What’s the Jets-Pats rivalry coming to?
Antonio Cromartie, for instance, today had words of praise for Tom Brady.
“The guy’s won Super Bowls. I have respect for him from that standpoint,” said Cro. “He’s a competitor. He’s going to compete. He reminds me a lot of Philip Rivers in that he’s going to trash-talk back at you.”
And then there’s Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick. When the Jets head coach called the Patriots’ head coach the best coach in football, etc., before previous matchups, some suspected Ryan of being insincere. Not true. Rex really does respect Belichick.
And today he went so far as to defend Belichick against media and fans in the Boston area who were critical of Belichick playing Rob Gronkowski on the last extra-point play of the Patriots’ 59-24 rout of the Colts on Sunday — the play on which Gronkowski suffered a forearm fracture that will keep him out of Thursday’s Jets-Pats tilt.
“Yeah, absolutely ridiculous,” Ryan, on a conference call with Patriots reporters, said of the flak Belichick had been drawing. “It was on an extra point. He’s done that probably 100 times this year for the simple fact of how many points they score. You never see that. Every single team in the league … we have D’Brickashaw Ferguson in there.
“You don’t play the game that way. It’s just an unfortunate thing. That’s just a freak deal that that would happen. But unfortunately that’s part of the game. Injuries do happen. We lose [Santonio] Holmes and [Darrelle] Revis to non-contact injuries and it’s just one of those things and it’s just unfortunate, obviously.”
Belichick seemed touched when told of Ryan’s defense at his own news conference with those same reporters.
“I didn’t hear it, so I’m just taking your word for it,” he said. “I feel like I have a good relationship with Rex. Obviously we want to beat each other. We’re in the same division and that’s just competitiveness. I see Rex from time to time during the year. Like I said, we had his brother on the staff here for four years. I’ve known his father for 30 years, whatever it is, it’s been a long time. I think that there’s a lot of…he’s a son of a coach, he’s a football guy, he’s been around it his whole life. I have, too. There are a lot of things we have in common.
“But this week,” summed up Belichick, back in character, “it’s about two teams trying to compete against each other. That’s all it is.”
The Life of a Hard Hitter
Jets S LaRon Landry was asked about the flap surrounding Ravens S Ed Reed’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders on Sunday night, which initially drew him a one-game suspension and was reduced today after appeal to a $50,000 fine.
“Yeah, I heard he got his [penalty] reduced. That’s good. That’s great,” said Landry as one fellow hard hitter to another. “Being a physical football player, things like that happen. He was just trying to make a play. He’s good at what he does.
“I know Ed personally. I know that was not intentional. It’s football, man. But within this game we have rules that are going to be enforced.”
It’s not just professional courtesy. Landry and Reed are both Louisianans. In fact, they played against each other for rival high schools in the Metairie area.
The Jets made two roster moves today. They announced this morning that rookie free agent LB Marcus Dowtin had been waived. Then this afternoon, GM Mike Tannenbaum disclosed on our own “Jets Talk Live” with my partner Eric Allen that veteran WR Jason Hill had been released.
That gives the Jets three openings, since they were at 52 players on the active roster for the Rams. Expect a few signings to be announced before the Patriots game.
A perhaps interesting injury note is connected to J.Hill’s departure. He was listed on Monday’s injury report as not practicing due to a low-back injury. With that listing, the Jets had 19 players on the list. Today’s list is down to 18 after Hill’s release. The Patriots have also listed 19 injured players both days this week, and their two reports were also identical.
So for the first time this season, 32 separate injury reports in all, the Jets have listed fewer injured players than their opponents.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Bill Belichick, Ed Reed, Jason Hill, LaRon Landry, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, thanksgiving, Tom Brady
Posted in Randy Lange | 16 Comments »
It was a frightful night for the Jets offense tonight in Baltimore. A month before Halloween and with the Ravens dressed in all black, the hosts tormented the visitors with four takeaways of Mark Sanchez — three of which were returned for touchdowns in a 34-17 Ravens triumph.
Without ailing C Nick Mangold, the Jets’ first offensive snap started the horrors. Rookie Colin Baxter got the ball back to Sanchez without any problems, but the third-year QB was given an unwelcome greeting from All-Everything S Ed Reed. LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson blocked Terrell Suggs on his inside rush, leaving Reed a free line to Sanchez. Reed knocked the ball out and ILB Jameel McClain scooped up the loose change for an easy 6-yard score.
“The protection is supposed to pick that one up,” Sanchez said. “We just had a miscue and Ed made a great play, coming off the edge on the weak side. That’s stuff we have to account for and we will moving forward.”
