How Long Till a British Franchise?

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A couple of weeks after another successful International Series game at Wembley stadium, the NFL announced that London will host three (yes three!) NFL games next season.  This is a huge step for the NFL, only six years after the first International Series game was hosted in 2007 between the Giants and the Dolphins.  The NFL clearly believes there is a market in the UK which can be exploited, but how long until we see a team which is based in London?

 

There has already been seven games held at Wembley stadium, and there is no doubting that fans are just showing up to taste a piece of America, these are diehard fans.  Six out of seven years the attendances have been above 80,000 (one year 76,981), with the average attendance coming in at 82,442, not bad for a country where NFL is very much considered a minority sport.  For the first time London will host two games, which has clearly been a success already (second game hasn’t happened but ticket sales have been strong) and has led to the NFL rewarding the UK fans with an extra game in 2014.

The NFL understands what they are, they know that they are a business, and a business can only survive if they have customers and expand.  Every year prior to the match there is a fan fest where the fans can make a weekend of their trip to Wembley and also enjoy NFL activities and the chance to see the players up close and personal.  It is almost unthinkable that a football (soccer) team would do this, and it is a great way to build and nurture a growing fan base.  The Premier League should take note.

London has state of the art facilities, and the games could be held at either Wembley (which would be preferable) or at the Olympic Stadium.  London is also one of the most exciting cities on the planet and is more than capable of having an NFL franchise.

 

So the facilities are there and it seems that there is a big enough fan base to hold and support an NFL franchise, so why wouldn’t it happen?  Well the biggest issue is the travelling.  Every time Wembley has held an International Series match, the two teams have had the next week off as a bye.  So how would this work if there was an actual franchise there?  One option would be to expand the NFL and add a European division, although this may just exasperate the problem.  You could argue that the travel distance isn’t that much greater than Miami to Seattle, which would be true, but what if Seattle was playing London or vice versa.  Is it really feasible?  Possibly not.

Another issue with a British franchise is whether or not they would be able to fill out the stadium eight times a season.  This is one of those questions that you will never know until the city has a team, but a decent percentage of those who go to the London games come from Europe (namely Germany).  After all the attendances in the UK were fairly poor for NFL Europe, although that wasn’t the real NFL.

Would British fans support a London team?  In American sports, franchises moving from city to city are common place, and fans from the new city tend to adopt that team.  This idea is foreign to the UK, with people tending to support their team based on historical support (who your family support rather than where you live, although both tend to go hand in hand in many cases).  The issue is that every NFL fan has their team, and if you like at the support in the crowd on the day of the International Series you will see all 32 jerseys being worn.  I know I personally would still support the Jets over the London team if it were to happen.  However I would take the London team as my second team and hope that they did well, and there lies the problem.  I don’t believe that I am in the minority of thinking when I think that, and in fact many British NFL fans are actually happier with having the 1-3 games a season, rather than having a real home team.

There is also the question of whether players would want to come and play in London, with it not being in America.  London is a glamorous city and the only US city that really competes with it is New York, but that doesn’t mean that players will want to play there.  Imagine how difficult it will be for a London team to attract free agents or be able to sign players who are at the lower end of the roster.  Also players who are cut will have harder times than those who aren’t (it’s much easier to relocate from Cleveland to Dallas for instance than from London to anywhere).  An option would be to base the roster somewhere on the East coast of America and fly over for the games, but this would naturally give away any home advantage for the London team.  There are also issues with visas (unlikely for players with convictions) and differences in tax that players would have to deal with.

 

If one team is to move over to London then it inevitably would be the Jacksonville Jaguars.  For two reasons; firstly because the Jags owner Shahid Khan also owns London based football (soccer) team Fulham, so it would make sense for him to move the Jaguars over, and secondly because Jacksonville shouldn’t have an NFL team in the first place.

So how long till we see a British NFL franchise?  Naturally like any situation there are pros and cons to the idea of having a British NFL franchise.  There is no doubt in my mind that there would be enough support to be able to maintain an NFL, especially with the NFL growing year upon year in the UK. There are state of the art facilities that could be used for the franchise, so that is also not an issue.  However it currently isn’t possible, logistically.  The two biggest issues with a London franchise are with the travelling and the problem with being able to sign players to the team.  To be honest it is like asking how long a piece of string is.  It will take one owner who is willing to take a risk (not much of a risk however because they could potentially make a bomb [as in money]).  If I were to put a number on it I would say sometime in the next 10-15 years, but it really is a guess and could easily happen as early is in 5 years, if someone in the NFL is ambitious enough.

Personally I think it is too early for this to happen; there is no need for the NFL to take an unnecessary risk which could potentially damage the brand if it is a disaster.  I would also point out (as everyone seems to be) that Los Angeles should really have a team before any other city does, but that is more likely to be a team other than the Jaguars.  I think that the NFL should start thinking about collecting data from those who go to the games and discovering where they are travelling from (to see whether they are local or not), to see if there is a real demand for a London team, because there would be nothing worse than giving London an NFL team only for the stadium to be half full.  I’d love to see it happen eventually, but at the moment the International Series games are more than enough for us British fans to enjoy.

Although could someone tell Roger Goodell to throw a game to somewhere else in Europe?  I feel really sorry for the German fans because they carried NFL Europe and really deserved to be rewarded with a game.  Also what about throwing a game to Scotland or Ireland?  Not every NFL fan wants to go to London for a game!

 

So what do you think about the idea of a British NFL franchise in London?  Do you think it is only a matter of time?  Or do you think it will never actually happen because it isn’t feasible?  Let me know and leave a comment.  Also like BM23reviews Facebook page or follow BM23reviews on Twitter, both can be found at the top of the page on the right hand side.  Thanks for reading.

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The NFL Season Preview

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ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!?!?!?  Yes it is finally here, no longer do we need to sit and wonder about training camp battles, who our team is going to draft or wonder what the point of pre-season is, no business is about to start and it’s about to get nasty.

2012 was the season of the inexperienced young quarterback, as names like Wilson, Kaepernick and Griffin took the league by storm on their way to the playoffs.  However in the end it was won by team of old duffers called the Baltimore Ravens, go figure.

Anyway, because of the way the NFL operates nothing really stands still, and the rosters that battled it out over last season are not recognisable to what we seen last year.  With trades, the draft and good ol’ free agency every team will line up with new stars that are looking to make a positive impact on this year’s NFL.  So let’s get it going.

 

AFC East

New England Patriots

The Patriots had a bad off-season when their once enviable tight end duo was split up for differing reasons.  Firstly Aaron Hernandez was jailed (yet to be convicted although highly likely) on murder charges, and then possibly the best tight end in the league Rob Gronkowski cannot stay fit (four on his left forearm, among others) and you have to wonder if he will ever become the dominant force he once was (which is the Patriots fault for rushing him back too often when he wasn’t fully fit, short term thinking that will hurt the player and the team in the long term).

Honestly if it weren’t for the fact that I know better, I would be predicting that the Pats are going to have a bad season, they have an average (at best) defence, no players to catch passes (lost Welker) and have questions over their offensive live.  However they do have some pretty boy called Tom Brady and some ugly guy called Bill Belichick, who are both pretty damn good.  It also helps the Pats that they just happen to play in the weakest division in football.  Pretty much the Pats will once again win the AFC East, unless something unseen happens like Brady out for the season in week 1, although it is very unlikely (Brady don’t take no hits!)

