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Chatman Returns; Graham Released Again

Posted by Randy Lange on September 29, 2008 – 5:06 pm

Head coach Eric Mangini had several housekeeping matters to discuss at the top of today’s afternoon news conference. First on the list: Jesse Chatman’s four-game NFL suspension is over.

"Jesse will be able to work through the week with an exemption," Mangini said. "Starting next week, we’ll have to make some kind of decision in terms of the roster."

The coach also announced that veteran punter Ben Graham has been released for the second time in two weeks.

"When we signed Reggie Hodges, we liked him coming out and the things he did here," Mangini said. "Unfortunately, his early stages here and not being able to have an opportunity, we wanted to give him that opportunity and see how that is."

As for Graham’s good net but lack of hang time in his two games since his first release, the coach said: "You always want to have the combination of hang time and distance."

OL Will Montgomery, waived when Graham was re-signed before the Chargers game, is back on the active roster. Also, WR Paul Raymond has been released from the practice squad.

As for Mangini’s post-victory players of the game, the winners are: Offense — Brett Favre; Defense — Calvin Pace; Special Teams — Vernon Gholston ("Having four tackles was really a positive day for him"), and Practice Player — C.J. Mosley ("He did a great job of simulating Darnell Dockett for us").

Card Game Matters

Many fans were thrilled with the Jets’ defense in the first half of their 56-35 win over Arizona on Sunday, not so thrilled with the "D" in the second half. Same with Mangini, who said in response to a question at his news conference that he was playing anything but a "prevent" to try to slow the Cards down.

"We knew they had used that personnel grouping quite a bit," Mangini said about the Cards’ "10" package (one RB, no TEs) that put up 376 yards of offense and all 35 points in the second half alone. "Knowing that it was going to be a no-huddle situation, we felt really good about the fact that we’d spent a lot of time working on their 10 personnel.

"Whether it was zone blitzes with safeties, zone blitzes with two edge guys, zone blitzes with linebackers, dropping eight and playing three-deep, dropping eight and playing two-deep — we did all those things.

"You don’t want to take anything away from Kurt Warner and the excellent receivers they have," the coach said. "But you’ve got to be able to execute more effectively than we did. … It was a combination of us not executing well and them executing very well. We’ve got to get a lot better."

That’s what bye week’s are for.

Mangini was also asked about going for the two-point conversion with 1:54 left to make it a 21-point game. That call was also tied to the Cards’ offense.

"They had pretty much walked up and down the field and scored at will," he said. "I remember at Cleveland, we were playing the Bengals in 1995. There was 1:04 left and they scored quickly, then they scored again to force overtime. Between fast strikes and onsides kicks, the way those things were going, I just made the decision to make it a three-touchdown came in order to tie rather than to win."

The coach also discussed the helmet-to-helmet collision between Jets S Eric Smith and Arizona WR Anquan Boldin at the goal line with 27 seconds to play. I’ll have a news story about the hit, with comments from Mangini and Smith, up on the site shortly.


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Mangini on Leon: ‘That’s What You Want’

Posted by Randy Lange on September 25, 2008 – 11:46 am

A question about Leon Washington at today’s news conference brought some new anecdotes and observations about No. 29 from head coach Eric Mangini at his morning news conference today.

"I could talk all day about Leon," Mangini said, reflecting again on how far Washington has come from his first days as a fourth-round rookie out of the 2006 draft to now.

"The fact that he was voted special teams captain says a lot — he’s the youngest guy to be voted captain this year. On kickoff returns yesterday, every single return he runs back 95 yards, 80 yards, from wherever he caught the kick. And I’m not talking about a slight job at the end — he’s haulin’. That’s what you want. He runs every return in practice like he runs it in a game.

"He’s presented information to the team before," the coach said, referring to the process where a player in a position meeting will be asked to report on a phase of the upcoming opponents’ attack. "Mike [Westhoff] will say to a player, ‘Present their punt team.’ When Leon does it, it’s not only the things related to him. He can talk about the flyers, protection, all the blocks.

"You know when he’s going home, he’s not watching ‘American Idol.’ He’s studying the tape, and that shows up every single day."

