Give Me A Controversy: The New York Media’s Love Affair With Tim Tebow

Prepare yourself for five months of positive press on Tim Tebow and negative press on Mark Sanchez

Yesterday the Daily News published an article using New York Jets quarterback coach Matt Cavanaugh as the primary source. The article generally portrayed Mark Sanchez in a negative light. Today they also published an article using Cavanaugh as the primary source, this time portraying Tim Tebow in a positive light. Erik Manassy of Jets Twit provides a terrific breakdown of the two articles here.

First off, Cavanaugh made himself look foolish by praising Tebow’s mechanics after criticizing Sanchez’s development, considering he has overseen that very development. It doesn’t take a football savant to see how far Tebow’s mechanics still need to go, so even if Cavanaugh was truly pleased with them it was odd to pair it with the Sanchez criticism.

We already discussed Cavanaugh’s unimpressive resume today at TOJ. He maintained his job this off-season, only after the Jets struck out chasing Todd Haley and Karl Dorrell. It would make sense for him to stay out of the media and focus on developing his starting quarterback primarily, and then his Wildcat/backup.

Yet, what I really want to focus on is the beginning of a trend you will see in the coming months. Manish Mehta of the Daily News has already shown his affinity for anonymous sources ripping Mark Sanchez since the season ended and many of the other beat writers have followed a similar path. The New York media wants a quarterback controversy. It sells newspapers.

Beyond that, they will create caricatures of members of the Jets to help write stories throughout the year. Santonio Holmes, the selfish bogeyman who is the team villain. Mark Sanchez, the fading star who is mentally weak. Tim Tebow, the heroic backup who can do no wrong.

Expect a steady stream of pro-Tebow and anti-Sanchez articles in the coming months. I can promise you a Daily News article this summer quoting unnamed sources that Tebow is outperforming Sanchez in practice and will soon take over as the starter. I can promise if Sanchez has one poor game, there will be rumors from those unnamed sources claiming that Sanchez will be benched or is one bad quarter away from being benched.

Get used to it.

New York Jets: How NOT To Develop A Young Quarterback

New TOJ writer Mike Donnelly has found excerpts of the book the New York Jets have written – “How NOT To Develop A Young Quarterback”

Turn On The Jets would like to welcome our newest assistant staff writer, Mike Donnelly on board. Mike was previously writing for You Don’t Know Football and freelancing for his own site on the New York Jets. Make sure you follow him on Twitter – 

When the New York Jets made the shocking trade for Tim Tebow earlier this offseason, people had many different takes and opinions on it. Beyond just the normal Jets-bashing and Tebow-trashing, some people loved the move because of Tebow’s running ability and some people hated it, mainly due to the effect it would have on Mark Sanchez both on and off the field. Sanchez is a fine young quarterback who has improved each year and had a lot of success — despite what his detractors say — so the Tebow trade was a curious one.

I did a little digging however, and found out there was a method to the madness. If it seemed like the Jets as an organization were going out of their way to push Sanchez to the side and stunt his development, it’s because they were, and this was just the latest in a series of questionable decisions. Apparently, in their never-ending quest for more publicity, the Jets decided to see how far they can push this thing and publish the first ever “How NOT to Develop Your Young Quarterback” handbook. Luckily, I was able to get my hands on a rough copy and will share some excerpts with you.

Chapter One“What you want to do is hire a defensive Head Coach who has no interest in the offense whatsoever. The real trick, though, is you want to give the keys to the entire offense to an unqualified coordinator who has had no success in the NFL at all. In our case, that man was Brian Schottenheimer. Schotty had been here for three years already by the time we drafted Mark, and before that he was the quarterbacks coach in San Diego. It was during that time that Drew Brees had the worst years of his career before moving to New Orleans and carving out a Hall of Fame career under new coaches. We knew Schotty would do a pretty bad job, but we had to be absolutely sure we couldn’t let Sanchez improve at all. That’s why we also hired Matt Cavanaugh to come in and be the QB’s coach in 2009, and that was a major coup for us…”

Wow. If the goal was really to hire two incompetent coaches to coach the offense and Mark Sanchez specifically, they did a great job with these two. First, let’s start with Schottenheimer. By now everybody knows how bad of a job he did here and that his offense was too complicated and too ineffective. Chad Pennington even had a tough time grasping it. Brett Favre basically ignored it. Many current players complained about it. Let’s quickly take a look at some of Schotty’s failures:

  • 95.7 and 107.2. Those are Brett Favre’s QB ratings the year before and after he worked with Schotty, respectively. His rating with Schotty? 81.0 to go along with his 22 interceptions.
  • Chad Pennington’s QB rating with Schotty over 2 years: 83.3. The year he left? 97.4 and a 2nd place MVP finish. Hmm.
  • 16 straight games, including 3 playoff contests, where he couldn’t come up with a game plan to score a 1st quarter touchdown
  • 58 straight weeks without a 300 yard passer between 2006 and 2010
  • Passing offense never finished higher than 16th in NFL

And it is not like Cavanaugh helped matters. Before coming to the Jets to mentor Sanchez, he was the offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh University where his claim to fame was being part of the brain trust that decided to start Tyler Palko at QB over future NFL 1st round pick Joe Flacco. Prior to that, he was the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens during the era where their offensive ineptitude was the butt of many jokes. During his last three years on the job, the passing offense ranked 27th, 32nd,  and 31st. A perfect candidate to come in and help a young QB become a great passer! He was clearly everything the Jets were looking for in their handbook.

