It was good to see D-Wood back in the building today, but like many events at this time of the year, it was a bittersweet moment as well. Damien Woody, one of the good guys and one really good and versatile offensive lineman, was back here today to announce his retirement from the NFL.
“The game of football, man, has been a blessing,” said Woody, who shared the moment in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center with Nicole, his high school sweetheart and wife of 12 years. “I don’t even have words to describe what football has done for me in my life and her life.”
But of course Woody had many words today — he’d better, since he’s going into a new line of work as a broadcaster and analyst for ESPN as an NFL analyst.. And many of them were kind words toward the Jets, who put him to great use as their right tackle anchor for the last three of his dozen-year pro career.
“When I came over here, I had only played five games at tackle, just five games at the end of the season with the Detroit Lions. They took a chance on me and signed me to a big deal when I came over — that’s a big leap of faith right there,” he said. “Throughout my time here, they’ve really taken care of me and my family, from the top down, Woody Johnson, Eric Mangini when I first came in to Rex, Mike Tannenbaum. We have a great relationship. I’ve got the utmost respect for everybody in the building.”
Ryan, who often rode the Jets’ ground-and-pound running game — No. 1 in the NFL in yards gained in 2009-10 combined — off of Woody’s wide base, returned the favor.
“D-Wood’s a tremendous player, and I don’t know if people realize how competitive he is,” Ryan said in introducing Woody to reporters at the end of his daily news conference in the media room. “He’d get the tough assignments and never flinch. He’s one of the great centers in this game, a Pro Bowl center, a great tackle. You could fit him across the line anyplace you’d want.”
Now Woody will be fitting into TV and radio studios as a talking head for ESPN and ESPN New York Radio. In the spirit of that role he was asked to analyze a few things on the Jets — quarterback Mark Sanchez for starters. He gave a critical analysis of Sanchez, but most of it was a very positive critique.
“This team’s going to be a competitor for a while,” he said. “It has the nucleus in place. You can’t win without a quarterback, and they’ve got a quarterback. The guy’s the real deal. Obviously he’s in a tough market, everything he does is going to get scrutinized, but this guy’s the real deal. … What Mark needs to do is that whatever he’s doing in the playoffs, now he has to do it in the regular season. If he does that, the sky’s the limit for this team.”
Another opinion thread from Woody, who broke in as a radio host with Sirius XM NFL Radio last year, is on the nature of the “game” he was involved in. He wasn’t sure if he should use a certain word to describe his release by the Jets before the lockout, but he did anyway.
“Look, this is a business,” he said, “but everything was just done gracefully. Everybody was just reaching out to explain the situation. Everybody in this organization has just treated me well.”
Ryan echoed some of those sentiments when he was asked about this eternally tough part of the game and of losing people from his locker room every year.
“I don’t think concern is the appropriate word,” he said of some recent events, such as Jerricho Cotchery’s release, Shaun Ellis’ possible departure, and Woody’s retirement. “Obviously I recognize the leadership these men brought to our team, there’s no question about it. We have other leaders here as well. One thing about this is this is the Jets family. We’re a team.
“This is the league, this is what we’re in now. Sometimes you can’t keep everybody. Sometimes guys are moving on to bigger paydays, sometimes they choose to leave, sometimes it’s time for them to leave. These are the cold, hard facts. But I believe in every one of the guys who come into this building. We believe in them. We also also want to be world champions. That’s not just lip service. We’re trying to do it.
“There’s a lot of guys I’d love to have back, but that’s not the way it is.”
Yet every once in a while, during a break in the activity toward building that team to compete for the world championship, teams and players get to come back and embrace one more time before moving off on separate paths.
“I didn’t really want to see Damien go,” said Brandon Moore, Woody’s next-door neighbor at right guard. “But in talking to him this offseason, this was something he was considering. He had a hell of a career, and picked it up even more at the end when he came here. It was a pleasure to play with him, with a guy of that caliber. You don’t get that opportunity a lot during your career. I know he’ll be successful in whatever he chooses to do after this.”
“He’s always got that smile on his face,” said Ryan, “and he’s a guy who’s going to be involved in this game a long, long time.”
“You never know. You never expect this day to happen,” Woody said. “But one thing I say is I’m really looking forward to life after football, especially my body.
“This is a great day.”
Say hallelujah one last time for Damien Woody.
The On-Field Résumé
Woody played in 173 games in his 12 NFL regular seasons with 166 starts, and added eight more games and starts for four playoff teams, including the Jets’ two PO teams and one start in Super Bowl XXXVI for the Patriots.
At one time, in 2007, he was the only active player who had made at least five starts at center, guard and tackle each. Here’s how his versatility shook out in starts by position:
Left guard — 14 starts in all games, 13 starts in regular season
Center — 63 / 60
Right guard — 43 / 43
Right tackle — 54 / 50
One other note on Woody: In his 49 Jets games, he was hit with a few false starts, but he had only one holding penalty marked off against him, and none in his last 47 Jets games.
Tags: Brandon Moore, Damien Woody, Mark Sanchez, Mike Tannenbaum, retirement, Rex Ryan, Woody Johnson
Posted in Randy Lange | 15 Comments »
The Jets did have a few free agent signings at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center tonight. No one was named Nnamdi, but two others made cross-country flights today to put their names to contracts and thus remain with the Green & White for the coming season.
