New York Jets: What About Those Special Teams?

You can never forget about 1/3rd of the game. Let’s take a quick look at what the New York Jets special teams situation should look like this year:

Kicker – Nick Folk and Nick Novak are battling for the starting job. This is the type of contest that could go deep into the pre-season as Folk is far from having the job locked down. I am not sure either answer is a terrific one but at least we have seen Folk make it through a whole season in the Meadowlands being passably good. They still haven’t found a long term answer at this position.

Punter – TJ Conley is back in training camp for the third time and will now compete with Ben Graham 2.0, aka Chris Bryan. The lefty from Australia is already getting good reviews out of camp and seems to be the early frontrunner. Whomever the punter is, hopefully they know not to run the ball on 4th and know the shake-weight guy.

Return – On both punt and kick return, we should see some combination of Jeremy Kerley, Joe McKnight, Kyle Wilson, and Antonio Cromartie (just on kick returns). This probably won’t be sorted out until the end of the pre-season and could change throughout the year.

Coverage – No Brad Smith. No James Ihedigbo. No Lance Laury. No Drew Coleman. Look for players like Josh Mauga, Jamaal Westerman, Marquice Cole, and Emmanuel Cook to lead the way.

A Few Words On Braylon Edwards and Kyle Wilson

Two of the more contentious debates among Jets fans this off-season is whether to focus on keeping Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes at wide receiver and if the team can afford to let Antonio Cromartie leave via free agency because of the presence of Kyle Wilson. Personally, I have came down on the side of signing Holmes over Edwards and that bringing Cromartie back is a must.

This isn’t an indictment on the type of year Edwards had in 2010 and Wilson’s future as a NFL cornerback. Edwards was terrific for the Jets last year and you could make a very reasonable argument that he was more consistent than Holmes. Wilson is only entering his second year and still has plenty of potential to develop into a quality starter in this league.

However, looking at the Jets roster and considering they are ready to win a Super Bowl right now, consider the following…

Holmes is a more explosive playmaker and one of the most clutch players in the league. There is a reason for the general consensus that Holmes is a better player than Edwards and every report this off-season has the team prioritizing Holmes first: he is a better all-around wide receiver than Edwards. If the Jets end up being unable to afford Holmes and get Edwards back instead, would it be the end of the world? Of course not, the gap isn’t that substantial but the first priority should be Holmes. You can’t pass up giving your young quarterback a receiver that can change the game at any second the way he can.

In terms of cornerback, the Jets defense is built on primarily man to man coverage. They have a pass rush that struggles to get to the quarterback unless a blitz package is set up. It is too risky to hand a starting job to Wilson after the difficulties he encountered his rookie season, period. At a minimum you have to bring in another veteran to compete with him and provide better depth if Cromartie walks. You can’t allow yourself to be a pulled Revis hamstring away from Wilson and Drew Coleman (if he is even back) being your starting pair of corners.

Considering how much the Jets use three corners, it isn’t “giving up” on Kyle Wilson by asking him to be the nickel behind Revis and Cromartie, who I think is worth money considering how well he fits in the Jets man to man scheme.

In the end, I am a big fan of Braylon Edwards and what he brought to the team last year and do think Kyle Wilson has potential to develop into a reliable starter down the road, yet for the foreseeable future I think bringing Holmes and Cromartie back are the best decisions this team could make.

An Inside Look At Jets Camp Lockout

Enjoy the third episode of Sione Pouha’s “Life of a Lockout” series with an inside look at Jets Camp Lockout:

  • Good to hear that Mark Sanchez thinks Kyle Wilson was the most impressive player on the field.
  • Mike DeVito has some serious moves in touch football.
  • How good is your Bart Scott impression? Check out the his new contest…

Also check out some footage from Jerricho Cotchery’s recent surprise birthday party

TOJ As Tannenbaum: Free Agent Decisions For New York Jets

I am trying to be an optimist with this whole lockout thing, so if free agency does actually start some time in the next month here is TOJ sitting in the big chair as Mike Tannenbaum and making personnel decisions for the Jets this off-season:

1. Sign Santonio Holmes to a long term deal – Yes, this will likely mean the end of Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith’s stay in New York but in the long run making sure Holmes remains a Jet is the right decision. He is a uniquely gifted and clutch playmaker who can change a game at any second.

