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Coaches' steel-cage match

Sunday, October 22, 2006



EAST RUTHERFORD -- If today's Jets-Lions matchup wasn't football but rather pro wrestling, it could be billed "Clash of the Coordinators."

Brian Schottenheimer, the Jets' young offensive innovator, will match bells and whistles, yards and points with Mike Martz, Detroit's veteran pass-master. Bob Sutton, Gang Green's white-haired defensive professor, will be compared with Donnie Henderson, the fiery Lions coach who was Sutton's coordinator in 2004-05 before he and the Jets parted ways.

"Yeah," said linebacker Jonathan Vilma, briefly savoring as a fan the delicious tag-team subplot, "that will be interesting."

Creative license

Schottenheimer left his dad, San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer, to become a first-time NFL coordinator under Eric Mangini. The result: This is no longer your father's, or Paul Hackett's, Jets' offense.

He's given Chad Pennington the power to run the no-huddle and the Schott-gun. He uses pre-snap shifts and motion -- he's sent every skill player except Kevan Barlow in motion at least three times.

He's lined up wideouts Jerricho Cotchery and Tim Dwight as fullbacks, and once put right tackle Anthony Clement next to left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson as a "tight end."

And he's positioned rookie Brad Smith everywhere, including against Miami as a slot receiver who went into motion, stopped as if he dropped something, stepped behind center, took the snap on a keeper and converted third-and-1.

"I really liked that one," Mangini said. "It's always fun to see some of the stuff that pops up."

The players share in the fun.

"With him having confidence in what he's doing, it's all spinning toward us because we believe in what he's doing also," wideout Laveranues Coles said.

"Brian's very creative with the situations he puts us in," said Barlow, who saw Martz's St. Louis offenses twice a year when he was with San Francisco. "Mike started a lot of that stuff. Brian probably learned a lot from that guy."

Martz's passing-game credentials in particular are impeccable. Every week for seven years, he had "The Greatest Show on Turf" ranked in the NFL's top 10 in passing yardage, 119 weeks in all.

Detroit, meanwhile, hadn't been in the top 10 once since 2001. It took Martz three weeks to change that. The Lions come into this game ranked seventh.

"You hear about Coach Martz's offense and you know he has a track record," said wideout Roy Williams, 15 yards ahead of Coles as the league's leading receiver. "But I've never been around a coach like him who makes his players play and brings out the best in his players."

Learning curves

The best has yet to be brought out in either defensive coordinator's unit. Sutton's Jets are 30th in yards allowed -- the last time they had a lower ranking was in 2002 -- and last in sack frequency. Henderson's Lions are 27th in yards and 30th in pass defense.

But the holdover Jets on both sides of the ball know Henderson will have the Detroit "D" fired up.

"His style of coaching, it rubs off on the players and they start acting like him," safety Erik Coleman said. "His intensity, his approach -- me coming in as a rookie [in 2003], he helped me get adapted to the NFL very quickly."

"It'll definitely be good to see him, especially because he's the guy who drafted me," Vilma said. "But it doesn't mean much more than that."

That's because the Jets are still seeking progress in the Sutton/Mangini 3-4 scheme. Henderson dialed up the 3-4 about 25 percent of the time as the Jets' base. This year's Jets have lined up in it almost 90 percent of the time.

They've given up too much rushing yardage as they've struggled with their "run fits," leading to very short second- and third-down situations. That in turn has blunted their pass rush and softened their coverage.

And these Jets, even as they learn a new system, are in danger of losing their starting jobs more quickly than they did under Henderson. Nevertheless, there seems to be no longing for the days of yesteryear.

"Donnie's a great guy," linebacker Victor Hobson said. "But now we have Coach Sutton, we're enjoying ourselves and learning as a group. We want to play well for ourselves, really."

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October 22, 2006 -- The Jets' rushing offense is ranked 21st in the NFL. They've had only one 100-yard rusher and that came mostly in garbage time during a blowout loss.

The Lions today will be without Shaun Rogers, their best defensive lineman and their best run stopper. Rogers earlier this week was suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy. The Lions are also without starting defensive tackle Shaun Cody, who has a toe injury.

Will something give?

Will the Jets be able to run the ball with some consistency today?

"Let's be honest, without the big guy [Rogers] in the middle, we've got to stop the run with some other guys," Lions defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson said. "When he gets a push and he gets up the field, it always takes two guys to block him. Its always an opportunity for somebody else to step up to.

"It does affect the depth. Now it just puts us on a different rotation. So we just have to make sure those guys are fresh and the guys that are supposed to be in there at that particular time need to be in there.

Henderson said he expects the Jets to try to exploit the injury-ridded line by running the ball.

"If you don't stop it they're going to run it all day," he said.

When Lions QB Jon Kitna starts today at Giants Stadium, he might have some thoughts about what might have been. Kitna nearly became a Jet during the offseason free agency period while Chad Pennington's status was very much up in the air. The Jets liked him a lot.

"I spent some time with Jon and I really like the time I spent with him," Jets head coach Eric Mangini said. "He's got really good leadership skills. [Former New England safety] Lawyer Milloy and he were good friends growing up, so I got to know about him a little bit from Lawyer.

"Watching him play and competing against him, I always liked his presence and his leadership on the field and the way that he moves around."

Kitna also has supporter in his head coach, Rod Marinelli, who said, "I'm a big Kitna fan. He's somebody I really pursued aggressively in the offseason. What he brings is special to me in terms of veteran leadership and toughness to his position. I want toughness at the position.

"He has a good enough arm and he's got a great mind. It's really a nice match, [offensive coordinator] Mike Martz and him, because the mental gymnastics they can play together are incredible. [Kitna] can really pick up everything Mike throws at him, and he's tough, that's what I admire, his leadership and his toughness."

Jets WR/QB/special teams rookie Brad Smith has lined up behind center as the QB three times this season on third-and-one situations and helped convert a first down all three times.

