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2011 Team Report: New York Jets

Quarterbacks

Starter: Mark Sanchez
Backup(s): Mark Brunell, Greg McElroy [R]

Starting QB: For all of the belly-aching over Sanchez�s turnovers in 2010, he actually made a marked improvement in his TD/INT ratio. After throwing for twelve touchdowns and twenty interceptions in his rookie season, he turned those numbers on their sides and threw seventeen scores against just thirteen picks. And for the second consecutive season, he brought his team to the brink of a Super Bowl appearance on the road in a very hostile environment. Considering he was working with a very new cast of characters last year, one of whom missed the first four weeks of the season due to suspension (Santonio Holmes), there were a lot of positives to take from his campaign. He showed no ill effects from an offseason surgery and he enters 2011 with a clean bill of health and a bounty of weapons at his disposal. Braylon Edwards was allowed to leave via free agency, but the Jets quickly bounced on solid veteran Derrick Mason and also locked up former Giant Plaxico Burress after his release from prison. Burress in particular should help elevate Sanchez�s performance in the red zone (where he had just a 47.7% completion percentage in 2010), as Burress offers a big target with excellent ability to shield would-be defenders away from the ball. Heading into 2011, Sanchez is clearly the leader of the team. While he still has room for professional and statistical improvement, he showed last year that he is capable of performing as a solid NFL quarterback; now he�ll be counted upon to ascend to the level of the league�s elite.

Backup QB: The Jets employ a heavy dose of rushing in their offensive gameplan, and mostly use the passing game to manage the offense. That will be far more evident should the team ever need to rely on grizzled veteran Mark Brunell, who enters his second season as the backup signal-caller for New York. When called upon, Brunell was serviceable in his only extended action of 2010, Week 17 against the Bills. If pressed into duty again, Brunell likely wouldn�t win many games for New York on his own merits. But the old tried-and-true expression of �not losing the game� would certainly apply here. They would never ask him to become a 40+ pass attempt type of guy, and he provides veteran leadership and a solid security blanket who is no threat to the job. All of that in turn should help the development of young Mark Sanchez and enable him to grow without having to look over his shoulder.

Running Backs

Starter: Shonn Greene
Backup(s): LaDainian Tomlinson, Joe McKnight, Bilal Powell [R]
Fullback(s): John Connor

Starting RB: Stop us if you�ve heard this one before. Shonn Greene came on strong at the end of the season and in the playoffs, and is now expected to be the team�s featured back and get the majority of the rushing duties. No, you didn�t step into a time warp to the summer of 2010. Greene�s resurgence late last season coincided with LaDainian Tomlinson�s steep decline into fantasy irrelevance. Tomlinson was the surprise workhorse for the Jets in the early part of 2010, but eventually his effectiveness began to wane and Greene stepped in to fill the void. Heading into 2011, it is expected that Greene will garner an even larger share of the pie. Jets coaches have gone on record as saying they�d like to get Greene anywhere from 18-20 touches per game, which would work out to over 300 carries over a full season. Of course, that was supposed to happen last year too when Greene was hailed as a first round fantasy pick and we all saw how that turned out. What hurts Greene more than anything is the complete lack of involvement in the passing game. He recorded just sixteen receptions last year after none the previous season, and is expected to come off the field on third downs once again this year for � you guessed it � Tomlinson. What�s more, Greene has scored on just four of his 294 career rushes while his backup is arguably one of the greatest goal line rushers of all-time (and had eight touchdown runs last year if you include his two in the playoffs). All of this leads to an optimistic but cautious approach to what we can expect from Greene in 2011.

Backup RBs: LaDainian Tomlinson has said and done all of the right things this offseason with regard to his role on the team. He clearly sees the writing on the wall, which is that the Jets really hope Shonn Greene takes the starting opportunity and runs with it. Problem is, the Jets wanted that to happen last year but Tomlinson was too effective to wrestle the job from right away. Over the course of the season, Greene grew into the role but one has to wonder if a similar fate can arise this year. After all, despite the late-season dropoff last year, Tomlinson still had a higher yards per carry average than Greene and scored eight touchdowns to Greene�s three. Tomlinson will still be a heavy factor in the passing game as well as he is expected to be the team�s primary third down back. He had 52 receptions a year ago. The third string running back spot is a battle between Joe McKnight and fourth round pick Bilal Powell. What Powell lacks in experience, he makes up for in upside. Durability is a concern with him, but he flashed some nice big-play potential in college and the Jets liked him enough to make him a fourth round pick. McKnight is the incumbent, and led the Jets offense in Week 17 last year with 173 total yards on 34 total touches. This showed the team that he can handle a heavy workload on a one-off basis on occasion, which certainly will help him in his quest for touches this season.

