TJ Rosenthal goes No Huddle on the long off-season approaching the New York Jets
Pats Lose But Jets Are Still A Mess
Jets fans loved seeing the Ravens knock the Patriots out. After five straight years of Super Bowl pain that began when the David Tyree Giants shocked the world, through the Jets AFC title game years to now, the Har-Bowl will be much easier to stomach than a Pats or Big Blue appearance would have again.
Keep this in mind though. Today the offices in Foxboro will begin work on 2013. On being one, two games better. The Jets cleanup won’t be nearly as simple. What a job this will be for new GM John Idzik. Cleaning up the rubble of a bombed out city. Enjoy the Pats exit idiot bleed green and white, but keep in perspective.
One Thing Is Certain
Matt Flynn, Matt Moore, heck even call Vinny Testaverde if you have to. Mark Sanchez cannot be brought back with the hopes that new coaches and a new system will undoubtedly cure his brittle mindset. If Sanchez can’t be traded there has to be a veteran fighting for the same job right next to him this summer. Anything less would be considered negligence by the fans.
On Second Thought
We have raised the notion of a rebuilding process that could include trading Darrelle Revis in order to receive a handful of picks and players. After watching CBs suffer in this postseason, we are no longer in love with the idea. We hope that Idzik and Co. Would agree. The rules are too soft nowadays to lose a great corner. Sign Revis, for the long term. Once he shows that his knee is healthy again. In closing, we can emphasize enough how much we are looking forward to the coming weeks and months. A time when this roster will take shape and finally work towards becoming more viable offensively. It’s about time.
Stay with TOJ all week, as we will be continuing our roster breakdown, NFL Draft Preview and begin breaking down the West Coast Offense and how the Jets current personnel fits with it.
TJ Rosenthal explores if the Jets could have any interest in quarterback Matt Flynn this off-season
The Jets moved up in the 2009 draft in order to grab the exuberant USC Rose Bowl star Mark Sanchez. Since then the one-time emerging quarterback’s play has fallen rapidly. Sanchez has time to be rehabilitated emotionally, but new Jets GM John Idzik may already have another plan in mind. One that includes giving the starting job to Matt Flynn, a player that Idzik helped bring to Seattle in 2011.
Flynn signed with the Seahawks in March of 2012. After two monstrous late season games in 2010 as Packers starter (while Green Bay rested god-like starter Aaron Rdogers for the playoffs). When he excited many teams who were in need of a quarterback, by throwing for a combined nine TD passes in eight quarters of play. Results that led to a three year twenty five million dollar deal for himself, to become the future in Seattle. One of those places in need of a fresh start from behind center.
Then all of a sudden the future of the NFL became something called the “run option.” Used by teams this past year such as the Seahawks and Redskins, who featured young athletic signal callers capable of spearheading it. With Russell Wilson (who shocked many by winning the job from Flynn in training camp) now firmly entrenched behind center for Pete Carroll’s club, many Jets fans are already wondering if Idzik is interested once again in the also-pricey Flynn.
Flynn or no Flynn, Sanchez is now on thin ice as a Jet. The Daily News is already suggesting that the Jets will explore the notion of trading Sanchez, if there is a market for him. Releasing him would work heavily against the Jets cap, but it remains an option. Successful teams do at times take financial hits in order to turn emotional pages inside of their locker rooms.
Could a Sanchez for Flynn deal be in the works with Idzik now at the controls? The answer could lie in part within the vision of Marty Mornhinweg, who was named the Jets new offensive coordinator today. Mornhinweg has called the plays for the Eagles for the past six years. He has worked alongside a mobile quarterback in Donovan McNabb, a run-first QB in Michael Vick, and a pocket passer in Nick Foles. Having seen all three style first hand, the new Jets play caller may lend a valuable hand in leading Idzik towards a direction that will serve the Jets best going forward.
If both elusive speed and arm strength is what Idzik now covets after seeing Wilson succeed as a rookie, Flynn will not be the right fit. He is clearly not as mobile as players like Wilson, Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaeperick are at the position, and his arm strength will never be considered among the elite.
However Flynn’s efficiency in the west coast style, proven briefly in Mike McCarthy’s system, could potentially make him a vast upgrade over Sanchez. Whose QB rating was ranked 30th in 2011 and 31st in 2012. Justifying a move to a player Flynn who could provide stability in the short passing game as a short term transition makes sense on some level, even if it were not the long term solution for Idzik’s new organization at the position.
If a deal that involved Flynn meant moving Sanchez came to fruition, the result would sadden any diehards who still believe that Sanchez had the ability to become a franchise quarterback. Had he been surrounded by the right talent, and developed properly by many ex-coaches. Whose failure to do so played a part in their respective firings.
It won’t be long before the fate of Sanchez and the mystery of who will be the starter, is addressed. As the process of rebuilding the Jets flawed roster finally begins. Matt Flynn’s name will certainly surface regularly as part of that conversation. From now until a choice by Idzik and the Jets is made.
