What Is A Successful Jets Season?

First a few updates:

1. The Jets released tight end Bubba Franks yesterday, moving them from being very thin at the position to being ridiculously thin. Behind second year player Dustin Keller, the Jets have a converted defensive end, a long snapper and two undrafted free agents. It might be time to consider a move before training camp starts, Mike Tannebaum, because the Jets are kidding themselves if they think Kareem Brown can start off the year as their number two tight end.

2. Kerry Rhodes was on ESPN Radio today and made a few interesting comments. He discussed the relief of having Jim Leonhard starting alongside of him because of the freedom it will grant him in the secondary. It was also clear from the interview that he was frustrated with the way Eric Mangini used him last season.

What Is A Successful Jets Season?

Over the past few days I have been reading numerous previews about the Jets in 2009 and listening to different football analysts talk about the team and have noticed a growing pessimism about them this upcoming year. The general consensus seems to be that the Jets and their fans have too high of expectations for 2009, and that there are many reasons to believe the team will struggle this season. The organization and the fans need to reconsider what a successful 2009 season equates to.

Reading these previews and thinking about the upcoming year forces you to question, what do you consider to be a successful Jets season in 2009? Personally, I always think a playoff appearance equals a successful season, but should I be satisfied with less?

There are plenty of reasonable and convincing arguments against the Jets being a playoff team in 2009. They have a rookie head coach. The last two defensive coordinators from Baltimore who became head coaches struggled in the top position. They are likely starting a rookie quarterback. Their schedule is difficult, especially in the first four games. They lack depth on both sides of the ball and are due for a rash of injuries after having a healthy 2009 season. Their offense has major question marks at tight end and receiver. Their defense will be without their best outside linebacker for the first four games. I hear you critics…and you got some valid arguments.

Here is a hypothetical: the Jets go 7-9 this year. Mark Sanchez wins the starting quarterback job, progresses nicely during the season and shows signs of being the guy the Jets drafted him to be. The defense starts out a little slow but adapts to the new system as the year moves on and they finish very strong. You get what you expect out of your pro-bowl running backs and your inexperienced receiving core. The season ends and the Jets spend the off-season acquiring a big time target for Sanchez and improving their overall depth, not that bad, right? Can you be satisfied with that for next year? Honestly, I can’t say I would because naturally I want to watch a team with winning record compete in the playoffs but in reality that wouldn’t be a terrible season.

The above scenario could very easily happen in 2009, as could even worse scenarios that involve major injuries, Mark Sanchez/Rex Ryan looking like a bust, and a 4-12 record. However, it also isn’t crazy to argue/believe the Jets can be a 9-7 to 11-5 team competing for wild-card spot and maybe even a division title.

The rookie head coach/rookie quarterback problem can be overcome (see Atlanta/Baltimore last year). I also remember the Jets making the playoffs with a rookie head coach in both 2001 (Herman Edwards) and 2006 (Eric Mangini). The Jets didn’t receive incredible quarterback play in either of those seasons but still managed to win ten games. Sanchez will make his mistakes but if he can be average/slightly above average, the Jets will be in every game because of their running game and talent level on defense.

I don’t buy the concerns about the Jets schedule. Their first four games aren’t the easiest in the world but there is no reason they can’t be 2-2. Houston is a team that everybody says is jumping to the next level every single season, yet they always go 7-9 or 8-8. The Pats are the Pats. The Jets whipped the Titans last year in Tennessee and now get them at home and the Saints haven’t made the playoffs the past two years. After those four games the Jets have Miami, Buffalo, Oakland, Miami and then a bye. Am I really insane to think the Jets can be 5-3 heading into that bye? The second half of the schedule isn’t a cakewalk but includes winnable games at home against Jacksonville, Cincinnati, and on the road against Tampa Bay and Toronto aka Buffalo. Carolina, New England, Atlanta, and Indy are tough second half games but if the Jets are a playoff caliber team, they will be able to pull an upset or two.

