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Obomanu Flips Coasts, Seeks Fresh Opportunity

Posted by Randy Lange on June 10, 2013 – 2:26 pm

Updated, 6:08 p.m. ET

The Jets’ wideout field is getting crowded these days, mostly by guys that not many have heard of just wanting to get a fair shot at making the roster.

Just the way Ben Obomanu likes it.

“That’s what every player wants, an opportunity to earn his keep,” Obomanu told me last week, “to have that open competition and have the ability to come in and make a play or two and not have a stigma placed on them before they even get started. I feel the same way.”

Obomanu has overcome that situation before. He was a seventh-round pick of the Seahawks in 2006 and gradually worked his way into decent playing time in 2010, when he caught 30 passes for 494 yards (16.5-yard average) and four touchdowns. The yards, average and TDs were all career highs.

“I think that season I finally got a chance to play,” he said. “For the longest time, I think, as a seventh-round pick, I kept getting overshadowed, overlooked. I think 2010 was my first real good chance of getting some starts and I actually did pretty well, made a lot of good plays, got a contract extension.

“I’m trying to get back to that point. I’m trying to get that opportunity again to show that what I did in 2010, when I was a legit starter, those same plays I made there, I’m still capable of now.”

He was a salary-cap casualty this three months ago and so started the searching process for a new team. Perhaps it didn’t hurt that one of Seattle’s front office members, John Idzik, is now the Jets’ GM, but as Obomanu put it, “There was a connection with John, but I had to come in and work out with a couple of other guys before I ended up being the guy they signed. I had to earn it.”

Even though Obomanu knows he’ll have to step up and earn a roster spot this summer, he won’t mind a bit of an inherited cheering section. When he came to the Jets, he wore uniform No. 9, but after a few days he swapped numbers with undrafted rookie Zach Rogers for No. 15.

Yes, Ben knows Tim Tebow wore 15 in green and white last year.

“In Seattle I was No. 87. I kind of wanted to do something different here. I was trying to figure out with family and friends what kind of number I wanted,” he said. “Tim’s a good guy. I understand that a number is a number. But it’d be neat, if I did come in and could keep 15, I’m pretty sure there’s some leftover 15 jerseys out there and I can have a little fan base from the start.”

Brick’s Bash

From the sounds of things, D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s fifth annual Building Communities One Brick at a Time dinner gala and auction was a sturdy success.

“It was a great event and we raised a lot of money for our youth, aiding the Long Island area,” Brick told us. “We’re thankful for all the support.”

The gala, held June 4 at The Swan Club in Glenwood Landing, N.Y., honored Mark Sanchez, former N.J. Secretary of State the Rev. Regena Thomas, and Philip Castaldo, president of UFOLI, the United 7-Eleven Franchise Owners of Long Island and New York, which also performs great work in the community.

As Ferguson stated in a printed message to the dinner guests, the goal of the D’Brickashaw Ferguson Foundation is to be a strong support system to young people before and after they enter college.

“The Skills and Drills conference is a vehicle that helps foster growth by peer-to-peer mentorship, team-building exercises and the sharing of experiences by seasoned professionals,” Brick said. “Programs like these are needed in order to help encourage and inspire our youth. With your support we will be able to grow and change more lives. Thank you.”

No, thank you, Brick, for continuing to be a role model and mentor to young people as you work your good work off the field in with your good work as the Jets’ starting left tackle.


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Lankster Picking Up Where Trufant Left Off

Posted by Randy Lange on November 16, 2012 – 3:33 pm

Updated, 4:15 p.m. ET

Ellis Lankster said he would be watching NFL highlights or ESPN’s Top Ten and see blitzing cornerbacks from other teams coming free all the time, swooping in on unsuspecting quarterbacks and separating them from the football.

“And I would say, ‘Why? Why do I never come free like that?’ ” he wondered.

At Seattle, it happened. Lankster, playing nickel after Isaiah Trufant suffered his season-ending first-quarter knee injury, came off his left edge in a five-man rush. No Seahawk stepped up to block him, and suddenly there was rookie QB Russell Wilson, as big as day and looking the other way.

“My whole time running, I was saying in my head, ‘Don’t throw it, don’t throw it, don’t throw it,’ ” Lankster recalled. “He didn’t throw it. I was so happy.”

Lankster hit Wilson and the ball came loose. In one instant, the third-year man who’s been waiting his turn for his career to get rolling had just picked up his first sack and first forced fumble of his career.

As luck would have it, the Seahawks recovered the loose ball at their 7. It was still a big third-down play, forcing a 3-and-out, but it was one of several plays that could have signaled a Jets upsurge in that game but went the other way. If only Dustin Keller didn’t false-start, if only Mark Sanchez saw Stephen Hill in the back of the end zone, if only the Jets had recovered that ball and Jeremy Kerley hadn’t muffed the punt …

That’s what happens to teams on losing streaks. But teams that pull out of those streaks do so by relying on positive trends that develop during those negative teams. We have more on that in our Sunday morning preview of the Jets-Rams game, but suffice it to say that Lankster, to help him should he have a clear shot at Rams QB Sam Bradford, has been going to the Jets’ video library.

