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WR Ryan Spadola Makes a ‘Dream’ Catch

Posted by Randy Lange on August 1, 2013 – 2:28 pm

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.

Rex Cetera

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.


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Greg McElroy’s Making the Most of His Reps

Posted by Randy Lange on July 30, 2013 – 4:31 pm

Geno Smith has gotten headlines the last few days for his still interception-less training camp during 7-on-7 and team drills. But what about Greg McElroy? He hasn’t thrown a pick, either.

That’s not to say that McElroy’s time at SUNY Cortland has been perfect, but the experience has still been good.

“There are, like, two throws that I’d really like to have back. One was an inaccurate throw and the other was a throw that just got away from me a little,” the redheaded third-year Jets signalcaller recalled. “I’d like to think I’m a bit of a perfectionist. If there’s one play, until I get it right and get an opportunity to do it again, I’m going to remember that play, remember what I did wrong and how I can improve it in the future.

“There’s certainly a lot of things to improve on, but I’m pleased with the way the first few days of camp have gone.”

Most reporters and many fans are consumed with how the starting quarterback battle between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith is going. But more than a few Jets followers also would like to hear from McElroy, so I tracked him down before lunch today to see how he’s faring and where his head’s at.

And one thing that came through clearly from G-Mac, the kid from Southlake, Texas, who quarterbacked a national title team in high school and another one even more famously at Alabama, is that he’s not consumed by the fact that head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets’ offensive coaches have not included him in a three-way camp battle for No. 1.

“My goal this camp is to improve on one individual aspect every single practice, and that’s all I focus on,” he said. “I’m pleased to be out there, and I’m just glad to be given reps and I try to make the most of that.

“Another one of my goals is to try to help Mark, Geno and Matt [Simms] any way I possibly can. That’s been what I’ve done over the last few years, try to help out the other guys around me and try to make them better. And that doesn’t just stop at quarterback. That goes to every position. I try to know as much about the offense as possible so if there is a situation where someone needs help, I would love to be able to assist them in any way possible.”

All the while, he’s continuing to pick up the nuances of coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast scheme. You hear about QBs having to learn two systems in two years or three in three, but counting his senior year at Alabama he’s had four different coordinators in four years, plus three other coordinators in his first three seasons with the Crimson Tide.

“I wouldn’t say I’m used to it but I’ve experienced it before. It’s a great challenge,” McElroy said of learning a new system, adding, “It’s been a treat learning the West Coast system. It’s a system you’ve grown up watching, a system you feel like you knew a lot about — until you actually get your hands on the playbook. Then it’s quite different than what you expected.”

Mac said he appreciates the attention to detail that Mornhinweg, RBs coach Anthony Lynn and OL coach Mike Devlin pay to the running game.

“So much of the time you hear about the West Coast being passpasspasspasspass, but Coach Mornhinweg’s done such a great job of going through our run installs. It’s really been a point of emphasis for us,” he said. “Marty’s a terrific offensive mind. He’s been in this league a long time and every player on that field has a tremendous amount of respect for him. He’s done a great job.”

McElroy will continue trying to do a great job in his role, whether it’s pushing Sanchez and Smith for a few reps with the ones or fighting off Simms for the No. 3 job. His attitude would probably help make him a good pastor or teacher or coach. But right now he’s got another job to do.

“I get to wake up and put on pads and I get to go out and practice football and learn and discuss football and play the game I was playing at 5 years old in my front yard,” he said. “This is still a dream come true. I have an opportunity to play for this organization, to play for Rex, and I appreciate every second that I’m out here and I won’t ever take it for granted. Whatever my role may be, I want to do it the best I possibly can.”


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Sanchez Wishes Garrard ‘Nothing but the Best’

Posted by Randy Lange on May 16, 2013 – 1:25 pm

Updated, 2:30 p.m. ET

Today just happened to be a media day in the locker room at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. On media days, quarterbacks are front and center. One of the Jets’ veteran QBs, Mark Sanchez, was available. One of the other Jets vets, David Garrard, was not in the building.

“It was a little bit abrupt,” Sanchez said of Garrard “having to call it quits” because his knee “is not holding up,” as he said in his widely circulated text response to a question from SNY’s Adam Schein, adding that Garrard’s departure wasn’t something he saw coming. “He worked hard and he battled through some pain, it sounds like. Other than that, I don’t want to speak for David.”

