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Guard Thread: Faneca to Colon to Winters

Posted by Randy Lange on June 17, 2013 – 4:35 pm

Updated, 6:25 p.m. ET

Time distortion is an Einsteinian thing. But it can be an NFL-ish phenomenon as well.

How long ago was it that Alan Faneca started at left guard for the Jets? Three centuries ago? Three decades? Of course it was only 3½ seasons ago that the perennial Pro Bowler started his last game in green and white, in the 2009 AFC Championship Game at Indianapolis.

Yet a sturdy thread stretches from Faneca through the Jets’ current free-for-all at both guard spots heading toward the coming season.

Before Faneca became a Jet in ’08, he was a Pittsburgh Steeler. And before Willie Colon became a candidate to claim one of the Jets’ starting guard jobs in ’13, he too was a Steeler. Needless to say, he and Faneca were black-and-gold-tight.

“I know Alan really well and I know a lot about him. Back then, I was always tugging on him and Jeff Hartings for knowledge,” said Colon, the Bronx native who’s returned home after spending his first seven pro seasons with Pittsburgh. “And I think the biggest for any guy who’s still around, still able to play the game, is the sense of urgency — you can only play this game for so long.”

“If you care about the game, if you care about the team, the worst thing you can do is not share information with the guys that are coming up.”

Faneca made such an impact on Colon that choosing a uniform number as a Jet was easy. His 74 with the Steelers has been claimed since 2006, when a rookie named Nick Mangold came to the Jets.

“When I got here, it was a question of which number did I want, 75 or 66?” Colon said. It took him a little longer than a blink of an eye decide on 66, which was the number Faneca made famous as a Steeler and for his two years as a Jet.

“I felt where I wanted to be, where I wanted to finish my career is on the same level that Alan finished his career,” he said. “I thought it would only be right to honor him and his number, show respect, and play my tail off like he did.”

Yet while Colon is doing that, he’ll be extending the thread to young men on the Jets’ O-line such as third-round rookie guard Brian Winters.

“Alan and Jeff, those guys did that for me. They saw I had a lot of upside. They paid attention to me, they cared about me,” he said. “And when I messed up or I wasn’t on my game, they were there for me to lean on and also to give me help and tools that made me a better ballplayer. So it’s only right that I can do that for Winters or Austin Howard or anybody that’s coming in that has a fair shot of being an impact player on this team.”

Winters appreciates the help and, as young as he is — he turns 22 next month — appreciates getting it from something of an idol of his, and possibly extending this thread even farther into the Jets’ future.

“I remember growing up and watching Willie play for the Steelers,” said Winters, who grew up in northern Ohio outside of Cleveland and not far from Pittsburgh. “My stepmom was a big Steelers fan, and I was from a Browns background, so watching him was great. I love the way he played the game.

“And to come in here and him kind of taking me under his wing is awesome. The coaches are there to help me, but when there’s specific things for that position that he can see, he teaches me and helps me on that. He doesn’t have to do that, but he wants to make me a better player.”

Colon said he’s impressed and inspired by Winters’ attitude.

“I remember not too long ago I was in his shoes and I just wanted to make it and I just wanted to fight and I just wanted to be out there and have a chance to crack the lineup,” he said. “And he’s right now in that position. I won’t be surprised if somehow he cracks that lineup. He’s extremely athletic and he has a lot of upside.”

Colon’s not the only one to see that. Head coach Rex Ryan talked about his guards on the last day of last week’s full-squad minicamp.

“Nick’s going to have two new guards playing with him so that certainly will be a challenge,” Ryan said. “But I’ve really been impressed with Willie, and the same thing with [Stephen] Peterman. We’re flipping all those guards, Winters as well. I’m expecting big things from this young man. So I feel pretty good about where we are with those guys.

“Sometimes there’s a comfort level. The offensive line immediately wants to say, ‘I’m the right guard,’ ‘I’m the left guard’ or whatever, but we’re not there yet. It’s about the competition. The best two will be out there and we’ll see who that is. But do I see good competition there? I absolutely do.”

During the minicamp, Winters was in the left guard cat-bird’s seat between Mangold and LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson. With him, Colon, Peterman, returnee Vlad Ducasse and sixth-round rookie Will Campbell in the mix, the competition is lively. The one thing we know today is that with the departure of Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, the Jets will have two new guard starters for the first time since 2004.

It’s all good in the OL room, said Colon.

“You’ve got five guys who love the game and just go out there and get it done,” he said. “There’s no egos on this line. I’m not surprised but at the same time it’s a blessing. Some guys who are paid or have some type of credentials, you may get a jerk along the line. But all our guys are proud to go to work and take pride in their job and become good at it.”

And that encourages this new band of OL brothers to pay it forward — and to have a firm grip on that thread reaching back into the past as they power into the future.

Long-Snapper Released

The Jets announced this afternoon they have released long-snapper Travis Tripucka, the long-snapper out of the University of Massachusetts who was signed to a reserve-future contract early this offseason.

Also, for those scoring at home, Tripucka’s uniform No. 44 became available for a second before undrafted rookie TE Chris Pantale shifted from 81 to 44.

And Kellen Winslow, who wore 49 for his tryout at last week’s mandatory full-squad minicamp, then signed with the Jets the next day, will now be wearing No. 81. Winslow wore 80 with the Browns and 82 with the Buccaneers and Patriots.


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A Silly Little Yard Could Make All the Difference

Posted by Randy Lange on October 26, 2012 – 4:38 pm

Right tackle Austin Howard has a name for the situation. “When it’s third-and-short,” he said, “it’s go time.”

