NFL Free Agency 2011: Brad Smith Leaves, Jets Play Waiting Game

In a move that most of us expected, wide receiver/quarterback/running back/kick returner Brad Smith has left the New York Jets. It was however somewhat surprising that he decided to join the division rival Buffalo Bills, who seemed to come out of nowhere today to snatch him up on a 4 year, 15 million dollar contract.

According to Smith, the Jets did reach out to him but couldn’t move on signing him until the situation with Nnamdi Asomugha shakes out. The Jets do still have plenty of room under the cap but apparently their top priority right now is filling the cornerback spot opposite Darrelle Revis, whether it is Asomugha, Antonio Cromartie, or a cheaper option like Chris Carr.

It will be interesting to see the contingency plan if Asomugha decides to sign with Houston or San Francisco. Cromartie would probably be the immediate fallback option but he might still not be around or the Jets could consider him too pricey and look to go with Carr and then hope to still have a shot at getting Braylon Edwards back.

Regardless, it seems like the Jets next two major moves will be signing a cornerback and a number two wide receiver, with Asomugha, Cromartie, Carr, Edwards, and Randy Moss all in play.

In other news…

LaDainian Tomlinson did agree to take a pay cut to help in the Jets pursuit of Asomugha.

The Jets aren’t going to make an attempt to resign punter Steve Weatherford. No more shakeweights at camp.

According to Manish Mehta of The Daily News expect a long term deal with David Harris to worked out some time next week.

NFL Free Agency 2011: What Dominoes Will Fall Next For Jets?

After a chaotic morning where the New York Jets signed Santonio Holmes to a five year deal and the discussion about Nnamdi Asomugha coming to town reached a fever pitch, things have quieted down…a little bit.

– The discussions about Asomugha have continued on, with ESPN’s John Clayton commenting it will take a few days for him to work a deal out with any team. However, keep in mind Clayton had said earlier in the off-season the Jets would be in salary cap hell and would have no chance to sign any free agents, so take his words with a grain of salt.

– A testament to Mike Tannenbaum’s creativity. Santonio Holmes contract will only count $2.45 million against the 2011 cap…wow.

– Manish Mehta of The Daily News has reported the Jets will ask LaDainian Tomlinson to rework his contract to free up more cap space (likely to pursue Asomugha).

– The Jets have resigned kicker Nick Folk to a 1 year deal. CBS Sports is also reporting that punter Steve Weatherford is unlikely to return.

– In a press conference today, Rex Ryan said Mark Sanchez will be the team captain this year and will literally wear a “C” on his jersey.

– Darrelle Revis was very diplomatic about Asomugha joining the team while still paying respect to Antonio Cromartie. Revis did call Asomugha “the best corner in football” even though I find it hard to believe Revis doesn’t he think he holds that title.

– This isn’t surprising but it sounds like Braylon Edwards days with the Jets are numbered. He is clearly frustrated by the lack of attention/effort the Jets have made thus far to keep him, which is understandable but they simply have higher priorities right now. Edwards will get a good contract somewhere and that team will get a tough receiver who improved vastly the past year.

– The speculation on Randy Moss coming to the Jets as a cheap alternative to Braylon Edwards has picked up. However, the latest word from Bob Glauber of Newsday is that his chances of joining the team remain “very small.” How the Jets handle the wide receiver position, will likely depend how the cornerback position shakes out for them.

– Kellen Clemens was signed by the Washington Redskins to a one year deal. We will miss his happy feet in the pocket and interceptions.

– Ben Hartsock signed a two year deal with the Carolina Panthers. We will miss his false starts and holding penalties.

Closer Look At Jets Rushing Attack In 2010

If you haven’t noticed yet, Turn On The Jets has a new title after our name: “Ground and Pound Writing”…so clever and original, right? The reasoning is that for years the Jets were a franchise without an identity, outside of being the ugly stepchild of New York football. Fortunately with Rex Ryan has came the identity of the Ground and Pound, which is the Jets are going to be a physical football team led by their defense and rushing attack. This brand of football has carried the Jets to back to back AFC Championship Games and pulled them from irrelevancy to a national team, who will have five prime-time games this season.

