INSIDER FRIDAY TEAM REPORT
By Dan Powell
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
October 27th, 2006
With a Week 8 match-up against the Cleveland Brown looming on the horizon, the Jets moved their practice to third downs and red zone situations as usual on Friday. With two days left before the game head coach Eric Mangini seemed confident that his squad will be ready to go on Sunday.
“I was really pleased with the progress the defense made in their core technique in yesterday’s practice,” Mangini said. “That’s going to be important this week because they have strong guys at their skill positions.”
The rookie head coach went on to say that it was progress from a mixture of fronts that pleased him. It was not the 3-4 or the 4-3 defense in particular but the execution of a combination of defenses and the game plan as a whole that satisfied the coach. Now he is looking for the team to bring the same type of performance out on the field in Cleveland.
Mangini said he was particularly happy with middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s practice yesterday. Vilma was very effective in both running the defense and in his own personal execution Mangini said. According to the first year head coach, this was one of Vilma’s best practices thus far this season.
The special teams play is another area where Mangini has liked his squad’s practice. The coach said he liked the job kicker Mike Nugent had done on kickoffs and also told the media about an incredible punt by special teams captain Ben Graham during yesterday’s practice. Mangini said the punt looked like it was “shot out of a rocket” and that it traveled 80 yards in the air.
“Mike has come in here and done a great job,” Mangini said of special teams coach Mike Westhoff. “Just look at the special team award winners. This week it was (safety) Kerry Rhodes and last week it was (wide receiver) Brad Smith. That shows that everyone’s contributing.”
The coach went on to talk about the progress cornerback and kick returner Justin Miller has made this season. While the coach said he is looking for more progress from Miller at the corner spot, he has been pleased with the job Miller has done to continue to excel on special teams.
“He’s got a chance each time he touches the ball to do something,” Mangini said. “What I like about him is the aggressive way he runs. He is so physical and attacking with the ball.”
For a coach that has been so secretive and held his cards close to his chest, this was rare, high praise for his team. Though he does not bash his team, Mangini does not usually compliment them unprovoked the way he did on Friday. The coach clearly feels good about his squad heading into this Sunday’s game.
-Third downs could be of particular interest to the Jets this week as the Browns have held their opponents to just a 39.8 percent conversion rate including a game two weeks ago in which they did not allow the Carolina Panthers to convert on any of 11 third down attempts. In their 41-0 Week 5 loss to Jacksonville the Jets converted on just three of 14 third downs, a major factor in the blowout loss.
-Mangini had praise for rookie running back Leon Washington in his presser today. While he chuckled at the notion that Washington has “played like an all-pro,” Mangini did say he was pleased with the progress Washington had made since arriving. He did acknowledge, however, that the rookie’s 129 rushing yards last week was a group effort by the entire offense.
“Leon’s done a nice job and he was patient and waited his turn and worked hard,” guard Pete Kendall said of the fourth round pick. “He seems to have a nice feel for the way the offense is run.”
-After word got out of yesterday’s 80 yard punt, Graham had more media attention than he’s had all year in the locker room on Friday.
“Yesterday, I had a good day at practice,” Graham said with a sheepish grin. “I had a little bit of wind at my back and we were backed up in the 4 minute drill. Usually the guys on offense are trying to slip money in my back pocket because they get the ball back and go the other way so they don’t want to start too deep.”
Something must have gotten into Graham’s leg this week. Friday he kicked a ball from the 10 yard line, over the net behind the uprights, across the parking lot, and on to the Hofstra soccer field where the Jets held their summer practices.
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