I think most of you know that I am NO fan of Rich Cimini. He has a list on ESPN.com of all the new Jets on the roster. He makes the comment that that is a 26% turnover and concludes by saying "Such is life in the NFL." I guess I should be grateful that he didn't use this as yet another opportunity to question or bash the Jets. Instead, I can't help but feel he missed an opportunity to seriously explore this situation, because I think it is both interesting and perhaps very revealing of how Rex really feels about this team's chances of winning the SB this season. A number of you have questioned the Jets' offseason moves and some have said they think all the offseason moves were bad.
A month ago, I wrote an article entitled, "What's Going on with the Jets' FO?" in which I questioned some of the offseasons moves or lack of moves. With the added perspective of completed FA, TC over, and the "final" foster set (?), I invite you to read it again or for the first time. http://www.ganggreennation.com/2011/7/31/2308181/whats-going-on-with-the-jets-fo
Here's the link to Cimini's post:
More after the jump.
I think even the most fervent homers among us would say that it's very unusual for a team that has been to the AFC Championship Game the last two seasons (and is considered a prime contender yet again for the Lombardi Trophy) to make so many roster changes. A poster here recently questioned if the team was in a "rebuilding" mode. At the time I dismissed it, but the more I think about it, it is curious. Usually teams that are in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy, pretty much stand pat. There may be a little minor tweaking of their roster, but usually what additions or changes are made, is that experienced veteran players are brought in to start or serve as key backups and not rookies. It's even more unusual when one remembers that due to the lockout, there was an abbreviated TC, no OTAs, mini-camps or off-season workouts. One would think that the smartest move would have been to keep the team intact, to keep veteran players who know the system and who have developed chemistry and a relationship with their teammates.
That is not what the Jets have done, however. Gone from the team are (Listed in what I think is roughly their order of importance):
All except Clemens contributed to the team and had value. All were veterans.
In their place, we have:
P T.J. Conley
WR Jeremy Kerley
WR Mardy Gilyard
WR Plaxico Burress
S Andrew Sendejo
RB Bilal Powell
CB Donald Strickland
LB Garrett McIntyre
LB Nick Bellore
C Colin Baxter
G Caleb Schlauderaff
WR Derrick Mason
NT Kenrick Ellis
DE Muhammad Wilkerson
Undoubtedly, some of the new players should prove to be upgrades over the long haul, but how many, if any, will prove to be upgrades in the 2011 season? Last year, the Jets got almost no contributions from their draft class. I think this year will be different, as Wilkerson should start and Ellis and Kerley could see a lot of action. Still, I think the point can be made that at least for this season, there could be a dropoff, perhaps a considerable one, in the contributions of these 14 players vs that of their predecessors. The point can fairly be made that the Jets' DL had gotten old and they wore down as the season progressed. The same can't be said of the DBs that were replaced or of the WRs, although the point can be made that Mason & Plaxico has the potential to be a LOT better than B. Smith, J. Cotchery and BE, and should at least be better. To be sure, FA had a lot to do with what happened with their WR corps, but they did get a LOT older, however, and with increased age comes both increased injury risk and risk of dropoff in production.
I haven't seen figures anywhere, but I'd be curious to see how many new players are on the Pats, Steelers, Colts, Packers, Ravens, Falcons, Eagles and other top contenders rosters. For sure we know that the Eagles added a lot of new pieces, most of whom were veterans, and the Pats loaded up on experienced vets in S. Ellis, C. Ochocinco, A. Haynesworth, B. Waters and J. Ihedigbo. It would also be interesting to compare the Jets historically to other top teams and see how many new, inexperienced players they added to their rosters. For me, it isn't just the fact that there are new faces, but rather that with this year's version of the team, ALL the new faces are either old(er) (Mason, Burress and Strickland) or totally inexperienced.
What is even more puzzling is how the Jets have handled their OL situation. Their top interior backup (Robert Turner) suffered a major injury, and will probably miss half the season. Even when he comes back, we don't know how effective he will be. They replaced him with two players (Colin Baxter and Caleb Schlauderaff) who not only are both rookies, but neither of them knows the system. They lost their starting RT (Damien Woody) and used their top OT backup (Wayne Hunter) to replace him, but who will replace Hunter? Vladimir Ducasse is who, he who contributed nothing last year and who has struggled mightily this offseason. In fairness, even if the Jets plan to add a veteran OL following the first game (in order having to guarantee the whole season's salary), who will be available? The Ravens signed one of the top interior OL available in Gurode and the Pats signed the former Pro Bowl OG Brian Waters. What happens if Slauson or Moore go down with an injury during this week's game with the Cowboys? Who will play OG for the remainder of that game?
Another puzzling move is that most contending teams seek to address their weaknesses during the offseason. I think most would agree that the Jets biggest weaknesses or question marks were: the pass rush, covering RBs and TEs over the middle, Sanchez' consistency and accuracy, and play calling. Hopefully, adding Ellis and Wilkerson will improve the pass rush, but both are rookies. Gone are perhaps last years best pass rushers in S. Ellis, J. Taylor, J. Ihedigbo, and D. Coleman. Will their replacements really improve the rush? The Jets had money to sign a Manny Lawson or Matt Roth, but didn't. Will Westermann be able to step up? Will Pace being healthy and focusing more on rushing the QB help?
As far as we can tell, nothing was done to address covering RBs and TEs over the middle except to trade Nick Lowery, who was perhaps the best coverage-type Safety the Jets had.
Unless one counts the addition of Tom Moore, nothing was done to improve Sanchez' accuracy and consistency, or the play calling. BS is still here. Many of us would like to see him go.
To the list of needs or weaknesses, I think the lack of foot speed can be added. Rex seems to prefer bigger OLBs over those who are smaller but faster. In addition, he seems to not value the OLB position very much. He also seems to prefer DBs who are great vs the run and big hitters, but who are lacking in coverage skills and somewhat in speed. If these things are true, I think they are all serious concerns about Rex's ability as a HC.
In conclusion, while I think many of the moves should improve the team in the long run, I think there is plenty of reason to not only be concerned heading into this season, but about the approach of our GM and HC to building a team and what they see as important. For now, I will give Rex the benefit of the doubt, since he's earned it.