INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Say goodbye to Hollywood, say goodbye my baby.
After weeks of making headlines with his mouth, Jets safety Kerry Rhodes finally got some attention for his play on the field. Unfortunately for Rhodes, it’s negative attention.
In an attempt to perhaps send a message to his 4-6, underachieving veteran squad, Jets head coach Rex Ryan has benched his starting free safety, following weeks of ineffective play.
“I will say this, Kerry Rhodes has been a pretty darn good football player in this league,” said Ryan in his press conference with the media this afternoon. “Do I expect more of Kerry? I would say that’s a true statement, than what we’re getting.”
Rhodes took reps with the second team at today’s practice and was seen having a brief chat with Ryan midway through the session.
“I was a little stunned to hear that,” said Rhodes. “Being the player that I am and being the guy in this league that I am, I was a little stunned and a little embarrassed that it came that way.”
Rhodes stated that Rex explained to him that his demotion to the second team was temporary, not permanent, comparing it to “a little kid in timeout”.
“He just told me that he wanted me to do some more stuff, some stuff that we talked about, and I’ll get back in the package again. It could be a couple of days, it could be a game, but just do a few more things.”
“Kerry knows what he has to do,” said Ryan. “Leave it at that. He knows what I expect.”
“I know he’s embarrassed by this, as am I quite honestly. But I think he’s gonna respond, I really do.”
By sending the former Pro Bowler to the pine, Ryan has made it clear that he is not playing games and that no one’s job is safe, regardless of past accolades or contract size.
Rhodes, who quickly emerged as one of the league’s up and coming stars at the safety position following his impressive sophomore campaign in 2006, has seen his production dip considerably since signing a five-year, $33.5 million contract extension following the ‘07 season. The free safety has been more “Folly-wood” than “Hollywood”, the nickname Rhodes has earned in respect to his aspiring acting career.
Prior to signing his new deal, which is almost identical to that of the Indianapolis Colts’ Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders, Rhodes registered career totals of eight sacks, six forced fumbles and ten interceptions. Since the extension, the fifth-year free safety has only one sack, two picks, and hasn’t forced a fumble since.
Rhodes, who back in August proclaimed himself “Kobe”, promising to be a big-time playmaker in Ryan’s system has been a non-factor in 2009. Through ten games, Rhodes has yet to record a sack, interception or forced fumble.
Rhodes was particularly putrid during Sunday’s 31-14 thrashing in Foxboro. In what may have been the final straw for Rex Ryan, Rhodes missed several tackles on Patriots RB Laurence Maroney and passed up the opportunity to lay a big hit on New England WR Wes Welker, early on in the game. Welker finished with a career high 15 receptions for 192 yards.
In the Jets home loss to Jacksonville two weeks ago, Rhodes was also the player at fault. With Jacksonville backed up at the Jet 47-yard line with just over two minutes to go, Rhodes failed to communicate with strong safety Jim Leonhard, missing a pre-snap signal, and was responsible for allowing a thirty-three yard completion to Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis. The long pass set up the game winning kick by Jacksonville kicker Josh Scobee, as time expired.
Speaking via conference call, Carolina head coach John Fox defended Ryan’s decision to bench his team-leader, citing it as just “part of the business.”
Ryan refuted the notion that the benching of Rhodes was predicated on the need to send a message to the rest of the team but despite what he says, the veterans in the Jets locker room certainly have taken the benching of Rhodes to heart.
“I’ve got to pay attention to what I’m doing,” said receiver Braylon Edwards. “Am I doing it the right way? Because this is the possibility or this is the ramifications that can happen.”
“For a guy like Kerry, his age, his experience, to get put to the second team, it lets guys know that the coaches are willing to make changes at all costs. So, you’ve gotta be on it, you’ve got to be on your stuff, because that is something that could possibly happen.”
Injury woes continue in secondary
Corners Donald Strickland (concussion) and Dwight Lowery (ankle) both did not participate in today’s practice. Ryan stated that he did not anticipate Lowery playing in Sunday’s game against Carolina.
LB Vernon Gholston (hamstring) did practice but was limited, as was DE Shaun Ellis (knee).
Through ten games, how do the Jets and Panthers stack up against each other and the rest of the league?
Jets offense: 21.3 points per game (17th in league), 328.5 yards of total offense (20th), 165 passing yards per game (28th), 163.5 rushing yards per game (2nd).
Panthers offense: 19.3 points per game (23rd), 336.4 yards of total offense (15th), 177.3 passing yards per game (24th), 159.1 rushing yards per game (3rd).
Jets defense: 18.9 points allowed per game (9th), 294.4 yards allowed per game (5th), 182.9 passing yards allowed per game (4th), 111.5 rushing yards allowed per game (16th).
Panthers defense: 23.9 points allowed per game (25th), 315.7 yards allowed per game (11th), 185 passing yards allowed per game (5th), 130.7 rushing yards allowed per game (26th).
Jets to host toy drive
The Jets have teamed with the U.S. Marine Reserve Corps and A-1 First Class-Viking Moving and Storage, and will be holding their annual toy drive to benefit the Toys-for-Tots program before Sunday’s game against Carolina. Fans are encouraged to bring a new unwrapped toy that will be collected at all gates upon entering the stadium.