New York Jets: Will Campbell

Examining team needs: Guard, tackle

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
10:00
AM ET
The right side of the New York Jets' offensive line is headed to free agency -- guard Willie Colon and tackle Austin Howard. With no plug-and-play replacements on the roster, it behooves the Jets to re-sign both.

Howard
They will try to get Howard locked up before he hits the open market. A former practice-squad player who came up the hard way, Howard, still only 27 (by opening day), is the kind of player you want to keep in your program. He's a two-year starter with many good years of football ahead of him, and he undoubtedly would draw considerable interest on the open market. He allowed only two sacks, tied for the league lead among right tackles, according to ProFootballFocus. Howard was an integral part of the running game. In fact, only one team ran behind their right tackle more often than the Jets did with Howard, according to NFL stats. How much is he worth? New England Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is a good comparison. A year ago, he signed a four-year contract for close to $17 million.

Colon's situation is complicated by a torn biceps in the final game. He will miss a good chunk of the offseason, but he should be good to go by training camp. Colon, who will be 31, is a good hold-the-fort player, certainly worth another one-year contract. He won't draw interest now, but he could be a factor in the secondary free-agent market.

Projected offseason plan: The Jets will make a strong push to re-sign Howard, but they will take a wait-and-see approach at right guard. They have Oday Aboushi and Will Campbell waiting behind Howard and Colon, respectively, but neither player saw action last season. They were inactive for every game, basically rookie red-shirts. They were deemed developmental players, especially Campbell, a former college defensive lineman. It would be a stretch to think they would be ready for starting duty early in 2014, but general manager John Idzik kept them around for a reason. Aboushi and Campbell will be a good barometer of the Jets' scouting and player development.

Free agency: Slim pickings at right tackle. Zach Strief (New Orleans Saints) would be the best option. There is not much at guard, either. Some scouting services rate Richie Incognito (Miami Dolphins) are the top free-agent guard, but do the Jets really want to go there?

Draft: After drafting three offensive linemen last year, the last thing the Jets want to do is go back for more. But if they were to lose Howard, they would be able to replace him in the first round (18th overall). ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has six tackles rated among his top 32 players. At 18, they could be in position for Zack Martin (Notre Dame) or Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama). But with other needs on offense, they would be just spinning their wheels if they to use a premium pick to draft a Howard replacement.

Sunday notes: Hot air or nice draft?

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
5:00
AM ET
Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets:

1. Rex being Rex: Rex Ryan went overboard by claiming the Jets' draft was the best in the NFL, giving it an A+ grade. Mind you, this is the same coach who once called Wayne Hunter the best backup tackle in the league. He should've said it has the potential to be the best draft, because it does. It has produced five starters, which is rare. In fact, no other team can say it has five draft picks that have started at least seven games, based on stats from ProFootball-Reference.com. No team has four picks that meet that criterion, and only five teams have three.

Judging on quantity, yes, it's a grade-A draft for the Jets, but the problem is that only one player -- defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson -- has proven he can play at a high level in the NFL. Cornerback Dee Milliner, quarterback Geno Smith and left guard Brian Winters are question marks, and fullback Tommy Bohanon is a serviceable player at best.

Obviously, there may have been ulterior motives for Ryan's gush fest -- praising his new boss, general manager John Idzik, and trying to infuse confidence in a couple of his embattled rookies, Milliner and Smith. I solicited an objective viewpoint. Here's an AFC personnel director, speaking on the condition of anonymity, assessing the Jets' draft:

"It's one thing to say five starters, but it's another thing to say they're playing well or with a winning performance. [Richardson] is a real good player, but the quarterback is struggling, [Milliner] is struggling and [Winters] has had his struggles, too. Two offensive linemen [Oday Aboushi and Will Campbell] don't even get a jersey, and [Bohanon] is an ordinary talent.

"With that said, they're young players and they all may develop in time, but they've taken some rookie lumps. I don't know yet about the cornerback and the quarterback. I think the guard has a chance, but this is probably too much, too fast for him. The offensive linemen are future developmentals and the fullback is what he is."

In my book, it's a B draft.

2. The big man speaks: On Wednesday morning, left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson received a standing ovation from his teammates. It came in response to an announcement by Ryan, who told a team meeting that Ferguson was about to become the first player in team history to start the first 125 games of his career.

Wednesday was an eventful day for Ferguson, who joined linebacker David Harris in addressing a players-only meeting, as first reported by the New York Post. That two of the most reserved players on the team became the point men illustrates two things: The situation is dire. The team lacks fiery leaders.

Harris didn't want to discuss what he told the team, and Ferguson wasn't around to comment. Ferguson is a man of few words, so a speech by him evokes memories of the old EF Hutton commercials. One player told me Ferguson's message stressed the importance of team over individuals, adding of the meeting: "Two guys stepped up to the plate, commanded the stage, said their piece and took on leadership roles, just to make sure that, 'Hey, this is where our mindset should be. We're in a rough spot right now, but we're not going to die. We're not going to throw in the towel, we're going to keep fighting.' "

3. Tribute to Brick: A 125-game streak is impressive. As a side note, Ferguson has missed only one snap in seven-plus years. He began in 2006 as a gangly rookie and developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber player. Former left guard Pete Kendall, who played alongside him in 2006, offered this recollection:

"We could tell he'd likely be successful, and it turns out we were right. It wasn't necessarily natural for him. He had to work at it. I think he struggled with his weight his rookie season, and there was an adjustment, learning to play in the Sunday league. But you could always see the ease with which he was able to move. You knew that with a tweak here and there, getting to understand how the pieces fit together, he'd turn out to be a very good player."

