It was the 1-on-1 passing drills early in today’s Jets training camp practice, and Isaiah Trufant was running stride for stride with Vidal Hazelton, a 5’8″ corner working to rise above a 6’2″ wideout.
What’s more, Trufant was trying to do the impossible so far this camp: pick off rookie QB Geno Smith.
On this play, 5’8″ stood tall.
“Was that Geno?” Trufant said, genuinely seeming not to know that Smith, who reportedly hadn’t been intercepted in the first four days of camp, had finally been picked. “He’s an exceptional athlete. He has great placement on the ball. As a DB, it’s always tough to try and go get those picks. Sometimes they can fall in there for you, sometimes you’ve got to go get them.”
It’s a great story that Trufant was able to go get this one and has looked good back in his role of nickel corner and back-end buzzsaw. He was having a decent season last year, topped by his showing vs. Wes Welker up at New England in Week 7, only to suffer a season-ending knee injury two weeks later at Seattle.
“I started to feel myself again a little bit in minicamp,” he said of his rehab process. “Then that break helped a lot. Really within that break it started to come around.”
Isaiah Trufant knows it’s never going to be easy. He’s only a third-year NFL player but you can make him a 10th-season player if you count in his seasons with the Spokane Shock, Kansas City Brigade and Arizona Rattlers in the Arena leagues and the UFL’s Las Vegas Locomotives. Now he’s in camp with Dee Milliner, the first-round pick who was in pads but limited at today’s practice and was conducting his own news update with reporters about 20 yards behind us.
“I don’t worry about those things,” Trufant said about such personnel issues as a first-round pick costing the former free agent a roster spot. “I just focus on me doing the best things I can do. Some things may be out of my hands, out of my control. I can’t dwell on those things.”
He’s therefore not dwelling much on the Jets’ Week 2 date with the Patriots in Foxboro, Mass., when he could, if things break well and the game plan calls for it, be covering Danny Amendola, not Welker, who’s now a Bronco.
“It could be,” Trufant said. “I’m just going to be ready for whatever position I’m put in. Whether it’s special teams or defense, I’ve got to be ready.”
Both Smith and Mark Sanchez had down days throwing the ball. Sanchez returned to run with the first offense. He threw a screen that was batted in the air and almost picked off by a roaring Muhammad Wilkerson, and suffered a pick by Antonio Cromartie. Sanchez also threw one TD pass but Stephen Hill couldn’t hold onto another. Yet Hill made a beautiful leaping snag of a Sanchez downfield throw.
Head coach Rex Ryan on Sanchez: “I think everybody gets enamored with anybody who can throw a 96-mile-per-hour fastball. Mark certainly has a good enough arm to play in this league, he’s done it.” … Ryan on Geno: “Holding the football concerns me a little bit. If I could point to a negative, we’re going to take some hits. But along those lines, he has confidence, he’s got poise, he’s hanging in there, and he’s very accurate with the football.”
Ryan said third-round rookie Brian Winters got some work at guard with the ones today because Stephen Peterman had “a little bit of a shoulder.” “But certainly we said there’s going to be competition at that guard spot.” … First-round DL Sheldon Richardson didn’t practice due to some dental issues. “One tooth needs to come out,” said Rex, “and he maybe needs a root canal in another.” … Today’s attendance: 1,333.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Danny Amendola, Geno Smith, Isaiah Trufant, Mark Sanchez, Muhammad Wilkerson, Rex Ryan, Vidal Hazelton, Wes Welker
Posted in Randy Lange | 26 Comments »
Updated Saturday, 4:50 p.m. ET
Next week’s draft is a big event for the Jets’ extended family. Fans are aware that CB Desmond Trufant out of Washington is Isaiah’s younger brother and Matt Elam, the Florida safety, is Abram Elam’s kid brother. But that’s just the start of the draft prospects with a little green and white in their blood.
Austin Peay QB Jake Ryan is the son of Pat Ryan, the Jets’ 13-year backup and sometimes starting QB from 1978-90. Pat, in fact, was 12-9 as a starter during Ken O’Brien’s stay with the Green & White, and that included starts in both of the 1986 playoff games, the win over Kansas City and the double OT loss at Cleveland.
Penn State RB Michael Zordich’s dad, Mike, also a Nittany Lion, went on to play 12 NFL seasons as a safety, the first two of which came with the Jets in 1987-88 after he was drafted in the ninth round of the ’86 draft by San Diego. The elder Zordich’s big green play was an interception-return touchdown to crown the Jets’ 1988 home-opening win over the Houston Oilers.
Then there’s North Carolina OL Brennan Williams. His father, Brent, began his NFL career as seventh-rounder in that same ’86 draft by New England, then went on to play 11 pro seasons. His last five games came as a member of the Jets in 1996.
And one name that initially got past me and the NFL’s media department but not past Radar regular GaryC is T.J. McDonald, the Southern Cal safety and son of Tom McDonald, not an ex-Jets player but a celebrated Trojans and NFL safety who came on this year as the Jets’ new DBs coach.
