Scouting the AFC East: Miami Dolphins

First a few updates:

1. There has been a good amount of talk about kicker Jay Feely’s recent comments on Sean Hannity’s show, where he expressed a lack of confidence in President Obama and said he “scares him.” Honestly, the guy is entitled to his opinion, even though I and many people disagree with the things he said. I write about sports here, so the only coverage Jay Feely will get is if he makes or misses field goals.

2. I can’t get enough of those Most Valuable Puppet Commercials with LeBron and Kobe, they just released like 4 new ones…hysterical.

3. Eric Allen wrote an interesting article on www.newyorkjets.com about Chansi Stuckey spending his free time working out with former NFL receiver Terrence Mathis. Stuckey is looking like the starter opposite Jerricho Cotchery as of right now, hopefully he can pick up a thing or two from Mathis who was a successful receiver in Atlanta, not as much with the Jets.

Scouting the AFC East: Miami Dolphins

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, ending today with the Miami Dolphins

2008 Record: 11-5

2008 vs. Jets: The Jets and Dolphins split their games last year, with each team winning on the road. In week 1, the Jets won in Miami 20-14 thanks to two touchdown passes from Brett Favre, including a miracle pass on a fourth down to Chansi Stuckey. In that game, Jerricho Cotchery also caught a 56 yard touchdown and Thomas Jones pounded the Dolphins defense for 101 yards on 22 carries, with a touchdown himself. Chad Pennington threw for 251 yards in his Miami opener but was picked off by Darrelle Revis to end the game. Revis completely shut down Ted Ginn Jr. in week one, holding him to 2 receptions for 17 yards. Bryan Thomas had 2 sacks in week one (yes, that Bryan Thomas). In week 17, the Dolphins won in the Meadowlands to clinch the AFC East (owch, it still hurts). Favre killed the Jets with 3 INT’s. Leon Washington played well with 10 carries for 60 yards and a TD. Chansi Stuckey had a nice game also with 4 catches for 50 yards. Pennington threw for 200 yards and 2 TDs and Ted Ginn Jr burned the Jets for a 44 yard gain and 27 yard touchdown.

2009 Additions: They added Gibril Wilson at safety and signed corner Eric Green to boost their secondary. Also, they signed center Jake Grove and guard Joe Berger for their offensive line. Miami also brought twinkle toes aka Jason Taylor (see TOJ Hall of Shame) back, who will hopefully be more focused on Neutrogena commercials instead of sacking Mark Sanchez. Their first round pick was corner Vontae Davis. In the second round they picked quarterback/receiver Pat White, who should fit nicely into the Wildcat. They also drafted Mark Sanchez’s favorite target last year, wide receiver Patrick Turner.

2009 Losses: They released the immortal John Beck and traded center Samson Satele to the Raiders. Safety Renaldo Hill and corner Andre Goodman also left via free agency to Denver.

Why the Jets Should Be Worried: Miami was the division champs last year and did beat the Jets in their own building. Their secondary should be improved with the additions of Wilson, Green, and Davis. On offense, they are returning all their skill position players for another year in the Wildcat and their draft picks White and Turner should make their offense harder to deal with. Joey Porter and Jason Taylor are going to be difficult to handle coming off the edges and Phillip Merling is a talented, young player on their defensive line. Tony Sparano is a good coach and Bill Parcells obviously knows what he is doing in the front office.

Why the Jets Can Handle Miami: Rex Ryan looked awfully good coaching defense against the Dolphins last year. Chad Pennington and the rest of the Dolphins offense were overwhelmed by Ryan’s scheme. Obviously the Ravens also had a ton of talent on defense, but so do the Jets this year. Their secondary still has question marks, despite their new additions. Their wide receivers aren’t very good, and they lack a number one. I love Chad Pennington (see TOJ Hall of Fame), but when is the last time he put two really good, healthy seasons together in back to back years? I can tell you the answer…it is never.

Prediction: The 2008 Dolphins reminded me of the 2006 New York Jets. They took advantage of an easy schedule, used a gimmicky offense led by Chad Pennington, and played solid defense to surprise everybody by making the playoffs. I think the 2009 Dolphins will be similar to the 2007 Jets to an extent. They won’t be 4-12, I know that but teams are going to catch on to the wildcat and will be all over that playoff tape on how to rattle Pennington and their schedule is much harder. They aren’t sneaking up anybody this year. I think they will be a 7-9 to 9-7 team. In terms of the Jets, I always expect a split but then I thought about it, before last year’s week 17 loss the Jets had beat Miami 5 times in a row and 8 of their last 9. I am calling for the Jets sweep this year.

2009 Games: Week 5 At Miami, 8:30 PM Kickoff (Monday Night Football aka Crowder vs Ryan Round 1), Week 8 at New York Jets, 1 PM Kickoff.

