The weather gods had not been Jets fans in the recent past, but today they lifted the rainclouds long enough for the Jets to take to the grass fields at the Atlantic Health Training Center in front of 1,111 season ticket holders.
Head coach Rex Ryan held his news conference before today’s practice start, and tight ends were on the minds of several questioners — the TEs they have on the roster, the one former standout tight end who was invited to participate in today’s practice, and the ex-Jet who may or may not end up at that position for the Patriots.
Rex was asked about the position and ticked off the players already on the roster.
“With Jeff Cumberland, obviously, he’s the starter right now. If we were going to have a game tomorrow, he would be our starter,” Ryan said. “He’s a big, fast guy that I think has improved over the years. His blocking, I think, has really improved. I’ll be excited to see how he progresses.
“Then you have Konrad [Reuland] and Hayden [Smith], guys with experience. Then you have ‘the BC Kid’ [Chris Pantale] and ‘The Coach,’ Mike] Shanahan, who are working their way out there. And we’ll see about Winslow. I’m excited about seeing Kellen.”
That’s the former standout. Kellen Winslow Jr., who caught 438 passes and 23 touchdowns combined in four years with Cleveland, three years with Tampa Bay, and one — game, that is — with New England. Winslow, former Jacksonville WR Mike Sims-Walker and DT Leger Douzable were all invited to this minicamp as unsigned veteran free agents.
“Obviously, Kellen was a tremendous player in this league for a long time, one of the premier receiving tight ends in the game, so we’ll see how he responds,” Ryan said. “Obviously it’s going to be recovery more than anything else, how healthy he is. Because clearly the skillset that he has, the young man was a tremendous player.”
Finally comes the ex-Jet who’s now maybe a Patriots tight end. Tim Tebow was signed by the Patriots and one of the rumored stories out of Boston was that Pats coach Bill Belichick is considering using Tebow not just at QB behind Tom Brady and Ryan Mallard but perhaps also as a TE.
Even though the Jets ended the TT experiment a month and a half ago with his release two days after the end of the draft, nine of the 24 questions asked of Ryan today (37.5% of the questions) were about Tebow.
“All these questions are probably better served by being asked of New England and Belichick. I’m sure you’ll get the answer from him,” Ryan said.
But one more time Rex gave a Tebow eulogy.
“I’m happy for the young man to get another opportunity in the league,” he said. “We’ve already mentioned that it didn’t work out here. Obvoulsy, Tim had more success in Denver than he did here, so it is what it is.”
And wouldn’t it be interesting if Winslow, who played that one game for the Pats, then asked to be released and the Pats concurred, sticks with the Jets while Tebow does what he does with the Pats.
But Winslow, talking with Jets reporters after practice, said that’s still a little way down the road.
“Rex and I used to go at it when he was with the Ravens. He’s an awesome coach, man, one of the best defensive coaches in the league,” Winslow reminisced. “My job is just to make plays and however it works out, that’s how it works out. I’m a playmaker and my job is just to make plays. I’m just trying to make the team.”
Tags: Chris Pantale, Hayden Smith, Jeff Cumberland, Jets minicamp, Kellen Winslow, Konrad Reuland, Mike Shanahan, Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 29 Comments »
Updated, 4:35 p.m. ET
“The plan” was hinted at by Rex Ryan a few months ago and has been referred to a few times since then.
And today, with the Jets veterans working out at the Atlantic Health Training Center during a Phase 2 practice of their offseason program and then meeting with reporters at midday, a little more of “the plan” was revealed in the locker room:
Q will be playing some OLB.
“Yeah, I definitely think it’s going to open up opportunities for me,” the always affable Quinton Coples said with a bigger smile than usual of rushing the quarterback from a standup position. “It’s going to help me get to the quarterback very efficiently.”
There are questions with “the plan,” of course. Coples thinks he’ll still play in the range of 280 to 285 pounds. While that’ll be a load for opposing tackles, tight ends and backs to handle, will it be too big a load for him to carry for 60 minutes a game? Will it take too long to get familiar with playing the run or playing in coverage from a two-point stance? Is Q permanently a ‘backer or will he be a hybrid?
All these things remain to play out and work on throughout the offseason, next month’s full-squad minicamp and Cortland training camp. But one thing Coples repeated today was that it didn’t seem to him that “the plan” was just hatched by the Jets this year.
“I think he had a plan for me, not knowing if he was going to draft me,” Coples recalled of the predraft workout that Ryan put him through at North Carolina’s pro day in 2012. “The workout he had for me at Carolina, I think he had a plan for me as far as playing outside linebacker from there. I think things worked out well. I fell down to 16, he picked me up, so it worked out perfect. Last year was a trial year to see how things went, and now we’ve got more depth on the defensive front, so it’ll be a perfect time.”