Tackle Wayne Hunter and kicker Nick Folk were the two to sign today. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who was reported to have agreed to his new deal to stay with the Jets, was en route to the team facility to do the same.
Hunter, despite calling Washington State his home, said he and his family have really fallen in love with the New Jersey/New York area as their second home.
“There were a few teams interested,” Hunter told me and Eric Allen a short while ago. “But I told my agent to just focus on the Jets. The Jets are where I grew up as a player and especially as a man. And my family has really gotten used to this area. We were having a barbecue back in Washington when my agent called and tell me we had a deal. It was going to be a great barbecue anyway, but that just made it better.”
Hunter of course took over for the injured Damien Woody late in the season and into the playoffs and played strongly. He was asked if the RT job is now his to lose.
“I hope so,” he replied in classic football terms. “Nothing’s been set in stone. It’ll be a competition between me and Vlad [Ducasse]. I’ve got an opportunity and he’s got an opportunity and we’ll see who the best man is.”
Folk likewise will be competing for his job after the team brought in the well-traveled Nick Novak in February. Folk had his ups and downs last year but his ups were outstanding — a Jets-record-long 56-yard field goal plus five kickoff touchbacks in the Denver air, the game-tying and -winning kicks at Detroit, and the essential game-winner as time expired to beat the Colts in Indianapolis in the AFC Wild Card Game.
“I’d have to say the Indy kick was my best, jus because it kept us going, got us on a roll in the playoffs,” he said. “Now I’m ready to get back at it. The Jets are just a great organization, from Woody Johnson down to Mike Tannenbaum, Rex, Mike Westhoff, Ben Kotwica, and the guys in the locker room.”
Probably Folk’s closest friend in last year’s locker room won’t be around now because punter/holder Steve Weatherford agreed to a deal to join the Giants. But right there in the friendship category is snapper Tanner Purdum.
“I was out in California working out with John Carney and Steve — in fact, I caught a flight at 5 this morning and just got here at 5 this evening and signed the deal,” Folk said. “I haven’t got a new place back here yet and I don’t know when I could fit that in during camp, but Tanner told me I could stay with him as long as I want. He’s been great about the whole thing.”
Just now the Jets have announced some more transactions. Five are signings, including three draft choices — fourth-round RB Bilal Powell, seventh-round QB Greg McElroy and seventh-round WR Scotty McKnight. Also signed were two undrafted free agents, Missouri State OL Curtis Duron and Mississippi CB Jeremy McGee.
The team also announced the waiving of QBs Kevin O’Connell and Erik Ainge.
And in one more transaction just reported, former Jets DE Vernon Gholston signed with the Chicago Bears.
Tags: Damien Woody, Nick Folk, Nick Novak, Steve Weatherford, Tanner Purdum, Vlad Ducasse, Wayne Hunter
Posted in Randy Lange | 51 Comments »
The Jets have made a series of personnel announcements this afternoon. The team is officially announcing that linebacker and team MVP David Harris signed his franchise tender on Monday and that offensive tackle Damien Woody, defensive tackle Kris Jenkins and linebacker Jason Taylor have been released.
Also, the Jets have announced that the following players have received qualifying offers:
■ CB Antonio Cromartie
■ WR Santonio Holmes
■ WR Brad Smith
■ S Eric Smith
■ QB Kellen Clemens
■ CB Drew Coleman
■ K Nick Folk
■ S James Ihedigbo
■ OL Rob Turner
Tags: Damien Woody, David Harris, Jason Taylor, Kris Jenkins, qualifying offers
Posted in Randy Lange | 49 Comments »
The utter heartbreak in the Jets’ locker room last Sunday in Pittsburgh was the result of many factors. After the Green & White’s championship dreams were shattered at Heinz Field, many players lamented that the team would never be the same again.
This afternoon the team’s savvy architect held a season-ending conference call with reporters to address the state of his team. It was no surprise that personnel questions dominated the conversation as the NFL looks to be headed toward a spring of uncertainty.
Labeling both RB LaDainian Tomlinson and OLB Jason Taylor as “similar situations,” Mr. T. said he expected both veterans would return. But he left the door open on changing his mind.
“Unexpected things can happen from contracts to other acquisitions you may make, but we expect LaDainian back and I expect him to contribute for another year in 2011,” said Tannenbaum.
Tomlinson led the Jets in regular-season play with 914 yards on the ground and six rush TDs. And LT, who averaged 4.0 yards a carry in the postseason and led the club in its three-game run with three TDs, also had 52 receptions.
“He ran the ball well, but he was a also great complement to Shonn [Greene] relative to the passing game, pass protection, and brought a lot of leadership to the team as well,” said Mr. T.
Taylor, who is the NFL’s active leader with 132.5 sacks, added five sacks to his total plus a safety at Pittsburgh in the regular season. The 36-year-old, a former Jets tormenter with 14 pro seasons under his belt, also took on a leadership role in his first season with New York’s AFC representative.
“We expect him back. Obviously once we get closer to the season and other players are here, things can always change,” Tannenbaum said. “But one thing I can say about Jason is he did so many good things for us from an intangible leadership standpoint, his effect on other players — Bryan Thomas and Jamaal Westerman in particular. He’s a pro’s pro. We’re lucky to have him. People like LaDainian, Tony Richardson and Jason Taylor, their leadership is really hard to quantify sometimes.”
