BEEFING UP HAS JETS LIVING LARGE
BIG LIFT: Adding free agent Damien Woody was part of GM Mike Tannenbaum's plan to add some size. That strategy, and the addition of Brett Favre, has the Jets atop the AFC East.
November 26, 2008
Posted: 2:23 am
November 26, 2008
SHORTLY after last sea son ended, Jets owner Woody Johnson joined head coach Eric Mangini in general manager Mike Tannenbaum's office to assess what went wrong in 2007 and what changes needed to be made for 2008.
The trio came to an agreement on what they were looking for in new acquisitions: the bigger, the better.
So the Jets went out and grabbed several big players, adding defensive lineman Kris Jenkins in a February trade, then signing offensive linemen Alan Faneca and Damien Woody and linebacker Calvin Pace as soon as free agency began.
The moves cost big bucks ($63 million guaranteed) and came with some big risks, but 11 games into the season they are paying off - big time.
Sunday in Tennessee the plan hatched in Tannenbaum's office was on full display. Faneca controlled Albert Haynesworth; Woody opened huge holes for Thomas Jones and Leon Washington ; Jenkins blew up the middle of the Titans' offense; and Pace registered a sack.
The Jets later added a big star to that group with the August trade for Brett Favre, the biggest move of all, but it was the planning last winter that started the team on this path to re-energizing a fan base that watched the crosstown Giants get all the glory last year while the Jets won a measly four games.
The Extreme Makeover - Gang Green New York Jets Edition - began with Johnson opening his checkbook and Tannenbaum and Mangini identifying what was missing last year.
"We wanted to make changes, starting up front," Tannenbaum said yesterday.
Last year started poorly for the Jets with the Pete Kendall trade to the Redskins after a contract dispute. Kendall's absence left a void not only physically but emotionally in the locker room.
Faneca (6-feet-5, 307 pounds) has filled both of those voids. He started slowly, but has grown more comfortable with each week. Tannenbaum also credits Faneca with aiding the development of third-year tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold, the players who bookend him on the line.
Woody (6-3, 335) represented a risk because of his limited experience at right tackle, but the Jets repeatedly ran to his side Sunday, including on Washington's 61-yard score.
Jenkins (6-4, 349) has been huge in every way. His presence has transformed the Jets defense.
Tannenbaum complemented these moves by adding fullback Tony Richardson, who has helped the running game and provided leadership in the locker room, and by trading up in the draft to grab Dustin Keller, the tight end who has become Favre's favorite target.
The moves have brought not just talent but chemistry. Mangini loves to talk about his "core values," and when it comes to bringing in a new player, the coach wants to know not only his 40 time but if he has a penchant for drinking 40s.
"I drive Mike crazy because he'll say, 'We have this corner we want to work out. He's 5-11, 195,' " Mangini said. "My question is, 'Well, what's he like? Tell me about him. What's he like?' That, to me, is crucial."
The final ingredient came with that July call from the Packers that they were shopping Favre. No. 4 has been the yeast that has made the Jets rise.
All of those moves now have the Jets sitting atop the AFC East with the playoffs in sight. Last January, the plan was to get bigger. This January, the Jets hope to have bigger plans.
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Beefing Up As Jets Living Large
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