For whatever reasons, ever since returning from their bye week, the Jets’ special teams haven’t been as sharp and efficient as usual.
Trouble began in Seattle on Nov. 11 when punt returner Jeremy Kerley muffed a second-quarter punt, which the Seahawks recovered and soon thereafter turned into seven points.
That was followed up at St. Louis the next week when one of Nick Folk’s field goals was blocked and a Tim Tebow fake-punt shovel pass to Lex Hilliard was stopped.
And most recently, against the Patriots on Thanksgiving, Joe McKnight fumbled a kickoff return, resulting in a TD for the opposition.
Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff didn’t have a clear explanation for the recent struggles.
“We do things in practice,” Westhoff said, “but there’s only so many things you can do. I mean, we can’t run a live kickoff coverage in practice this time of the year. We’ve already had a million. You have to be able to hang onto it. So those instances, even though they’re separate entities — very, very frustrating.”
Yet Westhoff was pleased with his kickoff covereage unit against the Pats.
“They couldn’t get to the 20,” Westhoff said. “They couldn’t have gotten to the 20 with an all-star team running that against what we were doing. We had it. I look at it technically. I know what I’m talking about. So we have them covered.”
Westhoff was shocked the McKnight miscue occurred, particularly because it looked like he had a chance to take the return all the way.
“Here I’m seeing this develop,” the ST coordinator said. “I’m thinking, ‘We’ve got them. We’re going to hit this.’ All of a sudden it ends up becoming a gigantic play for them and they get the big Thanksgiving celebration and we get a weekend in Palookaville.”
Jets seventh-year safety Eric Smith said the mistakes and errors on special teams haven’t only been discouraging for Westhoff but for the entire unit.
“We’ve just given up a lot of plays that we don’t need to,” Smith said. “We’ve got them schemed up well, we’ve just got some guys out of position, missed some tackles or missed some blocks.”
The Arizona Cardinals, Sunday’s opponents, feature one of the NFL’s premier punt returners in Patrick Peterson. Last season as a rookie, Peterson tied the NFL single-season punt-return touchdown record, finishing with four, with all four of his scores at least 80-yard returns. Those impressive numbers certainly haven’t gone unnoticed by Westhoff.
“I’ll tell you what he’s incredible at aside from being a prolific punt returner,” Westhoff said. “He rushes field goals as good as maybe anybody I’ve ever seen. He can run under a chair. He explodes and he’s low. He’s strong. At 220 pounds, he runs through a lot of things aside from being so explosive. He’s a real factor.
“Sometimes his numbers maybe aren’t quite what he would want them to be. He takes chances. I mean, he ran a 99-yard punt return. That meant he fielded it on the 1. A lot of guys wouldn’t do that. He does that kind of stuff. So he’s very daring.”
When Peterson entered the NFL out of LSU in 2011, Westhoff listed him as his top draft prospect.
“He’s extremely, extremely talented,” Westhoff said. “I have tremendous respect for him.”
The unit is also hoping personal protector Tim Tebow will be ready to go after he didn’t see action in last week’s game due to his broken ribs.
“I think I know Tim Tebow pretty well,” Westhoff said. “The guy’s pretty tough. Anytime you have one of those things, there’s always a safety or precaution because you don’t know what it could become.”
If the Jets envision being successful Sunday, one area they should attempt to capitalize on McKnight’s specialty, kickoff returns. Arizona ranks 30th in the NFL in both their 27.9-yard average return allowed and opponents’ averaged 24.3-yard-line drive start. But as Westhoff cautioned, it all circles back to fundamentals.
“Every play is measured by the proper execution of that play,” he said. “Sometimes a really good punt return is a fair catch. That can be a heck of a play, things like that. Whatever the situation requires, I want to try to win at that situation. And I want everyone to win at it, every single guy. That’s my goal.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Eric Smith, Jeremy Kerley, joe McKnight, Mike Westhoff, New England Patriots, Nick Folk, Patrick Peterson
Posted in John Holt | 19 Comments »
Jets linebacker Bart Scott met with reporters this afternoon to clarify comments he made regarding fans who greeted the Jets as they entered the MetLife Stadium tunnel at halftime of Thursday’s game against the Patriots.
Scott was quoted by the Daily News as saying, “The person yelling at you probably was picked last in dodgeball all through high school.”
The 11th-year veteran met with head coach Rex Ryan to discuss the matter and said he was making a generalization with his above quote.
This afternoon No. 57 told reporters that he has a tremendous amount of respect for the fans and the sacrifices they make. But he also stressed that he is always going to protect his team and organization.
“I mean, it’s freedom of speech, you know?” Scott said. “You can say what you want. I mean, as long as nobody gets physical or puts their hands on you, they’ll understand. But we should also understand that within those stands are family members, are wives, are kids and they have to live that. But I guess that’s what we sign up for.”
Ryan and Scott both agree that fans are going to display their frustrations when their team isn’t winning and isn’t performing at a high level, and that players and coaches shouldn’t allow what fans say affect them.
“We’ve got to appreciate our fans,” Ryan said. “Obviously in the good times it’s much easier than in the bad times.”
Scott wouldn’t say how long his conversation with Ryan lasted, but he said he understands where the coach is coming from.
“That’s the way it is in the life of a public figure,” the 2006 Pro Bowl selection said. “We live in a fishbowl and everything we do is analyzed and criticized. I don’t read into it and I don’t buy it. It takes a family member or someone who knows me to tell me what someone is saying and I take it all in stride, because at the end of the day, I know who and what I am and what I stand for.”
