One thing Tony Sparano said when he was Miami’s head coach back in the summer of 2010 was that WR Patrick Turner was “starting to play, doing some good things,” but that he needed consistency on the field to reach his full NFL potential.
Turner began showing some of that quality this past season in the Jets’ wideout group and he recently secured some consistency of employment when the potential restricted free agent and the Jets agreed to a contract extension through the 2012 season.
“It’s good to have the opportunity from the Jets and I was glad to take that. No hesitation on my part,” said Turner when I caught up with him back near his old stomping grounds near Nashville, Tenn. “I’m looking forward to being able to contribute to the team. We have a lot of new faces on the coaching staff and I’m looking forward to working with them.”
One of those new faces is Sparano’s — he’s now the Jets’ offensive coordinator. Turner has no qualms working with the man who let him go on the Dolphins’ final cutdown in 2010.
“I played for Coach Sparano for a year. He’s a high-energy guy,” Turner said. “He really likes football players around him. And not just football players — I’m talking about guys who are in there every day busting their tails for the long haul. That’s something he preached while I was with the Dolphins, and I believe he’ll do a really good job for us. I feel like he’s a great asset for us and he fits the philosophy of what we’re trying to do.”
Parts of that philosophy, as Sparano has previously noted since coming aboard, are to establish the run, seek offensive balance, but also to pursue “chunk plays” to move the ball downfield, well, energetically.
Turner’s numbers from his two seasons in green and white remain modest (10 catches, 122 yards, one TD). But he showed his “chunkability” in the otherwise unfortunate Thursday night mile-high game when he grabbed a Mark Sanchez pass down the deep middle for 25 yards to convert fourth-and-19 and keep the Jets’ comeback hopes alive in the final minute against the Broncos.
For history buffs, it’s interesting to note that play was the Jets’ longest fourth-down conversion in the last 15 seasons and their third-longest in the last 30 years. The only longer conversions came on a Neil O’Donnell-to-Keyshawn Johnson TD pass on fourth-and-goal from the Dolphins 29 in 1996 and on a Pat Ryan-to-Mickey Shuler fake-field-goal scoring strike on fourth-and-20 at Minnesota in 1982.
Turner added another memorable grab in an otherwise dreary day, the 19-17 loss to the Dolphins in the Jan. 1 regular-season finale. His 10-yard touchdown reception from Sanchez came on the Jets’ final offensive snap of the ’11 season.
P.T. needs more of those kinds of plays to stick around and establish himself as a Jet. But he sees reasons to be optimistic.
“We just look forward to making a lot of big plays this year, being as efficient as possible,” he said. “We feel we have a ton of playmakers out there at the receiver position and on our offense. We have younger guys like Jeremy Kerley and we still have Santonio [Holmes]. We still have a lot of guys who can make plays in crucial situations. It could be a really good thing with the experience we have now, coming into this next year, understanding a little more about the game and how the game flows.”
The Jets’ wideouts are also getting a new position coach in Sanjay Lal, and Turner believes the package he will present to Lal, Sparano and head coach Rex Ryan will give him a chance to attain the consistency that many young players seek to establish in the NFL pressure cooker.
“I know the type of player I am,” he said. “I know the type of receiver I am in the blocking game and on the receiving end of things. I’ve got some recent texts from Coach Sparano and Coach Sanjay saying they’re looking forward to working with me. It’s not like they haven’t seen what they have to work with.”
Turner’s doing his part to be ready. NFL players don’t report to their offseason strength and conditioning programs until mid-April, but he’s already doing cardio, speed and strength work with his cousin, Kurston Biggers, who was a running back on Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team and is now a professional trainer and the strength coach at Brentwood Academy south of Nashville.
“It feels good so far,” said Turner, who will kick his training up a notch when he goes west in a few weeks to another one of his home bases at Southern Cal. “My body feels good. Health is the key. I’m glad I came out of this season healthy. It’s a blessing. This is a physical game. I’m happy with the foundation I have to work with going into this next year.”
Tags: Karston Biggers, Mark Sanchez, Miami Dolphins, Patrick Turner, Rex Ryan, Sanjay Lal, Tony Sparano
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