General manager John Idzik and the Jets front office made their first major transactions this offseason when the team released four veterans — LBs Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, S Eric Smith and T Jason Smith — and announced that FB/TE Josh Baker has been waived.
Thus 34 seasons of NFL experience and 19 of wearing the Green & White have been removed from the roster, freeing up undisclosed salary cap space in the process. The news release was posted on our site a short while ago.
All had their ups and downs, but we’ll choose to have some up memories today, especially since three of the four (Scott, Pace and E.Smith) made contributions to the Jets’ ’09 and ’10 charges into the AFC Championship Game.
Scott, of course, was the first free agency acquisition of Rex Ryan after he left the Ravens as Scott’s D-coordinator to become the Jets’ new head coach in 2009. He was always a great trash talker, but while opponents occasionally took exception, his teammates seemed to enjoy being the target of Bart’s barbs, or at least rolled with the punches and definitely looked up to No. 57 in the locker room.
“It takes tremendous energy and cardio to talk and practice at the same time,” Scott said after one Jets practice. “I enjoy talking because it forces me not to be able to breathe, so it helps me get in shape faster.”
On a more serious note, in one of his first one-on-one interviews after signing with the Jets, Scott explained his game.
“I try and be violent every opportunity I get,” he told me then. “I feel football is a game of wills, and if you have two people clashing with each other, it’s going to hurt both players, but I’m willing to take the pain longer than I believe my opponent is, even if it hurts me. And I think that’s something the fans will see — a lot of violent attempts and collisions, but they’ll also see me get up and they’ll see me continue to throw and never waver. No jabs, nothing but power blows.”
The pain got the best of Bart only once as a Jet, last season when his 129-game appearance streak (including playoffs) was snapped and he missed three starts for the first time since 2005 due to his mangled toe. But his drive and determination kept him on the field most of the way and he finished his four-year Jets stay with a good record of playing behind the other team’s line of scrimmage. Despite his toe-jam, he had a team-leading 7.0 tackles for loss last year and 28.5 TFLs total, most on the Jets the past four years.
My partner, Eric Allen, will have a blog on his four-year relationship with the Madbacker up in the “On the Inside with EA” menu shortly.
Calvin’s Five Years
Pace had a modest record of production in the sack department. In his five Jets regular seasons, he had 28 sacks, not DeMarcus Ware numbers yet the most by a Jets linebacker in a five-year span since Mo Lewis a decade earlier.
Pace in fact had Lewis’ franchise single-season mark of 10 sacks in 2000 in his sites when he said on the eve of the 2011 season opener about double-digit sacks, “I think about it, I write it down and look at it. And I think you should do that. Sometimes you make your goals, sometimes you don’t make them. But it is something that I do. I’m not going to say I know, but I do think this is the year that I get to those goals.”
CP didn’t get there, finishing with 4.5 sacks in ’11. But often that’s because he wasn’t asked to.
“If you flip it on the other side, DeMarcus vs. me — I’m not comparing myself to him, but there’s a 99 percent chance that he’s going to be the one rushing and the Cowboys are going to probably drop the other guy in coverage,” he said. “For the Dolphins, Cameron Wake’s the same way.
“If you break down the film, look at all the stuff I do. And I’m cool with that, I really am. But when Rex calls my number, I’m going to try and do everything I can to get there for him.”
And when Pace was turned loose — such as for his three sacks combined of JaMarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski in the 2009 shutout win at Oakland — he was hellacious to watch.
“The Smith Brothers” and J.Baker
Likewise, E.Smith was always ready to pitch in wherever needed, from the time he became the highest compensatory pick ever selected by the Jets (third round, 97th overall in 2006 — he still holds that distinction) through this past year.
Ryan and coordinator Mike Pettine felt so strongly about including him and his knowledge of the defense (not to mention his general knowledge — he has his master’s degree) that they named him a co-starter at safety with LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, a distinction he held every week of the past season (even though he was officially credited with just two starts).
“That’s what we’re going to do, and it’s looking good,” the upbeat Smith said in early August at Cortland, all the while knowing that his career-high 14 starts from the previous year were not likely to be matched. “We’re excited about it. I think it’ll be good for us.”
But what was always good for ST coordinator Mike Westhoff, assistant coach (and new coordinator) Ben Kotwica and the Jets’ specialists was Smitty’s hard-hitting contributions on kick and punt coverage.
“We’re going to free up Eric to be back with us a little bit more,” Westhoff said back then, to which Smith replied: “I don’t know how he can get me back more. I was on everything.”
Mostly, he was on the opponents’ return men. His 105 special-teams tackles from ’06-12 (including playoffs) was easily the most on the Jets in that span.
Regarding Baker, we hardly knew ye. The FB/TE from Northwest Missouri State by way of Delaware (he was a Blue Hen along with Super Bowl MVP-to-be Joe Flacco) had three catches in 2011, one going for a touchdown against the Giants on Christmas Eve, the day before his birthday. In the offseason and preseason, he talked optimistically about fitting into the Jets’ new offense. Then in the third preseason game vs. Carolina, Panthers CB Josh Norman landed hard on his right knee and Baker was gone to IR for the year.
