New York Jets – Look Towards Future At Wide Receiver

The New York Jets can’t make a knee jerk reaction at wide receiver

There are unconfirmed reports that New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes is out for the season with a foot injury. Even if the news proves to be untrue, it is unrealistic to expect Holmes back before December considering how long his medical results are taking to be announced. This news has led many Jets fans to throw out names in desperation knee jerk reactions –

Plaxico Burress? It isn’t happening. Burress was a disaster scene in the Jets locker room last season. The team not bringing him back goes beyond being concerned about Mark Sanchez’s feelings as some have suggested. Burress was problematic for the whole offense. There is a reason he hasn’t been signed by anybody yet and has literally worked out for one team since the season ended. Outside of the off the field issues, he can’t get separation anymore. His skill set is not worth the headache. People go crazy about his 8 touchdowns last year. I have news for you 3 came in one game against San Diego, two came in garbage time, one against Oakland and one against Philadelphia. You take away the Chargers game, he had 3 meaningful touchdowns in 15 games.

Chad Ochocinco? Terrell Owens? Neither player is worth the side show. There is no reason for a long paragraph since neither is capable of being a productive NFL receiver at this point of their career.

It is time to face the reality that the New York Jets roster needs to be completely rebuilt. Why not start now? If you acquire a wide receiver, go trade for a young receiver with long term upside. A type of player like James Jones, who the Jets should have traded for this off-season but now might not be able to be had because of how productive he has been and because of Greg Jennings injury problems.

The other option is to let the young players play. You drafted Stephen Hill in the 2nd round. No, he isn’t ready to be a full time NFL receiver yet but you might as well give him those reps now and let him work through the mistakes. He needs to be your opening day starter in 2013 or you wasted another 2nd round pick, just like you did with Vladimir Ducasse and Kellen Clemens. Jeremy Kerley is a very talented slot receiver, figure out the best way to use him and make sure he is ready to fulfill his potential next season in the slot and as a rushing option.

Chaz Schilens has looked good in limited duty through four games. Play him and maybe he gives you a productive season. Now you have another option heading into next year, now you are building depth on your roster. Bring 7th round pick Jordan White back and let him play 20 plays a game, maybe he develops…maybe he doesn’t but at least you are giving reps to one of your rookie draft picks and not a 37 year old veteran with no future.

Don’t dump money away. You have needs all over the field to fill next off-season. Let your draft picks play and hope they fulfill their potential.

New York Jets Fact Or False: Week 2 Edition

Chris Gross weekly Fact or False previews the New York Jets week 2 match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers

The New York Jets are coming off what is arguably their most impressive victory since defeating New England in the 2010 playoffs. The week 1 effort against Buffalo revealed a team that was clicking on all cylinders, recording touchdowns through all three phases of the game in route to a record setting opening day points total. That being said, the Jets face a daunting task heading into week 2 where they will travel to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who are fresh off of an opening day loss to Peyton Manning and the newly revamped Denver Broncos. Will the Jets offense be able to duplicate the success it had it week 1? And will the defense be able to shut down Ben Roethlisberger and his surplus of offensive weapons? This week’s New York Jets Fact Or False examines these issues, and more.

Mark Sanchez and the Offensive Line will be on their toes all game. Fact. While the Offensive Line did an excellent job last week in preventing Quarterback Mark Sanchez from getting sacked against a superbly talented Buffalo pass rush, Pittsburgh will be an entirely different animal this week. Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau is one of the most experienced and creative defensive minds in all of football who is notorious for developing creative and aggressive blitz packages to make preparation an absolute nightmare for opposing offenses.

Last week against Denver, when lined up in a normal defensive formation –any formation other than goal line, special teams, two point conversions- Pittsburgh blitzed 48% of the time (24/50 total plays). Of those blitzes, 13 came from the interior, while 11 were sent off the edge, all on a variety of downs. What this means is that LeBeau and the defensive staff are very good at not revealing any tendencies. It is extremely difficult to predict when and where the blitz will be coming from, therefore the pass protection for New York must be alert and ready to go on every offensive snap. In a game that both teams will be very defensively active, one lapse in pass protection could end up being the play that determines the game.

Sanchez will go another game without being sacked. False. Although the fact that Sanchez was not sacked once in the season opener is an extremely encouraging sign for the Jets offensive line, it is extremely rare to go duplicate that success in consecutive games, particularly against a blitz happy team like Pittsburgh. LeBeau and his staff will certainly get far more creative with their blitz packages than Dave Wannstedt was last week.

One of the reasons Sanchez was so successful against Buffalo was because of how comfortable he was in the pocket. You can be certain that LeBeau took notice of this and will do everything he can to keep him from regaining a similar level of comfort. Expect him to mix it up with blitz packages all game, and to really test Jets Right Tackle Austin Howard who will be making only his second career start. Sanchez will need to be elusive and remain poised on every offensive possession.