Where do all the Jets’ relatives figure to go? Desmond Trufant is possibly the third-best corner in this draft and should go in the second half of the first round. Matt Elam is perhaps the top strong safety prospect in this draft and could go low in Round 1 or in Round 2. T.J. McDonald and Brennan Williams are potential third- or fourth-rounders. Michael Zordich and Jake Ryan are possible undrafted free agent signees.
Familiar Names at Predraft Play 60 Clinics
A number of current and former Jets are slated to be involved in the NFL Play 60 Youth Football Festival being held next Wednesday and Thursday at Chelsea Waterside Park between 23rd and 24th Streets in Manhattan.
TE Jeff Cumberland, LB Demario Davis, WR Clyde Gates and RB John Griffin will be involved in conducting some of the clinics on Wednesday afternoon. Former Jets S James Ihedigbo, now with the Ravens, will also be a clinician, as will retired QB Mark Brunell, in town as we mentioned a few days ago to announce the Jaguars’ second-round pick from the Radio City podium on Friday night.
The players will team with third-through-ninth-grade students from schools in New York and New Jersey as part of the league’s youth health and fitness campaign. Students will learn NFL FLAG drills and Heads Up Football skills from USA Football coaches and will participate in activities with the players.
For the first time in this annual predraft event, two Thursday evening clinics are open for public registration. A parent or legal guardian may sign up his/her child (ages 6-13) at www.1iota.com. Space is limited.
Tags: Abram Elam, Brent Williams, Clyde Gates, Demario Davis, Isaiah Trufant, Jeff Cumberland, John Griffin, Mike Zordich, NFL Draft, NFL Play 60, Pat Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 61 Comments »
Updated, 4:15 p.m. ET
Ellis Lankster said he would be watching NFL highlights or ESPN’s Top Ten and see blitzing cornerbacks from other teams coming free all the time, swooping in on unsuspecting quarterbacks and separating them from the football.
“And I would say, ‘Why? Why do I never come free like that?’ ” he wondered.
At Seattle, it happened. Lankster, playing nickel after Isaiah Trufant suffered his season-ending first-quarter knee injury, came off his left edge in a five-man rush. No Seahawk stepped up to block him, and suddenly there was rookie QB Russell Wilson, as big as day and looking the other way.
“My whole time running, I was saying in my head, ‘Don’t throw it, don’t throw it, don’t throw it,’ ” Lankster recalled. “He didn’t throw it. I was so happy.”
Lankster hit Wilson and the ball came loose. In one instant, the third-year man who’s been waiting his turn for his career to get rolling had just picked up his first sack and first forced fumble of his career.
As luck would have it, the Seahawks recovered the loose ball at their 7. It was still a big third-down play, forcing a 3-and-out, but it was one of several plays that could have signaled a Jets upsurge in that game but went the other way. If only Dustin Keller didn’t false-start, if only Mark Sanchez saw Stephen Hill in the back of the end zone, if only the Jets had recovered that ball and Jeremy Kerley hadn’t muffed the punt …
That’s what happens to teams on losing streaks. But teams that pull out of those streaks do so by relying on positive trends that develop during those negative teams. We have more on that in our Sunday morning preview of the Jets-Rams game, but suffice it to say that Lankster, to help him should he have a clear shot at Rams QB Sam Bradford, has been going to the Jets’ video library.
“I never played with Drew Coleman. My first year here, he was gone,” he said of the former Jets corner and strip-sack artist who played last year with Jacksonville last season. “Coaches will be like, ‘Go back and watch how Drew Coleman did it, or how Donald Strickland did it.’ “
In fact, Lankster did a great imitation. He became the first Jets DB to execute a strip-sack in 28 games, or since DC had three in a three-game span (two against Ben Roethlisberger) late in the 2010 season.
There’s no guarantee Lankster will be running forward unblocked again Sunday and on Thanksgiving night back home against the Patriots. But an improved Jets rush will help him as he tries to fill Trufant’s role in coverage against those teams’ top wideouts, Danny Amendola for the Rams and Wes Welker for the Patriots. In fact, as Ryan said a few times this week, Amendola “kind of looks like Wes Welker, and his game looks a lot like it, too.”
The shame of that is that Trufant likely would have been a key player in the Jets’ nickel. He’d been flashing on blitzes himself and got praise for helping to hold Welker down four weeks ago at New England. Unfortunately, Trufant’s left knee got jarred by LB Garrett McIntyre as both went for the tackle of ex-Jet Leon Washington on his first punt return on Sunday. That injury landed Trufant on IR on Tuesday.
But ‘Zaiah may yet make his presence felt under the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday.
“Ever since he got hurt, he’s been telling me to ‘hold it down,’ ” Lankster said. “He’s been sending me texts, saying, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me. It’s your time.’ “
Perhaps it will be.
Here is the list of strip-sacks by Jets DBs from the Bill Parcells era forward:
2010 — CB Drew Coleman 3
2009 — S Jim Leonhard 2, S James Ihedigbo 1, S Kerry Rhodes 1
2008 — S Abram Elam 2, CB Hank Poteat 1, CB Darrelle Revis 1
2006 — Rhodes 3
2001 — CB Ray Mickens 1
1999 — Mickens 2
1998 — S Victor Green 1
Friday Injury Reports
Mostly good news on the Jets’ injury front. The good: For the first time this season, the Jets list no players as either doubtful or out for the upcoming game. “I expect us to have a healthy roster,” Ryan said today, “and we’ll see how that goes.”
