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The Missing Piece Of The Puzzle

By Glenn Bernardi
Jets Insider.com Fan Correspondent
August 9th, 2005
With the Jets' acquisition of Ty Law, Donnie 
Henderson's defense has shifted focus. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
With the Jets' acquisition of Ty Law, Donnie Henderson's defense has shifted focus. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Let’s cut right to the chase.

With the acquisition of future Hall of Fame cornerback Ty Law, Jets management in-effect sent a shot across the bow of the New England Patriots (and the rest of the NFL), and don’t think they didn’t get the message.

Message being, we’re gunning for a championship and we’re coming to take it by force.

There’s no reason to beat around the bush. We all know what this is about. The Jets know it as well, and if by chance New England didn’t know it before Monday, they most certainly know it now.

From the New York Jets perspective this move signified to each and every player in the Jets locker-room that management believes in this team, wholeheartedly, thus they brought in one final/expensive piece to the puzzle in a last ditch effort to fortify this football team for the grueling task ahead, a run at the Vince Lombardi trophy.

After spending time on the Jets Insider.com fan forums and interacting with fellow Gang Green fanatics like myself, I can assure you this addition, the addition of all-world cornerback Ty Law, has energized the Jets fan-base like none I have seen since the inception of free agency. The fans already liked this team before Ty Law; felt pretty-good about their chances to begin with, but Ty Law was the proverbial icing on the cake.

I say that only to say this; you’d be a fool to believe this acquisition has not energized the entire organization as well, from top to bottom and everywhere in-between … most especially the players, and even more so the veterans like Curtis Martin and Kevin Mawae for whom time is of the essence.

Reason being, this is no Ordinary Joe the Jets brought in here. This is the rarest of cornerbacks in the National Football League nowadays, where every rules change in recent years has been geared towards assisting offenses and making life miserable on defensive backs. This man, Ty Law, is the closest thing you will find to a “shutdown corner” in the today’s NFL.

Some will tell you the shutdown corner is extinct, went the way of a recent rules change to darn near outlaw any form of physical contact with wide receivers (which ironically has come to be known as the Ty Law rule), but they would only be right if they foolishly take the term literally.

What signifies a shutdown corner is not one who completely skunks the wide receiver he is assigned to cover during the course of a football game, fore holding a receiver without a single reception has always been close to impossible, but rather one who can, in-spite of the rules changes, still for the most part prevent even the leagues elite wide receivers from wrecking the game at his expense.

Let me explain that in laymen's terms. Very rarely will the wide receiver Ty Law is assigned to cover get his face, and his highlight reels, splashed all over ESPN following a pleasant Sunday afternoon of football. I’m afraid he’ll have to wait for the following weeks’ victim disguised as a sitting duck. Ty Law is not in the business of making wide receivers famous. Ty Law is in the business of making TY LAW famous, and that’s why his ticket is punched for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

That’s what represents a shutdown corner in my view. When a coach can point towards the oppositions best wide receiver, week after week, no matter how good he may be, instruct his number one cornerback to make darn certain THAT GUY doesn’t wreck the game, and far more often than not his cornerback does JUST THAT, and often makes a few plays of his own to wreck the game in the opposite direction.

That is a shutdown corner. Not to shutdown in the literal sense, without a reception, but to shutdown ones capacity to inflict severe damage, rendering his receptions largely insignificant to the eventual outcome of the game, and in turn making the occasional game-changing play of his own.

No cornerback in today’s NFL typifies that any more than the man the NY Jets inked on Monday, August 8, 2005.

And you might want to mark that date on your calendars, because it very well may be the day the NY Jets solidified themselves as the 2005 Super Bowl Champions of the football world.

Please do not misunderstand what I’m saying here. I am not suggesting that any one man can win you a Super Bowl. I have seen far too much football in my days to know that is fools gold.