Chapter 4 – “Once you’ve established that the young QB won’t get any competent coaching, the next thing you want to do is take away anything he’s familiar with and not let him get into any kind of comfort zone. So what we did is change the receivers Mark would be throwing to every season. The thinking was, if he we let him get comfortable and grow with any receivers, his stats would improve, and that’s a no-no. In 2011 we even took it a step further and not only did we take away the two receivers he was most familiar with, we replaced them with two guys who couldn’t run anymore! It was great…”

The Jets did a great job adhering to this. In 2009, the first receiver Sanchez got comfortable with was Chansi Stuckey, so he was traded by week 5. They brought in Braylon Edwards, though, which was actually a great thing for Sanchez. Too great of a thing, apparently, because just a year and a half later he was gone. In 2010, Santonio Holmes was brought in, but due to his 4 game suspension, it took a while for him and Sanchez to get on the same page. With the trio of Edwards, Holmes, and Cotchery, Sanchez had an excellent, young corps of receivers to work with. So naturally the whole thing was blown up after the 2010 season that nearly ended in a Super Bowl. Edwards was let go, Cotchery was released, and they were replaced by the decrepit Derek Mason and fresh from prison Plaxico Burress. The Jets apparently didn’t ask Plaxico to work out for them or run a 40 yard dash before signing, probably because they didn’t have a sun dial available. So not only was Sanchez left without a deep threat, but he had to break in these new receivers during a lockout without coaches being present. No big deal.

Later in Chapter 4“And just to be sure the quarterback won’t be comfortable at all, you might want to go ahead and weaken his offensive line a great deal. Nothing frazzles a QB more than being hit every play, so we decided to put Wayne Hunter at tackle and back him up with Vlad Ducasse. Doesn’t get much worse than that! Speaking of backups, make sure you have none, so if one of your starters like Nick Mangold does get injured, your QB will get buried…”

Well, this strategy definitely did work. Gotta give them credit.

Chapter 8“If you’ve come this far, it means you’ve done everything you physically can to your QB to make sure he fails. Now it’s time to work on the mental side and really ruin his confidence. It will be hard to top what we did, because a guy like Tim Tebow only comes along once in a lifetime, but if possible, you have to bring in an extremely popular player to back up your quarterback. That way, every time he throws an incomplete pass or messes up, the whole crowd  will be pushing for the backup to play, even if he can’t throw a forward pass! Plus the entire media will report on every little move he makes and make it nearly impossible for him to not crack under the pressure. This is an important step in the process here…”

Well, they were right about it being hard for future teams to one-up them when it comes to Tebow. In fact, I don’t think any starting QB that has had the success Sanchez has, has ever had to deal with something like Tim Tebow being brought in and getting on the field for up to 20 plays per game every Sunday. The Jets really broke new ground with this one. It was a nice touch added on also to have Matt Cavanaugh criticize Sanchez publicly while also talking about how wonderful Tim Tebow is. Smooth.

Look, I’m a big Mark Sanchez supporter and fan. I think he’s gotten a bum rap, and it’s totally undeserved. People seem to forget that he only just completed his 3rd season in the league, and is actually ahead of where many other star players were at the same point in their careers, just look at Drew Brees’ stats early in his career. Or even better, look at Eli Manning, who many Giants fans wanted to run out of town after 3 years.

There are lots of similarities between Sanchez and Eli that go beyond just the stats. After Eli’s third year, they fired the offensive coordinator who wasn’t using Eli to the best of his abilities and became way too predictable. Sound familiar? They replaced him with Kevin Gilbride, a former Head Coach who had success as an offensive coach prior to flopping as Head Coach. Again, sound familiar? I hope the Jets took some notes. The Giants let Eli work out his problems, progress, and late in Year 4, Eli started to “get it”. He cut out the silly mistakes, grasped the offense that suited his skills, and he led them to the Super Bowl. I’m not saying that’s what will happen this year with Mark Sanchez, but he deserves the opportunity to do so. Mark Sanchez has proven he can handle the big stage in the past, and I wouldn’t bet against him rising up and doing so again.

A Final Look At The New York Jets 2012 Draft Class

Chris G gives one final round-up of the New York Jets 2012 draft class

After watching hours of film on every selection made in the 2012 Draft by the New York Jets, we have analyzed each player and where we think they will fit in with the team, based on their skill set and potential. Now, it’s time to have fun with some predictions for each of these rookies in 2012 and beyond. Let’s have a look at what a yearbook of the Jets’ 2012 Draft Class would probably read.

Most Likely To Succeed – DE Quinton Coples. This was a very tough decision, as I think Stephen Hill will undoubtedly have a successful career in the NFL. However, Rex Ryan is a defensive minded coach, and besides Darrelle Revis, has yet to have a player in New York with the physical upside of Coples. With all the criticism emerging from the Jets’ decision to pass on Melvin Ingram for Coples, expect Rex to make it a priority to ensure the young DE out of North Carolina will thrive underneath him.

Most Likely To Be Considered A Steal – LB DeMario Davis. Davis has the passion, drive, and physical ability to be an elite NFL linebacker down the road. It will benefit him greatly to play in a system designed by Rex Ryan, while learning under the tutelage of David Harris and Bart Scott in the early years of his career. From what Davis was able to demonstrate in college, along with his tremendous speed and size for the position, there is a very high chance that, in the coming years, people will be questioning how he ever fell to the third round.

Biggest Sleeper Pick –WR Jordan White. Not too many people are talking about White, but when taking a closer look, this kid has all the potential in the world to be a very solid NFL Wide Receiver. His production at Western Michigan speaks for itself, while he has repeatedly proved to be tough, physical, and athletic on film. His intelligence displayed by his ability to find holes in the defense, as well as his fantastic route running ability will put him right where he needs to be in camp in order to compete for a roster spot. I would be shocked if he is not on the active roster at some point this season, while developing into a reliable safety net for Mark Sanchez in the future.

