Speculation the past few days was that eight-year veteran nose tackle Sione Po‘uha’s days in green and white were coming to a close. That speculation turned into an official transaction this afternoon as the Jets announced that “Big Bo” had been released.
Po‘uha was the Jets’ third-round selection, 88th overall, of the 2005 draft out of Utah. After a slow first four seasons with the team, including the ’06 season that he spent on IR, his career picked up speed in the middle of the Jets’ defensive front.
He started 50 of the Jets’ 54 games from 2009-11 (including the six playoff games) and put up solid numbers each of those seasons (61 tackles in ’09, 46 tackles; two sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss/no gain, three fumble recoveries in ’10; 55 tackles, sack, one forced fumble, two recoveries and a safety in ’11).
Also during this time he became the elder statesman among the D-linemen and a go-to locker room guy with his thoughtful, sometimes even lyrical comments on himself, his fellow linemen, his defense and his team.
A year ago, Po‘uha could have become an unrestricted free agent but was happy to be able to re-sign with the Jets.
“Every player that approaches the last year of their contract and enters the screen door of free agency, there’s always a possibility,” he said at the time of not re-signing with his only NFL team. “But in my mind I always wanted to stay with the Jets, be with the Jets. Me and my agents, they had an understanding that I always wanted to be with the Jets, and I’m just glad it worked out that way.”
However, last season didn’t play out as planned as Bo, 33, bothered by a balky back from the offseason, sat out the preseason and four regular-season games and averaged only 25 defensive snaps in the 12 games he played. He finished with 38 tackles, a four-year low, and no tackles behind the line for the first time since ’07.
The Jets had no comment on whether Po‘uha could return after the initial wave of the NFL’s unrestricted free agent signing period dies down. In general, first-year general manager John Idzik stated his philosophy about cutting and then re-signing players during a conference call with the club’s season ticket holders earlier this month.
“I don’t think we ever shut the door on anything, especially when it comes to your own players,” Idzik said. “You get in free agency and it’s constant change day to day, it’s a little unpredictable, but you just have to let it kind of take its form and let it play out and see what you’re able to do as the pieces start to fall into place, and hopefully you’re able to retain some of your guys. So we go in with that mindset, that we never close the door and we’ll see what happens.”
Tags: John Idzik, Sione Pouha, unrestricted free agency
Posted in Randy Lange | 245 Comments »
We’ll start the week with a few passing fancies, either or both of whom could find themselves fancied by Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano in the Jets’ offensive game plan for Buffalo on Sunday.
Hayden Smith, after short careers as a small-college basketball player and a high-level rugby performer, has been getting his feet wet in this, his first season as a 27-year-old NFL rookie tight end. It just so happened that Tim Usasz, one of his rugby buds and a fellow Australian, was in the New York area and came over to the Sunday game at MetLife Stadium against San Diego to watch his countryman play his new game.
Smith said Usasz’s immediate reaction when, late in the first half, Smith let Chargers LB Melvin Smith leak past him into the Jets backfield was, “Uh-oh, looks like Hayden made a mistake.”
That’s just what he and the Jets wanted the Chargers to think. Immediately, Greg McElroy pivoted from right to left and floated a pass with perfect touch and location past Ingram’s flailing outstretched left hand and into the hands of the former lock forward for the USA at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
“Probably the one similarity between rugby and football is running with the ball,” Smith said about his nifty 19 yards of YAC on the 16-yard play behind a D’Brickashaw Ferguson block to the Jets 41, converting a third-and-9 in the process.
“The funny thing about it was they called the play and I knew it was coming to me, and just as we got out there, there was a timeout, so I had about five minutes to think about it,” Smith said, referring to that American TV marketing concept of the five-minute-long two-minute warning. “We’ve had the play up for a couple of weeks, but we just hadn’t had the opportunity to call it until Sunday. It’s a great play, we got the look that we wanted and executed it well, so it was all positive.”
Smith’s been active for four games now, with 14 plays on offense and 13 on special teams. Sunday’s pass was the first ball thrown to the 6’6″, 255-pounder. He looked like he knew exactly what to do with it, and it would be nice to see confirmation of that perception a few more times in Sunday’s season finale at “the Ralph.”
The other passing-game nugget worth noting was that Jeremy Kerley is currently the only player in NFL history who has thrown two or more passes and completed each one for more than 40 yards.
Yeah, I know, that’s a fun fact that won’t last very long. JK’s one of only 54 players who have completed every pass they’ve thrown as pros with at least two completions. And the minute one of his Wildcat passes hits the turf, he’s out of this club forever. But until then, Kerley’s 41-yard strike to TE Matt Mulligan at Miami in last year’s season finale and his 42-yard play-action chuck to Clyde Gates against the Chargers makes him an army of one.
The only members of this exclusive group who have more than Kerley’s 83 passing yards are Packers punter Ron Widby (2-for-2, 102 yards, 1972) and Broncos WR Arthur Marshall (2-for-2, 111 yards in 1992-93).
