J-E-T-S... is this really necessary? While
yours' truly detests the Gang Green franchise, especially that chant, who believe's the Jets have a legitimate shot of making it back to the promised
land, somewhere they didn't visit in last season's 6-win debacle. In 2004, though, they'll have starting QB Chad Pennington right from the beginning,
unlike last year, when he broke his wrist and missed the first seven weeks of the season (The Jets were 2-4 during that stretch). Furthermore, the
Jets will have returning WRs Wayne Chrebet and Santana Moss, who endured a break-out performance in 2003 with 74 catches and 10 touchdowns, as well as
WR Justin McCareins, acquired for a 2nd-round draft pick from the Titans.
RB Curtis Martin will also be back, of course, as he looks to add an amazing tenth-straight 1,000-yard rushing season to his resume. His current
nine-year streak is already an NFL record. The biggest problem the Jets had last year was their defense against the run, and made some minor
improvements to that unit by adding CB David Barrett, SS Reggie Tongue, and LB Eric Barton. It's all up to Chad, though. Stay healthy, retain your
2002-form, and you're going to the playoffs.
While most of the attention in the Big Apple is
on Eli Manning, Kurt Warner, and the new-look New York Giants, the other team that calls the Meadowlands home is conspiring to steal the spotlight.
The New York Jets, coming off their first losing season since 1996, are quietly formulating a plan to put themselves back among the NFL elite.
Quarterback Chad Pennington, who two years ago was one of the league's top signal-callers, is back and fully healthy. His best receiver, Santana Moss,
comes off a breakthrough season and will be joined by another pass-catching talent in Justin McCareins. The running game, led by the ageless Curtis
Martin, doesn't look to be slowing down, and the offensive line got better in a hurry when it signed Cardinals castoff Pete Kendall. The defense will
be in the trusted hands of coordinator Donnie Henderson, who formerly worked wonders with the secondary of the Baltimore Ravens. There are several
concerns for Herman Edwards' team, with depth and the defense's ability to grasp a new scheme chief among them. But even if the Jets don't realize
their postseason goals, the club should be able to prove the Eli vs. Kurt-obsessed public of one fact: the best team playing in Giants Stadium isn't
For the Jets to be successful this year, it is imperative that Pennington remain relatively injury free. He is one of the game's up-and-coming stars
at the position, but if he were to miss significant time again this year, it would be disastrous for the Jets chances to be competitive. Over the past
two seasons, the Jets are just 3-8 without Pennington in the lineup, and with virtually no experience on the bench, they might be hard pressed to
match those feeble numbers if their No. 1 guy isn't available.
During the off-season, the Jets brought in
former Titan Justin McCareins to start opposite Santana Moss. McCareins will have to adjust to moving from the slot to the outside, but he gives
Pennington a big-play threat with his ability to stretch a defense. Having another legitimate weapon in the lineup will take a lot of pressure off
Moss, who should thrive in the No. 2 role. He lacks size, but he is very elusive and is good at racking up yards after the catch. Veteran Wayne
Chrebet will play the slot in three-receiver sets, and while he is nearing the end of his career, he still plays with intensity and isn't afraid to
take a hit. Rookie Jericho Cotchery, who was drafted in the fourth round of this year's NFL Draft, and youngster Jonathon Carter will fill the fourth
and fifth receiver roles. Anthony Becht is a decent receiving and blocking tight end, but he lacks the speed to stretch the middle of the defense.
Backup Chris Baker is a hard worker, but he lacks size and discipline in his route running. Overall, the receiving corps is solid, but depth is a
major concern. One injury could have a devastating effect.
The Jets aren't necessarily weak in any area
outside of the secondary, but that doesn't mean they'll have a strong year. Edwards' team has some of the worst depth in the league at quarterback,
running back, and on both lines, and could be a couple of injuries away from having their season spiral out of control. It's a wonder they didn't
learn their lesson when Pennington went down in 2003. If the Jets stay mostly injury-free, they'll have a chance to challenge Buffalo for the No. 2
spot in the AFC East, and could even be a major player in the hunt for a Wild Card berth. But staying injury-free in the rugged NFL is an extremely
risky proposition, which is why the Jets will probably crash after a seven- or eight- win 2004 campaign.
[Edited on 13/9/04 by TRD]