Archive for February, 2011

Jets set eyes to NFL Combine

Friday, February 25th, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN -  The buzz around the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium may have belonged to Rex Ryan, who yet again announced a guarantee for his New York Jets to be Super Bowl Champions, but there is actually some work to be done in Indianpolis.

General manager Mike Tannenbaum and his team of scouts spent the afternoon soaking in the first day’s action, but not before taking time out with reporters to answer a few question about the Jets off-season plans.

To the satisfaction of Ryan, the Jets first pick will more than likely be devoted to defense. The only question is where? The uncertainty regarding the return of safety Jim Leonhard leaves a huge hole in a secondary that was not the same after Leonhard’s freak injury. But the lack of a pass-rush presence is also a main concern for the Jets, who rely on that quarterback disruption to create turnovers. So the question is, in which direction do the Jets go?

GM Mike Tannenbaum may have been a "diva" on the set of CSI:NY according to Rex Ryan, but at the NFL Combine he is all business. (JetsInsider.com Photo.)

“We will certainly take the best player.  We are going to stick to that philosophy. Could be a pass rusher, could be a safety, could be an offensive player, but we will try to stick to that philosophy as best as we can,” Tannenbaum said.

After the public jab from Kris Jenkins regarding the Jets handling of his rehabilitation process, nose tackle is also position that Tannenbaum has evaluated. Certainly the combination of Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha was more than serviceable, are there other options?

“We have started with [nose tackle]. For our defense, the depth is really important and we have tried to load up there with a few guys. There are some interesting guys (in the draft). We are going to sit down with some of them over the next few days and it certainly could be a possibility for us,” Tannenbaum said.

Early indications have the Jets targeting such prominent defensive line talents as Cameron Heyward DE – OSU, Allen Bailey DE – MIA, and Phil Taylor NT – BAY. As for the safety position, rumors have been swirling about UCLA’s Rahim Moore. Where there is less talent for the safety position, the Jets may look to strike early on a safety.

With the announcement of the free agency of All-Pro corner Nnamdi Asomugha, speculation began running rampant that the Jets would try to unite the game’s two best corners in New Jersey. That is still only speculation, however Tannenbaum did touch on the possibility of the Jets landing a high-priced free agent.

“We would like to keep as many of our own guys as possible. That has really been our goal. How many of those we will be able to keep is really going to be hard to say right now,” Tannebaum said. “We have a plan, that plan is in pencil, and we will see how things play out. We would like to keep as many of our guys as possible. Being as close as we were, we have liked what they have done for us, they bought in, Coach Ryan likes a lot of them, that certainly is a factor in the decision.”

Some guys who may not return, at least from an early stand point, are Jason Taylor, Vernon Gholston and, perhaps, Antonio Cromartie.

 

“We don’t have any resolution. He is one of those guys who did so much for us off the field” [regarding Taylor]. “I think there’s some lose ends we want to take care of before the year ends” [answer to question on the future of Gholston]. “Our plan is in pencil. It is really hard to make these decisions within a context because we are not really sure what that context is right now. We have a lot of different scenarios. This year more than others, there is a big priority to try to keep as many of our guys as possible” [when asked to speak on plans with Cromartie], Tannenbaum stated.

Clearly, due to the on-going negotiations, nothing drastic will occur until after the new collective bargaining agreement is handled. And until then, everything can be considered speculation, and certainly nothing is set in stone. Be sure to check in with the JetsInsider.com to be up-to-date on all things NFL lock-out and Jets off-season happenings.

Rex steals show at NFL Combine; Guarantees SB Victory

Friday, February 25th, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN –  Rex Ryan was the story on the first day of the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Thursday. And it wasn’t for shocking the world with his blazing speed in the forty-yard dash, either. No, instead Ryan did what Ryan does best (other than coaching football): talking.

Just one month removed from the AFC Championship game, one game away from fulfilling Ryan’s guarantee of winning the Super Bowl that he publicly stated in the off-season, he took the podium at the site of this year’s Super Bowl (maybe?) and marked his territory once again.