The Jets will look to get their Wide Receivers the ball in space. Fact. Last week, Peyton Manning did an excellent job of getting the ball to his receivers in space to allow them to make plays after the catch. The most notable example was the 71-yard touchdown from Demaryius Thomas on a simple, short out route, in which Thomas made multiple players on the Steelers defense miss after the catch on his way to the end zone. Expect the Jets to try and replicate plays like this. Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, and Jeremy Kerley all have excellent run after the catch ability, so expect Offensive Coordinator Tony Sparano to try and find holes in Pittsburgh’s defense that will allow his receivers to make some plays in space. As we have seen in the past, and particularly last week with Hill and Kerley, anyone of these players has the ability to break off a big gain on any particular play. It will be very interesting, again, to see what kind of game plan Sparano draws up.

Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace are the extent of the Jets defensive worries. False. While Brown and Wallace are certainly two of the most dangerous offensive weapons, not only in Pittsburgh, but in the entire NFL, Roethlisberger and Steelers Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley like to share the wealth. Last week, Roethlisberger targeted Brown and Wallace a combined 14 times, while targeting Wide Receiver Emmanuel Sanders and Tight End Heath Miller a combined 15 times. Roethlisberger also completed passes to 8 different targets throughout the course of the game. While defending Brown and Wallace will be imperative to this game, the Jets cannot afford to ignore the rest of Pittsburgh’s offensive weapons. Sanders in particular could cause serious problems for New York if he isn’t defended properly. He is an excellent slot receiver with great speed and elusiveness, and does an excellent job of running routes and finding holes in coverage. The Jets will need to click on all cylinders in coverage this week.

Ben Roethlisberger will try to get the ball to Heath Miller as much as possible. Fact. Roethlisberger has an undying faith in his Tight End, Heath Miller, and it showed last week in Denver, particularly on “and goal” situations. Roethlisberger repeatedly looked to Miller inside the ten yard line, often attempting to force the ball to him. On one particular play early in the game, Roethlisberger had Wide Receiver Antonio Brown open in the end zone on a post route, but never looked his way as he was locked in on Miler the entire way, leading to a bad decision, and incomplete pass. Roethlisberger eventually found Miller later in the game for a 4-yard touchdown.

It will be imperative that the Jets safeties and linebackers play well in coverage this week. With how much Roethlisberger will look to get the ball to the trustworthy Tight End, especially close to the endzone, the slightest slip up in coverage on Miller will undoubtedly hurt this defense.

The Jets will register multiple sacks on Ben Roethlisberger. Fact. Although the Jets did not register a sack in week 1, expect them to exploit some weaknesses in Pittsburgh’s offensive line. The Right Tackle position for the Steelers was attacked mightily by Denver last week, as Marcus Gilbert fills in for the injured rookie Mike Adams. Denver went after Gilbert and it showed in a very big way as they registered 5 sacks and 9 Quarterback Hits as a team, including 2 sacks from Von Miller who put on a clinic against Gilbert. Like LeBeau, Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine will get very creative with their blitz packages, and will look to exploit the weakness at Right Tackle. Expect to see multiple looks consisting of Quinton Coples, Muhammed Wilkerson, and Aaron Maybin lined up over Gilbert, with countless blitzes mixed in. For anyone who is a major proponent of defensive creativity, this game should be extremely fun to watch from both sides.

TOJ THURSDAY NIGHT STAFF PICKS

  • Joe Caporoso – Green Bay (-5)
  • Chris Gross – Chicago (+5)
  • Mike Donnelly – Chicago (+5)
  • TJ Rosenthal – Chicago (+5)
  • Rob Celletti – Green Bay (-5)
  • Chris Celletti – Green Bay (-5)

Initial Reaction – 48 Points And A Barrel Of Laughs, Jets 1-0

The New York Jets rolled to a 48-28 win…thoughts on how they handled Buffalo

While we are happy to say we told you so about the Buffalo Bills being overhyped and the New York Jets remaining the second best team in the AFC East, we certainly can’t say we saw that coming. 48 points? Special teams touchdowns? The Jets looking like a high functioning NFL offense for an entire game? Today was a fun one at MetLife Stadium. Fun, because today demonstrated just how good this team could be and just how ridiculous all the negative pre-season hype around the team was.

Let’s start at the top, with the most important positon on the field and the most important player on the Jets roster not named Darrelle Revis…Mark Sanchez. Outside of a bonehead interception in the first quarter that had Twitter ablaze with cheap shots, Sanchez was as accurate as we’ve ever seen him, consistently fitting passes into tight windows and pushing the football down the field. Credit Tony Sparano for an aggressive game plan but credit Sanchez for dropping in some gems. He effectively spread the ball around, completing passes to 7 different receivers and showing tremendous comfort with rookie Stephen Hill. When you protect Sanchez, he can make all the throws necessary to win in the NFL.

