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A Few Final Notes from the Buffalo Finale

Posted by Randy Lange on January 2, 2013 – 2:16 pm

As we come off the holiday and into the bright, harsh sunlight of 2013, we’re awaiting any developments in the Jets’ postseason plans along with the start of the playoffs. While in neutral in that area, here are a few loose ends that we wanted to tie up from the season finale at Buffalo:

Big-Play JK

For many skill position players, their 40 time is important. For Jeremy Kerley, his “40″ plays are paramount.

Kerley had a pair of 40-yard receptions from Mark Sanchez at Buffalo — the slip screen that converted third-and-16 in the second quarter (which as we noted Sunday was the longest third-down conversion completion since Sanchez-to-Braylon Edwards on third-and-21 in 2009 Game 5 at Miami, Edwards’ first game as a Jet) and the sideline grab over Stephen Gilmore in the third quarter.

This generated several 40-yard factoids:

■ It was the first time in 41 games that the Jets completed two 40-yards-plus passes in a game. The last time was 2010 Game 10 vs. Houston, when Sanchez hit Santonio Holmes for a 41-yard TD, then found Edwards late for the 42-yarder that set up Holmes’ comeback-securing second TD.

■ It was the first time a Jet had two 40-yard receptions in the same game since the 2009 AFC Wild Card Game at Cincinnati, when TE Dustin Keller nabbed 45- and 43-yarders from Sanchez.

■ It was the first time a Jets WR had two 40-yarders in the same game since 2007 Game 15 at Tennessee, when Jerricho Cotchery caught 48- and 41-yarders from Chad Pennington.

■ And just for fun, I went back to the last time a WR caught two 40-yarders in a Jets victory. That was Santana Moss, who had a 65-yard TD and a 43-yard catch from Pennington in the 2003 Game 9 overtime win at Oakland.

Here’s some related trivia:

The Jets’ last seven 40-yard pass plays have all involved Kerley. He had five 40-yard receptions this season. And he completed the 41-yard pass to Matt Mulligan in the 2011 season finale at Miami and the 42-yarder to Clyde Gates vs. San Diego.

All we can say is, Jeremy, keep ‘em comin’ … and maybe if you can cut back on your NFL-record number of punt fair catches from this season as well, that would be AOK, JK.

Third-Down D Lost Its Grip

The Jets defense put together a strong piece of third-down efficiency since the end of the New England Thanksgiving turkey. Through the first third-down situation of the third quarter Sunday, the D had allowed just seven conversions on 63 third-down plays. That’s an 11.1% rate that’s great in anyone’s book.

However, the defense couldn’t hold on after that as the Bills converted six of their last nine third downs, including a pair of Brad Smith “Mizzou”-style runs, for the 4-yard touchdown and a 16-yard pickup.

And it sometimes gets overlooked in assessing “crunch-down” defense but from Arizona on, opponents converted on six of seven fourth downs, including Tashard Choice’s late 13-yard dash on Sunday.

Still, the Jets finished 12th in the NFL with an opponents’ third-down conversion rate of 30.2%, and that was quite an improvement from 31st at a 40.8% rate after the Patriots game.

Penalty Progress

Muhammad Wilkerson had only one roughing-the-passer penalty marked off against him all season, back in Game 6 vs. Andrew Luck and the Colts. And it didn’t really look like a flaggable offense when Mo crushed Ryan Fitzpatrick hard in the pocket, not late, no helmet-to-helmet, no blow to the head, in the third quarter and was called for roughing by ref Terry McAulay.

Wilkerson evidently didn’t think so either, because on the next series he popped Fitz again, quite legally, then looked at McAulay with his hands out, as if to say, “Was that one OK, ref?”

The Jets took four penalties for 45 yards on the day at Buffalo, one of which was quite unusual — when LB David Harris jumped offside on a Fitzpatrick hard count on the Bills’ opening drive. It was the Hitman’s first penalty of any kind in 33 games, or since getting served for a facemask against BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the 2010 AFC Divisional Round Game at New England, and Harris’ first presnap penalty in his six-year career.

