Eric Mangini wasn’t declaring Abram Elam his starter at safety, alongside Kerry Rhodes and replacing Eric Smith for a game, but the Jets head coach made a point of saying whatever role Elam plays Sunday vs. the Bengals, he’s comfortable with "Abe" in the game.
"I like his personality on and off the field. He’s a high-energy guy," Mangini said at today’s news conference, recalling when Elam first became a starter last midseason. "Each day he’d make plays both on the scout team and with the defensive reps he got. At that point, I thought it was the right time to give him a chance.
"It was not that he didn’t do a good job during the summer — he did. It wasn’t really a poor reflection on Abe. I just thought at that point Eric had won the job."
Mangini repeated that he’s completely comfortable if Elam is in the game due to his experience. In fact, he said, "I think this was his first start last year, at Cincinnati, so here we are."
Elam remembered that game, the fall-from-ahead 38-31 loss at Paul Brown Stadium nine days shy of a year ago
“It was exciting to get my first start against the Bengals,” he said in the locker room today. “Unfortunately the game didn’t turn out the way I anticipated. We weren’t able to come up with a victory. But I learned a lot that game.”
And, he said, he learned a lot all last season in the Mangini/Bob Sutton scheme.
“I came from Dallas and the two defenses are similar," he said, "but there wasn’t as much movement there as there is here. I really felt like I grew as a player last year learning under Coach Mangini and with the guys. I was really excited about the opportunity and taking advantage of what I was given.”
Elam said he feels he’s definitely matured and he’s comfortable in the system, and when called on he’s ready to fill the void created by Smith’s one-game suspension.
“I think it’s an opportunity to go out and show what I can do and let this coaching staff know that they can count on me when my opportunity comes," he said. "I just like to be out there playing and competing. This is what I dreamed of — it’s an opportunity to do something I love and go out there and compete. I dreamed of playing pro sports when I was a kid.”
Some may wonder, with all the comfort and confidence going on, why David Barrett, the former full-time cornerback, got the start at safety at San Diego rather than Elam. Mangini explained the tactical reasons for Barrett against the Chargers.
"It was more just because with Antonio Gates. When they were in 21 personnel [two backs, one TE], with Gates it’s really like a 20 — he’s really another receiver," the coach said. "Instead of having to go with a nickel defense and take a linebacker out and put a corner at safety, you have the ability to play man-to-man, things like that, without having to substitute in the front."
Makes sense, and with Barrett’s start — his interception-return TD 3:11 into the game to give the Jets a 7-0 lead plus another deep-middle PD minutes later — that call looked pretty good.
As for what the Jets will throw at the Bengals and their differently configured but equally dangerous passing attack, you’ll have to watch Sunday’s game. But Elam will be ready to do more playing than watching when called upon.
Revis on Returns?
Mangini fielded a question from a reporter who wondered whatever happened to the idea of using Darrelle Revis as both a DB and a PR. That’s what Revis did at Pitt, but the only two punts he’s returned as a Jet came in the last two games of the 2007 preseason.
"Darrelle hasn’t had a lot of opportunities there. I just really like Leon," Mangini said. "Anytime you can get him the ball in space, he’s developed, especially as a punt returner, in the time he’s been here. That’s not a knock on Darrelle. it’s just that Leon is very good there, and he’ll get better."
Brett and the Bengals
Elam isn’t the only Jet to get his first pro start vs. the Tiger Stripes. Brett Favre shares that distinction — in fact, when he came off the bench in to lead the Packers to a 24-23 comeback win over the Bengals at Lambeau Field in 1992, it marked the last time he didn’t start a game before starting his still current starting streak.
"My first real, true test," Favre said today of that Bengals game. "I played the previous week, but we were getting blown out. It holds a special place for the reason that we won. I came in in relief and led us from behind. It really was the start of my career. I never sat out after that point. It just happened to be against Cincinnati."
By the way, Favre turns 39 today. Happy birthday, Brett.
Tags: Abram Elam, Bob Sutton, Brett Favre, Cincinnati Bengals, Darrelle Revis, Eric Mangini, Leon Washington
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