If the 2011 NFL season, or free agency for that matter, ever does get underway, the New York Jets will have a lot on their plate.
The Jets have a ton of free agents, some of which I’ve discussed here on the site, and it’s going to be tricky for the Jets to keep them all.
Cornerback and right tackle are just two of many positions of uncertainty right now, as the Jets do not know whether or not they’ll have Antonio Cromartie or Damien Woody back at their respective positions.
Cromartie, a cornerback the Jets traded their 2011 second-round pick to acquire, will be a free agent once the league year begins. Woody, the starting right tackle the past three seasons, was released following the season and will also be a free agent.
There’s no telling whether or not they’ll return. But it is a great opportunity for second-year players Kyle Wilson and Vladimir Ducasse to step up after they were essentially redshirted as rookies in 2010.
Wilson, the Jets’ first-round pick in 2010, was the starting nickelback in week 1 after Darrelle Revis’s training camp holdout likely accelerated the need to get Wilson in the lineup. As the season went on, Wilson disappeared from the starting defense, and spent most of the year learning and not playing.
Meanwhile, the Jets’ second-rounder Vladimir Ducasse saw the field even less than Wilson did, getting game action against the Buffalo Bills in garbage time. Originally drafted as a tackle, Ducasse competed for the starting left guard spot as a rookie, but could be headed to right tackle if Woody is not re-signed.
No matter what happens with the Jets’ free agents, Cromartie and Woody especially, it’s clear that the time for learning from afar is over for Wilson and Ducasse, and it’s time for them to produce on the field and prove they’re worth the investment.
Wilson has the luxury of learning under the game’s best. Darrelle Revis has taken him under his wing, and the two are working out together in Arizona this week, which is sure to make Jets fans happy.
Revis is great not only because of his physical abilities, but also his worth ethic and intense preparation in the video room, something he will surely instill in the 23-year-old Wilson.
Ducasse is something of a mystery to Jets fans. He went to UMass, not exactly a football factory, and no one really knows what kind of progress he’s made behind the scenes working with the coaching staff.
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan is one of the best o-line coaches in the NFL, with the Jets’ patented zone blocking scheme that’s helped pave the way to the powerful rushing attack the Jets have boasted the past few years.
Last season, Callahan did a terrific job with first-year starter Matt Slauson, who beat out Ducasse for the starting left guard spot. Slauson, a 2009 sixth-round draft pick, filled in admirably for the Jets after they cut ties with former All-Pro guard Alan Faneca.
Clearly, Callahan knows how to get the best out of his lineman, and I’m confident that he will mold Ducasse into a very good lineman himself. Ducasse was very raw coming out of college, and a year on the bench learning proper technique as well as the complicated Jets playbook probably helped him a lot, just like it did Slauson, who did not take a single snap as a rookie.
There’s no telling what exactly the Jets will get out of Wilson and Ducasse in 2011, but they are two big X-factors to me. If they play well, the Jets will be even more imposing that last year. If they don’t, the Jets better hope they have a solid back-up plan in place. With Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan, you know they will.