Get Leon Washington the Ball!

First a few updates:

1. On the top of the site under the page “About the Author” you can find where to contact me through e-mail, how to friend me on facebook, or follow the site on twitter, ballhype or yardbarker. You can also witness a picture of me slowly trudging down the football field last year at Muhlenberg.

2. Randy Lange did an interesting piece on NewYorkJets.com about Rex Ryan having dyslexia which was unknown to most fans and the media. Ryan has obviously overcome any learning difficulties he has to become a successful individual, who has also attained a master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky.

3. I will be interviewing Tim Layden (the writer who did the article on Rex Ryan in the most recent Sports Illustrated) on Saturday, I will post our conversation on Sunday. Our first interview here at TurnOnTheJets…exciting stuff.

4. Brandon Marshall has apparently requested a trade and of course many people are now wondering if the Jets will pursue him. Personally, I don’t think Denver could be stupid enough to let Jay Cutler AND Brandon Marshall walk in the same off-season, but who knows. Marshall is a beast but does have his off the field issues. I doubt he ends up in New York, it really seems as if the Jets are content with their current receivers, time to step up Cotchery, Stuckey, Smith, Clowney, and Wright.

Get Leon Washington the Ball!

Dear Brian Schottenheimer:

I am aware you are considered a rising star in the NFL and have ambitions of being a head coach in the near future. However, in order to achieve that goal you must have a more successful season as an offensive coordinator this year, than you did last year. Fortunately, I have a good piece of advice for you. There is a player on your offense named Leon Washington, he is number #29 on your roster. He is the short guy, you see in the running back and kick returning drills. This guy is a pretty good football player and probably your best overall playmaker. He has break away speed and the ability to make defenders miss…both positive traits in an offensive player. It would be in your best interest to find a way to get the ball into Mr. Washington’s hands more frequently this year, than you did the previous season. Let’s take a look at some statistics to back up my claims:

Last year Washington had 76 carries for 448 yards. If you divide 448 by 76, you find that he averaged 5.9 yards per carry…that is really good. Imagine if he had 3 more carries each game last year, you would have had another 284 yards of rushing offense and a guy with over 700 rushing yards on the season. He also had 47 receptions for 355 yards. I know his yards per catch weren’t that amazing but because of his ability to break long gains, another 10 catches could have resulted in another 30 or 40 yard touchdown for your team.

Here is an amazing stat: When Washington had 3 or less carries, your team was 1-6 last year. Let me repeat that, when Leon Washington had 3 or less carries in 2008, the New York Jets were 1-6…One Win and Six Losses. The only time you won, was because Washington took the only carry you gave him and turned it into a 47 yard touchdown (against Buffalo week 15). The numbers don’t lie, Schotty.

Remember when your team shocked the NFL last year and upset the undefeated Titans in their building by blowing them out 34-13? Washington had 8 carries and 2 receptions…10 touches. Remember upsetting the Patriots in New England? Washington had 5 carries and 2 receptions, along with a kick return and receiving touchdown. Remember blowing out St. Louis by 44 points? Washington had 16 touches on offense in that game. When you guys won in Buffalo…9 offensive touches for #29. When you beat Cincy…9 touches. When you beat Arizona…11 touches. You get the point.

I’m sorry, I just get frustrated when I see Washington’s rushing stats against the Chiefs last year (3 carries for 67 yards a touchdown, 22.3 YPC) or New England (2 carries for 28 yards, 14.0 YPC) or the previously mentioned Buffalo game (1 carry for 47 yards and a touchdown, 47.0 YPC).

I know Thomas Jones is a good player and Shonn Greene is an exciting rookie. Yet, let’s not forget about #29 this year. Here is a good rule to remember…at least 10 offensive touches a game for Leon Washington. I think you can float the guy 7 carries and 3 catches each week, or divide it up however you want, maybe even give him more in some weeks…your the offensive coordinator.

Thank you for your time and the best of the luck in the upcoming season.

Yours Truly,

Joe Caporoso

Scouting the AFC East: Buffalo Bills

First a few updates:

1. In this week’s Sports Illustrated Tim Layden has a great feature on Rex Ryan and his rise to becoming a NFL head coach. I am hoping for the chance to interview Layden for the site, so keep a look out for that in the upcoming weeks.

2. Another day passed and even more rumors are circulating about the Jets not being interested in Plaxico Burress anymore. Most of the local media seems against the move, although as I said yesterday the veterans on the team seem to be in favor of it.

3. A late congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers for winning the NBA Finals…I still wish we could have saw Kobe/LeBron, especially after all those hilarious puppet commercials but oh well. Hopefully, LeBron will now be finding his way to my Knicks in 2010, along with Chris Bosh.

4. According to ESPN’s statistic guru KC Joyner, the Jets have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and a better unit than the team they share a stadium with, the New York Giants. I don’t know about Joyner’s stat system but I do know the Jets have a damn good offensive line and who cares if they are better than the Giants O’line?