We saved J.Smith, the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, for last here because he was the last of this foursome to arrive, late last August via the “change of scenery” trade for Wayne Hunter with the Rams. He played on offense in every game last season, averaging 16 plays a game on offense, primarily as a third TE, and a handful more per game on special teams.
The quirky, friendly big guy gave the definite impression he was fitting into his new surroundings.
“I’m very happy to be a part of this team,” he said in November. “I believe in what we’re doing here. The guys who deserve credit are Austin, Brandon, Nick, Matt and D’Brickashaw. Those guys are working real hard to make sure this truck goes.”
The truck may have pulled up for loading the possessions that this quartet had stored at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for a while. If it returns with one or two in the future, great, they’d be part of the puzzle moving forward. If not, thanks for stopping by, guys, and providing some good memories in the process. As Ryan said regarding today’s departures:
“They all have the work ethic and attitude that you look for in players and they will always be New York Jets. It was an honor to coach each of these men. They are tremendous people as well as outstanding football players.”
Tags: Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Eric Smith, Jason Smith, John Idzik, Josh Baker, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 112 Comments »
Sunday will mark the end of a remarkable 30-year pro coaching career for Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff. Westhoff held his final in-season news conference Thursday at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center and said he won’t forget the past 12 seasons he’s spent with the Green & White.
“I’m happy and proud to be at the place that I am in my career,” Westhoff said. “Few of us get to leave this business of our own volition, and I’m able to do that.”
The ST coach came to the Jets in 2001 after having spent the prior 15 seasons in the same role with the Miami Dolphins and before that, three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, his son John will join him on the sidelines for his final game.
“I’m very proud that he wants to share that last game with me,” Westhoff said.
This season hasn’t been the Jets’ best on special teams and Westhoff accepts full responsibility for the struggles and disappointments.
“It’s a very sporadic, kind of crazy year,” he said, “because at some points there were just some excellent things that took place this year that I was involved in, and then some things that were at the opposite end of the scale.”
Westhoff said he is pleased that the Jets lead the NFL with 27 inside-the-20 kickoffs (Cincinnati is second with 24). He’s also glad Joe McKnight will likely finish with the league’s fourth-best kickoff-return average and that Jeremy Kerley may finish in the top 10 in punt-return average. But as a whole, his unit hasn’t performed up to its normal high standard and the players aren’t afraid to admit it.
“This year hasn’t quite been how we’ve wanted to send him out because we’ve always been in the top in special teams,” safety Eric Smith said.
Second-year linebacker Nick Bellore had hardly played special teams before arriving to the NFL, but credits Westhoff for teaching him the ropes.
“The attention to detail that he demands I think is really excellent and is probably why he’s had so much success,” Bellore said. “Things have to be done exactly how he wants them done and it can be tough at times, but if you do it right, you can see how it works.”
What Smith says he’ll miss most about Westhoff is sitting in on special teams meetings.
“Some of the things he says in the meetings are hilarious,” No. 33 said. “Every day it’s something new. You never know what’s going to come out of his mouth. It’s hilarious.”
Westhoff said he hasn’t spent much time reflecting this past week but will do a little when he’s been alone.
“In the middle of the night, when I wake up, then all of the sudden it will dawn on me,” he said. “But for the most part, no.”
Following his retirement, Westhoff plans to return to Florida and hopes to transition into a media career, possibly as a football television analyst.
“I think that today’s fan is becoming a more and more educated fan,” he said. “Television does a great job of that.”
And from Westhoff’s count, Sunday he will be coaching his 625th NFL game. Bellore said the unit owes it to its leader to put together one last effective outing.
“I think we’ve underperformed this year,” Bellore said, “and the best thing we can do is send him out with a win and make some big plays on special teams.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Eric Smith, John Westhoff, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, special teams
Posted in John Holt | 25 Comments »
What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?
All right, good news first.
With one more favorable set of games on the last day of the season next Sunday, the Jets will have the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense for 2012.
Stay with me on this.
The Jets are No. 2 for the second week in a row, behind Pittsburgh’s No. 1 unit, but the gap closed significantly on Sunday. As the Jets were yielding 136 net yards (passing yards minus sack yards), to the Chargers, the Steelers gave up 253 to Andy Dalton and the Bengals. That leaves the Jets 30 yards behind the Steelers.
A Green & White shutdown of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills coupled with a Steelers showing vs. Brandon Weeden and the Browns that is 31-plus yards than the Jets allow (and barring an even greater lockdown by No. 3 Arizona against No. 4 San Francisco or vice versa and by No. 5 Seattle against St. Louis) and the Jets will wear the No. 1 crown for pass defense in a year in which they didn’t have Darrelle Revis for 13 games and only lately started to bring serious, consistent pressure on opposing QBs.
What’s the point, you may ask over your eggnog. No. 1 pass defense isn’t a secret tiebreaker to get the Jets into the AFC playoff grid. It doesn’t pay incentives. There isn’t even a plaque for the wall downstairs at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. And where was the vaunted passing D in Sunday’s third quarter?
