AFC East: Jay Feely

Woodhead revisits getting axed by Jets

April, 5, 2011
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New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead toured ESPN's campus Tuesday to talk about his emergence last season and the possibility he might be the cover boy for "Madden NFL 12."

Woodhead sat down with "First Take" host Sage Steele and revealed he was playing in a Donald Trump charity golf tournament when he got the call from the New York Jets to tell him "You're fired."

"I was actually in the middle of the tournament," Woodhead recalled. "I saw it was an area code of New Jersey, and I knew that probably wasn't the best deal. So I got cut. Next thing you know, I got picked up later that week by the Patriots. Things obviously work out for a reason.

"It was tough, especially because that would've been my third year there [with the Jets]. So I felt like I knew the people around the organization, but things happen for a reason. I feel very, very, very blessed to be where I'm at now."

Woodhead sounded baffled to be considered for the "Madden NFL 12" cover to begin with, let alone to still be alive after two rounds of the tournament. The bracket is being decided by a fan vote.

"It is crazy going from being cut, released, to in less than a year getting the chance to maybe be on the cover," Woodhead said.

Speed Dial: Impact of new kickoff rules

April, 1, 2011
4/01/11
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We're overdue for another installment of "Speed Dial," where I ring up three folks from my cell phone's contact list to get their takes on a particular subject.

Today's question for three notable special-teamers: What are your thoughts on the NFL's decision to move kickoffs up to the 35-yard line and limit the running head start of coverage players to 5 yards behind the ball?

Steve Tasker, seven-time Pro Bowler for the Buffalo Bills:
"The Oakland Raiders might not have to cover a kick all year because Sebastian Janikowski can put the ball out of the end zone. With the extra 5 yards, he'll be able to do it through December and January. It gives the coaching staff a chance to not keep any special-teams players. They can put their offensive linemen on kickoff coverage for conditioning drills. They're not even going to hit anybody.

"For each team, it comes down to the guy who can put his foot on the ball as to how much change there will be. It used to be if you could keep the return guy inside the 25, it was a good cover. Now, it's going to be inside the 20.

"After this modification, if it continues to be a problem with guys getting blown up on kick covers, it may go the way of the jump ball in basketball. Maybe you score and the other team just gets the ball on the 20 with no kick. Maybe you have a kickoff to open the game and then the second half. They may move away from that special team all together.

"It would be a break from tradition, but the league never has been averse from doing that anyway. The rules aren't sacred. The fan interest is. If the fans don't want to see it, they'll take it out."

Jim "Crash" Jensen, former Miami Dolphins do-it-all contributor:
"It's definitely going to make kickoffs safer, and that's the whole idea of it. A lot of the injuries happen on the return. I thought they should have put the touchback to the 25-yard line, though [as in the original proposal], to keep the return a part of the game. It's not going to be as exciting for the fans, but the game will be a little safer.
"I don't have a problem with the safety of the players. I'm starting to feel it myself, you know? I'm in a lot of pain. If you play in the NFL for 12 years, you're going to feel it.
"It's a totally different game, the one that I played compared to the one today. There are a lot more rule changes. They eliminated the wedge [of more than two players]. You can't cut the wedge. But to say [today's players] are softer? I don't think so. It's still the gridiron."

Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals kicker
"I've spoken to some return guys like Leon Washington and LaRod Stephens-Howling and, obviously, our opinions are very different when it comes to whether we're pleased. The older kickers are very happy. One of the impacts will be it will almost de-emphasize the kickoff role because it'll be easier to get touchbacks, easier to get balls into the end zone. It won't create as much separation between somebody who has a great leg and somebody who doesn't.
"I don't think you'll see nearly as much directional kicking anymore. Coaches will allow you to just kick away. I'm going to try to convince my coach -- whenever we get back to playing -- to allow me to do that. The distance between kicking outside the numbers and trying to get it into the corner compared to a straight line down the middle of the field is close to 5 yards farther. If you're kicking straight down the middle and not changing your steps or worrying about being accurate, you can swing away. Because you're 5 yards further up, you'll see more coaches kicking away, and I think that change in scheme could double the number of touchbacks.
"The 5-yard limit rule [for the coverage team] could make it tougher for onside recoveries. They're not going to get to the ball as quickly, and you tried to time that up so they had as much speed to cover those 10 yards as quickly as possible."

Rex knows Jets are NFL's hot destination

March, 23, 2011
3/23/11
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NEW ORLEANS -- Florham Park, N.J., is the NFL's version of Ellis Island.

At the base of Rex Ryan's statue of liberty -- the one where he's proudly holding up a goddamn snack -- the motto reads: "Give me your inspired, your core contributors, your huddled players, yearning to be free agents."

The New York Jets head coach will take them all.

"I'd like to have every player in the league want to play for the Jets," Ryan said Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting in New Orleans. "We're on the right path because I think a lot of players do want to play for the Jets. And the great thing is the players we have want to play for the Jets. That's important to me."

In November, a Sports Illustrated poll of 279 anonymous NFL players asked "For which other coach would you like to play?" A whopping 21 percent chose Ryan. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was a distant second at 12 percent. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was third at 9 percent. Former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher was at 8 percent and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick at 7 percent.

Speaking even more to Ryan's personal allure as a fun and charismatic boss, he was the only coach among the top seven not to have been to the Super Bowl -- yet.

"I'm letting every player in the league know that if you want to win a Super Bowl," Ryan said, "you should probably come to the Jets."

The Jets reaching back-to-back AFC Championship Games and being featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks" last summer are the dominant forces to boosting the Jets' profile as a hot destination.

"I wanted to show our facilities off, show how we take care of our players and what kind of organization we have with our owner, Woody Johnson, and our GM, Mike Tannenbaum," Ryan said of the entertaining shows. "I think that helped us. I also think you're in the best market in the world, and oh by the way, we have a heck of a football team and have a good time playing, too."

Even a couple players from the cross-town rival New York Giants -- safeties Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips -- wished out loud that coach Tom Coughlin could be more like Rex.

"It's good to hear players want to come play for us," Ryan said. "There's no denying that."

There's a big problem. The NFL's immigration department is prohibiting arrivals until a new collective bargaining agreement can be struck. Free agency and player trades aren't allowed.

The Jets can't re-sign their own free agents, either. Receivers Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith and cornerback Antonio Cromartie are the most notable they must address once a new CBA is in place.

