12 Pack Of Jets Off-Season Thoughts – Edition #13

Our last pre-draft edition of the 12 pack, which keeps chugging along, lockout or no lockout. Read on for thoughts on the Jets draft plans, schedule, a few other random observations, and plenty more. Get your weekend started off right with the TOJ 12 pack —

1. The more I think about Mike Tannenbaum’s unnecessary praise of Marcus Dixon, the more think there is no way Shaun Ellis is coming back next year. If that is the case, the Jets better draft two defensive lineman next week because they will be beyond thin at the position, especially if Trevor Pryce decides to stay retired. Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha are steady, solid players but the Jets badly need an infusion of youth and pass rush ability from their down lineman.

2. I think the best case for the Jets at #30 is Muhammad Wilkerson falling to them. Out of all the players who might be available, he has the best chance to be an absolute force on Rex Ryan’s defense. Phil Taylor is a good fallback option but the latest reports about a chronic condition in his food are concerning. I am thinking Cameron Heyward is a safer bet for the defensive line if Wilkerson is off the board at #30.

3. I doubt Jimmy Smith’s character concerns are high enough to merit him falling anywhere near #30 but if he does, you know Rex Ryan is going to be pushing hard for him. Smith has top 10-15 talent and pairing him with Darrelle Revis would make parting with Antonio Cromartie easier to digest, so the Jets can turn their financial focus to the offensive side of the football where Tannenbaum will somehow try to get both Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards back.

4. I am still not sure why the NFL decided to put Jets vs. Giants on Christmas Eve, instead of the season opener on 9/11. I am also not sure if it is worth worrying about the NFL schedule at this point, considering we could be missing a chunk of games…a thought which is so infuriating that I need to stop writing this paragraph before I start hurling expletives.

5. Considering how up in the air the Jets wide receiver position currently is, I’d be shocked if they didn’t spend one of their middle round picks on one. I don’t think Brad Smith will be back. Santonio Holmes status is suddenly more up in the air than expected and Braylon Edwards won’t be easy to bring back either.

6. The NFL can spin it however they want but the draft has lost some of it’s buzz because of the lockout. Maybe it is because we know we are headed back into the off-season silence after next weekend passes but summer is starting to inch closer and it appears the two sides remain as far apart as ever.

7. The Jets badly to improve their overall depth at the linebacker position. Right now their top backups are Jamaal Westerman, Josh Mauga, and Lance Laury. They have been fortunate on the whole with injuries the past few years, but they are leaving themselves perilously thin if something happens to one of their starters.

8. The Jets schedule is certainly no cakewalk but I am not sure if it as hard as some people are making it out to be. There is no reason they shouldn’t be able to start 3-0, which gives them a cushion to work with during the middle part of the schedule. The only gripe I have is flying them across the country for a Thursday night game in Denver after playing a Sunday night game against New England. Who knows if Renaldo Hill will be able to help us out again this time?

9. I am really thinking there is a very good chance the Jets will trade down, which will make for many unhappy fans in attendance Thursday night but if nobody is jumping off the board at 30, it is the right move.

10. I doubt the New York Knicks can come back and win their series, especially with how banged up Amare Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups are. However, I expect them to take game three tonight because of the environment at Madison Square Garden and because of how Carmelo Anthony played in game two.

11. How I think the rest of the NBA first round will play out — Bulls and Heat will finish off their sweeps. The Hawks edge out the Magic in seven. The Grizzlies shock the Spurs in seven. Lakers win in a tough six. Blazers come back to win in seven and Thunder take it in five.

12. Weekend video clips, draft edition —

One Week Out Jets Draft Thoughts

A few scattered thoughts on the Jets draft plans with round one only one week away…

1. Mike Tannenbaum had his pre-draft press conference today and shockingly said a whole bunch of nothing. He did continue to seemingly randomly rave about backup defensive end Marcus Dixon. To me this sounds like damage control for when the Jets let Shaun Ellis walk or attempt to low-ball him on a contract offer. Dixon looked okay in very limited action last year, yet it would be very foolish to expect him to handle a starting role on the defensive line next season.

2. Tannenbaum and VP of college scouting Joey Clinkscales said the Jets have 8-10 players they are targeting with the 30th pick. One man’s guess at those players — Phil Taylor, Cameron Heyward, Muhammad Wilkerson, Akeem Ayers, Justin Houston, Brooks Reed, Jimmy Smith, Ryan Kerrigan, Stephen Paea, and Corey Liuget

3. The Jets claimed they aren’t concerned about the reports on Phil Taylor having chronic foot problems. We will only know if they are lying if they decide to pass up on him at #30.

