The two biggest pieces to the Jets' offense are back in camp.
Leon Washington reported to Gang Green's organized team activity sessions Monday, ending his three-week holdout. This comes on the heels of Thomas Jones' arrival to OTAs on May 27.
I think this calls for a little Thin Lizzy.
Both players are still without new contracts, but this is positive news -- at least, from the team's perspective. I still believe Washington will get a new deal, but I think TJ will be left in the cold.
I'm late in posting this (so very, very tired), but in case you haven't heard, Leon Washington isn't happy with his contract situation and is holding out of the Jets' offseason training activities, or OTAs. Washington is in the final year of his rookie contract and is scheduled to earn $535,000 in 2009. It's believed Washington wants a new deal worth around $6 million per season.
Washington joins disgruntled running back Thomas Jones, who has also been MIA during the OTAs.
Reason for concern? Well, the Jets did say that they wanted to pound the football this upcoming season. Kinda hard to do that without your No. 1 and No. 2 running backs.
Still, these OTAs are non-mandatory. Obviously, Washington and Jones aren't skipping them just because they are "voluntary," but I think both guys will show up once training camp rolls around.
Whether both guys get new contracts is a different story.
Washington recently switched agents (going from Alan Herman to Alvin Keels) and that may be a reason for his OTA absence. Word on the street, and by that I mean what I read in the May issue of Jets Confidential, is that Washington didn't like the idea that Herman had what he perceived to be a buddy-buddy relationship with Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum. Herman is from the old school while Keels is a product of the new way. Check out Keels' Twitter page.
Anyway, I think the Jets and Leon will reach a deal soon. The Green and White have gotten themselves into trouble in the past by not taking care of some of their own, but Washington is a dynamic offensive force on a team that is lacking in that area. It's believed the Jets are waiting to bang out a deal for Mark Sanchez before they turn their attention to Washington.
I'm not too sure about Jones, though. TJ rushed for an AFC-best 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and also hauled in 36 receptions for 207 yards and two touchdowns. Great, great numbers. But unlike Washington, Jones has two years left on the four-year contract he signed with the Jets, will be 31 years old when the 2009 season begins and while he'll "only" be making $900,000 this season, he earned $13.1 million during the first two years of the deal. Jones is afraid the Jets will cut him after this season since he's slated to earn $6 million in 2010.
And he's probably right.
But what can he really do about it besides hold out during the OTAs? Sit out for the whole season? Unlikely. Force the team to trade him? Maybe, and there have been rumors about a Jones to Cleveland deal for wide receiver Braylon Edwards, but I just don't see that trade happening. I think for better or worse, Jones will have to stick with the Jets for another season. And who knows, maybe he could turn in another solid season and sign a fat deal with another team for the 2010 season.
Meanwhile, Danny Woodhead has been getting the bulk of carries for the Jets during the OTAs. This season's third-round draft pick Shonn Greene is not allowed to practice with the team until Iowa's spring semester ends. Woodhead signed with the Green and White last season as an undrafted free agent from Division II Chadron State, but ripped up his knee early on in camp and was lost for the year. Woodhead was a machine at Chadron State, rushing for 2,756 yards in 2006, and finished his college career with 9,749 all-purpose yards.
But if you're still worried about the Jets' running back situation, I've got something that may take your mind off things. The Jets Flight Crew are putting together their first-ever swimsuit calendar.
According to the Star-Ledger's Dave Hutchinson, Gang Green inked veteran tight end Bubba Franks to a one-year deal. Franks was injured for most of the 2008 campaign, missing seven games with a bum hip, and finished the year with six receptions for 47 yards and zero touchdowns.
Still, it's a solid move by the Green and White if Franks is healthy (and I'm assuming he is since they signed him to a contract). The Jets were painfully thin at tight end and the return of Franks will give them a capable veteran. Forget about Franks' paltry offensive numbers from a year ago. The Jets don't need another playmaker at tight end (it would be nice to have another, but Dustin Keller should more than make up for it), just someone who is a solid blocker.
The Jets pulled off a trade Saturday with the Cleveland Browns and drafted USC quarterback Mark Sanchez with the No. 5 overall selection in the NFL draft. The cost? A swap of first-round picks (No. 17 overall), a second-round pick (No. 52), and quarterback Brett Ratliff, safety Abram Elam and defensive end Kenyon Coleman.
