NEW YORK JETS
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Last year at this time, the Jets were merely hoping to get back to playoff contention. This year, the stakes are entirely different - it's Super Bowl or bust. New York has pushed all of its chips to the middle of the table, and a step-back season won't be tolerated. Sure, it sounds a little unrealistic, but that's how expectations work in the Big Apple (or, in this case, New Jersey).
The Jets didn't shy away from big-name moves in the offseason. LaDainian Tomlinson, on the wrong side of 30? Sure, bring him in. Santonio Holmes, with a four-game suspension pending? Okay, the price is cheap, let's try it. Jason Taylor, at the end of his career? Come to our new stadium and go chase quarterbacks around. Antonio Cromartie, off a messy 2009 season? Our league-best defense will help you get back on track.
We realize you buy this magazine primarily to talk about offensive players, but any audit of the 2009 Jets has to start with their amazing defense. New York was the hardest team to throw the ball against (thanks largely due to the NFL's best cornerback, Darrelle Revis. Teams also struggled to run the ball on the Jets (3.8 yards per carry), and it all added up to a stingy 236 points allowed, best in the league. Mostly it was an execution defense as opposed to a mayhem unit - the Jets had a modest 32 sacks and 17 interceptions - but when you keep other teams off the scoreboard, you're doing your job.
Last year's defensive excellence allowed the Jets to go slow with their rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. Although the media gave Sanchez the typical first-month hype when New York got off to a fast start, his job for most of the year was to hand off the ball and avoid mistakes wherever possible. At times he struggled with the wind currents in the Meadowlands - USC didn't prepare him for this gig, after all - but he did show improvement at the end of the year. The Jets need him to be up to speed this time around, as they've got a full season of Braylon Edwards waiting, and 12 games from Holmes when he's off the suspension log.
There's a changing of the guard at running back. Michael Turner-clone Shonn Greene takes over as the bell cow, while Tomlinson is around as the change-of-pace back, third-down option and possible goal-line vulture. There should be enough work for both men -
remember Greene has no pass-catching skills yet - but it remains to be seen who will get the chippies at the goal line, not to mention the fourth-quarter work when the Jets are salting away victories.
Round, Overall, Player
1. (29) Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State-Could be a nickel back right away, and he'll also get a look in the return game.
2. (61) Vladimir Ducasse, OT, Massachusetts-Capable of playing either tackle or guard; the Jets will probably use him on the inside.
5. (139) John Conner, FB, Kentucky-Like most fullbacks, it's doubtful he'll see a lot of touches.
Santonio Holmes, WR (Steelers) A budding superstar on the field, a potential headache off of it.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB (Chargers) Collapsed to 3.3 YPC last year, but Jets OL might get some of that back.
Jason Taylor, DE (Dolphins) Probably a specialty player at this point in his career; can he revive the pass rush?
Antonio Cromartie, CB (Chargers) Will change of scenery help him rediscover Pro Bowl form?
Nick Folk, K (Cowboys) Dallas reject will get a chance at this inviting kicking spot.
Thomas Jones, RB (Chiefs) Jets would rather be a year early than a year late on this swap-out.
Alan Faneca, G (Cardinals) Offensive line stalwart was a surprising cut in late April.
Jay Feely, K (Cardinals) Money kicker made 54 of 64 field goals with the club.
IS THERE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING AT RECEIVER?
Braylon Edwards thinks he's a No. 1 receiver, Santonio Holmes feels the same, and it's not like Jerricho Cotchery is completely devoid of an ego. Can all of these receivers co-exist on the field, and how will the least-used weapon feel on a week-to-week basis? And will all of these chaps be okay with the fact that the Jets are still a run-first offense? Winning is a nice deodorant at the end of the day, of course, but not every big-name receiver is willing to be a good soldier if he's seeing just a sprinkling of targets per week. Good luck keeping everyone happy here, Mark Sanchez.
WHO'S THE GOAL-LINE BACK?
Shonn Greene got our full attention with his breakthrough at the end of the 2009 season, and he has all the skill you'd look for in a short-yardage and goal-line runner. But will the Jets prefer to use an experienced back in that role? LaDainian Tomlinson was a curious signing for the Jets - we felt it made more sense to retain Thomas Jones - and LT surely wouldn't have signed in New York without at least some sort of idea that he's going to get a meaty role. Don't misunderstand; Greene is the starter here, and no one questions that. But when the Jets are inside the five, who's getting the rock? The Jets will sort this out in August.
HOW MUCH IS Mark Sanchez READY FOR?
During last year's regular season the Jets were routinely playing hide the quarterback, throwing the fewest passes in the league. Things didn't open up too much in the playoffs - just 68 pass attempts over three games - but at least Sanchez was more efficient in that span, posting a snappy 92.7 rating and getting more opportunities to throw the rock on first down. The Jets braintrust realizes that more passing is needed for the team to be a year-in, year-out contender, and Sanchez has a ridiculous arsenal of wide receivers to throw to, so look for a 15-20 percent increase in pass attempts this time around.
WHO'S THE KICKER?
Nick Folk and Clint Stitser are the two options heading into training camp, and both guys have been brutal during the spring practice season. It's possible that New York's Week 1 kicker isn't currently on the roster as we go to press. Jay Feely, you'll probably be missed.
Rising: Shonn Greene looked like a superstar during the playoff run and now he's getting a chance to be the featured back.
Declining: Even the most ardent LaDainian Tomlinson sympathizer can't deny the slippage we saw the last two years. In the end, gravity always wins.
Sleeper: Dustin Keller scored in all three playoff games last year and might sneak up on defenses that are overly concerned with New York's playmakers on the outside.
Supersleeper: In truth, we don't expect much from Joe McKnight as a rookie, but if there's just one key injury in front of him, he'll immediately take on deep-league value. The Jets offensive line is a star-maker.
David Harris, LB He's a tackling machine in the middle (127 last year, plus 5.5 sacks).
Jason Taylor, DE They'll ask him to do one thing and one thing only - attack the pocket.
Antonio Cromartie, CB You can be sure no one will be challenging Darrelle Revis on the other flank, which sets up well for Cromartie's interception count.
RotoWire Rank: 5