Down just 10-7, Baxter and Sanchez couldn’t complete a clean snap on the Jets’ second possession. Fortunately Shonn Green recovered, but the damage was just delayed. Baxter appeared to get a decent toss to Sanchez in the shotgun early in the second, but the latter couldn’t hang on and LB Paul Kruger recovered at the Jets’ 23. Four plays later, the Ravens made it a 20-7 game on Billy Cundiff’s 38-yard field goal.
Then the Jets went to their emergency plan up front, shifting LG Matt Slauson over to C, removing Baxter from the lineup and inserting Vladimir Ducasse to LG. Haloti Ngata briefly received double-team attention from Ferguson and Ducasse on the outside, but Ngata got free around the end and got another blindside shot on Sanchez. This one was vicious and resulted in another scoop and score as OLB Jarrett Johnson went in from 26 yards out. The game was almost out of hand at 27-7.
But somewhat remarkably, the Green & White still were in the thick of things early in the third. Bolstered by a pair of return touchdowns themselves, the score was 27-17 and Aaron Maybin’s first career sacks and a subsequent Marcus Dixon fumble recovery should have had the Jets at business at the Ravens’ 26. With Baxter back at center this time, Sanchez went play action and fired a ball out to Santonio Holmes. It never got there as CB Lardarius Webb jumped the route, intercepted and ran for an easy 73-yard TD.
“I’m turning my back to the defense and they had a pretty good call on,” Sanchez said. “I’m trying to get the ball out. At the end of the day, you just sail it out of bounds. But they made a pretty good play on it. They had a pretty good scheme for it. There are no excuses for interceptions. You can’t have them — especially in that situation. You either take the sack or try to throw it of bounds.”
Sanchez had one of his toughest nights as a pro, completing 11 of 35 for 119 yards with a 30.5 passer rating and taking a number of licks in the process. He has thrown six TDs this season, but his overall turnover total stamds at nine because he’s lost four fumbles and has been intercepted five times.
“He struggled mightily,” said head coach Rex Ryan of Sanchez. “There’s no question about it… It wasn’t his best day — that’s for sure. But he’s our quarterback and I believe in him.”
As expected, the Jets struggled to get much on the ground as Shonn Greene was the club’s leading rusher with 23 yards on 10 carries .
A sliver of good news is the Jets will face off against a beleaguered Patriots defense in Week 5. Also in his postgame news conference, Ryan indicated Mangold might be back in the lineup for the huge divisional clash.
“He’s getting better guys and I’m hopeful he’ll play this weekend,” Ryan said of the player who made the trip but was held out with a high ankle sprain.
Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Jameel McClain, Jarret Johnson, Larderius Webb, Mark Sanchez, Matt Slauson, Nick Mangold, Vladimir Ducasse
Posted in Eric Allen | 146 Comments »
The storylines have been aplenty this week as we inch towards Monday night’s opener between the Jets and the Ravens. With so much to get to and so little time, let’s empty out the notebook.
Seven current Jets — five coaches and two players — are former Ravens. Safety Jim Leonhard, who signed with New York’s AFC representative on March 3, 2009, experienced his professional breakthrough in Baltimore in 2008 when he started 13 times. But the Ravens didn’t fight to keep him last spring and were content to move on with Dawan Landry to play opposite Ed Reed.
“A lot of great memories back in Baltimore, but now being a Jet, it’s like going back and playing your family, your brother — you never want to lose,” Jimmy told me. “I’m looking forward to seeing those guys on the field and talking to them a little bit and going out there and beating them. There’s nothing better than that.”
Reed, Leonhard’s former S partner on the Ravens’ Reserve/PUP list with a hip injury, will not be available for game action until Week 7. And while Tom Zbikowski, an excellent special teams player for the Ravens in his third season, is a solid replacement, he’s no Ed Reed.
Leonhard will team up with a new starting safety in 2010. Kerry Rhodes was shipped to Arizona and the Jets signed Brodney Pool in free agency. Pool has been slowed by an ankle injury this week, but he practiced limited today and the Jets are hopeful he’ll be ready for Monday. If not, Leonhard will pair up with Eric Smith.
“You love games like this,” Leonhard said. “They don’t come around that often and to play on Monday night is special and to open the season on Monday night is obviously a good thing for your organization.”
Can’t Let Rice Cook
Another Jets safety — James Ihedigbo — is friendly with Ravens RB Ray Rice. In fact, the two hosted a free football camp in Puerto Rico back in July.
