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More Change Ahead on Wideout Depth Chart?

Posted by Eric Allen on August 4, 2011 – 2:12 pm

The Jets’ picture at receiver may continue to change. Four days after signing Plaxico Burress, numerous media outlets have indicated the Jets have interest in inking free agent Derrick Mason to a contract.

Head coach Rex Ryan didn’t confirm anything regarding Mason but did say that he knows the competitive wideout well. 

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen him launch his helmet in offense vs. defense deals,” Ryan said at today’s daily news briefing. “We had our share of rips at each other on the sidelines, all that kind stuff. I just know the kind of competitor he is. He’s a super intense guy, he’s a good person, and I know he wants to win more than anything.”

Mason, a wideout with 14 seasons on his résumé including his most recent stint with the Ravens from 2005-09, has been ultra-productive throughout his career and reached the 1,000-yard receiving mark eight of the past 10 years. The 37-year-old, a 5’10”, 197-pounder, is a Michigan State alum and actually played one season at MSU with Burress.

Moments after Ryan declared that WR Jerricho Cotchery was close to returning to action, J-Co echoed those thoughts but sounded as though his days may be coming to a close in green and white.

“Things happen. That’s life,” he said. “I’ve been here a long time, so I’ve seen some things take place where guys don’t get to finish their careers here. I thought Chad Pennington would have been here forever, but one night in the preseason he’s gone in the hotel. That’s the business of the NFL, that’s the way it works. Right now my focus is I’m ready to play football and I’m healthy.”

Cotchery, a fourth-round pick of the Jets in 2004, was slowed last season by a herniated disk and finished fifth on the club with 41 receptions. But he was the team’s leading pass catcher and reception yardage leader in 2009 (57-821), ’08 (71-858) and ’07 (82-1,130).

While it may take Burress some time to get back up to speed after a two-year absence from the NFL, the Jets are excited about the prospects of lining the 6’5”, 232-pounder across from the scintillating Santonio Holmes.

“He’s a fun dude to be around,” Cotchery said of Burress. “It seems like everything that comes out of his mouth is funny and he likes the mood around here. … He’s a pleasure to be around. I think he’ll be a big help to Mark.”

Cotchery had offseason back surgery and has started training camp on the PUP list. The only thing for certain right now is that he is close to playing again.

“I’m OK. I’ll be all right,” Cotchery told reporters. “I’m healthy right now.”


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Surely Kerley’s Prepared for the Challenge

Posted by Randy Lange on August 3, 2011 – 12:50 pm

Jeremy Kerley knows he is in a good place. Kerley, the Jets’ fifth-round selection from TCU who doubles up as a receiver and a return man, feels fortunate to be a pro and that he landed at one of the most desirable spots in the National Football League.

“To be a Jet is a great thing and I know it’s an opportunity a lot of guys wish they had,” he said this week. “So while I’m here, I try to make the most of it.”

The 5’9”, 188-pound Kerley, sporting No. 85 at camp, has had the opportunity to take valuable reps early because both Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes are relegated to sideline duty until Thursday because of the new CBA and Jerricho Cotchery (back) started camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Kerley didn’t have the benefit of a full offseason in the classroom, so he is working to get a handle on the language.

“The terminology is definitely the toughest part,” he said. “Coming from where I came from, it was kind of a spread-and-go. It’s a lot different learning — you have to break down more coverages and more routes.”

Last season Kerley broke out for the Horned Frogs as 10 of his 56 catches resulted in touchdowns. He has impressed onlookers early on and made a nifty grab in the corner of the end zone Tuesday. The Jets targeted Kerley after he worked out for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer in the predraft process and then moved up to get him in April.

“We’re really excited about him,” said GM Mike Tannenbaum. “He’s a really good route runner and has really good hands.”

The Jets headed into the free agency period with some uncertainty as both Holmes and Braylon Edwards were UFAs. But Holmes, who was the team’s No. 1 priority, re-signed and then the Green & White added the 6’5” Burress to the mix. Cotchery is a savvy vet and has no doubt he’ll be ready for the upcoming season.

“It’s definitely a great group to learn from. You’ve got Jerricho, who has been with the team seven or eight years,” Kerley said. “He’s definitely a vet in the receiving room helping guys out. We have Coach Ellard and then you have Coach Holmes and Coach Cotchery. They help out a lot.”

While Kerley hopes to do some damage in the slot, it’s his return ability that could set him apart. The Mountain West’s Special Teams Player of the Year each of the past two seasons is getting looks at both kick returner and punt returner.

“I feel good. That’s kind of what separated me in college, so hopefully I can just carry on to the next level,” he said. “It will be a lot of work, but I think I’m up to the challenge. I think Coach Westhoff has a lot of trust in me — I hope he does.”

Kerley averaged 27.2 yards on kickoffs and 13.8 yards on punts at TCU and his two return scores came as a PR. He is cool when the ball is booted in his direction and has the ability to see beyond any obstacles.

“You kind of have to let it all go. You can’t be uptight and you can’t be nervous because those are things that will get you into trouble in this league,” he said. “When I catch the ball, I kind of look out past the defenders. I see the end zone and work from there.”

