4 New York Jets A needy defense and an embattled front office look to a prized rookie for immediate relief

August 31, 2003

Not Mark Gastineau, not Joe Klecko, not John Elliott, not Gerry
Philbin, not Verlon Biggs. No Jets defensive lineman has been
under as much scrutiny as rookie Dewayne Robertson has. Has
anyone had his tackle and assist statistics--in the preseason
yet--so carefully dissected?

Robertson, you see, represents two things: a hope for the future
and a cover-up for the past. The future, the Jets hope, is many
years as a pocket-crashing defensive tackle. The past is the
Great Corporate Raid of early 2003, when three starters, plus the
kicker and the NFL's fourth-leading kick returner last season,
were swept up by other organizations working the free-agent
market. The most serious loss, terrific young wideout Laveranues
Coles to the Redskins, led to Robertson's arrival. Washington had
to give the Jets its first-round draft pick for signing Coles.
That gave New York the juice to trade up to the Bears' No. 4 spot
and select Robertson, who was generally considered to be the best
defensive lineman in the draft.

His greatness, the thinking went, would wipe out all the talk
about how the Jets had lost Coles and the others through
mismanagement. But if Robertson turns out to be ordinary, or
something less, then fingers will be pointed for years.

Robertson is a nice young man, modest, soft-spoken. When he
talks, you have to strain to hear him. He looks like a giant who
had a heavy object dropped on him, squashing his 317 pounds onto
a 6'1" frame, the classic size for a nosetackle. Except that he's
not a nosetackle, a two-gapper, a block eater. He's supposed to
be an action guy, hitting the gap and breaking through and
raising hell in the backfield.

The early going hasn't been that easy. In New York's preseason
opener the Bucs double-teamed Robertson on his first NFL play
("I guess they'd been watching tape of his practices," Jets
cornerback Ray Mickens quipped), and they continued to give him
the treatment for the three series he was on the field. Tampa
Bay showed him a bunch of tricks, passing him off from one
lineman to another, setting him up and then blindsiding him.
Robertson had no tackles or assists, but he took a low charge
and got penetration and kept coming.

Since then he's seen all the other nuances of offensive line
play, and he's learning. But can Robertson key a defense that
must carry an even bigger share of the load, now that quarterback
Chad Pennington is out at least 12 weeks with a fractured and
dislocated left wrist? Chances are that Vinny Testaverde can
keep the Jets in their share of low-scoring games, but with
Pennington the offense could compete in shootouts. "I keep myself
in shape," Testaverde says. "I'll be ready."

Nevertheless, he turns 40 in November, and history is loaded with
hall of fame quarterbacks who faded badly after their 39th
birthday. There are success stories, however. Warren Moon was
effective in Seattle after hitting 40. Phil Simms turned 39 in
November 1993 and had a good year on a playoff-bound Giants team.
But don't forget that Pennington got his chance early last
October after Testaverde couldn't cut it.

What makes his job even more difficult is that Testaverde takes
over an offense that lost its top receiver, Coles, and one of its
better linemen, right guard Randy Thomas, in free agency. Jets
general manager Terry Bradway is tired of hearing all the blah
blah blah about the wave of departures. "That's all people want
to talk about," he says. "You know that last year we lost even
more guys, eight of them, and we still won the division."

Yes, but most were guys the Jets cut or exposed in the expansion
draft. To simplify, four things have to happen for the Jets to
have a shot at repeating in the AFC East. Coles's replacement,
former Charger Curtis Conway, has to be a reasonable facsimile of
his predecessor. Running back Curtis Martin, who dragged his
badly sprained left ankle through a painful 2002, has to regain
his old zip. Robertson has to learn to beat the double team. And,
of course, Testaverde has to find some life in a 39-year-old arm.
--P.Z.

COLOR PHOTO: RICH KANE/ICON SMI NO HOLDS BARRED Looking to get an edge on Robertson, opposing linemen are already doubling up and testing his skills. COLOR PHOTO: NFL PHOTOS SZOTT COLOR PHOTO

UNDER THE GUN

VINNY TESTAVERDE quarterbacked the Jets to the AFC Championship
Game in 1998, but the 17-year veteran didn't expect to face the
pressure he'll be under this fall as the replacement for injured
starter Chad Pennington, who is expected to miss at least 12
weeks. Testaverde turns 40 in November, so don't look for
miracles.

