Six Magnified Positions on the 2009 New York Jets
Here is a list of six New York Jet players and/or positions that will be under the spotlight (or magnifying glass) in 2009.
While the quarterback position is usually the most magnified, with the 2009 Jets, the magnification on new quarterback, Mark Sanchez should reach about 100 times magnification.
The rest of the list may contain a surprise or two.
1. Mark Sanchez - Quarterback
Barring an injury; it would be quite a surprise if Sanchez was not the week one starter for the Jets. Current backup Kellen Clemens, a second round pick for the Jets in 2006, has yet to produce much in the league.
I am not aware of any picture with Jets owner Woody Johnson patting Kellen Clemens on the back.
Why Sanchez is put under the magnifying glass in 2009?
Because of Sanchez’s success at USC and the media attention that followed the Jets trading up has already created a frenzy in the New York tabloids.
Former Jet top quarterback picks like Browning Nagle, Chad Pennington, and Kellen Clemens did not have the media attention that is showcased currently on Sanchez.
Ken O’Brien was magnified more because of the 1983 Draft, where six quarterbacks were selected. John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino went to the Hall of Fame from that draft.
To say that Sanchez is the most magnified quarterback since the Jets selected Joe Namath as the first pick in the 1965 AFL Draft, is not that much of a stretch.
One thing that Sanchez has going for him in a positive light is that, while he is replacing a legend in Brett Favre; Favre left a sour taste in the mouths of Jet fans in 2008.
His great 8-3 start went down the drain as the Jets went 1-4 down the stretch. Many blame Favre’s risky passes that led to interceptions as the reason for the Jets missing the playoffs.
The team that the Jets traded to get Sanchez is the Cleveland Browns. The Browns happen to be coached by a man who the Jets know a little. It is their former coach, Eric Mangini. Most NFL pundits believe that the Jets made a great move.
But should Sanchez not turn out good for the Jets; it may be their old coach with the last laugh.
In a way, Sanchez may hold the destinies of two teams.
2. Thomas Jones - Running back
The one player besides Sanchez that has made the most headlines has been Jones. Thomas Jones is coming off his best season as a Jet, and possibly his best season in nine prior years in the NFL.
Jones had a career-high 13 rushing touchdowns in 2008. Jones led the AFC in rushing yards and was selected to the Pro Bowl.
Jones enters his third year of a four-year contract he signed when he was traded from the Chicago Bears to the Jets in 2007.
The big reason why I do not see the Jets giving him an extension is his age. He has crossed the 30-year line in terms of running backs. When the NFL kicks off in 2009, he will be 31.
The best running back in Jet history, Curtis Martin, ran for a league high 1,697 yards, in 2004, when he was 31. When he turned 32, he ran for less than half of that number in the 2005 season. That season would be the last as an active running back in the NFL.
Why Jones is under the magnifying glass?
The competition at running back is just as big of a factor as his age.
The Jets already have Leon Washington, who also has not only complained about his contract, but the amount of his playing time with the offense. Washington enters 2009 in the final season of his rookie contract.
The Jets made a splash on day two of the NFL Draft as well. The Jets traded three of their 2009 picks to move up to the top pick on day two to select Iowa RB Shonn Greene.
“This is a young man that I think has the ability to be a starting running back in this league,” said Jets head coach Rex Ryan.
If you are Thomas Jones, coming off your best year, it cannot make you feel too comfortable that the Jets would want you to be the star for the next few seasons. Do not be surprised if No. 20 does not land on his feet with a new club in 2010.
3. Bart Scott - Linebacker
The former Ravens’ linebacker was considered to be one of the top unrestricted free agents in the 2009 NFL offseason. He signed a six-year, $48 million contract on Feb. 27, 2009. Scott is a player who spent seven years with Rex Ryan.
He is expected to know the system and be able to teach it to his new teammates.
What puts Bart Scott under the magnifying glass?
He is supposed to be the new leader of the Jet defense. While Scott was considered one of the leaders of the Raven defense, he was not the captain.
That belonged to the man to Scott’s right, 10-time Pro Bowl selection, Ray Lewis. How much will not having Ray Lewis by his side affect Scott’s performance?
One thing will be for sure, the Jet defense will be looking at Bart Scott for leadership.
4. Jerricho Cotchery - Wide receiver
Cotchery is the only receiver on the Jets that have played at least one whole season as a starter at the receiver position. The Jets lost veteran Laveranues Coles in free agency to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Jets did not sign a free agent in the offseason.
There has been talk of a trade with the Browns for Braylon Edwards, and there have been speculations that the Jets have interest in former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress. But, as of now, none of that has happened.
Why Cotchery is under the magnifying glass?
Cotchery has proven to be a very good starting receiver. But, can he be the No. 1 receiver? Coles was the No. 1 for the past four years. Can Cotchery handle being number one and receiving double-teams he likely never saw much of while Coles was on the opposite side?
The wide receiver position is considered to be the weakest position on the Jet team in terms of depth. Third-year wideouts, Chansi Stuckey and David Clowney are expected to compete for Cotchery’s former No. 2 role with the club.
Stuckey had three touchdowns in the first three games of the 2008, but had none after that fast start. Clowney had a nice preseason, but missed most of the 2008 season with a collarbone injury.
No matter who is named the starter for the Jets, the quarterback throwing the ball with be the third different opening day starter for the Jets in the past three seasons.
5. The Jets' Kicking Game
In 2005, the Jets thought they had solved the problem to their kicking game for a long time. In the 2005 Draft, the Jets drafted Mike Nugent with the 47th overall pick in the draft.
That same year, the team added former Australian Rules Football player, Ben Graham, to be the new punter. In 2008, both would play their last game with the team.
Nugent was in injured in the week one game in Miami, and never took a kick for the Jets after that game.
The Jets brought in veteran kicker Jay Feely in 2008. Feely did a nice job for the Jets connecting on 24 of his 28 field goal attempts. While Feely had a nice season, he does have one thing against him.
The Jets are Feely’s fourth team in four years. He does not have a history of sticking around.
On the punting side, the Jets cut Graham twice in 2008. Once on Sept. 22, after he had an injury. The Jets cut him again on Sept. 29, as his performance continued to lag. This time the two parted ways for good.
The Jets brought in free agent, Reggie Hodges to replace Graham.
Graham moved on to sign with the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 20, where he played for one week and served as an injury replacement. On Dec. 1, Graham was signed by the Arizona Cardinals and later became the first Australian to play in a Super Bowl.
Hodges was released by the Jets on Apr. 27, 2009.
The Jets brought in two rookie free agents, Eric Wilbur out of Florida and T.J. Conley out of Idaho to compete for the punting job.
6. Vernon Gholston - Linebacker
The outside linebacker was selected as the 6th in the 2008 NFL Draft. Fans expected him to be a sack specialist.
But, Gholston did not start a game for the Jets last season and had only five solo tackles. He has been given the nickname “The Ghost” by some fans.
What hurts Jets fans as much as Gholston’s poor performance was the arch rival Patriots selection of Jerod Mayo, a linebacker, taken four spots after the Jets’ pick. Mayo was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2008.
Mayo had 20 tackles against the Jets, when the two teams met in November.
Why Gholston is under the magnifying glass?
The feeling is that if Rex Ryan and his staff cannot get more production out of Gholston; it is doubtful that anyone else can. "The Ghost" may completely disappear from New York.