New York Jets: Jason Taylor
Stew Milne/US PresswireJason Taylor, in his 14th NFL season, is one win away from the Super Bowl.
That's what happened on a July afternoon in 1990, when Woodland Hills High School coach George Novak was driving home from a morning practice and saw a familiar face across the street.
It was Jason Taylor, a kid Novak recognized from his previous stint as coach at Steel Valley, a high school in the same district at Taylor's middle school.
Taylor, who'd since been pulled out of middle school and was being home-schooled by his mother, was landscaping in Novak's neighbor's yard on that Western Pennsylvania afternoon, so the veteran coach went over to say hello.
"I said, 'Why don't you come out for the football team?'" Novak recalled Wednesday.
"I told him that I was home-schooled, I don't play football," Taylor remembered. "I had never played football at that point."
The coach invited the 6-1, 165-pound Taylor to practice that night.
"He looked athletic, but he wasn't a giant kid," said Novak, whose program has produced six NFL players. "But once he was down at the stadium, we saw that he had potential. He caught a few passes. I said, 'Give him some spikes. He's on the team.'"
After gaining approval from the school board, Taylor played two seasons at Woodland Hills. He lined up at tight end, wide receiver, safety and corner, earning all-conference honors as a senior.
But it was Taylor's prowess on the basketball court that convinced then-Akron assistant Bob Junko to offer him a football scholarship.
"I saw on the film that he had size and speed, but he wasn't playing that much," Junko said in a phone interview on Wednesday. "When I watched him play basketball, you saw that he was a great competitor. He played that game relentlessly, at a speed that those other guys weren't playing at. I knew all we had to do was water him a little bit and he'd grow like wildfire."
After receiving the scholarship offer, Taylor was initially rebuffed by the NCAA because of his home schooling. After several weeks of legal proceedings, the collegiate governing body granted him eligibility.
He was forced to redshirt his freshman season, but once Taylor hit the field, his prowess as a linebacker/defensive end drew the Dolphins' attention. Miami selected him in the third round of the 1997 NFL draft.
Fourteen seasons later, the skinny landscaper from outside of Pittsburgh has amassed 132.5 quarterback sacks, the eighth-highest total in league history.
Taylor, who practiced on Thursday after sitting out with a concussion on Wednesday, is three days away from playing in his first career conference championship game. He'll take the field Sunday for the New York Jets against his hometown Steelers -- the team he grew up rooting for -- just miles from where his football career started with a simple hello from Coach Novak.
Said Taylor: "He got me to come out, and who would have thought, however many years [later] ... here I am."
The Jets wrapped up their week of practice at Florham Park this afternoon and got on the plane to head to Denver.
Jets CB Darrelle Revis is listed as questionable on the injury report, but will make the trip. Revis and LB Calvin Pace (foot) were limited in practice. Pace said he would play, but Revis was not sure what the final call will be after two good practices.
"We'll have a light practice out there and by then we'll be able to make our decision," Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
You can read more about that and Revis' speeding citation for going 80 mph in a 40 mph zone here.
S Jim Leonhard (elbow), C Nick Mangold (shoulder), OL Brandon Moore (hamstring) and LB Jamaal Westerman (ankle) practiced fully and are probable.
It was a typical Friday, the practice and mood was light. NT Kris Jenkins was there to watch practice and talked afterwards about his future after the ACL injury.
QB Mark Sanchez, LB Jason Taylor and C Nick Mangold got green terrycloth robes with the numbers on the front and back, and Sanchez tried to prank Taylor by hanging a picture of former NBA player Reggie Miller over his locker. In the pic, Miller looks a lot like Taylor, but it was from ESPN's The Body issue, so a PR representative removed it before Taylor saw it.
Who says they aren't trying to keep it professional?
In 1997, Jason Taylor had just been drafted by Miami. He faced Brett Favre in the first preseason game of his career, and it was a moment he’ll never forget.
“It was right after Brett signed his contract to be the highest paid player in the NFL,” Taylor said. “It was my first sack, even though it didn’t count it was a preseason sack, I was obviously very fired up about that.”