“My best friend I went to college with actually went to high school with Ray [at New Rochelle HS] and we ended up linking up, all three of us,” said Ihedigbo. “We have the same marketing team and agents, so it all kind of ended up connecting the dots.”
The Jets recipe for winning includes a starch-free diet. Last year Rice joined Titans RB Chris Johnson as one of only two players in the league to gain 2,000 yards from scrimmage. The 5’8”, 212-pound Rice, a Rutgers product set to start his third season, ran for 1,339 yards while averaging 5.3 yards per carry in 2009.
“He brings versatility to the game, his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and his ability to run the ball very well,” Dig said. “For his size, don’t be mistaken, he’s a fierce running back. He’s one of the top in the league and went to the Pro Bowl last year. Anyone of his caliber and the type of offense that revolves around him, you have to respect that.”
Rice can do damage in the passing game as he led the Ravens with 78 receptions last season. Small in stature, he is a big-time offensive weapon.
“He can see you coming before you can see him. Him being kind of small, he can sneak his way out of there, and once he gets going, it’s hard to stop him,” Ihedigbo said. “You have to get your hands on him early and make sure you keep your eyes on him.”
Dig, a valuable special teams performer and key reserve, is a punisher and he won’t be thinking good things about Rice come Week 1.
“Ray’s a good friend of mine, but Monday night not so much.”
The Jets’ starting offense scored two touchdowns on 18 preseason possessions, so there is some external concern about a unit that will be missing Santonio Holmes for the first quartet of games. But WR Jerricho Cotchery, not known for his outlandish statements, told me the Jets were vanilla and then some in summer play.
“We didn’t show anything in the preseason,” he said flatly. “That’s the thing about it. We’ve installed a lot of packages this offseason, so we weren’t able to use any of those. It was good we weren’t able to show them, so now we can bring out everything finally because the regular season is here.”
So expect to see a multitude of shifts, motions and personnel packages and keep an eye out there for No. 16. Brad Smith is not only the Jets’ top kickoff return man and third receiver, but he can do damage from the QB position as well.
Even though the Ravens are banged up in the secondary (Chris Carr is slotted to start in Domonique Foxworth’s LCB spot), Cotchery has respect for a changed backfield that finished tied for eighth against the pass in ’09.
“They’ve always been able to plug guys into their secondary,” he said. “Obviously those guys up front can get after it, so they’ve been able to have guys come into the back end and be able to hold up throughout the season. They get after the quarterback, so you have to get open pretty fast.”
Last season, the Ravens finished fourth in turnover margin (plus-10) and the Green & White were 17th (plus-1). The Jets know they have to take care of the rock this week or they’ll be 0-1 facing a short week to prepare for Tom Brady and company.
“One thing you can’t do against a team like this is you can’t turn the football over,” said FB Tony Richardson. “You have to have positive yards on first down because if you get in third-and-long situations with as many things as they do, it’s going to be a tough day for us. The biggest thing is keep on track, stay on rhythm on offense and you can’t turn the football over. Their record is unbelievable when they get turnovers.”
“The turnover battle — Rex showed us some stats that were eye-opening,” added RT Damien Woody. “When they win the turnover battle, they pretty much never lose. We have to be conscientious of that, holding on to the football and do what we do. That’s the most important thing.”
The Jets MasterCard Kickoff Rally kicks off at 5 p.m. today at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport — Pier 17.
Steve Overmyer will emcee the event that will be attended by a few current Jets players and the Flight Crew cheerleaders. Five lucky fans will win tickets to Monday Night’s game and the popular band Good Charlotte will rock out on stage at 5:30.
Tags: Bart Scott, Brad Smith, Damien Woody, Ed Reed, James Ihedigbo, Jerricho Cotchery, Jimmy Leonhard, Ray Rice
Posted in Eric Allen | 16 Comments »
Who is the best current defender in all of team sports? ESPN The Magazine takes on that question this month in its "Best in Sports" issue and senior writer Shaun Assael gives the nod to Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
“They didn’t give me a trophy. They’re putting me in the magazine,” said Revis last week at a photo shoot at the Home of the Jets. “It’s a great honor. I appreciate ESPN reaching out to me, and thinking of me as the top defensive player in all of team sports is great.”
Revis, who will turn 25 next month, was named runnerup behind Packers CB Charles Woodson in the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting and the AFC Defensive Player of the Year at the NFL 101 Awards. The Curtis Martin Team MVP had six interceptions (one returned for a score) and an NFL-high 34 passes defensed for the league’s No. 1 unit in both points allowed (14.8 per game) and pass defense (153.7 ypg).
