Updated, 2:10 p.m. ET
No need to worry about Demario Davis getting back into the swing of things, easing into a new leadership role, feeling his way. Double-D’s already got his focus locked onto the job ahead like a laser.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, a lot of energy, a lot of athletic ability and speed,” Davis told me at the Atlantic Health Training Complex during a Phase 2 session of the Jets’ offseason strength and conditioning program. “The main thing is just all of us learning what to do, learning the best we can, understanding the concepts of the defense and being in harmony with a lot of communication, everybody being on the same page. We can be very effective. I’m very excited what this group of guys can potentially do.”
But surely every player and every team in the NFL has some extra energy at this time on the calendar?
“It’s not just regular energy. It’s a special energy,” Davis said, deadly serious. “There are some very big things, I think, about to take place, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a part of this unit. I’ve just got a feeling that some special things are about to occur. I’m not feeding into the negative being talked about. I view it, I see it every day. I know the pieces are aligning and the stars are aligning for a very big year of the Jets.”
Wow. An impressive take on these Jets. But with all of the comings and goings under new GM John Idzik, with all the work that must be done to come back from last year’s campaign, might that be a little on the optimistic side?
Davis doesn’t see it that way. The second-year linebacker’s laser is scanning his role for the coming season, and he sees great prospects for himself and his teammates.
“My approach is the same as always. It’s to get better every day, go out and be ready to contribute as much as possible,” he said. “I know my coaches are looking for me to step into that starting role and for me to be a leader. Coach Ryan’s personally issued the challenge, in front of the defense, so it’s all about me stepping up and taking advantage of that and making the most of that opportunity.”
Davis isn’t speaking out of school. The mantra under Idzik has been “competition, through and through,” so no one has a clear path to a starting gig and gobs of playing time yet. Leadership is a funny thing that doesn’t just happen. Yet head coach Rex Ryan was equally optimistic for Davis during the March conference call with Jets season ticket holders.
“Right now Demario’s the No. 1 Will linebacker on our depth chart,” Ryan said. “As John has talked about several times, you try to bring in as much competition as you possibly can, but clearly Demario is a guy that we feel really good about, we felt great about drafting him last year and he’s a guy that’s going to play a ton of football for us.”
Coming in as the third-round pick out of Arkansas State last season, Davis quickly racked up playing time. He was on the field for 371 special-teams plays, the most on the Jets, and 680 plays in all, 10th-most among defensive players and 18th on the team. He got his most action on defense late in the first half of the season, at New England and home for Miami, as Bart Scott worked on his injured toe, but outside of those two games averaged a little more than a dozen snaps a game.
This year it’s time to increase the reps under new coordinator Dennis Thurman, whom Davis met with at the start of the offseason program.
“I asked him when camp started what he wanted out of me. To be very specific, he said he wanted me to be able to fix my eyes, have a great understanding of eyes and concepts, to be physical and be a three-down linebacker,” Davis said. “He also issued the challenge of just understanding coverage at my position. So those are the big things I’ve been working on, focusing on, studying film, studying the game, being in the weightroom every day.
“I don’t think I can be more prepared for taking this opportunity than I am right now with the work I put in to this point, physically and mentally,” he said. “You can never have the attitude that you’re great. You always have to have the attitude that you’re just good. That keeps you working. You always have something to chase after.”
Davis is ready for the chase. And he’s planning on his laser helping to guide the Jets for the challenging season ahead.
Weeb Would’ve Been CVI Today
Happy birthday to Weeb Ewbank, the great Jets head coach who would have celebrated his 106th birthday today. Weeb, of course, died at the age of 91 in 1998, but memories of his teams linger on — the NFL championships won by his Baltimore Colts in 1958 and ’59, and that grand January day 44 years ago when his Jets beat his former Colts, 16-7, in Super Bowl III. He was the first Jet inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in 1978, and was in the inaugural class of the New York Jets Ring of Honor in 2010.
Tags: Bart Scott, Demario Davis, Dennis Thurman, Rex Ryan, Weeb Ewbank
Posted in Randy Lange | 44 Comments »
If you’re a filmmaker and a draftnik, or a draftnik and a pro football player, what better way to celebrate the draft than to make a film about it?
That’s what second-year Jets Demario Davis and Stephen Hill, the third- and second-round picks respectively in last year’s draft, are doing at this time.
Davis and Hill have been cast in the upcoming film “Draft Day,” which has been filming since Thursday at this year’s draft. The two Jets will play fictional potential first-round draft picks in the Green Room on draft day awaiting their selection, and both were reported to be filming their scenes at Radio City Music Hall this weekend.
If you think this is a dinky little college cinema-class production, think again. The film stars Kevin Costner, Denis Leary and Jennifer Garner and is directed by Ivan Reitman. The NFL has given its imprimatur to the production, meaning that while all the league people in the film are fictional, actual NFL team names and league/team marks will be used. No Miami Sharks here.
The film will also have roles for real live members of the NFL Network and ESPN crews covering the draft. And for a couple of young actors by the name of Davis and Hill.