Now Kerley could etch his name in stone if he keeps it up. The NFL record-holder for most consecutive completions from start of career is St. Louis backup QB Billy Donckers, who hit all six of his career passes in 1976-77, followed by a certain University of Florida QB by name of … Kerwin Bell, who completed all five of his throws for the Colts in 1988.
Kerley’s on-the-money throw to Lex Hilliard on Sunday was wiped out by an illegal formation, so he’s still got to hit his next five to grab that Hall of Fame-esque distinction. No pressure, Jeremy.
As for if Kerley will be used in a similar Wildcat role against the Bills, head coach Rex Ryan said today, “It’s certainly a possibility, and if it’s something they have to prepare for and I wasn’t going to do it, I probably wouldn’t say it, either.”
Wilkerson on the Sideline
Muhammad Wilkerson is on the Jets’ injury report for the first time this season. The DE, who’s been on a tear for better than half a season, is listed with a concussion and a knee injury and did not participate in today’s team drills.
“That would be a big concern” if Mo can’t go, Ryan said this morning at his news conference. “He’s one of the best interior linemen in the league. Hopefully, he’ll get that kind of respect when the Pro Bowl voting comes out. But forget all that. I’d like Mo to play and I am concerned he can’t practice today.” Ryan said he thought Wilkerson underwent concussion testing after Sunday’s game and that Rex didn’t hear about Wilkerson’s injury status until Tuesday. Merry Christmas.
By the way, the NFL will be making the initial unveil of its AFC and NFC Pro Bowl rosters tonight at 7 p.m. ET on NFL Network. We’ll have a separate story on the Jets’ Pro Bowlers live on our site shortly after the announcement by the league.
The Rest of the Injury Picture
The other DNPs today were Keller (ankle), WR Braylon Edwards (hamstring/knee), CB Ellis Lankster (concussion), LB Bryan Thomas (chest), WR Chaz Schilens (knee) and CB Aaron Berry (hamstring).
The other 18 Jets on the report were all full-go for the team drills at today’s practice, which started outside on the Atlantic Health Training Center turf field, then headed indoors when the rain/snow started coming down shortly in the early afternoon.
Among the full participants were QB Greg McElroy (abdomen) and NT Sione Po‘uha (back), who’s listed as full for the first time in 13 weeks and for only the sixth time in this season’s 46 game-week practices. Way to work all the way “back,” Sione. You’ll find the Jets’ full injury report here.
The Bills list 15 players of their own. DNP — S Jairus Byrd (ankle), TE Scott Chandler (knee), G Andy Levitre (knee), WR Ruvell Martin (non-injury-related), S Da’Norris Searcy (groin), DT Kyle Williams (knee). Limited — DE Mark Anderson (knee), LB Nick Barnett (knee), RB Dorin Dickerson (ankle), WR Marcus Easley (hamstring), CB Justin Rogers (foot), LB Chris White (hamstring), C Eric Wood (knee). Full — RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder), DE Mario Williams (wrist).
“Inside the Jets”
Tonight’s “Inside the Jets” radio show, scheduled for tonight, is going on live as scheduled at 7 p.m ET on ESPN 98.7 FM at the Grasshopper in Morristown, N.J. Larry Hardesty is hosting. Due to this afternoon’s snowstorm in the area, no players will be appearing at the restaurant but players will be calling into the show.
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Greg McElroy, Hayden Smith, Jeremy Kerley, Muhammad Wilkerson, San Diego Chargers, Sione Pouha
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Earlier in the season, at Pittsburgh, Miami, New England and against Indianapolis, penalties were a big issue for the Jets.
Lately the yellow flags have become an issue again, but in a good way. As head coach Rex Ryan said on Wednesday, “There are some things that we’re really doing a great job at right now. A thing we’ve emphasized since the break was penalties.”
It shows. Since Nov. 1, the Jets are No. 2 in the NFL in fewest penalties, 4.3 infractions marked off per game, behind Atlanta’s 4.0, and the Green & White are No. 1 in the league with 27.5 yards per game.
“It’s about paying attention to details,” said NT Sione Po‘uha. “When you’re playing an opponent, you don’t want to be an opponent to yourself.”
“There’s a lot of different facets to a game,” added Mike DeVito, his next-door neighbor on the DL. “Sometimes you overlook some of them or forget about some of them.”
But since the bye week, the turnaround has been dramatic after the Jets, through the first eight weeks of the season, were tied for 21st in the NFL in penalties and 25th in yards.
First Ryan put the teeth back into the flags being thrown by Joe Yacovino and his crew of practice officials, telling them to tighten up all their calls. Then he returned to a practice practice that he and the Jets instituted in 2010.
“Every time there’s a penalty at practice, everybody does 10 pushups,” said Mike Westhoff, who’s coordinated the Jets practice officials since he arrived on Herm Edwards’ staff in 2001. “All the players, all the coaches. Everybody except the guy who committed the penalty.”
Said LB David Harris: “We’ve gotten our triceps a lot stronger the last month or so.”