Here’s what I am suggesting. The NY Jets were shaping up to be a very good football team before the acquisition of Ty Law, a legitimate contender in many ways, but one devoid of a shutdown corner. David Barrett, in my view, is as good as you can ask for from a number two cornerback, even a borderline number one, and I’m happy as a lark to have him on our side, but shutdown corners are a very rare breed, especially in today’s NFL, and the Jets were not one of the fortunate few to have one. In order for the Jets to maximize Barrett’s ability as very good corner in his own right, they needed to plant him opposite a shutdown corner who can make his job just a wee bit easier, in turn forming an exceptional duo for wide receivers to contend with, and with the addition of Ty Law the Jets have done exactly that.

Ty Law adds that missing ingredient to this football team, a very big dimension too be sure, to a team that was already making no secret of their Super Bowl aspirations before his arrival, so you better believe they are thinking Super Bowl now … double barrel … and for a very good reason.

If you factor in last years rookie sensation, safety Erik Coleman, perhaps teaming with a healthy Jon McGraw, with some talented young defensive backs like Justin Miller, Derrick Strait, Kerry Rhodes, Andre Maddox and alike for the multiple DB packages, and you have the makings of a very athletic and a very dangerous secondary. Don’t even be surprised if Rhodes pushes McGraw for that other safety spot, because he’s big, fast, athletic, and he can leap with the best of them. The one knock on Rhodes when he entered the draft was that he needed to be more physical. Well apparently someone forgot to give Rhodes the memo, because when the Jets and Giants met for their annual scrimmage in Albany young Mr. Rhodes delivered perhaps the days most vicious hit and one that had Giants wide receiver, Willie Ponder, pondering whether or not he should have chosen another profession after he was taken to the trainers room for multiple injuries normally associated with getting hit by a Mack truck.

Add in DE John Abraham (soon, I hope), DE Shaun Ellis, DT Dewayne Robertson, LB Eric Barton, and of course what is quickly becoming the face of the NY Jets, the ferocious young middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, and now what do you have?

Answer: You have a Super Bowl caliber defense and quite possibly the best defense in the National Football League. If that statement is even close to being true, AND IT IS, and defense, as has often been said and proven, does indeed win championships, then we Jet fans may be in for a fun ride in 2005 … and it’s been a long time coming, Jet fans!.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I excluded the Jets offense and special teams from this conversation, though admittedly this is a time to dream about the awesome potential this defense offers with the addition of Ty Law, but I must mention these units lest anyone believe all of my optimism is based entirely on the defense.

As for the offense, do not be lulled into believing this team will win with defense alone, or that I am suggesting it will even need too. Defense is now the identity of the New York Jets, of that there can be no doubt, but with a healthy Chad Pennington pulling the trigger, the ageless Curtis Martin (Hall of Fame lock) carrying the rock, an exciting backup running back in Derrick Blaylock, the return of the prodigal son (and Chad’s favorite target) wide receiver Laveranues Coles, the addition of tight end Doug Jolley who is currently in the process of making Terry Bradway look like a genius out at Hofstra where he is drawing rave reviews in camp, McCareins, Cotchery, Chrebet, Mawae, Kendall and a very fine cast of players on the offensive side of the ball, but most of all with the addition of the bold, bright and daring offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who will never in a million years be mistaken for Paul Hackett and whom the Jets snatched from the Tennessee Titans where he established a well deserved reputation as one of the leagues very best offensive coordinators … well let’s just say this offense will score their fair share of points, and may even steal the show from the defense on occasion.

On special teams there is the second round pick in the 2005 NFL draft, place-kicker Mike Nugent, who was so highly thought of by his teammates and coaches at Ohio State he was named team captain, virtually unheard of for a kicker. Likely return man, Justin Miller, also selected in round two of this recent draft, is Clemson’s all-time leading return man and is statistically one of the most explosive return men in ACC history, having set a number of school and conference records.

