Here are today’s first-half tweets for the Jets-Jaguars game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, in case you missed them on Twitter. Follow Bob Wischusen, Eric Allen and me for our tweets during each Jets game on https://twitter.com/nyjets.
#RL Jets gameday captains today: Tim Tebow and LaRon Landry.
#RL JAX won opening coin toss, deferred. It’s 4th time opponents have won toss, deferred this yr. Jets record in first 3 games: 3-0.
#RL Mardy Gilyard makes catch on 3rd down, comes up inches short of 1st down. Gilyard’s first NFL reception since 2010.
#EA Antonio Cromartie was in there at WR on the first play from scrimmage.
#RL Jags in RZ, but Garrett McIntyre hits Chad Henne as he throws, Bart Scott picks off. Jets’ 1st takeaway in 4 games all-time at JAX.
#RL Jags in RZ, but Garrett McIntyre hits Chad Henne as he throws, Bart Scott picks off. Jets’ 1st takeaway in 4 games all-time at JAX.
#RL That’s the first time this season JAX has been prevented from scoring in the red zone after 25 successful chance (14 TDs, 11 FGs).
#RL Bart Scott’s INT was his first since 2006 with Baltimore.
#RL Robert Malone gets off 50-yd punt (49-yd net), 13th consec game he’s had at least one 50-yd punt, longest streak by Jets P since ’91.
#EA That was Bart Scott’s first regular season pick as a Jet. He now has 4 INTs in his career.
#EA Stephen Hill, who stepped up last week with 5 catches, getting looked at on the sideline. Hopefully the rookie’s right leg is OK.
#RL Jets WR Stephen Hill has a knee injury, his return to this game is questionable.
#RL Josh Scobee hits 31-yd FG to give JAX 3-0 lead over Jets. Scobee FG-kicking career vs Jets: 7-for-8. Scobee this season: 21-for-22.
#EA All turnovers are reviewed. Don’t think the TD will stand, but the Jets have 2 turnovers in +territory now.
#RL Jets D has no sacks of Chad Henne but pressured him into 3 incompletions for their first three-and-out series this afternoon.
#RL Josh Scobee 55-yd FG attempt to end 1st half is wide left. Scobee hit a 55-yder vs. Jets in Game 2 last season. Jets trail at half 3-0.
Tags: Bart Scott, Chad Henne, Derek Cox, Dwight Lowery, Garrett McIntyre, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jeremy Kerley, Mardy Gilyard, Mark Sanchez, Robert Malone
Posted in Randy Lange | 80 Comments »
It’s never just your average day when you make 28 transactions. Such was the case for the Jets today as they waived 26 and made a pair of trades. One big name who wasn’t on the move was Aaron Maybin, a former first-round pick of the Bills attempting to revive his career with the Jets.
“He did have some moments in that Philly game,” said head coach Rex Ryan in reference to the Jets’ Thursday preseason finale. “He had 1.5 sacks and he actually missed another one. Certainly he played well and he’s on our roster. He is one of those guys we had talked about. We had three spots open and I thought his play rushing the passer — that’s what landed him on the roster.”
Despite tying for the team lead with three interceptions in 2010 and taking two back for scores, Dwight Lowery will be an opponent for New York’s AFC representative in Week 2 when the Jacksonville Jaguars come to MetLife Stadium.
“It’s an opportunity for Dwight to go to a place where he’s really going to be used to compete for that starting nickel job, so I think it was kind of good for Dwight to go to Jacksonville to get more playing time,” Ryan said of the exchange that brought an undisclosed conditional pick back. “For us, we just felt we had the depth we need in the back end.”
Lowery didn’t play at all against the Eagles and the Jets were loaded at safety with Jim Leonhard healthy, Eric Smith and Brodney Pool back in the fold and Emanuel Cook packing a punch on special teams as well.
An early August injury to Rob Tuner hurt the Jets’ O-line depth, so acquiring Caleb Schlauderaff from Green Bay made sense. They liked the 6’4”, 302-pound rookie, a Utah product, when they were preparing for the draft. But Schlauderaff, who Ryan said practiced center with the Utes, might not necessarily be the first option at C if Nick Mangold went down.
“Will our best option to put Matt Slauson at center if something were to happen? Maybe so. We’ll see what we have here,” he said.
The Jets have three players who figure to be out for an extended bit of time, but there are no immediate plans to place the aforementioned Turner (right leg), WR Logan Payne (left wrist) or QB Greg McElroy (right thumb) on season-ending IR.
“It’s hard to tell when exactly guys will be back,” said the third-year head coach. “We’ll take a look at it, but right now we have no plans to put them on injured reserve.”
