Grading Out the Jets/Giants Game

First a few updates:

1. We had our fantasy football draft this past Saturday and I must say that I made out like a bandit. How about these receivers? Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith, and TJ Houshmanzedah, with Devin Hester coming off the bench? C’mon now…of course I picked up Thomas Jones and Dustin Keller, rounding out the roster I have DeAngelo Williams, Tennessee’s D, Nick Folk, Donovan McNabb, Matt Hassleback, Felix Jones, Julius Jones, Josh Morgan, and Vishante Shinaoce…not bad.

Grading Out the Jets/Giants Game

Quarterbacks: B+ – The rookie didn’t look half bad, did he? Mark Sanchez put together a solid performance against a very good defense that was constantly in his face with their pass rush. He displayed his mobility, ability to make plays outside of the pocket, and arm strength. His touchdown pass to Chansi Stuckey was something that gives hope to the Jets offense this year and for the next decade, it takes some serious arm strength to make that throw under pressure. Another throw which brought me out of my seat (yes, I know it is pre-season but I got issues) was the quick post he threw to Jerricho Cotchery for a 28 yard gain…another big time NFL throw. He showed good command of the offense and played with confidence. I am not saying Mark Sanchez is going to be a pro-bowler this year or anywhere near one for that matter, but he may be plenty good enough for the Jets to win with this season. Erik Ainge…one pass, one touchdown…not bad. Did Kellen Clemens even play?

Running Backs: B+ – Leon Washington averaged 7 yards per carry…imagine if the Jets actually gave him more than 9 carries? This guy better be getting at least 10 carries a game in the regular season, along with 3-5 passes thrown his way…he is far and away the Jets most explosive player on offense. Thomas Jones didn’t have pretty numbers but got the job done on the goal-line, which is important (especially for my fantasy team). Danny Woodhead again failed to distinguish himself.

Wide Receivers: A – That is what you want to see out of your starting receivers. Jerricho Cotchery looked like the player from 2006 who was constantly breaking tackles and adding long runs after the catch. Chansi Stuckey raised up and locked down his starting position with a 4 catch 69 yard, one touchdown performance. How about that run on his touchdown? I didn’t know he could break tackles like that. Aundrae Allison showed off his speed on a 70 yard touchdown. I wouldn’t be shocked if he made the roster as a #6 receiver because of his speed and kick return ability. Brad Smith, David Clowney (nobody is perfect), Britt Davis, and Wallace Wright were all invisible.

Tight Ends: C – Quiet day from this group, Dustin Keller had two catches for 15 yards and Kareem Brown pulled one in for 5 yards and also saw extended time with the first offense as the #2 tight end. Jack Simmons had yet another drop.

Offensive LIne: B – They did pretty good against the pressure the Giants brought and sprung some big runs for Leon Washington. It was good to see the whole starting unit out there for an extended period of time. They will probably only play a series or two against Philadelphia on Thursday. D’Brickashaw Ferguson had a rough night, giving up a sack and getting called for two penalties.

Defensive Line: C+ – They did OK against the run and got a decent push occasionally. However, Eli had a little too much time back there in the pocket and Kris Jenkins jumped offsides in a big spot. Mike DeVito could be out for a few weeks with a hamstring injury, which could be trouble because the Jets are already without Shaun Ellis for week one and have questionable depth behind him.

Linebackers: B+ – They gave up some plays and made some penalties but they also made their share of big plays. As he said, Bart Scott “just wanted it more” than Brandon Jacobs when he ripped the ball out of his hands. David Harris made a diving interception thanks to a Vernon Gholston pressure (yes, that Vernon Gholston) and Scott deflection. Jamaal Westerman and Jason Trusnik had sacks. Gholston had a sack and a forced fumble that was negated because of a helmet to helmet hit. I still can’t believe I just typed Gholston and sack in the same sentence.

Secondary: C – Lito Sheppard had a night he’d like to forget. He got called for two pass interference penalties and was smoked by Steve Smith on what should have been a 90 yard touchdown, fortunately Smith like the rest of the Giants receivers (except for Hakeem Nicks), can’t catch…poor Eli. Sheppard better get used to getting picked on, with Darrelle Revis opposite him. Drew Coleman was beat again for a big play. Eric Smith also got beat.

Special Teams: C – The punting wasn’t good again. Jay Feely made both his field goals.

Green and White Scrimmage Recap

Green and White Scrimmage Recap

The Jets defense is way ahead of their offense, but hey…we knew that already. The Jets ‘Green and White’ scrimmage didn’t do anything to change that notion. Neither the first or second offense was able to manage any points (keep in mind, a couple of fourth down conversions were attempted and failed in field goal territory), the lone touchdown of the day came from the third offense, when backup receiver Paul Raymond scored on a 15 yard reverse. Let’s go over what we saw from each position….

