We can’t dub him “Johnny White Shoes Griffin” just yet, but John Griffin has looked speedy in the Jets’ backfield at their SUNY Cortland training camp and it’s not just the white footwear.
“Really, I’m just taking advantage of the opportunity I’ve got right now,” Griffin, the Jets’ new No. 24, said after today’s second practice of camp. “I know we’ve got a couple of guys hurt and Mike [Goodson]‘s not here right now. So I’m really just trying to take advantage of the opportunity that’s been given to me. I know I’ve worked hard so I know I’m ready for it.”
Griffin looks ready. The 5’11”, 208-pounder has gotten his opening with Chris Ivory and Joe McKnight both being sidelined at times so far with injuries and Goodson not reporting, and he and his shoes have flashed. It could be getting free to scoot off tackle or taking a screen and zipping down the green and white rapids for a big gainer.
He feels he can be a complete back. As a Northeastern junior, he had a 200-yard rushing game and a 1,000-yard season in 2009. As a receiver, he’s been hot and cold, mixing in a few drops with his crowd-pleasing downfield forays, but he knows one of the answers to that.
“I like to think I’m a pretty good route-running back,” he said. “I probably need to strengthen my hands a little bit, do some more off the field. But I pretty much like doing it all.”
As for the white shoes, it’s not a tribute to Joe Namath or Billy Johnson, just a sartorial thing that some of the Jets backs started this spring.
“I remember Joe [McKnight] and Mike [Goodson] wore them one day, we all did, and we kind of stuck with them,” he said. “Actually, Antonio Cromartie gave these shoes to me.”
It’s taken Griffin a while to get going in the pros, but he finally made his NFL debut with nine special teams plays for the Jets in last season’s finale at Buffalo. Maybe there are more plays where that came from if he and his shoes continue to flash this summer.
Comings and Goings
Griffin and the Jets backs were joined on the roster by newly signed Chad Spann (5’9″, 198). Spann’s claim to fame was that he led all FBS players in 2010 with 22 rushing TDs in 11 games for Northern Illinois, but he’s only made it to Tampa Bay’s and Pittsburgh’s practice squads. He wore No. 34 in white (Donnie Fletcher is 34 in green) at today’s practice. … Also, CB Aaron Berry, who tore an ACL early in Friday’s first practice of camp, was placed on injured reserve.
Clyde Gates was still motoring in day two, ripping down the right sideline to gather in a Geno Smith longball in 11-on-11 drills. … Antonio Allen had a nice 7-on-7 zone interception of Mark Sanchez trying to hit Stephen Hill with a deep ball. … Rex Ryan says he likes what first-year WR Vidal Hazelton has shown so far, “and not because he got into a little whatever.” That whatever was a short but intense chin-to-chin confrontation with Cromartie after Cro hit Hazelton hard after a reception in positional drills. … Including a kick each in a two-minute drill at the end of practice, Nick Folk was 4-for-5 and Billy Cundiff 2-for-5 on field goals into a good Cortland cross-breeze.
Tags: Billy White Shoes Johnson, Chad Spann, joe McKnight, Joe Namath, John Griffin, Rex Ryan, white shoes
Posted in Randy Lange | 42 Comments »
The battle began this morning with Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith trading throws.
In position drills, Sanchez hit a pass down the left sideline, Smith on the next play did the same down the right sideline.
In 7-on-7’s, Mark found Clyde Gates deep for a leaping fingertip grab, with Gates bouncing up quickly and darting into the end zone. Geno counters with an over-the-shoulder dropdown for Stephen Hill.
Sanchez distributed nicely in 11-on-11’s, but with one deep overthrow. Smith countered with accurate darts in traffic to Kellen Winslow and Gates again but missed some other shorter targets.
The competition after day one of SUNY Cortland camp? If this were the first round of a prizefight, probably 10-10. A draw.
“I thought I did well,” Sanchez said. “I wasn’t able to watch the film but I felt sharp, I felt accurate. I felt good with my checks, the checks we needed to make. We executed well and had some great positive plays. We got some completions and did well.”