It can’t be ruled out that the Jets will add another quarterback as a couple of their former signalcallers — Kellen Clemens and Kevin O’ Connell — are both free. But as of this evening, rookie swingman Jeremy Kerley is the team’s third QB.
“He’s a young man who can take snaps. We did have him take some snaps underneath center as well as in the shotgun,” Ryan said. “That would be our No. 3 right now.”
Although the Jets don’t have any backup at fullback, the hope is John Conner (left ankle) will be ready for the season opener against the Cowboys on Sept. 11.
“He’s spending like 15 hours a day in treatment, so he’s trying to get back and I would never bet against him,” Ryan said. “I’m anticipating that he will be back, but we’ll know later in the week as this thing gets going if that’s a real possibility. I believe it is. He’s doing everything in his power to get back.”
Rest assured Mike Tannenbaum and the personnel department are scouring the waiver wire tonight. The roster is an ever-changing document, but two who should be feeling worthy of celebrating are rookie inside ‘backer Nick Bellore, a Central Michigan product, and pass rusher Garrett McIntyre, a Canadian Football League transfer.
“Both those guys did extremely well in the preseason. They’re tough, smart football players and they earned it,” Ryan said. “They came to a team that in my opinion has the best defense in football. Those two guys really stepped up and they also did a nice job for Westy on special teams, so they have a lot to be proud of.”
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Caleb Schlauderaff, Dwight Lowery, final cuts, Rex Ryan
Posted in Eric Allen | 39 Comments »
Today is “big guys’ practice.” Today will feature the first goal-line drills of Jets training camp.
Head coach Rex Ryan reminded reporters why this goal-line practice is more significant than in previous years.
“Really, when you think about it, this is the first hitting we’ve done since that Pittsburgh game with the No. 1 guys,” Ryan said, summoning up the AFC Championship Game against the Steelers in January. “We had a little scrimmage out there the other day with the threes, the young guys. But I’m sure it’ll be fun and lively out there today.”
A reporter asked if that means that Rob Turner could get into another skirmish today. Ryan at first said he wouldn’t bet against his scrappy offensive lineman on that point, but then added seriously that it’s time in camp for all Jets to focus less on taking out camp on their teammates.
“I told the guys we’ve met our quota” of brawls, Rex said. “I understand that happens, but I let ‘em know, ‘Hey, it’s just time to play football.’ “
Today’s goal-line drills are sure not to help the team’s intrasquad mood, but it’s hard to ignore the realities of this summer’s new landscape. Ten NFL teams begin their preseason schedules in five games tonight, and the Jets conclude Week 1 with their opener at the Texans on Monday night (8 p.m. ET).
“Just having a different colored facemask to look at is nice,” said QB Mark Sanchez after this morning’s walkthrough. “It’ll be good to clear some things up and it should tell us a lot about our team, especially our young guys.”
Ryan had one more observation during today’s news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center and that was in regard to this year’s schedule and the absence of a formal Green & White Scrimmage that had been a staple of many previous Jets summers.
“Our Green & Whtie Scrimmage will be when we play Houston. That’s the way we’re approaching it,” the coach said. “When you’re weighing how you’re going to do your things, ‘We could have one here or whatever,’ it might work on the timeline. But we’re down practices [from last year's camp] and I never thought it was appropriate. So we’ll just have it in our Houston game.”
Ryan was asked if he’s comfortable at tight end now. To explain how comfy he is, he went back a few days to a visit from a former Ravens player of his acquaintance.
“You know we were looking at Todd Heap,” he said. “It never worked out. I love Todd, I think he’s a great receiver and a good blocker. But this has worked out. Our two guys have both made improvements.”
By his two guys, he’s referring to “2 and 2A” behind Dustin Keller. Matthew Mulligan, he said, has improved as a receiver, and Jeff Cumberland has picked it up as a blocker. “I’m more comfortable there now than I was,” the coach said.
As for Keller, he talked about how he tried to spend a lot of time with Sanchez, which one day left him just a little hot under the horsecollar:
“We had a photo shoot a month or so ago, and even when we were wearing our full gear for the camera, he still was making me go out there and run routes and stuff. It was really hot, I wasn’t too happy about it, but you got to put in the work.”
Dwight Lowery is still listed at 198 pounds but he redistributed some of it in the offseason, and also has had his name redistributed on the first depth chart of the season, from corner to safety.
“I think that’s why he got the size he did, because he wants to be a safety,” Ryan said. “But we all know if we get a few injuries, ‘Hey, kid, get out there.’ Dwight gives us position flexibility. The more you can do the better.”
