Monday, August 31, 2009

Sanchez leads Jets over Giants 27-25

The Jets beat the Giants 27-25 in a very competitive preseason game. But all that Jets fans will remember are three plays, and for good reason.

Play #1

After a first quarter in which the Giants clearly outplayed the Jets, Mark Sanchez drove the Jets in the 2nd quarter on a four play drive that gave the Jets to lead. On the touchdown strike, Sanchez eluded pressure, kept his eyes down the field, and threw a perfect strike to an open Chansi Stuckey off his back foot. Stuckey danced and juked his way into the end zone in a play that showed flashed the talents of both players. Stuckey showed his trademark shiftiness, but obviously Sanchez is the story of the play.

There will be a lot of times that Sanchez struggles this year. But as long as he shows flashes of being the star the Jets are paying him to be, it'll be a successful season for him. Plays like that are exactly what you should be looking for. It showed his poise, accuracy, vision, and mobility all in one shot, and Stuckey capped it off with a great play of his own. All in all, it was a big day for Sanchez, who finished 13-20 for 149 yards and a touchdown against one of the best defenses in the NFL. If he can play like that, the Jets will be a tough team to beat.

Play #2.

This might be the best Jets picture I have seen in years. That would be the "Madbacker" Bart Scott ripping the ball out of the hands of the biggest, most bruising back in the NFL Brandon Jacobs. Making it even more epic is that Scott's helmet flew off earlier in the play, and the intense look on his face (and the ball in his hands) is exactly what Rex Ryan preaches. Intensity. Violence. Ahh, I love it.

Play #3. (Fast forward to 1:10 for the play)

Finally, a game where you didn't need to pay close attention to #50 to actually notice him. Vernon Gholston continued to progress, showing strength and more pass rushing moves than ever. Of course, he's going from a guy who looked like one of the biggest busts in NFL history to playing like a marginal backup, but every little step helps.

And when this play first happened, my reaction, and probably yours, too, was that of utter amusement. I burst out laughing. Vernon Gholston comes unblocked off the edge and plants David Carr, forcing a fumble, finally doing what the Jets are paying him to do, and he can't even do that right by hitting David Carr helmet-to-helmet. I'm not sure if he was trying to make a statement by drilling Carr as hard as he did, or if he simply was so shocked that he was about to play that he just ran into him and forgot to actually tackle him. My money is on the latter. Either way, at least we know he exists, and that he's not completely allergic to the quarterback. He's got a long way to go, but like I said before, every little bit helps with this kid.

***Other news and notes***
*QB Chris Pizzotti, who actually got to play in this one as Rex Ryan promised, was released. So were S Nate Ness, LB Craig Kobel, and WR Huey Whittaker.

*Erik Ainge continues to impress, as his one throw was a 70-yard touchdown strike to the speedy Aundrae Allison. Ainge's quarterback rating? A perfect 158.3.

*Leon Washington...what can you say about him other than he better get the ball at least 15 times a game. He's just a step quicker than everyone else on the field.

*David Harris led the team in tackles with 6 solo and 2 assisted. He also had an interception. This guy might be the most impressive player on defense all preseason.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Jets vs Giants Preview

At 8:00 the Jets will look for their first win of the Rex Ryan era in a road game in Giants Stadium. For the third straight week in a row, the primary focus from most fans will be quarterback Mark Sanchez. Now that he has been named the starting quarterback, all eyes will be on him to see how he does in a full half of play against another stout defense.

This is the closest to the real thing we will see in the preseason. Starters will be in longer, so if the Jets can move the ball against the Giants, it will mean something, especially considering Sanchez's struggles last week.

So as a result, here are 10 players to pay extra attention to.

1. OLB Vernon Gholston - This is his first start in the NFL. Even though it's preseason, it'd be great to see him actually have a pulse. He's been better this year, but it hasn't shown up in the stat sheet. For $21 million guaranteed, you'd like to at least see one sack in his career. Is that too much to ask for?

2. QB Mark Sanchez - His second start in the NFL. He's not competing for a job anymore; now he's just focused on getting better and getting positive experience. If he struggles the way he did early against Baltimore, that would not be a good sign just 15 days from opening day.

3. WR David Clowney - He's seeing his first action against first stringers. Another strong performance should cement him across Jerricho Cotchery week one. If he disappears, the Jets may take a closer look at some receivers on the trading block ranging from the Eagles' Reggie Brown to the Broncos' Brandon Marshall.

4. RB Leon Washington - He still hasn't gotten his new contract despite playing very well so far in the preseason. The little guy is equal parts motivated and talented, and if he's once again the best weapon on the field for the Jets, something may give.

5. NT Kris Jenkins - It's his first game after missing most of training camp with a left calf strain. I don't think he'll play much, but given his importance to the team, you would love to see him flash some of his immense skill.

