By John McGarrigle
With the arrogance of Mike Tyson in his prime and the language of a 19th century sailor, the New York Jets have proclaimed themselves as the team to beat in the 2010-11 NFL season. The remarkable thing about this team is that the new brash and confident culture was born and matured in just one season under Head Coach Rex Ryan. The “same old Jets” vibe around this team has evaporated as evidenced by veteran players signing with the Jets “to win and be part of a championship”. Even HBO and NFL Films have bought into the new attitude, featuring the team on this year’s Hard Knocks.
All is right in JetNation, or is it? Of course not. There are still numerous questions surrounding this team, but the biggest (and most important) question revolves around the team’s most talented defender player, but there are certainly others. In the end and regardless of the final outcome, the 2010 NFL season should prove to be memorable one for the Jets and their fans.
The coaching staff, lead by Ryan, remains essentially unchanged heading into 2010. Brian Schottenheimer returns as the Offensive Coordinator. Schottenheimer had a very good season calling the plays in 2009 and a repeat performance in 2010 may provide Schotty the chance to move on as a head coach. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine had a spectacular year in 2009 leading the NFL’s overall number one offense. He learned his craft from Ryan himself, and probably takes more than a few queues from Rex during a game, but Pettine is his own man and a talented coach. Need proof, see the benching of now ex-Jet Kerry Rhodes in the middle of 2009. Mike Westhoff, the NFL’s most respected Special Team Coordinator returns in 2010 with more than a few new players to indoctrinate in the “Westhoff Way”. One additional coach that is absolutely vital to the success of the 2010 Jets are offensive line and assistant head coach . Under Callahan the Jets offensive line has become one of the elite units in the NFL. Callahan’s task this year is to plugin a new, young left guard while maintaining the offensive line’s elite status.
The Jets made many impressive player acquisitions, covering all phases on the game, this offseason. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum’s work provided the Jets with an incredible list of talented new players including:
- LaDainian Tomlinson (Free Agent)
- Antonio Cromartie (Trade)
- Santonio Holmes (Trade)
- Jason Taylor (Free Agent)
- Brodney Pool (Free Agent)
- Mark Brunell (Free Agent)
- Laveranues Coles (Free Agent)
- Nick Folk (Free Agent)
- Larry Taylor (Free Agent)
- Rodrique Wright (Free Agent)
- Kyle Wilson (Draft – Round 1)
- Vladimir Ducasse (Draft – Round 2)
- Joe McKnight (Draft – Round 4)
- John Conner (Draft – Round 5)
The two trades are impressive in that the Jets gave up relatively little for Holmes (5th round pick in the 2010 draft) and Cromartie (3rd round pick in the 2011 draft).
There is little reason for anyone to doubt that the Jets will remain one of the top defensive teams in the league, with or without All-Pro Corner Back Darrelle Revis playing for this season. The defensive backfield of Cromartie and Wilson as the starting corners, and Jim Leonard and Brodney Pool should provide sufficient coverage and run support skills to give most teams trouble. Much has been made of Cromartie’s unwillingness to tackle while in San Diego, but all indications are that he has been a much more physical presence throughout training camp. If Darrelle Revis ends his holdout and returns to the team, this unit goes from very good to outstanding over night.
The question is will Revis sit the year like his uncle Sean Gilbert did years ago? The Jets, and all Jets fans, hope to see #24 back on the field for the opener. The linebackers are an athletic group that gained a legitimate pass rusher in Jason Taylor this offseason. The group, lead by outstanding fourth year player David Harris, are more than ready to make some noise in 2010. The defensive line, anchored by Shawn Ellis and Kris Jenkins, may be the biggest concern on this side of the ball. Last year this unit was the weak link after Jenkins went down with a torn ACL midway through the season. The player to watch on the defensive line this season is former first round pick Vernon Gholston who has been converted back to Defensive End from linebacker.
Offensively, the Jets have a ton of playmakers, a great line, and a second year quarterback that has been asserting himself throughout training camp. Mark Sanchez has claimed the offense for his own and has spent the entire offseason in New Jersey studying film and rehabilitating from off-season knee surgery. Sanchez has a ton of options available to him this season and really only needs to manage the game and make the most of the opportunities that will present themselves. The wide receiver corp is made up of the steady Jerricho Cotchery, the talented Braylon Edwards, and after week four the former SuperBowl MVP Santonio Holmes. Wily veteran Laveraneus Coles, in his last NFL season, will serve as Holmes’ replacement through week four. The tight end population provides further issues for opposing defenses with Dustin Keller’s receiver-like abilities in the middle of the field as well as Ben Hartsock’s blocking and decent hands in the red zone.
The running backs provide the final skill position nightmare for the teams facing the Jets this season. Lead by second year back Shonn Greene and future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson, the Jets backfield should be able to run the ball against most defenses. Tomlinson’s receiving skills and rookie Joe McKnight’s explosiveness as an athlete make this corps even more difficult for opposing teams to plan against. Tony Richardson and Rookie John “The Terminator” Conner should provide the additional thump needed to clear holes for their companions to run though. Conner is already a Rex Ryan favorite, so we can only guess that this kid is a seriously physical player. Finally, and most importantly, the offensive line should again be and overall excellent unit. Despite losing an aging Alan Faneca, this unit remains one of the elite in the NFL. Center Nick Mangold is regarded as the best in the game and D’Brickashaw Ferguson has improved each season since being drafted. Brandon Moore and Damien Woody are a solid right side of the line, although Woody’s age and health maybe a concern. The Jets have two young players competing to replace Faneca at left guard, second round pick Vladimir Ducasse and second year lineman Matt Slauson. The eventual starter will be a step back from the veteran Faneca, but both have the potential to become solid contributors going forward.
The Special Teams units are, despite Mike Westhoff’s presence, provide the Jets the biggest concern heading into 2010. The loss of Wallace Wright, Jay Feely, and James Dearth are major blows to special teams. The replacement for Feely (Cardinals) is the former Pro-Bowl kicker Nick Folk who has been less than dependable since his Pro-Bowl season with the Cowboys. Long snapper Tanner Purdum will attempt to replace Dearth (Redskins), but has been noticed in training camp, which is exactly what a long snapper should never be – noticed. The Ravens may cut long snapper Matt Katula and the Jets may be interested in his services if Purdum continues to be noticed in camp. One of the young receivers will have to step up and attempt to replace Wright (Panthers) as an outside contain/gunner. Wright was outstanding in his time with the Jets, so replacing him may not be as easy as people may believe. The final issue facing special teams this season is the abundance of really good older, experienced players on the Jets roster. There are so many, in fact, that there may be a problem if several core special teams players are injured.
The Jets enter the 2010 believing themselves to be serious contenders on their way to the Super Bowl in Dallas. Rex Ryan insists this team can and will beat the bleep out of any other team in the NFL this year on their way to winning a championship. Only time, and playing the games, will prove out whether or not this is the team will be able to achieve at the same level that they talk. So, Jets fans, sit back and watch the show, it is guaranteed to be worth the price of admission this season.