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PFW - Q&A with Jets WR Jerricho Cotchery

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Q&A with Jets WR Jerricho Cotchery

By Mike Holbrook

Sept. 23, 2006

Though the season is still young, it’s hard to imagine there will be a more impressive touchdown scored by a receiver than the one Jets WR Jerricho Cotchery scored in Week Two.

After skying into the air to haul down a pass from Chad Pennington during the third quarter of the Jets’ home game against bitter AFC East rival New England, Cotchery was drilled low by FS Eugene Wilson and high by CB Chad Scott.

Not only did Cotchery hold on to the ball, but as he was falling, he somehow managed to make sure that neither his knee nor his elbow hit the turf, instead landing on the back of the fallen Wilson.

Cotchery remarkably regained his balance, stood up and sprinted to the endzone, leaving the Patriots’ defenders who had hit him lying on the turf and capping a memorable 71-yard TD pass play that will forever be shown by coaches around the league as the epitome of never giving up and always playing to the whistle.

The third-year receiver from North Carolina State has made the most of his increased playing time for the new Jets coaching staff and is emerging as a big-play maker in the resurgent Jets offense.

With 12 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns in the first two weeks, Cotchery is on pace to shatter his previous career bests of 19 catches and 251 yards, set last year after he finally earned some playing time following Wayne Chrebet’s season-ending injury.

PFW chatted with Cotchery on Friday to find out what went into his remarkable TD catch and his emergence in the offense this season.

PFW: Tell me about what went into giving you the ability to make a play like your remarkable 71-yard TD catch against the Patriots in Week Two?

Cotchery: Basically, it starts in practice for me. I think if you’re making plays in practice and you’re giving a lot of effort in practice, it will carry over to the game. I think what happened was, on Friday, our last practice leading up to the game, I made a lot of plays. I think it carried over. That particular play, it was kind of crazy the way I landed on the guy and I knew my knee hadn’t touched, so I was just going to get up and just run for it. Either the referee was going to stop the play or I was going to make him make the decision.

PFW: And that’s the kind of thing that you always do in practice — run until the whistle blows, correct?

Cotchery: Yeah, yeah. Even in practice, even if you catch a pass out of bounds, you want to continue to finish the play. You don’t want to just catch the ball and run back to the huddle. You practice all the things that you’re going to do in the game. Every day in practice, we catch a pass, if you know you’re tackled anyway, you just continue to finish because you never know what could happen in a game. I think that showed on Sunday.

PFW: We’ve heard about your strong offseason, including the praise Coach Mangini has given you as one of the offseason MVPs. Does that encourage you to lift your play and give you a boost?

Cotchery: Well, I think the offseason conditioning program helped me a lot. This year, I had a great offseason. The year before, my second season, I had an OK offseason because I was trying to get a feel for the strength and conditioning coach. But now I knew what he expected out of everyone this year, and I knew what to expect from him. So, this year I kind of hit the ground running, and he had a lot of great things in place for me, in particular, because I talked to him before the offseason program started and he had some things he wanted to work on with me. And I was able to get some of those things accomplished.

PFW: Tell me about the Athletes Performance Institute. Did that play a big role for you too?

Cotchery: I think that played a role, but I was only out there for 2-3 weeks. Most of my time was here with (strength and conditioning) coach Markus Paul. I can’t take any credit from him — he helped me get to the point where I am right now.

PFW: What was your main focus this past offseason?

Cotchery: My main thing was to get back to the way I felt coming out for the draft (from N.C. State). The thing that we accomplished this offseason was to not get away from all the football-specific things. I did my regular lifting and conditioning, but I also stayed on top of our game as a football player and position-specific things. So, once I got back to practice, once I really started to practice, I just hit the ground running.

PFW: Did you feel like you were ahead of the game?

Cotchery: Yeah, I definitely felt that way. Once we started practicing, I felt like I had already been practicing on some of the things that we were doing — as far as running routes and all those other things.

PFW: From your own experience, why does it take so long — most often in the third season — for NFL receivers to emerge?

Cotchery: Well, sometimes it’s just a matter of getting the opportunity. But some guys just aren’t ready, and sometimes those guys get put into a bad position because, obviously, the team needs them to play right away and they’re just not ready. Sometimes that sets a receiver back. But once I got here with the Jets, it wasn’t a big need for me to play right away. That’s why the coaches eased me in on special teams. My rookie year, I got in a couple plays here and there, and last year I was able to step in and do some good things after Wayne went down. I think a lot of that has just carried over so far this year.

PFW: Was it a benefit the way things happened for you? Or do you believe you were ready to play earlier?

Cotchery: I think a player gets better with experience, so I think if you’re good enough and you have an understanding of the game, experience on the field will definitely help. That’s the thing that I think helps out a lot. Obviously, if you’re not ready, it won’t help. I think if I’d had the opportunity early on, I could’ve made plays early on and would be better than I am right now. But a lot of things happen for a reason. It’s all about helping the team right now, and hopefully I’ll continue to do that.

PFW: What roles have offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and head coach Eric Mangini been asking of you so far?

Cotchery: They’ve just been wanting me to go in there and make plays. That’s it. They’re putting me in position where I can make plays, and they expect me to make them, and I expect myself to make those plays. That’s the only thing they expect. They don’t say too much, but a lot of their actions show by the position they’re putting me in.

PFW: Has having (WR) coach Noel Mazzone around been a help, too? Obviously, he knows what you’re capable of, from having coached you at N.C. State.

Cotchery: Yeah, that helps out a lot because it’s a new staff. Most of these guys saw me in the offseason, so they know a lot of things that I can do. But there are some things that they haven’t seen that Coach Mazzone knows about, and he can bring that to their attention — that he can do this, he can run this particular route, he can do these things well — so, that only helps the offense out.

PFW: Laveranues has been the No. 1 receiver for some time, and now you’ve emerged as the No. 2 guy. How much better does that make the offense now that Chad has two weapons to throw to?

Cotchery: Aw, that’s big. That’s big for the offense because a lot of teams around the league respect Laveranues, so the respect he gets every Sunday, there are going to be a lot of opportunities for the other receivers. I think when the other receivers get in there, we have to make plays and keep the pressure off Laveranues. And Chad has been doing a great job spreading the ball around, so the sky’s the limit for our offense.

PFW: Coming out of N.C. State, you had a reputation as being a good route runner and a guy who could make plays on third down. Is that the role you expected to play in the NFL?

Cotchery: I think I can do it all. I think I pride myself on being a complete receiver, you know, being able to do all things at the receiver position. And I think one guy who does it so well is Laveranues. If you asked me about the great receivers — asked me if you could put them in any offense and they would succeed — I think you could plug Laveranues in any offense and he would succeed. That’s something I want to take from him — continue to get better every day — and hopefully the sky can be the limit for me.

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