“I never played with Drew Coleman. My first year here, he was gone,” he said of the former Jets corner and strip-sack artist who played last year with Jacksonville last season. “Coaches will be like, ‘Go back and watch how Drew Coleman did it, or how Donald Strickland did it.’ “

In fact, Lankster did a great imitation. He became the first Jets DB to execute a strip-sack in 28 games, or since DC had three in a three-game span (two against Ben Roethlisberger) late in the 2010 season.

There’s no guarantee Lankster will be running forward unblocked again Sunday and on Thanksgiving night back home against the Patriots. But an improved Jets rush will help him as he tries to fill Trufant’s role in coverage against those teams’ top wideouts, Danny Amendola for the Rams and Wes Welker for the Patriots. In fact, as Ryan said a few times this week, Amendola “kind of looks like Wes Welker, and his game looks a lot like it, too.”

The shame of that is that Trufant likely would have been a key player in the Jets’ nickel. He’d been flashing on blitzes himself and got praise for helping to hold Welker down four weeks ago at New England. Unfortunately, Trufant’s left knee got jarred by LB Garrett McIntyre as both went for the tackle of ex-Jet Leon Washington on his first punt return on Sunday. That injury landed Trufant on IR on Tuesday.

But ‘Zaiah may yet make his presence felt under the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday.

“Ever since he got hurt, he’s been telling me to ‘hold it down,’ ” Lankster said. “He’s been sending me texts, saying, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me. It’s your time.’ “

Perhaps it will be.

Here is the list of strip-sacks by Jets DBs from the Bill Parcells era forward:

2010 — CB Drew Coleman 3

2009 — S Jim Leonhard 2, S James Ihedigbo 1, S Kerry Rhodes 1

2008 — S Abram Elam 2, CB Hank Poteat 1, CB Darrelle Revis 1

2006 — Rhodes 3

2001 — CB Ray Mickens 1

1999 — Mickens 2

1998 — S Victor Green 1

Friday Injury Reports

Mostly good news on the Jets’ injury front. The good: For the first time this season, the Jets list no players as either doubtful or out for the upcoming game. “I expect us to have a healthy roster,” Ryan said today, “and we’ll see how that goes.”

Included in those expectations are the five players listed as questionable for the Rams: RB Bilal Powell (concussion), RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle), NT Sione Po‘uha (back/ankle), LB Bart Scott (toe) and — the only semi-negative injury news — WR-PR Jeremy Kerley, who didn’t practice for the first time this week with his heel injury plus a hamstring complication.

WR Stephen Hill practiced full after sitting out two days with an illness and said he’s feeling a lot better. He’s probable, as are LB Calvin Pace (DNP today due to personal reasons) and the 12 other players on the list.

All four injured Rams players are listed as questionable for the game: LB Mario Haggan (thigh), WR Austin Pettis (toe), DE Eugene Sims (knee), S Darian Stewart (knee). None is a starter.

Penalty: Gannon

Last week at this time we noted that Marv Albert was about to call his 100th Jets game on network TV. He and Rich Gannon (doing his seventh Jets game since ’08 as a network analyst and his fifth teamed with Marv) in the CBS booth generally had a good game. Gannon in particular was tough but insightful on Mark Sanchez’s play and the Jets’ use of Tim Tebow.

But Gannon committed a late-game gaffe that we’d like to correct for the record. When Yeremiah Bell rocked RB Richard Turbin as a Russell Wilson pass sailed over their heads, and YB was flagged for what ref Ed Hochuli announced was “unnecessary roughness, helmet contact to a defenseless player,” Gannon offered this:

“Yeremiah Bell’s been tagged a couple times this season for these type of hits.”

False. Until that penalty, Bell hadn’t been flagged for any plays of that kind this season. The only penalty he’d been called for previously was for holding TE Heath Miller in Game 2 at Pittsburgh.

If Gannon had said the Jets safeties as a tandem had been tagged a couple of times, he would have been in the ballpark. LaRon Landry was flagged for two late hits, on Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller in the opener (offset) and on Pittsburgh’s Emmanuel Sanders the next week, plus a horsecollar tackle on Antonio Brown in that game. He’d gone unpenalized for six games, or until he was called for pass interference on Seattle TE Evan Moore in the back of the end zone.

That Landry penalty vs. the Seahawks, by the way, was a rarity, since it officially was for zero yards yet still gave the Seahawks a first down. The ball was already inside the Jets 1 and the penalty moved the ball half the distance to the goal line, which was a foot away. That’s still statistically considered the 1-yard line.

Special Thanks to A-1 First Class

The New York Jets want to extend a special thank-you to A-1 First Class Moving, the proud moving partner of the Jets, for helping deliver items from the organization’s Sandy Relief Drive to New Jersey Cares.


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Tebow as QB Dominates Rex News Conference

Posted by Randy Lange on November 14, 2012 – 4:01 pm

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.

The Transactions

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)

Click here for the Jets’ updated injury report each day after 4 p.m. ET.

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.


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Rex’s Hat Will Make a Statement for NY/NJ Region Today

Posted by Randy Lange on November 11, 2012 – 3:17 pm

Jets head coach Rex Ryan will be wearing a different gameday baseball cap than he usually wears when he patrols the sidelines during today’s Jets-Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field. It’s a black hat with a logo that reads: “NJ/NY STRONG.”