“I felt pretty good. I think things went smoothly,” Smith said. “On my behalf there were some good plays and some plays I can learn from, but overall I think we had a really good practice.”
We won’t give you a daily scorecard on the QBs but we’ll report on the developments each day. And Winslow had a good bit of advice for those trying to score this king of all Jets position competitions at home:
“Nobody’s the frontrunner. We may have ones, we may have twos, we may have threes. But guys go down and guys have to step up. It’s just about competition right now and it’s only day one.
CB Aaron Berry won’t be able to carve himself a piece of turf in the Jets secondary this season. He went down with what has been diagnosed as a season-ending knee injury during practice. … The RB position was in a sort of equilibrium. Joe McKnight was taken off the Non-Football Injury list today one day after he was placed on it and participated in practice. But Chris Ivory was on the bike with muscle soreness that he said he suffered right before the start of camp. Head coach Rex Ryan had no new info on RB Mike Goodson, placed on Reserve–Did Not Report on Thursday. RB John Griffin had at least one sharp play, a screen pass that he turned upfield for a long gainer, and FB Lex Hilliard got some leather time as well. … Attendance for the first practice of camp: 760.
Tags: Aaron Berry, Chris Ivory, Clyde Gates, Geno Smith, joe McKnight, Kellen Winslow, Mark Sanchez
Posted in Randy Lange | 8 Comments »
RB Mike Goodson’s short tenure with the Jets took another sharp turn today when the team announced that Goodson has been placed on its Reserve–Did Not Report list.
“We knew Mike was not going to report and we understand why he’s not here,” head coach Rex Ryan said shortly after he and the two team buses pulled up in front of their Glass Tower dorms on the SUNY Cortland campus late this afternoon. The team will have no further comment on the Goodson situation.
The Jets’ running backs position, which at least looked to be solidly stocked with the returns of Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight, the trade for Chris Ivory and the signing of Goodson, was unexpectedly thinned out with Goodson’s non-reporting and word that McKnight has been placed on the Active–Non-Football Injury list.
When the Jets take the Cortland practice fields this morning, they will have only Ivory, Powell and first-year back John Griffin taking handoffs. The RBs meeting room also includes FBs Lex Hilliard and rookie Tommy Bohanon.
One player who did make the trip up I-81 to Cortland after not expecting to get the call for at least a little while longer was WR Braylon Edwards, whose signing was announced Thursday.
“It feels good. It feels like home,” Edwards said. “The people here have always made me feel welcome, and I feel like I’ve done my best work here. To be back in Cortland at the start of camp is a blessing.
“I was preparing myself as if this was going to happen, but I’d be a liar if I said I thought it was going to happen this fast,” he added. “I thought it was going to be a situation that happened later on in camp, possibly. But it happened before camp, I’m here to be able to start with them, so I was pretty surprised.”
Head coach Rex Ryan said the Jets’ coaches and trainers will have No. 17 on a “pitch count” but Edwards assured reporters it had nothing to do with his health.
“If I had an injury, I don’t think I’d be here right now,” he said. “I just think that’s a decision Rex wants to make. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older — I’m the big 3-0 now, so I think that might be having something to do with it. It’s definitely not an injury. I’m 100 percent healthy, for the first time in a while.”
Sheldon’s on Time Too
First-round rookie DL Sheldon Richardson is another Jet who wasn’t sure about being in the fold from the start of camp. He said “three or four days ago” contract negotiations weren’t progressing and he started to get worried about having to stay away until talks concluded.
“But my agent told me to keep cool and stay calm and we’ll get it done,” he said. “And we got it done.”
Richardson wasn’t shy about stating his odds for moving up the depth chart.
“I’ve got a couple of guys in front of me now,” he said, “but I’ve got a good chance to be a starter.”
Where’d that heat wave go? Cortland temperatures dipped into the upper 40s overnight and temps during the day got as high as only a breezy 74 . Today’s temps could also be around 75, with a heat index reading around 85, by the time Friday’s first practice of camp wraps up a little after noon.
