Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weighing the Granderson Deal From All Angles

Dec. 10, 2009
By Anthony Tripicchio

Believe it or not, Curtis Granderson isn’t the only player involved in the three-way pact capable of making an instantaneous impact.

You’ve already seen my assessment of the move from the Yankees' perspective so below is a more thorough analysis of the packages received by both Detroit and Arizona:

Detroit Tigers: SP Max Scherzer, OF Austin Jackson, LHP Dan Schlereth and LHP Phil Coke

The Tigers, in an obvious payroll slashing mode, prioritized moving both Granderson and Edwin Jackson this offseason. Little did they know they would land a stud starter who is not only capable of outperforming Jackson right away, but one who is younger and inexpensive. They have to be ecstatic that they were able to pry Scherzer away from the Diamondbacks.

Scherzer, a 24-year-old fireballer, averaged more than a strikeout per inning in 30 starts in 2009. A victim of the Diamondbacks’ anemic lineup, he won just nine games despite posting a respectable 4.12 ERA. The 6-3 Scherzer throws a violent fastball in the mid 90s with a nasty slider and changeup (changeup grip pictured) to round out his arsenal.

Scherzer’s mechanics are flawed, which lead some to question his long-term durability. Assuming the Tigers are smart with him, their outstanding trio of frontline starters (Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, and Scherzer) can remain intact for many years to come.

While Scherzer is poised for a breakout season, the Tigers may need to exercise patience with center fielder Austin Jackson. The 22 year-old batted .298 with four homers and 64 RBIs this past season at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

Though he may be ready defensively, Jackson’s three to one strikeout to walk ratio suggests otherwise at the plate. Further, his lowly .404 SLG suggests it’s unrealistic to expect power at the next level right now.

If Detroit deems him ready to start the season in the majors, they will bank on him playing plus defense and hope that he can utilize his speed to generate some extra base hits at the plate.

Pitchers Dan Schlereth and Phil Coke provide the Tigers with two different types of lefties. Schlereth has a live arm and if he can harness his control, could eventually be used in the back of the bullpen.

Coke, on the other hand, has the ability to start or setup depending on Detroit’s needs. He setup for the Yankees all season and was the primary lefty up until the postseason emergence of Damaso Marte.

Arizona Diamondbacks: SP Edwin Jackson, and SP Ian Kennedy

Once a prized prospect, Edwin Jackson was an abject failure as a big league pitcher until he made strides with 14 wins in 2008 for Tampa Bay. Then the Rays stunned everyone by sending Jackson to Detroit for the unheralded Matt Joyce.

Joyce could only muster 32 unproductive at bats in Tampa Bay while he languished in the minors for most of the season. Meanwhile, Detroit reaped the benefits of Jackson’s immense progress, especially in the first half when he went 7-4 with a 2.52 ERA.

Overall, he shaved eight tenths of a run off of his ERA in 2009 to 3.62 and trimmed his WHIP to a serviceable 1.26 in the AL.

Though he slowed down considerably after the All-Star break, Jackson finally displayed the promise of a big-time starter. His second half struggles can be attributed to him surpassing the 200 innings mark for the first time in his career. Crucial to his overall success was his ability to limit his walks to 70 in 214 innings, his lowest total as a starter.

Still, it’s hard to believe Arizona would be so quick to rid themselves of Scherzer unless they believed Ian Kennedy was a legitimate pitcher for the long haul.

Kennedy, who will turn 25 in 10 days, was once mentioned in the same breath with Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. Injuries have beset the former 2006 first round pick and he was most recently sidetracked by an aneurysm.

Fortunately, Kennedy has fully recovered and pitched in Winter Ball to confirm as much. Kennedy’s stuff is not overpowering as his fastball tops out in the low 90s and he is reliant on his command to be effective.

Yankee officials have whispered that they believe Kennedy can win 12 games in the offensively challenged NL West. Afforded an opportunity to showcase his underappreciated ability, Kennedy is the linchpin of the three-way deal.

