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Snapshots of the 15 Undrafted Free Agents

Posted by Randy Lange on April 29, 2013 – 5:08 pm

With a successful draft having concluded over the weekend, the Jets continued to add to their roster today when they announced that 15 undrafted college free agents had agreed to terms.

Of the 15, there are four wide receivers, three offensive lineman, two tight ends, three defensive linemen, a linebacker, and two defensive backs.

Last season, NT Damon Harrison was an undrafted free agent out of William Penn who eventually earned a final roster spot.

The process will soon begin, a week from Thursday for the start of the rookie minicamp at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, to see if any of these undrafted prospects will be running out of the tunnel at MetLife Stadium when the regular season opens Sept. 8 against Tampa Bay.

Wide Receivers

Zach Rogers (6’0″, 172 / Tennessee / Nashville, TN) — In 2012 Rogers was part of a stellar Tennessee receiving corps that featured first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson and second-rounder Justin Hunter. As a senior, Rogers started six games and finished second on the Volunteers with seven receiving touchdowns. He also was fourth with 491 receiving yards and fourth with a career-best 32 receptions. Not only did Rogers excel on the field during his time in Knoxville but he also was a model student in the classroom, earning a spot on the All-SEC Academic teams in both 2010 and ’11.

Ryan Spadola (6’3″, 200 / Lehigh / Howell, NJ) — Spadola finished his college career with 232 receptions for 3,611 yards and 24 TDs. His father, Don, passed away when Ryan was in high school and he mentioned in a Sunday article in the Express Times that he and his dad attended Jets games together when he was growing up. The article also quoted Spadola  expressing how he was glad that he no longer had to wait on getting a call from a team. “I’m relieved I have a home and can finally focus on what’s most important,” he said.

KJ Stroud (6’3″, 205 / Bethune-Cookman / Brooklyn, NY) — After spending his first two collegiate seasons at Rutgers, Stroud transferred to Bethune-Cookman, where he played his junior and senior seasons and helped the Wildcats to a 9-3 finish in 2012 with 26 receptions for 293 yards. His most impressive performance came Oct. 20 when he hauled in four passes for 60 yards and one TD in B-CU’s 48-3 thrashing of Norfolk State.

Antavious Wilson (6’1″, 198 / Marshall / Pahokee, FL) — After an impressive 60-reception, 724-yard freshman receiving campaign, Wilson’s numbers declined his sophomore and junior seasons. He responded as a senior, though, with his best season — 69 catches, 741 yards and nine touchdowns. In a 45-38 loss to C-USA foe Tulsa last October, Wilson caught seven passes for 123 yards and two TDs.

Offensive Linemen

Dalton Freeman (6’5″, 285 / Clemson / Pelion, SC) — Freeman joins the NFL ranks after garnering 49 starts in 53 collegiate contests, with the starts, all at center, tying for the most in Clemson history. Besides his great experience, he was a two-time All-ACC first-team selection, a two-time Rimington Trophy finalist, and a 2012 AP All-America second-teamer.

Trey Gilleo (6’6″, 280 / Northern Arizona / Kingman, AZ) — Gilleo started the final 33 games of his career and as a senior earned All-Big Sky second-team honors. He also allowed only one sack in 2012. At Northern Arizona’s end-of-season banquets the past two years, he was recognized as the John G. Yost Memorial Award recipient as offensive lineman of the year and the winner of the Competitive Greatness Award.

Mark Popek (6’7″, 299 / South Florida / Plant City, FL) — After redshirting as a freshman back in 2008, Popek started 21 of 24 games over his final two seasons. The three games he missed during that span were due to an ankle injury. He earned All-Big East second-team honors in 2012 and enters the NFL with his degree in criminology.

Tight Ends

Chris Pantale (6’6″, 255 / Boston College / Wayne, NJ) — Pantale had a terrific four-year career in Chestnut Hill. His junior season was his most productive as he earned the BC College Coaches Award as well as garnering a spot on the John Mackey Award Watch List. He also finished 2011 third on the Eagles with 236 receiving yards. His senior campaign wasn’t as noteworthy, primarily because he missed the first five games with a foot injury.

Mike Shanahan (6’5″, 225 / Pittsburgh / North Huntingdon, PA) — Although he maintains the same name as the current Redskins head coach, there is no relation between these pair of Shanahans. Despite that, Pitt’s Shanahan of Pittsburgh may be the most highly regarded of the Jets’ undrafted free agent bunch. He exited the Big East school as an All-Big East second-team honoree and four-time Big East All-Academic Team selection. As a senior he helped lead the Panthers to the BBVA Compass Bowl, where they lost to Ole Miss, and ended the year with career highs in catches (62) receiving yards (983) and touchdowns (six). After previously earning a bachelor’s degree in history, Shanahan is pursuing his master’s in Pitt’s School of Education.

Defensive Linemen

Spencer Nealy (6’5″, 277 / Texas A&M / San Antonio, TX) — Nealy was a key contributor at DE for the 2012 Aggies, who captured the Cotton Bowl and upset No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. His junior season was his most memorable as he led the A&M D-line with eight tackles for loss and earned All-Big 12 honorable mention. His father, Ed Nealy, played 10 seasons in the NBA, enjoying stints with the Kansas City Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors. With the Bulls, Ed was a member of the Bulls’ 1992-93 NBA Championship team.