Ryan said he didn’t scout Cordarol Scales, the WR the Jets signed Wednesday, but he watched Scales work out: “I was impressed with him. He’s a big receiver, a hard worker. Obviously our scouts brought him here for a reason.” The Jets didn’t have to make room on their 90-man roster because Scales was No. 90, but today the team has just announced that it has released LB Stafford Gatling, S DaJuan Morgan and DT Carlton Powell.
Ryan said WR Plaxico Burress continues to be monitored, due to “a little more swelling” in his sore ankle, but stressed the injury is “minor” and that Plax should be working at today’s open practice. … CB Marquice Cole is back in camp after receiving permission for an extended absence due to a personal matter.
Tags: Cordarol Scales, Dustin Keller, Dwight Lowery, Jeff Cumberland, Mark Sanchez, Matthew Mulligan, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 8 Comments »
There are signs of life at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center like we haven’t seen in four months.
Bill Hughan and his strength and conditioning staff are busy getting the weightroom ready for business. Blake Hoerr and his grounds crew are laying down yardline numbers and otherwise tending to the three beautifully manicured grass fields outside the building. The blocking bags, some green, some red, are being laid out and getting sprayed and dried.
And the biggest deal, as one coach captured it: “Players are here today.”
Indeed, signed Jets have begun arriving at the facility for the official 10 a.m. opening time under the terms and guidelines of the new CBA that owners and players agreed to Monday morning.
DE Ropati Pitoitua was the first to drive up to the security booth, followed by OL Vlad Ducasse. Then owner Woody Johnson came up to chat with the score of reporters and camera people gathered on 1 Jets Drive for the early arrivals.
In short order came TE Dustin Keller, DT Mike DeVito and QB Mark Sanchez, followed quickly by C Nick Mangold, in inverse order of how those two usually line up on the field of play. Then came CB Kyle Wilson, LB Jamaal Westerman, DB Dwight Lowery, QB Mark Brunell and guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson. Others are expected to arrive during the morning and afternoon for this voluntary return to team headquarters.
The Jets, along with players around the league, are starting to get the new lay of the land based on the CBA. The initial word was that signings of draft choices and undrafted free agents as well as negotiations with all unrestricted/restricted FAs can begin today, with the starts of camps being staggered throughout this week based on when teams play their first preseason games — the Jets and Texans, playing Monday night, Aug. 15, in Houston, will start practices 15 days earlier, on Sunday, July 31.
Wilson, last year’s first-round pick, said he’s glad to be back and and ready to roll.
“My goal is to just come in and get better, build my foundation and springboard into the season,” he said. “I lost some weight this offseason. I’m in the best shape of my life.”
As guard Brandon Moore, expected to check in today, told newyorkjets.com Monday night, “It’s good to be talking about football again.”
We’ll have player interviews with my partner, Eric Allen, and the Jets’ multimedia team, up on the site early this afternoon. And some players are expected to check in for more formal interviews with reporters from the media room podium. We are streaming some of them live now and we’ll bring you reports on those sessions later today.
Regarding the start of training camp and open practices, those schedules have not been circulated yet but as soon as we get information that we can pass on to you, we’ll do it here onnewyorkjets.com.
Tags: Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, CBA, Dwight Lowery, Mark Sanchez, Nick Mangold, Ropati Pitoitua, Woody Johson
Posted in Randy Lange | 25 Comments »
Jets fans are much in evidence in the Circle City these days. They dominated a restaurant or two in downtown Indianapolis and belted out more than a few “J-E-T-S” chants, much to the consternation of the locals.
And they’re expected to be in evidence in the just now filling up Lucas Oil Stadium, along with more than a few Jets and Jets-related celebrities. Expected in the stadium: ex-Jets QB Boomer Esiason, working the game for Westwood One Radio; former Jets Jason Fabini, a Hoosier himself, and Marvin Jones; Marty Schottenheimer, father of the Jets offensive coordinator; Jets fans and funny men Ray Romano and Kevin James, and Fireman Ed Anzalone, who should be visible about six rows up behind the Jets bench during the game.
Will the Jets be treating all their followers to a Saturday night delight in Indianapolis? That’s the idea.
But of course, the Colts stand in the way. And they stood tall in this venue a little less than a year ago when Peyton Manning and the Indy offense roared from 17-6 down to 30-17 ahead and on to the Colts’ Super Bowl date with the Saints.
And Lucas Oil can be a deafening place to play, even with Jets fans scattered throughout the building. But the Jets have shown their mettle on the road in their two seasons under head coach Rex Ryan. They have gone 6-2 away from New Meadowlands Stadium this season and 13-5 in 2009-10, including last season’s playoff run.
And while it’s not necessarily a green badge of courage, the Jets have become familiar with the trappings of being a road playoff team. Tonight is their eighth consecutive postseason match on the road, or ever since they defeated the Colts, 41-0, at home in the 2002 playoffs. In the previous seven games, their record is 3-4, with the wins coming after the 2004 regular season at San Diego and last season at Cincinnati and San Diego.
