Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

CoxMar15.jpg

» Varsity Numbers: Honing in

Bill Connelly again looks at which college football teams the F/+ ratings are sure about, and which teams remain a mystery (led by Appalachian State).

07 Apr 2010

Four Downs: AFC East

by Vince Verhei

Buffalo Bills

Biggest Need: Offensive Line

The surprising retirement of offensive tackle Brad Butler at age 26 left a bad Buffalo line in complete shambles. The Bills currently have 11 offensive linemen on the roster, only four of whom have started as many as ten games in a season.

Right now, the two most talented members of the Buffalo line are the starting guards, both 2009 draft picks: first-rounder Eric Wood and second-rounder Andy Levitre. Wood had a severe leg fracture last season and didn't start walking until March 4, so the Bills aren't sure he'll be ready for the start of the season.

If the season started today, one tackle spot would be filled by Cornell Green, recently signed from Oakland. Green will be 34 when the season begins. He started 38 games for the Raiders over the past three seasons, and only eight games in the first seven years of his career with the Jets, Broncos, and Buccaneers. The other tackle would likely be Demetrius Bell, a seventh-round pick in 2008. Bell started eight games last year before a knee injury ended his season. At center would be Geoff Hangartner, who played well last season as a starter after spending four years as a backup with Carolina.

Behind them? Six anonymous warm bodies with a combined 18 career starts in the NFL, only two of whom were drafted, and none earlier than the fifth round.

By Football Outsiders' advanced metrics, the patchwork line was serviceable in run blocking, finishing 12th in Adjusted Line Yards. However, they were a pass-blocking disaster, ending up dead last in Adjusted Sack Rate. According to the Football Outsiders game charting project, Bills linemen led the league with 28.5 blown blocks that led to sacks.

The Bills may be tempted to take a quarterback in the draft, especially if Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen falls into their laps. But if they don't upgrade their line first, any quarterback they draft will have a short career.

Free Agency Recap

Since general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey arrived in January, it has been a lot of out with the old, and a little bit of in with the new. Most famously, the Bills announced they would not be offering a contract to Terrell Owens after 2009's one-year experiment. They also declined to offer contracts to wide receiver Josh Reed and defensive end Ryan Denney. Finally, the Bills released tight end Derek Fine and wide receiver Justin Jenkins.

The Bills lost a pair of veteran offensive linemen when tackle Jonathan Scott signed with the Steelers and guard Richie Incognito joined the Dolphins. Both were starting at the end of last season for Buffalo.

A number of Bills free agents remain unsigned, including linebacker Chris Draft and guards Kendall Simmons and Seth McKinney. Nix recently said that the team was not interested in re-signing Simmons or McKinney.
Defensive end Aaron Schobel has not decided whether to retire or to return for a 10th season with the Bills.

The Bills' gains in free agency are limited. Besides Green, the team added a pair of defenders: former Broncos linebacker Andra Davis and former Ravens defensive tackle Dwan Edwards. It's worth noting that Edwards was only available because he failed physicals with the Seahawks and Dolphins. He missed the entire 2008 season after a neck injury that required spinal fusion of the C3 and C4 vertabrae.

The Bills also re-signed veteran safety Bryan Scott, a versatile defender who spent much of last year filling in at outside linebacker when everyone else in Buffalo was injured.

Miami Dolphins

Biggest Need: Pass Rushers

Yes, pass rushers. That may be surprising for a team that tied for third in the NFL with 44 sacks and led the league in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Sack Rate. But a lot of those sacks have left town. Linebacker Joey Porter led Miami with nine sacks, but he was released after the season and has since signed with Arizona. Jason Taylor chipped in with seven sacks, but he's an unrestricted free agent and remains unsigned. It appears the Dolphins have no interest in bringing Taylor back. The Dolphins' starting outside linebackers are currently Cameron Wake and Charlie Anderson. Wake showed great promise in limited time last year, his first season since coming south from the CFL. He had 5.5 sacks despite making only 10 tackles on defense. (He had 13 more on special teams.) Anderson, though is a career journeyman with only eight starts in 92 games played. Unless Wake truly blossoms in his sophomore season, the Dolphins are going to need help putting opposing quarterbacks on the ground in 2010.

At this point, the free agent pool for outside linebackers is pretty shallow. The best available is probably Chike Okeafor, who has played 12 years for the 49ers, Seahawks, and Cardinals. Though he had only 4.5 sacks last season, he has been dependable, collecting at least that many every season since 2002.

The Dolphins could also use a receiver. Brian Hartline, Greg Camarillo, and Davone Bess were somewhat effective as possession receivers, but brought no big-play threat to the table. Ted Ginn has been terribly unreliable; last year he had a catch rate below 50 percent for the second time in three years. As a team, the Dolphins had only 29 receptions of 20 yards or more last year, fewer than any team except Cleveland.

Free Agency Recap

Besides the losses of Porter and Taylor, the Dolphins also released inside linebacker Akin Ayodele and safety Gibril Wilson.

