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Promising Exacta Ticket at the Top of This Draft

Posted by Randy Lange on April 23, 2013 – 4:20 pm

Nine-and-13. If that refers to a major league team’s record after 22 games, it’ll put you off the early pace of the division leader. If the subject is a horse owner’s Derby post positions or a race team’s Indy post position, you’d probably like better.

But positions in the NFL Draft? Now we’re talking.

That’s just what the Jets have at the moment in Thursday night’s first round of the draft at Radio City Music Hall. Their own pick at No. 9 and the No. 13 they acquired from Tampa Bay in the Darrelle Revis trade give them a prized position among the 32 teams, most of which will be spending one pick in Round 1 and none of which have two picks in the top 13 as the Jets do.

We mentioned the other day that the Jets have had that distinction, spending two picks in the top 13 in one draft, just once before since the start of the common draft in 1967. That was 2000, the draft of the “Four Aces,” when DE Shaun Ellis was tabbed 12th and DE John Abraham 13th (ahead of QB Chad Pennington at 18th and TE Anthony Becht at 27th).

But what is the track record of the entire league with two picks in the top 13 of a given draft? There aren’t a lot of examples, but generally those teams that do spend two such high picks fare fairly well in the coming season.

Interesting enough, the last NFL team with this distinction was … those same Jets in 2000 (with an asterisk). In the past 12 drafts, no team wound up using those two picks once it came time to push the chips forward in Round 1.

The asterisk I refer to above is that the Jets weren’t alone in that ’00 selection meeting with two high picks. The Redskins, you may remember, held Nos. 2 and 3 and went for LB LaVar Arrington and T Chris Samuels. Then the Ravens (with a younger Rex Ryan on that coaching staff) spent Nos. 5 and 10 on two offensive players, RB Jamal Lewis and WR Travis Taylor, who weren’t nickel-and-dimers.

Since 1990, that two-in-the-top-13 situation came up 10 times. And a trivia note about those 10 teams is that in the season after they spent those picks, they posted an average improvement in their previous season’s record of 2.5 wins. Eight of the 10 improved their previous record, four made the playoffs (Atlanta ’91, Dallas ’91, Miami ’92 and Baltimore ’00), and the ’92 Colts in part used their 1-2 punch of top pick Steve Emtman and LB Quentin Coryatt to improve eight games, from 1-15 to 9-7.

Splitting the 9 from the 13 for the moment, Since 1990, players selected at No. 9 (… No. 9 … No. 9 … ) have fared pretty well. Not every nine was a winner, but T Richmond Webb (Miami, ’90), RB Fred Taylor (Jacksonville, ’98), LB Brian Urlacher (Chicago, ’00), DT Kevin Williams (Minnesota, ’03) and RB C.J. Spiller (Buffalo, ’10) are among the best.

As for players who were plucked at lucky 13, there are TE Tony Gonzalez (Kansas City, ’97), LB Takeo Spikes (Cincinnati, ’98), John Abraham by the Jets in ’00, WR Lee Evans (Buffalo, ’04), and LB Brian Orakpo (Washington, ’09).

Clearly, this is no guarantee that the Jets will hit a two-run homer with both their picks or improve anywhere from 2.5 to eight wins over last year’s 6-10 mark. And if they trade one of those picks and move out of the top 13, then all of this trivia is for naught.

But the Jets have a good, experienced college draft team now led by long-time scout Jeff Bauer, and a new man at the top in GM John Idzik who has said that this draft and every draft will be a lifeline to how the team does in the season(s) ahead. And their 9-13 exacta could be just the ticket for the next favorable development on the road to the 2013 season.


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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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DeVito: Defense’s Confidence Remains High

Posted by Eric Allen on October 7, 2011 – 1:28 pm

So you say the Patriots are averaging 507.5 yards and 33.8 points per game? And Tom Brady is on pace to throw for 6,212 yards, WR Wes Welker is on target for 160 catches, 2,464 yards and 20 TDs and TE Rob Gronkowski for 72 receptions, 1,184 yards and 20 TDs? And they’re also running it well?

“I think we can completely shut them down. That’s what we’re going to go in there to do,” said Jets DE Mike DeVito. “If you’re not going in there thinking that, you’re thinking the wrong thing. We have the defense and we have the players, so we’re going in there trying to shut down this offense.”

DeVito is one of the most humble players you’ll ever meet and he’s not one to talk a lot of trash. His response came after he was asked if the Jets have to go into this one hoping to contain this prolific Pats offense with solid third-down and red-zone defense. His answer was honest, refreshing and exactly what you’d like to hear from a veteran who’s tasted a lot of success against the Patriots.

The Jets have won four of the last six in this rivalry, including a dominant performance in January in the AFC Divisional Round at Gillette Stadium. Brady passed for 299 yards and two TDs that afternoon, but he was sacked five times, hit on numerous other occasions and continually frustrated by the Jets’ coverage schemes as the Pats converted just five of 14 third downs in the Jets’ 28-21 win.

“That was last year and that’s behind us now,” DeVito said. “I think the confidence comes from what we’ve done this season thus far, what we put in during training camp, the work we put in and the guys we have on the field. That’s where our confidence comes from now and we’ll be ready to go.”

