David Garrard’s back. Now a few questions would involve whether his back and his knee are back along with him.
The newly signed veteran Jets QB chatted with beat reporters in a conference call this afternoon, and one of the first questions involved those two parts of his anatomy, which in part led to his not playing the previous two seasons.
Brian Costello of the New York Post came in with Question No. 2 regarding Garrard’s training room scene on last year’s Hard Knocks.
“Yeah, that was a tough situation for me,” the personable Garrard said. “I feel like I had come back great from my back. My back is no issue. I was really battling down there, having a lot of fun, being on the field, doing what I do. Then my knee starts creeping up a little bit swelling up. I needed [arthroscopic] surgery.
“But my knee is great now. I’m really excited to get back in the league, playing ball. I’m very thankful the Jets have given me this opportunity.”
Needless to say, the opportunity can head in several different directions. One topic on Jets fans’ minds regarding the signing is the state of his body. Is he starting to break down, as virtually all athletes great and small do at some point? Indeed, in that key Hard Knocks episode, Garrard reported to the Dolphins trainer that turned to watch one of his children swimming in the pool and “felt something crunch in that knee.”
“Didn’t bang it on anything, didn’t fall on it or anything,” Garrard said then. “Maybe it’s father time.”
Today he had no reservations about his health. Perhaps it’s March machismo, but Garrard, who is a good-sized (6’1″, 239) QB, says despite the “nicks and knacks” of the past two years and the celebration of his 35th birthday last month, he’s still got what it takes to maneuver the ball down the field.
If I have to get a first down, I can, I can tell you that much,” he said. “As a quarterback, as you continue to get older, you have to be smarter with your body, smarter getting the ball out. Really the No. 1 thing for me as I continue to grow in this league, I’m realizing if I can get the ball to my back or dump it to the tight end, they can probably get as many yards and maybe more and I take less of a beating. That’s just the way the game is. As a quarterback, they don’t want you to be all broken up, sore, can’t move around in the pocket. I’m definitely smarter with the ball.
“But if I have to get a first down to keep chains moving or get the ball in the end zone, I’m going to do what I have to do.”
Yet the most healthy thing of all, on first listening to Garrard’s first public remarks as a Jet, is his outlook on the Jets’ starting job. He’s clearly for winning it, but first and foremost he’s clearly for his new team’s success.
“I just expect to go out and compete and really try to help this team out in any way possible,” he said. “If the way I play on the field allows that to happen, then I think great. If it doesn’t, I’m going to still be the best teammate I can be and help out this team as much as I can. It’s a team spot. not just me and the other QBs. It’s everybody pulling together, helping this ballclub out as much as possible.”
“All I know is I can compete and I’m going to have fun and make the team better.”
Tags: David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars, Mark Sanchez, Miami Dolphins
Posted in Randy Lange | 47 Comments »
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.
Tags: David Garrard, Greg McElroy, Jacksonville Jaguars, Mark Brunell, Mark Sanchez, Marty Mornhinweg, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 76 Comments »
For Josh Bush, it seems like only yesterday when he was gearing up for his first NFL training camp.
Now it’s the middle of December and his rookie season is reaching its final stages.
“It’s gone by very fast,” Bush said Thursday inside the Jets locker room. “People were telling me stories about the rookie wall and this and that, but it’s flying by to me.”
Unlike his teammate, wide receiver Stephen Hill, Bush said of the rookie wall: “I haven’t experienced it.”
The Jets’ sixth-round draft selection described his first year in the pros as fun but admitted things could be better if the team had a winning record. The Green & White are 6-7 but still have a chance to end their season with an above-.500 record as three regular-season games remain.
One week ago, Bush made one of the best plays of his young NFL career during the Jets’ 17-10 win Jacksonville. On the second-half kickoff, he beat his block and took down returner Jordan Todman with a low tackle at the Jaguars’ 11-yard line. The play seemed to ignite the entire team as the Jets defense immediately forced a three-and-out and minutes later the Jets offense scored their first TD of the afternoon when RB Shonn Greene rushed for a 1-yard score to cap a nine-play, 57-yard drive.
“We just went over it in a special teams meeting,” Bush said of the play. “We put something new in. Coach Westhoff drew up a great play. I was really coming down, stacking up behind Antonio [Allen], and I read it. Nick [Bellore] was playing off of me, and the hole just opened up.”
