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Jets’ Toughest Quarter of ’13? Games 5-8

Posted by Randy Lange on June 12, 2013 – 7:21 am

As promised, two weeks after we broke out a blog on the first quarter of the Jets’ 2013 regular-season schedule, it’s time to post up some tweet-sized bullet points for each game on the slate in the second quarter of the season, Games 5-8.

Game 5 — @ Atlanta, Georgia Dome, Monday, Oct. 7, 8:40 p.m.

■ Jets trail series 6-4. Last win vs Falcons: 28-3 in Meadowlands in 1998. Last road win: 28-14 at Atlanta-Fulton Co. Stadium in ’86.

■ In teams’ last game in ATL, in ’05, Jets QB was Vinny Testaverde, Falcons QB Michael Vick, who ran for pair of TDs in 27-14 MON night win.

■ In teams’ last meeting in ’09, Falcons prevailed 10-7 on 6-yd TD pass from Matt Ryan to TE Tony Gonzalez with 1:38 to play.

■ This is scheduled to be Jets’ only MON night game, last primetime game of season. Last time they played fewer than 3 in primetime: 2008.

Game 6 — vs. PITTSBURGH, MetLife Stadium, Sunday, Oct. 13, 1 p.m.

■ Jets trail series 16-4 but have won 2 of last 4 and last 2 at home: ’03 Curtis Martin snow game by 6-0, ’07 game after bye 19-16 in OT.

■ ’07 win set up by Leon Washington’s 33-yd OT punt return, Mike Nugent’s 38-yard FG. Jets should see Leon, Mike in 2 following weeks.

■ Ben Roethlisberger career vs Jets: 98-for-168 (58.3%) for 1192 yds, 5 TDs, 7 INTS, 18 sacks for 72.8 passer rating, 4-2 record.

■ WR Santonio Holmes, PIT’s 1st-round pick in ’06, vs his former team in 3 games w/ Jets (incl POs): 11 catches, 129 yds (11.7 avg), 2 TDs.

Game 7 — vs. NEW ENGLAND, MetLife Stadium, Sunday, Oct. 20, 1 p.m.

■ Jets lead series at home 27-25, despite losing last 2, both in primetime (37-16, SUN night, 2011; 49-19, Thanksgiving night last yr).

■ This will be the first time Jets have played NE twice in season’s first 7 weeks since 2000, when they were 2-0 vs. Pats after Game 6.

■ Tom Brady in Meadowlands vs Jets since 2001: 223-for-356 (62.6%) for 2702 yds, 20 TDs, 6 INTs, 97.6 passer rating, 9-2 record.

■ Leon Washington w/ Jets (’06-09) vs. w/ SEA (’10-12): rush avg. 4.7 to 4.2; receiving avg. 7.9-6.9, PR avg. 9.4-10.3, KR avg. 25.5-26.2.

Game 8 — @ Cincinnati, Paul Brown Stadium, Sunday, Oct. 27, 4:05 p.m.

■ Jets lead series 15-7 after winning last 3 at home (last: 26-10, Thanksgiving night ’10) and most recent game at PBS (24-14, ’09 AFC WC Game).

■ Rex Ryan, DL coach under DC Marvin Lewis on Ravens from 1999-2001, is 3-0 vs Lewis as HC, and Jets are 5-1 overall vs Lewis’ CIN teams.

■ Among Bengals they’re expected to face: K Mike Nugent. His first 4 NFL seasons w/ Jets he was 75-for-92 (81.5%) on FGs. Last 3 yrs w/ CIN he’s 67-for-80 (83.8%).

■ Second 4 games of 2013 schedule is the Jets’ toughest quarter. In ’12 ATL, PIT, NE & CIN combined for 43-21 record (.672) and 3 PO berths.