Record prediction:  11-5 —–playoffs

 

Miami Dolphins

I think the Dolphins may be one of the most over rated teams in the NFL, because not only is Tannehill a sophomore QB that has shown glimpses but nothing truly special, but they also don’t have any skill position players.  Who is going to catch the ball?  Who is going to run the ball?  Exactly nobody, Mike Wallace has major questions over whether he is actually a good receiver or was just in a perfect fit system, behind him is absolutely no one (Hartline? Seriously?).  They signed Keller from the Jets, who could have been a really nice pick-up and flourished under the system, but he is out for the season and the Dolphins don’t have any other tight ends to speak of.  The running back situation is even worse with no established name on the roster at all, to the extent that of the four RB’s none of them has rushed for 1000 yards in their career never mind in a season.  So nobody to run the ball, and nobody to catch the ball, with an inexperienced QB….sounds like a long season.

‘Yea but their defence is gnarly!’  Is it?  Look at the roster and it really isn’t.  They have a very strong D-line and the addition of Ellerbe to the linebacking core is a nice pick up, but they have a paper thin defensive backfield.  When your best D-back is Brent Grimes (who can’t stay fit for a full season) you have to start worrying about whether you are realistically going to be able to defend the pass.  This is a team that will play Tom Brady twice this season, and I imagine in both games they will be ripped for big numbers.  If you also look at their schedule it is pretty rough as well, I think they are really going to struggle this year.

Record prediction:  5-11

 

New York Jets

The Jets have a lot of young potential talent on their books; the problem is more that they don’t have many players who are currently playing at their peak.  After last years (and the one before) debacle, the Jets have stripped out a lot of their old players and have decided that youth is the future (who knew).

When you look at the Jets you know they are going to have a good defence; Rex Ryan is a defensive genius and will make even an average roster better with his scheming.  Now Ryan is taking over the defensive play-calling for the first time in two years, so expect the Jets defence to improve dramatically.  The Jets are going to have one of the best and youngest D-Lines in the league and also possess one of the best cornerback corps in the league.  The biggest issue for the Jets defensively is that they lack competent safety starters, with only Dawan Landry having previous extensive starting experience.  The linebacking corps also aren’t the best and once the surface is scratched there isn’t much behind.  However I imagine that Ryan will be able to scheme out of this dilemma because he is an excellent defensive coach.

The Jets have major problems with their offence; they have two new starters in their offensive line (both at guard); there is no established running back (nobody with a 1000 yard season), questions at tight end (can Winslow stay fit?  Is Cumberland good enough?), without Santonio Homes (who has his own questions) the Jets have a very inexperienced WR corps and there is something I’m missing…..oh yeah have you seen their quarterbacks?   Geno Smith is not ready to start, but is being forced into because of the injury to Mark Sanchez, and the team will go as Geno goes.  The Jets have a fairly easy schedule and if they resonate the Colts of 2012, then they have a chance of playoffs (highly unlikely) but it’s more likely they will follow in the footsteps of the Jaguars (in any season, pick your favourite).

Record prediction: 6-10

 

Buffalo Bills

The Bills are worse than both the Jets and the Dolphins; quite frankly they suck and are going to have a bad season.  They are going to have an even worse season because EJ Manuel is starting and he isn’t anywhere near NFL ready, it is going to be worse than a train wreck, mixed with a car wreck which hit a puppy sanctuary; essentially it is going to be pretty bad.

Record prediction: 3-13

 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

I know I’m going to upset a lot of Ravens fans by writing this but you aren’t making the playoffs this season.  It seems odd because after all they just won the Super Bowl, but that team was at its maximum and can’t go much further than it did there; if you then add to that the fact that the Ravens have lost a number of key players from that team (Ellerbe, Lewis, and Boldin) it isn’t looking good.

Joe Flacco is possibly the most over rated QB in the league, he is paid like he is elite and is talked about like he is elite, but in no way is this man elite.  Yes he played well in the playoffs and yes the Ravens needed to resign him but he got paid way too much all because there is a lack of quality QB’s in the league and Flacco’s agent had them by the scrotum.  When you waste so much money on an average player, the whole team suffers and this is what has happened to the Ravens.

Record prediction: 7-9

 

Cincinnati Bengals

I really like the Bengals and think they could be outsiders for the Super Bowl, but I do mean outsiders.  I like what I see in Andy Dalton, it also helps that he is throwing the ball to AJ Green (my pick for top receiving yards) but also when you have a really strong tight end corps.  I think we will see the Bengals put up some big scores as they get pass happy and will be an exciting team to watch this year.

If having a good defence wasn’t enough to wet you appetite, then how about an under rated defence?  Well the Bengals have one of those with an excellent D-line and in my opinion the best D-backs in the league.  There are depth issues at linebacker but their starters are very solid and there isn’t a team in the league that doesn’t have any depth issues at every position.

Record prediction: 11-5———playoffs

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Much like the Ravens, I think the Steelers are going to have a tough year.  Obviously Big Ben will always give them a chance to win, but who is going to catch the ball?  The receiving corps are paper thin (Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are your 1-2, not a good sign) and the tight ends are lacking a quality pass catcher (Miller is past his best).  It doesn’t look good at RB either and the Steelers will be hoping that one of their RB by committee will step up and take the reins.  It isn’t helped further by an O-line that has some talent (Pouncey, De Castro) but has a lot of holes that are worrying.

Defensively it is a bad sign for the Steelers as well, with very few of the players being reliable.  On paper the Steelers have a good group of players on defence, but in reality this is an old group that is beginning to creak and crack.  Too many of the Steelers stars on D are past their best (Polamalu, Woodley, Foote, Timmons, Clark, Gay, Taylor) and a slow defence is a bad defence.  A young fast team could rip this group to shreds, and really they are going to need a defensive masterpiece (which Dick LeBeau is more than capable of) to not have a bad season.  One thing the Steelers have got going for them is a softish schedule and this is an experienced group, so could play above the quality of their roster.

Record prediction: 9-7——playoffs

 

Cleveland Browns

I can hardly remember the last time the Browns were actually good (Derek Anderson/Kellen Winslow/Braylon Edwards year, so very long ago), and this year is going to be no different.  The Browns just suck, simple as that.  They have a good linebacking corps and Trent Richardson may show flashes of why he was drafted so highly but beyond that it is another bad season for the Browns.

Record prediction: 2-14

 

AFC South

Houston Texans

The Texans have become one of those teams that make the playoffs every year and are expected to do so every year as well.  I think the Texans are a good team, and have a number of star players like Watt, Foster, Johnson and Cushing (to name a few), but the Texans do have an aging roster, and with aging rosters come a greater chance of injuries.  The age of the roster is my biggest concern about the Texans, because I don’t have a doubt they will make the playoffs but I think when it comes to the business end of the season I think that they will be too gassed to really make a major impact.

