Forgiveme baseball fans, but I have to take a small timeout from baseball in
order to get Jets’ fans ready for the first step back to
respectability. I know many Jet-setters are still hung over from the
debacle of the 2005 season. So, I’m here to tell all ye faithful,
things are looking up and 2006 should be a fun season for Jets’
First, and most importantly, we have a real coach. Herm "Ham and Eggs" Edwards is gone (Yeah!) and Eric "Serious Biz" Mangini
is our new captain. This change at the top is the most important
improvement the Jets could have made in the off-season (not that
"Benedict" Edwards gave us much of a choice). Anyone who has worked for
and received accolades from Bill Bellichek is alright in my book.
Mangini has made three important changes right off the bat: 1)
He has instilled DISCIPLINE- Edwards practices were infamously known as
"player friendly". At the onset of camp Mangini immediately stepped on
players’ toes with practice sessions that made Herm’s camp look like a
ballerina school. Two-a-days and
full gear were the norm and if you weren’t ready to go, as Justin
McCareins found out early (when our new captain failed him in his
physical), Mangini was ready to call you out. 2) The
Jets will now employ a 3/4 Defense allowing the talented Jets’
linebackers to tackle the running backs and control the short passing
game. Anyone who watched a Jets’ game last season was well aware of the
Jets inability to prevent getting dunked to death by backs and tight
ends. The new defensive scheme should also allow the Jets to disguise
their defense more successfully and hopefully lead to more turnovers. 3)
The Jets got younger- eight of the Jets ten draft picks have made the
final roster. Two of them will start on a rejuvinated offensive line.
44 of the Jets’ 53-man roster are under 30 years old. Younger doesn’t
always mean better, but in the Jets’ case I believe it does. Other than
running back, the Jets should be improved in just about every facet of
You want to win football games? It all begins with controlling the
line of scrimmage. The Jets will have three new starters on their line
in 2006. Gone are longtime center Kevin Mawae and left tackle Jason Fabini. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the number four overall pick in the draft, takes over as Pennington’s blindside protector and maybe the best left tackle the Jets have ever had, while Nick Mangold, their other first rounder and the bounty from the John Abraham
deal, brings youth and speed under the quarterback. The Jets further
bolstered their line by signing effective journeyman and former secound-round pick Anthony Clement to take over for Adrian Jones
at right tackle. The sometimes overmatched Jones will now be free to
backup both tackle positions. The two returning starting members are
unsung right guard Brandon Moore and left guard Pete Kendell who is probably still the Jets’ best offensive lineman. Versatile longtime Buffalo Bill Trey Teague
will be the top backup guard and center. Overall, this line looks to be
faster, healthier and younger than the 2005 version. Since Kendell and
Ferguson are firmly implanted on the left side, the Jets will most
likely find that to be their favorite side to run to. With the presence
of D’Brick "Wall" covering Pennington’s blindside, Jet fans can also
expect Chad to have a much better shot at ending the season in the
"Chad drops back, he looks left, he looks right, he fires over the
middle, TOUCHDOWN!". Yes, I am one of the believers. I am going on
record right now to predict that Chad Pennington
will be in the top eight by seasons end in QB rating. I wasn’t sure if
Chad could really be the Jets starting QB again until I saw him throw
one pass to Laverneaus Coles at the end of the first half of the Jets’
third preseason game against
the Giants. It was the crisp, sparkling, accurate kind of a throw that
I haven’t seen from him in a couple of years. But, most importantly the
ball had Zipppppp! Yes, Chad’s injuries have been bad. Yes, Chad’s
performance since the injuries has been bad. But, Chad’s heart and mind
have never been bad. In fact, his overall performance was pretty darn
good until the shoulder woes.
If Pennington’s shoulder doesn’t hold up, GM Mike Tannenbaum has done well to bring us a youthful alternative in Oregon’s Kellen Clemens.
Clemens, the Jets’ second-round pick, has all the tools to succeed— a
strong arm, good pocket-presence, quick reads, and a burning fire in
his belly. Clemens will probably play third fiddle for a bit while
strong-armed veteran Patrick Ramsey fills the back-up role, but Kellen should get the call in case Chad goes down for an extended period of time.
Let the competition begin! With Curtis Martin’s career in serious jeapordy, the Jets will rely on a three -headed committee approach. Derrick Blaylock should see most of the snaps in the early going as recently acquired Kevan Barlow and second year runner Cedric Houston
work as changeup backs. However, nothing is set in stone. Mangini will
go with the hot-hand until one of the three can separate from the
pack. Boy, Lamont Jordan sure would look good right about now!
the three, only Barlow has ever rushed for 1000 yards (In 2003 he had
1024 yards and 5.1 Avg./ Per Carry). Barlow, a classic in between the
tackles power runner, has struggled the past two seasons, but is still
only 27 years old and has been sturdy health-wise over the
course of his career. He could be motivated to prove his worth after
averaging a career low 3.3 yards/per carry last season.