Included in those expectations are the five players listed as questionable for the Rams: RB Bilal Powell (concussion), RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle), NT Sione Po‘uha (back/ankle), LB Bart Scott (toe) and — the only semi-negative injury news — WR-PR Jeremy Kerley, who didn’t practice for the first time this week with his heel injury plus a hamstring complication.
WR Stephen Hill practiced full after sitting out two days with an illness and said he’s feeling a lot better. He’s probable, as are LB Calvin Pace (DNP today due to personal reasons) and the 12 other players on the list.
All four injured Rams players are listed as questionable for the game: LB Mario Haggan (thigh), WR Austin Pettis (toe), DE Eugene Sims (knee), S Darian Stewart (knee). None is a starter.
Last week at this time we noted that Marv Albert was about to call his 100th Jets game on network TV. He and Rich Gannon (doing his seventh Jets game since ’08 as a network analyst and his fifth teamed with Marv) in the CBS booth generally had a good game. Gannon in particular was tough but insightful on Mark Sanchez’s play and the Jets’ use of Tim Tebow.
But Gannon committed a late-game gaffe that we’d like to correct for the record. When Yeremiah Bell rocked RB Richard Turbin as a Russell Wilson pass sailed over their heads, and YB was flagged for what ref Ed Hochuli announced was “unnecessary roughness, helmet contact to a defenseless player,” Gannon offered this:
“Yeremiah Bell’s been tagged a couple times this season for these type of hits.”
False. Until that penalty, Bell hadn’t been flagged for any plays of that kind this season. The only penalty he’d been called for previously was for holding TE Heath Miller in Game 2 at Pittsburgh.
If Gannon had said the Jets safeties as a tandem had been tagged a couple of times, he would have been in the ballpark. LaRon Landry was flagged for two late hits, on Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller in the opener (offset) and on Pittsburgh’s Emmanuel Sanders the next week, plus a horsecollar tackle on Antonio Brown in that game. He’d gone unpenalized for six games, or until he was called for pass interference on Seattle TE Evan Moore in the back of the end zone.
That Landry penalty vs. the Seahawks, by the way, was a rarity, since it officially was for zero yards yet still gave the Seahawks a first down. The ball was already inside the Jets 1 and the penalty moved the ball half the distance to the goal line, which was a foot away. That’s still statistically considered the 1-yard line.
Special Thanks to A-1 First Class
The New York Jets want to extend a special thank-you to A-1 First Class Moving, the proud moving partner of the Jets, for helping deliver items from the organization’s Sandy Relief Drive to New Jersey Cares.
Tags: Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant, Marv Albert, Rex Ryan, Rich Gannon, Russell Wilson, Sam Bradford, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams
Posted in Randy Lange | 28 Comments »
When a team is scuffling, and especially when a team is scuffling without one of its main men, it will take everyone on the roster to get the job done and keep the wins coming.
Such as Sunday at Miami, when the Jets’ kickoff and punt coverage teams put together one of the finest field position games in recent team history.
“Eight times we had our opponents inside the 20, and five times inside the 10 — that’s a lot,” special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff told newyorkjets.com today. “They’re off to a solid start. We can cover.”
Eleven of Miami’s 13 possessions began after a Jets punt or kickoff, and the Dolphins’ average start on those drives was their 14.5-yard line. Add in the possessions after their two interceptions and for the game the ‘Fins’ average drive start was their 17.8-yard line.
That’s the Jets’ best opponents’ drive start in the last 22 seasons. The only better game since 1990 was their 17-12 victory over Houston in the Astrodome in ’90, a game that featured a 42-yard touchdown pass from Ken O’Brien to Al Toon and the only individual “trifecta” fumble-recovery touchdown by a front-seven player in franchise history when rookie DT Darrell Davis sacked Warren Moon, forced the fumble and recovered it in the end zone. The Oilers’ drive start was their 17.0.
On Sunday the Jets needed every spare yard since Miami mounted six marches of at least 40 yards, two for touchdowns and four for field goal attempts.
“Field position, to me, I look at last year, when we finished first in kickoff returns and I think we were sixth in [kickoff] coverage. That adds up to seven and I think that led the league,” Westhoff said. “It was pretty close between us and San Francisco but they had 40 touchbacks and we had 12. We had to cover a heck of a lot more, yet we were still first. I’ve been able to do that a lot of times.”
Unlike opening day, when Nick Folk had six touchbacks, he had only one at Sun Life Stadium. But Folk did put all five of his kickoffs into the end zone. Then Nick Bellore, Josh Mauga, Josh Bush and Joe McKnight made tackles, and the kick coverage also forced a pair of illegal blocks.
