The utter heartbreak in the Jets’ locker room last Sunday in Pittsburgh was the result of many factors. After the Green & White’s championship dreams were shattered at Heinz Field, many players lamented that the team would never be the same again.
This afternoon the team’s savvy architect held a season-ending conference call with reporters to address the state of his team. It was no surprise that personnel questions dominated the conversation as the NFL looks to be headed toward a spring of uncertainty.
Labeling both RB LaDainian Tomlinson and OLB Jason Taylor as “similar situations,” Mr. T. said he expected both veterans would return. But he left the door open on changing his mind.
“Unexpected things can happen from contracts to other acquisitions you may make, but we expect LaDainian back and I expect him to contribute for another year in 2011,” said Tannenbaum.
Tomlinson led the Jets in regular-season play with 914 yards on the ground and six rush TDs. And LT, who averaged 4.0 yards a carry in the postseason and led the club in its three-game run with three TDs, also had 52 receptions.
“He ran the ball well, but he was a also great complement to Shonn [Greene] relative to the passing game, pass protection, and brought a lot of leadership to the team as well,” said Mr. T.
Taylor, who is the NFL’s active leader with 132.5 sacks, added five sacks to his total plus a safety at Pittsburgh in the regular season. The 36-year-old, a former Jets tormenter with 14 pro seasons under his belt, also took on a leadership role in his first season with New York’s AFC representative.
“We expect him back. Obviously once we get closer to the season and other players are here, things can always change,” Tannenbaum said. “But one thing I can say about Jason is he did so many good things for us from an intangible leadership standpoint, his effect on other players — Bryan Thomas and Jamaal Westerman in particular. He’s a pro’s pro. We’re lucky to have him. People like LaDainian, Tony Richardson and Jason Taylor, their leadership is really hard to quantify sometimes.”
Decisions will also have to be made on an interesting additional trio of vets in T-Rich, RT Damien Woody and NT Kris Jenkins. In regard to Richardson and Woody, they both could have competition for their jobs in FB John Conner, the fifth-round pick from Kentucky last April, and Vladimir Ducasse, the second-round selection from Massachusetts in 2010. It should be noted that Wayne Hunter, who played so well for the Jets when Woody went down with a pair of injuries late in the season, is also a UFA.
“Those are two guys we’re going to take a long look at,” Tannenbaum said of Richardson and Woody. “They’ve both done a great job for us, both are great leaders in their own right. No decision has been made on either guy and we’ll see how it goes, but I can say we would not have had the success we’ve had without those two players.”
Meanwhile, Jenkins, who has been limited to just seven games in the Rex Ryan era due to two ACL tears in his left knee, hopes to make a comeback. Whether that attempt takes place in Florham Park, N.J., remains to be seen.
“We haven’t made a decision. It would be very intriguing to see what he could do over a 16-game season playing under Rex,” said Mr. T. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet, but we’ll take a long look at his situation as well.”
After three seasons with the Jets and a number of long looks, Vernon Gholston could be looking for a new home. The Ohio State product, selected No. 6 overall in 2008, hasn’t had a pro sack after amassing 22.5 on the collegiate level.
“He’s been given his fair share of opportunities and it could be time to move on,” Tannenbaum said, “but we’re not ready to say that yet.”
Two young players to keep an eye on are CB Kyle Wilson and DL Marcus Dixon. While the Jets hope to re-sign Antonio Cromartie, they have high hopes for Wilson
“Kyle’s future is one of our paramount objectives for the offseason in terms of his development. He has a great work ethic, he loves the game, and I expect that he’s going to be a contributor for us for years to come,” said Tannenbaum. “I’m glad that he’s here and we’ll need him to play at a higher, more consistent level next year.”
After being awarded off waivers from Dallas last September, the 6’4”, 295-pound Dixon got some valuable reps down the stretch.
“It could be a guy like Marcus Dixon who has to play a lot more next year and I see no reason why Dixon can’t be a big contributor for us.”
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Damien Woody, Jason Taylor, Kris Jenkins, Kyle Wilson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mike Tannenbaum, Tony Richardson, Vernon Gholston
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