Blaylock showed his talent two seasons ago (2004) for the Chiefs
when he backed up the beat up Priest Holmes. In the only season in
which he has seen extended playing time, Blaylock ran for 539 yards and
a 4.6 Avg./Per Carry with 8 touchdowns. Blaylock is much smaller than
Barlow and more of a slasher than a smasher.
Martin went down last season Houston showed his mettle. While his 3.7
Avg./Per Carry was nothing to write home about, Houston showed the
tenacity and discipline to eventually be an effective runner. Houston
is a cross between Barlow and Blaylock in that he is tough enough to
run in between the tackles, but has the instincts and quickness to pop
one to the outside.
While the committee might not provide the most exciting running
attack in the NFL, one player who could provide excitement will be
rookie running back Leon Washington. This Dave Meggett-like
jitterbug will be the prime third-down back and kick returner. Don’t be
surprised if Washington becomes one of Pennington’s favorite targets in
an offense that will heavily rely on the short passing game.
B.J. Askew will be relied on as
the lead blocking fullback. Askew is a former third-rounder who has
reached the put-up or shut-up stage of his career. If B.J. misses too
many of his assignments as he is apt to do, former Buckeye fullback Jamar Martin will be plugged in to play pit-bull for the running backs.
There might be nobody happier to see Chad Pennigton back under center than Laveranues Coles.
Coles’ best season was his last one with Chad. In 2002 Coles snared 89
balls for 1264 yards and 5 touchdowns. Look for Laveranues to be
Pennington’s first, second and maybe third option in the passing game.
Jerricho Cotchery showed steady
improvement last season as the number three receiver. Mangini and his
crew were so impressed with him in camp that they decided it was time
for Jerricho to start. With Coles receiving most of the double teams,
Cotchery should see a lot of balls tossed his way. At six feet tall
Cotchery has good size for a receiver and has shown the courage and
focus to go across the middle without hesitating.
Justin McCareins has been
demoted. No longer a starter, McCareins might turn into one of the
better third receivers in the NFL. At 6’2", McCareins is the tallest of
the Jets’ receivers and with a more open passing attack he should receive
ample opportunity to catch more than the 43 balls he caught last
Veteran Tim Dwight will supply
the speed in case Pennington’s arm feels up to throwing downfield. Even
at 31 years old, Dwight still possesses sprinter speed and will be the
Jets’ slot receiver on third downs and alternate punt returner.
The most fun receiver of the bunch will be the Jets’ version of Antwaan Randle El, former Missouri quarterback Brad Smith.
Smith electrified Jets’ fans this preseason in every facet of the
offense. He burst onto the scene in the second preseason game against
Washington when he showed off his running ability by dashing 61-yards
for a touchdown on a double reverse. In the final preseason game
against Philly, Brad showed the whole package. In the first he snagged a
37-yard pass over the middle from Kellen Clemens. Then in the fourth he
finished off a Jets’ comeback by stepping in at quarterback and leading
the Jets on two scoring drives. He completed 2-of-4 for 13 yards and
ran 4 times for 31 yards, including the go ahead touchdown on a 9-yard
scamper. Don’t be surprised to see Smith under center a couple of times
a game, especially when the Jets get into the Red Zone.
Not much to write about here. The Jets have basically improved by subtraction. With the trade of last years starter Doug Jolly, Chris Baker
will be the main man at the end of the line. While not a great blocker,
Baker showed some very soft hands as a receiver before an early
season-ending injury. Look for Baker to have his best season yet and
become Pennington’s main bailout option.
Late in camp the Jets added big Sean Ryan through a trade with Dallas. Ryan will be the Jets main blocking tight end. At 6’8" Zachary Hilton,
a waiver pickup from New Orleans, provides a huge frame for Pennington
in the Red Zone. Hilton who caught 35 passes last season will be
Mike Nugent had a successful
rookie season for the Jets hitting on 79% of his FG while converting on
all his XP. However, Nugent has yet to connect from longer than 50 yards and will need to provide deeper kickoffs if he wants to live up
to his second-round draft status.
If the Jets offense is going to make any substantial improvements these five will have to shine:
QB Chad Pennington
WR/QB Brad Smith
LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson
WR Laveranues Coles
RB/KR Leon Washington
Coming Soon: Jets’ Defense Preview