NFL Nation: Vladimir Ducasse

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse, one of the biggest draft mistakes of the Mike Tannenbaum administration, is officially a goner.

Ducasse, an unrestricted free agent, signed a one-year contract Monday with the Minnesota Vikings, according to a league source. The Cincinnati Bengals showed interest, as did the New York Jets, but Ducasse wanted a fresh start.

Ducasse was the Jets' second-round draft pick in 2010. He was an unpolished player with a small-school background, but the Jets envisioned the former UMass standout as a versatile talent who could start at tackle or guard. He played 50 games in four seasons, but started only five. He started the first four games at left guard last season before losing his job to rookie Brian Winters.

The Jets tried Ducasse at both guard spots and right tackle over the years, but he couldn't crack the lineup until last year's short-lived stint. He played in 2012, rotating with starting left guard Matt Slauson -- a controversial arrangement. Then-line coach Dave DeGuglielmo made it clear his preference was Slauson, suggesting the front office was forcing the coaching staff to play Ducasse.

Tannenbaum, the former general manager, was fiercely loyal to Ducasse. At one point late in the 2012 season, Tannenbaum said, "I think Vlad is going to have a great career."

This much we know: It won't be with the Jets.

Upon Further Review: Jets Week 3

September, 23, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the New York Jets' 27-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills:

1. Broadway Geno: A week ago in this space, we wondered how Geno Smith would respond to his awful fourth quarter in New England. The answer: The way the Jets had hoped. He became the first rookie in Jets history to pass for 300 yards and two touchdowns in a game. Not even Joe Namath did that in 1965, when the AFL was a wide-open passing league. In some ways, Smith's performance was Namath-esque, because he threw a couple of interceptions (that makes a total of six). But he also demonstrated the ability to attack downfield, as the Jets unleashed a seldom-seen vertical passing game. Smith averaged 11.4 yards per attempt. You can win a lot of football games with that number. He made one big play in crunch time, the 69-yard touchdown strike to Santonio Holmes, and that was enough.

[+] EnlargeMuhammad Wilkerson
Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesMuhammad Wilkerson sacked EJ Manuel twice in Sunday's win over the Bills.
2. Paging Rex, spill on Aisle 3: Rex Ryan has a lot of stuff to clean up. The Jets have committed 34 penalties, including a franchise-record 20 Sunday, and they're minus-six in turnover margin -- but they're off to a 2-1 start. Go figure. Tom Coughlin would love to have these problems at 2-1. Of course, the Jets won't keep winning if these issues persist. Ryan needs to figure out a way to tidy up the mess; expect a heavy emphasis in practice this week on penalty prevention. It was a team breakdown, as the offense was responsible for 11 penalties, the defense nine. The worst offenders were CB Kyle Wilson (four for 49 yards) and G Vladimir Ducasse (four for 35). If it weren't for one declined penalty and one offsetting, the Jets would've tied the league record at 22. Ryan contributed to the meltdown with an ill-advised replay challenge on a potential first-down spot. Note to Ryan: There's only a 40 percent success rate on those type of challenges this season. Ryan had no challenges remaining in the fourth quarter, and he could've used one on a possible fumble by EJ Manuel.

3. Get the quarterback: Essentially, that was Ryan's message to the team in the Saturday night meeting. The defense heeded his message, recording eight sacks. The last time the Jets made eight sacks in a game was 1988, when the quarterback was Matt Simms' dad, Phil. Fortunately, Matt wasn't around to see that beatdown; it was three months before he was born. The Jets haven't been a big sack team under Ryan, who usually has to manufacture pressure with clever schemes, but the trend is turning. With Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Sheldon Richardson rushing the passer -- first-round picks from 2011 to 2013 -- Ryan has the horses up front to frighten quarterbacks. Manuel, who came into the game with a growing reputation for being calm under pressure, was hit 16 times and rattled by the pressure. Wilkerson recorded the first multisack game of his career.

4. From third-string to lifesaver: Before training camp, Bilal Powell was projected as the No. 3 running back, behind Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson. It changed quickly when Ivory hurt his hamstring and Goodson didn't show because of off-the-field issues. Powell ran with the opportunity, won the starting job and saved the Jets Sunday with a career day -- 149 rushing yards, including 109 in the second half. His day began on the bench, as Ivory got the start. He lasted only four plays before he injured his "good" hamstring, setting it up for Powell. He's the most underrated player on the team, a steady, if not flashy runner who grinds out the yards. With Ivory likely to miss time, Powell will be a very important player over the next few weeks.

Vladimir Ducasse finally showing skills

September, 19, 2013
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Vladimir Ducasse can't escape the 2010 NFL draft.

As he evaluated himself this offseason and went over his goals for this season, the 2010 second-round pick couldn't help but acknowledge the expectations that come with being selected 61st overall.

"I was drafted here for a reason, they believe in me," Ducasse said Wednesday. "I have to bring the confidence in myself up to the best of my ability."

It's been a long and often rough journey for Ducasse to his current role as the starting left guard, but he's performing well in his first chance at extended playing time. Jets head coach Rex Ryan said he believes the proverbial light has finally gone on for the 25-year-old.

"Obviously, a second-round pick, you want the light to come on sooner than later, but we knew with his limited football background, it would take some time," Ryan said. "Obviously, he's done a really good job."

Ducasse had become the poster child for the previous regime's failures in the draft: a high draft choice who barely got on the field and hadn't contributed much. He entered this season fighting for an expanded role with the team after just one career start in his first three years.

The guard entered this summer in a battle with rookie Brian Winters for the starting left guard spot, but an ankle injury to Winters derailed the competition and gave Ducasse the upper edge. Ducasse has started each of the first two games, and has played in every offensive snap thus far. While Winters may be the future, Ducasse isn't going down without a fight.

Ryan acknowledged that the Jets haven't made life easy on Ducasse by making him learn both guard and tackle positions in the four years he's been on the team.