Also worth considering is that while the Jets appear to be in better health than in recent weeks, the Colts are suffering. They have put 17 players on IR this season, and of the 11 players listed on this week’s injury reports, reports are that RT Ryan Diem, LB Clint Session and DB Kelvin Hayden will not be available.
Still, the ‘Shoes have Manning and the Jets have Mark Sanchez, sore-shouldered but ready to reprise his role as a young NFL QB rising to the challenge on the NFL’s second-season stage. It should be an exciting evening for Jets fans.
The Jets’ inactive list for tonight’s game has a few surprises. DE Vernon Gholston has been deactivated, a CD (coach’s decision). RB Joe McKnight, who starred in the backfield last week vs. Buffalo, is also IA. So are CB Isaiah Trufant, OL Vlad Ducasse, DTs Jarron Gilbert and Marcus Dixon, and TE Jeff Cumberland. (Kellen Clemens is the third QB.)
With the two D-linemen down, the Jets have four DL activate for this game — starters Shaun Ellis, Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito, and DT Trevor Pryce, back and available. Ryan and DC Mike Pettine have gone heavy on the back end as they anticipate defensing Manning passes to his receivers.
Also for the Jets, Dwight Lowery will stay at safety in the starting lineup, although Eric Smith is back from his concussion and available for the first time in four games. And Damien Woody is back in the OL starting lineup at RT, after also sitting out three games following his knee scope, with Wayne Hunter returning to his role as the backup at both tackle spots.
Update, 7:47 p.m.: The Colts’ inactive list contains several more starters, further depleting their ninth consecutive playoff effort. DT Antonio Johnson is inactive, as are Session, Hayden and Diem, as mentioned above, plus S Al Afalava, Gs Jamey Richard and Jaimie Thomas, and T Joe Reitz. Indy does not designate a third QB.
The Jets are wearing their white jerseys and white pants for this game. As you know if you’ve followed the numbers in these pregame blogs, the Green & White fare very well in white & white. They’re 7-3 in that combo this season (although 1-2 in their last three) and 13-5 in all white in the Ryan regime. The Jets wore their road whites in both games at Lucas Oil Stadium last season, the 29-15 Week 16 triumph and the AFC Championship Game loss.
Ryan tabbed six players as his gameday captains: DE Shaun Ellis, CB Darrelle Revis, G Brandon Moore, TE Ben Hartsock, P Steve Weatherford, TE Dustin Keller.
Gene Steratore is this wild-card games referee. This is Steratore’s sixth Jets game as the man in the white hat. His first was the 2006 season opener at Tennessee, Eric Mangini’s first game as Jets head coach. His last two were the 2008 primetime triumph at New England and last season’s 38-0 rout at Oakland.
The Jets-Colts game has drawn NBC’s A-team, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, in the booth. This is only the fourth Jets game on the network since it passed the AFC franchise on to CBS. They are 3-0 in those most recent NBC games, last year’s regular-season finale and then AFC Wild Card win, both against Cincinnati and this year’s Game 3 at Miami.
Tags: AFC Wild Card Game, Damien Woody, Dwight Lowery, Indianapolis Colts, joe McKnight, Lucas Oil Stadium, Peyton Manning, Rex Ryan, Vernon Gholston
Posted in Randy Lange | 27 Comments »
Jim Leonhard might have been placed on injured reserve on Dec. 4, but the defensive signalcaller hasn’t been invisible here at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
“I’m starting to feel a lot better. It’s 2½ weeks after surgery as of today and I’m starting to turn that corner and take the next step,” said Leonhard, who fractured his right tibia in a Dec. 3 practice after colliding with WR Patrick Turner. “I have been able to do a lot of rehab, which is surprising. You get a broken bone like this, you never know how it’s going to go and it’s frustrating. But it’s been great to be around the guys, great to be around the building.”
Leonhard played 11 games for the Green & White in 2010, totaling 66 tackles, 1 INT, 6 PDs and 1 FR. But the six-year pro has participated in the last two AFC Championship Games and he lives for this time of year.
“It’s a crazy thing and the most frustrating thing for me is when it happened — December. You want to play in December, you want to play in January and close seasons,” he said this week on “Four Quarters.” “Not having that opportunity is the thing that hurts me the most.”
The Leonhard surgery went well and he began to lift with his upper body this week. And if rehab goes according to schedule, he should resume football activities in the spring.
“They said it’s probably a three-to-four-month process until I’ll be playing football again, but there will be a lot of ups and downs in the next few months,” he said. “I know that, I’m very aware of that. But I feel very fortunate to have the doctors we have, the training staff we have and the support system the Jets provide.”
