New York Jets: Any Stars In Hiding?

TOJ on if the Jets could have any stars in hiding on the bottom of their roster

We have seen two local sports teams pull stars out of the back of their roster in the past few months. First Victor Cruz for the New York Giants and more recently Jeremy Lin for the New York Knicks. Do the New York Jets have an opportunity to have such luck this season?

The real answer is who knows? You can never really see these things coming. Regardless of Cruz’s monster pre-season performance or Lin’s success at Harvard, nobody thought they’d produce the way they have been or they wouldn’t have spent any time on the bench to begin with.

However, the Jets might have a few young players who have the potential to become game changers in 2012.

The first one who comes to mind is a guy who you are going to hear plenty about in the coming months here, Jeremy Kerley. He showed enough in limited action last year to make us believe that with a bigger role, he could be one of this team’s top playmakers on offense. Kerley has something that many players on the Jets offense lack…straight line speed combined with excellent short area quickness.

Tony Sparano had a successful slot receiver in Miami with Davone Bess and there is no reason to think Kerley won’t be a large part of the Jets passing game. Beyond that, Kerley has the ability to run the Wildcat, while being a threat to complete passes down the field. Hey, the guy completed a pass to Matthew Mulligan last year…that takes talent. Kerley also showed flashes of being a very good punt returner last year and he should only grow in that role.

Outside of Kerley, Joe McKnight showed some big play potential last year and might be able to thrive in a Reggie Bush type role for the Jets. Austin Howard could turn into a capable right tackle. On defense, maybe a role player like Josh Mauga will turn into a quality starter to replace the missed tackle machine Bart Scott or Gerald Alexander will match his Twitter ability with on the field play at safety. You just never know.

Who do you think could be the Jets star in hiding?

New York Jets: Chase Needs, Not Names

The New York Jets must chase needs this off-season, not names

Can we just stop it, New York Jets?

No Randy Moss. I don’t want to hear about even a “curiosity” that is being reported already. Did we learn nothing last year about chasing names over needs? Do we forget what happened when we built our entire off-season around getting Nnamdi Asomugha because he was the biggest name on the market even though the team had no need for him? I know Mike Tannenbaum can’t forget the decline in production from his split end because Plaxico Burress was a sexier name than Braylon Edwards. Certainly Rex Ryan remembers the misguided decision to bring in the more “accomplished” Derrick Mason over invaluable glue guy Jerricho Cotchery.

Stop worrying about chasing names to grab headlines and worry chasing players who are going to improve this team in the long run.

Randy Moss is one of my favorite players of all-time. He didn’t play football last year. The year before, three different teams gave up on him. End of discussion. If you want a split end, go spend your money on Robert Meachem, Laurent Robinson or Pierre Garcon.

While we are on this topic…Jets fans, I love your optimism and I love your faith in the Jets to pull off big moves thanks to the past few years. That being said, let’s take a look at reality. Stop throwing around names like Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, Marques Colston, coupled with the team signing Peyton Manning, Mario Williams, LaRon Landry and of course bringing back John Abraham, Jerricho Cotchery, and Braylon Edwards.

I understand the sentiment for former players and in some cases they could make sense. Edwards, for example actually makes some sense for a return and even that is a long shot. Cotchery isn’t coming back. Abraham isn’t coming back. And be relieved that I don’t think the Jets will be looking at free agents Jon McGraw or Erik Coleman to fill their safety needs.

When you look at the big names. The Jets aren’t splurging on a top line receiver. They have too many other needs this off-season and why are you dropping huge money on a receiver when you already sunk 50 million into one receiver in a run heavy offense? Peyton Manning has about a 1 percent chance of happening. Mario Williams has the best shot of coming here out of all the big names and I would say that is even very unlikely.

You want to win the AFC East? Go get pass rushing linebackers and safeties who have a chance of matching up with the Patriots tight ends. You want Sanchez to find stability in his fourth year? Get him a better offensive line and more threats in the running game.

Attack the needs, not the names.

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.

The Dead Zone – A Brief Review Of the NY/Boston LoveFest

Justin takes a look around the state of the sports franchises in New York and Boston in the slowest sports time of the year

Sometimes it’s great to be a New York sports fan. Especially when you’re doing tequila shots in a NY located “Boston sports bar” and the bartender is wearing a Celtics shirt, the Celtics of course losing to the god awful Lakers (Nobody likes World Peace) only minutes before. I have to admit I felt a momentary lapse of sadness for this guy, who has in the last 5 days probably been bombarded with drunk Giants fans issuing proclamations that Boston sports are about to undergo a nuclear winter.

