Jets Training Camp Eve Updates & Predicted 53 Man Roster

Jets Training Camp Eve Updates & Predicted 53 Man Roster

– Leon Washington is the only Jets player who didn’t report to training camp today. Both Rich Cimini and Dave Hutchinson have stated that their sources indicate a deal is imminent and at the latest should be done by the end of the weekend, let’s hope so. It won’t kill the Jets if Washington misses 3 or 4 practices, but if he starts missing weeks of work, it will impact the development of their offense. Shonn Greene, Danny Woodhead, and Jehuu Caulcrick should all see extended work in his absence.

– Thomas Jones was present today but still not talking to any reporters. Hopefully, Jones has realized he isn’t getting a new deal and will play motivated to impress the Jets and other NFL teams for when he likely hits the market next year. The Jets didn’t trade all those picks to have Shonn Greene be a third string running back for more than 1 year. Jones is a professional and likely doesn’t want to incur daily fines, the guy has a right to ignore the media if he wants to and be unhappy with his contract, as long as it doesn’t affect his play.

– Calvin Pace made some comments today, nothing to note worthy except how he plans to push Vernon Gholston and Marques Murrell during the pre-season. He again explained his side of the story about taking a banned substance but has still owned up to his mistake and should have plenty of motivation to make a big impact on the Jets defense starting in week 5.

– Rex Ryan named Kellen Clemens the Jets number one quarterback heading into the first practice tomorrow, saying he will get the majority of the first team reps in the early going while they ease Mark Sanchez in…well, duh. Let’s not make this a bigger story than it is, obviously Clemens was going to begin camp as the starter since he is the veteran and is more familiar with the offense. Sanchez will have every chance to win this job.

– Rich Cimini has reported the Jets still have interest in a veteran receiver and that they still have plenty of room under the cap to get one (can’t we use some of that money for #29 and maybe a little for #20, to keep him happy) but who can the Jets really get at this point? Matt Jones might be the most talented guy out there, but apparently Rex Ryan isn’t a big fan of him. I’m not sure how much Amani Toomer can really add to this team and forget about Marvin Harrison with his gun charge. The Jets might be stuck with what they have, time to step up Chansi, David, Brad, Wallace, Marcus, Mario, and Huey.

– The Jets have two practices tomorrow, one at 8:15 AM and one at 4 PM. Hopefully, the big news of the day will be that Leon Washington has a new contract in place at the end of the day and that Mark Sanchez looked great with the second team, but we’ll see. The Jets beat writers and other individuals who attend camp do a great job of relaying all the details of the day, my goal will be to provide a daily synopsis after reading everything I can get my eyes on and then offer opinions and analysis throughout camp. I do plan on attending the Jets practice at Hofstra and a few of their practices in Florham Park, there is still a small chance I could make it out to Cortland, but that is a tough trip with my job and grad school starting up soon.

Predicted 53 Man Roster, Pre-Training Camp: Obviously, it is hard to know how Rex Ryan is going break down his roster in terms of how many guys he keeps at each position, but it’s worth taking a shot at before camp starts:

Quarterback –

  1. Kellen Clemens – Should put up a spirited fight but eventually be the #2.
  2. Mark Sanchez – The franchise quarterback, can he win the job by week 1?
  3. Erik Ainge – Will win a close battle with Chris Pizzotti for the #3 job.

Running Back –

  1. Thomas Jones – Still the #1 back, unhappy or not.
  2. Leon Washignton – Get him in camp, ASAP.
  3. Shonn Greene – Will be the Jets starter on opening day 2010.
  4. Tony Richardson (FB) – Valuable piece of the offense.
  5. Jehuu Caulcrick (FB/RB) – Hopefully, future FB and short yardage back.

Wide Receiver –

  1. Jerricho Cotchery – Chance for him to prove he is a #1.
  2. Chansi Stuckey – Should lead the committee approach to the #2 spot.
  3. David Clowney – Will have every chance to be the Jets big play receiver.
  4. Brad Smith – Is he more than an athlete and a gimmick player?
  5. Wallace Wright – Too good on specials not to make the roster.
  6. Mario Urrutia – My pick for #53 on the roster, just over Kenwin Cummings and Drew Coleman.