In the wake of the New York Jets announcing the hiring of John Idzik as the organization’s next General Manager, the coaching dominoes have already begun to fall into place. Shortly after agreeing to terms with Idzik, the Jets have hired Marty Mornhinweg as Offensive Coordinator. Both of these hirings finally give the Jets a bit more stability moving forward, after a three week stint with both positions unoccupied.
Mornhinweg joins the Jets after 10 years spent in Philadelphia with the Eagles. Mornhinweg was hired by Andy Reid in 2003 as a senior assistant, became assistant head coach in 2004, and finally took over play calling duties in 2006 as the team’s Offensive Coordinator, a position he held through last season, prior to Reid being fired. During his seven seasons as Eagles’ Offensive Coordinator, Mornhinweg yielded five top 10 offenses and three top 5 offenses, while never finishing outside of 15th in overall offense. Before his tenure in Philadelphia, Mornhinweg worked in Green Bay as the Quarterbacks coach during the Packers’ 1996 Super Bowl XXXI championship season, followed by 4 seasons in San Francisco, serving as both Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks coach under Head Coach Steve Mariucci, and finally a brief stint as Head Coach of the Detroit Lions from 2001-2002.
A long descendant of the Bill Walsh tree, Mornhinweg brings in vast experience in the west coast offense, indicating the Jets will be making a major shift from Tony Sparano’s failed Ground and Pound approach. A shift like this will be beneficial to the Jets, who have been far behind the ball in terms of offensive schematics over the past couple of years. A shift to a west coast style system will be a complete 180 degree spin for Gang Green. Previously under Ryan, the Jets have expressed their desire to be a run first team. Conversely, a west coast offense will use the pass to open up the run. How successful New York will be in their first season in this type of offense is unclear, but this kind of change was an absolute necessity considering the league’s recent offensive trends.
Mornhinweg also brings in an excellent history of quarterback experience. Having played the position in college at the University of Montana, Mornhinweg has been a key instrument in the development of players like Brett Favre (1995, 1996), Steve Young (1997-1999), Jeff Garcia (San Francisco 1999-2000, Philadelphia 2006, 2009), Donovan McNabb (1999-2009), and Michael Vick (2009-2012) among others. It will be interesting to see whether or not the Jets give Mornhinweg a chance to attempt to resurrect the career of Mark Sanchez, the former 5th overall pick who has regressed mightily in his previous two seasons as a pro. Sanchez played in a west coast offense under Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian during his days at USC with high success – 3,207 yards, 34 TD, 10 INT, 65.8 completion percentage during his final season. It is fair to assume that John Idzik will sit down with Mornhinweg to pick his brain about Sanchez before any decisions are made on the embattled quarterback’s future in New York.
Speculation will also begin to circulate about the Jets acquiring Michael Vick and Matt Flynn, both of whom have ties to Mornhinweg and Idzik, respectively, and are expected to become available, either via free agency or trade, when the new league year begins in March. However, internal decisions will likely need to be made at the quarterback position before any additional players are acquired.
This is a very solid hire for the Jets. Mornhinweg brings experience, innovation, and most importantly, something brand new. How well his schematics and system will translate to the current personnel are still unknown, but New York’s offensive ideology is finally beginning to head in the right direction.
The New York Jets have hired John Idzik to be their next General Manager
After a long, meandering process the New York Jets have hired former Seattle Seahawks VP of Football Administration John Idzik to be their next General Manager. Here is Idzik’s full biography and in an article written on future GM candidates back in December, Albert Breer of NFL.com had this to say about him –
“Idzik is a sleeper to keep his eye on, because of his versatility. He’s a business side guy who runs the team’s cap but he also does some college scouting for Schneider (Seattle’s GM) and has a wealth of experience with franchise rebuilds, going back to Dungy’s Bucs.”
To summarize his current job – He runs Seattle’s salary cap while remaining active in personnel evaluations. He has been with them since 2007. Prior to coming there, he was the Senior Director of Football Operations for the Arizona Cardinals for three years and was a big part of building a roster that reached the Super Bowl. Before that he was with Tampa Bay for 11 years moving from Pro Personnel Assistant, Director of Football Administration, and finally to Assistant General Manager in 2001.
Idzik was also a graduate assistant coach at Duke University and played football collegiately at Dartmouth. His father was an assistant coach in the NFL for numerous teams including the Jets.
Is Idzik’s background primarily on the salary cap side of things? Yes. However, he comes from a football heavy background and has experience with scouting and personnel evaluations, much more so than Mike Tannenbaum did. Look for Idzik to remake the team’s scouting department and hopefully bring in a few strong-minded individuals on the personnel side of things.
No GM hiring is a slam dunk but Idzik has an impressive background and the Jets certainly did their due diligence on this search. It will be interesting to see if Idzik quickly parts ways with front office holdovers from the former regime like Terry Bradway and Scott Cohen. The team also still needs to locate an offensive coordinator, with Pep Hamilton, Hue Jackson and Marty Mornhigweg all remaining candidates.