Ryan said he thought WR Santonio Holmes, rehabbing his Lisfranc foot injury from last season, would be up in Cortland soon. Shortly after that, ESPN New York’s Larry Hardesty reported that he saw Tone around the SUNY Cortland campus. … Other transactions today: The Jets released two players with injury settlements: rookie DL Jake McDonough and first-year WR Thomas Mayo.
Tags: Bilal Powell, Braylon Edwards, Chris Ivory, joe McKnight, Mike Goodson, Sheldon Richardson
Posted in Randy Lange | 15 Comments »
The Radar’s been dark for a while, as you all know. Not a lot to talk about on the player front, other than the several who continue to show up at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on their own to work and sweat in advance of the late-July start of training camp. And we were preoccupied for the past several weeks with whipping the 2013 Yearbook home to the printers.
But we will have a full month of previews, reviews, features and news stories on newyorkjets.com, including new outstanding videos from my partner, Eric Allen, and the broadcasting and multimedia crew, some more EA blogs, and some preview pieces from the Yearbook.
Did I mention the Yearbook yet? As always, it’s a labor of love and a glorious print paean to the 2013 Jets, with some top-notch stories from EA, reporter John Holt and myself, along with the fantastic still photography of Al Pereira and the sharp design work of Rob Krolick and his NCG Visuals team.
The book’s theme is the New York Jets’ Golden Anniversary, as in it’s been 50 years since the Jets arose from the ashes of the Titans of New York to begin life with the 1963 AFL season. The cover is graced with a timeline of great Jets images from Joe Namath to Jumbo Elliott to David Harris, and more of those classic images appear with my feature inside.
Many of those photos are gracing this year’s ticket package that is going out to season ticket holders. One of my favorite shots in the book, one that is not on the tickets but is featured prominently in the feature, is Wesley Walker being raised to the Jets pantheon by Marty Lyons after a particularly significant achievement in September 1986. The lensman was Jerry Liebman, a frequent Jets contributor back in those days.
The 2013 Yearbook itself will be out the first week of camp (first full practice: Friday, July 26), available for non-season ticket holders at SUNY Cortland, online at jetshop.com and at the Jets Shops in Manhattan and at MetLife Stadium.
One of the things I look forward to executing every year are the factoids at the bottom of each of the full-page veteran and draft choice pages, a trading-card-like note on each player’s recent past and anticipated immediate future. I won’t spoil too much of the fun, but here for some flavor of this year’s Yearbook and to keep us all going a little while longer is a list of my Top Ten Player Nuggets:
■ Antwan Barnes, who played his first pro game as a Ravens rookie against the Jets on Sept. 16, 2007, had five sacks in his first 40 NFL games, then erupted for 18.5 sacks in 38 games as a Charger since ’10.
■ Willie Colon, as a New York City high school all-star in the early 2000s, played in the Empire Challenge and thus practiced for the game at the Jets’ fields when they were stationed at Hofstra University.
■ Demario Davis should increase his playing time this season after an active rookie campaign in which he led the Jets with 371 special teams plays and was second behind Nick Bellore with 15 ST tackles.
■ D’Brickashaw Ferguson played in every one of the Jets’ 1,074 offensive plays, and he extended his career-long ironman streaks to 112 games and starts — both the longest streaks among active NFL tackles.
■ David Harris led the Jets with 1,196 plays, including special teams, and again topped the defense in tackles — the fifth season that “the Hitman” reached 100 tackles and led the Jets in the process.
■ Chris Ivory, described as “a very physical, violent runner” by GM John Idzik, can move the chains — his 5.11 yards per carry is eighth-best in the NFL for all RBs with at least 250 career carries since 1970.
■ Jeremy Kerley, who led the Jets in receptions and receiving yards last season, has had a hand in the Green & White’s last seven 40-yard pass plays — five on the receiving end and two as the passer.
■ Joe McKnight’s 29.4-yard kickoff-return average in 2011-12 combined is the best in the NFL in back-to-back seasons since Hall of Famer-to-be Gale Sayers posted a 31.3 for the Bears in 1965-66.
■ Darrin Walls, whose only career interception came for Atlanta on New Year’s Day 2012 vs. Tampa Bay, has been reunited with Jets LBs coach Brian VanGorder, his defensive coordinator with the Falcons.
