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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 choices.
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.