Taking Flight: Previewing The New York Jets For 2009

Kevin DeBenedettoCorrespondent ISeptember 9, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 3:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets looks to make a pass play in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFL preseason game at Giants Stadium on September 3, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The NFL season is upon is. With only one day standing in the way between us fans and the pigskin, the anticipation is there. All our questions will soon be answered, and the hopes we have for our team will be filled or shattered.

We all have our dreams. We want to see our team captain, holding up the Lombardi Trophy in Febuary, with tears in his eyes. We want to feel the joy of watching our passion win, feeling what it is like to be on top.

Unfortunately, for Jet fans like me, winning a Superbowl hasn't happened in a long time.

We've gone through a lot of pain. Ken O'Brian over Dan Marino. Passing over Warren Sapp in the 1999 draft, watching Doug Brian miss multiple field goals in the playoffs against the Steelers.

Watching Al Groh, Pete Carroll, and Rich Kotite lead (or lack of) this team for years also killed us inside. That list is only the start.

For once in a long time though, this off season has brought a lot of hope for Jet fans. They brought over Rex Ryan from the Baltimore Ravens, who has instilled a hard-nose defense, with a running game that should run over people.

Along with Ryan, the Jets acquired Bart Scott, Marques Douglas, and Jim Leonhard from free agency, all former Ravens. They traded for former pro-bowl cornerback Lito Sheppard, who although hasn't shown much promise in the pre season, if on track can be a dominate number two cornerback.

During the draft, the Jets once again made headlines by trading with the Cleveland Browns in the number five slot, to take USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, who should be the leader of this team for years to come. They traded up once more in the third round, and selected running back Shonne Greene out of Iowa, who is a bruiser.

All in all, many Jet fans are excited. No one believes they will make the Superbowl, but playoffs aren't a stretch. To further know the strengths and weaknesses of the Jets, I will break down their team position by position.


Quarterback- Rookie Mark Sanchez received the starting nod in the pre season. He has shown promise since, whether it be his first ever professional pass in week one, keeping his poise against the Ravens in week two, or out dueling Eli Manning in week three. Many Jet fans hope that a Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco season is in store for Sanchez.

Sanchez is backed up by fourth-year veteran Kellen Clemens. Once again, Clemens was not able to win the starting role in New York. He has not shown leadership qualities, a smart mind while under pressure, or anything you want from a quarterback. Many think that third string Eric Ainge will be named the number two in mid year. Rookie Kevin O'Connell was recently acquired in a trade with the Detroit Lions.

Grade: C

Runningback- After a great year, Thomas Jones is back as the starter. He had a career year last year, leading the AFC in yards and scoring 15 touchdowns. No one expects the same output this time, but he should have a good year.

Leon Washington is back and electric as always. He can score from any place on the field, is a threat carrying or receiving. He puts a great touchdown ability for the offense. Rookie Shonne Greene will be given most of the red zone carries, as his big bruising build is perfect for that situation.

Grade: A-

Tight End- Second year Dustin Keller looks to come back and deliver a great receiving year from the tight end. Statistically, Keller had one of the best rookie years at the tight end position in recent history. That is a great future sign for Keller, who is labeled as a wide receiver in a tight end's body.

The Jets also recently signed Ben Hartsock, who is known for his stellar blocking ability. It was a great depth signing and will provide a great blocker for the passing and running game.

Grade: B

Wide Receiver- This is the weak spot of the Jets' offense. Jerricho Cotchery takes over as the number one receiver for the first time in his career, and many wonder if he can be a number one. No one denies his ability as a number two though.

At the number two spot, it looks to be Chansi Stuckey. Stuckey doesn't have impressive speed,or size, but he makes up for it by running crisp, clean routes and having sure hands. He has became a favorite for Sanchez during camp and pre season.

The depth is there. In the slot, you have speedy David Clowney. He has always lit it up in the pre season, and looks to show off his speed this year. Brad Smith, a Mangini favorite, looks to be in the fourth slot, and will provide some catches and trick play possibilities.

Grade: C-

Offensive Line- Being one of the best last year, all five starters come back this year. The problem is, they have little to no depth on the line. If one of the starters goes down, they will have problems keeping the line strong.