Scott, who has been battling through a turf toe injury most of the season, said he remembers when former NFL quarterback Tommy Maddox had a bad game and fans dumped trash and litter at his house.
“Is that wrong? I don’t know,” Scott said.
With a 4-7 record, it hasn’t been an easy year on the Jets players or their fans. Yet as one of the Green & White’s most outspoken leaders, Scott believes good things can still transpire.
“We all came into this season with expectations,” he said. “But I think the real true character of a man is tested when things aren’t going well. Anybody can sit up here and answer questions and do things when it’s easy, when it’s convenient. But when times get tough, that’s when a real man steps up and shows his true character.”
Yes, the fans were embarrassed by the Patriots game. The players were as well. Scott just hopes they will stay behind them the rest of the season.
“We’re practicing hard and we’re trying to finish it,” he said. “Hopefully with these last five games, we can make our fans proud, and Jets Nation and Gang Green feel like that we fought for them and that we put a good product out on the field for them.”
Thursday Injury Reports
There was some movement on the Jets’ injury report today, most of it favorable. WR Jeremy Kerley (heel/hamstring/illness), WR Chaz Schilens (concussion/hip) and LB Bart Scott (toe) all went from being limited during team drills Wednesday to being full-go today, and CB Aaron Berry (quad) went from DNP to limited. WR Clyde Gates (concussion) remained sidelined and S LaRon Landry (heel) did not practice in keeping with his weekly routine. G Brandon Moore (hip) was limited. New to the 20-player list today: LB Ricky Sapp (ankle, limited) and CB Kyle Wilson (illness, full).
Changes on the Cardinals’ 10-player list: RB William Powell (shoulder) and S Justin Bethel (shoulder) both went from limited to full today.
Tags: Bart Scott, MetLife Stadium, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan
Posted in John Holt | 34 Comments »
One of the elements of the Jets’ game that hurt them on Thanksgiving night — and that has to improve quickly to optimize the results of the regular season’s five-game homestretch — is third-down defense.
“Anytime you can’t get off the field on third down on defense, you’re hurting yourself,” S Yeremiah Bell said Monday. “You know, you give them an extra three downs to kind of do what they need to do. And when they have a quarterback like they have over there, that’s not something you want to do.
New England’s O converted 73.3% of its third-down opportunities (11-of-15), the highest percentage by a Jets opponent since 1986. At one point the Patriots had moved the chains on 11 consecutive third downs.
“We were having a difficult time on third down,” Bell said, “and it’s a very uncomfortable feeling because you know you’re going to be on the field and you know that with the firepower they’ve got that they can put up points at any time.”
Besides the communication errors on the long scoring passes to Shane Vereen and Julian Edelman, head coach Rex Ryan also cited the crunch-down issue.
“The fact is that they did a good job, made some plays on us, and they consistently were able to convert on third down,” Ryan said, “and that’s a problem.”
The problem, of course, starts on downs 1 and 2. There’s nothing counterintuitive about the fact that every yard you add to the opponent’s average third-down distance improves your chances of stopping a conversion.
And over the last four games, the Green & White defense has been giving ground on the first two downs. Miami’s average third-down distance was 5.1 yards, Seattle’s was 5.4, St. Louis’ was 4.5 and New England’s was 5.1. In this four-game streak combined the Jets were trying to stop teams who on average were trying to convert third-and-5.0, the lowest four-game in-season figure since the ’86 Jets, decimated by injuries after winning 10 of their first 11, lost four straight during which opponents were facing third-and-4.6.
Average third-down distance or margin isn’t as good a predictor of success as point margin or turnover margin. The Jets did well in their 27-13 win over the Rams, for instance, despite facing multiple third-and-short situations. And their offense’s puny third-and-3.0 average on 10 third downs vs. the Patriots (three conversions) didn’t help the home side, but that’s another story.
Suffice to say that keeping up the other guys’ average third-down distance is a good way to make them punt, often after with a demoralizing three-and-out series, improve your defense’s third-down conversion rate and get them off the field, and increase your possession time, all of which can be quite helpful components of a winning game plan.
The good news for the Jets is that their third-down defense, now ranked 31st in the NFL with an opponents’ conversion rate of 45.8%, gets a chance to improve that standing and pick up 3-D steam the next two weeks, against the Cardinals’ 32nd-ranked third-down offense (28.4%) and the Jaguars’ 31st-rated offense (30.6%).
As DT Sione Po‘uha, a key part of the Jets defense, tweeted this afternoon:
I’m putting all I got into it. Cause my family, teammates and fans deserve nothing less. Lets get it!!!
Jets Un-Flexed So Far
The Jets’ kickoff times for the coming weeks remain unaffected by the NFL’s flex scheduling procedures. Sunday’s game against the Cardinals remains at its originally scheduled 1 p.m. ET kickoff, next week’s game at the Jaguars is also at 1 p.m., and their Monday night game at Tennessee on Dec. 17 wouldn’t be affected by flex scheduling in any event.
Their Week 16 Sunday night game against San Diego could be changed, but the league, which has confirmed its Weeks 13-15 schedules, doesn’t have to announce Week 16 changes until about 12 days before that weekend, or Dec. 11.
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, flex scheduling, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, third-down defense, Yeremiah Bell
Posted in Randy Lange | 46 Comments »
Rex Ryan pointed the direction: “It’s on to Arizona.”
And the Jets head coach’s finger was pointing to the Cardinals because they’re in the exact opposite direction to the Patriots and the Thanksgiving game the Jets don’t want to see in their rear-view mirror as they put days and weeks in between that game and what remains in their 2012 regular season.
Ryan surely wasn’t selling a playoff push at today’s return-from-the-holiday news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, but he was asked if his approach for his team was to “run the table” on this season.