Significantly, after Washington was able to cut loose for the first time this season at San Diego, he has moved up the charts to third in the NFL among qualifying kickoff returners with a 33.1-yard average, behind only New England’s Ellis Hobbs (36.0) and Dallas rookie Felix Jones (35.1).

Before he got into his Leon riff, Mangini opened his presser by mentioning that he liked the effort and communication during the course of Wednesday’s practice and stressed the need to have consistent days and weeks of practice. Which prompted the first question about how the consistency had been the past few weeks.

"There’ve been some really outstanding days and there’ve been some days that could’ve been better," he said. "What my message always is to the team is to have the same level every single day. How you practice, how you prepare — that’s what translates into performance on Sunday."

There wasn’t much change for QB Brett Favre (ankle) and DT Kris Jenkins (back) from Wednesday to today. The coach said for both, their practice reps (Favre was listed as limited, Jenkins as not participating in some of Wednesday’s team drills) and progress should increase through today’s and Friday’s workouts ahead of Sunday’s return to the Meadowlands to tackle the Cardinals.

Regarding the Cards, the Jets will be wearing their Titans navy and gold throwback jerseys for this game. And in keeping with the theme, the players also changed up practice today, shelving their green and white helmets for their navy Titans helmets for the first time this season.

One housekeeping note, which Mangini forgot to mention at the top of his news conference, is that Hank Poteat is back. The much-traveled corner returns to the active roster and is at practice now. To make room, OL Will Montgomery was waived.

It’s developed into a busy homestretch toward Arizona. We’re planning later this afternoon to post Eric Allen’s story on the Jets defense vs. the Cards’ dynamic duo of WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, Tim Carlson’s piece on Calvin Pace’s long-awaited matchup with the team that took him in the first round of the 2002 draft, and my visit with Poteat.

Injury Update

Here is a report on how Favre looked today, according to Associated Press beat writter Dennis Waszak:

Brett Favre walked with only a slight limp Thursday.

The 38-year-old Jets quarterback twisted his left ankle Monday night in New York’s loss at San Diego. Though the ankle was tightly wrapped, Favre appeared to walk comfortably through the locker room before practice.

He took part in warmup jogs and threw with no noticeable discomfort in the half-hour of practice the media are allowed to watch. Favre took one awkward step on a handoff and appeared to grimace, but seemed fine afterward

On today’s Jets injury report, Favre remains listed as limited in some portions of 11-on-11 team work. The only change: Jenkins went from not practicing Wednesday to being limited today.

On the Cardinals’ I-report, DE Bertrand Berry, their leading pass rusher with three sacks, was moved to out for the Jets game with a groin tear. But DT Darnell Dockett, who also didn’t practice Wednesday, was limited at today’s practice.

You can check here for today’s complete injury reports.


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The Numbers Keep Rolling In

Posted by Randy Lange on March 21, 2008 – 3:23 pm

They say you can’t tell the players without a scorecard, and that’s especially true of the Jets players who left the locker room today after concluding their first week of off-season strength and conditioning work together. It’s never too early to begin to familiarize oneself with the uniform numbers that will be showing up in the photos and videos from minicamps, OTAs and training camp in the coming months.

The biggest Green & White number talk is on the offensive line. Alan Faneca had been 66 in his 10 Steelers seasons, but Will Montgomery wore that number for the Jets last season. Word is the two have struck a deal. Faneca will again wear 66, and Montgomery will shift to 68, the number made famous here by C Kevin Mawae and made available when RT Anthony Clement was released earlier this month.

Damien Woody was in search of some new figures on his jersey. He had worn 65 in his nine pro seasons with New England and Detroit, but right guard Brandon Moore has worn that number in his five Jets seasons, so Woody has leapfrogged past Moore and Faneca and claimed No. 67.

OLB Calvin Pace, who wore 97 with the Arizona Cardinals, will keep wearing it with the Jets. TE Bubba Franks, 88 as a Packer, will be the piano man here as well.

RB Jesse Chatman, who’s always been a twentysomething as an NFL player (he’s 28 years old and wore 24 as a Charger and 28 as a Dolphin), will continue that decade-long tradition as 22 with the Jets, taking over the number vacated by new No. 21 Justin Miller.

In the secondary, Artrell Hawkins, who was 27 with the Bengals and Panthers and 25 as a Patriot, averages out the two numbers in grabbing 26, which opened up with Erik Coleman’s move to the Falcons, while Andre Woolfolk, who was 26 with the Titans, steps up to No. 38 here.

