Here are today’s first-half tweets for the Jets-Jaguars game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, in case you missed them on Twitter. Follow Bob Wischusen, Eric Allen and me for our tweets during each Jets game on https://twitter.com/nyjets.
#RL Jets gameday captains today: Tim Tebow and LaRon Landry.
#RL JAX won opening coin toss, deferred. It’s 4th time opponents have won toss, deferred this yr. Jets record in first 3 games: 3-0.
#RL Mardy Gilyard makes catch on 3rd down, comes up inches short of 1st down. Gilyard’s first NFL reception since 2010.
#EA Antonio Cromartie was in there at WR on the first play from scrimmage.
#RL Jags in RZ, but Garrett McIntyre hits Chad Henne as he throws, Bart Scott picks off. Jets’ 1st takeaway in 4 games all-time at JAX.
#RL Jags in RZ, but Garrett McIntyre hits Chad Henne as he throws, Bart Scott picks off. Jets’ 1st takeaway in 4 games all-time at JAX.
#RL That’s the first time this season JAX has been prevented from scoring in the red zone after 25 successful chance (14 TDs, 11 FGs).
#RL Bart Scott’s INT was his first since 2006 with Baltimore.
#RL Robert Malone gets off 50-yd punt (49-yd net), 13th consec game he’s had at least one 50-yd punt, longest streak by Jets P since ’91.
#EA That was Bart Scott’s first regular season pick as a Jet. He now has 4 INTs in his career.
#EA Stephen Hill, who stepped up last week with 5 catches, getting looked at on the sideline. Hopefully the rookie’s right leg is OK.
#RL Jets WR Stephen Hill has a knee injury, his return to this game is questionable.
#RL Josh Scobee hits 31-yd FG to give JAX 3-0 lead over Jets. Scobee FG-kicking career vs Jets: 7-for-8. Scobee this season: 21-for-22.
#EA All turnovers are reviewed. Don’t think the TD will stand, but the Jets have 2 turnovers in +territory now.
#RL Jets D has no sacks of Chad Henne but pressured him into 3 incompletions for their first three-and-out series this afternoon.
#RL Josh Scobee 55-yd FG attempt to end 1st half is wide left. Scobee hit a 55-yder vs. Jets in Game 2 last season. Jets trail at half 3-0.
Tags: Bart Scott, Chad Henne, Derek Cox, Dwight Lowery, Garrett McIntyre, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jeremy Kerley, Mardy Gilyard, Mark Sanchez, Robert Malone
Posted in Randy Lange | 80 Comments »
Here are today’s pregame tweets for the Jets-Jaguars game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, in case you missed them on Twitter. Follow Bob Wischusen, Eric Allen and me for our tweets during each Jets game on https://twitter.com/nyjets.
#RL It’s raining now in Jacksonville. Weather for Jets-Jaguars expected to be partly sunny, showers possible, temps in low 70s, light wind.
#RL Jets 4-6 all-time vs Jags and have played 3 games in JAX (96, 02, 06). In those games Jets are 0-3 and have been outscored 90-20.
#RL Mark Sanchez is 1-1 vs Jaguars. In ’11 Game 2 Sanchez completed 17 of 24 (70.8%) for 182 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 85.8 rating in 32-3 win.
#RL JAX QB Chad Henne is 3-1 vs Sanchez/Jets, all with Dolphins: 63-for-109 passing, 57.8%, 771 yds, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 12 sacks, 94.2 rating.
#RL Jets RB Shonn Greene in last 7 games has 134 carries for 589 yards, 4.4 avg., 4 TDs, although he hasn’t scored a TD in 5 games.
#RL Mark Brunell’s on the field visiting. Brunell was Mark Sanchez’s backup in 2010-11. As Jags’ QB from 1995-2003, Brunell was 3-2 vs Jets.
#RL Today’s referee is Al Riveron. It’s his 4th Jets game as ref, following games at MIA in 09, at DET in 10 and 11 season opener vs DAL.
#RL Jets wearing white jerseys, green pants today for first time this season. Under Rex Ryan, Jets in white/green are 2-4.