The Jets wide receivers took a beating all summer, particularly Hill who many people claimed wasn’t ready for a big time role. He silenced those critics by turning in a monster 5 catch, 89 yard, 2 touchdown performance. Hill is a faster, bigger version of Braylon Edwards who Sanchez was extremely comfortable with in 2009 and 2010. Jeremy Kerley also got himself out of Rex Ryan’s doghouse with a 4 catches for 45 yards, a receiving touchdown an electric punt return touchdown. If they can stay consistent, the Jets offense has a ceiling much higher than anybody expected.

Austin Howard deserves to be singled out for praise. Mario Williams laid a goose egg today and Buffalo’s pass rush in general did absolutely nothing. The whole line deserves credit but Howard just recently stepped into a starting role and has the most prove. He was more than up to the challenge against Buffalo’s much hyped personnel.

Defensively, it was playmaking. The Jets made Ryan Fitzpatrick look every bit the overpaid, mediocre quarterback he is by intercepting him three times and taking one back to the house (we have been waiting for that defensive TD Cro!). Yes, the running defense and the lack of sacks was a mild disappointment but ultimately when the game was still in question, the defense routinely made game changing plays. LaRon Landry seemed to be in on every tackle and there is no question the tandem of him and Yeremiah Bell are a major upgrade from last year’s safeties.

The Jets and their fans have every right to enjoy this one. It was a statement victory in the division. However, there will be an even better chance to turn some heads this week in Pittsburgh. The talent is there to win, but will the consistency be there?

Check back tomorrow for No Huddle, a full Report Card and a closer look at Sanchez’s performance

New York Jets – Biggest Positional Question Marks

Who are the biggest question marks on the New York Jets heading into the 2012 season?

The New York Jets have a handful of sure things on their roster. You know Darrelle Revis is going to be a lockdown corner. You know Nick Mangold is going to anchor the offensive line. You know David Harris and Sione Pouha will play at a Pro-Bowl level and not receive the recognition for it. However, who are the team’s biggest question marks? Let’s take a quick run through

Austin Howard – Right Tackle – Howard has put together one pretty good pre-season and has the honor of replacing the least popular tackle in New York football history, Wayne Hunter. Let’s not forget he was an undrafted free agent who has never started a game before this season. If Howard starts to stumble, the Jets will likely have a quick hook to give the recently acquired Jason Smith an opportunity. He will be tested right out of the gate when facing Mario Williams or Mark Anderson week one and then Pittsburgh’s endless collection of pass rushers week two.

Kyle Wilson – Nickelback – Nickelback is a crucial spot in Rex Ryan’s defensive back heavy defense. Wilson has had a rough pre-season and patience is rightfully wearing thin with him. He is entering his third year and the former first round pick has never looked anything like one. Teams are going to pick on him with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie on the outside but Wilson must do a better job of locating the ball in the air and avoiding giving large cushions when he can’t afford to.

Stephen Hill – Wide Receiver – The Jets are relying on Hill to start right out of the gate despite how raw he is. He has shown an ability to get open and make plays down the field in the pre-season, while showing a consistent problem with drops. Hill is a rookie receiver from a triple-option offense. Can his positives outweigh his negatives as a full time player?

Mark Sanchez – Quarterback – I don’t see Sanchez as anywhere near as big of question mark as most people do. Outside of his interception against the Giants, he has been accurate and in-control of the offense despite a shaky offensive line and a banged up group of receivers. At his worst Sanchez will be an effective game manager, at his best he can be the player who led four 4th quarterback comebacks and won a playoff game in New England back in 2010. The biggest question around him this year is how he will handle being pulled from the game for Tebow when the Jets use the Wildcat.

Tim Tebow – Backup Quarterback – Not sure why more people aren’t concerned that the Jets backup quarterback had a 26.5 QB Rating and 38 percent completion rate in the pre-season. How can this offense function if Sanchez goes down for an extended period of time unless they are going to let Tebow just run 20 times per game from the QB position?

Jeff Cumberland – Backup Tight End – Hopefully Mike Tannenbaum isn’t foolish enough to go into the season with him as the primary backup. Simply put he is a less talented version of Dustin Keller and is an even worse blocker. The Jets are in trouble if he gets pushed into extended duty.

LaRon Landry – Safety – He has been terrific this pre-season but if he gets hurt the Jets are right back to Eric Smith.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson – Left Tackle – It was a surprisingly down year for ‘Brick last year. The Jets badly need him to bounce back and be the Pro-Bowl caliber tackle he was throughout the early years of his career.

TJ Conley/Nick Folk – Punter/Kicker – The value of these guys on the Jets is extremely enhanced because of the type of football they are likely to play. Folk had a great pre-season but can’t afford to miss the chip shots this year that he did in the past. Conley has been inconsistent and is now in competition with the recently signed Spencer Lanning. You can’t shank punts when you are desperately battling for field position.

