New York Jets: Chauncey Washington
What to watch:
• The Big O or the Big Oh-No? After last week's no-show, the Mark Sanchez-led offense will be under the spotlight. So far, the preseason numbers aren't good -- nine possessions, only one TD. Another stinker isn't going to prompt Rex Ryan to break out the color codes again, but you'd like to see some improvement, especially in the passing game -- specifically, screens and play action. You might notice that bulky brace on Sanchez's left knee; let's call it the Slauson brace, which leads us to ...
• Slauson vs. Ducasse. This is Round 3 in the left-guard battle. Matt Slauson, still the front-runner and the odds-on favorite to be the opening-night starter, will make his third straight start. He could've locked up the job last week, but he was schooled in pass protection on one play and nearly let a Panthers pass rusher crash into Sanchez's knee. Not happy about that, Ryan will give rookie Vladimir Ducasse some work with the first unit, a late audition.
• Holmes, Sweet Holmes. Santonio Holmes, who has appeared in eight of the 49 plays by the first-team offense, should get more opportunities against the Skins. This is a delicate situation for the coaches: They want to give Holmes a chance to learn the offense and play with the starters, but they realize every first-team rep is robbing another player of a chance to work with the first group. Remember, Holmes has to serve a four-game suspension, starting Sept. 3. They want him to leave in great shape, but they can't do it as the expense of another player.
• D-Line, S.O.S. As soon as Ryan heard that Ropati Pitoitua (Achilles' tendon) was out for the season, he walked over to Rodrique Wright on the sideline in Carolina and challenged him to make the team. The already-thin defensive line needs somebody to step up, presumably either Wright or Matt Kroul. If not, they will pick up a veteran on the final cutdown.
• Washington slept here. RB Chauncey Washington was a virtual goner before last week, but he made a huge hit on special teams and ran for some tough yards, playing his way back on to the roster bubble. He also lost a fumble, but Ryan was so excited about Washington's performance that he gave him the game ball. He's battling Danny Woodhead and Jason Davis for a spot in the backfield.
• The Revis Factor. With QB Donovan McNabb (ankle) out of the lineup, the defense should have a big day against Rex Grossman. It might even dominate, which will cause some fans and media types to declare, "Who needs Revis?" Don't buy that nonsense. If the Jets can't shut down Grossman without Revis, they've got problems. This is not an accurate barometer of life without their stud corner.
• Is there a punt returner in the house? Little Larry Taylor is a Mike Westhoff favorite, but he isn't running away with the job. Rookie Joe McKnight busted a 67-yard return (lousy coverage by the Panthers), so he warrants another look. Rookie Kyle Wilson? He was supposed to be the guy, but he already has a lot on his plate, learning two positions in the secondary. If all else fails, there's always Jim Leonhard.
• Off the Mark. Backup QB Mark Brunell is on scholarship, which means he'll be the No. 2 no matter what, but a first down and a couple of completions would be nice, no?
But there is humor, courtesy of quick-witted Bart Scott. On the team's final night in Cortland, N.Y., the annual rookie show is staged. This year, it includes a professional magician, who starts his act by using Mark Sanchez in a card trick. Sitting in the back of the auditorium, Scott says to no one in particular, "Make Revis show up. That would be a hell of a trick."
Other notable moments in the show:
• It's a rough show for WR David Clowney, whose roster spot appears in serious jeopardy. In a staff meeting, O.C. Brian Schottenheimer is critical of Clowney. Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, too, rips Clowney on the practice field. Westhoff seems to be pushing smurf WR/PR Larry Taylor for a roster spot.
• Funny scene in the coaches' office, when Rex Ryan's assistant negotiates a $2,500 fee for the magician -- about half his usual price for a show.
"Anything else you want me to negotiate?" she asks.
"Call Revis," Ryan replies.
• The show highlights the plight of DE Ropati Pitoitua, who impresses the coaches with his athletic ability and raw power. D.C. Mike Pettine: "He's fast becoming a varsity player." Later, the cameras show a devastated Pitoitua in the locker room after the Carolina game, being told that his Achilles' tendon is torn.
• Weird scene. Ryan, GM Mike Tannenbaum, owner Woody Johnson, WR Braylon Edwards and RT Damien Woody working out on treadmills in a Cortland gymnasium.
• Speaking of Edwards, he was supposed to be featured in this show. In fact, he tweeted earlier Wednesday about how much he was looking forward to his "Hard Knocks" debut, but he apparently ended up on the cutting-room floor. Wonder if he got bounced for C Nick Mangold, whose contract extension (Tuesday) makes the show as an 11th-hour add.