And the Jets have green-lighted themselves to the head of the NFL when it comes to converting those plays. For instance, of all the runners who have picked up every third-and-1 they’ve attempted this season, Shonn Greene is first among equals, going 7-for-7 in his carries.

If we extend the definition to third-and-1-or-2 and fourth-and-1-or-2, when the Jets run the ball in those situations, they’re the only perfect team left in the NFL at 13-for-13, and they have also led the league for 2011-12 (27-for-33, 81.8%), 2010-12 (49-for-61, 80.3%), and 2009-12 (76-for-98, 77.6%).

“We definitely want to be the aggressor, be physical on those plays,” said Howard.

“We don’t do any gimmicks, we don’t do anything tricky like that,” LG Matt Slauson added. “Anthony Lynn has a great plan every week. But when you have a line like ours and a big bruiser-type running back like Shonn, we want that responsibility on us. We feel like we’re big and strong and we’re able to get that yard.”

Lynn, the Jets’ RBs coach since ’09, explained the philosophy behind the Green & White’s third-and-short success.

“We want to have more completions and rushing attempts than anybody we play. If you do that, you’re going to win a lot of football games,” Lynn said. “But in order to do that, you have to be able to extend drives. And if you’re committed to running the football, you’re going to find yourself in third-and-short a lot. So we spend a lot of time in the offseason studying that situation and what fits our personnel the best. We really take time and we game-plan it.

“Shonn is built for that situation. He’s a power guy, and a lot of times he gets you more than 1 yard. And when there’s nothing there, you have to have a guy who can win, and he’s done a good job of that. But our double teams up front on the line, those have been outstanding also. Vertical push is something we emphasize a lot in our offense.”

It’s not just about short yardage for Greene and the Jets’ blockers but also about goal line, with many of the same concepts applied to both. But when it comes to GL, it’s been a mixed back for the Jets. Greene’s had two 1-yard touchdown runs this season, vs. Buffalo in the opener and at New England to successfully conclude the opening drive Sunday.

But goal line, considered by the Jets to be plays inside the opponents’ 5-yard line, hasn’t been nearly as successful as the garden-variety short-yardage plays.

“Toward the end of this season, I hope we get back into the top five in the league,” said Lynn. “Right now we’re on the outside looking in. We had a terrible series the last time we played Miami. Those guys do a heck of a job in both situations, short yardage and goal line.”

Indeed, a first-and-goal at the 3 led to a Mark Sanchez end zone interception and a first-and-goal at the 1 yielded only a Nick Folk field goal in the Jets’ overtime win. Meanwhile, the Dolphins scored on a pair of 1-yarders in Game 3, by RB Daniel Thomas and FB Jorvorskie Lane.

This game could also come down to who can do a better job at moving the ball that final 36 inches at key times in the game. And as Slauson said, when the Jets offense is in that situation and a run is called, “We just expect we are going to get it.”

What Goes On in the Pile …

It was one of those small but delightful and ultimately fairly significant plays that happens during the course of many NFL games. Recall late in the first quarter of the Jets-Patriots game when Shonn Greene caught a pass, was hit by LB Jerod Mayo and lost the ball. After Greene was surrounded by no fewer than five Patriots and a few of his teammates joined in, who should come out of the pile with the ball but No. 87 in green and white.

Where did Konrad Reuland come from?

“I was on the other side of the field,” Reuland recalled. “I saw the ball get knocked loose and I saw Shonn kind of straddling the ball, almost, reaching for it down by his legs. I knew he was going to be fighting for it with three or four guys.

“And I just said, you know what? I’m going to dive in there and see if I can find this thing and get a hand on it.”

Nineteen seconds of real time passed from when Reuland muscled Devin McCourty out of the way and burrowed into the mass of bodies to when he popped back out holding his prize aloft and saying, audible on the game video: “I got it! I got it!”

The CBS broadcast team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms captured this unlikely turn of events as they analyzed the replay.

“Yeah, it’s definitely a fumble,” said Simms. “And what a job by Reuland getting under this pile and getting that football.”

Nantz: “Look, he’s nowhere even in the frame here …  he’s still not in the frame.”

“He’s still not in the frame,” Simms echoed.

Nantz: “I tell you what, then he comes in at the last minute. Great play by Reuland.”

RBs coach Anthony Lynn was also in agreement. “That was an outstanding play by Konrad. You talk about hustling to the football.”

Needless to say, the Jets ultimately lost the game in overtime, but it’s not too hard to see Reuland helping to keep this game close with his recovery. The Pats, who had just opened a 14-7 lead, would’ve had the ball back at the Jets 49. Another quick six for Tom Brady and friends and things could’ve snowballed. Instead, the Jets punted, the Patriots took over at their 20 and also punted. Close game on.

Reuland wasn’t necessarily known as a fumble mole before, but he said he did the same thing for San Francisco in a preseason game this summer.

“The way I look at it,” he said, “until they’ve ruled it the other team’s ball, I’m fighting for it because you never know.”

One perhaps final note: The Patriots statistical crew didn’t award the recovery to Reuland. They said Greene recovered his own fumble. Perhaps the play will be reviewed and the record set right. But as No. 87 said, “I’m willing to give it Shonn. Let him get credit for it. Either way, the fact that our team got it is what counts.”

Friday Injury Reports

LB Bart Scott (toe) is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game with the Dolphins after sitting out all three practice this week for the first time since injuring his big toe early against the ‘Fins in Miami in Week 3. Scott is joined by RB Bilal Powell (shoulder) and NT Kenrick Ellis (knee) as doubtfuls.

But the rest of the squad seems to be ready to suit up for the rivalry game, and that includes NT Sione Po‘uha (back), S Eric Smith (knee), C Nick Mangold (ankle), TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist) and RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle), all listed as questionable. All were limited at today’s practice except for McKnight, who was a DNP for the third time this week.