"We put him at guard and I'm like 'he's earned that spot,'" Ryan said. "And that's why he's in there."

Thursday, Ducasse faced a tough challenge in New England's premier defensive tackle, Vince Wilfork, and held his own. Ryan complimented Ducasse for his performance, saying he was physical. Ducasse credited his teammates for collectively doing a stout job against Wilfork.

"I'm looking at it like it was a group effort," Ducasse said. "It wasn't an individual effort. Communication was good. Everybody was on the same page, so that's why we accomplished what we accomplished Thursday night, even though we lost the game. We took another step."

W2W4: Jets at Patriots

September, 11, 2013
The New York Jets play their first division game Thursday night against their top nemesis, the New England Patriots. Kickoff is 8:25 p.m. at Gillette Stadium. The top storylines:

1. Don’t feed the beast: Patriots coach Bill Belichick has fielded some mediocre defenses in recent seasons, but his unit has an uncanny knack for creating turnovers. In fact, it has forced at least one in 28 consecutive games. This will be the major factor Thursday, especially with rookie Geno Smith at quarterback. Under coach Rex Ryan, the Jets are 3-0 against the Patriots when they’re equal or better in the turnover battle and 0-6 when they’re on the minus side. Seems pretty elementary, doesn’t it? For Smith, the key is to avoid third-and-long situations. That’s when Belichick gets creative with his schemes.

[+] EnlargeVladimir Ducasse
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesJets guard Vladimir Ducasse figures to get a stiff test from New England's defensive line.
2. Protect the middle: The Jets had some issues last week with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' inside blitzing, especially on stunts. This is an area to watch because the Patriots, led by mammoth defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, are strong up the middle. Left guard Vladimir Ducasse, who allowed one sack and a few pressures in the opener, will be a marked man. The Patriots would be crazy not to put Wilfork over Ducasse, who will need help. But it won’t be easy to slide protection to the middle, because New York has to be concerned with the defensive ends, Chandler Jones and Jet killer Rob Ninkovich, a strip-sack waiting to happen.

3. Don’t bail on the ground game: Let’s be real, the Jets will struggle to run the ball, but they have to stay committed to a balanced attack to protect Smith from being one-dimensional. If he drops back 40-plus times, they’re in trouble. Even if the running game isn’t productive, they have to stick with it. Can offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg do that? He called only 23 runs in the opener compared to 44 pass plays -- hardly a balanced attack. Now New York will be without a small element of the rushing attack: wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (concussion), who provides a perimeter threat when the Jets use him in the Wildcat.

4. Target Brady: The Jets were so afraid of the Patriots’ passing attack in the most recent meeting (the Thanksgiving fiasco) that they used five or more defensive backs on 56 of 65 snaps -- even when the Patriots were in their base offense. This time, Ryan might take the opposite approach, emphasizing pressure over coverage. With New England quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite weapons either injured or gone, the Jets should pressure him throughout the game, figuring they’ll be able to play man-to-man against his patchwork receiving corps, assuming Danny Amendola (groin) is out. Brady has never been so vulnerable. If Ryan doesn’t go after him, he’ll be missing the chance of a lifetime.

5. Chug energy drinks: The Jets will need plenty of vigor to handle the Patriots’ up-tempo offense, especially if temperatures remain unseasonably hot. The Jets struggled against the Jacksonville Jaguars’ no-huddle in the preseason, and the Patriots will go to school on that. Ryan’s defense will have to be on point with its communication. Otherwise, there will be blown coverages. Key question: Is Brady comfortable enough with his revamped supporting cast to execute a no-huddle attack? It could be tough to orchestrate on a short week. The Jets won’t be disappointed if they don’t have to play fast-break football.

W2W4: Jets vs. Buccaneers

September, 6, 2013
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets open the fifth season of the Rex Ryan era Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET). A look at the top storylines:

1. There they go again: For the second time in five years, the Jets will start a season with a rookie quarterback -- this time Geno Smith. (If you can't name the other, you'd best move on.) The last time a team trotted out two rookie quarterbacks in a five-year span was 1977-78, when the Bucs started Randy Hedberg and Doug Williams in back-to-back years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

This is a tough spot for Smith, who hasn't played in two weeks and took only 69 preseason snaps. He will face a rebuilt pass defense (ranked No. 32 last year) that includes cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson. The weak links in the secondary are cornerbacks Johnthan Banks, a rookie, and Leonard Johnson, who covers the slot in nickel situations. There will be hiccups for Smith, no doubt. How he handles them will determine success or failure. He can expect to see some exotic looks from the Bucs, so he'll have to think on his feet. Smith doesn't have to be great. The Jets can win if he's average, but they have no chance if he duplicates his performance of the preseason loss to the Giants.

[+] EnlargeMarty Mornhinweg
AP Photo/Bill KostrounMarty Mornhinweg
2. Trick it up: The Jets have to protect Smith with a strong running game. Unfortunately for them, they'll be facing the top-ranked run defense from last season. The Bucs are led by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who could be a nightmare for left guard Vladimir Ducasse. Look for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to use deception in an attempt to run the ball. Unlike predecessor Tony Sparano, Mornhinweg won't be shy about breaking out the Wildcat, using Bilal Powell and Jeremy Kerley.

You also could see the Pistol formation, a version of the shotgun in which a running back lines up directly behind the quarterback. That creates more play-action opportunities. The screen pass will be huge because it will allow the Jets to slow down the Bucs' aggressive front seven, which will be salivating at the prospect of devouring Smith.

3. Club Dread, an island adventure: Head coach Rex Ryan says the Jets won't make a concerted effort to attack Revis even though he's playing for the first time after major knee surgery. Do we believe him? Revis might not be Revis -- not yet, anyway -- but you get the impression the Jets still are deathly afraid of their former star. The receivers were told to place an extra emphasis on not tipping routes. If there's a tell, Revis will jump the route, and then you're looking at a potential interception.