I gotta tell ya, I wasn't pleased with this move at all. I don't think the Jets gave up a ton to move up. In fact, I think new Browns head coach Eric Mangini didn't ask for enough in the trade (thanks, big guy). I'm also not a great evaluator of college football talent and Sanchez was receiving his fair share of praise in the weeks leading up to the draft. But the draft has become a marketing campaign (and probably always was) and I'm wary of a player who gets "hot" during the hype show. Still, Sanchez obviously has talent to be considered a high first-round pick, right? Here's a quick look at some of Sanchez's strengths and weaknesses courtesy of Scouts Inc.:
Release. Very quick release with solid overall mechanics in his delivery. Gets
rid of the ball quickly, particularly when needed on underneath throws.
Shows strong hands and great ball control. Exceptional when it comes to
pump-faking and pulling the ball back.
Mobility. Very good pocket presence. Really improved in this area as a junior.
Displays quick feet. Gets set quickly and shows agility to avoid the
initial rush. Will step up in the pocket and also shows the foot speed
to out-run the rush to the perimeter. Is a better athlete than appeared
most of junior season, when he was battling a lingering knee injury.
Accuracy. Sanchez's deep ball tends to float on occasion. Sanchez
is more consistently accurate in the short-to-intermediate zones, particularly between the numbers. He displays very good touch. Gets the
ball out quickly and throws a 'catchable' ball on quick-hitters. Knows
how to drop the ball in between linebackers and safeties. Rarely misses
an open target.
Game management. Inexperience is concerning. Still learning the nuances of the position
and approach to leading an offensive unit. Still maturing as a decision
maker, as well. However, he made noticeable strides in this regard as a
junior in 2008. He understands the value of ball control and knows how
to go through progression reads. He is a vocal leader with exceptional
passion for the game. Coaches rave about his work ethic. He is tough
and will play through pain. An excellent competitor.
Arm strength. Arm strength is adequate but not great. He can make all the necessary
throws in the NFL but he needs to be good with his timing on certain
throws vertically and outside the numbers. Gets good zip on
intermediate throws, especially over the middle. But can't drive it
vertically and his deep outs take a bit too long to
Durability. Has been hindered by some nagging injuries but has not missed a start,
as a result of one. Suffered a broken thumb early in 2007 season.
Played through a dislocated kneecap injury in 2008, which he suffered
during fall camp. Also suffered a bone bruise in his left knee during
'08 Oregon game but played the following week versus Arizona State.
Seems like a solid player. Does it sound like a franchise quarterback? I don't know. In fact, I don't even know what that term means -- franchise quarterback. Sounds like something invented by advertisers and television people. How can anyone call someone a franchise quarterback before that player has taken one snap in an NFL game? With a straight face? A franchise quarterback isn't a term you give someone -- it's a status you earn.
Anyway, the Jets fell in love with Sanchez and decided he was too good to pass up. I might be in the minority, but I don't think Sanchez will begin the season as the starter. Kellen Clemens knows the system and I have to assume that he will do a better job of running the offense during the preseason. But you know what they say about assuming. And the Jets didn't take Sanchez with the No. 5 overall pick with the idea of watching him hold a clip board. It would be easy to send Sanchez out there if the team was terrible, but this squad actually has some talent.
Which brings up another point. Are the Jets a win-now team or a rebuilding team? Seems like they're doing a little of both. Hope that's the right idea. One thing is for sure, the Jets don't believe in Clemens.
If you asked me -- "Hey, Mike, who did you want the Jets to draft?" -- I probably would have given you two answers. I would have selected Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree after the trade up to No. 5. If they decided to stand pat at No. 17, I would have gone with running back Chris "Beanie" Wells out of Ohio State (since running back Knowshon Moreno was off the board). But nobody asked. Maybe next year.
The Jets pulled off another trade on the draft's second day -- unloading their third-round pick (No. 76 overall), their fourth-round pick (No. 115) and their seventh-round pick (No. 228) for Iowa running back Shonn Greene. That's a boatload of picks, but I like the selection. With Thomas Jones unhappy with his contract status and Leon Washington not really an every down back, Greene gives them some power in the backfield. Greene (5'10, 227), rushed for a school-record 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior last season. Here's a quick scouting report on Greene courtesy of Scout.com's Chris Steuber via my subscription to Jets Confidential:
Greene is a strong runner who possesses a unique blend of athleticism,
intelligence, patience and quickness. He's extremely patient and uses
his vision and instincts to his advantage. He waits for his blockers to
set up in front of him, hiding between the trees, finds openings within
the defense and is elusive. He runs low to the ground and displays
Sounds good to me.
