TJB Hall of Fame – Rich Caster

Today we wrap up this year’s TJB Hall of Fame class with one of the best players in the post Super Bowl win era, Rich Caster. We’ll be back tomorrow to wrap up.

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

Since we came up with the idea for the TJB Hall of Fame, we’ve recognized plenty of players from the 1968-69 Super Bowl winning team and several guys picked up in the late seventies who went on to star for the Jets in the eighties. However, we’ve yet to recognize one player who was one of the Jets stars during that intervening period, so we’re setting that straight today by welcoming Rich Caster to the Class of 2014.

Caster joined the Jets as a wide receiver, before converting to tight end and reaching the pro bowl three times and then ultimately converting back to receiver. In his eight years as a Jet he caught 245 passes, including 36 touchdowns, and averaged 18.1 yards per catch.

While he arrived too late to participate in the Jets’ postseason success of the late sixties and left before the revival in the early eighties, Caster was a major bright spot on those struggling teams of the seventies, with his exciting big-play abilities.

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Roster Battles: Second starting receiver

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

Here’s a chance to look at some of the position battles that should play out over training camp in the coming weeks.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at New York JetsThe Setup: There’s a lot of questions about how effective these Jets wide receivers can be after the group they fielded headed into the season last year, but it’s not a long thin limb to stretch out on to say that the group will be better.  The removal of the ball-and-chain that was Santonio Holmes for an able, competent and competitive Eric Decker seems to be addition by subtraction, followed by addition by addition.  Decker will likely play the standard “X” receiver and see more see most of the man-coverage (and extra attention from opposing secondaries).  Jeremy Kerley will likely be very productive from the slot.  But who will be the team’s “Z” receiver?

The Main Contenders: David Nelson, Stephen Hill

The Darkhorses: Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans, Quincy Enunwa, Greg Salas, Clyde Gates

The Analysis:  For the Jets it might just come down to what the play calls for in a given situation and then rolling out the right “Z” accordingly.  Nelson has proven he can be productive with Geno Smith dating back to his time with the Jets last year where he came in and was productive in short order.  Nelson runs a lot of slants and outs, the shorter possession-style routes that work well in conjunction with his massive frame and radius.  It’s hard to know what we can expect from Stephen Hill this year, but one can understand why the Jets are extending hope.  Hill has unnatural size and speed make for alluring potential, but his time seems to be running out.  Knee issues and both Mark Sanchez and Geno’s hesitance to find Hill deep might indicate a lack of trust between quarterback and receiver.  The Jets drafted three receivers (in addition to TE Jace Amaro) and Hill’s leash is getting shorter.  Saunders seems to be penciled in for a returner’s role on special teams, but keep an eye on if the Jets use him in a dynamic deep threat role similar to how Mornhinweg used DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia.

The Projection:  We fully expect that the role will seem some sort of platoon-duty, with Nelson seeing the majority of the reps, and the rest trailing.  Also, don’t sleep on Jeremy Kerley sliding out to the flanker role.  He’s been decent there in the past when Tone was in the body shop.  Now, with two pass catching tight ends and overall more talent on offense, Kerley could be even more effective.

Audible: The man for the job?

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

That statement says a lot about the level of talent that is bubbling to the surface on this roster.  The best NFL teams are generally dominant on one side of the ball and adequate on the other.  While there are unanswered questions about this secondary until the regular season starts, the defense looks good to go.

Can Geno be the man that the team needs him to be?

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 oneweekaway.
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.

Rex Ryan: Jets can make playoffs

“Eight and eight would be a hell of a disappointment for us. I’m just telling you that I believe this team is on the cusp of doing some special things. . . . I’m confident we will be a playoff team.”

-Rex Ryan, in an interview with reporter Manish Mehta (NYDN, July 17).

NFL: Cleveland Browns at New York Jets

Geno Smith to get 75 percent of first-team reps

Geno Smith will reportedly get up to 75 percent of the first-team reps as he and veteran Michael Vick battle for the starting quarterback job (Fansided, July 17).

Though officials claim the two are on a level playing field, it’s pretty clear Smith already has the support of the young wide receivers as well.

David Nelson told FOXsports.com Tuesday that he was mostly impressed by Smith’s maturity since last season.

“He is taking authority over the offense and taking command over that group,” Nelson said. “When you see that, you see guys who want to play for him and you see a bunch of guys start to embrace him. You’re going to see a much more cohesive unit this year because of his maturity and because of his understanding of the offense and how the NFL works as a whole.”

While Smith and Vick may be fighting for the starting spot, Vick has made it clear that he is happy to take on a mentor role for the young QB, as well as the other rookie players (FOXsports, July 17).

“I honestly think his experiences off the field has been a huge component of what he brings to the locker room,” said Nelson. “He’s been through a lot and had to overcome a lot of real-life stuff and he applies that to his game on the football field. He doesn’t let the small stuff get to him.”

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

It’s interesting that someone would put a number on it, but it seems that it might be in line with what happens come camp next week.  Vick knows the offense and needs less time soaking it up.  The Jets want Geno to succeed and will do what it takes, but they also know what they have in their backup should the need arise.

Smith has made strides, but we’ll need to see how it plays out on the field this summer in camp and specifically in the preseason games before we can know for sure what the Jets might have this season.

TJB Hall of Fame – Shaun Ellis

We continue TJB Hall of Fame week with our third inductee of the week, Shaun Ellis, who played for the Jets for 11 years and made it to two pro bowls. Stay tuned for the final selection of this year’s class tomorrow.

Jake Steinberg, TheJetsBlog.com

Growing up in a younger generation, I’ve only had the opportunity to witness one player from this year’s class play in my lifetime. For that very reason, when I saw the nominees, I jumped on the chance to honor one of the all-time great Jets, and help induct him into the prestigious TJB HOF Class of 2014.

In the 2000 draft, with the Baltimore Ravens on the clock at pick No. 10, a young defensive line coach by the name of Rex Ryan was begging the front office to select a lineman out of the University of Tennessee by the name of Shaun Ellis.

After winning the first ever BCS National Championship in 1998 as a junior, Ellis came back for his senior year where he earned All-SEC honors his senior season. Ryan had seen enough film on the kid to believe he truly had what it took to be a star in the league. Unfortunately for the Ravens, (and fortunately for us), Ozzie Newsome and his staff ignored Ryan and selected Florida WR Travis Taylor. Ryan, little did he know, would one day get the opportunity to coach Ellis, albeit late in his career.

Jets general manager Bill Parcells had a plethora of draft picks (4) to work with that year. With many expecting him to wheel and deal, he instead held on to all four, selecting Ellis first at No. 11 before adding John Abraham, Chad Pennington and Anthony Becht later on.

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