By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
For months you’ve heard about how the Jets apparently have more holes than any team in the history of professional sports. And how only the act of a higher power will fix this team any time over the next several seasons.
John Idzik, come on down.
The fans that blindly follow this championship-starved franchise around need a reason to believe, again. An offseason that was supposed to be different, as in void of controversy, has instead been a hodgepodge of learning hard truths and getting smacked upside the head by reality checks.
Due to a salary cap situation that severely limited the type of impact players they could bring in, the Jets went the largely no-name-with-high-upside route. They picked up some talents that should, if nothing else, give them some depth over the short term and create training camp battles.
But since this team’s biggest problem is still at the most important position on the field, it’s hard to get too high about anything they’ve done so far.
I think beefing up the backfield with Mike Goodson was a positive. Possibly teaming him with Saints restricted free agent Chris Ivory could be a stroke of genius, provided the Jets get him on their terms, or the going rate, whatever that ends up being.
Adding Willie Colon and re-signing Austin Howard to the offensive line, each for a year, were responsible moves to provide short-term stability.
Inking flamboyant Antonio Garay and sack specialist Antwan Barnes will give the Jets’ pass rush a needed boost, and beginning to rebuild the safety position with Dawan Landry in place of his departed brother, LaRon, a fan favorite who was arguably as good as any Jet last season, if nothing else at least temporarily plugs a hole with a veteran capable of understanding and executing the complex Rex Ryan defense.
But really it’s impossible to hang your hats on anything any of these guys are capable of doing over a 16-game schedule. They could morph into impact and leadership roles or they could simply be temporary attempts to find lightning in a bottle.
It goes without saying that the Jets really need to homer during this draft. Idzik needs to find guys that will begin to lay the groundwork for a future that is as cloudy now as it has ever been. We have no idea if Ryan will survive past 2013 if the Jets even go .500, let alone putting up another six-win season as they did in 2012.
And because we still don’t know who the quarterback of the present or the future is the true merits of the moves made so far will continue to be overshadowed. As of this moment the Jets have not made good on their declaration of having a true training camp competition. David Garrard, while when healthy is a competent signal-caller who won’t throw games away, has not played meaningful football since 2010. Greg McElroy, who had one moment last season and then was promptly never seen nor heard from again, may never be more than a backup. Tim Tebow? Well, I’m not sure even God knows what that guy’s future is.
Then, of course, there is Mark Sanchez, who likely will once again be given every opportunity to turn himself into something more. The Jets are installing a version of the West Coast offense under new coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and there are many who believe Sanchez could excel, given proper coaching and around a billion reps.
The Jets could very well add to their talent pool at the position. I wouldn’t rule out a trade for someone, but assuming they don’t go out and get, for example, the Eagles’ Nick Foles, the only other logical route they can go is through the draft.
However, there is just no way to know if their quarterback of the future is in this draft. A lot of experts say this is a weak quarterback draft, despite the names that have been bandied about. As seems to always be the case, a lot of players tabbed as mid-round talents are now finding themselves projected in the first round. That, to me, is just the nature of the offseason beast. Stocks rise and fall based on combines and pro days. People want to view quarterback as essential, which it is, so they often pump up guys at the position, just because they play the position, not because the position in any given year truly has NFL-type talents.
I know the Jets have looked hard at at least four potential targets — West Virginia’s Geno Smith, who seems to fit the mold of the new-age run/pass prodigy; E.J. Manuel of Florida State, a bigger version of Smith who can make most throws and is more like Daunte Culpepper than Michael Vick as a runner; Ryan Nassib, the more traditional drop-back, big-armed passer out of Syracuse; and Zac Dysert, a 230-pound gunner from Miami University whose stock has risen dramatically of late.
There have been others, too, but that doesn’t mean any of them are worth the Jets using either the ninth or 13th pick on. The bottom line is a lot of Jets fans want a quarterback because they hate Sanchez. They’ll take any hyped-up talent because he’s not Sanchez. It’s a silly philosophy considering the perceived talent pool in this draft.
If I’m Idzik I’m riding Sanchez one last season, with Garrard or another veteran warming up in the first quarter every week. Let’s see what Sanchez can do in the West Coast offense. And I’m not saying this because I don’t like any of the four or so guys they could select in the draft. I just don’t think the Jets should use a pick on a QB when you consider they will likely have a top 10 pick again next season and the 2014 draft class is considered by many far superior to the signal-callers that are available in this draft, names like Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, possibly Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, San Jose State’s David Fales and Clemson’s Taj Boyd.
And if you believe in that logic, you’ll understand why I continue to maintain that the Jets need to keep building their defense. They need to find more guys to play with rising star Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, whose second half of 2012 was better than his first half. They need more linebackers who can do a little of everything, including getting to the quarterback, stopping the run and covering tight ends. They need a stud hybrid defensive end/linebacker.
The Jets have reportedly done their homework on LSU’s Barkevious Mingo, Brigham Young’s Ezekiel Ansah and Oregon’s Dion Jordan, any one of whom would help immediately.
The Jets also need another corner, now that Darrelle Revis has been traded to Tampa Bay. Dee Milner of Alabama is regarded as the top talent at the position, and almost certainly will go in the top 15. The Jets could go that route and have someone who is talented enough to learn on the fly opposite Antonio Cromartie and have the mental game to handle the growing pains that come with a very demanding position.
The Jets need to focus on defense early and often in this draft because they need to provide their stable of quarterbacks more margin for error. If they don’t they will further the risk of forcing whoever the starter ends up being to constantly play from behind, a likely recipe for disaster.
And I know a lot of people don’t want to hear about anything but skill position players. I understand. But short of the Jets taking West Virginia wide receiver Tayvon Austin in the first round, provided, of course, he’s still available when they pick, or running backs Giovani Bernard, Eddie Lacy or Jonathan Franklin, they can wait to add receivers, running backs and a tight end until the middle and late rounds.
Just looking at running back, where there is potentially incredible value, the Jets could get their hands on any of Montee Ball, Mike Gillislee, Andre Ellington, Christine Michael or Marcus Lattimore if they just wait a while. Ideally they’d want any of the top guys I mentioned earlier, but if defense is the focal point they can wait and end up in pretty good shape, especially when you consider they already have Goodson and Bilal Powell and could add Ivory, who would automatically become the starter, likely for years.
The Jets need to think inside-out with their two first-round picks. Games are still won in the trenches. Grabbing the outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid is a must. A safe pick at 13 would be a guard to bolster the interior of the offensive line. Idzik would be very fortunate if Chance Warmack of Alabama or Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina are still available. Idzik has said the draft is a lifeline, so it also wouldn’t surprise me if the Jets trade the 13th pick to move back and add another second-rounder.
At the end of the day the Jets should live one more year with Sanchez or roll the dice with Garrard and try to solidify as many other positions as possible. I know that’s incredibly difficult for a lot of people to process, considering all that we know and have seen, but there will simply be more to choose from next year. There’s no need to select a quarterback now for the sake of selecting a quarterback, just because you can’t stand the ones the Jets currently have.
Because if the Jets use a high selection on one and he doesn’t start immediately, what’s the point? Quarterback is the ball game in the NFL, a painful truth the Jets learn season after season. If a potential pick is not as close to a lock as humanly possible, considering all the other areas the Jets need to address, it’s not worth the risk.
The Jets are not a quarterback away from being a force. The idea should be to get Sanchez’s contract off the books after this season and then get serious, yet again, about finding a player they haven’t had for a sustained period of time since Ken O’Brien, more than two decades ago.
Idzik, you’re on the clock.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
If you are John Idzik, who would you draft this year? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …