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)

Three Moves the Jets Need to Make & A Rant on Mike Freeman

First a quick rebuttal to Mike Freeman of CBS Sports:

Mike Freeman of CBS Sports wrote an article (http://www.cbssports.com/columns/story/11849129) the other day where he pours it on Rex Ryan and the Jets organization as a whole. While I can understand a little bit of where he is coming from, he goes way overboard and makes a few questionable statements.

Yes, I understand Rex Ryan is a rookie head coach and may be doing a little too much talking for his own good. Yet, he didn’t say anything that outlandish or out of line. He is an accomplished defensive coordinator in this league and there is no reason he can’t have confidence in his group of guys or not stand in awe of New England’s past success. The guy never guaranteed anything or disrespected any of the Jets opponents.

Here are a few of Freeman’s excerpts, with my responses:

“Typical Jets: patting themselves on the back even before the season begins. The New York Jets — kings of June wind sprints.”  — Typical? When is the last time the Jets have patted themselves on the back before the season begins? I don’t remember many Junes where the Jets have been made any kind of bold proclamations about the upcoming season.

“Not certain about the rest of you, but I would love to see an organization with the sort of losing and embarrassing history of the Jets, oh, you know, win before the head coach starts beating his chest and running his mouth like he’s Big Pussy from The Sopranos.”  — Yes, the Jets don’t have one of the most illustrious histories in sports. However, the past decade they have been one of the better franchises in the NFL, with playoff appearances in 1998, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2006 along with a .500 or better record in 1999, 2000, and 2008. Big Pussy from the Sopranos? Oh yes, clever reference since the Jets play in New Jersey but why Big Pussy, why not Paulie or Tony?

“Remember these are the Jets. It was this team that made one of the worst acquisitions in recent history with Brett “The Vikings love me/they love me not” Favre.” — Of course it is easy to say acquiring Brett Favre was stupid now, but at the time the Jets were universally praised for acquiring a hall of famer to fill the one glaring hole on their roster. Nobody was thought it was a bad acquisition when the Jets were 8-3 and had just blown out the undefeated Titans in their building. Yes, Favre and the Jets melted down the stretch but if it is another team that Freeman doesn’t hate, that’s on Favre not the organization for taking a chance by bringing him in.

“Ocho Rexo sounds just as silly as pops. He’s the guy with a larynx larger than his biceps who has had a few too many beers taking on the biggest, meanest guy in the bar. Challenging New England the way he has without a win under his belt puts Ocho Rexo in the same category as Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Rex has failed to also show the current division champions, the Miami Dolphins, a modicum of respect”— Did he challenge New England or did he just say he wasn’t going to “kiss their rings?” Should he kiss Bellicheck’s rings? Should the Jets play scared of New England because they won a few Super Bowls a few years ago? The Giants weren’t scared of the undefeated Patriots and they beat them up. Ryan also never disrespected the Dolphins (unless you consider his what his defense did to the wildcat last year as disrespect) he only talked trash to one of their average players, who came at him first.

“This season, after the Jets win five games and Mark Sanchez is a bloodied mess, Ryan’s faux bravado and words will haunt him.”— So now because Ryan is a confident guy the Jets are going to be a 5 win team? It sounds like some wishful thinking by Freeman, but why would a team that won 9 games last year and added Bart Scott, Lito Sheppard, Jim Leonhard, Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, Donald Strickland, and Marques Douglas become 4 games worse? Also, why will Mark Sanchez be a bloodied mess, because he is playing behind one of the top five offensive lines in the league? An offensive line that is returning all 5 starters and their top two backups, all of whom played together in every single game last year. An offensive line that has pro-bowlers Alan Faneca and Nick Mangold on it…yea, I think Sanchez will make it through the year in one piece.

Three Moves the Jets Need to Make

1. Don’t Trade Thomas Jones –  This is more in the “non-move” category but the Jets need to find a way to make Jones happy for this upcoming season. It would be foolish to trade away a workhorse pro-bowl running back when you are going to start an inexperienced quarterback. I know they like Shonn Greene but give the rookie a year to develop behind Jones and Leon Washington before you start giving 15-20 carries a game. I am not saying the Jets have to give him a long term contract, but they could advance him his signing bonus from next year or reach some kind of compromise.

