Archive for March, 2012

Talking Wildcat at Tebow’s Introduction

Monday, March 26th, 2012

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Tim Tebow was introduced officially Monday as a New York Jet. Perhaps you’ve heard of this. Being present for the momentous occasion was in such high demand, with over 200 media members, 30-plus TV cameras and at least 13 news satellite TV trucks outside, that the Jets were forced to move the press conference to their field house just to accommodate the heightened hysteria.

Our very own Chris Nimbley highlighted the coverage in his post earlier this afternoon, but as he will tell you there was just too much for one post. In all honesty, there was so much that was covered that six articles on the day’s events would be a more appropriate start.

Tebow, like Nimbley pointed out, stood poised and primed for the media onslaught while deflecting potentially disastrous trap questions back to his excitement for a fresh start — truly a PR representatives’ dream spokesman. There was not much new news to break that he hadn’t stated in his media conference call last Thursday, however Tebow brought up an interesting thought regarding the Wildcat.

I think one misconception is people think that the Wildcat is just a direct snap to a running back and you fake it and you run power or outside zone or inside zone.  That’s a big misconception because I think when you have the ability to have 11 people touch the ball — not 11 people, but you have five or six people that have the opportunity to touch the ball on every single play, I think it can be confusing.  I think it can make defenses play slow.  I think when you have a great offensive coordinator like Coach Sparano that can put together packages and plays, not necessarily have tendencies, then I think it can be effective.

Players like Jeremy Kerley (above) and Joe McKnight may benefit from Tim Tebow's arrival. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

He brings up a valid point. While Tebow will be the talking point when team’s refer to their Wildcat formation in preparation, but he is not the only versatile player who may thrive from the shift in philosophy. A lot has been made about how detrimental the shift will be to players like Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes, who had his own quarrels with the offensive coaching staff after being “toned” down in 2011, but not enough about the players who could benefit from it.

Joe McKnight is the first player to come to mind. He is the Jets jack of all trades, the second coming of the Swiss ARMY knife, if you will. A running back by trade, McKnight restored faith in the coaching staff by standing out on special teams and, at times, on defense. Now under new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who helped Reggie Bush to his best statistical year in 2011, McKnight should expect a spike in his offensive attempts and, hopefully in return, his statistics.

The other is second year receiver, the slippery Jeremy Kerley. The former TCU Horned-Frog struggled early in the season but found his stride late, showing promise for the year to come. The Wildcat package may utilize his skill set to a fuller extent, showcasing his ability in the open field —  something Kerley didn’t see too often playing across the middle from the slot position.

Yes, that means taking the ball out of Sanchez’s hand more — a complete 180 in philosophy from last year, where the team “took the reigns” off in his third season.  While the move is detrimental to the immediate continued development of Sanchez, the offense is looking to flourish by capitalizing on their skilled position players.

Opposing defenses continue to carry more and more cornerbacks due in large to NFL offenses running more spread formations and reducing the emphasis of the ground game. Like the move to bring in Tebow, the Jets are hoping to catch defense’s off guard next year.

Tebow’s Introduction to New York

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

(Photo Credit: TMZ.com)

Thought Tebowmania couldn’t get any bigger? Think again.

“I’m looking forward to my time as a Jet. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to play for such a great organization. It’s my dream and passion to help them out and just be a part of it. I’m just happy they believed in me and stuck with me through this crazy process,” — Tim Tebow, quarterback, New York Jets

Tim Tebow is, for the second time today, a New York Jet. And you thought Linsanity was an over-loading eruption of uproarious jubilation.

Here’s a wrap-up of Tebow’s first introduction to the New York media as a member of the Jets, starting with his feelings on playing for the player-friendly, profanity-laden Ryan.

“I wanted to play for Coach Ryan ever since I saw ‘Hard Knocks,’ ” Tebow chuckled about Rex’s and the Jets’ five-week star turn on HBO’s training camp series two summers ago. “He just seemed like a coach who loves football and is passionate about the game of football. He’s definitely a players’ coach. I just love that about him … I have so much respect for him,” he said, chuckling even louder. “He’s a coach you want to play for, a coach you want to go out there and do good for. … There’s not many NFL locker rooms you’re going to go where you have the cleanest language, so I’m not too worried about that.”