Best Value – S Antonio Allen. After reviewing the game film of safety Josh Bush, I have an excellent feeling about his play and how he will succeed as a Jet. However, I have had Allen rated as the third best safety in this year’s class right behind Harrison Smith. A further review of his game film only solidified that notion, and in the 7th round, the former Gamecock was certainly the best value pick by New York this year. The Jets likely selected Bush ahead of Allen because of their greater need for a true centerfield-type safety, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum were ecstatic to see him still on the board in round 7.

Least Likely To Ever Play A Significant Down – G Robert T. Griffin. Don’t get me wrong, Griffin’s massive frame, and great tenacity give him tremendous upside. However, he appears to be light years away from being a capable NFL offensive lineman. His skill set is very far behind in terms of his strength, footwork, and technique. There’s always a chance that he proves this assertion to be false, but in all likelihood, Griffin will find a home on the practice squad and settle there for a few years, before becoming a career backup, at best.

Only time will truly tell how each of these young men will fare as NFL players. Surely, they have all done things well enough to find themselves in the rare position that they are in. There’s no doubt that they are all good football players, but which of them will go the distance to ensure success in the NFL?

New York Jets: Low Expectations, Better Results?

Will the lowered expectations for the New York Jets 2012 season, equal better than expected results?

The prognosticators aren’t going to be kind to the New York Jets in the coming months. Who wouldn’t want to kick Rex Ryan and his fat mouth when he is down? His team is coming off a 8-8 season playoff-less season and they had a controversial and potentially ineffective off-season. Beyond that. Ryan admittedly lost the locker room last season to petty in-fighting.

This year’s “it” pick in the AFC East will be the Buffalo Bills to challenge and potentially unseat the New England Patriots and grab a playoff spot or division title in the process. New York’s other, other team had a flashy off-season by bringing in Mario Williams and Mark Anderson to beef up the now supposed best front seven in football. They also kept the core pieces of their offense intact by resigning Stevie Johnson and extending Fred Jackson’s contract.

Of course, everybody is too busy criticizing Mark Sanchez to take the time to question Ryan Fitzpatrick. In case you haven’t noticed, Fitzpatrick was awful the second half of last season, has never won anything in his NFL career and is a substantially bigger question mark than Sanchez heading into this season.

Regardless of the Jets perceived hierarchy in the AFC East, there are valid questions about their roster which will lead most to pick them to go anywhere from 6-10 to 9-7. The looming quarterback controversy between Sanchez and Tebow, the shaky right tackle and safety situation, and lack of a proven big time running back will all be consistently referenced.

Fortunately, lower expectations may not be a bad thing for this team. As a matter of fact, if recent history proves anything…it is that when the Jets have low expectations, they exceed them and when they have high expectations, they struggle. Remember in 2004, 2006, and 2009 nobody expected the Jets to sniff the playoffs and they made it all three of those years and in 2007, 2008, and most recently last year when they were a popular pick as a contender and flamed out.

I firmly believe you will see a toned done Rex Ryan to the public this year, further removing the target from the Jets back. Nobody thinks the Jets have an elite defense anymore. Nobody thinks they have an elite offensive line. Everybody thinks Santonio Holmes forgot how to get open and that Mark Sanchez is seconds from the bench. David Harris is under still under the radar and most assume Quinton Coples will be a bust. We can only hope the Jets are reading their press clippings this season and saving every single one of them maybe then they can get back to surprising teams with a hit in the mouth.

New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: Defensive End Quinton Coples

Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets first round pick, defensive end Quinton Coples

Today we come to the end of our complete breakdown of every New York Jets draft pick, by looking at first rounder Quinton Coples. In case you haven’t been paying attention, here are the links to all the previous articles. Another huge shout out to Chris Gross, TOJ’s own Mike Mayock, who didn’t leave the film room the past two weeks. 

When the New York Jets selected Quinton Coples with the 16th overall selection in this year’s NFL draft, the organization immediately found itself under heavy criticism. Many expected the Jets to trade up for DE/OLB Melvin Ingram, but when he fell to New York at 16, it was seemingly too good to be true. When the Jets opted to pass on the highly touted player out of South Carolina, the reaction was not very warm among the green and white faithful. What made the decision to pass on Ingram even worse was the scrutiny that Coples found himself under in the weeks leading up to the draft. Once regarded as the best pass rushing prospect in this year’s class, red flags regarding his character and effort level began to surface on draft boards throughout the entire nation.

However, it is an unfortunate occurrence when individuals let others decide their opinion. With several draft experts in the media declaring Coples a talented, but lazy player, unworthy of the spot he was drafted in, people adopted this opinion as their own. But on what basis were these declarations made? On what grounds do analysts have the proper footing to deem Coples a lazy, unmotivated player? For the final edition of our draft analysis here at Turn On The Jets, my primary goal in evaluating Coples was to generate a completely objective opinion. I shelved everything I had heard about him, and simply watched him as if he were any other player. Some concerns about Coples may not be totally unwarranted, however to declare this young man as a waste of a selection and label him as a guy with a bad work ethic is completely unfair.

The first characteristic that stands out on Quinton Coples when evaluating his game film is, undoubtedly, his explosiveness. Coples gets off the ball perhaps faster than any defensive player in this year’s draft class. He also plays with excellent leverage, as he demonstrates the ability to get underneath offensive lineman, which is even more impressive when considering his 6’6” stature. The majority of the time, he is very aggressive in his approach to an opponent by showing an attack first mentality. Rarely does he allow the offensive lineman to initiate the contact with him. He is adamant about striking fast, and controlling the blocker.