What the Jets should do is test Revis against the run. Unlike many cornerbacks, he's always been aggressive in run support. Will he be tentative because of his surgically repaired knee? Don't be surprised if they call a power sweep on the first series.

4. Here comes the blitz: You might have heard, but Ryan is running the defense again and he's promising to bring back that 2009 mentality, meaning an array of pressure schemes. He felt the Jets got too vanilla and too passive last season, and he wants to restore the attacking style. Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman is an inviting first target. He's interception-prone (39 over the last two seasons), and he starts hearing footsteps if you get to him early. To play that way, New York needs solid cornerback play from Dee Milliner, one of four rookies in the starting lineup. He missed time with an Achilles' injury and could be in for a rough debut.

5. Their least-favorite Martin: The top priority is containing running Doug Martin, who has the ability to wreck the game. The Jets see him as another Ray Rice, a double threat (1,926 yards from scrimmage last season) that can exploit them on the perimeter as a runner and receiver. Covering backs is an issue. In the preseason, linebackers David Harris and DeMario Davis allowed nine receptions for 92 yards, according to ProFootballFocus. This could be a big problem. Look for the Bucs to attack the edges, especially when outside linebacker Garrett McIntyre is in the base.

Simms named Jets' backup QB for Sunday

September, 4, 2013
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan announced Wednesday that Matt Simms is the team's backup quarterback for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, ahead of recently signed veteran Brady Quinn.

The Jets have clearly been impressed with Simms as the Jets kept him over Greg McElroy, who started a game last season. With Mark Sanchez out this week with his right shoulder injury, Simms will be the backup to Geno Smith. Simms, the son of former Giants legend Phil Simms, has yet to throw a pass in the NFL.

In other depth-chart news, Antonio Allen will start alongside Dawan Landry at safety, while Vladimir Ducasse will be the starting left guard. Allen, a 2012 seventh-round pick out of South Carolina, beat out Jaiquawn Jarrett and Josh Bush to earn the starting spot.

"Coming out of college this was one of my goals," Allen said. "I didn't get drafted as high as I wanted to but I knew by my second year I wanted to be starting in this defense."

Allen said he immersed himself in learning the team's scheme, and made sure he performed when he was on the field during the preseason. With the Jets losing both of their starting safeties in the offseason, he knew there was a grand opportunity and he was able to seize it.

"It's a great accomplishment," Allen said. "Happy I did everything I wanted to do this offseason, this camp. Just excited to get out there and play with the guys."

Ducasse, the team's second-round pick in 2010, has been a disappointment thus far in his career as he's been a backup player. This will be his first chance at extended playing time, although it's expected that rookie Brian Winters will eventually take over.

New York Jets cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
Most significant move: It wasn't a surprise, but the New York Jets waived Greg McElroy, their only quarterback not named Mark Sanchez who has started a game in the NFL. Granted, McElroy has only one career start, but the move is significant because it underscores the lack of experience at the position. If Sanchez (shoulder) doesn't dress for the season opener, it leaves the position to Geno Smith, Matt Simms and Graham Harrell, who have a combined total of four career pass attempts -- all by Harrell. The former Packers backup made the final cut despite having spent only three days with the Jets. McElroy was waived with an injury, so he wouldn't have been ready for Week 1 anyway. Still, this is a precarious situation to say the least.

Not much depth on offense: Aside from quarterback, the Jets are perilously thin at a few spots. They have only five receivers, one of whom (Santonio Holmes) is a question mark because of his surgically repaired foot. The group includes a rookie free agent, Ryan Spadola. They also don't have an experienced backup at tackle. Jason Smith was supposed to be that guy, but he was atrocious in the final preseason game. Vladimir Ducasse can play some tackle, but that's not his best spot. Rookie OT Oday Aboushi (fifth-round pick) isn't ready to play. They have low numbers in the backfield -- only four backs, although Mike Goodson will be eligible to return from his suspension in Week 5.

What's ahead: The Jets need help on offense. You can't go into a season with Aboushi as your No. 3 tackle, so look for them to address this over the next 24 hours. Anybody up for a Wayne Hunter reunion? The wide receiver situation is interesting. Right now, the Jets have only three healthy and experienced receivers. They're either confident Holmes will return for the opener or they have plans to add a veteran. The quarterback situation bears watching, too. If Sanchez is sidelined a few weeks, it might behoove New York to import an experienced backup. A couple of former Marty Mornhinweg-ites are available -- Vince Young and Trent Edwards.

Jets cuts: QB Greg McElroy (injured), RB Mossis Madu (injured), WR Michael Campbell, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, WR Ben Obomanu, WR Zach Rogers, TE Chris Pantale, C Erik Cook, OT J.B. Shugarts, OT Jason Smith, DL Junior Aumavae, DL Lanier Coleman, DL Tevita Finau, DL Antonio Garay, LB Troy Davis, LB JoJo Dickson, LB Jacquies Smith, DB Royce Adams, DB Mike Edwards, DB Rontez Miles, PK Dan Carpenter.

Placed on reserve/suspended: RB Mike Goodson.

Jets game recap: What we learned

August, 30, 2013
Ten takeaways from the Jets' 27-20 win over the Eagles:

1. Looking like Geno: I left the stadium early Friday morning thinking it'll be Geno Smith at quarterback when the Jets open against the Bucs. Mark Sanchez (shoulder) still hasn't resumed throwing, and I know there was some thought that he'd already be throwing by now. He has five days to make a rapid recovery, because I think the powers-that-be will want to make a decision by Wednesday. If Smith starts, he'll need every practice rep.

[+] EnlargeMatt Simms
Hunter Martin/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesJets QB Matt Simms completed a strong preseason with his effort on Thursday against the Eagles.
2. Son of Phil shines: Matt Simms was so good that Rex Ryan hinted after the game he could keep four quarterbacks. I think that might be more about the injuries to Sanchez and Greg McElroy (knee) than a reflection of awesome quarterback depth. Listening to sports radio on the way home, it's amazing to me that so many people want Simms to be the Week 1 starter. Yes, it was a strong preseason, but it came against second- and third-string players. Simms hasn't taken a first-team rep all summer. Perspective, please.

