Leon Washington was not supposed to be on the field for more than warmups and individual drills this afternoon, which was his script for this morning’s first practice of camp. This was all due to his arrival after midnight today to take his conditioning test in the morning and rejoin the Jets.
But as the rain dried up and the sun came out over SUNY Cortland, Washington was involved in regular drills. On one play, QB Kellen Clemens flipped a screen pass to Leon, who turned up field. He would’ve been tackled after a good gain, but he kept running anyway, as he likes to do, and as No. 29 made his way further downfield, the almost 1,000 fans in the Cortland Stadium stands let out a cheer.
“That goes to show how much I love football,” Washington told reporters after practice in his first public remarks about his contract situation, which he said is not resolved. “This morning I didn’t do much at all. I was missing it, so I decided to come out here [this afternoon] and play football and help my teammates out. So if there’s any question that Leon loves to play football, I definitely love to do it. I think Rex [Ryan] sees that, the organization sees that and my teammates do, too.”
There was never a question about that from Ryan, concluding his first day of camp as the Jets’ head coach, or general manager Mike Tannenbaum and his front office, or his teammates, or the fans. But an impasse remains between player and team off the field, which led Washington to say that he’s “unhappy” about his contract situation and “not confident” that the standoff won’t be “lengthy.”
Still, he remains under contract and didn’t miss any camp time.
“That’s the way I felt, like me holding out doesn’t gain anything,” he said. “So I come out here to play football, have good faith, Round 2, and I hope that things work out for the best. … But if I don’t get a contract, I don’t get a contract, so whatever happens, happens. I’m here to play football, here to be with my teammates. I think you saw that today. I’m ready to play, in good shape, and we’re going to try to get down to Miami. So that’s all I can do for right now.”
Other highlights from the second practice of camp came in 7-on-7 drills:
Up first, Clemens loads up and lets a ball fly for Brad Smith. Donald Strickland, in coverage, got tangled up with Smith and fell down. Smith didn’t, reeled in the underthrown pass all alone and took off for the promised land. The ball was in the air about 40 yards and the “TD” went for 72 yards.
Then it’s Mark Sanchez’s turn. The rookie slings a pass to David Clowney, who makes a nice catch and run. Then the rookie tries to thread the needle to Smith over the deep middle, but on this one Dwight Lowery has the nice coverage on the slightly underthrown ball for the crowd-pleasing breakup.
A punting note: Reggie Hodges and rookie T.J. Conley both got off some nice kicks. Not great big 5.0-second-hang boomers, but both had a good mix of 4.7’s of decent length with 4.4’s and 4.5’s that drove the returners back and to the sideline. This battle wasn’t decided today.
Update: I overlooked including a late play from this practice. Rookie QB Chris Pizzotti dropped back and tried to back-foot a short pass to a receiver over the middle. He found a pair of hands, but unfortunately for the offense, they belonged to DB Ahmad Carroll. Ahmad took the pick all the way to the house, then handed the ball to Rich Bedell, the Jets’ operations manager.
I don’t know if Rich is allowed to keep the ball, but it might have some eBay value, being that it’s the Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine defense’s first return TD of training camp.
And in the Stands
The better weather brought out an official count of 921 fans for the afternoon workout and 1,459 for day one at Cortland. … Fans attending training camp practices at Cortland should know of a change in policy. No videocameras will be allowed in the stands.
Tags: Kellen Clemens, Leon Washington, Reggie Hodges, Rex Ryan, SUNY Cortland, T.J. Conley, training camp
Posted in Randy Lange | 34 Comments »
Reggie Hodges was in the wilderness for a while — the wilderness of being an unemployed NFL punter, at least. But he was able to keep going at least in part because he wasn’t alone.
"Arin, that’s my wife. Thank goodness for her," Hodges told me Friday after his and the Jets special teamers’ last practice for Sunday’s battle against the Rams. "I’m glad I met her in college. We’ve been married almost two years. I play football, but I’m still a father, I’m still a husband."
And he takes her with him onto the field each Sunday, figuratively, of course. Perhaps you noticed a flash of metal on the TV screen when Hodges handled a snap from James Dearth the last four games. It’s his platinum wedding band.
I mentioned that it’s unusual to see NFL players wearing jewelry.
"I don’t look at it like that," he said with a smile. "It’s not jewelry. It’s a covenant between me and my wife."
The ring is also protects a secret. He lifted it from just above the knuckle of his ring finger to show a small tattoo of four letters: "ARIN."
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Hodges flashed again against the Bills at Buffalo, earning head coach Eric Mangini’s special teams player of the game award. His most noticeable work was his deft handling of Dearth’s high snap to position Jay Feely’s final, important 31-yard field goal with 2:12 to play to open the Jets’ lead to nine points.
While the snap was slightly off-line for the reliable Dearth, it was hardly wild. Hodges didn’t have to even lift his right knee from the ground to snag it and he said there was never even a split-second of doubt about the operation.