• Classic stuff from Westhoff, who gives a bleeping performance that probably won't make him too popular in the Tony Dungy household. Best line from Westhoff, on injury-plagued LB Brashton Satele: "Let him open up his freakin' pizza shop in the Bronx and leave me alone."
• We get an up-close view of the rookie-hazing scene in which rookie CB Brian Jackson is tied to a goal post and doused with Gatorade, baby powder (Johnson & Johnson, no doubt) and Icy Hot. You almost feel bad for him. Later, Jackson is voted "King Ugly" by his teammates.
• Ryan and Tannenbaum, looking at the depth chart, seem certain about 51 or 52 roster spots. Who will get the last spot? They mention Clowney, Taylor, RB Danny Woodhead, TE Matt Mulligan, FB Jason Davis and LB Lancy Laury as candidates.
• We see genuine anger from Ryan and Schottenheimer during the Carolina game. At halftime, Schottenheimer tears into his misfiring offense, saying they will run every time until they get a first down. "That's bull ----," he says of the first-half performance. Ryan, disgusted with the performance of his third-string defense later in the game, is positively livid and re-inserts some second teamers just so they can win the game. Great line from Ryan on his third stringers: "Some of those guys can't play dead in a B Western."
• Ryan gushes about RB Chauncey Washington, who runs hard and delivers a crushing blow that forces a fumble on a Carolina punt return. Ryan exclaims, "Holy ----, was that a hit! Holy ----, was that a hit!" He says it so often that he sound like Russ Hodges: "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" Afterward, he announces that Washington wins a game ball. They don't show Washington's late-game fumble. Why spoil a good storyline with a fact?
• After Joe McKnight's 67-yard punt return, the coaching staff has the same reaction: "Is he gonna puke?" That, of course, is a reference to McKnight's vomiting episode during a minicamp practice.
Overall, a solid show, better than the second, not quite as good as the first. And Revis still isn't in camp.
The Jets addressed their needs on offense through free agency in getting WR Santonio Holmes and RB LaDainian Tomlinson.
That won’t stop the Jets from drafting a running back and perhaps even a wide receiver.
The Jets have five picks in the 2010 NFL Draft, and they have a glaring need for a pass-rusher and a safety. That said, if the player they identify for those spots isn’t available at No. 29, it’s conceivable Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum could trade back and get a few more picks.
Last year the Jets got three players in the seven rounds. To get QB Mark Sanchez and RB Shonn Greene, the Jets traded away the store. Although the team has found gold in undrafted free agents before, like DT Mike DeVito, it’s not a good long-term strategy.
Extra picks would allow the Jets to address a pressing need at running back. You look at the roster and see Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson and Leon Washington, but which one of those players takes the preseason games?
The Jets aren’t going to exhaust their No. 1 back in Greene. Tomlinson isn’t at a point in his career where he needs the extra wear and tear. Washington is coming back from an injury so severe that few have even attempted a return. That leaves one Chauncey Washington for the bulk of four games.
Add to that contract issues. Tomlinson is here on a two-year contract but Leon Washington’s situation would change if the league and players association come to an agreement that makes the 2006 draft class free agents. Again, there could be a lockout next season which would render it all moot, but I’m assuming there is no lockout.
Getting a young back out of a lower round would protect the Jets’ top three running backs and allow Tomlinson’s mentoring potential to be fully used.
The Jets are set for wide receivers for this season, but next year could have a problem at the position. Both Holmes and Braylon Edwards will be free agents. Depending on how well they play, it will probably be too expensive for the Jets to pay them both. (Like with the lockout, I’m making the assumption here that Holmes doesn’t incur additional substance policy violations.)
That leaves you with Jerricho Cotchery as a solid returner. Also on the roster at the position are Brad Smith, David Clowney, Danny Woodhead, Aundrae Allison, Marcus Henry, Britt Davis, S.J Green and Larry Taylor. That’s a crowded field but, aside from Smith and Clowney (go ahead and debate), is there a lot of potential? Last spring Jets coach Rex Ryan was high on Davis, but he fizzled at camp.
There’s the offensive line. I’ll take a look at that in a future post. And lastly a backup quarterback. Ryan clearly doesn’t have a ton of faith in Kellen Clemens given the fact that they brought in veteran QB Mark Brunell earlier this spring, but that’s a need they are better off addressing through free agency.
If Jason Taylor decides to stick with the Dolphins, the Jets could use Jay Feely’s vacated spot to bring in Brunell or another veteran QB.
The Jets have five picks late 20s in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th and 7th rounds. The third went to Cleveland for Edwards and the fifth to Pittsburgh for Holmes. Although the defense is a bigger focus of Jets draft-watchers, there could be a few offensive picks as well.