With an untested first time head coach, no starting QB, a new stadium and a pricing plan that may leave many fans staying home, The New York Jets 2009 season may define the Woody Johnson/Mike Tannebaum era.
New head coach Rex Ryan starts his first stint as an NFL head coach following 10 seasons coaching the brutal Baltimore Ravens defense and Jets fans' have their fingers crossed this isn't deja vu' all over again. Ryan's father, Buddy Ryan the defensive genius of the 1980's Chicago Bears never managed to be more than a controversial so-so head coach with the Eagles, Oilers & Cardinals. And with Gruden & Shanahan available after the close of the '08 season - Tannebaum is counting on Ryan following in Mike Tomlin steps and not Pops.
This year's training camp will bring a different type of excitement than 2008 when Brett Favre flew into Jetdom with a Namath level celebrity. 2009's camp will find highly touted first round pick Mark Sanchez battling Kellen Clemens for the starting QB job at the new training facility in Florham Park, NJ. He'll also be facing the doubts of Jets fans wondering if Tannebaum should have pursued Jay Cutler; or even if this was the right year to pick a QB in the first round (Sanchez was the starter at USC for only one year). They could have picked Brady Quinn two years ago or waited a year for Bradford/Tebow/McCoy.
Sanchez has the size and arm needed for a NFL QB with good speed and an athleticism that reminds many of another USC QB, Carson Palmer. An early test for Coach Ryan will be his handling of the prize number 1 pick and whether he nurtures Sanchez like Palmer, or lets him start as a rookie hoping he is another Matt Ryan.
Jets fans are counting on the running game with Thomas Jones coming off a 2008 season rushing for 1,312 yards; and with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL returning intact, a healthy Jones is poised to match or improve on a career season.
Add in the explosiveness of Leon Washington who averages 6 - 8 yards every time he touches the ball and the Jets offense will be moving the chains. Jerricho Cotchery will be the primary receiver for the Jets, and with the loss of wide receiver Laveranues Coles to the Bengals; will attract the attention of every defensive back the Jets face this season.
Defensively, Ryan should have an immediate impact bringing the Ravens aggressive style to a solid Jets group led by linebackers Eric Barton, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas. Shaun Ellis and Kris Jenkins anchor a strong defensive line and Darrelle Revis has grown into one of the best defensive backs in the game.
Leon Washington will continue to excite the throngs of Jets fans with his explosive brand of punt returns and kickoff returns.
Mike Tannebaum and Woody Johnson have placed big bets on Head Coach Rex Ryan having the Jets defense playing Ravens style and Mark Sanchez emulating Matt Ryan's rookie season in order to fill those very expense seats at the new Jets Stadium with the faithful chanting J-E-T-S, JETS! JETS! JETS!