Thursday, July 31, 2008

A catch-up post

First, a shout-out to Section 227, Row 5 of TGG for an amazing review of Wednesday afternoon's practice. The full report can be found here, and it's a great read about the practice, focused on the QB competition. Like the beat writers, he thought the offense looked crisper with Pennington at the helm.

*On Thursday, Eric Mangini ripped his team for a weaker practice Thursday morning. He cited the heat as a possible reason, but as he mentioned, the Jets play Miami in southern Florida week one. That is not an excuse.

*Justin Miller and Darrelle Revis both took reps at punt returner, looking very good at it, especially Revis. The other two both mentioned this as well, but maybe they'll replace Leon Washington at punt returner, where he is not as effective.

*Also on Thursday, Kerry Rhodes hit young receiver Chansi Stuckey pretty hard on a pass over the middle. Stuckey said he was glad that he was able to take a hit and get up quickly after he missed last season. Rhodes is definitely trying to be an enforcer on defense.

*Moving ahead to Friday, and first things first: the QB competition. Lo and behold, Pennington got on the interception scoreboard with not one, but two picks. One was to Kerry Rhodes near the endzone, while Justin Miller caught a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage by Brian Thomas for the other. Miller also picked off Brett Ratliff, continuing his strong showing so far. He has all the physical ability to be great, but his problem has always been mentally. He has all the motivation in his contract year, so he's hoping to get a nice deal in the offseason.

*While Pennington struggled, Clemens had his second straight good practice, showing some fire and touch. Mangini compared the QB competition to a horse race, and like in a horse race, whoever starts off the best doesn't always win. Hopefully, Clemens keeps playing well because if he develops into the quarterback the Jets hoped he could be, the team has a much higher ceiling.


I guess I should bring up Favre. Reports surfaced last night that the Jets were making a lot of progress and a deal was close, but later on, other sources said that it wasn't going to happen. Teams are now waiting on Favre to make up his mind regarding a $25 million offer from the Packers to stay retired and get rid of the headaches that would come about if he reported to training camp. That's one expensive Advil... Either way, the longer this lasts, the less negotiation power the Packers have, and the less interest other teams have in him. There's always one big exception, and that is if a premier quarterback gets hurt badly in camp or preseason. That's what the Packers may need to hope for.

Kellen: 6, Chad: 0

That's the INT total after another pick thrown by Clemens, this time by Drew Coleman. Eric Boland reports that he was having a better day than he had been until this pick on the last throw of the day.

*Boland also praises Dwight Lowery's play in camp. The San Jose State product was billed as a guy with a nose for the ball, and he's lived up to that reputation, being around the ball. He's not overly fast, so he will (and has) been beaten, but he's got a chance to be another fourth round steal for the Jets. Justin Miller and David Barrett still have the inside tracks to start, so don't get your hopes up too high just yet.

*Laveranues Coles (left leg, hamstring?), Matt Chatham (foot), and David Harris (left thigh) all missed practice. None of these injuries are considered too serious, though this was Harris's second straight day sitting out. Leon Washington also missed practice, but this was due to his hard work this offseason.

“He distinguished himself in what I think was our most competitive offseason,” Mangini said of the 2007 Jets MVP. “For him to stand out the way he did, I think it’s a very good reason why you’re seeing him having the camp he’s having."

*Cimini offers a few interesting things as well. If you're wondering about rookie Vernon Gholston, he got a few reps with the first-team defense, splitting time with Brian Thomas.

*QB Brett Ratliff also received two reps with the starters. Ratliff has impressed at times, and Mangini is giving him a reward for his hard work and play so far. Plus, it gives him a chance to prove himself with the big boys. A poorly thrown interception to James Ihebdigo.

That's about it. Nothing on the Favre front. Here's my latest article on the Yankees' trade for Pudge Rodriguez. I gotta say I love the moves the Yankees have made. Farnsworth is a one inning guy who just isn't trustworthy in late spots. Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras, and even David Robertson have outpitched Farnsworth, so he was expendable. So was Jose Tabata, who has been a pain in the rear for the Yankees to deal with this year.

2:20 AM: I hate to bring up Favre again, but are the Packers serious? Offering Favre $20 million to stay retired? Favre has horrible timing trying to come back, and it appears like the NFL has moved on without him. The Packers offering him money somewhat confirms that, but on the other hand, it's sort of a sleazy way to get out of him playing elsewhere.