Quarterback – Kellen Clemens didn’t turn the ball over, which was a positive. However, he didn’t do anything to separate himself from Mark Sanchez. He mostly threw short, safe passes and finished roughly 5-7 for 26 yards. His best throw was probably a 11 yard completion in the seam to Dustin Keller on a third down. His worst throw was on a 3rd and 20, when Chansi Stuckey got behind Drew Coleman and Clemens under threw him, leading to a jump ball that was nearly intercepted.

Mark Sanchez played very well and drew a high amount of praise from Rex Ryan. The rookie was victimized by four dropped passes, including two from Britt Davis (who received some press earlier in the day as the “mystery” receiver the Jets organization was excited about, maybe they jinxed him…) and one by Jack Simmons, who also didn’t help himself with an offsides penalty. Unofficially, Sanchez was 9-15 for 70 yards. He showed his chemistry with Wallace Wright, hitting him 3 times for 23 yards including a nice throw on a deep comeback route for about 15 yards. He didn’t have any turnovers but did take a sack, when he failed to notice a backside corner blitz. Sanchez made the quarterback battle even tighter with his performance today, I’d say right now it is an even 50-50, after it being slightly tilted in Clemens favor most of the week.

Erik Ainge actually played half way decent, hitting Marcus Henry for a 38 yard gain, which was the day’s biggest offensive play. He led the offense on their only scoring drive of the day.

Running Back – Thomas Jones was relatively quiet, except for a monster blitz pick-up. Leon Washington had 3 catches for 12 yards. Shonn Greene was the best news of the day on offense. The rookie third-round pick had 25 yards on 6 carries, including a 12 yard run when he broke to the outside. He also had a 33 yard reception on a screen pass. You have to get excited when thinking about the Jets potential three-headed monster at running back.

Receiver – Britt Davis received the hype today and struggled to validate the coaching staff’s excitement with two key drops. David Clowney had a quiet day with 1 catch for 7 yards. Brad Smith didn’t do anything of note. Chansi Stuckey and Jerricho Cotchery had 2 catches a piece. Marcus Henry had the play of the day with a 38 yard reception over Drew Coleman. Wallace Wright had a strong outing and is pretty much locked into a roster spot. The only way Davis or Henry make the roster at this point is if the Jets decide to keep 6 receivers.

Tight End – Jack Simmons had a drop and a penalty. Kareem Brown had a 8 yard catch. Dustin Keller had one catch for 11 yards…the Jets still need help at this position.

Offensive Line – Three plays were called as “sacks,” although two came from members of the secondary which could fall on the running backs and their blitz pick-up. The best news? No injuries.

Defensive Line – Mike DeVito left with an injury but according to Rex Ryan it isn’t that serious. The Jets showed some unique looks on the defensive line, with Shaun Ellis sliding over to nose tackle and Sione Pouha dropping to MLB (no, that wasn’t a error).

Linebacker – Vernon Gholston had an active today, which is a step in the right direction for him. He was around the ball alot and made a handful of tackles. Marques Murrell had a tackle for a loss, Kenwin Cummings had a tackle for a loss, Jamaal Westerman had a sack, Brandon Renkart had a quarterback pressure. Ryan singled out Cummings and David Harris as having particularly strong days.

Secondary – The secondary continued their excellent training camp. Darrelle Revis was lockdown as usual, Lito Sheppard played well and did good in run support. Dwight Lowery had a sack, Drew Coleman had a couple of passes defensed. James Ihedigbo had a sack, Kerry Rhodes had a tackle for a loss. The Jets secondary is going to be very good this season, especially if second-tier players like Ihedigbo, Coleman, and Eric Smith keep playing well.

Tomorrow – The Jets have off and are taking a trip out to the pro football Hall of Fame…however, I won’t take off and will write an article about what we have learned through the first week of Jets training camp.

Jets Positional Analysis: Safeties

First a few updates:

1. Yankees are one game out of first place because no matter what they can’t beat the Angels. The Mets would have a good shot of being in first place right now if they were in a AA league.

2. If you read the comments under the article on the home page entitled “End of the Weekend Jets Ramblings” you can find a prolonged debate between reader dmd13 and myself about Leon Washington. I am carving him up right now like Will Ferrell carved up James Carville in Old School.

