Keeping the heat on in the desert
By Justin Paley
Jets Staff Writer
November 26th, 2004

When the Jets and Arizona Cardinals meet on Sunday, it will be a match-up between two of the greatest running backs in NFL history in the Jets’ Curtis Martin and Arizona’s Emmitt Smith.

When the Jets and Arizona Cardinals meet on Sunday, it will be a match-up between two of the greatest running backs in NFL history in the Jets’ Curtis Martin and Arizona’s Emmitt Smith.

Jets are 7-3 after last week’s 10-7 win over Cleveland while the Cardinals, under new coach Denny Green, are 4-6 following a 35-10 blowout to Carolina.

RB Curtis Martin continues to move up the NFL All-Time rushing list and last week passed Tony Dorsett for sixth place. Martin also topped 1,000 rushing yards for the 10th straight season, joining Barry Sanders as the only players in NFL history to begin their careers with 10 straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

Smith is impressed what Martin has been able to accomplish.

“I think that it is a tremendous milestone, one that is really rare,” Smith said. “It’s a thing that involves a lot of things, a lot of different elements. Some of those elements are during the earlier years, but the most important one is to stay healthy enough on your team to be able to do those things.”

Martin, who is probable with a knee injury suffered in last week’s win over Cleveland, should have a solid day against a Cardinals defense that gives up 131.7 yards on the ground. Martin talked about playing against Smith.

“It’s more special because Emmitt and I are very close,” Martin said. “When I came into the NFL, he kind of played the role of big brother to me. I have a lot of respect for the guy and I appreciate the type of person he is.”

Smith is the NFL All-Time’s leading rusher with 18,076 career yards. However, Smith has never scored a rushing TD against the Jets. This year, Smith has rushed for 658 yards on 181 carries and eight touchdowns. Smith has been limited in practice this week with an ankle injury. Smith will have a hard time gaining yards on the Jets run defense, which is ranked ninth in the NFL. Smith explained how Martin and he have been able to last so long in the NFL.

“The good thing about Curtis and myself, is that we’ve been fortunate enough to be blessed with a talent and a gift to stay healthy, number one, and to be productive over a long period of time and be consistent about what we’re doing,” Smith said.

The Jets offense will be led by QB Quincy Carter, who makes his third straight start in place of the injured Chad Pennington. In the three games, Carter is 27-for-46 for 365 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The Jets o-line will have to do a better job protecting Carter, who has been sacked 11 times. Jets Head Coach Herman Edwards talked about what he expects out of Carter on Sunday.

“We anticipate he'll get better,” Edwards said. “And that's what we have to do on offense, we've got to get better. We've got to be able to score some points, there's no doubt about it. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting in a flow in offense. What we have to do is get in some type of rhythm where he can get more than three plays, punt, stand on the boundary for a while, come back in, because it puts a lot of pressure on him, especially if you're a quarterback.”

There is no doubt Jets offensive lineman Pete Kendall will be fired up after being released by Arizona right before training camp. The Cardinals loss was the Jets gain as Kendall has been a solid addition to the o-line this year. Smith talked about his reaction to Kendall’s release.

“Really shocked, very surprised,” Smith said. “Pete Kendall was one of the mainstays here. He was one of the staple individuals of the offense last year. He was a key component to whatever success we did have last year on the ground. I was shocked and I think a lot of other people were very shocked and surprised.”

While Green would not give his reason for releasing Kendall earlier this week in a conference call with the New York media, he did praise the Jets offense.

“I think they’ve done a good job on the offensive line,” Green said. “I think they’re a very good offense and their offensive line has played well. They are running the ball extremely well, and I think that when you’re a 7-3 football team, that’s a good team.”

Kendall, who denies rumors he reported illegal workouts to the NFL causing the Cardinals to lose a week of workouts, was surprised when he was released.

“It was very surreal to me because it was such a shock,” Kendall said. “He said something to the effect of ‘this was going to help the team because I would move on and play well and it would prove that we had good players on the roster over the past few years.’ I don’t know. It was a bit of a stretch for me at the time. What I think he was telling me was that I could still play but he didn’t like me and he didn’t want me around anymore.”

Another big off-season acquisition was WR Justin McCareins, who the Jets received from Tennessee in exchange for a second-round draft pick. McCareins caught the winning TD pass from Carter last week and has 32 receptions for 444 yards and three touchdowns this year.