Scouting the AFC East: Buffalo Bills

Along with the positional analysis articles, I am going to take a look at each of the AFC East teams in the next week and how the Jets stack up against them, starting today with the Buffalo Bills.

2008 Record: 7-9

2008 vs Jets: The Jets swept the Bills last year, beating them in Buffalo 26-17 and then winning in the Meadowlands on Shaun Ellis’ miracle fumble recovery, 31-27. Kris Jenkins absolutely dominated in the first game and Darrelle Revis shut down Lee Evans in both games last season (4 receptions 41 yards in week 9, and 4 receptions 22 yards in week 15). Trent Edwards threw two interceptions in the week 9 loss and was injured when the teams met in week 15. Marshawn Lynch gashed the Jets in week 15 for 127 yards. On the Jets side, Thomas Jones ran for 69 yards in week 9 and 78 yards in week 15. Leon Washington had 1 carry for 47 yards and a touchdown in week 15…cough, cough, get him the ball more. Jerricho Cotchery had 62 yards receiving in week 9 and had a touchdown in week 15.

2009 Additions: The biggest one was Terrell Owens, who will pair with Lee Evans to form one of the best receiving duos in the NFL. They also added running back Dominic Rhodes and lineman Seth McKinney. They had two first round selections, picking defensive end Aaron Maybin and center Eric Wood.

2009 Losses: They traded away pro-bowl lineman Jason Peters and released tight end Robert Royal. Marshawn Lynch is also suspended the first three games of the 2009 season.

Why the Jets Should be Worried: The Bills have a deep, talented receiving core. I already mentioned Owens and Evans but they also have Roscoe Parrish, Josh Reed and James Hardy…all quality players. If Trent Edwards can stay healthy, he will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. When Edwards has been on the field, he has been a pretty good player. Buffalo also has three very capable running backs in Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and Dominic Rhodes. On defense, they have a good front four led by Aaron Schobel and Marcus Stroud and playmakers in the secondary with Terrence McGree, Leodis McKelvin and Donte Whitner.

Why the Jets can handle Buffalo: The Bills have a suspect offensive line and showed no ability to block Kris Jenkins or the rest of the Jets pass rushers last year, as they totaled 8 sacks in 2 games. Darrelle Revis has Lee Evans’ number and has played well against TO in the past, also Lito Sheppard has had success against Owens in previous match-ups. The Jets were able to run the ball relatively well against the Bills last year, especially in short yardage situations. They should be confident after sweeping them last year and going on the road and beating them.

Prediction: The Bills have a ton of talent at the skill positions but some questions at offensive line, linebacker and most importantly head coach. I don’t think TO is good enough at this stage of his career to individually bump the Bills past the 7-9 level they have been the past 3 years and have no faith in Dick Jauron leading them to playoffs. I think Buffalo is a 8-8 to 9-7 team at best this year. In terms of the Jets. you can never expect a sweep of a AFC East opponent but I am confident the Jets will definitely take at least 1 from the Bills.

2009 Games: Week 6 at New York Jets 4:15 Kickoff, Week 13 at Buffalo, 8:20 PM Kickoff (Thursday Night Football)

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.

Five Underappreciated Jets

First a few updates:

1. Thomas Jones did show up for OTAs today…and that is all we know. He will have his chance to say his piece tomorrow to the media. Hopefully, it won’t be the third year in a row where an established veteran on the team is ripping the organization in the off-season. Pete Kendall put on his show two years ago, Chris Baker did his last year, and now Jones may be following their example.

2. The Jets claimed tight end Martrez Milner off waivers today from the New York Giants. Milner was a fourth round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. During that season, he made two starts and had 9 catches for 50 yards. He was inactive all of last year. They also released offensive lineman Kyle Link and tight end Rob Meyer,

3. There still hasn’t been any movement in the Leon Washington situation. I am going to be sick to my stomach if he skips mandatory sessions, which begin on June 9th. Washington is the Jets most dynamic playmaker on both offense and special teams.

Five Underappreciated Jets

It easy to talk about Darrelle Revis, Kris Jenkins, Leon Washington, or Thomas Jones. Everybody is well aware of how valuable they are to the team. However, there are plenty of players who don’t receive much press but were extremely important to the Jets in 2008 and who the team needs another big season from in 2009. Here are five in particular:

Tony Richardson

Everybody talks about Thomas Jones improving so much in 2008 because of the Jets revamped offensive line, but don’t sleep on the difference fullback Tony Richardson made. Despite his advanced age, Richardson remains a great blocking back, who vastly improved the Jets overall rushing attack, especially in short yardage. He also did a good job running the ball the few times his number was called, finishing with 65 yards on 10 carries.