Real New Yorkers, Mate

Ben Graham stopped by to talk for a few minutes after his workout this morning. I’ll be doing a piece to kick off the week after Easter on how Graham and new special teams coach Kevin O’Dea are hitting it off, but I’ll tease that story now with just a little bit of Ben and his family sinking their roots further in America.

As many Jets fans know, Ben, a top Australian-rules footballer, and his wife, Katie, and daughters Sophie and Rosie arrived from Down Under in 2005 as he began a new career as an NFL punter. But the family dynamic changed with the birth of the Grahams’ first son late last season.

"Jack Benjamin’s 4½ months old," Graham said proudly. "He was born here in the States, so he’s our anchor now. Our last off-season [after the 2006 season], we went back to Australia for two months. This off-season, with Jack being so young and the girls in school, I only went home, for my brother’s wedding, for a week."

The Grahams have lived on Long Island since Ben took over the Jets’ punting chores in ’05, and they (as all Jets players and their families are doing) are now exploring homes in the Garden State in advance of the opening of the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J.

The house-hunting in the metropolitan area, combined with little Jack’s passport showing up in the mailbox last week, are sending an unmistakable message.

"While we’re still Australian," Ben said, "we’re becoming more and more embedded in this country and society."

We’re happy you’re here, Grahams, and we’re looking forward to Ben punting lights-out in 2008. More on that Monday.


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The New Kids on the Block

Posted by Randy Lange on December 27, 2007 – 8:53 am

The Jets locker room recently has taken on the feel of a truck stop, with wiry, muscular men coming and going every week. This can be a good thing if the bodies coming in are better than the bodies going out. As Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini said when they first arrived here early in 2006, they’ll be looking under every rock all year long to find their kind of players, and the looking continues.

Perhaps they found some good ones in Robert Turner and Clint Oldenburg. Turner has been around the Jets since May, Oldenburg since September. Both were practice-squadders until being signed to the active roster a week ago, and both made their NFL debuts in O-line rotations at Tennessee. I visited with both in Wednesday’s locker room session to check out the cut of their jibs (to paraphrase Montgomery Burns).

Turner, alternating with Will Montgomery at left guard, actually helped hold Pro Bowl DT Albert Haynesworth at bay Sunday, but he’s a low-key guy who could pass for one of those thoughtful folksy, bluesy singers from his hometown of Austin, Texas, so he wasn’t jumping for joy in front of his locker over his NFL unveiling.

"I think it was a good experience getting my feet wet," he said. "Obviously there are things I personally can improve on, whether it’s the game plan or technique or just being a better football player. It was a good start. I wish we would’ve won, regardless of whether I played or not. That’s the biggest thing is getting a ‘W’ and I think just self-improvement, everybody taking it one step at a time."

For those reasons, Turner had a few blocks he liked but he wasn’t thinking in terms of a great play as the highlight of his big day.

"I don’t think in a situation like this you can really look at an individual highlight when we have three wins on the season," he said. "It’s more about getting better as a team within the scheme. That could be a personal highlight for me, getting better within the scheme to help the team."

Oldenburg has that same kind of mindset. But he had less exposure in coming in for Anthony Clement at RT than Turner had at LG, and one play stood out for him.

"Obviously, I gave up that sack," he said, reflecting on Titans DE Travis LaBoy’s takedown of Chad Pennington in the second quarter, "and you never want to do something like that ever, especially not in your debut, so I’m disappointed in that."

But Oldenburg, the Patriots’ fifth-round pick this year, is happy he’s contributing to the Green & White program, something he didn’t know he’d be doing in Nashville.

"When you’re on the practice squad, that’s always your goal, to get activated and play, but you never know when it’s going to happen so you have to stay ready," he said. "I actually had no idea, but I was preparing myself for that every week. I was ready to go, and I appreciate the opportunity from Coach Mangini. Now I’ve got to go out there and do better."

That’s part of the Mangini philosophy. If you stay, it’s a good bet you’ll play.

"I’ve liked both those guys," head coach Eric Mangini said at his Wednesday news conference. "We had a chance to bring them up, something he had done with [Jason] Trusnik earlier on and Chris Davis. Those guys had reached that point where I thought it was the right time for them.

