Archive for January, 2010

Tannenbaum, Jets look toward future

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Only four days removed from the team’s season-ending AFC Championship loss in Indianapolis, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum spoke to members of the media today from the Jets practice facility in Florham Park.  While it was a surprisingly successful season for rookie head coach Rex Ryan and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, much of today’s focus was spent on looking forward, not back.

Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum made it clear Thursday that the organization won't be taking any time to pat themselves on the back this offseason. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

“I think it says a lot about Rex Ryan that, here is a guy who went to the AFC Championship Game two years in a row”, said Tannenbaum Thursday. “I think what it says is that Rex is a heck of a coach that he can get there two years in a row.  I think it says a lot about his football acumen and how fortunate we are to have him.  As I said in my opening, we are 0‑0, and I remember clearly what the off‑season of 1999 was and what our expectations were and how much it changed.  We are going to be invigorated by what happened, but also realize that come six, seven weeks from now, we have got to be humming and we need to have the best off‑season of anybody in our division.”

Tannenbaum addressed a number of popular topics Thursday including the organization’s plans for the future of receiver Braylon Edwards, safety Kerry Rhodes, linebacker Vernon Gholston, running backs Leon Washington and Thomas Jones and quarterback Kellen Clemens.

Gholston, the team’s first-round draft choice in 2008, has been a non-factor in two seasons of play, registering 30 tackles and no career sacks.  He is slated to make $3.5 million in 2010, making him a strong candidate to be cut from the roster.   Since 2010 is an uncapped year, the Jets could release Gholston without suffering salary cap ramifications.  Despite his lack of production, Tannenbaum made it clear that the former Ohio State Buckeye won’t be going anywhere just yet.

“My expectations are he’ll be back,” Tannenbaum said.  “He’s never missed a work‑out.  (He) doesn’t miss practice.  I have no objective information to say that this guy doesn’t love football.  He may be quiet but that doesn’t mean he’s not passionate. From where I sit in the world, it hasn’t been lack of effort.  He came out early.  He’s still young.  I have no reason to think that because of those attributes that he still can’t improve and help us.”

“I’ll say this.  He started the first four games of the year and maybe didn’t show up in the stat sheet but we were 3‑1 and we went up against some pretty high profile offenses in Houston, New Orleans and New England.  He did some good things.  He just has not produced at the level we had hoped.”

It had been speculated throughout the season by various media outlets that the organization was planning to sever ties with Kerry Rhodes this offseason.   Rhodes, who is among one of the highest-paid safeties in the league, struggled to find his niche in Rex Ryan’s system in 2009, and is due a $2 million roster bonus in March.

Despite earlier reports of Rhodes wanting out, Rhodes has publicly expressed a desire to remain a Jet.   In his final press conference of the season, Ryan stated that he hoped Rhodes would return next season.   Wednesday, Tannenbaum reiterated the comments of his head coach, making it clear that the veteran free safety is indeed in the team’s future plans.

“We expect him to be back,” said Tannenbaum.  “Unless something changes, he will be back.  I’m sure we’ll have more discussions with Rex and some of the coaches where hopefully the level of consistency for both him and us is there throughout the 2010 season, and that kind of goes back to my opening comments which are, we need to have a good off‑season and Kerry (Rhodes) is one of those players who could really benefit from a very productive 2010, starting in March with the off‑season, so a lot of the discussions are really non‑contractual, non‑economical.”

As for Rhodes’ secondary-mate, CB Lito Sheppard, the future doesn’t appear so bright.   Sheppard struggled with injuries throughout the season and was benched in the AFC Championship loss to Indianapolis, in favor of Dwight Lowery.   Sheppard is due a $10 million dollar bonus in March, which he most likely will never see from the Jets.

In a telling move, Tannenbaum declined to commit to Sheppard’s future as a Jet, when broached with the subject Thursday.   “We have not finalized any decision on Lito yet,” he said.   The Jets will most likely look to restructure Sheppard’s three-year deal, which he signed last spring or cut the eight-year veteran.

Tannenbaum stated that the Jets will extend tenders to both Braylon Edwards and Leon Washington players, in hopes of bringing them back next season.   Both Edwards and Washington will be restricted free agents.   The Jets are reportedly expecting a first round pick in return for Edwards’ services, should some team attempt to sign him.   As for Washington, Tannenbaum indicated Wednesday that the organization has not decided how they will handle his tender.

Edwards, who arrived in a midseason swap with the Cleveland Browns, had a statistically underwhelming first-year in New York.  Tannenbaum believes that Edwards’ impact on the offense went beyond receptions and receiving yards.

“Braylon really caused a lot of problems when Rex went against him and that wasn’t just in the passing game,” he said.  “In terms of how people had to defend our run, he felt Braylon made a big difference over the course of the season.  I think some of Braylon’s contributions were not just stat‑driven.  He was a great blocker and I think some of the defenses, again, the way they look at us were quite different after we acquired him.”

Another area of question this offseason is the position of backup quarterback.  It has been speculated that the Jets will look to bring in a veteran to help expedite the progression Mark Sanchez.   Tannenbaum indicated Wednesday that while that is very real possibility, the team plans to tender QB Kellen Clemens, also a restricted free agent.

“I thought Kellen had a great relationship with Mark (Sanchez),” Tannenbaum said.  “I think Mark’s success towards the end of the year, Kellen definitely had a part to it.  If another team (comes) along and is interested in Kellen, we will certainly evaluate that.”

