Jets 2009 Offense: The Elephant in the Room

First a few updates:

1. Miami linebacker Akin Ayodele kept up the ongoing war of words between the Jets and Dolphins, by claiming that it was “immature” of Rex Ryan as a head coach to respond to Channing Crowder’s trash talk. Hey, it is a slow time in the NFL schedule so this qualifies as an update. What is with these Miami linebackers and Rex Ryan? They must still be hurting from that playoff loss last year, when Ryan’s defense beat their offense like a drum up and down their home field…oh well.

2. I was prepared to write an article Monday and Tuesday, but I had some car problems Monday night which disrupted my article and some computer problems Tuesday which disrupted my article. Regardless, no crappy car or computer can keep me quiet about the Jets for more than 2 days.

3. Jets Feel Good Moment of the Day (New Installment here at Turn On the Jets): November 18th 2001: The Jets traveled to Miami as a 6-3 team to play the 6-2 Dolphins, and whooped up on their rivals 24-0 to win their 8th straight against Miami. Aaron Glenn (60 yards) and Victor Green (63 yards) both returned interceptions for touchdowns.

Jets 2009 Offense: The Elephant in the Room

When you look at the 2009 New York Jets, you have to feel good (maybe even great) about their defense. There is a ton of talent at all three levels of the unit and they are being led by one of the brightest defensive minds in the NFL. However, it is hard to have the same amount of confidence about the other side of the ball. There is talent and potential on the Jets offense but some major questions that need to be answered if the Jets are going to be a playoff team.

It all starts with the quarterback position. Who is the Jets quarterback going to be in 2009? The smart bet is Mark Sanchez, who enters the QB battle with better odds than Kellen Clemens regardless of what any of the coaches say. The sooner the Jets establish their starting quarterback, the better. The entire offense needs to know who they will be rallying around all season and you want the #1 to get as many reps with the first-string offense in training camp/pre-season as possible.  Whether it is Sanchez or Clemens under center in 2009, the Jets quarterback needs to effectively manage games. Nobody expects a pro-bowl quarterback not named Eli to come out of New York this year, but the Jets need a guy who can go 14/19 for 175 yards with 0 INTs on a weekly basis. There will be bumps along the way, but those bumps need to be balanced by hitting some big plays down the field when the box is stacked.

The Jets have one of the best running back groups in the NFL. Unfortunately, the two most important components of that group are currently unhappy with their contract. The Jets can’t have Thomas Jones or Leon Washington missing time in training camp. Too much of the Jets offense revolves around #20 and #29 for them to be practicing without them, especially with a young quarterback. You have to figure on a good a day those two will combine for 30-35 offensive touches…that is an awfully high percentage of your offense to have unhappy with their contract. Leon Washington deserves a new, long-term deal. He has done more than the Jets could have ever imagined when they took him in the fourth round and always represents the organization well. I know Jones is old for a RB, but the Jets have enough money to at least reach a one year compromise with him, like they did with Chris Baker and Laveranues Coles last year.

The Jets wide receivers and tight ends remain a major question mark. Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller need to have big years in 2009. Cotchery needs to produce like a #1 receiver and Keller needs to become a more well-rounded tight end, while developing into the Jets #2 pass catching option. Outside of Leon Washington, he is the most difficult person on the Jets offense to match-up with. The more Keller produces, the less pressure there will be on Chansi Stuckey, Brad Smith, and David Clowney at wide receiver. Regardless of how well Keller plays, Stuckey still needs to make enough plays on the outside to keep constant double teams off Cotchery and Clowney needs to provide the Jets with some type of deep threat.

One thing to feel good about is the Jets offensive line. They are returning all five starters and their top two backups. You have to keep your fingers crossed that everybody stays healthy but when they are on the field, this is one of the league’s best units.

The success of the Jets offense will depend on an inexperienced quarterback developing into a steady, consistent player, a group of running backs being used properly (attention Brian Schottenheimer, get Leon Washington the ball more), a second year tight end taking his game to the next level, a career number two receiver developing into a number one, and a group of role players emerging to form a decent receiving core opposite him. I know it doesn’t sound pretty but remember 2006 when Kevan Barlow, Cedric Houston, and a no-name fourth round pick named Leon Washington carried the Jets rushing offense, and a career backup receiver named Jerricho Cotchery emerged as a big play threat and a questionable quarterback situation stabilized to lead the Jets to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth.

Why the Jets Defense Is Legit

First a few updates:

1. The Jets claimed wide receiver Mario Urrutia ,off waivers from the Bengals. He was a 7th round pick last year and spent the season on the practice squad. He has a great size at 6’6, 232 lbs and was a legit deep threat during his time at Louisville. The more competition at the receiver position, the better.

2. I am glad the Yankees are getting to beat up on New York’s AA team to get back on a roll. I know they are dealing with a ton of injuries but the Mets offense is a joke right now.

Why the Jets Defense Is Legit

One of the interesting things I have been hearing debate about is the Jets defense heading into this season. Jets fans are confident that the unit is going to be one of the league’s best, while other people are more skeptical and believe they are being overrated. Many people scoff at the assertion that Rex Ryan will have the same success he dad last year as a defensive coach, because the Jets have nowhere near the amount of the talent the Ravens did last season. I am not saying they will be as good as Baltimore was in 2008, because yes the Ravens do have more talent, but not that much more talent. ESPN recently rated the Jets as the fourth overall team defense in the league, behind the Steelers, Ravens, and Vikings and I think it is a fair rating, here is why:

The Jets already had a very good defense last season, with a below average coordinator in Bob Sutton. As a team, they were excellent against the run, created turnovers (14 INTs, 29 FF), got to the quarterback (41.0 sacks) and scored points (4 defensive touchdowns) despite struggling in pass coverage. As a reference to other great defense in 2008, the Jets had 7 more sacks than the Ravens and forced 16 more fumbles. They also had 2 more INTs than Minnesota and 7 more forced fumbles.

This off-season they improved their linebackercore by upgrading from Eric Barton to Bart Scott. They will also have a healthy David Harris, who was banged up most of last season. Vernon Gholston can’t be any worse than he was last year and I think it is reasonable to have faith in Rex Ryan to get something out of him in 2009.