Tight End –

  1. Dustin Keller – Alot of pressure on Keller to have a big sophomore season.
  2. Kareem Brown – Hopefully he can continue his progress from the spring.
  3. Jack Simmons – Could end up being the #2 sooner rather than later.
  4. James Dearth – The long snapper.

Offensive Line –

  1. RT – Damein Woody – Hopefully can replicate last year’s consistency.
  2. RG – Brandon Moore – Just keep doing what you been doing.
  3. C – Nick Mangold – Anchor of the Jets offensive line
  4. LG – Alan Faneca – Didn’t show signs of age last season.
  5. LT – D’Brickashaw Ferguson – Keep getting better, especially in run blocking.
  6. G/T – Robert Turner – Pressure to prove he can provide adequate depth.
  7. T – Wayne Hunter – See directly above.
  8. G/T – Matt Slauson – Long term project, hopefully eventually replaces Faneca.

Defensive Line

  1. Kris Jenkins – Needs to stay healthy and productive for 16 games.
  2. Shaun Ellis – Veteran leader on defense and still a very good player.
  3. Marques Douglas – Needs to prove he can handle starting.
  4. Sione Pouha – Needs to provide quality reps off the bench.
  5. Mike DeVito – Big chance to see starter type reps.
  6. Howard Greene – Needs to support Jenkins off the bench.
  7. Ropati Pitoitua – Hoping to become part of D-Line rotation.

Linebackers –

  1. Bart Scott – Needs to provide swagger, leadership, and confidence to defense.
  2. David Harris – Should excel next to Scott.
  3. Calvin Pace – Looking forward to week 5.
  4. Bryan Thomas – Needs to step up, especially in first four weeks.
  5. Vernon Gholston – Huge training camp for the former first round pick.
  6. Marques Murrell – Chance to be major part of the defense.
  7. Jason Trusnik – Looking for more playing time.
  8. Larry Izzo – Special teams ace.
  9. Jamaal Westerman – Versatile, long term prospect at LB.

Secondary –

  1. Darrelle Revis – One of the best.
  2. Lito Sheppard – Needs to find 2006 form.
  3. Kerry Rhodes – Needs to find 2006 form.
  4. Jim Leonhard – Veteran of Ryan’s defense.
  5. Donald Strickland – Veteran nickle back.
  6. Dwight Lowery – Looking to build on last year.
  7. Eric Smith – Good depth at safety from the former starter.
  8. Ahmad Carroll – Looking to expand beyond special teams.
  9. James Ihedigbo – Trying to lock down #4 safety spot.

Special Teams

  1. K – Jay Feely – Just make your kicks.
  2. P – TJ Conley – Will beat out Reggie Hodges.

Jets Highlight of the Day: 2008 Jets Season Highlights

Jets Training Camp: Five Position Battles

First a few updates:

1. RIP to former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who was one of the brightest minds in the NFL.

2. Brett Favre has decided to stay retired…boohoo.

Jets Training Camp: Five Position Battles

1. Starting Quarterback: Mark Sanchez vs. Kellen Clemens vs. Erik Ainge (Just Kidding)

Why Sanchez Will Win: The Jets didn’t trade up to draft Sanchez and pay him 60 million dollars to have him sit on the bench. Rex Ryan watched Joe Flacco lead the Ravens to the AFC Championship game last year and will believe Sanchez can do the same. The rookie from USC only has to keep it close with Kellen Clemens this summer and the job will be his.

Why Clemens Will Win: He is more experienced in the offense and the Jets are built to win now. Sanchez only had 16 starts at USC and simply won’t be ready to lead a NFL offense by September. Similar to how Chad Pennington was out playing him last summer, Clemens will use his knowledge of Brian Schottenheimer’s offense to handily outplay the overwhelmed rookie this summer.