The Jets depth is a major issue on offense, period. If an offensive lineman gets hurt for an extended period of time, they could be in serious trouble although Wayne Hunter and Robert Turner have some game experience the past two years (as extra tight ends), there would be still be large drop off. They have one NFL caliber tight end on their roster right now and the receivers are a question mark. However, I do remember in 2006 when the same questions were asked about their receiving core and a little known player stepped up and turned into a capable NFL starter (Jerricho Cotchery) and the other one was a solid number one (Laveranues Coles). Why can’t Chansi Stuckey or David Clowney imitate Cotchery from 2006 this season and why can’t Cotchery imitate Coles, a player who he arguably played better than the last two years?

On defense, I think the Jets have pretty good depth. Their top three backup corners (Dwight Lowery, Donald Strickland, Drew Coleman) and backup safety (Eric Smith) all have starting or extended experience as NFL players. At linebacker, Larry Izzo is a seasoned NFL veteran, Jason Trusnick and Marques Murrell have flashed potential and when Calvin Pace returns in week 5, Vernon Gholston can bump back into being a pass rush specialist. They are definitely a little thin at defensive end but Howard Green and Sione Pouha are experienced backups at defensive tackle in the NFL.

Like just about every NFL team, the Jets can end up anywhere in the standings in 2009. We will learn alot about Rex Ryan and his new defense, along with Mark Sanchez right out of the gate on the road in Houston and home against division favorite/rival New England in week two.

Even if it isn’t fair, I can’t say I’d be happy with a 7-9 team, unless maybe they swept New England and Miami…nah maybe not even then. I want to see them at match last season’s win total and playing meaningful games in December.

New Jets Player Highlight of the Day: Bart Scott demolishes Ben Rothlisberger. Swaggalicious.

Jets Positional Analysis: Safeties

First a few updates:

1. Yankees are one game out of first place because no matter what they can’t beat the Angels. The Mets would have a good shot of being in first place right now if they were in a AA league.

2. If you read the comments under the article on the home page entitled “End of the Weekend Jets Ramblings” you can find a prolonged debate between reader dmd13 and myself about Leon Washington. I am carving him up right now like Will Ferrell carved up James Carville in Old School.

Jets Positional Analysis: Safeties

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

1. Kerry Rhodes #25, Last Season: 84 Tackles, 1 Sack, 8 Tackles For Loss, 5 Passes Defensed, 2 Interceptions

History: Rhodes has been starting for the Jets since his rookie season in 2005, after the Jets selected him in the fourth round. He had a breakout season in 2006 and was robbed by not being selected to the pro-bowl for a season that saw him record 5 sacks, 4 INTs, 3 Forced Fumbles, 13 Passes Defensed, and 98 tackles. His numbers dipped slightly the year after and even further this past season. Many people blame Rhodes lack of big play production on Eric Mangini/Bob Sutton’s poor use of him and him lacking a partner at safety with range to cover and stop the run. The Jets signed Jim Leonhard this season to allow Rhodes to have more freedom and make plays for the defense.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Rhodes becomes New York’s version of Ed Reed and is constantly creating big plays in Rex Ryan’s attacking scheme. He makes his first pro-bowl appearance and establishes himself as one of the elite safeties in the game.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: His numbers continue to decline, making it look like 2006-2007 were fluke seasons for Rhodes.

Prediction: I think Rhodes is going to thrive in Rex Ryan’s system and he will be greatly aided by having Jim Leonhard, someone with strong pass coverage skills, next to him. Expect his numbers to be very similar to what they were in 2006.

2. Jim Leonhard #36, Last Season: 69 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 Tackle For Loss, 6 Passes Defensed, 1 INT, 1 Touchdown

History: Leonhard didn’t do much his first two seasons in the NFL but did an excellent job of stepping in for an injured Dawan Landry last season, showing his ability to play at this level. His play improved as the season went on and he had a huge impact in Baltimore’s playoff run. He is comfortable with Rex Ryan’s defensive scheme and should help Kerry Rhodes make plays in the same way his abilities helped Ed Reed make plays.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Leonhard builds on last season and gives the Jets consistent play at safety opposite Rhodes for the first time in years. He helps teach Ryan’s defense to the entire secondary, easing their transition to a new scheme.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Leonhard struggles adjusting to becoming a full time starter for an entire season. He eventually loses his job to Eric Smith, meaning the Jets wasted money signing him in the off-season.

