Rush Job The Jets addressed a lot of needs with their record four first-round picks, but success hinges on whether a pair of sack artists can get to the quarterback

April 24, 2000
April 24, 2000

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April 24, 2000

Pro Basketball

Rush Job The Jets addressed a lot of needs with their record four first-round picks, but success hinges on whether a pair of sack artists can get to the quarterback

The New York Jets sacrificed the present for the future, offense
for defense, one star for the largest collection of first-round
draft choices the league has ever seen. Was it worth it? At
first glance, no. Upon reflection, well, who can tell with all
these ifs?

This is an article from the April 24, 2000 issue Original Layout

New York gave up Keyshawn Johnson, its leading wideout and a man
who meant much more to its attack than his value as a pass
catcher. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were willing to pay him more
than the Jets could, or would, so they acquired Johnson for a
pair of first-round picks. In addition to an oversized receiver
who caught 89 balls last season, they got the NFL's best
crackback blocker.

Bill Parcells loved Johnson. The key to Parcells's running game,
wherever he coached, was perimeter blocking: tight end Mark
Bavaro with the New York Giants; H-back Keith Byers with the New
England Patriots and the Jets; tight end Kyle Brady, who moved to
H-back for the Jets whenever Byers got hurt; and Johnson last
season. A vicious blocker, Johnson goes after linebackers and
defensive ends; it doesn't matter. Yes, the Bucs got quite a

What did the Jets get? A pass rush, they hope. Last season they
finished 30th in the league in sacks, with 26, one ahead of the
last-place Cleveland Browns. New York's top two sackers were
linebackers, and Mo Lewis, the leader with 5 1/2, tied for 64th
in the NFL. Now the Jets have a pair of pass-rushing
bookends--Tennessee's Shaun Ellis, at left end, and South
Carolina's John Abraham, a linebacker with a burst off the edge.
New York had to maneuver to get this pair: The 12th selection in
the first round came in a swap of draft picks with the San
Francisco 49ers; the 13th choice came courtesy of the Johnson

Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington, the 18th pick, was passed
over by three teams that were supposedly hot after him: the
Pittsburgh Steelers, the Denver Broncos and the 49ers. New Jets
coach Al Groh said that 36-year-old Vinny Testaverde has a few
years left and that Pennington will succeed him. Nowhere was
there any mention of 27-year-old Ray Lucas, a Parcells favorite
who ran the team effectively at times last year after Testaverde
ruptured his left Achilles tendon in the opener. Most peculiar.
If Pennington turns out to be a Pro Bowl player, the Jets look
really smart. Otherwise....

Near the end of the first round New York got Anthony Becht, a
270-pound tight end from West Virginia whose forte is blocking.
He's a solid player, but he's no Bavaro. The Jets thought about
trading up for a marquee receiver, but it didn't work out. So in
Rounds 3 and 5 they got Florida State's Laveranues Coles,
breathtakingly fast but inconsistent, and USC's Windrell Hayes,
consistent but slow. This sure doesn't seem like the answer to
the wideout situation. Bengals receiver Carl Pickens is looking
to get out of Cincinnati, and although Groh denies a deal is in
the works, Jets supporters have to be hoping that one might come

One year after playing in the AFC Championship Game, New York
dropped six of its first seven games last season and finished
8-8. The Jets have a favorable fifth-place schedule, but if
Ellis and Abraham don't get to the quarterback, it could be
another long season for their fans. Then the second-guessing
about the Johnson trade will really heat up.

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Good riddance?A couple of Jets fans weigh in on the Johnson trade during last Saturday's draft proceedings in New York City.