As the near month long search for Eric Mangini's replacement as head coach of the New York Jets has finally concluded with this week's hiring of former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, the attention turns to the personnel.
And hey just for the record, it appears that team owner Woody Johnson's focus is now on the team for the first time in 4 seasons! Thanks for caring now, Woody!
It all starts with the man behind center. If Brett Favre decided to return (personally, I don't expect him to after his dreadful last five games of the 2008 season which was followed by numerous teammates publicly criticizing him), then he must endure the entire offseason with his team and go out of his way to acclimate himself with the rest of the team and participate in a full training camp.
If Favre retires or wants his release, I believe it would be best to sign a veteran QB and have him compete with youngsters Brett Ratliff and Kellen Clemens for the starting position.
We've seen some of Clemens, but nothing that left us begging to see more while Ratliff has only taken snaps during the preseason (he sure did look good though, showcasing a strong arm and very good athleticism).
Still, nobody knows what to expect from either of the two young signal callers, and coach Ryan's success in Baltimore with a young QB during this past season may lead him to believe that route is a viable option.
2) Defensive Line
The rotation at nose tackle is solid and runs three deep, led by Pro Bowler Kris Jenkins and supported by C.J. Mosely and Sione Pouha. Though Jenkins faded in the second half of the season and was being constantly double teamed, that rotation is good enough to remain intact.
At defensive end, Kenyon Coleman leaves a lot to be desired. To be honest, I can barely recall hearing his name called during a game this season. Mangini and Sutton brought him here from Dallas with the belief that he was going to be a big time pass rusher off the edge, but has only collected two sacks in two seasons in New York.
Longtime Jet Shaun Ellis had a nice 2008 campaign, collecting 60 tackles to go along with eight sacks, two fumbles forced, and that memorable TD off Abram Elam's strip sack of J.P. Losman.
However, he will be 32 at the start of next season and now is the time to start thinking about replacements. One solution comes from defensive end prospect Tyson Jackson out of LSU. Tyson (6'5" 290) could be a unique prospect for the Jets because of his versatility and his ideal fit in the 3-4 defense.
Another perhaps more far-fetched option comes from free agent DE Julius Peppers who has recently stated that he wants to play under a 3-4 scheme because it would suit him best. After last offseason's free agent spending spree, I'm not so confident Woody Johnson and GM Mike Tannenbaum are going to shell out a ton of money this offseason.
3) Wide Receiver
I was disappointed in Laveraneus Coles' 2008 performance both on and off the field. Coles has been a rock in his two stints with the Jets, serving as a tough and viable target for whoever is under center.
However, his poor attitude as a reaction to the Favre trade seemed to hinder his on field performance all season. Looking at the numbers as a whole, they aren't bad (16 games, 70 catches 850 yards seven TD) but they are quite misleading.
Coles only went over 100 yards one time and three of his seven TD came in that one game as well (vs. Arizona). Jerricho Cotchery is a very nice receiver with some serious skills.
He has proven that he has the ability to make the acrobatic catch (that catch should have gotten more pub by the way...it was as good a grab as you'll see) and is not afraid of the big hit. What he and Coles do lack though, is elite size (both around 6'0") and the downfield speed that every quarterback needs.
There is not much depth behind Coles & Cotchery either, as Brad Smith and Chansi Stuckey both have showed great potential but are not weekly contributors. One guy who could offer help next season is David Clowney who was only activated twice this season after injuring himself during a very impressive preseason.
Several years ago, Clowney was clocked at the combine as having one of the fastest 40-yard dash times and his speed could open things up for this offense. Other options could come through the draft as well, maybe in the form of 6'4" Rutgers product Kenny Britt in the second or third round.
The Jets secondary is top heavy, with Pro Bowl CB Darrelle Revis and should have been 2006/2007 Pro Bowl S Kerry Rhodes. After those two however, there are tons of unproven question marks.
First, get Ty Law out of here. He will always be a Patriot in my eyes and bringing him back this season right before the win @ NE was a joke. Rookie CB Dwight Lowery showed flashes of brilliance at times and also showed why he is a rookie quite often as well.
The Jets would be wise to invest some money in a free agent No. 2 CB or select one with one of their first four picks during the first three rounds of April's draft. As for the safety position, Abram Elam was a big time contributor for the Jets in 2008.
He was the Jets biggest defensive playmaker this season, whether it was forcing late fumbles or intercepting important passes Elam was a beast. It is difficult to say if this was a lightning in a bottle situation or if the Jets have something in this kid. Whatever it is, he was certainly an upgrade over Eric Smith.
One alternative to improve the depth at safety is Ravens free agent S Jim Leonhard, who thrived in his first season under Rex Ryan in Baltimore.
5) Offensive Line
I know what some of you may be thinking. Why is offensive line a priority if we have two Pro Bowlers, a rock solid RG, and more than capable tackles? My reasoning are these names: Robert Turner and Wayne Hunter.
Those are the only two backup offensive lineman who saw a bit of action this season for the Jets, and it is quite obvious the depth here needs to be upgraded.
The Jets lucked out this season and had their five linemen stay healthy throughout the course of the season...I wouldn't bet on that happening two years in a row. Offensive line is the key to any offense, and bringing in a free agent and a third/fourth-round draft pick (say, Oklahoma T Phil Loadholt) to provide the team with some insurance for next season would be a very wise move.