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STS*: Sunday Test Is Getting Leon Tackled

Posted by jlholt32 on November 10, 2012 – 11:44 am

The Jets will run into a familiar face Sunday at CenturyLink Field when they take on the Seattle Seahawks. Leon Washington spent the first four years of his NFL career as a part of the Jets and is now in his third season with this week’s opponent from the NFC West.

Washington was traded by the Green & White to Seattle in the spring of 2010 for a fifth-round draft pick. Despite no longer being with the franchise, he remains the Jets’ career leader with four kickoff-return touchdowns.

“I always said I was glad Leon was on my team because then I didn’t have to try and tackle him,” Jets safety Eric Smith said this week. “Leon is good when he has the ball in his hands, he’s good at making people miss, so it’s going to be a challenge for us on our returns to get him tackled.”

Washington ranks sixth in the NFL with an average of 29.1 yards on 15 returns this season. In 2008 he played in the Pro Bowl after leading the NFL with 1,606 all-purpose yards. The next year, his last with the Jets, he played in seven games before his season was cut short by a compound fracture of his fibula during the win at Oakland.

“I remember when I got traded, Rex came and talked to me and said, ‘Look, Leon, we have to pay a bunch of guys, Nick Mangold, David, Harris’ — I remember him saying the names — ‘Darrelle Revis,’ and stuff like that,” he recalled. “It’s a business, so I understand it. I was thankful that I had the opportunity that they drafted me in the first place. It was awesome.”

Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said he wasn’t involved with the team’s decision in not bringing Washington back. These days he notices Washington on Seattle highlights but doesn’t study him to the extent he once did.

“If you watch their first game that they played this year,” Westhoff said, “he broke the long kickoff and the long punt. He looks pretty good to me. He looks very solid. I have a lot of respect and I think he’s a darn good football player.”

Smith said he hasn’t talked with his former teammate in quite some time but is looking forward to reuniting with him Sunday. He hasn’t forgotten all of Washington’s big runs and kickoff returns.

“He’s done well,” Smith said. “You don’t hear about it much. But we keep up on him and it looks like every game he’s almost breaking one.”

Washington said he stays in contact with the Jets on Twitter and usually reconnects with tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Revis in the offseason. He doesn’t hold any grudges toward his former team and is happy with the way things turned out.

“There’s no added attention to me playing the Jets,” he said. “Honestly — and I’m very serious when I say this — we’re concerned about what we’re doing out here. We have a really good football team and we’re trying to put things together. So we’re not too concerned about our opponent. We’re prepared for them but we’re concerned about doing things we need to do in order for us to win the game.

“Would I like to return a kickoff for a touchdown against the Jets? Yes. Would I like to return a kickoff for a touchdown against the 49ers, the Rams or whoever it may be? Yes.”

*Special Teams Saturday


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‘D’ Dons Black Jerseys for Final Minicamp Practice

Posted by Randy Lange on June 14, 2012 – 4:21 pm

The black jerseys came out for the final practice of the Jets’ full-squad minicamp.

Head coach Rex Ryan surprised his defensive players by replacing their green jerseys with black tops and white numbers to go against the usual white jerseys and green numbers on the offensive side of the ball for today’s single practice before most players headed for home and their last break before the start of training camp.

“Whatever the emphasis is at training camp, let’s say it’s red zone or ball security or trying to force turnovers, the group I feel did the best in that specific drill, I’ll put that group in black jerseys the next practice,” Ryan told reporters at his minicamp wrap-up news conference this afternoon. “I put it on the defense today because I’m a defensive guy. But it’s just a little fun thing, pick up the practice, stuff like that. It makes them think what the emphases are, and that’s why we broke out the jerseys.”

Black jerseys certainly have a Darth Vader-ish college feel. The last time we remember the Jets going to them was in 2004, when then-DC Donnie Henderson awarded black jerseys with gold numbers to individual defenders, an idea that Nebraska was popularizing at the time. Florida State, among other schools, have sight-adjusted to black jerseys for certain games.

Rex said he got this thought for an entire unit to get a new wardrobe at training camp from OC Tony Sparano.

