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October 23, 2006



Leon Washington is clearly the best running back on the physically able to perform list, and the Jets took full advantage of the absence of Shaun Rogers to push the ball for a season-high 221 rushing yards. Chad Pennington was 16-for-22 for 189 yards, 44 of them coming on a TD bomb to Justin McCareins, but his interception late in the second quarter could have sealed the game at halftime had it been completed to Chris Baker. Unlike last week, the offense was able to drive the field, eat up time, and keep the ball and momentum away from a team looking for a comeback in the fourth quarter.



Roy who? The Jets kept Roy Williams in check, holding the league's top receiver to two catches and 29 yards, thanks to some physical cornerback play and plenty of attention from S Kerry Rhodes. Jon Kitna entered the game as one of the most roughed-up QBs in the NFL between sacks and hits, but the Jets had trouble reaching him and sacked him only once. The defense could have snuffed out any fourth-quarter tension with a fourth-down stop, but the Lions were 2-for-2, converting one on each of their final two TD drives. Kevin Jones ran for 86 yards on 15 carries, which constitutes improvement for the run defense.



Justin Miller's 56-yard kickoff return after the Lions scored their first points of the game set up a rebound touchdown for the Jets. Ben Graham had only two opportunities to punt, and he put both inside the Lions' 15. Kicker Mike Nugent was perfect on PATs and added a 33-yard field goal early in the fourth. He also had a rare touchback on a kickoff. And on perhaps the most critical special-teams play, a doinky kickoff over the heads of the Jets' hands unit on an almost-onsides kick, Rhodes recovered the live football to set up the Jets' final clock-killing possession.



The Jets needed to grab momentum early, and the opening drive set the tone for the game. The Jets quickly recognized Washington would be their hot hand, and they continued to feed him the ball. The Jets had a solid defensive game plan to contain Williams and disrupt the precision passing of the Lions. Rather than put pressure on Kitna with blitzes, they instead chose to put pressure on Williams with plenty of bumps and doubles. It was classic Mangini-style coverage; the only things missing were Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy.

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Jets: Mangini's core values making impact

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Star-Ledger Staff

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- They sound corny. But coach Eric Mangini calls them the Jets' core values. There are four of them: Do your job first, communicate, focus and finish.

Do your job first. If everyone does that, in theory a play will be successful. The key is trusting that the guy next to you is doing his job.

Communicate. Mangini would rather have everyone get a play wrong than have half his players get it right and half get it wrong. He wants his players to talk problems out.

Focus. Taking things one day, one play, one game at a time. The five-second rule -- lament or celebrate a play or game for that amount of time and then move on -- is crucial.

Finish. Not only games, but plays, practice and meetings. Mangini says a player never knows when finishing a particular play or task will be the difference between winning and losing.

Those core values are all a part of the Mangini plan and players are buying into it more than ever, especially after back-to-back victories and a 4-3 mark. The four victories match the Jets' total of last season.

Entering the season, some thought the Jets would do well to win four games total with a sore-armed quarterback, a future Hall of Fame running back on the shelf, two rookie starting offensive linemen, an undersized nose tackle, a middle linebacker playing in a scheme ill-suited for his sideline-to-sideline skills and no pass rusher.

But after seven games, Mangini somehow has the Jets in the playoff mix with a game at Cleveland (1-5) on Sunday before their bye week. Who would've thought it?

"There was no set schedule," said Mangini yesterday when asked if his program was ahead of schedule. "There was no set milestone. The way it was going to be gauged was progress.That's how I'm going to gauge everything throughout the season.

"Are we making strides in areas we need improvement? First and foremost, win games. After that, it's are we improving individually and collectively?"

Offensively, the Jets are light years ahead of schedule. Their 147 points are tied for the fifth-most in the NFL. Quarterback Chad Pennington has recaptured his 2002 form. A receiving corps thought to be ordinary is exceeding expectations. The young offensive line is coming together and the tag-team running back tandem of rookie Leon Washington and Kevan Barlow is getting it done.

Defensively, though, the Jets are a mess. They rank 30th in the NFL, yielding 372.3 yards per game. They have no pass rush to speak of. Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma looks pedestrian in the 3-4 alignment. Undersized nose tackle Dewayne Robertson (317 pounds) is taking his lumps, although he played well against the Lions.

Finally, the signing of former Steeler Kimo Von Oelhoffen looks like a $3.2 million mistake. That was his signing bonus.

