under extraordinary circumstances against subpar competition.

Sanchez had one last very good stretch of football in 2010, the divisional round against New England and the AFC Championship Game against Pittsburgh, with the best game coming against the Patriots. He went 16/25, for 194 yards and 3 touchdowns. Once again, under 30 attempts and a strong rushing effort (120 yards, 4.1 yard per carry) were present. Keller wasn’t a factor but Jerricho Cotchery filled the safety blanket void by coming up with 96 receiving yards. In the AFC Championship Game, Sanchez did just barely crack 30 attempts, going 20/33 for 233 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs but Keller had 8 receptions.

Looking at 2011, Sanchez didn’t really have a game that touched his stretch early in the 2010 season. He did have a few games that mirrored the middle stretch where he threw the ball a ton, racked up a bunch of passing yards but also turned the ball over. Sanchez threw the ball over 30 times in 10 games and the Jets had a 4-6 record in those contests. He actually threw the ball 35 times or more in 7 games and the team had a 2-5 record when that occurred.

Not surprisingly, his three best games from the standpoint of quarterback rating came when he threw 21 times, 26 times, and 25 times respectively. The running game was good not great in those games but in reality the running game was never great for the Jets last year, which was a major contributor to Sanchez’s and the team’s struggles.

What was most perplexing about last season is that the Jets waited until they had a questionable offensive line to drop Sanchez back at a much higher rate. 35 passes against Baltimore with Colin Baxter and Wayne Hunter starting? 59 passes against the Giants pass rush, with Wayne Hunter still starting? 40 passes in Denver, with yes…Wayne Hunter starting? That is poor coaching and those were three of Sanchez’s worst games last year. As you could imagine, the Jets averaged 75 rushing yards per game in those three losses and Dustin Keller averaged 43 yards receiving and had zero touchdowns.

On top of that, Sanchez was dealing with play calls that forced him to focus seemingly exclusively inside the hashes, where the most possible traffic was. The options on the outside were limited thanks to a sluggish Plaxico Burress and a struggling Santonio Holmes.

When it comes to coaching Sanchez this season, Tony Sparano would be wise to focus on building a reliable, power rushing attack. Ideally, Sanchez should be dropping back 22-28 times per game and be able to take advantage of his play action skills on a big chunk of those pass attempts. He should frequently be moved outside the pocket and Dustin Keller always needs to be a big part of the game plan. Rookie Stephen Hill and second year receiver Jeremy Kerley should help clear more space in the intermediate passing game for him. Finally, Sparano can’t be afraid to let Sanchez throw outside the hashes and down the field.

Without question, one of his biggest challenges will be game planning around the right tackle’s deficiencies, whether it is Wayne Hunter or Vlad Ducasse. If Sparano could protect Sanchez adequately, he has a quarterback more than talented enough to win with.

New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: Safety Josh Bush

Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets safety Josh Bush, one of the team’s sixth round picks this year

With immense struggle at the Safety position last season, one of the New York Jets’ most pressing needs heading into the 2012 draft was to find players to add to the back of their defensive secondary. New York was repeatedly hurt by their safety play last year, especially after the season ending injury to Jim Leonhard. Opposing tight ends generally had field days against the Jets, most notably New England’s Rob Gronkowski. In his two games against Gang Green last season, Gronkowski caught 12 balls for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns. If New York ever wants to take the reigns from New England in the AFC East, one of the many things they will have to do is shutdown the young TE duo of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who also had 9 catches for 97 yards in his two games against the Jets last year.

New York addressed the safety position via free agency with the addition of former first round selection LaRon Landry. However, Landry is known for his physicality and play as a Strong Safety, rather than his coverage ability. The Jets desperately needed to add a quality cover Safety, and that is exactly what they did when they selected Josh Bush with the 187th overall pick in this year’s draft. While Landry will serve an in the box type role this season, Bush has the ability to take over for Leonhard in the center field role for New York. Eric Smith will likely begin the season as the starter, but with Bush’s strong cover skills, there is certainly a chance for him to see significant time, and eventually surpass Smith by mid to late season.

The most obvious trait that stands out on Bush is his athleticism. He has very smooth hips and makes seamless transitions from his backpedal into his forward progressions. He shows fantastic ability to read routes and react to the ball. His has good closing speed which gives him great range and the ability to roam the field freely. This is crucial to the position, because it allows him have the liberty to navigate the secondary.

Bush’s run game skills are excellent as well. His pursuit angles are what a safety’s should be. He will not take poor angles to try and make a play, but instead will take the longer, safer angles, while allowing everyone in front of him to make the tackle before the ball carrier gets to his level, literally making himself the last line of defense. In terms of run defense, this is exactly what a free safety should be doing.

