The Jets had their last day of the week at Hofstra, the Friday walk-through, before this weekend’s divisional game against the rival New England Patriots. While much of the buzz surrounding the game has been about Jets head coach Eric Mangini’s past in New England and his relationship with former mentor Pats head coach Bill Belichick, the focus now shifts strictly to the field.
Gang Green is hoping to build off its Week 1 victory against the Titans by winning a big game against the perennial division leader. The team knows it will have to improve, especially in two areas: the ground attack and the kicking game.
Last week, kicker Mike Nugent struggled mightily in Nashville, missing an extra point and two field goals. The normally reliable kicker was hard at work throughout the week, looking to cut out the mistakes that had influenced his poor performance. Although the organization brought in some other guys to take a look at, Nugent performed while enough in situational drills to keep his spot on the roster, at least for this week.
“We just brought some guys in to gather information on them and see where they are as far as conditioning and game readiness,” Mangini said. “Mike had a good week though. We added some noise to the kicks, it’s not golf you’re going to have to deal with some sound.”
The other weakness in the Tennessee game was the running game. As a group, the backs managed just 91 yards on 34 carries, a dreadful average of 2.7 yards per carry. The team used a carousel of guys at the tailback spot but it was August addition Kevan Barlow and veteran Derrick Blaylock that led the way on the ground. These two know how important it is for them to really get things going this weekend.
“We always want to get better,” Blaylock said. “It’s not only the running game, you want to improve in everything. So that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to come out and try to get better in every area of the game.”
The defense also has some unique challenges to face the week. The most apparent is that they will be facing arguably the most successful quarterback of the last five years in Patriots veteran Tom Brady.
“Tom has tremendous intelligence,” Mangini said, noting on what he saw with his days around the signal-caller. “He understands everything that he’s trying to do and also the things that the defense is doing. He’s a lot like Chad in that way.”
Mangini went on to praise Pennington, Brady, and also Patriots safety Rodney Harrison for being hard workers. All three guys are constantly looking to improve, whether it’s working to get better in practice, studying in the classroom, or doing conditioning drills, Mangini said.
The other interesting wrinkle that New England presents is a trio of backs similar to the one the Jets have. Like the challenge the Jets faced in preparing for three quarterbacks against the Titans last week, the defense must prepare for three different running backs in Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk, and rookie Laurence Maroney for the Pats this week.
“Anyway you look at it they have three great backs,” veteran defensive lineman Bobby Hamilton said. “They have two power backs and then a guy like Kevin Faulk, we have to prepare for all three of those guys. We have to go out there and do our job. It doesn’t matter whose in the game, we just have to do it.”
-The Jets released tight end Zach Hilton and signed offensive lineman Wade Smith. Although Smith joins the team late in the week, Mangini did not rule out the possibility of the veteran playing Sunday.
“Everybody is live for Sunday,” the rookie head coach said. “We make some of those decisions as late as pre-game.”
-Mangini continued to separate himself from his past in New England, insisting that he is not concerned about breaking his mentor-protégé relationship with Belichick to compete on Sunday.
“That’s a great part of my past but I’m here now,” Mangini said. “It’s all green, all the time for me.”
-Hamilton, who spent four years with the Patriots, did admit that he was looking forward to seeing some of his former teammates this weekend.
“I’ve got a lot of friends up there,” the vet said. “Some coaches like Pepper Johnson and a couple D-lineman like Ty Warren and Richard Seymour. You’re always going to be proud of those guys because they were young when I was there and it’s great to see where they’ve gone.”
OL Trey Teague (ankle): Doubtful
CB David Barrett (hip): Questionable
WR/KR Tim Dwight (thigh): Questionable
G Pete Kendall (thigh): Questionable
LB Matt Chatham (foot): Probable
LB Trevor Johnson (neck): Probable
S Kerry Rhodes (ankle): Probable
S Derrick Strait (chest): Probable
The Jets will conduct a walk through today in their final preparation for New England. Be sure to check back to JI after the game for a complete recap!