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Vilma toils to fit into system

BY TOM ROCK | tom.rock@newsday.com

August 8, 2007

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E-mail Print Single page view Reprints Reader feedback text size: Jonathan Vilma stormed off the field, a game face still etched on his countenance, and he flung a half-empty beverage bottle into the fence with disgust. His defense had just allowed a last-second touchdown in one of those fantasy two-minute drills the Jets use to cap most of their workouts, and Vilma was livid.

There were coverages that needed tightening, communications that needed tuning, and situational awareness that needed refining. It took several minutes for the steamed inside linebacker to regain his composure.

Remember: This is still only training camp.

"Yeah, that's the type of guy he is," safety Kerry Rhodes said. "He's a fierce competitor. I mean, we're all competitors on this team, but he's a guy who takes it personally all the time. That's the type of person you need."

What the Jets need is for Vilma to somehow combine the best aspects of his past two seasons into this one. After an early career in which his sideline-to-sideline impact made him appear on a fast-track for perennial Pro Bowl status, he was confined by the new 3-4 scheme instituted in 2006. He was still on the field for every defensive snap and still led the team in tackles with 116. But he did not have a sack, broke up only four passes, made two quarterback hits and recovered one fumble. That's the kind of line the old Vilma might have put together in a game or two.

And it's why, in the second season with the 3-4 system, Vilma is the canary in the cave for this defense. If he can find a way to merge his skills with the responsibilities of the scheme, the transition will be a success. If he cannot, it could mean either he or the system won't be around next season.

Jets coach Eric Mangini said he's seen a lot of different inside linebackers have success in the 3-4, from Tedy Bruschi to Ted Johnson to Roman Phifer. "It's not that there's only one way to necessarily play it," he said. "It develops and you figure out the best way for you to get those jobs done."

The notion that he had a "down year" in 2006 likely aggravates Vilma nearly as much as those missed coverages in yesterday's practice. Mangini keeps suggesting that Vilma's contributions to the defense were in quarterbacking the group, even if he wasn't making spectacular plays. With nearly the entire defense returning around Vilma, he'll be less of a traffic cop and more of a decision maker this year.

"The bigger things I don't have to worry about, the basic lining up and where the guys fit, that part is done," Vilma said. "Now we're trying to narrow down the plays that the offense has and fit the defense to those plays."

Having a grip on the basics also should allow the defense to expand, and with it the role of Vilma. But he'll still be the CPU of the defense, as he was yesterday when Mangini allowed him to call his own plays in that end-of-the-game scenario.

"Whenever you're in that spot, you're going to get second-guessed," said Mangini, a former defensive coordinator who spoke from experience.


Falcons at Jets

7 p.m.

TV: Ch. 2

Radio: WEPN (1050)

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Jets tackle Pouha rehabbed, ready to play again

BY TOM ROCK | tom.rock@newsday.com

August 7, 2007

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E-mail Print Single page view Reprints Reader feedback text size: Sione Pouha stood on the sideline of the Jets' practice field and refused to look over at them. The memories were too harsh. So he positioned his 325-pound frame with his back to the stationary bicycles set up to keep injured players occupied while the rest of the team practices. His only recognition of their presence came with a slight flick of his head to the space over his shoulder.

"This time last year, I was there pedaling the bike," Pouha said, still not looking, "and I wasn't really in high spirits."

He seemed to be a perfect fit. A big body, the size and shape of a traditional 3-4 nose tackle, playing for a team transforming itself into that very system. Even the rookie head coach had come out and praised him for his offseason work (he lost about 30 pounds and chiseled his physique) as well as his on-the-field progress.

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Kendall's no fan of backup plan




Wednesday, August 8th 2007, 4:00 AM


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Jet bluesDo you think the Jets should give Pete Kendall a raise?



It's going to be a weird situation for Pete Kendall. Barring a change, the disgruntled guard will play with the backups in the Jets' preseason opener Friday night against the Falcons. That means a lot of garbage-time action, unusual for an 11-year veteran who has started 156 games.

