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Smith Turns the Ram Page, Joins the Jets

Posted by Randy Lange on August 29, 2012 – 5:30 pm

Mike Tannenbaum made the first reference to the fact in his news conference Tuesday evening. With the trade for Jason Smith from St. Louis, the Jets now have three of the first 11 players chosen in the 2009 draft on their roster. Smith was No. 2 overall, the Jets traded up for Mark Sanchez at No. 5, and they brought in No. 11, Aaron Maybin, a year ago.

Some ifs are involved here, but if Sanchez takes off this year, if Maybin is launched from his personal cannon and never slows down, and if Smith fulfills or exceeds his role as the OL’s new “sixth man,” the Jets have had one hell of an ’09 draft.

Smith already has an idea about that.

“I met Sanchez one night when we were somewhere, I don’t know where,” the newest Jets vet said in his first get-together with Jets reporters this afternoon. “I kept up with him a little bit. I always thought he was a good guy. I thought he was solid, fighting for what he does. You all know how he is here, but I always thought he was a leader, even when he was at USC, just kind of from his demeanor.

“And I don’t remember Maybin. I remember the name but I don’t know where he’s from. Fifty-one? I know he’s fast too. Learned that yesterday. Very fast.”

Maybin is a fast-track work in progress, and he’s happy to serve as a role model for Smith in this new green landscape that the 6’5″, 305-pounder now finds himself in.

“Why not? Change of scenery helps people out a lot, especially myself,” said Maybin, sitting just a few stalls away from Smith’s new location in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room. “It’s different positions, a little bit different timing, but it’s kind of a similar situation. At the end of the day, a lot of players need that change of scenery.”

Smith, something of a cerebral tackle, used another metaphor to describe his situation this summer with St. Louis and now in North Jersey.

“I appreciate everything the Rams did for me as far as allowing me to be a part of the organization,” he said. “It’s kind of like turning a new page of the chapter. I’m happy to be a Jet.”

So is Rex Ryan. Although the Jets head coach said their intention had been to retain Wayne Hunter in the role as swing tackle and blocking tight end, when the Hunter-for-Smith deal was proposed by the Rams, it made sense to the Jets.

“You’ve got a great athletic tool set if you’re the second overall pick. Jason’s got great movement skills,” Ryan said. “We wouldn’t have considered the trade if we didn’t think he could play those roles. Clearly we think Jason can play those roles. Also, quite honestly, we got a guy who’s five years younger. We feel good about it, and I feel good for Wayne going back with Brian [Schottenheimer, now the Rams OC], where’ he’s familiar with the system.”

Rex said Smith is getting his crash course in the Jets’ scheme, with help from Maybin and others, and that he should play in Thursday’s preseason finale at Philadelphia. “I want to see him for 10 plays,” he said. “I don’t even know if that’s possible. He’s supposed to be a sharp young man. Let’s see what he can do.”

Smith talked about the pressure that was placed on him, as the “second-best player of the 2009 draft,” to “fill the shoes” of the retiring Orlando Pace at tackle for the Rams.

“He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, I believe. There’s not many guys that can do that through the course of their career, let alone play eight years,” Smith said. “I made the statement before that he has his own shoes and I have mine. It’s his life, so I never look at it that way. No disrespect, but a lot of people with a pen in their hand looked at it that way. That’s their opinion.”

Of course, if Smith thought there was media pressure in St. Louis, welcome to New York. He was asked today if he expects to become a starter, which would mean moving ahead of Austin Howard, who just got the starting RT job that Hunter held last year. The new Jet wasn’t going there.

“I don’t make predictions,” he said. “I just focus on what’s going on right now.”

Right now he’s in the mix on the Jets’ OL.

“Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder,” he said, repeating another metaphor he uttered earlier in his impromptu news conference. “To somebody, I was beautiful.”

Rex Cetera

Ryan said he thought “there’s a possibility of John Conner getting some reps. We haven’t really used the fullback.” He may also look at semi-converted LB Nick Bellore and rookie “A-back” Terrance Ganaway at FB as well. … The coach surprised 19 Jets veterans — including QBs Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, CB Darrelle Revis and WR Santonio Holmes — by excusing them from today’s light practice to attend a six-hour “leadership training seminar” at an undisclosed location in nearby Bedminster. Ryan got the idea after he and his coaches were involved in a similar session in May. … undrafted rookie CB Ryan Steed was waived.


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Sparano on Conference Call: ‘I’m a Show-Me Guy’

Posted by Randy Lange on January 13, 2012 – 3:02 pm

Jets fans got to know a little about Tony Sparano while the Green & White were getting ready to play Sparano’s Aqua & Coral twice a year from 2008 through this season’s first meeting at MetLife Stadium in October. He has a touch of the Northeast and “Tony Soprano” about him, a skilled yet blue-collar approach to the game that obviously appealed to Bill Parcells, another quintessential Nor’easter who brought him over from Dallas to be the ‘Fins’ head coach.

So dealing with any alleged Jets “hornet’s nest” is not going to faze the Jets’ new offensive coordinator.

“Contrary to popular belief, I really don’t read a whole lot about what’s said or hear about what’s said,” Sparano said on a conference call with reporters this afternoon. “I’m kind of a show-me guy. Anybody who’s played for me a lot knows I use that phrase — it’s a show-me business, it’s a show-me game.

“Once the players get here, it’s a blank piece of paper. That’s a positive. Sometimes change is good. This situation here is a blank piece of paper, we’ll go from here, we’ll get a chance to learn each other, they’ll get a chance to know me. I’m looking forward to working with these players.”