In the secondary, they added Lito Sheppard, Jim Leonhard, and Donald Strickland. Dwight Lowery also now has the experience of being a starter last year under his belt. On the defensive line they did lose Kenyon Coleman and his .5 sacks but replaced him with Marques Douglas and Howard Green.

When discussing the Jets defense, I think they have 4 pro-bowl caliber players, 3 very good players, 2 solid starters, and 2 question marks.

You can’t argue against the talent of Kris Jenkins and Darrelle Revis. Both are coming off pro-bowl seasons and they are both top five players in the league at their respective positions. Bart Scott is a pro-bowl caliber linebacker who knows Rex Ryan’s system and no longer has to play in the shadow of Ray Lewis. I am also putting Kerry Rhodes at the pro-bowl caliber level, which is debatable since he has never been selected to one and he hasn’t been an all-pro selection like Jenkins and Scott. However, Rhodes has been held back by the Jets system the past few years and from not having a steady starter opposite him. He also should have been an all-pro player in 2006, but was robbed because he didn’t have a big name at the time.

The next tier of Jets defensive players is Calvin Pace, Shaun Ellis, and David Harris. Most people sleep on Ellis but he is coming off a very good year, which saw him record 60 tackles, 8 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. 8 sacks is nothing to look down at for a 3-4 defensive end. Pace is another guy most people ignore when analyzing the Jets defense. Despite being forced to play in coverage more than he should have been in 2008, Pace still had 80 tackles, 7 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles. Rex Ryan will have Pace attacking more in 2009, which plays to his strengths. David Harris had a monster rookie season in 2007 with 127 tackles and 5 sacks. He was slowed by injures in 2008 but is back at full strength and will benefit from having Scott next to him.

Bryan Thomas isn’t a great player by any stretch of the imagination but is still a consistent starter (57 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3 FF in 2008) and he should be platooning with Vernon Gholston in 2009. Jim Leonhard is going to be a full time starter for the first this year but thrived in the playoffs last season. He will also be a major upgrade in coverage over Abram Elam.

The Jets two biggest question marks are at defensive end and corner opposite Darrelle Revis. Marques Douglas and Mike DeVito will be splitting time at d-end opposite Shaun Ellis, and yes it is fair to say that is a weak spot. Douglas does know Ryan’s system well however and it shouldn’t be that hard to replace Kenyon Coleman statistically (50 tackles, .5 sacks, 0 FF). Lito Sheppard has struggled the past two years in Philadelphia but has been a pro-bowl player in the past. It remains to be seen if he can return to his 2004 and 2006 form. However, the Jets have very good depth behind him with Donald Strickland and Dwight Lowery. Strickland is a solid veteran who could handle increased reps if necessary and Lowery was a solid starter opposite Revis last year as a fourth round rookie until he hit the wall late in the season.

The talent is there for the Jets in 2009 and they have one of the brightest defensive minds in the game to lead them. They are capable of winning games 17-14 and 16-10, which should be music to Mark Sanchez and Kellen Clemens’ ears.

Jets Positional Analysis: Wide Receiver

First a few updates:

1. Visits to the site and comments on articles have been up recently, which is good news. I appreciate anybody who takes the time to read my stuff and love responding to comments on the articles, so keep ’em coming.

2. Big transaction for the Jets today, they claimed cornerback Rashad Barksdale off waivers. He was a sixth round pick of the Eagles two years ago and has bounced around a few different teams the past couple of years…hey nobody said, late June updates were going to be exciting.

3. A belated congrats to the U.S. Men’s Soccer team for upsetting Spain 2-0.

Jets Positional Analysis: Wide Receiver

Over the next 6 weeks, I am going to go through all of the Jets positions and assess each player, continuing today withthe wide receivers:

1. Jerricho Cotchery #89, Last Season: 71 Receptions, 858 yards, 5 TD’s

History: Cotchery has been a starter the past three seasons for the Jets. He had a breakout year in 2006, demonstrating a knack for making big plays and showing good run after the catch ability. In 2007, his receptions and yards went up but his touchdowns went way down. Last year, was a mildly disappointing one for Cotchery who couldn’t top the 1,000 yard mark. This year he will be the Jets unquestioned #1 receiver and needs his production level to match that title.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Cotchery develops in a reliable, consistent number one receiver. He is able to handle the double teams thrown his way and increases his reception, yardage, and touchdown total from the previous year.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He struggles with the pressure of being a #1 and can’t crack the 1,000 yard mark, and also reverts to his 2007 form of not being able to find the end-zone.

Prediction: Cotchery will have a good, not great season. He is able to handle the increased attention of being a #1 in most games but is quiet in a few. I feel comfortable predicting him for 80 catches, 1150 yards and 6 touchdowns.

2. Chansi Stuckey #83, Last Season: 32 Receptions, 359 yards, 3 TD’s

History: Stuckey was the Jets 7th round pick in 2007 but missed the entire year with a foot injury. He won the #3 position last year in training camp and played well in 2008, taking advantages of his opportunities when thrown the ball. For some reason, he was phased out of the offense down the stretch despite scoring a touchdown in the Jets first three games. However, he did put together two strong late season games against the 49ers and Dolphins.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Stuckey steps up and thrives in the #2 role, making people ask “Laveranues who?”

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: His durability issues flare up or he struggles immensely when asked to play as a split end, instead of his more natural slot position.

Prediction: Stuckey will be the week one starter opposite Cotchery and their second leading wide receiver in 2009. I could see him with 55-60 catches for 700 yards and 4 touchdowns.

3. Brad Smith #16, Last Season: 12 Receptions, 64 Yards, 0 TD’s

History: Smith was a record breaking college quarterback drafted by the Jets in the 4th round in 2006. He has been used primarily in gadget plays and bounced around between QB, WR, and RB despite never completing a NFL pass. He was given extended playing time in 2007 at receiver but struggled with drops. On the whole, Smith was very quiet last year. Every season he seems to get everybody excited in training camp with acrobatic catches but then never translates it over to real games.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: It finally clicks for Smith at wide receiver and he begins utilizing his rare combination of size and speed. He becomes a big play weapon for the Jets and bounces back and forth between their #2 and #3 receiver, depending on the situation.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He can’t make an impact on offense and is reduced to nothing more than a special teams player.