The Jets selected Nebraska guard Matt Slauson in the sixth round, their final pick of the draft. Yes, you read that right. The Jets went with quality over quantity and had just three picks in this year's draft. Anyway, Slauson (6'5, 316) also played both tackle positions during his college career. He should provide some depth along the line and has "pet project" written all over him.
So, were the Jets winners or losers in the 2009 draft?
There hasn't been a tremendous amount of Jets news to blog about. Gang Green passed on offering wide receiver Miles Austin a contract (thank God), signed a punter and decided to hold their training camp in SUNY Cortland this summer.
But that's not the reason for the dearth of posts.
My computer has been invaded by the dreaded Vundo Trojan. Reinforcements are on the way and I'll hopefully be up and running again in time to comment on the Jets and the NFL Draft.
I should be fine. I mean the Trojans were able to bounce back, right?
OK, it's not that big of a deal, but it does get the juices flowing for some NFL action (for me, anyway). The Jets will begin their first season under new head coach Rex Ryan on the road (big surprise) against the Houston Texans. The Green and White have opened as the visitors in 36 of their previous 49 seasons. The Jets home opener will come a week later against the New England Patriots (even bigger surprise). It will mark the fourth straight year that Gang Green will host the Pats to open their home schedule.
Randy Lange provides a little Jets history and some interesting tidbits as he breaks down the games for 2009.
And here's a look at the opponents.
at New Orleans
at Miami (Monday night)
at New England
at Buffalo (Thursday night in Canada)
at Tampa Bay
The Jets will be featured on at least two nationally televised telecasts in 2009 and both will be on the road (at Miami on Monday night and at Buffalo via Toronto on Thursday night). I say "at least" because the final seven games of the NFL season come complete with flexible scheduling.
The Green Guys will get their bye week smack in the middle of the season, or Week 8, which is ideal. It gives you a chance to lick your wounds, look back at what went right and wrong during the first eight games and prepare for what you need to do to make a push for the postseason.
It's usually a losing proposition to handicap opponents based on last season's records, but the Jets should be happy that they will head out to the West Coast just once this season (at Oakland in Week 7). The Jets dropped all four road games on the Left Coast last season and it cost them a playoff spot. The closest the Jets will come to the Pacific Ocean besides the Raiders game will come in the season opener at Houston.
And if anyone cares, the regular season can't start before the preseason begins (lousy time-space continuum). The Jets will open their 2009 campaign Aug. 14 at home against St. Louis. The next three games will be at Baltimore, "at" the Giants and home to Philadelphia.
I've been a bit lax in my Jets coverage (forgive me), but that doesn't mean the team has been quiet. Let's do a quick rundown on what's been going on in the land of Green.
Getting more defensive depth. The Jets have been very active in picking up defensive players this offseason and they landed another defender on March 25, signing cornerback Donald Strickland to a reported three-year deal. Strickland has spent the past three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and finished with 23 tackles and five passes defensed in 13 games last year as the team's nickel back. Strickland is a six-year pro and also played for the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles. The move to grab Strickland came after cornerback Corey Ivy signed with the Cleveland Browns on March 19. The Jets were in hot pursuit of the former Baltimore Raven, but he decided to become a member of the Dawg Pound. The Jets also brought in former Raven Samari Rolle for a visit. No word if Rolle is still on the team's radar.
Draft notes. I'm not a draft guru by any means, but I would be shocked if the Jets select a quarterback with their first pick. I've seen a few mock drafts that have USC quarterback Mark Sanchez or Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman going to the Green and White at No. 17. I don't see it happening. I don't think Sanchez will fall that far and I don't think the Jets would be wise to choose Freeman if he's available. The Jets already have three young QBs -- what are they supposed to do with another one? Doesn't make sense to me. With Thomas Jones wanting to rework his contract and Leon Washington in the final year of his, I think the Jets will shoot for a running back at No. 17. Jets Confidential had a superb breakdown of the top players in this year's draft and their top 3 running backs are Georgia's Knowshon Moreno, Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells and Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy. The Jets also need help at the wide receiver position and JC lists Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree at the top (surprise, surprise), followed by Jeremy Maclin from Missouri and Florida's Percy Harvin. All three will likely be gone by the time the Jets hit the clock, but ya never know. Things can get wacky during the NFL draft.
