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
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Rex Ryan said nothing much good comes out of a loss except possibly the learning. And what the Jets may have learned is that their run defense can be all that it thought it was before C.J. Spiller creased them a few times on opening day.
“We’ve got to put the loss behind us,” DE Muhammad Wilkerson said of the Sunday slipup in Pittsburgh, “but we were challenging ourselves all last week about being physical up front. We just wanted to come out and attack the challenge.”
“We need to bounce back still from that first game,” said DT Mike DeVito. “We kind of took the pedal off the gas there and let the Bills run for some yards. We want to be the top run defense in the league. We’re capable of doing that. So now it’s just digging ourselves out of that hole that we started off in.”
By a few measures, the run defense was outstanding in Pittsburgh. The Steelers needed Ben Roethlisberger to carry them on his broad shoulders because their backs were finding no room in gaining 66 yards on 28 carries.
A big component of those figures were seven Jets tackles behind the line of scrimmage (six on running plays, one on a pass) for minus-22 yards. Led by Wilkerson (2.5 TFLs) and LB Garrett McIntyre (2.0 TFLs, two sacks), those two team figures were both the most in a game in four seasons under Ryan. The last time they had seven TFLs was in the 2007 home win over the Steelers. The last time they racked up more than 20 yards in losses was when they went 7-for-27 at Buffalo in 2004.
On their own, TFLs in a game aren’t great predictors of victory. But they can be an important part of a defensive game plan that can shut down a potent ground game and turn an offense one-dimensional, especially if led by a rookie QB.
Kind of like what the Jets’ run defense would like to do Sunday at Miami. Job One: Prune Reggie Bush.
“They’ve got a great back with Reggie,” Wilkerson said. “He’s a fast guy, so again we’ve got to be physical up front and don’t let him get outside to the edge, because if we do that, it’ll be a problem.”
Bush has been a feast-or-famine type runner over the years. Among the 56 NFL backs with 500 carries since 2006, he’s sixth in percentage of 10-yard-plus runs but he’s also fourth in percentage of “stuffs,” or being tackled for loss. So far this season he’s been feasting — his 241 rushing and 312 yards from scrimmage are both second in the league (behind Spiller, coincidentally).
“With a guy like that, this takes all 11 guys to stop him,” McIntyre said. “We’ve got to create lots of penetration. We’ve got to set edges. That’s huge this week.”
Especially because as poised as Ryan Tannehill has sometimes looked, he’s a rookie who’s been sacked four times, thrown three INTs to one TD and passed to a rating of 62.6.
Tannehill’s comfort in the pocket will be dependent on Bush’s comfort in running the ball and moving the chains.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” DeVito said. “That’s they key to the game, who we play as a defensive front.”
Revis and the Walking Wounded
The Jets’ injury list keeps growing each week. Today’s first report of the week is up to a season-high 19 players. But the good news is that 11 of them were full-go in practice today. And the news is cautiously optimistic on the key-player front as well.
CB Darrelle Revis? “He has not been cleared for contact. He has been cleared for practice,” said Ryan. “We’ll see how that goes.” Revis was in fact limited today.
TE Dustin Keller? Did not participate in practice but sounded confident again that he’ll be ready to play at Miami.
QB Mark Sanchez, who appeared on the list as full participation with a low-back twinge? “I just found out about it today,” Ryan said. “I don’t think it’s that serious.”
Also DNPs were LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring), S Eric Smith (hip/knee) and FB John Conner (knee). Said McIntyre about getting a second start for BT at OLB: “I’ve got to prepare like I’m going to be the guy and whatever happens, happens. I’ll do whatever role they want me to do, whatever it means, as long as we get wins. The more depth we have, the better we are.”
The Dolphins have listed nine players on their Wednesday list. Backup DT Tony McDaniel (knee) didn’t participate Starting CB Richard Marshall (back) and backup WRs Anthony Marshall (hamstring) and Marlon Moore (hamstring) were all limited. Five ‘Fins were full practice.
McKnight Prognosis: Two-Plus Plays
Ryan was pressed about two play-related situations by reporters. One predictably involved the Tim Tebow Wildcat, which went from eight plays vs. Buffalo to three at Pitt. How much will we see the ‘Cat vs. the ‘Fins?
“That’s the beauty of it because we control it,” the head coach said. “The media’s not going to drive it and the opponents, they’re not going to have any idea what we’re going to do with him,” the head coach said. “I think I know the answer but I’m not going to give it to you. I think it’s in our best interests that our opponents don’t know exactly. Will the Wildcat really be featured this week or is it more back-burnered? I think that plays into our advantage.”
As for kickoff man McKnight, Ryan said his one play on offense, on which he ran for 12 yards with a handoff from Tebow, was a function of him being “a little nicked. We’ll see. I think he’ll have a bigger role this week.” How big? “I would think he’d play a bigger role than one snap.”