And he doesn't like the situation one bit.

"I believe I'm a starter in this league," Kendall said yesterday after practice. "If and when that changes, I don't think I'll be the first to admit it. I don't believe that time has arrived."

Kendall, playing behind Adrien Clarke, is upset over his contract situation and wants out. He said "it seems inevitable at some point that I'm going to be released," but the Jets are in no hurry. Kendall, frustrated by his dealings with GM Mike Tannenbaum and coach Eric Mangini, didn't rule out the possibility of speaking directly to owner Woody Johnson. "It hasn't crossed my mind, but that's a good idea," he said. "I'm not going to say whether I will or I won't. It's certainly something worth contemplating. I have no idea if it's the right thing to do or not. I need to take some time."

UNSIGNED: Browns QB Brady Quinn finalized his contract yesterday, leaving Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell and Jets CB Darrelle Revis as the only two unsigned first-round picks. The Jets want a six-year contract; Revis is holding firm on his demand for a five-year deal.

NO MILLER TIME: CB/KR Justin Miller, who pulled a hamstring in Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage, didn't practice yesterday. Mangini declined to provide a prognosis, but he made it sound like it will be more than a couple of days. "This is just another challenge and how he meets this challenge is another part of his growth," Mangini said. Miller's injury, combined with Revis' absence, leaves the secondary thin. In the dime package, the Jets had to use Hank Poteat and Manny Collins, a rookie free agent from Rutgers. David Barrett and Andre Dyson worked as the starting corners.

LO-DOWN: Former Pro Bowl LT Lomas Brown, hired by the Jets as a D'Brickashaw Ferguson consultant, offered a few interesting thoughts on the Jets' left tackle. On whether breaking in a new left guard (Clarke) will have an impact of Ferguson's development: "It could be an adjustment, to be honest with you because all five guys have to play like hand in glove." But he added that Ferguson's transition might be "a little easier" because he spent only one year with Kendall.

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August 8, 2007 -- Lomas Brown knows all about playing next to a new guard on the offensive line, something Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson may have to do this year, with disgruntled Pete Kendall seemingly off the first team for good.

"It seemed like I played next to a new guard every year in Detroit," said Brown, who was brought in as a consultant by Eric Mangini to work with Ferguson during training camp. "But Brick is so young, I think he'll adjust."

Ferguson resembles Brown's (relatively) lanky frame, and the second-year player said he modeled his style in part on Brown, who played 17 NFL seasons, including two with the Giants (2000-01). The retired veteran said he has been impressed with the former fourth-overall selection.

"He listens, which is important," said Brown, adding that he believed Ferguson had the necessary toughness to succeed. "I don't think that will be a problem."

Brown, who is scheduled to leave camp today, may return during the regular season. What the Jets' line will look like when he gets back is up in the air. Adrien Clarke is at left guard in place of Kendall, who continued to work with the backups.

"It's scripted all the same," Kendall said. "I'm still on the second team. I believe I'm a starter in this league. If and when that changes, I don't know if I'll be the first to admit it, but I don't believe that time has arrived."

Kendall said he believes his release is inevitable, and the chance of retaining a spot on the opening-day roster "seems to be less and less likely."

"I'm starting to get a sense that I'm not getting ready for this team, as the days and weeks go by now," Kendall said. "I'm running with the second team and it seems like the situation has been decided. I've considered leaving."


QB Chad Pennington looked good on the final drive of yesterday's morning practice. The Jets marched 99 yards in 3:15 and the quarterback lofted a touchdown pass to WR Laveranues Coles as time expired in the drill, exciting the spectators who braved the oppressive heat, which caused a couple of people to faint in the crowd.


With former Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn signing a five-year deal with the Browns yesterday, the only 2007 first-rounders still unsigned are top pick QB JaMarcus Russell (Raiders) and Jets CB Darrelle Revis. Revis, No. 14, is seeking a five-year deal; the Jets are offering six. . . . CB Justin Miller, sat out with an apparent hamstring injury. "Justin has approached this in a way to get back as soon as possible. I don't know how it is going to go," Mangini said.