He might have fewer opportunities to get another sack on the QB, who will turn 41 on Sunday. Taylor had been starting at linebacker due to Calvin Pace’s absence. Pace broke his foot in a preseason game but will return this week.
“I’m sure I’ll play less,” Taylor said. “He’s the starter at those position so he’ll get back in the rotation and I’ll go back to working with (Bryan Thomas) and Calvin in the rotation. I’m glad he’s back and healthy. He’s looking good.”
In the years since he joined the league, Taylor has watched plenty of film on Favre and has gotten to know his tendencies. He knows what Favre’s strengths are, and said he is a bit more durable than your average player.
“No quarterback likes to get hit,” Taylor said. “...Brett’s been around long enough he will stand there and take a hit.”
Taylor said that Favre is an unusually effective quarterback because he can throw angles that other QBs wouldn’t even attempt. The way he can hit a receiver throwing across his body, Taylor said there are no dead areas of the field, every part has to be defended.
“Playing against a guy like Brett is pretty stressful because you know the guys going to make every throw on the field,” Taylor said.
As to whether Favre has lost a step to age, or if he would be less impressive because of the tendinitis in his elbow that has limited Favre in Vikings practice.
“Trust me he has tendonitis in more places than his elbows,” Taylor said.
Taylor will have to endure a commemoration of the Jets win over Miami 10 years ago, dubbed the Monday Night Miracle, this Monday at the New Meadowlands. He said the game always seems to be on replay when he turns on the television late at night.
“It was a Monday Night Miracle up here and a nightmare in Miami,” Taylor said.
But to his credit, Taylor said that he’d still rather watch a replay of the painful game than an episode of “Jersey Shore.”
“He’ll play enough,” Ryan said. “You guys will get to see what I know.”
Ryan is confident that Pryce will be a helpful addition to the Jets defensive line and talked a little more about the role he expects to see Pryce fill this weekend against the Bills. Ryan said that Pryce, who was cut on Wednesday by the Ravens, won’t play as many snaps as he normally would, but the team will have plays dialed up for him.
“When I was watching him on tape, the big thing when you have a veteran player is can they move anymore, can they run and all that?” Ryan said. “He definitely showed that on tape that he can still move.”
Ryan said that he will be using Pryce the same way he used to use him in Baltimore when Ryan was the team’s defensive coordinator, but did say Thursday that he expects him to be playing in passing situations. Ryan maintains that Pryce, who played in all three games this season for the Ravens but did not record a tackle, is in great shape and he should be fine.
“We go back and look at what I said about Trevor before we played him,” Ryan said Thursday. “I thought he was the best, or if not the best, one of the best inside pass rushers in the game and I still believe that.”
Pryce fully participated in Friday’s practice, saying there were no limitations and there was no acclimation period as he is already used to Ryan’s defensive schemes. In terms of playing, he said he has not yet been told, but remembers Ryan doing things “kind of like flying by the seat of your pants,” meaning he could be thrown into the game at any moment.
Pryce, who has the fourth-most sacks of any active player with 90, is excited to join forces with Jason Taylor, the active sacks leader, and disrupt the quarterback.
“I’ll be given a chance to and it’s not so much getting to the quarterback it’s so much more than that,” Pryce said. “It’s making quarterbacks make bad decisions, making quarterbacks realize where you are. You’d be surprised how much pressure makes a difference, even more so than sacks sometimes because a sack is like a play that’s over, a pressure, now the quarterback is looking for you the rest of the game. It can affect him, that’s the way I look at it.”
CB Darrelle Revis (Hamstring)
OL Wayne Hunter (Shin)
LB Jamaal Westerman (Ankle)
C Nick Mangold (Shoulder)--limited in practice
LB Calvin Pace (Foot)--limited in practice
LB Jason Taylor (Elbow)--limited in practice
OL Damien Woody (Personal)--practiced in full
Pace, who returned to practice for the first time Wednesday after breaking his right foot, went through drills and gingerly participated in a defense-on-defense practice situation. It has not been determined yet whether he will play Sunday against Buffalo.