“Would we bring in a veteran?  Sure.   That’s something we would consider, but I like Kevin O’Connell.  I like Erik Ainge and we’ll see what happens with Kellen.”

Sanchez, who missed time with a knee injury during the regular season has met with Dr. James Andrews in Alabama and is contemplating having elective surgery this offseason.   However, no official decision has been made yet and if Sanchez does elect to have surgery, the team expects him back in time for training camp in July.

“It’s going to be much more of a rehab situation, more preventive, strengthening, things like that, said Tannenbaum.  “Nothing has been decided yet, but we are closely looking at that option.”

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: COLTS 30 – JETS 17

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Peyton giveth and Peyton taketh away

Four weeks after his benching propelled the Jets to the postseason, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was the one to pull the plug on New York’s Super Bowl dreams.

Manning and the Indianapolis Colts rattled off 24 unanswered points, 17 in the second half en route to a 30-17 AFC Championship Game victory over the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday.   With the win, the Colts will advance to Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, where they will face the winner of tonight’s NFC Championship Game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints.

Dwight Lowery, who drew the assignment of containing Colts WR Pierre Garcon, was picked on all day by Peyton Manning (JetsInsider.com Photo)

It is the Colts’ second AFC Championship in four years, and their fourth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

Manning turned in an MVP performance, picking apart the vaunted Jets defense and rallying his team from a 17-13 halftime deficit, completing 26 of 39 passes for 377 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

“We talked about being patient against these guys,” said Manning. “We knew it would be a four-quarter game.”

It didn’t even matter that Jets corner Darrelle Revis effectively took WR Reggie Wayne out of the game.   With his number one target trapped on Revis Island, Manning used second-year man Pierre Garçon and rookie Austin Collie to carve up the Jets’ secondary.

Garçon, who was lined up with Jets corner Dwight Lowery for the majority of the contest, abused the San Jose State product, hauling in 11 receptions on the day, with most coming in traffic.  Garçon finished with 151yards and a touchdown.   Lowery started in place of the veteran Lito Sheppard, who was deemed unfit for the gameplan by Rex Ryan his coaching staff.

Collie posted seven receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown, including a 46-yard backbreaker on the Colts’ final possession of the first half.

“The guys have always been a very confident bunch and they do a great job of hanging in there,” said Colts head coach Jim Caldwell. “Peyton had just an outstanding game. He’s one of those guys that can adjust to different situations. … A real champion.”

Indianapolis was also successful at beating the Jets at their own ground and pound game, posting 101 rushing yards to New York’s 86.

The Jets lack of a ground game certainly not helped by the loss of rookie running back Shonn Green, two plays into the second half.   Greene, who had emerged as a true game-changer during the Jets’ improbable playoff run, exited the game with a rib injury and never returned.   Before leaving the game, Greene appeared to be on his way to another strong postseason performance with 41 yards on only ten carries.

The Jets opened up with a successful first series, driving down to the Indianapolis 26-yard line, primed to land the first punch.   However, Jay Feely’s 44-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right, as New York came up empty handed.

The Colts would come up empty as well on their first two possessions, as the first quarter came to a close without a score by either team.   A 25-yard field goal by Colts’ kicker Matt Stover gave Indy a 3-0 lead to begin the second quarter.

The Jets answered right back on their first offensive play of the quarter   On a play action fake, Sanchez pump faked and lofted a high spiral down the left sideline, in the direction of receiver Braylon Edwards.   Colts’ rookie corner Jacob Lacey, making his first career start in place of the injured Jerraud Powers, was toasted by Edwards, who hauled in the rookie’s pass in stride.   Edwards’ 80-yard reception, the Jets’ longest passing play since 1998, gave them a 7-3 advantage, just under a minute into the second quarter.

Sanchez would finish the day with 257 passing yards and two touchdowns, completing 17 of 30 passes.

On the next possession, it was the Jets defense doing what they’ve done best all season; coming up huge in the red zone.

After Manning completed a 25-yard strike to receiver Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis used a series of runs by running back Joseph Addai, to gain possession inside the Jets’ 35-yard line.   On third-and-5 from the 25, Manning connected with receiver Austin Colley in the middle of the field for 22 yards.   Another short completion to Colley brought Indy down to the goal line.   But on third down, Manning’s attempt to sneak up the middle was thwarted.

Faced with fourth and goal, Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell made the curious decision to opt for the field goal, instead of trusting his future Hall of Fame quarterback to punch it in for six.   Stover’s short field goal cut the Jets lead to 7-6 with 8:49 to go in the half.

On the ensuing possession the Jets got a big play from a familiar source; Bradley Alexander Smith.

On second-and-7 from their own 43, Jets’ offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer executed the play that was 3 weeks in the making.   Operating out of the “Tiger-Cat” formation, Brad Smith dropped back and connected with a wide open Jerricho Cotchery for a gain of 45 yards.

Three plays later, Sanchez found tight end Dustin Keller in the end zone for the second-straight week, extending New York’s lead to 14-6 with just under five minutes remaining in the half.

The Jets would get the ball back again before the end of the half, following a big play by linebacker Calvin Pace.   After an audible at the line of scrimmage by Manning, Pace read the play perfectly, bursting into the backfield to strip the ball from Joseph Addai.   The loose ball was recovered by safety Jim Leonhard at the Indianapolis 29.

