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Draft Analysts’ Opinions on Jets’ Round 1 Pick

Posted by Andrew LeRay on February 15, 2012 – 1:54 pm

Updated, 2:53 p.m. ET

Although the 2011 NFL season ended not more than two weeks ago, it feels like forever since the Jets last took the field. Unfortunately, it’s only February and we have a long way to go until the Green & White head to Cortland, N.Y., for 2012 training camp.

For now, winter continues to roll toward spring, which signals one of the more exciting dates on an NFL fan’s calendar: the draft. The annual April football extravaganza provides for a long weekend full of anticipation and optimism as the top college players wait to see whose NFL colors they will don in the fall. Fans will glue themselves to the television as their team selects the next piece to a championship puzzle.

The draft is still more than two months away, but it’s never too early to speculate, right? We won’t make any premature guesses, but we can take a look at what the experts are saying right now about the Jets and their first-round selection, 16th overall:

Today — Charley Casserly, NFL Network: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

“At some point, the Jets need to find a linebacker that can get to the passer.”

Tuesday — Rob Rang, CBSSports.com: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

“The Jets have struggled against tight ends this season and could use an instinctive, big-hitting safety to fall into their lap. While the team certainly has other needs to consider, if Alabama’s Mark Barron is available, perhaps it might be wise to take the easy way out.”

Tuesday — Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com: Melvin Ingram, OLB, South Carolina

“Ingram might be the most versatile defender in this draft. He finds ways to create pressure in the backfield.”

Feb. 10 — Russ Lande, The Sporting News: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

“Mark Sanchez regressed in 2011, and the Jets need a strong rushing attack to help him. Richardson has the talent to be a dynamic offensive weapon.”

Feb. 7 — Chad Reuter, NFL Network: David DeCastro, G, Stanford

“The Jets averaged 3.8 yards a carry in the running game and gave up 40 sacks this season, meaning changes are coming on the offensive line. DeCastro possesses everything a team could want up front, so he won’t escape the top 20 overall selections of this draft.”

Feb. 6 — Robert Davis, FootballsFuture.com: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

“Floyd has the size and leaping ability to do what Plaxico Burress did for the team last year, but can do a lot more damage outside of the red zone. He would be a great complement to Santonio Holmes, but he also has the ability to become the team’s #1 target one day.”

Feb. 6 — Evan Silva, Rotoworld.com: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

“Blackmon is a media darling after twice winning college football’s Biletnikoff Award and scoring three touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl, two on busted coverages and the third on a badly blown tackle. NFL teams will not grade Blackmon as a top-ten prospect after he runs a 4.55-4.60 at the Combine. Blackmon would fit in New York, however, as a physical, possession-type No. 2 receiver to bookend Santonio Holmes.”

Feb. 2 — Todd McShay, ESPN: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

“The Jets need help in the secondary to deal with the Patriots’ tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez twice a season, and Barron is the only 2012 safety prospect with a first-round grade. He does everything well, showing instincts and playmaking skills in coverage and the ability to be a physical run defender when playing near the box.”

Jan. 27 — Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

“The Jets desperately need a pass rusher to help their defense return to the ranks of the elite. Upshaw’s motor and relentlessness will allow Rex Ryan to scale back the risky blitzing in critical situations.”

Jan. 18 — Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

“In Barron, the Jets would get the best safety in the draft, a big, rangy talent with big-game experience and the ability to match up against taller receivers and tight ends. The Jets have schemed around a weakness at safety, but it’s time to put a better talent back there.”

Jan. 17 — Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

“The sooner Jets fans don’t have to see Eric Smith running five yards behind a receiver, the happier they’ll be. Rex Ryan, too.”

Jan. 16 — Charles Davis, NFL.com: Nick Perry, DE, USC

“The Jets have a glaring need for a pass rusher, and this youngster really came on late.”

According to these experts, Barron is the early favorite for the Jets in the first round. Considered the top safety in this year’s class, he was a key to the Crimson Tide’s national championship run in 2011. He is coming off a campaign where he was a consensus All-American, leading the nation’s top overall defense.