There really must be no team who wants him. That might be the sad truth Favre faces. But remember, anything can change in an instant if someone gets hurt.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jets News and Notes: 7/29/08

*After throwing another interception, Kellen Clemens now has six, compared to Pennington not having thrown any. As I wrote back in May, I really want Kellen to win the job. It's best for the team in the long run if he can win the job, and the Jets need to find out what they have in their former 2nd round pick.

But at some point, Clemens does need to earn the job. With an open quarterback competition, it seems pretty apparent that Pennington has not only outplayed him, but he's also got the trust of his teammates. Clemens hasn't earned that.

Pennington can manage a football game. He's done that his entire career. He's healthy again, so he can't be any worse than he was last year, but he can get hurt at any time. He's a great fallback option. Clemens needs to prove that his upside makes up for his higher likelihood to turn the ball over. Otherwise, I think Pennington will win this job (right now, it's still very early).

*Eric Boland has some good nuggets in his blog, praising Laveranues Coles, Brian Thomas, Jason Pociask, James Ihebdigo, Jesse Chatman, and offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

*Cimini notes Kris Jenkins making a great goalline play. He also has Pennington talking about getting better and better each year and each practice and an Alan Faneca quote about the offensive line meshing. Finally, Vernon Gholston is "swimming" in the playbook according to Eric Mangini, but Gholston likens it more to "drowning." I'm not too worried, at least not yet, it's a lot to learn in a short period of time. Most rookies struggle.

*Few roster moves. We're at the time where teams move players in and out, trying to find diamonds in the rough. This time, punter Joe Smith (yes, he was #4, no, don't read anything into it), former USC safety Darnell Bing, and former Titans' 1st round pick Andre Woolfork are gone. The newest Jets are two former Rutgers players, safety Ron Girault and linebacker Brandon Renkart, as well as former Arizona State receiver Rudy Burgess and former Syracuse linebacker Jerry Mackey. Mackey was in camp last year.

*This has nothing to do with the Jets, but Brett Favre has officially applied for reinstatement. The Packers are not seeing much interest in Favre. This late in the offseason, not too many teams are interested in messing up their quarterback situation. Situations like this don't come around often, and teams feel that it's not worth it to mix it up this late. It would be something if Favre wanted to come back and nobody would start him. But right now, that could be a possibility. I'm sure Minnesota would like him, but Green Bay won't let that happen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kris Jenkins Makes Huge Difference in Middle

Kris Jenkins is the biggest offseason acquisition the Jets made in an offseason full of activity. He is generously listed at 335 pounds in various media outlets, but he came into camp at 359, and even that was low by Jenkins's standards.

More importantly, he is the key to everything the Jets want to be this year. They want to be a more physically imposing defense. After all, the 3-4 is driven by size. With only three down linemen, it is imperative that they be big enough to occupy as many offensive linemen as possible. Linebackers also must be big because with one less lineman in front of them, they will face one-on-one situations with 300-pound linemen.

No 3-4 position demands size more than nose tackle. In the center of the defense, they must force double-teams from guards and centers who are not big enough to block them.

Jenkins has never played the 3-4, but his size (6-4, 359) and attitude make him a near-perfect fit.

“A 3-4 nose has a different type of patience than a 4-3 tackle," he said. "In a 4-3, you can just take off and go upfield. In a 3-4, you have to be a little bit more patient,” he said. “But one of the things that I’ve kind of made a name for myself on is not moving, so I think that’s going to stay pretty consistent in a 3-4 as well."

“You have to make it easier for everyone else to do their job. That means holding up blockers or whatever you have to do to make it easier for those linebackers and those defensive backs, and that’s what I take pride in doing.”

"I never did the pretty position. I've always been a grunt. I take pride in being a grunt."


Last year's nose tackle DeWayne Robertson occasionally showed flashes of being the nose tackle, but in the end, he just was not big enough or skilled enough to fill the job. After all, he was drafted to be a 3-technique tackle in a 4-3 scheme. He was drafted for his size-speed combination as a pass rushing tackle in the mold of Warren Sapp, not for his ability to occupy linemen at the point of attack.

