Ryan Spadola made one of the plays of Jets training camp at this morning’s SUNY Cortland practice. It could be that one play that propels him into the coaches’ consciousness as they start to trim down their wide receiving corps.
Spadola, the undrafted free agent from Lehigh, took off down the right side for the second offense in the practice-closing two-minute drill and made the diving fingertip grab of a roughly 50-yard fourth-down pass from Geno Smith, stepping up in the pocket, in front of Ellis Lankster.
“I was running for a while,” Spadola said. “I didn’t look back for the ball till I was 30 yards down the field, so I was really digging. I thought the ball was never going to come down. I laid out for it and fortunately it fell right in my hands and I was able to bring it in.”
Ryan Spadola knows he has to do more than just make one long reception on the sixth day of camp.
“Pretty much all eyes are on you when you have a deep ball like that,” he said. “Your receivers are supposed to be the playmakers and make big plays in big situations. So for me so far this camp, that was the highlight. But I’m not going to sit on that. I’ve got to continue to get better. I’m just taking that as one play to learn from and keep every single rep just like that.”
While you may not have heard of Spadola’s exploits before this, the 6’3″, 200-pounder from Howell, N.J., is no stranger to the long ball or lots of catches. He had his career year as a Lehigh junior with 96 catches for 1,614 yards (16.8-yard avg.) and 11 touchdowns. In his three varsity seasons, he had 232 catches for 3,611 yards (15.6) and 24 TDs.
“Going into my senior year, defenses used different matchups against me so it took away that vertical threat and we altered our offense a bit so I was more of a horizontal guy,” he said. “But early in my college career, I had a reputation for vertical plays and I feel comfortable going up and taking the ball in the air when it’s deep.”
Why the Jets? Spadola’s from Howell, N.J., down by the Jersey shore, and the Jets showed a lot of interest in him as a free agent addition. What’s more, as a kid, his father, Don, took him to Jets games. When Don died during Ryan’s high school years, he told lehighvalleylive.com earlier this year, “my dream [to play in the NFL] became our dream.”
It will take more than a dream for Spadola to make the Jets. A bundle of plays like today will be helpful.
Top draft pick Dee Milliner, in pads Wednesday, was in drills Thursday, getting some reps with the second defense in 7-on-7′s and then some snaps with the ones in the two-minute drill, during which he made a swipe on a pass that he tipped, didn’t deflect, but that was caught out of bounds. Head coach Rex Ryan wasn’t committing to it but said there’s a chance Milliner could participate in Saturday evening’s Green & White Scrimmage.
Greg McElroy had a strong two-minute drive, hitting Konrad Reuland, then K.J. Stroud twice, then RB John Griffin for the short TD. … Head coach Rex Ryan at today’s news conference mentioned two young offensive players who have “popped up” this camp: WR Vidal Hazelton and C Dalton Freeman. … Former Jets special teams guru Mike Westhoff was at camp today. One touching moment came during practice when Santonio Holmes, still rehabbing his foot, came over to Mike and gave him a hug. … Today’s attendance in the off-and-on rain: 662.
Tags: Dee Milliner, Ellis Lankster, Geno Smith, Greg McElroy, Mike Westhoff, Rex Ryan, Ryan Spadola
Posted in Randy Lange | 39 Comments »
Rex Ryan refers to his last news conference of the work week jocularly as “Fast Friday,” since the Q&A session is normally a bit shorter and lighter than the Wednesday or Thursday sessions.
Today was a changeup. Maybe “Fast Yet Furious Friday.”
“There was a report this morning that was untrue,” Ryan told reporters at the top of his afternoon news conference regarding a Daily News story under the headline that Ryan “would welcome firing if Gang Green fails to make over offense.”
“I was disappointed and quite honestly mad as a hornet.
“The fact is, and it’s simple, this is the only team I want to coach, period. Anybody who knows me knows I’m telling the truth. Has it been perfect? No. Would I like this player or that player? Sure, anybody would. But this is my team, these are my players.”
The coach was irritated over several issues. It was stated in the story that “Ryan declined comment about his future when reached by The News,” although Ryan said, “When I had a conversation with this reporter, it wasn’t reported that way in the article, and the headline reads a certain way.”
The coach also disputed the impression provided through quotes from unnamed sources that he was trying to influence owner Woody Johnson into a particular endgame scenario after the season concludes at Buffalo on Sunday and that he might also be trying to set up a landing spot with another team.
“I called Mr. Johnson as soon as I read the article,” Ryan said. “I let him know that absolutely, 100 percent is not my intention, no way in heck. I’m not putting an ultimatum to this man that hired me, no chance.
“This is his football team. I take it as my team, the guys I coach, the football part of it, that’s how I approach it. But at the end of the day, it’s Mr. Johnson’s team. I feel honored he hired me to do a job. I’ve told you from day one what an opportunity I had. This is the fact — I always wanted to be a head coach, but to be the New York Jets head coach, it’s unbelievable.
“The Jets were the first professional team my dad ever coach, eight years. This was my team growing up. The fans, I identify with that because I was one of them also. Now I’m the head coach of their football team, too.
Ryan said he also spoke to the team this morning about the story, “probably a little more passionate, emotional or whatever you want to call it” than he was speaking to reporters. He said he brought the matter up on all these fronts to make sure his perspective on the subject is heard.
