There are those of you who claim that the preseason is meaningless and that its not worth watching. I disagree and add that there are many different aspects to watching preseason football. It doesn't count or even matter if you win or lose and that is true. However, there are many things to look and in fact, there are signs that will help gauge the level of success the Jets will or won't achieve this year.
Offensively, the biggest question many uninformed fans have is how Chad will do without Coles. I think the Jets first quarter should be showing everyone that Moss and Conway could help Chrebet carry the load. It would be a huge relief if they were successful moving the ball against the defending SB Champs (and the Cover-2). They also need to develop some kind of consistent depth on the line. Can Nutten hold on to the starting spot or can Goodwin show enough improvement to push him. The Jets must also find reserve Tackles.
Defensively, the Jets need to see something from Dewayne Robertson and Bryan Thomas. Thomas above all must make this his coming out game. It would benefit the Jets incredibly if Alan Harper and Matt Walters could provide some decent defense against a questionable running game of the Bucs.
Special teams will be what should be looked at the closest. The Jets need to play consistently with their coverage and return games. Lamont Jordan needs to dispel any anxiety about losing Morton. The kicking game seems to be the biggest weakness on the team and Westoff will have his hands full from day one.
Preview of the Jets Defense
With all of the changes that took place on the offensive side of the ball, it almost appears that the defense was unscathed. The loss of James Darling and Josh Evans were two major hits and both will leave the Jets hard-pressed to replace. The loss of Josh Evans (no matter how temporary or not) propelled First-round pick Dewayne Robertson into the starting lineup the moment he signed his deal. If there is not enough pressure on this kid to become the next Warren Sapp, now he must do it from day one. Darling's "nickel-backer" position will be filled by committee. Although I hated to see Darling leave, the image of Priest Holmes hurdling his way into the end zone on the last few seconds of the game evaporate any nostalgia I may have had for him. The Jets did make strides to improve upon a defense that was one of the stingiest by the end of last season.
Let's take a closer look:
The Bad: Last season wore down the middle of the line. There were many factors contributing to this, including Evans size, Ferguson's rebound from his injury that shelved his 2001 season, and most of all, a lack of depth. There was very little help in regards to adequate rotation. James Reed is undersized and unable to make the kind of plays in short-yardage situations that will carry a defense. Harper blew his chance last year by showing up in miserable shape. Larry Webster did nothing and for his contributions, he is now an ex-Jet.
At the end position, the Jets again were plagued by a lack of adequate depth. Steve White just was not able to provide Abraham or Ellis rest. Former first-round pick Bryan Thomas had a promising preseason but had a few unfortunate "rookie" problems that were not conducive to having a successful rookie campaign.
The Good: The Jets banked the entire offseason of Dewayne Robertson. Giving up our original First-round pick in addition to the pick they received as compensation for losing Coles, is pretty expensive. There are some doubts as to whether this move pan out for the Jets. Losing Keyshawn was supposed to cripple the team also, but that draft not only brought us Key's replacement (Coles), it also brought us Pennington, Abraham, and Ellis. Parcells has proven in the past that Defensive line is the most important unit on the team. The Jets will reap the rewards from this deal for many years. Bryan Thomas is back and ready to make up for lost time and the Jets replaced White with Fifth-round pick Matt Walters. The addition of Chester McGlockton is more of a negative than a positive in the short term. The Jets should not count on his contributions until November. This is only a benefit if he does not cause any problems in the locker room.
The Bad: The starting trio did not get any younger this offseason. Lewis is still recovering from offseason surgery. The Jets had significant trouble with opposing running backs in the passing game and on paper it doesn't look like they made the moves necessary to improve. In a division with Jay Fiedler and Tom Brady, you do not want this to be an area of weakness. The Cover-2 defense is predicated on speed and athleticism and the Jets are sorely lacking in both at the linebacker position.
