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.”
Tags: Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Eric Smith, Jason Smith, John Idzik, Josh Baker, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 112 Comments »
Tight end Hayden Smith got a lot of help from a lot of teammates and coaches in his newest sporting endeavor.
But Smith had a good base of his own to build on. Playing basketball in Australia and on the U.S. small-college level, moving on to professional rugby in England and to the U.S. national rugby team, and then graduating in April to an NFL roster shows he knows how to cross-train. And he was a football rookie who certainly knew how to act like a pro in the Jets’ locker room this past season.
That last is in fact one of the requirements for the Bill Hampton Award. And Smith this week was informed that he was the ninth winner of the Hampton Award, presented annually by equipment director Gus Granneman and his staff.
“It feels good. We have a great group of equipment people, and I guess they were happy with me in the locker room this year,” Smith told me today. “I didn’t know specifically about Bill Hampton, but I had seen Josh Baker’s jersey hanging in the equipment room, and I wanted why that was. Now I know.”
Hampton was the former longtime Jets equipment director who retired to Florida in 2001. Clay, his son, took over running the equipment room then, and remains with the club as the senior director of operations. Granneman has been with the team since ’94 as well and has run the equipment room since ’06.
Gus said this year’s final vote, taken among the five-member staff and the three previous award-winners still with the team — Darrelle Revis, Matt Slauson and, last year, Baker — was the closest since the award was first presented to S Erik Coleman in 2004, with Smith edging rookie DT Damon “Snacks” Harrison by a single vote.
“Hayden had a built-in advantage, being an older guy that had played a professional sport already,” Granneman said. “We try to take into account how they are with their teammates, not just the support staff, and a lot of times rookies coming in don’t realize that. Hayden was the kind of guy that worked hard and had a positive, friendly attitude every day, whether it was first thing in the morning or he was walking in from the practice field. It’s always nice when you have several guys that are deserving of the award, like Hayden and Damon.”
Smith, 27, acknowledged the hard work it took to make the transition from rugby to getting that all-important toe- and handhold on an NFL roster.
“It was, I guess, quite a big transition to make, probably mentally more than physically. I had a lot to contend with in really learning the sport and its intricacies, learning the different techniques and coming to terms with exactly what was required,” said Hayden, often the last player off the practice field during the season. “Slowly but surely, I became more comfortable as the season progressed.”
Smith looked like a big (6’7″, 245), raw rugby player in his first OTA practices in May, but he quickly made adjustments and began looking the part on into training camp. He was a final cut on Aug. 31, cleared waivers and was signed to the Jets’ practice squad the next day. In late October he was signed to the active roster.
He got his feet wet with four plays in the home game against Miami on Oct. 28, was inactive the next four games, then played in the final four games, getting in 32 plays for the season. His most noticeable contribution was his 16-yard reception on a behind-the-line throwback from Greg McElroy to convert third-and-9 in the second quarter of the final home game against San Diego. But he said the Jacksonville game two weeks earlier, when he got in half his plays for the season, was quite meaningful to him.
“I got to get in that game and get a little momentum,” he said. “It definitely makes a difference, being able to have a few plays on special teams, then a few more on offense. That also gets you to stop overanalyzing things and just getting into the flow.”
The Jets, like all teams, occasionally take an extended look at players from other sports. Pete Carroll brought in U.S. World Cup goalkeeper Tony Meola as a potential kickoff man in 1994. Eric Mangini invited college heavyweight wrestlers Cole Konrad and Tommy Rowlands in for tryouts at the 2007 rookie minicamp. Cleveland State basketballer J’Nathan Bullock got a look in Rex Ryan’s first offseason as head coach in ’09.
Most of them wash out quickly. The fact that Smith has survived through an entire NFL season indicates that the Jets like his prospects and he just might be tougher to run off. But he knows the hard work has just begun. After taking a few weeks to reunite with his old Saracens rugby mates in England, he is now back in Chicago to begin his personal training and will return to North Jersey when the Jets’ offseason strength and conditioning program commences in a few months.
“I think going into any of these situations, you have to make a conscious decision that you’re going to be a success with it,” he said. “If you’re not willing to do the work that’s required, you have zero chance of success. Obviously, even with the work, it’s not guaranteed. Going into it, I knew I had to work as hard as I could physically and academically to give myself any sort of a chance. I felt I’ve done that this year, just to be in the position where I am now. But it’s the same dilemma. I’m going to have to work as hard as I can in the classroom and on the field to continue to progress and get where I want to go.”
