So we, admittedly, underestimated the commitment required for us both to preview all 32 NFL teams together in a little more than a month. It's tedious, thankless work. So from now on we're splitting the rest of the teams among the two of us to get done twice as quick (and with half the work). It is with that that we're proud to bring to you the 23rd of our 32 team previews for the upcoming NFL season, the New York Jets.
TOM'S TAKE: There are lots of gold nuggets to be found on YouTube, but this one might be the best. My favorite part comes at :40, when you hear "The Jets select fullback...." and before the player's name can be announced, someone in the crowd yells "OOOOOHHHHHH NOOOOO!" You're in trouble if you're taking a fullback in the first round. Or if you trade your first rounder for an average tight end and then select a kicker with your second pick. Or if you take Ken O'Brien over Dan Marino. But hey, the Jets front office must know something that we don't.
The Jets are sort of a mess this year. Most expect them to have the #1 pick in the 2007 draft. I'm giving them a little more credit. I expect them to pick in the top 10, but there should be a few teams (including division rivals in Buffalo) that are going to be completely abysmal. In New York it all starts at the top, where 35-year old Eric Mangini takes over as head coach after one year leading the Patriots' defense. Mangini is talking tough and keeping his mouth shut about depth charts and injuries, much like his mentor. Unfortunately, not even the quarterback depth chart is set. Incumbant noodle-arm Chad Pennington looks like he'll start the season this year. He claims last year's recurring poor performances and shoulder injury were a result of rushing back from prior injuries too soon. This year he's taken his time in order to be completely healthy for the season, but there's still a high-level of anxiety. Every time he throws a duck or takes a hard hit, fans are going to expect the other shoe to drop. It doesn't help that the Jets have three guys behind Pennington that can push for playing time. Brooks Bollinger picked up some valuable game experience last year, but he appears to be #4 in the group. Former Redskin Patrick Ramsey is, in my opinion, a good quarterback who was shell-shocked early in his career by Steve Spurrier. Ramsey never got the time to stay on his feet and develop in Washington, and Spurrier's constant mind-games impeded his progress. A new regime might re-light that spark. The Jets future, however, lies with second round pick Kellen Clemens. The former Duck saw his stock rise rapidly in the last few weeks before the draft, enough for the Jets to make him the fourth quarterback taken. He's appeared rock-solid in the preseason, earning him the ever-prescient "gamer" tag. Pennington will be on a short leash. If he gets replaced early in the season, I'd expect the more experienced Ramsey to get the call. But the longer the season goes on, the more time Clemens has to move up to #2 on the depth chart.
The Jets will probably use their top two picks on the offensive line right away. D'Brickashaw Ferguson has done well camouflaging into the Jets scheme -- he's taken up Mangini's lack of involvement with the media, running away from reporters at the start of camp, and he's looked great already. In the Jets preseason game against the Chiefs, Brick layed out two guys, got 30 yards downfield in the process, and helped spring fellow rookie Brad Smith for a long gain. At center, Nick Mangold has learned one of football's most complex positions relatively quickly and, with Trey Teague on the PUP list, may start the season. Mangold has big shoes to fill, replacing Jets legend and current Titan Kevin Mawae. He'll be blocking a new running back, as it appears Curtis Martin is headed for an injury-forced retirement, a shame for a player who epitomizes class and consistency. Martin has done well enough to run to fourth on the all-time rushing list and has earned himself a first-ballot Hall of Fame bid. The Jets will turn to a back-by-committee system until/unless they get in the mix for Thomas Jones, T.J. Duckett, or Chris Brown. If not, Cedric Houston will probably get a majority of the touches with Derrick Blaylock stepping in on 3rd downs. Leon Washington has been impressive in camp and could push for touches as well.
The Jets traded John Abraham to the Falcons this offseason and replaced him at defensive end with Kimo von Oelhoffen. Kimo is a bigger end more suited to play in Mangini's 3-4 scheme than the pass-rushing Abraham. He's 35, but should still have the energy to go a season or two with the Jets. He'll be good for 1 or 2 ended-quarterback seasons at the least. Luckily for Carson Palmer, the Jets aren't on the schedule this year. The rest of the Jets' defense is solid -- Jonathan Vilma returns to stabilize the inside linebacker position, except now he'll be aided by Matt Chatham. The Jets had hoped rookie Anthony Schlegel would be able to step in and play with Vilma, but he's looked lost thus far. The Jets lost Ty Law this year but replaced him with the younger Andre Dyson and speedy cornerback/returner Justin Miller is pushing David Barrett for the opposite cornerback spot.
A lot of people are saying a lot of terrible things about the Jets this year, but I think that's a little hyperbolic. It'll take some time to rebuild, but they've gone young in a lot of places, including head coach. I think they had the best draft, by far, in the league. Brick and Mangold were stellar picks in an area of dire need, and by all indications they'll be immediate contributors. Clemens, as mentioned above, can take over the starting job as soon as sometime this year. And though Schlegel has "bust" written on him early (keep in mind, I am not indicting a player on one preseason -- Schlegel still has lots of time to evolve into a valuable player), the later picks all have looked intriguing in camp and preseason. Quarterback-turned-receiver Brad Smith and the aforementioned Leon Washington have made big plays and should crack the roster. Smith especially has a chance -- starting receiver Justin McCareins has found his way into Mangini's doghouse and it appears he'll be moved down the depth chart (if he makes the team at all), being replaced in first team action by Jerricho Cotchery. Gang Green will probably finish third in the division and miss out on the playoffs, but they should win about 5 games. It'll take time, but they're on the right track.