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Top 10 Player Nuggets from Yearbook ’13

Posted by Randy Lange on July 8, 2013 – 12:36 pm

The Radar’s been dark for a while, as you all know. Not a lot to talk about on the player front, other than the several who continue to show up at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on their own to work and sweat in advance of the late-July start of training camp. And we were preoccupied for the past several weeks with whipping the 2013 Yearbook home to the printers.

But we will have a full month of previews, reviews, features and news stories on newyorkjets.com, including new outstanding videos from my partner, Eric Allen, and the broadcasting and multimedia crew, some more EA blogs, and some preview pieces from the Yearbook.

Did I mention the Yearbook yet? As always, it’s a labor of love and a glorious print paean to the 2013 Jets, with some top-notch stories from EA, reporter John Holt and myself, along with the fantastic still photography of Al Pereira and the sharp design work of Rob Krolick and his NCG Visuals team.

The book’s theme is the New York Jets’ Golden Anniversary, as in it’s been 50 years since the Jets arose from the ashes of the Titans of New York to begin life with the 1963 AFL season. The cover is graced with a timeline of great Jets images from Joe Namath to Jumbo Elliott to David Harris, and more of those classic images appear with my feature inside.

Many of those photos are gracing this year’s ticket package that is going out to season ticket holders. One of my favorite shots in the book, one that is not on the tickets but is featured prominently in the feature, is Wesley Walker being raised to the Jets pantheon by Marty Lyons after a particularly significant achievement in September 1986. The lensman was Jerry Liebman, a frequent Jets contributor back in those days.

The 2013 Yearbook itself will be out the first week of camp (first full practice: Friday, July 26), available for non-season ticket holders at SUNY Cortland, online at jetshop.com and at the Jets Shops in Manhattan and at MetLife Stadium.

One of the things I look forward to executing every year are the factoids at the bottom of each of the full-page veteran and draft choice pages, a trading-card-like note on each player’s recent past and anticipated immediate future. I won’t spoil too much of the fun, but here for some flavor of this year’s Yearbook and to keep us all going a little while longer is a list of my Top Ten Player Nuggets:

■ Antwan Barnes, who played his first pro game as a Ravens rookie against the Jets on Sept. 16, 2007, had five sacks in his first 40 NFL games, then erupted for 18.5 sacks in 38 games as a Charger since ’10.

■ Willie Colon, as a New York City high school all-star in the early 2000s, played in the Empire Challenge and thus practiced for the game at the Jets’ fields when they were stationed at Hofstra University.

■ Demario Davis should increase his playing time this season after an active rookie campaign in which he led the Jets with 371 special teams plays and was second behind Nick Bellore with 15 ST tackles.

■ D’Brickashaw Ferguson played in every one of the Jets’ 1,074 offensive plays, and he extended his career-long ironman streaks to 112 games and starts — both the longest streaks among active NFL tackles.

■ David Harris led the Jets with 1,196 plays, including special teams, and again topped the defense in tackles — the fifth season that “the Hitman” reached 100 tackles and led the Jets in the process.

■ Chris Ivory, described as “a very physical, violent runner” by GM John Idzik, can move the chains — his 5.11 yards per carry is eighth-best in the NFL for all RBs with at least 250 career carries since 1970.

■ Jeremy Kerley, who led the Jets in receptions and receiving yards last season, has had a hand in the Green & White’s last seven 40-yard pass plays — five on the receiving end and two as the passer.

■ Joe McKnight’s 29.4-yard kickoff-return average in 2011-12 combined is the best in the NFL in back-to-back seasons since Hall of Famer-to-be Gale Sayers posted a 31.3 for the Bears in 1965-66.

■ Darrin Walls, whose only career interception came for Atlanta on New Year’s Day 2012 vs. Tampa Bay, has been reunited with Jets LBs coach Brian VanGorder, his defensive coordinator with the Falcons.

■  Kellen Winslow, signed June 14 after his tryout at the Jets’ full-squad minicamp, ranks third among all NFL tight ends since 2006 with 698 targets, fourth with 433 catches, and fourth with 4,798 yards.


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Jets Get Offseason Program Off and Running

Posted by Randy Lange on April 15, 2013 – 5:06 pm

Players were stretching and sprinting on the outside turf field at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center this morning, and the middle grass field was dotted with small cones and larger day-glo orange yard-markers — G, 20, 40, 40, 20, G.

The new season has hit another milestone with the start of the Jets’ voluntary offseason program.

Among the players on hand are the roster’s entire quarterback contingent plus key players from both sides of the ball — DE Muhammad Wilkerson, LB David Harris, CB Antonio Cromartie and tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson — to get started on Phase 1 of the program, a two-week period during which activities are limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only, under the guidance of strength coach Justus Galac and his staff, Paul Ricci, Pierre Ngo and intern Jason Oszvart.

“For us it’s really about reducing the injuries and creating an atmosphere for the player to train in that is exciting,” Galac told Eric Allen for Jets Talk Live recently. “They come in there and they’re ready to work. For the players, my job is to make them bigger, faster and stronger — we all know that.

