Should Injuries Caused By Lockout Alter Jets Summer Plans?

With the Jets opening camp this week, the question we raise today is should potential injuries due to the lack of organized workouts be enough of a concern that Rex Ryan and company alter the pace of their workout load?

Young players trying to making the team, veterans who are fighting to secure positions, and newcomers trying to impress will have a natural tendency to fire out of the gates in order to make an impression. By easing into contact and pulling everything back just a few notches, maybe the Jets can improve their chances that their star filled team remains healthy heading towards September 11th, when the opener at home against the Cowboys will take place.

We’ve all heard about Mark Sanchez’s “Jets West,” a players only, training session organized by the Jets QB, that sought to keep players accountable and the camaraderie consistent. However, just like nothing beats the experience of games, no unofficial practice will replace the pressure filled ones in training camp. Where watchful eyes grade players on their habits, performance, and demeanor. 

A slow starting gate will occur for clubs who have to fight off the Summer injury bug. One that this season more than ever, may cause a high number of early strains if practice tempos are not adjusted to accomodate the incredible amount of time missed during the offseason by all players in their own practice facilities.

Here’s hoping that the concept of letting players acclimate a bit, before running them out to fight for jobs and positions at full speed, has already been incorporated into the August workout plans of the New York Jets.

Cromartie’s Return To Jets Completes The Big Four

“They say Cro is back, Cro is back all #GangGreen fans say is Cro…lol I’m on my FLT headed home glad 2 b a JET…let’s go win a Superbowl” – Antonio Cromartie on Twitter, after re-signing with the Jets early Monday Morning.

Antonio Cromartie is back in Green and White. The deal according to ESPN is for four years, 32 million dollars. That’s eight million a year. Way up from the 1.7 he earned last year as a Jet. His first with the club.

The Jets have now completed the difficult task of locking down the “big four” starting issues they came into this free agency period with just days ago: Working within the cap space in order to lockdown both starting receiver positions, the second cornerback, and starting right tackle. Gang Green did so by working out long term deals in three places while achieving a short term deal for the other.

They brought back WR Santonio Holmes with a five year deal. RT Wayne Hunter, like Cromartie, received a four year deal and the other starting WR Plaxico Burress, was brought on board for one year at three million. A cheaper solution than Braylon Edwards was going to be.

Burress, the former Giant and Steeler, will provide solid production in return for his deal, if he comes back to football in shape and focused after two years away from the NFL.

It has been a great last twenty four hours for the Jets, who have now officially made it past the sting caused by losing Nnamdi Asomugha Friday night to the Eagles. The Jets went big and lost that race, but recovered well from the disappointment over the weekend.

The Burress and Cromartie moves now allow the Jets to open camp with almost every starting position in place. On both sides of the ball. 

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Jets Learn Lesson: Run Misdirection To Burress

It certainly wasn’t the biggest kept secret. The one that had Nnamdi Asomugha going to the Jets. In fact, it was probably one of the least discreet free agent pursuits for a marquee player in Jets history. The lessons learned however, in watching the sly Andy Reid Eagles swoop in to steal the NFL’s top corner on the market by laying low in the shadows, were put in play this morning. The Jets landed Plaxico Burress, the big tall second wide receiver they desperately needed, in less obvious fashion. They didn’t break the bank to do it either.

Burress, who led the Giants to the Super Bowl shocker over the undefeated Pats in 2008, and owner of 55 NFL TDs, became a Jet this morning for one year and three million dollars. This DESPITE  word that the scheduled meeting between the two parties had been “called off.” Burress was in demand. He had completed two positive visits this week already with former employers the Giants and Steelers. The 49ers were said to be waiting for a scheduled meeting with Burress as well. No need for that meeting now.

Perhaps by dimming the spotlight on a situation quickly growing dire for Gang Green (unproven Packers WR James Jones, a player with upside starting potential, was being talked about as a serius contender for the role) the Jets were able to focus, take aim, and grab hold of a much needed piece of the puzzle.

To land Burress, it may have taken a misdirection. An end around. A playing of possum that allowed the Jets time and the chance to make a serious pitch to Burress away from the camera’s eye. Not the detectable three step drop and downfield staring with tunnel vision that came back to bite the Jets late Friday night when “Aso” became an Eagle. A disastrous ending to a high speed chase that caused the Jets, who the media outed as having been at work restructuring deals and cutting salaries to make room for Asomugha, to quickly regroup and form an option B. That being a “no huddle” contingency plan whose goal was to fill the remaining position holes before the free agency clock showed nothing but zeros.

Comparing Braylon Edwards (whose cost would’ve been alot higher even though many Jet fans wanted to see him back in Green and White) to Burress, and the most obvious issues are rust and age. Plax has been in jail the past two seasons and at 33, is five years older than Edwards. However, at the time that Burress left the game after the ‘09 season, few were arguably better at his position.

