This is what I like about the New York Jets: They back down from nothing and nobody. They identify their biggest needs, then go out and attack them.
A year ago, they swung a deal for quarterback Mark Sanchez. Months later, they made a move for wide receiver Braylon Edwards. Now they make the trade for cornerback Antonio Cromartie, and if they get the 2007 version of the defensive back they could push New England at the top of the division.
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All I know is that if I play in the same conference with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, I can't get enough good cornerbacks. The Jets have one of the best -- if not the best -- in Darrelle Revis. Now they pair him with one of the most promising in Cromartie, and good luck finding wide open receivers.
That tandem will make it difficult for the Patriots, Colts or anyone to throw against these guys, and a failure to stop the pass is what kept the Jets from Super Bowl XLIV. With Cromartie, they believe they have the ammunition to get there this season, and maybe they do. All I know is first things first, and when Brady is healthy the Patriots haven't lost the AFC East since 2002.
The Jets could break that run, especially if Rex Ryan's defense plays as well as it did last season when it allowed a league-low 187 offensive points and held opposing quarterbacks to a 58.8 passer rating, also tops in the league. But they still have needs, and here's the scouting report:
QB -- Sanchez didn't have a breakout season, but his team did. And that should mean better things for both in the coming years. Look, Sanchez's numbers weren't great, and he threw 20 interceptions. But he was a rookie, and how many rookie quarterbacks make it to a conference championship game? Mark Sanchez did. The Jets love the guy, and it's easy to see why. He has talent, he has charisma and he wins. Plus, there are years to make improvements. I don't know anyone close to this team who Backup Kellen Clemens is adequate but little more.
|The Jets, who scored by drafting Shonn Greene last April, hope to find another backfield gem. (US Presswire)|
WR -- The arrival of Edwards mitigated the Jets' need at an important position. He immediately became Sanchez's go-to receiver, though there weren't many receivers anywhere who went to the end zone. The Jets had only 12 touchdown catches, with Edwards' four leading the way. Jerricho Cotchery led the team in receptions, but Edwards was the deep threat -- when, that is, he could catch the ball. He still drops too many passes. More depth would be nice here, though Brad Smith is an intriguing athlete who can do just about anything. Nevertheless, I'd like an upgrade for my third receiver.
TE -- Dustin Keller is more of a wide receiver than a tight end, so Smith and David Clowney become more like fourth and fifth targets. Keller is a solid short-to-intermediate target with good hands. Ben Hartsock is an adequate backup, a tight end who can block and catch an occasional pass.
OL -- There is no shortage of talent here. Center Nick Mangold is one of the best in the game. Guard Alan Faneca is a decorated veteran. Tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson is one of the league's top young tackles. Brandon Moore and Damien Woody are solid on the right side, but three of these guys (Faneca, Woody and Moore) will be in their 30s this season. There must be young backups, and there's really not anyone of consequence waiting in reserve. Depth is an issue.
DL -- Losing Kris Jenkins last season hurt the Jets, but they still managed to cobble together the NFL's eighth-ranked run defense -- thanks, in part, to Jenkins' replacement, Sione Pouha. A former third-round pick, Pouha made an immediate impact and gives the Jets much needed depth at a key spot. Jenkins' return should do nothing but make this unit better -- provided, of course, he recovers from a torn ACL. Defensive end could be an area of need, particularly if run-stopper Marques Douglas leaves, but Shaun Ellis is decent. Only here's what bothers me: While he had 6.5 sacks, four of them came in two games. He must be more consistent. The Jets need another pass-rushing threat here, and there isn't one. Not yet.
LB -- David Harris is one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL, and Bart Scott was a perfect running mate. Together, the two led the club in tackles, with team-leader Harris (he had 142 stops) adding 5.5 sacks and Scott 12 tackles for losses. Calvin Pace is solid on the outside, with a career-high eight sacks despite missing the first four games. He could use some help, though, with Bryan Thomas nothing more than OK. Unfortunately, Vernon Gholston is not. The club made him the sixth pick of the 2008 draft, and so far he's been a bust. Ryan said Gholston will have a chance to prove himself this season, but this might be the last opportunity. It's now or never, Vernon.
DB -- There is nothing about Revis not to like. He shuts down Andre Johnson. He shuts down Reggie Wayne. He shuts down Marques Colston. He shuts down Terrell Owens. He shuts down Randy Moss. Twice, no less. But the Jets needed another top cornerback for Revis Island, and Cromartie answered the call. The guy is perfect for Ryan's man-to-man schemes, but he better learn how to tackle -- or, at least, tackle more than he did with San Diego. Cromartie replaces Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland, both of whom the Jets released, and that tells you how much they think of him. Safety Kerry Rhodes had his moments, but he fell out of favor the middle of last season and pretty much fell off the radar, with Eric Smith replacing him. Losing Rhodes shouldn't hurt, though he did start down the stretch and into the playoffs. Jim Leonhard is solid at the other safety spot, and Dwight Lowery is a nice option off the bench.