A promising 8-3 start had the Big Apple talking of the first-ever all-New York Super Bowl, but a 1-5 finish had fans of Gang Green shaking their heads, asking what happened and where everything went.
Heading into this season, the Jets open camp with new optimism, focus, and determination to finish the job and win a championship that they feel was taken from them.
Owner Woody Johnson cleaned house and realized he has the talent to win now with one of the most physical teams in the NFL.
Hiring new head coach Rex Ryan gives the Jets an identity they have lacked for quite a while and also promises to bring a smashmouth, all-weather offense that Ryan witnessed in Baltimore with the three running back tandem of Willis McGahee, LaRon McClain, and Ray Rice.
As was the case in Baltimore, Ryan will have the choice of starting either veteran Kellen Clemens or rookie sensation Mark Sanchez, whom the Jets took with the fifth overall pick out of Southern California. Last season, rookie Joe Flacco took the reigns of the Ravens in leading them to the AFC championship game.
With each new season comes new questions, goals, and expectations and here are a few the Jets (as well as myself and all fans) should be looking at as they look to open camp in late July:
Will Mark Sanchez Start Opening Day?
There is a distinct possibility this could happen if Sanchez has a productive camp and preseason. The offense the Jets will run under Brian Schottenheimer is similar to the one run at USC with different terminology and according to interviews, Sanchez has grasped a good chunk of the playbook without problems.
Who Will Jets QBs Throw To?
Whether it be Sanchez, Clemens, or Erik Ainge, the Jets still lack a big-play threat at wide receiver.
If you look at most of the AFC contenders in New England (Moss), Indianapolis (Wayne), Pittsburgh (Ward, Holmes), and San Diego (Chambers, Jackson) they all possess a receiver or two that command double teams.
If the Jets want to be taken seriously in the conversation of Super Bowl contender, they must load up on offensive weapons to create outside matchups that favor them in the passing game.
Dustin Keller has the potential to be a star at tight end (48 catches, 535 yards, 3 TD in 2008) but outside of him, New York really does not have much as Jerricho Cotchery becomes the de facto No. 1 receiver option, as Laveranues Coles signed with Cincinnati in the offseason.
How Will the Running Game Be Managed?
Free agent-to-be Thomas Jones led the AFC in rushing last season with 1,312 yards and a franchise-record 13 touchdowns, but it was his backfield mate Leon Washington and how he was utilized in certain situations that drew Jets fans ire in 2008.
Of Washington's six rushing scores, three of them were over 40 yards including a memorable 61-yard scamper against then-undefeated Tennessee.
Many fans believe his speed and overall quickness was underused in the Jets offense last season and while Jones is the primary back, Washington gives New York an explosive element to their game plan that not many teams feature.
With Shonn Greene drafted in the third round, head coach Rex Ryan has his Ray Rice clone to use in certain situations and also his potential starter for 2010 should Jones move on.
Jones will be the starter on opening day but heading into camp, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will need to devise game plans week to week to give each back his share and keep defenses guessing.
How Will Rex Ryan's Defensive Philosophy Translate to the Jets?
The Jets will stay with a 3-4 scheme but it will be more in attack mode, so count on more blitzes from linebackers Calvin Pace and newly acquired Bart Scott through open holes created by Pro Bowl nose tackle Kris Jenkins and defensive end Shaun Ellis.
New York lacked a pass rush down the stretch and employing the style of defense that Rex Ryan likes to play, in addition to raiding a good chunk of his defense from Baltimore, will give offensive coordinators plenty of sleepless nights.
Given the caliber of talent in the AFC especially with the wide receivers they will face this season, pressure on the quarterback will the vital to the Jets' success, as will physical cornerback play to fix a secondary that was flat-out dreadful, not just against the pass but against tight ends as well.
What Is the Realistic Record for the Jets This Season?
Considering the improvement within the AFC East and analyzing their schedule, the Jets face a daunting task of getting to the postseason with opponents riddled with physical defenses and explosive offenses.
However, in retrospect, the Jets are indeed built to win now and they are determined to put their 2008 collapse behind them and make a deep run in January so put their over/under win total at around 10.
What Will Keep the Jets from Reaching the Postseason?
Even with all this new found optimism, the Jets face the same obstacles as all other NFL teams regarding health and particular matchups.
For the Jets, it goes much deeper, as they have not reached the AFC Championship Game since 1999 and have not reached the Super Bowl since Broadway Joe's guarantee in 1968.
They can also find obstacles within their own division, more specifically their arch rival New England Patriots who are hungry to get back to the postseason with the return of former league MVP Tom Brady.
With mini-camps underway and training camp over two months away, the New York Jets head into the 2009 season with definite questions, but hope to provide answers to their critics and rabid fanbase.
In their final season at Giants Stadium, the Jets must show that they are not a pushover and are indeed focused on bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to New York.
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