But No. 6 did speak about Garrard, the nine-year QB for the Jaguars who signed with the Jets the week of the draft with the aim of providing competition at the position for the Jets heading deeper into the 2013 offseason and preseason schedule.

“David worked hard and he had a great attitude,” Sanchez said. “He was one of those guys I felt I’d be able to bounce my ideas off of, having that kind of experience. It’s tough to see a guy go like that. You just wish him the best, health-wise first. He’s played a long time in this league and did a heck of a job. So it was great to be around him the short time I had with him. I wish him nothing but the best.”

Garrard actually did speak, although not to Jets reporters in Florham Park, N.J. He talked with Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon on SiriusXM NFL Radio this afternoon and told them his knee, while it was well enough for him to run around, continued to swell on him.

“I thought, ‘I look pretty good right now. Maybe if I get on with the team, the treatment that they have there, the round-the-clock treatments you pretty much get, that should probably help me out.’ ” Garrard said. “So that’s how I was thinking. When it was healthy, when I was able to go out and participate in practice and run around. I mean, I looked great, I was excited and ready to go.

“But then I’d get four or five days of good work on it in and then the next two days it’s swollen and I have to do everything I can to get the swelling out.  Start the next week over and it would just be the same process every time. And so it was never allowing me to just go on and play without any worries. So I just kept thinking, ‘How am I going to compete for the starting job if every four days I’ve got to stop and have an ice bag on my knee while the guys are practicing?’ ”

The Jets still have not made any official comment about Garrard’s status. But if the man who wore No. 9 for less than a month isn’t returning, the QB depth chart at the moment is now at four, with Sanchez beginning his fifth year the clear veteran of the group that includes third-year man Greg McElroy, second-round draft pick Geno Smith and first-year free agent Matt Simms.

“Nothing’s changed. My mindset’s the same,” Sanchez said about his approach assuming Garrard’s taking himself out of the picture. “Stay focused, master this offense, improve on the fundamentals, be as accurate as possible, take care of the football, and lead this team.”

Garrett “Gets a Family”

Last season LB Garrett McIntyre got his first two-sack game and his first two tackles for loss of his career. Last week he celebrated another double as his wife, August, gave birth to their first two children.

“Twin daughters,” proud papa Garrett beamed at his locker. “Summer and Harper McIntyre. They were born May 7 back in Cali. A little premature, but they’re in the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] and are doing great.”

Congratulations to the McIntyres, all four of them. And now, Garrett, back to work on orchestrating that first two-touchdown game of your career.

17 Again

WR Jordan White has returned to uniform No. 17, the number he began with last season as the Jets’ seventh-round WR out of Western Michigan. WR Marcus Davis, just acquired on waivers, is No. 89.


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Jersey Guy Garrard Finally Makes It Back Home

Posted by Randy Lange on March 11, 2013 – 7:33 pm

It’s the closing of a circle for David Garrard, or at least the completion of a long lap up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

The 35-year-old quarterback (no, not 38 or 37 as some have speculated) was born in East Orange, N.J., about 20 minutes from the Jersey Meadowlands in February 1978, which was about 6½ years before the Jets even moved there.

Now after his upbringing in Plainfield, N.J., and Durham, N.C., his college ball at East Carolina, and his nine-year playing career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, plus a small stop last offseason with the Miami Dolphins, Garrard has signed on with the Jets to provide competition for Mark Sanchez and the rest of the Green & White QBs.

“I definitely think it’s the ideal situation,” Garrard told SiriusXM NFL Radio last week about the Jets after his visit. “It was a great workout. Every drill they had me do, I did great in. I felt like my old self again.

Word of Garrard’s possible signing grew cold publicly for a while, because it was reported the Jets had to do some cap work if they wanted to bring him to their roster. Whatever had to happen has been done because the team announced the signing late this afternoon.

New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had his first conference call with Jets reporters today at 1 p.m. ET and was not asked about Garrard. But about competition in general for Sanchez, et al, MM said that while “Mark will probably have a little bit of a leg up, it would appear,” he also said, “We like competition at all spots, and certainly at that spot. Competition just makes everybody better.”

When Garrard was at the peak of his game, he was nicely competitive for the Jaguars. From 2005, when he finally started to get playing time, through 2010, he assembled a portfolio that sported a 38-35 record as a starter, 62.1% completion accuracy, and a decent 22.0% touchdown drive rate (the NFL average is about 18.5%).

