There was the tattoo on the back of the right calf, the one with the NYJ logo. And there were a number of heartfelt sentiments and fiery team breakdowns and uplifting highlights while wearing the green and white.
Still, when LaDainian Tomlinson decided to officially retire from the NFL, did anyone doubt the San Diego pull on his career?
The Chargers announced Sunday that Tomlinson is retiring and that he’s retiring as a ‘Bolt. He is expected to sign a one-day contract with San Diego today and then hold a news conference this afternoon.
Nevertheless, No. 21 had an impact for the two seasons that he was a Jet. He notched the last 100-yard game of his Hall of Fame career, going for 133 yards and two touchdowns at Buffalo in Game 4 of 2010. Two weeks later there was another two-TD game in the win at Denver, and two more in the AFC Wild Card win at Indianapolis.
Last season he throttled down as Shonn Greene became the starting tailback, yet still Tomlinson contributed, as the third-down back. His 42 receptions for 449 yards gave him a career-best 10.7 yards per catch, topped by his career-long-equaling 74-yard catch-and-run at Oakland.
However, Tomlinson, released by the Chargers after the ’09 season, his ninth in blue and gold, may have been at his happiest as a Jet after a tiny little 3-yard gain on fourth-and-1 from midfield. All that run did was cement the Patriots’ fate in the Jets’ 28-14 Game 2 triumph, his first home win as a Jet and the Jets’ first win in their new Meadowlands home.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Tomlinson said after that game. “Being around these guys, this coaching staff, being on this team has rejuvenated me and I feel like a young man running around out there. I’m having fun like a kid again, so I’m going to keep that passion all year long.”
“He’s enjoying himself here. He’s excited about being here,” said CB Antonio Cromartie, who played his first four NFL seasons with Tomlinson in San Diego. “He’s anxious to prove everyone wrong. Everyone says that he’s 31 years old and he’s headed for a downfall, but he’s going out and proving everyone wrong.”
One thing LT appreciated most in his short stay in the New Jersey/New York area was the passion of the fans.
“I never knew how emotional and passionate the fans are here about football,” he said. “Of course, I played here once or twice and they were great fans then, but playing here and being part of this team — it’s a different story.”
Both Tomlinson and the Jets could see the unfolding story after last season’s deflating finish out of the playoffs. He knew his Jets career was drawing to a close and his NFL career, too.
And today the story will be about his fantastic career, the first 9/11ths of it spent building a magnificent foundation, the last 2/11ths applying the crowning touch. We’ll bring you some of LaDainian’s comments from that news conference later this afternoon — which will be streamed live on chargers.com at 2 p.m. ET — and we’ll have a few photos and videos of his stay with the Jets.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets, retirement, San Diego Chargers
Posted in Randy Lange | 53 Comments »
Joe McKnight revealed a great attitude about his role, his playing time and his pro career this season, and the NFL’s leading kickoff returner is taking that with him into this postseason, during which he’s hoping to play in one more game.
“I’m going to be in New Jersey now and I’m going to still work out,” McKnight said Monday as he and his teammates were packing up and moving out after the end of their season the day before. “I’m the first alternate to the Pro Bowl and I want to be ready in case they call me to play in the game.”
McKnight was the fans’ choice for the AFC’s kick returner in the Jan. 29 Pro Bowl in Hawaii, but that accounts for only 33 percent of the all-star voting. When the players’ and coaches’ votes were factored in, McKnight came up No. 2 behind the Steelers’ Antonio Brown, the Steelers’ regular kickoff and punt man.
Still, Joe’s showing in his first year as the Jets’ kickoff returner was sparkling. On his 34 returns, he averaged 31.6 yards, almost a full four yards better than the No. 2 man, Packers rookie Randall Cobb.
In fact, McKnight’s 31.6 is the most by a qualifying returner in the NFL in a long time. Ron Brown packed a 32.8 with three TDs for the 1985 Rams. And McKnight also becomes the fourth Jet to lead the league in KOR average, along with Justin Miller (28.3 in 2006), Ron Carpenter (27.7 in ’95) and Bobby Humphery (30.7 in ’84).
McKnight didn’t finish as strongly as he wanted. Problem No. 1 was that his fast start — returns of 50, a franchise-long 107 and 88 during that three-loss road trip in September-October — alerted opposing cover teams to his prowess.
Then came a series of physical mishaps — a dislocated finger, a knee, a toe, an elbow at Washington and a shoulder at Philadelphia. Mixed in among that were the muffed punt against New England and the fumbled kickoff at Denver.
“I think I left a couple of yards on the field,” he evaluated himself. “I got a little heavy this year, put too much weight on. I want to make sure I say in tune with everything, running, catching. I muffed a few kicks and I want to work on that. I feel like I can do more.”
He said he’s continuing treatments for his elbow and shoulder but that he won’t need any procedures done.
McKnight said he’d hate to lose one of his guiding lights on this Jets team if LaDainian Tomlinson moves on to another team or into his post-football career.
“I would love to see LT the rest of my years playing football,” he said. “I’m always going to be talking to him, keeping in contact with him. He’s basically been my mentor since I’ve been here.
“But I know this is a business. If LT’s not back, I’m the next one in line. Ad if he is, I’ve still got to do my job.”
