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» Week 2 DVOA Ratings

Stomping the Jags leaves Washington No. 2 behind only Denver. But what can we really learn from one big win early in the season, before we are applying opponent adjustments?

03 Jan 2007

Every Play Counts: Jets' Offensive Line

by Michael David Smith

Back in August, the playoffs seemed like a pipe dream for the New York Jets. Coming off a 4-12 season in 2005, it would have seemed crazy to suggest that the Jets would still be playing in January of 2007. But now that it's January and they're still playing, it's a good time to analyze their offensive line, which has played well this year even though it consists of two rookies, two Arizona Cardinals cast-offs, and a guy who's spent five years making peanuts, at least by professional-athlete standards.

How well have the two rookies, center Nick Mangold and left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, played? How much gas does 33-year-old guard Pete Kendall have left in the tank? Is this a unit that can keep quarterback Chad Pennington upright when the Jets take on the New England Patriots on Sunday? To find out, I examined the Jets' offensive line on every play of their season-ending 23-3 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Overall, I came away very impressed with Mangold, Kendall, and right tackle Anthony Clement, but not particularly impressed with Ferguson and guard Brandon Moore.

The most common criticism of Ferguson when he was in college still holds true at the end of his rookie year: He struggles at the point of attack. On the Jets' first play, a reverse around the left end to Jerricho Cotchery, Ferguson needed to block Raiders defensive lineman Tommy Kelly to the inside so Cotchery would be able to break the play to the outside. Ferguson failed, though, and Pennington even ran in to try to help Ferguson with Kelly. (When was the last time you saw a quarterback-left tackle double team?) Kelly forced Cotchery to cut the play inside, and Cotchery lost three yards.

Two plays later, Pennington dropped back to pass. Raiders tackle Warren Sapp rushed to the outside while end Kevin Huntley looped around him to the inside. That meant Ferguson had to take on Sapp, which was a major mismatch. Sapp manhandled Ferguson, pushing him straight back and getting past him easily to sack Pennington.

That was the only time all day that Pennington was sacked, in large part because for much of the rest of the game Ferguson got help in pass blocking. On a third-and-1 quick pass from Pennington to Cotchery, for instance, tight end Sean Ryan stayed in to help Ferguson with Huntley. Pennington took just a three-step drop before hitting Cotchery for three yards, and the fact that the Jets gave Ferguson help on that and other short passes -- instead of having the extra blocker run a pass route -- indicates that they're not fully comfortable with his ability to protect Pennington's blind side.

Ferguson has quick feet and looks like a smart player who knows his assignments on every play, but he just doesn't hold his blocks well enough. On a second-and-4 draw play to Washington, Ferguson sold the draw by setting up as if to pass block when he engaged Huntley, but as soon as Huntley realized it was a run, he had no trouble cutting to the inside, past Ferguson, and making the tackle.

Still, there are times when it's clear why Ferguson was so highly regarded when the Jets chose him with the fourth pick in the 2006 NFL draft. On the Jets' second drive they tried another running play to a receiver around the left end, and this time Ferguson did exactly what was asked of him. He took a hard step out of his stance and drove Kelly straight down the line, opening up a huge area of real estate for wide receiver Brad Smith on the end-around. Smith picked up 20 yards, and Ferguson's block was the key to the play.

But overall, Ferguson was nowhere near as impressive Sunday as the Jets' other tackle, Clement. On running plays, Clement had an easy job blocking Oakland defensive end Derrick Burgess. On a second-and-8 handoff to Leon Washington, Burgess rushed straight upfield and Clement just let him go on his way as Washington ran into the area Burgess had vacated for a gain of six yards.

Passing plays should have been a challenge for Clement, though: Burgess is a speedy pass rusher who has 27 sacks in his two seasons in Oakland, and he usually lined up directly across from Clement. But Clement got the better of their individual matchup. On a second-and-goal in the third quarter, Pennington threw a quick swing pass to the right to Cotchery four yards behind the line of scrimmage. For the play to work, Clement had to not just block Burgess, but block him well enough that he couldn't get a hand up to knock down Pennington's pass. That's exactly what Clement did, using his 6-foot-8 frame to get great position against Burgess and push him inside. Jets coach Eric Mangini said after the game that he gave Clement a game ball, and it's easy to see why.

Moore, who lines up next to Clement, is the least talented of the Jets' linemen. On a second-and-13, the entire pocket collapsed, Pennington had to run, and Burgess tackled him for a gain of just a yard. The problem wasn't Clement's block on Burgess, which was fine. The problem was the way Moore was beaten on the inside and pushed directly back. That inside pressure is what forced Pennington to take off running, and Burgess simply cleaned up the mess that Moore left.

Moore also committed the Jets' only offensive penalty Sunday, getting called for holding on a second-and-11 in the third quarter and negating an 18-yard pass from Pennington to Laveranues Coles. Moore isn't a bad player to have on the team because he's durable (he has started every game the last two years) and plays for a minimal salary (he joined the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois in 2002 and makes less than $1 million a year), but he's definitely the weak link in the Jets' line.