“Rex just did it to throw it out there,” said linebacker Bryan Thomas. “Hopefully by the end of training camp everybody will have black jerseys on.”

The defense definitely rose to the occasion a few times at today’s 1½-hour session with 1,550 fans in attendance. On the first play of 11-on-11’s, Mark Sanchez play-faked, dropped back and threw — right into the looming figure of DE Muhammad Wilkerson, who swatted the pass backward, then wagged his finger at Sanchez, as if to say, “Not in our house.”

On another play, Sanchez tried to fire a ball over the middle for TE Jeff Cumberland, who hadn’t turned around. It hit David Harris in the numbers and the LB couldn’t hold on. Still, another notch in the black belts.

But the guys in the white jerseys did have some successes nevertheless. Sanchez fired to TE Dustin Keller on the post for the “TD,” after which Keller offered one of his patented crossbar dunks. Tim Tebow hit Joe McKnight on a crossing route for an in-stride completion that had long-gainer written all over it.

When it was over, Ryan sent his players away with a message about their conditioning over the next five weeks before the week that they gather their gear together and head north to Cortland, N.Y.

“I talked about trying to get in great shape because I want this team to own the fourth quarter. That’s something we need to do,” he said. “You do that by making strides in the offseason with your conditioning. It’s really on them. This is like the old college deal about the ‘dead period.’ As a coach, you can’t contact your players. It’s on each other. We need to come back in shape. It used to be you could be a little heavy going into training camp and drop a few pounds. That’s not going to be the case now. You can have one padded practice and one walkthrough practice each day. There are not as many reps as there had been in the past. You have to do extra things in conditioning to get yourself ready.”

Tebow with the Ones?

Wednesday morning Ryan said Tebow might get some reps with the first offense in training camp but for now he was with the twos. Then in Wednesday’s midday practice, Tebow took a couple of reps with the ones. Ryan didn’t even wait to get asked about that this afternoon.

“Apparently I need to be at more offensive meetings. So I kind of missed that one,” Ryan said of Sparano’s call to work Tebow on that limited basis with the first group. “Tony just put him in there for a couple of shots.

“I just wanted you guys to know there’s no quarterback controversy. This is the way it’s going to be: Sanchez is the starting quarterback. Tim’s behind him.”

But every once in a while, the No. 2 QB will work with the ones, just in case.

Breaking Down the Team

The last official event on the field today, before the players signed autographs and then headed to the locker room, was to break down the team. That duty this time went to a special guest — Bobby Parente, who today worked his last day of a 38-year career with the team as its senior vice president of programming and media production before shifting to a consultant’s role.

It was a teary time for Bobby and for a few of the players who know him, and the moisture was repeated when the business staff gave him a standing ovation at the entrance to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center as he left for the last time as a full-time employee. He has been a great friend and invaluable adviser to so many of us who call the Jets our team and our home away from home.

Shortly after he told the organization of his plans a few weeks ago, he offered some observations to me below about his career:

“I am the luckiest Jets fan in the world. I grew up a Jets fan, I went to my first game in 1964, and I worked for the team I love for 38 years. I started as a summer intern in 1974.

“My first job as an intern was to polish the Super Bowl trophy. I drove Weeb Ewbank to Shea Stadium in the morning, then I went to the Jets’ offices in the city, and on way home I picked Weeb up. What an education about football for an 18-year-old.

“I have made many great friends throughout football and sports. I look forward to helping the organization as a consultant going forward.”


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McKnight, Kerley Made Versatile Impacts in ’11

Posted by Randy Lange on January 3, 2012 – 3:46 pm

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.


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STS*: Kerley’s Comfortable, Confident, Patient

Posted by Randy Lange on December 31, 2011 – 12:26 pm

Having the better field position on the Sun Life Stadium pitch on Sunday will be a valued piece to the puzzle if the Jets eke out a win over the Dolphins and squeak into the AFC playoff grid. And there are a few areas to watch to see if the Green & White are giving themselves the best chance for the road win.

