For Edwards, it’s now or never

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.


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