Prediction: Leonhard will be a steady, consistent player in the Jets secondary. I dont’ expect tons of big plays from him but definitely a major improvement in pass coverage from Abram Elam last year.

3. Eric Smith #33, Last Season: 32 Tackles, 1 Tackle For Loss, 4 Passes Defensed, 1 INT

History: Smith was drafted by the Jets in 2006 and had a pretty good rookie season. He has struggled with injuries the past couple of season and didn’t seize the starting job last year when given the opportunity. However, he did have a good mini-camp/OTA’s recording numerous interceptions and impressing Rex Ryan.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Smith develops into a valuable role player on defense and continues to play well on special teams. If Jim Leonhard or Kerry Rhodes gets hurt he is able to step in and do the job adequately.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Smith struggles to find a role on the defense and doesn’t provide any valuable reps to the unit.

Prediction: Smith will be a quality third safety for the Jets and contribute in some nickle and dime packages, while also playing special teams.

4. James Ihedigbo #44, Last Season: 8 Tackles, 1 Killer Holding Penalty on Special Teams

History: Ihedigbo has bounced around the Jets practice squad and inactive roster the past couple of years. However, he was active for a few games last season but unfortunately his most memorable play was a holding call that brought back a Leon Washington kick return touchdown against the 49ers. Rex Ryan did say he liked what he saw from him during OTA’s as the Jets #4 safety.

Chance of Making Roster: 75%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Ihedigbo is the Jets #4 safety and a core special teams player.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He gets cut because he is beat out by one of the Jets UDFA’s.

Prediction: I expect him to make the roster and be the number 4 safety.

The Rest of the Guys:

5. Emanuel Cook #38 – A UDFA who probably should have been drafted but has some character issues. He has some talent and has been compared to Abram Elam because of his hard hitting style of play.

6. Keith Fitzhugh #37 – Another UDFA who will compete for a roster spot as a special teams player and reserve DB.

Overall Position Analysis: Rhodes and Leonhard will be the starters, with Smith providing a quality backup to both spots. Ihedigbo should be the fourth safety but keep an eye on Cook during training camp.

Highlight of New Jets Player of the Day: Safety Jim Leonhard records a sack and has a nice punt return on consecutive plays last year:

2009 New York Jets: 10 Predictions

First a few updates:

1. For the past couple of weeks we have had the ability to post videos on the site through WordPress, however I wasn’t sure really how to incorporate the available videos into articles. Yet, starting today I am going to attempt to run a highlight or highlights of each of the new members of the Jets in the 2009 season, starting today with cornerback Lito Sheppard. I have some admitted concerns about Lito this season but watching this highlight from 2006 makes me feel a little better:

2. Feel Good Jets Moment of the Day – November 12th 2006 – The 4-4 Jets traveled to New England with a 7 game losing streak to the Patriots, but on this muddy day they would finally get the best of Bill Bellicheck and Tom Brady. Led by Kevan Barlow (17 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD), Jerricho Cotchery (6 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD), and a stingy defensive effort the Jets upset New England 17-14.

2009 New York Jets: 10 Predictions

1. Dustin Keller will lead the team in touchdown receptions and be second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards, behind Jerricho Cotchery. His blocking will improve slightly but the Jets will struggle in short yardage situations more than they did in 2008 because of the absence of a good blocking tight end.

2. Chansi Stuckey will start every game opposite Jerricho Cotchery at receiver and catch 50-60 passes. However, his yards per catch will be low and he will have a difficult time getting into the end-zone. David Clowney will develop into the #3 receiver, while Brad Smith remains a gadget player/#4 receiver.

3. Thomas Jones will have less carries, yards, receptions, and touchdowns than he did in 2008. On the other hand, Leon Washington will have more carries, yards, receptions, and touchdowns than he did in 2008. Shonn Greene (seen to the right running over a poor Jets fields and grounds worker) will start out slow but develop into a valuable 4th quarter weapon by the end of the season.