Jets Positional Analysis: Running Back

First a few updates:

1. I’m already tired of hearing about Brett Favre and he hasn’t even officially signed with the Vikings yet.

2. There hasn’t been any news about Thomas Jones and Leon Washington’s ongoing contract negoitations and  I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing. All I know is that training camp starts in 5 weeks and they both better be there since they are the Jets two best skill position players. You have had a good off-season Mike Tannenbaum, don’t ruin it now by not working something out with your two pro-bowl running backs.

3. I am really getting a kick out of all the controversy Eric Mangini is causing in Cleveland. A 10 hour mandatory bus ride for rookies? Not allowing coaches to wear sun glasses? Painting over a mural of famous Cleveland players? It sounds like they hate him over there. Honestly, I supported Mangini through his time here and thought he took the fall for Brett Favre. I did hate his press conferences but I thought he had a good football mind, but Cleveland seems destined for a 5 win season this year so you have to wonder how long he will last out there. His approach is only tolerable when your team is winning games.

4. You will have to excuse the lack of pictures in this article, I am having some technical issues with storage space that should be sorted out soon.

Jets Positional Analysis: Running Back

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

1. Thomas Jones #20, Last Season: 290 carries, 1,312 yards, 13 rushing touchdowns. 36 receptions, 207 yards, 2 receiving touchdowns.

History: After a disappointing 2007 season, Jones took advantage of a revamped offensive line to have a career year in 2008. He was a workhorse for the Jets last season and showed an ability to get tough yards in crucial situations, along with the versatility to be an important part of the passing game. He sat out of voluntary activities this off-season and is ignoring the media at mandatory practices in protest of his current contract. The dispute is still ongoing, although Jones is expected at training camp.

Chance of Making Roster: 100% (If Not Traded)

Best Case Scenario for 2009: The Jets work out some type of deal to keep Jones happy and he produces at a similar level to the 2008 season. If Rex Ryan wants to win his way, he needs a healthy and focused Thomas Jones pounding on opposing defenses.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: The contract dispute gets ugly and Jones is traded away for a late round draft pick.

Prediction: Something is worked out to keep Jones in New York for 2009. He has another good year, but not quite to the level of 2008 due to increased role for Leon Washington and the selection of Shonn Greene. He finishes with 1100-1200 yards with 7-10 touchdowns.

2. Leon Washington #29, Last Season: 76 carries for 448 yards, 6 rushing touchdowns. 47 receptions for 355 yards, 2 receiving touchdowns.

History: Washington remained the Jets top playmaker in 2008, building on a very good 2007 season. He made the pro-bowl as a kick returner on top of his offensive production. He ripped off long touchdowns against Buffalo, Kansas City, New England, and Tennessee last season displaying his ability to score at any time. He is also currently unhappy with his contract but did appear at voluntary workouts and is talking to the media. Hopefully, the Jets can work out a long term deal with him.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Washington receives a long term deal. He is given more touches on offense leading to more big plays for the Jets, while remaining a pro-bowl caliber kick returner.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: The contract dispute turns ugly, leading to Washington missing a large portion of training camp and potentially even a game or two, damaging the development of the Jets young offense.

Prediction: The Jets give Washington his long term extension, they’d be stupid not to. He receives more carries and receptions on offense, as the Jets run the ball even more than they did last season and he steps up to help fill the void left by Laveranues Coles and Chris Baker.

3. Shonn Greene #23, Rookie: Drafted in the Third Round

History: The Jets traded away multiple picks to move up to the top of third round to get Greene, showing how highly they think of him. Greene was the 2008 Doak Walker Award Winner at Iowa, given to the best running back in the nation.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He develops a role on the Jets offense as a short yardage/goal-line back and learns behind Thomas Jones. Greene finds a way to get 5-8 touches a game and helps wear defenses down in the fourth quarter. After Thomas Jones leaves next year, he is ready to step up and split carries with Leon Washington.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Greene either gets hurt or struggles so much in camp that he can’t stay on the active roster.

Prediction: Greene will be on the active roster and get a few touches a game on offense. Although I think it will be hard to get him ball after already dividing carries between Jones and Washington. It is going to be hard to take carries away from Jones in short yardage situations after the success he had last year.

4. Tony Richardson #49 (Starting Fullback), Last Season: 10 carries for 65 yards, 1 Reception for 4 yards. Many, Many Men blocked.

History: Richardson is a pro-bowl caliber fullback and made a big difference in the Jets short yardage game last season. It was a great move by the Jets bringing him back this season, anybody who watches them play knows how valuable he is to their offense.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He stays healthy and keeps blocking the way he always has.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He gets hurt and the Jets short yardage problems surface again.