No. 32 said he was only doing his job on the play, but acknowledged it was nice to see the play executed properly.
“We definitely practiced it,” he said. “That was exactly what we practiced.”
Bush, a safety on defense, has played a significant role on special teams this season. He played on 15 special teams plays against Jacksonville and on 168 this season, 44% of the Jets’ total ST plays. And his tackle of Todman was his 13th on kick and punt coverage this season, tying him for the team lead with Nick Bellore and fellow rookie Demario Davis.
Yet he never played special teams in high school and his only action on specials at Wake Forest occurred early his freshman year.
Although he hasn’t seen much action at his natural position, he has valued the opportunity to learn from coordinator Mike Westhoff, now in what he’s said is his final season as an NFL coach. Bush said what Westhoff has taught him most is that focusing on the task at hand can lead to successful things getting done. Yet early on, Bush said the ST coach had his doubts on whether he could ever be a special teams factor.
“He honestly told me when they drafted me that he didn’t think I’d be able to play special teams,” Bush said. “So just to hear that from him, and him telling me that I’ve been doing a good job, that’s just a positive.”
The Jets rank eighth in opponents’ kickoff-return average and are 13th with opponents’ drives averaging starts at their 21.5 yard-line. At the same time, they lead the league with 22 opponents’ drives starting inside their own 20. While the ranking certainly isn’t despairing, Bush knows it could be better.
“We’ve had ups and downs,” Bush said. “But for the most part, it’s not where we want to be.”
Tennessee’s kick-return unit ranks 31st in the NFL in return average, but Bush said the Jets, in a must-win situation every week now, can’t afford to overlook main returner Darius Reynaud and the Titans.
“It’s the NFL,” Bush said. “You can’t sleep on anyone. Special teams is a very important part of the game, so you’ve got to bring it every time.”
*Special Teams Sunday
Tags: Darius Reynaud, Demario Davis, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jordan Todman, Josh Bush, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, Tennessee Titans
Posted in John Holt | 63 Comments »
Not surprisingly, Jets head coach Rex Ryan liked the combination of rushing offense and mostly stifling defense that got the Jets past the Jaguars on Sunday. In particular, he enjoyed the play of a few of his young guns on the front line of that defense.
“Muhammad Wilkerson, I promise you he’s getting the Pro Bowl vote from Jacksonville,” Ryan said at his midday news conference today. “It was a dominant performance from Mo. For an interior lineman, he’s just doing an incredible job. Statistically, he had the one sack, but he beat his guy over and over. Backs were having to pick him up — that’s rare when you have interior linemen getting attention from the backs. Usually that’s for the outside edge rushers. It just shows you what teams are thinking of this guy.”
And top draft pick Quinton Coples came on in the second half with one of his most impressive showings as a Jet.
“Obviously, Quinton’s athleticism jumps out at you. We always say he’s country-strong, and he is,” Ryan said. “What we’re starting to do now with him is mixing him up as an inside player, then an outside player. He missed a sack when he went over the top of [Chad] Henne, but he got one sack and he affected three more throws, including that last one at the end of the game. It looked like he was eating that tackle up pretty good over there.”
“I think the pass rush has been incredible,” said DT Mike DeVito of the Jets’ Sunday pressure that produced an unofficial total of 10 QB hits, the most this season. “It’s something we’ve been working on since day one, and to see Mo and Q doing that for us, that’s great. You can do so many more things when you can rush the quarterback.”
The only black mark on Wilkerson’s game actually was incorrectly graded. Referee Al Riveron called No. 96 for a 15-yard facemask penalty on a Henne third-down scramble on the Jags’ TD drive, but replays showed it was No. 98, Coples, who got his finger hooked in Henne’s mask on the play.
Still, that was the Jets’ only penalty of the game, another aspect of the win that pleased Ryan. The Jets are now third in the NFL in fewest penalties and fourth in yards, and they lead the league in both penalty categories since the bye week.
With the push up front and the creative backside play led by Antonio Cromartie and a cast that yesterday included Ellis Lankster, Darrin Walls and Antonio Allen, the Jets rankings continue to rise. If their eighth overall defensive-yardage ranking and their No. 3 against the pass hold through tonight’s Houston-New England game, it will be their highest weekly rankings of the season.