“I want to be the Jets head coach for the next 15 years. And there’s probably a lot of fans out there that hope that isn’t the case, but I’m just telling you from my heart that this is the job I’ve always wanted and that’s it,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure everybody understood how I feel about this team. I don’t want to go anywhere, I don’t want to coach anywhere but the New York Jets, period. I want everybody to know it.”
Look Ahead at the 2013 Sked
Each NFL team’s schedule for the following season is always known by the end of the final game of the regular season, and that’s the case again this year. Almost all of the Jets’ 2013 opponents are set. Ahead of Sunday’s full slate of games, here’s how the ’13 sked is shaping up:
Opponents Already Determined: Home — Buffalo, Miami, New England, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Tampa Bay. Away — Buffalo, Miami, New England, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Carolina.
Opponents Yet to Be Determined: Home — AFC West. Away — AFC South.
The Jets play the team in the South and the team in the West that finish in the same standings spot in their division as the Jets finish in the AFC East. The Jets will come in either second or third. They would be second with a win over Buffalo and a Miami loss to New England because they would then finish tied with the Dolphins at 7-9 and would have the edge based on better division record than the ‘Fins (3-3 to 2-4). The Jets can’t finish fourth even with a loss to the Bills because then, even though both would be 6-10, the Jets would still get third place based on better record in common games (6-8 to 4-10).
So where the Jets finish will determine whether they will travel to the second-place Colts or the third-place Titans, and whether they will host the second-place Chargers or the third-place Raiders.
We’ll have those questions answered late Sunday afternoon, shortly after the end of the Jets-Bills and Dolphins-Pats games, both kicking off at 1 p.m. ET.
Friday Injury Picture
The big injury news for the Jets today was that DE Muhammad Wilkerson (concussion/knee) practiced full today and is being listed as probable for the Bills. Also, CB Ellis Lankster (concussion) was limited and is questionable for the game. There was no change in QB Greg McElroy’s concussion situation. McElroy is listed as doubtful but Ryan has said he’s not playing and that Mark Sanchez will start.
TE Dustin Keller (ankle), WR Chaz Schilens (knee) and LB Bryan Thomas (chest) all didn’t participate at today’s practice and are also doubtful, and WR Braylon Edwards (hamstring/knee) was limited and his game status is also questionable. The other 18 Jets were all full-go and are probable for the Bills.
Buffalo’s report lists three players ruled out for the game: DE Mark Anderson (knee), starting TE Scott Chandler (knee) and S Da’Norris Searcy (groin). Nine of the 11 other injured Bills were limited at today’s practice in western New York but are listed as probable, including seven starters: LB Nick Barnett (knee), S Jairus Byrd (ankle), G Andy Levitre (knee), RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder), DT Kyle Williams (ankle), DE Mario Williams (wrist) and C Eric Wood (knee).
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Daily News, Ellis Lankster, Greg McElroy, Mark Sanchez, Muhammad Wilkerson, Rex Ryan, Woody Johnson
Posted in Randy Lange | 39 Comments »
So what about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell saying this week that the league’s competition committee would consider in the offseason replacing the kickoff.
Really? No kickoffs?
I don’t like it. But it doesn’t much matter what I think. However, two Jets whose opinions on the subject do matter also don’t like what they’re hearing.
“I hope not. I hope not,” ST coordinator Mike Westhoff said pensively this week. “That’s player safety, so I think I’m in tune with that. But I just like the kickoffs. I just believe in it. I know the collision part and I think that’s something you have to be careful of. If you teach it the right way, it can be done properly.”
“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Joe McKnight, who had a phenomenal year of returning kickoffs last season and is doing very well again this year. “What about the guys that aren’t starting. Where are they going to start? You start on kickoffs and special teams.”
Two different points of view, both agreeing that a flat-out removal of kickoffs from the game is not what we’re looking for. Safety has been the primary mover for last year’s rules revisions, which have resulted in about 50 percent of kickoffs now resulting in touchbacks and a reduction in the number of concussions and other injuries incurred on the balls that are returned.
“You already moved the kick from the 30 to the 35, which gives us 5 yards less to run instead of a whole lot of room,” McKnight said of himself and his fellow returners and coverers. “Now you’re trying to take it out of the game? People like me and Ellis [Lankster] need these special teams for us to build for later on, the next couple of years when we’re trying to win our positions on offense and defense.”
Westhoff is serious about his concern for players’ health and safety. While Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay’s first-year coach, has gotten some publicity attached to this subject with his proposal to turn all kickoff situations into fourth-and-15 punt situations (the fourth-and-15 conversion rate is about the same as the successful onsides-kick rate), Westhoff said he and assistant ST coach Ben Kotwica have canvassed the league’s teams coaches and put together their own kickoff proposal, which he said the league was interested in.
“I hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does, there are also alternative methods that I think would be very productive and very competitive, so I would hope they’d go with that,” said Westhoff, who didn’t want to go into details of that plan for reporters until after the season. But he said one thing that can be done immediately in lieu of cutting kickoffs out of the game entirely is to cutting back even more on violent hits on unsuspecting players during returns.
“Blocks in the back, those types of things, used to be legal. We eliminated them from punts, but they’re still legal on kickoffs. The kickoff team can smack the blockers in the back and it’s legal,” Westhoff said. “My thing is, when is it ever good to hit somebody in the back?”
McKnight has a warrior-type mentality about returns. He didn’t talk about concussions but more the general “nicks and nacks” that returners get and playing through them, as he’s had to do this year with several injuries, such as an ankle sprain and last week’s rib injury.
“I can’t worry about injuries,” he said. “I’m still trying to make a name for myself.”