Shonn Greene – Running Back – Considering his primary backup has under 30 career NFL rushing yards, he better stay healthy and productive. Greene had a disappointing pre-season and has been a notorious slow starter. The Jets can’t afford that this year as he will be getting 20+ carries a game right out of the gate.

New York Jets – Struggling To Find Silver Lining

The New York Jets still haven’t found the end-zone this pre-season, despite some encouraging developments last night

There is no reason to act like not scoring a touchdown in three full pre-season games isn’t a big deal. It is. It is an embarrassing failure that speaks to a lack of cohesion and playmakers on offense. The New York Jets offense has been the worst in the NFL to this point. They are just fortunate that up until this point nothing truly counts and that their defense has conversely been one of the best.

The offensive problems last night started at the wide receiver position. Santonio Holmes dropped what would have been probably a 25 yard gain. Stephen Hill dropped a very catch-able ball that turned into an interception and failed to make a tough catch in the end-zone that should have been a touchdown. Was it a perfect throw from Sanchez? No, but that doesn’t mean that Hill shouldn’t come down with that pass.

The dropped passes took away from what should have been a huge night for Mark Sanchez, who was still 11/18 for 123 yards with completions of 20, 24 and 32 yards. He drove the football well down the field, throwing two bullets over the middle for big gainers to Dustin Keller and Patrick Turner. He read the coverage perfectly and delivered a perfect back shoulder pass to Stephen Hill outside the numbers for the other long gain. Unfortunately all that is swept under the rug when you don’t convert in the red-zone.

Outside of the dropped passes, the running game was a let down yet again. The Jets have shown no ability to run the ball consistently this pre-season. Shonn Greene finished with 47 yards on 13 carries. 3.6 yards per carry is not good enough. Greene seems to be stumbling immediately after he receives every handoff and still is not breaking any tackles or making anybody miss. There is nothing impressive about running through a well blocked hole. It is impressive when you make something happen at the second level to turn a blocked 3 yard run into a 15 yard run or a blocked 8 yard run into a 29 yard run.

Joe McKnight appears to be completely out of the mix at running back, receiving zero carries and even working behind Terrance Ganaway. Bilal Powell looks to be the primary backup and third down back. He showed a little shiftiness last night but still only finished with 29 yards on 8 carries, the same 3.6 yards per carry as Greene.

The Jets also remain clueless in short yardage. They were stuff again on 3rd and 1 and in reality stuffed on 4th and 1. They received a ridiculously favorable spot on a Mark Sanchez quarterback sneak for a first down. What purpose does John Conner serve on this roster? He can’t catch. He can’t convert on short yardage when handed the ball and can’t help Greene convert on third and short with his blocking. Beyond that, Greene’s biggest runs last night came out of a single back set.

Finally the offense made another killer mental mistake when Matt Slauson picked up a senseless personal foul that killed a potential scoring drive. The Jets are nowhere near good enough to overcome needless penalties.

Over to the positives, on offense outside of Sanchez throwing the ball very well, Austin Howard was terrific. He held his own against Charles Johnson and appeared to be play both fluidly and with a high amount of confidence. There will be bumps in the road with him but last night was a very strong start.

The real positives remained on the defensive side of the football, where the Jets have the makings of arguably the best run defense in the NFL. Kenrick Ellis was dominant at the point of attack last night and has earned himself a much larger role in the defensive line rotation thanks to a huge pre-season. LaRon Landry is a force in the run game and came up with his second interception of the pre-season. If he stays healthy, the Jets got a major steal in free agency. Quinton Coples had another sack and another forced fumble, along with constantly being in Cam Newton’s face.

The disappointing thing about Coples is how Rex Ryan called him out after the game for being winded and complaining about having to play with the second team. Good for Rex for staying on top of this and not babying him to the press. He needs to do that more frequently. A rookie complaining about playing time is inexcusable. Coples is freakishly talented and Rex and all of the veterans constantly need to stay on top of him so he reaches his potential.

For the first time of the pre-season, the blitzes the Jets dialed up were breaking through. The constant pressure led to a difficult night for Newton who finished only 6/15 for 60 yards with a turnover. Outside of Kyle Wilson, who continues to struggle the Jets defense appears in mid-season form and should be a top three unit in the league this season.

For all of the criticism heaped on the Jets offense, the same amount of praise should be heaped on their defense at this point. Will either unit play to their expectations in September? Only time will tell.

New York Jets Offense – How To Use Their Weapons

Joe Caporoso and TJ Rosenthal on how the New York Jets can get the most out of Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley and Joe McKnight

Yesterday TJ Rosenthal wrote an article here looking at how the New York Jets can utilize the speed in their offense, namely Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley and Joe McKnight. Today TJ and myself take a closer look at what each player brings to the table –

Santonio Holmes

Joe Caporoso – Holmes is an elite route runner and is explosive after the catch. He works best in the intermediate passing game, where he can catch the ball with a little space to improvise after catching the ball. Can we see this guy run another route besides a slant?