Rex Ryan, not the incumbant NFL rookie class, was the story at the first day of the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, ID. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

“I believe this is the year that we’re going to win the Super Bowl,”  he said at Lucas Oil Stadium during the Scouting Combine. “I thought we’d win it the first two years. I guarantee we’ll win it this year.”

Now Ryan has never come across a microphone he didn’t like the sound of his own voice in, but after issuing guarantees in the last two years, in which they turned from guarantees to empty promises, how much weight does this year’s guarantee hold?

“Why wouldn’t I be positive?” he said. “ ‘Hey guys, I’ll be happy if we’re 8-8.’ That’s the wrong guy standing in front of you. I’m always going to say the same thing. I believe we can be champs. Why wouldn’t I believe it? Somebody tell me why I shouldn’t believe that we deserve to be a champion.”

Certainly the perfect answer to combat those cynics who say Ryan’s brash outcries are more arrogant than motivating. That better-than-the-rest mindset has won over, not just his own players, but players from across the league. Sports Illustrated polled 279 players during this past season, asking them “For which other coach would you like to play?” and 21 percent responded Ryan — by far the most. Ryan talked about using HBO’s “Hard Knocks” program as a way of recruiting players and fans and it appears to have worked. Players around the NFL seem to respond to Ryan’s relentless will to win.

“I’m going to see if I can will a championship,” Ryan said. “I’m going to try to will a championship. Anything it takes.”

While Ryan has whiffed on his last two guarantees, he has come painstakingly close to fulfilling them. Dating back to his final year with the Baltimore Ravens as the defensive coordinator, he has lost in AFC Championship game three years in a row, twice losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Guarantee or no guarantee, Ryan’s mouth has been a double-edged sword throughout his tenure as Jets head coach. But while there have been slip-ups that have brought negative attention to himself and his team, it has rewarded his team much more. Perhaps, however, the Jets should just leave the guarantees to Broadway Joe.

Jets Franchise David Harris; Revis lobbies for Ochocinco

Monday, February 7th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The last and final member of the Jets’ “Core Four” has been signed, for the next year anyway. Yesterday, it was reported by ESPNNewYork.com’s Rich Cimini that general manager Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets have placed the franchise tag on linebacker and defensive signal caller David Harris.

Tannenbaum had hinted at this move when he last spoke to the media, however some (myself included) have speculated that the tag would have been placed on receiver Santonio Holmes. While we may have been in disagreement over who should receive the franchise tag, we were in complete agreement on Harris being their top priority.

Going by last year’s franchise salary number for linebackers Harris would be paid quite handsomely, pulling in around $9.6 million. That suits Harris who was looking to make at or around Bart Scott’s $8 million per year deal. The length may be his only quarrel with the Jets. Owner Woody Johnson, Rex Ryan and Tannenbaum have called Harris perhaps the most important player of the Jets’ “Core Four”, yet he remains the only one without a long-term deal.

On July 6 D’Brickashaw Ferguson signed a 6-year, $60 million contract extention. The contract tied for the highest average salary for offensive linemen. He also surpassed Miami’s Jake Long’s record for guaranteed money for an offensive linemen with $34.8 million guaranteed (Long received $30 million). On August 23 Nick Mangold signed a 7-year, $55-million contract extension. The deal made Mangold the highest paid center in the NFL based on the average salary per year. He eclipsed the old mark set by St. Louis’ Jason Brown last season by $7.5 million. And on September 6 Revis signed a 4-year, $46 million contract extension with $32 million in guarantees, ending a seven-month stalemate.

After shelling out top dollars for three of the four pivotal players for the Jets, fans are left scratching their heads at their decision to franchise Harris.

In his article, Cimini argues that the move shows just how much the Jets value Harris over Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Antonio Cromartie, all free agents. They will surely sign Holmes, who was a difference maker for the offense and helped the progression of Mark Sanchez. But what about Cromartie and Edwards? Will they offer both players new deals? If so, wouldn’t that reward two players who the Jets say Harris is more valuable than?

Darrelle Revis went from All-Pro cornerback to OCNN Intern for Chad Ochocinco. In his time working with Ochocinco, Revis has lobbied for the receiver to play in New York. (JetsInsider.com Photo.)

