Home > NFL, Roster Roundouts > Roster Roundouts: A New York Jets Preseason Report

Roster Roundouts: A New York Jets Preseason Report

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The New York Jets will become Mark Sanchez’ team at some point in the early part of this year.  And once they do, there will be a very rare NFL grace period.  There is perhaps no other team that could go 5-11 this year and produce long-term optimism within the fanbase, but such is the case of the 2009 New York Jets.

Call it the allure of Mark Sanchez.  Jets fans want to see this man play, and they want to see him play right away.  If he struggles, they will give him a hard time, but when they open the 2010 season, there will be plenty of 11 and 12 win predictions for Rex Ryan’s Jets.  In fact, the only “wrong” decision in the eyes of many would be to give Kellen Clemens the job.

Here’s the fun part: if the Jets truly think they can win this year, don’t they have to give the keys to the 4-year vet?  I know, I know, Rex Ryan coached a defense that won with a rookie QB last year, but there were few expectations in Baltimore last year, and the Ravens surprised a bunch of people.  Now, the Jets were a 9-7 team last year with Brett Favre at quarterback, and as recently as last November, they were being hailed as the AFC’s premier team.  A 1-4 finish help kick-start a rebuilding project.

flickr.com/FH Alexander

flickr.com/FH Alexander

This is a team with a very strong offensive line, more than capable of protecting a rookie quarterback like Sanchez, and opening up gaping holes in the running game, but if you look at the passing weapons, there is not much there for any quarterback.  In this aspect, the team is basically set up for a rookie quarterback: few reads, get the ball out of his hand quickly, and pound the rock whenever in doubt.  But there’s only so much you can squeeze out of an offense like that.

When you build an offense to develop with it’s rookie quarterback, you might as well play the rookie, but there’s some reason to think that the Jets might be passing a great opportunity to compete now.  When I put them to the QDS test, they scored a 10, making them an average team.  Not to suggest any sort of infallibility here, but that suggests they are on level ground with the Jaguars and Bengals, and just a hair behind the Texans and Ravens for the 6th playoff spot in the AFC.  That’s a 15-30% shot at the playoffs, a better chance than either the Dolphins or the Bills have this year.

The reason, the concentration of the talent on this team, is on the Jets’ defense.  Kris Jenkins returns as a dominant 3-4 nose tackle.  He wore down at the end of last season as the Jets defense declined from it’s period of dominance in November to the team that was lit up by the Broncos, 49ers, and Seahawks.  But this year, he will be protecting one of the best 3-4 ILB duos, as David Harris returns and will be paired with free agent signing Bart Scott.  When the strength of the front seven gets combined with a shutdown corner in Darrell Revis, and a top safety pair in Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard, we’re talking about a top half defense with the ability to be a top ten unit if Rex Ryan is as good as advertised.

The weakness on the unit is much-maligned CB Lito Sheppard, who comes over in a trade from Philadelphia.  At only 28 years of age, Sheppard has been to two pro-bowls, most recently in 2006.  But in the last two seasons, Sheppard has been beyond awful.  It’s the same scheme he played in he was a pro bowler, so maybe Rex Ryan thinks he can bring him back from the verge of busting, but Sheppard should be a very frequent target for quarterbacks this season, and will negate much of the strength of the secondary.

The other wild card on the defense is second year pass rusher Vernon Gholston.  With Calvin Pace suspended for the first four games of the year, Gholston might only have one chance to save himself from bustville.  He recorded no sacks, no hits, and no quarterback pressures last year, though that’s a little misleading.  He wasn’t asked to rush as often as he would have liked, and then when he didn’t produce in limited time, he saw his playing time cut.  His college production suggests success at this level, but when Pace gets back, the window of opportunity might have closed on Gholston.

The 2009 Jets are an interesting case study.  The Baltimore Ravens were a playoff team last year.  Now, what if you take that team, take the No. 2 defense and reduce it’s quality by 50-75%, then center the offense mostly around the quarterback instead of around the running game.  That’s the Jets this year.  11 wins?  Not happening.  8 or 9 wins?  Maybe.  6 or 7 wins?  That’s more like it.

Jets Camp, Cortland, NY

There’s a lot of undrafted players on this team, both from last year’s roster and this year’s signings.  Rex Ryan will have to separate the men from the boys throughout the rest of this camp.

Wide Receiver: Brad Smith vs. Aundrae Allison vs. Wallace Wright

Brad Smith was a Mangini pick in 2006 who hasn’t developed as a receiver, and is at risk of losing the 4th WR job to Allison, who was picked up after he was put on waivers by the Vikings.  They could hold onto him as a 5th receiver/special teamer, but would they do so at the expense of Wallace Wright, who held the role last year?  Smith is very much on the bubble.

Tight End: Jack Simmons vs. Kareem Brown vs. Kevin Brock

I have never heard of any of these guys, and in the 3 WR base sets the Jets will run, a second TE is not all that important, much less a third tight end, but behind Bubba Franks and Dustin Keller, you’d think there would have been room on this team for someone with name recognition, no?

Guard: Stanley Daniels vs. Matt Slauson vs. Nevin McCaskill

All three of these guys were undrafted, and Daniels has the most playing experience of the group, but one of these guys is going to be looking for work within a week and a half.

Defensive End: Mike DeVito vs. Ropati Pitoitua vs. Zach Potter

Potter is a prospect as a defensive end in the 3-4, but Pitoitua is the one who is making the most noise in camp, he’s up at No. 2 on the depth chart, which isn’t good for Potter.  Would the Jets go with two inexperienced backups at the DE position?  If so, DeVito might be on the bubble.  He’s the most physically limited of the three, but played a lot last season for Eric Mangini.

Defensive Tackle: Sione Pouha vs. Howard Green

Pouha was a Herm Edwards pick who really has developed over the last two years, working his way onto the second team by 2007.  Howard Green was a 4-3 nose tackle on three teams previously, most recently with the Seattle Seahawks, but he hasn’t started a game since 2004 with the Saints.  He was brought in to push people at two positions, and he’ll do that, though I’m not expecting him to make the team.

Inside Linebacker: Brandon Renkart vs. Jamaal Westerman vs. Kenwin Cummings

Not one member of this group has seen a live NFL snap.  You have some experienced practice squad guys, and an undrafted rookie, so who fills out the back of Rex Ryan’s 53 man roster, if anyone, is your best guess.

Cornerback: Donald Strickland vs. Ahmad Carroll vs. Drew Coleman

Strickland was signed when the 49ers let him go earlier this week.  He’s the front runner for the 4th CB spot.  Drew Coleman has way more upside than Ahmad Carroll, who has been a complete bust since the Packers took him in the first round of the 2002 draft.  His career is likely over if he can’t make the roster.

Surprise Cuts?

  • QB Kellen Clemens
  • FB Tony Richardson
  • LB Larry Izzo
  • CB Dwight Lowery
  • S Eric Smith
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