“But it always comes back to being an explosive player, not only working on our explosive power for the big guys and the hips and the hang cleans and the jumps, but the speed work, and that comes back to the skill players and working with plyometrics. Really building a foundation program where, when they walk out after the workout, they feel more explosive, they feel stronger, they feel bigger, and they feel like they got a good workout in.”

The Jets’ program is one of 32 around the NFL that is getting under way these days. Eight teams got started April 1-2, while three won’t get cranking until a week from today. For the other 21, today’s the day to welcome players back to facilities start sweatin’ to the sounds of 2013.

Article 21 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement establishes an official, voluntary nine-week program for each club that is conducted in three phases. After Phase 1, Phase 2 for each team’s offseason schedule consists of weeks 3-5 during which on-field workouts may include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practices conducted on a “separates” basis. No live contact or team offense vs. defense drills are permitted.

Phase 3 consists of the final four weeks of the program, during which teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity — OTAs. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are permissible.

The Jets’ OTA workouts have been scheduled for May 20, 22-23, 28 and 30-31, and June 3-6. The Green & White’s mandatory minicamp is set for June 11-13.

RFA Tender Offers Signed

The Jets announced today that RT Austin Howard has signed his tender offer as a restricted free agent. This comes a week after TE Jeff Cumberland signed his RFA tender offer to remain with the team. Howard was tendered at a second-round level. Cumberland was a right-of-first-refusal tender.


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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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Cromartie’s Starting Feat Not Too Common in NFL

Posted by Randy Lange on December 12, 2012 – 5:18 pm

Congratulations to Antonio Cromartie, the latest member of the NFL’s Two-Way Football Club.

Many Jets fans are aware that Cro got a rare double start on Sunday at Jacksonville. He was lined up at split end on the game’s first offensive play and he was at his old, familiar right corner spot for the defense.

Have any other Jets done the double before Cro? I can’t find any back to 1977. Of course we remember WR Keyshawn Johnson doing it all in the 1998 AFC Divisional Round Game vs. Jacksonville, including coming up with an interception off of an end-of-game Hail Mary fired up by none other than Jaguars QB Mark Brunell. But Key didn’t get the start on defense. And Bobby Humphery started four games at WR in 1984 before flipping over to LCB, where he started 35 games, including every game in 1988-89, but again, Humphery never started on O and D in the same game.

However, we can say that Cromartie became the first NFL player since 2008 to start for his team on offense and defense in the same game. The last player with that daily double was Spencer Larsen, who was the Broncos’ precocious rookie middle linebacker in ’08 and at Atlanta on Nov. 16 also started at fullback.

(As a completely unrelated trivia aside, five other players besides Larsen started that day in that game who either previously had been or subsequently would become Jets. How many of those five can you name? Answer below.)

We remember Cromartie getting his feet wet at wideout this summer. He got his first work with receivers in the second half of individual drills at the Aug. 13 practice at SUNY Cortland, after which he said he’s looking forward to playing offense in a game.

“I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to try to play both ways in the NFL for a while,” Cro said then. “It’s fun. It’s just an opportunity to get the ball in your hands and another challenge. I’m looking at going out and playing receiver as a challenge for me. I’ve been asking for it since I was a rookie in San Diego.”

AC didn’t take his WR game into the preseason nor into the first four regular-season games. But he was on the offensive side of the ball for three plays against the Texans and had two passes thrown his way by Mark Sanchez, both incomplete. Including his three offensive plays at Jacksonville, he has 15 plays on offense this season.

And counting his one catch for a 2-yard loss against the Jags, Cromartie now has one pro catch for minus-2 yards. His debut as a pass catcher instead of a catch preventer came late in the first quarter, when he motioned out of the slot, took a short pass from Mark Sanchez, and couldn’t escape the clutches of Jason Babin to get upfield.

Will Cro’s wideout career ever get flying? He could obviously still be used in a pinch in the final three games this year. However, if Braylon Edwards is healthy and ready to participate immediately (we’ll find that out Thursday), if Stephen Hill’s knee sprain comes around quickly, and/or if Clyde Gates gets clearance from his concussion, plus Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens and Mardy Gilyard, there may not be any spare reps to be had at the position.

But we expect Cromartie to keep turning up here and there regardless as he just keeps trying to help his team win.

Pro Bowl Stretch Run

It’s been a rough year for the Jets and that is reflected in the Pro Bowl snapshot as the fan online balloting on NFL.com heads down the stretch. No Jet is in the top 10 as released by the league today, and no Jet is a leader at his position among AFC vote-getters.

But needless to say, some Jets may still get their names called for the annual all-star game, and if you want to help your favorite player in green and white make it to Hawaii, you can still vote here on NYJets.com.

Balloting concludes Monday, Dec. 17, following the conclusion of the Jets-Titans Monday night game.

Would you like to see C Nick Mangold make his fifth Pro Bowl and fourth as a starter? Want to send LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson to Oahu for his fourth straight appearance? Support RG Brandon Moore, who went to his first PB last year? Drape Cromartie, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, S LaRon Landry or LB David Harris in leis and in the red-and-white AFC jerseys the week before this year’s Super Bowl?

