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A Few Final Notes from the Buffalo Finale

Posted by Randy Lange on January 2, 2013 – 2:16 pm

As we come off the holiday and into the bright, harsh sunlight of 2013, we’re awaiting any developments in the Jets’ postseason plans along with the start of the playoffs. While in neutral in that area, here are a few loose ends that we wanted to tie up from the season finale at Buffalo:

Big-Play JK

For many skill position players, their 40 time is important. For Jeremy Kerley, his “40″ plays are paramount.

Kerley had a pair of 40-yard receptions from Mark Sanchez at Buffalo — the slip screen that converted third-and-16 in the second quarter (which as we noted Sunday was the longest third-down conversion completion since Sanchez-to-Braylon Edwards on third-and-21 in 2009 Game 5 at Miami, Edwards’ first game as a Jet) and the sideline grab over Stephen Gilmore in the third quarter.

This generated several 40-yard factoids:

■ It was the first time in 41 games that the Jets completed two 40-yards-plus passes in a game. The last time was 2010 Game 10 vs. Houston, when Sanchez hit Santonio Holmes for a 41-yard TD, then found Edwards late for the 42-yarder that set up Holmes’ comeback-securing second TD.

■ It was the first time a Jet had two 40-yard receptions in the same game since the 2009 AFC Wild Card Game at Cincinnati, when TE Dustin Keller nabbed 45- and 43-yarders from Sanchez.

■ It was the first time a Jets WR had two 40-yarders in the same game since 2007 Game 15 at Tennessee, when Jerricho Cotchery caught 48- and 41-yarders from Chad Pennington.

■ And just for fun, I went back to the last time a WR caught two 40-yarders in a Jets victory. That was Santana Moss, who had a 65-yard TD and a 43-yard catch from Pennington in the 2003 Game 9 overtime win at Oakland.

Here’s some related trivia:

The Jets’ last seven 40-yard pass plays have all involved Kerley. He had five 40-yard receptions this season. And he completed the 41-yard pass to Matt Mulligan in the 2011 season finale at Miami and the 42-yarder to Clyde Gates vs. San Diego.

All we can say is, Jeremy, keep ‘em comin’ … and maybe if you can cut back on your NFL-record number of punt fair catches from this season as well, that would be AOK, JK.

Third-Down D Lost Its Grip

The Jets defense put together a strong piece of third-down efficiency since the end of the New England Thanksgiving turkey. Through the first third-down situation of the third quarter Sunday, the D had allowed just seven conversions on 63 third-down plays. That’s an 11.1% rate that’s great in anyone’s book.

However, the defense couldn’t hold on after that as the Bills converted six of their last nine third downs, including a pair of Brad Smith “Mizzou”-style runs, for the 4-yard touchdown and a 16-yard pickup.

And it sometimes gets overlooked in assessing “crunch-down” defense but from Arizona on, opponents converted on six of seven fourth downs, including Tashard Choice’s late 13-yard dash on Sunday.

Still, the Jets finished 12th in the NFL with an opponents’ third-down conversion rate of 30.2%, and that was quite an improvement from 31st at a 40.8% rate after the Patriots game.

Penalty Progress

Muhammad Wilkerson had only one roughing-the-passer penalty marked off against him all season, back in Game 6 vs. Andrew Luck and the Colts. And it didn’t really look like a flaggable offense when Mo crushed Ryan Fitzpatrick hard in the pocket, not late, no helmet-to-helmet, no blow to the head, in the third quarter and was called for roughing by ref Terry McAulay.

Wilkerson evidently didn’t think so either, because on the next series he popped Fitz again, quite legally, then looked at McAulay with his hands out, as if to say, “Was that one OK, ref?”

The Jets took four penalties for 45 yards on the day at Buffalo, one of which was quite unusual — when LB David Harris jumped offside on a Fitzpatrick hard count on the Bills’ opening drive. It was the Hitman’s first penalty of any kind in 33 games, or since getting served for a facemask against BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the 2010 AFC Divisional Round Game at New England, and Harris’ first presnap penalty in his six-year career.

The team totals were still in keeping with the Jets’ emphasis on cutting down on penalties in the second half of the season. They finished fourth in the NFL for fewest penalties with 83 and third for fewest penalty yards with 708. The last time they had less than their 233 yards in penalties from Games 9-16 in an inseason eight-game span was in ’07.

Turnover Tale of Woe

We wrote about how important it was for the Jets to come up with a big takeaway/giveaway effort in our advance for the game at Tennessee. It didn’t work out that way, of course, as the Jets went minus-5 in that game, the centerpiece of their turnover travails late in the season.

Mark Sanchez had 18 interceptions, eight lost fumbles and 26 individual giveaways for the second straight season. And the offense had a 17.5% turnover drive rate (34 GAs, 194 drives) that was third-highest in the NFL behind Kansas City (18.8%) and Philadelphia (17.9%).

But the defense didn’t lighten the load down the stretch. The Jets had no interceptions their last three games, and the Mike DeVito force/Yeremiah Bell recovery of C.J. Spiller’s fumble to open the third quarter was the only FF and FR in the last five games.

