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First-place Jets face big test vs. Manning's Colts

Sep 28, 2006

EAST RUTHERFORD (AP) -- Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning opened the season with a win at Giants Stadium. When the Colts return to the Meadowlands this Sunday, though, he'll be facing the team that handed him the worst loss of his professional career.

Manning looks to shake his struggles against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium when the two former AFC East rivals meet in a matchup of first-place teams.

Manning defeated the New York Giants and his brother, Eli, 26-21 at Giants Stadium on Sept. 10 in the highly anticipated meeting between sibling quarterbacks. That improved Peyton Manning to 2-0 at the Meadowlands against the Giants.

Manning, though, is 2-3 against the Jets (2-1) at Giants Stadium, as the Colts (3-0) have been outscored 149-84 in those games. In his last trip to the Meadowlands to face the Jets, Indianapolis lost 41-0 in a 2002 wild-card game. It's the only time Manning has been shut out in 140 career contests.

The two-time MVP threw for 137 yards with two interceptions in his playoff loss to New York, and has nine interceptions and five touchdowns against the Jets at Giants Stadium.

The Colts, however, are 39-25 against the Jets, their highest win total against any opponent. Both teams were in the AFC East from 1970-2001, and Manning threw for 401 yards and a TD in Indianapolis' only regular season game against New York since the division realignment, a 38-31 home victory on Nov. 16, 2003.

Manning guided the Colts to a win in an early season battle for first place Sunday, going 14-of-31 for 219 yards and getting his first touchdown run since 2002 in a 21-14 victory over Jacksonville. The win left Indianapolis one game ahead of the Jaguars for the AFC South lead.

After scoring only seven points and having the ball for less than six minutes in the first half, the Colts scored on their first possession of the second half, a 30-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Dallas Clark.

"You do have to stay poised," Manning said.

Marvin Harrison caught six passes for 94 yards, while Reggie Wayne had four receptions for 82 yards. Harrison and Wayne are two of the top receivers in the league, as Harrison leads the AFC with 334 yards and Wayne is fourth with 284.

After the win over the Jaguars, Wayne flew to his home state of Louisiana to help his family make funeral arrangements for his older brother, Rashad, who died in an automobile accident last Sunday. Wayne, though is expected to return to Indianapolis on Thursday and could be available against the Jets.

"The last conversation I had with him, he said he'd be back in Indianapolis sometime tomorrow," coach Tony Dungy said Wednesday. "Right now, I think he will play."

The Colts dealt with a tragic loss last season, when Dungy's oldest son, 18-year-old James, committed suicide in a Florida apartment in December.

The three-time defending division champs are off to another fast start under Dungy. Since he arrived in 2002, the Colts have started 5-0 twice and 4-1 twice, and are looking to improve to 4-0 for the second straight year.

The Jets, meanwhile, are off to a surprising start under first-year coach Eric Mangini. They are tied for the AFC East lead with New England and have won both of their road games.

"We're 2-1. This is only the beginning," tight end Chris Baker said. "We haven't even gotten to the first quarter of the season. It's good to get off to a good start, but we have to keep it rolling."

The Jets defeated Buffalo 28-20 on Sunday despite allowing 475 yards of offense - the most they've given up in 19 games - while managing a mere 256 of their own.

Chad Pennington went 19-for-29 for 183 yards and a touchdown after posting consecutive 300-yard games to open the season. He has thrown for 241 yards, six TDs and no interceptions in his two career starts against the Colts.

Facing Indianapolis, which is averaging the second-most points in the NFL (30.0), Mangini hopes the Jets can generate points early - something they have failed to do so far this season.

New York didn't get its first first down until its fourth possession last week, and has been shut out in the first quarter of all three games.

"We need to continue to improve at the beginning of the game, not have the three-and-outs there early," Mangini said. "We need to get some drives going early, and that's something we will focus on and work on this week."

The Jets rushed for just 74 yards on 24 carries last Sunday, and have gained only 217 yards on the ground this season, averaging 2.6 yards per carry. They are without Curtis Martin, who's sidelined until at least after Week 6 with a knee injury.

Their longest run of the season remains Brad Smith's 12-yard gain on an end-around in a season-opening 26-16 win at Tennessee.

"We need to continue to improve in the running game," Mangini said. "That's something we need to consistently work on. We made some progress this week, but each week we want to get better in that area."

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Jets' roster moves don't add up

Sep 28, 2006

Although the Jets are 2-1, their management obviously doesn't view them as a good team.

How else can you explain why Gang Green cut three players this week and signed three more off the street?

That is usually the modus operandi of a bottom-feeder, a team that is standing at 0-3, not 2-1.

Trivia question: Who started the last two games at left guard? The answer: Norm Katnik. But Katnik was dropped from the regular roster this week.

Katnik was one of three players unceremoniously dumped.

