Jets RB Leon Washington has by far been the most impressive player since camp started on Thursday. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
As the rain poured on Jets practice at Weeb Ewbank Hall, reports of nearby lightning forced the team to move drills into the practice bubble. As the threatening bolts lit up the Long Island sky, the Jets' lightning-quick running back again made noise on the practice field. Leon Washington, who has quietly had an impressive start to training camp, again used his quick feet to elude defenders.
“He had an excellent offseason. He was actually our overall offseason award winner this year” Mangini said. “You can see the work that he did in the offseason can translate onto the field in all the different areas. Kickoffs, his punt returns, his play at running back, his explosiveness in picking up the blitz, all that stuff has gotten better.”
Washington again showed in today’s practice why he is so valuable. As both Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington faced repeated pressure during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, Washington dropped into the flat as a viable receiving option.
Washington only had 71 rushes and 36 receptions while also serving as a return man in 2007, but Mangini is trying to get the third-year running back more involved.
“At the time you’re trying to put together what you think is a good mix and he’s having a good camp, I’m sure,” Mangini said. “We’re going to continue to try to get him as involved as possible. In terms of absolute numbers, I don’t really have a specific target.”
Washington shared kickoff return duties with wide receiver Chansi Stucky and cornerbacks Justin Miller, Hank Poteat and Darrelle Revis during the session, as he repeatedly burst through open holes.
“This is my third year and there’s a lot expected out of me, so I really want to do better,” Washington said.
During the offseason and now into training camp, Washington’s focus is toward “improving in the film room and the weight room and getting smarter.”
“When you get older, your skills kind of diminish so you have to get the other part of the game that mentally challenges yourself to get better on the football field,” Washington said. “You see teams like New England and the Colts, their older guys are really smart and they just take over the game that way.”
Aside from Washington, Stuckey again continued to impress during today’s practice. For Mangini, the progress the wide receivers have made in terms of blocking is evident.
“I don’t know how exciting that is but it’s exciting to me to see that progress, and it’s such an important part of the running game,” Mangini said.
During a 7-on-7 drill with the starting offense, Stuckey again showed why he can be a reliable option for the Jets. On two consecutive plays, Pennington dropped back under pressure and hit Stuckey for 15-yard completions on crossing patterns.
For the quarterbacks, Clemens again struggled throughout the afternoon session. In a 7-on-7 drill, Clemens fumbled a snap which was recovered by the defense. Later in the session, Clemens again struggled to handle the pigskin. Shortly after fumbling another snap, the third-year quarterback forced a pass into tight coverage and was intercepted by cornerback David Barrett during an 11-on-11 drill. Despite the recent turnovers, Clemens believes he’s moving in the right direction.
“I come out to practice with two or three things that I want to improve on and so far I’ve been making progress. For me, that’s very important,” Clemens said. “We’re moving the ball. We obviously have some stuff that we need to work on both as an offense and as a team. Things are moving in a good direction."
While Clemens continued to struggle, Pennington continued his turnover-free football. But even though the veteran quarterback has outplayed Clemens thus far, he did offer insight into his feelings on the Brett Favre speculation.
“The bottom line is, sooner or later, this organization has to make a decision, one way or the other. I hope it’s sooner than later,” Pennington said.
The Jets will practice tomorrow, with both the 8:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. sessions closed to the fans.
Mangini Stays Course in Favre Discussion
As in recent days, Mangini again stayed mum when faced with questions about Brett Favre during his morning press conference. After reports stated that Favre would not report to the start of Packers training camp this morning, Mangini said he had no reaction to the news. “I really don’t. I’m sure they’re working through that up [in Green Bay] and we’re working through the rain,” Mangini said. Following the press conference, reports stated that Favre had signed his letter seeking reinstatement.
Mangini on Woodhead
One day after undrafted rookie running back Danny Woodhead was placed on the waived/injured list with a left knee injury which Mangini classified as “severe,” the Jets' head coach spoke about the running back. “Danny is a great kid. He worked like crazy and to have an injury like that so early in camp it’s disappointing,” Mangini said. “You never want to see anybody get injured and when you see a guy like that who has worked so hard to put himself in a position to compete and make the team it’s disappointing.” Mangini did say that Woodhead “will rehab the injury and get another shot.” Whether that shot comes with the Jets or another team remains to be seen.
Gholston Behind for Now
After first-round pick Vernon Gholston missed time during the offseason mini-camp while he finished his spring semester at Ohio State, Gholston missed Thursday’s opening of training camp because of contract negotiations. When approached during the morning press conference about the progress Gholston has made in learning Mangini’s defense, the Jets’ head coach said Gholston is “swimming.” In other words, the Ohio State product has some catching up to do. “He started later than the rest of the group and now he’s got all that information flowing in. The younger guys that were here had a chance to digest that in smaller chunks and he doesn’t have that chance. He’s got to eat the whole plate right away,” Mangini said.
Even though Gholston’s learning curve is steep at the moment, he did show flashes of success during practice. While lined up at defensive end with the second-team defense during an 11-on-11 drill, Gholston easily rushed by left tackle Jacob Bender and put pressure on Pennington. On the next snap, Bender tried to get a quick jump on Gholston, but the offensive tackle false started. On the next play, with Bender running a penalty lap, Gholston beat rookie left tackle Nate Garner to the quarterback.
Offensive tackle Damien Woody, who signed a five-year, $25.5 million contract with the Jets on March 3, returned to the practice field and worked with the starting offense outside. However, once practice shifted indoors because of lightning, Wayne Hunter had again replaced Woody at right tackle. Woody is dealing with what Mangini categorized as an “eye” injury. “I don’t really know how to classify that one,” he said. Woody wore a protective visor today.
Tight end Chris Baker remains on the PUP List and did not practice for the fourth consecutive day.
The team has two practices tomorrow at 8:45AM and 5:45PM. Both practices are closed to the public but JI will be covering and have full reports on all of the action.
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