So far, so good for Jeremy Kerley. He is in a good place and the Jets think they have a pretty good player on their hands.

“This Kerley kid,” said head coach Rex Ryan, “he’s an excellent athlete.”

Inflatables Down but Jets Fest’s a Go

Fans will be able to see Kerley and all the rest of the Jets at this afternoon’s open practice, which begins at 2:15 p.m. with stretching. One note for those coming out to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center today: Jets Fest is open today from 1-6 p.m., but the inflatable rides are temporarily closed.


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Offensive Plays of the Year: Five Backstories

Posted by Randy Lange on June 6, 2011 – 12:48 pm

Eric Allen primed the pump Sunday and today it’s time to bring you our list of the Jets’ top five prime offensive plays of the 2010 regular season.

First you can go back to the videotape for some of the very best offense the Jets had to give to get into the playoffs — the videos have just recently gone live on newyorkjets.com. Then you can then jump over to Facebook.com/Jets to vote for your favorite “Plays of the Year.” The polls will be open all this week, and then beginning June 13 we’ll reveal your picks AND move on to the defensive plays of the year. On June 20 new footage will feature the best special teams plays. And on June 27 we’ll repeat the process with our Playoff Plays of the Year.

Here are some of the details to refresh your memory on the offensive gems.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson, 26-yard TD run, Game 4, Oct. 3, at Buffalo

On a day when he passed Tony Dorsett for seventh on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, Tomlinson recorded his first 100-yard game as a Jet and his 133-yard effort was his highest output in almost three years. He scored two touchdowns in the 38-14 victory and this play in the third quarter was vintage LT — just ask Bills S Donte Whitner.

WR Jerricho Cotchery, 10-yard reception, Game 9, Nov. 14, at Cleveland

What does “Play like a Jet” mean? Look no further than J-Co’s gutsy grab in the thrilling OT win over the Browns. On third-and-9, Cotchery, despite playing with a herniated disk and then sustaining a groin strain while running the route on this play, somehow made the diving catch of Mark Sanchez’s throw across his body to extend the drive in the extra session.

WR Santonio Holmes, 37-yard TD reception, Game 9, Nov. 14, at Cleveland

The Super Bowl XLIII MVP was a clutch performer all year for the Green & White, registering a game-changing play in four Jets wins. In this one, as time was running out and both sides were no doubt preparing to accept a 20-20 draw, Holmes snared Sanchez’s slant pass between Browns defenders and accelerated for the goal line and the game-winning score with 16 seconds left on the OT clock.

WR Braylon Edwards, 42-yard reception, Game 10, Nov. 21, vs. Houston

The Jets had frittered away a 23-7 lead early in the fourth quarter and were staring at the bleak prospects of a four-point home loss to the Texans. But the Green & White never gave up, and suddenly they were back in the game as Edwards got open down the right sideline to grab Sanchez’s pinpoint pass at the Houston 6 with 16 seconds left. Next play, Sanchez-to-Holmes pulled out the 30-27 win.

QB Mark Sanchez, 7-yard TD run, Game 14, Dec. 19, at Pittsburgh

Without an offensive touchdown since Thanksgiving, down by seven and facing fourth-and-1 at the Steelers 7 midway through the third quarter, Rex Ryan gave Brian Schottenheimer the green light and the OC made an ingenious call. Everyone at Heinz Field sold out on the run up the gut, but Sanchez kept the ball and rolled untouched off the Jets’ left side for the tying score en route to the inspiring 22-17 triumph.


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Ray Lucas Still Believes in Jets’ Destiny

Posted by Nick Gallo on February 1, 2011 – 8:50 am

On Radio Row at the Super Bowl Media Center in Dallas, it’s a feeding frenzy for former and current football players who stop by to chat with the media. During his whirlwind tour of the nearly 100 radio stations that are covering the big game this week, former Jets quarterback Ray Lucas reflected on the fact that the Green & White were just one defensive stop and one touchdown away from being one of the teams in North Texas.

“It’s not right, it’s just not right,” Lucas said. “It’s bittersweet. This place would be rocking and rolling if the Jets were here. I did believe that they were a team of destiny. I still do believe that they’re a team of destiny. I still think that we’re going to be here next year, wherever the Super Bowl may be. But I think Rex Ryan has the ship going in the right direction.”

According to Lucas, however, even if Ryan is the navigator, he has a lot of work to do before next season begins. With many high-profile players eligible for free agency this offseason, Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum will have to be judicious and creative in continuing to build the nucleus of the team through free agency and the draft.

“It’s going to be interesting though to see how many guys we get to keep this year,” Lucas said. “As far as the draft goes, we need somebody to rush the passer — hands down, one guy that comes in especially to get the quarterback on his back.”

Two of the most intriguing pair of potential free agents are wide receivers Braylon Edwards (53 catches, 904 yards, 7 TDs) and Santonio Holmes (52-746-6). The duo, who form part of  the  “Flight Boys,” were a fantastic complement to one another throughout the year, as the 6’3” Edwards was able to physically dominate cornerbacks and Holmes made game-deciding catches in nearly half a dozen contests.