Katnik started the last two games for the injured Pete Kendall, who is almost ready to come back. Listen, I'm not putting Katnik in Canton, but if he was good enough to start the last two weeks, how come he can

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STATS INC: Week 4 pregame notes

COLTS (3-0) at JETS (2-1)

  • The Colts and Jets have averaged 65 total points per game in the last three meetings.
  • The Colts look to start 4-0 for the third time in the past four seasons. But two of the Colts' last four losses came in games played following a game vs. Jacksonville.
  • Indy has won 21 of its last 26 road games, and is 12-4 in its last 16 games at the Meadowlands (vs. Giants and Jets).
  • Indy WR Marvin Harrison needs three receptions to pass Andre Reed (951) for fourth place on the all-time receptions list.
  • Colts' QB Peyton Manning has at least one touchdown pass in each of his 30 career games in October. Manning has 25 touchdowns and a 116.0 rating in his last nine October games.
  • New York has won its last four home games in October. The defense has eight takeaways and 17 sacks in those contests.
  • The Jets have allowed three 100-yard receivers this season, including two in last week's win in Buffalo. They allowed just four 100-yard receivers in the previous two seasons combined.
  • Jets QB Chad Pennington had a perfect rating of 158.3 in his only career start vs. the Colts (11/16/03). It was only the third perfect rating by a Jets' QB in a game since 1970 (two by Ken O'Brien).
  • New York safety Kerry Rhodes has three sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception in the first three games.

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NUTSHELLS

Colts at Jets: Eric Mangini's Jets were like newborns at the start of this season. To hear Chad Pennington talk, they've just entered junior high health class. "I think we're slowly starting to build an identity," Pennington said after the game. "Each week I think we find a little bit more about ourselves." This week, the Jets will be identified as the team trailing by 27 points in the fourth quarter.

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(summarizes players of the week/month) includes

AFC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

WK 2: CHAD PENNINGTON

AFC DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

WK 3: KERRY RHODES

AFC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE MONTH

SEPT: LAVERANUES COLES

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Jets rookie T Ferguson ready for challenge against Freeney

By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer

September 28, 2006

thumb.a1c9fb3a11cb42ecaa7f2b74e4894fd2.jets_brick_s_big_test_football_ny163.jpg

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HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- D'Brickashaw Ferguson relaxed on the stool in front of his locker, shoes and socks off, when he was reminded of the unnerving task ahead: blocking Indianapolis sack specialist Dwight Freeney.

The New York Jets' rookie left tackle with the big expectations and soft voice was unfazed.

"Every week, you're faced with an incredible player, and this is just an example of that," Ferguson said in his typically calm tone Thursday. "Obviously, he's a very talented individual and it'll take a lot to go out there and execute."

Ferguson, the No. 4 overall draft pick in April, has looked good early in the season, protecting quarterback Chad Pennington and generally giving him lots of time to throw. He'll get his biggest NFL test Sunday against Freeney and the Colts.

"D'Brickashaw seems to be handling this all in stride," veteran guard Pete Kendall said.

The 6-foot-6 rookie has used good footwork and balance to keep New England's Richard Seymour and Buffalo's Aaron Schobel mostly quiet the past two weeks. He's also been called for just two holding penalties -- including one offset by a defensive penalty.

"He's had some pretty big challenges here throughout the season," coach Eric Mangini said. "He's faced some good pass rushers. The important thing for Brick is getting into a consistent preparation routine, so week in and week out he has an understanding of what he has to do."

This week's preparations are all about Freeney, the Colts' right defensive end who has 51 career sacks in just four seasons. He'll be hungry against the rookie, especially since he has yet to get to the quarterback in the first three games.

"I'm pretty sure he's going to have some help," Freeney said. "He's a rookie, but I think they see a lot of potential in him. What was he, the fourth pick in the draft? So that tells you what they think of him."

Colts coach Tony Dungy said opposing teams have generally put two or three players on Freeney, and the defensive end expects more of the same against the Jets. Dungy has seen some film of Ferguson, and thinks the rookie could quickly become a star in the NFL.

"He has the long arms and he kind of reminds me of (former Pro Bowl tackle) Lomas Brown, maybe more than anyone else that I have seen recently," Dungy said.

Mangini said Ferguson's development has been helped by the packages the Jets use on offense. That'll come in handy against one of the NFL's elite pass rushers.

"It's not really just Brick," Mangini said. "It will be the whole group and the scheme in terms of which protection you want to use against that front, then how we are going to incorporate the backs, the tight ends in the protection. We used a little more of that last week."

The Jets had precisely this type of matchup in mind when they drafted Ferguson out of Virginia instead of taking a quarterback such as Matt Leinart or Jay Cutler. New York wanted to add a building block to its offensive line, someone the quarterback can rely on to protect his blind side.

This Sunday's game will provide a major measuring stick as to how far he's come to being that kind of reliable player.

"I just want to make sure I do my job," Ferguson said. "Maybe at the end of the season, I'll reflect back and say, `OK, this is what I did -- yay or nay.' But right now, it's all about trying execute and making sure the quarterback's clean."

AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this story.

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No-name coaches making quite a difference

Jay Glazer / FOXSports.com

Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer:

The snickers were heard when new coach Eric Mangini brought in the talented yet young Schottehheimer would have made one think that the Jets were doomed. There were too many "Are you serious?" statements thrown around to remember. Yes Mangini was serious, yes folks you were all wrong. Not only has Schottenheimer run his offense well, Chad Pennington has played his best ball in years. It's not as if Schottenheimer has the 1990s Cowboys personnel over there but he's gotten them playing like a playoff-caliber offense with far from playoff-caliber personnel.

