New York Jets Hire Marty Mornhinweg As Offensive Coordinator

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In the wake of the New York Jets announcing the hiring of John Idzik as the organization’s next General Manager, the coaching dominoes have already begun to fall into place. Shortly after agreeing to terms with Idzik, the Jets have hired Marty Mornhinweg as Offensive Coordinator. Both of these hirings finally give the Jets a bit more stability moving forward, after a three week stint with both positions unoccupied.

Mornhinweg joins the Jets after 10 years spent in Philadelphia with the Eagles. Mornhinweg was hired by Andy Reid in 2003 as a senior assistant, became assistant head coach in 2004, and finally took over play calling duties in 2006 as the team’s Offensive Coordinator, a position he held through last season, prior to Reid being fired. During his seven seasons as Eagles’ Offensive Coordinator, Mornhinweg yielded five top 10 offenses and three top 5 offenses, while never finishing outside of 15th in overall offense. Before his tenure in Philadelphia, Mornhinweg worked in Green Bay as the Quarterbacks coach during the Packers’ 1996 Super Bowl XXXI championship season, followed by 4 seasons in San Francisco, serving as both Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks coach under Head Coach Steve Mariucci, and finally a brief stint as Head Coach of the Detroit Lions from 2001-2002.

MM2A long descendant of the Bill Walsh tree, Mornhinweg brings in vast experience in the west coast offense, indicating the Jets will be making a major shift from Tony Sparano’s failed Ground and Pound approach. A shift like this will be beneficial to the Jets, who have been far behind the ball in terms of offensive schematics over the past couple of years. A shift to a west coast style system will be a complete 180 degree spin for Gang Green. Previously under Ryan, the Jets have expressed their desire to be a run first team. Conversely, a west coast offense will use the pass to open up the run. How successful New York will be in their first season in this type of offense is unclear, but this kind of change was an absolute necessity considering the league’s recent offensive trends.

Mornhinweg also brings in an excellent history of quarterback experience. Having played the position in college at the University of Montana, Mornhinweg has been a key instrument in the development of players like Brett Favre (1995, 1996), Steve Young (1997-1999), Jeff Garcia (San Francisco 1999-2000, Philadelphia 2006, 2009), Donovan McNabb (1999-2009), and Michael Vick (2009-2012) among others. It will be interesting to see whether or not the Jets give Mornhinweg a chance to attempt to resurrect the career of Mark Sanchez, the former 5th overall pick who has regressed mightily in his previous two seasons as a pro. Sanchez played in a west coast offense under Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian during his days at USC with high success – 3,207 yards, 34 TD, 10 INT, 65.8 completion percentage during his final season. It is fair to assume that John Idzik will sit down with Mornhinweg to pick his brain about Sanchez before any decisions are made on the embattled quarterback’s future in New York.

Speculation will also begin to circulate about the Jets acquiring Michael Vick and Matt Flynn, both of whom have ties to Mornhinweg and Idzik, respectively, and are expected to become available, either via free agency or trade, when the new league year begins in March. However, internal decisions will likely need to be made at the quarterback position before any additional players are acquired.

This is a very solid hire for the Jets. Mornhinweg brings experience, innovation, and most importantly, something brand new. How well his schematics and system will translate to the current personnel are still unknown, but New York’s offensive ideology is finally beginning to head in the right direction.

New York Jets Potential Draft Targets: Running Back

The Turn On The Jets draft staff looks at what running backs the New York Jets could target in the upcoming NFL Draft

Bernard

In continuation with our positional breakdowns of potential NFL Draft prospects for the New York Jets, we turn our attention to a position of great need for a team that struggled mightily to generate any type of offensive excitement in 2012, running back. Today, our draft team provides a breakdown of the top five potential targets that could be selected by the Jets in April’s draft. These initial rankings are certainly subject to change as we progress through the entire pre-draft process, but as it stands now, these players are who we feel would be the best options for New York at running back. Be sure to give our draft team a follow on Twitter, and to check out our previous breakdown of potential quarterback targets for the Jets. 

Chris Gross

The running back position for the New York Jets in 2012 was, to put it nicely, abysmal. Shonn Greene flashed some quality against inferior defenses, but when put to the test of a contending defensive unit, he revealed himself as having nothing more than the ability of an average secondary option, capable of complementing a strong lead back. Greene will enter free agency when the new league year begins in March, and will likely be looking for a contract that exceeds his actual value to a team. Since the Jets are going to be operating on a relatively tight budget this season, it is more than likely that Greene will be allowed to walk to another team. While he is surely a capable 1B option, Bilal Powell remains under contract with the Jets at a much cheaper cost and is essentially just as effective, if not more so, than Greene in that role. Financially, depending on Powell to fill the 1B role, while letting another team pay Greene is the smartest, most realistic option for Gang Green this season.

So the question remains, where do the Jets turn to fill the void for that coveted 1A back? Earlier this week, we took a look at some potential scenarios that could play out as we move into the coming months. Looking ahead to the 2013 NFL Draft, the class of running backs may not posses a name that jumps off the sheet as the next Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster, or any other premier NFL running back, but this group is deceptively deep, with a very good amount of talent throughout. Running backs in today’s NFL, with the exception of the players aforementioned and a few more, are generally viewed as one of the most disposable pieces of the roster.

However, as we saw this past season, a quality lead back can help an offense that struggles in a variety of places to overachieve. Minnesota had a very subpar passing game, but was able to earn a playoff bid on the back of Adrian Peterson. Marshawn Lynch aided the development of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson by giving the youngster a strong running game to lean on. Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, and a few others has similar effects on their respective offenses. An emergence of a strong running game in New England has made the Patriots offensive attack arguably the greatest we have seen in recent years, while the lack thereof in Green Bay handcuffed a team with an exceptional quarterback. While the league is certainly driven by quality signal callers, the running back position is still very much a vital piece to a successful offense.

That being said, the direction that the Jets decide to go in at the position, personnel wise, remains dependent on the hire at offensive coordinator, as does the majority of the offensive roster. However, there are certainly some names to keep an eye on as of right now that are sure to be appealing to any coordinator, regardless of scheme.

Lacy1.) Eddie Lacy, Alabama – 2012 stats: 204 attempts, 1322 yards, 6.5 YPC, 17 TD – Lacy has put together a very impressive career at Alabama, netting nearly 7.0 YPC over his three seasons as a member of the Crimson Tide. Having spent his first two seasons underneath Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram, and 2012 3rd overall pick Trent Richardson, respectively, Lacy emerged this season as a dominant force leading the Tide to a national championship. At 6’1 220 lbs, Lacy has the size of a prototypical power back, but possesses the top end speed and elusiveness of a dangerous speed back. In short, Lacy is arguably the most well rounded running back in his class. He maintains elite balance, while showing great vision and patience in waiting for his blocks to develop, giving him an excellent advantage. A very strong showcase in the National Championship game has boosted Lacy’s draft status over recent weeks, and an expected impressive showing at the scouting combine should propel him even higher. Depending on how the next few weeks play out, Lacy could be out of the Jets reach, unless, perhaps, New York trades down from the 9th overall selection to select him in the later half of round one, where he would currently hold more value.

2.) Giovani Bernard, North Carolina – 2012 stats: 184 attempts, 1228 yards, 6.7 YPC, 12 TD – Bernard has put together an impressive two seasons at UNC, having averaged over 5 YPC in each of them, including the astounding 6.7 this past year. Bernard is widely regarded as the top back in this class, and for good reason. Bernard has excellent speed and lateral quickness, coupled with fantastic vision and burst. Beyond that, he is a very capable pass blocker, while remaining a viable option as a passing target. He has the ability to take a check down pass for a larger chunk of yards than most backs would, and is certainly not afraid to stick his nose into pass pro. These aspects of his game cannot be valued. A back with the ability to be effective as both a blocker and receiving option in the pass game will keep defenses honest and unsure of any tendencies. Bernard certainly has the body of someone who will be a durable NFL back, displaying tremendous bulk, particularly in his legs. Bernard should perform very well in each of the pre-draft events, and is poised to be one of the first three backs taken this year. He would be a reach for the Jets at the 9th pick, but perhaps a trade down in the first, or a trade back into the bottom half of the first round would allow New York to get their hands on him.

3.) Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State – 2012 stats: 382 attempts, 1793 yards, 4.7 YPC, 12 TD – Bell is a player who may fly under the radar a bit, coming from a conference like the Big Ten, but make no mistake, Bell is a premier name in this year’s crop of running backs. His immense size (6’2″ 244 lbs) combine with fantastic strength, making him a nightmare to bring down in the open field. Conversely, he is deceptively elusive which gives him an edge that most backs at his stature do not posses. These tangibles give Bell a rare skill set, one that could translate tremendously to the NFL. He is one of the rare prospects, like Lacy, that has the ability to run through defenders, or make them miss with his surprising agility. The pre-draft events will be crucial for Bell. While his film shows a highly productive player with great potential, there are certainly questions on his top end speed, primarily concerning whether or not he will be able to break through the second level for a big gain in the NFL. If Bell, a known workhorse in his training regiments, can post a good 40 yard dash, while displaying the elusiveness and agility that his film shows in the combine drills, he may find himself as an early to mid second round pick, among the first few backs taken. He could very well be available when the Jets select in the 2nd round. His performance over the next few weeks will determine whether or not he will be worthy of that selection.

Ball 4.) Montee Ball, Wisconsin – 2012 stats: 356 attempts, 1830 yards, 5.1 YPC, 22 TD – Similar to Bell, Ball is a back who may get a bit overlooked due to the school he played his collegiate football for. However, Ball has been immensely productive throughout his career as a Badger, totaling an astounding 77 rushing touchdowns over his four seasons. At 5’11” 210 lbs, Ball certainly has the size of an NFL lead back, with elite speed and elusiveness separating him from the average player at his position. While Ball doesn’t have elite strength to carry defenders for extra yards, he does have great tenacity as he has shown he is not afraid to initiate contact with a defender, and will always fight for extra yards after contact. He is average at best in the passing game, but his intangibles will allow him to be coached up in the area at the next level. Ball should available anywhere between the 2nd and 3rd rounds, and depending on how the board plays out, could be a great selection for New York. He has the ability to step in as the opening day starter next season, with Powell or a free agent addition serving the role as the 1B back.

Barner 5.) Kenjon Barner, Oregon – 2012 stats: 278 attempts, 1767 yards, 6.4 YPC, 21 TD – Barner faces question marks surrounding how he may translate to a pro-style offense, having come from Chip Kelly’s read option system at Oregon, but he very well may be the fastest of all of this year’s backs. Barner is a tremendous big play threat in both the running and passing games, as he has displayed countless times during his tenure at Oregon, where he posted a 6.0+ YPC average in each of his four seasons as a Duck. A dual-sport athlete in college, Barner also excelled on the track team, while maintaining a strong enough training regiment to prepare him for each year’s football season. Coaches and teammates rave about his work ethic on and off the field, and for a team in need of offensive leaders, Barner could fit the bill. While it is unlikely he will be able to be an every down back at his size, he would be an excellent complement to a bigger running back, perhaps a free agent addition (Chris Ivory, anyone?), while growing into a larger role down the road. As it stands now, Barner is likely grading out in the 2nd-4th round range, but his 40 time at the combine could blow scouts away and propel him toward the top of the 2nd round.

Wild Card – Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina – 2012 stats: 143 attempts, 662 yards, 4.6 YPC, 11 TD – Lattimore was widely regarded as the premier back in this year’s class, however a gruesome knee injury ended his 2012 campaign short. Despite potentially being a mid to late round pick, as a result of concerns over how well his knee may heal, Lattimore has decided to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. This is a very intriguing situation. When healthy, Lattimore is head and shoulders above any of his counterparts. He has the prototypical size needed for an elite every down back at the next level, with top end speed far above average. Lattimore is extremely tough, and has a tremendous amount of versatility. He is very elusive for a back with his size, and his vision and patience is second to none. He has the best natural running instincts out of anyone in this class, and has a combination of size, power, agility, and speed that can make him an elite back in the NFL. The knee concerns are very real, however. It is unclear how far along he is with his recovery at this point, but rest assured that NFL scouts will be paying close attention to his medical progress as April draws near. With his stock likely to fall due to concerns over his knee, Lattimore could potentially be the biggest steal of the draft if he gets back to full strength next season. If he is there in the middle rounds, the Jets would be wise to take a flier on him, if he shows promising recovery progress.

 Zev Sibony

Rankings Based On Talent

Name Height Weight Projected 40 Round(s)
Eddie Lacy 6’0” 220 4.55 2nd round
Giovanni Bernard 5’10” 205 4.52 2nd round
Stepfan Taylor 5’11” 208 4.58 3rd round
Le’Veon Bell 6’2” 238 4.63 3rd or 4th round
Marcus Lattimore 6’0” 218 ?? 6th, 7th, FA

 

 

 

 

Rankings Based On Value 

taylor1 – Stepfan Taylor has been a 3 year starter at Stanford while accumulating some impressive stats. As a true sophomore, he had 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns. His Junior and Senior years he exploded with 1330 yards and 1530 yards, respectively. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry over his junior and senior years while marching in for 23 touchdowns. He shows some versatility out of the backfield while catching passes, along with a good mix of speed and strength, and is definitely capable of being a 3 down back. Taylor has the best chance of being a true workhorse for the Jets next year. Taylor is also good in pass protection, which is clearly a benefit. For value, I think the Running back from Stanford will provide the best results. He is somewhat of a sleeper  and can be had in the 3rd, possibly 4th round

2 –  If Eddie Lacy is available in the top of the 2nd round, the Jets should draft him.. Lacy is, in my opinion, the best running back available in the draft. He played in the hardest conference and rushed for 1,322 yards, averaged 6.4 a carry and had 17 touchdowns. That is impressive, but he was running behind one of the best, if not the best, offensive line in the country. (That is all well and good because hopefully we can draft Chance Warmack at #9 and find a solid right tackle to shore up the O-line for next year.) Lacy also caught 22 passes for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns this past year. He has good speed and even better strength. If he is available at #39 overall, yes please.

