Archive for February, 2012

Jets play host to hopefuls at NFL Regional Combine

Monday, February 27th, 2012

FLORHAM PARK, NJ — While players like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III showcased their first-round pedigree in Indianapolis in front of the bright lights and NFL evaluators, players at the Atlantic Health Jets practice facility on Saturday were just looking to get noticed in a lot quieter setting.

Over 225 entrants, each from different backgrounds, gathered at the Jets practice facility in Florham Park, NJ with hope of igniting a spark to their hopeful pro careers at the NFL Regional Combine.

Florham Park was just one of the many regional combines that will be held before the Super Regional Combine in Detroit on March 30-31. Regional Combine director, Stephen Austin, said the event combines “on-field scouting and cutting edge technology to produce an amazingly effective prospect evaluation tool for the benefit of our clubs and aspiring players.”

“We have these regional combines that serve as qualifiers that might be from small schools or might have been injured. Guys that might have fallen through the cracks,” Austin said. “So we hold all these regional combines and take the best of the best and invite them out to the Super Regional Combine in Detroit. That’s where all the team’s come to evaluate them and see if they’d like to sign them.”

With over 750 collegiate programs in the country and $2-3 million dedicated to each pro team’s personnel budget, there’s only so much time and money that can be spread out. The beauty of the regional combine, Austin says, is the freedom it gives NFL teams to focus on the top talent while professional evaluators sort through the “best of the rest”.

Most were from smaller FBS schools like Stony Brook University and UMass-Amherst. Others were formerly employed by NFL teams before suffering injuries and getting cut, like former Jets players Shawn Crable and Kenwin Cummings.

For players like Cummings and Crable, it’s one more shot at their dream job.

Jets owner Woody Johnson allowed the NFL to use the Atlantic Health Jets training facility in Florham Park, NJ for athletes competing at the Regional Combine. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Cummings, an inside linebacker, was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Wingate in 2008. A practice squad player for the majority of his time with the team, Cummings was activated in November 2009. He made his debut in the NFL as a special teams player in the team’s Wildcard playoff match-up with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Jets waived him on October 22, 2010 and was later signed to the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad on December 10, 2010 before eventually getting released.

Crable has an even more interesting story. As an outside linebacker for Michigan, being named to two All-Big Ten teams, he was drafted 78th overall by the New England Patriots in 2008 after a solid showing in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. He was up and down from the team’s practice squad and injured reserve list, suffering from a groin injury, before being waived by the Patriots on November 16, 2010. The Jets signed Crable to their practice squad just three days later only to be cut later in the season.

Now after being out of the NFL for two full seasons, Crable is humbled by the layoff from the league and hungry for another opportunity.

“I’m trying to get back to the NFL. I spent a lot of time on the couch the last year,” Crable said. “I’m trying to show them I’m not injured. I got older, but I didn’t get slower or anything. I think the best thing about it is I’m still here. I’m still kicking. And I can still play football with the best.”

Having the experience of the Pro Combine in Indianapolis in 2008 and the regional Combine in Baltimore on Febuary 11, Crable seemed at ease going through the drills —  one of the few in a building filled the to brim with a feeling of mounting pressure. He could be seen laughing with current Jets defensive end, Marcus Dixon, who came out to show support to his former teammates and Hampton peers, and helping youngsters on the proper form for each drill.

But behind his jovial aura lied a quiet confidence with a greater understanding of what it means to be an NFL player.

“[The time off] shows you the values in life. It tells you about what’s important in life and what your priorities are. It told me how to conduct myself once you get the opportunity. How to handle finances. The time off got me more spiritually and Godly. I got to spend a lot more time with my kids. I learned a lot about myself as a man. With the time off I understand that this is more than just being a 23-year-old with money,” he said.

Want to hear more from Wesley about the NFL? Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/Wesley_Sykes.

Sizing up Jets Salary Cap

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Let me start by first stating how awful I am at math. No seriously. Just plain awful. I use my fingers to add up tips for big checks at restaurants. But I will NOT use my cellphone’s tip calculator. You got to draw the line somewhere.

In high school, math IV was nearly the downfall of what was lined up to be a most glorious post-graduation bender. Booze, babes and beaches all were left waiting in limbo while Ms. Keavey’s hellish red pen left marks all over my loose leaf assignments. Only my marked propensity for chitter chatter and a knack for getting under her skin kept me from spending four hours a day couped up in a stuffy Catholic school in mid-July. I needed a 65 average for the year to pass. I skittishly skated my way across the graduation platform with a 65.7 average, holding on to my diploma for dear life in the fear that they might try and take it from me. Talk about a real snatch and grab job.