Jets Positional Analysis: Safeties

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

1. Kerry Rhodes #25, Last Season: 84 Tackles, 1 Sack, 8 Tackles For Loss, 5 Passes Defensed, 2 Interceptions

History: Rhodes has been starting for the Jets since his rookie season in 2005, after the Jets selected him in the fourth round. He had a breakout season in 2006 and was robbed by not being selected to the pro-bowl for a season that saw him record 5 sacks, 4 INTs, 3 Forced Fumbles, 13 Passes Defensed, and 98 tackles. His numbers dipped slightly the year after and even further this past season. Many people blame Rhodes lack of big play production on Eric Mangini/Bob Sutton’s poor use of him and him lacking a partner at safety with range to cover and stop the run. The Jets signed Jim Leonhard this season to allow Rhodes to have more freedom and make plays for the defense.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Rhodes becomes New York’s version of Ed Reed and is constantly creating big plays in Rex Ryan’s attacking scheme. He makes his first pro-bowl appearance and establishes himself as one of the elite safeties in the game.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: His numbers continue to decline, making it look like 2006-2007 were fluke seasons for Rhodes.

Prediction: I think Rhodes is going to thrive in Rex Ryan’s system and he will be greatly aided by having Jim Leonhard, someone with strong pass coverage skills, next to him. Expect his numbers to be very similar to what they were in 2006.

2. Jim Leonhard #36, Last Season: 69 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 Tackle For Loss, 6 Passes Defensed, 1 INT, 1 Touchdown

History: Leonhard didn’t do much his first two seasons in the NFL but did an excellent job of stepping in for an injured Dawan Landry last season, showing his ability to play at this level. His play improved as the season went on and he had a huge impact in Baltimore’s playoff run. He is comfortable with Rex Ryan’s defensive scheme and should help Kerry Rhodes make plays in the same way his abilities helped Ed Reed make plays.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Leonhard builds on last season and gives the Jets consistent play at safety opposite Rhodes for the first time in years. He helps teach Ryan’s defense to the entire secondary, easing their transition to a new scheme.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Leonhard struggles adjusting to becoming a full time starter for an entire season. He eventually loses his job to Eric Smith, meaning the Jets wasted money signing him in the off-season.

Prediction: Leonhard will be a steady, consistent player in the Jets secondary. I dont’ expect tons of big plays from him but definitely a major improvement in pass coverage from Abram Elam last year.

3. Eric Smith #33, Last Season: 32 Tackles, 1 Tackle For Loss, 4 Passes Defensed, 1 INT

History: Smith was drafted by the Jets in 2006 and had a pretty good rookie season. He has struggled with injuries the past couple of season and didn’t seize the starting job last year when given the opportunity. However, he did have a good mini-camp/OTA’s recording numerous interceptions and impressing Rex Ryan.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Smith develops into a valuable role player on defense and continues to play well on special teams. If Jim Leonhard or Kerry Rhodes gets hurt he is able to step in and do the job adequately.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Smith struggles to find a role on the defense and doesn’t provide any valuable reps to the unit.

Prediction: Smith will be a quality third safety for the Jets and contribute in some nickle and dime packages, while also playing special teams.

4. James Ihedigbo #44, Last Season: 8 Tackles, 1 Killer Holding Penalty on Special Teams

History: Ihedigbo has bounced around the Jets practice squad and inactive roster the past couple of years. However, he was active for a few games last season but unfortunately his most memorable play was a holding call that brought back a Leon Washington kick return touchdown against the 49ers. Rex Ryan did say he liked what he saw from him during OTA’s as the Jets #4 safety.

Chance of Making Roster: 75%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Ihedigbo is the Jets #4 safety and a core special teams player.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He gets cut because he is beat out by one of the Jets UDFA’s.

Prediction: I expect him to make the roster and be the number 4 safety.

The Rest of the Guys:

5. Emanuel Cook #38 – A UDFA who probably should have been drafted but has some character issues. He has some talent and has been compared to Abram Elam because of his hard hitting style of play.

6. Keith Fitzhugh #37 – Another UDFA who will compete for a roster spot as a special teams player and reserve DB.

Overall Position Analysis: Rhodes and Leonhard will be the starters, with Smith providing a quality backup to both spots. Ihedigbo should be the fourth safety but keep an eye on Cook during training camp.

Highlight of New Jets Player of the Day: Safety Jim Leonhard records a sack and has a nice punt return on consecutive plays last year:

2009 New York Jets: 10 Predictions

First a few updates:

1. For the past couple of weeks we have had the ability to post videos on the site through WordPress, however I wasn’t sure really how to incorporate the available videos into articles. Yet, starting today I am going to attempt to run a highlight or highlights of each of the new members of the Jets in the 2009 season, starting today with cornerback Lito Sheppard. I have some admitted concerns about Lito this season but watching this highlight from 2006 makes me feel a little better:

2. Feel Good Jets Moment of the Day – November 12th 2006 – The 4-4 Jets traveled to New England with a 7 game losing streak to the Patriots, but on this muddy day they would finally get the best of Bill Bellicheck and Tom Brady. Led by Kevan Barlow (17 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD), Jerricho Cotchery (6 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD), and a stingy defensive effort the Jets upset New England 17-14.