Garrard faced the Jets exactly once since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2002 draft by the Jaguars out of East Carolina as the eventual successor to, yes, Mark Brunell. That meeting was at the old Meadowlands on Nov. 15, 2009, and it was a microcosm of his only Pro Bowl season that year. On a cloudy, cool fall day, he completed 16 of 26 passes for 221 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also ran for an 11-yard score.

And after the Jets, led by then-rookie Sanchez, had come back from a 21-10 first-half deficit for a 22-21 lead on a Thomas Jones power TD with 5:04 to play, Garrard led the Jags on an 11-play, 80-yard drive with 4-for-6 passing — including that crushing 33-yard catch-and-run by TE Marcedes Lewis — and Maurice Jones-Drew’s clutch kneeldown at the Jets 1 with a minute to play, setting up Josh Scobee’s game-winning chip-shot field goal as time expired.

Even though Garrard’s ’09 season was one of his better showings, it wasn’t his best. He took the Jags to a 9-3 record and a playoff road win at Pittsburgh on the strength of such skills as his 64.0% completion percentage and 18 TD passes to just three interceptions.

That 6.0 TDs/INTs rate, by the way, is the fifth-best season in NFL history among qualifying QBs, trailing only Kansas City’s Damon Huard (11.00, 11/1 in 2006), New England’s Tom Brady (9.00, 36-4 in 2010 after 6.25, 50/8 in 2007) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (7.50, 45/6 in 2011).

Many Jets fans are skeptical as to how much competition a QB out of the NFL for the past two seasons could give a fifth-year incumbent and several more signalcallers this offseason and summer. But just keep in mind that he had that strong  tryout with the Jets recently, and some say he was poised to begin last season as the Dolphins’ starter — that is, until he injured his knee, missed the entire preseason schedule and was released as the ‘Fins began the Ryan Tannehill era quicker than maybe they had planned.

All of this is tank-half-full/tank-half-empty talk, of course. Is DG the catalyst to getting the Jets offense back on its feet? Or will he be one-and-done, whatever “one” is defined as? Will No. 9 beat out No. 6 in the coming offseason/preseason competition, or will Sanchez be spurred on to new professional growth? What about Tim Tebow, Greg McElroy, and whoever may arrive in the draft?

We’ll learn a little more Tuesday, when Garrard is scheduled to talk with reporters on a conference call, and then as the veterans return to the offseason conditioning program, OTAs and the veteran minicamp from mid-April to mid-June.

For now, though, assuming Garrard’s health and competitive juices and considering what we know of the Jets’ situation, it looks like a good fit as an able body has been added to help with the ongoing construction project.


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Hayden Smith Earns the Hampton Award

Posted by Randy Lange on January 15, 2013 – 4:13 pm

Tight end Hayden Smith got a lot of help from a lot of teammates and coaches in his newest sporting endeavor.

But Smith had a good base of his own to build on. Playing basketball in Australia and on the U.S. small-college level, moving on to professional rugby in England and to the U.S. national rugby team, and then graduating in April to an NFL roster shows he knows how to cross-train. And he was a football rookie who certainly knew how to act like a pro in the Jets’ locker room this past season.

That last is in fact one of the requirements for the Bill Hampton Award. And Smith this week was informed that he was the ninth winner of the Hampton Award, presented annually by equipment director Gus Granneman and his staff.

“It feels good. We have a great group of equipment people, and I guess they were happy with me in the locker room this year,” Smith told me today. “I didn’t know specifically about Bill Hampton, but I had seen Josh Baker’s jersey hanging in the equipment room, and I wanted why that was. Now I know.”

Hampton was the former longtime Jets equipment director who retired to Florida in 2001. Clay, his son, took over running the equipment room then, and remains with the club as the senior director of operations. Granneman has been with the team since ’94 as well and has run the equipment room since ’06.

Gus said this year’s final vote, taken among the five-member staff and the three previous award-winners still with the team — Darrelle Revis, Matt Slauson and, last year, Baker — was the closest since the award was first presented to S Erik Coleman in 2004, with Smith edging rookie DT Damon “Snacks” Harrison by a single vote.

“Hayden had a built-in advantage, being an older guy that had played a professional sport already,” Granneman said. “We try to take into account how they are with their teammates, not just the support staff, and a lot of times rookies coming in don’t realize that. Hayden was the kind of guy that worked hard and had a positive, friendly attitude every day, whether it was first thing in the morning or he was walking in from the practice field. It’s always nice when you have several guys that are deserving of the award, like Hayden and Damon.”