The strength of the Jets' line is the combination of Mangold and Kendall in the middle. On a third-and-2, the Jets tried one of many trick plays, lining Pennington up in the shotgun and having Smith motion into the middle and take Mangold's snap from under center. Smith picked up the first down, but the credit should go to Mangold and Kendall, whose surge forward cleared the middle of the line.

Mangold also showed toughness against the Raiders, suffering what looked like a painful knee injury on the Jets' last play of the first half but returning for the first play of the second half. Combine the straight-ahead blocking style, the toughness, and the comments his teammates have made that Mangold picked up the Jets' line calls immediately and hasn't made rookie mistakes, and it appears that the Jets made a great choice when they drafted him.

Mangold has properly been recognized as one of the league's top rookie linemen, but of all the players who have helped the Jets reach the playoffs, Kendall is probably the most overlooked. On a sweep around the left by Leon Washington, Kendall pulled to the outside and cleared the way for an eight-yard gain. And Kendall made my favorite block of the day on the Jets' first drive of the second half when he looped around Mangold and buried Oakland linebacker Thomas Howard. The play didn't show up on any highlights because Raiders strong safety Derrick Gibson tackled Washington for no gain, but Kendall's block on Howard was textbook-perfect.

As I watched Kendall and Clement, I thought about how they were teammates in Arizona, but Dennis Green cut both of them. Do you think Green's horrible line in Arizona could have used steady, dependable players like Kendall and Clement? When Green was fired on Monday, I wonder if he thought back to his personnel decisions, especially cutting those two.

In addition to the five starters I've already mentioned, the Jets have one other wrinkle on their offensive line that bears mentioning. On first-and-goal at the 2-yard line, reserve tackle Adrian Jones came in as an eligible receiver and lined up at tight end. He had a good block on Raiders defensive end Tyler Brayton, although the run went up the middle and didn't get much. On the next play, Jones again lined up at tight end and ran a pass route. Pennington's pass went to an actual tight end, Chris Baker, for a touchdown, but I have a feeling Jones will be more than just a decoy the next time he's out there, and Pennington might actually throw to him. You can bet Bill Belichick is spending plenty of time preparing for such a scenario.

The Jets will need some tricks up their sleeves against New England, and even if those tricks work, their season will probably end on Sunday. Still, it was far more successful than anyone imagined four months ago. The offensive line is a major part of that.

Each week, Michael David Smith looks at one specific player or one aspect of a team on every single play of the previous game. Standard caveat applies: Yes, one game is not necessarily an indicator of performance over the entire season.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 03 Jan 2007

53 comments, Last at 06 Jan 2007, 3:02pm by Chris

Comments

1
by Josh (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 12:05pm

Thanks for the good article. Adrian Jones played some TE in college until his senor year when he moved to tackle, so he should have some pass-catching ability if the Jets use him in that manner.

2
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 12:10pm

As a Pats fan, The Jets scare me as much as any AFC team. Like Miami, their familiarity with New England allows them to play them more or less even every game.

I'm fascinated by the Mangold/Wilfork match up.

3
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 12:21pm

2:

The Jets scare you as much as Baltimore and San Diego?

The Jets are playing solid and appear well coached, but they do not have a devastating pass rush generated by all pros like Merriman and Thomas. Protecting Brady is Job No. 1 for the Pats. The Jets got to him with smoke and mirrors this year, which won't work again. Merriman and/or Thomas (or their teammaters) will simply blow by (or through) Kazcur and Light. That's what Pats fans (and I am one) should be worried about.

4
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 12:37pm

Yep. I'll take my chances against a very good team with virtually no familiarity over a good team with intimate familiarity every time.

5
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 12:39pm

Can "struggling at the point of attack" be coached out of a player? Or is it the weakness in a rookie's arms over the course of the year? I'm thinking a year in the offseason program on a major NFL team with good coaching credentials can make Ferguson into an absolute monster. This sounds like typical late-season "rookie wall" stuff.

I always appreciate this kind of analysis, by the way. It would be awesome to read about the Eagles D-line if we can somehow clamp Tiki down again. Even if we can't! I'd love to hear about that or any number of hard-to-watch-in-real-time player groups like the Cowboys back seven, the Pittsburgh O-line, etc. Basically any line that's had volatile performance inter-year (Eagles) or year-over-year(Pittsburgh, Seattle).

6
by Daniel (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 12:51pm

Great article, thanks. I know he's struggled in his first season, but what kind of upside do you think Ferguson has? It sounds like he's got a good attitude and all the physical gifts in the world. I hope he can turn into a stud left tackle with more experience and maybe a couple more pounds.

7
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 1:03pm

I never got why everyone was so doom and gloom about the Jets. People always talk about what a coaching job and how much improvement the Jets have had this year. Last years team suffered about 10 billion injuries at QB. Going into last year, they were a popular wild card choice.

So when their QB returns healthyish, and they play at an 8-8 level with a weak schedule, they've suddenly turned it all around?

8
by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 1:13pm

That's a very nice write-up, MDS. Ferguson has been up and down during his rookie year. You definitely see flashes of his potential- he shows tremendous athleticism when blocking in space, and the team tries to accentuate that by running some pull plays or left side screens where Ferguson can get out in space. He's athletic enough to fake a run block straight ahead and then wheel around to push a rusher upfield. But he's not strong at the point of attack, and he can be shaky when left on an island in pass pro. Even when he gets his feet set, he lets the rusher get into his chest, so he always looks like he's being overwhelmed. (I tend to picture Dikembe Mutumbo's face when he had to guard Shaq in the Finals a few years back.) His best running play by far is the draw play, but the Jets didn't run the draw much against Oakland.