The Good: Expect Cowart to improve because he has had a full offseason of being healthy. Hobson may not have been the most popular choice for the Jets with Boss Bailey being available at the top of the Second round but Teddy Cottrell believes in this kid and that is enough for me. He will most likely back up Mo Lewis this season and it would benefit the Jets tremendously if he can play above the standard set by most Jet rookies of late (non-existent). If he could show the Jets enough to allow them to restructure Lewis' contract next year, it would be a major coup in extending John Abraham and/or Chad Pennington's contracts a year early. Jason Glenn, Khary Cambell, and Kenyatta Wright offer depth. The nickel-backer position will be up for auditions during camp and preseason.
The Bad: The Jets again are sorely lacking in the speed department. The Jets will have some major problems if they (as they have promised) play more man-to-man coverage. Aaron Beasley and Donnie Abraham just do not have the coverage skills to even warrant such a thought. Another problem is that the Jets DB's have the worst hands in football. The Jets give away more interceptions than they make. This has to change if the Jets want to compete for the Super Bowl. In the "parity age" of the NFL, one game can mean the difference between home field advantage and staying home for the playoffs. The Jets were so dismayed by the play of Damien Robinson, that he was let go and not even replaced.
The Good: The cover-2 does not necessarily rely heavily on man-to-man coverage skills and because of that, the Jets are lucky. Abraham and Beasley know how to play the defense and both know their limitations. Mickens offers speed for nickel and dime coverages but he won't catch it unless it hits him in the facemask and sticks. Ty Carter will prove to be a huge offseason addition. Despite the fact that it was a move that no one noticed he has a unique opportunity to add competition at both the corner and safety spots. He may even take the lead as the cover linebacker (the one vacated by Darling). The coaching staff feels so strongly that Jon McGraw is ready to command the secondary from his free safety spot that they released Robinson to vacate the starting position. Sam Garnes should provide heavy support against the running game, as he should play close to the line. This was a major weakness during the last off season's miserable start and has since been rectified.
The Bad: John Hall was not a Pro Bowl kicker but he was the Jets starter for six years. He was not a bad kicker and even made the kick to beat the Raiders (something we haven't done since). Turk had his problems and unfortunately, he was replaced by the lowest rated punter in the league. Chad Morton who arguable was the best kick-off returner in the league is gone. The all-time leader in special teams tackles is now a starter at fullback (Jerald Sowell) so the Jets need to replace both their "gunners" in Sowell and Morton.
The Good: Santana Moss is the best punt returner in the game and he will be even better this season. As for the kicking game, the good news is hopefully forthcoming.
After what must seem like the longest offseason in the history of the NY Jets franchise, we can again look forward to training camp opening in a few weeks. For obvious reasons, it should look vastly different from the two previous camps. It can be argued that the Jets have had a crippling offseason, or at the very least, troubling. Yes it is true that the Jets lost some talent and no one can deny that fact. With the free agency defects and Evan's suspension, there is no way the Jets can be as good as they were last year. Now that we can accept the fact, we can now look for the upside to all of this.
The Jets have made the playoffs the last two seasons and have not had a losing season since Kotite was here in '96. Have we become a little spoiled? After all, the Jets were the epitome of losing football for many years. It became tradition to speculate who would be the new coach and first pick in the draft by the first week of October, if not, sooner. What Terry Bradway and Herm have done is give this franchise some stability. Yes they have discarded a number of popular players since their arrival in January 2001, but they have given us the playoffs in return. That is a just return on their investment. We can say all we want about Parcells, but he had four years and we went to the playoffs once and won one game. Herm has surpassed that in his first two seasons at the helm despite having to overhaul the entire roster and implement new systems on both offense and defense.
As much as we hate it, there seems to be overhauls every offseason. The Jets are being extremely cautious about overspending. This is likely due to the contract extensions due to the best young players on the team: Pennington and John Abraham. Whether or not the Jets win the Super Bowl this year or not, the Jets can not afford to have any snags with either of those two players. With this in mind, it is easy to see how they have reacted to the contracts the Redskins were offering.
