2009 final record (overall, division): 9-7, 2-4
Division finish: 2nd AFC East
Offensive rank (Points, Total Yards, Passing Yards, Rushing Yards): 17th, 20th, 31st, 1st
Defensive rank (Points, Total Yards, Passing Yards, Rushing Yards): 1st, 1st, 1st, 8th
2009 Individual Statistical Leaders
Rushing: Thomas Jones, 1,402 yards, 14 TD
Passing: Mark Sanchez, 2,444 yards, 12 TD, 20 INT
Receiving: Jerricho Cotchery, 821 yards, 3 TD
Tackles: David Harris, 127 total tackles
Sacks: Calvin Pace, 8.0 sacks
Interceptions: Darrelle Revis, 6 interceptions (1 touchdown)
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2010 Season Outlook
September 13 vs Baltimore: On offense, this game will be about two teams with young, promising quarterbacks surrounded by phenomenal supporting casts. On defense, you have two blitz-happy 3-4 defenses. The edge here goes to the Jets, as they have a much better defensive backfield.
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October 11 vs Minnesota: The Jets entered the offseason intent on rebuilding, adding Santonio Holmes, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Jason Taylor to their roster that had gone to the AFC Championship game last year. This team will be tough for the Vikings to beat, especially if their offseason additions do mesh well with the team. This will be a hard-fought game, with both teams equally capable of airing it out or running the ball down opponents' throats. While the Jets' defensive backfield has more speed, this advantage will likely be negated by the Vikings' better quarterback play. This matchup appears too close to call ahead of time. This will be a big win for whoever leaves the field victorious.
October 31 vs Green Bay: Most of what I said about the Vikings' matchup against the Jets applies to this game, too. The Jets' blitz-happy front seven are going to throw everything they've got at Aaron Rodgers, so the Packers’ offensive line's performance is going to be absolutely critical in this game.
December 12 vs Miami: This late-season game has the potential to be a monumental tipping point in the AFC East race. The Dolphins have a better offense than the Jets do, but the Jets’ defense will neutralize that advantage. This game will probably play out similarly to the Dolphins-Jets matchup on Monday Night Football last year, with the win going to whoever has the ball last.
Thomas Jones, RB; Alan Faneca, OG; Jay Feely, K; Leon Washington, RB
Key Returning Players
Mark Sanchez, QB; Shonn Greene, RB
Key Draft Picks
Kyle Wilson, CB; Vladimir Ducasse, OG; John Conner, FB
Key Free Agent Signings
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB; Jason Taylor, OLB; Brodney Pool, FS, Nick Folk, K
Key Acquisitions via Trade
Santonio Holmes, WR; Antonio Cromartie, CB
The Jets have built themselves into a power-running team, but they let running back Thomas Jones walk in free agency this offseason, and they traded Leon Washington to the Seattle Seahawks. This means that the bulk of the carries on this team will go to second-year running back Shonn Greene. Greene is great at keeping his legs under him and moving, and is especially great at running up the middle, where he simply plows through defenders for big gains. He can pretty effective to the outside if he’s able to build up speed on a pitch, but he isn’t able to accelerate quickly after making cuts. Lead-blocking for Greene will probably be rookie fullback John Conner, who the coaches absolutely loved this preseason. Rookie running back Joe McKnight from USC has pretty good speed, but he has sorely disappointed the Jets with his performance in the preseason. For the Jets to develop a dangerous outside run game like what they had before Washington broke his leg in week 6, they may have to rely a little bit on receiver Brad Smith, a former University of Missouri quarterback. Last year against the Bengals, the Jets used a couple of different formations where Smith received the snap, and he was able to run with the ball. He devastated the Bengals’ defense when when he lined up under center and ran the option with Greene, and this would be the exact type of play that the Jets could sprinkle in and see major benefits from. The Jets also signed former Charger and 2006 MVP LaDainian Tomlinson this offseason, a move that was treated with derision by skeptics who rightly pointed out that Tomlinson is past his prime. Even though Tomlinson has lost most of the explosiveness that made him the league’s best back a few years ago, he still occasionally recaptures that magic for a play or two and it completely takes defenses by surprise. He’s also a great route-runner with soft hands, and he should factor into the Jets’ passing game as well.