Along with explosion, Coples, most notably, has exceptional pass rush skills. He reads his keys extremely well, and displays tremendous ability to “run the circle.” For a defensive lineman, the ability to run the circle refers to how well the player can dip their shoulder to gain leverage on the opposing lineman, while maintaining enough speed and coordination to stay in their pass rush lane and get to the quarterback. Coples does this just as good, if not better, than anyone I have evaluated in this year’s class, including Ingram and Courtney Upshaw of Alabama.

Coples is also very versatile. During his reign at UNC, he lined up at defensive end, tackle, and even some outside linebacker. His physical tools give him the ability to move all over the field, something Rex Ryan will surely take advantage of. He is very powerful, but at the same time, is extremely agile and smooth in his movements. During his junior season, Coples played primarily defensive tackle, and registered 10 sacks. His ability to play both inside and outside on the defensive line should make his value immeasurable to a creative coach like Ryan.Although Coples effort and work ethic came into question following his senior season at North Carolina, there is not enough substantial evidence to label him anything remotely close to “lazy.” Countless times, Coples showed valiant effort in his play either by continuing to work up field on a pass rush with double moves, spin techniques, or an extra push, or on run plays where he repeatedly screamed down the line of scrimmage chasing runs away from his side of the field.

The knocks on Coples being inconsistent are generally the only ones that I found to be true. There are times during games when he does not consistently play at a high level. However, there are several factors that are rarely considered as to why this happens. The first, and probably most obvious, is that regardless of the player, it is just about impossible to maintain an elite level of production on every single play. Secondly, with the immense amount of success Coples had during his junior year, coupled with the threat his physical abilities make him to opposing offenses, teams clearly game planned around him last season. There were numerous plays in which Coples faced double, and even triple, teams last year. It is very likely that #90 was circled on every offensive game plan among North Carolina’s opponents in 2011. A player like Coples needs to be accounted for at all times, because if he is not, it can cost coordinators and coaches their jobs.

Another very important factor that may have played into Coples inconsistency was the amount of turmoil that the North Carolina football program faced during his time as a Tar Heel. Besides the heavy amount of negative publicity and suspensions the team was dealt within the past two years, Coples also had the unfortunate burden of playing for four different position coaches in each of his four years with the program. It is very difficult for a player to get comfortable and gain consistency when there is no stability whatsoever. The fact that he still was able to perform at a level high enough for him to be considered one of the best, if not the best, defensive lineman in the draft should speak volumes to his character, rather than tarnish it. Granted, the argument can be made that as a division I scholarship athlete, there should be no excuses like these, but it is often forgotten that these players are simply kids. Instability within a program can be detrimental to a young man.

With all of that being said, I still did not find enough substantial evidence to consider Coples a “lazy” player. He is ferocious off the ball, chases plays down, and has great tenacity. He even showed enough of a motor in the Virginia Tech game last year to have ESPN analyst, Jesse Palmer refer to him as a “high effort player.” To me, it is a mystery as to where the claims on Coples’ motor came from. Inconsistent, perhaps, but the bottom line is that he shows passion in his play and gets after it far more often than not.

Coples’ largest challenge as a Jet is going to be earning the love and respect of the fans. Although it is completely out of his hands, the choice by New York to pass on the highly regarded Ingram for Coples will be criticized until he lets his play speak for him. He needs to come out of the gate in a dash and keep his foot on the pedal without a second of hesitation. He will most likely be compared to Ingram, at least for this season, in terms of production and quality of play. Coples needs to show why Rex Ryan and the Jets have so much faith in him, and everyone in New York will soon forget about all of the other defensive players taken following the 16th pick.

Coples true character should show early in the season. One would expect a player as highly criticized as he has been to come out with a chip on his shoulder, looking to prove all of his doubters wrong. Expect Coples to display high energy, tenacity, and motor from the moment he takes the field this season. If he does anything else, then, and only then, will it be time to raise the red flags.

As far as his role with the Jets, Rex Ryan has already declared that he will see the majority of defensive snaps this season. While this is not necessarily a statement I am too fond of, for a player should have to earn that type of recognition, it is certainly something that needs to be done. Coples is far too big, strong, athletic, and versatile to be wasting time on the sidelines. He needs to play immediately and prove his worth as the 16th overall selection. Rex will certainly utilize his abilities to the highest degree. Expect to see Coples in a vast amount of packages, primarily at defensive end, while sliding all over on passing situations. Ryan feels he can get double-digit sack production out of Coples, and based on the UNC product’s abilities, there is no reason to think otherwise. Consistency of play is going likely going to be the most important factor in his success.

TOJ 12 Pack: New York Jets Post-Draft Predictions

Turn On The Jets gives out 12 post-draft predictions for the 2012 season

The New York Jets had open media availability yesterday and the top stories of the day were Tim Tebow’s dog, Darrelle Revis hating the Patriots and where Tim Tebow doesn’t live. Unfortunately, if you are looking for a 12 pack of information on that you are on the wrong site and should instead read some of the local newspapers. Instead I give you a 12 pack of post-draft predictions for the Jets 2012 season. If you are looking for more reading throughout the day, check back later this afternoon as Chris Gross will finish up our draft pick analysis by looking at Quinton Coples. I will also provide links to our other articles covering the rest of the picks.

On to the predictions…

1. Wayne’s World – The Jets opening day starter at right tackle will be Wayne Hunter. Should you be thrilled about this? Probably not, but perhaps this article from our good friend Jeff Capellini will make you feel better. It has become clear the Jets are content to let Hunter and Vladimir Ducasse battle for the position. While I think the organization would love to see Ducasse win, I think Hunter is the day one starter in camp and is steady enough to hold off Ducasse who hasn’t shown much of anything through two years. Tony Sparano will feel better going with a guy who has over a season of starting experience instead of the unproven Ducasse. For those who are asking, I do not think Austin Howard is a factor in this competition. If he was, the Jets wouldn’t have paid Hunter 2.5 million to comeback. They would have just let Howard compete with Ducasse.

