By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
It’s been an interesting offseason to say the least. Former GM Mike Tannenbaum was let go, in comes Jeff Izdik, who retains coach Rex Ryan, for now. The team’s best player gets traded to the Bucs which in addition to a future 2014 pick results in the drafting of a super quick, talented but enigmatic defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.
Stuck with the awful contract of a lame duck quarterback, Izdik has no choice but to keep Mark Sanchez on the roster. When once heralded QB Geno Smith falls to round two, the Jets make a move to snag him. Causing a whirlwind of opinions, both positive and negative. And that is all before the team went into training camp!
Now that the roster is beginning to solidify, let’s take a look at each position group and assess what Gang Green has to work with.
It looks like the whole crew is on board with starting Geno week one. Based on Smith’s play this preseason there will be some turbulence no doubt, but he is the answer long term. Or at least the Jets hope.
Coming out of West Virginia he showed both brilliance and incompetence, and was a very streaky passer. Yet, as a whole he was very impressive from a potential standpoint so it will be up to the coaching staff to get the most out of him. How he develops might even be the key to Ryan’s future as coach.
One thing you expect to see from a young, highly touted quarterback is improvement. The fact that the word “regression” is more apt to describe Sanchez’s development is scary. Frankly, he was a high risk prospect with very limited experience coming out of USC at a time when the Jets, who were ready to compete, simply needed a reliable starter to guide the offense while Rex’s defense dominated opponents.
Those days are over and it looks like Sanchez’s days as the Jets QB will be over after the season ends. That’s if he even gets a shot this year. The current injury makes that somewhat murky.
The son of a New York legend (albeit a Giants legend) was very impressive vs the Eagles in the regular season finale. He was playing against second string talent, but also had the most consistent performance of any Jets quarterback all preseason going 33 for 43 and playing the entire game.
He has a strong arm and the tools to possibly get a crack as a starter down the road, so the decision to keep him on the roster is a wise one. Especially considering the question marks at the top of the depth chart and the possibility of dangling him as a trade chip too.
This move raised some eyebrows. Why would a team clearly in a rebuilding mode add a 28 year old quarterback that is no longer considered starting material? If you want my honest opinion I would have added someone younger with more upside.
I’ve had to eat some humble pie as one of my favorite quarterback prospects couldn’t even make the Raiders! But wouldn’t it make more sense to take a flier on Tyler Wilson if you were going to hold an extra roster spot at quarterback? Unless Sanchez’s injury is more serious than previously thought, I don’t understand this move. Why Khalil Bell was cut and Quinn was added doesn’t seem to add up.
Grade: Current C, Future B
What to expect: Geno has the goods, but his deficencies are glaring too and how he works to improve on them will be the key to the 2013 Jets season
Powell shows some ability last year, but realistically he is a pretty weak number one running back. As a second back, what he would be if Chris Ivory can stay healthy, I actually think he’s very solid. With an unstable situation at quarterback the one thing you’d like to see is a productive backfield to remove some of that pressure on the passing game. It looks like Geno Smith might not have that luxury.
It’s hard not to like Ivory, who has a nice burst and relishes the opportunity to run over helpless tacklers. It’s also hard to feel comfortable with him as the most talented back on the roster. He simply hasn’t proven he can stay healthy.
The Packers leading rusher last year is actually a pretty nice addition as the third back, but it was surprising the Jets brass chose to bring in a fresh body at such a late stage in the process when a seemingly improving Khalil Bell was playing well as of late.
The Wake Forest rookie will serve as the lone fullback on the roster and should be a major plus for fellow rookie Smith. A tough and versatile player, T-Bo will help out in passing game and also function as a blocker as the last line of defense.
What to expect: A solid overall group without a star or even a proven playmaker will get a boost when Mike Goodson returns from suspension.
LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson
One of the few legitimate building blocks the Jets roster can boast, the former first round stud out of Virginia is a franchise level left tackle. He isn’t the cream of the crop like Russell Okung, Ryan Clady, Duane Brown or Joe Thomas, but is still one the edge of elite in my opinion. He was ranked the #14 best left tackle by Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller back in February 2012 and then again in 2013, which seems a bit of an undervaluation.
G Willie Colon
The former Steeler should be a solid veteran presence on the interior and help teach new drafted Brian Winters and Oday Aboushi how to succeed in the NFL. He isn’t elite, but should be a solid and steady contributor in 2013.
C Nick Mangold
One of the best centers in the league, Mangold is a physical mauler and hard worker who can be counted on to secure the interior. If Sanchez wants to butt fumble his way to defeat so be it, but it won’t be because Mangold failed to do his job.
G Vladimir Ducasse
One of the starting spots still up in the air is inside at guard. Will the talented and athletic former second round pick Ducasse show enough improvement to start or will rookie Brian Winters use his strength to power his way into the starting role?
RT Austin Howard
Howard’s success last year was a bit of a welcomed surprise. Statistically he was one of the better right tackles in football. His big frame and good enough feet allowed him to grab hold of the starting job. Expect more solid if not spectacular play out of him this year.
What to Expect: This is clearly the best offensive unit on a terrible offensive team. Yahoo! Sports ranked it the #16 best in the league. They should be a full 5-10 slots higher.
Hill, who came out of Georgia Tech’s unique triple option offense, is about as raw as they come. He is also one of the more athletically gifted receivers in the league. This will be a seminal year for Hill as his improvement will be counted on, especially if Santonio Holmes misses significant time.
