New York Jets Headline Watch – The Brawl Of The Century

Turn On The Jets looks at the over analysis of the New York Jets training camp fight today

Shockingly enough the New York media and the mainstream media will occasionally twist headlines to generate some type of controversy. We will use this series of columns to review what was actually said and whether there is any reason to be up in arms about it. Today’s topic is the brawl of the century that occurred at practice, along with a few other comments about today’s “newsworthy” topics –

The Headlines

The finger waving

What actually happened –

Defensive back D’Anton Lynn hit running back Joe McKnight late out of bounds. McKnight responded by throwing the football back at Lynn, leading to roughly a 20 player brawl on the sideline somewhat near the fans. The fight was broken up within a minute or so and practice resumed.

Of course the national hand wringing began immediately. Look at the Jets! No chemistry! Out of control again! Of course New England had about three brawls last week but you would never hear too much about that.

Needless to say, fights happen in training camp. A brawl between a player who won’t make the roster and a third down back isn’t going to make or break the Jets season.

Unfortunately this wasn’t the only dominant non-important  Jets news story dominating headlines today. Boomer Esiason thinks the Jets should cut Tim Tebow. Okay? They aren’t going to cut him, so why even bother discuss it? Boomer is a radio host…and a good one at that and comments like this are given to generate ratings.

What should be discussed today is how rookie Stephen Hill beat Darrelle Revis deep for a touchdown on a perfectly thrown 50 yard pass from Mark Sanchez. This is big news because nobody beats Revis deep. The Jets desperately need Hill to grow up fast because of how banged up their wide receivers are and because Sanchez is continuing a very strong training camp.

If you want to talk about the fight, talk about the mature way Sanchez handled it to the media today.

New York Jets Fact Or False: The Tweeter’s Choice Edition

Chris Gross weekly Fact or False on the New York Jets answers your submitted questions on the team

Throughout the season, we will periodically poll our Twitter followers for what they want to see addressed in New York Jets Fact Or False. For our inaugural edition of The Tweeter’s Choice, our readers brought the heat. Not one person disappointed with the issues they wanted to read about, which proves we have one of the most, if not the most, knowledgeable fan bases in all of football. Huge shout out to @Crazychimpan, @bleist25, @ItsOasus, @DrewFromJersey, and @Jetsforlife25 for sending in their suggestions this week. Be sure to give each of them a follow on twitter, and be sure to keep a look out all season, as we will certainly run another edition of this in the future. Thanks again, and enjoy!

8 DAYS UNTIL THE PRE-SEASON OPENER. WHERE IS YOUR NEW SHIRT?

The Jets will carry more than 5 RB/FBs going into season. (@Crazychimpman). False.

While five is a great over/under for the number of backs that will be on the active roster come opening day, don’t expect any more or any less. The three guaranteed spots will be Shonn Greene, who will presumably be the starter barring an injury, Joe McKnight, for his Special Teams value will lock him in, regardless of whether or not Bilal Powell gets the nod as the third down back, and John Connor, who established himself as the starting Fullback early in training camp as the team has already decided to waive journeyman Fui Vakapuna.

The next two spots are the intriguing ones. You’d have to think that, with all the talk about Powell, he will make it. However, Powell must truly prove that he is worthy of being a valuable option as a third down back. McKnight isn’t going anywhere, due to his worth on Special Teams, so for the team to carry two backs with strikingly similar skill sets, Powell must go above and beyond what’s asked of him.

Rookie Terrance Ganaway is also a very interesting case. Ganaway was seemingly drafted because he looks to be a perfect situational fit for this season, with the hope that he will develop into a perfect schematic fit long term. He has great experience in the option offense, running for an astounding 1547 yards and 21 touchdowns last season at Baylor, while posting a remarkable 6.2 YPC, which makes him the most logical back in any Tebow package. Ganaway also has tremendous size at about 6’0” 240 lbs, which makes him an ideal fit for the Ground and Pound that New York plans to implement under Tony Sparano. Unless Ganaway really struggles to prove he is not yet NFL ready, he should remain on the roster.

The Jets will likely remain set with these five backs. Unless Powell is written off, it looks very doubtful that New York will look to add a veteran. If Powell does not prove to be worthy of a spot by the time the season begins, the Jets still may remain content with just four backs, while relying on Tim Tebow to be a huge contributor to the run game. The only way I truly see New York adding a veteran is if Powell tails off, and Greene struggles immensely during the pre-season. Otherwise, it looks like the Jets are ready to roll into the season with what is currently on the roster.

Trader Mike will make a move for another RT before camp is over (@bleist25). Fact.