Some Jets have always had a knack for playing clean. Harris has gone 29 games since his last penalty, a facemask on BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the 2010 AFC Divisional triumph at New England. DeVito, who arrived in 2007, has never had a major penalty called on him in his career, just four 5-yarders. LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson has gone 38 games, since mid-2010, without a holding call.
And imagine this: Po‘uha’s played in 108 games, including playoffs, in his Jets career and he’s been flagged exactly once for a penalty.
“Knock on wood,” said Big Bo. “I remember the encroachment but I don’t remember who it was against.”
As luck would have it, Po‘uha’s penalty came against Jacksonville in 2009. Perhaps Jaguars center Brad Meester had something to do with influencing the nose tackle to encroach. If so, it looks as if Sione could get some payback on Sunday at Jacksonville, now that Meester’s foot injury seems to be coming around.
“Penalties can hurt you,” said LB Bryan Thomas, who’s been whistled for a mere five penalties in his 11-year career and has had no majors in his last 60 games. “They can come on the last play of the game and give the other team one more play. They can keep drives going.”
“You definitely do not want to take steps backward,” Po‘uha agreed about the hidden yardage of penalties that the Jets have recently turned back in their favor. “They say it’s a game of inches. Don’t hurt yourself by setting yourself back yards.”
One More Thing on Penalties
Except for the occasional downtrend such as in the first half of this year, the Jets have been the state of the art when it comes to not committing penalties. Since 2001, 12 seasons combined, their 1,026 penalties and 8,346 penalty yards both continue to lead the league.
Thursday Injury Reports
Three Jets players were DNPs today — WR Clyde Gates (concussion), who Rex Ryan said is a week away from returning to action, TE Dustin Keller (ankle), and S LaRon Landry (heel) with his usual Thursday reduced load.
WR Stephen Hill (knee) was limited, as was QB Tim Tebow again (ribs). NT Damon Harrison became the 23rd Jet to be listed this week. He’s also limited, with an ankle.
For the Jaguars, their two top offensive threats, RB Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and WR Cecil Shorts (concussion), again did not practice. A report out of Jacksonville said the Jags are likely to go with their “last back standing,” Montell Owens, at tailback vs. the Jets, although RB Greg Jones (thigh) was limited today after being a DNP on Wednesday.
Also not practicing were C Michael Brewster (hand), RB Rashad Jennings (concussion), CB Aaron Ross (calf) and DE George Selvie (concussion). Meester (foot) and CB Derek Cox (hamstring) were both full-go today.
Tags: Brad Meester, Bryan Thomas, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, David Harris, Jacksonville Jaguars, Mike DeVito, Rex Ryan, Sione Pouha
Posted in Randy Lange | 36 Comments »
Updated, 4:01 p.m. ET
Thanksgiving is a time for turkey, but Thursday night the Jets and Patriots could give each other indigestoin by grilling up several New York strips.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan had Rob Ninkovich on his mind, if not on his tongue, earlier this week in discussing one of the many challenges the Jets will face against the Pats.
“Number 50, Ninkovich, if that’s how you pronounce his name, he’s a good player. I know him by number,” Ryan said. “He’s forced, I think, five, six fumbles this year, so they do a great job of attacking the football. I think they lead the league in forced fumbles. It’s something they’ve always done a great job of, so we have to make sure we’re protecting the ball at all costs.”
Rex’s research was right on. The Patriots lead the NFL with an impressive plus-20 turnover margin. They’ve done it in large part by leading the league unofficially with 19 forces and officially with 14 fumble recoveries. Ninkovich is tied for third individually with five forces and tied for first with three recoveries.
And Ninkovich has been a Jet-killer the past two seasons. He had the two interceptions of Mark Sanchez last year on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, one returned for a TD, and his overtime strip sack of Sanchez provided the crushing coda to the Green & White’s 29-26 overtime loss at Gillette last month.
“Ninkovich is one of the best at it, it seems,” Sanchez said. “He’s really getting after the quarterback, he’s getting after the football, and that’s really their whole defense, that’s kind of their MO.”
He’s not alone. Two other linebackers, Brandon Spikes (4 FFs) and Jerod Mayo (3 FFs) are in the top 10, along with rookie DE Chandler Jones (3 FFs). That has the attention of Joe McKnight, who looked to be back at close to full speed from his ankle injury with several nice plays on kickoff returns and out of the backfield at St. Louis.
“From the mistakes I’ve made in the past,” he said with a small smile, “I just have to be more conscious of the ball. I’m always thinking about the ball before I even get the ball.”
He even shared his informal mental checklists with us. Before each kick return it’s something like:
1. Put my mouthpiece in.
2. High-and-tight the ball.
3. Two hands in traffic.
4. Make the kicker miss.
5. Score the touchdown.
Before he gets the ball from Sanchez on a run, he has a similar list:
1. Get the ball first.
2. Two hands in traffic.
3. Keep your feet when you run through the smoke.
4. Make the safeties miss.
5. Score the touchdown.
Needless to say, such emphasis for all the Jets’ skill players will be important tomorrow night. But they are not weaponless in this high-stakes game of strip poker, even if they were to lose a fumble. That’s because they’ve been stripping the ball away from QBs and RBs (and even kickoff returners, as New England’s Devin McCourty knows from five weeks ago) almost as well.
