By James J. Parziale
Jets Staff Writer
April 29th, 2005

SHOTGUN START: The 2005 NY Jets had their first official practice today and from the beginning, starting with the team running a shotgun offense for the first time in years, you could tell this was a new team.

SHOTGUN START: The 2005 NY Jets had their first official practice today and from the beginning, starting with the team running a shotgun offense for the first time in years, you could tell this was a new team.

Mike Nugent lined up for his first kick at Jets minicamp today with media hovering in anticipation of his every move (“It was like he was in the Super Bowl today,” coach Herm Edwards later described).

He calculated his steps, angled his body and readied for the kick, but when as a low snap forced him to hesitate, Nugent’s 42-yard attempt fell short of the goal posts. No, it wasn’t the Super Bowl, but it was enough to make the onlookers raise their brows and scribble in their notepads. Welcome to the NFL, kid.

“You just have to realize that things are going to happen sometimes,” Nugent said about snap. “I think we have an unbelievable snapper [in James Derth] and unbelievable guys upfront [blocking]. Just like that could happen, I could miss a kick.”

Just don’t make it a habit. Nugent is the gem of this year’s draft class for the Jets, and after last season’s tribulations with recently released Doug Brien, the heavy expectations rest on his shoulders. Kicking the ball through the uprights is the only way he can validate being just the fourth kicker to be taken in the first two rounds in the past 15 years.

Thus, when the highly touted 47th overall selection’s second kick from the same distance hit the crossbar and went through, it was business as usual.

“You’re still only as good as your next kick,” said Nugent, who made four of six kicks during practice.

Nugent’s strongest attribute – besides his leg – is his calm persona, a requirement for kicking in the NFL and especially in New York. After playing in front of crowds that at times reached 100,000 at Ohio State, pressure kicks are part of his routine. He booted a career-long 55-yard game-winner for the Buckeye’s against Marshall as time expired last September, undoubtedly his most memorable kick. Jets brass hopes to see more of those kicks from Nugent in the pros.

“I like those situations. It’s one of those things that comes with the territory,” said Nugent, who was 8-for-9 from above 50 yards during his collegiate career.

Nugent’s leg strength will not only parlay into longer field goal attempts, but kickoffs as well. He should remedy the notoriously short kickoffs that Brien was famous for, a tremendous boost for the special teams coverage.

Nugent knows he enters an arena where the stakes are high. He recalled watching Brien miss two potential game-winning kicks in the playoff game at Pittsburgh which would have put the Jets in the AFC Championship game, and could empathize with his predecessor.

“I think every kicker that’s going to watch that can put themselves in [the other guy’s] shoes,” Nugent said. “There’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s all about what you can do on the next one.”

Nugent maintained that if he does falter, it won’t take much for him to bounce back from the ire of media and fans.

“I think that’s one thing that comes with the territory,” he said. “Being a kicker, there are certain things that are going to be involved out there.”

Despite Nugent garnering the spotlight, the Jets other rookies made an impression on their first day. Fellow second-rounder CB Justin Miller impressed with a few breakaway returns during special teams drills and showed flashes in coverage. Miller, who is known for his aggressive, chance-taking style, blanketed WR Jonathan Carter on one play and nearly broke up the pass.

Miller is slotted as a nickel back, but could be forced into major playing time pending the status of CB Donnie Abraham, who was excused from minicamp and reportedly is contemplating retirement. Edwards said he has not spoken to Abraham, but will “give him time to contemplate.”

The 5-foot-9 Miller is ready for whatever role the Jets place him in, and Edwards is looking forward to seeing him display his 4.44 speed. “When he gets the ball in his hands, he can return one all the way,” Edwards said.

Another rookie who will be relied on heavily is DT Sione Pouha. The third-round pick will be relied upon heavily after Josh Evans announced his retirement earlier this week. Pouha is massive at 6-foot-3 and 325 pounds and surely will take up space on the interior defensive front. However, he is 26-years-old and went on a religious mission for three years during his stay at Utah. At times he can be inconsistent, and Edwards said that stamina is also an issue.

“We haven’t had someone like that since Chester [McGlockton],” Edwards said. “He is a big man. I mean big, but he is a mentally tough player.”