Tannenbaum took a shot swinging a deal with the Panthers for Tackle Jeff Otah, which clearly did not work out due to the former first rounder’s inability to pass a physical. With the Otah trade nullified, New York is back to square one with Wayne Hunter and Austin Howard as the two most logical choices at Right Tackle. Hunter has a serious edge over Howard, who will likely not see a significant down all season. That is a scary thought. Clearly, Mike T is aware of this, as displayed by the failed Otah trade. By now, I’m not sure anyone can argue with the notion that the Jets are not comfortable with the competition they currently have at the Right Tackle position.

The next logical step for Tannenbaum is to look to Free Agency. Many questioned why he hesitated to bring in a veteran during the offseason, but he likely wanted to see how Hunter and the other tackles looked during mini-camps and OTAs. Since Tannenbaum and the rest of the organization were clearly not satisfied, they can now look to add someone like Vernon Carey, who will come at a discount in comparison to what he may have cost them a few months ago.

“Mayhem” will play on more than just passing downs this season (ItsOasus). Fact.

Aaron “Mayhem” Maybin is already earning high praise from the media and coaching staff in the early stages of training camp. He has reportedly bulked up to 240+ pounds, which will help him greatly against the run. Calvin Pace will likely remain on one side of the field for the majority of downs, however the other side is open for competition. While most expect Bryan Thomas to retain the spot opposite Pace which he occupied prior to his season ending injury last year, there is a good chance we could see him in a limited role this season. While he has had success setting the edge on run-downs in the past, the praise Maybin has been receiving for his added size and relentless motor could propel him into an increased role to play a surplus of downs in a variety of spots on the outside. His versatility will be a huge weapon for Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine this season. Expect them to utilize that to the fullest extent.

Ricky Sapp will have more sacks than Calvin Pace this season (@DrewFromJersey). False.

Although Sapp has very exciting potential, he has still yet to record a sack at the NFL level. While he could very well break that trend this season, I wouldn’t give him an edge over the seasoned veteran that is Calvin Pace, even if he is entering the twilight of his career. Since joining the Jets, Pace has gotten to the Quarterback a total of 26 times. Sure, his sack total has decreased each year since 2009, however his experience, along with the amount of reps he will receive should make him good for at least 4 sacks, if healthy. Sapp, on the other hand, may still be able to compile 2-3, but will likely be used far less. Additionally, players with very little experience in real NFL game situations, unless tremendously talented, tend to compile more QB hurries and knockdowns, rather than actual sacks. Timing is everything on getting to the Quarterback before he gets rid of the ball, and it will likely take a full season of game experience before Sapp gets used to executing his moves just at the right time.

Early Camp Star Ellis Lankster will become a serious playmaker and collect at least 3 Interceptions as a shutdown nickel-guy this year (Jetsforlife25). False.

Lankster’s progress is extremely encouraging for New York thus far. With a serious question mark heading into training camp as to who would assume the role of the fourth cornerback, Lankster has provided a breath of fresh air for coaches and fans. However, he has played in just 17 total games over the course of his career, and has yet to register an interception. Additionally, the amount of reps he gets will likely be very limited. The Jets have a surplus of defensive backs including three excellent corners in All-World Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Kyle Wilson, whom many believe is on his way to becoming a very good corner in this league, as well as the Safeties Yeremiah Bell, LaRon Landry, and Rookie Josh Bush, who is realistically the best cover Safety on the roster. For Lankster, it will all come down to scheme. His inexperience will have some, but not much, effect on his ability to become a playmaker.

However, if the Jets choose to put out more packages of Revis, Cromartie, Wilson, and two safeties, which seems like the most logical approach, other than third and long scenarios, Lankster may not get the amount of snaps necessary to truly establish himself as a serious playmaker, while compiling 3 interceptions. As well as Lankster has been playing, it is unlikely he will beat out Wilson for reps as the third CB. You’d like to think with improved Defensive Line and Safety play, New York will not see a surplus of third and long scenarios this season. However, if these positions fail to live up to their potential, then all bets are off.

Josh Baker is the 2nd best TE on the roster (DrewFromJersey). Fact.

Baker wins the spot as New York’s second best TE, somewhat by default. Jeff Cumberland has great potential, and has showed flashes of solid play in the past, but he has participated in just 4 career contests. Baker, on the other hand, saw action in 11 games last season, while hauling in 3 balls for 27 yards, including a touchdown on Christmas Eve against the Giants. Hayden Smith is very intriguing, but as a guy who has never played a down of football in his life, he certainly does not have the edge over his competition just yet. The key for whoever becomes the second Tight End this season will be their ability to block. Unfortunately for New York, not one of them has truly proved to be able to do that, so it will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

Josh Bush will struggle in a forced role as the Jets only true cover safety (Jetsforlife25). False.