TJ Rosenthal – Get Tone the ball. Let 10 set the tempo in the passing game. In fact, the Jets should be including Holmes in the discussion as far as what he feels can work given the QB he has and the protection issues that have taken place. He doesn’t need a “C” on his chest to feel as though he is being asked to provide leadership. Make him part of the process of devising ways to get him the ball. This will also put the onus on him to make sure he is calling for plays that are possible at this given time. We already know how clutch he can be already.

Stephen Hill

Joe Caporoso – Hill has elite top end speed and size at the wide receiver position. He is built to run deep posts and go routes, just like he did his entire career at Georgia Tech. With his frame he should also be effective on slant routes. A nice part of Hill’s game is a willingness to block down the field, which could help spring big plays in both the run game and short passing game. He is going to have occasional mental lapses as a rookie receiver and has struggled with drops in August. Look for Hill to fluctuate between big plays and errors all season. 

TJ Rosenthal – We heard so much about Stephen Hill’s blocking prowess yet all we’ve seen so far have been half hearted attempts to get his feet wet as a pass catcher. Let a guy play to his strengths, and feel good about himself. This will help relax him. In a four wide speed package, Hill can be a deep down the sideline guy but use him more so, as  the one who can crack OLB’s as Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley come across with the catch. Allow Hill to gain confidence as a deadly blocker who springs the little guys down the sidelines. Let him use his height and speed yet think less with some go routes in this formation as well. Hill can also be the short slant guy the way Braylon Edwards, and his 6’4 frame was in 2010.

Jeremy Kerley

Joe Caporoso – Kerley is more quick than fast and is built like a prototypical slot receiver. He is going to run a ton of option routes and quick outs, making him a primary target on most 3rd and short situations. However, if he can get matched up on a linebacker or safety, he should be able to get down the seam and make plays.

TJ Rosenthal – He needs to be an underneath route guy who can make big plays with his feet in space. He’s not a household name yet, but a few short receptions that turn into 25 yard gains will help the offense create a threat that can open up room for guys like Dustin Keller. Like McKnight, Kerley can be a slot screen option. Especially on the side of Hill should he line up that way.

Joe McKnight

Joe Caporoso – McKnight is a running back who can run routes and catch the football like a receiver. He also has durability issues and is prone to mental mistakes. The Jets can get the most out of him by working him on screen passes and then lining him up in the slot and hoping to get him matched up on linebackers. Tony Sparano needs to find a way to get him the ball in space consistently

TJ Rosenthal – Part of the reason in making 25 a slot guy is his inability to pass protect. A problem that has given Bilal Powell time on third down. This is a bigger problem for the Jets offense. One that needs explosive laymakers on the field as often as possible. Stop thinking about McKnight as solely a RB and use him on flares, screens and short underneath routes. Having him out there even as a decoy can serve the same purpose of opening up room for Keller as any success by Kerley would provide. Lining up Keller and McKnight to one side could create favorable one on one’s near the line of scrimmage.

New York Jets: Make or Break Year For Dustin Keller

This is a make or break year for New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller

New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller is entering the most crucial season of his NFL career. The team has understandably held off on giving him a large contract extension, instead choosing to wait and see how he produces in Tony Sparano’s offense. Through four years, Keller has been good but has never truly broke out in the way many around the team expect him to. This season, more than ever the Jets need the Pro-Bowl season that he has personally declared is on the way.

It doesn’t take an expert to see that the Jets are lacking proven offensive playmakers heading into this season, particularly in the passing game. Beyond that, Mark Sanchez is yet to have an opportunity to work with two of his top three receivers, Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley, this pre-season because of his injuries. Without question, Keller is the receiver he is most comfortable with and should see a ton of passes coming his way all season.

Keller has never been able to sustain productivity throughout his career. The four seasons are marked by stretches of All-Pro caliber play followed by weeks of inactivity. The productivity tends to occur early in the season and then tail off throughout the year.

Last season, Keller caught 16 passes for 249 yards 2 touchdowns in the Jets first three games. Over the next six games, he only collected 15 receptions for 224 yards and o touchdowns. He improved slightly down the stretch but not much, finishing the season with only 5 touchdowns and 12.5 yards per reception. In 2010, it was the same story. He caught 5 touchdowns in the Jets first 4 games and then didn’t catch one the rest of the season. He also saw a gaudy early season yards per catch average drop off to 12.5 by the end of the year.

Keller needs to improve his consistency, his red-zone production and downfield playmaking ability. All of these issues don’t fall solely on him. It is fair to place blame on Brian Schottenheimer’s horizontal passing attack and perplexing game plans. It is also fair to blame Mark Sanchez for his occasional struggles.

Regardless, the top priority of the Jets passing game this year should be keeping Keller involved on a weekly basis and getting him the ball inside the 20 yard line. His yards per catch should improve thanks to Tony Sparano’s scheme. Anthony Fasano averaged 13.5 yards per catch and 14.1 yards per catch the past two years respectively and he is substantially less athletic and versatile than Keller.