2009 New York Jets: 10 Predictions

1. Dustin Keller will lead the team in touchdown receptions and be second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards, behind Jerricho Cotchery. His blocking will improve slightly but the Jets will struggle in short yardage situations more than they did in 2008 because of the absence of a good blocking tight end.

2. Chansi Stuckey will start every game opposite Jerricho Cotchery at receiver and catch 50-60 passes. However, his yards per catch will be low and he will have a difficult time getting into the end-zone. David Clowney will develop into the #3 receiver, while Brad Smith remains a gadget player/#4 receiver.

3. Thomas Jones will have less carries, yards, receptions, and touchdowns than he did in 2008. On the other hand, Leon Washington will have more carries, yards, receptions, and touchdowns than he did in 2008. Shonn Greene (seen to the right running over a poor Jets fields and grounds worker) will start out slow but develop into a valuable 4th quarter weapon by the end of the season.

4. Mark Sanchez will start every game at quarterback and put up very comparable numbers to Joe Flacco last season (2971 yards, 14 TD’s, 12 INT’s). He will be named the starter heading into the 3rd pre-season game.

5. The Jets won’t have a player with double-digit sacks again. Vernon Gholston will contribute more than he did his rookie season (not hard to say) and finish with 5.5 sacks. Calvin Pace will record 6 sacks in 12 games. Bryan Thomas will have a good all around season but only finish with 6.5 sacks. Marques Murrell will contribute off the bench throughout the year and record the first few sacks of his NFL career.

6. Kerry Rhodes will make his first pro-bowl in 2009 and be joined in the secondary by teammate Darrelle Revis, who will continue to improve. Jim Leonhard will be a consistent starter opposite Rhodes, but Eric Smith will find his way on to the field in a few sets. Lito Sheppard/Dwight Lowery/Donald Strickland will be an upgrade over Ty Law/Dwight Lowery/Drew Coleman.

7. Bart Scott won’t be an all-pro caliber player in 2009 but will bring leadership and swagger to the Jets defense. His presence will also help the growth of David Harris at inside linebacker.

8. At least one Jets offensive lineman will miss a few games with an injury, putting pressure on Robert Turner or Wayne Hunter to step up for a couple of weeks. Turner will also receive reps throughout the season as a blocking tight end, when the Jets realize Bubba Franks is washed up.

9. TJ Conley will be the Jets punter in 2009. Sorry Reggie Hodges.

10. Rex Ryan and Channing Crowder will brawl before the Jets/Dolphins week 5 Monday Night game. The scene will resemble The Godfather when Sonny (Ryan) beats Carlo (Crowder) down in the street.

Jets End of The Weekend Ramblings

First a few non-Jets updates:

1. RIP Steve McNair, who was tragically murdered over the weekend. “Air McNair” was one of the toughest, most exciting [layers I ever watched. I will never forget that Rams/Titans Superbowl, when McNair was running all over the field, making plays and nearly leading his team to the huge upset. Big loss for the NFL.

2. How about those Yankees?

3. How about those Mets? Wow, they are awful right now.

4. Happy belated 4th of July to everyone. I was having a great weekend until my friends and I just got whooped up by a bunch of younger kids in basketball…we are already in the “has-been” stage of our lives. As a personal note, I did shoot the ball very well (very, very well) but stunk it up on defense and rebounding…oh well.

Jets End of The Weekend Ramblings

1. Today I was hanging out with a group of my friends, discussing our upcoming fantasy football draft. Somebody said something about Reggie Bush and I responded that I was tired of hearing about him and that I would take Leon Washington over him any day of the week, not necessarily in fantasy football but just in general. My friends were shocked by my statement, and I said that Washington probably had more rushing, receiving, and return yards than Bush. Sure enough, as soon as my one friend got home he checked and sent me a text message gloating over Bush’s stats compared to Washington, but let’s take a closer look and see if I can shut my buddy up (yea, I’m talking to you Dan)

Bush and Washington were both drafted in 2006. Bush was the 2nd overall pick in the draft and the Jets got Washington mid-way through the 4th round. As of today, Reggie Bush has 418 carries for 1550 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns with 7 loss fumbles. Bush’s career yards per carry is a lowly 3.7. Washington on the other hand has 298 carries for 1451 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns with 2 loss fumbles. Leon is averaging an impressive 4.9 yards per carry for his career, which is why he has only 99 less rushing yards than Bush on 120 less carries. When it comes to running the football…advantage Washington because of a better yards per carry and 5 less loss fumbles.