Then there was Robert Malone, who had his best day yet as the Jets’ punter. He hit six punts to the tune of a 45.7-yard gross — very good — and a 42.5 net — excellent. His four inside-the-20 punts is tied for fifth-most in a game by a Jet since 1991. No Jets qualifying punter has ever finished a season with a 40-yard net average, and Malone’s got 13 games to go, but his net after three games is at 40.0.
On punt coverage, Bellore had another tackle, as did Isaiah Trufant and rookie Demario Davis. “Zaiah” also downed a Malone punt at the Miami 5, the Dolphins’ fair-caught two others, and yet another illegal block was flagged against Miami.
“I think Malone’s off to a good start. He’s got a big, powerful leg that I like, and a very powerful, explosive lower body,” Westhoff said. “Now we just have to keep working with him on his timing and technique and all those little things. But he can bomb the ball. He’s done a real good job.”
As head coach Rex Ryan said Monday following his announcement of the severity of Darrelle Revis’ knee injury, “It’s going to take everybody we have, pulling together like we are and just keep competing, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the day.”
And everybody includes the hidden-yardage crew, not just the kickers and their coverage teams but the return teams led by McKnight and Jeremy Kerley, and the offense and the defense turning very good field position into great position if not points.
The numbers show how important that can be. In the eight games since ’90 that the Jets have held opponents to lower than an average drive start of less than their 20.0, their record is 7-1. And in the 60 games that opponents’ drive start has been lower than 25.0, the Jets’ record is 48-12 (.800). Field position is one major area in which the Jets can help optimize their opportunities in the wake of having to spend the rest of their season on Reeve-Less Island.
Tags: Al Toon, Astrodome, Darrell Davis, Isaiah Trufant, Ken O'Brien, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, Nick Folk, Robert Malone
Posted in Randy Lange | 68 Comments »
Health can be wealth, especially in the NFL, and Rex Ryan said today that his available roster looks pretty healthy to take on the “second half” of the Jets’ season, beginning with the Bills at Buffalo on Sunday afternoon.
DT Mike DeVito’s sore knee, which kept him out of the pre-bye comeback win over the Chargers, has been a sore spot but Ryan saw it improving all this week.
“I’d be shocked if DeVito wasn’t ready to do more,” the head coach said at today’s news conference, adding later of DeVito suiting up for the Bills, “I am optimistic about that. Very optimistic.”
Ryan also noted that CB Isaiah Trufant (hamstring) and rookie DT Kenrick Ellis (ankle) joined DeVito today working exclusively with strength and conditioning coach Bill Hughan on the sideline while their teammates practiced.
“I think Trufant as well” will be ready to increase his workload this week, Ryan said. “Kenrick, I’m not so sure. We’ll see how he looks.”
All of the other Jets coming off of injury listings — C Nick Mangold (ankle), LB David Harris (foot/ankle), DT Marcus Dixon (knee) and DE Ropati Pitoitua (knee) — got outside today and knocked the rust off from six days away from the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
There were also a few new Jets running around with the holdovers. Ryan was asked about two — TE Shawn Nelson, the former Bill, who’s been added to the active roster, and LB Ricky Sapp, the former Eagles fifth-round pick in 2010 who signed on to the practice squad.
Nelson, said Ryan, is “a guy I always wanted. Buffalo took him [in the '09 draft] before we had an opportunity to. The thing I was impressed about on the college tape, the thing that jumps out to you is how big he is, a 6’5″ target, but he can really run — a 4.6 guy in the 40. And then the thing that really got my attention is he can pass-block as well.”
Sapp, Rex said, “was another young man we liked coming out of college. We worked him out early this year and he wasn’t ready [from knee rehab]. We said, ‘We’re going to give you X amount of weeks and then bring you back during the bye.’ I never thought he’d be all the way back like he is, so we’re excited to give him the chance to come onto our practice squad.”
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Isaiah Trufant, Kenrick Ellis, Mike DeVito, Ricky Sapp, Shawn Nelson
Posted in Randy Lange | 13 Comments »
Since the Jets’ special teams played such a critical role in the their Week 1 victory over the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, we booked coordinator Mike Westhoff for a Week 2 appearance on “Four Quarters.”
With the Jets trailing, 24-17, and just 5:08 left on the game clock, Westhoff dialed up one of the most exciting punt blocks that you’ll ever seen in regular-season play. Westhoff told me that the most amazing thing about Joe McKnight’s majestic block is that while it typically takes two seconds from snap to kick, the Cowboys and P Mat McBriar completed the process in just 1.87 seconds.
“I thought strategically we would have three guys on two. If we did this exactly correct, we may get that,” Westhoff said. “I didn’t think it would necessarily be Joe. I thought the fullback would step in and take Joe, and we’d get 2-on-1 on the corner. As it turned out, they actually moved out a little bit better than I thought, although the fullback probably went further out than what they’d like him to, and Joe came clean and we blocked it.”
As MetLife Stadium erupted, speedy CB Isaiah Trufant calmly scooped up the bouncing ball and raced to the end zone. Pandemonium ensued and the classic was tied up in an instant.
“He was running off the opposite edge to make sure that they weren’t able to turn and punt away from our overload,” Westy said of Trufant. “He’s so quick and he timed it up, and we always have a scoop-and-score principle if there’s anything that is blocked — the same thing with a field goal. And he was able to do that.