Decisions will also have to be made on an interesting additional trio of vets in T-Rich, RT Damien Woody and NT Kris Jenkins. In regard to Richardson and Woody, they both could have competition for their jobs in FB John Conner, the fifth-round pick from Kentucky last April, and Vladimir Ducasse, the second-round selection from Massachusetts in 2010. It should be noted that Wayne Hunter, who played so well for the Jets when Woody went down with a pair of injuries late in the season, is also a UFA.
“Those are two guys we’re going to take a long look at,” Tannenbaum said of Richardson and Woody. “They’ve both done a great job for us, both are great leaders in their own right. No decision has been made on either guy and we’ll see how it goes, but I can say we would not have had the success we’ve had without those two players.”
Meanwhile, Jenkins, who has been limited to just seven games in the Rex Ryan era due to two ACL tears in his left knee, hopes to make a comeback. Whether that attempt takes place in Florham Park, N.J., remains to be seen.
“We haven’t made a decision. It would be very intriguing to see what he could do over a 16-game season playing under Rex,” said Mr. T. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet, but we’ll take a long look at his situation as well.”
After three seasons with the Jets and a number of long looks, Vernon Gholston could be looking for a new home. The Ohio State product, selected No. 6 overall in 2008, hasn’t had a pro sack after amassing 22.5 on the collegiate level.
“He’s been given his fair share of opportunities and it could be time to move on,” Tannenbaum said, “but we’re not ready to say that yet.”
Two young players to keep an eye on are CB Kyle Wilson and DL Marcus Dixon. While the Jets hope to re-sign Antonio Cromartie, they have high hopes for Wilson
“Kyle’s future is one of our paramount objectives for the offseason in terms of his development. He has a great work ethic, he loves the game, and I expect that he’s going to be a contributor for us for years to come,” said Tannenbaum. “I’m glad that he’s here and we’ll need him to play at a higher, more consistent level next year.”
After being awarded off waivers from Dallas last September, the 6’4”, 295-pound Dixon got some valuable reps down the stretch.
“It could be a guy like Marcus Dixon who has to play a lot more next year and I see no reason why Dixon can’t be a big contributor for us.”
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Damien Woody, Jason Taylor, Kris Jenkins, Kyle Wilson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mike Tannenbaum, Tony Richardson, Vernon Gholston
Posted in Eric Allen | 38 Comments »
As usual, the big fatties, the guys on the O side of the O/D trench can get lost in the deluge of championship game coverage. But not the Jets’ offensive linemen, who have drawn kudos from their head coach, a Green & White icon, and a new system of weighing the contributions of O-lines around the NFL.
“You’re seeing a prideful unit, a group that has a lot of ability,” head coach Rex Ryan said of his line at today’s final news conference of the week before Sunday’s Jets-Steelers title game. “There’s three Pro Bowlers in that group, or should be with D’Brickashaw [Ferguson], Nick [Mangold] and Brandon Moore. Wayne Hunter’s stepped right in for Damien Woody.
“And oh, by the way, Matt Slauson has done a great job, but he’ll never be considered as a Pro Bowl guard because of the fact that he’s a sixth-round pick, so it doesn’t matter how he plays. But I know one thing — he’s done a tremendous job for us.”
The icon is none other than Joe Namath, who always knew that his exploits for the Super Bowl III Jets started up front and mentioned it again regarding these Jets linemen after Mark Sanchez connected on three touchdown passes behind impeccable protection at New England.
“These things are only possible when the offensive line does their job,” Namath said on his Website. “So they have improved, and Bill Callahan, nice going getting those guys ready.”
Moore agreed with Coach Call’s input and noticed the vibe for him and his linemates all week long before the Patriots game.
“I thought we played a solid game,” B-Moore said. “During the week I felt like Bill Callahan and the guys in the room did a good job of setting ourselves up to play efficiently.”
Yet how to measure efficiency for an O-lineman or for a group of linemen. We can measure sacks allowed, for instance, and the Jets have given up only three sacks for a mere 12 yards in losses over the past five weeks. We can rank the rushing games, and the Jets, after finishing third in the NFL in the regular season, have gotten it done to the tune of 144.5 rushing yards per game and 4.3 per carry in two road playoff games.
Penalties? After their prolific pace at committing infractions most of the season, the Green & Whtie have settled down to have exactly three penalties marked off against them in each of the last five games. And the linemen have done their part, committing only seven of those 15 penalties and in the two postseason games getting caught for only one false start in each.
All very good, but might there be a passer rating system for O-lines?
There might. New York Life has partnered with Stats Inc. to create the New York Life Protection Index, which factors in passing attempts, ball-in-the-air passing yardage (excluding YAC), sacks, knockdowns and hurries allowed, and holding and false start penalties. All the numbers are boiled down to a grade from 0 to 100 for each line in each game.
The reason this is appropriate now is because the Jets graded out at 93.7 at New England, which was easily the best mark by any of the offensive lines that played in last weekend’s divisional-round games, and was also the Jets’ third-best mark of the year.
All impressive to the Jets’ linemen. But the right tackle made a fair point.