After a false start penalty and a four yard loss by Thomas Jones, the Jets faced third-and-16 from the 35.   A five-yard run by Jones, set up Jay Feely for a 48 yard attempt, his second of the day.   Feely wouldn’t miss this time, dialing the kick down the center of the uprights to give New York a 17-6 lead with 2:16 remaining in the half.   Those would be the final points the Jets would score for the remainder of the game and the season.

It was officially Manning time.

With limited time remaining before halftime, Peyton Manning ran the two minute drill to perfection.   The 12-year veteran concocted his most impressive drive of the first half, engineering a four play, 80-yard drive in under a minute.   The quick-fire attack was highlighted by consecutive long completions of 46 and 16 yards to Austin Colley, the latter cutting the Jets lead to 17-13 right before the half.

In less than sixty seconds, Manning had sucked every knot of wind out of the Jets sails and redirected the momentum pendulum towards the direction of the home team, where it would sit for the rest of the contest.

Beginning the second half at his own 27, Sanchez led New York on an eight-play, 39-yard drive.   But Feely was wide right again on a 52-yard attempt, blowing the Jets chance to extend their six point lead.

Given great field position at his own 43 following the Feely miss, Manning made quick work of the Jets defense for the second-straight possession.   Facing third down, Manning found Collie and Garçon on consecutive plays to get inside Jets’ territory.   Four plays later, inside the five, Manning connected with Garçon again, lofting the ball over the head of Lowery to recapture the lead for Indianapolis, 20-17, midway through the third.   A lead they would never relinquish.

A 15-yard yard completion to WR Dwight Clark in the end zone with 8:57 remaining in the fourth quarter would all but seal the Jets fate, extending the Indianapolis lead to 27-17, transforming Rex Ryan’s carriage into a pumpkin.

Today wasn’t our day. There’s no question,” said Jets head coach Rex Ryan. “You have to give credit to the Colts. Obviously they’re the cream of the crop right now.”

Despite the heartbreaking loss, the future remains bright for the New York Jets, who advanced to the AFC Championship despite a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach.   The Jets were also stung by season-ending injuries to two key players, RB Leon Washington and NT Kris Jenkins.

“If two of the pro bowls players left any other team, people would have talked about it,” said Ryan.

“We don’t need a whole lot. If we get those two back, that’s really going to add to our football team.

Time is now for Sanchez and the Jets

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The thunderous bassline of Yo Gotti’s “Women Lie, Men Lie” reverberated inside the hangar of the Jets practice facility on Wednesday afternoon, as the team began its preparations for their Sunday rematch with the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC title.

The southern hip hop track provided a fitting soundtrack for a squad that has accomplished so much throughout the 2009 season, yet still finds themselves trying to prove their worth and gain national respect.   The chorus of the song proclaiming, “Women lie, men lie.  Numbers don’t.”

This Jets team needs to seize the moment and make the most of this improbable January run. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Some numbers that don’t lie are 153.7, the minuscule amount of passing yards per game allowed by the Jet defense during the regular season.   Or 14, the amount of the points scored on Sunday by the Chargers, a team that had scored 20 points or more in every game this season.

Another number that certainly doesn’t lie is sixty.   That’s how many minutes away the Jets are from their first trip to the Super Bowl since 1969.   Four quarters away from a shot at vindicating 41 years of pain and suffering for a franchise, a fan base, and a city.

A chance to be a part of the solution was what appealed to linebacker Bart Scott when he was a free agent, mulling his future options following the 2008 season.    Scott looked at New York as a challenge, and as a chance to be a part of history.

“I didn’t want to be a bend-don’t-break kind of guy,” said the veteran linebacker.   “I wanted to go out and be a part of a successful unit that could maybe try and re-write history.   Something that could bring a legacy and a tradition to New York, so that the team is known.”

“Like when you think of Pittsburgh, you think about Baltimore, you think about Tampa, you think defense.  I wanted to see if I could be a part of that and keep the magic going.”

It’s only taken one year for the magic to get going in the Big Apple.

They’ve done it without their most dangerous offensive weapon, Leon Washington.   Without big Kris Jenkins, the defense’s most important player that doesn’t have an island named after him.

They’ve gotten here with a rookie head coach, Rex Ryan, who was passed over for head coaching gigs three times before Mike Tannenbaum and Woody Johnson gave the former Ravens’ defensive coordinator a shot.   A guy whose gregarious, boastful personality was maligned by many, who questioned whether he had the maturity or emotional wherewithal to be a successful head coach.

With a rookie quarterback, who was all of twelve years old the last time the Jets played for the AFC title in 1999.  New York has weathered the turbulent storms of the neophytic Sanchez, whose erratic play in the regular season has not translated to January.  The 23-year-old Sanchez has been stellar in the postseason, leading the Jets to a pair of road victories with intelligent, mistake-free football.   He credits his teammates and coaching staff in helping him survive the tumultuous season.

“It’s been a wild ride,” says Sanchez.  “What really got me through this was the guys on this team.   Mike Tannenbaum coming to me after throwing five picks against Buffalo.  He gave me a list of quarterbacks that have thrown five picks in their career.  There’s some great ones on it, so it wasn’t the end of the world.   Just little things like that.   Guys like T-Rich and Thomas Jones talking to me through this entire process, letting me know how long this year is.”

