AFC East: Dimitri Patterson

Observation Deck: New York Jets

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets signed Michael Vick to "push" Geno Smith, according to the company line. He's pushing, all right.

Vick sparked the starting offense to its only touchdown in a 13-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. Vick, who replaced Smith in the second quarter, led a 14-play, 80-yard drive in his only series with the first team. Vick's performance doesn't change the quarterback dynamic -- Smith still is the frontrunner -- but he's definitely keeping the pressure on. The rest of the offense? Ugly. It actually faced a third-and-42.

Here are some other thoughts on the Jets' first preseason game:
  • Smith (4-for-6, 33 yards) didn't do anything to hurt his chances, but he also failed to lead the offense to a touchdown in his two series. Rex Ryan said he wanted to see some production, meaning touchdowns. Smith & Co. came away with a field goal. The offense had some problems in third-and-long situations, ultimately stalling its first two drives. Smith found Eric Decker twice, connected with Jeff Cumberland on a nice 11-yard completion over the middle and ran for 10 yards on a read-option -- the highlights. There weren't any lowlights (no turnovers), but Smith didn't grab the job by the throat.
  • It was vintage Vick. He ran a little, threw a little and brought energy to the offense. He scrambled for 15 yards on a third-and-9 and converted third- and fourth-down passes to Jace Amaro and Tommy Bohanon, respectively. As expected, Vick (3-for-6, 17 yards) looked comfortable in Marty Mornhinweg's offense, seeing the entire field and following his reads. Things fell apart in his second series, but it came behind the second-team line, which struggled in pass protection. In practice, Vick has received only 20 percent of the first-team reps. It'll be interesting to see if the split changes in Week 2 of the preseason. It shouldn't; Smith needs as much work as possible.
  • The Jets' running-back depth, one of the strengths of the team, may have taken a hit. Chris Ivory suffered a rib injury in the first half and didn't return. Bilal Powell still is nursing a hamstring injury, leaving Chris Johnson as the only healthy, proven back. In his Jets debut, Johnson looked a bit rusty, frankly. He dropped a pass as the third-down back and lacked burst, rushing for only two yards on four carries. The former 2,000-yard rusher scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, cutting back on an inside run -- his signature moment. There's no reason to be alarmed. Remember, he's only seven months removed from knee surgery. Truth be told, the entire rushing attack was stuck in quick sand.
  • Biggest question mark entering camp? Cornerback. After one game, it's a bigger question mark. Dimitri Patterson didn't make anyone forget Darrelle Revis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or any of the other free-agent corners the Jets didn't sign. The well-traveled Patterson gave too much cushion on a couple of plays, allowed a 45-yard reception and was flagged for holding. This looms as a serious concern, considering the number of high-powered passing attacks on the early schedule. Dee Milliner played well, breaking up two pass plays, but you need more than one corner. Yes, the Jets are formidable up front, but opponents will spread them out and play dink-and-dunk. The first-team defense was shaky, allowing an 80-yard touchdown drive to the Colts' backups.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The New York Jets' meandering search to replace cornerback Antonio Cromartie included flirtations with Vontae Davis (a rejection) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had the audacity to take an offer from the New York Giants. Despite some pro-Darrelle Revis sentiment in the organization, the Jets decided not to pursue Revis 2.0. In the end, they made Dimitri Patterson their Big Free-Agent Cornerback.

The response from Jets Nation?

A collective groan.

Patterson
Who?

Patterson understands the sentiment, but he has a message for the skeptics: I'm just as good as the big names.

"Fans like high profiles. I don't have a high profile, but my film is legit," he said during a break at training camp. "When the season comes, I'll show everyone why I've been in the league so long.

"Vontae and all those guys, they were first-round picks," Patterson continued. "That's all cool, but as far as ability and responsibility, are they asked to do more than I've been asked to do over nine years? No. Have they been more productive on the perimeter? No, that's not the case at all. My tape shows that it's just a matter of me coming out and showing fans, 'Hey, let me show you.'"

The Jets have an interesting pair of cornerbacks. Dee Milliner thinks he's the best in the NFL (child, please) and Patterson, with his sixth team in 10 years, believe he was one of the biggest steals in free agency. The Jets signed him for one year, $3 million. If they turn out to be right, they will have their best cornerback tandem since 2011, when it was Revis and Cromartie.

Patterson said he has no intention of tainting the Jets' reputation at corner.

