DRAFT TALK: Upgrading The Weaknesses: Part I
By Doug Cantor
Jets Insider.com Draft Expert
March 30th, 2007
Improvements are improvements, but it doesnít take a head coach to realize that this team is severely lacking in several areas. Furthermore, they are not the Giants, meaning they donít have the luxury of playing in a conference where they could get by with weaknesses on several areas of the roster. This is the AFC, where 8 of the last 10 Super Bowl winners came from. Itís where Peyton Manning makes his bones, and where Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have won 5 of the last 6 division titles. Thereís no room for weaknesses. Here, you either keep up with the elite or you donít stand a chance, itís that simple.
In this series, weíre going to discuss 6 of the most glaring weaknesses on this roster and several prospects that will be available in this yearís draft to fill those holes. Whatís going to be important for the sake of this piece is the weakness itself, as weíre going to break it down in itís simplest form and discuss how the Jets can address any of these needs at several points throughout the draft.
Andre Dyson turned out to be the Jets most productive free agent signing of last season by making 4 interceptions and 62 total tackles. Dyson will most certainly be a standard on the roster for years to come. Itís hard to imagine that the front office would ever have a problem with him, being that heís a fairly productive starter and came extremely affordable (5 years, $11.5 million), but Dysonís not a true number 1 shutdown corner.
David Barrett is what he is, a veteran player with a ton of experience capable of holding down the number 2 spot and being a solid contributor as a nickel back. Itís no secret that Jet fans have a history of problems with Barrett, he plays way too far off the line sometimes and gets burnt more often than anyone would like to see. However, it canít be ignored that Barrett has a history of making clutch plays for this franchise and it was Barrett who stepped in (and played quite well) when the secondary was facing some injury concerns in 2006. Furthermore, it was also Barrett who played through a sports hernia for the entire season, and while itís possible that they could ask him to restructure his contract in the future (heĎs scheduled to make around $3.6-3.7 million for the next 3 years), itís unlikely heíll be cut unless some significant additions are made to the secondary in the near future. This is not to say that he definitely wonít be released, but unless some significant additions are made, it would simply be a depletion of a secondary that canít afford to lose anyone with as much experience as Barrett has.
That brings us to Justin Miller, who Jets fans had high expectations for in 2006. After seeing a few flashes of solid corner play in 2005, the hope and thought was that Miller would evolve into the number 1 cornerback on this team. He certainly has the speed, and in 2005 it looked like he was physical enough to do so. However Miller didnít record a single interception in 2006, and had several games where he turned in so much as only 1 tackle for the entire game. Now, to give Miller the benefit of the doubt, the standard for all rookies is usually 3 years. Most get a 2 year learning curve to work out the kinks, and once they hit that 3rd year, its high time they start clocking in some on-field production rather than just flashes of promise.
However, when it comes to Miller it just seems like he took a step backwards in 2006 at the corner position, and for a player that should have been a guaranteed first rounder had he not encountered some legal troubles shortly before the 2005 draft, Miller is someone who Jet fans expected to evolve a little more in his 2nd year. This isnít to say that Miller is doomed, but when you have a coach who doesnít hand out starting gigs to anyone (including his quarterback), it certainly does not seem like Miller is on the verge of grabbing on to a starting spot and never letting go. For now, the Jets have to address Miller as though he isnít the answer, this way not only do they prepare themselves for that possibility, but it could also serve as a kick in the rear for Miller as well.
Of course whatís being completely ignored here is his kick returning abilities, as Miller is one of the elite returners in the league. However, Miller is supposed to be a cornerback by trade, and though he might be invaluable as a KR, the Jets still have to address what he doesnít bring to the cornerback position for the time being.
Lastly, we have Drew Coleman and Hank Poteat. The Jets decided to keep Poteat and signed him to a one-year extension, but this is strictly a move for depth and experience in the secondary and is certainly not a solution to the problem. And Drew Coleman, though seeing a good amount of action for a rookie 6th rounder, didnít show much in terms of being able to win a starting position in the foreseeable future and more likely will be more of a contributor on special teams than he will be in the secondary for the next year or two.
Possible prospects at CB:
Darrelle Revis, Pitt - Didnít run at the combine, which had scouts and draft analysts throwing up red flags by the dozen, but he quickly hushed the critics at Pittís pro day with a 40 time of 4.38 seconds. Thereís a chance Revis could be gone by the time the Jets are on the clock in the first round, but itís hard to imaging the front office passing on him if heís there. Heís considered by many to be the closest thing to a true shutdown corner in this draft, and is also a solid punt returner.