That leaves Ryan and his roster in limbo and places a serious crimp in his plans for a second straight offseason. The Jets faced restrictions last year under the "final eight plan," a wrinkle of the uncapped season.

Clubs that reached the divisional playoff round weren't allowed to sign unrestricted free agents unless they dropped one of the same salary value. The Jets parted ways with reliable kicker Jay Feely to make room for outside linebacker Jason Taylor.

The Jets were able to get involved with players such as running back LaDainian Tomlinson and safety Brodney Pool, who technically weren't unrestricted free agents because they were released from their previous teams.

"They can want to play for you, but you couldn't do anything about it anyway," Ryan said.

Ryan will keep his torch burning.

Conditions critical: Kickers in the spotlight

January, 20, 2011
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In the AFC playoffs last weekend, two of the NFL's great rivalries completed in-season trilogies.

What emerged is a matchup that looks nothing like a storied rivalry.

The New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers have met only once in the postseason. The Steelers beat them 20-17 in overtime six years ago.

That game also took place on Heinz Field's notoriously treacherous kicking surface, and two missed field goals in the final 120 seconds proved deadly. Jets kicker Doug Brien struck the crossbar on a 46-yard attempt at the two-minute warning and was wide left on a 43-yard attempt as the fourth quarter expired.

Heinz Field hasn't gotten any more luxurious since then.

Jets coach Rex Ryan said Thursday he expects Sunday's game to be decided by a late field goal.

"That's what's going to happen," Ryan said. "This is going to be one of those games. I don't see a team blowing the other team out. This is going to be hard-fought all the way to the end."

In Wednesday's edition of the "Big Question," we examined Nick Folk's inconsistencies this season. He has made all four of his career kicks at Heinz Field, including from 25 and 34 yards in a Week 15 victory over the Steelers.

Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely, who was the Jets' kicker last year, recently handicapped the venues, kickers and punters in Sunday's conference championship games for ESPN.

"You have bad footing, cold weather, which you can't kick the ball as far, and you add the wind," Feely said of Pittsburgh and Chicago. "Heinz Field is historically the toughest place in the NFL footing-wise, kicking-wise. It'll impact the distance of your kicks and punts."

The Jets didn't re-sign the reliable Feely after last season because letting him go allowed them to sign outside linebacker Jason Taylor under weird free-agency rules for the uncapped season. The Jets signed Folk to replace Feely.

"There's a part of me that watches them and says 'Man, I wish I was still playing,' " Feely said. "I wish my team had been better and we had gotten into the playoffs because you want to be in those games. You want to play in those championship games. That's what players play for and live for.

"I'm OK as long as they don't win the Super Bowl because that'll crush me."

Big Question: Nick Folk

January, 19, 2011
1/19/11
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With the game on the line at Heinz Field, can the Jets trust Nick Folk?

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- On the sideline, several New York Jets could not bear to watch.

[+] EnlargeNick Folk
AP Photo/Kathy WillensNew York's season may come down to a Nick Folk field goal.
They averted their eyes from the field and definitely from the goal posts. They waited for the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd to tell them whether they had won or lost.

Silence, and the Jets had beaten the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs. A roar, and the Jets go home.

Nick Folk lined up for what should have been a gimme field goal, 32 yards on artificial turf in a dome.

Yet there was doubt. Folk has been far from automatic throughout his career.

Folk, of course, made that kick as time expired. The Jets eliminated the Colts, sent fans quietly filing into the cold Indianapolis night. They advanced to the next round of the playoffs -- where Folk missed a potentially dear 30-yard field goal against the New England Patriots.

And in an AFC Championship Game likely to be dictated by two of the league's elite defenses, it's foreseeable Folk might be called upon to make another clutch kick that could send the Jets to the Super Bowl or end their season.

The Jets will play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, a treacherous pitch on which to kick.

"He's just looking forward to the next kick," Jets holder and punter Steve Weatherford said Wednesday at the team's training facility. "It could have come down to a field goal in that game we were in [referring to New England].

"He's been here before. He's missed a kick before. He knows how to bounce back. ... If this game were to come down to a game winner, even on that crappy field, I feel confident he would do it."

Folk's inconsistencies are infamous. He had a disastrous 2009 campaign with the Dallas Cowboys, who waived him two games before the playoffs. He missed a kick in each of his final six games with Dallas, the last being a 24-yard attempt against the New Orleans Saints.

Folk's 64.3 percent success rate was third lowest of anybody who attempted a kick that year.

The Jets made Folk their reclamation project. He replaced the reliable Jay Feely as a roster move that allowed them to sign outside linebacker Jason Taylor under the NFL's rules for an uncapped season.

Folk was efficient at first. Through Week 9, he converted 16 of his 19 kicks. He kicked a 48-yarder on opening night and surpassed that as his longest kick three more times by Week 6, topping out at 56 yards.

Then came trouble. Folk missed three field goals in an overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 10. He missed at least one field goal in four straight games.

The Jets, concerned Folk could cost them, brought in veteran free agent Kris Brown for a tryout in early December.

"You just have to be confident and go out there," Folk said last week. "You have to embrace the pressure that comes with the job. I've done it my whole life. I've enjoyed these situations."

Darrelle Revis in all-time cornerback talk

January, 18, 2011
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber, Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely and "First Take" raconteur Skip Bayless discussed where New York Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis rates among the all-time greats at his position.

"He does everything you expect a corner to do," Barber said. "He hits people. He tackles. He makes plays on the ball. He locks people down in man-to-man coverage. ... But he had no interceptions this year. Largely on reputation right now, he is a great, great corner. But he doesn't make a whole bunch of game-changing plays."

Barber said his Buccaneers teammate, Aqib Talib, already is in Revis' realm.

Feely gave his perspective as someone who played with Revis for two years.

"No one can objectively say he's the greatest of all-time, but he can get there," Feely said. "I'll tell you why: because he's strong, he's physical, he can play man, he can play bump, he can be off the ball and play well.

"One of the things that makes him so great is he's diligent. He studies hard. I played with him two years and watched him and was thoroughly impressed with him. ... He practices harder than I've seen another guy practice. He gets after it in practice.

"There was a story he told me. I asked him 'Why do you go so hard against Braylon Edwards.' He said 'Because my rookie year he burned me twice, and I want to prove to him every day in practice that I'm better than him.' That said a lot to me."

