In the upcoming season, the New York Jets have ushered in the winds of change in many different areas. Former Head Coach Eric Mangini and his staff are gone. Last year's savoir and future hall-of-fame quarterback Brett Favre is also gone.
There will be several new faces that will play key roles in the Jets plight. Newly minted quarterback Mark Sanchez will be the primary face we will attribute to the reloading effort of the Jets. He will be supported by new sideline boss Rex Ryan who comes north to the Jets after overseeing the outstanding base of the Baltimore Ravens defense.
Ryan has transplanted the Jets defense with quality talent that will fly north with him from Baltimore. The headline free agent coming to the Jets is former Raven linebacker Bart Scott who teamed with Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs to form an imposing group. Joining Scott is safety Jim Leonhard who also comes from the Ravens.
Leonhard teamed with Ed Reed to have a productive season as the two were an impressive last line of defense.
As for the upcoming season in New York, the Jets are admittedly reloading a bit. Rookie quarterbacks struggle as it generally takes time to get the playbook down. There will be some struggles for Sanchez, however, the way Ryan has constructed his team is aimed to take pressure off Sanchez.
Sanchez has not been named the starting quarterback yet over Kellen Clemens, but many feel that it is only a matter of time. Consider that to get Sanchez, the Jets gave up their first and second round draft picks, as well as defensive end Kenyon Coleman, safety Abram Elam, and quarterback Brett Ratliff. That is a heck of a steep price to pay.
Ryan is hoping that he will be able to run the ball at least 30 times a game behind the trustworthy legs of Thomas Jones and third round pick, former Iowa running back Shonn Greene.
To complement the running game, Ryan hopes that the defense will step up and take pressure off the large expectations that Sanchez is shouldering coming into the season.
Unfortunately for the Jets, they are in a division that has three teams who have all improved. The New England Patriots improve simply by getting all-world quarterback Tom Brady back.
The Miami Dolphins under the expert tutelage of Bill Parcells are going to be a physical team that will improve with some confidence after last year's success. Lastly the Buffalo Bills will be improved as the "TO Show" comes to town.
The Bills offense could be explosive with the additions of Terrell Owens, second round picks at guard in Eric Wood and Andy Levitre, and fourth round steal tight End Shawn Nelson.
For the Jets, if Ryan goes with the rookie in Sanchez, I think an "8-8" record would be a strong season. The AFC East faces an extremely tough schedule in their crossover against the AFC South (Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and Tennessee).
The division's crossover in the NFC is the NFC South (New Orleans, Carolina, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay). The Jets will surely face some growing pains with Sanchez at the helm.
The running game and defense will keep the Jets in games; however, Sanchez will end up making some rookie mistakes through the season. Heck, Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions in his rookie year.
The Jets will play a lot of close, low-scoring, defensive games, and Sanchez will have his highlights, but surely he will also make some mistakes that will lead to some heartbreaking defeats.
Expectations can be altered however. The Jets certainly can exceed those expectations should some dominoes fall the right way. Should Brady go down again or not fully recover, the division would become wide open again as there is no Josh McDaniels to mentor Brady's backup and there is no Matt Cassel this time around.
The Dolphins could potentially fall back to earth with a tougher schedule which would bode well for New York.
If the defense is as dominant as Ryan thinks, the Jets have much to be optimistic about.
If Thomas Jones gets into camp and plays at the same level as last year, the Jets could very much take on the Ravens look of the past few years and as we saw, that's not a bad thing. Then it will be about keeping Sanchez comfortable and playing solid football.
The Jets do face some obstacles though. If Sanchez is not ready off just 16 college starts at USC, there will be major growing pains. If Thomas Jones does not play at the same level as last year, more pressure will fall on Sanchez. The defense has some new key players and there is the chance that it could take time for the group to gel.
The other main obstacle finally could be Rex Ryan. By no means am I implicating Ryan will fail. However, many successful coordinators in the past have gone to fail once they get the top job.
Gregg Williams ran a top defense in Tennessee, however, failed miserably in Buffalo. Ryan has the pedigree and past to be a great head coach but it's up to him to establish himself as a top notch head coach.
Fans in New York and New Jersey are excited about the upcoming season for the Jets. Expectations are high with Mark Sanchez in the fold and Rex Ryan replacing Eric Mangini. It simply comes down to whether Sanchez and Ryan are ready to take the engines, and propel the Jets back into the playoffs in 2009.