Archive for October, 2013

What to make of Dee Milliner

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – It’s probably time to cut ties with Dee Milliner. He is halfway through his rookie season, and it has become clear that he will never live up to the potential he showed in Alabama.

I’m completely joking, but I’m sure that previous paragraph didn’t seem that outrageous to many of you.

Dee Milliner has struggled mightily to start the season. Is it too early to label the first-rounder a bust?

Milliner has had injury issues since rookie minicamp, and hasn’t impressed in the limited action he’s seen as he’s already been benched in two separate games. That’s not what you want to read about from an All-American corner who went ninth overall in this past draft.

But it’s far too early to call Milliner a bust. He missed time early in camp due to a holdout, and has dealt with various injuries since. Cornerback is already a tough transition from college to the NFL, now imagine less time to prepare in the offseason AND having to learn Rex Ryan’s scheme.

There was a strong belief when he came out that he would be NFL ready because he played for Nick Saban and in the SEC, arguably the toughest conference in college football at the time. A fine point, but it’s also well known that Saban doesn’t teach NFL technique to his corners. Most notably they aren’t asked to backpedal. That’s one of the many technique adjustments Milliner had to make in his transition to the NFL, something that would’ve been nice to work on during the offseason.

That’s not even getting into the recent history of Alabama cornerbacks taken in the first round; the most recent two being Dre Kirkpatrick and Kareem Jackson.

Kirkpatrick is in his second year with the Bengals, and similarly to Milliner, has already been labeled a bust by the fans. Like the Jets, the Bengals have not given up on him. Now that Leon Hall is out for the season, Kirkpatrick has the chance to work his way back into a starting spot.

That doesn’t sound really comforting does it? Well Jackson also struggled his rookie year. In fact, in a game against the Chargers he let up five catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns against Patrick Crayton and Seyi Ajirotutu. Like Milliner he was benched.

His second year in the league wasn’t much better. But by his third season he was regarded as one of the better young corners in the league. Jackson picked off four passes and held receivers to a 47.7% catch rate, which was sixth lowest in the league.

Milliner is struggling. He needs to refine his technique and improve his tackling, but he is far from the first corner to go through this. For another example look no further than the Giants.

Corey Webster was a second round pick in 2005 who fell so far down the depth chart most fans forgot he was even on the team. He was only pressed into duty in 2007 when the team was hit by injuries. How did he respond? By having the best stretch of his career, acting as the Giants top corner as they went on to win the Super Bowl. Simply put, patience is key.

“[Milliner]’s close to being that player that we want,” Rex Ryan said hopefully yesterday. “I will say this, by the time the season’s over, I think he will be the best rookie corner and playing better than any rookie corner in this year’s draft.”

“I’ve just got to continue to work and get better and just see how things go,” added Milliner. “That’s the only thing I can worry about.”

More than technique or physical issues, the problem affecting Milliner seems to be confidence. It’s amazing how lost out there he looks. That’s something that can be fixed, and he has one hell of a coach to do it.

“He just needs to have some success tied along with it, and I think that’s what’s missing,” said Ryan. “Get an interception or two and I think he’s going to be good. He’s a smart young man. He wants it and I think he’ll get there.”

Look back at those Alabama tapes. It might be hard watching him make play after play following last weekend’s debacle, but what you see is a confident corner, and a corner with all the physical tools to succeed in this league. Give him some time to develop. It might not even happen this year. But Dee Milliner will be a good cornerback in this league.

Preview: Jets (4-3) vs. Bengals (5-2)

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – It’s amazing how each week the Jets establish either a new high or a new low. They have gone from stealing a victory against the still winless Bucs, to pulling one out against the hated rival New England Patriots. They’ve set the lows from a painful three-point loss to those same Patriots, to a poor six-point showing against a then winless Steelers team.

Antonio Cromartie will have his hands full with AJ Green this Sunday.

If their inconsistencies stay consistent we could be looking at a pretty bad loss this Sunday. The Bengals, with as good of a defense as any in the league, are certainly equipped to do it. The Bengals have one of the best run defenses in the league, holding opponents under 100-yards rushing, and a 3.8 ypc average. It certainly helps that they have one of the best defensive lines in football that is also known for rushing the passer.

