What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?
All right, good news first.
With one more favorable set of games on the last day of the season next Sunday, the Jets will have the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense for 2012.
Stay with me on this.
The Jets are No. 2 for the second week in a row, behind Pittsburgh’s No. 1 unit, but the gap closed significantly on Sunday. As the Jets were yielding 136 net yards (passing yards minus sack yards), to the Chargers, the Steelers gave up 253 to Andy Dalton and the Bengals. That leaves the Jets 30 yards behind the Steelers.
A Green & White shutdown of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills coupled with a Steelers showing vs. Brandon Weeden and the Browns that is 31-plus yards than the Jets allow (and barring an even greater lockdown by No. 3 Arizona against No. 4 San Francisco or vice versa and by No. 5 Seattle against St. Louis) and the Jets will wear the No. 1 crown for pass defense in a year in which they didn’t have Darrelle Revis for 13 games and only lately started to bring serious, consistent pressure on opposing QBs.
What’s the point, you may ask over your eggnog. No. 1 pass defense isn’t a secret tiebreaker to get the Jets into the AFC playoff grid. It doesn’t pay incentives. There isn’t even a plaque for the wall downstairs at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. And where was the vaunted passing D in Sunday’s third quarter?
That last question is easiest to answer, although I’ll sound like a coach here when I say they’re paying the Chargers, too. Philip Rivers is still a decent QB, Danario Alexander is a dangerous downfield threat, Antonio Gates is one of the long-time gold standards at TE. Yeah, it would’ve been great to see Antonio Cromartie play that ball to Alexander better and for Eric Smith to drop Gates right after the catch, but most teams would kill for a defense that gave up 10 of its 20 points off of short fields and allowed 136 yards of passing offense on the day.
“The defense played really well for the majority of the game,” head coach Rex Ryan said on a conference call with beat reporters today. “I thought we gave up two huge plays. One we really thought we had the coverage, then did a poor job from a technique standpoint. Then you’ve got to give them credit for a nice job of scheming us when they got Gates isolated. That was obviously a big play for them. I think that’s obviously the difference in the game. They were absolutely dominated on defense and they made enough plays on offense to win the game.”
But at least consider there’s carryover from everything, good, bad and mediocre. However the Jets’ offense shakes out in 2013, the defense figures to be a cornerstone for the Jets going forward. Mo and Q, the Hitman, Cro and Revis Island, et al., should be a major force in the future, and nothing like a top ranking to underscore that for newcomers to the fold. Plus 1 isn’t a crooked number and is better than a sharp stick in the eye.
And Now for the Naughty
The bad news is that, besides a sudden blocking problem — “That was as poor as I can ever remember, as far as pass protection is concerned,” Ryan said of the 11 sacks suffered by Greg McElroy and the offense — another issue has lately reared its ugly head. It’s a turnover problem.
We hate to say it on Christmas Eve, but the Jets have been doing too much giving and not enough taking.
In their last five games, they have a minus-14 turnover margin (four takeaways, 18 giveaways), dropping them to minus-13 on the year, 27th in the NFL. Furthermore, it’s tied for the most lopsided five-game in-season margin in franchise history with a stretch of the Jets’ inaugural season as the Titans in 1960, when they went minus-14 from Games 5-9 (14 TAs, 28 GAs). The only worse five-game stretch spanned the 1976 and ’77 seasons, when they had a minus-18 (9 TAs, 27 GAs) through the ’77 season opener.
On the one hand, this kind of trend can undo a lot of the good things a team might do, such as playing great pass defense or getting off the field on third down or returning and covering kickoffs. On the other, at least the Jets won two of the games in this five game span, vs. Arizona and at Jacksonville.
Regardless, some members of the defense spoke with me about optimizing takeaway opportunities, and that hasn’t happened with no turnovers for the defense, not even a forced fumble, the last two games. Just like great pass defense can continue into the offseason and the next preseason, so can that often whimsical but always important turnover habit.
There is no better time for McElroy and the offense to work on ball security and the D to step up its ball thievery than this season’s last live action against the Bills, who are minus-14 for the season and minus-8 in their last three games alone.
Ryan was grilled again about quarterbacks following the game. He deflected Sunday stories about sources offering information regarding Tim Tebow being active but not playing against the Chargers while Jeremy Kerley ran the Wildcat on several plays, most notably the 42-yard completion to Clyde Gates on the Jets’ second drive.
“You’re assuming something’s a fact or whatever,” Ryan said regarding questions about some of those sources. “I’ll say this: If I would’ve asked Tim to play anything, Tim would’ve gone in the game and done that. … Jeremy looked good in practice. That’s why I went with him. I could’ve used Tim. If I’d chosen to use Tim, I believe without any hesitation Tim would’ve been out there.”
Reporter John Holt will have a story on Kerley that we’ll post Christmas morning. And we’ll have more on Rex, the quarterbacks, and the rest of the Jets when we all return to the facility for Wednesday’s practice for the Bills. Until then, we’ll sign off now and wish you and yours the happiest of holidays.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Antonio Gates, Buffalo Bills, Danario Alexander, Eric Smith, Greg McElroy, Jeremy Kerley, Philip Rivers, Rex Ryan, San Diego Chargers, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 122 Comments »
Here are today’s first-half tweets for the Jets-Chargers 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 Jets gameday captains today: Antonio Cromartie, Greg McElroy, Garrett McIntyre, Robert Malone, Antonio Allen.
