Posts Tagged ‘Sheldon Richardson’

Rex Ryan set to return next season as Jets knock off Dolphins in final game

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – On the heels of a feel-good, 20-7, win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Jets owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik ended weeks of speculation by announcing that Rex Ryan will return as head coach next season.

Saddled with rock-bottom expectations and the notion that he wouldn't be around much longer, Rex Ryan took the Jets to an 8-8 record in 2013 and will return next season, according to owner Woody Johnson.

“After five years of looking at Rex, it’s pretty obvious he’s a good coach,” Johnson told SNY after the game. “This is the start of something really big for the New York Jets.”

Idzik also broke his radio silence after the game, acknowledging that Ryan will return next season, although he would not comment on Ryan’s contract, which runs out at the end of 2014.

“It was a great feeling that we had. It started from day one with me,” said Idzik. “The feeling we had inside was that this was a pretty good pairing.”

The Jets aren’t playoff bound, finishing off at 8-8, but won back-to-back games for the first time all season, and relished the role of spoiler, knocking the Dolphins out of the postseason race.

In a season marked with struggles, the rookie class shined on the final day for the Jets, with Geno Smith, Sheldon Richardson and Dee Milliner all turning in great performances.

Smith played his second straight turnover-free game, passing for 190 yards and rushing for 44 yards and a touchdown. Milliner intercepted Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill twice, his second straight game with a pick, and Richardson scored his second touchdown of the season.

“We knew we were a better team than showed up against Miami [the last time], certainly,” Ryan said. “That was the main driving force of it, to show where we’re at.”

Ryan said he found about the Jets decision to bring him back before the start of the game, during warm-ups.

“I love being the head football coach of the New York Jets, plain and simple,” he said. “I didn’t want to go out this way.”

The announcement about Ryan’s future coupled with the win over Miami ends the season a high note, but there are still many questions for the team moving forward.

The biggest of which will be, can the team be good enough to make the playoffs next year? That answer is pretty clear, according to Richardson.

“Next year, baby, we’ll be in the playoffs.”

Quinton Coples finishing the season on a high note

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Just before heading into the cafeteria after practice, Quinton Coples jokingly raises his hand in the air, up and out of the reach of a Jets public relations staff worker, looking for a high five.

The 6 foot 6 inch, 290-pound linebacker lets out a deep laugh as he watches her she jump and struggle to meet his skyward arm before mercifully lowering his hand to meet hers. Moments earlier, Coples admitted that, much like his wingspan, he has a “big personality.” Someone who gets joy out of making people laugh, whether they are his teammates, family members, sick kids, or team staffers.

The only problem being, up until these last few weeks, Coples’ big-time personality hadn’t been matched with big-time production. That, along with the emergence of his teammates along the defensive line, left Coples on the outside of the white-hot spotlight.

An injury and a position change hampered Quinton Coples early on, but the second year man is putting together a strong finish.

A place his personality would suggest, isn’t where he’d like to be.

But any criticism of Coples’ play this season must be scrutinized through the correct lens, and if he deserved any flack for how he preformed during the first eight games, he deserves all the more credit for how he is finishing.

After completing his rookie season with a team-high five and half sacks, Coples was asked to move from defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker, no small transition for a man of his size. On top of that, Coples fractured his ankle during the second preseason game, costing him two preseason and two regular season games along with invaluable learning time.

To expect him to become Aldon Smith overnight was unrealistic; to have him do so while overcoming an injury is just, well, ridiculous.

Yet, just as the calls for Coples benching were reaching a fever pitch, the second year man out of North Carolina responded with what Mohammed Wilkerson called a “break-out” game against the New Orleans Saints, which included a tackle for a loss on 4th and 19 to end the game.

And he’s been improving ever since. In just thirteen games, Coples is seventh in the league at the linebacker position with 17 quarterback hits, including nine tackles for loss, three passes defensed and one forced fumble. He has three and a half sacks in his last four games and his confidence is burgeoning.

“I think the game plan is getting a little shorter, everything is starting to work out in my favor in more situations,” he said. “Everything is going well, I’m definitely a lot more confident.”

When the Jets took Sheldon Richardson with the 13th overall pick in 2013, in launched Coples into a world of uncertainty. It seemed curious that the Jets would take Richardson, with Coples, a first round pick who played the same position, already in toe. However, Coples’ move to linebacker now rounds out a young defensive front with loads of potential.

“These young guys, I think as it gets going, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be one of the top groups in the league,” said head coach Rex Ryan about his defensive front which now includes back-to-back-to-back first round picks.

Coples attributes much of his development to Wilkerson, his former prep school teammate, who took him under his wing after being drafted. Now, even after his move to linebacker, Coples still considers himself part of the “front four,” which includes Wilkerson, Richardson, and Damon “Snacks” Harrison.