Kerley’s Big Game
Jeremy Kerley’s 41-yard bull’s-eye completion to Matt Mulligan out of the Wildcat//Seminole/Mizzou/Texas formation in the first quarter of the Miami game was the second-longest by a non-quarterback in Jets franchise history.
The longest came in the 2009 AFC Championship Game in Lucas Oil Stadium when Brad Smith came onto the field, Mark Sanchez went off for just that play, and Smith, out of the shotgun, cranked up his 45-yard completion to Jerricho Cotchery against the Colts.
Smith that year, like Kerley this year, was listed by the Jets as a wide receiver. One could argue that Smith was more QB than WR from his four years under center at Missouri, but on the other hand, even though he got a good amount of exposure as the quarterback running the ‘Cat, I remember only one game where he got more than two plays in a row as “the man,” in the slushbowl game at New England in 2007. And that was only for a couple of series.
One thing is certain: Kerley, in the final game of his rookie season, turned in one of the most versatile performances by a Jet, along the lines of Smith and Leon Washington. Kerley had a 16-yard run, 71 yards on four receptions, the 41-yard completion and 26 yards on two punt returns. That’s 154 yards of offensive plus return yardage (it’s more than all-purpose yardage, which doesn’t include passing yardage, and more than total offense, which includes passing yardage but not returns).
The 154 yards are the most ever in a game by a player with at least one rush, reception, completion and punt return in Jets franchise history.
Tags: Brad Smith, Jeremy Kerley, joe McKnight, LaDainian Tomlinson, Leon Washington, Miami Dolphins
Posted in Randy Lange | 113 Comments »
Updated, 4:41 p.m. ET
Hidden beneath the obvious enormity of the Jets’ upcoming tilt with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday is a subplot that was not likely earlier in the season. RB Shonn Greene has rebounded beautifully from a rough start to 2011 by knocking on the door of his first 1,000-yard rushing season.
The first four games of the year were unkind to Greene. Over the first quarter of the campaign, he had 157 yards on 51 carries, a shade over 3.0 yards per tote. Since then, he’s averaged 4.5 yards per carry.
“He’s had a good year,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “When you look at him, he had some tough sledding early in the season but he started coming on. This is the time of year when he usually does the most damage. We hope to give him not only this opportunity on Sunday but more opportunities.”
It’s reasonable to think that the first 1,000-yard season of a young running back’s career would be a major milestone, but Greene didn’t even know exactly where he stood until he was told today that he’s at 999 yards. He admitted knowing he was close to the landmark but not that he was only one yard away.
“It doesn’t even matter,” said Greene. “We’re just trying to get this win. I’ve been saying that since I got here. We’re just trying to win games.”
In addition to Greene crossing the 1,000-yard barrier, another Jets tailback will attempt to add another accolade to his own legend. RB LaDainian Tomlinson is only 34 yards behind RB Jerome Bettis as the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher of all time.
Tomlinson is a free agent at the season’s end. Whether he stays, signs elsewhere or ultimately decides to retire, he has had profound impact on the younger Greene in his two-year tenure with the Jets.
“He means a lot to my success and to this team’s success,” said Greene. “He’s a Hall of Fame player. If he decides to hang it up, it’s too bad but it’s well-deserved. He’s done about everything you can as a running back in this league.”
The two backs will shoot for their respective benchmarks against a hungry Dolphins squad that no one in the locker room takes lightly.
“They’ve been playing hard lately,” said Greene. “Even though they don’t have a chance [for the playoffs], they’ve been playing hard. Teams like that are the most dangerous.”
Ryan and his team know the danger of travelling to Miami to play at Sun Life Stadium. Ryan wouldn’t go so far as to guarantee a victory over the Fish on Sunday. However, that didn’t prevent him from guaranteeing something else.
“I know how I am with my guarantees,” said Rex, “but I guarantee Shonn goes over 1,000.”
Dolphins RB Reggie Bush has been ruled out for Sunday’s game with a knee injury. Miami’s leading rusher finishes the season with a career-best 1,086 yards on the ground and added six rushing touchdowns. Today in Miami, interim coach Todd Bowles said “a combo of people” will fill in for Bush, among them Lex Hilliard, Steve Slaton and rookie Daniel Thomas.
Dolphins CB Jimmy Wilson is listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury, and WR Clyde Gates, Miami’s kickoff returner, is questionable with a groin injury.
The Jets turn in a surprisingly clean bill of health for Week 17, with only one player listed as questionable. LB Garrett McIntyre injured his knee on the opening kickoff of last week’s game against the Giants, and practiced in a limited capacity on Friday after not having practiced at all earlier in the week. He will make the trip to South Florida and a decision will be made on his availability prior to gametime. In addition to his linebacking duties, McIntyre is a major contributor on special teams, where he has totaled 18 tackles this season.
All the other injured Jets are listed as probable for Sunday, including CB Antonio Cromartie (hamstring), who appeared on the injury report for the first time today and was limited during team drills.
Tags: Garrett McIntyre, LaDainian Tomlinson, Miami Dolphins, Reggie Bush, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene
Posted in Andrew LeRay | 62 Comments »
Just like the team itself, the Jets offense has been up and down throughout the 2011 season. They remain No. 1 in red zone efficiency (66.7 percent TD rate) and rank ninth overall in scoring at 24 points per game. But they place 27th overall (307.7 yards/game) in yardage and are coming off two disappointing efforts against the Eagles and Giants.
