John Idzik’s mantra, “Competition through and through,” applies to everyone on the roster, the GM has said, and so of course the kickers won’t be left out. Nick Folk and Robert Malone, meet your competition.
The Jets following a special teams workout have signed free-agent placekicker Derek Dimke and free-agent punter Ryan Quigley.
Both are first-year men who had foot-tastic college careers, then got their feet wet with NFC North teams last offseason and preseason.
Dimke didn’t miss a placement with Detroit last preseason, hitting a pair of field goals, from 40 and 31 yards, and three extra points. Of his six kickoffs, two were into the end zone, and the average return was only to the opponents’ 18.8-yard line. Jason Hanson held onto his Lions job, no surprise, for the 21st year. Hanson just announced his retirement this week.
Dimke came out of the University of Illinois, where he was the Illini’s all-time leader in accuracy for both field goals (39-for-46, 84.8%) and extra points (89-for-89).
Quigley got in a lot of action during the Bears’ preseason, hitting 16 punts for a 41.4-yard gross average and a 37.0 net with six inside-the-20 kicks and no touchbacks. He had one punt blocked. Then-sixth-year pro Adam Podlesh held onto his job with the Bears for the second year, although Quigley did make it onto Chicago’s opening-day roster, was deactivated for the opener, then released.
That 6-to-0 I20-to-TB rate is no surprise for Quigley, who no doubt goes occasionally by the same nickname as Quinton Coples. As a Boston College senior, he was fourth in the FBS with 28 punts downed inside the opponents’ 20.
Tags: Derek Dimke, Nick Folk, Robert Malone, Ryan Quigley
Posted in Randy Lange | 77 Comments »
Updated, 7:20 p.m. ET
The Jets have made one “snap decision” and one other “big little” transaction today with the re-signing of long-snapper Tanner Purdum and the signing of unrestricted free agent linebacker Antwan Barnes.
Barnes first. The 6’1″, 251-pound outside ‘backer from the Chargers has been reunited with his old D-coordinator, Rex Ryan, and DBs coach, Dennis Thurman, of course. He played the first two of his first three NFL seasons on Rex’s Baltimore defenses in ’07 and ’08. After ’09, he was traded to Philadelphia, released, then signed by San Diego, which used him at OLB behind Shaun Phillips from ’10 through most of last season.
Barnes has a nice 23.5-sack total for only 78 games and five starts, and that was pumped up by his big 11 sacks in ’11, nine of which he hung up in the Chargers’ last 10 games after they game to North Jersey and lost to the Jets in October.
Barnes tweeted on his verified Twitter account several hours ago, “Green and white it is…just want to thank coach rex coach DT and mr idzik for the opportunity…and to the fans I won’t let down.” A short while later, though, he corrected himself: “Wait a minute…not official yet…in talks now…”
But just a minute ago AB returned to fait accompli mode: “Now its official#jetnation.”
Regarding Purdum, we say small in the paradoxical sense. The deal is not small to Tanner and his family, nor to recently re-signed K Nick Folk and incumbent punter/holder Robert Malone, nor by extension to the point production and field position desires of Ben Kotwica’s special teams, Marty Mornhinweg’s offense, Dennis Thurman’s defense, and HC Rex Ryan’s team.
That’s because Purdum for the past three seasons has been pur-fect, at least as far as looking upside down through his legs and putting the ball fast and true through a small window snap after snap.
He’s played in 55 games as a Jet, including three playoff games in 2010, and has made 488 snaps, 275 on punts and 213 on placements. We won’t say there hasn’t been a snap slightly high, low or wide, but not one of the 488 has skipped to his holder or sailed over his punter’s head.
Even though the NFL’s snapping quality seems about as high as its placekicking quality, snaps do go awry and thus get charged as fumbles to the snapper and rushes for no yards to the player who ends up with the peripatetic pigskin. Purdum’s been charged with no fumbles in his three seasons, and the only times a punter or holder took off with the ball, it was on purpose instead of out of self-preservation.
The last mishandled Jets mis-snap, whether due to snapper or holder, that we can recall was when James Dearth fired a field goal snap to holder Steve Weatherford back in Week 6 of the 2009 season against the Bills.
All of this in no way should imply that Purdum is the lone exception to GM John Idzik’s dictum of “Competition through and through.” At the moment his competition on the roster for the long-snapper’s job is Travis Tripucka, signed as a reserve/future free agent in January.