The fact that Bush will be forced into a role as the only true cover safety on the roster will actually benefit him. Prior to becoming a safety at Wake Forest, Bush was a corner, and has been noted for his cover abilities throughout his career. Last season, Bush had a team best 6 interceptions earning him First-Team All ACC accolades, as well as a spot as a third teamer on the All-American squad. Bush has sub 4.5 40 speed, and under the tutelage of savvy veterans like Landry, Bell, and Revis, he should fit nicely in a center field type role for the Jets. Sure, he will have his growing pains, but Bush will ultimately succeed more often than not this season.

New York Jets Training Camp: Bilal Powell Turning Heads

New York Jets running back Bilal Powell is off to a strong start in training camp. What kind of impact can he have?

It was a disappointing rookie season in 2011 for New York Jets running back Bilal Powell. As a fourth round selection, there was a hope he could make some type of impact or impression when given the opportunity. In the pre-season he failed to impress with 28 carries for 62 yards, burying himself on the depth chart behind Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight. About halfway through the season he received an enormous chance when Tomlinson was inactive for the Jets/Broncos week 11 match-up and Greene left in the first quarter with an injury. Powell received 7 carries but only ended with 11 yards and fumbled the ball into the end-zone, where he was luckily bailed out by Matt Slauson.

Prior to camp many (including myself) thought Powell would be the odd man out on the running back depth chart. The Jets drafted Terrance Ganaway in the 6th round this year and his bruising style and familiarity with the option seemed to make him a more natural fit behind Shonn Greene, while Joe McKnight handled the third down duties. However, Powell has responded by turning heads early in camp with both his quickness and ability to catch the football. He has been impressive enough that running back coach Anthony Lynn has declared the third down back job wide open between Powell and McKnight.

Lynn prefaced this competition a few months ago by classifying Powell as a “B” back in the Jets system, same as McKnight. Greene and Ganaway are “A” backs. As you could surmise, “A” backs are power, inside runners while “B” backs provide more outside speed.

Powell isn’t going to keep McKnight off the roster because of McKnight’s special teams value. He was one of the league’s top returners last season but that doesn’t mean the Jets can’t keep both and either stash Ganaway on the practice squad or just carry five running backs (fullback John Conner being the fifth) and part ways with H-Back Josh Baker.

With a strong pre-season, Powell could upset McKnight and steal his third down role. Both players were fourth round picks. Both players are nearly identical in size (same weight and McKnight is an inch taller). McKnight is faster, or was at least a full tenth of a second faster in his forty coming out of college and is a good enough receiver to be split out. Powell did have 18 receptions his senior year of college and three receiving touchdowns. He will need to demonstrate his hands at the NFL level to give McKnight a true run for his money.

It is obviously too early to make any kind of judgement about Powell’s long term potential. He has strung together five good practices but has shown enough tenacity in blocking drills and enough speed to catch people’s attention. Powell should receive substantial work in the Jets first and second pre-season game and with strong outings could receive extended work with the first unit in the crucial third pre-season game.

TOJ’s Top 50 New York Jets Countdown: 20-30

Turn On The Jets counts down the top 50 New York Jets currently on the roster, continuing today with numbers 20-30

Frustrated and confused after seeing the NFL’s Top 100 player list? TOJ was as well. Due to that, we have decided to rank the current New York Jets on the roster from 50 all the way down to 1. Along the way, we will be classifying the players into the following five categories:

  • Bottom of the Roster (strictly a depth and developmental player)
  • Middle Class (Situational player, spot starter)
  • Quality Starter (Capable starting player or very good role player)
  • Red Chip (Swiping this term from Michael Lombardi, an above average stater/borderline Pro-Bowler)
  • Blue Chip (Another swipe from Lombardi, an elite player at his position)

READ NUMBERS 40-50 HERE

READ NUMBERS 30-40 HERE

(STILL IN MIDDLE CLASS CATEGORY)

29. John Conner, Fullback – The Terminator was average at best last season, his first one as a full time starter. Hopefully, with a more run orientated approach this season he will develop into a more consistent lead blocker and bigger cog in the offense, as Tony Sparano hasn’t been shy in the past about using his fullbacks as runners for short yardage situations. Conner must also work on his hands, so he can be a reliable checkdown option.

