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Five Are Gone, but ‘They’ll Always Be Jets’

Posted by Randy Lange on February 19, 2013 – 3:16 pm

General manager John Idzik and the Jets front office made their first major transactions this offseason when the team released four veterans — LBs Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, S Eric Smith and T Jason Smith — and announced that FB/TE Josh Baker has been waived.

Thus 34 seasons of NFL experience and 19 of wearing the Green & White have been removed from the roster, freeing up undisclosed salary cap space in the process. The news release was posted on our site a short while ago.

All had their ups and downs, but we’ll choose to have some up memories today, especially since three of the four (Scott, Pace and E.Smith) made contributions to the Jets’ ’09 and ’10 charges into the AFC Championship Game.

Scott, of course, was the first free agency acquisition of Rex Ryan after he left the Ravens as Scott’s D-coordinator to become the Jets’ new head coach in 2009. He was always a great trash talker, but while opponents occasionally took exception, his teammates seemed to enjoy being the target of Bart’s barbs, or at least rolled with the punches and definitely looked up to No. 57 in the locker room.

“It takes tremendous energy and cardio to talk and practice at the same time,” Scott said after one Jets practice. “I enjoy talking because it forces me not to be able to breathe, so it helps me get in shape faster.”

On a more serious note, in one of his first one-on-one interviews after signing with the Jets, Scott explained his game.

“I try and be violent every opportunity I get,” he told me then. “I feel football is a game of wills, and if you have two people clashing with each other, it’s going to hurt both players, but I’m willing to take the pain longer than I believe my opponent is, even if it hurts me. And I think that’s something the fans will see — a lot of violent attempts and collisions, but they’ll also see me get up and they’ll see me continue to throw and never waver. No jabs, nothing but power blows.”

The pain got the best of Bart only once as a Jet, last season when his 129-game appearance streak (including playoffs) was snapped and he missed three starts for the first time since 2005 due to his mangled toe. But his drive and determination kept him on the field most of the way and he finished his four-year Jets stay with a good record of playing behind the other team’s line of scrimmage. Despite his toe-jam, he had a team-leading 7.0 tackles for loss last year and 28.5 TFLs total, most on the Jets the past four years.

My partner, Eric Allen, will have a blog on his four-year relationship with the Madbacker up in the “On the Inside with EA” menu shortly.

Calvin’s Five Years

Pace had a modest record of production in the sack department. In his five Jets regular seasons, he had 28 sacks, not DeMarcus Ware numbers yet the most by a Jets linebacker in a five-year span since Mo Lewis a decade earlier.

Pace in fact had Lewis’ franchise single-season mark of 10 sacks in 2000 in his sites when he said on the eve of the 2011 season opener about double-digit sacks, “I think about it, I write it down and look at it. And I think you should do that. Sometimes you make your goals, sometimes you don’t make them. But it is something that I do. I’m not going to say I know, but I do think this is the year that I get to those goals.”

CP didn’t get there, finishing with 4.5 sacks in ’11. But often that’s because he wasn’t asked to.

“If you flip it on the other side, DeMarcus vs. me — I’m not comparing myself to him, but there’s a 99 percent chance that he’s going to be the one rushing and the Cowboys are going to probably drop the other guy in coverage,” he said. “For the Dolphins, Cameron Wake’s the same way.

“If you break down the film, look at all the stuff I do. And I’m cool with that, I really am. But when Rex calls my number, I’m going to try and do everything I can to get there for him.”

And when Pace was turned loose — such as for his three sacks combined of JaMarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski in the 2009 shutout win at Oakland — he was hellacious to watch.

“The Smith Brothers” and J.Baker

Likewise, E.Smith was always ready to pitch in wherever needed, from the time he became the highest compensatory pick ever selected by the Jets (third round, 97th overall in 2006 — he still holds that distinction) through this past year.

Ryan and coordinator Mike Pettine felt so strongly about including him and his knowledge of the defense (not to mention his general knowledge — he has his master’s degree) that they named him a co-starter at safety with LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, a distinction he held every week of the past season (even though he was officially credited with just two starts).

“That’s what we’re going to do, and it’s looking good,” the upbeat Smith said in early August at Cortland, all the while knowing that his career-high 14 starts from the previous year were not likely to be matched. “We’re excited about it. I think it’ll be good for us.”

But what was always good for ST coordinator Mike Westhoff, assistant coach (and new coordinator) Ben Kotwica and the Jets’ specialists was Smitty’s hard-hitting contributions on kick and punt coverage.