4. If the Jets stay put with their six selections, which is unlikely from their history. I would guess they add in no particular order: DL, OLB, WR, S, ILB, CB.

5. With the first round one week out. I am going to guess there is about a 5 percent chance the Jets move up in the first round. Keep in mind, they have only drafted seven players over the past two years and only have six total picks this year. Besides who is going to be there in the 18-22 range that the Jets will be desperate to trade up for?

6. I think it is much more likely the Jets will trade down and look to acquire more picks to improve their defensive depth.

7. If the Jets stay put, I’d say the favorite is either Phil Taylor or Akeem Ayers, with Brooks Reed and Jimmy Smith (if he is on the board) being dark-horses. Also if Muhammad Wilkerson falls to #30, which is doubtful, I think the Jets would pounce on him.

Plenty Of Work To Be Done On Rex’s Pride And Joy

The number of question marks surrounding the New York Jets defense heading into the Draft is at a somewhat worrisome number. Rex Ryan is a great defensive mind, who has the ability to get more out of less, yet the Jets have holes to fill at all three levels of their defense if they want to remain among the league’s elite units.

Defensive Line – Even if the Jets decide to re-sign Shaun Ellis (which they should) and Trevor Pryce doesn’t retire. They still need both a defensive end and a defensive tackle to improve their depth and youth at the position. Phil Taylor out of Baylor has been a very popular pick for the Jets in mock drafts and his selection would likely allow Sione Pouha to get some work at end. However, spending a first round pick on Taylor or somebody like him shouldn’t stop the Jets from potentially adding another lineman later in the Draft or via free agency (if it ever starts).

Linebacker – The long term replacement for Bryan Thomas needs to be found as the Jets look to improve their pass rush. If the right defensive lineman isn’t available at number 30, Akeem Ayers and Justin Houston have been linked to the Jets. Both players have question marks surrounding them, yet they would have a year or two to function as only pass rush specialists behind Thomas as they learn to become full-time players. The Jets could also use depth at inside linebacker behind David Harris and Bart Scott. Josh Mauga and Jamaal Westerman don’t seem to be any more than special teams players at this point.

Secondary – It is time to accept the fact that the Jets will always need corners and safeties as long as Rex Ryan is their head coach. Everybody is worried about the Jets front seven, while forgetting three of their top four safeties are free agents, along with two of their top three corners. They need to decide what they are doing about bringing Antonio Cromartie, Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, James Ihedigbo, and Drew Coleman back, along with supplementing the position through the Draft and likely a free agency move or two. Personally, I think Pool will be brought back to start opposite Jim Leonhard and they will add a safety later in the draft to groom behind him. At corner, the Jets better pray Kyle Wilson is ready to take his game up about five notches if they let Antonio Cromartie leave.

12 Pack Of Jets Off-Season Thoughts: Edition #8

The 12 pack is back with a very special Thursday edition, for the the very special reason that I will be in New Orleans for the weekend and don’t plan on having the laptop out on Bourbon Street tomorrow afternoon. However, the site will still be updated throughout the weekend, make sure you are following the Facebook and Twitter page.

1. My thoughts on the report about Mark Sanchez leading the league in dropped interceptions this past season…Yes, we all saw defensive backs dropping balls that could have been intercepted and yes we all know Sanchez needs to improve his accuracy (his completion percentage shows that). However, it is foolish to try to argue that he didn’t take major strides forward in his second year. The bottom line is that he threw 5 more touchdowns and 7 less interceptions, won two more games, was substantially more consistent and routinely clutch in big games. I will take Sanchez and his dropped interceptions any day over Chad Henne, who threw the ball so accurately at the other team’s defensive backs that only one “dropped” one all season.

2. I have harped on this all off-season and will continue to do so until he is  in a Jets jersey for 2011. This team needs to find a way to bring Antonio Cromartie back next year. When you play the type of aggressive man to man coverage the Jets do, you need a big time corner opposite Darrelle Revis, especially when you have a weak pass rush. Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t coming here and the Jets aren’t spending a first round pick on a corner. If you think Kyle Wilson, Dwight Lowery, or Drew Coleman can handle being a full time starter in this system right now, you need a head examination.

