Four Downs: Four Questions Heading Into Camp

Heading into camp at Cortland State this August, the Jets hope that their offense is the efficient, mistake-free unit that won five of their last six games heading into the playoffs and not the group that four times last season, scored 16 or fewer points. The Jets have some new pieces and some old ones coming together in Cortland, and this on paper could be a dynamic group of athletes.

Last year, the Jets made a big splash by dealing for wide receiver Braylon Edwards before the trade deadline. Edwards had a subpar season and now big things are expected of a player still in his prime who was once a Pro Bowl'er.

Four Downs of Questions About the Offense Heading Into Camp

3. Which Braylon Edwards Will Be Seen In 2010? – When the Jets traded with their former head coach Eric Mangini last September, they hoped that bringing in the disgruntled Browns' receiver would be a boon to the offense. Braylon Edwards gave then rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez a big target to throw to, with his 6'3 and 215 pound frame making him an ideal possession receiver. Unfortunately, Edwards rarely got the ball and when he did, it all too often went through his hands.

Edwards made just a nominal impact on the Jets' offense. All told, #17 hauled in just 35 catches and averaged 15.5 yards per catch, the second lowest average of his career. He continued to struggle with no only dropped passes, somewhat of an epidemic from his Cleveland days, but Edwards often had difficulty getting open. Things didn't seem to click and outside of the game in Miami last season, it is hard to remember him consistently making plays and being dangerous. There was the Buffalo game at the Rogers Centre last year but, oh wait, he dropped that pass on a wide-open route, didn't he?

The Jets are banking on that changing this year. They can point to the fact that in just 12 games, 11 of which were starts, he did lead the team in receiving touchdowns with four endzone hauls. The Jets will also say that he had a clutch post-season snag for a touchdown too. But can Edwards live up to the hype? Edwards is bent on changing that perception of himself.

Judging from mini-camp, the answer is clearly yes. Time after time, Edwards was making plays in practice, playing loose and free. He was unafraid to go over the middle, his patterns and positioning along the sidelines was tight and he was making highlight plays on a regular basis. Over and over again, Edwards was snagging balls over Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, using his size and big hands to get balls that no one else on the roster could nab.

It wasn't just the fact that he was catching the ball, but the manner and style in which he was doing it that had the players buzzing.

The Jets will clearly be a run-first team this year but the development of Sanchez under center should help Edwards get more chances to make plays. What also should help matters is the fact that Edwards welcomes Santonio Holmes to the fold this off-season, bringing in a playmaker who can stretch the defense and get behind the secondary. If Holmes can pull that safety out just a yard or two, that's all the space that Edwards needs to shield the ball and get a solid gain.

That's what the Jets' offense is banking on so far this season.

Analysis: While Edwards came to the Jets with some hype last year, this year, it is clear that he is letting his product on the field speak for itself. Throughout OTA sessions and mini-camp, the wide receiver was working hard and showing the form that made him an All-Pro in 2008. While Holmes was good and developed an almost instant chemistry with Sanchez, it was Edwards who was making plays.

He won't have to do it alone this year as Edwards has a talented group of receivers around him that can get open and stretch the field. With just a little separation, Edwards can be a dominant physical presence on the field. It also won't hurt that Mark Sanchez has another year with the playbook and on the field experience to bring to the huddle. This will help as Edwards should get the ball more this season. Especially along the sideline, where it looks like Sanchez can be more consistent in making that throw.

After all, the sixth year wideout averaged less than three catches a game last season. That number is unacceptable this year.

It was also interesting that in mini-camp, Edwards was the first player Sanchez looked to during broken plays. The Jets' quarterback knew that with the talent on the field, Edwards would often be in single coverage. When a play broke down, Sanchez was unafraid to heave a ball in the direction of Edwards and let the physical wide receiver make a play. That is confidence in his receiver right there.

Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012


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