The AFC and NFC squads are based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 43-man rosters that represent the conferences. NFL players and coaches will cast their votes on Dec. 20-21. The game is Jan. 27, 7 p.m. EST, televised live by NBC from Aloha Stadium.

Rex Cetera

Edwards is expected to wear uniform No. 17, as he did when he was with the Jets for 34 games in 2009-10 and in fact as he has worn for his entire pro career. … Falcons starters on 11.16.08 against Denver were DE John Abraham, FS Erik Coleman and TE Ben Hartsock. Broncos starters that game were former Jets first-rounder Dewayne Robertson and C Casey Wiegmann, who played three games for the 1996-97 Jets.


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Since Bye, Jets Have Improved at Flag Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One More Thing on Penalties

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

Thursday Injury Reports

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

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

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

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


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At Midseason, Rex and the Numbers Speak of Inconsistency

Posted by Randy Lange on November 2, 2012 – 4:38 pm

It’s been a tough week all around in this neighborhood as people continue to dig out from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Power’s still not restored in many places, trees are lying on people’s houses and in roadways, gas lines hearken back to the late Seventies.

The Jets have fared OK in the sense that the Atlantic Health Training Center is in good shape, the building has full power, and we haven’t heard any ugly storm stories from the players and the coaches.

But the Jets have needed to correct their different kind of power outage as much as possible this bye week before they gather back together next week to get ready for the NFC West leg of their schedule, road games at Seattle and St. Louis, then two weeks later at home for Arizona. (Not to mention the Patriots’ visit on Thanksgiving night.)

“You’re at the halfway point of the season and you really analyze where you’re at. And 3-and-5’s not getting it done,” head coach Rex Ryan told my partner, Eric Allen, late this week in video remarks that you can see and hear on this week’s “Jets Flight Plan” on Sunday morning on WCBS-TV. “We have to really look at what we’re doing and see areas where we can improve, expand roles, take roles away, those types of things. At the same time you start your preparation for Seattle and other teams down the road.”

Ryan and his coaches were making those analyses throughout the week here. What had they found at the time of this interview?

“I think we’ve been inconsistent throughout as a football team,” he said. “Usually a strength of ours would clearly be the defense and clearly be our special teams. And we’ve had moments where that’s been the case, but then we also had moments where those two areas have hurt us.

“Then offensively we’re searching for our identity. Sometimes we’ve been running the ball very effectively, other times not as much. I think we’ve had some excellent days protecting the quarterback, then other times when it hasn’t been as good. So we’ve really got to focus on how we can improve this team and see what happens. But clearly, 3-5, that’s certainly not acceptable, not to our fan base, nobody accepts it. We have to do a better job, and I always say it starts with me.”

“Inconsistency” comes through loud and clear in these stats, rankings and factoids that I’ve shaken out of my databases and spreadsheets at this season’s midpoint:

MARK SANCHEZ

It’s a mixed bag with the quarterback.

■ His ball-in-the-air-yardage is at a career-high clip of 8.6 yards per pass. But his receivers’ yards after catch is at a career-low rate of 4.0.

■ He followed one of the best-passing fourth quarters of his career at New England (10-for-12, 114 yards, 1 TD, 134.0 rating) with one of the worst-passing third quarters of his career vs. Miami (5-for-14, 53 yards, 1 INT, 17.9 rating).

■ Some key passing numbers, if sustained through the final eight games, would be career lows (52.9% accuracy, 6.38 yards/attempt), while the passer rating of 72.8 would end his increases there since his rookie year.

■ Three-and-outs continue to be an issue. Sanchez’s three-and-out drive rate of .292 (26-of-89) is 31st out of 33 qualifying QBs, ahead of Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert (.316) and Oakland’s Carson Palmer (.298).

TIM TEBOW

Tebow’s been on the field for 54 offensive plays, 6.8 per game, plus 49 special-teams plays, giving him 103 snaps this season, about 13 a game. With those he has compiled 23 runs for 78 yards (3.4 yards/carry) and two completions on three passes for 32 yards, one sack and a 102.1 passer rating. He’s moved the chains nine times.

Ryan was asked on his Monday conference call if the Jets look at ways to use Tebow more in the second half of the season. “I definitely think that’s a fair statement,” he said.

GROUND GAME

Inconsistent fits here as well. The Jets are 16th, right in the middle of the NFL rankings, in rushing yards per game, 22nd in yards per carry. Shonn Greene had a career day with his 32-carry, 161-yard, three-TD outing vs. the Colts and a regular-season-long 36-yard bolt against the Dolphins. But for all eight games he’s at a career-low pace of 3.7 yards/carry, which breaks down unofficially to 1.3 yards before first contact, 2.4 yards after.

The good news, perhaps, is that Greene started slow in last year’s first half, too (1.5 before, 2.3 after, 3.8 total) before finishing muscularly (1.8-2.8-4.6) in the second half. The returns of a healthier Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight to the RB mix and Shonn’s November-December push could help the offense pick things up.

