The weather gods had not been Jets fans in the recent past, but today they lifted the rainclouds long enough for the Jets to take to the grass fields at the Atlantic Health Training Center in front of 1,111 season ticket holders.
Head coach Rex Ryan held his news conference before today’s practice start, and tight ends were on the minds of several questioners — the TEs they have on the roster, the one former standout tight end who was invited to participate in today’s practice, and the ex-Jet who may or may not end up at that position for the Patriots.
Rex was asked about the position and ticked off the players already on the roster.
“With Jeff Cumberland, obviously, he’s the starter right now. If we were going to have a game tomorrow, he would be our starter,” Ryan said. “He’s a big, fast guy that I think has improved over the years. His blocking, I think, has really improved. I’ll be excited to see how he progresses.
“Then you have Konrad [Reuland] and Hayden [Smith], guys with experience. Then you have ‘the BC Kid’ [Chris Pantale] and ‘The Coach,’ Mike] Shanahan, who are working their way out there. And we’ll see about Winslow. I’m excited about seeing Kellen.”
That’s the former standout. Kellen Winslow Jr., who caught 438 passes and 23 touchdowns combined in four years with Cleveland, three years with Tampa Bay, and one — game, that is — with New England. Winslow, former Jacksonville WR Mike Sims-Walker and DT Leger Douzable were all invited to this minicamp as unsigned veteran free agents.
“Obviously, Kellen was a tremendous player in this league for a long time, one of the premier receiving tight ends in the game, so we’ll see how he responds,” Ryan said. “Obviously it’s going to be recovery more than anything else, how healthy he is. Because clearly the skillset that he has, the young man was a tremendous player.”
Finally comes the ex-Jet who’s now maybe a Patriots tight end. Tim Tebow was signed by the Patriots and one of the rumored stories out of Boston was that Pats coach Bill Belichick is considering using Tebow not just at QB behind Tom Brady and Ryan Mallard but perhaps also as a TE.
Even though the Jets ended the TT experiment a month and a half ago with his release two days after the end of the draft, nine of the 24 questions asked of Ryan today (37.5% of the questions) were about Tebow.
“All these questions are probably better served by being asked of New England and Belichick. I’m sure you’ll get the answer from him,” Ryan said.
But one more time Rex gave a Tebow eulogy.
“I’m happy for the young man to get another opportunity in the league,” he said. “We’ve already mentioned that it didn’t work out here. Obvoulsy, Tim had more success in Denver than he did here, so it is what it is.”
And wouldn’t it be interesting if Winslow, who played that one game for the Pats, then asked to be released and the Pats concurred, sticks with the Jets while Tebow does what he does with the Pats.
But Winslow, talking with Jets reporters after practice, said that’s still a little way down the road.
“Rex and I used to go at it when he was with the Ravens. He’s an awesome coach, man, one of the best defensive coaches in the league,” Winslow reminisced. “My job is just to make plays and however it works out, that’s how it works out. I’m a playmaker and my job is just to make plays. I’m just trying to make the team.”
Tags: Chris Pantale, Hayden Smith, Jeff Cumberland, Jets minicamp, Kellen Winslow, Konrad Reuland, Mike Shanahan, Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 29 Comments »
Updated, 6:08 p.m. ET
The Jets’ wideout field is getting crowded these days, mostly by guys that not many have heard of just wanting to get a fair shot at making the roster.
Just the way Ben Obomanu likes it.
“That’s what every player wants, an opportunity to earn his keep,” Obomanu told me last week, “to have that open competition and have the ability to come in and make a play or two and not have a stigma placed on them before they even get started. I feel the same way.”
Obomanu has overcome that situation before. He was a seventh-round pick of the Seahawks in 2006 and gradually worked his way into decent playing time in 2010, when he caught 30 passes for 494 yards (16.5-yard average) and four touchdowns. The yards, average and TDs were all career highs.
“I think that season I finally got a chance to play,” he said. “For the longest time, I think, as a seventh-round pick, I kept getting overshadowed, overlooked. I think 2010 was my first real good chance of getting some starts and I actually did pretty well, made a lot of good plays, got a contract extension.
“I’m trying to get back to that point. I’m trying to get that opportunity again to show that what I did in 2010, when I was a legit starter, those same plays I made there, I’m still capable of now.”
He was a salary-cap casualty this three months ago and so started the searching process for a new team. Perhaps it didn’t hurt that one of Seattle’s front office members, John Idzik, is now the Jets’ GM, but as Obomanu put it, “There was a connection with John, but I had to come in and work out with a couple of other guys before I ended up being the guy they signed. I had to earn it.”
Even though Obomanu knows he’ll have to step up and earn a roster spot this summer, he won’t mind a bit of an inherited cheering section. When he came to the Jets, he wore uniform No. 9, but after a few days he swapped numbers with undrafted rookie Zach Rogers for No. 15.
Yes, Ben knows Tim Tebow wore 15 in green and white last year.
“In Seattle I was No. 87. I kind of wanted to do something different here. I was trying to figure out with family and friends what kind of number I wanted,” he said. “Tim’s a good guy. I understand that a number is a number. But it’d be neat, if I did come in and could keep 15, I’m pretty sure there’s some leftover 15 jerseys out there and I can have a little fan base from the start.”
From the sounds of things, D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s fifth annual Building Communities One Brick at a Time dinner gala and auction was a sturdy success.
“It was a great event and we raised a lot of money for our youth, aiding the Long Island area,” Brick told us. “We’re thankful for all the support.”
The gala, held June 4 at The Swan Club in Glenwood Landing, N.Y., honored Mark Sanchez, former N.J. Secretary of State the Rev. Regena Thomas, and Philip Castaldo, president of UFOLI, the United 7-Eleven Franchise Owners of Long Island and New York, which also performs great work in the community.
As Ferguson stated in a printed message to the dinner guests, the goal of the D’Brickashaw Ferguson Foundation is to be a strong support system to young people before and after they enter college.