He was 6-1, 313 pounds. Compared to nose tackles on some of the top 3-4 defenses like Jamal Williams (6-3, 348), Vince Wilfork (6-2, 235), and Casey Hampton (6-1, 325), the former Jet has a distinct size advantage at the position.

Jenkins's presence will free up ends Kenyon Coleman and Shaun Ellis as well as the deep linebacking corps.

David Harris, Calvin Pace, Brian Thomas, Eric Barton, and rookie Vernon Gholston are all talented players. With Jenkins taking up space in the middle, they will have more room to showcase their talents.

As I wrote back on June 5th, the defense has a chance to be really good, and everything will revolve around the big man in the middle.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Practice canceled today

Practice was canceled today. Conspiracy theorists, rejoice in thinking this has something to do with the F-word, but the only news on that front is that he did file his reinstatement papers, so it does look like he will officially play, and the cancellation probably has nothing to do with that. Mangini is living up to his promise to lighten up the camp load, so that's a good sign. Good coaches can adapt and learn. Mangini was questioned about trying to force his methods to the Jets, especially regarding the 3-4, but this offseason is going a long way towards fixing that. Of course, it means nothing if the Jets don't win games, but it looks good on paper.

Mike Tannenbaum was on the WFAN morning show with Boomer and Carton, where he did what he does best, saying nothing.

“Here's where we're at with that. Teams call us, we call them as we’re tweaking the roster throughout training camp. Those conversations have been and always will be private between us and other teams and this is no different."

That's about as interesting as it got as far as today's news goes.

Some good stuff in the beat writers' blogs such as Vernon Gholston blowing past some of the second stringers. Boland has some information about that yesterday. The quarterback race is obviously far too early to call, Cimini says Pennington is the early leader based on play alone, but neither quarterback has lit it up.

Some other news and notes.

Leon Washington is getting primary reps at kick returner, but Darrelle Revis, Chansi Stuckey, and former Pro Bowl returner Justin Miller are also getting chances.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

News and Notes, Plus Goodbye Favre?

Cimini says it probably won't happen. Hutchinson says it's "very remote," though that's been changed from "absolutely dead." Boland's blog isn't loading for me right now. Here's a quick rundown of what's going on in terms of the Jets and not Favre. I've been guilty of jumping on that bandwagon because it's a good story, but it would also make a hell of a lot of sense for this team.

Here is a quick rundown.

Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington haven't been particularly impressive. Clemens has been up and down, while I haven't read an overly positive review of Pennington at camp yet. Nothing too negative either, just the same old Chad.

Danny Woodhead has been waived. The record-setting 5'7" back from Chadron State whose story made the NFL Draft telecast suffered an injury at camp yesterday, and the Jets waived him today. Bad news for him and for his fans, especially since he had been getting a good amount of reps at camp.

Wallace Wright was very impressive in camp yesterday. Could he have an outside chance at the #3 receiver spot? Chansi Stuckey and Brad Smith are the two favorites for that role, but Wright has been on the team for two seasons, so he's certainly as familiar with the system by now as either of the other two.

Cimini also reports that Mangini has stressed that his quarterbacks throw the ball away more instead of forcing balls into coverage. This is clearly directed more at Clemens than Pennington.

Finally, old friend LaMont Jordan signed a deal with the Patriots, joining Victor Hobson as the two newest ex-Jets-turned-Patriots. I know you're all worried about him turning it around with the Pats and running all over the Jets, but Jordan first needs to be concerned about earning a roster spot.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Why the Jets should trade for Brett Favre

Just when you think you're out, they drag you back in.

It was 24 hours ago when Eric Mangini said he was "very happy" with his two quarterbacks. Now New York Jets blogs and message boards are buzzing about Favre coming to the Jets after Chris Mortensen's report on ESPN.com.

Forget the off-field distractions. Forget his gunslinging mentality and his mediocre seasons before his resurgent 2007 campaign.

General Manager Mike Tannenbaum spent a lot of money this offseason improving his team. After a 4-12 campaign marred by an awful offensive line and defensive players forced to play positions they aren't comfortable in, Tannenbaum shipped out the square pegs (Jonathan Vilma, Dewayne Robertson) and acquired Kris Jenkins, Calvin Pace, Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, and rookies Vernon Gholston and Dustin Keller to make the team bigger, faster, and better.

