By Mark Cannizzaro
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
December 30th, 2005
Kerry Rhodes is one. Justin Miller is another. Cedric Houston another, along with Adrian Jones and Brooks Bollinger, too.
Win or lose to the Bills on Sunday, the Jets have at least found out some things about some young players who, in any other circumstance other than this injury-plagued season, would never have had a chance to play.
Rhodes enters the season finale on Sunday third on the team with 97 tackles to go along with an interception and a sack _ not bad work for a fourth-round draft pick.
Miller, who's still seeking his first NFL interception, has had a pretty productive season at cornerback and as a kick returner, averaging 25.1-yards per return, good for fifth in the AFC.
Jones, while he's had some growing pains after being forced to move to left tackle, has shown promise and is a quick learner.
Bollinger is the most compelling of the youngsters in that his future is in most question. The Jets would like to keep him, but their quarterback position is in such a state of flux it's impossible to predict what it'll truly look like by next July.
If Bollinger has gotten one thing out of this season _ other than the one win in eight starts he's led the team to entering this week's game _ it's a resume. After beginning the season never knowing if he'd ever get the chance to start an NFL game, Bollinger will start his ninth on Sunday.
The results have been mixed, though one thing is certain: He's improved almost every step of the way and has been a revelation of sorts.
"When the season is over, that's when I'm going to look back an reflect,'' Bollinger said. "The good thing for me personally is when this season is over I can have concrete stuff I can look at to evaluate myself on. When you don't play at all, they not evaluate you.''
Asked if this has been fun for him despite all the losing, Bollinger said, "Yeah, it has to be fun. It's been frustrating and it's been hard most Mondays coming in here and having that feeling I let the guys down by not doing enough to win, but at the same time, when Sunday comes around and it's time to play it's a blast, because you never know how many opportunities you're going to have to start games in this league.
"Where I was sitting before this year I didn't know if I'd ever get a chance to start in this league. From that aspect it's been great to have that opportunity.''
Asked if he wonders about his future here or elsewhere, Bollinger said, "I've been through the wash already my first three years even thought I didn't play, with them bringing guys in and wondering where I stand and if I'm going to be a part of the mix.
"You've got to have a short memory and you've got to be resilient to play in this leagues, and especially to be a quarterback in this league. There's another game left and it's just as important as all the ones on the schedule. It's a chance to play football.''
After this season, Bollinger knows there are no guarantees. He doesn't know when his next chance to play will be.
Props should be given to Laveranues Coles for the season he's quietly put together in spite off the Jets' completely disfunctional offense that has included use of five different quarterbacks this season.
"He's had to learn the timing from four different people, which is hard,'' Jets' offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said. "He has played a little banged up and maybe missed one practice. He's a leader in that group and we know we can go to him for a big catch if we need to.''
Coles enters the final week of the season with 69 catches and will finish with his lowest reception total since 2001 when he had 59, though he had seven touchdowns that year.
No matter, though, this has been a lost season, one that has been hard to measure for players like Coles.
"My happiness is what's most important; forget the numbers,'' Coles said. "We always want to measure things by wins and losses, but for me mentally, just to be back here and be around people I really like and who truly like me and I get along with it's great for me. I didn't come back and have the stellar season that I wish I could've had, but again, I'm just happy. I have a peace of mind here and I'm just happy to be around.''
Coles insisted that he hasn't looked back on being in Washington with a better record and a chance to get into the playoffs with envy. He's happy to have been traded to the Jets.
"I'm happy with where I'm at,'' he said. "There are a lot of things that I wouldn't trade. Our record doesn't reflect the fact that I returned and had high expectations, but again, I am comfortable and I am happy. Wins and all that don't give you peace of mind.''
Asked if he thinks Washington got the better of the trade with Santana Moss going to the Pro Bowl, Coles said, "To be honest, I haven't really had an opportunity to watch (the Redskins). I understand that Santana has had an excellent year. I've said that from the time that I left that he's going to be special. It's was just a matter of time before he exploded.
"He's going to have plenty more great seasons. I'm happy for him, and I'm happy for the organization. I'm very proud of him also. Again, I'm happy to be where I'm at. I'm pretty sure he's happy to be where he's at, and I think everybody should just be happy.''