Despite the success he enjoyed this past season, Barron’s current injury situation serves as a proverbial fly in the soup for NFL teams needing secondary help. He underwent double-hernia surgery in January and will need at least two months to recover. He will not be able to participate in the combine and is doubtful to take part in Alabama’s pro day set for March 7.

While Barron currently stands as the top safety prospect, look for players like Oklahoma State’s Markelle Martin, South Carolina’s Antonio Allen and Boise State’s George Iloka to climb up draft boards in the coming months.

Among the remaining opinions, four experts believe a pass rusher (Ingram, Upshaw, Perry) is the right choice, two are looking for a wide receiver (Floyd, Blackmon), one thinks an offensive lineman (DeCastro) is the call, and another sees a standout running back (Richardson) joining RB Shonn Greene in the Jets backfield.

Take these projections with a grain of salt. Mock drafts are only now starting to trickle out of the national media, and many more are on their way. Nonetheless, it’s a good starting point for all Jets fans itching to hear the first name called on April 26.


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Into the Offseason and the Schedule Ahead

Posted by Andrew LeRay on February 10, 2012 – 1:46 pm

With Super Bowl XLVI in the books, the 2011 NFL season has come to a close. Although the next regular-season game wont be until September, there is still plenty to look forward to for Jets fans this offseason. The Jets have yet to release dates on their own calendar and we’ll get them to you as soon as we have them. Following are dates and events along the league’s timeline in the coming months.

Feb. 22-28 — NFL Scouting Combine

Over 300 prospects for the 2012 draft have been invited to and will participate in the combine workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The combine is a proving ground for NFL hopefuls as their on- and off-the-field skills are evaluated.

March 5 — Deadline to Apply Franchise Tag

Each team can apply a franchise tag to any one player who would otherwise become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. This player is then tendered a one-year contract with his current team worth the cap percent average for players at his position. The Jets most recently franchised LB David Harris prior to the 2011 season before the sides negotiated a four-year extension in August.

March 13, 4 p.m. — Free Agency Begins

This is the earliest date that teams can sign free agents. There are two types of free agents: unrestricted and restricted. Unrestricted free agents have accrued four or more seasons in the NFL and are free to negotiate with any of the league’s 32 clubs. Restricted free agents have accrued three seasons in the league and are still subject to right-of-first-refusal or draft choice compensation in favor of their former teams. The right of first refusal gives a team the ability to match an offer made to a player by another franchises.

Here are the potential free agents who played for the Jets this past season:

Unrestricted

QB Mark Brunell

WR Plaxico Burress

K Nick Folk

S Jim Leonhard

QB Kevin O’Connell

S Brodney Pool

DT Sione Pouha

DB Donald Strickland

LB Bryan Thomas

RB LaDainian Tomlinson

OL Rob Turner

Restricted

DB Marquice Cole

LB Aaron Maybin

TE Matthew Mulligan

LB Jamaal Westerman

(WR Patrick Turner was eligible to become a RFA but recently signed a contract extension and will return to the Jets for the 2012 season.)

April 16 — Earliest Start for Offseason Conditioning, Phase I

All teams’ nine-week programs will be split into three phases. The Jets’ program will be held at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Phase I will span the first two weeks and is strictly intended for strength, conditioning and rehabilitation. During this time players are not permitted to be on the field with football staff with the exception of strength and conditioning coaches.

April 26-28 — NFL Draft

The first round will once again be a Thursday night primetime affair on April 26. The second and third rounds will be held on Friday and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday. As always, the draft will take place at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Keep an eye out for an official Jets Draft Party near you as the dates approach.

April 30 — Earliest Start for Offseason Conditioning, Phase II

Phase II, lasting three weeks, allows players and coaches to work on the field together. During this time, on-field drills are permitted but contact, helmets and offense vs. defense drills are not.

May 4 — Earliest Start for Rookie Minicamps

The Jets, who have not announced their schedule yet for this year’s rookie minicamp, traditionally have brought their draft choices and undrafted free agents in for the weekend after the draft. All teams can choose this weekend or May 11-13 for their rookie minicamps.