All that is well and good, and with a decent quarterback, the Jets look good on paper. But do the Jets even have a decent quarterback? Early reports have been negative about both Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington, and it is a position that teams cannot afford to be weak in.

If Favre can play anywhere near the level he did last year, he completely changes the face of the offense. Thomas Jones, Laveruanues Coles, and Jerricho Cotchery are fine weapons, but none can transform an offense without a quarterback. His presence would open up the running game for Jones and Coles and Cotchery would look like a much better receiving tandem with a new quarterback.

Obviously, he carries some baggage. The will-he, won't-he retire offseason saga will likely return next season. But the Jets have no real allegiance to Favre. They could trade or cut ties with him and not have to deal with what Ted Thompson has to deal with in Green Bay.

In the meantime he and Pennington would be great tutors for Clemens. Trading for Favre would not mean the end of Clemens as the quarterback of the future. It would give the Jets another year to evaluate him and make a final decision going into the 2009 season on whether or not he can be the man.

The playbook would likely need to be cut down dramatically as Favre is a true gunslinger. But as it stands now, dumbing down the playbook for a hall-of-fame quarterback would provide a better offense than a full playbook with a weaker quarterback.

If the Jets conclude that Favre gives them the best chance to win, and they'd be willing to take him, only one obstacle stands in the way: compensation. Placing an appropriate value on a one-year rental quarterback six weeks before the first game is an impossible task.

Compensation will depend largely on how much interest other teams have in Favre. How many teams want to contend this season and can afford to take a one-year rental? Not too many. While the Packers may ask for a first round pick, chances are they will be forced to settle for a 2nd round pick or a few mid-round picks.

The Jets could easily offer a 3rd and a 5th next season. They will likely receive a 3rd round pick for Vilma and a 4th round pick from last year's Pete Kendall trade. If Robertson plays 65% of the snaps with Denver, they will get another 3rd round pick. With up to three extra mid-round picks, they could move two of them for a quarterback and not be hamstrung in next year's draft.

The Packers need to trade Favre out of the division and maybe out of the conference. The Jets need a quarterback, want to contend now, and have extra picks to trade. Favre wants to go to a contender in cold weather. It works for all parties.

In many ways this makes too much sense not to happen.

Jets Receive Permission to Speak to Brett Favre!

Wow. I wrote an article about the Jets making the most sense for Favre, but Chris Mortensen now reports that this could actually become a reality.

Thomas Jones, Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller, and Chris Baker could be better weapons than what the Packers have. The offensive line would give Favre time to throw, and the defense is good enough on its own to be very good.

Watch out, New England. The Jets may have extra picks next year from Pete Kendall, Jon Vilma, and DeWayne Robertson, so they could spare some in order to acquire a real quarterback.

The quarterback position is holding back the roster. While it's naive to expect Favre to replicate numbers from his prime or even from last season, he's a clear upgrade over what the Jets have now, and Clemens can learn a thing or two from him.

Details on Gholston's Contract are in

Vernon Gholston is signed, sealed, and delivered to Hofstra. Five years, $50 million with a $21 million guaranteed signing bonus. He's the first draft pick between 5 and 10 to sign, and he's the fifth rookie to get $20 million guaranteed. Rich Cimini believes that the deal is likely closer to $40 million total "without the bells and whistles," and I have to agree. No contract is ever exactly how it looks, and rookie contracts can get pretty crazy.

Look at Darrelle Revis last year. He signed a six year deal, but the last two years have been voided based on incentives reached in his first two years. The Jets can buy back those last two years at $5M and $9M per year. Teams want to pay the rookies the money they want while protecting themselves in case their investments don't pay off. I'm curious to what clauses are in Gholston's contract.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jets and Gholston close on contract?

I'm in the middle of a ton of work for my summer business classes at Villanova, but abyzmul on theganggreen.com's forums pointed me toward Dave Hutchinson's article in the Star Ledger stating that Vernon Gholston is close to being signed. He could get on the field as soon as tomorrow or Friday. The word is the Ohio State product seeks a five year contract while the Jets want to lock him up for six.