28. Wayne Hunter, Tackle – Despite filling in for Damien Woody admirably at the end of the 2010 season, Hunter’s frankly awful 2011 makes it more than fair to question if he is capable starter in the NFL. The Jets are betting that Sparano will help turn into a competent every down player and for the sake of Mark Sanchez’s health, they better have bet right.

27. Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver – The hope is that he will quickly prove to be a capable starter and based on physical attributes, there is no reason he can’t become that immediately. Unless he gets injured, he will start from day one opposite Santonio Holmes and be relied on to prevent teams from double teaming him or Dustin Keller.

26. Kyle Wilson, Cornerback – Wilson bounced back somewhat from a disappointing rookie season in 2011 but still left something to be desired for a first round pick. People forget that when he was selected, he was anticipated to be a big time punt returner and hyped as somebody capable of the holding the fort down if Darrelle Revis missed time from a holdout. He is no longer a factor as a returner and has the looks of a good, not great nickel back that hasn’t proven he can be an every down player yet.

25. Joe McKnight, Running Back –  He proved to be a very good kick returner last season but never really received the chance to flourish into a big part of the offense. Tony Sparano found a way to make Reggie Bush more successful than he ever had been in his NFL career last season in Miami and while McKnight isn’t on the same talent level as him, he does have a comparable skill set. He should be given every opportunity to be the team’s primary third down back and a big part of the passing games, particularly on screens.

QUALITY STARTER (CAPABLE STARTER OR VERY GOOD ROLE PLAYER)

24. Jeremy Kerley, Wide Receiver – Flashed a ton of potential in his rookie season and will be the team’s slot receiver in 2012. Davone Bess caught plenty of passes in Miami in this same offensive system and Kerley should do the same. He will also likely be the team’s primary punt returner. Kerley has excellent short area quickness and should be a frequent target on third downs.

23. Quinton Coples, Defensive End – For where the Jets took him in the first round, he better be ready to be a starter out of the gates. Coples has drawn rave reviews for his performance in OTAs and mini-camp, and seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder. I was skeptical of the selection at the time but you have heard exactly everything you want to hear about a first round pick since he was taken. Coples has the potential to be a force up front, particularly in the Jets 4-3 alignments alongside Muhammad Wilkerson.

22. Aaron Maybin, Linebacker/Defensive End – The team’s top pass rusher last season, who should improve in 2012 with a full off-season to master Rex Ryan’s defense and work on diversifying his rush techniques. He has bulked up in anticipation of an increase of reps. There is no reason to think he can’t approach double digit sacks in this system.

21. Matt Slauson, Guard – Slauson has been the team’s starting guard the past two seasons and has proven to be competent. He played through a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder last season and is anticipated to be 100% healthy in 2012. Slauson won’t be elected to any Pro-Bowls but won’t hold the Jets offensive back as a starter.

20. Eric Smith, Safety – Defensive backs coach summed up Smith perfectly when he said, “you will love him 300 reps, not at 900 reps.” He was overextended as a starter last season and was also banged up down the stretch run. However, Smith can thrive in Rex Ryan’s defense as a role player like he did in 2009, which will also allow him to focus on being the team’s top special teams player.

Check back tomorrow for players 10-20…

New York Jets: Get Another Running Back

The New York Jets need to add another running back to their depth chart

In case you haven’t heard, the New York Jets are committed to running the football this season. It is said so frequently, that you wonder if members of the organization think they could increase their yards per carry simply by talking about the running game. Here is an overview of the type of quotes we have been hearing all off-season about returning the offense to their lost “Ground and Pound” identity –

“We’re a power football team…we’re going to get physical with these guys, run, we’re going to punch the ball in there.” – Dustin Keller

“I think for us to be successful as a team, we have to be able to run the football. Sometimes is it going to be tough sledding? Absolutely. But that has to be who we are.” – Rex Ryan

“Start on the ground and take it from there” – Shonn Greene

“This is a physical football team; I like playing a physical style of offense. I think anybody that knows me knows I want to be physical.” – Tony Sparano 

“We are a team that’s built for that. I think bringing Tony Sparano in will be great for us, help us get back to our swag, and just help us get out there and do what we do best.” – John Conner on running the football

You would think for a team so adamant about running the football, there would be more of a concern about the current depth chart at running back. Currently this is what the Jets are heading into the season with –

Shonn Greene – The reality on Shonn Greene is this, if you remove three monster games during the 2009 season (2 of which came in the playoffs), he has proven to be a slightly above average NFL back at best. He is a good straight ahead runner but has shown little elusiveness and limited big play ability. His skill in the passing game leaves something to be desired. To his credit, his durability and fumbling issues are overstated. Greene didn’t lose a fumble last season and missed a portion of only one game. However, at his best Greene is a player that needs a quality supporting back alongside him.