Which they are.

The Celtics are in the middle of a Ainge vs. Fans battle that is going to lose hearts, minds, and general optimism for about the next 2-3 years. The Boston Red Sox are being managed by Bobby Valentine (SERIOUSLY? METS MAN BOBBY V?), and are going to be the biggest target in baseball coming off a series of articles that paint the locker room as something out of Blue Mountain State and Animal House combined, the Patriots are going to undergo the “Belichick as GM” annual scrutiny, and anything less than using at least their two first round and two second round draft picks is going to turn away die hard Pats fans until Ryan Mallett starts suiting up and Tom Brady has a touch of gray in that hair, leading to a civil war between Mallett fans and Brady fans, and even a few ancient Bledsoe fans who will issue bible proclamations “for he who taketh that which is not his, that much will be taken away”.

So everything’s good in NY right? Maybe for the Giants, who are going to most likely dump guys that didn’t play this year and possibly trade Osi if they take a defensive end/outside linebacker in the first round of the draft. Jason Pierre Paul is doing his best impression of someone whose genuinely happy just to play for the Giants. Oh yeah, and he is doing the unthinkable in mastering a professional sports position in about 2 years, and will probably go to the Pro Bowl between 7 and 10 times in the next decade while Vernon Gholston starts a football summer camp and contemplates partial ownership opportunities of the IFL.

I’d like to add a general thank you to the Giant fans who gave me a couple bud lights and a few shots of tequila on the 7:16 AM train to Penn Station from Deer Park this past Tuesday (The day of the parade). Really helped me start my day right.

Meanwhile, the Jets have Wayne Hunter and Vlad Ducasse. Jealous yet? They have a half decent (no pro bowls, no all pro nods) receiver who may undergo the Burnett syndrome (who the Yankees are trying to shop as we speak, but are having a GlenGarry Glen Ross moment, Jack Lemon specifically) the next year as he and Mark Sanchez have a Days Of Our Lives style back and forth exchange of opinions, strategies, while everyone wonders why in god’s name the Jets have decided to completely revamp their receiving core every year of Rex Ryan’s tenure.

I’ll tell you why. Because Rex Ryan frankly has little to no interest on the offensive side of the ball. The case stated as thus: If he did, their line wouldn’t have been complete garbage, they wouldn’t have passed 63 times in a game, and they wouldn’t have signed someone like Derrick Mason because he was great 6 years ago.

All Rex Ryan cares about, genuinely lives or dies by, is his defense. And even that didn’t get it done, so for those of us who continually asked, “WHY IN GOD’s NAME IS CROMARTIE NOT PLAYING PRESS COVERAGE?!?!?!?!?! DENNIS THURMAN SAID HE NEEDS TO PLAY PRESS COVERAGE!” we got a whole lot of Mike Pettine, which is fine, except for the fact that the head coach is one of the best defensive coordinators in football. That’s like Mike Martz being your head coach, and having the offensive line coach call the plays.

So what do I make of Jeremy Lin taking over the Knicks? Fear, love, joy, apprehension, etc. etc. Why? Because for the first time in two years I saw glimpses of the D’Antoni system, which is going to die for a while once Carmelo gets the ball back in his hands. And pivots. Pivots back. Pivots again. Ball fake. Crossover. Stop. Pull up jumper. Basket. At times, Carmelo might work better with a bunch of cardboard cutouts stationed at various points throughout the floor, because no point guard is going to run this system while Carmelo is around.

What could fix this? Dumping Amare with a first round pick and getting Deron Williams/Brandon Jennings/ anyone not 38? (sorry Steve) Maybe. That would at least let Lin start off the bench and Shumpert go back to being “anything but a point guard”. So what’s stopping it? James Dolan’s heart of pure evil. That and the fact that Mike D’Antoni is probably going to be coaching the Clippers next year. (Just a strange thought).

I frankly don’t care what happens with the majority of the Yankees roster, as long as they kick the piss out of Bobby Valentine’s Red Sox at least 8 times next year. To add to this wish list, I and others will hope that Kuroda and Pineda keep their ERA under 4, A.J Burnett will play for the Pirates, and Bob Lorenz gets real loose on air and admits his hatred for the amount of corporate advertising around the new Yankee stadium.

Despite the inherent ugliness, I will be at Yankees stadium, where for every pregame I will find myself looking out at the beautiful rooftops of the projects from the Target shopping center parking garage, wondering if I’m going to be walking/crawling/running out of the stadium and hoping my record improves from last year’s 0-3.