3. Tone's dress rehearsal: Not only did Santonio Holmes participate in another pre-game warmup, but he did it in full uniform -- another baby step. The sense I get is that the Jets are hoping Holmes (foot) can play in the opener. As we've come to learn, Holmes may have a different opinion.

4. Hold on, Vlad: OK, I admit it, I drank some of the Kool-Aid on Vladimir Ducasse. After his start against the Giants, and the subsequent release of Stephen Peterman, the Jets gave the impression that Ducasse finally realized his potential. But against the Eagles, rookie Brian Winters started at left guard, with Ryan later revealing that Ducasse and Winters are locked in a competition for the starting job. So let me get this straight: Ducasse, a three-year veteran, is neck-and-neck with a rookie who's played only two preseason games? I think we know where this is headed.

5. Safety dance: Ryan said the safety competition between Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett is "too close to call." Both made plays Thursday, including an interception for a touchdown by Allen. It sounds like Ryan may not declare a winner, noting it could go week-to-week based on the opponent. But here's the trouble with that: Allen and Jarrett are similar players, both "box" safeties. So, too, is Dawan Landry. This could be trouble against a spread offense.

6. Good grief, Jason: Everybody is entitled to a bad night, but this was a really bad night for LT Jason Smith, who let more people pass him than a crossing guard. He made Wayne Hunter look like Anthony Munoz. Speaking of Hunter, he's available and the Jets need a backup swing tackle. Kidding.

7. Making a late push: Players that really helped themselves heading into the final cut -- Simms, RB Kahlil Bell, LB Ricky Sapp, LB Nick Bellore, LB Danny Lansanah and DE Leger Douzable. CB Mike Edwards played well on kick coverage, but he was too tentative on kickoff returns.

8. Head scratcher: It was strange to see Kyle Wilson in this game, considering Ryan bubble-wrapped almost every starter and key reserve. In theory, Wilson could be an opening-day starter, considering first-round pick Dee Milliner (calf) still is recovering from an injury. Milliner said he expects to play, but they'd still need Wilson in the nickel. Ryan said he used Wilson because he wanted to give him a chance to return punts and kickoffs, and he figured he might as well let him play cornerback, too. Something smells fishy.

9. Oh, Zach: The Wes Welker wannabe had a solid camp, but Zach Rogers may have cost himself a chance by muffing a punt and alligator-arming a perfect pass. Still think he has a chance for the practice squad.

10. Not-so-chipper Chip: If you're Eagles coach Chip Kelly, how can you feel comfortable with your backup QBs? Nick Foles and Matt Barkley were a combined 19-for-44. Simms threw 44 passes, too, except he completed 33.

Observation deck: Jets-Eagles

August, 29, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets' quarterback competition took a night off, as neither Mark Sanchez nor Geno Smith played Thursday night in the final preseason game. Matt Simms got the call and led the Jets to a 27-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium.

What it means: The Jets finished the preseason at 3-1. Big deal. No one will remember their record in 24 hours. The focus shifts immediately to opening day and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There are a myriad questions for the Jets, starting with the quarterback position: Smith or Sanchez? Sanchez (shoulder) remains day-to-day and should know more about his status when he meets with the medical staff over the weekend.

No Geno: That the Jets didn't play Smith suggests they believe there's a good chance he will be the opening-day starter. The rookie could've used the work -- his preseason consisted of 3½ quarters -- but it would've been too risky to expose him to potential injury. Coach Rex Ryan bubble-wrapped almost his entire starting lineup. The only projected starters/key reserves that saw action were Vladimir Ducasse (started at right guard), cornerback Kyle Wilson and safety Antonio Allen. Why play Wilson, a virtual starter? It was very curious and, no doubt, will fuel speculation about his future. Were the Jets showcasing him for a trade? Wilson has been a first-round disappointment, but he has value because of his versatility.

Tough dude, Simms: Battling for the No. 3 QB job, Simms was absolutely terrific. Undaunted by a seven-sack first half, Son of Phil completed 33 of 44 passes for 285 yards and no turnovers, although there were a couple of near-interceptions. He went 25-for-27 in one stretch, shades of his dad in Super Bowl XXI. He showed toughness, poise and accuracy. How can he not make the team? Greg McElroy (knee), who didn't play, should be worried about his roster spot. Newly signed Graham Harrell didn't play, but could factor into the equation.

Porous pass protection: The Jets had better hope their starting offensive linemen stay healthy, because the backups are shaky -- and that's being kind. They could be in the market for a backup swing tackle because veteran Jason Smith, who re-signed last week, played quite possibly one of the worst games ever by a lineman. Facing the Eagles' backups, Smith -- the No. 2 overall pick in 2009 -- allowed at least three sacks. He was pulled at halftime, the best thing to happen to Simms all night.

Defensive stand: The Jets' No. 2 defense dominated Chip Kelly's No. 2 offense. LB Ricky Sapp, LB Danny Lansanah, DE Leger Douzable, LB Nick Bellore and S Jaiquawn Jarrett were among the standouts.

Kicking competition: It was a draw between incumbent Nick Folk and challenger Dan Carpenter. Folk was good from 28 yards, Carpenter from 43. Each recorded a touchback on his only kickoff.

What's ahead: Now comes the bloody part of the business. Teams must pare their rosters to 53 by 6 p.m. ET Saturday, meaning the Jets have to slice 22 players over the next 48 hours.

How to rebuild the New York Jets

December, 19, 2012
NY JetsUS PresswireMike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan may have to stick with Mark Sanchez next year, but here are other ways the Jets can improve on an abysmal season.
From top to bottom, the New York Jets are a mess. The Jets have quarterback issues, an old and expensive roster and a circus-like atmosphere in the locker room.

