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NY Jets: A Review and Look Ahead
By Rob Dunphy
Jets Insider.com Fan Contributor
January 5th, 2004
Could we see KJ part 2 in 2004??
Could we see KJ part 2 in 2004??
Looking back at the 2003 NY Jets adventure, I felt a plethora of emotions. Anxiety, fear, disappointment, hope, anger, happiness, and exhaustion to name a few. Notice I didn’t use the word (and boy would I have liked to) “apathy”. I think that is one of the greatest gifts that we Jets fans possess (the true ones anyway). We never say “I don’t care anymore about this freaking team” or we might say it but we don’t mean it. I think all of us care about the Jets or else we wouldn’t spend our Sundays glued to our TV sets or stand out in the cold weather cheering the Jets to victory. That is a gift we all possess, one that I hope will never go away.

Now onto my 2003 recap including Coaches, the team in general, my opinions of improvements needed and some predictions for 2004. QUARTERBACK

Chad Pennington- GRADE B+ I would have liked to given him a better grade and quite frankly I would have if it wasn’t for the past three games when he only threw 1 TD pass. I think Chad summed up his 2003 campaign appropriately when he stated that he was ‘inconsistent” He had some great moments (against the Colts where he passed for as many TD’s as he had incompletions: 4) and some tough ones (5 INTS against the Pats in a nationally televised game). All in all he finished the season with 13 TD and 12 INT’s while going 4-5 as a starter. He does give all Jets fans a lot of hope though; he is very very accurate, forgets his mistakes easily but learns from them all, is a gym rat, spends countless hours on the field and in the practice facility watching tape, says the rights things (it wasn’t Chad Pennington’s MNF, it was the Jets’ MNF), is a team leader and really really wants to win a championship for NYC. Hopefully the Jets wrap him up for a long time and this guy wins us a long over-due Super Bowl. I think he will.

BEST GAME: Tie vs. Indy (perfect QB rating but we lost) or vs. Ten (big win on MNF)

WORST GAME: Vs. New England (granted all 5 INT’s weren’t his fault but we failed to lead the Jets in the end zone all game)

Vinny Testaverde - GRADE B: I think Vinny played well considering that the fans didn’t want him in there. With the 40 year old at the helm, Paul Hackett tried to devise new ways the Jets could run the draw play. The coaching staff never had any confidence in Vinny and showed it by all their conservative play calling the first 4 games. I think given some more freedom Vinny could have helped us win the Washington game in the season’s opener and could possibly won the Philly game if he was left in. All in all, Vinny played pretty well for someone no one wanted to see under center.

BEST GAME: Comeback win vs. Houston (ultimately and hopefully Vinny’s “real” game)

WORST GAME: New England –Interception returned for a TD proven to be the game winner.

RUNNING BACKS

Curtis Martin - Grade B+: I read an unbelievable stat in the paper the other day. 2003 was Curtis Martin’s second most productive season (in terms of yards) in his storied career. That is pretty incredible considering that he rushed for only 80 yards total his first 4 games. I think Curtis played well and played as always tough. His mental and physical toughness are second to none on this team and it makes me smile and gives me hope every time I remember that we have #28 in our backfield. He is a class act, takes responsibility for his actions (blamed himself for the Dallas lost after he fumbled on the 8 yard line), plays hurt, and wants to win. We need more guys with his heart. I think he will be OK for us next year as long as Coach Edwards platoons him more with Jordan.

BEST GAME: Vs. Pitts (going over the 1000 mark for 8 straight seasons and having that long run (longest of his career)

WORST GAME: The aforementioned Dallas Game

Lamont Jordan – Grade B-: To be honest, I thought 2003 was going to be an impact year for Lamont. I envisioned him to break off 25 yard runs, grab a screen and run 40 yards with it, barrel over guys at the goal line. Didn’t really happen but I think it will. He needs more reps and more time to develop. He has the skills but the coaches need to put in there more and I think he needs to read defenses a little better. An injured hand didn’t help his cause this year.

