Grading Out The Jets/Jaguars Game

Jaguars Jets Football

First a few updates:

1. Jim Leonhard is getting surgery on his thumb and it remains to be seen how long he will be out, when it rains, it pours. I would assume Eric Smith would step into the starting line-up at safety if he misses any time and Darrelle Revis will continue on punt returns.

2. I watched every snap of the Colts/Pats game last night after watching every snap of the Jets/Jags game, and the Jets are miles upon miles behind both of those teams. I know New England was without Wes Welker and Jerrod Mayo the last time they met and Brady was still rusty but after watching both those games I still don’t understand how the Jets won in week two. Also, while on the topic on the game last night what in the world was Bill Belichick thinking when he went for it? I don’t care how many Super Bowl bowls he has won and maybe he did it just because he thought “What the hell, I already have the division wrapped up this year, I am already a hall of famer, why not” but wow that was a stupid coaching decision.

3. Braylon Edwards is about the only guy who made any sense in the Jets locker room after the game with these quotes, “We’re 4-5. We’re not impressive, We’re not scaring anybody. We’re not intimidating anybody coming onto the field, so that 3-0 start is a wash, that’s over with.” Damn right.’

4. Rex Ryan refused to throw Kerry Rhodes under the bus for the back breaking Mercedes Lewis reception in the fourth quarter, the story is that there was a miscommunication between him and Jim Leonhard…whatever, Rhodes has still been below average this year.

5. I updated the stats and game highlights section.

Grading Out The Jets/Jaguars Game

Quarterbacks: (F) I give Sanchez a C- for his on field performance, which included a poorly under thrown interception and another terrible interception on a screen pass. Sanchez played well in spurts and avoided any sacks but I lower his grade to a F because of his post-game press conference. He is a 23 year old quarterback who has 12 interceptions and 9 touchdowns, leading a below .500 team…simply put he sounded foolish and immature after the game carrying on about how awesome everybody played and how proud he was for rebounding from an early mental error. Who brings notes to a post game press conference? It isn’t a good idea to take on the New York media especially when you aren’t winning.

Running Backs: (B-) Thomas Jones was good, not great. Shonn Greene was quiet except for his big time run on a fourth quarter fourth down conversion. The Jets never broke any big plays in the running game, which is where they are clearly missing Leon Washington.

Wide Receivers: (B-) Jerricho Cotchery played a very good all around game and looks to be fully recovered from his hamstring injury. Braylon Edwards is clearly a unique talent and made a real gutsy third down reception on the Jets go ahead touchdown drive. However, he needs to hold on to that two point conversion and he has to tuck the ball away. David Clowney had a clutch third down reception.

Tight Ends: (B) Dustin Keller was involved in both the passing and rushing attack, although he did record a drop. It is always a good thing when Ben Hartsock plays and doesn’t record a penalty.

Offensive Line: (B) A pretty good day running the football and they kept Sanchez on his feet for most of the day. D’Brickashaw Ferguson had a killer holding penalty.

Defensive Line: (D) For the first time since he went down, the Jets clearly missed Kris Jenkins. They seemed to be getting a good push on the pass rush but were unable to bring David Garrard down and missed plenty of tackles in the backfield on Maurice Jones-Drew.

Linebackers: (D) Too many missed tackles and not enough big plays. Bryan Thomas is starting to become invisible out there.

Jaguars Jets FootballSecondary: (C) Lito Sheppard missed another key tackle that led to a touchdown. Dwight Lowery struggled more than usual. Darrelle Revis and Jim Leonhard put together very good games. Kerry Rhodes continued his 2009 streak of making zero impact plays.

Special Teams: (B+) A good day at the office for Jay Feely and the Jets coverage units. It appears Brad Smith and Dwight Lowery will be taking over as the kick returners now.

Coaching: (D) The team came out flat and they mismanaged time outs. Sorry for the brevity of the grades today but it is starting to make me physically sick to spend time talking/writing about this team.