His upside is as high as a No. 2 starter. If he fails, Diamondbacks’ GM Josh Byrnes will join a crowded unemployment line.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Granderson Trade Depletes Farm, Handcuffs Halladay Talks

Dec. 9, 2009
By Anthony Tripicchio

Curtis Granderson, an All-Star center fielder acquired at the Indianapolis Winter Meetings, improves the Yankees’ 25-man roster immediately. Making him a top priority this offseason, however, was a mistake.

Two-time 20 game winner Roy Halladay is capable of swinging the balance of power in the AL by himself. Granderson, though a valuable player, is not.

A rotation of CC Sabathia, Halladay, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes would make the Yankees an indestructible force. With Halladay still available, the door is open for the Red Sox and Angels to close the gap on the champs.

While Granderson is a nice addition, he came at a price of two upper echelon prospects in Triple-A, starting pitcher Ian Kennedy and outfielder Austin Jackson. Those blue chippers could have been used in a package to land ace and division foe Halladay.

Now, if the Yankees wish to pursue Halladay, it will almost assuredly cost catcher Jesus Montero, the undisputed best prospect in their system, as a starting point. The aftermath of sacrificing Montero would leave the Yankees nearly barren of Double-A and Triple-A talent and limit trade maneuverability for several years.

Not to mention that the 20-year-old Montero hit .337 with 17 homers and 70 RBIs in an injury shortened 347 at bats last season in the minors. Montero will start the season in Triple-A and if he continues to hit at that rigorous pace, will be ready for the Big Show by the All-Star Break. He’s a rare find that GM Brian Cashman would be foolish to part with.

To be fair, Montero’s defensive abilities have been questioned by scouts and many envision him as a first baseman down the road. Mark Teixeira presents a road block there so the Yankees will continue to monitor his defensive development at catcher where he could be an offensive standout at the position.

With the future discussed, let’s move on to Granderson, the man that Cashman has made part of the present.

Granderson hit .249 with 30 homers and 71 RBIs last year for the Tigers. His .327 OBP was the lowest of his career as a full-time player. More troubling, perhaps, is his .183 average against left-handed pitching.
His paralysis against lefties is more a trend than an aberration as he’s hit just .202 against southpaws over the past three seasons. The Yankees routinely pounded lefties in 2009.

In Granderson’s defense, Comerica Park is a spacious pitcher’s park which likely transformed some of his homers into doubles and triples. The fabled right field short porch in Yankee Stadium should treat him more altruistically. Johnny Damon found the new stadium charitable last season as he hit a career high 24 homers, a fact that undoubtedly entered into Cashman’s mind as he pulled the trigger on the deal.

The Yankees would love to see Granderson duplicate his earth shattering 2007 season when he hit .302 with 23 homers and 74 RBI and tallied an astounding 84 extra-base hits. As a complementary player in New York surrounded by stars, he won’t need to produce robust numbers, but he’s proven that he has the potential to do so.

With Granderson secured at a reasonable salary for $25.75 million over three seasons, the Yankees have flexibility while they decide whether to retain Damon and World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. As it stands, the Yankees have leverage and can play Matsui against Damon in negotiations. They no longer need someone to play left field since they will shift Nick Swisher or Melky Cabrera there.

The designated hitter spot is the void in the lineup. Matsui, as a result, is more of a fit than originally perceived.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For Knicks, Iverson is Not the Answer

Nov. 17, 2009
By Anthony Tripicchio

The Answer doesn’t solve this problem.

Knicks’ President Donnie Walsh would be wise to steer clear of free agent to be and future hall of famer, Allen Iverson.

Although he is one of the most prolific scorers to ever play in the NBA, Iverson would be an impediment to the development of young building blocks. Iverson’s insistence on starting in Memphis proves he continues to be unwilling to take a deferential role in the twilight of his career.
“I’d rather retire than do this again,” said Iverson about coming off of the bench. “I can’t be effective playing this way.”

Memphis, despite an ill-advised decision to ink the four-time scoring champ in the offseason, eventually came to its senses before it was too late. Ticket sales that Iverson’s signing was supposed to attract should take a backseat to the future of the franchise. With Mike Conley and OJ Mayo in the backcourt, there was simply no place to put Iverson but the bench.

