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Wilkerson, Coples Put the Licks on Jags’ Henne

Posted by Randy Lange on December 10, 2012 – 4:20 pm

Not surprisingly, Jets head coach Rex Ryan liked the combination of rushing offense and mostly stifling defense that got the Jets past the Jaguars on Sunday. In particular, he enjoyed the play of a few of his young guns on the front line of that defense.

“Muhammad Wilkerson, I promise you he’s getting the Pro Bowl vote from Jacksonville,” Ryan said at his midday news conference today. “It was a dominant performance from Mo. For an interior lineman, he’s just doing an incredible job. Statistically, he had the one sack, but he beat his guy over and over. Backs were having to pick him up — that’s rare when you have interior linemen getting attention from the backs. Usually that’s for the outside edge rushers. It just shows you what teams are thinking of this guy.”

And top draft pick Quinton Coples came on in the second half with one of his most impressive showings as a Jet.

“Obviously, Quinton’s athleticism jumps out at you. We always say he’s country-strong, and he is,” Ryan said. “What we’re starting to do now with him is mixing him up as an inside player, then an outside player. He missed a sack when he went over the top of [Chad] Henne, but he got one sack and he affected three more throws, including that last one at the end of the game. It looked like he was eating that tackle up pretty good over there.”

“I think the pass rush has been incredible,” said DT Mike DeVito of the Jets’ Sunday pressure that produced an unofficial total of 10 QB hits, the most this season. “It’s something we’ve been working on since day one, and to see Mo and Q doing that for us, that’s great. You can do so many more things when you can rush the quarterback.”

The only black mark on Wilkerson’s game actually was incorrectly graded. Referee Al Riveron called No. 96 for a 15-yard facemask penalty on a Henne third-down scramble on the Jags’ TD drive, but replays showed it was No. 98, Coples, who got his finger hooked in Henne’s mask on the play.

Still, that was the Jets’ only penalty of the game, another aspect of the win that pleased Ryan. The Jets are now third in the NFL in fewest penalties and fourth in yards, and they lead the league in both penalty categories since the bye week.

With the push up front and the creative backside play led by Antonio Cromartie and a cast that yesterday included Ellis Lankster, Darrin Walls and Antonio Allen, the Jets rankings continue to rise. If their eighth overall defensive-yardage ranking and their No. 3 against the pass hold through tonight’s Houston-New England game, it will be their highest weekly rankings of the season.

The third quarter’s been the charm for the Jets D the past two games. The Cardinals gained 6 yards in their third quarter and the Jaguars had the same on Sunday. These totals were the best third-quarter showing by the Green & White defense since they allowed the Dolphins 5 yards in their 2007 win at Miami. And they’re the lowest yardage total in any quarter since the ‘Fins had 3 yards in the fourth quarter of their Meadowlands win over the Jets in 2010.

Walking Wounded

WR Stephen Hill has an LCL knee sprain and LB Bryan Thomas has a pectoral muscle strain. The Jets are listing both as day-to-day. As for TE Dustin Keller (ankle), who stayed home from the Jags game, Ryan said, “I thought he was getting better as the week went on, but not to the point where he could play. Adding another day this week [for the Monday night game] , hopefully that’ll get him back on the field.”

This week’s first injury reports from the Jets and Titans won’t be issued until Thursday.

Bucking the Trend

The Jets on Sunday at Jacksonville did something they had never accomplished in franchise history and that no NFL team had achieved in the 19 previous seasons. They went scoreless in the first halves of back-to-back victories.

This is one of those glass-half-full-glass-half empty deals, akin to winning six fourth-quarter comebacks in a season. It’s definitely a good thing that the Jets beat both the Cardinals and the Jaguars despite zero first-half points, but it’s not something they want to make a habit of, such as trying for three in a row next Monday night at Tennessee.

On 10 previous occasions, the Jets went scoreless in back-to-back games. Only once did they win even one of the two games, in 1971 when they won at Miami, 14-10, before losing at New England, 20-0. (The Jets actually went scoreless for the first three quarters in both those games.) The other nine times they were 0-2.

But the Jets aren’t alone in struggling through two games of not being able to put point one on the board in the first 30 minutes. The last NFL team to do it was New Orleans in 1992. From 1993 through 2011, there were 79 occasions when teams went scoreless in the first half of consecutive games. None of them won both. Less than a third won one of the two games.

Another interesting note is that after 19 years of none of these occasions, the NFL has two teams who have qualified for the distinction this season, and in fact did it the last two weeks. The Jets have been joined by the Rams, who beat the 49ers in overtime, 16-13, last week and took out the Bills, 15-12, on Sunday.

“Inside the Jets”

Radio play-by-play voice of the Jets Bob Wischusen hosts tonight’s “Inside the Jets” show at the Grasshopper in Morristown, N.J. The show begins at  7 p.m. tonight and will be aired live on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. Bob’s guests are WR Chaz Schilens, QB Greg McElroy and assistant GM Scott Cohen.


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Since Bye, Jets Have Improved at Flag Football

Posted by Randy Lange on December 6, 2012 – 4:53 pm

Earlier in the season, at Pittsburgh, Miami, New England and against Indianapolis, penalties were a big issue for the Jets.

Lately the yellow flags have become an issue again, but in a good way. As head coach Rex Ryan said on Wednesday, “There are some things that we’re really doing a great job at right now. A thing we’ve emphasized since the break was penalties.”

