For the New York Jets, who were oh so close to AFC superiority under former head coach, Herman Edwards, it’s back to the drawing board.
Enter new head coach, Eric Mangini, a 35-year-old, “wunderkind” who is supposedly up to the task of taking on the New York media while simultaneously rebuilding a franchise that took an immense step backwards last season because of several key injuries.
Not only are the Jets in a full-fledged rebuilding mode, but two of their division rivals (Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots) appear as if they will be in the upper echelon of the AFC.
Here’s my preview on the New York Jets for 2006.
To be honest about it, I am already having a hard time believing that Mangini is the budding genius he has been described has. I mean, how hard is it to see that Chad Pennington is the best quarterback on the roster?
I know Pennington’s health is always a huge question mark for the Jets, but when he is healthy, there is no doubt that he has what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
And what does it say about Mangini’s football acumen that he would even bring in former Washington Redskins washout, Patrick Ramsey to “compete” for the starter’s position?
Heck , Ramsey can’t even beat out the Jets’ other backup, Brooks Bollinger, for the number two spot. Rookie, Kellen Clemens, may one day be the star that many think he can become one day, but that day and time is certainly not now. In short, the Jets have no other answer but to turn to Pennington. If he goes down with another injury however, the Jets can kiss their slim hopes of a successful season goodbye.
For a guy just taking over, I’d hate to be Mangini right now. Not only is his quarterback situation tenuous at best, but the Jets are also in dire need of a starting running back with future Hall of Famer, Curtis Martin, apparently on the shelf for what could turn out to be a much longer period than originally expected.
Even when Martin does return, he is 33-years-old and certainly not the back he was just a couple of seasons ago. Veteran, Derrick Blaylock or youngster, Cedric Houston had better pick up the slack or the Jets may be forced to wear Pennington’s arm out by mid-season.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
The Jets have Laveranues Coles, Justin McCareins and Tim Dwight as their top three receivers, which isn’t a bad trio to have. No they’re not going to leave any tread marks on anyone, but they are all competent veterans who know how to hang on to the ball. Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith are slated to be backups.
Doug Jolley is back to man the tight end position along with Chris Baker, who is probably the future at this position for the Jets. In short, the Jets have a slew of competent receivers, but not one game breaker – unless you still consider Coles one, which I don’t.
I realize that tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson is an absolute beast that is probably bound for the Hall of Fame, but I still disagree with the Jets’ decision to pass on Matt Leinart. I mean, Ferguson is going to look like an All-Pro at some point in his career, but that won’t matter at all if the Jets’ signal caller at the time is an incompetent failure.
However, Ferguson and former Ohio State center Nick Mangold, should form a solid foundation for the Jets for years to come. Right now though, the Jets will go with Pete Kendall at left guard, Trey Teague at center, and Brandon Moore and Adrian Jones on the right side – uninspiring names at best.
The loss of John Abraham in a trade to Atlanta makes this group an unpredictable bunch at best. Left end Shaun Ellis is competent and right end, Kimo von Oelhoffen arrived from the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent to man the right side. Dewayne Robertson could start at nose tackle, but he has been mediocre at best throughout his short career. To put it mildly, the Jets d-line could be downright dreadful this season.
Third-year inside backer, Jonathan Vilma, is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance and heads up this inexperienced unit for New York. Victor Hobson returns on the strong-side, and Eric Barton is back after missing nearly the entire season in 2005. Brad Kassell, Matt Chatham, and Anthony Schlegel, will all fight for backup positions.
The Jets let Ty Law go after one season and replaced him with Andre Dyson, the former Seattle Seahawks’ starter. The inconsistent David Barrett returns for his third season Jets season but will get some competition from Justin Miller, who started the last eight games of 2005. Derrick Strait , second-year man Erik Coleman and rookie Kerry Rhodes are also in the mix for starting jobs with the Jets, who seem to have almost nothing etched in stone on their entire roster.
Mike Nugent looks like the answer for the Jets at kicker. Ben Graham also had an excellent season in 2005 with the second best gross and net averages in franchise history. The Jets will rely on Miller to return kickoffs this season, but a punt returner is a necessity.
Like I said, I’m reserving al judgment on Mangini until at least mid-season. However, I have to say that, not only is the Jets roster filled with players who are “green,” but so is the coaching staff. Ex-Jets players Richie Anderson, Bryan Cox and Rick Lyle are all first-year coaches.
In closing, it looks like it’s going to be a long season for the Jets as they try to find the answers to more questions than they have had to in quite some time.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to be Mangini, but who knows, maybe he’ll turn out to be the next Vince Lombardi. Then again – maybe not.