Jets have improved, but quarterback remains an issue
After spending big on players such as Alan Faneca and Kris Jenkins, the Jets are hoping to win big in 2008, writes Pat Yasinskas.
It's now looking possible that Robertson could stick around. But that would be awkward because he'll clearly be a backup. Releasing Robertson is another option.
Trading for Jenkins and giving him a new contract that includes $11 million in guaranteed money is a bit of a gamble. But it looks as though the Jets have the odds in their favor. Early in his career, Jenkins was revered as the best defensive tackle in the league, a new breed who could stuff the running game and rush the passer.But Jenkins had injury problems that kept him out for most of 2004 and 2005. During his comeback, Jenkins admitted to problems with alcohol and his weight, and said he may have suffered from depression.
Jenkins cut way back on his alcohol consumption, tried to take better care of himself and was at least somewhat happy part of the time. But Jenkins, who can be a little moody, wasn't happy that Carolina wasn't stepping up to give him a new contract. He tried to force his way out with a trade last year because he had grown disillusioned with certain members of the coaching staff for using politics to decide who got playing time.Jenkins, as bright and candid a player as there is in the league, stood out like a sore thumb in a Carolina system that coach John Fox demands all his players (except for receiver Steve Smith) be robotic choirboys. Jenkins, who has some tastes that weren't popular in the Bible belt, was so anxious for a change of scenery that he put his suburban mansion on the market a year ago and moved into an apartment downtown so he could feel like he was in a city. When Jenkins learned he was going to New York, he was jubilant. That's a good start because a happy and focused Jenkins can be a dominant force and a Pro Bowler. Jenkins has even said he plans to take part in voluntary workouts, something he avoided in Carolina, which no doubt added to his weight problem. If Jenkins can keep his weight in the 350-360 range, he can be the player he once was and this move could be brilliant. But that's not the only move the Jets made to spice up their defense. They spent another fortune on Pace. Drafted in the first round by Arizona (2003) as a defensive end, Pace eventually moved to linebacker and it wasn't until last season that he really blossomed, recording 6½ sacks. While the Jets are hoping they can get Jenkins back to his previous form, they're betting Pace can take a step forward and become a big producer well into the future. Those two moves alone could make the defensive side of the ball respectable. But the offense might have had even more problems last season than the defense. The Jets thought they would have a decent running game last year when they brought in running back Thomas Jones. Problem was Jones was running behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL.
All that's wonderful. But the Jets haven't done anything to fix a weak spot last year. At the most important position, they still have Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens. Unless the Jets have a trade up their sleeves or pull a stunner in the draft, either Pennington or Clemens will be their quarterback next season.Pennington's arm strength and durability have been questions throughout his career. Clemens didn't show much while getting an extended audition last season. With a better offensive line and running game, the more experienced Pennington might be functional.
That might make the Jets respectable and could even get them to the playoffs. But they seemed to leave a quarterback out of that big cart they pushed through their free-agency shopping spree. They spent a fortune on everything else, but didn't come up with even a bargain-basement quarterback to add to the mix. It might have been a fun shopping trip, but it's not enough to buy a Super Bowl.
Pat Yasinskas covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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