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Preseason Power Rankings No. 18: New York Jets

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No one around the Jets are talking about winning the Super Bowl this offseason.

Going 8-8 and missing the playoffs can do that to a team. The Jets ended last season fighting with each other more that the opposition, leading to a coaching change on offense, Rex Ryan’s pledge to get more involved with all quarters of the team and a headline-grabbing trade for a backup quarterback/punt protector by the name of Tim Tebow.

This Jets team doesn’t look much better than the one that limped to the finish last season. There are serious questions almost everywhere you look and a lingering suspicion that the locker room hasn’t been cleansed of the toxicity of last year. Some of the same things that took them to two straight AFC titles are in place, though, and they went 8-8 with just about everything going wrong.

Same glass, two ways of looking at it. It shouldn’t take long to figure out which one is right.

Strengths.

Simplicity has been the common thread of the successful moments of Mark Sanchez’s career with the Jets. The simpler the offense has been, the more successful Sanchez has been at running it so the switch to Tony Sparano looks good on that front. It might not say much that Sanchez often looked frazzled running Brian Schottenheimer’s multiple looks, but you might as well work to what the guy does best.

All the chatter about a potential Darrelle Revis holdout has resonance because the Jets would be mightily lost without him on defense. His ability to lock down one side of the field is essential to making the entire scheme work, especially if the Jets continue to struggle to generate pass rush. If Antonio Cromartie can tighten up on the other side, the Jets will be able to take more risks up front.

As long as you exclude right tackle Wayne Hunter, the Jets are in good shape up front. Center Nick Mangold and right guard Brandon Moore are strong in both phases and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson rebounded from a bad first half of the season in 2011. They’ll all have to be very good for the Jets to pound the ball on the ground the way they’ve talked about doing this offseason.

Weaknesses.

You have to start at quarterback, don’t you? Sanchez appeared to regress at times last season and there were calls to bring in real competition for him this offseason. The Tebow trade and a contract extension for Sanchez were the answer to those calls, complicating matters all the more. Every throw of the offseason was tweeted to the world, which portends a circus on every drive this season unless Sanchez comes out of the gate on fire. It’s probably safer to bet on the circus.

It would help if the Jets had a few more skill position players capable of making things happen. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes and tight end Dustin Keller are about as exciting as things get and neither one seems particularly well suited to the kind of grinding offense Sparano’s been pitching.

We mentioned the pass rush while discussing Revis, but the need for it to be better is worth mentioning twice. Outside of Aaron Maybin, the Jets didn’t generate much without sending the house and their blitzing was less effective than it was in Ryan’s first two years. The hope is that first-round pick Quinton Coples and 2010 first-rounder Muhammed Wilkerson will bring more heat from defensive end while different looks lead to mismatches.

 Changes.

It’s fitting that the biggest change for the Jets this offseason is one that they’ve talked about without yet putting into action. The locker room meltdowns last season led to promises of a more hands-on approach from Ryan and the elimination of captains in favor of more diffuse leadership on the team. The idea that talent wasn’t a huge part of the reason for the Jets’ slide is silly, but that doesn’t mean more accountability is a bad idea.

Second-round pick Stephen Hill has the potential to be a deep threat in an NFL offense, but it is unclear if the Jets offense will be able to make use of his skills this season. Their wide receivers are short on athleticism, though, so Hill will get plenty of chances to fill that role in the coming season.

The Jets reshuffled their safeties, adding Yeremiah Bell and LeRon Landry while saying goodbye to Brodney Pool and probably Jim Leonhard as well. That can be an upgrade if Landry is healthy, but that’s a big if for a player with his injury history. Even if Landry isn’t 100 percent, it will be hard for the safety play to be much worse than it was last season.

Camp Battles.

The biggest battle will be for everyone watching the Jets during camp to resist the notion that there’s a full-blown quarterback controversy. The Jets have said that Tebow’s not an option to start, but they consistently hedge those statements by saying it remains to be seen exactly what role Tebow will play on the team.

It would be nice if the Jets had a running back to push Shonn Greene, but Joe McKnight isn’t suited to the task and Bilal Powell has almost no experience. It’s not unthinkable the Jets could add a veteran during camp, especially if Greene looks as sluggish as he did last season.

Bart Scott will start alongside David Harris at inside linebacker, although his ultimate playing time will have something to do with rookie Demario Davis. The third-round pick is better suited to pass coverage and if he is able to handle more of the job, he could move Scott into the background sooner than expected.