3 – Le’Veon Bell is the same guy in stature as Shonn Greene. But that is where the similarities end. Bell weighs about 10-15 pounds more than Shonn but is much quicker. Not only is he quicker, he is stronger and actually makes people miss. He is quite the anomaly.  Another 3rd or 4th rounder that will provide great value.

4 – Giovani Bernard has carried the UNC Tar Heels the last two years. Both years he had at least 1.200 yards and 45 receptions out of the backfield. He averaged 5.24 and 6.7 yards per carry over the past two years, respectively, while having at least 14 total touchdowns each year. Not only being consistently good, he has the speed and ability to break off big runs and make people miss in open space. He can also return punts and did so with success this past year.

5 – Marcus Lattimore. While recovering from another gruesome knee injury, The Jets should consider taking a flier on Lattimore. When he is healthy, he has been one of the best, if not the best running back in the NCAA. He really has it all but just has to stay healthy.

Frank Giasone

With Shonn Greene and Gang Green likely parting ways this offseason, April’s NFL Draft is the perfect time for the Jets to find a versatile running back with big play speed. Bilal Powell should be back, and after a vastly improved 2012 season he’ll likely return with some anticipation. While he may or may not be feature back material, it’s fairly obvious to anyone watching that he can, at the very least, do what Greene has done in the No. 1 role. But Powell clearly won’t be able to do the job alone, and Joe McKnight hasn’t proved capable of an increased workload thus far, which means the Jets must address the running back situation either in free agency or the Draft.

1 – Giovani Bernard (UNC, 5’10”, 205 lbs): The sophomore RB might be off the board when the Jets get ready to pick in the second round, thanks in large part to his big play ability out of the backfield both as a runner and a receiver. Bernard is a hard runner who keeps his legs moving and consistently gains yards after first contact. The UNC ‘back shows patience at the line of scrimmage, a quick burst through the hole, and devastating moves in open space.

Despite some questions regarding the level of competition in the ACC, racking up over 1900 all-purpose yards (6.7 yards per carry, 10.4 yards per catch) and 19 touchdowns, is hard to ignore. Combine his abilities out of the backfield with great punt return skills and Bernard could be one of the most versatile Jets since Leon Washington.

He’s my No. 1 RB in the 2013 Draft, and it’s my guess that lots of scouts feel the same way. While he’s currently projected as a second round pick, a solid showing at the Combine or individual workouts could easily propel him up draft boards and into the first round.

2 – Eddie Lacy (Alabama, 6’1”, 22 lbs): After devastating the Notre Dame defense to the tune of 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the BCS Title Game, Lacy’s name has shot up Draft boards. One of the top running backs in the ’13 Draft, some experts are so enamored they have him projected to go in the first round.

A hard runner who keeps his feet moving and shows some quickness, Lacy is decisive when hitting the hole and flaunts an impressive jump cut and spin move. Not afraid to lower his shoulder into a defender, Lacy also shows promise as a receiver out of the backfield.

Lacy dominated the SEC racking up 1332 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns, along but some question the impact of rushing behind the best offensive line in the nation. Some other concerns include his top end speed and injury concerns.

Andre Ellington3 – Andre Ellington (Clemson, 5’9”, 190 lbs): Smaller than some of the other top running backs in the ’13 Draft, Ellington’s most impressive traits are his tremendous balance and footwork, as seen in his ability to break tackles and pick up yards after contact.

While the Clemson senior faces the same ACC questions as Bernard, he also boasts similar versatility as a runner, receiver and kick returner. Ellington shows the acceleration and explosiveness to create big plays, as well as patience running behind blockers, good vision and the ability to make strong cuts.

At only 190 pounds Ellington struggles with blitz pickup, tending to dive at a defenders knees rather than fully committing himself to the block, and has some questions regarding his durability. He’ll likely have to put on size to survive in the NFL, but his natural ability and highlight reel moves certainly make him an attractive option for the Jets after Round 2.

4 – Kenjon Barner (Oregon, 5’11”, 192 lbs): Barner also lacks the ideal size for a running back in the NFL and can sometimes struggle hanging on to the ball, but boasts some of the best big play ability at the position.

While Chip Kelly’s scheme may have enhanced his numbers over the past two seasons, his quick, shifty moves are undeniable and will likely translate in the return game. Certainly a threat as a receiver out of the backfield, Barner is projected to go sometime in the Round 4 or later and should garner lots of interest.

 5 – Johnathan Franklin (UCLA, 5’11”, 198 lbs): Franklin is another speedy prospect who capable of breaking a big gain at any time. Projected to go somewhere in the fourth round, the UCLA senior is similar to Barner in that they both share smaller builds, big play ability, and struggles with fumbles.

A patient runner with good vision, Franklin also struggles in pass protection (although showed progress in ’12) and lacks experience as a return man. Franklin emerged as a receiving threat in his senior year, finishing with 33 catches for 323 yards and two touchdowns (his previous season high was 10 catches in 2009).

New York Jets Potential Draft Targets: Quarterback

The Turn On The Jets draft team looks at who the New York Jets could target at quarterback in April’s NFL Draft

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In the coming weeks here at Turn On The Jets, we will be providing a position by position breakdown of prospects that could potentially be targeted by the New York Jets in this year’s NFL Draft. These prospects are not ranked based on where they may stand in the overall prospect pool. They are ranked based on the specific needs of the Jets, and the reality (or lack thereof), of New York targeting and potentially selecting them, taking into account not only on their ability and potential, but where they would be most valuable to the Jets based on the current state of the roster. Today, we begin with a look at potential quarterback prospects that New York could target. Be sure to give our draft team, Chris Gross, Frank Giasone and Zev Sibony a follow on Twitter, as they’ll be leading our NFL Draft coverage through April.

Chris Gross

While the play at the quarterback position was nothing short of a blooper reel for the better part of the 2012 season for the Jets, there are a surplus of holes on the roster that need to be addressed before touching the personnel that may be lining up under center in 2013. While quarterback is certainly the most important position in today’s NFL, quantity does not equal quality. New York cannot afford to stockpile mediocre quarterbacks hoping that one of them catches on, while ignoring their glaring holes at outside linebacker, offensive line, running back, inside linebacker, safety, and tight end.

While a top tier quarterback prospect would certainly mask many of the flaws that plague New York’s current roster, there is not one player in the 2013 draft who fits that bill. It is because of this that the Jets are highly unlikely to address this need via the draft in any round earlier than the fourth, if at all. Here is a look at some potential prospects who could potentially be available late on day two or early on day three in April’s draft.

EJ ManuelEJ Manuel, Florida State, 6’5″ 240 lbs – Manuel, to me, is one of the most intriguing prospects at the quarterback position this year. His size fits the bill of a prototypical NFL quarterback, but does his play? Manuel threw for an impressive 3,392 yards and 23 touchdowns at Florida State this past season, including a 68.0 completion percentage and a 156.0 passer rating. What’s encouraging about Manuel is that he has improved in each of his four seasons at FSU, in a career that allowed him to display his vast intangibles including 2010 Academic All-ACC recognition, receiving a community service award in 2011, and being named team captain for his junior and senior seasons.

The red flags on Manuel stem primarily from durability concerns and overall mechanics. His footwork and release need serious improvement for him to be effective at the next level, and he has sustained multiple injuries during his career as a Seminole. However, Manuel does a good job of making pre-snap reads and going through his progressions. He isn’t NFL ready by any means, but with a year or two of quality coaching and fine tuning his fundamentals, he can surely be a starting quarterback in this league. His draft stock will likely depend on how he performs in the upcoming pre-draft events (Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, Pro Day), but there is a chance he could be had in the late third, early fourth round this year.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma, 6’4″ 218 lbs – Jones was a highly touted prospect after a strong sophomore season at Oklahoma, but has tailed off recently. Still, he has been very productive during his tenure as a Sooner, having thrown for over 4,000 yards in each of his three seasons as a full time starter. Jones has the size and arm strength to be an effective NFL quarterback, but like Manuel, his mechanics are flawed at times. When Jones executes the proper footwork and release, his accuracy and zip are excellent. However, he has developed a tendency to extend his release longer than neccesary and, coupled with inconsistent footwork, his accuracy and arm strength have taken a hit.Landry Jones

What Jones needs to do is work on these fundamentals, while displaying a level of confidence in the interview process with NFL teams. There are some concerns about his mental makeup considering that his production has dipped in each of the past two seasons, following his strong sophomore campaign. Still, the potential is there for him to grow into a quality player in this league. Depending on how his pre-draft performances go, he could be in the same range as Manuel, availability wise.

Tyler WilsonTyler Wilson, Arkansas, 6’3″ 220 lbs – Wilson is another viable late round option. While his production at Arkansas has not been off the charts, some feel as though he has been hampered by a poor supporting cast (sound familiar?). Wilson, like the previous two players, shows inconsistencies in his mechanics, but flashes brilliance when fundamentally sound. He has proved an ability to throw accurately on the run which, depending on who the Jets offensive coordinator is next season, could be an appealing quality.

As a leader, Wilson has been highly praised by his coaches at Arkansas for his work in both the weight and film rooms, as well as having fantastic poise in tough situations. He has the mental makeup of a quality quarterback which could make him the pick for New York, considering the hit that they have witnessed Mark Sanchez take in that area this past year. His flaws can certainly be worked on, but his abilities are unlikely to garner him a selection until late day two, at the earliest. Again, a lot will depend on how he is evaluated in the coming weeks.

The Hot Names – Every year following the conclusion of the collegiate football season, there are a few “hot names” at each position; players who were marginal during their seasons, but put together stronger performances to finish the year. This year, at quarterback, the two players being most commonly discussed are Mike Glennon of North Carolina State and Ryan Nassib of Syracuse. While each of these players have the tools to be good players at the next level, the way each of their stocks are rising, they are likely to be selected in one of the first two rounds. Last year, neither would likely have been considered until day 3, however with a depleted class at quarterback this season, each of them could find themselves rising up draft boards, particularly if they have strong Senior Bowl performances. While both of these players could help the Jets current quarterback situation, don’t expect New York to use an early pick at the position this year, primarily for the reasons mentioned above.

Frank Giasone

Trying to find an NFL ready quarterback in the 2013 NFL Draft is about as easy as, well, finding an NFL ready quarterback on the New York Jets roster. With names like Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson and Mike Glennon the leading candidates as April approaches, one thing is clear. A few teams are going to reach for a QB…and it’s not going to end well.

Here are my top five QB prospects for the Jets heading into the Draft:

Brad Sorenson, Southern Utah, 6’5’’, 235 lbs A BYU transfer, Sorenson is an intriguing small school “project” QB. His big build, strong arm and ability to fit passes into small windows are sure to the peak the interest of NFL scouts as Draft Day approaches. The senior also boasts surprising athleticism, accuracy throwing on the run, and does a good job of keeping his eyes downfield, even when pressured. Some concerns are his time spent in a shotgun-heavy offense, as well as the low level of competition in the Big Sky Conference, but his late round projections make him a great choice for the Jets.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma, 6’4”, 220 lbs The decision to return for his senior season may end up hurting Jones, as some view him as a second or third round prospect in 2013. After being ranked as high as third in last years QB class, Jones now find himself lumped in with the likes of Mike Glennon, Tyler Wilson and Ryan Nassib. While his stock has fallen, Jones still possesses the arm strength, accuracy and intelligence that made him a top prospect last year, making him an interesting option if he slides.

Matt Scott, Arizona, 6’2”, 200 lbs With mobile quarterbacks all the rage now in the NFL, Scott has a very good chance to climb up draft boards in the next few months. Extremely successful running Arizona’s spread-option offense, Scott is sure to draw comparisons to Colin Kaepernick as the ’13 Draft nears. For now he’s projected as a third or fourth round pick, but that could all change with an impressive showing at The Combine.

Mike Glennon, NC State, 6’5”, 232 lbs Glennon has been a popular name in college football the past two seasons and with good reason, as his impressive arm strength and accuracy have some projecting him as a top 10 pick in this years Draft. While he’s still needs work on his footwork and fundamentals, his ability to stand tall in the pocket and move efficiently certainly helps conjure up images of a future franchise QB.

Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio), 6’3”, 228 lbs Dysert also spent a lot of time in the shotgun formation at Miami University, but shows good accuracy on short and intermediate passes. Not asked to go downfield often, Dysert lacks the zip on his passes some look for from a QB. He does a good job of keeping his eyes downfield consistently and is also athletic enough to run with the football, but he may be the biggest project QB on this list.