“I’m going to wear this hat at the game on behalf of our organization,” Ryan told reporters when he first donned the new headgear for his Friday news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.  “Basically, it’s just to let people know, especially people in our region that were affected by Hurricane Sandy that our thoughts and prayers are with them.

“Hopefully they’ll see this hat on the sideline and they’ll understand that we’re with them and thinking about them, and also that we’re representing our region when we go up there and play this game. If they can get something encouraging out of our performance, that certainly motivates us and drives us as well.”

This past Thursday, Jets owner Woody Johnson said the Jets are donating $500,000 to the relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which two weeks ago devastated the New Jersey/New York area, and that the Green & White are dedicating their Thanksgiving night game against New England at MetLife Stadium to helping and honoring all those affected by the storm.


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Jets-Seahawks: Pregame Tweets

Posted by Randy Lange on November 11, 2012 – 3:08 pm

Here are today’s pregame tweets for Jets-Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, in case you missed them on Twitter. Follow Bob Wischusen, Eric Allen and me for our tweets during each Jets game on https://twitter.com/nyjets.

#RL Weather for Jets @ Seattle won’t be snow as it was in ’08, but almost as bad: rain expected all afternoon, temps in mid-40s, light wind.

#RL Jets are 8-9 all-time vs Seahawks, 3-4 @ SEA, 0-1 @ CenturyLink, but they’ve won 8 of the last 10 meetings, 3 of last 5 @ SEA.

#RL Jets have scored first in eight of the last nine games in this series (7-2), have scored first in last five games at Seattle.

#RL Jets QB Mark Sanchez last 2 games: 95 atts, 56 comps, 611 yds. Atts, comps most in back-to-back games in his career, yds 2nd most.

#RL SEA rookie QB Russell Wilson in 4 home games this yr: 92 atts, 57 comps, 747 yds, 9 TDs, 0 INTs, 1 lost FUM, 120.2 rating, 4-0 record.

#RL Jets RB Shonn Greene: 139 carries, 509 yds (3.7 avg), 5 TDs. In his last 3 games Greene is averaging 97.3 yds/game, 4.6 per carry.

#RL SEA RB Marshawn Lynch w/BUF vs Jets 2007-10: 7 games, 103 carries, 431 yds (4.2 per carry, 61.6 per game), 2 TDs.

#RL Today’s referee: Ed Hochuli. It’s Ed’s 17th Jets game as ref since ’93, incl ’04 PO win @ SD, ’09 season opener @ HOU, ’10 win vs NE

#RL NYJ inactives: QB Greg McElroy RB Joe McKnight LB Aaron Maybin G Caleb Schlauderaff G Hayworth Hicks TE Hayden Smith NT Kenrick Ellis

#RL S Eric Smith (knee) active first time in 4 games, LB Bart Scott (toe) active after sitting vs MIA, ending 119-game RS appearance streak.

#RL With Jets LB Aaron Maybin deactivated, LB Ricky Sapp is active and could make his NFL debut today.

#RL Jets in white jerseys, white pants, green trim. 23rd time u/ Rex Ryan Jets are in white/white. Record is 12-10 but 1-7 in last 8 games in w/w.

#RL Marv Albert, Rich Gannon in the CBS booth for Jets-Seahawks. It’s the 100th career Jets game that Marv has called for network TV.


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STS*: Sunday Test Is Getting Leon Tackled

Posted by jlholt32 on November 10, 2012 – 11:44 am

The Jets will run into a familiar face Sunday at CenturyLink Field when they take on the Seattle Seahawks. Leon Washington spent the first four years of his NFL career as a part of the Jets and is now in his third season with this week’s opponent from the NFC West.

Washington was traded by the Green & White to Seattle in the spring of 2010 for a fifth-round draft pick. Despite no longer being with the franchise, he remains the Jets’ career leader with four kickoff-return touchdowns.

“I always said I was glad Leon was on my team because then I didn’t have to try and tackle him,” Jets safety Eric Smith said this week. “Leon is good when he has the ball in his hands, he’s good at making people miss, so it’s going to be a challenge for us on our returns to get him tackled.”

Washington ranks sixth in the NFL with an average of 29.1 yards on 15 returns this season. In 2008 he played in the Pro Bowl after leading the NFL with 1,606 all-purpose yards. The next year, his last with the Jets, he played in seven games before his season was cut short by a compound fracture of his fibula during the win at Oakland.

“I remember when I got traded, Rex came and talked to me and said, ‘Look, Leon, we have to pay a bunch of guys, Nick Mangold, David, Harris’ — I remember him saying the names — ‘Darrelle Revis,’ and stuff like that,” he recalled. “It’s a business, so I understand it. I was thankful that I had the opportunity that they drafted me in the first place. It was awesome.”

Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said he wasn’t involved with the team’s decision in not bringing Washington back. These days he notices Washington on Seattle highlights but doesn’t study him to the extent he once did.

“If you watch their first game that they played this year,” Westhoff said, “he broke the long kickoff and the long punt. He looks pretty good to me. He looks very solid. I have a lot of respect and I think he’s a darn good football player.”

Smith said he hasn’t talked with his former teammate in quite some time but is looking forward to reuniting with him Sunday. He hasn’t forgotten all of Washington’s big runs and kickoff returns.