The third quarter’s been the charm for the Jets D the past two games. The Cardinals gained 6 yards in their third quarter and the Jaguars had the same on Sunday. These totals were the best third-quarter showing by the Green & White defense since they allowed the Dolphins 5 yards in their 2007 win at Miami. And they’re the lowest yardage total in any quarter since the ‘Fins had 3 yards in the fourth quarter of their Meadowlands win over the Jets in 2010.
WR Stephen Hill has an LCL knee sprain and LB Bryan Thomas has a pectoral muscle strain. The Jets are listing both as day-to-day. As for TE Dustin Keller (ankle), who stayed home from the Jags game, Ryan said, “I thought he was getting better as the week went on, but not to the point where he could play. Adding another day this week [for the Monday night game] , hopefully that’ll get him back on the field.”
This week’s first injury reports from the Jets and Titans won’t be issued until Thursday.
Bucking the Trend
The Jets on Sunday at Jacksonville did something they had never accomplished in franchise history and that no NFL team had achieved in the 19 previous seasons. They went scoreless in the first halves of back-to-back victories.
This is one of those glass-half-full-glass-half empty deals, akin to winning six fourth-quarter comebacks in a season. It’s definitely a good thing that the Jets beat both the Cardinals and the Jaguars despite zero first-half points, but it’s not something they want to make a habit of, such as trying for three in a row next Monday night at Tennessee.
On 10 previous occasions, the Jets went scoreless in back-to-back games. Only once did they win even one of the two games, in 1971 when they won at Miami, 14-10, before losing at New England, 20-0. (The Jets actually went scoreless for the first three quarters in both those games.) The other nine times they were 0-2.
But the Jets aren’t alone in struggling through two games of not being able to put point one on the board in the first 30 minutes. The last NFL team to do it was New Orleans in 1992. From 1993 through 2011, there were 79 occasions when teams went scoreless in the first half of consecutive games. None of them won both. Less than a third won one of the two games.
Another interesting note is that after 19 years of none of these occasions, the NFL has two teams who have qualified for the distinction this season, and in fact did it the last two weeks. The Jets have been joined by the Rams, who beat the 49ers in overtime, 16-13, last week and took out the Bills, 15-12, on Sunday.
“Inside the Jets”
Radio play-by-play voice of the Jets Bob Wischusen hosts tonight’s “Inside the Jets” show at the Grasshopper in Morristown, N.J. The show begins at 7 p.m. tonight and will be aired live on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. Bob’s guests are WR Chaz Schilens, QB Greg McElroy and assistant GM Scott Cohen.
Tags: Bryan Thomas, Dustin Keller, Jacksonville Jaguars, Mike DeVito, Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Rex Ryan, Stephen Hill
Posted in Randy Lange | 141 Comments »
Here are today’s first-half tweets for the Jets-Jaguars game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, 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: Tim Tebow and LaRon Landry.
#RL JAX won opening coin toss, deferred. It’s 4th time opponents have won toss, deferred this yr. Jets record in first 3 games: 3-0.
#RL Mardy Gilyard makes catch on 3rd down, comes up inches short of 1st down. Gilyard’s first NFL reception since 2010.
#EA Antonio Cromartie was in there at WR on the first play from scrimmage.
#RL Jags in RZ, but Garrett McIntyre hits Chad Henne as he throws, Bart Scott picks off. Jets’ 1st takeaway in 4 games all-time at JAX.
#RL Jags in RZ, but Garrett McIntyre hits Chad Henne as he throws, Bart Scott picks off. Jets’ 1st takeaway in 4 games all-time at JAX.
#RL That’s the first time this season JAX has been prevented from scoring in the red zone after 25 successful chance (14 TDs, 11 FGs).
#RL Bart Scott’s INT was his first since 2006 with Baltimore.
#RL Robert Malone gets off 50-yd punt (49-yd net), 13th consec game he’s had at least one 50-yd punt, longest streak by Jets P since ’91.
#EA That was Bart Scott’s first regular season pick as a Jet. He now has 4 INTs in his career.
#EA Stephen Hill, who stepped up last week with 5 catches, getting looked at on the sideline. Hopefully the rookie’s right leg is OK.
#RL Jets WR Stephen Hill has a knee injury, his return to this game is questionable.