■ Kellen Winslow, signed June 14 after his tryout at the Jets’ full-squad minicamp, ranks third among all NFL tight ends since 2006 with 698 targets, fourth with 433 catches, and fourth with 4,798 yards.
Tags: 2013 Yearbook, Al Pereira, Antwan Barnes, Chris Ivory, David Harris, Demario Davis, Eric Allen, Jeremy Kerley, joe McKnight, Willie Colon
Posted in Randy Lange | 27 Comments »
This is the time of year that tries Jets fans’ souls. It’s dark out, not just outside my window at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center but for the short-term future. The improvements will get made, but they’ll be made slowly, often beneath the radar, with no competitive evidence until the games begin again in August and September.
Until then, we’ll get you the information we can as soon while we go about the other business we do on the business side of the Jets’ operations. That means covering free agency and the draft as we can, introducing you to the new coaches as we will in the coming weeks, providing player stories before and after they return to the complex in April.
All the while we’ll be working on the 2013 Yearbook. This provides the opportunities to dig up some things that were hidden during the ’12 season or to give more credit — and more hope for the future — than might have been given out during the 6-10 campaign past.
One of those early amazing notes has to do with Joe McKnight’s kickoff returning. This was a hot topic after the 2011 season’s 31.6-yard average, the best by a qualifying returner in the last quarter of a century. McKnight didn’t have quite as explosive a ’12, but his 27.5 average was still third in the league.
“Devin Hester’s the best now. Hopefully I can have my name next to his or around his somewhere. That’d be great,” McKnight told me earnestly back in November in the middle of that second season as the Jets’ prime kick returner. “I used to look up to him. He wore No. 4 and I wore No. 4 [in high school]. I always wanted to go to the University of Miami. I was a big Clinton Portis fan and a big Devin Hester fan.”
McKnight may want to readjust his sites because while Hester’s excellent, Gale Sayers is historic. Joe accomplished something that hadn’t been done in the NFL since “the Kansas Comet” hit the scene in 1965-66.
McKnight’s 29.4-yard kickoff-return average in ’11-12 combined is the best average in back-to-back seasons in the NFL (minimum of 40 total returns) since Sayers’ 31.3 mark in those first two years of his too-short Pro Football Hall of Fame career. Here are the top six returners’ numbers in this category in the last 50 seasons:
|Gale Sayers, CHI||1965-66||44||1378||31.3||3|
|Abe Woodson, SF||1963-64||61||1815||29.8||3|
|Joe McKnight, NYJ||2011-12||73||2145||29.4||2|
|Travis Williams, GB||1967-68||46||1338||29.1||4|
|Jerry Azumah, CHI||2002-03||41||1191||29.05||2|
|Brad Smith, NYJ||2009-10||60||1742||29.03||3|
One question might well arise in regard to this factoid: Was Joe helped by the new rule that placed kickoffs on the kicking team’s 35 again with the 2011 season? In fact, that could be argued. The average return in the NFL in ’11 was 23.8, the average in ’12 was 23.6. Those are two of the best three season averages for the league since 1960. A high tide lifts all boats and surely McKnight’s average benefited.
Yet on the other hand, where are all the other 29-yard returners in 2011-12? McKnight’s the only one, so while his 29.4 isn’t as impressive compared to the league as even Brad Smith’s 29.03 for the Jets in 2009-10, it still stands on its own merits as one of the best two-season kickoff-return efforts since the birth of the AFL.
Now if Joe can avoid injury and avoid putting the ball on the turf better — and the NFL doesn’t legislate kickoffs out of existence — he’ll start to build his rep as one of pro football’s best return men over a three-year period as the 2013 season unfolds.
We Hardly Knew Ye
A few ex-Jets sightings on the transaction wire: DL Marcus Dixon and WR Mardy Gilyard both signed with Kansas City on Monday. In case anyone missed it, LB Aaron Maybin signed with Cincinnati on Jan. 25.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Abe Woodson, Brad Smith, Gale Sayers, joe McKnight, Kansas Comet, Travis Williams
Posted in Randy Lange, Uncategorized | 164 Comments »
LaRon Landry’s phone rang Wednesday afternoon and the person trying to reach him was Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
“At first I didn’t answer,” Landry told newyorkjets.com. “I was like, the GM called me, so I’m trying to figure out what the hell is wrong or what kind of insight he was trying to tell me.”