The Arizona defense is led by former Jet LB James Darling, who has 64 tackles. DE Betrand Berry was acquired in the off-season as a free agent from Denver, and has nine sacks. He trails Jets DE John Abraham for the NFL lead. The Arizona defense is 18th in the NFL, giving up 333.1 yards a game.

Shaun King will make his second straight start for the Cardinals at QB. King replaced Josh McCown as the starting QB last week and was 28-for-52 for a career-high 343 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions against Carolina. Green talked about what King brings to the offense.

“We’re hoping that Shaun will help us win and give us some consistency,” Green said. “We are not going to continue playing the way we have been defensively because we are small. As the season has gone on, we’re getting more and more guys banged up. We rely a great deal on speed, not necessarily on size. Whether that will be the case next year or not, that’s where we’re at this year. We’re going to have to have more offensive productivity on our offense and the ability to score more points.”

Edwards was the defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay when King was the starter there and is very familiar with him.

“He's got a good arm, heady guy, can move in the pocket, a very, very confident player,” Edwards said.

The Jets defense is much more aggressive than in the past and will look to pressure King as the Cardinals have allowed 30 sacks this season. Last week, the Jets shut out an opponent in the second half for the fourth time this season.

If the Cardinals are going to win, they will need to rely on the passing game. Since returning on October 31 from a knee injury suffered in training camp, second-year WR Anquan Boldin has 20 catches for 193 yards. WR Larry Fitzgerald leads the team with 39 catches for 557 yards.

Overall, the Cardinals offense has struggled as they are 25th in points, 22nd in passing yards, and 26th in rushing yards.

Kendall is not the only former Jet who played with the Cardinals last year as CB David Barrett was acquired by the Jets as a free agent. Barrett has 39 tackles this year. Edwards feels Barrett has progressed throughout the season.

“He is a physical presence playing corner for us, no doubt about it,” Edwards said. “He's gotten better at covering, understanding the concepts of what we wanted to do. I just think I enjoy being around the guy because the guy is a tough guy, he's a physical guy, he's a physical corner. He'll come up and support the run, tackle, he'll do the things he has to do to play.”

The Cardinals are a surprising 3-1 at home this year considering their home attendance is atrocious. Barrett talked about the Cardinals lack of fan support.

“It is very tough when you don’t have the fans behind you like you should, it is hard to go out there and get yourself motivated,” Barrett said. “You have to depend on your teammates to go out there and get motivated.”

MISCELANEOUS TIDBITS: The meeting will be only the sixth between the teams. The Jets hold a 3-2 lead with the last game occurring in 1999…The Cards have been outscored 50-17 in the first quarter…The Jets announced T Kareem McKenzie is the team’s 2004 Walter Payton Man of the Year. As the Jets’ award winner, McKenzie will receive $1,000 to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association-New York City Chapter, and will be entered to win the national Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Since 1970, the NFL has awarded the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award to recognize a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.

INJURY REPORT: QB Chad Pennington is the only player officially out. Pennington threw for the first time since injuring his shoulder on November 7 against the Bills. Pennington threw about 50 balls on Wednesday and about 80 yesterday. Pennington did not throw today and Edwards said Pennington will do some light throwing again on Sunday. LB Victor Hobson (ankle) remains questionable with a high ankle sprain and did not practice today. It is doubtful he will play and LB Mark Brown should make his first start on Sunday in place of Hobson. S Jon McGraw (groin) is suffering from a sports hernia, according to Edwards, and will be rested this week. McGraw, who is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, will be re-evaluated next week. His injury will require off-season surgery and could shut down the veteran safety for the remainder of the season. McGraw has the same type of injury that forced DE John Abraham to the Injured Reserve list last season. WR Jerricho Cotchery is questionable with a hamstring injury he suffered last week. S Rashad Washington is probable with an injured foot. LB Jason Glenn was taken off the injury report and should see his first action since suffering a fracture forearm in the loss to the Patriots. Here is the entire list.

-QB Chad Pennington (shoulder): Out
-S Jon McGraw (groin):Questionable
-LB Victor Hobson (ankle):Questionable
-WR Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring):Questionable
-RB Curtis Martin (knee):Probable
-S Rashad Washington (foot):Probable

Game time is at 4:15 Sunday. Local TV is CBS Channel 2 and local Radio is on 1050 ESPN Radio. Check back often to Jets for all the latest Jets/Cardinals news and reports.