“I think I’m lucky to have such great guys around me to help me through the times during the year, especially a rookie year.  I think that’s where the turn came.”

While the future is certainly bright for the Jets, another shot at Super Bowl glory is not promised.   Players can go careers without ever sniffing a chance to play for all the marbles.   Just ask Jets fullback Tony Richardson.

“T-Rich hasn’t been here in forty years,” joked linebacker Bryan Thomas.

At the ripe age of 38, Richardson is the team’s oldest player, outlasting the tests of time one of the most brutal positions on the gridiron.   In fifteen seasons in the league, Richardson has played for three different teams and has made four Pro Bowl appearences.   But the Auburn product has only two career playoff wins, both coming this postseason.

“This is what you play the game for,” says Richardson.   “To have an opportunity to make it to the postseason.  Once you make it, you have a chance to win the games and keep going.”

The Jets elder statesman has been very vocal throughout this postseason, urging the younger players to take advantage of this opportunity while it’s in front of them.

“That’s really been the message to the young guys.   These things don’t come around too often, especially with a good football team like we have.   So obviously you just have to enjoy the moment and understand how special it is.”

Making a deep run into the postseason, takes more than talented players and great coaching.   It also takes some good fortune.  That means luck both on and off the field.   Since Broadway Joe’s victory jog into the tunnel at the Orange Bowl, Gang Green has been anything but fortunate.   The Jets have only appeared in two AFC Championship games, losing both times.

The Bill Parcells teams of the late nineties saw their window of opportunity close quickly.    Following the 1998 run, quarterback Vinny Testaverde blew out his Achilles tendon in the 1999 season opener.   Since then, the Jets have registered only four postseason wins in five appearences.   Injuries, untimely penalties, and missed field goals have all played a role in the past decade of futility for the New York Jets.

Throughout this playoff run, the Jets have finally gotten those breaks that they never used to get.   The missed field goals, the killer penalties have all gone in their favor this time.  The kind of breaks that only championship teams get.   The pieces have all fallen into place for this Jets team.

“We had a chance at the end of the season,” said Sanchez.  “We’re taking full advantage of this now, we’re really rising to the occasion.”

Opportunity is knocking, rather violently.   Mark Sanchez and the Jets need to kick in the door at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

They may not get another chance.

INSIDER TIDBITS

Braylon to receive one-year tender

Multiple sources are reporting that Jets are planning to retain receiver Braylon Edwards next season, as a restricted free agent.  The organization will place a one-year contract tender that require that the Jets receive first and third round picks from any team that plans to sign Edwards.

Edwards will receive five million in 2010, in an attempt to prove to the Jets front office that he is worth a long-term deal, following next season.   The 6-foot-3 receiver will turn 27 on February 21.

In Sunday’s Divisional Round win in San Diego, the former Michigan Wolverine hauled in two balls for 41 yards.

Injury Report

DE Shaun Ellis, nursing the broken hand he suffered during the first quarter on Sunday, did not practice today, but will play against Indianapolis.  Also held out of practice were RB Thomas Jones (coach’s decision) and Tony Richardson (ribs), both of whom will play Sunday.

Linebackers Bart Scott and David Harris were both limited with ankle injuries, but will play.   QB Mark Sanchez (knee) and WR Danny Woodhead (knee) both participated in the full practice.

NYC to host Jets pep rally

The Big Apple plans to look more Granny Smith than Red Delicious on Thursday evening.    With the Jets one win away from a trip to Super Bowl XLIV, the city has announced a pep rally for Gang Green in Times Square tomorrow night.   The rally will take place on Broadway between 44th and 45th streets, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Special guests will include Mayor Mike Bloomberg and past Jet greats.

JETS-CHARGERS: Previewing the AFC Divisional Round

Friday, January 15th, 2010

The task is certainly tall on Sunday for the New York Jets who head into San Diego to face the 13-3 Chargers in an AFC Divisional playoff matchup.   But still not as tall as their opponent’s receivers.

San Diego, led by the hot-hand of quarterback Philip Rivers, enter the postseason riding an eleven-game winning streak, the longest current streak in the NFL.  River’s immense success this season (28 TD, 9 INT) is due largely (no pun intended) in-part to the skyline that he has lining up next to him:  6-foot-5 receivers Malcom Floyd and Vincent Jackson, and 6-foot-4 TE Antonio Gates.

Safety Jim Leonard and the rest of the Jets secondary have their work cut out for them Sunday against the Charger's statuesque receving core. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

“He’s extremely accurate,” said Jets safety Jim Leonhard.   “The biggest thing with them is they’ll spread the ball all over the place. He has a lot of big-time targets that he can distribute the ball to. He’s an equal-opportunity quarterback.  He’s willing to throw it to anyone. It doesn’t matter, whoever is open, that’s where the ball is going. It’s really hard to get keyed in on him.”

Jets safety Kerry Rhodes will assume the toilsome assignment of covering Gates on Sunday.   Rhodes believes the former Kent State basketball player should be considered amongst the upper-echelon of tight ends.   According to Rhodes, it’s Gate’s size and strength that make him such a tough matchup for opposing secondaries.

“He fits right in there with them,” said Rhodes.  “We’ve faced (Kellen) Winslow, (Tony) Gonzalez, (Dallas) Clark and all those guys.  I’ve been matched up on them most of the time and I’ve done ok…He’s definitely one of the best.  He’s very athletic plus he’s big.  He’s a big, wide body.”