“We’re going to free up Eric to be back with us a little bit more,” Westhoff said back then, to which Smith replied: “I don’t know how he can get me back more. I was on everything.”

Mostly, he was on the opponents’ return men. His 105 special-teams tackles from ’06-12 (including playoffs) was easily the most on the Jets in that span.

Regarding Baker, we hardly knew ye. The FB/TE from Northwest Missouri State by way of Delaware (he was a Blue Hen along with Super Bowl MVP-to-be Joe Flacco) had three catches in 2011, one going for a touchdown against the Giants on Christmas Eve, the day before his birthday. In the offseason and preseason, he talked optimistically about fitting into the Jets’ new offense. Then in the third preseason game vs. Carolina, Panthers CB Josh Norman landed hard on his right knee and Baker was gone to IR for the year.

We saved J.Smith, the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, for last here because he was the last of this foursome to arrive, late last August via the “change of scenery” trade for Wayne Hunter with the Rams. He played on offense in every game last season, averaging 16 plays a game on offense, primarily as a third TE, and a handful more per game on special teams.

The quirky, friendly big guy gave the definite impression he was fitting into his new surroundings.

“I’m very happy to be a part of this team,” he said in November. “I believe in what we’re doing here. The guys who deserve credit are Austin, Brandon, Nick, Matt and D’Brickashaw. Those guys are working real hard to make sure this truck goes.”

The truck may have pulled up for loading the possessions that this quartet had stored at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for a while. If it returns with one or two in the future, great, they’d be part of the puzzle moving forward. If not, thanks for stopping by, guys, and providing some good memories in the process. As Ryan said regarding today’s departures:

“They all have the work ethic and attitude that you look for in players and they will always be New York Jets. It was an honor to coach each of these men. They are tremendous people as well as outstanding football players.”


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Everything We Know About Jets’ Backup QB Plan

Posted by Randy Lange on November 30, 2012 – 4:24 pm

The backup QB beat went on today with head coach Rex Ryan still waiting to declare on Sunday, 90 minutes before the 1 p.m. ET kickoff against the Cardinals, whether or not Tim Tebow will be active with his cracked ribs and whether or not Greg McElroy will be active for the first time in his pro career.

“Seriously, we’re looking into it. Tim’s been limited and really very limited in some of the snaps he does take,” Ryan said. “We’re just tracking it and we’ll see how he feels. Could it be a gametime decision? It could be.”

Tebow, after today’s final practice of the week at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, maintained his belief in his ability to suck it up and play, with his ribs protected as much as possible by a flak jacket.

“I feel like I’m getting a little bit better every day,” the QB said. “Obviously, I’d love to be out there doing everything, but they’re trying to be smart so I’m just slowly progressing with things every day and it’ll be up to Coach and the docs.”

Tebow’s also well aware of the Wildcat-preparation-time factor that will have gone into Arizona’s practices this week out in the Valley of the Sun.

“If I knew? No, I wouldn’t tell  you,” Tebow said with a laugh of whether he’d divulge if he knew today that he would be active on Sunday. “I don’t know. Who knows?”

McElroy doesn’t know anything other than that he went into this week getting himself ready to go just as he had before the 11 previous games this season, for all of which he was deactivated on gameday.

“I’m sure it’ll be a decision made on gameday,” G-Mac told reporters in front of his locker. “Every week I try to prepare like I’m going to be activated. Last year I was on IR all year but I still prepared like I was going to be out there.

“This situation hasn’t changed anything for me. There’s no more adrenaline this week, really. I’m just being consistent in preparing as the third quarterback for whatever my role may be.”

Ryan reiterated his stance from before the New England game, that Tebow would not be put in the position of having to throw 50 passes in a game but wasn’t ruling in or out that No. 15 might be active for a much smaller role. The coach reiterated that Tebow was cleared to play medically and that “people have played with cracked ribs before.”

Similarly about McElroy being active, Ryan said, “I’m not read to declare that yet.” But he asked and answered another question a few sentences later: “Is it a possibility we will have Greg up? That is a possibility.”

Now what would happen if Tebow was again active and McElroy wasn’t, and that both Mark Sanchez and Tebow were to get dinged up during the game? Who would go in at QB for the Green & White. Ryan confirmed it would be WR Jeremy Kerley.