That last question is easiest to answer, although I’ll sound like a coach here when I say they’re paying the Chargers, too. Philip Rivers is still a decent QB, Danario Alexander is a dangerous downfield threat, Antonio Gates is one of the long-time gold standards at TE. Yeah, it would’ve been great to see Antonio Cromartie play that ball to Alexander better and for Eric Smith to drop Gates right after the catch, but most teams would kill for a defense that gave up 10 of its 20 points off of short fields and allowed 136 yards of passing offense on the day.
“The defense played really well for the majority of the game,” head coach Rex Ryan said on a conference call with beat reporters today. “I thought we gave up two huge plays. One we really thought we had the coverage, then did a poor job from a technique standpoint. Then you’ve got to give them credit for a nice job of scheming us when they got Gates isolated. That was obviously a big play for them. I think that’s obviously the difference in the game. They were absolutely dominated on defense and they made enough plays on offense to win the game.”
But at least consider there’s carryover from everything, good, bad and mediocre. However the Jets’ offense shakes out in 2013, the defense figures to be a cornerstone for the Jets going forward. Mo and Q, the Hitman, Cro and Revis Island, et al., should be a major force in the future, and nothing like a top ranking to underscore that for newcomers to the fold. Plus 1 isn’t a crooked number and is better than a sharp stick in the eye.
And Now for the Naughty
The bad news is that, besides a sudden blocking problem — “That was as poor as I can ever remember, as far as pass protection is concerned,” Ryan said of the 11 sacks suffered by Greg McElroy and the offense — another issue has lately reared its ugly head. It’s a turnover problem.
We hate to say it on Christmas Eve, but the Jets have been doing too much giving and not enough taking.
In their last five games, they have a minus-14 turnover margin (four takeaways, 18 giveaways), dropping them to minus-13 on the year, 27th in the NFL. Furthermore, it’s tied for the most lopsided five-game in-season margin in franchise history with a stretch of the Jets’ inaugural season as the Titans in 1960, when they went minus-14 from Games 5-9 (14 TAs, 28 GAs). The only worse five-game stretch spanned the 1976 and ’77 seasons, when they had a minus-18 (9 TAs, 27 GAs) through the ’77 season opener.
On the one hand, this kind of trend can undo a lot of the good things a team might do, such as playing great pass defense or getting off the field on third down or returning and covering kickoffs. On the other, at least the Jets won two of the games in this five game span, vs. Arizona and at Jacksonville.
Regardless, some members of the defense spoke with me about optimizing takeaway opportunities, and that hasn’t happened with no turnovers for the defense, not even a forced fumble, the last two games. Just like great pass defense can continue into the offseason and the next preseason, so can that often whimsical but always important turnover habit.
There is no better time for McElroy and the offense to work on ball security and the D to step up its ball thievery than this season’s last live action against the Bills, who are minus-14 for the season and minus-8 in their last three games alone.
Ryan was grilled again about quarterbacks following the game. He deflected Sunday stories about sources offering information regarding Tim Tebow being active but not playing against the Chargers while Jeremy Kerley ran the Wildcat on several plays, most notably the 42-yard completion to Clyde Gates on the Jets’ second drive.
“You’re assuming something’s a fact or whatever,” Ryan said regarding questions about some of those sources. “I’ll say this: If I would’ve asked Tim to play anything, Tim would’ve gone in the game and done that. … Jeremy looked good in practice. That’s why I went with him. I could’ve used Tim. If I’d chosen to use Tim, I believe without any hesitation Tim would’ve been out there.”
Reporter John Holt will have a story on Kerley that we’ll post Christmas morning. And we’ll have more on Rex, the quarterbacks, and the rest of the Jets when we all return to the facility for Wednesday’s practice for the Bills. Until then, we’ll sign off now and wish you and yours the happiest of holidays.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Antonio Gates, Buffalo Bills, Danario Alexander, Eric Smith, Greg McElroy, Jeremy Kerley, Philip Rivers, Rex Ryan, San Diego Chargers, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 122 Comments »
For whatever reasons, ever since returning from their bye week, the Jets’ special teams haven’t been as sharp and efficient as usual.
Trouble began in Seattle on Nov. 11 when punt returner Jeremy Kerley muffed a second-quarter punt, which the Seahawks recovered and soon thereafter turned into seven points.
That was followed up at St. Louis the next week when one of Nick Folk’s field goals was blocked and a Tim Tebow fake-punt shovel pass to Lex Hilliard was stopped.
And most recently, against the Patriots on Thanksgiving, Joe McKnight fumbled a kickoff return, resulting in a TD for the opposition.
Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff didn’t have a clear explanation for the recent struggles.
“We do things in practice,” Westhoff said, “but there’s only so many things you can do. I mean, we can’t run a live kickoff coverage in practice this time of the year. We’ve already had a million. You have to be able to hang onto it. So those instances, even though they’re separate entities — very, very frustrating.”
Yet Westhoff was pleased with his kickoff covereage unit against the Pats.