Barber's all-time pick was Rod Woodson. Feely and Bayless went with Deion Sanders.

For the slumping Jets, it's time to worry

December, 12, 2010
12/12/10
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Mark SanchezAlan Maglaque/US PresswireMark Sanchez completed only 17 of 44 passes and had a 45.3 passer rating in New York's loss.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Forget 45-3.

What transpired Sunday at the Meadowlands was more humiliating to the New York Jets than Monday night's fiasco in New England.

Getting vaporized on the road by an elite NFL team is one thing. Losing at home to an opponent that plays mediocre on its best day and played well below that level Sunday is quite another.

The Miami Dolphins beat the plummeting Jets 10-6 at the Meadowlands. The Jets left the field to a torrent of boos -- on Fan Appreciation Day.

In what should have been a statement game after the cleaving they took six nights earlier, the Jets failed to defeat a division opponent that gained 131 total yards, netted 30 passing yards and committed three turnovers.

Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne was awful, and yet Mark Sanchez somehow found a way to play even worse than him.

"It was horrible," Jets center Nick Mangold said. "It's not the way we envisioned, not the way we wanted."

To add to the embarrassment, Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi purposely tripped Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll on punt coverage.

The Jets remain on the cusp of clinching a playoff berth, but they are showing signs of a downward spiral reminiscent of 2008, when they started the season 8-3, became a chic pick to win the Super Bowl and then collapsed over the final five games and didn't qualify for the postseason.

The Jets have lost two games in a row, failing to score a touchdown in either. They will play division leaders on the road in their next two games. They will visit the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears, defenses that ranked fifth and third entering Sunday.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan said his team's desperation meter is "pegged."

"I'm very concerned," Ryan said. "I mean, shoot, you look at our next opponent. You think this defense is good. Just wait until next week. Pittsburgh's going to be a huge challenge clearly, and then down the road we've got to make sure that we find a way to get better. We have to get better."

With how the Jets are playing and the upcoming schedule, it's not difficult to imagine their season coming down to the finale against the Buffalo Bills at the Meadowlands.

Who could have foreseen that a month ago?

"You understand time is of the essence," Jets outside linebacker Jason Taylor said. "You can find a million clichés for it. These are all must-win games. In this league, they pretty much all are anyway, but at this particular point in the season and in December you can't lose games. You can't lose division games. You can't lose home games. You can't do what we're doing right now."

Injuries are piling up. Right tackle Damien Woody left in the first half with a knee injury and didn't return. The Jets' ground-and-pound, all-weather offense was slush. LaDainian Tomlinson averaged 2.6 yards a carry. Shonn Greene, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a neck injury, averaged 2.1 yards.

Sanchez completed 38.6 percent of his passes and threw an interception. Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith dropped three Sanchez misfires. Also exasperating was Santonio Holmes' inopportune drop while wide open in the end zone in the second quarter. Holmes made several difficult catches Sunday, but he dropped the easiest one.

Ryan admitted he considered yanking Sanchez from the game in the third quarter.

The Jets' offense lately brings to mind a spin on those old Adam Ant lyrics: "Can't run, can't throw. What do you do?"

At Ryan's postgame news conference, held in a glass-encased room in the middle of a stadium bar, soggy Jets fans chanted for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to be fired.

The Jets' old kicker, Jay Feely, scored more touchdowns Sunday than they have the past two weeks. Feely had a touchdown run on a fake field goal and amassed 25 points for the Arizona Cardinals. The Jets would kill for half that from their offense.

The Jets have played seven games in their $1.6 billion stadium. They've failed to score a touchdown in three of them, including a shutout loss in Week 8 despite coming off a bye.

On top of their offensive woes, the Jets have little faith in their kicker. Nick Folk has missed at least one field goal attempt in five of his past seven games.

That, of course, won't be a factor as long as the Jets can't move the ball into field goal range to begin with.

The Jets' defense did bounce back from a deplorable performance against the New England Patriots, giving the offense plenty of chances to get back in the game. The Jets sacked Henne five times. They forced three fumbles. They limited the Dolphins to an average of 2.3 yards per play.

But the offenses were so pitiful that Dolphins punter Brandon Fields was the MVP. He punted 10 times and averaged 56.4 yards, the greatest average since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. And yet only one of Fields' punts landed inside the 20, illustrating how little each offense advanced.

The Jets don't have much time to get moving again. One more victory probably will be enough to get the Jets into the playoffs.

But the granules keep dwindling through the hourglass.

"You can't panic," Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. "There's still three games left. If you're panicking, you're pressing for things to happen. But if you want to win in January, you've got to win in December.

"It's getting close. We're in a one-game season for the next three weeks. We can't talk about playoffs or anything else. It's critical."

Halftime thoughts from Jets at Pats

December, 6, 2010
12/06/10
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some halftime thoughts from Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots lead the New York Jets 24-3:
  • My prevailing thought is the Jets are getting embarrassed on national television. My secondary thought is the Patriots' defense is playing way above its track record in almost every way.
  • BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored from 1 yard out to give the Patriots a 10-0 lead. It was his 10th touchdown, the first Patriots running back with that many since Corey Dillon in 2006.
  • Tom Brady's stat line: 10-of-16 for 152 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. But the Jets have sacked him three times.
  • Mark Sanchez's stat line: 8-of-18 for 77 yards and zero touchdowns with no interceptions.
  • ESPN Stats & Information credited the Patriots with 84 receiving yards after the catch.
  • The Patriots led 17-0 with 61 seconds still left in the first quarter. It was a total team effort to get into that hole: shoddy coaching (wasted challenge on the Jets' first possession, 53-yard field-goal attempt), shoddy offense (Sanchez's passes were scattershot), shoddy defense (poor tackling) and shoddy special teams (Nick Folk's miss and a 12-yard Steve Weatherford punt).
  • You have to wonder if Rex Ryan was a little too geared up at the start of the game. He was overly aggressive when unsuccessfully challenging a spot and then trying to kick the 53-yard field goal in cold and windy conditions. The Jets weren't effectively able to flip the field the rest of the half.
  • The Jets worked out Kris Brown last week, but opted to stick with Folk. Can't help but recall how reliable Jay Feely was in bad weather last year.
  • The Jets have gone eight straight first quarters without a touchdown.
  • The Jets surrendered 10 points and 163 yards to the Cincinnati Bengals in their previous game. In the first quarter against the Patriots, the Jets gave up 17 points and 105 yards.