In his traditional good spirits, a noticeably trimmer Leonhard also can find comfort in a former teammate’s comeback with the Seattle Seahawks this season.
“The one silver lining in this is Leon Washington had an injury [broken right fibula on Oct. 25, 2009] that was very similar and worse to this last year. I’ve been able to talk to him and our trainers and they’ve already gone through this process,” he said, “so they know exactly the steps that have to happen and kind of the landmarks I need to be hitting in my rehab.”
Serving as the ‘Hawks’ primary kickoff returner, Washington has averaged 27.0 yards and has taken three back for scores. Both players are considered emotional sparkplugs and the Jets looked flat in New England three days after the loss of Leonhard.
“I think it definitely affected them. I try to be an emotional leader,” said Leonhard after I suggested that his absence had a major impact on New York’s AFC representative. “I’m not the most vocal guy, but I’m a guy who plays with heart, a guy who plays with passion and tries to be a leader of the group. When you lose someone like that, it definitely hurts.
“It takes you a little time to adjust and to find that leadership in different places, and I think we’ve done that. On this team, we have great veteran leadership and it’s only a matter of time for another guy to step up and fill the void.”
The Jets have been very thin at safety in recent weeks. James Ihedigbo (ankle/knee) missed the Dolphins game and then Eric Smith (concussion) sat out last week’s key win over the Steelers. On Thanksgiving, the Jets started Leonhard and Smith at safety and then three games later they lined up with Dwight Lowery and Brodney Pool as the last line of defense.
“The freelancing and the freedom Rex and Coach [Mike] Pettine give you in this defense is generally based on how much you know and how much you understand everything else that is going on around you. I see myself as a player who is allowed to do that a lot more because I have a pretty good understanding of what’s going on,” Leonhard said.
“It definitely takes experience in this system and it takes more reps, which are hard to come by late in the season because you can’t practice as hard, you don’t have the training camp and different things like that. There probably is a little bit less [freelancing] going on than when I was in the game, but they always keep it interesting.”
If your football team isn’t banged up in late December, then you’re either in a two-hand-touch or flag league. It can sometimes be a war of attrition in the NFL and you are going to need contributions from some of the lesser-knowns.
“Our defensive staff finds ways to put players in a position to make plays and you see that on a week-to-week basis, a different guy stepping up,” said Leonhard. “You look at Marquice Cole. He breaks up the last two plays against Pittsburgh. He’s had a limited role on this defense up to this point and guys are going to step up. You have to. It’s a business where you have to step up or someone else is going to take your spot. It’s cutthroat, but that’s the business we live in and we enjoy it.”
A football junkie, Leonhard is trying to help his team in any way he can. He comes in to meet with coaches and players to talk Xs and Os and also to provide motivational talks when necessary. He is already eyeing 2011 while still helping the 2010 team attain its goals.
“I want to help this team. I love this team and I feel like we are going to do special things to close this season off and you want to be a part of that,” he said. “The hardest part when you’re injured is you’re kind of pushed to the side because you’re focused on winning football games and once you’re injured you can’t help that. I’m trying to get back in the mix a little bit.
“It’s tough at first because you miss it and you want to be out there on the field with your teammates and you can’t be there. Now I’m trying to get to that point where I’m trying to help out any way possible and we’ll see.”
Tags: Brodney Pool, Dwight Lowery, Eric Smith, James Ihedigbo, Jim Leonhard, Mike Pettine, Rex Ryan
Posted in Eric Allen | 28 Comments »
The funny thing about Sunday’s Jets-Miami game is that Dolphins punter Brandon Fields got well-deserved praise for his punting. But had the Jets managed to squeak out a touchdown or keep the ‘Fins out of the end zone and come away with the victory, the praiseworthy punter would’ve been Steve Weatherford.
The reason Fields had such long fields to bomb his 10 punts an average of 56.4 yards each was because the Jets defense was holding the Miami offense after Weatherford’s mostly surgical punts. His first three punts on the game were all not only inside-the-20 kicks but inside-the-10‘s. Six of his eight punts were I-20s — the most in a game by a Jets punter since at least 1991. Four were fair-caught, and none were returned.
Yet Weatherford had a punter’s lament when I talked with him this week. His 38.4 gross and 35.9 net just didn’t excite anyone except himself, Mike Westhoff, Ben Kotwica and the punting connoisseurs out there.
“It stinks because it affects your overall numbers for the season,” he said. “That bothers some guys. But at the end of the day, you’re doing the best you can. You’re punting from the 44-yard line and the best [net] punt you can possibly get is 43 yards. I had a punt from the 36 and we were lucky enough to down it at the 1, but still, that’s a 35-yard punt. For most guys, that’s a bad punt.
