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 »
Here are today’s pregame tweets for Jets-Patriots at Gillette 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 Sunny now at Gillette Stadium. Weather for Jets @ NE from 4:25 pm ET KO expected to be mostly clear, temps in high 50s, some wind.
#RL Patriots lead Jets all-time including playoffs 53-52-1, lead at home in series 29-25-1, lead at Gillette Stadium over Jets 8-4.
#RL Since 2001 Jets have won @ NE 5 times (’01, ’02, ’06, ’08, ’10 POs). No other Pats opponent has won more than twice @ NE in that span.
#RL New England has been 3-3 or better after 6 games for 12 consecutive seasons, longest current streak in NFL.
#RL Jets, Patriots, Bills, Dolphins begin today all tied for AFC East lead at 3-3. Last time all 4 teams were tied for division lead: 1987.
#RL Mark Sanchez career vs. Patriots: 112-for-196 passing (57.1%), 1,349 yds, 11 TDs, 9 INTs, 78.0 rating, 3-4 record.
#RL Shonn Greene, coming off career rushing game vs. IND, in last 3 games at Gillette has 51 carries, 4.4-yd avg, 2 TDs, 14 1st downs.
#RL TE Dustin Keller career vs. NE: 9 games, 31 catches, 367 yds (11.8 avg), 2 TDs, 21 first downs.
#RL Tom Brady career vs. Jets: 453-for-711 passing (63.7%), 5,101 yds, 30 TDs, 11 INTs, 92.7 rating, 16-5 record.
#RL WR Wes Welker for NE vs. Jets: 10 games, 69 receptions, 808 yds (11.7 avg), 3 TDs, 3 100-yd games, all @ Gillette, in ’08, ’09, ’11.
#RL TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Jets: 5 games, 18 receptions, 235 yds (13.1 avg), 2 TDs, 14 first downs.
#RL RB Danny Woodhead vs. Jets: 3 games, 23 rushes, 95 yds (4.1 avg.), 0 TDs, 5 receptions, 110 yds (22.0 avg), 0 TDs.
#RL First-round rookies lead both teams in sacks. Quinton Coples tied for Jets lead with 2.0 sacks, Chandler Jones tops Pats with 5.0.
#RL Patriots have not lost a fumble vs. the Jets in the last 4 games in the series and the last 3 games at Gillette Stadium.
#RL Jeff Triplette is referee. He has reffed 10 Jets games since ’99, incl 3 games vs. Patriots (@ NE ’05, @ Meadowlands ’07, @ NE ’09).
#RL Jets wearing white jerseys, white pants. They’re 15-10 in white/white overall, 12-8 on the road under HC Rex Ryan.
#RL NE wearing throwback uniforms–red jerseys, white pants, white “Pat Patriot” helmet. NE last wore throwbacks in win over Jets last yr.
#RL Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski has made 26 of 29 career FG tries vs. Jets (6 of 7 from 40+) and 14 of 15 at Gillette vs. Jets.
#RL Nick Folk as Jets K vs. Patriots has made 3 of 6 FG tries. Folk this season is 7-for-7 on FG tries.
#RL Jim Nantz, Phil Simms handling broadcast for CBS. This is Nantz/Simms team’s 2nd straight Jets game, 3rd this season
#RL NYJ inactives: QB Greg McElroy, WR Clyde Gates, RB Bilal Powell, S Eric Smith, G Caleb Schaulderaff, NT Sione Po‘uha, NT Kenrick Ellis.
#RL RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle) is active and has been running and stretching along with the other early Jets warming up on the Gillette turf.
#RL NE inactives: S Patrick Chung, S Steve Gregory, RB Brandon Bolden, LB Tracy White, G Logan Mankins, DE Jake Bequette, DL Ron Brace.
Tags: Danny Woodhead, Dustin Keller, Gillette Stadium, joe McKnight, Logan Mankins, Mark Sanchez, New England Patriots, Patrick Chung, Rob Gronkowski, Shonn Greene, Steve Gregory, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
Posted in Randy Lange | 1 Comment »
The deal for Hayden Smith was finalized and announced Saturday. But who and what exactly have the Jets signed?
Smith is an Aussie athlete who was a Denver Division II basketball player and is still a pro rugby standout? The Green & White have done their share of cross-training over the years but such free agent signings of former wrestlers and basketball players and soccer standouts (think Pete Carroll, Jets, 1994 and Tony Meola) don’t often pay off for any NFL team.
