Early Thoughts On Jets vs. Bengals

The New York Jets second pre-season game will take place this Sunday at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. Unlike the opener, the starters are expected to get a full half of work. A few key players won’t participate including Brandon Moore, Sione Pouha, and Shonn Green. However, Plaxico Burress will take the field for the first time in a Jets uniform.

Here are a few things we are hoping to see Sunday night –

1. Coming Up – Continued accuracy, confidence, and leadership from Mark Sanchez. I also expect to see him push the ball down the field a little more. Most important, is that he stays healthy which could be a bit of a concern with Vladimir Ducasse starting at guard in place of Brandon Moore.

2. Signs Of Life – Speaking of Ducasse, it would be nice to see him flash any kind of potential or improvement after a difficult opening to the pre-season last week. The Jets need him now more than ever as he is the team’s top backup. Another bad performance from him and the Jets will likely have a veteran signed by the time the fourth quarter comes to an end.

3. Pass Rush – Whether it is Jamaal Westerman, newly signed Aaron Maybin, or Garrett McIntyre building on his two sack performance from last week, one of the outside linebackers needs to get after the quarterback, preferably against the Bengals first unit.

4. Plax – I am sure Brian Schottenheimer will design a few plays to get him involved early and if the Jets get in the red-zone, he will get a few shots. It will just be interesting to see him back on the field again and how he responds to the contact from another team.

5. The Battle For Carries – With Shonn Greene out of the line-up and LaDainian Tomlinson not likely to see extended action. Joe McKnight, who is just coming back from a concussion but is expected to play and Bilal Powell will both have a chance to make a statement in extended action. McKnight is in need a of a big play or two and Powell will look to build on a solid debut.

TOJ Roundtable: This Year’s Breakout Player?

TOJ Roundtable: where a collection of our writers offer a quick opinion on a pressing Jets question of the day.

Who will be this year’s breakout player on the New York Jets?

Joe Caporoso: I have faith in Rex Ryan finding ways to get after the quarterback so when he names a player his “Designated Pass Rusher” as he did yesterday with Jamaal Westerman, I tend think we could see a major leap in production from him this year. The Jets need Westerman to fill Jason Taylor’s role from last year and hopefully at least give them 5-7 sacks and create a few big plays. I think he steps up and becomes a valuable part of their defense after being a special teams player the past two seasons.

Rob Celletti: I don’t want to jinx him, but I’m going to go ahead and say Muhammad Wilkerson.  After the abject failure that was Vernon Gholston, I think the Jets would be very, very careful about speaking too highly of rookie front-7 players.  Considering the heaps of praise from Rex Ryan as well as the New York media in the first few days of camp, early returns on Wilkerson seem to be very good.  The Jets need to find ways other than all-out blitzes to generate a pass rush, so maybe Wilkerson will be the guy to help them achieve that.

TJ Rosenthal: Joe McKnight. We see him as the a Jamaal Charles type. If a game presents itself where there is ground to gain outside, he may break out and become a serious part of the rotation. Another breakout player, Calvin Pace, It’s time. The Jets have waited since he arrived to take over as a pass rushing threat. Now more than ever, the Jets could use one as the defense inches closer towards completion. Pace CAN have that breakout year, provided that he finally can stay healthy over a full season.

Chris Celletti: Is it possible to be one of the highest paid players in the league at your position and be eligible as a breakout player? Well, for Calvin Pace, it is now or never. He’s never had double digits in sacks in his career, and the only area the Jets are really lacking is consistently pressuring the quarterback. Pace needs to be the one doing so and I think (and hope) he will this year. I think in 2011 he finally reaches the double-digit sack plateau.