“But the ability we’ve had to pin guys deep, between myself, Marquice Cole and Dwight Lowery downing the ball, I think that’s really helped our chances of winning the game.”
It will be interesting to see who Weatherford’s flyers are Sunday, since Cole was inactive for Miami and Lowery for the immediate future is a starting safety.
Meanwhile, except for New England, Weatherford’s numbers continue to impress. He’s purring along at 43.2 yards gross and a career-high (so far) 39.0 net, and he continues among the NFL’s leaders in three lesser-known, interrelated and important categories.
■ Weatherford’s six I-20s vs. Miami give him 32 for the season, No. 2 in the league behind only the 34 of Baltimore’s Sam Koch.
■ His 32.9 percent of punts returned is also second, trailing the 28.6 of Jacksonville’s Adam Podlesh.
■ His and his coverage team’s 24 fair catches forced are tops in the league.
Interestlingly, that fair catch number is only one better than Pittsburgh’s 23, and of course the Jets and Steelers will kick it off Sunday at Heinz Field.
But the Steelers lost the guy who forced most of those FCs, Dan Sepulveda to injured reserve. Jeremy Kapinos, a Jet for a game in ’07. Kapinos picked up where Sepulveda left off with three I-20s and two FCs on five punts against the Bengals.
It will be interesting to see whether the current Jet or the former Jet supplies an edge to his team, and whether that edge is steely enough to help his team to victory.
One final note on Fields’ game: His 56.4 gross was the best by an opponent in Jets franchise history (minimum of four punts). And his 49.6 net was the third best vs. the Green & White since 1976.
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Daniel Sepulveda, Dwight Lowery, Jeremy Kapinos, Marquice Cole, Miami Dolphins, PIttsburgh Steelers, Steve Weatherford
Posted in Randy Lange | 14 Comments »
Wayne Hunter’s about to break one of those long droughts that no one outside of his family and the Jets locker room probably knows about.
“This is my first start as a tackle,” said Hunter today, wearing his eternal off-the-field smile at the group of reporters that approached him right after he got out of the shower and right before he needed to be in a meeting. “I’ve been on teams with guys who’ve been so healthy on the offensive line. They just haven’t gotten hurt.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “It’s exciting, nervous … more exciting than anything,”
The length of Hunter’s career can be measured several ways. He was Seattle’s third-round pick in 2003 so this is his eighth NFL season. He didn’t play as a rookie so that makes it seven. He sat out most of ’07 to knock it down to six and change. And in those six-plus seasons, he’s played in 44 regular-season games plus three in the postseason.
In all that time, he’s made just three starts, two last year, one this year at Denver, all as a blocking tight end.
“Playing jumbo tight end has kept me in the game,” Hunter explained. “It’s basically tackle sets, just further out. That’s kept me prepared for times like this.”
Now he’s getting ready for Sunday’s start against LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison — “I’m preparing for both” — and the Steelers defense with about six quarters of work at tackle the past three games. He took over for Woody and his wounded knee late in the first quarter against Houston, then came in on the third series of Sunday’s game vs. Miami.
“It hasn’t been easy — Mario and Wake,” he said, referencing DE Mario Williams of the Texans and Dolphins LB Cameron Wake. “But the cliché is if you want to be the best, you’ve got to go against the best.”
Hunter gave up sacks to Wake, not a high crime considering the Dolphin’s league-leading 14 sacks but a misdemeanor at least, but that hasn’t diminished Rex Ryan’s view of Hunter’s value to the Jets.
“I’ve said all along I think Wayne’s a tremendous football player who can be starting for a lot of teams in this league,” Ryan said at today’s news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “This is going to be a challenge for all of us, but I think Wayne’s ready to do the job.”
“Rex tends to exaggerate sometimes,” Hunter said, “but I’m glad he’s got that confidence in me.”
And even though Hunter has scuffled through the past several games, he has confidence in himself because, well, he’s that kind of guy, but also because except for training camp, he doesn’t get long stretches to practice his chosen craft.
“I think playing offensive line, a lot of that has to do with finding a rhythm. I don’t think you can get some rhythm until you get some gametime,” he said. “So I’m hoping to find my rhythm in this game, possibly the next, depending on how long Woody’s out.”
Woody’s three-word advisory to Hunter before he got his ‘scope Wednesday: “Don’t get comfortable.”
Hunter’s two-word response: “Wally Pipp.”
Or words to that effect.
Ryan confirmed that Dwight Lowery will get the start at safety Sunday at Heinz Field alongside Brodney Pool. Who will call the secondary’s signals with Eric Smith sitting out with a concussion? “Who’ve we got left?” the coach said. “We’ll figure it out.”