Escape from New Jersey. This was supposed to be the first full-year for the Jets at their brand-new training complex in Florham Park, N.J. Well, it looks like that's not gonna happen. Rex Ryan wants to take the team to an "isolated environment" in order to prepare for the regular season. Unless Ryan plans on taking the Jets to Siberia, I'm not sure how secluded he thinks it will get. The media will follow the team no matter where they decide to hold training camp. Possible destinations include Cornell, in Ithaca, N.Y., and SUNY Cortland, in Cortland, N.Y. The only people that will be isolated are the Jersey fans who were looking forward to watching the guys in green this summer. Not only will the Jets not train in Jersey, but their new complex in Florham Park doesn't have dorms for the players or bleachers around the five fields for fans to watch practice. Unacceptable.
The Jets matched the Cleveland Browns' one-year, $1.5 million offer for safety Abram Elam. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Eric Mangini!
I was hopeful that the Jets would make the move to bring Elam back. He's still a bit raw, but I think he could flourish in Rex Ryan's new defensive scheme. Elam is a hard hitter and a playmaker. His 92-yard interception return for a touchdown helped the Jets down the Bills in Buffalo in November and his strip-sack of J.P. Losman led to Shaun Ellis' 11-yard touchdown return that shocked the Bills at the Meadowlands in December.
The re-signing of Elam may mean that safety Eric Smith no longer fits into the team's plans. The old coaching regime was high on Smith, but he never really fulfilled his potential as Gang Green's third-round draft choice in 2006. Smith also battled through multiple concussions last season following his hit on Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin in September. With newly signed Jim Leonhard penciled in as the starter and talk of switching cornerback Dwight Lowery to safety next season, Smith could be the odd man out.
In other news, running back Thomas Jones was absent from the team's "non-mandatory" offseason conditioning program for the second straight day. It looks like TJ is angling to renegotate his contract. Jones will enter the third year of his four-year, $20 million deal this season, but his base pay will be $900,000.
I have no problem (in theory) with football players wanting more cash. Teams can cut guys loose at the drop of a hat without handing over a dime, but this situation is a bit tricky. The Jets are going to go with inexperience at the quarterback position in 2009 (for now) and will need to rely on a solid running attack to move the football. Right now, TJ and Leon Washington are the only two guys at their disposal.
The Jets allowed disgruntled wide receiver Laveranues Coles to walk after they refused to renegotate his contract. Ryan supposedly has a policy against renegotiating veteran contracts, which is strange since he has yet to coach an NFL game, but that may be what Jones is after. This could turn into a dangerous game of chicken.
Not exactly what I had in mind this early in the offseason.
For the second time in two years, a temperamental, strong-armed, gunslinging, Pro Bowl quarterback may be available. Should the Jets roll the dice again?
Jay Cutler asked the Denver Broncos to trade him after a meeting Sunday with first-year coach Josh McDaniels ended poorly. Cutler is still smarting over McDaniels' failed attempt to trade for former New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel and feels he just can't trust his new head coach.
Gang Green's current stable of quarterbacks have started a grand total of eight NFL games -- and all of those belong to Kellen Clemens. Cutler's career stats:
762 out of 1,220 (62.5%)
87.1 quarterback rating
Again, the Jets have three QBs, but only one has had any NFL experience. But for the sake of argument, here's what the Jets have in terms of career stats. I'm also tossing in stats accumulated in games where Clemens didn't start, but managed to wiggle himself some playing time:
133 out of 256 (52%)
59.3 quarterback rating
Seems pretty clear-cut if you look at it that way.
But games aren't played on paper.
Cutler has talent -- I don't think anyone is disputing that. But there are a lot of other "intangibles" that go along with that. A lot of people are comparing Cutler to a young Brett Favre, but some are also comparing him to former No. 1 draft pick and head case Jeff George. You all remember George, right? The strong-armed quarterback that never seemed to put in together. And it wasn't because George lacked confidence. Both comparisons are unfair at this point in Cutler's career, but no one said life was fair.
