By David J. Cohen
The Jets have made a ton of additions this offseason:
LG Alan Faneca
RT Damien Woody
NT Kris Jenkins
OLB Calvin Pace
FB Tony Richardson
TE Bubba Franks
RB Jesse Chatman
TE Dustin Keller
OLB/DE Vernon Gholston
Despite all of these moves, the Jets had one glaring hole: QB. Kellen Clemens struggled last year but showed some signs of becoming a serviceable player during the fourth quarters of games. Chad Pennington just couldn’t stretch the field, which allowed defenses to clog the running lanes and shut down the running game. This forced the Jets into many three-and-outs during the year, which put a suspect defense in bad situations. It is this dynamic that makes the Favre trade significant.
Especially with Hanging Chad under center, defenses would crowd the box and would at times have the entire defense within ten yards of the line of scrimmage before the snap. Jets running backs had some weak players on the offensive line and had nowhere to go. The Jets passing game didn’t go all that well either, since everything was congested. Defenses showed no respect for the Jets aerial attack. Brett Favre changes that completely.
With Brett Favre, everyone knows the bomb can hit at any moment. This will naturally force the defense to spread out and will create rushing lanes. The Jets don’t have burners at receiver, but if you forget about Laveranues Coles or Jerricho Cotchery, they can hurt you badly. Dustin Keller is a tight end playing as a slot receiver and could cause a lot of problems for opposing defenses with someone like Favre taking the snaps. RB Leon Washington is a great asset in the passing game and will thrive this year going into the flat. And when the Jets are in the red zone, Favre will have a familiar target in Bubba Franks to look for. The Jets passing game is almost dynamic, something that was unimaginable a month ago.
Favre will allow RB Thomas Jones to return back to his form with the Bears. Jones had just one measly rushing touchdown last year, and the Jets were second to last in the league last season in rushing touchdowns. They had just six. Despite the suspect blocking, Jones did rush for over 1100 yards with defenses aimed at stopping him. Having the safeties backing away from the line of scrimmage, along with Faneca and Woody joining up with a more experienced C Nick Mangold and LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson should allow Jones, Washington, and anyone else in the backfield to succeed. Tony Richardson at fullback only helps matters, and could become Favre’s next William Henderson.
The Favre acquisition also signals the necessary and overdue end of the Chad Pennington era. His abilities and Head Coach Eric Mangini’s offensive scheme never worked together. The Jets reportedly plan to release him. Pennington can still succeed in this league, but in a solely west coast system. The Vikings should reach out and get him. They already took former Jets QB Brooks Bollinger. Pennington could walk in and be the best passer on the team, and the Vikings just need above average quarterback play to go deep into the playoffs.
Clemens is currently slated to be Favre’s backup, but his struggles so far in training camp could open the door for rookie QB Eric Ainge if he somehow evolves from his days in Tennessee. That remains doubtful. It’s also highly doubtful Favre will miss a start, so things should be fine.
Before getting Favre, the Jets were a 7-9 team this year. But with a balanced offense that will be able to eat up clock and give the defense a rest, the Jets have greatly improved their chances of a wildcard slot. And as the Steelers and Giants have proven, you can win the Super Bowl on the road.
Here’s the Jets schedule: @ Miami, vs. New England, @ San Diego, vs. Arizona, Bye, vs. Cincinnati, @ Oakland, vs. Kansas City, @ Buffalo, vs. St. Louis, @ New England, @ Tennessee, vs. Denver, @ San Francisco, vs. Buffalo, @ Seattle, vs. Miami.
The schedule isn’t strong but the Jets definitely have a few coin flip games. They should start the year 2-2 going into the bye. Then they hit the weak part of the schedule, as they don’t face a .500 team from last year in their next five games. Out of those teams, the Bills are the toughest team, and because of how the schedules work out, the Bills-Jets series will go a long way toward deciding the final wildcard spot in the AFC. The Jets will need to go 4-1 in this stretch if they expect to make the playoffs.
Then they hit a snag. The Titans are always a tough team, the Broncos aren’t a pushover, and the 49ers could be one of the more surprising teams in the league this year. If they can go 2-1 in this stretch, it would put them at 8-5 with three favorable games left in the year. They get the Bills again in what will amount to an elimination game. Then they go to Seattle, which is usually a tough place to play. However, if the division struggles again as expected, the Seahawks may have clinched the division, which could help the Jets. The Jets then get the gimmie against the Dolphins at the end of the year. If the Jets can win out, they will make the playoffs. If they go 2-1, they could make the playoffs.
Ten wins is definitely a possibility for the Jets. They profited from a weak schedule two years ago and would have beaten the Steelers if they could make a field goal. Now the Jets are equipped to make another run at the playoffs. But there are still a couple of things that could get in the way.
The defense could still turn into a liability, especially in pass coverage. The Jets as a unit are weak at corner. When you have to sign Ahmad Carroll, you have a problem. You could tell the Jets had problems at QB last year because Marques Tuiasosopo was on the roster. Darrelle Revis is starting to become a great corner but he is on an island by himself. The Jets have a big hole at FS, and John Lynch is available. He won’t cost much and pairing him with Kerry Rhodes will provide a heavy hitting duo. Intimidating receivers from going over the middle will help the Jets cover problems to an extent. The Jets linebackers could be a dangerous unit because Pace and Gholston give the Jets great flexibility in how they create blitz packages. Since the Jets have secondary issues, they will be blitzing early and often to compensate for that. Since the defensive line won’t get much pressure on the quarterback, the linebackers will have to step up.
Offensively, there are still two holes. The Jets need a reliable RG, and Brandon Moore hasn’t proven he can be the guy so far in his career. If Ferguson continues his improvement in training camp and in the preseason and can be trusted to handle his blocker alone, then Mangold can help Moore out and shore up the line.
The other missing piece is a speed receiver. The Jets never replaced the speed threat Santana Moss provided and are yet to do so. The Jets could have done this by trading Coles during the offseason when he was in a contract dispute. Cotchery is poised to surpass Coles as the Jets number one receiver in the near future. It’s too bad the Panthers aren’t interested in trading Steve Smith, because he is the type of deep threat the Jets are lacking. Dustin Keller is the best vertical threat on the team right now. If someone emerges as a speed guy, it would complete the offensive transformation.
The Jets have changed the fabric of their team by getting Brett Favre. How far he takes them depends on how quickly all the new pieces can gel together. If the Jets get off to a slow start, which can certainly happen, it will be a struggle. But if Favre can beat the Patriots in week two, he quickly becomes a hero. And it would only add to the budding Belichick-Mangini rivalry.
It is also paramount for the Jets for Favre to play at least through the end of next season, so the Jets can find and start developing his successor. The fact that Clemens wasn’t beating out Pennington means he isn’t the answer. The Jets acknowledged that in making this move.
If everything can mesh together quickly, the Jets can fly high in 2008. But whether they do or not, they made the right decision. The Jets QB situation was painful to watch for most of the last two years. Those days are over.