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Jets Insider.com Sunday Morning Training Camp Report
By Justin Paley
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
July 31st, 2005
Rookie CB Justin Miller has been very impressive returning kicks so far this camp. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Rookie CB Justin Miller has been very impressive returning kicks so far this camp. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
While there are plenty of battles for starting spots in Jets training camp this year, one of the more intriguing ones is on special teams at punter between Micah Knorr and 31-year old rookie Ben Graham.

Knorr and Graham had a chance to show off their legs this morning during a brief special teams-only practice. While there are plenty of battles for starting spots in Jets training camp this year, one of the more intriguing ones is on special teams at punter between Micah Knorr and 31-year old rookie Ben Graham.

Knorr and Graham had a chance to show off their legs this morning during a brief special teams-only practice.

Neither appeared to outshine the other as special teams coach Mike Westhoff had the players practice punting from their own end zone to RB Delvin Joyce, WR Justin McCareins, WR Jonathan Carter, and CB Justin Miller, who practiced fielding the punts at the 40-yard line.

Knorr had good hang time on his punts while Graham’s punts were about five yards longer.

Both also practiced kicking from the 50 yard line. None of Graham’s punts went into the end zone as he was able to land them inside the 10 with fourth-round draft pick Kerry Rhodes, WR Chas Gessner, and Joyce downing them.

Special teams coach Mike Westhoff talked about what he is looking for in a punter. “I’m trying to find the strong guy,” Westhoff said. “This place (The Meadowlands) is not easy to punt. You have to fight through the wind.”

Taking a closer look at the competition, Knorr is the veteran in his sixth season in the NFL and first with the Jets. Knorr is smaller at 6’2 and 208 pounds but has the experience of playing in the NFL. Knorr has spent the last two and a half seasons with the Broncos and last year averaged 41.5 yards per punt in 12 games.

Graham meanwhile comes to the Jets after spending the previous 12 years playing in the Australian Football League (AFL). Graham is big for a punter at 6’5 and 230 and has a powerful left leg. Graham, who once kicked a ball 95 yards in an AFL game, has had to adjust to kicking a new ball. “In Australia, the ball is different leather and designed for kicking. In the NFL, the ball is designed for throwing.”

Graham talked about the adjustment to the NFL. “It’s gone pretty well,” Graham said. “It’s been a long journey. I’ve been here since March. Yesterday I felt I punted good; today, not so good. I know what it’s about when it comes to pressure.”

He starred in the Australian Rules Football League, playing in 219 games during his career. That is remarkable considering about one percent of players in the AFL reach the 200 game milestone. Graham said his career went the way he liked and he was very proud of his career although it was a tough decision for him to announce his retirement at 30.

In 1997, New England defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, who was an assistant with the Jets at the time, scouted Graham but he decided to stay in the AFL.

Westhoff said he was not afraid to take a chance on Graham but talked about Graham needs to do to make the team. “Can he execute technique when he has to do it,” Westhoff said. “He can hit quite a ball…He’s athletic enough and it’s worth giving him a chance.”

Graham has also worked on holding the ball on field goals and Westhoff was asked if the team’s punter also had to be the holder. “Not necessarily,” Westhoff said. “Quarterback’s can do it…It’s ideal though for the punter to be the holder.”

The team also spent a large majority of the practice focusing on kickoffs. Westhoff only had the players go at full speed against each other a few times as he spent time focusing on the rules and situations. “It’s very different for some of them,” Westhoff said. “The rules are totally different.”

Second-round draft pick Mike Nugent showed a strong leg routinely kicking the ball from the 30 to the end zone.

“He’s good,” Westhoff said of Nugent. “He’s a great kid and the stuff he did today was pretty impressive. He’s athletic and reminds me of Olindo Mare.”

Westhoff had the players on the kickoff team run down field with the kick to work on their timing as the players on the return team stood still.

When the kickoff was run at full speed, WR Jonathan Carter was able to streak down the left sideline behind the blocking of RB Derrick Blaylock. “He’s such a good special teams player,” Westhoff said of Blaylock. “Players better watch out because if they don’t, he’ll knock their heads off.”

RB Delvin Joyce did not help his chances by tripping during his return.

Westhoff also had practiced onside kicks as WR Jerricho Cotchery on the kickoff team recovering one. However, there was no movement from the return team.

MISCELLANEOUS TIDBITS

-CB Justin Miller did not get a chance to return a kickoff or punt this morning but the Jets second-round draft pick has impressed Westhoff. “He has a good burst,” Westhoff said. “He’s a talented return guy and his decisions and handling have to be improved. But he has good explosion and I like him as our kick returner.”

-The best opportunity for young players to make the team is on special teams and both fourth-round draft pick Kerry Rhodes and fifth-round draft pick Andre Maddox impressed Westhoff this morning. Rhodes downed a punt inside the 10-yard line while Maddox showed nice hands on the return team during an onsides kick drills.

-The Jets take great pride in being one of the least penalized teams in the NFL. Westhoff said that last year, one in seven kicks resulted in a penalty for NFL teams. For the Jets, only one in 44 kicks resulted in a penalty.

INJURY REPORT

It did not appear that anyone was injured after this morning’s practice. Through the first two and a half days of training camp, there have been no reported injuries.

The Jets return to the fields this afternoon for a full team practice at 3:30 p.m. After the practice, head coach Herman Edwards will address the media. Check back to Jets Insider.com often for all the latest news.