Zev Sibony

The draft this year is not stacked at Quarterback like it was last year. None of the quarterbacks in this year’s class fit the mold of Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. There are no players that are going to wow you in the first round, and few, if any, “steals” like Russell Wilson. I do not believe Geno Smith will be good in the NFL, nor do I think Matt Barkley will be. The USC curse is real. After that, you have Quarterbacks like Tyler Wilson and Tyler Bray who are both questionable picks. Landry Jones is still there, but he has underwhelmed this past season and I’m also not sure he will translate well into the professional league. None of this really matters because with the amount of holes the Jets have to fix, they aren’t going to spend a pick on a Quarterback in the first 4 or 5 rounds.

The Jets should address their quarterback situation in free agency by bringing in a veteran who can be a game manager. That being said, if the Jets choose to select a quarterback, they should target one of the following. The players below are likely to go undrafted and it should stay that way. This is a mix of the Jets having greater needs, combined with an underwhelming talent pool at the quarterback position in this year’s draft.

Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech, 6’2” 205 lbs- 4147 yards, 68.8 completion percentage, 31 TDs, 5 INTs. Coming out of the WAC, one can’t really expect that much, which is why Colby will probably go undrafted. I have watched some film of him and I think if he had the proper quarterback coach, something may sprout from him. While he may not have the strongest arm, he shows great accuracy. He is strong in the pocket and has good touch on the long throws. Nothing to ogle about but things to consider.

David Fales, San Jose State University, 6’3” 220 lbs- 4193 yards, 72.5 completion percentage, 33 TDs, 9 INTs. He has the “prototypical” size of an NFL quarterback, but again, it is hard to go undrafted and become somebody in the NFL. Fales doesn’t throw the prettiest ball, but he makes the right reads. Then again, he is going against WAC competition so it is tough to get a great read on him.

Ryan Aplin, Arkansas State, 6’1″ 205 lbs- 3342 yards, 68.8 completion percentage, 24 TDs, 4 INTs. Aplin finished his season strong at Arkansas State with a bowl win over #25 ranked Kent State. He went 21/30, 213 yards and 1 TD. While not jumping off the page, Aplin seems to take care of the ball and make the right decisions. The quarterback also is a 4 year starter and got better each year he played. He likely wont be drafted but another QB that may surprise people if drafted by the right team with a good QB coach.

It is hard to be an undrafted free agent QB and succeed in the NFL. Typically there is a reason quarterbacks go undrafted. Tony Romo is a rare guy. Can Colby Cameron, Dave Fales or Ryan Aplin be the next Tony Romo? Unlikely. But it will be interesting to take a look at each of them as they go through the draft process.

Turn On The Jets 2013 NFL Draft Big Board 1.0

Chris Gross with his first big board for the 2013 NFL Draft

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Turn On The Jets is going to have the NFL Draft covered from every angle in the coming months. Chris Gross will lead our coverage along with Frank Giasone and Zev Sibony. Make sure to check back for daily updates. When the site redesigned (February 1st) we will have a separate page archiving all our draft coverage, so it easily sorted amongst the rest of our content. Take it away Chris —

To kickoff our draft coverage here at Turn On The Jets, we bring you our initial TOJ Big Board – An overall look at who we feel are the best 20 college prospects poised to enter this year’s NFL Draft. As the draft process unfolds, this board is sure to have some changes to it on a week-to-week basis, so be sure to check for updates as we enter the days leading to the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and individual workouts heading into April. This list will expand to 25 and eventually 30 players in the coming weeks as we review more film of potential prospects. Let’s jump right in.

1.) Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama6″3″ 320 lbs: It is extremely rare to have an offensive guard ranked at the top of college prospect rankings, but Warmack has been a stud on the best offensive line in the nation this year. The Crimson Tide ran for an average of 224 yards per game out of a pro-style offense in an a conference that yields NFL caliber defenses in terms of personnel and scheme. Warmack has excellent strength at the point of attack, and combined with his fantastic footwork and ability to get to the second level, he is surely a can’t miss prospect this year.

2.) Star Lotuleli, Defensive Tackle, Utah6’4″ 325 lbs: Lotuleli may not get the exposure that he would if he played on a team in the SEC, but he is the surest defender in this year’s class. A rare combination of size, strength, and quickness will make him a fit in any scheme at the next level. He is big and strong enough to be an effective Nose Tackle in a 3-4, while possessing the explosiveness and agility to be a playmaking 3-technique in a 4-3. There hasn’t been an interior defensive lineman this versatile since Ndamukong Suh came out of Nebraska a few years ago.

3.) Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia – 6’3″ 241 lbs: Jones leads a loaded class at outside linebacker this year. While he has the ability to be an effective 4-3 OLB, his combination of strength, explosiveness, and pass rushing technique make him an ideal fit as a 3-4 DE/OLB. Jones has the size and long frame to become a nuisance to offensive tackles in the NFL, and combined with his speed, agility, and relentless motor, he will be ready to come in and start for whichever team he ends up with from day 1.

4.) Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M – 6’6″ 310 lbs: Joeckel leads a very strong class of offensive tackles this year. A stalwart to the Aggies offense that yielded 2012’s Heisman Trophy winner, Joeckel fits the Matt Kalil, Jake Long, and Joe Thomas profiles as one of the NFL’s next great offensive tackles. While his size and strength are a key factor to what make him so great, it is his tremendous footwork that will allow him to be a day 1 starter when he enters camp. Like Warmack, Joeckel is a can’t miss prospect.

5.) Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M – 6’4″ 248 lbs: Moore has drawn comparisons to the last great Texas A&M defensive prospect, Von Miller, and for good reason. He has that rare versatility to play standing up or with his hand on the ground, making him a perfect fit for any 3-4 defense in need of a pass rusher. Moore accumulated 12.5 sacks this season largely due to his arsenal of pass rush moves and great ability to dip his hips and shoulders to get by opposing offensive lineman.

6.) Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State – 6’4″ 255 lbs: Werner is one of those prospects that immediately jumps off of the film due to his unstoppable motor. Having moved from primarily a 6I technique in his junior season, Werner has shown his athelticism and ability to be an excellent edge rusher this year. In terms of pure strength, Werner may be the best at his position this year, which will make him an appealing prospect for either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. The combine will be key for Werner’s stock as a 3-4 OLB as there are some concerns about whether or not he possesses the athleticism needed to make the transition from having his hand on the ground for the majority of his reps. Intellectually, Werner has shown over his career at Florida State that he has no problem grasping new concepts in terms of his position.

7.) Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End, LSU – 6’5″ 240 lbs: Surely some boom or bust potential here, Mingo has the upside that can allow him to develop into a stud at the next level. While his 2012 production took a bit of a hit, Mingo’s athleticism and elusiveness to evade blockers are what stand out on film the most. At 6’5″ he certainly has the frame that NFL scouts look for in pass rushing prospects, and should be able to add some weight that will make his size adequate in the pros.

8.) Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama – 6’1″ 197 lbs: Milliner may be a bit underrated on most boards right now, but make no mistake he is the clear cut leader of the cornerback class this year. There are some concerns about his man coverage abilities, but having played his entire collegiate career under defensive backs guru Nick Saban, there should be little doubt about his knowledge of the position and coachability. Like most players in his category, the combine will be an effective tool to measure how far his stock rises or falls as we head closer to April.

9.) Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan – 6’7″ 302 lbs: Lewan is poised to be the next great Big 10 lineman at the NFL level, and for good reason. Aside from his immense size, Lewan shows excellent footwork and hand technique that will allow him to contribute almost immediately next season. His tenacity is something that cannot be coached, but is surely required to play the position.

10.) Manti Te’o, Inside Linebacker, Notre Dame – 6’1″ 248 lbs: While Te’o will likely see his stock fall in the next few weeks due to a rather lackluster performance in the BCS National Championship, remember he was going against the best interior lineman in the entire nation. His performance against Alabama will certainly raise some red flags and question marks about whether or not his productivity from Notre Dame can translate to the NFL, but let’s not forget his impressive overall body of work as the foundation of his defense for the past 4 seasons. Te’o has the rare intangibles that will make him a sure upgrade for any team in need of an interior linebacker.

11.) Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State – 6’3″ 335 lbs: It is surely tough to gauge how Ohio State defensive lineman will translate to the NFL due to the poor track record in recent years (Vernon Gholston!), but Hankins has immense size and strength that make him a force at the point of attack. He certainly is not as versatile as some of the other defensive lineman in this year’s class, but he has the potential to be a very productive pro.

12.) Jonathan Cooper, Offensive Guard, North Carolina – 6’3″ 320 lbs: Cooper is a bit of an underrated player in my opinion, but the agility he possesses at his size will make him a very good pro. He consistently shows the ability to blow defenders off the ball at the point of attack, as well as having arguably the best range, in terms of getting to the second level, out of any interior lineman in this year’s class.

13.) Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU – 6’6″ 273 lbs: Ansah is a prospect who is sure to see his stock soar following the combine and his individual workouts. An extremely raw prospect, having finished just his second year of playing football, Ansah flashes very unexpected instinct and recognition. While there is serious boom or bust potential here, having seen his growth in his very small sample of time playing the game, I feel very comfortable about how he will grow in the NFL. Ansah was originally recruited to BYU to run on the track and field team, and his athleticism is evident on film, particularly considering his immense size.

14.) Alec Ogletree, Inside Linebacker, Georgia – 6’3″ 237 lbs: A converted safety, Ogletree has the top end speed that NFL teams are looking for in interior linebackers that is needed to match up with the league’s new wave of athletic tight ends. His superior sideline to sideline ability allow him to be a menace on the field as he has great ability to tally up a large number of tackles on any given day. The biggest concerns for Ogletree will be how well he can adapt to becoming a downhill player at the next level. However, given his size and athleticism, he has the potential to end up being the best at his position in this year’s class down the road.

15.) Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame – 6’6″ 250 lbs: Eifert comes from a school that has consistently produced quality NFL tight ends throughout their history, and there is no reason to believe he is not the next to join that class. A massive target, Eifert shows tremendous ball skills, and a great ability to leap over defenders. His overall top end speed is the only concern as of right now.

16.) Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri – 6’4″ 295 lbs: Richardson accumulated an astounding 75 tackles and 4 sacks this past season, eye-popping numbers for an interior defensive lineman. A very physical player, Richardson flashes excellent technique in terms of both hand and footwork, along with a relentless motor that is vital to the position.

17.) Dion Jordan, Defensive End, Oregon – 6’7″ 243 lbs: Jordan is very high on some boards out there, but to me he has the biggest bust potential out of any player at his position this year. While he certainly has the range and athleticism to be a very effective OLB in a 3-4, Jordan does not show as consistent a level of tenacity as I like to see out of defensive lineman. Durability will be a concern moving forward as well, as he is poised to missed the Senior Bowl due to an injury sustained in his last game.

18.) Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas – 6’1″ 218 lbs: Vaccaro is very intellectually impressive, as his film reveals his great ability to recognize routes and react to them. He has the long frame that NFL scouts look for in an early round safety, and he has shown he can be effective in the run game as well. His range does not scream “elite” by any means, but in the right scheme, Vaccaro can excel.

19.) Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia – 6’3″ 208 lbs: Smith is probably the most athletically gifted quarterback in this year’s class, but is any quarterback truly worthy of a first round grade this year? I am not sold on that notion one bit. However, Smith put together a very impressive season at West Virginia, that is being forgotten due to his poor performance in the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse. Smith may be more of a developmental prospect, but his size, athleticism, and overall body of work at WVU, particularly his completion percentage, will make him an intriguing player for a team in need of a quarterback in the late first/early second round.

20.) Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Alabama – 6’1″ 220 lbs: Lacy flew a bit under the radar this season as a major beneficiary of the nation’s best offensive line, however, he has put together an extremely impressive body of work over the course of his career at Alabama, having averaged nearly 7 yards per carry throughout his three seasons with the Crimson Tide. Lacy has excellent size and strength, combined with fantastic balance and vision that should translate well to the NFL. His top end speed will be the biggest concern, but a strong combine performance will put those questions to bed, further boosting his draft stock.

Mike Tannebaum Fired as Jets GM; HC Rex Ryan to be Retained

Tannenbaum_display_imageRex Ryan

As many expected, the New York Jets have decided to part ways with General Manager Mike Tannenbaum on Monday, while making the decision to retain Head Coach Rex Ryan. While the Tannenbaum firing has been anticipated, it was unclear whether or not he would be outright fired, or reassigned to a salary cap management role.

This is the best move Owner Woody Johnson could have made. There is no reason to keep Tannenbaum around in any type of role whatsoever. No quality potential General Manager candidate would have accepted the terms of coming in to work alongside Tannenbaum as his salary cap specialist. This organization’s front office needs a fresh start. The Jets have constantly been weighed down by their inability to part ways with officials, often preferring to demote them rather than outright releasing them.

Prior to the Tannenbaum era, Terry Bradway was demoted from his General Manager position to a job within the personnel department. Bob Sutton, New York’s once Defensive Coordinator, was demoted to Linebackers coach when Rex Ryan was brought in. Tannenbaum being outright fired will allow this organization to start completely over, from a front office standpoint, which is exactly what is needed.

While Tannenbaum will likely be remembered as the man who gave horrible contracts to Mark Sanchez, Bart Scott, and Calvin Pace, while swinging one of the worst trades in recent NFL history, swapping two draft picks for Tim Tebow, who became nothing more than a decoration on the sideline, let’s not forget the good he had done early in his career. Tannenbaum is responsible for drafting very fundamental pieces of this team including Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and David Harris. However, Tannenbaum is also the same man who drafted Kyle Wilson, Vernon Gholston, and Anthony Schlegel.