AFC East High Energy Player of the Week

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
3:00
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» NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a player who gave his team a significant boost in Week 5.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jason Taylor admitted he roots a little harder than his teammates do for Nick Folk's success.

[+] EnlargeFolk
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireNick Folk connected on five field goals Monday night.
You see, the New York Jets had to part ways with kicker Jay Feely so they could add Taylor to their roster because of peculiar free-agency rules in the uncapped season. The Jets signed Folk to replace the reliable Feely.

Jets fans held their collective breath.

"People had question marks about the kicker for whatever reason," Taylor said in the wee hours Tuesday morning, "and I think he's shutting everybody up."

With the Jets having trouble scoring touchdowns, Folk connected on all five of his field goal attempts in the Jets' 29-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at the Meadowlands. His longest kick was 53 yards.

Folk, a Pro Bowler in 2007, flamed out with the Dallas Cowboys last year after missing seven out of 11 kicks. Part of his problem was returning from a hip problem that originally was misdiagnosed.

He has missed only two kicks this year, but only one legitimately. A 61-yard attempt in Week 3 was blocked.

"That field goal kicker we picked up is not bad," Rex Ryan said.

Rapid Reaction: Jets 29, Vikings 20

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
12:33
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets seemed to dominate the Minnesota Vikings at times but outlasted them in the fourth quarter for a 29-20 victory at the Meadowlands.

What it means: The Jets strengthened their lead in the AFC East, pushing their record to 4-1 on a week the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins had byes.

What I liked: Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson made the Jets look like the ground-and-pound offense people expected. Greene ran 23 yards for their lone offensive touchdown. Tomlinson ran for 94 yards.

The Jets turned in a gutsy effort overall. They had their problems, scoring only one offensive touchdown, but the defense picked them up and made huge plays when it counted.

What I didn't like: The rain. It doused what should have been a great offensive matchup. The slippery ball was tough to throw and difficult to hold onto for most of the game.

The Jets' defense was everything it was supposed to be for three quarters. They generally snuffed Adrian Peterson and refused to let Randy Moss or Percy Harvin make an impact -- until the fourth quarter, that is.

Good Folk: The Jets took a gamble in the offseason by moving on from reliable veteran kicker Jay Feely and signing Nick Folk. The move allowed the Jets to sign outside linebacker Jason Taylor under the NFL's quirky uncapped-season rules. Folk has worked out, too. He drilled all five of his field-goal attempts, including a 53-yarder Monday night.

What's happening, Holmes: In his first game back from a four-game suspension, Jets receiver Santonio Holmes was used deep but he didn't make a huge difference. He caught three passes for 41 yards, and did gain a critical first down late in the fourth quarter.

What's next: The Jets play the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium in Week 6 before their bye in Week 7.

Jets start season more sloppy than super

September, 14, 2010
9/14/10
2:02
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Mark SanchezWilliam Perlman/US PresswireJets quarterback Mark Sanchez mustered just 74 passing yards against the Baltimore Ravens.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- So many yellow flags. They were strewn all over. They doomed the New York Jets in a 10-9 loss on Monday night.

There have been red flags with the Jets, too.

Not of the challenge variety, mind you. But maybe that's what they need, to be challenged a little more when it comes to discipline.

In the preseason, head coach Rex Ryan made a fiery speech to his players for exhibiting a lack of leadership and what he called "jackass" behavior. The scene was one of the most memorable from the "Hard Knocks" series, with Ryan's final words "now let's go eat a goddamn snack!"

Ryan was incensed partly because his players were eating McDonald's cheeseburgers during warmups for a public practice at Hofstra University.

Ryan addressed his team again Monday night. The Baltimore Ravens had eaten their lunch and wiped their mouths with the many yellow handkerchiefs lying around. The Ravens won by only a point, but the reason they won was troubling.

"That's not who we are," Ryan said. "That's not how we play. We pride ourselves on being one of the least penalized defenses in the league. Today was a joke."

Focus was a problem beyond penalties. Running back Shonn Greene fumbled twice, losing one. On their final offensive play -- fourth-and-10 from their own 31-yard line and with 41 seconds left -- tight end Dustin Keller made a catch near the sideline, no defender near him. With a clear look at the marker, he went out of bounds obviously short of the first down.

"That was Ripley's," Ryan said.

The Jets committed 15 penalties, 14 of which the Ravens accepted for 125 yards. They had nine penalties in the second quarter alone.

The Jets helped the Ravens set a franchise record with six first downs via penalty. The record was tied by halftime.

"It cost us the game really," Jets outside linebacker Jason Taylor said. "We played pretty darn well in a lot of situations. Maybe you can attribute it to a lack of discipline, but penalties that give up first downs are bad. We need to clean it up for sure."

The sheer number of penalties was bad enough. The situations were even more wretched.

Penalties gave the Ravens first downs on four plays that were third-and-9 or longer. A defensive holding call on rookie cornerback Kyle Wilson turned an incomplete pass on third-and-28 into a Ravens first down.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie was flagged four times for 43 yards, including a 28-yard pass interference on a third-and-9 incompletion.

"It's just inexcusable," said Taylor, who jumped offsides to turn a third-and-3 into a second-and-1. "We did more to give it away than we did to get beat. You can't blame anybody but yourselves. You have to look in the mirror and say: 'We did it to ourselves.' We lost the game 10-9 and had plenty of chances to win and shot ourselves in the foot."

Receiver Braylon Edwards wiped out a pair of plays that would have done the Jets a world of good. He was called for an illegal shift on a beautiful 33-yard strike from Mark Sanchez to Keller down the right sideline in the second quarter.

On a nifty up-the-middle maneuver to block a field goal, Edwards ran into Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff. The penalty gave the Ravens a first down on a drive that eventually ended with the game's only touchdown.

Another third-down penalty, of course, helped. On third-and-10, Wilson was charged with pass interference in the end zone to set up Willis McGahee's 1-yard touchdown run.

I asked linebacker Bart Scott what all the penalties said about the Jets.

"I don't know," Scott said. "You tell me."

Undisciplined? Unprepared?

"If that's what you want to say," he said. "Whatever you want to say."

That was the first impression the Jets made for 2010.