One player in particular concerns all of Jets nation and that’s the relationship moving forward between Sparano and QB Mark Sanchez.

“Obviously I have some experience because I was on the other sideline against the Jets here,” he said. “Having to prepare for Mark Sanchez was always difficult First of all, he’s athletic. He has a good release. He can make all the throws. He can get out of trouble. … That was a handful, having to prepare for him. I’m happy to be with him now.”

That of course doesn’t mean there aren’t things that Sparano, the Cowboys’ offensive playcaller in 2006 and one of the first proponents of the emergence of the Wildcat in NFL offenses, doesn’t want to work on with the Jets’ now fourth-year field general. But he declined to go into too many specifics “early on in this process.”

“One of the things every offseason you need to do with the quarterbacks is to get them back to square one, break them back from a fundamental standpoint. Games get on you really fast and you don’t have the amount of time you think you have. Now you get a chance to break them back fundamentally and do some of those things you think would be good, stress some of those scenarios that go into the game — clock management, you can turn the ball over a lot of ways in our league.

“We’ll look at turnovers, spend a lot of time with Mark and get going, when we can spend time with him.”

Naturally, the rules are different this year following the new labor agreement last summer. Players can show up anytime at their complexes, but teams can’t require players to begin offseason programs until mid-April. Whenever the new OC and the now veteran QB can sit down, though, they’ll be discussing philosophy.

“I want to have an identity here on offense,” Sparano said. “I want our players to be able to walk into the meeting room and not be surprised with things that are going to be in the game plan every week. I do believe in moving the ball downfield, advancing in chunks. If you can’t get 20 yards in our league, that makes it hard to move the football.”

The Jets had those issues in their 16 games that ended so disappointingly in an 8-8 record. For only the second time in franchise history, they had no completions of 40 yards or longer to a wide receiver. (TE Dustin Keller had a 41-yard catch and LaDainian Tomlinson went 74 yards with a screen.) Shonn Greene’s 31-yard run vs. Kansas City was the shortest “long run” in a season since 1995.

So hearing about an emphasis on “chunk yardage” should be heartening to Jets Nation. But something else will sound familiar, and that’s the emphasis on physical play and the running game.

“Being physical doesn’t mean you’re going to run the ball 55 times a game,” Sparano said. “It means you’re going to protect the quarterback, the attitude of the receivers and their approach. It also comes from the quarterback. I like a physical mentality. We’ll be explosive, we’ll be able to get it downfield, do all those things. But I learned a lesson a long time ago about how you win and lose in this league. You’ve got to have some element of running the football.”

Especially, as head coach Rex Ryan reminded during his and GM Mike Tannenbaum’s portion of the conference call, with the Jets residing in, well, the Northeast. And that’s something else that has enabled Sparano, who grew up in West Haven, Conn., and went to college at New Haven, to feel right at home.

He was relieved of his Dolphins command with three games to go this season, so he spent that with his family and being an uncomfortable watcher of games that he was no longer directly involved in.

“Once the season ended, then all of a sudden the phone started to ring and I was able to start to entertain some of these things,” he said of the short, whirlwind process that led to him accepting the Jets OC job on Wednesday after Brian Schottenheimer through mutual agreement had vacated the day before.

“This opportunity came about to meet with Mike Tannenbaum and with Rex, the opportunity to meet with Mr. Johnson, to speak with them and see just how passionate they are about this organization and what’s happening here right now. Once I got through all that, there was no question for me. I share a lot of the same philosophies that Rex shares. This is home for me. I’m just happy to be a part of this team here. I’m looking forward to it.”


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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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For Rex, the Moore (Tom and Brandon), the Merrier

Posted by Randy Lange on December 7, 2011 – 5:10 pm

Updated 5:55 p.m. ET

Head coach Rex Ryan confirmed at his news conference today that consultant Tom Moore, who was at practices last week and at the Washington game on Sunday, will be with the Jets at least through New Year’s Day in Miami.

“I felt good about it the whole time,” said Rex. “His wife does have that veto right, but she did not exercise it and he will be here the rest of the season.”

Ryan also said the perception among some that Moore’s presence at Florham Park is a shot at O-coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is false.

“I have great confidence in Brian,” he said, adding that having the former Peyton Manning/Colts OC around “can only help. A guy like Tom Moore, how can he not help your team? He’s helped me so I know he’s probably helped Schotty, [Mike] Devlin, Henry [Ellard], a lot of guys, so we’re happy to have him.”

Moore said much the same thing in a sitdown with reporters early this evening.

“I strictly observe. That’s my role. It’s fun being where the action is, if you want to know the truth,” the white-haired 73-year-old. “I just make observations. Brian runs the show. He’s the coordinator. He has done and is doing, in my opinion, a tremendous job. I think the coaching staff here does a tremendous job. I’m extremely impressed with everything about this organization. It’s a privilege for me to hang around here.”

Ryan said now that Moore’s on site, perhaps his title will be mega-consultant. Moore was asked what that “promotion” means.

“I’m from down the South,” he said with a smile. “That must be a big-city term.”

B.Moore’s Sidelined … for Now

One of the guys that Tom Moore likely will be able to keep an eye on this week is Brandon Moore, no relation. B.Moore, who contributed to another solid offensive line performance in the 34-19 win over the Redskins but came out of the game with a hip injury that had him sidelined for today’s practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.

But Ryan said there’s no question in his mind about Brandon’s availability against the Chiefs at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

“We all assume Brandon’s going to play,” he said. “He’s played in how many straight games?”