Along with Tomlinson, the Jets have quite a few weapons to help move the chains through the air. Right now, their only three wide receivers are Smith, Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards. Edwards is a big-bodied deep threat who can make big plays, but has inconsistent hands and concentration, so that prevents him from living up to his potential and becoming a superstar. Cotchery has good hands but isn’t a deep threat, and Smith is a great slot receiver. The Jets have occasionally used running back Danny Woodhead in the slots before, and they may do so again when they have to go four-wide, at least until Santonio Holmes returns from his suspension. When Holmes returns, the Jets will have an insanely fast deep threat who runs phenomenal routes. The only problem is, it is unclear if Holmes can stay out of trouble in the city where former Steelers go to shoot themselves in the leg. In Pittsburgh, Holmes wasn’t even the worst-behaved player on the roster, but he brings a lot of baggage to New York and the spotlight will be on him if he gets into any trouble at all. Holmes has put together an impressive rap sheet in his years as a professional football player, and his lack of common sense is apparent - his public admission via Twitter that he was about to smoke marijuana earned him a four-game suspension this year. On the field he’s a great player, but off the field the Jets have to be worried that he’ll do something foolish to get himself suspended again. Tight end Dustin Keller isn’t a great blocker, but he is a safety outlet for quarterback Mark Sanchez to throw to as he is moved all over the field to create mismatches for opponents’ defenses.
Throwing the ball to all these weapons will be quarterback Mark Sanchez. While he’s taken a lot of heat for his 12 to 20 TD-INT ratio, a closer breakdown of his statistics paints an interesting picture. In four games, he accumulated a disastrous 2 to 15 ratio (Week 4 at New Orleans, Week 6 vs. Buffalo, Week 11 at New England, and Week 15 vs. Atlanta), meaning that in the other 11 games in which he played (he missed a start at Tampa Bay), his ratio was 10 to 5, which is great. This is a huge disparity that merits further inspection. New Orleans and New England are both teams whose defenses are great at confusing even the most experienced of quarterbacks, so a rookie performing that poorly against them is no surprise. Coincidentally, both the Buffalo game and the Atlanta game happened to be on my local channels when no better games were on, and I saw them both. The common bond between those two is that it was snowing. A quick glance at Sanchez’s Wikipedia page reveals the following information: “Sanchez was born and raised in Southern California.” This information, along with his performance in those two games, would suggest that the California native is majorly uncomfortable playing in the snow, but another season or two of playing for a New York team should change that. One thing that Sanchez does extremely well is keeping his eyes down the field when he rolls out of the pocket. Most quarterbacks’ eyes stay right in front of them, looking to make sure nobody’s coming at them, but Sanchez is conscious of the entire field and this makes him better able to find open receivers when he is on the run. Neither the difficulty of the Saints’ and Patriots’ defenses nor Sanchez’s discomfort in snow should be considered excuses for his performance; they are merely explanations given to provide an understanding of what his weaknesses are. Until he gets used to reading advanced defenses and playing in the snow, Sanchez will be a good game-manager who can’t win games for the team, but can be counted on not to lose them.
The Jets’ offensive line is a major part of the reason that Greene rushed for 5.0 yards per carry and Sanchez took only 26 sacks despite being a rookie who has yet to learn some of the finer aspects of pocket presence. Left tackle D’Brickshaw Ferguson consistently plays at a high level, and he ensures that Sanchez doesn’t have to worry about his blind side. Left guard is the line’s only concern, with starter Matt Slauson blocking so poorly that coach Rex Ryan made Sanchez start wearing a knee brace as a preventative measure. If Slauson continues to struggle, rookie Vladimir Ducasse might get a look. However, left guard isn’t going to kill the entire offense, because the skills of Ferguson and center Nick Mangold usually allow the Jets’ line to compensate for Slauson’s bad blocking. Mangold is one of the best centers in the game, and he fully earned every penny of the contract extension that made him the highest-paid center in the league this summer. Right guard Brandon Moore plays with good technique, and right tackle Damien Woody is an absolute mauler. Fullback Tony Richardson, who was cut after training camp, was brought back mainly to pass-block, because he is better at that than John Conner is. The Jets are actually lucky that Richardson accepted their offer to re-sign him, because he was contemplating a major career change.
"I actually called down to Miami and I talked to D-Wade and LeBron to see if they needed help down there," Richardson told the Associated Press. "I think they were set, so I thought this was my best opportunity to win a championship." Richardson’s pass-blocking is superior to Conner’s.