You have to wonder if the happy-funtime atmosphere Ryan condones is negatively impacting them. Ryan already has had to talk to his players at least twice about unprofessionalism and sloppiness.

[+] EnlargeKris Jenkins
John Munson/US PresswireNew York Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a knee injury.
The Jets have made several offseason moves that reduced their leadership presence in the locker room, parting with running back Thomas Jones, guard Alan Faneca and kicker Jay Feely, all character veterans. They also jerked fullback Tony Richardson around, cutting him and then re-signing him a week before the season.

More questions were raised this week about how the Jets conduct themselves. They created a stir Saturday with the way they treated Ines Sainz at practice and in the locker room.

Sainz wasn't taken seriously partly because she doesn't take her job seriously. She's promoted on the TV Azteca website as a reporter and a model and is known for showing up to events such as the Super Bowl media day and convincing players to do things like let her measure their muscles or give her a ride on their shoulder pads.

Nevertheless, the club was embarrassed. Jets owner Woody Johnson apologized to Sainz for the team's misbehavior and vowed his team would act with more class henceforth. The Association for Women in Sports Media has gotten involved. The NFL is investigating.

From an outsider's perspective, my own included, it would appear the Jets are running a loose ship.

Taylor scoffed at that idea.

"Hell, no," Taylor said. "Everyone's entitled to their opinion, I guess. But they're not on the ship."

In the same episode of Ryan's "goddamn snack" speech, Taylor showed up late for two practices. Each time, Taylor's coaches laughed off his tardiness.

Last year at Gillette Stadium, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick kicked four players off the premises for showing up a few minutes late to a team meeting on a wintry day when the roads were treacherous. Three of them were Pro Bowlers: Randy Moss, Adalius Thomas and Derrick Burgess.

The Jets have a short week to get ready for the Patriots this Sunday.

We'll see who has the most fun.

Jets continue to whack veteran leaders

September, 5, 2010
9/05/10
9:11
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From the starting lineup of their regular-season finale, the New York Jets have lopped 77 seasons of experience.

No wonder head coach Rex Ryan was bemoaning a lack of leadership in the latest episode of "Hard Knocks."

On Sunday, the Jets released veteran fullback Tony Richardson -- a day after he survived the cutdown deadline for the 53-man roster.

Richardson is trying to play a 16th NFL season. He was outplayed by rookie John Conner, but it was clear watching "Hard Knocks" the Jets coaching staff viewed Richardson as highly important to the 2010 cause. He was considered perhaps the most prominent leader in the locker room.

"Each season, there are difficult choices when constructing the 53-man roster, and this year is no exception," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said in a statement. "We appreciate Tony's contributions and leadership over the past two seasons and have nothing but the highest respect for him as a person and as a player."

The Jets also waived running back Chauncey Washington and receiver David Clowney. The dismissals cleared way for three waiver pickups: receiver Patrick Turner from the Miami Dolphins, tackle Patrick Brown from the Minnesota Vikings and defensive tackle Marcus Dixon from the Dallas Cowboys.

Richardson joined a long list of veterans who aren't around from a roster that was good enough to get the Jets to the AFC Championship Game, among them running back Thomas Jones (10 seasons), guard Alan Faneca (12 seasons), defensive end Marques Douglas (nine seasons), kicker Jay Feely (nine seasons) and long snapper James Dearth (nine seasons).

In fact, of the 10 most experienced players on the Jets' final roster last year, including injured reserve, only three remain: right tackle Damien Woody, nose tackle Kris Jenkins and defensive end Shaun Ellis.

Granted, the Jets did add veterans via free agency. Quarterback Mark Brunell is entering his 18th season, running back LaDainian Tomlinson his 10th and pass-rusher Jason Taylor his 14th. But all of them were signed with the intention to be backups.

You have to wonder whether the Jets have over-tinkered their roster.

Great Debate: Are the Jets the real deal?

September, 1, 2010
9/01/10
11:06
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video
One of the burning questions -- like an inferno -- entering the 2010 season is whether or not the New York Jets are the real deal.

They came within 30 minutes of reaching the Super Bowl last season, and they've loaded up for another run. They've added LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes, Jason Taylor and Antonio Cromartie among others to a team that was atop the NFL in rushing offense and total defense in 2009.

Expectations are so high that anything short of a deep playoff run will be a failure. Yet there are all sorts of ways to imagine a collapse. All-world cornerback Darrelle Revis hasn't signed. Sophomore quarterback Mark Sanchez might not be mature enough. Chemistry concerns exist.

ESPN.com AFC East blogger Tim Graham and ESPN national correspondent Sal Paolantonio hash out whether or not the Jets have what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
Tony Kurdzuk/US PresswireDepth at cornerback is a huge question for Rex Ryan and the Jets.
Tim Graham: Seven months ago, we witnessed a shift in the AFC East. The combination of the Jets winning two playoff games on the road and the Patriots getting bombed out of the first round already put me in a comfortable place when it came to the future of the division. I realize the Jets caught a lot of breaks last year and snuck into the postseason by playing the Colts' and Bengals' reserves. The Jets' playoff opponents missed five straight field goals. But the Jets got there and won when it counted, gaining invaluable confidence and experience. I thought the Jets would be the team to beat in 2010 then, and they've gotten better over the offseason.

Sal Paolantonio: The Jets have definitely improved in a number of areas. First of all, depth at cornerback is going to be a huge factor. Rex Ryan learned a painful lesson in the AFC Championship Game, when injuries slowed down linebacker Bart Scott and decimated his secondary. His pass rush was there against Peyton Manning, but without the coverage on the back end, the Colts passing game was just too relentless and precise. That's why it was crucial to draft Kyle Wilson in the first round and acquire Antonio Cromartie, who had a marvelous training camp. Depth in the secondary, especially with Darrelle Revis currently AWOL, will be key if the Jets are going to advance deep into the postseason.

TG: You're absolutely correct, Sal. The Jets have bolstered their secondary considerably from last year, which strengthens my belief they're for real -- even if the Revis holdout lasts through training camp or into the season. They're deep enough with Cromartie, Wilson and Dwight Lowery. Granted, they won't be as good against the run because Revis is a superior tackler compared to Cromartie, but coverage will allow the Jets to execute their normal defensive game plan. They finished No. 1 in total defense, scoring defense and pass defense last year and then brought in reinforcements. Remember, the Jets finished atop the heap without nose tackle Kris Jenkins for their last 13 games (postseason included). They've added pass-rush specialist Jason Taylor, and the overlooked acquisition of safety Brodney Pool will make them better, too.