Roosevelt Holliday (6’3″, 297 / Eastern Illinois / Bolingbrook, IL) — As a senior, Holliday finished sixth on EIU’s defense with 58 tackles from his DT spot, including 8.5 for loss. In the process he helped the Panthers capture the Ohio Valley Conference title and was an All-OVC selection. The previous year, he started all 11 games and totaled 41 tackles. With his signing to the Jets, Holliday joined TE Dirk Androff, a UDFA in 1983, as the only EIU players believed to have signed to play for the Green & White.

Jake McDonough (6’5″, 290 / Iowa State / Urbandale, IA) — McDonough’s career at ISU got off to a rocky start. As a redshirt freshman, the D-tackle played only one game due to a concussion, hamstring injury and illness. Things slowly progressed, though, and McDonough’s senior year turned out to be pretty special. He had a season-high seven tackles during an October 37-23 Cyclones win at TCU. In the final game of his collegiate career, a Liberty Bowl loss to Tulsa, he had five tackles. Aside from football, McDonough has a strong passion for producing music, as described in this Sept. 14 Des Moines Register article. You can bet at some point he’ll talk tunes with another musical artist on the Jets, S Josh Bush.

Linebacker

Troy Davis (6’2″, 249 / Central Florida / Lawrenceville, GA) — Davis capped his four-year career by being named to the All-C-USA first team. Even though Conference-USA is not highly prominent in college football, Davis capitalized whenever the Knights faced bigger schools. Against Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State on Sept. 8, he racked up seven tackles, a half sack and a fumble recovery. As a senior, in 14 starts he led the Knights with 11.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.

Defensive Backs

Mike Edwards (5’10”, 180 / Hawaii / Cleveland, OH) — Edwards’ college journey had its share of ups and downs. Enrolling at the University of Tennessee out of high school, he played in eight games and had five tackles as a freshman. Shortly following the season, following an arrest, he transferred to Coffeyville CC in 2010. Then he finished his college career with two seasons at Hawai‘i. In 2012 he showcased his versatility, leading all college football players with 1,215 kickoff return yards and a 30.4-yard average. He also had a UH single-season-record three kickoff returns for touchdowns and was named the Mountain West Conference’s Special Teams Player of the Year. In Cleveland, Edwards attended Glenville High School, where he was teammates with Jets CBs Donnie Fletcher and Royce Adams.  

Rontez Miles (6”1’, 210 / California (PA) / Braddock, PA) — Miles was one of the top players at the Division II level over his final two seasons. In 2012 he had four interceptions and totaled at least 10 tackles in three games for the Vulcans. As a junior, he had five INTs and received numerous accolades, including AFCA All-American first-team, AP Little All-America first team, and PSAC West Defensive Player of the Year. On a side note, he was Woodland Hills HS teammates with Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski.


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Some Old, Some New for Bradway, Bauer, Scouts

Posted by jlholt32 on April 17, 2013 – 5:02 pm

The month of April always brings a level of buzz and excitement to Terry Bradway and Jeff Bauer.

Bradway, the Jets’ senior personnel executive, annually informs reporters on some predraft statistics. He did so once again this afternoon.

“We have 1,426 players we’ve evaluated,” Bradway said. “We visited 271 schools. We wrote over 5,000 reports, conducted over 300 interviews at the [Senior Bowl] all-star game, combine, our 30 visits and also our local day. So we’ve spent a lot of time with these players, getting to know them not only as players but as people.”

Bradway described the entire process as beneficial and said that his staff has narrowed its big board down to 220 prospects.

“I think this is a draft that is very deep in the mid-rounds, especially,” he said. “I think there’s going to be some players late in the draft and good quality college free agents that will be available to us as we go through this.”

Bauer is approaching the one year mark from when he was named director of college scouting last May 18. For the prior 11 years, he had served as one of the team’s college scouts, covering the Midwest region. From his perspective, it’s been special establishing a relationship with first-year Jets general manager John Idzik.

“When John came here, he stressed that it’s the group, every scout has a voice,” Bauer said. “I think we’ve had healthy discussions about all the players, everyone.”

Bradway echoed Bauer’s remarks.

“I think the thing that’s been impressive with John is he’s respected our process of the evaluations in the fall, the all-star games, the crosschecks, the February meeting, the combine, and so on,” he said. “He’s been able to add a lot to that also. We’re excited about that, because any time you have change, I think you get invigorated. We’re excited about what we’re doing, and we’ll get a chance to keep building on that as we keep moving forward, too.”

At the present time, Idzik said he and his staff are finishing the detailed evaluations and developing final alternative plans and “what-if” scenarios. He also credited head coach Rex Ryan for the head coach’s input since he arrived in January.

“Obviously, Rex is the head coach,” Idzik said, “so he’s very influential in what we do, especially when it comes to acquiring talent through the draft, free agency and what not. you want your head coach feeling good about what you’re doing and the decisions you make. By his involvement and his staff’s involvement in what’s been going on so far, we’re completely confident that’s going to happen.”

With the first round just eight days away, Bradway, Bauer, Idzik and Co. are prepared to select the best player available when the Green & White get on the clock with the ninth pick.

“I think all of us, as a group, the whole staff is excited for next week,” Bauer said. “We feel we’re going to get good players and we’ve done a great job researching and getting in the right spot.”


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STS*: One Last Game in Westhoff’s Superb Career

Posted by jlholt32 on December 29, 2012 – 12:00 pm

Sunday will mark the end of a remarkable 30-year pro coaching career for Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff. Westhoff held his final in-season news conference Thursday at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center and said he won’t forget the past 12 seasons he’s spent with the Green & White. 