Of course, this is merely splitting hairs as, ultimately, they have one of their top performers returning for the next season. But the move does make you wonder what Tannenbaum has in store for the 2011 off-season. New CBA withstanding, the Jets have to do major work to retool a team that was a solid first half away from reaching the Super Bowl. They put a lot of eggs in the basket of the 2010 season, as they acquired many expiring contracts (Holmes, Edwards, Cromartie, Jason Taylor, Nick Folk).

OTHER OFF-SEASON NOTES: New York Metro’s Kristian Dyer reported yesterday that Darrelle Revis has been lobbying for disgruntled Bengals receiver, Chad Ochocinco to join the New York Jets. (For the record, Ochocinco will be returning to his birth name, Chad Johnson, for the next season.)

Revis spent the weekend working for Ochocinco’s OCNN (OchoCinco News Network) as an accredited reporter covering the activities of Super Bowl XLV in Fort Worth, Texas. In their time together Revis came to the conclusion that Ochocinco would be a good fit in New York.

“I want Chad to come here and play for us, to be a Jet,” Revis said. “I’ve been in his ear a lot about it this week … I think he could do well here. I’ve been telling him to come here.”

While Ochocinco declined to comment about the possibility of joining the Jets over the weekend, he stated on The T.Ocho Show that he “would do anything to play for someone like Rex Ryan.” He also tweeted Ian Rappaport of the Boston Herald about his interest in playing for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

HOF candidate Martin transcends class

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

In today’s era of the National Football League, it is quite rare to come across a player who is as great of a human as they are a football player. Too often in recent years have players made headlines, not for their feats on the field, rather their faults off of it. From assault and battery to driving while intoxicated to sexual abuse to the violent fighting and execution of dogs, players across the league have struggled preserving the sanctity of the NFL player’s image. Certainly they may dazzle crowds for sixty minutes on a Sunday afternoon, but the remaining 10,000 minutes are spent defaming the reputation they’ve worked so hard to earn.

As this has become increasingly the case over the last decade or so, there is one player who’s off-the-field reputation has transcended the work he put out on the football field. The league’s fourth all-time leading rusher (14,101 yards) and the third most worked back (3,518 attempts) rose above his peers, not only due to his excellence on the grid-iron but his dedication to bettering himself as a person and a ball player.

When Curtis Martin finished his collegiate career at the University of Pittsburgh, he knew that he didn’t have a true desire to play football. Yet, when the Bill Parcells and the New England Patriots selected him in the third round of the 1995 NFL Draft he answered yes, knowing that football provided the platform to pursue his true passion: helping people.

Curtis Martin addressing the Jets fans in his inaugeration to the Jets Ring of Honor. Martin hopes that green jackets turns into a creamy off-white as he awaits to hear about his Hall-of-Fam status from Canton, Ohio. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

And as February 5th fast approaches Martin will await a phone call from Canton, Ohio that will undoubtedly be the validation of an exemplary NFL career, both on and off the field.

“When I look back over my career, I’m more proud of the things that I’ve done off the field and the impact that I’ve had on my team as a leader,” Martin said on Wednesday. “Those are the things that make me proud as a player because, as we all know in this game, there are so many distractions. There are so many things that can take your focus off the field. For me, the thing that I’m most pleased with is to be able to retire with a name; a name that, hopefully, can be associated with good character, humility, a leader, a hard worker, and as someone who endured.”

On the field, Martin was a model of consistency. He is one of two players to have 1,000 yards in his first 10 seasons in the NFL (some guy named Barry Sanders is the other). His 3,518 rushing attempts will, in all likelihood, remain third all-time, as no running back below the age of 27 is 1,500 attempts (the Rams’ Steven Jackson is the youngest, closest at 27 years old and 1,878 attempts). Put it this way, it would take Jackson an average of 328 attempts (his career average is 268, high 345) over the next five years just to reach Martin’s attempt numbers.