Revis, who's dealing with a hamstring issue that will keep him out of Sunday's game against the Bills, also participated in the defense vs. defense drill. (Update: Rex Ryan later classified Revis' work as individual drills.)
Linebacker Jason Taylor, who was limited yesterday with his elbow injury, was practicing as well.
Newly signed defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, who will wear No. 93, practiced with the team.
Corner Drew Coleman also appeared to be working with the first-string defense.
DID NOT PRACTICE
OT Wayne Hunter (shin) -- will not travel to Miami
LB Calvin Pace -- out vs. Miami
CB Darrelle Revis -- out vs. Miami
LIMITED IN PRACTICE (QUESTIONABLE FOR GAME)
C Nick Mangold -- expected to play
LB Jason Taylor -- expected to play
LB Jason Taylor, who who has been limited the last two days of practice with an elbow injury, was also practicing.
CB Darrelle Revis, who will not play Sunday, was riding a stationary bike.
The full practice report will be released later this afternoon.
Jets coach Rex Ryan thinks you will learn to appreciate Dolphins OLB Jason Taylor, who the Jets agreed to terms in principle with today and will sign with the team Wednesday morning.
"Well, I look at it this way: What was the kind of impact that Roger Clemens had?"
If you don't get the reference, and I'm sure you do, his point is that Yankee fans hated Roger Clemens when he was with the Red Sox, but came around when the pitcher started getting wins for New York.
Ryan was on a conference call to discuss the schedule, but took a lot of questions on Taylor as well. Here are some of the newsier bits.
Ryan was annoyed by the rumor that LG Alan Faneca, DE Shaun Ellis and OLB Bryan Thomas were being shopped.
"I'm just shocked that David Harris, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and Damien Woody weren't on that list as well," Ryan said. "I guess you can throw enough names out there that maybe you hit on one, so, whatever. Nice report."
However, he only felt compelled to deny the rumors specifically regarding Thomas.
What Ryan said about Taylor: "I remember telling Jason, I was kidding him, I said, ‘Hey Jason you know what's great? If you come here, we think we're going to have the No. 1 defense in football. If you don't come here, we think we're going to have the No. 1 defense in football.’ That's just the way we feel. The great thing is Jason is a very talented player. (He’s) been that way for years. He's got great length and the experience I think is really going to help us. Like I say, the ability to finish teams off in the fourth quarter is going to be critical. Jason's going to be a major contributor for us this year."
Rex Ryan on the schedule: "Obviously, I'd be lying if I said that there's nothing special about playing the Ravens. I spent ten years there, getting passed over as a head coach. That one's going to be special to me and we're opening up our stadium (in the) first prime time game ever in the history of that stadium. That one's going to be a big one. Then you go on and you play the Cleveland Browns. Eric Mangini, who cares. I want to play my brother (Rob Ryan) and that one's big to me for that reason as well.
Week 1: Ravens at Jets
Week 2: Patriots at Jets
Week 3: Jets at Dolphins
Week 4: Jets at Bills
Week 5: Vikings at Jets
Week 6: Jets at Broncos
Week 7: Bye
Week 8: Packers at Jets
Week 9: Jets at Lions
Week 10: Jets at Browns
Week 11: Texans at Jets
Week 12: Bengals at Jets
Week 13: Jets at Pats
Week 14: Dolphins at Jets
Week 15: Jets at Steelers
Week 16: Jets at Bears
Week 17: Bills at Jets
No, the Jets don’t open with the Dolphins. Despite the anticipation of matching up against Jason Taylor’s former team, complete with showtime wide receiver Brandon Marshall, that matchup will be in Miami on week 3 and again on Dec. 12 when the Jets host the Dolphins.
The NFL has given the Jets a worthy opponent in Week 1, when the Ravens will be the first opponent for the Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium on Monday night on ESPN. Rex Ryan’s former team will offer plenty of storylines, and a competitive game.
The Jets could face their old quarterback Brett Favre when the Vikings come to New York on Oct. 11, for another Monday night game. Favre has yet to reveal whether or not he plans to come back yet. In another matchup of familiar faces, the Jets are in Cleveland on Nov. 14, Eric Mangini's new home and where Ryan's brother is the defensive coordinator.