Prediction: The two quarterbacks will play relatively even this summer, which means Mark Sanchez will win the job.

2. Starting Wide Receiver: Chansi Stuckey vs. Brad Smith vs. David Clowney

Why Stuckey Will Win: He performed the best in mini-camp and OTA’s and is coming off the best season in 2008. He had more catches than Smith and Clowney combined last year, and is by far the most polished of the group at the position.

Why Clowney Will Win: Speed kills and the Jets desperately need it on offense. Clowney will get over his drops in the spring and be a big play machine all summer.

Why Smith Will Win: He has the best combination of size and speed and is the best overall athlete. He will finally put it all together this summer as a wide receiver.

Prediction: Stuckey will receive most of the reps as the #2, followed by Clowney, and then Smith.

3. Outside Linebacker (Week 1-4): Vernon Gholston vs. Marques Murrell

Why Gholston Will Win: The guy was the number 6 overall pick in the draft for a reason. Rex Ryan will push Gholston towards becoming the elite pass rusher the Jets drafted him to be.

Why Murrell Will Win: He is hungrier than Gholston and plays with more passion for the game. Gholston was simply a workout wonder and won’t be able to translate his talent to the NFL level.

Prediction: Gholston will start, but Murrell will still receive 25-30% of the reps.

4. Nickel-Back: Donald Strickland vs. Dwight Lowery

Why Strickland Will Win: The veteran has been a pretty good nickel back the previous few seasons and Ryan will feel comfortable with him in the game in key 3rd down situations.

Why Lowery Will Win: He showed plenty of talent in his rookie season and was a quality starter for the first few weeks of the year. Lowery will learn from his rookie mistakes and develop into a quality nickel-back.

Prediction: Even though most people expect Strickland to win the job, I like what I saw from Lowery last season and think he will be guy.

5. #2 Tight End: Kareem Brown vs. Richard Owens vs. Jack Simmons

Why Brown Will Win: After being moved from defensive end, Brown had a productive spring and impressed the coaching staff with the potential he has displayed. Somehow, he has the most experience in this offense despite only being on it since the 2008 season ended.

Why Owens Will Win: He is the only player among these three with NFL experience at tight end.

Why Simmons Will Win: The UDFA had a strong showing in the spring and will build on that in the summer. He was a productive player last season in college and is the only player of the three who played tight end at any level of football last year (Owens was out of the league and Brown was a DE).

Prediction: I think Brown and Simmons end up splitting the reps as the #2 tight end.

Jets Highlight of the Article: Who can forget this 2007 match-up between the Jets and Rex Ryan’s (as a D coordinator) Baltimore Ravens. Look at my boy Cotchery tearing it up, but more importantly look at $#%$% Justin McCariens dropping passes. I will never forget shattering a remote control on this day because of #81.

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.

Turn On The Jets Interview with Tim Layden

First a few updates:

1. I would have to say at this point there is a less than a 10 percent chance of the Jets signing Plaxico Burress or trading for Brandon Marshall. Beyond those two, what other veteran options could they consider at receiver? Marvin Harrison might not be a bad option, regardless of his diminishing skills, he could still be a very competent number 2 receiver.

2. It’s funny how much negative press the Jets inexperienced receivers get, in comparison to all the hype and positive press the Giants inexperienced receivers get. What have Sinorce Moss and Mario Manningham ever done to merit so much optimism? I do think Domenick Hixon and Steve Smith are good players but certainly no better than Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey.

3. The only enjoyable part of my daily commute to the PVSC (Passaic Valley Sewage Commission) in Newark, New Jersey (where I am working this summer as a landscaper…yes, a landscaper at the Sewage plant, awesome stuff I know) is I get to pass by the brand new Giants/Jets stadium every day. The new building puts the old one to shame and is going to be great for all NY/NJ football fans.

4. Congratulations to Brooks Bollinger for being drafted in the UFL. It seems just like yesterday he was leading the Jets to a 4-12 record in 2005.