Perhaps what’s even more impressive than his ability on the field, was his durability. Out of a possible 176 career games he played in 168, missing games in three of his eleven seasons played. Broken fingers, busted shoulders and partially torn ligaments in his knees was nothing that could have stopped Martin from competing. Jets owner and friend Woody Johnson said he ran in a such a unique way that it “defied description”. Current Jets guard and former teammate, Brandon Moore said he has only seen Martin practice at one speed: full. In the 2000 season opener, in a game against the Green Bay Packers, he had injured his right leg in a such a way that he couldn’t feel where his thigh and lower leg connected. Instead of leaving the game, Martin would slap on a knee brace, rush for 110 yards and two scores and call it a day.

“I believed my value to a team was in things like that,” he said.

The pounding he took between the tackles forced him to retire as doctors warned he would be walking with a cane by 38 if he were to continue to put that type of wear and tear on his body. And with his retirement, Martin felt comfortable leaving on his terms and, relatively, pain free.

“There’s very little pain,” he said. “I usually only have pain because I still work out pretty vigorously. I’m doing a lot of boxing. I’m in really good shape. Like the other day, I boxed and went maybe 17 rounds or so. I think with all the movement and everything, my knee got a little swollen, but it’s fine.”

When he’s not doing his best Apollo Creed impression, Martin is working towards fulfilling the dreams that he used football to bridge himself to. While playing in the league, Martin donated 12% of every paycheck to a charity of his choosing and started up the Curtis Marin Job Foundation, which helps give permanent shelters to the homeless. In adding to that, he now works with Surgicorps, an organization that funds trips for doctors to perform operations on patients who live in third-world countries. But despite his devotion to humanitarianism, Martin’s real goal is to one day own an NFL team.

“I really want to [buy an NFL team] and I almost did it twice,” Martin said. “There’s not a rush or I’m not anxious about it. It’s like running the football. What makes a good running back versus an okay running back is that you know how to be patient and wait for the right hole and then just hitting that hole. That’s kind of the approach that I’ve taken as far as ownership goes. When that right opportunity comes, when that hole opens up, I’ll know its the right now and I’ll hit it.”

The  articulate Martin joins Marshall Faulk, Jerome Bettis, Deion Sanders and Willie Roaf as finalists for the 2011 NFL Hall of Class. If chosen, which is only a matter of time, Martin has already stated that it will be his longtime coach and mentor to enshrine him in Canton. “I always knew that as the talk began that there was never a question or doubt in my mind would [present me], and it is Bill Parcells,” Martin said.

When asked what he will be doing in preparation for that 6 p.m. Saturday evening phone call, Martin’s response was somewhat bland, maybe even a little under-the-radar. “I’ll probably be home watching T.V., doing something simple. I’m not too sure what will occur.”

May the youths of the league and below take notes from a man who transcends a generation of selfishness, glutony and greed.

10 Off-Season Priorities

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

With six days until the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers set to kick off Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, the Jets were left one game short yet again. After seeing Indianapolis, a team they dominated in the first half of last year’s AFC Championship game, falter against the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV, G.M. Mike Tannenbaum and the rest of the Jets were ready to re-focus themselves for the 2010 season.

“Super Bowl or bust,” a boisterous Rex Ryan announced as the team and HBO’s Hard Knocks filed in to Cortland, N.Y. for the start of training camp. Re-tooled with a team that looked like it was plucked from a Madden fantasy draft, the Jets welcomed such big-name newcomers as LaDanian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes, Jason Taylor and Antonio Cromartie. They made moves in the draft, landing the highly touted cornerback Kyle Wilson and running backs John Conner and Joe McKnight. Despite the money they spent on bringing players in, they still managed to pay three of their “Core Four”; offensive linemen D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold as well as cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Even with the off-season roster bolstering the Jets still came up one game short, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-19 in the AFC Championship game. Now Tannenbaum has plenty of personnel decisions to make while the distinct possibility of a 2011 NFL lockout looming large over his head.

Think the season was over with the Pittsburgh game? Think again. The second season of the NFL has begun and the JetsInsider.com has the ten most pressing Jets issues for the 2011 off-season. (*Writer’s Note: The new CBA may effect the cycle of things, but, ideally, this is the pecking order for the Jets.