On the punt return front, it’s better late than never. Jeremy Kerley is getting up a head of steam.

“I’m starting to feel more comfortable and more confident back there,” Kerley said of his role early in the season and now late on the calendar as the team’s main punt returner. “That’s what you need to play with. That’s what you’ve got to have as a punt returner and a kick returner. You’ve got to be confident in yourself. When something goes wrong, you’ve got to shake it off and put it in the back of your head, because you can make a mistake thinking about what just happened.”

No mistakes Saturday — Kerley was as good as he’s been all season against the Giants. His first return was a 22-yarder to near midfield to start the Jets on their opening TD drive. Then he reeled off returns of 28, 14 and 10 yards. That’s four returns for 74 yards. He had 80 yards in Game 3 at Oakland, and those two games are among the four top PR-yardage games for the Jets in the last eight seasons.

The list includes Santana Moss’ 83-yard, one-TD game in the ’04 playoff game at Pittsburgh and Leon Washington’s 77-yard outing vs. Cincinnati in ’08.

Someday Kerley is going to go the distance and that would be most welcome for coaches Mike Westhoff and Ben Kotwica and Jets fandom because that return will likely be the one that ends the Jets’ drought of 118 games without a punt-return TD, tied for the longest in the NFL. But JK’s already got some of that professional perseverance working for him. He’s not going to force the issue at Miami.

“It’ll come, it’ll come. You’ve just got to be patient,” he said. “I’m approaching this game how I approach all of the games, because when you try to do too much, that’s when something will happen.”

On the kickoff front, the Jets in theory could have the edge in any KO exchanges. With Joe McKnight and Antonio Cromartie splitting the return duties recently because of McKnight’s elbow/shoulder issues, the Jets are off of their blistering season-opening pace yet still handily lead the NFL in average drive start after returns (26.4) while Miami’s coverage is 17th in opponents’ average drive start.

McKnight has been getting full-time treatment this week as he tries to finish his first regular season by nailing down several distinctions. He currently leads the NFL with a 31.9-yard average and could become the first Jet since Justin Miller in 2006 to lead the league in that department. And he could also break Bobby Humphery’s franchise record of 30.7 yards per return, with which he led the NFL in his rookie season in 1984.

While the Jets’ kickoff returns remain among the best in the game, their kickoff coverage unit has risen to prominence and could also play a field position role Sunday. Nick Folk’s kickoffs are resulting in an opponents’ drive start of their 21.3-yard line, seventh in the league, while the Dolphins’ returners, led by rookie Clyde Gates and his 25.0 return average, are again middle of the pick, 16th in the league with an average return to their 21.8.

It’s not just the coverage of the Jets’ big four special tacklers — Nick Bellore, Josh Mauga, Jamaal Westerman and Garrett McIntyre. Folk’s hangtime has had a lot to do with the Jets’ averages and their 25 inside-the-20 stops, third in the NFL.

“I’ve always had that. My natural kick is to get it up in the air pretty good,” Folk said this week. “I’m going to work on trying to get a little more drive on it this offseason. Early in the year I had that down, then as they year went on, well, I’ve got to make sure that stays more consistent throughout the year.

“But when you’re leading the league and they’re starting right at their 20 almost every time, you can’t really get mad at that. Our guys, they want to go down there and make tackles, try to get a turnover and whatnot. They’re excited about the touchbacks, but they’re also excited to make a big play inside the 20.”

It surprised me when I went back to check on the Jets’ kickoff hangtimes that I’ve kept over the last decade. From Doug Brien through Mike Nugent and Jay Feely, none of them ever had a season in which they averaged 4.00 seconds per kickoff. The closest was Feely’s 2009 season at 3.92. Folk came in last year and averaged 4.12 seconds, and this season he’s up to 4.24, a figure that was anchored by his current streak of 41 of his last 42 kickoffs hanging for at least 4.00 seconds.