“We have all the talent in the world,” said TE Dustin Keller. “At every single position we feel confident in any guy we put out there with a 1-on-1 matchup that they’re going to win. Just to not come out and perform to the expectations that we set for ourselves is very disappointing. But hopefully it’s something we can get corrected as soon as possible, some things go our way, and we get into the playoffs.”
Keller was one of the few offensive bright spots against the Giants, hauling in eight passes for 77 yards. But the offense averaged just 3.7 yards a play, committed three turnovers and converted just four of 21 third downs. The Jets didn’t have a pass play longer than 15 yards and they have struggled to get explosion plays when they’ve turned to the air.
“We have a lot of calls of plays to be thrown down the field, but for some reason or another we’re not hitting those or we’re not really attempting those shots that we’ve had in the past,” DK said. “It’s something we have to get corrected and get better at. Hopefully it’s something that we correct immediately.”
After Mark Sanchez had 67 dropbacks (59 pass attempts, five sacks, three scrambles) last weekend, the Jets plan to establish more balance against the Dolphins. In the clubs’ first meeting at MetLife Stadium back on Oct. 17, Sanchez attempted 25 passes while Shonn Greene (21 carries, 74 yards) and LaDainian Tomlinson (7-25) combined for 28 carries.
The Jets ended up winning that contest, 24-6, but the offense got off to a very slow start. Darrelle Revis’ 100-yard interception return gave the Green & White an early lead and the offense didn’t get a first down until there was 5:33 left in the second stanza.
“I think in October the Dolphins were still playing pretty good defense. Now they’ve picked it up a notch in all phases,” Keller said. “Their D-Line gets to the quarterback really well and they’re good against the run. I think they’re third-best in the league against the run. They definitely do a lot of things really well. It’s going to be a really good challenge for us.”
Slow starts haven’t been a problem of late as the Jets have opened with a touchdown drive in three of their past four games. However, against the Giants they marched down with a 53-yard scoring drive that culminated on Sanchez’s 5-yard toss to Josh Baker and then things got ugly for most of the afternoon.
“Scoring on the first drive is something we’ve always strived for and we’ve always been known for starting slow and coming back, having these fourth-quarter comebacks,” DK said. “But you can’t be satisfied with the early start and then drop off the rest of the game. You have to maintain that.”
Execution comes down to being precise with the details. This is the same offense that was rolling just a couple of weeks ago, having converted 12 straight inside the red zone from late in Week 11 until the first drive of Week 15.
“It’s a lot of small things, whether it is the depth of your routes or us not being in sync with each other as far as what the hot route is off of,” Keller said. “Things like that can destroy your plays and we have to get those things fixed.”
If the offense gets going against the Dolphins and the Jets get some help, things can get fixed in a hurry.
“That’s the ultimate task, to just get it done — win our game,” Keller said. “That’s the one thing we can control, so we’re going to be focused on that.”
Tags: Dustin Keller, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, Miami Dolphins, Shonn Greene
Posted in Eric Allen | 80 Comments »
The Jets offense lately has been passing its screen test again.
The screen game, which can be so important to defeating an ultra-aggressive pass rush by picking up big chunks of yardage at a time, looked pretty impressive in the Jets’ first three games, particularly on LaDainian Tomlinson’s monster 74-yard catch-and-run from Mark Sanchez.
Then the screen started to get holes in it. In the six-game span from Baltimore through the home game against New England, the Jets completed only eight screens, and only one of them went for at least 10 yards.
But Joe McKnight breathed life into the screen game at Denver, and with two big plays out of it Sunday vs. the Chiefs — Shonn Greene’s 36-yard play to set up the Jets’ second TD and Tomlinson’s ice-breaking 19-yard TD play late in the first half — in the last month the devastating screen play is back on the front burner.
“It’s something we put a big focus on coming into training camp,” guard Brandon Moore said following today’s practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “They weren’t working as well in the beginning of the year. Just like everything else we try to correct … the things we’ve been working on have been showing up on Sundays. That’s the encouraging thing to see, especially this time of year.”
The screens were a big reason that Greene and Tomlinson were the major targets for Sanchez on Sunday. Greene had three receptions for 58 yards, Tomlinson two for 50. It was the first time in eight seasons and just the 14th time in franchise history that two Jets running backs each had 50-plus receiving yards in the same game.
So if it worked so well against the hard-charging Chiefs’ front seven, surely Brian Schottenheimer and Sanchez will be dialing the screens up against the harder-charging Eagles, the NFL’s top-sacking team?
“Well, they’re easy completions and if they make their way into the game plan this week, that’s great,” Sanchez said. “If not, we have to do it with runs and completions down the field or whatever it is. It’s just a good changeup for us, but you can’t just rely on something like that. We need to be good running the ball and throwing it downfield as well.”
With Wednesday comes the full-fledged start of the next week of the season. And this time it marks the next December day that Rex Ryan is having to move on down the home stretch without his safety.
“Jimmy Leonhard had surgery today. Everything went well,” Ryan said of the procedure to repair Leonhard’s torn right patella tendon. “And again, they always say that as long as you come out of it, so it went well.”
Ryan said at least he doesn’t feel that the defense will need a game to regroup from the loss of their quarterback as they did last year, when they went from the last practice of the week on Friday, when Leonhard broke his leg, into the Monday night 45-3 loss at New England.