Prediction: I got faith in T-Rich to do the job he always has throughout his career.

5. Danny Woodhead #22, Last Season: Injured

History: Woodhead was a dominant player in Division II during his college career. He received alot of work this off-season with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington skipping practices. Despite a lack of size, he has great speed and ran tough in OTA’s. He was having a good training camp last year before hurting his foot and going on IR.

Chance of Making Roster: 50%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Woodhead makes the roster by carving out a role on special teams and flashing enough big play ability on offense to merit some occasional touches. His biggest problem is that the Jets have a guy named Leon Washington who does what he does, except much better. Unless Washington or Jones gets hurt, he isn’t going to see many touches this season if he makes the team.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He struggles in training camp and is cut.

Prediction: I think he ends up on the practice squad. His best chance of making the active roster is by finding a role on special teams, which could be hard with guys like Wallace Wright and Brad Smith taking spots he would probably excel at.

6. Jehuu Caulcrick #39, Last Season: Practice Squad

History: The Jets picked him up as a UDFA last year. He stayed on the practice squad all season. Caulcrick has good size and has been used as combo FB/RB. A few people have compared him to Le’Ron McClain when talking about him. I’m sure if Rex Ryan sees that, he will find a way to keep Caulcrick around until T-Rich retires or Jones moves on.

Chance of Making Roster: 50%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He makes the roster as a special teams player and finds a way to contribute in short yardage situations. He proves he could be an adequate replacement for Tony Richardson when he retires.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He gets cut.

Prediction: I think he has a better chance of making the roster than Woodhead. If the Jets keep 5 running backs, I think he’ll be the 5th.

Overall Position Analysis: Jones, Washington, Richardson, and Greene are all locks to make the roster with Woodhead and Caulcrick battling for a potential fifth spot, that may or may not be there. I know I may sound a little too optimistic about Jones and Washington’s contract negoiations but I just don’t see the Jets being dumb enough not to have both those guys back and happy this year after the seasons they had in 2008.

Scouting the AFC East: New England Patriots

First a few updates:

1. I decided to double post, because I had a good weekend and I feel bad about not posting on Friday or Saturday which is a bad job by me. All of these graduation parties are killing me.

2. Losing 2 out of 3 to the Nationals and Marlins…terrible job by the Yankees, just terrible.

Scouting the AFC East: New England Patriots

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, continuing today with the New England Patriots.

2008 Record: 11-5

2008 vs. Jets: The Jets and Patriots split last year, with both teams winning their road games. New England beat the Jets at the Meadowlands 19-10 in week 2 and then the Jets won an OT thriller in New England 34-31 in week 11. In their first meeting, Wes Welker had 7 catches 72 yards, while Randy Moss was quiet with 2 catches for 22 yards (credit Darrelle Revis). Thomas Jones was solid in week 2 with 70 yards on 17 carries, while Leon Washington only had 2 carries despite gaining 28 yards. The Jets sacked Matt Cassell four times in their September meeting, while New England got to Brett Favre twice. In week 11, Thomas Jones had 104 yards on 30 carries with a touchdown. Leon Washington scored two touchdowns, one receiving and one on a kick return. Jerricho Cotchery had a big night, with 5 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. Welker had 7 catches for 108 yards and Randy Moss had 3 catches for 26 yards, although he had the game tying touchdown as time expired in regulation.

2009 Additions: On offense they added declining veterans Fred Taylor, Joey Galloway, and Greg Lewis. They also added tight ends Chris Baker and Alex Smith. On defense, they acquired cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs and signed linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. In the draft, their highest selection was safety Patrick Chung in the second round, they also selected cornerback Darius Butler in the second round and receiver Brandon Tate in the third round.

2009 Losses: Cheap shot artist Rodney Harrison retired. Matt Cassell and Mike Vrabel joined the Chiefs. Ellis Hobbs was traded to Philadelphia. Receivers Jabar Gaffney and Kelly Washington left in free agency. Linebackers Roosevelt Colvin and Junior Seau also are gone.

Why the Jets Should Be Worried: New England is probably the team to beat in the division as of right now. If Tom Brady is back to his normal self, he is the best quarterback in the NFL. Randy Moss and Wes Welker are the best starting duo of receivers in the league. The Patriots offensive line is always very good and they have a deep group of versatile running backs. Bill Bellicheck will always have his team ready to go with a creative scheme. Their front seven will be difficult to deal with. The Jets haven’t beaten New England at home since 2000.

Why the Jets Can Handle New England: The Patriots have a suspect secondary and are generally starting to get old on defense. Tom Brady is coming off major knee surgery and it remains to be seen whether he will be his old self. They are counting on declining veterans Joey Galloway, Fred Taylor, and Greg Lewis to be major contributors on offense. The Jets have won in New England two of the past three years and outside of the home opener in 2007, have been in every game with them the past few years. They did a good job running the ball on them last season and did a decent job at getting to the quarterback.

