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Ignoring Depth Coming Back to Haunt Jets

The Jets' offseason decisions are coming under the microscope

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Oct 5, 2011  |  Updated 6:25 PM EDT
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Looking Back: New York Jets 2011-12 Season

The play of the offensive line highlights the failings of the offseason.

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When the NFL finally returned from the lockout, Giants general manager Jerry Reese became a local pariah for his moves or lack thereof in free agency.

Mike Tannenbaum, Reese's peer with the Jets, suffered none of the same indignities as a result of his moves. Some of them were questioned, but there wasn't nearly the kind of bloodlust unleashed by the team's fan base that there was for Reese.

Four weeks into the season, it is beginning to look like Tannenbaum got off easy. Reese was criticized heavily for saying that his team was good enough to win even with key contributors from past years leaving the team, but Tannenbaum got a free pass.  But some of his decisions are coming back to haunt the team. 

The most obvious shortcoming is on the offensive line, where the team's complete lack of depth has left them without any kind of a running game and nearly got Mark Sanchez killed in Baltimore on Sunday night. Tannenbaum's blunders began way back before the lockout when they booted Damien Woody to save money and handed the right tackle job to Wayne Hunter.

Hunter has been terrible through four games and the Jets didn't make any moves to bring in veteran competition that could at least force Hunter to earn the job in training camp. Vladimir Ducasse was supposed to provide some competition, but it has become quite clear that the 2010 second-round pick was a massive reach for a raw player who hasn't developed at all since getting to this level.

Tannenbaum compounded those mistakes by refusing to add a veteran or two to cover for the loss of Rob Turner to an injury in the preseason. Andre Gurode, the former Cowboys Pro Bowl center, started for the Ravens on Sunday night after being signed during training camp and Bryant McKinnie, the ex-Viking who was also added during camp, was alongside him on up front for Baltimore.

The same thing happened on the defensive line where Shaun Ellis left as a free agent and Kris Jenkins retired. The Jets chose to stick with players they already had in house, bolstered by first-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson, and are now left with a group -- short on dynamic players -- that has been pushed around every week.

All of these needs weren't addressed in the offseason and part of the reason the team is so thin is because Tannenbaum has regularly made deals involving draft picks to move up in the draft or get veteran players from other teams. Many of these trades have worked out, but it has left the Jets with a top-heavy roster that in some cases -- Brandon Moore, Calvin Pace, Jim Leonhard -- features players whose reputations no longer matches their contributions.

There's a chance Tannenbaum's decision to go with unproven backups will pay off for the team down the line and it does represent a shift from the vet-heavy teams of the last few years. The problem is that making the change at this point means that you're working against everything you've done for the last two or three years.

The Jets' championship window isn't getting any bigger than it has been the last few seasons. It may even be getting smaller which means that leaving such obvious holes this year was an even bigger risk than it might be for a team with very little to play for.

Tannenbaum skated on these calls in the preseason. There's not much chance he'll get the same pass twice if the players he trusted don't start rewarding him for his decisions.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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