Fullback: John Conner aka �The Terminator� takes over as the lead blocker for the Jets from All-Pro Tony Richardson. While there were some claims that Connor would be more involved in the passing game this year, that�s a bit misleading as he had just two receptions a year ago. He is not going to be an integral part of the offensive gameplan from a statistical standpoint � there are simply too many other members of the backfield who need to be fed first � but he is a critical part of the run game and will be counted upon to open holes for the Shonn Greenes and LaDainian Tomlinsons of the world.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Santonio Holmes, Derrick Mason
Backups: Plaxico Burress, Jeremy Kerley, Patrick Turner, Scotty McKnight

Starting WRs: The Jets had a decision to make regarding their free agent wide receivers this offseason. Both Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards were unrestricted free agents, and the Jets were unlikely to bring back both. They did what any savvy franchise would do, however, and signed the more explosive and more reliable of the two by bringing back Holmes. Ironically, Holmes has gotten into less trouble off the field than Edwards despite being the one hit with a four game suspension last season. Holmes and quarterback Mark Sanchez took a few games to get in sync, but once they did the connection was exceptional. Holmes is a big play threat, both in the deep passing game and in terms of running after the catch. He had worn out his welcome in Pittsburgh, but it appears he is just getting started on building a new legacy in New York. Across from him will be old reliable himself, Derrick Mason. Mason signed a one year deal with the Jets after being pursued by a number of other teams during the offseason. He will provide a very steady, reliable target for Sanchez. He�s basically Jerricho Cotchery with more strength and better moves, so the Jets did well on upgrading here. Mason�s best days are certainly behind him, as he failed to crack the 1,000 yard plateau for just the second time in a decade last year. But he still managed seven touchdowns for a run-first Ravens team, and can still contribute a lot to the New York passing attack this year.

Backup WRs: Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason will probably be in and out of the �starting� lineup regularly and will be on the field at the same time quite a bit, provided Burress� health holds up and he proves he is up to the rigors of a 16-game schedule after spending the last twenty months in prison. Burress appears contrite and ready to move on from his off-field transgressions, and he landed in a nice spot with the Jets. Both Derrick Mason and Santonio Holmes are excellent receivers with very good hands, but they lack the big bodies the Jets were looking for in the red zone. After a brief flirtation with Randy Moss, the Jets moved on signing Burress just when everyone thought he was going to the Giants or Steelers. Burress is now 34 years old and four years removed from his last productive fantasy season, but he was a perennial top-ten receiver back in his day. The Jets don�t need him to post superstar numbers; just add a red zone and big play presence to replace that of the departed Braylon Edwards, and they�ll be happy. The remainder of the receiving corps is made up of very inexperienced players and rookies, so it is imperative that Burress and company stay healthy and effective so that the Jets don�t find themselves running out of bodies by Week 1.

Tight Ends

Starters: Dustin Keller
Backups: Matthew Mulligan

Keller finally delivered in 2010 on the breakout season many expected of him when he entered the league three seasons ago. Despite having to contend with more pass-catchers than ever before, Keller managed to set career highs in every major statistical category last season. Now that he is firmly entrenched as one of the league�s better receiving tight ends, this could be the year that Keller makes his move into the elite. While most of his production came at the beginning of the season, he still managed to receive a regular dose of the action as the season wore on. And just as importantly for him, there are no other tight ends on the roster who can come remotely close to matching his athleticism. And with the relative inexperience of the Jets� WR corps after the top three guys, one would expect Keller to be just as integral a part of the passing game in 2011 as he was in 2010, if not moreso. None of the remaining tight ends on the Jets depth chart is going to suddenly break out and become a featured part of the offense, no matter what happens with Keller. This group is here to provide blocking, big bodies, and depth on the roster. But if something were to happen to the starter Keller, the Jets gameplan wouldn�t suggest shifting one of these guys into his spot a la Jacob Tamme in Indianapolis. Most likely, the team would quickly phase out the tight end as a focal point of the offense immediately.

Place Kicker

Nick Folk : Tanner Purdum is back for a second year at long snapper. The other two specialist roles are up for competition during August. At punter/holder, T.J. Conley is back for his third consecutive camp and hoping the third time is a proverbial charm. His competition is Australian Chris Bryan who punted for Tampa Bay last September. At kicker, Nick Folk was re-signed to a one-year deal, but he had to win the right to keep his job. He was challenged by a resurgent Nick Novak who is coming off a strong showing in the UFL last year. Novak was released following the third preseason game. The Jets ranked 3rd and 6th in attempted kicking points the past two years.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Jeremy Kerley, Kyle Wilson, Joe McKnight

Punt Returners: Jeremy Kerley, Kyle Wilson, Joe McKnight, Antonio Cromartie, Jim Leonhard