Even so, the Jets, who have been free a major injuries, have somehow won more than they've lost this season and Mangini and his program must be given the credit.

Mangini said that while his players have been working hard all season, he sensed the intensity pick up a couple of weeks ago. Coincidentally, that's just after the Jets were pounded, 41-0, by the Jaguars.

"I think that any time you go through an experience like that, it's not something that anyone wants to repeat," Mangini said. "But they've been working (all season). It wasn't like that week we had taken off, although we played like it."

Mangini, who spent the previous six seasons with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, credits his players' success to a tough training camp, good practices in pads during the season, consistent effort and good study habits. He said coaches and players alike come prepared to work on Wednesdays, which is the biggest practice day of the season.

Mangini has made good on his promise to give every player an opportunity, to be flexible in tailoring his game plan to each opponent and being among the best prepared teams in the NFL each week. Details, details, details ... that's his rallying cry.

"I'd like to think they're seeing the benefits," said Mangini, who gave the players yesterday off. "It's so important that a player has the right approach and is professional because collectively that, and practice, ties into games and it all lends itself to being successful. That's really the point of it."

Mangini refused to say definitely that RB Curtis Martin would begin practicing following the Cleveland game. Last week, he said that was the earliest Martin would practice. The coach, however, did say he would find a place for the running back regardless of the logjam at the position.

"It's Curtis," Mangini said. "If he comes out and he's the best player, he'll play."

Nonetheless, a return by Martin, who has a bone-on-bone condition in his right knee, appears to be a long shot.

Notes: Robertson (defense), RB Leon Washington (offense) and S Kerry Rhodes (special teams) were named the players of the game by Mangini. Mangini said Robertson is using good hand placement, footwork and technique to make up for his lack of size in the 3-4 scheme....

Mangini and Browns coach Romeo Crennel coached together in New England for years and are good friends.... Mangini said several players came in for workouts and treatment despite being given the day off.

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Greener pastures in sight

Jet expectations soar under resourceful Eric



Only two weeks ago, the Jets were on a leather couch, fodder for the ever-growing throng of amateur sports psychologists. They had been embarrassed by the Jaguars, 41-0, and their young coach - under .500 for the first time - was facing his first mini-crisis.

"Anytime you go through an experience like that, it's something nobody wants to repeat," Eric Mangini said yesterday. "And you can count me in that mix with everybody else."

It's too early in the season to pinpoint a defining moment, but the Jacksonville debacle could emerge as a turning point. Instead of reverting to the Same Old Jets, they've rallied with two straight victories, capitalizing on a soft schedule that allowed them to play two one-win teams (Miami and Detroit) at home.

Mangini was in such a good mood after Sunday's 31-24 win over the Lions that he gave the players a formal day off yesterday, making good on a promise he made to his captains last week.

Has Mangini turned into Herm Edwards, who rewarded the team with an off-day after every win? Not exactly. When pressed, Mangini admitted the entire team showed up to lift weights and watch tape on its own time. "Who wouldn't want to come in and get a little extra work on your day off?" Mangini said, grinning.

Mangini is a no-nonsense boss, but he has captured the respect of the team. But now there's a new challenge: Dealing with expectations. Or, as guard Pete Kendall said Sunday, "How will we handle success?"

With a 4-3 record, and with a remaining schedule that includes only three opponents with winning records, the Jets have a chance to contend for a p-p-p-layoff spot. It's easy to trip over the "P" word, especially after a 4-12 season. Two weeks after building up his demoralized team, Mangini has to prevent it from going too far in the other direction. "It's an ongoing process, fighting human nature," he said. "When you win, you sometimes feel that things are okay and mistakes maybe aren't as important."

The Jets made a significant discovery in Jacksonville: Leon Washington, who rushed for 101 yards. Most of it came in garbage time, and it was rightfully overshadowed by the big picture, but it convinced the coaches to give him a bigger role.

The following week, against the Dolphins, the rookie fourth-round pick rushed for a team-high 58 yards. Then, on Sunday, it was his breakout game, a two-touchdown, 129-yard performance, the biggest rushing day by a Jets rookie since Matt Snell in 1964. "That kid is explosive," linebacker Matt Chatham said. "He's a difference-maker that this team really needs."

After weeks of mixing and matching, Mangini finally has found a one-two punch in the backfield, with Washington and Kevan Barlow. The running game has improved considerably the last two weeks, although Mangini still isn't happy.

