By Jet Moses
The Jets finished 10-6 last season, and after a one and done playoff run, it was obvious that the Jets had to improve the running game, if they wanted to continue to improve and take it to the next level. Rookie RB Leon Washington made quite a few highlight reels in his baptism by fire, but it would be unreasonable to expect him to be an every down back.
Enter Thomas Jones, a 2000 first round draft pick of the Cardinals. Jones became a journeyman, playing one uneventful season in Tampa Bay before landing in sweet home Chicago, leading the Monsters of the Midway to an NFC title. Jones was traded to the Jets, who desperately needed to fill the void that was left when Curtis Martin was sidelined with a knee injury. The Jets gave up a 2nd round pick for Jones.
Thomas Jones and Leon Washington provide a one two punch that was lacking last season. In spite of Kevan Barlowâ€™s disappointing season, the Jets total team offense ranked 4th overall in the NFL. Chad Pennington averaged 300 yards a game, throwing primarily to tougher than leather Laveranues Coles and also to the one man YAC machine, Jerricho Cotchery. Justin McCareins served admirably as the 3rd wideout, picking up 347 yards on 23 catches. Brad Smith, who played sparingly and mostly in trick plays, will have to be featured more often this season, if the Jets offense wants to become explosive.
The offensive line is the one unit that looks to be returning intact, and thatâ€™s not necessarily a bad thing; Cohesion is critical for an offensive line. Brandon Moore and Anthony Clement did a much better job on the right side of the line than they have been given credit for.
Whereas the offensive line needs cohesion, the defensive linemen are interchangeable parts. Mangini is either satisfied with the progressive improvement that NT Dewayne Robertson showed during the season, or he tried in vain to find a pure 3-4 defensive nose tackle with no luck. Those guys simply do not grow on trees, so what he did was attempt an upgrade everywhere else.
Mangini signed a plethora of free agent DEâ€™s: Kenyon Coleman, David Bowens, and long shot Andre Wadsworth. The Jets defensive coaching staff knows that the pass rush has been non-existent, and that must change, if the Jets want to compete for the Lombardi. To help the pass rush steal a few extra seconds and get those gimme coverage sacks, Mangini and Tannenbaum gambled a few draft picks to move up and acquire CB Darnelle Revis. If Revis can beat David Barrett out in TC, then it will have been well worth it. Keep in mind, cornerback is probably the toughest position to transition from college to the pros.
In round two, the Jets once again traded up to acquire David Harris, a Michigan linebacker with a reputation for stuffing the run. The Jets are having a hard time finding the right mix with their linebackers to play the 34 defense, and itâ€™s uncertain what role Harris will play.
All in all, I expect good things out of the Jets this year. I really canâ€™t see this team regressing off of the accomplishments from last year. I was really proud of the way the players performed. They had a new coaching staff, which was far more demanding that what they had grown accustomed to over the previous five seasons. They had two rookie offensive linemen, a QB coming off two back to back shoulder surgeries, a compromised running game, and an entirely new defense, in which many of the players had a hard time making the adjustment. And yet, in spite of those obstacles, guys like Dewayne Robertson, Jonathan Vilma, Bryan Thomas, and Shawn Ellis, all rose up to the challenge and gave 100%. They never made excuses, even when they were getting killed in the press, and on the message boards (myself included). You canâ€™t say enough about the character, determination and heart of these players. And if Mangini never quit on them, never wavered in his belief that they could do it, then why should we as fans?