As a true free safety, Bush knows his assignments, and does a great job of orchestrating the defense by getting his teammates in the right spots before the snap. He can certainly make the big play, demonstrated by his 6 interceptions at Wake Forest last season, but he will not be depended on to do so, especially in New York’s star studded secondary. Instead, Bush will need to be cerebral and be able to blanket the Tight End, along with anything else over the middle, something he is no stranger to. Last season against Clemson, Bush was a problem for the Tigers’ All American Tight End, Dwayne Allen. Against Bush and the Wake Forest defense, Allen amassed only 4 catches for 48 yards.

Bush’s strong points are an excellent fit for the Jets. He is very fast, extremely quick, and similar to his rookie counterparts that we have previously reviewed, he is very tough. Bush also demonstrates a vast knowledge of the defense and his responsibilities. He knows his job and constantly executes his assignments with one hundred percent effort. Bush does not get caught up worrying about his teammates’ assignments, which shows he has great trust in those around him, something vital to the success of any defense.

While Bush certainly possesses athleticism, passion, and confidence, there are some aspects of his game that, if improved upon, will only make him a better, more complete player. His ability to shed blocks is somewhat poor, and his tackling skills, although good, are far from perfect. As a Free Safety, Bush’s play in these areas will not determine his success at the position, but improvement here will not only make him a better player, it will enhance the entire defense as well.

In evaluating film of Josh Bush, there is certainly great question as to how he flew so far under the radar in college. Despite being a third team All American, and first team All ACC selection, Bush was snubbed for the Senior Bowl and did not receive an invite to the NFL Combine. He moved from the Cornerback position to Safety for his senior season, so perhaps there were concerns about his level of experience. He also does not have elite size, but at 5’11” 203 lbs, he is certainly big enough to develop into a very productive NFL safety.

Overall, Bush surely has the ability to be an early contributor. His athleticism and coverage skills will make him a great fit for the role he will be placed in with the Jets. Combine that with the extreme lack of depth the Jets have at the Free Safety position, and he will more than likely always be a play or two away from getting on the field. Eric Smith is expected to begin the season as the starting FS, but if he begins to struggle again, expect New York to take a shot with Bush. If he can develop intellectually, he will prove to be a stronger, faster, more athletic Jim Leonhard. The key will be how well he can grasp the defense and how confident he will be in taking command.

Editor’s Notes – Bush reminds me an awful lot of Dwight Lowery. He is a hybrid safety/corner with average size and speed that has very good ball skills and instincts. When the Jets go to a three safety look, he is a logical player to drop into a centerfield type role. It wouldn’t shock me if he found his way on to the field as a starter at some point considering the Jets depth chart but ideally he will spend this season only playing in sub packages and on special teams.

New York Jets Rookie Mini Camp Report

Chris Gross on the five most important takeaways from New York Jets rookie minicamp

We let Chris Gross out of the film room long enough to break down five key points from the New York Jets rookie mini-camp. Check back tomorrow for his breakdown of safety Josh Bush and then throughout the week for our closer look at DeMario Davis, Stephen Hill and Quinton Coples.

1.) DeMario Davis needs to continue leading. Rex Ryan and the Jets’ coaching staff raved not only over Davis’s tremendous speed, but also how vocal and assertive he proved to be during team drills. While this is exactly what you want from one of your linebackers, Davis needs to prove that he can be just as confident and vocal when the veterans come into camp. It is often natural for guys to feel comfortable around their peers, however, the true test will come when respected and established players line up alongside Davis. Ryan has compared his demeanor and confidence to that of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis’s. He needs to not be afraid to step on anyone’s toes, and just continue to be himself. This will be key to his development and success this season.

2.) Don’t get your hopes up on Robert T. Griffin. Griffin has generated some interesting buzz coming out of rookie mini camp. He reportedly has been quite impressive to coaches and media alike. While I am not doubting Griffin’s potential, it is simply foolish for anyone to declare him in competition for playing time after three days of non contact drills. It is not difficult for offensive lineman, especially those with size comparable to Griffin’s, to look decent while scrimmaging without pads on. As we previously noted here at Turn On The Jets, Griffin is a long way from being a productive NFL lineman. He will not be the solution to New York’s Right Tackle situation anytime soon.

3.) No Surprises. Out of all the stories that came out of training camp, one that should not have come as a surprise to anyone is Stephen Hill’s impressive display of speed and size. We all know the physical ability of Hill, so it shouldn’t be shocking that he stood out during the weekend long camp. What will be interesting to see is how he plays when he eventually gets reps against the Jets’ first team corners in training camp. It will benefit Hill greatly to be able to compete against two of the best corners in the league in Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie during practice.

