A Guest Blog by Matt Loonam of nyjroadtothesuperbowl.tumblr.com
In less than a week the New York Jets begin their quest for the Lombardi trophy. The Jets faithful have had few moments throughout the teams history when expectations have been this high. Last year Rex Ryan began his tenure as the Jets head coach and he should have had an asterisk next to his name as “self esteem coach.” Since the day Ryan walked through the Jets door he has been brimming with confidence and making the Jets feel as if they were winners. All they needed was the right man to lead the team back to glory. Rex Ryan was quoted saying “I believe our team is better than every (expletive) team in the league. I believe our players are better than any players in the league. That’s a true statement. That’s how I believe.”
The Jets have found success in the first year of the Ryan era and they look to take that next step this season. The Jets were a half hour away from the Super Bowl in the AFC Championship game before Peyton Manning unleashed upon the Jets secondary. Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan walked out of that game and vowed to get better at the positions that showed weakness during the AFC championship game. The organization went out and grabbed 2007 Pro-Bowl Cornerback, Antonio Cromartie from the San Diego Chargers and drafted Kyle Wilson out of Boise State, with their first draft pick to ensure their secondary would not be exposed for their run for the ring this year. And with the Darrelle Revis deal being locked up earlier this week in a 4-year deal worth 46 million dollars the Jets Defense looks to remain the number 1 rated defense in the league.
We already know the Jets will stay true to their game plan they had last season. “Smash Mouth” defense and a “ground and pound” offense. The Jets had one of the best-ranked rushing offenses in the league. This year the starting role falls to the hands of Shonn Greene who lead the league in the post season last year with 304 yards rushing and 2 TD’s. The back up duty falls to future hall of famer LaDanian Tomlinson. Critics and even the Jets nation were originally skeptical of the cutting of Thomas Jones and the signing of LT but I couldn’t be more excited by the prospect. LaDanian, in the preseason, has shown that he still has something to prove, averaging 5.68 yards per carry and still chasing that ever-elusive Super Bowl ring. For as much success Tomlinson has had in his career he has yet been able to win a Championship. He knows he is in the twilight of his career and while he stills has some gas left in the tank he wants to make sure he is aligned with a winner. I feel that not only having him around as a mentor for the young Greene will be invaluable but also for the receiving threat he now poses for opposing defenses. This is a trait that wasn’t something that was associated with Jones offensive attributes.
Mike Tannenbaum always one known for maximizing deals and finding gems in the league bolstered up the receiving corps offense by picking up Santonio Holmes from the Steelers, even though he will be suspended for the first four games of the season. The Jets now have a former pro bowler in Braylon Edwards and 2009 Super Bowl MVP Holmes for their sophomore year quarterback, Mark Sanchez, to throw to. The Jets have the potential to have one of the most explosive offenses, not only in the division but, in the entire league. The success of the unit depends strongly on the advancement of Sanchez.
Sanchez started off strongly last year by starting off 3-0 before finally showing his young untested rookie skills in a week 4 meltdown against New Orleans. The problems continued for the remainder of the regular season but Sanchez was able to show all of his promise when it counted most, in the playoffs. I think in order for Sanchez to help this team win, offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer needs to keep the plan simple. Run the ball as often as possible, but Sanchez will need to be able to take advantage of his receiving corps Holmes and Edwards when he has to. Sanchez doesn’t need to win every game for this team to be successful. He just needs to not lose them by throwing costly INT’s during games.
Over the past four weeks, Jets fans have received a real treat with HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and have been given inside access to the Jets organization and most importantly their fearless leader, Rex Ryan. Rex is a “players coach.” He is a defensive mind, quick with a joke, and someone players look to give it their all for. This has been a welcome change from the “Mangini-era” where press conferences were secretive and any information pertaining to players was heavily guarded. Ryan, on the other hand, has no qualms of talking up his team or bringing on challenges. Just recently he signed the ESPN bus “New York Jets -Soon to be Champs” letting everyone in the league know that they Jets are coming.
I think Ryan is paramount to the success of this team. He has spent his time with the organization building up confidence and challenging any opponent in the league to come and give their best. “The first step is, if you don’t believe it yourself your team darn sure won’t. Again I’m not apologizing I just know what’s going to happen. In my crystal ball I’m seeing a Super Bowl trophy in there.”
The one trait that seems consistent throughout this Jets team is the hunger and the want to Win. Rex Ryan has been to the AFC Championship twice in the past two years. LaDanian Tomlinson wants to win before his knees give out. Jason Taylor, former enemy from the Dolphins, hears father time knocking and was willing to switch over to a hated rival in order to get a championship ring.
Even Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes have their own motivations this season. For Edwards he is looking for a long-term home. He is in the last year of his old contract. He knows he has the chance to land a long term deal with the Jets if he steps up and performs. Holmes is also looking to start a new and work on how he is viewed by the media and fans. His career has been filled with on the field successes and off the field distractions. He has a chance to just be a football player with the New York Jets.
We finally get to see the Jets play at their best come this Monday against the Ravens and I feel like they are going to blow the doors off. My prediction is the Jets are going 11-5 this season. In the first five games they face some of their hardest opponents on schedule (Ravens, Patriots, Dolphins and Vikings). I feel like the Jets will do what they normally do. Win the games they are supposed to lose and lose the games they are supposed to win. I know this is the new Jets but they are still the Jets!
The Jets will have the top ranked rushing offense, top ranked defense and Sanchez will take a step forward this season. Sanchez did not really impress everyone in the preseason, especially the game against Carolina where he threw for 12 yards?, but he has every weapon at his disposal to be a success this year.
I hate to say it but I feel like Greene will start off strong and burn out by the bye week. LaDanian will then take them the rest of the way. The way Greene runs I just don’t see him staying healthy all season. I also think we will miss Leon Washington’s playmaker ability this season, especially when it comes to the punt return game. Joe McKnight: when will you show up and contribute?
The Jets have spent the offseason talking about the Super Bowl and right now they are paper champs. They are built to win and win now. Come Monday night we get to see the Jets play at their best. I think they are going to hit the ground running and walk away with a win in week 1.
- Matt Loonam
Follow the Jets all season long and check out Matt’s blog at nyjroadtothesuperbowl.tumblr.com