“For Sione, it’s not just about being able to protect yourself but being effective,” Ryan said. “I feel good about that. I think Sione will play.”

The rest of the Jets were full practicers and are probable for the game.

The Dolphins added two players to Friday’s report in DE Cameron Wake (neck, limited), and S Reshad Jones (heel, full). But they seem in fine health for the game with Wake, Jones, RB Daniel Thomas (concussion), LB Koa Misi (hamstring) and S Jimmy Wilson (ankle) listed as probable, while starting CB Richard Marshall (back) didn’t practice today and is listed as out.


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Holmes Keeps the Flags Flying for a Second Week

Posted by Randy Lange on September 27, 2012 – 5:07 pm

Last week, in Tone’s Flags Drawn, Chapter 1, we examined the four penalties Santonio Holmes forced the Steelers into as they tried to cover him at Heinz Field, and how rare that accomplishment was in recent Jets history.

It’s so rare that in Miami, Holmes did it again. A pass interference against CB Nolan Carroll and an illegal contact and a PI against Richard Marshall were marked off for first downs. And a hold on Marshall was declined, because of course it came on Tone’s 38-yard hookup with Mark Sanchez that set up Nick Folk’s winning field goal.

Holmes thought about it when asked how to explain this case of yellow fever he’s been inducing in opposing DBs, and he came up with a few thoughts.

“It’s Coach Sanjay [Lal] telling me to play fast,” he said. “He studied a lot of film on me, from the moment he walked in, and that’s all we’ve been talking about: How can Number 10 play faster? I think just playing faster and being smarter, knowing I have an advantage with my stride length, my speed, my quickness, my ability to catch on these defensive backs. These guys are going to play to their advantage. I would rather take the penalty if I was a defensive back than to give up a big play by Number 10.”

Needless to say, Number 10 would prefer the catch over the flag.

It’s really messing with my catches, I can honestly say that. It’s keeping them down by having the penalties drawn,” he said. “If we can keep stats on penalties per game per player, I think those yards would add up. We can add them to our receiving yards. They really do count.”

That’s why we’ve been counting the penalties drawn against the Jets as well as those caused by the Green & White since the mid-Nineties. These numbers are not official, since the Elias Sports Bureau only recently has been even unofficially charting penalties by individual players. But what Holmes has done in three games, in addition to his nine catches for 147 yards vs. the Dolphins, has been stunning.

He already has forced eight penalties this season (seven marked off). The only Jets wideouts who forced eight penalties in an entire season since ’95 are Keyshawn Johnson (13, 1999), Wayne Chrebet (14, 2000), Laveranues Coles (eight in 2005, 10 with one coming in the playoffs in 2006), Plaxico Burress (eight last season), and Holmes (10 for 120 yards last season).

So in his three Jets seasons, Holmes has coaxed 24 flags. And by maintaining his pace of the first three games, he should end up with, oh, 42 or 43 penalties drawn this year.

But then again, with the NFL referees replacing the replacement officials this week, perhaps Tone’s flags will taper off. But Santonio’s fine either way.

“It really doesn’t make a difference who’s out there calling it,” he said. “We could have guys off the streets just come in and call fouls on the football field. It’s according to what we do and how well we execute. For me as a receiver, my job is to continue getting open and drawing penalties, no matter what.”

So far, so good.

McKnight’s Still Wanted at RB

Head coach Rex Ryan let fans — and Joe McKnight — know today that McKnight’s days on offense are not over, despite the concentration this week on his new role in the secondary.

“I think Joe misunderstood,” Ryan said at his midday news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “He still has a role on offense. It’s not that he’s being forgotten as a running back. I want him to learn the coverages and things like that on defense because the way the league is now, you almost can’t have enough corners. They’re going four or five wide receivers.

“From a talent and physical standpoint he can definitely match up. He has some natural instincts. When we used to put him on the scout team, that’s what we saw. I’m putting him in defensive meetings right now because I think he needs that. He has enough grasp on the offense. We’re going to work him on defense and he still will have a role on offense.

Thursday Injury Reports

The Jets’ injury report grew by one to 20 today with the addition of G Matt Slauson (knee), but Slauson practiced full. LB Bart Scott was elevated from not participating Wednesday to limited participation today. So was S Eric Smith (hip/ankle), while S LaRon Landry did his usual Thursday deal, sitting out practice to help keep his heel at its so far optimum level.

The Jets could get one offensive weapon back for San Francisco on Sunday but lose one as well. TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) was limited for the second day this week. “Hopefully, Dustin will be out there this week,” said Ryan. “I assume he will be.”

But rookie WR Stephen Hill’s aching hamstring, which resurfaced late in Miami, has kept him sidelined this week and could keep him out of the 49ers game.

The Niners’ five-player I-report was identical to Wednesday’s report. Isaac Sopoaga (ankle/knee), their starting NT, remained a DNP while WR Ted Ginn (ankle) and RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) were limited.


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Rex Likes Jets’ 99 Percent Offseason Showing

Posted by Randy Lange on June 7, 2012 – 3:55 pm

Updated, 4:10 p.m. ET

Rex Ryan knows it’s only June, but the head coach still likes the state of his team as it heads toward next week’s mandatory veteran minicamp and then on into July before the start of training camp.

“I’ve talked about this team coming together, how hungry this team is,” Ryan told reporters today after the final OTA practice of the offseason at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “Here’s an example of that. Of the possible 2,211 workouts or so for all the individual players for the entire offseason program, we had 2,178 in attendance at those voluntary workouts. That’s 99 percent, I hope.”