Lions WR Roy Williams sounded as if he almost never interacts with Marinelli, his head coach. When asked about Marinelli's involvement in the offense Williams said, "I don't know, I don't think he's too involved. He's a defensive guy, a defensive line coach. I don't know. I see Mike Martz every day, probably 95 percent more then I see Coach Marinelli."

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TIRING LINE: First-year Jets D'Brickashaw Ferguson and...

October 22, 2006 -- YOU can't see it, but you know it's out there. Everybody talks about it. Every pro has been through it. But you don't know it's real until you've slammed into it head on. It's the rookie wall and it awaits Jets offensive linemen D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold.

About this time last season, Ferguson and Mangold were in the home stretch of their respective college football seasons; bowl possibilities, final exams and frat parties were part of the routine. The light at the end of the tunnel was clearly defined. But now they're rookies in the NFL, and the season hasn't even reached its halfway point.

Jets guard Pete Kendall, an 11-year veteran, knows the rookie wall is coming. "They're going to reach a point," Kendall said, "because nearly every rookie does right around Thanksgiving, where they say, 'Oh my God, we've still got six more games left. Aren't we supposed to get ready for bowl week, have a couple of weeks off, take finals and have fun?' But here, there's still an awful lot on the line those last six weeks."

As important as it is for Jets rookie head coach Eric Mangini to establish himself as the leader of the Jets, it is equally as important for Ferguson and Mangold to prove themselves worthy of being the top two draft picks of the Jets' new era under Mangini and general manager Mike Tannenbaum. Nothing ruins a franchise faster than top draft choices turning into busts. Just look at the Lions, the Jets' 1 p.m. opponent today at the Meadowlands.

The Lions have a list of first-round disasters: QB Joey Harrington taken in 2002, WR Charles Rogers (2003) and WR Mike Williams (2005) are no longer with the team, factors in the Lions winning 19 games in four years while laboring through three coaching changes.

Theirs is a dark pit the Jets want to avoid, and why the success of Ferguson and Mangold is critical to the Mangini-Tannebaum era. That's why the Jets are monitoring the arrival of the rookie wall and how it might impact Ferguson, the Jets starting left tackle, and Mangold, the starting center. Both have gone through an exhausting indoctrination into the NFL: learning plays, learning schemes, learning technique and learning to be pros. The Jets know the wall is coming.

"I think that each player is a little bit different," Mangini said. "I've seen it go to different extremes with different rookies where some just take it in stride and others it may affect a little bit more. That's where it's important to have the leadership from other players and for them to constantly get information from [veteran] guys as to the best way to handle the longer season."

Kendall is doing his part. "I try to tell those guys to get their rest and take care of their bodies," he said. "They're both mature guys. I don't think they allow themselves to be subject to some of the pitfalls that the metropolitan New York City area might offer. They seem to intuitively understand that this [season] is a little longer than college and that they need to take care of their bodies."

Their on- field performances have been promising. Ferguson, at 6-6 and 313, needs to add strength and time should take care of that. Meanwhile, he is learning the most difficult position in football. The Jets often give him help with pass protection and his run-blocking needs improvement. But he's coachable. Same with Mangold, who is responsible for calling the blocking schemes.

It's too soon to know whether the Jets found gold with Ferguson and Mangold, the fourth and 29th picks overall. They await many challenges, including the arrival of the rookie wall.


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HEAVE HO: Chad Pennington and his receivers figure to pile up the numbers today against the Lions, who rank 30th in the 32-team NFL in pass defense.October 22, 2006 -- Today, the Jets will leave little to doubt.

Today at Giants Stadium against the 1-5 Lions, the 3-3 Jets will flex their muscles, make their back yard a home-field advantage, score some points, play better run defense and finish the game strong, leaving no antacid moments in the fourth quarter the way they did a week ago against the Dolphins.

Everyone on the Jets, beginning with Eric Mangini and including Chad Pennington and the team's receivers, downplayed it this week, but the fact is the Lions have shown little to no ability to stop the pass this season.

The numbers are eye-opening and, despite their denials, have to have Pennington and his receivers salivating.

The Lions, ranked 30th in the NFL in passing defense, have allowed an NFL-high 13 touchdown passes. They've picked off the second-least amount of passes in the league at two. They've allowed the most gross (1,584) and net (1,486) passing yards in the league. And no team has allowed a higher completion percentage then the Lions' 70.6 percent.

On the other side of the ball, except for the Jets' aberration 41-0 loss in Jacksonville (3 INTs, 28.9 rating), Pennington has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Even with the Jaguars game included, Pennington enters today's game as the fifth-ranked passer in the AFC with a 90.9 rating.

Take away the ghastly Jacksonville numbers and Pennington's rating is 101.7, which would make him the second-highest-rated quarterback in the NFL, first in the AFC.

With a win today, the Jets can accomplish several things:

* They'd match last year's win total (four) in only seven games.

* They'd have won two games in a row for the first time under Mangini.

* They'd even their home record at 2-2.

* They'd be 4-3 with a chance to play the Browns (1-4 entering this week) next Sunday in Cleveland and get to 5-3 at the midway point of the season.

That, of course, would include the Jets amongst the talk of the NFL considering they were predicted to win only four or five games all season by most prognosticators.

With regard to the Lions' apparent vulnerability to the passing game, the Jets, of course, spoke with caution all week.

The first player to defend the Lions' defense was Pennington, who takes nothing for granted, which is a strength of his.

"I'm very wary of those statistics, because when you look at the statistics, you can ... say, 'Wow, we can put a lot of points on the board and do a lot of different things,'" Pennington said. "But they have a lot of playmakers on their defense and they play very fast. You can't just walk out there and expect to just run up and down the field on these guys.

"Their stats are deceiving, really," Pennington added. "Their corners do a great job of anticipation, making plays on the ball. They are starting to be more aggressive in the passing game."

Jets WR Laveranues Coles is another player who refuses to be seduced by the statistics.