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THOMAS THE THANK ENGINE: Jets RB Thomas Jones, while not ripping former Bears teammate Rex Grossman, says Chad Pennington is "a great quarterback. He's been through a lot of situations and overcome them."August 8, 2007 -- Thomas Jones has played with some shaky quarterbacks in his six-year career, including last season in Chicago with wildly inconsistent Rex Grossman, who had a 0.0 quarterback rating in the season finale and later said he wasn't fully prepared for the game.

The new Jets running back doesn't think he'll have the same issues with Chad Pennington.

"We have really good chemistry," Jones said after the morning practice yesterday at Hofstra. "Chad makes the right reads and he hits the open guy. He's smart. He knows the offense really well and he does a good job putting the ball in the right position."

Jones caught 36 passes for 154 yards a year ago with the Bears, but plans on doing more this season. Asked what it's like playing with Pennington as opposed to Grossman, Jones was diplomatic.

"Everybody's different," said Jones, who offered a terse "No comment" regarding former backfield mate Cedric Benson and spoke glowingly of Jets RB Leon Washington. "Chad's a great quarterback. He's been around as long as I have and seen about every defense. He's been through a lot of situations and overcome them."

Jones did some of that himself, after starting six games in his first two NFL seasons in Arizona. That's part of the reason he's taken special interest in some of the younger backs in camp, including rookie free agent Alvin Banks.

"He's smart and has great athletic ability," Jones said of the James Madison alum. "He's a tough player. Being an older running back, I've tried to help [banks] as much as possible."

It's paying off for Banks, who has had some impressive flashes.

"I don't know how I'm doing, I'm just trying to limit my mistakes," Banks said. "I think I have a different mentality coming from a smaller school. Everyone says that players from bigger schools have an advantage, but I don't necessarily believe that."

Banks was given a seemingly better chance of catching on with the Jets when Cedric Houston, who was the leading candidate for the third slot behind Jones and Washington, left the team earlier in camp.

Despite the apparent boon to Banks' prospects, he doesn't seem to have been affected by Houston's absence, or anyone else's.

"I had confidence as soon as I got here, even though I was not drafted and I'm from a smaller school, regardless of who is in front of me," Banks said. "People say I have more to overcome because of the school that I went to, but I don't think it matters where you played, as long as you show that you can do it."

It helps having someone like Jones around to lean on.

"We want the young guys to be like sponges and absorb as much as possible," Eric Mangini said.

One thing they can pick up from Jones is how to be versatile.

"We can use him all three downs and all our packages," Mangini said of Jones. "I've seen him interact with the whole team, helping that way."

That is fine with Jones.

"I think I can help with my experience and leadership qualities and my ability to make plays," Jones said. "If guys can pick up things like that from me, that's one of the things I can provide."


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Gary Myers


Running back Jones is big gain for Jets


Wednesday, August 8th 2007, 4:00 AM


The Bears drafted Cedric Benson out of Texas at No.4 in 2005, the same spot where they picked Hall of Famers Gale Sayers and Walter Payton. There is intense pressure to make it work, which turned out to be good news for the Jets.

The need to get Benson on the field led to Chicago basically giving Thomas Jones to the Jets in March even though he was their best offensive player on the team that went to the Super Bowl last season. Jones was in Benson's way, and with Benson unable to push him aside, the Bears did.

"You can't have two featured backs," GM Jerry Angelo said by phone. "He knew that. We knew that. Given the dynamic of our situation, we found an option and exercised it."

Chicago is committed to Benson, especially after giving him about $16million guaranteed in his rookie contract. He couldn't beat out Jones his first two seasons - he has just 919 yards rushing - but with the Bears unwilling to give Jones a huge contract with so much invested in Benson, they decided to trade him.

