Jets West vs. Camp Eli: How Much Do Off-Season Workouts Matter?

Steve Politi had a funny comparison between Jets West and Camp Eli in today’s Star Ledger. Basically, while the Jets were enjoying the California sun in a highly organized camp, complete with film sessions, guest accommodations, sponsorships, team contests and field trips…the Giants were slumming around Hoboken high school like a touch football team getting ready for an adult league. (Hey, don’t knock those, I play in one. Go Spirits!)

Just about every team around the league is taking part in some organized workout to stay in shape during the lockout. However, how much of a difference will the quality of the off-season workouts make on the 2011 season? The answer is probably not all that much. Even the best run sessions are still lacking enough attendance to adequately replace OTAs…Basically, you won’t be saying the Jets beat the Giants on December 24th because of Jets West.

Yet, that doesn’t mean Mark Sanchez doesn’t deserve credit for putting the camp together. He is a young quarterback cementing his leadership role on his team. Good for him for taking such good care of his teammates. There is no reason to take anything at all away from the Jets camp because it received so much media attention…like most things the Jets do, it deserved it.

Eli Manning isn’t going to lose any of his teammates respect for the lack of effort he put into “Camp Eli,” which was basically walking down the street from his apartment and saying “hey, come meet me here if you can, bring your own water and orange slices.” It is funny to see the differences between the two camps but getting too deep into their impact is only a result of lockout boredom.

Jerricho Cotchery Poised For Rebound In 2011

We all know 2010 was a disappointing season for New York Jets receiver Jerricho Cotchery. He dropped passes he never drops, struggled to stay healthy, and was overshadowed by the big plays of Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Dustin Keller.

The reason for Cotchery’s struggles became apparent when it was revealed he played throughout most the season with a herniated disc in his back, which was operated on this past February. Nobody should be surprised by Cotchery’s toughness in playing through his injury, as he made this unforgettable catch during the Cleveland game last year:

Despite his regular season struggles, Cotchery came up biggest when it mattered the most with 5 receptions for 96 yards in the Jets playoff upset over the New England Patriots. He also added a touchdown in the AFC Championship Game to aid the Jets furious comeback attempt.

It is very likely the Jets are going to lose either Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes this off-season, opening a spot for Cotchery in the starting line-up and giving him more opportunities to make plays. He has always been a productive player for the Jets since entering the starting line-up in 2006, so with a healthy back in 2011, he should easily exceed his output from last season.

Cotchery isn’t a game breaker or a number one receiver but he is an ideal compliment to either Holmes or Edwards, with his reliability, and ability to find soft spots in the defense and then run after the catch.

New England Patriots: Talking About Not Talking

I noticed just a hint of hypocrisy today when reading an article on both Pro Football Talk and ESPN about how quiet New England is keeping their off-season workouts. Yes, New England tight end Rob Gronkowski bragged to the country’s largest sports media outlet about how the Patriots are “on the down-low” and not seeking the press like “other teams” cough cough, Jets West anybody?

Can we stop with the act that New England never runs their mouth? Let’s not pretend Tom Brady never gestures at opponent’s sidelines or Deion Branch doesn’t cry a river of tears complaining about the Jets celebrating on their field. You can’t brag to the media about not bragging there Gronk.

One-Third Of The Game: Jets Special Teams In 2011

I realized today that Mike Westhoff would probably curse TOJ out for the lack of time we have spent on the Jets special teams in the previous few months. Beyond that, I saw that Jets punter Steve Weatherford got an endorsement deal with 2XU compression apparel. That is right, this team’s punter even has enough swag to get an endorsement deal (could also be his career 16 yards per carry or shake weight enthusiasm from Hard Knocks). Anyway, let’s get on to that too often neglected third of the game —

Right now, both the Jets punter and kicker from last year are free agents. The Jets didn’t extend a tender to Steve Weatherford and haven’t come up with a new deal for Nick Folk either. UFL special teams MVP Nick Novak was signed this off-season, along with punter TJ Conley who has been in camp with the Jets the past two years. As of now, I’d say it is a safe bet that the Jets will find a way to bring back both Weatherford and Folk, and have them compete with Conley and Novak in the summer.

Weatherford was very good last year, especially at pinning teams inside the 20. Despite a shaky post-season, the coaching staff seems comfortable with him. In 2010, he provided stability to very unstable position the past few years for the Jets. Nick Folk was up and down throughout the season and should be given a good run by Novak in the summer.

On their coverage units, the Jets didn’t extend a tender to linebacker Lance Laury who was a core special teams player in 2010 but was a bit of a disappointment. It is likely he won’t be back, with somebody like Josh Mauga taking over the bulk of his reps. Many of the Jets other key special teams players are free agents including Brad Smith, Eric Smith, James Ihedigbo, Drew Coleman, and Robert Turner, so many of their units could have a very different look in 2011.

The kick return job should be wide open if Brad Smith doesn’t return. Joe McKnight, Kyle Wilson, Antonio Cromartie (if he his back) will get the first crack at taking over. On punt return, rookie Jeremy Kerley will probably be mixed in with Jerricho Cotchery and maybe Wilson.