Record prediction: 11-5——-playoffs

 

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are a young team which surprised many (myself included) when they made the playoffs last year with such an inexperienced starting unit.  When you break the Colts offence down into individual talent, there isn’t really that much there; it is a group of has beens and never weres.  The one exception in this list is Andrew Luck, and to be honest the Colts will go as he goes; if he builds on his excellent rookie season then this is a play-off team, if he has the dreaded sophomore slump then a losing record could be on the cards.  There isn’t that much of a running game and the receivers aren’t that much better either; although last season despite the lack of an outstanding running game the Colts still played very well.  The biggest question for the Colts offence is whether Reggie Wayne will be able to replicate last season’s form (after looking done the year prior) and whether the team will be able to get the most out of their young receivers (especially Heyward-Bey).

The defence is another greater than the sum of its parts and really has no star player on the list (players like Mathis are well past their best).  You don’t look at the Colts defence and say ‘whoa watch out for this guy’; it isn’t really built in that manner.  However when you are in a tight game, sometimes you need that star player that will step up and make the big play that changes or wins the game, and I don’t think the Colts have that.

Record prediction: 9-7——-playoffs

 

Tennessee Titans

The Titans are a weird team, when you look at their talent positionally; they are actually quite a talented group of players.  They have an excellent O-line (Roos, Stewart, Levitre, and Warmack), they have experienced and proven depth in the backfield (Greene, Chris Johnson) and their receiving corps isn’t too shabby either (Walker [TE], Britt, Washington).  There is one major problem, and something that the Titans are seriously missing on offence, and no it isn’t that CJ2K hasn’t been the same since his 2000 yard season (which is very true) but rather their QB situation is a total mess.  When your options at QB are Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick (the same guy that wasn’t good enough for the Bills, THE BILLS!), you know you are going to struggle to throw the ball.  You can have all the talent in the world, but if you can’t get them the ball then it is a waste of time (look at Larry Fitzgerald), that is how I see the Titans offence, a good offence on paper with a bad QB, and in the NFL that gets you nowhere.

Record prediction: 4-12

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

The worst team in the league by quite a distance, the Jaguars know that they are in a rebuilding mode after being taken over recently by Shahid Khan.  The Jags are a total mess; they don’t have a QB and the defence is average at best.  They do have bright sparks in MJD (but who knows if his body or mind will be in the right place this season), Cecil Shorts (concussion problems), Mercedes Lewis and a good O-line, but if nobody can get the ball to the skill players then it doesn’t matter.  The Jags are heading for the first pick in the draft, and more worryingly could be heading for a 0-16 season.  It will be interesting to see how long it is until the Jags begin plans to move to London (which I assume will happen eventually), the owner Shahid Khan buying Fulham FC (a London team) sent out further signs that he may have serious interest in creating the first Atlantic based NFL team.  Let’s be honest Jacksonville shouldn’t have a team in the first place, when cities like LA don’t have one.

Record prediction: 1-15

 

AFC West

Denver Broncos

It is pretty simple when it comes to the Denver Broncos; they have a high scoring offence and a low conceding defence, so not too shabby then.  If there is one concern about the Broncos, it would be the health of Peyton Manning.  Even the most adamant of Peyton fans surely would agree that towards the end of the season and in the playoffs Peyton had lost some zip off of his passes and definitely had tired from what he saw from the start of the season.  It is harsh because Peyton had just come off of major surgeries on his neck and hadn’t played competitive football in almost two years.  This can only be two things; he was a little rusty and lacked game fitness which if this is the case he should be better this season, or he is getting old and is no longer the Peyton Manning of a few years ago which would be seriously concerning for the Broncos if they have the goal of winning the Super Bowl (and why wouldn’t they?)  The Broncos will be in the playoffs because they have a weak division and they are a good team but one has to question if they can be a force in the playoffs.  Currently there are still question marks.

Record prediction: 14-2——playoffs

 

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers just aren’t that great a team anymore and never seem to have recovered from losing LT (which is odd because he was past his best).  When you look at the roster no name jumps out at you as being elite; Rivers was once elite but has slowed down dramatically in recent years and has become a major turnover machine.  Maybe it is unfair on Rivers because the players around him aren’t really helping his cause and he is clearly carrying the team on his shoulders and trying to drag them up the rankings.  San Diego is a team in transition, and this season they should be looking to build for future seasons.

Record prediction: 7-9

 

Oakland Raiders

It is hard to talk about the Raiders because they are so unpredictable in terms of either how awful they are or how ok they are.  The one thing that the Raiders don’t really do is make the playoffs, and that about them is consistent.  You know you don’t have a talented side when your best player is a kicker (which isn’t meant as a slight at Janikowski).  Realistically the Raiders aren’t going to do anything; they don’t have any skill players outside of Darren McFadden, who seems to be made out of glass.  Another tough season for Raiders fan I’m afraid.

Record prediction: 3-13

 

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have a very talented roster and their best addition this off-season Alex Smith because the Chiefs have for too long been held back by terrible QB play.  The roster was better than 2-14 last year, and they have brought in Andy Reid to try and correct this, the Chiefs could be an outside chance of making the playoffs.  The major issue for me about the Chiefs is that this team was way too good to be 2-14 last season, yet they were 2-14 last season.  I know that they have a new coach, QB and more star players but I can help but think that when you put so many egos together, the outcome isn’t always positive.  This season will be a real test and show whether or not Alex Smith actually has the ability to be a franchise quarterback, it’s put up or shut up time.

Record prediction: 8-8

 

NFC East

Washington Redskins

With RG III, anything is possible for the Redskins.  Not the greatest roster in the league, but with one very special player, and with that one very special player the Redskins will win or lose.  It does sound harsh to call the Redskins a one man team, because they are better than that, with Alfred Morris and a very strong linebacker corps.  However it is hard to not think that if RG III does struggle with his knee issues (which he is not over yet and will play this season wearing a knee brace, which will hamper his mobility and therefore his game) then the Redskins as a team will struggle as well.  There is no doubt that RG III can run and throw the ball to a high level, the question is if his ability to run is lowered will that affect his ability to throw because defences will know he is less likely to scramble?  It will be interesting to find out and see how RG III is able to mature into a more passing QB than he was last season.

Record prediction: 10-6

 

New York Giants

The Giants have this weird tendency to bounce in and out of the playoffs despite having a solid roster almost every year.  When you have Eli Manning under centre you are always going to have a chance of winning.  On top of Eli the Giants have good young players at the skill positions that will keep defences up at night (Wilson, Cruz), and as always one of the best D-lines in the league.  A major area of concern for the Giants must be the lack of depth and quality at the linebacker positions (an issue for a number of years), which in a league that is moving more towards passing miss-matching tight ends is not ideal at all.

Record prediction: 10-6——playoffs

 

Dallas Cowboys

It is tough for the Cowboys, not only do they play in what is consistently a very competitive division but they are also their own worst enemies.  Dallas always have a talented side but too often they find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs.  The talent is there, the mind-set is not.  Jason Garrett has shown that he is not a strong head coach and isn’t willing to take those hard decisions when it really matters, which isn’t ideal when you are playing so many close games within your own division.  It also doesn’t help that your QB, Tony Romo is a notorious choker when it comes down to the nitty gritty.  It’s just how it is for the Cowboys, a talented roster that just hasn’t got the bottle to win the big one.

