BGA: Scouting Jacolby Ashworth

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

Throughout April, I’ll be looking at some of the players the Jets have added to the active roster since the end of the regular season. Jets fans might not know too much about these players, so I’ll be looking at NFL game footage to try and assess what they might be able to bring to the table.

Today we’re going to look at offensive lineman Jacolby Ashworth, who the Jets signed to a futures deal on January 14th. The 23-year old Ashworth is listed at 6-3 and 300 pounds. He was undrafted last year out of Houston and spent time with Washington in preseason. His cousin is former NFL lineman Rex Hadnot who started 96 games in a nine year NFL career.

After the jump, a brief look at footage from his time with Washington to try and assess some of his strengths and weaknesses.

To read more of this story, click here

NFL: Combine

Buzz: Did FSU WR Kelvin Benjamin ‘blow off’ a private workout?

Did Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin, potential first rounder, flake out on a private workout?  According to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, Benjamin recently “blew off” a scheduled workout with an NFL coach, claiming that he was “too tired.”

Since Brandt tweeted this, Benjamin’s agent Eugene Parker has contested the report, but Brandt says he trusts his source and is sticking by the story. (NFL, April 10)

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

Did the “special trip” come in conjunction with the FSU Pro Day?  If that was the case then there were about five NFL coaches there, with names like Chip Kelly (Eagles), Mike Tomlin (Steelers), Jim Caldwell (Lions) and even Jets head coach Rex Ryan among the attendees.  (NFL, April 10)

At this point, the smokescreens heading into the NFL Draft will get very thick.  Was this real?  Was this planted?  Was the private workout expected on the same day as Benjamin’s Pro Day?  If that was the case then it would seem a little more plausible that Benjamin would have been gassed and this is being overblown for a team with either a late first or early second round pick.

Regardless, if Benjamin in fact did blow off workouts, then there might be a chilling effect on his draft stock.  Benjamin’s draft stock had him flirting with the middle of the first round, but with concerns about his technique and now this rumor, Benjamin could easily drop into the second round.

The Rundown: The Chris Johnson holding pattern

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

A week ago when Chris Johnson was cut by the Titans, PFT reported that Johnson would pick his new team by the middle of this week.  Well the middle of this week has come and gone and Johnson is still a free agent, looking for a new home.

Florio makes some suggestions as to why this might be.

… maybe the devaluation of the tailback position continues, with Johnson being the latest visit of the trend toward the passing game and away from workhorse running backs.

[...]

With the draft less than four weeks away, it possibly could stay that way until after teams with lingering needs at the position try to address those needs with incoming rookies.

Unless, of course, Johnson currently is negotiating with one or more teams who have insisted on secrecy…

From what we hear, the Jets have urged the folks they’ve negotiated with to keep quiet about the matters … could the Jets be one of the teams insisting in secrecy that Florio hints at?

Since the beginning, there’s been an “under the radar” team.  NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport reported that the Jets were the team that “came closest” to trading for Johnson.

The Jets are more than likely going to add some running backs through the NFL draft, so if the Jets and Johnson are interested in coming to terms there might be some concern about just what sort of running back (or two) the Jets can find in the draft … more than likely they would draft someone who would be in competition for Bilal Powell’s job and not so much Johnson’s … assuming he even went to New York.

Regardless, Adam Schein shares his thoughts on NFL.com why Johnson could still be an effective part of an NFL team and why he thinks the Jets are the best match for the former Titan, double secret negotiations or not.

Johnson is most certainly not an upper-echelon back these days, but he can give you 15 carries and catch the ball out of the backfield. He can help teams — IF he is willing to check his ego at the door.

[...]

Personally, I think the best fit is with the New York Jets. Chris Ivory currently tops the depth chart at running back for Gang Green. I like Ivory. He has some sizzle. But he can’t stay healthy for an entire campaign. A Johnson-Ivory tandem would be solid, and an upgrade for New York. It’s logical.

In addition to Schein, ESPN’s Jon Clayton thinks New York will be Johnson’s next home, as does CBS Sports Jason LaCanfora.

In the end, given his lack of productivity lately, I still don’t expect Johnson to sign a lucrative deal. If he can get $2 million guaranteed with the chance to earn more in incentives, that might be as good as it gets. And I’ve been saying for weeks I expect the Jets to be a likely landing spot for him and I’ve heard nothing to change my thinking lately. So I’ve still got him penciled in to a team so lacking in explosion on offense.

Simply adding Chris Johnson won’t make the Jets an explosive offense, but adding Johnson along with their signing of Eric Decker, Mike Vick and whomever they come up with in the draft at receiver, tight end and/or running back could be enough to effect some change on this group.

But for now, we’ll just have to wait, just like Chris Johnson and the Jets seem to be.

NFL: New York Jets at Miami Dolphins

Jets CB upbeat about his and Jets play in 2014

Pro days are a good chance for prospects to make their mark for NFL scouts, but it also provides a chance for former players to come back and support their former teammates.  A number of Alabama players showed up for the Crimson Tide’s pro day and Jet Dee Milliner was among them.