Smith, 27, acknowledged the hard work it took to make the transition from rugby to getting that all-important toe- and handhold on an NFL roster.

“It was, I guess, quite a big transition to make, probably mentally more than physically. I had a lot to contend with in really learning the sport and its intricacies, learning the different techniques and coming to terms with exactly what was required,” said Hayden, often the last player off the practice field during the season. “Slowly but surely, I became more comfortable as the season progressed.”

Smith looked like a big (6’7″, 245), raw rugby player in his first OTA practices in May, but he quickly made adjustments and began looking the part on into training camp. He was a final cut on Aug. 31, cleared waivers and was signed to the Jets’ practice squad the next day. In late October he was signed to the active roster.

He got his feet wet with four plays in the home game against Miami on Oct. 28, was inactive the next four games, then played in the final four games, getting in 32 plays for the season. His most noticeable contribution was his 16-yard reception on a behind-the-line throwback from Greg McElroy to convert third-and-9 in the second quarter of the final home game against San Diego. But he said the Jacksonville game two weeks earlier, when he got in half his plays for the season, was quite meaningful to him.

“I got to get in that game and get a little momentum,” he said. “It definitely makes a difference, being able to have a few plays on special teams, then a few more on offense. That also gets you to stop overanalyzing things and just getting into the flow.”

The Jets, like all teams, occasionally take an extended look at players from other sports. Pete Carroll brought in U.S. World Cup goalkeeper Tony Meola as a potential kickoff man in 1994. Eric Mangini invited college heavyweight wrestlers Cole Konrad and Tommy Rowlands in for tryouts at the 2007 rookie minicamp. Cleveland State basketballer J’Nathan Bullock got a look in Rex Ryan’s first offseason as head coach in ’09.

Most of them wash out quickly. The fact that Smith has survived through an entire NFL season indicates that the Jets like his prospects and he just might be tougher to run off. But he knows the hard work has just begun. After taking a few weeks to reunite with his old Saracens rugby mates in England, he is now back in Chicago to begin his personal training and will return to North Jersey when the Jets’ offseason strength and conditioning program commences in a few months.

“I think going into any of these situations, you have to make a conscious decision that you’re going to be a success with it,” he said. “If you’re not willing to do the work that’s required, you have zero chance of success. Obviously, even with the work, it’s not guaranteed. Going into it, I knew I had to work as hard as I could physically and academically to give myself any sort of a chance. I felt I’ve done that this year, just to be in the position where I am now. But it’s the same dilemma. I’m going to have to work as hard as I can in the classroom and on the field to continue to progress and get where I want to go.”

There are clearly a few goals ahead for the one of the first Aussies to stick in the NFL at a position other than punter. One is to make it onto the Jets’ active roster for a full season. And if he’s done that, at this time next year he’ll get an added bonus. He’ll get to vote on the 2013 Hampton Award.


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Rex Was ‘Mad as a Hornet’ at News Story

Posted by Randy Lange on December 28, 2012 – 3:09 pm

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).


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Landry Pleased to Get the Pro Bowl Call

Posted by jlholt32 on December 27, 2012 – 6:00 pm

LaRon Landry’s phone rang Wednesday afternoon and the person trying to reach him was Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

“At first I didn’t answer,” Landry told newyorkjets.com. “I was like, the GM called me, so I’m trying to figure out what the hell is wrong or what kind of insight he was trying to tell me.”

Landry would return Tannenbaum’s call once he made it home from practice and was relieved to know that he wasn’t in trouble.

“I’m contemplating the whole time, like, ‘What’s going on?’ ” Landry said. “But when I got home, I heard the news and it definitely was an honor.”

The news Tannenbaum passed along to No. 30 for the Green & White was that the sixth-year pro and first-year Jet had been selected to his first Pro Bowl. Landry joins CB Antonio Cromartie as Jets reserves on the AFC roster. The game will be played Jan. 27 in Honolulu.

“It’s definitely a bittersweet kind of situation,” Landry said. “Just to have the season we’ve been having, I just wish we could have made it to the playoffs, probably made it to the championship, and I’m sorry I couldn’t contribute to get into the playoffs. It’s sweet because it’s a goal that I’ve always been looking forward to getting, being six years into it.”

