Pro Personnel Department Steps to the Forefront
The following is an article written by Real Football Services. They will be a frequent contributor on newyorkjets.com.
Now that the NFL draft is complete and a good majority of this year's available free agents have either re-signed with their team or moved on to new locations, what happens next? The Jets and the league's 31 other teams will spend the next two and half months tweaking their rosters and preparing for training camp and beyond.
This is the time of year when the pro personnel department steps to the forefront. All of the rookies are handed off to pro personnel, and the college scouts take a break before heading off to the National and Blesto scouting meetings later in the month to begin work on the 2007 draft. But on the pro side, scouts will still be looking for ways to improve the team before the opening of training camp.
The first part of the process is called a self scout, where the team determines its remaining areas of need. The Jets did a good job of systematically addressing their needs in free agency with some key veteran signings. They then addressed concerns on their offensive line, found a backup QB, and selected defensive players who fit their new 3-4 defensive scheme during April's draft. But still, there are holes to fill.
We mentioned the Jets efforts on the offensive line. With the selection of D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Adrian Jones moves back to his natural position at RT, giving the team two solid young cornerstone players on the line. Backing Ferguson up is nine-year veteran Anthony Clement, who has been a starter in the league for six years. Marko Cavka is second on the depth chart at RT, and though he lacks game experience, he has been around the Jets complex for two full years. Trey Teague's ability to play anywhere on the line also gives the team flexibility, especially if rookie Nick Mangold can quickly develop into a starter as expected. With Pete Kendall and Brandon Moore at the guard spots and plenty of bodies behind them, it seems the O-line is not a need area.
The same can be said for QB and RB, where Curtis Martin returns and Cedric Houston and Derrick Blaylock stand ready. The Jets probably wouldn't be opposed to making at upgrade at TE, but with receiving ends Doug Jolley and Chris Baker both returning along with Joel Dreessen, a draft choice last year, and 5th round pick Jason Pociask already in place, head coach Eric Mangini has a versatile group that can meet his needs.
That leaves wide receiver and fullback as two areas in need of upgrade on offense. The Jets starters, Laveranues Coles and Justin McCareins, are in place obviously, and Jerricho Cotchery is ready to step in for Wayne Chrebet who is expected to retire. But free agent Tim Dwight is mainly a return man and special teams contributor at this point in his career, and though the team spent a 4th-round draft choice on Brad Smith, he is a converted QB and will need time to develop. Most teams carry at least five receivers, so look for the Jets to try and find another player to bolster the numbers there.
At fullback, though B.J. Askew has patiently waited his turn behind Jerald Sowell, who is now gone to Tampa Bay, he lacks game experience and has just 21 carries and three receptions in his three seasons. The new staff will have to find out quickly if he can play and handle all of the various responsibilities the FB must carry out in the new offense. But of greater concern is the lack of depth behind Askew. The team lists only 1st-year players Luke Lawton and Mike Warren on the depth chart, meaning the Jets should be in the market for a fullback some time in the near future.
On defense, the secondary is fairly stable. The signing of Andre Dyson gives the team four solid corners along with Justin Miller, Derrick Strait, and David Barrett. They also have five young, athletic safeties who can run in starters Erik Coleman and Kerry Rhodes, backups Rashad Washington and Andre Maddox, and 3rd-round draft choice Eric Smith, who is big, physical, and strong in run support which is important in Mangini's scheme.
Where the team needs help is in the front seven. On the D-line, Kimo von Oelhoffen looks like the only sure thing to us. He is a veteran of the system who played a key role in the Steelers 3-4 defense. Shaun Ellis has played in the 3-4 before, but it was early in his career and only with limited success. Monsanto Pope has the size to play end in the 3-4, but Trevor Johnson is undersized and will struggle against bigger linemen.
The other position the Jets may be looking at in the coming months is linebacker. The truth is, your can never have enough LB's in the 3-4 scheme. The Jets are solid inside with tackling machines Jonathan Vilma and Eric Barton manning the starting spots, and should have good depth with free agent Brad Kassell and draft choice Anthony Schlegel leading a host of depth players. On the outside, Victor Hobson may lack the athleticism to play outside, and Bryan Thomas hasn't been a stand up player prior to this.
So how will the team fill these needs? They will be looking for potential starters, depth players, and future players at each of these positions. Their first order of business will be to look for "guys on the street," players who are currently unsigned for any number of reasons. In fact, there are still unrestricted free agents who have yet to sign with a team. But as the start of training camp approaches, teams like the Jets may be able to sign a veteran player for less money.
The Jets will also look towards the June 1st cut date. This is the date when teams must meet certain salary cap requirements. This usually results in teams cutting several high priced veterans who can be had for less money, some of whom can even start. With the signing of the new collective bargaining agreement this winter, teams got much needed cap relief from a significant increase in this year's cap number, and though several teams are still well over the cap, many teams are in good shape, which means there could be limited options for teams looking for players in June.
Finally, the pro scouts will be scouring opposing team rosters, looking for a surplus of players at certain positions. The Jets will be looking for teams with a large number of receivers, or two solid fullbacks and will monitor the progress of those players. Chances are that a good player may be cut or available for trade in those situations. The Jets will heavily scout teams throughout the preseason to look for players who could potentially fill a need on their roster should they come free. The Jets will take a long look at the other teams in the league who play a 3-4 defense and may release a player who could potentially step in right away in New York.
Over the course of the coming weeks, we will examine these steps in the process and discuss the Jets options. Next week, we'll take a look at who is still on the street and which of those players might fit the Jets needs.