The answer to that is 117 consecutive regular-season games and starts. The starts streak is first among active NFL guards, the  games streak is second to Jake Scott’s 120 for the Titans.

Similar to last week, when Moore and his linemates contributed to a franchise rarity of no sacks allowed and 6.0 yards per rush against the Bills, on Sunday the OL was at it again. This was only the 13th game in franchise history in which the Jets didn’t allow a sack (that blitz takedown of Mark Sanchez by CB Kevin Barnes was negated by his helmet-to-helmet contact with Sanchez) and rushed for three or more touchdowns.

The last time before Sunday was the 2009 “Win And We’re In” game vs. Cincinnati. And on that list are two games against the Chiefs: at KC in 1975, when John Riggins was the RB and Joe Namath the QB, and in 2001 in the Meadowlands, when the tag team was Curtis Martin and Vinny Testaverde.

Dixon: An Armed Force of One

Not only did the officials almost miss Marcus Dixon’s first career forced fumble Sunday but Dixon nearly did as well.

“I was going down, the gap was huge, so I was trying to close the gap and I saw the running back,” Dixon said of the third-quarter running play by the Redskins’ Roy Helu. “And I threw my arm. I was really trying for the tackle but I hit the ball. Then I kind of got up dazed because I hit my head on the ground. The grass didn’t help that much.

“But when I got to the sideline, I was saying, ‘That was my fumble. Make sure I got my fumble.’ “

He wouldn’t have if Ryan didn’t throw his red challenge flag. Ref John Parry’s crew didn’t see the ball rattle out of Helu’s grip on that hit and ruled that when David Harris and Bart Scott hit him 4 yards later, the ball hit the ground and Eric Smith picked it up, Helu was down by contact.

But Parry reversed the call into a Jets recovery, giving Ryan and his staff their second two-challenge-reversals game in three years. (The first was 2010 Game 2 vs. New England.) The Jets couldn’t convert on Nick Folk’s 40-yard missed FG, but in a way the first of three second-half takeaways for the Green & White got the ball rolling toward their comeback victory.

It also continues Dixon’s improving visibility in the D-line rotation.

“Coach Pettine told me early in the year, the more reps, the better you get. I think I’m getting used to playing. I’m learning a lot from Bo and DeVito and Coach Carrier. I try to take everything in and use it some way. I just do everything within the scheme, I don’t go outside of the scheme, I don’t go wild-card anybody. I just stay to the scheme. We have a great scheme that fits me and allows me to play.”

Injury Picture

The Jets’ injury report swelled from last week’s 10 to 16 today, but still doesn’t look dire, except perhaps for DT Mike DeVito. “I don’t feel near as comfortable about that one,” Ryan said of his D-line strongman, who has sat out three of the last six games with knee issues. “I know he’s doing everything he can. He’s out there in full pads. I don’t want to say no, but quietly we’ll say very, very doubtful.”

Besides Brandon Moore, the only other DNP was ST Ellis Lankster (low back). Limited besides Dixon were Joe McKnight, who wore a bulky brace to protect his hyperextended right elbow, LB David Harris (ankle) and S Eric Smith (knee). Nine players were full-go and all are listed here.

Kansas City’s injury report, by comparison, is the picture of health. Only three players are listed: QB Kyle Orton, who injured a right finger on his only play of the Chiefs’ 10-3 win at Chicago, was limited, as was 16th-year C Casey Wiegmann (a Jet, don’t we all remember, for three games in his rookie season of 1997), also with a finger. LB Demorrio Williams (groin) was full-go.


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Rex’s Sunday Offensive Contribution: Return of the ‘Cat

Posted by Randy Lange on December 5, 2011 – 3:22 pm

Several wrinkles went into the Jets’ necessary Sunday triumph over the Redskins. Some were familiar friends such as another Mark Sanchez fourth-quarter rally and Santonio Holmes game-winning grab and another strong defensive rebound after giving up 10 points on their first two series.

One was a long-lost relative we hadn’t seen for a while: the Wildcat.

“I think it’s tough to defend some of that if you’re not really focused on it,” head coach Rex Ryan said today in a conference call with reporters. “This was a good team, really good against the run, and we thought we could challenge them by putting in some of those things. That was my feeling on it and Schotty said, ‘Yeah, that sounds like a great idea, let’s go for it” and Bill Callahan did a good job putting in the blocking schemes for it. I thought it was successful.”

Ryan, a defensive coach born and bred, downplayed the idea that he contributed a main component of the offensive game plan to coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

“We’re just trying to help. We’re all on the same page. If there’s something I see that might be decent for us, whether it’s a play or something like that, we’ll mention it,” he said. “We’ll have our defensive coaches sometimes come up with suggestions for the offense and vice versa. We don’t care where we get it from — even though I wanted credit after the touchdown … no, I’m kidding.”

The TD in question was Shonn Greene’s second scoring run to make it 27-16, coming with 3:42 to play, two plays after the Aaron Maybin/Calvin Pace strip sack and recovery against Rex Grossman 9 yards from a big shovelful of paydirt on the Redskins’ grave for this game.

It was the seventh and last direct snap of the game and it was the most successful of the bunch. On the first six ‘Cats, three snaps went to Greene, two to Jeremy Kerley and one to LaDainian Tomlinson, the Jets gained only 17 yards and no first downs. But three of them were used on the Jets’ first opening-drive TD in 10 games, which also was their longest scoring drive of the season in plays (17) and time (9:06).