For now, it’s winter? (49 in February). Time to be productive and attempt to crawl upwards in my analysis of the 4-12 Buccaneers and Browns. At least there are serious changes coming to both organizations.

TOJ New York Jets Free Agency Primer 1.0

TOJ breaks down what some of the New York Jets options could be in free agency next month

Free agency opens March 13th but that doesn’t mean it is too early to start breaking down potential options for the New York Jets, who have some work to do. Regardless of what one of the Mike’s (Lombardi, Florio, Francesa) in the mainstream media would like you to believe the Jets aren’t that far away from being a playoff contender. And in this day and age, when you are a playoff contender, you are a Super Bowl contender because once you get into that tournament anything can happen.

For today, I am going to work off Pete Prisco’s top 50 free agent rankings, despite strongly disagreeing with his ordering it still provides a good overview of who is available. I will also include a few other players that could interest the Jets who aren’t listed there. Let’s go through their positional needs –

Wide Receiver – Without question the Jets need a new starter opposite Santonio Holmes but don’t expect them to make a splash here by pursuing one of the big name players like Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, or Dwayne Bowe. If the Jets were smart they’d focus their attention on a less pricey speedster like Pierre Garcon or Robert Meachem. Laurent Robinson could be another intriguing option, coming off a very strong year in Dallas. Wanting Braylon Edwards back is a good sentiment but I highly doubt it happens.

Tight End – Look for the Jets to add a blocking tight end to pair with Dustin Keller. Anthony Fasano isn’t a free agent yet but there is chatter he could be released if he doesn’t take a pay cut. If he does hit the open market, don’t be surprised to see Tony Sparano encourage the Jets to pounce on him.

Running Back – The Jets could use another back to provide depth and push Shonn Greene. Ryan Grant is an option with high potential but he could be out of their price range. Tashard Choice and Derrick Ward are cheaper options who have been productive in the past.

Backup Quarterback – Chad Henne makes the most sense here. He knows Sparano’s system, is talented enough to push Sanchez, while still not having enough success in his career yet to have a problem being a backup.

Right Tackle – Demetrius Bell is the best option out there but I have tough time seeing Buffalo letting him walk. Vernon Carey could receive a look because of his history with Sparano. Beyond that, you are looking at a collection of mostly scrap heap veterans or taking a risk on a player like Jared Gaither, who has looked great at times but has injury and attitude questions surrounding him.

Linebacker – Most people feel the Jets will address their need for a pass rusher at outside linebacker through the draft. If they go the free agency route, I don’t see them throwing a big money offer at Mario Williams as some people have suggested. Anthony Spencer is a cheaper option with some upside. Jarrett Johnson and Jameel McClain are Ravens who could receive a look from Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine. Manny Lawson is also a free agent who the Jets were rumored to have some interest in last off-season.

Safety – Considering the Jets could very well need not just one but two safeties, they should take a long look at a very intriguing safety market. LaRon Landry is a big name but is inconsistent in coverage and injury prone. Tyvon Branch would be a better option if he hits the open market, which is a big if. Reggie Nelson and Michael Griffin are good mid-level options who would be an upgrade over Eric Smith, Jim Leonhard, or Brodney Pool.

New York Jets: Wait…What The Hell Just Happened With Wayne Hunter?

The New York Jets just let Wayne Hunter’s 2.45 million dollar contract become guaranteed. What the hell is going on here?

Lost in the commotion of Santonio Holmes being guaranteed his contract for the next two years and the Linsanity in New York City, is the fact that the Jets didn’t release right tackle Wayne Hunter yesterday. As a matter of fact, they guaranteed his 2.45 million base salary for the 2012 season.

Yes, the same Wayne Hunter who was the human turnstile this season, nearly got Mark Sanchez killed on multiple occasions, and was ranked the fifth worst offensive tackle in football by Pro Football Focus. One of my main memories of this past season was watching the Jets/Eagles game with my good friend who was an All-American college football lineman and is currently an offensive line coach for a prep school in Philadelphia. After watching Jason Babin embarrass the Jets entire line, he commented he had never seen a NFL lineman both look so confused and have worse technique than what he saw from Hunter that day.

So…

If your initial reaction is that Mike Tannenbaum is 0-1 to start this off-season, that is okay because he very well may be. Yet, let’s try to figure out the real motivation for keeping Hunter since I have to assume somebody in the Jets building watched some game tape this year.