What about sharing the spotlight with Mark Sanchez, who recently signed a contract extension through the 2016 season?

“Mark called me and left a voicemail,” Tebow said. “I was searching through all my voicemails and I heard his and I called him back. We talked, got a chance to catch up a little bit. It was a great conversation. We’ve been blessed to get to know each other the last three years. … I think we’re both extremely competitive. I think we’ll be able to push each other to get a lot better. I think we’ll have a great working relationship, and we’ve had a great relationship off the field. He’s such a classy guy. I’ll be very honored to call him my teammate.”

Life for Mark Sanchez just got harder as he now has America's sweetheart, Tim Tebow looking over his shoulder. (JetsInsider.com)

Broncos vice president John Elway previously stated that he would make a trade that would be in the best interest of Tebow. While other teams may have offered him the starting position, the Jets made it known he would be the back-up. When asked about the potential of his time in New York hurting his chances of being a starter in the NFL, he became a little more cryptic.

“I feel like this is a great opportunity for me to develop. I think the scheme we’ll be playing in is a great scheme to play under and improve every day. My goal is just to be the best player, the best quarterback, the best teammate I can be and improve every single day and earn everything I get by working hard and find a way to help the team in whatever role that is.”

Much like he did during the season, Tebow saved what was, perhaps, his best statement for the end.

“Just playing for an organization that has such passionate fans, such a great fan base, so many people that care about them and support them, that definitely means a lot to me.”

The initial trade, the Jets sending over a fourth and sixth round pick in exchange for Tebow and a seventh rounder, hit a snag after a miscommunication of the details of his contract. Tebow was paid $5 million in advances from the 2012 and 2013 season, a number that the Denver Broncos wanted to be compensated for. After keeping the lines of communication open, however, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum agreed to split the difference and settled on a deal.

Our initial trade papers addressed the advancement of his salary, which we knew about, in his contract. They disagreed with our interpretation. With that said we had continued dialog throughout the day and finally reached an agreement that both sides could live with. — Mike Tannenbaum, general manager, New York Jets

Tannenbaum stated numerous times that Sanchez is the starting quarterback and that Tebow will be be the back-up. The team previously flirted with the idea of signing Peyton Manning prior to Sanchez’s extension.

“He is our back-up quarterback. Again, Mark is our starter. We’re thinking about keeping four quarterbacks on this roster. We’ll see how that plays out over the next coming months,” Tannenbaum said. As for the role Tebow would play in the offense Tannenbaum was less forward. “He may be in for three plays one game and 40 the next. Who knows? It’s going to be game-plan specific. We think we’re going to be a much more diverse and dynamic offense.”

Tebowmania hitting Broadway? Not if Jets are smart

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Tim Tebow sporting a #15 hunter green jersey. Tim Tebow taking on the New York media day in and day out. Tim Tebow as the team’s lovable back-up quarterback.

I understand if you’re suddenly feeling verclempt. Take a moment to talk amongst yourselves and regroup. I’ll give you a topic: Jets Nation revolting against former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for his unorthodox schemes and ability to outplay himself.

Since we’re talking about it …  many were critical of Schottenheimer’s Wildcat offense, first revived by the Tony Sparano-led Miami Dolphins in 2008, and how it took away from Mark Sanchez’s flow of the game. That was with wide receiver Brad Smith running the package, not the polarizing Tebow.

ESPNNewYork.com is reporting that the Jets are “legitimately interested” in the Broncos quarterback for two reasons: 1. The possibility of bettering the offense by using him in their Wildcat package and 2. To improve the team’s locker room and perception of it. If the Jets were to trade for Tebow, they may improve the former but at the expense of the latter.

Time out! Tim Tebow to the Jets? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

From a pure football perspective the move appears sound. The Jets and new offensive coordinator Sparano have each previously used the Wildcat formation with great success. After ranking 22nd in team rushing in 2012’s 8-8 season Rex Ryan is looking to rededicate themselves to the “ground and pound” mentality. Also there’s the notion that Sanchez plays considerably better with an effective ground game to sell his play-action and bootleg roll-outs. Having a player with Tebow’s versatility allows all of that while taking away hits from the injury-prone Shonn Greene. After all Tebow did gain 660 yards on 5.6 yards per carry on the top rushing team in the NFL — two areas where the Jets ranked in the bottom third of the league.