“It was just a great play.”
Then we know what happened next as Nick Folk stuck a 50-yard dagger into his former employer, much to the delight of Westhoff and the fans. It was a sensational start to the season for the special teams units.
But Westhoff, always the perfectionist, is definitely working on improvement heading into Sunday’s matchup with the Jaguars. Eager to make something happen late in the second quarter with his team down, 10-0, Antonio Cromartie returned a kickoff out of his end zone even though he was 9 yards deep. The Jets had survived a poor drive start at their 13 and cashed in with an 87-yard scoring drive that culminated on a 4-yard toss from Mark Sanchez to Dustin Keller.
“We’d like to be about 5 or so deep, and Cro was a little bit deep and he knows it. We actually thought we should challenge our own return that he stepped out — I kind of think he did,” said Westhoff with a laugh. “We could have challenged it and made it be a touchback. It’s an aggressive play on his part. I don’t want to take away from his aggressiveness — I just don’t. There will come a time when the weather’s going to get colder and the ball won’t constrict as well. I think we have an excellent blocking team and we’ll be a kickoff return threat.”
New punter T.J. Conley numbers (39.8-yard average, 35.0-yard net) might not appear impressive on first glance, but he didn’t have too many misfires. He backed the Cowboy up on their 7- and 9-yard lines with back-to-back punts of 31 and 35 yards — both unofficially with better than 5.1-second hang times — early in the second quarter.
“He did a good job the other night,” Westhoff said of Conley. “He did two balls inside the 10 that we liked. When they came at him at the end of the game, he got the ball off on time. He had a real nice one that they had to fair-catch. He hit one ball that we really didn’t like. He kind of cut across it and it wasn’t perfect, but he did some good things. We see him improving and he’s capable of hitting the really good ball.”
Westhoff is looking forward to another big-time challenge Sunday. The Jaguars are more than just Maurice Jones-Drew — they feature two of the top special teamers in all of football in WR Kassim Osgood and RB Montell Owens.
“They have an outstanding group and they have the Pro Bowl players in Osgood and Owens. If you had to pick the two best special teams players in the NFL in the last five to six to seven years, it may be those two,” Westy said. “Now I would throw Eric Smith and maybe even Brad Smith into that group. They’re real good and they’re a challenge. [Josh] Scobee is an excellent kicker, a big kickoff guy. Matt Turk’s been around. Matt’s a veteran, but he’s still good. They have a young punt returner [rookie WR Cecil Shorts] who I think is pretty good.”
You can check out more of our sitdown with Coach Westhoff this weekend on “Four Quarters.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Isaiah Trufant, Jacksonville Jaguars, joe McKnight, Kassim Osgood, Mike Westhoff, Montell Owens, T.J. Conley
Posted in Eric Allen | 13 Comments »
The Jets will keep their “W” from Sunday night’s inspiring matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, and we don’t mean former President Bush. But head coach Rex Ryan isn’t kidding himself and wasn’t sugarcoating things for his players. Much work remains to be done now that the NFL regular season is under way.
“After watching the film again, we still won, so I think that’s the main thing,” Ryan said at today’s news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “It’s really what we thought it was. We had some good moments and then — whoof.
“Our correction period went a little longer than we normally do. With our scheme, our communication, whatever it may be, we’ve got to do a much better job. You’ve got to give Dallas credit — they gave us problems both schematically and with their personnel. Anytime you make those corrections and you found a way to win, it’s a good thing.”
How the game was viewed by Ryan and his coaches could be captured from the gameballs he announced he was giving out.
Two players on offense will receive the ceremonial oblate spheroids: RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who led the offense with 89 yards, 73 coming on six receptions, and WR Plaxico Burress, who returned to the game with a modest burst of four catches for 72 yards and his first touchdown in nearly three years.
Three balls go to special teamers: Joe McKnight and Isaiah Trufant for collaborating on the key blocked-punt TD return, and Nick Folk, who hit the game-winning 50-yard field goal and also finished strong with his last three kickoffs going for touchbacks.
And for the defense? None this time. How often does that happen to one of Rex’s prized units?
“Not too often,” he told reporters. “It’s good for that group to get all mad at me, mad at Pettine, mad at you guys. … When your defense is not consistent, when we don’t play to our standards, no gameballs.”
That’s not to say there weren’t some highlights. LB Bart Scott “played tremendous,” Ryan said. Darrelle Revis knew just what to do when Tony Romo marred his otherwise fine game by throwing the ball right into the middle of Revis Island. The D got stronger as the game went on, considering the Cowboys’ last five drives went fumble-two punts (one blocked)-interception-fumble to end the game.
A reporter theme today was if the Jets felt relying on fourth-quarter heroics, as they did last year and as they’ve now done for one game this year, was dangerous. Surely it is, and Ryan knows it. But he also knows that sometimes you need a few other clubs in your bag to pull out some victories, and he saw that in this game and again in the game video.