Chris Celletti with his weekly Best Bets, featuring a special guest appearance
Every professional team I root for – the Yankees and perpetual knife-twisters the Rangers, Knicks and Jets – has a history that I can only read about. No matter how much research I do, even if I could name off the top of my head who played on the third line for the Rangers in 1974, or who led the Knicks in assists in 1983, it’s all just history – like studying the Civil War in high school. But to have lived through the entire existence of something is to truly understand it.
The only reason I’m a New York Jets fan is because of my father. My brother and I were lucky enough to have Jets season tickets in our family dating way, way back before we were born, and our father has been taking us to games for the past 20 or so years. And in my two-plus decades living and dying with the Jets, I think I’ve seen it all. But of course, it’s physically impossible for me to have seen it all, because the Jets have been in existence longer than I have. They have not, however, been in existence since before my father was born. He, and others of his generation, have indeed seen it all.
And those who haven’t missed a single beat have a different perspective than those of my generation. I remember when I was in college the day the Jets hired Rex Ryan, I received a text from my father that read, “Jets hire Rex Ryan. 8-8, 9-7, 6-10, 4-12, bye-bye”. It wasn’t that he knew all about Rex Ryan and was predicting he’d been a failure. He certainly wasn’t hoping he was right (as you’ll see below). But looking back, my father wasn’t that far off. Make no mistake – with a new GM in town any day now, if the Jets go 4-12 in 2013, Rex Ryan will be fired, and my father would have essentially called it four years earlier. He’s just seen this game before, countless times.
In a way, it’s just like raising a child – if you’ve been there every single step of the way, you just understand them better than anyone else.
Of course, one thing that has been the same since the Jets were in existence has been the media’s coverage of the city’s black sheep of football. So, I’ll step aside and give the floor to my father, Frank:
There’s an old game being played in the media these days, but with a brand new intensity. The game is called “Turn On the Jets”. No, not turn on as in “tune in to” or “rev up”, but as in “put down” or “mock”. Who in the organization has set off this new round of put downs? None other than Rex Ryan. As someone whose first game was at the Polo Grounds in 1962 when the team was still the New York Titans, let me explain.
Back then, the NFL ruled the world. Then along came the upstart AFL and along with them a brash new quarterback named Joe Namath. What Joe and the Jets did was predict they would knock off the mighty, 24-point favored Baltimore Colts and then went out and did it! With that, they also knocked the Giants, and the NFL, off the back pages of the newspapers. How dare they! For this the organization has never been forgiven, especially by many in the New York media. You see, this was, and will always be to many, a Giants town.
Since Super Bowl III, Jets fans have seen the birth of the “Same old Jets” tag, and the embarrassment of playing in those same Giants’ stadium for 30 years. And we have lived with a barrage of put downs in the media that intensifies or ebbs year-to-year. Right now we are in a tsunami of beat downs on the team. Why? Well you see, Rex broke the cardinal rule. He came along and dared to say positive things about the Jets. He even tried to push the Giants off the back page. Oh Rex, how dare you?
When the Jets went to two conference championship games in his first two years, nothing much could be said by the media. But now that the team is down, it’s open season. Sure, Rex has brought on some of this himself. But the intensity of the criticism is way out of line with reality. The organization has been called a “sewer”. It’s been said they can’t give away the GM job. Really? Oh and there’s the tattoo. Think of it, can you imagine anyone, anywhere in the New York media treating the Giants or Tom Coughlin that way? Be honest now.
The facts is things are not as bad as the pundits say they are. Rex can coach. There are some good young players on the roster. There are some real problems for sure, but they’re not insurmountable. But you see folks, it’s the Jets so anything goes! Roll out the put downs. Same Old Media.
And now, onto the picks for this weekend’s Championship games:
Atlanta (+4) vs. San Francisco – As my dad would say “The WORLD has the 49ers”. Meaning, nobody is giving the Falcons any credit, and everyone seems to think this is going to be a laugher in the 49ers’ favor. I’ll take my chances with a home dog in the NFC Title game.
Ravens (+8) at Patriots – Outright, I’m picking the Patriots, but I think it will be very close, similar to last year’s game. The more important betting line is the Over/Under on snaps of this game I will watch, given that this is head-to-head with the Rangers’ home opener against the Penguins and pits two of my most despised sports franchises in the world. Let’s set it at 14.5 (hint: take the under).
Bonus Non-Football Bet of the Week – Hockey Hockey Hockey Hockey! Rangers +105 at Bruins tomorrow night. Hockey Hockey Hockey Hockey!
Frank Giasone looks at what the Jets should be looking for if they draft a quarterback this year
Searching for a franchise quarterback is one of the most difficult tasks in professional sports. With so many different identifiers going into finding someone capable of flourishing in one of the most criticized positions in pro sports, sometimes it’s the qualities you can’t find on tape or in workouts that end up being the most critical.
It’s a big decision that can have monumental consequences —something Jets fans know all too well after watching Mark Sanchez’s shaky demeanor lead to a regression in his third and fourth years in the NFL. The last thing any team wants is to invest four or more years in a quarterback, only to have to start over following Year 4.