And LT’s 5-yard gain was the play immediately preceding the dam-breaker, Sanchez’s and Holmes’ 30-yard pump-fake Sluggo (slant-and-go) TD play that gave the Jets’ their first lead at 20-16 with 4:49 to play.

So it’s hard to say definitively that the Wildcat turned the tide for the Green & White, but perhaps it worked just enough for things to loosen up when they did. But after Brad Smith ran the TurDucKen, er, the Wildcat/Seminole/Tiger more than 35 times last year, often to great effect, and after Ryan and Schottenheimer talked about working Tomlinson and Kerley into that role this preseason, the Jets may have called for the ‘Cat maybe twice in the first 11 games?

And considering the lack of use of the formation for most of the year, perhaps it will go back in mothballs for the final four-game push toward the playoffs. But it was a good example of the Jets coaches’ and players’ reliance on one another now that there’s no more wiggle left in the room they’ve left for themselves.

“We all want the same thing. We built this team, Mike Tannenbaum and myself and everybody else, on respect, about building people up. That’s who we are,” Ryan said. “We have a great deal of confidence in the people we have in this building. When we pull in the same direction, we’re tough to beat, no doubt about it. Are we perfect? No. Green Bay’s got a perfect record but even they’re not perfect. We recognize that. But we’ve just got to be true to ourselves and stay the course. We know what works for us and that’s basically what we do.”

Injury Issues

Ryan gave an early preview of the injury questions that could be facing the Jets this week as they attempt to get to 8-5 at MetLife Stadium against the Chiefs on Sunday.

Tomlinson came away with his aggravated knee, but he did return to the game after twisting the knee on the Redskins sideline.

“I thought he got hurt because of a horsecollar tackle,” Ryan said, “but really, when he was getting up, he slipped on that little carpet or whatever they put on the sideline. He kind of slipped. I think he’ll be OK.

“He was able to finish, did a great job protecting the quarterback on third down. … In typical LT fashion, he said, ‘I can block. I’ll be fine.’ Here’s one of the greatest running backs in the history of the game — ‘I’ll go in and block.’ “

Joe McKnight was limited due to a hyperextended elbow. Ryan wasn’t sure today about the MRI results. “We’ll see how it is,” the coach said. “I probably don’t anticipate him practicing Wednesday. His status for the game, I’m not sure.”

And DT Mike DeVito, who sat out with his new knee injury, “was out jogging today” at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, Ryan said. “I think his status is probably uncertain. I know DeVito’s going to do whatever he can to get back and play.”

In Search of Happier Returns

Ryan said that Kerley, who suffered his third punt fumble of the season, his second muff and his first lost fumble late in the second quarter, was at the complex today fielding punts. The coach is impressed with his rookie’s work habits and his athleticism, but that may not prevent him and ST coordinator Mike Westhoff from turning to Jim Leonhard in that role down the home stretch.

“I feel really comfortable with having Jim Leonhard back there,” Ryan said. “I know Westy and I feel the same way. I think that’s how we’re going to go.”

Mighty Red Zone Machine

RZ juggernaut might be overdoing it, but the Jets, with their two TDs in two opportunities vs. the ‘Skins, are now the No. 1 red zone offense in the NFL.

Sanchez and the Jets have now converted seven consecutive drives inside the opponents’ 20 into touchdowns — their longest streak since the end of the 2002 season, when they went 9-for-9 — and are 25-for-37 on the season, a 67.6 TD-drive percentage that tops No. 2 Tennessee (18-for-27, 66.7 percent) and No. 3 New England (35-for-53, 66.0 percent). And it is likely the Jets will retain the top spot once San Diego and Jacksonville are finished tonight and Week 13 is in the books.

The Jets are also 6-for-6 in their last two games, the first time they’ve been 6-for-6 or better in back-to-back games since the start of the 1993 season.


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Rex on Sunday Mistakes, Thursday Broncos

Posted by Randy Lange on November 14, 2011 – 5:57 pm

Updated, 6:10 p.m. ET

Mistakes. Funny how innocent, harmless errors pile up on each other until suddenly there is a system overload and things like Sunday night’s 37-16 loss to the Patriots result.

Less than a full day after the Jets’ difficult loss at MetLife Stadium, Rex Ryan was asked how he would explain those mistakes.

“It could be a lot of things,” the head coach said at his news conference this afternoon at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “It wasn’t that we were pressing. I know we were excited about this opportunity. … It’s hard to describe. I don’t know if we were pressing or what it was.”

The E’s were many, from Nick Folk’s opening-drive field goal miss to pass protection to confusion during the Patriots’ no-huddle to Mark Sanchez’s two second-half interceptions.

At least there seems to be an explanation for the timeout after the first half’s two-minute warning. File it under “That Darned Helmet Communications System.”

Ryan explained that when he labeled the timeout that Sanchez called with 1:24 left in the half “the worst play in NFL history” for NBC before going into the locker room, he was referring to his part in the call, not his quarterback’s.

“I was basically saying that about myself,” Ryan said. “The emotion I was still feeling, that was obvious. I know how difficult it is. A great team like that, they don’t need any help. They went down and scored a touchdown after that.

“OK, he physically called the timeout. But through my communication, it wasn’t clear enough to Mark. That’s why it was my mistake.”

The process that led to the TO from Sanchez shows the limitations of the helmet system. Ryan said at no time did coordinator Brian Schottenheimer want to call a timeout when they did. But Ryan and Schotty were conferring about calling a timeout to discuss their third-down call after they had drained almost all the time off the game clock and the 40-second play clock.