“I do think it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Braylon and Santonio,” Lucas said. “I think that you go after Holmes first. I do think we might luck out and get one more year out of Braylon Edwards, but I do think eventually somebody is going to pay that kid, but for a quiet season, he was spectacular.”

Both were helped by the improving play of second-year QB Mark Sanchez. The Southern Cal product threw for 3,291 yards and 17 touchdowns during the regular season in leading the Jets to their second consecutive AFC Championship Game appearance.

“I was one of his harshest critics his rookie year,” Lucas said. “The way he played in the postseason his rookie year blew me away. This season he’s done things to make himself better where he’s not losing games, he’s not taking chances. He’s playing really smart football. I think [coordinator] Brian Schottenheimer had a lot to do with him and how he played this year as well with the game plan with getting him in rhythm early and then him throwing the ball downfield.”

Schottenheimer utilized his two dangerous wideouts along with Jets stalwart Jerricho Cotchery and two more favorite targets, Dustin Keller and LaDainian Tomlinson — all five had at least 41 regular-season receptions — and did his best work in the playoffs, where he now has four road wins in his short career.

“He’s growing up before our eyes,” Lucas said. “I wasn’t sure if he was a franchise quarterback a year ago, but I’m definitely positive that he’s a franchise quarterback now. If you look at what Matt Ryan did in his third year, the sky is definitely the limit for the Jets. The Sanchize — Mike Tannenbaum did the right thing.”


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Classic Cotchery Was Back on Display at NE

Posted by Randy Lange on January 18, 2011 – 12:08 pm

Now that was more like it for the man they call J-Co.

“Jerricho Cotchery had a huge game for us,” Rex Ryan declared moments after the Jets’ 28-21 triumph over the Patriots was official, and so he did. Cotchery was targeted seven times in the game by Mark Sanchez, caught five balls and gained 96 yards with them. All figures were team highs and the 96 yards led all receivers.

“I’m just trying to take advantage of my opportunities,” Cotchery said Monday at his locker. “The best thing about bringing all those guys in is it’s fun being around them. And with those guys making plays, when your chance comes, you want to make the play as well.”

“All those guys” are Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, and as wonderful as both of them can be and were in scoring brilliantly off of Sanchez passes in Foxboro, Mass., on Sunday, there is a natural tendency to want to get the ball to them as much as possible.

But for Cotchery for most of the season, that meant un-J-Co-like numbers.

After four seasons of at least 57 receptions and 821 yards, this regular season he had 41 for 433. His unofficial career yards-after-catch average was 4.6; this year it was 2.7. After catching 64 percent of every ball thrown to him — a high percentage for any NFL wideout — from 2004-09, this year it was 48 percent. His sure hands dropped only 10 passes (again unofficially) through last season, then had seven drops this season.

Yet there should never be a doubt that Cotchery is a go-to guy when a tough third-down catch or sideline toetapper is needed. And he showed it again against the Patriots, one of his favorite opponents, especially on that 58-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter that set up Holmes’ TD grab.

“It was a great call,” Cotchery said. “Before the play, [Jerod] Mayo and [Brandon] Spikes were talking about it. I couldn’t hear them but Mayo was pointing to the ground, as if they knew what was coming. But Spikes got ‘unlocked,’ we call it, because we had a running back on the flat route. Mark and I were on the same page with it. He just hit me in stride and I tried to make a play off of that.”

Mr. Understatement did more than try. Cotchery took the ball in the open, motored down the sideline, made one Patriot miss, hurdled safety James Sanders at the 25 after Dustin Keller knocked him down, and didn’t stop until he was pushed out of bounds at the NE-13.

Fifty-eight yards in all, 50 after the catch. That equaled the second-longest YAC play of J-Co’s career. It was the second-longest by the Jets this season behind Edwards’ 67-yard TD, 56 of it YAC, at Miami in Week 3.

It was classic J-Co.

And Cotchery classically summed up the net effect of that play.

“After that, when we get closer to the end zone, the Patriots usually try to find a couple of guys to double down there,” he said. “They tried to double three guys — myself, Dustin and Braylon — and left Santonio singled. He made them pay for it. That’s a prime example of what happens when everyone is rolling.”

He could probably get a little more production if he yakked about his lack of passes, but that’s not Cotchery’s style — although he said he enjoys listening to the yakkity-yak around him on this team, and at the same time gave a hint of why he and the rest of these Jets remain so dangerous to do what they’ve said all season they plan to do.

“I’ve gotten used to it, There’s a lot of guys who love the game of football and we love one another in this room. Bart Scott last night was hilarious,” Cotchery said of the Madbacker’s ESPN postgame interview with Sal Paolantonio. “We have passionate guys, emotional guys in this locker room. When someone tells you you can’t do it and you have that much passion about the game, you just want to go out and get it done.”

One final note on Cotchery: The reception was the third-longest of Cotchery’s seven-year Jets career. All three have come against the Patriots.

The Day in Florham Park

It’s been an interesting day here at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center so far. Snow, sleet and freezing rain have been falling all around North Jersey since the early morning hours. It was a hike getting to the base of operations, and around 8:30 a.m. the facility and some of the surrounding areas in Florham Park were hit with a power outage.