They could get all that for swapping a 5th or 6th round pick.

There is, however, a ripple effect to the trade that would reverberate the walls of their Florham Park practice facility and echo across the Hudson. What does the move really say about their assurance in Sanchez? After the off-season he has endured — with the team doing due diligence on Manning, publicly stating their disappointment in his development and teammates questioning his leadership — this may send a sensitive Sanchez over the edge.

The team just gave a contract extension to their former first-round selection, a publicity stunt to clear the air of any ill feelings and move on to the season which drew a mixed bag of receptions. Sanchez-supporters are growing smaller and the locker room is recently removed from surgery on the divided locker room that proved to be the fatal wound on the 2011 season. How long would it be before fans (or teammates) start calling for Tebow to step in and take over if Sanchez stumbles out of the gates?

And the team certainly shouldn’t say they’re looking to “improve perception of the locker room”. Instead of improving the perception, why not just improve the locker room? Tebow is no cure-all in negating the negative media attention. Woody Johnson and the Jets front office have been in a back-page feud with the cross-town Giants for who controls New York and transactions in the past have proved he cares about winning that battle (i.e. Brett Favre, Rex Ryan, Plaxico Burress, etc.). What Johnson is failing to realize that there  is no miracle or player that can be brought in to put the locker room problems to rest.

Call it yet another publicity stunt done to keep the team in the news. Call it a team doing their due diligence in making an effort to improve themselves in any way possible. Whatever you call it, just hope the Jets call it quits on the Tebow trade talks before throwing another chink in the chain.

Weighing Pouha’s Worth

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

When general manager Mike Tannenbaum announced the re-signing of defensive tackle Sione Pouha with a three-year, $15 million contract on the first day of free agency the Jets quietly made a big splash. How fitting because the phrase “quietly made a big splash” might be best used when describing Pouha’s 2011 season with the team.

Drafted in the third round out of Utah in 2005 with such labels as “raw” or “project” Pouha emerged as not only a team leader but stout run stopper in Rex Ryan’s pivotal 3-4 nose tackle position, shaking off any labels in the process.

The job required of a 3-4 nose tackle is a pretty thankless one: often taking on multiple blockers while letting the pass rushers and linebackers get all the credit and camera time. That’s where ProFootballFocus.com comes to the rescue, yet again. They’ve developed a stat called Run Stop Percentage, which determines the amount of times a defensive player causes and offensive failure as a percentage of how many plays he is in on defense.

Sione Pouha (above) is getting paid a lot less than the "sexier" NTs in the NFL, but the numbers suggest he shouldn't. (JetsInsider.com Photo.)

Once thought of as simply a facilitator, Pouha’s 2011 season proved that he can shed multiple blockers, make plays and get some time in the spotlight as well. Here’s a glance at his numbers, according to PFF’s study:

  • Run Snaps – 353
  • Tackles – 41
  • Assists – 8
  • Missed Tackles – 2
  • Run Stops – 36
  • Run Stop % – 10.2

A quick analysis of those numbers suggest that Pouha was regularly in on running plays (353) and rarely missed an opportunity to strike (twice), making the most of them when presented (36 run stops). As PFF’s graph shows, those numbers are comparable or better than some of the marquee nose tackles in the game including Vince Wilfork, Cullen Jenkins and Broderick Bunkley.

Taking those statistics into account, coupled with his leadership (an unquantifiable quality) and understanding of the complexity behind Ryan’s 3-4 schemes the re-signing looks like a steal for the Jets at a position that, nowadays, comes at a premium. And at 33 with limited playing time earlier in his career, his legs are young so to speak.

“Yeah, I guess if you look at it statistically, by snap count or what have you, you could look at it that I’m a younger 33,” Pouha said.

