Training camp is finally here! After weeks of speculation about the who’s, the what’s and the when’s, we are finally going to start getting some answers. In celebration of the coming season, I have put together a training camp guide outlining what is good, bad and down right ugly as the New York Jets head into camp.
- No More Mangini! We have a new coach and a new attitude to go with it. There has been no shortage of news coming out of Jets camp about the new found attitude infecting the team from the highly contagious Rex Ryan. I have no idea how this will translate on the field but it certainly gives me hope for a better effort, in particular from fringe players who might other wise go unnoticed. Happy players tend to be productive players.
- Released on February 26, 2009 and re-signed the next day, the return of Brandon Moore means that the entire offensive line will return for the 2009 season. The offensive line was definitely a shining spot for the Jets last season (producing 2 Pro-Bowlers in Nick Mangold and Alan Faneca) and barring any injuries, this should be another great year for those unsung heroes in the trenches. You can expect great pass protection for Sanchez/Clemens and run blocking for the three-headed monster that is Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and rookie Shonn Greene lurking in the backfield.
- A new ’seek and destroy’ defense. Rex Ryan & his right hand man Mike Pettine, have brought over more than just a new attitude, they also brought along some fire. Unlike former head coach Eric Mangini’s read and react approach, the new attacking style of defense has many of the Jets veteran defensive players bursting at the seams for a chance to showcase themselves. Bringing in former Ravens Jim Leonhard, Bart Scott and Marques Douglas to help transition was a fantastic move that was topped off with the signing of former Philadelphia Eagles Pro-Bowl CB Lito Sheppard. It remains to be seen if the Jets defensive squad can be what the Ravens were under Ryan in Baltimore but if they even come close, it’s going to be a heck of a year. I look for Kerry Rhodes to have an outstanding, possibly even a Pro-Bowl caliber season.
- Mark Sanchez. It still remains to be seen if the boy wonder from USC will live up to expectations but one thing is for sure, he has electrified fans everywhere. Hungry for a bona-fide marquee type player, Jets fans have taken to this young man like moths to a flame. His addition to the team has already paid off huge for the team in terms of marketing and fan interest alone. Forget about it if he actually lives up to the hype!
- Lavernues Coles has yet to be replaced. There has been a lot of press about how Jerricho Cotchery is not a #1 receiver, but even if he is, who fills in the remaining slots? Chansi Stuckey seems to be a good fit for as a slot receiver and from there it just gets ugly. Quarterback turned receiver, Brad Smith, has been pretty ugly when given opportunities on the field. He can’t seem to catch the ball and the few times he’s had to throw it haven’t been very pretty either. There is a good chance Smith doesn’t make it out the special team (where he has excelled) unless the Jets flat out run out of options. David Clowney has the speed but after spending the bulk of the 2008 season sidelined with an injury he is largely unproven. It has even been hinted at the organization thinks of him as a bit of a one game wonder. Definitely not a good sign. Finally, there is Wallace Wright who has been a Pro-Bowl caliber special teamer but other-wise is virtually unknown. Rumor has it he has put on a bit of a show during off-season practices but who knows what that actually means. The bottom line here seems to be that, like it or not, the Jets need a speedy WR who can command respect from opposing defenses. One good thing here is that the Jets are nearly $12 million under the salary cap leaving ample room for picking up a wide receiver.
- Disgruntled running backs. Both Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are unhappy with their current contracts and are pushing hard to re-negotiate. As of this writing, it appears only Washington has a chance to actually get a new deal. Pressing for some $6 million a year, Leon’s fight for more cash has been highly publicized, with most fans in agreement that a deal needs to be done here and soon. Keeping the future super star running back happy and in Gang Green is of high importance. Unfortunately, a deal could not be struck in time for the start of camp and as speculated, Leon Washington was a no show for the start of training camp in Florham Park. Ironically, despite all reports indicating that there is no chance of Thomas Jones getting any more money from the team, he reported as scheduled for training camp. I certainly hope this is a good sign from the AFC’s 2008 rushing leader.
- Lack of depth on both lines. In a word, the depth chart of both the defensive and offensive lines can be described as ‘thin’. This may be the scariest thing facing the team as we head into the regular season. The fact is that there are very few options should key players go down with injury. Just look at the stir caused by Calvin Pace’s suspension for violating the NFL’s PED policy.
PSL’s and dwindling ticket sales for a stadium that doesn’t even carry the team name. Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of surprise among Jets fans as they get bombarded by the organization with attempts to sell season tickets. To go from having a 10+ year waiting list for tickets to having to beg the fan base to make purchases is pretty disgraceful in my opinion. Even worse are the quiet rumblings among fans about the possibility of having games blacked out on TV. While some maintain that the organization and various corporations would snap up unsold seats in order to avoid black out scenarios, I personally find this a little far fetched during a time when corporations are scrambling to find ways to cut costs during these tough times.