Regardless of what he has done in the past, this move was absolutely necessary. Our sources have indicated that Tannenbaum not only has a fractured relationship with the media, but also has very little to no relationship with other General Managers around the league, which makes perfect sense considering the only trades this organization has been able to make recently have been with teams looking to rid themselves of certain players (Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes, Tim Tebow). Tannenbaum also has a poor relationship with the agents of Darrelle Revis, as exposed in Revis’s 2010 training camp hold out. With a new General Manager, the chances of locking down the All-Pro CB to a long term deal will be much better.

The Jets have been headed down the wrong path since the conclusion of the 2010 season, and Woody Johnson needed to halt this downslide before it got any worse. Now, Johnson will work with newly appointed advisor Jed Hughes, who will help lead the Jets search for a new General Manager. Some names to watch for are Ravens Assistant GM, Eric DeCosta, New York Giants Director of College Scouting, Mark Ross, and former Indianapolis Colts General Manager Bill Polian, just to name a few. Former Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini’s name has been floated recently, but there are absolutely no indications of interest from either side at this point.

The list of potential candidates will grow in the coming hours and days, but look for Johnson and Hughes to try and make a hire sooner, rather than later, as several other decisions need to be made within the organization, particularly at Offensive Coordinator. Tony Sparano is expected to be out, but his firing may be delayed until a new General Manager is in place, so he can bring in his choice to fill the position.

In terms of Ryan, the Head Coach deservedly gets another year to right the ship after being handed an absolutely atrocious roster, in terms of depth, from Tannenbaum. While many believe the decision to retain Rex may narrow the list of potential General Manager candidates, that may not necessarily be the case. Johnson will likely give Ryan his vote of confidence for just one more year, at which point the new General Manager can reassess the situation and go from there. Obviously, if the Jets have a very good season next year, that decision will be an easy one for whoever the new GM is.

Most high ranking officials around the league recognize Ryan as a very talented Head Coach, with some flaws pertaining to his off the field antics, particularly the media leaks thats often flow out of Florham Park with more volume than the Hudson River flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. However, a new General Manager will likely change the entire culture of that situation, while demanding Ryan stick to doing what he does best – coaching football.

More pieces are sure to fall into place in the coming hours and days, so be sure to stay with Turn On The Jets, as we’ll have you covered from top to bottom with breaking new and analysis. 

Initial Reaction – Buffalo Embarrassment, Fitting End to 2012

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The New York Jets final regular season game, a 28-9 embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills, was an accurate microcosm of the entire 2012 season. Mark Sanchez looked as pitiful as he has all year. While he finished 17/35 with 205 yards, the player once viewed as the franchise quarterback for this organization represented exactly what he has become through 4 seasons in the NFL. A first quarter interception returned for a touchdown, over looking wide open receivers down field, badly missing open targets, and an overall demeanor that sums up what has become a sorry excuse for a career. Shonn Greene ran very hard, but finished with his typical 3.9 yards per carry average, Bilal Powell was under utilized, receiving just 12 carries while averaging 4.7 YPC, and Joe McKnight continued to be ignored as a member of the roster, as he had just one touch on offense.

Jeremy Kerley finished his impressive season at wide receiver with a strong effort, considering the circumstances, finishing with 3 receptions for 88 yards. Braylon Edwards continued to highlight the poor decision by Mike Tannenbaum to let him leave following the 2010 season, as he hauled in 4 balls for 42 yards, while more importantly establishing a leadership presence that was clearly absent from this team throughout the duration of the past two years.

Defensively, the Jets were stout against the run, limiting CJ Spiller to just 2.5 YPC, and allowing only 109 total rushing yards. However, New York witnessed a first hand account of irony as former Jet Brad Smith scored a fourth quarter touchdown out of the wildcat formation, surpassing Tim Tebow’s season touchdown total out of that very formation in a single play. The Jets secondary seemingly mailed in the final game of 2012, allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick to pass for 225 yards and a touchdown, with wide receiver Stevie Johnson leading Buffalo’s receiving effort with 6 receptions for 111 yards. Fitzpatrick was hit 4 times, but was never sacked, representing the pass rush woes that have haunted the Jets since Ryan took over in 2009.

While the outcome of this game was basically meaningless due to the fact that neither team was alive for postseason play, the effort that the Jets turned in today leaves no one within the organization with any sense of job security. Heads will begin to roll as early as Monday. Offensive Coordinator Tony Sparano will reportedly be fired after just one season in New York. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum is sure to be relieved of his duties, but it is still rather unclear whether he will be outright fired or reassigned to a salary cap management role. Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine’s future is extremely uncertain, as he has already turned down a contract extension offered to him earlier this season. Rex Ryan has been believed to be safe for the majority of the year, but after such an uninspiring loss to finish his second consecutive season of missing the post season, there are absolutely no guarantees that he will be retained as of right now.

Lisa Zimmerman of CBS Sports has reported that owner Woody Johnson has hired Jed Hughes of Korn/Ferry International to assist in leading New York’s search for a new General Manager, assuming Tannenbaum is officially removed from the position. Hughes has a background in coaching and scouting, having served under five Hall of Fame coaches throughout his 20 years of prior coaching experience. Hughes is no stranger to leading efforts to install officials into leadership positions for football teams at the professional and college level, as he has previously played a significant role in the hirings of current Jets President Neil Glat, Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy, and the University of Michigan’s head football coach, Brady Hoke. Changes are sure to be made within this organization, likely as early as tomorrow, and you can rest assured that there are absolutely no guarantees with this team as of right now.

Woody Johnson has a history of making knee jerk reactions, and following a two year post season drought, there is no doubt that significant pieces of this organization will be replaced. The rumor mill has been extremely active over the past few days, but outside of the firing of Sparano, and the potential firing of Tannenbaum, the majority of these rumors can be dismissed until the powers that be are sorted out. There has been plenty of discussion about Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow being moved this offseason. While these are likely scenarios, there are far too many pieces that need to fall into place before decisions like these will be made. It will surely be a hectic week in Jets land, but make no mistake, an overhaul is coming in some way, shape, or form.

Heading into “Black Monday,” plenty of activity is on the horizon. The most likely departures include Sparano, Tannenbaum, Sanchez and Tebow at some point, and a surplus of other players including, but not limited to, Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, Eric Smith, Bryan Thomas, Sione Pouha, Dustin Keller, Shonn Greene, Brandon Moore, Matt Slauson, Jason Smith, Clyde Gates, Lex Hilliard, Mike DeVito, and LaRon Landry, to name some. Depending on what changes are made, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie certainly do not have a clear future with this organization either.

Where this team is headed from here on out depends largely on the approach that will be taken by Johnson and the newly appointed Hughes. If they decide to take the rebuild approach, expect the entire coaching staff to be relieved, along with efforts to move any high priced players on the roster. If the retool approach is taken, many players will still be let go, but Ryan could remain as the Head Coach of a roster that will likely look nothing like what was on the field in Buffalo today.

It is certainly a dark time for the New York Jets, who have just posted their worst overall record since 2007 when the club finished 4-12. There will be plenty to discuss in the coming days, and Turn On The Jets will be bringing you updates and analysis every step of the way, so be sure to stay with us. Until then, there is no need to lose sleep speculating the changes that will be made due to the high level of uncertainty as explained above. 2012 was as bad as it gets for New York, but one positive we can all take from this season is that change is on the horizon for an organization that desperately needs to rid themselves of the immense amount of drama and overall abysmal play that have plagued this once promising team since 2010. Rest easy, Jets nation. Changes are on the way.

New York Jets: Looking at the Roster Beyond 2012

Chris Gross with an in-depth look at the New York Jets roster options and why any current report about 2013 personnel decisions is BS

TANNYwood

Following Rex Ryan’s decision to replace the embattled Mark Sanchez with third string quarterback Greg McElroy this past Tuesday, multiple reports have surfaced citing unnamed sources within the organization claiming that the powers that be in Florham Park will decide to part ways with both Sanchez, and second string quarterback Tim Tebow, following the conclusion of the 2012 season. However, much like the Mayan Calendar, the script for the New York Jets has not yet been written beyond 2012. While the said powers that be may be in favor of moving both Sanchez and Tebow, there is a very good chance that they are no longer the powers that be following the week 17 season finale in Buffalo. Regardless of what sources are claiming, or what reports are emerging, there is simply no way that a front office and coaching staff, seemingly walking on eggshells trying desperately to save their jobs within these final two weeks, have had the time to sit down and discuss monumental decisions like the ones mentioned above.

Following New York’s disastrous, playoff ending loss to Tennessee on Monday night, Rex Ryan supposedly made the decision to bench Sanchez as his team shamefully strolled into the locker room. On Tuesday afternoon, Ryan announced his decision to the media, and by Wednesday night, the Jets had apparently decided to not only move on from both Sanchez and Tebow, but to pursue Michael Vick in free agency this offseason. So, let’s think about this, chronologically for a minute.

Monday 12/17/2012, roughly 11:00 PM EST: Ryan notifies Sanchez he will not be the starting quarterback for the Jets week 16 matchup against San Diego.

Tuesday 12/18/2012, 3:52 PM EST: The New York Jets official twitter account announces that Greg McElroy will be the starting quarterback for the Jets final home game of 2012 season.

Jet Tweet

Wednesday 12/19/2012, 9:44 PM EST: Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports via Twitter that the New York Jets will try to trade Mark Sanchez following the conclusion of the season.

Manish

Wednesday 12/19/2012, 9:58 PM EST: Mehta tweets the link to the full story on the Jets apparent decision to move Sanchez after the season. Included in that story is another unnamed source confirming that the Jets do have interest in soon to be free agent Michael Vick, citing Rex Ryan’s “love” for Vick as the “X-Factor” in the veteran signal caller coming to New York this offseason.

Thursday 12/20/2012, 12:02 PM EST: The Daily News reports the Jets will look to trade or release Tim Tebow following the conclusion of the season.

So, according to Mehta and other various reports, in just over a day after naming McElroy the starting quarterback for this week, the Jets also decided that they will not only be parting ways with a former top 5 draft pick, whom they traded up to obtain, but have already had discussions about bringing in another high profile veteran to replace him.

Hmm. 24 hours is surely a long time, particularly in the NFL where sleep is relatively scarce during the season. However, for a front office and coaching staff desperately scrambling to find a way to somehow save their jobs, after another miserable performance that ultimately ended their season, it does not seem logical that they’d be using what little time they have to muster up a .500 record by discussing trading two of their highest profile players, and acquiring another, within 48 hours, on a 6 day week.

We also aren’t just talking about making mindless releases, trades, and additions to the roster. We are talking about a concluded plan on how to deal with a player who was once viewed as the face of the franchise, is owed over $8 million in guarantees next season, counts for $17 million against the salary cap if released, and is someone that both the head coach and general manager have pledged their undying loyalty to. We are also talking about moving one of the most polarizing figures in all of professional sports. Then, we are talking about acquiring one of the most controversial, yet dynamic players the NFL has ever seen. Do you honestly think all of this was decided between 11 PM on Monday night and Thursday at noon?

Well, with the Jets, anything is certainly possible. Woody Johnson has become known as one of the greatest knee-jerk reactors in the entire community of professional sports ownership. Could Johnson have muttered some things like this out of extreme frustration, causing someone to overhear him and leak his statements to the News? Sure. But these reports are suggesting that these are organizational decisions, meaning internal discussions between the front office, ownership, and even the coaching staff. As Rex Ryan stated earlier in the week, he is involved in every decision that is made with this team. Whether or not that is true, certainly remains to be seen, but the reality of the fact is that Woody Johnson does not posses nearly the amount of football knowledge that it would take to devise a plan like this in under three days, without consulting with the people he pays to run his team. You can rest assured Ryan did not partake in any such discussion this week, considering he is likely coaching to save his job in these final two games. Do you honestly think he’s sitting in a meeting room with Mike Tannenbaum mapping out their future, when the future of both men is insanely unclear?

What I am alluding to here is obvious. However, for the sake of argument, let’s say that Tannenbaum has met with his staff and these discussions were, in fact, had, and these decisions were, in fact, made. Let’s assume all of this speculation is one hundred percent true. Now let’s assume that the Jets lose their final two games, finish 6-10 and everyone, including Rex Ryan and Tannenbaum, are relieved of their duties. Now all of a sudden the roster is frozen. No moves will be made until a new regime – GM, front office, and coaching staff – is installed.

Now, we suddenly have a General Manager and head coach who come in and take a long look at the roster on day one, considering the play of each person on the team, as well as contract terms and conditions. This imaginary GM looks down at his roster, studying it closely. He sees the name Mark Sanchez. He then looks to his salary figures, noticing the guaranteed money, and potential cap trouble if Sanchez is outright released. This GM now has a massive decision to make. Does he give Sanchez one more chance to compete to be the starting quarterback for the Jets, or does he begin his reign as General Manager by releasing Sanchez and crippling himself with a $17 million cap hit?

Then that same General Manager continues to look over the roster and sees the name Tim Tebow. He consults with his new coach about the player. For the sake of argument, let’s say that coach is Jon Gruden, a red hot name on the list of potential NFL head coach replacements for 2013. Gruden then begins to gush to his new GM about how he has spent time at Oregon with Chip Kelly learning the spread offense, and how he thinks he can make it work at the professional level. He then tells his general manager that the only person on the current roster to make that system effective, is Tim Tebow. Now, all of a sudden Tebow goes from being thrown out of town, to the foundation of this team’s rebuilding process.

