QB Tim Tebow, WR Chaz Schilens, OT Stephon Heyer, SS LaRon Landry, SS Yeremiah Bell, K Josh Brown.
DE/DT Quinton Coples, WR Stephen Hill, ILB Demario Davis.
RB LaDainian Tomlinson, WR Plaxico Burress, DE/OLB Jamaal Westerman, CB Marquice Cole, SS Jim Leonhard, S Brodney Pool.
2012 New York Jets Offense:
When will Tim Tebow unseat Mark Sanchez? That's the $64,000 question pertaining to the Jets. Tebow was acquired from the Broncos after the Peyton Manning sweepstakes concluded, and he wasn't brought in to be a goal-line back or a punt protector. He's in New York to challenge Sanchez. He won't win the job in training camp, but he'll take over for Sanchez if he falters. And Sanchez will.
Sanchez has regressed over his three NFL seasons. He's had some clutch moments in the playoffs, but he completely fell apart during the final stretch last year. He tossed seven interceptions in the final three contests in 2011, all of which were losses that the Jets desperately needed to go the other way. Two of the picks, occurring at Miami, were tossed directly to 310-pound nose tackle Randy Starks. Allowing a nose tackle to intercept one pass is bad enough if it doesn't happen on occasion because of fluky circumstances. But two?
Sanchez's confidence was really shaken at the end of the year. He wasn't playing with any sort of decisiveness, and he inspired no confidence from his teammates. Santonio Holmes openly rebelled in the locker room, yet Sanchez wasn't able to do anything about it. Now, this Tebow situation can't make things any better. Clueless, stubborn ESPN analysts have bashed the Jets for acquiring Tebow, citing that it won't be good for Sanchez's ability to lead the team. Well, if Sanchez's confidence can be harmed based on one acquisition, then he shouldn't be a starting quarterback in this league.
Tebow, on the other hand, is undoubtedly one of the top 32 quarterbacks in the NFL. There's no question about that. He threw for 316 yards against Dick LeBeau's defense in a playoff victory. He's a dangerous threat on the ground, and he's a tremendous leader. Unlike Sanchez, he inspires confidence. Does he have flaws in his game? Absolutely, but most signal-callers do. Tebow is the right man for the Jets' job. It's just a matter of "when;" not "if."
Tebow makes sense for more than just leadership and overall talent. He fits what Rex Ryan wants to do. Ryan has stated repeatedly that he wants to go back to "Ground and Pound." He utilized this strategy during Sanchez's rookie campaign when he had a still-effective Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene in the backfield. Jones' replacement, LaDainian Tomlinson is gone (and pretty much finished anyway), so it's up to Greene, who was a mild disappointment last year, rushing for just 4.2 yards per carry. That figure will rise, however, because of Tebow's presence. Once Tebow is inserted into the lineup, Greene will suddenly have huge lanes to pound through because the opposition will be terrified of Tebow's rushing ability. Tebow will also help the Jets convert in the red zone; Greene scored only six touchdowns last year.
The receiving corps is lacking, though Tebow is used to that. Holmes is still the No. 1 wideout despite his attempts to destroy team morale, but only because of financial reasons. Holmes has reportedly been out of shape at OTAs, which is hardly a surprise. Chaz Schilens was slated to be the second receiver prior to the 2012 NFL Draft, which would explain why New York selected Stephen Hill in the second round. Like a slightly older Georgia Tech wideout, Demaryius Thomas, Hill is extremely raw coming into the league, but possesses unlimited upside. Tebow worked well with Thomas, so he should feel comfortable throwing to Hill. But until Hill gains experience, the No. 2 option on offense will be Dustin Keller, who caught a career-high 65 passes for 815 yards in 2011.
One issue that will arise when Tebow takes Sanchez's job is right tackle Wayne Hunter, who is one of the worst starters at his position. He was guilty of 11 sacks and 11 penalties in 2011. He'll be Tebow's blind-side protector, which could prove to be disastrous because Tebow is prone to fumbling. Unless Tebow has worked on that aspect of his game this offseason, New York's opponents will be collecting lots of turnovers.