6. CB Darrelle Revis - Same as Jenkins. He's missed time with a left hamstring injury, and he needs to be 100% for this team to succeed.

7. LB Jamaal Westerman/LB Marques Murrell - If Gholston doesn't step up, one or both of these prospects will see more time. Murrell has shown flashes of being a good pass rusher, while Westerman has impressed Rex Ryan all camp. Gholston will likely be named the starter, but one of these guys can take most of the playing time vacated by Calvin Pace.

8. P Reggie Hodges/P Glenn Pakulak - Mike Westhoff is begging for someone to claim the open punting job. So far, that hasn't happened yet. Hodges has already beaten out Eric Wilbur, T.J. Conley, and Ken Parrish despite not punting too well himself. Pakulak has more NFL experience than any of the others. Whoever punts better against the Giants will have the inside track on the job.

9. TE Jack Simmons/TE Kevin Brock/TE Kareem Brown - One or two of these guys has to make the final roster. Simmons and Brown appear to have a slight edge on the newcomer Brock, though no one has made a knockout blow. Brown is a converted defensive lineman, Brock was waived earlier in the offseason, and Simmons was an undrafted free agent. Let's pray Dustin Keller doesn't get hurt.

10. QB Kellen Clemens - Yes, Kellen Clemens. How does he react to being demoted to the backup? Obviously, he's not starting anymore, but his contract expires after this year. Chances are, he bolts, but Sanchez is untested in terms of his NFL durability, and if anything were to happen to him, Clemens would step in. On the other hand, if the veteran struggles and Erik Ainge continues to develop, Clemens may not even be the primary backup by mid-season.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Jets add punter Pakulak

With Reggie Hodges's continued struggles and the lack of any newcomers stepping up to take the open punting job, the Jets signed another punter in former Saint Glenn Pakulak. He was recently waived by New Orleans. He averaged 47.7 gross yards per punt, but only 37.8 yards net.

Kenneth Parrish was released to make room for Pakulak. The Jets are begging for anybody to earn the job. The 29-year old Pakulak will get the next shot.

LB Josh Mauga was also waived.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The 5 Most Indispensable Jets

The Jets are a very hard team to figure out this year. Casual observers see a rookie quarterback and a group of receivers they have never heard of and immediately write the team off for 2009. Others (typically optimistic Jets fans) see an experienced and productive offensive line, a defense as talented as any in football, and enough offensive weapons, particularly at runningback, to have a decent year.

One thing is for sure. If the Jets want to have a winning season, these five players need to stay healthy and play well. If one of those two things don't happen for any of these guys, it could be a long year.

1. Kris Jenkins
To me, there's no question who is number one. All anyone needs to do is look at the defense last year. For years, the Jets struggled stopping the run. Kris Jenkins comes in, plays a dominant first half of football, one in which he could easily have been the best defensive player in football. Then in the last five games, he wore down due to a myriad of injuries, and the defense went down with him.

He makes a ton of plays on his own by pushing the center into the backfield or by tackling quarterbacks and runningbacks for losses, but his primary value comes in his mere presence. Opposing teams know how good Jenkins is, and they would be stupid not to double team him. This frees up the rest of the defense to have more space to make plays on their own, and guys like David Harris and Bart Scott will certainly benefit.

The key will be keeping the big guy healthy. He returned to practice yesterday after missing several weeks with a nagging calf injury. Barring an unforeseen setback, he will be ready to go Saturday against the Giants and certainly week one against Houston. Still, the Jets need to give him more time off in games early on to keep him strong late. Sione Pouha struggled last year when plugged in the middle, so former Seahawk Howard Green was brought in to provide depth. He's shown flashes in camp and preseason that he can be Jenkins's backup, but he might not have the stamina to be a full-time starter if Jenkins got hurt for an extended period of time. Then again, a serious injury to Jenkins, and the Jets can kiss any playoff plans good bye.

2. Darrelle Revis
Funny that the top two guys on this list have already been hurt and missed a chunk of camp. Like Jenkins, Revis also returned to practice on Wednesday after suffering from a hamstring ailment. The third-year man is already among the elite NFL cornerbacks. He is as close to a shutdown corner as there is in the NFL, and losing him would negate the signing of Lito Sheppard, likely making the pass defense even worse than it was last year.

Judging by the play of Dwight Lowery in preseason, losing Revis for an extended period of time would expose the pass defense. Sheppard and Dwight Lowery are both solid in their roles as the #2 and #3 cornerbacks, but asking more from them is asking for trouble. The lack of a pure pass rusher would come even more into play if they had to start. Revis and Sheppard could be an elite tandem. Sheppard and Lowery is not. And losing Revis for any period of time could be a death blow to the Jets.