In a limited crop of free agents, the Dolphins signed one of the best in former Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby. The versatile player has ranked in the top 20 in Defeats in the NFL in four of the past five seasons, and he doesn't turn 29 until November. He's an enormous upgrade over last year's inside linebackers. Ayodele, Channing Crowder, and Reggie Torbor combined for 28 defeats last season. Dansby alone had 26.

Miami added Richie Incognito to bolster what was already the league's top run-blocking unit.
The Dolphins also re-signed a pair of their own free agents, veteran nose tackle Jason Ferguson and quarterback Chad Pennington. It's an even-numbered year, so if Chad Henne struggles, expect Pennington to win his third Comeback Player Of The Year award.

New England Patriots

Biggest Need: Linebackers

The Patriots struggled against the run last year, ranking 26th in Adjusted Line Yards. Their pass rush was slightly better, and they finished 18th in Adjusted Sack Rate. Individually, though, there were no stars to be found here. They had only one player in the NFL's top 80 in Rushing Defeats (tackles for no gain or a loss, or that stop a runner on third or fourth down), and that was nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Inside linebacker Jerod Mayo gets a lot of tackles, but they usually come after the runner has gained a few yards, not in the backfield.

The pass rush was led by Tully Banta-Cain's ten sacks, but that was something of a fluke. Banta-Cain's previous career high was just 5.5 sacks, so expect him to decline in 2010. No other Patriot had more than five sacks. The other outside linebacker, Adalius Thomas, was practically invisible against both run and pass. The Patriots badly need more playmakers here.

Keith Bulluck is available, and at 32 he was still effective for Tennessee last season. But his signing would be at best a one- or two-year stopgap for the Patriots. He's coming off an ACL injury and might not be ready for the start of the season, plus there's no guarantee he'd play well in a 3-4 after spending his entire career in as weak outside linebacker in Tennessee's 4-3 scheme. Expect New England to address this situation in the draft, not free agency.

If the Patriots go offensive in the draft, they need a tight end. Benjamin Watson was lost to Cleveland in free agency, and that leaves a bigger hole than fans might think. Although the Patriots have thrown fewer passes to tight ends in recent years, Watson actually ranked as the top tight end last year in Football Outsiders' per-play statistics. Last year's other tight end, Chris Baker, was released; the Pats signed Alge Crumpler away from Atlanta, but he's primarily a blocker at this point in his career.

Free Agency Recap

Defensive end/linebacker Derrick Burgess remains unsigned, although that may be resolved shortly. Punter Chris Hanson is also unsigned.

Besides Watson, the Patriots only lost one player in free agency: defensive end Jarvis Green, who signed with Denver.

New York Jets

Biggest Need: Front Seven Depth

The Jets finished eighth in run defense last year, measured both by total yardage and by Football Outsiders' advanced metrics. Their front seven, however, was even better than that, ranking second in FO's Adjusted Line Yards, which gives extra credit for tackles for loss and ignores yardage on long runs.

With that in mind, it seems odd that the Jets should be looking to replace any of these men, but the team needs to get younger. Inside linebacker David Harris is the only starter in the front seven under 29. Further, defensive end Marques Douglas, who started 12 games for Gang Green in 2009, remains unsigned. Recent rumors have had him going anywhere from New England to Carolina to Tampa Bay to Tennessee. If the Jets can't make a deal with Douglas, they'll be in need of a new starter next to Kris Jenkins and Shaun Ellis.

There are a few candidates out there who might fit the bill. The best option might be Bryan Robinson, most recently of the Cardinals. Although he'll be 36 when the season opens, he hasn't missed a game in four years, and he was third among Arizona linemen in rushing tackles last year. At 304 pounds, he's the ideal size for a 3-4 end, and has also played nose tackle in the past. Another option would be Travis Kirschke, who has played in Pittsburgh's 3-4 for the past six seasons.

If Douglas does return to the fold, the focus will switch to the outside linebackers. The Jets were just 14th in Adjusted Sack Rate last season, and would benefit from a superior individual pass-rush threat. But then, who wouldn't?

Free Agency Recap

The Jets weren't content to wait for the draft to address their team needs, making a series of high-profile trades and signings. They started by re-signing a bunch of their own starters who were facing free agency, including wide receiver Braylon Edwards, fullback Tony Richardson, and safety Eric Smith. They released Thomas Jones, clearing the way for Shonn Greene to start at running back, and picked LaDainian Tomlinson to back him up. They made a pair of big trades in the secondary, shipping safety Kerry Rhodes to Arizona and grabbing cornerback Antonio Cromartie from San Diego. Their biggest acquisition in free agency was former Browns safety Brodney Pool, signed to fill Rhodes' position.

(Portions of this article originally appeared on ESPN.com Insider.)

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 07 Apr 2010

83 comments, Last at 13 Apr 2010, 7:18pm by loneweasel

Comments

1
by t.d. :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 3:21pm

For a guy who regularly fields elite defenses, Ryan hasn't really had elite pass rushers.