The presence of a disgruntled superstar not only creates a horrendous distraction, but sets an awful example for the rest of the team.

Though there certainly is room in the Knicks’ starting lineup this year with Chris Duhon struggling mightily at the point, Iverson conflicts with New York’s top priority on the court.

This season, the play of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Toney Douglas, and Jordan Hill is more significant to the Knicks’ franchise than wins and losses. The aforementioned four players will need to be, at the very least, complementary players after owner James Dolan throws his checkbook around during the 2010 summer free agent frenzy.

Meanwhile, Iverson serves no purpose beyond this season and the inevitable summer spending spree.

Let’s be serious. Already a woeful 1-9, the Knicks are going nowhere this year. If you are only going to circle a cul-de-sac anyway, would you rather do it with a 13-year veteran or teach someone else to drive?

Acquiring Iverson would take shots away from Gallinari and minutes from Douglas. The short- term benefit of adding a few more victories should pale in comparison to hindering the growth of the youngsters.

One advantage Iverson does have in his corner is the fact that he is represented by Leon Rose, who is also LeBron James’ agent.

While the Knicks may want to placate Rose to curry favor, Rose will not let a veterans’ minimum signing determine the destination of his ace client.

Teach the kids how to drive.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Young Arms Misfiring

Oct. 23, 2009
By Anthony Tripicchio

Phil Hughes is showing his age, or lack thereof.

The 23-year-old right-hander, who excelled in the bullpen throughout the regular season, has been shaky thus far in the postseason.

Thursday night, Hughes had an opportunity to shut the door on the Angels and send the Yankees to the World Series for the first time since 2003.

Entering to protect a 6-5 lead with two out in the bottom of the seventh and the tying run on third, Hughes promptly walked Torii Hunter. Next, against the fabled Vladamir Guerrero, Hughes missed his location on what was intended to be a high fastball and surrendered an RBI single up the middle which knotted the game at six.

When the neophyte’s work was done, the Angels held a 7-6 advantage and a date for Game 6 within their grasp.

If Hughes navigated his way through the seventh with the lead intact, there’s no doubt New York would be headed for Game 1, not Game 6.

With only six outs necessary to eliminate the Angels, it would not have been outlandish to ask the great Mariano Rivera to pitch the final two innings. At the very least, Rivera would have been available at the first sign of trouble in the eighth.

Regardless, Hughes didn’t get it done and Joba Chamberlain wasn’t much better in the eighth.

After a leadoff double, Chamberlain struck out the hot hitting Jeff Mathis. Once Erik Aybar reached on an infield single, Joe Girardi had seen enough and called on Rivera in an unconventional situation to bail out Chamberlain and keep the game close.

Of course, Rivera exited the eighth unscathed and left the Yanks with a chance to rally. Rivera continues to spoil the Yankees with an unfathomable 14 years of dominance and shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.

Mere mortals don’t ascend to greatness as quickly and the Yankees are living that unfortunate circumstance at the worst time.

Without Hughes (0-1, 5.79 ERA, 2.36 WHIP) and Chamberlain (0-0, 3.38 ERA, 2.63 WHIP) providing more than a rickety bridge to Rivera, it’s hard to see the Yankees raising a 27th championship banner in the Bronx.

The bullpen was a tremendous strength in the regular season, but except for Rivera and David Robertson, it’s looked far from impenetrable lately.

Although Robertson has been effective, this is no time to deviate from what’s been a successful formula all year. Keep him in his current role.

Hughes, quite simply, needs to pitch better.

Chamberlain, though, may be unsalvageable in 2009. He’s unsure of himself after a lost season as a starter and his performance through the rest of the playoffs is about as unpredictable as LeBron James’ 2010 intentions.