Anyway, Cutler also doesn't lack in the confidence department and that hasn't garnered him respect across the league. And No. 6 doesn't really have much to be boastful about right now. Cutler has guided the Broncos to a 17-20 record in his 37 career starts with zero playoff appearances. To be fair, Cutler wasn't the only reason Denver failed to reach the postseason over the past three seasons. But he was calling the signals this past season when the Broncos dropped their final three games and lost the AFC West to the San Diego Chargers on the final Sunday of the season. (Yes, Cutler threw for over 300 yards in two of those final three games, but he also threw four interceptions to just two touchdowns).
Still, Cutler is just 25 years old. He can improve on his sometimes poor decision-making (I think). The thing that really gives me pause is his seemingly fragile ego. How can someone be confident, even cocky, and fragile at the same time? I don't know. Cutler believes he has the strongest arm in the league.
"I have a stronger arm than John [Elway], hands down. I'll bet on it against anybody's
in the league. Brett Favre's got a cannon. But on game days, there's nobody in the league who's
going to throw it harder than I am at all."
But then he gets bent out of shape when his name came up in trade talks. No one is untouchable in the NFL -- no one. I don't know how a trade that didn't happen has turned into a situation where Cutler feels he can no longer play in Denver. To be fair, I wasn't at the meeting he had with McDaniels, but Cutler comes across as petty to me in this situation. It gives me the impression that Cutler can't handle adversity and he'll most likely have to face at least some if he's playing in New York.
I can almost hear my Jet brothers screaming that I'm crazy (I've heard it before), but I wouldn't bet the house to land Cutler. Oh, I'd kick the tires on the Vanderbilt alum and see what the Broncos are looking for, but I'd probably walk away without pulling the trigger. Why? I just don't like Cutler's makeup. Is he better than what the Jets have on their roster right now? Yeah, but what's wrong with finding out what you have on your team before you go sniffing after someone else's problem? At least, that's the way I see it.
This trade talk will probably be moot anyway since the Jets don't have much to offer the Broncos. The Jets own the No. 17 pick in the 2009 draft, a No. 2, two No. 3's, two No. 4's, a No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7. Are the Broncos looking for just picks? Doubtful. The Jets would most likely have to get a third team involved and that team might just want Cutler for themselves. Probably won't happen.
Then again, how probable was that Favre trade last season?
The Jets continued to flesh out their roster, picking up three defensive players -- linebacker Larry Izzo and defensive linemen Howard Green and Marques Douglas -- over the past three days. The moves won't send waves of fear across the league, but adding depth like this could make the difference over the long haul.
Izzo, the former Miami Dolphin and New England Patriot, probably won't see much action at linebacker, but he was named to the Pro Bowl three times for his special teams play. He will fill the void left by David Bowens, who signed with the Cleveland Browns. Izzo is getting up there in age (34) and he's been linked with the Barry Bonds/Balco investigation. I disliked Izzo when he wore the aqua and couldn't stand him during his time in New England, but he should be an asset on special teams if he has anything left in the tank.
Green comes over to the Jets from the Seattle Seahawks. Green is big (6'2, 320) and will probably slide in as Kris Jenkins' primary backup at nose tackle. This move was in response to tackle C.J. Mosley's defection to the Cleveland Browns (Eric Mangini sure likes surrounding himself with familiar faces). I liked Mosley and think he has a chance to be a solid player in the NFL. Anyway, Green finished with 21 tackles and a sack last season. The six-year veteran played under Rex Ryan with the Baltimore Ravens in 2002.
Douglas is the latest ex-Raven to follow Ryan to New York. The nine-year vet finished with 36 tackles as a backup defensive end with Baltimore in 2008. Douglas is said to be a high-energy guy and good locker room presence.
Speaking of following coaches, a few more ex-Jets are now Cleveland Browns. Cornerback Hank Poteat signed with the Browns and linebacker Eric Barton is the latest addition to the Dawg Pound. Safety Abram Elam reportedly signed an offer sheet with Cleveland. The Jets have seven days to match the one-year, $1.5 million offer (the contract was signed March 10 so it's less than seven days now. Tick tock). Elam has potential and I'd like to see him re-sign with Gang Green. He's a hard hitter and would rather see Elam team up with newly signed safety Jim Leonhard than Eric Smith. Time will tell.