Joe McKnight – McKnight has shown potential and it is fair to hope that with an expanded role he could become a capable third down back and big play weapon. Yet, he had 43 carries last season and averaged a disappointing 3.1 yards on those carries finishing only with 134 yards rushing. McKnight also has viable durability concerns as he was banged up all of last season despite only having a very limited role. As a backup to Greene, he is not built to run the ball inside when spelling him. If the Jets are running 35-40 times a game, could McKnight be counted on for 12-14 carries on a weekly basis?

Bilal Powell – A 4th round pick last year who didn’t look good when given a small opportunity. Last season he averaged 1.6 yards per carry and fumbled inside the 1 yard line when he was fortunately bailed out by Matt Slauson recovering the ball in the end-zone. Yes, he only had 13 carries in the regular season but in the pre-season when given a total of 22 carries, he finished with 62 yards (2.2 yards per carry). Basically, Powell looked like a slowed down version of Greene which is why many questioned taking him so high in the 2011 draft. He has been banged up for a portion of spring practices with a hamstring injury.

Terrance Ganaway – Yes he did run with an encouraging amount of power in college and is familiar with the option, which could get him on the field with Tim Tebow. But how much faith could you place in a 6th round rookie, who only started and produced for one season in college?

While I do think Tim Tebow will be a factor in the Jets running game, particularly in short yardage situations. I wouldn’t expect him to get more than 4-6 carries a game.

Doesn’t it make sense to add another running back? Shouldn’t a self-proclaimed run heavy team have as many reliable power running backs on their roster as possible? There is no need to risk having a major issue at running back if Greene happens to go down for a few weeks and then you are forced to hand the entire running game off to three unproven players in McKnight, Powell and Ganaway.

Right now there are two cheap, proven veteran options available in Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant. Benson had nearly identical statistics to Shonn Greene last year and is a capable power back. The Jets don’t need him to start but he could easily provide 6-8 carries a game and start a few games if Greene goes down with an injury. Grant has a higher upside and despite durability questions is only two years removed from a 1,253 yard season with 11 touchdowns. He could easily be a spot starter and is a more natural receiver out of the backfield than Shonn Greene.

Why not add another proven veteran at a place where you are thin? New England could have easily handed off their running game to just Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen but they covered themselves by signing Joseph Addai for insurance because that is what good teams do, they protect themselves.

There is no reason to be cheap at running back when your entire identity is going to be built around running the football. On a team like Green Bay or New Orleans, you can’t have enough receivers. On a team like the Giants, you can’t have enough pass rushers. On a team like the Jets, it should be that you can’t have enough running backs.

Stock Watch: New York Jets Edition

In a new column, Mike Donnelly examines the stock value of New York Jets players, coaches, and personnel. For his inaugural piece, he takes a look at who he’d buy and sell as the Jets head into June. Be sure to follow Mike on twitter @TheMikeDonnelly. -CG

Recently, I was at a family function and my uncle was asking me for stock advice. Since I work in finance, apparently my entire family thinks I have inside information. I do not. I wish I had some good, solid stuff to tell him if only to make myself sound smarter, but I had nothing. After an awkward few seconds that felt much longer, he thankfully asked the question that always seems to come up at these functions: “So, what do you think about the Jets this year?”

My eyes lit up. Whenever the topic of conversation turns to the Jets (which it always does at these things), I can rattle off any information he wants to hear. Detailed opinion on Rex Ryan and the coaching staff? No problem. Statistical information about any of the players? You got it. Breakdown of the incoming rookies? Child’s play. Why I hate Eric Smith? Well, that one is self-explanatory. After a few minutes, he laughed and said something about how it’s too bad he couldn’t invest in my Jets thoughts instead of finance. That got me thinking. What if we could buy and sell players and teams the way we do stocks? What if I could buy and sell Tim Tebow stock depending on how well I think he’s going to do in the next few games? And that leads me to the first edition of “Stock Watch: New York Jets Edition.”

Undervalued Jets I’d Invest In

RB Joe McKnight – Right now you’d be able to buy some Joe McKnight stock pretty cheaply, and with just 323 rushing yards in two seasons, it’s understandable why. But trading stocks is all about value, and there’s plenty of value in the former USC star since he’s he’s going to be taking over for the departed LaDainian Tomlinson. I expect McKnight to form a very nice tandem with starter Shonn Greene, and this will be his breakout season. As the team’s top dual threat, he can easily get over 1,000 total yards from scrimmage. Joe McKnight stock will be a money maker.

