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Jets needs: Rex's bunch not far from fulfilling 'guarantee'

by | Senior Writer

 (Getty Images)  

Another year, another guarantee. Only this time New York Jets' coach Rex Ryan waited two and a half weeks after the Super Bowl to promote his team as favorites for Super Bowl XLVI, adding the always memorable "guarantee" for those too young to remember Joe Namath.

But so what? Ryan guaranteed a Super Bowl two years ago, and it didn't happen. So he tried again last year, and I think you know what happened.

Granted, he finished just one victory short in both seasons, but he still missed. Nevertheless, that won't deter the irrepressible Ryan, who declared at this year's NFL Scouting Combine that "I guarantee we will [win the Super Bowl]. There's no doubt about it."

Five possibilities: Jets
Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh: The franchise quarterback could use another set of hands to team with Santonio Holmes. Baldwin's last season was a disappointment, but he has big upside.
Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor: With Kris Jenkins gone, there's a need for someone in the middle to help Siona Pouha. He could be dominant on the nose.
Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: The Jets should start looking for an outside pass-rushing threat, and Clayborn can play the run or the pass. Plus, he may last to the Jets' pick.
Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech: So he's a one-year wonder, and that one year wasn't last season. It was 2009. The Jets still need to groom another back if they're serious about "Ground and Pound."
Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple: In the Jets' defense he's better suited as a defensive end than he is a tackle. Plus, he has the size and strength to make a difference.
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We'll see. He and his Jets have a couple of things to take care of first, namely, the New England Patriots in their own division and the re-signings of key free agents, including Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie.

Yeah, I know, they beat the Patriots in the playoffs. Great. They couldn't beat them to the top during the regular season, with New England winning the AFC East for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.

So how do they get there? Well, they can fill positions of need in this year's draft, and let the countdown begin.

QB -- Mark Sanchez made progress, won another two playoff games on the road and is the quarterback of the present and future. He is the franchise quarterback the Jets envisioned, and look for them to turn over more of their offense over to him. If the Jets look for anyone here, it's a veteran besides Mark Brunell or Kellen Clemens to serve as a safety net.

RB -- The Jets ranked fourth in rushing last season, which isn't bad. But this is: LaDainian Tomlinson turns 32 this season and didn't run for more than 55 yards in any of his last 11 regular-season games. Moreover, Shonn Greene was not the back the Jets envisioned, scoring twice and producing fewer yards than Tomlinson. So maybe Joe McKnight makes an impact. The Jets can only hope. He ran for 158 yards in the regular-season finale, so maybe there's something there. All I know is that Tomlinson is just about finished, and Greene can't carry the load by himself. Maybe McKnight is the answer; maybe not. I wouldn't take a chance. Instead, I'd draft another back to groom while L.T. plays out the string.

WR -- Take your choice: Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes? The Jets keep one of them, and it's probably Holmes. But then what? Well, then they have Jerricho Cotchery, and he's not a bad second option. But he's nothing special. Brad Smith is, but only as a guy who can do just about anything. Holmes made significant contributions last season, but it was Edwards' catch that helped beat Indianapolis in the playoffs -- and, yeah, it would be great to keep both. It's probably not going to happen.

TE -- Dustin Keller, not Holmes, was the team's leading receiver, and his size, speed and hands make him a dangerous red-zone threat. But the Jets could use a suitable backup, with Matthew Mulligan a Keller-clone who had trouble getting on the field.

OL -- The Jets are set at guard, center and left tackle -- with Matt Slauson playing surprisingly well after the departure of Alan Faneca. But right tackle is an issue, with last year's starter, Damien Woody, gone. The Jets tried Wayne Hunter as his backup, and he was nothing more than OK. Notice that the Jets did not try to run behind him in the playoffs, and you notice that there may be a concern here. Still, with four-fifths of this line in good shape and backup guard Vladimir Ducasse due to improve, the club looks deep and talented at a key position.

DL -- Jason Taylor is gone. Kris Jenkins is gone. And Shaun Ellis is slowing down -- though he didn't look it in the playoffs. Anyway, the Jets can start addressing needs here, and they can start with a pass-rushing defensive end. That would eliminate Mike DeVito, who played well but was more of a run stopper. On the other side, Trevor Pryce didn't do much -- or least as much as the Jets expected. They could use talent and depth here, especially with their pass rush not as effective as they'd like.

LB -- Did I mention that the Jets need to pressure the pocket? After waiting on Vernon Gholston to make an impact, they finally let the guy go. Bryan Thomas led the club in sacks with six but isn't exactly what you'd call a premier pass rusher. Calvin Pace should be effective but seemed to be missing something after returning to work last season. David Harris and Bart Scott are fine in the middle, though Harris sometimes looked lost playing in space. Nevertheless, the guy is a big hitter, effective run stuffer and one of the best players on this club. But the run isn't the problem; the pass is, and nowhere was the Jets' failure to pressure the quarterback more evident than the conference championship game when they couldn't stop Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger from making critical plays.

DB -- Darrelle Revis struggled early, but by midseason opponents weren't throwing in his direction ... which meant they were throwing Antonio Cromartie's way. Cromartie did not return to his Pro Bowl form of 2007, but he played well enough that the team decided to make him a one-year tender. Backup Kyle Wilson was disappointing, but don't be fooled: The guy should be a starter waiting to happen. The bigger concerns are at safety, though Jim Leonhard's season-ending injury didn't help there. Brodney Pool and Dwight Lowery are OK, but neither is the big-hitter that Leonhard is.


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