"When you watch them on film, they fly to the ball and they have great corners," Coles said. "The numbers kind of lie to you about what has been going on, because if you watch them, they're playing really well."

Pennington believes that a couple of games in which the Lions gave up a lot of points and yards, such as their 34-7 loss to Chicago and 41-34 loss to St. Louis, have skewed the stats.

"I think they are a team that's better than a 1-5 record, and they have had some very close ball games that could have gone either way" he said. "They could be sitting at 3-3 really easy."

That's exactly the way the Lions feel, that they're better than their record.

"We're fine," WR Roy Williams said. "We're 1-5, we know were better then 1-5 and we finally got this monkey off our back and now, hopefully, we know what winning feels like and we can reel off a couple more wins."

Said Lions head coach Rod Marinelli: "We're starting to do some things right, but the biggest thing is we've had four games in the fourth quarter where we should have won or had an opportunity to win and we didn't do it - and last week we did. That's the biggest part you learn to build upon is learning how to finish a game."



Unlike last week, the Jets will leave nothing to chance today at home, establishing themselves early and finishing the job. Look for Chad Pennington to have a big day, perhaps another 300-yard game, against a Detroit pass defense that has allowed 13 TDs and picked off only two passes.


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Lions at Jets

Time: noon today

Records: Lions 1-5, Jets 3-3

The line: Jets by 3 1/2

Why the Lions will win: Running back Kevin Jones had 163 total yards against the Bills last week and faces a Jets defense that is 28th in the league against the run. Detroit also features Roy Williams, the NFL's leading receiver with 552 yards.

Why the Jets will win: Detroit's pass defense is 30th in the NFL, allowing 247.7 yards per game, and has allowed the most touchdowns (13). Also, the Lions (two interceptions) have struggled to force turnovers in the passing game.

Fantasy watch: Jets quarterback Chad Pennington has cooled off after a blazing start, but look for 250 yards and a couple of scores against a subpar Lions pass defense.

Injury report

Lions: Out: S Kenoy Kennedy (Foot); DT Shaun Cody (Toe). Questionable: LB Alex Lewis (Knee); RB Cory Schlesinger (Hamstring); T Rex Tucker (Knee); G Ross Verba (Hamstring). Jets: Questionable: RB B.J. Askew (Foot); CB David Barrett (Hip); WR Laveranues Coles (Calf); WR Tim Dwight (Thigh); RB Cedric Houston (Knee); C Trey Teague (Ankle). Probable: DE Dave Ball (Hand); RB Kevan Barlow (Calf); LB Matt Chatham (Foot); T Anthony Clement (Shin); G Pete Kendall (Thigh); WR Brad Smith (Thigh); DT Kimo Von Oelhoffen (Knee); S Kerry Rhodes (Thigh); QB Chad Pennington (Calf).

Packers at Dolphins

Time: noon today

Records: Packers 1-4, Dolphins 1-5

The line: Dolphins by 5 1/2

Why the Packers will win: Rookie Greg Jennings (three touchdowns) and veteran Donald Driver have combined for 707 receiving yards and four scores. Ahman Green's return from a hamstring injury would provide a welcome boost to the offense.

Why the Dolphins will win: Their defense has been a strong point, allowing less than 100 yards rushing and only 171 yards passing per game. Joey Harrington has completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 498 yards in his two starts.

Fantasy watch: Ronnie Brown had his first truly productive game last week, when he had 127 yards rushing and a touchdown against the Jets. But Green Bay's run defense is better than the Jets'.

Injury report

Packers: Out: DT Cullen Jenkins (Ankle); WR Robert Ferguson (Foot). Doubtful: LB Abdul Hodge (Knee); LB Ben Taylor (Hamstring). Questionable: CB Will Blackmon (Shin); CB Charles Woodson (Knee). Probable: RB Ahman Green (Hamstring); RB William Henderson (Calf). Dolphins: Doubtful: QB Daunte Culpepper (Knee). Questionable: WR Marty Booker (Chest); DE Kevin Carter (Knee); CB Travis Daniels (Knee); CB Andre' Goodman (Shoulder); CB Michael Lehan (Hamstring); TE Justin Peelle (Knee); LB Derrick Pope (Hamstring); WR Wes Welker (Calf). Probable: DE David Bowens (Hamstring).

Patriots at Bills

Time: noon today

Records: Patriots 4-1, Bills 2-4

The line: Patriots by 5 1/2

Why the Patriots will win: Tom Brady is 10-1 all time against Buffalo, and New England's 52 victories over the Bills are its most against any opponent. The Patriots are one of eight teams allowing less than 90 yards rushing per game.

Why the Bills will win: Buffalo is sixth in the NFL with 17 sacks, including three last week against Detroit. J.P. Losman has a touchdown pass in five consecutive games and has thrown for 957 yards in that span.

Fantasy watch: Buffalo's Willis McGahee has been slowed in October, rushing for only 194 yards and one touchdown in three games.

Injury report

Patriots: Questionable: G Russ Hochstein (Knee); T Nick Kaczur (Shoulder); S Eugene Wilson (Hamstring); LB Don Davis (Lower Leg); RB Kevin Faulk (Ankle); TE Daniel Graham (Ankle); CB Ellis Hobbs (Wrist). Probable: CB Willie Andrews (Thigh); QB Tom Brady (Right Shoulder); CB Antwain Spann (Shoulder). Bills: Questionable: S Matt Bowen (Shin); C Melvin Fowler (Thigh); WR Roscoe Parrish (Hamstring); G Tutan Reyes (Shoulder).

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Coordinators garner the spotlight in Jets game



(Original publication: October 22, 2006)

There's little doubt Donnie Henderson will be emotional today, since the Lions' defensive coordinator is a fiery personality in the calmest of times. He knows that facing the Jets, whom he served in the same capacity the previous two seasons, might intensify that side of him.

Yet playing a road game at Giants Stadium won't seem that strange at all.