“He’s done well,” Smith said. “You don’t hear about it much. But we keep up on him and it looks like every game he’s almost breaking one.”

Washington said he stays in contact with the Jets on Twitter and usually reconnects with tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Revis in the offseason. He doesn’t hold any grudges toward his former team and is happy with the way things turned out.

“There’s no added attention to me playing the Jets,” he said. “Honestly — and I’m very serious when I say this — we’re concerned about what we’re doing out here. We have a really good football team and we’re trying to put things together. So we’re not too concerned about our opponent. We’re prepared for them but we’re concerned about doing things we need to do in order for us to win the game.

“Would I like to return a kickoff for a touchdown against the Jets? Yes. Would I like to return a kickoff for a touchdown against the 49ers, the Rams or whoever it may be? Yes.”

*Special Teams Saturday


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McKnight, Ellis Won’t Make the Trip to Seattle

Posted by Randy Lange on November 9, 2012 – 1:32 pm

Updated, Saturday, 12:10 p.m.

The Jets will be traveling to Seattle today without two contributors they thought might have been available for the Seahawks after an otherwise healing bye week. Head coach Rex Ryan announced at his news conference today that RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle) and NT Kenrick Ellis (knee) will stay home.

“We’re going to keep them back here,” Ryan said before the team hops buses for Newark Liberty Airport and the six-hour flight to the Pacific Northwest this afternoon. “Kenrick was limited in practice. He’s just not quite ready to play. Hopefully next week he’ll be ready to go.”

Ellis hurt his knee in the Oct. 8 game against the Texans and hadn’t practiced at all until Thursday and today, when he was limited for the first time. But the nose tackle position will be manned as it was last week by Sione Po‘uha, who made his first start in four games and got in 21 plays against Miami after working through his own back injury, as well as rookie Damon “Snacks” Harrison.

McKnight, one of the NFL’s top kickoff returners for the second straight season, injured his ankle against Indianapolis on Oct. 14, played on the ankle at New England and vs. Miami, but aggravated the injury against the Dolphins.

“Joe is one of those type of deals where if he can get 25 percent better by not playing in a game, it’s probably time to do that,” Ryan said. “We’re going that route and hopefully we’ll be able to get him back so he can practice and play.”

The Jets have listed Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson as the backup kickoff returners to McKnight on their weekly game-notes package for reporters, but a new alternative roared into action when speedy second-year WR Clyde Gates ripped off a 47-yard return with the second-half kickoff vs. the ‘Fins and might have become the eighth different Jet to return a kickoff for a touchdown under special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, had he not run into rookie Demario Davis near midfield.

The rest of the Jets injury report was pretty much the same all week. Six players were limited at today’s practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center, but Ryan said, “I believe all of them will play” at Seattle. Those six: C Nick Mangold (ankle), G Brandon Moore (hip), RB Bilal Powell (shoulder), LB Bart Scott (toe), S Eric Smith (knee) and Po‘uha. WR-PR Jeremy Kerley (heel) today became the 17th player listed on the injury report this week but practiced full and is probable for the Seahawks. Also, G Hayworth Hicks, signed this week from Indy’s practice squad, did not make the trip and has been ruled out for the game.

Update: Sorry, due to computer issues en route to Seattle, I couldn’t post the Seahawks’ injury report/game status. Here it is now:

Out — LB K.J. Wright (concussion), G James Carpenter (concussion).

Doubtful — DE Greg Scruggs (oblique).

Questionable — DT Clinton McDonald (groin).

Probable — WR Doug Baldwin (ankle), DE Red Bryant (foot), S Kam Chancellor (quad), WR Braylon Edwards (knee), DE Jason Jones (ankle), RB Marshawn Lynch (back/wrist), G John Moffitt (knee), CB Richard Sherman (illness).

Statement for the Region

Ryan wore a new baseball cap to today’s “Fast Friday” news conference. The logo on the front said it all: “NJ/NY STRONG.”

“I’m going to wear this hat at the game on behalf of our organization,” Ryan said. “Basically, it’s just to let people know, especially people in our region that were affected by Hurricane Sandy that our thoughts and prayers are with them. Hopefully they’ll see this hat on the sideline and they’ll understand that we’re with them and thinking about them, and also that we’re representing our region when we go up there and play this game.

“If they can get something encouraging out of our performance, that certainly motivates us and drives us as well.”

On Thursday owner Woody Johnson said the Jets are donating $500,000 to the relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which last week devastated the New Jersey/New York area, and are dedicating their Thanksgiving night game against New England at MetLife Stadium to helping and honoring all those affected by the storm.


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Po’uha’s Back, Ready to Rumble with DL Mates

Posted by Randy Lange on November 7, 2012 – 7:49 pm

Sione Po‘uha is back in the mix. And “back” is the operative word.

“I’m feeling well. I’m feeling like my old self,” the Jets’ veteran nose tackle said in the Atlantic Health Training Center locker room following today’s first big practice of Seahawks week. “I’m just glad to be able to contribute to the team again and to be there for my teammates.”

More than a few of us speculated if that might ever happen again. “Big Bo” came up with his sore lower back in August during the Jets’ Cortland training camp. He was inactive for the opener against Buffalo, started the next three games at nose, then was deactivated for the next three, before starting again two Sundays ago vs. Miami.