2. Sign Antonio Cromartie to a long term deal – You need a consistent, athletic corner opposite Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie handled the job well last season. He is already familiar with the defense and it is too risky to hand the starting job over to Kyle Wilson or a free agent. If the Jets want a bigger role for Wilson in year two, they should let Drew Coleman walk.

3. Bring back Damien Woody – Don’t risk the right tackle spot to Vladimir Ducasse after he didn’t have a proper off-season. Let him spend a full year learning behind Woody at the position and have him take over next year. Wayne Hunter will likely walk in free agency if this happens but the Jets should at least make sure they bring back the versatile Robert Turner for depth.

4. Bring back Shaun Ellis – He is a longest tenured player on the team, a leader on the defense and would be a perfect mentor to Muhammad Wilkerson. The Jets should be able to work a short term deal to allow him to retire in green and white.

5. Bring back Brodney Pool – Pool began to develop into the playmaker most of us thought he would be at the end of last season. With a year of this system under his belt, he should flourish in his second year. Eric Smith likely won’t be back if this happens, but if the Jets can bring back James Ihedigbo and if a young player like Emmanuel Cook steps up, their depth should be fine.

6. Veteran Stopgap Receiver – We all have heard all kinds of name thrown around but if Braylon Edwards leaves, I expect the Jets to sign either Randy Moss or Plaxico Burress. Personally, I would sign Burress to a short, incentive-laden deal. He is a more physical player that should be able to do many of the things Edwards did for the Jets offense last season.

7. Linebacker Depth – The Jets need to add another linebacker to their depth chart, whether it requires bringing Jason Taylor back or signing somebody on the cheap like Matt Roth.

Lockout Off-Season: Rounding Up Top Jets Defensive Storylines

Earlier today we looked at the top storylines on offense…now to the other side of the ball

Defensive Line

  • Draft Heavy, Veterans Leaving?

The Jets spent their first two draft picks on defensive lineman, Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis, and released Kris Jenkins. There is also speculation that both Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce won’t be brought back, with Ellis leaving via free agency and Pryce contemplating retirement. However, it would be smart for the Jets to keep at least one, hopefully Ellis who is the longest tenured player on the team, to help mentor the rookies and ease their transition into the NFL.

Linebackers

  • Draft Ignored, Free Agent Answers?

The Jets didn’t select any linebackers in the NFL Draft and as of right now have some depth concerns. Unless they are anticipating a bigger role for players like Jamaal Westerman or Josh Mauga, they may look to coax Jason Taylor out of retirement or sign a free agent like Matt Roth.

Secondary

  • Everybody’s A Free Agent

Seriously…Antonio Cromartie, Drew Coleman, Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, and James Ihedigbo all need new contracts and obviously some tough decisions will have to be made.

  • Jim Leonhard On The Mend

Leonhard has recovered well this off-season from his season-ending injury in the middle of last year.

  • Is Wilson Ready?

If Antonio Cromartie leaves via free agency, Kyle Wilson will likely have to step into the starting line-up. He struggled his rookie season, is he ready for a bigger role?

A Full Off-Season Of New York Jets Workouts

Click here for more information on the Jets team workouts over the past few months

With the conclusion of “Jets Camp Lockout” today, the team likely wrapped up their last informal workout during the lockout (hopefully). Since the end of the previous season, here is an unofficial look at the different workouts Jets players took part in —

Jets West – List of attendees – A collection of skill position players led by Mark Sanchez at his high school, Mission Viejo out in California. The camp was in early May and lasted roughly a week. It was highly organized and included on field work, film sessions, and various team activities.

Jets Southwest – Darelle Revis and Kyle Wilson spent a couple of weeks training together out in Arizona. It was very encouraging to see Revis take Wilson under his wing and Wilson to be smart enough to follow the lead of the best corner in the NFL.

Jets East – Bart Scott, Vladimir Ducasse, Jerricho Cotchery, Jamaal Westerman and a few others worked out together in Martinsville, New Jersey and then traveled to Miami to work out with fellow AFC East players.

