It’s about that time, Jets’ fans! The off-season months come to a close as training camp officially begins! Is the excitement here for you yet? Personally, it feels surreal. I haven’t been this excited for the start of a Jets’ season since– last summer!
All of the questions from the last couple of months will be soon be answered.
Are my previous articles optimistic rants from a Jets’ homer? Or is Angel Navedo some kind of football genius with psychic ability? Are the Jets really prepared to dominate the NFL?
I’d like to be serious for a moment and take a realistic look at our New York Jets, and offer some insight as to what fans can actually expect out of our favorite team in 2007.
I refuse to offer any more words in the quarterback debate. I have declared my stance, and have given my reasons. At the end of the day, I will support the man Mangini names when camp closes, and I will do so vigorously and admirably!
The offensive line needs to be more than solid this season. I want to see D’Brickashaw Ferguson play like the 4th overall pick that he is.Fans have seen some good play out of him, but more satisfactory than anything. I want him to be the brick wall that he’s supposed to be.
With Alan Faneca in the mix, it should be a lot easier, but I don’t want to leave anything to chance. I want to see a self-sufficient left tackle in Ferguson that is great on his own accord, and not just because of the man lined up next to him.
Moreover, the right side of the line needs to prove to be more than adequate. I do not want to see an unbalanced effort with exceptional play on the left side, and porous play on the right. Damien Woody and Brandon Moore need to prove they are worth what the front office invested in them. I believe they can be, but for everything to work, they need to come together immediately.
The wide receiver position requires some attention. Lavernaeus Coles and Jerricho Cotchery are excellent options for our quarterbacks. However, they are practically identical with their receiving styles. Both receivers excel at short, timing, possession routes.
On the flip side, I do believe their styles of play are contingent upon the quarterback throwing the ball, and the type of play being called. Coles is known to have the speed to get up field quickly. If his talents can be utilized accordingly, that will allow Cotchery to be clear for possession routes, where he can rack up the yards after the catch. The passing game will easily become more multifaceted then it’s ever been.
Aside from that, the Jets have a very interesting battle brewing for the No. 3 receiver slot. Will the position belong to Brad Smith, who is just about due to step into his own after excelling as a quarterback at the collegiate level? Or will Chansi Stuckey emerge as the sure-handed receiver he had shown flashes of being prior to last season’s injury? The NFL experience goes to Brad Smith, without a doubt. But does the value of his skill sets diminish with Leon Washington still around?
Thomas Jones did a lot with a little last year. His touchdown numbers were bulimic, but he still managed to pound the ball around for over 1,100 yards. Every single gain was earned, but painstaking to watch.
With the new offensive line, the common belief is that Jones will return to his Chicago Bears form. With help from former Dolphin Jesse Chatman, and the aforementioned Leon Washington, the Jets overall running game should see a significant improvement from a year ago.
The tight end position comes with just as many question marks as the quarterback. Chris Baker’s contract dispute and phantom injury during the spring organized team activities has earned him a spot on the physically unable to perform list. The drama is childish and a mere re-hash of what the Jets experienced a year ago with Pete Kendall.
Fortunately, the Jets are better prepared this year with veteran Pro Bowler, Bubba Franks signed for one-year, and first round draft pick out of Purdue, Dustin Keller.
As for the defensive side of the ball, I’m certain that’s where Jets’ fans can expect the most excitement. For the past two seasons of the Mangini regime, our defense has appeared sluggish prior to the bye week. I have confidence that these issues have been addressed this off-season. With Defensive Coordinator, Bob Sutton, under a microscope, Jets’ fans can expect to see an aggressive approach to the defensive schemes early on.
No longer trying to fit 4-3 squares into 3-4 holes, Jonathan Vilma and Dewayne Robertson have been shipped off to teams where their talents can be better utilized. Well– Vilma’s talents can be utilized. Robertson can pick up where he left off as a disappointing speed rushing tackle.
In their places are David Harris and the monstrous, Kris Jenkins.
Acquired from Carolina for third and fifth round draft picks, Jenkins is expected to be the big body in the middle that will make this 3-4 defensive alignment function. With a contract stipulation requiring Jenkins to maintain a weight of 360 pounds for a bump in salary, the Jets finally have a motivated defensive tackle that can effectively occupy the offensive line.
The importance of the Jenkins addition seems to go overlooked by most fans since it occurs in the trenches. If Jenkins performs up to expectations, fans will be able to immediately recognize the efficiency of the 3-4 defense when properly tooled. Fans may not have noticed the domino effect that caused our defense to spiral out of control when the undersized Dewayne Robertson was manhandled in the middle of the field.
Effective play on the line of scrimmage will afford the two inside linebackers, David Harris and Eric Barton, the time to make plays. More importantly, they should no longer require support from the two outside linebackers. The men on the edges should now be free to rush the quarterback, or stuff any play that nears their vicinity.
With three capable outside linebackers, competition at the slot will be close and exciting. There’s the Jets’ veteran, Bryan Thomas, whom admittedly slacked off last season after receiving a new contract. If his competitive spirit doesn’t return with the additions of Calvin Pace, from the Arizona Cardinals, and sixth overall draft pick, Vernon Gholston, he will find himself in the infamous Mangini doghouse that has already claimed the uniforms of Justin McCareins, Rashad Washington, Erik Coleman and Andre Dyson.
Finally, the Jets’ secondary is a force to be reckoned with. Boasting the likes of Kerry Rhodes and Darrelle Revis, opposing quarterbacks are faced with two swift, agile, and athletic defensive backs that can tackle, swat, and intercept.
However, the success of those two players does not come without question marks on the opposite end. The fourth-year man out of Clemson, Justin Miller, is entering a contract year.
Historically, players perform beyond expectation for new contracts, so it will be exciting to see if Miller is ready to step up. If he’s not prepared, the depth behind him is solid but not dominant. Hank Poteat and David Barrett should be battling it out for the nickel back spot, not the no. 2 corner back position.
Another intriguing battle for training camp will feature Eric Smith versus Abram Elam for the safety position opposite Rhodes. Abram Elam stepped in as a starter halfway through last season, replacing three-year starter, Erik Coleman. He emerged as an aggressive, hard-nosed safety. However, his aggression came with a price, as miscalculations on his end resulted in some substantial gains for the opposition.
On the other end is Eric Smith, the third year man out of Michigan State. He has performed admirably on special teams, and has shown efficient and intelligent play with his opportunities. The question is if he’s athletic enough to make the starter position his with so much competition?
Elam isn’t his only threat, as one of the Jets off-season acquisition include veteran Artrell Hawkins.
Defensively, the Jets biggest issues are with their depth. Any injuries in the secondary, or to the defensive line can be catastrophic to what has the potential to be a league-leading unit.
I implore fans to fear not! This is our year for glory. Ignore any analysts (that aren’t Jets fans), and let the excitement continue to build! Before we know it, our team will be suiting up for live competition, and then we’ll know that week one is right around the corner! Until then, pay close attention to our team, because the talent is there.
You definitely want to be able to say, “I told you so,” when the rest of the sports world comes around, right?