On Radio Row at the Super Bowl Media Center in Dallas, it’s a feeding frenzy for former and current football players who stop by to chat with the media. During his whirlwind tour of the nearly 100 radio stations that are covering the big game this week, former Jets quarterback Ray Lucas reflected on the fact that the Green & White were just one defensive stop and one touchdown away from being one of the teams in North Texas.
“It’s not right, it’s just not right,” Lucas said. “It’s bittersweet. This place would be rocking and rolling if the Jets were here. I did believe that they were a team of destiny. I still do believe that they’re a team of destiny. I still think that we’re going to be here next year, wherever the Super Bowl may be. But I think Rex Ryan has the ship going in the right direction.”
According to Lucas, however, even if Ryan is the navigator, he has a lot of work to do before next season begins. With many high-profile players eligible for free agency this offseason, Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum will have to be judicious and creative in continuing to build the nucleus of the team through free agency and the draft.
“It’s going to be interesting though to see how many guys we get to keep this year,” Lucas said. “As far as the draft goes, we need somebody to rush the passer — hands down, one guy that comes in especially to get the quarterback on his back.”
Two of the most intriguing pair of potential free agents are wide receivers Braylon Edwards (53 catches, 904 yards, 7 TDs) and Santonio Holmes (52-746-6). The duo, who form part of the “Flight Boys,” were a fantastic complement to one another throughout the year, as the 6’3” Edwards was able to physically dominate cornerbacks and Holmes made game-deciding catches in nearly half a dozen contests.
“I do think it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Braylon and Santonio,” Lucas said. “I think that you go after Holmes first. I do think we might luck out and get one more year out of Braylon Edwards, but I do think eventually somebody is going to pay that kid, but for a quiet season, he was spectacular.”
Both were helped by the improving play of second-year QB Mark Sanchez. The Southern Cal product threw for 3,291 yards and 17 touchdowns during the regular season in leading the Jets to their second consecutive AFC Championship Game appearance.
“I was one of his harshest critics his rookie year,” Lucas said. “The way he played in the postseason his rookie year blew me away. This season he’s done things to make himself better where he’s not losing games, he’s not taking chances. He’s playing really smart football. I think [coordinator] Brian Schottenheimer had a lot to do with him and how he played this year as well with the game plan with getting him in rhythm early and then him throwing the ball downfield.”
Schottenheimer utilized his two dangerous wideouts along with Jets stalwart Jerricho Cotchery and two more favorite targets, Dustin Keller and LaDainian Tomlinson — all five had at least 41 regular-season receptions — and did his best work in the playoffs, where he now has four road wins in his short career.
“He’s growing up before our eyes,” Lucas said. “I wasn’t sure if he was a franchise quarterback a year ago, but I’m definitely positive that he’s a franchise quarterback now. If you look at what Matt Ryan did in his third year, the sky is definitely the limit for the Jets. The Sanchize — Mike Tannenbaum did the right thing.”
Tags: Braylon Edwards, Dustin Keller, Jerricho Cotchery, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, Ray Lucas, Santonio Holmes, Super Bowl
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