3. Dustin Keller
Entering his second season in the NFL, Keller is poised to become one of the top receiving tight ends in the NFL. With the receiving corps as inexperienced as it is, Keller will be heavily relied upon by Mark Sanchez both between the twenties and in the red zone. In fact there's a good chance he leads the team in receiving when all is said and done.

But what makes Keller even more indispensable is the complete lack of depth behind him. Jack Simmons, Kareem Brown, and Kevin Brock are not starting material in 2009. They're barely good enough to be second stringers. If they had to start, there could be a black hole at tight end, and given how much the team will rely on Keller this year, there's no way they can make up his production.

4. Leon Washington
Washington may not deserve the $6 million a year he and his agent crave, but he might be that important to the Jets. Some might wonder why I put the backup runningback on the list, especially considering the presences of Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene, but neither back can provide the instant offense that Washington can. In fact nobody on the entire offense can do that. He is a home run threat every time he touches the ball, scoring six touchdowns in just 76 carries. He added two receiving touchdowns and one return touchdown as well, bringing the total to 9. In 2009 if the Jets expect to move the ball at all, he better get more touches.

Rex Ryan promises Washington will get the ball more this year. Of course, he's entering his fourth season, and it seems the front office and coaching staff have echoed that sentiment every year. Nevertheless, if the Jets really are going to pay him $5 million a year or more, that would show how valuable they think he is to the football team. Thomas Jones will likely end up with more rushing yards, but Washington led the NFL in combined yards last year (2332), and he should be near the league lead again this year. He's being taken off punt returns, but that's his worst area, and it should lead to him getting the ball more on offense.

5. Mark Sanchez
What would a blog post be without mentioning Mark Sanchez? The rookie has dominated all Jets news this offseason, and now that he is officially the starting quarterback, we can start to put expectations on him. For year one I for one am not expecting all that much, but if he can cut down on turnovers and manage the game, much like Joe Flacco did down the stretch last year, then the Jets could contend for a playoff birth. If he struggles like most rookie quarterbacks, the team won't go very far, but given how lackluster Kellen Clemens has looked throughout his career, Sanchez needs to be the guy both right now and in the future. He is getting $28 million dollars guaranteed for a reason. It's completely unfair to expect a Matt Ryan-like season, but behind a good offensive line, he needs to at least be competent for this team to win.

Quick Hits
*Shonn Greene will likely miss the rest of the preseason due to cartilage damage to his ribs. Former Stanford runningback Anthony Kimble was signed as insurance.
*David Clowney is working with the first team in practice and could start against the Giants.
*Someone who will definitely start against the Giants is LB Vernon Gholston, who the Jets want to get up to speed for week one.
*QB Chris Pizzotti will start the 2nd half against the Giants. Rex Ryan wants to keep his promise to "Harvard" that he would get him into a game. With the quarterback battle settled, it's a good time to do it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jets fall to Ravens, Sanchez named starter

The Jets lost to the Ravens in the 2nd preseason game 24-23 primarily on the strength of two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Both Kellen Clemens and Mark Sanchez were victimized by Haloti Ngata and Jameel McClain. Sanchez ended up 3-8 for 43 yards and a touchdown on his last play to Leon Washington. Clemens was 5-10 for 60 yards and a touchdown.

But that was all Rex Ryan needed to finalize his quarterback decision.

As expected, Mark Sanchez will be the Jets quarterback in 2009. Did he win the job fairly? It's hard to say, but it's certainly safe to say that Clemens did not step up and win it like he needed to and like someone who had three years in the system should have. Clemens threw 12 interceptions to Sanchez's 5 in camp and was outplayed, if not by much, by Sanchez in both games. Sanchez should play into the third quarter against the Giants Saturday night.

Was it the right decision? Probably. Clemens never played like a starter, and while it would be ideal to bring the rookie along slowly given his 10 starts on the college level. You would love him to sit back, learn the offense, and play when he's ready.

However, the Jets offer a good situation for a rookie quarterback to step in to.

Critics look at the lack of experienced receivers, and they do have a valid point. Only David Clowney has stepped up in preseason to show that he could start opposite Jerricho Cotchery, and most of that has been against 2nd and 3rd stringers. Chansi Stuckey has looked good in camp, but he's best suited as a slot receiver, and Brad Smith has yet to seize the opportunity.

But in Dustin Keller, the Jets have a young tight end to work with Sanchez as a safety valve who can develop into more than that. He's not the best blocking tight end in the world, but the Jets offensive line is good enough where Sanchez should get enough time to throw without using the tight end in pass protection. The line is very good and is paid handsomely. Entering their second season as a complete unit will only make it better.

The Jets will ride that line as much as they can, as Sanchez will surely be handing the ball off to Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and Shonn Greene all the time. Jones can't be expected to lead the AFC in rushing again with a rookie quarterback and no Laveranues Coles, but he should maintain a high level of play. Washington is the most dynamic player in the offense. He's always been a hard worker, but potentially playing for a new contract should only provide him with more motivation. Greene doesn't have a clear path for playing time, but the Jets didn't trade up for him with two backs already on the roster if they planned on burying him all season.