Looking at it statistically, the deal is full of value considering some of his sexier contemporaries have received mega-deals since the start of 2010. Casey Hampton, a true 3-4 nose tackle, is entering the second year of a 3-year deal worth $21 million with $11 million in guarantees. Ndamukong Suh signed his rookie deal at five years, $60 million with $40 million in guarantees. Former Ryan prodigy Haloti Ngata inked a 5-year deal before last season worth $61 million — $40 million being paid out over the first two years. And most recently the Patriots’ Wilfork got a 5-year, $40 million contract extension with $25 million guaranteed.

Fellow free agent nose tackle, albeit in the 4-3, Bunkley, has yet to sign with a team.

Each of the above mentioned players are making more than Pouha, but none of them had a higher run stop percentage than the Gang Green’s gang buster. Not to say that Pouha is flat out better than those players, rather Tannenbaum did not reach to retain a budding star capable of playing at a comparably high level.

With $9.5 million in guarantees, $3.5 million up front and some job security Pouha is finally enjoying the ripe fruits recognition has to offer — a gift of many thanks.

Marshall’s departure from AFC bodes well for Jets

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

The first day of the NFL’s free agency period has come and past and, thus far, the Jets have yet to make a move. No need to fret, we’ve all heard the children’s parable about the tortoise and the hare before.

Speculation continues to swirl around the Jets, who’ve had a knack for making a splash in free agency in years past, as their name has been linked to everyone from Peyton Manning to Eric Winston to Braylon Edwards. Certainly they are in the market for an offensive lineman of Winston’s caliber and a receiver with a deep-threat game like Edwards, but it was a move that their rival Miami Dolphins made on Tuesday that helped out the Jets.

For two third-round picks the Dolphins sent All-Pro receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears, all 6′4″ – 230 pounds of him.

Gleeful smirks had to the common facial expression for the Gang Green faithful for a couple of reasons: 1. Moving their big-play receiver may indicate they have given up on their pursuit of Peyton Manning 2. Darrelle Revis’ toughest competition just left the conference.

Many receivers have traveled to Revis Island, few have been able to find their way off it. All-Pro receivers like Vincent Jackson, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Randy Moss (most notably) never passed go and did not receive two-hundred dollars. As long as we’re talking Monopoly, Marshall owns property on Revis Island and has a few condos set up.

In the past two seasons Revis has given up 100+ yards only twice. Both were to Marshall — once on 9/26/10 for 166 yards and again on 10/17/11 for 109 yards.

With the departure of Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis (above) doesn't have to worry about getting the "Jordan" treatment. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Revis, a blissful blend of quicks and strength, has had troubles dealing with the physically imposing Marshall, who uses his length to create separation and size to make a play on almost any ball thrown his way. Rex Ryan pridefully allows the 1-on-1 match-up out of respect for Revis’ game — and more often than not, it works wonders. Against Marshall? Well that’s a different story.

In a ProFootballFocus.com article, Revis ranked first in the categories of lowest completion percentage allowed (35 receptions on 85 targets for a 41.2 completion percentage) and opposing QB rating (45.6 — next closest was Asante Samuel’s 52.4). The analysis? Revis doesn’t get thrown to often, but he does it usually doesn’t work out for the opposing team.

Except for Marshall. His two-year totals against Revis goes as follows: 24 receptions/341 yards/2 TDs — good for an average of 6 REC PG/85 YPG/.5 TD/14.1 YPC. Granted those numbers don’t WOW you, but we are talking about Revis here. Remember?

What’s more telling is how much attention that match-up garners throughout the course of the game. In the 10/17 Jets 31-23 victory, Marshall accounted for a third of Miami’s total yards (108 of team’s 308 yards), half of Matt Moore’s passing yards (204) and a third of his completions (16). Of the 34 times Moore dropped back to pass he threw the ball 13 times in direction of Revis on Marshall. Moore knew that, despite Revis, Marshall was his best shot at keeping his team on the field. In the 12/12/10 Dolphins 10-6 victory Marshall accounted for 10 of Chad Henne’s 26 completions while getting targeted nearly half the time Henne dropped back (17 targets to 44 attempts.

The numbers suggest that Revis exerts a lot of energy, perhaps more than usual, when defending against the physically taxing Marshall. Not having to play opposite the UCF-alum twice a year will only help boost the already-stellar play Revis brings to the field.