  1. Linebacker David Harris remains the lone player from the Jets "Core Four". He is the Jets top priority in the 2011 off-season. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

    RE-SIGN LB DAVID HARRIS- The last member of the “Core Four” may be the most important to the Jets. The recipient of the 2010 Curtis Martin team MVP award, Harris has led the team in tackles in three of his last four seasons. He’s not only a leader on the field, but has the respect of everyone in that locker room as a silent warrior. “He remains a top priority for us. David has done a lot of great things for us on and off the field. We expect him to be here for years to come,” Tannebaum told members of the media.

  2. RE-SIGN EDWARDS & HOLMES- Perhaps this may be disputed as not the number 2 most pressing issue, but there’s certainly an argument. As a second-year quarterback, Mark Sanchez developed a rapport with Edwards early on and began to develop one with Holmes as the season closed. “Both those players (Edwards and Holmes) did a really good job for us,” Tannenbaum said. “Both made big plays for us during the season and the postseason. I’m proud of what they accomplished for us.” He may be known for his dropped balls and off-the-field antics, but Edwards emerged as one of the vocal leaders late in the season, as his game stepped up week after week. As for Holmes, he seems like the perfect fit for the franchise tag. A prime-time player, Holmes may be allured by the big-money bucks he would command on the open market.
  3. BOLSTER THEIR PASS RUSH: We all saw how effective the Jets defense was against the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs, as they recorded five sacks and constantly had pressure coming Tom Brady’s way. With a weakened pass rush this past season, the Jets defense often seemed to be missing that final ingredient to a defense that ended up ranking third in total defense. There are plenty of options, as of now, in the free agent pool that the Jets could throw some cash at. Chiefs’ DE/LB Tamba Hali (14.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles) had a superb season on a Chiefs defensive that exceeded expectations. Vikings DE Ray Edwards (8 sacks) is often overlooked on a Vikings defensive line that is loaded with talent. Make no mistake, Edwards may just be the most well-rounded end on the open market, excelling in stopping the run and pass. Or they may fill the hole in the draft. Miami stand-out Allen Bailey (6-4, 288 lbs.) had seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2010, while Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward (6-5, 288 lbs.)  has emerged as a late-first round pick perfect for a scheming 3-4 defense.
  4. PASS ON ANTONIO CROMARTIE-Unfortunately for Cro, his level of play failed to live up level of his smack talk. In recent weeks he has drawn criticisms for has rather candid media encounters. While there were glimmers of brilliance (his play on Randy Moss Week 2 after Revis went down, in particular), too often he was beat regularly on single-man coverage. Add in his knack for his propensity to draw pass-interference calls and it’s a signing that could really hurt the Jets. “By and large, he had a good year for us on the field. He wasn’t perfect, but he played well,” Tannebaum said about Cromartie.
  5. BRING BACK BRAD SMITH- How could you not? Smith single handedly won the Jets two games late in the fourth quarter with his superb return skills. He may not be the fastest return man nor is he the shiftiest, but the combination of both makes him explosive. Not only is he pivotal in the special teams game, but with Smith running the Wildcat offense he offers yet another facet when he can utilize his freakish talents. Think what you want about Brian Schottenheimer and his timing of using the Wildcat package, but the Jets were amongst the top in yardage for teams that feature the Wildcat averaging over 4.2 yards per attempt because of Smith.
  6. PART WAYS WITH SCHOTTY- I know, I know. Tannenbaum has already stated that he plans to stick with Schottenheimer, but many argue that he was a big reason as to why the Jets lost in Pittsburgh. He has been often labeled as “too cute”, which may be a compliment for a high school girl but not so much for an offensive coordinator in the NFL. Calling passing plays in clear running down and vice versa (as we saw late in the game against Pittsburgh) has been Schottenheimer’s MO throughout his tenure with the Jets. As the season began to unfold it seemed, through his playcalling, that he didn’t trust Sanchez to make the big plays. The fans have the right to not trust Sanchez, but as his coach Schottenheimer must display trust in his young quarterback.
  7. GET OFFENSIVE LINE HELP- Let’s face it, this group has been at war together for the last two years. The offensive line has been a staple of his new-look Jets team for the past few years, but with the knee injury and contract uncertainty with RT Damien Woody, they will have a glaring hole on the right side. If the Jets look to the draft to fulfill it will either come in the third round or via a trade. I believe a Rex Ryan team will devote their first pick to the defense. The draft pick traded to San Diego for Cromartie turns from a third-round to a second-round pick because of their victory over the Colts in the playoffs. The answer may be returning back-up turned starter Wayne Hunter, who is a free agent. Other notable free agents include Tyson Clabo, who helped the Falcon’s ground game lead the NFC in rushing, and Willie Colon, who has a history of the Jets rough-and-rugged style of play from his history with the Steelers.
  8. THINK ABOUT BACK-UP PLAN FOR SAFETY- While the Jets maintain that Jim Leonhard will be on pace for next season, there’s certainly no guarantee. And Eric Smith is a free agent. He pieced together a few great games for the jets down the stretch and in the playoffs, but still struggles and often looks confused in coverage. Perhaps Rex calls on another one of his former Baltimore Ravens players. Tom Zbikowski was drafted by the Ravens in Ryan’s last season, and Ryan is always looking for a fired-up kid who knows his style of play.
  9. SEARCH FOR A REPLACEMENT AT KICKER- Nick Folk started out his tenure in New Jersey on a high. Hell, he was pretty much the entire offense for a few games this year. But at the end he faltered — blame it on misuse or mental — as his head coach lost faith in them. Besides with the gusty winds that run through New Meadowlands Stadium, the team needs a kicker who can shine in the face of harsh elements. Free agent kicker Matt Prater has that on his resume, spending the last season in Denver. Prater has a big leg and despite his low attempts hit 89% of his kicks and was 6-of-8 from 40+ (59 long).
  10. FIRE SAL ALOSI- Oh wait…