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Jets will give anything for yardage

By VIC ZIEGEL

Leon Washington is wearing No. 29 for the Jets, playing his first season in the NFL, because Herman Edwards needed permission from his old team to take the job in Kansas City. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time - Herman going, Leon coming - and nobody's calling it a swap for the ages, but it just might become the coach's last nice piece of work for the Jets.

They are gentlemen, these NFL general managers. They wear suits and ties, and when the Pizza Hut guy delivers lunch, an assistant makes sure it's pepperoni and mushrooms, as requested. So when Kansas City reached out for Edwards, who still had a year left on his contract here, the Jets' answer was, "You want him, you got him. Oh, we do need one small favor, old sport; we want a player, a draft pick, to tie a ribbon on this one."

The pick in this case was a fourth-rounder, the 117th player chosen, the sixth Washington to pull a Jets shirt over shoulder pads. He can carry the ball and he can catch the ball. But none of those balls came his way in the first two games of the season. The occasional punt return, a kickoff, special-teams work, but nothing really special. Last week, against Buffalo, was a different story.

The Bills needed the first two plays of the game, 55 seconds, to put up seven points. After that, nothing. The two teams played minesy-yoursy until early in the second quarter, when the Jets had a first down on their 41. Chad Pennington handed the ball to the rookie running back and Washington went over left tackle for six yards. If that doesn't sound like much - more like baby steps - than you haven't been keeping track of the Jets' rushing game. ("Look, there it goes now." "Where? Where?")

The same game, Kevan Barlow became the Jets' first 100-yard runner - for the season, that is - and it took him three games to get there. "We're 2-1," Barlow said. "We've been winning some games. I haven't been out there as much as I'd like to be (37 carries, 108 yards) but if I only get one carry and we win, that's all that matters. I don't question the coaches' calls."

Which is exactly the opposite of Jeremy Shockey's "outcoached" yelp. Eric Mangini is a rookie coach but his players haven't come close to a Shockey-size complaint. (Well, Laveranues Coles did think training camp was a little on the severe side. That Coles, what a kidder.)

After Barlow, Derrick Blaylock's rushing total is 44 yards on 25 carries. How many more chances does he get? No.3 is Washington, whose seven carries against Buffalo netted 25 yards. His best moment was a screen pass from Pennington that Washington turned into a 47-yard gain. The Jets' next play was the tying touchdown.

He should get more opportunities Sunday, if Pennington and Coles can stop carving their initials inside hearts. "The coach tells us to prepare (in practice) as if we're going to get all the snaps (in the game)," Washington said yesterday. "I know my ability. I know what I need to work on."

He needs to fix whatever went wrong his senior year at Florida State, when he ran for only 273 yards. ("A bad year," he admits.) He isn't a monster - 5-8, 202 pounds - but he covers ground.

It might help if he got more chances. It could only help. The quality of the Jets' rushing game makes it obvious that Pennington has to keep adding yards on top of yards. The patchwork offensive line has given up seven sacks, but only one in the Buffalo game. It's the kind of protection the QB must have.

Earlier this week, the Jets made another move that was meant to keep Pennington upright when he drops back to pass. They brought in James Hodgins, a 275-pound fullback who was spending the season on his living room couch.

"But I really wanted to play," he said. "I knew it wasn't time to give it up."

The last two years, with Arizona, a wounded knee and shoulder kept him on the injured reserve list. The last time he played close to a full season was 2003. "I don't know why the Jets called," he said. "They need a fullback, I guess."

Almost as much as they need yards.

Originally published on September 29, 2006

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Fergie's facing thirsty Freeney

BY RICH CIMINI

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Friday, September 29th, 2006

306-ferguson_jets.JPG

D'Brickashaw Ferguson

faces toughest test yet

in Dwight Freeney.

When a star pass rusher goes sackless for three straight games, it's akin to a walk in the desert, without water. That should provide some insight into how the Colts' Dwight Freeney might be feeling these days. He's parched.

On Sunday, he's looking forward to his meeting with a tall drink of water from the Jets. Its name is D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

The Jets chose Ferguson with the fourth pick in the 2006 draft because of games like this. They envision him as a franchise left tackle, someone who can protect the quarterback from the NFL's most feared pass rushers. They don't come much better than Freeney, who hopes to prey on Ferguson's inexperience.

Asked this week about their highly anticipated matchup at Giants Stadium, Freeney smiled.

"He's a rookie," the Colts' defensive end said in Indianapolis. "I like to see that type of thing - a young guy who's trying to establish himself in the league. ... I get to go out there and show him a little bit about how to play football a little bit on the NFL level."

You think Freeney is pumped, or what?

This will be Ferguson's toughest assignment yet. Two weeks ago, he faced Patriots All-Pro Richard Seymour, but Seymour doesn't have Freeney's speed. From 2002-05, Freeney registered 51 sacks, the third-best four-year start in NFL history, behind Reggie White (70) and Derrick Thomas (58).

But this season, Freeney has a big, fat zero in the sack column. He says he isn't worried. But the Jets might be.

"It's just a matter of time," said left guard Pete Kendall, who lines up to Ferguson's right. "You hope it's not this weekend."

In the first three games, the Colts' opponents neutralized Freeney by throwing the ball quickly and assigning a tight end or back to help the left tackle. An injury to Freeney's buttocks also could be a factor. Result: Only three quarterback pressures.

The Jets probably will use a similar approach, protecting Ferguson, but the reason they drafted him that high (and gave him nearly $18 million in guarantees) is because of his ability as a shutdown pass protector.