Prediction: The Patriots should have one of the best offenses in the league and will always have a good defense with Bellicheck calling the shots. I think the Pats will be a double digit victory team again in 2009 but won’t run away with the division as some people are predicting. I can see them being anywhere from 10-6 to 12-4. In terms of the Jets, I think it is reasonable to believe the Jets can manage a split against them this season and they will need to if they have any hopes of winning the division.

2009 Games: Week 2 at New York Jets, 1 PM Kickoff. Week 11 at New England, 4:15 PM Kickoff.

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.

Can Jerricho Cotchery Be a #1 Receiver?

First a few updates:

1. Kerry Rhodes made the media rounds today, appearing on ESPN Radio and First Take. He spent most of the time talking about the hard time everybody is giving Mark Sanchez over his GQ photo shoot. Rhodes also said the Jets “will go as far as their defense takes them” and that their defense is currently ahead of their offense (I’m sure Brian Schottenheimer was thrilled to hear that).

2. There are no updates on the Thomas Jones/Leon Washington contract disputes. You would hope that both players will be at practice by next Thursday, which is the next time the media has availibility for an OTA practice.

3. Some more numbers out of yesterday’s practice: Sanchez was 1-9 during 11 on 11 drills…yikes. Kellen Clemens was 5-13 but victimized by a few drops.

4. Pro Football Talk recently did an over/under for Jets wins this season and set their line at 7…fair enough without a proven quarterback. Tim Graham of ESPN.com also ranked the Jets wide receivers, as the worst group in the AFC East, which is hard to argue with although I may put them in front of Miami.

Can Jerricho Cotchery Be a #1 Receiver?

For the first time in his career, Jerricho Cotchery will be asked to be the Jets unquestioned go-to wide receiver. Since 2006, he has been in a 1-A/1-B type role with Laveranues Coles but with Coles now in Cincinnati and no replacement brought in via the draft or free agency, Cotchery is the Jets #1. Can he handle the increased responsibility and attention that comes with being a #1? The Jets are counting on Cotchery to take the next step as a player, and move beyond his production from the previous three years.

In 2006, Cotchery had a breakout year with 82 catches for 961 yards and 6 touchdowns. He displayed an impressive ability to run after the catch and made numerous clutch receptions, especially in the red-zone. In 2007, most people believed he would surpass Coles as the Jets clear number one receiver and potentially jump up to a pro-bowl level. He moved up from 961 yards to 1130, despite having the same amount of receptions but had a disappointing 2 touchdowns (including a garbage time hail mary against Cincinnati).

Coles spent large parts of the 2007 injured (Cotchery also missed one game), giving Cotchery the opportunity to be the Jets unquestioned #1 guy. Here is Cotchery’s production in games without Coles during 2007:

Week 9 vs. Washington: 5 Receptions, 90 Yards, 1 Lost Fumble.

Week 11 vs. Pittsburgh (Coles only played the opening series): 1 Reception, 5 Yards.

Week 12 at Dallas: 2 Receptions, 43 Yards.

Week 15 at New England: 6 Receptions, 53 Yards.

Week 16 at Tennessee: 8 Receptions, 152 Yards, 1 Touchdown.

Week 17 vs. Kansas City: 8 Receptions, 76 Yards.

In 2008, Cotchery was a mild disappointment. Most people expected a huge year from him with Brett Favre behind center, but Cotchery never could string together a few big games. He finished with 71 catches for 858 yards and 5 touchdowns, regressing to below his 2006 production. Some of the blame belongs on Brett Favre for being innaccurate and turning the ball over, and some goes on Brian Schottenheimer for being so consevative, but regardless Cotchery should have produced more last year.

There are defintley encouraging trends from 2007 for Cotchery being a number one receiver. In those games without Coles, he was paired with Brad Smith and Justin McCariens. For 2009, Smith is somewhat improved since then and I’d take Chansi Stuckey over McCariens in a heartbeat, and David Clowney is also now in the mix. Cotchery struggled initially with the increased attention, especially against Dallas and Pittsburgh but finished the year strong as a #1 receiver. He had a monster game in Tennessee, and had good overall efforts against New England and Kansas City.

The Jets are going to need Cotchery to be a 90 catch/1200 yard/6-8 touchdown guy for them this season. He has shown flashes of being that type of receiver, most notably in 2006 in all three games against the Patriots, in 2007 against Baltimore (7 rec/165 yds) and Tennessee, and last year against New England (5 Rec/87 yds/1TD) and Kansas City (9 rec/102 yds). Somebody does need to step up to take some pressure off him, but defenses will have to pay attention to Dustin Keller and Leon Washington, which should give Cotchery enough 1 on 1 match-ups to make big plays.