“I’m happy and proud to be at the place that I am in my career,” Westhoff said. “Few of us get to leave this business of our own volition, and I’m able to do that.”

The ST coach came to the Jets in 2001 after having spent the prior 15 seasons in the same role with the Miami Dolphins and before that, three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, his son John will join him on the sidelines for his final game. 

“I’m very proud that he wants to share that last game with me,” Westhoff said.

This season hasn’t been the Jets’ best on special teams and Westhoff accepts full responsibility for the struggles and disappointments. 

“It’s a very sporadic, kind of crazy year,” he said, “because at some points there were just some excellent things that took place this year that I was involved in, and then some things that were at the opposite end of the scale.”

Westhoff said he is pleased that the Jets lead the NFL with 27 inside-the-20 kickoffs (Cincinnati is second with 24). He’s also glad Joe McKnight will likely finish with the league’s fourth-best kickoff-return average and that Jeremy Kerley may finish in the top 10 in punt-return average. But as a whole, his unit hasn’t performed up to its normal high standard and the players aren’t afraid to admit it.

“This year hasn’t quite been how we’ve wanted to send him out because we’ve always been in the top in special teams,” safety Eric Smith said.

Second-year linebacker Nick Bellore had hardly played special teams before arriving to the NFL, but credits Westhoff for teaching him the ropes.  

“The attention to detail that he demands I think is really excellent and is probably why he’s had so much success,” Bellore said. “Things have to be done exactly how he wants them done and it can be tough at times, but if you do it right, you can see how it works.”

What Smith says he’ll miss most about Westhoff is sitting in on special teams meetings.

“Some of the things he says in the meetings are hilarious,” No. 33 said. “Every day it’s something new. You never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. It’s hilarious.”

Westhoff said he hasn’t spent much time reflecting this past week but will do a little when he’s been alone.

“In the middle of the night, when I wake up, then all of the sudden it will dawn on me,” he said. “But for the most part, no.”

Following his retirement, Westhoff plans to return to Florida and hopes to transition into a media career, possibly as a football television analyst.

“I think that today’s fan is becoming a more and more educated fan,” he said. “Television does a great job of that.”

And from Westhoff’s count, Sunday he will be coaching his 625th NFL game. Bellore said the unit owes it to its leader to put together one last effective outing.

“I think we’ve underperformed this year,” Bellore said, “and the best thing we can do is send him out with a win and make some big plays on special teams.”

*Special Teams Saturday


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Landry Pleased to Get the Pro Bowl Call

Posted by jlholt32 on December 27, 2012 – 6:00 pm

LaRon Landry’s phone rang Wednesday afternoon and the person trying to reach him was Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

“At first I didn’t answer,” Landry told newyorkjets.com. “I was like, the GM called me, so I’m trying to figure out what the hell is wrong or what kind of insight he was trying to tell me.”

Landry would return Tannenbaum’s call once he made it home from practice and was relieved to know that he wasn’t in trouble.

“I’m contemplating the whole time, like, ‘What’s going on?’ ” Landry said. “But when I got home, I heard the news and it definitely was an honor.”

The news Tannenbaum passed along to No. 30 for the Green & White was that the sixth-year pro and first-year Jet had been selected to his first Pro Bowl. Landry joins CB Antonio Cromartie as Jets reserves on the AFC roster. The game will be played Jan. 27 in Honolulu.

“It’s definitely a bittersweet kind of situation,” Landry said. “Just to have the season we’ve been having, I just wish we could have made it to the playoffs, probably made it to the championship, and I’m sorry I couldn’t contribute to get into the playoffs. It’s sweet because it’s a goal that I’ve always been looking forward to getting, being six years into it.”

Landry was the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft and spent his first five years in the league with Washington. However, his final two seasons with the Redskins he played only a combined 15 games due to his heel injury. The Jets were aware of the injury when they signed him in March and have made sure he sits out of practice one day each week. The strategy has worked to perfection as the 6”0’, 220-pounder has played at a high level while not missing a game in 2012.

“It holds a lot of weight,” Landry said of being voted into his first Pro Bowl, “and it’s very valuable to my emotions because I was coming off a two-year injury.”

Fellow safety Eric Smith said he knew when Landry first arrived in Florham Park that he had the potential to make this year’s Pro Bowl roster, adding that he’s enjoyed his time as Landry’s teammate this season.

“He’s laid-back and has a good time,” Smith said, “but when it comes gameday, he’s focused.”

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine felt Landry was well-deserving of the recognition.

“I think LaRon really came on late in the year,” Pettine said, “when things started to click as far as the mental part of it and he was getting on the same page as everybody else.”

There wasn’t a particular moment this season when Landry said he realized he had a shot at making the Pro Bowl. He said he was only trying to be victorious with his teammates.

“It’s all about winning ballgames,” he said.

Heading into the Jets’ final game Sunday at Buffalo, the former LSU Tiger has produced four forced fumbles, two interceptions and one touchdown return. His Pro Bowl selection makes him the first Green & White safety to make the game since Erik McMillan did it 23 years ago.

“I’m just happy the way I got it with the Jets, coming off IR two years in a row,” Landry said. “It’s definitely a great accomplishment and it means a lot to me to be voted on by my peers of the NFL, coaches, and my fans.”