“Absolutely, that’s what you’re trying to do,” he said. “Our goal was to beat New England also, but that never worked out. That’s why you play. You try and win every game that you’re in.
“I’m not going to make a guarantee that we’re making the playoffs or that deal. We have to get better. It has to start right now. You can’t look down the road. Of course, you’d like to run the table, I guess that’s human nature to say, ‘Hey, I see what’s on our schedule, we have to win all five games, we have to do this, we have to do that.’ We have to win this game. I think that’s where the entire focus is.”
The shame of it is that the Jets’ final five games are table-runnable. Every opponent — Arizona, Jacksonville, Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo — is 4-7 or worse. Their combined winning percentage is .327. While not an apples-to-apples comparison, if that strength-of-schedule held up the rest of the season, it would be the lowest SOS of the last five opponents’ records when the Jets played them in any season in franchise history.
But to think ahead at this stage for the equally 4-7 Jets right now would be foolhardy, and no one we heard in the locker room after the midday practice was going there.
Reporter John Holt dropped in on the media gathering around Yeremiah Bell’s locker. Here’s John’s report:
Bell has always considered Thanksgiving a special holiday.
But this year the holiday wasn’t as enjoyable for the Jets’ safety as the Green & White were defeated by the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium.
“Just from a feelings standpoint, I mean, that was about as low as you can get, especially on national television,” Bell said this afternoon after practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center. “But you know, it’s over and you just move on to the next.”
“Obviously it was an embarrassing game,” No. 37 said. “Kind of a low point, the way we went out there and kind of what we put on the field. But we know we still have five games left, so we’re more focused on the Arizona Cardinals and taking each game one game at a time.”
Although the Pats won by 30 Thursday, Bell wouldn’t concede that New England was a better team than when the teams first met in Foxboro on Oct. 21. The Jets led that game with less than two minutes to go in regulation before the Patriots sent the game to overtime for the 29-26 win.
“I think they’re a good team, no doubt about it,” the former Miami Dolphin said. “But do I think the score reflects how good they are? Maybe not. They’re good, no doubt about it. But there were some crazy things that happened in that game [Thursday].”
The craziest was three New England touchdowns in a span of 52 seconds, something Bell said he’d never witnessed.
“I’ve never seen a game and the things that happened in that game spin out of control so fast,” he said.
With five games remaining on the schedule, maybe a players-only meeting could prove beneficial.
“We’ve talked as players,” Bell said. “But at this point it’s just about doing your job. I don’t know how much more you can say it or how much more clear you can say it. It’s about guys doing their jobs and not doing the boneheaded things in games; not turning the ball over, not committing stupid penalties on defense and things like that. We just have to do more as a group.”
LaRon Landry, Bell’s safety mate, put the same sentiments in his own words:
“We have five more weeks and I’ll take it one day at a time, one practice at a time, like I’ve been doing. Go out there and give it my all and let the outcome speak for itself. I can only control what I can control.”
“There’s nothing more to say about it — we stunk it up,” LB Bryan Thomas said of their Turkey Day trimming. “Hats off to the Pats. Now we move on. Arizona’s coming in and we’re getting prepped on them, even a little bit today. Our sole focus is on this game. What would we look ahead for?”
And guard Brandon Moore uncharacteristically stepped on some reporters’ questions.
On the games down the road—
“It’s only about today for me.”
—but the possibility of running that proverbial table—
“I don’t know. I’m focused on today. I’m not going to even go there.”
That is the way it is today, will be this week. Only after Arizona will the focus shift to Jacksonville, and Tennessee will be unspoken before the Jaguars game. That’s the way it must be for this Jets team in this season.
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Brandon Moore, Bryan Thomas, LaRon Landry, New England Patriots, thanksgiving, Yeremiah Bell
Posted in Randy Lange | 47 Comments »
Here are today’s pregame tweets for the Jets-Patriots game at MetLife Stadium, in case you missed them on Twitter. Follow Bob Wischusen, Eric Allen and me for our tweets during each Jets game on https://twitter.com/nyjets.
#RL Weather for Jets-Patriots at MetLife Stadium tonight expected to be clear/cold, temps falling through low 40s during game, little wind.
#RL Jets tonight are playing in the 8th Thanksgiving game in their history. Their record: 4-3 overall, 3-0 @ home (wins in ’60, ’61, ’10).
#RL NYJ inactives: QB Greg McElroy, RB Kahlil Bell, CB Aaron Berry, NT Damon Harrison, G Caleb Schlauderaff,G Hayworth Hicks,TE Hayden Smith
#RL WR Jordan White (#17), CB Donnie Fletcher (#34), CB Darrin Walls (#27), signed from practice squad, all active for Jets tonight.
#RL NE inactives:CB Marquice Cole OL MarkusZusevics G Logan Mankins T Sebastian Vollmer TE Rob Gronkowski DEs Jake Bequette & Chandler Jones
#RL Jets gained 403 yds of offense @ NE last month, their first 400-yd game vs Patriots since 1996.
#RL Mark Sanchez career passing numbers vs NE: 140-for-237 (59.1%), 1677 yds, 12 TDs, 10 INTs, 19 sacks, 80.1 rating, 3-5 record.
#RL TE Dustin Keller has 8 catches in a game 4 times in career. First time: Thursday night 11/13/08 as a rookie in Jets’ 34-31 OT win @ NE.
#RL DE Mo Wilkerson has 2 forced fumbles, 1 FR-TD in last 2 games. Last Jet w/ 4 fumble plays in back-to-back games: LB Calvin Pace, 2008.