Landry would return Tannenbaum’s call once he made it home from practice and was relieved to know that he wasn’t in trouble.
“I’m contemplating the whole time, like, ‘What’s going on?’ ” Landry said. “But when I got home, I heard the news and it definitely was an honor.”
The news Tannenbaum passed along to No. 30 for the Green & White was that the sixth-year pro and first-year Jet had been selected to his first Pro Bowl. Landry joins CB Antonio Cromartie as Jets reserves on the AFC roster. The game will be played Jan. 27 in Honolulu.
“It’s definitely a bittersweet kind of situation,” Landry said. “Just to have the season we’ve been having, I just wish we could have made it to the playoffs, probably made it to the championship, and I’m sorry I couldn’t contribute to get into the playoffs. It’s sweet because it’s a goal that I’ve always been looking forward to getting, being six years into it.”
Landry was the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft and spent his first five years in the league with Washington. However, his final two seasons with the Redskins he played only a combined 15 games due to his heel injury. The Jets were aware of the injury when they signed him in March and have made sure he sits out of practice one day each week. The strategy has worked to perfection as the 6”0’, 220-pounder has played at a high level while not missing a game in 2012.
“It holds a lot of weight,” Landry said of being voted into his first Pro Bowl, “and it’s very valuable to my emotions because I was coming off a two-year injury.”
Fellow safety Eric Smith said he knew when Landry first arrived in Florham Park that he had the potential to make this year’s Pro Bowl roster, adding that he’s enjoyed his time as Landry’s teammate this season.
“He’s laid-back and has a good time,” Smith said, “but when it comes gameday, he’s focused.”
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine felt Landry was well-deserving of the recognition.
“I think LaRon really came on late in the year,” Pettine said, “when things started to click as far as the mental part of it and he was getting on the same page as everybody else.”
There wasn’t a particular moment this season when Landry said he realized he had a shot at making the Pro Bowl. He said he was only trying to be victorious with his teammates.
“It’s all about winning ballgames,” he said.
Heading into the Jets’ final game Sunday at Buffalo, the former LSU Tiger has produced four forced fumbles, two interceptions and one touchdown return. His Pro Bowl selection makes him the first Green & White safety to make the game since Erik McMillan did it 23 years ago.
“I’m just happy the way I got it with the Jets, coming off IR two years in a row,” Landry said. “It’s definitely a great accomplishment and it means a lot to me to be voted on by my peers of the NFL, coaches, and my fans.”
Landry has never previously visited Hawaii but has been told it’s a beautiful place. He’s glad he’ll be making the trip alongside Cromartie, his teammate in the secondary, and anticipates the experience to be one he’ll hold onto for a long time.
“It was definitely a goal,” he said, “and I didn’t do it alone. This organization as a whole, training staff, everybody within this organization helped me make it.”
Thursday Injury Report\
Greg McElroy’s concussion situation is detailed in our news story on head coach Rex Ryan’s decision to sit McElroy and start Mark Sanchez on Sunday at Buffalo. The good concussion news is that two Jets with head injuries, DE Muhammad Wilkerson and CB Ellis Lankster, have been passing their tests and both were limited in today’s practice. Also limited was WR Braylon Edwards, who didn’t practice Wednesday due to a hamstring/knee flareup.
Besides McElroy, KR-RB Joe McKnight (ankle/illness) didn’t participate in practice, nor did S LaRon Landry (heel), LB Bryan Thomas (chest), WR Chaz Schilens (knee), TE Dustin Keller (ankle) and CB Aaron Berry (hamstring). Berry late today was placed on injured reserve. All 15 other Jets on the injury report were full-go.
The Bills’ injury list, and in particular their “limited” section, grew today. Three DNPs from Wednesday all were limited — S Jairus Byrd (ankle), G Andy Levitre (knee) and DT Kyle Williams (ankle). Two other players were added to the list as limited in CB Justin Rogers (foot) and LB Chris White (hamstring).
