New York Jets
By: Vance Daniels
From out of nowhere....
While few publications picked the Jets to win the division title, no one could have predicted the circumastances that would have led to it. Bill Parcells, in perhaps the best job of his Hall of Fame career, and Vinny Testaverde led the Jets to the top of the AFC East, going 7-1 vs. a division that had three other playoff teams.
Testaverde made his first start in week 3 against Indianapolis, resulting in a 44-6 win to give the Jets their first of the season. Four weeks later he was the starter over Glenn Foley and never looked back. Testaverde and the Jets lost only two more games from there on, with the season ending in Denver. Testaverde threw for 3256 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Curtis Martin was brought in and Adrian Murrell was shipped out, however the running game was still erratic. Martin did crack the 1,000 yard mark for the fourth time in his first four seasons. Jerald Sowell lost the starting fullback job in the preseason to Keith Byars.
Wayne Chrebet and Keyshawn Johnson both elavated their game and became the deadliest 1-2 recieving punch in the AFC. Johnson was named to his first pro bowl, having caught 10 touchdowns for 1131 yards. Third reciever Dixon Edwards provided blazing speed and made big plays.
The biggest improvement on the offensive line came with the off-season signing of center Kevin Mawae. Mawae was touted as a big signing and he lived up to the billing, providing leadership, strong ability and smarts. At right tackle, rookie Jason Fabini had a promising rookie year, and at the other end of the line left tackle Jumbo Elliot proved effective and, for the first time in years, healthy. Free agent signee Todd Burger filled in at left guard, but was only average.
Aaron Glenn was named to his first pro bowl, picked off 6 passes, and was an all-around terror. With Glennís strong play, Otis Smith picked up his game and played some of the best football of his career. When Glenn went down with a knee injury sustained against Seattle, third corner Ray Mickens stepped in and didnít miss a beat. Victor Green provided strong play from his safety position, though there was a revolving door at the free safety position.
Outside linebacker Mo Lewis got his first pro bowl berth, and had been deserving for years. Former Bear Brian Cox was brought in and played as solid as he had at any time in his career, while adding attitude. Pepper Johnson filled in for an injured Marvin Jones and did an admirable job, but will likely not be back.
Second year lineman Jason Ferguson and vet Anthony Pleasant led a no-name defensive line that did a solid job of keeping offensive lineman occupied to allow the linebackers freedom to make plays.
John Hall had a good year making field goals and is a monster on kickoffs. The team went through two punters and a new one is expected in this offseason. Second-year return man Leon Johnson was injured early and ineffective, though Glenn had a good year returning kicks.
Little is expected to change in the Jets front office, as assistant head coach Bill Belichick did not get offered a head coaching job. Assistant coach Al Groh was to be the defensive coordinator of the Browns, but an NFL rule protecting assistants kept him with the Jets.
Free agency/the draft:
The Jets finally end paying off the Patriots this year, sending their first round pick as final compensation for the Parcells deal. Safety, offensive guard, and defensive line are targeted areas. Unfortunately these are not strong areas in free agency or the draft. One possibility is Anthony Poindexter, a safety out of Virginia who will be coming off a knee injury but has first round talent. A back-up tailback and fullback will be sought in free agency.