It shows. Since Nov. 1, the Jets are No. 2 in the NFL in fewest penalties, 4.3 infractions marked off per game, behind Atlanta’s 4.0, and the Green & White are No. 1 in the league with 27.5 yards per game.

“It’s about paying attention to details,” said NT Sione Po‘uha. “When you’re playing an opponent, you don’t want to be an opponent to yourself.”

“There’s a lot of different facets to a game,” added Mike DeVito, his next-door neighbor on the DL. “Sometimes you overlook some of them or forget about some of them.”

But since the bye week, the turnaround has been dramatic after the Jets, through the first eight weeks of the season, were tied for 21st in the NFL in penalties and 25th in yards.

First Ryan put the teeth back into the flags being thrown by Joe Yacovino and his crew of practice officials, telling them to tighten up all their calls. Then he returned to a practice practice that he and the Jets instituted in 2010.

“Every time there’s a penalty at practice, everybody does 10 pushups,” said Mike Westhoff, who’s coordinated the Jets practice officials since he arrived on Herm Edwards’ staff in 2001. “All the players, all the coaches. Everybody except the guy who committed the penalty.”

Said LB David Harris: “We’ve gotten our triceps a lot stronger the last month or so.”

Some Jets have always had a knack for playing clean. Harris has gone 29 games since his last penalty, a facemask on BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the 2010 AFC Divisional triumph at New England. DeVito, who arrived in 2007, has never had a major penalty called on him in his career, just four 5-yarders. LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson has gone 38 games, since mid-2010, without a holding call.

And imagine this: Po‘uha’s played in 108 games, including playoffs, in his Jets career and he’s been flagged exactly once for a penalty.

“Knock on wood,” said Big Bo. “I remember the encroachment but I don’t remember who it was against.”

As luck would have it, Po‘uha’s penalty came against Jacksonville in 2009. Perhaps Jaguars center Brad Meester had something to do with influencing the nose tackle to encroach. If so, it looks as if Sione could get some payback on Sunday at Jacksonville, now that Meester’s foot injury seems to be coming around.

“Penalties can hurt you,” said LB Bryan Thomas, who’s been whistled for a mere five penalties in his 11-year career and has had no majors in his last 60 games. “They can come on the last play of the game and give the other team one more play. They can keep drives going.”

“You definitely do not want to take steps backward,” Po‘uha agreed about the hidden yardage of penalties that the Jets have recently turned back in their favor. “They say it’s a game of inches. Don’t hurt yourself by setting yourself back yards.”

One More Thing on Penalties

Except for the occasional downtrend such as in the first half of this year, the Jets have been the state of the art when it comes to not committing penalties. Since 2001, 12 seasons combined, their 1,026 penalties and 8,346 penalty yards both continue to lead the league.

Thursday Injury Reports

Three Jets players were DNPs today — WR Clyde Gates (concussion), who Rex Ryan said is a week away from returning to action, TE Dustin Keller (ankle), and S LaRon Landry (heel) with his usual Thursday reduced load.

WR Stephen Hill (knee) was limited, as was QB Tim Tebow again (ribs). NT Damon Harrison became the 23rd Jet to be listed this week. He’s also limited, with an ankle.

For the Jaguars, their two top offensive threats, RB Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and WR Cecil Shorts (concussion), again did not practice. A report out of Jacksonville said the Jags are likely to go with their “last back standing,” Montell Owens, at tailback vs. the Jets, although RB Greg Jones (thigh) was limited today after being a DNP on Wednesday.

Also not practicing were C Michael Brewster (hand), RB Rashad Jennings (concussion), CB Aaron Ross (calf) and DE George Selvie (concussion). Meester (foot) and CB Derek Cox (hamstring) were both full-go today.


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Arizona, Only Arizona, Comes into Focus

Posted by Randy Lange on November 26, 2012 – 4:47 pm

Rex Ryan pointed the direction: “It’s on to Arizona.”

And the Jets head coach’s finger was pointing to the Cardinals because they’re in the exact opposite direction to the Patriots and the Thanksgiving game the Jets don’t want to see in their rear-view mirror as they put days and weeks in between that game and what remains in their 2012 regular season.

Ryan surely wasn’t selling a playoff push at today’s return-from-the-holiday news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, but he was asked if his approach for his team was to “run the table” on this season.

“Absolutely, that’s what you’re trying to do,” he said. “Our goal was to beat New England also, but that never worked out. That’s why you play. You try and win every game that you’re in.

“I’m not going to make a guarantee that we’re making the playoffs or that deal. We have to get better. It has to start right now. You can’t look down the road. Of course, you’d like to run the table, I guess that’s human nature to say, ‘Hey, I see what’s on our schedule, we have to win all five games, we have to do this, we have to do that.’ We have to win this game. I think that’s where the entire focus is.”

The shame of it is that the Jets’ final five games are table-runnable. Every opponent — Arizona, Jacksonville, Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo — is 4-7 or worse. Their combined winning percentage is .327. While not an apples-to-apples comparison, if that strength-of-schedule held up the rest of the season, it would be the lowest SOS of the last five opponents’ records when the Jets played them in any season in franchise history.

But to think ahead at this stage for the equally 4-7 Jets right now would be foolhardy, and no one we heard in the locker room after the midday practice was going there.

Reporter John Holt dropped in on the media gathering around Yeremiah Bell’s locker. Here’s John’s report:

Bell has always considered Thanksgiving a special holiday.

But this year the holiday wasn’t as enjoyable for the Jets’ safety as the Green & White were defeated by the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. 

