QB Brett Favre, RB Musa Smith, RB Jesse Chatman, FB Tony Richardson, TE Bubba Franks, OT/G Damien Woody, G Alan Faneca, DE/OLB Calvin Pace, NT Kris Jenkins, CB Andre Woolfolk, S Cameron Worrell.
QB Erik Ainge, WR Marcus Henry, TE Dustin Keller, OT Nate Garner, DE/OLB Vernon Gholston, CB Dwight Lowery.
QB Chad Pennington, QB Marques Tuiasosopo, FB Stacey Tutt, WR Justin McCareins, WR Chris Davis, TE Sean Ryan, OT Anthony Clement, G Wade Smith, G Adrien Clarke, DT Dewayne Robertson, OLB/ILB Victor Hobson, ILB Jonathan Vilma, CB Andre Dyson, CB Andre Woolfolk, S Erik Coleman, S Artrell Hawkins, S Darnell Bing.
2008 New York Jets Offense:
One question: Why is Chad Pennington still on this team? I have absolutely no idea why the Jets are wasting their time on him. I know Kellen Clemens tossed twice as many picks (10) as touchdowns (5), but after going through multiple shoulder surgeries, Pennington doesn't have the arm to succeed in the NFL. He lacks the proper strength to complete an out pattern, often getting picked off when he makes those throws (see the Giants and Bengals games for proof). Pennington is also a jerk, as it seems like he makes it a weekly routine to lash out at the media. He's quick to remind the reporters that covering him is a privilege. Another question: Does that mean it's also a privilege for fans to sit at Giants Stadium and watch Pennington throw like a 12-year-old girl?
In short, the Jets need to move away from the weak-armed Pennington and toward Clemens, who has much more potential. The knock on Clemens is that he can't read defenses and struggles with decision-making. Still, despite those negatives, Clemens, as a mere rookie, helped the Jets average more points per game (17) as a starter than when Pennington was penciled into the lineup (14.8).
And was Clemens so bad anyway? I have to put a lot of the blame on offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who called one of the worst games in NFL history on Thanksgiving. Here's a quick look at what happened in the first three quarters of that 34-3 beatdown:
Series in which Brian Schottenheimer called a run on first down:
Times a Run Was Called: 11
Average Yards Gained on Series: 6.0
Number of First Downs: 3
Number of Sacks/Fumbles/Interceptions/Penalties: 5
Number of Punts/Turnovers at End of Series: 8
Series in which Brian Schottenheimer called a pass on first down:
Times a Pass Was Called: 3
Average Yards Gained on Series: 14.0
Number of First Downs: 3
Number of Sacks/Fumbles/Interceptions/Penalties: 0
Number of Punts/Turnovers at End of Series: 0
Way to call a running play 11-of-14 times on first down. Not only was it extremely predictable, Schottenheimer also put his quarterback in long-yardage situations against one of the fiercest pass rushes in all of football. Meanwhile, he failed to realize how successful throwing the ball was on first downs. I was very disappointed Schottenheimer wasn't fired this offseason. It'll take a miracle for New York to escape a bottom-10 offensive ranking as long as he's calling the shots.
Schottenheimer deserves a ton of the blame for the team's scoring struggles, but the supporting cast definitely had a say in why the offense was ranked just 25th. Thomas Jones, acquired via the free-agent market last spring, rushed for 1,119 yards, but did so on just 3.6 yards per carry, and scored only twice. While Schottenheimer's predictability was a big reason why that figure was so low, the team also struggled to block for him. Fortunately for Jones and the sanity of Jets fans everywhere, management made a few moves to ensure that Jones can bounce back to the 4.1 he averaged in Chicago.
The big signing was left guard Alan Faneca. The perennial Pro Bowler inked a 5-year, $40 million contract. The Jets may have slightly overpaid for a guy who turns 32 in December, but Faneca was the best interior lineman on the market. He'll look good sandwiched in between D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. While Mangold is an excellent center, Ferguson played poorly in 2007, surrendering 10 sacks all by himself. Ferguson has put on a good amount of weight this offseason and figures to have a better third season in the league.