Landry has never previously visited Hawaii but has been told it’s a beautiful place. He’s glad he’ll be making the trip alongside Cromartie, his teammate in the secondary, and anticipates the experience to be one he’ll hold onto for a long time.

“It was definitely a goal,” he said, “and I didn’t do it alone. This organization as a whole, training staff, everybody within this organization helped me make it.”

Thursday Injury Report\

Greg McElroy’s concussion situation is detailed in our news story on head coach Rex Ryan’s decision to sit McElroy and start Mark Sanchez on Sunday at Buffalo. The good concussion news is that two Jets with head injuries, DE Muhammad Wilkerson and CB Ellis Lankster, have been passing their tests and both were limited in today’s practice. Also limited was WR Braylon Edwards, who didn’t practice Wednesday due to a hamstring/knee flareup.

Besides McElroy, KR-RB Joe McKnight (ankle/illness) didn’t participate in practice, nor did S LaRon Landry (heel), LB Bryan Thomas (chest), WR Chaz Schilens (knee), TE Dustin Keller (ankle) and CB Aaron Berry (hamstring). Berry late today was placed on injured reserve. All 15 other Jets on the injury report were full-go.

The Bills’ injury list, and in particular their “limited” section, grew today. Three DNPs from Wednesday all were limited — S Jairus Byrd (ankle), G Andy Levitre (knee) and DT Kyle Williams (ankle). Two other players were added to the list as limited in CB Justin Rogers (foot) and LB Chris White (hamstring).


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STS*: Malone on Chargers, Curley, Christmas

Posted by Randy Lange on December 22, 2012 – 12:59 pm

We caught up with Jets punter Robert Malone in the locker room Friday. In his first season with the Green & White, the 24-year-old is on pace to break Curley Johnson’s franchise single-season records for gross and net punting average. Malone talked with us about the possibility of breaking those records, facing off against one of his former teams Sunday, and what the Christmas holiday means to him.

Sunday you’re going up against the San Diego Chargers, a team you previously spent a little bit of time with. What’s your mental outlook heading into this game?

I mean, it’s no different than any other game for me. I knew I wasn’t going to be there to beat out Mike [Scifres, the Chargers' long-time punter]. I played for Rich Bisaccia, who is the special teams coach there now. I played with him at Tampa. He brought me over there, and it was good. I appreciated the opportunity to get some film out there, but I approach it the same as any other game.

How much do you feel that short time playing alongside Scifres helped you?

The thing that benefitted me the most was just the pure competition. He has the highest hangtime in the league and that really helped me improve myself, just to be at that level. I didn’t want to be just totally outdone when I was there, so that constant competition really drove me.

Do you still keep in contact with him?

A few texts messages here or there, but not a lot.

Looking forward to seeing him Sunday?

Yeah, it’ll be good.

Assess your season overall. Would you say this is the best season of your NFL career?

Yeah, I would think so. I’m still getting more consistent as the year goes on. I’m trying to perfect my craft. But I do feel comfortable and it’s been a strong season so far.

Tell me your mental process each time before you punt the football. What’s are you thinking about?

Each punt is a different situation, different scenario. You’ve just got to win each situation and put your team in the best situation. Whether that means getting the ball off as fast as possible, or pinning them back deep, or if you’re directional -punting, spend some time kind of walking through like, “OK, what do I have to do here?” Given the different situations, playing that through my head, and just making sure we execute.

How do you feel like you’ve handled the cold weather so far because it seems like it hasn’t affected you too much.

It hasn’t gotten cold enough too fast, so I kind of got used to it. It’s kind of been a gradual thing. It’s not like it just dropped 50 degrees in one day. I’ve actually kind of got used to it now.

You’re on track to break two of Curley Johnson’s 1965 franchise single-season records in net punt average and gross punt average. Is that something you’re aware of?

I’ve heard about it. I try not to pay too much attention to it. A lot of things can happen. I mean, if these next two games we have to pin ‘em back deep and we have to kick a whole bunch of short ones, that kind of stuff, you just have to win each situation. So I’ve never really been focusing on “OK, I’ve got to break a record” or anything like that.

Your net average is 39.8, very close to reaching a 40.0 net for the season. Is having a 40.0 net average a goal you set for yourself before the season?

I would want to hit 40. Unfortunately, we had the two blocks and we would have been about 41. But it would be an awesome goal if we could reach that. There’s only two games left, so I don’t know if we’ll have enough just to bring up the average. But we’ll see. That’s definitely a goal I always wanted to hit, that 40 mark, because it’s not been done.

Would that mean a lot to you, though, if you were able to break those two team records?

It would be an honor. It’s not something that I’m solely striving for. I’m just trying to put the team in the best position each punt.

Christmas is just days away. What does the holiday mean to you and what’s the day going to be like for you this year?

Well, I’m a Christian and I’m excited to celebrate the birth of Christ. My wife gets to come up. She’s coming up today, actually. She lives back in California and she’s flying up today. I’m excited to see her. We’ll get to celebrate as a family.

*Special Teams Saturday


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DeVito’s Career Night in Midst of a Career Year

Posted by jlholt32 on December 20, 2012 – 6:11 pm

Updated, Dec. 21, 11:58 a.m. ET

Mike DeVito is about to wrap up his sixth season in the NFL.

He’s played in 80 career games and all 80 have been with the New York Jets.  

He’s producing a career year in 2012 with a career-bests  60 tackles and a career-best 8.0 tackles for loss/no gain. He was also drew a holding call against Tennessee on Monday, the third time he was held this season, another career high. But it’s also the final year of his contract.  

