2005 Team Report: New York Jets
Starter: Chad Pennington
Backup(s): Jay Fiedler, Brooks Bollinger, Ricky Ray
Starting QB: Chad Pennington had an up and down 2004, but is primed for a breakout year following an offseason makeover. The Jets fired conservative and oft-criticized offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, chose not to resign overweight and underproductive tight end Anthony Becht, and traded disappointing wide receiver Santana Moss. New York added Mike Heimerdinger from Tennessee, one of the more innovative and aggressive offensive coordinators in the NFL. After trades with Oakland and Washington, the Jets added two more pass catchers in TE Doug Jolley and Pennington's close friend WR Laveranues Coles. Long regarded as among the most accurate quarterbacks in the league, the Jets have finally surrounded Pennington with enough talent for him to take his game to a higher level. Pennington has practiced every day thus far in training camp, with mostly positive results. All reports continue to point to him being healthy and starting when the Jets travel to Kansas City for the season opener.
Backup QB: Long Island native Jay Fiedler returns home and will provide stability to the backup QB position. He has playoff experience and is familiar with the AFC East, and the former Dolphin is content playing backup to Chad Pennington. Fiedler ranked as the tenth best fantasy QB in 2001, but has seen his performance drop off since then. At 33, Fiedler wouldn't be expected to do more than manage the game efficiently if called into duty. Brooks Bollinger enters his third year in the league, and is accurate but lacks arm strength. Ricky Ray was a CFL star, but neither he nor Kevin Eakin figure to play much for New York in 2004.
Starter: Curtis Martin
Backup(s): Derrick Blaylock, Cedric Houston [r], Little John Flowers
Fullback(s): Jerald Sowell, B.J. Askew
Starting RB: Curtis Martin continued his assault on the record books in 2004, and now ranks fourth all time in carries and rushing yards, tenth in rushing TDs and seventh in yards from scrimmage. Martin led the NFL in rushing by one yard last year, and his 4.6 yards per carry average was the highest in his career. The Jets offensive line is one of the best run blocking units in the NFL, and Martin is a workhorse RB. Despite having one of the best backup RBs in the league in Lamont Jordan, Martin (412) was the only player in the NFL to record 400 touches last season. Clearly the center of the Jets offense, Martin is as dependable as they come - another 1,000 yard season and he'll set the record he currently shares with Barry Sanders for the most 1,000 yard rushing seasons to begin a career (ten). Blessed with great vision and durability, the only thing Martin lacks is big play ability: He didn't have a single run over 25 yards last year.
Backup RBs: Derrick Blaylock brings speed and big play ability to the backup RB position. Formerly with the Chiefs, Blaylock played well behind the Chiefs great offensive line. He'll be used as a change of pace runner to keep Martin fresh, but Blaylock has starting experience. His versatility will help the Jets in the passing game and on special teams. Blaylock would become a very valuable fantasy player if Curtis Martin gets injured, and Martin owners should certainly consider selecting Blaylock late in their drafts. Cedric Houston, a rookie out of Tennessee, has struggled to stay on the field but showed promise when healthy. Little John Flowers adds depth to the roster, as he did in 2004 as an undrafted rookie free agent.
Fullback: Jerald Sowell toiled behind Pro Bowler Richie Anderson for six years, but ranked second on the team in receptions each of the past two seasons. Sowell's versatility made him a favorite in Paul Hackett's offense, as he's a punishing run blocker, a skilled pass blocker and possesses soft hands. It's unclear how new OC Mike Heimerdinger will utilize Sowell, and the addition of pass-catching TE Doug Jolley may eat into Sowell's numbers. Askew has seen limited action on offense since being drafted out of Michigan State two years ago, but provides good depth and is a strong player on special teams. He may take over LaMont Jordan's role as the short yardage RB.
Starters: Laveranues Coles, Justin McCareins
Backups: Wayne Chrebet, Jerricho Cotchery, Jonathon Carter
Starting WRs: Coles and McCareins are both tough WRs that can make the catch over the middle, and should provide dependable weapons for Chad Pennington. Coles was a star for the Jets in 2002, but took the money (in the form of a $13 million dollar signing bonus) and ran to Washington following his breakout year. Finally reunited with his close friend, expect Coles and Pennington to continue to show a great rapport on the field. There are some questions as to how healthy Coles truly is, as he suffered from turf toe for over a year with the Redskins. It's tough to imagine the Jets would trade for Coles and award him with a large contract if they weren't sure of his health, but he clearly lacked his usual top end acceleration in 2004. He injured the same foot early in training camp, but it wasn't serious. McCareins should complement Coles well, and at 6-2 he's a bigger target for Pennington. McCareins will have a personal reunion of his own, as new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger tutored McCareins his first three years in the league with Tennessee. McCareins saw his best season in 2003 with Heimerdinger, and is just entering his prime at 26 years old.