Freeney said Ferguson has "a lot of potential." Colts coach Tony Dungy, referring to Ferguson's height (6-6) and 7-foot wingspan, said the rookie "kind of reminds me of Lomas Brown, maybe more than anyone else I've seen recently. ... He's done a really good job so far."

Ferguson has fared well in pass protection - he has yet to be cleanly beaten for a sack - but his run blocking still needs a lot of improvement, according to opposing scouts. Against Freeney, it's all about the pass rush. Freeney has terrific speed, plus a spin move that can buckle your knees.

"He has a lot of great things that make him an excellent player," Ferguson said. "It'll be important to learn and study those things, so when it comes time to execute, I'll be prepared."

Eric Mangini raved about Freeney, saying, "He has incredible speed off the edge. He can go from speed to power, where it looks like he's coming on a pure speed rush and transitions to power, driving a guy back."

The Jets did a nice job of protecting Chad Pennington last week against the Bills' speedy pass rushers, but they did it with maximum-protection schemes, restricting the offense. If they use a tight end to help Ferguson, it removes a potential target from the passing game.

Pennington can handle the heat; he owns a league-high 141.3 passer rating when "under pressure," according to STATS, LLC. So much of the game plan hinges on whether Ferguson can handle Freeney.

"Brick has a bright future for himself, but this is going to be a very good test for him," Kendall said. "Dwight has been successful against the best of the best."

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Streaking Laveranues gets honor

BY TOM ROCK

Newsday Staff Writer

September 29, 2006

Maybe the Colts should be worried about containing the Jets' passing attack rather than the other way around. Two weeks after Chad Pennington was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week, wide receiver Laveranues Coles was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month yesterday.

Coles' 24 receptions are tops in the NFL and his 331 receiving yards are second. He also has seven third-down catches, tied for the AFC lead. His 331 receiving yards are the most by a Jet in the first three games since Don Maynard's 356 in 1968. Didn't the Jets have a big win against the Colts in that season, too?

Third and who cares

Here's why getting the Colts' offense off the field can be such a chore: They have shown an amazing ability to convert third-down opportunities, gaining first-down yardage nearly two-thirds of the time. In 41 third-down attempts, the Colts have been successful 26 times (63.4 percent). No other team in the NFL is above 50 percent, and the Colts are the only team that hasn't attempted a fourth-down conversion. All five of Peyton Manning's touchdown passes have come on third downs.

Jet streams

Two days after cutting him, the Jets signed OL Norm Katnik to the practice squad. After starting two games in place of Pete Kendall at left guard, Katnik probably could have been picked up by another team had he been released earlier in the week. The Jets cut WR Sloan Thomas from the practice squad to make room for Katnik ... Kendall (hamstring) is still listed as questionable for Sunday but will probably start his first game since the opener ... Third-string QB Kellen Clemens has been playing the role of Manning at practice this week and said he enjoys making the animated checks at the line and taking control of the scout offense. "It's a lot of fun," he said.

Receiving leaders

YARDS

Marvin Harrison, Colts 334

Laveranues Coles, Jets 331

Andre Johnson, Texans 309

RECEPTIONS

Coles, Jets 24

Harrison, Colts 22

Johnson, Texans 21

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Blocking out ego

Recently signed FB Hodgins enjoys filling guard's role in backfield

BY TOM ROCK

Newsday Staff Writer

September 29, 2006

Newly acquired fullback James Hodgins described how it feels to make a solid block.

"I used to play running back in college [san Jose State], so it's kind of like running the ball and scoring," he said yesterday. "If I can pancake a linebacker, it's that type of feeling. You dominated your man for one play."

The Jets have been looking for that from their fullbacks this season. B.J. Askew has been the starter - and will likely continue to be - as a versatile athlete who can run pass routes, carry the ball once in a while, and help with pass protection. He's a Renaissance fullback, who can do a little of everything. What he isn't is a straight-ahead bone-cruncher who can open doors at the line of scrimmage. That'll be Hodgins' new role.

"I'm a blue-collar guy, I bring my lunch pail every day, and I hit linebackers," he said.

The Jets have tried several options at bulldozer-back, from converted college quarterback Stacey Tutt in the preseason to short and squatty Jamar Martin the first few weeks. They even ran a play last week in Buffalo in which wide receiver Tim Dwight, all 5-8, 180 pounds of him, lined up at fullback and made a nice block on a run by Leon Washington.

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who learned his craft in San Diego, had Lorenzo Neal to do the dirty work out there. Now he has Hodgins, who was a blocker for Marshall Faulk during the Rams' glory years but sat out the past two seasons with injuries. Hodgins could be an asset to the Jets' running game, averaging an AFC-worst 2.6 yards per carry. Teaming him with an explosive player such as Washington could be an attempt to find that Hodgins-Faulk or Neal-LaDainian Tomlinson chemistry of beauty and the beast.

"When we were doing research about him, the quote I liked the best is there were games when he'd make linebackers quit," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "He's been a productive guy and we thought that we'd give him an opportunity."

But first Hodgins needed to prove himself. He missed the 2004 season with a shoulder injury and tore his right ACL covering a punt against the Giants in the 2005 opener. Then he spent the first three weeks of this season at home in Chandler, Ariz., waiting for the phone to ring.