“Just from a feelings standpoint, I mean, that was about as low as you can get, especially on national television,” Bell said this afternoon after practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center. “But you know, it’s over and you just move on to the next.”

“Obviously it was an embarrassing game,” No. 37 said. “Kind of a low point, the way we went out there and kind of what we put on the field. But we know we still have five games left, so we’re more focused on the Arizona Cardinals and taking each game one game at a time.”

Although the Pats won by 30 Thursday, Bell wouldn’t concede that New England was a better team than when the teams first met in Foxboro on Oct. 21. The Jets led that game with less than two minutes to go in regulation before the Patriots sent the game to overtime for the 29-26 win.

“I think they’re a good team, no doubt about it,” the former Miami Dolphin said. “But do I think the score reflects how good they are? Maybe not. They’re good, no doubt about it. But there were some crazy things that happened in that game [Thursday].”

The craziest was three New England touchdowns in a span of 52 seconds, something Bell said he’d never witnessed.

“I’ve never seen a game and the things that happened in that game spin out of control so fast,” he said.

With five games remaining on the schedule, maybe a players-only meeting could prove beneficial.

“We’ve talked as players,” Bell said. “But at this point it’s just about doing your job. I don’t know how much more you can say it or how much more clear you can say it. It’s about guys doing their jobs and not doing the boneheaded things in games; not turning the ball over, not committing stupid penalties on defense and things like that. We just have to do more as a group.”

LaRon Landry, Bell’s safety mate, put the same sentiments in his own words:

“We have five more weeks and I’ll take it one day at a time, one practice at a time, like I’ve been doing. Go out there and give it my all and let the outcome speak for itself. I can only control what I can control.”

“There’s nothing more to say about it — we stunk it up,” LB Bryan Thomas said of their Turkey Day trimming. “Hats off to the Pats. Now we move on. Arizona’s coming in and we’re getting prepped on them, even a little bit today. Our sole focus is on this game. What would we look ahead for?”

And guard Brandon Moore uncharacteristically stepped on some reporters’ questions.

On the games down the road—

“It’s only about today for me.”

—but the possibility of running that proverbial table—

“I don’t know. I’m focused on today. I’m not going to even go there.”

That is the way it is today, will be this week. Only after Arizona will the focus shift to Jacksonville, and Tennessee will be unspoken before the Jaguars game. That’s the way it must be for this Jets team in this season.


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Rivalry Game? S. Hill Feels Strongly Both Ways

Posted by jlholt32 on October 19, 2012 – 4:48 pm

While many label the Jets-Patriots matchup as a rivalry, rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill isn’t approaching it that way.

“I’m just taking it as a regular game,” Hill said this afternoon after practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “Not doing too much, just going out there and treating it as that next game you’re trying to take to the next level. Just making plays, and going out there to help out the team, so we can get a W.”

Hill, who earlier this season missed two games sidelined with a hamstring injury, made his return to the lineup Sunday for the Jets’ 35-9 win over Indianapolis. No. 84 looked sharp in his first game back as he caught three passes for 23 yards and recorded the third touchdown of his career.

“It was good,” he said. “Not playing for two weeks, I was hurting. So I definitely had to come back as strong as I could to make plays.”

The 6’4″, 215-pounder said he feels no additional pressure heading into Sunday’s AFC East showdown. He said the Jets veterans have spoken with him some about the game but didn’t tell him anything noteworthy.

“They were just like, ‘It’s a big week, divisional week,’ ” Hill said. “That’s it. That’s how they treat it.”

Hill got to experience a special rivalry during his college days at Georgia Tech. Whenever GT would prepare to face Georgia there was always extra buzz and chatter being spread. Hill said the anticipation this week has been almost the same as a Georgia Tech-Georgia matchup.

“I like rivalry games,” he said. “It definitely brings a lot of excitement, of course, to the game. I’m just ready to take this on, especially being now in the NFL. It’s even bigger now.”

Many Jets players have said the level of focus has increased this week in practice. Hill totally agrees. Not only has he been studying the Patriots during film sessions at the Jets’ facility, but he also saved footage of them onto his iPad.

“I feel like this was my best week since I’ve been here,” Hill said. “I’ve been very dialed in, into the playbook and things like that. So I’ve just been reading as much as I can, just to get a feel of what they’re going to throw at us on Sunday.”

There are always challenges on the road, yet Hill said he enjoys the atmosphere of being away from home. A win in Foxboro and the Jets would return home with more enjoyment than they could imagine.

“It would do a lot,” Hill said. “We would be at the top of the division. That’d be great and definitely give us a boost of confidence.”

Coples on Jets-Pats “Logistics”

As a kid, Quinton Coples said he hardly ever watched the Patriots, the opponents the Jets will be facing Sunday afternoon.

“I was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan,” the Jets’ first-round draft selection said. “I watched them against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but no, growing up that wasn’t one of my teams at all.”

Coples will be participating in his seventh game as a pro. So far, there have been ups and down.

The former North Carolina Tar Heel has been informed of the yearly hype surrounding Patriots week. However, he couldn’t decide if Sunday will be the biggest game he’s played in his football career.

“I don’t know,” Coples said. “That’s hard to debate as far as whether it will be my biggest game. But I take every game seriously and I’m looking forward to getting back there and getting after it in this great rivalry.”