“My understanding is I went over to Brian, Brian was going to make the call [to Sanchez] and I said, ‘No, let’s take the clock down, use all the clock and call the timeout,’ ” Ryan explained. “Matt asked, ‘What are we going to do? Take a timeout?’ I think that’s what Mark heard. He never heard the whole conversation I had with Brian. I don’t talk to Mark directly through the helmet ever. I don’t think he heard my and Brian’s comments.”

Had Sanchez waited until a second or two was left on the play clock and everything else was equal, following the Sanchez TD keeper behind Brandon Moore’s block of Vince Wilfork and the Jets’ kickoff, the Pats might have started their drive with around 1:03 left in the half rather than the 1:20 they had. Would 17 fewer seconds have prevented the Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski TD pass for a 13-9 Pats lead with 9 seconds left?

Speculation. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe instead of Gronkowski it would have been Gostkowski, Stephen, for his third field goal and a 9-9 draw at the half.

But this error came at a critical point in the game. The Jets were playing at their best, with Jamaal Westerman’s strong pressure forcing Brady, struggling through 3-for-8, 31-yard second-quarter passing, into a safety-inducing intentional grounding in his end zone, followed by the 65-yard drive to that Sanchez TD and the Jets’ only lead of the night.

However, that moment passed, Brady and the Pats lit it up in the second half and the Jets did not. Any corrections from the game were made during today’s late practice and will be implemented in their short-week preparation before they take off Wednesday for their next primetime appearance Thursday night at Denver.

“We know we have to put it behind us. We play in, what, three days or whatever it is,” Ryan said. “We can’t focus on what just happened. We know what happened. We made enough mistakes that, you play against a good team, you’ve got no chance to beat ‘em, you make the mistakes we made.”

Injury View

Ryan, asked about the Thursday availability of RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who left the game late with a lower leg injury, said: “I hope so. We’ll see. That’s not the official word yet. … I have no idea the extent. … We think he’s going to be OK. We’re certainly hoping.”

The official word has just come from the Jets. There was no full practice today, just a walkthrough. The participation report is an estimation due to the Broncos having the day off. If the Jets had practiced, Tomlinson (knee) would not have participated, nor would WR Jeremy Kerley (knee), S Brodney Pool (knee), WR Patrick Turner (kidney) or TE Shawn Nelson (illness). Limited would have been WR Plaxico Burress (low back), DT Marcus Dixon (shoulder), LB David Harris (ankle) and WR Santonio Holmes (foot). Eight others were listed as full participants.

The Broncos’ report will come in shortly and we’ll post a summary here.

Safety Zone

Westerman was a little chagrined to hear that he doesn’t get much of anything officially for forcing the Brady safety. No sack, because Brady unloaded the ball as he was hit. No safety — it’s listed as “Team” because it was caused by Brady’s intentional grounding in the end zone.

And the satisfaction of getting an unofficial “quarterback hit” and causing the play was diluted by the events that followed.

“If you lose the game … ” he said. “We had  a couple of other chances to get him on the ground and we didn’t, so it’s rough. But definitely, whenever I get on the field, I try to do positive things, keep improving my game.”

Westerman’s also a part of a record stretch of safety creation. No matter whether individual or team credit, the play was still a “deuce” for the defense, and that makes five defensive safeties for the Jets since last Thanksgiving night against Cincinnati. So the Jets, who scored only 14 defensive safeties in their first 50½ seasons, now have five in the last 18 games, including the AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh.

What’s more, the Jets are in the midst of one of the most safety-intensive stretches in league history. Some hasty unofficial research shows that only one team, the 1999 Tennessee Titans, who also had five defensive two-pointers in an 18-game span in that Super season (including their last one, of then Jaguars QB Mark Brunell in the AFC Championship Game).

One Other Rex Mistake

Ryan admitted to one other error Sunday night, that he had a profane exchange with a fan in the MetLife stands during halftime.

“It was right after halftime, obviously,” he said. “We made the mistake with the timeout, gave up the touchdown. I was emotional, it was an emotional time coming in, and I obviously made a mistake. I was just full of emotion and just popped off. Obviously, I know I represent the National Football League, I know I represent the Jets and I know it was a mistake. I apologize for it.

“It’s who I am sometimes. I made a mistake. I’m about as big a competitor as there is and at that time I was in no mood to hear anything, but I also understand that I have to handle that better.”

GM Mike Tannenbaum issued a statement early this evening.

“Rex and I have talked about it,” Tannenbaum said. “Obviously he let his emotions get the best of him. He knows that his behavior was not acceptable.”

Because the incident was a game-related matter, any discipline of Ryan would be handled by the NFL.

Rex Cetera

There was some thought that the Jets-Bills game on Nov. 27 could be flexed but the NFL announced today that game will remain at its original 1 p.m. ET kickoff at MetLife Stadium. … The guests on the 10th anniversary show of “Inside the Jets” at Grasshopper Off the Green in Morristown, N.J., from 7-8 p.m. tonight are Tannenbaum and senior personnel adviser Terry Bradway, the Jets’ GM before Mike T.


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Plax on His Back: ‘I’ll Be Ready to Go Sunday’

Posted by Randy Lange on November 10, 2011 – 4:29 pm

Injuries are a bullet point on the Jets agenda today, only because of the three players who didn’t practice again. One is the Jets’ hottest wide receiver, another is the NFL’s leading kickoff returner and the third is a key man in the defense’s safety rotation. And the Patriots loom over the horizon.

