SUPER BOWL or BUST
That’s it my friends, there is no gray area, this team is loaded for bear and the mandate is crystal clear. Rex Ryan is telling anyone who will listen, this team expects to win the Super Bowl this year.
They don’t want to win it. They don’t hope to win it. He expects to win it, and to a man his players are drinking the kool aid.
On paper this is the most talented Jets team I have seen in my lifetime not counting the SBIII squad. There have been other talented Jets teams to be sure, one that highlighted the sack exchange and another that offered brillaint skill position players like Wes Walker, Al Toon and Freeman McNeil, but from top to bottom this is the best since SBIII in my view.
Now the hard part begins, it all starts this week at SUNY Cortland, the arduous task of molding this awesome collection of talent into a cohesive unit that looks as good on the field as it does on paper, and as an added plus we get a birds eye view on HBO’s hit series, Hard Knocks, this year featuring our very own New York Jets and no doubt starring Rex Ryan.
So lets take a look at three training camp battles worth our attention, followed by the three areas of concern, then three reasons this team will accomplish its stated goal, and concluding with some final thoughts.
THREE TRAINING CAMP BATTLES
1. LEFT GUARD – Vladimir Ducasse Vs Matt Slauson
Ducasse is a mass of humanity second only to Kris Jenkins on this team in the “mountain man” department. He was drafted in RD 2 but its been reported by our resident draft guru, Tony Pauline (TFY), that the Jets thought so highly of Ducasse they may have drafted him in RD 1 had Kyle Wilson not slid to them late in the first round. But Ducasse is from a small program, UMASS, and still raw, so its remains to be seen if he can get up to speed by opening day. The size and strength are awesome and his ceiling is high, but he has to learn the playbook and sharpen his technique.
Slauson is a second year player from Nebraska where he was recruited by and played for Jets offensive line coach Bill Callahan who was then the Cornhuskers head coach. It is believed that Callahan had much to do with the Jets drafting Slauson as well. So don’t sleep on this young man. He doesn’t have Vlad’s awesome physical dimensions and high ceiling, but he’s a very solid sleeper who has a long history with Bill Callahan and a one year head start over Ducasse in the Jets system.
The favorite is Vlad the Impaler, but it’s not a slam dunk.
2. FULLBACK – Tony Richardson Vs John Conner
The ageless wonder verses a much younger version of himself.
That’s pretty much what this boils down too.
Richardson, though 38 years old which is ancient in football years, remains a highly effective lead blocker in Rex Ryan’s gound and pound scheme, but no longer represents any kind of threat with the ball in his hands.
Conner, whom the Jets traded up for in the April draft, was hailed as college football’s most devistating lead blocker, in fact his team-mates at Kentucky called him “the terminator”, alluding to both his name and his bone-crunching blocks, but as was the case with a young Tony Richardson, Conner is also a threat as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield.
My guess is Richardson keeps his job for one more year while the Jets groom Conner to replace him in 2011, but this kid has talent and at 38 no-one is a sure thing to make an NFL team, so this will bear some watching and the deciding factor could be the sleeper Jason Davis. The Jets like him too and may not want to lose him, so if Conner looks ready to start it is possible the Jets will keep the two youngsters and cut bait with the aging veteran, but I expect Richardson to be here in 2010 and start.
3. PUNTER – Steve Weatherford Vs TJ Conley
Steve Weatherford is the incumbant which is usually an advantage, but unless Weatherford is a lot better than what I saw last year I’ll be rooting for Conley (or someone else) to unseat him. I’m a big believer in punters who have a cannon and a huge detractor of the so-called “directional punter”, which too me means he has no leg.
Again, unless Weatherford was hiding his leg strength last year, in my view he is the latter (DP) and that means I will be rooting for the other guy unless he too has no leg, in which case I hope we are scanning the waiver wire as the final cuts are submitted.
THREE AREAS OF CONCERN
1. DEFENSIVE LINE
I’m not a big fan of Shaun Ellis. In my opinion he is a pretty good player, but no better than that.
I like Mike DeVito and am hoping he steps it up a few notches as a starter, but that remains to be seen.
I love Kris Jenkins, but we have to hope his former dominance can carry over following ACL surgery and hope he can remain healthy for a full season.
The depth, with players like Pouha, Pito, Kroul and El Busto (AKA Gholston) leading the charge can be okay I suppose, but its not exactly awe inspiring.
With our Corners (best group in the league in my view) we should be okay even if Pool goes down, and incedible in the D-Backfield if he doesn’t, but we’re gunning for a Super Bowl so incredible is what we’re shooting for.
This year Mark Sanchez will be asked to do a lot more and he will have to raise his game to another level if winning the Super Bowl is the objective. I mean you can win a Super Bowl without a franchise quarterback, with just a game manager complimenting a great defense and running game, but its rare and not a reliable formula for success in the modern game.
Rex knows this, that’s why we brought in Braylon Edwards last year and Santonio Holmes this year, and why we traded up to draft a QB in the TOP 5 two years ago.
Last year it was strictly Ground & Pound by necessity, because we were trying to win with a rookie QB, but year two will show more balance and if Sanchez is ready to take that next step as appeared to be the case down the stretch and in the post season last year when he really started to take his game to another level, then this team has a much better chance to win it all.
3. KICKING GAME
See comments for #3 in Training Camp Battles for Punting concerns.
As for Place-kicker, the final 4 free agency rules dictated the Jets had to lose a free agent before they could sign one, so the Jets had to let Jay Feely walk before they could sign Jason Taylor. They then turned around and signed Nick Folk to replace Feely. It was a calcuated gamble they had to make, but I’m sure the Jets would have preferred to keep Feely and sign Taylor if not for that rule.
THREE REASONS THE JETS WIN THE SUPER BOWL
1. TALENT MATTERS
Despite the few concerns listed above, there is no such thing as the perfect team in the salary cap/free agency era. Even the best teams have some areas for concern, but make no mistake about it, the Jets are without question amongst the best in terms of overall talent if not the very best, not to mention they have a pair of starting Corners (Revis and Cromartie) who have a chance to be the leagues best duo since Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes, and their nickel (1st RD Pick, Kyle Wilson) can make it a threesome for the ages.
2. REX RYAN
Don’t be fooled by the jovial personality and crazy uncle routine, this man is a football lifer and a defensive genius who can motivate a house plant. He waited a long time for this opportunity, getting passed over for lesser men, now he has his shot and now he has his team, primed to make a run, and these players would kill for him.
3. MARK SANCHEZ
The kid is committed, has worked his tail off, invited the WR’s out to his home in California and paid their expenses just to get some extra work in, and I don’t believe what we saw down the stretch and in the post season was a mirage. I believe we saw the game slowing down in his minds eye and caught a glimpse of how good he can be, and I anticipate seeing even more growth in year two as Sanchez rises to the level of franchise quarterback.
I have never been as optimistic about the Jets as I am on the eve of this training camp. Not even in 99 when the Jets were a trendy pick following their loss to Denver in the 98 AFC Championship Game. Not in the 80’s when the Sack Exchange was all the rave.
In my opinion this is the best team the Jets have fielded since 68/69 and I expect the same results. Rex expects this team to win the Super Bowl this year, his players expect the same, and so do I.
But I think its essential for the Jets to secure the #1 Seed because I also expect to see Indy in the AFC Title Game again, and it would behoove the Jets to make sure that rematch is in OUR BUILDING, out-doors in the swirling winds at the Meadowlands and as far away from Peyton’s beloved dome as we can get.