Prospect Watch: Akeem Ayers

The arrow has been pointing down on Akeem Ayers draft stock after his sub-par performance at the combine, however the Jets are probably still going to have to cross their fingers and toes for the 3-4 OLB to drop to the 30th pick.  Nevertheless let’s take a look at the SoCal native.

Ayers jumped on NFL scout’s radars with his exceptional sophomore campaign that saw him rack up 55 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and a partridge in a pear tree.  His numbers dipped a bit his Junior year but he recorded more tackles and still had 10 TFL, and 4 sacks.

Ayers is expected to translate fairly well into the NFL, however it is hard to find his true calling card once he reaches the next level.  He is a good pass rusher, good run stuffer, good in coverage, and has good versatility.  The “great” aspect of his game has yet to be conceptualized, but that does not mean the right NFL coaches won’t be able to get something special out of him.

Ayers had the athleticism and technique to play standing up and with his hand in the dirt while in college; he gets low and likes to dip and rip through the tackle on his way to the quarterback.  The best aspect of his pass rush is his initial jump off the ball, which allows him to get into the right position when trying to rush the QB.  Where Ayers gets in trouble is finding a counter move if he doesn’t get to the edge before the tackle does.  When dropping back in coverage, Ayers has definitely had some success in his college career, picking off six balls and returning two for touchdowns.

However, according to my research, scouts believe he relies on watching the QB’s eyes too much and that he can be fooled by play action.  The good news is if the Jets draft him, he will probably have at least a year to work on his pass coverage skills, and would primarily be used in pass rushing situations.  One of my favorite things about Akeem Ayers is even though he has the speed to get to the edge, on running situations he is not afraid to use his size, take on blockers, and play physical football; like a Jet. He also shows good pursuit to the ball from what I have seen, and doesn’t seem to take plays off.  As far as intangibles go, he has never had any off the field problems, and is a noted hard worker on the practice field and in the weight room.

Like I said, his combine numbers, hurt him last week, (4.8 40, 18 reps of 225, 31’” vertical jump) but it seems that would be a positive from the Jets point of view, as he will most likely fall a bit come draft day; will he fall all the way to number 30? Who knows, but Ayers is definitely someone to keep an eye out for, and will no doubt tempt gun slinging Mike Tannenbaum to trade up if Ayers starts to drop beyond pick 25.

Prospect Watch: Phil Taylor

Next up, Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor.  The big man from Washington DC had an up and down college career but finished strong with his best collegiate season as a senior. 

At 6’3’’ 334 lbs, Taylor is a space eater who can anchor a defensive line.  Primarily a run stopper, Taylor is an above-average tackler who’s 62 recorded tackles his senior season were the most by a Baylor interior lineman since 2002.  He is strong and demands double teams because of his initial punch.  Taylor is generally successful in double teams and is almost impossible to blow off the line.  One of his greatest strengths is his violent hands.  Combined with his jump off the ball, he can push a line backwards, and will collapse a pocket from the middle if the QB holds onto the ball for too long.  His footwork is also good which helps him in his pass rush.  While he isn’t an overpowering pass rusher, that is to be expected.  He has a nice powerful swim move, and can rip through double teams if he can establish leverage. 

He showed this ability at the Senior Bowl. He was disruptive, taking on double teams and freeing up his linebackers.  His footwork and frame is probably good enough to move to the 5 technique at some point, but I don’t think he has the stamina or technique to stay outside for more than selective schemes/situations. 

Throughout his career Taylor’s conditioning was one of the main critiques of his game, however, like I mentioned yesterday, he looked strong throughout the day at the combine. Finally, a number of sources have noted his maturation and change of character since he was arrested on assault charges stemming from a fight at a frat party at Penn State.  I think it’s a safe assumption that he won that fight.

On the negative side of things, concerns over weight management always follow players at this size.  Another common problem that Taylor shares with other big men is his lack of speed and quickness, again this will probably keep him on the inside of the line.  Additionally, his size prevents him from making many tackle outside of the tackle box.  Other than weight concerns, questions about his height and lack of leverage follow Taylor around as well.  At 6’3 he can come to high and has some issues if a center is able to get under his pads.  To this point, he also has a hard time generating momentum if he is stopped at the initial point of attack.  While a decent pass rusher for his size and position, he will need to improve his collection of moves.

I like Phil Taylor, I really do; he will be an interesting prospect to keep an eye out for as Draft Day inches closer.  While “raw talent” is something that the Jets may want to stray clear of this draft, especially in the first round, this guy could become the second coming of Kris Jenkins.