Record prediction: 8-8

 

Philadelphia Eagles

Possibly the most intriguing team this season in the NFL is the Philadelphia Eagles, thanks to the hiring of Chip Kelly from Oregon.  Kelly couldn’t have walked into a better team in the NFL to suit his high paced quick time offence than the Eagles, because the Eagles offence is already built totally towards speed.  Vick, Jackson and McCoy are all lightning fast and will flourish in the Chip Kelly system.  The biggest issue for the Eagles (like it is for many teams) is can they keep their QB Michael Vick fit?  In four seasons with the Eagles Vick hasn’t managed to paly sixteen games in a single season, so it is fair to assume that he is highly likely to miss some playing time at least.  The Eagles aren’t totally reliant on Vick but Barkley and Foles aren’t ready to step up and be a starting QB yet.

Record prediction: 10-6——playoffs

 

NFC North

Green Bay Packers

The Packers don’t have a running game, they have a leaky O-line and their defence isn’t that great at stopping teams moving the ball, sounds like they shouldn’t be a good team, yet they have a guy called Aaron Rodgers that makes them one of the best.  You know that the Packers are going to be there at the end of the season because their passing attack is too prolific and their defence creates turnovers for fun.  They play in a tough division (most teams in the NFC do) and the competition for the wildcards in the NFC are highly competitive, so the division games for the Packers are going to be vital.

Record prediction: 11-5——playoffs

 

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are that weird occurrence of a team that doesn’t solely rely on their QB, but rather solely rely on their RB.  Adrian Peterson ran for over 2000 yards last season and dragged the Vikings almost single handedly into the playoffs against all the odds.  As great as AP is, I just can’t see him being able to repeat his feat of the previous season because it has never been done before and there must be a drop off of some kind in his production.  The Vikings have a lot of young talent (Kalil, Harrison Smith, Rudolph) and the experience of making it to the playoffs will have been a huge benefit to them, but like many teams the Vikings just don’t have a QB and sadly for them I think it will cost them dearly.

Record prediction: 6-10

 

Chicago Bears

The Bears have a great defence (they always seem to as well); they also have a franchise calibre QB who likes to throw the ball to his favourite target the elite WR Brandon Marshall.  It all sounds pretty good on paper, but there all also the questions about will the O-line protect Cutler?  Who is going to run the ball?  Who is going to take advantage of the Marshall double team and find themselves open?  In these questions lies the answer to how well the Bears’ season will go, could be playoffs could be nothing.

Record prediction: 9-7

 

Detroit Lions

The Lions are an interesting case because last year when Calvin Johnson was tearing the league up and breaking records, the team managed to go 4-12 (go figure).  There is no doubt that there is talent on the offensive side of the ball of the Lions, with Stafford, Johnson and the one two punch of Leshoure and Reggie Bush.  The Lions have a strong D-line but lack much else defensively; there are also questions of the ability of the O-line to protect Stafford from the oncoming rush.  The Lions fall victim to the fact that they play in a tough division and also that they play in the NFC, playoffs aren’t beyond this talent pool but their inconsistencies in previous seasons make me doubt them doing very much.

Record prediction: 7-9

 

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have so many offensive weapons to utilise that it is hard to not see them making the playoffs.  The passing attack is one of the most deadly in the NFL, with Ryan being able to throw to quality receivers in Julio Jones and Roddy White as well as the legendary (and still elite) tight end Tony Gonzalez.  There isn’t an out and out clear favourite to take the running back role, but Steven Jackson could flourish in a pass happy team which will allow him to see more seven man fronts.  Defensively the Falcons have a nice front seven, but look a little bit thin at defensive back (not a great thing in a league built on passing).

Record prediction: 10-6

 

Carolina Panthers

It is pretty simple with the Panthers; it all depends on how Cam Newton has developed.  Newton was excellent in his rookie year, but wow did he have a huge drop off in his second year.  Clearly teams learned how to play against him, and he didn’t have the composure to deal with it.  If Newton has matured and has improved his throwing then the Panthers as a team will improve along with him, if he hasn’t then this team are back to the drawing board and is rebuilding once again.  Sadly for the Panthers, I think it is more likely to be the latter of the two.

Record prediction: 5-11

 

New Orleans Saints

Last season was a disaster for the Saints; after the bounty scandal led to the suspensions of a number of players and more seriously of head coach Sean Payton who missed the entire season.  The preseason for the Saints last season was less than ideal; in fact it was a disaster.  It didn’t matter how talented Brees is, the Saints were never going to have a good season last year, and 7-9 was quite an achievement.

As far as this season is concerned, it should be back to normalcy for the Saints and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have a massive chip on their shoulder for the unfair treatment they feel they received.  I don’t actually think that the Saints have that great a team but what they do have is an impressive passing attack with Coulston, Lance Moore, the returning Meacham and Jimmy Graham.  They also have one of the best collections of RB’s in the league (Pierre Thomas, Sproles, and Ingram).  The problem is that they don’t have anything particularly impressive to talk about defensively; in fact their defence looks really weak.  I think because of their chip on their shoulder the Saints will play above their ability just to stick it to the rest of the NFL and will head onto the playoffs.

Record prediction: 11-5—–playoffs

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs have teased to take the next step to the playoffs since Josh Freeman (the forgotten man of the 2009 draft QB’s) was handed the starting role.  Each year it seems that the Bucs show enough potential to make you think that next year they could be contenders but then ultimately don’t follow through.  The Bucs added the nice pick up of Darelle Revis (the best corner in the league) for a cheap price, but there are questions about Revis’ fitness and ability to return to previous form after a serious ACL injury.  With Revis the Bucs have one of the best defensive backfields in the league, mixed with a solid D-line it could make the Bucs defence tough to play against.  On offence they have the electric Doug Martin as well as Vincent Jackson who once again showed what a weapon he is last season.  So will Josh Freeman finally step up and take the team by the reigns and finally lead them into the playoffs?  I doubt it, but there will be improvement on last year.

Record prediction: 9-7

 

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers

Quite simply the most stacked roster in the NFL and the best team in the NFL as well.  It doesn’t seem fair that one team should possess so much talent, but the 49ers do.  If the 49ers don’t make the playoffs I will eat my face (I won’t but I’m still pretty sure they will make the playoffs).  I don’t think I really need to explain why the 49ers are so good, just look at their roster where they have elite talent all over the place.  Very good chance of winning the Super Bowl this year after last year’s near miss.

Record prediction: 14-2——-playoffs

 

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are in the unlucky position of being one of the best teams in football who just happen to find themselves in the same division as the best team in football, gutted.  The Seahawks have everything; a young talented QB who will be better this year with more experience (imagine that), they have Marshawn ‘the beast’ Lynch (not a nickname given lightly), a good WR corps, nice TE’s, a good O-line, a sack hungry D-line and the best defensive backfield in the league.  The only thing you could criticise the Seahawks is they don’t have the best linebackers but it is a small gripe.  If it weren’t for the 49ers being so good, we could be talking about the Seahawks being the best team in football.