2. Keep Monitoring the Plaxico Burress Situation – If Burress is going to be able to play football this season, the Jets should take a chance and sign him, even if they only get him for 12 games. Burress is a legit number one receiver who would provide a huge security blanket to either Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens. He would also allow Jerricho Cotchery to go back into his more natural #2 role. The Jets offense would be pretty difficult to stop with Burress and Cotchery split out, Keller at tight end and Jones and Leon Washington in the backfield.

3. Sign Another Veteran Tight End – I am still not comfortable with an aged and banged up Bubba Franks or a converted defensive lineman, Kareem Brown as the #2 tight end. The Jets are in major trouble if Dustin Keller gets hurt. There are still veterans on the market who could provide 20 snaps a game as a blocker.

Sanchez Ends OTAs With a Bang

Today was the Jets final OTA, which means tomorrow begins a quiet period for the Jets and the NFL in general until training camp starts up at the end of July. Here’s a run down of what happened on the field today with some analysis, along with a look at what to expect for the next 6 weeks until training camp starts on July 31st:

1. Mark Sanchez responded to a quiet start by closing the Jets OTA on a very high note. He was forced to resort to dump offs in his first 11 on 11 series and was intercepted by Eric Smith, who recorded his fifth take away in two days. However, in his final 11 on 11 series Sanchez gave his coaches, teammates and fans something to feel good about for the next 6 weeks. After hitting Wallace Wright with his first pass, he found David Clowney three straight times and then closed the drive with a 17 yard fade for a touchdown to his new favorite target, Wright. Yes, it is only going for 5/5 with a TD on one 11 on 11 series but still it shows the progress Sanchez has made in the past few weeks. Kellen Clemens played relatively well today also. Rex Ryan stated that he was encouraged by the competition and believes it is about even so far.

2. Back to the wide receivers, Ryan heaped the praise on Wallace Wright today who had a very strong set of OTAs. Wright hasn’t been mentioned much as a factor at the wide receiver position but don’t sleep on this guy. He did pretty well in 2007 when given the chance and could work his way into the rotation this year. Brad Smith made an acrobatic one-handed grab today and Ryan talked about his belief that Smith could be a dangerous slot receiver. He has all the physical talent necessary for the position but needs to show he can be consistent in games, not just practice. Chansi Stuckey continued to play very well is looking the part of a number two receiver. David Clowney has struggled with drops occasionally but still is flashing his speed and big play ability on a daily basis. If the season started today, Cotchery and Stuckey would be the starters with Smith probably receiving the next most reps, followed by Clowney and Wright.

3. Ryan singled out linebacker Marques Murrell for praise today. Murrell has flashed decent pass rush skills in the past and may be able to work his way into the rotation on defense, especially if Vernon Gholston doesn’t step up. Jason Trunsick and Murrell provide the Jets with solid depth behind their group of starters.

4. As I mentioned before, Eric Smith had another strong practice and has made a strong impression on Ryan who raved about him and James Ihedigbo as guys who provide excellent depth behind starters Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard. Smith should see plenty of action on defense in nickel and dime packages and could even push Leonhard for reps if he keeps playing this well.

5. Kris Jenkins has been getting moved around a little bit on the defensive line, seeing some reps at end. He has actually been held out of some drills because of how dominant he is up front, according to Ryan. Howard Green and Sione Pouha have looked good so far as Jenkins primary backups.

6. Apparently the Jets quarterbacks have given up throwing at Darrelle Revis who looks every bit of the lockdown corner he proved to be last year. Dwight Lowery had been quiet but flashed today with a sack and a pass breakup. Lowery was a Mangini guy, so it will be interesting to see where he fits in Ryan’s new defense. He has very good ball skills but lacks speed.

So what to write about for the next six weeks, while the Jets retreat back to their homes for some relaxation before they head to upstate New York for training camp? Fortunately, I never get tired of discussing this team and have plenty of ideas on how to fill up this blog every day. Overall, this may be a slow time for Jets news but it won’t be here. There is plenty to write about: the quarterback battle, the questionable depth at receiver, the ongoing contract issues with Thomas Jones/Leon Washington, potential trades or free agent signings, examining how the Jets can attack their AFC East rivals, breaking down the schedule overall, predicting who will make the roster, looking at camp battles, and providing closer/statistic based breakdowns of the Jets starters, key reserves, and bubble players.

