I'm thrilled the Jets have Brett Favre as their quarterback this year. But the significant improvement the 2008 Jets will show over the 2007 version might be due a lot more to the person on the right side of this picture than the guy on the left.
That's Alan Faneca, and his name, along with a couple of other new ones on the offensive side of the ball, would have helped the team improve even if the quarterback wasn't named Brett Favre.
But that is the quarterback's name, so let's break down the Jets offense, as they head into their season opener on Sunday in Miami.
QB: Brett Favre is not as good as his numbers last year indicated. But he's still a great quarterback, and a different type of quarterback than what the Jets have had the past six years. He can throw the ball downfield and at a high velocity - two things that haven't been part of the Jets' gameplan recently. Of course, there's a higher risk factor than there has been as well, since Chad Pennington didn't turn the ball over very much....but in the end this is an upgrade, and it makes certain players better.
RB: One such person is running back Thomas Jones. Jones is coming off an OK season - he did have more than 1,000 yards, but only 2 rushing touchdowns. I think he'll break free more often this year in part because of the downfield threat that Favre brings to the table, but also because of fullback Tony Richardson, who has blocked in front of a number of very good running backs in his career (who probably wouldn't have done as well had he not been there). Jones and backups like Leon Washington will also benefit from a revamped:
Offensive Line: Youngsters Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson have had an up year and a down year. I didn't realize it at the time, but their up year was definitely aided by the veteran presence of Pete Kendall, who then left the Jets in an ugly contract dispute. This year, there's another veteran presence, with the additions of Faneca and Damien Woody alongside those two and Brandon Moore. Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens had no shot last year because there was no stopping the opposition's pass rush. Thomas Jones, as a result of the passing game, had no shot of getting significant yardage. You can realistically expect all of that to change this year because the Jets will have a legitimate offensive line, unless Mangold and Ferguson take a big step backward.
Receivers: Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, as I've written before, seem very similar to the targets Brett Favre is used to from Green Bay. They can pick up a lot of yards after the catch. What they haven't had much opportunity to do over the years is outrun defenders for bombs, but in the pre-season it seems like Cotchery and Brad Smith have had those opportunities, and done well with them. (Although I can't help but think about how good Santana Moss would look running down Favre rainbows.) The biggest stumbling block for the Jets' receivers might be for Coles to get over the fact that his friend Pennington was released to make room for Favre. Once he realizes the Jets have a chance to win a lot more games this year, I think he'll be fine. Tight end Chris Baker might see his playing time reduced by the emergence of rookie Dustin Keller, but I think the tight end position will be a strength this year as well...or, at the very least, a popular target for Favre.