Depth was a major problem for the Jets offensive line last year. Hunter was a very good depth player the few years leading up to him being a starter. He can handle being a backup tackle and playing in short yardage packages. With Robert Turner coming back, the Jets have the potential to have two quality backups on their offensive line. Nevermind if Caleb Schlauderaff and Austin Howard develop in any way or if that Ducasse guy ever becomes good enough to be a #7 or #8 lineman on a NFL roster…hey it isn’t like we spent a 2nd round pick on him, right?

More seriously, I think Tannenbaum realizes free agency isn’t going to be filled with quality right tackles and he probably isn’t spending a round one or round two pick on one. He needs to pay a backup quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker and safety this year. Unless the Jets swing a trade, there aren’t getting a big money, top-tier tackle this off-season. Most likely, they will sign a middle tier player and spend a mid-round pick on one and have the two compete with Hunter, who will provide insurance. They are also likely hoping that Tony Sparano can have some type of positive impact on him. Hunter has been decent in spurts, he has just had no consistency and can’t handle elite pass rushers one on one. Sparano might…might be able to coach around his deficiencies by doing a better job giving him help.

You can’t have it all this off-season Jets fans. You aren’t getting a big time WR, a backup quarterback that pushes Sanchez, a premium right tackle, another running back, a ball-hawking safety and a pass rushing outside linebacker all in one off-season. Be prepared to be disappointed in some areas. Right tackle just might end up being one of them.

New York Jets: Quarterback Coach Remains A Problem

The New York Jets didn’t finish the job on their offensive coaching staff

When the New York Jets brought in Tony Sparano as their offensive coordinator, it was a more than a welcome change from Brian Schottenheimer. However, the original perception was that Sparano would be coupled with an offensive coach to oversee the passing game and quarterback position.

The first name being thrown around was Todd Haley…didn’t happen. He is now the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then we heard about Brian Daboll…didn’t happen. He is now the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs. Most recently, Karl Dorrell…didn’t happen. He is now the quarterback coach for the Houston Texans. Which leaves the Jets with their quarterback coach from the previous three years, Matt Cavanaugh who was rumored to be as good as gone a few weeks back.

While I think Tony Sparano will bring a necessary fresh approach to the Jets offense. It is hard to imagine the majority of his time won’t be spend with the offensive line and running game, his professed expertise. All this does is leave Mark Sanchez with the same quarterback coach he had for his entire career. A career that has been successful at times but looked like it needed a new voice teaching him, along with a new approach by the end of the last season.

A competent back-up will provide some needed pressure on Sanchez but his quarterback coach is even more important. Staying with a guy in Cavanaugh they weren’t rumored to be thrilled with because your other options turned you down is an approach that deserves a closer look. The Jets should consider thinking outside of the box here, taking a long look at former players (cough, cough Chad Pennington), other team’s assistants or in the college ranks.

New York Jets: Keeping Santonio Holmes Is No Brainer

The New York Jets made the only logical choice today by not releasing Santonio Holmes

There are plenty of New York Jets fans calling for the head of Santonio Holmes today. It isn’t happening. It was never going to happen. Yes, they are now on the hook for not just his 7.75 million this year but also his 7.5 million next year and honestly it was a no brainer for the organization not to release him today.

You have every right to be pissed off with his 2011 season, in particular with the way he quit at the end of the Miami game and the reported problems he had in the locker room with quarterback Mark Sanchez. Holmes still needs to prove that he can be this team’s number one receiver and needs to earn the respect back of many of his teammates.

Yet, this is an offense woefully short on speed and playmakers who already has salary cap issues. There is no way to improve the offense by cutting ties with Holmes, eating his 7.75 million of cap space this year and then trying to find both a number one and number two receiver, along with a right tackle, backup quarterback and running back depth.

Let’s not act like the 2010 season didn’t happen and Holmes didn’t make the game winning play in four regular season games, and make two huge touchdown catches during their playoff run. The existence of chemistry between him and Mark Sanchez isn’t a lost cause.

Holmes was saddled with an inefficient number two receiver opposite him this year, who had no ability to create separation between the 20s, an average running game, an inconsistent quarterback, and questionable playcalling. He handled these problems poorly both on and off the field without question but let’s not write off his career yet.

Let’s see Holmes with the “C” taken off his chest and in an improved offensive system, hopefully paired with a split end who can stretch the field along with a dangerous slot receiver in Jeremy Kerley.