Where to Begin? Recapping an Active Week of Jets Football

I’m back from vacation and finally finished going through the massive amounts of Jets stories/happenings from the past eight days. I was able to follow what was going on in Vegas to an extent but I was beilacked out from any type of updates in Mexico. Fortunately, there was no shortage of information or sources to read through all day today about everything that has been going on in the world of the Jets, here’s my extended reaction and opinions in an attempt to catch up, followed with regular, daily updates for the rest of the year starting with coverage of practice tomorrow:

First a few vacation thoughts:

1. It was my first time in Vegas and it met and exceeded expectations. I was lucky enough to actually win some money, thanks in part to hitting on Leon Washington’s #29 on the roulette tab.

2. American Airlines? Can you give me something to eat? A five hour flight from Dallas (we had a stopover) to Jersey and nothing more than some ginger ale…give me a break. I almost stormed first class in search of a sandwich but figured the risk outweighed the reward.

3. Cabo is one hell of a place…really beautiful. Obviously, I will let you know if I get the swine flu but from my perspective there was absolutely no danger in traveling there.

Back to the trash-talking, swaggalicious Jets:

1. Who isn’t excited about AFC East football this year? There is no need to repeat all of the quotes that have been thrown around by Rex Ryan, Channing Chowder, Kerry Rhodes, Joey Porter…etc but the trash-talk is flowing in full force already in June. I think Ryan’s quote about “not kissing Bellicheck’s rings” is music to Jets fans/players ears. I also don’t think there is anything disrespectful about what Ryan said. You can’t be standing around in awe of New England’s past success and expect to beat them out in the AFC East. The Jets need to be aggressive and hit the Patriots in the mouth to show they aren’t going to back down from them. I don’t care about regular season records, neither of them made the playoffs last year and they split their regular season games, there is no reason the Jets shouldn’t expect to beat the Patriots at home in week 2 this year.

I think it is comedic how concerned the Dolphins are about what analysts are saying about their team in June. They should enjoy flying under the radar and let all the pressure be on the other AFC East teams and then worry about sneaking up on everybody again. What do they care if Vegas sports books are picking them to win 8 games this year? The whole Channing Crowder/Rex Ryan exchange is a little more light-hearted than people are making it out to be. Of course now that I said that, watch the two of them rumble at the 50 yard line before the Jets/Fins Monday Night game.

Crowder also came after Mark Sanchez and Kerry Rhodes. His comments on Sanchez basically claimed he was soft because of his photo spread and that Chad Pennington/Chad Henne were tougher because they wouldn’t do that stuff. All I know is that if Sanchez isn’t throwing 4 INT’s in a playoff game like Pennington or riding the bench like Henne, he can take all the pictures in GQ he wants. Obviously, he needs to produce this year to silent critics of his photo shoot and critics in general.

Crowder went below the belt by saying Rhodes should worry about his off the field problems. Rhodes isn’t a suspect in any criminal investigation and never called out Crowder by name. All Rhodes did was post on twitter his belief that the Jets would have the best defense in the league. I love the confidence of the group and the support he received from other players and Ryan who backed him up, but still you need to show it on the field first before saying you are the best overall in the league.

Regardless, how different is this team from Eric Mangini’s group of robots from last year? I love the new confidence/emotion/swagger but it remains to be seen if it will lead to an improvement from 2008. I would take a group of 11-5 robots over a 7-9 group of trash-talking, emotional players. As of right now though, I agree with Kris Jenkins…hiring Ryan was an even better decision than building their new state of the art facility.

2. Mark Sanchez signed his contract today, which is for 5 years and about 50 million dollars making him the highest paid player in Jets history…pressure, anyone? It is great that the Jets wrapped this up long before training camp, which will allow Sanchez the best possible opportunity to win the starting job and excel in Brian Schottenheimer’s offense.

Turning the focus to on the field, Sanchez has been making steady progress and has flashed better than expected arm strength. The general consensus is that quarterback battle has been about even so far, with Kellen Clemens probably having a slight edge. However, you still have the feeling that inevitably Sanchez is going to keep improving and lock down the starting job by week one.

3. Leon Washington spoke to the media and made it clear that he wants a “fair market value” deal. He showed up for the last week of voluntary workouts as a goodwill gesture but no deal appears imminent. Can we please give this guy his money? He is too valuable to the Jets offense and special teams to be missing any parts of training camp. Thomas Jones still isn’t talking to the media and there are rumors circulating that the Jets may look to trade him this summer. I know they like Shonn Greene, but why trade away a pro-bowl running back when you are going to be starting an inexperienced quarterback? The Jets need to find some way to placate Jones for this season so Green has a year to learn behind him and carry a lighter workload. In 2010, I’d feel much better about Green/Washington backfield than I would in 2009.

