Jets Acquisition Of Braylon Edwards A Gamble Worth Taking
When it comes to filling a need, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum is as aggressive as any general manager in pro football. Since April's draft when Gang Green selected Mark Sanchez with the fifth overall pick, there was a glaring need for the Jets to get the young USC product a lethal weapon to whom to throw.
Sure, he had Jerricho Cotchery on the squad, and Cotchery is having a brilliant year for Gang Green, leading the team with 23 receptions for 356 yards and a touchdown. He has been Sanchez's go-to-guy on slant routes and go-routes down the sideline; however, in last week's dreadful performance in New Orleans, it was clear that the Jets were still missing something.
That something was a big threat receiver,a big name that could force opponents to put an extra man into coverage, the kind of name that would give the Jets a pretty scary offense.
Today, Mike Tannenbaum got that man.
Edwards has been available for some time. He has been in former Jets coach and current Browns czar Eric Mangini's dog house since April. Mangini never was comfortable with Edwards' prima donna personality, and when Edwards got into a bar fight with Edward Givens, who just happens to be a buddy of Mr. Cleveland himself, basketball superstar LeBron James, it was curtains for the troubled receiver.
Edwards was never charged, but the NFL is looking into the matter as abusive of the NFL's conduct policy, meaning Edwards could be suspended if Roger Goodell deems it necessary.
Edwards has a history of violations off the field. He was late to a team meeting because he was attending an Ohio State vs. Michigan football game. He was fined $150 and given 30 hours of community service for driving at 120 mph, and has been termed a "clubhouse cancer" by some.
But, on the field, Edwards is one of the most talented receivers in the sport. In 2007, he had a career year with 80 catches, 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns. Since that time, his production has dropped. Last year, he had only 55 catches and three touchdowns; this year he has only 10 catches and zero touchdowns and didn't get a reception in Cleveland's 23-20 loss to the Bengals.
This raises questions: 1) Can Rex Ryan tame Braylon Edwards enough that he will become a better teammate and football player? 2) Can Edwards develop a solid enough rapport with the likes of Cotchery, Kris Jenkins and Bart Scott, all dependable, good guys that the Jets have on this team? 3) Can Edwards build chemistry fast enough with Sanchez? 4) Will Edwards reclaim his All-Star status?
To answer question number one remember this: Rex Ryan loves the bad boy image, especially when it is on display on the field. His reckless, physical and downright nasty philosophy should be welcoming to Edwards who is as physical as they come at 6'3" and 215 pounds.
Keep in mind the Jets have developed a "Inglorious Basterds" reputation through the league with their consistent trash talking, cocky and hard hitting/take no prisoners play. Edwards could fit right in as the bad boy star on the Badfellas.
In addition, Ryan is an excellent communicator compared to the dour Mangini. Ryan should be able to dig deep into Edwards' soul and bring out that great player who wants nothing but to be the best on the field.
On 2): A lot of rumors have circulated of late that Edwards is a "bad teammate," and a "primadonna"; funny to hear, considering his behaviors were not as well publicized as those of Terrell Owens or Brandon Marshall. If Edwards wants to be a part of this team, and if he wants to contribute to a team with Super Bowl aspirations, he needs to lay ego aside and listen to the likes of Kris Jenkins, Kerry Rhodes, Bart Scott, and Jerricho Cotchery. All four are leaders of the team and know the ins and outs of living in the New York/New Jersey area.
They will have to teach Edwards to cut the partying out a bit, especially in New York where paparazzi swarm like locusts and curious bystanders are at the ready with cell phones, blackberries and any other form of media to take his picture. Just ask Alex Rodriguez or Plaxico Burress about fishbowl living in New York.
This will be a challenge because most receivers nowadays tend to be diva's, desiring attention, glitz, fame, and the damn football. Curbing Edwards' enthusiasm is the Jets biggest challenge, but it can be done.
Many players with bad reputations have moved on to to better teams, only to mature when presented with a bigger challenge.
Randy Moss comes to mind. Granted Moss went from the Raiders to perennial Super Bowl contenders, the New England Patriots. There was no guarantee that Moss would become a good citizen in a media frenzied city like Boston; he could have easily pouted last year when Tom Brady went down, but, instead, he became the leader of the team and has greatly matured into a good citizen in his two years in New England. Can the same happen for Edwards in New York? Give it time because it could happen.
If one needs a sign that Edwards may be ready to grow up, listen to his press conference this afternoon where he told a reporter that he is "comfortable" with his contract status and does not want to open up negotiations at this time and "become a distraction" to the team. One can only hope that he means it.
On 3): The biggest key is on-the-field production. Can Edwards develop a good reputation with Sanchez, and can he reclaim his ability to make the tough catches? Edwards has problems with dropped passes over the last couple of years and has developed an M.O. as a receiver with alligator arms.
If Edwards is focused on football, and, if a change of scenery does pay dividends for him, then one can expect that the dropped passes should go down in numbers. This is not to say that Edwards will catch every single pass, but if his motivation changes, then perhaps his play will improve.
Edwards will likely demand that Mark Sanchez deliver him the ball in big moments. Two things have to happen here: 1) If Edwards wants the ball, he better catch it. 2) This is a chance for Sanchez to grow as a leader of this football team.
Dealing with egotistical people is part of life, and it is a big part of success or failure in the NFL. If Sanchez can shut out any criticism he may receive from Edwards and create a firm understanding with the wideout that he will get the ball if open down field, then it will go a long way in making Sanchez a better quarterback.
Chemistry will be important, and if Sanchez and Edwards can operate on the same page, the Jets could have one of the better offenses in football.
How does the Edwards move help the Jets? Clearly, it will force defenses to be more honest in their schemes against the Jets. In the past four weeks, opposing defenses have put eight in the box on Gang Green and have grounded Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. In turn, it has put a lot of pressure on Sanchez to make big throws, and the pressure got to the young Sanchez who threw three interceptions against the Saints.
Finally, Edwards' presence will free up a safety in coverage on Jerricho Cotchery. Cotchery should see more one-on-one coverage, giving him more opportunities to catch the football and make big plays. Edwards' presence will even create bigger receiving lanes in the middle of the field for Dustin Keller, whose production has tailed off since week one.
Some will say caveat emptor, buyer beware, when it comes to the Edwards acquisition. That is understandable. Edwards' behavior in Cleveland was uncalled for, and no one can blame any team for wanting to get rid of a person who has created a large divide in the clubhouse. Moreover, whenever a team trades its best offensive weapon, it usually raises eyebrows about the player, his personality, his motivation, and his skills set.
Edwards has the opportunity on sports grandest stage to prove his worth as a solid number one wide receiver, and a good citizen in the locker room and off the field.
Nevertheless, New York is a very unforgiving city to those who underachieve. New York chased Keyshawn Johnson out of town; it broke the reputation of Isiah Thomas; it almost sent Eli Manning packing if he didn't win a Super Bowl; it turned on Brett Favre, Chad Pennington, and Omar Minaya without a flicker of remorse and has tar and feathered Alex Rodriguez for years.
Edwards is the one who should beware — he is coming into a show bigger than himself. If he understands that, this trade will be a win-win for the Jets.
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