Brandon Moore

The Jets least heralded offensive lineman but arguably their most consistent. Fortunately, the Jets came to their senses and did the right thing this off-season by re-signing Moore after originally letting him go. Moore is solid in both run and pass blocking, never gets hurt, and is the Jets longest tenured starter on the line. Alan Faneca may receive all the hype and accolades but Moore was every bit as good as him at Guard last year.

Shaun Ellis

For some reason alot of people were calling for the Jets to release Ellis this off-season, which makes no sense. Despite doing some stupid off the field things, Ellis is still coming off a 8 sack season as a 3-4 defensive end. He is talented enough to be an every down player and is a veteran leader on the defensive side of the ball.

Wallace Wright

You have to give some love to the special teams. Wallace Wright was an undrafted free agent who has carved out a nice role for himself on all of the Jets coverage and return units. Last year he recorded 22 tackles and always seems to make at least one key play a game on special teams. He has also done a pretty good job when asked to play receiver, espcially as a blocker.

Jay Feely

More special teams love…Feely came in for an injured Mike Nugent last year and did an excellent job, going 24/28 on FG’s. He hit two that were over 50 yards and handled his pressure kicks well, especially when he buried a 50+ yarder against Oakland to force overtime. The Jets were confident enough in Feely to let Nugent (a former second round pick) go this off-season.

Jets Need Improved Secondary to Step Up

First a few updates:

1. I am starting to get concerned about these new wedge rules on kickoff returns. Leon Washington has been a beast in Mike Westoff’s scheme, which now has to be altered because of the NFL’s decision.

2. Thomas Jones is supposed to show up at OTAs tomorrow and then will have his chance to discuss his contract with the media on Thursday. The real question now is when is Leon Washington going to show up?

3. The Cavs are winning tonight…both of these conference finals are going to 7 games.

Jets Need Improved Secondary to Step Up

Despite having a pro-bowl cornerback in Darrelle Revis and a very good safety in Kerry Rhodes, the Jets secondary struggled heavily last season. Teams routinely beat them by throwing the ball all over the field on their defense, part of the problem was a weak pass rush that fell off late in the year but more of the problem was the coverage.

In an effort to improve their secondary, the Jets traded for corner Lito Sheppard, who is a former pro-bowler that is coming off a difficult season where he was knocked out of the starting line-up in Philadelphia by a high priced acquisition in Asante Samuel. Jim Leonhard was also signed from Baltimore to start alongside Kerry Rhodes at safety, and finally veteran Donald Strickland was added to play nickel-back.

The newly constructed secondary will face a difficult schedule in 2009. They will have to match up against Randy Moss and Wes Welker twice, Terrell Owens and Lee Evans twice, and Ted Ginn Jr and Devon Bess twice (just kidding). Beyond that, the Jets face superstars like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Steve Smith, and Andre Johnson this season. Teams are going to test the Jets secondary early and often to see whether the new acquisitions have made a difference.

Darrelle Revis is as good as it gets at one cornerback spot. He is a top five player in the league at his position (regardless of what Sporting News says, Cortland Finnegan and Nate Clements? I don’t think so) and has the ability to lock down his side of the field. The real pressure at corner is on Lito Sheppard to handle the increased number of balls that will be thrown his way. Sheppard was a pro-bowl player in both 2004 and 2006, but has struggled recently with injuries. If Sheppard can return to his 2006 form when he had 19 passes defensed and 6 interceptions, the Jets will be good in shape.

Donald Strickland has looked good so far in mini-camp and will compete for reps with second year player Dwight Lowery, who began 2008 very strongly but tailed off as the year went on. Strickland has been a good nickel back throughout his career and is a reliable player if Lowery can’t return to his early 2008 form. Hopefully, Lowery can continue to develop into a quality NFL corner and provide good reps in both the nickel and dime package. Another corner to keep an eye on is Ahmad Carroll. A former first round pick, Carroll was re-signed because of his special teams ability but has great natural talent and has played well on defense so far in OTAs. Maybe Rex Ryan can find a role for him on the Jets defense in 2009.

At safety, Jim Leonhard is coming off a breakout year in Baltimore. He is comfortable in Rex Ryan’s system and the Jets are hoping he will provide Kerry Rhodes with the freedom to roam around and make plays. Leonhard worked well with pro-bowl safety Ed Reed on the Ravens, so there is a hope he will help return Rhodes to his 2006 form. He will provide better range in pass coverage than Abram Elam, which should make it harder for teams to throw on the Jets. Eric Smith provides decent depth at safety because he has a good amount of playing experience. Beyond him, the Jets don’t have anybody else with experience as a backup.

Teams will be attacking Sheppard and Leonhard often. Both players have plenty to prove. Sheppard needs to show he can bounce back from 2 sub par seasons on the Eagles and Leonhard needs to show he can handle being a full time starter for an entire season. In terms of the incumbents, Revis just needs to keep doing what he’s been doing and Rhodes need to find a way to play at his 2006 level. Hopefully, a 2008 weakness can turn into a 2009 strength for the Jets defense.