“The Skills and Drills conference is a vehicle that helps foster growth by peer-to-peer mentorship, team-building exercises and the sharing of experiences by seasoned professionals,” Brick said. “Programs like these are needed in order to help encourage and inspire our youth. With your support we will be able to grow and change more lives. Thank you.”
No, thank you, Brick, for continuing to be a role model and mentor to young people as you work your good work off the field in with your good work as the Jets’ starting left tackle.
Tags: Ben Obomanu, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, John Idzik, Seattle Seahawks, Tim Tebow, Zach Rogers
Posted in Randy Lange | 24 Comments »
It’s the closing of a circle for David Garrard, or at least the completion of a long lap up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
The 35-year-old quarterback (no, not 38 or 37 as some have speculated) was born in East Orange, N.J., about 20 minutes from the Jersey Meadowlands in February 1978, which was about 6½ years before the Jets even moved there.
Now after his upbringing in Plainfield, N.J., and Durham, N.C., his college ball at East Carolina, and his nine-year playing career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, plus a small stop last offseason with the Miami Dolphins, Garrard has signed on with the Jets to provide competition for Mark Sanchez and the rest of the Green & White QBs.
“I definitely think it’s the ideal situation,” Garrard told SiriusXM NFL Radio last week about the Jets after his visit. “It was a great workout. Every drill they had me do, I did great in. I felt like my old self again.
Word of Garrard’s possible signing grew cold publicly for a while, because it was reported the Jets had to do some cap work if they wanted to bring him to their roster. Whatever had to happen has been done because the team announced the signing late this afternoon.
New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had his first conference call with Jets reporters today at 1 p.m. ET and was not asked about Garrard. But about competition in general for Sanchez, et al, MM said that while “Mark will probably have a little bit of a leg up, it would appear,” he also said, “We like competition at all spots, and certainly at that spot. Competition just makes everybody better.”
When Garrard was at the peak of his game, he was nicely competitive for the Jaguars. From 2005, when he finally started to get playing time, through 2010, he assembled a portfolio that sported a 38-35 record as a starter, 62.1% completion accuracy, and a decent 22.0% touchdown drive rate (the NFL average is about 18.5%).
Garrard faced the Jets exactly once since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2002 draft by the Jaguars out of East Carolina as the eventual successor to, yes, Mark Brunell. That meeting was at the old Meadowlands on Nov. 15, 2009, and it was a microcosm of his only Pro Bowl season that year. On a cloudy, cool fall day, he completed 16 of 26 passes for 221 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also ran for an 11-yard score.
And after the Jets, led by then-rookie Sanchez, had come back from a 21-10 first-half deficit for a 22-21 lead on a Thomas Jones power TD with 5:04 to play, Garrard led the Jags on an 11-play, 80-yard drive with 4-for-6 passing — including that crushing 33-yard catch-and-run by TE Marcedes Lewis — and Maurice Jones-Drew’s clutch kneeldown at the Jets 1 with a minute to play, setting up Josh Scobee’s game-winning chip-shot field goal as time expired.
Even though Garrard’s ’09 season was one of his better showings, it wasn’t his best. He took the Jags to a 9-3 record and a playoff road win at Pittsburgh on the strength of such skills as his 64.0% completion percentage and 18 TD passes to just three interceptions.
That 6.0 TDs/INTs rate, by the way, is the fifth-best season in NFL history among qualifying QBs, trailing only Kansas City’s Damon Huard (11.00, 11/1 in 2006), New England’s Tom Brady (9.00, 36-4 in 2010 after 6.25, 50/8 in 2007) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (7.50, 45/6 in 2011).
Many Jets fans are skeptical as to how much competition a QB out of the NFL for the past two seasons could give a fifth-year incumbent and several more signalcallers this offseason and summer. But just keep in mind that he had that strong tryout with the Jets recently, and some say he was poised to begin last season as the Dolphins’ starter — that is, until he injured his knee, missed the entire preseason schedule and was released as the ‘Fins began the Ryan Tannehill era quicker than maybe they had planned.
All of this is tank-half-full/tank-half-empty talk, of course. Is DG the catalyst to getting the Jets offense back on its feet? Or will he be one-and-done, whatever “one” is defined as? Will No. 9 beat out No. 6 in the coming offseason/preseason competition, or will Sanchez be spurred on to new professional growth? What about Tim Tebow, Greg McElroy, and whoever may arrive in the draft?
We’ll learn a little more Tuesday, when Garrard is scheduled to talk with reporters on a conference call, and then as the veterans return to the offseason conditioning program, OTAs and the veteran minicamp from mid-April to mid-June.
For now, though, assuming Garrard’s health and competitive juices and considering what we know of the Jets’ situation, it looks like a good fit as an able body has been added to help with the ongoing construction project.
Tags: David Garrard, Greg McElroy, Jacksonville Jaguars, Mark Brunell, Mark Sanchez, Marty Mornhinweg, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 76 Comments »
Updated 6:19 p.m. ET
In theory the NFL Combine is a place to talk with, talk about, time, measure and analyze the draft-eligible college players heading into the draft two months down the road.
In reality, John Idzik and Rex Ryan held an impromptu Darrelle Revis news conference when they spoke with reporters at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this afternoon.
The new general manager and the fifth-year head coach had the same bumper sticker for the media, fans and the NFL: WE ♥ REVIS ISLAND.
“Darrelle Revis is obviously a great football player, a great New York Jet and a tremendous asset to our team,” said Idzik at the podium shortly after 4 p.m. ET. “I don’t know that anything has really changed. We’ve always wanted Darrelle as part of our team. That has not changed.”
Idzik declined several times to respond to questions about Revis rumors, contract matters or trade terms. But, he stressed, “In respect to Darrelle, our focus is to aid him any way we can in his rehabilitation so he can return to the player we all know he is.”
Ryan followed Idzik to the microphone — each talked for about 16 minutes — and recounted a phone conversation he had with Revis, who’s rehabbing the knee injury that ended his season in Game 3 at Miami, about trade rumors that surfaced the day before Idzik held his introductory news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
“I told him it’s not accurate,” Ryan said. “If he’s going to be involved in a trade, I think he and his agents would know about it, as would the GM and myself. There’s no validity to it. I don’t know where that gets drummed up. … I provided him the answer that I know to be true, which is that was not accurate.”
It was certainly likely that the game of Twit-for-Tat between Revis and Seahawks CB Richard Sherman the past day or so would be posed in the form of a question to Ryan. Rex declined to get into the middle of that Twitter war while still strongly supporting his former All-Pro corner.
“I will say this: Obviously the guy [Sherman]‘s a heck of a football player. I don’t know him well enough to compare him to Darrelle Revis,” Ryan said. “But if you’re putting yourself in that company, that’s the company you want to be in, that’s for sure.”
The two-fer news conferences were about more than Revis. Both Jets officials were asked about their quarterbacks, specifically Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow.
Idzik had a new turn of phrase to describe the way the teamwide 2013 depth chart will shake out.
“I don’t think you isolate it to any one or a few positions. We’re going to have a general mantra here with the New York Jets and it’s going to be ‘Competition Through and Through,’ ” he said. “That’s going to be true this year as we enter free agency, it’s going to be true as we go into the draft, it’s going to be true as we come out of the draft, it’s going to be true as we go into training camp and into the regular season. And if we have success and we win a championship, it’ll be true after we win a championship.
“I think everyone, Mark included, recognizes that he, our offense — shoot, our team as a whole — has to perform better than we did in 2012. And we’re going to do that. We’re going to do everything to increase the competition so that he plays better. We’ve got a new offensive coordinator, we have a new quarterback coach, we have staff changes that I think will be healthy for Mark and so that we can again get the juices flowing and turn the page into 2013, not look back to 2012, start anew and get rolling.”
“We’re bringing in competition at every position, not just the quarterback position,” Ryan said. “That’s what we want to do here. To say Mark Sanchez, this quarterback, that quarterback — clearly there’s going to be competition at that position.”
Tebow’s situation arose only late during Ryan’s time at the mike.
“Tim’s under contract to be a New York Jet,” the head coach said, “and we’ll see how things go in the offseason.”
We’re expediting the processing of transcripts of both Idzik’s and Ryan’s remarks today and they’ll be up on newyorkjets.com shortly.
Draft Order Update
The NFL has released its tentative round-by-round order for the 2013 draft. The order is tentative because it doesn’t include compensatory picks, which will be awarded at the bottom of Rounds 3-7 and announced next month. So the Jets’ first three picks are fixed and the positions of Rounds 4-7 will change depend on how many compensatories are inserted at the end of each prior round. Here are the Jets’ picks at the moment:
Round 1 — 9th in the round, 9th overall
Round 2 — 8th in the round, 39th overall
Round 3 — 10th in the round, 72nd overall
Round 4 — 9th in the round (103rd-plus overall)
Round 5 — 8th in the round (134th-plus overall)
Round 6 — 10th in the round (168th-plus overall)
Round 7 — 9th in the round (199th-plus overall)
Tags: Darrelle Revis, John Idzik, Lucas Oil Stadium, Mark Sanchez, NFL Combine, Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 204 Comments »
What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?
All right, good news first.
With one more favorable set of games on the last day of the season next Sunday, the Jets will have the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense for 2012.
Stay with me on this.
The Jets are No. 2 for the second week in a row, behind Pittsburgh’s No. 1 unit, but the gap closed significantly on Sunday. As the Jets were yielding 136 net yards (passing yards minus sack yards), to the Chargers, the Steelers gave up 253 to Andy Dalton and the Bengals. That leaves the Jets 30 yards behind the Steelers.
A Green & White shutdown of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills coupled with a Steelers showing vs. Brandon Weeden and the Browns that is 31-plus yards than the Jets allow (and barring an even greater lockdown by No. 3 Arizona against No. 4 San Francisco or vice versa and by No. 5 Seattle against St. Louis) and the Jets will wear the No. 1 crown for pass defense in a year in which they didn’t have Darrelle Revis for 13 games and only lately started to bring serious, consistent pressure on opposing QBs.
What’s the point, you may ask over your eggnog. No. 1 pass defense isn’t a secret tiebreaker to get the Jets into the AFC playoff grid. It doesn’t pay incentives. There isn’t even a plaque for the wall downstairs at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. And where was the vaunted passing D in Sunday’s third quarter?
That last question is easiest to answer, although I’ll sound like a coach here when I say they’re paying the Chargers, too. Philip Rivers is still a decent QB, Danario Alexander is a dangerous downfield threat, Antonio Gates is one of the long-time gold standards at TE. Yeah, it would’ve been great to see Antonio Cromartie play that ball to Alexander better and for Eric Smith to drop Gates right after the catch, but most teams would kill for a defense that gave up 10 of its 20 points off of short fields and allowed 136 yards of passing offense on the day.
“The defense played really well for the majority of the game,” head coach Rex Ryan said on a conference call with beat reporters today. “I thought we gave up two huge plays. One we really thought we had the coverage, then did a poor job from a technique standpoint. Then you’ve got to give them credit for a nice job of scheming us when they got Gates isolated. That was obviously a big play for them. I think that’s obviously the difference in the game. They were absolutely dominated on defense and they made enough plays on offense to win the game.”
But at least consider there’s carryover from everything, good, bad and mediocre. However the Jets’ offense shakes out in 2013, the defense figures to be a cornerstone for the Jets going forward. Mo and Q, the Hitman, Cro and Revis Island, et al., should be a major force in the future, and nothing like a top ranking to underscore that for newcomers to the fold. Plus 1 isn’t a crooked number and is better than a sharp stick in the eye.
And Now for the Naughty
The bad news is that, besides a sudden blocking problem — “That was as poor as I can ever remember, as far as pass protection is concerned,” Ryan said of the 11 sacks suffered by Greg McElroy and the offense — another issue has lately reared its ugly head. It’s a turnover problem.
We hate to say it on Christmas Eve, but the Jets have been doing too much giving and not enough taking.
In their last five games, they have a minus-14 turnover margin (four takeaways, 18 giveaways), dropping them to minus-13 on the year, 27th in the NFL. Furthermore, it’s tied for the most lopsided five-game in-season margin in franchise history with a stretch of the Jets’ inaugural season as the Titans in 1960, when they went minus-14 from Games 5-9 (14 TAs, 28 GAs). The only worse five-game stretch spanned the 1976 and ’77 seasons, when they had a minus-18 (9 TAs, 27 GAs) through the ’77 season opener.
On the one hand, this kind of trend can undo a lot of the good things a team might do, such as playing great pass defense or getting off the field on third down or returning and covering kickoffs. On the other, at least the Jets won two of the games in this five game span, vs. Arizona and at Jacksonville.
Regardless, some members of the defense spoke with me about optimizing takeaway opportunities, and that hasn’t happened with no turnovers for the defense, not even a forced fumble, the last two games. Just like great pass defense can continue into the offseason and the next preseason, so can that often whimsical but always important turnover habit.
There is no better time for McElroy and the offense to work on ball security and the D to step up its ball thievery than this season’s last live action against the Bills, who are minus-14 for the season and minus-8 in their last three games alone.
Ryan was grilled again about quarterbacks following the game. He deflected Sunday stories about sources offering information regarding Tim Tebow being active but not playing against the Chargers while Jeremy Kerley ran the Wildcat on several plays, most notably the 42-yard completion to Clyde Gates on the Jets’ second drive.
“You’re assuming something’s a fact or whatever,” Ryan said regarding questions about some of those sources. “I’ll say this: If I would’ve asked Tim to play anything, Tim would’ve gone in the game and done that. … Jeremy looked good in practice. That’s why I went with him. I could’ve used Tim. If I’d chosen to use Tim, I believe without any hesitation Tim would’ve been out there.”
Reporter John Holt will have a story on Kerley that we’ll post Christmas morning. And we’ll have more on Rex, the quarterbacks, and the rest of the Jets when we all return to the facility for Wednesday’s practice for the Bills. Until then, we’ll sign off now and wish you and yours the happiest of holidays.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Antonio Gates, Buffalo Bills, Danario Alexander, Eric Smith, Greg McElroy, Jeremy Kerley, Philip Rivers, Rex Ryan, San Diego Chargers, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 122 Comments »
Here are today’s first-half tweets for the Jets-Titans game at LP Field in Nashville, in case you missed them on Twitter. Follow Bob Wischusen, Eric Allen and me for our tweets during each Jets game on https://twitter.com/nyjets.
#RL Jets gameday captains today: DE Muhammad Wilkerson, C Nick Mangold, S Yeremiah Bell, S Josh Bush, WR Braylon Edwards.
#RL Rob Bironas comes out late to try 46-yd FG, Mo Wilkerson blocks at the line, no good. Bironas now 4-for-5 career vs Jets.
#RL Wilkerson gets Jets’ first FG block since Kris Jenkins vs ARZ in ’08, first road FG block since Shane Burton @ BUF in 2000.
#RL Jets 3rd-and-1 at TEN 25, Tim Tebow first action in 4 games runs forward to get the first down.
#EA TEN helping the Jets on this drive – 3 penalties. Edwards getting in the mix right away on this opening march.
#EA Sanchez has all day to throw the rock right now. Great job by the O-line. TEN was all over Luck last week.
#RL TE Jeff Cumberland appeared to grab 4-yd TD pass from Mark Sanchez, his 3rd TD of yr. But ref Walt Coleman reverses call to no catch…
#RL Nick Folk comes on for 22-yd FG. Good, making Folk 17-for-22 on FGs for the year. Jets lead 3-0 with 4:17 left in 1st qtr.
#RL Kyle Wilson nice third-down tackle on Nate Washington for a 5-yd reception on 3rd-and-8 as 1st quarter comes to an end…
#RL TEN continues as only NFL team not to have scored a 1st-qtr offensive TDs at home. Titans’ only 1st-qtr home TD came on PR in Game 3.
#RL Kyle Wilson nice third-down tackle on Nate Washington for a 5-yd reception on 3rd-and-8 as 1st quarter comes to an end…
#EA This is the Jets’ first lead entering the 2nd Quarter since Week 2 vs. PIT.
#RL Another nifty Robert Malone punt bounces backward from TEN-2 for 53-yd punt gross and net. 14th consec game for Malone with 50-yd punt.
#RL Chris Johnson bursts off RT, goes 94 yds for TD. Longest run vs. Jets since Garrison Hearst went 96 in OT in ’98 opener @ SF.
#RL Johnson 94-yd run is 2nd-longest by opponent in franchise history. Previous 2nd-longest: Sid Blanks, @ HOU Oilers, 12/13/64.
#RL Tim Tebow gets his first full drive as Jets QB, 7 snaps, 6 plays and pen, 22 yards. Has to throw 3rd-and-16 pass away.
#RL Calvin Pace gets his 3rd sack of the season, touching Jake Locker as he scrambles OB for a 2-yd loss on 3rd-and-7. TEN punts.
#RL Garrett McIntyre, starting for LB Bryan Thomas, gets 3rd sack of yr and 2nd big defensive play in 2 games w/ sack of Jake Locker.
#RL Jets go into halftime trailing 3-0. It’s 4th straight game they haven’t scored 1st-half TD, but they won their last 2, over ARZ, JAX.
#RL Jets lead in 1st downs (10-6), possession (15:52-14:08), but Titans lead in yards (198-99), takeaways (1-0) and score, 7-3.
Tags: Braylon Edwards, Calvin Pace, Chris Johnson, Garrett McIntyre, Garrison Hearst, Jake Locker, Kyle Wilson, Mark Sanchez, Sid Blanks, Tennessee Titans, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 86 Comments »
There may be a perception among NFL watchers and fantasy players that Chris Johnson is having a down year. But then again, everything after his 2,006-yard sophomore season as the Titans’ tailback would pale in comparison.
But CJ2K also is making a comeback of sorts. He’s already cleared 1,000 rushing yards for the fifth time in five seasons and his 4.7 yards per rush are his best since his 5.6 in 2009.
“He’s still one of the leading rushers in the league,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said today. “He’s a dangerous guy. He’s somebody, every time he touches it, you hold your breath. He’s that kind of athlete, so a dropoff in play? I don’t know. I don’t necessarily see it because he’s the same explosive guy to me on tape. You don’t get a whole lot of sleep worrying about this guy, that’s for sure. He’s a great player. Obviously, everybody knows about him. He’s no secret.
“I think when he first got into the league, you weren’t necessarily that sure. You saw a guy, ‘Hey, he’s a little undersized for a running back,’ and then he’s blowing by you and ‘Oh, man.’ You can say a guy is fast, you can read the numbers, but when you see it on the field, it’s happening right in front of you, it’s a little scary. I saw it first-hand several times when we played against him here but also in Baltimore.”
Actually, Ryan defenses have done pretty well against Johnson. In ’08, Rex’s last year with the Ravens, Johnson had 44 yards on 18 carries. The next year vs. the Jets, he had 97 yards on 22 carries. But the Titans lost both of those games.
However, while the Jets have improved in many areas and rankings on defense, is this year’s run defense improved as well? The Jets are still ranked 29th in rush yards allowed per game, not a good omen against Johnson and running QB Jake Locker. Ryan said, “I think our run defense has definitely improved,” but he was clearly unhappy with yielding that untouched 32-yard TD jaunt by Montell Owens at Jacksonville.
Yet one ranking that isn’t mentioned a lot is opponents’ rush yards per carry. The Jets after five games were allowing 4.9 yards per carry, 29th in the league. In the last eight games, the average is 4.0, which has improved their league ranking to 19th.
It will have to be good enough. As Ryan said, this week vs. Tennessee “is a bit of a challenge.”
Tebow Upon Further Review
One day after Rex Ryan said he didn’t see Tim Tebow Wildcatting and personal protecting on Monday night at Tennessee due to his still sore ribs, the Jets coach saw enough improvement at Thursday’s practice to put all the familiar TT roles back on the table today.
“I was just adamant about, well, there will be no Wildcat, but I’m like, he may be able to go back to similar roles,” Ryan said at today’s news conference. “He’s always been cleared to play, but as good as he looked to me, I don’t want to rule that out for the simple fact that this is as good as he’s looked in several weeks.”
Tebow, holding rare back-to-back locker room news conferences (he normally talks to reporters Wednesday and Friday, but before the Monday night game, Thursday was the new Wednesday this week), was encouraged.
“I try to go out there and compete like any other practice. I’m glad he felt good about it and thought highly,” Tebow said, adding about getting ready for game contact for the first time since Nov. 18 at St. Louis, “I’ll be ready for that first hit … I think I will be.”
So the ‘Cat is back in the game plan? “I guess,” Tebow said, “it could be considered.”
Cynics might say this is all a ploy to make sure Tennessee is spending extra time getting ready for the Wildcat when the Jets really aren’t planning to run it. Well, maybe, but as Titans coach Mike Munchak said Thursday, “I think it’s obviously something we would prepare for anyway.”
Friday Injury Picture
Ryan reported today that X-rays on RB Bilal Powell’s toe came back negative. Both Powell and LB Bryan Thomas (chest) went from DNPs to limited work in team drills at today’s practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center. S LaRon Landry (heel) got his usual mid-practice-week day on the sideline. The rest of the Jets report remained the same as Thursday.
WR Braylon Edwards (hamstring) was limited for a second straight day. Ryan: “We’re being cautious there. I’m going to lean on the trainers. We’re hopeful he’ll be able to go on Monday.”
Titans RB Chris Johnson (ankle), who didn’t practice Thursday, and T Michael Roos (knee), who was limited, both were full-go at today’s practice in Nashville.
One Confusing Facemask
Upon reviewing the video of the Jets’ Sunday win at Jacksonville, we wanted set the record straight one more time, primarily because it involved some fans perhaps giving Muhammad Wilkerson a demerit for his latest strong performance when in fact Mo didn’t deserve the markdown.
The play was the fourth-quarter penalty on the Jets (their only flag of the game) for grasping the facemask of scrambling Jaguars QB Chad Henne. Referee Al Riveron got the error parade going by announcing, “Personal foul, facemask, No. 96.” That’s Wilkerson, but No. 98, Quinton Coples, was actually the guilty party, as the CBS slow-mo replay showed.
A referee announcing the wrong number on a penalty isn’t a frequent mistake although it happens probably more than you’d think. In this case, 96 and 98 are swarming the QB, Riveron is told the wrong number by the side judge or the head linesman, he reports it to the world.
However, that’s when network analyst Solomon Wilcots compounded the error as he spoke over the replay of Coples clearly hooking Henne’s mask as Wilkerson was closing ground from the left.
“He was going down anyway,” Wilcots said. “Take a look here. Now why’d you have to grab the facemask? There it is right there, Muhammad Wilkerson. Wow.”
Monday McKnight Football
Laura Clemente, our communications coordinator and social media maven, reports on an opportunity to win a neat prize during Monday’s Jets-Titans game:
“While the team is on the road and you’re tuned in to the Jets-Titans Monday night match-up on ESPN, you will have an exclusive opportunity. All you need to do is check into the game via Viggle on your smartphone or iPad and you could win a Joe McKnight autographed football. So watch the Jets on MNF, download the free Viggle app from the App Store or Google Play and enter for a chance to win! Check out viggle.com for more on how to download the app, win great prizes and get points for rewards.”
Tags: Bilal Powell, Braylon Edwards, Chris Johnson, Rex Ryan, Tennessee Titans, Tim Tebow, Wildcat
Posted in Randy Lange | 30 Comments »
Updated, 5:40 p.m. ET
Is the Jets’ version of the Wildcat dead? Well, maybe it’s only catnapping.
But Rex Ryan indicated today that Tim Tebow’s situation with the Jets at this moment is, well, complicated.
The Jets head coach was asked if Tebow, with his cracked ribs, could return to his role as personal punt protector as soon as Monday night at Tennessee.
“I don’t really see him in that role,” said Ryan, who then immediately jumped to Tebow’s role on offense. “As far as the Wildcat, obviously with the ribs the way they are, that’s a role, hopefully, that once we get the OK with those ribs, we probably expand that. But it’s not necessarily going to be a big part of our game plan. I think he’s improving, but improving to where you’re going to run the powers and the counters, I’m not sure about that.”
Yet Ryan acknowledged that Tebow has been cleared by the Jets’ medical staff and there is nothing else wrong with him, and so he continues in his role as the first in behind Mark Sanchez.
“He can be the backup quarterback and run some base things,” the coach said, adding about the ‘Cat, “There’s always a chance you can put him in that role.”
Rex also said that Greg McElroy continues in the third QB role and could be active vs. the Titans. But as he explained last week after Joe McKnight’s pregame migraines rippled through the roster and forced Ryan to keep an extra RB (Kahlil Bell) up just in case and to deactivate McElroy, “Each week is different.”
“Obviously, Tim’s had many more reps and I’m just more comfortable with Tim,” Ryan said about his choice of No. 2 QB for now. “I like Greg. I think Greg has improved a ton since his rookie year. I’ve always liked him, but I felt his arm strength had to improve to play at this level and I think he’s done that. I think his arm is getting better. I’m excited about Greg, I am. The fact that I have Tim over him doesn’t mean that I don’t like Greg as an option at quarterback. I like Greg.”
The new flurry of Tebow/McElroy/WC/PP questions were spurred in part by Ryan’s interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM the day after the Jaguars game in which he said Tebow being disappointed about this season “is probably a fair statement.” But both Ryan and then Tebow today elaborated on the “duality of disappointment” or some similar psychological theory in which a player can be happy to be a Jet but underwhelmed about how being a Jet has gone so far.
“I think you take everything in stride and you try to handle everything the best you can,” Tebow said in front of his locker this afternoon. “Obviously, it hasn’t gone exactly how we wanted, starting off the year with wins and everything as a team. Sometimes you have ups and downs and you just try to deal with them as best you can. They’re all learning opportunities, and when you believe everything happens for a reason, it makes it a whole lot easier.”
As for what this means for the Jets’ QB and Wildcat depth chart at Tennessee, your guess is as good as ours. It sounds as if Tebow may or may not play, McElroy may or may not be active, the Wildcat may or may not be implemented. The Titans simply need to be ready for every contingency.
Wednesday I-Reports/Special Thursday Edition
Updating Ryan’s pre-practice list with the official list submitted after 4 p.m., the Jets list 21 players on today’s first injury report of the week. Six did not practice today at the Atlantic Health Training Center, topped by RB Bilal Powell, who came off his career game at Jacksonville with a possible toe fracture to go along with his rehabbing shoulder. But Ryan said, “We think he’ll be all right, though,” for Monday night.
Also DNP: TE Dustin Keller (ankle), WR Stephen Hill (knee), CB Aaron Berry (hamstring) and WR Clyde Gates (concussion), LB Bryan Thomas (chest).
Two limited players were newly re-arrived WR Braylon Edwards (hamstring) and NT Sione Po‘uha (low back).
Thirteen Jets were listed but full-go, all of them holdovers from last week’s list. No longer on the list this week are DT Mike DeVito, FB Lex Hilliard, WR Jeremy Kerley (who had been on the list the previous five weeks with either a heel, a hamstring or both) and WR Chaz Schilens. The Jets’ full, updated I-report can be found here.
As for the Tennessee I-report that just came in, four players did not practice today, topped by RB Chris Johnson (ankle). WR Damian Williams (hamstring), DE Scott Solomon (knee) and LB Colin McCarthy (concussion) also were DNPs. The rest of the TT report: Limited — DT Jurrell Casey (knee), T Michael Roos (knee). Full — WR Kenny Britt (knee), CB Michael Griffin (neck), QB Jake Locker (left shoulder), DE Kamerion Wimbley (toe).
Tags: Bilal Powell, Greg McElroy, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Tennessee Titans, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 44 Comments »
Rex Ryan, emulating the late, great Orson Welles, will name no quarterback before its time. And today wasn’t the time for the Jets head coach to designate his starter for Jacksonville on Sunday.
“I’ll definitely need a little more time to make that decision,” Ryan said one day after Greg McElroy replaced Mark Sanchez, with Tim Tebow sidelined, and rescued the Jets’ 7-6 win over Arizona with a touchdown drive and a clock-draining final drive to the Cardinals’ 1-yard line. “I’m comfortable and confident with all three quarterbacks. I think all three guys now have proven they can win — Greg at the end of the game, Mark’s history here, and the way Tim has played.
“We have three guys I’m confident in and I’ll make that decision as the week goes on.”
So does that mean any of the three QBs on the Jets’ roster has a chance to start against the Jaguars? We’ll leave that odds box for sports editors with time on their hands to pitch to their beatwriters for tomorrow’s sports sections. But it may a measure of the decision ahead for Ryan that there are pros and cons for him to name any one of the three as his fire-starter for the Jags.
To help him in formulating his call this week, Ryan said he might turn to his confidantes in the coaching fraternity for some guidance, but more than likely it will be a decision formulated solely behind the walls of the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
“I want to make sure I talk to Tony [Sparano], Matt [Cavanaugh] and everybody, make sure I get a sense of what will be the right decision,” he said. “I think I’ll just lean on the guys in here. Again, the decision will be made based on our situation and our football team, on what ultimately I feel will give us the best opportunity to win.”