There are clearly a few goals ahead for the one of the first Aussies to stick in the NFL at a position other than punter. One is to make it onto the Jets’ active roster for a full season. And if he’s done that, at this time next year he’ll get an added bonus. He’ll get to vote on the 2013 Hampton Award.
Tags: Bill Hampton, Greg McElroy, Gus Granneman, Hayden Smith, Josh Baker
Posted in Randy Lange | 93 Comments »
Updated, 3:15 p.m. ET
Nick Folk, the winner and still champeen.
With the Jets’ announcement that Josh Brown had been released today as the team reduced its roster to one under the 75-player maximum, Folk has prevailed as the Jets placekicker after kicking for his job for the second straight preseason.
Last year he outdueled journeyman Nick Novak. This offseason Brown, the long-ball veteran with Rams and Seahawks experience, figured to provide even stiffer competition. And he did. But after Nick went 3-for-3 against the Panthers while Brown went 1-for-2 with a miss from 45 yards out (albeit after Kenrick Ellis’ false start moved the kick 5 yards back), the decision by head coach Rex Ryan and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff was made.
But the Panthers game wasn’t the only input. The training camp competition up at SUNY Cortland and back in North Jersey was close, and I don’t have any official or unofficial tally, but on most days when the two alternated two kicks at a time, moving 2 to 3 yards back with each kick, Folk seemed to have the edge on many days.
Now the key will be how Nick kicks all season long. As Westhoff told me back in late July at the start of camp about Folk vs. Brown, “It’ll be an interesting battle. Josh is a very viable candidate and makes for a very competitive kicking competition. It’s a good battle. They’re both pretty good. They can do it. And I think we needed that situation because Nick’s inconsistencies are frustrating.”
An example of that was Folk’s 24-yard miss on the opening drive of the Jets’ home loss to the Patriots last season.
“Now, can he turn around and make the kick that beat the Colts and go to the next playoff game? Yes. But you can’t miss that. That’s disappointing,” the coach said. “To his credit, we put him in a competitive situation. He’s fighting right now, he’s doing well. It’s a good, honest competition.”
The samples are not significant, so take this for what it’s worth, but every one of the previous three preseasons, in 2009 with Dallas and 2010-11 with the Jets, Folk missed at least one preseason field goal try from under 50 yards. In ’10, one of his misses was a 62-yarder, but he also was wide from 46 and on a point after. Last summer he missed from 43 and 52.
This summer, of course, he had no PAT tries. But he was 4-for-4 on his FG tries, from 22, 30, 38 and 46.
Five Other Moves
The Jets also waived five players, including FB-TE Josh Baker, who suffered a serious knee injury in the second quarter vs. the Panthers and was waived/injured. Also cut were WRs Stanley Arukwe and Wes Kemp, RB Jeremy Stewart and LB Damario Ambrose.
This year’s final cutdown to 53 players on each team’s active/inactive list is this Friday (all NFL games will be played Wednesday and Thursday) by 9 p.m. ET.
There was general praise for Austin Howard in his first right tackle starting assignment for the Jets on Sunday night.
“I thought Austin had a nice game for us,” said head coach Rex Ryan.
“I was just proud of our offensive line,” said Mark Sanchez, who was taken down once on a coverage sack in 2½ quarters Sunday vs. three non-coverage sacks in two quarters vs. the Giants. “I was proud of the way Austin Howard competed. That’s not an easy spot to jump into.”
Howard is a man of few words and most of them modest. He hit all the right notes about “I feel like I’m progressing and we’re progressing as an offense” and “We have to watch the film.”
“This opportunity has been a huge blessing,” he said. “I’m so grateful to be out on the field with the veterans and to go out and play the game. I feel it’s been a progression since my first start.”
That’s something many may not know or realize. Howard had a start for the Eagles at LT in the final preseason game in 2010 — against the Jets, of course — and had one regular-season start, in the ’10 season finale for the Birds vs. the Cowboys.