#RL Nick Folk has eight 50+ FGs in his Jets career, 3 this season–pair of 51-yders @ STL on Sunday, 54-yder @ NE last month.
#RL Tom Brady career numbers vs Jets: 479-for-753 (63.6%), 5360 yds, 32 TDs, 11 INTs, 42 sacks, 92.7 rating, 17-5 record.
#RL NE’s Wes Welker vs Jets: 11 games, 75 receptions, 874 yds (11.7 avg), 3 TDs, 3 100-yd games.
#RL Tonight’s referee is Mike Carey. It’s Carey’s 18th Jets game as ref since ’95. He also officiated 2010 Jets-Bengals Thanksgiving game.
#RL Jets have scored on 2 of their 10 opening drives this season — 2 TDs (@ PIT, @ NE),
#RL Jets opponents have scored on 6 of their 10 opening drives—4 TDs (@ MIA, HOU, @ SEA, @ STL), 2 FGs (@ PIT, MIA).
#RL Jets wearing green jerseys, green pants tonight, for 6th time under Rex Ryan. Record in g/g: 4-1 u/ Rex, 11-8 since ’02.
#RL We’ve cleared 500,000 followers. Amazing! And to think 3 years ago we had 500 followers. Thanks, Jets Nation.
Tags: Dustin Keller, Mark Sanchez, MetLife Stadium, Muhammad Wilkerson, New England Patriots, Nick Folk, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
Posted in Randy Lange | 60 Comments »
Updated, 4:01 p.m. ET
Thanksgiving is a time for turkey, but Thursday night the Jets and Patriots could give each other indigestoin by grilling up several New York strips.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan had Rob Ninkovich on his mind, if not on his tongue, earlier this week in discussing one of the many challenges the Jets will face against the Pats.
“Number 50, Ninkovich, if that’s how you pronounce his name, he’s a good player. I know him by number,” Ryan said. “He’s forced, I think, five, six fumbles this year, so they do a great job of attacking the football. I think they lead the league in forced fumbles. It’s something they’ve always done a great job of, so we have to make sure we’re protecting the ball at all costs.”
Rex’s research was right on. The Patriots lead the NFL with an impressive plus-20 turnover margin. They’ve done it in large part by leading the league unofficially with 19 forces and officially with 14 fumble recoveries. Ninkovich is tied for third individually with five forces and tied for first with three recoveries.
And Ninkovich has been a Jet-killer the past two seasons. He had the two interceptions of Mark Sanchez last year on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, one returned for a TD, and his overtime strip sack of Sanchez provided the crushing coda to the Green & White’s 29-26 overtime loss at Gillette last month.
“Ninkovich is one of the best at it, it seems,” Sanchez said. “He’s really getting after the quarterback, he’s getting after the football, and that’s really their whole defense, that’s kind of their MO.”
He’s not alone. Two other linebackers, Brandon Spikes (4 FFs) and Jerod Mayo (3 FFs) are in the top 10, along with rookie DE Chandler Jones (3 FFs). That has the attention of Joe McKnight, who looked to be back at close to full speed from his ankle injury with several nice plays on kickoff returns and out of the backfield at St. Louis.
“From the mistakes I’ve made in the past,” he said with a small smile, “I just have to be more conscious of the ball. I’m always thinking about the ball before I even get the ball.”
He even shared his informal mental checklists with us. Before each kick return it’s something like:
1. Put my mouthpiece in.
2. High-and-tight the ball.
3. Two hands in traffic.
4. Make the kicker miss.
5. Score the touchdown.
Before he gets the ball from Sanchez on a run, he has a similar list:
1. Get the ball first.
2. Two hands in traffic.
3. Keep your feet when you run through the smoke.
4. Make the safeties miss.
5. Score the touchdown.
Needless to say, such emphasis for all the Jets’ skill players will be important tomorrow night. But they are not weaponless in this high-stakes game of strip poker, even if they were to lose a fumble. That’s because they’ve been stripping the ball away from QBs and RBs (and even kickoff returners, as New England’s Devin McCourty knows from five weeks ago) almost as well.
The Jets have 11 forced fumbles this season, tied for fourth in the NFL, and recovered 10, tied for third. And recently, they’ve been on even more of a roll. Their six FFs at Seattle and St. Louis are the most in the league the past two weeks and are the most in back-to-back games since they had seven forces on two occasions in the ’08 season.
The movers and shakers in this area have been DE Muhammad Wilkerson and S LaRon Landry. Wilkerson’s been involved in three separate fumble plays in those two games — two forces and the fumble-return TD vs. the Seahawks, and that’s the most in back-to-back games by a Jets player since Calvin Pace was involved in four fumble plays in consecutive games in ’08.
“I’ve been shouting it from the rooftops since Mo first got here,” NT Sione Po said of Wilkerson’s recent emergence. “His IQ level is more of like a six-, seven- or eight-year player in terms of what he’s playing at, his production and what he does to help this team as a whole. It’s just phenomenal. I’m glad I’m playing on the same side of the ball he is.”
Landry, who has three forced fumbles this year, with two coming against the Rams, declined to give his secrets, other than his patented crunching hits, one of which forced rookie RB Daryl Richardson to cough up the ball Sunday and set up the Jets’ final TD under the Edward Jones Dome. But he provided some general guidelines.
“You’ve got to have a knack for that, man,” he said. “It’s a knack and an attitude. It takes some practice. Part of it is the point of attack, and you’ve got to be aware of what kind of offender you’re going up against, tight end, receiver, running back. And you’ve got to finish. You’ve got to have a knack for it.”