4.) Let Him Play! After an impressive first day of camp, first round selection Quinton Coples was told by coaches to sit out of team drills. While this was most likely a ploy for the coaches to fairly evaluate the tryout players who were overmatched by Coples, they have to be careful with this approach. For a player who has been labeled lazy at times, perhaps a bit unfairly, the last thing he needs in his quest to earn respect is for his peers to see the coaches pampering him by giving him rest, while they are all on the field working. Again, I’m sure this is not too big a deal, but New York needs to be careful not to turn their newest pass rusher into a prima donna.

5.) The Headline Grabber. In typical New York Jets fashion, the team was highly discussed on Sunday and Monday due to the signing of QB Matt Simms, son of New York Giants great Phil Simms. The Jets simply have too many holes on the roster to carry four quarterbacks. We all know Sanchez and Tebow aren’t going anywhere, and Greg McElroy is light-years ahead of Simms as an NFL Quarterback. At best, Simms provides a body through training camp, and then lands a practice squad deal for the season. This is seemingly a move consisting of Mike Tannenbaum being Mike Tannenbaum and generating that coveted buzz that he appears to enjoy so much.

A Night To Enjoy The New York Knicks

The New York Knicks gave us at least one day to enjoy this playoffs

Since about half way through the second quarter of the New York Knicks/Miami Heat first round series, it has been a punchline. A Knicks team bogged down in injuries and incompetence mercifully waiting to have their season ended amid questions about Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, the future of the point guard position, Mike Woodson and just about every other component of the organization.

Those questions aren’t going anywhere and will likely be revisited this Thursday morning when the heavily favored Heat should be preparing for their second round opponent. However, yesterday the Knicks and their fans were finally given a long overdue playoff moment to enjoy. The record breaking 13 game losing streak came to an end and for one afternoon, the Knicks big three of Anthony, Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler was superior to the Dream Team’s big three of LeBrom James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Eastern Conference is weak. By the time next season comes around it will be the Heat and everybody else. Derrick Rose won’t be back until the middle of next season and Luol Deng will be recovering from wrist surgery, casting doubts over the Bulls. Boston will be yet another year older. Who knows what will happen in Orlando. Indiana, Atlanta and Philadelphia will likely remain good but certainly nowhere near great.

The general core of this Knicks roster isn’t going anywhere. When the dust settles, the line of thinking will revolve around Mike Woodson having a full off-season and training camp to implement his system, while Jeremy Lin, Chandler, Stoudemire and Anthony will have the needed time to perfect their chemistry. Outside of Miami, who will have a better top four in the East than the Knicks next season?

That is the glass half full logical, which will rightly be met with skepticism. There is no sustained evidence to show that this collection of players can function together and that they can survive with such erratic two guard and bench play. As of now, the evidence points to a Anthony led team being unable to win a championship.

Yet, for one day there was hope. There was hope that LeBron and Wade won’t reign supreme without breaking a sweat the next five years. There was the sight of Anthony being good enough to carry a team in the playoffs. There was Stoudemire throwing up a double-double and playing defense. There was Chandler stomping around the paint like a Defensive Player of the Year should.

It gave us a day to enjoy the Knicks and three more days to humor ourselves with the what if of Miami having to come back to MSG for Game 6, where there would be one of the most epic crowds in recent MSG history.

I wouldn’t bank on Jeremy Lin playing and if he does, it isn’t going to be for more than 10-12 minutes. There is no miracle coming off the bench at this point, it is just Anthony, Stoudemire, Chandler and whatever everybody else can muster up.

New York Jets: Rookie Mini-Camp Is Time To Feel Good

The early returns on the Jets top draft picks were positive, but let’s not get carried way

The New York Jets, not unlike many other teams in the NFL, had rave reports about their rookies and how they performed at mini-camp over the past weekend. DeMario Davis is the next Ray Lewis. Stephen Hill was a man among boys. Quinton Coples had six sacks in a single practice.

This isn’t a criticism of Rex Ryan’s effusive praise or the fan’s excitement about new players. Every team around the NFL is taking part in the same practice right now. Robert Griffin III has already been crowned Sonny Jurgensen by a Washington writer. You would think the Colts are improving from Peyton Manning in his prime this season with Andrew Luck under center. And Ryan Tannehill apparently threw some of the prettiest 10 yard out routes ever seen on tryout NFL players not wearing equipment.