Here’s one other interesting fact about Howard from the Panthers game: He was the only Jet to play in 100 percent of his unit’s plays. The offense was on the field for 69 plays on Sunday and so was Howard. And add in the six special-teams plays he appeared in and the big guy from Davenport, Iowa, led the Jets last night with 75 snaps. Next-most plays? TE Dedrick Epps with 58 plays, 57 on offense.
Tags: Damario Ambrose, final cuts, Jeremy Stewart, Josh Baker, Josh Brown, Nick Folk, Stanley Arukwe, Wes Kemp
Posted in Randy Lange | 151 Comments »
It’s not anything like the great Serengeti wildebeest migration, but at today’s SUNY Cortland training camp practice, two defensive players found their way across the trench to the offensive side of the Jets ecosystem.
One we knew about. Antonio Cromartie lined up at wide receiver in 7-on-7 drills again, and this time he caught his first touchdown of camp, from third QB Greg McElroy.
“I’m just trying to get the technique part down and have fun with it,” the cornerback said about getting some times at wideout. “I’m dead serious. This is something I want to do, play both ways.”
As to the playful charge of “traitor” leveled at Cro by LB Bart Scott during the practice, he at first plead not guilty, then changed his plea.
“I feel like I’m a traitor for today,” he said, “but I can take it.”
The other defender who announced his presence on the other side of the ball when his green jersey showed up among the white offensive jerseys during red zone drills was LB Nick Bellore.
“Yes, we have been working Nick some at fullback,” head coach Rex Ryan said at his midday news conference. “He’s been staying after practice working with [RBs coach] Anthony Lynn. Sometimes you have to find depth in different ways. The same way with Cro at wide receiver. If you go into games and somebody goes down, you need to plug somebody in.”
LaRon’s Getting LaReady
Ryan said S LaRon Landry and his feet are feeling so good these days that the Jets’ trainers and doctors have accelerated his practice “pitch count.”
“We changed his schedule a little bit,” the coach said. “He practiced today when initially he would have been rehabbing again. We’re still taking care of him, but he’s feeling really good and he’s progressing along really nice.”
Landry seconded that medical opinion.
“Physically, I feel fine, I feel ready,” he said. “Each and every day I’m out there ready to go. I try to set the bar high. I’m my worst critic. I really grade myself tough.”
Next test: Well, a few more days of practice, then on to Saturday night against the Giants, whom he’s no stranger to. “I played those guys for five years,” said the former Redskin. “I know ‘em like the back of my hand. So I’m looking forward to it.”
McElroy had some other nice successes this morning, hitting TE Jeff Cumberland with a picturesque over-the-shoulder pass past DB Donnie Fletcher for a TD, then finding Josh Baker with a tight-window connection past rookie LB Demario Davis. … Before those completions, though, a McElroy pass was batted in the air and reeled in by CB Isaiah Trufant for the interception. … Baker also nabbed a Mark Sanchez pass past Calvin Pace for a left-sideline score.
Sanchez scrambled and found RB Bilal Powell just over the goal line in red zone drills and yelled, “Touchdown!” Other than that, the defense had a strong final period keeping the “O” out of the end zone. … LB David Harris continued his strong camp of pass coverage with a few more PDs.
Today’s attendance: 2,230. Many of the fans were there to help Tim Tebow celebrate his 25th birthday. … Wednesday’s 8 a.m. practice will be the final open practice in Cortland. The Jets will have a closed workout Thursday, have “rookie night” festivities later, then head south Friday morning for North Jersey. They’ll host the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Saturday night, then next week will wrap up the training camp phase of the preseason with open practices at MetLife on Tuesday night and at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Complex on Thursday and Friday mornings, Aug. 23-24.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Greg McElroy, Josh Baker, LaRon Landry, Nick Bellore, Rex Ryan, SUNY Cortland, training camp
Posted in Randy Lange | 55 Comments »
In London, they’re distributing gold, silver and bronze medals these days. In Cortland the currency is black jerseys.
And as TE Josh Baker said after today’s training camp practice, “We went ahead and broke through.”
Today was the first time the Jets practiced their full-contact goal-line/short-yardage drills. And with the offense pushing across five TDs in eight plays, that was enough for the O to take the prized black practice jerseys off the backs of the D for the first time this camp.
The story of the short but violent period at SUNY Cortland was the quarterbacks, as always. And Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow produced. On the first offense’s four plays against the first defense, Sanchez bootlegged one score in and Shonn Greene vaulted over from a yard out.