Prospects.

The Jets are hoping to pare things back so that they can win with defense and a grinding offense that is effective enough to overcome deficiencies at skill positions. It worked out well for them in Ryan’s first two years, although even those teams had more dynamism on offense. It’s their only chance at winning, though, so that’s the path the Jets will be traveling.

There are so many things that can go wrong for the Jets this season, from dysfunction in the locker room to Landry getting hurt to the lack of a consistent edge rusher, that it is hard to feel too bullish about their chances of pulling it off. It doesn’t help that there’s so much uncertainty at quarterback and early struggles for Sanchez will send the team directly into a full-blown quarterback controversy.

We should know what we’re getting from the Jets pretty early in the season. Four of the first six games are at home, providing some comfort amid early matchups with the Steelers, 49ers, Texans and Patriots that will test the offense’s ability to move the ball well enough to win games. If the Jets don’t handle the early stretch, the second half will almost certainly be full of questions about how much longer Ryan will be in charge.

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Report: Donovan McNabb was arrested for DUI, spent one day in jail

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Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb was arrested for driving under the influence in January, agreed to a plea deal and has already served his sentence of one day in jail, according to TMZ.

Although the arrest is months old, it went unreported until McNabb’s mug shot was released today.

There are still no details about exactly what McNabb’s plea was, and no explanation about why the arrest took so long to become public.

McNabb did not address the matter on his NBC Sports Radio show today.

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Report: Pitt quarterback Tom Savage invited to Draft

Tom Savage, Ufomba Kamalu AP

As the NFL Draft creeps ever so slowly closer, you’ll hear lots of talk about “late-risers.”

Usually, they’re more cases of the media catching up with what teams have thought all along. Regardless, one of this year’s hot names of the last few weeks is quarterback Tom Savage.

According to Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the former Pitt passer has been invited to New York for the draft, but hasn’t decided whether he’ll attend.

That goes along with reports that there are more teams wanting to talk to him than he has time to talk to, and it’s becoming clear that Savage’s stock is higher than many anticipated.

He has the size and the arm strength teams covet, which could lead him into the late-first, early-second round neighborhood.

Which side of that line he’s on, and how much he likes sitting around a green room, could ultimately influence his choice to attend the proceedings.

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Ravens visited with C.J. Mosley, Jimmie Ward recently

CJ Mosley AP

Rolando McClain wasn’t the only former Alabama linebacker to pay the Ravens a visit this week.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Ravens had C.J. Mosley in for a pre-draft visit. For Mosley’s sake, let’s hope it went better than McClain’s attempt to restart his NFL career.

Mosley is considered the top inside linebacker prospect in this year’s draft and is expected to be a first-round pick next month. Mosley suffered a handful of injuries during his time with the Crimson Tide, but said recently that he got a clean bill of health at the combine.

The Ravens re-signed Daryl Smith this offseason and also bring back Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan and Josh Bynes at inside linebacker, but saw Jameel McClain sign with the Giants. That doesn’t make it the most pressing of needs, especially with a hole at safety next to Matt Elam.

On that front, Wilson reports that the Ravens have also met with Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward recently. Ward is coming off a foot injury, but has been able to work out this spring and is projected to be selected in the first two rounds.

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Another jam-packed PFT on NBCSN today

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Thursday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN expands back to an hour.  And we’ll be covering plenty of ground during that time.

It’s Bengals and Chargers draft preview day, and we’ve interviewed Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis and San Diego coach Mike McCoy.

Also joining the program will be Washington running back Bishop Sankey, who would be a first-round pick based on name alone.

Then there’s the poll question.  As posted below.  Please answer below.

And please tune in at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN for a full hour of the latest NFL news and analysis.

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Jaguars release four, including starter Russell Allen

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The Jaguars were among the league’s most prolific transaction-makers a year ago, and they’re doing some more business before they start adding players again before the draft.

The team announced they had released veteran linebacker Russell Allen, and waived three other players — defensive ends Will Pericak and D’Aundre Reed and wide receiver Jabin Sambrano.

Allen had started 29 games for the Jaguars the last two seasons, and 44 total in five years with the team. The former undrafted rookie from San Diego State was scheduled to make $1.975 million this year, the final year of his contract.

He was a solid enough player for them, and they don’t exactly need the cap room, so the reason for his release is a bit unclear.