New York has a gigantic cleanup project ahead in 2013. It won't be easy, but the AFC East blog is here to help.

Here are five steps the Jets should take in the offseason to turn things around:

1. Add a quarterback

Adding a quarterback will be the trickiest but most significant thing the Jets do this offseason. For starters, money is a huge issue.

Although I'm in the minority, I expect Mark Sanchez to be with the Jets next year. His $8.25 million salary is guaranteed for 2013, and the prorated cap hit would be much larger if he's cut. The Jets are already significantly over the cap. As much as they may be ready to move on from Sanchez, it's smarter to save the cap hit and just keep him on the roster for another season.

With Sanchez making franchise money next year, the Jets can't pay two quarterbacks the same amount. So forget about names like Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers. New York cannot afford to invest $16-$17 million into one position.

New York's best option would be to look for a cheaper veteran alternative. Personally, I like Matt Moore of the Miami Dolphins. He has starting experience and would take a cap-friendly contract for the opportunity to play. Moore is currently Ryan Tannehill's backup in Miami. Other veteran quaretrbacks like Jason Campbell, Brady Quinn and Drew Stanton are affordable options who can compete with Sanchez to be the starter.

The Jets can take also draft a quarterback early and hope the rookie can play right away. The quarterback class is not strong next year and head coach Rex Ryan will enter 2013 on the hot seat. He cannot afford to wait another year or two for a rookie to develop. He needs to win now.

2. Fire or demote Mike Tannenbaum

The person most responsible for putting together New York's old and expensive roster should be reprimanded.

Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum tried to keep this group veteran together too long. New York thought it could get to the Super Bowl after back-to-back AFC title games in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Tannenbaum locked himself into some bad free-agent contracts with older players that are crushing the team's cap.

In addition, Tannenbaum's drafts have been below average. You can start with back-to-back first-round picks of Vernon Gholston and Sanchez in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Both players were taken in the top six overall and the Jets whiffed. That held the franchise back. Other draft busts like Vladimir Ducasse also stand out.

Finally, Tannenbaum's giving Sanchez a five-year, $58.25 million contract extension in March was inexcusable. Sanchez had done nothing the year before to warrant a large extension, yet the Jets believed he was the long-term solution. It didn’t take long for Tannenbaum to regret that decision.

Tannenbaum has his strengths and is a good presence within the Jets. He doesn't need to be fired, but he should no longer have final say on roster moves. The Jets need a new general manager to reshape this roster.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
AP Photo/Scott A. MillerThe Tim Tebow experiment has failed and it's time for the Jets to move on from the quarterback.
3. Trade or release Tim Tebow

It's clear the Jets' coaching staff doesn’t think much of Tebow as a quarterback. After benching Sanchez, New York passed over Tebow for third-stringer Greg McElroy. Why did Tannenbaum and the Jets ever think the Tebow experiment was a good idea?

Very few people outside of the organization thought this would work. Tebow, for starters, is not a legitimate NFL quarterback. He's a gimmick player who can help by using his rushing ability.

But Tebow brought the large following and media hype of a franchise quarterback. I remember attending training camp in August when Tebow got the loudest cheers. It immediately added unnecessary pressure to Sanchez and the team. The last thing the Jets needed was another circus, but that's exactly what they got with adding Tebow. It was a train wreck waiting to happen.

The good news is Tebow is much easier to move than Sanchez. The New York Daily News reports the Jets can release Tebow and take only a $1 million cap hit.

It's best that Tebow and the Jets go their separate ways after just one year.

4. Get a new offensive coordinator

Tony Sparano is very likeable and a high-energy coach, but he's a mediocre offensive coordinator.

The Jets are ranked 30th in total offense, and the play calling has been mind-numbing. New York is a team without an offensive identity. After 14 games, the Jets still haven't figured out what they do best.

Hiring Sparano in this role was a risky move from the start. He was a head coach in Miami and offensive line coach in Dallas. But the Jets hired him to call plays on offense. Sparano's Miami teams were never offensive powerhouses. There was no indication Sparano could turn the Jets' offense around. His quarterback development has been even worse, as both Sanchez and Tebow regressed on Sparano's watch.

The Jets need to hire a top-level offensive coordinator. Soon-to-be former head coaches like Norv Turner of the San Diego Chargers and Pat Shurmur of the Cleveland Browns should be available. The Jets need someone with a proven track record of developing quarterbacks and successfully calling plays next season.

5. Make cuts, rebuild through the draft

The Jets need to get younger and build through the draft. It starts by making some veteran cuts.

New York can begin by releasing expensive veteran linebackers Calvin Pace and Bart Scott. Both are 32-years-old and making big salaries. Other players like offensive tackle Jason Smith and safety Eric Smith should come off the books, as well. That should provide sizable cap relief.

The Jets won't have a lot of money to spend in free agency, which is why the draft is so important.

Using the draft to build up the offense should be the top priority. The Jets need better players at receiver, running back and tight end to help whoever becomes the starting quarterback. New York also could lose starting tight end Dustin Keller and tailback Shonn Greene, who are pending free agents, and need to fill those positions.

There is no easy way for the Jets to escape this mess. But if they follow these five steps this offseason, the Jets will be heading in the right direction.

Seven-step drop: Hernandez explodes

December, 19, 2011
Here are seven notes an observations on the AFC East in Week 15:
    [+] EnlargeAaron Hernandez
    Ron Chenoy/US PresswirePatriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, 81, had nine catches for 129 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.