“I knew we had a lot of character and we had guts,” he said. “One thing you can say about this team is that we don’t lack fight. We may not win every game, but we have the belief that momentums coming our way. If we didn’t have that last night, there were several opportunities to let that game go. But we refused to let go of that rope.”
One Final Award
Ryan added one more gameball to his list as he left the podium: “That’s to me for winning the ‘Ryan Bowl’ again.” When Rex’s teams have played Rob’s teams the past four times, all four verdicts have gone to Rex — Ravens vs. Raiders in ’06 and ’08, Jets vs. Browns in ’10, and now Jets vs. Cowboys. Buddy Ryan, the twins’ dad, was at the stadium Sunday night and also was in Cleveland last year.
Ryan said he checks with all of his coordinators each week to decide “what’s in our best interests with the last spot or two spots on the roster.” This past week Mike Westhoff and Ryan agreed that special teams needed a dose of speed, so Trufant was signed from the practice squad and Mardy Gilyard was waived. “I thought of playing the young man from Dallas, Andrew [Sendejo],” Ryan said. “I kind of like that, letting a guy play against his former team and all that. But at the end of the day we went with speed.”
The Jets also went with a slight downsizing, since Trufant checks in at 5’8″ and 170 pounds — “That’s small by Summit’s standards,” said Ryan about his favorite North Jersey high school team.
Trufant, who was playing in his third game as a pro, said he got a number of calls and messages from well-wishers last night over his highlight-reel 18-yard blocked-punt TD return that tied the game up. “The funny thing,” he said, “is that a lot of people thought I was still with Philadelphia.”
Philly waived him and the Jets re-signed him the day of the Jets-Eagles preseason finale. Now it seems he’s making himself tougher to cut from the Green & White game plans.
“His best play wasn’t the touchdown. It was on a kick,” Ryan said. “He was the first guy down the field, he hits the wedge, three blockers are on him, then he goes and makes the tackle. He’s an amazing little guy. He just looks short to me but he doesn’t look small.”
Ryan noted that “We gave up a touchdown on the opening drive of the game and on the opening drive of the second half. That’s something we’re not accustomed to doing.” True enough: It’s only happened once before in Rex’s Jets tenure, at last year’s game in Detroit. The last time before the Lions that the Jets gave up two half-leading TD drives was in ’03 vs. New England.
Mark Sanchez had five completions of 25 yards or longer vs. the Cowboys. That’s the most 25-yarders in a game in his NFL career. Similarly, his 205 second-half passing yards were the most in any half in his career. And his 335 total passing yards were 1 yard shy of his career high of 336, also in that OT win over the Lions last year.
Ryan said the plan for the immediate future is to rotate Antonio Cromartie and Joe McKnight as the primary kickoff returner. … The coach displayed a long treatment list to reporters, significant of the physical nature of the game, but had no injuries to report.
Extra Exposure from NFLN
The Jets-Cowboys game will be shown Tuesday from 8-9:30 p.m. as part of NFL Network’s “Field Pass” schedule. NFLN calls it “NFL Replay,” which offers an exclusive look at the previous week’s games in a condensed format. With the use of bonus NFL Films and NFL Network footage, including never-before-seen camera angles and coaches’ commentary, combined with exclusive wired sound from the field, locker rooms and sidelines, viewers will experience the game like never before.
Tags: Isaiah Trufant, joe McKnight, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, Nick Folk, Plaxico Burress, Rex Ryan, Rob Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 54 Comments »
Updated, 11:50 p.m. ET
The waiting has begun for a number of Jets.
Now that the preseason has reach its conclusion after the Jets’ 24-14 loss to the Eagles tonight, the regular-season roster comes into focus. The Jets — and all of the NFL’s other 31 clubs — have until 6 PM ET on Saturday to trim their roster to 53 players.
At a number of positions, the selections will be easy. On offense, there likely won’t be a lot of discussion at QB, RB, FB and TE. But there could be interesting discussions internally about the OL and WR positions.
With any Rex Ryan roster, you have to start with the defensive backs and then work your way toward the line on the other side of the ball. You can bet the farm that the Jets are going to keep a boatload of DBs and there will be intriguing depth decisions there as well. The one thing to keep in mind throughout the weekend is that GM Mike Tannenbaum and company will be scanning the waiver wire and they’ll have the ability to make claims up until Sunday at noon.
“I think we have to see the tape,” said Rex Ryan after the Jets’ 24-14 loss to the Eagles. “I think we have a pretty good idea of what happened and what it looked like. We have to see who becomes available. Mike does a great job and our pro scouting department tells the guys if somebody becomes available. I am not saying we won’t claim somebody because it seems like each year we have, and we have improved our football team when we have done that. We will certainly look at it.”
So the Saturday night roster could have a change, or two, or a few by the time Ryan and company hit the practice field on Monday. Let’s take a quick look at each position group as we head into the weekend.
QB — In all likelihood, you are looking at a Mark Sanchez–Mark Brunell–Greg McElroy trifecta. Brunell didn’t play in the preseason due to a calf injury, but the Green & White are confident he’ll be ready to assume his place behind Sanchez.