#RL Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson in last 7 games: 3 sacks, 3 forced FUMs, 1 fum return for TD at Seattle, 2 PDs
#RL NYJ inactives: QB Greg McElroy WR Jordan White WR Clyde Gates LB Ricky Sapp DL Damon Harrison OL Caleb Schlauderaff TE Dustin Keller
#RL JAX inactives: RB Rashad Jennings CB Aaron Ross RB Maurice Jones-Drew OL Mike Brewster WR Cecil Shorts DE George Selvie DE John Chick
Tags: Al Riveron, Chad Henne, EverBank Field, Jacksonville Jaguars, Mark Sanchez, Muhammad Wilkerson, Shonn Greene
Posted in Randy Lange | 12 Comments »
Less than three weeks before the National Football League enters into an uncapped season, the 32 teams can now designate franchise or transition players — they’ll have two weeks to do so before the Feb. 25 deadline.
And while the Jets have some important decisions to make that we’ve discussed and will continue to analyze, there have already been some noteworthy happenings in the division this offseason.
The most interesting aspect of the Patriots coaching roster is there are no coordinators listed. Dean Pees served as the Pats’ defensive coordinator from 2006-09 until his contract expired and he is now the Ravens’ new linebackers coach.
So Bill Belichick will become more involved with a transitioning unit that actually finished fifth in points allowed (17.8 points/game). New England, which owns three second-round selections in April’s draft, recently hired former Jets DBs coach Corwin Brown as a defensive assistant to help coach the secondary.
"Corwin Brown is one of the high-class people in football," Belichick said on the Patriots’ Website. "He was a tough, smart leader who was great to coach and those are the traits he brings to our staff.”
Brown — the Green & White’s DBs coach from 2004-06 — worked under Charlie Weis the past three seasons at Notre Dame.
On the offensive side of the ball, Belichick didn’t appoint an offensive coordinator in 2009 and it seems as it he’ll stick with that setup even though QBs coach Bill O’Brien had playcalling duties last season.
In terms of major personnel decisions, what are the Patriots going to do with NT Vince Wilfork? They have until Feb. 25 to place the franchise tag on the two-time Pro Bowler, but the big man wants a long-term deal. You can’t imagine the Patriots allowing the 6’2”, 325-pound anchor of their defense to hit the open market, especially considering two of their rivals — the Dolphins and the Bills — look to be in need of a rock in the middle of their defenses.
Another interesting tidbit coming out of Foxboro was that Randy Moss reportedly suffered a shoulder separation against the Denver Broncos back in Week 5. Moss, who finished with five receptions for 34 yards and a TD in his second meeting against Darrelle Revis, finished the regular season with 1,264 yards receiving and 13 TDs while averaging 15.2 yards a grab.
The Jets will set their sights on capturing the AFC East next season and rightfully so. Right tackle Damien Woody recently posted on Twitter, “Gotta get home playoff game next year.” The Pats have won seven division titles dating to 2001 and they’ll enter 2010 as the defending AFC East champs.
It appears Joey Porter’s days are numbered in South Florida. Porter, who will turn 33 in March, racked up 26.5 sacks the past two seasons but is itching to move on and the ‘Fins might grant him that wish. Former Jets NT Jason Ferguson, who’s 35 himself and had his season end early last year due to a quadriceps injury, may opt to hang the cleans up.
But the Dolphins did well by scooping up Mike Nolan to coordinate their defense. Despite helping the Broncos improve their “D” ranking from 29th to seventh in his first season in Denver, Nolan became a free agent when he and Broncos head man Josh McDaniels parted ways. Remember Nolan was the Jets’ defensive coordinator back in 2000 under then-GM Bill Parcells, so this reunion shouldn’t come as a surprise.
One of the hotter topics regarding the Jets lately has been the possibility of a Chad Pennington return to the Green & White. While it’s a nice story to kick around the water cooler, let’s review a couple of key points. The Jets have four quarterbacks under contract and they’re going to place a tender on RFA Kellen Clemens, meaning an interested party would have to either work out a trade with Mike Tannenbaum or be willing to part ways with a second-round pick if the Jets elected not to match an offer sheet. Pennington has also made it clear that he’d like to stay in Miami even if that means backing up Chad Henne.