But this isn’t the forum to get into a debate about why Sanchez has declined (honestly, I don’t have enough time, space or energy to get into that right now). This is the place to look at some of the best ways to identify a potential franchise quarterback, and how to avoid some of the pitfalls that teams run into during the evaluation process.
– Mental Toughness: This is a big one, especially for Jets fans—which is why I put it first on the list. It really doesn’t get any worse than seeing your starting quarterback hanging his head or standing with slouched shoulders after a string of bad plays. The quarterback position is unlike any other in sports and nothing can sink a team quicker than a quarterback who fails to remain composed through tough stretches.
It can be difficult to assess with prospects from big, successful schools, most likely due to a lack of adversity faced on the field up to that point in their career. It’s not easy to judge how a man will react when writers, fans and (in some cases) fellow teammates, criticize or turn on him during times of struggle.
– Pocket Presence:It’s pretty simple: Does the quarterback feel pressure when it’s there? How does he react?
As we witnessed from the brutal 11-sack game in Week 16 this season, Jets quarterback Greg McElroy struggled to both feel and react to pressure. While the offensive line and running backs each had wretched performances, McElroy certainly didn’t help matters as he consistently slid into pressure.
A quarterback also needs to consistently keep his eyes focused downfield on his receivers, instead of the 330-pound defensive lineman barreling down on him. For McElroy, struggles in these areas led to rough afternoon…and a brief tenure as the starting quarterback in the NFL.
– Mobility:It’s new and it’s becoming trendy in the NFL. As long as NFL offenses continue having success running the read-option offense, you can bet other teams will hop on board and give it a shot as well. That means the allure of “athletic” quarterbacks (guys who can run with the football and make people miss) will continue to grow.
While mobility outside of the pocket is crucial when scouting guys like RG3, Colin Kaepernick and the like, it’s the ability to move well in the pocket that’s essential for all successful quarterbacks.
If you watch some of the great traditional quarterbacks in the NFL today (guys like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees), the mobility in or around the pocket helps them extend plays and find open receivers. Sometimes they have to get creative when protection breaks down, either by rolling out and throwing on the run, or by tucking the ball and taking off.
– Intelligence: A quarterback can have all of the physical ability in the world but if he isn’t a cerebral player, chances are his success in the league will be limited. Complex language, bottomless playbooks and hours of tape study aside, the quarterback’s intelligence is never more tested than in the seconds before the snap. His ability to read and react to a defense quickly is normally the difference between success and failure. To put it bluntly, a dummy won’t likely flourish at the position.
– Arm Strength, Accuracy and Touch:Everyone wants a quarterback who can throw darts downfield into tight windows. And really, you can’t blame them. But scouting a quarterback’s arm strength isn’t limited to finding a guy that can throw the ball the hardest or farthest (despite what Brian Billick may think).
Scouts are interested in seeing a quarterback throw a ball with good velocity and spin. He wants to see the quarterback lead his receivers by delivering the ball in a spot that only they can get to it, and put his receiver in good position to gain yards after the catch.
– Work Ethic: Another attribute that’s hard for fans to judge is a players’ work ethic. It’s hard for someone outside of the team to know exactly what an athlete is doing before, during and after practice (unless, or course, something is leaked by the media, or a teammate). Evaluators need to quantify how dedicated and hardworking the prospect is. Will he be the type who’s just collecting a paycheck, or does his world revolve around developing into a better quarterback?
– Leadership Skills:When you have a team of 52 alpha males, it can sometimes be tough for a young player to step in and immediately assume a leadership role. As RG3 did in Washington and Andrew Luck appears to have done with the Colts, playing well is the best way to grab the reigns of your team.
– Size: The recent success of “short” quarterbacks like Brees (6’0”) and Russell Wilson (5’11”) has altered the perception of how tall an NFL quarterback should be. The recent success of shorter QBs has put more focus on throwing mechanics and the ability to throw outside the pocket and on the run, rather than a prospects height.
How the New York Jets new GM can win over the fanbase immediately in his first press conference
The next General Manager of the New York Jets will immediately face a highly scrutinized press conference, where he will answer to a group of bitter beat writers and angry,anxious fans. In hopes of him succeeding and seeing our generally miserable fan-base have something to be happy about, I have prepared the following suggested comments for his first press conference –
(Walk out wearing a Jets polo shirt, holding a clipboard filled with player evaluation notes, with a stop-watch around your neck and a visor on. Jets fans permanently hate “accountants or bean-counters” after Mike Tannenbaum the past few years. The worst possible thing you could do is come out wearing glasses, holding a calculator and use the word “process” more than once. So make yourself look like a coach or “A REAL FOOTBALL GUY”)
“Hello. Let me begin by asking Manish Mehta, Gary Myers or anybody from The Daily News to leave the room. You are banned from the building this season. Is this fully legal? I don’t know. But you can go preoccupy yourselves with fighting back for partial credentials, then come back to watch practice from 700 yards away and have 8 minutes of locker room access per day, where you are only allowed to talk with Tanner Purdum and Hayden Smith. Thank you and good-bye.