2. Slow Safety – The Jets opening day starting safeties will be LaRon Landry and Eric Smith. At this point, I don’t think they will add Yeremiah Bell and even if Jim Leonhard returns, I don’t think it will be in a starting role. Look for rookie Josh Bush to be a factor in a centerfield type role when the Jets go to three safety looks and for rookie Antonio Allen to get on the field as a blitzer or to fill in for Landry if he gets hurt.

3. Out Wide – Braylon Edwards isn’t coming back. The Jets wide receiver depth chart will be Santonio Holmes as the starting flanker, Stephen Hill as the starting split end and Jeremy Kerley as the slot receiver. Behind them, I expect Chaz Schilens, Patrick Turner and Jordan White to stick as backups. White could be relegated to the practice squad unless he shows value on special teams.

4. Must Addition – The Jets will add a blocking tight end at some point. How can you run Tony Sparano’s offense without a single blocking tight end on the roster?

5. Where The Rookies Land – As I mentioned previously, I do think Stephen Hill will start from day one. Quinton Coples will be a de facto starter on the defensive line but will be rotated through with Mike DeVito, Muhammad Wilkerson, Marcus Dixon and Kenrick Ellis. Demario Davis will be a key special teams player and play in some defensive packages, same for Josh Bush and Antonio Allen. Robert T. Griffin has practice squad written all over him. Jordan White could join him unless he sticks as the #5 receiver and a special teamer. Finally, I think Terrance Ganaway will beat out Bilal Powell and be the third rushing option behind Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight.

6. Everybody Loves Tony – Leading up to the regular season, Tony Sparano will be one of the most popular men in the Jets organization with fans and players, simply because of how much everybody disliked Brian Schottenheimer.

7. Puppy Eyes – Tim Tebow’s popularity will be at a fever pitch heading into the season. He has already won over the media and skeptics of the trade with his quotes and smiles. Listen, I won’t argue that Tim Tebow seems like genuinely a great human being. It is good to have a player like that part of this organization. I also won’t argue that he works his ass off to get better. However, Mark Sanchez works hard too. Mark Sanchez is a better quarterback than Tim Tebow…by a good amount. If the Jets are going anywhere this season, it is with Sanchez as their starting quarterback and Tebow as a versatile weapon off the bench. Don’t forget that, regardless of how many times Tebow smiles for the camera.

8. Bounce Back – Santonio Holmes is going to have a very good year from start to finish. Why? Great football players are motivated to bounce back from down years and I don’t care what you think of Holmes personally, he is a great football player and the Jets top playmaker on offense. I think he will use everything the media has said about him as fuel. So let him keep being snippy with them, as long as he is catching touchdowns.

9. K-Ball – Josh Brown is going to be the Jets kicker this year, not Nick Folk. TJ Conley isn’t going to be the punter either. You could tell from Mike Westhoff’s quotes last week that he wants no part of Folk and Conley for another year.

10. Big Plays – Look for an increase in Dustin Keller’s yards per catch this season, same goes for Holmes. Anthony Fasano was posting higher yards per catch than Keller in Sparano’s offense and Keller has much more athleticism than him.

11. Annoying Training Camp Stories About Things That Will Have No Impact On The Jets Season – Anything related to Tim Tebow’s personal life. Any story on Matt Simms. Excessive coverage of Hayden Smith. Amateur psychology pieces on Mark Sanchez’s facial expressions during press conferences and practices. Rex Ryan looking skinnier (no joke).

12. Low, Low Expectations – Expect most people to pick the Jets to finish either 3rd or 4th in the AFC East, with a record between 6-10 (pessimistic) or 9-7 (optimistic).

New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: Receiver Stephen Hill

Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets second round pick, wide receiver Stephen Hill

The 2011 New York Jets lacked many assets to make them a playoff team, as displayed by their .500 record. Among their several missing pieces was a big, playmaking, wide receiver that could stretch the field and open up the offense. Plaxico Burress fit the “big” bill, but having been over a full year removed from football, he lacked the speed to create any separation from defensive backs, and his presence hardly garnered any respect from opposing defenses. The Jets desperately needed to add a speedy, home run threat to their offense this offseason, and that may be just what they got in their 2nd round selection, wide receiver Stephen Hill.

Having come from Georgia Tech’s triple option offense, it is difficult to get a diverse sample of film on Hill to evaluate his receiving skills. In fact, during a 20 play stretch against Georgia last year, the Yellow Jackets ran the ball 18 times, while passing just twice. However, during that sample of plays, Hill was able to display his terrific blocking skills. What makes his blocking so effective is that he works his hands and feet tremendously. His hand placement is near perfect the majority of the time, complemented flawlessly by his ability to move his feet with the defender. Hill is also very aggressive and stronger at the point of attack than one might expect him to be. He blocks right until the whistle, and has shown he can crack down on toss sweeps, displaying some pancake blocks along the way.

As far as receiving skills go, from the small sample of plays that the offense did actually throw the ball last season, Hill stands out. He repeatedly showed the ability to blow by man coverage, and proved that he can adjust to the ball very well. The quarterback play at Georgia Tech last season was subpar at best, so there were many plays where Hill had to comeback for a ball or adjust his route to make the play. His speed can certainly hurt opposing defenses as well. Several times last year, Hill was able to take advantage of any cornerback that peeked into the backfield, blowing by the coverage, while the safety was usually one step too slow to make it over in time.

Hill also has very strong hands and does a good job of utilizing them to catch the ball. Of all the film I reviewed on him, not once did he catch a pass against his body. He can make the highlight reel plays too, as he displayed numerous amazing one handed catches last year, most notably the one against North Carolina.