“But again, we’re going to be doing a lot of running if that’s the case,” Ryan said. “He was a quarterback in high school, he was recruited that way, he can throw the football. … Obviously, it’s not the situation you’d want to be in.”

One final point: As Ryan noted, “A lot of teams only have two quarterbacks on their entire roster. I’m saying that if Tim had to play every snap with the ribs, then you’d try to protect yourself with another quarterback.” But if the worst-case scenario hit, “basically you’d be trying to get through the game, then next week it’d be a different situation at quarterback.”

It’s true that every team in the NFL, regardless of if it had two or three QBs on the roster, last weekend had only two quarterbacks active for its game. The team closest to having three QBs active were the Bills with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting, Tyler Thigpen backing up and Brad Smith playing at WR and ready to step behind C if needed.

However, it’s not known if any other team fit into the Jets’ situation of having one healthy and one unhealthy QB active for a game. And in a few days we’ll see if the Jets play it similarly on Sunday or come up with a different take on their operational QB depth chart for the game.

Jason Smith, Decoy … or Is He?

It was one lonely touchdown at the end of a long night, but it was interesting to note who was in the pattern along with Dustin Keller, who caught Sanchez’s 1-yard touchdown flip with 2:21 left in the Jets’ Thanksgiving night loss to the Patriots.

“I know Mark threw an awesome ball to Dustin and he made a great catch,” said T/TE Jason Smith. “Touchdowns for any team in the NFL are very, very important. Me as a player, I’m just one piece to the puzzle. I’m very happy to be a part of this team. I believe in what we’re doing here. The guys who deserve credit are Austin, Brandon, Nick, Matt and D’Brickashaw. Those guys are working real hard to make sure this truck goes.”

We’re not sure how much Jason was pulling our leg, but he is an earnest young swing tackle and blocking tight end on this Green & White truck, and on that play he was an eligible receiver.

As Keller released from the right end of the line and curled to the left in the back of the end zone, Smith, one player over, did the same along the goal line. It could even be said that whether Smith was Sanchez’s first, second, third or fourth option on the play, he helped make the play work by drawing rookie CB Alfonzo Dennard up from Keller to have to guard this 6’5″, 308-pounder wearing No. 63 who was barreling toward him looking like a potential TD target.

Smith has been on the field for about 16 offensive plays a game, almost exclusively as a second or third tight end on short yardage/goal line plays. But we big guys can dream, can’t we?

Buttle Enters the Twitterverse

Jets fans are well aware of Greg Buttle’s work, once as the Jets’ top-tackling linebacker behind the Sack Exchange, more recently as a commenter on the team’s pre- and postgame shows on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. And now Buttle’s reaching out to a whole new circle of fans with his new Twitter account, @buttlenews.

“Don LaGreca talked me into tweeting,” Buttle said of his radio cohost. “We’ll be sitting there watching the game when Don will suddenly start tweeting something like, ‘I can’t believe it happened in 52 second.’ I don’t get it. I’m not into putting stuff out that’s so obvious. But Don and everybody I talk to in the marketing world says if you’re not on Twitter, it’s a mistake.”

We’re about to see if Buttle being on Twitter is a mistake, but we don’t think so. Greg is a Jet all the way, yet still ready to put a lick on his old team if the play on the field requires it. And as he realizes, “People out there, for some unknown reason, love this stuff. They want to hear Nick Nolte say, ‘I can’t stand Eddie Murphy.’ “

In less than 48 hours we’ll get to check out Buttle’s tweets on the Jets-Cards game. Make him feel at home, all you tweetahs. At the moment he’s got only one tweet live, he has three followers and he’s following three others.

Official Injury Status

Ryan didn’t pass on his injury list at his afternoon news conference as he usually does on Fridays, but the lists from the Jets and the Cardinals have now been released. Not too many surprises.

For the Jets, WR Clyde Gates (concussion) is listed as doubtful. Besides Tebow, three others are questionable: CB Aaron Berry (quad), DT Sione Po‘uha (back) and LB Ricky Sapp (ankle). The 15 other Jets on the list are all probable, including G Brandon Moore, the only one of the 15 who was limited rather than full-go at today’s shorter final practice.

For the Cards, six players are questionable: WR Laron Byrd (head), DE Calais Campbell (calf), WR Early Doucet (ribs), QB Kevin Kolb (ribs), WR Andre Roberts (ankle) and RB Chris “Beanie” Wells (knee). The other four on the Arizona report this week, including ex-Jets S Kerry Rhodes (back) are probable.