The opportunity to win means Jacksonville, of course, but also Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo after the Jags, and conceivably there are considerations for even beyond this season.
“A lot of things go into every decision you make,” Ryan said. “There are three priorities — the team, the team and the team. If you follow that, the decision’s always easier. You’ve got to take away personal feelings outside of it because it’s bigger than just me or this person or that person.”
“Never Let ‘Em See You Sweat”
However it shakes out, McElroy made a statement in his first pro action. Not every Jets QB guides his offense to a touchdown in his first full drive in green and white. Vinny Testaverde did in Game 3 of the 1998 season against then-rookie Peyton Manning and the Colts. Chad Pennington did, too, if you count the last drive of the blowout Sunday night loss at Oakland in 2000. But Sanchez didn’t, nor did Ken O’Brien, nor did Richard Todd, nor did Joe Namath.
It’s not an achievement you put high up on the NFL résumé. On the other hand, it was a TD drive that the Jets needed quickly, and in more ways than one, and McElroy helped deliver.
Then the Jets’ final drive secured the victory as it melted the final 7:55 off the clock. That was the fourth-longest game-ending drive by time since 1990, trailing Kellen Clemens’ monster 11:09 final drive in the rout of St, Louis in 2008, O’Brien’s 9:13 march at Indianapolis in 1991, and Neil O’Donnell’s 8:47 closer in the wind-aided shutout of Tampa Bay in 1997. Fifth on the list was then-rookie Sanchez’s 7:20 deal-sealer in his and Ryan’s first game with the Jets at Houston in ’09. None of those games was as close as this one was.
McElroy explained his rising to the moment on a conference call with reporters this afternoon.
“That thing, confident bordering on cocky, I would like to think its leaning a little bit more towards confident,” he chuckled. “But yeah, basically one thing that I’ve always tried to learn, one thing I’ve always tried to approach this game with, is you just never let them see you sweat. And that includes the players in your huddle, the players in the opposite huddle, the players on the opposite sideline, on your sideline. Regardless of the situation, always stay with an even keel, always have a positive mindset, and good things will happen. And that’s been the case up to this point.”
Tebow also spoke with reporters on this “Victory Monday” and said he’s “not sure” how close he is to playing. “I feel like I’m healing up and getting there,” he said. He shrugged off all the questions about if he could have played Sunday, if he’ll start this weekend — in his hometown of Jacksonville, no less — and the unfairness and controversy of it all.
“Obviously, Jacksonville is where I grew up and it will always be a special place for me. It doesn’t matter how many family members or friends are going to be there. You just have to look at it as another game,” he said, adding of his opportunities this season: “I’m thankful for every one I am given. I think you just try and handle every situation the best you can and I’ve tried to handle every situation this year the best way I know how and make the most of every situation.”
Odds and Ends
The Jets defense against Arizona set, well, if not an NFL record at least a milestone for other big, bad defenses to try and pass as they ride roughshod over struggling offenses. The Elias Sports Bureau revealed that by blanking the Cardinals on 15 third-down conversion attempts, the Jets posted the first 0-for-15 in the NFL since the 1970 merger. The previous oh-fir mark was 0-for-14, set by Denver against San Diego in 1975 and equaled by the Jets at Tampa in 2009.
The Jets achieved a rarity by getting Sunday’s win despite a minus-3 turnover margin. The last time they won with a minus-3 was Game 7 in 2008, the 28-24 comeback win over Kansas City with Brett Favre at the controls. The Jets all-time are 5-56-3 when they have three more turnovers in a game, 5-105-4 when they have three or more TOs.
Sanchez’s interception on the Jets’ first play from scrimmage was not his first time. He also threw a pick on the opening play vs. Jacksonville in Game 9 of 2009. Interestingly, he’s at least in good company. Vinny Testaverde threw interceptions on the Jets’ first plays in back-to-back games in 1998, against Buffalo in Game 9 (win) and at Indy in Game 10 (loss).
Ryan said of the two injured offensive players that TE Dustin Keller’s ankle injury “doesn’t look like a high ankle sprain” but that he “has some swelling,” and that RB-KR Joe McKnight has a rib injury but that tests “were negative as far as broken ribs or anything.”
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Greg McElroy, Jacksonville Jaguars, Ken O'Brien, Mark Sanchez, Matt Cavanaugh, Rex Ryan, Tim Tebow, Tony Sparano, Vinny Testaverde
Posted in Randy Lange | 175 Comments »
The backup QB beat went on today with head coach Rex Ryan still waiting to declare on Sunday, 90 minutes before the 1 p.m. ET kickoff against the Cardinals, whether or not Tim Tebow will be active with his cracked ribs and whether or not Greg McElroy will be active for the first time in his pro career.
“Seriously, we’re looking into it. Tim’s been limited and really very limited in some of the snaps he does take,” Ryan said. “We’re just tracking it and we’ll see how he feels. Could it be a gametime decision? It could be.”
Tebow, after today’s final practice of the week at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, maintained his belief in his ability to suck it up and play, with his ribs protected as much as possible by a flak jacket.
“I feel like I’m getting a little bit better every day,” the QB said. “Obviously, I’d love to be out there doing everything, but they’re trying to be smart so I’m just slowly progressing with things every day and it’ll be up to Coach and the docs.”
Tebow’s also well aware of the Wildcat-preparation-time factor that will have gone into Arizona’s practices this week out in the Valley of the Sun.
“If I knew? No, I wouldn’t tell you,” Tebow said with a laugh of whether he’d divulge if he knew today that he would be active on Sunday. “I don’t know. Who knows?”
McElroy doesn’t know anything other than that he went into this week getting himself ready to go just as he had before the 11 previous games this season, for all of which he was deactivated on gameday.
“I’m sure it’ll be a decision made on gameday,” G-Mac told reporters in front of his locker. “Every week I try to prepare like I’m going to be activated. Last year I was on IR all year but I still prepared like I was going to be out there.
