John Keim's interview with Dan Leberfeld

Q: What's the locker room take on the switch to Clemens? Were people in favor of the move?

Leberfeld: There really wasn't much of a locker room take. Jets players are coached on what to say and not to say, so you don't get a lot of candor in the locker room. Chad is a very popular player on the team, so there was some sadness about the move, especially from his close friend, Laveranues Coles, the team's top receiver. But the majority of fans and reporters were in favor of the move. Pennington is constantly being criticized for his average arm strength, and people think Clemens rocket arm is going to be the panacea for this struggling offense. We will see.

Q)What do you like about Clemens? Dislike?

Leberfeld: Clemens is a high quality guy who everybody likes. He comes from a village in Oregon with about 50 people, and he's got the small town charm about him. But he's no wallflower. He commands respect in the huddle, and seems to enjoy dealing with the New York media. Clemens has an absolute rocket arm, so this will add a new dimension to the Jets offense. His throws get to the receivers quicker, so they have more of an opportunity to run after the catch. Also, he should be able to throw a better deep ball than Chad Pennington. What I would be concerned about is that sometimes he throws the ball too hard. He came in at the end of the Bills game last week, and threw two rockets that were dropped. There was too much mustard on the ball. Another concern would be that he's not as instinctive as Chad Pennington. At the end of the Bills game he was getting sacked and flipped the ball ahead right into the hands of Bills linebacker John DiGiorgio who dropped it. Chad Pennington would never make a play like that.

Q)Why hasn't Thomas Jones had a better start?

Leberfeld: First of all, he missed most of training camp with a calf injury, so he never really developed chemistry with his new offensive line during the summer. Secondly, the Jets have been playing for behind in many games, so this has limited carries. They also have been lousy on third down, which also has limited carries. But when the Jets have been able to get him a decent number carries, he still looks like the old Thomas Jones from Chicago.

Q)Are the Jets ill-suited for a 3-4? Why or why not?

Leberfeld: Absolutely ill-suited for the 3-4. They don't have a massive nose tackle like Vince Wilfork or Jamal Williams to tie up to blockers to help the linebackers. Dewayne Robertson is a terrific player, but not a 3-4 nose tackle - he's too small. The Jets also don't have a pass rushing outside linebacker like Rosie Colvin or Shawne Merriman who can scare teams off the edge. Expect the Jets to fix these problems in the off-season, but for now, they are a 3-4 defense missing some pieces.

Q)What is the strength of this team?

Leberfeld: The strength of this team. That is a tough one. Since I don't really know what kind of quarterback Clemens is going to be, I can't really say the passing game. Thomas Jones has been a strength at times, but they haven't been able to commit to him enough.

The strength of the team is probably their kick returner Leon Washington, who has two touchdowns on the season.

Also they have two terrific rookies - first round pick Darrelle Revis and second round selection David Harris. They both looks like they are going to be special.

Q)What player has surprised you the most?

Leberfeld: I would say safety Abram Elam. He was with the Dallas Cowboys last year, but was cut after training camp this summer. He had to play catch-up with the system, and grabbed a starting job two weeks ago. He leapfrogged both Erik Coleman and Eric Smith to take the job. He's a big hitter, something they need in the secondary. He is constantly around the ball.

He's a really good kid who overcame a tragic childhood in the ghetto of Riviera Beach, Florida. He's the kind of guy you root for.

Q)How has Revis played?

Leberfeld: While he hasn't been perfect, you can see why the Jets traded up for this guy. I think he's going to be a star. He is smart, instinctive, fast and tough, and makes a lot of plays on the ball. And he's got great character.

His uncle is former NFL defensive end Sean Gilbert, who did a great job preparing Darrelle for the NFL.

He's going to be special, especially when the Jets get a pass rush.

Q)How big is the loss of Vilma?

Leberfeld: Not that big a loss. His replacement last week, rookie David Harris, had 17 tackles. Vilma is a heck of a football player, but is a terrible fit for the Jets 3-4 defense. He's too small. He's more of a sideline-to-sideline tackle machine, than a 3-4 inside linebacker who has to constantly shed guards. The Jets have been in denial a little bit about Vilma being a bad fit, but now I think they realize it, and there is a good chance they will attempt to trade him in the off-season.

Q)What aspect of the team has been the most disappointing?

Leberfeld: It's been the defense. They run defense has been a huge problem. The Jets are constantly getting pushed around up front, and the team's in getting gashed on almost a weekly basis.

And the pass rush hasn't been much better. They are dire need of a big-time pass rushing outside linebacker in the next draft. Expect the Jets to be very active this off-season attempting to add defensive pieces.

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