Reports out of Arizona suggest that Kolb is yet ready to take the rigors of a full game of hits on his ribs (where have we heard that before) so rookie Ryan Lindley is expected to make his second pro start. And there was some indecision about whether Campbell would be ready to display what Ryan called his “Pro Bowl-type” play with the calf injury he suffered during the Cards’ bye week.


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Smith Turns the Ram Page, Joins the Jets

Posted by Randy Lange on August 29, 2012 – 5:30 pm

Mike Tannenbaum made the first reference to the fact in his news conference Tuesday evening. With the trade for Jason Smith from St. Louis, the Jets now have three of the first 11 players chosen in the 2009 draft on their roster. Smith was No. 2 overall, the Jets traded up for Mark Sanchez at No. 5, and they brought in No. 11, Aaron Maybin, a year ago.

Some ifs are involved here, but if Sanchez takes off this year, if Maybin is launched from his personal cannon and never slows down, and if Smith fulfills or exceeds his role as the OL’s new “sixth man,” the Jets have had one hell of an ’09 draft.

Smith already has an idea about that.

“I met Sanchez one night when we were somewhere, I don’t know where,” the newest Jets vet said in his first get-together with Jets reporters this afternoon. “I kept up with him a little bit. I always thought he was a good guy. I thought he was solid, fighting for what he does. You all know how he is here, but I always thought he was a leader, even when he was at USC, just kind of from his demeanor.

“And I don’t remember Maybin. I remember the name but I don’t know where he’s from. Fifty-one? I know he’s fast too. Learned that yesterday. Very fast.”

Maybin is a fast-track work in progress, and he’s happy to serve as a role model for Smith in this new green landscape that the 6’5″, 305-pounder now finds himself in.

“Why not? Change of scenery helps people out a lot, especially myself,” said Maybin, sitting just a few stalls away from Smith’s new location in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room. “It’s different positions, a little bit different timing, but it’s kind of a similar situation. At the end of the day, a lot of players need that change of scenery.”

Smith, something of a cerebral tackle, used another metaphor to describe his situation this summer with St. Louis and now in North Jersey.

“I appreciate everything the Rams did for me as far as allowing me to be a part of the organization,” he said. “It’s kind of like turning a new page of the chapter. I’m happy to be a Jet.”

So is Rex Ryan. Although the Jets head coach said their intention had been to retain Wayne Hunter in the role as swing tackle and blocking tight end, when the Hunter-for-Smith deal was proposed by the Rams, it made sense to the Jets.

“You’ve got a great athletic tool set if you’re the second overall pick. Jason’s got great movement skills,” Ryan said. “We wouldn’t have considered the trade if we didn’t think he could play those roles. Clearly we think Jason can play those roles. Also, quite honestly, we got a guy who’s five years younger. We feel good about it, and I feel good for Wayne going back with Brian [Schottenheimer, now the Rams OC], where’ he’s familiar with the system.”

Rex said Smith is getting his crash course in the Jets’ scheme, with help from Maybin and others, and that he should play in Thursday’s preseason finale at Philadelphia. “I want to see him for 10 plays,” he said. “I don’t even know if that’s possible. He’s supposed to be a sharp young man. Let’s see what he can do.”

Smith talked about the pressure that was placed on him, as the “second-best player of the 2009 draft,” to “fill the shoes” of the retiring Orlando Pace at tackle for the Rams.

“He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, I believe. There’s not many guys that can do that through the course of their career, let alone play eight years,” Smith said. “I made the statement before that he has his own shoes and I have mine. It’s his life, so I never look at it that way. No disrespect, but a lot of people with a pen in their hand looked at it that way. That’s their opinion.”

Of course, if Smith thought there was media pressure in St. Louis, welcome to New York. He was asked today if he expects to become a starter, which would mean moving ahead of Austin Howard, who just got the starting RT job that Hunter held last year. The new Jet wasn’t going there.

“I don’t make predictions,” he said. “I just focus on what’s going on right now.”

Right now he’s in the mix on the Jets’ OL.

“Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder,” he said, repeating another metaphor he uttered earlier in his impromptu news conference. “To somebody, I was beautiful.”