"There's a lot of scrutiny at this position because you had Revis and Cromartie," he said. "They were consistently competitive, year-in, year-out, with those guys at corner, so there's a standard that has been set. That's what the fans are accustomed to, so it's only natural to be concerned. My message to them is, don't be concerned."

Patterson is one confident dude for someone who hasn't played much in recent years due to injuries. In fact, he's missed 32 games the last three seasons (the last two with the Miami Dolphins), but he believes in his ability and he believes he's an ideal fit in the Jets' man-to-man scheme.

"Jets fans aren't familiar with me -- they don't have game tape -- so they have to trust that John Idzik and Rex (Ryan) did their due diligence, researching me," Patterson said. "If my résumé said, 'Cover-2, zone corner,' I wouldn't be here."

To get a complete evaluation of Patterson, the Jets had to study his pre-2012 tape. They see a savvy corner with elite ball skills and versatility, capable of playing outside or in the slot. Opposing scouts say he's much better in the slot, that it might be a stretch to play him on the perimeter.

"The guy understands the game and he understands the big picture, and you don't find a lot of guys like that," secondary coach Tim McDonald said.

Ryan said they didn't sign Patterson because he was the last man standing in the free-agent pool, claiming he was on their radar from the outset. Idzik probably didn't want to spend money on a big name, so he took the cheaper route -- a one-year stop gap and a draft pick (Dexter McDougle in the third round). It's risky, considering all the top quarterbacks they face in the first two months of the season. If the Jets get torched, oh, boy, the decision makers will get criticized.

Don't worry, Patterson said.

"I'll show the fans," he said.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The signing of cornerback Dimitri Patterson back in April didn't exactly set the New York Jets' fan base on fire.

Patterson
Brought in to compete for the starting job vacated by Antonio Cromartie, Patterson has started just 20 games in nine NFL seasons and played for six different teams prior to the Jets.

But the soon-to-be 31-year-old is certainly not lacking in confidence.

"I've been asked to do what Cromartie was asked to do," Patterson said Wednesday. "Do I have a high profile? No. Do I have the biggest name? No. But I've covered the same receivers, and I've held up extremely well against the same receivers, the elite guys.

"I don't have a high-profile name, but I'll put my film [up] with anybody's. That's the reality of the situation."

Jets coach Rex Ryan had Patterson working with the first unit during Wednesday's OTAs. Fellow corner Dee Milliner, who started 12 games as a rookie last year, sat out the practice with a tight left hamstring. Darrin Walls was also absent, because of a personal issue. Ras-I Dowling, who was on the practice squad last season, played opposite Patterson.

Ryan praised Patterson afterward, with the caveat that these OTAs are non-contact practices.

"It's kind of tough -- with the way the rules are, you're not allowed to press, so it's a challenge," Ryan said. "But he's done well. I think he's on top of his assignments. He's been pretty impressive."

An undrafted free agent out of Division II Tuskegee, Patterson began his NFL career with the Washington Redskins, for whom he played three games in 2005.

He didn't get his first start until 2009, with the Philadelphia Eagles, but ended up starting a career-high nine games that season and had four interceptions.

Patterson spent the past two years with the division rival Miami Dolphins but played in only eight games combined, due to ankle and groin injuries. Still, he had four interceptions last season in just six games (four starts).

"The reality is, that's the only thing they can find negative to say about me," Patterson said, speaking of his recent injuries. "When you look at my career, I've been in [the league] nine years -- the last two years I had an ankle and I had a groin. My first six, seven years, I had no injuries."

Perhaps Patterson, now healthy again, is just coming into his prime? He likes playing under Ryan, in Ryan's system, thus far.

"The requirements and what's asked of a corner here is kind of similar to what was asked of me in Miami," Patterson said. "You gotta win on the perimeter, simple as that. It's been a good adjustment. I feel like it's a good situation for me, the scheme fits me, and I'm excited about it."

The Jets' secondary will look different this year, with first-round pick Calvin Pryor possibly starting at safety, and Patterson likely replacing Cromartie at cornerback. Not exactly household names -- at least, not yet.

"Do I think we have guys to go out here and be extremely competitive? No doubt about it," Patterson said. "But we don't truly know that until you get under the lights."

