Jets Training Camp Eve Updates & Predicted 53 Man Roster

Jets Training Camp Eve Updates & Predicted 53 Man Roster

– Leon Washington is the only Jets player who didn’t report to training camp today. Both Rich Cimini and Dave Hutchinson have stated that their sources indicate a deal is imminent and at the latest should be done by the end of the weekend, let’s hope so. It won’t kill the Jets if Washington misses 3 or 4 practices, but if he starts missing weeks of work, it will impact the development of their offense. Shonn Greene, Danny Woodhead, and Jehuu Caulcrick should all see extended work in his absence.

– Thomas Jones was present today but still not talking to any reporters. Hopefully, Jones has realized he isn’t getting a new deal and will play motivated to impress the Jets and other NFL teams for when he likely hits the market next year. The Jets didn’t trade all those picks to have Shonn Greene be a third string running back for more than 1 year. Jones is a professional and likely doesn’t want to incur daily fines, the guy has a right to ignore the media if he wants to and be unhappy with his contract, as long as it doesn’t affect his play.

– Calvin Pace made some comments today, nothing to note worthy except how he plans to push Vernon Gholston and Marques Murrell during the pre-season. He again explained his side of the story about taking a banned substance but has still owned up to his mistake and should have plenty of motivation to make a big impact on the Jets defense starting in week 5.

– Rex Ryan named Kellen Clemens the Jets number one quarterback heading into the first practice tomorrow, saying he will get the majority of the first team reps in the early going while they ease Mark Sanchez in…well, duh. Let’s not make this a bigger story than it is, obviously Clemens was going to begin camp as the starter since he is the veteran and is more familiar with the offense. Sanchez will have every chance to win this job.

– Rich Cimini has reported the Jets still have interest in a veteran receiver and that they still have plenty of room under the cap to get one (can’t we use some of that money for #29 and maybe a little for #20, to keep him happy) but who can the Jets really get at this point? Matt Jones might be the most talented guy out there, but apparently Rex Ryan isn’t a big fan of him. I’m not sure how much Amani Toomer can really add to this team and forget about Marvin Harrison with his gun charge. The Jets might be stuck with what they have, time to step up Chansi, David, Brad, Wallace, Marcus, Mario, and Huey.

– The Jets have two practices tomorrow, one at 8:15 AM and one at 4 PM. Hopefully, the big news of the day will be that Leon Washington has a new contract in place at the end of the day and that Mark Sanchez looked great with the second team, but we’ll see. The Jets beat writers and other individuals who attend camp do a great job of relaying all the details of the day, my goal will be to provide a daily synopsis after reading everything I can get my eyes on and then offer opinions and analysis throughout camp. I do plan on attending the Jets practice at Hofstra and a few of their practices in Florham Park, there is still a small chance I could make it out to Cortland, but that is a tough trip with my job and grad school starting up soon.

Predicted 53 Man Roster, Pre-Training Camp: Obviously, it is hard to know how Rex Ryan is going break down his roster in terms of how many guys he keeps at each position, but it’s worth taking a shot at before camp starts:

Quarterback –

  1. Kellen Clemens – Should put up a spirited fight but eventually be the #2.
  2. Mark Sanchez – The franchise quarterback, can he win the job by week 1?
  3. Erik Ainge – Will win a close battle with Chris Pizzotti for the #3 job.

Running Back –

  1. Thomas Jones – Still the #1 back, unhappy or not.
  2. Leon Washignton – Get him in camp, ASAP.
  3. Shonn Greene – Will be the Jets starter on opening day 2010.
  4. Tony Richardson (FB) – Valuable piece of the offense.
  5. Jehuu Caulcrick (FB/RB) – Hopefully, future FB and short yardage back.

Wide Receiver –

  1. Jerricho Cotchery – Chance for him to prove he is a #1.
  2. Chansi Stuckey – Should lead the committee approach to the #2 spot.
  3. David Clowney – Will have every chance to be the Jets big play receiver.
  4. Brad Smith – Is he more than an athlete and a gimmick player?
  5. Wallace Wright – Too good on specials not to make the roster.
  6. Mario Urrutia – My pick for #53 on the roster, just over Kenwin Cummings and Drew Coleman.

Tight End –

  1. Dustin Keller – Alot of pressure on Keller to have a big sophomore season.
  2. Kareem Brown – Hopefully he can continue his progress from the spring.
  3. Jack Simmons – Could end up being the #2 sooner rather than later.
  4. James Dearth – The long snapper.

Offensive Line –

  1. RT – Damein Woody – Hopefully can replicate last year’s consistency.
  2. RG – Brandon Moore – Just keep doing what you been doing.
  3. C – Nick Mangold – Anchor of the Jets offensive line
  4. LG – Alan Faneca – Didn’t show signs of age last season.
  5. LT – D’Brickashaw Ferguson – Keep getting better, especially in run blocking.
  6. G/T – Robert Turner – Pressure to prove he can provide adequate depth.
  7. T – Wayne Hunter – See directly above.
  8. G/T – Matt Slauson – Long term project, hopefully eventually replaces Faneca.