“They couldn’t get to the 20,” Westhoff said. “They couldn’t have gotten to the 20 with an all-star team running that against what we were doing. We had it. I look at it technically. I know what I’m talking about. So we have them covered.”
Westhoff was shocked the McKnight miscue occurred, particularly because it looked like he had a chance to take the return all the way.
“Here I’m seeing this develop,” the ST coordinator said. “I’m thinking, ‘We’ve got them. We’re going to hit this.’ All of a sudden it ends up becoming a gigantic play for them and they get the big Thanksgiving celebration and we get a weekend in Palookaville.”
Jets seventh-year safety Eric Smith said the mistakes and errors on special teams haven’t only been discouraging for Westhoff but for the entire unit.
“We’ve just given up a lot of plays that we don’t need to,” Smith said. “We’ve got them schemed up well, we’ve just got some guys out of position, missed some tackles or missed some blocks.”
The Arizona Cardinals, Sunday’s opponents, feature one of the NFL’s premier punt returners in Patrick Peterson. Last season as a rookie, Peterson tied the NFL single-season punt-return touchdown record, finishing with four, with all four of his scores at least 80-yard returns. Those impressive numbers certainly haven’t gone unnoticed by Westhoff.
“I’ll tell you what he’s incredible at aside from being a prolific punt returner,” Westhoff said. “He rushes field goals as good as maybe anybody I’ve ever seen. He can run under a chair. He explodes and he’s low. He’s strong. At 220 pounds, he runs through a lot of things aside from being so explosive. He’s a real factor.
“Sometimes his numbers maybe aren’t quite what he would want them to be. He takes chances. I mean, he ran a 99-yard punt return. That meant he fielded it on the 1. A lot of guys wouldn’t do that. He does that kind of stuff. So he’s very daring.”
When Peterson entered the NFL out of LSU in 2011, Westhoff listed him as his top draft prospect.
“He’s extremely, extremely talented,” Westhoff said. “I have tremendous respect for him.”
The unit is also hoping personal protector Tim Tebow will be ready to go after he didn’t see action in last week’s game due to his broken ribs.
“I think I know Tim Tebow pretty well,” Westhoff said. “The guy’s pretty tough. Anytime you have one of those things, there’s always a safety or precaution because you don’t know what it could become.”
If the Jets envision being successful Sunday, one area they should attempt to capitalize on McKnight’s specialty, kickoff returns. Arizona ranks 30th in the NFL in both their 27.9-yard average return allowed and opponents’ averaged 24.3-yard-line drive start. But as Westhoff cautioned, it all circles back to fundamentals.
“Every play is measured by the proper execution of that play,” he said. “Sometimes a really good punt return is a fair catch. That can be a heck of a play, things like that. Whatever the situation requires, I want to try to win at that situation. And I want everyone to win at it, every single guy. That’s my goal.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Eric Smith, Jeremy Kerley, joe McKnight, Mike Westhoff, New England Patriots, Nick Folk, Patrick Peterson
Posted in John Holt | 19 Comments »
Here are today’s pregame tweets for Jets-Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, 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 Weather for Jets @ Seattle won’t be snow as it was in ’08, but almost as bad: rain expected all afternoon, temps in mid-40s, light wind.
#RL Jets are 8-9 all-time vs Seahawks, 3-4 @ SEA, 0-1 @ CenturyLink, but they’ve won 8 of the last 10 meetings, 3 of last 5 @ SEA.
#RL Jets have scored first in eight of the last nine games in this series (7-2), have scored first in last five games at Seattle.
#RL Jets QB Mark Sanchez last 2 games: 95 atts, 56 comps, 611 yds. Atts, comps most in back-to-back games in his career, yds 2nd most.
#RL SEA rookie QB Russell Wilson in 4 home games this yr: 92 atts, 57 comps, 747 yds, 9 TDs, 0 INTs, 1 lost FUM, 120.2 rating, 4-0 record.
#RL Jets RB Shonn Greene: 139 carries, 509 yds (3.7 avg), 5 TDs. In his last 3 games Greene is averaging 97.3 yds/game, 4.6 per carry.
#RL SEA RB Marshawn Lynch w/BUF vs Jets 2007-10: 7 games, 103 carries, 431 yds (4.2 per carry, 61.6 per game), 2 TDs.
#RL Today’s referee: Ed Hochuli. It’s Ed’s 17th Jets game as ref since ’93, incl ’04 PO win @ SD, ’09 season opener @ HOU, ’10 win vs NE
#RL NYJ inactives: QB Greg McElroy RB Joe McKnight LB Aaron Maybin G Caleb Schlauderaff G Hayworth Hicks TE Hayden Smith NT Kenrick Ellis
#RL S Eric Smith (knee) active first time in 4 games, LB Bart Scott (toe) active after sitting vs MIA, ending 119-game RS appearance streak.
#RL With Jets LB Aaron Maybin deactivated, LB Ricky Sapp is active and could make his NFL debut today.
#RL Jets in white jerseys, white pants, green trim. 23rd time u/ Rex Ryan Jets are in white/white. Record is 12-10 but 1-7 in last 8 games in w/w.