Tags: Darrelle Revis, Dustin Keller, Garrett McIntyre, joe McKnight, Mark Sanchez, Miami Dolphins, Mike DeVito, Muhammad Wilkerson, Reggie Bush, run defense, Ryan Tannehill, Tim Tebow, Wildcat
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Updated, 8:10 p.m. ET
Project: Wildcat is about to be unveiled on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. So said Rex Ryan at his news conference today.
Ryan didn’t volunteer any state secrets ahead of seeing how the Jets will run the ‘Cat with Tim Tebow at the controls, but in response to several questions ahead of the Jets’ return-to-work practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center this afternoon, he wasn’t denying that the ‘Cat was ready to be let out of the bag.
“I think if we don’t, everybody will be like, ‘Wait a second,’ ” Ryan said. “Sure, we’re going to run some Wildcat, there’s no bout. Is it specifically just against the Buffalo defense? No, it’s not. In fact, this team will probably be as prepared to face the Wildcat as any team we’ll face.”
That’s not only because of Brad Smith’s presence on the Bills roster but also David Lee’s spot on the coaching staff. Lee, Buffalo’s QBs coach, was Tony Sparano’s QBs coach with Miami from 2008-10 and helped Sparano get the scheme up and flying.
Nevertheless, Rex said there was no secret to keeping the scheme under wraps other than not wanting to tip their hand before the Bills game.
“We never ran it. I guess we never appeased whoever. But our intent was that there was no sense showing it right now in the preseason, just like I’m sure a lot of teams are saving specific things for their openers,” he said.
The other major topic at the newser was the Jets’ health. Ryan wasn’t providing his typical “bonus coverage” by giving a complete rundown of the Green & White’s injury list that he doesn’t have to reveal until Wednesday. But he wasn’t guaranteeing the availability of NT Sione Po‘uha or TE Dustin Keller for the Bills just yet.
“I’m not real sure on Sione. I’m anticipating Dustin being able to play. Barring a setback, I think he plays,” the coach said, adding that as far as practicing today, “I would tend to think they wouldn’t. With [Keller’s\ hamstring, we might wait till Wednesday. We’ll see what John has them doing today.”
J.P. Pelzman of The Record asked about the possibility that if Po‘uha does suit up this week for practice, he might be on a “pitch count” similar to the one that head trainer John Mellody and his staff had for S LaRon Landry during training camp.
After practice, Po‘uha was definitive on his availability. “Ithink I’m a little bit ahead of exactly where I should be,” said Big Bo. “I’m ready to go. My job is to make sure I’m well and ready to play. All I’ve been doing is getting ready to go, and I feel great.”
On one more injury front, Rex was asked if he had an update on Joe McKnight’s hamstring.
“No, I sure don’t,” he replied. “But I know Joe thinks he’s going to play.”
Hill of a Pick
We know Ryan’s way of using humor to get a point across. We also know Don Banks of Sports Illustrated as a very solid reporter. We also think something got lost in the translation in Banks’ report on what Rex told him about second-round WR Stephen Hill.
“Well, nothing told me he would [contribute]. Nothing,’’ Ryan was quoted by Banks. “When I saw the tape, I was concerned. But Mike Tannenbaum and Terry Bradway and all our scouts were adamant about this guy. They were adamant that this guy can do it. He can run all these routes, he had good hands and he’s got 4.2 speed at 6’5″. He was the guy they all wanted, but honestly, when it came down to it, a wideout? Not my dream pick. But now that we have him, of course, I want to claim him: ‘Oh, that was my pick.’ But it really wasn’t.”
Ryan clarified that he was using some self-deprecating humor with Banks and that Hill has been developing very nicely so far, a feeling he conveyed to reporters several times when he talked about Hill with reporters throughout the preseason.
“Yeah, that one took off in a way that was different than what the intent was. Actually, I was talking about our scouting department and how Mike, Terry and those guys identified Stephen. I’ve said it before, he wasn’t my guy, meaning that he’s exceeded where I thought a rookie receiver would be, without question.
“The fact that he was from Georgia Tech, I’ve got nothing against Georgia Tech. It’s a great program. We talk about us being ground and pound, that’s major ground and pound. But he’s picked things up way faster than I thought. I was saying, ‘He’s definitely my pick now’ because I think he’s definitely going to have a bright future.”
Hill showed no negative feelings tonight after practice about this episode.
“I honestly just heard about it maybe 10 minutes ago,” he said. “Coach Ryan, I understand, is a defensive coach, but I know he was definitely joking about the situation. I’m just ready to play on Sunday. That’s my biggest focus.”
Along with the regular season, the Jets’ “community season” also gets started this week and next. Reporter John Holt will be bringing weekly stories to our site about the Green & White’s good deeds off the field, and a few Jets and ex-Jets are getting that ball rolling this week.