17
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 10:11am

I think it's fair to say that Suggs is elite. But in general, yes, Ryan's scheme does an extremely good job of producing pressure without top pass rushing talent.

2
by Alex (not verified) :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 3:26pm

Follow-up on that Herald article from late March: Fins show interest in bringing Taylor back.

http://miamiherald.typepad.com/dolphins_in_depth/2010/04/dolphins-reach-...

3
by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 4:08pm

I'm suprised that in a league with very little talent at safety Gibril Wilson can't find a job. He might not be a great coverage free safety but I'd have thought his skill set would make strong safety a better position. For example, I'd like the niners to make a run at him.

5
by Dean :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 4:40pm

It's the nature of the beast. If you're going to take a guy who may or may not be a good fit, you may as well take a younger guy who you don't have to pay as much, and hope that the level of production isn't that much different.

4
by Led :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 4:13pm

I suspect the Jets are letting Douglas gauge his market price and then sign him. Douglas is a Ryan guy and would probably prefer to stay if the money is about the same. But I was confident Rhodes would be back, so what do I know? They also have some solid young guys at DE. Mike DeVito played very well last year and got a lot of snaps. And they're developing a young giant, Ropati Pitoitua (6-8, 310), who looks promising. With the Cromartie trade, they're in position to go BPA in the draft.

6
by dedkrikit (not verified) :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 4:43pm

Crumpler arrived to NE via Tennessee.

7
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 4:44pm

New England is a team in a quandary. They have probably six (ish) good years left from Tom Brady, and one or two at most from Moss, an offensive line entering the post-dominant "patchwork" phase a la Indianapolis in 2006, and a defense that is full of holes. Do they try to win now, with Moss? Go young and train the new guys up for Brady? Rebuild and let Brady keep the franchise competitive while they retool for the next guy?

I strongly suspect that the right thing to do is a combination of (A) and (B), because you don't know there is going to be a next guy. The Patriots should definitely sign Bullock, and probably draft Sergio Kindle or (if available) Jason Pierre-Paul in the first. Taylor Mays could come into consideration too in a secondary that has gone a bit soft.

The Patriots did not ship Richard Seymour to the Raiders in order to spend a pick more valuable than the one they received on a replacement. They could look at Raheem Brock (who was a DE/DT hybrid in the Colts 4-3 and might make a decent 3-4 end) or Alex Brown on a 1-2 year deal as a stopgap while they figure out what to do going forward.

If they want to go offense, Jermaine Gresham and Dez Bryant might be decent picks at #22. The latter will probably be gone though. The rise of Vollmer probably makes an OL pick unlikely.

16
by starzero :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 8:28am

except that alex brown signed with the saints.

--
hail damage

37
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 4:30pm

Yeah, I saw that. Right after I posted too.

18
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 10:15am

Neither the Colts nor the Patriots ever had a dominant offensive line. They had above average lines which their quarterbacks made look great, and now have pretty shoddy lines which their quarterbacks make look serviceable.

20
by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 11:05am

Don't forget about the two outstanding line coaches that make poor players into an average unit. Remember the Pats getting decent play out of Hochstein? Ryan Lilja played well for the Colts but couldn't even hold down a job for the Lions. I'd be worried about Mudd's retirement if I was a Colts fan.

31
by Bobman :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 4:07pm

Karl Cuba, I am officially a little worried. The organization places a HIGH priority on continuity (duh. Mudd and Moore have been there since 1998, Gene Huey the RB coach has been there since the earth cooled.), and has anticipated the retirements by bringing along the next guy early. Like with Caldwell as HC.

So the organizational continuity is there. Whatever spark of genius Mudd may have had, however, is still up in the air. They have always worked UDFAs in there and late round guys and had good success. We'll see if that can continue come... about December. Maybe sooner.

49
by rk (not verified) :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 11:56pm

Perhaps you're thinking of Rick DeMulling because Lilja never played for the Lions or any team besides the Colts. And as a counter, Jake Scott has been just as good with the Titans as he was with the Colts.

57
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 10:57am

You are correct, I was thinking of DeMulling. As for Scott, I kind of agree with you but the Titans do have Mike Munchack, who's pretty good at the line coach stuff.

25
by Nathan :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 2:44pm

I'm not so sure about that... the Pats line in 2007 may have broken down in the SB but when they were crushing everyone 56-10 I remember Brady having ENDLESS amounts of time.

I agree that he can make an OK line look good, but in 2007 he wasn't shifting around in the pocket feeling the rush, sliding left and doing the little things to buy time that he does so well. He was just sitting back there, scanning, waiting for Moss to get open 50 yards downfield play after play.

27
by tuluse :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 3:09pm

I think a big part of why the line looked so good was that teams were scared to blitz that offense.

29
by Nathan :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 3:24pm

That's a really good point.