The line is anchored by center Nick Mangold, who has been labeled by some as the best center in football, and rightfully so. D'Brickashaw Ferguson has become a decent left tackle, having his best year last year, and Jet fans are hoping his progress improves. Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, and Brandon Moore are all run blocking beasts, who open holes amazingly.

Grade: B+

Overall Offense Grade: C


Defensive Line- This is one of the more interesting spots of the defensive side of the ball. Kris Jenkins anchors the defensive line, and he is one of the best tackles in the game. The end position is interesting though. Sean Ellis is a good player, but has been having problems on and off the field as of late, the most recent being suspended the first game. Marques Douglas is a very underrated run stopper, and has had the third most tackles for loss in the league since 2003 (with 41.5 tackles). If the defensive ends can stay healthy, expect a good season from the line.

Grade: B-

Linebackers- This is a very solid spot for the defense. Recently acquired Bart Scott will anchor the middle, along with tackle machine David Harris. OLB Calvin Pace, although suspended for the first four games, is a jack of all trades linebacker. He can rush the quarterback, cover tight ends, and tackle. The weakest spot is the other side, where Bryan Thomas is starting. Although he has shown signs of brilliance, overall he has been lackluster since he has received his big contract.

Overall, this could be the bright spot for the defense. The pressure on the quarterback should be high, and the tackle total should be astronomical. I expect big things from this core of linebackers.

Grade: A

Secondary- The Jets have the best cornerback in the league in Darelle Revis. Period. I don't want to hear about Asomugha, Mathis, or Bailey. Revis has been an absolute stud since being in the league. The ball is simply not thrown to his side of the field. He shut down Randy Moss twice last year, and the year before that. You can look it up, whenever Revis was on him, he barely made any noise. His only touchdowns came when Revis was not covering him. He can guard any receiver one on one, and does it well.

Kerry Rhodes is a top three safety in the league. After having a down year last year (mostly due to Mangini's scheme), he looks to rebound this year with a dominating year. He wants to be a ballhawk, and he can do exactly that.

Jim Leonhard came over from the Ravens, where he filled in for an injured Dawan Landry. He should be a good starter, who does his role well playing next to Rhodes and letting him play freely. Lito Sheppard has had a bad offseason so far, but hopefully can pull it together for the regular season.

Grade: A

Overall Defense Grade: A-

Special Teams and Coaches

Kicking and Punting- Jay Feeley is back, and will provide a solid, stable leg for the Jets. He will be able to hit the deep 40-yard field goals, and be consistent from inside 30.

Can anyone name the Jets' punter? It seems like it has changed daily. It has been a terrible position for the Jets so far.

Grade: C

Kick/Punt return- Leon Washington is back taking the kickoffs, which will provide great position for the offense to start. Jim Leonhard will be taking the punts this year, and should be able to field the balls fine, and not make mistakes.

Grade: A-

Coaches- Rex Ryan is a rookie head coach, who has done a lot of work creating a hard hitting team, and done more work talking about his team. He has made a lot of Jet fans happy, hoping for a great future.

Even though Mike Pettine was signed to be the Jets' defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan has said he will make the play calls. That is great news for Jets fan, after what he established in Baltimore.

The Jets kept Brian Schottenheimer as their offensive coordinator. Without Mangini there to limit the play calling like he has done in the past years, Jet fans should experience some great play calling that should help the offense.

Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B

Overall, the Jets should be interesting to watch. The defense should keep them in every game this season, and a lot hinges on the offense. Will the running game be able to keep them in the action? Will Mark Sanchez be able to stay focused, and not make rookie mistakes? Can he make the big throws when the Jets need them?

This year is a great way into seeing indicator of how the Jets will be in the future.

They have a tough schedule, labeled as the 24th hardest schedule in the league. They are also in the AFC East, and will have to battle the dangerous Patriots twice. Along with being in the AFC, will have to beat out teams such as the Steelers, Ravens, Colts, Titans, and Chargers to make it far in the playoffs and the Superbowl.

It should be a fun year for us Jet fans, filled with joyous moments and heart aches.