Record prediction: 12-4—–playoffs

 

St. Louis Rams

Sam Bradford hasn’t really been able to fulfil the hype that he received before entering the league (not really his fault, the Rams suck).  It will be interesting to see how Bradford and the Rams utilise their new weapons in Jared Cook and Tavon Austin, both of whom could add an extra couple of dimensions to the offence.  I think in most other division the Rams would be a playoff calibre team, however they play in a division with two of the best teams in the league.  Essentially you expect them to lose four games to the Hawks and 49ers, so they need to win at least 10/12 games which is highly unlikely.  It’s a shame because the Rams have a good overall team and will be better than a lot of the teams that will make it to the playoffs (especially on the AFC side).

Record prediction: 8-8

 

Arizona Cardinals

The QB situation at the Cardinals last season was a total mess, this season they signed Carson Palmer who was to put it politely well past his best at Oakland last year, an improvement but not by much.  They don’t have a great O-line, or a great RB, they have good receivers but they don’t get them the ball enough (poor Fitzgerald, talent is being wasted); the Cardinals have a good front seven and a decent defensive backfield.  The problem overall is that the Cardinals are distinctly average and just happen to find themselves in what is the most talented division in football, not exactly ideal.

Record prediction: 4-12

 

Overall

Realistically I don’t think that it is likely that all of my predictions of records and who will make the playoffs will be totally correct, because there is usually a total shocker from a good team and an out of nowhere from a team that is perceived to be poor.  It also doesn’t help that when I counted up the win records I got 255-257, which is obviously a mistake, although I’m surprised it is as close as that because I just looked at the games I thought they would win on their schedule, so not too bad.

Anyway here are the teams I have making the playoffs and the seeding’s they have as well.

AFC

  1. Broncos
  2. Texans
  3. Patriots
  4. Bengals
  5. Colts
  6. Steelers

NFC

  1. 49ers
  2. Packers
  3. Saints
  4. Giants
  5. Seahawks
  6. Eagles

 

I’m not going to break it down much further than that because I get the feeling I would be wasting my time because so much will change during the regular season.  However at the moment I think the Super Bowl is setting up to be:

 

Bengals v Seahawks

 

I really like both teams and I think they are both set for big years.  If I were to pick a winner I’d go Bengals.  If I were to pick my second favourite it would naturally be the Broncos and the 49ers at the current moment because both teams are the best in their respective conference.

 

So leave me a comment about what you thought about the post, or what your predictions are for the upcoming NFL season.  I feel it is going to be a long one for myself (being a Jets fan), but I’m hoping they might surprise a few people and be this year’s Colts (doubtful but you can only hope).  Thanks for reading.

An Analysis of the New York Jets Roster.

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If you needed any further confirming that the New York Jets weren’t any good and that their quarterback of the future wasn’t a quarterback of the future then the 2012 season delivered what you required.  It wasn’t that the Jets didn’t challenge for the play-offs for most of the season (which they did up to the 3rd last game), it was how poorly the Jets played in a large number of games throughout that season.

Where did the Jets go wrong?  It’s pretty simple; the Jets had an aging and underperforming defence, the offensive line under performed and had Matt Slauson in it, there was a distinct lack of skill players and the quarterback play was hysterically embarrassing.

All of this culminated into a 6-10 season, which seen the firing of the Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, the trading of the Jets best player (Darelle Revis) for a measly draft 1st round pick (plus a conditional 4th/3rd next year) and the awkward marriage of Rex Ryan and John Idzik.

In the off-season the Jets lost their star cornerback (Revis), their pro bowl safety (Landry, who was never going to stay), their loud mouth line-backer (how you doin Bart?), their best skill player (Keller) and a couple of leaders in the dressing room (Pouha and Moore).  It has left a very young roster of players to pick up the pieces of the two previous seasons.  Oh and that guy everyone hates is still there.

This will be a position by position break down.

 

Offense

Quarterback

Mark Sanchez has been the Jets starter for the past 4 four seasons, and it is funny to think that in his first two he delivered and help the Jets to AFC Championship games.  In the play-offs he was like a different player and made it look like he was a winner who could play well under pressure.  However all of those beliefs about his potential have disappeared.  In 4 seasons Sanchez has managed to throw 68 Touchdowns and 69 Interceptions, hardly good numbers for a former 5th pick in the draft.  Add onto that 43 Fumbles (off which 20 were lost) and you have a complete drive killer right there.  Most of the time Sanchez was asked to be a game manager but with a 55.1% completion percentage and a 71.7 QBR (66.9 last season) he just doesn’t have the skill set to do that.  To be a franchise quarterback you need completion number in the 65% region and a QBR in the high 80’s, neither of which Sanchez is.  At times Sanchez shows glimpses of a 1st round pick, but he will usually quickly follow that up with another screen interception, or hold onto the ball too long or not see a defender in the middle.  If the question is what the future of the Jets quarterback position is?  Then the answer certainly isn’t Mark Sanchez.  The sad part is if the question is who will be the starting quarterback in week 1?  Then it probably will be Mark Sanchez.

Geno Smith could be the answer to the Jets quarterback problems, but he could also be another failed project.  Smith was drafted in the 2nd round which was good value for the top QB in the draft (although not worth one of the Jets 1st round picks, still should have been a late 20’s pick).  Smith is an accurate passer that limits his mistakes as much as he can (doesn’t sound like someone else); he is also big and athletic and has decent but not great movement.  The problem with Smith is that he has no professional experience; college is not a great gauge of how well a player will play in the NFL.  There are questions over his leadership and he also has small hands and can be prone to fumbling.  Smith is the great unknown this season for the Jets; however if you consider that there is no doubt that Sanchez would have been cut if it weren’t for his big contract, and that the coaches really don’t want to have to play him again after he has let them down for the past 2 seasons; it says a lot about Smith that he hasn’t won the QB battle at camp, and it doesn’t say anything good, he is clearly not ready.

There is only one way to describe the Jets current situation at quarterback, it is a total mess.  I imagine that Sanchez will be the starting QB by week 1, because Smith just isn’t ready for that role yet.  McElroy will take the 3rd roster spot but won’t challenge for a starting role.

 

Running Back

Chris Ivory was brought in from the Saints to fill the gaping hole the Jets have at running back.  Ivory is likely to be the starter on week 1, but he isn’t exactly what I’d describe as being electric.  He doesn’t really fit a west coast system because he doesn’t have the pass catching ability required, but he is an upgrade on Shonn Greene.

What can you say about Mike Goodson?  The guy is lightning in a bottle.  The problem is that that bottle has seen very little practice thanks to his legal troubles and is a major doubt for the start of the season.  I’m not sure what the Jets plan to do with Goodson, but his roster spot is up for grabs.  Expect him to start the season on the reserve list.   *EDIT* Goodson has officially been banned for the first 4 games of the season, which I doubt if he would have played anyway.

Bilal Powell showed some glimpses of potential at the back end of last season, and it looks like he could well flourish under Marty Mornhinweg’s system.  Although I doubt he will be the starter (at least not at the start of the season) he is likely to be played as the 3rd down back due to his pass catching ability.