He has spent every practice day this season on the injury report, including two-plus weeks when he didn’t practice at all. And when he was seen around the Atlantic Health Training Center locker room, it was usually to say, “I can’t talk today. Got to get rehab.”

When all of that happens to a 33-year-old man who’s spent much of his previous seven seasons getting into three-point stances and crashing into opposing offensive linemen and running backs like a 325-pound bighorn sheep, well, I asked him this afternoon if he ever worried during this season if he might have reached the end of the line as an NFL player.

“Nah. It was just another challenge, another obstacle in the road,” he said with a smile that didn’t seem to be derived from pain shooting up his torso. “Everybody’s road in the NFL is never easy. A lot of guys have physical, emotional, spiritual things they just have to go through in this league.”

Yet when I asked him if this was possibly the toughest physical challenge he’s had to endure in his distinguished, still maturing career, he didn’t disagree.

“I think it is,” he said after a pause. “I missed some significant games. But I accepted that challenge, I accepted the journey. And one of the things that keep me going is that at the end of the day, it’s all about helping my teammates.”

It’s always been about more than just Big Bo for Po‘uha. He’s become a steadying influence, a big-brother-figure on the D-line. Certainly Muhammad Wilkerson and Mike DeVito have becoming reliable defenders, rookie DT Quinton Coples has shown flashes, and NT Kenrick Ellis was and is on his way to that same status except for his knee injury. But missing his presence in the middle hasn’t helped the line move along smoothly this season.

And now Sione’s back, seemingly ready to rock and roll in the second half of the season. First up is a tough test with Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks. Po‘uha said his and his teammates’ approach this week through Sunday will be simple.

“It’s all about executing, each of us doing our part,” he said. “Seattle’s got a great running back but it’s all about the game plan we’ve got from Rex and Coach Pettine. It’s all about preparing and getting out there and making it happen.”

And Bo is back with his Bros to try to make it happen for the Green & White in Seattle’s hostile environs four days from now.

Rex Cetera

Jets head coach Rex Ryan was asked his reaction to being ranked the most overrated head coach in the NFL in one of those Sports Illustrated player polls. Rex laughed.

“My first thought was I saw who was second and I said, ‘Hey, I finally beat Bill Belichick,’ ” Ryan said of the rankings, which listed the Patriots’ head coach as the second-most overrated HC in the NFL.

“Like gollee, it hadn’t been a tough enough year,” he said, turning serious. “Nah, I wasn’t offended by it. You know what? The overrated thing, it is what it is. At the end of the year we’ll see who’s overrated.” A few sentences later, he added: “As long as they want to come here and play and I’m overrated, that’s fine. But I want ‘em to come here and play.”

Regarding the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, Ryan said their homefield advantage extends beyond this year’s 4-0 record and the ‘Hawks’ 52-24 home mark since ’03, fifth-best in the league in that span.

“You think it’s an indoor-type atmosphere, with the noise level when you get there, even though it’s an outdoor stadium,” he said. “I don’t know the exact number, but since ’05, I believe there’ve been 113 false-start penalties on opponents when they’re playing games at Seattle. That shows you it’s a tangible thing. That talks about the noise and how much that 12th man gets involved there in Seattle.”

The 12th man was in effect for the Jets’ last visit to the ‘Link in 2008, then known as Qwest Field. Besides the fans throwing snowballs at anybody in Jets green that day thanks to that rare Seattle snowstorm, the officials threw three flags for presnap penalties on the Jets that day — two on offense, one for a Damien Woody false start and one for an illegal formation, and one on then-punter Reggie Hodges for a delay of game.

However, the Seahawks didn’t take full advantage of their HFA that day. They got three false-start penalties called on their O-linemen as well.

Wednesday Injury Reports

The 15 players on the Jets’ injury list to start this week may sound like a lot but it’s the fewest players they’ve had on any daily report this season. NT Kenrick Ellis (knee) and RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle) didn’t participate in practice, while limited players besides Po‘uha were LB Bart Scott (toe), TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist), C Nick Mangold (ankle), G Brandon Moore (hip), RB Bilal Powell (shoulder) and S Eric Smith (knee). You can find the Jets’ full injury report here.

The Seahawks are listing 11 players, with seven of them not practicing in Seattle today. Among them are former Jets WR Braylon Edwards (knee) and former Jets twice-annual foe RB Marshawn Lynch (back/wrist). Other DNPs were DE Red Bryant (foot), G James Carpenter (concussion), S Kam Chancellor (quadriceps), DT Clinton McDonald (groin) and LB K.J. Wright (concussion).

DE Jason Jones (ankle) was limited and WR Doug Baldwin (ankle), G John Moffitt (knee) and C Max Unger (finger) were full-go.\


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Areas of Focus for an Upward 2nd-Half Trend

Posted by Randy Lange on November 5, 2012 – 4:23 pm

Florham Park, the home of the Jets’ Atlantic Health Training Center, was battered around a bit by last week’s superstorm, but the borough is now almost back to full power.

Rex Ryan posited today that his players in several ways are trying to do the same.

“We know we’re in a bottom-line business and that’s wins and losses. For football, that’s really all that matters,” the Jets head coach said at today’s welcome-back news conference. “Our focus is strictly on improving as a football team and getting ready to go compete and do what we can to win against Seattle.”