Steady the wobbly bridge and there should be a parade down the Canyon of Heroes in the near future.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hinske Omission Looms Large

Oct. 20, 2009
By Anthony Tripicchio

While the majority sentiment has focused on over-managing and the alleged Mariano Rivera spitball, it’s an entirely different issue that may have cost the Yankees a nine-inning win last night.

With two on and one out in the top of the eighth and the score tied at four, Melky Cabrera and his slumbering bat feebly approached the plate. Predictably, Cabrera struck out.

The man who should have been hitting in his place, Eric Hinske, was mistakenly left off the Yankees’ ALCS Roster.

Although there are few players in the Yankees’ everyday lineup who you would contemplate pinch hitting for (really just one), Cabrera certainly qualifies as one of them. Through six playoff games, Cabrera is now hitting just .200 with 0 RBIs and nine strikeouts in 25 at bats.

Cabrera is absolutely the Yankees’ best option in center field and should remain in the starting lineup, but the absence of a big bat off the bench is glaring, late in tight games.

Hinske, who homered seven times in only 84 at bats since his arrival to New York, could have provided a power surge necessary to give the Yankees a 3-0 stranglehold on this series.

Assuming Hinske delivered, the Yankees’ bullpen was three outs away from handing a lead to Rivera who would have been on in the ninth inning (sooner if necessary) to seal the Angels’ fate.

Instead, Cabrera meekly struck out swinging and Derek Jeter subsequently ended the inning by grounding out to Kevin Jepsen. Then the late inning histrionics ensued.

The reality is that the Yankees’ obsession with speed has adversely affected the flexibility of the bench. Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman opted to go with two burners in Brett Gardner and Freddy Guzman in addition to carrying three catchers on the roster, which led to Hinske’s ouster.

Jerry Hairston’s versatility has been overlooked. Though not the prolific base-stealer that Gardner or Guzman is, Hairston is fast enough to be an efficient pinch runner and his ability in that regard negates the need for Guzman on the roster.

Right now, the Yankees’ bench consists of Hairston, Gardner, Guzman, Jose Molina, and Francisco Cervelli. That’s a weak cast of hitters to say the least.

Hairston is the most accomplished of the bunch, but instills no fear in opposing managers as a potential pinch hitter.

If Cabrera continues to struggle offensively, the Yankees are compelled to grin and bear it due to their own miscalculation.

Meanwhile, Hinske’s Louisville Slugger remains idle in the bat rack.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Braylon Goes to the Big Apple

Oct. 7, 2009
By Anthony Tripicchio

Desperate for an offensive game breaker, the Jets finally landed one.

Braylon Edwards' arrival fills the void that was so readily apparent in the receiving corps. Now, the Jets have a legitimate threat opposite Jerricho Cotchery and someone who can divert attention from TE Dustin Keller.

Opposing safeties won’t be so quick to stack the box against Gang Green either anymore, which should do wonders for the beleaguered running game.

Mike Tannenbaum never shies away from making a big splash and should be commended for the acquisition of Edwards. The fact that he had the cap room to be able to execute a deal of this magnitude in-season without sacrificing any big pieces is testament to his shrewd ways.

LB Jason Trusnick, a valued special teams’ contributor, will be missed but as one of the principle parts required to secure a player of Edwards stature, no one can quibble with his inclusion.

Chansi Stuckey will never be anything more than a slot receiver and proved as much by routinely performing disappearing acts in games this season as a starter.

The draft picks, rumored to be a third and a fifth rounder, are wildcards.

Put it in perspective: the Jets once gave up a second round pick for Justin McCareins. Absolve Tannenbaum of all blame for that blunder as it was former GM Terry Bradway who orchestrated that masterpiece.

Make no mistake, Edwards does come with baggage. The Jets can only hope that he pays the extra fees to check it at the door. Edwards was chastised for speeding last year and recently was involved in an altercation with a member of LeBron James’ entourage at a Cleveland nightclub.

The latest mishap could have ramifications on the Jets if the league decides to impose a suspension upon Edwards. Evidently, Tannenbaum wasn’t overly concerned with that possibility.