Revising that GA/TA stat we mentioned last week, the Jets combined for a minus-14 turnover margin for the season, their lowest since the 1996 team went minus-20. And their minus-15 over the final six games equaled the lowest inseason six-game TO margin in franchise history, set in the final six games of the ’76 season.


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Some Numbers on Bye Weeks, Folk in the Crunch

Posted by Randy Lange on October 23, 2012 – 5:01 pm

By the by, it’s time again to talk about the bye.

No, not the Jets’ bye week, which comes the week after Sunday’s game against Miami at MetLife Stadium. Maybe the banged-up Jets could use a vacation, even some good fraction of a week, but as Herm Edwards said back in 2004: “You don’t have to worry the week before about what happens in the bye week. It’s like going to school at the end of the year. School ends Friday, Wednesday you’re worried about what you’re going to do Friday, then you screw the test up Thursday and you gotta go to summer school.”

A potential danger for the Jets, though, is that the Dolphins are coming off their bye. Does that fact in itself suggest that the ‘Fins are more dangerous than usual to the Jets’ psyche and their desire to sweep their friends from the South?

Depends.

The current data suggests the bye week does help teams, although not a lot. From 2002 through this past week’s games, teams coming off their byes (not counting when two teams coming off byes meet each other) have done fairly well at 162-128, a .559 winning percentage. That’s pretty much what homefield advantage used to be in the NFL.

So for the sake of argument, teams playing the week after their bye, regardless of where they play, see their chances improve to the chances of winning a home game.

That wouldn’t be good for the Jets.

On the other hand, if this year’s new, improved homefield rising tide — home teams are 64-40 this season, a brisk .615 winning clip — lifts all boats, then the Jets could be buoyed by their home crowd and the Dolphins’ bye-week edge could be neutralized.

How about teams playing games before their bye weeks? Does that help any?

Don’t laugh. I asked Edwards about that about a decade ago and he agreed that teams heading into byes — as long as they weren’t worrying about summer vacation — could get a boost. Something about being energized by wanting to go into the bye and come out of it with some momentum for a big second-half push.

Do the numbers support this theory? Yes and no.

If you go by the 2010 and ’11 seasons, games before byes were a good thing. Teams produced a 31-19 record in those games, a .620 winning percentage.

But this advantage seems to come and go every few years (or doesn’t really exist). In 2006, NFL teams in before-bye games were 12-20, in ’09 they were 12-18, and so far this year they’re a paltry 4-12. The bottom line: From 2002 through Week 7, before-bye teams were 148-148. That’s a coin flip.

How about the Jets and Dolphins alone? The Dolphins are 4-6 since ’02 in post-bye games. This includes last year’s 24-6 Monday night loss to the Jets. The Jets are 4-6 in pre-bye games since ’02, but have won three of their last four — thumping Arizona in ’08, squeezing by the then-Tebowing Broncos in Denver in ’10 and rerouting Philip Rivers and San Diego last season.

In fact, the Chargers came to MetLife off their bye last year, which anecdotally suggests that maybe pre-bye teams have an edge over post-bye teams. Eh, not so much. Since ’09, pre-byes and post-byes have met 16 times. The record: 8-8.

I honestly wanted to bring you some telling trend on bye-week team performances in advance of the Jets-Dolphins, but apparently I feel strongly both ways.

But Chad Pennington left no doubt about his feelings when asked before the Jets’ pre-bye game at Cleveland back in ’06.

“We know it’s important to win every game,” Pennington said. “in this league you can’t say, ‘Well, we can drop a game here and we can let off in this area,’ because you never know what game is going to be a deciding factor on whether or not you’re able to make it into the playoffs. So every game is important for us.”

Interestingly, Pennington’s Jets lost that road game at Cleveland, 20-13, to settle at 4-4 at the bye, then won six of their last eight to finish 10-6 and reach the playoffs.

Folk Tales

Here’s a strange note about Nick Folk. Whenever his NFL team gives up an early kickoff-return touchdown, he kicks a late long-range field goal.

In 2007, Terrence McGee had a kickoff return for Buffalo, but Folk nailed a 53-yard FG with no time on the clock at Ralph Wilson Stadium to complete the Cowboys’ memorable 25-24 Monday night comeback win over the Bills. The next year J.J. Arrington took one to the house for Arizona, but Folk’s 52-yarder, again at 0:00, sent that game to overtime, where the Cardinals won, 30-24.

Then on Sunday, Devin McCourty cut loose for his 104-yard first-quarter return. Folk responded with one of his best games as a Jet, going 4-for-4 with makes from 54, 43 and 43 yards. The final 43 gave the Jets their short-lived 26-23 lead with 1:37 to play.

That may be strange coincidence, but this about Folk is money in the bank: He has moved to second-best among all NFL kickers (since 1991, including playoffs, at least six tries) in fourth-quarter FG percentage. Folk is 41-for-43 (95.3%) in fourth-quarter kicks. First is Denver’s Matt Prater (28-for-29, 96.6%). Third is New England’s Stephen Gostkowski (48-for-51, 94.1%), who kicked the game-tying FG as time ran out in regulation and the gamewinner in OT.