#RL Josh Scobee hits 31-yd FG to give JAX 3-0 lead over Jets. Scobee FG-kicking career vs Jets: 7-for-8. Scobee this season: 21-for-22.
#EA All turnovers are reviewed. Don’t think the TD will stand, but the Jets have 2 turnovers in +territory now.
#RL Jets D has no sacks of Chad Henne but pressured him into 3 incompletions for their first three-and-out series this afternoon.
#RL Josh Scobee 55-yd FG attempt to end 1st half is wide left. Scobee hit a 55-yder vs. Jets in Game 2 last season. Jets trail at half 3-0.
Tags: Bart Scott, Chad Henne, Derek Cox, Dwight Lowery, Garrett McIntyre, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jeremy Kerley, Mardy Gilyard, Mark Sanchez, Robert Malone
Posted in Randy Lange | 80 Comments »
Here are today’s pregame tweets for the Jets-Jaguars game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, 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 It’s raining now in Jacksonville. Weather for Jets-Jaguars expected to be partly sunny, showers possible, temps in low 70s, light wind.
#RL Jets 4-6 all-time vs Jags and have played 3 games in JAX (96, 02, 06). In those games Jets are 0-3 and have been outscored 90-20.
#RL Mark Sanchez is 1-1 vs Jaguars. In ’11 Game 2 Sanchez completed 17 of 24 (70.8%) for 182 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 85.8 rating in 32-3 win.
#RL JAX QB Chad Henne is 3-1 vs Sanchez/Jets, all with Dolphins: 63-for-109 passing, 57.8%, 771 yds, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 12 sacks, 94.2 rating.
#RL Jets RB Shonn Greene in last 7 games has 134 carries for 589 yards, 4.4 avg., 4 TDs, although he hasn’t scored a TD in 5 games.
#RL Mark Brunell’s on the field visiting. Brunell was Mark Sanchez’s backup in 2010-11. As Jags’ QB from 1995-2003, Brunell was 3-2 vs Jets.
#RL Today’s referee is Al Riveron. It’s his 4th Jets game as ref, following games at MIA in 09, at DET in 10 and 11 season opener vs DAL.
#RL Jets wearing white jerseys, green pants today for first time this season. Under Rex Ryan, Jets in white/green are 2-4.
#RL Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson in last 7 games: 3 sacks, 3 forced FUMs, 1 fum return for TD at Seattle, 2 PDs
#RL NYJ inactives: QB Greg McElroy WR Jordan White WR Clyde Gates LB Ricky Sapp DL Damon Harrison OL Caleb Schlauderaff TE Dustin Keller
#RL JAX inactives: RB Rashad Jennings CB Aaron Ross RB Maurice Jones-Drew OL Mike Brewster WR Cecil Shorts DE George Selvie DE John Chick
Tags: Al Riveron, Chad Henne, EverBank Field, Jacksonville Jaguars, Mark Sanchez, Muhammad Wilkerson, Shonn Greene
Posted in Randy Lange | 12 Comments »
So what about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell saying this week that the league’s competition committee would consider in the offseason replacing the kickoff.
Really? No kickoffs?
I don’t like it. But it doesn’t much matter what I think. However, two Jets whose opinions on the subject do matter also don’t like what they’re hearing.
“I hope not. I hope not,” ST coordinator Mike Westhoff said pensively this week. “That’s player safety, so I think I’m in tune with that. But I just like the kickoffs. I just believe in it. I know the collision part and I think that’s something you have to be careful of. If you teach it the right way, it can be done properly.”
“No, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Joe McKnight, who had a phenomenal year of returning kickoffs last season and is doing very well again this year. “What about the guys that aren’t starting. Where are they going to start? You start on kickoffs and special teams.”
Two different points of view, both agreeing that a flat-out removal of kickoffs from the game is not what we’re looking for. Safety has been the primary mover for last year’s rules revisions, which have resulted in about 50 percent of kickoffs now resulting in touchbacks and a reduction in the number of concussions and other injuries incurred on the balls that are returned.
“You already moved the kick from the 30 to the 35, which gives us 5 yards less to run instead of a whole lot of room,” McKnight said of himself and his fellow returners and coverers. “Now you’re trying to take it out of the game? People like me and Ellis [Lankster] need these special teams for us to build for later on, the next couple of years when we’re trying to win our positions on offense and defense.”