Ten Reasons the Jets Will Make the Playoffs

First some updates from OTA’s today, which were open to the media:

1. Mark Sanchez had a rough day. Rex Ryan characterized his first week as being good (Tuesday), bad (Monday), and ugly (today). He struggled in the two minute drill, only going 1-4 and getting sacked once. Despite looking sharp in individual drills, his 7 on 7’s and team drills were filled with mostly incompletions and interceptions. The defense was all over him, often taunting him about holding the ball too long and hanging his receivers out to dry. He also apparently has been hearing plenty about his GQ photo spread. I wouldn’t panic too much about a rough practice in May, Sanchez is a rookie going against a very talented defense that is running a complex scheme, the guy will be fine.

2. Kellen Clemens had a decent day and a good overall week. He dropped in a 25 yard touchdown pass to Brad Smith during redzone drills and led the first offense to a field goal during their two minute drill. Clemens isn’t going down without a fight and to his credit has remained helpful and supportive towards Sanchez despite their competition.

3. Rex Ryan was angered by the high amount of dropped passes by his receivers today. Somebody needs to step up and fill Laveranues Coles’ shoes. Jerricho Cotchery has been good, as expected but another receiver is going to need to step up, so far Chansi Stuckey appears to be leading the pack as the #2 receiver. The defensive backs were the most impressive position group today, with Darrelle Revis standing out as usual and Ahmad Carroll having a strong day.

4. The ongoing theme of these OTAs has been how the defense has been ahead of the offense. You have to expect this with a young quarterback and Thomas Jones/Leon Washington MIA. Danny Woodhead ran with the first team again, since Shonn Greene sat out today with a minor hamstring injury.

5. Ryan praised the progress of Vernon Gholston, Jamaal Westerman, and Kareem Brown. Gholston is taking advantage of participating in these OTAs, which he missed last year. Westerman was a college defensive end who has already worked at both inside and outside linebacker for the Jets and Brown is apparently making strong progress at tight end, despite a drop today.

Ten Reasons the Jets Will Make the Playoffs

After yesterday’s negative article, let’s take a more positive look at next season:

1. Defense Wins – Everybody knows you need a good defense to play into January. The Jets already had a very good defense last season and only got better with the addition of Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, and Lito Sheppard. Rex Ryan will put a more aggressive scheme in place that will take advantage of the Jets personnel, notably Calvin Pace, Kerry Rhodes, and Vernon Gholston who excel attacking the quarterback.

2. Running Wins – Let’s assume everything gets settled with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington in the next few weeks. The Jets have the potential to have the best rushing attack in the AFC, with two pro-bowl RBs, and rookie Shonn Greene. Beyond that, they have a very good fullback in Tony Richardson and one of the better offensive lines in the league. The Jets should be able to hand the ball off 35 times a game and be able to wear out opposing defenses.

3. Winning Attitude – Rex Ryan has changed the culture around this team. They are no longer a passive, reactive team with no notable emotions or personality. Ryan is encouraging a confident, talkative team that will play with some swagger on the field. The Jets won’t be a team that sits back and lets the other team dictate to them anymore.

4. Match-Up Problems – Despite how thin they are wide receiver and tight end, the Jets have two match-up nightmares on offense with Dustin Keller and Leon Washington. Keller shredded up the Patriots and Titans last year because they simply had nobody who could cover him, and Washington is a threat to score a touchdown anytime he touches the ball. He has the ability to play running back, fullback, split end, and in the slot.

5. No More Brett – The Jets will be better off without Brett Favre’s 22 INT’s and the constant side-show that he brought to the team. Yes, Sanchez and Clemens are inexperienced but they won’t throw 20+ interceptions this season, which will improve the Jets overall turnover ratio.

6. Mad Backers – Bart Scott leads a deep and talented group of linebackers who should anchor the Jets defense. He should also help the learning curve for David Harris, Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, and Vernon Gholston because of how familiar he is with the system. Scott and Harris should feed off of each other and Kris Jenkins in front of them, making it difficult for teams to run the ball.

7. Schedule Is Manageable – The Jets schedule isn’t as easy as last season but it isn’t as hard as everyone is making it out to be. Houston, New Orleans, Oakland, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay all missed the playoffs last season. The Jets should be able to manage a 4-2 record in their division, because I believe Miami will be down from last year and that the Jets match-up well against New England and Buffalo.

8. Big Man – Rex Ryan’s defense should be easier on Kris Jenkins, allowing him to two-gap less and showing more 4-3 looks. If Jenkins could be healthy down the stretch, it will make a huge difference for the Jets run defense.