Geno’s in the Building
Second-round pick Geno Smith checked out the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center once, during his predraft visit. Now he’s here today taking in things in a different light, as a new Jets employee. He’ll speak with reporters here this afternoon and that news conference will be streamed live on newyorkjets.com with an expected start time of 1 p.m. ET and then archived for viewing at your leisure.
We’ll hear more about Geno in the coming days, weeks and months, but for now here are some athletic family connections from his Wikipedia page:
Smith was born in Miami to Geno Smith Jr. and Tracey Sellers. His great-grandfather, Cyril Smith, was a bodybuilder and boxing referee from the Bahamas. His great-uncle, Danny Smith, was a record-breaking All-America hurdler at Florida State. And his cousin, Melvin Bratton, was a top RB at “the U” in the mid-Eighties who also played two seasons for the Broncos.
Dee and Sheldon Trending
Dee Milliner joins the Jets’ exclusive Alabama Alumni First-Round Club. Joe Namath, the top pick of the 1965 AFL Draft, began the club, and two other members, QB Richard Todd in 1976 and DE Marty Lyons in ’79, joined it before Milliner’s entry Thursday night.
Milliner was also the member of another fraternity at the top of Round 1. After the Jets took the corner at No. 9, the Titans went with G Chance Warmack at 10 and the Chargers reeled in T D.J. Fluker at 11. That’s three Alabama players in three picks, the first time that’s happened in Round 1 of an NFL draft since at least 1967, which as we all know by now was the first common draft between the AFL and NFL.
And Milliner and Richardson at No. 13 were part of another first-round trend. The Southeastern Conference had 12 players drafted Thursday night, the most of any conference in. Since 2000 the SEC has a solid lead on the conference field with 540 total draft picks. (Missouri joined the SEC last season.)
Tags: Dee Milliner, Demario Davis, Denis Leary, Draft Day, Geno Smith, Ivan Reitman, Kevin Costner, Sheldon Richardson, Stephen Hill
Posted in Randy Lange, Uncategorized | 153 Comments »
Updated Saturday, 4:50 p.m. ET
Next week’s draft is a big event for the Jets’ extended family. Fans are aware that CB Desmond Trufant out of Washington is Isaiah’s younger brother and Matt Elam, the Florida safety, is Abram Elam’s kid brother. But that’s just the start of the draft prospects with a little green and white in their blood.
Austin Peay QB Jake Ryan is the son of Pat Ryan, the Jets’ 13-year backup and sometimes starting QB from 1978-90. Pat, in fact, was 12-9 as a starter during Ken O’Brien’s stay with the Green & White, and that included starts in both of the 1986 playoff games, the win over Kansas City and the double OT loss at Cleveland.
Penn State RB Michael Zordich’s dad, Mike, also a Nittany Lion, went on to play 12 NFL seasons as a safety, the first two of which came with the Jets in 1987-88 after he was drafted in the ninth round of the ’86 draft by San Diego. The elder Zordich’s big green play was an interception-return touchdown to crown the Jets’ 1988 home-opening win over the Houston Oilers.
Then there’s North Carolina OL Brennan Williams. His father, Brent, began his NFL career as seventh-rounder in that same ’86 draft by New England, then went on to play 11 pro seasons. His last five games came as a member of the Jets in 1996.
And one name that initially got past me and the NFL’s media department but not past Radar regular GaryC is T.J. McDonald, the Southern Cal safety and son of Tom McDonald, not an ex-Jets player but a celebrated Trojans and NFL safety who came on this year as the Jets’ new DBs coach.
Where do all the Jets’ relatives figure to go? Desmond Trufant is possibly the third-best corner in this draft and should go in the second half of the first round. Matt Elam is perhaps the top strong safety prospect in this draft and could go low in Round 1 or in Round 2. T.J. McDonald and Brennan Williams are potential third- or fourth-rounders. Michael Zordich and Jake Ryan are possible undrafted free agent signees.
Familiar Names at Predraft Play 60 Clinics
A number of current and former Jets are slated to be involved in the NFL Play 60 Youth Football Festival being held next Wednesday and Thursday at Chelsea Waterside Park between 23rd and 24th Streets in Manhattan.
TE Jeff Cumberland, LB Demario Davis, WR Clyde Gates and RB John Griffin will be involved in conducting some of the clinics on Wednesday afternoon. Former Jets S James Ihedigbo, now with the Ravens, will also be a clinician, as will retired QB Mark Brunell, in town as we mentioned a few days ago to announce the Jaguars’ second-round pick from the Radio City podium on Friday night.
The players will team with third-through-ninth-grade students from schools in New York and New Jersey as part of the league’s youth health and fitness campaign. Students will learn NFL FLAG drills and Heads Up Football skills from USA Football coaches and will participate in activities with the players.
For the first time in this annual predraft event, two Thursday evening clinics are open for public registration. A parent or legal guardian may sign up his/her child (ages 6-13) at www.1iota.com. Space is limited.
Tags: Abram Elam, Brent Williams, Clyde Gates, Demario Davis, Isaiah Trufant, Jeff Cumberland, John Griffin, Mike Zordich, NFL Draft, NFL Play 60, Pat Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 61 Comments »
For Josh Bush, it seems like only yesterday when he was gearing up for his first NFL training camp.
