The injury looked bad right after it happened, and today Rex Ryan made it official: S Jim Leonhard will not finish the season for the second consecutive year.
“We lost Jimmy, torn patella tendon,” the Jets head coach told team reporters on a conference call this afternoon. “You feel absolutely terrible for him. This team means everything to Jim. His leadership is obviously going to be missed. I know he’ll get this surgery and I’m sure he’s going to be around the building and be part of us anyway. He just can’t do it physically.”
The silver lining to Sunday’s second-quarter injury, not for Leonhard but for the Jets, is that similar to last year, when Leonard broke his leg in practice on Dec. 3, Brodney Pool is ready to step in, play alongside Eric Smith and keep the deep middle contributing to the Jets’ defensive efforts down the stretch.
“We’re fortunate to have as a team a player like Brodney as a backup safety. Now he’ll come in at starting safety with Eric,” Ryan said. “Brodney’s a guy who has man cover skills, he’s got range, he’s smart, he’s in our system now for the second season, so we’re fortunate to have him.
“It’s obviously a huge blow for our football team,” Ryan added, “but it’s one we think we can overcome.”
The difficult part may be in filling in behind Smith and Pool. Undrafted free agent Tracy Wilson, signed in late August, waived in September, signed to the practice squad in October and to the active roster in November, is the lone backup on the depth chart at the moment. Ryan said GM Mike Tannenbaum and his team are seeking available help “maybe not for the short term but to help us with depth maybe in the long term.”
But the long term doesn’t have much longer to go this season. Three more weeks of the regular season — which, if the Jets navigate with three victories, will get them their third AFC Wild Card playoff berth in the three Ryan seasons — plus however long the Green & White would continue into the postseason.
However, for the front line, Pool showed after Leonhard’s injury a year ago that he could accelerate his learning curve in the Ryan/Mike Pettine scheme and had a strong finish, particularly in the Indianapolis playoff game. Now it’s time for No. 22 to stand out one more time.
On the punt-returning front, no sooner had Ryan established his preference for Leonhard’s sure-handedness as the main punt returner than Leonhard went down after his lone return vs. the Chiefs for 1 yard.
But rookie Jeremy Kerley stepped right back into the role and did a solid job with 42 yards on three returns — 14- and 26-yard runbacks to set up two second-quarter TD drives and a 2-yard return that saved a tough hopper from being turned into an inside-the-5 punt in the third — plus two flawless fair catches.
“Jeremy was in this morning catching punts,” Ryan said. “He takes it on himself to get better — over 200 passes on the JUGS gun every day and I can’t tell you how many punts. … I think Jeremy’s done a tremendous job. Obviously he’s got to do a great job catching the football, first, and worrying about the return, second.”
Ryan said Leonhard will be “almost taking over a coaching role right now” and that he doesn’t think this injury in any way ends Leonhard’s playing career. But for one more stretch run the Jets will be without their heady, competitive back-end field general. We’ll add our condolences to those from around the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center and from around Jets Nation: We’re sorry to hear that you’re going to miss the end to another season, and we wish you a speedy recovery and rehab.
Nuggets from the Chiefs Game
KC coach Todd Haley was dismissed today, less than a day after Sunday’s 37-10 Jets verdict. Ryan on the firing: “As a member of the coaching community, it’s always tough when you hear news like that. I never knew Todd well, but when I’ve been around him, I’ve had a lot of respect for him. I think he did an outstanding job as a coordinator and obviously he took his team to the playoffs last year. It’s just an unfortunate thing. These things happen. I wish him the best.” Romeo Crennel, the former Jets and Patriots assistant and Browns head coach, was named as the Chiefs’ interim HC.
A couple of notes on Mark Sanchez’s recent run: Passer ratings sometimes not terribly revealing but they’re often interesting just the same. For instance, Sanchez’s second quarter vs. the Chiefs was one of three “perfect passing” quarters in his Jets career. He completed seven of eight passes for 120 yards and both his touchdown passes in the second frame, giving him a “perfect” rating of 158.3 for that quarter.
His other such ratings came in the fourth quarter of last year’s AFC Divisional Round game at New England (3-for-3, 72 yards, one TD) and in the third quarter of this year’s Game 2 vs. Jacksonville (5-for-5, 78 yards, 1 TD).
And Sanchez has been at the helm of 13 touchdown drives over the current three-game winning streak. The last time a Jets QB had 13 TD series in a three-game span was Chad Pennington during that golden stretch run in 2002 (3 @ NE, 5 vs. GB, 5 vs. IND in the AFC Wild Card Game). The last time a Jets QB had more was Ken O’Brien, who personally directed 14 TD possessions in 1985 (5 in Game 9 @ IND, 2 in Game 10 @ MIA, 7 in Game 11 vs. TB).
The Jets were the beneficiaries of seven first downs by penalty Sunday. That’s the same total they got in the 2000 Monday Night Miracle OT win over the Dolphins. The last time they got more in a game was in 1988, when the Houston Oilers helped them move the chains nine times via penalty.
The two Jets RBs with the most yards from scrimmage in a game in the last seven seasons were on the MetLife field at the end of the day Sunday. Thomas Jones, now of course a Chief, had 227 yards of offense vs. Buffalo in 2009. And Shonn Greene had a career-high 187 yards in the just-completed win. Crunching the numbers one more way, Greene has the most YFS by a Jets RB with at least 50 receiving yards since Curtis Martin racked up a franchise-record 228 yards in the snow against Pittsburgh on Dec. 14, 2003.
“Inside the Jets”
Tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and defensive tackle Marcus Dixon will be the special guests at tonight’s “Inside the Jets” radio show from 7-8 p.m. ET. You can attend the show at Grasshopper Off the Green in Morristown, N.J., or listen to the proceedings, hosted by voice of the Jets Bobby Wischusen, on ESPN 1050.
Tags: Brodney Pool, Eric Smith, Jim Leonhard, Kansas City Chiefs, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene
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