On the twos vs. twos, Tebow took over, with head coach Rex Ryan telling his defenders: “Tebow’s live unless he passes.” To which LB Bart Scott said from the side, “Can we have Sanchez live?”
Despite being eligible to be hit, Tebow was elusive as he booted the first play in, floated a TD pass to a wide-open Baker — “Sometimes those are the hardest ones when you can overthink them,” Baker said. Then TT called his own number out of the shotgun and a spread offense with an inside run for a standing TD.
“It looked great,” Sanchez said of the period. “I was excited about our tempo, about our power on the goal line, the way we punched the ball in the end zone. We got Tim involved there, which was huge, and that’s a big mismatch for us, so it was fun.”
The latest rephrasing of the eternal question was posed to Sanchez again: Would it really be OK if he led the offense down the field to the 5, then came out for Tebow to do the punching in? The Jets starter gave his strongest testimony yet that he’s on board, whatever the call.
“We’ve got to get it in. I don’t care,” Sanchez said. “Whatever we have to do, and Coach Sparano’s going to be the judge there on what exactly he wants, but if that’s what he wants and that’s what puts it in the end zone, fine. We’re driving 99 yards and he runs it in, don’t matter.”
“We’ve got to win the game,” No. 6 said. “It doesn’t matter. We’ve got to win. We’re in the business of winning.”
“I think that shows, number one, that he’s all in, he just wants to win,” Ryan said of Sanchez at his midday news conference. “It’s not about him, not about me, not about this guy or that guy — it’s about us. I think he understands that as well as anybody. He’s been absolutely terrific. It’s that team mindset we’re trying to develop.”
Ryan also liked what he saw from Tebow.
“This was Tim’s best day of camp,” the coach said. “That’s because we got to do a little live football. That’s when he’s going to stand out. You hear Tony [Sparano] say it all the time: ‘Run through the smoke.’ He ran through the smoke and there’s a 250-pound guy coming right at you. You saw what he can bring to the table today in the short-yardage/goal-line situation. When we’re doing more Wildcat situations, we’ll all be excited that Tim’s here.”
As for the black jerseys, Ryan said he told the players Wednesday that they were going to the offensive guys anyway, after the defense had won the right to wear the jerseys the first couple of days.
“I knew we’d get the best out of both sides,” he said. “I already said it, so shoot, they [the offense] were definitely going to wear ‘em.”
But Rex said, “Did they win it? Yeah, they earned it.”
Meeting of the Minds
Ryan was asked about what some players confirmed, which was that the coach called a team meeting Wednesday night to address some things. He might have touched on CB Antonio Cromartie saying he was the team’s second-best receiver, although Ryan didn’t seem to think that was a huge deal. But he had several other topics he wanted to remind his team about.
“I just took that time to say sometimes we need to mindful of what’s in the best interests of our team. That was the message, and there were others,” he said. “If I see an issue, I’m going to stay on top of it. … We’re going to be out in front of things, not behind things.”
He said he’s not “muzzling” his players, something that he has said he won’t do.
“If people want to paint the Jets as this rogue team, then that’s fine,” he said. “We want to win. We’re as competitive as any team in this league. Now do we want to have fun? Absolutely. Do I want our guys to be ourselves? I do. But I also understand there are some deals that can hurt our football team instead of help it.”
Ryan likes the way all his backs are running, but two he singled out today are starter Shonn Greene and second-year man Bilal Powell, who had another nice burst up the middle in team drills this morning. “Powell, he just looks like a different guy,” the coach said.
The defense, which did some grumbling over Rex’s scoring on the goal line, made up for it with some strong blitz pressure in team drills.
Sanchez was “sacked” on a Bart Scott blitz, but on the next play lasered a completion between defenders to WR Dexter Jackson. With the first D vs. the second O, Aaron Maybin flew off the edge for a Tebow sack, and then in twos vs. twos, rookie S Antonio Allen again flashed with a blitz sack of Tebow. With the threes on the field, Donnie Fletcher found an opening to “take down” Greg McElroy.
Then Sanchez, back in under center, got pressured by fourth CB Ellis Lankster and on a nice combo edge rush by David Harris and Maybin.