Edwards is looking for all the rookies to contribute, especially with the depth concerns the Jets have this season. Nonetheless once the season starts, much like today, all eyes will be glued to the kicker who will rectify the wrongs of the past. Any pressure, rook?

“There is always something that you are going to think about,” Nugent said. “The better guys are the ones where pressure brings out the best in them. That’s what I want to try and be.”


-CHAD SPEAKS: Chad Pennington’s surgically repaired right shoulder carries most of the Jets hopes for the 2005-06 season. So with most of the team practicing today and tomorrow at Hofstra, when exactly will Pennington be back and ready to throw? Apparently that’s still in the air.

“You’re going to have to ask coach Edwards about that,” Pennington said.

Well, Coach??

“June. Don’t worry guys, his career isn’t over. I know that,” Edwards said in jest.

Pennington said he will try and take it slowly and will not overcompensate to return early.

“My goal is to be ready by September. I’m excited about my offseason preparation,” he said. “I expect training camp to be great for me. I’m excited for the possibilities we have as a team.”

When asked specifically about when the quarterback will begin throwing, Pennington and Edwards tiptoed around the subject. But Pennington stated that he isn’t discouraged while holding the clipboard on the sidelines.

“It’s always a process,” he said. “I’m enjoying it. Having the time off gives you the time to work on things that you weren’t able to work on when you’re on the field.”

-OPENING IT UP! As mentioned earlier, the new Mike Heimerdinger offense ran several plays in the shotgun formation which has not been seen around these parts in a dog’s age. For sure, a refreshing sight to all of those who have been put to sleep the previous four years in Paul Hackett’s former system.

When Jets asked Edwards about the addition of the new wrinkle, with a chuckle, he responded, “Well, now you told everyone. I was hoping we could save [the surprise] until opening day.”

Heimerdinger let his presence be known real quickly by yelling at several players and using some choice expletives when he wasn’t pleased… something that was only previously seen on defense with Donnie Henderson giving the tongue lashings.

-FIELD DAY: It will take time for the Jets to grow accustomed to Heimerdinger’s offense, but new Jets backup QB Jay Fiedler, who looked sharp today, may have a better grasp than others. “A lot of it is similar to Norv Turner’s system,” the Long Island native said. Turner was the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator from 2002-03.

-JOLLEY GOOD FIRST DAY: TE Doug Jolley, who was acquired from Oakland for the Jets first round pick this year looked sharp, snagging several passes over the middle from Fieldler and Brooks Bollinger.

-87 IS BACK! - It’s like he never left. Newly re-acquired WR Laveranues Coles looked crisp while running routes and showed no ill effects of the toe injury that plagued him last season while with Washington.

-SOWELL SHOWS: FB Jerald Sowell, who has skipped all of the teams off season conditioning so far this spring due to unhappiness with his contract, was at minicamp today and fully participated.

-DONNIE’S DECIDING: Veteran CB Donnie Abraham who is trying to figure out if he still wants to play football, will not be participating this weekend. Coach Edwards said he would speak to Abraham on Tuesday about the 32 year old’s future with the team. Abraham is considering retirement.

-MICKENS STAYING PUT: It seems the story reported by the Dallas Morning News yesterday that Jets CB Ray Mickens was ready to be traded to the Cowboys for CB Pete Hunter was just media hype. Jets GM Terry Bradway says the story is completely untrue and that he has not even spoken to Dallas about the reported trade. Mickens was at minicamp for the Jets today.

INJURY REPORT: DE Shaun Ellis (groin), T Jason Fabini (undisclosed), DT Dewayne Robertson (soreness) and LB Barry Gardner (undisclosed) were some of the notables withheld from today’s practice..... Sixth round draft choice RB Cedric Houston of Tennessee was kept out of practice today due to a thyroid condition. The condition is one that has been re-occuring since his college days and the Jets were aware of it prior draft. The Coach said the team is dealing with it and hopes the rookie can be back on the field by the June OTA's......S Jon McGraw (sports hernia) and CB Ray Mickens (knee) who are still recovering from surgeries, were in uniform but also held out......RB Curtis Martin also didn't partake, but it’s not due to injury. Edwards simply wants to Martin rested for the regular season

Check back to Jets often for all the latest minicamp news. For the largest gallery of exclusive minicamp photos, CLICK HERE

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