SBN: Who is the easiest player on the roster to root for?
GGN: Personally I think there are a few players currently on this roster who are easy to root for. It's easy to root for the underdog and as we possess a team with little proven talent, there are plenty of underdogs on the roster. So I'll split them into offensive and defensive players.
For the offensive player it has to be undrafted rookie Ryan Spadola out of Lehigh. He's a local New Jersey guy so that instantly ticks a box for the player who's easy to root for. However as an undrafted local rookie wide receiver trying to make the team, he reminds us of Wayne Chrebet who was another guy in similar circumstances. He went on to play for 11 seasons with the Jets and although lightning rarely strikes twice, there is a lot of hope for Spadola who's shown good hands, good routes and an infectious personality.
For the defensive player, I think it comes down to Muhammad Wilkerson. Again he is a local Jersey guy but that's where the similarities end with Spadola. Wilks was our first round selection back in 2011 and he just comes out to play every single game. He doesn't say anything, he's very quiet to the media and he's dominant on the field. When you combine a great guy off the field with a guy who performs on the field, and then add in that he's a local guy, it's hard to not root for a guy like that. I think he breaks out this year so if NFL fans don't already know his name, they will do by this time next year.
SBN:If you could buy a ticket to just one game this year...
GGN: It would be easy to pick one of the big draw teams. Miami is always a decent game and with them being rivals it would be a good atmosphere. I would also like to see how our defense holds up against the Saints attack. No I'm going to stick to my guns and go with the home game against the Dolphins. With it being in week 13 we'll know where our season is going and whether to get excited or more likely, look out for some of the younger players to develop for 2014.
SBN: Which veterans could be cut before the season due to salary cap issues?
GGN: You know we don't really have many veterans on the roster that would save us cap space if cut, at least for 2013. I fully expect Mark Sanchez to get cut next off-season among others. Even guys like Calvin Pace won't save a great deal of space if cut as they were brought back on smaller deals. With a cap saving of $555,000 and just $65,000 in dead money, he may be one guy to go if we want to really focus on the younger players on the roster.
Another player who may get the chop is Antonio Garay, who has the same cap saving/dead money situation that Pace has. He hasn't seen the field a great deal this off-season and with other players really stepping up on the defensive line, it may make sense to move away from Garay and give some other guys a chance.
SBN: Which second year player is going to make the biggest leap?
GGN: There really are two that stick out here so I really can't limit it to just one. Luckily there is one on the offensive side of the ball and one on the defensive side of the ball. First of all you have Stephen Hill, our 2012 2nd round receiver out of Georgia Tech. He had a poor first season, struggling with both injuries and drops. He had severe concentration lapses and despite getting off to a great start against Buffalo, he fizzled out for the rest of the season. He has all the measurable attributes you want in a receiver but coming from that triple option offense at Georgia Tech, it was always going to be a steep learning curve. We've heard how he has improved his routes and hands over the summer, but that's training camp. He needs to take that into the game, his fumble against the Giants in the 3rd pre-season game did nothing to quell the fears we had.
On the defensive side of the football we have Demario Davis, the ILB out of Arkansas State who was out 3rd round selection a year ago. Last year he started on the bench but when we realized that Bart Scott's play was heading downwards in a hurry he did see game time. Unfortunately he looked a little lost at points. Although we have seen flashes this off-season, he still needs to consistently perform. Our linebackers don't possess the most speed in the world, apart from Davis. So he needs to use that to his advantage and help in coverage as that's why we drafted him in the first place. I have high hopes for Davis this year and I think he'll do better than most people expect.
SBN: What are the odds of your head coach getting fired?
GGN: It seemed unimaginable a couple of years ago to even consider Rex Ryan being fired. He had gone to back-to-back AFC Championships his first two years as a head coach and the sky was the limit. However now I think he is odds-on favorite to get the can. I think we would have to come out and really stink the place up for him to get fired during the season as we don't really have many in-house choices to take temporary control until the end of the season. We have newly appointed defensive and offensive coordinators and nobody wants to see Marty leading the team after his spell in Detroit.
During the season, I would put Rex getting fired at 30-40% chance. However if we don't make the post season and I don't expect we will, then I expect him to go at the end of the season. I would put that down to 70%-80% chance. He's a great defensive mind but he has shown an inability to be an effective head coach managing both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Clock management hasn't been a strong point and loyalty to his veteran players sometimes comes at the detriment to the team. I like Rex, I really do, but he's a defensive coordinator and not a head coach in my book.
SBN: What franchise or NFL records could be broken this season?
GGN: I don't think any positive ones. Perhaps if Geno Smith starts the entire season in this pass friendly offensive system he could surpass most pass attempts by a rookie in his first season. A record currently held by Mark Sanchez who had 364 his rookie season in 2009. If Mark Sanchez plays the whole season he could well beat his record of most fumbles in a single season in franchise history, he holds the record of 14 which he set last season. If we want to look at a positive one that isn't outside the realms of possibility, perhaps Cromartie is capable of returning an interception for a touchdown more than 3 times this year, that's the current franchise record held by Otis Smith, who recorded that in 1997.
SBN: Which rookies will see regular playing time this year?
GGN: Most of them to be perfectly honest. Dee Milliner our first round selection will start opposite Antonio Cromartie in our base defense, as long as he can get healthy. He's currently injured, but said that he should be ready by week one. That's going to be a learning curve, he has all the talent in the world but starting opposite Cromartie who is one of the best corners in the game, he is going to be targeted early and frequently. It's up to him to show teams that's a bad idea.
Sheldon Richardson will also get plenty of work on the defensive line, especially with Coples struggling with injury and Ellis experiencing some back problems. He has a chance to really tie down his place and he's show great athleticism in the pre-season. He moves exceptionally quick for a big man and he could have a very big year in 2013 if he gets the playing time as expected.
Geno Smith looks like he'll start Week 1, with Sanchez injured and no real veteran alternatives it's going to be a baptism by fire. I think he'll get better as the year goes on and if we start him for the first few weeks I think we may as well see it through and let him learn on the job. He made a fair few errors against the Giants but what will separate him from Sanchez is whether he learns from them. He didn't make the same error twice, so lets see if he continues that trend.
Brian Winters our 3rd round selection will likely see a lot of time. He won't start the season as the LG, but we have Vlad Ducasse at that position and he has been highly inconsistent so I expect at some point we may see Winters in the game. I hope Vlad works out and then perhaps we have a future line that includes both of them at the Guard spots, as right now we have a fill-in at RG with veteran Willie Colon.
Finally Tommy Bohanon our late round FB will see action as the starter and will likely hold that spot throughout the season. He has been targeted on check down passes in the pre-season so he may well put some positive stats on the board.
SBN: Predict the order of finish in your division.
GGN: I think it is going to be as you were:
New England Patriots
New York Jets
I know that's not very positive but I think you can easily flip the Bills and Jets. From the division I only rate the Patriots, so we could easily finish 2nd if we have a better season than expected, or we could finish dead last if we have the season many expect us to. I saw Peter King had us at 3-13 in his season predictions.
SBN: What do you expect your season-end record will be?
There are so many variables, I think we can be from anywhere between 2-14 to 7-9. So I'm going to pop us in the middle at 5-11. It's not a write off season as we have young talent on this roster that need reps to improve so even if we do go 2-14 which I really don't think we will. It will be a good learning curve for a lot of players on the roster.