“There are a lot of things going on that I’m getting into off the field. It’s great,” he said when asked about the love he’s gotten recently from both ESPN and The Sporting News. “You have to enjoy it, don’t put any pressure on yourself and have fun. I’m living a dream and this is what I always wanted to be — the top corner in the NFL — and now stay on top.”
An outstanding basketball player at Aliquippa High School in Pittsburgh, Revis turned to the NBA when asked who he thought were some of the best individual defenders in team sports.
“I like [Lakers forward] Ron Artest and how he defends. He did a great job trying to shut down some of the best scorers in the NBA,” said the man who led his high school to back-to-back WPIAL AA championships and averaged 22.8 points a game his senior season. “[Trevor] Ariza from the Rockets. As far as NFL guys, [Raiders CB] Nnamdi Asomugha, and Asante Samuel is always up there in interceptions, Julius Peppers does a great job, Dwight Freeney, Charles Woodson.
"There are a lot of guys out there."
But Assael says nobody’s better than Revis. After posing for a bunch of shots, Revis looked up at the four enormous videoboards at the new stadium and saw images of him displayed in all corners.
“This is not Darrelle Revis Day, is it? This is great. The stadium is lovely. We practiced here last week and I got a chance to get a feel for the new turf. This is unbelievable,” he said. “Everything is happening for this organization. In the past, there were struggles with a lot of bad seasons. But we have the right guys in here and we have the right coach in here. We’re doing a great job with the new stadium. Everything is just clicking the right way and this is the way to build a championship-type organization.”
Reed’s Status Bears Watching
In exactly 11 weeks, the Jets and the Ravens will play the first nationally televised game at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Baltimore’s sure to be a formidable foe, but what will the health of all-world safety Ed Reed be on Sept. 13?
The 5’11”, 200-pound Reed contemplated retirement before electing for surgery to fix a torn labrum in his hip this offseason. In a recent interview on Sirius Mad Dog Radio, Reed said his rehabilitation should take four to six months.
“I want to be ready for the first game, but I don’t know how soon that would happen, how soon I would be back,” Reed said. “You know, we’re gonna continue to do the things to try and get back and at least play this year for the fans, man, cause they’ve been hounding me, man.”
A gamechanger, Reed has 46 career regular-season interceptions and he’s returned six for scores. Despite playing hurt in last year’s postseason, he collected a pick each off of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
"It’s still a long, slow process, you know, and I try to do some stuff to strengthen it right now and I know it’s just weak but I mean, yeah, I had to have reconstructive surgery," he said. "They had to go in and reconstruct my whole hip. They took about six or seven inches from my IT band, replaced my labrum that I tore. They went in in two spots, so I mean it’s a slow process. Plus I have other injuries that, you know, really probably had an effect on causing this that I have to pay attention to also. So I’m just taking my time.”
Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Darrelle Revis, Ed Reed
Posted in Eric Allen | 51 Comments »
Rex Ryan heard a little more today about the Baltimore Ravens remarks he made Monday, about being passed over for the Ravens head coaching job last year and about his feelings on the Ravens handing out uniform No. 99, Michael McCrary’s old number, to rookie LB Paul Kruger.
And one or two columnists probed the Jets head coach on if he’ll be moderating his free-wheeling remarks once the buzzsaw of the regular season begins.
“I probably won’t call out Channing Crowder again,” he said. “That really got blown up. I’ll pick on a kicker or something.”
And on the jersey number, Rex replied, “I just knew what Michael McCrary meant to the organization and to me. I shouldn’t speak about somebody else’s team. It’s not my organization but it was my player. That’s kind of why I said what I said.”
“I’m going to be myself. I’m going to be true to myself," Ryan said. "I’m not trying to be disrespectful. When I said what I said about Bill Belichick, I was just letting him know we’re in same position. He happens to have a lot of Super Bowl trophies and I don’t have a win yet — I appreciate you point that out. But you don’t just tiptoe through this thing.
“We’re going to be ourselves and I’m going to be myself and that’s just the way it is.”
The Jets coach also said he had his reasons for stirring the crabpot with the Ravens.
“I really do want them at their best,” he explained. “I want to judge our team against a great team. I guess you can make arguments that they were the third-best, fourth-best team, but they were a play or two away from maybe being a Super Bowl champion last year. That’s what you want to measure yourself up against. I know it’s still a preseason game, but you’re still competing against Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Joe Flacco over there. I’m excited about that.”