4. Chansi Stuckey seems to be creating some space in the battle to start opposite Jerricho Cotchery. Stuckey is the most accomplished guy in the competition, runs fluid routes, and has great hands. He is probably better suited to be in the slot as a #3 guy but if he is the best guy, he deserves to start. Wallace Wright has been flashing a little bit on offense and did show some potential in 2007. Over at tight end, Dustin Keller has had a strong May/June and even drew a compliment from Bart Scott, who said he could be a top 5 receiving tight end in the league. Kareem Brown is also making strides in his transition from defensive end to tight end. Also, if you asked me if I would want Plaxico Burress for 12 games this year…the answer would definitely be yes.

5. On defense, Eric Smith pulled in 3 interceptions the other day and has played well in OTAs. He provides good depth behind Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard. Inside linebacker Jamaal Westerman continues to be a favorite of Ryan, who can’t stop raving about him. Ahmad Carroll has also continued his strong play at cornerback and could see some time on defense this year.

6. The Jets cut punter Eric Wilbur and re-signed Reggie Hodges…thrilling stuff in the punting battle. They also signed LB Craig Kobel and cut LB Nate Harris and DL Brian Schafering.

Tomorrow: Coverage of Thursday’s OTA and more reaction to AFC East trash talking.

Jets Need Improved Secondary to Step Up

First a few updates:

1. I am starting to get concerned about these new wedge rules on kickoff returns. Leon Washington has been a beast in Mike Westoff’s scheme, which now has to be altered because of the NFL’s decision.

2. Thomas Jones is supposed to show up at OTAs tomorrow and then will have his chance to discuss his contract with the media on Thursday. The real question now is when is Leon Washington going to show up?

3. The Cavs are winning tonight…both of these conference finals are going to 7 games.

Jets Need Improved Secondary to Step Up

Despite having a pro-bowl cornerback in Darrelle Revis and a very good safety in Kerry Rhodes, the Jets secondary struggled heavily last season. Teams routinely beat them by throwing the ball all over the field on their defense, part of the problem was a weak pass rush that fell off late in the year but more of the problem was the coverage.

In an effort to improve their secondary, the Jets traded for corner Lito Sheppard, who is a former pro-bowler that is coming off a difficult season where he was knocked out of the starting line-up in Philadelphia by a high priced acquisition in Asante Samuel. Jim Leonhard was also signed from Baltimore to start alongside Kerry Rhodes at safety, and finally veteran Donald Strickland was added to play nickel-back.

The newly constructed secondary will face a difficult schedule in 2009. They will have to match up against Randy Moss and Wes Welker twice, Terrell Owens and Lee Evans twice, and Ted Ginn Jr and Devon Bess twice (just kidding). Beyond that, the Jets face superstars like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Steve Smith, and Andre Johnson this season. Teams are going to test the Jets secondary early and often to see whether the new acquisitions have made a difference.

Darrelle Revis is as good as it gets at one cornerback spot. He is a top five player in the league at his position (regardless of what Sporting News says, Cortland Finnegan and Nate Clements? I don’t think so) and has the ability to lock down his side of the field. The real pressure at corner is on Lito Sheppard to handle the increased number of balls that will be thrown his way. Sheppard was a pro-bowl player in both 2004 and 2006, but has struggled recently with injuries. If Sheppard can return to his 2006 form when he had 19 passes defensed and 6 interceptions, the Jets will be good in shape.

Donald Strickland has looked good so far in mini-camp and will compete for reps with second year player Dwight Lowery, who began 2008 very strongly but tailed off as the year went on. Strickland has been a good nickel back throughout his career and is a reliable player if Lowery can’t return to his early 2008 form. Hopefully, Lowery can continue to develop into a quality NFL corner and provide good reps in both the nickel and dime package. Another corner to keep an eye on is Ahmad Carroll. A former first round pick, Carroll was re-signed because of his special teams ability but has great natural talent and has played well on defense so far in OTAs. Maybe Rex Ryan can find a role for him on the Jets defense in 2009.

At safety, Jim Leonhard is coming off a breakout year in Baltimore. He is comfortable in Rex Ryan’s system and the Jets are hoping he will provide Kerry Rhodes with the freedom to roam around and make plays. Leonhard worked well with pro-bowl safety Ed Reed on the Ravens, so there is a hope he will help return Rhodes to his 2006 form. He will provide better range in pass coverage than Abram Elam, which should make it harder for teams to throw on the Jets. Eric Smith provides decent depth at safety because he has a good amount of playing experience. Beyond him, the Jets don’t have anybody else with experience as a backup.