SP: But, Tim, the Jets defense was helped considerably last year by a ball-control offense that played a superior field-position game. Translation? You need a productive running game or -- as Rex Ryan calls it -- "ground and pound." The problem is that general manager Mike Tannenbaum jettisoned Thomas Jones. He's taken his 14 touchdowns and 331 carries with him to Kansas City. Now, Ryan is going to ask sophomore running back Shonn Greene to pick up the slack -- to go from 108 carries in his rookie campaign of 2009 to the doorstep of 300, depending on how much gas LaDainian Tomlinson has left in the tank. Remember, the Jets ran the ball 59 percent of the time last season -- more than any other team in the league. The running game was their true strength in 2009. In 2010, it could be a weakness they can't afford. And then, this field-position approach needs a reliable kicker. Again, Tannenbaum allowed Jay Feely to walk out the door and left special-teams guru Mike Westhoff to steady the shaky leg of Nick Folk. Iffy.

TG: I'll grant you Folk doesn't engender the same kind of confidence as Feely did, but coming back too soon from hip surgery is a big reason Folk struggled with the Cowboys and eventually got cut last year. Plus, the need for a clutch kicker might be a tad overstated. Of the Jets' nine regular-season victories, none were by less than six points. In fact, the two games in which they truly needed their field-goal unit to bail them out (Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills and Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons), they lost. As for the running game, Greene is no sure thing, but the Doak Walker Award winner was a star in the playoffs. Tomlinson has his question marks, but he has shown a spark in the preseason. Tomlinson's value will be as a receiver out of the backfield, something the Jets didn’t have after Leon Washington went down with a compound leg fracture. The Jets looked at their backfield and saw two players -- Greene and Jones -- with the same rugged style. Greene is younger and cheaper. The Jets finished dead last with only 197 yards on passes thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage. Tomlinson still can help in that regard.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Saed Hindash/US PresswireThanks to some offseason acquisitions, Mark Sanchez has more weapons in his arsenal this season.
SP: Well, I will grant you this, Tim, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and sophomore quarterback Mark Sanchez certainly have more options on offense this year. I think Son of Marty Ball could reach puberty this season. The L.T. option will make Sanchez more comfortable when he gets into trouble. Dumping off the ball to Tomlinson will certainly cut down on his interceptions. Sanchez looked very impressive when I saw him early in camp. He had a clear idea of where the ball is going and appears seamless and confident. But the most impressive guy on the offensive side of the football, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, will be MIA (serving a league suspension) for the first four games of the year. I think Schotty wants to throw the ball down the field more, getting away from the dominantly right-handed, play-action passing game that limited the Jets last season. In Holmes' absence, the Jets need Braylon Edwards to be a lot more than the pedestrian possession receiver he was last season. And right now, Edwards is listed by most mock fantasy football draft boards below Julian Edelman. Ouch.

TG: Let's not forget two other targets who round out one of the deeper groups of passing options. At this time last year, Jerricho Cotchery was the Jets' top target. He has caught 82 passes twice in the past four seasons and gained 1,130 yards in 2008. He's a talented player who would be a go-to guy for some other teams. Less than a year later, he's the Jets' third option. And don't overlook tight end Dustin Keller. When you look at his stat line from last season, you probably aren't overly impressed. But consider he caught a touchdown pass in each of their three playoff games. He'll be a threat in this offense.

SP: I was around this Jets team practically every day during last season's late run, and I have spent some time at their training camp at SUNY Cortland. There is no doubt this is a playoff-caliber team with that same swagger. But I only really see one more regular season win than last year, making them 10-6 -- if they successfully navigate the first month and a half of a very tough schedule. Four of their first six games are against legitimate playoff contenders: Baltimore, New England, at Miami and at home versus Minnesota. And the two other games are on the road: at Buffalo and at Denver. Then, after the bye, Green Bay comes into the Meadowlands, and I am not alone in seeing the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. So if you want to crown the Jets, go ahead and crown them. But I think Rex in the City, the Sequel, may not be playing in Dallas in February. In the AFC, there are four teams I would put ahead of the Jets right now -- the Ravens, Steelers, Colts and Chargers will all be more well-balanced on offense and defense and play more consistently throughout the season. The Jets defense will be suffocating and dominant at times. But unless he gets Darrelle Revis back, Rex Ryan will have a very difficult time sustaining the level of defensive play the Jets produced in 2009. I have the Colts and Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, facing either the Packers or the Saints in the Super Bowl. Those are my final four teams.

TG: You're giving the Jets one more victory on their regular-season record compared to last year's. So I don't think it's all that much of a stretch to see them winning one more game in the playoffs. That would put them in the Super Bowl. An organization good enough to achieve that is the real deal in my book.

Cardiac kid: Nick Folk gets pumping again

August, 20, 2010
8/20/10
5:15
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Nick FolkRich Kane/Icon SMIAn impressive family tree gives new Jets kicker Nick Folk perspective as he tries to revive his career.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- New York Jets kicker Nick Folk shakes his head at the idea of field goals being a matter of life and death.

Yes, they're important. Yes, making them is his job.

He understands they're a big deal.

Remember when he drilled a 53-yarder as time expired to push the Dallas Cowboys past the Buffalo Bills on "Monday Night Football" three years ago? Folk won the game single-footedly, converting four field goals and an onside kick on a night Tony Romo committed six turnovers.

Then Folk, two seasons removed from the Pro Bowl, found himself out of work in December because he missed too many kicks.

Still, a child didn't die on his operating table.

Folk can find proper perspective in the shade under his prodigious family tree. His mother is a pediatrician. His uncle is a trauma surgeon. His aunt is a specialty obstetrician. His grandmother was an anesthesiologist who invented a laryngoscope to intubate patients. His grandfather was a ground-breaking thoracic surgeon.

"They play with life and death every day," Folk said after a recent training camp practice in SUNY Cortland. "I just sit down and think 'I missed a field goal today. In retrospect, it's not that bad.' A doctor makes a mistake and takes someone's life pretty easily."

Folk casually claimed his grandfather invented bypass surgery. That's not true. But Quentin Stiles did write the book. He was the lead author of "Myocardial Revascularization: A Surgical Atlas" in 1976.