  • With Rob Gronkowski's emergence with the New England Patriots, you almost forget how good fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez is. The Denver Broncos certainly forgot about Hernandez in coverage. He led the game with nine receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. It was clear Denver's strategy was to stop Gronkowski, who is having a monster season. That didn't bother Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who went away from "Gronk" and targeted Hernandez a team-high 11 times. Gronkowski only caught four passes for 53 yards and had his touchdown streak end at six games. But Hernandez also is a top-10 tight end. He's just not as consistent as Gronkowski and had a few drops this season. But Hernandez needs to stay ready, especially in the playoffs, if future opponents decide to put most of their attention on Gronkowski.
  • The Patriots won convincingly, but their run defense in the first quarter was atrocious. The holes, missed tackles and not getting off blocks Sunday was the worst I’ve seen from New England all season. Fortunately, quarterback Tom Brady and the offense scored enough points to force Denver to throw the ball in the second half. The Broncos rushed for 252 yards, including 167 in the first quarter. If it was a closer game, New England’s defense could have allowed 300-plus yards on the ground.
  • The New York Jets clearly missed injured safety Jim Leonhard in Sunday's 45-19 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. New York blew a lot of coverages over the middle and could not guard Eagles tight end Brent Celek. Philadelphia’s tight end had a monster game, with five receptions for 156 yards and one touchdown. Celek’s longest catch was for 73 yards. Teams have been attacking New York’s defense over the middle this season, because its corners are so good. But there is a big drop off at safety, especially when Leonhard is out of the game. The Jets need to consider this in the offseason when Leonhard becomes a free agent.
  • Right tackle is definitely a spot the Jets need to upgrade next season. Right tackle Wayne Hunter has struggled in nearly every Jets game I’ve seen in person. Philadelphia defensive end Jason Babin took Hunter to school Sunday to the tune of three sacks. Hunter does not have quick feet and gets pushed around too often. New York drafted Vladimir Ducasse in the second round in 2010 with hopes that he could develop into a starter. But Ducasse remains a raw project, and the team cannot afford to wait another year. The Jets need to find someone on that side of the offensive line to protect Sanchez.
  • The Buffalo Bills' were horrendous on third downs in a 30-23 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The Bills were 0-for-11 on third-down conversions. Buffalo also was 0-for-12 on third downs against Miami in its first meeting in Week 11. It's scary to think the Bills couldn’t get a third-down conversion all season against the Dolphins.
  • The Buffalo News reported this weekend that Bills receiver Steve Johnson could be seeking a contract worth $8.5-$9 million per season. If that's the case, the Bills should let Johnson test the open market. I expect Buffalo to make a push to keep Johnson this offseason but only at a price the team is comfortable with. The Bills know Johnson's strengths and weaknesses, and they most likely agree he's not a $9-million-a-year player. Johnson is a good player and a good teammate. But he's not an elite No. 1 receiver who can single-handedly take over games. Johnson only has one 100-yard game all season. Plus, receiver is one of the easiest positions in the NFL to replace.
  • If the season ended today, both the Dolphins (5-8) and Bills (5-8) would have top-10 picks. Buffalo would own the 10th overall pick. The Dolphins would draft ninth, despite sweeping Buffalo this season, because they had the easier schedule. Both teams would be in position to land a top prospect. But Miami is starting to hurt its chances of landing a top quarterback.
Trent Williams' substance-abuse suspension for the final four games of the 2011 season delivered another blow to the 2010 draft's offensive tackles.

Five of the first 10 tackles drafted that year are unavailable to their teams, including the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Okung and the St. Louis Rams' Rodger Saffold.

Seven of the 10 are starters or would be starters if healthy.

Okung was playing as well as any of them when Trent Cole's takedown ended his season. Saffold, slowed by back and ankle problems at various points, was struggling in his second season starting with the Rams. The San Francisco 49ers' Anthony Davis, though improved, continues to struggle some in pass protection.

The chart shows the first 10 tackles drafted. A few other potential tackles, including Denver's Zane Beadles, projected to guard in the NFL. They were not listed.

The Oakland Raiders' Bruce Campbell remains on the list even though he has been a backup guard to this point. He projected at tackle coming out of college and still could wind up there.

Rapid Reaction: Eagles 24, Jets 14

September, 1, 2011
WHAT IT MEANS: The Jets finished the preseason at 2-2 after a sloppy, 24-14 loss to the Eagles on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. Our advice: Erase those numbers from your memory because they don't matter anymore; it's time to focus on the season opener against the Cowboys. The only significant development from the annual Backup Bowl was a potentially serious thumb injury for rookie QB Greg McElroy, the Jets' No. 3.

QUARTERBACK ISSUES: With Mark Sanchez resting and Mark Brunell recovering from a pulled calf, the Jets started McElroy -- and he didn't make it past the second quarter. McElroy left the game after injuring the thumb on his throwing hand; he appeared to bang it on the helmet of right guard Matt Kroul on a follow-through. One preliminary report said McElroy dislocated his thumb, which would mean a long-term injury. The team didn't provide an immediate diagnosis.

Rex Ryan has said he expects Brunell to be ready for the opener, but it's still a precarious situation, considering Brunell missed all four preseason games and a lot of practice time. If something were to happen to Sanchez, they'd be in big trouble. One move that makes sense is re-signing Kellen Clemens -- assuming he's released by the Redskins. He knows the Jets' system and would be able to play in an emergency.

PHILLY'S QB ISSUES: Naturally, Michael Vick -- the $100 million man -- didn't play. His backup, Vince Young, pulled a hamstring just before halftime and didn't return. In came third-stringer Mike Kafka, who was drilled by linebacker Mattias Berning in the third quarter and nearly came out of the game. They have no other quarterbacks, so it would've been interesting if Kafka hadn’t been able to return. Andy Reid probably would’ve used the Wing-T before using Vick.

DREW WHO?: McElroy was replaced by fourth-stringer Drew Willy, an NFL journeyman who has bounced around on a few practice squads. He also played in the UFL. Willy did well for himself, throwing a 14-yard touchdown to rookie receiver Scotty McKnight on his first pass. Not bad, huh? Willy showed some mobility, running for his life on a few occasions. Willy was going to be released Friday or Saturday; maybe he earned an extended stay.