“I have a feeling that there were more than a few days in Foxboro spent — whether it was over the lockout or whether it was since the season started — preparing for our defense, knowing that we had success against them in the playoff game,” added defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. “Again it’s a challenge for us. We’ve got to make sure that we kind of forge ahead with some new things, but at the same time not get away from what’s been successful against them in the past.”

The Jets defense ranks No. 8 overall entering Week 5 and they played well in defeat last Sunday night in Baltimore. They held an improving Ravens offense to just 267 yards and 6-of-18 on third down while forcing three takeaways and scoring on a 35-yard David Harris interception return in the second quarter.

It was Harris’ first-quarter INT in January that set the tone against Brady and company. While the Pats will always have a strong pass attack with Brady slinging the rock, they’ve created some balance and currently rank No. 9 in rushing. In a Week 4 win over the Raiders, rookie Stevan Ridley (10-97) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (16-75) combined for 26 attempts and 172 yards.

“It’s such a great offense. We’re going to have to go out there and be clicking on all cylinders,” DeVito said. “They’ve stepped up their run game. They still have Tom Brady and still have a lot of threats on offense. As a defense, man, we have to come out there and play Jets defense. We can’t have any lapses in this game because they’re too quick to take advantage of it.”

“They have a potential mismatch at virtually every position. Now add to it that they’re running the football,” Pettine said. “That’s a pretty good offensive line. Gronkowski has really stepped up and become one of the better tight ends in the league.”

If the Green & White elect to play small against the Pats by loading the field with DBs, the challenge will be to control the run game in sub packages. Brady won’t have to worry about longtime nemesis Shaun Ellis this time around as the Big Katt, who racked up two sacks of Brady in the winter playoff win, will be taking aim at Mark Sanchez.

“He is one of the big reasons I made the team,” an appreciative DeVito said of Ellis. “I could have come in here and he could have given me a hard time, but he didn’t. He took me under his wing and he helped me progress as a player. Coming in as a rookie, it’s intimidating and he helped me right off at the beginning. He is somebody I have a lot of love and respect for.”

Referring to Ellis as his “big brother,” DeVito will exchange pleasantries with him after this contest. The 6’3”, 305-pounder, an undrafted free agent out of Maine in his fifth season, attended Nauset Regional HS in North Eastham, Mass., and the matchup with the Pats holds a lot of weight in the standings and for his family.

“It’s huge. Everybody’s up there,” he said. “If we lose this game, it’s not just me who has to hear it — my dad has to hear it, my mom has to hear it. So it’s big for us as a family to go up there and win this game.”


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Mason on Way In; S.Ellis Has Left the Building

Posted by Randy Lange on August 7, 2011 – 1:36 pm

Update, 2:35 p.m. ET

There’s been a net movement of 26 years of NFL experience over the past 24 hours. Fifteen years of wideout wisdom has arrived in the form of free agent WR Derrick Mason (who physically may not arrive on the Jets’ training camp field until Monday).

And 11 years of devotion to the Green & White’s defensive line was reported this morning to be departing with word that DE Shaun Ellis agreed to a one-year deal with the New England Patriots.

Mason first. Even though the former Titans and Ravens standout was not expected to practice today, the first effect of his arrival has been seen here with the switch of rookie Jeremy Kerley from uniform number 85 to 11.

“D-Mace has got to do all the paperwork and stuff — it’s like buying a house,” said head coach Rex Ryan, who was still beaming that the new No. 85, a former Ravens acquaintance of his, will soon be out on the field with the Jets’ rebuilt WR corps.

“That was obviously some exciting news for us, getting that kind of receiver,” Ryan said. “I almost look at it like we have three starters. That three-wide package is going to be something when you can have Derrick, Santonio Holmes, obviously Plaxico Burress, and Dustin [Keller]. That’s going to be tough on anybody. That’s going to be fun to watch, that’s for sure. His role is not to come in here as the No. 3 receiver, it’s to come in and build with what we already have with those two guys.”

Mason has already turned 37 this year, but he’s one of those players to whom age is just a number. He’s gone 11 consecutive seasons with at least 60 receptions and 750 yards. He needs 76 more receptions to join the NFL’s 1,000-reception club, which currently has only eight members. And he has gone eight straight seasons playing in all 16 regular-season games and has never played in fewer than 13 games in his 15 years.

We’ll hear more from Mason once he arrives here in Florham Park, N.J.. We may not hear from Shaun Ellis if the word from the northeast is accurate. The Big Katt’s teammates for the last couple of years were sorry to hear the rumors.

“I respect Shaun more than as a football player,” said nose Sione Pouha. “I respect him as a father and as a former teammate of mine. He was here when I first got here, so he had such a huge influence on me. He deserves the respect to make that decision.”

“When I came in, Shaun was a big brother to me,” said Ropati Pitoitua, who’s playing at Ellis’ spot on the D-line. “He’s a great leader and mentor. I learned a lot from him. We all know it’s a business. It is what it is. I wish him the best.”

And Marcus Dixon, who’s gotten a head of steam going on the inside this camp, seemed genuinely moved when I became the first to tell him that Shaun was gone.

“Shaun is definitely a Jet,” Dixon said after shaking his head. “He took me under his wing, taught me how to play up here. Not having him here, it’s sad, but we’ve got to move on. The Patriots are fortunate to be getting a guy like that.”

