I am no hypocrite. I still believe the Jets are the best damn team in the NFL. And I believe in the talent Eric Mangini & Co. have selected to represent our beloved New York Jets. What kind of fan would I be if I thought otherwise?
After the 4-12 misery that was 2007, after all of the “never quit” values Mangini has worked hard to instill in all of our players, and of course, after all of the new contracts this past offseason, I’m certain that fires are lit, emotions are high, and professional competitors fully intend to prove their worth. But what if my green-goggled, blind optimism is too far-fetched? What if all of the personnel decisions go terribly wrong? (knock on wood)
I understand that we had just come off a 4-12 season and a mid-summer contract dispute with Pete Kendall, so we needed to show our commitment to improving this team by opening up the wallet. But the last thing any one wants is for the plan to backfire.
Unfortunately, it’s not impossible.
#77 Kris Jenkins – Nose Tackle
He’s got a new city to call home, a new contract, new teammates, but most importantly: a new position to learn. His contract will allow him to earn bonuses for maintaining a weight of 360 lbs.
Yes, he’s a Pro Bowler, and yes, he has the prototypical nose tackle size to clog the middle of a 3-4 defense, but it may be difficult to teach a career 4-3 defensive tackle that his new job is to stay put and keep multiple players on the offensive line busy.
If his mind can block the instincts he’s developed throughout his professional career, then he is most certainly an upgrade at the position. But I’m still afraid because we’ve already played the game with a 4-3 player out of position with Dewayne Robertson. Will Jenkins know how to properly use his weight to his advantage? His size means nothing without athleticism, and more importantly, the capability to do what’s right in a 3-4 defense. It takes a lot more than just being fat to play NT.
If he plays the position effectively, his presence can equate to the difference between “2nd and Long” or “2nd and 6.” He’s big enough to not be pushed around like Robertson was, and it’ll be a lot tougher for any man to move him backwards into the linebackers, but will his size be enough to keep the opposition busy?
Jenkins is a veteran, a Pro Bowler, and a leader, and there aren’t many other players I’d prefer to see lining up in that position for us.
#97 Calvin Pace – Outside Linebacker
I’ve got this strange feeling. It’s like I’ve been here before, and I can’t explain it. It feels like it’s already happened, like the words have already been said. A 4-3 defensive end selected in the 1st round of the NFL draft plays average until he has a breakout year in the OLB position in the 3-4, and while his contract is.. expiring? Why is this so familiar? It’s on my fingertips!
Okay, enough sarcasm. Is Calvin Pace going to be Bryan Thomas v2.0?
We gave a lot of money and a long contract to a player who played well in 2007, but not well enough to justify that contract. It’s not good business to give millions to potential, especially in professional sports. I’ll be blunt: Pace scares me.
Maybe it’s because so much about him is unknown. He comes from Arizona and the NFC West, a team and conference that no Jets’ fan is all that familiar with because, well.. why should we be? Arrogance aside, an anonymous Jet was quoted as saying that he had no idea who Pace was prior to the Free Agency period. Anonymous Jet, you are not alone.
I’m hoping Pace builds on his 2007 year. With his contract and with the depth we have at OLB, he definitely can’t afford to regress. Nor can Bryan Thomas for that matter, because we drafted a monster at #6 this year that everyone is eager to see.
#67 Damien Woody – Right Tackle
He’s a former first round pick, and he can play virtually every spot on the line. However his experience at right tackle has been minimal, so the chances of this not working are still 50/50. The left side of our line looks incredible as it’s ever been. But I’m still not sold on the right side. Brandon Moore is a good RG, but I think we can get better there.
But it’s not all gloom and doom for Woody. I believe he will succeed. That’s not blind optimism. Any player that can start at multiple offensive line positions for different teams has to be smart, strong and athletic.
There’s no denying that he’ll be an improvement over Anthony Clement. But I don’t wanna see a player out there that’s merely serviceable. With the left side solidified, Woody’s play will mean the difference between a dominant offensive line or just an improved one from last seasons.
I fear that some of our big offseason investments involved too many dollars for players that aren’t sure things. That’s a risk every team that wants to contend has to take, but the front office took three of them.
I’m still the optimist though. I have faith in our staff’s evaluation of every new player that will be wearing Jets’ green this upcoming season. It’s definitely not all bad, because I love the Alan Faneca signing. I strongly believe that Bubba Franks and Tony Richardson are going to contribute heavily to our team’s offensive success in 2008.
And we are now the proud fans of a team with a long term contract to Kerry Rhodes.