Yet it only takes one once in a while to make it worth while. And Smith has got some things going for him as he attempts to make a little roster room for himself among the Rob Gronkowskis, Antonio Gateses and Dustin Kellers of the league. As Sam Monson said in his latest piece for ProFootballFocus.com today, “
“The first and most obvious thing that Smith has going for him is raw athletic talent. He played basketball in college before taking up rugby. Without meeting the NFL prerequisites for athleticism, Smith wouldn’t have a hope, but from his reported 4.75 40 time and his size, he qualifies. That athleticism is the reason that he was able to ascend rapidly in the rugby world to being a significant member of the US national team, but also (and perhaps more importantly), become a valuable squad player for Saracens rugby club of the English Premier division.”
Smith’s dimensions are a little more impressive than the 6’7″ and 240 pounds we pegged him at Saturday. He worked at the Senior Bowl this year and measured at 6’6″ and 265, a frame that he reportedly moves at 4.75-second speed in the 40. You can watch some of his drills in this YouTube piece, if you haven’t already checked it out.
And you can read Monson’s entire story at ProFootballFocus here. In one of his concluding remarks Monson compares Smith to Martin Johnson, another top rugby lock forward who participated in the 49ers’ 2001 training camp:
“Hayden Smith is a new breed of rugby player, and though he plays the same position as Johnson did, he represents a much more intimidating level of athlete — one that can meet the NFL standards by raw numbers alone.”
As for whether Smith can navigate all the other shoals of making it to an NFL roster, or even a practice squad, we’ll be covering that on newyorkjets.com when we talk with him, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum and assistant GM Scott Cohen, head coach Rex Ryan and others about this and many other topics as the offseason continues to head inexorably toward the 2012 season.
Five Fun Facts for This Year’s Yearbook
One of the things we do this time of year, besides presenting stories and blogs on current Jets and our annual predraft package, is to begin to fill in the pages of the Jets’ yearbook. One of the tasks in that regard is to come up with a fun factoid for each player who will have a page in the player section of the book — and this year that may mean around 90 factoids for the 90 players who may be coming to camp (assuming the NFL passes the expanded roster limit at its next meeting).
Not all of the facts and notes will find a place in the book, but here are five that are of interest at this early stage of the process. And I’ll pitch five more and five more after that down the road as we head toward Cortland and 2012 training camp.
■ Mo Lewis lives in two of the factoids I’ve roughed out. David Harris had four interceptions last year, the most by a Jets linebacker since Lewis pilfered the same number of picks in 1994. And then there’s Calvin Pace — including the playoffs, CP has totaled 28 sacks in his four Jets seasons, which are the most by a Jets LB in a four-year span since Mo racked up 30.5 sacks from 1997-2000.
■ A neat number on Shonn Greene concerns his knack for not getting tackled in the Jets’ backfield. According to Stats Inc., Greene was “stuffed” (tackled for loss) just 16 times in his 253 carries, a 6.3 percent rate that was second-best among the 53 RBs with at least 100 carries last year and best among the 31 backs with at least 150 carries. That tendency came in handy en route to Shonn’s first 1,000-yard season as a pro, 1,054 to be exact.
■ We duly noted rookie free agent TE Josh Baker’s big contribution to the offense, his 5-yard walk-in touchdown reception against the Giants. But did you know that Baker was born on Christmas Day in 1986 and that his first pro TD came on Dec. 24? An early holiday gift for the young man from Chesapeake, Va. (hometown), Delaware (his first college stop) and Northwest Missouri State (his last college).
■ One stat I didn’t do justice to regarding T.J. Conley’s first season as a pro punter was that he had 32 inside-the-20 punts last season. That’s a pretty good number — in fact, it was tied for third-most in the NFL. And if you add Conley’ 32 I-20’s to Steve Weatherford’s 42 from 2010 that tied the NFL record, the Jets’ 74 inside-the-20s over the past two seasons easily leads the league.
■ And while we did document Joe McKnight’s kickoff-return heroics well, here are a few items that I may not have noted prominently if at all: McKnight’s 31.6-yard average (on 34 runbacks) broke the Jets’ season franchise record of 30.7 (on 22 returns) set by then-rookie Bobby Humphery in 1984. And that averaged was the best in the NFL in the last 25 years. And while it’s possible that kickoffs from the 35 had something to do with McKnight’s success, it bears considering that No. 2 in the league was Green Bay’s Randall Cobb at 27.7, almost four yards less per return than Mighty Joe.