Rene Favaloro is credited as the heart bypass originator at the Cleveland Clinic in 1967. A year earlier in Los Angeles, Stiles said he was grafting coronary arteries and performing bypass surgeries on dogs. He just couldn't convince people to try it. Favaloro found brave patients, and the results popularized what is now a common procedure, opening the door for Stiles and other doctors around the world.

"In the early days of heart surgery, one out of every 20 of them died," Stiles said from his home in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. "Especially working on children, that was tough on you. You can't let emotions get to you. You had to do it, and the only way that you live with yourself if they died was knowing you did your best and nobody else could have done it any better.

"When you make the difference between somebody living and dying, it makes kicking field goals seem a little different."

Folk's cousin, Blake Robinson, provides additional perspective. Robinson turned 11 in June and already has undergone four brain surgeries. He has a neurofibromatosis tumor on his optic nerve. As a constant reminder, Folk wears a blue bracelet for the Children's Tumor Foundation.

"I know football means a lot," Folk said, "but it is just a game. I have to keep that in mind to make sure that I have fun and enjoy the time I have to play this game. It's not always going to last."

With all that in mind, Stiles said he simply shrugged when Folk missed his final kick for the Cowboys last season.

The family was together on Mammoth Mountain in Northern California when the Cowboys played the undefeated New Orleans Saints in Week 15. Unable to get the NFL Network where they were staying, they gathered at Grumpy's Sports Bar to watch the game.

Folk was a heart attack waiting to happen, having missed at least one attempt the five previous games.

"That was a little rough," recalled Folk's mother, Kathy, the pediatrician who couldn't do anything for her son that night. "I ended up pacing much of the game and listening to Cowboys fans get pretty vocal against him."

With the game in doubt and the Saints storming back with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, Folk had the chance to give the Cowboys a 10-point lead with 2:19 to play. He missed a 24-yard attempt.

Badly.

With his family at Grumpy's.

"They were screaming 'Get rid of him!' " Kathy Folk said. "At that point, I couldn't blame them.

"Gut wrenching. My heart just broke for him."

The Saints took over and managed nine plays over the final 2:16 of the game, but the Cowboys' defense held on for the victory. The Cowboys, however, lost faith in Folk. They cut him the next day.

What had happened to Folk, a kicker with a reputation for his steely nerve? He was a Pro Bowler in 2007 and made 91 percent of his kicks in 2008.

[+] EnlargeNick Folk
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesJay Ratliff (90) consoles Nick Folk after Folk missed a field goal against the Chiefs.
He was labeled damaged goods, a kicker with a psychological problem.

"I knew it wasn't that, because that's not Nick," Kathy Folk said. "Tough as steel. At Arizona they described him as having ice running through his veins."

There was a reason for Folk's troubles last season. As inconceivable as it sounds, considering his family owns more stethoscopes than most closets contain dress shirts, Folk might have been done in by a misdiagnosis.

Folk had a problem with his right hip that the Cowboys diagnosed as a flexor after the 2008 season. Treatment didn't help the problem, but he trusted the Cowboys' doctors, even arguing with his mother about it.

"I kept telling him 'Go back and get a hip CT or MRI.' We knew," Kathy Folk said. "It was ironic, and it was frustrating to say the least."

Folk finally relented. Another examination showed he had a torn labrum, a more serious condition that required surgery. He had the labrum repaired in May 2009.

Proper recovery time would have pushed him right up against the start of training camp, but the Cowboys -- despite Folk owning the highest field-goal accuracy rate among active kickers at the time -- drafted David Buehler in the fifth round. Folk claimed he rushed his rehab and came back too soon.

"They thought he was washed up, but he still was in his recovery," Stiles said. "There are 26 muscles that control the hip. When they operate on a hip and you can’t do anything because of the swelling and pain, your muscles get all weak.

"They can put you in therapy to strengthen the muscles you know about, but when it comes to the smaller muscles that control fine motion, they don't know how to rehabilitate those. You do it by kicking over and over and over. Nick didn't have the time to recover and [Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones didn't have that kind of patience."

The Jets took a gamble when they declined to re-sign reliable kicker Jay Feely. The move was necessary to bring in outside linebacker Jason Taylor under the NFL's quirky "final eight" rules, which limited divisional playoff participants from signing unrestricted free agents heading into the uncapped season.

The Jets found Folk in the rummage bin and gave him a shot. Head coach Rex Ryan openly mocked Folk's performances in early offseason workouts. But Folk gained consistency as the summer progressed.

"The biggest thing is to clear your head," said Folk, who has been working with the Jets' sports psychologist, Sara Hickmann. "That's the biggest thing is to go out there with a clear feeling and have fun. I lost that last year.

"It can start to play with you, especially if you feel that everything is going smoothly when it's not. Things changed biomechanically because I had surgery. I felt everything was right, but it started to creep up. It started getting to me. It can happen pretty quick."

Ryan's not laughing about Folk's leg anymore. The coach has expressed nothing but confidence lately. Special-teams coach Mike Westhoff has tweaked Folk's approach on field goals, and the Jets like the way Folk's handling kickoffs.

"I want to go on record to say I'm officially not worried about our Pro Bowl kicker anymore," Ryan said at the start of training camp.

Here's another tidbit about Folk's family tree that seems appropriate.

Folk is a direct descendant from the Mayflower. His mother's umpteenth-great grandfather was William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony -- the man who made a proclamation to institute Thanksgiving.

Camp Confidential: New York Jets

August, 18, 2010
8/18/10
1:30
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ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 7

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- There's a healthy chance you're already sick of the New York Jets.

You're sick of their loudmouth coach, sick of their hotshot quarterback, sick of their trash-talking defense, sick of their wheeler-dealer general manager, sick of hearing about their HBO series, sick of their delirious fans.

Get used to it all. They're not going away.

Every team wants to kiss the Lombardi Trophy, but the Jets have drawn the disdain of 31 other teams and their fans by being so cocksure about their plans.

Whether the Jets win a championship or crash and burn on their approach, they'll remain the NFL's most fascinating team in 2010. Win or lose, they're going to be a season-long story.

"That's our own expectations," Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said on the first day of training camp at SUNY Cortland. "That's why we feed off of it. It's our own mentality, that Super Bowl-champion mentality. That's what we want, and that's what we're striving for. ... Now, we need to do it every day and prove it."

