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Veteran Breakdown
By Mark Cannizzaro
Jets Insider.com Head Writer
September 14th, 2005
Jets Pro Bowl Center Kevin Mawae had arguably his worst game as a NY Jet last Sunday. He vowed to redeem himself this week against Miami. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Jets Pro Bowl Center Kevin Mawae had arguably his worst game as a NY Jet last Sunday. He vowed to redeem himself this week against Miami. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Herman Edwards' very first speech to his team, spoken on the eve of training camp inside the auditorium upstairs at Weeb Ewbank Hall, was about expectations.

His message to the players had a lot to do with the fact that, because of their spirited finish to the 2004 season _ being one field goal away from getting to the AFC Championship game _ there were going to be high expectations attached to the team.

Edwards wanted his players to know that there were going to be a lot of positive press clippings heaped upon the team _ even before they've played a game in the 2005 season.

Perhaps seeing bad things coming, Edwards tried the best he knew how to warn his players not to bask in the positive press and perhaps think they could simply show up and play to win.

Edwards tried, seemingly in vain, to let his players know that just because they nearly made it to the AFC title game doesn't mean that was an automatic bid back to the same position in a year.

Based on the Jets' 27-7 loss to the Chiefs on Opening Day Sunday in Kansas City, Edwards, one of the finest public speakers of our current generation amongst head coaches, didn't seem to have gotten his point to properly sink in.

Because the Jets looked in Kansas City like a team that believed in those press clippings, believed that, just because so many people picked them to challenge the Patriots' supremacy this season that meant they automatically would.

The fact is, Edwards was let down by a number of his veteran players Sunday.

His offensive line, beginning with veteran perennial Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae and including veteran left tackle Jason Fabini and first-year right tackle Adrian Jones, was manhandled. When a line on either side of the ball is manhandled like that it tells this: The team that has done the manhandling wanted it more.

To his credit, Mawae came forward immediately after the game and called himself out for what he termed his worst game in some 10 years.

So, too, did receiver Laveranues Coles, who dropped two touchdown passes.

Based on Edwards' talk to the players on Monday afternoon, he's hoping that a lot more of the players look within the way Mawae and Coles conceded that they had.

"You got to take a look at yourself and ask yourself, did you play up to your expectations, and if not, why?' '' Edwards told the players. "You have to ask yourself that as a player. No player wakes up in the morning saying he's going to have a bad game or not play up to his expectations. Why didn't we perform well? And I think we all have to look at that and learn from it and move on.''

Hopefully for the Jets, they walked into Wednesday's practice a different team than the mentally-unprepared group that was embarrassed by the Chiefs Sunday having moved on from that debacle.

No panic mode yet, but if continued breakdowns from seasoned veterans may spell changes in the future.

Miami is next, Sunday at Giants Stadium, and, based on the way the Dolphins played in their upset victory over the Broncos, they have to be licking their chops at a chance to beat their fiercest division rival.

The Jets must use their home opener Sunday to every advantage it can be. Hopefully, they haven't disgusted their fans to point where there'll be a buzz kill at Giants Stadium Sunday.

The Jets need every bit of energy their home fans can deliver Sunday.

To a man, the Jets know they underachieved Sunday.

Said linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was perhaps the most vocal amongst the Jets about their chances to be great this year during several interviews prior to the season: "This lets us know where we stand.''

AUSSIE MAKES SMASHING DEBUT

One Jets player who let no one down was punter Ben Graham, who averaged 44.3 yards gross and net punting against the most dangerous returner in the game in the Chiefs' Dante Hall.

Graham, who at 31 is the oldest rookie ever to start an NFL season, was everything the Jets hoped he'd be when they invited him here from Australia, where he was a star in Australian Rules Football. None of his three punts was returned. His high-hanging punts forced Hall into two fair catches. The third punt was downed.

In fact, Graham finished the first week of the NFL season leading the NFL with a 44.3-yard net average.

"Coach (Mike) Westhoff showed me,'' Graham said when asked if he'd seen the NFL statistics. "I told him if I was to hang up the boots right now.''

Westhoff wouldn't let that happen.

In a quiet moment inside the Jets' locker room on Monday afternoon, Graham revealed that he found himself "quite emotional'' during the pre-game ceremonies in Kansas City.

"The amount that I've learned about the NFL so quickly and to have it all meet at a head right there at 1 o'clock Sunday it all sort of hit me,'' Graham said. "I was calm and level-headed and understood exactly what was going on. Plus, you had Hurricane Katrina and 9-11, which made it more emotional.”

"As a foreigner, it was an amazing experience, something I'll remember the rest of my life.''

As for Arrowhead Stadium, Graham said it was all it was cracked up to be.

"That probably goes down as the most hostile place I've played in,'' Graham said. "When the team really needs to be loud or quiet it creates a really big hometown advantage. It was a sea of red.''

Graham added of the experience: "I saw it as my first challenge, first of many. What better way to start than against the league's best?''

BARRETT TAKES HUGE STEPS BACKWARDS

Cornerback David Barrett was one of the poster children for the Jets' misery on Sunday.

He allowed four passes for 76 yards against him on the Chiefs' second drive of the game, and had Chiefs' running back Priest Holmes wrapped around the ankles for a loss on the eight-yard line before Holmes wrested himself free and scored.

After the game, Barrett, who insisted he had trouble settling down, begged the Dolphins to bring it on against him on Sunday. Certainly, the Dolphins have watched the films and will surely test the torched Barrett.

With Ty Law on the other side, Barrett is either going to step up and make some big plays or he's going to be exposed as a cornerback who can't cover.

Rookie CB Justin Miller is waiting in the wings and history has shown that Edwards is not afraid to play youngsters. Even though Miller is very raw, if Barrett doesn’t step up his game, don’t be surprised to see Miller get a shot.

Stay tuned.

Herman Edwards said of the Dolphins going after Barrett, "You don't have to worry about it, they're going to come at him. That's what they do. If you have to pick between him and Ty Law, who are you going to throw at? Ty Law or David Barrett? David Barrett.”

"I'm not trying to make light. I think David Barrett is a good football player, I really do. But that's what happens, and you know it. That's the nature of the league.''

JETS BEST PASSING OFFENSE IN NFL? UMMMMMM.....NO.

Here's a time when statistics can be completely misleading: After Week One, the Jets are ranked No. 1 in the NFL in passing offense. Why? Because between Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler, they threw for a combined 352 yards, and those NFL rankings are based on yardage, not points scored. The Jets, of course, have scored only seven points and they came with their loss well in hand. The Jets, by the way, are ranked No. 6 in overall offense.

Of course they are.