RED ZONE

A big difference from a year ago is the performance on drives inside the opponents’ 20. In ’11 with Plaxico Burress doing his best work as a Jet, Sanchez had 10 TD passes at the midway point of the season, compared to eight this year — without Santonio Holmes, that’s not bad.

But Sanchez has already thrown three RZ interceptions this season, equaling last season’s total, and in the last 11 games dating to last year he’s had six giveaways inside the 20.

And the offense’s rate has dropped off, from last season’s franchise-record 65.5% touchdown rate to 48.1% (13 TDs in 27 drives) this year. Again, like many other areas on the team, the Jets’ five TDs in five tries vs. Indianapolis and a good showing at New England (two TDs, two FGs in 4 trips) were negated by the 1-for-4 showing against the Dolphins — one of only two times since ’78 that the Jets failed to score any points on three RZ trips in a home game (Atlanta, 2009).

Meanwhile, the defense has given up TDs at a too-high rate of 60.9% (14 on 23 opportunities), 26th in the NFL through eight weeks and the team’s highest rate since the ’87 strike-year team yielded TDs at a 61.5% pace. And the last time Jets opponents averaged more than this year’s 5.2 points per red zone trip was in 1980 (5.6).

THIRD-DOWN EFFICIENCY—OFFENSE

As we laid out last Friday, the Jets’ short-yardage rushing game on third down has been strong. Greene is 7-for-7 on converting third-and-1’s, and with Lex Hilliard’s pair of “and-one” rushing conversions vs. Miami, the Jets remain the NFL’s only perfect team when running on third-and-1-or-2/fourth-and-1-or-2 combined at 15-for-15.

Getting to third-and-short has been successful as well. The Jets on average face 6.2 yards to go on third down this season, which if it holds up would be their best third-down yardage figure since averaging third-and-6.1 in 1993. But with such favorable yardage on third down, they need to convert better than their 39.5% rate, which is 17th in the NFL.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Through six games Mike Westhoff’s special forces were doing very well. Using a simple rating system for ST big plays (7 points for return scores, 3 points for blocked FGs, 1 point for takeaways, non-TD blocked kicks and successful onsides kicks), the Jets were purring along with a plus-12 through six games.

Then came long kickoff returns at New England and vs. Miami, plus all the other issues vs. the Dolphins. The Miami game by this scoring system was a minus-11. The only worse game in Coach Westy’s Jets phase (2001-present) was the “Ted Ginn Game” vs. Miami in 2009 (minus-13).

Even with his sore ankle, Joe McKnight has been close to the once-in-a-quarter-century form he displayed last year in returning kickoffs. He had his second career TD return vs. Houston and his 29.3-yard average is sixth in the NFL.

Jeremy Kerley has been equally impressive on punt returns with the Jets’ first PR TD since Santana Moss at Pittsburgh in the 2004 playoffs and the first one at home since ‘Tana vs. Cleveland in ’02. JK’s 14.1-yard average is third in the league. But his 50% fair-catch rate (10 of 20 punts fielded) is among the league’s highest.

Nick Folk was on a season-opening 11-for-11 tear before suffering the block late in the first half vs. Miami. Still, his 4-for-4 from mostly long range at Gillette was “remarkable” (Westhoff) and his first half has been “phenomenal” (Ryan). He and his KO cover unit were No. 1 in the NFL in opponents’ average drive start after kickoffs until the last two games, when two long returns dropped them to 20th.

Robert Malone’s first half is comparable to Steve Weatherford’s 2010 first half. Malone has a better gross than Weatherford did (46.9 to 44.7), Weatherford had the better net (39.7 to 39.1), inside-the-20 total (17 to 12)  and average hangtime (4.77 to 4.53). Weatherford fell off in the second half of ’10 (except for his NFL-record-tying I-20s). If Malone suffers only minor slippage on his gross and he and his punt cover team improve their net (and cut out the punt blocks), he could threaten the franchise records set by Curley Johnson in 1965 (45.3 gross, 39.7 net).

DEFENSE

Individually, the Jets have some shining lights. LB David Harris is on pace for another 100-tackle season with 62 at the halfway point.

DE Muhammad Wilkerson leads the defense with 8.0 tackles for loss/no gain, putting him on track for the best total since Bart Scott’s 18.5 TFLNGs in 2010 and the best by a D-lineman since DE Marvin Washington’s 16.0 in ’95.

Antonio Cromartie is picking up where Darrelle Revis left off with his season-ending knee injury in Week 3. Cro leads the defense with 10 pass defenses and three interceptions, including the fifth return-TD of his career and his first as a Jet with his INT-return TD in the opener vs. Buffalo.

Teamwise, the numbers are not what we’re used to seeing from a Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine defense:

Overall yards/game — 16th in the NFL. Ryan’s previous seven defenses as coordinator or head coach never finished a season lower than 6th.

Rushing yards/game — 29th. The last time the Jets finished that low in a season was 29th in ’07 and before that in ’05.

