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Game Day Jets News Articles 9/9/07

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NY POST- Serby

CHAD RUNNING OUT OF CHANCES TO SLAY BEAST NOW OR NEVER? Chad Pennington needs to conquer the Patriots and get the Jets to the promised land before Kellen Clemens takes his job.

September 9, 2007 -- THIS is the day when even the Jets, all these agonizing years after Super Bowl III, are allowed to dream.

About Eric Mangini shaking Bill Belichick's hand and jogging through the tunnel, fists pumping to the riotous cheers reverberating above and around him.

About Thomas Jones getting those tough yards Curtis Martin always used to get.

About a Randy Moss meltdown.

Most critically, about Chad Pennington outplaying Tom Brady from here to the University of Phoenix Stadium field on the first Sunday in February.

As a new season opens, Pennington is no longer the inspirational Comeback Kid who defied the odds by overcoming those two rotator cuff surgeries and completing his first injury-free season.

It is time for him to overcome Brady, maybe the last time for him, with so much invested in Kellen Clemens. It is time for Pennington and the Jets to stand up to the Bullychicks, time for them to stop playing Dem Bums to the Patriots' Bronx Bombers.

Pennington was a profile in courage when he nearly willed his team to the 2004 AFC Championship game with one arm. Now, he will have to be much more than The Little Quarterback That Could to get past Brady and Belichick. You bet he'll try. The flame that is his Super Bowl obsession has never burned higher or hotter.

"Since I was drafted, in April of 2000, it's been on my mind ... every day," Pennington said. "And it stays on my mind even when times are hard, and you feel like as an athlete you don't know if you can make it through two-a-days ... that's the one thing that keeps me coming back, keeps me getting up the next day and doing the same thing over again."

I ask if he has dreamed about winning a Super Bowl.

"That's what it is - it's a dream," Pennington said. "There are so many goals in front of a dream that you have to focus on. If you don't accomplish those goals, you can't realize your dream. It's a blurred vision knowing that that's the ultimate. But your direct focus has to be on the small baby steps and the goals to realize that dream."

Pennington was asked if his career would be unfulfilled without a Super Bowl championship.

"Competitively ... competitively ... absolutely," he said. "But whenever my career is done, whatever's happening with my career, I want to take the most pride in knowing that I left it all out there.

"Medically I'm not even supposed to be here. I try to do everything I can to have respect for the game, to play the game in a respectful way, and to give it all I have."

His teammates believe in him for plenty of reasons.

"What I focus on, No. 1, is worth ethic; No. 2, I focus on positive energy and attitude, and No. 3, focus on toughness," Pennington said. "Let those guys see that I'm in there with them, I'm not backing down, I'm not scared to get hit ... whatever it takes to win, I'm all for it."

Just like Brady.

"I think the biggest thing with Tom is his consistency, and being able to take the same mental approach every week, every year," Pennington said. "His success hasn't affected his play, which as a professional that's one of the biggest challenges and pitfalls ... starting to believe your success and then not backing it up with your play. He's never done that, he's always stayed true to himself and true to how he plays the game."

Pennington, 31 now, is 32-22 as a starter, because he beats you with his brain rather than his arm. But he is 2-5 against the Pats.

"I'm comfortable with who I am as a quarterback," Pennington said. "The stats prove when I play, we've been successful, and I've been able to be successful, and I'm comfortable with that. I'm doing everything I can to get better as a quarterback both physically and mentally to put ourselves in a position to be successful."

Does he have a career year in him?

"That's so judgmental ... I'll trade a career year for a Super Bowl ring any day," Pennington said, "so I don't even focus on that."

Problem is, one might not happen without the other.


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Tom Brady

September 9, 2007 -- Outside of a playoff game, it's probably not possible for the NFL to throw together more delicious, juicy ingredients into one pot than it has for today's regular-season opener between the Jets and Patriots at Giants Stadium.

Subplots abound.

First is Eric Mangini vs. Bill Belichick, one of the mentors who helped develop him into the successful NFL head coach he is today with the Jets.

The rival Patriots, of course, are the team that eliminated the Jets from the playoffs last January, the last time the Jets played a game in anger before today.

That drama will not be lost on the 80,000 strong that'll pack themselves into the stadium and scream until they're hoarse.