Turn On the Jets Interview with Tim Layden

Tim Layden is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated and recently did a great feature on Rex Ryan, which can be accessed here http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1156765/index.htm  . He was kind enough to let me interview him yesterday about Ryan, the Jets, and the AFC East. Here is what we talked about in the first ever interview at TurnOnTheJets.com:

JC: How much of Buddy Ryan do you see in Rex?

TL: I think Rex developed his passion for coaching from watching his father work growing up. There is no question he has alot of Buddy in him, yet it ends at a certain point. Rex’s mother is a very cerebral person and you can see that in Rex also. Unlike his father, Rex is a little more calculating when talking to the media and his players. He has an ability to treat different people in different ways, which is important in the NFL. I think he is also a little more reserved than Buddy and does hold back a little sometimes, in a positive way. I think you will see Rex be more successful as a head coach in the NFL than his father.

JC: When you were talking to the Jets players, did you sense that they are enjoying the switch from Eric Mangini to Rex Ryan? Both guys are obviously polar opposite in terms of how they run their team.

TL: When I was talking to Kris Jenkins, he expressed that he did like Eric Mangini and was okay with the way he ran things but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t enjoyed the new attitude Rex has brought to the Jets. Whenever there is a new head coach, people are going to focus on their positive qualities. Rex is a very likable guy and certainly a players coach so you would expect the players to be excited about him.

Kerry Rhodes admitted he is still adjusting and as I mentioned in the story, is used to holding himself back a little more on the field and with the media but is now learning more emotion is ok. Speaking of Rhodes, I really think he is guy you are going to see flourish in Rex’s system.

Bart Scott also made a good point not to get too carried away with the fun and emotional side of Rex. He noted they had success in Baltimore because of their scheme and execution. Rex is a well prepared, confident guy which leads to the swagger his defenses have. Scott said people don’t spend enough time talking about Ryan’s X’s and O’s and how smart he is when crafting a defensive scheme.

JC: What do you think of the recent comments he made about New England and his back and forth with Channing Crowder?

TL: I think with the Bellicheck ring statement, I mean…what is he supposed to say? Rex is confident in his guys and doesn’t say anything he knows his players won’t hear. He doesn’t want them to be afraid of New England and their past success. He isn’t intimidated by New England and believes he was brought to New York to beat them, not to look up to them. I don’t think it is a condescending statement to the Patriots at all.

In terms of the Crowder stuff, Rex has a great gift for conversation and humor. It is entertaining to listen to him speak and I think all that stuff was very light-hearted and also probably blown out of proportion by people criticizing him.

JC: Do you think Rex and the Jets should be as confident as they are heading into the season?

TL: One thing I know about Ryan is that he has never coached a bad defense. Even when some of those Baltimore teams had injuries, they were still consistent and successful. The Jets defense is going to be good this year, maybe great. I think the confidence is good thing and is rubbing off on the players. Bart Scott was telling me how he can’t wait to play against Tom Brady and New England. He wants to challenge them because he believes they can get to Brady and he wants to see how he will respond to the constant pressure coming off that leg injury.

JC: Switching to some more player specific questions, how does Ryan feel about Mark Sanchez?

TL: Ryan has a good amount of measured excitement about him. He knows he has the talent but understands he still has a ton to learn at this level. He doesn’t want to go too far praising Sanchez, in fear of losing Kellen Clemens, because there is still a chance he could be guy this September. Is Sanchez going to be Matt Ryan or Rex Grossman? I don’t think anybody can answer that yet. It will be tough in New York but Ryan believes Sanchez has the right make up for this city. Remember that Rex wants to win games 17-13 and isn’t going to be asking Sanchez to throw the ball over the field. He just wants him to protect the ball and make a few plays when the opportunity is there.

JC: What did Ryan have to say about Vernon Gholston?