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Buffalo Bills, Greg McElroy, joe McKnight, LaRon Landry, Mike Tannenbaum, Pro Bowl
Posted in John Holt | 56 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 »
For whatever reasons, ever since returning from their bye week, the Jets’ special teams haven’t been as sharp and efficient as usual.
Trouble began in Seattle on Nov. 11 when punt returner Jeremy Kerley muffed a second-quarter punt, which the Seahawks recovered and soon thereafter turned into seven points.
That was followed up at St. Louis the next week when one of Nick Folk’s field goals was blocked and a Tim Tebow fake-punt shovel pass to Lex Hilliard was stopped.
And most recently, against the Patriots on Thanksgiving, Joe McKnight fumbled a kickoff return, resulting in a TD for the opposition.
Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff didn’t have a clear explanation for the recent struggles.
“We do things in practice,” Westhoff said, “but there’s only so many things you can do. I mean, we can’t run a live kickoff coverage in practice this time of the year. We’ve already had a million. You have to be able to hang onto it. So those instances, even though they’re separate entities — very, very frustrating.”
Yet Westhoff was pleased with his kickoff covereage unit against the Pats.
“They couldn’t get to the 20,” Westhoff said. “They couldn’t have gotten to the 20 with an all-star team running that against what we were doing. We had it. I look at it technically. I know what I’m talking about. So we have them covered.”
Westhoff was shocked the McKnight miscue occurred, particularly because it looked like he had a chance to take the return all the way.
“Here I’m seeing this develop,” the ST coordinator said. “I’m thinking, ‘We’ve got them. We’re going to hit this.’ All of a sudden it ends up becoming a gigantic play for them and they get the big Thanksgiving celebration and we get a weekend in Palookaville.”
Jets seventh-year safety Eric Smith said the mistakes and errors on special teams haven’t only been discouraging for Westhoff but for the entire unit.
“We’ve just given up a lot of plays that we don’t need to,” Smith said. “We’ve got them schemed up well, we’ve just got some guys out of position, missed some tackles or missed some blocks.”
The Arizona Cardinals, Sunday’s opponents, feature one of the NFL’s premier punt returners in Patrick Peterson. Last season as a rookie, Peterson tied the NFL single-season punt-return touchdown record, finishing with four, with all four of his scores at least 80-yard returns. Those impressive numbers certainly haven’t gone unnoticed by Westhoff.
“I’ll tell you what he’s incredible at aside from being a prolific punt returner,” Westhoff said. “He rushes field goals as good as maybe anybody I’ve ever seen. He can run under a chair. He explodes and he’s low. He’s strong. At 220 pounds, he runs through a lot of things aside from being so explosive. He’s a real factor.
“Sometimes his numbers maybe aren’t quite what he would want them to be. He takes chances. I mean, he ran a 99-yard punt return. That meant he fielded it on the 1. A lot of guys wouldn’t do that. He does that kind of stuff. So he’s very daring.”
When Peterson entered the NFL out of LSU in 2011, Westhoff listed him as his top draft prospect.
“He’s extremely, extremely talented,” Westhoff said. “I have tremendous respect for him.”
The unit is also hoping personal protector Tim Tebow will be ready to go after he didn’t see action in last week’s game due to his broken ribs.
“I think I know Tim Tebow pretty well,” Westhoff said. “The guy’s pretty tough. Anytime you have one of those things, there’s always a safety or precaution because you don’t know what it could become.”
If the Jets envision being successful Sunday, one area they should attempt to capitalize on McKnight’s specialty, kickoff returns. Arizona ranks 30th in the NFL in both their 27.9-yard average return allowed and opponents’ averaged 24.3-yard-line drive start. But as Westhoff cautioned, it all circles back to fundamentals.