The Jets can now see the Asomugha drama simply as point taken, starter gained. Should Burress be in top shape, and choose to play the entire 2011 season with a chip on his shoulder, then we may soon be upgrading the viewpoint of today’s signing to one of a serious offensive weapon gained by Rex Ryan’s Jets. Regardless of how it turns out on the field, the addition of Burress was a nice adjustment by the Jets as far as courting players more quietly. During what has been a loud and wild free agency period.

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NFL Free Agency 2011: Departure Of Brad Smith Seems Inevitable

The loss of Brad Smith may be impossible to stop. His mid major level market value, combined with the signing of Santonio Holmes and the chasing down of Nnamdi Asomugha, aside from looking to fill the second WR position, may make the bid to keep Smith a helpless one. This harsh reality will be tough to stomach when simply kickstarting an engine that hasn’t clicked on some Sunday afternoon, becomes the difference between winning and losing. 

The Patriots, Dolphins, Bears and Giants have all been named as teams who have interest Smith. He brings so many intangibles to the table. Teams will pay for that versatility, perhaps with the mindset of expanding Smith’s role on their club. A chameleon type presence that includes big kickoff returns, long clutch runs from the line of scrimmage out of the Wildcat, the ability to line up at QB, and a penchant for late game changing plays.

There were the big runs against the Bengals to insure a playoff spot on the final night of Giants Stadium. The kickoff return for TD a week prior in Indianapolis that left the Colts and the benched Peyton Manning on the way to a controversial first loss. The opening kickoff return in Pittsburgh in 2010, off of the heels of an embarrassing thrashing in New England and a putrid loss at home to Miami during the stretch run. As well as countless other plays that would breathe life into a lifeless offense, often times while keeping the chains moving.

It would be interesting to hear how other teams who are currently in the market for Smith, envision his role. By making Smith a solid piece, not one that simply enters the fray when push comes to shove, part of the element of surprise and change of pace that Smith brought when he entered situations could disappear. An increase in touches however, could create an increase in the amount of big plays Smith could provide.

Those who shrug off Smith’s imminent exit are only making themselves feel better when they say that Smith’s departure will be “no big loss.” It will be a tremendous loss. Smith changes momentum, makes enormous game changing and even season changing playsHis one of a kind skill set is not replaceable though one player.

His abilities are not the type that can be judged solely off one game either. Only by watching Smith every week, can one begin to understand this player’s impeccable sense of timing, and clutch production for his team.

Smith’s contributions during his time in New York have been remarkable for a player who has yet to own a solidified position on offense or special teams. His departure, especially after crunching the numbers however, seems sadly inevitable.

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Asomugha To The Jets Creates Other Free Agency Problems

Imagine all world CB Nnamdi Asomugha opposite another all world CB Darrelle Revis, in 2011. According to Rotoword it is possible. The popular sports news source reported today that’s Peter King “hears” that free agent Nnamdi Asomugah’s preference is to play with the Jets. King of course, still lists the Jets as a “longshot,” presumably for financial reasons.

Without getting specific financially, speaking only in general terms, to afford Asomugha, the Jets would be limited in free agency, able to only target ONE of their wide receivers. Not including veteran bargain bin finds. Other high priced Jets may even have to restructure their current deals to make it happen as well.

Their rumored to be favored choice at WR is Santonio Holmes. Keeping either Holmes OR Braylon Edwards (who struck a plea for his September 2010 DWI today), would be about the only high priced long term deal the Jets could take on if they wanted to go after Asomugha. Following that type of scenario, expect them losing Brad Smith, RT Wayne Hunter, and one or two of their free agents in the secondary: Brodney Pool, Eric Smith, Drew Coleman and James Ihedigbo.

Going for Asomugha and Holmes might be so costly that the replacement at the WR2 position might have to come from within, NOT from the open market where veterans like Randy Moss and Plaxico Burress, who won’t come dirt cheap, even as short term solutions, await their new address.

The Jets could try and replace the second receiver spot from within, using sure handed WR veteran Jerricho Cotchery there. Doing so with the added hope that TE Dustin Keller, with less top talent mouths to feed outside, returns to his early 2010 production, one that saw the former Purdue standout on pace for an All-Pro selection prior to the return of Holmes from a four game suspension due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Darelle Revis and Asomugha would make it extremely difficult for teams to throw outside at all. The loss of Edwards and any tall, big bodied presence replacing him outside, would hurt the Jets in the red zone, run blocking off the edges, and in certain match-ups where height inside on slant patterns in short yardage situations is often an advantage.

The Jets could, by using up much of their free agent salary cap money on Asomugha, also be faced with having to rely on second year pro Vladimir Ducasse at RT. This in the event that both Hunter and Damien Woody, who according to the NY Post today, wants to return as a starter, but not for the veteran minimum, don’t return. 

The loss of Hunter and Woody would create immediate growing pains up front. Similar to the way that the Jets offensive line took a step back early in 2010 when Matt Slauson replaced perennial All Pro Alan Faneca.

Everything is a trade off. If the Jets “want” Asomugha like he wants them, the Jets certainly would be taking a step towards shutting down passing games to a murmur. The bigger question would be, how many other key positions on both sides of the ball would Gang Green be taking a small step backwards with, in order to make the deal work.