Time To Step Up: Jamaal Westerman

 

Rex Ryan always has a few interesting things to say about his line-up during training camp press conferences. Today was no exception, as he revealed:

  • Muhammad Wilkerson will start at defensive end from day one, which we will get into a little more in a separate article.
  • The kick return and punt return jobs are both wide open with Jeremy Kerley, Kyle Wilson, and Joe McKnight all expected to compete. Antonio Cromartie could also be used in late game situations on kick return.
  • And finally, when talking about linebacker Jamaal Westerman, he said the following – “It’s time to unleash him. I see Westerman as a DPR: Designated Pass Rusher.”

Westerman will now be entering his third year with the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers University. He impressed in his first year with his versatility of being able to line-up at defensive end, outside linebacker, and inside linebacker. He recorded a sack in his first professional game against the Houston Texans and finished his rookie campaign playing in 14 games, ending up with 10 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries. Last season, with Jason Taylor on the roster and due to some injuries, Westerman only played in 6 games and recorded 7 tackles.

Unfortunately, his most memorable play from last year was a roughing the punter penalty against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.

At the moment, it doesn’t look like the Jets are going to add a veteran linebacker which means Westerman will be the top backup to Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, along with be featured as a pass rusher in multiple packages. Is Rex Ryan expecting too much from Westerman, a player with 1 career sack or he is right to gamble on giving a young  player with potential a bigger role?

Westerman is one of the handful of players who need to improve substantially from last year if the Jets are going to remain a Super Bowl contender. You can include Kyle Wilson, Joe McKnight, and Wayne Hunter in that category of players who can compensate for the Jets technically not looking as good on paper as last year, by stepping up.

New York Jets Shouldn’t Forget Value Of Bryan Thomas

Mike Tannenbaum is going to have to do some creative maneuvering with contracts in the coming week to improve the New York Jets through free agency. There has been a good amount of talk about releasing Bryan Thomas as a necessary move to free up cap space. However, too many people are writing off his value to the defense and not looking at the important question of who will fill his void.

Thomas has started every single game at outside linebacker for the Jets since Rex Ryan has taken over. In 2009, he finished with 53 tackles and 2 sacks. Last season, he followed up with 39 tackles and a team leading 6 sacks. He isn’t a flashy player but he fits well in the system and is constantly praised for doing those “little things” that don’t show up on the stat sheet.

Rex Ryan’s defense needs players who are going to take on less enviable tasks in sacrifice of their own personal stats, look at Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and any player rotating through at defensive end. Thomas is comfortable in that role and has the trust of the coaching staff. If the Jets let him walk, who are they are going to replace him with? The only in house option is Jamaal Westerman, who has shown potential at times but spent most of last season inactive and finished with a total of 7 tackles.

Outside of their own roster, why would they spend money on a free agent like Manny Lawson, Antwan Barnes, Matt Roth, or even bringing Jason Taylor back before using that money to work something out with Thomas, who should be open to moving money around on his contract considering the big deal he received from the team before the 2007 season and that he has spent his whole career in New York.

The Jets are thin enough at linebacker, there is no need to make the position weaker by parting ways with a quality starter.

Should The Jets Bring Jason Taylor Back?

Jason Taylor has made it clear that he is interested in playing another year with the New York Jets. The question is now, should the Jets consider re-signing him to a low-cost one year deal to improve their depth at linebacker?

Overall, Taylor was pretty good for the team last season. As primarily a rotational player, he finished with 36 tackles, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He made a handful of incredibly clutch plays that had a large hand in helping the team pull out a few victories, most notably a strip sack of Tom Brady in week 2, a safety against Pittsburgh in week 15, and a big overtime sack against Cleveland in week 10.

On the cheap, the Jets could do much worse than bringing Taylor back as their fifth linebacker. He is a better option than a free agent like Matt Roth and is more proven than a younger player like Jamaal Westerman.

If they decide against bringing him back, it will indicate the coaching staff and front office thinks he is done, as evidenced by a weak showing in the playoffs or that they are confident in a young player like Westerman stepping up. There isn’t really a better pass rushing option on the free agent market, considering the Jets will only be looking for a rotational player.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing him back on a one year deal and the Jets address outside linebacker in next year’s draft or in free agency before the 2012 season. The depth at linebacker right now is a cause for concern and Taylor is comfortable in the system and is a proven veteran performer.