Prediction: I’m not sold on Smith as a receiver. I hope he proves me wrong but I think Stuckey and Clowney will have more of an impact on offense than he will this year. Outside of a few wildcat plays, reverses, and other gadget plays, I don’t think he’ll do much in 2009. Maybe 15 catches and 20 carries.

4. David Clowney #17, Last Season: 1 Reception, 26 yards, 0 TD’s

History: Clowney was a pre-season sensation for the Jets last year. He burst on the scene in their first pre-season game by catching two 70+ yard touchdowns and continued to excel until he broke his collar bone right before the regular season started. Clowney spent most of the season inactive but did make a one-handed grab against Buffalo in week 15 for 26 yards.

Chance of Making Roster: 95%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Clowney is able to stay healthy and become the deep threat the Jets have lacked since Santana Moss.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He continues to struggle with drops (as he did in mini-camp) and can’t get on the field or his durability issues turn up again.

Prediction: I think Clowney will be a big play guy for the Jets. Eventually, he will pass Brad Smith as the #3 receiver on the team and see some action in 2 WR sets when the Jets want to attack deep. This may be wishful thinking for a guy with 1 career NFL catch, but I am going to say 20-25 catches, 350 yards, and 3 touchdowns.

5. Wallace Wright #15, Last Season: Many special teams tackles

History: The Jets special teams ace who had a very good mini-camp at wide receiver. Wright saw some action at receiver in 2007 and did pretty good with it, catching 6 passes for 87 yards so there is some talk he will get on the field again this year with the position wide open after Jerricho Cotchery.

Chance of Making Roster: 95%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Wright keeps being a beast on special teams and finds a way to contribute on offense.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He suddenly forgets how to cover punts and kicks.

Prediction: Wright will continue doing what he does on special teams and fight his way into a few offensive packages.

The Rest of the Guys:

Marcus Henry, #14 – The Jets 2008 sixth round pick. He has good size but you never hear about him making plays in practice. He has an uphill battle against Clowney and Wright for a roster spot because I doubt the Jets will keep 6 active receivers.

Paul Raymond, #2 – The speedster from Brown always seems to be in camp but never sticks on the roster, doubt this year will be any different.

Huey Whittaker, #18 – He has good size and made a few plays in OTAs. He might be guy to keep an eye on.

Britt Davis, #17 – An undrafted rookie from Northern Illinois.

Overall Position Analysis: I feel pretty confident that Cotchery, Stuckey, Smith, Clowney and Wright will be the Jets five active receivers. The real question is who is going to step up as the #2 guy? I think Stuckey will mostly be the guy, but receive a good amount of help from Clowney. I am not as confident in Brad Smith but again, I hope he proves me wrong.

Ten Ways For the Jets To Win Ten Games

First a few updates:

1. Now that I finished going through the entire AFC East, writing articles about how the Jets match-up against the Bills, Dolphins, and Patriots, I thought I’d share each fan bases respective reactions. When I wrote the articles, I posted a copy of the link in ESPN Message Boards for each team.  Here is what I got:

– Bills fans were by far the most civil, offering a reasonable debate about their team. They disagreed with a few of my statements, but for the most part thought I had a fair analysis of their team.

– Patriots fans offered the most comments, all of which described my low levels of intelligence and general idiocy. Obviously, they are the Patriots and clearly they are going 15-1 and nobody can tell them anything different. I will say that it was my mistake to say the Pats defense is old, because it really isn’t. Two of their linebackers are old, their secondary is young but is simply not very good, and they have a very good d-line.

– Dolphins fans cracked me up the most. They talk like Miami went 16-0 last season and rolled through the playoffs. Yes, they had a nice season in 2008 but remember how they squeaked in the playoffs by beating the Jets by 7 in week 17 and then were humiliated at home 27-9 during wild-card weekend. I got news for you Dolphins fans, you aren’t going to be a 13-3 team. Come back to reality.

– My final view of the AFC East at this point is that the Patriots are the best team and will probably be in the 10-6 to 12-4 range. The other three teams will be battling it out, and all be around .500 at worst. One of those teams will win double digits and give New England a run for the division, will it be Buffalo, Miami, or the Jets? We’ll see. But expect to see the standings that look something like this:

  1. New England: 10-6/11-5
  2. Buf/NYJ/Mia: 10-6/11-5
  3. Buf/NYJ/Mia: 8-8/9-7
  4. Buf/NYJ/Mia: 7-9/-8-8

The Jets are going to have to find a way to win their division games, if they want to be in that #2 slot or maybe even that #1 spot.

Ten Ways For the Jets To Win Ten Games

1. Most Important Position Produces – The Jets aren’t going anywhere unless they have consistent, steady quarterback play. Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens don’t need to produce pro-bowl numbers but need to protect the football, hit the occasional big play when the opportunity is there, and overall be an effective game manager.

2. Number Two Receiver Steps Up – It doesn’t matter if it is Chansi Stuckey, Brad Smith, David Clowney or a combination of the three. The Jets need production opposite of Jerricho Cotchery to keep double teams off him and to make their offense harder to defend. I really think Stuckey can be a 60 catch guy in a full time role. The guy caught 32 passes last year despite receiving limited playing time, especially down the stretch. I am hoping Clowney can be the 2009 version of Dedric Ward in 1998. Remember Ward? In 1998, he had 25 receptions for 477 yards (19.1 yards per catch) and 4 touchdowns, all on bombs that put the nail in the coffin in huge games for the Jets.

3. Playmakers Make Plays – I am talking about Dustin Keller and Leon Washington, the Jets two most difficult match-ups. Both of these guys should get more touches on offense this year and need to step up. Keller should be able to be a 65-70 catch guy in this offense. Washington needs more carries and receptions. The only thing that stopped him last year was the Jets coaching staff.

4. Secondary Improvement – Lito Sheppard is going to see a ton of balls thrown at him this year and if he can’t play at the level he did a few years ago, the Jets are going to be in trouble. Jim Leonhard is also entering his first year as a full-time starter and needs to do his job well enough to allow Kerry Rhodes to freelance and make plays. Finally, don’t forget about guys like Donald Strickland, Dwight Lowery, and Eric Smith who will be on the field often against the spread offenses of the Bills and Patriots.