Tripucka played his high school ball in Mountain Lakes, N.J., 15 minutes up the road from the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, then was the long-time long-snapper for UMass and a top defenseman for the Minutemen’s lacrosse team. He was signed by the St. Louis Rams to long-snap last year and made it to a late-August cut.
Two things about Tripucka: He’s from the athletic Tripucka family — dad Kelly played hoops for Notre Dame, the Pistons, Jazz and Hornets and was a Knicks color analyst for four seasons. And grandfather Frank was an original AFL quarterback who threw eight touchdown passes in six games for the Broncos against the New York Titans from 1960-62.
The other: Tripucka, like Purdum three years earlier, comes to the Jets after a summer look from one of the NFL’s Missouri teams. Purdum was a cut of the Chiefs back in ’09.
Tags: Antwan Barnes, Baltimore Ravens, Frank Tripucka, James Dearth, Kelly Tripucka, Nick Folk, Rex Ryan, Robert Malone, San Diego Chargers, Steve Weatherford, Tanner Purdum, Travis Tripucka
Posted in Randy Lange | 79 Comments »
We caught up with Jets punter Robert Malone in the locker room Friday. In his first season with the Green & White, the 24-year-old is on pace to break Curley Johnson’s franchise single-season records for gross and net punting average. Malone talked with us about the possibility of breaking those records, facing off against one of his former teams Sunday, and what the Christmas holiday means to him.
Sunday you’re going up against the San Diego Chargers, a team you previously spent a little bit of time with. What’s your mental outlook heading into this game?
I mean, it’s no different than any other game for me. I knew I wasn’t going to be there to beat out Mike [Scifres, the Chargers' long-time punter]. I played for Rich Bisaccia, who is the special teams coach there now. I played with him at Tampa. He brought me over there, and it was good. I appreciated the opportunity to get some film out there, but I approach it the same as any other game.
How much do you feel that short time playing alongside Scifres helped you?
The thing that benefitted me the most was just the pure competition. He has the highest hangtime in the league and that really helped me improve myself, just to be at that level. I didn’t want to be just totally outdone when I was there, so that constant competition really drove me.
Do you still keep in contact with him?
A few texts messages here or there, but not a lot.
Looking forward to seeing him Sunday?
Yeah, it’ll be good.
Assess your season overall. Would you say this is the best season of your NFL career?
Yeah, I would think so. I’m still getting more consistent as the year goes on. I’m trying to perfect my craft. But I do feel comfortable and it’s been a strong season so far.
Tell me your mental process each time before you punt the football. What’s are you thinking about?
Each punt is a different situation, different scenario. You’ve just got to win each situation and put your team in the best situation. Whether that means getting the ball off as fast as possible, or pinning them back deep, or if you’re directional -punting, spend some time kind of walking through like, “OK, what do I have to do here?” Given the different situations, playing that through my head, and just making sure we execute.
How do you feel like you’ve handled the cold weather so far because it seems like it hasn’t affected you too much.
It hasn’t gotten cold enough too fast, so I kind of got used to it. It’s kind of been a gradual thing. It’s not like it just dropped 50 degrees in one day. I’ve actually kind of got used to it now.
You’re on track to break two of Curley Johnson’s 1965 franchise single-season records in net punt average and gross punt average. Is that something you’re aware of?
I’ve heard about it. I try not to pay too much attention to it. A lot of things can happen. I mean, if these next two games we have to pin ‘em back deep and we have to kick a whole bunch of short ones, that kind of stuff, you just have to win each situation. So I’ve never really been focusing on “OK, I’ve got to break a record” or anything like that.
Your net average is 39.8, very close to reaching a 40.0 net for the season. Is having a 40.0 net average a goal you set for yourself before the season?
I would want to hit 40. Unfortunately, we had the two blocks and we would have been about 41. But it would be an awesome goal if we could reach that. There’s only two games left, so I don’t know if we’ll have enough just to bring up the average. But we’ll see. That’s definitely a goal I always wanted to hit, that 40 mark, because it’s not been done.
Would that mean a lot to you, though, if you were able to break those two team records?
It would be an honor. It’s not something that I’m solely striving for. I’m just trying to put the team in the best position each punt.
Christmas is just days away. What does the holiday mean to you and what’s the day going to be like for you this year?
Well, I’m a Christian and I’m excited to celebrate the birth of Christ. My wife gets to come up. She’s coming up today, actually. She lives back in California and she’s flying up today. I’m excited to see her. We’ll get to celebrate as a family.