Confirming Jets-Giants Particulars
We tweeted it last week and it’s been up on our schedule page, but in case anyone missed it, the Jets-Giants preseason date and time were firmed up a day after the NFL released the preseason schedule. Jets-Giants SummerFest No. 44 (as in the 44th consecutive summer the teams are meeting) will be held at MetLife Stadium(where else?) on Saturday, Aug. 18, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. ET.
Tags: Calvin Pace, David Harris, Dustin Keller, Hayden Smith, joe McKnight, Mo Lewis, Rob Gronkowski, Shonn Greene, Tony Meola
Posted in Randy Lange | 85 Comments »
It must be dizzying, to be an NFL free agent having just signed on the dotted line with a different team than the one you broke into the pro game with five years before. New faces, new home office, new part of the country.
Yet LaRon Landry looked as comfy in his molded plastic office chair in a meeting room at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on Monday as if he were stretched out in his Barcalounger back in Virginia.
“This feels like home,” Landry, the former Redskins safety, told me within hours of signing a deal to join the Jets and patrol the deep middle of their offense this coming season. “This was the right thing to do.”
Landry knew a little bit of what to expect, and for that he and the Jets can thank his brother, Dawan.
“Dawan’s older by two years … I’m the better one,” he said with a proud sibling’s smile. “Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman were coaching my brother in Baltimore. He said they were players’ coaches, they’re about winning.
“But ultimately it was my decision to make. I had to come out here and see for myself. It’s a nice facility. The Jets have a great owner and a great coach. It’s home here. I’m glad to be playing in a defense where my ability will be used to help my teammates. I’m all about winning, too.”
Landry exudes football, muscularity and competitiveness. He’s a friendly guy with a strong handshake and an edge to him that hints at his hard-hitting reputation that he brought with him from LSU as the Redskins’ sixth pick of the 2007 draft.
I asked him what number he’d be wearing as a Jet.
“I’ve always been 30,” he said. ” ‘Dirty 30.’ That’s what I’ve been since my freshman year in college.”
Dirty in a good way, though, I suggested.
“Yeah, dirty in a good way,” he agreed.
The Jets and their fans are eager to have a new safety to help clean things up when the Green & White go up against the top tight ends, in particular the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez tag team. Landry is well aware of that aspect of his new home office.
“I like a challenge. I like being physical,” he said. “With that said, you know about the tight end situation the Patriots can bring with their mismatch. I’m up for it. It’s all football. The lines on the field don’t change. The grass — well, the grass and FieldTurf don’t change.”
Another part of football is that sometimes elusive perfect health. Football watchers clucked over Landry’s last two seasons with Washington. After three years of missing only one start and ascending to the top of some independent ratings groups among NFL safeties, he played in barely half of the ‘Skins games in ’10-11 due, it was said, to a problem Achilles tendon.
Landry corrected that misunderstanding for any concerned fans and reporters.
“The Achilles was a significant injury the year before last,” he said. “Last year it was a bone injury in my heel instead of the Achilles. They thought it was the same injury as the year before but it was a misdiagnosis type of deal.
“I feel great. I’m fine. If it was an issue, if it was something that couldn’t be corrected, I wouldn’t be here.”
That being said, GM Mike Tannenbaum talked with reporters this afternoon on a conference call and said there’s still medical and training work for Landry and the Jets’ teams to do this offseason.
“We’ll be intelligent in our approach. We don’t want to put any limits on LaRon,” Mike T said. “We’ll be smart about it and work with him to make sure he’s ready to go on opening day.”
Landry is an interesting dude. Redskins fans were well aware of his pet, a white-faced Capuchin monkey he named Gucci. And he’s into Twitter, recently passing 40,000 followers on his page under the nom de tweet of @MrLandry30. On his page you can read some of his football aphorisms and follow exchanges with his fans, some of them friendly and some more of the sparring variety. It’s all about the edge.
“It’s about me playing with passion. Passion comes with attitude,” he said. “Being a Jet, they will get everything out of me. I’m a passionate player.”
On the Airwaves
Sorry for the late notice but three Jets will be doing interviews on New York radio stations this afternoon. Tannenbaum will be on ESPN 1050 at 3:30 p.m. ET, Landry will come in right behind Mr. T at 3:45 on ESPN 1050, and Mark Sanchez is scheduled for 5:40 p.m. on WFAN 660.
