Florham Park, N.J.- Well it was good to have football back for the weekend, unfortunately the fun is over as the lockout is back in effect even as these words are being typed. Still fans of all 32 teams now have new players to learn everything they can about while the courts and owners decide when to open up the doors again for business.
The first two days of the draft provided Jets fans with only two new, defensive, players to embrace, but on day three the fans had four more players to welcome to their favorite team and this time they were all on offense.
With their first pick of the day, there is little doubt the Jets caused Brooklyn-bread emcee Joell Ortiz, to “sing like Bilal.”
With a stable of running backs that already includes, Shonn Greene, L.T. and Joe McKnight the need for the Jets to add another running back didn’t see that high to most, but the value of Bilal Powell out of Louisville proved too much for the Jets to pass on. And Powell doesn’t plan to disappoint.
“I just want to come in and compete.” Powell said, “LaDainian Tomlinson is a good running back. I just want to learn from those guys, learn the system and just compete every day.
“(It is a) great feeling right now, just to get the opportunity at a great organization and having (the opportunity) to play under Rex Ryan.”
The 5′11″ 216 lb. running back is Rex Ryan’s type of back and that became quite clear once NFL Network’s cameras showed him reacting to the Jets preparing to make the pick. Powell said, “I think (my strengths are) being able to catch the ball out of the backfield, being able to run the ball inside and outside (and) being able to contribute on special teams, too.”
Like with yesterday’s pick, the selection of Powell raised a couple of eyebrows because of some off the field baggage, but also like Kenrick Ellis, Powell insists those problems are a thing of the past. “I had troubles. I kind of rebelled a little bit.” Powell said, “I ended up getting saved my senior year and changed a lot of things.”
Speculation has already emerged that the selection of Powell was either a message to Greene or means L.T. won’t be back, but that’s purely speculation. Ryan and Tannenbaum insist they want to keep all four backs and in this league with this style of offense that’s probably the wise move.
The Jets next pick is a different story though, the take away from the fifth round pick of wide receiver Jeremy Kerley from TCU is that it seems highly unlikely that Brad Smith will stay with the team next year, unless those free agent tenders are put to use.
Kerley is a 5′10″ 189 lbs. slot receiver who excels on special teams as he was named the Mountain West Conference special teams player of the year and maybe most importantly he knows that is where he is expected to do his damage.
“I’m definitely a special teams guy.” Kerley said, “I know that my special teams ability is definitely what makes me the player that I am.” Causing special teams coach Mike Westhoff to already fall in love with this kid.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it.” Kerley said of getting to work with Westhoff, “Any criticism is good criticism, so I’m ready to be a student. I’m ready to go in and try to do as much learning as I can.”
Still Kerley will be asked to eventually contribute as a receiver and he says he is eager to learn, “I don’t know (how can he can contribute), but (I’m looking forward to) just being able to come in and take a look at the guys like Santonio (Holmes) and Jerricho (Cotchery). I’m ready to be a student of the game and ready to just take whatever criticism they have to give to me.”
The Jets final two picks, both came in the seventh round and both were chosen due to the intangibles the possess. The Jets have had some success before drafting quarterbacks from Alabama (Joe Namath anyone?) and while no one expects Greg McElroy to be challenging Mark Sanchez for the starting role the team felt his intelligence and pension for winning was too much for them to pass up.
“The depth chart will always be decided by Rex, but he has every attribute conceivable for a guy to be successful at the quarterback position.” Tannenbaum said, “He won in high school, won in college, he’s smart, competitive, can make all of the throws. He’s a natural leader. What’s not to like about the guy?”
Then Ryan chimed in saying, “Can we even talk about his test scores? This guy was ridiculous.”
“(His wonderlic score) was very high and he’s a Rhodes Scholar candidate and he had a GPA of 3.9 and he’s already in graduate school, obviously. If he were in this room today, he’d be the smartest guy in here (laughter).” Joey Clinkscales joked.
When McElroy talked to reporters it was apparent he was just as elated to be here as everyone else. “I was absolutely ecstatic. I can’t think of a better place to go.” McElroy said, “It’s an incredible opportunity to learn from one of the greatest young quarterbacks in the game right now and to also play for one of the greatest coaching staffs. It’s an incredible tradition and legacy. I’m proud to be able to continue it and try my best to make the Jets a better organization.”
With their final pick in the 2011 draft the Jets selected Mark Sanchez’s childhood friend wide receiver Scotty McKnight out of Colorado. In the months leading up to the draft there was some speculation that the Jets were considering McKnight if for no other reason than to make Sanchez happy and try and help him continue to mature, but Ryan again insisted the pick was about more than just uniting two old pals.
“I think during the year he (Sanchez) was doing his lobbying. I know he’s really close with Scotty. It kind of goes in one ear and out the other. I do the same thing with my kid (smiling). I’m always telling you guys about my son.” Ryan said, “When you look at (McKnight’s) numbers, it’s hard to take his (accomplishments) away from him. I don’t want to penalize him for being Mark’s friend.
“I think it helped him in this case because he knew him well. Kyle Wilson, two of his teammates were two receivers from Boise (State). Before, (when) we could talk to Kyle, I asked him about those two receivers. That’s what you do. We knew a lot about Scotty and we felt good about him. When he was there, we just said, ‘Let’s give this young man an opportunity.’”
Although this #12 from Alabama is not Joe Namath caliper, his drafting could end the tenure of one of the current Jets QB's.
McKnight was unable to hide his excitement level when he got on the phone with reporters, or maybe he just choose not to. Either way it was clear the kid’s dream just came true.
“Are you kidding me? Yes. I am teaming up with a great organization, a great team and being together with my childhood buddy who I grew up with (is great).” McKnight said, “We have never played on the same team together. We’ve just always been chained together. It’s a dream come true. It’s cool. I’m just ready to make the most out of the opportunity.”
McKnight went on to joke about being prepared for all types of rookie hazing from his prankster buddy. “I already know he is going to take advantage of that. I’m going to get it bad, but I’m going to go in there and work hard.” McKnight said, “I don’t have any problem with doing that kind of stuff for anyone. I know it’s all a part of the deal.”
But he also took the opportunity to send Sanchez a friendly warning shot that he has all the dirt on Sanchez, so Sanchez better not take the hazing too far, when he was asked to share some stories with the press.
McKnight joked, “Appropriate for the media? (joking) I don’t know. I have so many. We have been buddies since we were eight-years-old. I’m going to think about it and get back to you on that one. I have a lot of stuff in the ammo, in case he really wants to haze me to that effect. I could definitely get some stuff out of him.”
So while this weekend provided plenty of excitement and looks to have greatly benefited the Jets for both next season and beyond, players, signed unsigned and/or undrafted, coaches and fans are all left wondering what’s next? Where do we go from here? And when will the NFL, “let them play”?