Second, Mark Sanchez isn’t going to be on the team next year. I just watched all the game tape from last year and I’m pretty sure him and Russell Wilson don’t play the same sport. Did you see those interceptions against Arizona and the turnovers against Tennessee? LAWD! I don’t care how much money we owe him, he won’t be here. The young man had a good run on the field and off the field…Kate Upton, Eva Longoria…KNOW WHAT I MEAN? Here’s hoping that out of the New York spotlight he can find success in the NFL or just a job alongside Joey Harrington and Jesse Palmer on a college pre-game show.
Third, Tim Tebow isn’t going to be on the team next year. We don’t need the media circus and quasi-cult following for a guy who caps out at being the 25th best quarterback in the league. He can’t throw and throwing is important in today’s NFL. No Sanchez. No Tebow. We’ll find a better quarterback for this year and for the long term and he will be prohibited from talking to GQ.
Pertaining to our offense, nobody will use the term “Ground and Pound” anymore or “All Weather Offense.” There will be no more eligible tackles on 35% of our snaps. There will be no “Wildcat.” We are going to run a competent NFL offense that can complete 15-18 yard passes down the field with some type of regularity. Our running backs will also have the ability to avoid ramming their heads into defenders in the open field and will instead look to make them miss tackles.
On defense…hey Bart Scott, shut up and you are cut. Calvin Pace? Too slow. You are gone too. Bryan Thomas, thanks for everything over the years except the recent apparent assault case on your girlfriend. Guess what? You aren’t coming back. We are going to find linebackers who are fast and can rush the quarterback.
Rex is going to be the coach and that is it. He will draw up Xs and Os and motivate our team. He will also put on 120 pounds and go back to being this guy. He will have no say on personnel decisions. Did you see John Conner play football? Rex will be at Taco Bell during the draft this season and has no choice in the matter.
ESPN won’t be at training camp this year. Woody Johnson will make no public comments related to football,because he sounds like an idiot when he does…sorry Woody. Our entire PR and media department has been fired because they are awful at their jobs. Our entire gameday entertainment department has been fired because they are awful at their jobs. No more celebrity J-E-T-S chants before games. No more announcing the special teams starters. No more fireworks after field goals. More flight crew! And Fireman Ed, here is my personal invite to come back next season and I’m only offering once, put back on that Bruce Harper jersey and come on back.
Fans, we have some work to do but turnarounds happen quick in the NFL. Stay with us.
…oh and Mike Francesa, you are an asshole and nobody associated with our organization will come on WFAN until you start working with Mad Dog again or retire.
The Turn On The Jets draft staff looks at what running backs the New York Jets could target in the upcoming NFL Draft
In continuation with our positional breakdowns of potential NFL Draft prospects for the New York Jets, we turn our attention to a position of great need for a team that struggled mightily to generate any type of offensive excitement in 2012, running back. Today, our draft team provides a breakdown of the top five potential targets that could be selected by the Jets in April’s draft. These initial rankings are certainly subject to change as we progress through the entire pre-draft process, but as it stands now, these players are who we feel would be the best options for New York at running back. Be sure to give our draft team a follow on Twitter, and to check out our previous breakdown of potential quarterback targets for the Jets.
The running back position for the New York Jets in 2012 was, to put it nicely, abysmal. Shonn Greene flashed some quality against inferior defenses, but when put to the test of a contending defensive unit, he revealed himself as having nothing more than the ability of an average secondary option, capable of complementing a strong lead back. Greene will enter free agency when the new league year begins in March, and will likely be looking for a contract that exceeds his actual value to a team. Since the Jets are going to be operating on a relatively tight budget this season, it is more than likely that Greene will be allowed to walk to another team. While he is surely a capable 1B option, Bilal Powell remains under contract with the Jets at a much cheaper cost and is essentially just as effective, if not more so, than Greene in that role. Financially, depending on Powell to fill the 1B role, while letting another team pay Greene is the smartest, most realistic option for Gang Green this season.
So the question remains, where do the Jets turn to fill the void for that coveted 1A back? Earlier this week, we took a look at some potential scenarios that could play out as we move into the coming months. Looking ahead to the 2013 NFL Draft, the class of running backs may not posses a name that jumps off the sheet as the next Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster, or any other premier NFL running back, but this group is deceptively deep, with a very good amount of talent throughout. Running backs in today’s NFL, with the exception of the players aforementioned and a few more, are generally viewed as one of the most disposable pieces of the roster.
However, as we saw this past season, a quality lead back can help an offense that struggles in a variety of places to overachieve. Minnesota had a very subpar passing game, but was able to earn a playoff bid on the back of Adrian Peterson. Marshawn Lynch aided the development of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson by giving the youngster a strong running game to lean on. Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, and a few others has similar effects on their respective offenses. An emergence of a strong running game in New England has made the Patriots offensive attack arguably the greatest we have seen in recent years, while the lack thereof in Green Bay handcuffed a team with an exceptional quarterback. While the league is certainly driven by quality signal callers, the running back position is still very much a vital piece to a successful offense.