It would be a sin if an important slice of the game is made to disappear. As Westhoff reminded, “Can you imagine the Super Bowl? You’ve seen those pictures of the opening kickoff and all the bulbs are flashing? ‘Well, here we are, put the ball down, let’s go.’ C’mon, guys.”
But external and internal pressures on the game will dictate what the NFL does about kickoffs in future years. For now, the play is still alive despite the tinkering, McKnight is probable for Sunday’s game, the Jets are seventh in the league in average returns while the Jaguars are 29th in the league in average returns allowed. You know Joe and the Jets’ specialists want to do a little more reputation-building before this season is done.
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Ben Kotwica, Ellis Lankster, Greg Schiano, Jacksonville Jaguars, joe McKnight, Mike Westhoff, Roger Goodell
Posted in Randy Lange | 21 Comments »
Updated, 4:15 p.m. ET
Ellis Lankster said he would be watching NFL highlights or ESPN’s Top Ten and see blitzing cornerbacks from other teams coming free all the time, swooping in on unsuspecting quarterbacks and separating them from the football.
“And I would say, ‘Why? Why do I never come free like that?’ ” he wondered.
At Seattle, it happened. Lankster, playing nickel after Isaiah Trufant suffered his season-ending first-quarter knee injury, came off his left edge in a five-man rush. No Seahawk stepped up to block him, and suddenly there was rookie QB Russell Wilson, as big as day and looking the other way.
“My whole time running, I was saying in my head, ‘Don’t throw it, don’t throw it, don’t throw it,’ ” Lankster recalled. “He didn’t throw it. I was so happy.”
Lankster hit Wilson and the ball came loose. In one instant, the third-year man who’s been waiting his turn for his career to get rolling had just picked up his first sack and first forced fumble of his career.
As luck would have it, the Seahawks recovered the loose ball at their 7. It was still a big third-down play, forcing a 3-and-out, but it was one of several plays that could have signaled a Jets upsurge in that game but went the other way. If only Dustin Keller didn’t false-start, if only Mark Sanchez saw Stephen Hill in the back of the end zone, if only the Jets had recovered that ball and Jeremy Kerley hadn’t muffed the punt …
That’s what happens to teams on losing streaks. But teams that pull out of those streaks do so by relying on positive trends that develop during those negative teams. We have more on that in our Sunday morning preview of the Jets-Rams game, but suffice it to say that Lankster, to help him should he have a clear shot at Rams QB Sam Bradford, has been going to the Jets’ video library.
“I never played with Drew Coleman. My first year here, he was gone,” he said of the former Jets corner and strip-sack artist who played last year with Jacksonville last season. “Coaches will be like, ‘Go back and watch how Drew Coleman did it, or how Donald Strickland did it.’ “
In fact, Lankster did a great imitation. He became the first Jets DB to execute a strip-sack in 28 games, or since DC had three in a three-game span (two against Ben Roethlisberger) late in the 2010 season.
There’s no guarantee Lankster will be running forward unblocked again Sunday and on Thanksgiving night back home against the Patriots. But an improved Jets rush will help him as he tries to fill Trufant’s role in coverage against those teams’ top wideouts, Danny Amendola for the Rams and Wes Welker for the Patriots. In fact, as Ryan said a few times this week, Amendola “kind of looks like Wes Welker, and his game looks a lot like it, too.”
The shame of that is that Trufant likely would have been a key player in the Jets’ nickel. He’d been flashing on blitzes himself and got praise for helping to hold Welker down four weeks ago at New England. Unfortunately, Trufant’s left knee got jarred by LB Garrett McIntyre as both went for the tackle of ex-Jet Leon Washington on his first punt return on Sunday. That injury landed Trufant on IR on Tuesday.
But ‘Zaiah may yet make his presence felt under the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday.
“Ever since he got hurt, he’s been telling me to ‘hold it down,’ ” Lankster said. “He’s been sending me texts, saying, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me. It’s your time.’ “
Perhaps it will be.
Here is the list of strip-sacks by Jets DBs from the Bill Parcells era forward:
2010 — CB Drew Coleman 3
2009 — S Jim Leonhard 2, S James Ihedigbo 1, S Kerry Rhodes 1
2008 — S Abram Elam 2, CB Hank Poteat 1, CB Darrelle Revis 1
2006 — Rhodes 3
2001 — CB Ray Mickens 1
1999 — Mickens 2
1998 — S Victor Green 1
Friday Injury Reports
Mostly good news on the Jets’ injury front. The good: For the first time this season, the Jets list no players as either doubtful or out for the upcoming game. “I expect us to have a healthy roster,” Ryan said today, “and we’ll see how that goes.”
Included in those expectations are the five players listed as questionable for the Rams: RB Bilal Powell (concussion), RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle), NT Sione Po‘uha (back/ankle), LB Bart Scott (toe) and — the only semi-negative injury news — WR-PR Jeremy Kerley, who didn’t practice for the first time this week with his heel injury plus a hamstring complication.
WR Stephen Hill practiced full after sitting out two days with an illness and said he’s feeling a lot better. He’s probable, as are LB Calvin Pace (DNP today due to personal reasons) and the 12 other players on the list.
All four injured Rams players are listed as questionable for the game: LB Mario Haggan (thigh), WR Austin Pettis (toe), DE Eugene Sims (knee), S Darian Stewart (knee). None is a starter.