And probably after the Giants saw what Welker did to Jacksonville in the playoffs they realized they had to bring pressure and the line didn't hold up.

45
by greybeard :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 7:31pm

So you are suggesting that teams preferred to not blitz and still lost by large margins because they thought would have been worse off had they blitzed. Does not sound correct to me.

47
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 7:41pm

You'd be surprised how many NFL coaches would rather die lying down than gamble and go out in a blaze of glory. Del Rio's performance against them in the playoffs should be exhibit one.

Also, "Large margins" is arguable. The 2007 Pats offense was truly historic for only half a season. In the latter part of that season the scheme advantage was largely gone, in that the Pats became a extremely good offense because of their talent but not nearly unstoppable.

32
by Bobman :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 4:08pm

That was the season Brady took up knitting sweaters... in the backfield.

8
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 7:35pm

The Jets' biggest need is still the secondary. They have one safety who is starting quality. At corner, Cromartie is iffy. After him there are a lot of guys who've hung around for awhile to show nothing but replacement level skills, maybe slightly above if you are generous.

The front seven is old, but ok, with some depth in guys like DeVito and Pouha, who have shown in the absence of Jenkins that they are at least solid depth. Adalius Thomas is practically already on the roster. That unit has at least as much depth as the Oline. In any case, Rex is smarter than his "run and stop the run" bravado and is more than willing to punt the run defense if it means he can stop your pass.

9
by Led :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 8:03pm

Poole is a reasonable starter, if he can stay healthy. They could use a nickel corner. Lowery is passable, but not in the slot. He's actually better against bigger receivers on the outside. From Coleman on down the depth chart are "JAGs" as they say.

11
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 9:24pm

Poole is never healthy. He honestly should have retired for his own sake. If the Jets count on him more than as a quarter to quarter player who might fit in for a series, they are idiots.

Anyway you look at it, the team desperately needs some good, young talent with upside in the secondary. One can at least argue that every other single unit is either good or has plenty of upside.

12
by Brendan Scolari :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 10:18pm

"One can at least argue that every other single unit is either good or has plenty of upside."

I think that's a pretty ludicrous statement. The Jets still have one of the best corner tandems in the league, and Leonard is good too. Revis is the definition of good, and Cromartie is all upside, so I don't see how you could say that.

13
by Biebs (not verified) :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 10:48pm

Wait, are you arguing the Jets secondary is neither good nor has upside?

I'm curious about your logic towards this comment

14
by Nathan :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 1:22am

Yeah I was kind of interested in what they would ID as the jets weakness as I think they're pretty solid all around. I think the fact that they went with depth is pretty telling. The jets are in good shape barring a nasty sophomore slump by sanchez / Thomas jones being totally missed.

15
by towishimp (not verified) :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 7:59am

Sophomore slump for Sanchez? Don't you have to have a good "frshman" year to have a sophomore slump?

19
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 10:23am

Can't you slump from "bad" to "utterly abysmal?"

21
by chemical burn :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 12:34pm

He was utterly abysmal for most of the season and then improved significantly by the end (to a level that could be charitably described as "average") - what does that rate out as? Does the sophomore slump traditionally take you lower than your lowest freshman lows? If so, Jets fans could see some historically bad football...

38
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 4:33pm

I was about to say. The Jets weakness is "QB-Jets". Brett Favre with a hurt arm was still worlds better than Sanchez.

26
by Nathan :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 2:49pm

I'm sure this is going to go over like a ton of bricks on this site, but last year Sanchez made the plays that he needed to make to win games and get them to the AFC championship. And I say this as a Pats fan.

His stats may have been bad, he probably lost them a few games, but for the most part he made plays when it counted. Do you think the Jets would trade him straight up for Matt Schaub?

33
by Led :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 4:11pm

I might trade him for Schaub -- depends how old Schaub is (I forget) and how much he makes -- but I don't think the Jets would. Not to make excuses for Sanchez, who was a definite liability last year, but he had a 3 historically, all-time bad games that drag his numbers down. He had 2 or more picks in five games but he had 17 picks in those games. The other 10 games he only had 3 picks. Obviously, if you exclude anybody's worst games they look better, but Sanchez's worst games (say Buf, NE and NO) were so much, much worse than his median performance that if you were predicting the future you almost have to replace them with more reasonable "bad" performances.

39
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 4:37pm

I would trade Mark Sanchez for Matt Schaub in a heartbeat. But the Texans wouldn't take him. The Jets... would trade him for Matt Schaub if it wasn't an admission that they blew it when they traded up for him.

Which they did.

40
by Biebs (not verified) :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 5:01pm

Really? The Jets blew it?

You made that decision after the rookie season of a QB? There's not a chance in hell the Jets would trade Sanchez after a bad rookie season, especially considering he played pretty well in the playoffs.

There's no way to tell if Sanchez will be a good QB in 2010 and going forward, but saying the Jets blew it after one season is just silly.

