Sunday, September 2, 2012
Jets notes: Mike T's big gamble
By Rich Cimini
Here we go, our first "First-and-10" notes column of the season:
1. Standing pat. After studying the composition of the Jets' roster, the conclusion that jumps out is this: GM Mike Tannenbaum must have really liked last year's 8-8 team. They have just 13 new players (a 25-percent turnover, lower than usual), including only four new starters, one of whom (RT Austin Howard) spent last year on the practice squad. They invested more resources on defense even though the offense needed the most help. This is a gamble by Tannenbaum, who put a lot of faith in the 2011 team, which went 0-5 against teams with winning records. In essence, he's banking on Rex Ryan (and Tony Sparano) to rebound from their own subpar years to coach 'em up.
2. AFC Least. If you're bummed out about how the Jets played in the preseason, the feeling probably is mutual in Miami and Buffalo. They, too, finished 0-4. Get this: The Jets, Dolphins and Bills scored 31, 43 and 59 points, respectively -- three of the four lowest totals in the NFL. The fourth? That was the Patriots (1-3), who scored only 55 points. Something tells me they're not panicking up in New England.
3. Q rating. The Jets were really high on DE Quinton Coples in the draft. How high? He was the eighth-rated player on their draft board, according to a source. So far, so good. Coples finished the preseason with 4.5 sacks, tied for the league lead with the Panthers' Thomas Keiser. It was only preseason, but something is better than nothing, which is what they always got from Vernon Gholston.
4. McCrazy. Biggest non-story story of the week: The idea that QB Greg McElroy would become the Jets' starter if Mark Sanchez were to get injured. Yes, McElroy shows some promise, but there's no way he'd get the nod over Tim Tebow -- and Rex Ryan made that clear when asked about it this week. Say what you want about Tebow, but he has won games in the league, including a playoff game. McElroy has never taken a snap. Case closed.
5. Freedom of stance. Perceptive fans may have noticed that some of the Jets' defensive linemen are using a four-point stance. It was always discouraged in the past, according to players, but new D-line coach Karl Dunbar is flexible. If a player is comfortable in a certain stance, he doesn't try to change him. Said DT Mike DeVito: "The man is a genius when it comes to coaching the defensive line. I can't rave about him enough."
6. The Longest yard. Is this a red flag? The Jets converted only two of seven short-yardage plays in the preseason (third-and-1 and fourth-and-1), with both coming on runs by quarterbacks not named Tebow. This is weird. A year ago, the Jets didn't run particularly well, but they ranked second in short-yardage conversions (88.9 percent), according to ESPN Stats & Information. They'd better hope the preseason isn't a harbinger, because if a Ground & Pound team can't make a yard ...
7. Basic training. The 19 players who attended the off-site leadership retreat last Wednesday didn't sit in a stuffy classroom and listen to a boring lecture. Part of the seminar, conducted by a former Green Beret from the "Mission Essential" program in Bedminster, N.J., occurred outside in the woods. There was simulated combat, with players hearing fake bombs in the distance. They were split into two teams -- green vs. red -- and they were evaluated on how they responded to stressful and chaotic situations. Said S Yeremiah Bell: "It was one of the coolest things I've ever done." If they really wanted a tense situation, they should've brought back Wayne Hunter and put him in the same huddle as Santonio Holmes.
8. Looking for intel. If the Bills are smart, they'd claim former Jets DL Marcus Dixon on waivers. Dixon participated in those clandestine Wildcat practices in Cortland, and he would be able to tell the Jets' Week 1 opponent a thing or two about the Tebow Plan.
9. Why? Patriots coach Bill Belichick is a terrific personnel evaluator, but he messed up with the decision to release WR Deion Branch. He's older, not an every-down receiver at this point in his career, but Belichick evidently felt he wasn't good enough to make the final cutdown. Instead, the Patriots acquired Greg Salas from the Rams. You could see why Belichick would want a younger player, but Branch was a good locker-room influence, with a special rapport with QB Tom Brady. Every team needs guys like that.
10. Someone will pay. Right now, the NFL has the leverage in its lockout of game officials, but that will change as soon as the replacement officials make a game-deciding mistake. It will happen, some poor team becoming the victim of scab officials. Maybe it will be the Jets, maybe it will be the Giants, but it will happen. When it does, it will become a national story and the outcry will force the NFL back to the bargaining table. In the meantime, you'd better hope it doesn't happen to your favorite team.