Keys to season include health, new additions
Chad Pennington

Posted Sep 5, 2005


The New York Jets are betting on the return to health of several players and a few key additions in their run towards the Championship this year.

While huge improvements on defense under first-year coordinator Donnie Henderson keyed the Jets going from 6-10 to 10-6 last season, it's the offense that has to make the jump this year. The conservative offense of Paul Hackett is out and Mike Heimerdinger and his extra large playbook are in.

Look for quarterback Chad Pennington to go long a little more often and everyone to get involved on offense, from the fourth wide receiver to the tight end to the backup running back. This team expects at least 21 points a game, a total they managed in just seven games last year. The Jets will still rely on a defense that ranked seventh overall last season, hoping that veteran corner Ty Law is fully recovered from a serious foot injury and can solidify a secondary desperate for playmakers.

The Jets have lofty goals this season, with several players talking about going to the Super Bowl. That kind of talk will either help propel them toward their goal or set them up for criticism later.

Three keys for the season:

1. Quarterback Chad Pennington needs to start well but doesn't have to put too much pressure on himself. While his surgically repaired shoulder proved strong by the end of training camp, the first few games will provide a much better test for Pennington both physically and mentally as he eases into offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger's new offense. In past seasons, Pennington has put the burden of winning too much on himself rather than let his teammates help him. Well his teammates are there for him so Pennington will need to work within himself instead of forcing matters.

2. Special teams coach Mike Westhoff has rookies in three important positions: kicker (Mike Nugent), punter (Ben Graham) and kickoff and punt returner (Justin Miller). All three are areas the Jets have had trouble with in the past so filling them with rookies could be a risky proposition. Nugent and Graham had excellent camps and better preseasons, but regular season games are different altogether. Miller has sensational speed and moves on kickoff returns but he struggled catching the ball on punts.

3. Ty Law not only needs to be a playmaker in the Jets' secondary but needs to be a vocal leader for the whole team. The Jets have a number of young players in key roles and will lean on some of the veteran leadership the Jets have in players like center Kevin Mawae and running back Curtis Martin, but Law needs to step in that role as well. When he came to camp, Law occasionally talked about what he could provide to the team by referring to himself in the third person. The Jets need some of that bravado to come through more.



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