Last week at this time we noted that Marv Albert was about to call his 100th Jets game on network TV. He and Rich Gannon (doing his seventh Jets game since ’08 as a network analyst and his fifth teamed with Marv) in the CBS booth generally had a good game. Gannon in particular was tough but insightful on Mark Sanchez’s play and the Jets’ use of Tim Tebow.
But Gannon committed a late-game gaffe that we’d like to correct for the record. When Yeremiah Bell rocked RB Richard Turbin as a Russell Wilson pass sailed over their heads, and YB was flagged for what ref Ed Hochuli announced was “unnecessary roughness, helmet contact to a defenseless player,” Gannon offered this:
“Yeremiah Bell’s been tagged a couple times this season for these type of hits.”
False. Until that penalty, Bell hadn’t been flagged for any plays of that kind this season. The only penalty he’d been called for previously was for holding TE Heath Miller in Game 2 at Pittsburgh.
If Gannon had said the Jets safeties as a tandem had been tagged a couple of times, he would have been in the ballpark. LaRon Landry was flagged for two late hits, on Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller in the opener (offset) and on Pittsburgh’s Emmanuel Sanders the next week, plus a horsecollar tackle on Antonio Brown in that game. He’d gone unpenalized for six games, or until he was called for pass interference on Seattle TE Evan Moore in the back of the end zone.
That Landry penalty vs. the Seahawks, by the way, was a rarity, since it officially was for zero yards yet still gave the Seahawks a first down. The ball was already inside the Jets 1 and the penalty moved the ball half the distance to the goal line, which was a foot away. That’s still statistically considered the 1-yard line.
Special Thanks to A-1 First Class
The New York Jets want to extend a special thank-you to A-1 First Class Moving, the proud moving partner of the Jets, for helping deliver items from the organization’s Sandy Relief Drive to New Jersey Cares.
Tags: Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant, Marv Albert, Rex Ryan, Rich Gannon, Russell Wilson, Sam Bradford, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams
Posted in Randy Lange | 28 Comments »
With his second kickoff-return TD as a pro and with his average again inching upward toward 30.0 yards per return, Joe McKnight was asked this week how good he can be as an NFL return man.
“Devin Hester’s the best now. Hopefully I can have my name next to his or around his somewhere. That’d be great,” McKnight said. He went on to explain that when he was an eighth-grader in River Ridge, La., he already had some notion that he’d like to follow in Hester’s fast footsteps some day.
“I used to look up to him. He wore No. 4 and I wore No. 4,” Joe recalled. “I always wanted to go to the University of Miami. I was a big Clinton Portis fan and a big Devin Hester fan.”
Interesting that McKnight knew at that tender age that he wanted to be like a top UM return man and a top ‘Canes RB. The storyline a few weeks back was that he was being made into a (temporary) defensive back and that he thought Rex Ryan and the Jets were saying he might not be wanted as a back.
Not true, said Rex. For the time being, McKnight is back at RB and got his most plays (9) and touches (4) of the season on offense on Monday night. And he made like a superback on his 100-yard return down the left sideline to juice up the Jets and the fans for their close-but-no-cigar 23-17 loss.
In fact, ST coordinator Mike Westhoff is serious in saying that he thinks in terms of running the ball when he draws up those now famous kickoff returns of his.
“All of our plays are based off of running plays,” Westhoff said. “That’s what they look like and what they should look like, where we’re going to try to double and trap and wall and run a counter off of that. It’s very similar to what an offense would run on an off-tackle play. We blocked it well. We blocked it very well. And we hit it.”
Indeed, McKnight took the “handoff” from Houston kickoff man Shayne Graham at his goal line and proceeded to use his speed and cuts to get the Jets back in the game. First game the double team by his two-man wedge, Garrett McIntyre and Konrad Reuland, on the Texans’ Bryan Braman, with McIntyre then sliding up and taking out Troy Nolan. Downfield a little further, Nick Bellore and Bilal Powell applied the second double-team, boxing up Jesse Nading.
Simultaneously, to McKnight’s right, Ellis Lankster neutralized Shiloh Keo and new signee Lex Hilliard continued his impressive first night in green and white by delaying Mister Alexander’s outside rush toward the ball.
McKnight slalomed past through the “gate” opened by Reuland and Lankster, then exploded past the diving Alexander and stiff-armed Graham. Suddenly it was a footrace with rookie safety DeVier Posey. McKnight won, squeezing past Posey along the left sideline and curling the ball inside the pylon as he dived into the end zone.
“I felt like I had to make some plays. The first couple of games I was disappointed that I didn’t get to break anything,” he said. “But I didn’t want to try to press the issue and go out and look for stuff. I just had to be patient and wait till they came to me.”
And while he was waiting, he was making a few things happen elsewhere on teams. He also is a part of the Jets’ kickoff cover team that also features Lankster and ‘Zaiah Trufant as their advance team. It was No. 25 you saw blurring by on your TV screen, in part because of his speed and in part because of a shove in the back from Braman that started the Texans out at their 4-yard line late in the opening period.
McKnight’s always gives his blockers their props — “It’s a give-and-take,” he said. “You give me something, I give you something.”
He means that literally. Last year he dished out an iPad and some high-end headphones. For this return, he said he’s planning on presenting a 50″ TV from a recent interview to either Reuland or Bellore.
And he wouldn’t mind continuing to play early Santa in the weeks ahead. Might the Colts’ cover team be in danger? They’re 25th in opponents’ kickoff-return average.