The Jets entire run game is built around Kendall, who is an excellent pulling guard. The Jets staple run is a counter with Kendall and either Sean Ryan or Askew leading to the right.

The overall play of the line has steadily improved over the season, but it hasn't translated into an effective ground game. In large part that has to do with the backs that are being blocked for. The line can make its blocks, but by the time the back gets to the hole, a linebacker has had a chance to fill it. Washington is the quickest to the hole, and unsurprisingly he is by far their most effective runner according to DVOA. Expect the rushing DVOA to take off next year when the team is using a rotation of Michael Turner and Leon Washington.

9
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 1:22pm

There's no way the Jets pay the price to get Turner. That would be counter to every good thing they've done over the last 11 months.

10
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 1:23pm

Nice EPC. Are Ferguson's struggles at the point of attack caused by physical problems (not strong enough, fatigue), or is it a technique issue, and which is easier to correct?

11
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 1:31pm

Interesting--the Jets line seems almost the mirror image of the Pats line right now. A touted but currently overrated left tackle (Light-Ferguson), a solid center (Koppen-Mangold) and one excellent guard (Neal-Kendall), one other solid but unspectacular player (Mankins-Clements), a weaker player (O'Callaghan/Kaczur-Moore), and a trick play TE (Jones-Vrabel). (The difference is the Patriots weakest link is at right tackle, while the Jets is at guard).

If sean is right and the Jets build their runnign game around Kendall pulling, then that's very similar to the Pats as well. The Pats rely heavily on Stephen Neal in their run game, to my eye (there's a reason why it sputtered when Neal was out for part of this season). I wonder if that's why neither team could really run on the other this year, despite the weak running defense of the Jets. Both defenses are very used to practicing against running offenses that are very similar.

12
by Ralph (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 1:35pm

I wonder how much of coaching and scouting were the real problems with the Arizona Cardinals O-line. The Jets are starting two Cardinals cuts, Kendall and Clement, and the Panthers are also starting (albeit due to injury, but he's performed very well) Jeremy Bridges, a right tackle who was cut in the Cards training camp this year.

13
by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 2:24pm

Re 9: Michael Turner (and Daniel Graham, for that matter) to the Jets is about as much of a lock as you can have for offseason activity.

14
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 2:36pm

#11, IMO, Mankins has been the much, much, better guard for the Patriots....especially in the run/screen game.

#13, I have no idea why you'd make that statement. To get Turner, someone's going to have to put together a four/five year deal with maybe 20 million SB. The Jets aren't stupid enough to tie up those resources in a RB who's never pulled a heavy load. Graham is a certain possibility. I'm willing to bet their top targets are the same as the Patriots: Lance Briggs and Adalious Thomas. Asante Samuel is probably a good bet too.

IMO Turner has a better chance of being re-signed by San Diego than go to the Jets. But he's more likely still to end up in Green Bay, Tampa (moving Caddy to a third down back), Cleveland, Houston, or the other New Jersey team.

15
by zip (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 2:37pm

#13

Sources? Reasoning?

16
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 2:39pm

Pennington just won some respect from me, assisting his LT with a block. You can buy them a Rolex after the season, or you can stand next to them and take on a DE. About the same as a motivator. Scratch that; the block is probably better.

Potentially stupid, a little like Manning's TD dive on Sunday, but that kind of shit should definitely get the team fired up.

17
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 2:51pm

I've been mulling the Adalius Thomas and Lance Briggs to the Patriots issue for months now. I've come to a couple conclusions:

Lance Briggs is going to be franchised and potentially traded, but I don't think he's going to hit the open market. The Bears probably have the money to keep him another year while they groom a replacement, and they don't have anyone else they have to franchise. If the Patriots pull a trade for him, it should lower his contract price, but I still doubt into a realm where the Patriots would pay it. Look at how much money Julian Peterson and John Abraham got (6 yr/$45mil) (and neither of whom is as good or durable as Briggs and their contracts were signed in a much lower cap year). How can the Patriots pay Briggs three times what Vrabel makes ($2mil in 07, $5 mil signing bonus in 05)? Even if they think he's worth it, they can't politically do it. It would be more than that if Briggs hits the open market.

Same situation with Thomas: Although I don't think Baltimore plans to or can franchise him, he's going to get the biggest free agent contract in the entire league this offseason. He's only been his amazing dominant self for a year or two, he's 29, and he has played in a 4-3. I just don't see the matchup right for him financially. The Patriots pay big money for guys they KNOW work in their system (already there): Seymour and Brady. I think they will pay big money for Wilfork and Warren when their time comes. And I think that's it.

I have no doubt Samuel is gone, but I think the Patriots think they have a shot at retaining Graham, and probably can afford to franchise him if necessary.

I'll be shocked if the Patriots can get either Briggs or Thomas. I'll just be happy if they can get a new WR like Bennett or Welker and draft a couple good DE/LB conversion projects.