On special teams, the Jets have committed “things that we really don’t do.” His run defense, he said, “has been poor, but it’s getting better. The last 100 rushes, I think we’ve given up 3.1 a carry. We’re getting better but we’re still not where we want to be.”

Same thing in the running game: “Our last 100 carries we’re averaging 4.3 a carry, something like that. We’re getting better, not exactly where we want it to be but we’re making strides.”

Takeaways and giveaways have been spotty (minus-1 overall in TO margin, a costly minus-2 in the red zone). “These are things that we’ve challenged our team, to make us successful,” he said. “Those are the main areas we have to improve.”

His players mostly left the area last week in different directions from Sandy’s path across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. Mike DeVito went northeast to his Maine home, LaRon Landry (Virginia) and Aaron Maybin (Maryland) went to the southwest. Others hung in the area.

But it seems all worked during their time away, as would be expected.

CB Antonio Cromartie watched two football games while he was away — Alabama-LSU and Seattle-Minnesota. A special focus of the Seahawks’ win over the Vikings was the play of rookie QB Russell Wilson, who threw three first-half touchdowns. S LaRon Landry religiously worked out every day and kept up the long-term rehab on his heel, neither unexpected. LB Aaron Maybin, another workout monster, kept up with Seattle and with the defense’s first-half video cut-ups on his iPad. The stories in all other corners of the locker room were the same.

And in the coaches’ offices as well.

“It’s almost like ‘Hey, everybody stay out of the building … except coaches, of course,” Ryan said. “A lot of coaches would take their work stations, their computers home with them. A lot of preparation was that way. You’re never too far away from your work, that’s for sure. And obviously, you want to make sure that they’re protecting their families and that they’re there with their families in these trying circumstances.”

Ryan was asked what the coaches came up with.

“We got a bunch of suggestions, so I hope they’re good,” he said with a laugh. “We’re certainly looking at them.” Any hints of radical new concepts, plays, personnel for the second half? “I don’t want to get into specific things,” he said, “but I guess we’ll see.”

Will any of it make a difference? Last week we broke out the performances of the NFL’s 3-5 teams since 2002, and the prognosis is not good, although by no means hopeless, and that’s how some of the Jets’ defenders see it.

“The months of November and December, that’s when most teams are made anyway,” Cro said. “I think the biggest thing for us is just to make sure we take care of the things we need to take care of one week at a time.”

“We definitely have the resources to get back into this thing,” said S Yeremiah Bell. “We have the players, we have the coaching staff and we have the want-to. The thing is going to be just us on Sundays, just going out there and executing.”

Ryan said the first thoughts and prayers last week and early this week are for all affected by the hurricane, and then the next thoughts are only for that next game on the schedule, not the scenarios for any playoff stretch run (even though the Jets weren’t hurt at all by Buffalo’s loss, which drops them into a third-place tie in the AFC East at 3-5, and Miami’s loss at Indy to go to 3-4).

But Rex also had an energy about him to get back to the grind and see what these Jets with their backs to the wall and their noses to the grindstone can do.

“I know we’re not where we want to be, we’re not even close. We’re not sniffing the playoffs, we’re not sniffing anything right now,” he said. “But I want to get there. I’m excited about the prospects in front of us.”

First things first: A great week of work is needed, then a win at formidable CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) Field, before anyone outside the Green & White base of operations will be jumping back on the bandwagon.

How Big a Homefield Advantage?

All Jets asked today vouched for the advantage the Seahawks enjoy in CenturyLink Field, previously known as Qwest Field, née Seahawks Stadium. It’s loud and proud and the 12th Man is ready to rock its ‘Hawks on to victory.

But how does the advantage stack up in the league? By home winning percentage alone, pretty good. Since ’03, one year after they moved into the place, when they went 8-0 at home, Seattle’s regular-season home percentage is .684 (52-24), tied for fifth in the NFL over that span.

But another way to measure HFA is how much better a team plays at home than on the road, as measured by winning percentage margin. In that same span, the Seahawks’ home percentage of .684 (52-24) compared to their road percentage of .351 (27-50) is plus-.333. That margin is second-best in the NFL over that span, trailing only the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium (plus-.382).

The Health Picture

Ryan said LB Bart Scott (toe), NT Kenrick Ellis (knee) and RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle) would sit out today’s practice but wasn’t ruling them out of practices the rest of this week. Additionally, some of the banged-up Jets such as NT Sione Po‘uha, S Eric Smith, TE Jeff Cumberland, C Nick Mangold, G Brandon Moore and RB Bilal Powell were limited but involved in today’s practice.

Rex: “I’m excited to get the team healthy and make this push the second half of the season.”

The Seahawks went into Sunday’s 30-20 win over Minnesota with an eight-player injury list and in the game starting OLB K.J. Wright reportedly suffered a concussion. The teams’ official injury reports won’t be filed until Wednesday afternoon.


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At Midseason, Rex and the Numbers Speak of Inconsistency

Posted by Randy Lange on November 2, 2012 – 4:38 pm

It’s been a tough week all around in this neighborhood as people continue to dig out from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Power’s still not restored in many places, trees are lying on people’s houses and in roadways, gas lines hearken back to the late Seventies.