“Brunell threw the ball today in warmups, so I think that was good,” Ryan said. “He felt good. I feel pretty comfortable that Brunell will be back in that role any day.”
Give Drew Willy a lot of credit. He finally saw game action in the preseason finale against the Eagles and came in with ice in his veins, throwing a back-shoulder scoring toss to Scotty McKnight on his first play from scrimmage after McElroy left with a thumb injury.
RB — The Jets expect FB John Conner (left ankle) ready to go for their Sept. 11 opener and they love their foursome of tailbacks in Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell. Would the Jets be looking for some insurance behind Conner?
TE — The Jets have one of the best receiving tight ends in football in Dustin Keller, a solid blocker/special teamer in Matt Mulligan and an emerging youngster in Jeff Cumberland. Rookie Josh Baker, a 6’3”, 244-pounder from Northwest Missouri, had three catches entering tonight’s game.
OL — Obviously the starters are set and the Jets are hopefully OL Rob Turner has a return in him at some point. Second-year man Vladimir Ducasse struggled at times playing a variety of positions in the preseason, but he’ll be counted on as a key backup. Has Robbie Felix done enough to earn himself a roster spot as an opening-night reserve at C? The Jets also may elect to scan the waiver wire this weekend.
“I thought he had his moments. He struggled the first game and then he picked it up after that,” Ryan said of Ducasse. “In this one maybe he took a step back — I am not sure. He did have a few penalties so, obviously we have to get better there.”
WR — You have your Big Four with Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason and Jeremy Kerley. Then that fifth spot has been battle with Logan Payne, who suffered a dislocated wrist against the Giants, and Patrick Turner. Is there any possibility that the Jets keep more than five?
DL — Youth and athleticism. The Jets are stoked about this group and have every right to be. Sione Pouha, Mike DeVito and rookie Muhammad Wilkerson will start, but the coaches love what they’ve seen from Ropati Pitoitua. Marcus Dixon has also been solid and rookie Kenrick Ellis, a developmental project out of Hampton, has flashed at well. Martin Tevaseu has got plenty of action in the summer, starting three contests and holding sturdy at the nose. He should be a capable backup to Pouha.
LB — Let’s borrow a line from the Jets press release prior to Preseason Game 4. “Second-year LB Josh Mauga, and rookie LB Nick Bellore, both undrafted, have provided quality depth at inside linebacker. The two have combined for 21 tackles, two sacks and one interception during the preseason.” After Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas on the outside, Jamal Westerman will have a golden opportunity to rush the passer in 2011 with Jason Taylor departed. Also Garrett McIntyre thrived as a rusher in camp.
Aaron Maybin, a former first-round pick of the Bills, came in late to camp and attempted to make a late push to impress the coaching staff. Did he do enough with his 1.5 sacks vs. Eagles, giving him 2.5 for the summer? Brashton Satele almost brought an interception back to the house in Week 2 against the Bengals.
DB — Get your counter ready because the Jets are going to keep a bunch. Of course Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson will head up the corners while Jim Leonhard, Eric Smith and Brodney Pool return at safety. But CB Donald Strickland, a key performer in sub packages in 2009, is back in New York and S Dwight Lowery tied for the club lead with three picks last season including two pick-sixes.
Corner Marquice Cole is a speedy vet and has been a valuable contributor on Mike Westhoff’s special teams units. Former Bills CB Ellis Lankster played well throughout camp and didn’t hurt himself tonight with his 67-yard return of a third quarter pick for a TD. There is also S Emanuel Cook, a player defensive coordinator Mike Pettine told newyorkjets.com basically has taken the spot of James Ihedigbo.
Speaking of burners, Isaiah Trufant is back after a summer try with the Eagles. The 5’8”, 170-pound CB saw some teams action tonight as Westhoff used him outside at gunner. He did commit an offside infraction that kept a Philly drive alive — a possession that resulted in a fourth-down incomplete pass from Vince Young, who pulled up with a right hamstring injury in mid-throw.
Specialists — K Nick Folk survived a tough push from Nick Novak while T.J. Conley outdueled Australian Chris Bryan. Tanner Purdum is the long-snapper while Kerley is listed atop the depth chart for both kickoff and punt returns. The Jets also have a special weapon in their bag with Cromartie always waiting to get the call.
Stay tuned to newyorkjets.com for all your official transactions from the Green & White.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Drew Willy, final cuts, Garrett McIntyre, Greg McElroy, Isaiah Trufant, John Conner, Mark Brunell, Rex Ryan
Posted in Eric Allen | 45 Comments »
Monty Python’s Flying Circus often used to open with the phrase “And now for something completely different …” And that also applies to the Bills wideouts that Darrelle Revis and the Jets will see on Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium.
The WR depth charts for the Bills these days? Steve Johnson and Naaman Roosevelt on one side, David Nelson, Donald Jones and Paul Hubbard on the other.
“It’s a new thing for me as well, and for the secondary,” Revis said after today’s final practice of the week at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “Their whole receiving corps has changed. Usually it’d be Roscoe Parrish, Lee Evans, [Josh] Reed, those type of guys. Now when you look on the film, it’s totally different.”