TL: Ryan didn’t talk all that much specifically about Vernon Gholston. I know alot of people are trying to match up Baltimore players to Jets players, comparing Gholston to Terrell Suggs and Kerry Rhodes to Ed Reed but Ryan doesn’t want to do that. A key thing that both Ryan and Bart Scott said about the Jets linebackers is that everybody is going to have the chance to makes plays and it will be hard for the offense to know where the pressure is coming from. In Baltimore, the Ravens funneled everything to Ray Lewis, in this defense it won’t be that way.

JC: One last question, how do see the AFC East shaking out this year?

TL: I guess I would say New England is probably the best team but they aren’t head and shoulders above anybody in this division. Don’t think for a second they are a 14-2 team, that is a group of older guys with some question marks at linebacker and in the secondary and you can’t be 100 percent confident that Brady is going to be back to his old self. I am not confident in Miami repeating their success from last year and honestly think the Jets are probably the second best team right now and will be in the wild-card hunt and the division hunt until late in the year.

Jets Positional Analysis: Quarterback

First a few updates:

1. According to Rich Cimini of the Daily News, the Jets interest in Plaxico Burress is “cooling off” despite the increased likelihood of him being able to play in 2009. The Burress argument is an interesting one, with fans split on whether the risk outweighs the reward of bringing him in. I still think it is a long shot he ends up in green and white, but crazier things have happened.

2. The Jets signed third round draft pick running back Shonn Greene to a four year deal, meaning all three of their draft picks are locked up. Good work by the Jets front office in getting all their rookies signed well before training camp. Now they can hopefully shift their focus towards pleasing their two pro-bowl running backs…Thomas Jones and Leon Washington.

3. The Jets signed free agent linebacker Brock Christopher, who was a UDFA signed by the Falcons after this year’s draft.

Jets Positional Analysis: Quarterback:

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

1. Kellen Clemens #11, 4 years in NFL, Career Stats: 1,555 yards passing, 5 TD’s, 11 INT’s

History: Last year, he didn’t play a meaningful snap as Brett Favre’s backup. In training camp he was competing for the starting quarterback position but was being handily outplayed by Chad Pennington before the Jets traded for Favre. The year before he flashed some potential despite playing behind a terrible offensive line and having a weak, injured receiving core.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: For Clemens? It is shocking the world and beating out prized rookie Mark Sanchez for the Jets starting quarterback job and giving the Jets a Drew Brees/Philip Rivers scenario. The Jets organization would like to see Sanchez start but if Clemens can get the job done, they will take who can get them wins. The best thing for the Jets would be for Clemens to push Sanchez to the limit all summer, and eventually lose a close battle before becoming a capable number two for them in 2009.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Clemens struggles heavily in training camp, failing to push Sanchez and inspire confidence as even a #2 quarterback.

Prediction: He gives Sanchez a run for his money, but is eventually named the backup before the third pre-season game. Clemens spends the year as the #2 again and leaves in free agency after the season.

2. Mark Sanchez #6, Rookie, No Career Stats

History: The Jets showed their faith in Sanchez by trading up to select him with the number 5 pick in the NFL Draft and signing him to a 60 million dollar contract. Sanchez is coming off a brilliant year at USC but questions remain about his lack of experience as a starting quarterback. After some initial struggles in OTAs, Sanchez progressed nicely and finished on a high note.

Chance of Making Roster: 110%…C’mon Now.

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Joe Flacco/Matt Ryan…Sanchez leads the Jets into the playoffs as a rookie by protecting the football, learning on the job and occasionally hitting the big play down the field. He makes the front office look great for trading up for him and looks the part of a franchise quarterback from the time he steps on the field in week one.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Matt Leinart…Sanchez can’t even come close to beating out Clemens this year or even next year for that matter. He becomes a 60 million dollar insurance policy and eventually is photographed holding beer bongs for 20 year old girls in Morristown, New Jersey.

Prediction: Sanchez wins the starting job and takes the expected rookie lumps in year one. The Jets are able to win because of their running game and defense but Sanchez progresses as the year goes on. He leads them into playing meaningful games in late December.