Westhoff is serious about his concern for players’ health and safety. While Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay’s first-year coach, has gotten some publicity attached to this subject with his proposal to turn all kickoff situations into fourth-and-15 punt situations (the fourth-and-15 conversion rate is about the same as the successful onsides-kick rate), Westhoff said he and assistant ST coach Ben Kotwica have canvassed the league’s teams coaches and put together their own kickoff proposal, which he said the league was interested in.
“I hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does, there are also alternative methods that I think would be very productive and very competitive, so I would hope they’d go with that,” said Westhoff, who didn’t want to go into details of that plan for reporters until after the season. But he said one thing that can be done immediately in lieu of cutting kickoffs out of the game entirely is to cutting back even more on violent hits on unsuspecting players during returns.
“Blocks in the back, those types of things, used to be legal. We eliminated them from punts, but they’re still legal on kickoffs. The kickoff team can smack the blockers in the back and it’s legal,” Westhoff said. “My thing is, when is it ever good to hit somebody in the back?”
McKnight has a warrior-type mentality about returns. He didn’t talk about concussions but more the general “nicks and nacks” that returners get and playing through them, as he’s had to do this year with several injuries, such as an ankle sprain and last week’s rib injury.
“I can’t worry about injuries,” he said. “I’m still trying to make a name for myself.”
It would be a sin if an important slice of the game is made to disappear. As Westhoff reminded, “Can you imagine the Super Bowl? You’ve seen those pictures of the opening kickoff and all the bulbs are flashing? ‘Well, here we are, put the ball down, let’s go.’ C’mon, guys.”
But external and internal pressures on the game will dictate what the NFL does about kickoffs in future years. For now, the play is still alive despite the tinkering, McKnight is probable for Sunday’s game, the Jets are seventh in the league in average returns while the Jaguars are 29th in the league in average returns allowed. You know Joe and the Jets’ specialists want to do a little more reputation-building before this season is done.
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Ben Kotwica, Ellis Lankster, Greg Schiano, Jacksonville Jaguars, joe McKnight, Mike Westhoff, Roger Goodell
Posted in Randy Lange | 21 Comments »
Mark Sanchez has had an “excellent week of practice,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said today.
“I see a lot of energy from him, I see him bouncing around,” Ryan said at his news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center following this morning’s final practice before Sunday’s game at Jacksonville. “You can tell he feels good, he feels good about the plan, he feels confident.”
Yet Sanchez, playing for the first time since Ryan pulled him in the third quarter of the Arizona game last Sunday, could be without one of his biggest security blankets of the past four seasons. TE Dustin Keller (ankle) did not practice again today and is listed as doubtful for the Jaguars.
“With me, doubtful usually means he’s not going,” Ryan said. “It’s unfortunate, but this is like the sixth time this season we haven’t had Dustin.”
If Keller is inactive for the Jags, it will be the fifth game he’s missed this season, and he had one-catch contributions in the Buffalo opener and the Indianapolis game sandwiched around that early four-game hiatus due to his aggravated hamstring injury.
DK is on pace for 48 targets, 37 catches and 423 yards, which would all be career lows since his 2008 rookie season. He was the Jets’ receptions leader in 2010 and ’11, the first Jets TE with that distinction since Mickey Shuler in 1984-85.
That’s a difficult security blanket to reweave, but Jeff Cumberland has at least filled in well in his first full, healthy season with the Green & White. His 35 targets, 21 catches, 233 yards are close to Keller’s line and his two TD catches match Keller’s scores. And even with Keller missing for a stretch, the tight end numbers this year are pretty close to the previous three seasons, with the average yards per catch at the position (11.3) the lowest since 2008 yet not far off the Keller-influenced 11.5 for the position in ’09.
Injury Statuses for the Game
As for the rest of the Jets’ injured players, only WR Clyde Gates (concussion) has been declared out, and NT Damon Harrison (ankle) is the only other “doubtful.” There are three questionables: QB Tim Tebow (ribs), WR Stephen Hill (knee) and NT Sione Po‘uha (low back), all of whom were limited in practice.
All 17 other Jets on the report are probable for Jacksonville, including RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle/ribs), who practiced full. Click here for the full report.