Net passing yards/game — 6th. This is still in the Ryan ballpark. Rex’s Ravens finished 8th, 6th, 20th and 2nd, and his three previous Jets teams came in 1st, 6th and 5th.

Points allowed/game — 24th. Ryan’s ’07 Ravens scuffled to a tie for 22nd. The last time the Jets finished lower was 29th in ’96.

What would make everything better would be a big-time rush. With only 12 sacks, the Jets’ sack rate is 25th in the league, and their 24-sack pace would produce the fewest sacks in a 16-game season since the ’78 and ’79 squads each had 22 sacks.

Something else that would improve things would be fewer flags on the D. The defense has had 25 penalties marked off for 286 yards. The most penalties on a Jets defense were the 59 in ’95 and the most yardage since ’78 was 533 in ’86. Leading the way individually: Cromartie with six flags for 81 yards and fellow CB Kyle Wilson with five for 49.

That’s it on the raw midterm facts and figures. The Jets face an uphill road in the second half, one that seems in equal parts their making and that of the injury gods. But a few good teams overcome the bad IR and injury hands that they’re dealt to do great things (the ’11 Giants and the ’10 Packers among others). How did Rex want his players handling this week between Games 1-8 and Games 9-16:?

“I hope they get away from it for a little bit,” he said, “but also they have to look at what they want. I think we all want the same thing. There’s no magic formula. I think the big thing is hard work and dedication. And I’m confident that they’re recharging their batteries to be ready for Monday.”

Barring any unforeseen events over the weekend, we’ll recharge our batteries —literally and figuratively — this weekend and we’ll check back in with you the fan on Monday when the Jets return to work.


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Harris: New Dad, New Man on the Field

Posted by Eric Allen on June 14, 2012 – 9:13 am

You can call “The Hitman” soft at your own risk, but Jets middle linebacker David Harris is feeling warm and fuzzy. And he has great reason to have plenty of joy in his heart considering he and his wife, Jiali, are celebrating the early days of their precious 5½-month-old daughter, Alya.

“She’s just a bundle of joy,” Harris told me on our recent Jets Minicamp Live show. “Every time I come home, she has a big smile on her face. She’s not crawling yet, but she’s trying to. She’s rolling and she’s always in a playful mood. It’s always a good thing to come home to her after a long day of work.”

Like Alya, Harris keeps rolling along. The 6’2”, 250-pounder is preparing for his sixth NFL season and one fan asked how it makes him feel that head coach Rex Ryan has stated that he’d do anything he could to help Harris earn a Pro Bowl invitation.

“I don’t know if there’s much that Rex can do, but all I have to do is control what I do on the field and that’s getting better each day, perfecting my craft, being the same person every day and trying to be a leader on this defense,” he said. “Everything else that happens would be great, but I’m more interested in helping the team out any way I can.”

It is the essence of David Harris — substance over style throughout his career. Last season, he quietly again led the team with 117 tackles (78 solo), tied for the team lead with four INTs, and was second on the club with five sacks. The perfection of the craft continues.

“One thing I’m focusing on this offseason is trying to become a step quicker, becoming leaner and just trying to be lighter on my feet,” Harris said. “I think a lot of guys on the defensive side of the ball have that same mentality. We know that we take a lot of pride in our defense and the way to that is to be in great physical shape, so that we can play longer and try to make that run, which we try to do every year.”

Ryan has said the Green & White continue to work on man coverage with their linebackers. Harris told me he’s decreasing his body fat, Bart Scott is down 10 pounds and Demario Davis, the third-round draft selection from Arkansas State, possesses 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash.

“Everybody knows what type of talent we have on the outside with Cromartie and Revis, and with Kyle in the slot. We know that we’re going to get attacked in the middle of the field and the tight end has become a big role in a lot of teams’ offenses,” Harris said. “So we have to be prepared to cover the middle of the field and that’s the backs included. We know that we have our hands full and we have to be prepared for anything the offense may throw at us.”

Offenses are again going to have to prepare for the tandem of Harris and Scott. “The Madbacker” has been one of the top stories of the spring, setting the tone on the practice field.

“You can hear Bart a mile away and he gives it to the offensive players every time they make a mistake. It’s just funny to hear because you know he’s back comfortable and being himself,” Harris said. “When you’re comfortable being yourself, you’re able to go out there and play the way you know how to play.”

Davis, who should be a valuable contributor immediately in sub packages and on special teams, is wise beyond his years.

“Demario is a step beyond any rookie that I’ve seen,” Harris said. “To be as young as he is, he is very mature. He’s very dedicated and focused on his craft. He’s always one of the first guys out at practice and one of the last guys to leave the field, and that’s always encouraging to see from a rookie.”

The Jets have increased their speed all around the defense and S LaRon Landry, another burner, hasn’t participated in team activities as of yet.

“I notice that across the board,” said Harris. “If you have been following the Jets since Rex got here, I’ll say we’re faster than the ’09 team and that says a lot.”