Actually, it is 98.508 percent, which rounded off is 99.

Rex might have been unsure about the math, but he didn’t waver on his feelings about how the Jets would stack up against the NFL’s 31 other teams, even though there are no official numbers on offseason workout percentage.

“I would challenge any other team to have these numbers,” he said. “I don’t believe that happened anywhere else in the league.”

“Again, these are voluntary things. I’m proud of us. To say that this is going to be a close football team, I think these are the strides you make that way.”

Of the few players who did miss some voluntary sessions, all have checked in. Safety LaRon Landry, who has doing a lot of rehab and working out away from the facility, “was in attendance for a few of them, yes, he was,” and Landry is expected in for the minicamp.

WR Santonio Holmes also was back at camp after being a part of an NFL Players tour of military bases in Germany and his work was limited.

As for the two players coming off of surgeries/rehabs, Ryan said of G Matt Slauson (shoulder) and LB Bryan Thomas (Achilles), “I expect them to be able to do some things. … I know for a fact those two will be limited.”

And second-round WR Stephen Hill was limited at practice due to his first pro injury, a right hamstring injury that he suffered during Tuesday’s OTA practice. That day he left the field walking with a slight hitch in his step, and he said today that he doesn’t think it’s any more than a tweak.

“It’s nowhere near a tear,” he said in answer to one question, and in regard to getting an MRI, he said, “It’s nothing that serious. … The plan is to be ready for next week’s minicamp but not to rush it.”

In general, this is the time of year where there’s no rush but you have to hurry up. Before anyone knows it, late July will be here and the migration to central New York will begin again for the first time in two years. The signposts to this point, Ryan said, shows “the Jets are headed back in a good direction.

“When we get up to Cortland, these are all things that will bring this team closer. Now, will it get us more wins on the field? We’ll see when the season kicks off.”

Bart’s Back in Body, Spirit

There is no denying that at this time on the calendar, LB Bart Scott is looking like the El Barto who showed up along with Ryan back in 2009. One play in particular today showed his quickness. Mark Sanchez was chased up in the pocket, and as he neared the line of scrimmage, he shoveled a pass to Shonn Greene past the line. Scott swatted it down for an incompletion.

Scott’s trimmed his weight — “He’s looking cut up,” praised fellow chiseled LB Aaron Maybin — and picked up his pace. And he’s full-throated again.

“It’s hard to have a bad practice when Bart’s on the field. He’s just energized like that, and he stays that way,” Ryan said. “I don’t know if this isn’t the best Bart Scott we’ve had since we brought him here. He’s in super shape, he’s smart, he’s really leading. I think that was what we needed. Last year, for whatever reason … maybe our plan for Bart wasn’t what it should’ve been.”

New Meaning to Flying to the Ball

The offense showed some of its new coaching a few times today on, interestingly, a pair of Sanchez interceptions in 7-on-7 work. His first came on an overthrow of Dustin Keller that Kyle Wilson snapped up, the other on a deflection off Keller’s hands and into those of a diving Eric Smith. Both times the DBs returned the ball. And both times the entire offense flew to the ball to stop the runback.

And by “entire,” we mean everybody — not only the seven offensive players on the play but all the backups and even some coaches behind them, watching the play and waiting their turn to step in and run some plays of their own. Eleven hats to the ball? Forget about that. It was a jailbreak of more like 40 hats to the ball.

Of course, this is coordinator Tony Sparano’s way of reinforcing something he wants to see from his offense.

“It’s just to make it second nature for us when the ball is intercepted, to chase it down,” tackle Wayne Hunter said. “Offensive guys sometimes get into the mindset of depending on the other guys on the field to make the tackle. I think it was the second week of OTAs that Tony made it known he wanted us to do this.

“It looks weird, but it works, I guess. We’ll see.”

It couldn’t hurt. While Sparano’s Dolphins from 2008-11 gave up eight return touchdowns off of offensive turnovers, tied for 10th in the NFL in that span, the Jets yielded 19, tied for last in the league with St. Louis, and the seven TDs by opposing defenses last year equaled the Rams’ seven in ’08 for the most in the NFL in one season in the last four years.


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‘Our Time’ Honoring Matt Slauson on Monday

Posted by Randy Lange on April 13, 2012 – 4:54 pm

Matt Slauson will be one of the guests of honor Monday night, April 16, when Our Time, a non-profit organization that has been helping children who stutter for over a decade, will hold its 10th annual benefit gala, “Tackling Our Fears, Defending Our Dreams,” at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.

Our Time continues annual tradition of celebrating an accomplished person who stutters by honoring Slauson, the Jets’ starting left guard.

“It’s truly an honor to be recognized by Our Time,” Slauson said. “As a person who has battled stuttering my entire life, I feel it’s important to help kids that are afflicted with this difficult problem. Whether overcoming this impediment completely or simply becoming more confident when speaking, I want kids who stutter to know they can be successful and accomplish anything they want to.”

Our Time will also bestow its first Advocacy Award to longtime supporter and Chair Emeritus, Budd Mayer. And the event will bring out some big names and professional artists for performances and presentations, including Rachel Dratch, Edie Falco, Victor Garber, Mariska Hargitay, Richard Kind, Jesse L. Martin, Matthew Modine, John Oliver, Ron Rifkin, Amy Ryan and cast members from “The Book of Mormon.”

For more information on the event, you can reach Our Time at 212-414-9696.

Curtis Checks Out Canton

At the beginning the week we brought word that Curtis Martin had selected Bill Parcells to be his presenter at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on Aug. 4. That came as part of Curtis’ visit to the Canton, Ohio, shrine to tour the Hall of Fame and meet with staff in preparation for his enshrinement.

