Rookie Kerry Rhodes will open the season as the starting strong safety for the NY Jets. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
For the second straight year, the Jets will have a rookie starting at safety when they open the season as Kerry Rhodes was officially named as the strong safety starter. Rhodes beat out Oliver Celestin and Rashad Washington for the job.
Rhodes, a fourth-round draft pick out of Louisville, has shown a knack for being around the ball, making three interceptions in four preseason games. Defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson likes to switch up his defensive schemes so expect Celestin and Washington to get a lot of playing time as well.
“He’s a very, very instinctive guy,” head coach Herman Edwards said of Rhodes. “He has the ability to make plays on the football. He’s got a large body. He can cover a lot of ground with his range. We’ll see what happens on opening day.”
“My goal was to come in here and play, be competitive,” Rhodes said. “I did that when I came in and the coach told me that I had a chance. When I had the chance, I just tried to take advantage of the chance I had everyday and it worked out so far. Like I said, I just have to keep getting better every week.”
Celestin started all the preseason games and over the past couple of weeks, Celestin and Rhodes both practiced with the first team while FS Erik Coleman moved to the second team. Edwards explained why he did that. “There are so many different things you have to do in our secondary,” Edwards said. “We just wanted to make sure those guys knew what to do to get guys lined up, check the coverage’s. It was good for him. It's just a process. He just kind of went through it. Now we decided to play.”
Rhodes will be relied upon heavily in the defense. “I’m confident in making my calls right now,” Rhodes said. “The stuff is coming to me a little more. Just being more vocal is helping me out with getting confident on the field. I am just ready to go into a real game situation and see how it goes.”
CB Ty Law, who will be making his Jets regular season debut on Sunday, has been impressed with Rhodes. “He definitely has a nose for the ball,” Law said. “He can go out there and make plays, but the real bullets are about to fly and we have to understand that he’s a young guy, he’s a rookie. For Kerry and myself, we’re on the same side. We don’t know what is going on. That’s going to be something to see. When the real bullets start to fly. I don’t know what I’m doing and he doesn’t know what he’s doing, I’m like, ‘Oh boy.’ It’s going to be a lot of fun and interesting.”
Last year, fifth-round draft pick Erik Coleman impressed in training camp and won the free safety starting job as a rookie. Coleman started every game and led the team with four interceptions. Coleman was asked about his advice for Rhodes. “Try to help him prepare, get the calls ready…I told him to stay calm.”
Rhodes and the rest of the defense will have to be at the top of their game in Kansas City. The Chiefs led the NFL in total offense last year, averaging over 418 yards per game. QB Trent Green passed for 4,591 yards and 27 touchdowns last year and his main receiver is TE Tony Gonzalez (1,258 yards, 7 TD last year). RB Priest Holmes had 892 yards and 14 touchdowns last year despite missing the final eight games of the year with a knee injury.
If the Jets defense can contain the Chiefs explosive offense that averaged 30.2 points per game in 2004, then it will give the Jets offense a chance. Under offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, QB Chad Pennington and the rest of the offense will have to put up more than the 20.8 points per game they averaged last season if they want to beat the Chiefs.
“It’s no secret they have an explosive offense,” Pennington said. “We got to do what we have to do to keep us offensively in the ball game. The best way to keep an offense from scoring is to keep your offense on the field. Executions are going to be pretty key for us.”
The Jets offense will have to deal with the loud atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium. “I’ve never played there before,” Pennington said. “I haven’t talked to Derrick (Blaylock) but I know it’s a loud place, they play really great at home and it’s one of the great stadiums of the league. It shows the fan support by how loud they get. It’s a big challenge for us. We have to communicate and make sure we’re not letting the crowd noise get to us affecting how we play.”
“He's starting to become more comfortable,” Edwards said of Pennington. “But he's still thinking. You can see him at times, certain things he has to do, he's thinking a little bit. When the game starts, I just think what he's going to have to do, and we'll help him, just go back and throw it. Just drop back as fast as you can, when you got to throw it, throw it. It will all take care of itself.”
-The Jets named their practice squad today: LB Dennis Haley, OL Michael King, OL Mike Kracalik, FB Luke Lawton, DL Radell Lockhart, WR Harry Williams, Jr. and WR Jovan Witherspoon. Haley, King, Kracalik, Lockhart, Williams, Jr. and Witherspoon were all in the Jets camp this summer. Lawton was waived by the Giants during final cut downs. With seven players on the practice squad, the Jets can still name an eighth player. “I think it gives us the good ability to talk to more guys that are out there and see what happens,” Edwards said.
-The two teams haven’t met on opening day since 1974 when the Chiefs defeated the Jets, 24-16.
-It’s been a week since DE John Abraham ended his holdout and Edwards was asked how many plays Abraham will play. “That will be determined during the game,” Edwards said. “You go by the game. If can he play 40 plays, that would be great. Right now we'll just get him into the game, let him play. When he needs to rest, we'll get him out. We'll platoon those guys, especially on a hot day, especially in Kansas City.”
Edwards did not give an official injury report. DT Dewayne Robertson (hand) and FB Jerald Sowell (ribs) are expected to play Sunday.
The Jets have tomorrow off before resuming practice on Wednesday in preparation for Kansas City.