The outage lasted an hour but power has since been restored and didn’t interrupt the Jets’ preparations for Pittsburgh. In any event, it’s a players’ day off and Rex Ryan won’t be speaking again until Wednesday.

The best news I can give you on the activities here is that outside my second-floor perch I can see that once again Blake Hoerr and his grounds team are expertly scraping the FieldTurf field clean of the crusty precip that has already fallen. Pittsburgh is expected to be very cold and perhaps snowy when the Jets and Steelers kick it off Sunday at 6:30 p.m., so the turf field here will give the Jets a few days to acclimate to the possible conditions.

Meanwhile, we’ll have a few more stories today from Eric Allen and Nick Gallo to accompany this long-winded blog, which continues below with a few more notes I’ve worked on from the win over the Pats.

Protecting the Sanchize

Sanchez and his personal protectors are on another sackless roll. In the last five games (including the Buffalo game, when Sanchez played one series and didn’t drop back), the Jets have yielded three sacks.

Sanchez was equally well-protected last season from Game 15 through the AFC title game at Indianapolis. But the last time before ’09 that the Jets allowed three sacks in a five-game in-season span was the end of 2001, when Vinny Testaverde was sheltered for the entire second half of the season on into the ’01 wild-card game at Oakland.

Another sackless game at Pittsburgh — a tall order, we know, yet on Dec. 19 Sanchez was sacked just once for zero yards by the Stillers — and the Jets will have yielded two sacks in their next five-game span, which would be only the eighth time that would have happened in franchise history.

Long Drive to Nowhere

Here’s one that’s a stretch but stay with me on it. The Jets held Tom Brady and the Patriots scoreless on that massive 7-minute, 45-second drive, an absolutely pivotal stop for the defense. Only twice before in the past 25 seasons have the Jets kept an opponent out of the end zone on longer fourth-quarter drives in victories.

Most recently, that happened in the 2004 AFC Wild Card Game at San Diego, when the Jets held Drew Brees and the Chargers to then-rookie Nate Kaeding’s 40-yard missed field goal following a 7:58 drive in overtime en route to their 20-17 OT win and an AFC Divisional Round date, coincidentally, at Pittsburgh.

The only other such opponent-frustrating success was a 7:47 drive by Kelly Holcomb and the Browns at Cleveland earlier in 2004 that ran into the fourth quarter and ended on Phil Dawson’s missed 34-yarder, an instrumental stonewall in that 10-7 victory.

Rally On

We’ve just gotten word that there will be, as many suspected there would be, a Jets AFC Championship Rally in Times Square in New York City on Thursday, Jan. 20, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The rally, being presented by Hess, JetBlue and Pepsi Max, will give Jets fans in midtown an opportunity to show their support before the Jets take off for Pittsburgh on Saturday. We’ll have more details for you on the rally as we get them.

Jets in the SNY Net

SNY has beefed up its Jets coverage this week and details the fresh programming in this article on its Website. Check out the story to find out when Damien Woody, Mike Pettine, Tony Richardson, Brandon Moore, Mike Tannenbaum and Sione Pouha, among others, will be making appearances.


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A Drive That Captures the Offense’s Ambitions

Posted by Randy Lange on January 11, 2011 – 6:51 pm

Before we move totally away from Indianapolis and on to New England, here’s one more thing of beauty from the wild-card win over the Colts on Saturday night. It has to do with that drive that bridged the third and fourth quarters, that glided from one end of Lucas Oil to the other, that kept the Jets in position to advance to the divisional round against the Patriots.

It was the most impressive drive in franchise playoff history. So say the numbers.

Seventeen plays? The most for any drive in the Jets’ 24 playoff games, one more than the 16-play TD drive before the half in the 2002 divisional game at Oakland.

Eighty-seven yards? The most yardage for any of the Green & White’s 294 playoff possessions, beating out the 85-yard touchdown march that put them ahead to stay in the second-quarter of the first game of the 1982 “Super Bowl Tournament” at Cincinnati.

Nine minutes, 54 seconds? The longest drive, the biggest chunk of possession time out of the 400 minutes, 40 seconds the Jets have possessed the postseason rock, topping the 9:17 of the last touchdown drive of the 41-0 romp over the Colts in the ’02 wild-card game.

“The biggest thing to me was the execution on the drive,” said wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery after today’s first practice of the week at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “The guys just locked in and were moving the chains. We said if we continue to do that, we’ll go down, get in the red zone and score. Everybody was locked in. We were a little off in the first half but we got those things taken care of.”

The only drawback to the drive is that it didn’t win the game for the Jets, it only gave them a 14-10 lead with 9:49 to play. Had it finished with 0:00 to play, it would henceforth be known as “The Drive.”

So perhaps italics will have to serve: The drive broke down thus: LaDainian Tomlinson carried five times for 16 yards, Shonn Greene five for 10, Brad Smith one for 8 out of the Seminole. And Sanchez, who no question was off the mark in the first half, found his groove especially on this possession, completing all five passes for 47 yards and four first downs, two to Dustin Keller, one to Braylon Edwards, one to Tomlinson, even one to TE Ben Hartsock. Sanchez even kept for 6 yards to the Indy 15 on third-and-1.