But Rex added that Pool, new to the system in the offseason, has been immersing himself in the playcalling details before and after meetings and practices. “It’s been impressive,” Ryan said.
Ryan today declared Woody and E.Smith out for Sunday’s game. Others who didn’t practice in team drills today were S James Ihedigbo — “This is Dig’s kind of game … I think he’s going to play for sure” — and DT Trevor Pryce — “Hopefully he’ll play but I’m not 100 percent on that right now.”
CB Darrelle Revis was listed for the first time in three weeks with a hamstring issue and was limited at today’s outdoor turf practice, although Rex said of his CB, “I expect Revis to play. That was more precautionary than anything.”
Update, 6:15 p.m.: The Steelers continue to list LB James Harrison (illness), S Troy Polamalu (ankle) and DE Aaron Smith (triceps) as not practicing today. They also added two more names to the DNP section of their injury report: TE Heath Miller (concussion) and DT Steve McLendon (stinger).
Tags: Damien Woody, Dwight Lowery, Eric Smith, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, PIttsburgh Steelers, Rex Ryan, Wayne Hunter
Posted in Randy Lange | 12 Comments »
Rex Ryan growled the obvious at today’s first news conference of the new week about the weekend business trip to Pittsburgh: The Steelers are tuff. Heinz Field is ruff. And the Jets will need the right stuff.
“I know one thing. We’re heading to Pittsburgh to win the game,” Ryan said at the media room podium in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “That’s a tough place to play, as tough as it gets. We’re going against as good a defense as there is, and we’re going against a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
“If you plan on beating Pittsburgh, you’re going to have to bring it all, and that’s what we plan on bringing.”
All, however, is a relative term, since T Damien Woody underwent his knee ‘scope today and has already been declared out, and when asked if S Eric Smith (concussion) would play, the head coach said, “I don’t believe he will.”
The safety situation is tough — there’s that word again — since James Ihedigbo (ankle/knee) also did not practice today. It could be on to about Plan D down the deep middle for Ryan, coordinator Mike Pettine and DBs coach Dennis Thurman.
“Dwight Lowery will move there full-time,” Ryan said of his third-year man. “We’ll give him a lot of work there. We’re hoping to have Dig back as well. If not, then [Emanuel] Cook’s gotta be ready to roll.”
Cook, who’s been in two Jets training camps and also spent time this past off-season with the Buccaneers, played in his first pro game on Sunday against the Dolphins.
Ryan didn’t declare Lowery the starter today but one look at the depth chart and another at the injury report tells us that he’s the next man up. And as Lowery told us last week, “I have a lot of confidence that I can play the position.”
Now can they play like they need to play at the Big Ketchup Bottle, as noted Jets fan Chris Berman has long dubbed Heinz? The last time the Jets played there, they went 131:04 of clock time without an offensive TD, in the 17-6 regular-season loss on Dec. 12, 2004, then in the 20-17 overtime defeat in the AFC Divisional Round playoff game five weeks later. The weather was cold, the fans loud, the field choppy.
That remains to be seen, but perhaps in a good development, he hears Heinz is in better shape today than the practice field here in Florham Park was for today’s outdoor practice — but only by a little.
“They just resodded their field, and our field was kind of hard out there,” Ryan said. “But it was good to get out there in the similar elements you’re going to face when we go to Pittsburgh. It was cold out there, it was windy. … Practice was really good today.”
It was 27 degrees with perhaps 10 mph winds under mostly cloudy skies today at the Jets’ practice. On Sunday at Pitt, the forecast is for temps in the low 20s, with winds around 12-20 mph under partly cloudy skies, quickly followed by dark.
Besides Woody, Ihedigbo and E.Smith, the Jets also listed DT Trevor Pryce (hip) and RB LaDainian Tomlinson and FB Tony Richardson (both non-injury-related) as DNPs today, while C Nick Mangold, DT Sione Pouha and WR/KR Brad Smith were full practicers.
The Steelers’ injury report has six players who didn’t practice in team drills: T Flozell Adams (ankle), LB James Harrison (illness), CB Bryant McFadden (hamstring), S Troy Polamalu (ankle), DE Aaron Smith (triceps) and WR Hines Ward (non-injury-related).
A Trophy for LT
LaDainian Tomlinson has been selected to the USA Football/NFLPA All-Fundamentals Team. LT and 25 other NFL players representing every position on offense and defense plus four special teams positions were named to this year’s team for the sound technique they employ on the field for youth players to emulate.
The players were selected by a seven-member committee that included former Jets head coach Herm Edwards and one-time Jets RB (for the 1992 season) Scottie Graham, now an NFLPA regional director.