12 Pack of Combine Thoughts

AJ truly embraces the TOJ way by contributing his first 12 pack…of thoughts on the NFL Combine —

1. First and foremost, props to Rich Eisen for keeping me interested in 300 pound linemen running the 40 yard dash.  He was always one of my favorite guys at ESPN and he continues to do an awesome job over at NFL network

2. What are those Under Armor things?  They literally look like something Tony Starks would wear.  Nevertheless, it is really sweet they are measuring the Mph and G force of these guys, but did you see the Under Armor representative? Hisveins were popping out of his neck, I thought he was going to have a heart attack. 

3. Von Miller is a BEAST.  He ran a 4.53 and looked absolutely yoked up in the weird under armor spandex.  He is going to be everything that Vernon Gholston wasn’t.

4. Another defensive player that looked good was Phil Taylor (Prospect Watch will be arriving soon). He looked like he was in pretty good shape for his size, and didn’t tire out as the day went on, something you can’t say about many nose tackles his size.

5. Maybe not a thought on the combine but I am jumping off the Nick Fairley train quickly.  Do I think he will be a good player? Yeah, but I would not take him with the number one pick.  He doesn’t have the best attitude and is known to take plays off, two characteristics I would not want to give $50+ million guaranteed.  Plus, with Carolina running a 4-3, I would want a dominant pass rushing DE to replace Julius Peppers.

6. Do you really think I would get half way through this without mentioning Cam Newton?  I thought he looked really good as far as workouts go, but that was more than expected. 4.59 40 yard dash at 250 pounds, are you kidding me?  Not to mention his 10’6’’ broad jump that just screams explosive.  There was the interview controversy where he called himself a, “an entertainer and an icon,” but I thought he addressed the situation pretty well to the NFL network and apologized for the statement about three times in two minutes.  As far as his throwing drills goes, I wouldn’t be too concerned, wait for his pro day so he can get his timing with his own receivers.

7. Ryan Mallet has a drug problem? I had no idea, I have been rooting for this guy ever since he was going head to head against Jimmy “Bitter Beer Face” Clausen for being the #1 recruit coming out of high school.  Nothing has been confirmed and Mallet is obviously denying the allegations but the story is coming from sources inside Arkansas so it will be interesting to see how this develops.

8. Another player I really like is Mark Ingram and I hope he doesn’t get scooped up by the Dolphins.  His running style reminds me of Ronnie Brown and he is the type of hard nose player Tony Soprano would love to have. He ran slow at 4.62 but there is no denying his production in college and he will be successful in the pros, unfortunately it is going to be for a team not spelled J-E-T-S.

9. Going into the 2010 college football season I was really excited to watch the defense Butch Davis put together at UNC, but all that great work Butch did went down the drain when every defensive starter and their mother was suspended for the season.  The player I was most upset about not seeing was Marvin Austin; but Marvin has had a great lead up to the draft so far playing well in the East-West game and being equally impressive at the combine.  Hey, a man can dream the Jets are able to pick him up in the 3rd round right?

10. Another prospect I would love to pick up in the 3rd round is Jarvis Jenkins out of Clemson.  Like Joe mentioned, the Jets are going to have to commit at least 2-3 draft picks to the front seven and I would not be upset at all if they used their first two picks on the DL.  Jenkins, no relation to Kris as far as I know, has good size and is a known run stopper.  It would be great to let him develop under Sione Pouha for a year or two, but I believe this guy has a relatively bright future at the next level.

11. It was a bitter sweet combine for Jets fans concerning Justin Houston, on the one hand he looked great at the combine, showing exceptional quickness for his size and good instincts during LB drills.  But he might have looked too good and could potentially be off the board before the Jets are on the clock.  Worse news, AFC rivals New England and Baltimore could fall in love with him and take him at number 17 and 26 respectively.

12. Last but certainly not least, I want to say that Damien Woody is handling his release exactly as everyone expected him too, with the utmost class.  He was one of my favorite players on the team and he will be missed.  But that’s the business of the NFL as much as I love it sometimes, it also breaks my heart at times.  Woody will be fine though, just like Alan Faneca last year he will find a team.

Prospect Watch: Muhammad Wilkerson

Another day, another 3-4 defensive end to dissect here at TOJ: this time around we are going to look at Muhammad Wilkerson, the 6’5 305 pound freak that looks like he could be one of the Mon-Stars in Space Jam.  Muhammad hails from Linden, New Jersey and played his college ball at the newly rejuvenated Temple football program.  He is comparable to Cameron Heyward in position (both would be best suited as a 5 technique) and size (both are big boys). However, Heyward tends to use his brute strength to overpower offensive tackles, while Wilkerson uses his tremendous agility and footwork to plug holes and find the ball carrier.