Defensive Line

  1. Kris Jenkins – Needs to stay healthy and productive for 16 games.
  2. Shaun Ellis – Veteran leader on defense and still a very good player.
  3. Marques Douglas – Needs to prove he can handle starting.
  4. Sione Pouha – Needs to provide quality reps off the bench.
  5. Mike DeVito – Big chance to see starter type reps.
  6. Howard Greene – Needs to support Jenkins off the bench.
  7. Ropati Pitoitua – Hoping to become part of D-Line rotation.

Linebackers –

  1. Bart Scott – Needs to provide swagger, leadership, and confidence to defense.
  2. David Harris – Should excel next to Scott.
  3. Calvin Pace – Looking forward to week 5.
  4. Bryan Thomas – Needs to step up, especially in first four weeks.
  5. Vernon Gholston – Huge training camp for the former first round pick.
  6. Marques Murrell – Chance to be major part of the defense.
  7. Jason Trusnik – Looking for more playing time.
  8. Larry Izzo – Special teams ace.
  9. Jamaal Westerman – Versatile, long term prospect at LB.

Secondary –

  1. Darrelle Revis – One of the best.
  2. Lito Sheppard – Needs to find 2006 form.
  3. Kerry Rhodes – Needs to find 2006 form.
  4. Jim Leonhard – Veteran of Ryan’s defense.
  5. Donald Strickland – Veteran nickle back.
  6. Dwight Lowery – Looking to build on last year.
  7. Eric Smith – Good depth at safety from the former starter.
  8. Ahmad Carroll – Looking to expand beyond special teams.
  9. James Ihedigbo – Trying to lock down #4 safety spot.

Special Teams

  1. K – Jay Feely – Just make your kicks.
  2. P – TJ Conley – Will beat out Reggie Hodges.

Jets Highlight of the Day: 2008 Jets Season Highlights

Jets Training Camp: Five Position Battles

First a few updates:

1. RIP to former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who was one of the brightest minds in the NFL.

2. Brett Favre has decided to stay retired…boohoo.

Jets Training Camp: Five Position Battles

1. Starting Quarterback: Mark Sanchez vs. Kellen Clemens vs. Erik Ainge (Just Kidding)

Why Sanchez Will Win: The Jets didn’t trade up to draft Sanchez and pay him 60 million dollars to have him sit on the bench. Rex Ryan watched Joe Flacco lead the Ravens to the AFC Championship game last year and will believe Sanchez can do the same. The rookie from USC only has to keep it close with Kellen Clemens this summer and the job will be his.

Why Clemens Will Win: He is more experienced in the offense and the Jets are built to win now. Sanchez only had 16 starts at USC and simply won’t be ready to lead a NFL offense by September. Similar to how Chad Pennington was out playing him last summer, Clemens will use his knowledge of Brian Schottenheimer’s offense to handily outplay the overwhelmed rookie this summer.

Prediction: The two quarterbacks will play relatively even this summer, which means Mark Sanchez will win the job.

2. Starting Wide Receiver: Chansi Stuckey vs. Brad Smith vs. David Clowney

Why Stuckey Will Win: He performed the best in mini-camp and OTA’s and is coming off the best season in 2008. He had more catches than Smith and Clowney combined last year, and is by far the most polished of the group at the position.

Why Clowney Will Win: Speed kills and the Jets desperately need it on offense. Clowney will get over his drops in the spring and be a big play machine all summer.

Why Smith Will Win: He has the best combination of size and speed and is the best overall athlete. He will finally put it all together this summer as a wide receiver.

Prediction: Stuckey will receive most of the reps as the #2, followed by Clowney, and then Smith.

3. Outside Linebacker (Week 1-4): Vernon Gholston vs. Marques Murrell

Why Gholston Will Win: The guy was the number 6 overall pick in the draft for a reason. Rex Ryan will push Gholston towards becoming the elite pass rusher the Jets drafted him to be.

Why Murrell Will Win: He is hungrier than Gholston and plays with more passion for the game. Gholston was simply a workout wonder and won’t be able to translate his talent to the NFL level.

Prediction: Gholston will start, but Murrell will still receive 25-30% of the reps.

4. Nickel-Back: Donald Strickland vs. Dwight Lowery

Why Strickland Will Win: The veteran has been a pretty good nickel back the previous few seasons and Ryan will feel comfortable with him in the game in key 3rd down situations.

Why Lowery Will Win: He showed plenty of talent in his rookie season and was a quality starter for the first few weeks of the year. Lowery will learn from his rookie mistakes and develop into a quality nickel-back.

