Monday, April 30, 2012

Jets have needs not fixed by Draft

Despite the report cards handed out over the weekend, no one will know exactly how The Jets did in the 2012 NFL Draft for years.

The more important question right now is what work needs to be done by general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Co. before training camp opens at the end of July. The Jets believe they landed two immediate starters in defensive end Quinton Coples, their first-round pick, and wide receiver Stephen Hill, their second-rounder. But there are other needs that were not addressed.

The two positions that still appear problematic for this season are right tackle and safety. The Jets did not select a tackle, something many thought they would after Wayne Hunter’s terrible 2011 season. Clearly, the Jets’ decision-makers do not think that position is as bad off as the media and fans do.

Both Tannenbaum and coach Rex Ryan have given hints that the spot will be open for competition come training camp. Hunter and third-year tackle Vladimir Ducasse could be a camp battle where there is no fan favorite.

On Saturday, Ryan gave Hunter a vote of confidence and hinted the problem might have been the system of either former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer or former offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

“I think Wayne will play better this year,” Ryan said. “I like the fact that Vladimir Ducasse is into his third year and has a full offseason finally, which will be a first. I think that’s going to help. Some systems work better for other guys. We’ll see how this one works out.”

Ryan went on to say the Dolphins liked Hunter when he was a free agent last year. New Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was the Dolphins head coach then and Jets offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo was with Miami, too.

“I know Miami when Wayne was a free agent they were all after him,” Ryan said. “They really wanted Wayne as well. We were fortunate to keep him. I think Wayne’s been criticized a lot. Maybe he’d be one of the first guys to tell you maybe he could have had a better year and maybe more consistent, but I think it’s fair to say that our whole football team was the same way. ... I believe that Wayne will have a big year for us.”

The Jets did select two safeties in the draft — Josh Bush in the sixth round and Antonio Allen in the seventh. But it’s hard to imagine either player having an immediate impact outside of special teams.

That means the current starting safeties are LaRon Landry and Eric Smith, who are similar “in the box” type safeties. This could be a position the Jets target in the upcoming weeks in free agency. Former Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell visited before the draft, but Bell has a similar skill set to Landry and Smith.

Jim Leonhard, the team’s starting safety for the last three years, is still a free agent as he recovers from knee surgery. It is possible the team brings him back on a one-year deal if he is healthy before training camp.

the Jets, The Jets, Vladimir Ducasse, Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan, training camp, Quinton Coples, offensive line coach, Brian Schottenheimer, Stephen Hill

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