With the aforementioned Henne, the Dolphins have the makings of a pretty good offense, but they’ll have to figure out a way to keep Ronnie Brown healthy. Brown, a Wildcat gem for nine games last season, had a foot injury cut short a career year, and he played only seven games back in 2007 because of a knee injury. The Dolphins still finished fourth in the NFL in rushing as Ricky Williams turned in a 1,121-yard, 11-TD rushing campaign.
Change is everywhere in Western New York.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey will be the playcaller on offense. The well-respected Bruce DeHaven, back for a second tour of duty in B-Lo, will lead the special teams. And the Bills brought in George Edwards to coordinate the defense — Edwards left the same post at the University of Florida just weeks after being brought on board by Urban Meyer.
The Bills go to a 3-4 look on defense and now all four AFC East teams operate out of a base 3-4. This promises to be a major transition because the Bills don’t have a prototypical nose on their roster. Aaron Maybin, a speed rusher who was the 11th overall selection last April and didn’t record a sack as a rookie, moves to outside linebacker. Longtime end Aaron Schobel may make the same conversion but is said to be contemplating retirement. Perhaps both sides would consider a trade?
"We’re going to start from the 3-4 from a schematic standpoint because we think it will be the most advantageous thing to start out with," said Edwards, who coached the Dolphins linebackers from 2004–09. "It gives us the flexibility to adjust to a lot of things. Offenses will have to guess who’s rushing, who’s dropping, what we’re doing coverage-wise. It should help with the disguise aspect of that."
There’s no disguising that the Bills haven’t found their answer at quarterback. With Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm signed, most people believe somebody else will be the Bills’ starter in 2010. On Thursday, Gailey called the NFL "a quarterback-driven league.”
"It hasn’t always been that way, but it seems to have become more so in the last decade or so. You have to have a quality player there,” he said. “It does not have to be a big-name player. You just have to have quality production. That’s the decision you’re trying to make."
Tags: Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, Chad Henne, Chad Pennington, Joey Porter, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Ronnie Brown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trent Edwards, Vince Wilfork
Posted in Eric Allen | 45 Comments »
Rex Ryan quoted a certain Miami running back in the opening remarks to his news conference today. If you thought there was a subtle message there, you’re probably right.
"As Ronnie Brown said, the tougher 11 guys will win on the field and will get the job done," Ryan said following today’s first practice of the week for Sunday’s home rematch against the Dolphins.
Asked what he meant by using that remark, Rex was ready.
"That’s a great quote. Obviously, they must’ve felt they were the tougher team that Monday night," Ryan said, referring to the 31-27 ‘Fins win three games ago. "And we’ll see who the tougher team is this time.
"I think it’s a great statement. I think he’s dead-on," Rex continued. "I don’t have the silver tongue like he does. I respect Ronnie Brown. I think he’s a heck of a football player, he and his partner, Ricky Williams. I couldn’t agree with him more on his statement."
There is no question Ryan appreciated the Dolphins’ showing against his defense in primetime: 151 rushing yards, 262 passing yards, 23 first downs, 31 points. If anyone missed his grudging admiration at the time, he repeated his sentiment today:
"Other than struggling to stop the run and the pass … those would be the two areas I think we need to improve in. That wasn’t our day."
But unless I miss my guess, I’d say Ryan’s message was: We respect you. But you won’t be the only tough team on the Meadowlands turf on Sunday.
On the Miami Wildcat, he said, "Whether it was the scheme, the execution, whatever it was, they got the job done. So we’ll see what happens."
On QB Chad Henne, he replied, "Hey, they threw the ball for 250 yards. That’s the number that really jumps out at you." But, he noted, "This is Henne’s first NFL start away from his home stadium. We’ll see how that works out for him. This is a difficult place to play."
