Throughout the voluntary OTA practices and so far in this weekend’s mandatory mini-camp all eyes have been on the big, bulky biceps of new Jets running back Thomas Jones. Jones, who has impressed the Jets coaching staff with his unparalleled work ethic in the weight room and on the field, will most likely be starting running back for Gang Green this season.
Last season, Mangini and the Jets used a running back by committee system. Kevan Barlow and Cedric Houston did give the Jets stretches where they were effective, but for the most part of last season, their most effective runner was Leon Washington.
Washington, who is his second year in the NFL out of Florida State, led the Jets in rushing yards (650) and rushing attempts (151) last season. Washington also finished with four rushing touchdowns.
But last year was last year and this year is this year. Washington will have give way to Jones who led the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl last year. But if you ask Washington, he’ll be the first one say he doesn’t mind it.
“He knows what it takes to get to the Super Bowl and that is the goal for every team in the NFL to get to the Super Bowl. With his leadership on the field and in the locker room he will definitely be a big help,” Washington said.
“As for me, I am going to come in, compete and we’re going to do what we need to do to compete. But here, the New York Jets are a team, so we are going to do what we need to do to give ourselves the best chance to win,” Washington went on to say.
Though Jones is an every down back, it does not necessarily mean that Washington’s will diminish. Washington’s role will expand greatly as the Jets will try to give the football to Jones 25-30 times a game.
Washington will spell relief for Jones when needed. He will provide Chad Pennington with another target out of the back field. But on special teams is where Washington will provide the most help. Besides Tim Dwight, Washington was their main punt returner last season. First-round pick Darrelle Revis and fellow rookie Chansi Stuckey are also competiting for the job of punt returner, it looks Mangini will let Washington continue returns punts this year.
Last year when Washington became the number one back, though he was effective rushing the ball, it took some energy away from his ability to return punts. Now with
Washington getting more rest by not carrying the ball as much he did last season, he should be more effective returning kicks this year.
Although Jones knows his place in the offense, Jones also knows how good this offense can be and he knows for that happen everyone needs to do their part.
“My motto is “it starts with the team” because we know what we want to do. Here we have so many good players on offense – so many good receivers and very good running backs. There are a lot of weapons on offense, so there are a lot of different ways to get different people the ball,” Jones said.
So for Washington their will be many different ways he will be touching the ball in 2007.
MINICAMP INSIDER TIDBITS
-The Pete Kendall saga, which was the big news of day one of Mini-Camp was seemingly forgotten on day two. During Coach Mangini’s 20-min meeting with the press, Kendall’s name was not even mentioned or asked about. Kendall told the Jets yesterday he wants a seven figure raise this season or his release or a trade.
-Jets practice was a little more crowded than it usually is. Mangini invited aprox. 25 U.S. Army soldiers from Fort Bragg to watch and participate in practice.
“I thought it would be a nice opportunity for them to visit here and see what we do on a daily basis. As I was talking to the team this morning they are the real reason why we do what we do each day. We are out here playing football because of the sacrifices they make,” said Mangini.
The soldiers helped the Jets coaches run drills. Some soldiers were taking part in the bag drills at the start of practice. All the soldiers that attended the mornings practice have spent time in Iraq, Kosovo or Afghanistan.
-Jets safety Kerry Rhodes was still excused from practice for personal reasons for a second day and Mangini did not indicate when Rhodes will rejoin the team next
-A familiar face was following Mangini around practice. Running back Curtis Martin was at the early session. Though not in practice attire, Martin was on the field giving advice to Jets running backs and rallying the troops.
-The offense looked very sharp in the early part of practice. The quarterbacks were making all their passes and the receivers were making all their catches. But midway through the morning practice when started 11 on 11 drills the defense started to shine. CB Darrelle Revis made a great play almost intercepting QB Kellen Clemens and CB Andre Dyson continued his great play this spring as he made a great deflection coming from behind.
-LB Matt Chatham continued to workout by himself as he did not participate in drills. Chatham was on the bike for most of practice, then he did some sprinting on the side fields with WR Tim Dwight.
AFTERNOON PRACTICE MINICAMP TIDBITS (updated at 6:31 PM)
In the afternoon session, Eric Mangini and the Jets continued to work on special teams (punt returns and punt coverage) and their red zone offense. Mangini stresses that those two elements are very vital to the outcome of the game. They also spent a chuck of time on route running with receivers and deep ball coverage with defensive backs.
Pennington Looking Good
Chad Pennington keeps on impressing the coaching staff as well as the New York Media. Pennington threw some great balls in the afternoon session. Chad hit Chansi Stuckey with a deep ball and then a few throws later he threaded the needle hit Justin McCareins for touchdown.
Stuckey Similar to Santana?
Jets Insider.com staff writer Bob Bonett made this comparison yesterday and in the afternoon practice Chansi Stuckey made it believable. Stuckey could be the Jets solution to their downfield receiver problems. The Jets have not had a real downfield threat since Santana Moss left for Washington. Stuckey made two phenomenal grabs. One was a 40 yard pass from Pennington and the was another 40 yard catch he made over the middle in between double coverage, while the Jets were simulating the 2 minute drill under quarterback at the time Kellen Clemens.
Revis Good! Revis Bad!
Darrelle Revis had an up and down afternoon session. After taking reps with the first string defense, Revis muffed a punt during punt return drills. For muffing a punt Revis had to run the Mangini punishment of one lap around the field.
News and Notes
Safety Kerry Rhodes did not return for the afternoon session…Linebacker Matt Chatham did not participate in afternoon drills. He was still relegated to the stationary bike.
Minicamp continues tomorrow and as always, JI will have complete coverage. Be sure to check back often!