Jets City Club – A group defensive lineman, led by Sione Pouha held a few days of workouts in North Jersey a couple of weeks ago. First round pick Muhammad Wilkerson was in attendance along with Mike DeVito, Ropati Pitoitua, and Westerman.

Jets Camp Lockout – Roughly 40 players attended team workouts the past three days at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Here is a partial list of attendees.

Kyle Wilson Taking Right Approach This Off-Season

“Jets Soutwhest” camp hasn’t received the type of media coverage that “Jets West” did…probably because it has only involved two players: Darrelle Revis and Kyle Wilson.

The two of them have already spent two weeks together training and still have more workouts scheduled. They have gone past just physical work in the weight-room and on the field. There has also been a breakdown of film, including a look at the receivers the Jets will be facing in 2011.

These workouts are a credit to both Revis, who is establishing himself as a leader on the defense and will be named a captain by Rex Ryan this year and Wilson, who is taking the right approach by spending as much time as possible with the league’s best corner.

By any measure, Wilson’s rookie year was a disappointment. However, that doesn’t mean he has to become Vernon Gholston 2.0. He clearly has the passion for football that Gholston lacked and the tools to be a very good corner in the NFL. By playing alongside Revis, he has access to the best in the business and should be soaking up as much knowledge as possible.

Playing corner opposite Revis Island is one of the most difficult positions in the league and there is a reasonable chance Wilson will be asked to do it next year. It remains up in the air whether or not Antonio Cromartie will come back and if he doesn’t, Wilson will be in the starting line-up.

Even if Cromartie does come back, the Jets will need Wilson to be more productive as a nickel back and in the defensive packages that he is used. He is taking a positive step this off-season by working with Revis, which will hopefully pay dividends when the 2011 season kicks off.

New York Jets: Is It Smart To Let Drew Coleman Walk?

One of the less heralded Jets free agents is cornerback Drew Coleman, who prior to the 2010 season was one of the least popular players on the team amongst fans. He struggled heavily in 2009, especially in single coverage and many didn’t even expect him to stick on the roster in 2010. However, Coleman responded by climbing the depth chart and putting together a career year as the Jets nickel back.

He finished with 41 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 passes defensed, 1 interception, and 5 forced fumbles. Despite occasional struggles in coverage, Coleman was still one of the Jets biggest playmakers on defense and one of their better special teams players.

This off-season the Jets have to deal with re-signing defensive backs Antonio Cromartie, Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, and James Ihedigbo along with Coleman. You can make an argument that it was Coleman who had the best overall season out of all those players, outside of Cromartie.

Should the Jets make a strong effort to bring Coleman back or should they let him walk and hope Kyle Wilson can take over his role? Bringing Coleman back becomes an easier decision if Cromartie walks because more money would be freed up and the Jets would badly need the depth. Yet, if Cromartie returns the coaching staff might want to let Wilson, last year’s first round draft pick, have the opportunity to get more reps at the nickel spot. Wilson has more size and upside than Coleman and should develop into a better player in coverage. However, does he have the same knack for getting to the quarterback and making big plays?

Drew Coleman was a valuable piece of the Jets defense last year and if he leaves via free agency, it will be up to a player like Wilson or maybe even Marquice Cole to fill his production.

12 Pack Of Jets Off-Season Thoughts – Edition #15

A quick, refreshing 12 pack of off-season thoughts on the New York Jets

1. Adam Schefter stirred the pot on the Plaxico Burress to the Jets rumors again this week by mentioning it in his insider column. I think Plax could be a good low cost option to replace Braylon Edwards for a year or two. It is hard to picture Burress being anything but on his best behavior in the next couple of years after the amount of time he spent in jail and the Jets will need to replace Edwards’ size if he leaves.