Tags: Aaron Hernandez, Baltimore Ravens, Dawan Landry, Dennis Thurman, Gucci, LaRon Landry, Mark Sanchez, Mike Tannenbaum, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, Rob Gronkowski
Posted in Randy Lange | 167 Comments »
So you say the Patriots are averaging 507.5 yards and 33.8 points per game? And Tom Brady is on pace to throw for 6,212 yards, WR Wes Welker is on target for 160 catches, 2,464 yards and 20 TDs and TE Rob Gronkowski for 72 receptions, 1,184 yards and 20 TDs? And they’re also running it well?
“I think we can completely shut them down. That’s what we’re going to go in there to do,” said Jets DE Mike DeVito. “If you’re not going in there thinking that, you’re thinking the wrong thing. We have the defense and we have the players, so we’re going in there trying to shut down this offense.”
DeVito is one of the most humble players you’ll ever meet and he’s not one to talk a lot of trash. His response came after he was asked if the Jets have to go into this one hoping to contain this prolific Pats offense with solid third-down and red-zone defense. His answer was honest, refreshing and exactly what you’d like to hear from a veteran who’s tasted a lot of success against the Patriots.
The Jets have won four of the last six in this rivalry, including a dominant performance in January in the AFC Divisional Round at Gillette Stadium. Brady passed for 299 yards and two TDs that afternoon, but he was sacked five times, hit on numerous other occasions and continually frustrated by the Jets’ coverage schemes as the Pats converted just five of 14 third downs in the Jets’ 28-21 win.
“That was last year and that’s behind us now,” DeVito said. “I think the confidence comes from what we’ve done this season thus far, what we put in during training camp, the work we put in and the guys we have on the field. That’s where our confidence comes from now and we’ll be ready to go.”
“I have a feeling that there were more than a few days in Foxboro spent — whether it was over the lockout or whether it was since the season started — preparing for our defense, knowing that we had success against them in the playoff game,” added defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. “Again it’s a challenge for us. We’ve got to make sure that we kind of forge ahead with some new things, but at the same time not get away from what’s been successful against them in the past.”
The Jets defense ranks No. 8 overall entering Week 5 and they played well in defeat last Sunday night in Baltimore. They held an improving Ravens offense to just 267 yards and 6-of-18 on third down while forcing three takeaways and scoring on a 35-yard David Harris interception return in the second quarter.
It was Harris’ first-quarter INT in January that set the tone against Brady and company. While the Pats will always have a strong pass attack with Brady slinging the rock, they’ve created some balance and currently rank No. 9 in rushing. In a Week 4 win over the Raiders, rookie Stevan Ridley (10-97) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (16-75) combined for 26 attempts and 172 yards.
“It’s such a great offense. We’re going to have to go out there and be clicking on all cylinders,” DeVito said. “They’ve stepped up their run game. They still have Tom Brady and still have a lot of threats on offense. As a defense, man, we have to come out there and play Jets defense. We can’t have any lapses in this game because they’re too quick to take advantage of it.”
“They have a potential mismatch at virtually every position. Now add to it that they’re running the football,” Pettine said. “That’s a pretty good offensive line. Gronkowski has really stepped up and become one of the better tight ends in the league.”
If the Green & White elect to play small against the Pats by loading the field with DBs, the challenge will be to control the run game in sub packages. Brady won’t have to worry about longtime nemesis Shaun Ellis this time around as the Big Katt, who racked up two sacks of Brady in the winter playoff win, will be taking aim at Mark Sanchez.
“He is one of the big reasons I made the team,” an appreciative DeVito said of Ellis. “I could have come in here and he could have given me a hard time, but he didn’t. He took me under his wing and he helped me progress as a player. Coming in as a rookie, it’s intimidating and he helped me right off at the beginning. He is somebody I have a lot of love and respect for.”
Referring to Ellis as his “big brother,” DeVito will exchange pleasantries with him after this contest. The 6’3”, 305-pounder, an undrafted free agent out of Maine in his fifth season, attended Nauset Regional HS in North Eastham, Mass., and the matchup with the Pats holds a lot of weight in the standings and for his family.
“It’s huge. Everybody’s up there,” he said. “If we lose this game, it’s not just me who has to hear it — my dad has to hear it, my mom has to hear it. So it’s big for us as a family to go up there and win this game.”
Tags: Mike DeVito, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski, Shaun Ellis, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
Posted in Eric Allen | 29 Comments »
Rex Ryan certainly laid it out there Monday, using some variation of the phrase “We have to run the ball better” in 12 of his sentences at his day-after news conference.
But it might be premature to think that means the Jets will be gunning for 50 carries or bust at Gillette Stadium against the Patriots on Sunday. The Jets’ locker room today offered variations of a slightly different theme.
