New York Jets: What Is A Successful Off-Season?

What will be considered a successful off-season for the New York Jets?

The upcoming New York Jets off-season is likely going to disappoint a large portion of the team’s fanbase. Every need isn’t going to be filled. That being said, what do the Jets have to take care of, at a minimum, in the upcoming months for Mike Tannenbaum to do a satisfactory job?

It starts up front on both sides of the football, which means getting Sione Pouha signed to a 2-3 year deal to make sure he can keep anchoring the Jets run defense. On offense, that means bringing in a veteran right tackle to compete with Wayne Hunter, somebody along lines of a Vernon Carey. The offensive line should also be supported with a mid-round pick to develop.

Improving the pass rush is of equal priority. Mario Williams isn’t happening. There are a few decent stopgap players available in free agency like Anthony Spencer and Manny Lawson. If Tannenbaum is thinking big on draft day, it should be at this position. The Jets aren’t going to need to sell the farm to move up to get an elite pass rusher but if they need to move up to the 12-14 range to get their guy, Tannenbaum shouldn’t hesitate.

Safety is a position the Jets could address in free agency and support with a 2nd or 3rd round pick. Tyvon Branch or Michael Griffin are worth the investment on the open market and look for Jim Leonhard to be brought back on a veteran’s minimum deal to provide depth.

There is a need at wide receiver but compared to right tackle, linebacker, and safety the need is a luxury. Don’t be shocked if the Jets don’t add a starting caliber free agent at receiver. This is a run first team and the priority to spend in free agency at the position is lower than other spots on the team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jets add a mid-round receiver with some size and go into camp with him, Jeremy Kerley and Patrick Turner competing for reps opposite of Santonio Holmes, with Dustin Keller having a much larger role split out at receiver, while the team signs a blocking tight end to pair with him.

Beyond that, another quarterback is going to be brought in. I have a tough time seeing it being anyone besides Chad Henne on a cheap, one year deal. It is a necessary, logical move considering his history with Tony Sparano.

Hypothetically, if Tannenbaum brought back Pouha, signed Vernon Carey to play right tackle, signed Branch or Griffin at safety, and Henne to be the backup quarterback and then on draft day got a pass rushing OLB in round one, along with a safety and wide receiver in the middle rounds. Would you consider that a successful off-season? I would.

New York Jets: One Obvious Move This Off-Season

The New York Jets have one obvious move to make this off-season

The New York Jets don’t have many of their own free agents to be worried about this off-season. It would be nice to bring Robert Turner back for offensive line depth, along with Jim Leonhard and Bryan Thomas on veteran minimum deals to provide insurance on defense. However, there is one move that Mike Tannenbaum absolutely needs to take care of and that is bringing Sione Pouha back.

I am aware the Jets don’t have excessive cap space but Tannenbaum needs to do some of that cap maneuvering he is so well known for to keep the Jets nose tackle. Rex Ryan’s defense needs a run stopper in the middle and Pouha has been the perfect fit the past few years. Kenrick Ellis showed last year that he is far from ready to be an every down player and Pouha, despite being 33, should still have 3-4 very good seasons left in him considering he has only been a full time player the past three years of his seven year career.

More importantly, Pouha is one of the few leaders left in the Jets locker room. He is a player who actually deserved the “C” on his chest last year. In the lockout extended off-season, he took the entire defensive line under his wing for workouts and helped guide them to a surprisingly productive year despite largely being a young and unproven group.

The Jets cannot keep letting leaders…and productive leaders at that, walk from their team. Pouha must be brought back in 2012 if this team is going to take steps towards improving their fractured locker room and 8-8 record.

TOJ Monday Morning Rant: New York Jets Pass Rush

The New York Jets have ignored their pass rush for too long

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

In 2005, John Abraham had 10.5 sacks for the Jets defense. It is the last time a player on their defense has recorded double digit sacks in a single season. We are on six seasons and counting now…

We have long heard about Rex Ryan’s obsession with collecting cornerbacks. He seems to be of the belief that he can manufacture a pass rush from his blitz schemes if he is comfortable leaving the members of his secondary in man coverage. What we saw this past year was offenses caught up with what Rex was throwing at them. Blitz after blitz, not coming close to the quarterback and the pass rush not making nearly enough game changing plays.