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Mike Westhoff, San Diego Chargers, Robert Malone, Curley Johnson, Mike Scifres
Posted in John Holt | 19 Comments »
Here are today’s first-half tweets for the Jets-Jaguars game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, 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: Tim Tebow and LaRon Landry.
#RL JAX won opening coin toss, deferred. It’s 4th time opponents have won toss, deferred this yr. Jets record in first 3 games: 3-0.
#RL Mardy Gilyard makes catch on 3rd down, comes up inches short of 1st down. Gilyard’s first NFL reception since 2010.
#EA Antonio Cromartie was in there at WR on the first play from scrimmage.
#RL Jags in RZ, but Garrett McIntyre hits Chad Henne as he throws, Bart Scott picks off. Jets’ 1st takeaway in 4 games all-time at JAX.
#RL Jags in RZ, but Garrett McIntyre hits Chad Henne as he throws, Bart Scott picks off. Jets’ 1st takeaway in 4 games all-time at JAX.
#RL That’s the first time this season JAX has been prevented from scoring in the red zone after 25 successful chance (14 TDs, 11 FGs).
#RL Bart Scott’s INT was his first since 2006 with Baltimore.
#RL Robert Malone gets off 50-yd punt (49-yd net), 13th consec game he’s had at least one 50-yd punt, longest streak by Jets P since ’91.
#EA That was Bart Scott’s first regular season pick as a Jet. He now has 4 INTs in his career.
#EA Stephen Hill, who stepped up last week with 5 catches, getting looked at on the sideline. Hopefully the rookie’s right leg is OK.
#RL Jets WR Stephen Hill has a knee injury, his return to this game is questionable.
#RL Josh Scobee hits 31-yd FG to give JAX 3-0 lead over Jets. Scobee FG-kicking career vs Jets: 7-for-8. Scobee this season: 21-for-22.
#EA All turnovers are reviewed. Don’t think the TD will stand, but the Jets have 2 turnovers in +territory now.
#RL Jets D has no sacks of Chad Henne but pressured him into 3 incompletions for their first three-and-out series this afternoon.
#RL Josh Scobee 55-yd FG attempt to end 1st half is wide left. Scobee hit a 55-yder vs. Jets in Game 2 last season. Jets trail at half 3-0.
Tags: Bart Scott, Chad Henne, Derek Cox, Dwight Lowery, Garrett McIntyre, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jeremy Kerley, Mardy Gilyard, Mark Sanchez, Robert Malone
Posted in Randy Lange | 80 Comments »
Most football players have a preference between competing in an outdoor stadium or a dome.
All nine of the Jets’ games this season have been held outdoor stadiums. Their final six will be also. The Green & White will play their lone indoor game in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on Sunday.
For Jets punter Robert Malone, the excitement of the venue is clearly evident.
“Most kickers and punters would prefer to kick inside a dome,” Malone said Friday afternoon after practice, “because, I mean, you don’t have to worry about weather conditions. Being out here in New York, where it’s cold and windy, it’s not the most ideal place to punt. So it’s nice to be able to get in a dome where you don’t have to worry about that too much and you can kind of just focus on what you have to do.”
One Jet who isn’t as big of a supporter toward a dome’s environment is Malone’s personal protector, Tim Tebow.
“I prefer grass,” No. 15 said. “I prefer playing in elements on grass. I feel like that’s how football should be played. But really, it doesn’t bother me too much at all.”
Malone said he’s played two games in domes during his time in the NFL. When he was a member of the Buccaneers, he faced the Saints in the Superdome and also played in the Georgia Dome vs. the Falcons.
“Some people can get pretty excited to be in there and try to swing for the fences and that’s when mistakes can happen,” the punter said. “So you’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to be smooth. You’ve got to stay with your rhythm, because there’s definitely been some mis-hits in domes, too.”
The 24-year-old enters Sunday’s contest against the 3-5-1 Rams looking to build off an impressive outing last week at Seattle. In that game, he had seven punts for a 45.9-yard gross average and a 40.1 net. Three of his punts resulted in fair catches by Leon Washington and four were inside-the-20 punts. The only other game this season he’s had four inside-the-20s was Sept. 23 at Miami.
“I wouldn’t say it was my best game,” Malone said. “I was happy with the performance. There were a few things I could have done better. I would probably say the Colts game was my best game as a Jet. But I felt solid. There’s definitely a few things I can improve on. But I can’t complain with the net and the four inside-the-20s.”
Malone’s net production hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Head coach Rex Ryan praised the effort and production during his news conference Wednesday.
