Archive for December, 2008

Jets Lead NFL with 7 Pro Bowl Nods

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

In an up and down year, the Jets have sent a league-leading seven players to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii. Now isn’t that something else?

Alan Faneca, Leon Washington, Kris Jenkins, and Thomas Jones were all named to the starting roster while Brett Favre, Nick Mangold, and Darrelle Revis received invitations as reserves.

What surprised me the most was that this is Thomas Jones’ first trip to Hawaii. Granted, he only had a whopping total of two touchdowns last year, but remember when he was in Chicago? He helped the Bears get to the Super Bowl, but with modest stats when compared with what he’s done this year. The year he went to the Super Bowl against Peyton Manning’s Colts, he had six touchdowns and 1,210 yards. This season, Jones has already surpassed that yardage total with two games left to play. He’s amassed 1,222 yards, having crossed the goal line 13 times via rushing and 15 total, both franchise records. Curtis Martin, the NFL’s 4th-leading rusher was a Jet. I’m just sayin…

It’s no wonder why Faneca deserves to be selected for the Pro Bowl. He blocks for that stud of a running back. He’ll be appearing in his eighth NFL All-Star game. Gang Green is second in the NFL averaging 4.8 yards per rush. Last season, New York’s O-line was a group of matadors, allowing 44 sacks through 14 games. Through that many games this year, Faneca has helped cut that total nearly in half, allowing Brett Favre to go down just 26 times in the backfield.

Kris Jenkins, making his fourth trip to the Aloha State, has helped anchor a stout defensive line that has held an NFL-high five teams to under 50 yards rushing this season. He joins the company of Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. With those two up front for the AFC, Adrian Peterson should have some trouble running the ball.

Leon Washington, who I still think isn’t used enough out of the backfield, made his first Pro Bowl as a kick returner, becoming the second Jet to go as a returner in the last three years (Justin Miller, 2006). Washington leads the league in combined yards with 2,067-that’s the league, meaning he has more than Chicago’s Devin Hester-and has six kickoff returns for 40-or-more yards. Favre referred to him as an MVP player after Sunday’s win against Buffalo. He’s good.

In making his 10th Pro Bowl, Favre joins an eclectic group of Jet quarterbacks-Joe Namath, Ken O’Brien, Boomer Esiason, and Vinny Testaverde-to make the team. O’Brien is the only one to have made the Pro Bowl more than once, so will Favre match that next season? Who knows, and right now who cares? New York media, anyone?

Nick Mangold is the third Jets center to play in Hawaii, joining the likes of Joe Fields, who did it twice and Kevin Mawae, who went six times. It certainly is not any secret that like Faneca, Mangold has been a big part of why Thomas Jones is having a career season. It’s a damn shame the entire Jets O-line can’t go, because they deserve it. While a lot of positions and aspects of the team have done 180’s for the Jets this year, the offensive line is easily the most improved.

Darrelle Revis is second in the NFL with five interceptions and is the first Jets cornerback to make the Pro Bowl since Ty Law in 2005. The secondary has been a low point for the Green and White this season (29th league-wide in defending the pass), but that can hardly be blamed on Revis, who closed out the game at Miami in Week 1 with a pick and the most recent win against the Bills as well. He has 36 tackles and 13 assists to go along with a forced fumble, fumble recovery and an interception returned for a touchdown.

Who would have seen this? A league-leading seven Pro Bowlers from New York’s “other” team. At this point it’s certainly no surprise, but back in training camp, who woulda thunk it?

Same Old… Bills

Monday, December 15th, 2008

You could feel it all the way up in the Giants Stadium press box. Some fans had already left, and the ones still there had to have their elbows on their knees with their chins in their hands. It was that kind of day for the Jets. Despite a game-opening scoring drive that spanned 72 yards in 3:09, the Jets were back on their heels after some three-and-outs in which Brett Favre couldn’t make magic.

The mood was sepulchral, like someone just crapped in everyone’s cereal at The Meadowlands, save for some NY Metro Bills fans that were hoopin’ it up. The radio guy that reads from a script every 30 minutes for the “15 and 45 updates” turned his voice on, and out of his mouth came the words that have been thrown around this season just as much as ‘Division Champs’ and ‘Super Bowl.’