“I’m in the middle of it, I’m in the filmroom,” Hunter said. “We’re critiquing every foot and hand placement. I could see where, looking downward from the stands, you could say, yes, that was probably one of our best games this season. But for me being an offensive lineman, I think we could’ve done a lot of stuff way better.”
Translation: The Jets are gunning for an A+ two nights from now in Pittsburgh.
Ryan fielded one more question about Dennis Byrd coming to Pittsburgh to serve as the Jets’ honorary captain on Sunday. And his answer revealed him, if fans didn’t no it already, to be a fan of this franchise from way back.
“I believe in the history, in the guys that went out there and laid it on the line for this organization,” he said. “It means something for me, and also having my dad here for eight years. The history of the guys who’ve played and coached here, I wanted to make sure we recognized that. That’s why we have team pictures of every Jets team we’ve ever had downstairs, outside the cafeteria.”
Rex also had plaques put up of every jersey number ever worn in Jets/Titans history, along with every player who wore each number.
“That’s almost a college-y thing, but I want players to know who wore that jersey that they’re in right now,” he said. “And when our former players come here with their families, they can look on the wall and say, ‘There it is, No. 67, Dave Herman.’
“I wanted our former players and former coaches to be a part of our team’s success. When Dennis Byrd sent me that jersey of his and that note, it just blew me away. It’s such an honor and he thought I was worthy to have that jersey, which I’m not even close to being.”
One more reason Ryan is a coach that many players around the NFL might want to play for someday.
As Ryan predicted, Jason Taylor (concussion) climbed the injury ladder, from did not practice on Wednesday to limited on Thursday to full-go today. He is probable to play against the Steelers. The only other difference in the Jets’ I-list was DE Shaun Ellis, one of the stars of the Patriots victory, not practicing today and being listed as questionable.
But as Rex summed it up, “He’s going to play. They’re all going to play. They’re questionable … they’re playing. That’s pretty much it.”
Mark Sanchez, conducting a rare Friday news conference, was asked about that sore right shoulder of his. “It feels, honestly, really good,” he said. “Every week it’s gotten better. Last week is the best it’s felt. This week’s even better.” … Ryan declared today’s final practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center fieldhouse as “outstanding. The focus was great, as you would assume it would be for a game of this magnitude.”
The Steelers’ health also improved for a game of this magnitude, as we expected it would. Only four players remain on their I-report. DE Aaron Smith (triceps) is doubtful, CB Bryant McFadden (abdomen) and S Will Allen (knee) are questionable, and S Troy Polamalu (Achilles) is probable after his first full practice of the week.
Tags: Bill Callahan, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Damien Woody, Jason Taylor, Matt Slauson, Nick Mangold, PIttsburgh Steelers, Rex Ryan, Shaun Ellis, Wayne Hunter
Posted in Randy Lange | 21 Comments »
The positive emotion of defeating Indianapolis and the determined optimism of preparing for New England dimmed just a bit today when head coach Rex Ryan told reporters that 12th-year right tackle Damien Woody has been placed on injured reserve with a left Achilles’ tendon injury.
“It’s really unfortunate,” Ryan said at his Wednesday news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, now under way. “He played almost the whole game [at Indianapolis]. I mentioned Monday that he was a little wobbly after the game. There was a reason. It wasn’t his knee. It was his Achilles’ tendon, so he’ll be placed on IR today.”
Woody did not practice Tuesday and was not seen around the complex today. Ryan said he thinks Woody will be having surgery on the Achilles’ later this afternoon.
This will be the second time in two months that the Jets have lost a starter in the week before playing the Patriots on the road. The first time, safety Jim Leonhard broke his leg midway through the Friday practice before the teams met on Monday night, Dec. 6. At least this time the Jets have some advance notice on losing Woody and have worked Wayne Hunter into the equation in the past month.
“More than I can put into words,” Hunter said about how much playing against the Steelers, Bears and Bills the last three weeks of the regular season have helped him for this playoff assignment. “I went against some great defenses, which helped my confidence, and I found my rhythm.”
Among those who’ve appreciated Hunter’s play is the fellow in the No. 6 jersey whose open side Hunter will try to protect at all costs Sunday.
“When he’s gotten his opportunities, he’s taken over and he hasn’t missed a beat,” QB Mark Sanchez said. “I’m really proud of the way he’s played. He’s into it, he’s excited, he smiles, he’s having fun, he’s a tough competitor. I’m fired up for him, I couldn’t be happier for him. And then to see Woody out, it kills you so it’s a bittersweet feeling. They’re both great players and tough competitors, so I feel safe either way.”
Woody played almost the entire AFC Wild Card Game in Indianapolis on Saturday night. He was on the field for the first play of the final drive of the game, the 9-yard pass from Mark Sanchez to Braylon Edwards. Woody jogged behind the play and appeared OK. But the replay official called for a review of the play, and after the few minutes it took for referee Gene Steratore to complete his review, Wayne Hunter came in at RT for the last three plays of that drive before Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal.
“I didn’t know it was Wayne’s Achilles’ until the next day,” Hunter said. “My whole focus was to back him up at tackle in case his knee went out. When I went in after that one play, I just assumed it was his knee, maybe his brace, which had been slipping on him during the game.”
Hunter will again line up next to right guard Brandon Moore, and Moore today agreed that it was “a blessing in disguise” that the two got to work together for a half-season of practices and all or part of five games.