In his mind, the Jet have run only one perfect running play: Brad Smith's 61-yard reverse in the preseason. Mangini longs to duplicate that effort, a highlight play that included textbook downfield blocking. They came close on Washington's 16-yard TD run, with receivers Laveranues Coles and Tim Dwight delivering key blocks. Washington did the rest, tight-roping the sideline into the end zone.

Washington's emergence gives the offense a different personality. It all started in Jacksonville.

There's some symmetry here. During a blowout loss in Jacksonville in 2002, a young QB named Pennington played well in mop-up duty, convincing Edwards to make him the starter. Maybe Washington can follow the same path. If he does, and if the Jets keep winning, that stinker in Jacksonville will be the best loss they ever had.

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Curt response on Martin

Eric Mangini remained noncommittal yesterday on whether Curtis Martin will return to practice next week - if ever. The coach said he will meet next week with Martin and the team doctors to "gauge where he is. ... We'll just see how it is next week."

The team has a bye next week, the ideal time for Martin to test his surgically repaired knee in practice, but there's a chance it may never get that far. Martin, 33, is thought to be considering retirement. If he calls it quits, an announcement could be made as early as next week.

Martin, on the physically-unable-to-perform list, was eligible to start practicing last week, but it was pushed back a minimum of two weeks. Martin said the extra time will "help us make a wiser decision."

By rule, the Jets have a three-week window that began last week; if Martin doesn't start practicing by Nov. 8, he's ineligible for the remainder of the season.

Mangini said Martin's future will be a medical decision, initially, because "player safety is the most important thing. Once that decision is made, it will be completely football and Curtis knows we're going to play the best players. ... He understands that completely."


OOH, THAT SNELL: Leon Washington's 129-yard rushing day was the third-best in team history for a rookie. In 1964, Matt Snell rushed for 180 and 164 yards in back-to-back games.

Washington (346 yards) is the third-leading rookie rusher in the league, behind the Patriots' Laurence Maroney (361) and the Colts' Joseph Addai (354). But Maroney and Addai have played one less game than Washington.

Not surprisingly, Washington was named the team's offensive player of the week. DT Dewayne Robertson (one sack) and S Kerry Rhodes (two tackles) received the honor for defense and special teams, respectively. Mangini praised Robertson for showing improvement at nose tackle, a new position for him.

Rich Cimini

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October 24, 2006 -- The human-nature temptation sits in front of the Jets like a hanging curveball.

They're 4-3, well above the public's expectation before the season began, having already matched their 2005 win total. They have the struggling 1-5 Browns next on the schedule, Sunday in Cleveland. After that comes the bye week.

So the Jets have a very legitimate chance to be 5-3 at the midway point in the season and then the fun begins.

After two games against the league's elite following the bye - a Nov. 12 showdown in New England against the Patriots and then a Nov. 19 home game against the Bears - the Jets' schedule the rest of the way can only be considered creampuff.

Following those two tough games, the Jets play the Texans (2-4), Packers (2-4), Bills (2-5), Vikings (4-2), Dolphins (1-6) and Raiders (1-5). Those teams have a combined current record of 12-26.

This provides the ultimate challenge to Eric Mangini's mantra regarding his players and coaches not looking ahead.

As it stands, the Jets - if you base things on outside expectations - are ahead of schedule. Mangini, of course, maintains that he had no schedule for wins and losses to measure relative success or failure.

"There was no set schedule," he said yesterday in the aftermath of the Jets' take-care-of-business 31-24 win over the Lions at Giants Stadium. "There was no set milestone. And the way that it was going to be gauged was progress. And that's really how I'm going to gauge everything throughout the season: Are we building on the positive things, are we making strides on the areas that we need improvement?

"First and foremost, it's to win the game. Then after that, it's are we improving individually and collectively as a team?"

Mangini's answer to that yesterday was a resounding - for him - yes on both counts, saying he was "pleased."

Mangini indicated that the Jets' 41-0 blowout loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville three games ago might turn out to be a significant turning point.

"I think any time you go through an experience like that, it's something that nobody wants to repeat," Mangini said. "Certainly, you can count me right in that mix with everybody else. But they were working; it wasn't like that week we had taken off. Although we played like it, we didn't. We were there."

The Jets have been "there" for the most part the last two weeks with consecutive wins over Miami and Detroit since the Jacksonville debacle.