Despite the season-ending loss of nose tackle Kris Jenkins in October of last year, the Jets’ defense still allowed less yards per game than any other team. Jenkins’ replacement, Sione Pouha, is undersized and couldn’t command double-teams, which a 3-4 nose tackle absolutely has to do. While this would cause most defenses to fall apart, Rex Ryan’s brilliant schemes were able to compensate for this. With Jenkins back in the middle of the line, the defense will just be flat-out nasty. Left defensive end Shaun Ellis has an impressive blend of size and strength, and he can both rush the passer and clog running lanes. On the right side of the line, former linebacker Vernon Gholston will play behind Mike DeVito, who is more of a speed rusher than a strength guy.
The linebacking corps will benefit greatly from the line’s ability to take on more blocks now that Jenkins is back. Inside linebacker Bart Scott is a tremendous blitzer with great closing speed , and next to him is David Harris, who has excellent lateral range. On the outside will be Bryan Thomas, who is a great athlete with surprising strength for his small size. Opposite of Thomas will be Jason Taylor, who was expected to play only pass-rushing downs, but will now be a full-time starter now that starter Calvin Pace is recovering from foot surgery. When Pace comes back, he and Taylor will rotate to keep each other fresh.
Although last year’s defensive backfield was very good at shutting down passing games, the Jets still made two big moves to upgrade it over the offseason. The first move was the trade that brought Antonio Cromartie to New York. Cromartie is blazing-fast and plays well in man coverage, but due to a bad hip he was often timid in run support. He also doesn’t play too well in zone coverage, but his man-on-man skills make those weaknesses in his game worth it. The second big move the Jets made at cornerback was drafting Kyle Wilson, who started in lieu of Darrelle Revis during Revis’s holdout and played well. With Revis, an outstanding corner who moves all over the field to constantly cover his opponents’ top receiver, back in the fold, the Jets will have an outstanding nickel package, and the addition of Brodney Pool, who led the Browns in interceptions last year, means the Jets will be strong in dime situations as well. Strong safety Jim Leonhard has good athleticism and is a ferocious hitter, and free safety Eric Smith is great in coverage.
On top of the defense’s ridiculous amount of talent, the Jets are aided by Rex Ryan’s advanced defensive schemes. Everybody knows that Ryan likes to blitz, but that is certainly not all there is to his defense. What’s more important is what happens when the Jets don’t blitz, sending the typical number of four pass-rushers. Ryan is brilliant at disguising his zone coverages so that opposing quarterbacks can’t read his defense before the snap, and as a result, they don’t know where everybody is going to be.
Special Teams Overview
The Jets weren’t great in kickoff coverage, coming in 23rd in average kickoff return distance allowed despite having the 14th-best average kickoff distance. Although ranked 26th in average kickoff distance, the Jets came in 13th-best in yards allowed per punt return.
After Leon Washington suffered his season-ending injury, Brad Smith took over as the main kickoff returner, averaging 31.0 yards per return and scoring a touchdown on one return. The Jets’ main punt return man this preseason has been Joe McKnight, whose impressive average of 19.8 yards per return includes one 67-yard return.
Last year’s kicker Jay Feely signed with the Arizona Cardinals this offseason, and the Jets replaced him with former Cowboy Nick Folk, who is looking to rebound from a horrendous 2009 season where he made only 64.3 percent of attempts. This preseason he was 7 of 9, which is decent but not impressive.
Head Coach: Rex Ryan
Lost in the talk of Ryan’s boisterous nature and profane rants is the fact that his players love playing for him. His team is always fired up and ready to play, and the players truly look up to him and respect him. For this reason, his trip to Florida to visit with Darrelle Revis probably played a bigger role in Revis’s return that it gets credit for. Ryan has assembled a smashmouth team that is very aware of how good they are, and he has a pretty high chance of winning a Super Bowl in only his second season.
Top 2011 Free Agents
Santonio Holmes, WR; Braylon Edwards, WR; Antonio Cromartie, CB
1st AFC East
There’s too much talent on this team for them not to win the division. Rex Ryan’s defensive schemes give opposing quarterbacks nightmares, the defense will only be better than last year with the return of Kris Jenkins, and the Jets’ offensive line will blow you off the ball every time. The most important position to watch on this team is left tackle. If Vladimir Ducasse or Matt Slauson can shake their preseason struggles, the line will be absolutely impenetrable and Mark Sanchez will have the time and weapons to bring this team their first Super Bowl ring since 1968. - Hank Koebler, IV
Hank is a sports journalist attending the University of Missouri's school of journalism.
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