#RL Marv Albert, Rich Gannon in the CBS booth for Jets-Seahawks. It’s the 100th career Jets game that Marv has called for network TV.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Bart Scott, CenturyLink Field, Ed Hochuli, Eric Smith, Mark Sanchez, Marshawn Lynch, Marv Albert, Ricky Sapp, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, Shonn Greene
Posted in Randy Lange | 4 Comments »
The Jets will run into a familiar face Sunday at CenturyLink Field when they take on the Seattle Seahawks. Leon Washington spent the first four years of his NFL career as a part of the Jets and is now in his third season with this week’s opponent from the NFC West.
Washington was traded by the Green & White to Seattle in the spring of 2010 for a fifth-round draft pick. Despite no longer being with the franchise, he remains the Jets’ career leader with four kickoff-return touchdowns.
“I always said I was glad Leon was on my team because then I didn’t have to try and tackle him,” Jets safety Eric Smith said this week. “Leon is good when he has the ball in his hands, he’s good at making people miss, so it’s going to be a challenge for us on our returns to get him tackled.”
Washington ranks sixth in the NFL with an average of 29.1 yards on 15 returns this season. In 2008 he played in the Pro Bowl after leading the NFL with 1,606 all-purpose yards. The next year, his last with the Jets, he played in seven games before his season was cut short by a compound fracture of his fibula during the win at Oakland.
“I remember when I got traded, Rex came and talked to me and said, ‘Look, Leon, we have to pay a bunch of guys, Nick Mangold, David, Harris’ — I remember him saying the names — ‘Darrelle Revis,’ and stuff like that,” he recalled. “It’s a business, so I understand it. I was thankful that I had the opportunity that they drafted me in the first place. It was awesome.”
Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said he wasn’t involved with the team’s decision in not bringing Washington back. These days he notices Washington on Seattle highlights but doesn’t study him to the extent he once did.
“If you watch their first game that they played this year,” Westhoff said, “he broke the long kickoff and the long punt. He looks pretty good to me. He looks very solid. I have a lot of respect and I think he’s a darn good football player.”
Smith said he hasn’t talked with his former teammate in quite some time but is looking forward to reuniting with him Sunday. He hasn’t forgotten all of Washington’s big runs and kickoff returns.
“He’s done well,” Smith said. “You don’t hear about it much. But we keep up on him and it looks like every game he’s almost breaking one.”
Washington said he stays in contact with the Jets on Twitter and usually reconnects with tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Revis in the offseason. He doesn’t hold any grudges toward his former team and is happy with the way things turned out.
“There’s no added attention to me playing the Jets,” he said. “Honestly — and I’m very serious when I say this — we’re concerned about what we’re doing out here. We have a really good football team and we’re trying to put things together. So we’re not too concerned about our opponent. We’re prepared for them but we’re concerned about doing things we need to do in order for us to win the game.
“Would I like to return a kickoff for a touchdown against the Jets? Yes. Would I like to return a kickoff for a touchdown against the 49ers, the Rams or whoever it may be? Yes.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: CenturyLink Field, Eric Smith, Leon Washington, Mike Westhoff, Rex Ryan, Seattle Seahawks
Posted in John Holt | 6 Comments »
Updated, 1:35 p.m. ET
The view is not sunny this morning, and I don’t just mean just from my North Jersey bunker as the wind whips the trees and the rain falls in rippling sheets.
The Jets are 3-5 at the 2012 halfway point, which also this year happens to be the break for their bye week. That record is significant for a few reasons.
It is good for sole possession of fourth and last place in the AFC East. Buffalo, on its bye, is a half-game ahead in third. Miami, which the Jets planned to send to 3-4, instead are 4-3 and a game and a half ahead in second. The Patriots are 5-3, two games ahead in the top spot.
Sole possession of last is not something the Jets have experienced much lately. Since ’09 under head coach Rex Ryan, they had never before been alone in the cellar. In fact, the last time was seven years ago, when they held fourth place in the division for the last 12 weeks of the 2005 season..
But the true significance of 3-5 is what it has done for their postseason plans. Three-and-five is not a good spot from which to launch a playoff assault.
Here are the facts:
■ Since 2002, when the current playoff format began, 59 NFL teams have begun 3-5.
■ Three of them, 5.1%, made the playoffs. The Jets were one of them, needing a 6-2 finish plus help to win the AFC East in ’02. San Diego in ’08 and Denver in ’11 both finished 8-8 and won the AFC West in those seasons.
■ Only five of those 59 started 3-5 and finished 6-2. No team finished 8-0 or 7-1.
■ The average record of all 59 of those teams: roughly 6-9-1.
■ How about teams that went 3-5 and got their bye in Week 9? Only seven got that scenario, and only the ’08 Chargers went from 3-5 to the playoffs. Average record for those seven is slightly better than 6-10.
Ryan knows the window is bad small. On his conference call with Jets reporters this morning, he was asked what he wants his players to do this bye week.
“First off, take care of yourself and your family and ride the hurricane thing out for a couple of days. Then get away from it,” he said. “I want them to get away and then come back, and we need to be all in. The only chance we have is if we’re 100 percent all in. We have no wiggle room. We have to start playing a ton better. Obviously our players know that.
