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Henderson Making Impact

By John Melillo
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
August 1st, 2004

While the recent acquisition of G Pete Kendall and winter trade for WR Justin McCareins have seemed to instill veteran leadership and consistency to the Jets offense, the defense’s biggest addition this year could be new coordinator Donnie Henderson. Henderson’s stern voice rousing players and maintaining the unit’s tempo has become a regular staple during Jets training camp this summer and today, during a humid Tuesday morning practice, it was no different. The first-year coordinator feels the defense has made strides since the start of training camp, but progress is still needed.

While the recent acquisition of G Pete Kendall and winter trade for WR Justin McCareins have seemed to instill veteran leadership and consistency to the Jets offense, the defense’s biggest addition this year could be new coordinator Donnie Henderson. Henderson’s stern voice rousing players and maintaining the unit’s tempo has become a regular staple during Jets training camp this summer and today, during a humid Tuesday morning practice, it was no different. The first-year coordinator feels the defense has made strides since the start of training camp, but progress is still needed.

“Those guys are prepared, they study well,” Henderson said of his defensive personnel. “What they need to improve on is their communication. The preseason games will help in that area.”

A big concern, where the Jets defense was awful last season is against the run; an area Henderson acknowledges as a work in progress.

“Well, what we need to do is redirect where the run is designed to go,” Henderson said. “By forcing it to bounce outside, our linebackers can flow to the ball and make a play.”

Speaking of the linebackers, head coach Herm Edwards is anxious to see the speedy unit in the first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints this Friday.

“It’s amazing. Those guys (linebackers) can really run – all of them,” Edwards said. “They will be tested against New Orleans because most teams like to establish the running game in the preseason. Our strength is our front seven. They got to set the table. They got to do it. If they can consistency play well, we can be successful this year.”

One player displaying that consistent presence in the front seven has been second-year DT Dewayne Robertson. Edwards has been extremely pleased by last year’s first-round pick and feels he’s ready to make a name for himself in 2004.

“Dewayne has made a big commitment to be successful this year,” Edwards pointed out. “He’s lost a lot weight and is a fast, physical presence on our line. He’s been forcing double teams and that allows our linebackers to make a play.”

As the players stretched during warm-ups this morning, Edwards shouted, “Everyday someone is going to get better, some will stay the same. Don’t stay the same. Don’t do it.” It was a message to ignite a fire to a team in the midst of training camp and suffering from soreness and fatigue. Two players who took that message to heart today are rookies WR Jerricho Cotchery and CB Derrick Strait who have both been relatively quiet so far this summer. Both players had good practices.

“I think our young players are starting to understand what we want to do this year,” Edwards said. “Jerricho made some nice plays this morning and Derrick showed up and flashed.”

The offense as a whole had an unspectacular practice this morning, as they began the session working in individual drills. The offensive line used the sled, which forces a cohesive wave of trench blocking. During passing drills, QB Chad Pennington continued to find TE Chris Baker over the middle, including a 25-yard touchdown catch. TE Mikhael Ricks also was the recipient of several throws by Pennington, catching a loft pass in the right corner of the end zone.

QB Ricky Ray saw increased reps in place of QB Brooks Bollinger, who continues to struggle. Ray displayed good touch and accuracy during his brief span. One aspect that stood out during the run drills was the interior blocking along the offensive line. Kendall and G Brandon Moore lined up with the first-team along with C Kevin Mawae, showed excellent trap blocking and led the way on several RB Curtis Martin sweeps outside.

On defensive, CB Donnie Abraham, CB David Barrett and rookie S Erik Coleman all showed solid coverage during full-team drills, pleasing defensive backs coach Corwin Brown.

On the defensive line, DT Jason Ferguson displayed great penetration, beating Kendall with an inside rush for a would-be sack on Pennington. Rookie LB Jonathan Vilma and LB Sam Cowart lined up alongside each other for a brief period, a combination that Henderson said he may line up in nickel and dime packages this year.

The special teams practiced kickoff returns, as WR Johnathan Carter, WR Ken-Yon Rambo and RB Ian Smart alternated return duties. One of the loudest pops came when WR Carl Kearney ran downfield and found himself in the middle of a wedge blocking unit consisting of rookie OT Adrian Jones, TE Chris Baker and DT James “Tank” Reed. Needless to say, Kearney had his orange cap on his helmet knocked off and walked wobbly back to repeat the drill.

INJURY REPORT: No new injuries to report but included in this morning’s report are the player’s status for Friday’s game against New Orleans.

Here is the status on all injured Jets players.

--WR Santana Moss (Hamstring): Day to day. Questionable for Friday.
--LB Eric Barton (Hamstring): Day to day. Questionable for Friday.
--S Reggie Tongue (Calf): Day to day. Questionable for Friday.
--S Jon McGraw (Calf): Day to day. Questionable for Friday.
--RB Derrick Ward (High Ankle Sprain): 1 week or more. Out for Friday.
--DE Kevin Fales (Knee): 1 week or more. Out for Friday.

Practice Schedule Notes: Without notice, the team switched today’s and tomorrow’s practice times. Originally, today was supposed to be a special teams practice at 10:30 and a regular practice at 3:30. Instead, that is the schedule for tomorrow.

The team takes the field again today at 3:30 PM for a full practice As always, Jets Insider.com will be there so check back often for all of the latest training camp news and reports.

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