Are either of these situations going to happen? No one knows at this particular point in time, but that’s just the point. If the regime that is in place now is replaced, all supposed roster decisions that you have heard in the last few days are suddenly meaningless. While it is still unlikely that the current regime has made these decisions already, it is even more unlikely that the majority of the decision makers within the front office will be with the organization next year, rendering any apparent decisions for 2013 completely obsolete. Basically, we know very little about what this team will look like in 2013.

So what do we know? Well, the Jets have several key players under contract that will surely be on the team next season. They also have very inexpensive role players that will likely stick around as well. Then, there are a surplus of players who have underperformed and will be released to create cap relief, as well as players whose contracts will expire after this season, many of whom will not be brought back.

Then comes the interesting portion of the roster. Outside of Sanchez and Tebow, there are several players whose respective fates remain up in the air depending on what happens with the powers that be of the New York Jets. Below is a chart of what you can expect to become of every player currently under contract with the Jets, including a list of those players whose fortunes have yet to be decided, regardless of what you may hear or read, for the reasons aforementioned.

Jets going staying

Let’s start with who will remain on the team beyond 2012. In the secondary, Antonio Allen and Josh Bush are two rookies who have each contributed in relatively small roles this season. Allen has impressed the coaching staff enough to earn rare public praise from Special Teams Coordinator Mike Westhoff, while Bush has chipped in sporadically on defense and special teams throughout the year. Both Allen and Bush are very young, inexpensive players, who will see their roles grow in the coming years. Kyle Wilson is Kyle Wilson, but will make just over $2 million next season. While he hasn’t performed to the level of where he was drafted yet, there is no reason for him to be moved. Ellis Lankster certainly isn’t Deion Sanders, but at $630,000, he has played beyond his pay grade this season.

At linebacker, DeMario Davis was drafted to replace Bart Scott, a role he will likely step into next year, barring any unforeseen additions to the position this offseason. Garrett McIntyre shouldn’t be asked to start, but has played well in his time as a reserve this season, and will likely be the only returning outside linebacker on the roster. Nick Bellore is a solid special teams player who makes just over a half a million dollars per year. These players will all be Jets in 2013.

Along the defensive line, Wilkerson, Coples, and Ellis are primed to become one of the most dominant units in the league, with youngster Damon Harrison providing a much cheaper alternative to spell Ellis at NT than anyone else currently on the roster.

The offensive line has cornerstones in Ferguson and Mangold, while Austin Howard has certainly played well enough to come into camp as the starting right tackle next season. Vlad Ducasse hasn’t been nearly as horrible as he has looked in the past, and at under a million dollars in salary next season, he provides inexpensive experience on the interior of the offensive line.

Jeremy Kerley has played tremendously all season, and he should be a big part of this team’s plans moving forward. Although Stephen Hill had his troubles this season, he is still an extremely bright prospect with tremendous upside. Considering this, and the fact that the organization used a 2nd round pick to obtain him, expect him around for the long run.

At running back, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight remain under contract at low costs. Powell has played well this season, and should be the team’s 1B back next year, with McKnight playing his usual role on special teams, while still trying to find some type of niche in the offense.

The specialists Folk, Malone, and Purdum have all performed well this season, and there is no reason to fix what isn’t broken.

To the far right of the chart lies the list of names that you can all but certainly rule out for a return to Gang Green in 2013. Eric Smith has been nothing more than a role player this season, a role that will likely be filled by Antonio Allen next season. The longest tenured Jet among the safeties becomes the first salary cap casualty, allowing New York to save $3 million upon his release.

Calvin Pace and Bart Scott have been solid players for this team in the past, but neither have performed to their pay grade over the past two seasons. Both would have been cut following 2011 if not for having guaranteed money due to them in 2012. This year, New York can save about $15 million in cap space with a release of both players. Their days with the Jets are all but finished. Bryan Thomas played his heart out this season after being cut and resigned before the year, but he is on a one year contract and will likely retire.

Sione Pouha has been fantastic for this organization, but unfortunately back injuries have taken their toll and diminished his play. With the emergence of Ellis, the Jets can save about $1.5 million i cap space by releasing Pouha.

At running back, Shonn Greene was a monumental part of the two AFC Championship game runs, but he has proved he is not a lead back at the NFL level. Greene is still a very capable 1B option, but the Jets need a true 1A at the position. With how Powell has played this season, the Jets will be wise to insert him into the 1B role, while spending the money saved by allowing Greene to leave to get a true lead back via free agency. Lex Hilliard was average at times, and awful at other times. The team needs a real solution at fullback, rather than an emergency signing to cover for the botched John Conner pick.

At wide receiver, Gates, Gilyard and Schilens were all brought here out of panic in an effort to assemble a last minute receiving corps for Mark Sanchez, but all are free agents at the end of the year, and not one of them has earned the chance to receive a new contract. Dedrick Epps, to my surprise, is still on the injured reserve, but there’s no reason for him to be back next season in what will likely be an entirely revamped group of tight ends. Josh Baker showed promise early in his career, but injuries and an overall lack of production have worn out his time in New York.

Now we get to the interesting part. In the middle of the chart above is a list of players whose fates with the Jets will ultimately be decided by a number of factors, none of which are apparent at the present moment. The most eye popping names are Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Revis has been the best player on this team for 3 years, but his future hinges on the GM situation. If Tannenbaum remains in charge, expect Revis to be gone. Tannenbaum and Revis’s agents have a poor relationship, have failed to come to a long term agreement in the past, and likely have little interest in working with each other on a new deal. If Tannenbaum is the GM of the Jets, look for him to try to move his All-Pro CB to alleviate some of the cap trouble that he created, while obtaining some much needed draft picks in return.

Cromartie’s situation really depends on what happens with Revis. If Tannenbaum is fired, there is a good chance that the new General Manager comes in and makes signing Revis to a long term deal his first priority. If that becomes the case, look for that GM to move Cromartie, who is coming off of a career year with trade value likely higher than it will ever be. The Jets are a team in dire need of cap relief, and when you don’t have the luxury of being flexible with your salary cap, it is not feasible to have two highly paid cornerbacks on your roster.

Yeremiah Bell stated that he would like to be back with the Jets, but this again depends on the GM. A new hire may want youth at the position. Personally, I see Bell coming back either way on a one year, inexpensive contract, but his situation can certainly go one way or the other. LaRon Landry has played very well this season, but will look to cash in and will likely command more money than the Jets can give him. A return is not completely out of the question, but as of now it looks highly unlikely.

Aaron Berry, Donnie Fletcher, Darrin Walls, and Isaiah Trufant are all inexpensive, but none have contributed much of anything due to injury or other circumstances.

Josh Mauga is a restricted free agent, and after missing a year to injury, his situation will likely depend on how well the regime in place feels he can come back. Ricky Sapp has been on and off the practice squad all season, while struggling through injuries, but could stick around through mini-camps and training camp due to the overhaul of the position.

Mike DeVito is a fundamental piece to the defensive line, but his situation remains as unclear as any. Tannenbaum has a history of letting players like DeVito leave rather than paying them their market value, and having drafted Quinton Coples last year, you have to wonder how much any GM will be willing to pay for DeVito, who will likely end up as a reserve/situational player if he remains with the team next season.

On the offensive line, it is mind boggling that Caleb Schlauderaff still has a spot on this team. Any competent GM will likely release him simply to regain his roster spot, but for some reason, Mike Tannenbaum is infatuated with him, convinced he will become the next Victor Cruz. So, if Tannenbaum sticks around, expect more Schlauderaff in 2013. Matt Slauson has played relatively well this season but his status also depends on the front office. Slauson will be an unrestricted free agent this year, and will likely be seeking a decent contract. If the Jets are confident with Ducasse and a rookie or cheaper free agent occupying the guard spots, they will let Slauson walk. If they see him as valuable, the price will need to be right.

espnnewyork_a_sanchez_mb_600Wide Receiver and Tight End are also very intriguing. Santonio Holmes, like Mark Sanchez, is due a surplus of guaranteed money next year, however unlike Sanchez, he may hold some type of trade value. It is difficult to gauge exactly what that value would be considering he has missed the majority of the season due to injury and has been known to be a headache in the locker room. If the Jets wish to move Holmes, they will likely have to pay part of his salary as well. This is very unlikely, but if a new GM with a no-nonsense attitude comes in, he could make a clean break with Holmes before developing any type of relationship with him.

Braylon Edwards will probably be back on a one year, inexpensive deal, but again, this depends on what happens with the front office and coaching staff. A new GM with no history with Edwards may be indifferent toward signing him. Conversely, if Rex Ryan is fired, and Mark Sanchez is released or traded, Edwards may look to go to a more stable quarterback situation (or wherever Sanchez ends up).

Jordan White has potential to be a solid contributor, but he was a seventh round pick, and if a new GM is brought in, he certainly isn’t guaranteed anything. Royce Adams will not see a down on the active roster next year, but could hang around on the practice squad for another season.

Dustin Keller is likely going to leave via free agency, however if a new offensive coordinator, someone like Norv Turner, is brought in, perhaps the Jets and Keller regain interest in one another with the implementation of a pass heavy offense, with a relatively large role for the tight end. Jeff Cumberland and Konrad Reuland have been average at best, but one of them could hang around as the third tight end, assuming two are added either by draft or free agency, or one is added and Keller is retained. Aussie Hayden Smith should be back for the offseason, and will likely get another crack at making the active roster in training camp.

The quarterbacks, as described above, are both likely to be gone under the current regime. However, as we have explained, a new General Manager and coach could come in and have a different vision for either of these two, whether it be potential cap ramifications or judgment of their actual ability. While all signs surely point to both not being here next season, there are far too many factors that will play into that decision, making their futures unrealistic to predict at this point in time. Tebow has apparently expressed displeasure with the organization for choosing to start Greg McElroy over him, but what if Tebow gets a chance to start in week 17 for some reason? Or what if a coach comes in with a vision to build around him? The same goes for Sanchez. While it is certainly fair to speculate on their futures based on how things have played out so far, it is still too early to predict what will happen after the season.

By now, you’re probably asking yourself how the Jets will address all of the positions that will be vacated next season. Be sure to check back later in the week for an exploration of the best possible Free Agent options for the Jets by position, as well as an introductory draft piece that will kick start our draft coverage here at Turn On The Jets. 

**All New York Jets salary cap information courtesy of www.nyjetscap.com**

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 14

Chris Gross goes inside the New York Jets defensive game film

Through a tumultuous up and down 2012 season, the New York Jets have experienced some all-time lows in the Rex Ryan era, this year. While the offense has been stagnant and putrid for the better part of the season, the Jets still somehow find themselves mathematically alive for an unlikely Wild Card spot as we enter the tail end of December. Ryan has rallied his group of embattled troops, through injury and an overall poorly constructed roster, enough to keep them playing relatively meaningful football in the final 3 weeks of the season. This is a testament to Ryan’s coaching ability. Not only has he been able to weather the recent storm that ensued among the Jets faithful following the disastrous Thanksgiving blowout loss to the New England Patriots at home, but he has also kept this team’s defense afloat throughout the entire year, turning in two dominant performances over the previous two weeks against Arizona and Jacksonville, respectively.

Last week, New York traveled down to Florida to take on the lowly 2-10 Jaguars in a game that has been engulfed in a series of must win contests for the Jets. Offensively, the game was another mess prior to the second half ground surge that helped propel New York to their sixth win of the season. While the offense was beyond frustrating once again, Ryan and Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine put together another defensive gem, an effort so impressive that this team was able to overcome one of the most abysmal first half offensive performances that you will ever see in the sport of football. Led by the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson and Antonio Cromartie, the Jets defense has shown serious signs of domination, similar to the play of the unit that helped propel the organization to consecutive AFC Championship games in the first two years of Ryan’s stay as Head Coach.

For this week’s defensive film breakdown, we will format the column similar to our previous evaluations. However, this week, we will provide a surplus of images to properly demonstrate the impressive individual efforts that took place within the personnel of the Jets defense, as well as the excellent quality of the overall defensive scheme built by Ryan and Pettine. We will again highlight the week’s top individual performances, followed by an individual breakdown of the defensive line, and finally an evaluation of the linebackers and secondary as respective units.

Week 14 Top Defensive Performances

Muhammad Wilkerson, DE – We may have to end up just solidifying Wilkerson’s name at the top of this list due to the frequency that it appropriately fits here. The second year defensive end out of Temple drew high praise from the Jets coaching staff all offseason, and has lived up to the hype thus far this year, particularly over the past month or so. The way Wilkerson has been playing for the Jets this season has solidified him as arguably the best player, not only on the defense, but on the entire team, making it obvious as to why Ryan and Pettine gushed over him this past August.

Wilkerson has begun to command serious attention from opposing offenses. Week in and week out, Wilkerson faces endless double teams, a bulls-eye on his chest in pass protection, and an abundance of game plans that are based on avoiding him at all costs. This did not change last week in Jacksonville, however Wilkerson’s increased ability to overcome these challenges has not only made him a much better player, but it has improved the quality of other individuals within the front seven, particularly fellow pass rushers like rookie Quinton Coples, as well as the entire defense as a whole.

Below are a series of images that display how Wilkerson is becoming so dominant, as well as how other players are becoming direct beneficiaries of said domination through optimal matchups.