Regardless of who is manning the Jets coverage and return units, they should be productive again under the guidance of Westhoff, who remains arguably the best (and most entertaining) special teams coach in the NFL.

New York Jets: What To Do With All Those Running Backs?

One the of more crowded positions on the Jets roster heading into the 2011 season will be running back, where four players will be battling for reps and touches. Let’s take a quick look at the depth chart —

1. Shonn Greene

  • 2010 stats – 185 carries, 766 yards, 2 touchdowns.
  • 3rd year veteran, strong inside runner who has an ability to wear down a defense and pop a big run.
  • Struggles with consistency, fumbling, and injuries.

Greene is coming off a disappointing 2010 season where he never seized the starting job. Rex Ryan has been on record has saying Greene will be his “bell cow” this season and that the starting job is his to lose. It will be interesting to see how he can handle 17-20 carries on a weekly basis if the Jets give him that opportunity.

2. LaDainian Tomlinson

  • 2010 stats – 219 carries, 914 yards, 6 touchdowns.
  • Future hall of famer, great vision and quickness. Excellent receiver out of the backfield.
  • Aging, struggled down the stretch last season.

Tomlinson exceeded expectations last year, especially in the first half of the season. He gradually began to wear down but still was productive in the playoffs. Tomlinson has already publicly embraced the role of third down back and is a valuable leader on the Jets offense.

3. Joe McKnight

  • 2010 stats – 39 carries, 189 yards
  • 2010 4th round draft pick, selected for speed, big play ability, and receiving skills.
  • Overwhelmed in rookie year and never made any signifigant contributions.

Everybody is waiting to see if Joe McKnight’s rookie struggles will provide a kick in the butt for him in year two. He has plenty of talent and potential but can he carve out a role for himself in the Jets offense? Hopefully, he can contribute on outside handoffs or tosses, screens, and use his receiving ability occasionally in the slot.

4. Bilal Powell

  • 2011 4th round pick
  • Had monster senior season at Louisville after three quiet years.
  • Similar running style to Shonn Greene.

The Powell selection surprised many but the Jets are hoping he can develop into Shonn Greene’s long term backup, while McKnight works into being the third down back eventually. Powell could have a shot to make an impact his rookie year if there are injuries or McKnight struggles in training camp again.

A Few Comments On Rex Ryan’s New Book

I will have a full review of Rex Ryan’s new book, “Play Like You Mean It” published at Gunaxin in the coming days, yet here are a few quick thoughts and some of my favorite quotes —

– If you are a Jets fan (which I am assuming you are since you are here), you will absolutely enjoy this book. It provides interesting insights into the team over the past two seasons and will make you feel like the Jets may never lose a game again.

– You aren’t going to find a bigger fan of Rex than myself, but this book has  its share of flaws. It jumps around and can be repetitive at times (we get it, you respect Bill Belichick but you didn’t come hear to kiss his rings). Rex’s excessive bravado will make you roll your eyes occasionally, even as a Jets fan or somebody who admires his personality.

– Rex’s love for the game of football and attitude about life really shines through. Say what you want about him but he is a determined, motivated individual who has an ability to inspire people. You will want to work harder at whatever it is you are doing with your life after reading this book.

– The chapter about “Sharing the Big Apple” is going to be printed, copied and hung all over New York City and North Jersey in the weeks leading up to December 24th.

– Rex’s sense of humor about his weight makes the “Let’s Go Have a Snack” chapter one of the book’s best.

– Similar to what I said before, you won’t want another coach leading the Jets in your lifetime after reading this book.

Rex on Jets/Giants

It seems clear that right now we are the better team and we are going to remain the better team for the next 10 years. Whether you like it or not, those are the facts, and that’s what is going to happen…We are going to take over the town whether the Giants like it nor not, so those fans on the fence that like both teams are going to be Jets fans in the end. The truth is, if I am going to watch one game, I am going to see the Jets, without a doubt. We are better.

Rex on food

“I’m huge. I love to eat…I just love tacos. Then there’s pizza and lasagna. Yeah, just pour on the carbs…You start and all of a sudden you forget how much you have pounded down because you’re having such a good time…It’s like at Thanksgiving-I love all that food. You get turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, the cranberry sauce, the corn, then pecan, pumpkin piece, apple pie. Yeah, just line up the pies and keep them coming.”

Rex on Rex

Let me tell you something: Just because I’m a fat guy doesn’t mean you’re going to outwork me. That crap about being lazy? I’ll take on anyone. Don’t worry, I’ll be there to put you to bed every night when you  need to get tucked in.”

This Just In: Mike Francesa Hates The Jets, Loves Himself

Our friends at The Jets Blog have touched on this but in case you haven’t seen the clip yet, enjoy…

Poor Mike still can’t get Rex or any of the Jets on his show. Bottom line is the Jets have been better than the Giants the past two years and have had more headlines than any other professional sports team in the country in that time and it kills Francesa that he can’t get a single member of the team on his show. Say what you want about Rex and the Jets, but they are interesting and a journalist’s dream with their myriad of the headlines. So do Rex a favor to help shut Francesa up, go buy the guy’s book. I am half way through it and it is a must read for any Jets fan. I will have a full review in the coming days for both TOJ and Gunaxin.