Jacksonville’s final report is one of extremes. Six of their 13 injured players are out for the Jets: RBs Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and Rashad Jennings (concussion), WR Cecil Shorts (concussion), OL Mike Brewster (hand), CB Aaron Ross (calf) and DE George Selvie (concussion).
The other seven are all probable: S Dwight Lowery (foot), CBs Derek Cox (hamstring) and Rashean Mathis (groin), D-linemen Tyson Alualu (calf) and Austen Lane (foot), C Brad Meester (foot), and FB Greg Jones (thigh).
A Tale of Two “Strengths”
ESPN has noted that the Jets have gone from first in the NFL to last in one interesting measure: strength of schedule.
In the first 12 games of the season, Jets opponents’ combined record is 83-59-2, a .583 winning percentage that is first in the league. In other words, the Jets had the NFL’s toughest schedule (based only on opponents’ combined record) in the first three-quarters of the season.
The final four Jets opponents’ composite record is 15-33-0, a .313 percentage that is 32nd in the league. The Jets’ final quarter is the league’s “easiest” finish. Ominously, with Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati at least two games ahead of them for AFC Wild Card berths, that favorable final quarter may not be enough to provide a 2009-like storybook regular-season stretch run into the postseason grid.
But as Mike Westhoff said this week, “I’m a big believer that until someone tells us that we’re not in it, we can finish strongly and be in this thing, so that’s how I’m seeing it every week. You just don’t know in our crazy business, and it’s our responsibility to fight through that to the very end.”
And ours as well.
Tags: Dustin Keller, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jeff Cumberland, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan
Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments »
Earlier in the season, at Pittsburgh, Miami, New England and against Indianapolis, penalties were a big issue for the Jets.
Lately the yellow flags have become an issue again, but in a good way. As head coach Rex Ryan said on Wednesday, “There are some things that we’re really doing a great job at right now. A thing we’ve emphasized since the break was penalties.”
It shows. Since Nov. 1, the Jets are No. 2 in the NFL in fewest penalties, 4.3 infractions marked off per game, behind Atlanta’s 4.0, and the Green & White are No. 1 in the league with 27.5 yards per game.
“It’s about paying attention to details,” said NT Sione Po‘uha. “When you’re playing an opponent, you don’t want to be an opponent to yourself.”
“There’s a lot of different facets to a game,” added Mike DeVito, his next-door neighbor on the DL. “Sometimes you overlook some of them or forget about some of them.”
But since the bye week, the turnaround has been dramatic after the Jets, through the first eight weeks of the season, were tied for 21st in the NFL in penalties and 25th in yards.
First Ryan put the teeth back into the flags being thrown by Joe Yacovino and his crew of practice officials, telling them to tighten up all their calls. Then he returned to a practice practice that he and the Jets instituted in 2010.
“Every time there’s a penalty at practice, everybody does 10 pushups,” said Mike Westhoff, who’s coordinated the Jets practice officials since he arrived on Herm Edwards’ staff in 2001. “All the players, all the coaches. Everybody except the guy who committed the penalty.”
Said LB David Harris: “We’ve gotten our triceps a lot stronger the last month or so.”
Some Jets have always had a knack for playing clean. Harris has gone 29 games since his last penalty, a facemask on BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the 2010 AFC Divisional triumph at New England. DeVito, who arrived in 2007, has never had a major penalty called on him in his career, just four 5-yarders. LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson has gone 38 games, since mid-2010, without a holding call.
And imagine this: Po‘uha’s played in 108 games, including playoffs, in his Jets career and he’s been flagged exactly once for a penalty.
“Knock on wood,” said Big Bo. “I remember the encroachment but I don’t remember who it was against.”
As luck would have it, Po‘uha’s penalty came against Jacksonville in 2009. Perhaps Jaguars center Brad Meester had something to do with influencing the nose tackle to encroach. If so, it looks as if Sione could get some payback on Sunday at Jacksonville, now that Meester’s foot injury seems to be coming around.
“Penalties can hurt you,” said LB Bryan Thomas, who’s been whistled for a mere five penalties in his 11-year career and has had no majors in his last 60 games. “They can come on the last play of the game and give the other team one more play. They can keep drives going.”
“You definitely do not want to take steps backward,” Po‘uha agreed about the hidden yardage of penalties that the Jets have recently turned back in their favor. “They say it’s a game of inches. Don’t hurt yourself by setting yourself back yards.”