Mangini even broke from his regimen and gave the players the day off yesterday.

Well, kind of.

"We gave the guys a little bit of a break from meetings," Mangini said. "They are still coming in to work out, get their DVDs, set their individual preparation. This is a case similar to training camp where they created opportunity for the hard work, especially over the past few weeks, and then they had to capitalize on the opportunity with the victory, which they did. They earned it."

Asked if he'd dangled that as a "carrot" to the players before the game, Mangini said, "We talked in the captain's meeting."

"I'm sure the captains didn't mention it to anybody," he deadpanned. "It might have been out there floating in space somewhere."

The fact that all of the players were in on their so-called day off yesterday is a pretty good sign that they've bought into Mangini's system, however rigid it may be.

"I'd like to think that they are seeing the benefits," he said. "It's so important to the success of a player, his approach and him being a professional. And it's so important collectively the way practice ties into games and the way that it all lends itself to being successful. That's really the formula."

It's a formula the Jets hope to ride into the postseason.


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October 24, 2006 -- Eric Mangini yesterday said the Jets' plan remains the same with regard to Curtis Martin in that they'll look at him and evaluate him next week.

"Next week would be the earliest and we'll see where we are," Mangini said. "We'll sit down with the doctors and Curtis and Mike (Tannenbaum, the GM) and I and just gauge where it is. We'll just see how it is next week."

Asked if it's "not certain" that Martin will begin practice, Mangini said, "I'd say it's something that we'll have to evaluate. You know, it's Curtis. If he comes out and he's the best player, he'll play.

"Well, initially it will be a medical (decision), because we have to obviously gauge where he is and player safety is the most important thing. And then, once that decision is made, then it will be completely football. And Curtis knows that we're going to obviously play the best players to give us the opportunity each week. He understands that completely."

Rookie Leon Washington (20 carries for 129 yards, two TDs) was given the offensive game ball. On defense, it went to DT Dewayne Robertson, who had a sack, forced fumble and six tackles against the Lions. On special teams, S Jerry Rhodes was awarded for his two solo tackles on kick coverage. The practice player of the week was Jaime Thompson.

This week pits Mangini against close friend and former coaching colleague Romeo Crennel, the head coach of the Browns, who are struggling at 1-5. Mangini said he and Crennel, who speak often, will probably "try to cool it this week."

"When we are not playing Romeo, I always want to see Romeo do well," Mangini said. "I care about him as a person and I know his family incredibly well."


K Mike Nugent kicked his third consecutive 33-yard FG Sunday. He's now 5-of-7 for the season. ú LG Pete Kendall played in his 150th NFL game yesterday. WR Justin McCareins played in his 75th.


Significant stats: The Jets scored a season-high 31 points and had a season-high 27 first downs. The Jets were penalized only twice for 20 yards compared to the Lions nine times for 60 yards. The Jets turned the ball over once to the Lions' two. The Jets were 8-of-12 on third-down conversions and led in time of possession 34:14 to 25:46.


A smart coaching move on the Jets' part Sunday that went unnoticed by some cost the Lions a timeout early in the fourth quarter when the Jets lined up to make it look like they were going for it on fourth-and-one. After the Lions' timeout, the Jets went ahead and kicked a FG, which they were going to do all along.

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October 24, 2006 -- JETS REPORT CARD

QUARTERBACKS B+ Chad Pennington (16-22, 189 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 94.7 rating) made one bad mis take with a chance to put the Lions away with his INT near the Lions' goal line late in the first half. Other than that, he was extremely efficient.

RUNNING BACKS A Rookie Leon Washington (20-129, 2 TDs) had his career day to date. Kevin Barlow (12-49, 1 TD) showed some tough inside running, too. Overall, the best game of the year on the ground - 221 yards on 42 carries.

WIDE RECEIVERS A Laveranues Coles (4-29) was more of decoy on this day while Jerricho Cotch ery (7-79) and Justin McCareins (1-44, TD) starred. Brad Smith was again utilized well, rushing three times for 16 yards.

TIGHT ENDS A Chris Baker (1-16) had a terrific game both receiving and blocking, as did Sean Ryan (1-9).

OFFENSIVE LINE C+ Much sounder game from the line, which blocked better in the run game and protected Pennington well, allowing two sacks for six yards in losses.