As for weather, the Jets won’t get a break from the cold late in the season. The visit to the Dolphins takes place on Sept. 26 and the last four games are, in order, hosting the Dolphins, traveling to Pittsburgh and Chicago, and closing the regular season when the Bills visit.
I pick the wins and losses. Keep in mind this is my first stab at this and I'm no Nostradamus.
Today we look at a high-need position for the Jets: safety. Here is the story and a look at the three top candidates at the spot.
Tonight at 7 the NFL releases the 2010 schedule, so you can check it out here and open another browser window with your preferred travel website and get a choice flight and hotel in Miami in (is it too much to hope?) December. We will have that fully covered with the news and analysis.
Jason Taylor could make a decision today. I was so bored just writing that, it's been a long wait.
And finally to the Pittsburgh quarterback.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he will announce the decision on suspending Ben Roethlisberger when he comes to it, whether or not it conflicts with the NFL Draft or the schedule being made public. He said he thinks he owes it to everyone to make it public rather than try to hold the news.
"You're a role model whether you like it or not," Goodell said on the ESPN's Mike & Mike this morning.
Up today we have a capsule on Jerry Hughes out of TCU, a candidate to fill the Jets pass rushing needs with the 29th pick of the NFL Draft.
Also, Jason Taylor returns from vacation today and could possibly make his decision. If after this much time he hasn't decided to make the jump to the Jets, I'd guess he's not going to. The Dolphins, with their stalling, have made it pretty clear how much they value Taylor, and the Jets need to know before draft day whether they have the OLB.
Get ready for a very NFL week. The schedule comes out tomorrow and the NFL Draft is a marathon Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Someone asked me if the Jets fans would have the stamina to make it out there live three straight days. I guess we will soon find out!
Starting today, ESPNNewYork.com is taking a look at the top two needs of the Jets and the Giants, and breaking down the best candidates at each position. Today, I look at what I think it the most pressing need -- a strong pass rusher. Jared Odrick is the top prospect there, and the Penn State DT will be in New York for the draft itself.
I targeted a pass rusher given the relative age of the D Line, and the fact that NT Kris Jenkins has struggled with injuries each of the last two seasons. Getting younger and versatile players into the system where they can be integrated into the system will serve the team in the years ahead.
When I was thinking about how to go about ranking needs, it looked like Jason Taylor was leaning toward coming to the Jets from Miami. If he did, the Jets could afford to go in a different direction with the first-round pick. Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum even said he'd like to have the Taylor situation resolved before the draft.
The longer it drags out however, the less likely Taylor's arrival seems. The OLB seems more interested in negotiating with Miami than in making a change.
In the coming days I'll take a look at the No. 2 need as I see it. Any guesses?
Mike Tannenbaum said he doesn't believe much in deadlines, but that he does want to have the issue of Dolphins OLB Jason Taylor resolved before the Jets need to decide who to chose with the 29th pick in the NFL Draft next Thursday.
"My expectations is we would have that situation resolved one way or the other," Tannenbaum said Thursday at the Jets' pre-draft press conference at the team's Florham Park training facility.
Tannenbaum added that he wasn't a fan of deadlines however. And didn't say that one had been given in this situation. But he did allow that whether or not Taylor was a Jet would make a difference in the draft, even if it was just as a tiebreaker in a decision at a certain pick.
"We’ve had good discussions with Jason and I don’t know what’s going to happen there," Tannenbaum said.
Taylor was at the Jets facility last week for two days. The Jets tried to convince Taylor to consider New York, showing him the New Meadowlands Stadium and introducing to current members of the team.
Taylor returned home to the Miami area to think it over, and his agent, Gary Wichard, said a decision wouldn't be made until at least mid-week. Having Taylor on the roster would mitigate the need to draft a pass rusher with a first or second round pick next Thursday.
There are several contradictory reports out on what Taylor will decide and when.
Tannenbaum also said the Jets were likely to look at a cornerback in the draft, and to go defense first. With Leon Washington's return and the addition of WR Santonio Holmes and RB LaDainian Tomlinson added during free agency, the offense has been well shored.