It just never stuck with me. My mom told me I was a left-brain thinker, whatever that means. The worst part of it all was I didn’t even need to take math my senior year. It was an elective. Foolish.

The reason I’m sharing these rather embarrassing high school memories (and trust me there’s about 1,000 more that are 10x worse), because I found it funny when the thought crossed my mind that I was going to tackle the Jets salary cap stance and break it down in a way that even someone like myself could understand. If only Ms. Keavey could see me now.

But enough about my senior year math teacher, she’s gotten her 15 minutes of fame. Let’s dive in to the pressing issue as the thick of the NFL off season prepares for kick off. (2/21 — teams can place franchise tag on 1 player, 2/22-28 — NFL Combine in Indianapolis).

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: RAW DATA

Jets GM "Trader" Mike Tannenbaum better have some tricks up his sleeve if the Jets are to make a splash in free agency. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Every team enters the 2012 season with a cap of roughly $120 million. Because of the new CBA teams could “borrow” up to $3 million in cap space and apply it to a later year (2014 thru 2017). Many teams, including the Jets, did this. So starting out the Jets adjusted cap for 2012 is roughly $122 million. Including “dead money”, guaranteed money that is still owed to players who were cut, already have $123 million committed for the 2012 season — putting them $1 million OVER the cap.

But also because of the new CBA, teams are allowed to take any unused cap space from 2011 and apply it as a credit in 2012. With about  $8 million in unused 2011 space, the Jets now stand roughly $5 million UNDER the cap. And the roller coaster ride is only beginning. Add in possible player escalators for this season (Dustin Keller – $3 mil, Mike DeVito – $2.5 mil, Kyle Wilson – $1 mil roster bonus & Mark Sanchez – $750K roster bonus *might be waived in lieu of him being a 3-year starter) and the Jets have $6 million in possible commitments. That puts them $1 million OVER the cap.

GETTING UNDER THE CAP:

Eric Smith and Wayne Hunter both received publicly criticized multi-year deals leading up to the 2011 season, which were considered a disappointment by many. The upside? Their contracts have flexibility on the Jets end, where they can opt out with out taking a hit after the first year. Cutting both players would have freed up $4.5 million of space, however Hunter’s contract has been guaranteed as of last week. Cutting Smith could save up $4 million alone, with the distinct possibility of him re-signing at a much lower price. For those keeping tabs at home that’d put the Jets approximately $3 million UNDER the cap. And parting ways with those players, an area of need via draft or free agency as it is, wouldn’t prove to be a huge loss.

Brandon Moore is coming off a fine season in which he made the Pro Bowl. But at 32 and with a problematic hip issue, durability issues are certainly a question. If the Jets were to cut him or Mike DeVito, who had a strong output on the defensive front, they would save $3 million each, respectively.

Mark Sanchez is due to make $12 million this year, after having statistically his best season and publicly his worst. General manager Mike Tannenbaum admittedly stated that Sanchez hasn’t progressed the way the team has hoped to this point. In 2011, Sanchez had been on the record stating he was willing to restructure his contract in order to free up cap space. If that offer still stands in 2012, the Jets could shave off $3-5 million of guaranteed money with the possibility of earning that back with incentives. Cutting Sanchez would burn a bridge but save the team close to $9 million.

Forget about cutting Bart Scott and/or Calvin Pace. Both linebackers have guaranteed contracts in 2012, cutting them would save the team nothing financially.

Both David Harris and D’Brickashaw Ferguson have high 2012 salaries at roughly $10 million a piece. It would be a shame if the Jets asked to restructure Harris’ contract, as he’s been worth every penny thus far. But Brick is a different story. After coming off one of his worst years since entering the NFL, it would make sense that the Jets may look in to giving Brick a pay cut. Much like they would do with Sanchez, the Jets could shave off $3-5 million with the ability to earn that back with player incentives — which would not go against the cap.

CONCLUSION:

No-Brainer Cap Saving Moves:

  • Cut Smith – $4 million
  • Restructure Ferguson’s and Sanchez’s contract – roughly $8 million

Counter-Productive Moves:

  • Cut Scott, Pace, Moore, Keller and DeVito – $7 million

The Jets are financially strapped in 2012. Plain and simple. Luckily, they have only one high-priced free agent in defensive tackle Sione Pouha. Look for the Jets to retool their roster through the draft while doing some bargain bin shopping for players who’ll fit into their system and command little money in the process. Our very own Chris Nimbley points out some savvy players available this off-season that do not come at a high-fashion price.