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireThe Jets are hoping Mark Sanchez has matured as a quarterback heading into his second season.
1. Can Sanchez handle the pressure? There's a lot of skepticism surrounding the man at the controls. Sanchez threw 20 interceptions last year as a rookie. He fumbled 10 times and lost three of them. He was so befuddled at one point, the Jets had to give him a color-coded wristband to help him comprehend the plays.

The Jets hope he matured considerably over the offseason. To help him along as a passer, they added receivers Santonio Holmes and Laveranues Coles and out-of-the-backfield target LaDainian Tomlinson.

Sanchez still has to make the right calls and decisions. Coaches and teammates note his indefatigable work ethic.

And there's no disputing how impressive he appeared down the 2009 homestretch. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer corralled him in time to salvage the season. Although Sanchez had more than 20 attempts in only three games after Thanksgiving, the Jets won six of those eight outings, two of them on the road in the playoffs.

Sanchez will need to shoulder much more responsibility this year. How he handles being the leading man of a Super Bowl contender will determine the Jets' fate.

2. How will Darrelle Revis' holdout affect the season? There's a belief among the Jets their defense will take care of itself. As nose tackle Kris Jenkins pointed out before training camp began, fans swooned when he suffered a season-ending knee injury six games into last season, but the Jets still finished with the NFL's top-rated total defense, scoring defense and pass defense.

Revis, of course, played an integral part. Maybe the most integral part.

All he did was establish himself as the preeminent shutdown cornerback. Revis was so good at shutting down the other team's top receivers, the Jets never had to worry about double-covering. That, in effect, gave them an extra defender to use however they wanted.

The Jets have cornerback depth to help them cope if Revis holds out into the season. They traded for cornerback Antonio Cromartie, a sensational cover corner (though not nearly the run defender Revis is). Dwight Lowery and first-round draft pick Kyle Wilson are capable.

But none of them are as good as Revis is. His return would provide invaluable peace of mind.

[+] EnlargeSantonio Holmes
AP Photo/Bill KostrounSantonio Holmes was just one of the Jets' high-profile offseason acquisitions.
3. Did the Jets ruin a good thing with too many roster moves? The Jets came within a half of the Super Bowl, taking a lead into the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts -- in Lucas Oil Stadium, no less. It was a young team on the make, the type of roster you'd like to keep as intact as possible.

Or so you would think. Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum got rid of a few starters with big voices in the locker room. Gone were the lead running back on the NFL's top ground attack (Thomas Jones), a perennial Pro Bowl left guard (Alan Faneca), a starting safety (Kerry Rhodes) and a respected kicker (Jay Feely).

The Jets made some high-profile acquisitions, too. But perhaps the two biggest moves, Holmes and Cromartie, were poaching other teams' misfits. They also signed Tomlinson and outside linebacker Jason Taylor, classy veterans but with question marks about what they have left.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Other than references to his nickname, not much was written or said about Kentucky fullback John Conner when the Jets drafted him in the fifth round. The Jets had re-signed Tony Richardson for a 17th season, and they wouldn't bring him back if he wasn't going to keep his job, right?

Richardson might be on the bubble. Ryan has been diplomatic in speaking about Richardson's value to the Jets as a locker-room leader, but there's no doubt Ryan loves The Terminator. Conner has been a thumper in camp. Conner will make the team, and keeping two fullbacks is a luxury.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Revis' holdout is a shame on multiple levels. Both sides are standing by principles that are fully understandable. Revis is the NFL's best defender and wants to be paid as such. The Jets, meanwhile, have a signed contract that lasts three more years and refuse to consider as any kind of standard the Oakland Raiders' ridiculous deal with Nnamdi Asomugha, the league's highest-paid cornerback.

Unless they can reach a compromise or the Jets win the Super Bowl without him, both sides will forever regret this dispute. The Jets have a chance to win their first championship in four decades, and Revis might never get this kind of shot to win a title regardless of where he finishes his career.

OBSERVATION DECK
Vernon Gholston
William Perlman/The Star Ledger/US PresswireNew York is comfortable with Vernon Gholston at defensive end in passing situations.

  • An overlooked roster maneuver that could prove significant is the decision not to bring back trusty long-snapper James Dearth. The Jets brought in youngster Tanner Purdum, who has been inconsistent. Jets kicker Nick Folk doesn't need his rhythm disrupted.
  • I'm not saying Braylon Edwards' problems with drops have been solved, but he displayed great hands in the practices I saw. Maybe receivers coach Henry Ellard has helped him figure it out.
  • Undrafted rookie tight end Jeff Cumberland looks like the total package at times. He's 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds at his Illinois pro day. He does make an occasional mental error, but he popped out in team drills.
  • Shonn Greene will have to catch a few passes to keep defenses honest. Greene has terrible hands, something he and Ryan have joked about. But if he's going to be the featured back, he'll need to grab one here or there.
  • I'm hesitant to believe Ryan's glowing comments on Vernon Gholston two training camps in a row, but I will say Gholston seems to have a role he can handle as a defensive end on passing downs. He can just chase the quarterbacks. But after two years at outside linebacker, he is versatile enough to drop into coverage if the Jets want to get tricky.
  • It's fun to listen to backup quarterback Mark Brunell bark out the signals. He's a master of the hard count, a skill Sanchez is trying to learn. When Brunell walks to the line of scrimmage, there's a good chance the equipment managers will commit a false start.
  • Overheard from a fan along the rail at SUNY Cortland: "Check out No. 58 in his sweatpants. You know Shonn Greene's going to run him over. Guy's got no shot." Sweatpants in the sweltering heat aside, Jets fans need to remember No. 58 is starting outside linebacker Bryan Thomas. He swapped out of his usual No. 99 for Taylor.
  • I predict the second-most important defensive acquisition -- behind Cromartie -- won't be Taylor, but safety Brodney Pool. The free-agent pickup from Cleveland is dangerous on a blitz and will get his hands on some passes.
  • The New England Patriots didn't make a mistake when they dumped quarterback Kevin O'Connell last year, 16 months after drafting him in the third round. The Detroit Lions claimed him on waivers and traded him to the Jets. They kept him on the roster as their fourth quarterback. He would appear to be in line for a promotion to third string, but O'Connell has looked no better this summer than he did when he was fresh out of San Diego State.

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