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New York Jets Are Ready For Take Off

Written By Kevin Connor: Finally. The barbecues are over. The Mets have gracelessly eliminated themselves from playoff contention. Brett Favre has chosen his ankle as the body part ESPN will hammer to death with coverage over the next 17 weeks…NFL football is back.

Written By: Kevin Connor

Finally.  The barbecues are over.  The Mets have gracelessly eliminated themselves from playoff contention.  Brett Favre has chosen his ankle as the body part ESPN will hammer to death with coverage over the next 17 weeks…NFL football is back.

For Gang Green and its legion, no season in recent memory (or, for most of us, any memory) has come with greater expectations.  The Giants are on the backburner; the spotlight is poised squarely on Rex Ryan and the Jets, which is right where they want it.  Hardknocks.  The Revis Holdout.  Anything Bart Scott says.  This is a group that thrives on attention. And unlike last year, Rex Ryan is not alone in his prediction that the Jets are going to make some serious noise this season.  But when all is said and done, is it all hype?  Are the Jets a legitimate contender?

By now, the experts have exhausted their predictions and analyses on the 2010 Jets, so I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version of my own:  The Jets should go 11-5.  The first three home games: Baltimore, New England, and Green Bay, are going to give a great indication of whether the Jets are for real.  Weeks 3 and 4 are at Miami and Buffalo, both games the Jets should win.  If the Jets can take two of those first three home games and get off to a 4-1 start, they should easily break 10 wins.  Still, those of us who remember the Favre debacle from two years ago (who doesn’t?), know that 4-1, or 8-3, is no guarantee of anything.  Rather than tally wins and losses, I’ll lay out the stories to watch that will decide whether the Jets will make it late into January.

-The Secondary.  By now, even my dog knows the Jets live and die by their defense.  Top ranked in the league, Revis Island, Kris Jenkins, and so on.  But for all their hype, the defense faded late and let the Jets down in a few key games last season (Miami on Monday night, anyone?).  I think the reason for this is fairly simple: when you blitz your linebackers every other play, they tire easily and wear down by game’s end, giving quarterbacks more time.  The linebackers –with the exception of the Ghost of Jason Taylor — are largely the same, but with offseason additions of Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie & his seven kids, the Jets have added significant speed and coverage capability that should better equip them to handle those late aerial assaults.  Watch this against the Packers and the Vikings, two top teams with elite quarterbacks.

-Matt Slauson.  Oh, Alan, please come home.  Faneca’s departure left a gaping hole at left guard, and his replacement has looked shaky at best through the preseason.  For all the talk about whether Sanchez and Shonn Greene can step up this year, it won’t make a difference if they’re on the ground before they can count to 2.  It’s a good thing the Jets re-signed Tony Richardson, because I sense that he will picking up a lot of slack behind #68.  It’s hard to ground and pound when you can’t run behind left guard.  The Ravens aggressive defense in Week 1 will be a great litmus test to determine whether Slauson is up to the task.  If not, it could spell big problems for the Jets against power defenses.

-LT.  The former MVP came to Florham Park with low expectations, which were promptly smashed by Hardknocks and a big preseason.  But even if he isn’t the Tomlinson of old, I think LT will be an integral part of the Jets offense.  He’ll most likely play a similar role to Leon Washington — a role that Mark Sanchez was without for the second half of last season because of Washington’s broken leg — and that is no small addition.  So much was made of a few ill-advised rookie throws by Sanchez.  Most of these were downfield gaffes; I think having Tomlinson as a safety valve for a screen pass is going to significantly cut down on Sanchez’s errors this season.  And finally, the guy is a true football player.  He knows the game and he wants to win.  That cannot be a bad thing.  I’d say “watch to see how he performs”, but I am confident Tomlinson will have a great year for the Jets and an important dimension that will elevate their offense to the next level.

Mark Sanchez

Quarterback Mark Sanchez

 -Mark Sanchez.  What is left to say about Sanchez?  It seems that everyone who isn’t a Jets fan has written him off as inept and mediocre, that he’ll be the reason the Jets falter this season.  I cannot figure this reasoning out.  Sure, Sanchez made a few bad (okay, terrible) plays last season, but wasn’t he a rookie?  It’s called a learning curve.  People somehow forget that the best game he played all year was the AFC Championship Game.  Yes, he has shown a propensity for dumb throws, but that’s something that is very fixable with experience.  Sanchez has all the right things, too — the things you can’t teach: poise, a strong arm, and leadership ability.  He can get there.  He might not be Drew Brees any time soon, but he’s at least in the top half of NFL starters right now, and he could jump significantly higher before the season is over.  Sanchez might not make the big throw every time, but I’ll take my chances with him over the Jake Delhomme “Dear God, how is he going to screw this up?” feeling that the poor, abused city of Cleveland is about to swallow all season long.

These are the angles that are either going to catapult the Jets into the Elite Boys Club or keep them treading water alongside Kyle Orton. But one thing is sure: both on the field and off, it’s an exciting time to follow the Jets.  We have waited a long time for such excitement, so do keep these angles in mind as you watch, but mostly, just sit back and enjoy what will undoubtedly be an intriguing season of Jets football.

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