To be sure, Ryan and coordinator Dennis Thurman are not declaring a position change. Ryan has reminded that the Jets coach a multiple defense with multiple roles for many of the players in that unit, and Coples, with his versatility, flexibility and athleticism, is one of those players. Coples said today he will still be putting his hand in the dirt quite a bit, depending on the call.
But Ryan gave a greater hint of his thinking during his February remarks at this year’s combine.
“I see Quinton as a guy that can maybe be more of an edge presence than he was that first year,” Ryan said then, “but having him go through that, putting him over a guard, putting him over tackles, even over centers, I think it’s good because when you put him over tight ends, it’s a lot easier to knock those guys back and you have a lot of confidence when you face those double-teams. That was kind of what we did with him, but I’m expecting big things from him. Like I said, I think he’s just now scratching the surface.”
Coples had another way of talking about the implementation of “the plan.”
“Things,” he said, “are starting to develop.”
Hayden’s Continuing Higher Education
Hayden Smith made it through year one as a “cross-training” athlete, someone who wasn’t changing positions but whole sports. The tight end who hails from “Down Under” as well as “a Mile High” and “from Across the Pond” said he’s getting more comfy with the surroundings in this neck of the woods, even though in his second year in the NFL he’s already learning his second offense from new OC Marty Mornhinweg.
“I feel a lot more comfortable the second time around,” Smith said. “I don’t have to spend so much time on the details of the game itself, so at least all that’s kind of taken care of this time so I can just focus on the offense itself. There’s new things to learn there, but there’s a lot of common threads, and that’s just knowing football. So there’s a lot less on my plate from that standpoint.”
That was apparent to at least one interested observer this afternoon.
“Hayden looks sharp for a second-year football player,” QB Mark Sanchez said. “He looks awesome.”
Helping Smith with the transition is coach Steve Hagen, who comes to the Jets this year off of his four-year stint as Cleveland’s TEs coach. He’s in his ninth NFL campaign (the first eight came in two four-year hitches with the Browns) and spent two decades in the college coaching ranks besides.
” ‘Details make you dangerous’ — that’s one of his sayings,” Smith said. “He’s fantastic. The tight ends room is already littered with quotes from him. He’s a very intense guy with a great message and he’s delivering his message well.”
Familiar Voices, New Choir
Mike Westhoff, the Jets’ venerable special teams coach who just retired after last season, and Ray Lucas, the former Jets QB who’s been a mainstay of SNY’s Jets postgame shows for five years, have been added to ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s pregame show, joining host Don LaGreca and analyst and former Jets LB standout Greg Buttle.
“Our radio broadcast is an integral part of our fans’ game-day experience,” said Jets president Neil Glat. “We’re confident that adding two veterans, Ray Lucas and Coach Westhoff, to our already strong roster of on-air talent should enhance our fans’ knowledge and enjoyment of our games.”
Westhoff and Lucas will also make regular appearances on ESPN’s studio programming throughout the season, and Lucas will continue in his role with SNY.
Holt from Downtown … Colorado Springs
Speaking of a Rocky Mountain high (Smith played college hoops for Denver’s Metropolitan State) reminds me we want to wish a fantastic career to John Holt, who was our intern and reporter for most of the last year.
John had a great sports background and writing experience from North Carolina and Ole Miss, and he put that to good use from last year’s training camp all the way through doing the lion’s share of the work on our eight-part predraft position-by-position series. But John’s love is basketball and he’ll get the chance to pursue that goal with USA Basketball’s Web site. Hopefully, he and his dad have safely and successfully concluded their two-thirds-of-the-country drive from Newark to, yes, snowy Colorado Springs.
It wouldn’t surprise us to find a great rivalry spring up in the next few years between John and Nick Gallo, our previous intern/reporter who for the last two seasons has been working with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
All the best out West, Holty.
Tags: Dennis Thurman, Hayden Smith, John Holt, Mike Westhoff, Quinton Coples, Ray Lucas, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 99 Comments »
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.
Tags: Bill Hampton, Greg McElroy, Gus Granneman, Hayden Smith, Josh Baker
Posted in Randy Lange | 93 Comments »
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.”
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.
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Greg McElroy, Hayden Smith, Jeremy Kerley, Muhammad Wilkerson, San Diego Chargers, Sione Pouha
Posted in Randy Lange | 40 Comments »
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.
Tags: Braylon Edwards, Greg McElroy, Hayden Smith, Micheal Spurlock, Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, Shonn Greene
Posted in Uncategorized | 93 Comments »
The deal for Hayden Smith was finalized and announced Saturday. But who and what exactly have the Jets signed?
Smith is an Aussie athlete who was a Denver Division II basketball player and is still a pro rugby standout? The Green & White have done their share of cross-training over the years but such free agent signings of former wrestlers and basketball players and soccer standouts (think Pete Carroll, Jets, 1994 and Tony Meola) don’t often pay off for any NFL team.
