So camp is finally open for the New York Jets. "Another" new season of hope for Gang Green. The Jets enter camp like most other teams in the NFL, with question marks. A lot has happened for the Jets since the disappointing loss to the Dolphins to end the 2008 season.
The Jets did some house cleaning since January. Out is head coach Eric Mangini, QB Brett Favre, WR Laveranues Coles, TE Chris Baker and CB Ty Law. Mangini was let go right after the season ended. The Jets had to make the move. They were at one point 8-3 and leading the AFC East. Only to lose four of the final five games to finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs. When that happens, its on the coach as well as the players.
Exit Mangini, enter Rex Ryan. Ryan is a defensive minded coach from the Baltimore Ravens. For the past 9 years or so, the Ravens defense has always been one of the best in the NFL. Ryan was a big part of that. He will be looked upon to get the Jets defense to one of the tops in the league. His main focus should be on an average Jets secondary. As good as the Jets defensive line was last season; their secondary was the complete opposite. With the exception of Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, the rest of the secondary was horrible.
Exit Ty Law, enter Jim Leonhard and Lito Sheppard. Ryan brought in Leonhard, the hard hitting safety from the Ravens, to help bolster the team up the middle. He was a solid backup for Baltimore playing behind Ed Reed. He should be able to shine for the Jets with Kerry Rhodes in the secondary. Lito Sheppard was brought in via trade with the Eagles. Sheppard only started only 3 games last season for Philadelphia with Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown playing so well for the Eagles. Sheppard the former two-time Pro Bowler will be a nice compliment to Revis on the other side of the field.
New York's crown jewel of free agency is LB Bart Scott. Scott was signed away from the Ravens as well this off-season. He will be relied on to shore up an already strong Jets run defense. A unit, which showed signs of wear and tear over the final month of the season. Scott along with David Harris, Calvin Pace (suspended for the first 4 games) and Bryan Thomas give the Jets one of the best line-backing cores in the NFL in the 2009 season.
With Pace suspended for the first four games of the season, the Jets will be leaning on last years first round pick Vernon Gholston to pick up the slack. Gholston, who was force in the 4-3 defense that Ohio State ran, never really adapted to the Jets 3-4 defense last season. Ryan is looking forward to working with Gholston and is confident he can get him back on track and get a return on the investment for the Jets.
With Brett Favre opting for retirement form the second time in two seasons, the Jets decided to make some moves at this years NFL draft. The traded up with the Cleveland Browns to land the number five pick in the draft. They drafted USC QB Mark Sanchez. Sanchez will hopefully be the Jets long term solution for the quarterback position. Whether or not he will be ready to start the season as the Jets number one QB remains to be seen.
Rex Ryan has stated that QB Kellen Clemens will be the #1 quarterback on the depth chart heading into training camp, but there will be an "open competition", which gives Sanchez every opportunity to win the job. 2009 will be Clemens fourth season with the Jets and fourth year working with Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Clemens definitely has a better understanding of the Jets playbook and should be listed as the number one QB for now.
Another question mark for Gang Green is their running backs. Thomas Jones, who ran for 1,300 yards and 13 TD's last season, wants a new contract. Leon Washington, who ran for 450 yards and 6 TD's last season, also wants a new contract. Jones had an excellent season in 2008 after a disappointing 2007 season. The Jets have said that they have no plans on restructuring Jones existing contract. Will that affect Jones this season? We will have to wait and see.
Washington is in a different situation. He is currently playing in the final year of his rookie contract and wants a big raise. The Jets need to get him locked up for the long term. Leon is the Jets "X" factor. He does so much for the team between rushing, receiving, punt and kickoff returns. He truly is irreplaceable for the Jets.
One of the Jets main concerns at this point is at wide receiver. Right now, their only proven WR is Jerricho Cotchery. Cotchery should not be considered a number one receiver either. He is a very solid number two or a 1-A receiver. The Jets now look at him as the number one with Chansi Stuckey, David Clowney and Brad Smith behind him.
Stuckey had a few big catches last season and will be relied upon this season to fill the spot left open by Coles opposite Cotchery. David Clowney was not activated until late in the season so he is not proven. Although he is very fast, he has not made any impact as of yet.
As you can see, the Jets head up to Cortland with quite a few question marks for this season. The way the team is constructed right now, they could be either an 5-11 team or an 10-6 team. The defense will be strong with plenty of young veterans out there. The offense will have its work cut out for them over the next six weeks. Only time will tell where the Jets will end up this season, but this is just the start.