Today’s attendance: 2,769. Friday’s practice is closed to the public. Then Saturday night it’s wide open for fans to watch this year’s Green & White practice.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Bilal Powell, Josh Baker, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene, SUNY Cortland, Tim Tebow, training camp
Posted in Randy Lange | 44 Comments »
All kinds of people find their ways onto NFL rosters for the training camp season. They’re all physically and mentally tough enough, they all have their stories to tell. But some just seem to have an overflow of that necessary football mindset.
Guys from Texas, I’ve found, are often like that. They’ve been steeped in the traditions of the game from just after they learned to walk. They’ve played the game at a high level in high school and then college. But now some find themselves in the pros and realize it’s a brand new world, there are new jobs to be won and goals to be accomplished, and it’s just time to tighten the chinstrap, go to work and get ‘er done.
Terrance Ganaway strikes me as one of those guys.
Ganaway was a decorated player at DeKalb High, rushing for 6,587 career yards that at the time was the 26th-most in Texas prep history. Then he built his college career to a peak with last year’s 1,547-yard, 21-touchdown senior finale for Baylor. The Jets drafted him in the sixth round in April.
He’s in the middle of training camp now, and perhaps the biggest thing on his mind at the moment is … fullback.
When was the last time he played fullback?
“Never. Never,” Ganaway told me evenly. “I just know that fullback is a different breed of man. I’ve really got to get my mind mentally prepared for that. But at the end of the day it’s just football, man. We’ve been playing this game in pads since we first started. It’s just a part of the game.”
Ganaway is a bigger bopper of a running back similar to Shonn Greene’s build and style — an “A” back, in coordinator Tony Sparano’s parlance. He said he’s at 235 pounds now. He’s taking reps at tailback but with Josh Baker’s broken nose and Sparano’s search for versatility and depth behind John Conner, Ganaway lately has been getting reps at fullback as well.
Does he view the position addition as a minus? Absolutely not.
“I just think of it as me being that much more valuable to the team,” he told my partner, Eric Allen, as we double-teamed him for newyorkjets.com. “For me, special teams is a real big thing, then second fullback on the team, third or fourth running back on the team — I think that’s a travel guy. I don’t know, I’m not in the office calling all those shots, but I want to be the most marketable player that I can be on this team and fullback helps me do that.”
“Terrance did a nice job in there, so that was good,” head coach Rex Ryan said of Ganaway’s FB baptism. “He’s a funny guy and a great guy to be around. He’s always smiling. He’s about as positive of a person as you can think of and a tough guy. He’s going to win. He’s a competitor and those are the guys you want to hand the ball to. That just gives us two more options and it’s great for us.”
Tough guy? It exudes from Ganaway’s pores. EA asked him about putting the pads on for the first time on Sunday.
“It’s real nice to get on the pads,” he said. “You get to feel who’s really wanting to play football and who’s just wanting to be a T-shirt guy. I think I really want to play football.”
I asked Ganaway if he’s got enough time to learn the new position as well as he knows his primary position and add it to his repertoire so he becomes a member of the Jets’ travel team.
“I don’t have time. Time is not on my side,” he said. “I’ve just got to get in there and learn the plays. I’m not worried about doing something that I’m not able to do because I feel like I’m talented enough, smart enough and physical enough to play football. I’ve just got to learn the offense from the fullback and running back perspectives and I’ll be good to go.”
It’s been done before, but to see LaRon Landry do it adds an extra small chapter to the book on the Jets’ safety as a tough, driven, physical defender. No. 30 missed an interception that he felt he should have had in Sunday’s practice. As a result, on the hottest morning so far at SUNY Cortland, Landry performed an on-field penance — pushups — before heading to the sideline. I didn’t count them but it seemed as if he might have done 30 of them.
There was no camp practice today, with the Jets players getting their first mandated day off under the new CBA rules. They’ll return for padded practices Wednesday and Thursday (open to the public) and Friday (closed) before turning up the juice just a bit for the Green & White practice on Saturday evening, followed by their next day off on Sunday.
Tags: John Conner, Josh Baker, Rex Ryan, SUNY Cortland, Terrance Ganaway, training camp
Posted in Randy Lange, Uncategorized | 64 Comments »
Field position is always so important on special teams, and Josh Baker contributed two chunks of yards to the Jets’ FP in Sunday’s conquest of the Redskins.
“What was that, my second kickoff return?” Baker asked me about his 29-yard runback to set the table around midfield for the first of the Jets’ three fourth-quarter touchdown drives. “I’m no longer a rookie. I’m a vet.”
