Home > NFL, Roster Roundouts > Roster Roundouts ’10: A New York Jets Season Preview

Roster Roundouts ’10: A New York Jets Season Preview

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New York Jets (projected finish: 8-8)

Team synopsis: A great defense plus a second year franchise quarterback plus a future hall of fame rusher equals…pretty much the same type of year as last season.  For a team like the Colts, Saints, or Vikings, the lack of player movement is absolutely to the benefit of the power team.  But it’s worth pointing out that while the Jets have the swagger of a NFL power, they were a mediocre team in the regular season last year, and failed to get to the super bowl against a three-team slate far easier than the one the cross town Giants put down to reach the title game three years ago.  More equations: a middling team plus the swagger of a great team equals a hard fall.

Best Players

  • WR Jericho Cotchery (drafted — N.C. State/2004 4th round pick)
  • TE Dustin Keller (drafted — Purdue/2008 1st round pick)
  • LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson (drafted — Virginia/2006 1st round pick)
  • C Nick Mangold (drafted — Ohio State/2006 1st round pick)
  • LB Bart Scott (signed — Baltimore/2009 free agent)
  • LB David Harris (drafted — Michigan/2007 2nd round pick)
  • CB Darrelle Revis (drafted — Pitt/2007 1st round pick)

Best Prospects

  • QB Mark Sanchez (drafted — USC/2009 1st round pick)
  • RB Shonn Greene (drafted — Iowa/2009 3rd round pick)
  • LG Vladimir Ducasse (drafted — UMass/2010 2nd round pick)
  • CB Kyle Wilson (drafted — Boise State/2010 1st round pick)

While the Jets are a more talented team than they would appear based on the brevity of the amount of “best” players on them, I think it’s important to understand how well a team that in the last three years hasn’t had most of it’s late round picks needs to do with it’s six “top 65” selections.  The highest drafted player of the six was Vernon Gholston.  He’s moved to the defensive line in a last ditch attempt to resurrect his career.  While Dustin Keller had a breakout season and playoff run in 2009, he may not even be the best TE from his draft class, as John Carlson’s 2008 was the best of the four seasons between them.  The jury is still out, but the last thing a team like the Jets can afford is a luxury TE who wasn’t the best performer available at his own position.

And then the rest of those picks are still unproven.  I think Kyle Wilson has the best upside of the four prospects on the Jets, he should thrive in their system and especially so if Darrelle Revis gets a long term extension done to play across from him.  But as excited as I am about the Wilson pick, prospects like Sanchez, Ducasse, and Greene aren’t particularly great college players now trying to make the jump to the next level.

Sanchez and Greene have similar flaws, in that both built their draft resumes entirely on the strength of their 2008 seasons, and then last year, neither made a particularly meaningful contribution prior to the playoffs.  They both did the most with their opportunities there: Thomas Jones wore down, paving the way for Greene to carry the load, and Sanchez took advantage of defenses ignoring him in their gameplans to execute his position to the best of his ability.  Of course, Ryan Leaf, Curtis Enis, and JaMarcus Russell all strung together really good two game stretches in their careers.

LaDainian Tomlinson should complement Greene’s skill set well.  Tomlinson is expected to be used as a third down back and receiver out of the backfield.  Behind them, a fourth round pick from USC, Joe McKnight.  The conundrum with USC players on film — that everyone looks great — could work out well for the Jets, with McKnight coming over in the fourth round.  I’m higher on his future than on Greene’s.

A lot will be made about the receivers on the Jets this year.  Jericho Cotchery has kind of been pushed to the back burner with big name acquisitions Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes in the fold, but this is a bad passing offense without Cotchery’s presence and run after catch ability.  Holmes likely provides an upgrade on Edwards — at least once he’s eligible to return after Week 4 — but if they have to play together, any version of a cover two defense should take away most elements of the Jets passing game.  Then it would fall to Keller to work over the linebacker level and give Sanchez a place to go with the football.  But it should be apparent how defensive coverages could actually make Edwards and Holmes hurt each others numbers.  Lavaerneus Coles will play the third receiver role until Holmes is eligible.

Sanchez has a great offensive line to protect him, but the controversial call to replace Alan Faneca with Ducasse suggest that the Jets are going to pass to win this year, because if they were going to run and play action, having an under-contract Faneca is a pretty important cornerstone of that decision.  That, and the release of Thomas Jones suggest that they aren’t looking for a workhorse back so much as they want big plays out of the passing game.

Nick Mangold is about as good as it gets at sorting protections and blocking opposing noses, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Damian Woody really flourished as a tackle tandem for the first time last year.  Brandon Moore is the unquestioned starting RG, but only unquestioned because the Jets have a good thing going on the OL, and he’s part of it.  He’s hardly an indispensable part.  Obviously, the pressure will be on Ducasse to perform from the first day, as if anything goes wrong on the OL, he’s the first in line to be blamed by the tabloids.

The real embodiment of Rex Ryan on the field is the defense that he and Mike Pettine call.  And the pressure they get is really all about the calls, as the team is strong in the interior, behind NT Kris Jenkins are rangy, explosive linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott.  Then, of course, there’s Revis.  Or there would be, if Revis and the Jets could settle a contract dispute that is officially a holdout.  The Jets are also strong behind Revis, where FA pickups Jim Leonhard (2009) and Brodney Pool (2010) give them a pair of fast, smart cover safeties.  The second corner was a weakness last year, and so it was addressed via trade with Antonio Cromartie (probably not a solution to the problem), and with the pick of Wilson.  But if this Revis holdout lasts into the season, corner becomes a greater weakness than it was last year.