The bottom line, if Rex needed to underscore it, is that Miami had the NFL’s rushing offense when they played the Jets. Now the Dolphins are No. 2 — and the Jets are No. 1.
"If you like old-fashioned football, this is a game you don’t want to miss," said the Jets’ head coach. "If you want to see an aerial circus and all stuff like that, you’ll probably have to go to a different game."
Rex’s closing point was that had the Jets lost a difficult Monday night game on the road to Minnesota or Chicago, the chance for payback wouldn’t come for four years.
"The great thing about this one is it’s right now. It’s happening right now," he said. "They’ve only played one game, and they get us again, so we’ll see. Every man in that room I’m sure felt — I know I did, that I wanted this opportunity again.
"Now sometimes be careful what you wish for. Ronnie Brown hit it on the head, and I think we’re going to find out. We’re going to find out who has the tougher 11. And I’m OK with that."
Washington Crossing the Country
Ryan said Leon Washington is expected to return to North Jersey tonight from Northern California, where he’s been since undergoing successful surgery after suffering his broken leg against the Raiders.
"He can’t wait to get back, start rehabbing and get back with the guys, getting ready for next season," the coach said. "He’s got a great mindset. That’s why I think he’s going to recover from this. I think he’s going to be as good as new when he hits the field next year."
And Ryan said he doesn’t doubt that Washington will put the pads on again.
"This guy’s a tough guy. That’s why I have confidence in Leon. We’ve got the right guys here with John [Mellody, head athletic trainer] and Sal [Alosi, head strength and conditioning coach]. I have great faith in our trainers and our strength coach and our program. I believe he’ll be back. There’s no question in my mind that Leon will do what it takes to get back and to be 100 percent."
Today’s official injury report for both teams is now live, but Ryan as always read off his list at his news conference right after practice.
The good news is that wide receivers Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith were limited at practice. The bad news is that WR David Clowney did not practice.
Both Cotchery and Smith "looked good on the practice field," Ryan said, adding that
Clowney (ankle), G Brandon Moore (foot) and CB Lito Sheppard (quadriceps) were all DNPs today. But Ryan said of that threesome, "I’d say Lito’s the one I probably have the biggest concerns with right now."
Cotchery (hamstring), Smith (quad), DE Shaun Ellis (knee/ankle), LB Bart Scott (knee) and T Damien Woody (foot) were all limited. LBs David Harris (wrist) and Bryan Thomas (wrist) and CB Donald Strickland (ankle) all participated fully.
Frank Comments from Rex
Ryan was asked about the Great Hot Dog controversy involving Mark Sanchez. "First off, everybody thought it was my hot dog," the coach said. "I was disappointed. To me, he certainly wasn’t meaning it in a disrespectful way. … I’m an old-school football guy. You’re playing a great game. I know you’re hungry. Leave that to the fans. You can go into the locker room and eat afterwards. Hey, that’s not the biggest mistake he’s ever going to make."
Tags: Chad Henne, Leon Washington, Mark Sanchez, Miami Dolphins, Rex Ryan, Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown
Posted in Randy Lange | 28 Comments »
Two things came across loud and clear from Jets head coach Rex Ryan’s recently concluded conference call with reporters early this afternoon following the Monday night 31-27 loss to the Dolphins.
Rex is still ticked. And he’s putting it on himself as well as his coaches and players to get unticked quick.
"Absolutely, it was a humbling experience, and the competitor in me is mad," Ryan said. "It’s like OK, I’ve had bad games in the past, but I’ve never surrendered three leads in the fourth quarter to anybody."
Since he assumed coordinator status in 2005, that’s a true statement. In fact, Ryan was involved in only two previous games as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator when the Ravens lost as many as two leads in an entire game. In 2005 Baltimore beat Houston, 16-15. In 2007, the Ravens lost to the Browns, 33-30, in overtime.
Rex put the playcalling onus on himself around midnight in the Land Shark Stadium visitors’ interview room, and today he reiterated some things he wanted to have done better.