44
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 7:22pm

Is this schtick? Because you sound like the only person who seriously uses a rookie QB's stats against him

At least Sanchez has lasted more games in a season than Schaub has ever done.

50
by rk (not verified) :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 12:01am

2009 games played: Schaub - 16, Sanchez - 15

62
by jebmak :: Sat, 04/10/2010 - 10:47am

HAH!

63
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Sat, 04/10/2010 - 11:27am

18.

66
by Nathan :: Sat, 04/10/2010 - 3:41pm

aw snap!

69
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 12:44pm

Yeah, I liked the "18" comment.

I think people missed my point about trading up for Sanchez. I don't think he'll never be a good NFL quarterback (although I think his ceiling is probably Matt Hasselbeck). And if he is, then the Jets may someday be glad they traded up for him. But that isn't why they blew it. The reason trading up was such an awful idea is that at #5, they're paying this guy loads of money, when he's not really any better, or any more likely to get better, than three or four other quarterbacks that have cycled through their roster in recent years.

From an expected value perspective, trading into the top 5 to get a player is almost always a bad move. Obviously, if you get Peyton Manning (or even Eli Manning) you've done a good thing. But most of the time you don't. At least 50% of top QB prospects bust (and I think Sanchez is less likely to completely bust than most, but that's just me; I also think he's less likely than Stafford or Cutler to ever wear a yellow jacket).

After that rookie season, I don't think there's any reason to be -more- confident in Sanchez' future than there was the day he was drafted. Maybe not less, either; but given what the Jets gave up, if I was Rex Ryan I'd rather be giving Matt Cassel (for about the same money) or Josh Freeman (who was available at pick 17, the Jets original choice) a chance.

I stand by the Schaub statement. He's a franchise quarterback who will keep the Texans competitive for ten years; we don't know that about Sanchez yet.

73
by Nathan :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 2:46pm

For what it's worth, Cassel has no deep ball which would seem to be an issue in the Jets offense. From what I've seen throwing deep/long intermediate routes off PA is Sanchez's strong suit. Agree about the costs of trading up for a QB with a lower ceiling than your Mannings etc. But if anything the Jet's moves since Rex Ryan took over have been about being competitive NOW and at the time Sanchez was the best/highest profile QB available in the draft. Hindsight being 20/20 Freeman has shown a lot of potential on a terrible team but I wouldn't say I expected him to show as much as he has.

74
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 3:09pm

Cassell's last year, which was his age 28 season, was worse than Sanchez' rookie year age 22 season by DVOA.

77
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 3:59pm

Compare Cassel's age 27 season. More to the point, note that as FA, he didn't cost any draft picks, and could have been throwing to Michael Crabtree.

80
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 5:48pm

Could have.

He was (or more to the point, was not, as he has always been a checkdown artist) throwing to Dwayne Bowe last year. A lot of good that did him.

79
by tuluse :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 5:31pm

You're assuming the money is worth anything. There really isn't much more they could have done with the capspace had they elected not to draft Sanchez.

You mention Cassell, but he got huge deal too. I would much rather have my money locked up in the 22 year old with a bright future, than the 28 year old middling journeyman.

81
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 5:53pm

Agree.

The Jets are a New York team that is slated to have gobs of money coming in. The goal is to be a perennial superbowl contender and win one. To do that they need a franchise quarterback. You don't get a trophy for best value per dollar spent on a roster with a journeyman at quarterback.

82
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 6:59pm

You have to listen!

I wasn't claiming they could save money (though they could). The advantage to taking Cassel over Sanchez was that they would still ahve a #1 and #2 draft choice with which to draft someone else: I then pointed out that those draft choices could be turned into Josh Freeman and Sebastian Vollmer or, trading up to #5, Michael Crabtree.

Also, Cassel was very much thought of as a potential franchise passer in free agency last year. He was coming off a season in which he played very well for the Patriots, and did so in relief of an injured starter (a tougher proposition). My opinion of him, then as now, is relatively low (When I say Sanchez' ceiling is Matt Hasselbeck, Cassel's is more like Mark Brunell). But people who saw more tape and know more about football disagreed, Scott Pioli for one.

And, as stated above, the question is not Matt Cassel vs. Mark Sanchez. It's Matt Cassel and Michael Crabtree vs. Mark Sanchez.

83
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 7:18pm

1. Matt Cassel was never in free agency. He was franchised and traded for a 2nd.

2. "Cassel was very much thought of as a potential franchise passer in free agency last year." Only by idiots who look at nothing but a score sheet. 60% of his yardage was YAC. He had and has low arm strength, abysmal downfield accuracy and absolutely no pocket awareness.

3. Scott Pioli is a fraud. Look at his draft last year. High picks in every round and the best player he got was a kicker. In his last four drafts the best players are in order a top 10 linebacker, a so-so 1st round safety, kicker and kicker.

You have your opinion on Sanchez. Whatever.

70
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 12:44pm

Yeah, I liked the "18" comment.