And Yet Another Loss

Jets Training Camp Wrap Up: August 3rd

Jets Training Camp Wrap Up: August 3rd

Story of the Day: Brawling…the Jets had three fights today in practice, one between Thomas Jones and James Ihedigbo, another between Howard Green and Brock Christopher (a backup FB), and finally one between Ahmad Carroll and Nevin McCaskill. Rex Ryan likes the aggressive attitude on the field and most of the players seem to agree with their coach about the intense competition level being a good thing. Training camp fights are going to happen and as long it isn’t the same guys getting into it every single day or nobody gets hurt, it is not a bad thing. It is amazing how blatantly different this team’s mentality so clearly is, only a few days into camp. I don’t know how good the Jets are going to be this year, but I am confident they are going to at least be fun to watch.

Quarterback Daily News: Kellen Clemens had a very sharp overall day with the first offense but continued his disturbing tradition of ending a great drive with an interception. This time it was Darrelle Revis who picked one off and by all accounts would have taken it back to the house. Six interceptions in six practices isn’t good, period. Without those INT’s, Clemens would be way, way ahead in this battle so far. Mark Sanchez hasn’t been given enough reps yet with the first unit to put up a fight. The rookie has been pretty good, but needs a strong pre-season to win the job. This Thursday is a big night in the QB battle, when the Jets have their “Green and White Scrimmage,” if Sanchez can outplay Clemens there, he will likely receive a substantial bump in his first team reps.

Receiver Daily News: Chansi Stuckey has easily been the second best wide receiver behind Jerricho Cotchery thus far. Yet, the Jets love him in the slot, which could lead to extended reps for Brad Smith and Wallace Wright at split end. Yes, I mentioned Wright before I mentioned David Clowney who is still struggling with drops. Brian Schottenheimer talked on 1050 ESPN Radio today, and he mentioned Wright a few times and didn’t say much of anything about Clowney. Smith has had a pretty good camp, which is usual for him. He is built like a split end and needs to step up to allow Stuckey to do his thing in the slot.

A Word on Running Back Contracts: It really seems like Thomas Jones has accepted he isn’t getting a new contract and is ready to simply go to work this year, a rare occurrence in the NFL. Jones has enough money to stage a holdout but maybe realized the Jets had all the leverage because of also having Leon Washington and Shonn Green at running back. Also, Jones is a 30+ year old running back, who agreed to sign a front-loaded contract. Washington is having a terrific camp despite being openly unhappy about his deal. Negotiations have hit a bump but hopefully something will get worked out, because the guy deserves a raise.

Offensive MVP’s Thus Far: Dustin Keller, the previously mentioned Washington, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson whoRyan was raving about today. Keller is going to catch a ton of balls this season and Washington has been all over the place on offense. D’Brick is a predicting a pro-bowl appearance for himself this season.

Lockdown: Darrelle Revis just keeps getting better and isn’t going to see alot of balls thrown his way if opposing offenses are smart, memo to Kellen Clemens…stop throwing at #24. It is also encouraging that Dwight Lowery is having such a good camp, because it improves the Jets overall depth and will push Lito Sheppard to play better. The secondary has looked great overall, which likely a combination of their overall talent but also because of the inexperienced Jets WR core.

Love Affair: Rex Ryan can’t say enough about rookie UDFA inside linebacker, Jamaal Westerman who has been thriving in the Jets system since the day he stepped on the field. Marques Murrell is also having a strong camp. Vernon Gholston? I don’t know, I feel like I hear alot more about these other two lesser known linebackers making plays. There are also players questioning Gholston’s fire and passion for the game, which is never a good thing.

Transactions: The Richard Owens era is over at tight end, the Jets dropped the journeyman rookie today and signed Rutgers UDFA Kevin Brock to replace him. Tight end is a major issue for the Jets right now. Jack Simmons (who I of course, jinxed by talking him so much before camp) is struggling with drops and penalties and Kareem Brown has been invisible.

What I Hope For Tomorrow: No interceptions from Kellen Clemens. First team reps for Mark Sanchez. David Clowney catching a few long balls. A Vernon Gholston sighting.

Tomorrow’s Schedule: Two practices – 8:15 AM and 4 PM.

Jets Training Camp: Five Under the Radar Players to Watch

First a few updates:

1. Daily running back contract updates – It is apparently now 50-50 that Leon Washington will have a new deal in place before training camp starts on Friday. Washington’s agent is meeting face to face with Mike Tannenbaum tomorrow, hopefully to iron out the final details of the contract. The Jets aren’t planning on making any new offers to Thomas Jones and there hasn’t been any news about him planning to hold out, so I guess we’ll just have to see what happens on Friday.