"We knew they had two outstanding backs. The thing I never gave enough credit to was Henne," he said of QB Chad Henne, who completed 20 of 26 passes overall and hit four third-down completions to move the chains, three coming in the last quarter. "He made some great throws during the game. He was on fire. And he made some good third-down calls. All we had to do was make one play, but to his credit he was making those plays."
Another area Ryan questioned himself on was on the week’s preparation.
"I wasn’t happy with our scout teams last week," he said. "I think we had a decent mental week, we had a couple of mental gaffes. But you can’t be a consistent defense if you don’t know where your guys are going to be. They’ve got to play off each other, and the only way to do that is they’ve got to go full-speed in practice.
"If I’m going to play a block a certain way, I think we’ve got to show that on the practice field. Maybe it looked different on the practice field than it did on the game field. Till we get that consistency, we’re not going to be a dominant defense. You can’t go at the pace of your scout team. You’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen. I’m not going to allow it to happen."
But the good news from the coach’s viewpoint is that in his experience his defenses always bounce back.
"I go back to last year, two times," Ryan said of the Ravens’ defense of ’08. "The Colts, they lit us up, and we played the Giants. Both times that unit responded. And I’m expecting this unit to really respond. I know we have the talent, the pride and character. We’re embarrassed by the way we played.
"I know we truly won’t get it back till we play Miami again, but this week right now presents its own problems. Buffalo has some outstanding weapons. We’ve got to get it done right now. We’re not looking past anybody. This is a must-win for us. I think we have to respond. And I think playing at home in front of our fans is going to be huge for us.
"This was a step back. Now we’ve got to make a huge leap forward."
WR Jerricho Cotchery was used sparingly at Miami due to the hamstring that had bothered him during the week, but Ryan said Cotchery didn’t aggravate the injury in the game. "We’ll know more later today. I think he came out of the game fine." … Similarly, nothing more on Brad Smith, who left the game with a foot injury.
Rex said he was "really encouraged" by the play of WR Braylon Edwards, QB Mark Sanchez and the offense. And on David Clowney, who had four receptions for 72 yards, he said, "I was proud of the way David played. He was the intended receiver four times and he caught four passes. He also had his guy burned a couple of other times and we couldn’t get him the ball.
"I truly believe we’ll bounce back," Ryan added. "As confident as I was last week that our offense would bounce back, I feel the same way about our defense."
The coach on the two successful fake punts called by special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff: "Mike does a great job of studying the opponent. We thought we had a couple of available. … To Mike’s credit, he saw the opportunity. He knows he’s got the green light from me anytime."
Sanchez: Another Pepsi Nomination
Sanchez received his fourth nomination for Pepsi Rookie of the Week. He completed 12 of 24 passes for 172 yards and one touchdown to Edwards, led three TD drives of 63 yards or longer, and made the longest completion of his career to date on the 53-yard connection with David Clowney.
Sanchez, who won the award after each of his first three games, has competition this week from Colts WR Austin Collie, Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin, Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno and Giants WR Hakeem Nicks. You can vote for Pepsi Rookie of the Week here.
Tags: Braylon Edwards, Buffalo Bills, Chad Henne, David Clowney, Mark Sanchez, Miami Dolphins, Mike Westhoff, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 83 Comments »
If there was any question why he received the nickname “Madbacker,” Bart Scott gave a glimpse of just how much he despises opponents on the latest installment of "Barking with Bart".
“I don’t care who you are. I’ll get into it with the waterboy,” he said with a straight face. “If you are out there saying something about my team or you’re against my team, I’m against you.”
You might have caught No. 57 staring at the opposing sideline last weekend when the Jets battled the Saints in the Superdome. Saints head coach Sean Payton shouted “first down” on a play and let’s just say that Scott didn’t agree with the opposing coach’s assessment. Then words were exchanged between the two men and it carried on throughout the course of the game.
Payton, who played quarterback at Eastern Illinois, and Scott, who played both linebacker and safety at Southern Illinois, exchanged Midwestern pleasantries after the contest, though.