“You can’t be one-dimensional,” said RB Shonn Greene. “We’ve got to spread some things out with the passing game. We’ll mix things up a little bit.”
“The biggest thing for us as a team,” said CB Antonio Cromartie, “is to go up there with the right mindset and come out with a win.”
Then there’s center Nick Mangold, who is giving signs that he’ll be able to return vs. the Pats from his high ankle sprain. What about this potential return to “Ground & Pound,” he was asked.
“I think there needs to be a return to winning. Whatever that is, passing the ball, running the ball, I don’t care what it is. We need to get back to winning.”
Sounds like winning is the game plan. Will the offense, though, be 70/30 run/pass or 70/30 pass/run? Seems like everyone’s got an opinion but no one’s really saying. As Bill Parcells always used to say, “You’re gonna have to come to the game to find out, fellas.”
“I’m not sure how the game plan is going to pan out,” said TE Dustin Keller. “But one thing I know from last year’s playoff game is that everybody’s going to be vital. If that’s passing to the tight end? Great/ The outside guys doing their thing? Great. Getting the running game going? That’s awesome.”
I asked Dustin if, regardless of the balance or the lack thereof in the Jets’ offense, this game figures to be a big tight end game? “I agree,” he said with a slight smile. “I agree with that.”
From the Patriots’ point of view, that goes without saying. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski combined in their 2010 rookie seasons for 16 catches, 247 yards, a touchdown and 11 first downs in their three games against the Jets.
But Keller has had a similar impact on New England. Consider this trivia question: Since 2006, which NFL tight end has the most catches against the Patriots? It’s Keller with 28 in seven games, and he wasn’t even born as an NFL player in ’06-07. There were his eight catches for seven first downs in the OT win at Gillette in his rookie season of ’08, his TD catch in Rex Ryan’s home opener as Jets HC in ’09, his 7-for-115 and a score in Game 2 last season.
Keller is one of the constants who make questions about a Jets crisis utterly premature now.
“We definitely need to get back on track and start doing the things we’re used to doing and we’re capable of doing, but we’re definitely not in panic mode,” the now fourth-year pro said. “We know what we have to do. It’s just a matter of doing it.”
Except for Bryan Thomas, of course, the Jets injury report isn’t too concerning. Oh, there was WR Plaxico Burress, listed for the fourth week out of five this regular season with his third different aching body part. This time, Ryan said, Plax woke up this morning with a swollen elbow. He didn’t practice but Rex said, “He looks good.”
Similarly, LB Calvin Pace was a DNP with an abdomen injury but the coach said, “I think he’s going to be just fine.” And first-year LB Garrett McIntyre (concussion) “seems to be doing better each day” but was also held out.
The Jets’ limiteds were Mangold and DL Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder).
Ryan confirmed that Thomas is out for the season with his Achilles injury from Sunday night but as of this afternoon BT had not been placed on IR, so he’s being listed as out. The only changes to the Jets roster were practice team moves: G Dennis Landolt was added today after WR Michael Campbell and TE Martell Webb were released late Tuesday.
The Patriots list 16 players on their first injury report of the week. Seven did not participate in team drills — WR Julian Edelman (ankle), DL Albert Haynesworth (back), TE Aaron Hernandez (knee), LB Jerod Mayo (knee), T Sebastian Vollmer (back), RB Danny Woodhead (ankle) and DL Mike Wright (concussion).
Eight others were limited up in Foxboro — CB Kyle Arrington (chest), S Josh Barrett (thumb/hamstring), CB Leigh Bodden (groin), S Patrick Chung (hand), CB Ras-I Dowling (hip), DL Shaun Ellis (knee), LB Gary Guyton (hamstring) and DL Kyle Love (ankle).
One thing we’re pretty sure about: Ellis will play against his former team. In the 2009-10 seasons, including playoffs, the Big Katt started a Jets game week on the injury report 20 times. In all 20 games he wound up starting.
Two December Games Staying Put
Two of the Jets’ upcoming games on CBS have been “protected” and will not be subject to flex scheduling down the line. Those games are Dec. 4 at Washington, a 1 p.m. ET start, and Dec. 18 at Philadelphia, a 4:15 start.
Tags: Aaron Hernandez, Antonio Cromartie, Dustin Keller, New England Patriots, Nick Mangold, Rex Ryan, Rob Gronkowski, Shonn Greene
Posted in Randy Lange | 58 Comments »
Eric Smith is on quite a roll.