Milliner was asked about his transition to the NFL during an interview with TideTV and was honest, but upbeat.

“It started out rough last year, but we ended on a good note,” Milliner said during the interview.  “We didn’t make the playoffs, but hopefully we’ll get there this year.”

When asked about the bright lights, Milliner said his time at one of the nation’s most renowned programs prepared him well for his time in New York.

“It was sorta the same as when I was in school at Alabama,” Milliner said. “You just have to watch what you do and pay attention to things. But have fun at the same time, enjoy yourself. It’s New York City, so you know you’re going to be able to see a lot of people and do a lot of things.”

While there are some similarities, Milliner did joke about one big difference.

“The cold weather gets to me every now and then.”

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

The cold weather didn’t seem to make an impact on his play … quite the opposite.  Over the last month of the season Milliner was scorchingly good.  Milliner had three interceptions and 56 tackles as a rookie with the Jets and put up 10 passes defensed in a three week span.

The way Milliner ended the season is a good sign for a team moving on from both Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie at the position in a two year span.  While there is still uncertainty about the second corner back spot, the Jets should be able to back-fill the role either through the NFL Draft or through the competition they’ve set up for the spot on their roster.


In addition, Milliner was just the subject of a positive 2014 projection by draft guru Gil Brandt. (TJB, April 10)

Daily Links: Wilk shake

  • Mo Wilk at the Play 60 event this week. [NewYorkJets]
  • SUNY Cortland isn’t about to ban Mike Vick. [WFAN]
  • Jonny used to work on the docks, now he wants an NFL team. [Canoe]
  • Could the Bills move to Niagara Falls? [CBS]
  • Check out John Idzik’s 1982 yearbook photo. [NJ.com]
  • The Jets were almost a big part of Draft Day. [NJ.com]

TheJetsBlog Podcast: Pro Days & Draft Days

Corey Griffin and Brian Bassett are tracking pro days, looking at wide receivers, breaking down the Jets draft strategy, and still trying to figure out free agency and who the hell is leaking all the news and non-news.


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Link to Subscribe | E-Mail us with feedback, comments, or questions for a future show: thejetsblogpodcast@gmail.com

For the show rundown, click here...

  • Which pro days were the Jets at?
  • Watkins and WR’s
  • What about going with defense?
  • Trading Up / Trading Down
  • Pressure on Idzik strategy
  • More free agency analysis
  • When is panic time?
  • Media coverage of the off season – where’s the info coming from?

NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State

Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard set to visit Jets next week

First round prospect Darqueze Dennard will taking a pre-draft visit with the Jets, along with at least two other teams. (NFL Network, April 9)

Dennard won the Jim Thorpe Award (given to the best defensive back in college football) last season and is in the running with Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert as the the first corner back drafted next month.  While both won’t likely be available to the Jets with the 18th pick, Dennard seems to be trailing Gilbert due to the Sooner Cowboy’s athletic upside.

Recently, Dennard explained why he thinks he’s the best corner available to the Boston Herald.

“I think I’m the best cornerback in the class because of a lot of things really,” Dennard said. “I’m an overall better football player. I can tackle. I can play Cover-1, Cover-3, Cover-2, all types of coverages. I’m versatile. I can play inside. I can play outside. I can play safety. I’m smart. I think I’m an all-around great football player.”

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

For those unfamiliar with Dennard’s game, he’s regarded as the most physical cornerback in this year’s draft class.  The former Spartan would be a perfect fit for a Rex Ryan defense which loves using tight press coverage with their corners to disrupt an offense’s timing.

Dennard is this year’s most aggressive press cover cornerback, has fluidity in his movement, excellent body control and has good technique to position himself to neutralize receivers and contest passes.  As Dennard points out, he is also considered one of the best tackling and run stopping cornerbacks the draft process has seen in recent years.  If there’s any knocks on him, it might be that he’s only got average size and speed.

Should the Jets miss out on drafting a pass-catcher of their choice in the first round, they could do a lot worse than Darqueze Dennard.

TJB Friday Chat – 2pm ET

Join us at 2:00pm ET for our weekly TJB chat.

In order to access the room, you must now sign up for a chatzy account at Chatzy.com – click where it says log in/sign up in the top right hand corner. Obviously if you registered already, you can log into your existing account. You will then be able to access the room at the usual address – Chatzy.com/TJB where this week’s password is still ticktock.

Apologies for this extra requirement, but it will allow us to moderate the chat more effectively and prevent any abuse or vulgarity. The action gets underway at 2:00pm ET.

Opinion: What we learned from free agency

Corey Griffin, TheJetsBlog.com

It’s been 30 days since NFL free agency first tipped open its doors and GMs either tightened the purse strings or opened the flood gates.

While you and I were paying the rent or mortgage, well-compensated men in suits were putting the NFL’s newfound revenue and salary cap space to good, and not so good, use. With a month gone and almost all of the premier free agents off the market, this is as good a time as any to count our blessings and recount the lessons forgotten every new league year.