“After the game, he said he really enjoys watching me play and I’m his type of player,” Scott said. “He informed me that he’s from Eastern Illinois and of course I’m from Southern Illinois, so he said he roots for me. Like I tried to explain to him, that’s just me on the football field. Outside the football field, I respect him and I appreciate it. But on the football field, I’ll take you out. I don’t care who you are.”
Scott, who signed with the Jets in February after seven years in Baltimore, also was asked in a fan email about his rivalry with Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco.
“My job was to make sure he never talked to any of my players. He’s one of those guys who want to come over to your huddle after a play, after a TV timeout, and say, ‘Hey guys, how you doing?’ I would throw him and push him out of our huddle and tell him, ‘Get out of here or else I’m going to shake your golds [teeth] out.’ ”
Even though Scott has left the AFC North, he’ll still see Ochocinco on Jan. 1, 2010, as the Jets will host the Bengals in the final regular-season game ever to be played at the current Meadowlands site. That renewal of acquaintances should be worth the price of admission on its own.
“We played in the Pro Bowl together and he was like, ‘Why are you so mad?’ He was really upset, his feelings were really hurt,” Scott said of the artist formerly know as Chad Johnson. “I was like, ‘Chad, it’s OK, man. I like you as a person — but on the football field I don’t like anybody.’ ”
Scott doesn’t like losing, either. Despite a solid defensive effort last week in New Orleans, the Jets dropped their first game of the season as QB Mark Sanchez struggled while committing four turnovers. Scott is comfortable playing with rookie quarterbacks as last year the Ravens opened up 2-2 with Joe Flacco at the controls.
When Scott compares the rookies’ starts, he says Sanchez is further along in his development at the quarter mark.
“I think Sanchez is a little bit ahead. I say that because he’s been given more plays, more responsibility,” he said. “We only allowed Joe to make certain throws and Baltimore led the league last year in rushing attempts. I think we’re putting more in his hands and more on his plate than we did with Joe Flacco. Joe Flacco pretty much just turned around and handed the ball off. We had three backs who ran the ball over and over again, and we led with the field position we got.”
After spending much of his early career in obscurity, Scott has become a fan favorite of Jets Nation. He not only brings a rugged personality on the field, but he is a consistent producer who has registered nine tackles each of the past two weeks and his six tackles behind the line and seven quarterback hits both lead the club. No. 57 is currently the Jets’ third-highest-selling jersey on jetsshop.com, trailing only Sanchez and RB Leon Washington.
“I appreciate it. It’s been a long road. I can remember my mom showing up in Baltimore,” he said. “You know mothers are so naive — they think they can get anything and she said, ‘I’m going to get my baby’s jersey in the store.’ I’m like, ‘Mom, I’m a special teams player, undrafted.’ She was like, ‘I’m going to make a petition and we’ll get it in Foot Locker.’ I think she’ll be happy now.”
The Jets can make a national statement Monday night in Miami. Some think the Dolphins will be down and out without former Jet Chad Pennington, but Scott delivered an interesting analysis of the Dolphins’ aerial attack.
“I think with [Chad] Henne in there, it gives them an added dimension. We knew Pennington couldn’t throw the long ball, he didn’t have a strong enough arm to throw across the field,” he said. “So I think now he opens their offense up and they may be better for it. It makes their offense less predictable and they can throw down the field now. It’s going to be an added challenge for us. It may have been a little easier for us if they had Chad Pennington.”
Scott Charity Update
Each week on the “Barking with Bart” show, Scott is announcing charities that he’s selected to donate to. Little Kids Rock, whose mission is to transform children’s lives by restoring and revitalizing music education in low-income schools, was the first selection.
And during our most recent episode, Scott chose to help out Camp Good Days and Special Times. The good people there will use their grant to help send campers to their Sharing & Caring Program, for children who have lost an immediate family member to homicide.
“That’s good that we can bring kids together to empathize and sympathize with each other and really try to stop that cycle,” he said. “Sometimes you really don’t know how to talk unless you’ve been through that. To get those kids counseling and let them know it’s OK to express yourself, to be upset and to understand that violence begets violence, to forgive and learn forgiveness.”