Ryan, after coaching Ellis (who rose to 72.5 career sacks, third-most in franchise history, last season) for two years, knows the Big Katt will be ready to pounce on the Jets and the Green & Whtie on him.

“I have a great deal of respect for Shaun. He made the Pro Bowl my first year here, and the biggest game he played last year, we all remember, was against New England,” Ryan remembered. “He is a tough guy and he’s going to be missed.”

But Ryan reminded, there’s only so much “pie” to go around each year, “and we’re pretty much right down to it. Bringing in Derrick, it’s hard for me to see that we’ll be bringing in too many more players, if any. I’m happy with the team we have. This, in my opinion, is an outstanding football team. Now obviously we’ve got to stay healthy and all that, work every day, but I think this is a great football team.”

Rex Cetera

Speaking of Plaxico, Burress is out at practice now and in pads for the first time as a Jet, but he’s only going to work individual drills. “I really want to go slow,” the coach said. “If you have him go through this and there’s a setback, it may cost you two weeks. If you go at the individual things, we feel like we’ll be able to get through that and progress that way.” But, Rex added, Burress “seems to be really grasping the offense.”

The coach on last year’s No. 1 pick, CB Kyle Wilson: “He’s a different guy, a different guy. His confidence is there, he’s stronger, and that only adds to his confidence. I think he’s going to have more of an impact on special teams, and I also see him obviously being our nickel. He’s stepping up. I see him over there working on his blitzing and stuff. He’s carrying himself differently than he did.”

Ryan on RT Wayne Hunter: “If you were to pick one guy you were going to take with you, I have a lot of candidates I feel really good about having my back, but Wayne would be the first I’d choose.”


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O-Line Makes the Grade for Its Patriots Game

Posted by Randy Lange on January 21, 2011 – 4:36 pm

As usual, the big fatties, the guys on the O side of the O/D trench can get lost in the deluge of championship game coverage. But not the Jets’ offensive linemen, who have drawn kudos from their head coach, a Green & White icon, and a new system of weighing the contributions of O-lines around the NFL.

“You’re seeing a prideful unit, a group that has a lot of ability,” head coach Rex Ryan said of his line at today’s final news conference of the week before Sunday’s Jets-Steelers title game. “There’s three Pro Bowlers in that group, or should be with D’Brickashaw [Ferguson], Nick [Mangold] and Brandon Moore. Wayne Hunter’s stepped right in for Damien Woody.

“And oh, by the way, Matt Slauson has done a great job, but he’ll never be considered as a Pro Bowl guard because of the fact that he’s a sixth-round pick, so it doesn’t matter how he plays. But I know one thing — he’s done a tremendous job for us.”

The icon is none other than Joe Namath, who always knew that his exploits for the Super Bowl III Jets started up front and mentioned it again regarding these Jets linemen after Mark Sanchez connected on three touchdown passes behind impeccable protection at New England.

“These things are only possible when the offensive line does their job,” Namath said on his Website. “So they have improved, and Bill Callahan, nice going getting those guys ready.”

Moore agreed with Coach Call’s input and noticed the vibe for him and his linemates all week long before the Patriots game.

“I thought we played a solid game,” B-Moore said. “During the week I felt like Bill Callahan and the guys in the room did a good job of setting ourselves up to play efficiently.”

Yet how to measure efficiency for an O-lineman or for a group of linemen. We can measure sacks allowed, for instance, and the Jets have given up only three sacks for a mere 12 yards in losses over the past five weeks. We can rank the rushing games, and the Jets, after finishing third in the NFL in the regular season, have gotten it done to the tune of 144.5 rushing yards per game and 4.3 per carry in two road playoff games.

Penalties? After their prolific pace at committing infractions most of the season, the Green & Whtie have settled down to have exactly three penalties marked off against them in each of the last five games. And the linemen have done their part, committing only seven of those 15 penalties and in the two postseason games getting caught for only one false start in each.

All very good, but might there be a passer rating system for O-lines?

There might. New York Life has partnered with Stats Inc. to create the New York Life Protection Index, which factors in passing attempts, ball-in-the-air passing yardage (excluding YAC), sacks, knockdowns and hurries allowed, and holding and false start penalties. All the numbers are boiled down to a grade from 0 to 100 for each line in each game.

The reason this is appropriate now is because the Jets graded out at 93.7 at New England, which was easily the best mark by any of the offensive lines that played in last weekend’s divisional-round games, and was also the Jets’ third-best mark of the year.

All impressive to the Jets’ linemen. But the right tackle made a fair point.

“I’m in the middle of it, I’m in the filmroom,” Hunter said. “We’re critiquing every foot and hand placement. I could see where, looking downward from the stands, you could say, yes, that was probably one of our best games this season. But for me being an offensive lineman, I think we could’ve done a lot of stuff way better.”

Translation: The Jets are gunning for an A+ two nights from now in Pittsburgh.

History Buff

Ryan fielded one more question about Dennis Byrd coming to Pittsburgh to serve as the Jets’ honorary captain on Sunday. And his answer revealed him, if fans didn’t no it already, to be a fan of this franchise from way back.