Holmes is a very good receiver when fully healthy. Most people forget that he was a major component to the Steelers Super Bowl run back in 2011. It looks like he will unfortunately start the season on the bench. There are a lot of ifs, but if Hill can begin to materialize some of that potential and if Holmes can get 100% a Holmes. Hill combo on the outside could actually become pretty legitimate. Caution, that statement requires some serious ifs.
To me, Kerley is one of the few bright spots on the Jets offense outside of the O-line. He isn’t flashy or a standout athlete, but is incredibly effective working out of the slot. As a number three and primary slot receiver, Kerley is actually a guy you can count on to produce.
He hasn’t quite put it to use in a noticeable way just yet, but Gates can fly. Watching his college tape leaves you thinking that as a return man and deep ball threat on offense, this guy has some ability. However, its very hard to judge his overall play-making ability beyond the pure speed as all of those yards came against FCS competition. As a pro there have been glimpses, but the Jets need more sustained production.
A Jersey kid who also played his college ball at an FCS program, Spodola has been a surprise performer this preseason. He pairs a big and strong 6’3 frame with the hands and toughness to go over the middle. He could get a chance to see some actual NFL action in five wide receiver sets and occasionally outside as an X receiver.
What to expect: This group has a lot of raw talent, but the only one we can really count on is Jeremy Kerley out of the slot.
Mainly a receiving only option, Cumberland is a solid passing threat. As the best tight end on the roster he will be counted on to make plays and give Smith a safe outlet. If not things could get ugly. Cumberland is no scrub, but is also a very questionable #1 NFL tight end.
Is the fountain of youth real? Probably not, but if it is the Jets may have gotten a steal. Winslow was once a top tight end, but those days are clearly over. The question is whether he can recapture some of that success as he gets older.
A viable H-back type who could provide some depth and versatility, but is by no means someone we can expect to give the anemic Jets offense much of a jolt.
What to expect: Cumberland is okay, Winslow was good and as a unit they are pretty awful.
DE Muhammad Wilkerson
Maybe the Jets best overall player, Wilkerson has been praised by several sources as an underrated, yet dominant defender. He made the All-22 team, a roster Grantland is putting together that focuses on under appreciated players who deserve more attention. He also was Pro Football Focus’s #14 best overall player in 2012. That fact he missed the Pro Bowl is laughable.
DT Kendrick Ellis
Ellis is no doubt a potential dominant nose tackle in the league, but ever since his days at Hampton there has been inconsistencies with his game. If he can improve his technique along with his motor, he could be special.
DE Sheldon Richardson
Another Jets defensive lineman who is blessed with athleticism and also explosive speed unique to his position is Richardson. I initially questioned his fit in a 3-4 based scheme as well as his overall maturity level. Those concerns are still valid, but as the Jets mix in more hybrid sets the question of fit will be mitigated. One thing you can’t question is the talent.
What to expect: This group is money. They might not get national attention but Mo Wilkerson is a beast, Ellis has massive upside (along with being literally massive) and Richardson is instantly one of the quicker more explosive 3-4 ends in the league.
OLB Quinton Coples
One would think his long frame and athleticism would be ideally suited to play the attacking 3-4 OLB in Rex’s system. The Jets are clearly counting on that, but let’s not completely forget that transition also comes with increased responsibilities in pass coverage while exposed in the open field. Not saying he can’t excel, but he is still unproven in that regard.
ILB David Harris
Harris is still a nice player, but is a few years removed from a cap hit of $13 million, which he will command this year. The Jets need him to at least hold steady as a major decline could really hurt a line-backing corps that is anything but proven at this point.
ILB Demario Davis
Don’t overlook Davis. He might be a player ready to make the most of his opportunity and seize a spot long term. A good athlete still learning the inside linebacker position, Davis has the ability to improve this year.
OLB Calvin Pace
Another aging former star who will look to turn back the clock. He can still get after the passer but isn’t the double digit sack machine he once was.
What to expect: Two over the hill veterans who once played at a Pro Bowl level and two young athletes with a lot to learn. Don’t expect a lot from this group right away.
For all the talk of losing Darrelle Revis I think the skills of Cromartie get overlooked by some. He is long, fast and experienced in coverage and should help buoy an otherwise young and learning group.
Drafting the consensus top corner at #9 was a good step towards cushioning the blow left by losing an All-Pro in Darrelle Revis. Milliner has all the tools but for several reasons (injuries and skill-set) I think he’ll be a potential disappointment in 2013.
Walls is a great story and is now looking more and more like a starting corner in the NFL. A great student at Notre Dame, Walls ran a 4.42 but nevertheless went undrafted before making the Falcons. Despite that undrafted label Walls has some serious athleticism and speed so him eventually earning a starting nod over first rounder Milliner is not out of the question. In fact its pretty likely.
What to expect: Cromartie is very good when healthy, Milliner is a well-rounded rookie, Walls is actually quite fast and instinctive and Kyle Wilson is an underachiever. On the surface no Revis looks like a downgrade, but there is actual talent and depth present.
Landry is the brother of the now former Jets safety and is good enough to be a placeholder until they find a true long term solution. I certainly thought that some of the safeties available in the later rounds like Josh Evans or John Boyett would have been the way to go, but that’s another debate.
With Allen there are flashes of good and flashes of bad. The Jets will have to hope there starts to be more of the good. There is some raw ability to work with, but there needs to be a lot of work done before he is a legitimate starting NFL safety.
What to expect: Landry is a stopgap and Allen has been anything but reliable. Expect this group to be a lot different in 2014.
Also take a listen to Stephen A’s interesting take on the Jets 2013 draft