But the Jets offensive line is pretty impressive in its own right. Even with the loss of Mike Goodson the running game continued to hum. Chris Ivory had his best game in green, and him and Bilal Powell will look to keep that going. And let’s not forget that the Jets have a pretty good defense of their own.

When: Sunday, October 27 2013, 4:05  pm EST (TV-CBS Radio-ESPN)

Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinatti, OH

Injury Report (as of Thursday) –

Jets – DNP: WR Santonio Holmes (hamstring) LMT: TE Jeff Cumberland (hamstring), WR Jeremy Kerley (hamstring), S Antonio Allen (groin, finger), C Nick Mangold (ribs), TE Konrad Rueland (knee), WR Greg Salas (knee).

Bengals – Out: CB Leon Hall (achilles), DT Devon Stills(elbow) DNP: WR Marvin Jones (shoulder), LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring), CB Terrence Newman (ankle) LMT: RB Rex Burkhead (calf)

Game Keys:

Establishing the Run – As mentioned the Bengals defensive line might be one of the best in football. The rest of the defense isn’t too bad either. Geno Smith played well last week, but a strong running game will keep the pressure off of him, and limit his opportunities of forcing a turnover against an opportunistic defense.

Keep AJ Green in check – Green is the main game changer for this team. He seems to have a big play every week. Antonio Cromartie had a good game on Sunday, but he has struggled this season, and will likely shadow Green for much of the day. If he can keep Green in check this game should be a low scoring affair. That’s another way to take the pressure off of Geno.

Pressure Andy Dalton – In the past few weeks Dalton has put together some pretty nice performances. He has already beaten Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tom Brady this season, but he is not an elite quarterback. Dalton can be rattled, and make mistakes. Teams have been trying to combat the Jets strong defensive line, but if they can find a way to pressure Dalton they should be able to force a turnover for the second straight week.

X-Factor:

Brian Winters – The rookie has been solid so far, but has had some breakdowns as well. He can’t afford to do that this week. He will likely have Geno Atkins lined up across from him this week. Atkins is a guy who could terrorize Winters all day and make things very tough for the Jets offense. On the other hand, if Winters performs well that would be a huge boost for this team.

The Pick – I’m riding this roller coaster until the pattern stops. The Bengals are going to win a close one.

The Jets defense is going to keep this low scoring. I’m not the biggest Andy Dalton fan, and Rex is certainly the coach to knock him off his game. But that Bengals defense is too good to allows Chris Ivory to have a repeat performance. Even if David Nelson builds on his strong performance, there just isn’t enough for Geno to pull out a game-winning drive this week.

Bengals win 24-21

Jets thinning out at wide receiver

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ- Last week the Jets could only muster six points against the Steelers. They went into the game without the injured Santonio Holmes, and the recently suspended Kellen Winslow. Now they’ll be without RB Mike Goodson and WR Clyde Gates who both went on IR earlier this week.

Geno Smith is left with Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland, and midseason acquisitions David Nelson, Josh Cribbs, and Greg Salas. Actually scratch Salas; he’s been dealing with a hamstring injury. That’s a pretty thin group to go against a 5-1 New England team that just knocked off the unbeaten Saints.

The Jets will be without Santonio Holmes and several other receivers they started the season with.

“We practice very hard, hopefully we can build enough of a rapport with one another to the fact that we can go out and execute,” said Smith. “When the game is on the line, we’re not thinking about the name or the number on the back of the jersey. We’re all here with that Jets logo on the side of our helmets and trying to win for the organization.”

That’s a good attitude, but the receivers are going to need to step up. While Kerley and Cumberland have been reliable, there needs to be more production outside of those two.

Hill has already improved upon his rookie season, putting up more yards and showing his big play potential with a 16.7 ypc average. But he’s got to be more consistent in games. His season-high for receptions in a game is 6, and that came in game one against Tampa Bay. He’s only had 12 receptions in the other four games he’s played in. In those four games the only time he caught more than half the passes he was targeted on was against Atlanta, and he was only targeted two times in that one.