Let’s take a closer look at the “ground” half of the equation in 2010. After losing Thomas Jones to free agency and trading away Leon Washington, the Jets worked a two back approach, with LaDainian Tomlinson as the primary ballcarrier and Shonn Greene as the supporting back. Here is a breakdown of their numbers (averages out of 15 games, since both were inactive in week 17)

Tomlinson

  • 219 carries
  • 914 yards
  • 4.2 yards per carry
  • 6 rushing touchdowns
  • 14.6 carries per game
  • 60.9 yards per game

Greene

  • 185 carries
  • 766 yards
  • 4.1 yards per carry
  • 2 rushing touchdowns
  • 12.3 carries per game
  • 51 yards per game

As a pair the duo combined for about 27 carries and 111 yards per game, along with a touchdown every other week. It is worth noting Brad Smith served as the de facto 3rd back, with 38 carries for 299 yards, although most of those came out of the Wildcat formation.

Compared to 2009, when they had the league’s top rushing attack, the Jets ran 73 less times for 382 less yards, along with 7 less rushing touchdowns and fell to third in the NFL in rushing yards per game. It is hard to complain about being ranked in the top three, especially with the following factors in play —

  • A more open offense to accommodate an improved Mark Sanchez and the addition of Santonio Holmes
  • Replacing Alan Faneca with Matt Slauson…Slauson was better than expected in his first year as a starter but still has a ways to go before he is on Faneca’s level, especially in run blocking.
  • Damien Woody missing time late in the season.
  • The lack of a true number one back, don’t forget Thomas Jones ran for over 1400 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009.

It will be interesting to see if the Jets can approach their 2009 production in the running game this season. Slauson will be a year better. The Jets will likely be losing one of their starting receivers, which could limit how open their offense will be. Obviously, the biggest factor will be how Shonn Greene handles the starting role and if he can be the type of back Jones was in 2009, while Tomlinson supports as a third down back. Look for Joe McKnight to compensate for the yards left behind by Brad Smith, who will probably be signing with a different team.

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.

Lockout Off-Season: Rounding Up Top Jets Offensive Storylines

Despite the lack of formal workouts and traditional media access, there has still been plenty of storylines that have grown out of this New York Jets lockout infected off-season. Here is a round-up of them, check back later in the day for the top defensive storylines —

Quarterback

  • The continued development of Mark Sanchez’s leadership

Sanchez has further asserted himself as one of the leaders of the team by putting together both “Jets West” and “Jets Lockout Camp.” From what the other players have said this season, it is clear the amount of respect they have for Sanchez and the way he carries himself. One of his best traits is his work ethic and dedication to all things football, regardless of what else he has going on in his life, and his teammates clearly recognize that.

Running Back

  • Shonn Greene moving into the lead back role

Brian Schottenheimer, Rex Ryan, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Shonn Greene all agree that Greene is going to take over as the number one back this year and he is ready for the challenge. It remains to be seen how he can handle 18+ carries on a weekly basis but the only way to find out if you have a lead back is to give him the chance to be one.

  • LaDainian Tomlinson embracing the third down role

As he said in many interviews, including one right here with TOJ…Tomlinson has accepted and embraced the idea of being a third down back this year in the Jets offense. Considering his age and how he wore down at the end of last season, Tomlinson should maximize his effectiveness by being limited to this role.

  • John Conner announced as starting fullback

Nobody expected Tony Richardson back for another year, but this clinched that the fullback job would be handed off to Conner.

Wide Receiver

  • Free Agent Decisions

The endless debate over who the Jets should prioritize bringing back, Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards, has arguably been their biggest off-season storyline. Holmes has said he won’t sign a restricted free agent tender and would basically be looking for the most money possible. Edwards has been more diplomatic and discussed the potential of taking a hometown discount. Brad Smith is also a free agent and unless he agrees to come back for less than another team offers, probably won’t be back.

Offensive Line

  • Right Tackle

Damien Woody was released early in the off-season but there is now speculation he could return because of concern about Vladimir Ducasse being ready to step in as a starter. Considering that Ducasse didn’t play a meaningful snap last year, I would think that is a reasonable concern.

Looking At Shonn Greene As A Lead Back

Whether it is from Rex Ryan, LaDainian Tomlinson, or Brian Schottenheimer…we have heard that Shonn Greene will be the Jets lead back this year. One of the more frustrating parts of 2010 was the limited amount of opportunities Greene had to carry the ball and it now appears that problem will be remedied.