Rex Cetera

Ryan said he thought “there’s a possibility of John Conner getting some reps. We haven’t really used the fullback.” He may also look at semi-converted LB Nick Bellore and rookie “A-back” Terrance Ganaway at FB as well. … The coach surprised 19 Jets veterans — including QBs Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, CB Darrelle Revis and WR Santonio Holmes — by excusing them from today’s light practice to attend a six-hour “leadership training seminar” at an undisclosed location in nearby Bedminster. Ryan got the idea after he and his coaches were involved in a similar session in May. … undrafted rookie CB Ryan Steed was waived.


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Mike T: J.Smith-for-Hunter Trade Now Official

Posted by Randy Lange on August 28, 2012 – 6:55 pm

Updated, 8: 10 p.m. ET

Mike Tannenbaum this evening gave reporters the ultimate final official word on the trade that sent Wayne Hunter to St. Louis and brought 2009 second-pick-of-the-draft Jason Smith to the Jets: It’s official.

“I want to thank Wayne for everything he’s done,” the GM said .”I really wish him well, and he’s going to see a lot of familiar faces in St. Louis. We won a lot of games with Wayne. And with that said, now we’re looking forward to Jason.”

Tannenbaum said Smith, entering his fourth NFL season, could play “a couple of snaps” in the Jets’ preseason finale at Philadelphia on Thursday night. But Mr. T stressed that the plan now is that Austin Howard, who replaced Hunter as the RT starter on Sunday night against Carolina, is the starter going forward and Smith is the Jets’ new backup LT and RT and blocking TE.

Why didn’t Smith succeed as a Ram? “It could’ve been a number of things,” Tannenbaum said, “the coaching change, some inconsistencies there. For us, it was more about what we think he can do. He has very good movement skills for somebody his size [6'5", 308], he can play both sides, we like his range. Again, I think he has to learn from what happened in St. Louis, but with that said, he’s coming here with a fresh start.”

Some reporters probed the GM on if that fresh start could lead to a fresh starter down the road. A natural question given Smith’s high draft status, but Tannenbaum, while stating only the current plans, gave the background that led him, head coach Rex Ryan, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and OL coach Dave DeGuglielmo to giving Howard the chance to win the starting role.

“That was an evaluation that was going on in Cortland every day, watching Austin in 1-on-1s,” he said. “It’s good to have the competition we have, to go against Aaron Maybin, Calvin Pace and Quinton [Coples] every day, and Austin was really starting to hold his own more and more. It’s like, ‘This looks pretty good. OK.’ Then he goes out against Cincinnati and looks OK. Then the Giant game he played pretty well. Then obviously there were more reasons to be encouraged against Carolina.”

Speaking of Maybin, Tannenbaum would sure like to see Smith blossom into a success story as has Maybin, the 11th overall pick in that ’09 draft who enters his second season as a Jet as one of their biggest big-play makers on the defensive side of the ball.

“Sure, we hope so. Sometimes they work out that way,” he said. “Sometimes a change of scenery works, sometimes it doesn’t.

“Aaron deserves all the credit for Aaron. He’s worked incredibly hard, he’s a great person, he comes in with great enthusiasm. And Jason’s set up for success. His work ethic and character are tremendous. All the research we did on him leads us to believe he’s going to come in and give himself the best chance to be successful.”

Injury Rundown

Rex’s rundown on the injured Jets’ availability for the Sept. 9 season opener vs. Buffalo:

“My biggest concern will be Eric Smith, I think, right now. That’s probably our biggest concern with his hip.”

“I feel good about [Jeff] Cumberland, David [Harris], Yeremiah Bell and Dustin [Keller] with his hamstring. Unless something happens there, we feel pretty confident all those guys will be ready to play.”

WRs Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens: “I think all three will play in the opener. Schilens seems to be getting better each day. It was good to see Tone out there [vs. Carolina], and Jeremy did a nice job on punt return.”

“Sione [Po‘uha], by the way, I think he’s doing much better right now.”

Practice Notes

This evening the Jets announced they have been awarded punter Spencer Lanning off of waivers from Cleveland. Lanning, the first-year man out of South Carolina, lost the Browns’ punting battle to ex-Jet Reggie Hodges, but actually had better numbers than Hodges in the preseason with a 50.5-yard gross and a 43.5 net on four punts. “We brought in a punter who’ll compete with T.J.,” Tannenbaum said. “I wouldn’t rule out further changes between now and Friday and probably through the weekend.”

 Joe McKnight was excused for personal reasons from today’s practice. … G Brandon Moore underwent a minor medical procedure and was also not at practice.


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