"Leaving Hofstra, going down there to the Meadowlands, it was like going to a road game each week anyway," Henderson said of working for the Jets, who practice in Hempstead. "We didn't have a home stadium."

The Jets (3-3) host Detroit (1-5) at 1 p.m. in what could be dubbed "The Coordinators' Bowl" for all the attention they've received this week.

"He definitely understands our personnel, so he can definitely talk to the guys about the strengths of our personnel," Jets quarterback Chad Pennington said. "We do have a new system. But you do have to understand that he understands us as players."

Besides Henderson's return, there's Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz, the former Rams head coach known for his intricate and potent schemes.

First-year Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is also earning praise from his players for some of his innovative calls. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, the ex-Army coach, is still trying to help the Jets adjust to the 3-4 system coach Eric Mangini brought from New England. Sutton was the linebackers coach the last two seasons under Herman Edwards and Henderson.

"There's been a couple of times where Bob has pulled the trigger on things," Mangini said when asked which one of them was a bigger gambler. "I think it was the Buffalo game where he had called a blitz and I thought, 'Hmm, is that really what you want to do?' He said, 'Yeah, I like it here.' Then we had the strip sack. At that point, it was like, 'Great Call. Good job.' "

Still, neither defense has been stellar. The Jets are 30th in the NFL, allowing opponents 370 total yards per game. The Lions are slightly better, ranked 26th while allowing 342 yards. The Jets' defense was ranked 12th in the league last season, allowing 308.8 yards per game.

"I mean, it's going to be emotional. I spent two good years there," Henderson said. "I thought we played pretty good defense there. However, I'm the coordinator here, and I hope we play good defense here when we go there."

The Jets aren't necessarily looking to prove themselves to Henderson.

"We want to play well for ourselves," Jets outside linebacker Victor Hobson said. "This is a competitive system, and if you're not playing well, you might find yourself watching."

Henderson actually has a tough task over the next four games. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who was just switched to nose tackle last week to make up for the absence of the injured Shaun Cody, has been suspended by the NFL for using a banned substance.

Martz has the Lions' offense ranked 15th in the NFL (317.3 yards per game), and they are eighth in passing (245.2).

In Roy Williams, Martz has a wide receiver in the Torry Holt/Isaac Bruce mold. Kevin Jones is a versatile running back a la Marshall Faulk.

"You hear about his offense and you know he has a track record," Williams said. "What he does is he makes his players play. I've never been around a coach who makes his players play and brings out the best in his players."

The Lions, under the guidance of veteran quarterback Jon Kitna, seem to finally be grasping Martz's expansive playbook.

"He's much more of a cool, laid-back guy

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But, not Jets' Cotchery


Newsday Staff Writer

October 22, 2006

Katie Cotchery loves to cook. More than anything, she loves to cook for her children. So when her baby boy finds his way home to Birmingham, Ala., she takes it upon herself to keep his plate and his palate filled with her many delicacies.

For breakfast, she piles on the pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and grits. "He likes them with some sugar sprinkled on top," she said.

Then for dinner there's baked chicken, candied yams and potato salad. "And don't forget the German chocolate upside-down cake," she said.

But this past summer, instead of digging in, Jerricho Cotchery pushed away from the table.

"Momma, I can't do that," he told her. "They're gonna put me on the track to take off all this weight."

Shunning his mother's cooking for the first time was only one aspect of Cotchery's offseason training program. Before he entered his third season with the Jets, the wide receiver wanted to improve his speed and strength, sensing that with a new coaching staff came a clean slate and a second opportunity to prove himself.

The work quickly paid off. Cotchery was named the MVP of the offseason conditioning program by rookie head coach Eric Mangini and quickly settled into a starting job. He has since become a big part of what has been Chad Pennington's comeback season.

Cotchery may be just behind teammate Laveranues Coles in everything from receptions and yardage to alphabetical listings and sullen outbursts, but he is beginning to make strides in a career that, for the first two years, looked doomed to spot appearances and special-teams performances.

Like no other Jet, he has taken advantage of the new regime. For some, it was just a matter of time before Cotchery emerged.

"I told Jerricho a while ago that he was going to be a great receiver in this league," said Coles, who's second in the NFL in receiving yardage. "I think he's just scratching the surface of his ability. Any time you have the talents, the size, the ability and the speed Jerricho has and the willingness to go over the middle and take the hits and make the big catches, he has a great combination to probably be one of the better receivers in the game."

And he is doing it the way he does most things: quietly.

Soft-spoken with a twangy Alabama accent infused with Tobacco Road echoes picked up from four years at North Carolina State, Cotchery is one of the most unassuming players at a position that often calls for bravado and showmanship. He said he traces his personality to being one of the youngest of 13 children - he has 11 older brothers, sisters and half-siblings.

"I was just a guy that always paid attention to everything that went on around me," he said. "If somebody else makes a mistake, I'm going to learn from their mistake instead of me going through it and making that mistake myself. That helped me out a lot growing up."

Even on the field, where he sometimes had more trash-talk than footballs tossed in his direction, Cotchery doesn't take the bait. Word has spread about his aversion to the verbal.

"A couple of guys talk trash, but most of the guys find out early that I'm not going to talk back, so they don't even talk to me during the game," he said of opposing cornerbacks. "There'll just be a lot of silence out there."

There wasn't much silence growing up in Birmingham in a four-bedroom, two-bath house that, at its fullest, sheltered 13 people, including his parents, Jerricho and Katie. Even amid the clamor of all those people, Cotchery found a way to stand out and do so quietly.

Katie Cotchery said she recalled throwing a football with Jerricho when he was 4. "He would say, 'Momma, I'm gonna play NFL football, and when I go to the pros, I'm gonna buy you a big ol' mansion,'" Katie said. He's managed to do both. The Cotcherys are in the process of moving into a new house in Birmingham, complete with a restaurant-grade kitchen for Katie's cooking.