“We got some good double-teams this week,” he said, respectfully but confidently, “and next week we’re going to try to do the same.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Bilal Powell, Ellis Lankster, Garrett McIntyre, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, joe McKnight, Konrad Reuland, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore
Posted in Randy Lange | 37 Comments »
Updated, 5:45 p.m. ET
The talk about Joe McKnight playing a role in the secondary has been with him coming out of high school, and it’s been on the back burner with the Jets last season and even this season.
Today Rex Ryan, taking into account Darrelle Revis’ severe knee injury and the desire for some flexibility at the position, moved McKnight toward the corner burner.
“We’ll do that this week with Joe,” the Jets head coach said at his midday news conference. “He’ll have a role on offense, but we’re also teaching him how to play corner — not in a full-time capacity, but he’s going to be over there a ton, in the meetings and everything else.”
With Ellis Lankster (low back) questionable for Miami and then with Revis going down late in the third quarter and Antonio Cromartie even missing a snap after jarring his shoulder, the Jets have the need for some in-game corner flexibility. And with McKnight being used little on offense (seven plays, three rushes, no receptions) and contributing on kickoff returns and a few other special teams units, he is an option to go in the game on the defensive side of the ball.
McKnight played corner his first two seasons at John Curtis HS in Louisiana, and even after he emerged on offense his last two seasons, he continued to contribute at corner, in particular as a junior with three interception-return touchdowns. He has said he was recruited by USC in part due to his secondary skills although he was used primarily as a running back and secondarily as a punt returner by the Trojans.
Needless to say, playing CB even on a part-time basis in the pros would be a challenge — in fact, McKnight said today, “Me playing cornerback in high school is not helping me right now” — but this is something the Jets seem ready to explore as they move forward.
“Even when he was a rookie, we felt he had the necessary skills to play corner, the athleticism, the ball skills,” Ryan said. “I don’t think there’s any reason to think Joe McKnight couldn’t be a corner. It’s just going to take time, obviously, but with DT [Dennis Thurman] and Jimmy O [Jim O'Neil] over there, I think we’ve got great teachers.”
After practice, McKnight put the best face on it, yet he admitted, “I was surprised, but you’ve got to move on. … The way I took it was I wasn’t good enough as a running back. The coach tells you your position’s changed, you’re going to take it a certain way. That’s how I took it. It might not be the case, I don’t know what the case might be, but that’s how I’m taking it right now.”
While surprised, he said he wasn’t “disappointed or anything like that. Coach makes decisions, you’ve got to go out and do what they say to do.”
He even said he enjoyed a productive first day at his new position, coming up with three interceptions.
“Yeah, Mark [Sanchez] threw me one, I think [Tim] Tebow threw me one, and Greg [McElroy] … I think I got one from all three,” he said. The implication was that the QBs each threw No. 25 a pick to welcome him to that side of the ball. In any event, McElroy didn’t recall throwing one in McKnight’s direction.
“But Cro got me a couple of times,” the other Mac said. “I hate throwing picks, but if it translates on Sunday, I’m fine with it.”
And McKnight said he’s fine with this new line on his NFL résumé.
“I’m just happy to be on the football field,” he said. “I’m not one to stand on the sidelines.”
Word during Ryan’s news conference came from a reporter that the NFL and the NFL Referees Association may have reached an agreement to end their labor impasse and that the league’s officials could return to work possibly as soon as this weekend’s games.
None of that has been announced yet, but one way or the other, Ryan said it wouldn’t change his approach to getting the Jets prepared for the 49ers.
“If that’s the case, all we can do, all I’m going to do is get our football team ready to play, no matter who’s out there officiating,” Ryan said. “That’s the job of any head coach.”
The Jets list 19 players on this week’s first injury report. At the top of the list, Revis is being listed as out. LB Bart Scott (toe), WR Stephen Hill (hamstring) and S Eric Smith (hip/knee) did not participate in today’s practice. Four more players — FB John Conner (knee), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring) and WR Patrick Turner (hamstring) — were limited. The other 11 Jets were all full-go at practice. Click here for the Jets’ full injury report.
San Francisco is listing only five players on their report. LB Patrick Willis (ankle) and P Andy Lee (hand) were full participants in today’s practice in Ohio. RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) and WR Ted Ginn (ankle) were limited. DT Isaac Sopoaga (ankle/knee) did not practice.
Tags: Darrelle Revis, Ellis Lankster, joe McKnight, Miami Dolphins, Rex Ryan, San Francisco 49ers
Posted in Randy Lange | 82 Comments »
The Jets will be playing a doubleheader this weekend as they attempt to topple the Miami Dolphins in part by triumphing over the Miami heat.
Not as in LeBron-Dwyane-Chris but rather as in hot-hot-hot. The forecast for Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla., at the 1 p.m. ET kickoff is expected to be around 85°, with a heat-index reading close to 100°. As new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin reminded Dolfans this week after beating the Raiders last week (and the Jets perhaps subliminally), “Obviously, establishing a presence on your own home field is important, and September 1 o’clock games historically have been successful for this team.”
The Jets are mindful of the heat ahead and have been taking steps to be ready for the blast of South Florida air inside the now aptly named Sun Life Stadium.
“We definitely practiced it all week long,” head coach Rex Ryan said at today’s post-practice news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, adding that one major component was in simulating the Dolphins’ up-tempo offensive pace. “This team is averaging snapping the football probably with more than 15 seconds on the [play]clock, 20 seconds maybe. They’re super-quick, unlike really any team in the league.
“We challenged our guys during the week, every team period. Our scout team and our coaches did a tremendous job getting lined up and ready to roll.”
