Within a week of opening the 2011 season against Dallas, the Jets on Sunday added four new players via waivers to their 53-man roster, new pieces to what they hope is their championship puzzle.
While QB Kevin O’Connell begins his second tour of duty with the Jets, three of the waiver additions made their team debut at practice on Monday afternoon. C Colin Baxter is an undrafted free agent who spent training camp as a member of the San Diego Chargers. Former St. Louis Rams WR Mardy Gilyard is a young, electric offensive player with heavy experience on special teams. And S Andrew Sendejo comes to the Jets after spending part of last season and this August with the Dallas Cowboys.
As head coach Rex Ryan admits, it won’t be easy for the new Jets to quickly become acclimated to their new team.
“One of these offensive linemen is going to have to step in there and play and be our seventh guy this week,” said Ryan. “You hope you don’t have to play them, but you have to coach them up. It’s going to be a huge challenge to get them up to speed.”
Baxter was not selected in the 2011 draft after an impressive four-year career at the University of Arizona, where he was a two-time All-Pac-10 offensive lineman. Signed by the Chargers after the draft, Baxter hopes to provide depth to the Jets O-Line as a backup to C Nick Mangold.
“He was helping me with some footwork stuff after practice,” said Baxter of Mangold. “Rob Turner, he’s going to help me learn all the protections and all that type of stuff, and he’s already talked to me about that. There’s been a lot of support.”
The support that Baxter has already been shown has also impressed Gilyard, a former fourth-round pick of the Rams in 2010.
“It’s all smiles, man,” said Gilyard. “My teammates are great. Everybody here is just perfect. It’s like you’re home. You come into the locker room and you have 53 brothers.”
Gilyard steps into a veteran receiving corps after catching six passes for 63 yards in his rookie campaign. Used primarily as a kick returner, he is ready to embrace any role bestowed upon him in New York.
“I haven’t met with Coach Westhoff to see what’s going on, but if I had to guess, I played a lot of special teams in St. Louis for me not to be on special teams here in New York,” he said. “I’m going to help out the best way I can, contribute the best I can, and hopefully I’m here for a while.”
To further shore up the special teams group, Sendejo was added from the Cowboys, who also happen to have a date with the Jets on Sunday.
“I want to do everything I can to help this team win,” said Sendejo. “It will just make it that much better that it will be against the team that I just got released from. But it doesn’t really matter who’s across from you, you’ve just got to do your job and execute.”
While Gilyard hadn’t yet had a chance to meet with Westhoff, Sendejo had already spent time with the special teams coordinator.
“Anytime you’re a young guy new to a team, special teams is where you’re going to make your money at,” said Sendejo. “I’m looking forward to helping that unit and doing whatever I have to do to help us win, wherever it may be.”
There are only five days until the 2011 season gets under way, a short period for new players to assimilate into a new organization. But Gilyard doesn’t think the process will be difficult. Although the gracious young receiver has only had one practice with his new squad, he already feels at home.
“Football starts with an ‘F,’” said Gilyard. “In other words, football starts with ‘family.’ It’s the ultimate team game. It takes literally 11 guys on offense and 11 guys on defense to do their job right for us to be successful. You want to come to a place that’s like that. It’s like a big family that relies on each other. That’s the great thing about being here.”
Tags: Andrew Sendejo, Colin Baxter, Kevin O\'Connell, Mardy Gilyard, Rex Ryan, waivers
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