David Nelson was signed a few weeks ago pretty much off his couch. Since then he has totaled three receptions for 20 yards. He’s now the Jets third receiver on the depth chart.

In 2011 Josh Cribbs posted career-highs across the board at receiver, totaling 41 receptions for 518 yard and four touchdowns. Not eye-popping numbers, but not bad for a team in need of production at the receiver position. Problem is he had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in the offseason, and the injury scared off enough teams that he didn’t make an NFL roster until the Jets signed him earlier this week. Plus it’s not known what his role will be with the team.

“Wherever they need me,” said Cribbs. “We talked about it. It’s a weekly decision, a gameday decision. We’re rotating reps, so whatever they need me (to do).”

Right now that appears to be as a kick returner with Gates and Goodson on IR. After all he did make the Pro Bowl in that role with Cleveland.

“We think that he looks pretty good right now,” said Rex Ryan. “Now, what that means, what kind of role he’ll have on offense, I’m not sure yet. Certainly, he’ll have a role as a returner for us.”

As mapped out there are a lot of question marks with this group, but if there is a silver lining it’s that they are young and eager.

“Every guy comes out with the right mentality and attitude,” said Smith. “We’re getting better. That goes for every single guy in this locker room. And all the young guys, we’re hungry, we want to be the marquee players. We all use each other to kind of motivate one another and to get better on a daily basis in practice.”

Sunday will be a good opportunity for these young guys to make a name for themselves. Nothing will get you remembered faster than a win against New England.

Jets add Josh Cribbs in active day

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ - The Jets signed Pro Bowl return man Josh Cribbs with Clyde Gates and Mike Goodson heading to the IR. The Jets also signed wide receiver Greg Salas off the Eagles practice squad, and added ex-Stony Brook star running back Miguel Maysonet to the practice squad.

Clyde Gates joins Mike Goodson on the IR as the Jets add returner Josh Cribbs

Cribbs isn’t much of a receiver–he only had 107 receptions in eight seasons with the Browns–but it’s clear he was brought in to replace Gates and Goodson as the team’s kick returner. The Jets had brought Cribbs in several times since the start of free agency, but passed because of questions about his knee. Cribbs hasn’t played a snap this season, he was released by the Raiders in the preseason.

Salas is a former fourth-round pick of the Rams who totaled 27 receptions back in 2011. He will likely serve as depth for a receiving corp that lost Gates, and will probably be without Santonio Holmes for a few more weeks.

Gates showed promise in training camp, but has continued to be unimpressive during games. Goodson was just coming off the four-game suspension he served to start the season. In the limited time he saw against the Falcons and Steelers he showed the speed and promise that made him one of the few signings this offseason.

Jets lose a slugfest at home 19-6

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

East Rutherford, NJ - Lou Holtz once said, “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” That couldn’t be any more fitting coming off the high of the Monday night win in Atlanta, to today’s 19-6 stinker to the now 1-4 Steelers. The Jets sit at 3-3, having yet to lose or win consecutive games. But this roller coaster ride shouldn’t be unexpected with rookie quarterback Geno Smith under center to start the season.

One coverage breakdown by Antonio Cromartie was enough to bury the Jets in a defensive struggle.

Smith had arguably his best performance on Monday, but in case you haven’t heard, Dick Lebeau is 15-2 against rookie quarterbacks as the defensive coordinator of the Steelers. Oh, and he had a bye week to prepare. Today that defense held Geno Smith and the Jets to six points, getting two interceptions (their first two of the season), and three sacks (they had four in the previous four games).

“I don’t know if I’m more excited getting an interception because it helped us win the game, or so you guys can stop asking about it,” said Steelers safety Ryan Clark.

Clark’s interception came on Geno’s worst play of the game, an interception he threw into triple coverage. But it was a play Geno was duped into.

“William Gay realized that when they are in a certain formation, they always ran vertical routes,” explained Clark. “He was screaming out ‘Verticals’ and he did a good job making his man go around him. I played Cumberland to force Smith to go outside and he floated the ball enough so that I had an opportunity to catch it.”