#RL Chargers win opening coin toss, will defer their choice to 2nd half. Jets are 4-0 this yr in games in which opps win toss and defer.
#RL Micheal Spurlock 63-yd punt return for SD touchdown 1:59 into game. First opponent PR TD since Phillip Buchanon @ OAK in 2003.
#RL Greg McElroy screen to Shonn Greene for 30-yd reception. Longest reception by a RB this season.
#RL Jeremy Kerley to Clyde Gates out of Wildcat for 42-yd completion to SD-11. Kerley now 2-for-2 for 83 yds passing in his career.
#EA That was Shonn Greene’s 2nd longest catch of his career. He had a 36-yarder against KC last Dec. 11.
#EA Greene sets a career-high with his 7th rushing TD.
#RL Shonn Greene goes over from 1 yd out for TD to tie score at 7-7. Greene’s 7th TD of the season.
#EA 5 of Shonn Greene’s 7 Rush TDs in 2012 have come at MetLife Stadium. He is closing in on 1,000 for the year.
#RL Jets score 1st first-half offensive TD in 5 games, 2nd first-half offensive TD in last 48 drives, 8 games.
#RL Jets KO cover team, which came into weekend 2nd in NFL in most inside-20 kickoffs, get No. 24 as Micheal Spurlock is tackled at 19.
#EA Greene has another TD – that is No. 8 on the season. 2 Trips to the Red Zone – 2 TDs.
#RL Greene from 1 yd out again, Jets lead 14-7. First time Jets are in double digits in 1st qtr since 10 pts vs JAX in 2009 Game 9…
#RL … first time Jets have had 2 1st-qtr TDs since 2009 Game 7 @ OAK, first time 2 1st-qtr TDs at home since 2009 Game 3 vs TEN.
#EA In 2012, Jets have had 44 Trips Inside the Red Zone and scored 23 TDs. That is a 52% TD% now after Greene’s 2 scores in the 1st.
#RL Quinton Coples sacks Wildcat QB Ronnie Brown at SD-2 for his 5th sack of season, taking the Jets’ team lead.
#EA In the previous 7 first halves combined, the Jets had 16 offensive points. They have 14 late in the 1st vs. San Diego.
#RL Jets have 14-7 lead at the end of 1st qtr, largest 1st-qtr lead since Game 1, when they led BUF 7-0.
#RL After timeout, Nick Novak comes out for 51-yd FG, which he hits. Equals his longest FG this season, is longest by Jets opp this season.
#EA Greene: 8-20. Needs 29 Yards to Reach 1,000.
#EA Jets 3rd Down D Dominance Continues. SD 0-for-5 in 1st Half.
#RL Jets face 3rd-and-9 at their 25 at 2-minute warning for 1st half. They’re 1-for-4 so far in converting 3rd downs.
#RL Greg McElroy to TE Hayden Smith for his first pro reception, 16 yds on third-and-9 for first down.
#EA Wow the Jets get the big Australian going on the throwback screen for Hayden Smith! His 1st career catch.
#RL Jets go into locker room with 14-10 lead, their first halftime lead in 5 games or since 13-7 at St. Louis.
#RL Besides lead on scoreboard, Jets also hold edges in 1st downs (10-5), yards (142-76), possession (17:24-12:36). No turnovers in half.
Tags: Braylon Edwards, Greg McElroy, Hayden Smith, Micheal Spurlock, Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, Shonn Greene
Posted in Uncategorized | 93 Comments »
Here are today’s pregame tweets for the Jets-Chargers 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-Chargers today, 1 pm ET kickoff, at MetLife Stadium: mostly sunny, low 40s, winds close to 10 mph out of SW.
#RL Jets 14-17-1 all-time vs SD but have won 5 of last 7, incl PO wins @ SD in ’04 and ’09 and last yr’s 27-21 win over Chargers at MetLife.
#RL Greg McElroy gets first pro start for Jets. G-Mac got “relief win” in only previous appearance in 7-6 win over ARZ 3 wks ago.
#RL Chargers’ Philip Rivers is 1-2 career vs Jets with passer line of 62-of-97 (63.9%), 727 yds, 5 TDs, 5 INTs, 3 sacks, 82.3 rating.
#RL Jets RB Shonn Greene needs 49 rushing yds today to reach 1,000 rushing yds for 2nd consecutive season.
#RL Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson in last 9 games: 4 sacks, 3 forced FUMs, 1 FUM-return TD, 3 PDs, 1 intl grounding forced, 1 blkd FG
#RL Wilkerson, rookie DE Quinton Coples–former Hargrave MA teammates–are tied for Jets lead with 4 sacks each.
#RL Jets D on a run: Have held opponents to 4 conversions on their last 46 third downs. (0-for-2 vs NE, 0-15 vs ARZ, 2-16 @ jax, 2-13 @ TEN).
#RL Jets K Nick Folk is 17-for-22 FGAs this season. SD’s Nick Novak, former Jets K, is 15-for-17 FGAs this season.