Above is a shot of a pre-snap formation on Jacksonville’s opening drive. Wilkerson, highlighted by a red circle, is lined up as a 5 technique, slightly shaded to the outside shoulder of the Jaguars’ left tackle. At the snap of the ball, Wilkerson will engage the tackle’s outside shoulder, maintaining excllent leverage, which will give him the abiliy to dictate what he is going to do on this particular play.

In the top image below, you will notice Wilkerson engaged wih the offensive tackle, demonstrating perfect position with his hands inside his opponent’s breast plate, along with his head being lower than the offensive tackle’s, an accurate representation of how great his leverage on this play truly is. The green arrow represents the Running Back’s predicted trajectory on the play. His goal is to take the handoff from the QB, Chad Henne, and read the block of TE Mercedes Lewis, who is highlghted by the blue circle. The back will base his running angle off of the read he gets from Lewis’s rear. If Lewis kicks out the OLB, Calvin Pace in this instance, the back will cut inside of him in an effort to get to the next level. If Pace crashes inside, Lewis will use his momentum against him by blocking down, with the back reading his rear and adjusting his route to the outside.

The bottom image above shows that Pace did not crash inside, but set the edge as he normally would against the run. Lewis accurately recognizes this and adjusts his block accordingly by attempting to kick Pace out, and drive him toward the sideline. The back recognizes this, and rightully aims to hit the hole that should be opened up behind Lewis’s rear. However, as you will also notice, Wilkerson has complete control of Jacksonville’ offensive tackle, as shown by his picture perfect arm extension, placing him in position to stop the back for a minmal gain, which he does, represented by the image below.

This is a perfect example of how disruptive Wilkerson has become in defending the run, particularly when he is put in situations where he faces man-on blocking. This play was vital to the Jets success in defending the run last week,  as the Jaguars soon realized that they could not afford to abort their plan of scheming around Wilkerson. Wilkerson set the tone early here, notifying Jacksonville that he will kill all offensive plans if they wish to attempt to block him with just one player.

In the second quarter, Jacksonville unsuccessfully tried to tame Wilkerson with man-on blocking again, this time in pass protection. The image below represents the immediate moment following the snap of the ball, with Henne scanning the field to his left. Wilkerson – again denoted by the red circle – is in the 3 technique, lined up on the outside shade of the guard, attacking his opponent’s soft shoulder, or shoulder to the outside of the ball. The Jets send two additional players, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, on a blitz to the outside of Wilkerson. Scott and Pace will commad the attention of the tackle and running back left in to assist in protection, leaving Wilkerson in a one on one blocking situation.

The next image – below and on top – shows Jacksonville’s left tackle opening up to Pace, giving Wilkerson an optimal lane to the quarterback behind him, as long as he is able to beat his block. Wilkerson – red circle  – has already gotten past the guard’s initial point of attack, as he executes a rip move that will propel him past the blocker with a clear shot at Henne. The second image below is the direct result of what happened next. Wilkerson was able to blow by his block with excellent hand technique and acceleration, allowing him to get a nice hit on Henne as he attempted to throw the ball, resulting in an incompletion, highlighted by the green circle showing the ball hoplesslly gain flight before falling to the turf, without a chance to be caught by anyone.

Although plays like this will never register in the box score as a sack or tackle, they are equally as important throughout the course of a game. On a second and long play, backed inside their own twenty, Jacksonville had the opportunity to hit a quick pass to set up a third and short in hopes of keeping the chains moving and extending the drive. However, because of this play by Wilkerson, the Jaguars were forced into a third and long situation, which resulted in a Wilkerson sack, ending hopes of any type of offensive momentum, and in turn, ultimately ending the game. Wilkerson’s presence on the field goes well beyond any statistics he will produce, even as impressive as they have been in recent weeks. The most important thing to remember in terms of defensive line play is that these players often make key plays without recording any statistical numbers.

These are just two examples of the problems Wilkerson can cause if he isn’t given the proper attention. However, this superior play from Wilkerson is beginning to create problems for offenses in other areas, as well. Below is an image of the Jets pre-snap alignment on Quinton Coples’ sack of Chad Henne, his third of the season.

As you’ll notice, Coples (red circle) is at the three technique, shaded on the outside shoulder of Jacksonville’s left guard. To his right is Bryan Thomas in a 4 point stance, set to come off the edge, and one of the interior linebackers who has walked up to defend the split out Montell Owens. On the other side of the line, Wilkerson is lined up in a 4I technique, shaded just slightly to the inside shade of the right tackle, with Calvin Pace lined up wide on the edge.

Usually, when an offensive line gets a front like the Jets show here, with the area over the center completely vacated, the center will adjust his line calls to slide the protection toward the defense’s strength in numbers. Using this idea, with three players to the left, the center would typically slide the protection to the left, in order to ensure there are an adequate number of blockers in the event that the linebacker over Owens comes on a blitz. On the back side, you would usually see the guard take the 4I/5 technique, with the tackle taking the edge rusher. This way, the blocking becomes an even five on five, considering the back doesn’t stay in to block, or another player isn’t motioned into the backfield, and left in as an additional blocker. In this case, no such motions are made, and Owens does, in fact, run a route.

Unfortunately for Jacksonville, however, this is not what the center opts to do. Instead, he slides the protection toward Wilkerson, who at this point has been dominating one on one blocking situations, seemingly protecting the interior of the line, as he likely views Wilkerson’s slight inside shade on the tackle as an indication that he will stunt hard to the inside. In order to prevent Wilkerson from registering another sack, or disrupting another pass, the center opens his hips to the right at the snap of the ball, opening the door for Coples to hit the left guard with a quick inside move, as shown in the image below.

With Coples having lined up before the snap on the outside shade of the guard, in a slight tilt, the guard likely expected that he was pinning his ears back, preparing to attack the soft shoulder in an aggressive pass rush, considering Jacksonville had come out in an empty set. However, Coples, who seemingly had an idea that the center would open away from him to give help on Wilkerson, comes hard across the guard’s face, leaving him with his base far too wide to recover in time – as indicated by the distance between his feet, and ratio to his shoulder width – giving Coples a clear path to Henne once he rips through that inside shoulder.

While Coples is slamming Henne into the turf, notice the Jaguars’ center still tentatively preparing for some type of contact with Wilkerson. Wilkerson’s value is beginning to extend beyond his own personal play, something that will not only make him an elite defensive lineman, but will assist in reestablishing the defense among the NFL’s elite, as well.

Antonio Cromartie, CB – Cromartie is another name that should probably be cemented in these top performances on a weekly basis. Since losing All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis in week 3 to a season ending ACL tear, the Jets have discovered that they have two elite caliber defensive backs in their secondary, as displayed by the highly impressive quality of play that Cromartie has performed at all season. Like Wilkerson, Cromartie has become a nightmare for opposing offenses to game plan for. He has taken over the role of eliminating a top offensive threat on a weekly basis, previously occupied by Revis prior to injury.

Last week in Jacksonville, the Jaguars’ coaching staff wisely devised a plan to get young and emerging rookie WR Justin Blackmon matched up with anyone in the Jets secondary, but Cromartie. Blackmon was motioned away from Cromartie frequently, as well being placed in a slot alignment in an effort to target advantageous matchups against the lower caliber defensive backs in the Jets’ secondary. While the technique was an intelligent one by Jacksonville, Cromartie still had a very high impact on the game. When he was lined up on Blackmon, the rookie out of Oklahoma State was non-existent. When he wasn’t on Blackmon, Cromartie remained a force in the secondary with his immeasurable instincts and aggressive, yet intelligent, level of play. Below, we will look at some images from his performance against Jacksonville, and point out how he also benefited the defense in a way that likely could have swung the game.

The image below is a pre-snap shot of a 5 yard out to Jacksonville’s Jordan Shipley on third down. The Jaguars line up in a tight bunch formation to the right, while Cromartie lines up about 8 yards off the ball.

When the play breaks, the inside receiver runs up the middle, with the receiver to his right running a hitch in front of Cromartie. Meanwhile Shipley runs about a 4-5 yard out route toward the Jets sidelines. Cromartie could have easily bit on the hitch directly in front of him, however his quick eyes recognize Henne locked into Shipley, prompting Cromartie to break on the out route before Henne has even hit the top of his wind up. The result? Cromartie hits Shipley as soon as he makes the catch, stopping him well short of the first down marker.

Cromartie’s best play, however, may have come on the game’s opening drive. Having marched right down the field on the Jets defense, the Jaguars come out in an unbalanced I-formation with Mercedes Lewis at left tackle, and two additional blockers on the right, one who is off the line. Split out left is Justin Blackmon, who will attempt a fade route on Cromartie. At the snap of the ball, Henne is supposed to get rid of this ball extremely quick and just give Blackmon a chance to make a play. Garret McIntyre, who you’ll see at the bottom of the image below, with his feet staggered, ready to come off the edge, will go unblocked because the play is designed for the quarterback to get rid of the ball well before even the fastest edge rusher could get there.

After the ball is snapped, Henne locks in on Blackmon, as displayed in the shot below. However, Blackmon is completely blanketed by Cromartie. Henne seemingly panics with no other option to throw to, so he holds onto the ball hoping Blackmon can get some type of separation. In the meantime, McIntyre (yellow circle) is coming off the edge like a bat out of hell, while the right tackle (blue circle), is facing the opposite way, as he never expected the ball to be in Henne’s hands long enough for McIntyre to get to him in time.

Blackmon never gets the separation that Henne was hoping for, so he seemingly attempted to try to force something to his receiver or just throw it away, but because he was forced to hold the ball for so long, McIntyre gets a hit on him in his release, causing the ball to take an alternate trajectory directly into the hands of Bart Scott.

While this was certainly a poor decision by Henne, Cromartie’s lockdown coverage of Blackmon gave McIntyre enough time to come off the edge unblocked, and force the bad throw that ended up in a Jets turnover. If Jacksonville scores on this opening drive, perhaps the outcome of the game is entirely different. Luckily for the Jets, Cromartie plays for the guys in green and white.

Defensive Line

Quinton Coples – As we have previously gone over Coples’ sack, that play alone does not quite do his performance from last week the proper justice it deserves. Coples was very active in the run game, as well as rushing the passer. He continues to show the physical tools that will allow him to become an elite defensive lineman in this league, but he needs to be a bit more consistent. While his consistency looked vastly improved against the Jaguars, he still has some plays where he looks unsure of what he is supposed to do, as he has a small habit of peeking into the backfield, causing him to play far too high and get tangled up with the offensive line.

When Coples is sure of his assignment, however, he has been lethal. He is beginning to develop a presence on the edge in passing situations, helped partially by his extremely effective inside move. As we discussed above, his inside move assisted him in registering his third career sack. This move also helped seal the game for the Jets, as the following images will demonstrate.

On Jacksonville’s final offensive play of the game, Henne takes the snap out of the shotgun with Owens lined up to his right. Coples (red circle) works what appears to be a hard edge rush to the soft shoulder of the left tackle.

However, Coples again hits the offensive lineman with a quick move across his face.

Again, this hard inside move, causes the right tackle to try to recover, but the speed of Coples does not allow him to get his feet under him, making him completely obsolete as a blocker. With how wide his feet are in the image below, the tackle might as well be in quicksand.

As you’ll notice below, the left guard attempts to offer some help to the tackle, but cannot nearly get there in time. Instead, he is left (literally) giving his fellow offensive lineman a hug while Coples (red circle) drills Henne, sending the ball in the air, and directly into the hands of Ellis Lankster, who is able to field it as if it were a punt.

Coples also did a tremendous job of displaying how physically strong he truly is. On David Harris’s sack of Chad Henne, Coples rushes the center out of the amoeba, driving him nearly 10 yards back, causing Henne to flee the pocket and run to the outside, where he is eventually tracked down and stopped behind the line of scrimmage by Harris.

Coples could have had a multiple sack day in this contest, however on this particular play, he left his feet as he got to Henne, giving the quarterback a lane to duck under and escape his grasp. Coples needs to learn that as a defensive lineman, he can never leave his feet. He will become subject to some severe cut blocks, and will often find himself tackling air, rather than a player, as he did on this one. He is certainly still a bit raw, but there is no question that the tools are there. Once he becomes a bit more comfortable with the scheme and his fundamentals, expect to see a surge in his play similar to what we have seen with Wilkerson this season.

Kenrick Ellis – Ellis was very impressive early on. He displayed excellent power, as he always has when healthy, and continues to show a very deceptive lateral quickness, a combination that will allow him to thrive in the coming years as this team’s nose tackle.

The play displayed in the image below is a direct snap to Owens, that results in a gain of two yards. However, if not for the efforts of Ellis (red circle), who began the play lined up as a 0 technique directly over the center, this play could have been hit for a substantial gain.

At the snap of the ball, you’ll notice the play is a counter, designed to be hit directly inside of the pulling guard (blue circle) who will aim to hit Garrett McIntyre coming off of the edge. The left tackle blocks down on the three technique, the left guard blocks down on Ellis, with the front side, away from the counter, blocking man on – basically your traditional counter blocking pattern of down/down/kickout. Following the kick out of McIntyre, the plan is for the fullback to lead through the hole and either pickup any leakage, or hit the first person he sees as a threat to the play (green arrow). The orange arrow indicates where Owens would like take the ball to find a seam.