That being said, the direction that the Jets decide to go in at the position, personnel wise, remains dependent on the hire at offensive coordinator, as does the majority of the offensive roster. However, there are certainly some names to keep an eye on as of right now that are sure to be appealing to any coordinator, regardless of scheme.
1.) Eddie Lacy, Alabama – 2012 stats: 204 attempts, 1322 yards, 6.5 YPC, 17 TD – Lacy has put together a very impressive career at Alabama, netting nearly 7.0 YPC over his three seasons as a member of the Crimson Tide. Having spent his first two seasons underneath Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram, and 2012 3rd overall pick Trent Richardson, respectively, Lacy emerged this season as a dominant force leading the Tide to a national championship. At 6’1 220 lbs, Lacy has the size of a prototypical power back, but possesses the top end speed and elusiveness of a dangerous speed back. In short, Lacy is arguably the most well rounded running back in his class. He maintains elite balance, while showing great vision and patience in waiting for his blocks to develop, giving him an excellent advantage. A very strong showcase in the National Championship game has boosted Lacy’s draft status over recent weeks, and an expected impressive showing at the scouting combine should propel him even higher. Depending on how the next few weeks play out, Lacy could be out of the Jets reach, unless, perhaps, New York trades down from the 9th overall selection to select him in the later half of round one, where he would currently hold more value.
2.) Giovani Bernard, North Carolina – 2012 stats: 184 attempts, 1228 yards, 6.7 YPC, 12 TD – Bernard has put together an impressive two seasons at UNC, having averaged over 5 YPC in each of them, including the astounding 6.7 this past year. Bernard is widely regarded as the top back in this class, and for good reason. Bernard has excellent speed and lateral quickness, coupled with fantastic vision and burst. Beyond that, he is a very capable pass blocker, while remaining a viable option as a passing target. He has the ability to take a check down pass for a larger chunk of yards than most backs would, and is certainly not afraid to stick his nose into pass pro. These aspects of his game cannot be valued. A back with the ability to be effective as both a blocker and receiving option in the pass game will keep defenses honest and unsure of any tendencies. Bernard certainly has the body of someone who will be a durable NFL back, displaying tremendous bulk, particularly in his legs. Bernard should perform very well in each of the pre-draft events, and is poised to be one of the first three backs taken this year. He would be a reach for the Jets at the 9th pick, but perhaps a trade down in the first, or a trade back into the bottom half of the first round would allow New York to get their hands on him.
3.) Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State – 2012 stats: 382 attempts, 1793 yards, 4.7 YPC, 12 TD –Bell is a player who may fly under the radar a bit, coming from a conference like the Big Ten, but make no mistake, Bell is a premier name in this year’s crop of running backs. His immense size (6’2″ 244 lbs) combine with fantastic strength, making him a nightmare to bring down in the open field. Conversely, he is deceptively elusive which gives him an edge that most backs at his stature do not posses. These tangibles give Bell a rare skill set, one that could translate tremendously to the NFL. He is one of the rare prospects, like Lacy, that has the ability to run through defenders, or make them miss with his surprising agility. The pre-draft events will be crucial for Bell. While his film shows a highly productive player with great potential, there are certainly questions on his top end speed, primarily concerning whether or not he will be able to break through the second level for a big gain in the NFL. If Bell, a known workhorse in his training regiments, can post a good 40 yard dash, while displaying the elusiveness and agility that his film shows in the combine drills, he may find himself as an early to mid second round pick, among the first few backs taken. He could very well be available when the Jets select in the 2nd round. His performance over the next few weeks will determine whether or not he will be worthy of that selection.
4.) Montee Ball, Wisconsin – 2012 stats: 356 attempts, 1830 yards, 5.1 YPC, 22 TD – Similar to Bell, Ball is a back who may get a bit overlooked due to the school he played his collegiate football for. However, Ball has been immensely productive throughout his career as a Badger, totaling an astounding 77 rushing touchdowns over his four seasons. At 5’11” 210 lbs, Ball certainly has the size of an NFL lead back, with elite speed and elusiveness separating him from the average player at his position. While Ball doesn’t have elite strength to carry defenders for extra yards, he does have great tenacity as he has shown he is not afraid to initiate contact with a defender, and will always fight for extra yards after contact. He is average at best in the passing game, but his intangibles will allow him to be coached up in the area at the next level. Ball should available anywhere between the 2nd and 3rd rounds, and depending on how the board plays out, could be a great selection for New York. He has the ability to step in as the opening day starter next season, with Powell or a free agent addition serving the role as the 1B back.