“We have a young man, I think this might be the best net punting we’ve ever had here,” Ryan said. “I think that’s been a success.”
Malone attributes a lot of his positive net punting — his 39.3 net for the season isn’t far from Curley Johnson’s franchise mark of 39.7 in 1965 — to special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff.
“He’s just a big believer in doing your job, focusing on your job and doing what you can for the team,” Malone said. “He puts a lot of pressure on you, which is good because when it comes to the game, there is a lot of pressure. So in practice, that’s kind of how he does it. He tries to make you prepared.”
After a positive start, the Jets’ special teams have struggled over the last two games. Punt returner Jeremy Kerley muffed a punt against Seattle and one of Malone’s punts against Miami in Week 8 was blocked and returned for a touchdown. Westhoff has shown his disappointment and it hasn’t been fun for Malone either.
“Obviously like any coach would be,” Malone said, “you know if things aren’t going well he’s going to show his frustrations. The players are just as frustrated. So we’ve got to do our best to not get that feeling anymore.”
The Orange, Calif., native said his knowledge of the game and anticipation in punting situations are the two things he’s improved most since he was signed Sept. 4. And with only seven weeks of the regular season remaining, No. 3 is striving for one thing: consistency.
“It’s a long season,” Malone said, “and you’ve just got to try and keep your legs fresh. It’s harder to stay fresh out here just because it’s so much colder than most places. You’ve got to keep swinging your leg. You’ve got to warm up a lot more. Just staying fresh, staying consistent throughout the season and finish strong.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Curley Johnson, Edward Jones Dome, Mike Westhoff, Robert Malone, St. Louis Rams
Posted in John Holt | 13 Comments »
Update, 5:59 p.m. ET
Rex Ryan could have spoken at length about the St. Louis Rams, the waiving of LB Aaron Maybin or the signing of RB Kahlil Bell. But he wasn’t asked about the Rams and mentioned the transactions only late in today’s news conference.
Mostly reporters wanted to probe the coach’s reactions to a story of named and anonymous team sources in the Daily News on the theme of the quality of Tim Tebow’s play as Mark Sanchez’s backup at QB.
Ryan didn’t deviate from his position on Tebow that he offered back when the Jets traded for him with the Broncos on March 21.
“I’ve said that from day one. We never brought Tim in here to be the starting quarterback,” Ryan said. “We’ve used him in the Wildcat and you saw him throwing the ball [Sunday at Seattle]. Two snaps, 20 snaps, he has done that for us. I recognize the fact that he’s a tremendous football player.
Soon after the trade, Ryan introduced the idea of Tebow working on the punt team. ” ‘You know what? We’d like you to be our personal protector. We think that’s going to give us an advantage in the punting game,’ ” he reformed the statement he made to Tebow at the time. “This might be the best net punting we’ve ever had here, and a lot of that can be attributed to having Tim Tebow as our personal protector.”
As the PP, Tebow has taken three fake-punt snaps, all for first downs. And Robert Malone’s 39.3-yard net punting average, while only 20th among this season’s strong group of NFL punters, would be the best in 47 seasons, or since Curley Johnson registered a 39.7 net for the 1965 Jets that is still the franchise best.
Another main topic was if the anonymous sources quoted in the story indicated that the ’12 Jets were starting to fray as the ’11 Jets did in the second half of the season.
“Did I address it with the team? I absolutely addressed it,” Ryan said. “If you’re not going to put your name on it, I think that’s about as cowardly a thing as there is.
“I don’t think we have the same problem. Even back then I thought it was a little over-exaggerated about the rift in the whole locker room. I do recognize there was something wrong there and I’ve made it my personal agenda to go out and fix it. You can say what you want, but if I’m going to be judged by this team coming together, that’s fine, I’ll be here a long time.”
We’ll post the transcripts of Ryan’s news conference as well as the informal newsers by Sanchez and Tebow at their lockers as they become available early this evening.
On Kahlil Bell and Maybin, Rex said both moves were related to current personnel needs.
“When you look at this roster, I’m not saying [Maybin] won’t be back or anything else,” the coach said. “But you have to do what we always say is in the best interests of our football team. With us having two backs who are questionable injury-wise in Bilal Powell with a concussion and Joe McKnight with an ankle, we felt we needed to bring somebody else in.
“I like Aaron. I love the way he plays. He flies around and does a tremendous job on the practice field. The numbers haven’t been there for him this year. I’m encouraged with the way Ricky Sapp played on Sunday, and I think he showed it on the practice field too.”