18
by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 3:12pm

Re 14, 15:

The choices are putting a package together for a running back that has already demonstrated he can play at the NFL level, who doesn't have a lot of tread on his tires and who the offensive coordinator is familiar with, or taking one early in the draft. The Jets have an extra second to work with, which makes them an attractive trade partner with San Diego. It's an obvious fit, and the name has been floating around the Jets front office for about two months now.

I highly doubt the Jets will make a run at either Briggs or Thomas, on the other hand. I can see them getting into the Asante Samuel sweepstakes in an attempt to drive the price up and get him off the Patriots, but I doubt they intend to land him, either. Graham is almost certainly gone from the Patriots- they've invested in Watson and Thomas already-and the Jets are the most likely spot for him.

19
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 3:15pm

18:

If Graham doesn't stay with the Patriots, he's heading to Denver, not New Jersey. He's from Colorado, his family is still there, he's said repeatedly he wants to move back there, and Denver needs a blocking tight end.

20
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 3:16pm

#17, the same way they justified paying Colvin more than Bruschi, Vrabel, or Ted Johnson made. I'm not sure what that way is, but there's precedent.

I wouldn't be shocked if the Pats available salary cap dollars have very quietly been spent greasing (relatively) underpaid guys like Vrabel, Warren, Bruschi, Harrison and/or absorbing future cap hits. It seems these things are done every year months before anybody outside of the Patriots knows about it.

21
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 4:20pm

dryheat,

honestly, I dont know where the pats CAN spend their money. They've got both the offensive and defensive line signed through 2010, and almost everyone else is still early in their contracts. I'm sure theyre moving money forward at this point... they've just got nothing else they can do with the cap space at this point.

Which makes me believe theyre gonna make a run at somebody in the offseason...and the place where they have the most issues is linebacker. We all know Seau is a stopgap, and bruschi keeps getting older... so really, I wouldnt be suprised to see them make a run at a big free agent.

People have this mistaken belief that the Pats dont spend money. They spend up to the cap every single year... and they do pay some really big salaries.. just not to people they feel are expendable.

22
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 4:22pm

#18, I hope the Jets do get Turner. San Diego's not going to trade him for any less than the compensation that they'd be due if he leaves RFA. So for the Jets to sign him, first they'd have to sign him to an offer sheet. Chester Taylor signed a 4 year 14.1 mil contract last offseason, with 5.6 million guaranteed (very reasonable). That was with Edgerrin James, Shaun Alexander, and probably a few others on the market. Turner is certainly going to command much more than that, as the top free agent RB on the market and with a higher salary cap. I would guess (and it is only a guess) that the winning offer sheet would be a frontloaded five-year deal with 20-25 million paid over the first three years. Then they'd almost certainly have to part with a 1st and 3rd rounder to acquire him.

I just don't see it making financial sense.

23
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 4:33pm

I personally just think Adalius Thomas is too good of a fit for New England to not go after him.

New England loves players that can play multiple positions, and lend flexability. Thomas is a large part of the huge flexibility that the Ravens defense has.

I've heard Thomas can basically play anything from DE/OLB/SS to even CB. You dont think Bellichek is drooling over a guy with that much versatility? How many times have we heard bellichek use that word?

The scary part about the Patriots is this: Theyre a VERY young team (almost everyone drafted post 2001), they went 12-4 this year, have 2 first round picks, and a TON of cap space.

24
by Dennis (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 4:38pm

Re #7: First, Pennington was a huge question mark coming into the season. Nobody knew if he was healthy to begin with and if he could stay healthy for a full season.

Second, they didn't have a starting running back. They traded for Barlow during camp because they were so unsure if Houston or Washington could cut it.

Third, they were starting two rookies on a rebuilt offensive line, as the article mentions.

Fourth, there were big question marks with the defense, which has struggled this sesaon, especially against the run.

This was a team in rebuilding mode entering the season. They weren't trying to plug in a few pieces, they were made major changes. Yes, they were expected to improve, but not by 6 games (weak schedule or not).

25
by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 4:54pm

Re 22: I highly doubt San Diego gets anything like that for Turner. He's a year away from being unrestricted, and they aren't in a position to franchise him, not with LT already on the roster. The Chargers will look at what happened to the Jets with Lamont Jordan and they will swing a deal with someone, likely for no more than a second round pick. Maybe a late first, but probably not.

26
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 4:55pm

23:

I'd love it if Thomas will take a reasonable offer from the Patriots instead of a crazy one from someone else, but I just don't see it happening (Pats will not pay top dollar for a 29 year old but some defensively-minded hungry team will). Plus, the Patriots just rub some guys the wrong way even if they offer more money than a competitor (see, e.g., Derrick Mason from 04 Free Agency). I have no idea what Thomas is like, but he hasn't struck me from interviews as the low-key blue collar hard nose type Belichick favors.

We'll see.

27
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 5:10pm

#25, but why would San Diego trade him? Is it possible that none of the 31 teams are going to sign him to an offer sheet? It makes much more sense for them to tender him and then not match the offer sheet and except compensation, probably a first and third. If nobody tenders him, then great for San Diego. They get him for another year as an inexpensive quality backup to LT to guard against burnout.