LT applied the crowning touch with his 1-yard standing-up touchdown run.

“I don’t know if it was special or it showed our identity,” said tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, “but it just was a reflection of good football being played. It lets you know, it lets us know, it lets everybody know that we do that, we can do that against a quality team.”

It surely was a required piece in the Jets’ latest road conquest, setting up the endgame so that if Peyton Manning and the Colts were held to field goals — which they were — then the Jets could win it with a field goal of their own — which they did. And it also was the centerpiece of a long closing kick that frustrated the Colts in their home corral. Before that was the merely superb 10-play, 63-yard touchdown drive to open the second half, and before that was the 13-play, 60-yard drive that ended with Mark Sanchez’s interception.

In the game’s final 34:25, the Jets held the ball for 22:40 and let Manning & Co. work with it for 11:45. Talk about keeping the ball out of the Hall of Fame quarterbacks. This was a chapter in the textbook.

And the point of all this fond reminiscence is that maybe the Jets can do it again, will need to do it again, will in fact do it again against another HOF QB on Sunday in Foxboro.

It’s another weapon of ours,” said Greene. “We think we can do that with our running style with me and LT going back and forth and our offensive line pounding them and Mark getting completions here and there. It should be a tough task for us but I think we can get it done.”

That’s in fact what’s been missing in the Jets’ two most recent visits to the town with two spellings (Foxboro and Foxborough). In 2009 Sanchez and his offense mounted an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive but that was the best of a turnover-laden lot as the Jets had the ball for only 20:06. Six weeks ago in the 45-3 loss, they opened each half with a drive of double-digit plays but only two marches reached even field goal range.

Sanchez surely knows he can’t turn the ball over as he has in those two visits. But he and his offensive mates also know that they won’t have to worry about TB if they hit their stride on the road once again in five days.

“One of the things Schottty [Brian Schottenheimer, of course] kept saying is that we’re not playing Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. We’re playing the defenses of the teams they play for. If we focus on things the way we need to, the game’ll play out the way it’ll play out.”

“If we can get that going again,” said Greene, “I think we have a good chance of winning this game.”

Rex Cetera

Head coach Rex Ryan took a break from his media schedule and did not talk with reporters today. He, Sanchez and the rest of the Jets will return to their normal Wednesday schedule on Wednesday, of all days. Even with some decent snowfall expected for North Jersey, we’re expecting to stream Ryan live on newyorkjets.com as usual around 2-2:15 p.m.

The shame of the precipitation headed the Jets’ way is that Blake Hoerr and his grounds crew did a phenomenal job of scraping the turf field clear of last Friday’s snow, just in time for today’s practice and tonight’s new snow. Will the Jets work outside tomorrow, Thursday or Friday in preparation for the elements of Foxboro? No doubt they will, but which days remains up in the air.

The area around Gillette Stadium is expected to get a heaping helping from this snow event, but the weather on Sunday is forecast to be cloudy, breezy and in the mid 30s, with no snow expected.


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B. Smith on Returns: We’ll Do What We Do

Posted by Eric Allen on January 5, 2011 – 1:45 pm

You have to wonder if the Colts are going to play with fire and kick off to red-hot Brad Smith on Saturday night. The Jets’ No. 1 kickoff man returned two for scores this season, was the NFL’s second-leading returner (28.6-yard average), returned five kickoffs for 139 yards against the Colts in the AFC Championship Game and raced for a 106-yard score at Indy in Week 16 of the 2009 season.

“The biggest thing is we’re just going to do what we do, try to execute our assignments, find a hole and hit it,” Smith said this week. “Hopefully we can do it well enough to break one and to get good field position for our offense. Every opponent, it’s all about what we do and hopefully they’ll have to adjust to us.”

Punter Pat McAfee handles kickoff chores for the Horseshoes and he totaled 16 touchbacks during the regular season.

“Their kicker is like ninth in the league in touchbacks,” said the versatile Smith. “They do a good job of covering it because they do a good job of covering when they have to. It’s just a solid all-around group. They play their responsibilities well. We just have to try to find something to take advantage of.”

But a number of Indy injuries have forced major realignments across the board and that has affected their coverage units. After surrendering a 78-yard punt-return TD to the Jags’ Mike Thomas in Week 15, the Colts allowed a 99-yard KR TD to the Raiders’ Jacoby Ford in Week 16 and then dangerous Titans return man Marc Mariani had a 47-yarder last week at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“We approach it the same. We want to score each and every time we get our hands on the ball, on kickoff returns, punt returns,” said Smith. “It’s not a different approach — it’s a consistent approach of trying to make a play when we’re out there.”

The Colts defense will also have to prepare to see No. 16 on offense. He rushed for a career-high 299 yards in 2010, averaging a healthy 7.9 yards a carry, and he also completed a long 45-yard toss to Jerricho Cotchery in last year’s conference championship.

“We haven’t talked about revenge too much. They came out, played a game and beat us,” said the friendly yet deadly assassin. “They played better than us the last game. It’s just a matter of coming out and trying to do what we need to win. Just saying revenge is not going to do anything because it’s just a word. It’s about going on the field and playing hard, playing passionate and playing well.”