Now it’s the middle of December and his rookie season is reaching its final stages.
“It’s gone by very fast,” Bush said Thursday inside the Jets locker room. “People were telling me stories about the rookie wall and this and that, but it’s flying by to me.”
Unlike his teammate, wide receiver Stephen Hill, Bush said of the rookie wall: “I haven’t experienced it.”
The Jets’ sixth-round draft selection described his first year in the pros as fun but admitted things could be better if the team had a winning record. The Green & White are 6-7 but still have a chance to end their season with an above-.500 record as three regular-season games remain.
One week ago, Bush made one of the best plays of his young NFL career during the Jets’ 17-10 win Jacksonville. On the second-half kickoff, he beat his block and took down returner Jordan Todman with a low tackle at the Jaguars’ 11-yard line. The play seemed to ignite the entire team as the Jets defense immediately forced a three-and-out and minutes later the Jets offense scored their first TD of the afternoon when RB Shonn Greene rushed for a 1-yard score to cap a nine-play, 57-yard drive.
“We just went over it in a special teams meeting,” Bush said of the play. “We put something new in. Coach Westhoff drew up a great play. I was really coming down, stacking up behind Antonio [Allen], and I read it. Nick [Bellore] was playing off of me, and the hole just opened up.”
No. 32 said he was only doing his job on the play, but acknowledged it was nice to see the play executed properly.
“We definitely practiced it,” he said. “That was exactly what we practiced.”
Bush, a safety on defense, has played a significant role on special teams this season. He played on 15 special teams plays against Jacksonville and on 168 this season, 44% of the Jets’ total ST plays. And his tackle of Todman was his 13th on kick and punt coverage this season, tying him for the team lead with Nick Bellore and fellow rookie Demario Davis.
Yet he never played special teams in high school and his only action on specials at Wake Forest occurred early his freshman year.
Although he hasn’t seen much action at his natural position, he has valued the opportunity to learn from coordinator Mike Westhoff, now in what he’s said is his final season as an NFL coach. Bush said what Westhoff has taught him most is that focusing on the task at hand can lead to successful things getting done. Yet early on, Bush said the ST coach had his doubts on whether he could ever be a special teams factor.
“He honestly told me when they drafted me that he didn’t think I’d be able to play special teams,” Bush said. “So just to hear that from him, and him telling me that I’ve been doing a good job, that’s just a positive.”
The Jets rank eighth in opponents’ kickoff-return average and are 13th with opponents’ drives averaging starts at their 21.5 yard-line. At the same time, they lead the league with 22 opponents’ drives starting inside their own 20. While the ranking certainly isn’t despairing, Bush knows it could be better.
“We’ve had ups and downs,” Bush said. “But for the most part, it’s not where we want to be.”
Tennessee’s kick-return unit ranks 31st in the NFL in return average, but Bush said the Jets, in a must-win situation every week now, can’t afford to overlook main returner Darius Reynaud and the Titans.
“It’s the NFL,” Bush said. “You can’t sleep on anyone. Special teams is a very important part of the game, so you’ve got to bring it every time.”
*Special Teams Sunday
Tags: Darius Reynaud, Demario Davis, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jordan Todman, Josh Bush, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, Tennessee Titans
Posted in John Holt | 63 Comments »
In large part, how the Jets finish this season will depend on how their top first-year players finish this season.
Which brings us to our annual “rookie wall” story. The Jets’ top three picks in the April draft all say the wall is a non-issue for them. The two guys on defense, top pick Quinton Coples and third-rounder Demario Davis, say they’re not expecting to hit the wall.
And second-round WR Stephen Hill says he’s already busted through it.
“I’m not going to be the rookie to say no, because I did hit it. And I learned a lot from that time,” Hill said today after the Jets’ first big practice of the week for Sunday’s home game against the Cardinals. “I felt it a little bit during training camp and definitely earlier in the season. It didn’t last as long as some of the guys I talked to said it would — they said it could go on for weeks. They also said it all depends on how you bounce back. It wasn’t even physical as much as it was basically mental.”
But now Hill feels he’s starting to hit his stride again, the stride we saw flashes of in the opener against Buffalo and for most of the game at New England last month. It’s time for his numbers — 38 targets, 16 receptions, 212 yards, 13.3 average, 2.2 YAC average, five drops, three touchdowns — to all take turns for the better.
And his timing is good, because as head coach Rex Ryan told reporters at today’s news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center: “This is a big week for Stephen to step up, and I expect him to. I like the way he played last week. He was confident in that game. I saw that just by the way he was running his routes and everything. He’s to the point where he’s wanting the football. He needs to step up big.”
Nothing like a little pressure from the coach. But that’s cool with Hill.
“It’s definitely not pressure. It’s an opportunity to go out there and get the job done. I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I feel comfortable, especially running routes, getting off certain jams, reading coverages. I’m definitely getting smarter with situations. I’m just making sure I come out there and do what I have to do.”
Coples has also had his moments. His sack total is still stuck on the two he had against Colts rookie Andrew Luck, although he missed a third in that game when he pressured Luck into an intentional grounding. But he’s still been contributing as he can, seeing almost 40 plays a game on defense and special teams, and he leads the Jets defenders with six tackles for loss and, if you throw in the zero-yard runs and receptions, 8.5 tackles for loss no gain.
