Grading Out the Jets/Ravens Game

First a few updates:

1. John Clayton speculated it would take a 1st and 4th round pick for the Jets or any other team for that matter to acquire Brandon Marshall from the Broncos…that is a steep price for the Jets, who only drafted three players last year and still badly need to add depth/talent to the WR, TE, and OL/DL. However, how much better would Mark Sanchez be with a guy like Marshall to throw to? It is an interesting debate, as of now I still wouldn’t expect anything to happen.

2. The Rex Sox just acquired Billy Wagner…did somebody say desperate? Also, it is really historically unbelievable how bad the Mets season has gone, in terms of injuries and everything else that has happened around the team.

3. I just found out you can download something called “NFL Replay” which allows you to watch any NFL game on your computer within 24 hours of it ending. Thank god…I was contemplating not going to Italy with my family because I would miss the Jets/Colts week 16 game.

4. My fantasy football league is holding our live draft this Saturday…and I am stuck the #5 pick. Suggestions are still welcome.

Grading Out the Jets/Ravens Game

Quarterbacks: D+ – Yeeesh. Let’s be honest here, outside of one play it was an ugly, ugly night for Mark Sanchez. The rookie threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown (a ridiculously athletic play by Haloti Ngata), threw another ball right into the arms of Ray Lewis, fumbled an exchange, had two delay of game penalties, and a miscommunication with Jerricho Cotchery. Yes, he did make an athletic play and a great throw on a 19 yard touchdown pass to Leon Washington on a third down, which shows some character and a short memory, both necessary for a successful quarterback but outside of that play, he was simply bad. Hopefully, this night be will remembered as an important part of his development and learning curve as a NFL QB. The Ravens in their building are as good as it gets in the NFL…Sanchez will learn from last night and be better prepared the next time around.

Kellen Clemens had a real shot to make the quarterback battle alot more interesting last night but didn’t respond to the challenge. He threw a horrible interception at the end of the first half, which was returned for a touchdown and only completed 50 percent of his passes. He did drop in a nice 28 yard touchdown to David Clowney (who else?) and threw a beautiful long ball to Brad Smith that was dropped (shocking…I know).

The Jets are built to play defense and run the ball. They need a quarterback who can protect the football and not give points to the opposing team. If you take away the 2 INT’s for touchdowns last night, the Jets win that game handily. They can’t have turnovers from the quarterback position, period.

By the way, Erik Ainge looked pretty good last night and is probably on his way to being the #2 quarterback next year when Clemens isn’t resigned.

Running Backs: A – Pay Leon Washington. Pay Leon Washington. Pay Leon Washington. Pay Leon Washington. #29 is the engine the keeps the Jets offense running. He put on a display last night that clearly showed his value to the Jets. 48 rushing yards on a 6.0 yards per carry (just like last season…give him more touches), 2 receptions for 35 yards including a 19 yard touchdown, and a 52 yard kickoff return. Pay Leon Washington. Thomas Jones also looked like he was in 2008 form with 32 yards on 8 carries. Shonn Greene had a nice 15 yard catch but took a rib shot that limited his action. I am still not that impressed with Danny Woodhead, who isn’t going to make the roster. Brock Christopher looked pretty good filling in for Jehuu Caulcrick. Good to see Tony Richardson back out there.

Wide Receivers: D – Nothing from Jerricho Cotchery or Chansi Stuckey, who combined for 1 catch for 7 yards. Brad Smith dropped a touchdown and had an offensive pass interference penalty. Britt Davis dropped a long touchdown. Marcus Henry couldn’t get open on the 2 point conversion that could have won the game. Wallace Wright was quiet. On the positive side, David Clowney just keeps making plays as he caught another touchdown pass, using his speed to blow by Frank Walker. How can Clowney not be the Jets #2 receiver right now? Everybody talks about how much they love Stuckey in the slot, so put Clowney and Cotchery on the outside and have Stuckey work the slot.

Tight Ends: C – Quiet night from Dustin Keller. Jack Simmons had a drop and Kareem Brown didn’t have a catch, although they all deserve some credit for strong blocking in the running game.

Offensive Line: B+ – It says alot about Nick Mangold and Alan Faneca that they strapped it up last night…that is exactly what you want to see from your veterans, that they are excited about the team/season and are raring to get back out there. The offensive line did a great job opening up holes in the running game and did decent in pass protection, considering the amount of blitzes the Ravens threw at them. Wayne Hunter played much better filling in for Damien Woody than he did last week.

Defensive LIne: B+ – Very strong games from both Howard Green and Ropati Pitoitua, who both recorded a sack and are showing that the Jets have pretty good depth along their defensive line. The run defense was great and the entire line got a solid push all night. It will be a huge boost to get Kris Jenkins back in the next couple of days.

Linebackers: B – David Harris is going to record alot of sacks in Rex Ryan’s defense. He continued his terrific pre-season with 5 tackles and a sack. Bart Scott missed a tackle in the backfield on third down that would have ended a drive. Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace both had productive games, including another sack from Pace who the Jets are going to miss badly for the first four games this year. Kenwin Cummings and Marques Murrell were both active. Vernon Gholston did nothing except get out-run by Joe Flacco.

Secondary: C – They badly miss Darrelle Revis. Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman were picked on all night. Coleman had a nice pass deflection but was toasted deep by Derrick Mason. Lito Sheppard was beat a couple of times. Kerry Rhodes was pretty active and had a nice pass deflection, to break up a screen play. Marquice Cole had a nice interception but was beat deep later in the game. James Ihedigbo had an interception called back on a penalty.

Special Teams: C – Average punting, decent kicking, a big kick return by Leon Washington, a nice job on punt returns by Jim Leonhard and a near turnover by Aundrae Allison.

Highlights From the Game Last Night:

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 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.