He showed up for a tryout with the Jets Sept. 18 and was told he needed to lose weight before they would sign him. He dropped 11 pounds in a week and came back this Monday weighing 265, the lightest he has ever played at. The Jets inked him and suited him up.

Askew said there is usually a period of brooding before a fullback becomes comfortable with his role, especially if he was a featured back in college. He said it took him about two years to adapt before embracing the position.

"You know you can be as good as any halfback in the game and you can catch the ball as well as any halfback in the game," Askew said. "The blocking is more boring and you don't really get the limelight for it, but once you get past that part, you're all right. If I didn't like blocking as much as I do, I would have a hard time."

Unlike Askew, Hodgins' role will be uncomplicated and literally straightforward. Although he has practiced only twice, there is a chance he could play Sunday. He said he has already grasped a lot of the offense and is looking forward to the chance to feast on the Colts' smallish linebackers.

"I have to be the guy who goes in there and blows people up," Hodgins said. "I've done that role for eight years now, so I pretty much know what's expected."

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Adam Schein / FOXSports.com

Mike Doss, Colts

With Bob Sanders hurt, Doss got his first start of the season at safety. Doss had been battling nagging injuries in the off-season and preseason, which resulted in him being a reserve in the first two games.

The safety was the defensive star of the Colts' win against Jacksonville, picking off Byron Leftwich at the end of the game, and making an enormous stop on a key third down earlier in the 4th quarter, popping tight end George Wrighster after a catch before he could reach the first down marker.

The Colts visit the Jets this weekend. Doss says what truly stands out is the ability of Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery to acquire yards after the catch, and minimizing that will be a huge key in this game.

The Jets have used four different running backs this season. Doss says the Colts are preparing for Kevan Barlow and Leon Washington, as opposed to Derrick Blalock and Cedric Houston.

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Jets: Mangold holding it together

Friday, September 29, 2006

BY DAVE HUTCHINSON

Star-Ledger Staff

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- As the Jets attempt to solve the puzzle that is their struggling running game, one thing is clear -- rookie center Nick Mangold is part of the solution, not the problem.

Mangold, a first-round pick (29th overall) out of Ohio State, was forced into the starting lineup during training camp when veteran Trey Teague suffered a broken left ankle in June.

The last time a Jets rookie was forced to replace a starter during camp was 2003, when Dewayne Robertson took over for veteran Josh Evans, who was suspended four games for substance abuse. Robertson, like Mangold, took his lumps.

Mangold, however, is giving as much as he is receiving, despite playing one of the most demanding positions on the field. He must make all the line calls and battle cagey veterans in the NFL trenches.

"Right now, I'm having a lot of fun trying to learn everything I can," Mangold said yesterday. "The mental part is the toughest. It's a big playbook. There's a lot going on. Teams do a lot of different stuff."

Mangold, however, has been undaunted.

In last week's 28-20 victory in Buffalo, he made a key block on a quarterback sneak by Chad Pennington on a fourth-and-one from the Bills' 33 with 6:12 left to play. Pennington gained 4 yards on the play in what proved to be the game-winning drive.

Also, Mangold made big blocks on two short-yardage touchdown runs and helped limit the Bills to one sack. The Bills notched seven sacks the previous week against the Dolphins.

"Nick has done a nice job for us," said left guard Pete Kendall, who is expected to start against the Colts (3-0) on Sunday after missing two games with a hamstring injury.

"The most impressive thing in dealing with Nick is that the X's and O's haven't overwhelmed him. In the running and passing games, he gets us set and identifies our assignments. He has been pretty solid with all the stuff ... people thought a rookie center might struggle with."

Said right guard Brandon Moore: "We've had some looks where he's had to make adjustment calls on his own and he got us straight at the line of scrimmage."

Mangold has played so well that coach Eric Mangini rarely mentions his name in meetings. Kendall said he can't recall a time when Mangold was admonished in a meeting for making the wrong line call.

While the Jets (2-1) have done a respectable job in pass protection (allowing seven sacks), they can't get out of their own way in the running game. They rank 27th in the NFL, averaging just 72.0 yards per game.

Indianapolis may be the perfect medicine. The Colts, who are small but fast, rank 28th in run defense, yielding 161.7 yards per game. Corey Simon (knee), their run-stuffing defensive tackle, won't play.

"You just can't say these guys are small, let's just run at them," Jets fullback B.J. Askew said. "These guys are in the NFL for a reason."

The Jets, who have played with two rookies (Mangold and LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson) and a second-year pro (Norm Katnik) in the starting lineup the past two weeks, showed signs of a breakthrough against the Bills. They rushed for 74 yards, scored on two short-yardage touchdowns and were three-for-three in the red zone.

"It's the little things," Moore said. "It's everybody. It's not a thing where we're getting outmatched or outmanned or outplayed. It's technique."

Suddenly, that Santana Moss for Laveranues Coles trade isn't looking so bad.

Coles, who watched as Moss earned Pro Bowl honors with the Redskins last season, yesterday was named AFC Player of the Month for September.

Coles leads the NFL with 24 receptions and is second in the league with 331 receiving yards and a touchdown. His receiving yards are the most by a Jet player in the first three games since Hall of Famer Don Maynard (356) in 1968.

The seventh-year pro is tied for the AFC lead in third-down receptions with seven and he has two 100-yard receiving games after posting none last season.

