Updated, 4:15 p.m. ET
Ellis Lankster said he would be watching NFL highlights or ESPN’s Top Ten and see blitzing cornerbacks from other teams coming free all the time, swooping in on unsuspecting quarterbacks and separating them from the football.
“And I would say, ‘Why? Why do I never come free like that?’ ” he wondered.
At Seattle, it happened. Lankster, playing nickel after Isaiah Trufant suffered his season-ending first-quarter knee injury, came off his left edge in a five-man rush. No Seahawk stepped up to block him, and suddenly there was rookie QB Russell Wilson, as big as day and looking the other way.
“My whole time running, I was saying in my head, ‘Don’t throw it, don’t throw it, don’t throw it,’ ” Lankster recalled. “He didn’t throw it. I was so happy.”
Lankster hit Wilson and the ball came loose. In one instant, the third-year man who’s been waiting his turn for his career to get rolling had just picked up his first sack and first forced fumble of his career.
As luck would have it, the Seahawks recovered the loose ball at their 7. It was still a big third-down play, forcing a 3-and-out, but it was one of several plays that could have signaled a Jets upsurge in that game but went the other way. If only Dustin Keller didn’t false-start, if only Mark Sanchez saw Stephen Hill in the back of the end zone, if only the Jets had recovered that ball and Jeremy Kerley hadn’t muffed the punt …
That’s what happens to teams on losing streaks. But teams that pull out of those streaks do so by relying on positive trends that develop during those negative teams. We have more on that in our Sunday morning preview of the Jets-Rams game, but suffice it to say that Lankster, to help him should he have a clear shot at Rams QB Sam Bradford, has been going to the Jets’ video library.
“I never played with Drew Coleman. My first year here, he was gone,” he said of the former Jets corner and strip-sack artist who played last year with Jacksonville last season. “Coaches will be like, ‘Go back and watch how Drew Coleman did it, or how Donald Strickland did it.’ “
In fact, Lankster did a great imitation. He became the first Jets DB to execute a strip-sack in 28 games, or since DC had three in a three-game span (two against Ben Roethlisberger) late in the 2010 season.
There’s no guarantee Lankster will be running forward unblocked again Sunday and on Thanksgiving night back home against the Patriots. But an improved Jets rush will help him as he tries to fill Trufant’s role in coverage against those teams’ top wideouts, Danny Amendola for the Rams and Wes Welker for the Patriots. In fact, as Ryan said a few times this week, Amendola “kind of looks like Wes Welker, and his game looks a lot like it, too.”
The shame of that is that Trufant likely would have been a key player in the Jets’ nickel. He’d been flashing on blitzes himself and got praise for helping to hold Welker down four weeks ago at New England. Unfortunately, Trufant’s left knee got jarred by LB Garrett McIntyre as both went for the tackle of ex-Jet Leon Washington on his first punt return on Sunday. That injury landed Trufant on IR on Tuesday.
But ‘Zaiah may yet make his presence felt under the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday.
“Ever since he got hurt, he’s been telling me to ‘hold it down,’ ” Lankster said. “He’s been sending me texts, saying, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me. It’s your time.’ “
Perhaps it will be.
Here is the list of strip-sacks by Jets DBs from the Bill Parcells era forward:
2010 — CB Drew Coleman 3
2009 — S Jim Leonhard 2, S James Ihedigbo 1, S Kerry Rhodes 1
2008 — S Abram Elam 2, CB Hank Poteat 1, CB Darrelle Revis 1
2006 — Rhodes 3
2001 — CB Ray Mickens 1
1999 — Mickens 2
1998 — S Victor Green 1
Friday Injury Reports
Mostly good news on the Jets’ injury front. The good: For the first time this season, the Jets list no players as either doubtful or out for the upcoming game. “I expect us to have a healthy roster,” Ryan said today, “and we’ll see how that goes.”
Included in those expectations are the five players listed as questionable for the Rams: RB Bilal Powell (concussion), RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle), NT Sione Po‘uha (back/ankle), LB Bart Scott (toe) and — the only semi-negative injury news — WR-PR Jeremy Kerley, who didn’t practice for the first time this week with his heel injury plus a hamstring complication.
WR Stephen Hill practiced full after sitting out two days with an illness and said he’s feeling a lot better. He’s probable, as are LB Calvin Pace (DNP today due to personal reasons) and the 12 other players on the list.
All four injured Rams players are listed as questionable for the game: LB Mario Haggan (thigh), WR Austin Pettis (toe), DE Eugene Sims (knee), S Darian Stewart (knee). None is a starter.
Last week at this time we noted that Marv Albert was about to call his 100th Jets game on network TV. He and Rich Gannon (doing his seventh Jets game since ’08 as a network analyst and his fifth teamed with Marv) in the CBS booth generally had a good game. Gannon in particular was tough but insightful on Mark Sanchez’s play and the Jets’ use of Tim Tebow.
But Gannon committed a late-game gaffe that we’d like to correct for the record. When Yeremiah Bell rocked RB Richard Turbin as a Russell Wilson pass sailed over their heads, and YB was flagged for what ref Ed Hochuli announced was “unnecessary roughness, helmet contact to a defenseless player,” Gannon offered this:
“Yeremiah Bell’s been tagged a couple times this season for these type of hits.”
False. Until that penalty, Bell hadn’t been flagged for any plays of that kind this season. The only penalty he’d been called for previously was for holding TE Heath Miller in Game 2 at Pittsburgh.
If Gannon had said the Jets safeties as a tandem had been tagged a couple of times, he would have been in the ballpark. LaRon Landry was flagged for two late hits, on Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller in the opener (offset) and on Pittsburgh’s Emmanuel Sanders the next week, plus a horsecollar tackle on Antonio Brown in that game. He’d gone unpenalized for six games, or until he was called for pass interference on Seattle TE Evan Moore in the back of the end zone.
That Landry penalty vs. the Seahawks, by the way, was a rarity, since it officially was for zero yards yet still gave the Seahawks a first down. The ball was already inside the Jets 1 and the penalty moved the ball half the distance to the goal line, which was a foot away. That’s still statistically considered the 1-yard line.
Special Thanks to A-1 First Class
The New York Jets want to extend a special thank-you to A-1 First Class Moving, the proud moving partner of the Jets, for helping deliver items from the organization’s Sandy Relief Drive to New Jersey Cares.
Tags: Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant, Marv Albert, Rex Ryan, Rich Gannon, Russell Wilson, Sam Bradford, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams
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