“Every play is measured by the proper execution of that play,” he said. “Sometimes a really good punt return is a fair catch. That can be a heck of a play, things like that. Whatever the situation requires, I want to try to win at that situation. And I want everyone to win at it, every single guy. That’s my goal.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Eric Smith, Jeremy Kerley, joe McKnight, Mike Westhoff, New England Patriots, Nick Folk, Patrick Peterson
Posted in John Holt | 19 Comments »
Updated, 4:01 p.m. ET
Thanksgiving is a time for turkey, but Thursday night the Jets and Patriots could give each other indigestoin by grilling up several New York strips.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan had Rob Ninkovich on his mind, if not on his tongue, earlier this week in discussing one of the many challenges the Jets will face against the Pats.
“Number 50, Ninkovich, if that’s how you pronounce his name, he’s a good player. I know him by number,” Ryan said. “He’s forced, I think, five, six fumbles this year, so they do a great job of attacking the football. I think they lead the league in forced fumbles. It’s something they’ve always done a great job of, so we have to make sure we’re protecting the ball at all costs.”
Rex’s research was right on. The Patriots lead the NFL with an impressive plus-20 turnover margin. They’ve done it in large part by leading the league unofficially with 19 forces and officially with 14 fumble recoveries. Ninkovich is tied for third individually with five forces and tied for first with three recoveries.
And Ninkovich has been a Jet-killer the past two seasons. He had the two interceptions of Mark Sanchez last year on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, one returned for a TD, and his overtime strip sack of Sanchez provided the crushing coda to the Green & White’s 29-26 overtime loss at Gillette last month.
“Ninkovich is one of the best at it, it seems,” Sanchez said. “He’s really getting after the quarterback, he’s getting after the football, and that’s really their whole defense, that’s kind of their MO.”
He’s not alone. Two other linebackers, Brandon Spikes (4 FFs) and Jerod Mayo (3 FFs) are in the top 10, along with rookie DE Chandler Jones (3 FFs). That has the attention of Joe McKnight, who looked to be back at close to full speed from his ankle injury with several nice plays on kickoff returns and out of the backfield at St. Louis.
“From the mistakes I’ve made in the past,” he said with a small smile, “I just have to be more conscious of the ball. I’m always thinking about the ball before I even get the ball.”
He even shared his informal mental checklists with us. Before each kick return it’s something like:
1. Put my mouthpiece in.
2. High-and-tight the ball.
3. Two hands in traffic.
4. Make the kicker miss.
5. Score the touchdown.
Before he gets the ball from Sanchez on a run, he has a similar list:
1. Get the ball first.
2. Two hands in traffic.
3. Keep your feet when you run through the smoke.
4. Make the safeties miss.
5. Score the touchdown.
Needless to say, such emphasis for all the Jets’ skill players will be important tomorrow night. But they are not weaponless in this high-stakes game of strip poker, even if they were to lose a fumble. That’s because they’ve been stripping the ball away from QBs and RBs (and even kickoff returners, as New England’s Devin McCourty knows from five weeks ago) almost as well.
The Jets have 11 forced fumbles this season, tied for fourth in the NFL, and recovered 10, tied for third. And recently, they’ve been on even more of a roll. Their six FFs at Seattle and St. Louis are the most in the league the past two weeks and are the most in back-to-back games since they had seven forces on two occasions in the ’08 season.
The movers and shakers in this area have been DE Muhammad Wilkerson and S LaRon Landry. Wilkerson’s been involved in three separate fumble plays in those two games — two forces and the fumble-return TD vs. the Seahawks, and that’s the most in back-to-back games by a Jets player since Calvin Pace was involved in four fumble plays in consecutive games in ’08.
“I’ve been shouting it from the rooftops since Mo first got here,” NT Sione Po said of Wilkerson’s recent emergence. “His IQ level is more of like a six-, seven- or eight-year player in terms of what he’s playing at, his production and what he does to help this team as a whole. It’s just phenomenal. I’m glad I’m playing on the same side of the ball he is.”
Landry, who has three forced fumbles this year, with two coming against the Rams, declined to give his secrets, other than his patented crunching hits, one of which forced rookie RB Daryl Richardson to cough up the ball Sunday and set up the Jets’ final TD under the Edward Jones Dome. But he provided some general guidelines.