Yet it only takes one once in a while to make it worth while. And Smith has got some things going for him as he attempts to make a little roster room for himself among the Rob Gronkowskis, Antonio Gateses and Dustin Kellers of the league. As Sam Monson said in his latest piece for ProFootballFocus.com today, “
“The first and most obvious thing that Smith has going for him is raw athletic talent. He played basketball in college before taking up rugby. Without meeting the NFL prerequisites for athleticism, Smith wouldn’t have a hope, but from his reported 4.75 40 time and his size, he qualifies. That athleticism is the reason that he was able to ascend rapidly in the rugby world to being a significant member of the US national team, but also (and perhaps more importantly), become a valuable squad player for Saracens rugby club of the English Premier division.”
Smith’s dimensions are a little more impressive than the 6’7″ and 240 pounds we pegged him at Saturday. He worked at the Senior Bowl this year and measured at 6’6″ and 265, a frame that he reportedly moves at 4.75-second speed in the 40. You can watch some of his drills in this YouTube piece, if you haven’t already checked it out.
And you can read Monson’s entire story at ProFootballFocus here. In one of his concluding remarks Monson compares Smith to Martin Johnson, another top rugby lock forward who participated in the 49ers’ 2001 training camp:
“Hayden Smith is a new breed of rugby player, and though he plays the same position as Johnson did, he represents a much more intimidating level of athlete — one that can meet the NFL standards by raw numbers alone.”
As for whether Smith can navigate all the other shoals of making it to an NFL roster, or even a practice squad, we’ll be covering that on newyorkjets.com when we talk with him, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum and assistant GM Scott Cohen, head coach Rex Ryan and others about this and many other topics as the offseason continues to head inexorably toward the 2012 season.
Five Fun Facts for This Year’s Yearbook
One of the things we do this time of year, besides presenting stories and blogs on current Jets and our annual predraft package, is to begin to fill in the pages of the Jets’ yearbook. One of the tasks in that regard is to come up with a fun factoid for each player who will have a page in the player section of the book — and this year that may mean around 90 factoids for the 90 players who may be coming to camp (assuming the NFL passes the expanded roster limit at its next meeting).
Not all of the facts and notes will find a place in the book, but here are five that are of interest at this early stage of the process. And I’ll pitch five more and five more after that down the road as we head toward Cortland and 2012 training camp.
■ Mo Lewis lives in two of the factoids I’ve roughed out. David Harris had four interceptions last year, the most by a Jets linebacker since Lewis pilfered the same number of picks in 1994. And then there’s Calvin Pace — including the playoffs, CP has totaled 28 sacks in his four Jets seasons, which are the most by a Jets LB in a four-year span since Mo racked up 30.5 sacks from 1997-2000.
■ A neat number on Shonn Greene concerns his knack for not getting tackled in the Jets’ backfield. According to Stats Inc., Greene was “stuffed” (tackled for loss) just 16 times in his 253 carries, a 6.3 percent rate that was second-best among the 53 RBs with at least 100 carries last year and best among the 31 backs with at least 150 carries. That tendency came in handy en route to Shonn’s first 1,000-yard season as a pro, 1,054 to be exact.
■ We duly noted rookie free agent TE Josh Baker’s big contribution to the offense, his 5-yard walk-in touchdown reception against the Giants. But did you know that Baker was born on Christmas Day in 1986 and that his first pro TD came on Dec. 24? An early holiday gift for the young man from Chesapeake, Va. (hometown), Delaware (his first college stop) and Northwest Missouri State (his last college).
■ One stat I didn’t do justice to regarding T.J. Conley’s first season as a pro punter was that he had 32 inside-the-20 punts last season. That’s a pretty good number — in fact, it was tied for third-most in the NFL. And if you add Conley’ 32 I-20’s to Steve Weatherford’s 42 from 2010 that tied the NFL record, the Jets’ 74 inside-the-20s over the past two seasons easily leads the league.
■ And while we did document Joe McKnight’s kickoff-return heroics well, here are a few items that I may not have noted prominently if at all: McKnight’s 31.6-yard average (on 34 runbacks) broke the Jets’ season franchise record of 30.7 (on 22 returns) set by then-rookie Bobby Humphery in 1984. And that averaged was the best in the NFL in the last 25 years. And while it’s possible that kickoffs from the 35 had something to do with McKnight’s success, it bears considering that No. 2 in the league was Green Bay’s Randall Cobb at 27.7, almost four yards less per return than Mighty Joe.
Confirming Jets-Giants Particulars
We tweeted it last week and it’s been up on our schedule page, but in case anyone missed it, the Jets-Giants preseason date and time were firmed up a day after the NFL released the preseason schedule. Jets-Giants SummerFest No. 44 (as in the 44th consecutive summer the teams are meeting) will be held at MetLife Stadium(where else?) on Saturday, Aug. 18, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. ET.
Tags: Calvin Pace, David Harris, Dustin Keller, Hayden Smith, joe McKnight, Mo Lewis, Rob Gronkowski, Shonn Greene, Tony Meola
Posted in Randy Lange | 85 Comments »