Disappointing Jets head into offseason with plenty of questions after 4-12 season Print
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Wednesday, 02 January 2008 09:32
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 HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Kerry Rhodes spent last offseason parlaying his success with the New York Jets into a few acting gigs. He's taking a break from the cameras this winter after the drama that played out on the field in 2007.
``I'm going to take some time off and enjoy my time away from this season,'' the playmaking safety said as he and his teammates cleaned out their lockers. ``The good thing now is that I'm not associated to a 4-12 team. Now we're 0-0. That's probably the best thing right now.''
Rhodes wasn't alone in trying to quickly put the last 17 weeks behind him.
After a season that began with much promise following a 10-6 record that was capped by a playoff appearance, the disappointing Jets stumbled early and often. New York heads into this offseason with lots of questions and uncertainty - and without all the positive feelings it had a year ago.
``This is a business,'' quarterback Kellen Clemens said. ``I've only been in it two years, but I understand that there are changes that are made each offseason. You just trust in the guys upstairs that the changes are going to be what's best for the team and organization.''
Clemens will be a major part of the evaluations made during the next several months by coach Eric Mangini and general manager Mike Tannenbaum. Drafted in the second round in 2006 to be New York's quarterback of the future, Clemens struggled after getting the starting job in place of Chad Pennington in Week 9. He finished last in the league in quarterback rating and completion percentage.
``I'm going to look at everything,'' Mangini said. ``Look at the games that he played in and really look at the whole position.''
The Jets might need to look elsewhere for a veteran backup quarterback because Pennington isn't expected back. The eight-year veteran has three years, plus a team option year, remaining on his contract, but could be traded.
``I don't have a lot of control over what's going on right now,'' Pennington said. ``I feel really good about where I am as a player and really good about being a starter in this league.''
Pennington was viewed as the fall guy as the Jets stumbled to a 1-7 start. The fact is, the season may have been sabotaged by a million-dollar gamble the front office made in the offseason.
Left guard Pete Kendall was lauded by the organization for helping bring along left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold as rookies in '06. He asked for a $1 million raise, was turned down and ultimately traded to Washington late in camp. The Jets' offensive line suffered noticeably, especially at left guard, where a revolving door of mostly ineffective players was used.
``The continuity of the offensive line, it takes a lot for an NFL team to jell and it's something we had to work on all year long,'' running back Leon Washington said.
The inconsistency of the line contributed to what was viewed by many as a misuse of running back Thomas Jones. Acquired from Chicago last March to jump-start the running game, Jones became the fifth player in team history to reach 1,000 yards, but had just one touchdown rushing. He also carried the ball 25 times or more in just three games.
``It's been a tough season, obviously,'' Jones said. ``We stayed positive and optimistic, though, which is hard to do when things aren't going your way.''
The offense ranked 26th and suffered from play-calling that was at times too bland or predictable. The Jets lost seven of 10 games decided by seven points or less.
``Ultimately, it's my responsibility to figure out a way to improve the team and to improve the things that we're doing so that we do come out on the positive side of those close games,'' Mangini said.
There could also be several new faces next season, especially at wide receiver. Laveranues Coles is looking for a contract extension, while the disappointing Justin McCareins could be cut. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton could be replaced after two ineffective seasons, and linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who missed half the season with a knee injury, never seemed comfortable in the 3-4 defensive system and may be worth more as trade bait.
``We thought we had some good things leading into the season that were going to be effective, and they were not as effective as we anticipated,'' Mangini said.
There were some positives, though. Jerricho Cotchery had more than 1,000 yards receiving and Washington established himself as a Pro Bowl-caliber kick returner. The Jets' top two draft picks, cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebacker David Harris, also had terrific seasons and should be fixtures in the lineup for years. They'll have another chance to grab an impact player in the draft, where they'll pick sixth overall in April.
``The best you can do is to take this time right now and kind of relax a little,'' Mangold said. ``Let the body heal, then come back here and work hard, deal with the different changes, move forward and look to having a better season.''
 

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