HC Rex Ryan said of rookie WR Jeremy Kerley, �He�s the best [punt returner]. I�m not going to have Jim [Leonhard] do it, coming off the injury that he had. He wants to, but we drafted this young man to be a returner. He�s exactly what we thought we were getting. [ST coach Mike Westhoff] really likes him and if Westy thinks he�s our best, then that�s what we�ll do. Jim Leonhard, I don�t think that�s good business right there.� Kerley is also slated to be the primary kickoff returner, replacing the departed Brad Smith. Others working on returns have been CB Kyle Wilson, RB Joe McKnight, and CB Antonio Cromartie.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, LG Matt Slauson, C Nick Mangold, RG Brandon Moore, RT Wayne Hunter
Key Backups: James Hunter, Vladimir Ducasse

Team Defense

The loss of Shaun Ellis to the Patriots disappointed head coach Rex Ryan, and this defensive front doesn�t look as menacing as it did in previous seasons. Mike DeVito is an underrated cog in the defense, as is NT Sione Pouha. ILB David Harris was recently rewarded with a new contract. He and Bart Scott are the heart of this defense. No introduction is needed for Darrelle Revis, who essentially eliminates receivers for entire games to the chagrin of many fantasy owners. The re-signing of CB Antonio Cromartie was important for the Jets, who play press man coverage almost exclusively. The return of Jim Leonhard after his freak injury during the playoffs last season will be important for this defense.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Mike DeVito, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, NT Sione Pouha
Backups: NT Kenrick Ellis, DE Marcus Dixon, DE Ropati Pitoitua, DE Jarron Gilbert

Starting DL: The Jets lost a couple of big names up front when Kris Jenkins retired and Shaun Ellis signed with the Patriots. The player to watch here is Muhammad Wilkerson, a first round pick who's expected to take over for Ellis and start right away. The other DE spot will likely be filled by Mike DeVito, an underrated player who is better against the run than the pass. Inside, Sione Pouha has developed into a very good nose tackle while filling in for Jenkins the past couple years so there should be no dropoff inside.

Backup DL: The Bears added Kenrick Ellis in the third round, a huge player expected to backup at NT who could also compete for playing time at DE. The Jets obviously feel confident in the two rookies because they made a lowball offer to Shaun Ellis and don't appear interested in bringing back veteran Trevor Pryce. Marcus Dixon and Ropati Pitoitua are expected to provide depth and Jarron Gilbert is a wildcard after he flopped in the Bears 4-3 scheme.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB David Harris, ILB Bart Scott, OLB Calvin Pace, OLB Bryan Thomas
Backups: OLB Jamaal Westerman, ILB Josh Mauga

Starting LBs: The Jets return all four starting linebackers from last year, forming an experienced unit that will likely be a strength of the defense. David Harris is a proven tackling machine inside who should continue to be a viable LB1 or LB2 in most leagues. Bart Scott isn't as productive but is a vocal and emotional leader on the team who helps make the players around him better. Calvin Pace is the team's primary pass rush threat and could realistically push for double digit sacks with a full season. Bryan Thomas is a steady player who has held onto a starting job longer than most people expected.

Backup LBs: While the starters here are very experienced, the backups have practically none so the team could be in some trouble if there is an injury. Jamaal Westerman was a standout at Rutgers who must be ready to contribute more after seeing limited playing time the past two seasons. Josh Mauga and Brandon Satele are a couple of the young linebackers fighting for a backup spot inside.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Darrelle Revis, CB Antonio Cromartie, FS Jim Leonhard, SS Eric Smith
Backups: CB Kyle Wilson, CB Donald Strickland, CB Marquice Cole, S Brodney Pool, S Dwight Lowery

Starting DBs: The Jets defense is among the best in the league thanks to the presence of Darrelle Revis, an elite cover corner who is also physical against the run. After taking an unsuccessful run at signing Nnamdi Asomugha, the Jets re-signed Antonio Cromartie. With most QBs looking to avoid throwing at Revis, Cromartie should have seen a bigger bump in his production last year so his season of 41 solo tackles and 3 interceptions has to be considered a disappointment. One starting safety spot is likely to be filled by Jim Leonhard, a savvy vet who doesn't make many big plays but also helps keep the secondary organized. Eric Smith looks like an early favorite to start at strong safety after signing a 3-year, $7.5 million contract to stick around.

Backup DBs: Kyle Wilson was a first round pick last year who didn't play much but should be ready to take on a bigger role. Donald Strickland is an experienced vet, but 3rd year pro Marquice Cole has a chance to pass him on the depth chart and compete for time in the team's nickel packages. Brodney Pool has plenty of starting experience and is sound in coverage, while Dwight Lowery is a converted corner who provides additional depth.

Last modified: 2011-08-30 11:08:09

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