3. Erik Ainge, #10, 2nd year, No Career Stats

History: Yikes…was the Jets 5throunnd pick last year but was inactive all season. He was also suspended four games for a substance abuse violation. Ainge also missed most of the off-season workouts for personal reasons and went from being mentioned as a contender for the starting job to battling for the #3 spot.

Chance of Making Roster: 50%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Ainge shows growth in the pre-season and locks down the number three job. He has such a strong pre-season and overall year as the look squad quarterback, the Jets feel comfortable making him their number two behind Sanchez in 2010.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He is cut during the pre-season and the Jets look elsewhere for their #3 quarterback.

Prediction: He shows some measure of progress, at least enough to be the Jets number three quarterback for another year but not enough to be their number two next year.

4. Chris Pizzotti, #19, Rookie, No Career Stats

History: The Jets signed him as an undrafted free agent. He was a very successful college quarterback at Harvard. Pizzotti has good size (6’5, 225 lbs) and apparently a strong arm.

Chance of Making Roster: 25%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He beats out Erik Ainge for the #3 spot and becomes Brett Ratliff 2.0.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He gets cut, sooner rather than later.

Prediction: He makes the practice squad.

Overall Position Analysis: There is almost no experience to speak of in this group. All eyes will be on the Sanchez/Clemens battle in training camp. Hopefully, they will bring the best out of each other and one of them can step up to be playoff caliber quarterback this year.

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

First a quick rebuttal to Mike Freeman of CBS Sports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Moves the Jets Need to Make

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

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

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

5 Things We Learned From Jets Minicamp

First a few updates:

1. The Jets released tight end Martrez Milner yesterday, which is a good sign for undrafted free agents Jack Simmons and J’Nathan Bullocks both of whom had pretty good OTAs. Kareem Brown has also progressed nicely at tight end and might be able to handle splitting the #2 spot with Bubba Franks.

2. Plaxico Burress’ trial is apparently going to be pushed back until sometime in 2010, which improves the chances of him being able to play this year. Everybody is expecting him to receive a 4 game suspension from the league though, which is something the Jets will have to consider if they are going to sign him. Regardless, it seems they have a genuine interest in bringing him in.

3. Congrats to the Pittsburgh Penguins for winning the Stanley Cup and congrats to the Orlando Magic for choking away game 4…can you make some free throws? The ghosts of Nick Anderson are still haunting this franchise.

5 Things We Learned From Jets Minicamp:

1. It’s going to be a tight one – The battle for starting quarterback that is, which is bad news for Kellen Clemens. The Jets veteran has been consistent and shown a good command of the offense but hasn’t done anything spectacular that is making the Jets regret trading up for Mark Sanchez. On the other hand, Sanchez started out slow but progressed nicely over the past month and is proving to be a quick learner. The guy is getting one of the most complex defenses in the NFL thrown at him everyday in practice as a rookie and handling it pretty well. I’d be shocked if Sanchez isn’t under center week one against Houston.

2. Receivers Battling – Chansi Stuckey has begun to pull away as the #2 receiver behind Jerricho Cotchery. Stuckey doesn’t make many mistakes and catches everything he can get his hands on. He had a pretty good season last year and if he wasn’t phased out of the offense in the middle of the year, probably could have been a 45-50 catch guy. Brad Smith is making his usual acrobatic catches that excites the coaching staff and is probably the #3 receiver now. David Clowney had a case of the drops the past month but has too much talent to fall too far down the depth chart. Wallace Wright impressed the coaching staff and will be on the roster in September because of his special team skills, but he may be working himself a spot on the offense.

3. Defense Rules – The consensus has been that the Jets defense is miles ahead of the offense right now. It makes sense since the Jets are being led by an inexperienced quarterback and were without Thomas Jones and Leon Washington for long periods of time. Beyond that, the Jets defense is just pretty damn good. Kris Jenkins should be even more effective than he was in last year’s scheme, Darrelle Revis remains a lockdown corner, and Bart Scott has added some intensity and swagger to the unit. This is a very deep and talented group, especially when you throw Calvin Pace, Kerry Rhodes, Lito Sheppard, Shaun Ellis, and David Harris into the mix.  