I think people missed my point about trading up for Sanchez. I don't think he'll never be a good NFL quarterback (although I think his ceiling is probably Matt Hasselbeck). And if he is, then the Jets may someday be glad they traded up for him. But that isn't why they blew it. The reason trading up was such an awful idea is that at #5, they're paying this guy loads of money, when he's not really any better, or any more likely to get better, than three or four other quarterbacks that have cycled through their roster in recent years.

From an expected value perspective, trading into the top 5 to get a player is almost always a bad move. Obviously, if you get Peyton Manning (or even Eli Manning) you've done a good thing. But most of the time you don't. At least 50% of top QB prospects bust (and I think Sanchez is less likely to completely bust than most, but that's just me; I also think he's less likely than Stafford or Cutler to ever wear a yellow jacket).

After that rookie season, I don't think there's any reason to be -more- confident in Sanchez' future than there was the day he was drafted. Maybe not less, either; but given what the Jets gave up, if I was Rex Ryan I'd rather be giving Matt Cassel (for about the same money) or Josh Freeman (who was available at pick 17, the Jets original choice) a chance.

I stand by the Schaub statement. He's a franchise quarterback who will keep the Texans competitive for ten years; we don't know that about Sanchez yet.

10
by Ghost In The Shell (not verified) :: Wed, 04/07/2010 - 8:10pm

Aren't you forgetting about someone in that secondary?

22
by God (not verified) :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 1:23pm

Correct me if I'm wrong -but I think Sanchez took the team to within 1 game of the Superbowl, in his rookie year. Could have done a lot worse, right?

Seems to me the biggest need for the Jets is a pass rusher. Ryan implemented a lot of creative blitz / pressure packages to compensate for the lack of pass rusher - they just don't have any speed rusher - not since John Abraham left ... so seems to me they need another Mark Gastineau ! They need a defensive end that can sack the QB.
Their secondary is ok.
Their pass rushing defensive line man is non-existent.

23
by chemical burn :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 1:32pm

Sanchez "took" his team to within 1 game of the Superbowl, the way Trent Dilfer "took" the Ravens to a SB win or Brad Johnson "took" the Bucs to their win.

I personally like Sanchez and think he has a lot of upside... but, man, there were games with him last year when it was grisly...

30
by Sophandros :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 3:59pm

there were games last year that he flat out lost for them.

-------------
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

35
by Bobman :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 4:14pm

My impression as a distant observer is that Chez had a bifurcated season much like Matt Cassell for the Pats in 2008. For Cassell it was sacks in the first half--averaging about four per game, but only approx 1.5 per game in the second half. For Chez it was ball security. If you expand either of their second half seasons to a full 16 games, you have something to not sneeze at. (Clearly the Chiefs thought so.)

Peyton Manning had similar issues in his 3-13 rookie campaign--about 75% of his INTs were in the first 8 games, but he started putting it together as the season progressed, especially as he saw teams for the second time. NFL rookie records at the time for yardage, TDs... AND INTs. But he's managed to scrape together a respectable career since then.

I haven't looked into Chez's whole season in depth, but as a Colts fan I was sorely disappointed in Chez's late season play when I was expecting the Keystone Kops and instead saw somebody who... made good decisions. (damn him)

I'd predict no soph slump.

42
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 6:01pm

But sanchez is just a winner like big ben. Oh wait, a winner at quarterback is the most overly used football cliche. Everyone that says ben or eli is better than rivers must also think that sanchez is a good quarterback otherwise they are being hypocritical. Unless of course, u want to "feel" like big ben is a better player based on personal preference and rooting interest.

54
by AnonymousMe (not verified) :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 9:10am

"Everyone that says ben or eli is better than rivers must also think that sanchez is a good quarterback otherwise they are being hypocritical."

Or maybe they could look at Rivers' and Ben's regular season stats which are similar and recognize that one of them performs well in the playoffs and one chokes year after year (more INT than TD). I'll let you guess which is which.

60
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 3:36pm

big ben and rivers regular season stats are no where near similar.

2009 rivers first in dvoa third in dyar
2008 rivers second in dvoa third in dyar
2007 rivers rivers 20 in dvoa 16 in dyar
2006 rivers rivers 7th in dvoa 6th in dyar

2009 ben 8th in both dvoa and dyar
2008 ben 27th in dvoa 23rd in dyar
2007 ben 13th in dvoa 11th in dyar
2006 ben 15th in dvoa 11th in dyar

if you use advanced statistics as a better indicator than normal statistics These two players arent similar. Rivers has only dipped into the big ben zone once in his career and thats when he had a down year. I would be extremely disappointed if rivers ever had a similar year to big ben ever again. There are 4 elite quarterbacks and a couple upside guys that can make it in the next couple years. Big ben is no where near that zone even after having an up year.

the elite 4 are manning brady rivers and brees (not including favre cause he wont play long enough from now to validate whether hes elite or not)
the upside guys are guys like schaub matt ryan aaron rodgers tony romo jamarcus rus....