Landry was the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft and spent his first five years in the league with Washington. However, his final two seasons with the Redskins he played only a combined 15 games due to his heel injury. The Jets were aware of the injury when they signed him in March and have made sure he sits out of practice one day each week. The strategy has worked to perfection as the 6”0’, 220-pounder has played at a high level while not missing a game in 2012.

“It holds a lot of weight,” Landry said of being voted into his first Pro Bowl, “and it’s very valuable to my emotions because I was coming off a two-year injury.”

Fellow safety Eric Smith said he knew when Landry first arrived in Florham Park that he had the potential to make this year’s Pro Bowl roster, adding that he’s enjoyed his time as Landry’s teammate this season.

“He’s laid-back and has a good time,” Smith said, “but when it comes gameday, he’s focused.”

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine felt Landry was well-deserving of the recognition.

“I think LaRon really came on late in the year,” Pettine said, “when things started to click as far as the mental part of it and he was getting on the same page as everybody else.”

There wasn’t a particular moment this season when Landry said he realized he had a shot at making the Pro Bowl. He said he was only trying to be victorious with his teammates.

“It’s all about winning ballgames,” he said.

Heading into the Jets’ final game Sunday at Buffalo, the former LSU Tiger has produced four forced fumbles, two interceptions and one touchdown return. His Pro Bowl selection makes him the first Green & White safety to make the game since Erik McMillan did it 23 years ago.

“I’m just happy the way I got it with the Jets, coming off IR two years in a row,” Landry said. “It’s definitely a great accomplishment and it means a lot to me to be voted on by my peers of the NFL, coaches, and my fans.”

Landry has never previously visited Hawaii but has been told it’s a beautiful place. He’s glad he’ll be making the trip alongside Cromartie, his teammate in the secondary, and anticipates the experience to be one he’ll hold onto for a long time.

“It was definitely a goal,” he said, “and I didn’t do it alone. This organization as a whole, training staff, everybody within this organization helped me make it.”

Thursday Injury Report\

Greg McElroy’s concussion situation is detailed in our news story on head coach Rex Ryan’s decision to sit McElroy and start Mark Sanchez on Sunday at Buffalo. The good concussion news is that two Jets with head injuries, DE Muhammad Wilkerson and CB Ellis Lankster, have been passing their tests and both were limited in today’s practice. Also limited was WR Braylon Edwards, who didn’t practice Wednesday due to a hamstring/knee flareup.

Besides McElroy, KR-RB Joe McKnight (ankle/illness) didn’t participate in practice, nor did S LaRon Landry (heel), LB Bryan Thomas (chest), WR Chaz Schilens (knee), TE Dustin Keller (ankle) and CB Aaron Berry (hamstring). Berry late today was placed on injured reserve. All 15 other Jets on the injury report were full-go.

The Bills’ injury list, and in particular their “limited” section, grew today. Three DNPs from Wednesday all were limited — S Jairus Byrd (ankle), G Andy Levitre (knee) and DT Kyle Williams (ankle). Two other players were added to the list as limited in CB Justin Rogers (foot) and LB Chris White (hamstring).


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This Hayden Smith Guy Just Might Catch On

Posted by Randy Lange on December 26, 2012 – 5:42 pm

We’ll start the week with a few passing fancies, either or both of whom could find themselves fancied by Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano in the Jets’ offensive game plan for Buffalo on Sunday.

Hayden Smith, after short careers as a small-college basketball player and a high-level rugby performer, has been getting his feet wet in this, his first season as a 27-year-old NFL rookie tight end. It just so happened that Tim Usasz, one of his rugby buds and a fellow Australian, was in the New York area and came over to the Sunday game at MetLife Stadium against San Diego to watch his countryman play his new game.

Smith said Usasz’s immediate reaction when, late in the first half, Smith let Chargers LB Melvin Smith leak past him into the Jets backfield was, “Uh-oh, looks like Hayden made a mistake.”

That’s just what he and the Jets wanted the Chargers to think. Immediately, Greg McElroy pivoted from right to left and floated a pass with perfect touch and location past Ingram’s flailing outstretched left hand and into the hands of the former lock forward for the USA at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

“Probably the one similarity between rugby and football is running with the ball,” Smith said about his nifty 19 yards of YAC on the 16-yard play behind a D’Brickashaw Ferguson block to the Jets 41, converting a third-and-9 in the process.

