Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan has been all smiles since being hired in January. Question is, will this continue now that camp has started? (JetsInsider.com Photo)
Let the Rex Ryan era begin!
What exactly does that mean?
Well I think it means smashmouth football on both sides of the ball.
If I'm reading Rex Ryan correctly, he is definitely his fathers son, and that means a physical defense that really gets after the Quarterback, often times bringing at least one more than the other team can block.
While on offense I think that means the same physical mentality, which is to say more running than passing and not caring that the other team often times knows you are running the football.
It's pretty much saying we are going to ram it down your throat all day and we don't think you can stop us, but we'll pass just enough to keep you honest if you insist upon stacking the box.
Really to see what Rex has in mind on defense you need look no further than his defenses in Baltimore, but I think it goes a little beyond that, because now he's the head man who answers to no-one but himself, and therefore free to attack the QB even more if he wishes, and I do believe he wishes too, which is why I called him his fathers son.
On offense I would suggest you look at the Pittsburgh Steelers for most of the past few decades, circa Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis, or Parcells Giants of the mid 80's, or you can even go back to Lombardi's Packers.
In short, much like Lombardi, I believe Rex Ryan is convinced that football, at its very core, has been and always will be a battle for physical supremacy, and that the most physical team will win more often than not regardless of X's and O's. Or as Mike Tyson famously once said, "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."
Head Coaches are like military leaders, metaphorically speaking, and each has their own philosophy. Some are master tacticians, like our foe in New England. In my view Rex Ryan is far more Patton'esque in that he believes you win by attacking constantly and essentially overwhelming the opposition with guts, strategy, but most of all brute force.
Now I don't know how many games the Jets will win or lose this year, in some respects that may largely depend on how fast Mark Sanchez can mature, because despite a run first mentality the QB is still the most important player on the field and that will never change, which is why Ryan & Tannenbaum traded up for Mark Sanchez in the first place.
They know you can be a team that predominantly runs the football, but you can never hide the QB and eventually he'll have to make plays if you want to win championships.
This is why even Lombardi's Packers had a hall of fame QB in Bart Starr, as Noll's Steelers had a HOF QB in Terry Bradshaw, as Parcells Giants had a borderline HOF QB in Phil Simms, etc.
Rex Ryan has been around this game long enough to know that you don't win championships in the NFL without a franchise QB, even if you are fully committed to smashmouth football as I believe Coach Ryan is, because this is a Quarterbacks league and at some point your QB will have to make plays to achieve your ultimate goals.
But that doesn't mean Sanchez or Clemens will have to be the catalyst.
This offense is likely to deploy a three-headed rushing attack with Jones being the starting halfback, Leon providing that big play change of pace, and Shonn Greene (AKA: The War Machine) taking the role of short yardage, goal line and even that 4th Qtr road-grader when defenses are spent, the Jets are ahead, and seeking to run out the clock.
Remember this folks, RB's are unlike many other positions in the NFL because the position itself is largely instinctual. This is why you so very often see the really good ones come into the league and make an immediate impact. Take for example Chris Johnson of the Titans last year, or even Stevie Slaton of the Texans.
There are numerous examples, past and present, because this position requires very little grooming for the good ones. They usually hit the ground running (no pun intended) from day one, thus the old adage, "great running backs are born and not made."
So do not be surprised to see Shonn Greene play a big role in Rex Ryan's smashmouth attack provided he is the player they thought he was (and so did I) when they traded up to nab him at the top of round three. In case you are unaware, Greene was the only RB in D1A who rushed for over 100 Yards in every game last year at Iowa, ran for approximately 2000 Yards, won some prestigious awards along the way, and may very well have been a steal in RD 3.
If you never saw him play, I suggest you do a search at youtube. Greene is around 235 Pounds with sound instincts and quick feet for such a big man, but most of all he is 100% northeast power-back who likes to run people over and deliver the pain, which is exactly why Ryan fell in love with this kid in my view. We already discussed Ryan's philosophy and this kid is a Rex Ryan player from the word GO.
Of course we are bringing back the same five starters on the offensive line, which is one of the better OL's in the league by most accounts, so we are good to go in the trenches barring injuries.
Dustin Keller, I believe, will be an elite TE in this league and don't be surprised if he has an All-Pro caliber season provided Sanchez (or Clemens) can effectively get him the football when teams are stacking the box.
Like I said, we'll be a running team primarily, but that doesn't mean we won't have some semblence of balance, so Keller will get his opportunities as will Jerricho Cotchery.
The big question on offense is who will emerge as the starting wideout opposite Cotchery and right now that is anyones guess?
There will be a number of candidates vying for that position and we still might bring in a veteran at some point, but other than the Quarterback battle that will the biggest area worth watching as training camp progresses. Should no-one emerge opposite Cotchery this could also turn into our achillies heel, making it easier for defenses to double Cotchery and/or Keller.
As for the defense, with the four game suspension for Clavin Pace and Gholston being annointed the starter in his place, the Jets will need Gholston to emerge as the edge rusher they envisioned last year when they drafted him #6 Overall and got nothing in return, as in not even one sack.
Contrary to popular opinion Gholston was not the proverbial workout warrior in last years draft. In fact he set a new single season records for sacks at Ohio State prior to being selected by the Jets. So the talent is there, as is the size and speed. Physically this kid is a very impressive package and in my view its all a matter of work ethic, desire and heart.
Anyway, physically its all there for Gholston and now it's just a matter of Ryan and his defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, getting it out of him on the football field, otherwise look for someone like Jason Trusnik, Marques Murrell or the dark horse, Jamaal Westerman, to replace him as the starter in Pace's absence, at which point you can pretty much write Gholston off as a bust.
This of course would be a blow to the Jets, not only financially, but on the football field as well, because this is supposed to be their "premiere pass rusher" and there's really not another player on this roster, purely from a talent point of view, who can fill that role if Gholston is a flop. So you better believe Ryan and Pettine are going to do everything possible and give him every opportunity to emerge as an impact edge rusher on this defense.
The secondary, with Revis, Rhodes, Lowery, etc., and the additions of players like Lito Sheppard, Jim Leonhard and Donald Strickland, etc., looks to be both deep and talented, but often times a secondary is only as good as the pass rush so they will need the front seven to apply adequate pressure in order to make plays on the football and control the oppositions passing game.
The inside linebackers, David Harris and Bart Scott, well its hard to ask for any better than that.
Kris Jenkins is arguably the best nose tackle in the league, but someone will have to emerge between Harold Green and Sione Pouha, to give him an occasional blow so he doesn't wear down as he did last year.
The 34DE's concern me most of all with Shaun Ellis getting up there in age and Marques Douglas being no spring chicken either, but hopefully they can hold up for 16 Games (or more) and a player like Mike DeVito can take his game to another level as well.
And that's pretty much it. Other than that there will be some interesting battles for backup roles and I suspect TJ Conley who supposedly has a strong leg will emerge as the punter.
So training camp is here, football is back, and not a moment too soon!
Here's wishing the Jets a very good season, a quicker than normal maturity for young Mark Sanchez, a much bigger impact from Gholston in year two, and Coach Ryan the best of luck as Head Coach of the NY Jets.