The team totals were still in keeping with the Jets’ emphasis on cutting down on penalties in the second half of the season. They finished fourth in the NFL for fewest penalties with 83 and third for fewest penalty yards with 708. The last time they had less than their 233 yards in penalties from Games 9-16 in an inseason eight-game span was in ’07.

Turnover Tale of Woe

We wrote about how important it was for the Jets to come up with a big takeaway/giveaway effort in our advance for the game at Tennessee. It didn’t work out that way, of course, as the Jets went minus-5 in that game, the centerpiece of their turnover travails late in the season.

Mark Sanchez had 18 interceptions, eight lost fumbles and 26 individual giveaways for the second straight season. And the offense had a 17.5% turnover drive rate (34 GAs, 194 drives) that was third-highest in the NFL behind Kansas City (18.8%) and Philadelphia (17.9%).

But the defense didn’t lighten the load down the stretch. The Jets had no interceptions their last three games, and the Mike DeVito force/Yeremiah Bell recovery of C.J. Spiller’s fumble to open the third quarter was the only FF and FR in the last five games.

Revising that GA/TA stat we mentioned last week, the Jets combined for a minus-14 turnover margin for the season, their lowest since the 1996 team went minus-20. And their minus-15 over the final six games equaled the lowest inseason six-game TO margin in franchise history, set in the final six games of the ’76 season.


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Rex on Kerley Award, JK and Revis Injuries

Posted by Randy Lange on September 12, 2012 – 12:40 pm

 Updated, 4:57 p.m. ET

Regarding Jeremy Kerley, what do you want first, the good news first or the less good news?

The good news, as head coach Rex Ryan revealed to reporters at his pre-practice news conference this morning, is that Kerley was named the first AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award winner of the season.

“I’m really proud of this young man,” Ryan said of Kerley, who ended the Jets’ punt-return TD drought with his 68-yard return score against Buffalo on Sunday. “It’s quite an honor.”

Not as good to hear from Rex: “Unfortunately, Jeremy woke up today and he’s got a low back, he’s stiff. … He will be evaluated. We’re going to list him as limited.”

Also on the not-great-news-but-could-be-worse front, Ryan reported that Darrelle Revis will not practice today due to the mild concussion he suffered late against the Bills.

“The update from the trainers,” Rex said, “is that Darrelle has been cleared to resume physical activity but he’s out for practice today.”

The coach had no prognoses for either player or the rest of his injured players heading into Sunday’s latest return to Pittsburgh to play the ever-tough Steelers. But the Kerley/Revis situations are tied in together. If either can’t go on Sunday at Heinz Field, Kyle Wilson comes into play. If Revis has to sit out, Wilson would start at corner. If Kerley can’t go, Wilson would be first in at punt return.

If both can’t go? Ryan wasn’t ready to reveal all the Jets’ contingency plans, although he did say that Clyde Gates, last week’s waiver pickup from the Dolphins, might be ready to suit up for the first time as a Jet.

The Jets’ Week 2 injury report, issued after practice, showed that Kerley, Revis, LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring), FB John Conner (knee) and T Dennis Landolt (knee) didn’t participate in team drills. Six other players were limited — WR Stephen Hill (calf), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), LB Josh Mauga (rib), NT Sione Po‘uha (low back), S Eric Smith (hip/knee) and CB Isaiah Trufant (ankle).

For the second straight week, the Jets had around triple the number of injured players than the opponents. Today’s Jets list had 17 players. The full list can be found here. The Steelers, meanwhile, listed six: Did Not Participate — RB Jonathan Dwyer (foot), LB James Harrison (knee), S Troy Polamalu (calf) and LB Stevenson Sylvester (knee); Limited — DE Evander Hood (back); Full — RB Rashard Mendenhall (knee).

POW Notes

Kerley’s award is his first weekly honor as a Jet and the first Jets punt returner to get the award since Santana Moss in 2002.

And it’s the 16th weekly/monthly AFC award presented to a Jets special-teamer since Mike Westhoff arrived in 2001. Under Ryan/Westhoff, Jason Trusnik and Brad Smith each got a weekly ST award in 2009, Smith got a weekly and a monthly award in 2010, and last season kickoff returner Joe McKnight was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October.