Hill is excellent after the catch. Besides the obvious fact that he is extremely fast and agile, he is also much stronger than you would expect, and he proved to be very difficult to bring down. Hill has a very rare combination of size, speed, and physicality that could make him a nightmare for defenses as he develops down the road.

What is also appealing about Hill is that he seems to have a blue-collar mentality. Although he came from a run first offense, that didn’t necessarily utilize his skill set to the greatest extent, Hill showed no sign of moping around like a typical diva wide receiver that wasn’t getting the ball. Instead, he went out and continued to work on every play, whether that meant blocking or running routes. This speaks very well to his character, something this team needs, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

The biggest concern about Hill is how he will adjust from the triple option scheme to an NFL type offense. Although his route running is much better than I expected it to be, he still has a lot of work to do in this area, specifically on underneath routes, in order to ever be a true number one receiver. He also sometimes tends to focus on the run after the catch, before actually catching the ball, which caused for some drops last season.

Hill is a raw product. He has all the physical tools needed to make him an elite NFL wide receiver, but it will take him some time to develop. He clearly has tremendous upside, and the Jets offensive scheme will play to all of his strengths, which is going to make him an early contributor. He is big, strong, fast, and a great blocker, while he also has the ability to stretch the field and be the long home run threat that New York’s offense lacked in 2011. Hill will be able to create separation between the 20s due to his tremendous speed, while his height and jumping ability will make him a valuable red zone threat.

Hill and the Jets are seemingly a perfect fit for each other. With the offense that Tony Sparano is going to implement, a run heavy scheme with a desire for “chunk” plays, Hill is the ideal wide receiver. He should be able to block and stretch the field for the Jets right away, while working on developing a more balanced game for the future. Quarterback Mark Sanchez will likely enjoy having Hill in his weaponry because the former Georgia Tech product fits his skill set so well. Yesterday at Turn On The Jets, Joe Caporoso noted that one of Sanchez’s strongest points is his play action pass. Hill’s ability to stretch the field should prove to be a vital weapon on these play action passes as he will be able to take the top off of any defense and really open the offense up.

Editor’s Note – Physically, Stephen Hill has everything you would look for in a number one receiver. What is most encouraging is the mental attitude he brings along with the physical skills. It is not easy to be a wide receiver in a run heavy offense but Hill embraced it and blocks with a skill and tenacity that his highly admirable. He is coming into the perfect situation with the Jets. He is not ready to be a number one target because his route running is too raw, however with Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller on board he doesn’t have to be. Hill will see favorable match-ups and be able to focus on being a deep threat this year and in time can develop into being this team’s number one receiver. I think five years from now, we will remember this as the “Stephen Hill draft.”

New York Jets: Building Towards A 4-3 Defense

The New York Jets are putting the pieces in place to spend more time in the 4-3 this season

Rex Ryan has never been hesitant about using a variety of defensive looks since becoming the head coach of the New York Jets. However, they have predominantly been a 3-4 team. After a disappointing 2011 season, it appears the Jets will looking to use more 4-3 alignments this season and will be looking for different things out of a few key players in their system.

Surprisingly, defensive line has developed into the deepest position on the Jets roster. They have one of the best nose tackles in football in Sione Pouha, a promising second year player in Muhammad Wilkerson and one of the league’s better run stoppers in Mike DeVito. Behind them, Marcus Dixon was very good off the bench last year at both defensive end and defensive tackle. Last year’s third round pick Kenrick Ellis has the physical potential to be a force inside and Martin Tevaseau is a capable rotation player. Finally, they surprised many by selecting defensive end Quinton Coples in the first round.

On the other hand, the Jets have many questions at linebacker outside of David Harris. Calvin Pace is coming off his worst season with the team and appears to have lost his burst getting after the quarterback. Bart Scott is also coming off his worst season with the team and is a major liability on passing downs. Bryan Thomas is going to be 33 years old and is coming off major surgery. Aaron Maybin is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker and is predominantly just a pass rush threat. Demario Davis has plenty of potential but is ultimately still a third round rookie.

Outside of Maybin (who is built like a safety), the Jets have asked their linebackers to lose weight and improve their speed. Pace and Thomas are going to spend more time being pure linebackers instead of having different formations where they put their hand in the dirt because the Jets have enough capable defensive lineman.

It is a smart move by Rex Ryan to cater his defense to his depth chart. These is no need to fit square pegs in round holes. You play to your strengths and the Jets strength should be their defensive line more so than their linebackers. Ryan wisely hired a defensive line coach in Karl Dunbar, who was coaching a 4-3 in Minnesota to help with this adjustment. The Jets have a versatile front with most players being able to slide between defensive tackle and defensive end. Ryan should be able to send out a myriad of lineups that could both stop the run and rush the passer.

For example, a line-up with DeVito and Pouha at defensive tackle with Coples and Wilkerson at end, should be capable against the run while still getting push to the quarterback. On third downs, you could slide Coples inside to defensive tackle, bring Aaron Maybin in at end and then replace Bart Scott with Demario Davis or an extra safety to get after the quarterback.

Regardless of what the Jets de facto starting line-up ends up being, expect to see four to five defensive lineman getting major reps throughout the game while a player like Bryan Thomas could end up playing less than 50% of the snaps. It is also hard to see a scenario where Pace and Scott don’t see a decline in their reps.

The Jets strength on defense is cornerback and defensive line, Rex Ryan should be smart enough to build his game-plans around these two positions.