Prediction: Even though most people expect Strickland to win the job, I like what I saw from Lowery last season and think he will be guy.

5. #2 Tight End: Kareem Brown vs. Richard Owens vs. Jack Simmons

Why Brown Will Win: After being moved from defensive end, Brown had a productive spring and impressed the coaching staff with the potential he has displayed. Somehow, he has the most experience in this offense despite only being on it since the 2008 season ended.

Why Owens Will Win: He is the only player among these three with NFL experience at tight end.

Why Simmons Will Win: The UDFA had a strong showing in the spring and will build on that in the summer. He was a productive player last season in college and is the only player of the three who played tight end at any level of football last year (Owens was out of the league and Brown was a DE).

Prediction: I think Brown and Simmons end up splitting the reps as the #2 tight end.

Jets Highlight of the Article: Who can forget this 2007 match-up between the Jets and Rex Ryan’s (as a D coordinator) Baltimore Ravens. Look at my boy Cotchery tearing it up, but more importantly look at $#%$% Justin McCariens dropping passes. I will never forget shattering a remote control on this day because of #81.

Jets Positional Analysis: Outside Linebackers

First a few updates:

1. Rich Cimini is reporting that there has been substantial progress in Leon Washington’s contract talks, with hopes of finishing up a deal by Friday. If they are really that close to a deal, you would think Washington won’t bother skipping any days of training camp and accumulating daily fines.

2. Speaking of Leon Washington, here is an encouraging quote from Rex Ryan about #29 given to Peter King in his MMQB article, “He had six touchdowns on 73 carries last year. That number has to go up — drastically, and it will” Thank you, Rex.

3. How about those ESPN pre-training camp Power Rankings? The Jets came in at #23, despite going 9-7 last year and adding Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, Lito Sheppard, Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, and Marques Douglas. Yes, they lost Brett Favre and his 23 interceptions but #23, c’mon now? Behind the Texans? Behind the 4-12 Seattle Seahawks? Behind the Bills? Behind the Redskins? Behind the 49ers?

4. The Yankees can tie for the best record in baseball tonight with a win and a Dodgers loss…who wants to bat against Burnett, CC, and Joba right now?

Jets Positional Analysis: Outside Linebackers

I am motivated to finish this before the Jets first practice on Friday morning, all I got left is the LB’s and special teams.

1. Calvin Pace #97, Starting Outside Linebacker (Suspended First Four Games), Last Season: 80 Tackles, 7 Sacks, 7 Tackles For Loss, 5 Forced Fumbles, 3 Passes Defensed

History: The Jets signed Pace to a monster contract before last season and he responded with a very good all around year. Despite some struggles in pass coverage, Pace was still one of the Jets top playmakers on defense. Rex Ryan’s scheme should allow Pace more chances to rush the quarterback, which plays to his strengths. Unfortunately, he has been suspended for the first four games of the 2009 season for using a banned substance, putting pressure on the younger Jets OLB’s to step up.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Pace comes back in week 5 as a man on a mission and exceeds his sack total from last season despite only playing 12 games. Ryan’s scheme plays to his talents and he provides a huge boost to the Jets D in the middle of the year.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He struggles to adjust and make an impact after missing the first four games and isn’t the same player he was last year.

Prediction: Unless Bryan Thomas and Vernon Gholston/Marques Murrell are revelations in the first four weeks, Pace will return as a starter in week 5 and should be even better than he was last season. Obviously, his numbers will be down because of his shortened season but he should still be more of a threat rushing the QB in 2009.

2. Bryan Thomas #99, Starting Outside Linebacker, Last Season: 57 Tackles, 5.5 Sacks, 6 Tackles For Loss, 3 Forced Fumbles, 1 Pass Defensed

History: Thomas has had a disappointing roller coaster career since the Jets drafted him in the first round back in 2002. After 4 quiet years, he had a breakout year in 2006 under Eric Mangini and was awarded with a new contract. He admittedly slacked off in 2007 and then rebounded with a strong start in 2008 but was very quiet in the second half of the year. With Calvin Pace suspended 4 games, Thomas needs to step up in 2008 as the Jets only veteran outside linebacker.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Thomas flourishes in Ryan’s system and starts the year off with a bang as the featured playmaker at OLB with Pace suspended. He matches his 2006 production level.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Thomas picks up where he left off when the 2008 season ended, leaving the Jets extremely weak at the OLB spot, especially in the first 4 weeks.

Prediction: Thomas will be a decent starter for the Jets in 2009, but hopefully begin to be rotated out towards the middle of the year with younger players like Vernon Gholston and Marques Murrell.