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Kerley Should Be Good to Go vs. Carolina

Posted by Randy Lange on August 24, 2012 – 3:52 pm

The Jets’ offense could get that little extra boost it’s been searching for the previous two preseason games with Rex Ryan’s announcement this afternoon that both WRs Santonio Holmes (rib) and Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) are probable to get in their first reps of the summer games on Sunday night against Carolina.

“Unless there’s a setback, I think both those guys are playing,” Ryan said at today’s news conference following the final open practice of training camp at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.

Minutes earlier, Kerley said in the Jets’ locker room that he hoped to learn he would be green-lighted for the Panthers.

“I think it’s very important,” he said. “I’ve got to get my timing back, get my feet underneath me. I’m hoping to get a couple of reps in, 15 or so.

“I hope it’ll be a big spark,” he added of what Nos. 11 and 10 could provide to the only NFL offense yet to score a touchdown in a preseason game. “It’ll put some new legs out there and give Mark [Sanchez] some more targets.”

Some other seemingly, hopefully, minor injury issues crept up during Friday’s midday practice.

S Yeremiah Bell “had a little knee thing, nothing serious, but if there’s any issue at all, we won’t play him,” Ryan said.

Same with DT Mike DeVito, who had “a calf injury today. That’s not a good thing for a D-lineman. If there’s anything to that, he won’t play.”

Also out of this national-TV game are DT Sione Po‘uha, CB Ellis Lankster and S Eric Smith. Dinged up but probable for action are KR-RB Joe McKnight, WR Patrick Turner, TE Jeff Cumberland and LB-FB Nick Bellore.

Returning to Returns

Both Ryan and Kerley agreed that it would be nice to get JK some punt returns. He is, after all, listed as No. 1 on the PR chart, the incumbent returner, yet his hammy has kept him sidelined since the first week of camp while rookies Jordan White and Royce Pollard and third-year CB Kyle Wilson have done all the punt-returning in the first two games.

“Definitely, definitely,” Kerley said of that idea. “That’s not something you can just roll out and do. Hopefully I get a rep there.”

“Yeah, we’d like to see that,” Ryan said. “But again, we’re going to make sure he’s ready to go opening day. The same thing with Holmes. Is that 10 plays, 12 plays? We just want to be real cautious here. We need these guys.”

We may be jumping the gun a little on this because even with a punt return or two vs. the Panthers, it wouldn’t help Kerley to bust a move for a punt-return TD at the expense of re-busting his hamstring. But the second-year man is aware of the Jets’ dearth (no relation to James) of scores off of punt returns. They’ve had none in the preseason since 2008 and none in the postseason since 2004 and none in the regular season since ’02. Here is the short list of players who’ve had punt-return TDs for the Jets in the new millennium:

Date Type Returner Opponent Yards
10.27.02 RS Santana Moss vs. CLE 63
11.03.02 RS Santana Moss @ SD 52
8.21.04 PS Ian Smart @ IND 59
1.15.05 PO Santana Moss @ PIT 75
8.07.08 PS Dwight Lowery @ CLE 62

Rex Cetera

Ryan huddled the whole team for a relatively long time before the end of this relatively short practice. There were no brawls today but the message was “team” again, similar to the one he had for his players up in Cortland after their second day of infighting.

“I thought it got a little chippy there during practice,” he said. “We don’t need that. I love the competition. I want guys going full-speed, competing against each other to the whistle. But things after the whistle, hitting a player when he’s in a vulnerable position, shoving a guy after the whistle, grabbing hold of the ballcarrier, we don’t need to do that. We don’t need to do things after plays, especially with our own guys. I just wanted to make sure I reminded them of that and that we’re a team.”

Rex’s recommendation to Austin Howard on handling the glare of publicity as the new RT starter: “You’ve just got to do your job. I think that’s where the focus needs to be, and that’s it. Whether we’re looking at right tackle or left guard, whoever it is, obviously there’s more media covering us than with other teams. He’s just got to focus on doing his job, executing his assignments, and when in doubt, listen to Brandon.” That’s Brandon Moore, next door at RG, of course.