A second acquisition New York made to open up running lanes for Jones is right tackle Damien Woody. I'm not a fan of this move in the slightest. Woody was benched in favor of second-year Jonathan Scott in Detroit last season. He's also coming off shoulder surgery and turning 31 soon. He's better than Anthony Clement, but so are about 100 other offensive tackles in this league. Right guard Brandon Moore, a decent blocker, will pick up Woody's slack.
The Jets didn't just focus on the offensive line. They inked Tony Richardson to a one-year deal. Richardson is 36, but he's still a devastating run blocker. He paved the way for Adrian Peterson's record-setting, 296-yard performance against the Chargers.
While the coaching staff isn't sure whom to make the quarterback, Pennington and Clemens will have a decent amount of targets to work with. Jerricho Cotchery seemingly came out of nowhere to catch 82 passes for 1,130 yards last year. Meanwhile, Lavaeranues Coles is still around, and though he's coming off a down year (55 catches, 646 yards), he was hampered by an injured ankle during the second half of the 2007 campaign. I really wanted the Jets to add a tertiary wide out to the receiving corps, but the fact that Justin "Butter Fingers" McCareins is gone makes this group better by default.
Reserve running back Leon Washington will be a potent pass-catching weapon out of the backfield. He had 36 receptions for 213 yards in 2007, and his blinding speed always makes him a threat to go the distance. Meanwhile, the battle between Chris Baker and rookie Dustin Keller for the starting tight end gig will be an intriguing one. Baker has improved every season in the league, but is very far from spectacular. Keller, on the other hand, is a very athletic first-round prospect and could actually play the slot on offense. Bubba Franks, signed to a 1-year contract this spring, won't see the field that often, as his career is quickly winding down.
The Jets have solid talent on offense, but their quarterback situation will be a mess if they keep going with Pennington. But regardless of who the signal caller is, the scoring unit will always be bogged down with Schottenheimer calling the shots.
2008 New York Jets Defense:
Speaking of poor coaching, I never liked the idea of transitioning a team to a new defense despite having players who fit an old scheme. Not that Eric Mangini is a bad coach or anything; it's just that with so many players who fit the 4-3 perfectly, including Jonathan Vilma, Victor Hobson and Dewayne Robertson, one has to wonder why Mangini moved to the 3-4. In Pittsburgh, Mike Tomlin did the exact opposite. He was master of the cover-2, but decided to keep the 3-4 because of the personnel. The Steelers were in the postseason last year, and may have advanced deep if Willie Parker remained healthy. The Jets? Well, at least they landed a good draft pick...
And speaking of that draft pick, Vernon Gholston has yet to work his way to the starting lineup, as his coverage skills were a bit exposed in minicamps. I wouldn't worry though; Gholston is a nasty pass-rusher who can only improve upon New York's meager sack count of 29. At the very worst, Gholston will be in a rotation with Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace. Thomas notched nine sacks in 2006, but put up a measly three sacks last year. He actually told the New York Post that he slacked off in 2007. Now that's the kind of guy I want on my team (sarcasm). Pace, meanwhile, signed a 6-year, $42 million contract this offseason, despite having just 13 career sacks in five years. Pace had six last season.
While it's unclear if Gholston can emerge as a rookie, if Thomas can stop slacking off and if Pace can live up to his potential, we do know that all three rush linebackers will get good protection from a solid three-man front. The big acquisition here is massive nose tackle Kris Jenkins, obtained from the Carolina Panthers for third- and fifth-round selections. Speaking of "slacking off," Jenkins weighed 390 pounds toward the end of the 2007 campaign, per the New York Daily News. You want your nose tackles to be heavy, but there is a limit. The good news is that Jenkins will be randomly weighed this season. If he's deemed heavy, he'll lose bonus money - cash he can buy his precious Doritos with.
Next to Jenkins, Shaun Ellis is a very stout defensive end. He hasn't accumulated double-digit sacks since his days in the 4-3, but he's still very effective as a five-technique. Kenyon Coleman is also a solid 3-4 guy at the other end position.
The Jets will need to register more than 29 sacks if they wish to help an extremely young secondary for a change. How young? At 25, Kerry Rhodes is the most experienced player in the starting defensive backfield. Not that I'm knocking Rhodes or anything; he has emerged as a premier safety in the NFL. It's a shame he doesn't get the recognition he deserves. Rhodes has seven sacks and nine picks the past two years. Meanwhile, strong safety Abram Elam is actually a year older than Rhodes, but is entering his third season in the league with only eight career starts. Elam is a marginal player, however, and will be challenged by Eric Smith for the starting role.