DE Muhammad Wilkerson – Big Mo had his ups and downs last season, but for the most part he had an excellent rookie campaign. He was one of the better run defending 3-4 DE’s in the NFL and also contributed 3 sacks. In year 2, he is going to take a big step forward, especially now that he gets to work with line coach Karl Dunbar. By 2013 this stock will have doubled.

OLB Aaron Maybin – A year ago, this would be a penny stock and I’d be laughed at. But after leading the Jets in sacks last season, Maybin really dedicated himself in the offseason and bulked up to try and get more playing time. With Wilkerson and rookie Quinton Coples opening lanes up front, look for Maybin to approach double digit sacks and perhaps get a long-term contract.

WR Santonio Holmes – SH Inc. is at an all-time low after his terrible 2011 season, both on and off the field. After patching things up with Mark Sanchez, and dedicating himself 100% to the team in the offseason, Holmes is going to be playing with a major chip on his shoulder. A 1,200 yard season and a pro bowl nod are within reach. This will become a blue chip stock yet again.

QB Mark Sanchez – Despite the organization seemingly going out of their way to stunt his growth, I expect Mark Sanchez to thrive in 2012 under Tony Sparano. The incompetent Matt Cavanaugh remains on the staff, but now that Sanchez has been freed from Brian Schottenheimer’s comical offensive scheme, he will take a big step this year, and I’ll gladly invest in him.

OL Vlad Ducasse – Please, stop laughing. Ok.. go ahead. Done yet? Great. Switching to the new, less complicated “power blocking” scheme is going to work wonders for Ducasse. In fact, I expect him to be the starting RT this season once new line coach Dave DeGuglielmo stops his “Wayne Hunter is great” comedy routine. Unfortunately, Vlad starting may have more to do with Hunter than it does Ducasse. Oh well. At least this stock is so cheap you can’t really lose much if he continues to disappoint.

OLB Ricky Sapp – A real penny stock here. Sure he’s a long shot, but the coaching staff definitely sees something in Sapp and they have some hope for him. Working with Rex Ryan and Karl Dunbar will help his development and hopefully he can turn into Aaron Maybin 2.0 for the Jets. A worthwhile investment.

Overvalued Jets Stock I’d dump

QB Tim Tebow – I wish I owned some Tebow stock. The way everyone in the media talks him up, he’d be one of the most valuable commodities in the whole league. That wouldn’t stop me from tripping over myself running to sell though, because after the 2012 season in which he starts 0 games and is merely a role player, it will be worth far less.

TE Dustin Keller – I hope I am wrong about this, but I think we will see less of Dustin Keller this season. He’s a poor blocker, slightly undersized, and doesn’t totally fit into Tony Sparano’s system. I wouldn’t be shocked if this is his last year as a Jet.

RT Wayne Hunter – I know Dave DeGuglielmo has been talking him up, but I don’t buy it. Wayne Hunter sucks, and once he loses his starting job, his stock price will go from the $0.08 or so that it’s worth now, to about half of that.

DE Mike DeVito – DeVito is one of the most unheralded players on the whole team. He is an elite run stuffer, but unfortunately for him, the team was looking for someone who can also get to the quarterback and drafted Quinton Coples to take his spot. DeVito will still contribute as a great run defender, but his role will be limited, causing his stock price to dip.

OL Coach Dave DeGuglielmo – Once Wayne Hunter falls on his face, DeGuglielmo is going to look pretty silly.

K Nick Folk – Mike Westhoff has seemingly never been happy with Folk and has tried to replace him every season. This could be the year he gets his wish with Josh Brown coming in to compete for Folk’s spot. His stock isn’t worth much now, but by the end of training camp it could be much lower.

RB Bilal Powell – Powell seems like a bigger waste of a 4th round pick all the time. He was barely active last year, and was incredibly unimpressive in his limited action. He doesn’t seem to be a fit for the new offensive scheme and the team drafted Terrance Ganaway, who could potentially take his roster spot. I’d unload this stock for whatever I could get.

 

Can New York Jets Running Game Be Dominant?

Can the New York Jets return to having a dominant running game in 2012?

The New York Jets were 22nd in the NFL last season when it came to running the football, finishing with 105.8 yards per game. In 2009, Rex Ryan’s first year, they finished first in the league at 172.2 yards per game and in 2010 they dropped to fourth at 148.4 yards per game. Obviously, they are trending the wrong way and last year clearly failed to keep the “Ground” in “Ground and Pound.”

What is it going to take for the Jets running game to return to its once dominant form?