3. Vernon Gholston #50, Last Season: 13 Tackles (I just winced)

History: Gholston was the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft and showed nothing to merit that last year. He was basically invisible on defense and an average special teams player at best. The organization is hoping Rex Ryan can get the most out of Gholston’s immense talent and turn him into their version Terrell Suggs. Ryan has already proclaimed Gholston as the starter in Pace’s absence for the first four weeks, hopefully he can rise to the occasion.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Gholston takes advantage of Pace’s absence and plays well enough to move over to the other starting OLB spot when Calvin returns. He begins to show signs of being a great pass rusher, finishing with 7-9 sacks after having zero last year.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Gholston is beat out by Marques Murrell or Jason Trusnik in training camp and isn’t a factor on the defense.

Prediction: I think Gholston will be adequate filling in for Pace but won’t play well enough to be a full time starter when he returns. I can see Gholston ending up with 5-6 sacks this year.

4. Marques Murrell #94, Last Season: 9 Tackles, 1 Forced Fumble

History: Murrell has been a practice squad/special team player for the Jets the past couple of seasons and shown some decent potential. Rex Ryan praised him effusively during mini-camp, leading many to think he could end up being a factor on the defense this year. He will have a shot to carve out some playing time with Calvin Pace suspended for four games.

Chance of Making Roster: 90%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Murrell develops into a valuable pass rushing weapon and pushes Vernon Gholston for playing time at outside linebacker.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Murrell doesn’t rise to the occasion in pre-season and remains a special teams player.

Prediction: He will see some quality reps in the first four weeks of the year and then continue to have a role, though somewhat smaller, on the defense for the rest of the year.

5. Jason Trusnik #96, Last Season: 10 Tackles

History: Another young linebacker who showed some potential last season and could compete for extended playing time in 2009.

Chance of Making Roster: 85%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: He develops into a valuable role player on defense and remains a good special teams player.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He struggles in training camp and doesn’t end up making the active roster.

Prediction: Trusnik will be a role/depth player on defense and remain on the active roster.

Overall Position Analysis: All eyes will be on Vernon Gholston to step up and fill the void left by Calvin Pace. However, Bryan Thomas and Marques Murrell also need to step up their play to help fill the void for the first four weeks.

Jets Highlight of the Day: An entertaining highlight film of Vernon Gholston at Ohio State…the talent is there.

What Is A Successful Jets Season?

First a few updates:

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

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

What Is A Successful Jets Season?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2009 New York Jets: 10 Predictions

First a few updates:

1. For the past couple of weeks we have had the ability to post videos on the site through WordPress, however I wasn’t sure really how to incorporate the available videos into articles. Yet, starting today I am going to attempt to run a highlight or highlights of each of the new members of the Jets in the 2009 season, starting today with cornerback Lito Sheppard. I have some admitted concerns about Lito this season but watching this highlight from 2006 makes me feel a little better:

2. Feel Good Jets Moment of the Day – November 12th 2006 – The 4-4 Jets traveled to New England with a 7 game losing streak to the Patriots, but on this muddy day they would finally get the best of Bill Bellicheck and Tom Brady. Led by Kevan Barlow (17 carries, 75 yards, 1 TD), Jerricho Cotchery (6 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD), and a stingy defensive effort the Jets upset New England 17-14.

2009 New York Jets: 10 Predictions

1. Dustin Keller will lead the team in touchdown receptions and be second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards, behind Jerricho Cotchery. His blocking will improve slightly but the Jets will struggle in short yardage situations more than they did in 2008 because of the absence of a good blocking tight end.

2. Chansi Stuckey will start every game opposite Jerricho Cotchery at receiver and catch 50-60 passes. However, his yards per catch will be low and he will have a difficult time getting into the end-zone. David Clowney will develop into the #3 receiver, while Brad Smith remains a gadget player/#4 receiver.

3. Thomas Jones will have less carries, yards, receptions, and touchdowns than he did in 2008. On the other hand, Leon Washington will have more carries, yards, receptions, and touchdowns than he did in 2008. Shonn Greene (seen to the right running over a poor Jets fields and grounds worker) will start out slow but develop into a valuable 4th quarter weapon by the end of the season.

4. Mark Sanchez will start every game at quarterback and put up very comparable numbers to Joe Flacco last season (2971 yards, 14 TD’s, 12 INT’s). He will be named the starter heading into the 3rd pre-season game.

5. The Jets won’t have a player with double-digit sacks again. Vernon Gholston will contribute more than he did his rookie season (not hard to say) and finish with 5.5 sacks. Calvin Pace will record 6 sacks in 12 games. Bryan Thomas will have a good all around season but only finish with 6.5 sacks. Marques Murrell will contribute off the bench throughout the year and record the first few sacks of his NFL career.

6. Kerry Rhodes will make his first pro-bowl in 2009 and be joined in the secondary by teammate Darrelle Revis, who will continue to improve. Jim Leonhard will be a consistent starter opposite Rhodes, but Eric Smith will find his way on to the field in a few sets. Lito Sheppard/Dwight Lowery/Donald Strickland will be an upgrade over Ty Law/Dwight Lowery/Drew Coleman.