5.) Kenjon Barner, Oregon – 2012 stats: 278 attempts, 1767 yards, 6.4 YPC, 21 TD – Barner faces question marks surrounding how he may translate to a pro-style offense, having come from Chip Kelly’s read option system at Oregon, but he very well may be the fastest of all of this year’s backs. Barner is a tremendous big play threat in both the running and passing games, as he has displayed countless times during his tenure at Oregon, where he posted a 6.0+ YPC average in each of his four seasons as a Duck. A dual-sport athlete in college, Barner also excelled on the track team, while maintaining a strong enough training regiment to prepare him for each year’s football season. Coaches and teammates rave about his work ethic on and off the field, and for a team in need of offensive leaders, Barner could fit the bill. While it is unlikely he will be able to be an every down back at his size, he would be an excellent complement to a bigger running back, perhaps a free agent addition (Chris Ivory, anyone?), while growing into a larger role down the road. As it stands now, Barner is likely grading out in the 2nd-4th round range, but his 40 time at the combine could blow scouts away and propel him toward the top of the 2nd round.
Wild Card – Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina – 2012 stats: 143 attempts, 662 yards, 4.6 YPC, 11 TD – Lattimore was widely regarded as the premier back in this year’s class, however a gruesome knee injury ended his 2012 campaign short. Despite potentially being a mid to late round pick, as a result of concerns over how well his knee may heal, Lattimore has decided to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. This is a very intriguing situation. When healthy, Lattimore is head and shoulders above any of his counterparts. He has the prototypical size needed for an elite every down back at the next level, with top end speed far above average. Lattimore is extremely tough, and has a tremendous amount of versatility. He is very elusive for a back with his size, and his vision and patience is second to none. He has the best natural running instincts out of anyone in this class, and has a combination of size, power, agility, and speed that can make him an elite back in the NFL. The knee concerns are very real, however. It is unclear how far along he is with his recovery at this point, but rest assured that NFL scouts will be paying close attention to his medical progress as April draws near. With his stock likely to fall due to concerns over his knee, Lattimore could potentially be the biggest steal of the draft if he gets back to full strength next season. If he is there in the middle rounds, the Jets would be wise to take a flier on him, if he shows promising recovery progress.
1 – Stepfan Taylor has been a 3 year starter at Stanford while accumulating some impressive stats. As a true sophomore, he had 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns. His Junior and Senior years he exploded with 1330 yards and 1530 yards, respectively. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry over his junior and senior years while marching in for 23 touchdowns. He shows some versatility out of the backfield while catching passes, along with a good mix of speed and strength, and is definitely capable of being a 3 down back. Taylor has the best chance of being a true workhorse for the Jets next year. Taylor is also good in pass protection, which is clearly a benefit. For value, I think the Running back from Stanford will provide the best results. He is somewhat of a sleeper and can be had in the 3rd, possibly 4th round
2 – If Eddie Lacy is available in the top of the 2nd round, the Jets should draft him.. Lacy is, in my opinion, the best running back available in the draft. He played in the hardest conference and rushed for 1,322 yards, averaged 6.4 a carry and had 17 touchdowns. That is impressive, but he was running behind one of the best, if not the best, offensive line in the country. (That is all well and good because hopefully we can draft Chance Warmack at #9 and find a solid right tackle to shore up the O-line for next year.) Lacy also caught 22 passes for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns this past year. He has good speed and even better strength. If he is available at #39 overall, yes please.
3 –Le’Veon Bell is the same guy in stature as Shonn Greene. But that is where the similarities end. Bell weighs about 10-15 pounds more than Shonn but is much quicker. Not only is he quicker, he is stronger and actually makes people miss. He is quite the anomaly. Another 3rd or 4th rounder that will provide great value.
4 – Giovani Bernard has carried the UNC Tar Heels the last two years. Both years he had at least 1.200 yards and 45 receptions out of the backfield. He averaged 5.24 and 6.7 yards per carry over the past two years, respectively, while having at least 14 total touchdowns each year. Not only being consistently good, he has the speed and ability to break off big runs and make people miss in open space. He can also return punts and did so with success this past year.
5 – Marcus Lattimore. While recovering from another gruesome knee injury, The Jets should consider taking a flier on Lattimore. When he is healthy, he has been one of the best, if not the best running back in the NCAA. He really has it all but just has to stay healthy.
With Shonn Greene and Gang Green likely parting ways this offseason, April’s NFL Draft is the perfect time for the Jets to find a versatile running back with big play speed. Bilal Powell should be back, and after a vastly improved 2012 season he’ll likely return with some anticipation. While he may or may not be feature back material, it’s fairly obvious to anyone watching that he can, at the very least, do what Greene has done in the No. 1 role. But Powell clearly won’t be able to do the job alone, and Joe McKnight hasn’t proved capable of an increased workload thus far, which means the Jets must address the running back situation either in free agency or the Draft.
1 – Giovani Bernard (UNC, 5’10”, 205 lbs): The sophomore RB might be off the board when the Jets get ready to pick in the second round, thanks in large part to his big play ability out of the backfield both as a runner and a receiver. Bernard is a hard runner who keeps his legs moving and consistently gains yards after first contact. The UNC ‘back shows patience at the line of scrimmage, a quick burst through the hole, and devastating moves in open space.
Despite some questions regarding the level of competition in the ACC, racking up over 1900 all-purpose yards (6.7 yards per carry, 10.4 yards per catch) and 19 touchdowns, is hard to ignore. Combine his abilities out of the backfield with great punt return skills and Bernard could be one of the most versatile Jets since Leon Washington.
