Despite being in the league for 26 years as a player and coach, Jets head coach Herman Edwards still gets butterflies before a game.
“I anticipate it with everyone,” Edwards said. “If you don’t have butterflies in your gut, you’re not excited and you should be. Everyone has butterflies.”
Most Jets fans will have butterflies as well tomorrow night when the Jets take the field at the Meadowlands to face the Detroit Lions in their first pre-season game of 2005.
“I am interested to see how some of our younger guys play and how they react playing against another team,” Edwards said.
While WR Wayne Chrebet is out for tomorrow’s game with a strained hamstring, shortly after kickoff, he will walk over to Edwards. “It’s tradition. Wayne gives me my Tylenol and says, ‘Here’s your aspirin coach, I know you’ll get a headache.’ I scream more in preseason games than I do in regular season games because I’m like, ‘why’s that guy in the game. Get that guy off the field,’” Edwards said.
One player Edwards will not have to worry about is QB Chad Pennington as Edwards announced early in the week that Pennington will not be in uniform on Friday.
Pennington would not have played more than a series or two anyway. “Getting more practice reps and getting my shoulder in game shape is more important than going out there and taking any chances,” Pennington said.
Jets fans will get their first look at the offense under new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. However don’t expect the offense to show much. “You don’t want to hamstring your guys with formations and shifts; you want to put them in certain formations where they understand what they need to do, so we can see them play,” Edwards said.
With Pennington watching from the sidelines, QB Jay Fiedler will start and said he will probably play the first quarter which means he should get some snaps with the second team as well.
“I think I’ve picked up the offense very well throughout the months of off-season work and the last couple weeks of training camp,” Fiedler said. “It suits me very well, I think Coach Heimerdinger and myself are on the same page with the way we look at routes and the way we analyze the game.”
“I thought he made a big jump after the week of the Giants’ (practice),” Edwards said. “He’s gotten better. I think he’s getting a feel for what we want him to do.”
Coming to the Jets after spending the previous five years in Miami has marked a homecoming for Fiedler who grew up in Oceanside.
Fiedler talked about his goals for the first preseason game.
“I want to go out there and score points,” Fiedler said. “It’s like any other game. The first thing is that you want to be sure of the tempo. Coming in and out of the huddle you get guys lined up in the right spot. You make sure everyone understands what their job is. Then you just go out there and play. It will be nice to get that first hit out of the way and get that physical part going and being in live competition again.”
After Fiedler comes out, third-string QB Brooks Bollinger will play the majority of the game.
“It will be fun to watch him (Fiedler) and Brooks trying to move an offense against a pretty good defense,” Edwards said. “That’s what preseason is all about. You evaluate now compared to where the other team is and where you would like to be. I think you always come away with surprised in preseason games and you come away with disappointments.”
Last year RB Curtis Martin had one of his best seasons, leading the NFL with 1,697 rushing yards. Martin carried the ball 25 yards in the preseason and Edwards said to expect the same this year.
Once Martin leaves, RB Derrick Blaylock and sixth-round draft pick RB Cedric Houston will take over. Blaylock has impressed in practice and will be key as the lead blocker on special teams.
WR Jonathan Carter has not been impressive in camp and will sit Friday with a strained hamstring. Carter is currently the fifth wide receiver on the depth chart and there are a bunch of young receivers fighting for that spot with the front runners being Chas Gessner and seventh-round pick Harry Williams, Jr.
Edwards talked about Gessner’s strengths. “He’s a big guy, runs okay, real good in the red area because he has the size and he’s a good athlete that can jump,” Edwards said. “He’s done a good job. He’s a tough guy that will block you and it’s good to have a guy like that.”
The big question on the offensive line is how will Adrian Jones perform as the starter at right tackle. Jones, the Jets fourth-round pick in 2004, did not see much playing time last year but he has held his own in practice against DE Shaun Ellis. The Jets should get a good test of where Jones is at by seeing him in game action.
It seems the Jets have finally found a tight end who can catch as well as block in Doug Jolley, who has caught almost every ball thrown to him in training camp and has shown no fear in going over the middle. TE Chris Baker, in his fourth season, has quietly gone about his business. Both will be heavily relied upon in the offense.
The Jets secondary has no player who has been with the team more than a year and they will get a good test on Friday going up against the Lions talented receiving corps.
With CB Ty Law, who was signed by the Jets on Monday, still getting into game shape and sitting out Friday; rookie Justin Miller will start at left cornerback as well as return punts and kicks.
“You guys hear me on him a bunch and I know I’m always on him, but I like him” defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson said. “He’s competitive; he just doesn’t know how to go play hard every play. He’s getting there and you can see how he was projected as a first round draft pick. The guy has some talent. He’s got good hips, he catches the football, he’s quick and I’m trying to get him to be a little more aggressive. I’m happy we’ve got him and he’s going to make us better.”