“The reason he’s so tough to cover is you can’t put a small guy on him.  A small guy can’t use his quickness on him because he can (box) him out.  If you have a big safety guy that can cover him and can try to limit his catches, is probably the best way because he’s such a big guy.  That’s what kind of sets him apart.”

Offensively, the Jets hope to get a repeat performance from quarterback Mark Sanchez, who is coming off his most impressive game as pro.   The running game should once again be a strong asset to the rookie.    If there’s one thing the San Diego defense has exhibited this season, it’s a tendency to falter against the run.   The Chargers’ 20th-ranked rush defense surrendered over 117 yards per game during the regular season.

Center Nick Mangold and the Jets offensive line have done a great job of protecting their rookie signal-caller all season.   Mangold says that the team has tried to give their quarterback assurance that he doesn’t need to beat San Diego all by himself.   He’s set up to succeed.

“It’s one of the things we’ve been trying to alert Mark to,” said Mangold.  “Don’t do anything more than just be the quarterback.  Go out there and do your job and we’ll try to make things perfect for you.  We’ll give you the protection.  We’ll pick things up.  (We) try to alleviate one concern from his mind because I’m sure he’s got about 50 other things he’s got to worry about when he’s back there.”

“He did a great job flinging the ball around (last week).  I think a big part of it was he came in loose.  He had that little kid-like smile on his face.  I think for the past couple of weeks, his confidence has just been growing and growing.  The experience he’s had from the beginning of being drafted, through training camp, through the season has really helped him out a lot.”

Sunday, Sanchez will be play in the biggest game of his football-life to date.   A win in San Diego, in front of his friends and family, would further actuate the rookie’s confidence, and propel the Jets into the AFC Championship Game.

Prediction

The San Diego are a lot of things, but one thing they’re not is unbeatable.  That has already been proven three times this season, by the Ravens, Steelers and Broncos, respectively.

Philip Rivers is an elite quarterback, no questions asked.   However, he is not Drew Brees and he is not Peyton Manning, both of whom the Jet defense held strong against on the road.

For all his accolades in the month of December, in which Rivers is an unconscious 18-0, he has yet to prove anything in the postseason.  Rivers only has two more career playoff wins than Mark Sanchez.

The key to the game will be denying San Diego their opportunities in the red zone, something the Jets have excelled at this season.  Mike Pettine’s unit has allowed touchdowns on just 42% of red zone chances by their opponents, good for fifth-best in the league.

The Jet defense, which suffered a few hiccups last week in Cincinnati, will be in prime form on Sunday, and the ultimate difference in this ballgame.   Darrelle Revis will indeed take Vincent Jackson out of this game, offering a critical blow to Rivers’ arsenal.

Gang Green’s Cinderella run continues, at least for the time being:  Jets 28, San Diego 20

INSIDER TIDBITS

Matchup history

The Chargers and Jets have met a total of 32 times, with the Bolts leading the all-time regular season series 19-11, with one tie.   New York holds the advantage in the postseason, winning the only meeting between the two teams in 2004.

The Jets are 9-11 in 13 playoff appearences and are 2-3 all-time in Divisional playoff games.   Two of those three losses have come in overtime.

The last time they met in the post season…

The Jets went into Qualcomm Stadium on the dreary night of January 8, 2005 and won a classic, back-and-forth struggle, 20-17 in OT, to advance to the AFC Divisional Round.

The Jets, led by 272 passing yards by QB Chad Pennington had the game all but won, leading 17-10, late in the fourth quarter.  With San Diego down to its final chance, the Jets forced an incompletion by Chargers QB Drew Brees on fourth down.   However, Jet LB Eric Barton was flagged for a personal foul penalty after inexplicably connecting with Brees’ helmet.

Given new life, the Chargers took advantage as Brees hooked up with TE Antonio Gates in the end zone, sending the game to overtime.   On their second possession of the overtime period, the Chargers advanced the ball to the Jets’ 22-yard line and trotted out rookie kicker Nate Kaeding for a 40-yard attempt to win the game.   Kaeding pushed the kick wide-right, sending New York a lucky break and giving them a second chance to win the ballgame.

A 19-yard run by RB LaMont Jordan set up the game-winning, 28-yard field goal by Jets kicker Doug Brien.

Ellis makes history…again

Shaun Ellis’s record breaking season continues on Sunday in San Diego.   The tenth-year defensive end will be making his eight postseason start as a Jet, a new franchise record.

For Edwards, it’s now or never

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Jets need receiver to show worth Sunday in San Diego

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Braylon Edwards will take the field Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium, three months and ten days since the blockbuster trade that brought the controversial receiver to the Big Apple.

As far as historical connotations go, the much-maligned receiver’s first 100 days (102 to be exact) as a New York Jet won’t be evoking memories of FDR’s inaugural months in the oval office, any time soon.

In thirteen games with the Jets, Edwards has hauled in an underwhelming 37 receptions for 556 yards, with four touchdowns.

Edwards was brought to New York to be a playmaker, something the Jets have sorely lacked since the departure of Keyshawn Johnson, following the 1999 season.

He was supposed to be the deep threat that would cause sleepless nights for opposing defensive coordinators, daring secondaries to go with man coverage.    The main man that Mark Sanchez could lean on during that all-important, fourth quarter drive.   The go-to-guy that could scrape the sky with his 6-foot-3 frame, go up and get the pigskin in the corner of the end zone with the game on the line, and come back down to earth, securing the ball and victory in his grasp.  A game-changer.