Colts in a Zone

While the Colts dramatically improved their rush defense late in the season, you don’t hear much talk about their retooled secondary. They ranked 13th in yards allowed (214.6 per game) despite losing three regulars — S Bob Sanders, S Melvin Bullitt and CB Jerraud Powers — to injured reserve.

“They’re pretty much a zone defense, but they’re fast-flow,” said WR Jerricho Cotchery. “Those guys [DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis] get after the quarterback, so you don’t have very long to work your guy on the outside to get open. They do play zone, but you don’t have much time.”

The Colts actually ranked just tied for 23rd in sacks, amassing 30 in 16 regular-season contests. Freeney, who had 10, will match up with D’Brickashaw Ferguson while Mathis, who racked up 11, will draw either Damien Woody or Wayne Hunter.

“You see a little bit of man sometimes when you pressure,” said Cotchery, “but they really don’t have to bring extra guys in to pressure when you have Freeney and Mathis on the edge.”

The Colts list Kelvin Hayden and Jacob Lacey as their starting LCB and RCB respectively while Aaron Francisco and Antoine Bethea man the safety spots.

“They have a great system over there where they say, ‘Next man up.’ They expect the next man up to step up and play up to the standards of what they expect. I see the same guys flying around. I see Bethea making plays. You have Freeney and Mathis still and [Gary] Brackett, so you see some of the same guys,” Cotchery said. “And once you have those guys on defense, the other guys that they plug in, they have to step their game up a notch because those guys are expecting it from them.”

Work for Revis

It is no surprise that Darrelle Revis will draw the assignment of Reggie Wayne. The Colts’ 10-year vet had a fantastic year with 111 receptions, 1,355 yards and six touchdowns. And while Peyton Manning, working with a shuffled deck, respects the league’s No. 1 corner, he’s not going to completely avoid Revis.

“He threw at me a couple of times last year,” Revis said. “You have to expect that you’re on the hot seat all the time when you’re out there covering Reggie Wayne, Garçon and those guys. Peyton is going to read the defense and whatever his best 1-on-1 matchup or his best matchup, he’s going to throw the ball no matter what.”

Wayne caught three balls in the championship game for 55 yards after hauling in three catches for 33 yards back in Week 16.

“He’s one of the best at putting balls where defensive backs can’t get it,” Revis said of Manning. “So I think that’s the toughest part. You might be on a guy with good coverage, but Peyton finds a way to back-shoulder you on a fade route or put the ball where it needs to be where only the receiver can get it.”


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6 Days to Go to Cast Your Pro Bowl Ballot

Posted by Randy Lange on December 14, 2010 – 4:25 pm

Time is growing short, not only to secure a playoff berth but to nail down Pro Bowl berths. And Jets fans can still help their favorite players move into contention for berths on this year’s AFC squad.

The fan voting ends next Monday night, Dec. 20, at midnight. And the teams will be revealed in an NFL Network special on Tuesday night, Dec. 28.

The fan vote as you know by now is one-third of the total Pro Bowl vote, sharing weight with the votes by players and coaches around the league. But it’s an important third which could give a favorite player just the ballot-box recognition he needs to earn his first berth or his 10th as an NFL all-star. Click here to find your official 2010 Pro Bowl ballot.

Nick Mangold has been to two Pro Bowls already in his young career and he’s angling for No. 3, considering he’s second among AFC centers behind the Colts’ Jeff Saturday. LaDainian Tomlinson had secured the most votes among Jets players, almost 320,000. And the two super cover corners, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, were running 2 and 3 at CB behind only the Raiders’ Nnamdi Asomugha.

Needless to say, you shouldn’t vote for Jets players because they wear green and white on gamedays (although that’s perfectly legal) but rather because you think they’re the best players for the position. Here is a list of the Jets who are in the top five in the AFC at their positions, with their ranking and vote totals in parentheses, updated today on nfl.com.

OFFENSE

Running Back — LaDainian Tomlinson (5th, 362,893)

Fullback — Tony Richardson (4th, 109,397)

Tight Ends — Dustin Keller (5th, 145,949)

Tackles — D’Brickashaw Ferguson (4th, 173,773)

Centers — Nick Mangold (2nd, 213,538)

DEFENSE

Defensive Ends — Jason Taylor (5th, 85,809)

Defensive Tackles — Shaun Ellis (5th, 115,366)

Cornerbacks — Darrelle Revis (2nd, 239,542), Antonio Cromartie (3rd, 182,396)

QB Mark Sanchez and G Brandon Moore have fallen out of the top five at their positions in the past week. Also not in the top fives at their positions are such worthy candidates as ILB David Harris, KR/ST Brad Smith, WRs Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, P Steve Weatherford and kick-cover guy James Ihedigbo. Take your pick, check the boxes and help send a few of the Green & White to Hawaii for this year’s game.

Numbers Game I

One of the most stunning statistical wrinkles of these last two losses to AFC East foes is the split personality the Jets’ pass defense showed after the catch.

By my unofficial charting, the Jets gave up exactly 200 yards after the catch to the Patriots. Sound like a big number? It sure is. I’ve been tracking YAC for the Jets since the mid-Nineties and that is the most YAC allowed by the Jets in a game in that time.