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Turnabout: Jets No. 1 After Week 1 in Scoring Offense

Posted by Randy Lange on September 11, 2012 – 11:51 am

We’re not about to say preseason doesn’t matter, but do you remember all those stories about how the Jets were the first NFL team in 35 years not to score a touchdown in their first three preseason games, or how the first offense had no TDs the entire summer?

Forget about them.

This morning, after the conclusion of the first week of the NFL regular season Monday night, the Jets find themselves in an unusual position at the top of another set of rankings: They are the top-scoring team in all of football.

The Jets’ 48 points in their season-opening bouncing of Buffalo lifts them to No. 1 in the league, ahead of Baltimore’s 44 points from last night vs. Cincinnati, Chicago’s 41 vs. Indianapolis, and the 40-point games from Washington and Atlanta.

When was the last time the Jets led the NFL in scoring? you might ask. It’s been a while — 136 weeks and virtually eight full seasons ago.

The Jets opened 2004 explosively. Led by Curtis Martin, beginning his finest season as a pro, and Chad Pennington, they topped the Bengals at home, 31-24, then went to San Diego and outpointed LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees and the Chargers, 34-28. Their 32.5 points per game led the league after two weeks.

Prior to that, the last time they even sniffed the top spot was after the opening week of 1997, when they began Bill Parcells’ short era as Jets coach with a 41-3 win at Seattle to share the top spot with the Patriots after their first game under their new HC, Pete Carroll.

The Jets have never led the NFL in scoring. Their best finishes were second in 1972 and third in ’73. And the only season they ever led the AFL was their first, as the Titans in 1960.

It’s still a little early to be crowing, of course. Let’s wait to see how this new offensive juggernaut thing works out until after Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. The Jets have averaged 13.6 points in their nine games in the Steel City, and their best was the 22 points in their only victory there in 2010.

Other rankings of note for the Jets: They’re first also in third-down efficiency (71.4%, 10-for-14) and in punt-return average (68.0 on Jeremy Kerley’s one dazzling return), second in yards per pass play (9.9 yards), tied for the lead in sacks allowed (zero), 12th in rushing yards, tied for 13th in passing yards and 11th in total yards. And their four defensive takeaways against one giveaway has them tied for third in turnover margin at plus-3.

But the defense went from being a preseason strength to checking in 32nd and last in rushing yards allowed per game and per carry, thanks to the elusive C.J. Spiller.

A little later we’ll bring you a little more on rookie WR Stephen Hill’s sharp debut in green and white. But for now we’ll leave you with the nine teams with the highest point totals on opening day since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger (home teams in CAPS):

1971 — Cowboys 49, BILLS 37

1973 — Falcons 62, SAINTS 7

1986 — CHARGERS 50, Dolphins 28

1987 — BUCCANEERS 48, Falcons 10

1989 — Browns 51, STEELERS 0

1995 — DOLPHINS 52, Jets 14

2002 — DOLPHINS 49, Lions 21

2003 — 49ERS 49, Bears 7

2012 — JETS 48, Bills 28


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Pennington’s Back on Sidelines…Today Only

Posted by Randy Lange on August 14, 2012 – 12:19 pm

Updated, 1:45 p.m. ET

A familiar face, with that familiar body lean and that familiar touseled blond hair was recognizable on the Jets’ sidelines at today’s training camp practice at SUNY Cortland even without his familiar No. 10 jersey. Chad Pennington is here for a visit and perhaps a little quarterback consultation on the side.

“Coach Sparano, Coach Ryan and Mike asked me to come up for the day,” said Pennington, that old Southern drawl sounding as calm and reassuring as it always did in the early part of the new millennium. “I’m actually going to be making a corporate appearance at MetLife Stadium tomorrow, so it worked out perfectly to come up here, visit training camp and see some familiar faces and friends and watch practice.”

Pennington’s presence resonates on so many levels here today. Besides his ties as a former Jets first-round draft choice — a member of the “Four Aces” draft class of 2000 that then-assistant GM Mike Tannenbaum got signed in time for the ’00 training camp — and their starting signalcaller around those traumatic shoulder injuries from ’02 through ’07, he has that Aqua & Coral connection. When Brett Favre came in, Pennington went to the Dolphins. Who just happened to be led in ’08 by first-time head coach Tony Sparano. And who just happened to be running a little number known as the Wildcat, with Ronnie Brown in the ‘Cat-bird’s seat.

Rex Ryan invited Pennington in to talk to the team and Chad told my partner Eric Allen on newyorkjets.com that his theme was that the game of football is a players’ game.

“With all the analysis that goes on around the game of football, fantasy football, all the entertainment value to the game, it’s still a players’ game,” Pennington said. “That’s where the magic lies, when you take a group of players, mesh them together and go after one common purpose, one goal. That’s what makes the game great.”