The Jets have 11 forced fumbles this season, tied for fourth in the NFL, and recovered 10, tied for third. And recently, they’ve been on even more of a roll. Their six FFs at Seattle and St. Louis are the most in the league the past two weeks and are the most in back-to-back games since they had seven forces on two occasions in the ’08 season.
The movers and shakers in this area have been DE Muhammad Wilkerson and S LaRon Landry. Wilkerson’s been involved in three separate fumble plays in those two games — two forces and the fumble-return TD vs. the Seahawks, and that’s the most in back-to-back games by a Jets player since Calvin Pace was involved in four fumble plays in consecutive games in ’08.
“I’ve been shouting it from the rooftops since Mo first got here,” NT Sione Po said of Wilkerson’s recent emergence. “His IQ level is more of like a six-, seven- or eight-year player in terms of what he’s playing at, his production and what he does to help this team as a whole. It’s just phenomenal. I’m glad I’m playing on the same side of the ball he is.”
Landry, who has three forced fumbles this year, with two coming against the Rams, declined to give his secrets, other than his patented crunching hits, one of which forced rookie RB Daryl Richardson to cough up the ball Sunday and set up the Jets’ final TD under the Edward Jones Dome. But he provided some general guidelines.
“You’ve got to have a knack for that, man,” he said. “It’s a knack and an attitude. It takes some practice. Part of it is the point of attack, and you’ve got to be aware of what kind of offender you’re going up against, tight end, receiver, running back. And you’ve got to finish. You’ve got to have a knack for it.”
These longtime rivals have shown they’ve got the knack this year. Who’s better at the strip Thursday night may have a lot to say about who comes away with the victory drumstick.
Final Injury Report
The Jets held a short, closed practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center this morning.
Just before 4 p.m., both teams released their final injury reports of the week. The Jets’ injury list seems manageable with seven designated “questionable” for the game: CB Aaron Berry, NT Kenrick Ellis, WR-PR Jeremy Kerley, RB-KR Joe McKnight, NT Sione Po‘uha, LB Bart Scott and QB Tim Tebow. Tebow practiced full today with his sore ribs while the other six were limited.
The 11 probables: TE Jeff Cumberland, DT Mike DeVito, WRs Clyde Gates and Stephen Hill, S LaRon Landry, C Nick Mangold, guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, LB Calvin Pace, RB Bilal Powell and QB Mark Sanchez.
The Patriots listed their three DNPs this week as out for the game: TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip) as expected; DE Chandler Jones, tied for the team lead with six sacks; and G Logan Mankins.
Thirteen Pats are questionable: D-linemen Ron Brace and Trevor Scott, safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory, O-linemen Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer and Nick McDonald, TE Aaron Hernandez, LBs Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes and Tracy White, and WRs Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker. The three probables are WR Julian Edelman, DT Kyle Love and LB Jerod Mayo.
Happy Thanksgiving to all and one way or another we’ll all meet up at the game.
Tags: Calvin Pace, joe McKnight, LaRon Landry, Mark Sanchez, MetLife Stadium, Muhammad Wilkerson, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, Rob Ninkovich, Sione Pouha, thanksgiving
Posted in Randy Lange | 15 Comments »
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.
Tags: Clyde Gates, Hurricane Sandy, Jeremy Kerley, joe McKnight, Kenrick Ellis, MetLife Stadium, Rex Ryan, Seattle Seahawks, Sione Pouha
Posted in Randy Lange | 16 Comments »
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.
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.\
Tags: Bart Scott, CenturyLink Field, Kenrick Ellis, Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Rex Ryan, Seattle Seahawks, Sione Pouha
Posted in Randy Lange | 26 Comments »
Updated, 1:35 p.m. ET
The view is not sunny this morning, and I don’t just mean just from my North Jersey bunker as the wind whips the trees and the rain falls in rippling sheets.
The Jets are 3-5 at the 2012 halfway point, which also this year happens to be the break for their bye week. That record is significant for a few reasons.
It is good for sole possession of fourth and last place in the AFC East. Buffalo, on its bye, is a half-game ahead in third. Miami, which the Jets planned to send to 3-4, instead are 4-3 and a game and a half ahead in second. The Patriots are 5-3, two games ahead in the top spot.
Sole possession of last is not something the Jets have experienced much lately. Since ’09 under head coach Rex Ryan, they had never before been alone in the cellar. In fact, the last time was seven years ago, when they held fourth place in the division for the last 12 weeks of the 2005 season..
But the true significance of 3-5 is what it has done for their postseason plans. Three-and-five is not a good spot from which to launch a playoff assault.
Here are the facts:
■ Since 2002, when the current playoff format began, 59 NFL teams have begun 3-5.
■ Three of them, 5.1%, made the playoffs. The Jets were one of them, needing a 6-2 finish plus help to win the AFC East in ’02. San Diego in ’08 and Denver in ’11 both finished 8-8 and won the AFC West in those seasons.