BEST GAME: Vs. Washington scoring on a 4-and-goal from the 1 yard line

WORST GAME: Jordan was all but invisible in the last 6 but I would say vs. Pitt (his fumble after Curtis’s long run almost cost us the game)

Jerald Sowell - Grade A- : I think Jerald is one of, if not the best, fullback in AFC. The guys blocks well (in both the running and passing modes), catches well, tackles on special teams well, fights for first downs and does all the “little things” really well. I think Bradway made a good move not paying up for Richie Anderson and keeping this guy.

BEST GAME: Sowell’s 40 yard catch and run vs. Oakland to set up the game winning score.

WORST GAME: Since he isn’t that much of an “impact” player doesn’t really have a worst game.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Santana Moss – Grade A- : Laveranues who?? Moss played much bigger than his 5’10” frame and had career highs in receptions, yards, and TD’s. He can beat corners either going down the sideline in full speed and can break ankles with his lightening quick middle of the field moves. He makes tough catches in traffic and hangs onto the ball. I don’t usually like University of Miami players but this guys has brought that “will, desire and expectation” to win up North to NY. It is his attitude and ability that gives Jets fans hope.

BEST GAME: Either vs. Oakland (run after the catch vs. Oakland or vs. NY Giants (3 TD’s)

WORST GAME: Vs. New England (at home) – no TD’s, slipped after making a catch and possibly could have broken up two INT’s.

Curtis Conway – GRADE C- : The guy that was supposed to be the answer to Coles and the big physical possession receiver Pennington needed didn’t really pan out. He dropped a lot of passes, didn’t make many great plays and pretty much underachieved. With a big roster bonus due, he will NOT be back next season.

BEST GAME: Scoring his first TD of the season in week 8.

WORST GAME: Dropping a sure TD and a sure first down (both bounced off his hands) against the Pats in Week 3

Wayne Chrebet- Grade – Incomplete: Chrebet was hurt during the Giants game and never came back. Hopefully we will see #80 in the slot in 2004.

Jonathan Carter- Grade B – : More of a special teams guy, didn’t really play until Chrebet went down and then got hurt himself. Jets staff needs to evaluate his talent to see if this guy is the real deal.

TIGHT ENDS

One can’t catch and one can’t block. If either of them would bother to learn the other’s skills, then the Jets would have one heck of a TE.

Anthony Becht- Grade C –: Guy had a career high in receptions and TD but drops some many first downs and some many sure TD’s. I also hate the fact that after he catches a ball he looks up field and fall down after someone hits him. He doesn’t use his size to knock guys over or to muscle his way into position.

BEST GAME: Vs. Oakland, 2 point conversion catch to tie the game with virtually no time left.

WORST GAME: Vs. Miami week 17. 2 pass interference penalties cost the Jets a TD and a first down.

Chris Baker- Grade B-: Showed some spark vs. NE in week 16, hopefully he can learn how to block and pass protect

OFFENSIVE LINE

Kind of a weird year for this group first off, Tom Nutten (Randy Thomas’s replacement) suddenly retires during training camp when he learns he might have to compete for the starting job. Then the running game goes no where the first 4 games. Kareem McKenzie gets his first penalty in three years vs. the Colts (crazy). Fabini seemed like he got beat by just about every defensive end in the league. Then after not allowing either QB to be sacked pretty much the first ¾ quarters of the season, lets Pennington get manhandled vs. the Bills, Pats and Fins down the stretch. All in all an OK year but they need to get tougher and more cohesive, maybe this guy Brandon Moore (1st career start after switching over from defense vs. Miami week 17) can help us out next year.

OVERALL GRADE – B

RG- Brent Smith - GRADE B

RT Kareem McKenzie – GRADE B+

C Kevin Mawae – GRADE A

LT Jason Fabini - GRADE C-

LG Dave Szott – GRADE B -

DEFENSE

The 2003 New York Jets Defense was in one word, abominable. There were so many Sundays that I found myself fuming that none of these guys can tackle. They point fingers (Cottrell says that tackling is a lost art; the players saw it is his defensive scheme), can't stop the run, can't rush the passer and generally look confused on just about every play. They gave up the highest rushing total as a Jets team since 1983. 1983!