New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: Linebacker Demario Davis

Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets third round pick linebacker Demario Davis

When watching game film of New York Jets’ 3rd round pick DeMario Davis, one word comes to mind: Boom! The Linebacker from Arkansas State may very well be one of the hardest hitters in this entire draft class. Among that, Davis possesses a very balanced skill set that gives him the potential to be an absolute steal as a third round selection. The young man that has recently drawn comparisons to Ray Lewis from the Jets coaching staff, in terms of his demeanor, attitude, and leadership ability. He proved that he can excel in all aspects of the game during his career at Arkansas State.

Other than being a very tough, hard-hitting player, Davis also possesses the read and reaction skills needed in a good linebacker. One of the best traits in his game is that there is no hesitation in his reaction time whatsoever. When a hole opens on a run play, or a pass rush lane on a blitz, Davis is very fast to hit the seam, which gives him an immediate advantage in making plays. He is able to fly to the ball from anywhere on the field, aided partly by his impressive speed, but primarily from his instinct and vast knowledge of the game.

Davis also has elite speed and athleticism as a linebacker. He is extremely fast and explosive out of his breaks, and can transition between his movements very smoothly. He has shown the ability to rush the passer from both the interior and off the edge, which is going to make him a very versatile weapon for Rex Ryan and the Jets’ defensive coaching staff. He has a good arsenal of pass rush moves to couple with his tremendous speed, which should make him a valuable asset to a defense that had so much difficulty getting to the quarterback last year.

What Davis needs to work on the most, to truly be able to succeed at the next level, is his ability to shed blockers. He is usually fantastic at taking on the lead blocker in the hole, always using the correct shoulder and superior aggressiveness to blow up the fullback or wrapping guard as they come through, however he struggles to defend straight on blocks from offensive linemen. Davis too often allows linemen to get into him, making it virtually impossible for him to regroup in time to make a play. He needs to improve his hand action to be able to strike a quick move and get off the block immediately, rather than wasting time getting tangled up with the blocker. Effective handwork will also assist Davis in avoiding cut blocks, something that became frequent against him as last season progressed. When a linebacker plays with as much intensity and tenacity as Davis does, some offensive players tend to shy away from contact after a while throughout the course of a game. This may not necessarily happen at the next level, but in the event that it does, improved handwork will allow Davis to avoid this more often than not.

Davis’s coverage skills are not great, but decent. What works best for him in pass coverage is his physicality and speed. He is very aggressive against receivers coming over the middle, or backs out of the backfield. His technique in coverage is far from perfect, however he was able to mask that in college due to his outstanding speed. This is something that he will need to improve upon at the next level, where the majority of offensive backs and receivers are going to be faster than he is. These are simple coaching points that will be made once he gets into camp.

What is most impressive about DeMario Davis’s game film is his motor. He is constantly moving all over the field, sideline to sideline, regardless of the situation. He is very tough, and hits just as hard, if not harder than any defensive player that was taken this year. Davis was also a very good special teams contributor, as there were countless plays last season in which he blew up blockers and ball carriers alike during his time on the kickoff team. This will likely be a large part of his role with the Jets this season, so his experience here is extremely important.

Davis brings an intimidating presence to the field. While watching him on film, you can just feel the attitude he plays with. He is passionate, a natural leader, and seems to want it more than anyone else on the field at all times. He has been very productive during his time as a starter at Arkansas State. Since 2009, he has compiled 201 tackles, 7 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 4 interceptions. Also, as previously stated, Davis is extremely fast. He ran a 4.61 40-yard dash at the combine, but was reportedly in the low 4.5 range at his pro day. Either way, his extreme tenacity, speed, leadership ability, and versatility make him a perfect fit for the Jets.

Davis is a Rex Ryan type player, and he should have a tremendous future in New York. As for this year, expect to see him in some sub packages, most likely on third downs as either a blitzer or in coverage. He should have a heavy role on special teams, something he will undoubtedly succeed at, while learning the defensive system behind David Harris and Bart Scott. Eventually, he will be the successor to Scott, and should form a very potent duo on the inside with Harris in the future.

Editor’s Note – Davis is a bit raw in some areas but I think he is a player Jets fans are going to fall in love with in the coming years. His motor and speed reminds me of what we saw from Aaron Maybin last year, except Davis has the tools to be a complete linebacker. Look for him to contribute in sub packages and be pushing Bart Scott heavily for playing time all season, until ultimately taking over for him next year.

New York Jets: Getting The Most Out Of Mark Sanchez

After breaking down the tape, here is how Tony Sparano can get the most out of Mark Sanchez this year

While staff writer Chris Gross has been spending his time in the film room breaking down the New York Jets draft picks, I have spent the bulk of the my time in the film room going back through Mark Sanchez’s first three years as a NFL quarterback. There is no reason to sugarcoat the reality, this is a make or break year for Sanchez. There isn’t a backup quarterback in the NFL breathing heavier down the starter’s neck (for the wrong or right reasons) than Tim Tebow.

Sanchez has had more success in terms of winning football games than any other quarterback in franchise history, outside of Joe Namath. Unfortunately for him, NFL fans and New Yorkers in particular have a short memory. Right now all everybody can remember is Eli Manning hoisting up his second Super Bowl trophy in five years and Sanchez flaming out at the end of last season, most notably against those Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

So for better or worse, Sanchez’s time needs to be now. I have seen every snap he has taken since coming into this league but I wanted to go back to confirm my observations, with a particular focus on his best games and his worst games. What are the elements that went into the game plans that made him successful? What was missing in the games he struggled in? What is the best approach for Tony Sparano and the new offensive staff to take in order to get the most out of their starting quarterback?