At cornerback, Darrelle Revis, started every game as a rookie and played pretty well, considering he was only 22 years old. There isn't much across from Revis, however; Justin Miller, penciled into the other slot, has never shown NFL-caliber ability outside of a kick-returning role. Miller's more athletic than veterans like David Barrett and Hank Poteat, and should get the nod for that reason. Fourth-round rookie Dwight Lowery could be in the lineup by 2009 despite his lacking speed.
Despite the squad's youth in the secondary, stopping the pass wasn't a problem, as the Jets were ninth against it in 2007. The problem was putting the clamps on the run. If Jenkins stays away from the Oreos and keeps his weight down, he'll do a good job protecting inside linebacker David Harris, an incredible talent, who may have won Defensive Rookie of the Year if it weren't for Patrick Willis (though Jon Beason could have something to say about that). Unfortunately, there's nothing next to Harris, as a platoon of Eric Barton and Brad Kassell will start at the other inside linebacker slot. Neither is particularly effective.
The Jets made some nice defensive acquisitions on paper, but it's unknown if Jenkins can keep his weight down or if Gholston can be a game-changer as a rookie. Still, New York probably can't get worse than allowing 22.2 points per game.
2008 New York Jets Schedule and Intangibles:
No surprise Jets fans booed the selection of Mike Nugent when their team took him in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Well, they're not hating the pick now. Nugent hit 29-of-36 attempts last season and is 10-of-12 from 40-49 the past two years. However, Nugent was just 1-of-4 from beyond 50 yards in 2007.
For my money, Ben Graham is one of the best punters in the league. He averaged 43.3 yards per kick, placed 23-of-66 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line and put a weird spin on the ball to make return men muff the catch.
Though the Jets allowed a special teams touchdown, Leon Washington compensated by taking three back to the house.
New York has a pretty easy schedule. Tough opponents include New England (twice), San Diego, Tennessee and Seattle, but every other contest is winnable. Those include Miami (twice), Arizona, Cincinnati, Oakland, Kansas City, St. Louis, Denver and San Francisco.
2008 New York Jets Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2008 New York Jets Analysis: Of the Jets' 12 defeats, seven came by a touchdown or less. If they had better quarterbacking, their four victories could have been nine or 10 wins. The problem is that position hasn't been upgraded. Neither has the offensive coaching.
The Jets' stop unit and ground attack could carry the team to six wins or so, but don't expect to see this team in the postseason until it figures out its signal calling situation.
Projection: 6-10 (3rd in AFC East)
2008 Fantasy Football Rankings:
Kellen Clemens: Unless Chad Pennington miraculously stops throwing like a 12-year-old girl, I can't imagine the Jets not sticking with Kellen Clemens for the majortiy of the season. Then again, their offensive coordinator refuses to throw the ball on first down no matter what, so who knows what they're thinking?
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 2,200 passing yards. 13 passing TDs. 130 rushing yards. 1 rushing TD.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 207.
Thomas Jones: Potential sleeper. Thomas Jones rushed for 1,119 yards, but scored only twice and managed just 3.6 yards per carry. The low touchdown total was an anomaly, while the latter figure will be helped with Alan Faneca and Tony Richardson on the team. Jones has solid value in non-touchdown leagues.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 1,190 rushing yards. 200 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 175.
Chris Baker: The good news is that Chris Baker's stats have increased every year he's been in the league. The bad news is that his career highs are 41 receptions, 409 yards and four touchdowns. Dustin Keller will steal some of his looks.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 325 receiving yards. 3 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 50.
Dustin Keller: There's a good chance we'll be seeing Chris Baker and Dustin Keller on the field at the same time. With no legitimate No. 3 receiver, Keller could play in the slot. He's merely a rookie, so I'd look elsewhere.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 300 receiving yards. 1 TD.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 36.
Jerricho Cotchery: Jerricho Cotchery is an ever-improving receiver who passed Laveranues Coles as the team's No. 1 target last year. Cotchery had 82 receptions and 1,130 yards. Unfortunately, he scored only twice, as New York's offense was extremely stagnant in the red zone.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 1,100 receiving yards. 4 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 134.