DEFENSIVE LINE C DT Dewayne Robertson (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) had a strong game. Quiet games for DEs Shaun Ellis (two tackles) and Kimo von Oelhoffen (no tackles).

LINEBACKERS C Jonathan Vilma was active with 11 tackles, 1 INT and two passes defended. Eric Barton had only four tackles but was very active. Bryan Thomas had five tackles and Victor Hobson had six.

SECONDARY B S Erik Coleman had 10 tackles. S Kerry Rhodes had an INT and two passes de fensed. CBs Drew Coleman and Andre Dyson and the rest of the group did a terrific job on Detroit WR Roy Williams (2-29, 1 TD).

SPECIAL TEAMS A Rhodes had two solo tackles in cover age. The Jets allowed only a 20.6-yard kickoff return average wile averaging 23 yards themselves. Justin Miller averaged 32.7 yards with one 56-yard KO return that set up a TD.

KICKING GAME B P Ben Graham averaged 34 yards gross and net on two punts inside the 20. K Mike Nugent made his one FG attempt - a 33-yarder.

COACHING A Solid day for Eric Mangini and his staff, all of whom out-coached Lions' coordina tors Mike Martz and Donnie Henderson. More good imagination on offense from Brian Schottenheimer. Mangini has his team believing.

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Chad's time is money

Incentives help QB recoup most of $6-million pay cut


Newsday Staff Writer

October 24, 2006

Chad Pennington agreed to a $6-million pay cut this season to return to the Jets, but the quarterback already is earning most of that money back through playing-time incentives.

As a hedge against his second shoulder surgery, the Jets asked Pennington to cut his salary this season from $9 million to $3 million.

But as part of the agreement, according to people familiar with Pennington's contractual situation, his salary increases based on his playing time.

Because he won the starting job in the preseason and has played in all seven games so far, Pennington is well on the way toward earning back the pay cut.

Pennington will earn $9 million in salary from his original contract once he hits 65 percent of the offensive plays.

The total number of plays won't be decided until season's end, but the estimated 40 percent of the plays he's already participated in get him close to $7 million, according to people familiar with his contract.

Pennington said he is not worried about any aspect of the contract.

"My contract is what it is," he said. "I feel comfortable with it. I feel good about it. I've got a few more years left on it, and I feel good with coach Mangini and [general manager] Mike Tannenbaum and what they're trying to do with the organization."

Under terms of his contract, Pennington is due to make $4 million in 2007, $6 million in 2008, $7 million in 2009, $10.6 million in 2010 and $10.172 million in 2011. None of the salaries in 2007 and beyond is guaranteed.

"I feel like each week, things are getting better and better," Pennington said. "I'm just concentrating on the wins. I try to criticize myself, but at the same time, I try to enjoy the wins. It's kind of like a happy medium."

And if this keeps up, a lucrative one, too.

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The picture of health

Absence of injuries is a huge reason for this season's success


Newsday Staff Writer

October 24, 2006

It's fairly easy to notice the major difference between this Jets season and the 2005 campaign, which ended with a 4-12 record. Just look down the sideline during a game and notice that there is no star quarterback standing with his arm in a sling (or backups, for that matter), no offensive lineman wrapped in heating pads instead of shoulder pads, no wide receiver dazed by concussions and no all-time great running back grinding his way toward career-threatening knee surgery.

For the 2006 Jets, all of the key players have been able to remain on the field. And as long as the Jets continue knocking on wood with regard to injuries, they also will be knocking on the door when December comes around and the playoff bouncer starts letting teams into the party.

"At this point, we really haven't lost near the amount of guys we lost last year," said veteran guard Pete Kendall, who is one of the few Jets starters to have been sidelined because of an injury; he hurt his hamstring in the opener and missed the next two games. "Guys really started dropping like flies from this point going forward last year."

There have been a few tweaks - running back Cedric Houston (knee) and cornerback David Barrett (groin) have missed games - but not the devastating rash of injuries that beset the Jets in 2005.

Most important to the Jets has been the continued health of quarterback Chad Pennington, who was injured in Week 3 last year and had a second season-ending surgery on his throwing shoulder. But keeping the offensive line playing, and maintaining consistency in personnel at the skill positions, where timing and communication are paramount, also have helped the Jets reach last year's win total through seven weeks.

"When they're healthy, we have some good players," Kendall said. "Last year, we couldn't call on all of those guys. This year, we're healthier. We've got some of our guys back. It's been quite a bit better."