If you are going to beat the elite quarterbacks in this league, you need to hit them. You can’t beat them with coverage, by loading up with top shelf corners. You need a pass rush that can consistently get after the quarterback and not always be aided by the blitz.

The Jets paid Calvin Pace a ton of money before the 2008 season to be this guy and despite being a pretty good all around player, he is nowhere near explosive enough to be a team’s top option as a pass rusher. In the draft, he looked to compliment him with Vernon Gholston…and we all know how that went.

Mike Tannenbaum went 0-2 prior to that season looking to substantially improve his pass rush and he appears to have been scarred from that, as the Jets have ignored pass rushers in free agency and the draft since. Four seasons have came and went. It is now time for Tannenbaum to make the pass rush his number one priority and give it another run.

There are plenty of reasons the Giants are 2-0 in the recent Conference Championship games and the Jets are 0-2 but a big one is the Giants ability to accumulate pass rushers over the years. Right now they have three (Pierre-Paul, Tuck, and Osi) who are head and shoulders above any of the Jets pass rushers. Hitting on Pierre-Paul compared to whiffing on Gholston makes a big difference.

Right now the Jets top pass rushing threat is a guy they found off the scrap heap in Aaron Maybin. He is a nice role player but considering his size and skill set, it would be foolish to rely on him as a top option.

The Jets need to seriously consider doing everything in their power to get a player like Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram, or one of the other draft’s top pass rushing prospects on their roster. They also shouldn’t hesitate to add another outside linebacker who can get after the quarterback in the middle rounds to develop. In free agency, they should explore what it would take to sign Mario Williams, especially if New England is going to be after him. Williams is a long shot and if they can’t get him, they should look at adding a second tier free agent like Anthony Spencer who has long term potential.

This team can’t afford another off-season of putting the pass rush on the backburner, now is the time to aggressively pursue making a drastic improvement to it.

New York Jets Top Priority Will Be Sanchez

Mike Tannenbaum’s main focus this off-season will be supporting Mark Sanchez

I wouldn’t bank on Peyton Manning coming through that door, New York Jets fans. What I would bank on is General Manager Mike Tannenbaum doing everything in his power this off-season to prevent his franchise quarterback, Mark Sanchez, breaking in his make or break year.

The last thing Tannenbaum and this organization want to do is be forced to concede after this season that trading up for Sanchez was a mistake and then undergo the task of finding another quarterback to build around. The main priority for this off-season will be adding as much around Sanchez on offense as possible to help him have a productive season.

The hiring of Tony Sparano brings back the mentality of running the football along with a needed emphasis on protecting the quarterback. There is no way the Jets are sending Sanchez out there for another season with Wayne Hunter as a starter. Finding a competent starting right tackle is the first order of business this off-season. The free agent list isn’t crawling with them, which means the Jets may have to get creative in terms of swinging a trade.

Expect the offensive line to receive support through the draft in the middle rounds and for maybe a second veteran to be added for depth purposes. After what he saw last year and with Sparano now in house, Tannenbaum won’t short change himself at this position.

Supporting Sanchez goes beyond protecting him with the starting five offensive lineman. There are some rumors of Dustin Keller not fitting in with the new offense but his chemistry with Sanchez can’t be ignored. Instead look for the Jets to replace the hapless Matthew Mulligan with a quality blocking tight end who could also handle catching 20-25 passes. Keller’s role could be altered as he spends more of time split out or at H-Back than in-line at tight end but expect him back in a Jets jersey this year.

Along those lines, the Jets will likely add another running back and wide receiver to the mix. You can’t Ground and Pound with their current depth chart at running back and you can’t stretch the field for chunks of yardages with their current depth chart at receiver. There isn’t enough proven talent and durability at running back and there isn’t enough top end speed at receiver. Expect a veteran and a draft pick added at each of the two positions.

Finally, Tannenbaum needs to find a veteran to push Sanchez in training camp. Chad Henne makes the most sense on paper or somebody similar to him with recent starting experience.

