New York Jets: How Should the Most Pressing Needs Be Addressed?
There was a point during the season when fans were saying, "I can't wait until it's over" but, given salary cap issues, lack of talent and a new general manager, now fans are repeating themselves.
What may seem like the most challenging job in sports management, Jets GM John Idzik will definitely have his work cut out for him in the offseason.
While it may be easiest to complain that Mark Sanchez needs to be replaced at quarterback, there are many positions that the Jets must improve to be considered relevant again.
Fans have brought up needs at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, offensive tackle, nose tackle, outside linebacker, and inside linebacker.
If Dustin Keller, Matt Slauson, Brandon Moore, Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry head to free agency, add tight end, offensive guard (two) and safety (two) to the long list of priority positions to address.
Suffice it to say, this offseason will make or break the New York Jets for the next five years. Now let's take a look at each position.
Mark Sanchez will surely need a full offseason to overcome his horrific season, in which he threw more interceptions than touchdowns and lost his starting job to Greg McElroy twice. His passes have become more inaccurate, he is indecisive in the pocket and his inability to throw a deep ball only hinder the Jets' offense from taking the next step.
The question at this juncture is whether the Jets can still build a franchise around him. With the proper talent and formation, any quarterback can have success. Mark Sanchez is no different.
Give him Dustin Keller, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards as well as a good slot receiver and Mark Sanchez is capable of 3,600 yards and 32 TDs. When they are exchanged for Mardy Gilyard, Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens and Jeff Cumberland, that is when Mark Sanchez struggles.
Quarterback is a need, but I would rather see a more versatile quarterback like EJ Manuel or Zac Dysert drafted on Day 2 or 3 instead of seeing the Jets reach for a Mike Glennon or Tyler Wilson with the ninth pick in the draft.
I do not believe the rumors that the Jets are seriously looking at Mike Glennon solely because he would be playing completely out of his comfort zone. The Mornhinweg offense generally takes advantage of a quarterback who can throw the ball but also tuck it and run.
Who and When? EJ Manuel in the 2nd round
With a new general manager and offensive coordinator in place, it is very difficult to tell at this point what the opinion of the current offensive personnel is. Assuming Shonn Greene leaves (which I am predicting and hoping for), it seems as if the Jets will be unable to find a featured back this offseason.
Instead, the Jets may follow many other NFL teams and run a thunder and lightning back tandem. For that to happen, the Jets would need to either give Joe McKnight more carries, or draft a shifty running back in the draft.
This season has a premium of tough runners but very few "lightning backs" with only Oregon's Kenjon Barner and UNC's Giovani Bernard coming to mind. Barner is likely to be a 4th or 5th round pick, while analysts have predicted Bernard to be taken high in the 2nd round or possibly in the 1st round.
Who and When? Kenjon Barner in the 5th round
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
In my opinion, the need for wide receiver is much less than most think. Sure, the receiver depth was exploited with Santonio Holmes's lisfranc injury and Stephen Hill's lingering hamstring issues, but they really aren't that bad a group.
Santonio Holmes would be considered a serviceable No. 2 wide receiver on a passing team. Jeremy Kerley is one of the best slot receivers in the league. Meanwhile, Stephen Hill has insane potential, likely enough to be a low-end No. 1 wide receiver. Finally, if re-signed, Braylon Edwards is a solid No. 3 receiver.
So what does the team need? In a pass-first Mornhinweg offense, a #1 wide receiver is necessary. The problem is that few potent receivers are available in the draft and so one of the biggest boom-or-bust positions becomes every riskier.
The only receiver who could become a true #1 wide receiver is Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson and California's Keenan Allen. Both players are tall and speedy, but Jaz Reynolds and Tennessee Tech's Da'Rick Rogers are both special players with off-the-field concerns.
Who and When? Josh Boyce, WR, TCU, in the 6th round
The need for a tight end is contingent on if the Jets can re-sign Dustin Keller. If the Jets are able to sign Keller, the need for a blocking tight end would be fulfilled with an undrafted free agent (UDFA).
If the Jets are unable to sign Keller (which seems likely at this point), the need for a receiving tight end becomes incredibly pressing. If that is the case, look for the Jets to spend a pick on a Joker tight end or maybe sign one in free agency.
Who and When? Delanie Walker, TE, San Francisco 4 years, $11-million
Obviously the Jets have no reason to replace the left tackle position, where D'Brickashaw Ferguson's imposing play has been Pro-Bowl worthy in recent years. The right side, however, could stand to be upgraded.
Austin Howard was rated one of the top run blocking right tackles in the NFL this past year, according to ProFootballFocus (subscription required) but allowed 13.5 sacks according to ProFootballWeekly.
Not only is that number higher than Wayne Hunter's sacks allowed from last year (8.5), but it was more than Hunter's past two seasons combined (11).
Fortunately for the Jets, the draft is somewhat deep at the right tackle position. Also, Austin Howard is still incredibly young and it was his first season where he was given a fair chance to play.
Considering that the Jets plan on rebuilding, it may be shortsighted to take a right tackle in the draft, especially if the Jets tender Howard (he is a restricted free agent).
The Jets' new offensive system calls for somebody who can pass block well on the right side. Not having a pass blocking right tackle partially explains Philadelphia's unsuccessful offense last season.