Scott, whose foundation is named A Son Never Forgets, will make small-impact grants courtesy of the program to worthy charities. The team has set up an email address — email@example.com — for viewers to submit charities for consideration. All charitable requests must include the following information: a 501(c)3 Tax ID Number, a sampling of programs, and a statement of what one would do with a small grant from Bart Scott.
Encouraging fan barks as well, the Jets have an email address — firstname.lastname@example.org — so viewers can write in. Selected comments and questions will be read and answered on-air.
“Barking with Bart” is available to fans on most Tuesdays throughout the regular season, but next week’s show will run Wednesday due to the Jets’ appearance on Monday Night Football. A Flight Crew member is scheduled to appear, and Bart might bring a player into the studio as well. Each program is always available in the Website archive. View the most recent installment here.
Tags: Barking with Bart, Bart Scott, Chad Henne, Chad Ochocinco, Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton
Posted in Eric Allen | 17 Comments »
There was more than one politician gunning for a big prize in Indianapolis this morning. Hundreds of feet away from Monument Circle, where Republican presidential candidate John McCain was holding a town hall meeting at an Indy radio station, Matt Ryan took the podium at the Indianapolis Convention Center.
Ryan is the Boston College quarterback who is some folks’ candidate to be the top pick in April’s draft. And he had the political polish to dance around some questions, answer others point-blank and schmooze with reporters during a break in his busy day at the NFL Scouting Combine.
For example, "How important is it to be the No. 1 overall pick?" was not a question Ryan was going to take head-on.
"It’s exciting to be mentioned in that light," he said. "For me, I just hope somebody gives me an opportunity to go in and compete and help try and make an organization a winner. It doesn’t really matter what number that is as long as somebody gives me chance."
Good answer. So were his responses about the prospects of being drafted by Miami at No. 1 — "It’d be a great situation for a quarterback, and it may end up working out" — or by Atlanta at No. 3 — "I don’t think one person would be the cause of change down there, but I definitely think I could help. I think I would be a great fit."
But one topic Ryan wasn’t going to finesse was what he’d be doing at the combine. He’ll be doing his timed running drills here but he won’t throw until March 18 at BC’s pro day.
Why not throw in the calm air and room temperatures of the RCA Dome?
"We have a bubble up over our stadium at BC, so we’ve got great conditions to throw on our pro day," Ryan explained. "I want to portray to the teams that are going to be looking at my skills an accurate representation of what it would be like in a game situation, so I want to throw to the guys I know and give the teams a chance to look at what I’m capable of doing."
And for anyone who missed the point he was making, he said a few minutes later: "I’m comfortable with the decisions I’ve made in this process and confident that there’s plenty of game tape that shows that I show up when the games on the line, that I’m a competitor. I’ve made my decision and I’m going to stick with that."
Certainly a well-stated reason for not wanting to do everything desired of him at the combine. NFL coaches and GMs would prefer that everyone invited here would do everything here, but that’s not the way the system has evolved. Some players want the conditions to be close to ideal when they perform before the draft, so as to maximize the offers in their rookie contracts, and they have the potential, the standing — the juice — to do it their way.
Others do not. As far as this year’s quarterbacks, Michigan’s Chad Henne and Delaware’s Joe Flacco, both of whom also talked with the media today, fall into that category.
Henne is in this group because of his injury history. He played with a separated right shoulder virtually all last season, so his game video is not going to be as optimized as Ryan’s.
"I wasn’t healthy throughout the whole year," said Henne. "I’ll work out hard here and try to prove as much as I can. It’s a great opportunity for myself. Hopefully, I can open some scouts’ eyes."
The scouts probably didn’t need to be alerted due to Henne’s pedigree at UM, also known as Tom Brady U. Michigan QBs don’t always come into the NFL with high profiles — Brady, of course, was famously drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 draft — but they seem to turn out pretty well.
"I think we’re very well prepared at Michigan," Henne agreed. "It’s a great place to be, one reason I went to Michigan."
