What a difference a win makes.
After losses the following two weeks to the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers left the Jets bruised in sprit and scrambling for answers, yesterday's 56-35 trouncing of the Arizona Cardinals allowed the Jets to breathe.
Suddenly the solemn faces of defeat diminished from the team's Florham Park facility and were replaced with smiles. Safety Kerry Rhodes was the first to notice the excitement: "Eric [Mangini] is a little red in the face," Rhodes said, in referring to Mangini's pleasure with the win.
Yet even with the thrill of victory, the high-scoring shootout with the Cardinals could not buy Mangini and his players' satisfaction. With the Jets standing at third place in AFC East with a 2-2 record, Gang Green is anything but complacent.
"We need to continue to improve on third down. Positive things in the running game, but that needs to be more consistent," Mangini said of the necessary areas of improvement. "We had a penalty on the goal line which negated a touchdown. We were able to overcome that. But that won't be the case every week," he said.
Even though the offense broke out with 56 points and 373 yards in the victory, the outburst has not left wide receiver Laveranues Coles satisfied.
"I think what we need to not only look at the positives, but look at some things we can do to get better and not rest our hat on upon having that one performance because it is a long season," Coles said.
After recording just ten catches, 172 yards and one touchdown combined in the Jets' first three games, Coles broke out in vintage fashion yesterday, burning the Cardinals' beleaguered secondary for eight catches, 105 yards and three touchdowns.
While Brett Favre wowed the sold-out Meadowlands crowd with his six touchdown passes, the Jets' running-game continued to sputter. The combination of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington gained only 52 yards on 25 carries, and will now welcome the return of Jesse Chatman.
Chatman is back with the Jets after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on steroids and related substances. Chatman told reporters today he tested positive for a masking agent, but said it was not to mask a steroid or performance-enhancing substance.
"There's a lot of particulars that go with it that I just care not to go into. The public's going to think what they're going to think, but hopefully, they'll know that I'm not a cheater and I never have been," Chatman said.
Chatman called his time away from football "difficult," in which he worked out with a personal trainer and specifically ran speed and agility drills. The training helped Chatman drop his weight to 210 pounds, the lightest he's been since high school.
"I feel good," Chatman said. "Brings me back to my high school days," he said with a laugh.
Chatman had time to reflect while out, and he surely did so.
"I just know what to do, and what not to do," he said.
The Jets released punter Ben Graham. Graham was cut by the Jets following the Sept. 14 loss to the New England Patriots, but was re-signed later in the week after incumbent Reggie Hodges injured his thigh during his first practice with the team. After punting twice for a net of 48 yards yesterday in the Jets 56-35 win, it was Graham's hangtime on punts, or lack thereof, which led to his release.
"Our net was very good. You know, the gross wasn't bad," Mangini said of yesterday's punting performance. "But it is more difficult to cover those punts without the hang time. You have the combination of the two. So it's always something we're looking for, is that balance between hang time and distance."
As for Hodges, who has been battling an injury to the thigh on his left, non-kicking leg, Mangini said, "It's unfortunate, his early stages here, not being able to have an opportunity. I want to give him that opportunity and see how that is."
The Jets also re-signed offensive lineman Will Montgomery to the active roster who was waived by the team on Sept. 25 when cornerback Hank Poteat was signed. Wide receiver Paul Raymond was released from the practice squad.
The NFL suspended safety Eric Smith one game for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin yesterday.
"The suspension will sideline Smith for the Jets' game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Oct. 12, following the Jets' bye on Oct. 5," the league said in a statement today.
Speaking before the suspension was handed out, Smith told reporters that he remembered everything leading up to the play, but he did not remember being helped off the field. Mangini said Smith was "groggy," but all indications were that he had suffered a concussion.
A statement released by a Jets spokesperson said, "We respect and support the league's emphasis on player safety. Knowing Eric, we are confident that he did not intend to injure Anquan Boldin. Anquan was hit from behind by another player that accelerated the collision with Eric. Our thoughts are with Anquan and we hope that he has a healthy recovery."
Mangini Hands Out Honors
Minus the Cardinals' 35-point outburst in the second half yesterday, there was little room for criticism in the Jets' 56-35 win. With the victory, Mangini handed out Player of the Week awards for each unit's performance. Favre, after throwing a career-high six touchdown passes, received the award on offense, while on defense, linebacker Calvin Pace garnered the award. Pace sacked and stripped the ball from Kurt Warner. Linebacker Vernon Gholston received the award on special teams for his four-tackle performance, while defensive tackle C.J. Mosley received the honor for practice Player of the Week. Mangini said that Mosley did a "great job" simulating the Cardinals' Darnell Dockett in the week leading up to yesterday's win.
Washington Given the Nod
Yesterday's starting lineups revealed few surprises, minus the omission of running back Thomas Jones. Leon Washington (seven carries, 26 yards) received the starting nod over Jones (18 carries, 46 yards), but Mangini shot down any thought that Jones was demoted because of his costly fumble in last week's defeat to San Diego: "The starters offensively and defensively, that's never really going to be of any major significance because everybody plays," said Mangini. "The personnel groups change each week. They're not necessarily a function of who you want to announce coming out of the tunnel."
Mangini's Grounds for Conversion
Following a 24-yard touchdown pass from Favre to tight end Dustin Keller which gave the Jets a comfortable 54-35 lead with just 1:54 remaining in the game, Mangini chose to hand the ball off to Washington for the two-point conversion, rather than kicking the PAT with the game seemingly out-of-reach. While Mangini's decision was questioned by reporters because of the Jets' large lead, Mangini said he wanted to get the three-touchdown lead.
"Between fast strikes and the onside kicks, the way those things were going, I just made the decision there to make it a three-touchdown game in order to tie as opposed to win," Mangini said. "Really felt like they were doing a good job moving the ball."
Clowney Remains Wrapped, Nugent Improving
Wide reciever David Clowney, who has missed the Jets' first four games after injuring his shoulder in the Aug. 16 preseason matchup with the Washington Redskins, has shed the sling from his shoulder. It is now wrapped...Kicker Mike Nugent (thigh) walked through the locker room with no noticeable limp.