“It’s definitely strange,” DeVito said in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room after practice this afternoon. “I’m looking at it like nothing’s guaranteed. I mean, I have two games left and then I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. So I’m going to enjoy every minute I get a chance to be on this field, be with these guys and play in these last two games because you just don’t know.”

DeVito sure played like he was enjoying himself Monday night against Tennessee. In that game, he finished with a team-best eight tackles and two of his eight takedowns proved to be tackles for loss when Titans RB Chris Johnson was carrying the ball.

After one of those takedowns of Johnson, ESPN broadcast analyst Jon Gruden said of DeVito: “He’s an excellent football player. He can stuff the run.”

The performance also was the first time in a game in the past two seasons that DeVito led the Jets defense in tackles.  

“I kind of took this mindset Monday I’m just going to go out there and have fun and enjoy it and enjoy this time,” No. 70 said. “I definitely was happy with that. Obviously [there are] plays I can get better at though, and I’m going to continue to try and get better each week.”

The tackle total at Tennessee wasn’t a season high for DeVito, but the number certainly caught head coach Rex Ryan’s eye.

“Mike DeVito. he had eight tackles — that’s impressive,” Ryan said at his news conference this morning. “When you watch that game, that might have been his top game since I’ve been here. He was absolutely tremendous.”

Twice this season DeVito recorded nine tackles, against the Dolphins in Week 3 and vs. Houston in Week 5.

“I feel confident out there,” he said. “I feel good and I feel like I can continue to get better. I feel like I haven’t peaked at my talent. I’m not satisfied.”

Except for the second quarter 94-yard TD run — on which DeVito may have been the only Jet to get a hand on Johnson  — he and his Jets defensive teammates contained the Titans’ star RB.

“That was so frustrating,” DeVito said of Johnson’s touchdown, “because when you look at the stats, I think it was 20 carries for 28 yards and then they had that one long run. But we can’t let that happen. That’s something we had talked about all week, going into the week, was you can have 20 carries for 28 yards but Chris Johnson can break that one. It’s frustrating, but we learned from it. We saw the mistakes and are moving forward.”

As the Green & White continue preparing for this week’s game against San Diego, DeVito said the Chargers’ offensive line might be the most physical bunch the Jets defense has faced all year.

“I really like their offensive line,” he said. “They’re tough up front. Every time we play against these guys it’s always a battle up front.”

Possibly a good sign for the Jets is that San Diego won’t have primary RB Ryan Mathews, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. However, DeVito doesn’t see Mathews’ absence necessarily working as an advantage for the Green & White.

“It will be a good challenge for us up front,” he said, “because when you have an offensive line like that, it doesn’t matter who’s back there.”

It will be the final home game of the season for the Jets at MetLife Stadium and DeVito states his family will be in attendance. But will he be playing in his final home game with the franchise? Only time can determine that answer.

“I’m a New York guy,” he said. “My family is over here and has been here for six years. Obviously I love this organization, and I love the people here, so we’ll see how it plays out.”

Thursday Injury Reports

TE Dustin Keller (ankle), S LaRon Landry (heel) and CB Aaron Berry (hamstring) were the three players who did not participate in team drills at today’s practice. G Brandon Moore (foot/hip) was a DNP Wednesday but was full-go today. Five Jets were limited: WR Braylon Edwards (hamstring), DT Sione Po‘uha (low back), LB Ricky Sapp (ankle), LB Bryan Thomas (chest), and WR Chaz Schilens (calf/knee), who didn’t practice a day ago. Fourteen players were full, including new listees K Nick Folk (back) and WR Mardy Gilyard (illness).

For the Chargers, LB Takeo Spikes (hamstring) and DT Aubrayo Franklin (knee) remained not practicing and LB Demorrio Williams (ankle) remained limited. Two players limited Wednesday, RB Ronnie Brown (hamstring) and LB Donald Butler (groin), were full today.


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STS*: Josh Bush Carves Out a Special Niche

Posted by jlholt32 on December 16, 2012 – 9:22 am

For Josh Bush, it seems like only yesterday when he was gearing up for his first NFL training camp.

Now it’s the middle of December and his rookie season is reaching its final stages.

“It’s gone by very fast,” Bush said Thursday inside the Jets locker room. “People were telling me stories about the rookie wall and this and that, but it’s flying by to me.”

Unlike his teammate, wide receiver Stephen Hill, Bush said of the rookie wall: “I haven’t experienced it.”

The Jets’ sixth-round draft selection described his first year in the pros as fun but admitted things could be better if the team had a winning record. The Green & White are 6-7 but still have a chance to end their season with an above-.500 record as three regular-season games remain.

One week ago, Bush made one of the best plays of his young NFL career during the Jets’ 17-10 win Jacksonville. On the second-half kickoff, he beat his block and took down returner Jordan Todman with a low tackle at the Jaguars’ 11-yard line. The play seemed to ignite the entire team as the Jets defense immediately forced a three-and-out and minutes later the Jets offense scored their first TD of the afternoon when RB Shonn Greene rushed for a 1-yard score to cap a nine-play, 57-yard drive.

“We just went over it in a special teams meeting,” Bush said of the play. “We put something new in. Coach Westhoff drew up a great play. I was really coming down, stacking up behind Antonio [Allen], and I read it. Nick [Bellore] was playing off of me, and the hole just opened up.”