Joe McKnight is an anomaly, at times he flashes moments of brilliant as he turns the jets on and avoids tackles, and the problem is that it happens too rarely.  McKnight is primarily a kick returner and if it weren’t for that he wouldn’t be on the team, even with his kick returning ability he is on the bubble and a bad camp hasn’t helped his case.   *EDIT*   Joe McKnight was released after I wrote this, which isn’t shocking to me at all although it does add questions as to who will be doing the kick returns on the team.

The quarterback and running back situations at the Jets are both a mess.  I expect that Ivory will be the starter but we will see smatterings of Powell and that he will take the starting job by the end of the season.

 

Full Back

Tommy Bohanon will fill the fullback role for the team after Lex Hilliard picked up a season ending shoulder injury.  I think he would probably have won the role himself even without the injury to Hilliard, but because of the injury it has made it guaranteed to be his.

 

Wide Receiver

Santonio Holmes is very similar to Mark Sanchez in many ways, not only because they had a falling out in the 2011 season finale against the Dolphins, but also because he only has a place on the team because of his contract.  Much like Sanchez, Holmes has disappointed in his time as a Jet; and this has not been helped by questions over whether he will be ready for the start of the season.  He is the only experienced wide receiver that the Jets have on the roster and that is of course a major concern.  Sometimes you have to question Holmes’ commitment to the cause (like last year when he got injured and just threw the ball away so he didn’t get hit, costing the team a TD) but he is as good as the Jets have.

Big things were expected of Stephen Hill last season, but he showed that he was, although physically gifted, very raw.  Hill has height, speed and strength; but lacks the route running and pass catching skills of a no.1/2 receiver.  Last season he struggled to make separation between himself and defenders and that caused his numbers to be very poor (252 yds., 3TD’s, with 84 yds. and 2 TD’s in one game).  However Hill has had a strong camp and looks like he has improved his crispness and game overall (drops are still an issue) and looks set to have a good season.

Jeremy Kerley was by far the Jets best receiver last year, and showed bright sparks as a slot receiver.  Kerley has that elusiveness, pass catching and yards after the catch ability which will help him thrive in the West-coast system the Jets will be running this season and it could be a break-out year for him (if a QB can actually get the ball to him).  Kerley is also a punt returner and has shown flashes of potential; however he must cut down on the wasteful fair catches from last season.

The rest of the wide receivers currently on the roster are a bit of a mish-mash of veteran players and rookies.  Clyde Gates will make the roster because of his speed and kick returning ability.  Ryan Spadola will also make the roster in the 5th spot because of an excellent pre-season and camp, plus he’s a Jersey boy.  There is potential for another slot to be taken up by a receiver to cover Santonio Holmes’ injury problems and that is likely to fall to Mohamed Massaquoi because he has more than 3 seasons of NFL experience (more than any other of the receivers on the roster, Holmes excluded).  I was surprised to see Braylon Edwards released, but he has had a poor camp and was carrying injuries and clearly was thought as surplus to requirements when Massaquoi was signed.

 

Tight End

Kellen Winslow II was brought in to give the tight end corps some much needed experience.  Although he is unlikely to replicate his form that he showed at the Browns when he dominated the position, he will give the Jets an end zone threat with his height and pass catching ability.  There are obvious questions over Winslow’s durability issues (he played 1 game last year) but the Jets are desperate for skill position talent and Winslow is worth the risk.

Jeff Cumberland has the size and speed that is essential for a miss-matched pass catching tight end.  He has shown (like many Jets) glimpses of major potential, but has never fully been able to utilise that potential.  This season could be Cumberland’s break out year (because of the system) where he finally takes those steps into becoming the threat across the middle the Jets hoped he would be, if it isn’t then there has to be questions if he will ever take that next step.

Konrad Reuland isn’t the exciting flashy player that a Winslow or Cumberland are, he won’t post big numbers; however what Reuland is, is consistent.  Very much a blocking tight end, he will make the roster because he is the only one on the books.  Reuland showed he has the ability to be an effective tight end as well as full back, and his versatility will be very useful for the Jets.

I would add that it is sad to see that Hayden Smith was cut the other day and isn’t quite ready to make the 53 man roster quite yet.  Hopefully he won’t be claimed by another team and the Jets will be able to add him to the practice squad and continue to develop him for the future.

 

Offensive Tackle

D’Brickishaw Ferguson will line up at the left tackle position once again this year and further cement his place as the Jets most consistent player.  D’Brick has probably just dropped off of being an elite tackle in the league (still top 10) but his paly and consistency at left tackle is vital when you either have a rookie or a ditherer (Sanchez) at QB.

Austin Howard showed last season that he has potential to become a very solid right tackle, something the Jets haven’t had since the departure of Damien Woody.  He did well last season, but this season will be much harder, with teams now having tape on his weaknesses and without the experienced Brandon Moore next to him.

Jason Smith was signed by the Jets after he was released by the Saints earlier this month.  He was successful last season in the jumbo tight end packages for the Jets and is a useful pick up with a lack of depth at tackle being evident.

Oday Aboushi was the Jets 5th round pick from this year’s Draft and it looks like he may not be able to make the roster thanks to the arrival of Smith.  Expect him to be signed to the practice squad if he goes unclaimed.

 

Offensive Guard

Willie Colon was a nice pick up for the Jets, and by signing him on a one year deal there is very little risk involved for the Jets.  Colon has been hampered by season ending injuries recently and that is what caused his release from the Steelers.   If he can stay fit for the entire season then the Jets won’t have to worry, however if he can’t (and based on his injury record it is likely he won’t) then the Jets may be in trouble.

Who would have actually thought that I would be sitting here and writing that Vlad Ducasse had actually made the 53 man roster, never mind that he is now projected to be the starter after beating out Stephen Peterman (who looked like a stick on to start, and then got cut) and rookie Brian Winters.  Naturally I am a bit sceptical of Ducasse starting on the line (as anyone who has seen him play previously will be) but he can’t be much worse than Matt Slauson.

Brian Winters (3rd round pick) looked like he may win the starting job at left guard over Stephen Peterman in his rookie season, but has been hampered with injuries through camp and missed the first two pre-season games.  Although unlikely to start now this year (unless for injury or Ducasse regressing) Winters looks like he will be part of the future at offensive guard for the Jets for many years to come.

William Campbell may (6th round pick) have a slight chance of making the roster (similar to Aboushi) but this may become less so if the Jets are able to pick up a more experienced back up to fit on the line.  Definitely a candidate for practice squad if not claimed.

 

Centre

Nick Mangold is one of three elite players on the Jets roster (Cromartie and Wilkerson), and is one (if not the) best centre in the NFL.  You know what you get with Mangold, and although his play his dropped off the past two seasons because of niggling injuries, he is still an ever present and vital member of the offense and more importantly the locker room.

The biggest problem with Mangold is that if he is not on the line then the line falls to bits.  The past two seasons when Mangold has missed time, the Jets have not handled it well at all and this year does not look like it will be any different.  Caleb Schlauderaff is the likely back-up centre (because of his ability to play both centre and guard) but to be honest, he isn’t very good.  The other option is Erik Cook, who much like Schlauderaff doesn’t give you confidence if he were to fill in for an injured Mangold.  Expect the Jets to try their best to look for a more talented and experienced back-up to Mangold after final day cuts, because otherwise we have to keep our fingers crossed Mangold stays injury free.