7. Bart Scott won’t be an all-pro caliber player in 2009 but will bring leadership and swagger to the Jets defense. His presence will also help the growth of David Harris at inside linebacker.

8. At least one Jets offensive lineman will miss a few games with an injury, putting pressure on Robert Turner or Wayne Hunter to step up for a couple of weeks. Turner will also receive reps throughout the season as a blocking tight end, when the Jets realize Bubba Franks is washed up.

9. TJ Conley will be the Jets punter in 2009. Sorry Reggie Hodges.

10. Rex Ryan and Channing Crowder will brawl before the Jets/Dolphins week 5 Monday Night game. The scene will resemble The Godfather when Sonny (Ryan) beats Carlo (Crowder) down in the street.

Pace Suspended 4 Games: Time to Step Up Vernon

When I was driving home from work today, I caught the end of a 20/20 update on 1050 AM which said “he will be suspended for Gang Green’s first four games.” I immediately flew into a panic, as I began to sweat out the next 20 minutes to hear who specifically would be suspended. Funny enough, while I was waiting I drove right by the new stadium and saw a huge sign advertising the Jets home opener against the Patriots. I couldn’t stop cursing as I figured with the Jets traditional luck, it was probably Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Darrelle Revis, Kris Jenkins, or maybe even or our brand new 60 million dollar quarterback.

Finally the 20 minutes passed and I heard it was Calvin Pace…bad news, but there are worse people that could have been suspended four games. Pace is being punished for using a banned substance which he claims was in an over the counter product he took. Really? With all the team doctors/nutritionists the Jets have employed, Pace couldn’t take the time to review what he was buying? A little common sense can go a long way.

Anyway, Pace is gone until the Jets week 5 Monday night game against the Dolphins. They will have to play the Texans, Patriots, Titans and Saints without their best outside linebacker. Yet, guess who is the Jets current top backup at outside linebacker? That’s right, last year’s 6th overall pick…Vernon Gholston. After a bust rookie season, the Jets need Gholston to show some signs of being the player they drafted him to be, now more than ever. Bryan Thomas is a decent starter at the other OLB spot but now Gholston has a chance to really seize a key role on the Jets defense.

Maybe this can be a blessing in disguise, since Pace’s suspension will basically force Gholston into the starting line-up. Maybe…if Gholston isn’t up to the challenge, Marques Murrell has showed strong potential and had a very good mini-camp. He finished last season ahead of Gholston on the depth chart and if Vernon doesn’t show signs of improvement in training camp and pre-season, Murrell could very well end up seizing the job. Also keep an eye on Jason Trusnik who played well in a limited role last season and will now be pushing for more time.

Bryan Thomas is also going to have to step up his play. He is now the Jets best OLB on the field for the first four games. He needs the play the way he did during 2006 and the first half of last season. With Pace suspended and Gholston, Murrell, and Trusnik still young/unproven, Thomas will be put in position to make plays.

5 Things We Learned From Jets Minicamp

First a few updates:

1. The Jets released tight end Martrez Milner yesterday, which is a good sign for undrafted free agents Jack Simmons and J’Nathan Bullocks both of whom had pretty good OTAs. Kareem Brown has also progressed nicely at tight end and might be able to handle splitting the #2 spot with Bubba Franks.

2. Plaxico Burress’ trial is apparently going to be pushed back until sometime in 2010, which improves the chances of him being able to play this year. Everybody is expecting him to receive a 4 game suspension from the league though, which is something the Jets will have to consider if they are going to sign him. Regardless, it seems they have a genuine interest in bringing him in.

3. Congrats to the Pittsburgh Penguins for winning the Stanley Cup and congrats to the Orlando Magic for choking away game 4…can you make some free throws? The ghosts of Nick Anderson are still haunting this franchise.

5 Things We Learned From Jets Minicamp:

1. It’s going to be a tight one – The battle for starting quarterback that is, which is bad news for Kellen Clemens. The Jets veteran has been consistent and shown a good command of the offense but hasn’t done anything spectacular that is making the Jets regret trading up for Mark Sanchez. On the other hand, Sanchez started out slow but progressed nicely over the past month and is proving to be a quick learner. The guy is getting one of the most complex defenses in the NFL thrown at him everyday in practice as a rookie and handling it pretty well. I’d be shocked if Sanchez isn’t under center week one against Houston.

2. Receivers Battling – Chansi Stuckey has begun to pull away as the #2 receiver behind Jerricho Cotchery. Stuckey doesn’t make many mistakes and catches everything he can get his hands on. He had a pretty good season last year and if he wasn’t phased out of the offense in the middle of the year, probably could have been a 45-50 catch guy. Brad Smith is making his usual acrobatic catches that excites the coaching staff and is probably the #3 receiver now. David Clowney had a case of the drops the past month but has too much talent to fall too far down the depth chart. Wallace Wright impressed the coaching staff and will be on the roster in September because of his special team skills, but he may be working himself a spot on the offense.