The Jets were desperate to get a running game going in the post-Curtis Martin era. And Jones, just like Tiki Barber, another back from Virginia, is getting better with age. He turns 29 on Aug. 19, but didn't start getting feature-back carries until the last couple of years. All he cost the Jets was swapping second-round picks, basically moving from the top part of the round to the end. Jones had one year left on his Chicago deal at $2.7million, but the Jets gave him a new four-year $20million contract with $12million guaranteed.

It's easy to second-guess the Bears for trading the leading rusher off their conference championship team - he ran for 2,545yards over the last two years - to play Benson, whose injury problems have made it hard for him to stay on the field. He even left the Super Bowl early with a knee injury.

Based on some recent comments by Benson, there was clearly friction between him and Jones. And, besides, Angelo had made Jones a promise before training camp last summer.

"He expressed his goals and where he was at in his career. I understood exactly where he was coming from," Angelo said. "I told him at the end of the year we would get together again and I would see what is in everybody's best interests."

In exchange, Jones promised to continue to work hard, be a leader and put any personal frustrations about playing time and money aside.

"There were no guarantees, but he had my word we would revisit this and I had his word," Angelo said. "He was equally good a leader as a player. For that, I will always be appreciative. I wish him nothing but the best."

Benson doesn't have such warm feelings for Jones. In a story 10 days ago in the Chicago Sun-Times, Benson said Jones punched him in the face during a running backs drill in practice last season. He also says he is "10times the man and 10 times the player" that Jones is.

"I was able to sit down at my locker and think back on that situation and feel this guy is so intimidated by me, he cannot hold his composure around me," Benson said. "So I left it alone."

Asked about Benson's comments yesterday after the Jets went through their morning practice, Jones said, "No comment."

Asked if he was happy to come to the Jets and be their No. 1 back, he said, "I was the No. 1 guy in Chicago."

Last year, the Jets finished 20th in the league in rushing while using a running-back-by-committee approach, although rookie Leon Washington emerged at the end of the season and should be a productive change-of-pace back when Jones comes out.

Now the running game belongs to Jones who, after never rushing for 1,000 yards in his first five years in the league with the Cardinals, Bucs and Chicago, rushed for 1,335 and 1,210 yards the last two seasons. In his final game with the Bears, he ran for 112yards in the Super Bowl after running through the Saints for a team-playoff record 123 yards in the NFC title game.

"I'm used to winning. I have a winning mentality," Jones said. "The Jets have a great organization and they won last year and made the playoffs. I'm just trying to add to that."

Jones has a work ethic like Martin's, takes practice seriously and runs hard all the time. That will take pressure off Chad Pennington, who threw a career-high 485 passes last season coming off back-to-back offseason shoulder surgeries.

Jones likes to run at Giants Stadium. In back-to-back weeks last season, he rushed for 113 yards against the Giants and 121 against the Jets. The Jets tried to trade with Dallas for Jones' younger brother, Julius, during the 2006 draft and last summer called the Bears about dealing for Thomas.

The Jets are fortunate the Bears drafted Benson, which eventually allowed them to get the better of the Bears' two backs.


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On the first weekend of Jets' training camp, the most important name has been Neil Schwartz.

The veteran agent represents both disgruntled left guard Pete Kendall and unsigned first-round draft pick Darrelle Revis, and both situations are proving to be very thorny for the Jets.

Kendall has made it quite clear he'd like to be traded or released. Kendall is scheduled to make $1.7 million this season and wants $2.7 million. Kendall said the Jets' position has been that they don't restructure contracts that have at least three years left, but he has pointed out numerous times that he restructured his contract after the 2005 season to give the team some salary-cap relief.

When Kendall reported for training camp, he originally was assigned to the dorm for rookies and first-year players. Coach Eric Mangini termed it a "mix-up" and the oversight was quickly corrected, but it only added to the tension between Kendall and management, particularly Mangini.

"I've expressed to Eric that my belief is that if Eric wanted this to be done it would be done," Kendall said. "That's my belief."

Kendall has been getting many of his reps with the second team, while third-year player Adrien Clarke, a former Philadelphia Eagle, has gotten the bulk of the first-team reps.