G Brandon Moore, for instance, is jump-starting the school year for 100 Newark, N.J., youth as he, his wife, Regina, and The Moore Family Foundation hold their Back to School Extravaganza on Tuesday from 5-7:30 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club Newark.
Moore and company will provide backpacks and school supplies to the kids at the Boys and Girls Club for the third consecutive year, after which the Pro Bowl O-lineman will take 40 children back-to-school-shopping at the local Target.
Then when it comes to the NFL Play 60 Youth Football Festival, three former Jets — WR Wayne Chrebet, DT Joe Klecko and QB Chad Pennington — will be among the dozen players who will team with local youth to get across the message for kids to stay active for 60 minutes a day. Students will learn NFL FLAG drills from USA Football coaches and participate in drills with the players on Tuesday and Wednesday at New York’s Chelsea Waterside Park, located on 11th Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets.
Tags: Dustin Keller, joe McKnight, Rex Ryan, Sione Pouha, Tim Tebow, Wildcat
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The ‘Cat will be let out of its cage to do some battle with the Bengals on Friday night. As head coach Rex Ryan said at today’s midday news conference, “The Wildcat is something Cincinnati needs to prepare for.”
That’s really no secret tipoff about the Jets’ game plan for their preseason opener. Ryan and coordinator Tony Sparano haven’t installed all of the offense yet, and most of the plays that have been installed with Tim Tebow awaiting the shotgun snap hasn’t been shown to fans and reporters. One exception was last Thursday, when a “live” Tebow spread the offense, then took the snap and ran over between the tackles for the score.
Tebow, starter Mark Sanchez and the rest of the Jets will be live and ready to thrive vs. the Bengals, the team that took advantage of the Green & White’s late-season meltdown to grab the AFC’s sixth playoff seed in January.
Ryan didn’t give any rotation plans, at QB or any other position, although he said the first teams would likely play the first quarter, about 15 plays, give or take, before leaving the field for the twos, threes and fours.
Asked later about his plans for Sanchez and Tebow, the coach expanded a little bit, saying, “With us it’s a new offense and everybody needs reps. Will we extend the first offense more than a quarter? We’ll see. I think Tim and everybody else needs the opportunity to go against live competition. I think that’s where he excels.”
Tebow got some extended playing time at this morning’s practice, but not because Sanchez was struggling. Rather, Mark was sharp as a tack in going 4-for-4 ahead of defenders in the first-team blitz-pickup period.
But TT also had some nice throws today. He hit Patrick Turner for a score against Antonio Cromartie (although he might have been sacked by Bart Scott before firing), Jeff Cumberland on a seam route, and a well-covered Josh Baker on a deep out-route. And when he took Sanchez’s reps with the ones in the two-minute period, he got the offense close enough for Josh Brown to bang home a 53-yard “gamewinner.”
Ryan may be getting amped to get a preview of how his and Sparano’s offense will look this season.
“I’m excited to be looking at all the guys,” he said. “Let’s see, this is a new offense for us. I’m excited to see where that is right now, where we’re at. Also the defense … I hate to be singling out this person, or that person. I’m really excited to see ‘em all play, I really am.”
Sidelined for Cincy
The offense will have to proceed without two of its top wideouts as Santonio Holmes (rib) and Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) won’t play. The O may also be without RT Wayne Hunter (back), in which case Ryan said Austin Howard would step into the starting lineup. But the O-line will get the return of Nick Mangold, who missed Saturday’s Green & White practice to watch his sister, Holley, compete in the London Olympics.
On the defensive line, NT Sione Po‘uha will also sit out with a stiff back and the stitches for the gash on his forehead.
Throttling Down Maybin
LB Aaron Maybin continues to have a high-speed, productive camp, but he committed a gaffe today when, in the non-tackling two-minute period, he hit and spun to the ground WR Eron Riley after a catch, drawing a personal-foul penalty.
“That’s something we’ve talked about,” Ryan said. “I love the way he plays, I love his passion, I love the way he practices, but you still have to protect [teammates]. You don’t have to throw the guy on the ground and things. He loves to get there, he loves to participate, practice and compete. But that’s still a work in progress.”
David Harris continued his nice pass defense with an artful PD of a pass for Dustin Keller in 7-on-7s. … CB Darrelle Revis made a deft tackle for loss on a pitch play. … Rookie LB Demario Davis had a sack of Greg McElroy up the gut. … Donnie Fletcher plucked a pick on a Matt Simms pass for Bilal Powell that may have been deflected by Maybin. … Today’s attendance: 2,496. … Thursday’s walkthrough is closed, then the team will fly out to Cincinnati.
Tags: Cincinnati Bengals, Jeremy Kerley, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Santonio Holmes, Sione Pouha, Tim Tebow, Tony Sparano, training camp, Wayne Hunter, Wildcat
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