New York Jets: 5 Biggest Concerns Entering the 2011 NFL Season
With the New York Jets appearing in the AFC championship game in back-to-back years, the next logical step would be a Super Bowl appearance.
During the Rex Ryan era, the Jets have been known for a lot of things including being a disliked, arrogant and outspoken football team that attracts plenty of attention from the media.
Above all those things, though, the Jets have been a team opponents do not want to see on the opposite side of the field on Sunday afternoon.
Despite all the talent and success of the New York Jets, here are the five biggest concerns they have for this upcoming season.
Coverage of Secondary Receiving Options
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The Jets defensive backfield is one of the most talented secondaries in the league. Quarterbacks and receivers do not look forward to their matchup against the Jets to say the least. Although they are an elite secondary, the Jets do have areas that need great improvement.
One major area for improvement is finding a formidable third cornerback. Drew Coleman, although sub-par in coverage at times, was able to make big plays for the Jets last year. Without Coleman on the roster this year, the Jets must turn to Kyle Wilson to fill that area of weakness. Wilson, who struggled last year, has the opportunity to have a bounce back in his sophomore season and positively impact the Jets secondary.
Another concern for the Jets is their inability to pick up tight ends in coverage. Tight ends were an issue for the Jets through the whole 2010 season. Without addressing these weaknesses, the Jets elite secondary could end up underachieving, which would greatly hurt this team's chances of making a run deep into the postseason.
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It's no secret the Jets have been very successful the past few seasons running the football. The offense has depended on their ability to move the football on the ground to sustain drives. This season they will put the burden on the shoulders of running back Shonn Greene.
Greene, a third round draft choice out of Iowa in 2009, was an absolute beast in college. The Jets were already deep at the position with both Thomas Jones and Leon Washington on the depth chart but still could not ignore his potential and drafted him with the 65th overall pick. In his rookie season he played an instrumental role in the Jets playoff run exploding in the postseason for 304 yards over three games. With Greene rushing for 5.6 yards a carry in the 2010 playoffs the Jets felt he was ready to take the majority of the carries for them the following year.
In the offseason the Jets let go of Thomas Jones and signed LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson played like he had something to prove in the early part of the season and became the Jets feature back. Greene still carried a great deal of the workload, rushing for 766 yards on 185 carries. With Tomlinson a year older and willing to accept the role of a third down back the Jets will turn to Greene to become their primary rusher this upcoming season.
Is Shonn Greene capable of being the explosive runner he was in college and in the 2010 playoffs over the course of a whole NFL season? He has shown flashes of brilliance and been very efficient at times. The third year back is a great north-south runner whose bruising body often times punishes defenders at the end of runs. Major concerns are holding onto the ball and whether or not he can play at his top level over a 16 game NFL season. He has shown he can be successful supplementing another back in the Jets running game this year we will see if he is really a starting NFL running back.
Wide Receiver Signings
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The Jets went out and made a splash in the free agent market completely changing the makeup of their wide receiving core. After resigning Santonio Holmes to a five-year deal the Jets chose to go in a different direction than many would have thought. Rather than re-signing Braylon Edwards the Jets chose to sign Plaxico Burress to a one-year, $3 million deal. After that the Jets released Cotchery and signed veteran receiver Derrick Mason. There is no question that these acquisitions are very talented and both Burress and Mason have had phenomenal careers but still there is plenty to be concerned about.
Plaxico Burress has not played professional football since November 23, 2008. One can assume spending this much time away from the game would have to have some negative effects on a players ability to perform. Along with his absence from the game Burress is turning 34 on Sunday. Will Plax at age 34 be able to perform at the level the Jets expect him to?
As for Derrick Mason age would also be the major concern. At 37 years old can he be an impact player in the Jets passing game? Mason has certainly proven he can still play catching 61 passes last year and seven touchdowns but how much longer can he continue to be a serious threat in the NFL.
The biggest concern with the free agent signings would be the direction the Jets organization seems to be headed. It looks to be steering towards a more pass oriented team than it has been in the past under Rex Ryan. So now that the Jets made major moves to fill in their receiving core with accomplished veteran stars is Mark Sanchez ready to be a major strength to this offense rather than an efficient game manager? Last season when the games were on the line in the fourth quarter Sanchez proved he could win under pressure, this season he will have to make major contributions throughout the whole game for the Jets to be successful.
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Despite their recent success the Jets have struggled rushing the passer for the past few seasons. It appears like its more to worry about now than ever. Losing Shaun Ellis to the rival New England Patriots makes this weakness that much more of a concern. The Jets now quickly come dependant on the performance of first round draft choice Muhammad Wilkerson.
Aside from Wilkerson the Jets need more production out of their defensive line in respect to getting after the quarterback. Calvin Pace needs to have a big year from the line backing position and consistently put pressure on the quarterback. Rex Ryan is a defensive mastermind so look for his schemes to help mask this problem but without the defensive line being able to create pressure on its own this team will struggle to be an elite defense.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots won 14 games last year and have only improved this offseason. Adding Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis makes this team scary good. Although Ochocinco and Haynesworth are known for on and off the field antics New England has done a great job at eliminating distractions. Beyond these additions the Patriots haven't really lost anything. A young defense has a year more experience. They still have weapons like Welker, Branch, Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Woodhead.
Most importantly they have a quarterback named Tom Brady and a head coach named Bill Belichick. These two iconic NFL figures will be out for blood against the Jets who ended their Super Bowl hopes in the divisional round of the playoffs just a season ago. If the Jets want to win the Super Bowl their biggest concern should be the Patriots as the road to an AFC East division title always goes through New England.