4. Mark Sanchez will start every game at quarterback and put up very comparable numbers to Joe Flacco last season (2971 yards, 14 TD’s, 12 INT’s). He will be named the starter heading into the 3rd pre-season game.

5. The Jets won’t have a player with double-digit sacks again. Vernon Gholston will contribute more than he did his rookie season (not hard to say) and finish with 5.5 sacks. Calvin Pace will record 6 sacks in 12 games. Bryan Thomas will have a good all around season but only finish with 6.5 sacks. Marques Murrell will contribute off the bench throughout the year and record the first few sacks of his NFL career.

6. Kerry Rhodes will make his first pro-bowl in 2009 and be joined in the secondary by teammate Darrelle Revis, who will continue to improve. Jim Leonhard will be a consistent starter opposite Rhodes, but Eric Smith will find his way on to the field in a few sets. Lito Sheppard/Dwight Lowery/Donald Strickland will be an upgrade over Ty Law/Dwight Lowery/Drew Coleman.

7. Bart Scott won’t be an all-pro caliber player in 2009 but will bring leadership and swagger to the Jets defense. His presence will also help the growth of David Harris at inside linebacker.

8. At least one Jets offensive lineman will miss a few games with an injury, putting pressure on Robert Turner or Wayne Hunter to step up for a couple of weeks. Turner will also receive reps throughout the season as a blocking tight end, when the Jets realize Bubba Franks is washed up.

9. TJ Conley will be the Jets punter in 2009. Sorry Reggie Hodges.

10. Rex Ryan and Channing Crowder will brawl before the Jets/Dolphins week 5 Monday Night game. The scene will resemble The Godfather when Sonny (Ryan) beats Carlo (Crowder) down in the street.

Jets Positional Analysis: Cornerbacks

First a few updates:

1. The Jets signed free agent tackle Nevin McCaskill today. He has bounced around the Bills, Packers, and Eagles practice squad the past couple of seasons. Exciting stuff…

2. Check out Brian Bassett’s response to Mike Florio’s recent biased Jets bashing over at Pro Football Talk here…(http://www.thejetsblog.com/2009/07/06/in-which-i-trash-lazy-hot-seat-conjecture-from-mike-florio/)  — Good work Bassett. Florio has done a nice job over at PFT but his tiring, baseless Jets bashing hurts his credibility. I don’t know what his story is, maybe some Jets fans took his lunch money when he was a little kid or something.

3. There has been some talk about ESPN’s Adam Schefter’s twitters about Vernon Gholston, claiming he struggled in OTAs. First off, it is OTA’s…how much can a pass rusher struggle in practice without pads? Second, I will take the word of the Jets beat writers who were at every available practice and said Gholston had a decent mini-camp/OTA’s over Schefter who was probably at one practice.

Jets Positional Analysis: Cornerbacks

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

1. Darrelle “Young Lockdown” Revis #24, Last Season: 58 tackles, 5 Interceptions, 16 passes defensed, 1 touchdown, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble.

History: Revis was the Jets first round pick in 2007 and instantly made them look smart for drafting him. After an impressive rookie campaign, Revis took his game to the next level last year by becoming a pro-bowl player. He made his share of big plays in the limited number of balls thrown his way and consistently matched-up with the other team’s best receiver, predominantly with good results.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Revis keeps getting better and becomes an all-pro player. He proves to be a lock down corner in his battles against Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Lee Evans, Andre Johnson, and Steve Smith. Revis also continues to make big plays, matching or exceeding his interception total from the previous year.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Revis struggles against his high level of competition this season, keeping the Jets pass defense vulnerableor he suffers an injury.

Prediction: Revisis a great player and I don’t see him regressing from last season. I think his numbers will be comparable to last year, if not slightly higher and he will hold his own against the top flight receivers he faces this year.

2. Lito Sheppard #26, Last Season: 21 tackles, 1 interception, 4 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble

History: Sheppard was a pro-bowl corner for the Eagles in both 2004 and 2006, showing a knack for making big plays and being able to match-up with big time receivers. However, he has struggled with injuries the previous two years and was moved to nickel back last season when Philly signed Asante Samuel. The Jets are hoping Sheppard can rejuvenate his career in New York and provide a stable player opposite Darrelle Revis.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Sheppard returns to his 2006 form and is able to handle the high amount of balls thrown his way, giving the Jets one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Sheppard struggles with injuries and inconsistent play again, leaving the Jets vulnerable on the other side of Revis.