These longtime rivals have shown they’ve got the knack this year. Who’s better at the strip Thursday night may have a lot to say about who comes away with the victory drumstick.
Final Injury Report
The Jets held a short, closed practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center this morning.
Just before 4 p.m., both teams released their final injury reports of the week. The Jets’ injury list seems manageable with seven designated “questionable” for the game: CB Aaron Berry, NT Kenrick Ellis, WR-PR Jeremy Kerley, RB-KR Joe McKnight, NT Sione Po‘uha, LB Bart Scott and QB Tim Tebow. Tebow practiced full today with his sore ribs while the other six were limited.
The 11 probables: TE Jeff Cumberland, DT Mike DeVito, WRs Clyde Gates and Stephen Hill, S LaRon Landry, C Nick Mangold, guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, LB Calvin Pace, RB Bilal Powell and QB Mark Sanchez.
The Patriots listed their three DNPs this week as out for the game: TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip) as expected; DE Chandler Jones, tied for the team lead with six sacks; and G Logan Mankins.
Thirteen Pats are questionable: D-linemen Ron Brace and Trevor Scott, safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory, O-linemen Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer and Nick McDonald, TE Aaron Hernandez, LBs Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes and Tracy White, and WRs Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker. The three probables are WR Julian Edelman, DT Kyle Love and LB Jerod Mayo.
Happy Thanksgiving to all and one way or another we’ll all meet up at the game.
Tags: Calvin Pace, joe McKnight, LaRon Landry, Mark Sanchez, MetLife Stadium, Muhammad Wilkerson, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, Rob Ninkovich, Sione Pouha, thanksgiving
Posted in Randy Lange | 15 Comments »
What’s the Jets-Pats rivalry coming to?
Antonio Cromartie, for instance, today had words of praise for Tom Brady.
“The guy’s won Super Bowls. I have respect for him from that standpoint,” said Cro. “He’s a competitor. He’s going to compete. He reminds me a lot of Philip Rivers in that he’s going to trash-talk back at you.”
And then there’s Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick. When the Jets head coach called the Patriots’ head coach the best coach in football, etc., before previous matchups, some suspected Ryan of being insincere. Not true. Rex really does respect Belichick.
And today he went so far as to defend Belichick against media and fans in the Boston area who were critical of Belichick playing Rob Gronkowski on the last extra-point play of the Patriots’ 59-24 rout of the Colts on Sunday — the play on which Gronkowski suffered a forearm fracture that will keep him out of Thursday’s Jets-Pats tilt.
“Yeah, absolutely ridiculous,” Ryan, on a conference call with Patriots reporters, said of the flak Belichick had been drawing. “It was on an extra point. He’s done that probably 100 times this year for the simple fact of how many points they score. You never see that. Every single team in the league … we have D’Brickashaw Ferguson in there.
“You don’t play the game that way. It’s just an unfortunate thing. That’s just a freak deal that that would happen. But unfortunately that’s part of the game. Injuries do happen. We lose [Santonio] Holmes and [Darrelle] Revis to non-contact injuries and it’s just one of those things and it’s just unfortunate, obviously.”
Belichick seemed touched when told of Ryan’s defense at his own news conference with those same reporters.
“I didn’t hear it, so I’m just taking your word for it,” he said. “I feel like I have a good relationship with Rex. Obviously we want to beat each other. We’re in the same division and that’s just competitiveness. I see Rex from time to time during the year. Like I said, we had his brother on the staff here for four years. I’ve known his father for 30 years, whatever it is, it’s been a long time. I think that there’s a lot of…he’s a son of a coach, he’s a football guy, he’s been around it his whole life. I have, too. There are a lot of things we have in common.
“But this week,” summed up Belichick, back in character, “it’s about two teams trying to compete against each other. That’s all it is.”
The Life of a Hard Hitter
Jets S LaRon Landry was asked about the flap surrounding Ravens S Ed Reed’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders on Sunday night, which initially drew him a one-game suspension and was reduced today after appeal to a $50,000 fine.
“Yeah, I heard he got his [penalty] reduced. That’s good. That’s great,” said Landry as one fellow hard hitter to another. “Being a physical football player, things like that happen. He was just trying to make a play. He’s good at what he does.
“I know Ed personally. I know that was not intentional. It’s football, man. But within this game we have rules that are going to be enforced.”
It’s not just professional courtesy. Landry and Reed are both Louisianans. In fact, they played against each other for rival high schools in the Metairie area.
The Jets made two roster moves today. They announced this morning that rookie free agent LB Marcus Dowtin had been waived. Then this afternoon, GM Mike Tannenbaum disclosed on our own “Jets Talk Live” with my partner Eric Allen that veteran WR Jason Hill had been released.
That gives the Jets three openings, since they were at 52 players on the active roster for the Rams. Expect a few signings to be announced before the Patriots game.
A perhaps interesting injury note is connected to J.Hill’s departure. He was listed on Monday’s injury report as not practicing due to a low-back injury. With that listing, the Jets had 19 players on the list. Today’s list is down to 18 after Hill’s release. The Patriots have also listed 19 injured players both days this week, and their two reports were also identical.
So for the first time this season, 32 separate injury reports in all, the Jets have listed fewer injured players than their opponents.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Bill Belichick, Ed Reed, Jason Hill, LaRon Landry, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, thanksgiving, Tom Brady
Posted in Randy Lange | 16 Comments »
Rex Ryan and the Jets did in fact enjoy their two-hour plane ride back from St. Louis to Newark on Sunday night, as he suggested they should. And the head coach was still smiling over the Jets’ not-perfect-but-strong-nonetheless 27-13 win over the Rams the day before.