Plaxico Burress, whose lower back acted up a week ago Wednesday, spent his second day this week not participating in team drills or any drills, instead getting treatment. Considering he’s coming off his three-TD game vs. San Diego and his five catches on all five balls targeted for him for 79 yards at Buffalo, and his sometimes achy body, this could be a concern.

Except that Rex and Plax say it’s not.

“It feels good,” Burress said in front of his locker. “I’m making progress. … I missed yesterday and today. I’ll be out there tomorrow and be ready to go Sunday.”

“I just feel confident he’ll be ready to roll,” said head coach Rex Ryan at his daily news conference.

Joe McKnight, he of the league-leading 40.2-yard kickoff-return average, has a toe has been an issue this week, but he was on the field today, just not participating in team drills.

“McKnight is more of a wait-and-see,” Ryan said.

Pool is the player Rex is most concerned about. The safety went to the Ralph Wilson turf on the second play of Sunday’s game with a knee injury after he was cut by a Bills receiver. He played most of the rest of the way but the knee isn’t in tip-top shape yet. It’s not welcome news when the Jets’ tallest safety might not be available for the Patriots’ tall, talented tights, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

“I’m a little concerned with Brodney. I’m not sure right now if he’ll go,” Ryan said, adding that Pool has “done a tremendous job for us. I love having those three guys. It’s like having three starter with Brodney Eric [Smith] and Jimmy [Leonhard] playing together now for a second year. They really do a great job communicating with each other. They’re all excellent players.”

“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Pool said. “I feel better now than I did Sunday. But it’s just the type of injury that you want to be 100 percent sure about so you can go out there and perform.”

If Pool has to sit, Emanuel Cook will see time on the defense with Smith and Leonhard. If McKnight can’t return kicks, Ryan and Mike Westhoff will return to Antonio Cromartie, their kickoff man for Games 1, 2 and most of 3. If Burress … but he and the coach said there are no buts about it.

Other Injury Updates

DT Marcus Dixon and LB Josh Mauga were both limited again today but Ryan expects both to play. There are now 16 players in all listed on the Jets’ I-report with the addition of three finger injuries today, to Cromartie, Wayne Hunter and Sione Pouha. All three practiced fully.

The Patriots’ report today is identical to Wednesday’s: Four not practicing, including LB Brandon Spikes and S Patrick Chung; nine limited, including WR Wes Welker, RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Kevin Faulk, and LB Jerod Mayo.

Rex Cetera

Ryan on OC Brian Schottenheimer and the Jets’ red zone offense: “Schotty I think is doing a great job. The extended offseason probably helped us, gave us time and we really studied hard and looked at the teams that were at their best. We had several coaches come in — Tom Moore we’ve talked about — but Schotty’s done a super job preparing our team in the red zone.”

One more measure of that success: In the last four games the Jets have scored nine touchdowns on 13 RZ trips, a 69.2 percent success rate. The last time the Jets had a better four-game stretch inside the opponents’ 20 was 2004, a 6-for-8, 75 percent performance that also ran from Games 5-8 and also ended with a game at Buffalo.

Nick Folk nailed a 58-yard field goal with room to spare to end today’s practice. Folk said he hit his first miss of the season, from 50 yards toward Buffalo’s West end zone, aiming at the same spot that he did when he had driven through his 49-yarder just two minutes of clock time earlier. But the breezes had turned into more of a crosswind in just that small amount of time and Folk’s kick just sailed wide right. But Folk is still 10-for-10 from under 50 and will seek to extend that if called on at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night.

Moore, the longtime OC for Indianapolis and Peyton Manning before becoming a Jets consultant this year, will be recognized by the Colts for his contributions prior to their game Sunday against the Jaguars. … Marty Lyons, Sack Exchange member and radio analyst of the Jets, will be honored by the Heisman Trophy Trust as the recipient of the 2011 Heisman Humanitarian Award. The award, to be presented Dec. 12 during the Heisman Trophy awards dinner, comes with a $50,000 charitable donation to the Marty Lyons Foundation.


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Rex, Schotty, Jets Have Balancing Act vs. Pats

Posted by Randy Lange on November 9, 2011 – 5:38 pm

On Sunday at Buffalo, Rex Ryan received high scores from the judges, especially for the degree of difficulty, when he executed a flying butt bump with Santonio Holmes on the sideline following Tone’s fourth-quarter TD snare.

Today Ryan talked about the Patriots and his next event in the NFL head-coaching decathlon: performing on the offensive balance beam.

“It is a balancing act, no question,” Ryan responded to the question of whether to have coordinator Brian Schottenheimer keep on grounding and pounding with the Jets’ clearly improving running game or to attack early and often through the air against New England’s 32nd-ranked pass defense when the Pats visit MetLife Stadium on Sunday night.

“If you win, you balanced it correctly. If you don’t, you were wrong. I’m OK with that, I can accept that. We do have some targets, we do have some weapons. Obviously we have Santonio, Plax, Dustin, the backs out of the backfield. Certainly it’s something we’ll try to do. But we also want to run the football.”

Some would argue that the Jets’ shifting to overland mode at New England four games ago and not going up top on the then also-ranked last pass defense in the league didn’t help in the Jets’ 30-21 loss that day.

But it can be argued that beginning with Game 5 at Foxboro, the Jets returned to a formula resembling the one that moved the ball well in 2009-10. Or in the words of RB Shonn Greene after today’s practice, “Obviously we have our identity back.”