Actually, it was his third. Baker, the undrafted free agent TE, has now touched the ball four times as a pro and positive yardage has always happened. Three of the touches have been kickoff returns. He took a pop-fly kickoff from the Dolphins 16 yards to the Jets 34 in his first appearance in the green and white. Two weeks later he ran a short kick by the Patriots 15 yards, also to the Jets 34.
Having gotten his feet wet, he was ready to put his stamp on the contest at FedEx.
“Going into the game, if they’ve shown that they’ve popped it up before, even one time throughout the season, then it’s brought to our attention and we will practice it,” Baker said. “There’ll be a rep or two just because we know they’ve done it before, and I believe the Redskins had done it before.”
Having just taken their last lead at 16-13, the ‘Skins were playing it safe, or so they thought, in keeping it away from Antonio Cromartie, who had dropped into the end zone in place of the sore-elbowed Joe McKnight for Graham Gano’s kick. The ball flew high and short to the Jets 20, where Shake-’n’-Bake was waiting for it.
“I think when you have a weapon like Joe McKnight or Cro back there deep, it does make teams think about doing different things,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “And obviously with Baker, if you kick it to the 20, we’re in business. Mike Westhoff and I had a plan, anticipating something like this, and when it happens, you have to make it happen and that’s exactly what Baker did.”
The only thing Baker didn’t make happen was a missed tackle by the kicker. Gano took him down by the Redskins bench at the Jets 49.
“I just saw the hole and hit it. I wish I’d have made a move on the kicker. It was near the sideline but I’ve got to make him miss.”
Did he get grief from his teammates over that tackle?
“Not as much as from my parents. My dad, I got a few comments from him. He’s my No. 1 hater,” Baker said, assuring that his father, Kevin, gave him the business in a loving way.
Above, we said Baker provided two chunks of yardage. The first one most people probably never saw because CBS’ long camera shot of T.J. Conley’s second-quarter punt swung immediately away from the line of scrimmage to Brandon Banks’ fair catch didn’t stay at the line of scrimmage. But you can see a quick view of the Jets’ right wingman on the punt protect team for some reason being thrown to the ground by Washington third-year LB Rob Jackson, in plain view of ref John Parry’s crew.
That wingman was Baker. Instead of the Redskins getting field position similar to the spot that Baker gave the Jets two quarters later, at their 49, they started at their 39.
Who’s to say if that was a big reason for the ‘Skins moving 8 yards and then punting, and then the Jets moving 57 yards to Nick Folk’s first field goal? But every yard helps.
And perhaps the Jets are forcing Sunday’s foe, the Chiefs at MetLife Stadium, to pick their poison. Last week Ryan Succop and the Chiefs faced Devin Hester and the Bears. On their two kickoffs in their 10-3 win, the Chiefs gave up a return to the CHI-34 and had a kickoff out of bounds.
If Baker is called on to provide a similar short field this week, he’s veteran-ready.
*Special Teams Saturday.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, joe McKnight, Josh Baker, Kansas City Chiefs, Mike Westhoff, Rex Ryan, Ryan Succop, Washingon Redskins
Posted in Randy Lange | 16 Comments »
Updated, 2:45 p.m. ET
Nick Mangold’s ankle leads the Jets newswire this afternoon. “He was limited today — he actually took some reps,” head coach Rex Ryan reported at the top of his news conference.
Considering Mangold sat out Sunday’s Raiders game and didn’t practice the first two days this week, that’s good news. The not-as-good headline is that he’s listed as questionable for Baltimore on Sunday night.
“He really is questionable,” said Ryan. “He’s not one of those you-really-know-what’s-going-to-happens. He really is a gametime decision.”
What’s spurring Mangold back from his high ankle sprain suffered against the Jaguars is his own prideful and resilient nature, plus the nature of his possible dance partner, Ravens nose Haloti Ngata.
“Nick wants to compete against the best and Haloti is the best,” Ryan said. “He’s trying to do what he can to get ready, and he has been doing that. … I think your great competitors want to go against the best. Nick, I think, still wants that opportunity.”
If Mangold is ruled out as late as 90 minutes before the 8:30-ish start to the game, Colin Baxter will make his second pro start, and if the ball’s in his court, he, too, will welcome his next playing time Sunday.