The rest of New York's offensive line is pretty solid. The best of the group is center Nick Mangold, arguably the top player at his position in the league. Left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who, like Mangold, was selected in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Jets, permitted eight sacks last year, but only two after Week 11. Guards Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore do a good job in pass protection.
2012 New York Jets Defense:
Another offseason, another rush linebacker-less draft. Ranking 18th in sacks (35), the Jets were expected to address that position at No. 16 overall this past April, perhaps with South Carolina's Melvin Ingram or Syracuse's Chandler Jones, but they passed on all options. They did end up taking someone who can help them get to the quarterback, however.
North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples was a top-five prospect heading into the 2011 college football season. Unfortunately, his stock plummeted because of a miserable senior campaign. He clearly didn't give 100-percent effort on the field, later blaming the coaching change. He was also very mediocre at the Senior Bowl. He looked explosive against guards who were forced to play tackle, but he couldn't do anything versus the legitimate tackles.
The Jets, however, weren't concerned. Coples is slated to start on a defensive front also comprised of 2011 first-rounder Muhammad Wilkerson and nose tackle Sione Pouha. Wilkerson offered nothing in terms of a pass rush as a rookie, but did shut down the run pretty well. The same can be said for Pouha, who was re-signed to a cheap, 3-year, $15 million deal this offseason. Pouha probably would have netted much more if he weren't 33.
As for the rush linebacker position, Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace are expected to be the starters, with Aaron Maybin entering the game on passing downs. Pace, 32 in October, had a mediocre 2011 campaign because he was hampered with a foot injury for most of the season. Thomas, on the other hand, missed all but four games last year because of a torn Achilles. Given the severity of that malady and his age (33), Thomas won't even be close to 50 percent; let alone 100 percent this year. Maybin will have to be on the field more often, which as Buffalo fans know very well, is not a good thing. Maybin has proven that he can be a solid situational pass-rusher under Ryan, but asking him to do too much could be disastrous.
All in all, the Jets have not improved their pass rush, which will continue to put stress on a secondary featuring terrific corners and atrocious safety play. Darrelle Revis is still at the top of his game; he surrendered a sterling 41.6 completion percentage last year. Antonio Cromartie was slightly worse at 46.4, though he did allow six touchdowns. Nickel corner Kyle Wilson (66.7) really needs to improve despite Ryan's compliments toward him.
But Wilson is the least of New York's worries in the defensive backfield. LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell and Eric Smith will compete for the two safety jobs. Smith was horrific last year, and he wouldn't even be considered for either gig if it weren't the uncertainty pertaining to the two other players. Many teams passed on Landry because he couldn't pass a physical coming off an Achilles injury. Bell, meanwhile, was released by Miami because of age (34), as well as monetary and coverage issues.
The Jets aren't completely weak in the middle of their defense. Inside linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott are both back despite speculation that the latter would be released this offseason. Scott, 32 in August, is on his last legs, but is still a force versus the run. Third-round rookie Demario Davis will likely succeed him next year, sliding in next to Harris, a phenomenal player overall.
2012 New York Jets Schedule and Intangibles:
The Tim Tebow-Mark Sanchez competition will grab all the headlines, but another Jets' battle is at kicker. Nick Folk was just 19-of-25 last year, prompting New York to sign Josh Brown, who was 21-of-28 in 2011 despite kicking indoors.
Punter T.J. Conley was awful last year, stuck with a pedestrian 42.7-yard average and 32-of-92 attempts placed inside the 20.
Jeremy Kerley and Joe McKnight did a great job as the punt and kickoff returners, respectively. Kerley didn't score, but maintained a 10.9 average. McKnight found the end zone. The Jets didn't permit a touchdown on special teams.
The Jets have a balanced non-divisional schedule. Easier matchups include the Colts (home), Seahawks (road), Rams (road), Cardinals (home), Jaguars (road) and Titans (road). However, they also have to deal with the Steelers (road), 49ers (home), Texans (home) and Chargers (home).
2012 New York Jets Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2012 New York Jets Analysis: Rex Ryan has finally stopped predicting that he'll win the Super Bowl. That's a good thing because he won't look as foolish when he misses the playoffs again. The Jets are a declining team, featuring a dubious quarterback situation, a malcontent receiver and several holes on defense. New York will be extremely fortunate to avoid finishing with a losing record in 2012 if Ryan doesn't go to Tebow early in the season.
