New York Jets: Antonio Cromartie

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.

Training camp preview: Secondary

July, 21, 2014
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Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, July 23:

Position: Secondary

Patterson
Projected starters: Dee Milliner (CB), Dimitri Patterson (CB), Kyle Wilson (slot), Dawan Landry (S), Calvin Pryor (S).

Projected reserves: Antonio Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Dexter McDougle, Darrin Walls, Ellis Lankster.

Notables on the bubble: Josh Bush, Ras-I Dowling, Rontez Miles, Brandon Dixon (sixth-round pick).

Player to watch: Pryor. He was drafted 18th overall for a reason, and the reason is because the Jets believe he can be a great safety. Rex Ryan calls him an enforcer, comparing him to the late Jack Tatum. Ryan meant well, but he may have put a target on Pryor's back by putting him in the same sentence as one of the most notorious hitters in NFL history. He'll bring a physical, tough-guy element to the secondary, but what the secondary really needs is big plays -- interceptions, forced fumbles, anything. The secondary frightened no one last season.

Milliner
Top storyline: Did general manager John Idzik leave Ryan short at cornerback? It was one of the greatest cornerback classes in free-agent history and the Jets ended up with ... Patterson, a journeyman. Patterson, 31, with his sixth team, has natural ball skills, but he's never on the field long enough to use them. He has missed 33 of his last 48 games due to injuries. Ryan needs corners for his defense the way humans need water to survive. Milliner holds the key. If he becomes a legitimate No. 1 corner -- dare we say shutdown corner? -- it changes the face of the secondary. For the first time since 2006, the Jets don't have someone named Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie at corner. They need Milliner to ascend to that status.

Training camp will be a success if ... : Pryor is in the Week 1 lineup. The coaches say he's a smart cookie, but we'll see how he adapts when the pads go on and the playbook installation intensifies. It would be a major disappointment if he's not an immediate starter, considering his draft position and the relatively tame competition at safety.

Wild card: Landry's role. He played 98 percent of the defensive snaps last season, but he could lose his starting job if the Pryor-Allen tandem flourishes. Landry, known as "The Mentor," has value because of his smarts. But at what point does intelligence get trumped by youth and speed? It'll be a delicate balancing act in camp. The coaches have to get Landry ready while giving the Pryor-Allen duo a chance to develop chemistry.

By the numbers: The Jets' pass defense wasn't bad last season against three- and four-receiver groupings -- a 77.1 passer rating, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They struggled when it was only two receivers -- 103.9 rating.

Sunday notes: Geno the scrambler

June, 29, 2014
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Cleaning out the notebook on the New York Jets:

1. The Geno plan: Geno Smith caught teams by surprise at the end of last season, running with more frequency than before. He carried 31 times for 186 yards and three touchdowns over the final four games, accounting for roughly half his total production. Clearly, the change in strategy helped him become a better quarterback, an upswing that made the Jets buy in for at least another year. But now, as one opposing player noted, defenses will be better prepared to stop Geno the scrambler.

"I think he'll be better this year, but the other thing is, every team will have had the opportunity to watch 16 games and break him down," Tennessee Titans CB Jason McCourty told me last week at a charity golf tournament on Long Island.

McCourty, who faced Smith last season (a brutal day for the Jets' QB) and will see him again in December, makes a good point. After studying him in the offseason, teams will scheme up ways to keep him in the pocket. They were unprepared for it late last year because he had shown no inclination to run, which frustrated the Jets' coaches at times. Facts are facts: When Smith runs, the offense runs better. The Jets were 6-1 when Smith had five or more carries and 6-0 when he scored a touchdown.

Opponents will go to school on the final four games, count on it.

2. Buying QB insurance: Belated thoughts on Marty Mornhinweg's comment that Smith will get 70 to 75 percent of the first-team reps in training camp: It shows that, as Michael Vick noted on more than one occasion, it's not an open competition. At the same time, the percentage indicates the Jets aren't all-in with Smith. They're hedging their bet, giving Vick one out of every four reps to get him ready -- just in case. Normally, a veteran starter gets about 90 percent of the reps.

3. Anything you can do ... : DT Sheldon Richardson, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year for 2013, said in a recent interview that rookie S Calvin Pryor has the goods to match his accomplishment. When I asked Pryor his reaction to Richardson's raising-the-bar remarks, he didn't back down one bit.

"When it comes down to it, that's one of the goals I have in the back of my head," the Jets' first-round pick said. "I'll definitely try to fill his shoes."