That ’09 unit finished No. 1 in total defense (252.3 yards allowed per game) and No. 1 in points (14.8 allowed) as the Jets advanced to the AFC Championship Game in Year 1 of the Rex regime. Ryan has indicated that he’s going back to his roots and that means more involvement in the defensive meeting rooms with the players.

“Scheme-wise it’s not going to be that different. It’s just that little things involved in each defense are going to be stressed more,” said the Hitman. “Little things like technique that you may not cover as much because you assume guys have understood what to do, but each day you emphasize little things. You always try to get better at something small, which may not have happened in years past.”

Minicamp will conclude today here in Florham Park, N.J., and Harris has a family vacation planned during his down time. But the new dad promises he’ll be ready for training camp and 2012. This Hitman has a heart, but business is still business.

“Me, my wife and my daughter are going away to Barbados for five days. First family trip, my daughter’s first time in a plane, so hopefully she won’t be acting up too much on the plane,” he said. “It is good to get away after these tough couple of months we had working out here and it’s always good to get away before the season starts. Once the season starts, it’s on.”


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Odds Aren’t Quite as Long for Bellore This Time

Posted by Randy Lange on May 30, 2012 – 3:35 pm

We’ve been hearing a lot about the bodily transformations going on in the Jets locker room thanks in part to the guidance from strength coach Bill Hughan and his staff. Bart Scott’s dropped 20 pounds and is looking, in Mike Pettine’s words, “is running around like a young Bart.” Kenrick Ellis has shed 15 pounds from last year’s 346-pound playing weight and wants to get rid of 5 more. Joe McKnight told us he’s added 15 pounds of muscle and lost no speed.

Add Nick Bellore to the list. As he walks through the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room, there’s a sense that his back muscles are rippling just a little bit more than the mind’s eye recalled a year ago, when he was the Jets’ undrafted rookie find out of Central Michigan.

But the Jets’ second-year linebacker and kick-coverage leader said the numbers in his case might lie.

“I weigh about the same as last year, around 245,” Bellore said. “But I’ve improved my body. Moving around, I can tell how I’m looking and how I feel. I’ve got the size to be able to handle my linebacker duties and I still have my speed for all the special-teams stuff.”

For Bellore, that’s important. Mike Westhoff and Ben Kotwica, watching glumly as the Jets had to release their top three ST tacklers/performers from the ’10 team in Lance Laury, James Ihedigbo and Brad Smith, needed some holdovers and new talent to step up and fill the void. They got that from the likes of Josh Mauga, Garrett McIntyre and Jamaal Westerman … and Bellore.

The Jets early on noted that Bellore could be one of their undrafted signees who might be able to break through to the roster. And they were right. He led the Jets with 22 solo and 31 total kick-coverage tackles (Mauga was second with 14 and 20). Many of the stops came for the kickoff team, which was sixth in the NFL in opponents’ average start after kickoffs (21.2-yard line) and third in the league in inside-the-20 stops on KO returns (26, behind New England’s 30 and Atlanta’s 28).

Bellore acknowledges he’s got a leg up on all the new guys in green trying to gain spots on the six special units.

“I think camp’s going to be easier for me,” he said after the last OTA practice of last week. “I know what’s around the corner. I’m more comfortable. I can just play football. That first year, you’ve got to meet everybody, get to know everybody.”

Now he’s got to fend off those who are out to bump him down the depth chart if not off the roster. The most dangerous player for Bellore probably is third-round rookie Demario Davis, whom Westhoff was very pleased to hear had fallen to the Jets with the 77th pick of last month’s draft. He has the speed and smarts to make an impact on specials right away and the upside to grow into a player at inside ‘backer behind David Harris and Scott, which is where Mauga and Bellore now reside.

“Demario’s a nice kid and a good football player. He picks things up fast,” Bellore assessed. “I have to take special teams and lead the group by making plays. Dave’s in front of me and he’s a great player. We have a bunch of great inside linebackers. I’m just continuing to learn so I don’t miss a beat.”

Bellore knows what’s ahead. He knows it won’t be easy. But he knows he’s done it before and he plans to do it again.

“It’s never going to be easy for me,” he said. “I’m always going to have to fight the odds.”


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More on Hayden and Some Yearbook Nuggets

Posted by Randy Lange on April 9, 2012 – 5:45 pm

The deal for Hayden Smith was finalized and announced Saturday. But who and what exactly have the Jets signed?

Smith is an Aussie athlete who was a Denver Division II basketball player and is still a pro rugby standout? The Green & White have done their share of cross-training over the years but such free agent signings of former wrestlers and basketball players and soccer standouts (think Pete Carroll, Jets, 1994 and Tony Meola) don’t often pay off for any NFL team.

Yet it only takes one once in a while to make it worth while. And Smith has got some things going for him as he attempts to make a little roster room for himself among the Rob Gronkowskis, Antonio Gateses and Dustin Kellers of the league. As Sam Monson said in his latest piece for ProFootballFocus.com today, “

“The first and most obvious thing that Smith has going for him is raw athletic talent. He played basketball in college before taking up rugby. Without meeting the NFL prerequisites for athleticism, Smith wouldn’t have a hope, but from his reported 4.75 40 time and his size, he qualifies. That athleticism is the reason that he was able to ascend rapidly in the rugby world to being a significant member of the US national team, but also (and perhaps more importantly), become a valuable squad player for Saracens rugby club of the English Premier division.”