No. 32 said he was only doing his job on the play, but acknowledged it was nice to see the play executed properly.

“We definitely practiced it,” he said. “That was exactly what we practiced.”

Bush, a safety on defense, has played a significant role on special teams this season. He played on 15 special teams plays against Jacksonville and on 168 this season, 44% of the Jets’ total ST plays. And his tackle of Todman was his 13th on kick and punt coverage this season, tying him for the team lead with Nick Bellore and fellow rookie Demario Davis.

Yet he never played special teams in high school and his only action on specials at Wake Forest occurred early his freshman year.

Although he hasn’t seen much action at his natural position, he has valued the opportunity to learn from coordinator Mike Westhoff, now in what he’s said  is his final season as an NFL coach. Bush said what Westhoff has taught him most is that focusing on the task at hand can lead to successful things getting done. Yet early on, Bush said the ST coach had his doubts on whether he could ever be a special teams factor.

“He honestly told me when they drafted me that he didn’t think I’d be able to play special teams,” Bush said. “So just to hear that from him, and him telling me that I’ve been doing a good job, that’s just a positive.”

The Jets rank eighth in opponents’ kickoff-return average and are 13th with opponents’ drives averaging starts at their 21.5 yard-line. At the same time, they lead the league with 22 opponents’ drives starting inside their own 20. While the ranking certainly isn’t despairing, Bush knows it could be better.

“We’ve had ups and downs,” Bush said. “But for the most part, it’s not where we want to be.”

Tennessee’s kick-return unit ranks 31st in the NFL in return average, but Bush said the Jets, in a must-win situation every week now, can’t afford to overlook main returner Darius Reynaud and the Titans.

“It’s the NFL,” Bush said. “You can’t sleep on anyone. Special teams is a very important part of the game, so you’ve got to bring it every time.”

*Special Teams Sunday


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Sanchez Verdict ‘Wasn’t Too Big of a Shock’

Posted by jlholt32 on December 5, 2012 – 8:10 pm

It was a typical Wednesday practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center this afternoon.

Yet from an outsider’s perspective it never appeared that way.

Two days of uncertainty regarding who the Jets’ starting quarterback at Jacksonville would be came to an end this morning when head coach Rex Ryan announced that he would be sticking with Mark Sanchez.

“It wasn’t too big of a shock to the guys,” wide receiver Jeremy Kerley said.

“It really was no news to take in,” right tackle Austin Howard added. “Personnel decisions are made by Rex, the GM and the owner. They’ve been here a long time to make those decisions.”

Just three days ago, as the Jets were facing the Arizona Cardinals, Ryan decided in the third quarter that it was the appropriate time to pull Sanchez from the game. The QB had struggled mightily all afternoon, throwing three interceptions in his first nine pass attempts, and also was sacked three times. The benching proved to be the first time the fourth-year QB had been taken out of a game as a pro.

“I think quarterbacks get a lot of the blame for everything, good or bad,” Kerley said. “But I think it falls a lot on his shoulders, good or bad. But we’re an offense. We don’t point fingers. We take the blame for what we put out there.”

With backup quarterback Tim Tebow unavailable to go due to broken ribs, third-stringer Greg McElroy entered the game and led the Jets to the come-from-behind 7-6 win.

“I think for Greg, it just gives him the confidence,” tight end Konrad Reuland said. “Whenever his number is called in the future, he has the confidence to go out there, and he knows he’s led a comeback victory already in his career, threw a touchdown pass on his first drive. So I don’t know how you wouldn’t have confidence after the way he played. I think in the long run, it might make this team stronger, because now we have three quarterbacks that have experience what it’s like to lead teams to comeback victories and win games in the NFL.”

On Monday, Ryan said he needed more time to make his decision and he wanted to make sure to get feedback from several of his coaching counterparts before announcing anything.  

“It was Rex’s decision,” cornerback Ellis Lankster said. “We’re not mad or anything. We’re just going to follow Rex’s decision and going to play behind him.”

The players had the previous two days off from practice, but that didn’t mean the QB chatter wasn’t heard around them. 

“I was walking into stores and people were asking me about it,” Lankster said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t been to practice or anything yet.’ So I didn’t know what it was going to be.”

Other players simply ignored the matter.

“I don’t really pay much attention to it,” guard Brandon Moore said. “It’ll get figured out. That’s why Rex is the head coach and he makes those decisions. I’ve got to worry about the game plan.”

While the decision wasn’t an easy one for Ryan to make, it’s clear that year four for Sanchez hasn’t been as smooth as many anticipated it would be. The Jets offense ranks 31st in the NFL and No. 6 has thrown 13 interceptions and had 18 turnovers through the team’s 12 games this season.

“I think everybody does the best job they can,” rookie WR Jordan White said. “Nobody goes in there and wants to mess up at any position. You just do the best you can. Some things might not go your way sometimes, but what can you do but come back to work the next day and get back to it. That’s what everybody’s done.”

The issue with Sanchez has never been his drive. Many of teammates say he’s one of the most dedicated people inside the locker room. 

“Mark’s a very hard worker,” fullback Lex Hilliard said. “Week in and week out, he’s here constantly, sometimes till 10 or 11 o’clock at night.”

Reuland, who also was Sanchez’s teammate at Mission Viejo High School, described a story of when their school lost in a California Interscholastic Federation championship game during Sanchez’s junior year and how that loss inspired the QB.

