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Pessimistic Team Preview

One pundit doesn't think too much of the 2009 Jets.

The Jets D is only a cheap ersatz of the Ravens’. Newly-acquired inside linebacker Bart Scott is an intelligent, blistering tackle machine who can play the part of Ray Lewis. But he’s a poor man’s Ray Lewis. Overpaid rush-linebacker Calvin Pace looks almost like a carbon copy of Terrell Suggs. Indeed, Pace––who is an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than Suggs––shows the same relentless motor that makes the Ravens’ stud great. But Pace is not great. He’s simply pretty good. Safety Kerry Rhodes might be great, but being a true facsimile of Ed Reed means being legendary. The acclaimed fifth-year pro is not legendary.

But maybe none of these guys have to be superstars. Maybe New York’s defense can thrive with just regular stars. Ryan––who, in addition to Scott, signed former Ravens Marques Douglas (defensive end) and Jim Leonhard (safety) to help instill familiarity with his complex hybrid 3-4––might actually have a better collection of role players to work with here than he had in Baltimore. If he can uncover a pass-rushing diamond or two––we’re all looking at you, Vernon Gholston––he’ll easily improve New York’s 29th ranked pass coverage. And he’s already stated on the record that nobody can run on his D.

There are a lot of issues with this analysis. First off, the Jets don't need to have as good of a defense as Baltimore's to have an excellent one. Bart Scott won't be playing the role of Ray Lewis. He'll be playing the role of Bart Scott. David Harris will be the Ray Lewis. Pace and Suggs aren't comparable. Suggs' main job is to get after the quarterback on the weak side. Pace can rush the passer but has greater run responsibilities on the strong side. I'm not saying the Jets have a better defense than the Ravens, but the author sells Gang Green short. At his best, Kris Jenkins is more disruptive than Haloti Ngata, and the Revis-Sheppard cornerback duo beats what Baltimore has. Rhodes isn't Reed, and Harris isn't Lewis. Both are borderline Pro Bowl players, though.

Twenty-five-year-old fringe receiver Wallace Wright was impressive in offseason camps and may push Brad Smith, an ex-college quarterback who must become more than just a crafty gadget player this year. Of all these receivers, Smith has the best sheer creativity. But, also like all these receivers, he lacks straight-line speed.

I don't really get this statement. First of all, the author ignores Chansi Stuckey and David Clowney, who are probably the two front runners in the position battle. Clowney does have great straight line speed. At any rate, straight line speed isn't the end all of receiver play. Route running and hands are more important.

The Jets have unusually high expectations for a team featuring a first-year head coach and rookie quarterback. However, those high expectations are largely self-created. This season comes down to the passing attack. Can Mark Sanchez flourish right away, and can this commonplace receiving core elevate to a level of acceptability? The defense lacks a premium pass-rusher, but Rex Ryan is crafty enough to fashion pressure schematically. It’s not quite a defense rigid enough to carry the team for 16 weeks, though. And with a developing offense, that’s probably what it’ll have to do.

Predicted: 4th AFC East

Anything can happen, but I don't see how the Bills are better at this point.