Sapp was on the CenturyLink turf for 19 plays, 13 on defense. Maybin got 116 snaps on defense in the first eight games and totaled four tackles, no sacks and nine QB hits, unofficially fourth on the team. He was also in for 90 plays on special teams.
As for Bell, he’s the 6’0″, 219-pound RB out of UCLA who has a healthy 4.5-yard average per carry in his career, but the sample is limited: 131 carries for 589 yards, all in 22 games (three starts) with Chicago in 2009, ’11 and this season. He has one career touchdown, on a 25-yard reception in the Bears’ fall-from-ahead loss to the Seahawks last season. And he had his career-long 72-yard run in his first game as a pro for the Bears vs. the Eagles in 2009.
John Holt, our reporter, will join the locker room scrum to talk with K.Bell following today’s practice for, in case anyone forgot, the Rams game on Sunday in St. Louis.
CB Isaiah Trufant was placed on injured reserve Tuesday after his short-lived reunion with his brothers at CenturyLink Field. Trufant injured his left knee as he and Garrett McIntyre were going for the tackle of Leon Washington at the end of Leon’s opening punt return in the first quarter of Sunday’s game.
Injury Picture Update
The Jets’ injury report after Wednesday’s first full practice of the week:
Did Not Practice — WR Stephen Hill (illness), RB Bilal Powell (concussion). Ryan said Hill was sent home today.
Limited — RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle), DT Sione Po‘uha (low back/ankle), LB Bart Scott (toe).
Full — TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist), DT Mike DeVito (finger), DT Kenrick Ellis (knee), WR Clyde Gates (shoulder), DT Damon Harrison (thumb), WR Jeremy Kerley (heel), S LaRon Landry (heel), C Nick Mangold (ankle/thumb), G Brandon Moore (hip), LB Calvin Pace (shoulder), QB Mark Sanchez (back), G Matt Slauson (knee), S Eric Smith (knee), QB Tim Tebow (ribs)
The Jets have had a longer injury list than any opponent on any day this season, but no foe has had a shorter list than the Rams today. They list only three players, all as limited at today’s workouts near the Arch: WR Austin Pettis (toe), DE Eugene Sims (knee) and S Darian Stewart (knee). All three are backups and only Pettis played in last week’s tie at San Francisco.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Kahlil Bell, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Ricky Sapp, Robert Malone, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 108 Comments »
If the Jets execute a fake punt every other game, does it no longer qualify as a fake?
As special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said this week in response: “I’d rather execute than trick. That’s me as a coach. I don’t think we really tricked anybody.”
But to be sure, the Jets have out-executed three opponents in the past four weeks. That’s 3-for-3 on Tim Tebow-triggered plays. The only other time in the last 30 years that the Jets have reeled off three fake punts for first downs was in 2009, when they went 4-for-4. Add in fake field goals and the only time besides ’12 and ’09 that the Green & White went 3-for-3 was in 1987. (
“We have to execute. That’s what it comes down to,” said linebacker and “tight end” Nick Bellore. “But I think we’ve got a lot of confidence in what we’re doing right now.”
Bellore worked in tandem with Tebow to pull off the 23-yard jump-pass conversion on fourth-and-11 at the Colts 40 on Sunday. Who’d a’ thunk it that Nick, who’s picked off a few passes over his years in the game but doesn’t remember ever catching a pass, would have gotten wide-open, taken TT’s pass flawlessly, and then motored and leaped for 14 yards after the catch?
“YAC. That’s what they brought me here for,” Bellore said Friday.
Westhoff said there was never a doubt in his mind that No. 54 would get it done.
“Nick’s just athletic, and when we did it in practice, he caught it well,” Coach Westy said. “I think there was one time when we did it in practice that he didn’t report. Now our officials caught it and they were going to throw the flag, and then he was begging them — he knew I would kill him — he said, ‘Please don’t tell him, don’t tell him.’ So that did happen, but no, I have a lot of confidence in Nick.”
The confidence in the first two plays was of a different sort. Tebow kept for 5 yards on fourth-and-3 from the Jets 25 at Miami, then two weeks later he bulled ahead for 3 yards on fourth-and-1 from the Jets 24.
For both runs Tebow plowed off his left side with the short snap from Tanner Purdum, with the help of some strong blocking from Garrett McIntyre, Josh Mauga and Konrad Reuland. I’s all in a day’s work for Reuland, a tight end, but Mauga (since IR-ed) and Mac, they’re used to shedding blocks, not blocking sheds.