5. The Big Man Stays Healthy – The Jets defense starts and ends with Kris Jenkins. They need him healthy and productive for all 16 games, leading the charge against the run and freeing up Bart Scott and David Harris to make plays. Howard Green and Sione Pouha need to provide adequate relief off the bench to help keep the big guy fresh.

6. Offensive Line Stays Healthy – If Damien Woody, Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson can stay healthy for all 16 games, it will go a long towards making the Jets a playoff caliber team.

7. TJ – The Jets need Thomas Jones in 2009. I am not ready to start giving Shonn Greene 20 carries a game. Jones has to be the workhorse he was in 2008, if Rex Ryan wants to win football games his way. Mike Tannenbaum…find a way to compromise with Jones to keep him in green and white for this upcoming season.

8. Pressure – Every great defense needs a strong pass rush. Calvin Pace needs to match his level of play from last season and receive some support from Vernon Gholston and Bryan Thomas. It is sad that as the #6 pick in the draft, Gholston would make Jets fans thrilled if he could just manage 6-8 sacks this year but we’d take it. Thomas needs to play the way he did the first half of last season for the whole year.

9. Revis Keeps Improving – Darrelle Revis is already one of the five best corners in the league but he will have his hands full this year: T.O. twice, Randy Moss twice, Steve Smith, Andre Johnson, Ted Ginn Jr (kidding), Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Roddy White. The Jets need him to be a lockdown corner against the elite receivers they face this year.

10. Cotchery Becomes a #1 – Nobody expects a pro-bowl appearance from Jerricho Cotchery but he needs to produce like a number one receiver. 80 catches, 1150 yards, 6-8 touchdowns would be a nice year for him.

Scouting the AFC East: Miami Dolphins

First a few updates:

1. There has been a good amount of talk about kicker Jay Feely’s recent comments on Sean Hannity’s show, where he expressed a lack of confidence in President Obama and said he “scares him.” Honestly, the guy is entitled to his opinion, even though I and many people disagree with the things he said. I write about sports here, so the only coverage Jay Feely will get is if he makes or misses field goals.

2. I can’t get enough of those Most Valuable Puppet Commercials with LeBron and Kobe, they just released like 4 new ones…hysterical.

3. Eric Allen wrote an interesting article on www.newyorkjets.com about Chansi Stuckey spending his free time working out with former NFL receiver Terrence Mathis. Stuckey is looking like the starter opposite Jerricho Cotchery as of right now, hopefully he can pick up a thing or two from Mathis who was a successful receiver in Atlanta, not as much with the Jets.

Scouting the AFC East: Miami Dolphins

Along with the positional analysis articles, I am going to take a look at each of the AFC East teams in the next week and how the Jets stack up against them, ending today with the Miami Dolphins

2008 Record: 11-5

2008 vs. Jets: The Jets and Dolphins split their games last year, with each team winning on the road. In week 1, the Jets won in Miami 20-14 thanks to two touchdown passes from Brett Favre, including a miracle pass on a fourth down to Chansi Stuckey. In that game, Jerricho Cotchery also caught a 56 yard touchdown and Thomas Jones pounded the Dolphins defense for 101 yards on 22 carries, with a touchdown himself. Chad Pennington threw for 251 yards in his Miami opener but was picked off by Darrelle Revis to end the game. Revis completely shut down Ted Ginn Jr. in week one, holding him to 2 receptions for 17 yards. Bryan Thomas had 2 sacks in week one (yes, that Bryan Thomas). In week 17, the Dolphins won in the Meadowlands to clinch the AFC East (owch, it still hurts). Favre killed the Jets with 3 INT’s. Leon Washington played well with 10 carries for 60 yards and a TD. Chansi Stuckey had a nice game also with 4 catches for 50 yards. Pennington threw for 200 yards and 2 TDs and Ted Ginn Jr burned the Jets for a 44 yard gain and 27 yard touchdown.

2009 Additions: They added Gibril Wilson at safety and signed corner Eric Green to boost their secondary. Also, they signed center Jake Grove and guard Joe Berger for their offensive line. Miami also brought twinkle toes aka Jason Taylor (see TOJ Hall of Shame) back, who will hopefully be more focused on Neutrogena commercials instead of sacking Mark Sanchez. Their first round pick was corner Vontae Davis. In the second round they picked quarterback/receiver Pat White, who should fit nicely into the Wildcat. They also drafted Mark Sanchez’s favorite target last year, wide receiver Patrick Turner.

2009 Losses: They released the immortal John Beck and traded center Samson Satele to the Raiders. Safety Renaldo Hill and corner Andre Goodman also left via free agency to Denver.

Why the Jets Should Be Worried: Miami was the division champs last year and did beat the Jets in their own building. Their secondary should be improved with the additions of Wilson, Green, and Davis. On offense, they are returning all their skill position players for another year in the Wildcat and their draft picks White and Turner should make their offense harder to deal with. Joey Porter and Jason Taylor are going to be difficult to handle coming off the edges and Phillip Merling is a talented, young player on their defensive line. Tony Sparano is a good coach and Bill Parcells obviously knows what he is doing in the front office.

Why the Jets Can Handle Miami: Rex Ryan looked awfully good coaching defense against the Dolphins last year. Chad Pennington and the rest of the Dolphins offense were overwhelmed by Ryan’s scheme. Obviously the Ravens also had a ton of talent on defense, but so do the Jets this year. Their secondary still has question marks, despite their new additions. Their wide receivers aren’t very good, and they lack a number one. I love Chad Pennington (see TOJ Hall of Fame), but when is the last time he put two really good, healthy seasons together in back to back years? I can tell you the answer…it is never.

Prediction: The 2008 Dolphins reminded me of the 2006 New York Jets. They took advantage of an easy schedule, used a gimmicky offense led by Chad Pennington, and played solid defense to surprise everybody by making the playoffs. I think the 2009 Dolphins will be similar to the 2007 Jets to an extent. They won’t be 4-12, I know that but teams are going to catch on to the wildcat and will be all over that playoff tape on how to rattle Pennington and their schedule is much harder. They aren’t sneaking up anybody this year. I think they will be a 7-9 to 9-7 team. In terms of the Jets, I always expect a split but then I thought about it, before last year’s week 17 loss the Jets had beat Miami 5 times in a row and 8 of their last 9. I am calling for the Jets sweep this year.

