New York Jets Offseason Needs
Another year in free agency and another year of some pretty big spending. 48 million dollars on LB Bart Scott. A potential 30 million dollars on CB Lito Sheppard.
A copuple of bucks on Jim Leonhard, Marques Douglas, and Larry Izzo and the Jets have filled some major needs on the team. Its not the 140 million dollar offseason
of 2008, but this isnt too far away either. Still there are plenty of areas that remain questions on a team that looks poised to try to make a run at the playoffs in 2009 after
a bitter finish to the 2008 season. With the draft just weeks away expect the team to narrow down their selections to a few key spots and focus on some others in the remaining
free agents on the market.
The Jets have been chasing this position since Chad Pennington first injured his shoulder in 2004 and the prospects still look dim heading into the 2009 draft. The assumed starter will be the unimpressive Kellen Clemens backed up by two unknowns in undrafted Brett Ratliff and fifth round draft choice Eric Ainge. While a few “name” veterans remain on the market it does not seem that the Jets will make a move in that direction unless someone like a Matt Hasslebeck or Marc Bulger is released prior to the summer. When it comes to the draft the Jets really are in no mans land. The rookie success of Joe Flacco notwithstanding its rare that you find a true franchise where the Jets draft. This is where you find JP Losman and Kyle Boller, not Ben Roethlisberger and Phillip Rivers, so unless the Jets trade up it is unlikely they would take a QB in the draft.
One question the Jets have to ask themselves is if there is a problem with the offense they run or the quarterbacks they have running it. Pennington and Brett Favre have seen some of the worst interception streaks of their careers playing under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Pennington threw 25 interceptions in 25 games with Schottenheimer while Favre threw 22 in 16 games. Pennington’s last 32 Schottenheimer free games saw him throw just 19 interceptions while Favre had tossed 33 in his previous 32 games before coming to NY. Clemens looked awful running Schottenheimer’s offense and at some point the finger has to be pointed in his direction if the turnovers continue. The historic odds seemed stacked against Clemens success, but he’ll likely get his share of starts for the team in 2009.
The Jets are probably one of the worst teams in the NFL when it comes to the WR position. They lack speed, height, and athleticism---all important traits in today’s NFL. As it stands now Jerricho Cotchery, a very good number 2, and Chansi Stuckey, a player with good potential to play the slot, look to be the two starters. David Clowney will be the deep threat if he stays healthy and Brad Smith will fight to make the team. There are two ways to look at this position for the Jets. One is to say that the QB play is likely going to be poor so investing money in wide receivers is not smart. The second school of thought is that a dominant WR can cover up for a lot of mistakes a QB can make. Hopefully the Jets are of the second school of thought.
The Jets really need a physical player that has the athletic ability that the team in general lacks. None of the Jets receivers can deal with press coverage at the line of scrimmage and with a young QB behind center that disrupted timing often leads to chaos. The Jets will need to do their due diligence in selecting someone in the draft. They can not afford the Vernon Gholston of the offense in 2009. There is a ton of talent every year in the draft and most if it all busts at this position, but its becoming a desperate need that the team can no longer afford to ignore. Some may say that the team did draft Dustin Keller last season to fill the role, but the Tight End is not going to have the same impact as a wideout no matter how good he is. This is one of those positions that the Jets will likely take a stab at in round 1 or 2 of the draft this year.
The Jets have invested a fortune in their starting 5, but the depth of the line is scary thin and the Jets have to find eventual replacements for RT Damien Woody and LG Alan Faneca. Woody, at times, was pathetic in pass protection, simply getting blown away by opposing defensive ends. He is under contract to 2012, but is only guaranteed to be on the roster thru 2009 and looks to be in perfect position to be a cap casualty in 2010. If the Jets can find someone to share time with him this season they may be better off. Faneca, who may be the teams best run blocker, did not live up to the expectations the team placed on him when they signed him to a massive deal in 2008. Faneca had some problems in pass protection and it took him some time to adjust to the run schemes. The Jets likely view him to be in their plans thru 2010 and getting another guard in this years draft may allow them to bring a young kid along slowly while they backup Faneca. This is definitely a spot the Jets should be keeping a close eye on in the mid-later rounds of the draft.
Shaun Ellis. Kenyon Coleman. Sione Pouha. Marques Douglas. Mike DeVito. These are not the kind of names that instill fear in the opposition. The Jets really need to upgrade their defensive ends this year, especially at Coleman’s right position. Coleman does a terrible job of occupying blockers and keeping the linebackers untouched. Teams run everything to his side because they know he is a terrible liability. Ellis, the longest tenured Jet, is nearing the end of the line. Ellis still has his days where he can get to the QB, but he also has his days where he just gets pushed out of plays and the defense just falls apart. With just two more seasons under contract to the team it is hard to see Ellis lasting here much longer. He might be best used as a part timer in on passing downs and the Jets could even try to stand him up every now and then. Finding a backup for NT Kris Jenkins is likely a must find as well. Pouha just doesn’t clog up the middle.
Like the wide receiver spot, the Jets need size, youth, and athleticism here. This is a young mans game and the Jets defensive line is all on the wrong side of 30. It is not easy to find linemen to play the 34 end position, but if there is someone floating around in the draft the Jets could snag him. A very big chance that the Jets go here very early on draft day while looking for a backup nose later on draft day.
Even with the additions to the secondary the Jets still have holes at cornerback and are thin at safety depth. The team did as best it could in free agency. They made a trade for Lito Sheppard who has a high upside, but also tends to miss a ton of games due to injury and is not a great cover player despite the pro bowl appearances in the past. The Jets are banking on the fact that he will be at 110% since they made this a contract year for him. Besides Sheppard the Jets will need to rely on Dwight Lowery, who could not cover anyone down the stretch, and Drew Coleman, if he remains on the team as the other cover guys. That is not a good proposition. At safety the starters seem set, but with the pending departure of Abram Elam and the generally poor play of Eric Smith the Jets might want to look for more help at this spot. There are still players available in free agency that could work the secondary and that might be the best option for the Jets to look at.
Going into the 2008 season everyone knew this was a sore spot for the team, except Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum. Despite a horrendous 2007, the Jets brass decided to go into camp with Ben Graham as the unquestioned starter and he shanked his way right off the team as soon as the season began. The punting game was a major culprit in some of the teams losses last season. Graham cost the Jets against the Patriots and replacement Reggie Hodges did not exactly stand out. Hodges is still under contract with the team, but the journeyman punter should not be the only option come camp. Would the Jets be crazy enough to spend a draft choice on a punter? With so many holes that would seem unlikely, but with the late round track record being pretty poor its possible the Jets could look for someone in the 6th or 7th round of the draft. Either way the Jets will likely sign one or two legs once the draft comes and goes.