Without question, Coples will enter the game with plenty of confidence. Against the Colts he recorded the first two sacks of his NFL career. While the Patriots have the league’s top offense, No. 98 doesn’t seem fazed when analyzing the matchup.

“I think every game is every game,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to take care of it and make sure you get a win. I’m not too big on turning it up a level. I’m trying to turn it up every game. A rivalry game is definitely a lot more aggressive and a lot more grimy. There’s no telling what could happen. But at the end of the day, it’s fun.”

Coples hasn’t heard anything about New England’s fan base but expects them to be loud and ready, especially considering the Pats are returning home off their heartbreaking 24-23 loss at Seattle.

Like with any rivalry, there probably will be plenty of trash-talking going on throughout this one.

“Since this is going to be my first one, I can’t really speak on it,” Coples said. “I can just go out there and make sure I take care of my job. I think after this first one, I’ll understand the logistics of how crazy this game is.”

Friday Injury Reports

Ryan pegs 10 of his 17 injured players as probable for the Patriots, including TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) and Hill (hamstring), who both strung together two full-go practices for the first time in weeks. Also probable are LBs Bart Scott (toe) and Bryan Thomas (hamstring), who were limited in practice all week.

As for the backup RB situation, the Jets coach didn’t elaborate but is letting the designations speak for themselves. RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle) didn’t participate in practice all week but is listed as questionable for the game, while RB Bilal Powell (shoulder) was also a three-time DNP and is doubtful for the Patriots.

Other Jets doubtfuls: DTs Sione Po‘uha (back) and Kenrick Ellis (knee). Questionables besides McKnight: C Nick Mangold (ankle), who was limited at today’s practice after not going Wednesday and Thursday, and WR Clyde Gates (shoulder).

The Patriots have declared starting S Steve Gregory (hip), rookie RB Brandon Bolden (knee) and LB Tracy White (foot) out for the game. Rookies Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner are listed as the backup safeties behind Gregory and Patrick Chung.

Bill Belichick has also listed 11 players, all of whom were limited at today’s practice, as questionable for the Jets. Seven are or have been starters: Chung (shoulder), TEs Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), LB Dont’a Hightower (hamstring), LG Logan Mankins (calf/hip), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee) and WR Wes Welker (ankle).


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Jets-49ers First-Half Tweets

Posted by Randy Lange on September 30, 2012 – 2:26 pm

Here are our first-half tweets for today’s Jets-49ers game at MetLife Stadium, in case you missed them on Twitter. Follow Bob Wischusen, Eric Allen and me for our tweets during the second half and every game, home and away, on https://twitter.com/nyjets.

#RL Jets under Rex Ryan are 16-9 at home since ’09, 12-5 at MetLife Stadium since ’10.

#RL Jets gameday captains for SF: RB-KR Joe McKnight, K Nick Folk, WR Chaz Schilens, TE Konrad Reuland, LB Josh Mauga,

#RL Joe McKnight on the field as CB on Niners third-down play. Joe blitzes from back side, Alex Smith incomplete for Mario Manningham.

#RL Speed shows up on Jets coverage: Rookie Demario Davis illegally blocked in back by Anthony Dixon on punt, Niners 1st-and-10 at their 32.

#RL Niners drive 68 yds to Colin Kaepernick 7-yd keeper TD. Kaepernick 2 carries, 24 yds, Jets run def has given up 104 yds on 12 carries.

#RL Jets’ 7-0 deficit is the first time in 6 quarters that they’ve trailed at home this season.

#RL Sacks were the Jets’ first in two games, Pace’s first of the season, Thomas’ first since 2010.

#RL Jets injuries: TE Dedrick Epps (knee), FB John Conner (hamstring), return to this game is questionable for both.

#RL Back-to-back sacks by Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace force SF to settle for 55-yd David Akers FG try, wide right. Jets ball at their 45.

#RL Robert Malone’s 3rd punt: 41-yd punt, 4.90-second hang time, Ted Ginn fair catch at SF 11.

#RL Sacks were the Jets’ first in two games, Pace’s first of the season, Thomas’ first since 2010.

#RL Personal foul on SF’s Aldon Smith after the play. First down Jets–their 11th first down by penalty this season–at SF 33.

#RL Akers 36-yd FG is good to end the half. Akers now career 5-for-9 on FG tries vs. Jets.


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Revis, Keller, Thomas Ruled Out for Pittsburgh

Posted by Randy Lange on September 14, 2012 – 2:47 pm

Rex Ryan didn’t wait until gametime Sunday, or Saturday before the team’s flight, or for the first question to be asked today. The Jets head coach said at the top of his afternoon news conference that CB Darrelle Revis, along with TE Dustin Keller and LB Bryan Thomas, will not travel with the team and so those three starters will not play Sunday when the Jets take on the Steelers at Heinz Field.

“We’re just following NFL protocol,” Ryan said about Revis’ mild concussion suffered late in the opener against Buffalo. “Darrelle’s been cleared for non-contact, but he hasn’t been cleared for contact.

“We say it all the time. It’s really about the decal on the side of the helmet. We say guys who step up to replace a guy, they have to play as well, maybe a little better. In this case, we’ll take a little less.”

Kyle Wilson, the Jets’ first-round draft choice in 2010, is the player who will be stepping into Revis’ shoes as a starting corner opposite Antonio Cromartie. Wilson, who made the third interception of his career vs. the Bills, has started 12 games as a pro, but in 10 of them he was a slot corner. In only two games in 2010, in Game 3 at Miami and Game 16 vs. Buffalo, did he start on the outside.