“I believe in the history, in the guys that went out there and laid it on the line for this organization,” he said. “It means something for me, and also having my dad here for eight years. The history of the guys who’ve played and coached here, I wanted to make sure we recognized that. That’s why we have team pictures of every Jets team we’ve ever had downstairs, outside the cafeteria.”

Rex also had  plaques put up of every jersey number ever worn in Jets/Titans history, along with every player who wore each number.

“That’s almost a college-y thing, but I want players to know who wore that jersey that they’re in right now,” he said. “And when our former players come here with their families, they can look on the wall and say, ‘There it is, No. 67, Dave Herman.’

“I wanted our former players and former coaches to be a part of our team’s success. When Dennis Byrd sent me that jersey of his and that note, it just blew me away. It’s such an honor and he thought I was worthy to have that jersey, which I’m not even close to being.”

One more reason Ryan is a coach that many players around the NFL might want to play for someday.

Rex Cetera

As Ryan predicted, Jason Taylor (concussion) climbed the injury ladder, from did not practice on Wednesday to limited on Thursday to full-go today. He is probable to play against the Steelers. The only other difference in the Jets’ I-list was DE Shaun Ellis, one of the stars of the Patriots victory, not practicing today and being listed as questionable.

But as Rex summed it up, “He’s going to play. They’re all going to play. They’re questionable … they’re playing. That’s pretty much it.”

Mark Sanchez, conducting a rare Friday news conference, was asked about that sore right shoulder of his. “It feels, honestly, really good,” he said. “Every week it’s gotten better. Last week is the best it’s felt. This week’s even better.” … Ryan declared today’s final practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center fieldhouse as “outstanding. The focus was great, as you would assume it would be for a game of this magnitude.”

The Steelers’ health also improved for a game of this magnitude, as we expected it would. Only four players remain on their I-report. DE Aaron Smith (triceps) is doubtful, CB Bryant McFadden (abdomen) and S Will Allen (knee) are questionable, and S Troy Polamalu (Achilles) is probable after his first full practice of the week.


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All 3 Levels of the D Were Up to the Challenge

Posted by Eric Allen on January 16, 2011 – 9:40 pm

The Jets’ defense brought the fight early and often to the Patriots offense Sunday in their stunning 28-21 AFC Divisional Round playoff triumph over their old AFC East rivals.

“We stuck to our game plan and our D-line had a hell of a day today,” said LB David Harris, one of the many stars of the monumental victory. “They created havoc for Tom Brady back there all day. What did we have, six sacks? And numerous other pressures? You have to take your hat off to the D-line and the guys in the secondary covering a good bunch of receivers on the other sideline.”

Harris, who had a game-leading 12 tackles, delivered the first blow to Tom Brady and company, intercepting an overthrown short ball to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and returning it 58 yards to the Pats’ 12. It was Brady’s first interception in an NFL-record 340 pass attempts.

“We were in Cover-3 and Tom made a bad pass,” Harris said. “He threw it over his head and I was in the right spot at the right time. I thought I was home free when I made Brady miss. but I was caught by Alge Crumpler, who is a 300-pound tight end.”

Even though the offense couldn’t capitalize with any points when Nick Folk’s 30-yard field goal attempt sailed left, the “D” wasn’t deterred.

Defensive end Shaun Ellis, who often brought pressure right up the middle and was unblockable, got to Brady in the red zone late in the first and forced a Shane Graham 34-yard field goal.

“Man, it’s tough. There were a lot of double-teams,” Ellis said about the often coverage-heavy formations that left him and his linemates 3-on-5 or 4-on-5. “We up front knew it was a tough challenge but we just had to keep pushing the pocket. It’s what we practiced all week.”

Harris said Ellis “probably had the best game of his career and it was on the biggest stage. He came up big for us with the two quick sacks, gave us momentum and we took it from there.”

Then Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine’s unit put on a show in the second stanza as the Green & White cruised to a 14-3 lead at the break.

The Pats went three-and-out on their first possession of the second quarter as CB Drew Coleman — a.k.a. The Little Sackmaster — got to Brady for a 9-yard loss on third down.

That was followed by another Pats three-and-out, backing up the 7-3 lead the visitors had just taken. The Pats finally got a first down on their next possession, but S Eric Smith wasn’t fooled on a mishandled fake punt and the offense took over in plus-territory at the 38.

Four plays later, the Jets built their 11-point lead when Braylon Edwards bullied a pair of Pats defensive backs and went in from 15 yards out. Brady took a knee to close out the half after getting sacked three times and averaging just 5.8 yards on his 17 pass attempts.

The Jets got great coverage in the back end, continually applying the pressure on Brady and confusing him with different looks. When Patriots Nation expected Brady to come out smoking in the third, the Jets forced a punt after four plays.

Calvin Pace nearly broke Brady in two when he got a free shot on the future Hall of Famer midway through the third deep in Pats territory. That shot caused a fumble that Green-Ellis recovered, but the Jets continued to dictate to an offense that had averaged 37 points over its last eight regular-season outings.

A team that laid 45 points on the Jets on Dec. 6 on this same field didn’t score a touchdown until there were 13 seconds left in the third quarter — Brady to Alge Crumpler for a 2-yard hookup. Sione Pouha got a fifth sack of the night in Jets territory with the Patriots, down, 21-11, frantically attempting to make a comeback push.