“You’ve got to have a knack for that, man,” he said. “It’s a knack and an attitude. It takes some practice. Part of it is the point of attack, and you’ve got to be aware of what kind of offender you’re going up against, tight end, receiver, running back. And you’ve got to finish. You’ve got to have a knack for it.”
These longtime rivals have shown they’ve got the knack this year. Who’s better at the strip Thursday night may have a lot to say about who comes away with the victory drumstick.
Final Injury Report
The Jets held a short, closed practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center this morning.
Just before 4 p.m., both teams released their final injury reports of the week. The Jets’ injury list seems manageable with seven designated “questionable” for the game: CB Aaron Berry, NT Kenrick Ellis, WR-PR Jeremy Kerley, RB-KR Joe McKnight, NT Sione Po‘uha, LB Bart Scott and QB Tim Tebow. Tebow practiced full today with his sore ribs while the other six were limited.
The 11 probables: TE Jeff Cumberland, DT Mike DeVito, WRs Clyde Gates and Stephen Hill, S LaRon Landry, C Nick Mangold, guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, LB Calvin Pace, RB Bilal Powell and QB Mark Sanchez.
The Patriots listed their three DNPs this week as out for the game: TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip) as expected; DE Chandler Jones, tied for the team lead with six sacks; and G Logan Mankins.
Thirteen Pats are questionable: D-linemen Ron Brace and Trevor Scott, safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory, O-linemen Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer and Nick McDonald, TE Aaron Hernandez, LBs Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes and Tracy White, and WRs Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker. The three probables are WR Julian Edelman, DT Kyle Love and LB Jerod Mayo.
Happy Thanksgiving to all and one way or another we’ll all meet up at the game.
Tags: Calvin Pace, joe McKnight, LaRon Landry, Mark Sanchez, MetLife Stadium, Muhammad Wilkerson, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, Rob Ninkovich, Sione Pouha, thanksgiving
Posted in Randy Lange | 15 Comments »
Here are today’s pregame tweets for Jets-Rams at the Edward Jones Dome, 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 a crisp, sunny day in St. Louis, which of course won’t affect Jets-Rams inside the Edward Jones Dome. Kickoff around 1:02 pm ET.
#RL Jets trail Rams in all-time series 9-3. Rams are 5-1 at home vs Jets, 2-0 in Jones Dome with 30-10 win in ’98, 32-29 OT win in ’04.
#RL NYJ inactives: QB Greg McElroy, DT Damon Harrison, G Caleb Schlauderaff, G Hayworth Hicks, TE Hayden Smith, LB Marcus Dowtin.
#RL Jets wearing white jerseys, white pants today. They’ve gone white-white 4 times this season (1-3), 27 times u/ Rex Ryan (15-12).
#RL Today’s ref is Jerome Boger. It’s his 11th Jets game as ref since ’06. Boger also officiated ’09 Jets-SD playoff game.
#RL RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle) is active for Jets after missing SEA game. NT Kenrick Ellis (knee) is active after missing last 4 games.
#RL STL inactives: QB Austin Davis WR Steve Smith S Darian Stewart RB Terrance Ganaway FB Brit Miller OL Chris Williams DT Matt Conrath
#RL Jets D wants to maintain the pressure. First 5 games they registered a sack every 30.8 QB dropbacks. Last 4: sack every 12.8 dropbacks.
#RL Jets O wants to get off the schneid: Last 25 drives: 1 TD, 1 FG, 1 blocked FG, 14 punts (9 3-and-outs, 1 blocked punt), 5 turnovers.
#RL Jets’ gameday captains: LB Bart Scott, CB Antonio Cromartie, T Austin Howard, former Rams T Jason Smith, LS Tanner Purdum.
#RL Ex-Jets with Rams: starting C Rob Turner, TE Matt Mulligan, T Wayne Hunter, QB Kellen Clemens, RB Terrance Ganaway (inactive), OC Brian Schottenheimer
#RL New addition Kahlil Bell, former CHI back, also active and should make his Jets debut today. Wearing uniform #21.
Tags: Edward Jones Dome, joe McKnight, Kahlil Bell, Kenrick Ellis, Rex Ryan, St. Louis Rams
Posted in Randy Lange | 1 Comment »