Quarterback- Heading into the 2006 NFL season, the New York Jets don’t have the quarterback crisis they thought they were going to have heading into the 2006 NFL draft. Instead of selecting Matt Leinart, Vince Young, or Jay Cutler, the Jets wisely selected dominating tackle D’Brickshaw Ferguson to anchor their offensive line for the next twelve to fifteen years. The Jets’ quarterback situation in the 2006 NFL season depends entirely on Chad Pennington’s health and his ability to return from a couple of injury marred seasons. Coach Eric Mangini does have some arms to go to in the absence of Pennington, including free agent pickup Patrick Ramsey, veterans Jay Fiedler and Brooks Bollinger, and rookie Kellen Clemens. Pennington is going to beat out Ramsey for the starting position, while Ramsey is going to beat out Fiedler and Bollinger for the backup spot. Ramsey may earn himself a spot as the Jets’ starter with another Pennington trip to the IR. At the third spot, highly regarded Kellen Clemens will win the spot and look to develop as the Jets’ quarterback of the future. Pennington won’t last the entire 2006 NFL season and Ramsey will get another chance to prove his worth in the NFL.
2006 NFL Grade: B-
Running Back/ Full Back- The New York Jets are set at fullback for the 2006 NFL season, with B.J. Askew developing into a solid blocking and receiving back to compliment the stable of running backs they have. However, Curtis Martin showed signs of wear last season and running backs don’t get better with age. Martin will gradually be replaced by the winner of a battle between Cedric Houston and Derrick Blaylock, with Houston showing the most promise at the end of the 2005 NFL season. Houston and Blaylock in the backfield is decent, but not overwhelming.
2006 NFL Grade: C+
Wide Receiver/ Tight End- The Jets have two solid tight ends in Doug Jolley and Chris Baker and if they stay away from injuries and keep their heads in the game, Pennington and Ramsey will have solid targets to break down zone defenses. The Jets’ receiving group is young and athletic, but is also inexperienced and needs to make plays for the quarterback instead of the quarterback making plays for them. Outside of Laveraneus Coles, the New York Jets have a very one-dimensional receiving corps in the 2006 NFL season. Tim Dwight has proven his ability as a return man and fourth receiver, but is too small (read: Wayne Chrebet) to be a full time receiver. Justin McCareins hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential as a receiver and it seems the Jets may be hotter on Jerricho Cotchery as a second receiver. Anyway you slice it, the Jets have troubles in the receiving group for 2006.
2006 NFL Grade: C
Offensive Line- The Jets’ offensive line got instantly credible with the addition of rookie tackle (and giant) D’Brickshaw Ferguson with their first round draft pick. Ferguson will fit in immediately as the left tackle, trying to protect Chad Pennington from more wear and tear. On the other side, the Jets will start Adrian Jones, with backup Sean Morley getting some time in relief. On the interior, the Jets have to be happy with their ability to run the ball into the teeth of the defense with veteran guard Pete Kendall, young guard Brandon Moore, and rookie center Nick Mangold driving a wedge into the first and second levels. A cautionary note, however: while this offensive line is pretty talented, look for a turnaround in the first four games, after two or three of these starters go down to injury.
2006 NFL Grade: B
Defensive Line- The 2006 NFL season needs to be a good one for youngster defensive tackle DeWayne Robertson and defensive end Shaun Ellis, as the Jets are looking to these two talented players to step up as team leaders. The duo should do well this season as they get defensive tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen to play alongside or relieve Robertson (depending on defensive structure) and have a couple of solid defensive ends to ease the pressure off of Ellis. Bryan Thomas should start the 2006 NFL season opposite Ellis.
2006 NFL Grade: B
Linebacker- The New York Jets’ linebacking group is probably the best part of the team in the 2006 NFL season, with a solid group of starters and some good supporting pieces. The top four linebackers on the Jets are Brad Kassell (free agent from Tennessee), Jonathan Vilma, Eric Barton, and Victor Hobson, all of whom are solid, talented linebackers who can fit interchangeably in Eric Mangini’s scheme. Look for the linebackers to make a lion’s share of the big plays on defense this year and that share will need to be lion’s share of the big plays in almost every game in the 2006 NFL season.
2006 NFL Grade: B+
Defensive Back- Emerging out of a pack of contenders will come a Jets secondary that will be hard working but ultimately not up to the challenge in the 2006 NFL season. Andre Dyson and Ray Mickens will end up as the starters, because of Dyson’s sheer talent and Mickens’ experience on the corner. In the safety spots, look for a platoon of Kerry Rhodes, Erik Coleman, and Victor Green early on before the Jets settle on Rhodes and Coleman for the entire season. This secondary shouldn’t scare a lot of teams, but I don’t think it will be the big plays that kill them. It will be the shorter routes and methodical drives that wear down this crew.
2006 NFL Grade- C-
Kicker/Punter- The New York Jets will go with youth in their specialist positions in the 2006 NFL season, with second year kicker Mike Nugent continuing his development into a solid kicker and youngster Ben Graham the only punter in camp at this point. Graham will need to give the New York Jets good field position in the 2006 NFL season if they are going to be able to win games and while Graham may have some promise, I just don’t see him doing enough to give them an edge on special teams.
2006 NFL Grade: C
2006 NFL Projection- The New York Jets will struggle, finishing 6-10 and racing with the Buffalo Bills towards the bottom of the AFC East.