Now for an offseason assessment:
The Bad: It would be foolish for anyone to expect Chad to have another great season par to last year. Using Testaverde as an example, I give you the 1998 season: twenty-nine touchdowns and only seven interceptions. That was an unbelievable season for any QB in the history of the NFL. Our mistake was expecting that to be the norm. In retrospect, it was extremely naïve for anyone to hope for another great season on that parallel. Unfortunately, it took until the fourth game of the 2002 season for all the fans to finally accept that. Lets use this as an example and not put too high of expectations on Chad. Yes he is a budding superstar that should have at least made the Pro Bowl last year, but statistically speaking; his interception total will have to go up.
The Good: Like last year, he will have the Jets in position to win every game. He will not make the critical mistake. He developed a good chemistry with Moss and has Chrebet locked on in the red zone. The Jets have younger players (Baker and Askew) and newcomers (Conway, Bennett and possibly Carter) that will pick up the slack in the passing game. Watching Chad last year, he improved as the season progressed by using all of his options and spreading the ball around.
The Bad: Coles was the best receiver over the course of last season. He was one of the reasons for Chad's successful season. The Jets would not have made the playoffs last year had it not been for him. Curtis Martin may not of had his 1000-yard season had it not been for Coles help with the passing game.
That does not mean he was the best receiver on the team at the end of last season. I love Coles potential and am very proud of the player he has become. Fortunately for the Jets, last year in December Santana Moss was the most explosive receiver on the team. Now I understand that Coles drew the attention of the opposing team's best cover guy, but this year, Curtis Conway will be that guy. All this talk about having to adjust to a new QB is overstated. Conway has never had the same QB two years in a row. The last two seasons he flourished under Flutie and then Brees. He should be able to flourish here as well.
The Offensive Line:
The Bad: Randy Thomas was an above average player at guard. He was a very emotional player that left everything on the field. Like Coles, the Redskins got another great person and good football player. The Offensive line suffered in the early part of last season because of injuries to the Guard position. The depth that they did have last year was not up to the challenge and the offense suffered proportionately. This year the team has lost the security blanket at the back up tackle position by losing Jumbo Elliot. The depth at the Guard position is as unsettled as it was last year, so the team is relying on Szott and Nutten to stay healthy.
The Good: The Jets offensive line could actually be better than it was last season. What the Jets line lacked last year was the determination to gain the necessary yard or two with the running game. Whether it was because they lacked the sense of brutality or just the initial push remains to be seen. Nutten is more of a mauler than Thomas was and because of this, the short-yardage running game should improve dramatically. McKenzie should continue his development into a marquee tackle. If the Jets line (Szott most notably) can stay healthy, the offense will not take a step backwards.
The Bad: Curtis Martin played injured all of last season. This meant that the Jets were not at 100% for the running game. This also means Lamont Jordan did not get the necessary reps he needs to reach his full potential. This also could be motivation for Jordan to be reluctant to resign when his current deal ends. There are also questions about how much more Curtis martin has left in his tank.
The Good: Curtis Martin should be fully recovered. With all of the negativity surrounding him last year and this offseason, he should be highly motivated to punish the AFC East defenders. Paul Hackett is trying to implement plays that will incorporate both backs in the same set up. Look for the team to rely on the running and pass catching of the running backs to initially offset the loss of Coles.
The Offensive Unit:
Initially there may be some struggles. This may be to the new members of the offense or just the fact that the September schedule is brutal. Look for a shorter passing game and more reliance on the running game for the first few games. Come mid-October, the Jets will be high flying offensively just as they wee last December.
Fair comments. The guy looked at the positives and negatives of each position. I disagree with his assessment of the L/B. Cowatt is another year removed from major surgery, and should return to the All Pro he was. Lewis is healthy again and while he won't be the same guy that got 10 sacks a decade ago, he will be a force again. I think this will be a strength. Also, Darling was not a major loss. Priest Holmes convinced me of that. So did allthose tight ends and backs out of the backfirld catching those 3rd and long passes all season long. Give me Glenn or Carter instead.
The only thing I disagree with is the relative importance of the preseason. If memory serve, the Jets have looked quite unbeatable in the last two preseasons only to stumble through the first 1/3 of each season. So I wouldn't necessarily get worried if they aren't hitting on all cylinders for the preseason. It may get everyone to focus more.