For me, today was the day to put up this post. Not because three of the core four are still trying to settle contract issues with the Jets, not because Jenkins is trimming down to 365 pounds by imitating the Cookie Monster, and not because the Jets have recently made exploratory phone calls to the codeine-sipping Jamarcus Russell and the team-ripping Terrell Owens.
Today was the day to start up this blog because it's only a few days away. What, you ask? Sam Spence's poignant melodies in the back of your head. The Mondays when your body's at work but your head's already counting down until 7:00PM EST. The hope that it will be SOJ no more. It's Football. The aforementioned headliners were nice off-season snacks for us Jets fanatics to nibble on for the past few months, but now it's time to reel in the big, pigskin steak in all its glory. Training camp is finally here, and we can breathe a sigh of relief that soon the focus will be on the X's and O's and on-field headlines rather than Jenkins' belly and Rex Ryan's mouth- then again, those two things will probably both remain quite prominent, and HBO certainly isn't complaining.
So, what's on the plate for the New York Jets? In case you've been caught under a rock for the past few months, quite a lot- and certainly no shortage of hype. Many football pundits have labeled the Jets' modus operandi this coming season as "Super Bowl-or-bust." With so many headline moves and 1-year deals (not to mention a potential 2011 lockout), it's certainly hard to deny a sense of urgency. The Jets certainly don't seem to be practicing any patience when it comes to looking for a ring- coaches and players alike have their eyes on the prize and aren't afraid to say so. (With all the open talk about "playoffs" and "Super Bowl," one has to wonder if the ghost of 2006 Eric Mangini is cringing somewhere.) And so the time is now, and last year's post-AFC Championship mutters of "next season" are officially hopes of "this season."
So, what to talk about? Well, how about the top concerns for the Jets that the media has under-reported. The media doesn't overlook much, but this is what I've got marked down as my top three concerns the Jets will be facing that the media hasn't yet beaten to death:
3) How will the Jets passing attack fare in the midst of new faces and new roles? There certainly hasn't been a lack of hype surrounding the acquisition of Santonio Holmes, and the media has kept on eye on Braylon Edwards as well (who can hopefully avoid some big drops this season). The spotlight could potentially shine brightest, however, on Jerricho Cotchery, who always seems to fly under the radar in the off-season. Cotchery will have to be extremely versatile this season, and will probably face a mid-season switch from the flanker (Z) position to the slot position, assuming Holmes can shake the cobwebs from his four week suspension. For me, this is more of an opportunity than a concern, as Cotchery seems best-fit for this role if Edwards can shift to the flanker (where he's been getting reps) and Holmes successfully takes the helm at wide-out. Cotchery is a quick, powerful runner, who is sure-handed and certainly isn't a stranger to the YAC. He and Dustin Keller could be two powerful inside receiving forces for the Jets with the ability to split out wide as well. And don't think I've forgotten about Brad "X Factor" Smith; he seems like a good filler while Holmes is serving his suspension. With Schottenheimer's creative offensive scheme, he could remain a force even after Holmes returns. Don't be surprised if he has a solid year in terms of receiving (or returning, or running, or commanding the Wildcat Offense).
Oh, and Laveranues Coles might be headed back for a third stint with the Jets.
2) What in the world would the Jets do if Sanchez goes down? I wanted to avoid this question, but it needs to be addressed. This is an under-the-radar concern, but not if it becomes a reality. And my, oh my, what a situation that would be. With the recent signing of Mark Brunell, all indications seem to be that the 39-year-old mentor will serve as Sanchez's backup and teacher. According to a Daily News poll conducted earlier this off-season, many of the Jets starters prefer Clemens to Brunell to guide the team should anything happen to Sanchez. Quite frankly, I'm on the players' side for this one. I understand the reasons for signing Brunell, but if Sanchez goes down I'd rather have Clemens leading this team. Many have pointed to Clemens' less-than-dazzling performances when starting for the Jets; he's a lackluster 4-5-0 as a starter in his four seasons in the league (with one win coming last season against the Bucs), but he's usually been asked to manage most of these games rather than go out and win them through the air. The counterargument is of course that should the Jets need a QB backup to go in for a few games and win through the air (which is unlikely with the Jets power running game), Brunell boasts a reputation of stinginess when it comes to sharing the ball with defenses- he's averaged only one interception per 43 attempts in 151 total games as a starter. He's certainly got the experience, but the younger Clemens, who has only one less start (9) than Brunell (10) in the past four seasons actually has outperformed Brunell (3-7-0) record-wise in the past four years, and still appeals to me as the better go-to should this team need to win important games sans Sanchez for an extended time. Nonetheless, the Jets seem to be leaning towards letting go of Clemens or trading him away to a team needing a backup. It will be interesting to see how the Jets handle these two (and the other three potential QBs on the roster - Ainge, O'Connell, and Smith) come game-time in the preseason.
1) Nick Folk? I know, probably not what you expected at the Number 1 spot. This doesn't seem to be as big a topic as it should be and perhaps will become. The Jets' kicking game - namely field goals - could be a huge factor this season, especially if the Jets are going to be playing smash-mouth football while leaning on their defense to win the tight games. Maybe I'm making too much of the situation, but Doug O'Brien, Nate Kaeding, or John Carney would probably tell you otherwise. The Jets were 1-5 in games decided by five points or less last season, and 0-3 in those games decided by three points or less. And that was with the reliable veteran Jay Feely as kicker. Allow me to digress. The Jets, in what began as seeming stubbornness on the Jets part to raise Feely's pay, ended up letting go of the Feely after signing Nick Folk, jettisoned by the Cowboys following his shaky year. Feely went 30-for-36 during last year's regular season (83.3% successful) and set a Jets franchise record in the process, knocking down 24 consecutive field goals. Call me crazy, but this guy was also a part of the nucleus of last year's team, a heart-and-soul type competitor (who, by the way, logged four tackles last season on kickoffs). Now, cross-reference this with Nick Folk's season last year: 18-for-28 (64.3%). Hopefully, he can return to 2007 (Pro Bowl) or 2008 form, when he went 26-for-31 (83.9%) and 20-for-22 (90.9%), respectively. The Jets may be knotted up in quite a few close games this season, and the Jets kicker will need to come through in the clutch. Folk will have to prove himself in the training camp and preseason games, and continue to be sure-footed in the regular season. If not, he may be booed out of town very quickly, especially when, not if, there are games on the line.