"They both really have earned the opportunity," the coach continued. "It’s more a function of them creating the chance to play, and then once they get in the game, seeing how well they’re doing and evaluating that as you go."

Does that mean we’ll see more of Turner and Oldenburg in the season finale vs. Kansas City? I really don’t know, but I sense talking to them today that they have the right mentality for the Mangini plan.

"If they’re going to bring you in," Turner said, "you’ve got to be ready to go, physically, mentally, emotionally and within the game plan itself."

J-Co One More Time

Another wrinkle to Jerricho Cotchery’s eight-catch, 152-yard, one-TD game at Tennessee was his double centerpiece to the day, a pair of 40-yard receptions. The first was the 48-yard post in the second quarter, 35 of it in the air from Chad Pennington. The second was the 41-yard catch-and-run — mostly 37 yards of run — in the third quarter.

It was Cotchery’s second double-40 game of the season (you remember Game 2 at Baltimore, of course). And it is sobering to consider that J-Co equaled the number of other double-40 games by all other Jets pass-catchers combined since 1995. Here’s the short list of those performances:

 Year Receiver QB Opp. Yards
 1999 Keyshawn Johnson Tom Tupa vs. NE 50, 65
 2003 Santana Moss Chad Pennington at OAK 65t, 43
 2007 Jerricho Cotchery Kellen Clemens at BAL 44, 50
 2007 Jerricho Cotchery Chad Pennington at TEN 48, 41

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Mangini Still Gauging Clemens Status

Posted by Eric Allen on December 24, 2007 – 4:29 pm

On this day before Christmas, Jets head coach Eric Mangini held a short teleconference with reporters. The QB topic is always a hot one and Mangini was asked if it was important for the Jets to get another look at Kellen Clemens when the Jets host the Chiefs in their regular-season finale.

“You’d like to see him be able to play if he can play,” Mangini said of his second-year passer. “But the important thing is that he is able to play at a level that gives us the best chance to win and that’s what I’m going to gauge throughout the week.”

Clemens, who suffered a rib injury against the Patriots and was limited at practice, backed up Chad Pennington on Sunday in Nashville as the Green & White lost another close one.

“He made a lot of progress last week, which was why he was at the two-spot,” said Mangini. “We’ll see how he does this week and make a decision later in the week.”

Pennington had success moving the Jets at times, but he threw two costly interceptions and was under duress the entire game. The Green & White, who rotated youngsters at LG (Will Montgomery and Robert Turner) and also gave rookie Clint Oldenburg some time at RT, allowed the same number of sacks as they scored points.

“The sacks that we gave up were a group effort,” Mangini said. “It wasn’t a function of just those two guys at all. There were multiple guys involved.”

Rotation is nothing new for the Jets. On defense, the Jets like what they’re getting out of DT Sione Pouha. The 6’3”, 325-pounder led the club with eight solo tackles yesterday as the Jets held the Titans to 273 yards.

“He had a really outstanding game,” said the second-year head coach. “I’ve liked Sione’s progress for a long time.”

But Mangini was not happy with an unsportsmanlike-conduct infraction called on RG Brandon Moore in the third quarter. Following a 41-yard catch-and-run from Jerricho Cotchery, Moore thought his teammate had taken a late hit and he made that clear to the Titans. Unfortunately, the Jets were forced back 15 yards after the walkoff and they were unable to finish the drive with points.

“We had the ball first down at the 26-yard line before the penalty,” Mangini said. “Regardless of what your perception is, it’s what’s called.”

After placing Laveranues Coles on injured reserve Saturday, Mangini expounded upon a discussion he had with LC.

“We had a great conversation and I thanked him for all he did this year on the field and off the field. It was a difficult season,” Mangini said. “He did a really amazing job being a first-time captain, the way he represented the guys and the way he took that role on and was exceptional at it.”

The players have Christmas off since the holiday falls on a Tuesday this year. Mangini and the coaching staff will put together the game plan tomorrow, but the Jets’ leader was looking forward to a Christmas Eve at home with family and friends.

Happy Holidays from all of us here at the Jets to you and yours.