Prediction: I can’t lie, I am worried about Sheppard. I think when he is on the field he will be able to hold his own and be an upgrade from what they had last year but I think you will see him miss a few games with injury and struggle a little bit early season when offenses are constantly coming after him.

3. Donald Strickland, #27, Last Season: 38 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 5 passes defensed

History: Strickland is a 7 year veteran who has been a solid nickelback the past couple of seasons for the 49ers. The Jets signed him to provide some competition with Dwight Lowery for the nickel spot and to provide some more experience to the secondary.

Chance of Making Roster: 90%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Strickland provides the Jets good depth and plays well in the nickel packages. He is also able to step in and do an adequate job if Sheppard or Revis goes down for a few weeks.

Wost Case Scenario for 2009: Strickland struggles in training camp and is buried on the depth chart or eventually cut.

Prediction: I think Strickland and Dwight Lowery will be splitting the nickelback role based on certain situations or match-ups. Based on his career, you can’t expect many big plays from Strickland but if he could be an upgrade from Drew Coleman in the slot last season it will improve the Jets pass defense.

4. Dwight Lowery #21, Last Season: 64 tackles, 1 interception, 16 passes defensed, 5 forced fumbles

History: Lowery was the Jets fourth round pick last season and managed to be their starting cornerback by week one. He began the season strongly but started to struggle around the middle of the year and was replaced in the starting line-up by mid-season acquisition Ty Law. Lowery showed a great nose for the ball however with 5 forced fumbles and 16 passes defense. Despite lacking top end speed, he showed a good deal of potential last season.

Chance of Making Roster: 90%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Lowery improves from last season and develops into a very good nickel back for the Jets and somebody who can eventually take over for Lito Sheppard. He continues to force turnovers.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He regresses from last year and struggles to adjust to Rex Ryan’s new scheme. Lowery turns into nothing more than a special teams player, after starting for the first half of his rookie season.

Prediction: Ryan will find a role for Lowery on defense as a #3/#4 corner and maybe an extra safety in a few sets. He will also be a valuable core special teams player.

5. Drew “Toast” Coleman #30, Last Season: 23 tackles, 6 passes defensed

History: Coleman was the Jets 6th round pick in 2006 and actually developed into a starter mid-way through the season. However, he eventually lost the job and had his role diminished in 2007. He was only active for 9 games last season but the games he did play in, he was usually the Jets nickelback. Unfortunately, he made a habit of getting beat like a drum in the slot especially against the Bills and 49ers.

Chance of Making Roster: 40-50%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Coleman becomes a valuable reserve and plays in some of the Jets dime packages. He remains a quality special teams player.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He struggles in training camp and is cut before the year starts…and is obviously signed by Eric Mangini a day later.

Prediction: Unless the Jets keep 6 corners, it will be hard for Coleman to make the roster.

6. Ahmad Carroll #31, Last Season: 20 tackles, 2 forced fumbles

History: A former first round pick, who has struggled in NFL. The Jets took a shot on him last year and he turned into a very good special teams player for them. He was re-signed this year to continue in that role, with some hope that Rex Ryan can find some use for him at either corner or safety.

Chance of Making Roster: 50-60%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He remains a very good special teams player and contributes as a backup corner/safety combo.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He is cut before the season begins.

Prediction: I think Carroll will make the roster, remain a core special teams player and develop into good backup safety/corner for the Jets. He has the talent to be a defensive player in this league.

The Rest of the Guys

7. Marquice Cole #34 – A UDFA who bounced around the league last season…extra body for training camp.

8. Rashad Barksdale #35 – See above, although he has good size (6’5, 208 lbs).

Overall Position Analysis: Revis is a top flight corner in the NFL, Sheppard will start opposite him with Lowery and Strickland as the top backups battling for reps. Carroll should make the team because of his special teams ability and potential. Coleman is probably the odd man out, unless the Jets keep 6 CBs.

