The Jets hope for a better performance from RB Thomas Jones this week when they face the Ravens. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
After losing a QB, dealing with a suspect defense and special teams and throw in "VideoGate", the Jets are dying to get back on the field this Sunday as they had a final walk through today preparing to face the Ravens who have their own problems.
Week one was clearly a total nightmare for the New York Jets. They were outplayed and made to look silly on both sides of the ball by the hated New England Patriots (plus one now-infamous cameraman). The Jets can only hope that the nightmare will not repeat itself when they head down I-95 for a battle with the Baltimore Ravens, who boast one of the league's best defenses.
The back-breaker in last week’s game for the Jets was Ellis Hobbs’ 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at the opening of the second half. In a press conference after the game, Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini stated that there has generally been a strong emphasis on the special teams unit and that he trusts the abilities of Special Teams Coach Mike Westhoff.
“We spent a lot of time on special teams,” said Mangini. “As a group, I tell the defensive and offensive players ‘If you get tired, you’re coming out of the defense or offense, but not on special teams’. Those are usually big plays because they relate to field position, where you start or what you have to defend. It’s so important to win that battle each week.
“Mike [Westhoff] is incredibly insightful," added Mangini. "What I like about Mike is his ability to reference back to things that have happened in the past. He’s developed a lot of returns himself. He’s been an innovator for many, many years. I think from a preparation standpoint, Mike’s one of the best I’ve seen.”
The players on the special teams unit, especially on the kickoff squad, loudly echo Mangini’s sentiments and have been at work throughout the week to prevent any Ravens’ return specialists from pulling a Hobbs.
“We always have a really strong emphasis on special teams, and we’re not going to change anything just because there was a drastic thing that happened last week,” said K Mike Nugent. “[Westhoff] knows what’s going on and whatever scheme someone else has, we’ll have something for it. He’s a genius, on paper and as a coach.”
“Anytime you have a play like that break out, you got to first find out what’s going on and why they did that and get it fixed,” said S Erik Coleman. “We’ve been working hard on kickoff coverage to correct our mistakes.
“Coach Westhoff is the best in the league. He’s been around for a long time. I have respect for him and I’m very confident in him and whatever schemes he comes up with.”
Special teams work was in order during the half-hour span given to the media for practice access. The players worked diligently on all phases of special teams with Westhoff, on crutches, keeping a stern eye on everything.
The highlight of the special teams sessions has been the strong kicks of both Nugent and P Ben Graham (playing the role of scout team kicker). During the off-season and in training camp, Nugent has been improving his leg strength to get better results in the distance of his kicks.
In fact, if there is any silver lining in Hobbs' demoralizing return, it must be that the kickoff from Nugent that he took back was fielded eight yards into the end-zone.
“The biggest thing is just the hard work in the off-season, and keep my flexibility as well,” Nugent said. “I try not to gain some weight and get stiff, so I kept my flexibility and did a lot of conditioning.”
It is true that offense wins games and defense wins championships. However, without special teams, both the offense and defense will not accomplish anything. The Jets will need their special teams to perform at the highest level against Baltimore and prevent a repeat of Week One.
In his pre-practice presser, Coach Mangini addressed the team's QB controversy. Recently reports have been swirling around that back-up Kellen Clemens will get the nod over the injured Chad Pennington. If those reports are true, then Mangini never got the memo. He instead stressed that the decision will be made depending on how Pennington progressed in today’s practice.
“Chad’s moving along in his rehab, and we’ll look at it today for progress,” he said. “We’ll see how that goes and we’ll make a decision once all that information is in.”
In practice today, Pennington did have extra tape on his right ankle, but was fine during opening drills, and appeared to be walking without any issue.
Mangini & Videogate
The NFL came down on the Pats, fining the organization $250,000 and taking away their 2008 first round draft pick if they make the playoffs (or a second- and third-rounder if they don't reach the postseason). Patriots Head Coach Bill Belicheck was fined $500,000 for the incident.
The New York Jets organization released this brief statement yesterday in regards to the situation:
“We support the commissioner and his findings. The focus of our organization remains on the upcoming game against Baltimore.”
The same sentiment was echoed by Coach Mangini when he kicked off his press conference with his thoughts on the incident. Apparently, Mangini must have been blessed with the gift of ESP because he anticipated that the press would ask him questions about it.
“I understand that there is going to be a lot of interest and questions related to the ruling yesterday,” Mangini stated. “What I can say is that I respect the commissioner’s decision, and anything related to the decision, anything associated to the decision is really a league matter. That’s all I can say about it.”
When faced with more questions regarding “Videogate,” Mangini stood firm and reiterated that it was a league matter.
It was a baffling sight to see: LB Jonathan Vilma shrunk a few inches and was returning punts; CB Justin Miller gained a lot of muscle and grew a few inches overnight; NT Dewayne Robertson lost a lot of weight and was with the secondary; CB Drew Coleman gained a lot of weight and moved to defensive line.
As strange as it sounds, the truth is that, like last Friday’s practice, the defensive players donned each other’s jerseys to lighten up the mood of the practice. For example, D. Coleman donned Roberston’s #63, while Robertson wore #30 for the day.
“We’re just trying to loosen up and have fun,” said Drew Coleman. “I know we got a lot of work to do, but we’re just having fun.”
“We’re just loosening up,” said S Erik Coleman. “All the big guys want to know what it’s like to wear the little guys’ numbers. It’s funny.”
So will Drew consider doing it again in the future?
“I kind of like 30, or 63 if it becomes available,” Drew said.
And how about Erik?
“I’m sure I will,” he replied. “It’s nothing we focus on, we’re just trying to have fun.”
New York Jets
Limited Participation in Practice
CB Andre Dyson (foot), RB Thomas Jones (calf), CB Justin Miller (thigh), OL Brandon Moore (shoulder), QB Chad Pennington (ankle), S Eric Smith (thigh)
Full Participation in Practice
LB David Bowens (hand), TE Joe Kowalewski (shoulder), DL Dewayne Robertson (knee), FB Stacy Tutt (foot)
Did Not Participate in Practice
OL Jonathan Ogden (toe), CB David Pittman (ankle), TE Daniel Wilcox (ankle)
Limited Participation in Practice
WR Mark Clayton (toe), LB Ray Lewis (Arm), QB Steve McNair (Groin), S Ed Reed (ankle), CB Samari Rolle (foot), WR Demetrius Williams (chest)