3. Defense Rules – The consensus has been that the Jets defense is miles ahead of the offense right now. It makes sense since the Jets are being led by an inexperienced quarterback and were without Thomas Jones and Leon Washington for long periods of time. Beyond that, the Jets defense is just pretty damn good. Kris Jenkins should be even more effective than he was in last year’s scheme, Darrelle Revis remains a lockdown corner, and Bart Scott has added some intensity and swagger to the unit. This is a very deep and talented group, especially when you throw Calvin Pace, Kerry Rhodes, Lito Sheppard, Shaun Ellis, and David Harris into the mix.  

4. Making a Name – Eric Smith, James Ihedigbo, Marques Murrell, and Jamaal Westerman all have impressed the coaching staff and look like locks for backup positions on the Jets defense. Smith recorded 5 interceptions in 3 days this past week is a good #3 safety, Ihedigbo will likely be the #4 safety and has some experience from last year. Murrell could see reps off the bench as a pass rusher and is pushing Vernon Gholston for time. Westerman is an undrafted free agent who the Jets love. He has been working at inside linebacker, after playing defensive end in college.

5. Swagger – The Jets new head coach has tons of it, throwing himself into a verbal battle against both the Patriots and Dolphins. This team couldn’t have a more different personality than they did last year, when Eric “10 hour bus ride” Mangini led without any emotion. Rex Ryan put it best, the Jets aren’t in the AFC East to “kiss Bill Bellicheck’s rings.”

Sanchez Ends OTAs With a Bang

Today was the Jets final OTA, which means tomorrow begins a quiet period for the Jets and the NFL in general until training camp starts up at the end of July. Here’s a run down of what happened on the field today with some analysis, along with a look at what to expect for the next 6 weeks until training camp starts on July 31st:

1. Mark Sanchez responded to a quiet start by closing the Jets OTA on a very high note. He was forced to resort to dump offs in his first 11 on 11 series and was intercepted by Eric Smith, who recorded his fifth take away in two days. However, in his final 11 on 11 series Sanchez gave his coaches, teammates and fans something to feel good about for the next 6 weeks. After hitting Wallace Wright with his first pass, he found David Clowney three straight times and then closed the drive with a 17 yard fade for a touchdown to his new favorite target, Wright. Yes, it is only going for 5/5 with a TD on one 11 on 11 series but still it shows the progress Sanchez has made in the past few weeks. Kellen Clemens played relatively well today also. Rex Ryan stated that he was encouraged by the competition and believes it is about even so far.

2. Back to the wide receivers, Ryan heaped the praise on Wallace Wright today who had a very strong set of OTAs. Wright hasn’t been mentioned much as a factor at the wide receiver position but don’t sleep on this guy. He did pretty well in 2007 when given the chance and could work his way into the rotation this year. Brad Smith made an acrobatic one-handed grab today and Ryan talked about his belief that Smith could be a dangerous slot receiver. He has all the physical talent necessary for the position but needs to show he can be consistent in games, not just practice. Chansi Stuckey continued to play very well is looking the part of a number two receiver. David Clowney has struggled with drops occasionally but still is flashing his speed and big play ability on a daily basis. If the season started today, Cotchery and Stuckey would be the starters with Smith probably receiving the next most reps, followed by Clowney and Wright.

3. Ryan singled out linebacker Marques Murrell for praise today. Murrell has flashed decent pass rush skills in the past and may be able to work his way into the rotation on defense, especially if Vernon Gholston doesn’t step up. Jason Trunsick and Murrell provide the Jets with solid depth behind their group of starters.

4. As I mentioned before, Eric Smith had another strong practice and has made a strong impression on Ryan who raved about him and James Ihedigbo as guys who provide excellent depth behind starters Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard. Smith should see plenty of action on defense in nickel and dime packages and could even push Leonhard for reps if he keeps playing this well.

5. Kris Jenkins has been getting moved around a little bit on the defensive line, seeing some reps at end. He has actually been held out of some drills because of how dominant he is up front, according to Ryan. Howard Green and Sione Pouha have looked good so far as Jenkins primary backups.

6. Apparently the Jets quarterbacks have given up throwing at Darrelle Revis who looks every bit of the lockdown corner he proved to be last year. Dwight Lowery had been quiet but flashed today with a sack and a pass breakup. Lowery was a Mangini guy, so it will be interesting to see where he fits in Ryan’s new defense. He has very good ball skills but lacks speed.

So what to write about for the next six weeks, while the Jets retreat back to their homes for some relaxation before they head to upstate New York for training camp? Fortunately, I never get tired of discussing this team and have plenty of ideas on how to fill up this blog every day. Overall, this may be a slow time for Jets news but it won’t be here. There is plenty to write about: the quarterback battle, the questionable depth at receiver, the ongoing contract issues with Thomas Jones/Leon Washington, potential trades or free agent signings, examining how the Jets can attack their AFC East rivals, breaking down the schedule overall, predicting who will make the roster, looking at camp battles, and providing closer/statistic based breakdowns of the Jets starters, key reserves, and bubble players.