“It’s sad news about Woody, but I feel comfortable with Wayne there,” Moore said. “I can go into this game confident in what he does, confident in myself and confident in the game plan.”
Moore has his own injury issue this week after he tweaked his back while in the weightroom. He didn’t practice during team drills today, and that might sound alarm bells for Jets fans who know that the right side of the Jets line will often have to try to neutralize perennial Pro Bowl 3-4 DE Vince Wilfork. But Ryan and Moore both said not to worry.
“It happened yesterday, it got a little worse as the day went on, and then this morning it was pretty tight,” Moore said. But he added that this has happened a few times already this season and that the back has always loosened up as the week has gone on. “I should feel a lot better tomorrow. … It’s a non-issue, really.”
Elsewhere on the Injury Front
Brad Smith is the other frontline player with an injury concern. He pulled a groin muscle while rushing Colts punter Pat McAfee in the first quarter. Smith also did not practice today.
“We expect Brad to play,” Ryan said. “If he doesn’t play, obviously you’re not going to have the Wildcat. He is such a threat back there in that role.” Ryan also said if Smith is available and “100 percent,” he’ll be the main kickoff returner rather than Antonio Cromartie.
Smith stopped by his locker with his usual smile and positive outlook, saying that this pull is just a little bit of adversity that has to be gotten over.
“I’ll take everything in stride,” he said, “and try to make the most of it.”
The Jets also listed WR Patrick Turner, who is being elevated to the active roster from the practice squad to fill Woody’s roster spot, as DNP with an illness; CB Darrelle Revis, WR Santonio Holmes and S James Ihedigbo as limited at practice, and seven others as practicing full. The Jets’ complete injury list can be found here.
The Patriots list nine players on their report, with DE Myron Pryor (back) not practicing and six — LB Tully Banta-Cain (groin), WR Deion Branch (knee), DE Jermaine Cunningham (calf), TE Aaron Hernandez (hip), DE Eric Moore (Hamstring) and T Sebastian Vollmer (shin) — as limited.
Tags: Damien Woody, Gillette Stadium, Jim Leonhard, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, Wayne Hunter
Posted in Randy Lange | 37 Comments »
Jets fans are much in evidence in the Circle City these days. They dominated a restaurant or two in downtown Indianapolis and belted out more than a few “J-E-T-S” chants, much to the consternation of the locals.
And they’re expected to be in evidence in the just now filling up Lucas Oil Stadium, along with more than a few Jets and Jets-related celebrities. Expected in the stadium: ex-Jets QB Boomer Esiason, working the game for Westwood One Radio; former Jets Jason Fabini, a Hoosier himself, and Marvin Jones; Marty Schottenheimer, father of the Jets offensive coordinator; Jets fans and funny men Ray Romano and Kevin James, and Fireman Ed Anzalone, who should be visible about six rows up behind the Jets bench during the game.
Will the Jets be treating all their followers to a Saturday night delight in Indianapolis? That’s the idea.
But of course, the Colts stand in the way. And they stood tall in this venue a little less than a year ago when Peyton Manning and the Indy offense roared from 17-6 down to 30-17 ahead and on to the Colts’ Super Bowl date with the Saints.
And Lucas Oil can be a deafening place to play, even with Jets fans scattered throughout the building. But the Jets have shown their mettle on the road in their two seasons under head coach Rex Ryan. They have gone 6-2 away from New Meadowlands Stadium this season and 13-5 in 2009-10, including last season’s playoff run.
And while it’s not necessarily a green badge of courage, the Jets have become familiar with the trappings of being a road playoff team. Tonight is their eighth consecutive postseason match on the road, or ever since they defeated the Colts, 41-0, at home in the 2002 playoffs. In the previous seven games, their record is 3-4, with the wins coming after the 2004 regular season at San Diego and last season at Cincinnati and San Diego.
Also worth considering is that while the Jets appear to be in better health than in recent weeks, the Colts are suffering. They have put 17 players on IR this season, and of the 11 players listed on this week’s injury reports, reports are that RT Ryan Diem, LB Clint Session and DB Kelvin Hayden will not be available.
Still, the ‘Shoes have Manning and the Jets have Mark Sanchez, sore-shouldered but ready to reprise his role as a young NFL QB rising to the challenge on the NFL’s second-season stage. It should be an exciting evening for Jets fans.
The Jets’ inactive list for tonight’s game has a few surprises. DE Vernon Gholston has been deactivated, a CD (coach’s decision). RB Joe McKnight, who starred in the backfield last week vs. Buffalo, is also IA. So are CB Isaiah Trufant, OL Vlad Ducasse, DTs Jarron Gilbert and Marcus Dixon, and TE Jeff Cumberland. (Kellen Clemens is the third QB.)
With the two D-linemen down, the Jets have four DL activate for this game — starters Shaun Ellis, Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito, and DT Trevor Pryce, back and available. Ryan and DC Mike Pettine have gone heavy on the back end as they anticipate defensing Manning passes to his receivers.
Also for the Jets, Dwight Lowery will stay at safety in the starting lineup, although Eric Smith is back from his concussion and available for the first time in four games. And Damien Woody is back in the OL starting lineup at RT, after also sitting out three games following his knee scope, with Wayne Hunter returning to his role as the backup at both tackle spots.