In case you're wondering, no team has produced back-to-back winners in the 47-year history of the award. In 1980, two members of the Atlanta Falcons' defense split the award, Buddy Curry and Al Richardson.

4. Home bodies: There was some talk about the Jets having dual practices with the Cincinnati Bengals during the run-up to their Aug. 16 preseason game, but the Jets have decided to remain in Cortland, N.Y., for that week. From what I hear, there wasn't too much disappointment in the locker room about skipping the Cincy trip.

5. The joy of Rex: I've heard a lot of players over the years talk about why they enjoy playing for Rex Ryan, but I was particularly interested in listening to Dimitri Patterson, who came from a place -- the Miami Dolphins -- where there was an obvious disconnect between players and coaches.

"Rex gives off this positive energy that spreads around," Patterson told me. "That's why the guys played so hard for him toward the end of the year. What stands out to me is he knows how to put his players in a positive space, mentally."

Maybe Phil Jackson isn't the only Zen master in New York.

6. Michael Vick, cont.: In a sitdown last week, I asked Vick to name his greatest career accomplishment. He thought for a moment.

"I think my greatest accomplishment in my career was being such a young quarterback and having the guile to go into Green Bay in 2002, being a second-year player and making history, basically," he said, referring to the Falcons' playoff upset -- the first road team to win a postseason game at Lambeau Field. "Going in with confidence and winning that football game was I think my greatest accomplishment."

It was a great win, to be sure, but I don't think anything short of a championship can satisfy a "greatest accomplishment" question for 12 years.

7. Farewell to an original: One of the original New York Titans, guard Bob Mischak, died Thursday at the age of 81. He began his career with the New York Giants, but he'll be remembered in Jets/Titans history as the first player to receive all-star recognition. He was the only member of the Titans named to the AFL all-star team in 1960, the franchise's first year. He won three Super Bowl rings as an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders, and he also coached in Italy and London. That's what you call a full life.

8. Cro the Cardinal: In a post on Instagram, former Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie mocks his critics, saying he ran two sub-4.4 times in the 40. If we write about it, he'll find a way to rip us for misquoting him.

9. He's not Mike Westhoff: Sensed a little edge in Thomas McGaughey's voice when he was asked about the scheme differences between him and his predecessor, Ben Kotwica, and his predecessor's predecessor, Mike Westhoff.

"I’m not Mike Westhoff. I’m not going to try to be Mike Westhoff," said McGaughey, who was hired in February to coach the special teams. "My name is Thomas McGaughey, Jr. and I can be the best me that I can possibly be, and that’s where it stops. Mike Westhoff was a hell of a coach, is a hell of a coach, and he had a great career. Ben was a great coach in his own right. But I’m me. I’m not going to try to be anybody else. I’m not going to try to act like anybody else. I’m going to be Thomas Ray McGaughey, Jr."

All right, then ...

10. Vacation time: I'll be shutting it down for the next three weeks, but make sure you stay locked to our Jets team page. The blog will be populated with interesting features, starting this coming week with another edition of the AFC East "Four Downs" segment -- four team reporters tackling hot issues as camp approaches. The following week, we'll roll out our "Most Memorable Play" series across the league, which is sure to generate debate. After that, we'll start our daily position previews for training camp, which starts July 23. Until then, I'm chilling.

W2W4: Moment of truth for Jets

May, 8, 2014
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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.

Jets draft preview: Secondary

May, 7, 2014
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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.
Good morning, New York Jets fans. One year ago, your favorite team traded its best player.

[+] EnlargeDarrelle Revis
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsThe Jets appear to have made the right move in trading cornerback Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay.
Yes, April 21 is the first anniversary of the Darrelle Revis trade, a highly controversial move in which John Idzik -- in his first significant decision as the general manager -- sent the then-injured cornerback to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because owner Woody Johnson refused to meet the player's asking price on a new contract, $16 million per year.

After months of speculation, fans awoke on a Sunday morning to the news that Revis was en route to Tampa to take a physical. Within a couple of hours, it was a done deal, one that will be debated for years. One year later, our take on the winners and losers from the trade:

Winner -- The Jets. Philosophically, it was the right move because no cornerback is worth $16 million a year, but the right move doesn't always work out. In this case, it did. They used the 2013 draft-pick compensation (13th overall) to select defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. They also landed a fourth-round choice in the upcoming draft. To grade the trade mainly on Richardson's performance, however, isn't fair. If the Jets had kept Revis, they wouldn't have needed a cornerback, so they probably would've picked Richardson with their own choice (ninth overall) instead of Dee Milliner. So, when evaluating the trade, Milliner has to be included -- and he was shaky as a rookie.