#RL Jets wearing green jerseys, white pants today. They’re 3-3 this yr, 12-10 under Rex Ryan since ’09 in green/white.
#RL Today’s referee is Pete Morelli. It’s his 9th Jets game as ref. He also had Jets games @ SD in ’04 (34-28 win) and ’08 (48-29 loss).
#RL NYJ inactives: WR Mardy Gilyard CB Aaron Berry, CB Donnie Fletcher LB Ricky Sapp Davis DL Damon Harrison G Caleb Schlauderaff TE Dustin Keller
#RL Greg McElroy, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow all active for this game, 1st game this season all 3 Jets QBs have been active in a game.
#RL SD inactives: RB Edwin Baker LB Jonas Mouton LB Demorrio Williams OL Stephen Schilling WR Mike Willie TE Ladarius Green DT Aubrayo Franklin
Tags: Greg McElroy, Mark Sanchez, MetLife Stadium, Muhammad Wilkerson, Pete Morelli, Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Posted in Randy Lange | 6 Comments »
It was a busy short week in Florham Park, N.J., after the Jets’ Monday night triumph over the Dolphins. As we look ahead to Sunday’s critical game between the 3-3 Jets and the 4-1 Chargers, let’s empty out the notebook.
Bolts Backs Are Pass Game Threats
Since LaDainian Tomlinson arrived in New York, you’ve always been inclined to think about Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ vertical passing game first in regards to the SD offense. But Ryan Mathews, a second-year back out of Fresno State, is averaging an impressive 4.9 yards a carry and has scored three times on the ground in 2011. The Chargers are ranked ninth overall in rush yards per game at 122.8 per contest.
So the rush attack is solid, but Mathews and Mike Tolbert are paying dividends in the passing game as well. In fact, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote this week that the backfield pair are on pace for more combined yards (1,574) than any RB tandem in history and their pace of 154 receptions would put them only four fewer than the total that the Jets’ Richie Anderson and Curtis Martin combined for in 2000.
“They have a lot of weapons on their offense,” said ILB David Harris. “When they’re not throwing the ball downfield to Vincent Jackson and [Antonio] Gates, they have good running backs who come through the line and are checkdowns for Philip Rivers. He does a great job of finding the open receiver. Their two running backs are first [Tolbert: 28 catches, 231 yards, 2 TDs] and third [Mathews: 20-261] on the team in receptions, so they’re the main focus of their offense. We have to do a good job of keeping them in check.”
While the Jets’ defensive struggles against perimeter runs have been noted time and time again, the Green & White quietly are tied for third in the NFL with 17 sacks and tied for second with 14 takeaways. Mike Pettine’s unit also leads the NFL in third-down defense (28.6 percent conversion rate by opponents) and they’ll be challenged by a Chargers offensive unit that also paces the NFL (56.5 percent).
“It’s a good matchup for both teams to try to stop each other,” said CB Darrelle Revis. “I think that’s the biggest thing. We’ve been great on third down and we’ll see on Sunday.”
If you’re at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, you would be well served to keep your eyes on LaDainian Tomlinson. Not only will he get the start against his former team but he could provide an emotional spark early for the Jets.
“I’m super excited,” said WR Santonio Holmes. “I hope he rushes for more than 200 yards on Sunday, and it will definitely be my duty to make sure I block those guys down the field so he can get his job done, just to show those guys that they let go a valuable aspect of their team, a leader, and a guy who’s a future Hall of Famer.”
While Tomlinson might not don a C on his jersey, make no mistake that he is one of this team’s most important leaders.
“I think his leadership carries around the locker room,” Holmes said. “It shows on Sundays before the game. Even the little things that he comes and talks to me about as far as running some routes and the way he has to run these specific routes that we run in practice. He comes and talks to me a little bit. We share a lot of information on how to be more of a leader on and off the field without having to do too much. I think that carries a long way around this team and everybody here respects him.”
Special Teams: Advantage, Westy
It has been overshadowed again this week, but perhaps the Jets’ biggest advantage headed into this AFC contest is on special teams.
The Jets are first in the NFL in average drive start after kickoff returns (28.0) while the ‘Bolts are 29th (24.4) in covering kicks. Conversely, the Green & White kick coverage unit ranks third (19.4 average drive start) while the Chargers returners are 21st (21.1).
“I’m expecting them not to kick it back there as much — just like last game,” said Joe McKnight, who is averaging a ridiculous 44.1 yards a kick return.
Percy Harvin of the Vikings got the Chargers season under way in ominous fashion, racing 103 yards for a score on their first play of the 2011 season. The Chargers have also been porous covering punts, but the problem is Norv Turner’s crew has only booted it away 12 times in five games. Mike Scifres, who has a decent average of 46.3 yards, has seen opponents average a whopping 18.8 yards on their six returns.
“Every team we’re going to play is going to come with their ‘A’ game. We just have to come with our ‘A’ game and expect anything,” McKnight said. “They’re probably going to come out and try to kick it different ways, try different things. You just have to be ready for it.”