2. We all know about Jets West but don’t forget about Jets Southwest, where Darrelle Revis and Kyle Wilson have been workigt out. It is great to see Revis taking Wilson under his wing because if Antonio Cromartie leaves via free agency, Wilson will be taking over one of the hardest defensive spots in football…the man opposite Revis Island. Also don’t forget about Jets East, which features players like Jerricho Cotchery, Bart Scott, and Vladimir Ducasse. We have Jets getting better all over the country…

3. Good debate on 1050 ESPN Radio today about the better rivalry at the moment: Yankees/Red Sox or Jets/Patriots. Obviously historically Yanks/Sox will always take the cake but the past couple of years, Jets/Pats has been a more bitter and entertaining match-up. The headlines don’t even compare. Yankees and Rex Sox are too damn respectful of each other these days. Somebody get in a fight or something.

4. Random Jets offensive prediction for 2011 – Joe McKnight will have over 500 total offensive yards from scrimmage. I think Brian Schottenheimer will turn him into an effective weapon on screens and outside handoffs.

5. Random Jets defensive prediction for 2011 – The Jets defensive line rotation will turn into one of the team’s major strengths, led by strong rookie years from both Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis, along with improved performances from Marcus Dixon and a healthy Ropati Pitoiuta.

6. Random Jets special teams prediction for 2011 – It will be Kyle Wilson who ends up taking over the punt return job and showing the production we all expected from him last year at that position.

7. Great move by the Jets taking quarterback Greg McElroy in the seventh round. They needed a long term backup to develop and he should learn plenty from both Mark Sanchez and Mark Brunell this year. McElroy is a proven winner with the right mental make-up to handle a backup role.

8. Remember to join the discussion at TOJ’s Forum Page

9. Similar to how the Bilal Powell selection should serve notice to Joe McKnight, it should serve notice to Shonn Greene. This is the year for Greene to show he can be the number one back he was during the Jets 2009 playoff run. Rex Ryan already called him his “bell cow” so now let’s see it.

10. Nick Mangold passing time during the lockout…

11. Congratulations on a great career to Alan Faneca who is a sure fire Hall of Famer. Faneca was very good for the Jets in his two seasons with the team and was important in the development of Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

12. May 16th and we are still waiting for words on appeals, stays, complete shutdowns, and 8th circuits when we should be talking OTAs, trades, and free agency, sad and confusing how such a good thing could be messed up by greed and money.

One-Third Of The Game: Jets Special Teams In 2011

I realized today that Mike Westhoff would probably curse TOJ out for the lack of time we have spent on the Jets special teams in the previous few months. Beyond that, I saw that Jets punter Steve Weatherford got an endorsement deal with 2XU compression apparel. That is right, this team’s punter even has enough swag to get an endorsement deal (could also be his career 16 yards per carry or shake weight enthusiasm from Hard Knocks). Anyway, let’s get on to that too often neglected third of the game —

Right now, both the Jets punter and kicker from last year are free agents. The Jets didn’t extend a tender to Steve Weatherford and haven’t come up with a new deal for Nick Folk either. UFL special teams MVP Nick Novak was signed this off-season, along with punter TJ Conley who has been in camp with the Jets the past two years. As of now, I’d say it is a safe bet that the Jets will find a way to bring back both Weatherford and Folk, and have them compete with Conley and Novak in the summer.

Weatherford was very good last year, especially at pinning teams inside the 20. Despite a shaky post-season, the coaching staff seems comfortable with him. In 2010, he provided stability to very unstable position the past few years for the Jets. Nick Folk was up and down throughout the season and should be given a good run by Novak in the summer.

On their coverage units, the Jets didn’t extend a tender to linebacker Lance Laury who was a core special teams player in 2010 but was a bit of a disappointment. It is likely he won’t be back, with somebody like Josh Mauga taking over the bulk of his reps. Many of the Jets other key special teams players are free agents including Brad Smith, Eric Smith, James Ihedigbo, Drew Coleman, and Robert Turner, so many of their units could have a very different look in 2011.

The kick return job should be wide open if Brad Smith doesn’t return. Joe McKnight, Kyle Wilson, Antonio Cromartie (if he his back) will get the first crack at taking over. On punt return, rookie Jeremy Kerley will probably be mixed in with Jerricho Cotchery and maybe Wilson.

Regardless of who is manning the Jets coverage and return units, they should be productive again under the guidance of Westhoff, who remains arguably the best (and most entertaining) special teams coach in the NFL.