Watch Thomas Jones burst through the trenches and his contributions shine. After reaching the end zone just twice last season in his first stint with the Jets, Jones is busy compiling a year for the franchise record books. With 15 total touchdowns (13 rushing, two receiving), Jones has already set the Jets' single-season touchdown record. The success illuminated into Jones' first Pro Bowl selection in his nine-year career and has carried the Jets within two victories of their first division title since 2002. Safe to say Jones has let his gameday performance do the talking and his teammates have noticed.
While Jones has been busy wreaking havoc on opposing defenses, Jets head coach Eric Mangini announced today that Jones was voted the team's MVP for 2008. While the award recognizes the team's Most Valuable Player, it might as well stand as "Most Vocal Player" as well.
"He does it through his actions but he's also willing to get the group together and when he speaks it's very heartfelt, it's very passionate," Mangini said of Jones' motivational speeches. "It's always coming from the heart which I think makes it more practical."
On the rare instance that Jones does not rush the football, Leon Washington steps into relief. Washington has rushed for 374 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and five touchdowns and knows that Jones stands as a leader.
"He gets so pumped and ready to go and his leadership that he has brought on every single down has really made him the MVP," Washington said of Jones.
Before the opening kickoff on Sundays, Jones speaks and his teammates listen. He grabs them aside for a motivational speech, filled with emotion. What catches each player's attention?
"It's how he says it, the choice of words he uses. The passion that he displays in his voice and you can see the attitude. You look at a guy like that who says it and he means it and he shows it on the field and it's not hard for guys to follow behind," Washington said.
Following the running back's words is obviously Jones' main goal.
"Before every time I get out there on Sunday, I'm living the dream and I'm blessed to have the opportunity to play. I just cherish the moment every time I'm out there and just make sure that everyone else feels the way I feel about the game," Jones said.
In just his second season with the Jets, Jones' motivational speeches have also been followed with a relentless work ethic both in the weightroom and on the football field. His leadership qualities were exemplified as teammates also voted him the recipient of the Dennis Byrd Award for Most Inspirational Player.
Both awards, Mangini explained, "are a good indication of his impact."
"The MVP in more performance-based and the most-inspirational being in what the team draws from his energy, his excitement, his work ethic," Mangini said.
The correlation between Jones' success and the Jets winning ways have been evident. As the Jets stumbled to a 4-12 record last season, Jones was trapped in his own slump. He rushed for 1,119 yards (3.6 yard average) but he only scored two touchdowns. Jones came out of the gate fast this season with 101 yards rushing and one touchdown in a season-opening win over the Dolphins and the improvements continue to fall. Jones' motivational tactics from season to season have continued but his true talents have been put on display.
"The results weren't exactly the same or what we had hoped for, but this year you really get a sense of how dynamic a player he is and the impact that he can have in the locker room," Mangini said.
The Jets again practiced indoors and wide receiver Brad Smith practiced for the second consecutive day but his status for Sunday's game against the Seahawks is still uncertain. While it can be assumed that David Clowney would again be active if Smith is unable to play, Mangini explained that the swap is "not automatic."...Reggie Hodges remains the Jets punter but today's practice was filled with inconsistency. While Hodges sent Washington backpedaling on several kicks, he also had multiple punts travel no more than 40 yards.
Jets Hand Out Hardware
Mangini began his morning press conference by handing out several awards. Jones was voted the as the Curtis Martin Team Most Valuable Player and received the Dennis Byrd Award for Most Inspirational Player. Fullback Tony Richardson earned the Marty Lyons Award for Community Service while safety Abram Elam received the Kyle Clifton Good Guy Award. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery was awarded the Ed Block Courage Award. Guard Damien Woody received the "Eskenazi" "Media Friendly" presented by the media.
Favre on Routine Pitch Count
Mangini explained that quarterback Brett Favre was on a routine pitch count at the beginning of practice yesterday. Mangini explained that the Jets did the same with quarterback Chad Pennington last season.
"In terms of the throws that we have allocated throughout the course of the day, we target those specific plays that we feel he needs to get the most looks on," Mangini said.
Mangini's Solution to Quiet Seattle
On Nov.27, 2005 the Giants traveled to Seattle and were noticably affected by the raucous Qwest Field Crowd. The Giants committed 12 false start penalties in what is regarded as one of the NFL's loudest stadiums. While limiting the crowd noise can be difficult, Mangini offered one solution. He suggested that the best way to control the ear-splitting noise is to compile "effective drives."
"From what I understand, it's extremely loud," Mangini said of Qwest Field. "I feel like we've worked with noise for so long that that's just part of the process now-all through training camp, OTA's and everyday in practice, one side or the other is getting it."
Dealing with Pressure
In a season that could result in a collapse, Mangini was asked about staying loose under such pressure. Although the pressure can be immense, Mangini knows you have to fight through it.
"It really, in the over-used phrase, it is what it is--the sense of urgency. You still have to be able to work, you still have to be able to enjoy the process, and you still have to bring the same energy to practice. That stuff doesn't change and it should never change," Mangini said.
Limited Participation: LB Eric Barton (knee), WR Laveranues Coles (knee), LB David Harris (groin), OT Wayne Hunter (shoulder), NT Kris Jenkins (hip), WR Brad Smith (concussion), LB Bryan Thomas (shoulder)
Full Participation: WR Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), G Brandon Moore (ankle), LB Jason Trusnik (knee)
Did Not Participate: CB Jordan Babineaux (concussion), QB Matt Hasselbeck (back), LB LeRoy Hill (neck), OT Sean Locklear (toes)
Limited Participation: LB D.D. Lewis (shin), WR Koren Robinson (knee)