“We’re definitely close knit,” he said. “We talk about anything and everything. It’s great.”

“I think that’s a young group that has the potential to be around for a long time,” said Ryan.

So, after undergoing some early growing pains, Coples, in two less games and with one more left to play, sits just one sack removed from his rookie total. And regardless of whether he gets it, the big guy, with the big personality should remain a big-time piece in the Jets rebuilding effort.

Jets’ playoff hopes fade in loss to Panthers

Monday, December 16th, 2013

CHARLOTTE, NC – The Jets fell flat in all three phases against Carolina on Sunday, losing 30-20 to the Panthers and all but putting to bed any remaining playoff hopes.

The Jets remained competitive until the fourth quarter, but had major breakdowns on offense (Geno Smith pick-six), defense (Cam Newton-DeAngelo Williams 72-yard screen pass touchdown) and special teams (blocked punt), which inevitably couldn’t be overcome.

Santonio Holmes was forced to eat his "weakest link" comment as the Panthers held him to two catches for 14 yards in another ugly Jets loss.

“It snowballed on us and the game got out of hand at the end,” said head coach Rex Ryan, who will now go three straight seasons without a winning record and without making the playoffs.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Jets were still very much alive, down 16-13, but a blocked punt led to great field position and an easy one-yard touchdown run by Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert.

Three minutes later, Smith was picked off, trying to force a pass to Santonio Holmes in double coverage and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned it 41 yards for the touchdown.

“Before the blocked punt happened I thought it was only a matter of time [until we would take the lead],” said Ryan.

Smith did rebound after throwing his 20th interception of the season, leading a 12-play, 72-yard drive that resulted in an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jeff Cumberland. But, with just under four minutes remaining, it was just too little, too late.

Smith finished his day going 15-for-28 with 167 yards passing and a 68.6 passer rating. He now trails only Eli Manning (25) for most interceptions in the NFL.

Chris Ivory had another solid day on the ground against a top-flight Carolina run defense, tallying 66 yards on 11 carries, including a long 35 yarder that set up one of Nick Folk’s three field goals. Smith and running back Bilal Powell added 81 more rushing yards for a total of 157 at 5.6 yards per carry.

The pass catchers were no where to be found, however, as Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley combined for three catches and 39 yards.

Holmes, who earlier in the week called the Carolina secondary the Panther’s “weak link” on defense, was jawed at all game and dropped half as many balls as he caught despite being targeted eight times.

“I’m an eight-year veteran,” Holmes said after the game. “I wouldn’t regret anything.”

Despite clearly motivating the Panthers, Ryan stood behind his star wide receiver saying, “I think the weakness is the secondary, I’ll say it. I’m not saying they’re a bad secondary, but [their weakness] is not they’re front.”

Cumberland led all receivers with 50 yards and one touchdown while wide receiver David Nelson added 44 yards on three catches.

Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, a defensive rookie of the year candidate no less, had the only other Jets touchdown, taking two carries to punch it in at the goal line with three minutes left in the third quarter.

“We’ve been practicing it,” said Ryan about giving the 294-pound Richardson goal line touches. “[We were] thinking they shouldn’t be able to deny that guy down there.”

On the whole, the defense played well enough to win, save for loads of missed tackles and a 72-yard touchdown screen pass which DeAnglo Williams took for a touchdown.

After Miami’s unexpected win over the Patriots earlier today, the Jets, at 6-8, sit two games back of the final wildcard slot in the AFC. That means they would need a prayer and a miracle just to have the possibility of sneaking in.

But despite hanging tough against a playoff bound Carolina team, and despite being projected as one of the worst teams in the league heading into the season, Ryan was not in the mood for moral victories.

“No, no, no. Absolutely not,” said Ryan, half laughing, half shaking his head. “We came here to win, we thought we’d win.”

“Hell, obviously that’s not our intent going into a season or any other time. We want to win it all that’s been clear since I got here.”

So, as for the Jets in 2013, it’s like the saying goes: Wait ’til next year. Unfortunately for Ryan, there might not be a next year.

Rex Ryan defends struggling rookie class

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Rex Ryan went to bat for his rookie class on Wednesday, calling them an “A-plus” group despite their recent struggles.

“I mean, if that’s not an A-plus class, I don’t know what you’re looking for,” he said of the 2013 draft class, which has seen five rookie starters, including Dee Milliner, Sheldon Richardson, Geno Smith, Brian Winters and Tommy Bohanon.

Sheldon Richardson aside, all the Jets rookie starters have struggled this season, from Geno Smith on down to Tommy Bohanon.

All but Richardson, who is a rookie of the year candidate, have had their share of struggles, however, most notably Milliner and, of course, Smith.

But Ryan isn’t ready to give up on the youngsters just yet.

