BGA: The Expendables Update #4

Bent , TheJetsBlog.com

Every year, teams have to let some players go. Even though the Jets brought back Sione Po’uha, Bryan Thomas and Nick Folk, they chose not to bring everyone back. During preseason, I kept track of the progress on the guys who left so we could at least start to form some views on whether letting any of these guys loose was a mistake or a smart move. Now that the season is over, we can finally assess whether bringing any of these guys back would have made a difference this season.

This is the final update of the year and also acts as a primer in case you want to check on the progress of some of the guys whose new teams are still alive in the postseason. If you missed the first three updates, go here, here and here.

After the jump, all of the details from the season so far for each of the ex-Jets contributing elsewhere.

In no particular order…

Jim Leonhard – Safety, Broncos

After a slow start to the year, Leonhard settled into his role as the Broncos’ third safety, usually operating in deep center field. He was rarely matched up against a receiver in man-to-man coverage so he was only targeted directly seven times all year (in 271 snaps), giving up five catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. He did intercept two errant passes, both against San Diego. He ended the year with 12 tackles and just one missed tackle and the 17th best PFF coverage grade for safeties, despite playing fewer than 25% of the snaps.

Where the Jets may have missed him more is as a punt returner. Jeremy Kerley had a 68-yard touchdown in week one, but from that point onwards caught 55 punts and amassed just 140 yards. Leonhard’s numbers were not that much better, as he caught 31 punts and returned them for a total of 89 yards, but even though he made a fair catch over 50% of the time, this was still significantly less than Kerley (65.5%). Leonhard did have one uncharacteristic fumble though and of course was beaten for a key first down in the playoff game yesterday.

Robert Turner, Center, St. Louis

Turner ended up playing every snap this year for the Rams, starting seven games at left guard and nine at center. His performances in those nine games were enough to give him the best pass blocking efficiency rating in the NFL for centers, as he gave up just one hit and two pressures. At guard, he struggled a bit more giving up a sack, two hits and eight pressures and grading out well below Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse, so the Jets’ contention that he couldn’t play guard for them may just have been right.

Turner’s run blocking was up and down when he was at center, but he struggled more consistently when moved back to guard. Overall, his performance solidifies him as a starter-level player and he heads into unrestricted free agency where Team Revis will presumably be looking to secure him a deal earning more than the minimum with a chance to start somewhere at center.

Wayne Hunter, Offensive Tackle, St. Louis

Earlier in the season, Hunter was called upon to start four games at left tackle following an injury to Roger Saffold. He came in and did a pretty good job, featuring consistent pass protection and some of the best run blocking we’ve ever seen from him, but then started suffering with a back injury. He headed back to the bench after a rough game in week six saw him give up three sacks. Over the last ten games, he moved back into a utility role and only featured on 20 snaps.

It’s obvious that Hunter was never going to rebuild his shattered confidence with the Jets, so it was probably best for both teams that the Smith/Hunter swap went ahead. It’s not really fair to compare their numbers, because Smith was only ever used as an extra tight end. However, both teams were likely pleased with what they would consider to be an upgrade.

Brian Schottenheimer, Offensive Co-ordinator, St. Louis

While the Rams offense ended up down near the bottom in most offensive categories, they did improve towards the end of the season to finish 23rd in total offense. The Jets were 30th. The Rams also ranked 17th in turnover differential and had the 18th best passing game despite dealing with plenty of injuries and an even worse supporting cast than the Jets.

Most importantly of all, Schottenheimer has finally got that “every quarterback who leaves Schottenheimer goes on to have a career year” monkey off his back. Sam Bradford had a career year for the Rams and Mark Sanchez obviously regressed. Like Hunter, Schottenheimer was unlikely ever to find redemption with the Jets, but those who were suggesting he’d never work in the NFL again were jumping the gun. A solid 2013 campaign on offense for the Rams will likely see Schottenheimer back in the discussion as a head coaching candidate once again. That’s if he doesn’t get the Jags job, where he’s reputedly already been offered an interview.

Matt Mulligan, Tight End, St. Louis

Mulligan is a guy who usually graded out well as a blocker. However, it was his maddening mental errors that made him an unpopular figure with Jets fans. This year, he has certainly cut down on some of those errors, with only two penalties being called on him all year. He ended the year ranked 12th in PFF’s rankings for run blocking tight ends. No Jets player ranked in the top 90, unless you include Dedrick Epps and Hayden Smith who had a neutral grade by virtue of the fact they hardly played.

Mulligan also caught eight passes for 84 yards and a touchdown, with no drops. That touchdown proved to be the winning score in the week two clash with the Redskins, a game in which he also blocked a punt.

Braylon Edwards, Wide Receiver, Seattle/NY Jets

Edwards is a curious case. He wasn’t actually with the Jets last year, but we were including him anyway on the basis that he barely played last season and had been linked with a return here. Later in the season, the Jets did of course sign Edwards and he did a solid job. It also emerged that they had made a move for him at the trade deadline. Hopefully he will return next season and can remain healthy.