“I think there was some unusual circumstance because he got hurt with one day left in the week for practice,” Ryan recalled. “I think that was what really contributed to that, and the fact that we were playing the Patriots. I don’t want to take anything away from them, but that was part of the issue, part of the problem.
“Right now there are no excuses. We have a full week’s preparation with Brodney Pool and Eric Smith, the same guys that closed out all the playoff games and everything else, so we feel really comfortable with those guys. Obviously, it’s an unfortunate injury, it’s a huge loss to us, but we’re built to still be effective.”
Tracy Wilson moves in behind Smitty and Brodney, and behind them will be Gerald Alexander, the interesting veteran signing announced late Tuesday. Rex said after today’s practice he’s still not certain where his new No. 42 factors into Sunday’s plan for the Eagles.
“We just had him out there today. We have a great deal of confidence in our scouting department. I know they were trying to get us the best player,” Ryan said. “Right now he’s swimming. He just came out there and we’ll see. Obviously, if we signed him, then upstairs feels pretty good about him. And seems like a nice young man.”
We spent some locker room time with Alexander today and we’ll bring you a profile on him Thursday. For now two notes to pique your interest: He was Boise State teammates with Kyle Wilson for one year. And he’s an avid Tweeter who can be found at twitter.com/galexander21
On the injury report front, the “swelling” on the Jets’ list in recent weeks has been reduced to 11 players. Only two didn’t practice today — G Brandon Moore (hip) and CB Marquice Cole (knee). Three more were listed as limited — DT Mike DeVito (knee), DL Marcus Dixon (hip) and S Eric Smith (knee).
“I feel pretty good about everybody, really,” said Ryan. ‘With Brandon, this was what we had talked about. We’ll probably limit him tomorrow, then have him full Friday. ‘Quice, we’ll see how his knee is. He’s probably questionable right now. All the other guys I think will be able to play, DeVito, Dixon and Smith.”
The coach added that DeVito, who has sat out four of the last seven games with knee issues, worked some 9-on-7 drills, handled some double teams, and “looked pretty good out there.”
For the Eagles, QB Michael Vick (ribs) led the four-man contingent that did not practice today. Also DNP were T Todd Herremans (ankle), DT Cullen Jenkins (groin) and DE Darryl Tapp (ribs). WR Jeremy Maclin (hamstring/shoulder) was limited, but coach Andy Reid said on a conference call with Jets reporters today that he thinks Maclin will play against the Jets.
Tags: Brodney Pool, Eric Smith, Gerald Alexander, Jim Leonhard, Kansas City Chiefs, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene, Tracy Wilson
Posted in Randy Lange | 57 Comments »
LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Vick will always be linked. On the eve of the 2001 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons moved up four spots to obtain the San Diego Chargers’ No. 1 overall selection.
“Keep in mind, I hadn’t talked to San Diego predraft or anything else,” Tomlinson recalled this week. “I remember when we were both at the draft the day before and Vick actually said to me, ‘You know what, they’re going to trade the pick and Atlanta is going to move to No. 1 and San Diego is going to jump back to No. 5 and get you.’”
Vick was a star at Virginia Tech while Tomlinson helped revive a program at Texas Christian. The Chargers had many needs and they were burned just a few years prior when they drafted Ryan Leaf with the No. 2 overall selection. After negotiating with Vick, the Bolts moved back for a package that included the swap of first-round picks and the acquisition of a third-round pick (No. 67, CB Tay Cody) in ’01, a second-rounder in ’02 (No. 48, WR Reche Caldwell) and WR-KR Tim Dwight.
Almost in disbelief after what he heard from Vick, Tomlinson couldn’t quite get in the SoCal frame of mind until the trade was official.
“I was like, ‘Why would you do that? He said, ‘Well, we can’t agree on the money.’ I still didn’t quite believe him at the time, but laying in my bed that night before the draft, I saw that they traded for Vick,” Tomlinson said. “I said, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m going to San Diego.’ That’s kind of when I knew that it was going to happen.”
The Chargers not only got themselves an outstanding running back, but they came back in the second round and took a flyer on a small quarterback with questionable arm strength. Purdue product Drew Brees was his name and he turned out to be a sensational player in his own right.
“I was the fifth pick and I think Drew Brees was actually like the 32nd pick or something like that. It was the first pick in the second round,” Tomlinson said. “If you think about that, they had two Hall of Fame guys that they drafted that year. So it’s pretty unbelievable picking by John Butler.”
They are working on Tomlinson’s bust in Canton, Ohio. He’s third on the NFL’s all-time list for career touchdowns with 162, and he needs just 73 yards to move past Jerome Bettis and into fifth place on the all-time rushing list.
“I can’t say enough about the late John Butler and his family, giving me the opportunity to play in this league,” he said. “He believed in me and as a younger player he did say I reminded him of Thurman Thomas, who he had in Buffalo. At that time, I just told him that I hoped I could live up to half of the things Thurman Thomas has done. John Butler was great to be around.”
Tomlinson and the Jets have been hanging around the end zone a lot lately. They average 26.2 points a game and have scored 13 touchdowns over the last three weeks, including 12 straight in the red zone.