That’s the player who Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan traded for back in October.   That’s the individual for whom they agreed to surrender two draft picks, a special teams standout and a young receiver for, despite the supposed baggage he came with.   The Jets brass saw an immensely talented receiver frustrated by the doldrums of losing in the NFL graveyard of Cleveland.

“I went from Cleveland last year and the years before, never making the playoffs,” said Edwards Wednesday.  “If I would’ve stayed there this year, I would’ve been part of that debacle for the first twelve games.”

“It’s just fun again, being a part of something like this…a good team that does in fact have a chance to go all the way.”

Since his arrival to the Jets’ Florham Park practice facility that windy autumn afternoon, Edwards has checked his ego at the door, demonstrating a team-first attitude and a squeaky clean record off the field.   The former Pro Bowler, who missed practice yesterday to attend a court appearance related to misdemeanor assault charges from an incident that occurred earlier this year, came to New York with a tarnished, selfish image.

In his short tenure in New York, Edwards has been a model citizen, buying into Rex Ryan’s philosophy and dropping the label of being a cancerous, locker room apartheid.  However, the fifth-year, Michigan product has also dropped his fair share of passes in big spots.

It happened last week in Cincinnati, as Edwards watched a first quarter, end zone rocket off the arm of rookie Mark Sanchez, fall right through his open arms.   Two weeks ago, Edwards had another TD pass sail through his hands.

“It makes you hungrier,” says Edwards.    “It definitely stays with you for a couple plays.  You wish you would’ve came up with it… You wanna make a big play for your team.”

“You just try to forget about it, have a short term memory and try to come back and get the next one.”

Fortunately for the Jets, these drops weren’t costly as they ended up on the winning end of both games.  But what happens when those drops do come in big spots?  When they end up costing Gang Green a game, or in the team’s current situation, a season?   That doesn’t bode well for an upcoming free agent, expecting big money and a long term deal.

Edwards needs to show something and fast.   As it currently stands, would Woody Johnson and Mike Tannenbaum be wise to invest big money and a long term deal into a receiver that can’t hold onto the ball in big spots?  Not at all.

Despite the underwhelming statistics and the drops, the fourth-year receiver holds that he isn’t looking to satisfy any of his critics.

“I have nothing to prove to anybody,” says Edwards.   “I think maybe I’ve been caught up in the last year or so, trying to prove myself to (the media) or players or people around the league.   I don’t have to prove anything.  I’ve just got to go out there and be that guy as opposed to trying to prove it.”

“I don’t see myself wanting to go anywhere else.  I’d like to be a Jet for the rest of my years.”

Braylon Edward’s campaign to stay in New York can start Sunday in San Diego, where the Jets will play their biggest game since the 2004 season.   A strong performance, on a national stage will go a long way in proving his worth to this team, both present and future.

He needs to make that wide-open grab in the end zone.   He needs to be there as Mark Sanchez’s safety valve on third down.   He needs to make that game-changing, season-altering play in front of 70,000 raucous San Diego fans.   One of those one-handed, falling out of bounds, nothing-the-cornerback-can -do –about-it plays.   The ones only number 17 can make.

22 other teams around the NFL would kill for the opportunity Braylon and the Jets have in front of them right now, two wins from a chance at a title.   Braylon Edwards has the chance to shovel the final grains of dirt off his muddied name and reestablish himself as an elite, all-world receiver.  One final shot at redemption and a chance to send his team to the AFC Championship Game.

The time is now.

INSIDER TIDBITS

Schotty declines

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported this morning that Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has declined the chance to interview for the Buffalo Bills’ head coaching vacancy, this week or following the conclusion of New York’s season.

The report comes just days after multiple sources reported that the Jets had granted permission for the Bills to speak with Schottenheimer.

This is good news for the Jets and head coach Rex Ryan, who feared he’d lose one of the NFL’s most-sought after coordinators following this season.   Schottenheimer has been the architect of the league’s leading ground game and has shown a knack for creative, out-of-the-box playcalling during his tenure in New York.

Though the Jets have struggled in the passing game this season, it is important that the camaraderie and chemistry continues to build between him and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez.   If Schottenheimer were to leave, it would be an uphill challenge for Sanchez to learn a new offensive coordinator’s system and terminology in only his second season.   Sanchez, starting only his sixteenth professional game on Sunday in San Diego, is finally beginning to show signs of grasping Schottenheimer system and understanding what he needs to do in order to be a successful quarterback in this league.  Introducing a new system to the rookie, would only stall any progress he has made.


Jets hope to stay classy in San Diego

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Gang Green will head to the Left Coast for a showdown with the Chargers next Sunday

California, here we come.

Following the Baltimore Ravens’ 33-14 trashing of the Patriots in New England Sunday, the Jets are now officially headed to San Diego next Sunday afternoon for a rematch of their 2004 Wild Card matchup.

David Harris and the Jet defense will have their work cut out for them next Sunday in San Diego. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

This will certainly be no easy task for Rex Ryan’s crew as the 13-3 Chargers are riding an eleven game winning streak, heading into the postseason.  Since an October 19 loss at home against Denver on Monday night,  QB Philip Rivers and company have emerged as one the NFL’s hottest and most feared teams.