“That’s the only thing we can hang our hat on. If we don’t play better, we can forget about anything.”
One more thing that will give these Jets the best chance they have in their final eight is to get a lot of their health back. Several players who have played important roles this year and in the past have been either out or hobbled or both for a while.
NT Sione Po‘uha agreed with that theory after returning to action vs. the Dolphins.
“Obviously, you would like to go into the bye week with a win, feeling positive about things,” Big Bo said. “But it’ll give me, I can only speak for myself, more time, almost like a long reset to evaluate and make new commitments and make new resolve for the upcoming second half of the season. I think this bye week will serve as a resolve/reset-type break for us before we come back and face Seattle and the remainder of the games.”
Eric Smith (knee), a stabilizing force in the secondary and a leader on special teams, has missed the last three games. Bilal Powell (shoulder), a key depth component at RB, has missed two games. Joe McKnight has been playing on a left ankle sprain for two weeks that he aggravated against Miami. LB Bart Scott’s battled turf toe for five weeks and finally ended his ironman streaks by sitting vs. the Dolphins. NT Kenrick Ellis (knee) has sat three games.
“These two weeks give us a chance to get healthy,” Ryan said. “I’m hoping they’ll all be available for Seattle. I’m not 100 percent sure, especially on Kenrick, but I feel great that Smith, Powell and Bart will be back. I think we’ll get the majority of our guys back healthy. I think that’s what this team needs.”
That and six victories could do wonders.
That Miami Mystique
The Jets outgained the Dolphins by 127 yards Sunday. A major component of that was Miami’s 20-0 halftime lead, of course, but the yardage inequality follows a trend.
The Jets’ plus-127 is tied for the 13th-largest yardage margin in a loss in franchise history. No. 2 on that list is the 30-25 home loss to the Dolphins in 2009, when they had a plus-274-yard margin. And tied for 10th is the 10-6 home loss in 2010, when the Jets were plus-149.
Tags: Bart Scott, Bilal Powell, Eric Smith, joe McKnight, Miami Dolphins, Rex Ryan, Sione Pouha
Posted in Randy Lange | 144 Comments »
The conservative way to play it would have been to say yes, New England’s up next, it’s important because it’s a division rival, no more, and why don’t we talk about the Patriots on Wednesday when we really start up our week of preparation, and let’s bask one more day today in the warm afterglow of Sunday’s satisfying win over the Colts.
But Rex Ryan didn’t play it that way at his day-after news conference. The media wanted to know his latest take on the Pats. And he didn’t disappoint.
Are the Patriots, at 3-3 like everyone else and his brother in the AFC East, more vulnerable than they had been in the past? the Jets head coach was asked.
“Are they more vulnerable? I don’t know. They’ve lost three games. That’s probably more than they normally lose in a season,” Ryan said. “But we need to worry about ourselves more than anybody else. I think that’s where we’re at today, tomorrow, or some of our preparation even on Wednesday, but we obviously have to dial into our opponent specifically as well. For us to get to where we want to get to, we have to improve ourselves. I think that’s what we’re really working on doing as well.”
So when did he begin thinking about the Patriots?
“I’ve never stopped thinking about the Patriots, but that’s it,” he said with a laugh. “That’s a team we have to beat to win our division. And obviously Buffalo and Miami are improved, not taking anything away from them, but the team that’s won our division since I’ve been the head coach here is always New England. That’s the one you have to beat for sure. You think about them, you even build your roster sometimes in trying to compete, trying to beat this team. You’re always thinking about them.”
We’ve never known Rex to diss the Patriots. Even when he was talking about not having “come here to kiss Belichick’s rings,” it wasn’t to run down Bill Belichick’s, Tom Brady’s and New England’s successes but rather to let them, plus the Jets’ fans, players and reporters, know that he wouldn’t be going into these games with his hat in his hand.
Still, some take Ryan’s belief in his team when it’s Patriots week to somehow be disrespectful toward one of the NFL’s great franchises. Thus a reporter’s question today about why Rex likes to “tweak” the Patriots. Ryan explained his position again.
“Well, I just think that I want them to know — and they know — that I think we’re going to beat them. I don’t buy into all that other stuff,” he said. “Look, I recognize that they’re a great football team. Belichick’s a great coach. I never once said that he wasn’t. Again, we’re not going to back down or concede to anything. They’re going to get our best shot, we know we’re going to get theirs, so it really doesn’t matter who says what. We are going to be ourselves.
“We’re coming up there to take our swing, and we’ll see if we land that punch to win a game.”
Jets visits to Foxboro have been a mixed bag this millennium, with some magnificent victories and some resounding defeats. But the Jets needed something like their plus-margin win over the Colts (plus-4 in takeaways, plus-211 rushing yards, plus-7:20 in possession time and plus-26 on the scoreboard) to fortify them for the swings they are about to take.
More on Jets-Patriots to come on Wednesday, plus we’ll unveil a remarkable first in franchise history from Jets-Colts that not even Rex Ryan knew about and is quite happy with.