“I’m good,” Coples said of in regard to the rookie wall. “I enjoy the game of football, which is a reason why I guess I haven’t hit it. I feel good, my body feels good. I think I’m doing well, getting better and learning what I need to know.”
This, too, is good news for the Jets because Ryan, although not singling out Coples as he did Hill, mentioned the need for more of one of “Q’s” specialties.
“We absolutely notice that we have to get to the quarterback better than we have,” Ryan said. “Here’s a team [in Arizona] with 30 sacks. What have we got, half of that? [Actually, 17] It’s a point of emphasis. I know we have the ability to rush the passer with this group of players. We just have to get it done.”
“That’s an opportunity for me to show what I was brought in to do and get after the quarterback,” Coples said. “I’m definitely excited about that and ready to get after it.”
The other Jets rookie who’s been logging lots of time is Davis. In fact, DD even added in a small way to the pass rush when he was chop-blocked by Stevan Ridley in the third quarter on his way to a potential third-quarter blitz-sack of Tom Brady in the Patriots end zone. Davis doesn’t get credit for a sack (there was none on the play), nor even the safety (it’s credited to the team due to the end zone penalty). But that’s fine by him.
“I was just doing my job, blitzing and going through the gap,” he said. “It was a good team play, but it was just one good play. You try to put a string of those plays together in a game.”
Davis is working hard at that goal as well. He’s been on the field quite a lot lately, in part due to Bart Scott’s toe but also because he’s the future of this D and there’s no time like the present to get some experience. In the last five games, in fact, Davis has been in on 344 plays on defense and special teams, which is the 10th-most on the team in that span and the sixth-most on defense.
And Demario, too, hasn’t felt the RW topple onto him yet.
“I haven’t really felt the rookie wall,” he said. “I’ve heard about it, but it’s not a factor right now. I still feel we’re in the season, five games to go, so I just focus on one game at a time. And I took precautions early on to make sure my body feels good and that mentally I can handle the load.
“You always want to be ready when your number gets called. I always try to go a little harder on scout team during the week against the ones, as much as I can, so that I can make practice harder than the games.”
How well the Jets finish is not just on these three rookies’ shoulder pads, but how they fare will have much to say about the final story of 2012 and for some seasons ahead. For that reason, as Hill said:
“I just want to finish this season hard, as hard as I can.”
Two of the Jets’ 18 players listed with injuries sat out today’s practice in the fieldhouse: WR Clyde Gates (concussion) and CB Aaron Berry (quad). Five others were limited: QB Tim Tebow (ribs), WRs Jeremy Kerley (heel/hamstring/illness) and Chaz Schilens (concussion/hip), DT Sione Po‘uha (back) and LB Bart Scott (toe). View the Jets’ full injury report here.
“I don’t want to get into specific things,” Ryan said of Tebow’s status for the Cards. “Let’s see how he progresses during the week. We’ll probably have a better, clear-cut picture as the week goes on. Right now we’re going to limit him in practice and we’ll see how he goes during the week.”
The Cardinals listed 10 players today. WR Andre Roberts (ankle) didn’t participate in team drills. Seven were limited: S Justin Bethel (shoulder), WR Laron Byrd (head), DE Calais Campbell (calf), WR Early Doucet (ribs), QB Kevin Kolb ribs), RB William Powell (shoulder) and RB Chris “Beanie” Wells (knee). S Kerry Rhodes (back) was full-go, as was LS Mike Leach (back).
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Clyde Gates, Demario Davis, Quinton Coples, Rex Ryan, Stephen Hill, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 34 Comments »
The season began with a story of Bart Scott’s rebirth — lost weight, increased speed and strength — but it has developed into a tale of toe woe for the 11th-year linebacker.
“It’s tough. It’s like losing a thumb on your hand. Everything you do comes off your big toe,” said Scott, who said he injured the painful digit on the second defensive play of Game 3 at Miami and isn’t sure of his availability for Sunday’s home rematch against the Dolphins.
Scott, who spoke to reporters after today’s practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, said the toe has been “beat up” since his college days at Southern Illinois. He described this latest episode as basically “turf toe, ligament damage, capsule strains and things like that. You’re talking about running on a toe that’s not all the way in the socket and it’s loose and swollen and you’re wearing an extra large shoe.
“I’ve always prided myself on being able to have a high pain tolerance and to be able to play through things. I just want to show my teammates that I’m willing to bite down and continue to play and do what I can to help us win,” he said in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room following today’s practice. “If we have to shut it down, we shut it down. If not, then we’ll be ready to go.”
Shutting it down for a game is not something Scott has done in a long time. Since 2004 with the Ravens, he has played in 119 consecutive regular-season games, the fifth-longest streak among active NFL linebackers and the eighth-longest among all active defensive players. Throw in 10 playoff games and the streak reaches 129 consecutive games. For the Jets, those streaks are 55 straight regular-season games played and 61 straight including playoffs.
Then as far as starts go, he’s started 111 of the last 113 regular-season games, and 121 of the last 123 including playoffs, and with the Jets it’s 53 starts in 55 games, 59 in 61 including playoffs.