Jets offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
10:00
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the New York Jets' offseason moves:

Best move: The Jets doled out $7 million a year for Eric Decker, but he's an upgrade over the previous No. 1 receiver, Santonio Holmes, a diminished diva whose sour attitude won't be missed. Decker is a 6-foot-3 target whose catching radius will help Geno Smith, who struggled last season with his accuracy. No doubt Decker benefited from having the Broncos' Peyton Manning as his quarterback the past two seasons, but he's still a quality player who can help in a variety of ways. For instance: Decker had seven red zone touchdown catches last season, only one fewer than the Jets produced as a team.

[+] EnlargeDimitri Patterson
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeThe Jets hope Dimitri Patterson can fill the void created when Antonio Cromartie departed.
Riskiest move: They're counting on journeyman Dimitri Patterson, signed from the Dolphins, to replace Antonio Cromartie at cornerback -- a big gamble. Patterson, 31, has missed 33 of his past 48 games, so the Jets are taking quite a leap by thinking he will stay healthy. What's more, he's best suited for the slot, not one of the outside positions. General manager John Idzik mismanaged the cornerback market. Knowing the importance of corners in Rex Ryan's man-to-man system, Idzik should've made a stronger commitment to the position. He flirted with some big names but wound up with Patterson, who will be playing for his sixth team in 10 years. To exacerbate the issue, Idzik waited until the third round before drafting a corner.

Most surprising move: The Jets bill themselves as a young, ascending team, yet they allowed one of their ascending players to walk out the door -- right tackle Austin Howard, who signed with the Raiders. The Jets found him on the scrap heap, invested three years of development and watched him become an above-average player with upside. And then he was gone. Howard's replacement, Breno Giacomini, formerly of the Seahawks, is a comparable player -- and cheaper. Statistically, he's a better run-blocker than Howard but is not quite as adept in pass protection. Here's the big difference, though: Howard, 27, is two years younger than Giacomini, meaning he would've been a better fit in the long-term plan.

John the Deliberate: Overall, Idzik had a solid offseason, adding several new pieces on offense (let's not forget about running back Chris Johnson and quarterback Michael Vick) -- but the second-year GM didn't spend as much money as he could've. After dumping Holmes' and Mark Sanchez's contracts, the Jets were among the league leaders in cap space, but Idzik was relatively conservative in free agency, relying on a 12-player draft haul to upgrade the roster. Unlike some GMs, who overpay for second-rate talent, he refuses to deviate from his long-term plan. It's the right approach for a franchise previously obsessed with quick-fix moves, but it's not foolproof. The cornerback situation will come back to bite him.
Brash Rex made a brief appearance Thursday. Well, let's say it was Brash Rex Lite.

On the eve of rookie camp, Rex Ryan spoke confidently about his team, saying he expects the New York Jets to be a playoff contender. That's hardly an outlandish statement, considering they finished 8-8 last season. But Ryan, a guest on WFAN radio, made a borderline comical remark when he said, "I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not so sure there’s too many teams that want to play us."

Ryan
Oh, really? There aren't many teams that don't want to face a second-year quarterback who threw 21 interceptions as a rookie? Aren't too many teams that don't want a face a pass defense that allowed nearly 4,000 yards? Interesting. Consider this: The Jets were outscored by 97 points last season, the largest negative point differential for a .500 or better team since the merger in 1970. In other words, they were a soft 8-8.

Obviously, they made several high-profile acquisitions in the offseason, so maybe they can turn weaknesses into strengths. Maybe Chris Johnson can turn back the clock a couple of years. Maybe Eric Decker will show he's not a Peyton Manning creation. But questions remain, especially at quarterback and cornerback.

Sticking to his talking points on the potentially volatile quarterback situation, Ryan reiterated that Geno Smith will "be hard to beat out, and I truly believe that. Just seeing him throw the ball around here, he’s got a much better understanding of what we want at that position. He knows the offense forward and backwards and he is really throwing the football well."

To cover his bases, Ryan also said Michael Vick "definitely" has a chance to win the job in the preseason.

Cornerback is a concern, too. Ryan predicted that former No. 1 pick Dee Milliner will be "special," also acknowledging that free-agent pickup Dimitri Patterson is expected to start opposite Milliner. That hardly solves the issues at the position.

The coach who hasn't reached the postseason in three consecutive years believes his team will be in the hunt.

"I’m not going to guarantee playoffs or all that, but absolutely, I know what our goal is and I believe we can reach it," said Ryan, the eternal optimist.

No one sells tickets better than him.
If the extra two weeks of waiting made you anxious, imagine how the New York Jets feel. They've been waiting 16 months.