You can go to the Pro Football HOF site here to read a short story on Martin’s visit and also watch a video in which Curtis talks about his career and his upcoming big day.


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Best Jets Action Photo of ’11: The Finals

Posted by Randy Lange on January 23, 2012 – 11:56 am

Picture this. The Best Jets Action Photo of 2011 contest heads down the home stretch this week.

More than 1,500 votes were cast for photos in our contest “semifinals” last week and into this morning, with the idea of advancing the five most popular photos into this week’s finals.

We have made the transition from semis to finals just now and we can reveal the identity of the five most popular photos from the lens of team photographer Al Pereira. In chronological order they are:

5. “Mark Sanchez TD” with an unstoppable scoring stretch against Miami.

10. “Matt Slauson Spike” after his dramatic fumble recovery TD at Denver.

13. “Dustin Keller Jam” soaring up to the goalpost against Buffalo.

14. “Plaxico Burress Wingspan” on his big third-down catch, also vs. Buffalo.

18. “Plaxico Burress Stretch” on Plax’s picturesque grab at Philadelphia.

We thank all the fans who have already voted in the semifinals, and we encourage all of you to return here to cast your votes as many times as you like this week in the finals, particularly because of the Slauson factor. The Jets’ left guard rightly has a loyal and committed following that made his photo the leading vote-getter in the semifinals. Nothing wrong with that at all, but fans of the other players and photos in the finals will want to bring everything they can to the table and the ballot box to make sure their voices are heard.

Fans this week can vote for only one photo at a time as this year’s Best Jets Action Photo. The voting will conclude Friday at noon and we’ll unveil the winner shortly after. The photo will be featured in the Jets’ 2012 Yearbook out in the late summer before the start of the ’12 season — when Al P. and the rest of us here at newyorkjets.com will begin working at finding the best action photos for the 2012 season.

Vote now

Tweeting Machine: 300 Grand

We also want to thank all the fans of the Green & White following us on Twitter. Sometime Sunday twitter.com/nyjets cleared 300,000 followers. That’s quite a number, considering we were at less than 100 followers less than three years ago. Now it’s onward to 400,000 this offseason.

 


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Some of Our Plans Moving Forward into 2012

Posted by Randy Lange on January 5, 2012 – 6:25 pm

The Jets’ offseason started a whole lot sooner than any of us wanted. And this past week has been, to say the least, interesting.

We’ll continue to monitor the Green & White scene, writing about developments as we can, and of course posting as many of your comments on all Jets matters as we can.

In the meantime we’ll look forward to the 2012 season, which won’t start for the NFL until March but has started for the Jets now. We’ll bring you player features as those players become available here at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, through videos, stories and blogs, slideshows, or all of the above. We’ll visit with the team’s alumni throughout the offseason and see what their thoughts are for their team going forward.

We’ll have a number of other features for the fans. One coming up will be a Select Al Pereira’s Best Jets Action Shot of 2011. We’ll present you with about 20 of the best shots from Pereira, our staff photographer, from all games this past season and ask you to vote for the top four and then, in a separate vote, pick the best of the best photo. We’ll be getting Al’s images up to speed a week from Monday. Keep an eye out for that.

In the short term, besides Jets news, we’ll be doing capsules on each of this season’s playoff games, complete with a section we call “Jet Fuel,” citing Green & White connections to the current teams in the postseason. Andrew LeRay wrote up Saturday’s two capsules — Bengals-Texans and Lions-Saints — that went live on newyorkjets.com this afternoon. Eric Allen and I will have the capsules for the Sunday games — Falcons-Giants and Steelers-Broncos — live tomorrow during the day.

And in the coming weeks and months, we’ll bring you exclusive features, from our staff and from the personnel people at Real Football Services, on the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine workouts, the Jets position by position vis-a-vis the free agency signing period, the draft, and the Jets’ offseason training program, their OTAs and minicamp all to come.

Player Procedures

The Jets have confirmed surgical procedures for four players following the rigors of ’11. Surgeries have already been performed on DT Mike DeVito (shoulder), S Eric Smith (knee) and G Matt Slauson (shoulder). And a surgery is scheduled for DL Marcus Dixon (shoulder).

Bart’s Fine

And as you may have heard earlier today in a tweet from us or from your favorite Green & White news outlet, the Jets issued a statement through a team spokesman: “Bart Scott was fined $10,000 by the team for his obscene gesture to a member of the media. Bart’s actions were inappropriate and unacceptable.”

Why at Seattle?

When the NFL officially announced the 2012 opponents for all teams earlier this week, several of you asked the question: Why are the Jets at Seattle again after they just went to the Pacific Northwest four years ago?

The short answer is that, as we explained a year ago regarding yet another Jets trip to Oakland in ’11, the NFL has tweaked its scheduling rotation as it regards all teams in both conferences playing the AFC West and NFC West teams.

For the longer answer (if you’re of strong constitution), let’s reflect on 2008, when the Jets made four West Coast trips, to Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. How did that happen? For starters, it began with the way, since the divisional realignment in 2002, that teams in one division are scheduled to play teams in every other division.

It was and still mostly is alphabetical.

For instance, in ’05 when it was the AFC East’s year to play the AFC West, Buffalo and Miami played home against Denver and Kansas City and away at Oakland and San Diego, while the (New York) Jets and New England played home vs. OAK and SD and at DEN and KC. In ’08, the home and away sites for all teams were flipped.

With this rotation, every AFCE team would play one home game and one away game against every AFCW team every six years.

Similarly, in ’04 it was the AFC East vs. the NFC West, so BUF and MIA were home for ARZ and STL and at SF and SEA, while the NYJ and NE were at ARZ and STL (Saint Louis, spelled out) and home vs. SF and SEA.