Loser -- The Bucs. You can bet they're not celebrating the anniversary in Tampa. It was an ill-advised trade when they made it, and it turned into an all-time bust. The Bucs, under new leadership, decided to cut Revis after only one season. After all the hype, he was just a one-year rental. In the end, the trade cost them a mid-first-round pick and $16 million, and the result was a 4-12 record and pink slips for coach Greg Schiano and GM Mark Dominik.

Wealthy loser -- Revis. Financially, he made out nicely, making $10 million more from the Bucs than he would've received from the Jets in 2013 -- not a bad raise for a guy coming off ACL surgery. His unexpected trip to free agency allowed him to make another score, landing $12 million from the New England Patriots. Despite a two-year, $29 million haul (including a $1 million roster bonus from the Jets before the trade), Revis has become a hired gun, a well-to-do journeyman who probably will spend the rest of his career going year to year and team to team. It's too bad because he could've gone down as one of the best and most beloved players in Jets history.

Winners -- The quarterbacks and pass-catchers who faced the Jets. Even though the Jets will benefit from the trade over the long haul, they suffered in the short term, missing Revis' presence in the secondary. The Jets allowed a staggering 3,947 passing yards, a 900-yard increase from the previous year and the most allowed by the franchise since 1986. It was a stain on Rex Ryan's sterling record as a defensive mastermind.

Loser -- Antonio Cromartie. Without Revis, Cromartie became the No. 1 cornerback and was often responsible for covering the opponents' top wideout. He was torched on a fairly regular basis, contributing to his release at the end of the season. He had to settle for a one-year, $3.5 million contract from the Arizona Cardinals.

W2W4: Jets begin off-season program

April, 20, 2014
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Nearly four months removed from the feel-good finish to their 8-8 season, the New York Jets return to work Monday for the official start of the offseason -- a nine-week program that gradually increases in intensity and culminates with a mandatory minicamp, June 17-19.

The offseason program is voluntary (wink, wink), although many players are required to attend to collect workout bonuses. The Jets' top storylines:

Smith
Vick
Vick
1. A new locker room culture: The Jets dumped three high-profile players, Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie, all of whom wielded considerable influence in the locker room (for better or worse). The team will experience a natural change in leadership as the new players are integrated. The most compelling dynamic will be the Geno Smith-Michael Vick relationship and how it impacts the team. Smith won the team's respect last season with his resilience; Vick will command it as soon as he walks in the door.

2. The quarterback competition: It will take four months to decide Smith vs. Vick, but you can bet every pass, every action and every word uttered by them and their teammates will be micr0-analyzed by the media. Practices (OTAs) don't start until May 27, so prepare for five weeks of rhetoric, followed by pass-by-pass analysis on Twitter. Hey, it's New York and we love a good quarterback controversy. The pre-camp favorite? All things being equal, Smith gets the job, but Vick has a lot going for him and could outplay Smith in the preseason. Presumably, the Jets won't botch the competition this time, allowing them to -- you know -- actually declare a winner.

3. Sophs under the microscope: The offseason program always is important for second-year players because ... well, it's their first full offseason in the NFL. For cornerback Dee Milliner and guard Brian Winters, it's doubly important. Milliner was forced to sit out last year's workouts because he was recovering from pre-draft shoulder surgery, putting him behind everybody -- and it showed. For Winters, who played tackle in college, this will be his first offseason to train as a guard, where he struggled for most of his rookie season.

4. Learning MartyBall: It's a new-look offense, with possibly four new starters -- Vick, running back Chris Johnson, wide receiver Eric Decker and right tackle Breno Giacomini. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg set a foundation last season in Year 1 of his system, but he may have to circle back because there are so many new pieces -- and that number will grow after the draft. Vick's familiarity with Mornhinweg's offense will help a lot because it means every quarterback in the room knows the system, an important springboard in any offseason.

5. Blissfully quiet: A year ago, the Jets and Darrelle Revis' camp were locked in a dispute over whether the star cornerback had to work out with the team to collect bonus money. It didn't last long, as Revis was sent packing. There are no such distractions this year -- yet.

Another CB for Jets? Not out of question

April, 8, 2014
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They wouldn't. They couldn't.

Oh, yes, they could.