9. Opportunities – David Clowney never got a chance last season to build on a monster pre-season, but with Laveranues Coles now in Cincy he should receive plenty of reps to flash his deep speed and big play ability. Dustin Keller should also get more chances with Chris Baker in New England. Hopefully, Brian Schottenheimer will exercise some common sense and give Leon Washington more touches this year.

10. C’mon Now – We have to be due for finding the right coach and right quarterback, don’t we?

What are Reasonable Expectations for the Jets?

First a few updates:

1. The TOJ Hall of Fame and TOJ Hall of Shame are now fully up and running. Take the time to check out the pages, which are linked across the top of the web-site.

2. For some reason, NFL Films is running a replay of the Jets/Bills regular season game in Buffalo from this past season. A few observations after re-watching the game today: Drew Coleman is awful, Kris Jenkins is unstoppable when he is at his best, Brian Schottenheimer is way too conservative, Calvin Pace doesn’t get enough for credit for how good he is, Jerricho Cotchery has great hands but has a tough time getting separation, Dustin Keller needs to increase his football IQ, and Thomas Jones is quicker than he gets credit for.

3. Pacman Jones to the Jets? I don’t buy this rumor for a second. The Jets have no need for him, as they have good depth at corner and obviously don’t need a guy like that in the locker room.

What are Reasonable Expectations for the Jets?

The Jets were a 9 win team last season who just missed making the playoffs. After this off-season, I believe it is fair to expect them to be a 10+ win team and strongly contend not just for a playoff spot but also for a deep run into January. It may sound like a bold statement, but let me argue why that isn’t necessarily the case.

I look at their defense and see a unit that was very good last season. They have improved at inside linebacker by upgrading from Eric Barton to Bart Scott. Vernon Gholston has nowhere to go but up from last year, and if Rex Ryan can get anything out of him this year, the Jets will be upgraded at outside linebacker also. The Jets other returning outside linebackers, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas are both former 4-3 defensive ends, which means they have strong pass rushing skills. Rex Ryan’s new defensive scheme is more conducive to their talents, than Eric Mangini’s defense which often asked them to drop into pass coverage. 

In the secondary, the Jets have upgraded at both cornerback and safety. Lito Sheppard is a better starter than Dwight Lowery, and Donald Strickland will provide a veteran nickel-back who will also push Lowery to become better. Basically, last year’s #2 corner (Lowery) is now bumped down to being their #4 corner. Abram Elam wasn’t an awful starter at safety last year but Jim Leonhard’s skill set is a better fit for the defense, and he provides better pass coverage skills along with a similar presence inside the box against the run. 

They are thinner on the defensive line this season. However, Kris Jenkins has recently went on record to say that Rex Ryan’s defense won’t be as physically demanding on his body. If Jenkins can remain fully healthy all season, the Jets will be getting a major improvement at defensive tackle over the last 5 games of the regular season compared to 2008. There is pressure on Marques Douglas and Mike DeVito to match Kenyon Coleman’s production on defense, although the only production he really had was against the run. He only managed 0.5 sacks last year, so it shouldn’t be hard for the two of them to match his pass rushing skills. 

On offense, the Jets improved their depth at running back and added another short yardage/goal-line threat by drafting Shonn Greene. They are returning their entire starting offensive line, and added more depth by drafting Matt Slauson in the 6th round. Their top two backups from last year (Robert Turner and Wayne Hunter) are also returning with more experience under their belt. At quarterback, Mark Sanchez/Kellen Clemens can’t play any worse than Brett Favre did in the last 5 games of the regular season last year. When the Jets were winning last season, Favre was managing the game in a similar way that the Jets quarterback will be asked to this year. Look at Favre’s numbers in the Jets key wins last year:

Week 1 vs Miami: 15/22, 194 yards, 2 TD’s.

Week 6 vs. Cincinnati: 25/33, 189 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT’s

Week 8 vs. Kansas City: 28/40, 290 yards, 2 TD’s, 3 INT’s

Week 9 vs. Buffalo: 19/28, 201 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Week 10 vs. St. Louis: 14/19, 167 yards, 1 TD

Week 12 vs. Tennessee: 25/32, 224 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 INT

Week 15 vs. Buffalo: 17/30, 207 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT’s

The point is outside of two Jets wins (Arizona and New England) Favre never really put up great numbers when the Jets won games. I think Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens can handle going 15/21 for 190 yards and that they are going to throw less interceptions. If whomever the Jets quarterback is next year can throw 12 INT’s instead of 22, it is going to make a big difference in a positive way for the team. 

The Jets are weaker at tight end and wide receiver than they were in 2008. They haven’t replaced Chris Baker (a strong blocker and 21 catches) or Laveranues Coles (70 catches, 850 yards, 7 TD’s). However, at tight end Dustin Keller should be improved in his second year and at wide receiver, a guy like David Clowney (pictured to the left) could turn into a big time playmaker now that he is being given an opportunity. Regardless, the Jets still need to add depth at both positions. 