Meanwhile, Ellis (red circle) is fighting hard across the face of the down blocking guard, in order to get to where the ball is going. This is simply a great reactive technique by Ellis. Rex Ryan religiously preaches the need to fight back from where the pressure is coming from, because if the line is attempting to block Ellis down to their right, it is highly likely that the ball going to their left. Recognizing this, Ellis uses his strength and quickness to assist his laser like reaction in fighting back to the ball carrier.

As the play develops, it seems to be wired for a massive gain, with all players accounted for in the box, and LaRon Landry as the sole defender to beat to the end zone. The red arrow indicates Ellis’s current position at this point in the play. While it looks as if the guard has him sealed to the inside, you’ll see that he fights his way back directly in the path of the ball carrier, and makes the play for a gain of just 2 yards.

The red arrow in the image below points to Ellis breaking free to the outside of the guard that attempted to block him. Because of this, the fullback (green circle) is forced to slow down to try to give help on Ellis, causing Owens to slightly slow down his path of attack, which ultimately results in both of them getting completely stuffed by Ellis. What could have been a significant gain, turns into just a two yard play due to the excellent strength and agility, but most importantly, the relentless motor of Ellis.

As great as Ellis looks in flashes, he tends to disappear late in games, which usually indicates a conditioning issue, something that would not be surprising considering the amount of time he has missed this season due to injury. If he can get his conditioning level to the point where he can be this effective on a consistent basis, this defensive line will undoubtedly be one of the best units in football in the not-so-distant future.

Mike Devito/Sione Pouha – We bunched these two together because our evaluation of each of them remains the same as it has all year. DeVito is the work horse of this group. He is extremely effective in occupying multiple blockers against the run, but provides very little to no help against the pass. Pouha, still clearly hampered by the lingering back issue, shows that he can still be a very effective NT when healthy. His comfort level seems to vary throughout the course of games, and when he is visibly stiff in his bend, he performs at a noticeably inferior level. Pouha’s health could be a key factor in this team’s run defense if they end up making an unlikely postseason push. As promising as Ellis is, he does not have nearly the amount of experience or veteran moxie of Pouha. A healthy Pouha would provide the Jets with an effective every down NT, while having the ability to rotate a fresh Ellis in and out of the lineup.

Linebackers – David Harris came extremely close to “top performers” consideration, however, his 10 tackles were more of a result of the improved defensive line play than it was of a superior defensive performance. Harris certainly looked better, as he seemed much faster and more tenacious than he has in recent weeks, however, I’d like to see him gain some consistency moving into the final three games. Bart Scott played extremely aggressive, but a bit out of control at times, causing him to miss some early tackles and bounce off of lead blockers. Still, Scott played a relatively average game, with a very small amount of negative plays. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas were both excellent in the run again, but continue to provide virtually no help in rushing the passer. Garrett McIntyre played extremely hard and opportunistic, however, he continues to prove to be nothing more than a role player/special teams starter. On Jacksonville’s sole touchdown of the day, McIntyre was pancaked by Owens’ lead blocker, before the running back hurdled over him en route to a 32 yard touchdown run. DeMario Davis saw more reps than he has in previous weeks, but still seems to be struggling to grasp the defense, as he continues to look unsure for the better part of his reps.

Secondary – Outside of Cromartie, the cornerbacks played slightly above average. Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster did decent jobs in coverage throughout the day, and neither of them were beat for anything significant. Wilson struggled against hitches and comeback routes again, though, another indication that he has relatively stiff hips that are hampering his ability to change direction. Lankster made, what could have been, a disastrous mistake by going for an interception on 4th down of the Jaguars final possession, rather than knocking the ball down. The pass went right through his hands and into the hands of the intended Jaguars WR, extending the drive for another set of downs. Fortunately for Lankster, Quinton Coples is on his team.

LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell each looked impressive again. Landry is a menace in the box, and seems to be expanding his range in coverage as the weeks pass. Bell is the ultimate communicator in the secondary, which seems to be helping the less experienced guys come along more and more. Antonio Allen was impressive in the box. He was sent on blitzes a few times off the edge, showing excellent burst and a knack for getting to the passer. Against the run, he showed an impressive ability to use his hands to get separation, and he even drew a holding call on Mercedes Lewis. Expect to see more Allen in some blitz packages this Monday night.

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 13

Chris Gross with his weekly film breakdown of the Jets defensive performance, looking at how they shut down Arizona

Although it has become an afterthought in the wake of the earth shattering move that replaced the embattled Mark Sanchez with second year pro Greg McElroy this past Sunday, the New York Jets actually provided what was arguably their best defensive effort of the season. While this assertion must certainly be taken with a grain of salt due to the unbelievably poor quality of offensive play from the Arizona Cardinals, there are still several reasons to be excited about what the Jets did last week. Is Ryan Lindley the worst quarterback to start an NFL game this year (and possibly ever)? Yes, probably. However, New York’s defensive performance during this contest goes far beyond the offensive ineptitude of Arizona.

For this week’s defensive film breakdown, we will format this column as we normally do — top performers, individual defensive line play, and positional breakdowns of the linebackers and secondary. However, this week we will highlight the obvious signs of progress from within this unit as we move into the final month of the season.

Week 13 Top Defensive Performers:

Muhammad Wilkerson, DE: No surprises here. Wilkerson has been playing at a high level all season, and is finally beginning to get some of the recognition that he deserves. In Arizona’s first few offensive series, the game plan was obvious — do whatever it takes to neutralize number 96. The film repeatedly shows the offensive line adjusting their line calls and blocking schemes, whether it was a run or pass play, to provide extra help to whichever side of the line Wilkerson was lined up on. On passing downs, if Wilkerson was at a 1 or 3 technique, the center opened toward the second year defensive end 100% of the time. If Wilkerson was at the 5 technique, or on the edge, a tight end or back would stay in to provide help, with the guard to that side also offering assistance with an unoccupied gap over him. If it were a run play, Wilkerson would simply be doubled, or the ball would be run away from him. Throughout the first half of this game, there was not a single play that Wilkerson was unaccounted for. Credit the Cardinals coaching staff for drawing up their game plan based solely around avoiding the Jets best defensive player in the front 7.

Although much attention was paid to Wilkerson, the Cardinals could only hold him off for so long. Wilkerson has been developing an excellent knack for defending the double team, something he has likely been working on all season long with defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, as the mounting double teams have become a surplus this year. Wilkerson’s block recognition has become flawless. On film, he displays excellent instincts to get a pre-snap read on the opposing offensive lineman by noticing “tells” in their stances and the overall offensive formation. He always seems to be one step ahead of who he is lined up against, and that reveals a lot about, not only his knowledge of the game, but the amount of time he puts in in the film room as well.

What really stood out about Wilkerson from this past Sunday was his recovery ability. As excellent as he is in getting these pre-snap reads, there are still some plays where he makes a mental error by taking the wrong step, or peeking his head in the wrong area. In these few cases, Wilkerson displayed a tremendous ability recover from his own mistakes. If he was beat to the outside on a reach block, he screamed to the sideline to regain his outside leverage. If he got hit on a down block, he quickly fought across the opposing offensive lineman’s face to maintain his position.

Simply put, Wilkerson has tremendous physical ability, but his intellect for the game is what is beginning to carry him to the next level. In the few instances where the Cardinals would attempt to block him with only one player, Wilkerson caused havoc. In these cases, he stopped two running plays for minimal or no gain, and recorded a sack. He is an obvious mismatch when offensive lineman attempt to go on an island with him. Combine that with his developing ability to beat double teams, and Wilkerson is becoming a nightmare for the offensive lines he is facing.

Antonio Cromartie, CB: Again, no surprise here. Cromartie held one of the league’s best wide receivers to just one reception for 23 yards, a play that he actually maintained decent coverage on, but was beaten by a tremendous catch from Larry Fitzgerald, combined with what was actually a very good throw from Arizona quarterback Ryan Lindley (realistically, his only one of the contest). Following his sole reception, Fitzgerald was targeted only 6 more times throughout the entire day. By the middle of the second half, Lindley hardly bothered to look his way. Cromartie was on him like white on rice, regardless of the type of route it was. This has been a tremendous year for Cromartie, who has elevated his play to the elite level of NFL defensive backs in the absence of Darrelle Revis. At this point, it is a complete toss up between Cromartie and Wilkerson for this team’s MVP.

Bart Scott, LB: Scott played what was, without a doubt, his best game in the past year and a half. Looking beyond his impressive stat line of 5 tackles, 2 QB hits, and a sack, Scott played extremely fast and aggressive, asserting himself as a player that the entire Arizona Cardinals offense, particularly Lindley, wanted no part of. His reads were incredibly fast, and his reaction time was even faster. Scott came down hill very aggressively all game, and took on lead blockers the way he did when he first became a Jet back in 2009. There were multiple plays where he blew up the leading fullback or wrapping offensive lineman, allowing himself to either make the play on the ball carrier, or freeing up another defender to make the tackle. Combined with his rediscovered swagger, the chip on his shoulder that Scott played with this past week was a microcosm of the entire Jets defensive unit.

LaRon Landry, S: It is difficult to believe anything that Head Coach Rex Ryan says these days, however his claim that Landry played like a heat seeking missile is 100% accurate. Landry was all over the field this past Sunday in both coverage and in the box, defending the run. His interception was a great display of athleticism, and route recognition. Lined up in the center field role, Landry went through his normal coverage progressions, recognized the receiver running a seam route in front of him, and jumped it with perfect timing, taking the ball away before Lindley even realized what was going on. When lined up in the box, Landry was a pure mismatch. Tight ends and receivers lined up close to the line of scrimmage had virtually no chance of blocking him throughout the entire game, as he relentlessly displayed quickness in his hand strikes with impressive strength to rid anyone who attempted to get in his way, while defending the run. In a year of turmoil for Mike Tannenbaum, this is one personnel decision that the embattled GM got right. The Jets would be wise to lock Landry up for the future.

Rex Ryan and the Defensive coaching staff: Again, while the task of game planning for Arizona wasn’t quite the challenge of defending a team like New England, the Cardinals are still an NFL offense with very capable weapons. Ryan’s schematics and in-game adjustments were simply brilliant this past Sunday. Using a surplus of amoeba packages (more on this coming later in the week), Ryan took advantage of Arizona’s rookie quarterback by mixing up the fronts and disguising blitzes and coverage that made Lindley visibly uncomfortable. When Ryan realized Arizona’s plan to shift their passing protection toward Wilkerson, he exploited them. On Bart Scott and David Harris’s combined sack in the second half, Wilkerson was lined up at the 3 technique, with Pace to his left, and two other defenders on the right side of the line. At the snap of the ball, the offensive line again shifted the protection toward Wilkerson, with the center opening up toward him. Realizing the gap that this created in the middle of the line, Ryan and Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine, sent an inside blitz of Harris and Scott, who timed it perfectly. The guard was forced to pick one of them (Scott) to attempt to block, leaving the other (Harris) with a clear path to the quarterback. Scott beat the attempted block anyway, and the play resulted in a sack of Lindley and a 9 yard loss. Ryan has come under criticism as a head coach this season, but in terms of his defensive mind, he is without question among the best in the NFL.

The overall play of the defense was also a direct reflection of Ryan. The unit played with a obvious sense of resentment toward all of its detractors, displaying the angered attitude that it had played with in the early years of the Ryan era. Give credit to Rex for this. He had his guys motivated, prepared, and ready to make a statement this past week, and that is exactly what they did. Ryan Lindley was so shook by the 4th quarter that he began to badly rush his throws, as he clearly wanted no part of any further contact. Ryan’s goal was the rattle the rookie 6th round draft choice, and he succeeded with the best defensive effort of the season. Well done, Rex.

Defensive Line

Mike DeVito: There cannot be enough said about the value of DeVito’s relentless play and leadership. The veteran defensive tackle has remained a stalwart against the run all season, and continuously occupies blockers the way a player in his position is meant to in this scheme. His motor is above and beyond the majority of players you will see in this league, as displayed by his tenacious play and menacing pursuit. Although he provides little help in the pass rush, DeVito is a staple of this front, one that cannot afford to be lost when he hits free agency this offseason.

Sione Pouha: We’ve been saying this all season, but Pouha is visibly not at full health. Sunday was basically a microcosm of how he has played all season long. On some plays, he seems to have difficulty getting into his stance, as he looks very tight in his bend, making him visibly uncomfortable. When he shows this, he has difficulty getting off the ball, allowing himself to easily be blocked or driven back. Conversely, there are also plays where he looks loose and comfortable in his stance, and this is when he displays the explosion and strength that Jets fans have become accustomed to. When he can get off the ball in a ferocious manner, he commands multiple blockers at all times, and because of this, the entire front seven has one less opponent to worry about, allowing the linebackers and ends to be put in optimal situations. The entire unit is better when Pouha plays well, but unfortunately these plays are becoming few and far between due to his lingering back issue. To his credit, Pouha realizes the lack of depth behind him, with second year NT Kenrick Ellis also nursing an injury, and rigorously fights through his pain and discomfort. Pouha, like DeVito, is a player whose work ethic and leadership cannot be valued enough.