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Kapinos, Not Graham, Will Punt, Hold

Posted by Randy Lange on December 23, 2007 – 3:28 pm

The Jets are shaking up two positions on their roster for their game against the Tennessee Titans that starts in about an hour.

A major change involves Ben Graham being deactivated for the first time in his three seasons as the Jets punter. The punting duties will be handled by Jeremy Kapinos, recently signed to the practice squad and this week promoted to the active roster.

Kapinos is on the LP Field grass and punting during warmups now. His early kicks look solid — tight spirals with 4.5-second hangtimes into the currently gentle breezes of Nashville, Tenn.

Equally important as Kapinos’ punting will be his holding. He is kicker Mike Nugent’s new holders, and along with LS James Dearth, they are working on their timing right now, with Nugent just hitting 49- and 52-yarders toward the end zone that gave him so much trouble in last season’s opening game here. After the 52, Kapinos bumps fists with Nugent and Dearth.

Another change will be at LG, with Adrien Clarke also being deactivated after making 14 starts. The Jets haven’t announced who will start but it likely will be Will Montgomery, who’s been alternating at the position every few series with Clarke the past several weeks.

The Jets also have Robert Turner and Clint Oldenburg active after both were signed from the practice squad. They are listed at tackles on today’s flip card but either or both would, plus backup center Wade Smith, form the depth at all five positions for today.

As for quarterback, another fairly important position, no announcements have been made there, either. Chad Pennington is one of the five captains at the front of the team leading stretching now, and Kellen Clemens is in uniform and looks OK as well. Suspicions have been that Pennington will get his first start since Game 8 vs. Buffalo (although he played virtually the entire game last week at New England after Clemens got hurt). We’ll know the depth chart for this game soon enough.

The Jets’ inactives besides Graham and Clarke are WR Chris Davis, CB Andre Dyson (who had two INTs in last year’s game), OL Jacob Bender, TE Sean Ryan and DL Kareem Brown. Marques Tuiasosopo is again the third quarterback.

The Titans inactives also start with a stunner: Kevin Mawae, who injured his calf in last week’s game and didn’t practice at all this week, has been deactivated for this game against his former team. The Tennessee starter at C will be Eugene Amano.

DT Albert Haynesworth, fighting a nagging hamstring pull, also didn’t practice all week but is active and presumably ready to create havoc with the Jets’ interior O-line.

The Titans’ inactives besides Mawae are WRs Paul Williams and Mike Williams, CB Nick Harper, FB Casey Cramer, LB Gilbert Gardner and DEs Sean Conover and Bryce Fisher. They are not designating a third QB.

The Jets are in their white jerseys and green pants. The referee will be Terry McAulay. Dick Enberg and Randy Cross will be the CBS announcing team for the fourth Jets game this season. They also called the losses to Baltimore, the Giants and Cleveland.


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Coles Inactive; Start Streak Ends

Posted by Randy Lange on November 4, 2007 – 11:47 am

There are a lot of interesting sights on the Meadowlands turf this morning. Kellen Clemens is one of them, in black sweats and sporting that white Jets ski cap look as he runs around the turf and airs out his arm.

It will be Clemens’ first home regular-season start, after all. (His only other start at the Meadowlands was for Philadelphia to close the 2006 preseason.) He was one of the first out to warm up today, at 10:30 a.m., 2½ hours before kickoff, and now he’s exchanged throws of 45 to 50 yards into and with the morning wind with QB Marques Tuiasosopo.

In the Redskins’ burgundy sweats, there are Jason Fabini and Pete Kendall, of course, doing their early stretching. And Santana Moss, traded for Laveranues Coles in the 2005 off-season, is standing at the east 40 chatting with Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff, for whom Moss ran back three punt returns for TDs during his Green & White period.

Coles is also on the field, but the word is that LC will not be active due to the concussion he suffered in the fourth quarter against Buffalo. The news is expected after Coles didn’t participate in any of the three practices during the week, yet momentous nonetheless, because his impressive starting and appearance streaks will come to an end today.

He had started in 104 consecutive games beginning in 2001 and played in 107 straight dating to his Jets rookie season of 2000. Those streaks include his two-season Washington interlude in ’04-05 and they don’t include the postseason. Throw in his four playoff starts for the Jets in ’01, ’02 and ’06 and the streaks are 108 starts and 111 appearances in a row.

