32 teams in 32 days: NY Jets
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Mar 13, 2008
We continue our team-by-team early off-season look at the NFL with the ...
NEW YORK JETS
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2007 record: 4-12 (268-355)
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 1-7
Expected W-L (based on PF/PA): 5.4-10.6
All-time franchise record: 322-398-8 (.448)
Playoff record: 8-11 (.421)
Last five seasons: 34-46 (.425)
Best game of 2007: 19-16 home win over Steelers (Week 11). With two of their four wins coming over Miami, this OT win over a good Steelers team was a real highlight – maybe the only one for the Jets all year. Outside of beating the 1-15 Dolphins, their most impressive performance was holding the Patriots to a 20-10 score in New England in December.
Silly-season activity: The Jets certainly made a splash, adding DT Kris Jenkins, G Alan Faneca, FB Tony Richardson, LB Calvin Pace and OL Damien Woody. These additions have an average age of 30.8, but all five were starters in the league last year and all figure to be again with the Jets. With ILB David Harris emerging next to Eric Barton in the second half of last season, they dealt Jonathan Vilma to New Orleans. No one has added more while losing less than the Jets at this point in the silly season.
Strength: Defense. The Jets should be a top 10 defense in 2008. Injured CB Justin Miller returns to the secondary to push David Barrett on the other side of solid rookie Darrelle Revis, and S Kerry Rhodes is considered one of the best in the league. At linebacker, add Pace to a full season with the incredibly productive Harris (90 total tackles despite just nine starts), and you've got some real good middlemen. If Jenkins performs at a Pro Bowl level at DT, watch out. New York allowed only 18.1 PPG over its last nine games, a rate that would have ranked them 6th in the NFL if it were over the entire season.
Weakness: Offense. The Jets were healthy all year long on the offensive side of the ball, yet managed only 16.8 PPG (25th). Their Offensive Hogs get a boost from Faneca and Woody, but will need continued growth from T D'Brickashaw Ferguson (he of the 13.5 sacks allowed) to be even average as a unit in 2008. The Jets offfense raked 32nd in Negative Pass Plays in 2007. Perpetually unpopular Chad Pennington's 86.1 passer rating is all the more impressive considering the state of the line, and Kellen Clemens' terrible half season (60.9 rating) has earned him a seat back on the bench. Pennington has three worthy targets in WRs Jerrico Cotchery and Lavvy Coles and TE Chris Baker, but the Jets were still 26th in Passing Yards Per Attempt last year. Add a pedestrian ground game (3.81 YPA, 23rd) and you've got a lot of work to do for 2008.
Most underrated player: RB/KR Leon Washington. Washington's carries were cut in half in 2007 after an excellent rookie season in 2006, thanks to the arrival of Thomas Jones. He certainly made the most of his 71 carries, averaging 5.0 a crack while Jones averaged 3.6. This was a mirror of his rookie year, when he averaged 4.3 YPC to Kevan Barlow's 2.8 and Cedric Houston's 3.3. Washington, in other words, has proven he can consistenly outproduce his teammates in the backfield. He also returned three kickoffs for touchdowns to boot, and was the primary punt returner. He was probably New York's 2007 MVP, yet they still added RB Jesse Chatman in free agency and could go with RB Darren McFadden with the No. 6 overall pick in the April draft
Unit on the rise: Pass rush. The addition of Pace along with incumbent Bryan Thomas gives the Jets two hybrid OLB/DE pass rushers capable of 10 sacks in a season. And if Jenkins is a monster in the middle the Jets should be able to improve greatly on their subpar 29 sacks of a year ago.
2007 Draft grade: B+. The Jets had only four picks in the draft, but their top two were both big winners in CB Revis and LB Harris. Both look to have Pro Bowl futures. The Jets also scoured the waiver wire for TE Joe Kowalewski, who started twice in his first NFL go-round.
2008 Draft power: 1st (6), 2nd (37), 4th (99), 4th (110 from New Orleans for Vilma), 6th (165), 7th (196)
General Draft strategy: The Jets haven't drafted QB/RB/WR in the first round since Santana Moss in 2001, which explains some of their lack of explosiveness. But they have a lot of blue-chippers on the roster (11 first-round picks), and have drafted quite well over the past half-decade. The Jets as constituted have a pretty solid roster, one that allows them to be competitive every week (albeit not at a championship level). They are in excellent position leading up to the draft, having filled several holes through free agency. With the top-ranked talent in the draft appearing to go six or seven deep, this should allow the Jets to maximize their future with the No. 6 pick overall whether it means drafting the best athlete available or adding more draft power to their future through trade.
Youth/experience: The Jets are like the "Children of the Corn" movies – no one over 32 need apply. The oldest player on their final 2007 roster was 31, and there were 31 players on the roster with two or fewer years of experience last year. But the Jets do have a lot of players in prime production range as well, so they have a good mix despite the absence of any true old-timers.
Coaching: Eric Mangini had a free pass after his 10-6 rookie season – and needed it. The transition to the 3-4 was not smooth, the offense was terrible, and he didn't make many friends with his role in Spygate. Oh, and the Jets were 4-12. However, he did make the right move playing Kellen Clemens for a half-season – it didn't help the season record, but it gave the Jets a much clearer picture of what they had (Clemens was brutal, and Pennington should start again). Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has been the man since Mangini's arrival, but will need to do better than 18.4 PPG (Jets' average in two seasons) if he wants a fourth year in 2009. The Jets have a new special teams coach in Kevin O'Dea, who assisted in Chicago; long-time coach Mike Westhoff had to step down due to health reasons.
Overview: The Jets were a fluky playoff team in 2006, and an underachiever in 2007. It's probably better to think of them as the same mediocre team over two seasons than as two vastly different clubs, because they were more similar than different. They've added more talent to the roster than any team in the offseason, and have the No. 6 pick overall. The Jets were a better team in the second half than they were in the first, especially on defense, and if they've fixed the offensive line they can have an efficient offense with Pennington at the helm. Clearly this team shouldn't be 4-12 again in 2008, and 8-8 seems more likely to be the bottom end assuming normal health. Whether the Jets can be 10-6 again, however, remains to be seen. If Mangini follows the paths of his coaching-tree forefathers (Parcells, Belichick), the Jets will get on the right track and stay there. If not, Mangini's coaching genealogy might come to a swift end.
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