Ryan and his trainers also stressed optimum hydration and rest. And you don’t have to tell a player like LB Aaron Maybin twice about hydration.
“I’ve been taking extra Gatorade, Pedialyte and water. I’ll probably have a couple of extra IVs the night before,” Maybin said. “I sweat a lot. And the heat can wear on your defense especially as the game goes on.”
Some Jets wore extra layers of clothing and did extra cardio work this week outside in the mid-70s temps around Florham Park, N.J. It’s all done with an eye toward leveling the playing field somewhat against those heat-tempered Dolphins.
“It’s definitely an advantage because it is hot and humid,” said S Yeremiah Bell, who knows the situation well since he played for Miami his first eight seasons in the NFL. “Why wouldn’t you want to play in the same place you practice? It’s kind of like a cold-weather team playing in the snow.”
But, Bell counseled, “You know what’s coming. All these guys in here know what they’re in for. It’s only an advantage if you let it be.”
It’s also maybe less of an advantage than the Dolphins would like opponents to believe. Their win over the Raiders actually was their first “September 1 o’clock” game in four years, since from 2009-11 their early home games all kicked off either shortly after 4 p.m. or at night. Before last Sunday, the last time they played at home in September at 1 p.m. was against the Jets in the 2008 opener. And the Jets, with Brett Favre in his first game at QB, prevailed, 20-14.
The point being, the Miami heat is an edge but hardly an insurmountable one.
“Most of us have been playing football our whole lives, and we’ve played in hot weather before,” Maybin said.
“Obviously we’ll see when we get out there,” Ryan said. “We feel pretty good about it.”
Final Health Report
The Jets’ injury report grew by one to 21 names today, yet their health should be OK for Miami.
CB Darrelle Revis, after declaring on Thursday that “I’m going to play,” practiced full-contact today and is listed as probable for the Dolphins. And Ryan when asked about Revis specifically, pointed to the 16 probables and said, “I’d say every one of those guys I expect to play.”
LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring) and FB John Conner (knee) are doubtful. It looks as if Garrett McIntyre will start again at OLB and Konrad Reuland will add his increasing number of plays. “Konrad’s got fullback reps, tight end reps, U reps at the other tight end,” Ryan said. “It’s a good thing he’s got that Stanford education. He’s had to use it these past couple of weeks.”
Two more are questionable: TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) and CB Ellis Lankster (low back). Keller, despite his opinion that he’s ready to roll again, is iffy, with Ryan saying Dedrick Epps could be active again, especially if Keller is deactivated but possibly even if DK is active.
As for the probable list, it includes QB Mark Sanchez (low back) and the newest listee, DT Kenrick Ellis (illness). But all the probables practiced full today and appear ready to roll at Miami.
We’ll wrap up Miami’s Friday injury report here when it comes in.
When Flags Flew
Pittsburgh wasn’t a game that will go in WR Santonio Holmes’ time capsule. But say what you want about the flags, Tone caused a bunch of them to fly.
The four penalties for 52 yards called against Steelers Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis in covering Holmes were the most marked off due to one Jets player since at least the mid-Nineties. The only other time in that span that a Jet drew four penalties in a game was last year when Plaxico Burress forced four penalties on the Raiders, primarily Stanford Routt, but only three were marked off with one declined.
Prior to that, just six other Jets have caused three major penalties by opponents since 1995. WR Keyshawn Johnson did it in ’99 at Denver. WR Wayne Chrebet followed suit the next year at home vs. the Broncos. Keller as a rookie TE got a trifecta at Tennessee in 2008, and Holmes coaxed three penalties out of the Chargers (two on Quentin Jammer) last season.
DE John Abraham is the only Jets defender to get a trio of penalties thrown at his opponents in a game. Abe did it twice — three holds vs. Kansas City in 2002 (one against Hall of Famer-to-be Willie Roaf), and three more holds at Buffalo in 2005.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Darrelle Revis, Dustin Keller, Ellis Lankster, Miami Dolphins, Rex Ryan, Santonio Holmes, Sun Life Stadium, Yeremiah Bell
Posted in Randy Lange | 19 Comments »
Updated postpractice, 4:12 p.m. ET
Five words uttered at the top of Rex Ryan’s news conference today were music to Jets fans’ ears:
“Revis is cleared for contact.”
And five more words (two in a contraction) offered by Darrelle Revis at his locker after practice made the music sweeter still:
“I’ll be playing Sunday.”
However, as the Jets head coach cautioned inquiring minds in the media room here at the Atlantic Health Training Center, Revis’ availability to start on the corner at Miami on Sunday is still not a fait accompli.
“I don’t want to be saying something that isn’t true,” Ryan said when asked if being cleared for contact is the final hurdle for No. 24′s returning to action. “I’m going to be leaning on the doctors and trainers. Hopefully, he’ll play, but I guess we’ll see. … I can say I expect him to play, but again, I’m going to lean on the doctors and trainers.”
The one thing Ryan would say is that Revis would practice full today, and he did. That was the first time he practiced full since Bart Scott accidentally kicked him in the back of the helmet late in the Buffalo opener. He didn’t participate in the first two practices after suffering a mild concussion, then was limited the Friday before Pittsburgh and for Wednesday’s practice, all while trying to clear the hurdles of the NFL’s concussion protocol.
“I felt yesterday I could practice full contact, but it’s still protocol … I couldn’t hit anybody yesterday, nobody could touch me,” he said. “Usually when you’re injured, you have to wear the red jersey. I told them I didn’t want to wear it. I felt like I could play full-contact.