On the receiving end, it is a different story. Bush has 213 catches for 1599 yards with 8 receiving touchdowns. He averages 7.5 yards per catch. Washington only has 108 catches for 838 yards with 2 receiving touchdowns and 7.8 yards per catch. Obviously, advantage Bush but let’s be fair, the Saints do a much better job of getting Bush the ball as a receiver, than the Jets with Washington. Leon is chronically under-used in the Jets offense, especially at receiver. Bush on the other hand gets 4 swing passes a game thrown to him.

On the return end, Bush has 498 punt return yards with 4 touchdowns. Washington has 583 punt return yards with 0 touchdowns. Bush averages 9.7 yards per return, and Washington averages 9.4. However, Bush doesn’t return kicks. Washington does and has 2601 career yards, with 4 touchdowns. Advantage…Leon for being versatile and returning both kicks and punts.

On more thing that benefits Leon Washington is that he has never missed a game in his NFL career. Bush missed 4 games two years ago and 6 games last year…advantage Leon for being more durable. So in the end, I am right Dan, it does make sense to want Leon Washington over Reggie Bush on your team. Now all I need is Mike Tannenbaum to give him a new contract.

2. Speaking of Tannenbaum, there has been some talk this past weekend about him being on the hot seat this upcoming year, which I suppose makes sense. The coach that he handpicked in 2006 was fired, leaving him on the chopping block if things don’t work out. However, I like how aggressive Tannenbaum has been the past few years and think he has done well in drafts. 2006: D’Brickashaw Ferguson (Very good player), Nick Mangold (Pro-Bowl), Leon Washington (Pro Bowl), Eric Smith, Brad Smith, and Kellen Clemens (all contributors the past few years). 2007: Darrelle Revis (Pro Bowl), David Harris (Very good player), Chansi Stuckey (Good Player), 2008: Vernon Gholston (Ut-Oh), Dustin Keller (Very good player), Dwight Lowery (Good player). In free agency, he did a good job bringing in three ex Ravens who are comfortable with Rex Ryan’s system and upgraded a shakey secondary with three new players. Obviously, Tannebaum’s future will be tied up to how well Mark Sanchez plays but as of now, I like trading up for a franchise quarterback and only giving up Kenyon Coleman, Abram, Elam, and Brett Ratliff in the process.

3. I am going to start doing positional analysis on the defense tomorrow but an early word on our corners. Lito Sheppard still worries me alot, he didn’t look good at all last season although he could turn out to be a similar story to Kris Jenkins. Sheppard wasn’t happy with his contract/situation and I think it affected his play. Hopefully, like Jenkins he will be rejuvenated by a new team and return to pro-bowl form. Also, I think everybody is sleeping on the Donald Strickland acquisition but it was a smart move to bring him in. The veteran provides good depth and experience to the secondary and should push Dwight Lowery to be a better player.

4. I really hope Sione Pouha and Howard Green can get the job done as Kris Jenkins’ backups. The big guy needs to be healthy for the Jets defense to run properly.

5. I saw Brian Cushing at a local bar this past weekend and made sure to yell how his old teammate Mark Sanchez and the Jets were going to take him and the Texans down week one. He acted like he didn’t hear me…but he did, he definitely did.

Ten Ways For the Jets To Win Ten Games

First a few updates:

1. Now that I finished going through the entire AFC East, writing articles about how the Jets match-up against the Bills, Dolphins, and Patriots, I thought I’d share each fan bases respective reactions. When I wrote the articles, I posted a copy of the link in ESPN Message Boards for each team.  Here is what I got:

– Bills fans were by far the most civil, offering a reasonable debate about their team. They disagreed with a few of my statements, but for the most part thought I had a fair analysis of their team.

– Patriots fans offered the most comments, all of which described my low levels of intelligence and general idiocy. Obviously, they are the Patriots and clearly they are going 15-1 and nobody can tell them anything different. I will say that it was my mistake to say the Pats defense is old, because it really isn’t. Two of their linebackers are old, their secondary is young but is simply not very good, and they have a very good d-line.

– Dolphins fans cracked me up the most. They talk like Miami went 16-0 last season and rolled through the playoffs. Yes, they had a nice season in 2008 but remember how they squeaked in the playoffs by beating the Jets by 7 in week 17 and then were humiliated at home 27-9 during wild-card weekend. I got news for you Dolphins fans, you aren’t going to be a 13-3 team. Come back to reality.