The Jets have fared OK in the sense that the Atlantic Health Training Center is in good shape, the building has full power, and we haven’t heard any ugly storm stories from the players and the coaches.

But the Jets have needed to correct their different kind of power outage as much as possible this bye week before they gather back together next week to get ready for the NFC West leg of their schedule, road games at Seattle and St. Louis, then two weeks later at home for Arizona. (Not to mention the Patriots’ visit on Thanksgiving night.)

“You’re at the halfway point of the season and you really analyze where you’re at. And 3-and-5′s not getting it done,” head coach Rex Ryan told my partner, Eric Allen, late this week in video remarks that you can see and hear on this week’s “Jets Flight Plan” on Sunday morning on WCBS-TV. “We have to really look at what we’re doing and see areas where we can improve, expand roles, take roles away, those types of things. At the same time you start your preparation for Seattle and other teams down the road.”

Ryan and his coaches were making those analyses throughout the week here. What had they found at the time of this interview?

“I think we’ve been inconsistent throughout as a football team,” he said. “Usually a strength of ours would clearly be the defense and clearly be our special teams. And we’ve had moments where that’s been the case, but then we also had moments where those two areas have hurt us.

“Then offensively we’re searching for our identity. Sometimes we’ve been running the ball very effectively, other times not as much. I think we’ve had some excellent days protecting the quarterback, then other times when it hasn’t been as good. So we’ve really got to focus on how we can improve this team and see what happens. But clearly, 3-5, that’s certainly not acceptable, not to our fan base, nobody accepts it. We have to do a better job, and I always say it starts with me.”

“Inconsistency” comes through loud and clear in these stats, rankings and factoids that I’ve shaken out of my databases and spreadsheets at this season’s midpoint:

MARK SANCHEZ

It’s a mixed bag with the quarterback.

■ His ball-in-the-air-yardage is at a career-high clip of 8.6 yards per pass. But his receivers’ yards after catch is at a career-low rate of 4.0.

■ He followed one of the best-passing fourth quarters of his career at New England (10-for-12, 114 yards, 1 TD, 134.0 rating) with one of the worst-passing third quarters of his career vs. Miami (5-for-14, 53 yards, 1 INT, 17.9 rating).

■ Some key passing numbers, if sustained through the final eight games, would be career lows (52.9% accuracy, 6.38 yards/attempt), while the passer rating of 72.8 would end his increases there since his rookie year.

■ Three-and-outs continue to be an issue. Sanchez’s three-and-out drive rate of .292 (26-of-89) is 31st out of 33 qualifying QBs, ahead of Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert (.316) and Oakland’s Carson Palmer (.298).

TIM TEBOW

Tebow’s been on the field for 54 offensive plays, 6.8 per game, plus 49 special-teams plays, giving him 103 snaps this season, about 13 a game. With those he has compiled 23 runs for 78 yards (3.4 yards/carry) and two completions on three passes for 32 yards, one sack and a 102.1 passer rating. He’s moved the chains nine times.

Ryan was asked on his Monday conference call if the Jets look at ways to use Tebow more in the second half of the season. “I definitely think that’s a fair statement,” he said.

GROUND GAME

Inconsistent fits here as well. The Jets are 16th, right in the middle of the NFL rankings, in rushing yards per game, 22nd in yards per carry. Shonn Greene had a career day with his 32-carry, 161-yard, three-TD outing vs. the Colts and a regular-season-long 36-yard bolt against the Dolphins. But for all eight games he’s at a career-low pace of 3.7 yards/carry, which breaks down unofficially to 1.3 yards before first contact, 2.4 yards after.

The good news, perhaps, is that Greene started slow in last year’s first half, too (1.5 before, 2.3 after, 3.8 total) before finishing muscularly (1.8-2.8-4.6) in the second half. The returns of a healthier Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight to the RB mix and Shonn’s November-December push could help the offense pick things up.

RED ZONE

A big difference from a year ago is the performance on drives inside the opponents’ 20. In ’11 with Plaxico Burress doing his best work as a Jet, Sanchez had 10 TD passes at the midway point of the season, compared to eight this year — without Santonio Holmes, that’s not bad.

But Sanchez has already thrown three RZ interceptions this season, equaling last season’s total, and in the last 11 games dating to last year he’s had six giveaways inside the 20.

And the offense’s rate has dropped off, from last season’s franchise-record 65.5% touchdown rate to 48.1% (13 TDs in 27 drives) this year. Again, like many other areas on the team, the Jets’ five TDs in five tries vs. Indianapolis and a good showing at New England (two TDs, two FGs in 4 trips) were negated by the 1-for-4 showing against the Dolphins — one of only two times since ’78 that the Jets failed to score any points on three RZ trips in a home game (Atlanta, 2009).

Meanwhile, the defense has given up TDs at a too-high rate of 60.9% (14 on 23 opportunities), 26th in the NFL through eight weeks and the team’s highest rate since the ’87 strike-year team yielded TDs at a 61.5% pace. And the last time Jets opponents averaged more than this year’s 5.2 points per red zone trip was in 1980 (5.6).

