As the summer winds to its finish, gridiron die-hards are undoubtedly licking their lips at the prospect of a new NFL season. Now in August, training camps for all 32 NFL teams are underway, and on the heels of another fantastic season, this upcoming year of football already has many questions surrounding it. Can the New Orleans Saints become the fourth team in the last two decades to repeat as Superbowl champions? Which rookies will have impacts for their teams? Who is primed for a breakout season? Will Brett Favre be donning purple one more time?
In an attempt to ready fans for Kickoff Weekend (which begins with a rematch of the dramatic Saints-Vikings NFC Championship on Thursday September 9), I will be posting a team-by-team breakdown, armed with predictions, as well as players and rookies to look out for. ‘NFL At A Glance’ continues today in the AFC East with the New York Jets
Offence: The Jets come into this year as the most fascinating team in terms of storylines and the Jets offence has no shortage of them. Moving into his sophomore season, Quarterback Mark Sanchez will look to build on a strong ending to last season. GM Mike Tannenbaum has surrounded the oft-called “Sanchize” with weapons for his disposal in the forms of veterans LaDanian Tomlinson to pair in the backfield with rising star Shonn Greene out of Iowa and head case, Santonio Holmes to pair opposite Braylon Edwards. In order to keep everyone content, Sanchez is going to have to deal with these egos delicately. Expect third year Tight End Dustin Keller to further build on last post-season’s touchdown-a-game performance. Last season, Sanchez struggled out of the gate as a rookie Quarterback but expect Sanchez to ride the momentum of his strong playoffs last year into this season.
Defense: As much noise as the Jets have made in the offseason on the offensive side of the ball, they top that on defense. Coach Rex Ryan’s calling card has always been defense and he is never one to shy away from a challenge. Bringing in the likes of veteran Jason Taylor and outcast Antonio Cromartie into a defense that allowed only 14.8 points per game last year should allow them to move onto another level.
Starting from the inside with Bart Scott and David Harris, this defense has its sights set on Dallas for Super Bowl XLV. The return of Kris Jenkins from an ACL injury suffered in Week 6 last season should solidify the middle of this defense and make their 3-4 formation, nearly impossible to run against while still getting sufficient pressure from Rex Ryan’s exotic blitz packages. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the biggest story of the offseason involving the Jets defensive MVP as All Pro Darrelle Revis is currently holding out of team activities with a contract dispute. Known as the best lockdown corner in the game, Revis claims he is prepared to hold out for as long as necessary which leaves the ball in Mike Tannenbaum’s hands. Expect Revis to be ready for Week 1 versus the Ravens.
The Gang Green: Though Mark Sanchez has an abundance of weapons at his disposal the Jets will primarily follow the philosophy of pounding the ball behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. Captaining that line is All-Pro Center Nick Mangold along with two former first round picks in Damien Woody and D’Brickashaw Ferguson as bookend tackles. The lone question on the line comes at the left guard position as they drafted left tackle Vladimir Ducasse out of Massachusetts in hopes of sliding him over to guard to fill the void created by cutting Alan Faneca. Ducasse will be in direct competition with sophomore Matt Slauson but by seasons end, Ducasse should be entrenched in the guard position. Allowing only 30 sacks last year ranked the Jets 10th in the league in sacks allowed and expect that to improve as Faneca was their weakest link in pass protection. In the NFL, continuity plays a huge role in team success and the Jets line has uncanny stability as the 4 returning starters have not missed a start in 2 full seasons including Ferguson and Mangold who have not missed a start since being drafted in 2006.
The Kids are Alright: The Jets 2010 draft class is filled with potential impact players throughout. First rounder, Kyle Wilson out of Boise State should have an immediate impact at cornerback as he will likely play the slot in nickel packages. Wilson was one of the fastest risers in the draft and his ball-hawking abilities, as well as his skills in the return game will allow him to have an impact from day 1. As previously mentioned, Vladimir Ducasse should be starting at Left Guard and he will be viewed as an upgrade at the position. With their fourth round pick, the Jets elected to replace the departed Leon Washington with Running Back Joe McKnight from USC. McKnight should be able to replace Washington’s hands out of the backfield as well as his production on special teams. Lastly, the Jets nabbed John Conner out of Kentucky who is expected to compete with veteran Tony Richardson for the starting Full Back position.
Impact Forecast: The Jets run heavy offensive scheme should allow Shonn Greene to blossom into a fantasy stud. With Thomas Jones gone to KC and newly acquired L.T’s alarming production drop, Greene should be seeing a large increase in rush attempts from his 108 last season. The ’09 postseason was a coming out party for Greene and his bruising style, so expect heavy doses of this second year back, especially as the weather dips in the later months of the season.
The Jets receiving core will not replicate the stability provided by Shonn Greene for many reason. The ball is going to have to be spread around more due to the acquisition of malcontent Santonio Holmes, thus removing touches from Braylon Edwards and rising star, David Clowney. Even with the skills that some of these Jets receivers have, the quantity of quality players catching balls should prevent any of them from putting up big numbers.
Mark Sanchez should progress from last year’s sub par regular season as he continues to get accustom to the NFL’s speed. His leadership is unquestioned but he is not ready or expected to put up big numbers. His touchdown to interception ratio should even out from his abysmal 12:20 ratio from last year but he will continue to make some bad decisions.
Schedule Outlook: The Jets go into the 2010 season facing a combined opponents record of 128-128, which would seemingly bode well for them. This record though is deceiving due to four extremely weak games (Buffalo twice, Cleveland and Detroit) in which the Jets should take handily. The Jets got lucky to draw both Minnesota and Green Bay at home because those should be some of the toughest matches of the season. The last six games of the season should cause some troubles in the weather department as they have to travel to Gillette Stadium, Heinz Field and Soldier Field while also hosting Cincinnati, Miami and Buffalo in the brand new Meadowlands Stadium. These six games should test the Jets toughness in cold weather and prepare them for what looks to be a deep run in the playoffs.
Prediction: With the plethora of offseason moves made by the Jets, this team should take some time to gel. The HBO cameras will be rolling at Jets camp and the distractions will be aplenty but this Jets team has too much talent to fall flat on its face. Expect Sanchez to develop into an adequate starter as he hands it off to Pro Bowl candidate Shonn Greene. Jason Taylor should be seeing less time on the field as he will be used on situational passing downs but expect his production to be equal, if not better then last year a la John Abraham. The Jets should compete with the Patriots for the division and Coach Rex Ryan won’t shy away from his goal of Super Bowl or bust so expect a long playoff run.
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