■ Only five of those 59 started 3-5 and finished 6-2. No team finished 8-0 or 7-1.
■ The average record of all 59 of those teams: roughly 6-9-1.
■ How about teams that went 3-5 and got their bye in Week 9? Only seven got that scenario, and only the ’08 Chargers went from 3-5 to the playoffs. Average record for those seven is slightly better than 6-10.
Ryan knows the window is bad small. On his conference call with Jets reporters this morning, he was asked what he wants his players to do this bye week.
“First off, take care of yourself and your family and ride the hurricane thing out for a couple of days. Then get away from it,” he said. “I want them to get away and then come back, and we need to be all in. The only chance we have is if we’re 100 percent all in. We have no wiggle room. We have to start playing a ton better. Obviously our players know that.
“That’s the only thing we can hang our hat on. If we don’t play better, we can forget about anything.”
One more thing that will give these Jets the best chance they have in their final eight is to get a lot of their health back. Several players who have played important roles this year and in the past have been either out or hobbled or both for a while.
NT Sione Po‘uha agreed with that theory after returning to action vs. the Dolphins.
“Obviously, you would like to go into the bye week with a win, feeling positive about things,” Big Bo said. “But it’ll give me, I can only speak for myself, more time, almost like a long reset to evaluate and make new commitments and make new resolve for the upcoming second half of the season. I think this bye week will serve as a resolve/reset-type break for us before we come back and face Seattle and the remainder of the games.”
Eric Smith (knee), a stabilizing force in the secondary and a leader on special teams, has missed the last three games. Bilal Powell (shoulder), a key depth component at RB, has missed two games. Joe McKnight has been playing on a left ankle sprain for two weeks that he aggravated against Miami. LB Bart Scott’s battled turf toe for five weeks and finally ended his ironman streaks by sitting vs. the Dolphins. NT Kenrick Ellis (knee) has sat three games.
“These two weeks give us a chance to get healthy,” Ryan said. “I’m hoping they’ll all be available for Seattle. I’m not 100 percent sure, especially on Kenrick, but I feel great that Smith, Powell and Bart will be back. I think we’ll get the majority of our guys back healthy. I think that’s what this team needs.”
That and six victories could do wonders.
That Miami Mystique
The Jets outgained the Dolphins by 127 yards Sunday. A major component of that was Miami’s 20-0 halftime lead, of course, but the yardage inequality follows a trend.
The Jets’ plus-127 is tied for the 13th-largest yardage margin in a loss in franchise history. No. 2 on that list is the 30-25 home loss to the Dolphins in 2009, when they had a plus-274-yard margin. And tied for 10th is the 10-6 home loss in 2010, when the Jets were plus-149.
Tags: Bart Scott, Bilal Powell, Eric Smith, joe McKnight, Miami Dolphins, Rex Ryan, Sione Pouha
Posted in Randy Lange | 144 Comments »
Right tackle Austin Howard has a name for the situation. “When it’s third-and-short,” he said, “it’s go time.”
And the Jets have green-lighted themselves to the head of the NFL when it comes to converting those plays. For instance, of all the runners who have picked up every third-and-1 they’ve attempted this season, Shonn Greene is first among equals, going 7-for-7 in his carries.
If we extend the definition to third-and-1-or-2 and fourth-and-1-or-2, when the Jets run the ball in those situations, they’re the only perfect team left in the NFL at 13-for-13, and they have also led the league for 2011-12 (27-for-33, 81.8%), 2010-12 (49-for-61, 80.3%), and 2009-12 (76-for-98, 77.6%).
“We definitely want to be the aggressor, be physical on those plays,” said Howard.
“We don’t do any gimmicks, we don’t do anything tricky like that,” LG Matt Slauson added. “Anthony Lynn has a great plan every week. But when you have a line like ours and a big bruiser-type running back like Shonn, we want that responsibility on us. We feel like we’re big and strong and we’re able to get that yard.”
Lynn, the Jets’ RBs coach since ’09, explained the philosophy behind the Green & White’s third-and-short success.
“We want to have more completions and rushing attempts than anybody we play. If you do that, you’re going to win a lot of football games,” Lynn said. “But in order to do that, you have to be able to extend drives. And if you’re committed to running the football, you’re going to find yourself in third-and-short a lot. So we spend a lot of time in the offseason studying that situation and what fits our personnel the best. We really take time and we game-plan it.
“Shonn is built for that situation. He’s a power guy, and a lot of times he gets you more than 1 yard. And when there’s nothing there, you have to have a guy who can win, and he’s done a good job of that. But our double teams up front on the line, those have been outstanding also. Vertical push is something we emphasize a lot in our offense.”
It’s not just about short yardage for Greene and the Jets’ blockers but also about goal line, with many of the same concepts applied to both. But when it comes to GL, it’s been a mixed back for the Jets. Greene’s had two 1-yard touchdown runs this season, vs. Buffalo in the opener and at New England to successfully conclude the opening drive Sunday.
