AFC East: Matt Stover
Cimini writes the Jets will audition an unnamed free agent Tuesday but added it could be a contingency plan rather than for an immediate switch. The Jets have reported no injuries for Folk, but he has been unreliable lately on field goals and kickoffs.
Folk has missed at least one field goal in four of the Jets' past five games. He missed three in the Week 10 overtime road victory over the Cleveland Browns.
In Thursday's win over the Cincinnati Bengals, he missed a 44-yard field goal attempt, had an extra point bounce in off the upright and dropped three of his five kickoffs at the 14-yard line.
As harrowing as Jets games have been, they might not be able to trust Folk in Monday night's big rematch with the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium.
Notable unattached kickers include Matt Stover, Kris Brown (missed a kick for the San Diego Chargers that would've forced overtime with the Patriots in Week 7), Jeff Reed (recently cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers) and John Carney (released by the New Orleans Saints in October).
Stover is an intriguing possibility. Jets head coach Rex Ryan often refers to Stover glowingly when dropping an anecdote about his days as the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator.
At training camp in August, I asked Ryan if he had any great stories about a veteran player sabotaging a rookie's development to keep his standing on the roster. Here was Ryan's answer:
"The classic guy for that is Matt Stover," Ryan said. "Matt Stover kicked for 15 years and can still kick today, I'm sure. But you bring another kicker in, the guy would be booming the ball. It was unbelievable. The guy was just killing it. Every kickoff 8 yards deep, launching field goals.
"By the time Stover was done with [the tryout kickers], you never knew if they were kicking right-footed or left-footed. He was legendary for it."
O'Brien gave his take on where the Jets' offense stands with second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez.
"Everything's new when you're a rookie," O'Brien said. "Everything jumps at you, the speed of the game. What they did well, I think they go back and look at it, they ran the ball really well. When you run the ball well and don't turn the ball over and you have a defense that's going to create turnovers for you and you just be consistent, you're going to score a lot of points. You don't want to get into a situation where you try to do too much.
"You want to be able to run the ball and pound it. You want to complete your third-down passes, but then you have the whole play-action-pass game that's going to open up for you. That's where they're going to be their best."
A big story line exists at left guard, and the script looks more like a buddy movie than a drama.
Without animus, second-year lineman Matt Slauson and rookie Vladimir Ducasse are competing for the vacancy created by the Jets' decision to cut perennial Pro Bowl left guard Alan Faneca.
Slauson, a sixth-round draft choice who played in only three games last year, has the edge for now. He has been working more with the first-team and will start in Monday night's preseason opener against the New York Giants.
But the Jets drafted Ducasse in the second round with the intention of seeing him succeed.
"He's going to be a really good player," Slauson said after Saturday morning's session at SUNY Cortland. "Once he gets everything down, he's going to be an absolute freak out there."
While camp competitions can alienate teammates and sometimes generate bitterness, that hasn't been the case with Slauson and Ducasse. They've been spending considerable time together away from the practice field.
"I don't want to make this about trying to mess the other guy up because then you're not going to have the best player out there," Slauson said. "I want to say 'Look, Vlad, we both want the job. One of us is going to get it, and it's going to be the better one of us. If that's you, great. If it's me, I'll be stoked.'
"But if I'm out there and trying to tell him the wrong stuff to do so I'll look better, it isn't going to help us at all."
The job is an important one. The Jets have one of the NFL's best offensive lines. It paved the way for the league's top rushing attack last year and must be able to keep defenses off young quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Slauson has benefited from his long relationship with Jets offensive line coach Bill Callahan. They're entering their sixth season together. Callahan was Nebraska's head coach when he recruited Slauson there.
"He's a big, mean dude," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "Both these guys are tough guys. ... But last year when we got in preseason games he was knocking guys all over the place. I was impressed then: 'Hey, we got a guy here.' So we kept him on the roster, and he's been developed.
"Could he be the long-term solution there at guard? I believe he could. We'll see. We're lucky. We got a young guy that's really coming on in Ducasse, but I think Slauson's ready to be a starter in this league."
In light of Slauson's supportive philosophy toward Ducasse, I asked Ryan if he had a favorite story of a veteran sabotaging his competition.
"The classic guy for that is Matt Stover," Ryan said with a wide grin. "You bring another kicker in, the guy would be booming the ball? It was unbelievable. Guy would be killing it, every kickoff 8 yards deep, launching field goals. By the time Stover was done with him, you never knew if they were kicking right-footed or left-footed.
"This happened every single year. It was amazing. And we had some good kickers come through there. He was the horse whisperer. It was crazy. He'd kick a ball sidewise or something, and Stover would come up there and barely get it over the goal post like he did for 15 years."
|James Lang/US Presswire|
|Jay Feely relishes the opportunity to kick game-winning field goals.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- When discussing which New York Jets player will be most critical to winning or losing on a weekly basis, the candidates are obvious: Mark Sanchez, Kellen Clemens, Thomas Jones, Bart Scott, Kris Jenkins.
Mostly overlooked is kicker Jay Feely.
The Jets seem like a team that will play a lot of tight games down to the final gun. They intend to rely on their defense and a relentless running attack. There's a good chance they'll have a rookie starting quarterback.
Games frequently could be decided by Feely's right foot.
New coach Rex Ryan knows the value of a trustworthy kicker. In Ryan's four seasons as Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, they led the AFC in field goals attempted and made.
"That's how they play," Feely said of Ryan's time with the Ravens. "They were going to play great defense. They weren't going to turn the ball over. They were going to win games through special teams.
"Matt Stover won a lot of games for them. The year they won the Super Bowl, they had six games where they didn't score a touchdown."
Ryan wasn't the defensive coordinator then, just the defensive line coach. But his experience in winning a Super Bowl ring cemented his philosophy.
Even more remarkable were Stover's numbers in the fourth quarter. He converted 96.6 percent of those kicks, missing once on 29 attempts. In the final two minutes, Stover was 8 of 9.
"Rex and I have talked about that," Feely said. "That was a priority for him, to have a kicker that he trusted. I liked that.
"I love playing for him. I love his mentality that he's not scared to say what he believes. I think the players rally around that."