Every tenth of a second helps, especially with a season on the line in the warm Miami air Sunday.

*Special Teams Saturday


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Esiason Likes Direction Sanchez Is Heading

Posted by Eric Allen on June 24, 2010 – 11:01 am

As a rookie, Mark Sanchez helped lead the New York Jets to an improbable AFC Championship appearance, elevating his game in the postseason. And former Jets signalcaller Boomer Esiason believes that rise is set to continue in September.

“This is usually where the players make their biggest jump and I suspect, with Mark’s personality and the way he handled the downturns last year, he’ll be ready to roll,” Boom told me this week before the 15th annual Empire Challenge kicked off at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. “I sense an air of confidence about him this offseason. Everything I’ve read and every interview I’ve seen him do leads me to believe he’s ready to take that next step.”

In 15 regular-season games, Sanchez completed 53.8 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. But in three postseason contests he upped his accuracy, hitting on 60.3 percent of his balls with four touchdowns and two picks.

“Now what that next step will be will be determined by how comfortable he gets with his new wide receivers, how good he feels with his young running back and really how the offensive line plays,” Esiason said. “I think he really should be able to lead the Jets back to the playoffs — and who knows, maybe even the Super Bowl.”

Jets Nation is at a fever pitch. Excitement has reached an unprecedented level because New York’s AFC representative has assembled one of its most talented rosters in franchise history.

Esiason, who played three of his 14 NFL seasons with the Green & White, said that if he were a fan, "I’m excited about Rex Ryan and I love the fact that he brings a new intensity to the football team. I love the fact that you have the best defense in football. I think it’s only going to get better. I love their draft picks. There is a lot to be excited about.

"I don’t necessarily know if Jets fans have been this excited since 1999 when Bill Parcells was ready to take them all the way to the AFC Championship Game. This is going to be a fun year for the Jets. But I also know, like every other team, there are issues that have to be handled before the season starts.”

Esiason, who serves as the popular co-host on a morning radio show on WFAN in New York, doesn’t point to problems on the field. He believes the Jets have made a couple of risky offseason moves and there is also all the well-publicized news on the contract front.

“I think they did a lot of good things in the offseason. They were very careful how they spent their money, brining in Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes. Even though those guys have character issues, I think Mike Tannenbaum sensed he could get really good players for a cheap price," Boomer said.

"But he still has problems in that locker room. I don’t care what anybody says. When you let go of guys like Alan Faneca and Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, people are starting to worry in that locker room, ‘What’s going to happen to me next?’ And now you have guys that are chirping about new contracts and you have a potential CBA issue coming up. There are things you have to get over with and I’m not so sure those things are positive at this present time.”

But Esiason is nothing but positive on Sanchez. What kind of advice would he give the SoCal sensation before he starts up his sophomore campaign?

“I think, with the exception of maybe a few blips along the way, that he handled everything beautifully, and I would expect the maturity — he’s still only 23 years old — will be distinctly evident from where he was last year at this time,” Boomer said. “Let the game come to you, don’t force the issue. You have a lot of good players around you, you have a great coach and you have a great supporting cast. So he’ll be fine.”


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Tee It Up to Help Harper’s Heroes & Cool Kids

Posted by Randy Lange on May 11, 2010 – 12:01 pm

Bruce Harper is a giving and forgiving kind of guy. Harper, the former Jets running back, lost his franchise single-season all-purpose-yardage record set in 1978 to Leon Washington in 2008, but he still was chagrined to see Washington leave in a trade with Seattle during last month’s draft. Yet he still remains a big fan of the facelifting his former team has done at his former position.

"I know it’s old hat now, but I was so disappointed Leon had to go to the next team," Harper told me before heading out to the first tee at a local golfcourse Monday. "He reminded me of myself.