There is no question Wilkerson has some things to work on, but what he lacks in initial bursts and explosion, he gains in his strength and ability to create separation.  These skills allow him to beat blockers even if they manage to engage him initially.  His nimble feet are a main reason why he is so effective using his signature swim move, and is a good sign that he will be able to expand his pass-rushing repertoire once in the NFL.  Just as good, if not better than his pass rushing technique is his ability to shed blockers.  Wilkerson is able to engage his blocker, create separation, identify the play and attack the ball carrier very quickly. Wilkerson is excellent at using his long arms to swallow up RB’s and QB’s alike.  Against the double team, Muhammad is better at slipping the blockers and getting the QB than standing his ground and eating up blockers but is well above average at both.  He understands what gap he is responsible for and more times than not fills it before the back can get through; additionally he has a knack for the forced fumble which would be a nice addition to a Jets defense that could use some more forced turnovers. 

Perhaps Wilkerson’s biggest asset coming into the NFL, and the reason I believe he will be able to overcome the weaker parts of his game, is his unquestioned work ethic and character.  Muhammad makes a ton of hustle plays and you can always see him running after the play if he isn’t in on making the tackle.  He was also elected team captain as a junior, demonstrating his leadership and his teammates respect for him.  Furthermore, he is well spoken during interviews and has already promised to return to Temple to finish out his degree down the road. 

What I am concerned with is his lack of explosion coming off the ball combined with his tendency to stand up out of his stance.  While his stack and shed technique works wonders against offensive linemen in the MAC, it is not going to translate as well into the NFL, where tackles are going to throw him around if he doesn’t learn to fire off the ball harder.  On top of this he needs to get stronger and learn to use his hands with more force at the next level.  Against stronger competition like Penn State, he got overpowered sometimes, especially when double teamed and his lack of strength and hand-work became a little too obvious.  However, like I said earlier, I think these are all things that are fixable and will be corrected based on his work ethic and commitment to football.

In case you can’t tell I like Muhammad Wilkerson, I like him a lot.  I think the Jets would be very lucky for him to drop to them and would be pretty hard pressed to find a better player if he is still available.  There are definite questions with him, just like any prospect that’s expected to be picked at the end of the 1st round, but I think these are all off-season issues that can be worked on and fixed before the season, especially with the all powerful motivator Rex at the helm.  Wilkerson’s athleticism is too much to pass on if given the opportunity, I say take him.

Prospect Watch: Cameron Heyward

As far as needs are concerned, defensive line is at the very top of the Jets list this year.  Depth and youthare both concerns on the inside and outside of the line, and after skipping over the position the last two drafts, it is time Mike Tannenbaum pulls the draft day trigger on a defensive end.

The first Big Ugly we are going to take a look at is Cameron Heyward, a strong defensive end who has had a ton of hype throughout his college career but did not have as strong of a senior season as he might have hoped for.  Not lacking in experience, Heyward has started on the defensive line since his Freshman year.  Additionally, he is the son of Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. Lauded for his off the field leadership, Heyward has become a perennial run stopper, yet has never fully developed into a dominant pass rusher.  While he shows flashes of dominance, Heyward gets beat by seemingly inferior talent at times, especially when he cant get initial contact.

Heywards biggest strength is his size and….strength.  At 6 foot 6, 287 pounds he is pretty much already ideal size for a 3-4 end.  He has very powerful hands and is able to extend his long arms and create space when he makes initial contact.  Heyward has above average instincts, which comes from him playing all four defensive line positions at one point while in college.  He is able to stay low at the line and drive, which helps him on double teams, something he will see a lot of while at the 3-4 end spot.  All of these traits make Heyward a force to be reckoned with stopping the run, however his pass rush has never fully developed and will need some work, especially at the next level.

Perhaps the biggest concern with Heyward is his lack of athleticism.  He is pretty much a one trick pony, he engages and reads the play, a process that is far to slow to translate to the NFL.  Aside from his lack of pass rush moves, he doesn’t seem to move fast enough to get to the QB.  The combine should be huge for Cameron as he has the chance to show he is quick enough to pick in Round 1, or slow enough to wait for the second day.  Aside from that, Walter Football’s evaluation states he takes entire games off, which is never a good sign.