But Ryan and his players had no time to banter or trashtalk too much about their Thanksgiving night home matchup with Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots.
“Right now we’re just swinging,” Rex said, going into heavy boxing/UFC metaphor. “We’re going to focus on our opponent specifically, but we’re behind where we have to be. We can only focus on ourselves. Like I say, just find a way to punch and swing. We earned where we are and we have to find a way to punch our way out. I’m not even worried about tweaking New England. It’s to a point where we have to focus on just us.”
The Jets did that with an altered schedule, returning to the Atlantic Health Training Center this morning and working out and meeting all day before starting the “first practice of the week” late this afternoon into early evening, which necessitated the lights ringing the complex’s outdoor turf field to be turned on for the session’s conclusion.
If any of the players lose focus now, it might not just be about losing that one-game-at-a-time mentality but also realizing how achy and breaky one’s body is after playing in St. Louis and before taking the field against the Pats’ band of offensive wizards and defensive opportunists three nights later.
“You have to see today like it’s a Wednesday practice,” TE Dustin Keller said from the . “You have to forget about the game yesterday. If you think about the game yesterday, you’re going to make yourself that much sorer.”
“It was a good win for us,” QB Mark Sanchez said. “We’re past that now, on to the next one. We have to try to get as many as we can.”
But only one at a time, CB Kyle Wilson said.
“We’re just really looking to improve this week, get better every day,” said Wilson. “We’re just focusing on New England. That’s all that’s there.”
One player who may not be there at MetLife Stadium, at least not in uniform, is New England’s Rob Gronkowski. Belichick told Patriots reporters on a conference call today, “I really don’t have anything” on the condition of the monster TE’s left forearm. And the Patriots’ official injury report released this evening only lists him as Did Not Participate in today’s practice, with a “forearm/hip” injury.
Unofficially it was being reported that Gronk fractured the arm while blocking on the final extra point of the Pats’ 59-24 win over the Colts and would be undergoing surgery sometime today.
“They have like five tight ends on their roster, so I don’t know if they will put another guy in that role,” Ryan said. “I’m not sure how they’ll do it. New England’s so multiple, they’ll give you four wides, five wides, a bunch of tight ends, so we’ll see as the game goes on how it affects them.
“Obviously, Gronkowski’s a huge target, especially in the red zone. I never like to see anybody get hurt. I’m not sad that he’s missing our game, but I hope he gets back soon.”
Sanchez has experienced the lows and highs of life as a quarterback the last two games, specifically when it comes to third-down accuracy.
At Seattle, Sanchez was 1-for-7 on third down, a 14.3% accuracy that was the lowest on that down of any game in his career.
Then at St. Louis, he rebounded with 8-for-9 accuracy at crunch time vs. the Rams. The 88.9% figure is the highest on that down in any game in his career.
On the other sideline, QB Sam Bradford and OC Brian Schottenheimer experienced those highs and lows in the same game. After one quarter, which was Bradford and Coach Schotty’s impressive 13-play opening touchdown drive, the Rams passer had a rating of 135.4 on 6-of-8 for 60 yards and the TD to Brandon Gibson.
The rest of the game, Bradford had to wonder where the magic went. He was 17-for-36 for 110 yards, one more TD to Gibby but one interception to Eric Smith, which all toted up to a 51.9 rating.
Love Those Short Fields
A few more note on the Jets-Rams drive chart. With the Rams help, the Jets finished 10 of their 13 drives in St. Louis territory. And two of those three series they didn’t cross the 50 were the Sanchez end-of-half kneeldowns.
Further, thanks to their three takeaways, the onside kick that Dustin Keller rescued, and a loss on downs after that, the Jets started five drives in St. Louis territory. That all added up to an average start on all drives of the Jets 45.9-yard line.
That is the best average drive start in a road game since we started tracking that number in 1990. There are only three home games that exceeded that number: 2001, Game 13, vs. Cincinnati (46.8), 2003, Game 5, vs. Buffalo (49.8), and 2008, Game 4, vs. Arizona (49.8). That last is the last time the Jets and Cardinals met before they’re set to do it again a week from Sunday. But first, of course, the Jets must figure out ways to maximize their field position and hidden yardage on Thursday night vs. the Patriots.
The Early Injury Picture
This is the week for the special Wednesday Injury Report, Monday Edition. The Jets and Patriots both filed reports after their practices today.
For the Jets, 19 players are on the report but it has the feel of last week’s report, which is to say fairly healthy for November. Only one player didn’t participate today and that’s WR Jason Hill (low back), who hasn’t played in the last two games after being re-signed.
Six players are limited, including WR Jeremy Kerley (heel/hamstring), who participated in only 19 offensive plays and none on specials vs. the Rams as he played through his issues. Also, NT Kenrick Ellis, who left the game after aggravating the knee injury that kept him out the four previous games, said he feels OK and did some work. The other limiteds: RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle), DT Sione Po‘uha (low back), LB Bart Scott (toe) and CB Aaron Berry (quadriceps).
Also for the first time since before the Week 6 game vs. the Colts, C Nick Mangold is no longer being listed with an ankle injury, only with a thumb deal. He’s one of 12 Jets who were full-go today.
For the Patriots, G Logan Mankins (ankle/calf) and rookie DE Chandler Jones (ankle) joined Gronkowski as DNPs. Thirteen players were limited: DT Ron Brace (elbow), S Patrick Chung (shoulder/hamstring), G Dan Connolly (back), S Steve Gregory (hip), TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle), LB Dont’a Hightower (hamstring), WR Brandon Lloyd (knee), OL Nick McDonald (shoulder), DE Trevor Scott (hamstring), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), T Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee), WR Wes Welker (ankle) and LB Tracy White (foot).