"But business is business. I am excited about LaDainian Tomlinson. He is a great back and anytime you go to another team, you’ve got to prove yourself all over again. I think he’s going to come in like a hungry rookie wanting to show his wares.

"And Shonn Greene is hungry, too, man. He had a great season last year. We saw a lot of potential. There’s no reason to think he can’t come out and do the same thing. He wants it. You can tell he wants it."

Harper also has his eye on another Jet in the backfield, now third-year man Danny Woodhead.

"I like Danny, too," he said. "I saw him at practice and I was impressed. I’m rooting for him."

It must have something to do with players who come in at under 5’10" but whose hearts are off the charts.

As for the current team, said the man who once blurred by in his green and white No. 42 jersey, "They just give you the feeling they want to win and they want to win right now.".

We could have talk to Bruce about the Jets all morning, but there was that round of golf and then it was back to his full-time job these days, which is tending to the growing popularity of the Heroes & Cool Kids school mentoring program that he started in the late Nineties.

"We have former pro athletes like me, former college athletes, and we go into the high schools and ask them to select 30 ‘Good Kids,’ " Harper explained. "We have a curriculum book we work through. We train them to be mentors to fifth- and sixth-grade kids. And then they actually go back to the elementary schools they came from."

Having started with three schools in the 1998-99 school year, the program, which focuses on lifeskills learned through sports, sportsmanship/civility and substance abuse prevention, is now in 50 school districts. Five more districts are set to join up in the fall and the plans are to expand into New York’s Rockland and Westchester counties.

"This is our 12th year and this year we’ve worked with 17,000 students, high school and elementary school kids," he said. "I feel real good about what we’ve been able to accomplish."

He’s not alone. In February, Bergen County executive Dennis McNerney presented commendations to Heroes & Cool Kids as the county’s Organization of the Year and to Harper as its Person of the Year.

To keep H&KC going and growing, the group holds its primary fundraiser every summer — not surprisingly — on the links. The eighth annual Bruce Harper’s Heroes & Cool Kids Golf Invitational is set for June 28 at the Edgewood Country Club in River Vale, N.J. Registration and brunch begin at 9 a.m. followed by a shotgun start to the tourney at 11.

You can call 201-641-0699 or email pros@heroesandcoolkids.org to become a celebrity guest or to get more information. And if you can make the event, you’ll be assisting the former Jets star back and kick returner and current "Hero" and good guy who says of this enterprise, "It’s just a little thing I do trying to help out."


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Kentucky FB Conner Part of Round 5 Tradeup

Posted by Eric Allen on April 24, 2010 – 12:51 pm

Staying true to their wheeling and dealing ways, the Jets moved into the fifth round of the NFL Draft today to select Kentucky fullback John Conner. To get Conner, the Jets shipped Leon Washington and their seventh-round pick (No. 236 overall) to the Seattle Seahawks.

Conner (5’11", 246), nicknamed what else but “The Terminator,” played in a school-record 54 games for the Wildcats. Last season his 5.1-yard rushing average paced Kentucky and he earned All-America recognition from Pro Football Weekly.

"I come to play every play," he said.  "I’m a hard player and I give my full effort every play."

Even though he predominantly was focused on which linebackers to unload on, Conner scored the first time he ever touched the ball in college, on a 17-yard reception against Texas State in 2006. A former walk-on, Conner will fit in well with the Jets’ "ground and pound" approach.

"I understand the position. I know a lot of teams try to go away from it, but I know that certain teams out there still rely on a fullback for their running game," Conner said.  "I felt pretty confident about getting with a good team with a good fit for me."

"John does all the things that NFL teams ask their fullbacks to do. He blocks, he catches the ball,” added UK head coach Joker Phillips. “And when you need him to make a carry in short yardage, he almost always picks up first downs. He’s going to have a long career in the league. "

With no more scheduled picks, the Jets’ 2010 draft might be over. But you can be sure general manager Mike Tannenbaum is working the phones at the moment so stay tuned.