This offense will go as far as the running game takes them. Joe Flacco started 2008 with 1 touchdown and 7 interceptions in his first 5 games. In the Jets first 5 games, they play all playoff contenders, 3 on the road. If Sanchez performs that way, the Jets could be looking at 1-4 or 0-5, and no Rex Ryan speech can make that look good.

Fans, I beg of you to be patient with Sanchez. Even though he's well beyond his years in terms of handling the media and being a charismatic type of leader, he is woefully inexperienced, and rookie quarterbacks typically struggle. Matt Ryan broke the trend last year, but he started four years in college. If Sanchez struggles in year one, do not be alarmed, most rookie quarterbacks start rather poorly. He should show some signs of being the quarterback they drafted in 2010, but it's hard to imagine him living up to the hype until 2011 or 2012. New York often is impatient with its players, but with Sanchez, it would be a shame if he struggled early, lost confidence, and the fans turned on him in the next year or two. He could be a great one. Just don't expect it this year.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Preseason Game 2: Jets vs Ravens preview

Sorry for the late preview. I just moved into my new apartment, and Comcast isn't coming until Sunday for internet and cable, so I haven't had internet access.

But you don't need me to tell you what the number one story for tonight's game is. Mark Sanchez, the golden boy himself, is making his starting debut tonight against Rex Ryan's old team, the Baltimore Ravens. A number of signs are pointing to a big performance by the rookie cementing the starting quarterback job.

Ryan initially wanted to name a starter before the third preseason game. A big performance by Sanchez against the vaunted Ravens defense would trump anything Clemens can do, and given how close the two have played in practice, two superior preseason performances could be enough for Ryan to put the rookie in charge. Naming a starter earlier would allow him to get more repetitions with the first team offense and gain more chemistry with the first week of the season less than three weeks away.

Other things to watch are more of the same from the first game, except magnified a little due to the stronger caliber of opponent. Can this offense muster anything against the Ravens defense without Damien Woody? Can the defense stop the Ravens' three-headed running attack without Kris Jenkins? Will Vernon Gholston show up on the stat sheet? Will David Clowney continue his stellar preseason play? Or will Chansi Stuckey or Brad Smith stake their claim for a starting receiver job?

And of course, watch for any players in the third and fourth quarters making plays, trying to make the team. The roster battles at receiver, tight end, safety, and linebacker are all worth noting.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sanchez to start vs Baltimore, Ellis suspended

No surprises here. Mark Sanchez has been named the starter against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football next week. A good performance there could secure him the starting quarterback job, but first, he needs to start practicing better as he's had three straight poor practices since his St. Louis performance. Baltimore will be a tough test for the rookie quarterback, especially considering Alan Faneca won't be back, and Damien Woody and Nick Mangold's statuses are still up in the air. Rex Ryan has to give both quarterbacks a more extensive look, but the Ravens defense juxtaposed with a banged up offensive line is a rough combination for the Jets to deal with.

Also, Shaun Ellis has been suspended one game and fined a whopping $100,000 for his arrest last season for speeding and possession of marijuana. The last time Ellis was suspended?

Jets sign punter, release Conley

Punter Ken Parrish has been signed after a tryout Sunday morning.

Clearly, Rex Ryan is not happy with the punting game. Reggie Hodges appeared to do well against St. Louis, but not well enough.

"I'm tired of seeing ground balls hit," Ryan said. "We've got to do better than that. Our guys know that so we'll see. You watch some practices and you're like, 'Man we've got Ray Guy here.' I want to see that. I want to see an NFL punt. Reggie's numbers look good, but I don't think those are exactly rockets that he hit.

"We're going to find a punter. If he's here or if he's on somebody else's team, we've got to find a punter. I don't care where we go to get one. If he's here [that's] great, then step up and punt. If he's not, then we'll go find one."

Say this for Ryan, he does not screw around. Paul Raymond drops a punt, he's gone. He's not happy with the punting game, he brings someone new in. Mike Westhoff liked T.J. Conley earlier in training camp, but he is gone after just one game.

Parrish, by the way, is 6'1" 210 pounds from East Stroudsburg University.

The Jets also signed two more players, LB Joshua Mauga from the University of Nevada, and WR Huey Whittaker, who had been released Wednesday to make room for K Parker Douglass.

TE J'Nathan Bullock, yes, the former Cleveland State basketball player, was also released. That's no surprise, considering he really hadn't done much to distinguish himself from the other tight ends, and without playing football in high school, he couldn't be the blocking tight end the Jets sorely needed.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Well that didn't take long...Pizzotti, Raymond waived

To no one's surprise, WR Paul Raymond is not going to make the Jets' final roster. New York released him just one day after fumbling a 4th quarter punt that helped the Rams win the game. This is Raymond's 3rd year in camp, and it's the 3rd straight year the Brown graduate won't make the team.