"I don't expect to be here" for the regular season, Kendall said. "I don't know why they have me out here with the second team. I don't know if their plan is to wait until the end and then ask me to take a pay cut. That would be even more comical. I'm just hoping to move on."

The Jets still are waiting for Revis to move in, but the Jets and Schwartz are believed to be haggling over the length of the contract. The Jets want a six-year deal, while Revis and Schwartz prefer five. As of Sunday, only three 2007 first-round picks had signed six-year contracts, and only one of those is for an ironclad six years. The other two can be voided after five years under certain conditions.

Not since linebacker James Farrior in 1997 have the Jets had to deal with a rookie holdout, and that situation was resolved on the fourth day of camp.

Both situations are becoming problems. When asked if he was being made an example of, Kendall said he thought he was. He also indicated that some teammates and even assistant coaches have expressed to him they feel he is being treated unfairly, although he didn't want to name names. Still, one has to wonder if this will affect team chemistry.

As for Revis, the Jets certainly didn't trade away a draft pick and move up 11 spots to select him without believing he could be an impact player as a rookie. While he might not have earned his way to an opening-day start with a strong camp, it wouldn't have been surprising to see him break into the starting lineup sometime in the first month of the season. But that seems like a distant possibility with each practice that he misses.

Also keep in mind that Revis' uncle and trusted confidant is Sean Gilbert, a former standout NFL defensive tackle who sat out the entire 1997 season as a veteran because he and the Redskins couldn't agree to terms. It's doubtful, however, that Revis will do that.

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp closes Aug. 23.


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Jets' Hobson is a knockout on the football field and in the boxing ring

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Posted: August 7, 2007

(AP) HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Victor Hobson has a nice jab, an impressive left-right combination and some fancy footwork in the boxing ring.

It's still not enough to fight off the razzing he gets from his New York Jets teammates.

"They've made jokes here and there that I think I'm Little Mike Tyson and stuff like that," Hobson said with a big grin. "It's all in good fun."

But the linebacker's knockout performance during the team's offseason weekly boxing classes conducted by trainer Teddy Atlas was nothing to joke about.

"Vic is just built that way," linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. "It's in his blood."

Hobson got into boxing after he was drafted in the second round out of Michigan, and regularly trains in the sport during the offseason.

"A lot of people think it's just going out there and throwing punches and seeing who knocks out who first, but it's a chess match," he said.

An avid boxing fan who often shows the team clips of memorable fights before big games, coach Eric Mangini created the classes to help the players perfect their footwork, hand placement and overall conditioning.

"It helped with all of that," Hobson said. "One thing Teddy used to always say is that boxing is a one-on-one sport and you don't have anyone to blame. If you're not prepared, everyone in the world is going to know it was your fault. It helped us mentally, too."

Hobson, who at 6 feet and 252 pounds would qualify as a boxing heavyweight, had a heavy-duty breakout year for the Jets last season. After three years of not living up to the expectations that come with being a high draft pick, Hobson finished tied for second on the Jets with 100 tackles, along with six sacks, an interception and two fumble recoveries.

"I'm hard on myself," Hobson said. "I always felt the need to get better and I always worked hard at that. I came in in the best shape to show that I belong."

And then he proved it on the field by excelling in Mangini's 3-4 defense at outside linebacker.

"He did a good job, and I thought that he did a nice job in terms of learning the concept," Mangini said.

While Vilma, veteran Eric Barton and others struggled to be playmakers in the 3-4, Hobson thrived -- even when things didn't look so promising last summer.

"It was a learning experience," he said. "We had a new coach, he came in and wanted to see what we were about. He tested us mentally and physically and that's hard to go through when you're trying to learn a system, too. I think it was a trying time for all of us."

A year later, Hobson is as comfortable in the defense as anyone.

"A lot of people say that last year was a breakout season for me," he said. "I just say it was an opportunity for me to get better this year."