 

The 2009 schedule isn’t a friendly one but it certainly is manageable. Outside of their division, 6 of their 10 games are against teams who didn’t make the playoffs last year. Within the division, New England is always tough, the Bills added TO but beyond that had a weak overall off-season and have major questions at the offensive line and running back. The Dolphins are going to struggle this year. They were the 2006 Jets last year, and are going to be the 2007 Jets this year. I love Chad Pennington but teams are going to be all over their gimmick based offense and their lack of talent on that side of the ball will hurt them this year. 

Right now I’d say the Jets are a 10 win team and if they add another tight end and receiver, they could be a 11-12 win team. Right out of the gate we will find out where they stand since in their first 6 games they play all three divisional opponents and 2 other quality teams (Tennessee and New Orleans).

Don't Doubt It: Sanchez is the Jets Guy for 2009

First a few updates from the Jets Locker Room, which had media availability today:

1. Erik Ainge refused to give the reason why he has been absent from team activities the past few months. He stated the team doesn’t even know the specific reason, but they respected his personal privacy and need to handle the matter. Ainge will be battling UDFA Chris Pizzotti for the #3 spot this season, after originally being mentioned as a contender for the starting job before the Jets drafted Mark Sanchez.

2. When asked about the Jets move to acquire Sanchez, Jerricho Cotchery, Kerry Rhodes, and Darrelle Revis among others all sounded excited about his potential. They understand the implications about trading up to #5 to select somebody, so despite saying the politically correct thing about Kellen Clemens, seem to understand that Sanchez is going to be the guy this year. Rhodes had the funniest line of the day, when he mentioned that Sanchez would now have to battle him for “the best looking guy on the team.”

3. Sanchez has reached out to the wide receivers to set up times to work on throwing the football, which is a move that drew praise from a few veterans in the locker room. The guy has done everything you want a rookie to do so far. Obviously, he needs to produce on the field but still you can’t have any complaints about Sanchez yet.

4. Many Jets were asked about Brett Favre today, a few players anonymously cited him as being selfish and deceitful, while Rhodes refused to comment, although most of them were indifferent about him potentially joining the Vikings and expressed support for him. (It now appears he is going to stay retired, but who ever knows with this guy).

5. According to Dave Hutchinson, the Jets have recently worked out tight end Michael Gaines, who is one of the players I mentioned they should target a few days ago. I’m glad to see they are taking my advice. Gaines is a good blocking tight end, who would go a long to improving the Jets depth at tight end. He caught 23 passes last season for Detroit.

Don’t Doubt It: Sanchez is the Jets Guy for 2009

Kellen Clemens had to face the media today and said just about everything you expected he would. The common theme being that it is still an open competition, he still believes he will be the opening day starter, and that he is just going to keep working to improve. Rich Cimini made a good point however when discussing Clemens demeanor today, stating that he is “beginning to lose his swagger.” Obviously, Clemens is going to be more confident battling a UDFA with zero career NFL passes in Brett Ratliff, than he is battling the highly acclaimed Mark Sanchez.

Part of me feels bad for Clemens who is coming off a strong mini-camp and by all accounts has had a very good off-season. He is in a nearly impossible situation right now. No matter what anybody says, the odds are stacked heavily against him. He doesn’t need to just outplay Sanchez this summer, he needs to blow him away to win the job.

Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Last year Clemens was in the exact same position, except reversed heading into training camp. The coaching staff clearly wanted the younger Clemens, who they spent a 2nd round draft pick on, to beat out Chad Pennington for the job. Pennington needed to clearly out perform Clemens to win the job and through the first few weeks that was exactly what he did. Frustrated by Clemens lack of progress and the prospect of having Pennington be the starter for another season, they made the bold move to acquire Brett Favre.

 

Clemens had his chance to seize the Jets quarterback job last year. I can give him a pass for not seizing the job in 2007 in his eight starts behind a garbage offensive line and with no healthy receivers. Yet, during camp last season he did nothing to show he could be the Jets quarterback of the future. If he had outplayed Pennington and showed substantial progress last summer, the Jets wouldn’t have acquired Favre and Clemens would have started last season. He wouldn’t be in this situation now, where he is at a disadvantaged position battling the #5 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Unless there is an extended holdout or injury, bank on Mark Sanchez being under center for the Jets when they open up against Houston. I don’t see him bombing out in training camp or Kellen Clemens all of a sudden looking like a franchise quarterback this summer. The Jets drafted Sanchez to be their guy for this year, and for the next ten.