One More Thing on Penalties
Except for the occasional downtrend such as in the first half of this year, the Jets have been the state of the art when it comes to not committing penalties. Since 2001, 12 seasons combined, their 1,026 penalties and 8,346 penalty yards both continue to lead the league.
Thursday Injury Reports
Three Jets players were DNPs today — WR Clyde Gates (concussion), who Rex Ryan said is a week away from returning to action, TE Dustin Keller (ankle), and S LaRon Landry (heel) with his usual Thursday reduced load.
WR Stephen Hill (knee) was limited, as was QB Tim Tebow again (ribs). NT Damon Harrison became the 23rd Jet to be listed this week. He’s also limited, with an ankle.
For the Jaguars, their two top offensive threats, RB Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and WR Cecil Shorts (concussion), again did not practice. A report out of Jacksonville said the Jags are likely to go with their “last back standing,” Montell Owens, at tailback vs. the Jets, although RB Greg Jones (thigh) was limited today after being a DNP on Wednesday.
Also not practicing were C Michael Brewster (hand), RB Rashad Jennings (concussion), CB Aaron Ross (calf) and DE George Selvie (concussion). Meester (foot) and CB Derek Cox (hamstring) were both full-go today.
Tags: Brad Meester, Bryan Thomas, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, David Harris, Jacksonville Jaguars, Mike DeVito, Rex Ryan, Sione Pouha
Posted in Randy Lange | 36 Comments »
It was a typical Wednesday practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center this afternoon.
Yet from an outsider’s perspective it never appeared that way.
Two days of uncertainty regarding who the Jets’ starting quarterback at Jacksonville would be came to an end this morning when head coach Rex Ryan announced that he would be sticking with Mark Sanchez.
“It wasn’t too big of a shock to the guys,” wide receiver Jeremy Kerley said.
“It really was no news to take in,” right tackle Austin Howard added. “Personnel decisions are made by Rex, the GM and the owner. They’ve been here a long time to make those decisions.”
Just three days ago, as the Jets were facing the Arizona Cardinals, Ryan decided in the third quarter that it was the appropriate time to pull Sanchez from the game. The QB had struggled mightily all afternoon, throwing three interceptions in his first nine pass attempts, and also was sacked three times. The benching proved to be the first time the fourth-year QB had been taken out of a game as a pro.
“I think quarterbacks get a lot of the blame for everything, good or bad,” Kerley said. “But I think it falls a lot on his shoulders, good or bad. But we’re an offense. We don’t point fingers. We take the blame for what we put out there.”
With backup quarterback Tim Tebow unavailable to go due to broken ribs, third-stringer Greg McElroy entered the game and led the Jets to the come-from-behind 7-6 win.
“I think for Greg, it just gives him the confidence,” tight end Konrad Reuland said. “Whenever his number is called in the future, he has the confidence to go out there, and he knows he’s led a comeback victory already in his career, threw a touchdown pass on his first drive. So I don’t know how you wouldn’t have confidence after the way he played. I think in the long run, it might make this team stronger, because now we have three quarterbacks that have experience what it’s like to lead teams to comeback victories and win games in the NFL.”
On Monday, Ryan said he needed more time to make his decision and he wanted to make sure to get feedback from several of his coaching counterparts before announcing anything.
“It was Rex’s decision,” cornerback Ellis Lankster said. “We’re not mad or anything. We’re just going to follow Rex’s decision and going to play behind him.”
The players had the previous two days off from practice, but that didn’t mean the QB chatter wasn’t heard around them.
“I was walking into stores and people were asking me about it,” Lankster said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t been to practice or anything yet.’ So I didn’t know what it was going to be.”
Other players simply ignored the matter.
“I don’t really pay much attention to it,” guard Brandon Moore said. “It’ll get figured out. That’s why Rex is the head coach and he makes those decisions. I’ve got to worry about the game plan.”
While the decision wasn’t an easy one for Ryan to make, it’s clear that year four for Sanchez hasn’t been as smooth as many anticipated it would be. The Jets offense ranks 31st in the NFL and No. 6 has thrown 13 interceptions and had 18 turnovers through the team’s 12 games this season.