USA Football, the official youth development partner of the NFL and the NFLPA, presented Tomlinson with a pewter helmet trophy in recognition of his award and will donate a $1,500 equipment grant to the youth or high school football program of Tomlinson’s choice.
QB Legends to Visit LI
A pair of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks — John Elway and Dan Marino — will be joined by CNNSI’s Peter King and broadcaster Joe Buck on Jan. 18, 2011, at the Nassau Coliseum as the “Inside the Game Tour” reaches Long Island.
Tickets are on sale now and special VIP packages are available for fans to experience an exclusive meet-and-greet with the Legends of the Game. Click here for more information regarding details on the tour packages.
Tags: Damien Woody, Dan Marino, Dwight Lowery, Eric Smith, Heinz Field, James Ihedigbo, John Elway, LaDainian Tomlinson, PIttsburgh Steelers, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 31 Comments »
It’s enjoyable talking football with Dwight Lowery. He’s friendly and intelligent, yet he burns with an intensity on and off the field. This afternoon in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room, his brow was slightly furrowed and his gaze looking ahead to Miami.
What was on D-Lo’s mind? Safety.
“It’s the most so far,” Lowery said about his practice snaps in the deep middle this week. “A lot of it has to do with what happened to Jim, what’s happening with James. You don’t want to see guys go down for it to happen. At the same time, I’m thankful for the opportunity because I feel like it’s something that comes natural to me.”
The two J-men Lowery referenced are Jim Leonhard, lost for the season a week ago tomorrow to a broken tibia, and James Ihedigbo, who did not participate in practice for a second straight day with his knee/high-ankle daily double. Safety has taken a hit, but Lowery is ready to step up Sunday against the Dolphins as often as the flow of the game dictates.
“I played safety for two years in junior college and that’s where everything really started for me,” he said. “I have a lot — a lot — of confidence that I can play the position.”
Lowery was showing he could play a lot of roles in the first half of this season. As a corner, nickelback and dimeback, he had perhaps his hottest four-game stretch as a Jet, from Buffalo through Green Bay, compiling three PDs, including the game-clinching pick of Brett Favre vs. Minnesota, a fumble recovery at Denver, and blitz sacks against the Bills and Packers.
Then he suffered a blow to the head at Cleveland and had been sidelined for two games with a concussion before returning to action against the Patriots.
“I’m feeling better now than I did last week and during the game,” he said. “As the game progressed, I started feeling a little bit more comfortable. Now I feel more comfortable than I did that night.”
And safety’s a big old comfy chair for the third-year man from Northern California.
“See the football,” he said, not ordering me to do some remote pigskin viewing but rather stating in the imperative what he likes most about the spot. “I feel like — I know — I’m a ballhawk. I will go to the football. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know where it comes from, but if the football’s around me, I’m going to try to go get it.
“The corner and dime kind of stuff, I can do it, but I don’t feel it’s my strong suit. That’s not to say I can’t go out there and do it, that’s not to say my mind changes any different from going out and executing whatever I need to execute. This is just how I feel as a player.”
I told Dwight many fans have said for a while that Lowery and safety would be a good fit. He smiled.
“I’m glad they’re optimistic. I appreciate it,” he said. “I feel the same way.”
Ryan read the final epitaph on the ball burial ceremony at today’s news conference. Told that he’s been accused of the ludicrous charge of stealing the motivational trick from Bill Belichick, the Jets head coach could only chuckle.
“I admit it, I steal from everybody,” he said with a smile. “The football deal is something that’s been done in this league, something I thought was definitely appropriate at the time. I’ve got to give my dad [Buddy] credit on that. He probably did those 100 years ago in high school. I talked with him after the game and he’s the one that gave the idea.
“It’s funny. I give Belichick more credit than anybody, and he did do that,” Rex said about the Patriots coach presiding over a pigskin dirt nap every once in a while. “My brother mentioned that as well. But he’s not who I stole it from. I stole it from my dad, who probably stole it from Pop Warner.”
For the Jets, Ihedigbo and T Damien Woody (knee) remained as DNPs today, but RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Tony Richardson, who sat out Wednesday’s activities for non-injury reasons, returned to full participation.
There are thus seven Jets listed as “full practice,” including T D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who jolted a shoulder at today’s practice.
“We got our scout team going hard, and he just kind of went to finish his block, fell and jammed his shoulder a little bit,” Ryan said. “But he practiced full. He’s going to be fine.”
The Dolphins’ I-report lists the same seven players as yesterday, with T Vernon Carey (knee) and WR Brian Hartline (finger) not practicing. Added to the list was S Sean Smith (ankle), who practiced full.
Tags: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Dwight Lowery, James Ihedigbo, Jim Leonhard, Miami Dolphins, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 34 Comments »