“Haloti’s one of the best defensive tackles in the league,” Baxter said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for me to get to see where I’m at.”
All the other injured Jets are probable for this game, including WR Plaxico Burress (hamstring), who, as he predicted, returned to full practice today, and rookie DE Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder), the only Jet besides Mangold limited for the end-of-week workout.
Rest of the Injury Lists
All the other injured Jets are probable for this game, including WR Plaxico Burress (hamstring), who, as he predicted, returned to full practice today, and rookie DE Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder), the only Jet besides Mangold limited for the end-of-week workout.
The Ravens are listing four players as out for the Jets — WRs Lee Evans and David Reed, S Haruki Nakamura and CB Jimmy Smith. Backup LB Dannell Ellerbe (thigh) is doubtful. Starting G Ben Grubbs (toe) is questionable, as is Chris Carr, a new addition today with a thigh injury that kept him out of team drills. Two starters, C Matt Birk (knee) and DE Cory Redding (toe), are probable.
Offense Still Working It
By no means was Ryan wasn’t offering it as a prediction of what will happen Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium, but he said that while his defense and special teams had fine practices today, the offense did not.
“The first three periods, it started off where we made some mental mistakes and it never looked really good,” the coach said. “Now we closed the practice and looked really good.”
Rex also liked the interaction between Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes.
“Mark missed a pass to Santonio, so we repeated it and he hits it,” Ryan said. “After I practice I see him working on it, 30 throws, trying to make sure they’re on the same page. That was encouraging.”
It’s especially encouraging because a Tone on the same page with his QB has made for bad music for the Ravens recently. In his last seven games with the Steelers vs. the Birds (including one playoff game), Holmes has caught eight TD passes and at least one in each game. He’s averaged 4.9 catches in those games for 19.3 yards a catch and 74.2 yards a game.
“Tone’s a playmaker, whether he’s turning a short pass into a long gain or running over the top of you,” Ryan said. “There’s a reason he was our No. 1 priority this offseason. He’s a talented guy.”
Rapid Changes for Baker
Josh Baker’s already gotten a career-full of Jets transactions to his name in a little over two months. The TE from Northwest Missouri State was signed as an undrafted free agent on July 27, waived on Sept. 3, signed to the practice squad the next day, released from the P-squad the day after that, and re-signed to the practice squad on Sept. 14.
Then on Tuesday, in the wake of Jeff Cumberland’s season-ending Achilles injury, was signed to the active roster.
Some other rookie might be starry-eyed about the prospects of suiting up and making his pro debut — in Sunday primetime, no less. But Baker’s got a veteran’s handle on his situation.
“To be honest, unless you’re a franchise player, no job is secure. Every job is week by week. Next week I might not be here,” he said this week. “You can only control the controllables.”
Baker could be active for the Ravens or he could be one of the Jets’ seven inactives, depending on what the Jets need at other positions and on special teams. He should make the trip to Crabcake City, but it’s not a guarantee.
None of that mattered this week as he and newly signed practice squad TE Martell Webb gave their best scout team impressions of Ravens TEs Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta for the first defense at practice.
Needless to say, Baker would love to suit up, for his own reasons as well as to be able to renew acquaintances with a certain Ravens QB he knew quite well in college. Before transferring to Northwest, Baker played on the same Delaware offense for a while with Joe Flacco.
“I still have his cell number and I did leave a message for him this week. I’m sure he’s three times busier than I am this week,” Baker said.
I asked him if he engaged in a smack with his old Blue Hens teammate. No way, he said, again with a vet’s savvy.
“You can’t trash-talk him on voicemail because then he’ll replay it for everybody down there,” he said. “You’ve got to do that 1-on-1.”
Josh hopes to get that chance this weekend.
Weekend Appearances for Two Jets Alums
Two Jets defensive line alumni will be on hand at Dick’s Sporting Goods three-day grand opening weekend in Yonkers, N.Y. Joe Klecko will be on the Ridge Hill site, 45 Fitzgerald St., in Yonkers on Saturday from 2-4 p.m. And Kris Jenkins will make an appearance Sunday from noon-2 p.m.
Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Colin Baxter, Haloti Ngata, Josh Baker, Nick Mangold, Rex Ryan, Santonio Holmes
Posted in Randy Lange | 14 Comments »