ENEMY LINES
An opposing scout's view

"People don't realize what a good job Herm Edwards did last year.
When they were 2-5, no one in his right mind would have predicted
they would make the playoffs.... The draft of 2000, a year before
this administration took over and the draft in which they had
four first-round choices, saved them. One of them, John Abraham,
has been to the Pro Bowl, and Chad Pennington was at that level
[before injuring his wrist].... Herm's Tampa Bay connection
hasn't paid off: Steve White and Damien Robinson were flunks;
Donnie Abraham has worked out O.K., so that's one out of
three.... Everyone likes Dewayne Robertson, but what bothers me
is that he took less than 70 percent of the snaps at Kentucky
last season. Is it a stamina thing, or did they just like to
rotate people a lot?... They're going to have a desperate
situation at the guard spots if Dave Szott doesn't stay healthy.
The guy on the other side, Brent Smith, hasn't played in, what,
two years?... They lost some really good players this year and
the year before. They've got some good ones too--[Curtis] Martin,
Abraham, Pennington--but sooner or later the talent drain gets
you."

SCHEDULE

Sept. 4 at Washington (Thurs.)
14 MIAMI
21 at New England
28 DALLAS

Oct. 5 Open date
12 BUFFALO
19 at Houston
26 at Philadelphia

Nov. 2 N.Y. GIANTS
9 at Oakland
16 at Indianapolis
23 JACKSONVILLE

Dec. 1 TENNESSEE (Mon.)
7 at Buffalo
14 PITTSBURGH
20 NEW ENGLAND (Sat.)
28 at Miami

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank: 1
Opponents' 2002 winning percentage: .541
Games against playoff teams: 6

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2002 statistics

2002 RECORD: 9-7
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total):
OFFENSE 22/17/22
DEFENSE 18/21/24

COACH: Herman Edwards; third season with New York (19-13 in NFL)

CURTIS MARTIN

POS. PVR ATT. YARDS AVG.
RB 27 261 1,094 4.2

REC. YARDS AVG. TDs
49 362 7.4 7

VINNY TESTAVERDE

POS. PVR ATT. COMP. %
QB 98 83 54 65.1

YARDS TDs INT. RATING
499 3 3 78.3

JERALD SOWELL

POS. PVR ATT. YARDS AVG.
FB 396 1 0 0.0

REC. YARDS AVG. TDs
9 85 9.4 1

CURTIS CONWAY[1]

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 66 57 852 5

ANTHONY BECHT

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
TE 206 28 243 5

JASON FABINI

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LT 6'7" 304 lbs. 16 16

DAVE SZOTT

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LG 6'4" 289 lbs. 4 4

KEVIN MAWAE

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
C 6'4" 289 lbs. 16 16

BRENT SMITH[1]

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RG 6'5" 315 lbs. 0 0

KAREEM MCKENZIE

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RT 6'6" 327 lbs. 16 16

WAYNE CHREBET

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 123 51 691 9

DEFENSE

RE JOHN ABRAHAM 61 tackles 10 sacks
NT JASON FERGUSON 63 tackles 3 sacks
LT DEWAYNE ROBERTSON[1] (R) 48 tackles 5 sacks
LE SHAUN ELLIS 41 tackles 4 sacks
OLB MO LEWIS 82 tackles 1/2 sack
MLB MARVIN JONES 109 tackles 1 int.
OLB SAM COWART 127 tackles 2 sacks
CB AARON BEASLEY 66 tackles 2 int.
SS SAM GARNES 67 tackles 2 int.
FS JON MCGRAW 28 tackles 1 int.
CB DONNIE ABRAHAM 53 tackles 4 int.

SPECIAL TEAMS PVR

K DOUG BRIEN[1] 239 5/7 XPS 5/6 FGS 20 PTS.
PR SANTANA MOSS 168 25 RET. 16.5 AVG. 2 TDS
KR ALBERT JOHNSON[1] 378 12 RET. 27.5 AVG. 0 TDS
P DAN STRYZINSKI[1] 64 PUNTS 37.8 AVG.

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 89)

"They're going to have a desperate situation at the guard spots
if Szott doesn't stay healthy."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)