As he grew, Cotchery seldom was without a ball in his hands, either a football or a basketball. He was an accomplished player on the courts, playing for the Alabama Ice, an AAU team that included Gerald Wallace, who now plays for the Charlotte Bobcats; Mario Austin, who was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, and Karlos Dansby, who is a linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals.

He was recruited to play football by Alabama and Auburn, but they ultimately withdrew their offers. He could have attended UAB, but he decided he wanted to go to college farther away than five minutes from where he grew up. So he attended N.C. State, which had been one of the first colleges interested in him. He became a favorite target of Philip Rivers and worked with offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who now is the Jets' wide receivers coach. He even had the chance to play basketball for the Wolfpack, but he focused solely on football and was selected by the Jets in the fourth round of the 2004 draft.

It took Cotchery two years to crack the starting lineup but only two games after that to make the play of his career. Against the Patriots, he jumped high to catch a pass from Pennington. He was hit low by safety Eugene Wilson and hit high and hard by cornerback Chad Scott but managed to keep his knees and elbows off the turf before running 47 yards to complete a 71-yard touchdown reception.

Growing up, Cotchery was called "Little Jerricho," and not only because his father was "Big Jerricho."

"He was this little bow-legged thing, couldn't have been more than three or four feet high," Big Jerricho said. "All of a sudden he sprung up with height."

All of a sudden, he's become a tough receiver for the Jets. "They used to take my boy and throw him all over the field," Cotchery's father said. "Now I see two or three people try to grab him and he knocks them all around."

And all because he passed on seconds of his Momma's peach cobbler.

Bet you didn't know . . .

Jerricho Cotchery's family name is actually Cottrell, but according to family lore, when his grandfather told it to his grandmother, she misheard him and wrote the wrong name. Cotchery's father, Jerricho, found out about the mix-up in the late 1980s and told his son when the boy was about 6 years old, giving the child the option to change last names. "He said, 'No, Daddy, I want to keep my name. My name is going to be famous.'"

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Beleaguered DBs will be kept busy


Newsday Staff Writer

October 22, 2006

There's very little question where the Lions will try to apply pressure to the Jets' defense today. Though most teams have found an ability to run through the Jets this season, the Lions are more likely to take to the air.

Detroit (1-5) averages 317 yards of offense per game, and a remarkable 77.3 percent of that has come from the passing game. In an offense conducted by maverick Mike Martz with weapons such as wide receivers Roy Williams and Mike Furrey, running the football for the Lions is almost as antiquated an enterprise as the drop kick. Sure they practice it, but they hardly ever use it.

All of which means the Jets' secondary, which has had problems with tackling, coverage and overall consistency in the first six weeks of the season, will be under the magnifying glass. Like ants on a sunny day. About to be sizzled.

"Mike Martz has always done a good job of putting pressure on defenses between the shifts and multiple formations with personnel groups and the big plays that his offenses have always been able to create," Jets coach Eric Mangini said of Martz's time as scoring guru for the St. Louis Rams during their Greatest Show on Turf tenure.

Mangini, too, has been using multiple formations and personnel groups in his secondary, though not for the same reason as the Lions. While free-agent acquisition Andre Dyson has played one cornerback position throughout the year, the second cornerback job has changed hands routinely. David Barrett started the season there but was injured early. Justin Miller was there but proved very vulnerable. Rookie Drew Coleman has started the last two games at the position, but the rookie who converted from receiver to defensive back only two years ago is learning on the job.

"[Mangini] changes personnel on every play or whenever he wants," Coleman said. "If you go out there and you play sound defense in the way that it's supposed to be played, I don't think you'll have a problem. Once you start messing up and doing things that you're not coached to do, that's when you have a problem."

The Jets have had problems, and not only on individual levels. The Jets allow an average of 225 passing yards per game, 26th in the NFL, and have, at times, made middling quarterbacks J.P. Losman and Joey Harrington look like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady (for the record, the latter two also looked like themselves against the Jets). Not all of the blame goes to the cornerbacks and safeties because the Jets are one of two NFL teams to have played six games and failed to reach 10 sacks.

Mangini praised Dyson for his leadership role in the secondary and said the sixth-year veteran not only is a role model for the younger players but a sounding board for the coaching staff. He's the Pete Kendall of the defensive backs. But even Dyson will have a challenge covering Williams, the Lions' 6-2, 212-pound receiver.

"Every week teams have superstar players, and you have to go into every week with the same attitude - just go out there to win, play fast, play hard and play smart," Dyson said. "That is what we try to do, no matter what name is on the back of the jersey or what decal is on the helmet."


1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 5

Radio: WFAN (660)




Jon Kitna was high on the Jets' wish list this offseason. With as much uncertainty as Chad Pennington's twice-repaired shoulder presented, the Jets were on the prowl for a veteran quarterback who not only could push Pennington in training camp but be able to play with competence should Pennington's rehab falter. "Watching him play and competing against him, I always liked his presence and leadership on the field," coach Eric Mangini said of the reasons the Jets courted Kitna, who wound up with Detroit and has thrown six touchdowns passes and seven interceptions for the Lions.



The key

Quarterback Jon Kitna must deliver the ball to a spot for Williams at the point between the cornerback and the safety.

1 Williams sprints as hard as he can 18-20 yards up the field...

2 ...and then suddenly stops and turns for the ball...

3 ...Williams must be ready to catch it just as he's turning toward Kitna's precision deliver.


One of the staples of Mike Martz's offense in St. Louis, where the Rams were nicknamed "The Greatest Show on Turf," was the "dig route." The Lions don't have the same talent at receiver, but Roy Williams is becoming adept at Martz's style.

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Sad sacks!

Lack of pressure on QB hurting Jets

Lions at Jets, at Giants Stadium, 1 pm



Jon Kitna

Bob Sutton calls the play from the sideline: A safety blitz, with Kerry Rhodes rushing from the quarterback's blind side.

"Is that what you want to do?" asks Eric Mangini, standing near his defensive coordinator.

