This has been quite the off-season for us Jets fans. After a heart breaking end to the 2008 season, we have seen our team make for some seemingly huge strides.
Eric Mangini has moved on to Cleveland...gas can and matches in hand. Rex ‘Son of Buddy' Ryan has stepped into the head coaching role, bringing defensive stars Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard with him.
These additions immediately put the Jets defense back on the radar. More importantly, he brought a bit of swagger and a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Something this team has been sorely lacking for way too long.
Sports are as much about ego and attitude as they are about physical skills and attributes. The mono tone stylings of Eric Mangini did nothing to impress or inspire players, media or fans.
40 years removed from Broadway Joe, it appears those years of begging, cursing and praying have rewarded Jets Fandom with a potential "franchise" QB in Mark Sanchez. Wildly charismatic, this young Mexican-American seems to possess the kind of qualities and skills it takes to lead a team to great things. Jets fans are clamoring for a chance to see this man take the field for Gang Green. He even has his veteran teammates excited.
Things certainly seem to be looking up for this team and its fans. Or are they?
Despite all outward appearances, this is a team that is still only one bad break away from disaster. Several key positions are still floating in limbo.
I know I just told you about how happy everyone is to see Mark Sanchez in green and white but let's not start holding hands and whispering sweet nothings in each others ears over it just yet. Sanchez has a total of 16 starts at the collegiate level and his competitor at the position, Kellen Clemens, is only 3-5 as a starter. Clemens most meaningful game was a loss to Baltimore back in 2007.
Once you come down from the high of such a gutsy move to grab Sanchez in the draft, you realize that not much has actually changed. Sanchez has no experience and Clemens is simply not going to amount to much as a mentor. The truth is no one has a clue what to expect from the QB position this year, including Rex "Hey I Won with Joe Flacco" Ryan, and that should scare everyone.
Laveranues Coles was allowed to walk away, signing with the Bengals. According to statements made by the team, they believe the current wide receiving corps has what it takes to go down the stretch and be competitive. Yeah, right.
I love what I have seen in Jericho Cotchery so far but he is not yet a true number 1 wide out. The Jets know this all too well as evidenced by the fact that Mike Tannenbaum has been on the phone to just about everybody he's ever seen catch a football. Rumors of trades have been flying back and forth among fans and media ever since the Jets failed to make a single move for a WR during the recent NFL draft.
Plaxico Burress, Braylon Edwards, Anquan Boldin & Marvin Harrison are the names most mentioned in talks of potential trades or signings, sparking much debate about the costs and benefits (or lack thereof), of acquiring any of these players.
I personally have reservations about each for various reasons and am probably in the minority when I say that I think Burress, despite his reputation, could be a great on-the-field addition for this team. Admittedly, he is a potential off field nightmare waiting to happen, but he is also a stellar, proven performer who, I think, has outdone all those other guys with the exception of Marvin Harrison who is bound for Canton.
Without a true number 1 option at the wide receiver position to draw extra coverage or to help stretch the field, a Jets offense that is already suspect at the QB position, will face many blitzes and eight man fronts. This could and most likely will spell disaster for the master game plan.
I still think we will see the Jets make a play for one of the receivers mentioned before we get to the pre-season.
The team inexplicably released veteran TE Chris Baker and have so far haven't found a good match via free agency. Despite bringing in several vets for visits, including ex-Detroit Lion Michael Gaines, the best the Jets have managed in recent days was to re-sign Bubba Franks. Franks is old (31), hasn't played a full on season since 2006 and didn't show the best hands last summer.
Known primarily as a receiving TE rather than a blocking one, this signing is insurance against an injury to Dustin Keller at best. At worst it means the team is actually considering depending on the likes of a J'Nathan Bullock to successfully transition from a college basketball power forward to a working NFL tight end.
While all reports indicate Bullock had an impressive pro day, displaying astounding athleticism, toughness and great hands and really impressing scouts, just how effective is a guy who hasn't played competitive football since high school going to be? I admit he is an intriguing prospect but I'm not sure Rex and crew should be putting all their eggs in that basket.
Say what you want, but letting Baker go was a huge mistake. Baker was a solid option for us at the position but it seems the front office just couldn't see it, based on the treatment he received during his tenure as a Jet. I'm sure New England will be more than happy to demonstrate how big a mistake letting him go was.
Lack of Depth
This one is not getting anywhere as much press but it's huge. The Jets are way too thin at way too many positions to truly be successful. Both the defensive and offensive lines, parts of the secondary and, of course, the tight ends are so thin that one injury could sink the entire boat.
First Time Head Coach
Rex Ryan has proven his worth as a defensive coordinator, but how will he handle the offense? How about the special teams? Will he be consumed by the defense each week and depend on offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to run the offense? Will he play conservative and handcuff his offensive coordinator? Can he manage the clock? The list of unknowns with the new coach is great. There is no guarantee that Rex Ryan's defensive wizardry will translate to wizardry at the head coach level.
Despite all appearances, I'm actually extremely optimistic about the coming season. There are a lot of good things happening with this team too. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of questions.
Xander is Editor-In-Chief at AFCBeast.com