“I think that’s the thing people really need to focus on because last year we were one of the worst teams in the red zone,” said Tomlinson, who against the Chiefs celebrated his first home score as a Jet. “This year we’re tops in the league in the red zone. Just to kind of show people this offense, when we put our minds that we want to be good at something —we get the job done. A lot of that has to do with coaching. Schotty is the main one up there preaching that to us every single day, pointing out the things we’re doing wrong, correcting what we’re doing wrong. That’s how we’re moving forward.”
The 32-year-old Tomlinson still has moves that wow us. After missing Weeks 11 and 12 with a knee sprain, he again tweaked the same knee at Washington and was limited in Week 13. But he had six touches against the Chiefs, including a beautiful 31-yard catch-and-run after making rookie Justin Houston look like a traffic cone in coverage.
“It was funny because I felt kind of disrespected a little bit. He’s kind of a defensive end/linebacker and they just had him 1-on-1 with me,” Tomlinson said. “In my opinion, at that time, if I can’t beat him, then it’s time for me to retire and get out of the game. I’m done if I can’t win my matchup.”
Now close to 11 years after a historic draft day trade, Tomlinson hopes he can secure a win against Vick’s team. Vick and the Eagles haven’t had the success they’ve wanted, but they remain explosive and Tomlinson would like to see No. 7 on the sideline most of the day.
“That’s going to be critical for us is time of possession,” he said. “We would love to keep them off the field and allow our defense to rest. We don’t know what kind of game it’s going to be as far as the weather. We all know this time of year you have to be able to run the football and that’s one of the things we’ve been doing good of late, so we have to continue that.”
Tags: 2001 Draft, LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Vick, San Diego Chargers, Thurman Thomas
Posted in Eric Allen | 14 Comments »
The Jets literally ran away from the Kansas City Chiefs today, and backs Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson were in front of the charge.
This one was over early as the Green & White dominated in the first half and led, 28-3, at the break. Greene and Tomlinson combined for 190 total yards in the first 30 minutes, accounting for 75 percent of the Jets’ 253 yards. Greene ended up rushing for the second-highest regular-season output of his career in the 37-10 rout, going for 129 yards on 24 carries for a 5.4-yard average.
“Shonn and I talked about that before the game that as running backs, let’s be the guys to put the game on our back and make some plays for this game,” Tomlinson said. “We both did that, so it feels good to have that type of game.”
Ironically, the Jets, who outgained the Chiefs in the first half, 253-4, actually got off to a slow start as Mark Sanchez was forced to call a timeout before the first play from scrimmage. But Greene didn’t mind and raced for a season-long 31 yards on the game’s first play. That carry gave him a career high in rush yards as he eclipsed his 766 total from his sophomore campaign and the Jets were well on their way.
“I think it was important to start off the game fast, especially after taking that first timeout,” Greene said. “You don’t want to start out like that, so I think that helped us get over that hump.”
Sanchez, who became the first Jets QB to throw for two touchdowns and rush for a pair in the same contest, actually culminated the 11-play, 77-yard possession on a 1-yard keeper. It was his fourth rush TD on the season, a career-high, and it also marked the second consecutive week the Jets had scored on their first drive.
With a 7-3 lead late in the first, S Jim Leonhard intercepted a Tyler Palko pass at the Chiefs 38. After Sanchez had been sacked a pair of times earlier, the third-year QB used Greene to beat a first-down blitz. Greene caught a short ball along the KC sideline, got a nice block from LG Matt Slauson and tiptoed for 36 yards.
“It was executed very well. The line got out to block downfield,” Greene said. “I tried to score, but I couldn’t quite get there. We got a touchdown anyway.”
“Our screen game has really been good,” Tomlinson added. “It’s something our group really worked hard on in the offseason — training camp, we worked hard on it. That was a point of emphasis that we wanted to improve on and I think we’ve done that.”
Sanchez would cash in from the 4, hitting Santonio Holmes in the back of the end zone as the Jets went up, 14-3.
Later in the second stanza, Tomlinson set the table for Greene. Rookie Justin Houston, a Georgia product, had the terribly unfair assignment of sticking with LT out of the backfield on third-and-8 from the KC-44. The result was predictable as No. 21 got free over the middle with his wonderful route and sprinted for 31 yards.
“As long as he’s out there, he can still make plays,” Greene said of his backfield mate. “That’s why we have him here. I’m just grateful to have him because he makes some big plays out there.”
Greene fumbled the ball away to the Chiefs on the next play, but head coach Rex Ryan challenged that he was down on contact and won on the reversal. That set up Greene’s 7-yard scoring run and the “Money Zone” streak remained intact as the Jets moved past the goal line for a 10th consecutive time inside the opponents’ 20. Greene’s fourth rush TD in the past two games made it a 21-3 game.
“I was kind of angry, so I wanted to get in the end zone,” said Greene of the sequence.
Tomlinson, who has accomplished almost everything you can dream of individually, capped off the first half in style with his first home touchdown as a Jet. Sanchez, operating out of the ‘gun, surveyed the field and got another screen set up on the right side. Tomlinson got a couple of blocks from his linemen and then made CB Travis Daniels look silly before getting in from 19 yards out.
“It was a good feeling,” Tomlinson said. “As I got closer to the end zone, I could kind of smell it. I was just thinking, ‘Please, nobody grab me. Please, nobody grab me.’ ”
The Chiefs had no answers for the backfield tandem in the first half as Green amassed 125 yards (12 carries for 67 yards, three receptions for 58) and Tomlinson 65 (7-for-15, 2-for-50) in the first half while the Chiefs had 4 yards of offense total. Greene reached triple digits in rush yards for the second time this season on a 4-yard carry in the final stanza.
