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OTA's 2008: Meet the Free Agents

By Doug Bonjour
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
May 15th, 2008
First look of mega-free agent G Alan Faneca in Jets green and white today. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
First look of mega-free agent G Alan Faneca in Jets green and white today. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
While the regular season does not begin for the Jets until early September, Gang Green is obviously not waiting to put the frustrating 2007 season in the past. For the third consecutive day, the confines of Weeb Ewbank Hall in Hempstead, N.Y. were filled with familiar faces as the Jets held their voluntary workout sessions. With the team’s rookies not expected to arrive at workouts until tomorrow, today’s practice was devoted to watching the veterans. For Jets head coach Eric Mangini, today is a time he always enjoys.

“You move into this phase and you see the free agents that are part of the team; you see the young guys, the rookies who were part of last season and how they’ve developed and matured. You get to see the group as a whole,” Mangini explained.

During the 90-minute practice session-all of which the media were allowed to view-the team spent time working on both sides of the ball. Quarterbacks Kellen Clemens, Chad Pennington and Brett Ratliff all showed off their arms in passing drills, while the defense worked on an assortment of tackling and pass coverage drills. The special teams unit also got its work in, as both the team’s punters, Ben Graham and Jeremy Kapinos, sent kicks spiraling through the air.

The team’s workout ethic has been pleasing to Eric Mangini’s eye thus far, as he told reporters during his morning press conference that between 25 and 30 players have been working out at the team’s practice facility, even before they were required to attend.

Among the 63 veterans on the roster, only safety Abram Elam (death in family) and tight end Chris Baker (contract dispute) did not attend today's workouts. While Baker’s situation seems to growing eerily similar to Pete Kendall’s contract holdout one year ago, Mangini chose not to make the same comparison.

“Every situation is unique and this is unique as well. Chris has been working on the information and we’ll continue to work on the football side of things,” he said.

If Baker had watched today’s practice, he might have second-guessed his decision to sit out as newly-acquired tight end Bubba Franks made several outstanding catches during offensive drills. Franks made one catch which drew cheers from his teammates, when he hauled in a Pennington pass one-handed in the back of the endzone.

Other than the new faces who stepped onto the field, the battle for starting quarterback drew the most intrigue. In making what will be one of the team’s most important decisions for the upcoming season, Mangini said that “it will come down to the same for evaluation.” He explained, “Who manages the game the best and also who gives us the best chance to win. There are new things that have gone into the system; there are new players that are being incorporated into the system.”

INSIDER TIDBITS

-Even during the grind of offseason workouts, cornerback Justin Miller showed that he can still share a laugh. Following a special teams drill, in which Miller was lined up as a gunner, he walked over to the official and said, “Come on ref, that was hands to the face.” The referee shook his head and Miller walked back to the field laughing. Miller, who is returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of last season will be competing to be the starter opposite Darrelle Revis. This year is sure to be a make-or-break season for the speedy yet inconsistent Miller.

-Pennington took the first snaps under center today, as he worked primarily with the first team. Clemens was relegated to working with the back-ups. However, this decision was not based on on-field performance. It was based on a coin-flip; and if you’re wondering, Pennington chose heads. “Chad called heads, I thought I had a good chance because I’m usually a guy that calls tails, and it was heads all the way,” said Clemens.

-Kicker Mike Nugent showed off his leg on the practice field as he was 3-for-4 on field goal attempts. Nugent’s only miss was from 47 yards, as it sailed wide right.

The next OTA session open to the media is next Thursday. Be sure to check back to JI often for all the latest off-season news!

PHOTO GALLERY: For exclusive Jets Insider.com OTA photos CLICK HERE

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