3. You have to be encouraged by the reports of the work Vladimir Ducasse is doing this off-season. Hopefully, he will grab the starting right tackle job by the throat this summer because if he can’t beat out Wayne Hunter, his long term future with the team will start to become fairly cloudy. Let’s hope Joe McKnight follows Ducasse’s lead these next few months.

4. If I had to guess today who the Jets will end up with in April’s draft, I would go with either Baylor’s Phil Taylor or Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson. Both defensive lineman have a good shot of being available at #30. I am also intrigued by potentially taking safety UCLA safety Rahim Moore, just because I am anxious to see Rex Ryan finally get a play-making safety here in New York.

5. “I’d rather beat the Patriots, than maybe go to heaven” — That’s why we love you Mike Westhoff.

6. Speaking of our friends up north, Randy Moss recently said he’d be interested in returning to the Patriots. Somehow, I don’t think they will be interested. Personally, if Braylon Edwards ends up leaving I wouldn’t mind if the Jets could get Moss on a cheap, one year deal to provide a vertical threat and some size at split end.

7. It is going to take more than the draft to improve the Jets defensive line depth. Let’s hope either Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua, or Matt Kroul can step up and become a quality rotation player this year, similar to how Mike DeVito did a couple of years back and eventually worked his way to being a starter.

8. Can we not forget the Jets need to address the backup quarterback position this off-season? Mark Brunell isn’t the answer and is better suited to being the #3. Clearly the coaching staff has no confidence in Kellen Clemens. It is either time to find somebody in free agency or draft a developmental backup to be a long term solution.

9. I am very anxious to see how Shonn Greene handles this season, which is really a make or break year for him as a lead back. It sounds like he will get the amount of carries necessary to show he can be a 1,200 yard type guy, let’s see if he can protect the football, stay healthy, and bring the consistency that is needed to put up those kind of numbers.

10. If you haven’t been able to tell, I am trying to be optimistic that an injunction will be ruled on April 6th and we will have football games this year.

11. As you know, we like to get off topic occasionally here — so here is wishing good luck to St. John’s in the NCAA tourney tonight and hoping the Knicks wake up sometime soon because they have looked like garbage the past week.

12. Weekend Video Clips – Assorted Highlight Tapes Edition

Prospect Watch: Phil Taylor

Next up, Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor.  The big man from Washington DC had an up and down college career but finished strong with his best collegiate season as a senior. 

At 6’3’’ 334 lbs, Taylor is a space eater who can anchor a defensive line.  Primarily a run stopper, Taylor is an above-average tackler who’s 62 recorded tackles his senior season were the most by a Baylor interior lineman since 2002.  He is strong and demands double teams because of his initial punch.  Taylor is generally successful in double teams and is almost impossible to blow off the line.  One of his greatest strengths is his violent hands.  Combined with his jump off the ball, he can push a line backwards, and will collapse a pocket from the middle if the QB holds onto the ball for too long.  His footwork is also good which helps him in his pass rush.  While he isn’t an overpowering pass rusher, that is to be expected.  He has a nice powerful swim move, and can rip through double teams if he can establish leverage. 

He showed this ability at the Senior Bowl. He was disruptive, taking on double teams and freeing up his linebackers.  His footwork and frame is probably good enough to move to the 5 technique at some point, but I don’t think he has the stamina or technique to stay outside for more than selective schemes/situations. 

Throughout his career Taylor’s conditioning was one of the main critiques of his game, however, like I mentioned yesterday, he looked strong throughout the day at the combine. Finally, a number of sources have noted his maturation and change of character since he was arrested on assault charges stemming from a fight at a frat party at Penn State.  I think it’s a safe assumption that he won that fight.

On the negative side of things, concerns over weight management always follow players at this size.  Another common problem that Taylor shares with other big men is his lack of speed and quickness, again this will probably keep him on the inside of the line.  Additionally, his size prevents him from making many tackle outside of the tackle box.  Other than weight concerns, questions about his height and lack of leverage follow Taylor around as well.  At 6’3 he can come to high and has some issues if a center is able to get under his pads.  To this point, he also has a hard time generating momentum if he is stopped at the initial point of attack.  While a decent pass rusher for his size and position, he will need to improve his collection of moves.

I like Phil Taylor, I really do; he will be an interesting prospect to keep an eye out for as Draft Day inches closer.  While “raw talent” is something that the Jets may want to stray clear of this draft, especially in the first round, this guy could become the second coming of Kris Jenkins.