In January 2009, the nation got a change at the helm. Oh, and America did, too. In New York Jets Nation, Rex Ryan was named the 17th head coach in Jets/Titans history.
Ryan has talked big at his press conferences. It was hard to tell if Rex was serious or was he making jokes about leading the league in personal fouls. But, his enthusiasm seems to be a welcome change from the normally subdued Eric Mangini.
The playbook will not be entirely changed as offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will still be in his current role.
I would expect that Ryan will let Kellen Clemens have a chance at the opening day starting spot in training camp. I just doubt besides either a woeful performance in the summer, or an injury will keep Mark Sanchez on the sidelines.
Schottenheimer’s decision to play Sanchez is not as easy as you might think. Clemens came to the Jets the same year as Schottenheimer. I have to believe that those two have a relationship and they definitely have a past.
The two quarterbacks that have spent the most time under center for New York were Chad Pennington and Brett Favre, neither started their careers with Schottenheimer as coordinator.
I think the eventual pressure from the top of the Jets’ organization will demand that Sanchez start some time in 2009, if not game one. The team is marketing themselves and the new stadium around the fifth pick in this year’s draft. Schottenheimer will have to embrace Sanchez like everyone else has in Jets nation for this team to be successful.
The good news on the Jets offensive front is on the ground. 2008 Pro Bowl running backs Thomas Jones and Leon Washington return. There is a contract situation going on with both running backs, but as long as both are under contract; I would expect them both to be on the squad when the regular season starts.
The Jets ran for 2,009 yards with a very good 4.8 yards per carry average. The Jets moved up on day two of the NFL Draft to select running back Shonn Greene out of Iowa. I would expect Greene to backup Jones as the every down back, and he should steal a few carries each game in the 2009 season.
A big key to that success is the men up front for the NYJ.
The offensive line will return the same five starters as last year.
Centered by Nick Mangold, with guards Brandon Moore, Alan Faneca, and tackles Damien Woody and D’Brickashaw Ferguson all returning. All five linemen started all 16 games for the Jets.
The offensive passing playbook will change because Brett Favre will not be calling the shots this season.
Unfortunately, for the Jets, the big issue with their offense is at the receiving position. Laveranues Coles and his 70 catches left to Cincinnati. Chris Baker, the Jets second tight end on the depth chart is gone to New England.
The holes that the losses of Coles and Baker leave behind are gaping.
Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery is only the receiver on the team that has started a full season. Chansi Stuckey is projected to lineup on the opposite side of Cotchery.
Stuckey had three touchdown receptions in the first three weeks of the 2008 season, but had zero after that.
David Clowney, the speedster who showed promise in last year’s preseason, missed most of the 2008 campaign with a fractured collar bone. Brad Smith, the Jets gadget guy, should remain in his role as 4th WR/Wildcat option.
At tight end, Dustin Keller returns after an impressive rookie season. The Jets recently re-signed Bubba Franks to be his backup.
The team’s strength will appear more on the defensive side of the ball. I would think that Rex Ryan is going to try to mirror the Ravens’ philosophy of defense first.
This Jet team has to get better against the pass. The Jets finished 29th in passing yards allowed. Many have blamed Mangini’s strategies for not being more aggressive on defense when the Jets had the lead.
I don’t expect Rex Ryan’s playbook to have a bend but don’t break philosophy that Mangini’s had.
The personnel changes for the Jets defense are plentiful. The biggest splash came in the trade to move up in the draft to acquire Sanchez. The Jets traded away safety Abram Elam, defensive end Kenyon Coleman, and third-string quarterback Brett Ratliff to to Mangini’s Cleveland Browns.
Most of the additions are on the defensive side of the ball. Rex Ryan was able to bring strong side linebacker Bart Scott and strong safety Jim Leonhard.
The Jets added another piece to the secondary with the signing of former Philadelphia Eagle cornerback Lito Sheppard. Sheppard will compete with current starter, 2nd-year corner Dwight Lowery. Expect to see both when the Jets go into a nickel defense.
The Jets best pass rushers are still with the club. Defensive end Shaun Ellis led the team with eight sacks. Outside linebackers Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas combined for 12.5 sacks.
The inside of the Jets defense is anchored by 350+ pound nose tackle Kris Jenkins. The Jets who should be playing a 3-4 style defense in 2009 will use Bart Scott and David Harris will be the inside linebackers.
The big challenge at linebacker is what the Jets will do with last year’s first-round selection, Vernon Gholston. Gholston was a heralded pass rusher out of Ohio State, but struggled in his first season.
I know that is putting it mildly for some Jet fans who have nicknamed him “the Ghost” or “Ghastly”. Thomas and Pace seem set at their positions, Ryan’s job will be to bring Gholston into the mix and work with him to make him a professional pass rusher.
The secondary for the Jets is led by free safety Kerry Rhodes. The star in the secondary is third-year player and 2008 Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis. Revis led the team with five interceptions.
One little stat that intrigued me was that the Ravens scored 385 points in the 2008 season. That was good for 11th in the NFL. It was 38 points more than the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
The biggest reason for that is the turnover differential. The Ravens were a +13 in 2008, good for third best in the NFL. The Jets were a minus-1 last season, which ranked them 19th.
The Ravens defense scored six touchdowns. The Jets defense produced three. That 21-point difference is the difference between 11th and 18th in NFL scoring.
January 2009 signaled change in the nation. The leader has spoken of what he wants to achieve and the change of attitude that is now present. The Jets playbook has a new author and Jet fans can hope that the playbook is not all about the words hope and change, but in the words wins and championships.
Rex Ryan you are the leader, you have won the position, now you have to win over the fans hearts who have heard everything in the past. It will take more than X’s and O’s to get this love, but we hope to hang your jacket next to Weeb Ewbanks’ in the Jets Hall of Fame.
Right now, the pad is blank. Page one begins on September 13.
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