Smitty Weighs In
Reporter John Holt notes that S Eric Smith always gets excited this time of year, and his reason for excitement isn’t due to Halloween quickly approaching. Instead, like with their head coach, it’s because he and his teammates begin preparation this week to face Tom Brady and the Patriots.
“It’s a big rivalry for us,” Smith said this afternoon. “It’s a division game. We’re both at the top right now. You know it’s usually going to be a good game.”
Over the years, the AFC East foes have had plenty of intriguing battles. Last year New England defeated the Jets in both the team’s meetings, winning, 30-21, in Foxboro and 37-16 five weeks later at MetLife Stadium. But in 2010, the Green & White overcame the Patriots’ impressive 14-2 regular season by defeating Brady & Co., 28-21, in the AFC Divisional Round Game, which advanced them to the conference championship for the second year in a row.
Both teams will enter Sunday’s contest with 3-3 records and knotted up a top of the AFC East standings. The Jets are coming off a 35-9 win over Indianapolis, while New England will look to bounce back from a 24-23 loss at Seattle. Regardless of the Pats’ record, Smith knows they are still the team to beat in the division.
“You know they’re going to come ready to play and cause a lot of problems in matchups, and things we’re going to have to deal with,” he said.
The seventh-year pro is optimistic that the offseason additions of safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell boost the secondary’s ability to slow down New England’s high powered offense.
“We do have a lot of guys that can cover and play man-to-man well, so that might give us a little bit of an advantage,” Smith said. “But with this offense they’re running, it’s up-tempo. It’s going to put a lot of stress on us.”
As a member of the Jets defense, Smith said game-planning for New England’s offense always presents a challenge because not only can they spread defenses out with their passing game but this season have proven they can beat opponents on the ground as well.
“Guys are just going to have to get off blocks and run to the ball,” he said.
To emulate the Patriots’ up-tempo offense, No. 33 said the scout team will move at a faster pace this week in practice. He added that the Jets faced a similar task when they prepared for Miami earlier this season.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Smith said. “It’s one of the ones you’re up for no matter what.”
RB Ups and Downs
For the Jets running game, there were many highlights besides those already mentioned Sunday. Shonn Greene started cooking in the first quarter when the Jets rushed for 57 yards, a seemingly modest amount and yet their most in any quarter in the last 11 games, or since they gained 58 in the opening frame of the home win over Buffalo last year.
That distinction stood only until the third quarter, when McKnight’s 61-yard dash was the centerpiece of the 97-yard rushing quarter, the most in any quarter in the last 25 games, or since that “other” Bills game, when they rushed for 96 yards in the 2010 regular-season finale.
The downside was that on the same series, McKnight (ankle) and Bilal Powell (shoulder) left the game. Ryan today said both backs are undergoing magnetic resonance imaging exams today and that he would update reporters on their injuries on Wednesday.
Tags: Bilal Powell, Bill Belichick, Eric Smith, Indianapolis Colts, joe McKnight, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene
Posted in Randy Lange | 96 Comments »
Updated, 6:20 p.m. ET
Head coach Rex Ryan said he was hoping against hope but that the more medical news that came in, the less hope there was.
So this afternoon Ryan announced that CB Darrelle Revis will be placed on injured reserve, officially ending his season.
“I know I had said before that I’d like to wait for Darrelle to have surgery,” Ryan said at his afternoon news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “Unfortunately, really with our time situation and Eric Smith being out this week, we’re going to need that roster spot.
“And when I said there was a point-zero-zero-two chance, it’s not that high. In the best interests of the organization and Darrelle, we’ll place him on IR. He won’t be designated for return. And that will be it. I was holding out hope, but the more information we got, the more you realized it wouldn’t be good for Darrelle either.”
Ryan said Revis will undergo surgery on his torn ACL on Thursday, Oct. 18. He also reported that WR Santonio Holmes (foot) and LB Josh Mauga (pectoral) have already undergone surgery for their injuries. Holmes’ Lisfranc injury occurred against San Francisco and Mauga’s came Monday night vs. Houston.
“We’re anticipating and assuming, really, that these guys will be full-go when we come back in the offseason,” the coach said.
The Jets also announced tonight that they are filling Revis’ roster spot by signing S Antonio Allen, their seventh-round pick out of South Carolina, from the practice squad. Due to Smith’s injury Allen could be in uniform Sunday. With Stephen Hill’s potential return to action, it’s possible five of the eight members of the Jets’ 2012 draft class could see action vs. the Colts.
Hill Will “Try to Make a Big Difference”
Newyorkjets.com reporter John Holt reports from the Jets locker room this afternoon on rookie Stephen Hill:
It’s been a little over a month now since rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill broke onto the NFL scene.
The 6”4’, 215-pounder has missed the last two games rehabbing from a hamstring injury that he suffered during the Jets’ 23-20 overtime win against Miami back on Sept. 23.
“It’s been hard,” Hill said this afternoon after practice, “but the guys in here have been keeping me grounded and making sure I get back out there as quickly as possible.”
It appears that No. 84 will make his return Sunday when the Jets host No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium. The Colts hold a 2-2 record and are coming off an impressive 30-27 win over Green Bay.
