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By Dan Powell
Jets Staff Writer
October 23rd, 2006
Despite having a winning record, and a big matchup coming against New England, Jets head coach Eric Mangini refuses to look past Cleveland this week.
Despite having a winning record, and a big matchup coming against New England, Jets head coach Eric Mangini refuses to look past Cleveland this week.
A day after their ground attack sprung to life against a wounded Detroit Lions team, the New York Jets received a rare day off from head coach Eric Mangini, who addressed the media from Weeb Ewbank Hall at Hofstra.

“The team created an opportunity for themselves through hard work and they capitalized on it with the win,” Mangini said of the day off. “It was something we talked about in the captain’s meeting, so it may have leaked out a little bit to the players.”

Mangini said he has been encouraged by the team’s hard work over the last two weeks. Though the players did have the day off, they did have to come in for some coaching and several players worked out in the weight room as well.

The hard work was most evident in the team’s ground game. For the first time all season, it was the running attack that buoyed the Jets in their Week 7 win against Detroit. Training camp addition Kevan Barlow and rookie Leon Washington shouldered the load as the Jets other two running backs, Cedric Houston and Derrick Blaylock, were inactive for the game. While Barlow had a stellar game with 49 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown, Sunday was all about Washington’s arrival.

Though no one in the media seemed to think much of the 5’8 spark plug in training camp, the Florida State alum has become the leader of the Jets backfield with the team’s only two 100-yard rushing performances of the season. Washington rushed for 129 yards on 20 carries for a hefty 6.5 yard per carry average against Detroit and also scored his first two NFL touchdowns. With speed and elusiveness, Washington has proved he is capable of making big plays, similar to his huge 16-yard dash down the sideline in the fourth quarter that went for a touchdown and sealed Gang Green’s fourth win of the season.

“We did a real good job in the running game,” Mangini said in the opening of his daily presser. “It was a collective effort of all 11 guys.”

The rookie head coach was also happy with the job his team did at the end of the game. Finishing is one of the “core Jet values” that Mangini talks about all the time and he was pleased with his squad’s fourth quarter play on Sunday. He was especially happy with the last drive, when the Jets managed to kill the clock after Washington ran for a big first down.

“It’s something we work on a lot in practice with the four-minute drill,” Mangini said. “It is important that we end the game and not give their offence a chance to get back on the field.”

Also important for the Jets was their ability to take care of the ball. As a team, they turned the ball over just once, on a Chad Pennington interception, while the defense was able to generate two turnovers with interceptions by linebacker Jonathan Vilma and safety Kerry Rhodes. The Jets have now won the turnover battle in all four of their wins and lost that same battle in two of their three losses. On the season the Jets stand at plus two in the take-away/give-away category.

Mangini, however, felt that the best thing the Jets defense did on Sunday was shut down Detroit’s biggest weapon.

“(WR) Roy Williams was obviously a big threat and we did a pretty good job of limiting his production,” Mangini said. “That was a key to the game.”

The Jets will have another off-day tomorrow and Mangini said he expects the players to show up and work hard on Wednesday, when the team will begin preparation for their Week 8 game in Cleveland.

Insider Tidbits

-As usual, Mangini named players of the week after Sunday’s win. Washington was the obvious selection on offense, while DT/NT Dewayne Robertson was the defensive player of the week with six tackles and one sack. Rhodes was named the special teams player of the week and safety Jamie Thompson was the practice player of the week.

-Though Mangini has already said that Curtis Martin will not return until after the Cleveland game at the earliest, the running back’s name continues to pop-up in Mangini’s press conferences. Mangini said there is no guarantee that Martin will return next week and also said that when Martin does rejoin the team, the best back will play, whether that is Martin or not.

-There are no signs that the head coaching match-up between Mangini and Browns’ coach and fellow former Patriots coordinator Romeo Crennel will be as icy as the one between Mangini and Pats head coach Bill Belichick was. Mangini said he talks to Crennel often and is very close with the Crennel family, although he did allow that conversation between the two coaches may “cool down” a little bit this week.

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