But goal line, considered by the Jets to be plays inside the opponents’ 5-yard line, hasn’t been nearly as successful as the garden-variety short-yardage plays.
“Toward the end of this season, I hope we get back into the top five in the league,” said Lynn. “Right now we’re on the outside looking in. We had a terrible series the last time we played Miami. Those guys do a heck of a job in both situations, short yardage and goal line.”
Indeed, a first-and-goal at the 3 led to a Mark Sanchez end zone interception and a first-and-goal at the 1 yielded only a Nick Folk field goal in the Jets’ overtime win. Meanwhile, the Dolphins scored on a pair of 1-yarders in Game 3, by RB Daniel Thomas and FB Jorvorskie Lane.
This game could also come down to who can do a better job at moving the ball that final 36 inches at key times in the game. And as Slauson said, when the Jets offense is in that situation and a run is called, “We just expect we are going to get it.”
What Goes On in the Pile …
It was one of those small but delightful and ultimately fairly significant plays that happens during the course of many NFL games. Recall late in the first quarter of the Jets-Patriots game when Shonn Greene caught a pass, was hit by LB Jerod Mayo and lost the ball. After Greene was surrounded by no fewer than five Patriots and a few of his teammates joined in, who should come out of the pile with the ball but No. 87 in green and white.
Where did Konrad Reuland come from?
“I was on the other side of the field,” Reuland recalled. “I saw the ball get knocked loose and I saw Shonn kind of straddling the ball, almost, reaching for it down by his legs. I knew he was going to be fighting for it with three or four guys.
“And I just said, you know what? I’m going to dive in there and see if I can find this thing and get a hand on it.”
Nineteen seconds of real time passed from when Reuland muscled Devin McCourty out of the way and burrowed into the mass of bodies to when he popped back out holding his prize aloft and saying, audible on the game video: “I got it! I got it!”
The CBS broadcast team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms captured this unlikely turn of events as they analyzed the replay.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a fumble,” said Simms. “And what a job by Reuland getting under this pile and getting that football.”
Nantz: “Look, he’s nowhere even in the frame here … he’s still not in the frame.”
“He’s still not in the frame,” Simms echoed.
Nantz: “I tell you what, then he comes in at the last minute. Great play by Reuland.”
RBs coach Anthony Lynn was also in agreement. “That was an outstanding play by Konrad. You talk about hustling to the football.”
Needless to say, the Jets ultimately lost the game in overtime, but it’s not too hard to see Reuland helping to keep this game close with his recovery. The Pats, who had just opened a 14-7 lead, would’ve had the ball back at the Jets 49. Another quick six for Tom Brady and friends and things could’ve snowballed. Instead, the Jets punted, the Patriots took over at their 20 and also punted. Close game on.
Reuland wasn’t necessarily known as a fumble mole before, but he said he did the same thing for San Francisco in a preseason game this summer.
“The way I look at it,” he said, “until they’ve ruled it the other team’s ball, I’m fighting for it because you never know.”
One perhaps final note: The Patriots statistical crew didn’t award the recovery to Reuland. They said Greene recovered his own fumble. Perhaps the play will be reviewed and the record set right. But as No. 87 said, “I’m willing to give it Shonn. Let him get credit for it. Either way, the fact that our team got it is what counts.”
Friday Injury Reports
LB Bart Scott (toe) is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game with the Dolphins after sitting out all three practice this week for the first time since injuring his big toe early against the ‘Fins in Miami in Week 3. Scott is joined by RB Bilal Powell (shoulder) and NT Kenrick Ellis (knee) as doubtfuls.
But the rest of the squad seems to be ready to suit up for the rivalry game, and that includes NT Sione Po‘uha (back), S Eric Smith (knee), C Nick Mangold (ankle), TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist) and RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle), all listed as questionable. All were limited at today’s practice except for McKnight, who was a DNP for the third time this week.
“For Sione, it’s not just about being able to protect yourself but being effective,” Ryan said. “I feel good about that. I think Sione will play.”
The rest of the Jets were full practicers and are probable for the game.
The Dolphins added two players to Friday’s report in DE Cameron Wake (neck, limited), and S Reshad Jones (heel, full). But they seem in fine health for the game with Wake, Jones, RB Daniel Thomas (concussion), LB Koa Misi (hamstring) and S Jimmy Wilson (ankle) listed as probable, while starting CB Richard Marshall (back) didn’t practice today and is listed as out.
Tags: Anthony Lynn, Austin Howard, Jim Nantz, Konrad Reuland, Matt Slauson, Miami Dolphins, Phil Simms, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene, Sione Pouha, third-and-1
Posted in Randy Lange | 36 Comments »
The season began with a story of Bart Scott’s rebirth — lost weight, increased speed and strength — but it has developed into a tale of toe woe for the 11th-year linebacker.
“It’s tough. It’s like losing a thumb on your hand. Everything you do comes off your big toe,” said Scott, who said he injured the painful digit on the second defensive play of Game 3 at Miami and isn’t sure of his availability for Sunday’s home rematch against the Dolphins.