In an effort to explain Edwards’ subpar season in 2008 and his nondescript 2009 thus far, look no further than the circumstances around him. Cleveland is one of the league’s laughingstocks and it is easy to recognize how a star could become disenchanted there.

Attribute many of his alarming number of drops last season to concentration lapses. Lapses that Tannenbaum bets will dissipate once Edwards is surrounded by a winning team for the second time in his life.

The only winning team Edwards has ever been a part of was, not coincidently, in his career year of 2007. Certainly, there is reason to believe he will flourish once more in his new digs.

Beyond providing rookie QB Mark Sanchez with another weapon, the deal opens the door for WR David Clowney to take hold of the third receiver spot. Beaten out for the No. 2 receiver spot by Stuckey, Clowney has yet to make a significant impact this year.

Both the pressure and the spotlight are off of the third-year player now as expectations have been adjusted. Clowney’s speed is an asset which has yet to be utilized outside of the preseason and for him to be known as something different than Mr. August, that will have to change.

All in all, the AFC East just got a lot more interesting.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Yanks Projected ALDS Roster

Yanks Projected ALDS Roster
Oct. 5, 2009

While the Yankees will likely procrastinate and avoid making a formal announcement until the last minute, everyone is aware they will opt for the division series format with more days off. This will allow them to use their top three starters and send everyone else to the pen against either the Twins or Tigers.

There really aren't a lot of tough decisions to make with this roster. We've heard whispers the Yankees are contemplating carrying three catchers or Freddy Guzman as another speedster off the bench. Personally, I'd prefer to take Ramiro Pena as another able body for the infield (a guy who can also run by the way). Either way, it's not easy to poke too many holes in this squad.

Pitching wise, the three starters are set. That leaves eight bullpen slots to play with by my count. Rivera, Hughes, Aceves, and Coke are givens. With Joba Chamberlain's impressive perfect inning out of the pen on Sunday afternoon coupled with the allure of him recapturing his previous dominance, he is a lock. If David Robertson is healthy, and all indications are that he is, he has a spot. Gaudin's effectiveness and ability to pitch in long relief earn him a seat. Marte is potentially useful as a second lefty so he's in. Brian Bruney, despite pitching better of late, is the odd man out.

Here's how I see it shaking out:













Thursday, July 23, 2009

Offensively Challenged: Jets Roster Weaknesses

July 24, 2009

By Anthony Tripicchio

Despite the Jets high-profile off-season acquisitions, the roster is still far from perfect.

The most glaring weaknesses exist on the offense. With the much-ballyhooed arrival of rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, some obvious deficiencies have escaped the scrutiny of the public eye.

First, the quarterback position is riddled with inexperience. Regardless of whether you anticipate Sanchez being a franchise player, he is an unproven commodity at the NFL level.
Even though he is lauded for his leadership ability, Sanchez has questionable arm strength. He has a stronger arm than Chad Pennington, but will not be confused with Jay Cutler anytime soon.

Growing pains are a package deal with the position, and the Jets will need to endure struggles from their quarterback, whether it is Sanchez or Kellen Clemens.

Clemens at least has had a sampling of starts in the league, though his performance was uneven. Granted, the offensive line was a shambles when he started eight games in 2007. It is exceedingly difficult to evaluate a quarterback when he is running for his life after every snap.

This year, if he gets an opportunity, Clemens will have adequate protection with D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Damien Woody at the tackles, and Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold, and Brandon Moore on the interior line.

An uninspiring receiving corps will not provide any government-size bailouts for the neophyte quarterbacks. Jerricho Cotchery is the only established pass catcher of the bunch.

While Cotchery is certainly serviceable, he is ideally a No. 2 receiver. On this roster, he is clearly the top option and that is cause for concern.

The supporting cast is not much better. David Clowney, Brad Smith, and Chansi Stuckey have fewer combined career receiving yards than Cotchery's 858 last year alone.

Prior to the blockbuster Sanchez trade, wide receiver was a position the Jets had targeted in the draft. Now, aside from flirting with the beleaguered Plaxico Burress, there are no immediate plans to ink a game-breaker.