Teams will be attacking Sheppard and Leonhard often. Both players have plenty to prove. Sheppard needs to show he can bounce back from 2 sub par seasons on the Eagles and Leonhard needs to show he can handle being a full time starter for an entire season. In terms of the incumbents, Revis just needs to keep doing what he’s been doing and Rhodes need to find a way to play at his 2006 level. Hopefully, a 2008 weakness can turn into a 2009 strength for the Jets defense.

Where Do the Jets Fit in the AFC East?

First a few updates:

1. The Gang Green (www.theganggreen.com) has a great feature that tracks all of the Jets who are on twitter. Apparently Mark Sanchez spent the weekend in Seaside Heights…? C’mon Mark, you are going to be a rich man, at least get over to Belmar or something. David Clowney, Chansi Stuckey, Jay Feely, and Dustin Keller all also have active accounts. Keller just got back from Vegas…good for him, I’ll be there next week.

2. Can somebody on Cleveland please help out LeBron James and hit an open jump shot?

3. According to Rich Cimini, Thomas Jones will be coming to OTAs on Wednesday without a new deal or any plans for a new deal. It should be interesting to see what he says to the media, since it appears the Jets may have won this stare down.

Where Do the Jets Fit in the AFC East?

The Jets have had one of the more active and better overall off-seasons in the NFL. Yet, where do they fit in the always highly competitive AFC East? Last year they finished in third place with a 9-7 record, behind the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. The Jets split with both of them last season and swept the Buffalo Bills. When most analysts look at the AFC East for this upcoming season, they rank the Jets as the third or fourth best team, meaning they will be extreme longshots at making the playoffs.

New England is receiving the most pre-season hype in NFL history for a team that didn’t make the playoffs the previous year. They have somehow become the consensus number one team in all April/May power rankings (which, fortunately are never right) and are filling up magazines with talk of breaking every offensive record in the book.

I may hate Bill Bellicheck and New England but I am not naive, they are going to be a good football team this year, like they are every year. However, there are too many questions about the Patriots that are being ignored to just assume they are going to be a 12-14 win team in 2009.

Tom Brady is coming off major  knee surgery. I know the guy is a first ballot hall-of-famer but it takes time to adjust coming back from his type of injury. How can you assume he is going to instantly be back to his 2007 form? New England still has Randy Moss and Wes Welker, probably the best starting duo of receivers in the game but have some questions behind them. I’m not sold on Joey Galloway who looked completely washed up last year and Greg Lewis who has been a 15-20 catch a season guy for the past three years. Their four wide doesn’t scare me like it used to, with Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney who excelled in the Pats system.

Laurence Maroney hasn’t  proven he can handle being a lead back yet and Fred Taylor certainly didn’t look like a #1 or #2 back last season. Their secondary is also very weak. Maybe I am nit-picking with them but I don’t see them cruising to a 13-3 season like every other NFL analyst in the world. I know Rex Ryan did a hell of a job against them in 2007, and I am hoping he can duplicate that effort twice this year.

The Buffalo Bills are receiving a ton of hype because of one player…T.O. Yes, they have a great group of receivers but what about the rest of the team? I’m not sold on Trent Edwards yet as a franchise quarterback, their defense has question marks, and Marshawn Lynch is already suspended for the first three games. Dick Jauron also can’t seem to get out of his own way as a head coach.

The 2008 Miami Dolphins were the 2006 New York Jets. Despite having an overall lack of talent, they used a creative offensive scheme led by an efficient Chad Pennington, an opportunistic defense, and a cupcake schedule to sneak into the playoffs. The 2009 Miami Dolphins are going to be the 2007 New York Jets, maybe not as bad as 4-12 but nowhere near as good as 11-5. Defenses are going to be all over Pennington and their pedestrian group of receivers, similar to the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs. Their secondary also has a ton of question marks and can you really count on Ricky Williams for two good seasons in a row at this stage of his career?

