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Opportunity Knocks

By John Melillo
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
August 16th, 2004

A steady rain swept through the practice field at Weeb Ewbank Hall Monday morning, forcing the team inside the practice bubble to gear up for their second preseason contest at Indianapolis Saturday night.

A steady rain swept through the practice field at Weeb Ewbank Hall Monday morning, forcing the team inside the practice bubble to gear up for their second preseason contest at Indianapolis Saturday night.

Several young players stepped up their play during the session, particularly QB Ricky Ray, who has ascended to the second-string position due to the recent injury suffered by QB Brooks Bollinger. On his first pass of practice, Ray lofted a perfect touch pass to rookie WR Jerricho Cotchery for a 40-yard touchdown strike. Ray also displayed good touch on throws to WR Ken-Yon Rambo and Cotchery on out-routes along the sidelines. WR Jonathan Carter exhibited excellent hands throughout the session, making a shoestring catch from a Ray pass for a 15-yard gain. Head coach Herm Edwards was pleased with Ray’s improved performed this morning.

“I thought he played pretty well,” Edwards said. “He’s receiving extra reps with Bollinger’s injury and he’s going to get a long look in the second game (against the Indianapolis Colts).”

In the eyes of Edwards, the aforementioned Cotchery has been one of the biggest surprises of training camp this year.

“Every time I turn around, ‘89’ is making a play,” Edwards said in reference to the rookie’s jersey number. “Whether it’s practice or a game, there’s ’89’ again, catching the ball and making plays.”

Cotchery appears to have earned the confidence of Edwards after just three weeks of training camp and a fine performance against New Orleans where he had three catches for 50 yards.

“People say, ‘Oh, well he’s playing against the twos or threes (second or third stringers), but if we put him in against the firsts, he’d still find a way to catch balls and make plays,” Edwards said.

For the majority of the morning session, the secondary was victimized by the superb accuracy and timing of QB Chad Pennington. Pennington continues to develop chemistry with WR Justin McCareins, who caught numerous balls in front of CB David Barrett and CB Donnie Abraham. Barrett, in particular, was chastised for arriving late in coverage on a McCareins reception, drawing the ire from Henderson. “Get up on him,” shouted Henderson. Overall, the secondary had a difficult time matching the speed and intensity of the receivers.

One vital piece of the defensive backfield that was missing this morning was CB Ray Mickens who sat out with a strained knee suffered in yesterday’s practice. An MRI revealed the injury as only a sprain and the long time veteran should be only out for a week or so. Good news for a team that is very thin in the secondary. Filling in for Mickens was rookie CB Derrick Strait, who is being tutored in the dual role of nickel back and corner and will get a chance on Saturday to show his stuff against the Colts.

“We have a number of options (to compensate for Mickens’ injury),” Edwards said. “We can put (Strait) there, CB Omare Lowe, shift over Abraham or we can throw LB Jason Glenn in that spot too, since the nickel is essentially a linebacker role.”

Defensively, the line displayed stout run defense throughout the session, disrupting the inside run and forcing runners to bounce outside. Those who stood out included DE John Abraham, DT Alan Harper and DT James “Tank” Reed, each recording tackles for loss.

The projected starters at linebacker, featuring Victor Hobson, Sam Cowart and Eric Barton, lined up together for the first time since the start of training camp. Barton practiced for the second straight day after missing over two weeks of action with a hamstring injury.

The team worked rookie LB Jonathan Vilma in with the first-team defense, as he replaced Barton and Cowart at various points during practice. LB Quincy Stewart had the hit of the day, nailing RB Ian Smart on an inside run drill that fired up his defensive teammates.

The special teams worked on punt return drills in the morning, as P Toby Gowin skinned the roof of the bubble on virtually every kick. Gowin is the lone remaining punter in camp now that the team has jettisoned P Brian Simnjanovski over the weekend. The regular return group of Smart, Carter and McCareins fielded punts.

MISCELLANEOUS TIDBITS

The team signed CB Andrew Davidson, who participated during the morning practice with his new teammates. Davidson, who was in camp last summer, wore No. 22.

INJURY REPORT: WR Santana Moss was still experiencing soreness in his hamstring and was limited during the morning practice. RB Josh Davis underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in his knee and is done for the year.

Here is the status on all injured Jets players.

--RB Josh Davis (Torn ACL): Out for Season.
--CB Ray Mickens (Knee): Out at least a week. Out for Saturday.
--WR Santana Moss (Hamstring): Day to day. Questionable for Saturday.
-QB Brooks Bollinger (Knee): Out at least a week.. Out for Saturday.
--S Reggie Tongue (Calf): Day to day. Questionable for Saturday.
--DE Joey Evans (Undisclosed): Sat out practice for undisclosed reasons.
--RB Derrick Ward (High Ankle Sprain): 1 week or more. Out for Saturday.

The team takes the field again today at 3:00 PM for a full practice. The practice will be open to the public, weather permitting. 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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