Tags: Darrelle Revis, joe McKnight, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mike Tolbert, Mike Westhoff, Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
Posted in Eric Allen | 21 Comments »
Phil Simms, who will be at MetLife Stadium Sunday for Week 7 action between the Jets and the Chargers alongside Jim Nantz in the CBS broadcast booth, believes the Jets offense will continue to progress in the weeks ahead.
“Rex Ryan is the coach. There is a mentality and a culture that comes with that,” he told me on a “Four Quarters” installment that will air on the site throughout the weekend. “They’re not going to be the high-flying San Diego Chargers when Dan Fouts was the quarterback. There is going to be a toughness — that’s why they went to two straight AFC Championship Games. You don’t want to lose that.”
After a disastrous Week 4 setback in Baltimore, Simms thinks the “O” took steps forward in the Week 5 loss at New England and in Monday night’s 24-6 victory over the winless Dolphins.
“I’ve seen the Jets getting back to that a little the last couple of weeks. I think Jets fans should be somewhat excited about that,” he said. “Maybe it’s not the prettiest football in the world, but who cares? When it’s all said and done, it is about winning. They didn’t complain when they got to the championship game last year.“
While many pundits have questioned Mark Sanchez’s progress, Simms thinks the third-year passer has been solid the last two weeks. Sanchez completed 59 percent of his passes (30 of 51) with three TDs and zero turnovers in divisional play against the Pats and ‘Fins.
“Look at the last two games and look at the numbers,” Simms said. “I think he has three touchdowns and no interceptions, completion percentage OK and the yards are OK per attempt. Man, Rex Ryan must go into his office and go, ‘That’s what I want.’ ”
And while many in Jets Nation scream for long aerial strikes, Simms has an interesting take on Sanchez’s greatest strengths.
“He is a very good quick-rhythm thrower, the three-step game. Why? Because he has a great — not a good — drop. He has big hands and long arms. That makes him a good over-the-top short thrower,” he said. “He is one of the top-five ball fakers in the NFL, so that makes him a pretty good play-action quarterback. He throws good on the run and can move in the pocket behind the tackles well enough.”
The Jets defense will be tested by an excellent Chargers offense this weekend. Quarterback Philip Rivers loves to go down the field with his outside receivers and the Jets are confident on the outside with their talented corner tandem.
“The No. 1 thing I’m interested in watching this week is Vincent Jackson of the Chargers going against Darrelle Revis,” Simms said. “Darrelle is probably the best defensive player in the NFL and Vincent Jackson, people know about him but I don’t think they really respect how good he is. He is a fantastic receiver.”
Referring to the ‘Bolts as a “sneaky” running team, Simms says the Chargers’ approach in the pass game is unique.
“If you’re a Jets fan and you come out there to the game on Sunday, I don’t care where Philip Rivers throws it. He may throw it short, but you watch how many guys are running down the field every play,” he said. “It’s like worms — they’re wiggling in and out and it’s going to be great to see it against the Jets’ man-to-man defense.”
Simms, a quarterback for the crosstown team from 1979-93, does not minimize the importance of this game for New York’s AFC representative. Sitting 3-3, the Jets need a win headed into the bye or else it’s going to be a treacherous climb to return to the postseason.
“The room for error — that’s why it’s so critical for the Jets,” he said. “It will probably be one of the first things I say on the air that it is critical.”
Tags: Jim Nantz, Mark Sanchez, Phil Simms, Philip Rivers, Rex Ryan, San Diego Chargers
Posted in Eric Allen | 9 Comments »
Update, 7:30 p.m. ET
The Jets may be getting their pass-rushing inspiration these days from non-football on the television. For Calvin Pace it’s Albert Pujols. For Aaron Maybin it may be Dean Winters.
“I needed that, man,” said Pace about his two-sack smackdown of Matt Moore and the Dolphins on Monday night. “Sacks are one of those things that come in bunches. I had to get off the schneid, so to say. I’m a home run hitter but I’d been striking out a little bit. I had to hit a couple of homers.”
Pace told me before the Dallas season opener that 10-plus sacks were in his sights this season. He promptly got a takedown of Tony Romo, but then a couple of more sacks just eluded his grasp in the ensuing weeks. Now that he’s back on track, he can enjoy the Jets’ practices during the day this week as they get ready to chase down Philip Rivers and the Chargers, and at night he can sit back and enjoy Pujols and the Cardinals’ World Series quest that begins tonight against the Texas Rangers.
As for Winters, you may not recall the name but you probably remember his most recent role as “Mayhem” on the Allstate car insurance spots. So does Maybin.
“That’s always been my favorite commercial,” said the Jets’ lightning-fast linebacker. “But I’ve had that nickname since I was at Penn State. It started off almost like a joke. I think Joe [Paterno] called me that by mistake one time when I was a freshman and it kind of stuck. The guys on the team never let me forget.”
And now Jets head coach Rex Ryan won’t let him forget.
“He’s been calling me Mayhem for a while,” Maybin said. “He finally dubbed me Mayhem in the locker room.”
Meanwhile, on the field, Maybin is making up for lost time. He got the first sack of his three-year pro career in the Sunday night game at Baltimore. A quiet New England game was followed up by his come-from-behind style as he poked the ball loose from Reggie Bush’s grasp late in the second quarter, then got his second strip sack of the year late in the fourth against Moore.