Here are Conner’s Kentucky rushing and receiving statistics:  

Season GP-GS Atts-Yds-Avg-TDs Recs-Yds-Avg-TDs

2005

3-0 None None
2006 13-0 2-5-2.5-0 2-21-10.5-1
2007 13-8 6-37-6.2-2 7-37-5.3-2
2008 13-11 15-47-3.1-0 11-89-8.1-0
2009 12-8 31-158-5.1-2 5-46-9.2-1
Totals 54-27 54-247-4.6-4 25-193-7.7-4

 


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Leon Returns, ‘Feels the Love,’ Signs Tender

Posted by Randy Lange on April 15, 2010 – 2:06 pm

Leon Washington is back and he and the Jets are moving forward together.

Washington, a restricted free agent, signed his qualifying offer from the Jets today, then spoke with reporters who were already here at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for the team’s annual predraft news conference that concluded just before Washington took the dais.

"It’s great to be back. Walking in here today, I felt all the love I felt the last four years," said Washington, who returned to the complex to continue his rehab from surgery after breaking his leg early in Game 7 at Oakland last year. He added that the entire time he was training in Florida, "I was wearing my Jets gear every day and hopefully I would get back here, either by a team signing me to an offer sheet and the Jets matching the offer or by me signing my tender.

"So far I’ve done everything the right way," he said of his rehab. "I beat the infection stage early on. I rehabbed extremely well. The last five, six weeks I was gone, I made tremendous progress doing everything the right way. I’ll sit down with the doctors and the trainers next week and we’re going to set a timetable each week and each month and I’m going to do my best to hit those targets."

Washington was back for the first time since leaving the team complex last month to rehab on his own at Athletes Performance Institute in Pensacola, Fla. The Jets were constantly monitoring his progress, but general manager Mike Tannenbaum was happy to see him back in the building.

"I spoke to Leon this morning," Tannenbaum said. "We sure do [expect him to play for the Jets this season]. We’re excited to have him back. You never know what would happen if the phone should ring, but our expectations are that he’ll be here."

As an RFA, Washington didn’t receive an offer sheet from any other NFL team, due to the unknown nature of how he’ll bounce back from the injury. But both Washington and Tannenbaum spoke optimistically of what’s ahead for Leon in Green & White in 2010.

"I feel confident in my abilities," Washington said. "The main thing is getting healthy. I feel when I do get healthy, I’ll be able to contribute to this team in a significant way, whether it’s returning kicks, catching the ball out of the backfield or running the ball. Looking at the moves the Jets have been making this offseason, we’re trying to put ourselves in a situation where we’re going to be in the Super Bowl. And if I can do anything to help the team get there, it’s going to be a tremendous fit for me."

"Leon has an unbelievable work ethic," said Tannenbaum. "For a guy his height, he breaks a lot of tackles with sheer leg strength, and that’s through hard work and a great work ethic. It was a significant injury but I would expect Leon to help us this year in a number of ways. We had a great talk, I’m sure the few weeks outside the building recharged his batteries, and he’s ready to roll."

Washington also wasn’t concerned about head coach Rex Ryan saying at last month’s owners’ meeting in Orlando, Fla., that he saw Leon in a third-down role, with Shonn Greene ticketed to get much of the carries and LaDainian Tomlinson coming in to replace Thomas Jones.

"I talked to Rex. He told me his stance on that is when I get healthy, he’ll see if I can carry more of a load and I’m back to the old Leon. That’s all that was, initially starting off doing things I did in the past and as I got healthy and got better, he’d increase my load."

Washington, punctuating his remarks with his trademark smile, said he’s been running for three weeks or so. "Percentage-wise, I’m still down there, but I can run a straight line," he said. Tannenbaum said he thought "anatomically, he’s pretty much back to being healed," and the GM’s understanding is that Leon will be back in the Jets’ offseason strength and conditioning program.