Scott, who spoke to reporters after today’s practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, said the toe has been “beat up” since his college days at Southern Illinois. He described this latest episode as basically “turf toe, ligament damage, capsule strains and things like that. You’re talking about running on a toe that’s not all the way in the socket and it’s loose and swollen and you’re wearing an extra large shoe.
“I’ve always prided myself on being able to have a high pain tolerance and to be able to play through things. I just want to show my teammates that I’m willing to bite down and continue to play and do what I can to help us win,” he said in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room following today’s practice. “If we have to shut it down, we shut it down. If not, then we’ll be ready to go.”
Shutting it down for a game is not something Scott has done in a long time. Since 2004 with the Ravens, he has played in 119 consecutive regular-season games, the fifth-longest streak among active NFL linebackers and the eighth-longest among all active defensive players. Throw in 10 playoff games and the streak reaches 129 consecutive games. For the Jets, those streaks are 55 straight regular-season games played and 61 straight including playoffs.
Then as far as starts go, he’s started 111 of the last 113 regular-season games, and 121 of the last 123 including playoffs, and with the Jets it’s 53 starts in 55 games, 59 in 61 including playoffs.
The only start he didn’t make last season was Game 5 at New England, when the Jets opened with seven defensive backs on the field against Tom Brady and company. Then on Sunday he missed another start at Foxboro and played in what was likely an eight-season low of nine plays on defense and 16 total.
“Whatever is best for the team. I don’t care about a streak,” Scott said about the possibility of missing this start. “I care about helping my team win and trying to win a championship. That’s always been my primary goal, and that’s why I came here. If helping the team best is for me to be on the sideline and help these young linebackers see what’s going on and help slow the game down for them, then I’ll do that. If it’s biting down so we can get to the bye at 3-1 in our division, then that’s what I’ll do.”
The one young linebacker most impacted by Scott’s injury is third-round rookie Demario Davis, who was in for the most plays of his young career and the most among the Jets on Sunday, 98 total and 69 plays on defense.
Despite the difficulties, Scott did make one contribution vs. the Patriots, tackling RB Stevan Ridley for a yard loss on the Pats’ third-quarter touchdown drive. He’s tied for the Jets lead at 4.0 tackles for loss this season, and he leads the Jets in TFLs from 2009 to present with 25.5.
Scott’s being benched, as some reports had it today, doesn’t quite capture the situation, as head coach Rex Ryan explained at his news conference today.
“New England did a lot of stuff where they put him in space with a lot of empty sets, four and five receivers,” Ryan said. “Normally I like to keep Bart out there. But if he can’t change directions in space as well as he normally can, we’ve got to do what’s best for our football team. Is he going to be 100 percent this week? No. Hopefully when that bye comes, we’ll rest him that whole time and he’ll have two weeks to get ready for Seattle. Hopefully that will really help him.”
The Rest of the Injury Picture
Aside from Scott, the Jets’ health continued to slowly improve. DT Kenrick Ellis (knee), S LaRon Landry (heel) and RBs Joe McKnight (ankle) and Bilal Powell (shoulder) didn’t practice. But TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist), C Nick Mangold (ankle) and S Eric Smith (knee) all got some limited work in team drills and DT Sione Po‘uha continued as a limited participant. “Sione moved around and looked pretty good,” Ryan said of Big Bo’s Wednesday practice. “His strength numbers are up. I’ve been encouraged by that.”
Among the Jets’ full-go guys, WR Clyde Gates (shoulder),who’s missed two games, “looks like he’s coming around,” according to the coach.
Miami’s report remained short and static. DT Randy Starks, who was excused from Wednesday’s workout for non-football reasons, returned today and was taken off the list.
Tags: Bart Scott, Clyde Gates, Demario Davis, Miami Dolphins, Rex Ryan, Sione Pouha
Posted in Randy Lange | 61 Comments »
Updated, 7:10 p.m. ET
After catching all seven passes thrown to him for 93 yards and scoring a fourth quarter touchdown during Sunday’s overtime loss to the New England Patriots, Dustin Keller appears to be in a familiar spot.
“I’m finally getting into the swing of things and starting to get a real good feel for the passing game and all that stuff, because when you’re gone for a while, you don’t see those looks for a little while and it’s kind of a little weird when you first get out there,” the tight end said this afternoon after practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “But I feel back in the swing of things and pretty much back to where I was.”
Keller had missed four games earlier this season due to a hamstring injury, but returned to the Jets lineup against Indianapolis on Oct. 14. In that game, he had one catch for 6 yards on the only pass thrown his way by Mark Sanchez. However, in Foxboro, the QB/TE duo were able to regain their strong connection.
“I think there’s a major comfort level,” Keller said of his relationship with Sanchez, “and also at the same time, if there’s anything that feels a little cloudy in our minds, we both are comfortable enough to come up to each other and be like, ‘What were you thinking on that play?’ Just so we’re thinking alike. We both know exactly what each other is thinking. I try to do that anytime there’s a little bit of a question in my mind on any play.”