Backup WRs: The Jets backup wide receivers complement their starters well. Chrebet is one of the most accomplished receivers in team history, and he's a team leader as the longest tenured Jet. Jerricho Cotchery drew great praise from the Jets in training camp, and is deceptively fast with good hands. As a rookie his playing time increased as the season went along, and OC Heimerdinger likes to use three- and four-receiver sets. Jonathon Carter is the fastest player on offense, and is a true deep threat with a 19-yard career yards-per-reception average. Chrebet, Carter and Cotchery will all battle to be the number three wide receiver, making for an intense training camp competition.
Starters: Doug Jolley
Backups: Chris Baker, Joel Dreessen [r], Josh Norman
Since Johnny Mitchell left the Jets in 1995, the Jets have struggled tremendously to get any production out of the tight end position. No tight end has had a 400 yard season since, and the Jets top TE has averaged a putrid 227 yards the past nine years. As a result, it's quite obvious why the Jets traded with Oakland for Doug Jolley, an athletic young player with good hands. OC Mike Heimerdinger had great success with multiple tight ends in Tennessee, and the Jets must see something they like in Jolley to trade down from the 26th pick to the 47th pick in order to acquire him. Jolley impressed as a rookie during Rich Gannon's MVP year in 2002, but has disappointed with the rest of the Oakland team ever since. Chris Baker backed up Anthony Becht for three years, and was expected to get a chance to start once Becht left. The trade for Jolley and the attempt to sign Denver TE Jeb Putzier shows how much faith the front office has in Baker as a starter, despite showing flashes of ability as a backup. Baker will still get some playing time, as he's a decent blocker and the Jets will use two-tight end sets. The Jets will likely carry five running backs on the active roster, so it's doubtful that Dreessen or Norman will see much action this year.
: Doug Brien's two missed FGs that cost New York an AFC Championship berth led the Jets to position themselves to draft Nugent in the second round (ahead of several other teams that also coveted him). Nugent was the highest rated kicker prospect to come along in years. He is accurate, even from over 5o yards. He has demonstrated the ability to kick successfully in inclement weather and under pressure game situations. His only "weakness" appears to be his kickoffs, which are "only" above average and not top-tier.
Kick and Punt Returners
Kick Returners: Justin Miller, Jerricho Cotchery, Derrick Blaylock, Jonathan Carter
Second round draft pick CB Justin Miller returned both punts (13.0 avg) and kickoffs (33.1 avg) for Clemson last year. He ranked in the top twenty for yardage in both categories, and his KR average was the best in the nation. He scored five times on kickoffs and twice on punts during his collegiate career. If Miller can't adjust to the NFL for some reason, next in line is fast and elusive WR Jerricho Cotchery who emerged late last year (13 returns, 27.8 avg, 1 TD). Recently acquired RB Derrick Blaylock is a very capable KR with lots of speed, but he didn't get opportunities in KC because of Dante Hall. WR Jonathan Carter was the KR last year (17 returns, 22.0 avg) until he got hurt.
Punt Returners: Justin Miller, Justin McCareins, Jerricho Cotchery
Miller should step into the primary PR position opened by the departure of Santana Moss. WR Justin McCareins was also the backup last year (14 returns, 6.3 avg) as well as the primary PR with the Titans in 2003 (29 returns, 11.4 avg, 1 TD). The Jets were 27th overall in fantasy returns last year. They could improve significantly this year.
Projected Starters: RT Adrian Jones, RG Brandon Moore, C Kevin Mawae, LG Pete Kendall, LT Jason Fabini
Key Backups: T Scott Gragg, C/G Jonathon Goodwin, T Steve Morley, T Marko Cavka [inj]
The Jets offensive line was superb in 2004, helping the Jets dominate opposition with a power running game. The team will miss veteran tackle Kareem McKenzie but hopes that second-year player Adrian Jones can fill his shoes. The running game will likely drop somewhat in 2005 as Jones and guard Brandon Moore continue to learn the professional game, but having three talented veterans in center Kevin Mawae, guard Pete Kendall and tackle Jason Fabini surrounding them will help the Jets offensive line remain a force. Expect Mawae and Fabini to continue playing at a high level, and if Jones can do a good job, the Jets running game should once again flourish. Helping insulate themselves from a disappointing showing by Jones, the Jets added veteran Scott Gragg in September who is more than capable of starting if need be.