With their first-round pick in next month's draft, the New York Jets could select a cornerback for the second straight year (Dee Milliner, 2013) and the third time in the past five years (Kyle Wilson, 2010). That may sound like overkill, but it isn't, not when you consider the importance of corners in Rex Ryan's defense. It's also not farfetched when you look at the way the Jets have approached free agency, cutting Antonio Cromartie and ostensibly replacing him with journeyman Dimitri Patterson -- hardly a long-term solution with a one-year, $3 million contract. General manager John Idzik, criticized for not landing any of the top corners, seemingly held back, knowing he had an ace up his sleeve -- the draft.

So it comes as no surprise that four of the highest-rated corners in the draft are scheduled to visit the Jets -- Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, Ohio State's Bradley Roby, Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller, listed in order of Scouts Inc's ranking. It's an interesting mix of talent.

Dennard, who won the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back, doesn't have off-the-charts measureables, but he possesses some Darrelle Revis-like qualities in terms of instincts and toughness. Gilbert is a bit inconsistent, but it's hard to ignore his playmaking skills -- seven interceptions last season (two returned for touchdowns) and six kickoff-return touchdowns over his career. Roby may have the most pure talent of the group, but he had a mediocre year and has character questions. Fuller is a solid, all-around package, but he underwent hernia surgery last November.

The Jets could wait until the second round (No. 49 overall) to address the cornerback need, but it gets dicey at that point because the top prospects could be gone. Scouts, Inc. has seven corners rated in its top 50, five of whom could go in the first round. Over the last four drafts, six, four, six and seven corners have been picked in the top 50.

If the Jets don't choose a wide receiver in the first round, it'll be a cornerback. Write it down.

Dimitri Patterson signing raises questions

April, 1, 2014
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A few thoughts on cornerback Dimitri Patterson signing a one-year, $3 million contract with the New York Jets:

Patterson
1. A head scratcher: In the end, general manager John Idzik preferred a $3 million cornerback with major durability issues over a $3.5 million corner (Antonio Cromartie) who never has missed a game in his career due to injury and already is comfortable in Rex Ryan's system. On the surface, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Idzik is gambling that Patterson can beat the injury bug that cost him 24 games over the last two seasons. Granted, Cromartie didn't play well last season, but he's a scheme fit and his troublesome hip is said to be doing better. He's getting $3.5 million from the Arizona Cardinals, who think he'll be fine.

2. Mr. Inside: Patterson started four games for the Miami Dolphins last season, but his best position is the nickel -- specifically, covering the slot receiver. The Dolphins were thin at corner, so they had to start him. A review of Dolphins tape shows that, early in the season, Patterson started at right corner and slid inside on nickel downs. Said one AFC personnel scout: "He's a borderline starter, but you really want him as your 3. I bet you they draft a guy because he's not a press (coverage) guy in the way Rex likes to press."

3. Projected role: The size of Patterson's contract suggests he will be on the field a lot, starting opposite Dee Milliner or playing in the nickel. Right now, he's the leading candidate to replace Cromartie in the lineup. This won't preclude the Jets from drafting a corner, perhaps in the first two rounds. Remember, Patterson is just a stop-gap. Scouts, Inc. has 15 corners rated in their top 100, so they should be able to find a potential starter in the first three rounds. If they pick a corner early, it could jeopardize Kyle Wilson's roster spot.

4. Nice productivity: Limited to only six games because of a groin injury that hampered him the entire season, Patterson finished with four interceptions (in 228 defensive snaps) -- one more pick than anybody on the Jets. Patterson recorded two interceptions in the opener, although the first was a gift deflection. His best play came against the New England Patriots in the seventh game, when he dropped into a zone from the slot, made a nice read on Tom Brady and stepped in front of Rob Gronkowski to make the interception. Patterson shows nice instincts and ball skills, but he lacks catch-up speed. And, of course, he can't stay healthy.

CB Patterson visits with Jets

March, 31, 2014
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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.

Sunday notes: Jets playing 'Moneyball'

March, 30, 2014
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Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets:

1. Penny pinchers: For those not happy with John Idzik's conservative approach to free agency... well, you may not want to read this. It will raise your ire to a new level.

[+] EnlargeIdzik
AP Photo/Bill KostrounJets GM John Idzik has a new style this offseason: less spending, more scouting.
Right now, the Jets have the lowest cash payroll in the NFL -- $86.1 million, according to overthecap.com. We're not talking cap dollars, we're talking actual cash spending for 2014. They're $50 million under the top-spending team, the Baltimore Ravens. The paltry number makes the Jets seem like the New York Mets of the NFL.

