CB Justin Miller has a new number and hopefully a new attitude towards becoming a starter opposite Darrelle Revis. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
As the New York Jets ended their OTA’s at Weeb Ewbank Hall in Hempstead, N.Y. much of the focus continued to turn toward the team's revamped offensive-line, and its attempt to rebound from a season which at times, seemed to last much longer than just 16 games. Position battles continued to heat up at the Long Island facility, as both Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington are striving to “give the team the best chance to win;” which seemingly has become head coach Eric Mangini’s deciding factor in choosing a starter.
The team continues to be embroiled in a contract dispute with last season’s starting tight end Chris Baker, who has yet to make an appearance at Jets’ camp. But lost within such happenings on the offensive side of the ball are the battles on the defensive side. With the team’s off-season additions, both the cornerback and linebacker positions developed into a hot topic today.
After the Jets began their 90-minute practice featuring special teams work such as kick and punt coverage and onside kicks, the first-team offense lined up against the first-team defense. One of Gang Green’s newest additions was on display, as linebacker Calvin Pace covered tight end Bubba Franks during several plays. Pace, who got the better of the offense after several snaps, will be one of many players battling to pressure opposing quarterbacks in 2008. Pace discussed his role following the practice: “I can’t do more than I can do. If I don’t get a sack one game but I help Kenyon [Coleman] get two, I feel like I did my job.”
Bryan Thomas was also featured at outside linebacker during the practice, and is expected to battle Pace for snaps on the defensive side. Thomas knows that the position battle will be important for him, as he told reporters “Now you have competition, you know you can’t be complacent.”
Mangini said that position battles are just part of the business in the NFL today.
“There’s always a high draft pick at some position, free agents at different positions and you have just got to go out and compete," he said. “You have to establish your role and how you’re going to contribute, and it’s no different.”
The cornerbacks were also on display in today’s practice, as the unit got the better of Clemens and Pennington on a majority of the snaps. Pennington struggled for the second consecutive day, as he missed several of his targets. In Pennington’s first six snaps while working with the first-team, he was 0-for-6 with a false start and a delay-of-game penalty. Clemens had an up-and-down afternoon while working with the second team, as he was forced to scramble time and again. Clemens did show his strong arm during a two-point conversion drill, as he scrambled out of the pocket and darted a completion between two defenders and into the hands of tight end Dustin Keller.
The practice featured the continual progression of cornerback Justin Miller, who is returning to the field after being sidelined for the 2007 season with a torn ACL. Miller will be battling fellow cornerbacks David Barrett, Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery for playing time behind Darrelle Revis. Miller looked smooth while running, and downplayed the position battle: “It’s a team game and whoever is on the field, we will support them.”
As Mangini noted in his morning press conference, "I think we have some good competition there. I like the things that Justin Miller did going into last training camp and into the early part of last season,” he said. “David Barrett and Hank [Poteat] have a lot of experience and that’s positive. Drew Coleman is making some progress and we’ll have to see how Dwight [Lowery] does. Most of these other guys are going to get plenty of opportunities to show what they can do and we’ll just see how it unfolds.”
-Today’s practice featured several Jets with bumps and bruises, as wide receiver Brad Smith (back) and quarterback Eric Ainge(finger) were both held out of practice. Smith spent most of the afternoon on the exercise bicycle, while Ainge did not make any throws with his right-hand wrapped. Safety Artell Hawkins and long snapper James Dearth were also out due to undisclosed ailments.
Although today’s practice was limited to non-contact drills, a few Jets came off the field limping. Wide receiver Laveranues Coles got up limping after diving in the endzone for a pass. Lowery was seen on the sidelines getting two fingers on his left hand taped together at the end of the afternoon. On the last play of the day, a pass by Clemens to wide receiver Chansi Stuckey was dropped and in the process, Stuckey received a knee to the gut by rookie cornerback Nate Lyles. Stuckey appeared to be unhurt though. Defensive end Shaun Ellis was excused today for family reasons. Rookie linebacker Vernon Gholston was again absent today as he continues to work toward completing his spring semester at Ohio State.
Rough Day for Nugent:
Mike Nugent once again displayed his kicking abilities at the Jets' practice facility. While kicking into a light wind, Nugent struggled. He was only 1-for-4 on field goal attempts. His only attempt that sailed through the uprights was from 55 yards. His missed on attempts from 42, 44 and 53 yards.
Mangini Drops the Ball:
Mangini found himself in the heat of action as the team practiced laterals reminiscent of the Titans’ "Music City Miracle" kick return from the 2000 Wild-Card round. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery ran the ball toward the sidelines, but with defenders bearing down on him, he lateraled the ball in Mangini’s direction. To the dismay of his players, the Jets' head coach was unable to hold on to the ball and the whistle was blown.
Time Runs Out on Clemens and Pennington:
The Jets ended the practice with focus on the two-minute drill, as Pennington worked with the first-team offense while Clemens took snaps with the second team. However, time ran out on both signal callers, as the defense stopped the offense.
As mentioned above, today was the final OTA open to the media. However, starting next Thursday the team will hold their mandatory full team minicamp where the press will have limited access. Be sure to check back to JI for complete coverage!
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