The problem: Every 12 years, the AFC East would play the AFC West and NFC West in the same season at the same sites. And so every 12 years, the stars and divisions would align and the Jets and Patriots would either have home games against four West Coast teams. And then 12 years later they’d both have four West Coast games in the same season.

That sounds like not so big a deal, once every quarter of a century. But in different years the same West Coast problem also hit all the Eastern Time Zone teams in the two North and two South divisions as well.

The NFL, which clearly likes the eight divisions and the rotation concept, wanted to break up the scheduling imbalance that resulted every year that an Eastern team found itself on the road for four West Coast trips.

The solution was to reorder the Western divisions. That began in 2009, when in the AFC West, Denver was paired no longer with Kansas City but with Oakland and KC was newly coupled with San Diego, while in the NFC West, it was Arizona-San Francisco and St. Louis-Seattle.

All Eastern TZ teams are affected, so with this new wrinkle, no Eastern team will ever have more than two West Coast trips in a season.

In 2012, with the AFCE and NFCW once again scheduled to play, it’s the first year of the Jets going on the road to play St. Louis and Seattle while staying at home for Arizona and San Francisco.

So why at Seattle? It’s because of this new rotation formula. But it was going to be either at Seattle or at San Francisco in 2012. And Arizona, almost as long a road trip, will be at the Jets’ home for two consecutive cycles (’08, ’12) for the same reason.

One more good thing: Unofficially speaking, if the Jets play Oakland in ’13 because the teams finish in the same position in their respective divisions, the game will be at the Jets. And in ’14, when it’s AFC East vs. AFC West again, the Jets-Raiders game also is set for MetLife Stadium. Possibly two consecutive home games vs. the Raiders. Who’d’ve thunk it?

Told you it was a long answer.


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Rex’s Key Sunday Matchup: MLB Harris vs. RB Helu

Posted by Andrew LeRay on December 2, 2011 – 3:34 pm

After a week of preparation, the Jets are ready for the trip to Washington. The Redskins are fresh off their 23-17 comeback win in Seattle in Week 12. The Jets also enter on a high note after defeating the Buffalo Bills and keeping their playoff hopes very much alive.

“Full of energy, fast tempo, and the ball never hit the ground,” head coach Rex Ryan said about today’s practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “It was an excellent Friday practice, and I’m excited about that.”

The ‘Skins have had a healthy rotation of tailbacks this season, with three backs carrying the ball at least 55 times. Washington head coach Mike Shanahan announced that rookie RB Roy Helu would take the bulk of the carries on Sunday after his 23 carries, 108 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks.

“At Nebraska, he averaged [6.8] yards per carry last year,” said Ryan. “He has speed and home-run-hitting ability. He’s similar to [Bills RB C.J.] Spiller in that way.”

The Jets held Spiller to 55 yards on 19 carries last Sunday. They will aim to do the same against Helu, and will be led as usual by LB David Harris. Harris is quietly enjoying a terrific season, and Ryan praised his defensive stud today.

“He’s leading our defense,” said Ryan. “I don’t know who’s playing better than him at middle linebacker this year, but he’s a guy that has to be considered for the Pro Bowl. I think he’ll finally go this season.”

Shifting his focus to the other side of the football, Ryan spent some time addressing his offensive line and their stellar performance against the Bills. The O-Line allowed no sacks and paved the way for Jets rushers to run for 6.0 yards per carry, and on Thursday were named this week’s Madden Protectors Award.

On Sunday the Jets face a much more violent pass rush from the Redskins, who are tied for third in the NFL in sacks with 33. Can the OL duplicate its performance vs. the Bills?

“It’s going to be a huge challenge, but I think we can,” said Ryan. “I think that’s the kind of line we have. We had a great week of practice, and I expect them to play well.”

One member of the offensive line has particularly blossomed this season. LG Matt Slauson has taken on a role of leadership and has impressed Ryan with his play.

“It’s like he’s an old pro, and that’s what you like about him,” said Ryan. “I see a guy that you assume has played for years and years. He’s always been a big, strong, tough guy and brings that each week. Now he recognizes everything and just fits in with those guys.”

Friday Injury Reports

The Jets were surprisingly healthy this week, as other teams deal with impactful injuries in the waning season. RB LaDainian Tomlinson and WR Jeremy Kerley will return to action following their knee injuries that held them out against the Broncos and Bills. Rex said both will be back in “similar spots” as before their injuries. That includes Kerley as the primary punt returner.

“The past couple weeks have been a little rough, guys have been a little banged up,” said Kerley. “We were moving guys around, trying to see if they can fit the spot, but I’ll be back there.”

The only Jet ruled out for Sunday is DT Mike DeVito, who suffered a knee injury of his own on Sunday. Rookie DT Kenrick Ellis will start in his place in the base defense.

For the Redskins, hard-hitting S LaRon Landry has been ruled out with a groin injury. DE Stephen Bowen participated in practice for the first time this week, albeit on a limited basis, and is questionable for Sunday’s game. Veteran LB London Fletcher is also questionable with an ankle injury.


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Focus Isn’t in Rearview Mirror but on Bills Ahead

Posted by Randy Lange on November 21, 2011 – 4:09 pm

Updated, 4:42 p.m. ET

The return to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Complex today brought a return of questions about where the Jets are headed in 2011. Rex Ryan addressed the events that, in the last eight days, turned his team from an optimistic 5-3 unit to a 5-5 team contemplating a tough road ahead to reach the playoffs for the third straight year on his watch.