First off, the hiring of Tony Sparano to replace Brian Schottenheimer would seem to be a step in the right direction. Schottenheimer became increasingly pass happy in the previous two years, while the general impression of Sparano is that he is content to operate a run heavy offense. We know that Mark Sanchez performs at a higher level when the running game is humming and he could work off play action. Beyond that, a successful running game will help mask some of the inevitable problems the Jets will have protecting Sanchez with somebody like Wayne Hunter or Vlad Ducasse at right tackle.

Second, the Jets current group of running backs has so far proven to be nothing special. Shonn Greene has looked like a back who needs a strong compliment and isn’t capable of creating big plays. Joe McKnight has never really been given the chance to use his abilities on offense and Bilal Powell looked very average when given opportunities last season. The Jets are going to need Greene to run with the explosiveness he did during his rookie year and for McKnight to provide the compliment he needs. We saw Reggie Bush flourish in Miami last year, McKnight has a similar skill set and should be able to use his speed to create plays on the edges.

The real x-factor this season with the running game is Tim Tebow. I was not in favor of the trade for a variety of reasons, but at a minimum Tebow should provide a much needed shot in the arm to the Jets rushing attack. His ability to run the ball himself will provide another compliment to Greene and will open up lanes for both Greene and McKnight when the Jets are using the Wildcat or option.

Tebow rushed for 660 yards last season at 5.4 yards per carry. If the Jets had added a running back who did that last season, you’d be excited about them finding a needed 1B back to Greene right? There is no reason the Jets shouldn’t punish teams in short yardage situations with Tebow, Greene and fullback John Conner. Tebow’s threat to keep the ball will also create big creases on the edge for McKnight to take advantage of his speed on option pitches or sweeps.

The Jets haven’t done much this offseason to improved their passing game, pass rush or ability to cover the tight end yet by bringing in Sparano and Tebow, they have taken strides to move back towards having a dominant running game. A dominant running game has the ability to mask many other problems.

TOJ 12 Pack: Under The Radar New York Jets

TOJ with a look at 12 critical players to the New York Jets upcoming season who aren’t receiving much press

A quick hitting 12 pack for your Friday afternoon, focusing on twelve New York Jets who will be critical to the team’s success in 2012 but aren’t receiving the same media adoration of Tim Tebow or media scorn of Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes.

1. Muhammad Wilkerson – Last year’s first round pick, who had a good not great rookie season. Wilkerson is steady against the run and showed flashes of being able to get after the passer. If he takes advantage of his first full off-season, the Jets pass rush will receive a needed boost in 2012.

2. Joe McKnight – A player who could be a huge factor on offense if used properly. We saw Reggie Bush flourish last year in Miami under Tony Sparano and McKnight has a similar skill set. He could also take advantage of the Jets using the Wildcat with Tim Tebow by having the speed to make plays on the edge of the defense.

3. Jeremy Kerley – Should be given the opportunity to flourish as the team’s slot receiver. Kerley has excellent quickness and began to come on strong at the end of his rookie season.

4. Austin Howard – Who? A guy who could be given the opportunity to become the starting right tackle if Wayne Hunter and Vladimir Ducasse play like they did last season.

5. Bilal Powell – If the Jets are going to be as run heavy as they indicate, there should be a role for Powell. The Jets spent a 4th round pick on him last season, so they might as well give him a chance. He didn’t look impressive at all when given a chance last season but maybe with a full off-season under his belt he could improve.

6. Josh Mauga – Even if Bart Scott hangs on to the starting inside linebacker job, Mauga will likely see time on passing downs. The Jets need to find a long term answer opposite David Harris. Can Mauga give any indications this year that he could be that guy?

7. Kenrick Ellis – He basically had a red shirt rookie season, if he can’t become a part of the regular defensive line rotation in 2012, it is certainly going to look like he was a wasted third round pick.

8. John Conner – You don’t hear much about The Terminator these days. It would be nice to see him become a consistent short yardage threat and a more reliable receiver out of the backfield.

9. Ellis Lankster – Somebody has to fill Marquice Cole’s role on all the special teams.

10. Jeff Cumberland – Showed flashes of being a valuable weapon in the passing game last year. Problem is, how many pass catching tight ends does Tony Sparano have use for?

11. Caleb Schlauderaff – If Matt Slauson isn’t ready for the season because of off-season surgery, Schlauderaff would step in as the starter.

12. Kyle Wilson – His role should continue to grow on Rex Ryan’s defense. Could we see him line up at free safety in a few looks?