You know what I mean… The three words that are just so hackneyed: ‘Same old Jets.’

He continued on his sports information-packed rant, but before he could explain his unbiased self to whoever was listening, it happened. Christmas came early for the Jets, and something gave. Call it luck if you must-and you have to get lucky every now and then-but Gang Green caught the break it had needed all year.

Under pressure from a blitzing Abram Elam, Bills quarterback JP Losman was sacked and coughed up the ball, which Shaun Ellis picked up and took 11 yards to the crib to give the Jets the lead 31-27 with just under two minutes to play. Two INTs later-Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes-and the Bills are the same old Bills, while New York controls its destiny with two games to play.

Ellis brushed off the questions about what this meant given his rough couple of weeks, and he was genuine about it. He’s put it behind him, and we all need to do the same. I will say though that this play is big for him, regardless of how he’s handled his off-field troubles.

It certainly did wonders for the crowd, and there was jubilation in the press box as well. Fireman Ed’s head nearly exploded as he striked up the ‘J-E-T-S’ chant, and on SNY’s Fan Appreciation Day, well, the post-tailgate hangovers had to have felt a little better this past Sunday afternoon.

A diehard Bills fan friend of mine called me before the game and jokingly asked what I thought about a 0-0 tie. I laughed, telling him I didn’t think either team’s defense was good enough for that, which turned out to be true. But I’m certainly not surprised by that, not like I am with the Bills’ decision to pass the ball on 2nd-and-5 so close to the two-minute warning and the most important thing in hand-the lead.

Dick Jauron needs to go, and he may have just sealed his fate with that call. After a strong start, the Bills have flat-lined as they’ve dropped seven of their last eight games dating back to Ocober 26. Think you’ve had it hard Jets fans? Try losing all four Super Bowls your team has ever played in.

There is an ESPN Commercial with stunned Bills fans living in a horrible cartoon world when suddenly, to save the game a botched play is returned for a touchdown, and the sun comes up and all is well until it’s called back, and suddenly a car smashes into a fire hydrant, the sun instantly goes back down, and everything is back to normal in Bills world.

It’s funny, and it’s funny because it’s funny and true, but after all the misery it makes you feel at least a little bad. Just a little? OK, so Jets fans probably don’t feel sorry for Buffalo, but in a year of the resurgent team-Atlanta, Miami, Carolina, Tennessee-Buffalo has to feel left out and reeling as another disappointing season comes to an end.

Meanwhile last year’s 4-12 Jets are 9-5 and thinking playoffs with two games to play. Hey, it’s the NFL. Seattle hosted a playoff game last year. Now they’re 3-11. The Jets radio broadcaster said it best as Shaun Ellis scored… “Are you kidding me?”

Ellis’ Misbehavior Leaves Questions

Friday, December 5th, 2008

For those of you that thought your New York Jets to be the choir boys when compared to their roommates, think again. DE Shaun Ellis is facing several charges, including possession of marijuana, driving without insurance, and speeding after a highway traffic stop, according to reports from the Journal News.

Abbott Koloff reported that the Jets defensive captain was “uncooperative” and refused to give all of the paperwork requested by Sgt. Anthony Vitanza, who stopped Ellis.

Evidently someone forgot to knock on wood earlier this week when reporters asked head coach Eric Mangini and various other players about how fortunate they were to not have to deal with off-field distractions such as the one Plaxico Burres has the Giants tip-toeing around.

Ellis issued a statement, saying he apologized to his family, the fans and the organization. He took full responsibility and accountability for his actions, which is to be expected from a stand-up guy such as Ellis.

“It’s something that I have to deal with,” Ellis said after practice Friday. “I will be responsible.”

Mangini said he spoke with him, and that Ellis was punished internally. Really, coach? How? He practiced Friday prior to leaving for San Francisco and he’s slated to start Sunday against the 49ers. Mangini hoped the media were able to respect the internality of the matter, but I can’t respect something I know so little about. I realize it’s far from public information, but aside from a few thousand dollars, what could the organization have done, made Ellis run sprints? Yeah, real smart at this point of the season.