64
by t.d. :: Sat, 04/10/2010 - 3:02pm

Roethlisberger has been better than Rivers to this point in their careers. Being good enough to start for an elite team right away is in itself valuable, and he has had to play his entire career with less than stellar surrounding talent.

65
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Sat, 04/10/2010 - 3:21pm

thats extremely misleading. Roethlisberger has had a better defense "surrounding talent." Defense is almost half of what makes a team elite. Isnt defense considered 3 parts, offense 3 parts and special teams 1 part? If pittsburgh always has an elite defense (something the quarterback has no power over) then one can make the point that he has been surrounded with elite talent. He also had to beat out tommy maddox for the starting job so to say that he was able to start for an elite team says something is also fallacy. He didnt have much competition. And touching up on surrounding talent.... the steelers have had better wide receivers than the chargers during this span. Vincent has busted out the last two years in a similar fashion to santonio holmes and that is ignoring that hines ward has been the best out of those guys. Gates is the wild card and while he does make it so rivers has had better offensive surrounding talent its not by such an outrageous margin as you would think. Offensive lines are difficult to judge but according to ALY they have both had a better offensive line 3 times in the span since 2004. Less than decisive but definately similar.

Roethlisberger has had better receivers than rivers since 2004
Rivers has gates
Offensive lines are similar
Pittsburgh has better defense than chargers since 2004

Roethlisberger has actually had better surrounding talent than rivers this far in their career, of course his team is going to have performed better. Roethlisberger still hasnt been better than rivers this point in their careers and has 1 stat to back it up..... championships.... a reflection of how good the whole team is. Its misleading to say roethlisberger has been better so far in their careers because quite frankly its not even very close. No numbers support this.

67
by t.d. :: Sat, 04/10/2010 - 7:18pm

Rivers is good. He hasn't yet proved his team was right in dumping his predecessor, who had already demonstrated the team was loaded with offensive talent.

68
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Sun, 04/11/2010 - 11:02pm

brees didnt demonstrate they were loaded with offensive talent. Off the top of your head can u name 1 receiver brees demonstrated was offensive talent? I doubt you came up with keenan mccardell or eric parker and even if you did Rivers isnt throwing to those guys anymore. Rivers is doing more in san diego than drew brees ever did.

71
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 12:48pm

What?

The Chargers have had more offensive talent than anyone in the league (except possibly New England) since a couple of years before Brees left, and it's improved almost every year unless you count the decline of Tomlinson. And as for receivers Brees made stars in San Diego, Antonio Gates is calling.

Roethlisberger has made due with the corpse of Hines Ward, the talented but inconsistent Holmes, the perfectly serviceable but no more Heath Miller, and a revolving door of journeymen and rookies. And he has one of the worst offensive lines in football.

That said, I completely agree about the defenses, I still just don't get your Rivers hard on.

78
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 4:11pm

the offensive talent is a runningback and a tight end. The reason LT isnt doing as good with rivers is because now he is old and no longer good. Gates just had the best dyar season ever by a tight end. Who are the other offensive talent players that brees demonstrated were good? Keenan mccardell? Eric parker? David boston? Holmes and Ward have been better than the san diego receivers for years and it hasnt been close at all. Even if you include tight ends with receivers, its hard to argue for gates/mccardell/parker over heath/ward/holmes. My point is that not only has pittsburgh had good talent on offense with ben, but they have had BETTER offensive talent than san diego during his tenure. This is the real reason why no one thinks ben will be great going forward. His numbers werent great recently and this last year was a fluke. It will be interesting to see how far ben falls without holmes in that offense.

46
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 7:32pm

Sanchez had the best post-season run by a rookie quarterback, statistically, in history.

Digest that before you break out the reflexive Dilfer insults.

Rookie QB's struggle. They struggle to adjust to the league when they came in. They struggle to adjust when the league has a tape on them. They struggle when they face good teams, especially in the postseason. I don't know why all of a sudden this high standard comes in.

Rookie failures are not news. The only negatives you can realistically take seriously are flaws that are unlikely to be correctable with more coaching and maturity. So far Sanchez hasn't shown any.

48
by Nathan :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 11:54pm

but... but... he ate a hotdog! ON THE SIDELINE!

51
by rk (not verified) :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 12:07am

"Sanchez had the best post-season run by a rookie quarterback, statistically, in history"

That's not saying all that much, really. It's 3 games, and he was terrible in one of them.

58
by chemical burn :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 11:18am

Hey - I like Sanchez and think he'll be good - but to say he was a strength of the team last year really is pretty close to crazy. He played well in the playoffs - I watched the games he was pretty far from "brilliant" - solid, clearly a lot of potential, will be the Jets QB for some time to come... but he wasn't Brady in 2007 or something like that... FO's numbers have the Jets with the #11 rush offense and at a dire #28 in passing - Sanchez clearly was the weak spot for almost the whole year...

52
by DeltaWhiskey :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 2:30am

"Correct me if I'm wrong"

Omniscient my a**.

