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(8/7) Hutchinson: The day in camp

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The day in camp

Monday, August 07, 2006


Star-Ledger Staff



Jets second-year safety Kerry Rhodes has always had the athletic ability. After all, veteran NBA standout Theo Radcliff is his cousin and Rhodes knows his way around the basketball court as well.

But Rhodes' sport of choice is football and he broke into the Jets starting lineup as a fourth-round pick out of Louisville last season. He finished with 85 tackles, one interception and nine passes defensed in 16 starts.

This season, Rhodes, 6-3, 210 pounds, seems poised to take his game to another level. He had an interception in team drills in the first three days of camp and played well in yesterday's no-tackling, mock game at Giants Stadium, finishing with two stops in the backfield and two pass defensed.

And with third-year fellow safety Erik Coleman sidelined with a mysterious illness, Rhodes has had to make the defensive calls for the secondary. Rookie Eric Smith has replaced Coleman in the starting lineup, putting more of a burden on Rhodes.

"I think things are going pretty good but I'm not exactly where I want to be yet," Rhodes said. "I want to be to the point where I can get everybody situated, everybody doing the right thing. That's the biggest thing right now."

Coach Eric Mangini agrees.

"I think he's showing more leadership in the secondary," Mangini said. "I think his level of communication has improved. But he still needs to continue to build on where he is in terms of communication, leadership and it being something that is consistent day in and day out and gets better as we move on."

Rhodes, a natural ballhawk, should improve his interception total this season.

"I'm a lot more comfortable," he said. "I saw a lot of things last season. I see things now and I can already recognize them. I know what's going on. I can see how a team is trying to attack."

Who's Hot

The Green team. They won yesterday's no-tackling, mock scrimmage by a score of 3-1. Mangini simulated a game all the way from the singing of the national anthem, player introductions, halftime and spoils for the winning team. The winners got barbecue, a movie on the bus ride home and less work, while the losing team got cold sandwiches, no movie and more work.

Who's Not

LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson had two penalties. ... K Mike Nugent hit just three of five FG, missing from 50 and 36 yards. ... WR Jovan Witherspoon had a drop. ... Neither QB after Chad Pennington distinguished himself.

Pennington sharp

Chad Pennington, who has already won the starting job, although Mangini refuses to announce it, completed 12 of 14 passes for 117 yards during the two-hour scrimmage at Giants Stadium. He connected with his pal, wide receiver Laveranues Coles, four times for 37 yards.

Pennington seems to get sharper and sharper as camp progresses.

"I wasn't surprised but it does show me that I'm headed in the right direction, that the things I'm doing with the trainers, the strength and conditioning coaches and also on the field during practice has helped me," said Pennington.

"Being able to put those things to use and seeing a positive benefit, it's a good feeling. But at the same time, I have a lot of work to do."

Said Mangini: "I think that's definitely encouraging. I thought his presence was very good both on the field and on the sidelines."

Coles misses Chrebet, Herm

Jets WR Laveranues Coles, who returned to the Jets last off-season largely because of Wayne Chrebet and Herman Edwards, said it tough with both of them gone.

"Anytime you lose people you care about, it's going to be difficult," said Coles. "That's just the nature of it. ... (Chrebet) has always been that guy that has always motivated me. The conversations we had, looking forward to going out to eat and stuff like that. You miss the little things."

Injury report: Rookie CB Drew Coleman injured his right knee late in practice and didn't return. He'll undergo an MRI today.

NT Sione Pouha (knee), S Erik Coleman (illness), CB David Barrett (leg) and WR Dante Ridgeway (knee) didn't practice.

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