What Is A Successful Jets Season?

First a few updates:

1. The Jets released tight end Bubba Franks yesterday, moving them from being very thin at the position to being ridiculously thin. Behind second year player Dustin Keller, the Jets have a converted defensive end, a long snapper and two undrafted free agents. It might be time to consider a move before training camp starts, Mike Tannebaum, because the Jets are kidding themselves if they think Kareem Brown can start off the year as their number two tight end.

2. Kerry Rhodes was on ESPN Radio today and made a few interesting comments. He discussed the relief of having Jim Leonhard starting alongside of him because of the freedom it will grant him in the secondary. It was also clear from the interview that he was frustrated with the way Eric Mangini used him last season.

What Is A Successful Jets Season?

Over the past few days I have been reading numerous previews about the Jets in 2009 and listening to different football analysts talk about the team and have noticed a growing pessimism about them this upcoming year. The general consensus seems to be that the Jets and their fans have too high of expectations for 2009, and that there are many reasons to believe the team will struggle this season. The organization and the fans need to reconsider what a successful 2009 season equates to.

Reading these previews and thinking about the upcoming year forces you to question, what do you consider to be a successful Jets season in 2009? Personally, I always think a playoff appearance equals a successful season, but should I be satisfied with less?

There are plenty of reasonable and convincing arguments against the Jets being a playoff team in 2009. They have a rookie head coach. The last two defensive coordinators from Baltimore who became head coaches struggled in the top position. They are likely starting a rookie quarterback. Their schedule is difficult, especially in the first four games. They lack depth on both sides of the ball and are due for a rash of injuries after having a healthy 2009 season. Their offense has major question marks at tight end and receiver. Their defense will be without their best outside linebacker for the first four games. I hear you critics…and you got some valid arguments.

Here is a hypothetical: the Jets go 7-9 this year. Mark Sanchez wins the starting quarterback job, progresses nicely during the season and shows signs of being the guy the Jets drafted him to be. The defense starts out a little slow but adapts to the new system as the year moves on and they finish very strong. You get what you expect out of your pro-bowl running backs and your inexperienced receiving core. The season ends and the Jets spend the off-season acquiring a big time target for Sanchez and improving their overall depth, not that bad, right? Can you be satisfied with that for next year? Honestly, I can’t say I would because naturally I want to watch a team with winning record compete in the playoffs but in reality that wouldn’t be a terrible season.

The above scenario could very easily happen in 2009, as could even worse scenarios that involve major injuries, Mark Sanchez/Rex Ryan looking like a bust, and a 4-12 record. However, it also isn’t crazy to argue/believe the Jets can be a 9-7 to 11-5 team competing for wild-card spot and maybe even a division title.

The rookie head coach/rookie quarterback problem can be overcome (see Atlanta/Baltimore last year). I also remember the Jets making the playoffs with a rookie head coach in both 2001 (Herman Edwards) and 2006 (Eric Mangini). The Jets didn’t receive incredible quarterback play in either of those seasons but still managed to win ten games. Sanchez will make his mistakes but if he can be average/slightly above average, the Jets will be in every game because of their running game and talent level on defense.

I don’t buy the concerns about the Jets schedule. Their first four games aren’t the easiest in the world but there is no reason they can’t be 2-2. Houston is a team that everybody says is jumping to the next level every single season, yet they always go 7-9 or 8-8. The Pats are the Pats. The Jets whipped the Titans last year in Tennessee and now get them at home and the Saints haven’t made the playoffs the past two years. After those four games the Jets have Miami, Buffalo, Oakland, Miami and then a bye. Am I really insane to think the Jets can be 5-3 heading into that bye? The second half of the schedule isn’t a cakewalk but includes winnable games at home against Jacksonville, Cincinnati, and on the road against Tampa Bay and Toronto aka Buffalo. Carolina, New England, Atlanta, and Indy are tough second half games but if the Jets are a playoff caliber team, they will be able to pull an upset or two.

The Jets depth is a major issue on offense, period. If an offensive lineman gets hurt for an extended period of time, they could be in serious trouble although Wayne Hunter and Robert Turner have some game experience the past two years (as extra tight ends), there would be still be large drop off. They have one NFL caliber tight end on their roster right now and the receivers are a question mark. However, I do remember in 2006 when the same questions were asked about their receiving core and a little known player stepped up and turned into a capable NFL starter (Jerricho Cotchery) and the other one was a solid number one (Laveranues Coles). Why can’t Chansi Stuckey or David Clowney imitate Cotchery from 2006 this season and why can’t Cotchery imitate Coles, a player who he arguably played better than the last two years?

On defense, I think the Jets have pretty good depth. Their top three backup corners (Dwight Lowery, Donald Strickland, Drew Coleman) and backup safety (Eric Smith) all have starting or extended experience as NFL players. At linebacker, Larry Izzo is a seasoned NFL veteran, Jason Trusnick and Marques Murrell have flashed potential and when Calvin Pace returns in week 5, Vernon Gholston can bump back into being a pass rush specialist. They are definitely a little thin at defensive end but Howard Green and Sione Pouha are experienced backups at defensive tackle in the NFL.

Like just about every NFL team, the Jets can end up anywhere in the standings in 2009. We will learn alot about Rex Ryan and his new defense, along with Mark Sanchez right out of the gate on the road in Houston and home against division favorite/rival New England in week two.