“I feel pretty good,” Hill said. “I’m just looking forward to Sunday.”
After catching five passes for 89 yards and scoring two touchdowns in his NFL debut, Hill was held without a reception in his next two games.
While sidelined, one of his biggest mentors, WR Santonio Holmes, suffered a season-ending foot injury. Hill, the Green & White’s second-round draft selection, understands that although he still is a rookie, he will be expected to step up moving forward.
“I’m going to try and make a big difference, as much as I can, any plays that I’m in,” he said. “But other than that, we’ve been doing a great job. We just have to get that connection. Once we get that connection, it’s going to be great.”
Besides Hill, the Jets also expect to have tight end Dustin Keller back Sunday. Keller, who previously hadn’t missed a game or practice in his four-year career, has missed the past four games, also with a hamstring injury.
With both receiving options expected back, quarterback Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense should receive a significant boost.
“It’s frustrating,” Hill said, “especially as a guy that doesn’t do that, just sit on the sideline for an injury. But you know, I had to go through it and I hope it’s best for me, so I didn’t have to hurt anything.”
The Rest of the Injuries
Besides Hill, the Jets listed three other players as limited today: TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), C Nick Mangold (ankle) and LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring). Keller and Thomas are both probable to play vs. the Colts. As Keller said in one last visit with reporters today, “I would never guarantee anything, but I think I’m pretty much 100 percent.”
Mangold is listed as questionable with the ankle he injured early in the third quarter against Houston. Although he returned at the end of the third quarter and finished the game, he was held out of team drills all this week. But Ryan said today, “I definitely am hopeful he plays” against Indy.
Five players did not participate and all are listed as doubtful: FB John Conner (hamstring), DT Kenrick Ellis (knee), WR Clyde Gates (shoulder), DT Sione Po‘uha (back) and S Eric Smith (knee).
The Colts are listing six players as out for the Jets — LB Pat Angerer (foot), RB Donald Brown (knee), LB Robert Mathis (knee), DT Fili Moala (knee), G Joe Reitz (knee) and DT Martin Tevaseu (ankle) — and one player as doubtful — CB Vontae Davis (ankle). All but Angerer and Tevaseu, the former Jet, are starters.
Three Colts are probable for the game: LB Dwight Freeney (ankle), RB Mewelde Moore (ankle) and C Samson Satele (knee).
Cena Steps into the Ring Sunday
WWE Superstar John Cena will lead the Jets chant pregame and serve as an honorary team captain before Sunday’s game against the Colts at MetLife Stadium. WrestleMania XXIX will be coming to MetLife Stadium on April 7, 2013. Cena will be playing his new role six days after comedian Kevin James handled the chant duties at Monday night’s game against the Texans.
Tags: Darrelle Revis, Dustin Keller, Eric Smith, Indianapolis Colts, injured reserve, Josh Mauga, Nick Mangold, Rex Ryan, Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill
Posted in Randy Lange | 25 Comments »
The Jets’ injury picture had its ups and downs and situations that could have been worse.
In the snakebit category, Rex Ryan said the word on NT Kenrick Ellis is that he has an MCL sprain and could miss four to six weeks.
Then there was Eric Smith’s situation. He’d been coming back slowly from hip and knee issues suffered in the preseason opener at Cincinnati. He got in close to 45 snaps during the Texans game. But at Wednesday’s practice, he landed hard on his knee.
“It was a scary moment,” Ryan said. “Erick goes up to knock a ball down and comes down on his leg. It’s just a sprained knee, but I think he’s probably going to miss this week with it. Honestly, I thought it was going to be much worse than that. I think we’ve got enough of these, but fortunately it doesn’t look like it’s going to be too long.”
Otherwise, the Jets appeared to be healing OK. LB David Harris (hamstring), LB Bart Scott (toe) and WR Jeremy Kerley (finger/illness) were all limited Wednesday but full today, and S LaRon Landry (heel) was also full. TE Dustin Keller and WR Stephen Hill remained limited with their hamstring issues but Ryan said both remain on target to return to action on Sunday. C Nick Mangold didn’t practice again but the coach said, “I think Nick will probably be able to go.” He also wasn’t ruling out DT Sione Po‘uha (low back) but said he’s more likely in the questionable category at this point.
The Colts had their own good news/bad news health reports. Good news: LB Dwight Freeney (ankle) practiced full today in Indianapolis. Bad news: LB Robert Mathis (knee) remains a DNP and coordinator Greg Manusky said today that Mathis won’t play against the Jets. OLBs Jerry Hughes and Justin Hickman are expected to see extended playing time in Mathis’ absence.
And RB Donald Brown (knee) has been reported to be out for the next two or three weeks, meaning that rookie RB Vick Ballard will start Sunday for the Colts, giving the visitors four rookie starters on offense, five if you include third WR T.Y. Hilton.
Tags: Dustin Keller, Dwight Freeney, Eric Smith, Kenrick Ellis, Rex Ryan, Robert Mathis, Stephen Hill
Posted in Randy Lange | 35 Comments »