“But today it felt good. I actually got a little press in on some guys. … Contact actually feels good today, hitting guys and guys hitting you back.”
Ryan wasn’t going to give a premature game status for Revis, but he did allow that he’s happy that he’d been cleared for contact.
“Without question I’m happy about that, for his sake,” the coach said. “He loves to play, and he’s healthy. I think that’s a big thing. If he’s not the premier defensive player in the league, he’s certainly up there, and having him, as a player, as a player, you’re happy for that also.”
The Dolphins’ happiness was perhaps in inverse proportion to the Jets’. As rookie QB Ryan Tannehill said Wednesday about the prospect of making his first visit to Revis Island: “He’s a great player. You can’t put it any other way. He has good ball skills, good speed, plays tight coverage, man-to-man pretty much the whole game. He’s an All-Pro corner for a reason. We have to have a game plan for it and find ways to attack him.”
Revis was asked if he could be a boost to the Jets’ defense for the important divisional matchup.
“I’m just one guy,” he said. “We have tremendous guys there on defense. I’m just happy to be back. I’m ready to do my job and that’s to compete and play.”
The Rest of the I-Reports
Other tentative pluses for the Jets’ injury report: TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) and S Eric Smith (hip/knee), both not participating yesterday, were limited in today’s practice.
On the tentative minus side, the Jets added one more player to their now 20-player list and downgraded another.
Rex said CB Ellis Lankster “has a low back issue. He hurt it during practice yesterday. So we’ll keep him out of practice and hopefully get him back later in the week.” Lankster, who saw extended action as the Jets’ third DB at Pittsburgh, was limited Wednesday by the mid-practice back strain and is a DNP today.
Rookie DT Quinton Coples (illness) also didn’t participating today. Neither did FB John Conner (knee), LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring) and S LaRon Landry, who’s been sidelined for the third Thursday this season to help his ongoing recovery from his heel issue.
The Dolphins have added starting OLB Kevin Burnett (foot) to their list as not participating today. Also, WR Marlon Moore (hamstring) was downgraded from limited to DNP. The rest of their 10-man report remains the same as the day before.
LaRon Landry followed up his late hit out of bounds on C.J. Spiller in the opener (offset by a Bills holding) with calls of a late hit on Emmanuel Sanders and a horsecollar tackle on Antonio Brown on Sunday.
Ryan said it’s “human nature” for officials to want to keep on eye on Landry during games, but the coach said while his veteran safety hits hard, he hits legal.
“I love the fact that LaRon’s got a reputation as a huge hitter,” he said. “There’s not anybody who’s going to say he’s not a clean player. He’s a clean player. But he’s a hitter. Yeremiah Bell is a hitter, too, but they’re going to do it within the rules.”
Rex cited LB Calvin Pace as an example of that as well, when he had several hard but textbook and legal hits of Ryan Fitzpatrick in the opener.
“You can tell our players are very mindful of that,” he said of hitting with their shoulders and not leading with their helmets. “We’re trying to be as physical a team as we can with in the confinements of the rules. We’re not trying to injure anybody, but we’re trying to hit and be physical.”
Another Long Conversion
A Revis return wouldn’t hurt the Jets defense, which considers itself better than many of its mid-to-low NFL rankings after two weeks of games. One thing the “D” really want to avoid is what happened on the Ben Roethlisberger-to-Mike Wallace touchdown pass in front of CB Antonio Cromartie: opponents’ third-and-long conversions. The 37-yard TD strike, after all, came on third-and-16.
Last year you’ll recall the Jets allowed eight conversions on third or fourth down with 11-plus yards to go. In 2010 they allowed 13 such plays (including two on Roethlisberger passes and one on a Big Ben run in the two meetings with the Steelers). That’s the most allowed in back-to-back seasons since the 22 third/fourth-and-long conversions in 1979-80 (19 in ’79 alone). In the 20 seasons from 1980-2009, the Jets allowed about six of those conversions a season, about the same rate as the Jets offense converted.
Talk about your backbreaking plays. Cutting way back on these unlikely chain-movers would do a lot to help the Jets defense return to top-10 form.
Tags: Ben Roethlisberger, Buffalo Bills, Darrelle Revis, Dustin Keller, Ellis Lankster, Eric Smith, injury list, LaRon Landry, PIttsburgh Steelers, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 27 Comments »
Mother’s Day is just around the corner on Sunday, which means new Jets DE Jay Richardson is about to turn the corner for his family’s annual Mother’s Day dinner at mom Deborah Johnson’s house in Dublin, Ohio.
“Mother’s Day is my favorite time of the year,” said Deborah, who has three sons, in a story just posted this morning on usafootball.com. “The greatest gift you can give me is a meal to share with family. That is the tradition I inherited from my mother, where we sat around the table and discussed everything. It is a time that families can connect. Dinner at our house doesn’t start on Mother’s Day until everyone is there.”
Will the Jets’ defensive line start the season with Richardson on the roster? Mike DeVito, in the feature we just posted on newyorkjets.com, discusses the DL’s increased versatility and talent, and Richardson, signed last month as a street free agent, could be one of the contributors.
The 6’6″, 280-pounder was Oakland’s fifth-round pick in 2007 out of Ohio State. In three years with the Raiders, he played in 48 games with 22 starts and produced seven sacks and 108 tackles before spending last season as a backup on Seattle’s DL.