THIRD-DOWN EFFICIENCY—OFFENSE

As we laid out last Friday, the Jets’ short-yardage rushing game on third down has been strong. Greene is 7-for-7 on converting third-and-1′s, and with Lex Hilliard’s pair of “and-one” rushing conversions vs. Miami, the Jets remain the NFL’s only perfect team when running on third-and-1-or-2/fourth-and-1-or-2 combined at 15-for-15.

Getting to third-and-short has been successful as well. The Jets on average face 6.2 yards to go on third down this season, which if it holds up would be their best third-down yardage figure since averaging third-and-6.1 in 1993. But with such favorable yardage on third down, they need to convert better than their 39.5% rate, which is 17th in the NFL.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Through six games Mike Westhoff’s special forces were doing very well. Using a simple rating system for ST big plays (7 points for return scores, 3 points for blocked FGs, 1 point for takeaways, non-TD blocked kicks and successful onsides kicks), the Jets were purring along with a plus-12 through six games.

Then came long kickoff returns at New England and vs. Miami, plus all the other issues vs. the Dolphins. The Miami game by this scoring system was a minus-11. The only worse game in Coach Westy’s Jets phase (2001-present) was the “Ted Ginn Game” vs. Miami in 2009 (minus-13).

Even with his sore ankle, Joe McKnight has been close to the once-in-a-quarter-century form he displayed last year in returning kickoffs. He had his second career TD return vs. Houston and his 29.3-yard average is sixth in the NFL.

Jeremy Kerley has been equally impressive on punt returns with the Jets’ first PR TD since Santana Moss at Pittsburgh in the 2004 playoffs and the first one at home since ‘Tana vs. Cleveland in ’02. JK’s 14.1-yard average is third in the league. But his 50% fair-catch rate (10 of 20 punts fielded) is among the league’s highest.

Nick Folk was on a season-opening 11-for-11 tear before suffering the block late in the first half vs. Miami. Still, his 4-for-4 from mostly long range at Gillette was “remarkable” (Westhoff) and his first half has been “phenomenal” (Ryan). He and his KO cover unit were No. 1 in the NFL in opponents’ average drive start after kickoffs until the last two games, when two long returns dropped them to 20th.

Robert Malone’s first half is comparable to Steve Weatherford’s 2010 first half. Malone has a better gross than Weatherford did (46.9 to 44.7), Weatherford had the better net (39.7 to 39.1), inside-the-20 total (17 to 12)  and average hangtime (4.77 to 4.53). Weatherford fell off in the second half of ’10 (except for his NFL-record-tying I-20s). If Malone suffers only minor slippage on his gross and he and his punt cover team improve their net (and cut out the punt blocks), he could threaten the franchise records set by Curley Johnson in 1965 (45.3 gross, 39.7 net).

DEFENSE

Individually, the Jets have some shining lights. LB David Harris is on pace for another 100-tackle season with 62 at the halfway point.

DE Muhammad Wilkerson leads the defense with 8.0 tackles for loss/no gain, putting him on track for the best total since Bart Scott’s 18.5 TFLNGs in 2010 and the best by a D-lineman since DE Marvin Washington’s 16.0 in ’95.

Antonio Cromartie is picking up where Darrelle Revis left off with his season-ending knee injury in Week 3. Cro leads the defense with 10 pass defenses and three interceptions, including the fifth return-TD of his career and his first as a Jet with his INT-return TD in the opener vs. Buffalo.

Teamwise, the numbers are not what we’re used to seeing from a Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine defense:

Overall yards/game — 16th in the NFL. Ryan’s previous seven defenses as coordinator or head coach never finished a season lower than 6th.

Rushing yards/game — 29th. The last time the Jets finished that low in a season was 29th in ’07 and before that in ’05.

Net passing yards/game — 6th. This is still in the Ryan ballpark. Rex’s Ravens finished 8th, 6th, 20th and 2nd, and his three previous Jets teams came in 1st, 6th and 5th.

Points allowed/game — 24th. Ryan’s ’07 Ravens scuffled to a tie for 22nd. The last time the Jets finished lower was 29th in ’96.

What would make everything better would be a big-time rush. With only 12 sacks, the Jets’ sack rate is 25th in the league, and their 24-sack pace would produce the fewest sacks in a 16-game season since the ’78 and ’79 squads each had 22 sacks.

Something else that would improve things would be fewer flags on the D. The defense has had 25 penalties marked off for 286 yards. The most penalties on a Jets defense were the 59 in ’95 and the most yardage since ’78 was 533 in ’86. Leading the way individually: Cromartie with six flags for 81 yards and fellow CB Kyle Wilson with five for 49.

That’s it on the raw midterm facts and figures. The Jets face an uphill road in the second half, one that seems in equal parts their making and that of the injury gods. But a few good teams overcome the bad IR and injury hands that they’re dealt to do great things (the ’11 Giants and the ’10 Packers among others). How did Rex want his players handling this week between Games 1-8 and Games 9-16:?

“I hope they get away from it for a little bit,” he said, “but also they have to look at what they want. I think we all want the same thing. There’s no magic formula. I think the big thing is hard work and dedication. And I’m confident that they’re recharging their batteries to be ready for Monday.”

Barring any unforeseen events over the weekend, we’ll recharge our batteries —literally and figuratively — this weekend and we’ll check back in with you the fan on Monday when the Jets return to work.


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