 

Overall

The Jets have a lot of questions heading into the 2013 seasons on offense; mainly at QB, RB and WR.  There is a distinct lack of quality and experienced players at the skill positions; however what the Jets do have is youth, and with youth comes raw talent, and there is plenty of that to go around, with players like Kerley, Hill, Goodson, Cumberland and to a lesser extent Geno Smith.  These players will all need to have big seasons (Smith excluded because I think Sanchez will start) if the Jets’ offense is going to compete at all.  More importantly Mark Sanchez has to have a big season, and has to cut down on the turnovers that have plagued his NFL career thus far, otherwise he won’t be on the team next year.

 

Starting Line-up

This is what I expect the starting line-up to be on week 1:

Hill—Winslow—Ferguson-Ducasse-Mangold-Colon-Howard—Kerley (slot)—Massaquoi (Holmes if fit)

Sanchez

Bohanon

Ivory

 

Defence

Defensive End

Mo Wilkerson in my opinion is an elite end and is a truly special player.  He dominates the line and the point of attack; he can rush the passer or play the run game, he is a perfect end in a 3-4 system.  I think that Wilkerson (if he stays fit) will be making the Pro-Bowl this year and will finally gain the recognition that he thoroughly deserves.

Sheldon Richardson was a surprising pick in the Draft this year from the Jets (3 D-Lineman in a row in 1st round, and a 4-3 technique end [Jets running 3-4 of course]).  However Rex Ryan obviously saw something special in him to pick him at no.13.  Richardson has shown glimpses of potential in pre-season and in camp, and will line-up across from Wilkerson.  The Jets have two young exciting ends starting either side of each other and unlike in previous seasons have a lot of get up and go on the defensive line.

If the Jets take a 3rd end, then it is likely Leger Douzable will be it (although it is likely some of the nose tackles or outside linebackers may take that spot instead).  Douzable has had a good pre-season and a solid camp and has put himself in contention for a spot on the roster, but the Jets may be unlikely to carry 5 defensive lineman into the season.

 

Defensive Tackle

Kenrick Ellis is similar (although not nearly as bad) to Vlad Ducasse, based on the fact that he was drafted because of his physical rawness and potential but has never been able to develop into the player the Jets were hoping.  However this off-season Ellis has gotten his life sorted out (legal troubles fixed) and has become more focused on his football.  This has been seen in his pre-back injury camp, and he was a stick on to start in week 1 prior to his back injury.  There are now questions about whether he will be ready week 1, but I imagine he will be and him sitting is merely precautionary.

Damon Harrison will be his replacement if Ellis is not ready to go on week 1.  I didn’t understand why Harrison wasn’t given more of a chance last season when Pouha was out injured, because when I seen him play he seemed to do quite well.  This season Snacks (great nickname) has shown his worth (7 individual tackles against Giants) and has developed his game further almost guaranteeing his roster spot.

Antonio Garay will take the last roster spot for the defensive line, and will give much needed experience to what is a very young and inexperienced line.  Although I doubt he will be a starter and he has slowed down since his days at the Chargers, he is still a solid run blocker and his experience is required.

 

Middle Linebacker

When David Harris signed his last contract he looked like he would develop into an elite middle linebacker and would boss the field for the Jets defence.  Since signing his contract he has went on to have two lacklustre seasons, and has slowed down (in terms of speed) drastically.  There are still major doubts about Harris, and he certainly isn’t playing to his contract value, but having young fast Demario David next to him this season instead of old slow Bart Scott, will help immensely.

Demario Davis showed last season that he has what it takes to be a starting middle linebacker in the NFL.  He is excellent in pass coverage (vital in the modern NFL) and has excellent closing speed.  He does however lack a little in playing against the run and isn’t the best tackler.  David very much will be learning on the job, and will be helped along immensely by having a veteran like David Harris next to him.

Nick Bellore will act as the back-up at middle linebacker, and although he does not set the heather on fire in terms of ability, he is an incredibly useful special team’s player and will make the 53 man roster no problem because of that.

The final middle linebacker spot is a toss-up between Josh Mauga and Danny Lansanah.  Lansanah has had the better camp and pre-season, but Mauga is the incumbent back-up and is therefore more familiar with Ryan’s system.  Both could potentially make it but more likely only one will, if I were to guess I’d go Lansanah, but honestly I don’t know.

 

Outside Linebacker

Quinton Coples has made the move from defensive end to outside linebacker this year, and naturally there are some growing pains.  Coples made his name as a rusher of the passer, but now he is being asked to operate in space something he has done sparingly throughout his career.  There are no doubts that he will be a deadly force at rushing the passer from the linebacker position (something the Jets have sorely missed for a number of years) but his lack of pass defence ability and his lack of ability in space are worrying.  It will be interesting to see if the Jets will utilise him almost exclusively as a rusher, or whether they decide to use him as a generic outside linebacker.  Coples will also likely miss the first few games of the season because of an ankle injury, which is costing him vital practice time at his new position (another player learning on the job).

Calvin Pace is the old man at outside linebacker and after being released (for money saving reasons) he was re-signed almost instantly.  Pace is a lock for a starting role, and although he has slowed drastically from his heyday, he is still a very useful run stopper and a durable and reliable player.

Garrett McIntyre has shown previously that he is a solid player, he doesn’t do anything flashy but what he does he does well.  Although not the best in space (often found wanting on outside runs) he will start the first few games of the season with Coples unlikely to make it.  McIntyre is also (much like Bellore) an important special teams player, adding further value to himself.

Antwan Barnes was brought in by the Jets in the hope that he would be able to replicate his double digit sack numbers from 2 years ago when he was a member of the Chargers.  The Jets have lacked a consistent pass rusher for years now (2005, John Abraham) and this has been a major problem in recent years (5.5 sacks by Coples most on team in 2012).  The Jets are hoping that Barnes can be a speciality pass rusher and be effective in that role, I don’t see him starting.

Ricky Sapp is another one of those Jets players who you wondered why they didn’t receive more playing time last season (promoted to main roster in November).  He is similar to Barnes as he is a pass rusher specialist, but he is more rounded than Barnes.  Sapp has excellent speed and pass rushing abilities, and although it is unlikely that he will get a start, he could be used very effectively as a pass rusher.  Sapp has had a very impressive camp (albeit against the 2nd string) and is well deserving of earning a roster spot.

 

Cornerback

Antonio Cromartie is the final elite player on the Jets roster, and truly showed his worth last season when Darelle Revis was absent.  It was because of Cromartie’s play last year that Revis was considered surplus to requirements, and it was a deserved Pro-Bowl season.  Cromartie has incredible physical attributes and is both tall and fast.  The major mark against Cromartie is sometimes he is tackle averse and can often be found looking into the backfield (or making the INT) rather than concentrating on his man.  Still the best corner on the team and one of the best in the league.

Dee Milliner (other 1st round pick) has the unenviable job of being the man that replaces Darelle Revis in the Jets line-up.  Milliner has missed much of camp (worrying for a rookie) and also has some injury worries, however the Jets obviously thought highly enough of him to draft him at no.9 overall.  Milliner has the skill set to be a success but nothing is ever a guarantee in the NFL, and the complicated high reliance scheme that the Jets run and the pressure it puts on the cornerbacks, very much put Milliner in a sink or swim situation.  Although he was not impressive in pre-season, it isn’t unsurprising because he hasn’t had the training that he should have up to this point.  He will have to learn quick or the Jets defence will be in serious trouble.