Pennington also chatted with reporters today and the early questions were about all those topics, such as Mark Sanchez’s development and Tim Tebow’s arrival and Sparano’s input into this intriguing story of making the Wildcat a significant part of the Jets’ offensive approach for 2012.

For fans who want to hear Chad chatting about Jets football once again, he moved into the studio with my partner, Eric Allen, for today’s Jets Talk Live show on newyorkjets.com. Pennington stepped into the lineup for Mark Sanchez, who was originally scheduled for the show but couldn’t make it. The show began streaming around 12:45 p.m. ET, beginning with EA’s interview with Bart Scott, and will be archived on our site shortly.

For all the rest of you who can’t wait and want to get one more Chad fix, here’s a partial transcript of his impromptu news conference with reporters this morning:

On what he’s seen of Sanchez…

Pennington: I think from what I’ve seen from afar and now being here, Mark is throwing the ball better than I’ve ever seen him throw. He’s got excellent control with his throws and his ball placement, and also just his body language and how he’s carrying himself in and out of the huddle, I think he’s doing an outstanding job. I think he’s definitely gotten better over the offseason and really made a point to take it up to the next level. And kudos to him for doing that because that’s a decision that you have to make as a professional, to listen to the criticism and then do something about it, and he’s certainly done that.”

On his experience with the Wildcat and how it affects quarterbacks…

Pennington: Most of the time in the Wildcat, you’re still calling the play as the quarterback, you’re just lining up different. To me as a quarterback, what’s the difference in taking a snap and handing the ball off and lining up at receiver? There’s really no difference. You’re involved in the game, you’re involved in the playcalling, and really and truly, it’s about finding an edge as a team. And if this can provide a spark and provide an edge for this team, I think it can be a great weapon, because whether you use the Wildcat or not, a team has to prepare for it week in and week out.

And it’s something that you can do so many things with other than your typical Wildcat formation. There’s all kinds of things you can do, personnel groups and plays, so it can become an X-factor. I think the key to the whole system is that the players make it their own. That’s what it’s about. Coaches coach, players play. The game is still about the players in between the white lines. As long as they take ownership in the system and handle it right in the locker room, it can be a neat story and a good, solid, successful story for them going into the season.

On Tim Tebow running the Wildcat compared to Ronnie Brown in Miami…

Pennington: Obviously, Tim adds another threat with the ability to do the zone-read concepts as well as being able to throw the football, and that totally changes a defense’s perspective. Now they always have to have a free safety in the middle of the field because of the threat of the pass. The Wildcat for us in Miami was a great short-yardage package, a great red-zone package. And points are a premium in this league. Games are won and lost by minimal amounts. And so anytime you can find an advantage somewhere, you want to exercise that and use that.

On adjustments a QB has to make in running it…

Pennington: If you are totally focused on winning, there’s no adjusting because you’re going to do what it takes to win. And the beauty about this league is there is no BCS ranking, there’s no computer guru, it’s either a W or it’s an L. And if the package allows you to win and be more successful at winning, you’re going to be all for it as a player. That’s the key, because I can promise you after a win, whether it’s 7-6 or 37-36, it’s much better than a loss on Monday mornings.

On quarterbacks who say the Wildcat inhibits their rhythm during a game…

Pennington: Well, I think that’s selfish. I think if you think as a quarterback that this game is solely about you, you’re sadly mistaken. This is the greatest team game ever invented, and this is not an individual game, and so for a quarterback to grip about whether he’s getting in rhythm or not — grab the football, make a play. That’s what it’s about, that’s what your teammates are asked to do. There are some guys that only get 10 snaps, and their performance and whether or not they have a job on a team is based on those 10 snaps. You think they’re worried about getting into a rhythm? They only have 10 opportunities. So I think that’s something that as a quarterback, I understand that, but at the same time, if you’re truly focused on winning, you’re going to do what it takes to win.

On how Sanchez has handled the situation since the trade for Tebow…

Pennington:  I think he’s done a great job and I think the key is their room, how they handle it as a room. It’s not just about the starter, it’s about the quarterback room and having the right relationship with each other as well as with your coaches and your playcaller. You have to be an extension of your coach out there because they can’t walk out there on the field with you. And the most important thing is communication, talking things out, understanding you’re in here for one reason and that’s to win and you’ve got to talk things out. And as long you keep open the lines of communication and you’re up front, I don’t think it’s a problem

On Sparano’s presence in implementing the Wildcat…

Pennington: Well, winning keeps everybody happy, number one, but I think Tony Sparano is a perfect hire for this team. I think he brings an edge to the offense. You can see him. He’s fiery, he’s a go-getter, he’s a grinder. And I think they’re going to like what Tony brings to the table. Tony understands the game is not played on the chalkboard, it’s played out in between the white lines, and it’s a game that has a human element to it. We try to make it Madden/PlayStation all the time and it’s not. They’re not robots out there. There’s a human element to this game. That’s why we love this game, because of all the different stories and intriguing things that come from the game.