Then flash ahead to the Dolphins. Yes, wet weather. But also yes, Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano and Chad Henne, passing-game parts that have hurt the Jets in the past. And no YAC. Or more accurately, 9 yards after the catch on Miami’s five completions. Those 9 yards are the least a Jets opponent has gained since Game 6 of the 1995 season at Buffalo.

Many Green & White fans will remember that game well. It was the day Bruce Smith ripped past Everett McIver and rocked Boomer Esiason for a concussion. It was also a game dominated by Thurman Thomas and the Bills’ 220-yard ground game. As a result, Jim Kelly only completed nine passes for 101 yards, and only 7 of those yards came after the catch. But the Bills didn’t need the YAC in that 29-10 win. Ah, memories.

Numbers Game II

You never want to get in third-and-long, but it happens. And it also happens that sometimes offenses convert those bad boys. In fact, the Jets had any chance at all in their 10-6 loss to the Dolphins because they converted three third-and-13’s or longer. The last time the Jets could say that was in 2003, when the Vinny Testaverde-led offense did the same in the Game 2 win over the ‘Fins.

Mark Sanchez scrambled for one of those Sunday conversions and hit Jerricho Cotchery for the other two. J-Co’s conversions give him 14 chain-movers on third-and-11 or longer, the most by a Jets receiver since Wayne Chrebet had 21 such conversions through the end of his career in 2005.

Numbers Game III

OK, the stats are not all great at this crucial stretch in the season. The red zone continues to be a red wall for the Jets offense. For the season the offense has scored just 14 touchdowns on 38 drives inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, a 36.8 percent success rate that is 30th in the NFL.

But it’s been even less productive recently. From Game 5, the Nick Folk five-FG game vs. the Vikings, the Jets have cashed in just six TDs in 24 RZ trips, a 25 percent rate. This is the second-slowest nine-game stretch of red zone offense in the last 25 seasons, trailing only the 22.6 percent (7-for-31) rate from Games 6-14 of the 2007 season.

And that is just not good enough, especially when heading into Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers’ fourth-ranked red zone defense before the Heinz Field fanatics on Sunday.

Miami Soundtrack

For those of you who are interested — and we know you’re out there — here is a partial playlist from Sunday’s Jets-Dolphins game at New Meadowlands Stadium:

Forget You — Cee Lo Green

Here I Go Again — Whitesnake

Rock N Roll All Night — Kiss

MC Hammer — Rick Ross

Starlight — Muse

Lose Yourself — Eminem

Start Me Up — Rolling Stones

Just Like That — Bun B

Body Count — Fabolous

Bang Your Head — Quiet Riot

Amber — 311

Everything Zen — Bush

Are You Gonna Go My Way — Lenny Kravitz

No Love — Eminem

Can’t Be Touched — Roy Jones Jr.

Till I Collapse — Eminem

Now for Rock — Breaking Benjamin

In The End — Linkin Park

Numb/Encore — Jay Z, Linkin Park

Remember The Name — Fort Minor

Boom Boom Pow — Black Eyed Peas

Get It Started — Black Eyed Peas

Fight For Your Right — Beastie Boys

Bawitdaba – Kid Rock

The Pretender — Foo Fighters


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Moore, Others on the Mood of the Team

Posted by Eric Allen on December 13, 2010 – 6:30 pm

After dropping their past two games and with two more daunting tasks on the immediate horizon, many have written off the New York Jets.

“That’s the outsiders. We’re just fine,” said a defiant Brandon Moore this afternoon when told that many outsiders feel like the wheels are coming off. “We’re going to come to work on Wednesday. Each guy is going to find a way to get better. We’re not concerned with what people outside think. We are the only ones who can fix it and get it turned around. So I can really care less about what people on the outside think.”

When any offense combines to score just nine points in two contests, the quarterback and the offensive coordinator get a lot of heat. And that has been the case in New York the past 24 hours as second-year QB Mark Sanchez followed up a 51.5 completion-percentage, three-interception night in Foxboro with a 38.6 percent, one-INT at New Meadowlands Stadium against the Dolphins on Sunday.

“As far our offensive execution, it was poor,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “I sat in there and watched the game with our offensive staff and so much of it comes down to fundamentals and technique. That’s just the way it is at every position. When all else fails, you go back on your fundamentals and technique. And in Mark’s case, you can’t be accurate with the football if you don’t have proper footwork. It’s hard to throw when you’re not set and ready.”

While Sanchez has struggled mightily of late, his offensive ‘mates said the problems have been collective. He was sacked six times against the Dolphins and the Jets again had a case of the dropsies at some inopportune times.

“It’s not Mark, believe me,” said WR Jerricho Cotchery. “We’re not playing well offensively as a whole, as a group. Every guy on offense has to get better for us to have an opportunity to put points on the board.”

“It’s not just Mark,” added the versatile Brad Smith. “It’s the receivers, the offensive line, the running backs — all of us have to do better at executing and just play the game the way we know how to play it and we’ll be fine. Stop worrying about all the other stuff.”

It is soul-searching time.