In my opinion, the Jets would be better off signing a seasoned RT for the veteran minimum and putting him in a position battle with Austin Howard. Khalif Barnes comes to mind.
Who and When? Nobody
Interior Offensive Line
It may be a little too early to comment, but I do not foresee either of the Jets' two starting offensive guards (Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson) returning. Both of them are at the top of their position in the free agent class and are likely to see a significant pay raise.
With Dave DeGuglielmo likely being shown the door, perhaps the next offensive line coach can turn Vladimir Ducasse into the starter that he was drafted to be.
That still leaves one gargantuan opening at the offensive guard position that must be filled.
In the draft, no prospect looks more like a guarantee than Chance Warmack. He is a powerhouse who excels in run blocking and pass blocking, and should definitely be available when Gang Green is on the clock.
He would be moved to right guard in order to help out Austin Howard and Ducasse would stay at left guard. Hopefully, a camp body will be added to give Ducasse more competition at a very important position.
Who and When? Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama in the 1st round
The defensive line is more than fine at this point. Muhammad Wilkerson is a perennial Pro Bowler at defensive end. Quinton Coples is capable of being a double-digit sack guy. Gang Green may need another defensive end because of a lack of run stoppers, but likely will not address it.
Regardless of whether Mike DeVito stays with the team, Gang Green will likely not replace him. Finding a run stopping 3-4 DE of DeVito's caliber is more rare than one may think.
The nose tackle position of the Jets is quite the enigma. On one hand, Sione Pouha and Kenrick Ellis both have a lot of potential as 3-4 nose tackles. On the other hand, both of them battled injuries last season and neither was really seen as a "stalwart" on the line.
If the Jets see a falling nose tackle prospect on Day 3, then by all means they should take one. I do not believe, however, that it would make sense for the team to spend a pick from rounds 1-3.
Who and When? Nobody
The Jets are considered a hot mess at the linebacker position, but are actually much more better off than the media and fans perceive. Although three of the four starting linebackers who started Week 1 will likely be gone (Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace, Bart Scott), the Jets have found a strong run stopper in Garrett McIntyre.
Furthermore, DeMario Davis has shown a lot of promise at inside linebacker and could be a mainstay there for the next few years. Along with Davis, David Harris resides as the captain of the squad. Harris was a step slower this year, but will likely be overshadowed if the Jets draft more young, quick linebackers. Nick Bellore is also a good rotational 'backer in the inside.
I do not have the Jets spending a draft pick on an inside linebacker.
Who and When? Nobody
Moving over to the outside, next year's starters (after cap-saving cuts) will most likely be Garrett McIntyre and Marcus Dowtin. With that said, obviously the Jets need another outside linebacker, one who can rush the quarterback well.
The Jets, in this case, would spend most of their available Free Agency money on a free agent outside linebacker who is capable of a double digit sack season.
Enter Paul Kruger.
The Jets would finally be signing an outside linebacker capable of having more than 10 sacks in a season. When the Jets spent $42 million for Calvin Pace over six years, he never had 10 sacks in a single season.
Kruger would have a very easy time racking up sacks in a blitz-happy defense, such as Rex's. He would be a phenomenal pass rusher in the Jets' system, but that is basically all he offers.
This brings me to my next point: the Jets need to finally have a rotation at outside linebacker. Solid pass rushing defenses (New York Giants 2011, San Francisco 49ers 2011, Baltimore Ravens 2000-2005) all carried a rotation of pass rushes.
In New York, the Big Blue used Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul. San Francisco had Aldon Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Parys Haralson. Baltimore's pass rush (under Rex Ryan) featured Adalius Thomas, Terrell Suggs, and Peter Boulware.
The Jets need more help rushing the quarterback.
Who and When? Paul Kruger, OLB, Baltimore, 4 years, $24 million and Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M in the fourth round
The Jets are completely set at the cornerback position. Darrelle Revis covers an entire half of the field and leaves just half the field for Antonio Cromartie to cover. The two of them combine to form an elite cornerback duo in the NFL.
Kyle Wilson gets picked on a lot, but did not have that bad a season. Isaiah Trufant was a solid nickel back until he suffered a knee injury against Seattle and was placed on Injured Reserve.
With Revis and Cromartie together in the defensive backfield, the cornerback position is satiated.
The safety position, however, could undergo its second makeover in as many years. LaRon Landry has no intentions of giving the Jets a hometown discount. Yeremiah Bell is in his mid-30s and could regress at any time. Both starters are free agents this offseason. Eric Smith is also likely to be a cap casualty.
Assuming the Jets do not re-sign either of them, they would start next season with Josh Bush as free safety, and Antonio Allen at strong safety. Both of these 2012 rookies would be fine as a rotational safety, but neither is proven enough to take over the reins in the defensive backfield.
The Jets spend two draft picks on safeties as they need both a ball-hawking free safety and a run supporting strong safety.
Who and When? Philip Thomas, FS, Fresno State, in the 3rd round and Ray-Ray Armstrong, SS, Faulkner State, in the 7th round
So what do you think? Agree with these pickups? Anybody else in mind? Leave a comment with your opinion. Thanks for reading.