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State Of The Jets

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By Sperm Edwards 

Well the bloom is finally off the rose for the “Mangenius.� The situation with Kendall seemed (and seems) to be a microcosm of this individual’s enormous arrogance.

I had no objection with not renegotiating a contract after only one year, letting him go, or seeking a different player for the position. But to take this line-in-the-sand stance, and not accounting for it with at least a lateral move in advance, weighed way too much to one side on the balls vs. brains see-saw.

Well now they are 1-3 after losing to a bottom-five team (particularly considering the plethora of injuries they had) in Buffalo. There are at least rumors that some players are losing patience with Mangini’s killer off-season program and not a lot to show for it in terms of wins. It’s too early to totally panic on that front, because it’s likely that if they had won in Buffalo then there wouldn’t be so much player sentiment this way at 2-2.

What if they lose against the cross-town rival Giants on Sunday? Even a dolt like Herm would know enough to start the kid at QB to give himself a mulligan. Of course if Pennington has what everyone considers strong outing Sunday and they still lose, then Mangini’s up a certain proverbial creek without a paddle. It would stink to high hell of throwing a player – the team captain, no less – under the bus to try to mask his own shortsightedness (if not outright incompetence). But to appease Pennington’s biggest supporters, I will certainly concede that if Chad was clearly the weakest starter on the team (which he certainly is not), then there wouldn’t be so much discontent with the team or the staff right now because they would have more than one win in four.

Mangini may be waiting for one more loss (or certainly one more loss with a weak passing game) so no one will question the move rather than making the switch now. 1-3 is not a season-ending record (on paper). 1-4 probably is with this roster. This isn’t like 2002 when they actually had a good team but had a bunch of nagging injuries during the first month that then healed. Everyone who hasn’t been put on IR, except maybe Dyson, has been healthy and a CB is not going to help the OL or defensive front seven in the remaining dozen games.

On the bright side, there is a possibility that Mangini and Tannenbaum have turned a corner in drafting strategy. Instead of stockpiling guys who few (if any) thought were truly the best value at those spots (Schlegel, E.Smith, B.Smith, Pociask), he at least made an effort to get premiere type talents (Revis & Harris) that were excellent value at those draft positions. But then, they still gave away another day one pick for Thomas Jones and then gave him a hefty contract on top of that. It would be one thing if Jones, now 29, had proven he was an excellent RB despite being on an otherwise mediocre or lousy team (like Dillon in his first 5 seasons or so with the Bungles), but that wasn’t the case. And that’s what the 2007 Jets are/were talent-wise in too many areas.

I wish I could say the same for their Free Agent acquisitions, or should I say lack thereof. It is possible that they wanted to build as much as they could through the draft, leave plenty of available cap space, and then leave the last couple of pieces to a little spending. I’m probably giving them too much credit, but I hope this is/was the long-term plan.

– LT – D’Brick still needs about 10 more lbs. It remains to be seen if he’s going to lose more weight as the season goes on like in ’06, but we sure hope not. He hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations of a #4 overall pick (though admittedly, that’s hard to do anyway unless he looks like a HOF’er in the making). But he could be worse – a LOT worse (see Winston Justice) – and still has a lot of promise/upside.

– They BADLY need a starting-caliber LG and RT. At RG Moore doesn’t wow me, but if he was the single weakest link on the line like in ’04 then such a line would be plenty good enough. It’s possible that Bender develops into a solid enough RT by the start of next season, reducing the absolute need to just LG. No one outside Hofstra really has any idea as to his development though. He looks the part size-wise, but that won’t matter if he just flat-out sucks talent-wise (look no further than our own Adrian Clarke).

– NT is an absolute must. 4-3. 3-4. Doesn’t matter. You still need one and they don’t have one. But in the 3-4, the type you need is much, much harder to find. Don’t know where this is going to suddenly materialize from. Even to draft one, you’re talking about throwing a rookie in as the anchor in a 3-4 defense right away. I really don’t know how this is going to be addressed. Maybe “Tanginiâ€? thought the 3-4 NT fairy was going to leave one under the pillow one night. If Mangini banks on Pouha filling that role and Tannenbaum doesn’t override him and bring in anyone to seriously “challengeâ€? him (read: beat him out), they should both be fired on the spot for gross negligence. Two years in the 3-4 without a NT is bad; a third year would be unforgivable.

– DE – I don’t know whether or not a true NT would make a huge difference in Ellis’ play. It certainly wouldn’t hurt and a NT that truly draws double-teams might free him up a little bit; DRob is not that player & his cap # in 2008 (just under $9M) suggests he won’t be here. But Ellis, who received in excess of $15M in bonus money from his mid-2004 contract extension and ’06 renegotiation, clearly is not justifying his cap figure in this scheme. It’s an upgrade they could use, but the accelerated cap hit may prevent this from becoming feasible. Plus starting two new players on a 3-man line at the same time could even be uglier than the mess we’re currently witnessing and who knows if his replacement would even be an instant upgrade anyway, since Ellis is a talented player. Coleman is fine, if unspectacular.

– Pass rushing OLB. Hobson isn’t a liability, but I wouldn’t exactly call him a consistent, playmaking asset. I see him as more of an outstanding backup but he’ll be too expensive to re-sign in that role since he’s a UFA after this season. Thomas got a bunch of sacks (8.5) last year but it’s not like he was terrorizing QB’s all season long. He’s good enough to be on one side, but a true playmaker opposite him is needed.

– ILB – Vilma is okay but not great in a 4-3. In the 3-4 he’s been an outright liability no matter what he’s got going for him upstairs and I don’t think he’d be anything more than average even with a true NT. He’s had ball carriers dead to rights a couple of times this year and they’ve made him looked foolish when he did. If someone was willing to part with a 2nd-rounder, ask yourself this: would you trade away a 2nd-rounder for Jonathan Vilma, with 1 year left on his contract, to use in a 3-4 defense? I suppose some would. Conventional wisdom and his play in the 3-4 suggests the pick might have more value. We have Harris, and I suppose if he’s starting then we could do with one more year of Barton (or a combination of Barton/Vilma) next to him, but EB’s hardly an ideal solution. But like Moore on the OL, if Barton was the weakest link in the LB corps, they would be in very good shape here.

– Secondary is plenty good enough if the front seven wasn’t giving the QB a year and a day to throw the ball. Revis will need a new contract in the off-season to prevent him from becoming a UFA after 2008.

So I count 4 that are MUST upgrades (on both sides of the ball): LG, RT, NT, and OLB. Three if Bender can be a non-liability starter at RT by next year.

It’s not like we have 10 holes to fill, so that is optimistic. But when two of the simultaneous-upgrades are on the OL (tough to get them to gel) and one is the most difficult position to find in the entire league (NT suitable for a 3-4), it tones down the optimism a bit. Even more so when two of the upgrades needed are from current team captains (Chad, Vilma). It looks like more than it is because those needed upgrades are in the trenches, where I’d hoped they would shore up before going after skill position players like Thomas Jones.

The question that remains is if Mangini is too arrogant to believe, for a 3rd straight season, that he can plug any misfitting player in there and his “genius” will take care of the rest. Also, we don’t even know if Clemens is the solution at QB; we’re not going to find out while he’s holding a clipboard. Same goes with Bender at RT.

But most of these are off-season issues to address (for a 3rd consecutive season). Doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot for 2007 where there are still 12 games remaining. The season’s not over, but the light at the end of the tunnel is fading fast.

Hope for the best. Hope there is a plan.

Go Jets!

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