"It wasn’t a bad snap. It was high, but it was still a tight spiral," Hodges said. "It wasn’t left to right. It was right over the spot I just had to catch it and put it down for Jay."
He had only one punt all day, but even that one was a nice piece of work as he got the first-quarter kick off a split-second ahead of heavy Bills pressure with a decent 4.3-second hangtime that forced the dangerous Roscoe Parrish to signal for a fair catch at his 15.
"Since he’s had his opportunity to punt, he’s done a nice job with his hangtime," Mangini said Friday. "The distance gets better each week. He has the potential to get some long ones off. He has the combination of hangtime and distance and that type of leg strength. And his role as a holder has been very good."
We all wish Ben Graham well now that he’s kicking for the Saints. Some key numbers are down since Graham was released after the Arizona game, but other numbers are up, and in fact Hodges’ kicking for this short period is better than it’s been for him in his only NFL regular-season experience in 2005 and in training camps the past four summers (hangtime is unofficial):
Wallace Wright is also very hot as a Jets special teamer these days — so hot that I spoke with him alone Friday, will speak with him again after the Rams game and will feature him in a story early next week before the Jets take the short hop up to Providence, then to Foxboro, to play the Patriots on Thursday night.
Tags: Ben Graham, Buffalo Bills, Eric Mangini, Reggie Hodges, St. Louis Rams, Wallace Wright
Posted in Randy Lange | 12 Comments »
There’s still a very much defensive flavor to the Jets as they begin their work week for Sunday’s Meadowlands match against the Rams.
For starters, head coach Eric Mangini announced at his news conference this morning that monster nose Kris Jenkins has been named the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Week.
That award, coupled with Darrelle Revis’ entry as one of the five finalists for the GMC Sierra Defensive Player of the Week, which we mentioned Tuesday and which fans can vote for here, sums up the Jets’ defensive status coming out of the Buffalo game. In fact, Mangini named Jenkins and Revis as the team’s co-defensive players of the week.
And Brett Favre in his weekly remarks threw major bouquets at those two and the entire "other" side of the ball.
"The defense is playing outstanding," Favre said. "I’ve been impressed with the way the guys have played with a lot of energy and a lot of communication.
"It all starts with stopping the run. Kris Jenkins has made all the guys around him better, as we thought he would. I had a chance to play against Kerry Rhodes and I think he’s an outstanding safety, the quarterback of the defense. And Darrelle Revis, I told him from day one that he can be as good as he wants to be, shut down whoever he wants to."
The one player Favre mentioned who didn’t get a slot in this week’s awards roster is Rhodes, but he played a strong supporting role vs. the Bills. Early in the fourth quarter, his balletic PD on Lee Evans in the end zone prevented a touchdown.
And the play that only a few have talked about was Rhodes’ run support role in the second quarter. Jenkins got the credit for leading the charge that stopped Fred Jackson on the pivotal fourth-and-1 at the Jets 8, but it was No. 25 representing the "fire in the hole" by beating his man on the run blitz and meeting Jackson for no gain.
"It was definitely rewarding," Rhodes told me today before heading out to practice. "On third down they got a pass on me and Darrelle that we didn’t want to get caught on [Lee Evan's 19-yard reception to the Jets' 29]. So on the same drive I was able to get a stop on fourth-and-1 to get it back. Everything worked itself out."
Things will continue working themselves out at inside linebacker despite David Harris’ groin injury. Mangini wouldn’t go into specifics but didn’t sound optimistic about a return to action for Harris against the Rams, although he didn’t think "the Hitman’s" absence was a long-term thing.
"I don’t think the timeframe is really set one way or the other," he said. "We’re just moving forward, trying to get him back as quickly as we can."
The same can be said for S Eric Smith, whose concussion kept him out of the Buffalo game — and in the process enabled Abram Elam to provide another big play with his 92-yard interception-return TD.
"I’d say it’s still pending," Mangini said of Elam starting again. "We’ll see how Eric does this week. Abe is a good example of a guy taking advantage of his opportunities. The more playing time, the more he can generate plays. You want those guys to go in and make an argument for staying on the field."
As is his tradition on the Wednesday after a victory, the coach revealed all of his players of the week for the Bills win. On offense, Jerricho Cotchery took the prize — and he talked with Eric Allen, whose story on J-Co will appear on newyorkjets.com later this afternoon. The special teams chalice went to punter/holder Reggie Hodges, and the practice player of the week went to Kareem Brown.
Tags: Brett Favre, Buffalo Bills, Darrelle Revis, Jerricho Cotchery, Kerry Rhodes, Kris Jenkins, Reggie Hodges
Posted in Randy Lange | 44 Comments »
Head coach Eric Mangini had several housekeeping matters to discuss at the top of today’s afternoon news conference. First on the list: Jesse Chatman’s four-game NFL suspension is over.
"Jesse will be able to work through the week with an exemption," Mangini said. "Starting next week, we’ll have to make some kind of decision in terms of the roster."
The coach also announced that veteran punter Ben Graham has been released for the second time in two weeks.