“He’s a beast,” Tomlinson said. “He carried the load, he wore guys down and he had some big runs. That’s the way a Pro Bowl running back runs.”
While the outcome was decided before the second half, Sanchez tacked on another rushing TD in the third quarter. That was No. 5 for No. 6 this season and the Jets made it 12-for-their-last-12 inside the 20.
“That’s pretty decent,” Green said of his quarterback. “That guy has a knack for the end zone whether it’s throwing or running. He’s going to get there.”
The 8-5 Jets equaled their season high with their third consecutive win and moved to 6-1 at MetLife Stadium. They remain very much in the playoff hunt and they figure to be a tough out in December and possibly January if Greene and Tomlinson can stay hot.
“We want to play our best football at this time,” Tomlinson said. “We understand what’s at stake, so we’re just going to keep on battling.”
“We were just clicking. We just had a rhythm,” Greene said of the offense. “When this team has a rhythm, we can be unstoppable.”
Tags: Kansas City Chiefs, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene
Posted in Eric Allen | 99 Comments »
Several wrinkles went into the Jets’ necessary Sunday triumph over the Redskins. Some were familiar friends such as another Mark Sanchez fourth-quarter rally and Santonio Holmes game-winning grab and another strong defensive rebound after giving up 10 points on their first two series.
One was a long-lost relative we hadn’t seen for a while: the Wildcat.
“I think it’s tough to defend some of that if you’re not really focused on it,” head coach Rex Ryan said today in a conference call with reporters. “This was a good team, really good against the run, and we thought we could challenge them by putting in some of those things. That was my feeling on it and Schotty said, ‘Yeah, that sounds like a great idea, let’s go for it” and Bill Callahan did a good job putting in the blocking schemes for it. I thought it was successful.”
Ryan, a defensive coach born and bred, downplayed the idea that he contributed a main component of the offensive game plan to coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
“We’re just trying to help. We’re all on the same page. If there’s something I see that might be decent for us, whether it’s a play or something like that, we’ll mention it,” he said. “We’ll have our defensive coaches sometimes come up with suggestions for the offense and vice versa. We don’t care where we get it from — even though I wanted credit after the touchdown … no, I’m kidding.”
The TD in question was Shonn Greene’s second scoring run to make it 27-16, coming with 3:42 to play, two plays after the Aaron Maybin/Calvin Pace strip sack and recovery against Rex Grossman 9 yards from a big shovelful of paydirt on the Redskins’ grave for this game.
It was the seventh and last direct snap of the game and it was the most successful of the bunch. On the first six ‘Cats, three snaps went to Greene, two to Jeremy Kerley and one to LaDainian Tomlinson, the Jets gained only 17 yards and no first downs. But three of them were used on the Jets’ first opening-drive TD in 10 games, which also was their longest scoring drive of the season in plays (17) and time (9:06).
And LT’s 5-yard gain was the play immediately preceding the dam-breaker, Sanchez’s and Holmes’ 30-yard pump-fake Sluggo (slant-and-go) TD play that gave the Jets’ their first lead at 20-16 with 4:49 to play.
So it’s hard to say definitively that the Wildcat turned the tide for the Green & White, but perhaps it worked just enough for things to loosen up when they did. But after Brad Smith ran the TurDucKen, er, the Wildcat/Seminole/Tiger more than 35 times last year, often to great effect, and after Ryan and Schottenheimer talked about working Tomlinson and Kerley into that role this preseason, the Jets may have called for the ‘Cat maybe twice in the first 11 games?
And considering the lack of use of the formation for most of the year, perhaps it will go back in mothballs for the final four-game push toward the playoffs. But it was a good example of the Jets coaches’ and players’ reliance on one another now that there’s no more wiggle left in the room they’ve left for themselves.
“We all want the same thing. We built this team, Mike Tannenbaum and myself and everybody else, on respect, about building people up. That’s who we are,” Ryan said. “We have a great deal of confidence in the people we have in this building. When we pull in the same direction, we’re tough to beat, no doubt about it. Are we perfect? No. Green Bay’s got a perfect record but even they’re not perfect. We recognize that. But we’ve just got to be true to ourselves and stay the course. We know what works for us and that’s basically what we do.”
Ryan gave an early preview of the injury questions that could be facing the Jets this week as they attempt to get to 8-5 at MetLife Stadium against the Chiefs on Sunday.
Tomlinson came away with his aggravated knee, but he did return to the game after twisting the knee on the Redskins sideline.
“I thought he got hurt because of a horsecollar tackle,” Ryan said, “but really, when he was getting up, he slipped on that little carpet or whatever they put on the sideline. He kind of slipped. I think he’ll be OK.
“He was able to finish, did a great job protecting the quarterback on third down. … In typical LT fashion, he said, ‘I can block. I’ll be fine.’ Here’s one of the greatest running backs in the history of the game — ‘I’ll go in and block.’ “
Joe McKnight was limited due to a hyperextended elbow. Ryan wasn’t sure today about the MRI results. “We’ll see how it is,” the coach said. “I probably don’t anticipate him practicing Wednesday. His status for the game, I’m not sure.”