“It’s a little different,” McIntyre said, “but it’s pretty easy, just get off the ball as hard as you can and block the guy.”
Easy to say when it’s the Dolphins’ punt-block team, but the Texans smelled a rat and sent out their first defense to try to stop the potential primetime fake. The 255-pound McIntyre found himself going up against 284-pound starting DE Antonio Smith.
“It was crazy for a second, but there was a big bubble next to him and Tim found the bubble. He’s given me a little props for my blocks,” Mac said. “Running these fakes is great in the fact that we can help extend the drive. That’s an awesome feeling.”
Indeed, the Jets turned a three-and-out series into a 15-play field goal drive against the Dolphins, another three-and-out into a seven-play drive vs. Houston, and Bellore’s beautiful catch-and-run turned a six-play punt possession into an 11-play, 70-yard touchdown march vs. Indy.
Dare we say a drive-extending out-execution against the Patriots might be extremely helpful as the Jets compete up at Gillette Stadium with the Pats? OK, we dare not. And as Bellore reminded:
“Against New England, it’ll be tough. I’m not saying the other teams we ran our plays against weren’t tough, but we’re playing a lot of really, really good special teams units this season.”
But then as Westhoff reminded reporters on Thursday, “I’d run more of ‘em than that if we could. We have them up all the time. Many times on fakes you catch someone totally unprepared. That really has not happened too much with us, especially after we’ve run them, because people now know and they’re going to gear up for it.
“But we still think we can do it.”
Malone’s Monster Game
Kudos to Malone for his five-punt, 52.0-yard gross, 48.0 net game vs. the Colts. The net is actually a franchise mark of sorts, equaling the best net in a game, minimum of four punts, by a Jet since 1976. Brian Hansen previously held that distinction alone with his five punts in the Astrodome against the Houston Oilers on Dec. 24,1994.
“Last week, his first punt we were disappointed in — he tried to muscle it,” Westhoff said of a ball that Malone told me was blown out of his hand a bit by the early Meadowlands gusts and still hopped out of bounds for a 50-yard gross and net. “After that I thought he was outstanding. He’s got a very strong leg, a powerful leg. I think he’s got a lot of future ahead of him. Now he’s got a lot of things to do to work out his technique, his drops, to get all those things consistent, but he’s worked at it very well.”
Westhoff is certain the Patriots will have Wes Welker returning punts Sunday, so if Malone’s got a bunch more of those 5.13-second hangtimes in that powerful leg (that’s my unofficial average for his last four punts of the day), it will help Ellis Lankster and ‘Zaiah Trufant to keep WW thinking fair catch and help the Jets in the all-important field position battle.
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Garrett McIntyre, Indianapolis Colts, Josh Mauga, Konrad Reuland, Mike Westhoff, New England Patriots, Nick Bellore, Robert Malone, Tim Tebow, Wes Welker
Posted in Randy Lange | 19 Comments »
By a few old reliable measures, Robert Malone is off to a strong start as the Jets’ punter.
Malone’s 46.4-yard gross average and his 40.0 net in his first three games is better than the first three games of his immediate predecessors in the job — T.J. Conley (41.4, 37.0 last year), Steve Weatherford (40.7, 37.7 in 2009) and Reggie Hodges (41.3, 35.4 in ’08). The last punter to have comparable numbers was Ben Graham in 2005, who opened with a 46.0 gross and 42.6 net. So all things considered, with a small data set, Malone’s been muscular out of the gate.
But punting can also be about more than yardage figures. And in this regard Malone is impressive also because he’s, well, muscular, especially below the waist.
“Robert’s got an explosive lower body,” ST coordinator Mike Westhoff said. “He was talking about doing weightlifting, and a lift called the hang clean. He’s one of the best on our team, maybe even the best, with the most weight.”
Malone pleads guilty. Fresno State isn’t the biggest football program around but it has a fine reputation for its strength program and facilities, and that’s what got him moving up the weightroom’s recordboards.
“For me, I like to compete with the position players,” he told me this week. “It was fun to beat your own number, things like that. I set the school record for the hang clean, probably 420, 430 pounds. It’s the heaviest on our team. That’s what Bill [Hughan], our strength coach said.
“I also have, I think, the third-highest weight in the power clean at Fresno. And I was even five pounds short of a record in the bench press, but that we broke it down to the best weight in school history for kickers, punters, snappers and quarterbacks.”
It’s pretty easy to see how having a strong lower body might lead an athlete to excel in a specialty that requires a strong leg. As Malone describes the cleans: “It’s a quick motion. The fast-twitch muscle fibers, they’re really firing. The lifts help the hips and being able to get that extension. That’s all, really, that punting is, one quick, explosive move.”