Jets End of The Weekend Ramblings

First a few non-Jets updates:

1. RIP Steve McNair, who was tragically murdered over the weekend. “Air McNair” was one of the toughest, most exciting [layers I ever watched. I will never forget that Rams/Titans Superbowl, when McNair was running all over the field, making plays and nearly leading his team to the huge upset. Big loss for the NFL.

2. How about those Yankees?

3. How about those Mets? Wow, they are awful right now.

4. Happy belated 4th of July to everyone. I was having a great weekend until my friends and I just got whooped up by a bunch of younger kids in basketball…we are already in the “has-been” stage of our lives. As a personal note, I did shoot the ball very well (very, very well) but stunk it up on defense and rebounding…oh well.

Jets End of The Weekend Ramblings

1. Today I was hanging out with a group of my friends, discussing our upcoming fantasy football draft. Somebody said something about Reggie Bush and I responded that I was tired of hearing about him and that I would take Leon Washington over him any day of the week, not necessarily in fantasy football but just in general. My friends were shocked by my statement, and I said that Washington probably had more rushing, receiving, and return yards than Bush. Sure enough, as soon as my one friend got home he checked and sent me a text message gloating over Bush’s stats compared to Washington, but let’s take a closer look and see if I can shut my buddy up (yea, I’m talking to you Dan)

Bush and Washington were both drafted in 2006. Bush was the 2nd overall pick in the draft and the Jets got Washington mid-way through the 4th round. As of today, Reggie Bush has 418 carries for 1550 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns with 7 loss fumbles. Bush’s career yards per carry is a lowly 3.7. Washington on the other hand has 298 carries for 1451 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns with 2 loss fumbles. Leon is averaging an impressive 4.9 yards per carry for his career, which is why he has only 99 less rushing yards than Bush on 120 less carries. When it comes to running the football…advantage Washington because of a better yards per carry and 5 less loss fumbles.

On the receiving end, it is a different story. Bush has 213 catches for 1599 yards with 8 receiving touchdowns. He averages 7.5 yards per catch. Washington only has 108 catches for 838 yards with 2 receiving touchdowns and 7.8 yards per catch. Obviously, advantage Bush but let’s be fair, the Saints do a much better job of getting Bush the ball as a receiver, than the Jets with Washington. Leon is chronically under-used in the Jets offense, especially at receiver. Bush on the other hand gets 4 swing passes a game thrown to him.

On the return end, Bush has 498 punt return yards with 4 touchdowns. Washington has 583 punt return yards with 0 touchdowns. Bush averages 9.7 yards per return, and Washington averages 9.4. However, Bush doesn’t return kicks. Washington does and has 2601 career yards, with 4 touchdowns. Advantage…Leon for being versatile and returning both kicks and punts.

On more thing that benefits Leon Washington is that he has never missed a game in his NFL career. Bush missed 4 games two years ago and 6 games last year…advantage Leon for being more durable. So in the end, I am right Dan, it does make sense to want Leon Washington over Reggie Bush on your team. Now all I need is Mike Tannenbaum to give him a new contract.

2. Speaking of Tannenbaum, there has been some talk this past weekend about him being on the hot seat this upcoming year, which I suppose makes sense. The coach that he handpicked in 2006 was fired, leaving him on the chopping block if things don’t work out. However, I like how aggressive Tannenbaum has been the past few years and think he has done well in drafts. 2006: D’Brickashaw Ferguson (Very good player), Nick Mangold (Pro-Bowl), Leon Washington (Pro Bowl), Eric Smith, Brad Smith, and Kellen Clemens (all contributors the past few years). 2007: Darrelle Revis (Pro Bowl), David Harris (Very good player), Chansi Stuckey (Good Player), 2008: Vernon Gholston (Ut-Oh), Dustin Keller (Very good player), Dwight Lowery (Good player). In free agency, he did a good job bringing in three ex Ravens who are comfortable with Rex Ryan’s system and upgraded a shakey secondary with three new players. Obviously, Tannebaum’s future will be tied up to how well Mark Sanchez plays but as of now, I like trading up for a franchise quarterback and only giving up Kenyon Coleman, Abram, Elam, and Brett Ratliff in the process.