LB Bart Scott is known for his Thanksgiving charity work in the city of Baltimore, where he started his pro career in 2002. Since ’03, he’s fed 250 men in the Helping Us Mission homeless shelter there, and this the fourth Turkey Day that Bart has conducted the dinner from a distance. The Ravens RB Ray Rice hosts in Bart’s absence, but the Madbacker talks with the attendees through Skype. This year’s event is Tuesday night.
Now rookie D-lineman Quinton Coples joins in the holiday cheer. Coples, who has a special affinity for his hometown of Kinston, N.C., gave away 250 turkeys in that town today. “Q” also is here in New Jersey, so his representatives, Millennium Sports Management, and volunteers distributed the birds on his behalf.
Tags: Bart Scott, Bill Belichick, Dustin Keller, Kyle Wilson, Mark Sanchez, New England Patriots, Quinton Coples, Rex Ryan, Rob Gronkowski, St. Louis Rams, thanksgiving, Tom Brady
Posted in Randy Lange | 34 Comments »
There have been plenty of highs and lows so far through the first seven weeks of the Jets’ season.
But possibly the least-talked-about positive has been the perfect start from kicker Nick Folk.
“He has been phenomenal,” head coach Rex Ryan said this week. “There are a lot of areas that we can improve in. Kicking is not one of them. The guy has been absolutely phenomenal.”
Just like a season ago, Folk has once again started 11-of-11 on his field goal attempts.
“I’ve had some pretty good starts,” Folk said Friday. “I just have to try and keep it rolling. I feel like I’m hitting the ball really solidly and trying to keep improving every day on the little things.”
The sixth-year pro is coming off a 4-of-4 performance Sunday during the Jets’ 29-26 overtime loss at New England. In that game, he connected on a 54-yarder, which trimmed the Patriots’ lead to 16-10 at the intermission, and later in a 29-second span hit a pair of 43-yarders, one to tie the game at 23-all and the next to give the Jets a three-point lead with 1:37 left in regulation.
“I mean, it felt good, but at the same time you know, we didn’t get the win,” the kicker said. “Like when we beat Indy and I just kicked a bunch of extra points, I’d take that. I just want to win. I think we’ll keep getting better and keep improving every week and we’ll do well this Sunday.”
The Jets will host the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. The teams already met this season back on Sept. 23. Jets All Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis went down with a season-ending ACL injury during the third quarter, yet the Green & White still were able to overcome adversity and exit Sun Life Stadium with a 23-20 overtime victory. With 6:04 remaining in the extra session, Folk converted the game-winning 33-yard FG.
“We pulled together when Reve got hurt,” he said. “The team kind of battened down the hatches and played well at the end there. I think we played our best football at the end of that game, so it was a good way to end the game. It kind of stunk we had some guys get hurt, but that’s football and I think guys are rallying around each other right now and doing a good job.”
Folk kept his job as the Jets kicker this season, but it wasn’t easy as he beat out former Rams kicker Josh Brown in a tight competition during training camp. At the time, special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff called the competition between the kickers the best he’d witnessed in his coaching career. Ryan also was amazed.
“I thought those guys really pushed each other,” the fourth-year head coach said, “but when you look at the end result, there is nobody kicking better than Nick because he’s made every kick.”
Over the course of Folk’s career, he is an astonishing 41-of-43 (95.3%) on fourth-quarter field goal attempts, including the playoffs. That percentage is second-best among all NFL kickers in the fourth quarter since 1991 with at least six tries.
“I think most kickers should live for it. I do,” Folk said of kicking in the clutch. “I embrace the pressure. I don’t try to shun it away. I just try to have fun with it and just kind of keep it rolling.”
And while his fourth-quarter numbers surely speak for themselves, Folk said he doesn’t pay attention to the stats.
“I’m just trying to do my job and when it comes down to that time, that’s when they’re most important,” he said. “So I just try to be my best at the end, and you kind of want to be your best at all times, but that’s when it really matters, and I’m trying to keep an even keel at the end of the game, when everything is on the line. Just trying to do well, hit the ball solidly and have a good end.”
No. 2 for the Green & White stated that he’s been pleased with his kicking production not just during games this season but also through practices. He said the primary thing the team is focused on is trying to reach 3-1 in the AFC East and 4-4 overall, heading into their bye week.
It’s obviously uncertain whether Folk will continue his impressive streak as the season progresses, but if he can stay healthy there’s always a chance.
“I think that’s a big thing,” Folk said. “Don’t get tired, make sure you’re watching the amount of kicks you’re doing in practice, keep your leg strong, but don’t get too tired to where you’re overkicking, and mentally stay into it. I think those are the two biggest things. Just stay strong and stay healthy and stay mentally focused for every kick.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Josh Brown, Miami Dolphins, Mike Westhoff, New England Patriots, Nick Folk, Rex Ryan
Posted in John Holt | 18 Comments »
Updated, 7:10 p.m. ET
After catching all seven passes thrown to him for 93 yards and scoring a fourth quarter touchdown during Sunday’s overtime loss to the New England Patriots, Dustin Keller appears to be in a familiar spot.
“I’m finally getting into the swing of things and starting to get a real good feel for the passing game and all that stuff, because when you’re gone for a while, you don’t see those looks for a little while and it’s kind of a little weird when you first get out there,” the tight end said this afternoon after practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “But I feel back in the swing of things and pretty much back to where I was.”