I don’t think taking Heyward with the 30th pick would be a good move for the Jets.  His name has been linked to the Jets because of their need for DE, but as we have seen, Rex does not put a premium on 3-4 ends, especially ones who can’t get to the QB.  If the Jets had a 2ndround pick I would use it on this guy, but the front office has pressure on them to get 2 rounds worth of value with their first pick, and getting a run stopper akin to ­­­Mike Devito would not be great value.  The Jets first pick must be able to make an immediate impact, Heyward needs to be coached up, and his immediate impact would be just as much as a Rent-A-Veteran while costing the team a lot more.

Ranking The Jets Offensive Starters & Weekend Video Clips


I recently saw Mike Reiss of ESPN rank the entire New England Patriots roster 1 – 82. Let’s try that on a smaller scale with the Jets starting with their offensive starters today.

1. Nick Mangold – The best player in the NFL at his respective position. Hopefully, the Jets will be locking him down to a long term deal in the coming weeks.

2. D’Brickashaw Ferguson – One of the best tackles in the NFL, who the Jets just gave a massive extension to.

3. Brandon Moore – Three offensive lineman in a row? Yes, Brandon Moore is in the top tier of guards in the NFL, despite flying under the radar.

4. Braylon Edwards – The most physically talented player on the Jets roster. However, he still lacks consistency.

5. Jerricho Cotchery – The most reliable receiver the Jets have. I believe he is a borderline #1 guy, but the Jets have the luxury of letting him be a #2/#3 when Santonio Holmes returns from suspension.

6. Dustin Keller – He had a promising rookie season and then finished his second season on fire in the playoffs. He has pro-bowl level talent but I don’t know if he can get enough looks in this offense to reach that level.

7. Damien Woody – He has been rock solid since the Jets signed him, starting every game at right tackle and playing at a consistently high level.

8. Tony Richardson – Still one of the better fullbacks in the game. Yet, I wonder if he will see a dip in reps this season after Holmes returns in week 5.

9. Mark Sanchez – He had a roller coaster rookie season but finished strong in the playoffs. There is no doubt he has the potential to be a franchise quarterback but he has to be more consistent.

10. Shonn Greene – Similar to Sanchez, came on strong in the playoffs. Greene has the tools to be a number one back but has to stay healthy and protect the football.

11. Vladimir Ducasse – The newcomer to the offensive line. He will have a major jump from I-AA to the NFL.

Argue, away…

Cheer Up Knicks Fans…At least we don’t live in Cleveland:

Rookie Highlights

Of Course, TOJ TV


Ok, #17

Antonio Cromartie: Boom Or Bust


First a few updates:

1. I’d like to make it clear to everybody again that we are having a WordPress issue, which is leaving every comment left on the site in pending and thus not on the site. The comments haven’t been lost or deleted. I literally post every single thing somebody takes the time to leave, regardless of what they say. Please keep the comments on articles coming, because this problem should be resolved soon. For now, I will be personally copying and pasting the most intriguing comments from the last week under my name and then responding to them (as you can now see in the recent comments section on the right side of the site). I am sorry about this problem but our Network has recently moved our server to a different locaction, which has led to some technical problems.

2. I think the Bulls, Cavs, and Knicks all have an equal chance of landing LeBron tomorrow. It is amazing h0w one person could take the Knicks from the number five team in the New York sports market, to arguably the number one.

Photobucket3. Today was actually a big day of Jets news and of all things…it was good contract news. The Jets locked in left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson to a monster extension, adding 6 years and 60 million dollars to his original deal and giving him 34.8 million guaranteed dollars, which is a record for an offensive lineman. The Jets also locked down 2nd round pick, guard Vladimir Ducasse to a four year deal for 3.25 million dollars. In a matter of hours, the Jets solidified the left side of their offensive line for the foreseeable future. We can only hope the Ferguson deal will help get the ball rolling on new contracts for the rest of the Jets core four, Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, and David Harris. Why do I have feeling Harris will be taken care of next? The Jets could be rewarding the players who kept the quietest about their contract negotiations first.

4. Follow Turn On The Jets on Facebook and Twitter (TurnOnTheJets)…if you do, I will convince LeBron to join the Knicks.

Antonio Cromartie: Boom Or Bust

Considering I just wrote an article today about how strong the Jets secondary is heading into the 2010 season, I thought a closer look at the biggest question mark in that position group was in order.

PhotobucketI was as skeptical as anybody about the Jets decision to trade for Antonio Cromartie this off-season but I have gradually began to talk myself into the move, especially hearing about the work he has done this off-season and watching him at mini-camp practice. However, you can’t get past how much of a wild-card he is heading into this year. The guy didn’t play good football the past two years with the San Diego Chargers, period. Even if he was hampered by a hip injury, there was still questions about his lack effort. Every Jets fan saw Cromartie’s aversion to tackling in the playoffs last year and his immaturity when he threw a late elbow into Shonn Greene’s back.

