This preview would have been optimistic even if it were done a week ago – the first week of August 2008 BB (Before Brett). The Jets brass saw they had some good young talent on the team but that it took a step back in 2007 and had to address some serious holes. Well, spending $140 million in the off-season can certainly rectify that. The thing is you can throw good money after bad. Rushing out for a quick fix while overpaying a quarterback like Chad Pennington for example. The Jets did spend wisely and brought in high caliber Eric Mangini type players who just happened to have 11 Pro Bowl appearances between them: Alan Faneca, Calvin Pace, Damien Woody, Tony Richardson, Bubba Franks, Kris Jenkins and Jesse Chatman should all be very solid additions and team leaders. But it was the final piece added last week just as the preseason kicked off that may be the sunken treasure the Jets have been searching for all these years.
Quarterback: Obviously there is not much to say here. Brett Favre is a talent you never dismiss or ignore. Even at 38. You can’t coach his level of greatness and the great ones can never be discounted even after 17 years in the league. He is an immediate, instant, and overwhelming upgrade over Chad Pennington. The sad thing is Chad was one of the best Jets to root for during his 8 years with the team. You wanted him to succeed. He was the type of player you want every player to become. The attitude, the leadership, the locker room presence. He was undone by injuries but he will be missed. Kellen Clemens obviously was not ready – and may never be. For the team to make this move – and it was a no brainer – it shows they may be taking a mulligan on Clemens. Although it can’t hurt to have him learn from Favre for a year or two. The hidden gem may be possible third stringer Brett Ratliff. He looks like the real deal. Hey, are there any other “Brett” QB’s available?
Running Back: A solid group led by the underwhelming and unspectacular Thomas Jones. This was a position I wish the Jets could have seriously upgraded. Jones success will have to be dependent on the improved offensive line because he cannot manufacture his own positive numbers. He’s not a slasher or burner and he won’t break tackles. He’s just a middle of the pack lunch pail guy who is a good team player. If he falters I think the team will quickly augment the carries of Leon Washington. He is the lone weapon the Jets have in the backfield. Jesse Chatman was also an underrated and solid sign. He and Leon would be fine with me if Thomas Jones performs as – yawn – he did last season. Tony Richardson brings a veteran force at fullback the Jets have not had since the days of Brad Baxter. Although he is much more one dimensional as a lead blocker he excels at that dimension having paved the way for some of the greatest rushing seasons by a running back ever: Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, and Adrian Peterson.
Wide Receiver: This looked like a weak crop. Lavernues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery are about as good a twosome you can find in the league but that is where it ends. Brad Smith seems to be a perpetual project who cannot be relied on as a number three WR. But the emergence of both Chansi Stuckey and David Clowney from rookie and practice squad obscurity to serviceable back of the rotation wideouts could be very fortuitous now with the arrival of Brett Favre. Hopefully Wallace Wright can stick around as he is great on special teams.
Tight End: This spot looked very anemic before the bold move up into the tail end of the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft as the Jets snagged what might be the best draft picks made by any team: Purdue TE Dustin Keller. The boy has skills. He should be the Jets third receiving option and it should not take long. He may be one of the most impressive offensive rookies this season and very fun to watch play especially now that the Jets have added a savvy QB with a big enough arm to take advantage of the speed Keller will display blowing past linebackers in mismatch coverages. Chris Baker returns and apparently is happy to play for his contract now. Baker is solid but nothing special. He has perennially been a “breakout” candidate but after 5 years in the league I think what you see is what you get and his career high of 41 catches last year is his ceiling. He’s a good blocker and decent receiving tight end but he should not be taking any balls away from Keller. Bubba Franks is a nice veteran presence and contributor and Jason Pociask seems to have developed at the right time to stick but carrying 4 TE’s plus long snapper James Dearth (TE) may be a few TE’s too many.
Defense: The trade bringing Kris Jenkins to the Jets might be the most important defensive upgrade. He is a mountain and as immovable an object as we’ve ever had in the middle. David Harris, Darrelle Revis, and Kerry Rhodes may be the most exciting young trio of defensive leaders the Jets have ever had. Hopefully Vernon Gholston’s name can be added to that group very, very soon. He flashed some serious closing speed in the first preseason game. Calvin Pace must become a pass rushing force commensurate with his gigantic free agent contract. He is entering his prime, coming off a very good season and is not far removed from being a standout collegian who was a former first round pick. The talent is there. He just needs to make that jump to the next level. Justin Miller must reach up and grab that starting cornerback spot opposite Revis but before long that could belong to 4th round potential steal Dwight Lowery. He showed some major league home run power in the return game against the Browns and is a ballhawk with deceptive speed.
Special Teams: Gone is special teams guru Mike Westhoff but Mike Nugent and Ben Graham have as powerful a pair of legs as the Jets have ever had in their kicking game. Nugent has shown improvement each year and should be relied on in the clutch. Graham had a lousy year in ‘07 but looks to be back on track and having a great camp. The return game is very strong with Leon Washington coming off 3 returns for touchdowns in 2007. Fallback options provide good depth here in the form of Revis and Lowery.
Coaching: Eric Mangini is supposed to be a defensive whiz so he better start showing it because Bob Sutton is a on a very short leash. Rumored to be gone after last season and replaced with any number of Buddy Ryan’s kids, Sutton has somehow managed to survive multiple regime changes with the Jets. His unit was the most heavily upgraded to improve the 3-4 attack and he has to get results. Brian Schottenheimer has some high caliber help on his crew in Brian Daboll and line coach Bill Callahan and they have to work some magic to get Brett Favre acclimated to the Jets offense. They also may need to get creative and change he playbook around to suit Favre’s style. This coaching staff may be the difference maker this season. Finding chemistry with a lot of new parts and balancing a very good mix of veterans and young players will be a huge challenge for this young coaching staff and front office but if the Jets can get some breaks and the football gods smile on them just a little bit this very well may be an 11-5 team that seriously challenges for a Super Bowl berth and dare I say finally makes the Jets 2-0 in Super Bowls. J-E-T-S Bret Brett Brett Brett!!!!