We all know safety and linebacker are major needs for the Jets but don’t surprised when most of the focus this off-season is building around Sanchez on offense so he can flourish in Tony Sparano’s system.

Joe McKnight and Aaron Maybin, Who Would Have Thought?

TOJ on two players who have come out of nowhere to become crucial parts to the New York Jets making a second half run

There is no denying how crucial Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills is going to be. LaDainian Tomlinson has already christened it a “do or die” game for the New York Jets divisional hopes and the same vibe is coming from the rest of the locker room. You want to win the AFC East? You want a home playoff game? Beat the two teams in front of you the next two weeks and take control of your destiny.

Yet, who could have imagined that two of the most crucial players coming into this game would be Joe McKnight and Aaron Maybin?

Joe McKnight, AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October, has turned into one of the most explosive kick returners in the league and one of the best all around special teams players. His contributions won’t stop there on Sunday, as the coaching staff has made it clear that he will receive a larger role on offense at both running back and receiver. McKnight has rare, game-breaking speed and the ability to make a play or two that will tip Sunday’s outcome in the Jets favor.

Aaron Maybin, the Buffalo Bills first round bust, has came to the Jets off the scrap heap and turned into their top pass rushing threat. In limited snaps he has already racked up 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Maybin will also be on the receiving end of more playing time this week and how you could not root for this guy to tear up his former team? Maybin has brought a speed and energy to the Jets defense that it sorely needed. His pass rush will go a long way to disrupting the timing of Buffalo’s quick passing attack.

When August started many people thought Joe McKnight could end up being the team’s number four back and nobody thought Aaron Maybin would even be on a NFL team, and yet here they are with a chance to play a major part in seizing the Jets control of the division.

Credit Mike Tannenbaum for taking a shot on Maybin and Rex Ryan for putting him a spot to succeed. Also it might be time to start thinking that trading Leon Washington and cutting Danny Woodhead in favor of McKnight was actually a savvy move.

Fast and Furious Free Agency On The Way

The latest reports on the NFL Lockout involve a tentative resolution being agreed upon on July 21st. In that scenario or really any scenario at this point, a frantic period of free agency will begin, which should truly separate the league’s best and worst front offices.

I would think most New York Jets fans should feel comfortable with Mike Tannenbaum pulling the strings, considering the success of the team since he has taken over as GM. Expect many teams to overpay for big name veterans in the opening days of free agency and for the more patient front offices to be rewarded with a few under the radar signings at very good market value.

There is a rumor floating around that the Washington Redskins have a strong interest in Braylon Edwards, which is about the worst news any Jets fan who wants Edwards back could hear. The Redskins are notorious for paying out lavish contracts to veterans and will likely drive Edwards price out of what Tannenabum is willing to pay, especially with Santonio Holmes likely a higher priority.

You would think Edwards would rather compete for a Super Bowl in New York than field one hoppers from John Beck on a mediocre Washington team but money talks and how much of a hometown discount would he really take?

Pro Football Focus recently compiled this list of the top 51 free agents (I strongly disagree with the ordering of these players but it does provide a good reference of who is available) and this list of bargain free agents. A few thoughts on how some of these available players could fit with the Jets —

  • I don’t see them making a big offer on an elite free agent that isn’t one of their own. The top priorities should be keeping Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, and Edwards and to a lesser extent Shaun Ellis, Brodney Pool, and Damien Woody.
  • A few middle of the road free agents I could them considering are linebackers Matt Roth or Manny Lawson, both could be options to improve depth and the pass rush, especially if Jason Taylor doesn’t come back.
  • If Antonio Cromartie leaves, I could see them adding a veteran corner…if Jonathan Joseph ends up being too pricey, Chris Carr or Richard Marshall could be solid alternatives.

Also don’t forget the Jets still need to work out a long term deal with David Harris, to finish off taking care of their “Core Four.” It is hard to see this getting done before the season starts with how much madness will be going on, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets weren’t afraid to visit the issue after week one considering the circumstances.