Update, 7:47 p.m.: The Colts’ inactive list contains several more starters, further depleting their ninth consecutive playoff effort. DT Antonio Johnson is inactive, as are Session, Hayden and Diem, as mentioned above, plus S Al Afalava, Gs Jamey Richard and Jaimie Thomas, and T Joe Reitz. Indy does not designate a third QB.
The Jets are wearing their white jerseys and white pants for this game. As you know if you’ve followed the numbers in these pregame blogs, the Green & White fare very well in white & white. They’re 7-3 in that combo this season (although 1-2 in their last three) and 13-5 in all white in the Ryan regime. The Jets wore their road whites in both games at Lucas Oil Stadium last season, the 29-15 Week 16 triumph and the AFC Championship Game loss.
Ryan tabbed six players as his gameday captains: DE Shaun Ellis, CB Darrelle Revis, G Brandon Moore, TE Ben Hartsock, P Steve Weatherford, TE Dustin Keller.
Gene Steratore is this wild-card games referee. This is Steratore’s sixth Jets game as the man in the white hat. His first was the 2006 season opener at Tennessee, Eric Mangini’s first game as Jets head coach. His last two were the 2008 primetime triumph at New England and last season’s 38-0 rout at Oakland.
The Jets-Colts game has drawn NBC’s A-team, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, in the booth. This is only the fourth Jets game on the network since it passed the AFC franchise on to CBS. They are 3-0 in those most recent NBC games, last year’s regular-season finale and then AFC Wild Card win, both against Cincinnati and this year’s Game 3 at Miami.
Tags: AFC Wild Card Game, Damien Woody, Dwight Lowery, Indianapolis Colts, joe McKnight, Lucas Oil Stadium, Peyton Manning, Rex Ryan, Vernon Gholston
Posted in Randy Lange | 27 Comments »
Two of the Jets’ trench titans are poised to climb off the injury list and make contributions to Saturday night’s wild-card effort in Indianapolis.
On the offensive side of the LOS, right tackle Damien Woody has been battling his knee for weeks. He left the Houston game early, then started without practicing during team drills against Cincinnati, New England and Miami before also leaving the Dolphins game early and getting arthroscopic surgery.
Today was his first heavy practice day since, oh, about Nov. 12.
“I haven’t done anything like that in a while,” D-Wood said. “I feel pretty good. It’s a little sore, but that’s to be expected. I’m just going out and doing things and trying to get better every day and build toward Saturday.”
That was the plan back when he got the scope. You know he didn’t want to unplug himself from the lineup — the 12th-year man had started 48 straight games, including playoffs, since arriving in 2008. But if he couldn’t keep showing up for games, the next best thing would be to show up for the next playoff game, which is in Lucas Oil Stadium in four nights.
“It’s a different feeling when you’re in the training room and rehabbing. You almost feel like you’re disconnected from everybody,” he said. “So today was he first day I got back out there with the guys and really practiced. It’s just a good feeling to get out there and get the reps that I really need in order to be effective on Saturday, so I’m definitely excited.”
Rex Ryan wasn’t revealing this early in the week that Woody would be starting against the Colts, but as the head coach said, “Damien was out there today running with the ones,” so it sounds as if there’s a chance he’ll be dancing with Robert Mathis as the Jets OL tries to keep Indy’s most excellent ends at bay.
As for Trevor Pryce, Ryan said the early-season acquisition from the Ravens didn’t practice in team drills today “but he’s going to be fine.” Pryce has sat out the last three games and had been limited in practice the past two since injuring his hip against Miami. At first he thought he’d be OK quickly. Then he said he saw his MRI and thought he wasn’t coming back this season.
“The treatment worked,” he said today. “Three weeks off is good, until it gets boring.”
Pryce has been in some postseason skirmishes before but he didn’t have to dredge up war stories from his 14-year career to get his teammates pumped up today at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
“Practice goes faster, guys are a little edgy, everybody’s excited and that comes out on the practice field,” said the 14-year man. “We might’ve messed some things up out there today, but everybody was going full tilt today. It was like training camp.”
If Pryce is feeling fully frisky, he could be one of the wild cards the Jets can deal at Peyton Manning and the Indy offense that they didn’t have last year. Getting some inside pressure, getting Peyton off his mark and out of his comfort zone. But he knows that’s easier said than done.
“There’s nothing you can say that hasn’t already been said, that people didn’t already know. The man’s as good as there has been in the history of the game,” he said. Slowing him down “is really difficult. You can’t get impatient. You’re not going to sack him unless he falls down. You can get to him but he’s not going to have the ball in his hand when you do get to him.”
“A lot of people have a sixth sense,” Pryce said of Manning’s pocket presence. “It’s kind of like being a cop. ‘I know that guy did it. I just can’t prove it yet.’ Even if you’re trying to fool Peyton, he’ll see something, block it out and make an assumption. If he’s right eight out of 10 times, he looks great.”
It’ll be up to Pryce to try to make Manning look less great and for Woody to help the offense keep the ball out of the Colts’ hands on offense. Injuries? What injuries? These are the playoffs.