Coach Eric Mangini said sometimes avoiding injuries is just a matter of luck, though coaching staffs try to wield influence even over that haphazard aspect of the game.

"I've seen some seasons where there have been dramatic levels of injuries and some where you are OK," Mangini said. "You're always hunting for the best pattern, the best schedule, the best preparation for the team. That's an ongoing process. But I don't know if you can pinpoint why you have more one year than you do the next."

Maybe the Jets can ask the Browns when they play them Sunday. Cleveland cornerback Gary Baxter tore the patellar tendons in both knees Sunday and will be out for a year, making him the latest player on the team to suffer a season-ending injury. Center LeCharles Bentley suffered a torn patellar tendon in training camp and is out for the season. Big-name Browns such as tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. and linebacker Willie McGinest have battled injuries this season.

And don't forget, this is the team that tried to peddle injury-prone running back Lee Suggs to the Jets during the summer. The Jets may have returned Suggs just in time, before his ailment inclination had a chance to spread and infect the team.

Nothing certain with Curtis. Mangini said the timetable of waiting until after the Cleveland game to re-evaluate running back Curtis Martin and decide if he is healthy enough to come off the physically unable to perform list still is in place. Mangini would not say whether Martin definitely will be able to practice in the one-week window.

"We'll look at it next week and gauge where it is," he said. Asked if the emergence of the 1-2 running back punch of Kevan Barlow and Leon Washington will affect any decisions on Martin, Mangini chuckled. "It's Curtis," he said. "If he's the best player, he'll play."

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Injuries are numerous, but not serious



(Original Publication: October 24, 2006)

HEMPSTEAD — The NFL does not keep a "man-games lost to injury'' statistic. If it did, the Jets might be leading the league. So far, they've avoided the devastating in-season injury.

Meanwhile, their opponent Sunday, the Browns, learned yesterday cornerback Gary Baxter, who left the Ravens to sign a five-year, $30 million deal with Cleveland in 2005, tore patellar tendons in both knees and will be lost for at least a year. Also, Browns quarterback Charlie Frye suffered a mild concussion in Sunday's 17-7 loss to the Broncos, though he returned.

"I've seen some seasons where there's been dramatic levels of injuries and some where you're OK,'' Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "I think you're always hunting for the best pattern, the best schedule, the best preparation route and that's an ongoing process. I don't know if you can necessarily pinpoint one specific reason why you have more one year than you do the next.''

Jets running back Cedric Houston has missed three games with an injured left knee, and cornerback David Barrett has missed three of the last four games with what the team is calling a hip injury. But Houston had been inactive the first two weeks, and Barrett's been supplanted as a starter.

Also, veteran offensive lineman Trey Teague has yet to play after injuring his ankle in the offseason. And, of course, future Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin is still on the physically-unable to-perform list.

No change on Martin: Mangini repeated yesterday that next week would be the earliest Martin would come off the PUP list and rejoin the team for practice. If Martin is not practicing by Nov. 8, he must be placed on the season-ending injury reserve.

A bigger question might be whether the Jets still have a spot waiting for Martin. Rookie Leon Washington just had his second 100-yard performance in three games, and he and Kevan Barlow are starting to form a nice 1-2 punch, to use quarterback Chad Pennington's words.

"If he comes out here and he's the best player, he'll play,'' Mangini said. "Initially, it will be medical because, obviously, we have to gauge where he is. Then once that decision is made, it will be completely football. Curtis knows we're going to obviously play the best players.''

Robertson's revival: Nose tackle Dewayne Robertson was rewarded for his best game of the season — six tackles, a forced fumble and his first sack this year — by being named the Jets' defensive player of the week.

The 6-foot-1, 317-pound Robertson now has 29 tackles this season — 21 in the last four games — but might have the hardest adjustment to the Jets' new 3-4.

"He's a powerful guy,'' Mangini said. "He's got good quickness, and he's marrying that with good hand placement, good footwork and all that natural ability, combined with the technique work that he's doing, is making him more and more productive each week.''

Washington was the offensive player of the week after rushing for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Safety Kerry Rhodes earned special-teams honors with two tackles on returns, and rookie safety Jamie Thompson was the practice player of the week.

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Mangini gives Jets a break



(Original Publication: October 24, 2006)

HEMPSTEAD — If Eric Mangini worked as a political wonk instead of a coach, what he did prior to the Jets' game against the Detroit Lions would have been called floating a trial balloon.