2. TV Discussion of the Day – I was a big fan of the third episode of Entourage, much better than the first two. Funny cameo by 50 Cent and some progress in the plot line.

Jets Training Camp: Five Under the Radar Players to Watch

Anybody can watch out for Mark Sanchez and other high profile players, but here are some lesser known players to keep an eye on during Jets training camp.

1. Jamaal Westerman – Linebacker

The Jets signed the former Rutgers defensive end to a free agent contract immediately after the draft. Westerman stood out in both OTA’s and mini-camp impressing the coaching staff with his versatility and ability to learn both outside and inside linebacker. Rex Ryan said Westerman will begin camp at inside backer but he should still receive some work at outside, especially with Calvin Pace suspended. The backup positions at linebacker are wide open and from the way Ryan has praised Westerman’s early work, the UDFA should have a good shot at grabbing one of the Jets 53 spots.

2. Mario Urrutia – Wide Receiver

Urrutia has something no other Jets receiver has, height. He stands at 6’6 and weighs 232 pounds. The Jets receiver position is wide open after Jerricho Cotchery, giving a little known player like Urrutia a chance to battle for a roster spot. He had a huge freshman and sophomore year at Louisville before having a let down junior year and then becoming a 7th round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008. They cut him after the season and the Jets picked him up, hoping he could develop into a red-zone threat. You can’t teach height and Urrutia displayed a ton of talent in his first two seasons at Lousville, maybe the Jets found a diamond in the rough to help their thin receiver core.

3. Jack Simmons – Tight End

Simmons is the only Jets tight end on the roster except for Dustin Keller, who played the position last season giving him a potential edge in the battle for the #2 tight end spot. He was a three year starter at Minnesota and caught 34 passes for 331 yards and 2 TD’s last year. Simmons was impressive in mini-camp, showing good hands and an ability to block, something the Jets desperately need at the tight end position. After Keller, it is wide open for the #2 and #3 tight spot, giving Simmons a great chance to be on the active roster despite being a rookie UDFA.

4. Ropati Pitoitua – Defensive End

After spending last season on the practice squad, Pitoitua could have a chance to work himself into the defensive end rotation in 2009. He has great size at 6’8, 310 pounds and the Jets are thin at his position, with inexperienced players behind starters in Shaun Ellis and Marques Douglas. If Pitoitua has a strong pre-season, he could end up on the active roster and be a part of the Jets long term defensive line plans.

5. Ahmad Carroll – Cornerback/Safety

Carroll is a former first round pick who was just about out of the NFL until the Jets took a shot on him last season. He responded by becoming one of their better special teams players, providing speed on their coverage units. The word out of the OTA’s was that Carroll looked good in his defensive back drills and Rex Ryan’s aggressive man to man scheme plays to his athletic strengths that made him a first round pick. Carroll could be a surprise contender for the nickel-back role or a spot in the Jets dime packages. The Jets are also a little thin at safety after Rhodes, Leonhard, and Eric Smith and Carroll has the size to potentially move over and play both corner and safety.

Jets Highlight of the Day: Thomas Jones may not be getting a new contract, but he is getting a highlight today on TurnOnTheJets.com (Turn off the music, if you don’t want to hear explicit lyrics)

Jets Positional Analysis: Cornerbacks

First a few updates:

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

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

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

Jets Positional Analysis: Cornerbacks

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

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

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

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

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

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

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

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

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

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

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

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

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

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

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

Chance of Making Roster: 90%

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

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

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

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

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

Chance of Making Roster: 90%

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

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

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

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

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

Chance of Making Roster: 40-50%

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

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

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

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

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

Chance of Making Roster: 50-60%

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

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

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

The Rest of the Guys

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

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

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

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 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.

Swaggalicious: Jets Defense Must Lead Way in 2009

First a few updates about the site:

1. Across the top of the site, you’ll notice I have a 2009 depth chart, which I will try to keep as updated as possible. I last updated it yesterday with where the Jets stand coming out of their rookie mini-camp. You’ll also notice that whomever is at the top of the depth chart at their respective position has the distinct honor of having their picture up under their position name.