It may just sound like I am bashing all of the Jets rivals, so let my clarify my feelings on the AFC East. New England is the best team as of right now. They have the best coach, the best quarterback, the most dangerous offense and an experienced, solid overall defense. However, they are a very beatable team that isn’t going to run away with this thing as a 13/14 win team. The Jets, Bills, and Dolphins are all grouped together beneath New England. One of the those three will make a strong run at the division, while the other two will hover around .500. It really depends on who can win their division games. The Jets need to find a way to get 3 out of 4 from Miami/Buffalo and manage a split with New England to have a chance at both a division title and making the playoffs.

Can Jerricho Cotchery Be a #1 Receiver?

First a few updates:

1. Kerry Rhodes made the media rounds today, appearing on ESPN Radio and First Take. He spent most of the time talking about the hard time everybody is giving Mark Sanchez over his GQ photo shoot. Rhodes also said the Jets “will go as far as their defense takes them” and that their defense is currently ahead of their offense (I’m sure Brian Schottenheimer was thrilled to hear that).

2. There are no updates on the Thomas Jones/Leon Washington contract disputes. You would hope that both players will be at practice by next Thursday, which is the next time the media has availibility for an OTA practice.

3. Some more numbers out of yesterday’s practice: Sanchez was 1-9 during 11 on 11 drills…yikes. Kellen Clemens was 5-13 but victimized by a few drops.

4. Pro Football Talk recently did an over/under for Jets wins this season and set their line at 7…fair enough without a proven quarterback. Tim Graham of ESPN.com also ranked the Jets wide receivers, as the worst group in the AFC East, which is hard to argue with although I may put them in front of Miami.

Can Jerricho Cotchery Be a #1 Receiver?

For the first time in his career, Jerricho Cotchery will be asked to be the Jets unquestioned go-to wide receiver. Since 2006, he has been in a 1-A/1-B type role with Laveranues Coles but with Coles now in Cincinnati and no replacement brought in via the draft or free agency, Cotchery is the Jets #1. Can he handle the increased responsibility and attention that comes with being a #1? The Jets are counting on Cotchery to take the next step as a player, and move beyond his production from the previous three years.

In 2006, Cotchery had a breakout year with 82 catches for 961 yards and 6 touchdowns. He displayed an impressive ability to run after the catch and made numerous clutch receptions, especially in the red-zone. In 2007, most people believed he would surpass Coles as the Jets clear number one receiver and potentially jump up to a pro-bowl level. He moved up from 961 yards to 1130, despite having the same amount of receptions but had a disappointing 2 touchdowns (including a garbage time hail mary against Cincinnati).

Coles spent large parts of the 2007 injured (Cotchery also missed one game), giving Cotchery the opportunity to be the Jets unquestioned #1 guy. Here is Cotchery’s production in games without Coles during 2007:

Week 9 vs. Washington: 5 Receptions, 90 Yards, 1 Lost Fumble.

Week 11 vs. Pittsburgh (Coles only played the opening series): 1 Reception, 5 Yards.

Week 12 at Dallas: 2 Receptions, 43 Yards.

Week 15 at New England: 6 Receptions, 53 Yards.

Week 16 at Tennessee: 8 Receptions, 152 Yards, 1 Touchdown.

Week 17 vs. Kansas City: 8 Receptions, 76 Yards.

In 2008, Cotchery was a mild disappointment. Most people expected a huge year from him with Brett Favre behind center, but Cotchery never could string together a few big games. He finished with 71 catches for 858 yards and 5 touchdowns, regressing to below his 2006 production. Some of the blame belongs on Brett Favre for being innaccurate and turning the ball over, and some goes on Brian Schottenheimer for being so consevative, but regardless Cotchery should have produced more last year.

There are defintley encouraging trends from 2007 for Cotchery being a number one receiver. In those games without Coles, he was paired with Brad Smith and Justin McCariens. For 2009, Smith is somewhat improved since then and I’d take Chansi Stuckey over McCariens in a heartbeat, and David Clowney is also now in the mix. Cotchery struggled initially with the increased attention, especially against Dallas and Pittsburgh but finished the year strong as a #1 receiver. He had a monster game in Tennessee, and had good overall efforts against New England and Kansas City.

The Jets are going to need Cotchery to be a 90 catch/1200 yard/6-8 touchdown guy for them this season. He has shown flashes of being that type of receiver, most notably in 2006 in all three games against the Patriots, in 2007 against Baltimore (7 rec/165 yds) and Tennessee, and last year against New England (5 Rec/87 yds/1TD) and Kansas City (9 rec/102 yds). Somebody does need to step up to take some pressure off him, but defenses will have to pay attention to Dustin Keller and Leon Washington, which should give Cotchery enough 1 on 1 match-ups to make big plays.