Ryan said the Jets have faith in him to handle this next starting assignment against the heavy hitters in the Pittsburgh wideout corps.

“We have a lot of confidence that Kyle will step up in the starting role,” the coach said. “He’s a guy who over the last two years spent time with Darrelle in the offseason, training with him, learning football from him. I think that tells you about Kyle’s commitment. He wants to be a great player. Why not learn from the best?”

For the first time this week, Revis participated in practice, putting on his helmet and jogging out to participate in position drills and also getting in limited work during team drills.

At TE, Ryan said of Keller’s sore hamstring that “he kind of tweaked it a little bit Wednesday. It’s just best that he sit out, miss this game, and be ready to go next week.”\

Jeff Cumberland, the third-year man who had career highs of three catches and 33 yards off the bench on Sunday, is in line to make his first NFL start for Keller, the Jets’ leading pass-catcher the previous two seasons. Konrad Reuland, the first-year waiver pickup who saw action in more than 20 plays vs. the Bills, also will play, and the Jets re-signed Dedrick Epps off the Bears practice squad to their active roster to also help with the TE depth.

Reporter John Holt will have a Q&A with Cumberland that will be posted a little later this afternoon.

Thomas, who started vs. Buffalo after missing the final 12 games last season with a torn left Achilles tendon, suffered a left ankle injury vs. the Bills that he said is unrelated to the Achilles issue. But he was rehabbing furiously this week to get on the field for the Steelers.

“I’ve been in there getting treatment four times a day to give them the confidence to say that I can go out there and play,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a trainers decision, a doctors decision, but I want to prove to them that I can go out there and do it, no matter what. Especially coming off the injury from last year. I missed some games and that was tough last year. I don’t want to miss any this year.”

However, B.T. will miss at least one, with Garrett McIntyre, who started three consecutive games last season at Denver, vs. Buffalo and at Washington, in line to get this start. Aaron Maybin may also see his snaps go up.

The Rest of the Report

On the flip side of the injury list, Ryan did report that 11 of his listed players practiced full during team drills today and are all probable for the Steelers, including DT Sione Po‘uha and S Eric Smith, who both sat out the Jets’ opener against the Bills. Also full/probable were Cromartie, DT Mike DeVito, WR Stephen Hill, WR Jeremy Kerley, S LaRon Landry, LB Josh Mauga, G Brandon Moore and WR Chaz Schilens. Limited in practice and questionable for the game are FB John Conner (knee) and CB Isaiah Trufant (ankle).

The Steelers’ Friday report lists LB James Harrison (knee) and S Troy Polamalu (calf) as questionable after not participating in team drills today, while RB Rashard Mendenhall (knee) is listed as doubtful.

Another Tebow Rumor Put to Rest

Tim Tebow spoke with reporters again today and predictably, he was asked about a story early in the week in which an unnamed NFL source said the backup QB will be looking to move on from the Jets after this season if he doesn’t become a starter. Tebow found the report amusing.

“That’s what these guys told me about a little bit ago. I find that pretty funny,” he said. “It’s about as true as me living in Hoboken, I think. I guess it’s just part of what you have to deal with, rumors and stuff like that, I don’t know. All I can say is I love being here as a Jet, I’m thankful for it and I want to be here for a long time. I guess you just have to put up with stuff like that.”

That was an earlier rumor, that Tebow had set up shopt in the New Jersey city of Hoboken. He was asked if he had anything against the town.

“Nothing,” he replied, “except everybody says I live there, still to this day.”


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BT, J-Rich Take the Whacks, Know They’re Back

Posted by Randy Lange on August 13, 2012 – 1:23 pm

Football is about points and yards, runs and passes, X’s and O’s. But behind those important parts of the game is the human side, such as when a player has been away for a while before absorbing that first hit that snaps him back into reality and the resumption of his career.

Bryan Thomas and Jay Richardson remembered their first hits this summer, similar experiences although Thomas’ came almost a week after Richardson’s.

BT’s welcome-back popper came in the Cincinnati game on Friday night.

“When I was out there, don’t get me wrong, I was nervous, but I had the biggest smile on my face,” Thomas said. “Once I got that first little bang, all the nerves, the butterflies, the anxiety, they went away.

“I haven’t played since Baltimore last year,” he added about the Achilles tear he suffered in Game 4 that he relentlessly rehabbed to get back to this point. “Being out here, being able to bang with the guys, that’s different. When the lights turn and you make your first tackle that you didn’t have in almost a year … when I first went out there, I had to shake the butterflies loose.”

Thomas got the start at OLB vs. the Bengals, played the first quarter and didn’t rack up any numbers. But linebackers coach Bob Sutton said No. 58’s return to active duty has been impressive.

“BT had a great offseason worked hard to rehab from both Achilles and shoulder surgery. He’s come back very well and put in an unbelievable amount of time and effort in,” Sutton said. “I think physically he’s back to maybe even better than he was when he was injured. That’s how hard this guy has worked. And he’s come out here in practice and has performed very well, getting back his routine and his reaction time.”

Richardson: “Oh, Boy, Here We Go”

Thomas is the longest-tenured Jet, beginning his 11th season. Richardson, on the other hand, is tied for being the shortest-tenured Jet with no in-season games in green and white under his belt, just Friday’s “doesn’t-count” game. But JR’s thoughts went back to his first Sunday at SUNY Cortland training camp.