On why Sparano’s so good at coaching the ‘Cat…

Pennington: I think what Tony brings to the table is he’s not worried about the next job or he’s not worried about the next promotion. He’s been at every level, be it head coach, coordinator, college, pro, high school. He’s here to win, and whatever it takes to win, he’s not going to allow his own personal interests or anybody else’s personal interests get in the way of the team winning. And that’s what it’s about.


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Pennington on Sparano: Right Fit for the Jets

Posted by Randy Lange on January 16, 2012 – 2:12 pm

With the arrival of Tony Sparano as the Jets’ offensive coordinator, it’s not a reach at all to wonder what Chad Pennington thought about the move. That was an immediate thought of our reporter, Andrew LeRay, and mine as well. So why not give Chad a call and find out? Which is what we did.

“Tony’s a fiery Italian and he loves football. He’s what we call a football head,” Pennington said from his South Florida home the other night. “He enjoys it. I think he enjoys being around the players. He enjoys that part of the game. He certainly understands it’s not just about the X’s and O’s.”

But Sparano does know the X’s and O’s are important. Combining all of it, he came from Dallas as Miami’s new head coach in 2008. That was the year he guided the Dolphins to their remarkable rebound from 1-15 to 11-5 and the AFC East title and helped Pennington, in his first season as an ex-Jet, to career bests in completions (321), yards (3,653), interception rate (1.47 percent), 19 TD passes to seven INTs and one fumble lost, and a 97.4 passer rating.

“Well, knowing him as a head coach, I think he will require his offense to do three things,” Pennington enumerated. “No. 1, be physical. No. 2, avoid turnovers. And No. 3, avoid negative plays. And that’s kind of what our recipe for success was in 2008 and we were able to make NFL history.”

A phrase that has come into the NFL lexicon of late is “chunk plays,” plays that pick up a bundle of yardage on the way to a length-of-field touchdown drive. As noted here and elsewhere, those were missing from the Jets’ attack this past season, but they were in evidence with the 2009 and ’10 ‘Fins. Pennington explained the philosophy.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a 40-yard throw down the field. It can be short or intermediate throws that turn into chunk plays,” he said. “Coach recognizes the importance of chunk plays. It allows your offense to breathe a little bit and have more success. In the NFL you can’t methodically move the ball down the field every drive. You need chunk plays to make it a little easier.”

I asked Chad to wear his analyst’s hat, which he donned for Fox Sports this season as he worked his way back from shoulder and knee injuries, and offer a glimpse of what he sees ahead for Mark Sanchez.

“I watched the Jets a little bit on and off this season,” he said. “I think the biggest thing for Mark is to use 2011 as a learning experience, really dive into the film this offseason. Learn from the film and just focus totally on the film and the work at hand, and use the year as a steppingstone to getting better. That’s the No. 1 key. You can’t just erase it and move away from it.”

Pennington also put on his QB’s hat to remind fans of something else he thinks is important for Sanchez.

“You’ve got to remember he only played one year of college ball as a starter. He’s a young guy, only in his third year in the league. He never had the chance to make mistakes behind closed doors. He’s always been out in front of everybody because he’s been the starter. He must get better and mature. I just think it’s a matter of time. The ball’s in his court.”

I asked Chad about the little matter of time that has turned him from the Jets’ first-round QB of 2000 and their Montana-esque (one of the adjectives used for him at the time) starter in that almost-great ’02 season into a fellow wrestling with his football future a mere decade later.

“It just shows you how much time flies. You don’t really believe it until you get on this end of it,” he said with a laugh. “I’m doing great. I’m really enjoying being the father of three boys. I’m just trying to work through all the emotions of playing or not playing, moving on with my life. That’s what I’m dealing with right now. It’s not the hardest thing to go through … it certainly provides some challenges.”

So does that mean that the rumors we heard this season, that the one-time NFL Comeback Player of the Year would try to come back one more time for the ’12 season, aren’t true?

“I don’t know if I’ll play again,” he said. “Some days I feel like I can, some days I don’t. I think the biggest question is whether I can trust my shoulder or not, whether I can look my coach in the eye and say, ‘You can trust me.’ “

Trusting Pennington’s shoulder to hold up to the rigors of an entire NFL season is one thing. Trusting his word is never in doubt. And he says Tony Sparano is a keeper for the Jets.

“I have a lot of respect and love for Coach Sparano. I think he’s a fantastic coach,” he said. “What he brings to the table is the right fit for the Jets.”


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Emptying Out the Stat Books for the ’11 Season

Posted by Randy Lange on January 10, 2012 – 3:00 pm

As we wait for some veterans and some new players and other assorted newsmakers to wend their way through the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, I’ve worked up a few statistical nuggets as I continue to update and close the books on the different spreadsheets and databases that I maintained on the 2011 Jets.

These notes are in no particular order and far from exhaustive. We’ll break out plenty more of our exclusive information as we head into the offseason, begin to prepare our 2012 Yearbook, and get ready for free agency, the draft, OTAs, minicamps, training camp and the ’12 season (so far off now, but just wait).