■ In the Jets’ first four games, their rushers averaged 71 rushing yards per game, 3.1 per carry, 1.2 before first contact, 1.9 after first contact. In their last four, the numbers are 120 yards per game, 3.9 per carry, 1.8 BFC, 2.1 AFC. Not great numbers, but a start on the road back.

■ In the first four games, the Green & White had 14 rushing first downs. In the last four they’ve had 28.

■ Ryan likes to measure his offense’s effectiveness in terms of rushing attempts plus completions. In the first four games the Jets averaged 43.3 A+Cs per game, with a season-low 30 coming in Game 4 at Baltimore. In the last four, they’ve averaged 48.0 per game, with a season-high 59 coming in Game 8 at Buffalo.

■ In the first four games the Jets were 2-2 and trending down. In the last four they’re 3-1 and feeling feisty again.

Needless to say, a number of reasons could account for the one-game improvement in the W-L record from the first quarter to the second, but he and others still feel “very comfortable and confident” in the return to their roots.

Said Greene: “The offensive line’s doing a great job, all the backs are working hard for yardage. We know what we’re going to do and we’re going to stick to that. It’s going to be physical Jets football.”

And said Ryan about the temptation to have Mark Sanchez match Tom Brady pass for pass on Sunday: “I just want to win. I don’t care what it takes. If it means we’re going to have to throw 50 times, so be it. … And to run the ball effectively is the biggest thing we can do for our team.”

Injury Report

The Jets’ first injury report of the week may look a little lopsided with three players not practicing and two limited in team drills, but don’t let those appearances fool you.

“I feel pretty good about where we’re at,” Ryan said. “I think we’re healthy. We’re going to be just fine.”

The DNPs were WR Plaxico Burress, who put his sore lower back behind him Sunday to post team-leading and season-high totals of five catches and 79 yards against the Bills; KR Joe McKnight (toe) and S Brodney Pool (knee). Limited were DT Marcus Dixon (shoulder) and LB Josh Mauga (back). Eight players were listed as full participants, including three who’ve sat out a few recent games — DT Mike DeVito (knee), DT Kenrick Ellis (ankle) and CB Isaiah Trufant (hamstring).

Click here for the Jets’ full I-report.

For the Patriots, it looks a little more dire, but looks can be deceiving here as well. Four players are listed as DNPs — S Patrick Chung (foot), LBs Brandon Spikes (knee) and Dane Fletcher (thumb), and OL Ryan Wendell (concussion). And nine were limited at today’s practice at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. — WR Wes Welker (rib), RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis (toe) and Kevin Faulk (knee), LBs Jerod Mayo (knee) and Gary Guyton (shoulder), CB Kyle Arrington (foot), T Sebastian Vollmer, WR Taylor Price (hamstring) and our old friend DE Shaun Ellis (rib).


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Holmes Likes Plan, Chemistry Heading to Buffalo

Posted by Eric Allen on November 4, 2011 – 4:33 pm

LaDainian Tomlinson said the challenge for the Jets offense Sunday in Buffalo will be stopping the Bills blitz. And if they can do that, there figure to be plays made down the field for Santonio Holmes and company.

“Those young guys out there on the edge, let’s hope they’re prepared for a running-up-and-down-the-field battle. It’s going to be fun,” Tone told me on an installment of “Four Quarters” that will air this weekend on newyorkjets.com. “If those guys do decide to blitz us, I think we have the perfect remedy for those guys.”

The Green & White went into the bye on an offensive high, collecting 25 first downs, converting eight of their 13 third-down opportunities and rushing for 162 yards in their Week 7 win over the Chargers. Mark Sanchez threw three red-zone TDs to Plaxico Burress and a pretty score to Holmes was taken off the board due to a holding penalty.

The Bills are tied for the NFL lead with 18 takeaways and they are coming off a 10-sack effort in an impressive Week 8 shutout of the Washington Redskins. But the Jets are a confident group heading into this key battle.

“The guys up front have been doing a wonderful job these past few weeks, and the backs have been stepping in and filling up in those holes and protecting as well,” Holmes said. “I think everything else comes down to the receivers on the outside if we can win versus man-to-man. I think Coach Schottenheimer has the perfect plan put together this week for us to go out and win.”

Sanchez has quietly been efficient the last three games, tossing six TD passes against just one interception. Holmes believes the passing game should continue to progress in the season’s second half.

“It’s been a thing of beauty that we’ve been working on every day,” he said. “The little things that we do when the offense is not on the field that we take a little time out to communicate amongst ourselves — myself, Plaxico, Dustin — I think we’re starting to really build a great chemistry with Mark.”

Sunday will be the first time Holmes has played in Buffalo. He is looking forward to the electric environment as the Bills will don all-white uniforms and hope to create a “white-out” in the stands.

“I’m very excited. The excitement just comes from knowing you can silence their crowd,” he said. “When you make big plays over and over and over — offense, defense and special teams — it silences the crowd. And it allows you to play with the same confidence as an offense that you play when you’re playing at home when you don’t have to worry about the noise factor.”

Holmes, who has recorded 22 receptions for 311 yards and three TDs, is one of the NFL’s top route runners. He’ll be a handful for whichever cornerback — Drayton Florence, Leodis McKelvin or Terrence McGee — the Bills decide to match him up with.

“When I step on the field to run routes,” he said, “I’m always staring my defender in the face so I don’t give him any kind of indicator that I’m running a short route, a deep route, if I’m breaking in or I’m breaking out, I’m going on a post route or I’m coming down on a comeback route.