“Honestly, there were more butterflies and nerves for my first full-pads practice after being out for a year and a half,” said the DE, who missed the first half of 2010 due to a knee injury that closed the Raiders portion of his career, then sat out 2011 after the Seahawks released him. “That first time back on the field with pads on, suddenly I was like, ‘Oh, boy, here we go. I haven’t hit anybody in a while.’ Just strapping it up, it was like ‘Wow!’ It’s been a while since I put this on.”

Thomas definitely is still on the radar. Richardson was flying under it this camp — until he entered the game late in the second quarter, put on a blind-side rush and separated Bengals backup Bruce Gradkowski from the ball.

“My first play out there, I get a sack and cause a fumble. I’ll take it. It’s a blessing,” he said. “But I felt good. I’m starting to get more comfortable in this defense, starting to find a role, find my niche here. I think I can bring some pass-rush ability to the table and just run around out there trying to make plays.”

The game can be too short for some of the men who play it. Perhaps for BT and JR, it will allow them to continue their careers and they’ll make some key contributions to the Jets’ defensive effort this season.

As the Cro Flies

Antonio Cromartie got work during position drills with the wideouts at this morning’s closed practice. It was a welcome development for the seventh-year corner, but not exactly a surprising one.

“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time, to play both ways in the NFL,” Cro said with a smile after the session. “It’s an opportunity to get the ball in your hands, and another challenge. I’ve been asking for it since I was a rookie in San Diego.”

Not to mention his three seasons playing on the Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine defense.

“I bug Rex all the time to put me in on on offense,” he said. “The begging has paid off. Rex is giving me an opportunity to go out there and do it.”

Ryan cautioned Cromartie not to start planning for any 100-yard-game incentives.

“You’re not going to have him learn the entire offense, but maybe a handful of plays,” the coach said at today’s midday news conference. “There’s no reason he can’t do it and he could be a weapon. You see the size and speed he brings to the table. When he gets smacked by a safety, we’ll see if that changes anything.”

One who could be delivering the ball to Cromartie said he liked what he saw today.

“He looks good,” said Mark Sanchez. “DB, receiver, return game — he can do it all. He’s a special athlete.”

Rex Cetera

Ryan took a swipe at personnel people who targeted DE Quinton Coples as a “bust” when the Jets took him 16th in the April draft. “Again I’m sure he’s a bust of a pick. We’ll find out,” the coach said, adding, “The difference is the experts watched the tape. We knew what we were getting. I’m not saying every expert said he was a bust, but we looked 10 sacks the year before as an inside pass rusher — that’s hard to do against air. Obviously he has some traits to be successful.” He compared the measurables for Coples, coming his strong pro debut vs. the Bengals, to those for DE Jason Pierre-Paul, whom the Giants picked 15th in 2010 and who had a monster 16.5-sack season in ’11. “They’re two unusual talents,” Ryan said. “Hopefully Quinton can end up being the same kind of player Pierre-Paul’s been.”

Ryan said four injured key contributors — WRs Santonio Holmes (rib) and Jeremy Kerley (hamstring), NT Sione Po‘uha (back/forehead) and S Eric Smith (shoulder/knee) — will be “real questionable” for Saturday’s preseason home opener vs. the Giants. Kerley was fielding some punts during today’s teams period and could return to practice in a few days. Rex also said of the possibility that Holmes might miss the Sept. 9 opener vs. Buffalo, “I doesn’t see that at all. … He’s getting better. He’s getting treatment, the first guy in a lot of times, the last to leave. He’s trying to get back out there.”


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More Fighting Today; Rex’s Rx: Warnings, Gassers

Posted by Randy Lange on August 7, 2012 – 11:41 am

Updated, 1:39 p.m. ET

Monday’s practice fight between Joe McKnight and D’Anton Lynn, surrounded by a bunch of Wrestlemania bouts, was just a summer squall, something that goes on all around the NFL at this time of year, blown out of proportion by the assembled reporters, no big deal.

Or was it?

The chippiness between the green and the white continued at this morning’s closed camp practice at SUNY Cortland. Head coach Rex Ryan warned his players after one outbreak, and on the next play both units seemed intent on reenacting the fight scene from West Side Story for just a few seconds.

Ryan broke it up with profane “Hard Knocks” style warnings and advice to his players to knock it off. Shortly after, all the Jets lined up for maybe 10 gassers from one sideline to the other, and then got some more words from the head coach before continuing practice.

Most of the coach’s midday news conference was taken up by questions about the fights and his response to them.

“You’ve already had your scrimmage and when you come back, it’s not uncommon,” Ryan said in his opening remarks. “Guys are chippy, they still want to hit, and you see that. My big thing is protecting your teammate, don’t do anything selfish. I think sometimes you’re trying to be physical. But being physical is one thing and going past that is something else. That’s why we stopped and had to remind guys, the enemy is not in green and white. So that’s what we did.”

Was that the first time safety Eric Smith recalled receiving penalty gassers in mid-practice in his four years under Rex? “I think so, yeah,” Smith said. “I didn’t even count the number. I was just listening for that double whistle so we could stop.”

Ryan’s ire was raised because players on both sides of the line were taking today’s “thud” drills a little too far, not only resulting in pitting offense vs. defense but also slowing down the process of improving the team.

“Rex is right. We’ve got to be smarter than that,” said LB Bryan Thomas. “Somebody could go down with a knee injury or anything. That hurts the team. That’s not making anyone else better.