You can’t ignore the red flags of only 5 interceptions the past two years and 19 passes defensed, when he had 10 interceptions in 18 passes defensed in 2007.  You can’t ignore his old organization questioning his effort on the field. You can’t ignore that he only had 33 tackles in 16 games last season.

PhotobucketHowever, you also can’t ignore the type of season Cromartie had in 2007 or the freak athleticism he has displayed on certain plays during his NFL career. There is a valid argument about Cromartie being a better man to man corner than a zone corner and the Jets system of defense playing to his strengths. He is going to see a ton of balls coming his way this season because of Revis Island being located on the other side of the field, meaning he will have plenty of chances to get his hands on the football and make big plays. Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine raved about the Cromartie acquisition this off-season to Manish Mehta of the Daily News

“I think he’s an upgrade over Lito – a clear upgrade over Lito. He fits our style of football. When you have your wide receiver line up outside the numbers, we’re going to eliminate him. That’s the one thing this kid can do…They played him off a lot (in San Diego), That’s a style thing.  They’re more of a zone team. A lot of times, they roll their corners up and get them involved in run support. We don’t do that nearly as much. For what we do schematically – we play so much man coverage or zone coverages that turn into man down the field as anyone – (Cromartie) fits.”

All I know is that if Cromartie gets back to playing anywhere near his 2007 level, it is going to be nearly impossible to throw the football on the Jets. He is going to rack up a bunch of interceptions and probably a touchdown or two. On the other hand, if he can’t stay healthy or plays like he did the pat two years, Kyle Wilson is going to get thrown into the fire right away and we are going to see way more Dwight Lowery than any of us can stomach.



Jets Area Of Concern – Left Guard


First a few updates:

1. Sorry for the day off yesterday, we had some administrative problems with the site. You can expect 1-2 posts every single for the entire month of July. There is no shortage of things to talk about with this Jets team or with the NFL for that matter. Also keep an eye out for a new TOJ TV by the weekend and a new Podcast by the end of next week. Tomorrow check back for a little two a day action to compensate for no article on Wednesday.

2. I haven’t heard anything positive about the Knicks in free agency yet. If it becomes clear to the organization that they aren’t getting a top tier guy, they should focus on building their team with a few mid-level guys and role players this season, followed by a pursuit of Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul next year. It sounds to me like the Nets have a much better chance than the Knicks of getting LeBron as of right now. It makes sense, wouldn’t you be more excited to play for Prokhorov and Jigga Man instead of Jim Dolan?

3. Follow Turn On The Jets on Facebook and Twitter (TurnOnTheJets).

Jets Area Of Concern – Left Guard

Contrary to the belief of some fans, the Jets roster isn’t perfect. Like any team in the NFL, they have multiple areas of concern throughout their roster heading into the 2010 season. Today is our final look at one of these areas, left guard:

On the Jets starting offense, there are three question marks: running back, quarterback, and left guard. Out of these three, left guard concerns me the least. You can buy into the “competition” between second year player Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse all you want, but the reality is that unless something drastic happens, Ducasse will be the opening day starter. The Jets didn’t spend a second round pick on the guy to put him on the bench for a player of Slauson’s caliber.

Ducasse is making a major jump from Division I-AA at UMass to the NFL, so why aren’t I that concerned? The people surrounding Ducasse will make him better and help compensate for his rookie shortcomings. He will be lining up directly between All-Pro center Nick Mangold and Pro-Bowl left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. The Jets other guard is one of the better ones in the NFL, Brandon Moore. Ducasse is also benefited by having one of the NFL’s best assistant coaches, Bill Callahan, leading his unit. Beyond that, look how pumped up Ducasse and his people were to be joining the Jets:

The Jets will design plays to help protect Ducasse and not put too much pressure on him during his rookie season. He will make mistakes but Mangold and Ferguson are good enough to help cover some of them up. Beyond that, he will be getting a hell of a hands on education from watching the Jets entire offensive line working on a day to day basis. You couldn’t ask for a better situation for a rookie to come into. Unless of course you were Kyle Wilson, learning from the best player in the NFL at your position everyday. Good thing he is on the Jets too.

There will be growing pains for Ducasse and as long as they don’t result in too many free runs at Mark Sanchez (especially considering our backup quarterback situation), the Jets are good enough to overcome them. In 2010, Alan Faneca would have been a better player but for the long term, but Ducasse has the physical skills, size and people around him to develop into a very good lineman, which will fit him in right in with the rest of the Jets offensive line.

TOJ TV (New Episode Coming This Weeekend)