May 21 — Earliest Start for Offseason Conditioning, Phase III

The number of Organized Team Activity periods (OTAs) have been reduced from 14 to 10 in accordance with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. This will mark the first time that offensive and defensive players can take the field at the same time under guidance of the coaching staff. Players can wear helmets but not pads or shells. Contact is not permitted.

June 4 — Earliest Start for Mandatory Veteran Minicamps

The only week of the offseason that players are required to be present at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Similar to OTAs, players can take the field for drills with teammates and coaches, provided there is no contact.

Late July — Training Camps Begin

The Jets will return to SUNY Cortland for their 2012 training camp after spending August 2011 at their training center in Florham Park, N.J. Training camps for all teams no more than 15 days prior to their first scheduled preseason games.


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Jets’ Pro Bowl Four at Practice, Play 60 Event

Posted by Andrew LeRay on January 27, 2012 – 2:39 pm

By all accounts, the Northeast has experienced an unusually mild winter. The snowstorm from last weekend already feels forgotten. Still, the nights are cold, the trees bare, the sky gray, and the sunlight short.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be in, say … Hawaii?

Four Jets have that distinct honor. Offensive linemen Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Brandon Moore and cornerback Darrelle Revis are all currently in Oahu for Sunday’s Pro Bowl.

It’s the fourth Pro Bowl trip for Revis and Mangold, the third for Ferguson and the first for Moore. You can see them play one more time on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. on NBC before the NFL season officially ends a week from Sunday with Super Bowl XLVI.

Since arriving in the 50th State, the four Jets have gone through light, informal practices at Kapolei High School west of Honolulu and have had time to enjoy the spoils of Hawaii in the winter.

Besides football, there was an annual community event. On Thursday AFC Pro Bowlers took part in Play 60 Community Blitz, a joint effort between the NFL’s Play 60 campaign, Procter & Gamble, and KaBoom, a nonprofit group with the goal of building playspaces for children throughout the United States. This year, the players helped construct a playground at Ke Kula ‘o Samuel M. Kamakau Public Charter School in Kaneohe.

An added wrinkle in this year’s Pro Bowl is the addition of a designated tweeting area on each sideline. A departure from normal protocol, players will be able to tweet during the game. It should add even more entertainment value to a game that never lacks offensive firepower. Of the four Jets in Honolulu, Mangold is probably the most active Tweeter. Look for some gems from Nick throughout the game.

You can see photos of your Jets in Hawaii, including a freshly trimmed Mangold, here on newyorkjets.com. Moore will also be sending back some pictures from his first experience in the Pro Bowl, so check back often to see some behind-the-scenes shots.

We may be stuck in the doldrums of winter, but at least we can live vicariously through our Jets in Oahu.


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Grand Year? Shonn Greene Only Wants a Win

Posted by Andrew LeRay on December 30, 2011 – 3:01 pm

Updated, 4:41 p.m. ET

Hidden beneath the obvious enormity of the Jets’ upcoming tilt with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday is a subplot that was not likely earlier in the season. RB Shonn Greene has rebounded beautifully from a rough start to 2011 by knocking on the door of his first 1,000-yard rushing season.

The first four games of the year were unkind to Greene. Over the first quarter of the campaign, he had 157 yards on 51 carries, a shade over 3.0 yards per tote. Since then, he’s averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

“He’s had a good year,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “When you look at him, he had some tough sledding early in the season but he started coming on. This is the time of year when he usually does the most damage. We hope to give him not only this opportunity on Sunday but more opportunities.”

It’s reasonable to think that the first 1,000-yard season of a young running back’s career would be a major milestone, but Greene didn’t even know exactly where he stood until he was told today that he’s at 999 yards. He admitted knowing he was close to the landmark but not that he was only one yard away.

“It doesn’t even matter,” said Greene. “We’re just trying to get this win. I’ve been saying that since I got here. We’re just trying to win games.”

In addition to Greene crossing the 1,000-yard barrier, another Jets tailback will attempt to add another accolade to his own legend. RB LaDainian Tomlinson is only 34 yards behind RB Jerome Bettis as the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher of all time.

Tomlinson is a free agent at the season’s end. Whether he stays, signs elsewhere or ultimately decides to retire, he has had profound impact on the younger Greene in his two-year tenure with the Jets.

