I’m Zac Soto, and I’m a New York Jets fan, and I’m putting away my objectivity for a minute to put into concrete words what every move, from Kris Jenkins to Alan Faneca to Big City Brett, has We are going to win, and we are going to win now. We are going to compete every week, with every team. We have the coaching staff. We have the offensive pieces to create the chimera of an offense we’ve always wanted. For the first time since we changed our system, we have the personnel to actually run the 3-4 that we’ve imposed on ill-suited players two years ago. In short, the Jets are for real this year.
I say all this because I have to. Because from the moment we traded the solid, stalwart, and tragically unappreciated leadership of Chad Pennington for the escaping-in-the-dead-of-night Brett Favre, we decided that this whole kinda-good/kinda-bad swinging we’ve been doing from year to year wasn’t going to cut it anymore. So instead of something that was going to build piece by piece, slowly, we’ve got this fragile, potentially beautiful or potentially awful. That’s the thing about these Jets that feels different from the last couple of years, and maybe it’s the result of last year’s weird spiral into misery; this squad is built so that we can expect either that same kind of incompetence (only this time a lot more expensive) or something that will work, and will work better than any of us imagined.
While Big City Brett may be the most high profile pickup of the offseason, this team was putting together the pieces for a do-or-die season long before we made him our fair lady (he’ll be pronouncing his last name “Fahvrrruh” with a thick French accent). In response to a defense that was woefully undermanned and undersized for the 3-4, we picked up LB Calvin Pace, a scrappy pass rusher who could be perfect if offensive lines are forced to disproportionately account for other players…and there is nothing proportional about either DT Kris Jenkins or LB Vernon Gholston. The former is the big (like, “I have trouble lingering around 300 lbs” big) NT that the 3-4 depends on, complete with some actual moves to boot, and the latter might be the most impressive physical specimen in the league, and steps into a team with a defensively minded coach to teach him. But as is the nature of the team this year, there is a big, glaring X factor. At corner, some tandem of Justin Miller, Darelle Revis, and Dwight Lowery will start, none of whom have more than 4 years of experience playing or 3 years of experience starting. All three have at least some gifts they bring to the position (Revis has leapt off the screen at times, like his second-matchup shutdown of Randy Moss last year), but each has shown that they can let the game get away from them as well (expect to see the tag “Justin Miller is the dumbest cornerback I have ever seen” pop up from post to post). True, proven S Kerry Rhodes is behind them to help clean up, but if this defense is going to be dangerous, he needs to spend less time making up for the failings of his corners and more time being used for his own strengths. I firmly believe one of the two defenses from last year (the awful start to the season or the decent, even kind of good second half) will show up, but the question is which, and how soon, and do I have the patience for Justin Miller turning his hips the wrong way like he’d never seen a football game before.
The “wow that’s a lot of pressure to put on something we can’t be sure of” feeling rears its head even more on offense. Perhaps it’s unfair, but this team decided when it made the Favre trade that it was going to live and die by its quarterback. Now, the question is what we’ll see out there. If this O-line has gelled, Favre could have the time he needs to get the most out of his arm strength and improvisation. G Alan Faneca was a great acquisition, but the real question is whether or not RT Damien Woody can turn the right side of the line into something other than a turnstyle for a kill-the-QB booth. If he can, this offense is a scary, amorphous animal. Hell, it’s kind of like Packers-lite. Laveranues Coles is the blue collar Donald Driver, TE Dustin Keller should emerge as an even better target than any of Favre’s previous tight ends, and if there’s a reason why WR Jericho Cotchery can’t do everything that Greg Jenkins can, nobody’s explained it to me yet . Throw in a run game that should get a boost from an improved O-line (Thomas Jones once averaged more than 4 a carry? Was that the season he played for the Only-In-My-Dreamland Fantasy Unicorns?) and the added presence of Neon Leon Washington (like getting Reggie Bush in the third round…in which you’d still probably call the real Reggie Bush a bit of a disappointment), and this offense should click. Or maybe it will all fall apart thanks to a line that has an awkward mix of age and youth and won’t gel, resulting in Favre just popping off passes out of chaos and that weird “let’s see what happens” thing he does, meaning we’re all in trouble. I’m going to need some pepto bismol.
The point is, this is THE season for the Jets. There’s a good chance Favre will leave after one season (either for good or for northern territories), and then the team will return to its perpetual search for a consistent downfield quarterback (remember the name Brett Ratliff, people). But for one year, everything lives and dies for this moment, and not as part of some long term development plan. I said in another post that alone made the Favre trade worth it, but talk to me in two months, when I could very easily have a different, more-substance-fueled-to-dull-the-unbelievable-disappointment kind of analysis.
Damn I love rooting for this team.