Burress still faces possible jail time for the shooting incident in a Manhattan club that ended his tenure with the other New York football team. If he does end up in the big house, any fantasies of a quick fix are unrealistic.

Brett Favre's departure predictably fascinated the media, however, the loss of tight end Chris Baker garnered meager attention.

Baker, the most complete tight end on the roster, signed with New England as a free agent and joins Bill Belichick's perpetual stable of effective tight ends. Baker is being portrayed as a blocking tight end, but he is an underrated pass catcher as well.

Considering the lack of weapons in the Jets receiving corps, Baker's soft hands could have been a tremendous asset for Sanchez and Clemens. Without him, they will need a more consistent season from the highly touted Dustin Keller.

General Manager Mike Tannenbaum has failed to install a true blocking tight end behind Keller. Bubba Franks was resigned and subsequently released and a cast of unknowns will vie for the vacated spot.

The Jets anticipate that the ferocious defense they have assembled can aid in overshadowing some of the offensive deficiencies and, in order to do so, NT Kris Jenkins must sustain an All-Pro level of play all season long.

Jenkins was a monster who seemingly single-handedly shut down the run for the first half of the season. Considering the sieve the Jets defense had been against the run for years prior to last season, and the gargantuan disappointment Dewayne Robertson was, Jenkins was the most vital cog in the defense and arguably the team overall.

Nothing documents his value more than the Jets dramatic rise from 29th in rushing yards allowed per game in 2007 to 7th in 2008. As the season wore on, it was clear the rigors and demands of the 3-4 were getting to Jenkins. Keeping him fresh for the late season push will be tantamount to the Jets being a dominant defensive force throughout the year. If not for the Sanchez trade, this situation may have been addressed in the draft. Sione Pouha has yet to establish himself as the guy to do it.

They did sign former Seahawk Howard Green in mid March, who is listed at 320 pounds, but you have to be skeptical of the journeyman's impact.

Ryan will lean heavily on his three-headed running game as well with Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and Shonn Greene.

If the ground game is ineffective, it will be a long year for the Jets offense.

With the Jets Offense Grounded, Defense Must Dominate

July 24, 2009
By Anthony Tripicchio

Brett Favre failed to deliver a playoff appearance, much less a Lombardi Trophy, to New York. His cataclysmic late-season fall led to his own departure and the ouster of coach Eric Mangini.
After the crippling conclusion to a once-promising 2008 campaign, the New York Jets aim for the playoffs with a veritable host of fresh faces and, most notably, a new quarterback/coach duo.

First-year head coach Rex Ryan will need the Jets' revamped defense to live up to its lofty expectations and carry the team. The offense will undoubtedly be anemic at times due to its lack of sufficient playmakers and inexperience at the quarterback position. As a result, ball control and defense is central to the Jets 2009 philosophy.

Ryan could easily have rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez under center for the regular season opener in Houston. Inspired by Joe Flacco's 2008 success, Ryan will not be reluctant to immediately throw the former USC star into the fire.

Sanchez, assuming he wins the job, has his work cut out for him. The reliable, though declining Laveranues Coles defected to Cincinnati, leaving Jerricho Cotchery surrounded by a slew of question marks within the wide receiving corps. David Clowney, Brad Smith, and Chansi Stuckey are among the candidates to start opposite Cotchery.

If the defense is not an impenetrable force as advertised, that vast collection of unknowns at receiver could be the Jets' downfall. Clowney has game-breaking speed, but has yet to display it on the regular season stage. Smith has been used as a gadget player to this point in his career, and Stuckey is best served in the slot.

Tight end Dustin Keller will have an expanded role in his second year and is critical to the growth of the offense.

The running game, anchored by a solid offensive line, should be the offense's bread and butter. Disgruntled backs Thomas Jones and Leon Washington return amid contract disputes, while rookie Shonn Greene was added to the mix in a draft day trade.

Greene's bruising style is a perfect complement to the speedy and illusive Washington. Jones has no leverage in contract talks despite being the AFC's leading rusher last season and is expected to be in camp.

