Newly acquired RB Thomas Jones officially met the NY media today during team OTA's. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Last season the Jets went 10-6 and clinched a playoff berth. They accomplished the unthinkable with a first-year head coach, a quarterback coming off major shoulder surgery and no resemblance of anything that could be called a running game.
As the Jets are looking to an even brighter 2007, all three of those pieces look like their ready to take Gang Green further in the playoffs. With Eric Mangini having one full year under his belt and starting quarterback Chad Pennington having a successful season after coming off of shoulder surgery, all the Jets needed was to find that running game.
Last season, the running game consisted of Leon Washington who emerged as the starter, Cedric Houston who missed a majority of the season due to injury and Kevan Barlow, who is no longer a member of Jets. With many receiving weapons General Manager Mike Tannenbaum took it into his own hands and made sure the Jets would be as effective on the ground as they are in the air.
In this past off-season Tannenbaum acquired running back Thomas Jones from the NFC Champions Chicago Bears for the 37th pick of last months NFL Draft. The Jets also got the 63rd pick in return from the Bears.
In his third practice with the Jets (the first practice which was opened to the media), Jones showed why Tannenbaum went out and got him. Jones, 5’10”, 220 created all buzz Thursday afternoon during one of the Jets Voluntary Organized Team Activity Days (OTA’s). Jones exhibited his unwilling work ethic, speed and his ability to cut back up field and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
“I am excited to be here. I am here to help the team get better,” said Jones in his first meeting with the New York Media. “I will try to help this team win however I can. I am excited to be apart of the Jets.”
Jones can do it many ways. He gives Gang Green the perfection combination of size and speed. He has the size of an ideal running back but mostly he importantly he has the breakaway speed the Jets are looking for in a back.
“He has been as impressive on the field as he has been off the field. I like the way he cuts, the way he carries the ball, the way he studies the game,” Mangini said.
But as good as runner he is, he showed Thursday that he has an exceptional ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
“I consider myself a good receiver and I have confidence in my pass catching ability,” Jones said. “The offense in Chicago was pretty predictable, but here I am going to have opportunities.”
But what drew Mangini’s eyes to Jones was his character. A player’s character means so much to Mangini. He places great emphasis on person’s personality and the way his players carry themselves off the field as well as on it
“When we went and decided to make the trade for Thomas [Jones], we did a lot of research on people’s character and simply regardless of what teams we spoke to the reoccurring theme was his work ethic,” Mangini said.
Mangini always sees Jones in weight room working on his muscle mass. He is always one of the first ones on the field and last ones off the field. And Jones has already made a big impression on his new teammates in his first week of OTA’s.
“He is a physical specimen. Thomas has a tremendous work ethic. He’s never one of the first guys off the field,” said Pennington. “He is an exciting player and I know he’ll do everything he can to make the Jets as successful as they can be.”
INSIDER OTA TIDBTS
-Besides Curtis Martin who could retire any day, G Pete Kendall was the only other player not in attendance during these Organized Team Activity Days. Despite Mangini's reminder to the media that these practices are "voluntary", Kendall has never missed one during his time as a Jet and obviously unhappy with his contract.
-In the aftermath of his brush with the law, Jets Pro-Bowl Kick Returner and Cornerback Justin Miller fielded questions about his arrest last Sunday when he allegedly punched a woman in the face in a NYC nightclub. “I want to apologize to my teammates and fans for my actions. Unfortunately I am in a legal matter and cannot comment about it,” Miller said. “Right now all I can control is what happens out on the field. My main focus right now is to get better as person and an individual.”
-Miller did not speak to Commissioner Roger Goodell himself, but he did speak to people in league office. Mangini did say whether Miller will face to face any punishment from the organization or the NFL.
-Is Patrick Ramsey back? No, it’s just second year QB Kellen Clemens who took Ramsey’s number 11 after Ramsey was cut. Clemens wore the number at Oregon. Also new face FA Marques Tuiasosopo was sporting number 8 while rookie FA Brett Ratliff from Utah sported Brooks Bollinger’s former number 5 and also a strong arm.
-Mangini denied that the drafting of CB Darrelle Revis was a direct result of an injury plagued inconsistent year from David Barrett last season and said the veteran was very much in the mix this season.
”You can never have too many corners,” said the Coach. “There are so many good receivers in the league. It's one of those positions that is definitely a premium. It's more just having the opportunity to get a player that we liked and insert him in the system and him figuring out a way to help us win and get on the field.”
-DE Andre Wadsworth, who was a former first round pick but has been out of football for the past six years looked in shape and was quick in drills, Wearing Mo Lewis’ old #57 the veteran is a long shot to make the final roster but Mangini has been moving him around between LB and DE, similar to the role Bryan Thomas plays. Despite Wadsworth’s talent, according to the coach, he needs a lot of work.
“I think he's swimming a little bit,” said Mangini about Wadsworth. “It's to be expected working at different positions, being off for quite some time. It's a pretty big jump. He's digging in, too. We've worked him both at linebacker and defensive end. He's another guy that you're looking to build flexibility with.”
The team’s practices are open again to the media tomorrow. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com complete coverage!
PHOTO GALLERY: For exclusive Jets Insider.com OTA photos