In other news, Eric Mangini said he expects Chris Baker to be back fairly soon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chris Baker, Jason Trusnik placed on PUP list

Training Camp is just a day away, but already there is an interesting subplot as disgruntled tight end Chris Baker has been placed on the PUP list. He's been riding the stationary bike in practice, so maybe we shouldn't read anything into this, but you never know after the way the Jets handled Pete Kendall last year. Kendall was forced to live in the rookie dorms and was treated flippantly by the Jets FO. Baker has raised a similar stir this year so far. This time, the troublemaking player is replaceable with two capable backups, but the Jets still need to handle their best tight end better than they did their only left guard last year. Again, this could very easily be nothing, but it's an interesting start.

Hopefully Vernon Gholston gets signed sooner rather than later. The Jets have always been great about getting their guys into camp on time until Darrelle Revis's hold out last season. Not a lot has been reported yet about negotiations, but with Chris Long signed at #2, Gholston's contract will become closer to completed.

Trusnik, a backup linebacker, played 6 games last year, mostly on special teams, making 8 tackles.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dustin Keller signs

The 30th pick in the draft, tight end Dustin Keller, has come to terms with the Jets. No details on the contract have been released, but now only Vernon Gholston remains unsigned. Good job by the Jets taking care of business with all their later picks.

It's going to be very interesting to see how the Jets use him. He's a little undersized for a TE (6-3, 240), so blocking could be an issue. However, his hands and 4.55 speed should make him a threat to stretch the field and create more opportunities for Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery.

Don't expect a ton as a rookie, since most rookie receivers and tight ends tend to struggle early on, but Keller works hard and competes, so hopefully he can have an impact sooner rather than later. The Jets probably don't want him to start right away, but if Chris Baker becomes enough of a nuisance, he might have to.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dwight Lowery and Erik Ainge sign

Four down, two to go.

After today's signings of fourth round pick Dwight Lowery and fifth rounder Erik Ainge, only first round picks Vernon Gholston and Dustin Keller remain unsigned.

Lowery, a ballhawking cornerback from San Jose State, is expected to immediately compete in the defensive back rotation. Darrelle Revis is entrenched on one side of the field, while Lowery has an outside chance to compete with Justin Miller and David Barrett on the other side. More likely, he'll start as a dime back with Miller starting across from Revis.

Ainge is a productive quarterback from Tennessee. He is big and productive in the SEC, with a pretty strong and accurate arm. So why did he slip to round five? Questions about his durability and consistency are rampant, and he's not particularly mobile. He's an intriguing option down the line at quarterback because he has all the physical tools necessary in a quarterback.

Both contracts are for four years with undisclosed salaries.

In other news, the Jets signed undrafted free agent Kyle DeVan, a 6-2, 306-pound center from Oregon State. The Redskins had originally signed him on May 1 after the draft. Training camp fodder, but it never hurts to bring in guys and see what they can offer.

More news can be found about these signings here on the official site.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Media Training Camp

Yesterday, many of the New York beat writers were invited to a little seminar called, "Learn Defense with Eric Mangini." The writers were given parts of the playbook, and Eric Mangini went over them, quizzing the media members on various things, whether it was the names of their colleagues or the proper diagram of a play.

Since I was not at this meeting, I defer to Eric Boland and Rich Cimini for more depth and details.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Source: Jets won't pursue Favre

That's what the Daily News reports.

"It's a long shot right now that the Jets have any interest. I wouldn't spend any time on that," the source said to the News. "I can't rule out 100% they won't have interest, but I would say it's 90%-95%. I would be very surprised if he wound up with the Jets."

Well, that dampens my enthusiasm for sure, but you never know. It's still early. If Green Bay plays its cards right and refuses to move him to the NFC, then the Jets could make a play, depending on the interest from other teams.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What if the Jets got Brett Favre?

What if?

Is it that farfetched?

How many teams have shaky quarterback situations where Favre would immediately play? Obviously he's better than many QBs, but that doesn't mean for instance that the Raiders would get him over JaMarcus Russell.