2009 Games: Week 5 At Miami, 8:30 PM Kickoff (Monday Night Football aka Crowder vs Ryan Round 1), Week 8 at New York Jets, 1 PM Kickoff.

Jets Positional Analysis: Running Back

First a few updates:

1. I’m already tired of hearing about Brett Favre and he hasn’t even officially signed with the Vikings yet.

2. There hasn’t been any news about Thomas Jones and Leon Washington’s ongoing contract negoitations and  I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing. All I know is that training camp starts in 5 weeks and they both better be there since they are the Jets two best skill position players. You have had a good off-season Mike Tannenbaum, don’t ruin it now by not working something out with your two pro-bowl running backs.

3. I am really getting a kick out of all the controversy Eric Mangini is causing in Cleveland. A 10 hour mandatory bus ride for rookies? Not allowing coaches to wear sun glasses? Painting over a mural of famous Cleveland players? It sounds like they hate him over there. Honestly, I supported Mangini through his time here and thought he took the fall for Brett Favre. I did hate his press conferences but I thought he had a good football mind, but Cleveland seems destined for a 5 win season this year so you have to wonder how long he will last out there. His approach is only tolerable when your team is winning games.

4. You will have to excuse the lack of pictures in this article, I am having some technical issues with storage space that should be sorted out soon.

Jets Positional Analysis: Running Back

Over the next 6 weeks, I am going to go through all of the Jets positions and assess each player, continuing today with the running backs:

1. Thomas Jones #20, Last Season: 290 carries, 1,312 yards, 13 rushing touchdowns. 36 receptions, 207 yards, 2 receiving touchdowns.

History: After a disappointing 2007 season, Jones took advantage of a revamped offensive line to have a career year in 2008. He was a workhorse for the Jets last season and showed an ability to get tough yards in crucial situations, along with the versatility to be an important part of the passing game. He sat out of voluntary activities this off-season and is ignoring the media at mandatory practices in protest of his current contract. The dispute is still ongoing, although Jones is expected at training camp.

Chance of Making Roster: 100% (If Not Traded)

Best Case Scenario for 2009: The Jets work out some type of deal to keep Jones happy and he produces at a similar level to the 2008 season. If Rex Ryan wants to win his way, he needs a healthy and focused Thomas Jones pounding on opposing defenses.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: The contract dispute gets ugly and Jones is traded away for a late round draft pick.

Prediction: Something is worked out to keep Jones in New York for 2009. He has another good year, but not quite to the level of 2008 due to increased role for Leon Washington and the selection of Shonn Greene. He finishes with 1100-1200 yards with 7-10 touchdowns.

2. Leon Washington #29, Last Season: 76 carries for 448 yards, 6 rushing touchdowns. 47 receptions for 355 yards, 2 receiving touchdowns.

History: Washington remained the Jets top playmaker in 2008, building on a very good 2007 season. He made the pro-bowl as a kick returner on top of his offensive production. He ripped off long touchdowns against Buffalo, Kansas City, New England, and Tennessee last season displaying his ability to score at any time. He is also currently unhappy with his contract but did appear at voluntary workouts and is talking to the media. Hopefully, the Jets can work out a long term deal with him.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Washington receives a long term deal. He is given more touches on offense leading to more big plays for the Jets, while remaining a pro-bowl caliber kick returner.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: The contract dispute turns ugly, leading to Washington missing a large portion of training camp and potentially even a game or two, damaging the development of the Jets young offense.

Prediction: The Jets give Washington his long term extension, they’d be stupid not to. He receives more carries and receptions on offense, as the Jets run the ball even more than they did last season and he steps up to help fill the void left by Laveranues Coles and Chris Baker.

3. Shonn Greene #23, Rookie: Drafted in the Third Round

History: The Jets traded away multiple picks to move up to the top of third round to get Greene, showing how highly they think of him. Greene was the 2008 Doak Walker Award Winner at Iowa, given to the best running back in the nation.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He develops a role on the Jets offense as a short yardage/goal-line back and learns behind Thomas Jones. Greene finds a way to get 5-8 touches a game and helps wear defenses down in the fourth quarter. After Thomas Jones leaves next year, he is ready to step up and split carries with Leon Washington.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Greene either gets hurt or struggles so much in camp that he can’t stay on the active roster.

Prediction: Greene will be on the active roster and get a few touches a game on offense. Although I think it will be hard to get him ball after already dividing carries between Jones and Washington. It is going to be hard to take carries away from Jones in short yardage situations after the success he had last year.

4. Tony Richardson #49 (Starting Fullback), Last Season: 10 carries for 65 yards, 1 Reception for 4 yards. Many, Many Men blocked.

History: Richardson is a pro-bowl caliber fullback and made a big difference in the Jets short yardage game last season. It was a great move by the Jets bringing him back this season, anybody who watches them play knows how valuable he is to their offense.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He stays healthy and keeps blocking the way he always has.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He gets hurt and the Jets short yardage problems surface again.

Prediction: I got faith in T-Rich to do the job he always has throughout his career.

5. Danny Woodhead #22, Last Season: Injured

History: Woodhead was a dominant player in Division II during his college career. He received alot of work this off-season with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington skipping practices. Despite a lack of size, he has great speed and ran tough in OTA’s. He was having a good training camp last year before hurting his foot and going on IR.

Chance of Making Roster: 50%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Woodhead makes the roster by carving out a role on special teams and flashing enough big play ability on offense to merit some occasional touches. His biggest problem is that the Jets have a guy named Leon Washington who does what he does, except much better. Unless Washington or Jones gets hurt, he isn’t going to see many touches this season if he makes the team.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He struggles in training camp and is cut.

Prediction: I think he ends up on the practice squad. His best chance of making the active roster is by finding a role on special teams, which could be hard with guys like Wallace Wright and Brad Smith taking spots he would probably excel at.

