FLORHAM PARK, NJ — I think all Jet fans had a special place in their hearts for the Flight Boys last year. Each member brought in their own flare, their own style. Braylon Edwards, teaching defensive backs around the league how to properly “Dougie”. Jerricho Cotchery, providing stability and a certain stoic leadership to the team with his workman-like attitude. Brad Smith, well … there wasn’t a whole lot that Smith didn’t bring to the table. And of course Santonio Holmes, who’s big-play potential overwhelmed fans’ expectations.
But this year the Flight Boys have a new look, with the exception of Holmes, but can they pack the punch that last year’s receiving corps offered? Many fans have speculated that the Jets have made too many changes to a team that was one half away from the Super Bowl, again. The questionable signing of Plaxico Burress coming fresh off a 2-year stint in prison, followed by the release of Cotchery which opened the door to bring in former Ravers WR Derrick Mason left fans scratching their heads.
Why sign Burress, who’s fresh out of prison, for the same amount Braylon, who’s developed a rapport with Mark Sanchez? Why release a blue collar player like Cotchery for essentially the same player in Mason? These are normal questions to be asking, Jet fans, it’s OK. But Burress made a good point on Sunday regarding the transition:
Myself, Santonio and D-Mase (Derrick Mason), we’ve all played in the Super Bowl at one point and we’re veterans. We understand this game, defensive coverages, concepts and different things like that. We understand the defenses. We’ve been around. We’ve seen just about everything. We’ve played in all the big games.
From that standpoint, the moves make perfect sense. Edwards was looking for top-tier receiver money while Brad Smith wanted to be properly compensated after making a near-seamless transition from college QB to professional WR/KR. And he did. In the cases of Burress and Mason, they were willing to take a lesser role to be on a team that has the potential to be great. Both players are looking to do a little PR rehabilitation — Burress creating a good name post-prison and Mason proving to the league that he can still play at age 37.
“I have been blessed, truly. I have been fortunate enough to not have [bad] injuries, and the way I work in the off-season, I just try to do as much as I can, as hard as I can,” Mason, who signed a two-year deal with the team, said.
Mason agreed with Burress that the experience will be what differentiates this year’s Flight Boys to last year’s. He commended the job that Edwards and Cotchery did last year with this team, but added: “I think the experience is the upgrade. I have been [in the league] for 15 [years], Plax has been close to 10 [years] and ‘Tone has been at it a very long time as well so I think it’s the experience.”
And with the infusion of youth being meshed with these veteran’s is where the experience comes into play the most. Rookie WR Jeremy Kerley out of TCU has been turning heads with his on-the-field speed as well the rate he’s grasping this offense. According to the first-year wideout, Kerley gave up his number 85 to Mason without even asking for anything in return. When asked why he did that, all he replied was “he’s a veteran”.
“With [Mason] being out there, with Santonio being out there, with Plaxico being out there — for all rookies, that’s a big advantage. I think that’s [what] we have over a lot of guys in the game right now. It’s an advantage to get out there and learn and watch those guys, those guys who have put in a lot of work, and obviously, know what they’re doing,” Kerley said.
Ryan, who was the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens when Mason was a receiver there, said he expects to use all three veteran receivers in the same sets as much as possible.
“I can see [with] Derrick’s role, you almost look at it as if you have three starters,” Ryan said. “That three-wide package, I think, is going to be something when you have Derrick, Santonio, obviously Plaxico and then Dustin [Keller]. That’s going to be tough on anybody. It’s going to be fun to watch, that’s for sure. [Mason's] role is not to come in here as the number three receiver. He’s going to come in and build on what we already have with our first two guys and be right there with them.”
Still worried about the new look Flight Boys? Fear not Gang Green faithful, the receiving corps are jam packed with experience. Now all they have to do is turn that experience into production on the field.
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