(Long Island, NY) After last season’s 4-12 disappointment, the Jets are looking for a fresh start with their new hierarchy. Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum have filled some holes left by the departed Herman Edwards. If the games are won in the trenches, then they are headed in the right direction.
One of the glaring weaknesses last year was the offensive line. The draft shored up two spots with tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold. On the defensive line, the team is switching to a 3-4 alignment and also traded away their best pass rusher, John Abraham. The belief is that former first round pick Dewayne Robertson will adapt to the nose tackle position. If he struggles, the entire defense will suffer. A good bet is the O-line will be in better shape than the D-line.
Who will be over center come opening day? Mangini stated that it is an open competition between Chad Pennington, Patrick Ramsey, Brooks Bollinger and Kellen Clemens. Pennington should get the nod if his shoulder has healed from surgery. Ramsey is a decent backup, but that’s about it. Bollinger took a beating in 2005 after Pennington and the since departed Jay Fiedler went down. Clemens has a good upside, but a rookie second rounder should not see much action.
The running game will be shaky with veteran Curtis Martin coming back from knee surgery. How many carries does he have left after taking a pounding year after year? There isn’t much behind him, which will put added pressure on the passing game.
Kicker Mike Nugent will have to show more consistency than he did in his rookie year. A team with a questionable offense will be relying on field goals more than a team that can stretch a defense.
Whenever a new regime comes in, growing pains have to be expected. The Jets are trying to rebuild and had a strong draft. To plug two holes on the offensive line and get a quarterback of the future in the first two rounds was brilliant. A three or four game improvement is not out of the question. To think this team has a shot at a layoff berth would be a stretch. The AFC East has two teams way ahead of the Jets and one basically in the same boat. The Buffalo Bills are also going through a rebuilding process, but the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins should be the class of the division.
The Pats are the Pats. They may have taken a step back since their Super Bowl run. But any team with Tom Brady cannot be discounted. The Dolphins went through own transition period last year with Nick Saban as head coach, but were able to go 10-6, barely missing the playoffs. Now they have acquired Duante Culpepper at quarterback, which has been a revolving door since Dan Marino retired.
Will it be an easy task to turn the Jets around? No, but you have to give Mangini credit so far. Any disciple of Bill Belecheck and the Patriots know what it takes to win. Now they have to do it on the field-eventually.