The locker room of the New York Jets' two-year-old Florham Park complex measures a whopping 5,500 square feet. It's a good thing because the team has taken on some extra baggage.
During the offseason, the Jets traded for two players who had become headaches on their previous teams: cornerback Antonio Cromartie (San Diego) and wide receiver Santonio Holmes (Pittsburgh). The Jets are convinced both will fit in nicely, but the chemistry may not be as good in 2010 as it was in '09, when the Jets surged in January and came within 30 minutes of going to the Super Bowl.
The talented Jets are in a win-now mode in the second year of coach Rex Ryan's tenure, but it's up to him to fit the pieces together.
Offense: The release of Thomas Jones means that second-year pro Shonn Greene will be the feature back after his excellent performance in the playoffs. Greene has terrific balance, the ability to gain yards after contact and a nice burst in the open field. But Greene had no receptions last season, plus he showed signs of being injury-prone. Both the Jets and offseason pickup LaDainian Tomlinson say he still has the ability to make people miss, and that he'll be better in the Jets' run-friendly system.
The most pressing problem among the wideouts may be in trying to keep everybody happy. Besides the steady Jerricho Cotchery, the Jets have two receivers in the final year of their contracts. Braylon Edwards signed a one-year tender, and Holmes is in the final season of his rookie contract. So Edwards and Holmes won't lack for motivation. The Jets released nine-time Pro Bowl player Alan Faneca and will replace him at left guard with second-round pick Vladimir Ducasse or second-year player Matt Slauson.
Defense: The Jets believe Cromartie can thrive in their man coverage schemes after struggling in the Chargers' zone package the past two seasons. If he holds up as a complement to shutdown corner Darrelle Revis (who is holding out but will eventually report), the Jets will be able to attack quarterbacks more aggressively.
Eric Smith will compete against former Brown Brodney Pool for the free safety spot vacated when Kerry Rhodes was traded to Arizona.
Eric Smith, safety: Smith was trade bait in coach Rex Ryan's mind until he had an outstanding spring last year. He built upon that during the season, and even supplanted Kerry Rhodes in the starting lineup late in the year. With Rhodes gone, the fifth-year pro has a chance to win a starting job, though he'll have to beat out newcomer Brodney Pool. Even if Smith doesn't start, he'll be a star on special teams and get a lot of snaps in sub packages on defense.
"We always say that if you want to affect your spot on the depth chart, then do something about it. Eric Smith did something about it. He was the bottom guy on the totem pole and then he worked his way up to where he is as an incredibly valuable member of this football team."
—Coach Rex Ryan
"To me, the Jets are the team to watch. That team rallies around one guy (and) that one guy is (coach) Rex Ryan. It's hard not to like the guy. He will go down as one of the greatest coaches ever, if he chooses to stay around long enough. Their offseason moves have been absolutely great. Adding Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie were great moves for the Jets. They add big-play potential (and) game-changers on both sides of the ball. …
"To me, their only weakness is at quarterback. They still have to be very patient and give (Mark Sanchez) time to mature. It's like (in) high school and college. Why do people think the hardest level of football is any different? In your junior and senior years, you will be at your best. Sanchez will be 10 times better in his third and fourth years than his rookie and sophomore (NFL) seasons."
This is a talented team with few holes, but Ryan will need to make sure there are no issues in the locker room. Sanchez must avoid the sophomore jinx and figure out a way to keep all the members of a deep receiving unit happy, and the Jets need to match the production they got at running back from the departed Jones.
QB Mark Sanchez, Kellen Clemens
FB Tony Richardson, John Conner
RB Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson
LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Wayne Hunter
LG Vladimir Ducasse, Matt Slauson
C Nick Mangold, Robert Turner
RG Brandon Moore, Matt Slauson
RT Damien Woody, Wayne Hunter
TE Dustin Keller, Ben Hartsock
WR Braylon Edwards, Brad Smith
WR Jerricho Cotchery, Santonio Holmes
DE Vernon Gholston, Mike DeVito
NT Kris Jenkins, Sione Pouha
DE Shaun Ellis, Mike DeVito
OLB Bryan Thomas, Jason Taylor
ILB David Harris, Lance Laury
ILB Bart Scott, Jamaal Westerman
OLB Calvin Pace, Jason Taylor
LCB Darrelle Revis, Dwight Lowery
SS Jim Leonhard, James Ihedigbo
FS Eric Smith, Brodney Pool
RCB Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson
K Nick Folk
P Steve Weatherford
KR Brad Smith
PR Kyle Wilson
LS Tanner Purdum
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