Flag Day

There are opinions aplenty about QB Mark Sanchez and the development he made or didn’t make in Season 3 of his Jets/NFL career. But one thing is pretty clear-cut: He made major progress in causing the other guys to commit penalties.

Sanchez was the cause of 23 flags being thrown against opponents, with 178 yards being marked off against the bad guys. If that sounds like a lot, well, it’s the most I’ve ever charted for an individual Jet. Since 2000, the largest penalty-drawn figures had been chalked up by Chad Pennington in 2006 (19-122) and DE John Abraham in ’05 (18-135).

Sanchez’s penchant for causing penalties splits into two categories. One is the personal-foul/late hit/unnecessary-roughness/roughing/helmet-to-helmet variety. No. 6 was fouled by defenders seven times this season, with five of the majors getting marked off in the final six games.

I don’t know where that ranks among the rest of the NFL’s signalcallers, but it’s quite an alarming number considering the premium that the league has placed on protecting QBs.

The other area is the offsides/encroachment/neutral-zone-infraction category, where the QB’s guile (in the form of the hard count) comes into play. And Sanchez made a big leap here. From my own research only, not from the coaches’ breakdowns, 16 opponents infractions were flagged when Sanchez was calling his signals.

Pennington, at his peak in ’06, drew opponents offsides 24 times (17 flags accepted) in 17 games, including the playoffs. Sanchez, on the other hand, drew defenders into presnap penalties just three times combined in the 38 games in 2009-10. So a big “hut-HUT-hut” to you, Mark, in this small but valuable arrow in the quarterback’s quiver.

Here are some other penalty trivia for the Jets in ’11

Most Penalties Called on Jets

1. T Wayne Hunter (11 penalties, 80 yards)

2. TE Matt Mulligan (9 penalties, 63 yards)

3. CB Antonio Cromartie (7 penalties, 6 accepted, 56 yards)

4. G Brandon Moore (6 penalties, 35 yards)

4. (tie) ST Nick Bellore (6 penalties, 5 accepted, 54 yards)

Most Penalties Forced by Jets on Opponents

1. QB Mark Sanchez (23 penalties, 178 yards)

2. WR Santonio Holmes (10 penalties, 120 yards)

3. WR Plaxico Burress (9 penalties, 8 accepted, 87 yards)

4. TE Dustin Keller (5 penalties, 4 accepted, 67 yards)

One final flag list, of all the Jets who played in all 16 games and had no penalties called against them:

Offense — RB Shonn Greene, QB/H Mark Brunell

Defense — LB David Harris, LB Bart Scott, DT Sione Pouha

Specialists — K Nick Folk, LS Tanner Purdum

A special note on DE Muhammad Wilkerson, who was called for two penalties but, with one offset and the other declined, had no penalties marked off against him in a pretty sharp rookie season.

Keller Keeps On Rising

Dustin Keller this year became the first Jets tight end to lead the team in receptions for two consecutive seasons since Mickey Shuler turned the trick in 1984-85. Keller’s 65 catches were the most by a Jets TE since Shuler’s 70 in ’88, his 815 yards were the most since Shuler’s 879 in ’85, and his 12.5 yards per catch was the best average at the position since Johnny Mitchell’s 12.9 in ’94.

Speaking of yards, Keller has increased his yards per catch and in particular his average yards after catch every year since he’s been a Jet in the NFL:

2008 — 11.1 YPC, 3.4 YAC

2009 — 11.6 YPC, 3.7 YAC

2010 — 12.5 YPC, 4.0 YAC

2011 — 12.6 YPC, 4.6 YAC

The Right Stuff

We all know about David Harris with another 100-plus-tackles season, Aaron Maybin with his born-again team-leading six sacks, Darrelle Revis with his Jets-high 22 pass defenses, including a team-lead-sharing four picks.

But one area that doesn’t get much season-long examination is tackles for loss/no gain. These are not official stats and there is little standardization around the NFL in this category, so I’ve always kept my own TFL/NG stats from year to year.

And despite the up-and-down play of the defense in other areas, it’s interesting to note that at and behind the line, this year’s Jets were the best in the three seasons of the Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine scheme.

The defense totaled 103 tackles for loss/no gain on the year, better than the 102 in the ’09 regular season and 80 in ’10. And four players led the way in this area — Calvin Pace with 13.5 tackles, Sione Pouha and Wilkerson with 12.5 apiece, and Harris at 12.0.

If you prefer to factor out the zero-yard gains and just count the “stuffs,” the leader is still Pace at 8.5, but Wilkerson rises to second alone with his 8.0 tackles for loss.

The Defensive Stoppers

I also like to chart the plays that make the big stops for the third- and fourth-down defense, that get the D off the field. Sometimes this is just a measure of who’s on the field the most in the sub package, but it does underscore some top performances as well.

For instance, not surprisingly, Harris, the top tackler overall, also led the Jets with 10 tackles on third and fourth down. Four of those tackles came on runs/receptions for loss or no gain, which also led the Green & White.