2. I also have the 2009 schedule, with one of my favorite pictures of all time on top. Hopefully, we will be seeing something similar against New England both times this year.

3. There is an off-season additions page, with a listing and photos of all the major players the Jets acquired this off-season through free agency, trades, and the draft.

4. Finally, there is an About the Author Page, which just has a little more information about myself, nothing too exciting.

Swaggalicious: Jets Defense Must Lead Way in 2009

When being interviewed at the Jets recent non mandatory mini-camp, “Swaggalicious” was the word Bart Scott used to describe the way he envisions his defense playing this year. Scott knows that Head Coach Rex Ryan wants to win with an aggressive, stingy defense leading the way, supported by a solid running game and a quarterback who protects the football. The Jets were already a very good defensive team in 2008, but a few off-season additions have many thinking they could have one of the top units in the NFL this upcoming year.

Starting at the top, Rex Ryan and newly hired defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will advocate more of an attacking scheme that puts more people in the box and more pressure on the quarterback. Too many times last year, the Jets were a “reactive” defense, sitting back and waiting to adjust to whatever game-plan the offense came out with. Ryan isn’t going to do that, he is going to force offenses to adjust to a wide variety of looks and blitzes, and also hopefully be better at in-game adjustments than his predecessor.

The Jets defensive line is probably their weakest unit on this side of the ball. Kris Jenkins is a beast at nose tackle but needs to be properly rested or he will wear down at the end of the year. Sione Pouha and Howard Green need to step up and provide quality reps off the bench or Jenkins is going to fade during the stretch  run. At defensive end, Shaun Ellis is a solid veteran who should be good for 7-9 sacks. On the other side, Marques Douglas and Mike DeVito will be asked to split reps. Neither is really built to be a full time player, but hopefully they can combine to form a decent duo opposite Ellis. Kareem Brown is a decent depth player, but the Jets could really use another player in their d-line rotation.

The Jets should be rock solid at inside linebacker with Bart Scott and David Harris. Scott will be looked on to be the vocal leader of the defense, as an experienced pro-bowler in Ryan’s scheme. Harris is coming off an injury plagued year, but if he can return to his rookie form from 2007, he has the potential to be a pro-bowler himself. At outside linebacker, Calvin Pace is a very good all around player who will hopefully be given more of a chance to rush the passer this year. Eric Mangini had Pace dropping into coverage way too often last year, when his real strength is going after the quarterback. Bryan Thomas will start out at the other spot, but all eyes will be on 2008 first round pick Vernon Gholston, who was a complete bust in his rookie year. If Ryan can get Gholston to reach his potential, the Jets will gaining a valuable pass rushing weapon. The back-up spots at both inside and outside are wide open, although Marques Murrell and Jason Trunsick have shown potential and should get roster spots. Larry Izzo will make the roster as a special teamer and provide depth at the inside position.

The Jets secondary made a habit of getting beat like a drum last season. They addressed this weakness by trading for former pro-bowler Lito Sheppard at cornerback, signing Jim Leonhard to play safety, and adding Donald Strickland to play nickel-back. Darrelle Revis is one of the best corners in the league, and if Sheppard can stay healthy opposite him, the Jets will have one of the best duos in the NFL. Kerry Rhodes is coming off a down year, but many blame Eric Mangini’s scheme for his lack of big plays in 2008. Leonhard should provide a good complement to him, and help the adjustment to Ryan’s scheme as one of his former players. Strickland and second year player Dwight Lowery will battle for reps at corner behind Revis and Sheppard, Lowery showed great potential last year but struggled down the stretch. Strickland is a solid veteran, who is expected to get most of the reps as the #3 corner. Cornerback Ahmad Carroll was re-signed for special teams purposes, but is a former first round pick who may be able to find some reps on defense. Eric Smith is the top backup at safety and does have starting experience from last year.

On paper, the Jets have the ability to have one of the league’s best defenses. Jenkins, Revis, Ellis, Sheppard, and Scott are all former pro-bowlers and Ryan is considered one of the NFL’s brightest defensive minds. There are obviously a few variables that need to break the Jets way for them to reach their full defensive potential but we will look at those tomorrow.