Let’s start with a few general observations before getting into a specific games –

Pros

  • Sanchez’s arm strength is not an issue. A common misconception about Sanchez’s game is that he lacks the arm strength to make all the throws necessary in a NFL playbook. He actually throws a very good deep ball when given the opportunity and has zipped plenty of passes into tight windows through bracketed coverage. Brian Schottenheimer did not ask Sanchez to throw outside the hashes a high percentage of the time but he has completed his share of deep outs and comebacks.

  • He is a very good athlete. Sanchez is more mobile than people give him credit for and has an ability to extend the play. This has been a gift and a curse to him throughout his NFL career, as it has led to big plays and head scratching interceptions.

  • He throws well on the run/is a good play action quarterback. It is head scratching why Brian Schottenheimer didn’t move the pocket more last season with the Jets suspect line. Sanchez throws very well on the rollout and has consistently succeeded off play action throughout his career.

Cons

  • Coverage/Defense recognition. Many of Sanchez’s interceptions come from him not recognizing a defense properly, most notably not taking into account a defender playing underneath his target in a zone. The only solution to this is film study.

  • Quick Trigger. When Sanchez is getting poor protection his defensive recognition goes from questionable to non-existent. He will often lock into to his first read and if that isn’t open, look immediately to his check down with an inaccurate pass. There have been times he has extended a play with his legs and created something down field, which is something he needs to do more often. Sanchez also must do better with blitz recognition pre-snap.

  • Accuracy Inconsistencies. A factor in Sanchez’s low completion percentage throughout his career has been working with a different group of starting receivers every year of his career, including a few who couldn’t get separation. However, he is too often hot/cold when it comes to his accuracy. Sanchez must find a way to break himself out of slumps quicker.

The best stretch of football Sanchez played in his career, came in week 2-4 of the 2010 season. When he posted the following stat lines against his divisional rivals

  • Week 2 – Vs. New England – 21/30, 220 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
  • Week 3 – At Miami – 15/28, 256 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
  • Week 4 – At Buffalo – 14/24, 161 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs

What were the common denominators in these games? Three key things: Dustin Keller, running the football, and limited passing attempts. Keller had 115 yards receiving against New England with a touchdown, 98 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns against Miami, and 28 receiving yards and 2 more touchdowns against Buffalo. An involved Keller means a productive Sanchez.

The Jets ran the ball well in all three games, going for 136 yards, 146 yards and 273 yards respectively. In each game, they averaged well over 4 yards per carry. Finally, they kept Sanchez’s pass attempts at 30 or under. The offense was well balanced but tipped slightly towards running the football.

It is interesting to note that Sanchez had one other very strong stretch in 2010 in week 9-11 that broke with the trends from the earlier stretch.

  • Week 9 – At Detroit – 22/39, 336 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
  • Week 10 – At Cleveland – 27/44, 299 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
  • Week 11 – Vs. Houston – 22/38, 315 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Note that despite Sanchez playing well, he turned the ball over in every game because his pass attempts went above 30. The Jets also didn’t run the ball as well producing 110 yards, 172 yards and 103 yards respectively and never cracking over 4 yards per carry. The Jets did win all three of these games but all were under extraordinary circumstances against subpar competition.

Sanchez had one last very good stretch of football in 2010, the divisional round against New England and the AFC Championship Game against Pittsburgh, with the best game coming against the Patriots. He went 16/25, for 194 yards and 3 touchdowns. Once again, under 30 attempts and a strong rushing effort (120 yards, 4.1 yard per carry) were present. Keller wasn’t a factor but Jerricho Cotchery filled the safety blanket void by coming up with 96 receiving yards. In the AFC Championship Game, Sanchez did just barely crack 30 attempts, going 20/33 for 233 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs but Keller had 8 receptions.

Looking at 2011, Sanchez didn’t really have a game that touched his stretch early in the 2010 season. He did have a few games that mirrored the middle stretch where he threw the ball a ton, racked up a bunch of passing yards but also turned the ball over. Sanchez threw the ball over 30 times in 10 games and the Jets had a 4-6 record in those contests. He actually threw the ball 35 times or more in 7 games and the team had a 2-5 record when that occurred.

Not surprisingly, his three best games from the standpoint of quarterback rating came when he threw 21 times, 26 times, and 25 times respectively. The running game was good not great in those games but in reality the running game was never great for the Jets last year, which was a major contributor to Sanchez’s and the team’s struggles.

What was most perplexing about last season is that the Jets waited until they had a questionable offensive line to drop Sanchez back at a much higher rate. 35 passes against Baltimore with Colin Baxter and Wayne Hunter starting? 59 passes against the Giants pass rush, with Wayne Hunter still starting? 40 passes in Denver, with yes…Wayne Hunter starting? That is poor coaching and those were three of Sanchez’s worst games last year. As you could imagine, the Jets averaged 75 rushing yards per game in those three losses and Dustin Keller averaged 43 yards receiving and had zero touchdowns.

On top of that, Sanchez was dealing with play calls that forced him to focus seemingly exclusively inside the hashes, where the most possible traffic was. The options on the outside were limited thanks to a sluggish Plaxico Burress and a struggling Santonio Holmes.

When it comes to coaching Sanchez this season, Tony Sparano would be wise to focus on building a reliable, power rushing attack. Ideally, Sanchez should be dropping back 22-28 times per game and be able to take advantage of his play action skills on a big chunk of those pass attempts. He should frequently be moved outside the pocket and Dustin Keller always needs to be a big part of the game plan. Rookie Stephen Hill and second year receiver Jeremy Kerley should help clear more space in the intermediate passing game for him. Finally, Sparano can’t be afraid to let Sanchez throw outside the hashes and down the field.

Without question, one of his biggest challenges will be game planning around the right tackle’s deficiencies, whether it is Wayne Hunter or Vlad Ducasse. If Sparano could protect Sanchez adequately, he has a quarterback more than talented enough to win with.