Rex’s bottom line: “We’re going to be ourselves and I’m going to be myself and that’s just the way it is.”
Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Channing Crowder, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 18 Comments »
One of the themes that I’ve written about as I’ve reconfigured the Jets’ 2009 schedule story on newyorkjets.com for a few other platforms is how many former Green & White draft picks will be playing the team that selected them for the first time this season.
There’s John Abraham down in Atlanta — the Falcons will be coming to the Meadowlands on Dec. 20. Two weeks later, Laveranues Coles and the Bengals come to North Jersey to finish up the regular season at Coles’ former home office. The Jets may get to meet Justin Miller, who wasn’t a Raider when they played at Oakland last year but may be this year when the Jets return to Oaktown on Oct. 25. Chris Baker, now a Patriot, will play his former team twice.
And there’s Jonathan Vilma.
Two years after the Jets traded Vilma, their 2004 first-round selection, 12th overall, to New Orleans, Vilma and the Saints will be greeting the Jets at the doors to the Superdome on Oct. 4.
I always enjoyed talking with Vilma when I was a beatwriter and then for most of 2007 as editor-in-chief of newyorkjets.com. I decided to send him an email to see if he was in a looking-back-looking-ahead mood. I didn’t know if he’d have the time or inclination to get back to me.
But he emailed back. And then one day recently, he gave me a call. I asked him how were things.
"I can’t complain," said Vilma, who signed a new long-term deal this off-season to remain in the middle of the Saints defense. "New Orleans has treated me very well. The environment’s definitely different from New York, a slower pace. It was an adjustment. But here, as I usually do, I just tune a lot of the outside world out. No casino, no Bourbon Street. It’s all football."
I asked Vilma about that contract. He never made noise about redoing his rookie deal, even though he was NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2004, led the NFL in tackles and made the Pro Bowl in ’05 and was named a Jets captain in ’07. As usual, he was humble.
"I was very fortunate," he said. "At one point [in 2007] with the knee injury and all kinds of questions about whether I’d be able to play, you forget the long-term. But the next season, I was able to bounce back from that to perform and perform well. I didn’t miss a snap during the season. It was just like I used to go, back in the day.
"The contract was rewarding. I wasn’t nervous about it, just more anxious. I knew I did as much as I possibly could do on and off the field to fit into New Orleans and be a good leader."
All that being said, Vilma had no bad words to say about his four seasons with the Jets.
"I enjoyed my years up in New York. I still keep in touch with Kerry Rhodes, with Eric Barton even though he left. I keep in touch with a lot of guys. I had fun, good times," he said.
"But it’s still a business. That’s why I never got too high with the highs or too low with the lows. Any minute can change things in just the blink of an eye. That’s what happened when I got injured and the Jets felt I wasn’t a fit for the 3-4 and they wanted to make changes. That was fine with me. I was going to go somewhere and play well. It never really bothered me."
Even though he’s a year removed from the Green Scene, I couldn’t resist asking J-Vil if he would have liked to be turned loose in a Rex Ryan defense. He had only good things to say about his current coach, Sean Payton, but he also checked in with some of his old mates at "the U."
"I’ve heard nothing but good things about Rex," he said. "Ed Reed told me I would’ve loved to play under him, and Ray Lewis said the same thing. Kerry told me he’s a real good guy and so did Shaun Ellis. Timing was everything."
Time will eventually bring Vilma and his old team and a lot of his old teammates into head-to-head competition on a Sunday in early October. How does Vilma feel about this eventual meeting? Again, he gave the perfect answer.
"Drew Brees asked me if I’m going to be extra excited for that game. I said I really don’t know," he replied. "We’ve got you guys pretty early in the season. It’s not like the hype Drew got when we went to London to play his former team [late last October vs. San Diego] and there was added emotion for him.
"By the time the season gets here, there probably will be some extra emotion. Now, well, I left with good thoughts. The fans were good to me. I really can’t complain."
And with that, our conversation was done. Vilma’s one request? "Just tell people to check out my Website. It’s for all Vilma fans … there’s not much Jets stuff anymore."
I always thought www.JonathanVilma.com, a.k.a. "Area 51," was one of the neatest NFL player sites around. If you’d been there before he left and haven’t been back, it has a similar feel and sound, alternately eerie and exotic. One thing, of course, is different, signaled by the ominous black and white words in the intro, "WHO DAT?"
It was fun talking with Vilma. He’s not on our side anymore, but playing against him is the next best thing, and we’ll be doing that in a little less than four months.