John Idzik's rebuilding plan, set in motion when he was hired in January 2013, is built largely around the draft -- this draft. He accumulated four compensatory picks and acquired a future pick from the Darrelle Revis trade, giving him a total of 12 selections -- tied with the St. Louis Rams for the most. Idzik was relatively conservative in free agency, using only about half the salary-cap space -- a tactic that raises the stakes even higher.

The fun starts Thursday night. The Jets own the 18th pick -- for now. What to watch for:

1. Biggest needs: The Jets need a lot of things, but cornerback should at the top of the list. Their pass defense was dreadful, allowing nearly 4,000 yards, and the only thing they did in free agency was replace a descending Antonio Cromartie with an injury-prone journeyman, Dimitri Patterson. Rex Ryan's defense is predicated on cornerback play, and his current secondary will get shredded against a "Missiles of October" schedule -- Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in a 12-day span. Idzik doled out $30 million in guarantees to sign outside free agents, with only $1 million going to the defense. As one longtime personnel executive said, "Feed the defense. The only way the Jets win is if they dominate on defense." Obviously, the other glaring need is wide receiver. If you need an explanation, you must have slept through last season.

2. Moving up: Yes, the Jets are interested in trading up, according to a league source. Presumably, their target is Odell Beckham Jr., a smooth, explosive and versatile wide receiver. If this is the plan, they'd better get ahead of the New York Giants (12), who also covet the former LSU star. Based on the draft value chart, they'd have to surrender a third-round pick and two fourth-rounders to switch places with the Tennessee Titans (11). You'd have to question the wisdom of such a move. It's a deep draft, and they could land a comparable player at 18. The Jets have eight tradable picks (compensatory selections can't be dealt), affording Idzik flexibility if he wants to step out of character and ... you know, be aggressive.

3. Names to watch: Wide receiver Brandin Cooks is a popular mock-draft choice for the Jets. Good prospect, solid character, but some scouts wonder if he can be more than a slot receiver because of his size (a shade under 5-foot-10). Wide receiver Marqise Lee also is in the conversation, but this would require a leap of faith, essentially betting he'd be the 2012 version and not the 2013 Lee. The top corners are Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert, although it's quite possible one or both could be gone. Dennard is the better scheme fit, but Gilbert has more upside because of his elite ball skills.

4. Outsider's view: This is how a rival personnel director sees the Jets' situation at 18: "They have two specific team needs -- wide receiver and cornerback. It's a tough decision, but it would be a more difficult decision if there was no value at those position at that point in the first round. But that won't be the case. There will be value at those spots. I also wouldn't dismiss the tight end (Eric Ebron). They're also living with two safeties (Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen) that are borderline starting caliber, so I wouldn't be surprised if they go Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor."

5. Perspective, please: As you're watching it unfold, remember this: The Jets aren't a couple of players away, or even one draft away, from being a legitimate championship contender. They finished a soft 8-8, and before you take issue with that description, consider this: They were outscored by 97 points, the largest negative point differential for a .500 or better team since the merger in 1970. This draft is just another step in the process, albeit a big step.
This is the ninth and final installment in a position-by-position analysis of the New York Jets as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Secondary

Current personnel: CB Dee Milliner (signed through 2016), CB Dimitri Patterson (2014), CB Kyle Wilson (2014), S Dawan Landry (2014), S Antonio Allen (2015), CB Darrin Walls (2014), S Jaiquawn Jarrett (2014), CB Ellis Lankster (2014), CB Ras-I Dowling (2015), CB Johnny Patrick (2014), S Josh Bush (2015), S Rontez Miles (2016), CB Nick Taylor (2015), CB Lowell Rose (2016), CB Jeremy Reeves (2016), S Brandon Hardin (2014).

Projected starters: Milliner, Patterson, Landry, Allen.

Newcomers: Patterson (free agent/Miami Dolphins), Patrick (waivers/San Diego Chargers), Reeves (college free agent).

Departures: Antonio Cromartie (cut/Arizona Cardinals), Ed Reed (free agent), Isaiah Trufant (free agent/Cleveland Browns).

Top salary-cap charge: Milliner, $2.88 million.