Let's look at all 32 teams
New England: NO
Buffalo: Maybe
New York: Maybe
Miami: Maybe
Pittsburgh: NO
Cleveland: NO
Cincinatti: NO
Baltimore: Maybe
Indianapolis: NO
Jacksonville: NO
Tennessee: NO
Houston: NO
San Diego: NO
Denver: NO
Kansas City: Maybe
Oakland: NO
Dallas: NO
NYG: NO
Washington: Maybe
Philadelphia: NO
Minnesota: Maybe
Detroit: Maybe
Chicago: Maybe
Tampa Bay: Maybe
Carolina: Maybe
New Orleans: NO
Atlanta: Maybe
Seattle: NO
Arizona: Maybe
San Francisco: Maybe
St. Louis: NO

So that leaves Buffalo, the Jets, Miami, Baltimore, Kansas City, Washington, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Atlanta, Arizona, and San Francisco.

Throw out Minnesota, Detroit, and Chicago because they're all in the NFC North, and Green Bay won't trade him there.

Throw out San Francisco, Atlanta, Kansas City, and Miami because Favre won't want to play for a bad team.

Throw out Buffalo because they have confidence in Trent Edwards.

Throw out Carolina because they have confidence in Jake Delhomme.

Throw out Arizona because between Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner, they have someone who can play a little.

That leaves Washington, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and the Jets. The only reason Washington is listed is because Dan Snyder is their owner. If he wants to stick with Jason Campbell, they won't make a play. Baltimore makes a lot of sense at first glance, but will new coach John Harbaugh really want to use Favre for one season and then start all over again next season?

What about Tampa Bay? Jeff Garcia played well for them last season, and they already have Garcia, Chris Simms (though he wants out), Luke McCown, Josh Johnson, and Brian Griese on the roster. If Jon Gruden wants Favre, they'll probably get him, but if he sticks with Garcia...

...then that leaves the Jets. Between a wide open quarterback competition and a pretty talented team at other positions, the Jets are as good a fit for Favre as there is. Kellen Clemens can learn for a year under Favre, and then hopefully take the job next season, while the Jets can move Pennington for a late draft pick.

I have no idea if the Jets will actively pursue him, but to the doubters, it makes more sense than you might think.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Top 5 reasons why the Jets will have a top 5 defense

After a disappointing 2007 season in which everything seemed to go badly, the New York Jets went into the offseason hoping to patch up major holes, both in their offense and their defense.

Most of the attention went to how they shelled out big contracts to Alan Faneca and Damien Woody. And while the Jets did everything they could to try to strengthen the offensive line, the defense was made an even bigger priority.

The defense was decent in 2007, allowing 22.2 points per game and 331.9 yards per game. That was good enough for 20th and 18th respectively in the NFL.

Just like in 2006, however, the defense improved leaps and bounds in the second half of the season. They held five of their last seven opponents to 20 points or less.

But Eric Mangini has made it clear that he's tired of the defense only making strides after the bye week. He's committed to stopping opposing teams' offenses from the onset.

With new acquisitions Kris Jenkins, Calvin Pace, and Vernon Gholston, he hopes to finally make the Jets' fans proud of their defense again.

There are several reasons to believe he'll actually come through on that promise. Here are five reasons why the Jets will not just be a good defense, but one of the best in the NFL.



1. The players finally fit their roles.

The biggest criticism Mangini endured about his defense was that he had been trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

This offseason, he and GM Mike Tannenbaum committed themselves to ridding the defense of players who did not fit the 3-4 scheme. Gone are former first-round picks Jonathan Vilma and DeWayne Robertson, players they traded for conditional 2009 draft picks.

Robertson was drafted as the perfect 4-3 under tackle who could generate pressure through his low center of gravity and impressive size-speed ratio.

Unfortunately, while his size was fine for the 4-3, a 6'1", 310-pound nose tackle who had been used to trying to penetrate in the backfield for years could not adjust to the new role.

He had his moments, but in the end, the Jets needed a pure nose tackle who took pride in taking double teams and controlling gaps. Enter Kris Jenkins, a 6'4", 360-pound beast of a man. He's never played 3-4 nose tackle, but his offseason quotes make him sound more than willing to play the role.

Jenkins certainly has the size. In fact, many times last year he was too big, letting his weight fluctuate to almost 400 pounds. However, he's come to camp in shape this year, and with weight clauses in his contract, he's likely to stay in shape.

Just a few years ago, he was the best tackle in football. A motivated Jenkins gives this 3-4 defense the nose tackle it has sorely needed for two years.

Vilma was drafted 12th overall in the 2004 draft, making an immediate impact by winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year that year. Despite his small size, 6'2", 228 pounds, he again had a big year in 2005, leading the NFL in tackles and again leading the Jets' defense.

