New acquired veteran QB Marques Tuiasosopo participates in team OTA's. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Bringing back a familiar part of practice last season, music blared from speakers as Thursday’s OTA gave Jets players a sample of the noise that they will face when playing at loud AFC East fields such as Foxboro and Dolphins Stadium this season.
Luckily, from wind of the noise heard from coaches on the field during the practice, the players were responding quite well.
From Justin McCareins' first touchdown reception from Chad Pennington, to his last endzone catch from Kellen Clemens, and everything in between, the Thursday practice gave onlookers a good feeling about the potential of this year’s Jet team to meet the expectations forged from last year’s 10-6 team.
Prior to the practice, head coach Eric Mangini remarked on the Monday run-through that had New York players battling the elements with a pouring rain falling throughout the workout. Mangini felt that with the added factor of the rain, the players had a “good practice,” something that could serve as good preparation for instances during the regular season when players need to face extraneous factors such as bad weather.
Thursday, though, players had the pleasure of playing under sunny skies, and responded well, despite the aforementioned simulation of crowd noise.
Kicking off the media access, and intermittently throughout the rest of the workout, Mangini ran a good amount of run-throughs for the new kick returners and punt returners. Throwing three teams of two on the field, spectators saw Justin Miller and Leon Washington, Darrelle Revis and Chansi Stuckey, and Wallace Wright and Brad Smith looking to impress the coaches with their ability to field kicks.
Tim Dwight, a veteran punt returner formerly of the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, felt that the new return-men were adjusting well to the NFL version of special teams, specifically Brad Smith.
“I’ve known Brad a year now, and watching him in college and for us last year, he did amazing things for us,” Dwight said. “He is an amazing talent and has the ability to make guys miss, and is a great guy to have.”
Revis, who acknowledged early struggles in adjusting to the booming punts of the Jet’s Ben Graham, is optimistic in his ability to adjust come time for the regular season.
“Today I caught every ball, and I think it’s just coming out here and competing every day, and showing coach that I can do it.”
Following the return run-throughs, Mangini began to spotlight the plethora of quarterbacks the team has to choose from, including Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens. Pennington, after looking a little off early, pulled his game together by the end of practice, pinpointing passes through the arms of the defense. Laveranues Coles, one of the NFL’s elite receivers and one of Pennington’s favorite targets, felt that Pennington looked impressive in the workout.
“Chad looks great. He’s coming out and he’s competing, and that’s the main thing.”
In between Pennington’s passes, Clemens received repetitions as well, wowing coaches a couple of times when threading the needle. Drafted as perhaps the quarterback of the future, Clemens hit McCareins to end the game simulations at the end of practice, as mentioned above, in a nice route to the corner of the endzone.
McCareins looked as good as the men throwing to him, as well. Three times throughout the practice, McCareins ran impressive routes to the corner of the endzone and, to the chagrin of the defense, made great touchdown catches each time.
While the wideout may have made the most impacting plays throughout practice, though, cornerback Nick Barnett certainly made the day’s best play. Early in the practice, Barnett made a highlight-worthy interception of Chad Pennington, ripping the ball from the receiver’s hand and getting and emphatic congratulations from the defensive team.
In between the passing game, much-hyped Jets running back Thomas Jones got a couple of chances to showcase his skills. Jones, the former Bears tailback acquired in a trade, exhibited his quick speed and ability to create big plays. Pennington sounded excited to have a veteran with the skills of Jones in the backfield alongside him.
“ We’re excited to have Thomas,” said Pennington. “He works extremely hard and does all the little things.”
While coaches did most of the congratulating and noise making on the field, wide receiver Jesse Pellot-Rosa continued to be a surprising vocal leader. Pellot-Rosa, a former member of the Virginia Commonwealth “Cinderella” NCAA basketball team, encouraged teammates often throughout practice, and stayed later than most players to work on some parts of his game that he felt he needed improvement. A winded Pellot-Rosa felt that “working hard” was all he was at practice to do, and that the extra work and being vocal all came as a result.
With training camp around the corner, the “appetizer,” as D’Brickashaw Ferguson called OTA’s and mini camps, is almost through, with the main course on deck. If these non-contact workouts are any indication of what is to come for Mangini and the Jets, 2007 could be yet another successful season for Gang Green.
-Red Carpet for Mangini: Fresh off a cameo appearance in the hit television show The Sopranos, reporters had a fun time jabbing Mangini, literally rolling out a makeshift carpet for the Jets coach.
Mangini took the joking in stride, speaking about his appearance on the show, and his previous cameo appearance on the children’s show Sesame Street.
“It was great to be on a program [Sesame Street] which I enjoyed,” Mangini said. “With the Sopranos, I love the show, [and] I’ve followed it for a long time. I think that whole creative process, the level of detail, all the things that go into making any show, especially a show of that caliber, is so impressive.”
As for the outfit Mangini expected to wear for any speeches he would have to make accepting awards for his acting, the coach pointed to the outfit he had on.
“I’m worried more about what [Joan Rivers is] going to say [because] I probably won’t be that well dressed,” Mangini said.
“I’m wearing Reebok; it’s the latest.”
-Kendall still a no-show: Pete Kendall, the 12-year veteran offensive guard, failed to show up the practice once again Thursday, prolonging his holdout. When asked about Kendall’s failure to report once again to camp, Mangini was short and firm about how he felt about the veteran’s absence.
“I have not talked to Pete,” Mangini said. “I expect everybody to be here for (veteran’s) camp.”
-Vilma at Harvard for the day: Also absent from camp on Thursday was linebacker Jonathan Vilma. The fourth-year pro out of Miami, Vilma was in Harvard to watch his sister accept her MBA.
Coach Mangini expressed how impressed he was with the Vilma family, saying it was a “testament to his parents and the family’s focus on education.”
As for the expectations for Vilma on the field this year, Mangini sang praises as to what he believes Vilma will bring to the field this year. The star linebacker will look to continue to scare opposing offenses in his place on the team’s 3-4 defense.
-Mangold on the bike: Nick Mangold, recovering from a knee injury, was seen riding the bike throughout practice. Mangini noted that Mangold would continue the rehab program to get back on the field as safely and quickly as possible.
-Jones’ biceps under “microscope”: Impressing all that saw the practice was, comically, the size of Jones’ biceps. Mangini was even asked during the press conference as to whether or not the running back’s were the biggest on the team. Pennington noted that Jones’ strength is something to be optimistic about for the upcoming year.
-Mangini mellowing? Many players were asked whether or not the second-year coach has become more laid back this year. Don’t ask Ferguson, though. The offensive tackle noted that mini camps weren’t training camps, and that he thinks Mangini will certainly show the intensity everyone has grown to know by the time regular practices roll around.
The Jets open one more OTA practice to the media tomorrow and then get ready for full team minicamp next weekend at Hofstra. Be sure to check back to JI for complete coverage!