RB Kevan Barlow and Kendall worked with the first team yesterday and are expected to start Sunday against the Colts.

While Barlow started, second-year pro Cedric Houston worked with the second team and will be activated. Veteran RB Derrick Blaylock is expected to be deactivated for a second straight game. Rookie Leon Washington has a special package for the Colts.

The Jets yesterday waived WR Sloan Thomas. They waived G/C Norm Katnik on Wednesday, but re-signed him yesterday to the practice squad. ... Colts DT Corey Simon (knee) won't play, said Colts coach Tony Dungy.

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http://www.nypost.com/seven/09292006/sports/jets/catching_fire_jets_mark_cannizzaro.htm

CATCHING FIRE

By MARK CANNIZZARO

jets110.jpg

AFC'S BEST: Laveranues Coles, named the

AFC's Offensive Player of the Month, works

out yesterday at Jets practice.

September 29, 2006 -- Pete Kendall was a relative newcomer to the Jets when they reacquired Laveranues Coles in a March, 2005 trade with the Redskins for Santana Moss.

Kendall knew, however, before Coles made a single play on the field what kind of player the Jets were getting.

"You could kind of tell what type of guy he is by the reception he got in the locker room," the Jets' veteran left guard recalled yesterday. "Not that anyone was happy to see Santana go, but the guys that had played with Laveraneus before . . . seemed to sense that we were getting a special player back."

No player knew that more than Chad Pennington, who'd done everything but give up his salary in an attempt to prevent Coles from leaving the Jets as a free agent. Pennington and Coles, after all, had already developed this uncanny synergy that a quarterback and receiver have only once in a long while.

Whatever it was, they had it, and then they lost it when Coles left for Redskins owner Danny

Snyder's outrageous $13 million signing bonus in March, 2003.

Now that Pennington is healthy and Coles is back and comfortable as a Jet again, the results are showing what that kind of special quarterback-receiver bond can do.

Through three games, entering Sunday's key home game against the 3-0 Colts at Giants Stadium, Coles is first in the NFL with 24 catches and second in yards with 331. Coles is questionable for Sunday's game, though he was questionable last week and played.

Yesterday, Coles was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month. His 331 receiving yards are the most by a Jets player in the first three games of a season since Hall of Famer Don Maynard's 356 in 1968 when the Jets went on to win Super Bowl III.

Coles refused to bask in the personal glory.

"It says a lot about this offense," Coles said, immediately deflecting the attention from himself. "Without Chad giving me the opportunity to make plays and the offensive line blocking and Jerricho [Cotchery] and the other guys taking away the attention [the defense] has been paying to me the credit goes to all of those guys. Without them I don't think I would have gotten the award."

Perhaps, but without Coles' will, he'd never be where he is today.

His one touchdown of the season, an incredible catch-and-run play during the second-half comeback against the Patriots two weeks ago perfectly exemplifies Coles.

"[it] was extraordinary in the sense that you don't see it every day, but the level of effort that he gave I don't think was a surprise to anybody who's been in this locker room with him," Kendall said.

The one player on the team who has watched Coles develop from the start is Pennington, who came to the Jets the same year (2000) and watched from the bench initially before finally playing fulltime with him as the starter in 2002.

"The biggest thing with Laveranues is consistency," Pennington said. "You know what you're going to get every time he steps out onto the field. That's why I believe in him."

Asked where that synergy comes from, Pennington is a bit bewildered, but not asking any questions.

"Once I started throwing to him I felt like there was a natural feel for him," Pennington said. "It was just there. We think alike, so that helps out. We're also good friends, so we talk a lot and talk about certain situations and things like that."

Pennington had a receiver like that in college at Marshall. His name was Randy Moss.

"You can compare it to that a little bit," he said. "With Laveranues and Randy it's a confidence factor. I just have confidence that if I put the ball up in the air he's going to give me a chance."

If Coles maintains his torrid pace, by the end of the season, he'll have caught 128 passes, eclipsing his career high of 90, set in 2004 in Washington. His receiving yards total would be 1,765. If he has those two numbers, or anything close, Coles will be in the Pro Bowl and could even be the league MVP.

mark.cannizzaro@nypost.com

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THESE JETS CAN ROAR

ERIC-CHAD COMBO COULD MAKE NOISE VERSUS COLTS

By ANDREW MARCHAND

jets063.jpg

With Chad Pennington leading the offense

and new coach Eric Mangini plotting the

defense, the surprising 2-1 Jets could topple

Peyton Manning and the mighty Colts on

Sunday, says CBS analyst Randy Cross.

September 29, 2006 -- CBS' Randy Cross knows the Patriots about as well as anyone on television does. So when Cross starts to see a lot of New England in Hempstead, it means something. It also raises the question:

Can Eric Mangini pull a Bill Belichick on Peyton Manning?

"I give the Jets a decent chance,'' said Cross, who works Patriot preseason games. "It is one of those games that in the past when you said, 'We've got to play the Colts,' you kind of go in and cringe and say, 'Oh, Gosh.'

"You know they are going to have a pretty good plan on both sides of the ball, especially defensively. Eric is a guy who has been around some pretty good game plans against Peyton Manning.''

While Mangini, the rookie Jet coach who worked as Belichick's defensive coordinator, is handling the D, the offense is Chad Pennington's. Pennington has been gold inside the red zone, making quality decision after quality decision.