Offensively, the major concern is that opposing defenses will put eight men in the box, negating the run. The onus then would shift to Sanchez or Clemens to make plays, almost certainly leading to failure. Simply devoid of plentiful receiving weapons, the Jets are not constructed to enable the quarterback to succeed in that scenario.

Defensively, the acquisitions of Bart Scott, Lito Sheppard, Jim Leonhard, and Marques Douglas have many believing the Jets can be an elite-level defense. Though the secondary figures to be much improved, the pass rush is still somewhat of an uncertainty.

Calvin Pace was excellent in his first year, but has left the team a gaping hole at OLB in the aftermath of his four game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. Veteran defensive end Shaun Ellis is aging and had offseason legal issues. Bryan Thomas still does too many disappearing acts and has yet to put back to back good years together. Vernon Gholston, last season's first round pick, was a complete disaster recording zero sacks.

The impending return of Tom Brady elevates New England to the class of the division, yet again. Although Miami won the AFC East last year, the Dolphins should come back to earth after overachieving beyond their wildest dreams in 2008. Buffalo, riding the coattails of the hype surrounding Terrell Owens' arrival, should be around a .500 club.

If the defense is as good as advertised, and the offense doesn't bury the team in turnovers, the Jets can be the second best team in the AFC East. Securing a wild card spot should be the goal with playoff wins contingent upon the development of the quarterback position and the emergence of a second receiver behind Cotchery.

Schott Down: Jets Assistant Passed Over for Head Coaching Job

July 24, 2009
By Anthony Tripicchio

Remember that big job interview you had? You were confident and qualified; a virtual shoo-in for the position. After your meeting with the powers that be, you figured your hiring was a formality and all that what was left was the paperwork.

Then the unthinkable happened. That anticipated phone call to announce your hiring never came.

Welcome to Brian Schottenheimer's world.

Mike Tannenbaum's exhaustive search determined that Schottenheimer was not the right man for the Jets' head coaching position.

Worse yet, Schottenheimer now had to endure calls from the man who beat him for the spot, Rex Ryan. Ryan was lobbying the Jets offensive coordinator to stay in New York and come to work for him.

Though Schottenheimer and anyone else may have perceived it as a slap in the face, this situation was different. The reason being that Ryan experienced the same misfortune just one year earlier in Baltimore with John Harbaugh.

Taking the high road, Ryan put his disappointment aside and went back to work as the Ravens' defensive coordinator. One year later, he is a head coach.

Ryan and Schottenheimer's unique connection may have convinced Schottenheimer to move forward with the Jets, knowing that a head coaching opportunity is in his future.

Whatever the case may be, Schottenheimer is back on the Jets coaching staff and he is not the only key coach who was retained.

Let's take a closer at a larger list of Jets significant coaches and coordinators.

Rex Ryan-Head Coach
Ryan won the closely contested battle for the Jets head coaching job and will attempt to turn New York into Baltimore North. His 3-4 defense even acquired some notable Raven contributors in the offseason with inside linebacker Bart Scott being the grand prize.
Groomed to coach his entire life, Rex Ryan is the son of Buddy Ryan, who is renowned as one of the greatest defensive coaches in the history of the NFL. Rex Ryan spent the last 10 years in Baltimore as he helped construct a defensive juggernaut.
Jet fans are anxious to see if the unit he assembles is as impenetrable minus Ray Lewis.

Brian Schottenheimer-Offensive Coordinator
It was a disappointing offseason for Schottenheimer as we documented earlier. His regular season could be much worse. With an inexperienced quarterback and minimal weapons to utilize, points will be at a premium for the green and white in 2009.
Not to be outdone by Ryan's lineage, Schottenheimer is the son of former NFL head coach Marty Schottenheimer. He was vital to Drew Brees' development as a quarterbacks coach in San Diego and the Jets can only dream he has the same affect on Mark Sanchez.
Schottenheimer, hired as Jets offensive coordinator in 2006, enters his fourth year on the job. The Jets' ball control offense and defense could limit the attention he receives for head coaching consideration after the season.