Aaron Ross, Texas - A bit of a one-year wonder, but itís being said that both the Patriots and the Jets are targeting Ross in the first round for the time being. He won the Thorpe award for being the nationís top defensive back and also was said to have looked great in the majority of the defensive back drills at the combine while running a 4.44 in the 40. There are some however, who feel Ross is a bit overrated as well.
David Irons, Auburn - The brother of star RB prospect Kenny Irons and could wind up being a steal for someone in the mid rounds. He has some major durability issues with an ACL thatís been torn twice, but heís an aggressive player with a good motor and a 40 time of 4.44 seconds.
Other possible CB upgrades and their draft projections:
Jonathon Wade, Tennessee (late rounds), Anthony Airline, Baylor (mid-late rounds), Josh Wilson, Maryland (early-mid rounds), Tarelle Brown, Texas (early-mid rounds).
This is by far, the thinnest position on the Jetsí roster. The guard position for the Jets looks to be the area of most concern for the next few years, it lacks depth far more than any other position.
Look at it this way, if either Pete Kendall or Brandon Moore were to get hurt, the players to most likely replace them as of right now would be either Adrian Jones or Wade Smith. Now, though both of these players have starting experience, Jonesí experience is at the position of tackle, where he wasnít anything to brag about in the first place. A player like Jones, who couldnít win a position at either side of the line last year, isnít someone who should be relied upon to hold down the interior part of the line, where the defensive linemen are not only bigger but also a lot meaner, as itís just not something he has experience in doing. Smith, though a decent player to have on the roster for depth due to his versatility, just isnít someone who any fan can realistically see winning either starting position in the future. The fact is, the interior line needs to continue getting younger and better, itís crucial to improving the running game as well as in keeping Chad Pennington healthy for another 16 game season.
Pete Kendall, by far the best guard on the roster, is entering his 12th season in the NFL and is rumored to be retiring after the 2007 season. This is sad news for Jet fans, itís no secret that Kendall is a leader in the locker room and also a favorite among the fans, and he most certainly will be missed. Brandon Moore, heading into his 5th year and has proven himself to be nothing more than your average, everyday starter in the NFL. Heís no Steve Hutchinson or Eric Steinbach, heís just a guy who can go out there every Sunday and do a decent job for 4 quarters of football; but with the upgrades that the front office has started to make to the line, is that really enough?
To recap, the guard position of the New York Jets consists of; a veteran who will most likely be retiring at the end of the 2007 season, a C+ starter in Brandon Moore, a versatile backup in Wade Smith who has never been able to hold down a starting position on any part of the offensive line, and a former left tackle who hasnít been able to win back a starting position since.
In other words, this is a position that needs to get younger, better, and deeper; and it needs to happen soon. Otherwise the front office could be staring at a major dilemma if the right injuries happen to the right players in 2007.
Possible prospects at G:
Justin Blalock, Texas - You know the name. Blalock is an offensive line coachís dream. He can play either guard position, as well as shift to right tackle. Some are actually calling it a pipe dream that Blalock would be there for the taking at 25 in the first round. However it doesnít take a genius to see how the Jets could possibly be coveting Blalock in the first. He had a stellar combine, and with the drafting of Nick Mangold and DíBrickashaw Freguson in last yearís draft, Blalock would all but guarantee that the Jets within 2 years would have one of the youngest and best offensive lines in the NFL.
Ben Grubbs, Auburn - Possibly the purest guard in the draft, Grubbs has seen his stock soar since the season ended. Grubbsí potential is through the roof, heís a pure road grader who comes from a school with a historically elite running game, in large part due to their stellar offensive linemen. Itís hard to imaging the Jets jumping the gun on Grubbs and taking him in the first round, however itís very realistic to say that theyíd seriously consider Grubbs if heís still on the board in the second.
Andy Alleman, Akron - Now hereís an intriguing prospect. Alleman could be a steal for someone in the mid rounds and is being projected by many to be a future starter in this league. Heís still very raw from a technique standpoint, but heís got a nasty streak on the field and also from a character standpoint, fits the type of player that the front office seems to be looking for. This is a player who realistically could be a target for the Jets in rounds 3-5.
Other possible upgrades at G and their draft projections:
Manuel Ramirez, Texas Tech (early-mid rounds), Marshal Yanda, Iowa (early-mid rounds), Nathan Bennett, Clemson (mid-late rounds), Dan Santucci, Notre Dame (mid rounds)