Outside of those strengths, the Jets really do have a lot of spots on the defense that they try to cover with by scheme and confusion.  Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace are a good, but not great, set of outside linebackers.  To those guys, the Jets added Jason Taylor from Miami, who is best known now for being old.  I fail to see where he upgrades the Jets pass rush.  Taylor can still beat a one on one, and isn’t a bad pickup for depth, but he’s not an upgrade over either Thomas or Pace.

The Jets have a better DL than a lot of people give them credit for — Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha, specifically, had good years last year — but this is a group that needs Kris Jenkins for sustained success.  Jenkins missed the second half of last year with a knee injury, but reports this year have him healthy.

Defenses like the Jets — first overall last year by pretty much any measure — tend to regress the next year, but usually into the 7-10 range, and not usually to league average.  If you look at the last eight number one NFL defenses, and look at their finishes in the next season, you have a very wide range of results, but the two median regressions are actually the two Rex Ryan Baltimore defenses that finished first in the league.  Both finished 6th the next year.  Therefore, that would be a pretty reasonable expectation for Ryan’s defense this year.

And I’m not sure how much it matters if Revis returns.  If he’s in the lineup, teams are going to respond by throwing away from him.  He was targeted over 90 times last season.  I can’t imagine he’s ever going to get more than 60 looks in any season the rest of his career.  If Revis isn’t in the lineup, targets will be split between Wilson and Cromartie.

Of course, once Wilson develops into a quality NFL corner, having Revis will make all the difference.  The Jets figure to be a great defensive team for the forseeable future, with the ability to get unblocked rushers on quarterbacks and shut down the deep passing game with merely a single high safety.  Yes, the Jets probably still need to add that safety, and a pass rushing stud and more beef on the DL wouldn’t hurt.  But we know the Jets defense will get there, eventually.  They just need to have more than one pick in three years to spend on the defense.

The offense, however, needs to excel with the parts it already has, and frankly, I’m not sure they have the right parts.  They had the best OL in the league last year — you can’t get any better than they had — and finished rated -9.0% in DVOA last season.  Sanchez and Grenne might very well improve, and it may not matter.  There’s no reason to think that either Mike Tannenbaum or Rex Ryan knows how to build an offense.  O.C. Brian Schottenheimer is well-respected, but has never built a custom-system for scratched.  Building a respectable group that has to hide it’s quarterback and building a great unit from scratch are both impressive feats, but there’s little overlap between them.

The Jets will probably struggle on offense again this year, and the defense is unlikely to be dominant enough to save them.

Fighting for a spot on the roster

The Jets brought in Mark Brunell to be the backup quarterback, so the question now becomes whether Kellen Clemens has a future with the organization.  Clemens was a strong prospect coming out of Oregon, but saw his only real shot at the starting job fizzle behind poor play in 2007.  If he can remain on the third string this year, he’s well liked to warrant consideration as the backup next year (when Sanchez could very well be on the hot seat), but his contract expires and certainly, the Jets are under no obligation to bring him back.  That goes for this year, too.

Wither Danny Woodhead?  The player with more rushing yards than any player in the history of college football overcame longshot odds to make last years Jets, but did so as a receiver, not a runner.  He’s a runner again in the preseason — because preseason football is all about having the clock run — but this time there might not be a spot at receiver to keep him.  He’s really not a bad fourth runner, I promise, but that does seem like his NFL upside.

It’s likely that the Jets will carry six receivers into the season, with Holmes inactive for the first four games.  Brad Smith will likely make the team, but David Clowney will have to show well to hold his spot.  Aundrae Allison is the primary competition.

Ben Hartsock is somehow still a no. 2 TE in the NFL.  He has one skill: that he can pass block outside linebackers.  That’s a good skill in the AFC East, since every team plays a 3-4.  3rd OT Wayne Hunter is effectively the third TE on the Jets, so there’s no need to keep 3 TEs.

Matt Slauson was a good find in camp last year as a backup guard, and he’ll be Brandon Moore’s backup.  That’s 7 lineman, with Slauson and Hunter.  The Jets really do give undrafted lineman a chance to make the team every year, but even if they keep just eight, they may have to go get a veteran to backup at Center.

The Jets will likely keep just seven defensive lineman, which includes DE Vernon Gholston because, well, they basically already paid for this season in his rookie signing bonus.  Keeping him at a salary around $1 million is hardly a decision.  Next year, keeping him gets pricey.  Rodrique Wright and Ropati Pitoitua are the primary backups to Shaun Ellis and DeVito.

The Jets just don’t have much proven depth at any position.  Lance Laury will return as a special teamer and backup ILB.  But Taylor and Laury are it for proven depth.  The Jets will keep anywhere between 2 and 3 additional LBs.  Dwight Lowery is taking is demotion in stride, now really fighting to hold off Drew Coleman to be the dime back.  Undrafted rookie Donovan Warren has a good chance to make the team at safety.  If he shows well enough, the team can either move James Ihedigbo, or they can keep five safeties.  Ihedigbo is valuable on special teams, and that’s an obvious weakness throughout the Jets roster.

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