Scouting report: The secondary needs help. The Jets allowed 15 pass plays of 40-plus yards, the fourth-highest total in the league. They surrendered 3,947 passing yards, the most by the franchise since 1986. A broken-down Reed made three interceptions in seven games -- and that was good enough to tie for the team lead. Need we go on? In free agency, they made only one significant move, essentially replacing Cromartie with Patterson. When healthy, Patterson is a playmaker, especially in the slot, but he hasn't been healthy in recent years. Cromartie played poorly last season, so maybe they figure anything they get out of Patterson is an upgrade. That's a risky way to do business. Rex Ryan needs at least three good corners to play his style of defense, and there are no sure things on the roster. Milliner capped an otherwise bad rookie season with a strong finish, but does that make him a legit No. 1 corner? If Milliner doesn't make a big leap, it's trouble.

Last DB drafted: They picked Milliner, ninth overall, last year.

Potential targets: There's a decent chance they could pick a corner in the first round (18). No fewer than seven corners made pre-draft visits to the Jets' facility, including the top four -- Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State), Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) and Bradley Roby (Ohio State). Dennard is the best scheme fit because he played a lot of man-to-man in college. Gilbert is a freakishly talented athlete with terrific ball skills, but he's not physical -- a younger version of Cromartie. Fuller can play in any scheme. Roby has "boom or bust" written all over him. Dennard, Gilbert and Fuller would be good value at 18. Keith McGill (Utah) is a possibility if they want to wait until the second or third round. Dex Mcdougle (Maryland) is a third-day option. The could use a cover safety, but Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) won't last until 18. Ryan's defense doesn't value safeties as much as other teams, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they wait until Day 3 to draft one, if then. Dez Southward (Wisconsin) is a late possibility.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): CB -- 10; S -- 7.
The New York Jets' three coordinators fulfilled media requirements Tuesday by speaking to reporters via conference call. A few takeaways:

Smith
1. It's Geno's job -- for now: Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, speaking to reporters for the first time since the Michael Vick signing (yes, really), made it quite clear they really want Geno Smith to emerge as their starting quarterback. He didn't use those words, but the tea leaves are obvious. Mornhinweg talked about how he doesn't want the competition to impede Smith's progress and that Vick is here to "push" Smith. Predictably, he said Smith would get more first-team reps than Vick in organized team activities, which became the headline. All things considered, Mornhinweg's comments weren't a revelation. I mean, when was the last time you heard an organization say it wants a 33-year-old to replace a young incumbent with upside -- a quarterback who happens to be the hand-picked choice of the general manager?

2. Chris squared: Mornhinweg said Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory will form "a pretty good, little 1-2 punch." He spoke of Johnson as if this were 2009, mentioning his "electric" speed. Look, I get it, he's excited to have Johnson in the backfield. Even if he's not CJ2K, Johnson should have enough left to help the Jets.

3. Cornerback problem, what problem?: Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman insisted he's "comfortable" with the current state of the cornerback position. I'm not sure I'm buying that. It wouldn't surprise me if they use their first-round pick on a cornerback, creating more flexibility. Right now, Dimitri Patterson is projected to start opposite Dee Milliner, but he could slide inside to the slot (his best position) if another corner is added in the first round. Asked if the current secondary will be better than last season, Thurman said, "No one really knows," adding he won't know until the games start.

Milliner
4. Big Dee: Thurman spoke optimistically about Milliner, saying he's hopeful the former top pick can build off his strong finish last season. "If he does, the sky's the limit," Thurman said. "I believe he will be a very good corner." He has to be. Otherwise, the defense is in big trouble.

5. New special teams coach: Thomas McGaughey spoke to reporters for the first time since being hired in February (yes, really). He said his top priority is to shore up the punt coverage (the Jets finished 27th). "I've had a history of being able to coach that part of it pretty well," McGaughey said. "Hopefully, these guys can back up my words." He likes Jacoby Ford's potential as a kickoff returner, but he'd like to add competition. He talked about the differences between coaching special teams on the pro and college level (he spent the three previous years at LSU), mentioning that he always had to be prepared for trickery at LSU. The Tigers were usually up by a lot, prompting opponents "to do anything they can to get back in the game."

6. LSU intel: Yes, McGaughey shared his thoughts with the scouting department on the various LSU prospects in the draft. The most high-profile player is wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who could be the Jets' pick in the first round. McGaughey said his opinions will remain in-house.

7. Westie the consultant: McGaughey said he speaks to former special teams coach Mike Westhoff about once a month. "Obviously, he's one of the best to have ever done it," he said. " We've had a relationship for about five, six years now. He's a great man, and he's really helped me along the process. He really has. [He’s] a good dude."
John Idzik and Rex RyanAP Photo/Bill KostrounWill Jets GM John Idzik draft the starting-caliber cornerback that Rex Ryan needs?
The biggest cliché you will read or hear over the next few weeks will be from NFL experts explaining that this will be a critical draft for (insert any team name).