“They didn’t have a state championship in California back then,” Reuland said. “But it was basically as far as you could go. It was a big loss and he bounced right back the next season and led us to a No. 2 ranking in the country, undefeated [season]. He bounced back from that.

“That was definitely an adverse situation because we were expected to win it all. But I don’t think he would be here, at this level, if he didn’t know how to overcome adversity. Look at his career at USC. He battled for three years before getting a chance to start. As soon as he did, he took advantage of it.”

The players were going to support Ryan’s decision either way. But now that it’s been made, everyone was pleased it didn’t drag out.

“I think the clarification is good on all parts, receivers, tight ends, running backs,” Kerley said. “The whole offense, we needed that.”

And what seemed to impress Sanchez’s teammates most was the way the quarterback processed the situation he’d been dealt.

“Hats off to Mark,” Howard said. “He handled it like a pro.”

“He was very supportive of Greg,” Reuland said. “And I know it was tough for him, but at the same time he was very supportive. I feel like Mark just wants to win like all of us. Obviously deep down, it’s got to hurt a little bit. But at the same time, I think he did a good job of cheering us on and I feel like he’s going to bounce back.”

While many probably have lost belief in Sanchez, the people who truly count most have not.

“I got a lot of faith in him,” Lankster said.

“He’s going to put his best foot forward and give the team the best shot he’s got,” Hilliard said. “So that’s all you can really ask for.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Sanchez performs Sunday in Jacksonville. But one big question was answered today and people have to accept it one way or another.

“I think with Mark, it’s literally just he’s a couple of great plays away from being right back to where he’s been in the past,” Reuland said. “Everyone in here has been through a time where they were a little down on themselves or whatever and all it takes is one or two plays to get right back out of it — ‘Oh, wait, yeah, I can do this.’ So I think that’s going to happen. I think that’s going to happen in this game.”

Wednesday Injury Reports

The Jets’ injury list is at 22 players today. New to the list: WR Stephen Hill didn’t practice with a knee injury, DT Mike DeVito (shin) was full-go and so was FB Lex Hilliard (finger). Two other DNPs were WR Clyde Gates (concussion) and TE Dustin Keller (ankle). Four limited players: RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle/ribs), G Brandon Moore (hip), NT Sione Po‘uha (back) and QB Tim Tebow (ribs). The Jets’ full injury list can be found here.

The Jaguars listed eight players who didn’t practice today, among them RBs Maurice Jones-Drew (foot), Greg Jones (thigh) and Rashad Jennings (concussion), centers Brad Meester (foot) and Michael Brewster (hand), WR Cecil Shorts (concussion), CB Aaron Ross (calf) and DE George Selvie (concussion).

Limited were CB Derek Cox (hamstring) and DE Austen Lane (foot). Full were DT Tyson Alualu (calf) and CB Rashean Mathis (groin).

Sack Ex-Changes

The Elias Sports Bureau has revised the scoring of three plays, all of them sacks, in the Jets-Cardinals game. The Cards’ final offensive play of the game was originally scored a split sack between DE Muhammad Wilkerson and LB Bart Scott, who swarmed rookie Ryan Lindley, but upon further review, the full sack has been given to Wilkerson, which lifts him past Bryan Thomas’ 2.5 sacks and into the team lead with 3.0 sacks.

The other two sack revisions were both on Arizona takedowns of Mark Sanchez. The early-second-quarter sack split between LB Sam Acho and DT Darnell Dockett now goes fully to Acho. And the late-second-quarter sack divvied up between S Adrian Wilson and DT David Carter now goes all to Wilson.


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STS*: Struggles Past, Challenges, Opportunities Ahead

Posted by jlholt32 on December 1, 2012 – 11:15 am

For whatever reasons, ever since returning from their bye week, the Jets’ special teams haven’t been as sharp and efficient as usual.

Trouble began in Seattle on Nov. 11 when punt returner Jeremy Kerley muffed a second-quarter punt, which the Seahawks recovered and soon thereafter turned into seven points.

That was followed up at St. Louis the next week when one of Nick Folk’s field goals was blocked and a Tim Tebow fake-punt shovel pass to Lex Hilliard was stopped.

And most recently, against the Patriots on Thanksgiving, Joe McKnight fumbled a kickoff return, resulting in a TD for the opposition.

Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff didn’t have a clear explanation for the recent struggles.

“We do things in practice,” Westhoff said, “but there’s only so many things you can do. I mean, we can’t run a live kickoff coverage in practice this time of the year. We’ve already had a million. You have to be able to hang onto it. So those instances, even though they’re separate entities — very, very frustrating.”

Yet Westhoff was pleased with his kickoff covereage unit against the Pats.

“They couldn’t get to the 20,” Westhoff said. “They couldn’t have gotten to the 20 with an all-star team running that against what we were doing. We had it. I look at it technically. I know what I’m talking about. So we have them covered.”

Westhoff was shocked the McKnight miscue occurred, particularly because it looked like he had a chance to take the return all the way.

“Here I’m seeing this develop,” the ST coordinator said. “I’m thinking, ‘We’ve got them. We’re going to hit this.’ All of a sudden it ends up becoming a gigantic play for them and they get the big Thanksgiving celebration and we get a weekend in Palookaville.”

Jets seventh-year safety Eric Smith said the mistakes and errors on special teams haven’t only been discouraging for Westhoff but for the entire unit.

“We’ve just given up a lot of plays that we don’t need to,” Smith said. “We’ve got them schemed up well, we’ve just got some guys out of position, missed some tackles or missed some blocks.”