5 Questions the Jets Defense Must Answer in 2009

First a few things:

1. Congratulations to Erik Boland of Newsday who recently got moved over to the Yankees beat. Boland ran a great Jets blog “E-Boland & Gang Green,” which was always a daily stop for me and countless other Jets fans to read up on the team. He also took the time to reach out and complement my work over at MVN, which was much appreciated. Good luck with the Yankees, Erik.

2. Brett Favre and Brad Childress are meeting to discuss Favre’s potential comeback to football, this time for the Vikings. Honestly, I am so sick of Favre, reading about him, talking about him, and basically everything about him. Have fun with him Minnesota and yes I will be rooting my ass off against him this year. The guy never wanted to be on the Jets and killed our playoff run last year. He has an obsession with Minnesota to have the chance to play against the Packers, well it looks like he is finally going to get his wish. I hope he goes 10/26 with 4 INTs in Lambeau this year, stay retired Brett and learn how to tell truth for once in your life.

3. A quick run-down of the Jets with different numbers this year – Erik Ainge (#10), David Clowney (#87), Mark Sanchez (#6), Marques Douglas (#71), Vernon Gholston (#50), Howard Green (#95), Larry Izzo (#53), Jim Leonhard (#36), Dwight Lowery (#21), Lito Sheppard (#26), Donald Stickland (#34).

4. Some belated second round NBA Playoffs picks: Magic in 7, Cavs in 5, Lakers in 7, and Denver in 6. Also while we are talking about other sports, am I the only one who hates the new Yankees Stadium and are we ever going to beat Boston this year?

5 Questions the Jets Defense Must Answer in 2009

Yesterday I talked about how good the Jets defense has the potential to be in 2009. However, there are a number of variables or questions that need to be answered which will determine how productive the unit will actually be this year. Here is a look at the five most pressing questions the defense has to answer in 2009:

1. Can Kris Jenkins Stay Healthy? – It all starts up front. If the Jets want to stop the run they need a healthy Kris Jenkins plugging up the middle and keeping blockers off Bart Scott and David Harris. Jenkins faded down the stretch last year with hip problems. The Jets must find a way to rest him during early parts of the season, which means players like Sione Pouha and Howard Green (pictured above) need to step up. Pouha didn’t do much last year and Green has never been more than a role player, but for Jenkins to be fresh in the fourth quarter of both games and the season, the two of them need to improve.

2. Are Marques Douglas/Mike DeVito NFL Starters? – Douglas was signed to provide depth and DeVito (pictured above) has made a minimal impact in the NFL during his three years. Yet, with Kenyon Coleman being traded to the Browns in the Mark Sanchez deal, one of these two will be asked to start at defensive end, with other receiving extended time off the bench. Apparently, Rex Ryan thinks DeVito can be a strong pass rusher in his system but it remains to be seen, since he currently has 0.5 career sacks. Douglas is good against the run and has been a productive role player throughout his career but he has never been asked to be a full time player.

 

3. Can Lito Sheppard Stay Healthy and Reclaim his Pro-Bowl Form? – Sheppard has battled injuries the past few years and lost his starting job to Asante Samuel in Philly last season. Yet, he is only a few years removed from being a pro-bowler and a guy who was considered one of the elite corners in the NFL. At his best, Sheppard can match up with the NFL’s top receivers. He won’t be asked to do that for the Jets because we have Darrelle Revis, but the defense needs him to stay healthy, face a ton of balls thrown his way as teams avoid Revis, and provide some stability to the #2 corner spot. Donald Strickland and Dwight Lowery are better suited to be nickel-backs or back-ups than full time players and the Jets could be in trouble if they are asked to be full time players because Sheppard is hurt.

4. Can Vernon Gholston Reach his Potential? – Vernon Gholston did nothing for the Jets last year despite being the #6 overall pick in the draft. One of Rex Ryan’s biggest tasks is going to be pushing Gholston to reach his potential. Gholston has the talent to be a Terrell Suggs type player, but at this point the Jets would be happy if he could just lock down a starting outside linebacker spot and provide a consistent pass rush. The Jets defense could go from good to great if Gholston develops into the double-digit sack guy the Jets drafted him to be.

5. Depth? – The Jets need somebody to step up as their number four safety and number five corner. I am holding out hope Ryan’s scheme will help Ahmad Carroll reach his first round potential, as either a corner or safety. Drew Coleman was an Eric Mangini guy and probably won’t make it through camp. James Ihedigbo is only known for a holding penalty that negated a Leon Washington kick return touchdown last year. At linebacker, there is high hopes for undrafted free agent Jamaal Westerman who looked great in the Jets rookie mini-camp. Marques Murrell, Jason Trunsick, and Kenwin Cummings will battle it out for the key back up spots at both inside and outside linebacker. On the defensive line, the Jets better sign a veteran or pray one of their UDFAs is ready to contribute this year.