New York Jets Exploring Running Back Market

The New York Jets are showing interest in free agent running backs, but they should be considering swinging a trade

With most of the focus on the New York Jets improving the secondary by adding LaRon Landry and potentially signing another safety, there have been some rumblings about the team looking to boost their depth chart at running back.

By the way, Wayne Hunter and Vladimir Ducasse are currently the Jets top two right tackles. I just needed to remind everybody of that…now back to the article.

Anyway, the Jets have expressed interest in BenJarvus Green-Ellis and there are rumors they could have interest in Michael Bush. Both are intriguing as they would signal an attempt to return to the “Thunder/Thunder” approach of Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene during the 2009 season. Both running backs were considered top tier free agents at their position but have seen lukewarm interest so far. Bush is a bruiser, who is a quality receiver out of the backfield who is coming off his best season and Green-Ellis, as we know plenty well, is a solid, not spectacular back who never fumbles the football…literally.

A more intriguing option has presented itself with the Carolina Panthers signing running back Mike Tolbert. The Panthers were already well positioned at running back with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, so the Tolbert signing has led to speculation that either Williams or Stewart could be traded.

Carolina would love to move Williams and the asinine contract they signed him to last year. However, nobody will be taking it on unless he agrees to restructure. Stewart on the other hand has one year left on his rookie deal and it is hard to picture any scenario where they will have the money to re-sign him after how much they spent on Williams and now on Tolbert. So, why not move him now and get compensation for him?

Stewart is coming off a season where he racked up 761 rushing yards at 5.4 yards per carry and 47 receptions for 413 yards. He is an explosive playmaker who would make a terrific combination with Shonn Greene. If I am Mike Tannenbaum I am embracing my trading roots and offering Carolina a 3rd and 5th round pick for him. If that offer doesn’t satisfy them, I’d be willing to move up to a 2nd rounder this year and a conditional 5th rounder next year.

Bush and Green-Ellis are nice role players. Stewart has the ability to be a star in Tony Sparano’s run heavy system. Tannenbaum traded for a running back in 2007 in Thomas Jones who piled up 28 touchdowns and 3,833 rushing yards in three seasons. Stewart is capable of that type of production.

TOJ Monday Night Rant: New York Jets Passing Game

TOJ with a Monday night rant on the New York Jets passing game

Considering the disappointment of the 2011 NFL season, I find it fitting to kick off the next few weeks with a rant. Today’s topic is the New York Jets passing game…or lack thereof.

Previous Articles

Watching the New York Jets passing game last year was an ongoing exercise in frustration. You know how your favorite NFL team has the ability to pick up big chunks of yardage by completing 15-20 yard passes to open receivers? Well, the Jets didn’t have that ability. It was at the point where if it was 3rd and 8 or longer, you knew they weren’t converting because it didn’t seem they had a play in their playbook to pick up the necessary yardage.

The Jets passing game last year consisted of check downs, 5 yard stop routes to Dustin Keller, 4 yard crossing patterns on 3rd and 12, and of course slants…and then more slants.

The blame falls on a number of people: Mark Sanchez, the wide receivers, former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and inconsistent pass protection to start. Basically, you had the toxic recipe of an awful right tackle, a usually premier left tackle having a down year, an offensive coordinator with limited downfield playcalls, a quarterback who struggles heavily with the pass rush in his face, a painfully slow #2 receiver, and #1 receiver double teamed who was playing frustrated. Yikes.

What is the solution? Tony Sparano isn’t known for his passing game knowledge and the Jets never got around to hiring that “passing game coordinator” there was talk of. However, Sparano should help improve the protection up front which will go a long way towards helping improve Mark Sanchez’s play. If you have watched Sanchez since he started playing in the NFL, you know he has enough arm strength to make the deep throws necessary but he needs the protection, personnel, and playcalling to support him.

Sparano has emphasized he wants to pick up “chunks” of yardage through the passing game, despite having a run first approach. He will need to find a way to create mismatches for Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes, along with Jeremy Kerley in the slot for that happen. Hopefully they will be supported by a split end with some speed via the draft or free agency, which will help open things up. He should also work to get Joe McKnight out in space in the passing game. He has the receiving skills to make a large impact in both the screen game and being split out wide.

Fellow TOJ writer Rob Celletti asked me numerous times this season, “how come the Jets can get a broken coverage, where a corner falls down or the defense makes a mistake to allow them to get an easy big play?” The reason was the Jets never threatened down the field, there was nothing for defenses to get confused over or cornerbacks to trip from. Teams would just bracket Shonn Greene on his checkdown and Dustin Keller on his short stop route.

Times need to change with the Jets passing offense and hopefully Sparano can deliver on the “big chunks of yardage” he has talked about.