Thursday chatter at the Jets’ training facility on Long Island usually focuses on the game plan for the week or work in the red-zone, but on this overcast Thursday-afternoon, the main topic of discussion was on Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle. Lidle died yesterday afternoon when the small plane carrying him and his flight instructor crashed into an apartment building in Manhattan.
Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini opened his daily press conference by offering his condolences to Lidle’s family.
”He’s a part of the New York sports family, but more importantly he’s a father, a husband, and a family man,” Mangini said of Lidle, who is survived by a wife and young child. “It’s so tragic. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
The tragedy had many Jets players somewhat unnerved as well; among them, veteran G Pete Kendall. Kendall, a husband and father himself, was at a loss for words when asked to comment on the tragedy. However, his answer the question of whether any Jets players have a pilot’s license was much more straight-forward: ”Not that I know of.”
After addressing the difficult issue of Lidle’s untimely death, Mangini moved on to football-related issues, and in particular, the exponential development of WR/QB Brad Smith.
The Jets drafted Smith, who was the starting QB for the University of Missouri, primarily as a back-up receiver. His versatility and ability to play different positions played a large role in his being drafted, but even Mangini didn’t expect such quick development.
Mangini spoke about the value of having a player capable of playing QB, WR, and as he proved last week against Jacksonville, even RB. “As he does each one of those effectively, that creates another opportunity for him and adds some more things that we can do.”
Mangini also made a point of noting the similarities he has seen early on between Smith and one-time Jets QB Ray Lucas. Mangini was a member of the Jets as an assistant coach during Lucas’s tenure with the team.
According to Mangini, Smith has another valuable asset that sets him apart from most QBs: he is an excellent special teams player. Despite taking very few offensive snaps thus far, Mangini estimated that the number of plays he has been involved in on both offense and special teams is “somewhere in the 30s.”
With a chuckle, the Jets’ rookie coach even refused to shoot down the idea of Smith playing cornerback or safety, saying simply, “I wouldn’t be opposed.”
That seems to fit in with the coach’s vow to play the best guy at each position, regardless of pre-established notions about the player. Mangini then turned to simply goofing around, pretending to entertain the possibility of starting-QB Chad Pennington being used as a receiver.
One reporter asked Mangini about Pennington’s vertical, down-field speed – an obvious shot at the quarterback’s limited mobility. Mangini turned beet-red, trying to keep from laughing, and barely managed to eke out his witty response: “I don’t have a clock fast enough.”
All joking aside, the biggest compliment for Smith came from veteran-WR Laveranues Coles in a locker room interview. When asked about Smith, the Jets’ superstar-receiver replied in the matter-of-fact style he’s become famous for, stating very simply, “He’s a star in the making.”
-The Jets practiced primarily on the FieldTurf in preparation for Sunday’s game at Giants Stadium, which utilizes the same playing surface.
-P Ben Graham, who usually gets nothing but rave reviews in practice reports, was actually far-from-impressive in practice today. While a few punts soared over 50 yards, the second-year punter from Australia shanked quite a few attempts and struggled getting any height on his kicks.
-DT Dewayne Robertson looked to have improved his technique in a blocking drill on Thursday, getting much lower than he normally does. The added leverage enabled him to take out two O-linemen at once, meaning he may be starting to learn the NT position well.
Robertson’s performance was not good enough to stave off any competition, though. DT C.J. Mosley alternated reps with Robertson during the drill, but he was not able to get decent leverage.
-RB Cedric Houston, doubtful for Sunday’s game with a hyperextended knee suffered in the loss to Indy, was suited up and on the practice field today. He showed no discomfort in any of the small runs he was asked to perform, but served most of the day as a blocker.
DL Rashad Moore also returned to the practice field on Thursday. Moore missed Wednesday's practice for personal reasons and was listed as probable on the Wednesday injury report.
-TE Chris Baker has played for Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban earlier in his career, when Saban was his coach on Michigan State for three seasons. Baker was asked whether he’d ever incurred the “wrath” of the fiery coach and quickly responded with a laugh, “once in three years.”
Baker said that he was loud and outspoken at the time, and explained that Saban had told him to “shut up and stay quiet.”
-After talking about rookie-RB Leon Washington's impressive 101-yard rushing game against Jacksonville, Mangini was asked whether he would consider abandoning the RB-by-committee strategy if one of the team's running backs distinguished themself as the best. His answer was brief but got the message across: "I'm not opposed."
New York Jets
-FB B.J. Askew (Foot): Questionable
-CB David Barrett (Hip): Questionable
-WR Laveranues Coles (Calf): Questionable
-WR Tim Dwight (Thigh): Questionable
-RB Cedric Houston (Knee): Questionable
-OL Pete Kendall (Thigh): Questionable
-OL Trey Teague (Ankle): Questionable
-DL Dave Ball (Hand): Probable
-RB Kevan Barlow (Calf): Probable
-LB Matt Chatham (Foot): Probable
-OL Anthony Clement (Shin): Probable
-DL Bobby Hamilton (Knee): Probable
-FB James Hodgins (Knee): Probable
-OL Adrian Jones (Thigh): Probable
-CB Justin Miller (Hip): Probable
-QB Chad Pennington (Calf): Probable
-S Kerry Rhodes (Thigh): Probable
-TE Sean Ryan (Chest): Probable
-WR Brad Smith (Thigh): Probable
-S Eric Smith (Knee): Probable
-DL Kimo von Oelhoffen (Knee): Probable
-RB Leon Washington (Hip): Probable
-WR Marty Booker (Chest): Doubtful
-QB Daunte Culpepper (Knee): Doubtful
-CB Travis Daniels (Knee): Questionable
-TE Justin Peelle (Knee): Questionable
-LB Derrick Pope (Hamstring): Questionable
-TE Randy McMichael (Ribs): Probable
The team has a full walk-through tomorrow in preparation for Sunday’s home-game against the divisional-rival Dolphins. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for a full game preview!