Both balls skittered out of bounds so the Dolphins retained possession, but Mayhem … er, Maybin is hardly discouraged.
“Obviously, that’s the goal, that’s what you’re coming in trying to do. You try to create a big play on defense that might be able to get a spark that might turn the game around,” he said. “If we keep on coming and keep on swinging, eventually those balls are going to start rolling our way.”
The combination of Pace, Maybin, David Harris, Bart Scott, Jamaal Westerman and the rest of the Green & White QB chasers has done some interesting work lately. With four sacks of Moore following four sacks of Tom Brady, the Jets now have 17 sacks. That’s tied for third-most in the NFL (with 12 teams having played only five games, not six) and the sack rate (pass plays per sack) is fifth.
Naturally this doesn’t mean the jury is done deliberating on the quality of the Jets’ pass rush. They could have used more than the one second-half sack of Brady while he was directing four scoring drives (two TDs, two FGs) in the 30-21 win. And if any of their Monday night sacks had come in the first half, perhaps that would have slowed the ‘Fins down even more.
But suffice it to say the Jets are crashing the other team’s pocket with some more regularity lately.
“I can’t do it without the rest of my guys,” said Pace, whose emergence as a 10-sack monster would be a most welcome development over the final 10 regular-season games. “The secondary played great, we had some young guys come in and play well up front. So it was a total team effort.”
More such team efforts will be needed, especially in the next three games against Rivers, Buffalo’s hot Ryan Fitzpatrick after the bye, and then back to Brady at home four Sundays from now.
Ryan’s first injury report of the week was not overly alarming although six players did not practice in team drills in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center fieldhouse today due to the steady daylong rain in North Jersey.
CB Antonio Cromartie, who came out of the Dolphins game with a groin pull, rested, as did C Nick Mangold (ankle), DT Ropati Pitoitua (knee), CB Isaiah Trufant (hamstring) and WR Logan Payne (wrist). RB LaDainian Tomlinson was a non-injury DNP. And utility man Joe McKnight had a knee issue that had him limited.
“I think they’ll be limited during the week because we just played Monday,” Ryan said of Cromartie and Mangold. “We’ll see how they progress, but I expect them both to play.”
For the Chargers, DE Luis Castillo (tibia), the Garfield, N.J., product, did not participate in today’s practice. TE Antonio Gates (foot), WR Vincent Jackson (hmstring) and CB Marcus Gilchrist were limited. And RB Michael Tolbert (concussion) and DE Jacques Cesaire (knee) went full.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Antonio Cromartie, Calvin Pace, David Harris, pass rush, Philip Rivers, Rex Ryan, San Diego Chargers, Tom Brady
Posted in Randy Lange | 40 Comments »
The Jets will be leaving soon for a 2,800-mile trip to San Diego and the AFC Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. But it’s not uncharted territory for all the Green & White. Jerricho Cotchery should feel right at home.
For one thing, he’ll renew acquaintances with a Qualcomm Stadium VIP before the game. That would be the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, his former QB for four seasons at North Carolina State.
"I’ll say hi to Phil pregame, but that’ll be about it for the day," Cotchery told me today as the team finished packing up in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room before their flight. "It’ll be good seeing him again. It’ll bring back a lot of memories."
The memories will in general involve Cotchery’s record-setting tenure with the Wolfpack. After his 2003 senior season, Cotchery could boast (if J-Co did ever boast, which he doesn’t) of his school-record 200 receptions and 15 100-yard receiving games, and of his senior season during which he caught 86 balls, most of them from Rivers, for 1,369 yards, both figures second in NCSU history to Torry Holt.
What game, season or emotion does Cotchery remember most from his days of playing catch with Rivers?
"The chemistry we had throughout those four years — it hasn’t been the same way since we left N.C. State," he said. "And the last memory I had was walking off the field at the Tangerine Bowl after we had just put up a lot of points on Kansas."
The Wolfpack won the 2003 Tangerine, 56-26, with Cotchery catching 13 passes for 171 yards and a TD.
"Me and Jerricho still talk all the time," Rivers said this week. "He will be and always has been one of my all-time favorite teammates. He’s the ultimate competitor. We both grew up in Alabama competing in football and basketball. Jerricho gives you the same thing every day in practices and what he does on the field. The Jets players know it and appreciate it. He’s a heck of a player. It will be fun. We will not be competing directly, but I am looking forward to seeing him."
You can’t blame Cotchery for looking forward to seeing Qualcomm. In his only other two visits there, both in 2004, he left as a rookie victor.
"We had the winning field goal in overtime. That sticks out in my mind," Cotchery said of Doug Brien’s 28-yarder that lifted the Jets over the Chargers in the ’04 AFC Wild Card Game, 20-17. "And we had the game won the first time and a penalty [on Eric Barton] gave them a second life.
"But it was a great feeling going into the locker room cheering with all the guys. I was a rookie and I was having a blast. And it was probably one of the shortest flights I can remember making on a West Coast trip."