Jets Front Office & Coaching Staff Staying Sharp Through Lockout

It has been impressive to see how dedicated and organized the New York Jets players have been throughout the lockout. From “Jets West” to Darrelle Revis taking Kyle Wilson under his wing, all the way to their recent “Camp Lockout,” they have maintained a sense of organization and dedication needed to remain a Super Bowl contender. Fortunately, the team’s front office and coaching staff hasn’t been slacking off either.

In an effort to hear new ideas and stay sharp, the team has brought in a variety of coaches and executives to pick their brain on new concepts both on and off the field moving forward. Dan Reeves, who played and coached in nine Super Bowls, was recently at the Jets complex and before him, former Washington Redskins coach, Joe Gibbs spent time with the coaching staff.

Former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator, Tom Moore came to Florham Park to break down offensive film and there is now a rumor he could join the team as a consultant, which will surely make all those Brian Schottenheimer haters out there happy.

Mike Tannenbaum took it upon himself to meet with Bill McDermott, who is the co-CEO of SAP AG, a leading provider of business software and Kevin Plank, the CEO and founder of Under Armour to pick their brain on running an organization. It is a savvy move by the Jets GM to take time to learn from successful, talented people and work to constantly improve.

It remains to be seen how much all of these visits will help in the upcoming season but it is encouraging to see the entire organization not resting on their success from the previous two years.

New York Jets Have Finally Created An Appealing Situation

It is starting to sound like there may be a light at the end of this lockout tunnel and if everything breaks right in the coming weeks there is going to be a furious two to three week stretch of free agency in early July. No matter how the negotiations end up setting the framework for the rules in the 2011 season and the new CBA, the New York Jets are going to have their hands full. Yet, one of the positive things the Jets will have working for them is they have created an organizational culture that is appealing to players around the league.

Leading the New York Jets is an owner willing to spend money, on state of the art facilities and top tier talent, a general manager who is willing to pursue that top tier talent and remain aggressive to keep the Jets consistently competitive, and a head coach who is as popular with players as any in the NFL.

Say what you want about Hard Knocks but it was great advertising for the New York Jets. The days of this franchise being a clumsily run, bumbling second class NFL citizen are over. They have a brand new stadium, brand new training facilities, and most importantly an identity as a physical, talented football team that is developing into a consistent winner.

The Jets top concern in free agency will be bringing their own players back, yet if they have holes they need to fill, they should have the ability to recruit the necessary replacement pieces, which is a credit to Rex Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum, and Woody Johnson.

Draft Week Arrives: Uncertainty Surrounds Jets

Round one of the NFL Draft is only a few short days away and despite having an idea of what direction we think the Jets will go in, position wise, the 30th selection in the draft remains very up in the air. Will the Jets…

  • Address their defensive line by adding Muhammad Wilkerson if he happens to fall to them or by taking Phil Taylor despite his the injury concerns? Could they add a five technique like Cameron Heyward?
  • Improve their pass rush by taking Akeem Ayers, Justin Houston, or Brooks Reed to play outside linebacker? Ayers has been a popular pick  for the Jets the past few months, yet Reed is becoming a hot name and shooting up many draft boards. Houston has questions about his motor and consistency, which should make the Jets gun shy considering that whole Vernon Gholston thing.
  • Surprise everybody and ignore their defensive front seven in round one and add to their secondary or maybe reach for a wide receiver. Cornerback Jimmy Smith would be intriguing if he fell to 30 and Rahim Moore is the best safety on most people’s draft board and he should also be available. Wide receivers Leonard Hankerson and Jonathan Baldwin would be reaches but the Jets could be feeling a little desperate with Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and Brad Smith all free agents.
  • Disappoint all the fans who show up Thursday night and trade out of the first round. Mike Tannenbaum might want to trade back into round two to acquire more picks and then look to target somebody like Stephen Paea or Jabaal Sheard.

The Jets front office is rarely predictable. Regardless, you would assume this will be a defensive heavy draft for the Jets who need to get younger and improve their depth at all three levels. You would also think the Jets want to leave this draft with at least six players, if not more considering they have only made seven selections the past two years.