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Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Young players provide glimmer of hope If you look hard -- very hard -- there's a bit of a silver lining in the train wreck that is the Jets' season. Several young players, including LT Adrian Jones, SS Kerry Rhodes, CB Justin Miller, WR Jerricho Cotchery and K Mike Nugent, have gotten valuable playing time.

Star-Ledger Staff

That experience should help them next season as the Jets overhaul their offense and try to plug a hole at nose tackle, where they're expected to sign a veteran run-stuffer.

RB Cedric Houston and TE Joel Dreessen have also received playing time and figure in the Jets' long-term plans.

Perhaps the biggest surprise has been Jones, a second-year pro who started the season at right tackle, replacing the departed Kareem McKenzie, and switched to the left side in Week 5 after veteran Jason Fabini struggled. Jones, a former tight end in college, is extremely athletic and has the look of a player who can man the all-important position for the long term.

Rhodes, a rookie fifth-round pick, stood out almost immediately during off-season drills and won the starting job at strong safety in training camp. He has size, speed, range and good ball instincts. He's also a good tackler. This season Rhodes has 88 tackles, one interception and three passes defended. Opponents appear to be targeting second-year free safety Erik Coleman instead of Rhodes.

Miller, the last of the Jets' two second-round picks this season, has started the past four games in place of the injured David Barrett. The Jets like his aggressive, physical style and good one-on-one coverage skills and tackling. He has struggled in zone coverage, however. He has also shown some flashes on kickoff returns.

Cotchery, a second-year pro, has replaced the injured Wayne Chrebet as the third receiver and has shown he can get the job done. He has good speed, toughness and elusiveness. He can play the slot or flanker out wide. He has 11 catches for 121 yards, and should be a nice fit in the offense once the quarterback position is settled.

Nugent, a second-rounder, hasn't shown the big leg he did in college, in part because he's kicking the NFL's K-Balls, the new balls designed for kickers and more difficult to boot. He has hit 13 of 18 field goals and is developing a mental toughness. He plans to bulk up (he's 5-9, 182 pounds) in the off-season to add distance to his field goals and kickoffs.

Houston, a rookie sixth-round pick, has rushed for 75 yards on 17 carries (4.4 yards per carry), and Dreessen, also a sixth-rounder, has two catches for 24 yards. Both provide the Jets will young depth.


The Raiders (4-8), who lost 34-10 at San Diego last week, are expected to bench veteran QB Kerry Collins in favor of fifth-year pro Marques Tuiasosopo, who is more mobile. Collins, the former Giant, has thrown seven of his 10 interceptions in the past four games and Oakland has lost four of its past five games. Overall, Collins has hit 54.9 percent of his passes with 16 TDs. He has been sacked 32 times and has a 79.6 passer rating. The offensive line has struggled mightily, including RT Robert Gallery, who was drafted second overall in 2004.

Ex-Jets RB LaMont Jordan has rushed for 844 yards and nine TDs on 233 carries (3.6-yard average) but the pass-happy Raiders have been reluctant to commit to the run. Jordan (61 receptions, 493 yards, two TDs) leads the team in receptions, followed by WR Terry Porter (56-770-4). Collins and WR Randy Moss (45-771-5) haven't found a chemistry.

Defensively, the Raiders yield an average of 328.6 yards per game, tied for 21st in the NFL. DT Warren Sapp (rotator cuff) is out for the season and CB Charles Woodson (fibula) has been out since early in the season. DE Derrick Burgess has 11 sacks.


The Jets must contain Burgess on bootlegs and rollouts by quarterback Brooks Bollinger. Oakland is yielding 118.8 yards per game rushing and the Jets hope to get RB Curtis Martin on track. The Jets defense will have its hands full trying to stop Jordan, who will certainly be ready to play in his return to the Meadowlands. QB Marques Tuiasosopo's mobility could be a problem. He's expected to do whatever is necessary to get the ball to Moss.


Lamont Jordan, who spent four seasons as Curtis Martin's backup, goes against the Jets for the first time. ... How will Marques Tuiasosopo perform as replacement for Kerry Collins at quarterback? ... Can the Jets score more than three points? ... Will Brooks Bollinger be able to get outside and make plays on his bootlegs and rollouts?


The Jets offense should give owner Woody Johnson a rebate. The unit has averaged just 11.9 points per game and has scored just one touchdown in the past 38 possessions. Last week, they drove inside the 20-yard line just once -- and that was to the 19-yard line.


CB Justin Miller vs. WR Randy Moss

Miller will likely start his fifth straight game in place of David Barrett (eye) and could see a lot of Moss. One reason the Raiders have struggled is Moss hasn't been the big-play guy he was in Minnesota and the Raiders are hoping a change at quarterback might be the answer.


Jets -- QB Jay Fiedler (dislocated shoulder) and RB Derrick Blaylock (foot) are out. DT Dewayne Robertson (quad) is questionable.

Raiders -- DT Warren Sapp (rotator cuff) and CB Charles Woodson (fibula) are out.

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