When Jets RB Curtis Martin plunged into the end zone twice last week in the Jets 14-12 victory over Tampa Bay, it was Martin’s first two touchdowns this season. “It felt good,” Martin said. “I try to get used to it, I feel like that’s just the place that I belong. That’s where I should be.”
There is no denying Martin has not lived up to the expectations after winning the NFL rushing title last year. Martin has carried 105 times for 285 yards this season, just 2.7 yards per carry. Critics say that age has finally has caught up to Martin and he will never be at the same level he once was.
Martin has had to take an expanded role in the Jets offense because of the injuries to QB Chad Pennington and QB Jay Fiedler. Against Baltimore, the Ravens knew Martin would carry the ball a majority of the time and stuffed the box to stop him. Last week against Tampa Bay with Vinny Testaverde starting, Tampa could not place as many players in the box as Baltimore since they knew Testaverde could throw the ball.
“I think we took a step in the running game,” Martin said of last week’s game. “It wasn’t in the yardage, but I think we took a step in the mentality, the focus and everything.”
Martin said that teams won’t stack the box if the running game is working. “I think you have to prove it (to make it loosen up),” Martin said. “ We have to prove that we’re going to be consistent and they won’t be able to stay up there. Then things will open up in the running game and one hand will wash the other.”
If there ever was a more perfect time for Martin to have a breakout game, this week would be it. While the Bills have the 11th ranked defense in the NFL, there rush defense is 31st, allowing 160.4 yards per game. “They always play us tough,” Martin said of the Bills. “It’s a division game also. It’s going to be tough.”
Martin says he’s learned to be patient. “I think the mistake you make is trying to force things because things aren’t going perfect,” Martin said. “I’ve learned not to do that and I won’t do that. Give it time and I think things will turn around.”
Martin has rushed for at least 1,000 yards in all of his 11 seasons as a pro. But with less than 300 yards in five weeks, that streak is in jeopardy. “Everybody talks about that to me,” Martin said. “We’ll see what happens. I’m optimistic. I let everybody else worry about it and I just do what I do. You guys know me; I said the same thing to you that last time we were in almost this same situation. You have to keep working hard. That’s where most people, not just in football, but in life, when things get tough people find it hard to keep pushing because they feel like they’re not making any progress, but that’s just not the way I think.”
While certainly another 1,000 yard rushing season would be nice, Martin would be more than happy just contributing and helping the team win.
VILMA LOOKING FORWARD TO FACING MCGAHEE
A big reason why the Bills were able to beat the Jets last year in Buffalo was because of RB Willis McGahee. In the 22-17 Buffalo win, McGahee had 37 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown. McGahee’s former college teammate at the University of Miami, LB Jonathan Vilma had 15 tackles in that game for the Jets. Vilma is excited about facing McGahee again. “We’re cool, we’re close and it’ll be a great match-up,” Vilma said.
-Rookie K Mike Nugent is just 1-3 on field goals from 40 yards or more. Nugent was asked today if he is pressing on his field goal attempts. “I just went out there on the first FG, I wasn’t really feeling pressed at all, but I think maybe I was on the second one,” Nugent said. “One of the things I’ve really said a lot before, that I really try to work on as much as I can, if you miss a FG come back and get that next one. This is the first time it has ever happened that I haven’t hit that second one. It’s one of those things where you have to realize what you did wrong. You kind of change things up a little bit, kind of like coach said, and feel a little pressed and that’s what you can’t do. You have to focus on what you can do and what you do right every day.”
LB Eric Barton (ankle) has been downgraded and is out for this week’s game. FB B.J. Askew (ankle) practiced but is questionable. RB Curtis Martin (knee) is probable as his knee is still bothering him. Dewayne Robertson’s knee is sore but he’s not expected to miss any time.
-QB Chad Pennington (shoulder): Out
-QB Jay Fiedler (shoulder): Out
-RB Derrick Blaylock (ankle): Out
-LB Eric Barton (ankle): Out
-FB B.J. Askew (ankle): Questionable
-RB Curtis Martin (knee): Probable
-DT Dewayne Robertson (knee): Probable
The team returns to practice tomorrow and continues their preparation for Buffalo. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com for all the latest NY Jets news.