In 14 months, Idzik has systematically dumped many of the highest salaries. Their once-top-heavy cap has thinned to the point where only three players have cap charges of at least $7 million -- D'Brickashaw Ferguson ($11.7 million), Nick Mangold ($7.2 million) and David Harris ($7 million). It's telling that the fourth- and fifth-highest cap numbers belong to players no longer on the roster -- Antonio Cromartie ($5.5 million) and Mark Sanchez ($4.8 million).

The Jets flirted with several big-name free agents (Jared Allen, DeMarcus Ware, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), but missed out, in part, because they failed to show them the money. (Pardon the Jerry Maguire-ism.) What conclusions can be drawn? Either the Jets are cheap or Idzik is budgeting for the future. It's probably more of the latter. Know this: Starting this year, teams are required to spend at least 89 percent of the cap in cash over a four-year period. It looks like the Jets will have some catching up to do in future years.

2. DeSean update: Unless they pull a 180, the Jets won't be a factor in the DeSean Jackson sweepstakes -- a smart move. He's not a fit for them. They held internal discussions on Jackson, with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg giving his blessing. Mornhinweg, who coached him with the Philadelphia Eagles, told people in the organization that Jackson -- known for his bad-boy reputation -- wouldn't be a problem in the locker room. That apparently wasn't enough to sway Idzik, who reportedly hadn't reached out to Jackson's agent as of Saturday. Jackson is scheduled to visit Monday with the Washington Redskins. The Oakland Raiders might be interested as well.

3. On the road again: Idzik has popped up at a number of the high-profile pro days, most recently the Johnny Manziel extravaganza at Texas A&M. He's taking more scouting trips than he did last offseason, when he was new on the job and felt obligated to work from the office as he familiarized himself with the operation and the staff.

4. For Pete's sake: I caught up with Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at the league meetings and asked for a scouting report on right tackle Breno Giacomini, who left the Super Bowl champions to sign with the Jets. Carroll: "Great competitor. Really fierce. A really smart player. Tough. Great finisher. Physical. He's legit. We hated losing Breno. We would've liked to (have kept him), but we couldn't do it. We had no intention of wanting to lose him, but he's one of the guys we had to transition out of the organization. He's worth it (for the Jets). He got paid well and he deserves it."

Translation: We liked him, but not at four years, $18 million.

5. Cro is for the birds: With All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson locking down one side of the field, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians expects opponents to attack former Jet Antonio Cromartie -- and he's just fine with that.

"I love the fact that there's going to be a lot of balls thrown at him, because I didn't throw that many when I was playing against him," Arians said at the league meetings, expressing confidence in Cromartie's coverage ability.

He'll rue that statement if Cromartie doesn't cover better than he did last season.

6. Sleeper with speed: It was overshadowed by the Jackson news and the Sanchez signing, but the Jets picked up an interesting player Friday -- cornerback Jeremy Reeves. After a four-year career at Iowa State, where he intercepted five passes (two returned for touchdowns), Reeves was eligible for the 2013 draft. But he tore a pectoral muscle, missed his pro day, wasn't drafted and wasn't signed by anyone. After working out on his own for a year, he participated in Iowa State's pro day last week and burned the 40 in 4.29 seconds, according to school officials.

He's only 5-7, 167 pounds (picture Darren Sproles at corner), but that kind of speed -- even if not totally accurate -- turns heads. The Jets have a good feel for Reeves because Jeff Bauer, the director of college scouting, is an Iowa State alum, plugged into the Iowa scene.

7. Flying with the Eagles: Former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (it feels weird typing that) made a good point in his introductory news conference in Philadelphia: He believes he could thrive in Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense because of past success in the hurry-up. Sanchez was at his best in two-minute situations, when he didn't have to read the entire field and was required to make quick decisions. So maybe there's hope for him in Philly. On the other hand, his career record against NFC teams isn't sterling -- 10 touchdown passes, 21 interceptions.

8. Reality star: Eric Decker's reality show -- "Eric and Jessie: Game On" -- kicks off its second season Sunday night. (Jessie is his wife, a country-music singer, in case you didn't know.) I asked Rex Ryan if he's worried the show could become a distraction for his new wide receiver. He laughed, but his answer was no. Ryan said the show never came up in conversation with Decker prior to him signing.

9. More teams, wealthier coaches: Ryan is in favor of expanding the playoff field. "Absolutely," he said. "When you look at the fact that bonuses are probably tied into it, absolutely." He laughed, but he wasn't joking. In his new contract extension, Ryan can trigger incentive bonuses for 2016 with playoff wins.