This loss can’t squarely be put on Smith’s shoulders. The Jets were in this game until Antonio Cromartie let Emmanuel Sanders past him for a 55-yard score on third down. That one play accounted for more points than the Jets mustered the entire game. Instead of a close 9-6 affair, the game became an uphill battle with the Jets down 16-6.

“Our job is to keep them out of the end zone and we didn’t,” said Cromartie. “They scored on a third and one. It’s something we can’t have, especially for me.”

Overall the Jets defense was solid. They had another stout performance against the run, only giving up 2.8 yards per carry. They collected four sacks, a number that could’ve been more if it wasn’t for the numerable holding penalties the Steelers committed. But in the end the defense couldn’t take advantage of the long down and distances Pittsburgh was forced into from those mistakes.

Once again the Jets secondary struggled in man-to-man coverage and they failed to get a turnover for the fourth time this season. The game was closer than the 19-6 score indicates, but the Steelers made the plays that the Jets couldn’t.

The Jets were without Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow, and can be without the two for the next couple weeks. Jeff Cumberland has taken advantage of the additional playing time, leading the team in receiving yards for the second straight week. Not enough guys have stepped up, though.

The good news is Mike Goodson has looked good his first two weeks back from suspension. He left the game early with an injury, but if it isn’t serious this team has the weapons in the running game to make up for their injured receivers.

The Jets remain home next week, and welcome in the New England Patriots (4-1) for a rematch of the 13-10 loss at Foxborough.

David Garrard is Back

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – As the media huddled around his locker David Garrard left to get one thing. He came back wearing a shirt that read “Some Things Just Don’t Retire.” He got it before he decided to come back, and couldn’t help but wear it on his first day back.

Garrard retired during minicamp because his knee wasn’t able to hold up through practice.

David Garrard put in a call to John Idzik after having the itch to play again.

“When I left, I knew I just needed time to get away, and let my body heal up,” said Garrard. “My knee was truly bothering me. I just took the whole summer and relaxed. I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do any kind of conditioning.”

But after months of retirement, Garrard got the itch to play again.

“I don’t want to turn 50 one day and think back and say, ‘what if I just called somebody,’” said Garrard.

Garrard starting working out again when he returned home to Jacksonville in August, mostly just to stay in shape. He went on runs of three miles and noticed his knee wasn’t bothering him. Then he played some football.

“My wife plays flag football,” said Garrard. “She’s a quarterback so she needs somebody to throw to, and I go out there and run routes for her. That told me I could do it because not many quarterbacks are running routes and that kind of stuff. You have the cutting and the stopping, and the running long sprints, so I knew if I could do that for every day for the past month, I knew I could at least attempt to get back out there and see how things go.”

That doesn’t mean Garrard has been given a spot yet.

“It’s a two game trial,” said Rex Ryan. “There have not been any guarantees or promises.”

He has been put on the exempt list, which gives him two weeks to convince the Jets brass that he is healthy enough to be on the active roster.

“I’m not looking at it like that, I’m looking at it as I’m on the team till they tell me otherwise,” added Garrard.

Coming off of Geno’s best performance as a pro, Garrard recognizes he won’t be competing with Smith for the starting job.

“Geno has the job,” explained Garrard. “If my number is ever called I need to be ready for that. So my thing is just to help these guys out, and just be a leader as much as I can in the locker room, and as much of a mentor and a leader as I can in the quarterback room.”

And the veteran has been impressed with what he’s seen so far.

“[Smith] played outstanding,” said Garrard. “Early on you’re going to have some rookie things you have to get over, but to be able to bring the team back in the games that he has is outstanding.”

If Garrard can prove he is healthy, he can be the veteran mentor the Jets were hoping for when they originally signed him during free agency.

Geno Smith leads Jets to 30-28 Victory in Atlanta

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Atlanta, Georgia – Matt Ryan doesn’t lose at home, and he certainly doesn’t lose back-to-back home games. At the very least, a Jets team embarrassed in Tennessee and without top wideout Santonio Holmes wasn’t the team to do it. That was the popular thought before the game, but after an impressive and turnover free performance by rookie quarterback Geno Smith, the Jets left the Georgia Dome with a 30-28 victory.