4. Special K: Don't get me wrong, I like Jeremy Kerley as a player, but it's not like Victor Cruz or Wes Welker is returning to the lineup, which is how it sounded all week in Florham Park. Kerley isn't a savior; he's a good role player on an offense desperate for something positive.

5. Welcome home, Chad: Former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington will lead the player-walk through the parking lot Sunday at MetLife Stadium. It's good to see that Pennington has reconnected with his old team, which kicked him to the curb when Brett Favre arrived in 2008. A lot of players would've carried a grudge forever. Pennington made an appearance two summers ago in training camp, but that was a favor to then-coordinator Tony Sparano, his former Miami Dolphins head coach.

6. Belichick and the Jets: Patriots coach Bill Belichick tweaked them last week, saying he habors nostalgic feelings for all his former teams -- except the Jets. No surprise there. We all know he hates the Jets, but he apparently hasn't shared that part of his past with his players. I mentioned Belichick's tweak to recently signed linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, who played with the Patriots from 2010 through last summer. Cunningham's response: "He coached with the Jets? I never knew that."

7. A tale of the rookie QBs: Smith and EJ Manuel commanded most of the attention before, during and after the draft, but the most impressive rookie quarterback is Mike Glennon of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was chosen in the third round, 34 spots after Smith. Playing in a dysfunctional environment for most of the year, Glennon has 13 touchdown passes, only five interceptions and a 90.3 passer rating. He's growing into the job; Smith is growing out of the job. The Jets spent a lot of time with Glennon before the draft (he was tutored by former Jets quarterback Ken O'Brien), but they obviously didn't like him as much as Smith.

8. What a tweet: When the Jets inform Kellen Winslow they have no intention of re-signing him for 2014, they should do it via Twitter. That would be poetic symmetry.

9. Rex-speak: This is what Ryan said the other day about offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg: "I think Marty is doing a terrific job. The numbers sometimes can be a little misleading. I think the job he's done and this staff, with some of the challenges we’ve faced, I think guys have done a great job."

This is what Ryan said 13 months ago about Sparano: "I’m happy with the job he’s done. I’m not happy with our results, but to say I’m going to pin that on Tony, there’s no way." A few weeks later, he fired Sparano.

This time, Ryan won't fire Mornhinweg. They'll either leave together or stay together.

10. Central castoffs: The Raiders opened some eyes last week by dressing 16 players who entered the league as undrafted free agents. The Jets weren't far behind with 13.

W2W4: Jets vs. Eagles

August, 28, 2013
8/28/13
8:14
PM ET
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Jets close the preseason Thursday against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium -- the annual backup bowl. Kickoff is 7 p.m. Stories to follow:

1. Quarterback drama on hold: Mark Sanchez (shoulder) is out and, although the team hasn't made it official, rookie Geno Smith also will sit. This is a smart move by coach Rex Ryan. Really, it's the only move. Sure, Smith could use the work, as he showed in throwing three interceptions and taking a safety Saturday against the Giants, but it makes no sense to expose him to potential injury. After all, Smith could be the opening-day starter, depending on Sanchez's recovery. Ryan messed up last week with Sanchez, and he knows another blunder of that magnitude would put him in Woody Johnson's doghouse. (Probably the most luxurious doghouse in the neighborhood, though.)

2. The Simms spotlight: Matt Simms, who entered camp fourth on the depth chart, will start under center against the Eagles. He'll probably play most of the game, considering Greg McElroy (knee) is out. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for Simms, son of Giants icon Phil Simms. He's having a terrific preseason, sporting a 137.5 passer rating, and could conceivably dislodge McElroy from the No. 3 job. Simms is rough around the edges, but he has the best arm on the team and the coaches love his moxie. Newly signed Graham Harrell, who arrived Wednesday, will be available for relief duty. The Eagles will start No. 2 QB Nick Foles, a former pupil of new Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. If the Jets were concerned about Sanchez's health to the point where they felt they needed a veteran, it would fuel heavy Foles speculation.

3. Position battles (other than quarterback): Placekicker and free safety remain open. PK Dan Carpenter was signed this week to compete with incumbent Nick Folk, who imperiled his spot last week with a missed field goal in OT. Jaiquawn Jarrett, a former second-round pick of the Eagles, is expected to start at free safety, but Antonio Allen is leading the competition.

4. Cinderella lives in Jersey: WR Ryan Spadola, an undrafted rookie from Howell, N.J., via Lehigh, is the feel-good story of the summer. He's inching his way up the depth chart and has an outstanding chance to make the 53-man roster. Spadola leads the team with 169 receiving yards on seven catches, including a 70-yard play Saturday that set up the game-winning field goal in overtime. He's battling veterans Ben Obomanu and Mohamed Massaquoi for the fifth receiver spot; there's also a chance the Jets could keep six. It would be a stunner if Spadola is cut.

5. On the line: This will be an important game for the three draft picks on the offensive line -- LG Brian Winters (third round), OT Oday Aboushi (fifth) and G Will Campbell (sixth). Aboushi and Campbell are on the bubble and need to play well to make the team. Aboushi's chances were hurt with last week's return of veteran backup Jason Smith. Campbell, making the transition to offense after playing defensive line in college, looks bound for the practice squad. Winters, uneven last week in his debut, could push presumptive starter Vladimir Ducasse as the season progresses.

SPONSORED HEADLINES