It could be slow going for Pennington this season as he enters training camp coming off shoulder surgery to repair a rotator cuff tear that kept him out for three games last season. Even without health issues, Pennington will have to deal with a new offense, which under Heimerdinger is going to be more wide open and expects Pennington to go downfield more often. Pennington did very well under the previous offense - a West Coast style that emphasized the running game and short controlled passes over the middle. But Pennington is a smart and accurate quarterback who isn't prone to mistakes so he should fit in well. You have to wonder, however, how his shoulder will deal with the Jets stretching the field more often. If Pennington gets hurt again, the Jets have an experienced backup this time in Fiedler, rather than Quincy Carter, who struggled with former coordinator Paul Hackett as well as several off the field issues.
Everyone seemed worried about Martin once he hit 30, but at 31 he posted his best season last year with an NFL leading 1,697 yards and 12 touchdowns. He didn't break many big runs, his longest was just 25 yards, but got positive yardage every time and averaged 4.6 yards a carry, a career-best. Still, the Jets want to lessen his workload. After four years of talking about giving more carries to former the Jets signed Blaylock, who can expect 10 or more carries a game in Heimerdinger's offense. Sowell has been unhappy about his contract but he better watch it because he'll be more of a blocker in the new offense.
The Jets wanted and needed a big-play, sure-handed tight end and that wasn't Anthony Becht. So the Jets traded their first-round pick to the Raiders for Jolley. The Jets haven't had a true pass-catching tight end in several years and will utilize Jolley over the middle and get his big body in the red zone as much as possible. The Jets will use two tight ends at time so Baker will see a few balls thrown his way but not the 40-50 Jolley will get his hands on.
The Jets traded for McCareins last season in the hopes he could become their No. 1 big-play receiver. While he played well and proved incredibly valuable when called upon to block, McCareins never developed into a No. 1 (770 yards receiving and just four touchdowns). So the Jets made another trade this offseason, bringing back Coles, who had his best season playing in New York two years ago. The acrobatic Coles will have an instant rapport with Pennington and he'll likely be his top red zone target. Chrebet's role has decreased over the last few seasons but will be visible in the role he does best at - a possession receiver.
It's been a very steady and underrated unit for the Jets over the last several seasons and whenever changes have been made - three positions have seen turnover over the past three seasons - they've always been for the better. Moore stepped in to start at right guard all last season and did well. The veteran Kendall was plucked off the waiver wire in training camp last year and was outstanding at left guard. In the middle of it all is perennial Pro-Bowler Mawae, probably the best center in the NFL because of his ability to pull. Fabini has been solid and serviceable at left tackle but the loss of McKenzie to free agency, however, will be a big one for the Jets. Not only was McKenzie an important part of the Jets' run blocking, but he is being replaced by Jones, who has limited experience as a tackle, let alone playing on the right side. The Jets could be making a huge mistake putting the untested Jones in such a vulnerable spot. Their strength remains run-blocking, where this strong group can push and pull at will to create openings for Martin, who led the NFL with 1,697 yards.
The Jets went from allowing 143.4 yards a game rushing in 2003 to 97.9 last season and this group under the leadership of coordinator Donnie Henderson is a big reason why. Robertson made a huge jump last season and while he hasn't racked up big sack numbers yet, he's been able to use his massive size and strength to absorb constant double teams and open things up for the rest of the line. The loss of Ferguson will hurt that run defense, especially when the Jets will use a rotation of players at the nose, including third round pick Pouha. Ellis continues to improve, showing solid skills against the run as well as his pass rush. Abraham will be the big question, entering training camp with contract issues and his inability to stay healthy over the course of a season. He's thus far refused to sign his one-year tender as the Jets' franchise player and is certain to hold out of camp.
No unit went through more overhaul last season than this one and the improvement was both immediate and impressive. Defensive Rookie of the Year Vilma was a powerful force in the middle and gave the Jets a legitimate sideline-to-sideline tackler, which they've lacked for years. He totaled 118 tackles with two sacks and three interceptions. Barton was just as effective on the weak side, leading the team with 125 tackles, and he and Vilma kept opposing running backs from breaking big runs against them on the outside. Hobson was adequate on the other side but wasn't the great handler of tight ends that he was supposed to be when drafted two years ago. He needs to show further improvement. While the starters are a solid group, the Jets have little depth here, which is why they signed Gardner.
This has the making of being a deep group, but is it any good? Barrett came on very strong last season after a rocky start, but Donnie Abraham retired this past week, forcing the Jets to trade for Hunter, who has started just a handful of games in his four seasons and had season-ending knee surgery last September. Mickens, however, will likely get the first shot at the starting job. Coleman was quite a find in the fifth round last year, emerging as the starting free safety in training camp, but he needs to work on his tackling. There are issues at strong safety, where McGraw is too brittle, entering this season coming off sports hernia surgery. In an effort to get younger in this area, the Jets drafted safeties Rhodes and Maddox in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively.
Dancing after the draft, coach Mike Westhoff got a new kicker (Nugent) and a new return man (Miller) in the second round and got one of the better coverage players on returns with Maddox. The Jets believe Nugent is their kicker for the next 10 years and Miller can be a serious big-play threat on returns from the start. While the Nugent pick may very well be a good one, there was faulty logic behind the pick, letting Doug Brien's two misses at the end of the playoff loss at Pittsburgh dictate their decision. Dearth remains dependable as the team's long snapper and, after ranking near the bottom of the league in punting, the Jets signed free agent Knorr as their fifth punter in five seasons.