“He made a good point — and he warned us, he told us, ‘Guys, you’d better cut this fighting out because it’s wasting practice time.’ “

Smith also agreed with his coach’s approach to today’s eruption.

“He knows we’re a physical team but we’re not being good teammates right now,” the safety said. “We need to take care of each other. We’re thudding up a little too hard, kind of taking plays farther than they should. … I don’t know if he’s disappointed in us, but we aren’t practicing the way we should be. Go be physical, but stop on the whistle.”

Ryan acknowledged the “balancing act” players have in practicing vs. teammates, citing a skirmish between CB Antonio Cromartie and TE Dustin Keller leading up to the larger get-together.

“When Cro plays to his physical abilities, he’s about as good as it gets. Then there’s that fine line of protecting your teammate,” he said. “I thought Cro should’ve backed off and not hit Dustin and all that. He was trying to be physical and pick his play up. We’re always talking about developing habits. I thought Cro was wrong in that situation. And we had some other cases with chippiness and things. It was time to do it and that will remind them.”

National TV, radio, Web, and newspaper reporting was devoted to Monday’s dust-up, but while the video was neat and this is the Jets, and even including today’s scrum in the equation, we’re still talking about summer fights.

“It’s just a part of training camp. You’re banging around, it gets hot, people get frustrated, tempers escalate,” Smith said, adding with a smile, “I don’t know why it’s such a big deal right now. I guess you guys got tired of talking about Tebow, so now you want to talk about fights.”

The antidote to intrasquad fighting is a game, so Friday night’s preseason opener with the Bengals in Cincinnati should be just the ticket.

“We’re definitely ready to hit on somebody else,” Smith said. “We’re getting tired of hitting each other. It’s been a week and a half now. We’re looing forward to hitting on another side.”

Rex Cetera

Sanchez also spoke to the team after Ryan, who said he sees that as a sign of his QB’s growing leadership, “and I see it not just there. I see the burning desire. He wants to win. And players are more accepting of it. Sometimes you’re a young player, you haven’t earned your stripes and all that. But the reason they’re accepting is they see how hard he’s competing, how hard he’s trying. In the classroom if no one has the answer, he has the answer. They’re understanding there’s only way to get there and that’s to do the work, and that’s what Mark has done.”

Sanchez threw the ball well during practice, with the exception of perhaps one pass over the middle during red zone period, when LB David Harris broke on the ball for the pick. … Later in the RZ drill, Greg McElroy went deep over the middle to FB/TE Josh Baker, who grunted to get as high as he could and snagged the high ball for the score. … FB John Conner was throwing his weight around. He made a nice sealing block on LB Aaron Maybin that sprang Terrance Ganaway down the left side. … RB Bilal Powell, said Ryan, “had some great jump cuts and some other things. He’s really been impressive to me.”

Owner Woody Johnson and president Neil Glat, in Canton, Ohio, for Curtis Martin’s Hall of Fame enshrinement on Saturday, were on the sidelines in Cortland for this morning’s closed practice. … Wednesday’s morning practice is open to the public.


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Time to Power Down? Thomas Isn’t Letting Up

Posted by Randy Lange on June 15, 2012 – 9:43 am

Now begins the time on the NFL calendar for players to power down, recharge and gear up for the hard six or seventh months ahead.

With the end of the Jets’ minicamp, said veteran guard Brandon Moore, it’s time for “some rest, conditioning, lifting, getting ready for camp and just enjoying your free time because you won’t have any for a while. If you feel like it, a little extra time with your [play]book, just open it up and keep things fresh for a little bit. Get away. As a coach told me a long time ago, just enjoy your time with your family.”

Most players have already begun doing just that. But one Jets vet, even more senior than Moore, will be bucking the trend.

“My intention from day one of camp is to be back 100 percent, not taking any drills off, going through everything at 100 percent full speed,” said linebacker Bryan Thomas. “So that’s why I’m going to pretty much stay here the whole time.

“I pretty much go home every now and then at this time of year,” he added, “but this is new for me. You want to get away, enjoy your family, enjoy your kids. This is not something I normally do.”

BT has been making fine strides from last year’s Achilles tear at Baltimore and the subsequent surgery and rehab. He did participate in the minicamp on a limited basis.

“Bryan was in for pass drills only, but he took a couple of snaps with the team as well,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “He actually looked good running around, so that was encouraging.”

“Over these three days of the minicamp, I got some good work in. I felt pretty good,” Thomas said. “Hopefully I’ll be 100 percent once I come back, pretty much just trying be 100 percent so I can do all the drills and not limited drills.”

Thomas has been a steady performer for the Jets since they made him the 22nd overall pick of the 2002 draft out of Alabama-Birmingham. He’s had 31 career sacks, six fumbles forced and six recovered, his first pro interception in the Jets’ most recent playoff game at Pittsburgh in the 2010 AFC title game, and 438 tackles.

He had played in 124 consecutive games, including playoffs, until going down against the Ravens last year. It was natural speculation —and Thomas even said the thought crossed his mind as well — that his Jets career and maybe his NFL career might have just ended.

That’s not the way Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets saw it. They re-signed him in March, knowing the hard work he’d put in to get back to contributing to the defensive effort.

Thomas riffed on the Ryan/Mike Pettine scheme that he’ll be entering for the fourth season.

“I love it. I wouldn’t change anything about it. You can’t help but love it,” he said. “Pretty much all the guys, you have so many different things you have to learn. That’s what’s so unique about it. You’re not just stationary. Some defenses, you might see the right end just comes out at right end the whole time.