And it was fitting that a fourth-down incompletion form Brady to Deion Branch had Antonio Cromartie right there in coverage. These Jets may talk a big game, but they play one, too. For good measure, Cromartie recovered an onside kick as the Jets secured their second trip to the conference championship in as many years.

“I think we just showed Brady different looks and our front four was humming,” said “Cro.” “Shaun Ellis, Calvin Pace, Jason Taylor, Mike DeVito …. David Harris had a tremendous pick in the first half. It was just guys going out, making plays and playing their technique.”

“Our coverage was actually pretty simple on the back end,” said Pettine. “We just played.”

This was a masterful playcalling performance from Ryan and Pettine, executed perfectly by a hungry defense. The Pats’ young tight end duo was held in check the majority of this confrontation (excluding a 37-yarder to Rob Gronkowski on the TD drive) and the coverage downfield was tight on the outside as even when Brady had time he often couldn’t find anyone open.

Former Jets DL Dennis Byrd delivered an inspirational speech to the club Saturday night and then Ellis, who had two sacks and has appeared in more games than any other defensive linemen in club history, led an improbable charge against these Men from Boston.

“Anytime you take a beating like we did last game, it’s just huge,” Ellis said of the motivation the Jets shared going into this game. “We felt like we were totally disrespected — they ran the score up, Brady had his gestures, they were doing the Jets [airplane] run. Going into this game, we just wanted to get it back.”

And that’s what the Jets did. “The Monarchy” was dethroned and these upstarts from New York, powered by a physical, smart and savvy defense, will soon start planning an attack on Big Ben in Pittsburgh.


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Sanchez Will Start, Tomlinson Might Rest

Posted by Randy Lange on December 30, 2010 – 2:42 pm

Rex Ryan and his coaching staff are still figuring out who’s going to play and for how long against the Bills on Sunday. But the news out of the head coach’s daily news conference this afternoon was that not only will Mark Sanchez start (not unexpected) but that LaDainian Tomlinson might not.

“We’ll go ahead and start Mark this game,” Ryan declared. “How long he plays, we’ll obviously determine that as the game goes, but he will start for us.

“I’m not going to say he’s going to play ‘X’ amount of plays, but he would not be out there if we did not think he was healthy. Without question, 11 wins would be great, but quite honestly we’re focused on we want to win in the playoffs. By playing Mark, keeping him on track, doing his thing, his routine — you guys see him out there. He looks good right now.”

But that same framework led Rex to broach the possibility that Tomlinson, the future Hall of Famer who needs 86 rushing yards to hit 1,000 for the season for the ninth time in his career, might rest until the AFC Wild Card Game.

“That could be a possibility,” Ryan said about sitting out LT and turning the ground game over to Shonn Greene and rookie Joe McKnight. “We’ll see how he feels.”

Tomlinson feels strongly both ways.

“I came here to win a championship, not to get 1,000 yards, so that’s my main concern,” he said in the locker room after Ryan spoke. “I don’t care about it. I’ve had a bunch of 1,000-yard seasons. When all is said and done, if I get 1,000 yards and we don’t win a championship, then I haven’t accomplished anything.”

But, he said, he still wants to play Sunday.

“I just think our rhythm is so important for us,” he said. “If you look at us this year, every time we’ve had a break, we haven’t played too well coming back. So I think it’s important for us to keep that rhythm, that tempo we’ve been playing with the last couple of weeks. However long that takes is really up to our coach.”

Ryan also said that besides James Ihedigbo (knee/ankle), he and the doctors and trainers could decide to keep T Damien Woody (knee) and DE Shaun Ellis (back) on the side.

Ellis, who came to the Jets bench at Soldier Field gingerly a few times Sunday, was at practice but didn’t participate in team drills for a second day. “If it doesn’t get better,” the coach said, “clearly he won’t play as well.”

Wayne Hunter’s play at RT the past two games, meanwhile, has been strong and doesn’t force the Jets to rush Woody back from his arthroscopic knee surgery.

As for the defense, Rex discussed both recent struggles against the run and in pressuring the passer. The answers for both this week were similar.

On the run: “I think first off it starts with showing the tape. Why are these things happening? The answer is on the tape. It basically starts with your pad level, knocking the line of scrimmage back, and coming off blocks, not just walking off blocks. That’s been our focus this week, going back and playing the techniques we’ve been used to playing.”

On the pass rush: “You can always blitz more guys, but I think you have to win your 1-on-1 matchups. Again, the answer’s on the tape. When you’re coming off and raising up and you’ve got to start your motor all over again, it starts with your takeoff, your pad level. That way, if you’ve got to reload, your pads are still down.”

More on the Injury Front

Besides Ellis, Ihedigbo and Woody, the only other DNP today was guard Matt Slauson, for non-injury reasons. Ryan: “His wife’s in the hospital and they’re expecting.” Good luck on this delivery, Slausons.

Limited besides Sanchez: Antonio Cromartie, Sione Pouha, Trevor Pryce, Darrelle Revis and Eric Smith.

Update, 5:30 p.m.: The Bills moved five of their 10 DNPs from Wednesday to full-practice status, but remaining as not participating in team drills were QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (knee) and WR David Nelson (ribs), and added to the list as DNP was LB Mike Balogun (illness).

