By John McGarrigle
The 2009 season ushers in yet another “brand new start” for the New York Jets faithful. Almost immediately after the disappointing end to the 2008 season, Eric Mangini was fired as head coach of the New York Jets. Rex Ryan of the Baltimore Ravens was hired to lead the Jets into the future, one that Ryan is confident will be bright. Ryan’s first prediction – shaking hands with the President of the United States. Yeah, he went there.
Along with Ryan come former Ravens players linebacker Bart Scott, safety Jim Leonard, and defensive end Marques Douglas. The Ravens also provided the Jets with their new Defensive Coordination in the form of Mike Pettine. The other notable addition to the Jets defense for 2009 is cornerback Lito Sheppard (trade with the Eagles). Sheppard shores up a solid secondary lead by corner Darrelle Revis and safety Kerry Rhodes. Ryan also firmly believes that Vernon Gholston, the 6th overall pick in the 2008 draft, will be a major contributor in the new Jets defense. Significant contributions in the new defensive scheme are expected from defensive linemen Kris Jenkins and Shaun Ellis as well as linebacker David Harris. The new Jets defense promises to be aggressive, active, and unpredictable from week to week.
On the offensive side of the ball, Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was given the green light to run the offense as he sees fit in 2009. Ryan did provide one “suggestion”, however – he wants the Jets to be an “all weather”, strong running offense. The Jets very talented offensive line should be able to deliver on this request. Lead by center Nick Mangold, the Jets starting offensive line is among the elite in the National Football League. The 2009 Jets will need to lean heavily on the offensive line and the running game. The departure of quarterback Brett Farve leaves the Jets with two inexperienced options at the quarterback position: Kellen Clemens and the 5th pick in the 2009 draft Mark Sanchez. The running back corps of Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Tony Richardson, and 3rd round pick Shonn Greene will need to deliver week to week to help either quarterback manage games, especially early in the season. The wide receiver corps lead by Jerricho Cotchery is young and mostly inexperienced, but not without potential. Chansey Stuckey, Brad Smith, David Clowney, and Wallace Wright will all have a chance to contribute at wide receiver in 2009.
Special Teams coordinator Mike Westhoff remains on the staff in 2009, so the Jets should remain one of the top special teams units in the league. Kicker Jay Feeley remains on as the Jets kicker in 2009 as former 2nd round draft pick Mike Nugent moved on to Tampa Bay as a free agent. Reggie Hodges is back as well to provide a solid effort as the team’s punter. Standout special teamers Wallace Wright and Brad Smith return, as does All Pro kick returner Leon Washington. Rex Ryan is a smart coach, so it is reasonable to assume that Westhoff will be given the latitude to experiment with new ideas in the coming season.
Several significant players from the 2008 New York Jets roster will be playing in different cities in 2009. Wide receiver and former offensive captain Laveranues Coles will be lining up opposite Chad Ocho Cinco in Cincinnati this season. Brett Favre is retired at the moment, Tight end Chris Baker was signed by the New England Patriots. Eric Barton, Kenyon Coleman, Abram Elam, David Bowens, CJ Mosley and Brett Ratliff all join former coach Mangini in Cleveland.
The Jets faithful are well acquainted with starting over. Rex Ryan and the 2009 New York Jets provide yet another opportunity for Jets fans to start over, hopeful and optimistic that things will really be different this time around.