Hello? They're all critical because they happen only once a year.

The second-biggest cliché will be from smart-alecks like me reminding you it's a cliché.

That said, I'll probably incur a penalty flag for writing this, but there are special cases -- see the New York Jets -- where there is simply no way to minimize the importance of a particular draft.

This is one of those years for the Jets. Because of their deliberate approach in free agency -- some might say cheap -- they have raised the stakes for the upcoming draft. May 8-10 will be the three biggest days of the year for a franchise in Stage 2 of its rebuilding project.

Despite having enough salary-cap room to pay an entire small-market baseball team, general manager John Idzik chose to save most of his money, counting on a bountiful draft to fill the many holes on the Jets' roster.

You might say he's putting most of his eggs in one basket, and it happens to be a complete dozen -- 12 draft picks. He'll have yolk on the face if he blows this draft, because he passed up a lot of potential upgrades in free agency.

Many fans are restless because they are not accustomed to this way of doing business. Under Idzik's predecessor, Mike Tannenbaum, the Jets owned the New York back pages in March, titillating the fan base with sexy trades and expensive signings.

Tannenbaum knew how to feed the beast, but there was a method to his madness. His research told him they were better off spending the money on proven commodities instead of stockpiling draft choices, figuring the bust rate of draft picks -- especially in the late rounds -- didn't validate the risk-reward.

In the past six drafts under Tannenbaum, 2007 to 2012, the Jets added 31 players -- an average of roughly five per year. If Idzik keeps his full allotment of choices, which includes four compensatory selections and a pick from the Darrelle Revis trade, he'll be up to 19 picks in two drafts.

Tannenbaum's plan damn near worked, as the Jets reached back-to-back AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010, but the talent base eventually eroded and he was fired. Now they have the anti-Tannenbaum in Idzik, building at a glacial pace through the draft.

"The football offseason is like an event, a circus act, and fans in general want to see something," a longtime personnel executive said this week. "With John, he takes the air out of the balloon. It's not exciting, but he does it his way. You have to respect that."

Idzik's way is similar to those of the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, three successful organizations that rely on the draft more than free agency. In Wisconsin, you're more likely to see a March thaw than a flurry of free-agent signings. The signing of Julius Peppers last month was a stunning departure from the norm, a rare walk on the wild side by GM Ted Thompson.

Their usual philosophy: Draft. Develop. Extend. In other words, use your money to re-invest in your homegrown talent.

"He's modeling those organizations," the former personnel executive said of Idzik.

Idzik has to yet to make a long-term commitment to an ascending player, although you could make the case that the Jets haven't had anyone worthy of a contract extension. That will change when defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson gets a new deal, this year or next. For now, the objective is to find more Wilkersons.

Their list of needs is long, perhaps too long, considering they began free agency with close to $40 million in cap room. They upgraded the No. 2 wide receiver spot by signing Eric Decker, and they fortified the quarterback position by adding Michael Vick. But where are the playmakers? If the Jets are counting on Decker to be a difference-maker, they misspent their guaranteed $15 million.

Defensively, the personnel is worse than it was at the end of the season, specifically at cornerback. The mistake wasn't cutting Antonio Cromartie and making no effort to re-sign him; after all, he played poorly last season. No, the mistake was failing to come up with a better replacement than the aging and injury-prone Dimitri Patterson.

Defense will drive the Jets as long as Rex Ryan is the coach, and his defensive system is driven by cornerbacks. Idzik knows that, but he obviously held back in free agency, knowing he has an XXL draft to attack the team's weaknesses.

The second-year GM and his revamped scouting department enjoyed a solid first draft, so there is hope, but the challenge is greater this year because the expectation level is higher. If you're going to be frugal in free agency, you had better own the draft.

The Jets need to come away with a starting-caliber cornerback, a potential No. 1 receiver and a pass-catching tight end. With six choices among the top 137, they have the bargaining chips to wheel and deal. Idzik has enough ammo to take control of the draft, cherry-picking the players he covets most. A Justin Gilbert-Allen Robinson-Jace Amaro troika would be a nice start.

This is a critical draft for the Jets. Sorry about the cliché, but it's the truth.