And Erik Ainge locked up the #3 quarterback job after his 10-17, 148 yard, 1 TD performance as his competition, former Harvard QB Chris Pizzotti, was released. Rex Ryan said he wanted to try to get "Harvard" into the game yesterday, but it didn't happen. It's mildly surprising the Jets wouldn't keep him around a little longer, given his likely intelligence, size, and arm strength.

The Jets also signed G Dennis Conley. Here's his bio.

Conley (OG/6-2/300/Hampton University/Suffolk, VA) was waived by the Bears on July 31 after being signed as an undrafted free agent on April 26, 2009. A two-time All-MEAC choice from Hampton, Conley played in 37 games, starting 30, as a left guard.

Saturday Morning Quarterback

Yesterday, the Jets lost 23-20 to the St. Louis Rams in the first preseason game of the Rex Ryan era. Ryan was not happy after the game, sending an early message to the team that losing is not acceptable. He might have to get used to it a little bit more, considering the difficult schedule
and relative lack of talent offensively.

But despite the loss, there were plenty of good things that came out of Friday's game, as well, as some bad and one ugly thing.

The good

The Quarterbacks - Kellen Clemens started the game, fumbling the first time he got hit by a defender. Still, he ended up 4-4 for 24 yards, modest yardage numbers, but effective accuracy on short passes.

However, it was the rookie Mark Sanchez who stole the show. On his four passes, he completed three for 88 yards. On his very first play, he hit David Clowney down the right sideline for 48 yards on a perfectly thrown deep ball. He then led the offense down for an 8 play, 93 yard drive, culminating in a Thomas Jones 1-yard touchdown.

That performance almost assures that Sanchez will start next Monday against Baltimore on Monday Night (preseason) Football. Clemens played well in what seemed like more of a conservative playbook, but he didn't make any big plays, and given how Sanchez performed, it doesn't look as good in comparison.

Of course, it was only eight passes. Both quarterbacks will play more next game, assuming the offensive line has more than two starters playing. Sanchez only had one possession as Ryan took him out on perhaps the highest note possible. Hell, sitting in the crowd, I thought of leaving after the first quarter (after the Clowney pass), figuring Sanchez's career and the Jets' season could only go downhill from there.

Needless to say I stayed (as one of the few who stayed the whole game, I was able to get myself on TV at the two minute warning). And staying the whole game meant I got to see two and a half quarters of Erik Ainge. While I've been hard on Ainge in the past, including during my live tweeting last night, his numbers ended up looking very good. His throws can be ugly at times, but 10-17 for 148 yards and a touchdown is solid nonetheless.

The Receivers - Mr. August David Clowney came up with 3 grabs for 102 yards and a touchdown, flashing his impressive speed on two deep balls, one by Sanchez and one by Ainge. The likely starters, Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey, didn't get much action, but if Clowney can play like he has in the last two preseasons during the regular season, the Jets might have bigger weapons than previously thought.

Cotchery may not be a #1 receiver, but he's a tough player with very good hands. Stuckey is quick and sure hands. He's also now two years clear of the broken foot that destroyed his rookie year. But if Clowney can be a deep threat, that's a very intriguing trio with players with three separate skill-sets.

Not to mention, the #1 weapon might actually be someone else. Dustin Keller came up with 3 receptions for 52 yards, showing his impressive YAC abilities. Entering his second season, Keller is poised for a breakout year. It's clear he's going to get the ball a lot, and after drafting him in the first round last year as a receiving tight end, they better throw to him. He has a ton of talent and should catch at least 60-70 balls this season.

The first-team defense - The first team defense did exactly what it needed to do out there, even without its two best players. The first two Rams possessions featured 9 plays for just 24 yards. They allowed a field goal on the first drive, but that was only because a Clemens fumble gave the Rams great field position.

Unfortunately, the flashiest player on the defense is missing the first four games of the season. Calvin Pace was in on four tackles and had a sack on Marc Bulger. David Harris was also strong from the middle linebacking position.

Other noteworthy players
Kenwyn Cummings - Showed good motor, five tackles and a sack
Donald Strickland - Three tackles and a sack on a corner blitz
Reggie Hodges - 2 punts for a 49 yard average, including one inside the 20

The bad

Third-team defense - Rex Ryan said that the third-team defense made embarrassing mistakes out there, as the defense had trouble stopping the run, especially during Samkon Gado's (remember him, fantasy football fans?) 77 yard touchdown scamper. Most of the guys won't be on the team come week one. We all saw why.