“The funny thing about it was they called the play and I knew it was coming to me, and just as we got out there, there was a timeout, so I had about five minutes to think about it,” Smith said, referring to that American TV marketing concept of the five-minute-long two-minute warning. “We’ve had the play up for a couple of weeks, but we just hadn’t had the opportunity to call it until Sunday. It’s a great play, we got the look that we wanted and executed it well, so it was all positive.”

Smith’s been active for four games now, with 14 plays on offense and 13 on special teams. Sunday’s pass was the first ball thrown to the 6’6″, 255-pounder. He looked like he knew exactly what to do with it, and it would be nice to see confirmation of that perception a few more times in Sunday’s season finale at “the Ralph.”

Kerley’s Distinction

The other passing-game nugget worth noting was that Jeremy Kerley is currently the only player in NFL history who has thrown two or more passes and completed each one for more than 40 yards.

Yeah, I know, that’s a fun fact that won’t last very long. JK’s one of only 54 players who have completed every pass they’ve thrown as pros with at least two completions. And the minute one of his Wildcat passes hits the turf, he’s out of this club forever. But until then, Kerley’s 41-yard strike to TE Matt Mulligan at Miami in last year’s season finale and his 42-yard play-action chuck to Clyde Gates against the Chargers makes him an army of one.

The only members of this exclusive group who have more than Kerley’s 83 passing yards are Packers punter Ron Widby (2-for-2, 102 yards, 1972) and Broncos WR Arthur Marshall (2-for-2, 111 yards in 1992-93).

Now Kerley could etch his name in stone if he keeps it up. The NFL record-holder for most consecutive completions from start of career is St. Louis backup QB Billy Donckers, who hit all six of his career passes in 1976-77, followed by a certain University of Florida QB by name of … Kerwin Bell, who completed all five of his throws for the Colts in 1988.

Kerley’s on-the-money throw to Lex Hilliard on Sunday was wiped out by an illegal formation, so he’s still got to hit his next five to grab that Hall of Fame-esque distinction. No pressure, Jeremy.

As for if Kerley will be used in a similar Wildcat role against the Bills, head coach Rex Ryan said today, “It’s certainly a possibility, and if it’s something they have to prepare for and I wasn’t going to do it, I probably wouldn’t say it, either.”

Wilkerson on the Sideline

Muhammad Wilkerson is on the Jets’ injury report for the first time this season. The DE, who’s been on a tear for better than half a season, is listed with a concussion and a knee injury and did not participate in today’s team drills.

“That would be a big concern” if Mo can’t go, Ryan said this morning at his news conference. “He’s one of the best interior linemen in the league. Hopefully, he’ll get that kind of respect  when the Pro Bowl voting comes out. But forget all that. I’d like Mo to play and I am concerned he can’t practice today.” Ryan said he thought Wilkerson underwent concussion testing after Sunday’s game and that Rex didn’t hear about Wilkerson’s injury status until Tuesday. Merry Christmas.

By the way, the NFL will be making the initial unveil of its AFC and NFC Pro Bowl rosters tonight at 7 p.m. ET on NFL Network. We’ll have a separate story on the Jets’ Pro Bowlers live on our site shortly after the announcement by the league.

The Rest of the Injury Picture

The other DNPs today were Keller (ankle), WR Braylon Edwards (hamstring/knee), CB Ellis Lankster (concussion), LB Bryan Thomas (chest), WR Chaz Schilens (knee) and CB Aaron Berry (hamstring).

The other 18 Jets on the report were all full-go for the team drills at today’s practice, which started outside on the Atlantic Health Training Center turf field, then headed indoors when the rain/snow started coming down shortly in the early afternoon.

Among the full participants were QB Greg McElroy (abdomen) and NT Sione Po‘uha (back), who’s listed as full for the first time in 13 weeks and for only the sixth time in this season’s 46 game-week practices. Way to work all the way “back,” Sione. You’ll find the Jets’ full injury report here.

The Bills list 15 players of their own. DNP — S Jairus Byrd (ankle), TE Scott Chandler (knee), G Andy Levitre (knee), WR Ruvell Martin (non-injury-related), S Da’Norris Searcy (groin), DT Kyle Williams (knee). Limited — DE Mark Anderson (knee), LB Nick Barnett (knee), RB Dorin Dickerson (ankle), WR Marcus Easley (hamstring), CB Justin Rogers (foot), LB Chris White (hamstring), C Eric Wood (knee). Full — RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder), DE Mario Williams (wrist).