I've heard Jets fans and New York Media postulate that they'll target Turner, or at least that they should, but I doubt that's a relection of the Jets front office's mindset.

28
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 5:11pm

Damn...cleaning up..except = accept and tenders = signs to sheet.

29
by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 5:44pm

If the cost is a first and a third, it's absolutely possible that no one signs Turner, with the result being that San Diego is on the hook for paying him at the maximum tender- that's likely an unacceptable cost for a backup running back.

The tender is simply going to be a starting point for negotiations; the ultimate price for Turner will come down. (It won't help matters that the draft class at RB is relatively strong, just as it was last year.)

30
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 5:52pm

MDS,
Great article. I was looking forward to this game, as I thought Oakland had a shot... and especially after the first series which went: end around -4 yards, sack, sack (offsides), sack.

After that the Jets o-line really buckled down. They are the heart of this team... I'd give them more credit than Pennington as to why the offense works.

I think D'Brickashaw is just a better pass blocker at this point. Watching him at UVA, I never thought he was dominant against the run, but it was his pass blocking footwork that was more impressive.

The Jets will need some tricks up their sleeves against New England, and even if those tricks work, their season will probably end on Sunday.

Completely agreed. Watching their offense is interesting, especially on 3rd and short. I think there were at least 2 plays where they got the ball to Brad Smith for a QB sneak (Pennington was in at shot gun and Smith motioned under center on one). If the Patriots D can stay disciplined this should be a rout. Oakland had a fumble, and tipped punt leading to Jets points in half #1.

I respect Pennington because he is willing to throw the ball 3 times for 15 yards to BJ Askew so much, but its also why I despise watching their offense.

To their credit the Jets threw a bit more downfield in half #2 of this game... "downfield" meaning a 10+ yard out to Coles.

31
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 6:23pm

Just had a quick thought that you probably had.

In the SDA thread you mentioned doing a EPC Podcast. Please do this for the Super Bowl or each week of the playoffs...

32
by Andrew Cascini (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 7:03pm

While I feel this article was excellent and I went so far to request it, I do have a few comments. The first involves D'Brickashaw, who is - in my opinion, having a very good season overall. I wasn't able to watch the Oakland game so the assessment for this particular contest may be correct, but usually Ferguson is managing to keep Penny upright and managing to provide adequate run blocking.

That being said, I was also shocked that you folks see good things in Clement. Clement may have had a good individual game but he had major pass-protection issues earlier in the year.

Overall, excellent evaluation. The Oakland game may have been an aberration, but the things noticed were different than things I noticed throughout the rest of the season.

33
by Led (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 8:07pm

Thanks for interesting article, MDS. On the Moore penalty, did you see the hold in your tape review? On the one replay they showed it didn't look like a hold to me, but I did see Sapp working the refs real hard in the few plays leading up to that. I got the feeling that he just browbeat them into calling a penalty.

34
by Rick (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 8:08pm

"#25, but why would San Diego trade him? Is it possible that none of the 31 teams are going to sign him to an offer sheet? It makes much more sense for them to tender him and then not match the offer sheet and except compensation, probably a first and third. If nobody tenders him, then great for San Diego. They get him for another year as an inexpensive quality backup to LT to guard against burnout."

You do realize what signing a player to a 1st and 3rd tender means, right?

35
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 9:08pm

Good article MDS. I know the focus here is the Jets, but I'd be curious as to your opinion on Tommy Kelly. Everytime I see him he looks really good to me. Am I imagining things?

36
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Wed, 01/03/2007 - 9:37pm

Re: 33
I did notice on a "long run" during the Jets TD drive (maybe it was the one that went to the 3 yard line to the left side)... one of the OL clearly held Sapp, and he was pretty miffed about it.

This happened I think around the 10 yard line and got the Jets within the 5...

37
by Re: 18 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 2:30am

From the Jets' standpoint, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to go after Michael Turner, possibly sending away 1st and 3rd pick.

This team still needs a lot of help at both sides of the trench. It's proven times and again, that any serviceable RB can have a solid year behind a rock-solid line. Or... you'd have to be a Barry Sanders-like RB to have a good career behind putrid line. Common sense dictates that it's better to invest at the offensive line at this point.

Thus, sending two possible starters at the OL/DL in favor of one still-a-prospect RB seems like - well, to me anyway - a good way to waste a draft pick.

38
by Rick (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 3:23am

#37: Did you read from start to finish what you wrote?

39
by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 10:06am

#34, Yes I do. However I'm fairly certain some desperate GM would sign him to a sheet. If AJ Smith isn't as confident, he could go medium tender and would be sure to get a first from a team drafting in the last third.

Worst case scenario: Nobody signs Turner to an offer sheet. San Diego pays him a ridiculous amount of money for one season. If San Diego doesn't want to negotiate a longer term contract, Turner leaves UFA after 2007 and the Chargers get prime comp pick(s).

San Diego has a window in which to win multiple Super Bowls. It makes little sense to trade your insurance policy for less than he's worth just because you might lose him for nothing after 2007. Surely a year with Turner + a 3rd round pick is better than a year without Turner and a 2nd round pick, as the Jets will get him for in this hypothetical scenario.

40
by Rick (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 12:08pm

#39: Multiple Super Bowls. Backup running back. What?

