The New York Jets are hoping to bounce back from a dismal 4-12 campaign that saw Herm Edwards pack up and leave for what he believes are greener pastures in Kansas City. New coach Eric Mangini brings the system he learnt under Bill Belichick in New England to New York with the hopes of revitalizing a sagging franchise.
Mangini was busy from the get-go in changing the face of the Jets. Numerous free agents were brought in, some top stars were let go and for once the New York fans loved what the franchise did in the draft. So maybe there’s a ray of light after all?
Offense: This is a unit that has nowhere to go but up. Last season the Jets scored 255 points, only the Cleveland Browns had less. With Chad Pennington getting injured once again and Curtis Martin finally showed signs of age – this offense went nowhere fast.
Pennington returns for another season in Jetsville, but competition has been brought in because Mr. Pennington is as brittle as a dry, dead leaf. The Jets went out and signed Patrick Ramsey from the Washington Redskins. Ramsey’s situation is similar to Joey Harrington’s. He came out of Tulane with a huge reputation and high ratings from the scouts. Instead of living up to that rep, Ramsey has been a career underachiever. He hopes to change that in New York. Brooks Bollinger, last seasons starter, and rookie Kellen Clemens are also in the mix.
Martin was bothered by injuries in 2005, but one has to think that time is finally catching up to the future hall-of-famer. His string of 10 consecutive thousand-yard seasons was snapped (he finished with 735 yards and five touchdowns) and he didn’t seem to have that extra something to shed defenders.
But make no mistake he’s still a threat, even at the ripe old football age of 33. Martin comes into 2006 with 14,101 career rushing yards, 484 receptions and 100 career touchdowns. His presence in the locker room alone is enough to help the Jets. Cedric Houston (302 yards) saw his workload increase late in the season and that could carry over. Derrick Blaylock and rookie Leon Washington will see time as well. B.J. Askew returns at fullback.
Longtime New York fan favorite, Wayne Chrebet, called it a career and the Jets need to find some people to stand up. This was one of the weakest receiving groups in the NFL last season. It didn’t help much that the quarterback position was in flux either.
Lavernues Coles (73-845-5) is the number one and will be counted on to lead this group once again. Justin McCareins (43-713-2) will be the number-two man with Jericho Cotchery playing in the slot. Free agent pickup, Tim Dwight, will be the fourth receiver. Rookie Brad Smith, former quarterback at Missouri, will get a look at wideout as well. Doug Jolley (29-324-1) and Chris Baker (18-269-1) return at tight end.
There could be major changes on the offensive line, thanks to the draft and free agency. Trey Teague was signed away from Buffalo and will take over at center, allowing Pete Kendall to move back to guard. Rookie Nick Mangold will challenge Teague. Brandon Moore will join Kendall at guard. Rookie stud D’Brickashaw Ferguson should step right in at left tackle and start for the next 10 or so years. Adrian Jones will man the right side, but free agent signee Anthony Clement (49ers) also is there.
Defense: This unit is where the biggest change will take place. Mangini was the defensive coordinator for the Patriots and most likely will switch the Jets from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Another factor will be how this unit regroups after the loss of John Abraham. He might not have been a good locker room guy, but his 10.5 sacks will be missed.
In this new look defense, Shaun Ellis and free agent pick up Kimo Von Oelhoffen (Steelers) will be at the defensive end spots. Dave Ball and rookie Titus Adams should see playing time as well. Dwayne Robertson will hold down the nose tackle spot with Adams possible sliding over too.
Jonathan Vilma returns as the unquestioned superstar of the Jets defense. He followed up his Rookie of the Year season with an even more impressive sophomore one. There were no slump here as Vilma racked up 169 tackles and a trip to the Pro Bowl. Victor Hobson, Eric Barton and rookie Anthony Schlegel should make up the rest of the starting corps.
Ty Law took his 10 interception season and left town, but all is not lost at the cornerback position. David Barrett (five interceptions) returns along with Justin Miller, who had a solid rookie campaign. Also added via free agency were Ray Mickens (Browns) and Andre Dyson (Seahawks). Barrett and Dyson should be the starters.
At safety, Erik Coleman and Kerry Rhodes return after a solid 2005 seasons. Coleman registered 121 tackles and two picks, while Rhodes made 105 stops, good enough for second and third on the team leaderboard. Rashad Washington, Andre Maddox and rookie Eric Smith provide depth.
Special Teams: Kicker Mike Nugent had an impressive rookie season, going 22-28 in field goals and 24-24 in extra points. With more experience, he’ll only get better. Ben Graham (43.7) returns as punter. Miller is the kick returner (26.3), while Dwight will most likely replace Cotchery returning punts.
Outlook: Mangini will bring his knowledge and a badly needed winning attitude to the New York franchise. But the unsettled situation at quarterback, an aging Curtis Martin and weak receiving unit, spells trouble with a capital T. The Jets will struggle to score points once again and it may take them some time to absorb the 3-4 scheme on defense.
Prediction: Mangini will make the Jets a better club. They’ll play hard and be competitive, but a lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball spells another losing season for the Jets. Look for a 4-12 or 5-11 record from New York.