New York Jets: 5 Things Gang Green Must Do To Fly to the Super Bowl
For the second straight season they fell a game short of what every young football player dreams of—playing in the Super Bowl.
There are other positives, however, like the fact that the Jets have formed a real sense of pride and a pure team chemistry. They have built a dominant defense and have drafted a promising young quarterback in Mark Sanchez. Alas, inevitably and understandably, the notoriously brutal New York fans won't be happy with anything less than a championship.
This unique offseason has the Jets in a fairly precarious position. How the process is handled will shape the Jets' ability to reach the lofty expectations that they have created through both their play on the field and their talk off of it.
5. Address the Offensive Line
During the Jets' recent runs deep into the playoffs, their offensive line has always been a source of strength.
However, there are some holes, some of which began to be revealed during the course of last season.
Right tackle Damien Woody is aging and has been cut. If financially possible, the best option is for the Jets to look to fill this need via free agency. However, if Woody can be brought back for a bargain-basement price, his presence in the locker room, as well as his skills on the field, could still make him fairly valuable, especially with Wayne Hunter as a free agent as well. It should be said the Jets are high on their other guard Matt Slauson.
The more serious issue is at left guard. Last year the Jets drafted Vladimir Ducasse out of the University of Massachusetts in the second round. Unfortunately, he has yet to really pan out. While he is very athletic, he struggled with both the complicated NFL blocking schemes, as well as the extreme rise in competition he faced.
Needless to say, going up against defensive players from the CAA is not the same as blocking Haloti Ngata or Ray Lewis.
It's going to be tough with all the free agents the Jets have to deal with this year, but they need to bring in some sort of upgrade at guard. The glaring weak spot was evident in the Jets' first game of last year, when Haloti Ngata exploded through the line virtually untouched and sacked Mark Sanchez.
For a team that prides itself on its hard-nosed, all-weather running game, a versatile and talented offensive line is a must. The Jets must address certain positions along their front in order to protect both their present and their future.
Dave Baas, G, San Francisco 49ers
Willie Colon, T, Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Allow Shonn Greene To Have More of an Impact
Don't get me wrong—LaDainian Tomlinson is a legend and a future inductee to the Hall of Fame. However, It's time that more responsibility was placed on the younger backs of the New York Jets.
Shonn Greene has proved, on more than one occasion, that he plays some of his best football in the biggest of games. Not to mention that he suits the identity of the Jets and Rex Ryan perfectly.
The Jets could potentially find themselves without a future if their only major contributors are stars in the twilight of their careers. Without a doubt, veteran players are essential to any Super Bowl-caliber team. That being said, a balance is necessary.
L.T. can still come in during passing situations and utilize both his exceptional protection and receiving abilities, while still allowing Greene to flourish and wear down the defense with his Earl Campbell-esque running style.
It would be an added bonus if Tomlinson could help mentor both Greene and Joe McKnight. McKnight is much closer to Tomlinson's style and could one day prove to be at least a similar receiving threat.
3. Re-Sign Shaun Ellis
I know, I know; he's getting old and I just argued the Jets have to get younger, but stay with me.
Shaun Ellis is definitely not getting any younger, but for the Jets 3-4, he is still one of the best DEs for that kind of defense anywhere in the league, regardless of his age.
His leadership qualities are on the same level as Tony Richardson. These players may be nearing the end of their careers, but they provide a unity within the team that can be more valuable than anything else.
Shaun Ellis is an extremely talented, run-stopping defensive end with a pretty good ability to rush the passer. This, combined with the fact that the rest of the D-line is relatively average, makes him incredibly important. Time will tell how the rookies drafted this year will play, and a player like Shaun Ellis would only help their development.
2. Continue To Give Sanchez More Responsibility and Freedom
I know there are a lot of Sanchez haters out there, including some of whom are Jets fans.
I am not one of them. I do recognize that he has made too many mistakes and has had a tendency to force the ball. It must be pointed out that he has improved upon those issues during the course of his short career, though.
His touchdown-to-interception ratio was dramatically better in his second year in the league. He also threw for more yards and more touchdowns than the year before. More importantly, adjustments can be made to mechanics. Quarterbacks can mature and learn that they don't always have to make every play—sometimes protecting the ball is more important than a big play.
It's time for Sanchez to step up.
However, his ability to win games in the fourth quarter, as well as playing his best in the playoffs, means his potential is limitless. Joe Montana may have not had the best statistics, but he is regarded by most as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Why? Because he made the plays he had to make, he managed his team and he played almost superhuman in the playoffs.
That being said, at the moment, potential is all that Sanchez has shown. He can either be remembered as a guy like Dan Marino, who had a lot of talent, but could only get close to the Super Bowl. Or he can go down as one of the all-time greats with multiple Lombardi trophies.
1. Re-Sign Santonio Holmes at All Costs
I want you to take a second and just think about how many times you've seen Santonio Holmes make a game-winning play in his career.
He is the definition of clutch. He runs impeccable routes, has hands that could catch a bullet in a snowstorm and has sprinter speed.
Receivers like Holmes simply just do not come around very often. Not to mention that he became Sanchez's favorite target last year. Oh yeah, and his yards after the catch are among the elite of the NFL—one of the most underrated statistics when it comes to wideouts.
The pressure is on Jets owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum to find a way to bring Holmes back.
It would be ideal for the Jets if they could sign both Braylon Edwards and Holmes, but Santonio has to be the top priority. His combination of skills and intangibles make him a player who has the killer instinct necessary to close out games.
If a long-term deal gets done, don't be surprised to hear Sanchez and Holmes mentioned down the road with names like Montana and Rice, or Manning and Harrison.
Update: Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com is reporting that the Jets have come to terms with Santonio Holmes, citing a league source. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter says it is a five-year deal, in the area of $10 million a year.