The 2003 Jets defense made players like Travis Henry, Kevin Faulk, and Dominick Davis look like Barry Sanders. Good thing we didn't face Jamaal Lewis this year; he would have put up 400 yards on us. I am going to talk about each unit as a group and then give individual grades for all the major players.

DEFENSIVE LINE

This unit started out great in terms of getting to the quarterback, I read that they had the NY Jets record for sacks in the first 8 games and were in the tops of the NFL at one point. But when John Abraham went down so did their sack total. Shaun Ellis had a breakout season after 3 mediocre ones but his production was a direct result of QBs worrying about Abraham and he seemed like he was stuck on 11.5 sacks forever (I think he finished with 13). This unit suffered when Josh Evans was suspended early in the year. They couldn’t seem to tackle opposing RB's and did not open holes for the LB's to attack through. Dewayne Robertson wasn't nearly worth the money and the high pick the Jets wasted on him but the same could have been said last year about Bryan Thomas and this year he played nicely against the run. So time will tell.

DE John Abraham GRADE B: Had 7.5 sacks in 6 games but missed out on 10 due to suspension and a groin injury, needs to start playing hurt. Looks like we’ll see Abe at LB next year.

DT Dewayne Robertson- GRADE C: Verdict is still out

DT Jason Ferguson - GRADE B+: Played well, had some good games.

DE Shaun Ellis - GRADE A- : Was stuck on 11.5 sacks too long. However, by far his best season as a Jet.

DE Bryan Thomas - Grade B-: Still needs work but showed flashes of why he was a first round pick. Looks like he can step in for Abraham after he moves to LB.

LINEBACKERS

This group might be the most responsible for the Jets ineptitude this season. They had trouble wrapping people up, covering tight ends, getting quickly to the ball, sacking quarterbacks and generally playing solid and tough defense. This is a threesome that is obviously pass their prime and showed it pretty much every week.

Mo Lewis - GRADE C: Thanks for the memories, Mo. After an illustrious Jets career it’s time for Mo to hang up his cleats.

Marvin Jones - GRADE C: Middle linebacker is the most important position on a defense and Jones is just not as quick, big, tough and skillful as he should be.

Sam Cowart- GRADE C- Probably the most disappointing because he used to be so dominating when he was with the Bills.

SECONDARY

The funniest statistic that I read this season was in week 8 or 9, that the Jets had the best pass defense in the AFC. Everyone knows that is a ridiculous stat because when a running back can run for 175 yards when he faces us there is no reason at all to pass the ball. I will give some leniency to the secondary since Donnie Abraham was pretty much out all year and Jon McGraw missed about 9 games for us. Aaron Beasley gets beat too often, Sam Garnes (one of the most standup guys on the team and one who really takes losing to heart) is just too slow and Ray Mickens, as hard as he tries, is better suited in the Nickel than as a starter. Tyrone Carter played OK down the stretch and finished with almost 100 tackles (a telling stat since the safety is the last line of defense).

CB Aaron Beasley - GRADE C: Gives up too many deep balls. He’s a goner.

Ray Mickens - GRADE B+: Most consistent player on the Jets secondary. What he lacks in size he makes up for with heart.

FS Tyrone Carter/Jon McGraw - GRADE C+ - We need to get tougher and faster at this position. McGraw’s durability is a question mark.

SS Sam Garnes- GRADE C+ - See above.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Jets Special Teams Unit was, in my opinion, although still good not as good as last year’s squad. I remember when the Raiders (in last year’s playoffs) basically elected to kick the ball short instead of kicking it to Chad Morton. We just didn’t invoke that type of fear this year. I think Mike Westoff is one of the best and won’t settle for anything less, so I always anticipate our special teams will be near the top of the league as long as he is here.