Run-blocking - Maybe this is a harsh criticism, considering the way all three quarterbacks had time to throw, but none of the runningbacks really ever had running lanes. Shonn Greene found one and busted it open for a 34 yard run down the left sideline, but that was about it. Three starters were missing, so it's hard to get too on the unit's case, but you would like to see some more push at the line of scrimmage against a bad defense like St. Louis.

Vernon Gholston - Again, this may be a little harsh singling Gholston out as not having a good game, but when you're the 6th pick in the draft and your rookie season is a complete wash-out, you need to start showing something. Once again, he looked tentative like the same lost rookie we barely saw last year. I'm not even asking for much, Vernon, how about just making contact with the quarterback? I don't even care if it's late, I just want to know you can do it!

The ugly

Punt/Kick Returns
- Jay Feely tweeted about a week ago that the Jets would have the best special teams in the NFL. Judging by one preseason game, the unit might be the worst, but it certainly isn't the best. The Jets muffed three punts and one kick. Dwight Lowery and Paul Raymond won't be returning punts this year, so the Jets don't have to worry about them, even if it's still embarrassing. Leon Washington also dropped the opening kickoff of the season. Dropping kicks was the en vogue thing against St. Louis, and it needs to (and should) stop. You bet Mike Westhoff is raising hell in practice.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Things To Watch Tonight vs St. Louis

First, make sure to follow me tonight on where I will be live-tweeting (ugh) the Jets game. I haven't really found a way to incorporate Twitter into this blog, but I feel this is the best way. I always want to text fellow Jets fans after certain plays. Texting a machine that can let all of you read my thoughts is fine though. Only problem is, I'll be sitting in my friend's seats. He sits in the top row in the corner of the upper deck. He loves it. I'm only a little spoiled from having lower level tickets forever. Either way, I hope to see you reading tonight!

Now, a quick news update: Alan Faneca has broken a finger and will not play tonight, leaving Brandon Moore and D'Brickashaw Ferguson as the only healthy and active Jets in tonight's game. As a result, Mark Sanchez and Kellen Clemens will see very little action in favor of Erik Ainge, who could play three quarters. On the other hand, the Rams will play Marc Bulger a lot, possibly even into the second half. Now, I don't bet preseason, but if I did, St. Louis might be looking good just for that reason...

Now, onto some players and positions to watch.

Vernon Gholston - Early reports have been positive. If he can (gasp) get a sack, then at least we know he hasn't forgotten how to get to the quarterback. He'll likely be starting week one, so with the quarterback battle on the backburner, he is far and away the most important player to watch. Also, monitor UDFA LB Jamaal Westerman, whom Rex Ryan has effusively praised, and OLB Marques Murrell.

Tight End - Anyone who lines up at tight end is worth keeping an eye on. Is Dustin Keller really the #2 option? Can Keller block? Can anyone else on the depth chart even play? These questions will need to be answered. Keep an eye on Jack Simmons, Kevin Brock, and J'Nathan Bullock. Chances are, the Jets will use a backup offensive tackle at tight end a lot during the year, but one of those three guys should make the team as well. Simmons has the inside track, but there's a long way to go.

Wide Receiver - Tonight won't be the best gauge for this group if Ainge is going to be the primary quarterback. Still, it's the first game action for Chansi Stuckey and Brad Smith and probably David Clowney and Wallace Wright, too (both had been excused from practice recently for personal reasons). If Clowney makes a big play or two and flashes his speed, maybe Jets fans will ignore his sometimes inane tweets and get back on his bandwagon. Stuckey clearly has the inside track, but the others won't give up easy. Britt Davis, Aundrae Allison, and Marcus Henry also need to show why the Jets need to keep them on their final roster.

Nose Tackle - Kris Jenkins is out for this game, meaning DTs Howard Green and Sione Pouha will see most of the action in the middle of the field. This was a major depth issue last year as Pouha did not play well. Green has been impressive in camp. This may be Pouha's last chance to impress. Steven Jackson will be a big test for this defense as long as he's in the game, so keep an eye on the big guys in the middle. The Rams offensive line is not too strong, so if they get manhandled, this could be a problem.

Lito Sheppard - Darrelle Revis won't be playing, so Sheppard is the #1 corner (and Dwight Lowery is the #2). Sheppard has been very inconsistent over the last few seasons. The Rams' receiving corps is nothing to write home about, especially since they will be missing last year's rookie sensation Donnie Avery. Sheppard should be able to shut down the likes of Keenan Burton, Ronald Curry, and Laurent Robinson. And if he can't, Lowery has been very impressive during training camp and could eventually push for Sheppard's job.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jets Raise Washington Contract Offer

Rich Cimini reports the Jets have raised their contract offer to runningback Leon Washington to $4.5 million a year.