“He means a lot to my success and to this team’s success,” said Greene. “He’s a Hall of Fame player. If he decides to hang it up, it’s too bad but it’s well-deserved. He’s done about everything you can as a running back in this league.”

The two backs will shoot for their respective benchmarks against a hungry Dolphins squad that no one in the locker room takes lightly.

“They’ve been playing hard lately,” said Greene. “Even though they don’t have a chance [for the playoffs], they’ve been playing hard. Teams like that are the most dangerous.”

Ryan and his team know the danger of travelling to Miami to play at Sun Life Stadium. Ryan wouldn’t go so far as to guarantee a victory over the Fish on Sunday. However, that didn’t prevent him from guaranteeing something else.

“I know how I am with my guarantees,” said Rex, “but I guarantee Shonn goes over 1,000.”

Injury Update

Dolphins RB Reggie Bush has been ruled out for Sunday’s game with a knee injury. Miami’s leading rusher finishes the season with a career-best 1,086 yards on the ground and added six rushing touchdowns. Today in Miami, interim coach Todd Bowles said “a combo of people” will fill in for Bush, among them Lex Hilliard, Steve Slaton and rookie Daniel Thomas.

Dolphins CB Jimmy Wilson is listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury, and WR Clyde Gates, Miami’s kickoff returner, is questionable with a groin injury.

The Jets turn in a surprisingly clean bill of health for Week 17, with only one player listed as questionable. LB Garrett McIntyre injured his knee on the opening kickoff of last week’s game against the Giants, and practiced in a limited capacity on Friday after not having practiced at all earlier in the week. He will make the trip to South Florida and a decision will be made on his availability prior to gametime. In addition to his linebacking duties, McIntyre is a major contributor on special teams, where he has totaled 18 tackles this season.

All the other injured Jets are listed as probable for Sunday, including CB Antonio Cromartie (hamstring), who appeared on the injury report for the first time today and was limited during team drills.


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Pace on the Move Toward Eli, Giants

Posted by Andrew LeRay on December 22, 2011 – 5:00 pm

As Saturday quickly approaches, the Jets are looking forward to their Week 16 matinee. The bitter taste that remains from the crushing loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia will soon have a chance to be eliminated.

“The beauty of it is we get a chance to put it behind us quick,” said LB Calvin Pace. “This was the perfect week. It was a short week, we didn’t have to travel, everything lined up for us.”

Sunday’s performance was so disappointing, Pace said the team was not subjected to watching any video from Philadelphia. Some chose to watch it on their own time, but Pace had no need to relive the nightmare.

“We just have to keep moving,” said Pace. “It wasn’t anything I want to remember.”

All that concerns the Green & White right now is Big Blue. Come Saturday evening, one team’s season will be on life support. Combine the gravity of the game with the natural rivalry that accompanies two teams who share home digs, and you have the recipe for a unique day.

“It’s funny, this game here. You’ve got two home teams. When do you ever see that?” Pace said. “We just have to come out fast and throw their offense off their rhythm from the start.”

The Giants offense doesn’t shy away from its reputation as a vertical passing team. Their approach may fly in the face of those of past Giants teams, but they’re second in the NFL in yards per completion at 13.38, which is only 0.19 yards behind the Green Bay Packers.

Conversely, the Jets allow 12.52 yards per completion, 24th in the league.

“Watching them on film, you can tell when they start clicking, moving the ball, getting big chunk plays,” said Pace. “Typically, if you look at our season, that’s how we’ve been gashed, with big plays down the field. Darrelle [Revis] and those guys have to be on point, and up front we have to be good, too. It’s going to take all 11.”

Pace knows the threat QB Eli Manning and the Giants offense bring, but also knows his team is ready for the challenge.

“We just have to make him uncomfortable,” said Pace. “He’s just like his brother. If you let him sit back there clean, he’s the greatest ever. We’ll get him to move around a little bit and get some hands in his face.”

Injury Pictures

LB David Harris did not practice today due to a non-injury-related matter. Reports are that Harris is expected to become a father any day now. Head coach Rex Ryan said, “Yes, he’ll definitely play” on Saturday.