“We take personal conduct very seriously. We spend a lot of time researching the type of people that we are going to bring into the organization,” Mangini said. “I’ve known Shaun for three years. He’s been voted a captain for three years. He’s been outstanding as a professional and a person over the time that I’ve known him.”

Whatever the internal punishment, it’s something we’ll never know about, but any way you look at it, Ellis is lucky. There are legal issues pending, but he’ll likely walk away with a slap on the wrist at the very worst. It’s gotta be a tight rope to walk for Mangini and the organization being in the hunt for a division title with four games to go.

Let’s face it, take Ellis off the field and the league’s fourth-best defense at stopping the run likely takes a tumble. Ellis has seven sacks through 12 games to go along with his 35 tackles and a forced fumble. At 31 years of age, he’s a veteran leader and has been a Jet for nine years-the longest tenured player in the organization.

The media guide informs me that Ellis has teamed up with The Muscular Dystrophy Association “Muscle Team” the past seven seasons. He’s hosted children afflicted with the illness at Jets’ training camps and games. It says he embodied the NFL’s commitment to community service by supporting programs benefiting the children and youth of New York City.

I mean, he’s a good guy, but he made a mistake. It happens, but what is done about it is what defines who and what people truly are.

“It’s not been easy,” Ellis said. “It’s something I gotta grow from and learn from.”

The Jets are trying to win a division and get homefield in the playoffs, so they punished Ellis “internally.” The law will step in as it sees fit. As for now it’s all on Shaun and how he handles this matter.

Post-Denver Mess, But Not Really

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Coming at you from the Jets press room right now with 49ers head coach Mike Singletary on conference call.

I just found out that Singletary’s last season in the league as a player for the Bears was Favre’s first season with Green Bay. It’s pretty amazing to think that he is now coaching against the legendary quarterback.

Singletary said how he could see from the onset that Brett was going to be something special.

“You could hear the ball when he passed it,” he said of Favre’s rocket arm.

Additionally, Singletary spoke at Eric Mangini’s high school, motivating the Jets head coach as a youngster. Now they’ll be facing each other Sunday in a must-win for New York. That’s easier said than done. Gang Green is 0-2 on the West Coast this season. Hopefully it wasn’t the jetlag that plagued the Jets-no pun intended-against San Diego and Oakland.

The 49ers are certainly an up-and-coming team despite being 4-8. Singletary is 2-3 since taking over in San Francisco, including a win at Buffalo this past Sunday. After Singletary, Takeo Spikes took the phone, and he said as he sees it, they’re still alive. I smell danger for Mangini’s team, but what you smell isn’t always what it is. Who smelled Denver coming into Giants Stadium and handling the Jets the way they did?

Funny thing about the NFL, you really never know what’s going to happen. I know, I know, all sports are like that. But in the NFL, common opponents, favorable statistics and all that business really go out the window come gameday, be it a Sunday, Monday, Thursday or Saturday.

“The bottom line is you can be beat any week,” Favre said. “In pro football, you just never know. Everyone says, ‘Oh you know, you guys out beat them. Oakland blew them out.’ What does that mean? That means nothing.

“I have no idea what Denver will do this week. I have no idea what San Francisco will do. I hope I know what we’ll do. We play our type of football, what has gotten us to this point.”

What has gotten the Jets to this point is solid football. Not necessarily mistake-free, but less mistakes than their opponents, and really just winning the little battles. And for the record, this point has the Jets still a game ahead of New England and Miami for first place in the AFC East despite a loss.

That’s right Jets fans, you give one up-terribly I might add-and you’re still in first place. Forget about the top two seeds in the AFC though. Assuming they follow suit, Pittsburgh and Tennessee should wrap those up. In a tie-breaker situation, being that Pittsburgh hasn’t played New York head-to-head, it would go to conference records. Pittsburgh: 8-1 in the AFC, New York: 6-4. It’s not mathematically impossible, but it’s certainly not likely.

But of course, this is the NFL. Evidently anything is possible.