This is the fourth of this season's articles on newyorkjets.com about the draft and free agency from the independent personnel analysts at Real Football Services.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on newyorkjets.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the New York Jets organization, front office staff, coaches and executives.
As we've mentioned in our earlier articles this month, the Jets have their fair share of holes to fill, and if you canvass the population of Jets fans, most would likely include quarterback among the team's most pressing needs. So we decided to take a look at the position and the options to see how the Jets might best address what many consider to be the most important position on the field.
The Sanchez Situation
The first part of any position evaluation is to consider the players already on the roster. For the Jets, that discussion begins with incumbent starter Mark Sanchez. Head coach Rex Ryan, always a staunch supporter of Sanchez, has been less so this offseason and offered that his QB will have to play better and will be tested by open competition. Fair enough. You can't turn the ball over a league-leading 26 times and assume your position is secure.
We won't make excuses for Sanchez, but consider what he had to work with in 2012 compared to his first two seasons with the team, when he was good enough to lead the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances.
Let's talk about receiving weapons. Dustin Keller, Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson combined for 390 receptions in 2009-10. In 2011, Keller, Holmes, LT and Plaxico Burress put together 203 catches.
Last season Keller and Holmes were the only names left from that group and they caught just 48 passes in total. Jeff Cumberland, Chaz Schilens, Stephen Hill and Shonn Greene (19) each had fewer than 30 receptions on the year. Jeremy Kerley stepped up with 56 catches, but no Jets fan out there can honestly tell us they saw him as a No. 1 starting receiver heading into the campaign.
How about the running game? In 2012 neither Greene nor Bilal Powell managed to average 4.0 yards per carry (both were at 3.9), and Tim Tebow gained just 3.2 yards on 32 attempts. From 2009-11 the Jets had at least two backs (with a minimum of 100 carries) who averaged over 4.0 yards per carry. Though Tennessee has chosen to take a chance on Greene, neither he nor Powell proved able to carry the running game, which also points to the team's issues along the offensive line, where we feel the Jets need at least two new starters.
So while many will focus on the "butt fumble" and choose to lay the burden of a moribund offense on Sanchez's shoulders, we will speak on his behalf and say, "How 'bout a little help?"
That help may come partially in the form of new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who will implement his West Coast offense with an emphasis on the run game. The timing, footwork and shorter routes that are part of the system will help Sanchez in terms of completion percentage and decision-making and will allow him to use his athleticism.
"He's played some awfully good games," Mornhinweg has said of Sanchez. "He's proven that he can play at a winning level, at a high level. He's proven that he can make all the throws. So now his challenge and our challenge is playing at that level on a much more consistent basis."
The Other Arms on the Roster
But Mornhinweg echoes Ryan's sentiments on having an open competition at the position. So the team brought in veteran free agent David Garrard, while Greg McElroy, who started in Sanchez's place at the end of last season, as well as Tim Tebow and Matt Simms are still on the roster.
But let's look into those options. Garrard has a strong arm and good feet, and has experience on his side. However, he's 35 years old and hasn't played since 2010, when he was sidelined with a back injury and sent packing by the Jaguars before the start of the '11 season in favor of Blaine Gabbert. He doesn't turn the ball over a lot, a positive for the Jets, but his sense of timing has been questioned in the past and he will take sacks.
McElroy could compete in the new system. He's smart, capable of making the proper reads, can be elusive in the pocket, and is accurate on short to intermediate throws. He has not always shown ideal arm strength, which could present a challenge when it comes to fitting balls in tight windows in this offense. Simms is smart and a student of the game, and has a fairly strong arm, but lacks experience to compete right away in a West Coast-type system. Tebow has a unique skill set and unparalleled athleticism for the position that could be valuable on some level, but his shortcomings in technique and footwork are issues, if he even remains on the roster, which seems unlikely at this point.
Free Agents Options
How about the other free agents still available? Kevin Kolb has been mentioned, and though he has recent starting experience and knows Mornhinweg's system, he didn't fare well enough in Philly to keep the starting job there, and if Mornhinweg really thought he was the guy to move forward with, wouldn't that have happened by now? Wouldn't he have been signed instead of Garrard?
Jason Campbell is another possibility, but despite being a strong-armed athlete with good accuracy (when given time), he hasn't been a full-time starter since 2009 and couldn't win starting jobs outright in Oakland or Chicago.
The rest of the group includes names like Brian Hoyer, Tyler Thigpen, Byron Leftwich, Kellen Clemens, Josh and Luke McCown, and Brady Quinn. I know people are down on Sanchez, but those aren't QBs who are going to bring much new to the table in a QB competition.
The Young Guns of April
So, finally, we get to the draft, one that has been tabbed as unimpressive when it comes to QB talent. West Virginia's Geno Smith has ideal NFL size, mobility and arm strength and has displayed good accuracy. USC's Matt Barkley is accurate, mobile, has a better arm than most realize, and is incredibly smart and poised with extensive playing experience, something Sanchez did not enter the league with. The question for the Jets is whether either is worth a top-10 pick, or if they will even get a chance to consider either QB, with Jacksonville, Oakland, Philadelphia, Arizona and Buffalo all potentially looking for a QB at the top of Round 1.
In Round 2, Ryan Nassib of Syracuse could be an option for the Jets, who were reported to have sent Mornhinweg to the passer's pro day workout. He's tough, smart and accurate, particularly on the run, and scouts praise his mechanics. FSU's EJ Manuel is a big, strong, athletic kid, but there are questions about his ability to handle the mental part of the game at the next level.
Tyler Wilson of Arkansas is tough and strong-armed, but can rely on those strengths too often at the expense of his mechanics. He also doesn't possess ideal height and has a bit of an injury history. Finally, NC State's Mike Glennon has a very strong arm and an understanding of the game, but his mechanics and footwork make him a project, especially in a West Coast system.
Real's Bottom Line
So what are the Jets' best options? In our opinion, Mark Sanchez, with coaching, a running game and some receiving weapons, could bring a better result than any of these other players, certainly in the short term. That may be the best approach until the right prospect appears in the coming drafts.