RUMOR MILL: Jacobs talks playing for Rex

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Brandon Jacobs is just nine days removed from hoisting his second Lombardi Trophy with the New York Giants. Yet there is a report from Pro Football Talk claiming that he wouldn’t rule out playing for the cross-town Jets next season. Jacobs, who will be 30 next season, will be expecting a $500,000 roster bonus on top of his $4 million base salary.

On the Jets-Giants Christmas Eve match-up, a game in which the Giants embarrassed the Jets on their “home field”, Jacobs was very vocal about his thoughts on Rex Ryan’s round figure and rotund mouth.

“It’s time to shut up, fat boy … I told him to shut the f— up … [Ryan] is a disrespectful bastard. The Jets have a big mouth, big belly coach that talks too much.”

Is there any room for an aging, moody Brandon Jacobs in the Jets backfield? If Joe McKnight has any say in it, there's not. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Ryan retorted with a few choice words of his own. “Go f— yourself”.

But it’s amazing what a little time and winning can do to a man’s perception of things. In an interview with the New York Time’s Sam Borden, Jacobs has this to say of Ryan and the Jets: “I like the way Rex handles his business. The guys on that team I know, know how I feel.”

So some Jets know how Jacobs feels, and now so do Jet fans. But the question is do the Jets want Jacobs? At 30 Jacobs will hit that feared number for running backs. Lacking consistency, durability and overall speed, what does he bring to the Jets that they don’t already have an abundance of? Inconsistent running backs with durability issues and spotty team speed.

He has historically been a problem in a locker room that is run by the militant-like Tom Coughlin. And after the locker room drama that ensued with the Jets this past off-season, Ryan and G.M. Mike Tannenbaum need to be more cautious of the personalities they bring in that accompany talented players.

Locker room dramatics aside, the Jets are loaded at the running back position. Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell (a 4th round selection in last year’s draft) already offer that bruising north-south running mentality that’s been Jacobs’ MO. And let’s not forget LaDanian Tomlinson, who looked effective in a diminished role last season, and Joe McKnight, who took huge strides in his sophomore year as a return man and offensive weapon.

Don’t buy the hype, Jets fans. There are plenty of other areas where the Jets need to re-tool and tweak. Running backs is far down on that list.

Want to hear from Wesley about the Jets and the NFL? Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/Wesley_Sykes.

Jets Announce 2012 Coaching Staff

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

We’re just on the ninth day post-2011 season and we at the Jets Insider are still itching for more. In what will be an undoubtedly noisy off-season for the Jets, let’s just hope it’s not the noise we’ve been used to, the Jets started by announcing their coaching staff next season.

Headlining the new coaching staff is Tony Sparano, the team’s new offensive coordinator. He replaces the crucifiable Brian Schottenheimer, the new offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams. In addition to Sparano, the Jets have brought in four other members to fill out the coaching staff: Defensive Line Coach Karl Dunbar, Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Justus Galac, Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Paul Ricci and Outside Linebackers Coach Mike Smith.

Rex Ryan has already started looking ahead to the 2012 season. The Jets announced their 2012-13 coaching staff on Monday. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Dunbar joins the Jets after spending the last six seasons (2006-11) as the defensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings.  During his time in Minnesota, the Vikings defense allowed the fewest rushing yards in the NFL (8,141) and ranked sixth in sacks (242). The Vikings rush defense was the best in the NFL each season from 2006-2008, marking the first time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger that a team has ranked number one in rushing defense three consecutive seasons.

Galac comes to New York after seven seasons at Villanova University (2005-11) where he served as the football team’s strength and conditioning coach, earning recognition as the Samson FCS Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year in 2010.

Ricci previously spent part of 2011 as the director of basketball performance for Texas Tech.  Prior to Texas Tech, he served in the same capacity at the University of Maryland for three seasons.  Ricci spent nine seasons on the strength and conditioning staff with the Baltimore Ravens (1999-2008).

Smith becomes the outside linebackers coach after spending the last two seasons with the Jets as a coaching intern. Prior to his time with the Jets, Smith was the linebackers coach for the University of Hawaii for one season.  A linebacker at Texas Tech, he was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens and played two seasons (2005-2006) before his career was cut short by injuries.

Bob Sutton has been promoted to assistant head coach/linebackers. Sutton is entering his 13th season with the Jets. He has served as the Jets senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach the last three seasons (2009-11).  Sutton initially came to the Jets as the linebackers coach (2000-2005) before being named the defensive coordinator (2006-08).

