04/26/2010 11:53 AM ET
Can rookies fill veterans' shoes?
McKnight, Ducasse in with Washington, Fancea out
By Michael Salfino / SNY.tv
Vladimir Ducasse, an offensive lineman out of Massachusetts, is a raw but talented prospect. (AP)

The Jets continued to dramatically reshape their team this weekend during and after the NFL Draft.

In are the rookie crop of cornerback Kyle Wilson (Boise State), offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse (UMass), running back Joe McKnight (USC) and fullback John Conner (Kentucky).

Out is Leon Washington, the 2007 and 2008 team MVP, who was traded to Seattle for a fifth-round pick. The Jets also released Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca.

The big addition is Wilson, the first-round pick and 29th overall. He was widely regarded as the best cover corner in the draft and was expected to be drafted in the teens. With Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, Wilson gives the Jets three shut-down-caliber corners.

So the Jets seem set to attack teams differently than anyone else in the NFL. They'll use a heavy dose of man defense and lots of blitzing from defenders normally needed to man zones. If that plan is carried forward, the Jets will be a tough team to prepare to play. Teams will have to practice all week against man defense, but their own defensive backs will lack the elite skills needed to replicate the Jets defense. There aren't 10 true cover corners in the entire league. The practice week will not be long enough for the vast majority of 2010 opponents. Opposing offensive coordinators will not be able to use experience gained against similar defenses because there is not likely to be a similarly styled defense.

Pass rushers are very tough to find. But why continue to spend resources finding someone who can beat one, two or three blockers on every play when you can just scheme ways to get guys clean through the offensive line by just outnumbering them at the point of attack? That gives receivers about two seconds to beat the Jets corners one-on-one, and that's not likely to happen on the vast majority of plays. The way to counter this defensive scheme is to spread the defense out and use mismatches in the slot against the weaker corners. But Wilson is the answer to that.

The rest of the draft essentially works as trades. Washington is gone in favor of McKnight, once an elite high school recruit and someone who seems to have the measureables necessary to be a third-down/change-of-pace weapon. He's gotten props for his hands and route-running. He'll learn from LaDainian Tomlinson, who is probably in his last season, whether he likes that or not. Here are some highlights, but remember, everyone looks good on YouTube. McKnight, like Wilson, is an expert punt returner and also projects as a kickoff man.

The key point missed by critics, such as John Clayton of ESPN in some lazy analysis here, is that Washington is coming off a catastrophic broken leg. Maybe he comes back at 100 percent. Maybe he can't run without a limp for the rest of his career. The Seahawks chose to gamble. What do they have to lose? The Jets chose not to and opted instead for the Tomlinson/McKnight fix. They are certainly stronger today at that position than they were on Wednesday. Washington can't run 20 feet right now.

The Faneca move is fascinating. I've always thought that these offensive lineman were legacy appointments to the Pro Bowl once they first made it, and here's your proof. This is purely a football decision in an uncapped year. Fans are knocking it on the radio the past couple of days and finding agreement from some hosts who are saying, "Why do that in this year when money doesn't matter." But they've answered their own question. Money doesn't matter. Faneca isn't really good anymore.

Who replaces him? Ducasse is from Haiti and has not played football for long. Maybe second-year man Matt Slauson starts. Either way, even Faneca admitted after being released that the Jets have great coaching with Bill Callahan and will likely be just fine replacing a guy who we can stipulate was much closer to average than Pro Bowl level. Remember, he led the offensive line in sacks allowed and in penalties on passing plays.

The Jets, however, were No. 1 in running over Faneca's left guard spot, averaging 5.75 yards on 65 plays. They also ran right far more often than left (302 rushes vs. 168 to the left). These NFL play direction stats can be tricky because you don't know how many runs were designed in that direction or ended up there after an improvisation. There are also times when the guards pull to their other side.

Conner is simply the future replacement for Tony Richardson, who was on the fence about retiring this year and is very likely going to end his career at age 40 after this season.

Michael Salfino is a nationally syndicated columnist and a regular contributor to SNY.tv.
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