Mike Pettine-Defensive Coordinator
Ryan dubbed his defensive coordinator selection, Mike Pettine, as his right hand man. Pettine was an outside linebackers coach for four years prior to this, his first opportunity as a coordinator in the league.
Pettine has all the tools to build a machine on the defensive end. The expectations for the defense will be high, and he could be the immediate scapegoat if the Jets hit adversity.

Mike Westhoff-Special Teams Coach
There is not much better in the business of special teams than Mike Westhoff. His accomplished reputation made him an obvious choice to remain in charge of special teams. Westhoff, like most special teams coaches, is challenged to remain productive in the return game without the aid of the recently outlawed wedge.
If anyone is creative enough to get it done, the smart money is on Westhoff to do it. Amidst his nine-year tenure with the Jets, five different return men have returned at least one kick for a touchdown.

Different Faces, Same Philosophy

July 24, 2009
By Anthony Tripicchio

For the Jets, change means more of the same.

Rex Ryan is the new head coach, making his much awaited debut as top gun on the sidelines. If you see similarities in tactical defense to his predecessor, Eric Mangini, it is because Ryan will also utilize the 3-4 scheme.

Granted, the two coaches have their differences.

Ryan has a reputation as an aggressive coach who will blitz as often as he breathes and will certainly abandon Mangini's cryptic way with the media. Beat reporters, at times, were tempted to resort to waterboarding in order to pry information from Mangenius.

Despite their contrasting personalities, each of their defensive ideologies were inspired by masterminds who came before them. Ryan had his father, Buddy Ryan, who was the first to employ the vaunted 46 defense. Mangini gleaned from Bill Belichick the intricacies of a base 3-4 alignment.

Both men understand the value of a chameleon like defensive attack. Confuse the opposing offense with varying looks.

While Mangini believes in deception up until the snap, Ryan will throw his front on the field and challenge the offense to beat it. If you have the personnel, Ryan's method can be effective as he proved in Baltimore.

General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets, armed with the rewards of a defensive spending spree, anticipate that Ryan will have all the tools necessary for his 3-4 to dominate.

Former Ravens Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, and Marques Douglas are asked to infuse the vicious nature of their old defense to their new digs at the Meadowlands.

Head coaching changes are often accompanied by subordinate staff overhauls. Although Ryan takes the helm, the Jets retained offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and special teams' coach Mike Westhoff. The only major change is the hiring of Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator and demotion of Bob Sutton to linebackers coach.

Ryan has heaped high praise on Pettine and one would expect nothing less as the former Baltimore outside linebackers coach was his choice.

"Mike is a rising star in this league," Ryan said. "We're fortunate that we were able to get him on our staff and he's my right hand man."

Just as Tannenbaum wanted a head coach to fit the Jets' 3-4 personnel, Ryan searched for a defensive coordinator who mirrored his own approach. He did not have to look far for Pettine who spent seven years in Baltimore assisting the defense.

Brian Schottenheimer returns with a somewhat unenviable group on the offensive end. Schottenheimer, who fell short in his own candidacy for the head coaching job, lost notables Brett Favre, Laveranues Coles, and Chris Baker.

Much of Schottenheimer's time will be attributed to acclimating rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez to the system. Accustomed to turnover at the position, 2009 will mark the third consecutive year the Jets will open the season with a different starting quarterback.

Without the necessary playmakers in the passing game as Schottenheimer attempts to develop Sanchez and Kellen Clemens, the Jets are expected to restrict their offense from some of the gunslinging that Brett Favre is revered for.

Many would argue, however, that the playbook was never opened up for much of a downfield passing game last year anyway and, therefore, the offense will not be so dramatically limited in comparison.

Schottenheimer's offense is dependent upon its rushing with the AFC's leading rusher Thomas Jones, the explosive Leon Washington, and powerful rookie Shonn Greene.

Running behind a steady offensive line and aiming to keep turnovers to a minimum, Schottenheimer would love to get 35-40 carries combined in each game out of his three horses in the backfield.