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Offseason Gambles Keep Coming Up Winners For Jets

Shuffling roster was a risk that appears to have paid off

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Oct 14, 2010  |  Updated 11:22 AM EDT
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Offseason Gambles Keep Coming Up Winners For Jets

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Nick Folk won the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award on Wednesday because of his five field goals against the Vikings on Monday night. That's a good number under any circumstances, but the fact that they came in a close game played under tough weather conditions means it was a very well deserved award.

It was also a bit surprising. Folk came to the Jets off the scrap heap after getting axed by the Cowboys because he couldn't make any kicks last season. He had hip problems to boot and there wasn't much confidence that the Jets had found themselves a good kicker to replace the steady Jay Feely. Folk has been great, though. He's made 12-of-14 field goals, including a 53-yarder on Monday, and no one is missing Feely at this point.

That's been a running theme among the moves made by Mike Tannenbaum with veteran players this offseason. No one is missing any of the Jets that were allowed to leave the team after several months of agonized complaints about how losing all of these vets would leave the Jets shorthanded on the field and in the realm of locker room leadership.

The first point is impossible to argue. Feely was allowed to leave so that the Jets, under the arcane rules of the uncapped season, were allowed to sign Jason Taylor as a free agent. Taylor was crucial while Calvin Pace was injured and has shown that there are still plenty of miles left on his pass rushing odometer. Even if Folk wasn't having such a strong year, it would be hard to argue against that trade.

There have already been volumes written about the bounceback season LaDainian Tomlinson is having and there's good reason for that. There's been a lot less ink spilled about how Thomas Jones has pretty much looked like the same guy who had no gas in his tank down the stretch last season. Different offensive lines, different coaching schemes and so forth can explain some of that, but the reasons for the disparate productivity don't matter all that much.

Another controversial decision, cutting Alan Faneca in favor of Matt Slauson, has worked out about the same way. Slauson hasn't been spectacular, but he grades out as slightly better than average according to Pro Football Focus. Faneca, who landed in Arizona, grades out slightly below average. Even if things are closer than that, the Jets offense hasn't suffered at all from the swap at left guard and Slauson's age makes it likely that better things are in his future.

You can quibble with the Leon Washington-for-Joe McKnight trade if you're so inclined and no one's going to put up much of an argument. The Jets special teams have been just fine, though, and the acquisition of Santonio Holmes combined with Tomlinson's skill as a receiver has made it hard to miss Washington all that much.

Leadership is a little harder to quantify, but it does seem that Mark Sanchez has stepped into whatever breech might have been created by all the departures. That's been evident in the way he's run the offense through five weeks and it's been in evidence in his weekly press conferences. Check out Wednesday's transcript and you'll find all the accountability, confidence and motivation that you want to see from a leader. Maybe he would have done that with all the old faces still around, but the idea that the team was lacking up top is a hard one to support after the first five weeks.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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