He casually mentioned in the captains' meeting that the players might earn a day off with a solid victory. Then he asked the captains not to mention that to their teammates, knowing full well they would.

"I'm sure the captains didn't mention it to anybody," a smiling Mangini said yesterday, less than 24 hours after a 31-24 win over the Lions. "It might have been out there floating in space somewhere. The other players sure seemed to know it."

Mangini did this a couple of times in the preseason, too, allowing the players to earn days off with consistent practices and performances. That's how Mangini graded not only the win over the Lions but the previous week's 20-17 victory over the Dolphins.

In fact, Mangini said he was very happy with the team's consistency since a 41-0 loss at Jacksonville Oct. 8.

"It's an ongoing process of fighting human nature where when you win, you sometimes feel that things are OK and mistakes maybe aren't as important," Mangini said. "And when you lose, sometimes the tendency is to think the sky is falling.

"It's not something that this break is any indication of how we feel about the next opponent," Mangini said. "It's more a function of the opportunity they created by the way that they worked and the way that they took advantage of the opportunity. These things will come up periodically throughout the year."

Actually, what the players really earned was an escape from some team meetings.

Mangini reported a packed crowd in the weight room yesterday morning and plenty of traffic in the coaches' offices as players watched game film on their own and gathered DVDs of the Browns, this week's opponent.

"I think that's the way all days off should be," Mangini said. "I think that's a great way to spend your day. Who wouldn't want to come in and get a little extra work on your day off?"

Mostly, the players didn't have to stick around until the afternoon to meet with the media.

Still, what the Jets (4-3) essentially did the past two weeks was win home games they should have won. Both the Lions and Dolphins are 1-6 overall and 0-4 on the road.

Still, the Jets not only matched their victory total from last season, they seemed to re-discover a running game against the Lions. Rookie Leon Washington ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns, and Kevan Barlow added 49 yards and one touchdown.

The former 49er definitely sees things starting to click for the Jets.

"It just shows we're going in the right direction," Barlow said. "It's showing what coach Mangini is saying to us and teaching to us and preaching to us is paying off."

If there's any doubt what Mangini is seeking, he detailed his five core values: "Do your job first and trust that the guy next to you is doing his job, communication, focus and finish."

"If you do your job first, you can fix the problems," Mangini said. "Communication, we always talk about the fact that it's better to all be wrong together. Finish isn't just the game. It's the play, it's the practice, it's the meeting. It's everything you do right down to the end because you never know what opportunity is going to be created."

Like, say, for instance, win the ballgame and get a day off.

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Leon making case to be featured RB

Tuesday, October 24, 2006



HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Is Leon Washington the Jets' new starting tailback?

From Gang Green followers to fanatical fantasy players, many want to know if Washington is the team's next featured runner, possibly following in the footsteps of ailing mentor Curtis Martin.

But even though Washington started his second game and rang up 129 yards – the most by a Jets' rookie rusher in 32 years – and the first two touchdowns of his career in the 31-24 win over Detroit, coach Eric Mangini said the question still does not compute.

"Brian's been pretty creative," Mangini said Monday of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. "Brad [smith] has gotten some reps along with Kevan [barlow] and Leon. I'm sure we'll put them all back there."

"I always remain optimistic about the situation," Washington said. "You never know when you'll have the opportunity to go in there and play. Throughout the year I prepare myself as if my opportunity is calling."

Teammates aren't choosing sides, but they are noticing the emerging facets of Washington's game.

"Leon's a hungry player," guard Brandon Moore said. "One thing about him is he never quits. His feet are always going. He's always running behind his pads."

Some Jets insiders even think Washington is making an interesting case for getting the lion's share of the carries. But Mangini's policy has been whatever combination of backs is deemed to give the Jets the best chance to win is the one he'll use.

Sunday, that combo was almost equal amounts of Washington and Barlow, with a dash of Smith. In the first half, Washington was in for 20 plays and 10 carries, Barlow for 16 plays and nine carries.

Barlow, who some NFL observers thought would chafe at no longer being "The Man" after the 49ers traded him in August, is on board with a tailback timeshare after rushing for 49 yards against Detroit, his game high as a Jet.

"It seemed like Leon and I were alternating every two plays," Barlow said. "Coming from my past with San Francisco, I never really alternated like that. I was used to carrying the load. I learned to accept that's how it's going to be here and it's been successful."