The Jets changed defensive coordinators last year as they let Ted Cottrell go and hired Donnie Henderson, who had spent the previous five seasons as the secondary coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Henderson did a great job of turning the defense around as they finished the season tied for 2nd in points allowed, and 7th in yards allowed. A big key to the turnaround was the rebuilt LB group as they released older vets Mo Lewis and Marvin Jones and went with younger, more athletic players at every position. Jonathan Vilma was touted as one of the best young MLBs to come into the league since Ray Lewis and he backed that up with great play all year long. The strength of the Jets defense was their front seven, which was one of the most talented groups in the league. Going into this season, the Jets should be very solid on defense again, but there are a few areas of concern. After missing the last four regular season games to injury, John Abraham wound up sitting out of the playoffs despite being cleared by team doctors to try and protect his value in free agency. The Jets placed the franchise tag on him, but he hasn't signed it and could wind up missing time in a holdout situation. Jason Ferguson will also need to be replaced after he signed with Parcells and the Cowboys, and Josh Evans, another key contributor to the defensive line, has retired. A player like Vilma really needs the DTs up front to tie up blockers and allow him to roam free. The secondary has had a lot of turnover as well with Donnie Abraham retiring, and Ray Mickens, Reggie Tongue, and Jon McGraw all being released or traded. The signing of Ty Law should be a big upgrade, however, if he can fully recover from the foot injury that sidelined him for most of 2004.
Starters: RDE John Abraham, LDE Shaun Ellis, DT Dewayne Robertson, DT James Reed
Backups: DE Bryan Thomas, DE Trevor Johnson, DT Lance Legree, DT Alan Harper, DT Sione Pouha [r]
Starting DL: John Abraham is one of the elite pass rushers in the league (43 career sacks in 57 games played). He's a bit one-dimensional as he doesn't hold up well against the run, but his speed rush is intimidating. Abraham has also had difficulty staying healthy, missing 10 games during his rookie season and 13 games over the past 2 years combined. A lenghty holdout forced him to miss nearly the entire preseason, but he signed the team's 1-year franchise tender in time to play for the season opener. Shaun Ellis has emerged as a very consistent and all-around LDE. He went to his first Pro Bowl in 2003 with a 12.5 sack season, and then backed it up with an 11-sack season in 2004. He's much stronger than Abraham against the run, and actually played DT earlier in his career. Inside, the Jets lost NT Jason Ferguson, who signed a free agent contract with the Cowboys. That's a significant loss, and to make up for his absence, Dewayne Robertson will need to play a bigger role. Robertson was rather disappointing as a rookie, but showed signs last year that he can be the dominant player the Jets were expecting when they traded up to draft him #4 overall. He's got great size, but quickness and agility are bigger parts of his game than just anchoring against the run. At the NT spot, the Jets will likely turn to a rotation of several players with James Reed holding onto the starting job to start the season. Reed lacks ideal size and is a former 7th round pick who has been a career backup up to this point.
Backup DL: Bryan Thomas was a 1st round pick in 2002 who appears to be somewhat of a bust. He has started 15 games over the past 2 years thanks primarily to the injuries suffered by Abraham, but has only produced 2.5 sacks during that time. Trevor Johnson was a 7th round pick of the team in 2004 out of Nebraska. He's a strong player who can contribute on run downs and on special teams. To help offset the loss of Ferguson, the Jets signed Lance Legree who had spent the last four years playing across town for the Giants. He's a cheap stopgap type player who isn't in the same class as Ferguson, but will likely be used in some type of rotation with Reed. Legree has an edge over Reed in terms of his size and aggressiveness. The Jets also spent a 3rd round pick on Sione Pouha, a big strong DT from Utah who has some ability but has been an underachiever and is already 26 years old. They hope that he'll eventually be able to take over the starting job, but he might not be ready for that much responsibility this year. Alan Harper is primarily a special teams player after having spent a couple years on the Jets practice squad and then going to NFL Europe in 2004.
