On the defensive side of the ball there may be some questions about the line and the totally new secondary, but once again the Jets linebackers are probably the best group in the NFL. With the addition of a healthy Sam Cowart, they can only get better.
Special Teams. Santana Moss and John Hall may make you nervous and a bit uneasy, but if they are healthy and focused, they are going to help the Jets win some games in a dramatic fashion.
Here are our 10 important keys to the season in descending order of importance.
10. Can Mike Westhoff's special teams deliver this year?
With the key loss of Chris Hayes, a new punter in Matt Turk, and a "healthy" Santana Moss, Westhoff has a big job to do to make the special teams a quality corps. Less on-sides kicks lost, and more run-backs of 15 yards or more, are things the Jets must figure out how to do before heading up to Buffalo for the first game.
9. Will the defense's past injuries come back to haunt the Jets?
With the luck the Jets have had with injuries on the defensive side of the ball since the Bruce Coslet age, the answer is certainly a yes. Jason Ferguson is coming off a year-ending injury and new Jet Sam Cowart tore his Achilles' heel last year, so the Jets looked doomed for destruction, again. The Jets did, however, and bring in a couple of quality reserves in Steve White and Larry Webster. The secondary, no matter how slow, must stay healthy, and linebackers Marvin Jones and Mo Lewis look ready for battle.
8. Will Chad Pennington come in and surprise everyone, finally?
From our perspective as fans, we think yes. Then again, Parcells, Groh, and Herm have all decided to wait and wait, so maybe they know what might happen. If Vinny stays healthy this year, the Jets look good enough to make the playoffs in his hands. If he doesn't, it's a coin toss as to whether Chad Pennington can pull a Ray Lucas and make this team salvageable.
7. Will Santana Moss have an impact this year?
If Santana can fly with his speed, and if that leg injury is healed, then the Jets will have a pretty good receiving corps that can spread the field. We predict even Anthony Becht will catch some balls. Santana will have to realize that his rookie year was non-productive and that he has to excel at both catching balls and returning punts.
6. How will the Jets pass rush measure up?
John Abraham is the real deal. He is as athletic as they come. Top pick Bryan Thomas looks big and fast, but will have to prove that he is first-round material. Josh Evans will help with some much needed QB pressure, which hasn't been seen in years. Shaun Ellis is 15 lbs. lighter and more mobile from the outside, but it remains to be seen whether he will have a great year, or just another average one.
5. Will we see the West Coast offense?
Well, from the sidelines last year, the West Coast offense was just a myth. The offense looked the same as it had been the last 10 years. Paul Hackett chose to predictably run the ball more times than in the last 10 years and throw the ball fewer times than in the past 22 years. Hackett must open up the "O" in order to keep our interest. It can't just be the Curtis Martin show.
4. How fast is the secondary?
The secondary lost Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman. Ouch!! They got Aaron Beasley and Donnie Abraham. Sam Garnes and Damien Robinson are the other DBs. The secondary looks to be the slowest in a while. Ted Cottrell must figure out a way to cover both Jerry Rice and Tim Brown in Oakland on Monday Night Football. If the Jets hope to have any success on defense, the secondary has to surprise a lot of people, including the two of us, with their ability to play. It looks like a long season of learning about Cover 2.
3. Who is going to play guard?
Aside from last year, the offensive line has never been truly solid in training camp in the last 7 or 8 years. Things are constantly changing. This year is no different. Kerry Jenkins left to join Keyshawn in Tampa. Dave Muir, the offensive line coach, left to the Bay as well. Signing Dave Szott didn't pan out, because he tore his ACL. The left guard position is up to J.P. Machado, who would be the best candidate, and a solid backup who would not disappoint, or rookie Jonathan Goodwin from Michigan. Goodwin looks to be pretty decent for a 5th round pick. Another option, which should never be overlooked, is bringing in an outside candidate. Does anyone know where Jumbo Elliot is? He seems to never go away. He might be able to fill in.
2. Will Curtis have another great year?
This is a no-brainer. Curtis Martin is one the top three running backs in the game. He is a workhorse. LaMont Jordan will have a great sophomore season. If Richie Andersen can return to Pro Bowl form, then the backfield will be the highlight of the team. The offensive line must protect Curtis and lead the way for him to gain 1,000 yards again. The team wins when he rushes for over 100 yards a game. Let Curtis do his thing and the team will be a contender.
1. What's the deal with Herman Edwards?
I just hope that Herm took some clock-management courses this off-season, because if he didn't then we are all doomed for misery. But the players like him. Just because they like him doesn't mean they are going to win. The players didn't pal around with Vince Lombardi. They didn't "hang" with Parcells. They were coached to win. They might not have been friends with these coaches, but they win for them. Herman Edwards can't be too friendly or else we are going to be telling each other, "It's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game," and that does not win Super Bowls.
Throughout the year we will be sharing our views from a fan's perspective, in easy terms without much nonsense. We will discuss our opinions from the stands and not the sidelines. From the Meadowlands to the road games, following the Jets as we have done for many years, we welcome this opportunity to share our thoughts and views with you. There have been some great experiences, wild and exciting stories and of course some very emotional and traumatic football games that we have been a part of since the early days of Jets football.
From the football side to the human-interest side. From missed tackles and great touchdown runs to the best places for hot dogs and Bar-B-Que on the road. We will be there to report on all of the exciting Jets activities as they unfold during the 2002 campaign.
Some of our more memorable moments include watching the Jets lose to Buffalo when the wind-chill dropped the temperature to 30° below in a packed Rich Stadium. Attending a 9-7 Jet victory versus the Patriots on what had to be the wettest game ever played in Foxboro or possibly the NFL. Cocktails, Mexican food and sunshine in LA before the Rams bolted town to St. Louis are no match for sausage, beer and Fireman Ed at the Meadowlands.
Oh, and how about the Sunday evening in the early ‘90s when all the Jets, Boomer and Coslet had to do was beat the Oilers in Houston to make the playoffs, because the Dolphins and all the other contending teams had already lost that afternoon. The table was set for our beloved football club to march right in….. Unfortunately, we traveled all the way to Houston and watched the Jets lose. We also made it to Denver a few years back and took a lot of abuse for the better part of 2 ½ quarters. But then… the Jets and tradition took over and we're sure you know the final score of that game.
We look forward to sharing our thoughts, opinions and insights. We may provoke you, push you and even make you laugh as we all share a common passion, devotion and unwavering commitment to the Jets. We must steady ourselves for this upcoming campaign for our trip to San Diego. We don't mean week #9 (Nov 3), but rather on Super Bowl Sunday.
J.E.T.S. JETS, JETS, JETS!!!