One More Award

Ryan announced most of the Jets’ annual team award winners from Chicago on Monday morning, and we supplied the rest for you in that midday blog. But one award we didn’t have yet is the newest one in the Jets’ pantheon, the Bill Hampton Award, which is going to rookie fullback John Conner.

The “Hamp,” named after longtime Jets equipment manager Bill Hampton, has been presented each year since 2004 to the Jets rookie who acts like a pro in the locker room and is voted on by the equipment staff and past winners of the award. In 2011, Conner’s No. 38 jersey will hang in the equipment room, where it will be visible to all players, reporters and others who come into the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room.

NFL Fines Jets

The NFL announced today that the Jets have been fined $100,000 for violating league rules in the sideline tripping incident involving strength coach Sal Alosi. The team issued a brief statement regarding the fine: “We will comply with the League’s decision.”


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Dixon Shows Signs of Life in D-Line Rotation

Posted by Randy Lange on December 29, 2010 – 4:55 pm

Marcus Dixon says his favorite TV shows are CSI and Law and Order, and for a while he must have thought his career was headed for one of those crime shows since it was approaching room temperature.

But for many guys in the Not For Long, it takes a few years to become an overnight sensation. And Dixon is now alive on the Jets’ D-line.

“It’s good to get in there, and if you can get a stat under your belt, it shows your definitely not taking up a spot,” Dixon told me today. “I just want to play like a Jet. And hopefully, this game against the Bills will be a good game, if I can get more reps, to show that I can be that guy to relieve Shaun [Ellis] and [Mike] DeVito.”

Dixon’s finally getting some traction in all those regards. He broke in as an undrafted free agent with the Cowboys in 2008 but didn’t play in his first NFL game until the Jets traveled to Pittsburgh two weekends ago.

That day Dixon got in for one play on defense. Against the Bears, “it was maybe 10.” And he was in the right spot in the rotation at the right time to get his first pro sack. On a five-man rush, Dixon was bouncing around the line looking for an opening. Finally he found it, and the Bears’ Jay Cutler was having trouble finding an open receiver.

“Our guys had everybody on the field covered and some guys on the sidelines, too,” Dixon said modestly about how he bore down on the Bears QB, who couldn’t get rid of the ball, and took him down at the Chicago 3 for a 10-yard loss. “I’ll take the sack, but I’m one of those guys who’d give it back just to get a win. I’ll take that every day.”

Dixon’s program size is 6’4″ and 295. He said he’s been working mostly 3-technique and end but also has been doing some work at nose behind Sione Pouha. In other words, he’s learning to play anywhere and everywhere he’s needed. It would be great if he could hook a few more pelts to his belt as he and the Jets head toward Buffalo and from there into the playoffs.

Vets vs. the Bills

Rex Ryan’s instruction to his players today as they began preparations for the Bills on Sunday was this: Prepare as if you’re playing.

“This is not a preseason game, with a ton of players,” Ryan said. “We’re going to sit all these guys? That’s hard to do. Somebody’s got to play. So I’m telling them right now, prepare like you’re playing. As the week goes on, I’ll do what I think is in the best interests of our team.”

The coach also stressed “this is not  a bye week” and so he said today he’s not ready to declare how much Mark Sanchez, his other veterans and his young players will go against the Bills. But he refined his list of reasons for seeking the proper personnel balance so as to treat this game like the regular-season finale it is.

“I just want to win,” he said. “I think everybody wants to win. Winning 11 games, it’s been done three times in this club’s history so that would be great. It would be nice to accomplish 4-2 in our division reversing those numbers from last year. Winning two more games than last year in the regular season, I think that would be great. And just that little edge if we win our last game. How much does momentum matter? I’m not sure. Last year’s Super Bowl winner lost their last two. But I don’t want to do that.”

Rex was asked the trap question: Looking past the Bills, does he know who he’d rather play in the wild-card game? He deftly avoided the trap.

“Even if I really did know, I don’t think I’d say it,” he said. “Whoever it is, we’re playing a division-winning team at their place. Both teams are tough to play. So I would say no preference.”

The Scenarios Again

Just in case you missed the original scenarios for the Jets and their first playoff opponent, the NFL has distributed those scenarios now and we’ll lay them out for you one more time.

If the Jets finish with the sixth seed, they will play at the three seed, which will be either Indianapolis or Kansas City. If they finish with the fifth seed, they will play at the four seed, which could be either of those two or Jacksonville. Here are the scenarios again (leaving out possible tied games):

For the Jets to finish with the 6th seed:

1. JETS lose to BUF OR

2. JETS win vs. BUF and either (a) PIT wins at CLE OR (b) PIT loses at CLE and BAL loses vs. CIN

For the Jets to finish with the 5th seed:

1. JETS win vs. BUF and PIT loses at CLE and BAL wins vs. CIN

For the Chiefs to finish with the 3rd seed:

1. KC win vs. OAK OR

2. KC loses vs. OAK and IND loses vs. TEN

For the Chiefs to finish with the 4th seed:

1. KC loses vs. OAK and IND wins vs. TEN

For the Colts to finish with the 3rd seed

1. IND wins vs. TEN and KC loses vs. OAK

For the Colts to finish with the 4th seed

1. IND wins vs. TEN and KC wins vs. OAK OR

2. IND loses vs. TEN and JAX loses at HOU

For the Jaguars to finish with the 4th seed:

1. JAX wins at HOU and IND loses vs. TEN

The Jets hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Pittsburgh but Baltimore holds the HTH tiebreaker over the Jets. Further, the Steelers also hold the tiebreaker over the Ravens in the AFC North, so the only way for the Jets to bump the Steelers for the 5 seed is for the Steelers to lose Sunday and the Ravens not to lose. And that’s the only way for the Jets to play at Jacksonville, if the Jaguars slip past the Colts into the 4 seed.