Sacks were another story. Maybin led the Jets with six sacks overall, and five of those QB takedowns came on crunch downs. Next closest was Bart Scott’s 2.5.

PDs? No surprise, Revis broke up eight passes on third/fourth downs, with two of them going for long-return interceptions in back-to-back home games — 100 yards for that IR score against Brandon Marshall and the Dolphins in Game 6, 64 yards the next week vs. the Chargers.

Stacking Up the Punting

T.J. Conley’s first season as an NFL punter wasn’t eye-popping, but on the other hand it was fairly reminiscent of Steve Weatherford. Consider these regular-season numbers, Weatherford’s from 2010, Conley’s from this year:

Punts — Weatherford 84, Conley 92

Gross Avg. — Weatherford 42.6 (23rd out of 32), Conley 42.7 (30th out of 32)

Net Avg. — Weatherford 38.1 (15th), Conley 38.8 (18th)

Opponents’ Avg. Return — Weatherford 11.1, Conley 7.5

Inside 20-10-5 — Weatherford 42 (tying the NFL record)-19-7, Conley 32-15-4

Touchbacks — Weatherford 4, Conley 6

Long Punt — Weatherford 61, Conley 63

Punts Blocked — Weatherford 0, Conley 0

Avg. Hang Time (unofficial) — Weatherford 4.6 seconds, Conley 4.4

Neither has a booming leg. Weatherford had a surgical touch last year, Conley not quite as much but pretty close for his first year as an NFL punter. Conley’s main averages were even slightly better, but Weatherford’s league rankings were higher.

And One More Thing

Eric Allen and our multimedia department have produced their latest video, “Examining the Jets’ Free Agent Class,” which will be live on newyorkjets.com later today. And EA will put together a blog on the subject of the Jets’ list of potential unrestricted and restricted FAs for all you Radar operators that will go live tomorrow morning.


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It’s Martin by a Yard for ’04 Rushing Title

Posted by Randy Lange on February 4, 2011 – 6:46 pm

Another career snapshot of Curtis Martin, who is in the running to be a first-year inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in Dallas:

In 2004 Curtis Martin went the extra yard. And it won him his only NFL rushing title.

Martin had flirted with gaining the NFL’s most rushing yards in a season, a hallowed distinction in league annals. As a rookie with the Patriots in 1995, he finished third with 1,487 yards. In ’99 with the Jets he was second with 1,464 behind the Colts’ Edgerrin James. Two years later he rushed for 1,513 yards but still came in second by 42 yards to the Chiefs’ Priest Holmes.

Then in ’04 Martin was in a duel with the Seahawks’ Shaun Alexander for the top spot. It appeared Curt was headed for the silver medal again as he trailed Alexander by 72 yards heading into the final week of the regular season.

But Martin got first licks in a 1 p.m. ET game at St. Louis and he made the most of it, rushing for 153 yards in the 32-29 overtime loss to the Rams. That total, which included 24 yards on three OT carries, gave him a sparkling 1,697 yards for the season. It was, in fact, Martin’s career high. But would it be enough?

Yes, by that one yard in the closest rushing title in NFL history. Alexander managed 80 yards on 19 carries, and more than likely would have gotten the chance to gain those 2 yards he needed, except that the Falcons ran 15 plays and held the ball for the game’s final 4:28 en route to a touchdown on the last play of the game. Whew.

“Curtis approaches this game as his life,” said Chad Pennington, Martin’s quarterback in that game and for many others in the later years of his playing career. “He doesn’t approach it as a hobby or as something he does on weekends. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer one day because of it.”

HOF in Primetime

For the first time ever at night, the network will announce the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinees, determined by the Hall’s selection committee earlier in the day, on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. “Road to Canton” will be hosted by Rich Eisen alongside Hall of Famers Steve Young, Rod Woodson and Michael Irvin, who will be joined by new inductees and current Hall members during the show.

Portions of the announcement ceremony will also be available live on NFL.com.

For the second consecutive year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has teamed up with Van Heusen and JCPenney to allow fans to select whom they believe should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.


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Martin Mushes to 228 Yards vs. Steelers

Posted by Nick Gallo on January 27, 2011 – 2:38 pm

Another career snapshot of Curtis Martin, who is in the running to be a first-year inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Feb. 5 in Dallas:

It wasn’t pretty, but on a slippery, sloppy, snow-filled day at the old Meadowlands stadium, Curtis Martin was at his best.

It was Dec. 14, 2003, when Martin’s hometown Pittsburgh Steelers came to town for what will always be known as “the Snow Game.” As a result of weather conditions the game ended in a 6-0 Jets victory, and it was all because of Martin’s 174 rushing yards on 30 carries.

Martin tested his footing on the wintry mix before the game to get a sense of what he and the Jets would be dealing with for 60 minutes.

“I went out there early to get used to it and try to use it to my advantage,” Martin said. “I said, ‘I’m going to get a few people today.’ I was confident I wasn’t going to slip.”