The only start he didn’t make last season was Game 5 at New England, when the Jets opened with seven defensive backs on the field against Tom Brady and company. Then on Sunday he missed another start at Foxboro and played in what was likely an eight-season low of nine plays on defense and 16 total.
“Whatever is best for the team. I don’t care about a streak,” Scott said about the possibility of missing this start. “I care about helping my team win and trying to win a championship. That’s always been my primary goal, and that’s why I came here. If helping the team best is for me to be on the sideline and help these young linebackers see what’s going on and help slow the game down for them, then I’ll do that. If it’s biting down so we can get to the bye at 3-1 in our division, then that’s what I’ll do.”
The one young linebacker most impacted by Scott’s injury is third-round rookie Demario Davis, who was in for the most plays of his young career and the most among the Jets on Sunday, 98 total and 69 plays on defense.
Despite the difficulties, Scott did make one contribution vs. the Patriots, tackling RB Stevan Ridley for a yard loss on the Pats’ third-quarter touchdown drive. He’s tied for the Jets lead at 4.0 tackles for loss this season, and he leads the Jets in TFLs from 2009 to present with 25.5.
Scott’s being benched, as some reports had it today, doesn’t quite capture the situation, as head coach Rex Ryan explained at his news conference today.
“New England did a lot of stuff where they put him in space with a lot of empty sets, four and five receivers,” Ryan said. “Normally I like to keep Bart out there. But if he can’t change directions in space as well as he normally can, we’ve got to do what’s best for our football team. Is he going to be 100 percent this week? No. Hopefully when that bye comes, we’ll rest him that whole time and he’ll have two weeks to get ready for Seattle. Hopefully that will really help him.”
The Rest of the Injury Picture
Aside from Scott, the Jets’ health continued to slowly improve. DT Kenrick Ellis (knee), S LaRon Landry (heel) and RBs Joe McKnight (ankle) and Bilal Powell (shoulder) didn’t practice. But TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist), C Nick Mangold (ankle) and S Eric Smith (knee) all got some limited work in team drills and DT Sione Po‘uha continued as a limited participant. “Sione moved around and looked pretty good,” Ryan said of Big Bo’s Wednesday practice. “His strength numbers are up. I’ve been encouraged by that.”
Among the Jets’ full-go guys, WR Clyde Gates (shoulder),who’s missed two games, “looks like he’s coming around,” according to the coach.
Miami’s report remained short and static. DT Randy Starks, who was excused from Wednesday’s workout for non-football reasons, returned today and was taken off the list.
Tags: Bart Scott, Clyde Gates, Demario Davis, Miami Dolphins, Rex Ryan, Sione Pouha
Posted in Randy Lange | 61 Comments »
Rex Ryan’s message to his team, reporters and fans today, less than a day after the bitter disappointment of 29-26 in overtime at New England was that the best of 2012 is yet to come.
“We’re a better team right now, playing much better, than we were three weeks ago as a football team,” the Jets head coach said after experiencing a fourth-quarter comeback and blown lead all in the same game against their division uber-rivals. “I’ve seen this team improve on the practice field and with the games we’ve been playing.
“We’re just not there yet. We’ve just got to keep going, getting a little better. We’ve got to win these type of games. That’s what’s got to drive our team to prepare and get better. Obviously, that’s our mission. We’ve got to do something this week, which is something we haven’t done since I’ve been here, and that’s sweep Miami.”
Last year the Jets finally figured out how to beat the ‘Fins at home with their 24-6 Monday night win at MetLife Stadium. But they went from playing with house money with a hard-fought victory at Gillette Stadium to playing yet another one of those virtual must-win games. If the Jets are intent on showing the improvement Rex talks about, they’ll need to take a win and a 4-4 record into their bye week, then come out angling for a 5-3 or 6-2 regular-season finish to at least be in the postseason conversation.
A strong finish is obviously not out of the question. Yes, there’s the Thanksgiving night return match with the Patriots, and three of the four improved NFC West opponents, and a three-out-of-four-on-the-road finish, crowned by the Bills lying in wait for some opening-day revenge at the Ralph.
Yet none of the Jets’ remaining eight foes has a record better than 4-3, and the combined schedule strength is a very manageable .463 winning percentage (25-29). Very manageable, that is, if the Jets are intent on proving their coach right and overcoming the injuries and reversals of fortune they’ve suffered so far.
“We’re making strides, and not by luck or anything else. It’s by design,” Ryan asserted. “Guys have approached that in the classroom and on the practice field. We’re not where we need to be yet. We need to keep working hard and start winning games like this.”
The pessimist would say what makes the Jets think they’re ready to beat New England if they couldn’t do it Sunday, when they were 1:37 away from such a big triumph. The optimist would say that instead of house money, let’s shift sporting metaphors from poker to tennis. Let’s not worry about the Pats for five weeks but when it’s time, let’s hold serve.