Here’s one more scenario for thought: If the Jets finish 6 and win, their next game WILL BE at New England in the AFC Divisional Round. If the Jets finish 5, they can avoid the Patriots one more week only if Pittsburgh, the 6 seed, also wins in the wild-card round. Then the Steelers would play the Patriots and the Jets would travel to Baltimore.

Health Watch

Ryan’s injury report has a few changeups today. Ellis, with a back injury, T Damien Woody (knee) and S James Ihedigbo (knee/ankle) did not participate in any team drills, although the only one the coach said, “The only guy I count out in this is Ihedigbo.”

Meanwhile, QB Mark Sanchez (right shoulder), S Eric Smith (concussion), DT Trevor Pryce (hip), CBs Darrelle Revis (hamstring) and Antonio Cromartie (groin), and NT Sione Pouha (back) were limited. And four players were full-go, including Santonio Holmes (with a quad) and LB Bryan Thomas (ankle).

The Bills’ list is top-heavy with DNPs — 10 players did not participate in today’s team drills in Western New York, including QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (knee), LT Demetrius Bell (knee), WR David Nelson (ribs), NT Kyle Williams, the Bills’ leader with 5.5 sacks (hip), LB Chris Kelsay and CB Terrence McGee.


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Team Awards Announced as Jets Wait in CHI

Posted by Randy Lange on December 27, 2010 – 12:04 pm

There are worse places to stay and muse on what’s ahead for the Jets than Chicago, Chicago. But that’s where the Jets remain at the moment today. Due to conditions on the ground in the New Jersey/New York area, the team’s charter flight out of the Windy City (which apparently is no more windy today than Newark) has been delayed indefinitely. The goal remains to leave today and arrive back home tonight, but the blizzard of ’10 could still complicate those plans.

“We’ve pretty much just been staying in the room, resting, watching movies, room service,” LaDainian Tomlinson said on a conference call with Jets reporters, who are also stranded in Chi-town. “We’re doing the typical stuff you do when you have nothing to do.”

But of course the business of football marches on, so just like a usual Monday but in an unusual setting, the players also have just reported to meetings this morning at their Chicago hotel.

Head coach Rex Ryan gave his team and selected players some inspirational things to think about today when he announced the winners of some of the annual team awards. Linebacker David Harris has been named the Curtis Martin Team MVP and Tomlinson has earned the Dennis Byrd Award for the most inspirational player. Both awards are voted on by the team.

“It’s a special award, particularly because your teammates vote on it,” LT said. “I’m happy and honored to be in that position for them. And it’s a great history of guys that have won this award. For me, seeing the list — it’s hung up on the walls at the complex — knowing my name’s going to go up on that wall and for years to come guys will see my name, that’s very special.”

Here is the complete list of team awards:

Curtis Martin Team MVP — LB David Harris

Dennis Byrd Award — RB LaDainian Tomlinson

Ed Block Courage Award — DE Shaun Ellis

Marty Lyons Award — WR/KR Brad Smith

Kyle Clifton Award — DT Mike DeVito

Walter Payton Award — FB Tony Richardson

The Byrd award goes to the most inspirational player, the Lyons award to the player who “gives from the heart through charity and community involvement,” and the Clifton honor to the “good guy” who helps all the various departments in the organization when called on. The Block award goes to “the most courageous player” on each of the NFL’s 32 teams. The Payton award goes to one player on each team for his volunteer and charity work as well as his on-field excellence, and the NFL announces the league winner during Super Bowl week.

Ryan had more to say about Mark Sanchez (he’s not 100 percent sure this morning whether Mark will play or not play against Buffalo on Sunday), the defense and the importance of beating the Bills. We’ll have that information for you from Chicago shortly.

Playoff-Bound … to Where?

The question arises as to which opponent the Jets will draw in the AFC Wild Card Round in two weeks, and the answer is that right now, the Jets could play just about any opponent except New England in Round 1.

First, regarding the Jets’ seeding, fifth or sixth: It depends on the AFC North finish. If the Steelers win it, the Ravens would get the fifth seed no matter what the Jets do vs. Buffalo on Sunday, with the tiebreaker if both teams finish 11-5 being their season opener at New Meadowlands Stadium, the Ravens’ 10-9 win. If Baltimore wins and the Jets and Steelers both finish 11-5, the Jets get the 5-seed based on their head-to-head win at Pittsburgh two weekends ago.

So here is a non-definitive list, not from the NFL, on some scenarios as to how the Jets could end up where they’ll end up on the weekend of Jan. 8-9.

At Indianapolis — If the Colts win the AFC South but don’t catch the Chiefs, they’ll be the fourth seed and so would host the Jets in Lucas Oil Stadium if the Jets are the 5. Or if the Colts beat the Titans and the Chiefs lose to Oakland, Indy’s the 3 and would host the Jets if they’re the 6.

