By Bob Bonett
Jets Staff Writer
December 27th, 2007
Will it be Kellen Clemens leading the Jets in their finale against the Chiefs on Sunday? (Jets Photo)
Will it be Kellen Clemens leading the Jets in their finale against the Chiefs on Sunday? (Jets Photo)
Sure, everybody expected QB Chad Pennington and WR Laveranues Coles to be relatively excited regarding the reunion with former coach Herm Edwards. Regarded a players’ coach, Pennington and Coles enjoyed some of their better offensive seasons with Edwards at the helm.

However, one player that did not receive much of an opportunity to play until Eric Mangini took over the helm in New York was WR Jerricho Cotchery. Although drafted by Edwards, Cotchery never received much of an opportunity on the playing field—something Edwards admitted he regretted earlier in the season—with the exception of getting repetitions as a kick returner.

Despite the fact that Cotchery did not get the chance to break out until he had a few seasons under his belt, though, no hard feelings exist between the two, with Cotchery going as far as to thank Edwards for the opportunities Cotchery received down the road thanks to the former coach.

“A lot of guys on the team I know will be excited to see him, I know I will be, because he drafted me, and I’m very appreciative of him for that because he’s the guy that had a big impact on a lot of guys in this locker room, including myself,” Cotchery said.

“Like I said, he made a lot of efforts to get me out there—what more can you do, he put me out on kick returns, and I had never returned kicks before that,” he added with a laugh. “I was stuck behind Wayne Chrebet!”

Cotchery may be the only party of the two looking forward to the match-up, though. Kansas City will most likely have a difficult time shutting down the receiver, broken finger and all. Cotchery broke out last week in the No. 1 wideout role, receiving for over 150 yards, in turn giving himself over 1,000 for the year, something Mangini and Cotchery both admitted they were impressed about.

“When I got here, just getting to know him and watching him and the way that he was developing and producing, he really created that opportunity [to start] for himself,” Mangini said. “And here is a guy that is playing with an injury, and what did he have last week, 156 yards? I really like his run after the catch, I think he’s a strong runner, I think he’s an elusive guy.”

“Mixed emotions,” Cotchery said. “You want to be proud of accomplishing a goal you set before the season in taking your game to another level, but in the context of that you want the team to be having a successful year. When you think about the 1,000 yards, it’s really tough because you don’t know if you want to be happy or not.”

Don’t think for a second that either Cotchery or Edwards are thinking about a spot at the top of the draft order for 2008, either. After all, “You play to win the game.”

Insider Tidbits

Practice update

Once again, QB Kellen Clemens earned a majority of the first team snaps during the media’s access. He looked markedly better than last week when he often favored his ribs and the left side of his body, throwing passes that looked pain-free from his end.

Mangini continued to remain mum on who this weekend’s starter will be, although he continued to hint at the fact that Clemens will be the man to go if healthy.

“He did some good things,” Mangini said referring to Wednesday’s practice, “and it’s still a process of making sure he gets enough reps to try to get him ready to play, but also not so many that he has a setback.”

Some excitement was also generated in the locker room prior to practice when it was announced “Captain Brad”—special teams captain Brad Kassell—had coaxed the powers that be to allow the players to play without shoulder pads for the day.

Week 17 a tryout?

As opposed to last season’s final week, New York knows that the regular season is the end of the road for 2007. Playoffs are an afterthought, and after the Kansas City contest, 2008 will be on everybody’s mind.

However, more than playing for pride or bragging rights against former head coach Herm Edwards is the prospect that Week 17 could serve as a tryout not for trading pieces such as Pennington, but rather for practice squad and younger players looking to solidify a spot on New York’s roster for next year’s OTAs and training camp.

Mangini, on one hand, debunked this idea, saying, “There’s so many things that happen in between now and the start of next season that it’s hard to say that the way somebody plays in the final week of the season is necessarily going to determine whether or not they player, start or are here the following year.”

However, some players may not be certain as to what their status is next year, such as DL Mike Devito. He admitted that the final week is his last chance to prove to the coaching staff that he is worthy of a roster spot for next season.

“Its another opportunity to show what you can do, show how you improved, show your study habits got better and what you can add next year.”

Coaches, Brick say he is doing fine

Although film and game day have shown otherwise at times, Mangini and OL D’Brickashaw Ferguson said that the second-year first-round draft pick has not been erratic or inconsistent this year, but has rather shown improvements, specifically over last year’s campaign.

“I’ve actually thought that ‘Brick has made improvements throughout the course of the season,” Mangini said. “One of the things I’ve liked with ‘Brick is he’s changing up the way that he approaches the different pass rushers.

“I’ve also liked the way that he’s finished blocks,” Mangini added. “I think in the running game, he’s been more physical and more consistent with finishing blocks.”

Ferguson echoed Mangini’s comments, adding, “You get a chance to see things again for the second time, and the more repetitions you have at something, the more familiar you get with it, making you a better player.”

Lining up opposite Ferguson this weekend will be DE Jared Allen. Allen has 13.5 sacks this year, and will present problems similar to what Ferguson faced last week in Tennessee’s Kyle Vanden Bosch.

“He’s a handful, and he’s like a lot of these guys that we face whether it’s Vanden Bosch or whoever, the motor; that just runs and runs, and there’s no plays off,” Mangini said. “Some pass rushers make two or three really dominant rushes, and then one almost looks like it’s a breather; there’s no breathers with him. He can hurt you a lot of different ways.”

As a team, the Chiefs have 34 sacks this year, eight more than the Jets.

Practice squad transactions

The Jets’ head coach announced a couple of transactions for the team this week, in addition to announcing the absence of one of the Jets’ prominent offensive lineman.

Defensive end Jason Trusnik was moved to the injured reserve meaning he will miss the next game.

His move to the injured reserve opened up a roster spot for Wayne Hunter, an offensive lineman, who was signed to the practice squad. Hunter is a former Jaguar and an alumnus of Hawaii. The Seahawks drafted him in the third round in 2003.

In addition, C Nick Mangold was excused from practice for personal reasons.

Yes, punter still game-time decision

It has been pretty funny that the story surrounding Gang Green this week is the punter controversy that has erupted between veteran Ben Graham and rookie Jeremy Kapinos.

As of today, Mangini refused to give any inkling as to which kicker had the leg up—pun not intended—on the competition, meaning that New York fans will have to hang tight and let the anticipation build as Sunday approaches.

Injury Report (as of Wednesday)

New York Jets

Limited Participation in Practice

TE Chris Baker (back), QB Kellen Clemens (rib), TE/LS James Dearth (foot), DL Shaun Ellis (shoulder), OL Brandon Moore (neck), DL Dewayne Robertson (knee), WR Brad Smith (back)

Full Participation in Practice

WR Jerricho Cotchery (finger), WR Justin McCareins (thigh)

Kansas City Chiefs

Did Not Participate in Practice

CB Tyron Brackenridge (knee), LB Donnie Edwards (hamstring), LB Napoleon Harris (knee), RB Larry Johnson (foot), WR Eddie Kennison (ribs)

Limited Participation in Practice

QB Brodie Croyle (right hand), OT Damion McIntosh (ankle)