"When we signed Reggie Hodges, we liked him coming out and the things he did here," Mangini said. "Unfortunately, his early stages here and not being able to have an opportunity, we wanted to give him that opportunity and see how that is."
As for Graham’s good net but lack of hang time in his two games since his first release, the coach said: "You always want to have the combination of hang time and distance."
OL Will Montgomery, waived when Graham was re-signed before the Chargers game, is back on the active roster. Also, WR Paul Raymond has been released from the practice squad.
As for Mangini’s post-victory players of the game, the winners are: Offense — Brett Favre; Defense — Calvin Pace; Special Teams — Vernon Gholston ("Having four tackles was really a positive day for him"), and Practice Player — C.J. Mosley ("He did a great job of simulating Darnell Dockett for us").
Card Game Matters
Many fans were thrilled with the Jets’ defense in the first half of their 56-35 win over Arizona on Sunday, not so thrilled with the "D" in the second half. Same with Mangini, who said in response to a question at his news conference that he was playing anything but a "prevent" to try to slow the Cards down.
"We knew they had used that personnel grouping quite a bit," Mangini said about the Cards’ "10" package (one RB, no TEs) that put up 376 yards of offense and all 35 points in the second half alone. "Knowing that it was going to be a no-huddle situation, we felt really good about the fact that we’d spent a lot of time working on their 10 personnel.
"Whether it was zone blitzes with safeties, zone blitzes with two edge guys, zone blitzes with linebackers, dropping eight and playing three-deep, dropping eight and playing two-deep — we did all those things.
"You don’t want to take anything away from Kurt Warner and the excellent receivers they have," the coach said. "But you’ve got to be able to execute more effectively than we did. … It was a combination of us not executing well and them executing very well. We’ve got to get a lot better."
That’s what bye week’s are for.
Mangini was also asked about going for the two-point conversion with 1:54 left to make it a 21-point game. That call was also tied to the Cards’ offense.
"They had pretty much walked up and down the field and scored at will," he said. "I remember at Cleveland, we were playing the Bengals in 1995. There was 1:04 left and they scored quickly, then they scored again to force overtime. Between fast strikes and onsides kicks, the way those things were going, I just made the decision to make it a three-touchdown came in order to tie rather than to win."
The coach also discussed the helmet-to-helmet collision between Jets S Eric Smith and Arizona WR Anquan Boldin at the goal line with 27 seconds to play. I’ll have a news story about the hit, with comments from Mangini and Smith, up on the site shortly.
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Ben Graham, Eric Mangini, Jesse Chatman, Reggie Hodges, Will Montgomery
Posted in Randy Lange | 68 Comments »
Reggie Hodges is the Jets’ new punter.
Head coach Eric Mangini announced the signing of Hodges to replace Ben Graham. Hodges worked out Tuesday and the Jets announced they had waived Graham on Tuesday evening.
"With Hodges, we had a high grade on him coming out of college," Mangini said of the former Ball State punter. "We follow those guys based on their college grades to see how they’ve progressed. He’s been to a couple of preseason camps and also worked some of these independent kicking clinics. We follow them pretty quickly.
"With Reggie, we’ve been watching his development over time and we’ve been pretty pleased with it. He came in yesterday and had an outstanding workout. Not that I’ve been to that many punter workouts, but it was pretty impressive."
If Hodges’ name has filtered into your subconscious, it’s OK. He’s been around since he was a sixth-round draft choice of St. Louis in 2005. He had 41 punts for the Rams and Eagles that season, providing his only pro stats: a 37.4-yard gross and a 32.2 net.
But his skills intrigued three more teams before the Jets signed him. He was in the Colts’ training camps in 2006 and ’07, was with the Seahawks this summer, and was on the Patriots’ practice squad from Sept. 4-7.
"Reggie gives us some flexibility with kickoffs, PATs and field goals — he’s functional in both those areas," Mangini said. "He has the ability to throw the football, which gives us some opportunities in terms of fakes."
Mangini said Hodges will also be the new holder for the Jets placekicker, be he Jay Feely or, when healthy, Mike Nugent.
As for Graham, the coach again talked about one of the most excruciating parts of the NFL head-coaching business.
"Releasing Ben was extremely difficult for me. It’s always the most difficult part of this job," he said. "You develop relations with players over time. I have a strong memory of being in Australia, in a Geelong cow paddock, with Ben’s girlfriend at the time who’s now his wife, pouring rain, one football. It’s amazing what he’s done to this point, totally changing sports, having the success he’s had. But I just thought at this point it was the best thing to make the change."
With one spot open on the practice squad, Mangini announced the signing of another punter — Waylon Prather, who formerly kicked on the same San Jose State team that rookie CB Dwight Lowery played for in 2006.
"That’s another situation," Mangini said, "where we’ve followed this player, monitored this player. He’s another really athletic guy who has some potential to develop over time."
Tags: Ben Graham, Eric Mangini, Reggie Hodges
Posted in Randy Lange | 48 Comments »