Attendance at today’s final open practice of Jets training camp was 2,772. Attendance for past two days at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center: 5,157. Attendance for all Jets open offseason and preseason practices, at SUNY Cortland, MetLife Stadium and AHJTC: 46,157. Thanks to all who came out to cheer on the Jets.


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Sweet 16 (?) in the Draft? Mendelsohn Monitoring

Posted by Randy Lange on April 26, 2012 – 5:13 pm

A busy night is ahead for all of us NFL fanatics as the 2012 Draft comes barreling toward us in a few hours. For me, I’ll officially kick off the night with an appearance with my partner, Eric Allen, at the top of this year ‘s Draft Web Show on newyorkjets.com. The show will start at 6 p.m. ET and wrap up with plenty of time for all to get refreshed, restocked and rehydrated before Commissioner Goodell takes the podium at Radio City around 8 p.m.

In fact, I’ll depart from the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center shortly after helping EA kick off the draft show and will then wend my way into the city and eventually end up at 51st and Sixth to take in the night’s proceedings, which should include meeting up with the Jets’ new first-round selection, whoever it is and wherever that choice is made, for some quality time in between his making stops at the draft headquarters and then down the street at the SNY studios.

Will the Jets spend that No. 16 pick? Who knows. We’ve heard the Jets might move up, might move back, might sit tight. If the Jets do spend the 16th selection, it will be only the third time they’ve used that pick on a player in their history.

The previous two Sweet 16s did well for the Green & White for a short while and have had good careers since their Jets days:

■ DE Hugh Douglas, who came to the Jets at No. 16 out of Central State in Ohio in 1995, left after the ’97 for the Eagles, and in all had a 10-year, 80-sack career and now is an ESPN talking head.

■ WR Santana Moss, No. 16 in 2001, who’s still going after playing his first 11 seasons for the Jets and Redskins and making 639 regular-season receptions combined. ‘Tana also holds the distinction (until perhaps Jeremy Kerley breaks it) of having the most recent punt-return touchdown for the Jets, on Jan. 15, 2005, in the playoff loss at Pittsburgh.

And the No. 16 the team had in 2000 only counts if you add an asterisk. The Jets parlayed that pick and their 48th choice in the ’00 draft and sent it to San Francisco for the 49ers’ 12th overall pick. With that choice they selected DE Shaun Ellis, who until last season was a longtime contributor to the defensive cause.

Keep Hangin’ In There, Steve

As always, reality intrudes into the Jets’ and the NFL’s world. Tonight when I take time out from draft developments, I’ll offer a quick prayer to Steve Mendelsohn as he follows the draft from his Dumont, N.J., home.

I detailed Steve’s battle with pancreatic cancer before the start of last season in a story on newyorkjets.com. The Jets’ frequency coordinator since 1999 had already beaten doctors’ prognoses that he had a year to live due to a lung sarcoid six years ago and three to five months to go from the cancer back in January 2011. His goal then was to make it to the Jets’ next playoff game. They didn’t get the postseason, of course, but Mendelsohn and his extended green family did go into the offseason together.

Steve was sent home from the hospital last week with a new prognosis of two to six weeks to live. He admitted to me that he was pretty down last Friday. But a list of Jets visiting his home this week, led by general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan, has reinflated his spirits. His new goal: to attend one of the Jets’ early OTA practices the week after next.

“The GM made the request that I come out and have lunch then,” Steve said. “God has made my life plentiful these last weeks. I don’t take bad news easily when I know I can overcome it. So I’m coming out. Whatever it takes.”

Have a great draft tonight, Steve, and we’ll see you here soon.

McElroy, Posey Do the Honors

QB Greg McElroy and DB Julian Posey will team up with the N.J. Department of Agriculture to honor Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood on Friday morning for being one of the winning schools in the 2011-12 “Eat Right, Move More” contest. The program encourages Garden State schoolkids to take advantage of healthy foods in their school cafeterias and become more active.


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STS*: Kerley’s Comfortable, Confident, Patient

Posted by Randy Lange on December 31, 2011 – 12:26 pm

Having the better field position on the Sun Life Stadium pitch on Sunday will be a valued piece to the puzzle if the Jets eke out a win over the Dolphins and squeak into the AFC playoff grid. And there are a few areas to watch to see if the Green & White are giving themselves the best chance for the road win.