“I try to make everything look the same, so those guys never get a beat of what I’m doing when I’m on the field. I think that’s one of the keys to running good routes is staring your defender down and making every route look the same.”

On Monday night in Linden N.J., Holmes will host his second annual “Strikes for Sickle Cell” bowling event. He has invited 10 families through the Children’s Sickle Cell Foundation to the event, which will include a silent auction.

Holmes’ son, Santonio III, has SCD and had his spleen removed in 2010 at the age of 8. He is flourishing down in Florida and his dad was proud to announce that the fourth-grader has spent some time on the Honor Roll.

“It’s just amazing to see him grow up, to see him do some of these things and to just be anybody he wants to be in life,” Tone said. “He doesn’t necessarily have to follow in Dad’s footsteps, but to just be a leader in whatever he does and do it well in life.”


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Jets Know Criticism Starts with ‘C’, Ends with ‘W’

Posted by Randy Lange on October 14, 2011 – 5:10 pm

The criticisms of the Jets have come over the course of their three-game losing streak, especially this week, and they are of course being heard. But it sounds as if all are publicly taking the critiques the right way, which is to say they know why people are upset, they’re working hard to turn things around and they know just how to do it.

“You can write or print or do whatever,” head coach Rex Ryan said at today’s news conference. “But hey, I’ve been here three years now. I know how it goes.

“When things don’t go right, there’s people who are going to pile on, whether it’s Schotty, Pettine, myself, the quarterback, whoever it is,” the coach said, referring to his two coordinators and Mark Sanchez. “That’s kind of human nature. I think you want your team to win so bad [and it doesn't], it’s somebody’s fault.

“But that’s the beauty of sports. You’re going to get criticized when you don’t do well. You might even get a ‘Dumb and Dumber’ comment. That’s why you’ve got to get the skin of an armadillo. You don’t want those comments, win.”

Ryan was asked specifically about the fire his offensive coordinator is drawing and he stood squarely behind Brian Schottenheimer.

“Brian’s an excellent coach, I can tell  you that right now,” Ryan said. “He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever been around. And we have confidence in all our coaches.”

“I’m always on the hot seat. I’ve been on the hot seat for six years,” Schottenheimer told reporters during his just-concluded weekly news briefing today. “It comes with the territory. I do the best I can. Our staff works our tails off. We have to be more consistent. When you’re not winning games, you’re going to take heat in the position I’m in.”

RB LaDainian Tomlinson seconded the emotions about his OC, saying the criticism is “unfair because Schotty is not the one that is out there throwing the ball, catching it, running it, blocking. He can’t do any of that. All he can do is game-plan for us and put us in the right position and hopefully we execute and make the plays.”

LT added that Schottenheimer knows “that’s part of the territory that he’s going to get blamed for a lot of stuff. I tell you what, the guy hasn’t blinked. He’s come to work every single day and he’s put together game plans, looked us square in the face, and taught us what I think needs to be taught at this time going forward.”

The critiques haven’t all come from outside the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. As WR Santonio Holmes told reporters Thursday, “I may be criticized again for saying it, but I think it starts up front.”

Today, one of the big guys up front also seemed to consider Tone’s comments in the spirit in which they were intended.

“I take nothing personally,” said C Nick Mangold. “That’d be a quick way to blow your mind, you start taking things personally. I’ve been called a lot worse.” He added about Schotty’s offense:

“We convert a couple more times on third down, we extend drives, and that kind of all goes away. We’re all in this together and we all have to get better.”

The McKnight Factor

The Jets hope to tap into one of their biggest offensive weapons again on Monday night against the Dolphins and that is the kickoff-returning of Joe McKnight to set up the O with a short field, if not to take the ball all the way himself.

His 88-yard return, which helped the Jets to a 20-yard TD drive, was the centerpiece of his strong day of returning at New England. He catapulted into the NFL’s KOR-average leadership with a 45.6-yard mark on his nine returns and the Jets improved their league-leading average drive start after KO returns from the 27.1-yard line to the 27.5.

In fact, McKnight’s average got me to checking my NFL record book. I asked Joe this afternoon if he’d ever heard of Travis Williams. He hadn’t. I mentioned that Travis, a Packers rookie in 1967, set the league record for return average in a single season.

“What was his average?” Joe asked.

I replied, 41.1.

“And what’s mine?”

The aforementioned 45.6.

He liked that. But he’s well aware of the two-thirds of a season to play, teams kicking away from him or bouncing kicks, the potentially treacherous footing to come in December. He’s not getting ahead of himself. Still …

“It feels good,” he said. “It shows that I’ve got a great kickoff return team in front of me. I can’t do it by myself. That would be a good thing for all of us to be in the history books. Instead of my name, maybe they could put ‘the Jets’ kickoff return team.’ “

Injury Watch

For the Jets, two players remained not practicing today — DT Ropati Pitoitua and CB Isaiah Trufant. Ryan already said Trufant looks like an injury scratch for Monday night’s game, and today he said of Pitoitua, “I’m not real sure. Unless he’s really ready to go this week, that’s a physical team and we need to make sure he’s 100 percent. I’m not sure right now.”

However, CB Donald Strickland (concussion) moved up to limited participation in team drills today and Rex said he’s “actually been doing fantastic. He wasn’t limited through contact, no red jersey. We’ll have to see how it progresses.”

Nick Mangold moved up from DNP to limited and seems good to go for a second start since returning from his high ankle sprain. The eight other Jets on the I-list were all full participants.

The Dolphins’ report remains identical to Thursday’s listing.


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