Smith’s dimensions are a little more impressive than the 6’7″ and 240 pounds we pegged him at Saturday. He worked at the Senior Bowl this year and measured at 6’6″ and 265, a frame that he reportedly moves at 4.75-second speed in the 40. You can watch some of his drills in this YouTube piece, if you haven’t already checked it out.

And you can read Monson’s entire story at ProFootballFocus here. In one of his concluding remarks Monson compares Smith to Martin Johnson, another top rugby lock forward who participated in the 49ers’ 2001 training camp:

“Hayden Smith is a new breed of rugby player, and though he plays the same position as Johnson did, he represents a much more intimidating level of athlete — one that can meet the NFL standards by raw numbers alone.”

As for whether Smith can navigate all the other shoals of making it to an NFL roster, or even a practice squad, we’ll be covering that on newyorkjets.com when we talk with him, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum and assistant GM Scott Cohen, head coach Rex Ryan and others about this and many other topics as the offseason continues to head inexorably toward the 2012 season.

Five Fun Facts for This Year’s Yearbook

One of the things we do this time of year, besides presenting stories and blogs on current Jets and our annual predraft package, is to begin to fill in the pages of the Jets’ yearbook. One of the tasks in that regard is to come up with a fun factoid for each player who will have a page in the player section of the book — and this year that may mean around 90 factoids for the 90 players who may be coming to camp (assuming the NFL passes the expanded roster limit at its next meeting).

Not all of the facts and notes will find a place in the book, but here are five that are of interest at this early stage of the process. And I’ll pitch five more and five more after that down the road as we head toward Cortland and 2012 training camp.

■ Mo Lewis lives in two of the factoids I’ve roughed out. David Harris had four interceptions last year, the most by a Jets linebacker since Lewis pilfered the same number of picks in 1994. And then there’s Calvin Pace — including the playoffs, CP has totaled 28 sacks in his four Jets seasons, which are the most by a Jets LB in a four-year span since Mo racked up 30.5 sacks from 1997-2000.

■ A neat number on Shonn Greene concerns his knack for not getting tackled in the Jets’ backfield. According to Stats Inc., Greene was “stuffed” (tackled for loss) just 16 times in his 253 carries, a 6.3 percent rate that was second-best among the 53 RBs with at least 100 carries last year and best among the 31 backs with at least 150 carries. That tendency came in handy en route to Shonn’s first 1,000-yard season as a pro, 1,054 to be exact.

■ We duly noted rookie free agent TE Josh Baker’s big contribution to the offense, his 5-yard walk-in touchdown reception against the Giants. But did you know that Baker was born on Christmas Day in 1986 and that his first pro TD came on Dec. 24? An early holiday gift for the young man from Chesapeake, Va. (hometown), Delaware (his first college stop) and Northwest Missouri State (his last college).

■ One stat I didn’t do justice to regarding T.J. Conley’s first season as a pro punter was that he had 32 inside-the-20 punts last season. That’s a pretty good number — in fact, it was tied for third-most in the NFL. And if you add Conley’ 32 I-20’s to Steve Weatherford’s 42 from 2010 that tied the NFL record, the Jets’ 74 inside-the-20s over the past two seasons easily leads the league.

■ And while we did document Joe McKnight’s kickoff-return heroics well, here are a few items that I may not have noted prominently if at all: McKnight’s 31.6-yard average (on 34 runbacks) broke the Jets’ season franchise record of 30.7 (on 22 returns) set by then-rookie Bobby Humphery in 1984. And that averaged was the best in the NFL in the last 25 years. And while it’s possible that kickoffs from the 35 had something to do with McKnight’s success, it bears considering that No. 2 in the league was Green Bay’s Randall Cobb at 27.7, almost four yards less per return than Mighty Joe.

Confirming Jets-Giants Particulars

We tweeted it last week and it’s been up on our schedule page, but in case anyone missed it, the Jets-Giants  preseason date and time were firmed up a day after the NFL released the preseason schedule. Jets-Giants SummerFest No. 44 (as in the 44th consecutive summer the teams are meeting) will be held at MetLife Stadium(where else?) on Saturday, Aug. 18, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. ET.


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Help Us Crown the Best Jets Action Photo of 2011

Posted by Randy Lange on January 18, 2012 – 11:47 am

There are many ups and many downs to every NFL season, and many of those undulations by the Jets in their recently concluded season were captured mid-wave by our team photographer, Al Pereira, the lensman with the steadiest sea legs out there on the sidelines.

OK, enough with the ocean metaphor. We asked Al to riffle through the photographic Rolodex in his head and come up with, oh, the 22 best action photos from this season. Those photos are on the slideshow that is now live on the newyorkjets.com Fanzone section.