"Yeah, I like it here," Sutton replies.

Rhodes swoops into the backfield, sacks the Bills' J.P. Losman and strips the ball. The Jets recover.

"Great call," Mangini says, smiling. "Good job."

Sometimes it happens that way, the confluence of an astute call and perfect execution. For the Jets, who face the Lions today at Giants Stadium in a matchup of two defensively challenged teams, it hasn't happened nearly enough.

The Jets are ranked 30th in total defense, which suggests widespread problems, but the hot-button issue is the lack of a pass rush. It's most evident late in games.

The Jets have managed only two fourth-quarter sacks, a big reason they've blown two leads (Titans and Colts) and turned 15- and 17-point advantages against the Bills and Dolphins, respectively, into last-possession nail biters.

Sack totals are up throughout the league, with many teams employing pressure schemes, but the Jets are relatively conservative when it comes to blitzing. They average about one blitz every four or five pass plays, usually opting to take the cautious, bend-but-don't-break approach.

They nearly broke last week, allowing Miami's Joey Harrington to throw for 199 yards in the fourth quarter. The Jets barely prevailed, as they did against the Titans and Bills, so they're doing something right. But Jets are flirting with disaster on a weekly basis, prompting a cry among fans to play more aggressively.

"One of the things about blitzing is that usually somebody's band is going to play, either ours or theirs," said Mangini, apparently concerned that he's going to hear too much of the opponents' band.

The defensive-minded Mangini is involved in the defense, but he leaves the play calling to Sutton, a holdover from the Herm Edwards and Al Groh staffs. It's an interesting marriage, considering Sutton and Mangini had no previous experience together. Their only link is Groh, a branch on the Bill Parcells coaching tree.

Sutton is running Mangini's system and, in fact, has little experience with the 3-4 defense. That type of arrangement always raises questions. It happened with Edwards and his first coordinator, Ted Cottrell, who ran Edwards' defense for three years.

There is no evidence of any awkwardness between Sutton and Mangini, who described his playbook as "a living, breathing thing" that melds different philosophies.

"I really like the way Bob approaches things," Mangini said. "He's done a good job, too, incorporating different ideas. There are a lot of different ideas from the system that was in place last year."

That belonged to Donnie Henderson, the ultra-aggressive coach who will be at the stadium today in his new gig as the Lions' coordinator.

If Henderson still were in charge of the Jets' defense, he'd have two solutions:

Blitzing. More blitzing.

Mangini and Sutton prefer a more balanced approach, mixing pressure and coverage schemes. The result: Only nine sacks, one of the slowest starts in franchise history. That shouldn't come as a total shock, considering they traded their best pass rusher, John Abraham.

When healthy, Abraham was known for his for rally-killing sacks. In six seasons, he registered 22 of his 52 sacks in the fourth quarter, often changing the momentum of games. Mangini figured he'd be able to compensate with clever game plans and good, old-fashioned teamwork - that's how he was taught. In six seasons with the Patriots, they never had a double-digit sacker, but they played championship defense.

The Jets had a good thing going with Rhodes, who recorded a team-high three sacks with those sneaky safety blitzes, but the element of surprise is gone.

"Teams are keying on me now," Rhodes said. "They're not going to let me terrorize the quarterback."

If the Jets can't find a way to rattle Kitna, something is wrong. He has been blitzed a league-high 92 times, according to STATS, Inc., and the Lions haven't found a way to stop it. Kitna has been knocked down more than any quarterback in the league, 46 times.




THE LINE: Jets by 3.5

TV: Ch. 5 (Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan)

RADIO: WABC 770 AM, WEPN 1050 AM (Bob Wischusen, Marty Lyons), in Spanish on WADO 1280 AM (C.L. Smith Muniz and Alfredo Bejar)

FORECAST: Sunny, 61, winds at 6 mph.


The Lions have a huge hole in their interior line with Pro Bowl DT Shaun Rogers beginning a four-game suspension for what turned out to be diet pills. Marcus Bell replaces the 6-4, 345-pounder. The other regular DT, Shaun Cody, will miss a second straight game with a dislocated toe. Cory Redding moved over from left DE to replace him last week. QB Jon Kitna is playing behind a makeshift line, but at least it's the same one that did well last week. The Jets are relatively healthy. RB Cedric Houston (knee) will probably be out one more week while CB David Barrett (questionable) is resting his hip injury.


WR Laveranues Coles vs. CB Fernando Bryant: Bryant plays aggressive press coverage and the physical Coles is adept at beating it. QB Chad Pennington must be careful because Bryant will jump routes. Look for Coles to try to get Bryant to bite on the types of double moves he used to score a big TD against the Dolphins last week. The Lions' pass defense gives up almost 250 yards per game.

RB Kevin Jones vs. Jonathan Vilma, Bryan Thomas and the Jets LBs: Jones comes off a 127-yard rushing day and faces a Jet defense that hopes to limit the damage done on the ground. The question is if Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz will have the patience to stay on the ground. As he did with Marshall Faulk, Martz loves to involve Jones in the passing game, particularly on screens and swing patterns underneath WR Roy Williams on Thomas' side.


"I see Chad Pennington carving up the Lions. We know (defensive coordinator) Donnie Henderson is going to come after him with blitzes, especially with Rogers out, but Detroit has managed only 11 sacks this year and Pennington's going to be able to find open receivers. Roy Williams can give the Jets problems downfield but he can have problems escaping he jam. Look for the Jets to bump him, especially on third down, a big problem area for the Lions this year. The Jet safeties will have to tackle well. Martz's offense is all about yards after the catch.

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Some must speak up in order to stand out

Gripes have paid off for many, but Chambers won't complain

By Alex Marvez

Originally published October 22, 2006

Whine and you shall receive.

After losses by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets two weeks ago, wide receivers Terrell Owens and Laveranues Coles publicly complained about not being more involved in their teams' respective offenses. Fast-forward to last Sunday and - voila - Owens (five catches for 45 yards and three touchdowns) and Coles (five catches for 106 yards, two touchdowns) played major roles in victories by the Cowboys and Jets.