With Seattle, he caught five passes on opening day, but then dropped a potential game winning touchdown and only had three more catches for 31 yards over the next 11 weeks due to a combination of injuries and a lack of playing time. He did have a touchdown in his final game for the Seahawks, only for it to be overturned by the replay booth. If you were to extrapolate his stats over the final three games with the Jets over a whole season, you’d end up with 59 catches and 667 yards. I think the Jets would happily settle for numbers close to that next year, as long as he is prepared to re-sign for the minimum or close to it.

Marquice Cole, DB, New England

Cole hasn’t played much this year, operating mainly as the fourth cornerback and a special teamer. 60% of his 199 snaps this year came in just two games – the Bills game in week 10 (after which they traded for Aqib Talib, shunting him further down the depth chart) and the Jags game in week 16, which was his only start. During that game, he injured his finger, but returned to practice yesterday and should be okay for the playoffs. Earlier in the year, he was dealing with some hamstring issues.

In that Jags game, he struggled slightly in coverage, giving up six catches on eight targets, including a 36-yarder, but he did intercept a pass and made some good plays in run support. Prior to the Jags game, he had only given up five catches for 56 yards on 14 targets. He finishes the season with 14 tackles (including five on special teams) and three missed tackles. The Jets have pretty good depth at cornerback, so they didn’t really miss Cole this year. While he might have helped out on special teams, the issues there were probably more to do with the constant changes in personnel groupings due to injuries.

Ropati Pitoitua, DE, Kansas City

Pitoitua had a solid season in his first year with the Chiefs, playing over 500 snaps – more than the rest of his career combined – as he racked up 41 tackles and 10 starts. His pass rushing was a big disappointment as he end up with just two QB hits and no sacks or pressures over the last 12 games. In week four, he had recorded two sacks, but that proved to be the only game where he registered a sack all year.

Still, he managed to prove himself as a solid NFL rotational player, who can still do good things against the run, as he did against the Broncos in week 17 with a goal line stuff. Would he have helped the Jets this year? Hindsight being 20:20 maybe he would perhaps have been useful while Ellis and Po’uha were both injured, but then again, they were able to plug in Dan Muir for a couple of weeks without really missing a beat.

Terrance Ganaway, RB, St. Louis

The Jets had hoped to stash Ganaway on their practice squad this year, perhaps activating him later in the year with a view towards a role next season. However, the Rams picked him up and stashed him on their active roster instead – an option that wasn’t really open to the Jets with all their injuries. Ganaway was active just three times all year and featured on just five offensive plays. He did not touch the ball.

Jamaal Westerman, DE, Arizona/Indianapolis

Just when it looked like Westerman’s NFL career might be over after he was waived by the Cardinals – having seen just two snaps of action and played five games as a special teamer – he was picked up by the Colts and might get a chance to contribute in the postseason. He only played 21 snaps in four games for the Colts, but did record a sack in week 17 and three special teams tackles in week 16. He only played four snaps in the playoff loss to the Ravens, though.

Plaxico Burress, WR, Pittsburgh

Burress remained on the shelf until late in the season when he joined the Steelers. He only played 34 snaps, but did score his first touchdown in week 17 against the Bengals. He ends the season with three catches for 42 yards on seven targets, but did also draw at least one pass interference penalty on a fade route, so that’s perhaps somewhere he’s still capable of being a threat.

Jonathan Grimes, RB, Houston Texans/Jacksonville

The Jets let Grimes go and the Texans, who had him on their practice squad earlier in the year, picked him back up again for their active roster. However, they did not use him on offense at all and after six games, they let him go too. The Jags picked him up in time for the last game, but he did not see action. They will presumably look to give him a shot next year.

Martin Tevaseu, DT, Indianapolis Colts

Tevaseu has been playing as a backup nose tackle all year with the Colts. He ended up participating on 224 snaps in 13 games, starting the last two. He had a minimal impact (13 tackles, one pressure), although he did have a good game against Jacksonville earlier in the year and didn’t have any serious negative plays all year.

Like Pitoitua (and Marcus Dixon), Tevaseu’s impact had he remained with the Jets would likely have been limited. He only played nine snaps in the Colts’ playof game last week.

Hayworth Hicks, OL, Kansas City/Tampa Bay/Carolina

The Jets signed Hicks off the Colts practice squad and then waived him three weeks later in an effort to sneak him onto their practice squad. Unfortunately, the Chiefs swooped in and took him for themselves. They let him go one week later and the Bucs picked him up, only to also release him one week later. He ended up getting signed by the Panthers in week 16, his fifth team of the season, although he never took the field for any of them.

John Conner, FB, Cincinnati

Finally, John Conner represents the fifth of our Expendables to see action in the postseason. He played just three games with the Jets this year before being released and was picked up by the Bengals with two games to go in the season. He played 24 snaps in those two games, but did not fare well as a run blocker. They threw him one pass too, but that was incomplete. The Jets grew impatient with Conner’s slow development curve but he was always inconsistent rather than plain bad, so perhaps the Bengals will be able to harness that and get some kind of production from him. He only played five snaps in their playoff defeat last week, but is under contract for next year.

That’s it for the Expendables this season. Stay tuned though, because I’m also going to do an Expendables draft special where I will look at how some of the players the Jets could have drafted in April fared in their rookie year. Next year’s Expendables should be very interesting with a huge roster turnover anticipated and many tough decisions to come. Will any of the Jets so-called poor talent be able to catch on elsewhere?