One reason for the optimism is that while the Jets couldn’t keep Tom Brady in check when it counted, yielding a pair of 54-yard drives to Stephen Gostkowski field goals to pull the game out, they showed for the first time that, as imperfect as the offense sometimes was, it finally outgained the Patriots. The final tally was 403 yards to 381. Not a wide margin, yet perhaps significant since the Patriots had outgained the Jets in 17 of the previous 18 games in the series, by an average of 89 yards a game.
Additionally, the Jets cleared 400 yards of offense for the first time under coordinator Tony Sparano, in fact for the first time in 20 games since they last visited that figure at Oakland in last year’s Game 3. And we’re not sure what this says about reaching 400 in this day of NFL football, but the last time the Jets gained 400 against the Patriots was in the bad old year of 1996, when they put up 422 yards.
If Mark Sanchez can avoid the big pick on the throw into the red zone, if Stephen Hill can hold on to a crunch-time pass, if Jeremy Kerley is emerging as a dynamic pass-catcher, if Dustin Keller is really back to form, if the protection can hold up and get better still …
If, if, if. Yet with all the ifs, the Jets still matched the Pats in drive yardage (including penalties) at 387 apiece, still mounted six scoring drives, still rang up 26 first downs — tied for second-most first downs of the Ryan era (behind 28 in OT at Cleveland in 2010) — and have put together 10 regulation quarters in which they’ve outscored opponents, 71-41, since their San Francisco earthquake.
“We can’t go back in the past,” RB Shonn Greene said this afternoon about any inspiration he might draw from the progress he feels has been made since the 49ers game. “This loss right here hurts being that we fought so hard.
“But if we win this game [over the 'Fins], we can be right back where we were this past game. That’s how messed up this division is.”
The NFL at large has been scrambled a bit this season as well. But the teams that fix their problems quickest will be the ones standing in January. “We’ve got to learn from the mistakes we made in this game,” said Ryan, “and move forward.”
The Plays Are the Thing
Who had the most reps at New England? If you said rookie LB Demario Davis, go to the head of the class. Davis was in for a career-high 69 snaps on defense, in part package-related and in part Bart Scott big-toe-related. And DD was also in for a team-high 29 special-teams plays, giving him 98 plays in the game, second only to the Patriots’ Devin McCourty, who was in for 102 plays.
“We had Bart playing out there with a toe that most guys would’ve taken the last three weeks off with,” Ryan said. “Bart would’ve jumped out there, but from a physical standpoint, there was no way he could’ve played that spot and been as effective as Demario, who I thought for the most part played well. There were a couple of plays I’m sure he wishes he had back, but for the most part he played pretty well.”
Davis finished unofficially with six tackles on defense plus one more in kick coverage. Scott logged nine defensive plays and had one solo tackle, taking down Stevan Ridley for a 1-yard loss in the third quarter.
TE Jeff Cumberland anticipates returning to action after the bye week from a hand injury that has required a cast. … Joe McKnight and his sore ankle seemed to come out of the game fine. He had 23 yards of offense, 116 yards on kickoff returns and is sixth in the league with his 29.6-yard return average. … Nick Folk has equaled the franchise record he set last year by hitting all 11 of his field goal tries from the start of a season. … If you need a yard, call Greene. He converted on both of his third-and-1 carries Sunday and is 7-for-7 for the season. No one else in the NFL is better than 5-for-5 on third-and-1. And he has two 1-yard scoring runs this season, including the one to cap the Jets’ opening drive yesterday.
“Inside the Jets”
G Matt Slauson, RB Lex Hilliard and RB Jonathan Grimes are the three Jets guests on tonight’s “Inside the Jets” radio show from Grasshopper Off The Green in Morristown, N.J. The show will be hosted by voice of the Jets Bob Wischusen and will air live on ESPN 98.7 FM from 7-8 p.m. ET.
Tags: Demario Davis, Jeff Cumberland, Jeremy Kerley, Mark Sanchez, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, Tom Brady
Posted in Randy Lange | 92 Comments »
Updated, 4:20 p.m. ET
Demario Davis was drafted in this year’s third round for, among other attributes, his speed. That speed is starting to show up on defense, but it has been very much in evidence on special teams, especially during Sunday’s otherwise downer of a loss to the 49ers.
“The main thing about special teams is just to play fast and play physical,” said Davis this week. “You do that, you’re going to always be successful.”
Success was essential against the Niners’ always formidable return man, Ted Ginn — “He’s about as good as they come,” said fellow ST contributor Nick Bellore.
Ginn’s numbers were OK, four returns for 40 yards, but consider that he had only 20 yards on his first six punts (three returns, three fair catches).
Ginn (who we all remember had two kickoff-return touchdowns in a 7:01 third-quarter span of the Jets’ 2009 home loss to the Dolphins) had trouble getting traction. His second return was wiped out because Davis had beaten third-year Niner Anthony Dixon down the field and got shoved in the back, drawing his first penalty as a pro.
Then in the third quarter, Ginn took a Robert Malone punt to the right side of the field and headed parallel near the midfield stripe, looking dangerously as if he was about to turn it up into a bigtime return.
No dice. Davis flew past Dixon again and this time nailed Ginn by the ankles after a gain of only a yard.
The Niners’ final return was his best of the day, after the game was no longer in doubt, a 20-yarder, which nevertheless at the end of which he fumbled (Dixon recovered) when swarmed over by the pursuing Jets cover team. Needless to say, No. 56 was among the pursuers.