K Doug Brien Brien had a solid year. Some say that he lost the Giants game for us but in memory serves me right, that was a pretty long kick. I think he performed well or just as well as we would have expected John Hall to perform. But he needs to start creating more touchbacks for the Jets GRADE B

P Dan Stryzinski Stryzinki’s future with the Jets at this point is cloudy at best. For a guy had a lot of punts he didn’t seem to improve with repetition. The Jets need a punter who can place ball inside the 10-yard line, boom the ball 45- 55 yards consistently and handle the Giant Stadium, winds in late fall. Our coverage units weren’t that great either. GRADE C

RETURN GAME – Moss had no punts returned to TD’s this year. A lot of that has to do with the fact that teams angle the ball away from him. I still thought though he could have taken one to the house though. No fault of his own but it still hurt. Jonathan Carter returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Indy due partially to his speed and partially to the blocking scheme. Hopefully this guy can step up and be our answer to Chad Morton next year. GRADE B+

COACHES

Head Coach: GRADE B-: I believe that Herman Edwards is one of the best coaches in the league. He empowers guys, gets them to play harder, treats them like men and inspires them on and off the field. He also takes responsibility for poor play or misjudgments (few coaches’ egos allow them to do that). I think Woody Johnson should wrap this guy up for the future before another team comes in and tries to steal him away. He had his ups and downs though. He made a very bold (and ultimately the right) decision in benching John Abraham because he was picked up on DWI charges (the league said he could play but Herm said no). His clock managements skills have to improve though (we waste too much time at the end of games and we can’t seem to manage our timeouts). All is all, I am very glad we have this guy on the sidelines. Although not a great year (or even good one at that), I think Herm will learn from his mistakes and come back stronger, wiser and more ambitious next year

Defensive Coaching Staff: GRADE D My assessment of the defense above speaks for the now departed Ted Cottrell. I think he got somewhat of a bad break. The players don’t seem to trust each other or his schemes, they miss tackles and three of his key players suffered through some injuries. But he still didn’t have an “attacking” type of defense that I think NFL defense need. He will probably wind up somewhere as a linebackers coaches or defense coordinator. Good luck to him and his staff.

Offensive Coaching Staff: GRADE D+ The Jets had their lowest point total since the early 80’s. With the weapons they have that is inexcusable. Paul Hackett continues to frustrate Jets fans everywhere with his draw plays on third-and-long, his ability to stifle the talents of Pennington and Moss and his penchant for always playing for a FG. If it wasn’t for Pennington’s endorsement for him, he might be gone (and maybe will be). Hackett needs to be more aggressive and go down field a little more. Pennington is well-suited for the West Coast offense but I am not sure if Hackett is the man who should be driving the bus.

IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED (LOOKING TO NEXT YEAR)

Where do I begin? The Jets have a lot of problems (albeit all very fixable) but still a lot wrong. I think though the future is bright because at the two most important positions on a football team (QB and Head Coach), the Jets seem to be set. We have talent but we need someone to mold it. Obviously Ted Cottrell wasn’t the answer and maybe Paul Hackett isn’t either. Woody Johnson seems like he wants to win and I believe he needs to put together a team capable of winning the Super Bowl to help him build his stadium he desires in NYC.

OFFENSE- The Jets need a big-time receiver, whether that be Terrell Owens, Keyshawn Johnson or we pick one up in a WR laden draft (Larry Fitzgerald, Feeney?). I have no clue what this team will do but they need a big, strong receiver. I think we are set as far as running backs. We need to either get replacements for Dave Szott and Brent Smith or we need more cohesion on that unit. The management knows they need to build around Pennington and that is a good thing. I think they need to get more aggressive in terms of play calling and spice things up a bit.

DEFENSE- We need a lot of help in this area of the team. First we need to hire a new defensive coordinator. Word is that that Tampa Bay Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinelli and former Bills coach Gregg Williams are top candidates for the job. The Jets next season need to blitz more, tackle better and get after the ball quicker. They have a very slow team and I think they will upgrade the linebacker corp, get a new cornerback (Champ Bailey? Shawn Springs?) and probably replace Sam Garnes. They need to play more passionately and for that reason I hope they bring back Josh Evans. This squad needs to improve and I believe that Herm and whomever he hires will whip them into shape.

OVERALL- I am the eternal optimist when it comes to the NY Jets. Every March when the schedule come out and look down and figure the Jets will go 12-4, win the AFC East and advance to the Super Bowl. Although some skepticism remains, I see no reason to change my ways now. I think the Jets have a pretty good team, one that will be helped by the addition of a new defensive coordinator, a physical WR, a faster defense and more aggressive offensive tactics. We shall see what this off-season brings though. Hopefully all good things.