Let's start with this: if you do know what happens when a team puts the highest tender on a player then you don't say that slapping someone with a 1st and 3rd leaves you with an inexpensive option on that player. Period.

Look, this is very simple. And your use of the word "sense" without any sense of the Chargers cap plan is makes little sense.

If SD finds Turner valuable enough to keep after having put a 1st and 3rd or a 1st round tender on him as you are arguing, then they consider that he has tremendous value. You don't put a high tender on a player just because of what you think that player is worth because you pay for the tender you put on player. That tender can be used as a prohibitive measure (to price people away) or as a barometric measure (to set the market for negotiating). But if a team has the best secret in the league and can get away with placing the smallest possible tender on him, they do. if the tender is going to be high, then talking about financial sense is irrelevant because SD has already admitted that it would make financial sense for someone to sign him. And it makes tons more financial sense for the Jets to sign Turner than it does the Chargers to re-sign him. SD's only advantage is that they get last say on if they get to keep Turner or not. That's it. They sign him to a TENDER, but they don't make the CONTRACT offer.

Also, your math is wrong. The Chargers, in letting Turner go, would have the RFA or trade comp plus whatever cap space they save from not having to handle Turner's tender sheet and subsequent contract. That could become one or two players: a nickel corner, a PR/KR, I don't know. You don't know. But if you're spinning your wheels so much to argue why SD would keep their backup running back (keeping in mind the salary situation they'll have coming up), then that running back is clearly of value to the rest of the league.

Or do you not realize that you're saying that the signing of Turner would make no financial sense for a team with tons of cap space and a gaping whole at running back and yet is a fait accompli for a team that already has a running back on the books that they'll have to re-up?

And this:

"It makes little sense to trade your insurance policy for less than he’s worth just because you might lose him for nothing after 2007."

is a common business practice in all of the major American sports and in soccer not just for "insurance policies" but for all major stars. Hypothetically speaking, letting a back-up player walk for nothing when you could have gotten a second round pick is terrible terrible business. Especially, in the Jets case, if that second round pick is Washington's high second.

Turner is either valuable enough to trade for or not. But to say that it makes no sense to trade for him and then go out of your way to argue why a team should strain themselves to keep him on the bench, incur the financial ramification of doing so (which you didn't mention) and turn their back on picks I don't understand. At all.

41
by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 12:20pm

Re 37:

Of the top 10 DPAR running backs this year, there are five first round picks, two second round picks and two third round picks. Four of the top five backs were first rounders. In 2005, six of the top ten backs were first round picks, including three of the top six. (Two second rounders as well.)

And you won't find a team in the league that has more than two first round picks on their offensive line. It's football, not a Visa Protection Program commercial, and picking offensive lineman after offensive lineman won't do anything but ensure that your skill position players are really, really bad.

42
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 12:30pm

#41: However, you will rarely find a team that does not have at least one first-round tackle starting on the team.

You don't need to pick linemen constantly - they have a longer career life than RBs, after all - but you need a good line. If you don't have one, it's worth just picking up linemen for a few years.

43
by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 12:53pm

Yes, put we're talking about the Jets. I believe they used the #3 pick in the draft on a tackle just last year.

44
by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 12:54pm

Make that the #4 pick.

45
by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 1:34pm

Umm Rick @#40, I'm not sure you're following my argument, although you sure sound angry and more than a little bit condescending in trying to defeat it.

I made a typo in post #27 that I think is leading to a lot of confusion...typing "inexpensive" when I meant to type "expensive". I thought that I had cleared that up in successive posts.

My argument wasn't that it makes sense for the Chargers to keep Turner. My argument is that it doesn't make sense for the Jets, who are trying to do things "the Patriot Way" to invest the resources in acquiring him, both in compensation and in the financial commitment via the contract.

When it was suggested that the Jets would be able to acquire him for 50 cents on the dollar, I responded that at that point the Chargers would be better off keeping him.

I strongly disagree with this statement, though: Hypothetically speaking, letting a back-up player walk for nothing when you could have gotten a second round pick is terrible terrible business.

If you are in a position to win a championship, you do it. If the price is right, you can trade a key asset. But trading a key asset just because he might walk away as a free agent is terrible terrible business. In the NFL specific world, the model franchise of the last six years has let key free agent after key free agent go to market. Willie McGinest. Adam Vinatieri. David Givens. Damien Woody. Joe Andruzzi. Ty Law. Matt Chatham. David Patten. Steve Neal. Do you think they would have one back to back championships if they traded them all the previous year because they were afraid of losing them for nothing? This year, at least one of Daniel Graham and Asante Samuel will almost certainly leave via UFA.

And I won't even mention the comp picks that come with the losses. Those extra 3rd-5th round picks are gold for a competent front office.

If I'm San Diego, there's no way I trade Turner for a second round pick.

46
by Rick (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 2:36pm

Dryheat. I'm not angry, I'm enjoying my morning coffee. What would I be angry about? And I'm certainly not trying to "defeat" your argument . . . which has rather unsurprisingly lead us - yet again - to "the Patriots way".

Do we need to compare the Patriots players on your list to the backup running back on the Chargers? Why are you talking about starters on the Patriots from three, four and five years ago instead of the number of RFAs who actually have been traded or, since it's still a transaction in the final year of a contract, resigned since then? Shall we go over those? And Deion Branch?