On Thanksgiving night, he was inserted into the Jets’ starting lineup and responded with a rousing performance as he was a physical presence throughout with eight tackles against the Bengals.
“I feel like I played well. When I had opportunities to make plays, I did,” he said. “I made some tackles and communicated pretty well.”
Just four days after yielding 163 passing yards to Texans QB Matt Schaub in the fourth quarter, the Jets tightened up and, in a dominant performance, limited the Bengals to 163 total yards while sacking Carson Palmer three times and intercepting him twice. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie got rave reviews for their performances against Terrell Owens (3 catches, 17 yards) and Chad Ochocinco (4-41), but Smitty turned in one of the finest defensive efforts of his five-year career.
“It was a big changeup for us,” Revis said of the lineup change. “We’ve been moving people around back there in the secondary and it’s good they give Eric Smith a chance to come back there and show what he can do. The guy is very smart and gets us in all the checks and everything we need to get into. He’s a clone of Jim Leonhard — two smart safeties back there leading the way.”
“He went out there and he was communicating. That helps out a lot,” added Cromartie. “It makes things a lot easier when everyone is on the same page and it puts things in perspective of where everyone is going to be. Smitty did a great job of that — he was talking, he was being loud and communicating and making tackles in run support. That’s all you can ask for.”
Then two days after the Jets’ ninth win, Michigan State inserted Smith back into its starting lineup. The four-year letterman at MSU, who started 36 times for Sparty during his collegiate career and had four interceptions and reached double figures in tackles 13 times, didn’t have any eligibility remaining but he was asked to address the Spartans before their regular-season finale at Penn State.
“I was just trying to go watch the game. I was trying to find out if I could get tickets to go watch and then found out they wanted me to be an honorary captain,” said Smith. “I was surprised. I was pretty excited to be a part of that, to be around a team that a chance to win the Big Ten championship.”
Entering Happy Valley with a 10-1 record and a 6-1 mark in the conference, the Spartans hadn’t won at Penn State since 1965 and needed a victory to reach a school record in wins (11) and clinch a share of the Big Ten title for the first time since 1990.
“These opportunities don’t come along every day,” said Smith of his message to Mark Dantonio’s team. “You have to win your individual battles and do whatever you can for the team to be successful.”
The speech didn’t go on deaf ears as the Spartans withstood a late Lions rally and claimed a 28-22 win. (It’s a shame that the BCS rankings determine that MSU won’t go to the Rose Bowl, but we’ll postpone our playoff talk for another day.) Sparty was a resourceful group in 2010, using a fake punt in overtime to sneak by Notre Dame and coming back from 17- and 15-point deficits against Northwestern and Purdue along the way.
“It was great seeing all those victories, but during the year I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” said Smith, a third-round pick of the Jets in 2006. “They showed a lot of mental toughness and resiliency to hang on and come back and take the lead at the end.”
Sounds just like the club Smith is playing for now. The Jets’ defensive backs will be challenged early and often Monday night by a New England team that has a two-headed rookie monster at tight end with Aaron Hernandez (36-462-3 TDs) and Rob Gronkowski (25-310-6), who have combined for 61 catches and nine TDs.
“Both of them have the ability to go up and get the ball,” Smith said. “Hernandez is pretty much like a receiver, runs well and runs good routes. He creates a lot of tough matchups because you don’t really want to put a linebacker on him — he’s going to run by them. And if you put a corner on him, he’s bigger [6’1”, 245] than them. And then the other guy, Gronkowski, is so big [6’6”, 265], he’ll go up and get the ball and he’s a big threat in the red zone.”
The Patriots also have a decent ground game as both BenJarvus Green-Ellis (4.3-yard average, nine rush TDs) and Danny Woodhead (5.4-yard average) have been effective. Woodhead also has become a reliable target for Brady as he’s averaged 9.4 yards on his 24 receptions.
“We knew how good Danny was. He just really didn’t have the opportunity to play here,” Smith said. “I know a lot of the guys on the defense like me would say ‘I’m glad he is on my team’ when he was here and now we have to play against him.”
With 66 regular-season games under his belt, Smith rides a big wave of momentum into the most significant non-playoff contest of his career.
“I think it’s the biggest because of everything that has been riding on this game. If we can get this victory and have control of the AFC East, it would be huge for us,” he said. “It could be the difference between a bye in the first round or being a five seed.”
Tags: Aaron Hernandez. New England Patriots, Antonio Cromartie, Darrelle Revis, Eric Smith, Jim Leonhard, Mark Dantonio, Michigan State, Rob Gronkowski
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