WR Santonio Holmes (hip) was added to the Jets’ list of limited players, now at five. DT Mike DeVito (knee) are S Eric Smith (knee) are expected to play, RB-KR Joe McKnight (elbow/shoulder) is “maybe a game-timer,” and CB Marquice Cole (knee) is “probably not looking that good” to play vs. the Giants.

Both ill Jets WRs, Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Kerley, were back out on the field and full-go during team drills.

For the Giants, their 11-man injury list has the same names, but one player went from limited in Wednesday’s practice to DNP today — RB Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants’ five other DNPs: TE Jake Ballard, LB Mark Herzlich, WR Mario Manningham, DE Osi Umenyiora and RB D.J. Ware.


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‘Fast Friday’ En Route to ‘Necessary Sunday’

Posted by Andrew LeRay on December 9, 2011 – 4:17 pm

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.”

Injury Picture

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.


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Rex’s Key Sunday Matchup: MLB Harris vs. RB Helu

Posted by Andrew LeRay on December 2, 2011 – 3:34 pm

After a week of preparation, the Jets are ready for the trip to Washington. The Redskins are fresh off their 23-17 comeback win in Seattle in Week 12. The Jets also enter on a high note after defeating the Buffalo Bills and keeping their playoff hopes very much alive.

“Full of energy, fast tempo, and the ball never hit the ground,” head coach Rex Ryan said about today’s practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “It was an excellent Friday practice, and I’m excited about that.”

The ‘Skins have had a healthy rotation of tailbacks this season, with three backs carrying the ball at least 55 times. Washington head coach Mike Shanahan announced that rookie RB Roy Helu would take the bulk of the carries on Sunday after his 23 carries, 108 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks.

“At Nebraska, he averaged [6.8] yards per carry last year,” said Ryan. “He has speed and home-run-hitting ability. He’s similar to [Bills RB C.J.] Spiller in that way.”

The Jets held Spiller to 55 yards on 19 carries last Sunday. They will aim to do the same against Helu, and will be led as usual by LB David Harris. Harris is quietly enjoying a terrific season, and Ryan praised his defensive stud today.

“He’s leading our defense,” said Ryan. “I don’t know who’s playing better than him at middle linebacker this year, but he’s a guy that has to be considered for the Pro Bowl. I think he’ll finally go this season.”

Shifting his focus to the other side of the football, Ryan spent some time addressing his offensive line and their stellar performance against the Bills. The O-Line allowed no sacks and paved the way for Jets rushers to run for 6.0 yards per carry, and on Thursday were named this week’s Madden Protectors Award.

On Sunday the Jets face a much more violent pass rush from the Redskins, who are tied for third in the NFL in sacks with 33. Can the OL duplicate its performance vs. the Bills?

“It’s going to be a huge challenge, but I think we can,” said Ryan. “I think that’s the kind of line we have. We had a great week of practice, and I expect them to play well.”

One member of the offensive line has particularly blossomed this season. LG Matt Slauson has taken on a role of leadership and has impressed Ryan with his play.

“It’s like he’s an old pro, and that’s what you like about him,” said Ryan. “I see a guy that you assume has played for years and years. He’s always been a big, strong, tough guy and brings that each week. Now he recognizes everything and just fits in with those guys.”

Friday Injury Reports

The Jets were surprisingly healthy this week, as other teams deal with impactful injuries in the waning season. RB LaDainian Tomlinson and WR Jeremy Kerley will return to action following their knee injuries that held them out against the Broncos and Bills. Rex said both will be back in “similar spots” as before their injuries. That includes Kerley as the primary punt returner.

“The past couple weeks have been a little rough, guys have been a little banged up,” said Kerley. “We were moving guys around, trying to see if they can fit the spot, but I’ll be back there.”

The only Jet ruled out for Sunday is DT Mike DeVito, who suffered a knee injury of his own on Sunday. Rookie DT Kenrick Ellis will start in his place in the base defense.

For the Redskins, hard-hitting S LaRon Landry has been ruled out with a groin injury. DE Stephen Bowen participated in practice for the first time this week, albeit on a limited basis, and is questionable for Sunday’s game. Veteran LB London Fletcher is also questionable with an ankle injury.