I'm glad to know that if you were AJ Smith you wouldn't trade Michael Turner for a second round pick. That would be after you've tendered him for a 1st and 3rd, right? Let's go over this: a 1st and 3rd tender to a player who doesn't get an offer leaves you on the books for around $1.9M. That's for your backup running back. If you tender a player mid-level (which is a first round pick) and he doesn't get another offer you're on the books for around $1.4M-$1.5M . . . for your backup running back. You may consider that good business. It's also unprecedented business, which would make you a visionary for having put an entirely new twist on "the Patriots Way." You would also become the best friend of the agents of LaDanian Tomlinson, Shawne Merriman, Luis Castillo, Antonio Gates, and Jamal Williams. Speaking of competent front offices: your cap and your locker room would implode upon themselves, by the way.

One of two things is going to happen: San Diego will win the Super Bowl and then they will trade Michael Turner; or, San Diego will lose in the playoffs and they will evaluate how to improve their roster . . .

and they will trade Michael Turner. You can say all you want that you wouldn't do it, but the reasons you have given - which now involve the Patriots letting Damien Woody walk how many years ago - I don't understand. If you think I sound angry and am trying to "defeat" you, so be it.

. . . speaking of "The Patriots Way": How did the Patriots end up with Corey Dillon again?

47
by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 2:40pm

Dryheat,

I think you may be misunderstanding the "Patriot Way." The Patriot way was to win with a stable of mediocre to poor backs when that was all they had to work with, and then to turn around and trade a second round pick for Corey Dillon and then use a first round pick on Lawrence Maroney just as soon as they could. You muddle along and make do when you have to, not as some sort of master plan.

The whole concept behind the Patriots (and the Eagles, for that matter) is to accumulate as many players as possible who are producing at a higher level than their salary and to absolutely avoid investing in older players who are unlikely to have their production match their salary over the length of their contracts. That doesn't mean that you don't pay players who are in their prime the going market rate. Giving a contract to Michael Turner-a young, proven player who will perform over the full length of his contract-is not the same as paying players who are 30-31.

(You should note, btw, that New England hasn't won any championships since letting Willie McGinest, Adam Vinatieri, David Givens or Matt Chatham go. It doesn't bolster your argument to say that the Patriots would never have won championships without letting such and such players walk when they in fact haven't won any since letting roughly half of the players you named walk.)

A competent front office doesn't turn down high second round picks for backup players so they can "make gold" out of compensatory fourth round picks. Actually, that would be the very definition of an incompetent front office.

48
by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 3:09pm

OK...let me make my last points and I'll STFU before this circular argument goes around again.

#46 - The players I mentioned were players that were in the final year of their contract, and the Patriots, a championship-calibre team, allowed them to play out their contract and get nothing in return for them, which you have said is terrible management. It seems that you believe it would have been better to trade them before they got to UFA. It is wrong to compare Deion Branch. If he would have played, the Patriots would not have traded him. It's an issue of getting 1 year out of Branch vs. no years. Ditto Corey Dillon. Corey Dillon was a proven NFL star who agreed to re-structure his contract to a minimal level. He was not any kind of free agent. Michael Turner is not IMO a proven starting running back, although there are several teams that will be willing to pay him as such and hope. He is seen as the top running back on the market, although he has limited carries thus far in his career. I don't think a one-year contract in the neighborhood of 1.5 million with 0 signing bonus exhorbitant for a key player, especially with a larger salary cap. Is The Dainian Tomlinson going to be angry that he has a five year 35 million dollar contract (theoretical...I don't know his contract) and that Turner has a one year 1.5 or even 1.8 million deal? I doubt it. I guess there are two things that we don't agree on.

1) Michael Turner's importance. You call him a backup, and that's technically correct. So are Kevin Faulk, Marion Barber, Reggie Bush, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Ladell Betts, off the top of my head. It doesn't make these players less important that they don't start. They are important pieces of their respective teams. I believe most GMs will tell you that you need two competent RBs on your roster. Remember, I'm not advocating that the Chargers keep Turner, I'm suggesting that they shouldn't trade him for a second rounder. I don't think they'll need to. Even if they need to do a sign-and-trade.

2) I think it extremely likely that Turner is signed to an offer sheet at the high tender, and a virtual certainty that he will as a medium tender. What other RBs figure to be on the market? Chris Brown? Patrick Pass? Anthony Thomas? I can't think of another starter-quality RB that will be on the free agency market.

#47 (and #46 again)The Patriot Way, boiled down to it's simplest form as I understand it, is not to overpay for players. Every position on the team has a value, and to spend more on that position means your weakening another. This means most veterans who have passed their peak and are likely to decline are not signed. This means one has to draft well and have each draftee fit an immediate need. It means getting letting good players get their fat second contract from another team (in most cases), and replace him with another rookie/veteran minimum FA. Not getting emotionally invested in players and erring on the side of getting rid of them a year too early. I think we would all agree on this.

What the "Patriot Way" most definitely does not entail, and this was my point, is spending two first day draft choices and giving a premium free agent contract to an unproven running back. I like Michael Turner quite a bit, but at this point, we still don't know if he's going to be a legitimate full-time running back in the NFL.