Dolphins wide receiver Chris Chambers has just as legitimate a gripe as Owens and Coles entering today's game against the Green Bay Packers, but you won't be hearing such complaints publicly.

Chambers failed to post more than 40 receiving yards in three of the Dolphins' four previous games. And though he did botch a potential catch that resulted in a Jets interception, the fact that Chambers caught only two passes for 12 yards through the first three quarters of last week's 20-17 loss to New York speaks volumes about how much less of an impact he is making in 2006 compared with the final six games last season when he had 43 receptions for 620 yards and six touchdowns en route to a Pro Bowl berth.

Chambers could have vented his frustration to the media a la Owens and Coles after the loss to the Jets. Instead, Chambers said he approached offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey privately last week about his role in the team's offense.

"I asked Mike today if there's anything I need to do differently," Chambers said Wednesday. "He said, 'Just keep playing and we'll figure out ways to get you the ball.'"

Earlier in his six-year NFL career, Chambers occasionally spoke out publicly when wanting a larger role in the Dolphins' passing offense. Chambers, though, said he is more comfortable with a low-key approach.

"I know how to handle it," Chambers said. "I try to kind of let the coaches figure it out that I need to get going early in the game, not get one [catch] in the first and then not get another one until the fourth when we're trying to win and it's like, 'We need you.' It's kind of rough. But I think the coaches know that."

In comparison, Dolphins tight end Randy McMichael is from the squeaky-wheel-gets-the-grease school of thought. McMichael isn't afraid to speak his mind when not catching passes, although his 14 receptions in the past two games weren't the result of his public lobbying so much as improvement by the offensive line that allowed him to become less of a blocker and more of a receiver.

McMichael said he understands why Owens and Coles spouted off.

"If you say you want the ball, it's because you have confidence in your ability," McMichael said. "They're the go-to guys. When your go-to guys say, 'Give me the ball,' you've got to give them the ball.

"They shouldn't have to say that. You should automatically be giving them the ball. I think a lot of times they challenge themselves by saying it because they know they have to elevate their game so [complaining] won't blow up in your face."

Such demands can create the perception of a player as being selfish.

McMichael, though, said that shouldn't matter.

"The thing is you don't ever worry about what anyone from the outside is saying," McMichael said. "Your teammates know what you can do. A lot of times, teammates in the back of their minds are thinking, 'Wow, we've got to get this guy the ball.'"

For the Dolphins, that guy would be Chambers, even if he won't shout it out.

Alex Marvez writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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October 22, 2006

Email this Print this Matchup: Lions 1-5, N.Y. Jets 3-3.

When: 1 p.m. today.

Where: Meadowlands, East Rutherford, N.J.

TV: Fox (Ch. 2 in Detroit).

Line: Jets by 3 1/2 .



Jets outside linebacker Victor Hobson, a former Wolverine, faced Kevin Jones in high school. "He was good back then," Hobson said. "He was definitely somebody you looked at like he's going to be a special player." But Hobson's St. Joseph's (Pa.) Prep squad shut down Jones' Cardinal O'Hara (Pa.) squad. On the Jets' running side, Curtis Martin has been injured for months. The Jets rely on rookie Leon Washington and Kevan Barlow.


Eric Mangini, 35, the Jets' new coach, is the youngest in the NFL. He's also one of the many disciples of New England coach Bill Belichick. Some others: Romeo Crennel, Browns; Nick Saban, Dolphins; Kirk Ferentz, Iowa; Pat Hill, Fresno State; Charlie Weis, Notre Dame. ... The Jets' linebackers coach is former Michigan defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann. Anyone forget about Herrmann with his replacement, Ron English, being so successful?


26 Rank of the Jets' passing defense. (224.7 yards allowed per game)

30 Rank of the Lions' passing defense (247.7).

2-0 Lions' record in the past two trips to the Meadowlands.


Roy Williams and Laveranues Coles are the top two receivers in yardage this season. A look at how they compare with other top receivers:

Name Rec Yds Yd/g Yac TD

Williams, Det. 36 552 92.0 3.3 2

Coles, NYJ 38 537 89.5 4.7 3

Holt, StL. 37 526 87.7 3.8 7

Boldin, Ari. 40 502 83.7 6.0 3

Johnson, Hou. 39 485 97.0 4.2 2

Yds/G -- Yards per game Yac-Yards after catch


Roy Williams: "The X-factor on this team is (running back) Kevin Jones. I believe if Kevin Jones rushes for over 100 yards that this team can't be beat, in my opinion."

Jets WR Laveranues Coles' response: "I truly believe that is what he truly feels. What a lot of people will try to do is take that as locker-room, chalkboard talk and try to motivate a team. It's just a comment. When he steps on the field, what he believes really don't matter. He's still got to play the game."

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October 22, 2006

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Free Press sports writer Nicholas J. Cotsonika scouts Sunday's Lions-Jets game:

Lions' running offense vs. Jets' run defense

The Lions ranked dead last in rushing until last week, when running back Kevin Jones posted his first 100-yard game since he was a rookie in 2004. Jones had 23 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo, despite the banged-up offensive line.

The line is still missing three starters -- left guard Ross Verba, right guard Damien Woody and right tackle Rex Tucker. But for the first time this season, the same group of five will start back-to-back games. At least the Lions will have a little continuity.

The Jets have struggled against the run, allowing 145.3 rushing yards per game. They haven't held an opponent to fewer than 100 yards rushing since their opener against Tennessee.

Advantage: Lions

Lions' passing offense vs. Jets' pass defense

Wide receiver Roy Williams leads the NFL with 552 receiving yards -- pretty impressive, considering he missed virtually all of the Minnesota game after suffering a back injury and barely practiced last week. He has essentially had three straight 100-yard games.