Hopefully, this is enough to get a deal done. He doesn't deserve the $6 million a year he desires, at least not yet, but this is a healthy raise over $535,000 he's scheduled to make. Apparently, the original offer was in the range of $2 million a year, which would be completely underselling a valuable member of the team. It makes sense he would skip OTA's if that was the original offer.

Bottom line: Washington wants to be a Jet. The Jets want Washington. Fans would revolt if they let him go. It would be a shame if he left because he is the most dynamic offensive player the Jets have had in years. Mike Tannenbaum has shown his creativity in contract negotiations in the past. If a deal doesn't get done, it's on Washington and agent Alvin Keels. It's one thing to throw out the $6 million number as a negotiating number that can be bartered down. It's another if they won't back off.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Preseason News, Notes, and Rumors

*Damien Woody, Nick Mangold, Kris Jenkins, and Darrelle Revis will all miss Friday's game against the Rams. None of the injuries are considered serious, but there's no reason to risk any possibility of injury considering how important each player is to the team.

*Rams quarterback Marc Bulger expects to play two or three quarters against the Jets on Friday. If Bulger really is playing that long, chances are the Rams will provide him with some talent, particularly on their offensive line, so he doesn't get killed. It will be a good test for the defense, particularly the second stringers who need to show up and quell some of the depth questions people rightfully have. Let's just say, Vernon Gholston sacking Bulger means more than him sacking Kyle Boller, even though Bulger has been known to hold onto the ball for too long.

*Could the Jets be trading Thomas Jones? Mike Lombardi thinks so. It would make a lot of sense, given TJ's sudden change of heart in the offseason regarding his contract. Shonn Greene and Leon Washington have yet to prove they can handle NFL workload by themselves, but there's considerable reason to believe they can.

It's unlikely the Jets would receive more than a 4th round pick barring a major injury to a team's starting runningback. The team the Jets likely shopped him to was Seattle. The Seahawks do have some receiver depth, so it's possible a swap for a Nate Burleson or Deion Branch could occur, but that's just speculation on my part. A trade of Jones would also allow Danny Woodhead and Jehuu Caulcrick a greater opportunity to make the team. The Jets have used Woodhead a lot in practice, but there probably isn't a roster spot available unless Jones is shipped.

UPDATE: and Cimini both say the rumor is not true. Jones should remain a Jet.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Shaun Ellis to be Suspended Week One?

According to Dave Hutchinson of the Star Ledger, starting DE Shaun Ellis is expected to be suspended for his marijuana offense last fall week one against Houston.

This suspension would leave the Jets two starters short heading into week one against one of the top offenses in the NFL, with both OLB Calvin Pace and Ellis gone. DE Mike DeVito would likely be the replacement.

Certainly, this is not good news for the Jets. Ellis is the Jets best pass rushing DE, and DeVito is largely unproven in a starting role. And if he's going to be thrown into the fire, facing Andre Johnson, Steve Slaton, Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter, Matt Schaub, and the Houston Texans is not the ideal time.

Slaton has to be licking his chops to see a Jets defense without two of their better run stoppers in their lineup. Kris Jenkins, David Harris, and Bart Scott better be ready, otherwise this could be an 0-1 beginning for the green and white. The defense is deep enough in terms of talent in the starting lineup to withstand two starters gone, as long as Jenkins and Revis are still there. Any more gone is definitely pushing it though, and it will not help build chemistry of a brand new defense.

Now time for a few other assorted updates...

*Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis, Donald Strickland, and Kris Jenkins are all being held out of practice. Mangold hurt his right knee, but he should be back soon. As is usually the case with the Jets' Pro Bowl center, the injury is not serious. Revis has a hamstring injury which should be fine in a couple of days. Jenkins's calf injury should be healed fairly soon.

*The quarterback battle was starting to swing in the rookie Mark Sanchez's favor. He outperformed Kellen Clemens in a scrimmage, even though the real winner was the defense. As a result, Sanchez started getting more reps with the first team offense. On Saturday, he went 10-19 with the first team offense, but Sunday he was 1-6 and struggled. Clemens gets the start on Friday against St. Louis in the first preseason game of the season, and he likely needs a big performance to distance himself from Sanchez. The fourth-year quarterback needs something, anything, to show the Jets that he deserves to be the guy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Who are you and what have you done with...

...D'Brickashaw Ferguson. "My previous coach, we had a different approach," Brick said. "We operated differently. I feel now, with the coach we have, it's important to state what you're going to do and state the goals you're going to attain. I'm adopting that philosophy. When I say I'm going to the Pro Bowl this year, I honestly mean it. When I say we're going to win the Super Bowl this year, I honestly mean that, too. It's up to us, now that we put it out there, we're going to have to do the things that will cause us to be successful. I think we have the formula right." I tell you, that Rex Ryan is infectious! Too bad Vernon Gholston seems to be immune. But confidence can never be a bad thing. A Super Bowl appearance might be a stretch, but it never hurts to think that way.