3. I am going to start doing positional analysis on the defense tomorrow but an early word on our corners. Lito Sheppard still worries me alot, he didn’t look good at all last season although he could turn out to be a similar story to Kris Jenkins. Sheppard wasn’t happy with his contract/situation and I think it affected his play. Hopefully, like Jenkins he will be rejuvenated by a new team and return to pro-bowl form. Also, I think everybody is sleeping on the Donald Strickland acquisition but it was a smart move to bring him in. The veteran provides good depth and experience to the secondary and should push Dwight Lowery to be a better player.

4. I really hope Sione Pouha and Howard Green can get the job done as Kris Jenkins’ backups. The big guy needs to be healthy for the Jets defense to run properly.

5. I saw Brian Cushing at a local bar this past weekend and made sure to yell how his old teammate Mark Sanchez and the Jets were going to take him and the Texans down week one. He acted like he didn’t hear me…but he did, he definitely did.

Pace Suspended 4 Games: Time to Step Up Vernon

When I was driving home from work today, I caught the end of a 20/20 update on 1050 AM which said “he will be suspended for Gang Green’s first four games.” I immediately flew into a panic, as I began to sweat out the next 20 minutes to hear who specifically would be suspended. Funny enough, while I was waiting I drove right by the new stadium and saw a huge sign advertising the Jets home opener against the Patriots. I couldn’t stop cursing as I figured with the Jets traditional luck, it was probably Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Darrelle Revis, Kris Jenkins, or maybe even or our brand new 60 million dollar quarterback.

Finally the 20 minutes passed and I heard it was Calvin Pace…bad news, but there are worse people that could have been suspended four games. Pace is being punished for using a banned substance which he claims was in an over the counter product he took. Really? With all the team doctors/nutritionists the Jets have employed, Pace couldn’t take the time to review what he was buying? A little common sense can go a long way.

Anyway, Pace is gone until the Jets week 5 Monday night game against the Dolphins. They will have to play the Texans, Patriots, Titans and Saints without their best outside linebacker. Yet, guess who is the Jets current top backup at outside linebacker? That’s right, last year’s 6th overall pick…Vernon Gholston. After a bust rookie season, the Jets need Gholston to show some signs of being the player they drafted him to be, now more than ever. Bryan Thomas is a decent starter at the other OLB spot but now Gholston has a chance to really seize a key role on the Jets defense.

Maybe this can be a blessing in disguise, since Pace’s suspension will basically force Gholston into the starting line-up. Maybe…if Gholston isn’t up to the challenge, Marques Murrell has showed strong potential and had a very good mini-camp. He finished last season ahead of Gholston on the depth chart and if Vernon doesn’t show signs of improvement in training camp and pre-season, Murrell could very well end up seizing the job. Also keep an eye on Jason Trusnik who played well in a limited role last season and will now be pushing for more time.

Bryan Thomas is also going to have to step up his play. He is now the Jets best OLB on the field for the first four games. He needs the play the way he did during 2006 and the first half of last season. With Pace suspended and Gholston, Murrell, and Trusnik still young/unproven, Thomas will be put in position to make plays.

Jets Positional Analysis: Tight Ends

First a few updates:

1. A little double post action today, because I want to get through all the different position analysis articles. If you scroll down on the main page or click back through the archives, you can see the previous ones on the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers.

2. Jets training camp opens on July 27th for rookies and July 30thfor veterans…at least we are in the same month now. The pre-season opener is Friday, August 14th at home against the Rams.

Jets Positional Analysis: Tight Ends

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

1. Dustin Keller #81, Last Season: 48 Receptions, 535 Yards, 3 TD’s

History: Keller was a first round pick of the Jets last year. After beginning the season quietly, Keller broke out in a 4 game stretch during the middle of the season. Against the Rams in week 10 he had 6 receptions for 107 yards and a TD, in the following three games his lines were: 8 Receptions, 87 yards, 6 receptions, 42 yards, and 7 receptions, 77 yards. He didn’t produce as much in the Jets final four games but stilled showed tremendous potential and athleticism during his rookie season. With Chris Baker now in New England, Keller will have increased reps and pressure to improve his blocking and become an every down tight end.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Keller takes his game to the next level and thrives with the increased reps and balls thrown his way because of the departure of Laveranues Coles and Chris Baker. He plays at a pro-bowl level and becomes the Jets go to guy when they throw the ball, especially in the red zone.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Keller regresses from his rookie year, doesn’t improve his blocking and struggles with drops.