“It’s rough, there’s no doubt,” the head coach said. “We were hoping this week we’d be at the top of the AFC, but we’re not. We’re not going to dwell on what’s behind us. We’re going to move forward. The seasons got six more games and we’re not going to get six wins by looking in our rearview mirror.”

Rex wasn’t guaranteeing or predicting. He had a quiet seriousness about him today as he pondered where the Jets are and where they might be going. He didn’t put a number on the Jets’ goal for wins the rest of the way but asked if five out of six would make the playoffs, he replied, “I would think so. And 11-5, you’re going to make the playoffs, I would think.

“But we have to beat Buffalo, period, end of conversation. That’s where our focus is going to be.”

The Bills were the last team the Jets faced when everything good was in front of them. Coming off their bye and heading to Orchard Park, N.Y., to play their then-hot rivals, the Jets pulled away with a strong second half to their 27-11 victory that lifted them to 5-3 and had them poised to play the Patriots for the division lead.

With that loss, Buffalo has fallen on hard times. And the Jets need to climb over their long-time division mates to keep hope alive. They have returned to work in a positive frame of mind, which is a start.

“In this game you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself,” LB Bart Scott said. “You have to move on, and you have to get ready to play. We dealt ourselves a bad hand but we’re still in the game. And as long as you’re still in the game you have to perform. This is a good opportunity for us to get on the right track and try to go on a roll, because we have to. We can’t afford to lose any more games.”

“It’s a long season,” G Brandon Moore said. “We were written off when we had the three-game losing streak. It’s a long season. It has peaks, it has valleys. We’re in a valley right now and I know it sounds simple and cliché, but we’re going to have to get better until the end and win our next game. It’s as simple as that. I think our confidence is fine. Guys understand we have the playmakers in here, we have talent to win ballgames on a consistent level. We just have to be able to do it during the course of the week and prove it on Sundays.”

Ryan restated one of his and his team’s philosophies, that whatever has happened to this point, this is the time of year that his program is built for.

“It’s the way we do everything,” he said. “It’s the way we lift, the way we take care of our players — I’ve never been around a team that takes care its players as good we do. It’s the rest, the time I give them off during the bye week, which I always get criticized for. This is why we do what we do, to be better this time of year.

“That’s where we are. No excuses. We’ve earned that 5-5 record. But we’re focused on what’s in front of us. We’d better get it done and we’d better get it done in a hurry.”

Health Status

As Ryan likes to say on Mondays, he provided some “bonus coverage” of the health of the Jets, bonus since he’s not required to submit an injury report until Wednesday before a Sunday game. He said that the three players who didn’t travel to Denver due to knee injuries — LaDainian Tomlinson, Jeremy Kerley and Brodney Pool — plus RB Shonn Greene, who injured his ribs early in the game, didn’t practice today.

“Those four were on the side,” he said. “I think, though, all of them will play. … I think everybody will play. We’ll see, obviously, as the week goes on. If we had to play today, I don’t know about that, but by Sunday I think our guys will be ready.”

Ryan was asked about G Matt Slauson, who also sat out.

“Slauson was on the side as well, but he’s a guard,” Ryan deadpanned. “That poor guy’s had a neck, an ankle, a knee … but he’ll play.”

Slauson said he got his sprain on the third play of the game.

“I came hobbling off and got a brace on it,” he said today. “The doctors were saying I was moving good enough to play, so I said OK.” He returned for the rest of the game and as a result was on the field for his fortuitous fumble-return TD, the Jets’ only six-pointer of the night, early in the third quarter.

Kerley was also optimistic about being available for the Bills.

“They haven’t said yet but I want to see myself at practice and get my confidence back right,” the rookie WR said. “Hopefully by Wednesday or Thursday I’ll be back.”

Ryan, in response to a question about injuries in the league at large this season, agreed it might be true that injuries are up but didn’t think it was applicable to the Jets.

“Right now we’re pretty healthy,” he said. “We’ve had some injuries but I think at this stage of the game we’re about as healthy as any team.”

In fact, the 18 players on last week’s injury report was the longest list Ryan’s had as Jets head coach, yet 14 of the 18 were listed as probable for the Broncos and all played.

One other player not at practice was WR Plaxico Burress, who a while back was given today and Tuesday off for personal reasons.

The Jets are practicing Monday through Wednesday and Friday this week only and will be home with their loved ones on Thanksgiving.

One Fine Day

At the top of his news conference, Ryan addressed the fine news surrounding his expletives directed at a fan during halftime at the Jets-Patriots game eight days ago.

“I got fined $75,000,” he said. “I received notice from Commissioner Goodell. I won’t appeal it. The commissioner’s got a tough enough job. I’m an NFL lifer. I know I represent the NFL and I represent the Jets. I’m accountable for my actions so I will not appeal it. I’m just moving forward to Buffalo.”

In response to a question, he said, “I just know it was a mistake and I’ve owned up to that mistake, there’s no question about it.”

He said before today he spoke with Goodell about the incident. What did he tell the Commish?

“Shoot, I just wanted to apologize to him,” Ryan said. “I never denied I didn’t make a mistake. I did.”

DeVito in Demand

DT Mike DeVito will be the guest of honor when my partner Eric Allen moderates this week’s Jets Chat, which will appear on newyorkjets.com beginning Tuesday around 4:30 p.m. ET. Fans can ask questions of DeVito live during the chat but we’ll also be accepting questions beginning now for DeVito. You can send your question as a comment to Randy’s Radar or via the Jets’ Twitter account.