10. Changing times: The Jets have 12 draft picks. In Ryan's first three seasons (2009 to 2011), with Mike Tannenbaum as the GM, they had a total of 13.
Many happenings around the New York Jets:

1. Waiting on DeSean: If the Jets want wide receiver DeSean Jackson, they have the resources to be a major player. They have the need, the cap space (more than $30 million) and the right recruiter (Michael Vick). The question is, do they have the desire?

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesDo the positives outweigh the negatives for a marriage between the Jets and receiver DeSean Jackson?
The sense I get from talking to league sources is the Jets have a measured interest in Jackson, which will intensify if he's released by the Philadelphia Eagles -- a distinct possibility if no one is willing to trade for his contract. He has three years, $30 million remaining on the deal. He reportedly is unwilling to renegotiate his deal, which makes a trade less likely. Jackson may not be motivated to re-work the deal because he knows it will force his release, allowing him to reunite with Vick. It's possible that Vick picked the Jets, knowing his former teammate wouldn't be far behind. Could this all be part of John Idzik's master plan?

Frankly, I think it would be out of character for Idzik. Jackson is a problem child, the ultimate risk-reward gambit. The mere fact Chip Kelly is holding a fire sale for his best receiver should tell you something about how badly he wants to rid himself of Jackson. This is Santonio Holmes revisited. The talent makes the player oh-so-tempting, but is he worth the aggravation? Even if Jackson's market dries up and he accepts a team-friendly deal, he'd be complaining next offseason about wanting a new contract. He's a headache waiting to happen, but the Jets appear willing to stock up on aspirin.

2. The Marty factor: Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg knows Jackson better than anyone in the Jets' building, having coached him in Philly, but I wonder about that relationship. In May, 2010, Jackson told the Sporting News, "Our offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg, said some things, trying to question my toughness" -- a reference to a 2009 game in which he sat out with a head injury. "I was like, 'Coach, I just got a concussion. This (is) my brain. If it's something else -- my shoulder, whatever -- I'm going to play.'" Based on the quote, it doesn't sound like they're the best of buds.

By the way, Jackson suffered two concussions in 2009 and 2010, including a severe concussion that resulted in memory loss -- another factor the Jets should consider.

3. 3-21: So on the two-year anniversary of the Tim Tebow trade, Mark Sanchez gets cut, Greg McElroy announces his retirement and Vick joins the team. That has to be cosmos, right?

4. Polarizing player: Opinions on the Vick signing are sharply divided among fans and media, which isn't a surprise. I happen to think it's a good deal, but I spoke to one longtime front-office executive who believes Vick, 33, is washed up.

"The Jets already have a guy like him ," said the executive, referring to Geno Smith. "If you bring Vick in, you're not thinking. It makes no sense. He's a good kid. He's more mature, he's not a distraction and the players respect him, but he doesn't bring anything to the table anymore -- nothing. He can't win with his legs anymore, he has to win with his head. His arm is good enough, but unfortunately, the arm isn't connected to the head."

An AFC personnel scout said of the Vick-for-Sanchez move: "I don't know what to think, to be honest. You swap one out for the other. There's still no long-term solution."

5. Penalty pals, revisited: Based on their track records, the Willie Colon-Breno Giacomini tandem on the right side of the offensive line will produce a lot of penalty flags. Colon was penalized a team-high 12 times for 82 yards last season. Giacomini, playing for the Seattle Seahawks, was flagged six times for 39 yards -- in only nine games, mind you. (In addition, he had two holding calls in the postseason.) In 2011 and 2012, he combined for 21 penalties for 172 yards. Unless they change their ways, Colon and Giacomini will invite comparisons to the original Penalty Pals, Jeff Criswell and Dave Cadigan, circa 1993.

6. Keeping their own: Penalties notwithstanding, the Jets made a good move to re-sign Colon, who received a one-year, $2 million contract. Only $500,000 is guaranteed; he can also earn $1 million in base salary, plus another $500,000 in roster bonuses if he plays every game. They gave a similar deal to linebacker Calvin Pace, who can make $2.625 million in the first year of a two-year, $5 million contract.

All told, the Jets retained seven free agents for a combined total of only $5.255 million in guarantees -- Pace, Colon, Nick Folk, Jeff Cumberland, Ellis Lankster, Darrin Walls and Leger Douzable. That's what you call bargain shopping.