Quinton Coples: Coples played in just 19 snaps this past week, which is the only eyebrow raising decision by the coaching staff, considering the vast potential he has shown. However, in his limited reps Coples displayed a bit of up and down play. He seems to still be coming into his own, trying to find his niche in the defense this season. Like Wilkerson, the Jets like to use Coples’ versatility by aligning him everywhere along the defensive front. Once he begins to become more and more comfortable, Coples will be a force on this line with Wilkerson, as he has all of the tools (speed, strength, agility, explosiveness), and size to be a dominant defensive end in this league. It seems as though the coaching staff is taking their time in developing Coples, which is seemingly the correct move, particularly with how late in the season it is (remember he is a rookie), but the little things he is picking up on are going to help him become that dominant force next season, and in the seasons that follow.

Kenrick Ellis: Ellis also played limited reps, as he appeared to pull up with some type of injury in the second half. However, in those limited reps, Ellis displayed the skill set of a very good 3-4 NT. As he does have the tremendous size and strength necessary for the position, he also displayed the agility that could make him a true difference make as he progresses in his career. One particular play that stands out from Sunday’s game was his use of a flat step technique — a technique that allows defensive lineman to lineup in one gap, while shooting another, and not losing any ground in the process — against Arizona’s center. Ellis lined up in the A gap to the center’s left, and displayed agility that he has yet to show this season, as he seamlessly moved across the center’s face, easily getting into the backfield before the center could come close to recovering. When Ellis can get himself healthy, he will be a key to this defense, and will likely begin to take more and more reps from Pouha, before eventually claiming the full time job.

The Linebackers: Along with Scott, this was the most complete game this unit has played all season. Scott’s improved play seemed to inspire David Harris, who also appeared faster and more explosive than he has all year. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, although heavily criticized for their lack of pass rushing abilities, still remain the two best outside linebackers on the team by a landslide. While each of these guys played with a relentless motor and undying tenacity, they also proved how effective they are at setting the edge and turning plays outside in. Fans are screaming for these two to be replaced, but it will not happen, nor should it at this point. Yes, neither are effective in rushing the passer, but as every down players, they are by far the best available guys to put on the field right now. DeMario Davis saw very limited reps and still seems to be somewhat uncomfortable and unsure at times. While he needs playing time to gain his comfort and familiarity, it is no secret as to why he did not play much considering how well both Scott and Harris performed.

The Secondary: Like the rest of the defense, this was easily the best the secondary has looked all season. Before the game, I questioned the success the Jets would have if they expected to put Ellis Lankster or Kyle Wilson in man coverage on Michael Floyd, Early Doucet, and Andre Roberts. Well, that is exactly what the Jets did, and each of them rose to the occasion. Outside of Wilson’s poor defensive holding penalty early in the game, there was really only one play where he was out of position — a comeback route by Michael Floyd that was poorly overthrown by Lindley. Wilson has struggled with these types of routes all year, as he seems to have trouble changing direction and opening his hips at times, but on Sunday he made tremendous strides toward improving these flaws. Yeremiah Bell was also all over the place, in both his run and pass defense, and clearly provides a leadership element that the younger players in the defense feed off of. Donnie Fletcher saw extended reps and certainly did not do anything noteworthy in terms of mistakes. This unit displayed excellent pre-snap communication, as displayed through their hand motions and calls based on formations and shifts, while seamlessly mastering switches in assignments on crossing routes designed to create miscommunications in the secondary.

Although this wasn’t a great test, the Jets defense showed that they still have the potential to be a dominant unit in this league. Consistency across the board will be key in these final four games, particularly against San Diego and Buffalo who, despite their struggles, still maintain a surplus of playmaking ability.

 

New York Jets Fact or False: Week 13 Edition

Chris Gross with his weekly Fact or False, previewing Jets vs. Cardinals

My, what a wild year it has been in Jets land (what else is new?). After a strong showing at opening day at MetLife Stadium back in September, when the Jets romped the Bills 48-28 to begin the 2012 season (Yes, that game actually occurred in the same season as this), the New York Jets have progressively fallen far from grace. In week 2 the Jets went into Pittsburgh without their All-World defensive back, Darrelle Revis, and despite coming out strong on the opening drive, ultimately fell to the Steelers at Heinz Field 27-10. Since then, New York hasn’t mustered up one convincing win, while being blown out 3 times at home. Although the Jets have had to deal with injuries to two essential players (Revis and Wide Receiver Santonio Holmes), this team’s total lack of depth and talent has put their fans in an uproar, and rightfully so. Sure, the Jets held their own against two of the AFC’s top teams when they hosted the Houston Texans in week 5 and when they took the Patriots to overtime in Foxboro in week 7.

However, the games the Jets have been able to win this season have been against far inferior opponents. Buffalo, Miami, and St. Louis have a combined recored of 13-19-1. Indianapolis came to New York with their rookie quarterback Andrew Luck having to face a Rex Ryan defense for the first time in his career. Luck will be great, but it is a daunting task for a rookie to solve the puzzle that is Ryan’s defensive scheme on the road. To put it into perspective, the 2012 Jets, although not horrendous, are simply a poor football team.

This column has been dedicated to making a handful of predictions based on past games, tendencies, and matchups for each week – predictions that have often failed to come to fruition. Last week, we observed what the Jets needed to do against the Patriots on Thanksgiving in order for them to upset their longtime foe. Looking back, they really failed to do any of these things.

Since it has become nearly impossible to predict what this team will do in terms of game plan (see Tebow, Tim; week 12…actually all season), execution, and outcome, this column will now focus on key points, all of which the Jets must achieve to have any chance of reigning victorious again this year.

This week’s New York Jets Fact or False will focus primarily on how the Jets need to attack their upcoming opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, what matchups will be crucial, and who needs to come to play, in order for New York to put patch one of the holes of the sinking ship that is their 2012 season. This team is all but guaranteed to not reach the playoffs this season, but the Jets can certainly do their best to salvage what is left of this mess and head into 2013 on the right foot. Whether or not they can do that, however, will depend on how they perform from top to bottom in these remaining five weeks. Let’s take a look at Arizona.

The Jets’ active rookie wide receivers need to step up big this week. Fact. As depleted as this team’s receiving corps has been all season, think about this for a second: Clyde Gates has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest, creating a serious issue at wide receiver. Wow. After week 1, would you have ever thought that this is what we’d be analyzing heading into week 13? Unfortunately for New York, however, that is exactly where the Jets stand. Aside from Gates, Chaz Schilens is questionable with concussion symptoms, and Jeremy Kerley (the only receiver who has been somewhat productive this season) is still hampering a leg injury.

While it is a scary thought that the Jets could potentially be starting a receiving corps led by Kerley and rookies Stephen Hill and Jordan White, this could be a blessing in disguise. While no one should expect this group to be world beaters, it is essential to see if Sanchez can develop some chemistry with his young passing options. Stephen Hill started 2012 with a bang, hauling in 5 balls for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns in the season opener against Buffalo. Since then, however, Hill has hit the growing pains that we all expected him to heading into this season. All is certainly not lost for the promising rookie with tremendous upside out of Georgia Tech, so getting him touches the rest of the way this year will be crucial to his development.

Jordan White is a player who has been on the radar here at Turn On The Jets since New York selected him with their final pick in this year’s draft. A highly productive college player, White stood out in our post draft evaluation due to his high football IQ, strong route running, and ability to catch balls in traffic. It was expected that he may take a bit to come around, but on a team in need of hope in week 13, White could start his campaign to give some promise to this team’s depleted group of skill players.

Now, it would be foolish to think that White is going to come out in his first game and light up Arizona, prompting a surplus of waiver wire claims from fantasy football league owner’s heading into their respective playoffs. However, White is fully capable of catching anywhere from 2-5 passes this week, while beginning to gain some momentum in an attempt to be a long term asset to this roster.

Regardless, the Jets need these two to not play like wide-eyed rookies this week, but instead play with a certain level of confidence and reliability, so they can provide some security to Mark Sanchez, who desperately needs it. If Kerley and Schilens are a go, they will likely start, but do not be surprised to see Sanchez target the youngsters to gauge where they are at as he tries to find some continuity in these final 5 weeks. If this offense looks to have momentum heading into next season, it starts with these young players at receiver stepping up and asserting some kind of presence this Sunday.

The Jets need to get Mark Sanchez airing it out on Sunday. False. While the Jets do need to see some signs of life from Sanchez, following one of his most horrific performances,in terms of ball security, last week, the key to being successful on offense remains the same as it has been since Sanchez arrived in New York – a strong running effort, with a limited amount of drop backs. Look at the Jets two most convincing victories this season, against Indianapolis and at St. Louis. Sanchez was 11 for 18 for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns and 15 for 20 for 178 yards and 1 touchdown, respectively. What do you notice about those numbers? That’s correct, no turnovers.

The Jets ground attack during those two games, however, was on point. Although the total rushing yardage against St. Louis was not eye opening – 124 total yards – the Jets stuck to a successful formula of a running back by committee approach. Bilal Powell was able to record his first two career touchdowns in that contest, primarily because Tony Sparano took some risks in obvious passing situations in the red zone by giving Powell the carries, and it paid dividends.

The bottom line is, the more Sanchez is asked to throw, the more likely it is for him to commit a mistake and turn the ball over. New York needs to give him a strong running effort once again, while allowing him to make some high percentage throws on slants, play action passes, and designed roll outs. If the Jets can limit him anywhere between 20-25 attempts, while running the ball 35-45 times, not only will they be helping Sanchez regain some much needed confidence, but they will also be putting themselves in the best position to win. Is it ideal to have to game plan like this with a fourth year quarterback? Of course not, but at this point the reality is that Sanchez has performed poorly, and has a depleted group of receivers to throw to. If the Jets can stay grounded this week, they will control the clock and field position, while keeping their defense off of the field.

The Jets defense needs to come up with a surplus of quarterback sacks and hits. Fact. New York’s pass rush has been absolutely horrendous over the past five seasons, mostly because they have done a poor job of outside and self scouting at vital pass rushing positions during that time. However, Arizona ranks dead last in sacks allowed throughout the entire league this season, and they will be starting a rookie quarterback on Sunday. Remember what we said about that Andrew Luck guy? Ryan Lindley isn’t anywhere near the type of player that Luck is, but he does have a solid group of wide receivers to throw to against a very shaky Jets secondary. If he is given ample time to throw the ball, he will make plays.

Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples will be licking their chops when they line up against this poor offensive line on Sunday. However, they will need support from the linebacking corps in order to establish a strong pass rush. All season long, these two have been hampered as a result of facing a vast amount of double teams, due to the complete lack of a pass rush from the outside and inside linebackers. Whether it is the dinosaurs that are Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, Garret McIntyre, or DeMario Davis, the Jets need to find a way to get Arizona’s attention off of Wilkerson and Coples, so they can be put in man blocking situations. If New York can rattle the cage of Lindley early, and throughout the course of the game, this offense should not be able to move the ball. If they let him sit in the pocket and gain comfort, however, it will likely be another week of excuses, pouting, outrage, and turmoil heading into week 14.

The Jets need to focus primarily on Larry Fitzgerald to shut down Arizona’s passing attack. False. Aside from getting to the quarterback, the Jets need a strong game plan against the Cardinals’ number 2 and 3 receivers. Andre Roberts has been very productive for a team with the poorest quarterback situation in the league this season, accounting for 50 receptions, a team high 639 yards, and another team high 5 touchdowns. Michael Floyd and Early Doucet are two players who haven’t had the productivity of Roberts this year, but are highly skilled. Each of these receivers have the ability to exploit the embattled Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster. Aside from getting to the quarterback, New York needs to figure a way to neutralize these two, primarily from scheme. If the Jets expect to put Wilson and Lankster in man coverage on Sunday, without generating a pass rush, they will not win this game., plain and simple.

Dustin Keller needs to establish a veteran presence and allow Sanchez to lean on him. Fact. Lost in the disaster that has become the 2012 Jets is the player that Mark Sanchez became comfortable looking toward in previous times of struggle. Although Keller is second on the team in receptions, that number is a mere 26. 26 catches from a player who was thought to be Sanchez’s go to guy. While he has been hampered by injury for the majority of the season, Sanchez is usually the most efficient when Keller gets going. Look at the first matchup against New England. Many will refuse to admit this, but Sanchez played one of the best games of his career, prior to overtime, that week. A lot of that success has to do with Keller’s strong day of catching all 7 passes thrown his way for 93 yards and a touchdown.

Now, it is unfair to blame this lack of production on Keller. The lack of receiving threats on this team makes him an easy focus of opposing defenses. However, he needs to find a way to get open and give Sanchez that much needed security. If Keller can get going with some early catches to move the chains, Sanchez’s confidence will only grow as the game progresses. As of right now, aside from the run game, Keller is the straw that stirs the drink on this team’s offense. If he can get some early receptions, Arizona will be forced to shift their coverage toward him, allowing ample opportunity for those young receivers to get open and make plays. Sanchez, in the meantime, will only be able to grow on all accounts because of this. Yes, he should be limited to no more than 25 passing attempts, but each of those 25 will be critical. The Jets’ quarterback has no margin for error anymore. Most people are ready to write him off as the New York’s signal caller. Whether or not this is just, it is the harsh reality of the NFL and particularly of professional sports in New York. Dustin Keller can help Sanchez slowly climb out of the abyss with a strong performance this week.

The Jets cannot afford any more Special Teams blunders. Fact. There is no need to explain this one. The Jets’ Special Teams has been horrendous for the majority of the season. With a struggling offense and a defense that has had its troubles getting off the field on third downs, special teams mishaps are a recipe for the perfect disaster. This needs to be turned around immediately. Period.