Atlas, listed in the team's media guide as a "special assistant-boxing," came to Hofstra every Monday for about an hour during the spring. Hobson quickly became a teacher's pet.

"Boxing is a tough sport, so it probably helps that I've done it before," said Hobson, who counts welterweight Zab Judah among his friends. "I pretty much knew the basics and with a guy like Teddy, that helped tremendously, just mentally. He's a perfectionist."

In June, Hobson and right tackle Anthony Clement were invited by Atlas to take part in a taping of his "Teddy's Fight Plan" segment on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" that aired before a bout between Darnell Wilson and Emmanuel Nwodo on Staten Island.

"It was great," Hobson said. "It was something I actually approached him about when we first started. He said he was going to take me up on the offer and when he did, I was happy about it."

Despite being praised by Atlas and his teammates for his boxing skills, Hobson doesn't plan to pursue a career in the ring after his days in the NFL are over.

"Sparring only," Hobson said. "I get hit in the head way too much playing football. I don't need to do boxing, too."

That's not to say some of his teammates wouldn't relish a chance to go a few rounds against "Little Mike."

"Of course, I'll get in the ring with Vic anytime," Vilma said, laughing. "I've got no problems with that."

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'Just Another Challenge' for Miller

Published: Tue, August 7, 12:52pm EST

By Randy Lange

Lange is editor-in-chief of newyorkjets.com. He covered the Jets for 13 years for The Record of Hackensack, N.J.

File Under: Eric Mangini, Justin Miller, Andre Dyson, Otis Smith, injury

change font email article 08/07

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Jets' Pennington gets chance to call own plays

BY TOM ROCK | tom.rock@newsday.com

August 8, 2007

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E-mail Print Single page view Reprints Reader feedback text size: Brian Schottenheimer is still the offensive coordinator, but he won't always be the one calling the plays this year. After allowing Chad Pennington to call his own plays during a portion of yesterday's practice, Jets coach Eric Mangini said he is intrigued by having as many people as possible take on play-calling responsibilities.

"By giving a series or two to the quarterback, when you look at it from the other team's perspective, the fingerprint is different," Mangini said. "It looks like there are breaks in the tendencies. Things don't add up as much as they did."

Pennington's fingerprints were on one of the most entertaining segments of this training camp. Down by six with 3:15 left in the "game," the first offensive unit drove 99 yards on 17 plays, culminated by a leaping catch from Laveranues Coles on a pass from a scrambling Pennington with no time remaining.

Kendall getting seconds?

With the first preseason game just days away and disgruntled Pete Kendall still a member of the Jets, the veteran guard bristled at the idea of playing the bulk of the game with the rest of the second team to which he mostly has been relegated. "That's my job as of right now," he said. "If that's what I have to do, it's what I have to do. It just leaves me scratching my head after all these years [as a starter] that it would come to that."

Kendall, who is seeking an extra $1 million to his $1.7-million base salary this season, believes the episode between him and the Jets will end with his eventual release.

Jet streams

CB Justin Miller (hamstring) was sidelined for both practices and RB Leon Washington missed the morning workout, his third of camp, for "personal reasons" ... Former Pro Bowl LT Lomas Brown, who is tutoring D'Brickashaw Ferguson, said he has been impressed by Mangini's camp. "I don't think anybody is going to outwork these guys," he said ... S Eric Smith (knee) returned to practice after missing Sunday's Green-White scrimmage ... The Jets introduced their Flight Crew, a 10-member dance group that will carry flags and perform during games. They'll make their official debut in Friday's preseason opener.

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Jonathan Vilma stormed off the field, a game face still etched on his countenance, and he flung a half-empty beverage bottle into the fence with disgust. His defense had just allowed a last-second touchdown in one of those fantasy two-minute drills the Jets use to cap most of their workouts, and Vilma was livid.

There were coverages that needed tightening, communications that needed tuning, and situational awareness that needed refining. It took several minutes for the steamed inside linebacker to regain his composure.

Remember: This is still only training camp.



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