Here’s the entire 2012-13 Jets coaching staff: Rex Ryan (head coach), Mike Pettine (defensive coordinator), Tony Sparano (offensive coordinator), Mike Westhoff (special teams coordinator), Matt Cavanaugh (quarterbacks), Dave DeGuglielmo (offensive line), Mike Devlin (tight ends/assistant offensive line), Karl Dunbar (defensive line), Justus Galac (assistant strength and conditioning), Bill Hughan (head strength and conditioning), Ben Kotwica (assistant special teams), Sanjay Lal (wide receivers), Anthony Lynn (running backs), Jim O’Neil (assistant defensive backs), Paul Ricci (assistant strength and conditioning), Brian Smith (quality control/defense), Mike Smith (outside linebackers), Bob Sutton (assistant head coach/linebackers), Lance Taylor (assistant tight ends/quality control), Dennis Thurman (defensive backs).

Curtis to Canton: Martin enshrined in 2012 class

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Curtis Martin was the embodiment of consistency in the NFL as a running back. Consistently effective. Consistently durable. Consistently humble. Consistently consistent. He wasn’t a top prospect coming out of Pittsburgh. He was overlooked as one of the games’ elites, instead he quietly chipped away at the record books climbing rung after rung on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.

After the call from the Hall of Fame committee, receiving confirmation that he would be enshrined as a member of the 2012 induction class in Canton, it gives the official stamp of approval on a career that never needed any validity.

Unlike his NFL comtemporaries, Martin did not dream of being a star canonized by the bright lights of show business. Recognizing the platform the NFL offers, Martin fulfilled his dream of being a role model to many.  One might even be as bold to state that Martin was “Tebowing” long before anyone had heard Tim Tebow’s name.

Curtis Martin, already enshrined in the Jets "Ring of Honor", got the call from Canton on Saturday. The 4th all-time leading rusher in the NFL will be apart of the 2012 Hall of Fame induction class. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

“Moreso than the NFL, being a football player or a running back, in my mind, my career was being a role model,” Martin said via conference call Saturday evening.  ”I took that to heart.  Everything that I did from the time I entered the NFL until the day I retired, even until today, it was all in recognition that I have been gifted and blessed to be in this position and in this situation.  More important to me than anything during my career, it was the type of man that I was and the example that I was, not only to my teammates, to the general public, but even more importantly, to kids because they really look up to us.”

Upon learning about his selection, Martin remained humble offering thanks to many but took the time to speak about two influential people in his life: his mother and his former coach, Bill Parcells. Parcells was a top 10 finalist in his first year on the ballot, but missed out on being a finalist. Martin has been on the record stating that he’d want no one else but Parcells to introduce him on induction day. He even went as far as to say that he would’ve “willingly, in a heartbeat, forsake” the Hall of Fame if meant that Parcells would get in; later calling him a “father figure”.

“Parcells has meant everything to my career.  There’s God and then there’s Parcells, as far as the meaning they’ve had on my career. I can’t say enough words about the man. I’m so grateful that he’s passed through my life and is still in my life,” Martin said.

His mother, Rochella Dixon, raised her children as a single mother often working two jobs to make ends meet. Martin credits his mother for pushing him towards organized sports in an effort to keep him off the rough and tumble streets of Pittsburgh.

“I think there’s a Bible verse that talks about your parents’ pride.  I’m definitely my mother’s pride.  I’ve been very vocal about saying this – she’s my hero.  My mother has done so much and sacrificed so much to see that I just grew up properly.  I’m so grateful to her.  There’s nothing that I could really do to repay her except try my best to succeed in life and be the best man that I can,” he said.

Deflecting the spotlight and using his platform to praise those who helped him to get where he is. That’s just Curtis being Curtis. Even if the spotlight is deserved as his career numbers dictate. He is one of two players to have 1,000 yards in his first 10 seasons in the NFL (Barry Sanders is the other). His 3,518 rushing attempts will, in all likelihood, remain third all-time, as no running back below the age of 27 is 1,500 attempts (the Rams’ Steven Jackson is the youngest/closest at 27 years old/1,878 attempts). Put it this way, it would take Jackson an average of 328 attempts (his career average is 268, high 345) over the next five years just to reach Martin’s attempt numbers.

Martin joins OT Willie Roaf, DT Cortez Kennedy, DE/LB Chris Doleman, C Dermontti Dawson, CB Jack Butler as the 2012 Hall of Fame class. Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown and Cris Carter join Parcells as notable names left off the list of 2012 finalists.

Want to hear more from Wesley about the Jets and the NFL? Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/Wesley_Sykes.