“I think everybody does the best job they can,” rookie WR Jordan White said. “Nobody goes in there and wants to mess up at any position. You just do the best you can. Some things might not go your way sometimes, but what can you do but come back to work the next day and get back to it. That’s what everybody’s done.”
The issue with Sanchez has never been his drive. Many of teammates say he’s one of the most dedicated people inside the locker room.
“Mark’s a very hard worker,” fullback Lex Hilliard said. “Week in and week out, he’s here constantly, sometimes till 10 or 11 o’clock at night.”
Reuland, who also was Sanchez’s teammate at Mission Viejo High School, described a story of when their school lost in a California Interscholastic Federation championship game during Sanchez’s junior year and how that loss inspired the QB.
“They didn’t have a state championship in California back then,” Reuland said. “But it was basically as far as you could go. It was a big loss and he bounced right back the next season and led us to a No. 2 ranking in the country, undefeated [season]. He bounced back from that.
“That was definitely an adverse situation because we were expected to win it all. But I don’t think he would be here, at this level, if he didn’t know how to overcome adversity. Look at his career at USC. He battled for three years before getting a chance to start. As soon as he did, he took advantage of it.”
The players were going to support Ryan’s decision either way. But now that it’s been made, everyone was pleased it didn’t drag out.
“I think the clarification is good on all parts, receivers, tight ends, running backs,” Kerley said. “The whole offense, we needed that.”
And what seemed to impress Sanchez’s teammates most was the way the quarterback processed the situation he’d been dealt.
“Hats off to Mark,” Howard said. “He handled it like a pro.”
“He was very supportive of Greg,” Reuland said. “And I know it was tough for him, but at the same time he was very supportive. I feel like Mark just wants to win like all of us. Obviously deep down, it’s got to hurt a little bit. But at the same time, I think he did a good job of cheering us on and I feel like he’s going to bounce back.”
While many probably have lost belief in Sanchez, the people who truly count most have not.
“I got a lot of faith in him,” Lankster said.
“He’s going to put his best foot forward and give the team the best shot he’s got,” Hilliard said. “So that’s all you can really ask for.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Sanchez performs Sunday in Jacksonville. But one big question was answered today and people have to accept it one way or another.
“I think with Mark, it’s literally just he’s a couple of great plays away from being right back to where he’s been in the past,” Reuland said. “Everyone in here has been through a time where they were a little down on themselves or whatever and all it takes is one or two plays to get right back out of it — ‘Oh, wait, yeah, I can do this.’ So I think that’s going to happen. I think that’s going to happen in this game.”
Wednesday Injury Reports
The Jets’ injury list is at 22 players today. New to the list: WR Stephen Hill didn’t practice with a knee injury, DT Mike DeVito (shin) was full-go and so was FB Lex Hilliard (finger). Two other DNPs were WR Clyde Gates (concussion) and TE Dustin Keller (ankle). Four limited players: RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle/ribs), G Brandon Moore (hip), NT Sione Po‘uha (back) and QB Tim Tebow (ribs). The Jets’ full injury list can be found here.
The Jaguars listed eight players who didn’t practice today, among them RBs Maurice Jones-Drew (foot), Greg Jones (thigh) and Rashad Jennings (concussion), centers Brad Meester (foot) and Michael Brewster (hand), WR Cecil Shorts (concussion), CB Aaron Ross (calf) and DE George Selvie (concussion).
Limited were CB Derek Cox (hamstring) and DE Austen Lane (foot). Full were DT Tyson Alualu (calf) and CB Rashean Mathis (groin).
The Elias Sports Bureau has revised the scoring of three plays, all of them sacks, in the Jets-Cardinals game. The Cards’ final offensive play of the game was originally scored a split sack between DE Muhammad Wilkerson and LB Bart Scott, who swarmed rookie Ryan Lindley, but upon further review, the full sack has been given to Wilkerson, which lifts him past Bryan Thomas’ 2.5 sacks and into the team lead with 3.0 sacks.
The other two sack revisions were both on Arizona takedowns of Mark Sanchez. The early-second-quarter sack split between LB Sam Acho and DT Darnell Dockett now goes fully to Acho. And the late-second-quarter sack divvied up between S Adrian Wilson and DT David Carter now goes all to Wilson.
Tags: Austin Howard, Brandon Moore, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jeremy Kerley, Jordan White, Konrad Reuland, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan
Posted in John Holt | 70 Comments »