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Right Tackle: A Priority For Jets Receiving Little Attention

TOJ is very happy to announce the addition of TJ Rosenthal to our writing staff. We have worked together previously at Pro Football NYC. TJ runs a Tumblr page called The Jet Report and is also active on Twitter. Welcome aboard! – JC

Scouts Incorporated Matt Williamson broke down all 32 NFL teams needs going into free agency. In doing so, he broke down the categories into groups. Need 1, Need 2, Need 3. By combining all three columns into 96 spots, we found that 14 of 96 in total were offensive linemen. Not a seemingly sought after position you say? Think again.

Offensive lineman are a top four group, which includes defensive linemen, linebackers and the secondary, which lead the list at 20. This brings us to the Jets RT Wayne Hunter and the recently released ex-Jet Damien Woody. Assuming that Williamson’s breakdown is reasonably accurate, then the need for the Jets to address the situation regarding the right tackle position looms larger than many might think. 

Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards have been the headline grabbing Jets free agent names. CB Antonio Cromartie has been one as well. Franchise tagged free agent LB David Harris is a shoe in to return to Florham Park.

The issue of right tackle however, has slipped under the radar. Hunter filled in well for an injured Damien Woody late in 2010 and earned his stripes by helping keep the Jets offense moving during their playoff run, from Williamson’s chart, it is obvious that teams clearly need help up front. 

The Jets must work hard to keep Hunter AND look to bring the experienced Woody back as well. The latter move to insure depth for a unit that sets the tempo for the Jets on offense. If a scenario presents itself where Hunter, 30, leaves for more lucrative pastures then don’t be shocked if Woody, 33, who has been a part of the Ground and Pound for two years and owns two Super Bowl rings, gets his old starting job back.

A lees trustworthy option would be last year’s second round pick Vladimir Ducasee, who would be a fall back option to fill the role, depending on his improvement from 2010 to this training camp. Last year as a rookie, Ducasse looked confused and not quite up to starting speed. His confusion is normal for many first year players whose job it is to protect against the complexities of NFL defenses. 

A plan ought to be in place by the Jets to solidify this position with Hunter AND Woody within the first three days of free agency. A window of time where teams will have the sole right to negotiate with their own.

Hunter’s value will of course play a part in the decision. There is no telling what a player like Hunter, a player with playoff experience and one of the few available at his position, will command on the open market.

Another element involved in the equation will be the current mindset of desperate owners. Ones like Jerry Jones of the line starved Cowboys, who is in need of filling this spot for his own team. This dangerously unknown element can alter the Jets plans that for now, remain on paper.

Recent Jets history proves that a reasonable measure of concern is understandable regarding rogue owners altering market value and salary cap strategies. Look at how Al Davis and his over generous three year, 45.3 million dollar deal with CB Nnamdi Asomugha in 2009 altered the scope of how the Darrelle Revis team handled negotiations during the 2010 offseason. Going back further, former Jets starting RG Randy Thomas, was lost during the Dan Snyder “Jet Skins” purge of 2003. Outbid by an owner willing to do whatever it took to win in 2004.

In Hunter’s case, it is possible that a team in dire need of help at Right Tackle could overpay in their offer, thus forcing the Jets hand. Raising the price to an unrealistic number worth matching. Doing this while knowing that aside from Hunter, the Jets will already have alot on their plate (Besides Holmes, Edwards and the versatile Brad Smith, secondary members Brodney Pool, Eric Smith, Drew Coleman and James Ihedigbo are ALL free agents as well). What teams may NOT take into account though, is that GM Mike Tannenbaum may be willing to call a bluff on a position that MUST continue to remain solidified.

No unit thrives on continuity like the offensive line. Keeping Hunter and Woody in Green and White allows the Jets to keep continuity and familiarity in the trenches. A major key when you consider how much offseason time has been lost in terms of units working together.

The offensive line becomes a back page story when penalties cost games or Quarterbacks like Tony Romo go down as a result of their ineptitude. No team can afford communication problems that lead to mistakes costing yardage. The Jets certainly cannot run the risk of exposing QB Mark Sanchez to any physical danger that results in a season long injury, like the one that the Cowboys Romo fell victim to, due to a lack of quality blocking, in the early part of the 2010 season. Especially when you consider who is behind Sanchez right now on the depth chart. 

Right tackle will be a key position to the Jets free agency strategy in the coming days. It has to be. After the issues of Santonio Holmes and who plays cornerback opposite perennial All-Pro Darrelle Revis are solved, Right tackle should be number three on the Jets soon to be free agent priority list. Bringing both Hunter and Woody back, perhaps in a reversal of roles with Hunter starting out as the starter, would be optimal.

When the lockout ends as reports claim it will over the next few days, talk will quickly turn to what will be a wild and short free agency period. The local media focus for the Jets will start at the glamorous position of wide receiver. Expect it to turn to the trenches, and right tackle shortly thereafter.