WOE-LINE: The Jets started their second-team offensive line and it was ugly. McElroy was under heavy pressure from the outset, suffering two sacks in the first quarter. That he got hurt on a freakish play was stunning, considering the pounding he took. Right tackle Vladimir Ducasse was a mess, committing three penalties -- two false starts and one holding (declined).

Clearly, the depth is a problem on the offensive line, with backup center/guard Rob Turner (leg) is down for at least two months. GM Mike Tannenbaum needs to get on the horn and bring in an experienced backup.

RUNNING IN PLACE: The coaching staff was hoping to see some big things from backup running backs Joe McKnight and rookie Bilal Powell, but they did virtually nothing -- a combined total of 10 rushing yards. Worse, McKnight lost a fumble, conjuring up memories of his mistake-prone preseason in 2010. So much for McKnight’s positive momentum.

POSITIVE AUDITIONS: Rex Ryan said they went into the game with three roster spots still up for grabs. Three defensive players helped their chances -- cornerback Ellis Lankster (67-yard interception return for a TD), outside linebacker Aaron Maybin (1.5 sacks) and rookie linebacker Nick Bellore. Outside linebacker Eddie Jones also flashed some potential. Ryan will have some difficult decisions to make at linebacker.

No one on offense really stood out, but rookie tight end Josh Baker showed some pass-catching ability and versatility. Baker, an H-Back in college, also lined up as a fullback. The Jets have only one fullback on the roster, John Conner, who is nursing a sprained ankle.

Rapid Reaction: Texans 20, Jets 16

August, 15, 2011
Thoughts from the Jets' 20-16 loss to the Texans in a preseason version of "Monday Night Football."

WHAT IT MEANS: Seven months after their crushing loss to the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, the Jets began another Super Bowl quest Monday night. Rex Ryan’s cast of characters hasn’t changed much since then and, despite a loss to the Texans, there were enough positives to make it a successful preseason opener. They should’ve pulled it out, but rookie reciever Michael Campbell dropped a potential touchdown pass in the final minute.

ON THE MARK: After some spotty practice performances, quarterback Mark Sanchez (6-for-7, 43 yards) stepped up in prime time and was on point with every pass. His lone incompletion was a drop by backup tight end Matt Mulligan. With two starters missing from the offensive line, the Jets kept it conservative, calling only quick throws for Sanchez. But give him credit for his accuracy; that’s an area he’s working to improve. Sanchez was pulled after one quarter and, no, he didn’t want to fight Ryan to get back on the field.

KEY INJURY: The Jets lost backup center Rob Turner (lower leg) to a potentially serious injury. This injury won’t grab big headlines, but it’s costly because of Turner’s versatility. He can play center, guard, tight end and blocks in the wedge on kickoff returns. Turner, who started for the injured Nick Mangold, was carted off in the first quarter and replaced by third-stringer Robby Felix. Luckily for the Jets, Mangold should be back to practice this week.

THIN LINE: Just the other day, Ryan boasted that the Jets’ top seven offensive linemen are the best in the league. It’s not looking that way now. Not only is Turner out, but second-year lineman Vladimir Ducasse was awful.

Ducasse, who started for injured lineman Brandon Moore, allowed a sack at right guard and another at right tackle. The first sack came on the play in which Turner was injured; Ducasse’s failure to hold off defensive end J.J. Watt put Turner in a vulnerable position. Ducasse also got some work at left guard, where -- hooray -- he didn’t allow a sack.

If Turner’s injury is long term, the Jets will have to sign an experienced backup center. It’s a thin market. In fact, the best available center might be former Giant Shaun O’Hara.

THE PLAXICO VOID: The biggest story of the game -- Plaxico Burress -- wasn’t at the game. He was home, nursing an ankle injury and schmoozing with ESPN’s Mike Tirico in a phone interview during the fourth quarter. (In case you’re wondering, Burress reiterated that he expects to practice full on Wednesday.) Without Burress, the other new receiver, Derrick Mason, was in a prominent role. Mason caught all three passes thrown to him for 21 yards -- a solid debut, considering his lack of practice time with Sanchez.

THE ROOKIES: It was a nice start for the Jets’ draft class, especially nose tackle Kenrick Ellis (one batted pass), QB Greg McElroy (208 yards passing) and WR/KR Jeremy Kerley (32.5 average on kickoff returns). Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson started the game, but didn’t have any wow moments -- although he did have an offsides penalty. Running back Bilal Powell (nine carries, 25 yards) also played well and could push Joe McKnight for the No. 3 tailback job. McKnight left with a possible concussion.

KID QB: With backup QB Mark Brunell (finger) sitting out, McElroy played the second, third and fourth quarters, leading the offense to three field goals and a touchdown (2-yard scoring pass to Patrick Turner). McElroy lost a fumble on a strip sack, but he kept his composure and demonstrated some of the attributes that led the Jets to draft him in the seventh round -- smarts, poise and accuracy. Too bad he doesn’t have a gun.

WHAT A COMEBACK: Eight months removed from breaking his shin in a freak practice collision, safety Jim Leonhard was back on the field, back in the Jets’ starting lineup. It was a welcomed sight for the defense, which relies on Leonhard to make calls on the field.

INJURY WATCH: Linebacker Bart Scott hurt his left ankle/leg on the first play of the game. The replay looked bad, but he returned on the second series. He watched most of the second half with a huge wrap on his leg. Stay tuned.

INACTIVES: QB Mark Brunell, WR Plaxico Burress, C Nick Mangold, RG Brandon Moore, LB Brandon Long, G Trevor Canfield. The Texans played without RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson, their offensive stars.

Inside view on getting Jets over hump

June, 15, 2011
Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes, Brodney PoolGetty ImagesAccording to one Jets insider, the team should bring back Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes and Brodney Pool.
While yakking with a key starter from last year's New York Jets squad this week, I asked a question I posed on the AFC East blog last month and have addressed regularly in my weekly chat.

What team is the class of the division? The New England Patriots, coming off 14 victories and another title? Or the Jets, who knocked the Patriots out of the playoffs and reached their second straight AFC Championship Game?

