Thursday, September 3, 2009

Marshall for Harris? No thanks.

Upon hearing yesterday of the Jets' reported interest in Brandon Marshall, the Broncos made their demands for their disgruntled star receiver clear. They want third-year middle linebacker David Harris coming to Denver in any trade that involves Marshall and the Jets.

Harris led the Jets in tackles in his rookie season of 2007 and registered 75 tackles last season in just 11 games. With the addition of middle linebacker Bart Scott and the presence of tackle Kris Jenkins, the Jets look poised to have a very strong inside run defense this season.

Part of the reason the Jets would be silly to trade Harris for Marshall is their weakness on the outside of their front seven. Linebacker Calvin Pace is solid, but will miss the season's first four games for violating the league's performing-enhancing drugs policy. Aging defensive end Shaun Ellis still has some gas in the tank, but he too will miss the season opener due to a substance-abuse suspension.

Former first-round pick Bryan Thomas is an average option at outside linebacker, as is Marques Douglas at defensive end. And without Pace and Ellis for the opener, inexperienced linebacker Vernon Gholston and third-year defensive end Mike DeVito will have to fill in those respective voids.

The Jets are solid in the secondary, but losing Harris would be a huge blow to their run defense, which already could struggle against teams who run well off tackle. This year's team is built on a strong running game and solid defense, and while adding Marshall would help the passing game, that doesn't seem to be a priority for the Jets this year.

Marshall would definitely aid in the development of rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, giving him a sure-handed option who has caught 206 balls for 2590 yards in the last two seasons. His 6-4 frame makes him a great target in the red zone, something the Jets lack, and his presence would help them stretch the field and keep defenses from stacking the box to stop the run.

But let's not forget why there is trade talk surrounding Marshall. He hasn't dedicated himself to learning Josh McDaniels' playbook and was recently suspended for the rest of the preseason after noticeably dogging it during a practice. There is also his checkered past with the law, which could give teams pause in meeting the Broncos' demands for Marshall.

Marshall is a great talent, don't get me wrong. But despite a glaring need at wide receiver, trading Harris and most likely a draft pick to get Marshall is not a prudent move for a run-heavy team that made numerous moves to bolster their defense heading into the season.

Even if they acquired Marshall, the Jets would stay a running team while severely subtracting from their interior run defense, which is now a strength. It seems unlikely that Ryan and the Jets would pull the trigger on any deal where they were giving up defense for offense. But that's not for me to know, and we will see if these talks heat up as a result of the Broncos' demands or shut down before they even start.

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