Battling veteran Micah Knorr for punting duties is Australian sensation Ben Graham, better known to the folks at Jets Insider.com as the “Aussie Cannon” for his powerful leg and booming punts which have drawn comparisons to the recently deceased Reggie Roby, and for those who are too young to recall Roby he was renowned for his leg strength and booming punts for height and distance. There is also a nice crop of young athletes, S Kerry Rhodes, S Andre Maddox, etc., the Jets brought in this year via the draft and who should all immediately contribute on special teams. Look for the special teams to be much improved over 2004 and likely serve the Jets well in 2005, even tipping the balance in the Jets favor when they find themselves in some close games, as is often the case in the NFL.

Perhaps this explains why the Jets faithful had a good feeling about this team before the addition of Ty Law, lest anyone believe these high expectations are all based on any one man, though to call Ty Law one man, unlike any other man, would be the height of folly to anyone who is even vaguely familiar with this particular mans exploits on the football field.

That aside, with the addition of Ty Law, to what was already a very good football team at the outset, those good feelings are now multiplied ten fold. Ty Law is what they call in football parlance, a difference maker. That’s what the Jets added on Monday, a bona-fide difference maker, exactly the type of player who can transform a very good football team into a championship caliber football team. And that’s why you ought to be very excited, Jets fans. This Ty Law addition was made by management with three goals in mind, believing this team was prepared to make a serious bid.

1. Win the AFC eastern division crown, and shoot for the number one seed while they’re at it.

2. Ride that division title and home-field advantage all the way to the show.

3. Win it all when they get there and blow this drought to kingdom come.

That is the challenge for this team now. Ty Law raises the stakes to that degree fore he is that type of significant addition. No use hiding from it. Better to embrace it, accept the challenge, and make it happen. I am certain Ty Law would say the same, and he pretty much did (in his own words) at his introductory press conference.

Will it be easy … not a chance.

For one thing the road to the Super Bowl still goes through New England. If anyone believes they are just giving it away, that person understands nothing about the pride of a champion. They’ve taken a few hits this off-season, lost a few coaches and a few key players as well, thus from that standpoint they are vulnerable, though they are still very good and they are still very proud. But in this case their pride with cometh before the fall.

We in turn have added some key pieces, lost a few and added a few, but in my view our additions (especially now with the addition of Law) far outweigh our subtractions. That, I believe, along with the hits New England has taken, shifts the balance of power in the Jets favor. I believe the Jets feel likewise, but I am under no illusions that the Patriots will go down without a fight. Reigning champs die hard. Metaphorically speaking it’s not enough to beat them, you have to kill them, but I’m convinced the Jets will not so neatly mark their graves 2005. Not so neatly because I suspect this Jets defense will be far more savage than civilized, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about that.

That’s also where Ty Law comes in handy. He knows what it takes, he plays to win championships, and he doesn’t give a wit about being liked on the football field. He’s just the kind of guy you want on your side in a dogfight. So are a number of these Jets. They have been building towards this moment over the past few years, slowly adding all of the necessary ingredients, Jon Vilma was a big one, but there are others, young and old alike. And now we added Ty Law to the mix, that was the big one my friends, the big enchilada, the one that puts you over the top, and now we are loaded for bear.

So far as “team building” is concerned, building towards a championship, mission accomplished. Now we have a championship caliber football team in place. I am certain of it. This team may not be perfect, it never is and you can always find something to lament, but its close enough and when I view the football landscape I don’t see any better than the Jets out there … not in Baltimore, not in Pittsburgh, not in Indianapolis, not in New England, not anywhere!

So pray for good health my friends, because this football team has what it is necessary to do the rest.

If we can get that one blessing, the blessing of good health which is always essential, I have every confidence this team WILL do the rest.

Lest anyone accuse me of being vague, I am referring to the Super Bowl. As in, the New York Jets will win the Super Bowl in 2005/06, as so decreed by rule of law.

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