“Inside the Jets”

Tonight’s “Inside the Jets” radio show, scheduled for tonight, is going on live as scheduled at 7 p.m ET on ESPN 98.7 FM at the Grasshopper in Morristown, N.J. Larry Hardesty is hosting. Due to this afternoon’s snowstorm in the area, no players will be appearing at the restaurant but players will be calling into the show.


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Some Naughty, Some Nice for the Holidays

Posted by Randy Lange on December 24, 2012 – 2:09 pm

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.

Rex Cetera

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.


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Jets-Chargers: 1st-Half Tweets

Posted by Randy Lange on December 23, 2012 – 2:40 pm

Here are today’s first-half tweets for the Jets-Chargers game at MetLife Stadium, in case you missed them on Twitter. Follow Bob Wischusen, Eric Allen and me for our tweets during each Jets game on https://twitter.com/nyjets.

#RL Jets gameday captains today: Antonio Cromartie, Greg McElroy, Garrett McIntyre, Robert Malone, Antonio Allen.

#RL Chargers win opening coin toss, will defer their choice to 2nd half. Jets are 4-0 this yr in games in which opps win toss and defer.

#RL Micheal Spurlock 63-yd punt return for SD touchdown 1:59 into game. First opponent PR TD since Phillip Buchanon @ OAK in 2003.

#RL Greg McElroy screen to Shonn Greene for 30-yd reception. Longest reception by a RB this season.

#RL Jeremy Kerley to Clyde Gates out of Wildcat for 42-yd completion to SD-11. Kerley now 2-for-2 for 83 yds passing in his career.

#EA That was Shonn Greene’s 2nd longest catch of his career. He had a 36-yarder against KC last Dec. 11.

#EA Greene sets a career-high with his 7th rushing TD.

#RL Shonn Greene goes over from 1 yd out for TD to tie score at 7-7. Greene’s 7th TD of the season.

#EA 5 of Shonn Greene’s 7 Rush TDs in 2012 have come at MetLife Stadium. He is closing in on 1,000 for the year.

#RL Jets score 1st first-half offensive TD in 5 games, 2nd first-half offensive TD in last 48 drives, 8 games.

#RL Jets KO cover team, which came into weekend 2nd in NFL in most inside-20 kickoffs, get No. 24 as Micheal Spurlock is tackled at 19.

#EA Greene has another TD – that is No. 8 on the season. 2 Trips to the Red Zone – 2 TDs.

#RL Greene from 1 yd out again, Jets lead 14-7. First time Jets are in double digits in 1st qtr since 10 pts vs JAX in 2009 Game 9…

#RL … first time Jets have had 2 1st-qtr TDs since 2009 Game 7 @ OAK, first time 2 1st-qtr TDs at home since 2009 Game 3 vs TEN.

#EA In 2012, Jets have had 44 Trips Inside the Red Zone and scored 23 TDs. That is a 52% TD% now after Greene’s 2 scores in the 1st.

#RL Quinton Coples sacks Wildcat QB Ronnie Brown at SD-2 for his 5th sack of season, taking the Jets’ team lead.

#EA In the previous 7 first halves combined, the Jets had 16 offensive points. They have 14 late in the 1st vs. San Diego.

#RL Jets have 14-7 lead at the end of 1st qtr, largest 1st-qtr lead since Game 1, when they led BUF 7-0.

#RL After timeout, Nick Novak comes out for 51-yd FG, which he hits. Equals his longest FG this season, is longest by Jets opp this season.

#EA Greene: 8-20. Needs 29 Yards to Reach 1,000.

#EA Jets 3rd Down D Dominance Continues. SD 0-for-5 in 1st Half.

#RL Jets face 3rd-and-9 at their 25 at 2-minute warning for 1st half. They’re 1-for-4 so far in converting 3rd downs.

#RL Greg McElroy to TE Hayden Smith for his first pro reception, 16 yds on third-and-9 for first down.

#EA Wow the Jets get the big Australian going on the throwback screen for Hayden Smith! His 1st career catch.

#RL Jets go into locker room with 14-10 lead, their first halftime lead in 5 games or since 13-7 at St. Louis.

#RL Besides lead on scoreboard, Jets also hold edges in 1st downs (10-5), yards (142-76), possession (17:24-12:36). No turnovers in half.


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