Analyzing Kiper Grade A draft: Jets 

April, 3, 2014
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A team often can fill its biggest needs in free agency, creating more flexibility when it comes time for the draft. In other words, the team can draft the best available player (in theory) without having to reach to address a need.

You can't say that about the New York Jets. They signed five free agents from other teams, including two wide receivers and a cornerback, but their top needs remain the same -- wide receiver, tight end and cornerback. This illustrates an absolute lack of depth at those positions.

Dimitri Patterson never has been mentioned with the top cornerbacks in the NFL, but he obviously feels he's an underrated talent. His self-confidence was apparent Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.

Patterson
"Obviously, I don’t have the sexiest or flashiest name or I don’t have a lot of hype behind my name," Patterson said. "The thing about it is when you turn on the tape, with the opportunity that has been given to me ... my numbers speak for themselves. ... I have been able to show that, when the opportunity is given, I can play at a high level and I can handle the top receivers."

The New York Jets gave him a one-year, $3 million contract, which consists of a $1 million signing bonus, a $1.5 million base salary and $500,000 in roster bonuses ($31,250 for every game he's on the active 46). The size of the contract suggests Patterson will be on the field a lot. He said he will have the opportunity to replace Antonio Cromartie in the starting lineup.

"They told me that there is definitely a strong opportunity there for me to come in and pick up where I left off last year," said Patterson, who started four games for the Miami Dolphins before a groin injury forced him to the sideline.

Patterson revealed that he underwent surgery last December to correct the problem, saying he feels "great." That's the knock on him, that he's injury prone. Patterson, who turns 31 next month, has missed 24 games the past two seasons. The man he's replacing, Cromartie, never missed a game due to injury.

"I just ask that [the] individual look at what I have been able to do when given the opportunity, and look at that as a football player and not someone that has a lot of hype behind his name or is hyped up," he said. "[Just look at me] as a football player who has done a lot with the little opportunity that has been given to him."

The Jets also introduced wide receiver Jacoby Ford via conference call. Ford, who spent four seasons with the Oakland Raiders, said he will compete for the kickoff-return job and, possibly, the punt-returning job. They could use a boost in those areas. Like Patterson, Ford is trying to shake the label that he's injury prone. He missed the 2012 season, recovering from foot surgery. He claimed he's still as fast as he was when he came out of Clemson in 2010, which means he's pretty fast. He ran a 4.28 in the 40.

"The exact same or faster [than when I came out of school]," said Ford, who signed a one-year deal for probably about $1 million. "I feel that confident in my running."

CB Patterson visits with Jets

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
4:10
PM ET
In a radio interview last week, general manager John Idzik acknowledged the obvious, saying the New York Jets have a need at cornerback. With no attractive options left in free agency, he's down to the second- and third-tier players. One of those free agents, Dimitri Patterson, is visiting Monday with the Jets, a league source confirmed.

Patterson
Patterson, cut recently by the Miami Dolphins, is strictly a backup type. He has started only 20 games in eight years for six different teams. He also has durability questions, as he has played in only eight games over the past two seasons. He missed time last season with a groin injury and was placed on injured reserve late in the season. The Dolphins saved $5.4 million on the cap by releasing him.

He was limited to only six games (four starts) last season, but he actually played well. Patterson recorded four interceptions in 240 defensive snaps, one more than anybody in the Jets' secondary. He graded out well in the ProFootball Focus rankings, but he's not a plug-and-play corner who can replace Antonio Cromartie.

The Jets cut Cromartie, flirted with free agents Vontae Davis and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, showed no interest in a reunion with Darrelle Revis ... and, well, now they have a gaping hole in the starting lineup. It's becoming increasingly obvious they will have to invest a high draft choice in a corner, one year after picking Dee Milliner ninth overall.

Patterson's visit was first reported by Pro Football Talk.

Cornerback crisis puts Rex on edge

March, 17, 2014
Mar 17
10:30
AM ET
The New York Jets' current cornerback crisis reminds me of an anecdote shared by former general manager Mike Tannenbaum. This was back in April 2010, when they had just used their first-round pick on cornerback Kyle Wilson. They already had Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, so there was some question about the wisdom of adding another corner.
Ryan
Tannenbaum recalled a conversation with Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. When he hired Rex Ryan from the Ravens' staff in 2009, Tannenbaum asked Newsome what to expect.

"(Newsome) said, 'I'm shipping him up I-95, and he has a little sign around his neck that says, 'I need corners,'" Tannenbaum said at the time. "That's just who Rex is. He cannot have enough corners."

