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As Seen on [The 3rd String Safety]
Head coach Eric Mangini put together a 10-6 season and had Jet fans dreaming of a dynasty. Mangini was the league’s hottest young head coach, and he could coach up the talent he had to be contenders each and every season.
Oh my, how things have changed.
The Jets had no business being 10-6 in 2006. They had no business being 8-8. They were a 6-10 team who set themselves back so many ways by making the playoffs that year. First off, they suffered because they draft pick they obtained was not representative of their talent level. Second, it led Mangini and GM Mike Tannenbaum to believe that they were better than they were. They wound up trading up twice in the draft, selecting David Harris and Darelle Revis. While both are great players, I’m willing to bet that Jet fans want those picks they traded away back so they can reloaded a marginally talented roster.
The other interesting fact about the Jets is the Eric Mangini factor. Now, he’s a good coach, and a clever guy. He figured out the way to get the best out of a roster of has-beens and never weres that year. However, he’s been stubborn. He insisted that any player can succeed in his system. For example, He insisted that Jonathon Vilma isn’t a liability in the 3-4 defense. We all know how that worked out.
So, the hole has been dug. How does gang green dig out of it?
It starts at this moment. Get on the phone, and try to trade away your best player on the defensive side of the ball. Vilma is still a great player, but he just doesn’t fit. The point of the inside linebackers in the 3-4 is to be able to win a one-on-one matchup with a guard. Now, how is a 6-1, 230 pound man, no matter how good he is, supposed to be able to stand up to a 6’3, 325 behemoth?
He can’t. That’s why both he and the Jets are better off parting ways. He could thrive once again in the right scheme. Particularly, a cover-2 scheme in which he would be allowed to flow to the ball carrier and make 130 tackles a year would make him a pro bowler again. Now, he certainly doesn’t have the same value he did two years ago.
The Jets are going to have to live with a 3 rd round pick for him. However, that isn’t bad. This draft is so heavy in middle round talent that they could easily end up with a star at that pick. In the 3 rd round, they could end up with players like USC guard Chilo Rachal, or Penn State corner Justin King.
The next step is to recognize the Jets weaknesses, where they need help. The answer is a lot of places. On offense, the first step is two addresses the offensive line. The current set of guys struggled so badly this season, they held back an entire team. The two guys that set in stone are Left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold. Outside of that, there are two guards and a right tackle that need to be replaced.
Defensively, the Jets need players that fit their system. They need to completely rebuild a defensive line, they need two outside linebackers, an inside linebacker to go along with Harris, a cornerback to play next to Revis, and a strong safety. Yikes.
It will start in fee agency, where there are some guys who the Jets can get to bolster their team, without spending a ton of money. They need a guard, and guys like Chris Kemoeatu and Ryan Lilja are available at cost. Need a tackle? How about the massive Max Starks?
Defensively, it’s a little bit harder. Defensive linemen Tommy Kelly and Marquis Douglas have played in the 3-4, but neither is awe inspiring. The one spot where the Jets should spend some money is cornerback, where former Patriot Asante Samuel is the real deal. He played for Mangini when he was in New England, but likely will command Nate Clements-type money.
Moving on to the NFL draft, the sixth pick will likely be Vernon Gholston, the defensive end from Ohio State. He’s going to transition to outside linebacker, where his job will be to rush the passer on almost every play. He has excellent closing speed and like most college ends, needs to learn how play within the system. Expect him to make an immediate impact on the defense.
Other guys the Jets will probably target in draft are Virginia guard Brandon Albert, Indiana corner Tracy Porter and Oklahoma inside linebacker Curtis Lofton.
The last part of the equation comes in training camp. Eric Mangini needs to decide who his quarterback is going to be this year. Is Kellen Clemens going to be the answer at the quarterback? Is Chad Pennington and his spaghetti arm really done? If Mangini starts Pennington going into the season, it’s admitting that he was wrong to like Clemens so much in the second round of last year’s draft. What does that mean? It won’t happen. Clemens will start the beginning of next season.
Suddenly, this team isn’t helpless. It has a defense that could stop some teams, and rush the passer. It has an offensive line that could actually block for Thomas Jones, and provide whoever plays quarterback a little protection. It’s that easy to turn around an NFL, one solid offseason of common sense, and the Jets could be a contender.
Now, If they only didn’t have to play the Patriots twice.