Even if it isn’t fair, I can’t say I’d be happy with a 7-9 team, unless maybe they swept New England and Miami…nah maybe not even then. I want to see them at match last season’s win total and playing meaningful games in December.

New Jets Player Highlight of the Day: Bart Scott demolishes Ben Rothlisberger. Swaggalicious.

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.

Why the Jets Defense Is Legit

First a few updates:

1. The Jets claimed wide receiver Mario Urrutia ,off waivers from the Bengals. He was a 7th round pick last year and spent the season on the practice squad. He has a great size at 6’6, 232 lbs and was a legit deep threat during his time at Louisville. The more competition at the receiver position, the better.

2. I am glad the Yankees are getting to beat up on New York’s AA team to get back on a roll. I know they are dealing with a ton of injuries but the Mets offense is a joke right now.

Why the Jets Defense Is Legit

One of the interesting things I have been hearing debate about is the Jets defense heading into this season. Jets fans are confident that the unit is going to be one of the league’s best, while other people are more skeptical and believe they are being overrated. Many people scoff at the assertion that Rex Ryan will have the same success he dad last year as a defensive coach, because the Jets have nowhere near the amount of the talent the Ravens did last season. I am not saying they will be as good as Baltimore was in 2008, because yes the Ravens do have more talent, but not that much more talent. ESPN recently rated the Jets as the fourth overall team defense in the league, behind the Steelers, Ravens, and Vikings and I think it is a fair rating, here is why:

The Jets already had a very good defense last season, with a below average coordinator in Bob Sutton. As a team, they were excellent against the run, created turnovers (14 INTs, 29 FF), got to the quarterback (41.0 sacks) and scored points (4 defensive touchdowns) despite struggling in pass coverage. As a reference to other great defense in 2008, the Jets had 7 more sacks than the Ravens and forced 16 more fumbles. They also had 2 more INTs than Minnesota and 7 more forced fumbles.

This off-season they improved their linebackercore by upgrading from Eric Barton to Bart Scott. They will also have a healthy David Harris, who was banged up most of last season. Vernon Gholston can’t be any worse than he was last year and I think it is reasonable to have faith in Rex Ryan to get something out of him in 2009.

In the secondary, they added Lito Sheppard, Jim Leonhard, and Donald Strickland. Dwight Lowery also now has the experience of being a starter last year under his belt. On the defensive line they did lose Kenyon Coleman and his .5 sacks but replaced him with Marques Douglas and Howard Green.

When discussing the Jets defense, I think they have 4 pro-bowl caliber players, 3 very good players, 2 solid starters, and 2 question marks.

You can’t argue against the talent of Kris Jenkins and Darrelle Revis. Both are coming off pro-bowl seasons and they are both top five players in the league at their respective positions. Bart Scott is a pro-bowl caliber linebacker who knows Rex Ryan’s system and no longer has to play in the shadow of Ray Lewis. I am also putting Kerry Rhodes at the pro-bowl caliber level, which is debatable since he has never been selected to one and he hasn’t been an all-pro selection like Jenkins and Scott. However, Rhodes has been held back by the Jets system the past few years and from not having a steady starter opposite him. He also should have been an all-pro player in 2006, but was robbed because he didn’t have a big name at the time.

The next tier of Jets defensive players is Calvin Pace, Shaun Ellis, and David Harris. Most people sleep on Ellis but he is coming off a very good year, which saw him record 60 tackles, 8 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. 8 sacks is nothing to look down at for a 3-4 defensive end. Pace is another guy most people ignore when analyzing the Jets defense. Despite being forced to play in coverage more than he should have been in 2008, Pace still had 80 tackles, 7 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles. Rex Ryan will have Pace attacking more in 2009, which plays to his strengths. David Harris had a monster rookie season in 2007 with 127 tackles and 5 sacks. He was slowed by injures in 2008 but is back at full strength and will benefit from having Scott next to him.

Bryan Thomas isn’t a great player by any stretch of the imagination but is still a consistent starter (57 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3 FF in 2008) and he should be platooning with Vernon Gholston in 2009. Jim Leonhard is going to be a full time starter for the first this year but thrived in the playoffs last season. He will also be a major upgrade in coverage over Abram Elam.

The Jets two biggest question marks are at defensive end and corner opposite Darrelle Revis. Marques Douglas and Mike DeVito will be splitting time at d-end opposite Shaun Ellis, and yes it is fair to say that is a weak spot. Douglas does know Ryan’s system well however and it shouldn’t be that hard to replace Kenyon Coleman statistically (50 tackles, .5 sacks, 0 FF). Lito Sheppard has struggled the past two years in Philadelphia but has been a pro-bowl player in the past. It remains to be seen if he can return to his 2004 and 2006 form. However, the Jets have very good depth behind him with Donald Strickland and Dwight Lowery. Strickland is a solid veteran who could handle increased reps if necessary and Lowery was a solid starter opposite Revis last year as a fourth round rookie until he hit the wall late in the season.

The talent is there for the Jets in 2009 and they have one of the brightest defensive minds in the game to lead them. They are capable of winning games 17-14 and 16-10, which should be music to Mark Sanchez and Kellen Clemens’ ears.

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.

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.

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.