Will WR Tim Dwight be ready to play against his former team this week? (Jets Insider.com Photo)
On a rainy Thursday afternoon, Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini spoke to the media about the teams last full practice before Sunday’s home-opener against the Patriots, his former team. While Mangini continued to insist that the game had no added importance, some of his players seemed to feel differently.
The Jets’ running backs, who struggled in the team’s Week One victory in Tennessee, were the most outspoken about the significance of Sunday’s game. While neither RB Derrick Blaylock nor RB Kevan Barlow admitted any added weight because of the rivalry or because Mangini is facing his former team, both gave their own take on the match-up.
Blaylock, a second-year Jet and starting running back in Week One, was very frank when stating why he thought the game was important. “It’s a division game,” he told reporters before adding, “That says it all.”
Barlow, who played backup to Blaylock against the Titans but scored the team’s only rushing touchdown, had a different opinion. A first-timer to the Jets-Patriots rivalry, Barlow seemed most excited about playing against a Bill Belichick-coached team, describing the Patriots coach as “arguably the best… probably the best head coach to ever play.”
A recent addition to the Jets roster, Barlow played the first five years of his career in San Francisco. Since he played in the NFC and the Patriots are an AFC team, Barlow only got to play them once in his career. On January 2nd, 2005, Barlow ran for 103 yards on 25 carries in a loss to the Patriots.
The third running back on the Jets roster, Cedric Houston, was not available for interviews. Houston was inactive for the team’s first game, sparking questions as to why Mangini would deactivate his most powerful back against a strong defense like Tennessee’s.
Mangini addressed the question in Thursday’s presser, explaining that he had chosen to bring FB Jamar Martin as his power-back instead of Houston. “He’s done a good job… he’s a physical guy,” said Mangini of Martin. Mangini then added that Martin “enjoys blocking”, which is an area Houston has struggled in.
Even tight-lipped Mangini eventually admitted one factor in Sunday’s game that gives it extra importance: home field advantage.
”I think it’s really important, wherever you are, to have a home-field advantage,” the rookie head-coach explained to reporters before practice.
In terms of parts of the Jets’ game that need improvement, both Mangini and K Mike Nugent readily admitted that the team’s kicking game is a work in progress. Nugent missed an extra point and two field goals against Tennessee, turning a sure-fire win into a nail-biter.
”Mike had a good day of practice, a good day of kicking,” said Mangini, making sure to point out that, “we made it stressful.” When asked what his coach meant by “making it stressful”, Nugent told reporters that they had worked to simulate game situations as closely as possible but neglected to elaborate.
With an big game coming up this weekend, the Jets will need their kicker in full-form if the want to have a chance to win. When asked whether he had been able to correct his problems from Week One and put it behind him, Nugent assured reporters that it was simply a bad day and that it wouldn’t hamper his performance versus New England.
Nugent left the mob of reporters with a piece of wisdom to ponder that he claimed to have learned from his mentors which truly embodied Coach Mangini’s “one day at a time” attitude towards the Jets: “You’re only as good as your next kick.”
-Jets OL Trey Teague, listed on the injury report as doubtful for Sunday’s game, suited up for the first time as a member of the Jets. Teague injured his ankle in mini-camp and has been sidelined since.
Although Teague told reporters that “there’s a possibility” of him playing against the Patriots, don’t count on it, since Teague appeared to sit out nearly every drill in practice today.
-WR/KR Tim Dwight was back in uniform and on the field today, and for the first time in nearly a month, he seemed very healthy. He’s got the hop back in his step and is working as the first-string kick returner, making him appear more likely than not to return in time to face his former team on Sunday.
-S Kerry Rhodes was jumping around the locker room and yelling about how excited he was to see the University of Louisville play against another AP Top 25 team this weekend in college football. Rhodes was a star for Louisville before being drafted by the Jets.
-Mangini took a few moments in his press conference to clarify comments he made recently about his alma mater, Wesleyan University. Mangini apologized for criticizing their football program, saying that his statements “came out wrong” and that at their level, Wesleyan is an outstanding football program as well as a terrific school.
New York Jets
-OL Trey Teague (Ankle): Doubtful
-CB David Barrett (Hip): Questionable
-WR Tim Dwight (Thigh): Questionable
-OL Pete Kendall (Thigh): Questionable
-LB Matt Chatham (Foot): Probable
-LB Trevor Johnson (Neck): Probable
-S Kerry Rhodes (Ankle): Probable
-S Derrick Strait (Chest): Probable
New England Patriots
-LB Tedy Bruschi (Wrist): Questionable
-S Artrell Hawkins (Thigh): Questionable
-WR Chad Jackson (Hamstring): Questionable
-T Nick Kaczur (Shoulder): Questionable
-HB/TE Garrett Mills (Flu): Questionable
-QB Tom Brady (R Shoulder): Probable
-WR Doug Gabriel (Hamstring): Probable
-S Rodney Harrison (Flu): Probable
The team has a walk through tomorrow in preparation for Sunday’s home-opener against the Patriots. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for a full game preview!