– My final view of the AFC East at this point is that the Patriots are the best team and will probably be in the 10-6 to 12-4 range. The other three teams will be battling it out, and all be around .500 at worst. One of those teams will win double digits and give New England a run for the division, will it be Buffalo, Miami, or the Jets? We’ll see. But expect to see the standings that look something like this:

  1. New England: 10-6/11-5
  2. Buf/NYJ/Mia: 10-6/11-5
  3. Buf/NYJ/Mia: 8-8/9-7
  4. Buf/NYJ/Mia: 7-9/-8-8

The Jets are going to have to find a way to win their division games, if they want to be in that #2 slot or maybe even that #1 spot.

Ten Ways For the Jets To Win Ten Games

1. Most Important Position Produces – The Jets aren’t going anywhere unless they have consistent, steady quarterback play. Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens don’t need to produce pro-bowl numbers but need to protect the football, hit the occasional big play when the opportunity is there, and overall be an effective game manager.

2. Number Two Receiver Steps Up – It doesn’t matter if it is Chansi Stuckey, Brad Smith, David Clowney or a combination of the three. The Jets need production opposite of Jerricho Cotchery to keep double teams off him and to make their offense harder to defend. I really think Stuckey can be a 60 catch guy in a full time role. The guy caught 32 passes last year despite receiving limited playing time, especially down the stretch. I am hoping Clowney can be the 2009 version of Dedric Ward in 1998. Remember Ward? In 1998, he had 25 receptions for 477 yards (19.1 yards per catch) and 4 touchdowns, all on bombs that put the nail in the coffin in huge games for the Jets.

3. Playmakers Make Plays – I am talking about Dustin Keller and Leon Washington, the Jets two most difficult match-ups. Both of these guys should get more touches on offense this year and need to step up. Keller should be able to be a 65-70 catch guy in this offense. Washington needs more carries and receptions. The only thing that stopped him last year was the Jets coaching staff.

4. Secondary Improvement – Lito Sheppard is going to see a ton of balls thrown at him this year and if he can’t play at the level he did a few years ago, the Jets are going to be in trouble. Jim Leonhard is also entering his first year as a full-time starter and needs to do his job well enough to allow Kerry Rhodes to freelance and make plays. Finally, don’t forget about guys like Donald Strickland, Dwight Lowery, and Eric Smith who will be on the field often against the spread offenses of the Bills and Patriots.

5. The Big Man Stays Healthy – The Jets defense starts and ends with Kris Jenkins. They need him healthy and productive for all 16 games, leading the charge against the run and freeing up Bart Scott and David Harris to make plays. Howard Green and Sione Pouha need to provide adequate relief off the bench to help keep the big guy fresh.

6. Offensive Line Stays Healthy – If Damien Woody, Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson can stay healthy for all 16 games, it will go a long towards making the Jets a playoff caliber team.

7. TJ – The Jets need Thomas Jones in 2009. I am not ready to start giving Shonn Greene 20 carries a game. Jones has to be the workhorse he was in 2008, if Rex Ryan wants to win football games his way. Mike Tannenbaum…find a way to compromise with Jones to keep him in green and white for this upcoming season.

8. Pressure – Every great defense needs a strong pass rush. Calvin Pace needs to match his level of play from last season and receive some support from Vernon Gholston and Bryan Thomas. It is sad that as the #6 pick in the draft, Gholston would make Jets fans thrilled if he could just manage 6-8 sacks this year but we’d take it. Thomas needs to play the way he did the first half of last season for the whole year.

9. Revis Keeps Improving – Darrelle Revis is already one of the five best corners in the league but he will have his hands full this year: T.O. twice, Randy Moss twice, Steve Smith, Andre Johnson, Ted Ginn Jr (kidding), Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Roddy White. The Jets need him to be a lockdown corner against the elite receivers they face this year.

10. Cotchery Becomes a #1 – Nobody expects a pro-bowl appearance from Jerricho Cotchery but he needs to produce like a number one receiver. 80 catches, 1150 yards, 6-8 touchdowns would be a nice year for him.

