Jets' fans, breathe deep. It's almost football season!
After last year's disappointing finish, owner Woody Johnson and GM Mike Tannenbaum went out and made changes. Starting with the firing of Eric Mangini, and the hiring of brash defensive guru Rex Ryan.
Before the fans knew it draft day was among us, and the Jets made a bold move—jump up to fifth overall to draft USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and then again to draft Iowa running back Shonn Greene. Now let's get down to business: with these additions, where does the team stand?
Quarterback: The Jets made a blockbuster trade to get Mark Sanchez in the draft. Not so fast Jet fans, Rex Ryan has said he's not going to be just handed the starting role. Vet Kellen Clemens and Sanchez are going to battle it out this training camp and preseason. Neither have the experience, but both have very good arm strength, with Sanchez possessing a more accurately thrown ball.
Running Back: Thomas Jones, fresh off his 1,300-yard season rushing, looks to continue his success in '09. Leon Washington has been lightning in a bottle for the Jets—this man can do it all—rushing, catching, and is a special teams monster (voted to last year's Pro Bowl). Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has said he will be looking to make Leon a more integral part in the Jets' rushing attack.
On top of Leon and Thomas, the Jets also made a move in the third round of this year's draft, moving up to draft Iowa back Shonn Greene. Greene will be used in the short yardage situations and could possibly end up a "feature back" in the future.
Offensive Line: What a difference two years make—the Jets' offensive line is looking like one of the best, if not the best, in the game today. LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who is usually quiet, has been chirping this offseason, stating that he will be in the Pro Bowl this season. Many regard him as one of the best pass blocking left tackles in the game.
LG Alan Faneca and RT Damien Woody are entering their second season on the Jets and plan on continuing to give the Jets great running lanes and keeping Sanchez or Clemens clean in the pocket.
Tight End: Pass-catching tight end Dustin Keller has been working hard this offseason with Ferguson to improve his run blocking. It's no secret that Keller is a mismatch for everyone on the field; he's too fast for a linebacker and too big for a safety to cover.
Fantasy owners will love the kid, and Clemens and Sanchez also will be looking for him.
With Rex Ryan's plan to run the ball, they have converted defensive end Kareem Brown at tight end who looks to be a serviceable blocker. They also have been planning on using offensive tackles to help with the blocking.
Wide Receiver: With the departure of Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery has been thrust into the No. 1 slot, the question that remains to be answered is: who fills the other spots? Chansi Stuckey is a very good receiver but many will argue that he is a slot receiver only.
I personally think if David Clowney stays healthy he will be a good No. 2 guy to complement Jerricho; he has the deep speed we all love and solid hands.
If not Clowney, what about the versatile Brad Smith? He could very well be put into the starting role. Smith played QB at Missouri so if they wanted to run a variation of the Wildcat offense it wouldn't be a huge tell.
Defensive Line: Mammoth nose tackle Kris Jenkins looks to do what he did for the first eight games last season—stuff the run, which when he's healthy he's one of the best at the position. Vet Shaun Ellis has been suspended for one game for a marijuana possession during last season.
Other than those two, Rex Ryan's attacking defense will feature rotations, including Kris Jenkins lining up on some downs at defensive end. Look for Vernon Gholston to have his hand in the dirt like at Ohio State. Hopefully, he can be a force at his more natural position.
Linebacker: Upon Rex Ryan's hiring, it didn't take long for him to get "his guys," one of whom is "The Mad Backer" Bart Scott. His signing will bring in a guy who knows what Rex is trying to do on defense and allow the man to his side—David Harris—to become a playmaker again.
The team will be without Calvin Pace for four games because he violated league rules on performance enhancers. Undrafted free agent Jamaal Westerman is a guy that coach Ryan has been raving about in camp and can play both inside and outside linebacker. My big question is: Can Gholston become a factor?
Corner back: Darelle Revis has been nothing short of shut down in the passing game last season, causing teams to pick apart to other side of the field; the addition of Lito Sheppard should help to remedy that. And Dwight Lowery, who looked fantastic in the first few weeks of last season, will look to develop into the start he flashed potential of last season.
This is a position that will either sink or swim this season, the attacking style of defense Rex is implementing will use a ton of man-to-man coverages on the outside, if the linebackers and defensive linemen can't get pressure, then the corners better step up.
Safety: Kerry Rhodes looks to turn into the playmaker he once was, stating Eric Mangini's passive defense restricted his ability into over the top help. Jim Leonhard was brought in to help shore up the secondary and implement the Rex Ryan attacking defense. Look for Eric Smith to make some big plays and even bigger hits.
Kicker: Not a position of worry, Jay Feely was very good last season when Mike Nugent went down in week one. Hopefully Jay stays healthy, as this year will feature lots and lots of field goals.
Punter: The least talked about position battle—Journeyman Reggie Hodges vs. the world. Since camp, the Jets have brought in T.J. Conley (waived) and currently have Ken Parish. I was somewhat impressed with Conley because he looked to have a good leg and hang time.
- Who starts week one? Hopefully the decision is made soon.
- Can Gholston live up to his hype?
- Depth, what happens if, God forbid, Nick Mangold or Alan Faneca go down for an extended period of time?
- Who's our punter? He will be an asset in the field position game.
Don't Sleep On Me! My Potential Sleepers
WR David Clowney: Two preseasons in a row he has been a monster showing great hands and even greater speed. If he stays healthy, he will win the No. 2 job and be a nightmare for corners to cover.
LB Jamaal Westerman: When Rex Ryan says someone is going to be good, he means it. With Pace being sidelined for four games, he will have plenty of chances to show his stuff.