6. Jehuu Caulcrick #39, Last Season: Practice Squad

History: The Jets picked him up as a UDFA last year. He stayed on the practice squad all season. Caulcrick has good size and has been used as combo FB/RB. A few people have compared him to Le’Ron McClain when talking about him. I’m sure if Rex Ryan sees that, he will find a way to keep Caulcrick around until T-Rich retires or Jones moves on.

Chance of Making Roster: 50%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He makes the roster as a special teams player and finds a way to contribute in short yardage situations. He proves he could be an adequate replacement for Tony Richardson when he retires.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He gets cut.

Prediction: I think he has a better chance of making the roster than Woodhead. If the Jets keep 5 running backs, I think he’ll be the 5th.

Overall Position Analysis: Jones, Washington, Richardson, and Greene are all locks to make the roster with Woodhead and Caulcrick battling for a potential fifth spot, that may or may not be there. I know I may sound a little too optimistic about Jones and Washington’s contract negoiations but I just don’t see the Jets being dumb enough not to have both those guys back and happy this year after the seasons they had in 2008.

Scouting the AFC East: New England Patriots

First a few updates:

1. I decided to double post, because I had a good weekend and I feel bad about not posting on Friday or Saturday which is a bad job by me. All of these graduation parties are killing me.

2. Losing 2 out of 3 to the Nationals and Marlins…terrible job by the Yankees, just terrible.

Scouting the AFC East: New England Patriots

Along with the positional analysis articles, I am going to take a look at each of the AFC East teams in the next week and how the Jets stack up against them, continuing today with the New England Patriots.

2008 Record: 11-5

2008 vs. Jets: The Jets and Patriots split last year, with both teams winning their road games. New England beat the Jets at the Meadowlands 19-10 in week 2 and then the Jets won an OT thriller in New England 34-31 in week 11. In their first meeting, Wes Welker had 7 catches 72 yards, while Randy Moss was quiet with 2 catches for 22 yards (credit Darrelle Revis). Thomas Jones was solid in week 2 with 70 yards on 17 carries, while Leon Washington only had 2 carries despite gaining 28 yards. The Jets sacked Matt Cassell four times in their September meeting, while New England got to Brett Favre twice. In week 11, Thomas Jones had 104 yards on 30 carries with a touchdown. Leon Washington scored two touchdowns, one receiving and one on a kick return. Jerricho Cotchery had a big night, with 5 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. Welker had 7 catches for 108 yards and Randy Moss had 3 catches for 26 yards, although he had the game tying touchdown as time expired in regulation.

2009 Additions: On offense they added declining veterans Fred Taylor, Joey Galloway, and Greg Lewis. They also added tight ends Chris Baker and Alex Smith. On defense, they acquired cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs and signed linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. In the draft, their highest selection was safety Patrick Chung in the second round, they also selected cornerback Darius Butler in the second round and receiver Brandon Tate in the third round.

2009 Losses: Cheap shot artist Rodney Harrison retired. Matt Cassell and Mike Vrabel joined the Chiefs. Ellis Hobbs was traded to Philadelphia. Receivers Jabar Gaffney and Kelly Washington left in free agency. Linebackers Roosevelt Colvin and Junior Seau also are gone.

Why the Jets Should Be Worried: New England is probably the team to beat in the division as of right now. If Tom Brady is back to his normal self, he is the best quarterback in the NFL. Randy Moss and Wes Welker are the best starting duo of receivers in the league. The Patriots offensive line is always very good and they have a deep group of versatile running backs. Bill Bellicheck will always have his team ready to go with a creative scheme. Their front seven will be difficult to deal with. The Jets haven’t beaten New England at home since 2000.

Why the Jets Can Handle New England: The Patriots have a suspect secondary and are generally starting to get old on defense. Tom Brady is coming off major knee surgery and it remains to be seen whether he will be his old self. They are counting on declining veterans Joey Galloway, Fred Taylor, and Greg Lewis to be major contributors on offense. The Jets have won in New England two of the past three years and outside of the home opener in 2007, have been in every game with them the past few years. They did a good job running the ball on them last season and did a decent job at getting to the quarterback.

Prediction: The Patriots should have one of the best offenses in the league and will always have a good defense with Bellicheck calling the shots. I think the Pats will be a double digit victory team again in 2009 but won’t run away with the division as some people are predicting. I can see them being anywhere from 10-6 to 12-4. In terms of the Jets, I think it is reasonable to believe the Jets can manage a split against them this season and they will need to if they have any hopes of winning the division.

2009 Games: Week 2 at New York Jets, 1 PM Kickoff. Week 11 at New England, 4:15 PM Kickoff.

Turn On The Jets Interview with Tim Layden

First a few updates:

1. I would have to say at this point there is a less than a 10 percent chance of the Jets signing Plaxico Burress or trading for Brandon Marshall. Beyond those two, what other veteran options could they consider at receiver? Marvin Harrison might not be a bad option, regardless of his diminishing skills, he could still be a very competent number 2 receiver.

2. It’s funny how much negative press the Jets inexperienced receivers get, in comparison to all the hype and positive press the Giants inexperienced receivers get. What have Sinorce Moss and Mario Manningham ever done to merit so much optimism? I do think Domenick Hixon and Steve Smith are good players but certainly no better than Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey.

3. The only enjoyable part of my daily commute to the PVSC (Passaic Valley Sewage Commission) in Newark, New Jersey (where I am working this summer as a landscaper…yes, a landscaper at the Sewage plant, awesome stuff I know) is I get to pass by the brand new Giants/Jets stadium every day. The new building puts the old one to shame and is going to be great for all NY/NJ football fans.

4. Congratulations to Brooks Bollinger for being drafted in the UFL. It seems just like yesterday he was leading the Jets to a 4-12 record in 2005.

Turn On the Jets Interview with Tim Layden

Tim Layden is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated and recently did a great feature on Rex Ryan, which can be accessed here http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1156765/index.htm  . He was kind enough to let me interview him yesterday about Ryan, the Jets, and the AFC East. Here is what we talked about in the first ever interview at TurnOnTheJets.com:

JC: How much of Buddy Ryan do you see in Rex?