Sanchez Ends OTAs With a Bang

Today was the Jets final OTA, which means tomorrow begins a quiet period for the Jets and the NFL in general until training camp starts up at the end of July. Here’s a run down of what happened on the field today with some analysis, along with a look at what to expect for the next 6 weeks until training camp starts on July 31st:

1. Mark Sanchez responded to a quiet start by closing the Jets OTA on a very high note. He was forced to resort to dump offs in his first 11 on 11 series and was intercepted by Eric Smith, who recorded his fifth take away in two days. However, in his final 11 on 11 series Sanchez gave his coaches, teammates and fans something to feel good about for the next 6 weeks. After hitting Wallace Wright with his first pass, he found David Clowney three straight times and then closed the drive with a 17 yard fade for a touchdown to his new favorite target, Wright. Yes, it is only going for 5/5 with a TD on one 11 on 11 series but still it shows the progress Sanchez has made in the past few weeks. Kellen Clemens played relatively well today also. Rex Ryan stated that he was encouraged by the competition and believes it is about even so far.

2. Back to the wide receivers, Ryan heaped the praise on Wallace Wright today who had a very strong set of OTAs. Wright hasn’t been mentioned much as a factor at the wide receiver position but don’t sleep on this guy. He did pretty well in 2007 when given the chance and could work his way into the rotation this year. Brad Smith made an acrobatic one-handed grab today and Ryan talked about his belief that Smith could be a dangerous slot receiver. He has all the physical talent necessary for the position but needs to show he can be consistent in games, not just practice. Chansi Stuckey continued to play very well is looking the part of a number two receiver. David Clowney has struggled with drops occasionally but still is flashing his speed and big play ability on a daily basis. If the season started today, Cotchery and Stuckey would be the starters with Smith probably receiving the next most reps, followed by Clowney and Wright.

3. Ryan singled out linebacker Marques Murrell for praise today. Murrell has flashed decent pass rush skills in the past and may be able to work his way into the rotation on defense, especially if Vernon Gholston doesn’t step up. Jason Trunsick and Murrell provide the Jets with solid depth behind their group of starters.

4. As I mentioned before, Eric Smith had another strong practice and has made a strong impression on Ryan who raved about him and James Ihedigbo as guys who provide excellent depth behind starters Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard. Smith should see plenty of action on defense in nickel and dime packages and could even push Leonhard for reps if he keeps playing this well.

5. Kris Jenkins has been getting moved around a little bit on the defensive line, seeing some reps at end. He has actually been held out of some drills because of how dominant he is up front, according to Ryan. Howard Green and Sione Pouha have looked good so far as Jenkins primary backups.

6. Apparently the Jets quarterbacks have given up throwing at Darrelle Revis who looks every bit of the lockdown corner he proved to be last year. Dwight Lowery had been quiet but flashed today with a sack and a pass breakup. Lowery was a Mangini guy, so it will be interesting to see where he fits in Ryan’s new defense. He has very good ball skills but lacks speed.

So what to write about for the next six weeks, while the Jets retreat back to their homes for some relaxation before they head to upstate New York for training camp? Fortunately, I never get tired of discussing this team and have plenty of ideas on how to fill up this blog every day. Overall, this may be a slow time for Jets news but it won’t be here. There is plenty to write about: the quarterback battle, the questionable depth at receiver, the ongoing contract issues with Thomas Jones/Leon Washington, potential trades or free agent signings, examining how the Jets can attack their AFC East rivals, breaking down the schedule overall, predicting who will make the roster, looking at camp battles, and providing closer/statistic based breakdowns of the Jets starters, key reserves, and bubble players.

Where to Begin? Recapping an Active Week of Jets Football

I’m back from vacation and finally finished going through the massive amounts of Jets stories/happenings from the past eight days. I was able to follow what was going on in Vegas to an extent but I was beilacked out from any type of updates in Mexico. Fortunately, there was no shortage of information or sources to read through all day today about everything that has been going on in the world of the Jets, here’s my extended reaction and opinions in an attempt to catch up, followed with regular, daily updates for the rest of the year starting with coverage of practice tomorrow:

First a few vacation thoughts:

1. It was my first time in Vegas and it met and exceeded expectations. I was lucky enough to actually win some money, thanks in part to hitting on Leon Washington’s #29 on the roulette tab.

2. American Airlines? Can you give me something to eat? A five hour flight from Dallas (we had a stopover) to Jersey and nothing more than some ginger ale…give me a break. I almost stormed first class in search of a sandwich but figured the risk outweighed the reward.

3. Cabo is one hell of a place…really beautiful. Obviously, I will let you know if I get the swine flu but from my perspective there was absolutely no danger in traveling there.