No. 81’s touchdown against New England came on the final play of the 92-yard drive that cut the Patriots’ lead to 23-20 with just under six minutes remaining in regulation. Sanchez threw the pass in a tight window and Keller was able to haul in the 7-yard reception in the middle of the end zone.
“The whole play worked because Mark put it in the only spot they couldn’t get it,” the fifth-year TE said.
As the Green & White gear up to take on the Miami Dolphins for the second time this season, Keller has been encouraged with how the Jets receivers have progressed since Santonio Holmes, their No. 1 WR, went down with a season-ending foot injury on Sept. 30.
“I think all the guys have done a great job of picking up the slack since Santonio’s been out,” Keller said. “Everybody has been picking up a little bit. Obviously there’s not one guy that’s going to pick up all the production and do all the things that Santonio was doing for us. But the guys that are here have been doing a great job.”
The Dolphins didn’t have an answer for Holmes when the teams first met last month. Tone finished that day with nine receptions for 147 yards and the Jets picked up their lone road victory of the season, leaving Sun Life Stadium with the 23-20 overtime victory. Keller was sidelined for the matchup but still analyzed the team’s performance.
“I think we did some good things the first game,” he said. “We were lucky enough to pull away the game. I don’t think we played our best football, but we did enough in each area, special teams, defense and offense, to win the game.”
Heading into their second meeting, Keller believes the Jets have an advantage against the Miami pass defense, which is allowing 284.8 yards per game, 28th in the NFL. But regardless of what the stats indicate about Miami, Keller knows how important Sunday’s contest is. And when you consider that the Jets enter their bye week after the game, it makes things even more critical.
“I feel like all AFC East games are rivalry games,” Keller said. “Anytime you’re going to get a team twice in a season, that’s a rivalry to me. But it’s always a tough game. All the AFC East games are tough, but for some reason, Miami, it seems like it’s been a big one for us.”
Rex and Reggie
The week before the Jets faced the Dolphins last month, Jets head coach Rex Ryan made comments describing how his team planned to contain running back Reggie Bush that drew some heat after the fact.
At the time, Ryan said, “Obviously, we have to do a great job of getting a lot of guys to him and getting him on the ground. Put some hot sauce on him, if you will.”
The Jets defeated Bush and the Dolphins, 23-20, in overtime. Bush produced 61 yards on 10 carries before leaving the game with a knee injury late in the second quarter. Late in the third quarter, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis went down with a season-ending torn left ACL.
Days after the game, Bush said: “It’s like the old saying, what goes around comes around. They talked all week about putting hot sauce and this and that, and they ended up losing their best player for the rest of the season. So it’s sad that it happened because of that, but I’m going to be back.”
As the AFC East foes prepare to meet again Sunday, Ryan was asked about the topic during his news conference this afternoon and explained the theory behind his statement.
“I never was saying that we were going to try to injury Reggie Bush,” Ryan said. “That’s not even close. He’s going to get our attention. I’m sorry, but he’s the type of player that’s going to warrant our attention and we’re going to give it to him, there is no question. That was what I meant by my comments. If it was taken differently, out of context or whatever, I apologized for that. Trust me, we know when he’s in the game. He is still going to get our attention.”
Ryan added that he never wants to see a player get hurt. He said as bad as he wants to beats Tom Brady, he would never want to see the Patriots QB out due to injury.
“Shoot, I’m a football fan as well as a coach,” he said. “This game is great because of the players and the talent that plays in this league.”
Bush enters Round 2 with the Green & White having started all six of Miami’s games with 98 rushes for 434 yards and three touchdowns.
Wednesday Injury Reports
The swelled-up Jets’ injury list continues to come back to earth slowly. The list now has 16 players, equal to its shortest Wednesday of the season. New to the list are TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist, did not participate) and G Vlad Ducasse (knee, full), but off the list completely are Keller, WR Stephen Hill and LB Bryan Thomas.
Eight players were DNPs for today’s practice. Besides Keller, they were NT Kenrick Ellis (knee), C Nick Mangold (ankle), RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle), LB Calvin Pace (who was kicked in the shin vs. the Patriots), RB Bilal Powell (shoulder), LB Bart Scott (toe) and S Eric Smith (knee).
McKnight is being brought along carefully after injuring the ankle against the Colts. As he said today, “If Coach Westhoff can play with a rod in his leg, I can play with a sore ankle.”
Also, NT Sione Pouha (back) was limited, as he was last Thursday and Friday. “I’m encouraged he’s out there giving it a shot this week,” said Ryan. “Big Bo” has missed the last three games and four of the seven this season.
The Dolphins’ list, on the other hand, is short by almost any standard. Only five players are listed by coach Joe Philbin: DNP — CB Richard Marshall (back) and DT Randy Starks (non-football); Limited — S Jimmy Wilson (ankle); Full — LB Koa Misi (hamstring) and RB Daniel Thomas (concussion).
Tags: Bilal Powell, Dustin Keller, joe McKnight, Mark Sanchez, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Sione Pouha
Posted in John Holt | 33 Comments »