Laveranues Coles: Hampered by ankle injuries late in the year, Laveranues Coles had just 55 catches, 646 yards and six touchdowns. With poor quarterbacking, Coles will have trouble breaking the 1,000-yard plateau this season.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 875 receiving yards. 5 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 117.
Mike Nugent: Mike Nugent has become one of the top kickers in the game. Unfortunately, his offense won't give him many extra-point and field-goal opportunities. His 36 tries in 2007 may have been a fluke.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 23-29 FG (2-3 50+). 28 XP.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 107.
New York Defense: I'd stay away. There's no guarantee the Jets will accumulate much more than 30 sacks and they don't exactly force too many turnovers.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Bottom 10 Defense.
2008 NFL Draft Grade:
Vernon Gholston was the right move. Don't pay attention to anyone who says he was inconsistent; he had his best games against Michigan and Wisconsin ... I never thought the Jets would trade up for Dustin Keller, but I like the move. Their offense was so stagnant and Keller will add some juice to it ... Dwight Lowery, once a second-round prospect, was solid value at No. 113. He should be able to become a decent starter across from Darrelle Revis.
New York's first three picks were great, but I'm not sure if I get Erik Ainge. The Jets didn't really need a backup cornerback. Why not spend the selection on a need like an inside linebacker to play next to David Harris, or a speed receiver to stretch the field for Kellen Clemens? ... New York should have addressed those needs. They only had six picks because they traded up for Dustin Keller, which sort of decreases the value of that selection.
Grade give on 4/29/08: B-
2008 NFL Draft Picks:
6. Vernon Gholston, DE/OLB, Ohio State
Ghol-ston! Ghol-ston! Ghol-ston! Think the Jets fans got their man? I'm really looking forward to Vernon Gholston and Jake Long battling each other twice a year for the next decade. (Pick Grade: A)
30. Dustin Keller, TE, Purdue
This pick seemed odd at the time because I didn't expect it, but Dustin Keller seems to be a major upgrade over the crap New York has at tight end. I'm concerned with Dustin Keller's height, but he's talented enough to make up for it. (Pick Grade: B)
113. Dwight Lowery, CB, San Jose State
Solid pick. A year ago, Dwight Lowery was a potential first-round prospect. He fell with a horrific 40, but he's talented and should thrive in North Jersey. (Pick Grade: A)
162. Erik Ainge, QB, Tennessee
Andre' Woodson would have been better, but Erik Ainge could be a solid option if Kellen Clemens flops. (Pick Grade: C)
171. Marcus Henry, WR, Kansas
There are better receivers available, but this fills a need for the Jets. (Pick Grade: B)
211. Nate Garner, OT, Arkansas
Might as well copy-paste what I said for pick No. 171. (Pick Grade: C)
I have no idea why the Jets stuck with Chad Pennington for so long. Sure, Kellen Clemens didn't have much experience, but it's not like Pennington gave them the best chance to win. All Pennington was good for was tossing pick-sixes, lashing out at the media and throwing the ball like a 12-year-old girl. I have to believe that the Jets, assuming they fix some of their needs this offseason, will be back in the playoff hunt in 2008.
Jets receive QB Brett Favre from Packers for conditional draft pick
Jets cut QB Chad Pennington
Jets announce retirement of S Artrell Hawkins
Jets cut S Darnell Bing
Jets cut CB Andre Woolfolk
Jets sign S Cameron Worrell
Jets cut WR Chris Davis
Jets sign RB Musa Smith
Jets re-sign CB Hank Poteat
Jets trade Dewayne Robertson to the Broncos for a conditional 2009 draft pick
Jets sign TE Bubba Franks
Jets sign RB Jesse Chatman
Jets sign FB Tony Richardson
Jets cut OT Anthony Clement
Jets sign CB Andre Woolfolk
Jets sign DE/OLB Calvin Pace
Jets sign OT/G Damien Woody
Jets sign G Alan Faneca
Jets trade ILB Jonathan Vilma to the Saints for a 2008 fourth-round pick and a conditional 2009 pick
Jets receive NT Kris Jenkins from the Panthers for third- and fifth-round picks
Jets cut WR Justin McCareins
Jets cut CB Andre Dyson
Jets cut G Adrien Clarke
Defensive End: The Jets need either a 3-4 end who can take on blockers, or a pass-rushing outside linebacker who can get to the quarterback and bolster a morbid pass rush that had just 29 sacks in 2007. If they acquire the former, they can slide Shaun Ellis back into the latter position. New York can remedy this need with either Chris Long or Vernon Gholston with the sixth selection in April's draft. Drafted Vernon Gholston; signed Calvin Pace
Inside Linebacker: Jonathan Vilma isn't a good fit for the 3-4, so the Jets need to find a stud inside linebacker to pair with David Harris.