7. John the Rigid: The biggest criticism of Idzik, according to some agents and league insiders, is that he shows little or no flexibility in negotiations. He assigns a monetary value to a player and refuses to adjust, they say. That style may help in certain situations, but there are times when you have to examine the big picture and ask yourself, "Do we really want to lose this player over X amount of money?" Idzik's conservative approach probably cost him cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who signed with the New York Giants. So now they have a gaping hole at the position. Barring a trade, or a veteran unexpectedly shaking free, the Jets will have to rely on the draft.

8. Bad things come in threes: In a span of 12 days, Idzik jettisoned three of the cornerstone players from the last playoff team, cutting Sanchez, Holmes and Antonio Cromartie. That's a stunning player dump, considering they're all 30 or under. The downside is the amount of "dead" money on the cap. The three players are counting $12.78 million, nearly 10 percent of the entire salary cap.

9. Small-school sleeper: Remember this name -- Terrence Fede. The former Marist defensive end is trying to become the first player in his school's history to be drafted. The 6-foot-3, 276 pounder was a stud pass rusher as the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., school, recording 30.5 career sacks. He has an impressive burst on the edge. He performed for scouts recently at the University of Buffalo pro day, clocking a 4.79 in the 40. All 32 teams were in attendance, including Jets scout Cole Hufnagel. Even if he's not drafted, Fede will be a priority free agent.

10. The Jets' new dogma: Everybody knows about Vick's sordid history with dog fighting, a crime that resulted in him spending nearly two years in a federal prison. Well, here's something interesting and ironic: One of his new receivers is a dog lover. Eric Decker has a foundation called "Decker's Dogs," which provides service dogs to returning military vets with disabilities. Decker and his wife, Jessica, raise money to help train rescued dogs. They believe rescued dogs have the same success rate as dogs bred for service.

Pace stunned by Revis signing with Pats

March, 19, 2014
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A lot of people expected former New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis to sign with the New England Patriots. Calvin Pace wasn't one of them.

"That's the last place I ever expected him to go play at," Pace said Wednesday, adding that it's a "good situation" for Revis.

Pace, speaking to reporters a day after signing his two-year, $5 million contract, admitted he has mixed feelings about the Jets' current cornerback situation. Asked if he's concerned about the gaping hole (Antonio Cromartie's old spot), Pace said, "Yes and no." He said he has faith in the current players on the roster, but he's rooting for a Cromartie return. Pace was in the same situation last year. He was released for cap purposes and later re-signed for less money.

"It's sad to see Cro leave," he said. "Hopefully, we can get him back. I hope that’s in the plan. … I've been following what's going on. I know they had (Dominique) Rodgers-Cromartie in and it didn’t work out. You have to be patient. Hopefully, the fans can be patient. There is a plan. There is a method to this madness of free agency."

As for his own situation, Pace said he never wanted to sign elsewhere during free agency. Unless something crazy happens over the next few months, he'll go into training camp as the starting strong-side linebacker. He posted a career-high 10 sacks last season.

"I knew where I wanted to be," he said. "The fact of the matter is, there's not a whole lot of interest for a 33-year-old player. That's just the way things are these days. I'm fine with that. I'm blessed to be where I wanted to be."

Free-agency review: Jets

March, 18, 2014
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Decker
Most significant signing: Obviously, it's wide receiver Eric Decker (five years, $36.25 million), the biggest veteran acquisition of the John Idzik era. The Jets identified him as the No. 1 receiver on the market, and they made it happen. Decker becomes the top receiver on the team (did you see their receivers last season?), but he's not a true No. 1. His 2013 numbers (87 catches, 1,288 yards) were inflated because he played in the most prolific passing offense in history, with Peyton Manning at quarterback. Unless he's paired with a difference-maker on the other side, Decker won't approach those numbers with the Jets. He's a complementary player; he won't force opponents to alter their game plan.

Howard
Most significant loss: They had hoped to lock up right tackle Austin Howard before free agency, but talks stalled, he hit the market and signed immediately with the Oakland Raiders (five years, $30 million). Howard is the kind of guy you want in your program, a former bottom-of-the-roster player who worked his way into a starting role, demonstrating real potential. But Idzik, with a replacement already lined up, refused to budge on Howard's demands. That replacement turned out to be Breno Giacomini, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks. He's a proficient right tackle and they got him for $18 million over four years, saving money in the swap. But he's not better than Howard. At best, it's a wash.

