INSIDER MONDAY TEAM REPORT
By Douglas Bonjour
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
September 15th, 2008
In yesterday's 19-10 loss to the Patriots, the Jets left their opportunities on the doorstep. Rather than knock through and leave the Tom Brady-less Patriots on the ropes, the Jets were stuck in neutral. Jets head coach Eric Mangini watched in bitter disappointment as three consecutive handoffs to Thomas Jones from the New England 3-yard line resulted in zero yards and just three points. Moments after yesterday's defeat, Mangini bit the bullet when faced with questions about the team's overly conservative play-calling, explaining that the coaching staff was confident with handing the ball off to its feature back.
Today, Mangini continued to defend the decision.
"At that point we called the plays that we thought were going to be successful and they weren't. That's part of what happens," Mangini explained. "You're always trying to find the best play."
The best play turned out being the worst, as Jones was swarmed repeatedly and disappeared into New England's massive defensive front. Not even the Jets' offensive line, which they revamped this offseason to the tune of $60 million could help pound Jones into the endzone.
While the Jets' decisions blew up in front of them, center Nick Mangold had no gripes with the decision to run three consecutive times.
"I appreciate to go in there and try to pop it in. It's disappointing that we didn't get in. I'm a running guy and I'd like to pound it in," Mangold explained.
The Jets did not get another opportunity of its kind until early in the fourth quarter, when Brett Favre hit wide receiver Chansi Stuckey for a two-yard touchdown pass. Unfortunately for the Jets, the decision to utilize the Hall-of-Fame quarterback came too late. The touchdown cut the Patriots' lead to 16-10 with 10:18 remaining in the fourth quarter, but New England responded with a 27-yard field goal to put the game away.
As the pro-conservative play calling now stands in the past, the Jets have to decide, what happens next? While Favre stands as the NFL record-holder with 445 career touchdown passes, Mangini made it clear that the Jets aren't about to base the offense solely around the quarterback.
"We're not calling plays in a vacuum. We're calling plays based on what we think is going to be successful" Mangini deadpanned. "If they're not successful, they're not successful."
It turned out the Jets weren't successful when it counted as Favre was left immobilzed.
While Favre has never flashed lightning speed over his 18-year career, he has made an art in highlight films of the quarterback bootleg. Add in the assortment of sure-handed tight ends the team currently employs and the decision not to throw remains a debatable one.
The question remains, will the Jets design plays to put Favre on the move? The answer remains inconclusive.
"Everything we have is designed. He makes some things happen. And, you know, sometimes they work out great and sometimes they don't," Mangini said.
With the disappointment of yesterday's loss behind them, the Jets will now turn their attention to another team struggling of late, the San Diego Chargers.
Like the Jets, San Diego entered the season with a championship-or-bust attitude, but in just two weeks, the Chargers have already lost twice on last-second touchdowns.
But now the Jets must deal with one of the NFL's premier players in running back LaDainian Tomlinson and a rising star at the quarterback position, Philip Rivers. Add in an athletic, play-making defense and the Jets have a tough task on their hands. But at 0-2, is it safe to call the Chargers desperate?
"I think we're pretty desperate too," guard Brandon Moore said.
Linebacker Eric Barton took a different angle toward the situation, pointing toward the team's experienced leadership as a key.
"We have quality guys in here with a lot of veterans, a lot of veteran leaders," Barton noted.
Call the Jets desperate, call the Jets confident, but as Mangini explained today, the Jets will "be ready to roll."
The Jets re-signed linebacker Kenwin Cummings and guard Stanley Daniels to the practice squad. Both were originally waived on Sept. 10. To make room for Cummings and Daniels, the Jets released linebacker Brandon Renkart and guard Matt McChesney.
Graham's Job in Jeopardy?
As Patriots kicker Stephen Gostowksi continued to boom his kickoffs through the endzone for touchbacks, the fight for field position remained anything but a battle. While Ken Walter consistently pinned the Jets' offense deep with several punts, Jets punter Ben Graham struggled throughout the afternoon. Graham punted four times with a net of just 27.3 yards. Three of the punts traveled just 40, 29 and 38 yards respectively. In today's presser, Mangini was asked how the Jets will approach their inconsistent punting situation.
"It's a situation we'll look at. You know, we'll look at it very closely, then we'll move forward here. See where the different opportunities are and evaluate them," he said.
Sounds like Gang Green will hand out punting auditions in the near future.
Early in the third quarter yesterday, Favre hit Cotchery for a 42-yard completion, but the play was negated after the referee ruled that Cotchery had interfered with the defensive back. Later in the game, Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace was whistled for a roughing-the-passer penalty. Today, Mangini did not offer much of an opinion on both plays.
"I wish I had some say in that, and I wish I could say at that point, but I don't. It's not my role to criticize the officiating," Mangini said.
Mangini did note that there were repeated instances where he believed Favre had been hit late.
In the fourth quarter of yesterday's contest, the Jets defense was penalized for having 12 men in the huddle. Today, Mangini noted that the culprit was rookie outside linebacker Vernon Gholston.
"He heard one thing, and it was not. Loved his enthusiasm, and aren't happy with his confusion on that play," Mangini said.
Mangini also explained that tight end Dustin Keller and cornerback Dwight Lowery suffered through rookie mix-ups.
"We need to do a better job as a group of minimizing the things that we can control," Mangini noted, in referring to the team's mental mistakes as a whole.
Feely "Disappointed" Over Miss
Following Jay Feely's missed 31-yard field goal, Mangini had a short discussion with the Jets' kicker. Today, Mangini offered his view on the missed attempt.
"Those are kicks that we should make and he has made in the past in the stadium. It's a new, completely new situation, snapper, holder," Mangini said. "Where it happened in the game so early in the first quarter, there's a lot of other tough things that came up through the course of the game that we had to recover from."
Bowens: "Kicking game needs to improve"
Aside from the Jets' inability to score inside the Patriots' 3-yard line, much of the focus was placed on New England's dominance in the kicking game. Jets linebacker David Bowens pointed toward kicking game as a necessary area of improvement.
"Field position wasn't all that great. Our kicking game needs to improve," Bowens said. "It changes the complexion of the game if we can get some good field position. Those few things here and there can easily win that game."
The Jets escaped yesterday's loss injury-free, but the focus continues to remain on the status of kicker Mike Nugent. Nugent, who injured his right thigh in the team's season opener, was replaced yesterday by Jay Feely. Feely missed a 31-yard field goal on the team's opening drive, but later knocked in a 21-yarder. Mangini has yet to release a timetable concerning Nugent's injury.
"He's doing everything he can, and any extra thing he can try to figure out to get back quick," Mangini said.