Keller had missed four games earlier this season due to a hamstring injury, but returned to the Jets lineup against Indianapolis on Oct. 14. In that game, he had one catch for 6 yards on the only pass thrown his way by Mark Sanchez. However, in Foxboro, the QB/TE duo were able to regain their strong connection.
“I think there’s a major comfort level,” Keller said of his relationship with Sanchez, “and also at the same time, if there’s anything that feels a little cloudy in our minds, we both are comfortable enough to come up to each other and be like, ‘What were you thinking on that play?’ Just so we’re thinking alike. We both know exactly what each other is thinking. I try to do that anytime there’s a little bit of a question in my mind on any play.”
No. 81’s touchdown against New England came on the final play of the 92-yard drive that cut the Patriots’ lead to 23-20 with just under six minutes remaining in regulation. Sanchez threw the pass in a tight window and Keller was able to haul in the 7-yard reception in the middle of the end zone.
“The whole play worked because Mark put it in the only spot they couldn’t get it,” the fifth-year TE said.
As the Green & White gear up to take on the Miami Dolphins for the second time this season, Keller has been encouraged with how the Jets receivers have progressed since Santonio Holmes, their No. 1 WR, went down with a season-ending foot injury on Sept. 30.
“I think all the guys have done a great job of picking up the slack since Santonio’s been out,” Keller said. “Everybody has been picking up a little bit. Obviously there’s not one guy that’s going to pick up all the production and do all the things that Santonio was doing for us. But the guys that are here have been doing a great job.”
The Dolphins didn’t have an answer for Holmes when the teams first met last month. Tone finished that day with nine receptions for 147 yards and the Jets picked up their lone road victory of the season, leaving Sun Life Stadium with the 23-20 overtime victory. Keller was sidelined for the matchup but still analyzed the team’s performance.
“I think we did some good things the first game,” he said. “We were lucky enough to pull away the game. I don’t think we played our best football, but we did enough in each area, special teams, defense and offense, to win the game.”
Heading into their second meeting, Keller believes the Jets have an advantage against the Miami pass defense, which is allowing 284.8 yards per game, 28th in the NFL. But regardless of what the stats indicate about Miami, Keller knows how important Sunday’s contest is. And when you consider that the Jets enter their bye week after the game, it makes things even more critical.
“I feel like all AFC East games are rivalry games,” Keller said. “Anytime you’re going to get a team twice in a season, that’s a rivalry to me. But it’s always a tough game. All the AFC East games are tough, but for some reason, Miami, it seems like it’s been a big one for us.”
Rex and Reggie
The week before the Jets faced the Dolphins last month, Jets head coach Rex Ryan made comments describing how his team planned to contain running back Reggie Bush that drew some heat after the fact.
At the time, Ryan said, “Obviously, we have to do a great job of getting a lot of guys to him and getting him on the ground. Put some hot sauce on him, if you will.”
The Jets defeated Bush and the Dolphins, 23-20, in overtime. Bush produced 61 yards on 10 carries before leaving the game with a knee injury late in the second quarter. Late in the third quarter, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis went down with a season-ending torn left ACL.
Days after the game, Bush said: “It’s like the old saying, what goes around comes around. They talked all week about putting hot sauce and this and that, and they ended up losing their best player for the rest of the season. So it’s sad that it happened because of that, but I’m going to be back.”
As the AFC East foes prepare to meet again Sunday, Ryan was asked about the topic during his news conference this afternoon and explained the theory behind his statement.
“I never was saying that we were going to try to injury Reggie Bush,” Ryan said. “That’s not even close. He’s going to get our attention. I’m sorry, but he’s the type of player that’s going to warrant our attention and we’re going to give it to him, there is no question. That was what I meant by my comments. If it was taken differently, out of context or whatever, I apologized for that. Trust me, we know when he’s in the game. He is still going to get our attention.”
Ryan added that he never wants to see a player get hurt. He said as bad as he wants to beats Tom Brady, he would never want to see the Patriots QB out due to injury.
“Shoot, I’m a football fan as well as a coach,” he said. “This game is great because of the players and the talent that plays in this league.”
Bush enters Round 2 with the Green & White having started all six of Miami’s games with 98 rushes for 434 yards and three touchdowns.
Wednesday Injury Reports
The swelled-up Jets’ injury list continues to come back to earth slowly. The list now has 16 players, equal to its shortest Wednesday of the season. New to the list are TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist, did not participate) and G Vlad Ducasse (knee, full), but off the list completely are Keller, WR Stephen Hill and LB Bryan Thomas.
Eight players were DNPs for today’s practice. Besides Keller, they were NT Kenrick Ellis (knee), C Nick Mangold (ankle), RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle), LB Calvin Pace (who was kicked in the shin vs. the Patriots), RB Bilal Powell (shoulder), LB Bart Scott (toe) and S Eric Smith (knee).
McKnight is being brought along carefully after injuring the ankle against the Colts. As he said today, “If Coach Westhoff can play with a rod in his leg, I can play with a sore ankle.”
Also, NT Sione Pouha (back) was limited, as he was last Thursday and Friday. “I’m encouraged he’s out there giving it a shot this week,” said Ryan. “Big Bo” has missed the last three games and four of the seven this season.
The Dolphins’ list, on the other hand, is short by almost any standard. Only five players are listed by coach Joe Philbin: DNP — CB Richard Marshall (back) and DT Randy Starks (non-football); Limited — S Jimmy Wilson (ankle); Full — LB Koa Misi (hamstring) and RB Daniel Thomas (concussion).
Tags: Bilal Powell, Dustin Keller, joe McKnight, Mark Sanchez, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Sione Pouha
Posted in John Holt | 33 Comments »