As Brett Favre was welcomed to the Jets in August, Laveranues Coles was expected to be a beneficiary of Favre's laser arm. Coles had spent his previous years with the Jets playing with the nimble-armed Chad Pennington, who was extremely accurate but lacked the arm strength to spread defenses. While he was understanding of Favre's Hall of Fame resume, he held a special connection with Pennington. As Coles remained sidelined during training camp with a leg injury in Favre's first weeks with the Jets, the two took time to gel.
Now as the two sit in the heat of a division title race, Coles' production in recent weeks has dropped. In consecutive losses to the Broncos and 49ers, Coles has combined to record just three receptions for seven yards. Even though Coles hasn't been posting highlight-reel numbers of late, he insists he is not bothered by his quiet statline.
"If you would have caught me a couple years ago it probably would have been, but at this point in my career, no, becauseI still turn the film on and watch what I am doing. I think I do a great job of doing whatever they ask me to do," Coles said.
"I think if anyone else watches me they will still see I am doing a pretty good job of what I am doing because if I wasn't, they wouldn't double me. At this point, no I am not frustrated."
Coles knows that even as a wide receiver, not having the ball in your hands does not mean you're not successful.
"[When I was younger] I was equating getting the ball with being successful, but, at this point in my career, I know that you don't have to have the ball to still be effective," he said.
Along with wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey, the Jets passing game has remained out of sync since consecutive wins in November over the Patriots and Titans lifted them up the NFL rankings. In last week's loss to the 49ers, Coles, Cotchery and Stuckey combined for just six receptions for 58 yards. Even though opposing defenses have held the trio in check, Coles believes they have been successful.
While the Jets downfield attack was expected to thread defenses, a short passing attack reminiscent of a ball-control offense in consecutive wins over the Patriots and Titans lifted them. But in the last two losses, same personnel and fewer results. Have opposing defenses caught on to the Jets scheme?
"It's a number of things," Coles suggested. "You can do a breakdown of us and look at what we've been doing. Teams have penciled in on what we've been doing and they've done a good job. Our coaching staff now is trying to make adjustments."
However, even with the dropoff in production during the Jets' two-game skid, the Jets' offense has displayed its talents this season. On Sept. 28 against the Cardinals, Favre threw six touchdown passes en route to a 56-35 win. Coles knows how elusive the Jets receving core truly is.
"We have a numerous amount of playmakers so you can't really just focus on one or two guys...if you take one or two guys away again, you still have Dustin [Keller], you still have Leon [Washington], you have Jerricho and Stuckey. The guys make plays."
For just the second time since moving into the state-of-the-art Atlantic Health Training facility in September, the Jets practiced in their fieldhouse. Coles explained that practicing indoors is "great for the guys to get the opportunity to get their footwork down" but pointed toward last Monday's meetings when a reporter asked if Mangini had developed a softer side....Reggie Hodges boomed punts toward Washington and cornerback Darrelle Revis. With the heavy rain and winds a non-factor as the team practiced indoors, Hodges' punts consistently traveled between 40 and 50 yards.
Mangini's Rise In Emotion
While the Jets' fast 8-3 start led to talk of a "Subway Super Bowl" between the Jets and Giants, two consecutive losses have the Jets fighting for their playoff lives. Coles suggested that head coach Eric Mangini has displayed more emotion of late.
"I think he gets frustrated when he gives us a blueprint to the game and then guys don't execute or take advantage of everything that he's giving us. So from his perspective, it's kind of understanding," Coles said. "You have to understand it from his perspective. He's a coach, he can't do it all. The coach can't play too; I'm sure if he could he would."
"Dustin Keller explained that Mangini was more animated on Monday than usual.
"For good reason. We need to get this thing turned back around and we will. It's going to take a little bit of work and that is what we are focusing on right now," Keller said.
Despite Lapses, Defense Remains Confident
While the Jets' run defense has remained stout this season, the pass defense has been anything but. Through 13 games, the Jets have allowed the second-most passing yards per game (251.2 yards allowed/game). Even though it would be easy for the defense to be frustrated with its play, Revis knows that the unit must remain positive.
"This is not a 4-12 team like we were last year. We are 8-5. We are tied for first [in the division.] We have to keep on moving and get wins. We are focused right now and this is a key game for us," Revis said. "We have to look at ourselves and go out there and execute as best we can."
"Rookie Period Over" for Keller
In Sunday's loss to the 49ers, Keller was held to just two receptions (14 yards) and dropped a key third-and-two pass on the game's opening drive. Mangini acknowledged that he had a long talk with the rookie tight end after the loss.
"I said a lot of things to him after the game. The rookie period is over. Their season is basically done in college football. You're a Jet, you've been here a long time and at this point the rookie stuff is over," Mangini said. "It's not taking anything away from what he's done...but you have to be able to execute on those plays."
Keller said he took Mangini's talk as "positive reinforcement" and he explained that it's a positive sign when Mangini reaches out to speak with him.
"It means he has confidence in [me], that he is confident in [my] ability, that [I] can and should get better and that is good knowledge," Keller said.
Mangini Reacts to Favre's Expectations
Yesterday, Favre explained that he "expects" to make the playoffs this season. Mangini was asked about Favre's expectation today, noting that he think the question was "in relationship to the offense."
"I have complete confidence in the offense and the group of people. Everybody knows that at this time of year that either it's the end of the season or the playoffs are looming. That's not a secret. In appreciating everybody's confidence and having confidence myself, you still need to circle back to what's important, which is the first game."
Smith Sidelined with Concussion
Mangini acknowledged that Brad Smith sustained a concussion after reciving a helmet-to-helmet hit during the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss. Mangini said there is "improvement" with Smith. Mangini was also asked whether he felt 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis deserves to be fined for the hit on the defenseless Smith. Mangini replied, "I don't know. To me, it's a judgement call just like the holding on the long kickoff return for a touchdown--judgement call."
Safety's Status for Sunday Unclear
Safety Eric Smith has been sidelined for the previous seven weeks due to a concussion, but he has fully practiced this week. While Mangini explained that the omission from the injury report is "another good step" he did not explain when Smith will return.
"To say definitively right now that he will [play], I couldn't say that. I think we've taken good steps this week."
Did Not Participate: WR Brad Smith (concussion)
Limited Participation: LB Eric Barton (knee), DB Ahmad Carroll (foot), WR Laveranues Coles (thigh), LB David Harris (groin), NT Kris Jenkins (hip), LB Bryan Thomas (shoulder)
Full Participation: WR Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), DB James Ihedigbo (neck), LB Jason Trusnik (knee)
Did Not Participate: QB Trent Edwards (groin), CB Dustin Fox (groin), DE Aaron Schobel (foot)
Limited Participation: CB Jabari Greer (knee)
Full Participation: WR Josh Reed (back), DT Marcus Stroud (hip)