Quarterback Jon Kitna hasn't always had time to throw, but he should have time today against a Jets pass rush that has only nine sacks -- two fewer than the Lions. The Jets have seven interceptions, but the secondary isn't scary.

The Jets rank third-worst in total defense.

Advantage: Lions

Jets' running offense vs. Lions' run defense

The Lions have stopped the run pretty well in five of their six games, and the Jets have not been impressive running the ball by committee. They have to hope Curtis Martin can come back from his knee injury.

Like the Lions, the Jets have had one 100-yard rusher this season. But rookie Leon Washington barely did it (101 yards), and he did it in a 41-0 loss to Jacksonville.

But the Lions will be without their starting defensive tackles -- Shaun Cody (toe) and Shaun Rogers (suspension). That means defensive end Cory Redding will move inside next to Marcus Bell. The Lions had better be disciplined in their gaps, because with Rogers missing, the Jets might challenge them up the middle.

Advantage: Lions

Jets' passing offense vs. Lions' pass defense

This is where the Jets can do some damage. Wide receiver Laveranues Coles ranks second only to Williams in receiving yards with 537. He's tough and physical off the line.

Quarterback Chad Pennington doesn't put up eye-popping yardage numbers, but he's efficient and gets rid of the ball quickly -- a bad combination for a defense that has had trouble getting sacks and has been allowing high completion percentages.

Rogers' absence hurts here, too. Defensive end James Hall came up big last week with 3 1/2 sacks. He needs to come up big again, and he could use some help from Kalimba Edwards.

Advantage: Jets

Special teams

The Lions have been inconsistent in all areas -- kicking, punting and returning -- and Giants Stadium might be a tough place for kicker Jason Hanson and punter Nick Harris to play, considering five of their first six games were indoors.

The Jets rank third in kickoff return average at 25.3 yards. Watch out for Justin Miller, who returned a kick 103 yards for a touchdown Oct. 1 against Indianapolis.

Advantage: Jets


The Jets are a tough team to figure out. They play Indianapolis tough one week (31-28 loss) then get jacked by Jacksonville (41-0 loss) the next.

Both teams are coming off similar, ho-hum victories. The Jets beat Joey Harrington and the Dolphins, 20-17. The Lions beat Buffalo, 20-17.

This is a winnable game for the Lions, but they're just too beaten-up. They could be down as many as eight starters. The Lions get a bye after this game, and most of their injured players will be back afterward. That's when we should start to get a real read on this team.

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In the name of defense

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Star-Ledger Staff

The play happened in the first quarter of a victory in Buffalo a month ago. It was third-and-four from the Jets' 19-yard line and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton dialed up a safety blitz. Six players in all rushed Bills quarterback J.P. Losman.

Coach Eric Mangini did a double-take as he heard the call on his headphones.

"I thought, 'Hmm, is that really what you want to do?'" Mangini recalled last week. "(Sutton) said, 'Yeah, I like it here.' We had the strip sack (by safety Kerry Rhodes). At that point, it was like, 'Great call. Good job.'"

In the third quarter, Sutton blitzed Rhodes again and he had another strip sack. This time, linebacker Victor Hobson picked up the ball and raced 32 yards for a touchdown.

"Bob is outstanding," said Mangini, who doesn't allow his coordinator to speak to the media. "He's incredibly detail-oriented. He's very thorough. He has done a good job incorporating different ideas."

Sutton, who spent nine seasons as head coach at Army, is in his first season as the Jets' defensive boss. He replaced Donnie Henderson, who is now the Lions defensive coordinator.

The battle of the two defensive coordinators is a juicy subplot in today's matchup between the Jets (3-3) and Lions (1-5) at the Meadowlands.

Henderson, who is without 6-4, 345-pound Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers (suspension), departed an angry man when the Jets passed him over for the head-coaching job in favor of Mangini. He would love to exact a bit of revenge today and admitted this game is "emotional" for him.

Sutton, who spent six seasons as the Jets linebacker coach, is facing the Lions' innovative offensive coordinator Mike Martz, the former Rams head coach. He doesn't want to get embarrassed at home.

Henderson, 49, did a good job during his two seasons with the Jets and his aggressive, blitz-happy style was enjoyed by the players. But he rubbed many people the wrong way with his abrasive personality and gruff exterior. Plus, he was a Herman Edwards guy, the former head coach who is now in Kansas City.

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Lions hope to use momentum of win on the road vs. Jets

Sunday, October 22, 2006

By Tom Kowalski

The last time the Detroit Lions played the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J., in 2000, then-guard Jeff Hartings recovered a fumble in the end zone in the fourth quarter and Detroit won, 13-10.

It was the Lions' fifth road victory of that season.

In the five-plus years since that day, the Lions have won exactly five games on the road. And now they're going back to the Meadowlands to face the Jets and try to get road victory No. 6.

The Lions won their first game of the season last Sunday against Buffalo while the Jets are now 3-3 and looking for their second consecutive home victory.

"Now that we've got the first one, we'll be a little bit looser and we'll just keep going," Lions quarterback Jon Kitna said. "Last week, we talked about putting up more points, but that was the kind of game we needed to win."

The Lions beat the Bills 20-17, but the Lions haven't been able to stay very close on the road this season, losing by a touchdown or more in all three games.

"Really, we just haven't been playing very well on the road," said fullback Cory Schlesinger. "This year, we've been getting a lot of points on the road but they're (opponents) getting a few more points. The Chicago game wasn't a good game but in the other games on the road I felt we had some pretty good yardage and we put up points -- just not enough."

Center Dominic Raiola believes the Lions have to take small steps before they can take the big leap into being known as a good team on the road.

"It's the obvious things, the elements, the crowd being against you, the atmosphere, it all plays into it. But when you overcome that, then it comes easier," Raiola said. "Once you find a little bit of momentum, you've got to jump on it and run. If you do that in each game, once you build up the reputation of being a good road team, then you run with that."

The Lions will be running without Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who is serving the first of a four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.

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