It will no doubt be a tough test for the Jets’ vaunted defense, as San Diego boasts one of the league’s most prolific offenses (28.4 points per game) with the NFL’s fifth-ranked passing attack (271.1 yards per game).

Sunday’s game is set for a 4:30 kickoff and can be seen on CBS.

JETS 24 – BENGALS 14

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Rookie heroics, botched field goals by Graham, lead Jets into AFC’s Divisional Round

CINCINNATI, OH – This was the moment Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum envisioned back in April, when they made the bold decision to trade up for the number five pick in the draft and select the signal-caller from USC.   They dreamed of nights like tonight where the pretty boy from Long Beach, with the rocket arm and the GQ smile, would rise to the occasion and lead his team to victory in the frozen January tundra.

A franchise quarterback, making plays through the air, picking apart coverages, keeping a top-flight defense on their heels.  Living to play another week.   This was it.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez completed 12 of 15 passes for 182 yards with a touchdown, and got help from fellow rookie, RB Shonn Greene, who finished with 135 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, as the Jets rolled to a 24-14 Wildcard Playoff victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday night.

“This is when you need to turn it on,” said Sanchez.  “You just need to turn it on.  This was a great opportunity to do that.  I think we capitalized as an offense and as a defense.”

Depending on the result of Sunday’s match in Foxboro between the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots, the Jets will either play in Indianapolis or San Diego, next weekend in the AFC Division Round.

Jets RB Thomas Jones celebrates after scoring a TD during the Jets' 24-14 wildcard playoff win against the Bengals. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

New York was also helped immensely by two missed field goals in the second half by Bengals’ kicker Shayne Graham.   Graham, a former Pro Bowler who has proven to be one of the NFL’s most effective and clutch kickers during his stint in Cincinnati, sailed a 35-yard third quarter kick wide left and was wide right on a 28-yard attempt with 3:49 remaining.   Graham’s late miss may have very well been the last of his Bengals’ career, as he is set to be a free agent following the season.

Sanchez played arguably the most impressive game of his young career, completing tough passes in the seam, exhibiting supreme composure, confidence and poise in a game that was a roller-coaster of emotions for both teams.

“What a job (Sanchez) has done,” said Jets head coach Rex Ryan.  “You just see it.   I think he’s tired of hearing that he’s the weak link of our football team, instead of being part of our success.   I think that’s what he is right now for us.”

All season, Sanchez has been maligned for his pitfalls and rookie hiccups.   While the New York Jets entered the postseason with the league’s leading defense and rushing attack, many believed that their quarterback was the one element holding them back.   In the biggest game of his young professional career, the SoCal boy was the best player on the field.

“He was on fire,” said Ryan.   “There’s no doubt about it.   But, the thing that I was most impressed with was just that confidence that he had.   He wanted this game in the worst way.   He felt confident, he felt comfortable.”

“One of these days, he’s going to be the biggest thing we’ve got on this football team.  The best thing we’ve got.   Hey, maybe that day’s coming sooner than later.”

The rookie was effective in spreading the ball around the field, not honing in one on receiver or forcing balls, which he had been akin to doing during a tumultuous regular season.   Sanchez dialed in with key third down completions to receiver Jerricho Cotchery and re-introduced a familiar face, TE Dustin Keller, into the gameplan.  Keller, who finished the day with three receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown, hooked up with Sanchez for two big plays.

The first came on first-and-10 from the Cincinnati 45 yard line, midway through the second quarter.   Sanchez rolled right and found a wide open Keller in the secondary.   Keller caught the pass and took off, down the right sideline for 45 yards and the score, giving the Jets a 14-7 lead with 6:30 remaining in the first half.

The Jets wouldn’t have been in a position to score, if not for an incredible defensive play by cornerback Darrelle Revis, on the previous possession.

On third-and-six from the 41, Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco took his first trip of the afternoon to Revis Island, and had a miserable stay.  Palmer fired a ball down the right sideline intended for Ochocinco, who had Revis in single coverage.  Revis delivered once again, shielding off the Bengals receiver, spinning and making an impressive interception of Palmer’s pass.   The Pro Bowler proceeded to return it 20 yards to the Jets’43 yard line.

Ochocinco, had another quiet game courtesy of Revis, finishing with only two receptions for 28 yards.

Sanchez’s second big play to Keller came during crunch time, in the fourth quarter.  On second-and-8 from the Jets’ 34-yard line, Sanchez faked the hand-off to Thomas Jones and rolled out to his left.   The rookie dumped off to Keller, who cut across the field and up the right side for a 43-yard gain, setting up a 20-yard field goal by kicker Jay Feely.   Feely’s only field goal of the day, extended the Jets lead to 24-14, a two-score ballgame with under six minutes remaining.

Feely also handled the punting duties as punter Steve Weatherford was unavailable, due to an irregular heartbeat.  Feely punted seven times on the day for an average of 28 yards.

“I had no idea he could punt like that,” said Ryan.  “Feely stepped up and did a tremendous job for us.”

Ryan, who labeled his Jets’ squad “the favorite” in the NFL’s postseason just days ago, echoed those comments following the team’s most impressive showing of the season.

“We are going to be a tough out,” boasted Ryan.  “We are going to go into every game, thinking we can win it.  Obviously next week we’ll be playing either at San Diego or at Indianapolis.  But either way, they know we’re coming in and we expect to win.”