The Arizona Cardinals, Sunday’s opponents, feature one of the NFL’s premier punt returners in Patrick Peterson. Last season as a rookie, Peterson tied the NFL single-season punt-return touchdown record, finishing with four, with all four of his scores at least 80-yard returns. Those impressive numbers certainly haven’t gone unnoticed by Westhoff.

“I’ll tell you what he’s incredible at aside from being a prolific punt returner,” Westhoff said. “He rushes field goals as good as maybe anybody I’ve ever seen. He can run under a chair. He explodes and he’s low. He’s strong. At 220 pounds, he runs through a lot of things aside from being so explosive. He’s a real factor.

“Sometimes his numbers maybe aren’t quite what he would want them to be. He takes chances. I mean, he ran a 99-yard punt return. That meant he fielded it on the 1. A lot of guys wouldn’t do that. He does that kind of stuff. So he’s very daring.”

When Peterson entered the NFL out of LSU in 2011, Westhoff listed him as his top draft prospect.

“He’s extremely, extremely talented,” Westhoff said. “I have tremendous respect for him.”

The unit is also hoping personal protector Tim Tebow will be ready to go after he didn’t see action in last week’s game due to his broken ribs.

“I think I know Tim Tebow pretty well,” Westhoff said. “The guy’s pretty tough. Anytime you have one of those things, there’s always a safety or precaution because you don’t know what it could become.”

If the Jets envision being successful Sunday, one area they should attempt to capitalize on McKnight’s specialty, kickoff returns. Arizona ranks 30th in the NFL in both their 27.9-yard average return allowed and opponents’ averaged 24.3-yard-line drive start. But as Westhoff cautioned, it all circles back to fundamentals.

“Every play is measured by the proper execution of that play,” he said. “Sometimes a really good punt return is a fair catch. That can be a heck of a play, things like that. Whatever the situation requires, I want to try to win at that situation. And I want everyone to win at it, every single guy. That’s my goal.”

*Special Teams Saturday


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Scott Elaborates on Fans Critique from Day Before

Posted by jlholt32 on November 29, 2012 – 6:26 pm

Jets linebacker Bart Scott met with reporters this afternoon to clarify comments he made regarding fans who greeted the Jets as they entered the MetLife Stadium tunnel at halftime of Thursday’s game against the Patriots.

Scott was quoted by the Daily News as saying, “The person yelling at you probably was picked last in dodgeball all through high school.”

The 11th-year veteran met with head coach Rex Ryan to discuss the matter and said he was making a generalization with his above quote.

This afternoon No. 57 told reporters that he has a tremendous amount of respect for the fans and the sacrifices they make. But he also stressed that he is always going to protect his team and organization.

“I mean, it’s freedom of speech, you know?” Scott said. “You can say what you want. I mean, as long as nobody gets physical or puts their hands on you, they’ll understand. But we should also understand that within those stands are family members, are wives, are kids and they have to live that. But I guess that’s what we sign up for.”

Ryan and Scott both agree that fans are going to display their frustrations when their team isn’t winning and isn’t performing at a high level, and that players and coaches shouldn’t allow what fans say affect them.

“We’ve got to appreciate our fans,” Ryan said. “Obviously in the good times it’s much easier than in the bad times.”

Scott wouldn’t say how long his conversation with Ryan lasted, but he said he understands where the coach is coming from.

“That’s the way it is in the life of a public figure,” the 2006 Pro Bowl selection said. “We live in a fishbowl and everything we do is analyzed and criticized. I don’t read into it and I don’t buy it. It takes a family member or someone who knows me to tell me what someone is saying and I take it all in stride, because at the end of the day, I know who and what I am and what I stand for.”

Scott, who has been battling through a turf toe injury most of the season, said  he remembers when former NFL quarterback Tommy Maddox had a bad game and fans dumped trash and litter at his house.

“Is that wrong? I don’t know,” Scott said.

With a 4-7 record, it hasn’t been an easy year on the Jets players or their fans. Yet as one of the Green & White’s most outspoken leaders, Scott believes good things can still transpire.

“We all came into this season with expectations,” he said. “But I think the real true character of a man is tested when things aren’t going well. Anybody can sit up here and answer questions and do things when it’s easy, when it’s convenient. But when times get tough, that’s when a real man steps up and shows his true character.”

Yes, the fans were embarrassed by the Patriots game. The players were as well. Scott just hopes they will stay behind them the rest of the season.

“We’re practicing hard and we’re trying to finish it,” he said. “Hopefully with these last five games, we can make our fans proud, and Jets Nation and Gang Green feel like that we fought for them and that we put a good product out on the field for them.”

Thursday Injury Reports

There was some movement on the Jets’ injury report today, most of it favorable. WR Jeremy Kerley (heel/hamstring/illness), WR Chaz Schilens (concussion/hip) and LB Bart Scott (toe) all went from being limited during team drills Wednesday to being full-go today, and CB Aaron Berry (quad) went from DNP to limited. WR Clyde Gates (concussion) remained sidelined and S LaRon Landry (heel) did not practice in keeping with his weekly routine. G Brandon Moore (hip) was limited. New to the 20-player list today: LB Ricky Sapp (ankle, limited) and CB Kyle Wilson (illness, full).

Changes on the Cardinals’ 10-player list: RB William Powell (shoulder) and S Justin Bethel (shoulder) both went from limited to full today.


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