The cut of his jib has impressed Westhoff, who has worked his way through 11 punters in his first 11 seasons as the Jets’ teams coordinator before they brought in No. 12, Malone, to replace Conley days before this year’s opener.
“His lower body, his thighs and his glutes, remind me a bit of Reggie Roby,” Coach Westy said of the big-leg Iowan whom he coached for seven seasons with the Dolphins. “He’s not quite that size because nobody was bigger than Reggie’s lower body, but this guy’s close.”
Besides strength, Malone recalled that he was third-fastest for all positions at Fresno State in both the three-cone drill (which is called the L-test at the school) and the shuttle. Basically, he’s a talented athlete, someone who loves to lift and compete with even his linemates on the Jets while providing the punting to help the Jets win games, such as on Sunday against Roby’s and Westhoff’s former team, the Dolphins.
“Now we just have to keep working with him,” said the coach, who’s been this way before, “get his timing and technique and all those little things down. But he can bomb the ball in the air. He’s done a real good job. He’s off to a good start. Of course, we’ve got a long way to go, but there’s some real good things there.
Interestingly enough, Malone will be going up, indirectly, on Sunday against 14th-year man David Akers, the 49ers placekicker who has some similar traits.
“David is extremely explosive in his lower body as well. You look at how explosive he is and it’s why he’s just been an incredible kicker,” Westhoff said. “Of course, he’s also a 50th-degree black belt or something in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He’s the one guy on the field you don’t want to fight.”
Then again, maybe the Jets have the one guy on the field who might be able to win an Olympic decathlon.
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Ben Graham, David Akers, Miami Dolphins, Mike Westhoff, Reggie Hodges, Reggie Roby, Robert Malone, Steve Weatherford, T.J. Conley
Posted in Randy Lange | 7 Comments »
When a team is scuffling, and especially when a team is scuffling without one of its main men, it will take everyone on the roster to get the job done and keep the wins coming.
Such as Sunday at Miami, when the Jets’ kickoff and punt coverage teams put together one of the finest field position games in recent team history.
“Eight times we had our opponents inside the 20, and five times inside the 10 — that’s a lot,” special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff told newyorkjets.com today. “They’re off to a solid start. We can cover.”
Eleven of Miami’s 13 possessions began after a Jets punt or kickoff, and the Dolphins’ average start on those drives was their 14.5-yard line. Add in the possessions after their two interceptions and for the game the ‘Fins’ average drive start was their 17.8-yard line.
That’s the Jets’ best opponents’ drive start in the last 22 seasons. The only better game since 1990 was their 17-12 victory over Houston in the Astrodome in ’90, a game that featured a 42-yard touchdown pass from Ken O’Brien to Al Toon and the only individual “trifecta” fumble-recovery touchdown by a front-seven player in franchise history when rookie DT Darrell Davis sacked Warren Moon, forced the fumble and recovered it in the end zone. The Oilers’ drive start was their 17.0.
On Sunday the Jets needed every spare yard since Miami mounted six marches of at least 40 yards, two for touchdowns and four for field goal attempts.
“Field position, to me, I look at last year, when we finished first in kickoff returns and I think we were sixth in [kickoff] coverage. That adds up to seven and I think that led the league,” Westhoff said. “It was pretty close between us and San Francisco but they had 40 touchbacks and we had 12. We had to cover a heck of a lot more, yet we were still first. I’ve been able to do that a lot of times.”
Unlike opening day, when Nick Folk had six touchbacks, he had only one at Sun Life Stadium. But Folk did put all five of his kickoffs into the end zone. Then Nick Bellore, Josh Mauga, Josh Bush and Joe McKnight made tackles, and the kick coverage also forced a pair of illegal blocks.
Then there was Robert Malone, who had his best day yet as the Jets’ punter. He hit six punts to the tune of a 45.7-yard gross — very good — and a 42.5 net — excellent. His four inside-the-20 punts is tied for fifth-most in a game by a Jet since 1991. No Jets qualifying punter has ever finished a season with a 40-yard net average, and Malone’s got 13 games to go, but his net after three games is at 40.0.
On punt coverage, Bellore had another tackle, as did Isaiah Trufant and rookie Demario Davis. “Zaiah” also downed a Malone punt at the Miami 5, the Dolphins’ fair-caught two others, and yet another illegal block was flagged against Miami.