As much fun as that game was for the Jets of five years ago, Cotchery recalls thinking of the players on that team: "We were kind of feeling our way through things. A lot of guys were tired. We had fought hard to get into the playoffs. I didn’t get the sense that we were really sure where we were headed."
They were in fact headed to another 20-17 overtime game, the bitter AFC Divisional Game loss at Pittsburgh. But J-Co is getting a different vibe this week.
"This team is a really confident team. We have the talent to make a run at it," he said. Which is why the former college catcher and pitcher who used to fight each other tooth and nail in Madden on their Raleigh, N.C., campus, checked in with each other last Sunday, will do so once more before this Sunday’s kickoff, and then will go at each other’s defense as if they don’t know each other.
"Our main focus is for us to go out and get a win," Cotchery said with a steely edge that is rare, except on the field of battle. "It’s not a family reunion."
Jets head coach Rex Ryan did not address reporters today before the team left for San Diego. His next public words will come after the game, the final one of Divisional Weekend, which will kick off at 4:40 p.m. ET (1:40 PT). … The Jets have won three of the last four at Qualcomm, including that crazy 44-13 stunning in 2002. The Jets are 11-19-1 all-time in the rivalry, 6-12 at SD. … Here’s a stat that probably means nothing: Including last year’s minus-3 turnover margin in the Monday night loss at "the Q," the Jets have a plus-11 TO margin in their last seven games vs. the Bolts and a plus-5 in their last four games on the West Coast.
The Jets’ injury report is updated through today’s practice. All eight players listed are probable for the game, with all participating fully today except LB Bart Scott (ankle), who was limited. The Chargers’ report won’t be updated until this evening, but considering that this week only one player, P Mike Scifres (groin, full), has been listed, we’re not expecting any dramatic announcements.
Tags: Jerricho Cotchery, Philip Rivers, Qualcomm Stadium, Rex Ryan, San Diego Chargers
Posted in Randy Lange | 17 Comments »
Mark Sanchez was asked Tuesday about his feelings of being in the NFL postseason along with the big-name quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
"And Philip Rivers," he added of his Chargers counterpart, before stating, "It’s pretty cool. It’s great. But at the same time you don’t want to just be there. Just like those guys, they don’t want to be mentioned with all the other players you just mentioned — they want to win it, just like I do."
How would Sanchez feel about being lumped in with QBs Matt Moore and Jake Plummer? Actually, that’s a cool thing, too, because Moore, who finished up the season replacing Jake Delhomme as Carolina’s QB, and Plummer, Denver’s QB in 2005, are the last two NFL signalcallers to achieve what Sanchez and the Jets will be trying to do Sunday in sunny San Diego: go four games without turning the ball over once.
The Jets rookie is already among a handful of QBs since 2002 to go three games without a giveaway. But four in a row? As we mentioned Monday, the Jets have done that only once in their history, early in the 2001 season. They went 3-1 in those games, Plummer’s Broncos went 4-0 in his flawless stretch, and Moore’s Panthers closed strong at 3-1.
"I think I’ve gotten better with it," Sanchez said when asked if it was a struggle for him to realize he had to give up giveaways to be successful in the NFL. "I’ve got a lot of work to do. I don’t want to feel like I’ve got everything covered and I’ve figured it out. I just think that working to eliminate turnovers has really helped. We’ll just keep going from there."
The numbers say he has figured things out. In the first 10 games he personally turned the ball over 19 times (16 interceptions, three fumbles), 1.9 a game. But in the last six games his personal turnovers have dropped to four, or 0.7 game.
The team performance in turnover margin is equally dramatic: a minus-6 margin in the Jets’ 4-6 start, a plus-9 in the current 6-1 run into the playoffs.
The no-gift trend is perhaps part of a larger issue with Sanchez, which is that he’s become comfortable enough to even give his two cents’ worth on the sideline, such as when he jumped into the fray with head coach Rex Ryan and OC Brian Schottenheimer at the AFC Wild Card Game in Cincinnati when he didn’t like the timeout the coaches called from the sideline.
"It was one of those situations where I felt so good and so comfortable, and then we stopped everything. I was like ‘Man, why the heck did you do that?’ " Sanchez said. "It’s all right, though. They knew I was into the game in the heat of the moment. Obviously nothing is personal. We’re all trying to win, so it was fine."
"He was ready to lead that team. That’s who he is," said Ryan. "When we called that timeout, it was so funny. He was mad. I said, ‘All right kid, you’re not head coach yet.’ But he’s ready to roll."
"Now I just feel more comfortable," the QB said. "It’s easier, I guess, to start yelling."
As long as the yelling is over the next victory and not the football that the offense just turned over to the other guys, Jets fans will be all right with that.
Leon Can’t Wait
Leon Washington is sharing in the limelight of the Jets’ postseason locker room, as he should, and Tuesday he had some great news that could impact on the team’s quest for the next postseason — he expects to be on the field for the Jets’ season opener in 2010.
"Everything’s looking on the up and up and I’m looking forward to when I can start jogging," Washington told reporters. "I’ve got a long way until the season starts. I’m on pace to be there for the opening game of the season, so I just try to not push myself too much."
Washington, who broke his leg in the first quarter of Game 7 at Oakland, was given a timetable of six months to 12 months to heal. He said recently he’s been hitting his rehab targets every week.
