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JETS TOTAL SEASON WINS 2005

The Jets came within two missed Doug Brien field goals of moving on in the 2004 Playoffs, after basically outplaying San Diego on the road. They drafted and signed Mike Nugent from Ohio State to solve those issues but the defections and retirements in the off season will haunt them this year, in my opinion. They are thin at the tackle spot behind Dewayne Robertson and one injury away from real trouble. The loss of nose tackle Jason Ferguson in Free Agency will not only hurt Robertson, but also Eric Barton and Jonathan Vilma at linebacker. Opposing teams had to use multiple offensive linemen to take care of Ferguson, but now they can focus their efforts elsewhere. They also have issues in the secondary. The Jets did not have a good defense. They had a defense that was on the field for fewer plays thanks to the teamís conservative offensive philosophy, and the advantage of a schedule filled with poor quarterbacks. Going into this off-season, the biggest problem for the Jets wasnít finding a wide receiver or a kicker; it was finding a professional secondary to play behind their talented front seven so that teams couldnít just pass on them all day.

With training camp opening, the secondary is still unsettled. Starting cornerback Donnie Abraham retired. David Barrett is a true nickel back who was severely stretched last year playing out of position as the number two corner. Now the Jets are stuck with him as the number one corner. Justin Miller was the 2nd Round pick but is a rookie who will be hard pressed to contribute. Pete Hunter, picked up from the Cowboys in the off season finally became a starter last year in his third season is coming off a blown ACL in Week 3. The Cowboys wanted him to move to safety this year which means that they had zero confidence in his ability to play the corner and man coverage. Safety is a far less strenuous position, requiring less speed and cover skills. Erik Coleman played well considering he was a late draft pick last year but was burned deep frequently, especially late in the year. Reggie Tongue was let go. Jon McGraw, fifth-round pick Andre Maddox from North Carolina State and fourth-rounder Kerry Rhodes from Louisville will battle for the openings. Rhodes was a quarterback and was moved to safety in college. Don't expect much in contribution from these backups. There has been much talk of Ty Law's availability, but the Jets are near the bottom of the NFL in available cap space, and Law wants big money, especially considering his recent injuries. No way the Jets can get Law with what his agent is asking for.

They may prove to have been hurt offensively as well. Losing starting right tackle Kareem McKenzie was a big part of the running game and now they fill his spot with Adrian Jones, untested and inexperienced. They still have a very solid Kevin Mawae, their best blocker in the running game. I do expect a dropoff however, until we see what Jones is capable of. LaMont Jordan will also prove out to be a big loss, mark my words. Derrick Blaylock is a good pickup from Kansas City but may have benefited from running behind the best offensive line in the NFL. Remember folks, it is about fitting the players in to a system that uses their skills the right way... the Jet offensive line is a dropoff from what he had in KC.

The Jet's new offensive coordinator is Mike Heimerdinger, who came over from Tennessee. His offensive philosphy is completely diametrical to Paul Hackett, who was let go. Hackett was a "scheme" guy who rarely varied from the game plan. Heimerdinger will throw formations out there never before seen. He is an attacking offensive mind, evidenced by the success he had in Tennessee when Steve McNair went down and Billy Volek took over. Volek and the Titan offense had great success, even thought he D was awful. Volek had over 400 yards passing on two separate occasions late last year including a big win on MNF at Green bay, where the Titans put up 48 and gained over 400 yards. Heimerdinger loves to stretch the field and attack the corners and safeties, using seven step drops and throwing the ball downfield.

With Coles back in NYC and the addition of Justin McCareins last year, who played under Heimerdinger in Tennessee, the Jets will not be afraid to air it out. Wayne Chrebet will benefit from moving back into the slot receiver psoition, where he had much greater success than when he was split wide. In theory, the Jet offense should be better. The are two key questions, however. Curtis Martin has managed to stay away from the decline that hits most NFL backs at the age of 30. Can he continue that ability to stay productive and injury free? Martin could miss last yearís starting right tackle Kareem McKenzie, with an unproven Adrian Jones now in that spot. At least if anything does happen to Martin, Derrick Blaylock can easily step in as a different style runner.

The big question though, is Chad Pennington and his surgically repaired shoulder. Pennington went to James Andrews in Alabama for his rotator cuff repair. Andrews is much better known as a surgeon that works on MLB pitchers and elbows, plus "Tommy John" surgeries. The key to being successful in Heimerdinger's offensive philosophy is the "touch" that is required to throw the deep ball. After a relatively major surgical procedure, will Pennington be able to throw the deep ball, either because he hasn't regained the strength in his shoulder, or because his ability to fit the ball in tight areas down the field takes longer to return? If Pennington, who missed all the offseason workouts, is not ready, then Jay Fiedler likely gets the job to open the year. Fiedler's style is not well suited for this type of offensive scheme and will probably keep the lock on some of the Jet's new playbook. Fiedler has never been asked to air it out and throw downfield, always better suited to a strong running game and short passes, letting the defense at Miami control the game and making few mistakes offensively. Not the type of attack coach Heimerdinger likes or uses. I have felt for some time that Pennington, even when healthy, did not have the arm strength to be a downfield thrower on a regular basis. Fiedler most certainly doesn't. Paul Hackett, for all his detractors in the stands and New York media, did what was needed to keep the defense off the field and protect the defensive secondary. Ball control offense and running game. What the Jets have now is a risky offense that airs it out and will place the Jet D on the field for more plays and longer series. More exposure with lesser players than last year. Getting behind early will force more offensive risk and that will mean turnovers.

BOTTOM LINE:

The Jets have an absolutely brutal road schedule. There isn't one game there that you can call a win. Unless they sweep the board at home and steal one or two games away, they will not hit 9 this year. Pennington's shoulder problems and my belief that he is ill-suited to this type of offense, even when healthy, the defensive and offensive losses in key positions and a new offensive coordinator, who is exceptional but will be riskier and force the D to spend more time on the field spells trouble to me.

UNDER 9 WINS. PREDICTION: 6-10

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