Enter Eric Mangini and the 3-4.

Vilma struggled in 2006 in the middle of the defense. The 3-4 defense negated his pursuit and tackling ability, and forced him to take on more blocks, one of his weaknesses.

Despite that, both he and the coaches both believed he could succeed in 2007 in the new defense. Unfortunately, after six weeks of frustration, his season ended due to a knee injury.

Vilma's injury spelled the end of his career in green and white. Second-round pick David Harris stepped up into the starting role and thoroughly outplayed him. In his first two starts, Harris made 41 tackles, ending the season with 127 tackles, five sacks, and two forced fumbles, despite only starting nine games.

With Harris and Jenkins now manning two essential pieces in the defense, rather than the undersized Robertson and Vilma, the defense is ready to make major strides. As good as Harris was last year, imagine how he could do with a real nose tackle taking up blocks in front of him.

The run defense had been inconsistent at best since the 3-4 took place. With Harris, Jenkins, and new linebacker Calvin Pace, all committed to stopping the run, it's hard to imagine the run defense not taking significant strides forwards.



2. The Jets made the pass rush a priority.

What's a pass rush?

That's the question the Jets' fans have been wondering the last few seasons. Opposing quarterbacks have had excruciatingly long times to look for receivers, as the Jets have really struggled to generate any sort of consistent rush since John Abraham left before the 2006 season (and he was barely on the field).

The pass rush in the 3-4 comes from the outside linebacker position. Last year, the two outside linebackers were Victor Hobson and Bryan Thomas. Hobson is now a backup on the Patriots after providing no pass rush over his Jets' career. Thomas followed a 2006 breakout year with a disappointing season.

"I feel like I slacked off last year," Thomas said in various interviews. He also admitted his practice habits weren't up to par, leading to a drop from 8.5 sacks to 2.5 sacks.

The Jets gave him a big contract extension, but he'll be fighting for his job in 2007 thanks to two big-money additions, one from free agency and one from the draft. If that doesn't motivate him, nothing will. Expect Thomas to fight for his job and try to prove that 2006 was not an aberration.

Calvin Pace, like Thomas, was considered a bust in the 4-3 until a breakout season in the 3-4, leading to a big, six-year, $42 million contract by the Jets. He led the Arizona Cardinals with 106 tackles and also contributed 6.5 sacks.

A 270-pound linebacker with good speed, he'll definitely be a starter this season, as the Jets really like his ability both against the run and the pass.

Possibly the biggest addition to the pass rush won't even start. Vernon Gholston might not start as he gets adjusted to the 3-4 and to the speed of the NFL game. However, the sixth-overall draft pick has both the freakish measurables and the collegiate production to produce in the NFL.

Gholston put up one of the most impressive combine performances, with a 4.58 40-yard dash, a 42-inch vertical jump, and 37 bench repetitions, complementing his 6'3", 264-pound frame.

He was far from a workout warrior, however, as he put up 22.5 sacks in his last two seasons, the most in college football the last two seasons and the fifth most in Ohio State history. He also beat Jake Long for the only sack he allowed en route to being the No. 1 overall pick.

With Pace, and likely Thomas, being able to generate some pass rush as starters, Gholston will be fresh on third downs to terrorize offensive linemen. Shaun Ellis also has the ability from his defensive end position to get to the passer, and don't forget about Jenkins and Harris.



3. At least three Pro Bowlers will come out of this defense.

To answer your question, Harris, Darrelle Revis, and Kerry Rhodes (Pace and Jenkins may deserve it).

Last year's first-round pick Revis lived up to the hype along with Harris. He had 87 tackles and three interceptions his rookie year with no pass rush.

Those numbers are likely to improve since Revis got better as the season went on. Also, if the quarterback has less time to throw, the secondary will be much more likely to make plays on the football.

Revis is a very good cornerback, both in covering receivers and in helping stop the run. While he struggled at times, he acclimated himself well. With a better team around him, he'll put up the numbers to get significant Pro Bowl consideration.

Rhodes has been one of the league's top safeties for the last few years. He was the worst Pro Bowl snub in 2006, but ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the Associated Press all gave him the respect he deserved, naming him to their All-Pro teams. That year, he had five sacks, four interceptions, three forced fumbles, 99 tackles, and 13 passes defended.