“For us to be critical of a draft class that has five starters in the National Football League, I think we’re being, I understand it’s the New York media, but this might be a little tough,” Ryan said. “This is a bit of a stretch, I think, to criticize this draft class. I think it’s as strong as I’ve ever seen.”

The merits of their starting status is debatable, however, as only Richardson seemed truly deserving coming out of training camp.

Smith won the starting quarterback job only after Mark Sanchez was injured in that infamous preseason game against the Giants. Milliner was essentially handed the job after missing most of camp due to injury. Winters beat out an embattled Vlad Duccasse and Bohanon started from day one.

Now, all four are struggling and the Jets, who have the seventh youngest team in the league with an average age of 25.6, are paying for it. They’re young, inexperienced and predictably inconsistent.

Smith leads the league in turnovers and has been benched for the equally inexperienced Matt Simms during two separate blowout losses. Putting things into even more painful perspective, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles could throw an interception on his next 50 pass attempts and still have a higher passer rating than Smith, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

Milliner, who stepped into the impossible-to-fill shoes of Darrelle Revis, has drawn the ire of Jets fans, struggling in coverage, misplaying balls in the air, missing tackles and getting benched for Darrin Walls on multiple occasions.

“I understand [Milliner] has had some struggles, I’m not making excuses for him but he’s a rookie corner,” said Ryan. “I don’t know any other rookie corners coming in the league, outside of maybe Revis, that jumped right in. I think we’ve been a little spoiled here with the corner play.”

Winters has also struggled in pass protection and Pro Football Focus recently rated Bohanon as the worst fullback in football. But Ryan isn’t worried.

“That’s okay, that doesn’t mean anything,” he said of the Milliner and Smith benchings. “We do things for different reasons or whatever but that doesn’t mean that these guys aren’t good picks. If they weren’t they wouldn’t have seen the field ever.”

Ryan maintains that all the playing time will ultimately benefit his rookies and the team moving forward.

“A lot of times when you have guys that come into the league, you’re going to make mistakes and all that stuff, but the best way to learn is to get out there and play. I think it bodes well for us in the future.”

Great expectations: Jets are silencing doubters

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – The Jets were a bad football team a year ago.

Like inventing a new word for bad, bad.

They were 28th in the league in offense, 30th in passing and their usually dominant defense sprung leaks, ranking 26th against the run.

Football Outsiders ranked the Jets 27th in total DVOA and they missed the playoffs for the second straight time in the Rex Ryan era.

But that was last season, and like a decaying zombie corpse that just won’t die (no matter how many times you beat it over the head with a shovel), the Jets are finding out that the stench of the buttfumble will be hard to outrun.

“A lot has been said about this football team,” Ryan said before the season started. “There are a lot of non-believers out there.”

Rex Ryan is quietly proving why the Jets are far from the worst team in the league.

And there still are. But after a surprising 2-1 start, it’s time to entertain the possibility that the Jets are, well, a decent football team.

On Thursday, Ryan was confronted with that possibility when asked why he hasn’t chosen to revel in the team’s recent success.

“We’ll see,” he said with a smirk and a nod of his head, the old defiant Rex bubbling up to the surface. “There’s a long season ahead. I think I know what it’s going to look like but we’ll see.”

Yes, it’s a small sample size and, yes, one of those wins came on a last minute penalty and the other in spite of a team-record 20 penalties, but the Jets look vastly improved in several key areas, most notably on the defensive line and at quarterback.

A season ago, nose tackle Sione Pouha struggled with a back injury and the run defense suffered along with him – not so this season. In three games, the Jets defensive line is second best in all of football according to Football Outsiders, allowing an average of 79 rushing yards per game, which includes a 59-yard run by Bills running back Fred Jackson on a missed tackle.

Otherwise, the Jets have been dominate against the run, with undrafted nose tackle Damon Harrison being an impressive surprise amongst first round talent in Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Sheldon Richardson.

Despite his one solo tackle against the Bills, “Snacks” was moving blockers all over the place, grading out as one of the top defensive tackles in the league by Pro Football Focus.

Then there’s Eugene Smith, who despite seven rookie-type turnovers, has done just enough to get the Jets offense off the ground.

Last season, Mark Sanchez was the worst quarterback in the league. And not like the hyperbolic, talk radio, Skip Bayless kind of  “worst.” Literally, he was the worst quarterback in the league, ranking 36th in total QBR behind the likes of Brandon Weeden, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Cassel.

Think about that. Worse than Brandon Weeden.

Sure, Geno has benefited from the return of Santonio Holmes, an improved offensive line and Marty Mornhinweg’s system, but his QBR through three games is almost double that of Sanchez’s and is currently better than Robert Griffin III, Eli Manning and Sam Bradford.