And DT Mike DeVito, who sat out with his new knee injury, “was out jogging today” at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, Ryan said. “I think his status is probably uncertain. I know DeVito’s going to do whatever he can to get back and play.”
In Search of Happier Returns
Ryan said that Kerley, who suffered his third punt fumble of the season, his second muff and his first lost fumble late in the second quarter, was at the complex today fielding punts. The coach is impressed with his rookie’s work habits and his athleticism, but that may not prevent him and ST coordinator Mike Westhoff from turning to Jim Leonhard in that role down the home stretch.
“I feel really comfortable with having Jim Leonhard back there,” Ryan said. “I know Westy and I feel the same way. I think that’s how we’re going to go.”
Mighty Red Zone Machine
RZ juggernaut might be overdoing it, but the Jets, with their two TDs in two opportunities vs. the ‘Skins, are now the No. 1 red zone offense in the NFL.
Sanchez and the Jets have now converted seven consecutive drives inside the opponents’ 20 into touchdowns — their longest streak since the end of the 2002 season, when they went 9-for-9 — and are 25-for-37 on the season, a 67.6 TD-drive percentage that tops No. 2 Tennessee (18-for-27, 66.7 percent) and No. 3 New England (35-for-53, 66.0 percent). And it is likely the Jets will retain the top spot once San Diego and Jacksonville are finished tonight and Week 13 is in the books.
The Jets are also 6-for-6 in their last two games, the first time they’ve been 6-for-6 or better in back-to-back games since the start of the 1993 season.
Tags: Bill Callahan, Brad Smith, Brian Schottenheimer, Jeremy Kerley, joe McKnight, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mike DeVito, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene, Washington Redskins
Posted in Randy Lange | 58 Comments »
Updated, 5:54 p.m. ET
In the knee joint, the Jets took one step back and two steps ahead today.
DT Mike DeVito did not practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, and head coach Rex Ryan’s prognosis remained the same for MDV as it was Monday: “It doesn’t look good for him this week.”
But RB LaDainian Tomlinson and WR Jeremy Kerley, who both came out of Game 9 vs. New England with knee issues that kept them sidelined the next two games, are looking better for a return to action Sunday at Washington.
“I think LT and Kerley looked really, really good to me out there,” Ryan said at his daily news conference. “They looked fresh and ready to roll. That’s a good sign.”
It would be hard statistically to show what the absence of these two players, one venerable veteran, one promising rookie, did to the Jets’ offensive attack. In the last two games the Jets have averaged 110.5 rushing yards compared to a 119.8 figure for the previous five, but that might be attributed partly to Shonn Greene’s sore ribcage. Total-yardage-wise, the average of the first nine games (314.1) is almost identical to the average of the last two (318.0).
But that wouldn’t tell the whole story. Kerley added an element of excitement as the slot receiver and as the improving punt returner. Tomlinson’s pregame fire and in-game contributions are considerable. Perhaps the best thing to be said is that with Patrick Turner emerging in the passing game and Joe McKnight getting more reps behind Greene for LT, if those two return to the lineup it can only help Mark Sanchez and the offense.
“To have Kerley back would be awesome this week. He’s working hard, he got reps in practice today and stuff so it’s looking good, but we’ll see,” Sanchez said in front of his locker. “Same thing with LT. He just provides us one other great perspective, somebody who has been in positions like this, somebody who knows what crunch-time games are like and somebody that has great hands out of the backfield and can run the rock. So it’s big for us.”
And if the Jets can get all hands on deck Sunday at FedEx Field, that will help them in their quest to keep winning these one-game seasons in front of them from now through the end of the regular season.
Plax, Stevie and the Red Zone
WR Plaxico Burress continued to take the high road regarding Bills WR Stevie Johnson, who Associated Press reports was fined $10,000 by the NFL for his post-TD celebration that included him “shooting” himself in the thigh, a reference to Burress’ gun-violation issues of the previous two years.
“I don’t have a problem with Stevie at all,” Burress said. “He’s a very charismatic guy with his celebrations and he’s just trying to have fun. I think he’ll continue to grow as a person.”
Burress continues to pose a threat for anyone trying to cover him in the red zone. With his 14-yard second-quarter scoring catch from Sanchez vs. the Bills, Plax now has six catches inside the opponents’ 20, which is tied in the NFL for the most among wideouts this season with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and New England’s Wes Welker.
Which segues nicely into this note: The Jets have risen to second in the NFL in the red zone benchmark measure of TD percentage. All four touchdowns Sunday vs. the Bills were RZ scores, giving the Jets 23 TDs in 35 forays inside the opponents’ 20, a 65.7 percent rate that trails only Tennessee (17-for-24, 70.8).
The Redskins have 11 players on their initial injury report of the week. Four starters did not practice — LB London Fletcher (ankle), S LaRon Landry (groin), DE Stephen Bowen (knee) and FB Darrel Young (head). Three more were limited during team drills, including two starters — LB Brian Orakpo (ankle) and RT Jammal Brown (hip). Among the four full-go ‘Skins was QB Rex Grossman (left shoulder).
Chester McGlockton Dead at 42
A sad note today: Chester McGlockton, 42, the four-time Pro Bowl D-lineman who spent the last season of his 12-year playing career with the Jets in 2003, has died, according to the Fayetteville Observer’s Web site.