“We are looking at ourselves, me looking at myself, other guys looking at themselves and trying to find the answer of ‘What can I do better to help this team be efficient on offense?’ That’s the mood of the team,” said Moore. “We’re going to come in today and on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and try to win on each one of those days and get better.”

The Jets are ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing (143.7 yards per game), but the Dolphins clogged the lanes well as the home club averaged just 2.8 yards on its 31 carries.

“I don’t care if you have Jim Brown back there,” said Ryan. “Jim Brown is not going to run back there if you have a free hitter to the football at the line of scrimmage. Those are things we need to get corrected. We need to give our guys some chances. ‘Ground and Pound,’ I know we can be better, I believe we can get better.”

“Guys have to take it upon themselves to win their 1-on-1 matchup,” said Moore. “It’s as simple as that and not having breakdowns here or there. It takes all five of us, six, seven of us with the fullback and the tight end. That’s the biggest thing we’re going to look to improve.”

There may have been margin for error before, but that’s changed in the past week. The Jets are going to have to be sharp offensively against one of the league’s best defenses in the Steelers or the losing streak will grow to three.

“On offense right now, there is a sense of urgency to get better,” Cotchery said. “We have three games left and you have to make sure you’re getting better in order to give yourself a chance to win a game on a Sunday. That’s where we are right now.”

Sanchez, a 53 percent passer with 16 TDs and 12 INTs through 13 games, is the Jets’ quarterback of the now and the future.

“Mark is our quarterback, he’s my quarterback,” said Ryan. “He’ll always be our starting quarterback. Even if I did yank him for whatever reason, he’s our quarterback and we’re going to go as far as he takes us.”

Injury Updates

The news wasn’t great for the Jets on the injury front as RT Damien Woody (knee) was ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Steelers and Ryan said he’ll likely have arthroscopic surgery. Wayne Hunter, who replaced Woody in the opening quarter Sunday, will start in his place. And the defense, already thin at safety, will likely miss the services of Eric Smith (head) this weekend as well.


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STS*: Making Plans After Jimmy’s Injury

Posted by Nick Gallo on December 4, 2010 – 9:48 am

Friday’s practice was going smoothly for the Jets. Head coach Rex Ryan said it was one of the best days of practice they’d had all season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time with the trip to Foxboro, Mass. to face the 9-2 New England Patriots looming.

Then safety Jim Leonhard went up for a jump ball down the sideline with wide receiver Patrick Turner, and Leonhard didn’t get up. He had to be carted off the field because of a severe right shin injury he sustained during the play, which soon was diagnosed as a fractured tibia.

A few hours later, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff reacted.

“On the field, a lot of people do realize what an important part he was,” Pettine said later Friday afternoon. “He really did quarterback the back end. He was a big part of helping guys get lined up and he was usually a guy that was in the right place at the right time doing his job. That’s something that we are really going to miss.”

“When these things happen, everybody has to step up,” Westhoff said. “Everybody steps up and you have to implement different things. I’m used to it. I get it every week.”

In the secondary, safety Eric Smith will be the one to step up and make the playcalls, now starting alongside Brodney Pool. Special teams ace and fellow safety James Ihedigbo’s role will likely increase, as will the role for cornerback Dwight Lowery, who has been limited at practice this week but could make his first appearance since sustaining a concussion against the Browns.

On special teams, Leonhard was tied for eighth in the NFL with an 11.3-yard punt return average and was also an essential member of the kickoff coverage unit. His production was key, but Westhoff prides himself on being able to adjust.

In fact, former NFL Defensive MVP Jason Taylor volunteered his services this week on the punt return team as a rusher. That shows the sacrifice these Jets are willing to make, particularly on special teams. Westhoff has had three other veterans step up as potential options on the punt return team, all of whom could be potent weapons as the season heads into its stretch run.

“We like to play two deep sometimes,” Westhoff said. “So I’m sure I’ll get Jerricho [Cotchery] involved like he used to be. You’re losing an eighth-ranked punt returner in the NFL with Jimmy. That’s a loss. Jerricho finished close to that last year so he’ll get involved.”

Westhoff also noted that wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who has already made four game-changing fourth-quarter/overtime plays this season, and long-striding cornerback Antonio Cromartie have both asked for a shot at the punt return position.

“We are going to look at all of that,” Westhoff said, “and see what is the best and put together a package that best suits us. Jerricho is probably the steadiest and we may get him involved at two-deep with one of the other guys. It was a move that I was prepared to make anyway with Cromartie and give him that opportunity.”

No matter who ends up fielding punts, it will be difficult to replace the leadership, poise and communication skills that Leonhard brought to the table. Going up against Tom Brady and the vaunted Patriots offense, Leonhard would have been crucial. The Green & White will rise to the challenge, but most of all, the players in the Jets locker room are upset that their fallen brother is in pain and won’t be on the Gillette Stadium field with them on Monday night.

“I think a lot of it starts with off the field,” Pettine said. “He’s not just a great football player; he’s a great person. I think his personality is just tremendous, he’s a very funny guy, good-natured. I think he kept the room very light, was very quick to point things out, very quick-witted. That’s a big part of it, to me, is more the personal part of it, the off-the-field stuff.”

*Special Teams Saturday.


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