My use of the "Patriot Way" referred to the Jets situation, not the Chargers situation

49
by Matt M (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 3:54pm

30,

BJ Askew has 9 receptions on the season.

50
by Josh (not verified) :: Thu, 01/04/2007 - 7:37pm

If I can jump in here-
Rick: You sem to suggest that a high tender offer of approx. 1.9 million, and even a medium tender offer of approx. 1.5 million, is extremely high for a good #2 RB. Where do you get that from? If you take a look at salary info for 2005 (see link; I can't find 2006) there are several #2 RBs with higher, and long term, salaries. What's your basis for saying that the salary a 1st round tender would get is an outlandish amount to pay Turner for one year?

Sean: You say "Giving a contract to Michael Turner-a young, proven player who will perform over the full length of his contract-is not the same as paying players who are 30-31." Turner has 80 carries this year, 157 in his career. Most carries he's had in a single game this year is 13 He's young and he's performed well, but there's no evidence he can handle being a #1 RB. As a jets fan, you shouldn't have to think too far to find an RB who was putting up good numbers as a backup but hasn't done anything as a starter. I refer to Lamont Jordan. Never had 100 carries with NYJ, put up good numbers in limited action, now is with OAK and two years straight averaged 3.8 yards per carry, missed half the season this year due to injury. Or look at Derrick Blaylock. In his last year in KC, he had approximately same DVOA as LJ and Priest Holmes, with 118 carries. I don't have to tell you what's happened to him after Jets signed him . If there is a reason why Turner should be considered a proven RB who can almost certainly come in and be a good 300 carry RB, please explain, because it eludes me. I'm not saying he can't be that type of player, but there is a lot of risk.

51
by Sean (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 1:02am

Josh- There are levels of proven. Turner isn't proven in the way that Larry Johnson is proven, but he's more proven than the alternative, which is a back who is taken through the draft. Turner has had success at the pro level, and if anything he has less wear on his tires than someone like DeAngelo Williams. Moreover, the Jets offensive coordinator has seen every practice in Michael Turner's career. If the Jets go after Turner, that means that Schottenheimer has spearheaded the move based on his familiarity with the player. Could Turner be another Lamont Jordan? Sure- and that's fine. Jordan would be a quality back if he played behind a decent offensive line with a competent offensive coordinator. (Derrick Blaylock isn't as good a comparison because he has a third down back build.) And the idea isn't to have Turner tote the rock 30 times a game but have him be the lead back in a rotation where Washington and to a lesser extent Houston also get carries. Is Turner going to command a contract that makes such a rotation prohibitive? Possibly. In any event, last year gave a peek at the future of free agency, as teams passed over the superstar players and went immediately for talented reserve players who they could sign to mid-level deals.

Dryheat-

The running back market was extremely soft last year, as teams felt they could address the position via the draft. The results bore that presumption out, and I expect you'll see something similar this season. I don't think the Chargers have much leverage at all. Remember, the Falcons couldn't get a first round pick for Matt Schaub, and he's a quarterback. The Vikings got a second round pick for a Pro Bowl quarterback (with an injury, but still). I don't see any reason to think that the Chargers are going to get a first and a third for their second-string running back.

The Patriots Way is not simply making a point of not overpaying players. That's the Bill Bidwell way, the pre-Marvin Lewis Bengals way, and the small market MLB team way. The Patriots Way is to make the roster as efficient as possible by maximizing the ratio of production to expense. They do that in a variety of ways- they generally do not offer contracts to players who are approaching the downside, they try to lock up young talent to long term deals at below market rates, they draft with an eye towards having replacements for players who are likely to walk at the end of their deals (as opposed to fitting immediate needs), they try to identify position groups that they feel are cost effective-notably tight end-and they maneuver up and down on draft day to get the players with particular grades at the cheapest possible point. But the Patriots aren't opposed to paying players-last year they had $20 million of their cap space tied up in two players, Tom Brady and Richard Seymour. They also aren't opposed to spending money in free agency- last year Roosevelt Colvin counted for $5 million against the cap. And lastly, they have demonstrated that they would rather have good players than muddle through with mediocre ones whenever possible. People get caught up in the makeup of the 2001 Patriots, forgetting that it wasn't a very good team and that it didn't come close to representing Pioli or Belicheck's vision. The 2004 team was much closer to the mark, and it featured a stud (and well paid) quarterback, an elite running back, a receiving corp that the team invested two second round picks in, a first round tight end, so on and so forth.

In any event, to bring this long discussion back to the original point, the Jets offensive line is going to look significantly stronger when the running back position is upgraded, as it likely will be next year. They don't maul people, but they show good technique and open up holes that their running backs just aren't hitting consistently.

52
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Fri, 01/05/2007 - 12:57pm

In both the Minny and Oakland game Askew caught 3 passes. I was just commenting on the fact that Pennington dumped off to him 3 times... seemed like it was even 3 times in the same half.

53
by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 01/06/2007 - 3:02pm

I've been saying for a while that I liked Adalis Thomas and I am glad he started to get some credit.

I think Briggs is the best LB of the class though.

There is no way in hell Turner is worth a 1st and 3rd rounder.