It can’t be used as an excuse that defenses are keying on Keller. Santonio Holmes is enough of a threat on the outside to keep double teams away from Keller in most situations, nevermind if Stephen Hill develops into a viable deep threat. Keller needs to be moved around the formation to get matched up on defensive backs who he can take advantage of with his size, particularly in the red-zone. If he is seeing coverage from linebackers, the Jets have to get him down the seam where Mark Sanchez throws the ball particularly well.

The Jets can’t afford to have Keller go 5 straight weeks with less than 3 receptions. The Jets can’t afford Keller to have another 5 touchdown season. It is time to expand his route tree beyond bootlegs. Creativity will be needed because he is without question the team’s second best all around receiver and their most versatile weapon in the passing game.

New York Jets: Observations From Cortland

Turn On The Jets staff writer Chris Gross spent the day in Cortland yesterday, here is what he observed about the New York Jets

Turn On The Jets sent staff writer Chris Gross up to Cortland yesterday to report from New York Jets camp. Here are his observations. Feel free to submit those miles for reimbursement from the TOJ headquarters office Chris – 

After visiting the New York Jets next-to-final practice in Cortland this past Tuesday, not only did I come away with several observations, but I also got a much better feel for the identity of both the team, and a number of particular players. When observing the team this closely in person, a few things stand out right from the start as strikingly evident. Others revealed themselves throughout the course of the practice, many of which I was surprised with, some of which I expected.

As physically talented as Stephen Hill appears on film, it really does him no justice until seeing him play in person. Hill is extremely gifted and it is obvious just in the way he moves, runs, or does anything athletic. In One on One Wide Receiver/Defensive Back drills, Hill beat Darrelle Revis deep for a Touchdown on each of his first two reps. Seemingly irked by this, Revis finished the remaining two reps of the drill by buckling down and being extremely physical with Hill, not allowing him to get deep, while breaking up each of the two underneath passes thrown at him. This matchup seems like it is developing into a very nice practice rivalry and should be extremely beneficial to both players.

Hill is getting experience each day against the best Cornerback in all of football, while Revis is getting reps against a big target with great speed who can stretch the field at any moment. Hill showed great poise and confidence, as he did not shy away from Revis once. He seems to realize the opportunity to improve by going up against the All-World Cornerback, and watching him, you really get the sense that he is eager to challenge himself with this matchup. While Hill likely respects the stature of Revis, he is certainly not intimidated by him. He has a long way to go, but Hill can be an absolute star in this league, sooner rather than later.

Offensive Line Coach Dave DeGuglielmo is a perfect fit for this team. I stood about five feet from the Offensive Line during individual drills and one thing evident about DeGuglielmo is that he holds everyone accountable, including Pro Bowlers like Nick Mangold and D’Brichashaw Ferguson. He coaches his group up on every rep whether it be in live action or running plays on air. He is constantly tentative to footwork, technique, and most importantly, execution.

Vlad Ducasse is as advertised. Ducasse is very physically gifted, and passes the eye test as an NFL Offensive Lineman for sure, however one of his main problems is his inability to play low. Even when simply hitting the sled, usually a time to exaggerate technique with no live competition on the other side of the ball, Ducasse would sprout right up. While running through drills in the chutes, Ducasse hit his head on the top more than once, and was reprimanded by DeGuglielmo for his lack of technique. To me, Ducasse’s consistent inability to play low shows laziness, and unless he fixes both of these issues quickly, he will likely remain on the sidelines on Sundays.

Robert T. Griffin has improved greatly since we evaluated his college game film following the draft. Griffin is one of the biggest guys on the field and seems to be extremely coachable, which is likely the reason for his early improvement. His technique is greater than what you’d expect of a sixth round rookie, and he really seems to focus on all the little things like stance, steps, footwork, etc. His potential can be very high due to his physical tools and coachability.

The Defensive Line and Secondary are the strengths of this team. This should really comes as no surprise to anyone, but as a unit, the Defensive Line seems to have the best cohesion out of any other group on the team. Combined with the immense talent across the board on the defensive front is a very strong work ethic. Karl Dunbar does an excellent job as both a teacher and motivator. During run read drills with the Offensive Line, Dunbar was heard belting out plenty of excitement for his guys, while stressing all of the little things, like DeGuglielmo. First round pick Quinton Coples and Aaron Maybin were moved all around in various fronts, and it should be very interesting to see how each of these guys are used this year, considering their immense talent and potential.

As for the secondary, this is probably the most talented unit on the team. It is really amazing to see the immense skill of Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Kyle Wilson in person. The new safeties seem to mesh well with these guys, and they all communicate with each other while on the field. You can feel the veteran savvy of LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell patrolling the back half of the defense. They seem extremely comfortable out there.

The biggest thing I took away from practice on Tuesday was the impression made by Mark Sanchez. The 4th year pro out of Southern California looked terrific, not only in his throws, but in his heightened level of command, his improved demeanor, and his overall leadership ability. He shows a level of confidence that he has yet to express since coming into the league, and certainly seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder. While watching him, not only play, but communicate with his teammates, you can just feel his attitude, that this is his team, his offense, and things are going to be done his way. His chemistry with Tight End Dustin Keller is uncanny, and it shows on the field. To me, this has been a bit overlooked, but their relationship seems to go beyond any other relationship on the team. Their timing is flawless; seemingly sharing the same train of though on nearly every play. Because of this, Keller is poised for a breakout season.

Tim Tebow is physically gifted. Tebow is extremely big in person, particularly in his lower body. He was among the first players on the field prior to practice, as he was warming up with some of the receivers and tight ends. One thing I noticed about him, though, is that his long throwing motion is exaggerated. While his wind-up is certainly longer than that of the average NFL Quarterback, it is not nearly as bad as people make it out to be. His arm strength is very good, but in terms of accuracy, he is not on par with Mark Sanchez. Tebow will certainly contribute this season, mostly as a runner, but also as more of a passer than most people are expecting. However, after watching both of them in person, I would not expect Tebow to dethrone Sanchez as the starter at any point this season.

The Running Back situation is a serious cause for concern. While Shonn Greene got the most reps with the first unit, with Bilal Powell working in, and Joe McKnight getting in some situational work, none of these backs truly stand out. Not one of them demonstrates the tools or ability to be a feature back. While this group is certainly not terrible by any means, each of these players are average at best. A move to add a veteran like Ryan Grant needs to be made.

The Rest of the Rest:

Rookie WR Jordan White got extended reps with Santonio Holmes, and eventually Stephen Hill, being out of practice. With these reps, I thought White practiced very well. He had an amazing back shoulder catch on the sideline with Darrelle Revis on him during team drills, prompting a chest bump from Sanchez. Revis had great coverage on the play, but the ball was thrown perfectly, and White made a great play on it. White’s work ethic is very obvious and he seems to take pride in every drill that he does.

Josh Baker looked very good and he will likely be used in a number of various roles this season. He is certainly one of the more versatile weapons on the offense, and it will be interesting to see how Sparano utilizes that.

Rookie Linebacker DeMario Davis played in a lot of nickel and third down sub packages, and seemed to be grasping the defense a little at a time. His athleticism is fantastic, but mentally he still seems like he has a bit to get down.

Marcus Dowtin was very impressive in limited action. The undrafted rookie out of North Alabama saw reps at both Safety and Linebacker, and obtained a sack on Greg McElroy on a blitz right through the middle, where he came through untouched. He reminds me of a heavier version of James Ihedigbo, and if he makes the roster, he could be used as a situational player on third downs, either as a blitzer or in coverage.

New York Jets – Is Mike Tannenbaum Asleep At The Wheel?

Is New York Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum’s inactivity this August acceptable?

It has become a weekly topic here at Turn On The Jets to question the New York Jets depth on the offensive side of the football.  In general, Mike Tannenbaum has done more good than bad since becoming the team’s general manager. The extent he is criticized by outlets like Pro Football Talk and Mike Lombardi on NFL.com is overdone and out of touch with reality. Regardless, facing arguably the most important season of his career, he has been surprisingly (and somewhat disturbingly) inactive in addressing his team’s issues.

Let’s start with something as simple as acquiring a blocking tight end before getting into the tired running back/wide receiver debate. The New York Jets want to be physical on offense. The New York Jets want to run the football. The New York Jets have pass protection issues at right tackle. The New York Jets don’t have a single blocking tight end on their roster. This makes no sense. You can’t bring in Jeff Cumberland to help block if he can’t even get a hand on the immortal (sense my sarcasm?) Manny Lawson before he steamrolls Mark Sanchez.

There was no logical reason for the Jets not to bring a player like Justin Peelle, Daniel Graham or another blocking tight end before training camp. Pittsburgh just signed Peelle to improve their depth at tight end and fullback because of an injury they sustained because smart teams who are perpetually in the playoffs and Super Bowls make sure they have depth.

If Jeff Cumberland keeps getting beat like a drum, perhaps Tannenbaum will sign a player a week or so before the season starts. That player will then have limited time to master the offense and pick up chemistry with the offensive line, likely leading to an early season slew of penalties and miscommunication…aka Matthew Mulligan 2.0. Why wait?

At wide receiver, Stephen Hill hurt his finger today in practice. Let’s say the Jets play it safe and keep him out this week against the Giants. Mark Sanchez will be throwing to a top three of Patrick Turner, Jordan White, and Royce Pollard. Not exactly the best way to break in a new offense for the Jets starting quarterback, right? Throughout the year if Hill gets hurt because he is a rookie and isn’t used to the rigors of a NFL season or Santonio Holmes re-injures his ribs or Jeremy Kerley’s balky hamstring acts up, where is the depth?