DeVito also will be one of the Jets players featured on tonight’s “Inside the Jets.” The other player guest will be fellow Jets trenchman Nick Mangold, and the show will be hosted as always by Voice of the Jets Bob Wischusen. Come on out to the Grasshopper Off the Green bar/restaraurant in Morristown, N.J., from 7-8 p.m. to see the show in person or listen live to the proceedings on 1050 ESPN New York.


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‘Still Hard to Fathom’ but Jets Must Move Forward

Posted by Randy Lange on November 18, 2011 – 4:46 pm

These are the times that try our souls.

There was legitimate optimism that the Jets could go a mile high and come back down the mountain with a healing victory over the Broncos. No question it would be a challenge and that the schedule did the Jets no favors in this one. But there was no loss of faith in the locker room.

The optimism for me continued during the Thursday. After the first quarter the feeling had drained a bit as the Jets again couldn’t score a touchdown in the opening 15 minutes.

After the second quarter and on into the first five minutes of the third, the thought was that this was going to be ugly, perhaps a “Son of Shrek” game, but that the Green & White would escape with Denver with a W.

With six minutes to play, the Jets defense staring into Denver’s end zone 5 yards away and the Broncos staring at the Jets’ EZ 95 yards away in the other direction, it all looked doable.

“Yeah,” guard Matt Slauson admitted afterward, “we thought the game was in hand.”

But Tim Tebow and the Jets’ own mistakes caught up to them in that last drive. If this endgame scenario didn’t involve the Green Team, it would have been something to observe the latest chapter in the Legend of Timmy T.

“It’s still really hard to fathom,” head coach Rex Ryan said today at the top of his morning conference call with the team’s reporters. “It really is.”

The hardest part to comprehend was how well the Jets’ defense played for 54 minutes and yet how relentlessly the Broncos moved the field on it in the next five minutes. Consider that until that final drive, the D had forced seven consecutive punts by the Broncos, including six three-and-outs. Consider that before that drive, the home team was averaging a healthy drive start of its own 38, including five starts in Jets territory, and had three points to show for it.

Consider that from the second play of the first series through the 11th series, the defense had yielded 101 drive yards to Denver, before yielding 95 on its final 12 snaps.

Denver’s final play, that 20-yard Tebow dash for the end zone that virtually sealed the Jets’ fate with 58 seconds left, involved an all-out blitz call that Ryan would like to have back.

“Hindsight behind 20-20, obviously, we would’ve done something, anything but that,” the coach said today. “But at the time, you make several calls in a game. At that time, we had pressured him. We thought they were going to do really what they did. They ran verticals in the passing game, so we wanted to pressure it, and quite honestly, he made a great play. If you had to do it over again, of course you would’ve called something else, knowing the result.”

Offensively, of course, there was Slauson’s 1-yard return of Bilal Powell’s fumble for a touchdown. The guard became one of only three or four offensive linemen to ever score a touchdown of any kind for the franchise. There was guard Randy Rasmussen’s end zone recovery in the 1972 season opener against Miami, and famously tackle Jumbo Elliott’s TD catch in the Monday Night Miracle vs. those same Dolphins in 2000.

Then there was the asterisk for Trevor Matich’s game-winning touchdown grab from Ken O’Brien in a 28-21 win at New England in November 1991. I starred it because while Matich was a backup center-guard-tackle in his two Jets seasons of 1990-91, he was also a backup TE, and in that role, having traded in his lineman’s uniform No. 64 for a tight end’s 46 a month earlier, made his 3-yard catch with 57 seconds left to lift the Jets that day.

Normally an O-lineman scoring six is a good omen — since 2000, NFL teams are 22-4 when they get such a contribution from the trenches. But when your OL scores your team’s only touchdown, that’s not so good. Slauson seemed pleased that he had made a little history, but he said it was a sad because the play meant nothing in the shadows of this loss.

The locker rooms inside Sports Authority Field at Mile High are larger than most in the NFL, accentuating the grim quiet of the Jets’ postgame activities. Some players declined comment, others talked in hushed tones, then sat with serious demeanors, contemplating what had just transpired.

“I feel terrible. I feel like garbage,” DT Sione Pouha said. “But we’ve gotta bounce back, man.”

“We’re never going to stop believing,” said Slauson.

Nor should they. Fans are upset, and rightly so. And they are joined by the players, members of the front office, and humble Web editors. But the Jets can’t and won’t throw in the towel for several reasons. For one, there is still enough talent, minus mistakes, to win games on this team. For another, as NFL Network’s Rich Eisen recently told Dennis Miller on his radio show, “Things can change so very quickly in the NFL.” The Jets of ’02 (2-5 start, 7-2 finish, AFC East title) and ’09 (4-6 start, 5-1 finish, AFC Wild Card) are one of many examples of that, as, at the moment, are the Tebow Broncos.

The road to the playoffs is steeper than ever. Since the current playoff landscape was introduced in 2002, teams that have started 5-5 have reached the postseason 13 times while missing out 29 times (.310). However, teams that got to 5-5 via two or more consecutive losses, as the Jets have, have only reached the playoffs three of 11 times. (Baltimore, with Ryan as D-Line coach, did it in ’03, Washington in ’05 and ’07).

“I’m looking forward to the preparation and everything, because I think we can get better,” Ryan said. “We have a resilient team. We’re going to be in this thing. We’re going to be shoulder to shoulder, with coaches, players and everybody, and we’re going to try to find a way to get this done.”

But let’s not put the cart before the horse for the Jets. They can talk about the P-word, playoffs, all they want, because as Ryan rightly said, “Our playoffs start right now.” But to dwell on the enormity of the task is counterproductive. Another NFL truism is this: The Jets now have six one-game seasons ahead of them. Play the one in front of you, win it, move on to the next. And in that way they will show to all of us, and to themselves, what kind of season 2011 will be.


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