What Role Players Will Step Up For Jets In 2011?

I have decided that if I write enough of articles about the 2011 season, it actually has to happen, right?

Let’s take a look at a few role players for the Jets, who should have the opportunity to take on a bigger role in 2011 than they had in 2010.

Marquice Cole – A reserve corner who has carved out a small role in some of the Jets nickel and dime packages. He has played well in his limited duty on both defense and special teams. Antonio Cromartie and Drew Coleman are both free agents and Dwight Lowery could be seeing more time at safety, which should lead to more reps for Cole.

Jamaal Westerman – An undrafted free agent before the 2009 season who impressed his rookie year in a limited role on defense but had a disappointing second year. Westerman dealt with a few injuries and frequently ended up on the inactive list. He has shown an ability to rush the quarterback in pre-season and did have a sack in 2009 against Houston. The Jets are thin at both inside and outside linebacker. Westerman is versatile enough to play both, and could see a bigger role in a few defensive packages this year.

Ropati Pitoitua – At 6 foot 8, 315 pounds you can understand why the coaching staff is excited about Pitoitua’s potential. Unfortunately, he missed the entire 2010 season with a pre-season Achilles injury after occasionally working his way into the defensive line rotation in 2009. Pitoitua should be a prominent part of their rotation this season if he recovers well from his injury.

Marcus Dixon – Another defensive lineman who the coaching staff appears to be high on. Dixon worked his way into the rotation late last season and recorded a sack against the Chicago Bears. Mike Tannenbaum has mentioned him potentially moving down to defensive tackle. Whether it is at end or tackle, Dixon will have a good chance to get some reps on the defensive line rotation this year.

Jeff Cumberland – The Jets held on to Cumberland as a backup tight end all of last season without making him active until their meaningless week 17 game. They are obviously intrigued by what he can bring to the offense. He looked good as a pass catching threat in the pre-season and has good size. Cumberland might be able to contribute near the red-zone and in certain formations, especially if the Jets lose a couple of receivers in free agency.

Patrick Turner – A receiver with some height, who has a history with Mark Sanchez at USC. Turner was on the active roster for a few games last season and recorded a couple of receptions. He will now be competing with rookies Jeremy Kerley and Scotty McKnight for reps behind whomever the Jets starting receivers end up being.

Joe McKnight – There has been no shortage of words written on McKnight this off-season but hopefully he is ready to reach his potential in year two and become a contributor on the Jets offense.

Concern About The Jets Front Seven

And now back to football…

Appropriately there is a general consensus that the New York Jets need to improve their defensive front seven this off-season, which has been spearheaded by most mock drafts pairing them with a defensive lineman or outside linebacker.

At defensive line and linebacker, the Jets are a little bit old and a little bit slow. Outside of David Harris, all three starting linebackers are over 30 and none (including Harris) have great speed. On the defensive line, Sione Pouhaand Shaun Ellis (if he returns) are both into their 30’s and if you saw Mike DeVito trying to cover Danny Woodhead last year, you know he didn’t run track in high school or college.

The depth isn’t great at either position, Jamaal Westerman and Josh Mauga don’t project as future starters at linebacker. On the line, Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua, and Matt Kroul have potential but still a long way to go to prove they deserve regular spots in the rotation.

Where will the help come from? At a minimum, the Jets need a long term replacement for Bryan Thomas at outside linebacker, a defensive end to replace Shaun Ellis (even if he ends up coming back), and another interior lineman to boost the rotation and maybe eventually take over for Pouha.

The draft could only solve so much, especially with the Jets missing a second round pick. Hopefully, Mike Tannenbaum’s first round pick can contribute immediately and he finds another later round prospect or two that contribute at defensive line or linebacker. The Jets will likely be handcuffed in signing new players in free agency, as they will be limited by the same “Final Eight” rules they were last year, if an injunction is granted as expected on April 6th.