Where Christopher Fits In
The newest addition to the Jets’ roster is Brock Christopher, who was a freshman at Missouri when Brad Smith was the Tigers’ record-setting senior QB. He also was a free agent signing by Atlanta right after the draft, but the Falcons waived him on June 3 before the Jets brought him in last week.
The most interesting point about Christopher, though, is that he comes to the Jets as a fullback and long-snapping candidate after playing four seasons of linebacker, the last three as the big-tackling starter at Mike ‘backer, for Mizzou
But before getting to college, he was a standout linebacker and tailback in high school. So you could argue that as a TB and LB, he learned to appreciate the fullback position. He also was the backup snapper at Missouri. He’ll wear No. 32 for the Jets as they head up to Cortland for training camp, which opens exactly six weeks from Friday.
Tags: Drew Brees, Ed Reed, Eric Barton, John Abraham, Jonathan Vilma, Kerry Rhodes
Posted in Randy Lange | 29 Comments »
Bubba Franks’ 2008 was not the highlight of the venerable tight end’s career. Even Bubba said so.
"I got hurt pretty early, so I was kind of like a fan. I had to sit back and watch," Franks told me last week after an OTA practice. "I disliked sitting on the sideline or even standing. It’s something I really never had to do. Then all of a sudden you’re on the sideline pretty much watching the rest of the games.
"That just didn’t sit well with me. So I’m back here for unfinished business. I’ve got work to do . I’ve got a lot of things I need to prove."
It’s hard not to like Franks. He’s not afraid to converse in a vernacular that fans understand. A lot of players back away from talk about unfinished business and proving things. Franks embraces it.
And why not? The Franks we saw last year was not the Bubba of his first eight NFL seasons with Green Bay. His six catches and 47 yards were both career lows. He had no touchdown catches in a season for only the second time.
Then there was his health. In six of his first seven seasons, he rarely came off the frozen tundra. But last season, after injuring his hip on a slip in Game 6 at Oakland, he sat out eight of the last 10 games, getting in for about 20 plays without a catch in each of the December Buffalo and Seattle games.
Despite the understated debut in Green & White and his supposed venture into unrestricted free agency, there had always been a hint that he was coming back. For instance, his stall in the Atlantic Health Training Center locker room was never dismantled. Franks confirmed to me that he was figuring all along to return for Year 2.
"I was coming back all along. It was just a matter of I had to do some training down in Miami, clean up a couple of loose ends here and there," he said. "Then when they told me to come up here, I’m here. We had already discussed all that. I knew I was coming back."
The cleaning-up, head coach Rex Ryan said last week, involved another body part besides Franks’ hip.
"Bubba has a little thing with his knee. We don’t think it’s serious. Obviously we wouldn’t have signed him if that was the case," Ryan said. "The thing I’m really impressed with is the kind of leader he is, a charismatic guy. You can tell that his teammates really like him and he’s really a pro. Ed Reed called me about him, and he’s a guy whose opinion I value, and he certainly wasn’t wrong with Bubba."
That’s why Franks will probably continue to watch the Jets play some more from the sideline through the rest of OTAs and the June 9-11 full-squad minicamp, then begin practicing again at the start of training camp. For now, after the departure of Chris Baker for points northeast, he’s tutoring the rest of the team’s tight ends, a young lot consisting of second-year man Dustin Keller, newly converted Kareem Brown and undrafted free agents Andrew Davie, Rob Myers, Jack Simmons and J’Nathan Bullock.
"Most of them don’t know too much about the position. They’re young, just coming in now," said the grizzled vet. "Plus you’re only as strong as your weakest link. They’re going to be a part of this core group. We’ve got to be pretty close. They’re a bunch of good guys. Some of them area little more talented than others, but I think it’s all going to come down to how quick they can pick up the offense.
"You can’t really show what you’ve got until you know what you’re doing."
Franks knows what he’s doing and what he’s about, even though, as I kidded him, this will be his first NFL season without Brett Favre as his quarterback, whether as a Packer or a Jet.
"It’s definite. He’s not going to be back, so this’ll be my first year without him," Franks said with a chuckle. "I don’t know how it’s going to feel, but hey, we’ll see what happens."
Tags: Brett Favre, Bubba Franks, Chris Baker, Dustin Keller, Ed Reed, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 10 Comments »
The Jets wanted a proven starter to line up across the field from Darrelle Revis, and Lito Sheppard needed a change of Zip codes. It was the perfect match, so the Green & White shipped a pair of draft choices to the Eagles for a man hungry for a fresh start.