It was understandable in the beginning of the year why LaDainian Tomlinson was receiving more carries. He was simply playing better. Yet, considering his age and how Tomlinson wore down as the season went on, Greene should have been getting more touches later in the year. He is built to wear defenses down and is the type of back who gets better with the more carries he receives.

Let’s look back at Greene’s first two years at the ten games he received the most carries in —

  • 23 carries, 128 yards, 1 touchdown at San Diego in 2009 Divisional Playoff Game
  • 22 carries, 117 yards at Buffalo in 2010 regular season game
  • 21 carries, 135 yards at Cincinnati in 2009 Wild-Card Playoff Game
  • 20 carries, 72 yards at Cleveland in 2010 regular season game
  • 19 carries, 144 yards, 2 touchdowns at Oakland in 2009 regular season game
  • 19 carries, 70 yards at Indianapolis in 2010 Wild-Card Playoff Game
  • 18 carries, 70 yards vs Cincinnati in 2009 regular season game
  • 17 carries, 76 yards, 1 touchdown at New England in 2010 Divisional Playoff Game
  • 16 carries, 95 yards at Indianapolis in 2009 regular season game
  • 15 carries, 52 yards vs New England in 2010 regular season game

First off, a somewhat odd trend is that eight of those ten games were on the road. A major reason for that is that half of them are Jets playoff games and they have been a wild-card the past two years. It is clear the offense turns to Greene more in bigger spots and he has always responded, with most of his best performances coming in the playoffs or in important regular season match-ups.

This is a player who has only received over 20 carries four times in his NFL career but has responded with a 100 yard game in three of those games. It is still a question mark how he will produce over a full season but there is reason for optimism.

TOJ Interview: LaDainian Tomlinson

Future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson was nice enough to take a few minutes to talk with TOJ about his work with with Gatorade this off-season, how he is staying in shape during the lockout, the future of the Jets backfield, Mark Sanchez and more…

TOJ: What led to your decision to work with the Gatorade G Series and GNC Athletic Performance Clinic at Mission Viejo High School this past week?

LT: I have had a relationship with Gatorade for years and when they came out with the G Series Pro Line, we thought it was perfect for what I am all about, which is nutrition and taking care of your body. So we are out here at Mission Viejo High School teaching kids about what they need to learn on that topic. Young athletes need to know that what you put into your body is what you are going to get out of your body.

TOJ: Outside of the Jets West, how have you worked to stay in shape this off-season with the lockout currently in place? Also, have you worked with any other teammates besides your days at Jets West?

LT: I have been doing my own thing. I normally work with a trainer all off-season. I have always been a guy who doesn’t take much time off anyway. Overall, I am just staying in good shape and making sure I am on top of my game for when football starts back up. I have been talking with some of my teammates and we are planning workouts together in the New Jersey area in the coming month.

TOJ: Can you talk about your relationship with Mark Sanchez and how he has grown into a leader on this football team?

LT: Every year single year in the NFL you grow and that is what we have seen from Mark. He has really taken the challenge of being the coach on the field this off-season because he knows what the coaches will expect from everybody. He has mastered the ins and outs of what all of us on the field are supposed to be doing. I’ve been in this offense for a long time, so I also know what is going with everyone, which means Mark can come to me about different stuff and I can go to him to ask what he wants in different situations. He is not a hard guy to get along with. Mark is a passionate about what he does, wants to win, and is overall a great guy.

TOJ: Earlier this off-season, you said you were ready to embrace the role of a third down back on this team, which is not a common thing for running backs in the NFL to say. What was the thinking behind that statement?

LT: This is my 11th year and I am a guy who still has something left in the tank. I want to use that in terms of coming out of the backfield, running routes, and blocking in third down situations, which is an important role on the team. I feel like it is necessary because we have a guy in Shonn Greene, who can handle the bulk of the carries. That doesn’t mean I won’t carry the ball ever, but I just don’t need to be the primary ball carrier. I want to be the guy who keeps the chains moving.

TOJ: Can you talk about the young running backs on this team, specifically Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight?