McGlockton, in his second season as a defensive assistant at Stanford, was reported to have awoken at his home in San Ramon, Calif., this morning experiencing shortness of breath and then an apparent heart attack.
Tags: Jeremy Kerley, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mike DeVito, Plaxico Burress, Rex Ryan, Stevie Johnson, Washington Redskins
Posted in Randy Lange | 42 Comments »
When the Jets and Bills met for the first time this season in Week 9, the game featured two teams with winning records battling for position atop the AFC East. Three weeks later, both sit at 5-5 and both are in dire need of a win.
The Bills come into MetLife Stadium riding a three-game losing streak in which they have been outscored, 106-26. A year that had started so promisingly has taken an abrupt turn for the worse, and Buffalo is left scrambling to save its season. The Jets are also looking to stop the bleeding after consecutive losses have dropped them to .500 and in danger of missing the playoffs.
“It’s always a tough game between us and the Bills,” said CB Darrelle Revis. “We’re familiar with them, they’re familiar with us, and we know they’re going to bring it. It’s a must-win for them, too. Both teams know what’s at stake this Sunday.”
After shoring up early-season defensive woes, the Jets have settled in and are playing their traditionally stout defense. A masterful performance in Denver was marred by the late-game 95-yard touchdown drive led by QB Tim Tebow. Nonetheless, the Green & White think they learned something about themselves – and the Bills – after that clinic earlier this month in Orchard Park, N.Y.
“If you can disrupt the short passing game and defend the run, you can stop them,” said Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. “I think that’s the blueprint that we kind of laid out. If you watch, there have been a lot of similar elements of our game plan against them in the last couple of games.”
Coming into the Week 9 tilt, the Bills had averaged 380 yards of total offense per game. The Jets defense mauled Buffalo, holding them to 287 yards of total offense. The Bills possessed the football for only 22:08, easily their lowest possession time of the season.
“If you have the ability to match them 1-on-1, get in the passing lanes early and get decent pressure on the quarterback, that helps,” said Pettine. “We have the challenge of how much do we stay the same, knowing they’ll adjust.”
The Bills will have to adjust without the NFL’s third-leading rusher, RB Fred Jackson, who fractured his fibula in their 35-8 loss in Miami on Sunday. He was ruled out of this week’s game on Wednesday, then placed on season-ending IR shortly thereafter.
Jackson will be replaced by C.J. Spiller, the multithreat second-year speedster. Drafted as a running back out of Clemson in 2010, Spiller has seen an increased workload as a wide receiver since Jackson tightened his stranglehold on the tailback position.
“We have to make some adjustments in our matchups because you are essentially taking a player with wide receiver ability and putting him in the backfield, so you can’t really play him the same way,” said Pettine. “That’s the one advantage he gives them is that he’s both.”
Despite the Pro Bowl-type season Jackson was enjoying prior to his injury, Pettine sees the Bills as a more dynamic passing attack than a damaging rushing squad.
“I think their run game is fairly straightforward,” said Pettine. “I would say the pass game has some complexity to it. They can throw out of two-backs, they can throw out of one-back. It’s a lot more empty backfield than most teams. They have a lot of routes that are very complementary to each other, that are all predicated on what coverage you’re in.”
The win at Ralph Wilson Stadium was one of the best games the Green & White have played all season. Both sides of the ball stepped up to earn the road victory at a critical juncture in the season. Now at another crossroads, the Jets need to duplicate that effort at MetLife Stadium.
The defense is playing well, but has not lived up to the “elite” moniker the coaching staff wishes to apply to its squad. According to Pettine, there is a hurdle in the way.
“We’re close, but if we want to be elite, it’s the closing-games part of it. The inconsistency has led us to where we’re a good enough defense to be 5-5. You are what your record says you are. We’ve had opportunities to close out some games and we haven’t been able to do it.”
Rex Ryan at today’s news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center laid out his 16-player injury report, with only two players listed as questionable and the rest as probable for the Bills.
The two questionable players are important pieces to the Jets’ offensive puzzle, though — RB LaDainian Tomlinson and WR Jeremy Kerley.
“With LT, I never know if I should put him questionable or doubtful,” Ryan said. “He’s in that range. He’s probably right in the middle there. I think he’d play, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll go,” but what are we going to get? What’s going to happen to him if we play him? That’s a balancing act. We absolutely have to win, but we have to win the rest of ‘em, too.”
Kerley seemed a little closer to returning to action, although he did not participate in today’s shorter practice either. Ryan called his rookie WR a “gametime decision.”
LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson (ankle) was added to the Jets’ list but he practiced full and is listed as probable. Click here for the Jets’ complete injury report for the game.
The Bills are listing six players as out for the Jets, including three that they’ve placed on IR this week — Jackson, WR Donald Jones (ankle) and CB Terrence McGee — plus S George Wilson (neck), WR Naaman Roosevelt (shoulder) and K Rian Lindell. Dave Rayner has been kicking for the Bills since Lindell hurt the shoulder trying to tackle Joe McKnight on his long kickoff return to start the second half at Buffalo three games ago.
Probables after full practices today in Western New York are WRs Stevie Johnson (shoulder) and David Nelson (illness) and T Demetrius Bell (shoulder).
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Darrelle Revis, Jeremy Kerley, LaDainian Tomlinson, MetLife Stadium, Mike Pettine
Posted in Andrew LeRay | 26 Comments »