His 2007 season started off very quietly, but like many in the Jets' defense, he improved his play dramatically after Harris received a starting job. His numbers were down, with 68 tackles, two sacks, five interceptions, two forced fumbles, and ten passes defended. But most of that was in the second half of the season.

Both Rhodes and Revis have prototypical size and speed for their positions, and both are on the verge of being stars. Rhodes will get recognition as soon as he and the Jets get more press, while Revis and Harris are both on the verge of being great.

Through the improvements around them, and through their own work, it's not a stretch to think that at least those three will be Pro-Bowl caliber this 2008 season.



4. The offense is respectable.

This article is about the defense, but football is much too complicated to make a clean separation between the two sides of the ball. While the quarterback position is still the most pressing question on this team, that might not matter.

Let's look at all the pieces the Jets acquired to help improve the offense.

* OG Alan Faneca
* OT Damien Woody
* TE Dustin Keller
* TE Bubba Franks
* FB Tony Richardson
* RB Musa Smith
* RB Jesse Chatman

And Justin McCareins is gone!

The one thing in common with everyone they signed is size. Faneca, Woody, Franks, and Richardson will all provide major help to the team's run blocking. Chatman and Smith might get a few carries behind them.

The new offensive line, with Faneca and Woody complimenting D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, and Brandon Moore, will be much better. There are also few fullbacks with as much talent at lead blocking as Tony Richardson. All signs point to a ball-control offense with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington leading the way.

There's little reason as to why the quarterback position should be such a detriment that the running game can't at least be above average.

Kellen Clemens, my pick to be the starter, is a talented, former second-round pick with enough arm strength and athletic ability to be a starter in the league. He was terrible last season, but anyone would have behind that disaster of an offensive line.

Pennington was also bad last season, but for different reasons. Say what you want about his arm strength, but the man is smart and accurate.

He had the worst velocity of any quarterback in the NFL last season, but he's fully healthy again. If the running game can get going, Pennington can lead a ball-control offense with a lot of play action with the best of them.

What does all this mean for the defense? Less time on the field and more time with the lead. A lot of carries for the running backs takes time off the clock and provides the defense with some rest, allowing the players to produce closer to their peak levels.

And if the offense can give the defense some leads, it will hamstring opposing offenses by limiting their playcalling to more pass plays. This will allow the pass rushers and ball hawks to do their jobs.

While it's unlikely for the offense to be great unless one of the quarterbacks steps up, the offense is geared perfectly toward running the ball down teams' throats.

Who needs Darren McFadden? Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and Jesse Chatman are all talented enough to take advantage of the much-improved offensive line.



5. The schedule looks much easier.

Many dismissed the 2006 Jets season, thinking they simply took advantage of an easy schedule en route to making the playoffs. While that is an unfair assessment of the team, there is a modicum of truth in that. It appears that the 2008 schedule will be closer to 2006 than 2007.

Here's a list of the team's 2008 opponents.

* New England (twice)
* Miami (twice)
* Buffalo (twice)
* Cincinnati
* Tennessee (road)
* Oakland (road)
* Kansas City
* Denver
* San Diego (road)
* Arizona
* San Francisco (road)
* Seattle (road)
* St. Louis

While it's unfair to judge the schedule in June, this doesn't look particularly difficult, coming in as the eighth easiest schedule in the league according to last year's winning percentage. Keep in mind that it also includes two battles with the 16-0 Patriots, which skew that percentage somewhat.

The NFC West has arguably been the worst division in the NFL over the last few seasons, while the AFC West outside of San Diego is down. The other non-divisional games come against Cincinnati and Tennessee, two one-dimensional teams who both went through some offseason turmoil.

The remaining six games come against the AFC East. Obviously it's tough to pencil a win against New England, but Miami was the worst team in the NFL last season. Buffalo has many unanswered questions going into the season, although they might have enough talent to take the next step from 7-9.

Either way, the only playoff teams from 2007 that the Jets face are San Diego, Tennessee, Seattle, and New England, and there are reasons to think that Tennessee and Seattle might fall from their perches. The Jets faced six playoff teams last season.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/27502-why-the-new-york-jets-will-have-a-top-five-defense-next-season