Jets lock up Sanchez through 2016

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images.)

The New York Jets rewarded quarterback Mark Sanchez with a three-year contract extension worth $40.5 million after a 31-22 record over his first three years. But coming off the heels of their pursuit of Peyton, how does this move effect the team next season?

Mark Sanchez came out of his safe house Friday with a fistful of cash and an optimistic outlook. After enduring his most trying season as a starter for the Jets, Sanchez dipped into the abyss of anonymity only poking his head up to poke fun at the media in his Valentine’s Day tweet to his sweetheart, Santonio Holmes.

Since then speculation has surrounded the quarterback position for New York, with General Manager Mike Tannenbaum rather publicly “looking into” the possibility of signing Peyton Manning in recent weeks. The team, however, was rather quite about negotiations of the new contract for Sanchez that were ongoing throughout the height of the Manning saga and, according to the two started just a few weeks after the season ended.

“We looked into Peyton Manning, who obviously is a first ballot Hall-of-Famer, tremendous person, tremendous player that we all know, and we looked into it,” Tannenbaum told members of the New York media Friday night. ” But again, like I said, as events continued to unfold, we continued the negotiations with Mark, and what’s important for us is where we are tonight, which is Mark is our starter, and we’re excited about 2012.”

Faith Rewarded: Jets gave "their guy" Mark Sanchez a contract extension through 2016 on Friday. (JetsInsider.com Photo.)

Here’s the breakdown of specifics from Sanchez’s three-year extension:

  • It’s a three-year extension with a restructure of the final two years (2012, 2013) of his rookie deal worth $40.5 million.
  • Still will be making the same $11.25 million in 2012 from his old deal except it’s now fully guaranteed. ($8 million signing bonus, $3.25 million base salary & $500K workout bonus).
  • 2013 compensation went from a non-guaranteed $6 million to a guaranteed $8.25 million.
  • Grand total of guaranteed money from new deal: $20 million.
  • Years 2014-16 are not guaranteed ($11.5 million in 2014, $14 million in 2015 & $12.5 million in 2016). Also $10 million in potential escalators in final three years.
  • The new contract saves $6.4 million in cap space for the 2012 season.

Tannenbaum said the new deal was not based on “hope” or “potential” or a “leap of faith”, rather a reward for a three-year resume; a body of work that has seen its share of highs and lows. He said this despite stating that Sanchez has not “progressed the way he hoped” earlier in the off-season while denying that the cap space created had any part in getting the deal done.

From a business perspective the deal makes sense. They stick with a guy who the team drafted to be their starting quarterback for at least another two years while freeing up cap space to begin plugging their other holes (currently the team stands $14 million UNDER the cap). With the non-guaranteed years in the back end of contract, Tannenbaum leaves the team open to make a change if desired.

From a public relations standpoint the deal appears to be a feeble attempt at patching up a wounded relationship.

There have been cries from the locker room, whether it was LaDanian Tomlinson, Greg McElroy or the infamous “anonymous” source, that allude to a lack of leadership from the captain’s position. Sanchez was named a team captain in 2011.

“[The contract extension] gives the team just a reminder that I’m the leader of this team,” Sanchez said Friday evening.

Throwing “captain-like” money at player doesn’t make a leader nor does it instill faith into those who thought Sanchez and company were not worthy of the responsibilities. Instead the move looked like a planned PR stunt done to coddle their budding franchise quarterback after missing out on Manning. Like leaving your steady girlfriend for that sexy mirage in a mini-dress in the corner of the bar, only to come back with your tail between your legs after she sent you packing.

Regardless of the motive the move made the most of the hand they were dealt: they locked up their young quarterback for the next five years with the option to part ways after 2013 while freeing up cap space to remain competitive in free agency this year.

Sanchez, undoubtedly with a chip on his shoulder from all the hoopla surrounding him over the past six months, will now have to prove he’s worth his weight in money. It’s a feeling he embraces.

“I’m excited to get back, and I’m going to be working my tail off these next few months to become the best possible starting quarterback that this franchise can have,” he said.