UPDATE 4:24 P.M. ET: Via Mark Long of the Associated Press, the Jaguars said Allen failed his physical. He ended last season on injured reserve because of a concussion.

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Khalil Mack to visit with Falcons next week as well

Khalil Mack AP

The Falcons went into this offseason hoping to put together a defense that makes more impactful plays than the 2013 version and they’re devoting a good chunk of next week to meetings with players that might help them do that.

We’ve already seen reports that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr are headed for visits with Atlanta next week and Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com reports that the Falcons are also expected to meet with Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. That gives them a clean sweep of the top three defensive edge players in this year’s class.

The Falcons aren’t locked into going that route, however. They’ve also shown interest in the top two offensive tackles — Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews — and they can use the help in either area.

Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff made a big trade up to get wide receiver Julio Jones a few years ago and the Falcons could make another move this year if they don’t think the player they want will make it to the sixth pick. Next week’s meetings will likely help inform that decision.

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Oakland hopes to work something out with Raiders before A’s

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Raiders owner Mark Davis has repeatedly said that he wants Oakland to address the team’s stadium situation sooner rather than later, especially since the Raiders signed a one-year Band-Aid stadium lease through 2014.

Davis apparently has gotten the city’s attention.

Via SportsBusiness Daily, the Oakland A’s hope to sign a 10-year lease to remain at the outdated, sewage-ridden (at times) Coliseum.  Oakland, however, hopes to work something out with the Raiders first.

The A’s would pay little rent and would make $10 million to $12 million in improvements, including a new scoreboard and a ribbon scoreboard between the two decks.

The Raiders presumably want their own place.  Davis has called the presence of a dirt infield in the only venue shared with the local baseball team “a travesty.”

Some Raiders fans would say it’s fitting, given the franchise’s performance over the last decade.

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Joe Reitz signs RFA tender with Colts

Joe Reitz AP

The Colts start their offseason workouts on Monday, which may explain why guard Joe Reitz decided to bring his time as a restricted free agent to an end on Thursday.

The team announced that Reitz has signed the tender offer extended to him earlier this offseason. Reitz will make $1.431 million as a result.

Reitz was claimed off waivers from the Dolphins in 2010 and has played in 34 games over the last three seasons. He’s started 20 of those games, including three in 2013, but is slated for a reserve role next season with Donald Thomas expected back to full strength after last year’s injury-marred season.

With Reitz back in the fold, the Colts return most of last year’s offensive line. Center Samson Satele was cut and sometime-starter Jeff Linkenbach signed with Kansas City while Phil Costa and Lance Louis were signed to join Reitz in the mix for depth roles.

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McNabb’s arrest relates to traffic citation

McNabb Getty Images

Yes, former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb has been arrested in Arizona.  The details of the arrest remain largely vague.

Via KTAR.com, the arrest relates to a “criminal traffic” situation.  The incident apparently occurred on January 6, with an arraignment on January 15.

The list of court dates shows three different “change of plea” entries.  It’s possible there was only one change of plea, and that the hearing relating to the change of plea was postponed twice.

Trial is set for May 16, 2014.  It remains unclear what McNabb allegedly did.

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Arizona sheriff releases mugshot of Donovan McNabb

McNabb

It’s unclear why a mugshot has been taken of former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb.  But a mugshot of McNabb has indeed been taken.

The mugshot also has been released publicly by the Maricopa (Arizona) County Sheriff’s Office, with no explanation of the purpose or reason for the mugshot.

It’s rare for a law enforcement agency to release a mugshot without explaining why the mugshot was taken.  But that’s precisely what has occurred.

AZFamily.com, which has posted the mugshot on its website, says that more details are coming.  The details, frankly, already should have arrived.

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Dominique Easley says he’ll be ready for OTAs

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After his workout for NFL teams Thursday, Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley said his knee was “about 80 percent” and that he’d be ready to minicamp practices this spring.

His coach is 100 percent sure he’ll make some team very happy.

According to Jeff Barlis of ESPN.com, Easley worked out for 17 teams Thursday, showing them he was largely recovered from his second ACL tear from last September.

The fact he’s torn both ACLs will drop his draft stock, but he could still be a second-rounder. Many think his ability to rush from inside could push him even higher.

He said he’ll start seven straight days of visits to teams starting Sunday.