Henne at the moment is considered by draft analysts to be the third QB in this draft, behind Ryan and Louisville’s Brian Brohm, a late-first- or second-rounder. Flacco figures to come in perhaps before, perhaps after Kentucky’s André Woodson in the second or third round, and the reason for that appears to be not health but level of competition. Delaware is in the NCAA Division Championship Subdivision, formerly known as I-AA.
"I guess that’s important because people keep bringing that up," Flacco said, sounding not totally convinced. "But we have good athletes, we play good teams. We made it to the national championship game, which nobody wants to talk about."
Flacco has great size at 6’6" and 236 pounds, and he said the greatest myth about him "is that I can move. … There’s definitely big guys that can move around." In that regard he sounded a little like Vinny Testaverde to me.
But Flacco doesn’t have Testaverde’s résumé of leading the University of Miami in its heyday and winning the Heisman Trophy, so Flacco, unlike Testaverde, will not go No. 1 overall. But the Blue Hen put together an impressive Senior Bowl week and game, and now he’s going to give it his all in this weekend’s physical and mental tests, which could boost his draft stock further still.
Ultimately, everyone does what he feels he has to do at the combine.
Tags: Chad Henne, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, NFL Scouting Combine, Tom Brady
Posted in Randy Lange | 11 Comments »
Erik Ainge wasn’t even on the Senior Bowl roster a couple of weeks ago, but that didn’t prevent the Tennessee QB from leading the South to a dramatic come-from-behind, last-second win Saturday evening in Mobile, Ala.
Ainge, who owned the hot hand late, handed off to Florida WR Andre Caldwell with two seconds on the clock and the former Gators star bulled his way into the end zone to tie the contest at 16-16. Brandon Coutu, a Georgia product, kicked the extra point to give the South a 17-16 victory.
The final seconds belonged to the Southeastern Conference as a Vol moved his club down the field to get in position for a win, a Gator surged ahead for the tie and a Bulldog won it with the chippy. But just moments before the fantastic finish, it appeared the North had everything locked up.
Holding a 16-10 lead, North coach Lane Kiffin of the Raiders opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the South 14. Cal RB Justin Forsett was stopped for no gain, though, leaving a window open for Ainge. He completed six passes, including an 18-yarder to Caldwell on fourth-and-10 from the South’s 14, as his team marched 86 yards in 2:48.
"It’s fun to end your college career like that," said Ainge, who was 13-of-21 for 159 yards in the second half. "I’ll remember handing the ball to a Gator to win for the rest of my life."
The Caldwell score was preceded by Ainge’s three consecutive incompletions from the 2. That led Mike Martz — occasionally critiqued for being too pass-happy — to go to the ground.
"On that last play, you have a chance to call anything because it’s the last play," said South coach Mike Nolan of the San Francisco 49ers, "whereas the ones prior, he just had to keep it alive and not use up all the clock. A play like that, you call it the first or second play and we never get another play off. It was a great call and it worked."
Ainge took advantage of a late opportunity to play in the game. Louisville QB Brian Brohm withdrew due to an ankle injury and Ainge topped off a good week with a nice showing at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Michigan QB Chad Henne, who was named the North’s Offensive MVP and was praised for his practice performances, had staked the North to a 16-7 third-quarter lead behind his two TD passes.
"They just did a great job on the last drive," Henne said. "Erik made some great throws and the receivers made some great plays. Everybody played well. It’s an all-star game, so everybody has something to be proud about."
Ainge was named South Offensive MVP while LSU linebacker Ali Highsmith (four tackles) was South Defensive MVP. Southern Cal DL Sedrick Ellis remained a force in live action, registering a sack and a safety. Ellis was the North’s defensive MVP while Notre Dame DT Trevor Laws (six tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery) was named the Senior Bowl’s Most Outstanding Lineman.
Despite Ainge’s heroics, South RB Matt Forte of Tulane earned overall MVP honors. His 59 rush yards were a game high and he also had 38 yards on four receptions.
Tags: Chad Henne, Erik Ainge
Posted in Eric Allen | 5 Comments »