How successful is really the important question. Against the Lions, Schottenheimer's idea was to establish the run – Washington for the edge work and draws, Barlow for inside power. Blocking tight end Sean Ryan saw his most action in green.

The results: 221 yards and three TDs. The production enabled Chad Pennington's play-action to work as effectively as it had all season. And the 34:14 in possession time minimized the defense's exposure to big-play wideout Roy Williams.

Critics will note that the absence of Shaun Rogers, Detroit's suspended 340-pound nose tackle, had much to do with this success. But if the Jets' running game is truly on track, it should continue to thrive in Cleveland against the Browns' 29th-ranked run defense.

Mangini hearkened back to Smith's 61-yard reverse in the preseason game at Washington to explain why he professes not to care whose number or name is called for a particular carry.

"That play was a good example of what we're trying to do every play," he said. "[sunday] there were a lot of those plays where you got closer to all 11 guys doing what they needed to do. ... It isn't just tied into the person with the ball."

No, but the way things have been going, Washington will be the person getting that ball more and more, no matter where he is on the tailback depth chart.

E-mail: lange@northjersey.com

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Jets report card

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Running game: A

Leon Washington starred with his first two NFL touchdowns and 129 yards, but many contributed to the 221-yard attack. Kevan Barlow got his per-carry average up to 3.0. The Jets had strong interior O-line blocking and four different backs had third-down conversion runs.

Passing game: B

Chad Pennington play fakes led to the 44-yard TD pass to Justin McCareins and Jerricho Cotchery's 28- and 23-yarders. OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson and company held DE James Hall sackless, but protection (two sacks) can be better still.

Run defense: C-minus

LB Jonathan Vilma was back topping the tackles chart and NT Dewayne Robertson had a season-high six stops. But Kevin Jones and the Lions averaged 5.7 yards per carry.

Pass defense: C-plus

Good job of taking Roy Williams (two catches, 29 yards) out of the equation, although Mike Furrey was turned loose too often. The Kerry Rhodes and Jonathan Vilma interceptions were welcome, but Andre Dyson had the only pass defended by a Jets corner. Robertson had the lone sack as Jon Kitna, who had taken the most QB hits in the NFL, was hit only twice.

Special teams: A-minus

Justin Miller's 51-yard kickoff return gave the Jets a short field to their third TD. The Lions started at their 10 and 14 after two Ben Graham drop punts. Mike Nugent hit all five placements and with the wind got his second kickoff touchback of the season.

Coaching: A

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called his best game, staying a step ahead of former Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson in racking up 267 first-half yards at 7.0 per play. Bob Sutton's conservative high-coverage, low-blitz plan limited Mike Martz's potential fireworks.

-- Randy Lange

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Jets notebook

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Lingering legs

The Jets' health remains good with apparently only CB Andre Dyson coming out of the Detroit game less than 100 percent. Dyson had a headache after a fourth-quarter tackle of WR Mike Furrey.

But two old injury questions linger. Coach Eric Mangini said Monday that Curtis Martin's schedule remains the same. The future Hall of Fame back with the problem right knee could return to practice the week before the Nov. 5 bye or the week after.

Mangini said of the decision about when Martin will play, "Initially, it'll be medical. ... Once that decision's made, it'll be completely football."

Center/tackle Trey Teague, in limbo from his broken left ankle, was spotted working out in sweats with the Jets' trainers hours before Sunday's opening kickoff. Teague could return to practice Wednesday.

Rookies run wild

Leon Washington's 129 rushing yards against the Lions was not a franchise record for a rookie. Matt Snell, who went on to star in the 1968 Super Bowl season, set a rookie mark Oct. 10, 1964 against Oakland with 164 yards, then had 180 yards the next week vs. Houston.

Clark Gaines, Scott Dierking and Blair Thomas followed with six 100-yard games among them, none for more than 119 yards.

Neither John Riggins nor Freeman McNeil, despite their outstanding careers, ran for 100 yards as a Jets rookie.


Mangini's special-teams player of the game was Kerry Rhodes. ... Despite the work by Wallace Wright (as well as Tim Dwight) in impersonating Roy Williams, the practice player of the week was safety Jamie Thompson. ... Lions QB Jon Kitna, courted by the Jets in the off-season, came to their locker room after the game and met briefly with Mangini.

-- Randy Lange

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