"Without Chad, you are a totally different football team,'' said Cross, who analyzed two of the Jets' first three games. "We use that coach on the field thing, but he is in the same category as a football person and a football mind as Peyton and [Tom] Brady and those guys.''

Pennington is like Brady in that he really seems as if his message is just an extension of what Mangini preaches. This, according to Cross, trickles down to the rest of the team. It is a very New England way of doing things.

"You don't see a lot of deviation from the company line,'' Cross said. "It is that whole 'one voice' deal. I know people early on have kind of rebelled against it, especially in the media [in New York]. But you are just now starting to see the byproduct of what happens.

"They aren't burning any extra energy worrying about anything other than football. They are not worrying about who is doing TV shows or radio shows and all different things like that.''

Cross isn't expecting any sort of miracle in the Meadowlands. He thinks the Jets could finish .500 this season, which three weeks ago would sound like crazy talk.

"They would seem to be more disciplined than they have been,'' Cross said. "I think they have the potential to be pretty good, as long as Chad stays healthy.''

Sunday , Colts at Jets 1 p.m., CBS

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NEW FULLBACK MAY GET TO OPEN HOLES

By MARK CANNIZZARO

September 29, 2006 -- Don't be surprised to see fullback James Hodgins in the Jets' lineup on Sunday even though the newcomer has been with the team for only a few days.

The Jets, desperate to generate some rushing offense (they're ranked 27th in the league), might play the big, stout, Hodgins in an attempt to bust open some holes.

"When we were doing research about him, the quote that I liked the best is there were games when he'd make linebackers quit," Eric Mangini said yesterday, declining to say who told him that and also not committing to playing Hodgins.

Hodgins, a seven-year veteran, has been the victim of poor luck, enduring season-ending injuries the last two years and playing only one game.

"Hopefully, I'll get to get in there, help out in the running game some, try to move guys around and try to make an impact on the running game" he said. "I have to be the guy that comes in there and blows people up, the big fullback."

When the Jets called Hodgins in Tuesday, he was coaching his sons, Isaiah and Isaac, for the Chandler (Ariz.) Saber Cats in the Pat Tillman Youth Football League.

Having recently cut fullback Jamar Martin, the Jets need a backup for B.J. Askew. They've been using tight ends Chris Baker and Sean Ryan and, for a single play in Buffalo, wide receiver Tim Dwight, as backup fullbacks.

"I'm just trying to find a home, a place I fit," said Hodgins, who was on the Cardinals' injured reserve list the past two seasons. "All I want is a chance."

*

It's looking as if LG Pete Kendall will be ready to start Sunday after missing the last two games with a thigh/hamstring injury, though neither he nor Mangini would confirm it. Kendall remained listed as questionable yesterday.

The fact that the Jets waived Kendall's backup, Norm Katnik, who started and played the entire game last week in Buffalo, and that Trey Teague (ankle/foot) doesn't appear ready tells you Kendall will play.

The Jets brought Katnik back yesterday and placed him on the practice squad. WR Sloan Thomas was waived to make room.

*

The Colts downgraded DT Corey Simon (knee) and S Bob Sanders (knee) to out. Colts K Adam Vinatieri is still questionable with a groin injury and didn't practice yesterday.

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"Without Chad, you are a totally different football team,'' said Cross, who analyzed two of the Jets' first three games. "We use that coach on the field thing, but he is in the same category as a football person and a football mind as Peyton and [Tom] Brady and those guys.''

That is a compliment for the ages.

Print that one up and tag it to your board.

BZ

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Chad, Coles work third-down magic

Friday, September 29, 2006

By RANDY LANGE

STAFF WRITER

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Something rare happened in the fourth quarter of the Jets game against the Bills:

Chad Pennington completed a third-down pass to Laveranues Coles and Coles didn't get a first down.

This is how rare that is: Since 2000, in all regular-season and postseason games, the two have connected on 42 passes and only two of them -- last year against Jacksonville, when Pennington's arm was hanging, and Sunday at Buffalo -- didn't move the chains.

"Wow, I didn't know it was that good," said Coles, whose third-down work was part of a phenomenal September that earned him the AFC Offensive Player of the Month award Thursday.

"A lot of people think Chad is always trying to get me the ball, but it's just that teams are giving us the opportunities to make those plays."

But Pennington said something indefinable has helped him and Coles connect from 2000, when they were rookies, through 2003, then again after Coles' Redskins sabbatical the last two seasons.

"It's just there," the quarterback said. "I don't know why it's there, I can't really put my finger on it. I've thought about it and I can't think of anything except for we think alike and that helps out.

"Also, we're good friends, so we talk a lot and talk about certain situations."

The Jets will find themselves in a certain situation Sunday when they play the Colts, whom Coles has labeled "the fast break team of the NFL" in general and who are the reigning third-down kings in particular.

They led the league last year with a 48.7 percent conversion rate and are leading this season at an unconscious 63.4 percent.

Peyton Manning's third-down passer rating is an NFL best 137.8. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison is tied for the lead with seven third-down receptions.

He's tied with Coles. And Pennington is third in third-down rating at 128.0

Of course, Coles has been plenty productive on first and second downs, too -- he leads the league with 25 receptions and is second behind Harrison with 331 yards, which is the most for the first three games of a Jets season since Don Maynard had 356 in 1968.