5 Questions the Jets Defense Must Answer in 2009

First a few things:

1. Congratulations to Erik Boland of Newsday who recently got moved over to the Yankees beat. Boland ran a great Jets blog “E-Boland & Gang Green,” which was always a daily stop for me and countless other Jets fans to read up on the team. He also took the time to reach out and complement my work over at MVN, which was much appreciated. Good luck with the Yankees, Erik.

2. Brett Favre and Brad Childress are meeting to discuss Favre’s potential comeback to football, this time for the Vikings. Honestly, I am so sick of Favre, reading about him, talking about him, and basically everything about him. Have fun with him Minnesota and yes I will be rooting my ass off against him this year. The guy never wanted to be on the Jets and killed our playoff run last year. He has an obsession with Minnesota to have the chance to play against the Packers, well it looks like he is finally going to get his wish. I hope he goes 10/26 with 4 INTs in Lambeau this year, stay retired Brett and learn how to tell truth for once in your life.

3. A quick run-down of the Jets with different numbers this year – Erik Ainge (#10), David Clowney (#87), Mark Sanchez (#6), Marques Douglas (#71), Vernon Gholston (#50), Howard Green (#95), Larry Izzo (#53), Jim Leonhard (#36), Dwight Lowery (#21), Lito Sheppard (#26), Donald Stickland (#34).

4. Some belated second round NBA Playoffs picks: Magic in 7, Cavs in 5, Lakers in 7, and Denver in 6. Also while we are talking about other sports, am I the only one who hates the new Yankees Stadium and are we ever going to beat Boston this year?

5 Questions the Jets Defense Must Answer in 2009

Yesterday I talked about how good the Jets defense has the potential to be in 2009. However, there are a number of variables or questions that need to be answered which will determine how productive the unit will actually be this year. Here is a look at the five most pressing questions the defense has to answer in 2009:

1. Can Kris Jenkins Stay Healthy? – It all starts up front. If the Jets want to stop the run they need a healthy Kris Jenkins plugging up the middle and keeping blockers off Bart Scott and David Harris. Jenkins faded down the stretch last year with hip problems. The Jets must find a way to rest him during early parts of the season, which means players like Sione Pouha and Howard Green (pictured above) need to step up. Pouha didn’t do much last year and Green has never been more than a role player, but for Jenkins to be fresh in the fourth quarter of both games and the season, the two of them need to improve.

2. Are Marques Douglas/Mike DeVito NFL Starters? – Douglas was signed to provide depth and DeVito (pictured above) has made a minimal impact in the NFL during his three years. Yet, with Kenyon Coleman being traded to the Browns in the Mark Sanchez deal, one of these two will be asked to start at defensive end, with other receiving extended time off the bench. Apparently, Rex Ryan thinks DeVito can be a strong pass rusher in his system but it remains to be seen, since he currently has 0.5 career sacks. Douglas is good against the run and has been a productive role player throughout his career but he has never been asked to be a full time player.

 

3. Can Lito Sheppard Stay Healthy and Reclaim his Pro-Bowl Form? – Sheppard has battled injuries the past few years and lost his starting job to Asante Samuel in Philly last season. Yet, he is only a few years removed from being a pro-bowler and a guy who was considered one of the elite corners in the NFL. At his best, Sheppard can match up with the NFL’s top receivers. He won’t be asked to do that for the Jets because we have Darrelle Revis, but the defense needs him to stay healthy, face a ton of balls thrown his way as teams avoid Revis, and provide some stability to the #2 corner spot. Donald Strickland and Dwight Lowery are better suited to be nickel-backs or back-ups than full time players and the Jets could be in trouble if they are asked to be full time players because Sheppard is hurt.

4. Can Vernon Gholston Reach his Potential? – Vernon Gholston did nothing for the Jets last year despite being the #6 overall pick in the draft. One of Rex Ryan’s biggest tasks is going to be pushing Gholston to reach his potential. Gholston has the talent to be a Terrell Suggs type player, but at this point the Jets would be happy if he could just lock down a starting outside linebacker spot and provide a consistent pass rush. The Jets defense could go from good to great if Gholston develops into the double-digit sack guy the Jets drafted him to be.

5. Depth? – The Jets need somebody to step up as their number four safety and number five corner. I am holding out hope Ryan’s scheme will help Ahmad Carroll reach his first round potential, as either a corner or safety. Drew Coleman was an Eric Mangini guy and probably won’t make it through camp. James Ihedigbo is only known for a holding penalty that negated a Leon Washington kick return touchdown last year. At linebacker, there is high hopes for undrafted free agent Jamaal Westerman who looked great in the Jets rookie mini-camp. Marques Murrell, Jason Trunsick, and Kenwin Cummings will battle it out for the key back up spots at both inside and outside linebacker. On the defensive line, the Jets better sign a veteran or pray one of their UDFAs is ready to contribute this year.