TL: I think Rex developed his passion for coaching from watching his father work growing up. There is no question he has alot of Buddy in him, yet it ends at a certain point. Rex’s mother is a very cerebral person and you can see that in Rex also. Unlike his father, Rex is a little more calculating when talking to the media and his players. He has an ability to treat different people in different ways, which is important in the NFL. I think he is also a little more reserved than Buddy and does hold back a little sometimes, in a positive way. I think you will see Rex be more successful as a head coach in the NFL than his father.

JC: When you were talking to the Jets players, did you sense that they are enjoying the switch from Eric Mangini to Rex Ryan? Both guys are obviously polar opposite in terms of how they run their team.

TL: When I was talking to Kris Jenkins, he expressed that he did like Eric Mangini and was okay with the way he ran things but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t enjoyed the new attitude Rex has brought to the Jets. Whenever there is a new head coach, people are going to focus on their positive qualities. Rex is a very likable guy and certainly a players coach so you would expect the players to be excited about him.

Kerry Rhodes admitted he is still adjusting and as I mentioned in the story, is used to holding himself back a little more on the field and with the media but is now learning more emotion is ok. Speaking of Rhodes, I really think he is guy you are going to see flourish in Rex’s system.

Bart Scott also made a good point not to get too carried away with the fun and emotional side of Rex. He noted they had success in Baltimore because of their scheme and execution. Rex is a well prepared, confident guy which leads to the swagger his defenses have. Scott said people don’t spend enough time talking about Ryan’s X’s and O’s and how smart he is when crafting a defensive scheme.

JC: What do you think of the recent comments he made about New England and his back and forth with Channing Crowder?

TL: I think with the Bellicheck ring statement, I mean…what is he supposed to say? Rex is confident in his guys and doesn’t say anything he knows his players won’t hear. He doesn’t want them to be afraid of New England and their past success. He isn’t intimidated by New England and believes he was brought to New York to beat them, not to look up to them. I don’t think it is a condescending statement to the Patriots at all.

In terms of the Crowder stuff, Rex has a great gift for conversation and humor. It is entertaining to listen to him speak and I think all that stuff was very light-hearted and also probably blown out of proportion by people criticizing him.

JC: Do you think Rex and the Jets should be as confident as they are heading into the season?

TL: One thing I know about Ryan is that he has never coached a bad defense. Even when some of those Baltimore teams had injuries, they were still consistent and successful. The Jets defense is going to be good this year, maybe great. I think the confidence is good thing and is rubbing off on the players. Bart Scott was telling me how he can’t wait to play against Tom Brady and New England. He wants to challenge them because he believes they can get to Brady and he wants to see how he will respond to the constant pressure coming off that leg injury.

JC: Switching to some more player specific questions, how does Ryan feel about Mark Sanchez?

TL: Ryan has a good amount of measured excitement about him. He knows he has the talent but understands he still has a ton to learn at this level. He doesn’t want to go too far praising Sanchez, in fear of losing Kellen Clemens, because there is still a chance he could be guy this September. Is Sanchez going to be Matt Ryan or Rex Grossman? I don’t think anybody can answer that yet. It will be tough in New York but Ryan believes Sanchez has the right make up for this city. Remember that Rex wants to win games 17-13 and isn’t going to be asking Sanchez to throw the ball over the field. He just wants him to protect the ball and make a few plays when the opportunity is there.

JC: What did Ryan have to say about Vernon Gholston?

TL: Ryan didn’t talk all that much specifically about Vernon Gholston. I know alot of people are trying to match up Baltimore players to Jets players, comparing Gholston to Terrell Suggs and Kerry Rhodes to Ed Reed but Ryan doesn’t want to do that. A key thing that both Ryan and Bart Scott said about the Jets linebackers is that everybody is going to have the chance to makes plays and it will be hard for the offense to know where the pressure is coming from. In Baltimore, the Ravens funneled everything to Ray Lewis, in this defense it won’t be that way.

JC: One last question, how do see the AFC East shaking out this year?

TL: I guess I would say New England is probably the best team but they aren’t head and shoulders above anybody in this division. Don’t think for a second they are a 14-2 team, that is a group of older guys with some question marks at linebacker and in the secondary and you can’t be 100 percent confident that Brady is going to be back to his old self. I am not confident in Miami repeating their success from last year and honestly think the Jets are probably the second best team right now and will be in the wild-card hunt and the division hunt until late in the year.

Get Leon Washington the Ball!

First a few updates:

1. On the top of the site under the page “About the Author” you can find where to contact me through e-mail, how to friend me on facebook, or follow the site on twitter, ballhype or yardbarker. You can also witness a picture of me slowly trudging down the football field last year at Muhlenberg.

2. Randy Lange did an interesting piece on NewYorkJets.com about Rex Ryan having dyslexia which was unknown to most fans and the media. Ryan has obviously overcome any learning difficulties he has to become a successful individual, who has also attained a master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky.

3. I will be interviewing Tim Layden (the writer who did the article on Rex Ryan in the most recent Sports Illustrated) on Saturday, I will post our conversation on Sunday. Our first interview here at TurnOnTheJets…exciting stuff.

4. Brandon Marshall has apparently requested a trade and of course many people are now wondering if the Jets will pursue him. Personally, I don’t think Denver could be stupid enough to let Jay Cutler AND Brandon Marshall walk in the same off-season, but who knows. Marshall is a beast but does have his off the field issues. I doubt he ends up in New York, it really seems as if the Jets are content with their current receivers, time to step up Cotchery, Stuckey, Smith, Clowney, and Wright.

Get Leon Washington the Ball!

Dear Brian Schottenheimer:

I am aware you are considered a rising star in the NFL and have ambitions of being a head coach in the near future. However, in order to achieve that goal you must have a more successful season as an offensive coordinator this year, than you did last year. Fortunately, I have a good piece of advice for you. There is a player on your offense named Leon Washington, he is number #29 on your roster. He is the short guy, you see in the running back and kick returning drills. This guy is a pretty good football player and probably your best overall playmaker. He has break away speed and the ability to make defenders miss…both positive traits in an offensive player. It would be in your best interest to find a way to get the ball into Mr. Washington’s hands more frequently this year, than you did the previous season. Let’s take a look at some statistics to back up my claims:

Last year Washington had 76 carries for 448 yards. If you divide 448 by 76, you find that he averaged 5.9 yards per carry…that is really good. Imagine if he had 3 more carries each game last year, you would have had another 284 yards of rushing offense and a guy with over 700 rushing yards on the season. He also had 47 receptions for 355 yards. I know his yards per catch weren’t that amazing but because of his ability to break long gains, another 10 catches could have resulted in another 30 or 40 yard touchdown for your team.