“I think people tend to forget what Lito Sheppard is all about due to numerous reasons as far as me not being on the field, but this is a chance for me to revamp my legacy, my passion for this game and my place in history,” Sheppard told Randy Lange and myself today on a special edition of "Jets Two-Minute Drive" on newyorkjets.com radio. “I feel like I’m one of the best in the league and I have a lot more to offer to this game, and hopefully I’m going to continue that from this point on.”
The 5’10”, 194-pound Sheppard, who played his first seven seasons with the Eagles, fell out of favor in Philly last year. After the Eagles spent a boatload of money on former Patriots corner Asante Samuel last spring, Sheppard started just three games and was relegated to special teams duty in the winter.
In Sheppard’s mind, the Eagles made a business decision. The true pro didn’t raise a stink, remained a quality teammate and never lost confidence.
“My skills, my personality and my abilities haven’t gone anywhere. Obviously Philly had different plans with what they wanted to do with me,” he said. “I think it kind of all started from the business side and that kind of relayed to them not giving me the opportunities that I’ve had in the past.”
Under Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine, the Jets promise to play a lot of man coverage. When they’re sending five, six, seven and eight at opposing signalcallers, those DBs will have the responsibility to prevent big plays and the expectation to make big plays.
“I’ve been pretty much in that type of system my whole career, even through Florida — we didn’t play a whole lot of zone. I think man is pretty much my strength,” Sheppard said. “They have an aggressive mindset to play defense, but I think it will work. It’s been working thus far. He’s had so many great seasons in Baltimore with top-ranked defenses, so he just needs the players to plug in and get the job done.”
Sheppard, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, has totaled 18 career interceptions and he’s returned three for scores. Only Sheppard and former Ravens S Ed Reed have multiple interception returns of 100-plus yards in NFL history and Randy asked Sheppard about those game-breakers today.
“That’s kind of my mentality whenever I get to run with the ball — I’m looking to score. I always played a little offense in high school and even in college,” Sheppard said. “They don’t allow me to play it in the NFL, but I still think I can. I just try to impress and show people I do have some ball skills when I do get it. I’m only thinking one thing and that’s score, so I feel like if I get past that first wave of defenders, there aren’t too many people in this league who can catch me.”
A two-time All-American at the University of Florida (I actually covered Lito a couple of times when I was attending grad school at UF), Sheppard attended Raines HS and was the nation’s top corner coming out of high school. He has excelled on every level and he believes he and Revis can make for a dynamite duo.
“Most superheroes need wing men, but I think we’re two superheroes who can work together and make that secondary one of the best — not to mention Kerry Rhodes and those other guys on the back end," he said. "It’s going to be great.”
Leonhard Also Leaves Nest?
Speaking of those “other guys,” numerous media outlets have reported that the Jets have reached agreement with former Ravens S Jim Leonhard on a multiyear deal. If/when that deal becomes official (and that means the contract is actually signed), we’ll let you know.
Tags: Darrelle Revis, Ed Reed, Lito Sheppard, Mike Pettine, Philadelphia Eagles, Rex Ryan
Posted in Eric Allen | 28 Comments »
The Jets threw one wrinkle at the Ravens right off the bat with Jonathan Vilma running under the Jet’s opening kickoff. But the starting inside LB wasn’t needed as Mike Nugent but the kickoff to the back of the Baltimore end zone.
And the first defensive stand is successful. Willis McGahee carried twice and didn’t get a first down. And Kyle Boller, starting for sore-groined Steve McNair at QB, threw incomplete on third down when blitzing Eric Barton batted the ball down.
Kellen Clemens makes his first NFL start for the sore-ankled Chad Pennington. His first play was a handoff to Thomas Jones. His second play he’s in the shotgun and, against a four-man Ravens rush, overthrows Jerricho Cotchery.
And on Clemens’ third play, also out of the gun, he got off the pass against a five-man rush. But Laveranues Coles tripped in trying to get past CB Corey Ivy — no flag thrown — and Ed Reed makes his 28th career interception as he runs out of bounds at the Baltimore 49.
Darrelle Revis gets his first pro PD by using his head — Boller’s downfield pass bounces off his helmet — so Reed’s pick didn’t hurt.
What did hurt was that on the Jets’ next drive, Clemens had Justin McCareins for a big gain after McCareins shook CB Chris McAlister with a nice stop-and-go. But KC, who had such a great rapport with McCareins in the preseason, barely overthrows McCareins, so Ben Graham gets off his first punt.