Ten Reasons the Jets Will Make the Playoffs

First some updates from OTA’s today, which were open to the media:

1. Mark Sanchez had a rough day. Rex Ryan characterized his first week as being good (Tuesday), bad (Monday), and ugly (today). He struggled in the two minute drill, only going 1-4 and getting sacked once. Despite looking sharp in individual drills, his 7 on 7’s and team drills were filled with mostly incompletions and interceptions. The defense was all over him, often taunting him about holding the ball too long and hanging his receivers out to dry. He also apparently has been hearing plenty about his GQ photo spread. I wouldn’t panic too much about a rough practice in May, Sanchez is a rookie going against a very talented defense that is running a complex scheme, the guy will be fine.

2. Kellen Clemens had a decent day and a good overall week. He dropped in a 25 yard touchdown pass to Brad Smith during redzone drills and led the first offense to a field goal during their two minute drill. Clemens isn’t going down without a fight and to his credit has remained helpful and supportive towards Sanchez despite their competition.

3. Rex Ryan was angered by the high amount of dropped passes by his receivers today. Somebody needs to step up and fill Laveranues Coles’ shoes. Jerricho Cotchery has been good, as expected but another receiver is going to need to step up, so far Chansi Stuckey appears to be leading the pack as the #2 receiver. The defensive backs were the most impressive position group today, with Darrelle Revis standing out as usual and Ahmad Carroll having a strong day.

4. The ongoing theme of these OTAs has been how the defense has been ahead of the offense. You have to expect this with a young quarterback and Thomas Jones/Leon Washington MIA. Danny Woodhead ran with the first team again, since Shonn Greene sat out today with a minor hamstring injury.

5. Ryan praised the progress of Vernon Gholston, Jamaal Westerman, and Kareem Brown. Gholston is taking advantage of participating in these OTAs, which he missed last year. Westerman was a college defensive end who has already worked at both inside and outside linebacker for the Jets and Brown is apparently making strong progress at tight end, despite a drop today.

Ten Reasons the Jets Will Make the Playoffs

After yesterday’s negative article, let’s take a more positive look at next season:

1. Defense Wins – Everybody knows you need a good defense to play into January. The Jets already had a very good defense last season and only got better with the addition of Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, and Lito Sheppard. Rex Ryan will put a more aggressive scheme in place that will take advantage of the Jets personnel, notably Calvin Pace, Kerry Rhodes, and Vernon Gholston who excel attacking the quarterback.

2. Running Wins – Let’s assume everything gets settled with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington in the next few weeks. The Jets have the potential to have the best rushing attack in the AFC, with two pro-bowl RBs, and rookie Shonn Greene. Beyond that, they have a very good fullback in Tony Richardson and one of the better offensive lines in the league. The Jets should be able to hand the ball off 35 times a game and be able to wear out opposing defenses.

3. Winning Attitude – Rex Ryan has changed the culture around this team. They are no longer a passive, reactive team with no notable emotions or personality. Ryan is encouraging a confident, talkative team that will play with some swagger on the field. The Jets won’t be a team that sits back and lets the other team dictate to them anymore.

4. Match-Up Problems – Despite how thin they are wide receiver and tight end, the Jets have two match-up nightmares on offense with Dustin Keller and Leon Washington. Keller shredded up the Patriots and Titans last year because they simply had nobody who could cover him, and Washington is a threat to score a touchdown anytime he touches the ball. He has the ability to play running back, fullback, split end, and in the slot.

5. No More Brett – The Jets will be better off without Brett Favre’s 22 INT’s and the constant side-show that he brought to the team. Yes, Sanchez and Clemens are inexperienced but they won’t throw 20+ interceptions this season, which will improve the Jets overall turnover ratio.

6. Mad Backers – Bart Scott leads a deep and talented group of linebackers who should anchor the Jets defense. He should also help the learning curve for David Harris, Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, and Vernon Gholston because of how familiar he is with the system. Scott and Harris should feed off of each other and Kris Jenkins in front of them, making it difficult for teams to run the ball.

7. Schedule Is Manageable – The Jets schedule isn’t as easy as last season but it isn’t as hard as everyone is making it out to be. Houston, New Orleans, Oakland, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay all missed the playoffs last season. The Jets should be able to manage a 4-2 record in their division, because I believe Miami will be down from last year and that the Jets match-up well against New England and Buffalo.