Swaggalicious: Jets Defense Must Lead Way in 2009

First a few updates about the site:

1. Across the top of the site, you’ll notice I have a 2009 depth chart, which I will try to keep as updated as possible. I last updated it yesterday with where the Jets stand coming out of their rookie mini-camp. You’ll also notice that whomever is at the top of the depth chart at their respective position has the distinct honor of having their picture up under their position name.

2. I also have the 2009 schedule, with one of my favorite pictures of all time on top. Hopefully, we will be seeing something similar against New England both times this year.

3. There is an off-season additions page, with a listing and photos of all the major players the Jets acquired this off-season through free agency, trades, and the draft.

4. Finally, there is an About the Author Page, which just has a little more information about myself, nothing too exciting.

Swaggalicious: Jets Defense Must Lead Way in 2009

When being interviewed at the Jets recent non mandatory mini-camp, “Swaggalicious” was the word Bart Scott used to describe the way he envisions his defense playing this year. Scott knows that Head Coach Rex Ryan wants to win with an aggressive, stingy defense leading the way, supported by a solid running game and a quarterback who protects the football. The Jets were already a very good defensive team in 2008, but a few off-season additions have many thinking they could have one of the top units in the NFL this upcoming year.

Starting at the top, Rex Ryan and newly hired defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will advocate more of an attacking scheme that puts more people in the box and more pressure on the quarterback. Too many times last year, the Jets were a “reactive” defense, sitting back and waiting to adjust to whatever game-plan the offense came out with. Ryan isn’t going to do that, he is going to force offenses to adjust to a wide variety of looks and blitzes, and also hopefully be better at in-game adjustments than his predecessor.

The Jets defensive line is probably their weakest unit on this side of the ball. Kris Jenkins is a beast at nose tackle but needs to be properly rested or he will wear down at the end of the year. Sione Pouha and Howard Green need to step up and provide quality reps off the bench or Jenkins is going to fade during the stretch  run. At defensive end, Shaun Ellis is a solid veteran who should be good for 7-9 sacks. On the other side, Marques Douglas and Mike DeVito will be asked to split reps. Neither is really built to be a full time player, but hopefully they can combine to form a decent duo opposite Ellis. Kareem Brown is a decent depth player, but the Jets could really use another player in their d-line rotation.

The Jets should be rock solid at inside linebacker with Bart Scott and David Harris. Scott will be looked on to be the vocal leader of the defense, as an experienced pro-bowler in Ryan’s scheme. Harris is coming off an injury plagued year, but if he can return to his rookie form from 2007, he has the potential to be a pro-bowler himself. At outside linebacker, Calvin Pace is a very good all around player who will hopefully be given more of a chance to rush the passer this year. Eric Mangini had Pace dropping into coverage way too often last year, when his real strength is going after the quarterback. Bryan Thomas will start out at the other spot, but all eyes will be on 2008 first round pick Vernon Gholston, who was a complete bust in his rookie year. If Ryan can get Gholston to reach his potential, the Jets will gaining a valuable pass rushing weapon. The back-up spots at both inside and outside are wide open, although Marques Murrell and Jason Trunsick have shown potential and should get roster spots. Larry Izzo will make the roster as a special teamer and provide depth at the inside position.

The Jets secondary made a habit of getting beat like a drum last season. They addressed this weakness by trading for former pro-bowler Lito Sheppard at cornerback, signing Jim Leonhard to play safety, and adding Donald Strickland to play nickel-back. Darrelle Revis is one of the best corners in the league, and if Sheppard can stay healthy opposite him, the Jets will have one of the best duos in the NFL. Kerry Rhodes is coming off a down year, but many blame Eric Mangini’s scheme for his lack of big plays in 2008. Leonhard should provide a good complement to him, and help the adjustment to Ryan’s scheme as one of his former players. Strickland and second year player Dwight Lowery will battle for reps at corner behind Revis and Sheppard, Lowery showed great potential last year but struggled down the stretch. Strickland is a solid veteran, who is expected to get most of the reps as the #3 corner. Cornerback Ahmad Carroll was re-signed for special teams purposes, but is a former first round pick who may be able to find some reps on defense. Eric Smith is the top backup at safety and does have starting experience from last year.

On paper, the Jets have the ability to have one of the league’s best defenses. Jenkins, Revis, Ellis, Sheppard, and Scott are all former pro-bowlers and Ryan is considered one of the NFL’s brightest defensive minds. There are obviously a few variables that need to break the Jets way for them to reach their full defensive potential but we will look at those tomorrow.