Where Has the Offense Gone?

Today the Jets continued to reshuffle their roster as they released wide receiver Laveranues Coles. Prior to last season Coles was guaranteed the final two years on his contract ($11 million), meaning the Jets could still be on the hook for a portion of Coles’ $6 million salary this season if he signs with another team. Coles battled a thigh injury in training camp last season but still had a relatively productive year, recording 70 catches for 850 yards and seven touchdowns.

According to Dave Hutchinson of the Star Ledger, Coles said he and the Jets “didn’t leave on bad terms” and that a return to the Jets is “not out of the question.”

While Coles is set to become a free agent when the signing period begins 12:01 a.m. Friday, the Jets now have another significant hole to fill on offense. The team already released its best blocking tight end in Chris Baker and their reluctance to pay Brandon Moore his $7 million roster bonus in early March may leave the team without its most consistent offensive lineman. These moves came weeks after quarterback Brett Favre told the team that he was retiring for good this time.

The Jets’ roster purge has created some cap space (around $26 million) for the team to work with, but the offense may need just as much re-tooling as the defense. Coles’ departure leaves Jerricho Cotchery (71 catches, 858 yards, five TD in 2008) as the team’s only proven wide receiver. The coaching staff remains high on second-year wideout David Clowney, but he has only one career reception. Brad Smith and Chansi Stuckey are also expected to return next season. The Jets have not been named among the teams showing early interest in marquee free agent TJ Houshmandzadeh, but they could turn to April’s NFL Draft to pluck a young receiver. Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin, Maryland’s Darris Heyward-Bey, Florida’s Percy Harvin, North Carolina’s Hakeem Nicks and Rutger’s Kenny Britt are among the names to watch.

Head coach Rex Ryan has said that he envisions the team using an “all-weather” offense based on a powerful running game, but with the unit’s two best run blockers likely gone, moving the football on the ground will not be easy. If the team does release Moore, they could slide right tackle Damien Woody over to guard and put Wayne Hunter or Robert Turner at tackle, but neither lineman is proven. Fullback Tony Richardson also remains unsigned.

On top of all the turnover in the Jets’ offense, who will be the starting quarterback in 2009? Ryan’s attack-happy defensive scheme may grab the Jets some victories next season, but they will not be winning much if they cannot score. There are a lot of questions on the Jets’ offense to be answered.

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