The Jets returned to Hofstra on Friday to make their final preparations before their divisional showdown with Miami in a battle between 0-2 teams. Special teams was a chief focus on Friday, and all eyes were on Chad Pennington's condition in practice.
Whenever an NFL team goes 0-2 to start the season, so many factors work against it. Playoff odds are slim (in the league’s history, only two teams have won a Super Bowl after starting their seasons 0-2); fans become discontent; the media questions the team’s overall desire. Simply put, there are tremendous amounts of pressure, even when it’s this early in the season. And the consequences would be grave if they let it get to them.
Try telling that to the New York Jets, who went back to work at Hofstra on Friday to make their final preparations for their showdown with the rival Miami Dolphins.
Even as they acknowledge that there is pressure, it was still just another day at the office as Gang Green focused on the day ahead.
“There’s some pressure as always when you want to win the game that you’re playing,” LB Jonathan Vilma replied. “But other than that, there are no worries.”
Head Coach Eric Mangini isn’t showing signs of worry, either. Instead he chose to reflect on the good things that he saw in yesterday’s practice and to emphasize on what he calls “self-scouting.”
“I thought it was another good day,” he said in his opening statement to the media to kick off his press conference. “I like the intensity, the focus, the effort and the level of communication that we’ve had.
“It’s a constant self-scout and a constant honesty with yourself as to what you need to get better at on this day. That’s going to help us. It’s going to help them individually and it’s going to help us collectively.”
The Jets went right to work during the half-hour given to the media for practice coverage. The order of the day on the main field was the special teams, as coach Mike Westhoff, crutches and all, watched very carefully for any improvements and mistakes. Mangini strongly stressed both his trust in the capabilities of coach Westhoff and the importance of special teams play.
“Mike’s pretty consistent with his level of being fired up,” he stated. “He does a great job. He’s seen most things that people present and he’s innovative or created a lot of things that are used today throughout the league over the course of his career.
“It’s a three-phase game. Special teams is just as important as the other phases. You can change field position and momentum dramatically with good play on special teams. We told players if they get tired on offense and defense, they will come out then before they come out on special teams. Everybody is available to play special teams. It’s crucial.”
Kickoff coverage right now is particularly a very strong focal point given its struggles recently.
“Kickoff returns come either after you scored or at the beginning of the half,” said Mangini. “They’re always based off of momentum plays or momentum times in the game. So it’s important.”
Sunday’s battle with Miami will be a showcase as to whether or not the kickoff coverage will be able to rise up from the ashes and put the foot down on opposing return teams. If they succeed, all will be well and the Jets could be on their way to recovery from a bad start. Should they fail in that department, however, it will be a long season for the New York Jets. Only this one game will tell if the kickoff team can rise to the occasion.
“We’ll see on Sunday,” said Vilma.
During that half-hour span of media coverage, Chad Pennington, who didn’t see a down as a starter last week, appeared to be fine as he went through opening drills without feeling any discomfort on his ankle. He also jogged down from one side of the practice field to another with ease. As reported all week on JI Pennington will be the starter unless he suffers and injury setback.
“He’s continuing along the path that we have, and I’m comfortable with his progress throughout the course of the week,” replied Mangini. “We’ll keep following that through that today and through the weekend and evaluate it each step of the way.”
Barnes Only Focused
FB Darian Barnes spent two seasons with the Miami Dolphins under the eye of current Alabama coach Nick Saban before signing with the Jets this off-season. Reuniting with his old teammates (at least for a day) would be nice, but the way Barnes sees it, it’s just another game and the Dolphins are just another opponent.
“They’re just another defense to me,” he said. “They’re great players but I’m not going in there thinking that I used to play against these guys. I’m going to try to get a win.”
Consistency and Preparation
Head Coach Eric Mangini emphasizes consistent preparation in his teams in order to achieve success. And in his pre-practice presser, he hit that point home, stating that it’s a mindset the players must keep on a steady basis.
“It’s about talking about it every single day, reminding the group every single day and reminding each other every single day,” he said. “To be consistent is your mindset. When you’re 2-0 or 0-2 or 8-8, a consistent level of preparation and consistent focus on the preparation is what leads to progress and better results.”
Coach Mangini would love to hope that this kind of preparation would lead to a better result Sunday.
The kickoff coverage isn’t the only aspect of special teams that is going through some hardships. The kickoff return team has a problem of their own, as main specialist Justin Miller is out for the season with a knee injury. With Miller’s departure, there is a need for other players to stand up and deliver for New York.
“There will be multiple guys that will work back there,” said Mangini. “All of those guys will have opportunities different weeks. You may want a certain type of runner based on the return that you have or upon the coverage pattern they have.”
Among the players mentioned by coach Mangini to be given chances are Leon Washington, Brad Smith, Wallace Wright and Darrelle Revis.
“Having those four different options there, it gives you some flexibility,” he said.
Regardless of who is back there on kickoff return, Gang Green will need one of them to take charge and give them a boost on Sunday.
A Special Guest in Attendance
During coach Mangini’s conference with the media, an unexpected guest was in the house. Actually he's been around all week. A cricket was heard by all as it made noises throughout the presser. Mangini did not seem to notice until after he answered one question, which was followed by silence from all except the uninvited insect for a few seconds. Mangini then joked about it’s presence in the conference.
Out: Fireman Ed Anzalone (Knee; 4-6 weeks)
Limited Participation in Practice: WR Jerricho Cotchery (Shoulder), CB Andre Dyson (Foot), OL Brandon Moore (Shoulder), QB Chad Pennington (Ankle), DL Dewayne Robertson (Knee), S Eric Smith (thigh)
Full Participation in Practice: CB David Barrett (Thigh), LB David Bowens (Hand), RB Thomas Jones (Calf), TE Joe Kowalewski (Shoulder), FB Stacy Tutt (Foot)
Did Not Participate in Practice: S Donovan Darius (Calf), LB Zach Thomas (Concussion)
Limited Participation in Practice: G Rex Hadnot (Shoulder)