Ryan’s early injury list had only Pryce not participating in team drills today. Mark Sanchez, Darrelle Revis, Bryan Thomas, Sione Pouha, James Ihedigbo and Woody were limited. Antonio Cromartie, Shaun Ellis, Santonio Holmes, Nick Mangold, Matt Slauson, Eric Smith and Rob Turner were all full.
Odds and Ends
Before leaving the regular season entirely, here are a few stray nuggets:
The Jets’ defense came to rest pretty close to where Ryan always expects his D to finish: near the top. The overall yards allowed was third in the NFL, the run defense was third and the pass defense was sixth. The Jets had never been higher in any of those categories this season.
Also, combined with last season’s No. 1 defensive ranking, the Jets finished in the NFL’s top five in back-to-back years for the first time since the 1970 merger. And their three consecutive top-10 finishes in run defense is the first time that’s happened since the merger.
For the second straight year, the D finished No. 1 in three-and-out drives. They had 64 last season, 63 this season.
Brad Smith’s 40-yard run out of the Seminole on third-and-16 in the first quarter was the longest rushing third-down conversion since Freeman McNeil ran 23 yards on third-and-17 at Kansas City in 1987.
New Flight Plan Coordinates This Week
If you’re a fan of Jets Flight Plan — and if you’re a Jets fan, why wouldn’t you be? — be advised that this week’s show on WEBS-TV Channel 2 in New York is being moved from Sunday morning to Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. this week.
Tags: Damien Woody, Indianapolis Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium, Peyton Manning, Trevor Pryce
Posted in Randy Lange | 36 Comments »
Rex Ryan and his coaching staff are still figuring out who’s going to play and for how long against the Bills on Sunday. But the news out of the head coach’s daily news conference this afternoon was that not only will Mark Sanchez start (not unexpected) but that LaDainian Tomlinson might not.
“We’ll go ahead and start Mark this game,” Ryan declared. “How long he plays, we’ll obviously determine that as the game goes, but he will start for us.
“I’m not going to say he’s going to play ‘X’ amount of plays, but he would not be out there if we did not think he was healthy. Without question, 11 wins would be great, but quite honestly we’re focused on we want to win in the playoffs. By playing Mark, keeping him on track, doing his thing, his routine — you guys see him out there. He looks good right now.”
But that same framework led Rex to broach the possibility that Tomlinson, the future Hall of Famer who needs 86 rushing yards to hit 1,000 for the season for the ninth time in his career, might rest until the AFC Wild Card Game.
“That could be a possibility,” Ryan said about sitting out LT and turning the ground game over to Shonn Greene and rookie Joe McKnight. “We’ll see how he feels.”
Tomlinson feels strongly both ways.
“I came here to win a championship, not to get 1,000 yards, so that’s my main concern,” he said in the locker room after Ryan spoke. “I don’t care about it. I’ve had a bunch of 1,000-yard seasons. When all is said and done, if I get 1,000 yards and we don’t win a championship, then I haven’t accomplished anything.”
But, he said, he still wants to play Sunday.
“I just think our rhythm is so important for us,” he said. “If you look at us this year, every time we’ve had a break, we haven’t played too well coming back. So I think it’s important for us to keep that rhythm, that tempo we’ve been playing with the last couple of weeks. However long that takes is really up to our coach.”
Ryan also said that besides James Ihedigbo (knee/ankle), he and the doctors and trainers could decide to keep T Damien Woody (knee) and DE Shaun Ellis (back) on the side.
Ellis, who came to the Jets bench at Soldier Field gingerly a few times Sunday, was at practice but didn’t participate in team drills for a second day. “If it doesn’t get better,” the coach said, “clearly he won’t play as well.”
Wayne Hunter’s play at RT the past two games, meanwhile, has been strong and doesn’t force the Jets to rush Woody back from his arthroscopic knee surgery.
As for the defense, Rex discussed both recent struggles against the run and in pressuring the passer. The answers for both this week were similar.
On the run: “I think first off it starts with showing the tape. Why are these things happening? The answer is on the tape. It basically starts with your pad level, knocking the line of scrimmage back, and coming off blocks, not just walking off blocks. That’s been our focus this week, going back and playing the techniques we’ve been used to playing.”
On the pass rush: “You can always blitz more guys, but I think you have to win your 1-on-1 matchups. Again, the answer’s on the tape. When you’re coming off and raising up and you’ve got to start your motor all over again, it starts with your takeoff, your pad level. That way, if you’ve got to reload, your pads are still down.”
More on the Injury Front
Besides Ellis, Ihedigbo and Woody, the only other DNP today was guard Matt Slauson, for non-injury reasons. Ryan: “His wife’s in the hospital and they’re expecting.” Good luck on this delivery, Slausons.
Limited besides Sanchez: Antonio Cromartie, Sione Pouha, Trevor Pryce, Darrelle Revis and Eric Smith.
Update, 5:30 p.m.: The Bills moved five of their 10 DNPs from Wednesday to full-practice status, but remaining as not participating in team drills were QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (knee) and WR David Nelson (ribs), and added to the list as DNP was LB Mike Balogun (illness).
One More Award
Ryan announced most of the Jets’ annual team award winners from Chicago on Monday morning, and we supplied the rest for you in that midday blog. But one award we didn’t have yet is the newest one in the Jets’ pantheon, the Bill Hampton Award, which is going to rookie fullback John Conner.