Alosi Resigns

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - The New York Jets head strength and conditioning coach, Sal Alosi, has resigned today. The announcement was made today by Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

After speaking with Sal, he decided that it is best for him to tender his resignation at this time,” Tannenbaum said. “We appreciate all of Sal’s contributions during his tenure with the team. He played an invaluable role in our success and established what we feel is one of the better strength and conditioning programs in the NFL.”

You may remember that Alosi was the ring leader in a certain mid-game mishap that was later dubbed “Trip Gate”. In a Week 14 home game against the Miami Dolphins Alosi instructed players on the sideline line up side-by-side along the sideline as the Jets prepared to receive a punt. The “wall” that is created by the players forces the opposing team’s gunner to have a tighter route to the returner or force him out of bounds. In the case of Dolphins’ gunner, Nick Collins, he did neither. As Collins passed Alosi’s “wall” of players, Alosi stuck out his knee and purposely tripped Collins.

That had to the the collective shrug of the entire Jets Nation as Sal Alosi tripped Dolphins' gunner Nick Collins during their 10-6 Week 14 loss. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

The play went unseen by the referees, but the cameras caught it as the story became blazoned on the internet before the game even ended. The backlash that ensued afterward was especially harsh, considering the Jets poor play in a 10-6 loss and their off the recent off-the-field mishaps.

Alosi was subsequently suspended for the remainder of the season, playoffs included, and was fined $25,000 for the action. Speculation arose when media members began questioning that a strength and conditioning coach, one of the lower coaching positions on the team, acted unilaterally from the team in setting up this illegal “wall”.

“I’m thankful to have been a part of the New York Jets,” Alosi said. “I am especially grateful to Mr. Johnson, Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan for allowing me the opportunity to be a head strength and conditioning coach in this league. I have many fond memories, including earning my first NFL job in 2002. After the events that have transpired, I feel it’s best for my family and me to look for a fresh start. I wish nothing but the best for the entire organization.”

Named head strength and conditioning coach in 2007, Alosi ended his second stint with the Jets. He served as the team’s assistant strength coach from 2002-2005. In 2006 he was the head strength coach for the Atlanta Falcons. Alosi played football at Hofstra University from 1996-2000 and was the school’s assistant strength coach in 2001.