Back to the trash-talking, swaggalicious Jets:

1. Who isn’t excited about AFC East football this year? There is no need to repeat all of the quotes that have been thrown around by Rex Ryan, Channing Chowder, Kerry Rhodes, Joey Porter…etc but the trash-talk is flowing in full force already in June. I think Ryan’s quote about “not kissing Bellicheck’s rings” is music to Jets fans/players ears. I also don’t think there is anything disrespectful about what Ryan said. You can’t be standing around in awe of New England’s past success and expect to beat them out in the AFC East. The Jets need to be aggressive and hit the Patriots in the mouth to show they aren’t going to back down from them. I don’t care about regular season records, neither of them made the playoffs last year and they split their regular season games, there is no reason the Jets shouldn’t expect to beat the Patriots at home in week 2 this year.

I think it is comedic how concerned the Dolphins are about what analysts are saying about their team in June. They should enjoy flying under the radar and let all the pressure be on the other AFC East teams and then worry about sneaking up on everybody again. What do they care if Vegas sports books are picking them to win 8 games this year? The whole Channing Crowder/Rex Ryan exchange is a little more light-hearted than people are making it out to be. Of course now that I said that, watch the two of them rumble at the 50 yard line before the Jets/Fins Monday Night game.

Crowder also came after Mark Sanchez and Kerry Rhodes. His comments on Sanchez basically claimed he was soft because of his photo spread and that Chad Pennington/Chad Henne were tougher because they wouldn’t do that stuff. All I know is that if Sanchez isn’t throwing 4 INT’s in a playoff game like Pennington or riding the bench like Henne, he can take all the pictures in GQ he wants. Obviously, he needs to produce this year to silent critics of his photo shoot and critics in general.

Crowder went below the belt by saying Rhodes should worry about his off the field problems. Rhodes isn’t a suspect in any criminal investigation and never called out Crowder by name. All Rhodes did was post on twitter his belief that the Jets would have the best defense in the league. I love the confidence of the group and the support he received from other players and Ryan who backed him up, but still you need to show it on the field first before saying you are the best overall in the league.

Regardless, how different is this team from Eric Mangini’s group of robots from last year? I love the new confidence/emotion/swagger but it remains to be seen if it will lead to an improvement from 2008. I would take a group of 11-5 robots over a 7-9 group of trash-talking, emotional players. As of right now though, I agree with Kris Jenkins…hiring Ryan was an even better decision than building their new state of the art facility.

2. Mark Sanchez signed his contract today, which is for 5 years and about 50 million dollars making him the highest paid player in Jets history…pressure, anyone? It is great that the Jets wrapped this up long before training camp, which will allow Sanchez the best possible opportunity to win the starting job and excel in Brian Schottenheimer’s offense.

Turning the focus to on the field, Sanchez has been making steady progress and has flashed better than expected arm strength. The general consensus is that quarterback battle has been about even so far, with Kellen Clemens probably having a slight edge. However, you still have the feeling that inevitably Sanchez is going to keep improving and lock down the starting job by week one.

3. Leon Washington spoke to the media and made it clear that he wants a “fair market value” deal. He showed up for the last week of voluntary workouts as a goodwill gesture but no deal appears imminent. Can we please give this guy his money? He is too valuable to the Jets offense and special teams to be missing any parts of training camp. Thomas Jones still isn’t talking to the media and there are rumors circulating that the Jets may look to trade him this summer. I know they like Shonn Greene, but why trade away a pro-bowl running back when you are going to be starting an inexperienced quarterback? The Jets need to find some way to placate Jones for this season so Green has a year to learn behind him and carry a lighter workload. In 2010, I’d feel much better about Green/Washington backfield than I would in 2009.

4. Chansi Stuckey seems to be creating some space in the battle to start opposite Jerricho Cotchery. Stuckey is the most accomplished guy in the competition, runs fluid routes, and has great hands. He is probably better suited to be in the slot as a #3 guy but if he is the best guy, he deserves to start. Wallace Wright has been flashing a little bit on offense and did show some potential in 2007. Over at tight end, Dustin Keller has had a strong May/June and even drew a compliment from Bart Scott, who said he could be a top 5 receiving tight end in the league. Kareem Brown is also making strides in his transition from defensive end to tight end. Also, if you asked me if I would want Plaxico Burress for 12 games this year…the answer would definitely be yes.

5. On defense, Eric Smith pulled in 3 interceptions the other day and has played well in OTAs. He provides good depth behind Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard. Inside linebacker Jamaal Westerman continues to be a favorite of Ryan, who can’t stop raving about him. Ahmad Carroll has also continued his strong play at cornerback and could see some time on defense this year.

6. The Jets cut punter Eric Wilbur and re-signed Reggie Hodges…thrilling stuff in the punting battle. They also signed LB Craig Kobel and cut LB Nate Harris and DL Brian Schafering.

Tomorrow: Coverage of Thursday’s OTA and more reaction to AFC East trash talking.

Jets 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.