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Inside the War Room

Jets think defense first, but address QB needs for future

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Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 11:09 PM

  New York Jets Fans New York Jets fans were mostly pleased with their team's four first-round picks in the 2000 NFL Draft. AP

By Mark Morgan,

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- The Jets entered the draft with four first-round picks and, as head coach Al Groh said, looking to find three starters.

Of the various needs they were looking to address, replacing Keyshawn Johnson was not first on the list. In taking Shaun Ellis and John Abraham with their first two picks, the primary objective, apparently, was beefing up a pass rush that managed just 37 sacks last year -- only three by their starting defensive ends.

"We can either work them in combination together, with one as an inside rusher and the other as an outside rusher," Jets head coach Al Groh said. "We can work them on opposite sides, or we could perhaps use them both as outside rushers as both of them were in college" NFL analyst Pat Kirwan thinks that the Jets made a good move drafting the two rush players largely based on the competition they face within their own division.

Four for the First graphic Click image for a larger view  

"Remember in the AFC East, two of the best quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Drew Bledsoe are stationary targets, so to get good outside pressure is absolutely necessary," Kirwan said. "And now the Jets have it."

Of their four picks, the one the Jets are not counting on for an immediate impact is quarterback Chad Pennington, who threw for more than 14,000 yards at Marshall. With Vinny Testaverde expected to be ready for the season opener, quarterback wasn't a position the Jets had to address, but Pennington was too good to pass up.

"I couldn't be in a better situation," Pennington said. "Being able to go to New York in a great football town, with a great mentor as a coach in Dan Henning, and then a great mentor as a player in Vinny Testaverde, for me it's a win-win situation."

Sports Illustrated's Peter King thinks Pennington was a good choice for a team with so many early-round picks like the Jets.

"This is an era in the NFL where if you can get your quarterback of the future with the 18th pick of the first round, you have to take it," King said. "And because the Jets had the luxury of having four first-round picks, they are able to go out an spend one of those picks, even when they have other holes, on the guy who they think will be their quarterback for the next 10 years."

Once they took tight end Anthony Becht of West Virginia with their fourth pick of the first round, it was clear the Jets were not going to reach for a receiver to replace Johnson. Instead, Groh feels he has plenty of time to address that need, and suggested he will use any means necessary -- including late-round picks, trades and free agency -- to get that done.

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