’08 Preview: Jets place heavy emphasis on lines

Coach Eric Mangini often talks about how each season is “unique.” Nothing carries over from one year to the next. He’d better be right, since there’s not much for the New York Jets to take from their disappointing 4-12 season in 2007.

Instead, the team tried to move forward with a flurry of offseason moves. On offense, the Jets signed left guard Alan Faneca and right tackle Damien Woody to plug a leaky line. On defense, they added outside linebacker Calvin Pace and traded for nose tackle Kris Jenkins to shore up a unit that didn’t have enough compatible pieces to properly run the 3-4 scheme during Mangini’s first two seasons at the helm.

2008 TEAM PREVIEWS

AFC EAST: BUF | MIA | NE | NYJ

AFC NORTH: BAL | CIN | CLE | PIT

AFC SOUTH: HOU | IND | JAC | TEN

AFC WEST: DEN | KC | OAK | SD

NFC EAST: DAL | NYG | PHI | WAS

NFC NORTH: CHI | DET | GB | MIN

NFC SOUTH: ATL | CAR | NO | TB

NFC WEST: ARI | SEA | SF | STL

Next, the Jets drafted edge rusher Vernon Gholston with the sixth overall pick, having realized that the only way to challenge division kingpin New England is to consistently pressure quarterback Tom Brady.

But for the Jets to make a run at the AFC East title this year, or even rebound from last season’s mess, the new additions must step in and make a difference right away.

Offense

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer uses multiple formations, pre-snap motion and even some no-huddle to confuse defenses. He also employs gimmicks like direct snaps to running backs.

Schottenheimer will continue to call the plays, but it should be interesting to see how much influence new assistant head coach Bill Callahan has on the game plan. Callahan, who will work with the offensive line, ran a traditional West Coast offense when he was the coach at Nebraska.

Defense

The Jets run a 3-4 scheme very similar to the one used by New England, where Mangini served for a year as defensive coordinator. Mangini remains very hands-on with the defense, although Bob Sutton is entering his third year as the coordinator.

The Jets primarily employ zone coverage in the secondary and don’t blitz all that much up front, instead opting to use schemes and games to get to the passer.

The book on: Shaun Ellis

A rival sizes up the Jets’ defensive end:

“He is a big, powerful end. He is strong, a solid technician, and a good effort guy. Most of his pressure comes off of power and not speed. He probably hates the 3-4. Most defensive ends prefer the 4-3 because they only have to control one gap and have a better shot at getting sacks and pressures and making more money.

“Guys like (New England’s Richard) Seymour are fine with playing 3-4 as long as they are compensated for it. But Ellis is plenty strong enough and looks like your typical 3-4 end.”

Bottom line

The Jets addressed most of their pressing needs in the offseason, especially on defense, but it could take time for all those new parts to mesh. The revamped offensive line must come together quickly and allow the Jets to control the ball, because the attack still doesn’t have quick-strike potential. Nor does it have a clear leader behind center heading into camp.

Improvement is expected, particularly with a fairly favorable schedule, although the team will need to make four West Coast trips for the first time in its history.

The Jets still aren’t close to the Patriots’ level, but 8-8 seems like a realistic finish. The playoffs are at least a year away.

SN prediction: 8-8, second in AFC East.

J.P. Pelzman covers the Jets for the Bergen (N.J.) Record and Sporting News.


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Updated Thursday, Jul 17, 2008