And who can forget Leon coming out of the tunnel at the regular-season finale at the current Meadowlands stadium on crutches, then waving the crutches up and down to the roar of the crowd, as if he was ready to fly back into this season.
"It’s tough because I feel like I could be out there and doing something to help us be better," he said Tuesday. "It’s definitely fun to watch from a fan perspective, though."
It’s too soon to be worrying about the NFL Draft. But we thought we’d mention a change in the draft that will affect the Jets, and we’re not talking about the event being stretched over three days for the first time.
Procedures for establishing first-round draft order have been redesigned. In the past, you’ll recall, all teams with the same regular-season records were bunched in the same "segment," with playoff teams dropping to the bottom of the segment. So under the procedures of previous years, the Jets and Ravens, both at 9-7, would have dropped to 21st and 22nd this year regardless of how far they went in the postseason.
But for the first time, playoff teams have been taken out of those segments and put in their own playoff sections. By that I mean slots 1-20 go to the teams that didn’t make the playoffs, 21-24 to the Wild Card Round losing teams, 25-28 to the Divisional Round losing teams, and 29-30 to the Championship Game losing teams.
Since the Jets have already advanced to the AFC Divisional Round, the earliest their first-round pick could come on Thursday night, April 22 (the new date for Round 1) is 25th, which is where they would select if they were to lose at San Diego on Sunday. (They would be 25th regardless of which other teams would lose this weekend based on their 9-7 record.)
A win on Sunday and a loss in the AFC title game would mean the Jets would pick 29th. Make the Super Bowl and the Green & White would be choosing 31st or 32nd.
The latest top pick the Jets have had in any draft came in 1969, the year after they won Super Bowl III, when they went 26th and last and selected Ohio State OT Dave Foley, no relation that we’re aware of to one of the Kids in the Hall.
Tags: Drew Brees, Leon Washington, Mark Sanchez, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 39 Comments »
One bit of wisdom I used to hear (and relied upon from time to time) back in my previous life as a beatwriter was: "When in doubt, write the quarterback."
The QB remains a hot story subject in the Jets locker room this week, now with the Green & White veterans having returned from a postdraft break to resume their strength and conditioning program and, next week, to begin a month of OTA sessions culminating in all the QBs and everyone else on the roster participating in the June 9-11 mandatory minicamp.
Jerricho Cotchery got questions from both directions today, on the new guy coming in (Mark Sanchez) and on the graybeard who’s not coming back to the Jets but may or may not be staging another career comeback (Brett Favre).
On Sanchez, J-Co said the thing that impressed him was No. 6’s accuracy.
"I watched the rookie minicamp, the practices, on film," he said. "I saw some of those same things when he was able to put the ball where he wants to put it. Philip Rivers was an accuracy guy. He was able to put the ball wherever he feels. I saw some of those same things on film when I was watching."
Cotchery referred to Rivers, the San Diego quarterback, because the two used to play pitch-and-catch at North Carolina State. And he said Sanchez’s accuracy isn’t the only thing that reminds him of Rivers.
"Rivers is a natural leader," he said, "and you can sense some of those things about Sanchez. Hopefully, those leadership qualities that he has can apply to helping us win some games."
Cotchery wasn’t asked about Kellen Clemens, but he’s stressed the faith he has in KC in earlier news conferences. In any event, Clemens spoke with reporters for the first time since the drafting of Sanchez. Eric Allen’s story on Clemens’ latest comments will be on the newyorkjets.com home page shortly, and the Clemens transcript will be available Friday morning.
As for Favre, several Jets were asked their impressions of the reports that No. 4 is meeting with Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress. Cotchery said he hadn’t heard from Favre personally that he wants to come back but has heard the same reports.
"I know he still has some good football left in him," the wideout said. "He’d be playing in a dome, with a team set up to make a good run. … We’re set up to make a good run also."
And that’s the important thing. Favre will do what Favre does, but the Jets, with the QBs and the rest of the players they’ve got now, in the Year 1 A.F. (after Favre), still believe they’re in that position as well. It’s encouraging to hear.
Boland: See Ya!
Here’s a difficult farewell and figurative man-hug to Erik Boland, who’s been reassigned by Newsday from the Jets beat to the Yankees beat. Erik is a smart, insightful, personable kind of fellow. And as Albert Brooks once said (but not about Boland), "He’s a witty guy."
Let’s see. Boland moved onto the Jets beat only last year and now, because the Yankees writer is leaving, Newsday is going to set back two beats in its sports section with new reporters. But at least Newsday knows talent when it has it, and Boland will get up to speed with the Pinstripes quickly. Hope you negotiated that combat pay, E-Bola.
Radar commenter Ross sent me an email with a fair observation earlier today:
Randy, Do we really need to post the #2dollfan’s posts on here? I realize the only thing offensive about them is the childish way they are written but it is kind of annoying to me as a Jets Fan.
My thoughts have always been to treat all comments the same. As long as they meet the Radar’s standards (no obscenities, vulgarities, profanities, no personal attacks, etc.), I’ll post them, and that includes the occasional trash-talking from Patriots partisans, Bills buffs and Dolfans. My impression is that it’s even a bit of fun for our regular Radar users to give these interlopers a little earful, and that if we’re going to post the positive comments from some other fan base, we should be able to handle the negative comments as well.