“This was just the first step in what we think is going to be a great journey.”

D-Brick headed to the Pro Bowl

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Make it four Pro Bowlers for the 2009 New York Jets.

Today, the NFL added Jets LT D’ Brickashaw Ferguson to the AFC’s Pro Bowl roster.  Ferguson will replace Miami’s Jake Long, who is out with an injury.   Ferguson, who joins teammates Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, and Alan Faneca, will be making the first Pro Bowl appearance of his career.

Jets OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson is headed to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his four-year career. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

It is only fitting that the fourth-year man out of Virginia reaches the Pro Bowl, capping off what has been an impressive season for the 6-foot-6, 310 pound left tackle.

Ferguson has been pivotal in the success of the Jets’ running game, which leads the league with 172.3 yards per game.   He has also helped the Jets offensive line total the third-fewest quarterback hits in the NFL.

INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT: WILDCARD EDITION

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The New York Jets are chirping again and this time it’s louder than ever.

Despite needing wins in their final two regular season games and help from around the league to reach the postseason, Jets head coach Rex Ryan isn’t embracing the role of the underdog.  In fact, he’s not even entertaining it.  Rex Ryan sees his squad as favorites.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan made headlines again Wednesday, proclaiming his team "favorites" in the playoffs (JetsInsider.com Photo)

“To me, we should be favorites,” said Ryan in his press conference with the media Wednesday.

“I think we have the best defense, I know we  do.  I know we have the best rushing attack.  Those are two huge factors in our favor.”

“I think we have a great coaching staff…I want this football team.  I’m not gonna trade this team.   If I had a chance to coach any team in this tournament, I’d choose this one.”

Safety Kerry Rhodes and the rest of the  Jets locker room seem to buying into what Ryan is selling, as bold as his assertions may be.

“If he says it, we believe it,” Rhodes said.  “That’s the way it’s been all year.  We’re definitely confident and it starts with our head coach.  If he says it, we believe it.”

Ryan has expressed this same kind of blind confidence in his team throughout the entire 2009 season.   While many have criticized his emotional, loud mouthed approach, it’s hard to argue with the end result.

Three weeks ago, with his team sitting at 7-7 following a home loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the New York Jets were written off by almost every member of the New York and national media.   Ryan was able to motivate his team and make them believe they could make playoff dreams a reality, which they did.

“He’s had the confidence since he got here,” said center Nick Mangold.  “He knows we can get the job done and he puts it on us to get it done.”

Another element that the Jets have in their favor is the sheer nature of the NFL Playoffs.  Upsets are more prone to occur in single-elimination formats, like the NFL postseason and NCAA Basketball tournament.   A seemingly inferior team only needs to get the better of their opponent for sixty minutes as opposed to three or four separate games over the course of a series.

Safety Jim Leonhard believes the Jets have what it takes to make a run into February.   It doesn’t need to be pretty, they just need to survive.

“We feel like we can make a strong run,” said Leonhard.  “We have confidence that if we play well, we can compete.  When it comes down to the playoffs, it’s survive and advance.”

Survivor starts Saturday afternoon in Cincy.

INSIDER TIDBITS

Injury Update: Harris sits out again

Linebacker David Harris was absent from practice for the second straight day with a right ankle injury.  Coach Ryan stated that Harris has been jogging on the ankle but wouldn’t give any official decision on his status for the team’s Wild Card game in Cincinnati on Saturday.

“I think he’ll go, just because of the guy he is,” said Ryan, citing the toughness of his starting middle linebacker.  The general feeling around the organization and inside the locker room is that Harris will be able to play Saturday.

Harris limped off the field during the second quarter of Sunday night’s 37-0 victory over Cincinnati after registering only one tackle.

During a season in which the Jets have served as a model of inconsistency, Harris has been one of the team’s few constants.   The third-year linebacker has anchored the middle of the league’s best defense, recording career highs in tackles (127), sacks (5.5) and interceptions (2).

The former Michigan Wolverine has  bounced back in strong fashion following a disappointing 2008 campaign in which he only played in eleven games due to injuries.   In the event that Harris cannot go on Saturday, LB Kenwin Cummings will likely step in as his replacement.

Limited during today’s practice were WR Jerricho Cotchery (hip), DE Shaun Ellis (knee), LB Ryan Fowler (head), and CB Donald Strickland (quad).

WR Braylon Edwards (elbow), S James Ihedigbo (neck), QB Mark Sanchez (knee), and RB Thomas Jones (knee)  participated in the full practice.  Ryan noted that Jones was a new addition to the injury report as he had some swelling in his knee but will definitely be ready to go on Saturday.

Welcome back

Saturday’s Wild Card match-up in Cincinnati will mark the Jets’ 12th postseason appearance and their first playoff game since 2006.   This will be the 10th time the team has played in a Wild Card game.

This is the fifth playoff appearance and seventh winning record the team has posted since Jets’ owner Woody Johnson assumed control of the franchise in 2000.

D-Licious Stat of the Day

It’s certainly no secret that the Jets late season charge into the playoffs, in which they won five of their last six, was keyed by their league-leading defense.

Over the past six games, the Jets defense has allowed only 47 points (7.8 points per game) and 180.7 total yards per game.   During this stretch, they have only allowed an eye-opening 15 third down conversions in 81 attempts, a conversion rate of 18.5 percent.