We learned it’s great to be under 30 and talented. Regardless of why you’re a free agent – usually because of contract, injury or attitude concerns – there will almost always be a GM suckered by your athleticism, past accolades or statistics earned in an environment completely different than the one you’re about to enter. Got a Pro Bowl or two on your Pro-Football-Reference page? How about a double-digit touchdown or interception campaign? Welcome to the winner’s circle, son. Here’s $20 million (guaranteed for skill and injury, of course) for your time and energy on someone else’s team.

John Idzik

Does Jets GM John Idzik have the right plan for the Jets?

It’s even better if you’re a cornerback or offensive tackle. The NCAA factory can’t turn those out fast enough.

As soon as Rodger Saffold, Brandon Albert, Aqib Talib and Darrelle Revis hit the market, it was every GM for himself. Never mind the fact that Saffold couldn’t stay on the field in recent years, nor the fact that the Chiefs desperately tried to dump Albert last offseason. Pay the man! And pay him handsomely! Let’s forget that only a year and a half ago, Talib nearly shot himself out of the league (literally) and then spent the second half of the 2013 season limping with a hip injury that he swears wasn’t real. And Revis … well, you know.

It’s a great time to be a free agent in the NFL. It’s always a great time to be a free agent in the NFL. Aging pass-rushers like DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen can command eight- and seven-figure paydays, respectively, while Michael Johnson and Everson Griffen, both members of the talented-and-under-30 club, can command even more based partly on the promise of youth.

And let’s not forget the NFL’s new glamour position.

Damn, it feels good to be a safety.

Did you see what T.J. Ward and even Donte Whitner pulled down this spring? I love me a big-hitting safety, but man that’s a lot of cheddar for a pair of guys who spend way more time in the box than they do backpedaling.

And let’s thank the Saints for reminding us of free agency’s biggest lesson – and greatest annual lie – salary cap space is as big or as small as you make it. Despite having among the least money to spend, New Orleans blew it out the box for Jairus Byrd (and all four ways to pronounce his name). The Byrd deal – and subsequent roster maneuverings by Mickey Loomis – proved what we fans and pundits always seem to forget by early March. Unless you’re the Cowboys, the salary cap isn’t a strict stop sign. It’s a fungible number that you can dance around and get creative with. If you have a player willing to play ball, you can fudge the numbers however you’d like to get that first year under the cap. Future years? Worry about when the TV money kicks in and the cap continues to rise under the previously-limiting CBA. And if that fails, restructure. You can always restructure. When the bill comes due, if you don’t have a ring to show for it, it’ll be probably be someone else’s problem anyway.

The truth is, free agency is a deep, deep body of water and the worst GMs get sucked in and never get out. The goods ones realize it’s best to dip your feet in ever-so-rarely. And the great ones usually spend most of free agency fishing on a yacht, lighting cigars with the $100 bills they didn’t give to the cornerback with attitude problems who was only going to the highest bidder anyway.

Those guys, the GMs who build teams that compete year-in and year-out, expend their resources, both financial and organizational, on cheap, controllable talent, mostly in the draft. They reward their own and create a sustainable culture instead of playing – and paying – for a three-year window.

I’m not sure if John Idzik is a great one. I don’t even know if he’s a good one. To be honest, we probably won’t know if he’s a bad one until it’s time to look for the next one. But I do know he’s a student of the game and he’s got enough self-control to stick to the plan.

And if I’ve learned anything over the past 30 days?  That’s the best thing your general manager can be.

NFL: Combine

Buzz: Coach Rex Ryan not on the hot seat

Will Rex’s future be determined by whether the Jets can make the playoffs this season? While many (myself included) have speculated as such, Kristian Dyer of Metro New York reports that Ryan’s future is not necessarily tied to getting into the postseason.

But Metro New York has learned it isn’t “postseason or bust” for Ryan this year if he wants to extend his stay in New York.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a team source with knowledge of the situation said Ryan “isn’t on any hot seat” this season, despite the fact his Jets haven’t had a winning record the past three seasons let alone made the playoffs.

[...]

“Rex isn’t on any hot seat and there is no playoff mandate even though he thinks and management thinks we can make the playoffs. That’s the goal every year,” the source told Metro. “But it isn’t postseason or bust for him. There are a lot of factors that go into it.”

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

To the source’s point, there are a lot of factors and to ignore Ryan’s obvious defensive talent, his players devotion to him and the team’s refusal to give up even when the playoffs seemed out of reach. But sooner or later the Jets have to get back to the playoffs and 2013 marked the third straight season that the Jets were unable to reach the playoffs.

For as much flak as the Jets get about their talent level, the team is much improved offensively and the way the head coach, offensive coordinator and general manager are attending pro days, looks to be getting better within the month at the wide receiver position.

Jets are piece or two away in the secondary from a top defense and their offense projects to be much better. The talent level on this team is on the rise, despite the moves they didn’t make in free agency. While Ryan’s future might not be held hostage by making the playoffs, it’s hard not to think that his future won’t be hurt by it.