Jets keep title core together in search for Super Bowl prize
With all the talk out of the Jets’ first day of training camp Monday centering around the theme of “family,” the team isn’t quite ready to break this thing up.
Over the past week, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan have quietly pieced together a team that looks an awful lot like last year’s Jets. The resignations of Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie are certainly the headline grabbers, but a number of role players have come back to a team that has made the AFC Championship Game in two straight seasons. The Jets aren’t ready to shake up this team, and while Ryan talks about this being “the best roster we’ve had since I’ve got here,” make no mistakes about it — the roster is as much out of necessity as it is loyalty to the players.
While the rest of the league was making roster moves and signings, the Jets have remained shockingly low key as other teams make upgrades and splashes.
But the Jets — usually noisy in the free agent market — have been content to take care of their own.
“The net effect of it is that I really like our team,” Tannenbaum said yesterday. “I feel like the foundation is there.”
It’s a different approach than nearly every other team has taken in this wild, post-lockout free agency period. Instead of looking outside the organization, the Jets are calculating that the personnel that has taken them to within a game of the Super Bowl twice is good enough to do it again.
Perhaps there is a hidden benefit to the timing of this offseason.
Without offseason workouts and a mini-camp, teams are at a significant disadvantage this year in terms of blending together new talent with their existing core. The Jets, with just a handful of personnel changes, are now a team that closely mirrors the previous two seasons. The talent level is nearly the same, the names are almost identical and the system is in place almost from the get-go.
There won’t be as much of a learning curve or as many players in need of learning as in most other NFL cities. The adjustments should not be as drastic as in places such as New England or Philadelphia, where big pieces are being moved around and forced to learn a new scheme.
“Absolutely, we feel that this offseason in particular, having guys in place who can step in immediately and learn is a positive. There won’t as much confusion,” right tackle Wayne Hunter told Metro. “The guys coming back, bringing back so many of the same players, means that we can step right into our work and not worry about anything else. We can just focus on the work on the field and that’s it.”
The fallout from the Jets’ inability to sign Nnamdi Asomugha is perhaps a short-term advantage for a team in search of its first Super Bowl appearance in more than four decades. The money freed up from not landing the star cornerback allowed the Jets to re-sign Cromartie, who was solid for the team last year and rated by Ryan as a top-five cover cornerback in the league. Bringing in Eric Smith as well was a possibility with the freed up room under the salary cap.
The end result for this Jets team is a sense of continuity, as they continue to march to the beat of years past and hope to build on the success of Ryan’s first two years with the team.
“We feel like we’re right there. We have the type of guys on this team that can make plays all across the board,” running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. “Two back-to-back years of the AFC Championship games. What’s next for us? It has to be winning the championship.”
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for updates and live-tweeting from Jets training camp.