On the punt return front, it’s better late than never. Jeremy Kerley is getting up a head of steam.

“I’m starting to feel more comfortable and more confident back there,” Kerley said of his role early in the season and now late on the calendar as the team’s main punt returner. “That’s what you need to play with. That’s what you’ve got to have as a punt returner and a kick returner. You’ve got to be confident in yourself. When something goes wrong, you’ve got to shake it off and put it in the back of your head, because you can make a mistake thinking about what just happened.”

No mistakes Saturday — Kerley was as good as he’s been all season against the Giants. His first return was a 22-yarder to near midfield to start the Jets on their opening TD drive. Then he reeled off returns of 28, 14 and 10 yards. That’s four returns for 74 yards. He had 80 yards in Game 3 at Oakland, and those two games are among the four top PR-yardage games for the Jets in the last eight seasons.

The list includes Santana Moss’ 83-yard, one-TD game in the ’04 playoff game at Pittsburgh and Leon Washington’s 77-yard outing vs. Cincinnati in ’08.

Someday Kerley is going to go the distance and that would be most welcome for coaches Mike Westhoff and Ben Kotwica and Jets fandom because that return will likely be the one that ends the Jets’ drought of 118 games without a punt-return TD, tied for the longest in the NFL. But JK’s already got some of that professional perseverance working for him. He’s not going to force the issue at Miami.

“It’ll come, it’ll come. You’ve just got to be patient,” he said. “I’m approaching this game how I approach all of the games, because when you try to do too much, that’s when something will happen.”

On the kickoff front, the Jets in theory could have the edge in any KO exchanges. With Joe McKnight and Antonio Cromartie splitting the return duties recently because of McKnight’s elbow/shoulder issues, the Jets are off of their blistering season-opening pace yet still handily lead the NFL in average drive start after returns (26.4) while Miami’s coverage is 17th in opponents’ average drive start.

McKnight has been getting full-time treatment this week as he tries to finish his first regular season by nailing down several distinctions. He currently leads the NFL with a 31.9-yard average and could become the first Jet since Justin Miller in 2006 to lead the league in that department. And he could also break Bobby Humphery’s franchise record of 30.7 yards per return, with which he led the NFL in his rookie season in 1984.

While the Jets’ kickoff returns remain among the best in the game, their kickoff coverage unit has risen to prominence and could also play a field position role Sunday. Nick Folk’s kickoffs are resulting in an opponents’ drive start of their 21.3-yard line, seventh in the league, while the Dolphins’ returners, led by rookie Clyde Gates and his 25.0 return average, are again middle of the pick, 16th in the league with an average return to their 21.8.

It’s not just the coverage of the Jets’ big four special tacklers — Nick Bellore, Josh Mauga, Jamaal Westerman and Garrett McIntyre. Folk’s hangtime has had a lot to do with the Jets’ averages and their 25 inside-the-20 stops, third in the NFL.

“I’ve always had that. My natural kick is to get it up in the air pretty good,” Folk said this week. “I’m going to work on trying to get a little more drive on it this offseason. Early in the year I had that down, then as they year went on, well, I’ve got to make sure that stays more consistent throughout the year.

“But when you’re leading the league and they’re starting right at their 20 almost every time, you can’t really get mad at that. Our guys, they want to go down there and make tackles, try to get a turnover and whatnot. They’re excited about the touchbacks, but they’re also excited to make a big play inside the 20.”

It surprised me when I went back to check on the Jets’ kickoff hangtimes that I’ve kept over the last decade. From Doug Brien through Mike Nugent and Jay Feely, none of them ever had a season in which they averaged 4.00 seconds per kickoff. The closest was Feely’s 2009 season at 3.92. Folk came in last year and averaged 4.12 seconds, and this season he’s up to 4.24, a figure that was anchored by his current streak of 41 of his last 42 kickoffs hanging for at least 4.00 seconds.

Every tenth of a second helps, especially with a season on the line in the warm Miami air Sunday.

*Special Teams Saturday


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