24
by Dice :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 1:59pm

Sanchez played some decent games, and he played some terrible ones too. I think his upside is higher than say, Flacco's, but he's not at the level yet where he's winning games in the last few minutes. He was (rightly) protected as much as the Jets could protect him, with defense and a running game.

As for the AFCE team I do like, I'm interested in seeing what Gailey and company do. They do have a few solid young players, but most of the roster on offense needs an overhaul. BPA every single round isn't a plan, but it could only help them...I'd love for the Bills to be restored to their glory days in the 80s/90s, when they were fun to watch.

28
by God (not verified) :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 3:21pm

Sanchez "took" the Jets to the AFC championship game.

Romo "took" the Cowboys out of it.

I will gladly side with Dilfer, Johnson & Sanchez ... all things considered.

34
by JonC :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 4:13pm

The Cowboys are in the AFC? :)
The point is that you are not actually talking about QB play, you are talking about all-world defensive play. Sanchez, unlike Dilfer or Johnson, was *barely* good enough not to tank a team with a significantly better defense than even the #2 defense. So fine, if you'd rather have a team with great defense and marginal-to-bad qb play, you're entitled to your preference.

36
by BJR :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 4:19pm

Hmmmm.....

41
by Biebs (not verified) :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 5:07pm

By no means did Sanchez lead the Jets to anything last season, but the truth is, I don't think it mattered that much in the end. The Jets wouldn't have gotten any further with an average QB last season. Maybe they would have won the division, but they wouldn't have had a bye, and Sanchez was not the reason they lost to the Colts in the AFC Championship game.

God help the Jets if he has a "Sophmore Slump", but I have to believe that he will improve on his "disaster" games from last season, which will be an improvement. The Jets are very thin at DL, LB, and OL. They have been quite lucky to not have OL injuries, because I don't think there's anyone of quality behind their starting 5.

43
by are-tee :: Thu, 04/08/2010 - 7:16pm

I actually think Sanchez' play was a factor in the playoff victories over the Bengals and the Chargers, and in establishing the first half lead over the Colts (which the defense then blew).

I'm not sure the Jets' OL backups(Hunter, Turner, Slauson) are any worse than those of other teams. I honestly couldn't name one "quality backup O-lineman" for any other team. Not saying there aren't any, I just don't know who they are.

72
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 12:50pm

If the Jets hadn't traded up for Sanchez their second round selection could have been Sebastian Vollmer. Just saying.

75
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 3:13pm

Let's see, a potential franchise quarterback or a project right tackle/OLine depth? Hard choice.

76
by Nathan :: Tue, 04/13/2010 - 3:30pm

Going into the draft Vollmer was considered a project. After year 1 it's pretty clear the guy is going to be an absolute beast and will soon be the best player on the Pats O-Line, if he isn't already. By the end of the year he was starting at RT.

53
by Sean McCormick :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 9:09am

Sanchez had a funny year. He was dominant in week one against Houston, making multiple third-down conversions that a veteran quarterback would have struggled to make. His play slid down from that point, though it was covered up by a few highlight plays and the fact that the team was winning. Then he threw in three of the worst games a QB could play in the middle of the season, sprinkled in with a very good showing on national television against Miami. The game plans got very protective as the year went along, so that by the end of the season, the team was clearly working around their problem at quarterback.

Then the playoffs came and Sanchez was brilliant in all three games. (Yes, he was terrific against the Colts, even if the final numbers don't scream it out--he repeatedly made accurate throw after accurate throw while under real duress, and he was able to consistently throw the ball away in jailbreak situations where most QBs would have been sacked.) He had the best playoff run of any rookie quarterback I've seen, and the things he does well- drop back and set up quickly, move well within the pocket, throw on the move-are all qualities that will serve him very well. I think he's going to be a very good player, myself. (As will Chad Henne, for that matter. Buffalo needs to do something at QB, or they are going to find themselves in trouble in their division for a long time.)

55
by Led :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 10:17am

Henne is impressive. If the Dolphins had NFL-quality receivers, they would be very, very tough.

56
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 10:52am

The most worrisome problem Henne has shown so far is his tendency to take a ton of sacks, which doesn't look easily correctable. He started a lot of games in college and was below average in that area. Two years of pro coaching hasn't improved it much if at all. At least he doesn't turn the ball over frequently on long sacks like Grossman, so he'll get a longer leash to work on it. But he's not getting any nimbler.

59
by johonny (not verified) :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 11:25am

I'd like to see Henne get a lot better in the short passes. In today's NFL you need to hit those passes. I though Hartline really showed ability last season. Dolphins have a bunch of receivers all entering the "breakout" years of receivers, that however doesn't mean anyone of them will actually breakout and be a clear go to receiver.

61
by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Fri, 04/09/2010 - 6:36pm

I really think thee jets are going to miss the playoffs but not by much. maybe a 9-7 type year but it would still be considered a disappointment. is this the concensus on them?