Goals Entering the 2012 NFL Draft: The Jets have lackluster play-makers on offense and a declining defense featuring very few players who can get to the quarterback consistently. Rex Ryan can only pray that Michael Floyd falls to him so he can obtain a No. 1 receiver for Tim Tebow, but he'll likely have to spend his first few selections on upgrades for his stop unit.
2012 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Jets obtained a potential No. 1 receiver, but it wasn't Floyd. Stephen Hill, projected by many to be a first-round pick, somehow fell to New York in the middle of the second round. He was a no-brainer at that juncture. He's really raw, but has enormous, Demaryius Thomas-type potential.
Of course, Rex Ryan's No. 1 priority was upgrading the pass rush, which he may have done with Quinton Coples at No. 16 and Demario Davis in the third round. However, Davis was a bit of a reach, while Coples was a major risk. Many observers think that he mailed it in during the 2011 season, though he told us otherwise in our interview with him. There's no denying though that his production was way down, and that he had problems getting around real tackles at the Senior Bowl. He was only productive when matched up versus guards on the edge.
The Jets made some nice, late picks, but they took way too many risks in this class. Coples, Hill and Davis could all be great, but they just as easily could bust. Considering the volatility in the Jets' locker room right now, Ryan probably should have opted for safer, high-character prospects.
2012 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
16. Quinton Coples, DE/DT, North Carolina: B- Grade
Quinton Coples can be a stud, but there's more of a chance that he'll bust. He gave very little effort on the field - and this was when he was playing for free (save for the booster money). Can the Jets get the most out of him? They better hope so, because their other option, Melvin Ingram, would have given them 100 percent.
43. Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech: A Grade
And another AFC East team makes a great selection in Round 2. The Jets acquired the No. 43 selection from the Seahawks for fifth- and seventh-round picks. And I can definitely understand why. Stephen Hill easily could have gone in the 20s. New York desperately had to find an upgrade at receiver because Chaz Schilens is currently slated to start. Hill is a raw route-runner, but he has ridiculous upside.
77. Demario Davis, OLB, Arkansas State: C- Grade
Demario Davis is a slight reach - only Mike Mayock had him in the top 100 (No. 86) of all the major big boards - but this pick fills a big need. The Jets had to find an outside linebacker who could rush the passer.
187. Josh Bush, S, Wake Forest: C+ Grade
Josh Bush can play both safety positions, which is key because they have holes in both areas. The Jets would have addressed this area earlier if they had a Day 3 pick prior to this one. Bush is a bit of a reach, but that's not a big deal in the middle of Round 6.
202. Terrance Ganaway, RB, Baylor: B+ Grade
Another running back for the Jets' ground and pound. Terrance Ganaway could have gone a bit higher than this, so there's some value with this selection.
203. Robert T. Griffin, G, Baylor: C Grade
I don't know if many people had Robert Griffin II being drafted, but the Jets had yet to address their offensive line.
242. Antonio Allen, S, South Carolina: A+ Grade
It's very strange that Antonio Allen dropped to the bottom of the seventh round, especially considering how thin this safety class is. Allen was No. 101 on the consensus board, so he could have easily gone atop Round 4. Allen could eventually start for the Jets, who have a huge hole at safety.
244. Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan: B+ Grade
Another receiver, which is a need. Jordan White fits the range. This is a pretty solid Round 7 selection.
Based on everything that has happened in the past month, you'd think the Jets went 2-14, or something. Santonio Holmes quit on the team, then the third-string quarterback referred to everyone on the roster as "selfish," and after that, anonymous members of the team called out Mark Sanchez, suggesting that he's lazy. You know, it's a good thing that the media coverage surrounding the Jets is so small, or they'd really be in trouble.