He’s my No. 1 RB in the 2013 Draft, and it’s my guess that lots of scouts feel the same way. While he’s currently projected as a second round pick, a solid showing at the Combine or individual workouts could easily propel him up draft boards and into the first round.
2 – Eddie Lacy (Alabama, 6’1”, 22 lbs): After devastating the Notre Dame defense to the tune of 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the BCS Title Game, Lacy’s name has shot up Draft boards. One of the top running backs in the ’13 Draft, some experts are so enamored they have him projected to go in the first round.
A hard runner who keeps his feet moving and shows some quickness, Lacy is decisive when hitting the hole and flaunts an impressive jump cut and spin move. Not afraid to lower his shoulder into a defender, Lacy also shows promise as a receiver out of the backfield.
Lacy dominated the SEC racking up 1332 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns, along but some question the impact of rushing behind the best offensive line in the nation. Some other concerns include his top end speed and injury concerns.
3 – Andre Ellington (Clemson, 5’9”, 190 lbs): Smaller than some of the other top running backs in the ’13 Draft, Ellington’s most impressive traits are his tremendous balance and footwork, as seen in his ability to break tackles and pick up yards after contact.
While the Clemson senior faces the same ACC questions as Bernard, he also boasts similar versatility as a runner, receiver and kick returner. Ellington shows the acceleration and explosiveness to create big plays, as well as patience running behind blockers, good vision and the ability to make strong cuts.
At only 190 pounds Ellington struggles with blitz pickup, tending to dive at a defenders knees rather than fully committing himself to the block, and has some questions regarding his durability. He’ll likely have to put on size to survive in the NFL, but his natural ability and highlight reel moves certainly make him an attractive option for the Jets after Round 2.
4 – Kenjon Barner (Oregon, 5’11”, 192 lbs): Barner also lacks the ideal size for a running back in the NFL and can sometimes struggle hanging on to the ball, but boasts some of the best big play ability at the position.
While Chip Kelly’s scheme may have enhanced his numbers over the past two seasons, his quick, shifty moves are undeniable and will likely translate in the return game. Certainly a threat as a receiver out of the backfield, Barner is projected to go sometime in the Round 4 or later and should garner lots of interest.
5 – Johnathan Franklin (UCLA, 5’11”, 198 lbs): Franklin is another speedy prospect who capable of breaking a big gain at any time. Projected to go somewhere in the fourth round, the UCLA senior is similar to Barner in that they both share smaller builds, big play ability, and struggles with fumbles.
A patient runner with good vision, Franklin also struggles in pass protection (although showed progress in ’12) and lacks experience as a return man. Franklin emerged as a receiving threat in his senior year, finishing with 33 catches for 323 yards and two touchdowns (his previous season high was 10 catches in 2009).
The New York Jets defense has gradually declined the past few seasons, mostly due to a lack of speed at linebacker and an inability to consistently pressure the quarterback. Heading into 2013, the team will see three former starters at linebacker leave for cap purposes and declined play (Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace, Bart Scott), along with both starting safeties and a key defensive lineman in Mike DeVito hit free agency. Looking at the current pieces they have and their cap space, does it make sense for the Jets to consider moving to use predominantly a 4-3 look, instead of a 3-4?
The strength of the unit is currently defensive line. Muhammad Wilkerson is coming off a terrific season and has the skill set to line up all over the formation, particularly at both a 5 and 7 technique (as our resident defensive lineman Chris Gross assured us). Quinton Coples is built to rush the edge in the 4-3 and can also slide inside to rush from defensive tackle in certain passing situations. Remember he was a double-digit sack guy at UNC in his junior year at DT. If resigned, Mike DeVito and Kenrick Ellis can play defensive tackle with Damon Harrison coming off the bench.
At linebacker, the Jets myriad of issues will be easier solved in a4-3 than a 3-4. Considering they are stuck with David Harris and his bloated contract, he could slide over to playing weak-side backer which will help hide his speed limitations. Last year’s third round pick, Demario Davis has the speed and collegiate experience to play strong-side, which leaves the Jets to find a long term middle backer. If they stay in a 3-4, they need two outside linebackers and have very valid questions if Harris can play inside in the 3-4 competently. For depth purposes in the 4-3, Antonio Allen played the “spur” in college and can be a backup at strong-side linebacker and Garret McIntyre has shown enough to be a backup on the weak-side.
In the secondary, regardless of the system the Jets should be considering a trade of Antonio Cromartie to both free up cap space and receive draft compensation. A middle round pick and the extra available money could help fill the void in the middle at linebacker and potentially at safety since LaRon Landry will probably not sign here long term while Yeremiah Bell could return on a low-cost one year deal.
Rex Ryan is a smart enough defensive mind to handle this kind of transition. The current reality of the Jets defensive depth chart is that they are devoid of talent at linebacker, while they have strong pieces at defensive line. Why not focus the defense more around their strength, than their weaknesses?