A week after a forgettable performance, Geno Smith put together arguable his best game as a pro.

Smith didn’t throw for 300 yards, but he completed 16-of-20 passes and added three touchdowns in his first turnover free game. More importantly he led the Jets down the field with ease to set Nick Folk up for the game-winning 44-yard field goal as time expired.

Matty Ice did his job. He gave his team the lead the last time he touched the ball, and carried an offense that could only muster 64 yards rushing on 22 carries. His one blemish was a fumble that had more to do with the guy who forced it, Muhammad Wilkerson.

Wilkerson had a phenomenal game in front of the national audience, and so did the front seven for the most part. The defense’s biggest problems came from poor tackling, and the secondary struggled again this week. But they were still able to keep the Falcon’s offense to just 14 points till about halfway through the 4th quarter, and the last touchdown was aided by a questionable defensive holding penalty.

Still the story of the game is an offense that was able to clean up its turnover issue, and move the ball with ease for much of the day. It was Jeff Cumberland who stood out with a career night, hauling in 3 passes for 79 yards including a touchdown. Kellen Winslow and Jeremy Kerley had the other two touchdown grabs.

It was also the debut of the three-headed monster at running back with Mike Goodson back from suspension, and Chris Ivory active after missing last week with a hamstring injury. In limited time Goodson showed the explosion the team was hoping for when they signed him in the offseason. Overall the trio finished with 97 yards on 19 carries.

Smith and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had a great game, and should give Jets fans hope moving forward as they advance to 3-2 on the season. That has them tied with the Dolphins and only a game out of New England. A 3-point loss in Foxborough is the only thing separating the two teams in the standings.

Next week the Jets return home to take on the 0-4 Steelers.

Brian Winters making an impression on the owner and coaches

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Florham Park, NJ - Brian Winters gets most of his thrills in the woods, not the football field.

“Nothing better than killing a deer,” said Winters. “The adrenaline rush. You can’t beat it. I’ve never experienced any more than that, your heart rate…way better than football. Anyone will tell you that.”

Rex Ryan and Marty Mornhinweg might be making a change on the offensive line

That attitude has already left an impression on his owner. He is the only player that goes to Woody’s farm to hunt.

“No, no one else is really into it,” said Winters. “I know [Brett] Farve was a big time hunter, but no I haven’t seen really anyone.”

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t making an impact on the field.

Based on reports, Winters will be the starting left guard against Atlanta. He would be replacing embattled fourth year pro, Vladimir Ducasse. Ducasse has shown flashes this season, but has had an uneven performance overall, and struggled last Sunday against the Titans.

While Rex Ryan won’t confirm that Winters will be starting Monday, Winters has been taking the first team reps all week. Certainly an added thrill for a player who was psyched playing in the preseason.

“Yeah it’s crazy,” said Winters. “Coming out of the tunnel, being on an NFL field, ya know it was awesome.”

If he gets the start he will be hunting down linebackers, attacking the second level of the defense to open up holes for Bilal Powell and recently reinstated Mike Goodson. And for a big guy, he know a thing or two about running for daylight.

“We were running from the cops,” explains Winters. “[Oday Aboushi, Storm Klein from Ohio State, and I] played on Team USA coming out of high school and on the fourth of july we went out and bought a whole bunch of fireworks that we weren’t supposed to–you can’t do 4th of july without fireworks–so we went out and set them off in the parking lot.”

Lucky for Winters it was only the campus police, and all three managed to get away. While Klein is still in school, Aboushi and Winters have been reunited with the Jets. But instead of setting off fireworks, they’re heeding the advice of the veterans ahead of them.

“Don’t be too overly aggressive,” Winters says is the best advice he’s received. “I was like that from the beginning and they’ve kind of settled me down, so that’s nice.”

Willie Colon, Nick Mangold, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson have all been very helpful to the two, and Winters admits there is nothing better than playing left guard which is sandwiched between the Pro Bowlers Mangold and Ferguson. We’ll see how good the pair make Winters look on Monday.