Offensive Tackle: As I wrote in my 2008 NFL Mock Draft, Anthony Clement has the blocking ability of a turnstile. The Jets have the money to go after Jordan Gross. If not, perhaps Carl Nicks or Gosder Cherilus at the top of Round 2. Signed Damien Woody; drafted Nate Garner
Nose Tackle: Dewayne Robertson could be headed out of New York, so the Jets need a new nose tackle to clog the interior of the line of scrimmage. Traded for Kris Jenkins
Wide Receiver: Laveranues Coles' production has fallen off a bit, so I'd like to see the Jets obtain a dynamic No. 2 wide out - someone like Early Doucet or James Hardy in the second round. Drafted Marcus Henry
Cornerback: Andre Dyson is likely gone, meaning the Jets will have to find someone better to help them defend all of New England's weapons. There are rumors New York is going after Asante Samuel this offseason. He would obviously be a great addition to the team. Drafted Dwight Lowery; re-signed Hank Poteat
Running Back: With Thomas Jones turning 30 this summer, there's a good chance the Jets will draft a running back who can platoon with him initially and take over the running back position full-time once he leaves the Big Apple. Leon Washington is a nice change-of-pace back, but I don't think he can carry the load exclusively if Jones gets hurt. I have no doubt the Jets will draft Darren McFadden if he falls to them. McFadden won't make it past Atlanta and Oakland, however, so Eric Mangini will have to look at someone like Tashard Choice or Ray Rice in Round 3. Signed Jesse Chatman and Musa Smith
Interior Line: The cupboard is pretty bare for New York's interior front. They should add a lineman or two for depth purposes. Signed Alan Faneca
New York Jets Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 13): $27.27 million
Victor Hobson, OLB/ILB. Age: 28. Signed with Patriots (1 year)
Victor Hobson struggled in the 3-4. I doubt he'll re-sign with the Jets this offseason. A team utilizing the 4-3 could use his services.
Chad Pennington, QB. Age: 32. Signed with Dolphins (2 years, $11.5 million)
Chad Pennington has a weak arm and he'll never win a Super Bowl as a starter, but he's an efficient game-manager. Should only be signed as a quality backup.
Anthony Clement, OT. Age: 32. Signed with Patriots
Not sure how much of an upgrade Damien Woody is over Anthony Clement, both of whom are nothing more than backups in this league.
Erik Coleman, S. Age: 26. - Signed with Falcons (4 years, $10 million)
Hank Poteat, CB. Age: 31. - Re-signed with Jets
Brad Kassell, OLB. Age: 28.
Andre Dyson, CB. Age: 29.
Wade Smith, G. Age: 27. - Signed with Chiefs (2 years)
Justin McCareins, WR. Age: 29. - Signed with Titans (1 year, $1 million)
Sean Ryan, TE. Age: 28. - Signed with Dolphins
Adrien Clarke, G. Age: 27. - Signed with Ravens
Justin Green, FB. Age: 26.
Andre Woolfolk, CB. Age: 28.
Chris Davis, WR. Age 24. - Signed with Titans
Stacey Tutt, FB. Age: 26.
Marques Tuiasosopo, QB. Age: 29. - Signed with Raiders
Darnell Bing, S. Age: 24. - Signed with Lions
Divisional Rival History: Buffalo Bills: Traditionally a home-dominated series, but the Bills have bucked that trend. They've won the past three matchups. Miami Dolphins: The Jets have dominated this series for years. Try 16 of the last 20. New England Patriots: Poor Jets. The Patriots have beaten them in 10 of the previous 11 matchups.