Kyle Wilson does not look like a player that is a former 1st round pick.  He has never developed into the player that the Jets were hoping, and struggles in coverage (not ideal for a cornerback) often giving away a number of pass interference penalties.  Wilson is a slot corner, but if either of the two starting corners were to become injured, he isn’t a player you would want to rely on.

The Jets are then likely to carry another 3 corners; I think Isaiah Trufant and Ellis Lankster are locks because of their speed, nippiness and experience at the position, both are good players and either could be a 3rd corner for another team, truly showing the Jets depth at the position.  The final spot could be a toss-up between Mike Edwards and Darrin Walls; it is highly unlikely that both will make the roster, so it will be one or the other (probably practice squad for the unsuccessful one).  If I were to pick I think that Walls will have the slight edge.

 

Safety

Dawan Landry is the only Jets safety who has any real starting experience which is of course a major concern for a team that relies heavily on safety play.  Landry isn’t nearly as good as his brother (LaRon) but he is familiar with Rex Ryan’s system thanks to him playing with Ryan at Baltimore.  He is a lock for a starting slot, the bigger question is who will be starting next to him.

Jaiquawn Jarrett is the unlikely man who will start next to Landry on week 1.  Throughout camp it looked more likely to either be Bush or Allen starting at safety; however Jarrett snuck up out of nowhere and stole the place instead.  Ryan was impressed with Jarrett’s play in camp and he followed it up with excellent play in the pre-season games, becoming the anointed one.  He is a former 2nd round pick (of the Eagles) so you know he has ability (although never fully achieved obviously).  However his lack of regular season playing time is a major concern, as is the fact that the Eagles gave up on him (something they wouldn’t do flippantly).  He will be the Jets starter, but if his play isn’t up to scratch expect Bush and Allen to be waiting in the wings.

Josh Bush was my favourite for taking the safety role next to Landry because of his ability to play the pass, however he has fallen to being the 4th safety on the roster (behind Allen, Landry and Jarrett).  I don’t think that he is at risk of not making the final roster and could be used effectively in rotation (Ryan loves 3 safety looks).

Antonio Allen is probably the player closest to the bubble of the Jets safeties because his stock has fallen the most out of the safeties.  There is no doubting that Allen has ability, and showed last season that he is a good blitzer.  Allen is a hard hitting safety, has good size and could be effective on covering tight ends (used to play linebacker also).  I honestly don’t think he will be in trouble of not making the roster, and both Bush and Allen should push Jarrett throughout the season which should help keep players on their toes, because there is nothing better than competition for keeping players sharp.

Rontez Miles has the slightest of chances of making the roster; however I doubt the Jets will carry 6 corners and 5 safeties.  Miles is a good candidate to see on the practice squad and could be one for the future.

 

Overall

Rex Ryan said that he believed that this season the Jets would have a top 5 defence, a bold prediction from a coach who is playing for his job.  The Jets certainly have a lot of youthful talent on the D-Line (something they haven’t had in previous seasons), the linebacking corps are much younger also (although question marks about their ability still stand), the corner backs are still very deep even without Revis on the roster and there are still major question marks over the Jets safety positions.  The potential is there, but the young players will have to play up to that potential if the Jets are to achieve a top 5 defence.  One thing that can definitely be said about the Jets defence is that it has gotten younger and faster, a major problem that hurt the team the last two seasons.  By no means do I think that the starting positions are as locked up as they are on offense; with NT (Ellis, Harrison) and FS (Jarrett, Allen, Bush) all still potentially up for grabs.

 

Starting Line-up

This is what I expect the starting line-up to be on week 1:

Cromartie—–Wilkerson—Ellis—Richardson—Wilson (slot)—Milliner

Harris—Davis

Coples———————Pace

Landry—————————————-Jarrett

 

Special Teams

Kicker

Nick Folk should still take this after beating out Billy Cundiff despite the fact the Jets signed Dan Carpenter as further competition.  The worst thing that can happen to a kicker is to relax because there is so much competition for only 32 places in the league.  Folk has kicked for the Jets for 3 seasons (going into 4th) and has been a solid kicker throughout.  The one thing Folk lacks is a strong leg, which is an issue on kick-offs and long field goals (something Carpenter has in abundance).  I expect Folk will be there on week 1 as usual.

 

Punter

Robert Malone had a good year last season (despite the blocks, mainly scheming issues rather than bad punting) and has beaten out Ryan Quigley in a tight camp battle.  Malone could the punter the Jets have been looking for since recklessly letting Steve Weatherford go and much like Folk, expect him to be there on week 1.

 

Long Snapper

Who else could it be but Tanner Purdum?  He has been a solid LS since joining the Jets and hasn’t done anything to make you think otherwise.

 

Conclusion

The Jets are going into the 2013 season with quite a young and inexperienced roster.  There is a large reliance on players who have never had a starting role and that could come back to haunt the Jets in what is shaping up to be a long season.

There is also a distinct lack of proven talent at the skill positions; and although there is potential and decent depth at tight end, running back and wide receiver, there isn’t a player that you could see having an 1k yard season.  All the skill position players will benefit from playing in a West-coast system rather than the 1920’s style of Tony Sparano which was so ineffective last year.  The biggest issue for the Jets of course is at quarterback; where it seems more than likely that Mark Sanchez will be starting week 1.  The problem with Sanchez is obvious, he has had 4 seasons to prove his worth and each time has disappointed.  Geno Smith isn’t ready to start in this league and throwing him to the wolves would be detrimental to his development.  The Jets have a good young defence which contains lots of competition, and with Rex Ryan calling the plays once again expect the defence to up its aggression and cause a lot of panic and turnovers.  The Jets will go as the quarterback goes, and unless there is a vast improvement in the quarterback play from last season (which is doubtful) as I have said already it is going to be a long season.

The way the Jets play in the season (assuming it is a losing record) will define whether Ryan keeps his job or not.  If the Jets go down in the shambles of the past 2 years then he is gone, if the Jets show potential and a fighting spirit then I think he might just hang on once again.

If I were to put a number on the Jets season I would guess 6-10.  I hope it is better than that but I have major doubts over the ability of the roster as a whole.  If Sanchez (or Smith) were to have a really good season then maybe the Jets could pull out a 10-6 (similar to the Seahawks last season but not nearly as talented) but that is a very big if, and one that I can’t see happening.  6-10 is probably generous (with wins over Bucs, Bills, Raiders, Browns, @Panthers, @ Bills) but the Jets do have a fairly easy schedule and if they were able to get hot you just never know.  My heart says just maybe, my brain tells me it isn’t going to happen.

 

 

So leave a comment and tell me what you think about the New York Jets this season (try and be nice as hard as it may be).  Do you think that Rex will see the 2014 season?  Will Sanchez become the next Peyton Manning?  Or more likely the next Jamarcus Russell?  Let me know and leave a comment, all are welcome.