The Green Bay Packers just signed Cedric Benson. They did this because smart teams who are perpetually in the playoffs and Super Bowls make sure they have depth. Green Bay might run the ball 25% less than the Jets do this year but now have better depth than them at running back. Is Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets front office that much smarter than Green Bay that they couldn’t take on Benson for a veteran’s minimum deal?

All it takes is a rolled Shonn Greene ankle for the Jets to have the worst depth chart of running backs in the NFL…I repeat all it takes is a rolled Shonn Greene ankle for the Jets to have the worst depth chart of running backs in the NFL. The mighty Ground and Pound who is going to run it more than any team in the NFL will not have a single back on the roster who has eclipsed 150 yards in a season.

Smart teams who are perpetually in the playoffs and Super Bowls make sure they have depth. Wake up Mike.

New York Jets: What We Have Actually Learned At Training Camp

Turn On The Jets cuts through the BS coverage of the New York Jets and discuses the developments on the field

The New York Jets first pre-season game is only two days away. From a distance the only information you may have heard about the team involves a backup quarterback being shirtless, an altercation between players, and a cornerback talking about playing wide receiver. Yet, believe it or not there has actually been some football played on the fields of Cortland. A few interesting developments have taken place that actually involve you know…the game. Let’s run them down –

Bilal Powell – We discussed Powell last week and his production hasn’t tailed off. By all accounts he has been the best running back on the field and is about to leap frog Joe McKnight as the number two back and primary third down back. Out of all the Jets backs, Powell has the best overall combination of skills which could lead to him eventually cutting into Shonn Greene’s carries, if Greene struggles to catch the football. McKnight hasn’t helped his cause lately by consistently being banged up. Obviously Powell still needs to show it on the game field but he has a real chance to become a major contributor on offense this season.

Mark Sanchez – Remember him? The Jets starting quarterback has quietly (somehow) put together a very good all-around camp. Sanchez has protected the football and shown an impressive command of Tony Sparano’s new system. There was never a quarterback controversy and if Sanchez develops the way he should, there never will be.

Patrick Turner – A receiver who has actually stayed healthy all camp! Turner has been consistently producing. He has very good height and hands, along with familiarity with Tony Sparano’s offense and chemistry with Mark Sanchez. Considering how thin the Jets are at receiver, Turner has a good chance to work himself into reps at split end this season.

Aaron Maybin – A practice hasn’t passed yet where he hasn’t recorded at least 1 sack. His speed and increased size combined with Rex Ryan’s creativity should be a scary thing for opposing offenses. Even as a situational player, Maybin has the look of a 10 sack player in 2012.

Ricky Sapp – Another edge rusher who has flashed all throughout camp. Sapp seems to be a lock to make the roster and a guy who could be on the field in passing situations. Could this be Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum’s second pass rushing reclamation project in as many years? They are almost halfway to making up for Vernon Gholston.

Josh Baker – The tight end/H-Back/Fullback has been all over the field making plays in the passing game. It appears he will be more of a factor than Jeff Cumberland this season and could also take away reps from John Conner.

Rookie Rundown

  • Quinton Coples – Been quieter than you would like and Mike DeVito remains firmly entrenched as the starter in 3 man looks. However, Coples still has the talent to be a factor in pass rushing situations.
  • Stephen Hill – He has flashed enough promise to be very excited about his potential this season. The other day he beat Darrelle Revis deep for a 50 yard touchdown. Hill is going to disappear for stretches this season but will also have his share of big plays.
  • Demario Davis – Back from a hamstring injury and should be starting in the sub packages by week 1.
  • Josh Bush – A very, very quiet camp. Could be losing his grip on 4th safety spot to fellow rookie Antonio Allen.
  • Terrance Ganaway – Been a little banged up and struggled at times but has shown versatility to also play fullback. Tony Sparano will find a use for him this season.
  • Robert Griffin – Practice squad.
  • Antonio Allen – Has been making plays all over the field and could be on the way to working himself into some defensive reps.
  • Jordan White – Back from a hamstring injury and has a golden opportunity to contribute as a slot receiver.

New Addition Rundown

  • Tim Tebow – He is a great athlete and will be a weapon running the ball. Takes too many sacks and is inconsistent passing…so exactly what we thought.
  • LaRon Landry – On a pitch count but on pace to start week 1 and be a frequent blitzer/run stopper in Rex Ryan’s scheme.
  • Yeremiah Bell – Taken over veteran leadership role in the secondary. He will struggle in coverage at times.
  • Chaz Schilens – Banged up and inconsistent. Turner has outplayed him all camp.

Disappointments

  • Jeremy Kerley Could still be out another full week with a hamstring injury and is firmly in Rex Ryan’s doghouse for a lackluster offseason.
  • Joe McKnight – Seemed to have number 2 running back job on lockdown heading into camp…it isn’t that way anymore.
  • Jeff Cumberland – Thoroughly being outplayed by Josh Baker.