“I think Malone’s off to a good start. He’s got a big, powerful leg that I like, and a very powerful, explosive lower body,” Westhoff said. “Now we just have to keep working with him on his timing and technique and all those little things. But he can bomb the ball. He’s done a real good job.”
As head coach Rex Ryan said Monday following his announcement of the severity of Darrelle Revis’ knee injury, “It’s going to take everybody we have, pulling together like we are and just keep competing, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the day.”
And everybody includes the hidden-yardage crew, not just the kickers and their coverage teams but the return teams led by McKnight and Jeremy Kerley, and the offense and the defense turning very good field position into great position if not points.
The numbers show how important that can be. In the eight games since ’90 that the Jets have held opponents to lower than an average drive start of less than their 20.0, their record is 7-1. And in the 60 games that opponents’ drive start has been lower than 25.0, the Jets’ record is 48-12 (.800). Field position is one major area in which the Jets can help optimize their opportunities in the wake of having to spend the rest of their season on Reeve-Less Island.
Tags: Al Toon, Astrodome, Darrell Davis, Isaiah Trufant, Ken O'Brien, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, Nick Folk, Robert Malone
Posted in Randy Lange | 68 Comments »
In a possibly closely fought game like Sunday’s Jets-Dolphins game could be, Mike Westhoff and his special teams could be a difference-maker.
If Westhoff, primed to retire from coaching after this season, is distracted by nostalgia, the game could turn against the Jets. After all, before “Coach Westy” reached legendary status among NFL ST gurus with the Jets, he got his pro coaching career really cranking with 1½ decades guiding the Dolphins’ specialists.
“I had a great run there, I had 15 years there. I enjoyed it,” Westhoff said this week. “I was part of a very good football team, a group that started back when Joe Robbie was the owner, then through Wayne Huizenga, Coach Don Shula and then Jimmy Johnson and being a part of all that, it was a lot of fun. I know exactly something that I will think of. I can still look in the stands and see the exact seats my family sat in. That, I’m sure, will have a certain feel to it.”
Is Iron Mike turning soft on us? Not likely. Because while he acknowledges those memories and the dwindling number of games ahead for him, he isn’t built to be sidetracked by those thoughts.
“Colin Powell wrote in a chapter in his book that when it’s time to get off the train, that doesn’t mean it’s time to get off the train and jump in the river. You get off the train and get on another train,” Westhoff argued. “I do not dwell on it one bit. I don’t ever think this is my last this or that, I don’t. I’m so concerned to do what we have to do with this group of people to win the next game.”
His players get it. Nick Bellore said the Jets’ special teams have kicked around Westhoff’s return to Miami one more time this week, but it’s not Topic A for them.
“We talk about this group,” Bellore said of the Dolphins. “They’re one of the better groups we’re going to face in the NFL, one of the more elite groups. They’ve got a really good kicker, punter and long-snapper. And their teams are built around their linebackers.”
One of those linebackers is a familiar name to Jets fans. Jason Trusnik began his career as a gung-ho free agent LB out of Ohio Northern who made a number of tackles on Westhoff’s Jets special units of 2007-08. He went on to Cleveland with Chansi Stuckey in the trade for Braylon Edwards in ’09. Then he moved to Miami in ’10.
Now Trusnik and his teammates will try to rein in Joe McKnight on kickoff returns and Jeremy Kerley on punt returns, while Bellore and company will have to deal with first-year double threat Marcus Thigpen, fourth in the NFL in punt returns with a 21.4-yard average (just ahead of Kerley’s 18.5 in fifth) and eighth in the league in kickoff returns at 27.4 (ahead of McKnight’s 27.2 in 10th).
What can the Jets do about Pro Bowl kicker Dan Carpenter and booming punter Brandon Fields? Well, block a kick or hurry a snap or two, and also keep up in the field position battle with Nick Folk’s kickoffs and Robert Malone’s punts.
And they’ll do that with the help of the X’s and O’s drawn up by the undistracted Westhoff.
“For me, the only happiness, to be honest, that I ever really have on a play is if 11 guys do it right,” said Westhoff. “When I grade a play, if I have 11 pluses, then I’m happy. Anything else, I’m really not. It’s not like I’m miserable — they think I am sometimes, but I’m not. But I’m always striving to get that ‘How can you do it?’ When you’re occupied that way, I don’t think about much else, I really don’t.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Colin Powell, Jason Trusnik, Miami Dolphins, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, Nick Folk, Robert Malone
Posted in Randy Lange | 25 Comments »