Gone were Woody, Braylon, T-Rich, Jenkins, Jason Taylor, Lowery, Coleman, Jerricho and Shaun Ellis. A combined 91 years of NFL experience, and a combined 38 years of experience with the New York Jets. I understand the need to pass the baton so to speak. To get younger while still remaining competitive can be extremely difficult. However losing all that experience so early in the careers of replacements was bound to have an effect on the team.
We took a gamble with signing Holmes and Cromartie to long term deals. Holmes as we have seen is not shy to run his mouth and cause friction when things are not going his way, Cromartie is as inconsistent as any DB I have seen in Jets history. Also signing Burress straight out of a lengthy prison spell to be our compliment to Holmes was risky, there was no way to know how he would perform on game day and how hd will hold up over a gruelling winter season.
The flight boys of Holmes/Jericho/Braylon were gone, the home of the Jets T-Rich style was gone, the consistent DE for the last decade was gone....so it was down to the new boys to continue the progress this franchise has made under Rex.....personally I thought .500 was in store for 2011, that doesn't mean this team is not a good one. It just means that it needs to grow. I didn't understand how this years team was going to be better than last years team.
Anybody who has been a regular on GGN for the past 18-24 months knows that a big interest of mine is the NFL draft and generally I loved the selections the Jets made. I had fears that we would select Cameron Heyward . The more I watched, the less I liked. I loved Wilkerson and Jabaal Sheard who Cleveland ended up taking at pick 37. So when we called Wilkerson's number I was delighted. I rated him as an early 2nd round pick due to him being a little slow off the snap and his hand usage being average. However he had everything else and with us picking 30th we needed someone like him on this team. I think both he and Ellis will contribute to this team for years to come.
Just quickly, I was a little disappointed with the Powell selection. I thought we had more pressing needs and he never jumped off the page with me for a 4th round selection. With Cannon from TCU still on the board, I personally thought he represented great value. Of course the Patriots pounced on him in round 5 and in my opinion at least, got a player who had 2nd round talent in the 5th round due to him being diagnosed with a non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Look out for Cannon in the future, he played right tackle and left tackle in college, didn't give up a single sack in 2009 and TCU as a unit only gave up 9 sacks total lash year with Cannon protecting the blindside.
Ok so now onto the season and the concerns of pre-season have come to light. A highly inconsistent offence who obviously miss leadership on the field, the change of offensive line talent and the FB have limited our effective run game, Sanchez looks more and more like Tony Romo his week 1 opposition every week. Highly inconsistent, who's head still goes down when things are not going his way. An offensive line injury to the most important player on the offensive side of the ball showed how little depth we had and the highly combustive Santonio Holmes doing his best to isolate himself from all on the offensive side of the ball with his comments.
I've never been a staunch critic of Brian Schottenheimer like a lot of Jets fans, however his inconsistency is reflected in the players he puts out on the field. However at the same time, he is limited in what he can call if we can't run the football and we can not protect the Quarterback. I have seen people call for long shots to Holmes, however we can't protect Sanchez on a 15 yard comeback route, asking him to stand back there for an extra couple of seconds while the play develops and the receivers get open deep is suicide.
Maybe it is time for a change at the offensive coordinator position, but I'm not ready to say that if we hire someone different all our struggles go out the window. With a new coordinator, Connor doesn't become as good as T-Rich at picking up blocks, Plax doesn't give us the vertical deep threat as Braylon did and people like Wayne Hunter and Colin Baxter don't become all stars. We may be able to scheme to hide the limitations more but the serious question of depth and player attitude needs to be answered.
Then we have the X-Factor, Mark Sanchez. Already this season we have seen him at his best and at his worst. The offensive line/run game troubles have not helped. However in year 3 he needs to make certain strides, his recognition is improving but it needs to make a jump. As mentioned right now I see him turning into a Tony Romo instead of a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning. Highly inconsistent with bags of talent.
He has had a 70.8% completion percentage (Week 2) and a 31.4% (Week 4), he's been sacked 14 times already this year and tossed up 5 interceptions which could have been more. He's lost 4 fumbles and his timing with the receivers has been off all year. I like Sanchez but question marks have to be raised as to whether he will ever become the QB we all hoped he would. Like I said, it's hard to analyse how much of this rests on his shoulders with offensive limitations.
Hunter has improved but I can't be convinced that replacing him is not a priority for the draft this season. Plax hasn't been as bad as some make out but he is getting older and we need a future 1A star to compliment Holmes going forward. I always trust Rex to take lower ranked defensive players and make them competitive, just like he has done on the defensive line with DeVito and Ropati. So in the 2012 draft I want to go offensive talent early, an opinion that is shared by very few who want that edge rusher.
The 2012 draft class is absolutely stacked with offensive talent, if you want some instant fixes on the offensive side of the ball then This Spring is the right time to grab it. I've already mentioned to John that I would like to follow this up with my own 2012 mock draft and that will be coming in the next two weeks. Offence is where we need to improve to become that Superbowl team.
We have a great 1-2 punch at the CB positions if we can coax consistency out of Cromartie, we have a young fierce ILB partnership, we have young talent at the OLB position in Jamaal and Maybin (who I think will develop into a nice situational pass rusher under Rex) we have young talent to mould on the defensive line. Don't fear for this defence, I know they have had some problems at times this year but with Rex and Pettine we have the best masterminds of NFL defensive play in the league.
We are 3-3 with a defeat against two better teams (Baltimore and New England) and a disappointing performance against a much improved Oakland outfit. However 3-3 reflect this team right now, I know we have been spoiled the last two years with stability and AFC Championship contests but in my humble opinion a .500 team is what we are. We have room for improvement and we have the base to build something special for the next 3-5 years. We are a good team don't get me wrong, but I think we are far too inconsistent. We have the potential to play with the best and if that becomes our consistent performance then the sky is the limit this year. I just think we will need some help and some time to become that consistent challenger.
Nobody likes to sit here and admit that there are better teams than the Jets but we need to be realistic with our goals. We need to be objective in how we view the team. Rex's bold proclamations are designed to build the view point that we are Superbowl contenders, but right now we are not. That's not being defeatist or negative, it's just realistic. I have never been as excited about the Jets future as I am now. However Rex inherited what was largely an experienced team and at some point we needed to change the guard, we are doing that right now.
Don't be down if the team finishes 8-8 or 9-7 this year. With a couple of key acquisitions, a hiring here or there and a draft dedicated to need, in 2012 we are younger, and back at that 12-4, 11-5 expectation for the next 5 years. This is just my view to the year so far and the future ahead.