Q&A with Jets Expert Randy Lange 12/23

Bergen Record reporter and noted sportswriter Randy Lange, a New York Jets expert, answers questions for fans who want to know what's going on with the Jets. Randy spent a few minutes with Patriots Insider Jon Scott to give New England fans an inside look into what changed with the Jets since the last meeting between these two teams just three weeks ago.

First Randy we'd like to thank you for your return appearance with Patriots Insider. We know the last time these two teams met, the outcome wasnt full of many positives for the Jets, and appreciate your willingness to participate in a second session.

1) What is the story with this anonymous source inside the Jets organization called Deep Jet who leaks information to the media?

Randy Lange: Like any team, the Jets have sources who talk anonymously. This season, one or more team officials or other team sources have been particularly chirpy for some reporters to clarify situations surrounding injuries or the QB depth chart. The problem most recently was that Deep Jet said Brooks Bollinger wouldn't be considered as the No. 2 QB for the Jets next year. This would seem to be an inappropriate comment for any team official to make considering Bollinger is playing his butt off, trying to rally his offense and his team to wins in their final two games, and just won the Dennis Byrd Award by vote of his teammates as the season's most inspirational player. Make that comment in the off-season, not now.

2) What is the future of the Jets QB position?

Randy Lange: It's really impossible to handicap the depth chart now. The Jets would like Chad Pennington to win the job again, because they believe in him and they've paid him a lot of money. But they are far from committing to Pennington because no one knows how his right shoulder will be. Herm Edwards has said by March we all should know more about Pennington's progress, but he may not be throwing by then and he won't be leading any practices until after the draft. The Jets are likely to sign a younger veteran to compete with Chad and may draft a QB-of-the-future type as well, although I believe they would not draft Matt Leinart or Vince Young and instead would prefer to trade down for multiple picks. Bollinger also will be in this mix somewhere, but apparently not initially as the No. 2.

3) What are the strengths of the Jets team at this point? Where will they need to serious rebuilding?

Randy Lange: Their strengths remain on the defensive side of the ball. Even though they did not perform up to last year's standards, this unit is still potentially an upper echelon group with Eric Barton back next year and John Abraham perhaps signed to a long-term deal (although the sides have yet to revisit negotiations toward that end). They'll still be seeking "the next Jason Ferguson," and if they find him, the D should return to form. The offense went south fast with injuries and needs an OT, possibly a center heir apparent for Kevin Mawae, a speed WR, possibly an RB of the future (unless they determine Cedric Houston is that back, and he has shown much promise), a big-banger FB and probably somewhere in the draft a QB. They'll also need a TE if Chris Baker decides to leave as an unrestricted FA. The ST could be all right since that unit lost some hefty potential contributors to summer injuries such as Darrell McClover and Andre Maddox.

4) From one of your readers: Do you think Herm Edwards has lost focus as a Head Coach? Is he being too much of a player's coach by letting Curtis Martin play hurt and now letting Vinny Testaverde play because "something is owed to him?"

Randy Lange: No, I don't think Herm has lost any of the coaching focus he's always had. It's just that this season has been so bad that his natural instinct to help his players achieve individual as well as team goals sticks out like a sore thumb. Perhaps he should have sent Curtis Martin to IR sooner and shouldn't have brought Vinny Testaverde back or, having brought him back, not played him at the expense of Brooks Bollinger's development. But without their first two QBs and the other starters they lost to injuries, the Jets' record wouldn't have been much better than it is. He would have talked about getting those players to their goals in an 11-3 season as well as a 3-11 season. And although he's talked openly about trying to get Testaverde in one of the last two games, I don't think it's a slam-dunk that Vinny plays again this year.

5) From another reader: Why can't the Jets get anything done right like the Patriots? They overpay for guys who don't want to work, and they haven't been able to find a quarterback. The Santana Moss deal is the part that really bothers me, why did they do that?

Randy Lange: The Santana-for-Laveranues deal sticks in a lot of people's craws. I thought it was a good move at the time because Coles is a better all-downs, over-the-middle receiver than Moss. But I can't argue with anyone who said the Jets should have kept Moss and used him better. His numbers with the Redskins show there are ways to get a mega-season out of him. Still, I'll say that given a stable QB situation, Coles will rise to become the type of WR the Jets wanted to get in the trade. But other moves remain under the microscope. Giving the Jets some credit, I think any front office would pale in comparison with the Patriots' front office because the Pats are the best in the NFL. I think the best prospect for Gang Green fans is that the Jets' front office is in the pattern of alternating good off-seasons (2002, '04) with bad ones (2003, '05), so a good season may be in the offing. As for overpaying players, you could argue that they've done that, but I don't know who you'd be referring to as players who don't want to work.