Lankster Honored in NYC
Matt Slauson isn’t the only Jet who’s overcome his stutter. Ellis Lankster, the Jets’ cornerback and special-teamer (and also Slauson’s neighbor in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room) was honored by the Stuttering Foundation at its May 8 gala in New York to celebrate National Stuttering Awareness Week and the foundation’s 65th anniversary as the world’s leading charitable organization helping those who stutter.
“Ellis shows his true toughness by sharing his struggles with fluency as a child,” said Jane Fraser, president of the foundation. “He refused to let his stutter keep him from his dream of playing professional football, and he is committed to helping and inspiring children attain their dreams by overcoming the obstacles they face.”
Fraser presented Lankster with the Foundation’s “Converting Awareness into Action” Award for the hope and inspiration he brings to the stuttering community.
Lankster’s main accomplishment had nothing to do with stuttering but it did have to do with executing something tough to do at Philadelphia in Week 15 last season, then doing it again about 15 minutes later. Lankster recovered two special-teams fumbles vs. the Birds, off a first-quarter kickoff return and a second-quarter punt return, making him the first Jet in at least 30 years to snag two ST fumble recoveries in the same game.
Hill Among Rookies in NFLPA Spotlight
Jets second-round WR Stephen Hill is one of the 35 members of the NFL’s 2012 rookie draft class who are set to be highlighted beginning Thursday, May 17, at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere presented by Nike.
The rookies will wear professional game jerseys for the first time and thus will be the first class to model Nike’s new uniforms as they participate in photo shoots at the Rose Bowl by trading card companies Panini America and Topps.
Hill, plus Nick Toon, the son of Jets Ring of Honor WR Al Toon who is a Saints draft pick out of Wisconsin, are among the rookies who will be front and center during the three-day event that will conclude Saturday night, May 21, with an exclusive wrap party sponsored by Nike and Verizon that will bring together players past, present and future at Colony Hollywood in Los Angeles.
Tags: Ellis Lankster, Jay Richardson, Mother's Day, NFLPA Rookie Premiere, Nick Toon, Stephen Hill, Stuttering Foundation
Posted in Randy Lange | 90 Comments »
The way the week’s hype has gone, you might think Aaron Maybin had been traded for Brad Smith and those two are the only ones playing against their former teams in Sunday’s Jets-Bills matchup.
But the Jets have two other former Bills on the roster, and one who’s been contributing on special teams the past two games, in Ellis Lankster.
“At Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Bills have a great crowd, a great situation,” Lankster told me today. “I enjoyed my time there but now I’m a Jet all the way and I’m ready to get at Buffalo.”
Lankster began his NFL career as the Bills’ seventh-round selection in 2009 and played in 10 games that season with three tackles and a pass defense. He was a final cut by Buffalo last year and filled his 2010 season by signing on with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He came to the Jets as a reserve-future signing in January, then was a final cut again this September.
But the coaches and the front office didn’t forget Lankster’s major preseason contribution, the 67-yard interception-return TD in the summer finale against the Eagles. He was re-signed Oct. 11 and played against the Patriots and Dolphins, contributing four special teams tackles in those two games.
With Isaiah Trufant (hamstring) missing time (Trufant is questionable for Sunday), Lankster has also been getting time as a flyer in the Jets’ vise, and if he gets to reprise that role again vs. the Bills, he’ll be going up against an old friend.
“I’ll get to go up against Leodis McKelvin,” he said. “He was a good friend when I was there. In training camp, me and Leodis, our rooms were right across from each other. I used to take pointers from him and [safety] George Wilson all the time.”
Now he’ll be trying to wire McKelvin along with his vise partner so that Jeremy Kerley can shake and bake on a punt return or three up at Ralph Wilson.
The two other ex-Bills on the Jets are Maybin, whom I visited with today in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room and will write about in my Sunday morning advance on the game, and TE Shawn Nelson, who will be profiled in a story by Andrew LeRay later this afternoon. Head coach Rex Ryan said Nelson is not yet ready to suit up and won’t play against the Bills, whom he played for in 2009 and last year.
The Jets’ four players who had been limited in team drills at Thursday’s practice were limited again today and all four are listed as questionable for the Bills.
Regarding WR Plaxico Burress (low back), Rex Ryan said at today’s news conference, “The thing with Plax is that he’s sore. … You think he’ll be fine but sometimes those backs are troublesome. So hopefully he’s feeling good when we play on Sunday.”
It’s a similar view for both D-linemen on the list, Mike DeVito (knee) and Kenrick Ellis (ankle).
“I don’t feel great about it right now,” Ryan said. “If we were going to play tomorrow, I would say probably not. This one could really be a gametime decision for both those guys.”
The five other injured Jets all practiced full and are probable for the Bills: LB David Harris, DT Marcus Dixon, C Nick Mangold, LB Calvin Pace and DE Ropati Pitoitua.
For the Bills, DT Kyle Williams (foot), T Demetrius Bell (shoulder) and CB Aaron Williams (chest) have been listed as out by coach Chan Gailey. LB Chris Kelsay (calf) and T Chris Hairston (ankle) are questionable. And QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, with his reported chest bruise, WR Donald Jones (ankle) and G Andy Levitre (shoulder) and RB Johnny White (illness) are all probable.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Brad Smith, Buffalo Bills, Ellis Lankster, Kenrick Ellis, Leodis McKelvin, Mike DeVito, Plaxico Burress, Shawn Nelson
Posted in Randy Lange | 14 Comments »