And now we turn it over to you, the most visually discerning fans in the game, and ask you to help us select the Best Jets Action Photo of ’11. And we’ve broken this contest into two parts for your enjoyment. Today we present the contest semifinals.

Those 22 photos, displayed in chronological order, can be viewed up close and personal by clicking on each shot in the slideshow. Take your time to savor each photo. Then vote. Alongside the photo display are five dropdown menus. In each menu, you can vote for one of the 22 semifinal frames. Vote for up to five of your favorite images, then click Submit.

We’ll end the semis, tabulate the results, and begin the finals all next Monday morning, when the five images that you’ve selected as the best of Al’s best will be shown alongside each other one more time. Then you’ll vote for your most favorite photo.

The voting in the finals will end Friday, Jan. 27, at noon ET, with the winning action photo unveiled shortly after.

And so we declare the Jets’ Best Action Photo of 2011 under way. Below is A.Pereira with some little background on his selection process and a skinny on each of his terrific 22. And send us a comment to the Radar on any or all of the photos here if you like. And now, here’s Al …

I’ve never found myself thinking in terms of Rod Stewart lyrics before. Honestly! But when my good friend and venerable Radar Ranger Randy Lange told me of the plans to put this “Best Jets Action Photo of ’11” contest together, I immediately started hearing “Every Picture Tells a Story” ringing through my head. And you know, in a GOOD way. Rod the Mod was on to something, maybe.

Every picture does tell a story, and the following photos will hopefully speak to you of some of the high points of the season that just finished. These are some of my favorite action shots … we’ll assemble another gallery soon, to include shots like these and also some of the behind-the-scenes views, portraits and other little gems.

For now, I feel honored to present this collection, where you can tell me which you like the best. With a few thoughts for each photo, here is my Best Jets Action Photo of ’11 gallery. Hope you like it!

1. Revis INT Return — I like Darrelle’s eyes in this shot. He makes the pick in the opener against Dallas and becomes a running back … sweet!

2. Folk Game-Winner —  Big moment from an emotional night, 9/11/11, and Nick Folk wins it vs. the Cowboys. Not sure who looks happier, but it may be Brunell.

3. Scott Sack — Bart smacking the ball loose on a sack against the Jaguars. Like that you can see where his right hand made the strip … and in a Titans uni to boot!

4. Sanchez Intensity — Love the look on Mark’s face at Oakland. I have a lot of these kinds of shots. He’s a real leader. That “C” looks good. And like the logo on his mouthguard.

5. Sanchez TD — When Mark gets close to the goal line, he’s a juggernaut. My favorite Sanchez TD this year, Superman coming in low vs. Miami …

6. Harris Crunch — I like David burying QBs, which he does quite often. This one resulted in another Revis INT.

7. Mangold Point — Nick is also a strong leader. You can see he’s all business here against the Chargers.

8. Wilson INT — This is a cool interception shot in the SD game. Those are tricky to get because, well, if they were easy to anticipate, QBs would go the other way! Kyle Wilson’s first of his career and you can see the intended receiver’s frustration behind this athletic pick.

9. Holmes TD — Speaking of athletic, Santonio makes plays all the time that almost make me stop shooting just to admire them. Almost. If I did I wouldn’t have been able to catch a great TD like this at Buffalo as he twists through three defenders. That’s “Tone Time” all over!

10. Slauson TD — Matt at Denver. A guard scoring and spiking?? Enough said!

11. ST Gang Tackle — Kickoff coverage swarms over Cassius Vaughn at Denver. Love these kinds of gang shots. You can see how special teams is a real group effort.

12. Pace Pressure — Calvin doesn’t get enough chatter from fans, in my opinion. Nice effort in harassing a QB that had a pretty good year.

13. Keller TD Jam — Dustin is really a great player, great dude, and an even better subject. Good air on the TD spike here at home against Buffalo.

14. Burress Wingspan — Big play by a big receiver in the big home game vs. the Bills. Plax makes it look easy.

15. Sanchez Windup — Good form and a strong look from No. 6 as he gets ready to fire at Washington.

16. Greene Tightrope — Beautiful effort by Shonn at the pylon vs. the Chiefs. High-flying Jet!

17. Pouha Sack — Sione really came on as a leader this year. And he is just eating KC’s Tyler Palko alive!

18. Burress Stretch — One more from Plax, and the prettiest TD of the year, in my opinion — a one-hander at Philadelphia. We liked it so much you can pick the sequence up as Wallpaper if you’d like.

19. Harris Takedown — I like Eli Manning, I really do. Like him best when we’re knocking him around, though. Here David Harris, with assist from Bart Scott, jar the ball loose, but Eli was ruled down by contact. Hmmm…

20. Wilkerson Sack — My favorite sack of the year, from the rookie DE. Eli does NOT look happy here!

21. Keller Reach — Another day, another play for Dustin. He takes it to another level in the red zone at Miami.

22. Cromartie INT — Was happy to capture this one. A real battle for the ball the Dolphins’ Brian Hartline — and a fine pick as the Cro flies!


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