But third downs have been special -- when Pennington even throws a ball in Coles' direction on third down, they convert 64.5 percent of the time.

"Laveranues runs really good routes," coach Eric Mangini said. "He consistently finds a way to get open and he always makes a nice target."

"I pay attention to down and distance very much," Coles said.

"I think the way it works is Chad looks at the coverage, reads it out, and if it's favorable to my side, the ball's coming. If you roll away from me or roll to me and give me the hole we're looking for, we're going to take advantage of it."

Considering Indy's secondary is banged up and the Colts' opponents are converting more than half of their opportunities, the Jets' chances for a close game and an upset may well be determined by Pennington-to-Coles on third down.

E-mail: lange@northjersey.com

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Something rare happened in the fourth quarter of the Jets game against the Bills:

Chad Pennington completed a third-down pass to Laveranues Coles and Coles didn't get a first down.

This is how rare that is: Since 2000, in all regular-season and postseason games, the two have connected on 42 passes and only two of them -- last year against Jacksonville, when Pennington's arm was hanging, and Sunday at Buffalo -- didn't move the chains.

Randy Lange, the Czar of Stats here in the press room...

This he seems to be.

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http://blogs.trb.com/sports/football/jets/blog/2006/09/practice_makes_perfect.html

Practice Makes Perfect

By Tom Rock

Rich posted a question asking me to describe what practices are like during a typical game week. Without being cynical or jaded, let me say this: I wish I knew too.

The media is given a half-hour glimpse into team practice, usually the first 30 minutes of the workout. By the time we get out on the field, the team is finishing some position work when an air-horn blows and everyone chugs to one sideline of the practice field. The ubiquitous speakers bellow a taped recording of the

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Jets blog

Friday, September 29, 2006

Soon, Schlegel

September 29, 2006

Anthony Schlegel is building momentum toward making his Jets regular-season debut, which could come as soon as Sunday against Indianapolis.

Eric Mangini, after the Jets' victory over Buffalo, declared Schlegel his practice player of the week.

Thursday, the coach said the third-round rookie linebacker from Ohio State "is developing well."

And with the waiving of Ryan Myers, there is an opening for a high-impact special teams player.

Schlegel, whether smoldering or just focused, is a man of few words.

"I felt I've had good practices since I've been here," he said. "I work hard and I'm just continuing to do that.

"I don't have any feelings about what might happen. I just show up here and try to make myself better."

-- Randy Lange

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Jets notebook

Friday, September 29, 2006

The back story

Derrick Blaylock was running with the first offense again in early practice drills Thursday.

It could mean Blaylock is back in the plan after Sunday's deactivation, or Kevan Barlow's sore right calf is a concern, or both, or neither.

What most fans want to know is, however the tailback depth chart stacks up, what are the prospects that the Jets' running game -- ranked 27th in the NFL in yards per game (72.3) and 31st in yards per carry (2.6) -- will improve.

Guard Pete Kendall was cautiously optimistic.

"More of it is being made externally than is being made internally," said Kendall, who could return from his hamstring pull. "We've done some good things offensively and we've done some things we need to correct.

"The running game is an entire-team concept. What we have to do as an offense is we all have to fit into our blocks properly so the backs have a chance to see what it looks like when it's done properly.

"Then the backs have to fit into the holes."

Tweak 16

The Jets' injury report for the Colts remained the same: 16 players listed, seven questionable, nine probable.

All 16 were at practice but all seven questionables did not participate in some portion of 11-on-11 team drills.

Of the questionables, five are starters: Kendall, WR Laveranues Coles (calf), CB David Barrett (thigh) and safeties Kerry Rhodes (thigh) and Derrick Strait (thigh).

On Indianapolis' 19-player list, S Bob Sanders (knee) and DT Corey Simon (knee) were downgraded to out.

Briefs

Norm Katnik, cut Tuesday after two starts at left guard, was re-signed to the practice squad. Katnik said he was told that was the plan if he cleared waivers, but, he said, "It still was a tough 24 hours."

WR Sloan Thomas was released from the practice squad.

One reason Matt Chatham muffed the onside kick late in the Buffalo game was because while he was trying to gather the ball in, fellow LB Brad Kassell crashed into his shoulder.

-- Randy Lange

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What the hell? Did Leberfeld have a 5-way with a bunch of the Jets scrubs?

Sloan Thomas is out of work. Boo-Hoo.

He's probably still just pissed off about Bollinger being traded away, so this is his way of "getting back" at the FO. That's just a guess of course.

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http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=garber_greg&id=2606167

Pennington playing every down like it's his last

By Greg Garber

ESPN.com

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- He stood at the podium in the Jets' media room, beaming.

Wednesday press conferences are hardly the stuff of dreams (for any of the parties involved), but Chad Pennington seemed genuinely happy to be there. The Jets' quarterback was four days away from facing the Indianapolis Colts, a dubious assignment, at best. In the offseason, Pennington had his annual paycheck whacked from $9 million to $3 million, and yet here he was, dissolving in a cloud of warmth and fuzz.

"This is my passion," he said, "and when you're not allowed to be out there because of an injury, something that's totally out of your control, it's frustrating. And so having a good feeling of just being in the huddle, the feeling of being out there with my teammates

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