But maybe you all have different thoughts. This is, after all, newyorkjets.com. Were #1dolphinsfan’s recent barbs annoying or insulting or worse? Do you want to continue to see caustic comments from enemy territory? Send me your comments the usual way and I’ll post them here.
Tags: Brett Favre, Jerricho Cotchery, Kellen Clemens, Mark Sanchez, Philip Rivers
Posted in Randy Lange | 45 Comments »
David Barrett talked this past week about how exciting the new entry on his résumé has made him. A cornerback for his first eight seasons in the NFL, he lately has taken on safety responsibilities.
In fact, Barrett gets the first start of his pro career at safety in tonight’s Jets-Chargers game.
The idea is no doubt to cover prolific TE Antonio Gates with a player who has corner skills. And the decision by head coach Eric Mangini and DC Bob Sutton pays dividends just 3½ minutes into the game. Barrett intercepts San Diego QB Philip Rivers on a pass intended for Gates and takes it to the house for a 7-0 Jets lead with 3:33 into the opening frame.
Rivers bobbles the high shotgun snap, and that may well have distracted him from the players in the pattern. He goes to Gates but Barrett jumps hard on the pass, picks it off at the SD-25 and is unchallenged as he bolts down the right sideline for the TD and fires the ball into the giant CHARGERS logo on the end zone wall.
It’s the first interception-return TD by a Jet in three seasons, since LB Mark Brown picked off the Bills’ Kelly Holcomb on New Year’s Day 2006. And it’s the first INT-return score on the road since S Reggie Tongue took then-rookie Ben Roethlisberger’s errant pass 86 yards in the AFC Divisional Round playoff game at Pittsburgh on Jan. 15, 2005
On San Diego’s next drive, Barrett almost has pick No. 2 when Rivers tries to hit WR Vincent Jackson down the deep middle and DB the DB can’t hold the interception but deflects out of harm’s way.
CB Dwight Lowery also is on his game early as the Chargers obviously are trying to target the rookie from Northern California. Lowery knocks loose a 42-yard pass intended for Jackson and then provides some pro defense in breaking up a Rivers pass intended for Gates on third-and-2 from the Jets 18, forcing the hosts to settle for a Nate Kaeding field goal.
Barrett becomes the fifth different safety to pair with Kerry Rhodes, who’s started every Jets game in the deep middle since 2005. Here are the Rhodes partners during that span:
The Jets gift-wrap 10 points for the Chargers on two turnovers in a span of 4:09 bridging the first two quarters. First Thomas Jones loses a fumble in a scrum and CB Quentin Jammer returns it to the Jets 16, setting up a short field for Rivers’ 1-yard scoring pass to wide-open FB Mike Tolbert.
Then Brett Favre tries to laser an out pass to Laveranues Coles, but CB Antonio Cromartie performs the magic trick, deflecting the ball from Coles’ grasp and into his own, then maintaining his balance and answering Barrett’s return with one of his own, for 52 yards and the TD. That’s the seventh pick returned for a score by an opponent since 2006, the last five on the road.
But Leon Washington turns on his return jets for the first time this season on the ensuing kickoff, ripping 94 yards from his 1 to the bad guys’ 5. That sets up Favre for his fourth TD pass as a Jet and his first to Coles in the back of the end zone.
Mangini and ST coaches Mike Westhoff and Kevin O’Dea think a Jay Feely onsides kick will work on the visitors’ next KO, and it nearly does as Wallace Wright gets his hands on the ball. But Wright can’t hold it, the Chargers recover and then cover 44 yards in five plays, with Rivers off play action finding WR Chris Chambers alone on the post in the end zone, perhaps beating Barrett to the spot.
The 24-14 score at that point resembles an Arena League game, or maybe one of those old-time American Football League shootouts that these teams sometimes engaged in during the Sixties.
The Jets’ bad field position continues. Favre and Jerricho Cotchery aren’t on the same page when Favre overthrows the fifth-year WR and S Eric Weddle makes the diving INT. That sets the Chargers up on the Jets 45. In short order they move inside the 10 and Rivers finds Gates in the right corner of the end zone for a 31-14 lead.
The visitors’ two-minute drive gets to the hosts’ 29 but no closer, and a Favre sack by LB Shaun Phillips put them out of even long FG range. So Ben Graham hits his second effective punt of the night, a drop punt that bounces at the SD-10 and is downed by Wright at the 5. And that’s the first half.
And if you’re an NFL fan, it was an exciting first half. If you’re a Jets historian, it’s also significant — the last time the Jets were involved in a first half of more than 45 points was the 1986 home game against Miami, when they led, 31-21, at the half.
But if you’re a Jets fan, you’re nervous. There’s 30 minutes left and 17 points to be made up to catch the Chargers, who in the first half have found themselves both offensively and defensively.
Tags: Abram Elam, David Barrett, Dwight Lowery, Eric Smith, Erik Coleman, Kerry Rhodes, Philip Rivers
Posted in Randy Lange | 34 Comments »