So it doesn't take a lot of imagination to understand how Ryan is feeling these days: He's freaking out.

The Jets cut Cromartie (an expected move), showed no interest in Revis when he became a free agent and haven't added any veteran corners. (Sorry, we're not counting San Diego Chargers castoff Johnny Patrick.) Their top corners, as we speak, are Dee Milliner, Wilson, Patrick and Darrin Walls.

Oh, boy.

Free agent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie visited Saturday before heading over to the New York Giants for a sitdown. He's the best available corner in a thinned-out market. He's far from perfect (he was awful for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012), but he's 28 years old, can play man-to-man and is coming off a good season with the Denver Broncos. He might not be a 10, but when an 8 hangs out with a bunch of 5s and 6s, he looks like a super hero. (Kind of reminds me of that funny nightclub scene in "Hall Pass," a very under-rated movie, if I must say.)

The ESPN free-agent tracker rates Rodgers-Cromartie, Dimitri Patterson (cut by the Miami Dolphins) and Carlos Rogers (cut by the San Francisco 49ers) as the best available corners. I'd add Cromartie to that list.

The tracker scouting reports:

Rodgers-Cromartie: "One of the best corners on the market, Rodgers-Cromartie was a solid starter on a unit that struggled in 2013. He has good size, and his length and ball skills allow him the chance to make a lot of plays. On film it looks like his pedal and turn are not always consistent, which is why he gets beaten deep too often, but he will show some good flashes in man coverage and can be effective in sub packages. He can be susceptible to double moves."

Patterson: "Patterson has very good ball skills and the route recognition to play man-to-man defense as a perimeter cornerback. Was productive when he played in 2013 but a groin injury limited him and eventually led to him being placed on injured reserve. Does not have great size or length but can be a short-term starting option for a defensive back-needy team."

Rogers: "A soon-to-be 33-year old who is now best suited to handle slot duties after several productive seasons with both Washington and then San Francisco. Rogers' injury issues have been concerning in recent seasons, and after a standout 2011, he's regressed in overall play. He has strong ball skills but lacks the burst to stick with wideouts on the perimeter."
The Miami Dolphins have made several quality moves already in free agency. But there remains a gaping hole at cornerback opposite Pro Bowler Brent Grimes.

Taylor
Davis
Can a pair of 2013 draft picks fill that void?

Former second-round pick Jamar Taylor and third-round pick Will Davis will be provided a chance to fill significant roles with the Dolphins in 2014. Both had redshirt rookie years last season. Taylor and Davis both battled various injuries early in the season and couldn’t work their way into the rotation.

But the Dolphins, via their recent roster moves, are making it clear that Taylor and Davis will be provided a clean slate this season. Miami cut veteran starter Dimitri Patterson last week to save $5 million on its salary cap. The Dolphins also allowed veteran Nolan Carroll to walk in free agency. Carroll signed Thursday with the Philadelphia Eagles. Between Patterson and Carroll, Miami lost seven total interceptions from last season.

Taylor and Davis were highly-touted players entering last year’s draft who have potential. Taylor was a playmaker at Boise State who was considered by many to be a first-round prospect. But health issues leading up to the draft dropped Taylor to the second round. Miami felt it got value in Taylor, but his issues and injuries carried into training camp and the early portion of the season. Taylor got playing time sparingly late in the season, but he didn't get enough reps to show what he can do.

Davis is a ballhawk who showed flashes in training camp. He unofficially led the Dolphins in interceptions during training camp practices. As a member of the scout defense, Davis picked off Miami starting cornerback Ryan Tannehill three times in summer practices, which opened some eyes. Davis also had an interception in the preseason against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But a toe injury late in the preseason put him behind and he never found a consistent spot in the rotation.

Miami is hosting veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan Friday. That is a sign the team is looking for another veteran presence to add to the mix. But the Dolphins also are hoping one -- or both -- of their young cornerbacks steps up this year.
The Miami Dolphins are just getting started one day into NFL free agency. But let’s take an early look at what Miami and new general manager Dennis Hickey have done so far to the roster:

In
Out

Hickey is clearly putting his stamp on the roster. Longtime Dolphins such as Soliai, and free agents Randy Starks and Chris Clemons did not have the same value to the new GM as they did with former general manager Jeff Ireland. Meanwhile, Martin had to go.

The Dolphins are just getting started in free agency. But you can start to see the plan taking shape for Miami this offseason.

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