At 1-8 Jets coach Eric Mangini could use some advice from coaching legend Joe Gibbs after the Redskins won in overtime yesterday. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
It was an odd sight on the sideline for the Jets on Sunday. Gone were the days when LB Jonathan Vilma headlined the defense while QB Chad Pennington and WR Laveranues Coles orchestrated the offense.
Instead, Vilma and Coles were relegated to sweats with Pennington on clipboard duty, paving way for LB David Harris, WR Brad Smith and QB Kellen Clemens to take their places.
“I go out there and get ready to play, and when my number is called I’ll be ready,” Pennington said, “but until then, I’ll do everything I can on the sideline to help us.”
The three-headed monster of the Jets had essentially been the face of the franchise the past several years. Yet, in the past two weeks, a proverbial changing of the guard has taken place.
Granted, Coles is slated to practice tomorrow and will be in action against the Steelers in two weeks. However, Harris has stepped in to the 3-4 defense with ease, totaling 41 tackles his first two weeks as a starter, virtually making Vilma an afterthought.
Clemens, meanwhile, is the quarterback of the future, meaning that Pennington’s reign as the team’s leader is over.
Thus, when Coles found himself inactive next to Vilma and Pennington off the field, instead of on the field battling for a playoff spot, it was a unique, gut-wrenching feeling.
“Vilma’s standing over here and Chad’s standing over there, and I was like, ‘This is amazing,’” Coles said. “It was one of the weirdest things I’ve went through in my career, and it wasn’t a great feeling, I can tell you that.”
Coles, who was virtually giddy in the locker room when telling reporters that he was given the go-ahead to practice tomorrow, later spoke about a phone call he received from a close friend—a fellow member of the Jets’ family—after he suffered his concussion last week.
“[Wayne’s] was one of the first calls I received,” Coles said, referring to former Jets’ WR Wayne Chrebet. “I knew what he was calling for and I didn’t answer, because I knew the first thing he was going to say was don’t go out there.”
Coles added that he planned on calling Chrebet back today.
Chrebet is, essentially, the factor that ties together the entire scenario. Before the Pennington-Vilma-Coles era, Chrebet teamed up with RB Curtis Martin to emerge as the faces of the Jets.
Now, a number of years after Chrebet and Martin passed the torch, it seems more evident than ever that Harris and Clemens are revving up to lead the Jets into the foreseeable future. Because for the rest of the year, Vilma and Pennington, the two perennial captaining influences of the team, will be in unfamiliar territory, trading their gameday rags in for back-up regalia on the sideline.
Leon’s bright spot of season
It surprised nobody when KR Leon Washington brought back the opening kickoff for a touchdown against the Redskins yesterday.
Yet, while three touchdown returns may be an impressive, franchise-record mark, Washington has his sites set much higher.
“Coach Westhoff is always telling me we need to get another one,” Washington said. “We’re always trying to push the envelope to get better and better.”
The all-around back also gave the media an idea of why Special Teams Coordinator Mike Westhoff has been able to assemble such heralded return teams.
“When you go to his special teams meetings, he puts the game in perspective,” Washington said. “Guys go out there and enjoy playing the game for him, going out there wanting to hit somebody, going out there wanting to make plays for him, because he makes it a lot of fun.”
Looks like Washington could be the only Jets Pro-Bowler this season, following the footsteps of injured teammate Justin Miller who made it last year as a kick returner.
One of the oddest formations in recent memory were showcased by Gang Green yesterday, as defensive coordinator Bob Sutton set up seven men in the box, all in two-point stances, to rush QB Jason Campbell.
Head coach Mangini gave some insight into the move during the press conference.
“You can change when you have two true defensive lineman, four linebackers on the field, you can change coverage, who is rushing,” Mangini said. “And by doing that, there is no identification.”
Mangini contrasted the move to putting eight men on the box, a practice he associated as a common formation by the Denver Broncos.
Cotchery still upset
The usually sure-handed WR Jerricho Cotchery still appeared glum and defeated today after his sub-par performance on Sunday that featured a few drops and a lost fumble.
“I’m still beating myself up. It was a tough situation where you have a fumble and yoy have a critical drop,” Cotchery said. “You have to go through situations like this in life, and I look forward to getting back to work tomorrow and getting better as a player.”
Coles, however, instilled confidence in Cotchery, saying that the key part for the young wideout will be to bounce back from the rough game, something Coles is confident his counterpart can do.
Positives and negatives in ‘D’
Nearly 300 yards of yards allowed on the ground was not a number the Jets could have been too happy with. However, Mangini still refused to acknowledge that all he saw on defense were negatives, pointing to the defensive unit’s ability to hold Washington to field goals.
“I’ve been on a lot of defenses that have given up a lot of yards and not given up a lot of points, and that’s really the stat you’re looking for,” Mangini said.
Linebacker Eric Barton and S Kerry Rhodes echoed Mangini’s comments on the phone later on, saying that they saw both positives and negatives when reviewing game tape earlier in the day.
Extended rest on bye week
After having practices schedueled for Tuedsay and Wednesday, Mangini announced that Gang Green will have off Thursday through Sunday, something that raised the spirits of the Jets players. Washington and Coles, among others, admitted they were excited to have a chance to go home and visit their families for essentially the first time since training camp. The team will return back to the complex on Monday.