| Mangini says he'll tailor his offense to Favre's talents.
7 at Miami
14 NEW ENGLAND
22 at San Diego (M)
19 at Oakland
26 KANSAS CITY
2 at Buffalo
9 ST. LOUIS
13 at New England (T)
23 at Tennessee
7 at San Francisco
21 at Seattle
Calvin Pace, Linebacker: What do you do with a 270-pound linebacker who can run? Pace played end for three years with Arizona but in '06 moved to outside 'backer. He's one of those intriguing types who can play up or down, inside or out. "Sometimes I'll be jamming the tight end," says Pace, "sometimes I'll rush from the edge." Perfect for the Jets' New England-style system.
Brett Favre is the most notable of several newcomers, but the one to keep an eye on is linebacker Calvin Pace.
Tannenbaum's belief in developing players within the Jets' system mirrors his
own ascent," reads the bio of Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum in this
year's team media guide. Times change. Philosophies, too ... unless
you figure that Brett Favre and a few tons of imported muscle along the
offensive and defensive lines pass for development within the Jets' system.
For many years the club was known to avoid trades and free-agent pickups.
("Taking on other people's problems," Weeb Ewbank, their Super Bowl III coach,
called it.) Starting in 1970, the first year the AFC sent players to the Pro
Bowl, the only Jets who made that trip, for 23 years, were their own draft
Now the big money has gone to outsiders.
First the Jets traded for Kris Jenkins, a Pro Bowl defensive tackle late of
the Panthers, and plugged him in at nosetackle. Big name, new position. "Stay
stout, let 'em come. I should be able to handle it," Jenkins says.
Realistically, they're counting on him for 30 snaps a game.
They got rid of two O-line starters from last year and filled their hand with
left guard Alan Faneca, a perennial Pro Bowl player who cost the team
$21 million in guaranteed funds, and right tackle Damien Woody,
$11 million guaranteed, who made the Pro Bowl as a 25-year-old center six
years ago. Since then he has bounced around, from the Patriots to the Lions and
now to the Jets, from center to right guard to right tackle.
Calvin Pace, a former Cardinals outside linebacker, also represents a change
of direction, in that he's fairly young at 27, and versatile. Think of Adalius
Thomas heading to the Patriots last year, and you've got an idea of Pace's
projected role. New York brought in 36-year-old fullback Tony Richardson, a year
younger than coach Eric Mangini, and tight end Bubba Franks, Favre's 30-year-old
goal-line receiver at Green Bay.
And then kaboom! The foreign legion had a leader. Favre's move has been
well-documented and will continue to be so until he finally packs it in. It has
been a scene all right: the overloaded bleachers at practice, the cheering (no
booing yet), the afternoon he ran a punishment lap because he fumbled a snap,
his teammates' reaction -- "He's just like one of us."
But what exactly do we have before us when we examine this team that
traditionally relied on home cooking and now is dining out every night? Jenkins
and Woody? Sturdy people, but on the downside of their careers. Faneca? At 30 a
few cracks were starting to show last season with the Steelers. Not as
light-footed as he used to be but still a big upgrade for the Jets at the
position. Richardson and Franks? Aging veterans.
Pace? Ah, that's the pickup old-timers in the know nod their heads and wink
at. Might be the best of the bunch. On the rise, active, aggressive. Can steer
tight ends out of their routes, rush from the edge. Watch this guy.
And now Favre. When the Jets got rid of Chad Pennington, they were unloading
the most accurate passer in NFL history. But he couldn't zip the ball
65 yards on a line, as Favre did to tumultuous cheers at an Aug. 10
practice. Pennington's a terrific guy, but he's coming off a bad ankle in '07
and shoulder surgery before that. Favre's never missed a start.
The question is, how difficult will it be for Favre to catch on to the Jets'
system, a version of the West Coast attack. "It's not etched in stone," Mangini
says of his offense. "It will be tailored to his talents."
Are we seeing here a set of building blocks for the future, or a one-year fix
for the Jets, two at the most? This might not be the definitive year to find
out. The schedule is soft, with only five games against teams that had winning
records in 2007. New York will be better than last year's 4-12. A 10-6 playoff
year is not far-fetched. But after that, who
knows? -- Paul Zimmerman