6) Do you think Ty Law deserved to go to the pro bowl? Did he really have that kind of year?

Randy Lange: Law deserved to go to the Pro Bowl because the combined voices of three groups of voters -- players, coaches, fans - said he should go. Sure, there was a "reputation" factor at work, but if you look at interceptions, Law was third among AFC corners behind Deltha O'Neal and Champ Bailey -- all three are Pro Bowlers. He wasn't the Law of '98, especially if you look at his nine penalties for 73 yards, both figures the most by a Jets defensive player in the last decade. But he's had no penalties the past four weeks, he did a decent job coming off of his broken foot rehab and learning the Jets system, and he made at least one play on Chris Chambers at MIA that was reminiscent of the Ty Law of old. I'd like to see Law and the Jets restructure his deal so that it doesn't cost too much and keeps him in this mix, although I suspect it may come down to the sides parting ways because the Jets have three younger corners in Justin Miller, David Barrett and Derrick Strait that they may reason they'll have to build with.

7) Do you see the Jets winning another game this season? (They play NE, then Buffalo)

Randy Lange: Yes, I see them beating the Bills, who have the worst run defense in the league and seem to be one of the NFL teams in the most turmoil at this stage of the season. The Jets showed they can give weaker teams a run for their money (missing an upset of New Orleans on a last-second 53-yard FG try that was a foot short of the crossbar, pounding Oakland). New England is another story. I'd love to write about two late-season upsets for these down-on-their-luck Jets but shocking the Patriots, the way they've been playing the last three games, is a tall order even in the Meadowlands.

8) Do you think the Jets will make a deal to go after Matt Leinart or Reggie Bush in the draft, or will they just pick the best guy available when their turn comes up? (Currently they draft 4th: Houston, SF, GB)

Randy Lange: I believe if the Jets wind up with the No. 1 overall pick (still possible but not likely because they would need to finish tied with both HOU and SF at 3-13), they would draft Reggie Bush. But if they finish elsewhere, I believe they'll try to trade down to get multiple picks for their multiple needs. Then again, if Pennington isn't hitting his medical milestones by late April and Matt Leinart is there when they pick, that would be an interesting scenario.

9) Now that Wayne Chrebet has announced his intention to retire, who else do you expect to be leaving the Jets this season due to free agency, coaching turnover or other?

Randy Lange: OT Jason Fabini may have played his last as a Jet. So, too, Law. Speculation has been that the Jets can't keep both higher-priced, older O-linemen, Kevin Mawae and Pete Kendall. QB Jay Fiedler isn't likely to get a second season in green due to the unfortunate coincidence of his and Chad Pennington's right shoulder injuries. All the coordinators and coaches should return -- OC Mike Heimerdinger was brought in this year, Donnie Henderson signed an extension and Mike Westhoff is the assistant head coach. And Herm, the last time I checked, will be the head coach next season.

10) If you had the ultimate power of suggestion to make changes to this Jets team, what would you do to turn the Jets into a playoff contender again?

Randy Lange: Rebuild the offense. I feel the defense, with a major DT and other minor tinkering, will be OK and special teams will be rejuvenated with the return of young players on IR. But the offense fell prey to the same malaise as the defense in '03 in that it got old too quickly. I can't wish Pennington to health but I feel if anyone can come back from a second rotator-cuff tear in a year, it's he, so I'd stay the course there if I could. But it's time to lessen Curtis Martin's load and groom a successor (Houston could be that successor -- I love his spin moves and yards after contact). I'd want to make sure Baker doesn't leave as a FA because I like what he did as a starter before he got hurt. The unit needs a reliable speed receiver, whether it's Harry Williams or a second- or third-rounder, to optimize the Coles-McCareins-Cotchery group's output. And if any offensive coaches move on, I'd want Herm Edwards to bring more experience onto his offensive staff.

And Finally our bonus question:
How far do you think the Patriots will go in the playoffs assuming they get the #4 seed?

Randy Lange: I know too much about Bill Belichick (so does everyone else) to overlook the Patriots' potential to do some damage this postseason. I would expect them to get past the wild-card round. I think their hopes for a fourth Super Bowl in five years will die in the RCA Dome. But I wouldn't be shocked and amazed if somehow the Pats did it again to Peyton and the Colts and moved on to the title game. Then anything would be possible.

Randy Lange covers the New York Jets for the Record of Bergen County, and can be found at NorthJersery.com. In addition to his work for other outlets, he has published a book on the Jets "Stadium Stories: New York Jets" ISBN: 0762737832 published by Globe Pequot. You can find it at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or other leading book retailers now.

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