But Revis is ready to sight-adjust from Evans and Parrish, both of whom are on IR, to Johnson, who leads the Bills with impressive numbers — 77 receptions, 1,001 yards, 10 TDs.
“Steve Johnson, he’s doing a great job,” Revis said. “He’s their go-to guy. They look for him all the time. So I think it’ll be a good matchup.”
For as long as he’s in there. But keep in mind that Revis (hamstring) and fellow CB Antonio Cromartie (groin) were both listed as limited in today’s team drills and questionable for the game. Head coach Rex Ryan said at his New Year’s Eve news conference that there’s a chance both starters could go or both could sit this one out before the playoffs start next weekend.
“There’s a good chance of that,” Ryan said. “If that happens, then the other guys have got to step up and go. There’s a chance, if they’re not feeling well, that it would make sense to have them healthy for the playoffs. We’re not ruling them out, but we’ll see how that goes.”
The Bills, meanwhile, are listing Nelson and Jones as out after both missed the week of team drills. So it may well be a game of attrition when the Jets DBs match up against the Bills WRs. But as Revis said:
“As of right now, I’m playing. It’s up to the coaches and what they want to do, if they want to switch some guys out or not. But I’m taking this week as a regular week and preparing for the Buffalo Bills.”
And their 2010 go-to guy.
Labor Day for Slauson
Right guard Matt Slauson was back at practice and in the locker room and looking only a little scraggly after going through one of the toughest Wednesday-Thursday sessions of his life — helping his wife, Cami, give birth to their first child after a one-day-plus labor.
“It was awesome — the longest day of your life with the best ending,” said Slauson, now a 24-year-old daddy. “The 28 hours was tough but as soon as he was born, it was amazing.”
Cami began labor at 5 a.m. today, delivered Montgomery James Slauson — who will be known as Monte — at 7 a.m., then convinced Matt on a pot of coffee and no sleep that he should go to this morning’s meeting at 8:50.
“Monte’s 7 pounds, 4 ounces and his 40 time is 4.2,” said Slauson. “I didn’t have a chance to see his length but I was told he’s very tall and has enormous feet.”
Does that make him a candidate for the NFL trenches some day just like Pop? “He might be a swimmer,” Matt countered.
Mark Sanchez remains as he was last week at this time — limited at practice but probable for the game and plugged in as the Jets’ starter by Ryan, although the coach said of the possible stint for his second-year QB, “I don’t believe it will be long.”
S James Ihedigbo and T Damien Woody are listed as out for this game. DE Shaun Ellis also didn’t practice, S Eric Smith was limited, and both are doubtful for the Bills. Other questionables besides Revis and Cromartie are NT Sione Pouha and Trevor Pryce.
For the Bills, the QB situation is a little different as Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t practice this week with a knee injury suffered against the Patriots and his availability will be a gametime decision.
“I feel OK,” Fitzpatrick told buffalobills.com today. “I haven’t done a whole lot. I’ve done the walkthroughs this week and a little bit of throwing the ball around. I’ve been hitting the treatment pretty heavy and putting some extra hours in there to do everything we can to get this thing healthy.”
If Fitz can’t go, the Jets will face No. 2 QB Brian Brohm, who would be making his first start of the year and second of his career. Besides Fitzpatrick, Nelson and Jones, G Cordaro Howard was declared out by Bills coach Chan Gailey, while seven other players on the injury report are probable.
Ryan on the possibility of 5’8″, 170-pound CB Isaiah Trufant seeing action Sunday and in the playoffs: “This young man has some talent. His brother [Marcus] obviously has talent in this league. His change of direction, all that kind of stuff, is phenomenal. The thing is, he’s little. He looks like he’s on some high school team but he’s one of the smaller kids on the team. But on the practice field he goes up against Braylon [Edwards], he’s competitive. So we’re still looking. We owe it to our football team to do what it takes. If that means this young man’s up in the playoffs, we’ve got to find out.”
Ryan on Buffalo NT Kyle Williams, a Pro Bowl first alternate: “That guy is one of the best inside players in football. We’ve definitely got to get him blocked. Fortunately we have good guards and centers. But he always plays like his hair’s on fire. He’s not surprised by any blocking patterns, he dominates consistently, and I’m happy he’s getting the recognition.”
Every Little Edge Helps
Ryan continued to insist today that “Shoot, we want to win this game,” even though there’s only a small chance the Jets could get the fifth seed with a win plus four other outcomes on Sunday. But is a victory in your last regular-season game important for getting off to a flying start in the postseason? Yes, actually.
Since the NFL realigned to eight four-team divisions in 2002 and changed its playoff formula for each conference to four division winners and two wild cards, teams that went into their wild-card game off a Week 17 loss were 10-10 (.500) while teams that went in off a victory were 24-20 (.545).
Not much of a difference, but if we include the first-round-bye teams as well, the effect is more pronounced. Teams that lost their last RS game before their first playoff game are 14-20 (.412) and teams that win their last game are 34-28 (.548).
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Buffalo Bills, Darrelle Revis, Isaiah Trufant, Matt Slauson, Rex Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steve Johnson
Posted in Randy Lange | 7 Comments »