Just days away from the commencement of the Jets' 2009 training camp, newyorkjets.com is taking a look at the "25 Hot Topics" before the hitting begins. Today the countdown starts at No. 25 and works its way down to No. 11 ...
25. Who will be the Jets punter?
Vet Reggie Hodges, who averaged 42.8 yards on his 44 punts, returns but he'll be challenged by rookie T.J. Conley. A quarterback at Idaho through his junior year, Conley's 47.4-yard gross average for the Vandals last season was the best for all levels of college football the past four years.
24. Will Danny Woodhead make the Jets' roster?
Most people would have thought Woodhead's chances were dim when the Jets drafted Shonn Greene, but he had an excellent spring and the football staff is high on the former Division II star.
"You take a guy like Danny Woodhead, coming back from his ACL injury. I don't think he lost any of his short-area quickness or his explosiveness," said GM Mike Tannenbaum. "In fact, I think he looks a little bit quicker or more explosive, so we'll see how the summer goes when we put pads on."
23. Who is going to be the Jets' nickel corner?
Donald Strickland, a seventh-year pro, played with the 49ers the past three seasons and collected two interceptions and 15 passes defensed over that time period. The Jets also have other options, including Drew Coleman, one of the fastest players on the club, and Dwight Lowery, who tied for the team lead as a rookie with an impressive five forced fumbles.
22. The Jets will feature two new starters in the secondary after acquiring CB Lito Sheppard in a trade and then signing S Jim Leonhard in free agency. Is Lito ready for a career revival and will Leonhard continue to bloom with more opportunity?
Sheppard, a two-time Pro Bowler, has 18 career interceptions and is on a mission to prove he still is an elite DB. Leonhard, who made a career-high 13 starts with Ryan in B-More in '08, knows this defense inside and out, and don't underrate his athleticism.
"I'm excited to play in this secondary. There is definitely no lack of talent," Leonhard said. "We have all the pieces we need. I found out the cards kind of have to fall the right way to have a successful season, but I feel as long as we stay healthy and keep pushing and growing as a unit in the secondary, I think we can be very successful this year."
21. Will Darrelle Revis get recognized as the top corner in the NFL?
Not to play favorites here, but Revis is simply the best cornerback in football. The 5'11", 194-pounder, is physical, fast and just a man amongst boys. I can't wait to see him and T.O. go at it twice this season.
20. No one will deny the Jets' talent at the defensive line position, but will the starters be able to hold up throughout the season?
Both NT Kris Jenkins, who will be 30 when the season opens in Houston and DE Shaun Ellis, one of the most accomplished D-linemen in franchise history, were slowed by injuries at the end of last season. Marques Douglas, another former Raven, is 32 and is projected to start along the three-man front.
19. How will the offensive playcalling change now that coordinator Brian Schottenheimer doesn't have to alter his gameplan to accommodate Brett Favre?
Schotty, a brilliant offensive mind, had to scrap his plan last Aug. 6 when the Jets traded for Favre. With No. 4 long gone, will Schotty go back to his approach of more multiple personnel groupings and shifts?
18. Where does Shonn Greene, the hard-charging third-round pick from Iowa, fit into the running game?
The Jets surely opened some eyes when they moved up to get Greene on day two of the draft. But Ryan's offensive philosophy is "ground and pound," and Green, a 230-pounder, should give the offense an added dimension to an already talented backfield.
17. We know Leon Washington would like to get a new contract and his backfield partner, Thomas Jones, is reportedly unhappy with his deal as well. Will either of these situations have a negative impact on the club?
Not only are Washington and Jones Pro Bowlers, but both men have Pro Bowl work ethics. There is a business side to football that we all must endure, but take solace in the fact that these guys are well-liked by their teammates and are hard-working individuals.
16. Can the Jets beat the Patriots at home?
The Jets haven't done that since 2000, a 20-19 win. On Sept. 20 they'll get Tom Brady, coming off several left knee surgeries. If you want to get a "leg up" in the division, you have to protect your own turf.
15. Can the Jets get a "W" on the West Coast?
Last season the West Coast was like the Bermuda Triangle for the Green & White. Four trips and four disappearing acts, including a 16-13 OT defeat at Oakland as Sebastian Janikowski booted a 57-yarder in the extra session. The Jets get their chance at revenge in '09 on Oct. 25 at the Coliseum.
14. Expectations are sky high for the offensive line. Will they dominate as expected?
The Jets just might have the best offensive line in football. Center Nick Mangold and LG Alan Faneca are coming off Pro Bowl campaigns and it's only a matter of time before LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson joins them on the AFC all-star team. RG Brandon Moore, a tenacious run blocker, re-signed after some anxious moments, while RT Damien Woody is an underrated technician. And all of those men to get to learn under Bill Callahan, one of the best positional coaches in the NFL.
"He's really done a great job with these guys," Ryan says of Callahan. "They know what each other is going to do. They play off each other. It's an outstanding group."
13. Does S Kerry Rhodes assume an Ed Reed-type role in Rex Ryan's/Mike Pettine's defense?
At various points during his four-year pro career, Rhodes has showcased the ability to make the big play. He figures to get more chances to add to his interception and sack totals in '09. The ballhawking Reed, an amazing athlete and future Hall of Famer, was helped last season by Jimmy Leonhard in the backfield as well as the Ravens' pressure or perceived pressure as he collected nine interceptions and ran two back for scores. Perhaps nobody will benefit more from the Jets' coaching change than the rangy Rhodes.
12. Who will emerge as the blocking tight end?
Dustin Keller, 6'2", 248 pounds and a smooth runner, caught an impressive 48 balls as a rookie. Ryan would like to see Keller improve as a blocker and there is a need there because Chris Baker departed in free agency to the Patriots and veteran Bubba Franks was recently released. Kareem Brown is attempting to make the conversion from defense, undrafted rookie Jack Simmons showed promise in the spring and veteran Richard Owens (6'4", 273) recently joined the mix.
"I definitely want to prove people wrong," Keller says of the blocking challenge. "It's something I like — I like people to say I can't do something."
11. Rex Ryan is clearly the leader of this team, but who will be the captains inside the locker room?
This is a changed locker room. Brett Favre (a.k.a. The Contemplator) cast a large shadow on the Jets last year with the constant media hype that followed No. 4. But inside the room, WR Laveranues Coles, now a Bengal, and LB Eric Barton, who followed Eric Mangini to Cleveland, were both well-liked by their teammates and respected in "the Room."
In the new landscape, Bart Scott signed a lucrative contract and hasn't stopped talking since. Not only does Scott know what Ryan wants, but the inside 'backer is bright, engaging, charming and funny. Ray Lewis was always the man for the Ravens, but this might be Scott's time to make his mark.
Leon Washington, Alan Faneca, Shaun Ellis and Kerry Rhodes also held captaincy roles in '08. But don't forget about Thomas Jones — he has a lot of support and seems to be an emotional plug the Green & White can rally around.
On Tuesday, we'll conclude our "Hot Topics" by counting down the top 10. Let us know your thoughts on these issues and others on your mind as we head toward the first practice of training camp Friday morning.