I felt real good out there,” Easley said. “I wanted to show them that I can move, that I still have the quickness, I still have my get-off and my tenacity in everything that I do.”

Easley has plenty of experience rehabbing, after tearing his left ACL in 2011 and then the right one last fall.

“He was very impressive,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “The [NFL scouts] all commented you could see what he does on tape in the workout. His competitive edge is one of his greatest talents.

“I think he’s got a great ceiling. . . .He would have been [a sure first-round pick]. It’s unfortunate, but his best football is ahead of him. I know one thing: Nobody is going to work harder than him to get it done. He’s got a great work ethic. He’s got a great competitive edge. All the intangibles are there.”

Imagine that. An SEC coach saying one of his star players has a good work ethic. Interesting concept.

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Johnson’s knee nothing unusual for six-year running back

Johnson AP

An intriguing slow-day skirmish has emerged regarding the status of the knee of Jets running back Chris Johnson.  Adam Schefter of ESPN has reported that the Jets have “some concerns” about the knee, and that it contains arthritis.  Johnson has said there’s no arthritis.

Here’s what we know, from a source close to the situation.

His knee is normal, for a player who has six years in the NFL at running back.  It would look no different under close scrutiny than the knee of any other running back who has spent six years in the NFL with significant use.  He has 2,014 regular-season offensive touches, an average of 335.6 per year.

Does his knee show wear and tear?  Of course it does.  Can he play on it?  Of course he can.

If the Jets had concerns, why would they have signed him?  G.M. John Idzik is conservative, thoughtful, and deliberate.  He’s not going to roll the dice with $3 million of owner Woody Johnson’s money.

“It flies in the face of common sense,” the source said.

There were, we’re told, no alarms or red flags.  While either or both knees could keep him from spending another decade in the NFL, the NFL is a year-to-year proposition.  For the coming year, the knee is good enough for Johnson to play at a high level.  Eventually, it won’t be.

But that’s no different than any other NFL running back.

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Montreal Alouettes sign Chad Johnson

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Chad Johnson will resume his football career in Canada.

The Montreal Alouettes said Thursday that Johnson had signed with their club, the CFL’s website reported. The Alouettes also tweeted a picture of Johnson ostensibly signing a contract with the team.

The 36-year-old Johnson participated in the Alouettes’ minicamp in Vero Beach, Florida before officially joining the CFL team. Johnson was out of football in 2013 after a summer stint with the Miami Dolphins in 2012.

Johnson spent more than a decade in the NFL, reaching stardom with Cincinnati (2001-2010). He also had a one-season run with New England (2011) before signing with Miami. The Dolphins released him after his arrest in connection with an altercation with his wife.

Johnson joins an Alouettes receiving corps which includes Duron Carter, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter. Ex-Jets wideout David Clowney is also on the Montreal roster.

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Chris Johnson disputes report of arthritis in knee

Knee Getty Images

Jets running back Chris Johnson had knee surgery earlier this year, but he nevertheless passed a physical on his way out the door in Tennessee and on his way in the door in New York.

Despite being healthy enough to play professional football, that could change in time.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Jets have “some concerns” about Johnson’s knee.  Schefter specifically reports that the knee has arthritis.  Which means that cartilage is either gone or disappearing.  Which means that Johnson could have chronic issues with the knee as his career continues.

Johnson disputed the report during his introductory conference call with the Jets.  Johnson said there’s no arthritis in his knee.

Either way, it hasn’t stopped the Jets from reportedly paying Johnson $3 million to sign.  Or from paying him another $1 million in salary this year.  But it could put a cap on the number of years that Johnson will be able to play, for the Jets or anyone.

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Brian Cushing sends out word that he’s cleared

Brian Cushing AP

The Texans got some good news this week that had nothing to do with the draft.

Via Dave Zangaro of CSNHouston.com, Texans linebacker Brian Cushing tweeted out word that he’s been cleared by his doctors after his latest knee injury.

Cushing’s been limited to 12 games the last two years because of knee injuries, from his 2012 ACL team to a broken fibula and torn LCL in the same knee last year.

“I’m just looking forward to playing football again,” Cushing said on SiriusXM radio. “Getting back, playing the game I love and putting forward a full 16 games.”

Losing Cushing was just one of the things that made last season leave the rails for the Texans. But after giving him a six-year $55.6 million deal with $21 million guaranteed, they need to get some return on that investment.

 

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