To sign Law, the Jets had to cut CB Ray Mickens. The move means second-year player CB Derrick Strait will be the full-time nickel back. Strait only played in five games during the regular season due to injuries but came on strong in the postseason.
“He’s an all around football player, he really is,” Edwards said of Strait. “He’s got great instincts. He can tackle well. He understands the concepts of defenses. He’s a good football player. He goes unnoticed because of the position he plays. He’s got some talent.”
Oliver Celestin will probably start at strong safety but rookies Kerry Rhodes and Andre Maddox will see plenty of game action.
“We have two young players that are very physical and now we just have to let them play,” Edwards said of Rhodes and Maddox. “I think they’ll play well, I really do. I think they’ll play fast and they just have to go play.”
Edwards is looking for someone to emerge as a leader in the secondary. “We have some guys that have some talent and now one of them has to step up and say, ‘I’m going to be the guy,” Edwards said.
The Lions also have a new offensive coordinator in Ted Tollner and QB Joey Harrington talked about what that has allowed the team to do. “I think Ted has brought an emphasis and given us a little more freedom to take some shots down the field,” Harrington said.
Among the choices Harrington has to throw to are rookie Mike Williams, Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, and TE Marcus Pollard, who spent the previous 11 seasons in Indianapolis.
Harrington, in his fourth year in the NFL, passed for 3.047 yards and 19 touchdowns last year but the team still finished 6-10. He has not lived up to expectations and was booed by 26,000 fans during training camp this year.
Harrington talked about what the team is looking for out of the offense on Friday.
“Consistency,” Harrington said. In one quarter we’re not going to go out there and put up 30 points. We’re not going to throw up huge numbers on offense. But, we can have a good quarter...If we can put a good drive together in the first quarter,that will be a huge positive for us”
The Lions have an experienced number two QB in Jeff Garcia, who played for head coach Steve Mariucci in San Francisco from 1999-2002.
There are no question marks at MLB for the Jets with Jonathan Vilma, who stepped into the position when Sam Cowart got hurt last year and never gave it up. Vilma has shown he is a leader on and off the field. Vilma was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the year after finishing second on the Jets with 118 tackles. “I put pressure on myself,” Vilma said. “I don’t have to worry about fans, media or what everyone else expects from me. I know what to I expect from myself. As long as I put that pressure and keep it on myself, I’ll be alright.”
Jets fans will also get their first look at rookie K Mike Nugent. Special teams coach Mike Westhoff talked about his philosophy on his unit. “I’ll rotate the punters as much as possible, but if there’s a particular situation that we want to make sure someone is getting that they haven’t already gotten, I’ll break the rotation,” Westhoff said. “I don’t do rotations on special teams. I have one team that plays and I’ll substitute. I don’t have a second punt team that will play in the second half. I’ll keep one group on the field and then I’ll spot substitute them.”
-The Lions hold a two-games to one edge in the all-time preseason series between the teams. The last time the two teams met in pre-season was at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan on August 5, 1994, a 26-13 victory for the Lions.
-The Jets announced on Thursday they have signed S Art Thomas and CB Atari Bigby. Thomas was in Jets camp last year before being released and spent the majority of last season on the Giants practice squad. Bigby is a rookie free agent from Central Florida.
-Earlier in the week, the Jets traded S Jon McGraw to the Lions and Edwards said it was tough. “We’re close with their family,” Edwards said. “Gretchen (McGraw) was actually at the hospital with my wife. She got there yesterday morning at 8 a.m. and didn’t leave until 10 p.m. She talked to Jon on the phone and he had a good practice in Detroit. It was tough, but at the end of the day, sometimes you need a fresh start.”
-Edwards said DT Dewayne Robertson will be a game-time decision and that orthopedist Dr. James Andrews agreed with the Jets team doctors that Robertson’s knee problems are not serious. “It’s always good to get a second opinion,” Edwards said. “We had a good conversation this morning and he’s ready to go. He was here early this morning. He was here at around 7 a.m. He came in there (weight room) and we started talking.”
LB Eric Barton (tendonitis-knee), WR Jonathan Carter (hamstring), and WR Wayne Chrebet (hamstring) rested most of the week leading up to the game and will not play. DT Dewayne Robertson (knee) will be a game-time decision. S Andre Maddox strained his hamstring in Wednesday night’s practice and will be a game-time decision.
-LB Eric Barton (knee): Out
-WR Jonathan Carter (hamstring): Out
-WR Wayne Chrebet (hamstring): Out
-DT Dewayne Robertson (knee): Game-Time Decision
-S Andre Maddox (hamstring): Game-Time Decision
Game time is set for 7 p.m. tomorrow night at the Meadowlands and the game will be shown locally on WCBS-2. Check back to Jets Insider.com for a full recap as the Jets begin the 2005 pre-season against the Detroit Lions.