The point is not to get carried away. Should you be excited about DeMario Davis because he is fast and seems to have natural leadership skills? Yes. Should you be fantasizing about 90 yard Stephen Hill touchdown receptions? I know I am. But as Bill Parcells used to say after a particular player was being hyped a little too much early in his career, “let’s not put him in Canton yet.”

Let’s see how the rookies handle the veterans and full contact practices, then let’s see them making plays in the pre-season, then let’s see them playing when it really counts. I do think that Stephen Hill and Quinton Coples will start this year. I’d be surprised if DeMario Davis wasn’t in a number of defensive packages and a special teams ace but they all have a long way to go.

In case you weren’t keeping track, here are the player comparisons we have heard so far for prominent Jets rookies –

Coples – Trevor Pryce, Shaun Ellis, Muhammad Wilkerson

Hill – Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Keith Jackson

Davis – Ray Lewis, Bart Scott

And our very own at TOJ, from the rookies Chris Gross and myself have reviewed

Jordan White – Jerricho Cotchery

Antonio Allen – James Ihedigbo

Terrance Ganaway – A quicker Shonn Greene (hopefully).

A Night With The Yankees

Guest contributor Justin Fritze breaks down his latest trip to Yankees Stadium

Guest contributor Justin Fritze walks us through another one of his nights at Yankees Stadium – 

The day started with rain. Rain and more rain for about five hours. I was going to see the Yankees play the Orioles at 7pm, sans Swisher yet sadly with Phil Hughes starting at pitcher. Hughes was 1-3 this year with an ERA rising over 6, so to say I had general apprehensions about his start would be an understatement.

At around noon the sun started coming out, slowly but surely, until around 3pm it was about 70 degrees and feeling like the glorious spring we’ve all been waiting for. At 5 I walked out of work and headed towards Union Square, which was currently being flanked by about 500 cops, surveillance buses, emergency service units, and general gestapo of the highest order. The kids were having some fun so someone had to stop it.

The most interesting part of the journey to Yankee stadium is the 4 train from Manhattan, which slowly picks up all the wall street crowd, the yuppie crowd, and the kids from the projects getting on for a quick 40 block ride to 161st street. It’s a real interesting mix, and despite the income inequality, living quarters, political views etc. there is a general unifier. They are going to see the Yankees. New York’s only REAL New York team. (Jets/Giants play in NJ…Knicks are too expensive for most)

If you’re really familiar with parking for a Yankees game, then you’ll know that the Gateway shopping Center is the best deal to get to the stadium and openly drink to the point of recklessness. Also, there is Taco Bell 500 feet away. And if T-Bell doesn’t do it for you then there is a fine Indian hot dog vendor who will sell you two hot dogs and a soda for $3.50 as soon as you come down the pedestrian walkway.

We made the mistake of coming out the back side (blame it on the Goose) of the Gateway, but found an amazing thing had happened in the Bronx in the matter of one year. We start walking towards the stadium, somehow stumbling on a recently built Metro North Station that looks like it’s the site of a space shuttle test (clean and minimal decorum). You cross over the footbridge and then you get to a site that makes you feel quite far from the Bronx.

Macombs Dam Park/Heritage Field is a revelation to anyone who is used to slumming through the generally downtrodden River Avenue. It’s huge. It’s spacious. There are basketball courts, running tracks, playgrounds, baseball fields. There’s nearly everything for every sport and it’s all surrounding the Stadium itself. More than anything else it gives you a feeling of approaching something larger than life. You forgot that you are stepping on hallowed ground, where the great played. And you see the new stadium, like a coliseum piercing the New York skyline. It is where THEY play. The great ones. The ones you listen to in the background while you are doing other work. The ones you check in on while you’re at a family party. The ones that pace the summer with games every other night. Sometimes you don’t even have the volume up. You know what they’re talking about.

The entrance is something almost primal. You start wrapping around from the first base line, catching a glimpse of the huge steel beams holding up the top deck, and then the green is so bright, so expansive it stops you in your tracks. Jeter just got a hit and the whole place is rumbling. This is his house. A subway rolls by and someone spills a beer. You get to the bleachers and you see Curtis Granderson standing about 50 feet away. You don’t see him much on television, but he is there and he is in prime position to move left, right, forward, back. You buy Bazzini peanuts and grab a beer. It’s the 5th inning and everyone is jumping up and down because Rodriguez just drew a walk.

This is baseball at Yankee stadium. Everything the Yankees do well is rewarded with 20,000 cheers. Everything they don’t is drew with 20,000 boos. It is Tuesday in May, and for a little while you forget about everything and just enjoy the game. They lost 7-1. No complaints.