The Jets have enough holes to fill on offense this year without creating another one by releasing Holmes, while simultaneously limiting their ability to fix their other problems by taking on his cap hit. Locker room problems can be fixed easier than finding receivers as talented and clutch as Holmes.

New York Jets Draft: Mark Barron Out Until July With Hernia

New York Jets draft prospect Mark Barron is out until July with a sports hernia. Is this a blessing in disguise?

It has been reported today that Alabama safety and frequently mock-drafted to the New York Jets safety Mark Barron will be out until July or August with a double sports hernia. Owch.

At initial glance, this would seem to continue the recently never ending cycle of bad news for the Jets who had to be planning to give strong consideration to Barron at number 16. He is the type of athletic safety Rex Ryan’s defense desperately needs and was without question the top prospect at his position heading into this April.

However, considering the Jets equally…if not bigger need for a pass rushing outside linebacker perhaps this injury will be a blessing in disguise. How about the Jets grabbing Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram at number 16 and then maneuvering up from their 2nd round pick to grab a sliding Barron? That would be a hell of a start to retooling this defense in proper manner.

The Jets have the 47th pick overall pick after their first pick at number 16. Barron was originally projected to go in the 15 – 25 range but with this injury, it isn’t crazy to think he could drift close enough to number 47 where it would be too tempting to ignore the urge to trade up for him.

A nice perk for the Jets this year is that they finally have a selection in every single round.

Digesting The 2011-2012 NFL Season From A Jets Perspective

The hard digestion of the 2011-2012 NFL season from a New York Jets perspective

If you would have told most New York football fans prior to the season starting that there would be a parade marching through the city on February 7th, the majority would have had to concede that it would more likely be the Jets than the Giants walking down the Canyon of Heroes.

Giants fans might disagree with their 20/20 hindsight  but they were not an overly confident fanbase heading into the season, coming back off back to back seasons without making the playoffs and an off-season that was being questioned by most. On the other hand, the Jets were off back to back AFC Championship Game appearances and seemed to be ready to take the next step.

I have been quick to point out that the media has been exaggerating the Jets failures this past year. The talk around the team is like they went 2-14, not 8-8. Yet, let’s be honest with ourselves before the season started if somebody would have told you that –

1. The Patriots would sweep the Jets.

2. The Giants would beat the Jets propelled by a ridiculous 99 yard touchdown, that would launch their Super Bowl run.

3. The Jets would miss the playoffs thanks to losses to the Giants and the Dolphins.

4. Santonio Holmes would quit on the team in the final game.

5. Mark Sanchez would have an ugly regression to close the 2011 season.

5. The Giants and Patriots would have a rematch in the Super Bowl, with the Giants winning again.

You probably would have vomited a little in your mouth right?

It is okay to admit this past year sucked on many levels. I didn’t enjoy a second walking to work today through a sea of Justin Tuck and Brandon Jacobs jerseys, while thinking about how the hell the Jets could here.

So, the question really is what is this team going to do now?

To be clear that I am not one of these flip-flopping convenient fans, who come and go with the Jets depending on their success, I still firmly believe in Rex Ryan as a head coach. Many of his comments look stupid after this season but he has breathed life into a lifeless franchise and can coach a hell of a defense. The failures of this year will serve him well in the long run, as I believe he will be wise enough to learn from his previous mistakes and improve into a better coach. Getting punched in the mouth this past year could very well be the best thing that ever happened to him.

I will not act like I wouldn’t be excited for a healthy Peyton Manning to join this team because if it happens, I will be cautiously excited. That being said, I do not think he is going to play here and I do think Mark Sanchez is the long term answer at quarterback. I am aware that puts me in the minority but take a glance at Eli Manning and Drew Brees first three years in the NFL and tell me it is smart to throw in the towel on Sanchez at this point. I doubt he will ever be a Pro-Bowl quarterback but I don’t doubt that he can win alot of games in the NFL and with the right team can win a Super Bowl.

Mike Tannenbaum has had his ups and downs. He had a bad year last year but he has had enough good years in the past to have some kind of faith in him bouncing back. There is a need for speed on defense, coupled with upgrades at safety and linebacker. An improved right tackle and a split end are also necessities on offense. How the Jets address these needs will go a long way to determining whether they are 8-8 or 11-5 next year.

Heading into 2012, there won’t be any brash predictions for Super Bowls. There will be a knowledge that this a talented team that could cause damage if they get into the playoffs. We learned this past year, like many years before, that all you need to do is get into the tournament and anything can happen.