4. Making a Name – Eric Smith, James Ihedigbo, Marques Murrell, and Jamaal Westerman all have impressed the coaching staff and look like locks for backup positions on the Jets defense. Smith recorded 5 interceptions in 3 days this past week is a good #3 safety, Ihedigbo will likely be the #4 safety and has some experience from last year. Murrell could see reps off the bench as a pass rusher and is pushing Vernon Gholston for time. Westerman is an undrafted free agent who the Jets love. He has been working at inside linebacker, after playing defensive end in college.

5. Swagger – The Jets new head coach has tons of it, throwing himself into a verbal battle against both the Patriots and Dolphins. This team couldn’t have a more different personality than they did last year, when Eric “10 hour bus ride” Mangini led without any emotion. Rex Ryan put it best, the Jets aren’t in the AFC East to “kiss Bill Bellicheck’s rings.”

Sanchez Ends OTAs With a Bang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to Begin? Recapping an Active Week of Jets Football

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

First a few vacation thoughts:

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

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

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

Back to the trash-talking, swaggalicious Jets:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jets Thursday OTA: Sanchez Progressing, Jones Silent

The Jets had their OTA open to the media today, so here’s a quick run down of the day’s events with some analysis:

1. Mark Sanchez improved from last week’s rough performance. After initially struggling during 7 on 7’s and his first two minute drill, he responded by leading the second offense down the field for a touchdown. Also, according to Rex Ryan he had a strong practice on Wednesday, which included a beautiful deep ball on a corner route for a touchdown. Sanchez is facing a difficult, complex defense in practice and any type of improvement is positive. Beyond that, when you hear quotes from Sanchez like this, you have to feel encouraged:

“I’ve made friends with the cleanup crew because I’ve been staying so late…I want to know it (the offense). I want to master it by tomorrow. I want to master it 10 minutes ago. ”

You have to like the guy’s attitude. As for now, Kellen Clemens remains ahead in the QB competition, which is to be somewhat expected. Clemens has been steady during OTAs and isn’t going down without a fight. Right now, he is more comfortable in the offense and isn’t making as many mistakes or miscommunications.

2. Thomas Jones did practice and apparently looked great. Nobody expected Jones to show up out of shape, since the guy lifts more than some of the offensive lineman on the team. He chose not to speak to the media, which is fine. I’d rather have him not talking to the media, than ripping the organization. According to Rex Ryan, Jones stated he is happy to be here and Sanchez, Nick Mangold, and Damien Woody all said Jones was in good spirits and helpful on offense. Bob Glauber of the Daily News proposed an interesting compromise in today’s paper, which would have the Jets pay Jones his 3 million roster bonus this year instead of next year. I don’t know if that will happen or if it is even necessary at this point, but it is something to consider.

3. David Clowney had a pretty rough day, with some uncharacteristic drops. Chansi Stuckey seems to be creating some distance for himself at the #2 receiver spot, since he has been consistently making plays all off-season. Rex Ryan again stated that he is comfortable with his group of receivers and it appears at this point the Jets won’t add anybody else. He also complimented little know receiver, Huey Whittaker who is a guy the Jets pulled out of the Arena League. Whittaker has good size (6’2, 220 lbs) and speed and could be a player to keep an eye on.

4. Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes both had strong practices, recording an interception each. Jay Feely awarded them co-player of Thursday’s practice on his twitter account. David Harris and Jim Leonhard had a nasty collision, when Leonhard was trying to catch a punt. What is with all these collisions at the Jets non-contact practices?

5. Kerry Rhodes refused to discuss the pending legal investigation about a possible rape at his Morristown residence. It is important to remember that Rhodes is not a subject of the investigation and hasn’t been accused of anything.

6. A quick programming note: I am going on vacation to Las Vegas and Cabo from June 1st-June 9th, which means posts may be sparse during those days. However, fortunately I will be getting back in time for mandatory OTAs. I full anticipate having at least one post a day throughout the duration of the summer when I return from vacation.