“This situation hasn’t changed anything for me. There’s no more adrenaline this week, really. I’m just being consistent in preparing as the third quarterback for whatever my role may be.”
Ryan reiterated his stance from before the New England game, that Tebow would not be put in the position of having to throw 50 passes in a game but wasn’t ruling in or out that No. 15 might be active for a much smaller role. The coach reiterated that Tebow was cleared to play medically and that “people have played with cracked ribs before.”
Similarly about McElroy being active, Ryan said, “I’m not read to declare that yet.” But he asked and answered another question a few sentences later: “Is it a possibility we will have Greg up? That is a possibility.”
Now what would happen if Tebow was again active and McElroy wasn’t, and that both Mark Sanchez and Tebow were to get dinged up during the game? Who would go in at QB for the Green & White. Ryan confirmed it would be WR Jeremy Kerley.
“But again, we’re going to be doing a lot of running if that’s the case,” Ryan said. “He was a quarterback in high school, he was recruited that way, he can throw the football. … Obviously, it’s not the situation you’d want to be in.”
One final point: As Ryan noted, “A lot of teams only have two quarterbacks on their entire roster. I’m saying that if Tim had to play every snap with the ribs, then you’d try to protect yourself with another quarterback.” But if the worst-case scenario hit, “basically you’d be trying to get through the game, then next week it’d be a different situation at quarterback.”
It’s true that every team in the NFL, regardless of if it had two or three QBs on the roster, last weekend had only two quarterbacks active for its game. The team closest to having three QBs active were the Bills with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting, Tyler Thigpen backing up and Brad Smith playing at WR and ready to step behind C if needed.
However, it’s not known if any other team fit into the Jets’ situation of having one healthy and one unhealthy QB active for a game. And in a few days we’ll see if the Jets play it similarly on Sunday or come up with a different take on their operational QB depth chart for the game.
Jason Smith, Decoy … or Is He?
It was one lonely touchdown at the end of a long night, but it was interesting to note who was in the pattern along with Dustin Keller, who caught Sanchez’s 1-yard touchdown flip with 2:21 left in the Jets’ Thanksgiving night loss to the Patriots.
“I know Mark threw an awesome ball to Dustin and he made a great catch,” said T/TE Jason Smith. “Touchdowns for any team in the NFL are very, very important. Me as a player, I’m just one piece to the puzzle. I’m very happy to be a part of this team. I believe in what we’re doing here. The guys who deserve credit are Austin, Brandon, Nick, Matt and D’Brickashaw. Those guys are working real hard to make sure this truck goes.”
We’re not sure how much Jason was pulling our leg, but he is an earnest young swing tackle and blocking tight end on this Green & White truck, and on that play he was an eligible receiver.
As Keller released from the right end of the line and curled to the left in the back of the end zone, Smith, one player over, did the same along the goal line. It could even be said that whether Smith was Sanchez’s first, second, third or fourth option on the play, he helped make the play work by drawing rookie CB Alfonzo Dennard up from Keller to have to guard this 6’5″, 308-pounder wearing No. 63 who was barreling toward him looking like a potential TD target.
Smith has been on the field for about 16 offensive plays a game, almost exclusively as a second or third tight end on short yardage/goal line plays. But we big guys can dream, can’t we?
Buttle Enters the Twitterverse
Jets fans are well aware of Greg Buttle’s work, once as the Jets’ top-tackling linebacker behind the Sack Exchange, more recently as a commenter on the team’s pre- and postgame shows on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. And now Buttle’s reaching out to a whole new circle of fans with his new Twitter account, @buttlenews.
“Don LaGreca talked me into tweeting,” Buttle said of his radio cohost. “We’ll be sitting there watching the game when Don will suddenly start tweeting something like, ‘I can’t believe it happened in 52 second.’ I don’t get it. I’m not into putting stuff out that’s so obvious. But Don and everybody I talk to in the marketing world says if you’re not on Twitter, it’s a mistake.”
We’re about to see if Buttle being on Twitter is a mistake, but we don’t think so. Greg is a Jet all the way, yet still ready to put a lick on his old team if the play on the field requires it. And as he realizes, “People out there, for some unknown reason, love this stuff. They want to hear Nick Nolte say, ‘I can’t stand Eddie Murphy.’ “
In less than 48 hours we’ll get to check out Buttle’s tweets on the Jets-Cards game. Make him feel at home, all you tweetahs. At the moment he’s got only one tweet live, he has three followers and he’s following three others.
Official Injury Status
Ryan didn’t pass on his injury list at his afternoon news conference as he usually does on Fridays, but the lists from the Jets and the Cardinals have now been released. Not too many surprises.
For the Jets, WR Clyde Gates (concussion) is listed as doubtful. Besides Tebow, three others are questionable: CB Aaron Berry (quad), DT Sione Po‘uha (back) and LB Ricky Sapp (ankle). The 15 other Jets on the list are all probable, including G Brandon Moore, the only one of the 15 who was limited rather than full-go at today’s shorter final practice.
For the Cards, six players are questionable: WR Laron Byrd (head), DE Calais Campbell (calf), WR Early Doucet (ribs), QB Kevin Kolb (ribs), WR Andre Roberts (ankle) and RB Chris “Beanie” Wells (knee). The other four on the Arizona report this week, including ex-Jets S Kerry Rhodes (back) are probable.
Reports out of Arizona suggest that Kolb is yet ready to take the rigors of a full game of hits on his ribs (where have we heard that before) so rookie Ryan Lindley is expected to make his second pro start. And there was some indecision about whether Campbell would be ready to display what Ryan called his “Pro Bowl-type” play with the calf injury he suffered during the Cards’ bye week.
Tags: Arizona Cardinals, Calais Campbell, Don LaGreca, Greg Buttle, Greg McElroy, Jason Smith, Kevin Kolb, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Ryan Lindley, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 41 Comments »