"Until we dethrone them," he said, "the Patriots are the class of the AFC East. That's the bottom line. There's no other way to slice it. You've got to knock them off the pedestal. That's goal No. 1, winning the division. That's the easiest way to get to the ultimate goal of the Super Bowl."

That comment alone wasn't enough for the player to request anonymity, but the next part of our conversation made him feel it was necessary for the sake of diplomacy and because he wants to keep his job next season.

I wanted to know more. To extract his veteran insight on the state of the Jets, I asked what his game plan would be if I could appoint him general manager for the next couple months.

How would he get the Jets over the hump from runners-up to AFC East champs and into the Super Bowl? He must have pondered that very question over the past few months because, without much thought, he rattled off six key steps to propelling the Jets upward.

Here they are, in order of what he felt was most important, along with his reasoning:

1. Re-sign receiver Santonio Holmes.

"You have to do that," our embedded analyst said. The Jets have three prominent free-agent receivers, but Holmes must be the priority over Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith. Holmes missed four games while serving a suspension but made 52 catches for 746 yards and six touchdowns. He was a clutch performer and added a couple more touchdowns in the playoffs.

"If I had to choose between Santonio, Braylon or Brad Smith -- I don't think you can re-sign them all -- I'll take Santonio because of his body of work," the Jets insider said. "He's more established."

Smith averaged 28.6 yards on kickoff returns and scored two touchdowns, and was the club's third-leading rusher with 299 yards and a TD as a gadget quarterback. The Jets led the NFL in average start position after a kickoff (at the 31.5-yard line). But the insider said revamped kickoff rules would neutralize Smith's impact in 2011.

The possibility of signing Plaxico Burress is intriguing and could help the Jets cope with any inability to re-sign Edwards or Smith. As for whether Burress would be a problem for head coach Rex Ryan, the insider laughed.

"With everything we have in our organization, he'd be just one of the guys," he said. "He wouldn't stand out like a sore thumb.

"Guys just love playing for Rex. With Rex's personality and the way he runs the show, Plaxico would just fit right in. Rex doesn't have problems with guys who have so-called character issues or big personalities. Rex is a big personality himself. A guy like Plaxico would do well with the Jets."

[+] EnlargeDavid Harris
Alan Maglaque/US PresswireDavid Harris is slated to become a free agent after the 2011 season.
2. Get inside linebacker David Harris signed to a long-term contract.

Harris led the Jets with 119 tackles. He recorded three sacks, 14 quarterback hits, a forced fumble and a recovery.

He signed his franchise tender and is under contract for next season, but he'll be a free agent again next offseason unless the Jets broker another deal before then.

"I've got to lock up David Harris," the insider said. "He's one of the more underrated defenders in the league. I've got to get him signed long-term."

3. Re-sign cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

Another significant free agent, Cromartie helped limit opposing quarterbacks to a 50.7 completion percentage -- lowest in the league by far -- and a 77.1 passer rating. He notched 42 tackles, three interceptions and a team-high 18 passes defensed.

Besides, the Jets invested too much in him to let him stroll for nothing this summer.

"If I gave up a second-round pick for the guy, I don't want to see him walk out the door," the insider said. "That would be a high draft pick I'd wasted.

"Plus, with no offseason to monitor the young players, I don't know what I have with Kyle Wilson. The team hasn't had a chance to coach him up. He didn't do the things the team expected last year. So I need to get Antonio Cromartie back to make sure I shore up the secondary."

4. Find a pass-rusher or two.

One of the Jets' biggest perceived weaknesses heading into the offseason was their inability to generate a more formidable pass rush last season.

"This team has a defensive scheme that can be dangerous with a pass rush," the insider said. "We had a great group, but that'll make my defense even stronger."

Outside linebacker Jason Taylor's status is in question. The Jets cut him, but it's not unfathomable he could return. Last year's regular starters, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, are under contract. Thomas recorded a team-high six sacks last season, while Pace had 5.5 sacks. Taylor added five more. Those aren't fearsome numbers.

Football Outsiders charted the Jets for 117.5 hurries (seventh in the NFL), but just 38 quarterback hits (tied for 23rd).

[+] EnlargeDamien Woody
Richard A. Brightly/Icon SMIDurability concerns could steer the Jets away from bringing back Damien Woody.
5. Sign a free-agent right tackle.

The Jets released Damien Woody after the season, but published reports before the lockout indicated the club was interested in bringing him back.

Woody can't provide many guarantees in what would be his 13th NFL season. Although he has been to the Pro Bowl, is one of few players on last year's roster who owns a Super Bowl ring and started 13 games last season, there are injury concerns. He battled knee problems before an Achilles' injury landed him on injured reserve in the playoffs.

There don't appear to be any solutions on the roster. Last year's second-round draft choice, Vladimir Ducasse, was a tackle at Boston College but was unable to win a job at guard. Woody's reliable backup, Wayne Hunter, is a free agent.

6. Identify a safety to solidify the secondary, looking first at Brodney Pool.

The Jets' best safety, Jim Leonhard, is coming off a broken shin that had him limited to a scooter during rehab. Pool, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo all are free agents.

Pool started 12 games. He ranked fourth in tackles with 63. He registered a sack, an interception, nine passes defenses, a forced fumble and a recovery. Smith started six games and was fifth with 57 tackles. He also made an impact on special teams (19 tackles), as did Ihedigbo (27 tackles).

"I would try to get Brodney Pool or Eric Smith back," the Jets insider said. "Both played well down the stretch, but I think Brodney Pool was a guy who, as it got later in the season, really picked up the scheme and became a playmaker at the safety position."

I found the insider's opinions to be insightful. Nowhere among the list of issues to address were quarterback Mark Sanchez, left guard or kicker Nick Folk. The obviously aren't major concerns with this veteran player.

Once the lockout concludes, we'll see how much the anonymous player's wish list jibes with Mike Tannenbaum's.