Starters: WLB Eric Barton, MLB Jonathan Vilma, SLB Victor Hobson
Backups: LB Barry Gardner, LB Kenyatta Wright, LB Mark Brown
Starting LBs: The Jets completely overhauled their LB corps in 2004, dumping veterans Mo Lewis and Marvin Jones for younger, quicker players. The first big move was signing Eric Barton, a former 5th round pick who blew up in his 4th year in the league. Barton hasn't been able to match the numbers from his breakout year since, but he's been very productive and solidified the critical WLB position. The next step was drafting Jonathan Vilma, which surprised many people at the time because the Jets already had Sam Cowart set to play MLB in 2004. Cowart played well enough to hold onto the starting job when the season began, but suffered an early season injury and was quickly overtaken by Vilma. Cowart was traded to the Vikings this offseason, leaving the job completely in the hands of Vilma, who has drawn comparisons to Ray Lewis at the same stage of their careers. Vilma is slightly undersized for the position, but he has unbelievable range and natural LB instincts that always seem to put him in the right place at the right time. Victor Hobson was a 2nd round pick who played well in limited opportunities as a rookie in 2003 and took over at strongside linebacker last season. He's a physical LB who defends the run well, and could play inside if needed. Barton, Vilma, and Hobson provided a much needed infusion of youth, speed, and athleticism to the Jets defense that should continue to pay dividends in 2005.
Backup LBs: To add depth behind the 3 starting LBs, the Jets signed Barry Gardner as a free agent from the Browns. Gardner was a former 2nd round pick of the Eagles who played well early on in his career, but he's been mostly a backup for the past 4 years or so. He can play any of the 3 LB positions and will provide some stability and insurance. Kenyatta Wright made a name for himself as a special-teamer with the Bills, and has maintained that role with the Jets. He was an unrestricted free agent this offseason who the Jets decided to re-sign. Darrell McClover was a 7th round pick in 2004 who wound up as the team's 2nd leading tackler on special teams, but he was placed on IR and will miss the 2005 season with a broken fibula. Mark Brown was a former practice squad player who started 6 games at SLB last year after Hobson got injured, but didn't really distinguish himself much in those games.
Starters: CB Ty Law, CB David Barrett, SS Oliver Celestin, FS Erik Coleman
Backups: CB Derrick Strait, CB Justin Miller [r], FS Rashad Washington, SS Kerry Rhodes [r]
Starting DBs: The Jets have completely overhauled their secondary the past couple years. Veteran Donnie Abraham decided to retire this offseason, temporarily leaving the Jets with a glaring hole at cornerback. To fill that spot, the Jets appear to have upgraded by landing prized free agent CB Ty Law. He's a physical player who can match up with any WR in the league when healthy, and his aggressive style should fit in well. However, Law missed most of the 2004 season with a foot injury that he is still not fully recovered from. The Jets signed David Barrett to an inexpensive contract last year, and he came through with a solid season. Barrett is a good tackler who struggles in man coverage, thus making him a great fit for teams like the Jets that play a lot of zone coverage. At SS, the Jets released Reggie Tongue in June after just 1 season with the team. Injury-prone Jon McGraw was expected to take over for him but he was traded to the Lions in August for a conditional draft pick. Oliver Celestin appears to have won the starting SS job with a strong performance early in training camp. Celestin is a former CB who was signed by the Jets mid-season last year and made an impression with his special teams performance. Manning the other safety spot will likely be last year's rookie sensation Erik Coleman. He had a strong preseason and never looked back, finishing 3rd on the team in tackles while also adding 2 sacks and 4 INTs. What he lacks in measurables, he makes up for with his solid instincts and intangibles. Coleman looks like a player that could be a mainstay of the Jets secondary for a long time.
Backup DBs: To make way for the Law signing, the Jets released 32 year old Ray Mickens, who had been a Jet for his entire career and was also one of the better nickel backs in the league. That move should open things up for one of the younger CBs on the team to become the team's nickel back. Derrick Strait was a 3rd round pick out of Oklahoma after having won the Nagurski Award as the nation's best DB in 2003. He's got decent size and was a 4-year starter in college, so he came into the league very polished. Strait was expected to contribute as a nickel or dime CB last year, but wound up missing most of the season due to injuries. The Jets also improved their secondary depth by drafting Justin Miller in the 2nd round this year. Miller is a physical with 1st round talent who slipped in the draft due to a recent arrest and concerns about his character. He'll provide some insurance at the position and can also contribute as a kick returner on special teams. Early reports suggest that he has been one of the most impressive players during training camp. Pete Hunter was acquired from Dallas in a July trade right after the Abraham retirement, but was unimpressive early in camp and subsequently released. Rashad Washington is a developmental prospect the Jets drafted in the 7th round last year. He has good size and good speed, but his main contribution should come on special teams. The Jets added some much needed depth at the safety position on draft day when they selected Kerry Rhodes and Andre Maddox in the 4th and 5th rounds respectively. Rhodes is a good athlete who can match up well in coverage and turned some heads during the preseason with his playmaking ability. Maddox lacks great speed or coverage skills, but is a physical tackler who plays well near the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, he was placed on IR with an injury and will miss the 2005 season.
Last modified: 2005-09-07 10:59:42