...Mike Tannenbaum. The Jets sent a 7th round pick back to the Green Bay Packers that they had conditionally received from Green Bay in case Brett Favre played one year and retired, which he seems to have done. Why would the Jets send any team a free draft pick? At the surface, this makes no sense, and Tannenbaum hasn't given an explanation. There was a clause in the original trade that would have cost the Jets 3 first round picks if they traded Favre to Minnesota, but that should be irrelevant. A 7th round pick isn't much, and I have faith in Mike T in terms of making good trades, but this makes no sense right now.

Okay, now injury updates.

NT Kris Jenkins - still out of practice, "getting better"
RB Shonn Greene - sat out practice, should be back soon
DE Shaun Ellis - tweaked back today, not serious
CB Donald Strickland - kicked in shin by WR David Clowney, not serious
FB Tony Richardson - hip pointer, out for a few days

Monday, August 3, 2009

Early Camp Storylines

Since I'm not up at camp, I figure it's pointless for me to just compile everyone else's stories when I'm not there to make my own judgments. So for the first few days of camp, here are five of the biggest stories so far in the early days of 2009 Jets' training camp.

1. Kellen Clemens vs Mark Sanchez
The problem with Clemens appears to be a propensity to throw interceptions. Six interceptions in six practices is not a way to win a job from a highly touted rookie quarterback, though this morning, he had his best practice despite the one interception.

Still, even if he shows a better command of the offense, he really needs to distance himself from his rookie counterpart, and he has yet to do that. It's early, and preseason games will likely end up being the deciding factor, but Clemens needs to run the offense crisply and turnover-free because if it's close, logic dictates Sanchez wins the job, despite having just 16 college starts under his belt.

2. The Vernon Gholston saga
Gholston came into camp with countless questions to answer, the most important of which being can he step in and be a serviceable starter in the first four weeks without Calvin Pace. So far, coaches have praised him, and by all indications, he is light years ahead of where he was last season. Unfortunately, he still has proven nothing on an NFL football field, and some have questioned his desire to get better.

But the physical tools are all there, and he has made more plays this camp. Whether or not that translates into being a competent NFL outside linebacker remains to be seen.

3. Injuries and injury scares
When Kris Jenkins went down the second day of camp, everyone involved with Jets football held their breath. Fortunately, his calf injury doesn't appear to be serious, though it will likely keep him out at least a week.

Shonn Greene also suffered a scare when he rolled an ankle, but he returned to practice the same day. RB Danny Woodhead, S Keith Fitzhugh, and TE Richard Owens (who was released today) have been among those who have gotten nicked up at times. Woodhead is back at practice, while Fitzhugh may have a separated left shoulder.

4. Rex Ryan's first camp
From candid press conferences to more open injury updates, Rex Ryan's first training camp as a head coach has been off to an interesting start. But today, things got chippy for the first time as Thomas Jones, James Ihebdigo, Howard Green, Brock Christopher, Ahmad Carroll, Nevin McCaskill, and others had a pretty big brawl at practice.

Rex Ryan, Bart Scott, and others have preached having a physical, hit-you-in-the-mouth defense. He probably did not mean it literally with his own players, but there are no hard feelings, and it shows part of the difference between Ryan and Eric Mangini. Nothing to worry about here.

5. Non-quarterback position battles
Believe it or not, there are a number of key position battles that don't involve Mark Sanchez and Kellen Clemens. Brad Smith, Chansi Stuckey, and David Clowney are in a battle for playing time at receiver, with the first two having a leg up on the speedy but inconsistent Clowney. Kareem Brown is trying to become the team's #2 tight end in his first year at the position, with fellow tight end newbie J'Nathan Bullock and rookie Jack Simmons pushing for playing time as well. It's also possible that Bubba Franks is resigned at some point, and the Jets have just signed former Rutgers and Carolina Panther TE Kevin Brock for competition.

One of the more underappreciated camp battles will likely be between T.J. Conley and Reggie Hodges, but it will be vital to the Jets' success. Field position will be key this season with a good defense and a ball control offense, and both punters have their pluses and minuses. Hodges didn't do a great job with the Jets last year, and the team originally opted not to bring him back, but he's been booming the ball in training camp. The rookie Conley has been impressive as well, and Mike Westhoff likes his potential. The winner should receive a lot of work, so keep an eye during preseason.

Thanks for reading. The big NFL story today has been Plaxico Burress's indictment and likely jail sentence. Burress has been linked to the Jets several times this offseason, and many fans have speculating bringing him in, including myself. This indictment, I would imagine, ends pretty much any hope of Burress playing again anytime soon. I'm still in favor of bringing in Matt Jones, another tall, talented, but troubled wide receiver, but Burress is done.