8. Big Man – Rex Ryan’s defense should be easier on Kris Jenkins, allowing him to two-gap less and showing more 4-3 looks. If Jenkins could be healthy down the stretch, it will make a huge difference for the Jets run defense.

9. Opportunities – David Clowney never got a chance last season to build on a monster pre-season, but with Laveranues Coles now in Cincy he should receive plenty of reps to flash his deep speed and big play ability. Dustin Keller should also get more chances with Chris Baker in New England. Hopefully, Brian Schottenheimer will exercise some common sense and give Leon Washington more touches this year.

10. C’mon Now – We have to be due for finding the right coach and right quarterback, don’t we?

Ten Reasons the Jets Won't Make the Playoffs

First a few updates:

1. The Jets signed their sixth round draft pick Matt Slauson to a contract, although the terms were undisclosed. They also released cornerback Tyron Brackenridge.

2. According to Drew Rosenhaus and his Twitter account, Thomas Jones will be attending Jets OTA’s beginning next Wednesday. There has apparently been progress in their discussions, but we’ll see what the situation is when Jones arrives in Florham Park next week. Ideally, Jones and Leon Washington will have a week of practice under their belts before mandatory practice starts on June 9th.

3. David Clowney has a site over at: www.davidclowney87.com which provides some interesting updates about the Jets OTA’s and the ongoing receiver battle. Jay Feely’s twitter account complimented the Jets offense for their past practice on Monday and said Chansi Stuckey was the player of the day…we’ll take any update we can get until media availability on Thursday.

4. An NBA Minute – Kobe and Carmelo are going to be fun to watch this Western Conference Finals. You forget how good of a scorer ‘Melo can be, but he was awesome last night. Kobe simply carried the Lakers to a win, his supporting cast isn’t as good as advertised. I still like Denver in 7.

Ten Reasons the Jets Won’t Make the Playoffs

I did recently proclaim the Jets would be a playoff team next season but let’s play devil’s advocate for a little while and look at reasons why they may not make the playoffs in 2009. I will of course follow this article tomorrow, with ten reasons why they will make the playoffs next year:

1. Too Young at Key Spots – An inexperienced quarterback and a first year head coach can’t be expected to navigate the Jets through the AFC East in to a playoff spot. Rex Ryan sounds great but we don’t know anything about his in game management skills yet or how our quarterback will respond in close games.

2. Not Enough Weapons – Jerricho Cotchery is a very good number two receiver, not a number one. Behind him, they have a group of inexperienced players who have never been full time starters. They are thin at tight end, and are one injury away from starting Bubba Franks or a converted defensive lineman, in Kareem Brown.

3. Lack of Depth on Offensive Line – If the Jets have one injury to any of their five starters, a highly inexpierienced player will be asked to step into a full time role. Can they maintain a strong rushing attack with Wayne Hunter or Robert Turner up front?

4. Contract Issues – Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are both currently unhappy with their contracts. Will this affect their play or serve as a distraction to the rest of the team? The Jets may struggle if rookie Shonn Greene is asked to handle too many carries.

5. Lack of Depth on Defensive Line – Marques Douglas and Mike DeVito are career backups who will be splitting reps at a starting defensive end spot. There isn’t much behind them at the end position or much behind Kris Jenkins at the nose tackle spot.

6. Difficult Division – The Patriots were 11-5 last year without Tom Brady behind center and he now appears to be fully healthy. Buffalo added Terrell Owens to an already dangerous offense and Miami has Bill Parcells running the show, which means they always have a shot. It is going to take at least 10 wins to even threaten for a wild card spot this year.

7. Tough Schedule – The Jets have to face the NFC and AFC South, both of which were very strong divisions last year. The Colts, Titans, Falcons, and Panthers were all playoff teams and the Bucs, Saints, and Texans were all .500 or better.

8. Chemistry Issues – The Jets will be adjusting to two new starters in the secondary, Lito Sheppard and Jim Leonhard. Sheppard has injury concerns and is coming off his worst season ever and Leonhard has never started for an entire season.

9. B-Schott – Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is coming off a very average year, where he struggled to find any consistency with his play calling and was often too conservative. Will he able to create enough points with an inexperienced quarterback and receiving core?

10. Punter? – Yes, I am reaching for reasons here all the way down at number ten but the Jets currently don’t have a punter on their roster with any NFL experience. We saw last year on San Diego how much of a difference a good punter could make.