It was another “Fast Friday” practice for the Jets at Atlantic Health Training Center today. Head coach Rex Ryan and his staff keep the mood light on Fridays with an abbreviated practice working mostly on red zone situations. Instead of beginning the day with special teams drills, the offense takes the field and each receiver, back, or tight end runs an individual route, receives a pass, and is then congratulated by a chorus of cheers and applause from his teammates.
Today, even offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was involved, throwing a short screen pass to tight ends coach Mike Devlin, eliciting a chorus of cheers and applause. Fast Friday is one way to maintain a positive vibe throughout the team heading into that weekend’s game. Staying positive is crucial, especially in the midst of a crowded playoff race.
While the Jets have had no problems keeping morale high, Ryan hopes it’s spreading to their fan base.
“We’re fighting for our playoff lives,” said Ryan. “Have we made it easy being a Jets fan? Probably not like we wanted to. One thing about our team, we’re going to give it everything we have. I think our fans appreciate that.”
In hopes of jump-starting that wave of positivity, Ryan has made a special request to have his offense introduced individually before Sunday’s opening kickoff against the Chiefs, and he expects a rousing ovation from Jets Nation. After all, it’s the same Jets offense that has come from behind in the fourth quarter in consecutive weeks to keep the playoff dream alive.
“I want everybody to know that Mark Sanchez is a pretty good quarterback,” said Ryan. “I think it will be a shot in the arm when he comes out to applause because I think that will happen.”
In addition to Sanchez, RB Shonn Greene has been enjoying increased success lately. Due in large part to the elevated play of the offensive line, Greene has averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his last two games and had a career-high three-touchdown performance last week at Washington. Greene seemingly has won the battle with inconsistency that plagued him earlier in the season, and is now battling a rib injury sustained in Week 11 in Denver.
“He’s tough. This time of year everybody is beat up,” said Ryan. “The tough guys hang in there and keep going. When you look at our backfield, everybody is hurt.”
Ryan’s commitment to the ground game has been reaffirmed in the last two games, as the Jets have run the ball 53 times. Greene has taken 35 of those carries, and it appears the approach won’t change much on Sunday.
“We know as a football team we had to run the ball better,” said Ryan. “Washington had a good front, Kansas City is a good front, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge. We know we have to keep hanging in there. To me, rushing attempts are more important than rushing average. You keep running the football, eventually good things are going to happen.”
Ryan fell in love with the run game in his first season as head coach, when RB Thomas Jones posted career bests with 331 carries, 1,402 rushing yards and 14 TDs. Now Jones is in Kansas City and will make his return trip to East Rutherford, N.J., with the Chiefs.
“They have one of the best running games in the league,” said Ryan. “We have to stop the run so we can get them in third-and-longs. That will play to our advantage.”
The Chiefs are ranked ninth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 120.7 yards per game. Jones is part of a three-headed ground game along with RB Jackie Battle and RB Dexter McCluster. The three have helped keep the Chiefs alive in the AFC West race.
While the Kansas City passing attack may not be their strength, Ryan insisted that his secondary must stay alert for the big play. The Chiefs’ only touchdown in last week’s 10-3 victory over the Bears came on a Hail Mary completion to McCluster to end the first half.
“On the back end, we can’t fall asleep,” said Ryan. “This team is capable of throwing the football. They’ve got big-time wideouts on the outside. They’ll run the Wildcat, they’ll run bootlegs, and [QB Tyler Palko] is pretty decent on the move. There is certainly a challenge there.”
DT Mike DeVito (knee) did not participate in practice this week and is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game. RB Joe McKnight practiced on a limited basis and wore a brace on his arm to protect his hyperextended elbow. He is also listed as questionable. In case he can’t go, Ryan said that rookie RB Bilal Powell will be active.
RG Brandon Moore missed the week of practice with soreness in his surgically repaired hip. Ryan listed Moore as questionable, but Moore had no doubts that he would play in his 125th Jets regular-season game and make his 118th consecutive start come Sunday.
“I’ll get out there before the game, get on the field, warm it up, come back and get ready for the game,” said Moore. “I don’t know if anybody is 100 percent, but I’ll be ready to go.”
Rounding out the Jets listed as questionable is DT Marcus Dixon, who is also nursing a sore hip.
The Chiefs are abnormally healthy this late in the season. Recent waiver-acquisition QB Kyle Orton is doubtful with a finger injury on his throwing hand. LBs Jovan Belcher (shoulder) and Demorrio Williams (groin) are both questionable.
Tags: Brandon Moore, Brian Schottenheimer, Kansas City Chiefs, Kyle Orton, Mark Sanchez, Mike DeVito, Rex Ryan, Thomas Jones, Tyler Palko
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