The “Hamp,” named after longtime Jets equipment manager Bill Hampton, has been presented each year since 2004 to the Jets rookie who acts like a pro in the locker room and is voted on by the equipment staff and past winners of the award. In 2011, Conner’s No. 38 jersey will hang in the equipment room, where it will be visible to all players, reporters and others who come into the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room.
NFL Fines Jets
The NFL announced today that the Jets have been fined $100,000 for violating league rules in the sideline tripping incident involving strength coach Sal Alosi. The team issued a brief statement regarding the fine: “We will comply with the League’s decision.”
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Damien Woody, James Ihedigbo, John Conner, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, Matt Slauson, Rex Ryan, Shaun Ellis
Posted in Randy Lange | 45 Comments »
The 1,000-yard mark is in sight for LaDainian Tomlinson, but he’s paying it no mind. Tomlinson, who has rushed for 837 yards in his first 13 games with the Jets, needs to average 55 yards a contest over the final three outings to reach the 1,000 plateau for the ninth time in 10 pro seasons.
“People always remind me of how close I am to 1,000, so that’s when I think about it. The other times, I really don’t because I’m just so focused on trying to win the game,” he told me this week on “Four Quarters.” “I really don’t care about the stats, the numbers, anything like that. What’s most important to me is winning the games. I want to get to the playoffs and have a shot at winning the championship.”
Tomlinson, who gained at least 55 yards in each of the Jets’ first nine games, has not accumulated 50 yards on the ground in any of the past four.
“In this business when people scout you, they look at you and say, ‘OK, what do these people do the best?’ For us they look at what we do the best and the say, ‘OK, this is what we need to take away.’ People are good at doing it, so it’s tough for us,” he said. “But at the same time, we have to keep chipping away at it. People try to stop us and what we do best. We have to worry about ourselves and make them stop it.”
The Jets will be in Pittsburgh Sunday and the Steelers stop the run better than anyone in the NFL at 60.1 yards per game. Then the Bears, with a defense that is ranked second against the run (87.9 yards per game), follow in Week 16. If Tomlinson needs a strong close to get to the century mark, he’ll face a Bills defense that he torched for a season-high 133 yards in Week 5 and that allows a league-high 165.8 ypg.
“We have our hands full with both of those teams, starting with Pittsburgh. We take pride in running the football, so we would have it no other way to have their strength against our strength,” said Tomlinson when asked about the Steelers and the Bears. “This is a time when competitors need to step up. Myself and a lot of the guys on the offense, we need to step our game up and I think we will.”
Pittsburgh is a well-coordinated crew on defense and the Steelers are not lacking for talent when you consider NT Casey Hampton, LBs LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior and James Harrison, and a fabulous safety.
“Dick LeBeau is one of the best of all time at calling the defense and really getting his guys to do what he wants them to do — blitzing, run blitzes and different schemes against different teams,” said Tomlinson, an underrated blocker who paces the Jets with 49 receptions.
“We have to be prepared for Troy Polamalu, who’s around the box all the time and coming, so we have to really know where he’s at, at all times. If we’re able to really keep our eye on him, I think we’ll be just fine because he causes a lot of havoc — interceptions, fumbles and all that kind of stuff.”
And when the Jets reach scoring territory, they have to finish. The Green & White rank 30th in red zone TD efficiency at just 36.8 percent and 17th in third-down efficiency at 37.5 percent while the Steelers rank fourth in red zone defense (41.2) and third in third-down defense (33.1).
“Our tempo has been a little off and we haven’t played quite as well as we usually do. Particularly third downs and in the red zone when it’s critical for us to try and score points, we haven’t played that well,” Tomlinson said. “It’s on all of us to get it better so we can score points when we get down in the red zone.
“You kind of feel the pressure sometimes when you do get in the red zone, like, ‘Oh my goodness, we need to score.’ That pressure may get to you a little bit because you are thinking about it. For us, I think we need to quit thinking about it being red zone and play like it’s just another part of the football field and I think we’ll be just fine.”
The offense will be without the services of RT Damien Woody, who left the Dolphins game in the first quarter and had arthroscopic surgery on his knee this week. Wayne Hunter, who replaced Woody last Sunday, will start in his place at Heinz Field.
“On the offensive line Damien is a stable guy you can always count on, so that loss is obviously going to be big as far as the leadership, his ability and all the things he has seen in his time playing football,” Tomlinson said. “And also, he’s played against this Pittsburgh Steelers team a lot, so you’re going to miss that part of it. But as we talk about, when one man goes down, the next man has to step up. Obviously Wayne is up this week and we have a lot of confidence in Wayne that he’s going to do a tremendous job.”
LaDainian Tomlinson plans on having a busy January for the fifth consecutive year and his first in New York. He’s not concerned with 1,000 yards or any other individual milestones as the season winds down.
“I think we will be in the playoffs. This team is put together to make a playoff run, and we’re so talented that I don’t see us not being in the playoffs,” he said. “We’ve put ourselves in great position to make the playoffs. We’re 9-4 with three games to go. They’re tough games, but they’re also winnable games. If you tell me we can’t win at least two games of the next three — that will be very disappointing.”
Tags: Damien Woody, Dick LeBeau, LaDainian Tomlinson, PIttsburgh Steelers, Wayne Hunter
Posted in Eric Allen | 24 Comments »