Jets WR Laveranues Coles had another great game against the Patriots yesterday. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Despite all the offseason changes made to the team, the 2006 Jets closely resembled the Jets of last year in Sunday’s home opener against the New England Patriots, at least for the first half of the game.
For the first 30 minutes, the Jets seemed powerless both to stop the Patriots attack and to build any sort of offense of their own. The Jets went into the locker room trailing 17-0 after Ben Graham shanked a nine-yard punt to set up a 13-yard strike from Pats quarterback Tom Brady to rookie wide receiver Chad Jackson. Things did not look much better at the beginning of the third quarter, as New England again marched downfield, ultimately resulting in a one-yard touchdown run by first-round pick Laurence Maroney, giving the Patriots a seemingly commanding 24-0 lead.
This is where the new look Jets showed up. Last year’s squad likely would have folded and gone on to lose in a laugher. Gang Green fought and clawed their way back this Sunday, however. Behind strong performances from quarterback Chad Pennington and wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, the Jets trimmed the lead to 24-17 with over nine minutes left to play. That is where the comeback ended however, as the New England ran off a good portion of the clock against a hapless Jets run defense. Despite a blocked field goal by Jets DE/LB Bryan Thomas with a minute left, there was just not enough time for Pennington and the Jets to get into the end zone.
Though first year head coach Eric Mangini said he was proud of the way his guys battled back to pull within a touchdown, he acknowledged that there is a lot of things this young team must improve on.
“I think it’s a case of not executing the way we need to execute,” Mangini said. “When you don’t consistently execute, then it’s a problem. It comes back to core Jet values of communication and consistent focus. It was a group effort. It was offense, defense, special teams, right on down the line. We all take part in digging that 24-0 hole.”
The mood around the locker room was somber and quiet today as the players reflected on the loss and started working on next week. None of the players seemed to be taking consolation in the second half effort.
“Character and resolve was revealed in the second half but the truth is we cannot be down 24-zip,” veteran defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen said.
One glaring problem on the team in the first two games is the running game. After gaining just 91 yards on 34 carries in Week 1, the Jets ran for just 51 yards on 24 carries bringing their season average to just 2.45 yards a carry.
“We don’t need to tear it all down,” running back Derrick Blaylock said of the ground attack. “It’s just a case of a few things needing to be tweaked. It’s fixable though so we’re going to get it fixed.”
One option to give the team a little boost could be to use second-year back Cedric Houston. Houston, who has been inactive for the first two games, is a big bruising back that could bring some thunder to the table.
“I just put a big burden on myself to run hard, that’s what they brought me in here for,” Houston said of his running style. “I just want to get what I can get when I’m in there and you know, just punish the defense.”
On the other side of the ball, the team will look to improve on is their pass rush. The Jets were barely able to get a hand on Brady on Sunday, giving him all day to pick his passes. Safety Kerry Rhodes managed the squad’s only sack as the defensive line struggled to get pressure all day.
“We just have to go and work on one-on-one pass protection drills,” nose tackle Dewayne Robertson said. “If we can beat one-on-one I think we’ll have some more success.”
The Jets are also looking to get off to a better start next game. They are yet to put the ball in the end zone in the first quarter.
“We have come out and get things going early,” Coles said. “We can’t let ourselves get buried early on like we did yesterday.”
-Mangini praised rookie offensive linemen and first round picks Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson in his Monday press conference. He noted that he has not found himself saying their names often, and even if he’s not praising them, that means he does not have to think about them in terms of giving them corrections often. Still he said the rookies must continue to work to improve.
“There are no warm up schools or bye weeks on our schedule,” Mangini said. “The have to keep working at it and continue to improve their communication and they’ll continue to get better.”
-With veteran offensive linemen Trey Teague and Pete Kendall on the verge of returning, Mangini said there will be open competition for spots on the line.
“Every week there is always competition at any spot,” Mangini said. “Whether it is the linebackers, the defensive line, the offensive line, we evaluate our team every week and decide what is best for us.”
Coles noted that Mangini has the same approach in the day following this loss that he did last week after the team’s first win.
“He’s always the same, he’s going to be the same mean little guy you see everyday,” Coles said with a chuckle. “He’s always going to point out the negatives and highlight the things that we need to get better at, whether we win or lose.”
INJURY REPORT: An updated injury report will be released on Wednesday.
The team has an off day tomorrow and then returns to practice to begin preparation for the Bills on Wednesday. Check back to JI for all the latest news!