He certainly did make the Steelers miss, particularly on a 56-yard scamper that brought the Jets all the way to the Steelers 10. Martin also did damage through the air with four receptions from Chad Pennington for 54 yards, including a 29-yarder. His largest effort since racking up 203 yards in 2000 against the Colts helped set up two field goals, which proved to be enough to beat Pittsburgh.

Martin passed John Riggins for 11th place on the all-time rushing list that Sunday and little did he know that his best season (2004) was still head of him and that eventually he’d become the fourth-leading rusher in NFL history.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the day, however, was the fact that Martin eclipsed 1,000 yards for the ninth straight season to start his career, a feat achieved only once before in NFL history, by Barry Sanders.

“It is something that I feel good about,” Martin said. “I’m not big on statistics and individual goals, but this one is special to me. I’m only the second person in the world to do this.”

 

Visit the Curtis Martin for Hall of Fame page


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For Sanchez, Hard Counts Getting Easier

Posted by Randy Lange on August 4, 2010 – 12:59 pm

The show is called Hard Knocks, but one episode starring Mark Sanchez might be labeled Hard Counts.

“Getting guys offsides — thank you for noticing,” Sanchez beamed at the question posed by Dennis Waszak of The Associated Press after this morning’s fourth full-squad practice of training camp.

We noted Sanchez’s increasing comfort level with altering his cadences and drawing defenders offside during OTAs, and true enough it has been on display so far at SUNY Cortland.

“We got Jenk today and we got two guys yesterday, Calvin [Pace] and somebody else,” Sanchez said. “So it’s like a hit streak in baseball. I got three in a row. I need to get ‘em again this afternoon.”

The second-year QB made sure not to rub it in too much with Kris Jenkins the 10th-year, now-359-pound nose tackle, who was at his first practice after passing his conditioning test at 6 a.m. this morning and coming off the active PUP list. Jenkins wasn’t thrilled at being nabbed but likes what it portends for Sanchez and the offense.

“The next couple of years Mark is definitely going to start getting a lot more savvy because now he has that year under his belt,” Jenkins said. “It’s going to be a little rougher now. It’s cool, it keeps me honest.”

Rex Ryan also likes this new wrinkle that can pick his offense up 5 yards at a time for all the various manifestations of a great hard count: offsides, encroachment, neutral zone infractions.

“I remember last year it was like nobody’s falling for anything,” the head coach said at today’s midday news conference. “He’s learning how to use his voice and use that cadence to his advantage. A guy who does it great is Mark Brunell. Bart [Scott] said, ‘I remember when he was with Jacksonville, he’d do that and I was on the sidelines and I was jumping offsides.’ “

Sanchez credited Brunell, coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and just him listening to his own calls on video to know which syllables, which colors to put a little extra emphasis on. But a lot of this big little new weapon in his arsenal is due to his overall comfort level as he steps behind center in year 2.

“Your rookie year you’re just scrambling to spit the play out right in the huddle,” he said. “When you get to the line, the last thing on your mind is the cadence. Now it’s one of those situations where I got the play, I know what we’re doing, now let’s add a little more. Let’s try and get these guys.”

That’s similar to Chad Pennington’s approach. From only a few hard-count successes his first four seasons as a starter, Pennington exploded in ’06 by drawing 24 penalties with his cadence, and that surely was an important piece to that Green & White team’s late surge into the playoffs.

Sanchez similarly drew only two hard-count penalties all last year, both coming in the final regular-season game against the Bengals. But he’s on a roll now, intent on extend his “hitting streak” not only into week 2 of training camp but well into his second season as the Jets’ starter.

Here are the hard-count penalties drawn by the Jets’ starting QBs since 2004:

Year      Quarterback                      Drawn       Enforced

2004     Chad Pennington                        3                      2

2005     Chad Pennington                        2                      2

               Vinny Testaverde                        1                      1

               Brooks Bollinger                         0                      0

2006     Chad Pennington                      24                    17

2007     Chad Pennington                        8                      8

               Kellen Clemens                          2                      2

2008     Brett Favre                                    7                      5

2009     Mark Sanchez                              2                      2

A.M. Practice Notes

Some observations from Nick Gallo on this morning’s camp practice:

■ The secondary showed its strength as Antonio Cromartie had a nice interception along the sideline and batted away a would-be touchdown. CB Drew Coleman had his second pick in as many days. And rookie Kyle Wilson “intercepted” a ball that may or may not have touched the ground as he pulled it in at the goal line. No instant replay booth here at SUNY Cortland.

■ Veteran DE Shaun Ellis had the session off, which meant that Vernon Gholston and Ropati Pitoitua saw action with the first team along the defensive line.

■ Sanchez made some nice throws, hitting Braylon Edwards on a pair of passes — one a post for a touchdown and another a go route down the sideline that Edwards spectacularly caught inside the 5-yard line.

■ Matt Slauson got all of the snaps at LG with the first offensive line this morning, while Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson continued to share the starting RB duties.


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Additions, Subtractions Around the Division

Posted by Eric Allen on February 12, 2010 – 1:50 pm

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.

NEW ENGLAND

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.

MIAMI

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.

BUFFALO

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."


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