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STS*: Kerley Injury, Turnovers Impact Returns

Posted by Andrew LeRay on November 26, 2011 – 12:26 pm

The Jets special teams have arguably been the most consistent unit all season. First-year returners Jeremy Kerley and Joe McKnight have enjoyed success as special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff draws up blocking schemes to spring the two loose in the open field.

Kerley’s numbers as a punt returner are not jaw-dropping. He’s averaging 9.4 yards per return. But he has proven to be a reliable option and has earned the trust and respect of Westhoff.

“I just have a feeling about him,” said Westhoff. “He’s a combination of sure-handed and explosive.”

With Kerley listed as questionable and a game-time decision for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, Westhoff may need to fill his spot. Kerley’s knee injury held him out last Thursday in Denver, leaving S Jim Leonhard to handle the punt-return duties.

In Week 10, the Jets used McKnight to return a punt in addition to Kerley and Leonhard. McKnight fumbled his only opportunity, leading to a New England field goal.

“Joe had been playing pretty well,” said Westhoff. “He came to me and said, ‘I can get this, give me a chance.’ We gave him a shot. I liked the enthusiasm, didn’t like the result.”

As a kickoff returner, McKnight leads the NFL by far with a 36.1-yard average. The temptation to use him as a punt returner in Kerley’s absence is natural, in the hope that his explosive running style will easily translate in returning punts. Still, Westhoff said McKnight likely won’t get another chance to return a punt this season.

“Probably not,” said Westhoff. “Jimmy is more sure-handed and Cro [Antonio Cromartie] wants to do everything. I would have loved to give Joe a whole offseason of practice. It doesn’t mean he’s not adept at it. It’s just not a role I’m comfortable with him in the meantime. I want him to be a kick returner, not a punt returner.”

McKnight put another ball on the ground in last week’s loss to the Broncos. Special teams fumbles are especially deflating, but Westhoff still puts his total support behind the young returner. McKnight’s confidence has increased exponentially since his rookie year, and it is translating into a potential Pro Bowl season.

“He’s trying, he’s really trying. If you want to be a kick returner, this is a good place to show up. Our guys block and they block. He works hard in practice and he’s leading the league,” Westhoff said. “I’m disappointed, frankly, that he doesn’t have more touchdowns.”

On Wednesday, Westhoff said Kerley would have to prove on Friday that he would be “ready to go” to return punts on Sunday. Kerley did not practice Friday, and his availability won’t be known until just before kickoff.

If there is no change in status between now and 11:30 a.m. Sunday, when the Jets’ inactives must be declared, Leonhard will return punts vs. the Bills. Still, Westhoff has seen head trainer John Mellody and his staff pull off miracles before, and he’s hopeful Kerley will be available.

“Jeremy is the guy we want,” he said.

*Special Teams Saturday                             


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Defense Knows What’s at Stake on Sunday

Posted by Andrew LeRay on November 25, 2011 – 2:21 pm

When the Jets and Bills met for the first time this season in Week 9, the game featured two teams with winning records battling for position atop the AFC East. Three weeks later, both sit at 5-5 and both are in dire need of a win.

The Bills come into MetLife Stadium riding a three-game losing streak in which they have been outscored, 106-26. A year that had started so promisingly has taken an abrupt turn for the worse, and Buffalo is left scrambling to save its season. The Jets are also looking to stop the bleeding after consecutive losses have dropped them to .500 and in danger of missing the playoffs.

“It’s always a tough game between us and the Bills,” said CB Darrelle Revis. “We’re familiar with them, they’re familiar with us, and we know they’re going to bring it. It’s a must-win for them, too. Both teams know what’s at stake this Sunday.”

After shoring up early-season defensive woes, the Jets have settled in and are playing their traditionally stout defense. A masterful performance in Denver was marred by the late-game 95-yard touchdown drive led by QB Tim Tebow. Nonetheless, the Green & White think they learned something about themselves – and the Bills – after that clinic earlier this month in Orchard Park, N.Y.