In reality, it is going to take multiple off-seasons to get the defensive front seven where it needs to be. The Jets can take a big step in the right direction this year by having a strong draft, hoping a few of their developmental players (Dixon, Pitoitua) contribute, and maybe swinging a deal or two via free agency or trade.

New York Jets Recent Cuts Open Up New Opportunities

There have been varying emotions on the New York Jets recent round of cuts. A mix of joy and disgust as the Vernon Gholston disaster finally came to an end, sadness at seeing respected veterans like Kris Jenkins and Damien Woody go, amusement at Jason Taylor now only wanting to continue his career with the Jets, a team he once despised as much as we despised him, and indifference over Ben Hartsock (sorry #84). Regardless, all of these moves are going to open up new opportunities for other players on the roster and will affect strategy in April’s draft.

Woody – The Jets are expected to have veteran Wayne Hunter and second year lineman Vladimir Ducasse battle for his old spot. For Ducasse, this a make or break battle. The Jets are going to have to admit they may have missed in last year’s second round if Ducasse begins his NFL career by losing consecutive battles to Matt Slauson and Hunter. Towards the end of last season, Hunter showed he could be adequate as a starter but  I am sure the coaching staff is hopeful Ducasse will seize the position and be the long term answer at right tackle.

Jenkins – There is still a good chance Jenkins will come back at a reduced price. Regardless, this just means embracing Sione Pouha as the quality starter he has shown himself to be. It also means the Jets will have to look defensive line early in the draft, as we expected them to anyway.

Gholston – He didn’t play enough to shake up anything on the roster. The coaching staff does seem high on Marcus Dixon at defensive end and Ropati Pitoitua is returning from injury. Expect both players to get a shot at becoming large parts of the defensive line rotation in 2011.

Taylor – He has expressed an interest in returning to the Jets at a reduced price. I have a hard time seeing that happening as the Jets will likely look to get younger at linebacker and defensive end (where Taylor frequently lined up) in the draft. Jamaal Westerman might be a guy who gets more of a shot now that Taylor is gone. Westerman showed some potential in 2009 but wasn’t given much of a chance last season…until he roughed the punter against Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game.

Hartsock – The Jets decided to keep Jeff Cumberland on the roster all of the last season, despite only making him active once in week 17. He showed potential as a pass catcher in the pre-season and clearly the Jets think he can become a bigger part of the offense, which he may need to if Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith don’t return. In terms of blocking, Matthew Mulligan should be able to step into that role as he received occasional reps in run heavy sets last season.

Check Out Hartsock’s Lone Touchdown as a New York Jet at 1:05…and his incredibly lame celebration

New York Jets Release Damien Woody, Kris Jenkins, Jason Taylor, Vernon Gholston

It is being reported the Jets have released right tackle Damien Woody, nose tackle Kris Jenkins, outside linebacker Jason Taylor, and defensive lineman Vernon Gholston. Quick thoughts….

Damien Woody – The biggest loss out of these four. Woody gave the Jets three quality years at right tackle and was a leader on the offense. He struggled with injuries towards the end of last season and the Jets managed to get by with backup Wayne Hunter filling in. Hunter (who is a free agent) will likely be re-signed and compete with second year lineman Vladimir Ducasse for Woody’s old job. Ducasse was recently moved to right tackle after losing out on the chance to start at guard in his rookie year. Similar to when the Jets released Alan Faneca last year, they will be taking a risk that a younger player on the roster can become an adequate replacement. They guessed right last year, let’s hope they do it again.

Kris Jenkins – Jenkins was a beast for the Jets in 2008 but suffered a season ending injury early in the 2009 season, and then after extensive rehab had another season ending injury in the first quarter of the 2010 season. He has claimed he wants to continue his career and is in the middle of another rehab. The Jets simply owed him too much money to bring back under his current contract. I would guess there is a good chance he is brought back if he agrees to a cheaper deal down the road. If not, Sione Pouha has been very good filling in for him the past two years, however the Jets still need to address their defensive line in this year’s draft.