Biggest surprise: After cutting high-priced vets Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes, giving them nearly $40 million in cap space, the Jets figured to be aggressive players in free agency. But it hasn't worked out that way, as Idzik has reinforced his reputation as a deliberate -- some might say stubborn -- shopper. He re-signed a few complementary starters, namely linebacker Calvin Pace, tight end Jeff Cumberland and kicker Nick Folk, but he hasn't addressed needs at cornerback, quarterback and receiver. Bargain hunting is fine, but you don't want to be too cautious. Clearly, Idzik is refusing to deviate from his long-term plan.

What's next? They have to find a replacement for Cromartie before the draft. It could be Cromartie, who wants to return. They may have no other choice because the current free-agent market for corners is thin, to say the least. Rex Ryan needs cornerback depth to play his defense, which is predicated on man-to-man coverage, and his general manager isn't making it easy on him. They also have needs at quarterback, wide receiver (yes, another one) and tight end, among other positions. At this point, there's not much left in free agency.

John Idzik boxes himself into a cornerback

March, 17, 2014
Mar 17
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John IzdikAP Photo/Johnny VyAfter losing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Giants, Jets GM John Izdik has few options.

DRC picks the New York Giants over the New York Jets, and suddenly you get the feeling that Jets fans are ready to go "DNR." Relax, it's only March 17, too early to panic.

But not too early to be concerned.

Rex Ryan needs cornerbacks to operate his man-to-man defensive system, just like human beings need water to survive, and the Jets are perilously thin after losing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Giants. It was their toughest loss to the Giants since Dec. 24, 2011. The DRC snub came after (in chronological order): They released Antonio Cromartie, failed to lure Vontae Davis away from the Indianapolis Colts and watched with indifference as Darrelle Revis joined forces with the gray hoodie in New England.

Now, suddenly, there's a hysterical over-reaction, with some people floating the conspiracy theory that Jets general manager John Idzik is sabotaging Ryan because he never wanted to extend his contract in the first place and wants to fire him after the 2014 season. That's ridiculous. Idzik is operating from a long-term plan, and he refuses to deviate from the script. He won't be swayed by the fickle nature of the free-agent market and the whims of his fan base.

That's admirable, of course, but here's the thing: Idzik has boxed himself into a corner (no pun intended). If he doesn't re-sign Cromartie, what then? The free-agent market is barren. With no Cromartie, he'd have to swing a trade for a proven starter -- like former GM Mike Tannenbaum did in 2010 with Cromartie -- or be held hostage by the draft, praying he can land Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert or Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard with the 18th pick.

Praying is never a good way to approach a draft. It leads to reaches and mistakes.

Idzik's lack of aggressiveness has fueled frustration at One Jets Drive, a potentially troubling issue that outweighs what the fans or media think. Ryan wasn't happy about losing Rodgers-Cromartie, and he wasn't the only one. The feeling is understandable.

"I'm not sure if it's stupidity or calculated," a person familiar with Ryan's thinking said. "But neither helps the Jets."

The Jets began free agency with nearly $40 million in cap space, leading many to believe they'd be plugging holes on an 8-8 roster that overachieved. After a week, what do they have to show for the cap surplus? They re-signed a handful of middle- to bottom-of-the-roster players and added two starters from other teams, wide receiver Eric Decker and right tackle Breno Giacomini. Decker is part of the solution, but he's not a difference-maker. He's a more expensive version of Brian Hartline. They saved a few bucks on the right-tackle swap, but Giacomini-for-Austin Howard is a wash in terms of playing ability.

Now they're staring at a crater-sized hole at cornerback. The Jets made an offer for Rodgers-Cromartie, but they let him out of the building and now he's wearing Big Blue. This will be his fourth team in seven years -- red flags, anyone? -- but he was regarded as the best-available corner in free agency. The Giants got him for five years, $35 million, including $15 million in guarantees -- basically, a Decker-type deal.

"Yeah, I think he screwed up," a longtime front-office executive said of Idzik.

Idzik can save face if he re-signs Cromartie, who has told friends he wants to return. Obviously, it would be for less than he his previous contract, although his leverage improved with Monday's DRC news. A Cromartie-Dee Milliner tandem would be fine, assuming Cromartie's balky hip has healed and Milliner improves in his second year. If Cromartie signs elsewhere, it'll be an egg-on-the-face moment for Idzik.

The GM's job is to get players for his coach. In Ryan's case, he needs cornerbacks. Do you see the Jets' secondary last season?

That said, no GM should be graded after only a week of free agency. Let the man execute his plan, which is based on the upcoming, talent-rich draft -- a draft in which the Jets could have as many as 12 selections. It doesn't matter if the Jets win March. They've done that plenty of times in the past, and where did that get them?

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