Davis played specials at Arkansas State and always took pride in it there. Up here there is no dropoff in his preparation and his impact. During the week he said, “Coach always says, ‘What are they saying about you in their meetings?’ I’d like to think they would say about our teams that maybe I’m one of the top guys.”
And then during the game, he said of the grading system of Mike Westhoff and other teams coaches, “Special teams is easy. There’s a man in front of you. One of you guys is going to get a plus and one of you guys is going to get a minus. At the end of the day, I want to finish the game with all pluses.”
Davis said just as at ASU, he’s playing on most of the Jets’ units — right guard on punt and kickoff cover, “anywhere” or “all over” on punt and kickoff return.
The Jets’ special units would have had a really nice day against San Fran except for one little glitch, the blocked punt that produced the visitors’ final touchdown. Davis knows that such a mistake could be the fatal difference for the Jets before Monday’s national audience. He knows that a Jets triumph will likely be built with the help of a special teams effort against Texans returner Trindon Holliday, punter Donnie Jones and kicker Shayne Graham.
“It’s definitely an important phase of the game that we feel like we have to win,” Davis said. “We’re just going to go out and try to execute our job. And if we do that we’ll be successful.”
Saturday Injury Reports
There was no great news and little change on the injury front following the Jets’ Saturday practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center.
Five players didn’t participate in today’s practice and four are listed as doubtful for the Texans: FB John Conner (hamstring), WR Stephen Hill (hamstring), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) and NT Sione Po‘uha (low back). The fifth DNP, LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring), is listed as questionable, as are LB Bart Scott (toe), S Eric Smith (hip/knee), RB-KR Joe McKnight (illness), and newly signed CB Aaron Berry (ribs).
The 14 other players on the list all practiced full and are probable for the Monday night affair.
Houston’s injured players, meanwhile, appeared to make strides toward better health as 15 of the 17 players on their I-report practiced full and 14 of them are probable, including WR Andre Johnson (groin), RB Arian Foster (hamstring), TE Owen Daniels, and the three starting interior O-linemen, C Chris Myers (back), G Antoine Caldwell (ankle/knee) and G Wade Smith (knee).
LB Ben Tate (toe) is questionable for the game, and S Quintin Demps (thumb/forearm) and WR Lestar Jean (knee) have been declared out by head coach Gary Kubiak.
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Demario Davis, Houston Texans, Mike Westhoff, San Francisco 49ers, Ted Ginn
Posted in Randy Lange | 65 Comments »
The Jets this evening have issued their first depth chart of the season.
With the distribution of the first game release of the summer to reporters, for Friday night’s Jets-Bengals game, we have posted the depth chart in that release on our site. You can find it here.
Bearing in mind that head coach Rex Ryan hasn’t announced any of his starters or any rotations for the game yet, here are a couple of spots worth mentioning:
Stephen Hill is listed at the WR starter opposite Santonio Holmes. If Hill starts vs. the Stripes —possible since Holmes is doubtful with his rib injury — he could be the only rookie to get the start in the preseason opener.
That would also make Hill only the fifth offensive first-year player to start in the first preseason game since 2000. Jonathan Goodwin started at LG at Pittsburgh in 2002, D’Brickashaw Ferguson at LT and Nick Mangold at C at Tampa Bay in ’06, and Jehuu Caulcrick at FB vs. St. Louis in Rex Ryan’s first game as Jets head coach in ’09.
“It definitely would be a great thing, a big honor, if that happened,” Hill told me. “But I’m still trying to make the team along with a lot of other guys. I’m doing my part to make plays and don’t get chewed out by the coaches.”
On this first chart, Chaz Schilens is listed at No. 2 behind Hill, while the Holmes side lists Jeremy Kerley No. 2 and Patrick Turner No. 3.
John Conner is the only player listed at fullback, with FB/TE Josh Baker being located No. 3 at TE behind Dustin Keller and Jeff Cumberland.
No. 1 draft choice Quinton Coples is backing up his old Hargrave Military teammate, Muhammad Wilkerson, at DE, with Mike DeVito checking in alongside Sione Po‘uha as the Jets’ three No. 1 D-linemen at this time.
Bryan Thomas is back at his old No. 1 spot at OLB after he missed the final 12 games last year due to his Achilles injury at Baltimore in Game 4.
Aaron Maybin, shot from a cannon this summer, checks in behind Calvin Pace at the other OLB spot.
Third-round rookie LB Demario Davis, sidelined for the start of camp with a hamstring pull, is listed behind Bart Scott and Josh Mauga at the Will spot on the inside next to David Harris.
And the most interesting experiment may be at safety, where the Jets are listing Eric Smith, Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry all as starters.
“That’s what we’re going to do, and we’re excited about it,” said Smitty, who started 14 of 16 games at safety last year alongside either Brodney Pool or Jim Leonhard. “I think it’ll be good for us.” I’ll have more on Smith’s view of his evolving role with his two new safety mates in the next few days.