Jason Taylor – The Jets took a shot with Taylor when it became clear the Miami Dolphins weren’t interested in bringing him back before the 2010 season. He was decent as a rotational player in their defense last year, finishing with 36 tackles, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. This team still needs to find a long term answer for their pass rush at the outside linebacker position.

Vernon Gholston – The bust of busts. A guy who wowed at the combine and was drafted with the #6 overall pick to sack the quarterback, yet never registered a single sack in three seasons with the team. Goodbye Vernon.

Moving up the depth chart —

  • RT Wayne Hunter (when he is re-signed)
  • RT Vladimir Ducasse
  • OLB Jamaal Westerman
  • DL Marcus Dixon
  • DL Ropati Pitoitua
  • DL Jarron Gilbert

This also increases the Jets need to draft two to three players for their defensive front seven.

Don’t Forget How Dominant Jenkins Could Be

Jets vs. Bills Round 1: Game Breakdown

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First a few updates:

1. The Jets have signed former Ravens defensive end, Trevor Pryce to boost their interior pass rush and overall defensive line depth. Pryce is obviously familiar with Rex Ryan’s defense and does have an ability to get after the quarterback, as evidenced by his 6.5 sacks last year and 90 sacks throughout his career. Howard Green was released as a corresponding roster move but is expected to re-sign Monday.

2. Darrelle Revis will be out Sunday, as expected. Wayne Hunter and Jamaal Westerman are both also likely to miss the Buffalo game. Calvin Pace was limited in practice but it doesn’t sound like he is going to play either. Rex Ryan hinted that Joe McKnight could be active this week…he probably got sick of hearing about Leon Washington, Chauncey Washington, and Danny Woodhead.

Jets vs. Bills Round 1: Game Breakdown

Offense: Considering Mark Sanchez has turned into Peyton Manning, I think the Jets should come out in the 4 wide hurry up and have the kid let it fly 40-50 times….More seriously, the Jets must avoid the temptation to move too far away from their running game. They have looked great throwing the ball but let’s make sure LaDainian Tomlinson is electric gliding for at least 15 carries and Shonn Greene starts building some confidence back with 12-15 carries of his own. The Jets must maintain balance on offense, even against an average defensive unit like the Bills.

When the Jets are throwing the ball, you have to think Buffalo will be concentrating their coverage on Dustin Keller which should keep things open for Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery, who has been very quiet so far this year. I am waiting for a break out game from both Cotchery and Greene. The Jets better keep Brad Smith involved in the game plan, because it seems like every time he touches the ball the Jets get at least 10 yards.

The best news? This is the last game without Santonio Holmes.

Defense: How about we get that pass rush going a little bit? I saw what Miami did to the Jets secondary, but Buffalo doesn’t a receiver in the same stratosphere as Brandon Marshall. Antonio Cromartie should take Lee Evans out of this game, while Kyle Wilson and Drew Coleman (who will be taking most of the first team reps, who would have thought?) should be able to handle Steve Johnson and Roscoe Parrish. The Jets need to come after Ryan Fitzpatrick early and often.

Buffalo does have talent at running back, but it doesn’t really seem like you can run the ball on the 2010 Jets. I am sure the Bills will play above their heads, as they usually do when they face the Jets but overall…c’mon. This Bills offense shouldn’t be able to put up more than 13 points  on this defense. They dropped 30 on a pitiful New England defense and that won’t happen this week.

Special Teams: If Joe McKnight is active, I would expect to see him get a shot on a punt return or two. Brad Smith looked great on kick returns last week, so no need to mess with that. Nick Folk? Steve Weatherford? Pro-Bowl? The Jets do have to be careful of Roscoe Parrish on returns, however.