Here is an amazing stat: When Washington had 3 or less carries, your team was 1-6 last year. Let me repeat that, when Leon Washington had 3 or less carries in 2008, the New York Jets were 1-6…One Win and Six Losses. The only time you won, was because Washington took the only carry you gave him and turned it into a 47 yard touchdown (against Buffalo week 15). The numbers don’t lie, Schotty.

Remember when your team shocked the NFL last year and upset the undefeated Titans in their building by blowing them out 34-13? Washington had 8 carries and 2 receptions…10 touches. Remember upsetting the Patriots in New England? Washington had 5 carries and 2 receptions, along with a kick return and receiving touchdown. Remember blowing out St. Louis by 44 points? Washington had 16 touches on offense in that game. When you guys won in Buffalo…9 offensive touches for #29. When you beat Cincy…9 touches. When you beat Arizona…11 touches. You get the point.

I’m sorry, I just get frustrated when I see Washington’s rushing stats against the Chiefs last year (3 carries for 67 yards a touchdown, 22.3 YPC) or New England (2 carries for 28 yards, 14.0 YPC) or the previously mentioned Buffalo game (1 carry for 47 yards and a touchdown, 47.0 YPC).

I know Thomas Jones is a good player and Shonn Greene is an exciting rookie. Yet, let’s not forget about #29 this year. Here is a good rule to remember…at least 10 offensive touches a game for Leon Washington. I think you can float the guy 7 carries and 3 catches each week, or divide it up however you want, maybe even give him more in some weeks…your the offensive coordinator.

Thank you for your time and the best of the luck in the upcoming season.

Yours Truly,

Joe Caporoso

Scouting the AFC East: Buffalo Bills

First a few updates:

1. In this week’s Sports Illustrated Tim Layden has a great feature on Rex Ryan and his rise to becoming a NFL head coach. I am hoping for the chance to interview Layden for the site, so keep a look out for that in the upcoming weeks.

2. Another day passed and even more rumors are circulating about the Jets not being interested in Plaxico Burress anymore. Most of the local media seems against the move, although as I said yesterday the veterans on the team seem to be in favor of it.

3. A late congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers for winning the NBA Finals…I still wish we could have saw Kobe/LeBron, especially after all those hilarious puppet commercials but oh well. Hopefully, LeBron will now be finding his way to my Knicks in 2010, along with Chris Bosh.

4. According to ESPN’s statistic guru KC Joyner, the Jets have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and a better unit than the team they share a stadium with, the New York Giants. I don’t know about Joyner’s stat system but I do know the Jets have a damn good offensive line and who cares if they are better than the Giants O’line?

Scouting the AFC East: Buffalo Bills

Along with the positional analysis articles, I am going to take a look at each of the AFC East teams in the next week and how the Jets stack up against them, starting today with the Buffalo Bills.

2008 Record: 7-9

2008 vs Jets: The Jets swept the Bills last year, beating them in Buffalo 26-17 and then winning in the Meadowlands on Shaun Ellis’ miracle fumble recovery, 31-27. Kris Jenkins absolutely dominated in the first game and Darrelle Revis shut down Lee Evans in both games last season (4 receptions 41 yards in week 9, and 4 receptions 22 yards in week 15). Trent Edwards threw two interceptions in the week 9 loss and was injured when the teams met in week 15. Marshawn Lynch gashed the Jets in week 15 for 127 yards. On the Jets side, Thomas Jones ran for 69 yards in week 9 and 78 yards in week 15. Leon Washington had 1 carry for 47 yards and a touchdown in week 15…cough, cough, get him the ball more. Jerricho Cotchery had 62 yards receiving in week 9 and had a touchdown in week 15.

2009 Additions: The biggest one was Terrell Owens, who will pair with Lee Evans to form one of the best receiving duos in the NFL. They also added running back Dominic Rhodes and lineman Seth McKinney. They had two first round selections, picking defensive end Aaron Maybin and center Eric Wood.

2009 Losses: They traded away pro-bowl lineman Jason Peters and released tight end Robert Royal. Marshawn Lynch is also suspended the first three games of the 2009 season.

Why the Jets Should be Worried: The Bills have a deep, talented receiving core. I already mentioned Owens and Evans but they also have Roscoe Parrish, Josh Reed and James Hardy…all quality players. If Trent Edwards can stay healthy, he will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. When Edwards has been on the field, he has been a pretty good player. Buffalo also has three very capable running backs in Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and Dominic Rhodes. On defense, they have a good front four led by Aaron Schobel and Marcus Stroud and playmakers in the secondary with Terrence McGree, Leodis McKelvin and Donte Whitner.

Why the Jets can handle Buffalo: The Bills have a suspect offensive line and showed no ability to block Kris Jenkins or the rest of the Jets pass rushers last year, as they totaled 8 sacks in 2 games. Darrelle Revis has Lee Evans’ number and has played well against TO in the past, also Lito Sheppard has had success against Owens in previous match-ups. The Jets were able to run the ball relatively well against the Bills last year, especially in short yardage situations. They should be confident after sweeping them last year and going on the road and beating them.

Prediction: The Bills have a ton of talent at the skill positions but some questions at offensive line, linebacker and most importantly head coach. I don’t think TO is good enough at this stage of his career to individually bump the Bills past the 7-9 level they have been the past 3 years and have no faith in Dick Jauron leading them to playoffs. I think Buffalo is a 8-8 to 9-7 team at best this year. In terms of the Jets. you can never expect a sweep of a AFC East opponent but I am confident the Jets will definitely take at least 1 from the Bills.

2009 Games: Week 6 at New York Jets 4:15 Kickoff, Week 13 at Buffalo, 8:20 PM Kickoff (Thursday Night Football)