At Kansas City — Arrowhead is where the Jets are headed if they’re the sixth seed and the Chiefs are the third or the Jets are 5 and the Chiefs 4.

At Jacksonville — If the Jaguars win at Houston and the Colts lose at home to Tennessee, the Jags are the South winners at 9-7 and would be the fourth seed. The Jets would go to ALLTEL Stadium only if they’re the 5-seed, meaning they beat Buffalo and Pittsburgh loses out to Baltimore in the North.

At Pittsburgh — Can’t happen. The Steelers are the No. 2, 5 or 6 seed.

At Baltimore — Can’t happen. The Ravens are either the No. 2 or 5.

At New England — Can’t happen. The Patriots have clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC.


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Distant Replay for Ellis and the Defense

Posted by Eric Allen on December 12, 2010 – 9:42 pm

Shaun Ellis and the Jets had seen this story play out before.

They dominated the Dolphins offense at home for the second consecutive season, but somehow still came out as the losing team.

“It’s like last year,” Ellis told me before heading off to the showers. “Same performance at home and we still lost the game. We just have to find a way to win it.”

Last season in Week 8, the Jets dropped a 30-25 decision to the Dolphins despite holding the visitors to 104 yards and 10 first downs. Chad Henne had a mostly miserable afternoon, getting sacked six times while completing just 12 of 21 for 112 yards with one touchdown and the vaunted ‘Fins rush attack only amassed 52 yards.

Fast-forward 13-plus months to Week 14 at New Meadowlands Stadium today and the Jets turned in a better effort defensively. The Dolphins, who got all 10 of their points in the first quarter after two Mark Sanchez turnovers in Jets territory, had six first downs and Henne was sacked five times (losing the ball twice) and completed five of 18 passes for 55 yards. The Jets turned them over three times in all and held the visitors to just 101 rush yards on 32 carries.

“We wanted to come back and play better after last week against the Patriots,” said Ellis after the 45-3 rout in Foxboro just six days ago. “I thought we came out and we played together and as a unit. We still have some little things that we have to fix, but overall I thought it was a good defensive effort. We just didn’t get it together as a team.”

In another soaker at NMS, the Jets’ offense left their defense out to dry early. Sanchez attempted to force a ball for Santonio Holmes on third-and-18, but corner Nolan Carroll secured the game’s first pick at the Jets’ 42. The “D” forced a 47-yard Dan Carpenter field goal as the Jets fell behind, 3-0, midway through the opening quarter.

Three offensive plays later, the O-line didn’t hold up and Sanchez was crushed by DE Kendall Langford. The ball came loose and LB Quentin Moses recovered at the plus-26. The Dolphins cashed in from there as Henne and Marshall converted on two third downs — the second of which ended up in the end zone on a 6-yard pass. Bart Scott was close to Marshall, but there was a mistake in coverage and the ‘Fins capitalized.

“They had the two drives when they were in plus territory and they came up with some points. Other than that I thought we played well,” said Ellis, who had one sack. “Yeah, they hit us with a play here or there, but overall I thought we played good on defense. To hold them to 10 points the whole game is good. You’re supposed to win that game.”

Those two scoring drives combined covered 12 plays and 39 yards. But that was it. Of the Dolphins’ 101 rushing yards, 66 came in the opening 30 minutes.

“They got them early, in the first half. I messed up on two of the runs and got knocked off the ball,” said the “Big Katt.” “They guy went in my gap, so I was responsible for at least 20 yards of it. But overall I thought we bounced back and controlled the game.”

Henne appeared flustered for much of the contest and was never the same after OLB Calvin Pace came around the corner and got a free shot on the Dolphins’ passer midway through the second stanza. Sione Pouha, a monster throughout with 10 tackles and one sack, recovered for the home squad at the Miami 38 and that eventually would set up Nick Folk’s first field goal, a 35-yarder.

“I think the Pace hit on him messed him up for the rest of the game,” said Ellis.

Folk added a 42-yarder with 5:26 left in the game, but the Green & White would get nothing else on a day for defense. Next week the D will have to step up its game once again because the Steelers defense will be a tough challenge for a struggling Jets offense.

“We just have to find a way to win the game. We have to find a way to generate some excitement, some momentum that we can carry with us to the playoffs. From here on out, it’s like a one-game season,” said Ellis. “There are a lot of teams doing good right now, and we lost this one and kind of put ourselves behind the eightball a little bit. We just have to go out next week and get a win on the road, in another hostile environment, against another good defense. Our defense has to come ready to play.”

They bounced back Sunday but it wasn’t enough as the 9-4 Jets are on their first losing streak of 2010. There is only one thing they didn’t do against the Dolphins, and CB Antonio Cromartie, who was terrific against Marshall (two catches, 16 yards), mentioned it before departing.

“It’s a great thing to bounce back, but this defense takes a lot pride in what we do and the thing for us is we have to do it on a consistent basis,” Cromartie said. “You can’t do it one week and not do it the next week. We want to make sure we do it on a consistent basis and go out and perform like we know we can perform and play at a high level. That’s all we can really try to do.

“I think we need to try to score on defense more when we have the opportunity.”


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