As the offseason begins, Gang Green Nation will take a look at potential ways to improve the club. Today we will explore starting Erik Ainge at quarterback.
Profile: Ainge had a good college career at Tennessee. Back in 2004, he broke Peyton Manning's school record for touchdown passes by a freshman with 17. This earned him the SEC Offensive Freshman of the Year Award. He was plagued by inconsistency and injuries during a rocky sophomore campaign. He led the Vols to a 7-1 start during his junior year of 2006 in which he put up the best stats of his career to that point, but an ankle injury derailed both his and his team's season. Ainge only improved in his senior year in which he threw 31 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions and led Tennessee to the SEC East Championship.This combination of production and adequate physical ability had many pundits believing the Jets had a steal when they took him in the fifth round of the 2008 Draft. However, Erik had a subpar rookie campaign. He was badly outplayed by Brett Ratliff in camp and in the preseason and left the coaching staff underwhelmed. He would have been cut had the Jets not decided to keep an unconventional four quarterbacks on the roster. Erik did not play a down during his rookie season, which included a four game suspension for violating the league's steroid policy and ended with Ainge placed on IR.
Why It Makes Sense: Ainge's great career came even though he played against the speed and athleticism of SEC defenses. He was clearly integral to Tennessee's success as team tanked without him in 2008. He learned under David Cutcliffe, a coach who helped develop both Manning brothers when they were in college. Despite his rookie struggles, he still has the track record of success and the physical ability a lot of pundits loved when he came out of college. With a year under his belt, Ainge might be ready to make a big leap. A fourth quarterback seldom takes a snap so for the Jets to have used up a roster spot just to keep him in 2008, they must have seen a lot they liked in terms of future potential.
Odds of Happening: For talents like Ainge, it can all come together suddenly. It also may never come together. If it does come together over the offseason, he might be the starter under center in Week 1.