“If you can disrupt the short passing game and defend the run, you can stop them,” said Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. “I think that’s the blueprint that we kind of laid out. If you watch, there have been a lot of similar elements of our game plan against them in the last couple of games.”

Coming into the Week 9 tilt, the Bills had averaged 380 yards of total offense per game. The Jets defense mauled Buffalo, holding them to 287 yards of total offense. The Bills possessed the football for only 22:08, easily their lowest possession time of the season.

“If you have the ability to match them 1-on-1, get in the passing lanes early and get decent pressure on the quarterback, that helps,” said Pettine. “We have the challenge of how much do we stay the same, knowing they’ll adjust.”

The Bills will have to adjust without the NFL’s third-leading rusher, RB Fred Jackson, who fractured his fibula in their 35-8 loss in Miami on Sunday. He was ruled out of this week’s game on Wednesday, then placed on season-ending IR shortly thereafter.

Jackson will be replaced by C.J. Spiller, the multithreat second-year speedster. Drafted as a running back out of Clemson in 2010, Spiller has seen an increased workload as a wide receiver since Jackson tightened his stranglehold on the tailback position.

“We have to make some adjustments in our matchups because you are essentially taking a player with wide receiver ability and putting him in the backfield, so you can’t really play him the same way,” said Pettine. “That’s the one advantage he gives them is that he’s both.”

Despite the Pro Bowl-type season Jackson was enjoying prior to his injury, Pettine sees the Bills as a more dynamic passing attack than a damaging rushing squad.

“I think their run game is fairly straightforward,” said Pettine. “I would say the pass game has some complexity to it. They can throw out of two-backs, they can throw out of one-back. It’s a lot more empty backfield than most teams. They have a lot of routes that are very complementary to each other, that are all predicated on what coverage you’re in.”

The win at Ralph Wilson Stadium was one of the best games the Green & White have played all season. Both sides of the ball stepped up to earn the road victory at a critical juncture in the season. Now at another crossroads, the Jets need to duplicate that effort at MetLife Stadium.

The defense is playing well, but has not lived up to the “elite” moniker the coaching staff wishes to apply to its squad. According to Pettine, there is a hurdle in the way.

“We’re close, but if we want to be elite, it’s the closing-games part of it. The inconsistency has led us to where we’re a good enough defense to be 5-5. You are what your record says you are. We’ve had opportunities to close out some games and we haven’t been able to do it.”

Injury Reports

Rex Ryan at today’s news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center laid out his 16-player injury report, with only two players listed as questionable and the rest as probable for the Bills.

The two questionable players are important pieces to the Jets’ offensive puzzle, though — RB LaDainian Tomlinson and WR Jeremy Kerley.

“With LT, I never know if I should put him questionable or doubtful,” Ryan said. “He’s in that range. He’s probably right in the middle there. I think he’d play, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll go,” but what are we going to get? What’s going to happen to him if we play him? That’s a balancing act. We absolutely have to win, but we have to win the rest of ‘em, too.”

Kerley seemed a little closer to returning to action, although he did not participate in today’s shorter practice either. Ryan called his rookie WR a “gametime decision.”

LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson (ankle) was added to the Jets’ list but he practiced full and is listed as probable. Click here for the Jets’ complete injury report for the game.

The Bills are listing six players as out for the Jets, including three that they’ve placed on IR this week — Jackson, WR Donald Jones (ankle) and CB Terrence McGee — plus S George Wilson (neck), WR Naaman Roosevelt (shoulder) and K Rian Lindell. Dave Rayner has been kicking for the Bills since Lindell hurt the shoulder trying to tackle Joe McKnight on his long kickoff return to start the second half at Buffalo three games ago.

Probables after full practices today in Western New York are WRs Stevie Johnson (shoulder) and David Nelson (illness) and T Demetrius Bell (shoulder).


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Second Half of Mo’s Rookie Year Starts Sunday

Posted by Andrew LeRay on November 11, 2011 – 3:44 pm

Updated, 4 p.m. ET

At 5-3, the Jets are halfway through the 2011 campaign. The final eight games will determine the outcome of their season, and it starts with Sunday’s highly anticipated primetime matchup with the New England Patriots.