“This defense is multiple — multiple personnel, multiple formations — and you can’t help but love it. I’ve been here for four years. I love the defensive staff’s coaching style, just their attitude toward things. We’ve brought in a new D-line coach, Karl Dunbar. He’s been great. I get to work with him a little. He’s been very informative. And Mike Smith, he’s with the outside linebackers full-time now. He’s doing a really good job.”

Thomas is doing well as well. Will he be full-go for Cortland in late July? Will he retain his starting job? Will there be bumps in the road for BT on the way to Buffalo on opening day?

That remains to be seen. But for the next five weeks, Thomas will be at his North Jersey home away from home, chilling a little yet working a lot toward his 100 percent goal.


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‘D’ Dons Black Jerseys for Final Minicamp Practice

Posted by Randy Lange on June 14, 2012 – 4:21 pm

The black jerseys came out for the final practice of the Jets’ full-squad minicamp.

Head coach Rex Ryan surprised his defensive players by replacing their green jerseys with black tops and white numbers to go against the usual white jerseys and green numbers on the offensive side of the ball for today’s single practice before most players headed for home and their last break before the start of training camp.

“Whatever the emphasis is at training camp, let’s say it’s red zone or ball security or trying to force turnovers, the group I feel did the best in that specific drill, I’ll put that group in black jerseys the next practice,” Ryan told reporters at his minicamp wrap-up news conference this afternoon. “I put it on the defense today because I’m a defensive guy. But it’s just a little fun thing, pick up the practice, stuff like that. It makes them think what the emphases are, and that’s why we broke out the jerseys.”

Black jerseys certainly have a Darth Vader-ish college feel. The last time we remember the Jets going to them was in 2004, when then-DC Donnie Henderson awarded black jerseys with gold numbers to individual defenders, an idea that Nebraska was popularizing at the time. Florida State, among other schools, have sight-adjusted to black jerseys for certain games.

Rex said he got this thought for an entire unit to get a new wardrobe at training camp from OC Tony Sparano.

“Rex just did it to throw it out there,” said linebacker Bryan Thomas. “Hopefully by the end of training camp everybody will have black jerseys on.”

The defense definitely rose to the occasion a few times at today’s 1½-hour session with 1,550 fans in attendance. On the first play of 11-on-11’s, Mark Sanchez play-faked, dropped back and threw — right into the looming figure of DE Muhammad Wilkerson, who swatted the pass backward, then wagged his finger at Sanchez, as if to say, “Not in our house.”

On another play, Sanchez tried to fire a ball over the middle for TE Jeff Cumberland, who hadn’t turned around. It hit David Harris in the numbers and the LB couldn’t hold on. Still, another notch in the black belts.

But the guys in the white jerseys did have some successes nevertheless. Sanchez fired to TE Dustin Keller on the post for the “TD,” after which Keller offered one of his patented crossbar dunks. Tim Tebow hit Joe McKnight on a crossing route for an in-stride completion that had long-gainer written all over it.

When it was over, Ryan sent his players away with a message about their conditioning over the next five weeks before the week that they gather their gear together and head north to Cortland, N.Y.

“I talked about trying to get in great shape because I want this team to own the fourth quarter. That’s something we need to do,” he said. “You do that by making strides in the offseason with your conditioning. It’s really on them. This is like the old college deal about the ‘dead period.’ As a coach, you can’t contact your players. It’s on each other. We need to come back in shape. It used to be you could be a little heavy going into training camp and drop a few pounds. That’s not going to be the case now. You can have one padded practice and one walkthrough practice each day. There are not as many reps as there had been in the past. You have to do extra things in conditioning to get yourself ready.”

Tebow with the Ones?

Wednesday morning Ryan said Tebow might get some reps with the first offense in training camp but for now he was with the twos. Then in Wednesday’s midday practice, Tebow took a couple of reps with the ones. Ryan didn’t even wait to get asked about that this afternoon.

“Apparently I need to be at more offensive meetings. So I kind of missed that one,” Ryan said of Sparano’s call to work Tebow on that limited basis with the first group. “Tony just put him in there for a couple of shots.

“I just wanted you guys to know there’s no quarterback controversy. This is the way it’s going to be: Sanchez is the starting quarterback. Tim’s behind him.”

But every once in a while, the No. 2 QB will work with the ones, just in case.

Breaking Down the Team

The last official event on the field today, before the players signed autographs and then headed to the locker room, was to break down the team. That duty this time went to a special guest — Bobby Parente, who today worked his last day of a 38-year career with the team as its senior vice president of programming and media production before shifting to a consultant’s role.

It was a teary time for Bobby and for a few of the players who know him, and the moisture was repeated when the business staff gave him a standing ovation at the entrance to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center as he left for the last time as a full-time employee. He has been a great friend and invaluable adviser to so many of us who call the Jets our team and our home away from home.

Shortly after he told the organization of his plans a few weeks ago, he offered some observations to me below about his career:

“I am the luckiest Jets fan in the world. I grew up a Jets fan, I went to my first game in 1964, and I worked for the team I love for 38 years. I started as a summer intern in 1974.

“My first job as an intern was to polish the Super Bowl trophy. I drove Weeb Ewbank to Shea Stadium in the morning, then I went to the Jets’ offices in the city, and on way home I picked Weeb up. What an education about football for an 18-year-old.

“I have made many great friends throughout football and sports. I look forward to helping the organization as a consultant going forward.”


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