No matter how you slice it, his streaks are the longest among current NFL wideouts. Once he is declared inactive, both streaks will be history.

However, Coles’ pass-catching streaks will continue because one must play in a game without a catch to end such streaks. He’s caught at least one pass in 54 straight regular-season games for the Jets and in 58 straight NFL RS games. Great streaks all.

The Jets inactives have just been announced. Besides Coles, they include FB Darian Barnes, CB Drew Coleman, OL Adrian Jones, TEs Sean Ryan and Jason Pociask and DL C.J. Mosley, plus third QB Tuiasosopo.

WR Chris Davis, just signed off the practice squad Saturday, is wearing No. 19 and he is active. Might he run under a long Clemens heave or two today? Might he turn on the speed off the edge to harass K Shaun Suisham? We’ll see.

We’ll also see if and how OLs Jacob Bender and Will Montgomery will be used. Bender, the sixth-round rookie, was active for the first time last week. Montgomery, the second-year man, has been inactive every week since joining the Jets before Week 3. Both are up for this game.

Washington’s IAs are former Jets G Randy Thomas, CB David Macklin, LB Marcus Washington, OL Mike Pucillo, DT Ryan Boschetti, and OL Kevin Sampson, with veteran Mark Brunell as the third QB. (Todd Collins is backing up starter Jason Campbell.)

In about 75 minutes, we’ll see how well the Jets (1-7) do with their two new QBs — Clemens on offense, David Harris in his second start at ILB and as the defense’s main signalcaller — against their infrequent playing rivals but frequent trading partners, the Redskins (4-3).


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Mangini Confirms Call to Billick

Posted by Randy Lange on September 19, 2007 – 10:58 am

Eric Mangini opened today’s news conference with some newsy items that have come up the last few days.

The Jets head coach confirmed reports that he called Baltimore coach Brian Billick following Billick’s charge late Monday that the Jets were illegal simulating offensive signals that caused the Ravens to false-start a few times in Sunday’s game.

"I talked with Brian yesterday. We had a good conversation," Mangini said. "It was important to me that we talked. I wanted him to know we don’t coach things that cause penalties, we don’t believe in getting penalties and that’s something we work to minimize at all times. … I felt very good about the conversation."

Mangini also commented for the first time on the word Tuesday afternoon that the team had placed Justin Miller on IR, and it was clear that the coach really felt badly for the player that he saw make great strides this summer in improving his corner play and continuing to excel as a Pro Bowl kickoff returner.

"I’m extremely disappointed for Justin," Mangini said. "I thought he had a really good off-season. [Defensive line assistant coach] Bryan Cox and he actually spent a lot of time together. I saw that quite a bit, I saw Justin practice, I saw him in meetings — he took some of the most impressive notes of any of the players. All those things add up. It’s tough, it’s tough."

The coach also announced that the Jets filled Miller’s active-roster spot by signing free agent OL Will Montgomery, a Virginia Tech product and a strongman who did 35 reps in the 225-pound bench press at the 2006 combine workouts. Montgomery was Carolina’s seventh-round pick in that draft and played in six games, starting four. He was a final cut of the Panthers earlier this month.

"I really liked his motor," Mangini said of watching video of Montgomery, who was at practice today wearing No. 66. "I thought he showed good finish on second level. He’s got good toughness and he’s a good kid. He’s played both guard and center and has some flexibility to go out to tackle."

Cotchery’s Big Day Revisited

Two notes on Jerricho Cotchery’s career 165-yard receiving game vs. the Ravens. Unofficially, Cotchery racked up 88 yards after catch on his seven receptions. That’s the most in a game by a Jets wideout since Keyshawn Johnson notched 100 YAC in the 1999 season opener vs. New England. The only other player to top J-Co’s YAC total since then was Leon Washington with 115 yards last Christmas night at Miami.

And Cotchery was only the third Jet in at least the last 12 seasons to record two catches of 40-plus yards in the same game. Here’s the short list:

  Season Receiver Quarterback Opp. Yardage  
  1999 Keyshawn Johnson Tom Tupa vs. N.E. 50, 65  
  2003 Santana Moss Chad Pennington at Oak. 65, 43  
  2007 Jerricho Cotchery Kellen Clemens at Bal. 44, 50  

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