LT: I think Shonn definitely has what it takes. It is all about knowing your role and what is expected out of you. The last two years he has learned alot and taken the challenge on. He is ready to become a lead back in this league. Joe has shown flashes and glimpses that he can handle being a productive NFL back. He is versatile and can do a little bit of everything: return kicks, catch the ball, and block. I think he definitely has potential but now it is all about learning, honing your skills and perfecting it.

New York Jets: What To Do With All Those Running Backs?

One the of more crowded positions on the Jets roster heading into the 2011 season will be running back, where four players will be battling for reps and touches. Let’s take a quick look at the depth chart —

1. Shonn Greene

  • 2010 stats – 185 carries, 766 yards, 2 touchdowns.
  • 3rd year veteran, strong inside runner who has an ability to wear down a defense and pop a big run.
  • Struggles with consistency, fumbling, and injuries.

Greene is coming off a disappointing 2010 season where he never seized the starting job. Rex Ryan has been on record has saying Greene will be his “bell cow” this season and that the starting job is his to lose. It will be interesting to see how he can handle 17-20 carries on a weekly basis if the Jets give him that opportunity.

2. LaDainian Tomlinson

  • 2010 stats – 219 carries, 914 yards, 6 touchdowns.
  • Future hall of famer, great vision and quickness. Excellent receiver out of the backfield.
  • Aging, struggled down the stretch last season.

Tomlinson exceeded expectations last year, especially in the first half of the season. He gradually began to wear down but still was productive in the playoffs. Tomlinson has already publicly embraced the role of third down back and is a valuable leader on the Jets offense.

3. Joe McKnight

  • 2010 stats – 39 carries, 189 yards
  • 2010 4th round draft pick, selected for speed, big play ability, and receiving skills.
  • Overwhelmed in rookie year and never made any signifigant contributions.

Everybody is waiting to see if Joe McKnight’s rookie struggles will provide a kick in the butt for him in year two. He has plenty of talent and potential but can he carve out a role for himself in the Jets offense? Hopefully, he can contribute on outside handoffs or tosses, screens, and use his receiving ability occasionally in the slot.

4. Bilal Powell

  • 2011 4th round pick
  • Had monster senior season at Louisville after three quiet years.
  • Similar running style to Shonn Greene.

The Powell selection surprised many but the Jets are hoping he can develop into Shonn Greene’s long term backup, while McKnight works into being the third down back eventually. Powell could have a shot to make an impact his rookie year if there are injuries or McKnight struggles in training camp again.

12 Pack Of Jets Off-Season Thoughts – Edition #14

After a one week hiatus for the NFL Draft, the 12 pack is back with twelve assorted thoughts about the New York Jets…

1. Rex, Rex, Rex – The guy is everywhere. He might have did about 4,000 interviews this past week to promote his new book, which I am currently working through. I can tell you already that it is a must read for any Jets fan or anybody who gets a kick out of Ryan’s personality. Yet, if you don’t like Rex, it will be just be more fuel to your fire. He remains true to himself in the book, which is no filter, borderline cocky, and brutally honest. Do I think it is a little much for Ryan to be writing a book two years into becoming a head coach, without a winning Super Bowl? Not necessarily, the guy has enough stories to tell with his long assistant coaching history, being Buddy Ryan’s son, and the amount that has happened in his first two years as a head coach to craft an interesting read, so more power to him.

Very glad to see that Rex didn’t go on Mike Francesa’s show by the way.

2. The People’s Champ – Braylon Edwards popularity with Jets fans has skyrocketed over the past year. His decision to show up for Jets West and even mention taking a hometown discount, when SantonioHolmes was nowhere to be found and has already made it clear he has no interest in signing the Jets tender and wants to go to the team where he can get the most money possible, has only helped Braylon’s popularity. Most fans seem to believe Braylon’s heart is truly in New York and admired the consistency and toughness of his play in 2010. Does that mean he will be back or will take a discount that will actually make a different? Only time will tell…

3. LT Glide – I am going to expand on this in an article for SB Nation later in the day, but you have to love the attitude of LaDainian Tomlinson. How about this first ballot hall of famer taking the time to attend Jets West with mostly rookies and also saying he will embrace being a third down back in 2011? Tomlinson has been a model teammate since joining the Jets and is beyond valuable with the leadership and experience he provides on offense.