Jets sign S Yeremiah Bell
Jets waive G Trevor Canfield
Jets sign K Josh Brown
Jets announce retirement of QB Mark Brunell
Jets re-sign DE/OLB Aaron Maybin
Jets re-sign WR Patrick Turner
Rams sign TE Matthew Mulligan
Colts acquire QB Drew Stanton and 7th-rounder from Jets for 6th-rounder
Jets acquire QB Tim Tebow and 7th-rounder from Broncos for 4th- and 6th-rounders
Patriots sign CB Marquice Cole
Jets sign SS LaRon Landry
Jets sign WR Chaz Schilens
Jets sign QB Drew Stanton
Dolphins sign DE/OLB Jamaal Westerman
Cowboys sign S Brodney Pool
Jets cut S Gerald Alexander
Jets re-sign K Nick Folk
Jets re-sign DE/OLB Bryan Thomas
Jets re-sign NT Sione Pouha
Quarterback: Mark Sanchez has regressed, and it's disconcerting that members of his team are bashing him to the media. It's becoming clear that Sanchez isn't the answer, so the Jets will bring in someone to challenge him. That someone could be Peyton Manning. Traded for Tim Tebow
Two Wide Receivers: I can't imagine Santonio Holmes being back next year after what went down in the final couple of weeks of the season. Plaxico Burress is also running on fumes. New York needs a brand-new receiving corps. If Peyton Manning comes to the Jets, he might bring Reggie Wayne with him. Drafted Stephen Hill; signed Chaz Schilens
Right Tackle: As I wrote in my 2012 NFL Mock Draft, "Is there any doubt that right tackle Wayne Hunter was the 11th-best player on the field at all times for the Jets' offense? I mean, he surrendered 11 sacks and was whistled for 11 penalties. That can't be a coincidence, right?"
Rush Linebacker: New York's top pass-rusher last year was Aaron Maybin, so that should tell you all you need to know about its glaring hole at rush linebacker. Someone like Courtney Upshaw or Whitney Mercilus could be targeted at No. 16 overall this April. Re-signed Bryan Thomas and Aaron Maybin
Two Safeties: Eric Smith stinks. Jim Leonhard was good - until he tore his patellar tendon. He'll be a free agent in March. Signed LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell
Nose Tackle: Sione Pouha is a free agent. The Jets spent a third-round pick on Kenrick Ellis, but he could be deported. Re-signed Sione Pouha
Kicker: Nick Folk is a free agent, but the Jets needed a new kicker anyway. Folk's percentages the past three years: 64.3, 76.9, 76.0. Signed Josh Brown; re-signed Nick Folk
Inside Linebacker Depth: New York will be looking for depth here, as well as a possible successor for Bart Scott. Drafted Demario Davis
Blocking Tight End: A blocking tight end would free up Dustin Keller to run more routes.
Offensive Line Depth: What if Nick Mangold gets hurt again?
2012 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Josh Brown, K, Rams. Age: 33. Signed with Jets
Cut one day prior to his 33rd birthday, Josh Brown went just 21-of-28 last year, but is only one season removed from hitting 33-of-39 attempts.
LaRon Landry, SS, Redskins. Age: 27. Signed with Jets (1 year, $4 million)
LaRon Landry would be ranked much higher than this if he weren't so injury-prone. Landry has played in just 17 games the past two years. He could miss some more time next season because of an Achilles injury (not torn).
Chaz Schilens, WR, Raiders. Age: 26. -- Signed with Jets
Yeremiah Bell, SS, Dolphins. Age: 34. -- Signed with Jets (1 year, $1.4 million)
Stephon Heyer, OT, Raiders. Age: 28. -- Signed with Jets
Jamaal Westerman (RFA), DE/OLB, Jets. Age: 27. -- Signed with Dolphins
Marquice Cole (RFA), CB, Jets. Age: 28. -- Signed with Patriots
Nick Folk, K, Jets. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Jets
Donald Strickland, CB, Jets. Age: 31.
Matthew Mulligan, TE, Jets. Age: 27. -- Signed with Rams
Patrick Turner, WR, Jets. Age: 25. -- Re-signed with Jets
Gerald Alexander, S, Jets. Age: 28.
Mark Brunell, QB, Jets. Age: 41. -- Announced retirement
Kevin O'Connell, QB, Jets. Age: 27.
Divisional Rival History: Buffalo Bills: The Jets have defeated Buffalo in seven of the past eight battles. Miami Dolphins: The Jets used to dominate this rivalry, but the Dolphins have claimed four of the past six matchups. New England Patriots: Bill Belichick avenged his playoff loss to Rex Ryan, sweeping the Jets in 2011.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2012 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)