In a reverse on the Chris Baker non-forceout at Cleveland last year, Demetrius Williams is shoved out of bounds by David Barrett. Head linesman Tony Veteri ruled incomplete, but side judge Larry Rose came up, consulted with Veteri and then the call was changed to a forceout and a 13-yard first-down catch.
Baltimore uses that and other plays to move to first-and-goal at the 5. The Jets seemed in the early going to have a handle on stopping Willis McGahee, the old Jet-killer from his Buffalo days. His 2-yard run gives him 16 yards on six carries. Then comes a false start, then McGahee takes it 6 yards to the 2.
Then Boller rolls out, the Jets turn McGahee loose and Boller hits him with the 2-yard TD toss. Willis does it to the Jets again with his first career receiving touchdown
Ravens 7, Jets 0
Clemens pulls a Pennington trick out of his bag with a quick snap that catches Baltimore with 12 men on the field. Then he completes his first pass of the game and gets his first first down and first third-down conversion with a short toss to Laveranues Coles.
Clemens shows his newness on a near sack by Corey Ivy, bouncing off of the contact and continuing to roll right. That was the good part. But then instead of throwing the ball away, he tried to thread it to Jerricho Cotchery on the sideline. But Cotchery is well covered, and McAlister nearly comes up with the pick.
But then Clemens shows some veteran savvy when he avoids a Ravens sack, takes off with the ball, then just before hitting the LOS, flips it to Thomas Jones, who takes it 21 yards — the Jets’ longest play from scrimmage in this young season. Another Jones carry for 6 yards gives the visitors some nice momentum as the opening period comes to a close.
Tags: Chad Pennington, Ed Reed, Kellen Clemens, Mike Nugent
Posted in Randy Lange | 2 Comments »
Mike Westhoff leaned against the wall in Weeb Ewbank Hall with his crutches loose under his arms and held court with a few reporters Friday. As always, the special teams coordinator had a refreshing take on things, such as Ellis Hobbs’ NFL-record 108-yard kickoff return against his coverage unit last Sunday.
"It’s funny," Westhoff said. "Some people asked me, ‘Aside from the kickoff return, how did you assess the play of your special teams?’ That’s like saying, ‘Aside from the iceberg, how did you enjoy the cruise?’ "
But don’t let that familiar saying make you think Mike is down on his specialists. Far from it.
"We flew down the field and ran pretty much past their blocking," Westhoff analyzed. "I thought we were going to tackle the guy at the 7. It wasn’t that we slowed down, thinking he wasn’t going to come out.
"We have a good group," he said. "I felt very disappointed in the fact that we could’ve made that play, have made it in the past and will make it in the future. But we’ve got a good group. We’ll be all right."
There’s no question in head coach Eric Mangini’s mind about that. Mangini gave Westhoff unsolicited praise during his Friday news conference, in effect saying that while people are quick to give credit to, say, Bill Walsh for the West Coast offense or Buddy Ryan for the 46 defense, they ought to consider Westhoff in the same class on special teams.
"What I like about Mike is his ability to reference back to things that have happened in the past. He’s seen most returns and developed a lot of the returns himself. He’s been an innovator in the league for many, many years," Mangini said. "Mike’s one of the best I’ve seen."
Westhoff’s players chimed in along similar lines.
"Coach Westhoff," Erik Coleman said, "is, I believe, the best special teams coach in the league."
And Mike Nugent left no doubt how he felt: "He’s a genius on paper and as a coach. He really knows what’s going on."
Westhoff aw-shuckses all the kudos, knowing that he needs to whip up his troops for "a force to be reckoned with" in Ed Reed and the Ravens’ special teams Sunday.
"I’m not planning to leave coaching anytime soon. I love doing it," he said when asked what kind of ST innovation he’d like to have his name attached to after or even before he leaves the game. "I think more than anything I’d like to be known as a good coach. I like being inventive. I feel incredibly honored to work in this business. All of us should keep those things in mind."
As I reported at the end of yesterday’s Radar entry, Westhoff will be conducting his business at Baltimore from the field rather than the coaches’ booth, where he went last week for the first time in his NFL coaching career due to precautions he’s taking for his leg, which got another surgery back in February.
"I have a graft in my femur," he explained. "Unfortunately, [since the surgery] I fractured the bottom part of my graft and that will probably require some attention. When I’m on crutches, it’s inconvenient, not painful. But I’m becoming very mobile on the crutches. And I prefer to be on the field."
Tags: Ed Reed, Ellis Hobbs, Erik Coleman, Mike Nugent, Mike Westhoff
Posted in Randy Lange | 3 Comments »