Prediction: Keller is going to have a ton of balls thrown his way in 2009 and proved last year he is immensely talented. I don’t think he is ready to be a pro-bowl caliber player yet, but I do think you will see a nice jump in his numbers from last year, especially in touchdowns. Keller is going to be the Jets primary target inside the 20 yard line.

2. Bubba Franks #88, Last Season: 6 Receptions, 47 Yards, 0 TD’s

History: I am only listing him as the #2 because he is the only other Jets tight end with NFL experience at the position. Franks signed with the Jets last year and struggled with injuries, only playing in 8 games. Rex Ryan is hoping he can provide some blocking and experience to the position. He hasn’t participated in off-season activities because he is still recovering from knee surgery but he is expected to be ready for training camp.

Chance of Making Roster: 75% (Depends on Health)

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Franks stays healthy and provides the Jets with a reliable, consistent #2 tight end. He blocks well and catches the ball the few times it is thrown to him.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He can’t get healthy in time for the season and the Jets eventually just cut him.

Prediction: I am not that confident in Franks after what I saw last year and since he is currently recovering from surgery. However, I don’t think the Jets would have re-signed him if they didn’t think he would be ready for at least most of training camp. I think Franks plays this year but struggles with injuries occasionally, but when he is on the field is able to do his job adequately.

3. Kareem Brown # 84, Last Season: Played Defensive End

History: Brown has been a backup defensive end for the Jets the last couple of years. He was moved to tight end this off-season and has apparently made some decent progress after going through mini-camp and OTAs. Brown lost 30 pounds to make the transition and because of the Jets amazingly thin depth at TE, probably has a good chance to make the roster because of his versatility and ability to play special teams.

Chance of Making Roster: 75%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Brown becomes a capable #2/#3 tight end. He is able to block for the Jets in their running sets and able to handle catching a few short passes.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Brown can’t handle the transition to offense and is too light to play defense.

Prediction: I think Brown sticks on the roster as the #3 tight end because of his ability to play special teams and his athleticism/potential.

The Other Guys:

James Dearth, #85 – The Jets long snapper, hasn’t caught a pass since 2001. He will make the roster but hopefully not be forced into any offensive action.

Jack Simmons, #46 – A UDFA the Jets signed this year. He caught 34 passes for 331 yards and 2 TDs last year for Minnesota. He is 6’4, 246 lbs and apparently made a good impression on the Jets coaches during OTAs. Hey, if there is a team for a UDFA tight end to make it on, this is it.

J’Nathan Bullock, #48 – Another UDFA the Jets signed, although Bullock wasn’t a football player in college. He played basketball at Cleveland State. Bullock is 6’4, 240 lbs and showed good athleticism during OTAs.

Overall Position Analysis: The Jets are in need of a veteran in a big way. They would be crazy to go into the season with Franks and Brown as Keller’s top backups. Hopefully, Simmons or Bullock will step up in training camp and show some potential. If the Jets are looking for help, my coaches always joked about me moving from receiver to tight end because of how slow I was…and yes, I am available.

Jets 2009 Offense: The Elephant in the Room

First a few updates:

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

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

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

Jets 2009 Offense: The Elephant in the Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why the Jets Defense Is Legit

First a few updates:

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

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

Why the Jets Defense Is Legit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jets Positional Analysis: Wide Receiver

First a few updates:

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

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

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

Jets Positional Analysis: Wide Receiver

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

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

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

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

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

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

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

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

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

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

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

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

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

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

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

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

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

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

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

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

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

Chance of Making Roster: 95%

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

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

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

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

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

Chance of Making Roster: 95%

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

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

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

The Rest of the Guys:

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

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

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

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

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