Of course, the depth chart is only a guide for how players might be lining up in practice and at games but the Jets’ starting lineup. And it’s only updated once a week, before the game ahead. We’ll update our depth chart page every week as soon as we are able.
Two New Sets of Hands
The Jets also announced tonight they have signed two new wide receivers, Stanley Arukwe (6’0″, 180) of Troy, who will wear No. 16, and Joseph Collins (6’3″, 195) of Weber State, who will wear No. 87, while waiving recent WR signee Chris Forcier. That brings their roster to one under the 90-player limit.
Tags: Cincinnati Bengals, Demario Davis, depth chart, Eric Smith, LaRon Landry, Mike DeVito, Quinton Coples, Stephen Hill, Yeremiah Bell
Posted in Randy Lange | 22 Comments »
Updated 8:42 p.m. ET
Jordan White is not full-go yet, but the seventh-round rookie WR from Western Michigan has come off the Active Physically Unable to Perform list and later this week will be able to show a little of the skills that made him one of only six players in NCAA history believed to have caught 140 passes in a season, which he did for the Broncos last year.
“I feel fine. I’ll be ready to go this week,” White, who broke a bone in his foot during OTAs, said after today’s morning training camp practice at SUNY Cortland.
White’s quietly confident he can hit the ground running on Wednesday and Thursday, when he’ll be on the field but not in full pads, and Friday, when he can put the pads back on and let things fly.
For one, he said coordinator Tony Sparano and receivers coach Sanjay Lal have been on top of him and the rest of the WRs to get the mental reps wherever you can.
“Physically, we may not be running out there and catching balls,” he said, “but at the end of the day we’re still getting our mental reps.”
White also learned that through his own personal injury history, which included two seasons, 2006 and ’08, lost to knee injuries. He kept focused and as a result put up mind-numbing numbers his junior and senior seasons: 234 catches, 3,289 yards and 27 TDs in 25 games.
Then there is the company he keeps at Western. Greg Jennings, Green Bay’s Pro Bowl WR, is also a WMU product. During last year’s lockout, Jennings returned to the upper Midwest and hooked up with his fellow Bronco for workouts.
“Me and Greg, we built a relationship,” White said. “We spent two months on speed, conditioning and route-running. He still gives me insight into what to expect, inside football as well as outside football. Surprisingly, he told me that I have what it takes to play in this league.”
The Jets thought so, too, when they took him with the 244th pick of April’s draft, making him the franchise’s only Western Michigan draftee and its first since 1971. Soon it’ll be up to him to show what he’s learned and that he belongs.
The Rest of the Injury Picture
White was one of three young PUPs who were activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list today. Third-round LB Demario Davis finally got to ace his conditioning test and was cleared, as was free agent G Terrence Campbell. The new CBA stipulates injured players get phased back into full pads, so all three were on the field but in T-shirts today for a conditioning practice, then will get the next two practices to dress but not pad up. Finally the pads go back on Friday (which is a practice closed to the public).
Also on the good health news front, CB Darrelle Revis returned after sitting out Sunday’s 9-on-7′s and team drills due to his hamstring tightness.
But WR Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) remains sidelined for several more days, and head coach Rex Ryan has noted that WR Chaz Schilens has had some hamstring and groin issues, and other players have felt the early stages of tightness. So Ryan has combined with head trainer John Mellody and head strength coach Bill Hughan to come up with a slightly revised schedule for training camp going forward.
Instead of an 8 a.m. start with a shorter stretching period, Ryan said: “We’ll start practice at 8:30 and we’re going to have a 20-minute stretch warmup period. We’ve had a lot of hamstrings and those type of deals, and if we can prevent them, our strength and conditioning staff and trainers feel that’ll give us a better chance of being more successful with the hamstrings.”
Ryan also had one other clock issue on his mind. Although Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow came on a little stronger today than with their Sunday passing, they both may be holding onto the ball a little too long in the pocket, perhaps an understandable reaction to trying to make the correct reads and throws in Sparano’s new system. The answer: The horn is back.
“I read something that Green Bay did where they’re putting that little clock on the quarterbacks,” Rex said. “We’ve got to get that ball out. I’ve talked to Tony about doing that again. We did that last year a little and it drove everybody crazy. We’re going to go back to that. I just think we need to get the ball out of our hands a little quicker.”
Sanchez hooked up with WR Santonio Holmes on several crisp throws, the most impressive perhaps a laser on an intermediate slant that eluded defenders’ fingertips and found Holmes in stride. … Greg McElroy connected with rookie WR Royce Pollard for a downfield left sideline long ball, slightly underthrown but one that Antonio Cromartie couldn’t get back in time to defend. … The FG battle goes on. Today’s kick-off wasn’t a long-range one, with Josh Brown hitting his last two tries from 38 and 40 yards and Nick Folk getting the longest tries and putting both through from 42 and 44 yards.
DB Royce Adams was waived/injured. … Today’s attendance: 1,820. … No practice, players’ day off on Tuesday. They return for open practices Wednesday and Thursday. Friday’s practice is closed. Saturday night is the Green & White practice.
Tags: Bill Hughan, Demario Davis, John Mellody, Jordan White, Mark Sanchez, PUP, Rex Ryan, Terrence Campbell, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 47 Comments »