It’s clear now, Smith is a big upgrade over Sanchez. He has the ability to extend plays and take shots downfield. The 331 pass yards he hurled against the Bills didn’t seem like a fluke and if he continues to improve the offense could be miles better than a year ago – let’s face it, it already is.

The Jets know what’s been said about them, from circus-talk to 32nd in the power rankings and dreams of Jadeveon Clowney.

“We knew that people weren’t going to give us much of a chance,” said Leger Douzable, another surprising member of that improved defensive front. “We want for people to continue to not give us a chance because we love proving people wrong.”

Well, the Jets might not be sneaking up on people for much longer. Football Outsiders has their current mean win total at 8.7 after 50,000 simulations, meaning the Jets are shockingly projected to be in the 8-9 win range – within playoff striking distance.

Currently, Football Outsiders has the Jets playoff probability at 35 percent (which is up 14.7 percent from last week) and while that may not be realistic, it’s clear now, and for the foreseeable future, that the Jets are no longer a laughing stock.

“People are starting to talk about us,” said Douzable. “But we don’t want to listen to that we just want to get better.”

Jets stun Bucs, 18-17, in final seconds

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

East Rutherford, NJ – When rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson saw his quarterback get shoved out of bounds in the final seconds of Sunday’s season opener, he had some choice words for the Tampa Bay defender.

Jets TE Kellen Winslow celebrates his first TD as a Jet against Bucs. ( Photo)

“There was a little explicit language towards the guy that hit him. I’m just going to leave it at that,” said Richardson, who was standing on the Jets’ sideline when Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David tackled quarterback Geno Smith as he was falling out of bounds.

“Then I saw the flag go and I didn’t care anymore. Picked my boy up, we kicked the field goal and we won.”

It was Nick Folk’s 48-yard field goal with two seconds remaining that won the game for the Jets, 18-17, at MetLife Stadium, but it was Smith’s scramble and David’s ill-advised personal foul penalty that made it all possible.

After dominating for most of the game, the Jets defense, specifically safety Dawan Landry who whiffed on a tackle, gave up a crucial 37-yard completion to Vincent Jackson with under two minutes remaining. The Bucs then hit a 37-yard field goal, all but sealing the second opening day defeat in the Rex Ryan era.

But down by two with 29 seconds left, Smith hit tight end Kellen Winslow with a 25 yard pass. Then, after stopping the clock, Smith scampered out of the pocket to avoid the Tampa Bay pass rush.

With time running out, he tucked the ball and sprinted for the sideline, hoping, perhaps, for one last-ditch attempt at the end zone – that’s when David came flying in and pushed him.

The flags flew and all of a sudden, the Jets had hope.

Richardson was so excited upon seeing the flag that he jumped out onto the field without a helmet, drawing a comment from a familiar face – Darrelle Revis.

“You all the way out on the field aren’t you?” Revis said, to which Richardson responded, “Hey man, we’re trying to win, simple as that.”

Smith’s 10-yard scramble, along with the 15-yard penalty, put the Jets at the Tampa Bay 30-yard line where Folk nailed the game winner.

“At the time I was like, ‘Holy cow! We’ve got a shot,’” said head coach Rex Ryan after seeing the penalty. “I’ll say this, the kid [Smith] showed a great deal of poise.”

Smith finished an up-and-down day completing 63 percent of his passes for 256 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a lost fumble. He also led the team in rushing with 47 yards on the ground.

He was far from perfect, but Smith showed glimpses of promise, especially in the fourth quarter when he led the team on two scoring drives without turning the ball over. The Jets have to be pleased with Smith’s performance and with the recent reports of Mark Sanchez’s injury — he has a torn labrum and could be out indefinitely — it looks like Smith is in it for the long haul.

After the game, Smith was confident and saying all the right things.

“I feel the same,” he said after being asked about his emotions following his first win as an NFL quarterback. “My emotions never change.”

“It’s good to get a win for the Jets. It’s not about me; it’s about my teammates and about this organization,” he said. “We have to put this one behind us and prepare for a tough game coming up on Thursday night.”

The Jets have a quick turnaround, facing Tom Brady and the rival New England Patriots in Foxborough on Thursday. With all the criticism the Jets have faced recently, a win against the Patriots could be monumental.

“I take heat, there’s no question,” said Ryan after the game. “We’re all taking heat from the outside, but inside our walls we just try to get better every day. We’re competing and we’re building a team. When you go in that locker room you’ll see it.”

The win wasn’t pretty, but it was a win nonetheless, and the Jets, with a new starting quarterback in toe, seem to be gelling in spite of the negativity.

“Whether that’s reported or not to the general population, I don’t know. That’s up to somebody else,” said Ryan of his team’s chemistry. “This team is special. How many wins that is? I don’t know. I don’t know what that will mean. But I know one thing, we’re going for it.”