While declining to offer any early timetables until he meets with the medical and training staffs, Washington did say his plans are to practice in training camp.

"I feel good, my body feels good," he said. "Everything’s on the up-and-up."

Poll Position

Today’s poll question on NFL.com (more of a poll fill-in-the-blank) might be of interest to wearers of the Green & White:

The team to beat in the AFC East in 2010 will be the …

I hope I’m not giving anything away but with a mere 143,790 votes in, the results are:

Bills: 3%

Dolphins: 15%

Patriots: 21%

Jets: 60%

April polls aren’t one of the January playoff tiebreakers and there’s a lot of hard work ahead. But it’s nice for the Green & White to be getting some respect from around NFL Nation.


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Posted in Randy Lange | 61 Comments »

Rex Disappointed by Washington’s Absence

Posted by Eric Allen on March 25, 2010 – 2:54 pm

Rex Ryan was in good spirits today as the Jets formally announced their “Hard Knocks” collaboration with HBO Sports and NFL Films. But Ryan, slimmed down after his recent lap-band surgery, was clearly miffed regarding the absence of Leon Washington from the team’s voluntary workout program.

“We have the No. 1 facilities in the country, we have a great medical staff, a great medical team and we have the best strength coach in the country. Leon knows this and that’s what’s disappointing,” said Ryan when writers huddled around the head coach. “Wherever he’s at might be good, but it’s not the best. I want what’s best for him and the New York Jets and this is a time there’s team building. This guy is a great young man — I love Leon — but it’s still disappointing he’s not here.”

Washington, who suffered a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula last October, is a restricted free agent. He received a second-round tender from the Green & White but hasn’t signed his contract. He is free to sign an offer sheet with another club and the Jets would have a week to match or receive a second-round pick in April’s draft as compensation.

“When we put our tenders out there, that’s when he left. And he was doing phenomenal,” Ryan said of Washington’s rehabilitation. “This guy was working his tail off just like we all knew Leon would do and he was getting better. He’s getting close to really being back. That’s why I hate to see him not take advantage of what we have here.”

Earlier this week, Ryan said he envisioned Washington being "a third-down back and Pro Bowl returner” for the Jets in 2010. And he stood by those comments today, indicating that it should no way be seen as a slight.

“Do we expect him to come back from the surgery? Yeah. And you’re going to put him in there instead of Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson? Maybe you would, but I’m not comfortable with that,” he said. “Let’s see where he’s at. I’m not just going to give him the ball 20 times a game coming off of that. He has to be ready to take that kind of role. If he’s ready to take an expanded role, then obviously we can see that. Third down is the most important down you have on offense and that would be an ideal situation for him. We have three great backs.”

The Jets most recently added the NFL’s eighth all-time rusher to that backfield in LaDainian Tomlinson. While Ryan and the league’s top-ranked defense made LT a non-factor (15 touches, 24 yards) in the Jets’ divisional playoff win over the Chargers, he still feels Tomlinson has plenty of good football left in him.

“We had eight guys down in the box every snap when he was in there, so maybe that’s one thing. We had to cover him with a guy-and-a-half every time, so we were never going to solo him,” he said of locking up LT. “He might have not run the ball very well — well, I hope not. We had everybody keying him.”

The Jets also quietly made another key move last week, signing ageless FB Tony Richardson for one more year.

“He’s here for all the right reasons,” Ryan said. “He loves it here, he’s still a very productive player and he’s chasing something that is hard to get.”

Rex isn’t entirely closing the book on either K Jay Feely or DE Marques Douglas, but there is a very real possibility that both players will be elsewhere in the fall.

“We’re always open to any situation but right now we have Nick Folk and we’re happy to have him. You guys know how I felt about Jay and feel about Jay,” said Ryan. “ I think he’s a tremendous kicker, a tremendous person, and we’ll see what happens.”

Marques, said the coach, "probably has one or two years left but if he can get a bid deal for somewhere else, he has my blessing.”


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