The halfway point also seems to be a good time to catch up with this year’s first-round draft pick, DL Muhammad Wilkerson. He has started every game in his rookie year, totaling 23 tackles, one sack that produced the safety vs. Jacksonville, and one pass defense. The transition from college to the NFL can be a galactic leap for some, but Wilkerson is becoming increasingly more comfortable in his role.

“For me, I’m trying to stay positive,” said Wilkerson. “I’ve been having ups and downs. I’m trying to stay focused on mentally preparing for what I need to do with my alignment and technique so I can finish this year strong.”

The numbers don’t jump off the page, but his impact cannot always be understood through statistics. While the Green & White rush defense struggled earlier in the season to contain the outside runs, a rallying cry of “Set the Edge” rang through the locker room. Wilkerson takes pride in that role.

“I have to make sure everything bounces inside to the great linebackers we have, or just letting Sione [Pouha] and [Mike] DeVito clean it up,” he said.

His job description is akin to that of a point guard, setting up his teammates to make the impact play. After a rough 60-minute stretch against the Pats in Week 5, Wilkerson and his linemates were challenged by head coach Rex Ryan this week.

“Looking back on the first time we played them, there were a lot of ups and downs in that game,” he said. “More downs than ups. We were watching a lot of that film this week, and you really don’t want to watch it, but we have to face the facts. We have to put that aside and show what we’re capable of doing.”

Speaking of capability, Wilkerson feels he still has plenty to prove over the final eight games:

“In every game, there are things that I do good, and some things that, not that I do bad, but that I can do better. I’m just trying to do everything to the best of my ability.”

The transition will continue, but he knows what lies ahead.

“Nothing is easy,” Wilkerson said. “I just take the coaching, and I’m learning. I’ll go from there.”

Wilson Making Strides

As a rookie, CB Kyle Wilson made the same transition that Wilkerson is making right now. Wilson’s struggles were well-documented, leading him to lose confidence and playing time. This year he’s a new player with a fresh outlook.

“Personally, I feel a lot better,” said Wilson. “Having last year to use as experience, I‘ve just been putting in a lot of work. I learn from the guys in the room that I’m working with, like Cro [Antonio Cromartie] and Darrelle [Revis] and continue to accept the coaching.”

“We liked Kyle when we took him,” said Ryan. “We thought he might have been the top corner in the draft when he came out. I’m not surprised at the kind of year he’s having. He’s having as good a year as any nickel in the league.”

It’s high praise for Wilson, who is arguably the most improved player on the Jets’ roster. After logging five tackles in increased action against the Buffalo Bills last week, it’s safe to say he will be on the field early and often against the pass-happy Pats.

Taming Tom

With New England having dropped their last two games, QB Tom Brady has found himself under the microscope.

“I love hearing that Tom Brady is struggling,” Ryan said sarcastically. “Based on what? Last year was a once-in-a-lifetime season — four picks, a zillion touchdowns. That’s going to be hard to match. He’s as good as it gets right now.”

As usual, the focus for the Jets defense will be on pressuring Brady, and taking him out of his comfort zone.

“If you can’t get pressure on Brady, you’re going to get destroyed,” Ryan said. “We’ve got to find ways of getting in there. Whether it’s a four-man rush or something creative, I don’t know. We have to get pressure on him.”

Injury Update

TE Shawn Nelson (illness) and S Brodney Pool (knee) did not practice this afternoon and have been listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

All the other injured Jets practiced full and are listed as probable for the game, including WR Plaxico Burress (back), DT Mike DeVito (knee), RB-KR Joe McKnight (toe) and CB Isaiah Trufant (hamstring). The Jets’ full injury report can be found here.

The Patriots have declared LBs Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher out of the game. WR Wes Welker (rib) practiced full after two limited practices and is probable for the Jets. All 10 other injured Patriots were limited in today’s team drills and are questionable for the game: CB Kyle Arrington, S Patrick Chung, DE Shaun Ellis, RBs Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, LB Gary Guyton and Jerod Mayo, WR Taylor Price, T Sebastian Vollmer and OL Ryan Wendell.


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