4. Tiger Formation – It is was also impressive that Brad Smith decided to show up for Jets West without a contract. There is a good chance he won’t be back next year, as another team will probably offer him more money and a bigger role on offense, yet if he does end up back he will have a jump on getting more reps at receiver if Edwards or Holmes leaves.

5. Too Early On The Compliments – All the beat writers have been raving about fifth round pick Jeremy Kerley, by saying how quick and fluid he looks at receiver. Let’s see this guy in pads and with some defenders around him first before giving him too much credit. I do think he has good potential but you can’t get worked up over any thing you saw at these past workouts.

6. My Two Cents – On the Braylon/Santonio and defensive backs debate I posted earlier this week – I think Holmes is a better all-around receiver than Edwards, but if Edwards will come that much cheaper than it could be a smarter move to bring him back. Beyond that, if Holmes refuses to sign his one year tender as a restricted free agent (if he remains that under the new CBA), then try to work out a trade for him if he isn’t going to be reasonable on his long term contract demands. The Jets don’t need another holdout headache this summer. In terms of the DBs, I think Antonio Cromartie and Brodney Pool should be brought back as starters, and then you go from there depending how much money guys like Eric Smith and Drew Coleman are being offered. The Jets should be able to work out a fairly cheap deal with James Ihedigbo.

7. McKnight Anger – Glad to hear Joe McKnight is “pissed” and that it “added fuel to his fire” when the Jets selected Bilal Powell in the NFL Draft. McKnight should already be pissed about how he represented himself last year. If he has head on straight, he has an immense amount of talent and can be a dynamic playmaker in the Jets offense. Let’s hope the Powell selection helps push him even harder this off-season.

8. What About Powell? – You never know, especially with injuries but I think Powell will likely end up spending many games inactive this season. After LaDainian Tomlinson retires, hopefully he can become Shonn Greene’s primary backup, while McKnight moves into the third down role.

9. Entourage – How does everybody feel about the selection of Scotty McKnight? Does it bother you to see the Jets selecting Mark Sanchez’s buddy or do you think his chemistry with Sanchez and productivity at Colorado will lead to a successful NFL career?

10. Jets/Giants – How much fun is Christmas Eve going to be? Personally, I think Rex stirring the pot on a rivalry that isn’t really there is a great thing and will just make their regular season meeting that much more entertaining. Since Rex has taken over, the Jets have been the better, more interesting, and more entertaining team…let’s just hope that will equal a Super Bowl sooner rather than later because it is going to take one of those for the Jets to truly dominate this town.

11. Lockout – stay…appeal…stay…8th circuit…deny…stay…appeal…the clock is ticking.

12. Weekend Video Clip – More Muhammad Edition

What Can Jets Get Out Of Joe McKnight Next Year?

The highlights of Joe McKnight’s rookie season were vomit, fumbles, and failed conditioning tests…not exactly what the Jets were hoping for when they traded Leon Washington away and drafted McKnight in the 4th round last year.

There was a flash of light at the end of the tunnel however when McKnight played well in the Jets meaningless regular season finale, posting 158 yards on 32 carries. He also began to become a decent special teams contributor toward the end of the season. Did McKnight learn his lesson and was this a sign of things to come, or are we kidding ourselves getting excited about a game that was treated like the pre-season and a few good reps on the punt team?

Rex Ryan has talked about giving McKnight a bigger role on the offense in his second year. The Jets drafted him to be their long term third down back but he won’t quite have that role this year because of LaDainian Tomlinson’s presence. Regardless, you would think the Jets will have a package of plays to keep him involved on a consistent basis.

McKnight was drafted because of his speed and versatility. He has the ability to be split out and be a threat catching passes out of the backfield. When the Jets decide to attempt a screen pass (which has been a recurring nightmare under Brian Schottenheimer), McKnight should be a frequent target. He should be also getting reps on stretch plays and tosses that take advantage of his speed.

It is has also been revealed that Jim Leonhard will no longer return punts, which opens up an opportunity for McKnight  on special teams. There is also a chance he could be the team’s kick returner if Brad Smith doesn’t come back next season.

Nobody is expecting a monster year from McKnight in 2011. Yet, he needs to provide a few productive plays each week on offense, along with becoming a reliable returner. If he can do that, he will take a big step in the right direction towards becoming this team’s long term third down back.