That drama, too, is not lost on the players and coaches involved. "It is very appealing for fans and everyone; the last time we played them was in a playoff situation and that adds to it," Jets S Erik Coleman said.

Here's an inside look at a game that will begin to shape the Jets' 2007 season:


Jets pass rush vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady. When the Jets have had success against the Patriots, they've done it by harassing Brady with pressure and flushing him out of the pocket. In the Jets' 17-14 win last season in Foxboro, they sacked Brady four times, including a game-clinching strip-sack by DE Shaun Ellis. If the Jets fail to pressure Brady and allow him to survey the field and his new corps of receivers from the pocket, he'll pick their secondary apart.


Six. That's the current streak of victories the Patriots have against the Jets at Giants Stadium. The last Jets' home victory against New England came on Sept. 11, 2000, a 20-19 win. The Patriots' six-game road winning streak against the Jets is their longest against any team. This, too, will be the sixth time the Jets and Patriots have played each other in a regular-season opener, with New England winning four of five.


The Patriots' offense will attack the Jets' defense with a completely new and more talented receiving corps that includes Randy Moss, always a potential game-breaker, Wes Welker, one of the best inside slot receivers in the game, and Donte' Stallworth, previously the Eagles' top wideout. It'll be compelling to see what Moss, who has hardly practiced all summer, still has left and how Brady is able to spread the ball around.


LB Adalius Thomas, the Patriots' marquee free-agent acquisition, leads all NFL linebackers in sacks since 2004 with 28 for 162 yards in losses. Combine him with fellow inside LB Tedy Bruschi, who's a ball-hawk and a stout run stopper, and it might be difficult for the Jets to score. As it is, in their three meetings (1-2) against the Patriots last season, the Jets scored an average of only 17 points.


There are few coaches who are more adept at exploiting teams weaknesses than Belichick. The Jets' greatest weakness appears to be rookie Jacob Bender, who's expected to start at left guard. He stands out like a bad case of acne on the Jets' forehead when it comes to his suspect pass blocking. Look for the Patriots to load up on the right side of their D-line with extra DLs and LBs in an effort to rattle Bender.


Bender's seat is very hot. Chad Pennington's is pretty warm, too, considering his spotty performance in preseason, failing to move the offense. There already has been some clamoring for backup Kellen Clemens because of the strong preseason he had. Rookie CB Darrelle Revis, with only two preseason games under his belt, will play a lot, mostly in the slot covering Welker, a difficult task.


If Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer opts to use some spread formations in hopes of creating some matchup problems down the field, he'd better hope the offensive line can protect Pennington. The Jets would love to send TE Chris Baker down the field to take advantage of his pass-catching ability (he had 5 catches for 68 yards against the Patriots in the playoff game), but they may be forced to keep Baker in to block more often in an effort to max protect.



Another chapter to the border war becomes spicier. Jets unveiling of RB Thomas Jones will be a success, their defense will pressure Tom Brady and New England will miss its two absent defensive starters - DE Richard Seymour and S Rodney Harrison. Look for consistent Jets K Mike Nugent to be the difference.

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Bill Parcells

September 9, 2007 -- The Post's Steve Serby chatted with the man who coached the Giants to two Super Bowls titles, led the Patriots, Jets and Cowboys to the playoffs in a 19-year career, and now serves as an analyst on ESPN's "Monday Night Countdown."

Q: Were you happy when you woke up the morning of the 1986 NFC Championship game and heard the wind howling?

A: Yes. My (Giants) team was very good in adverse elements. I wasn't sure Washington was. (Punt returner) Phil McConkey had a lot to do with field position in that game, catching 'em in the air, and their guy let them hit the ground. The differential in yardage was big.

Q: Super Bowl XXI?

A: I didn't acknowledge in my mind we were gonna win until maybe the last two minutes. I was worried about (John) Elway getting on a roll, thinking onsides kicks could happen ... one of those coaches' insecurity things. The celebration was going on around me on the sidelines. I didn't join in until the last minute of the game.

Q: The 1991 NFC Championship game in San Francisco: Giants 15, 49ers 13?

A: Probably one of the two greatest games I was involved in because so many great players were in it. Nobody believed we could win with a backup quarterback (Jeff Hostetler for injured Phil Simms). Our defense was very good, and Matt Bahr was such a clutch kicker. If I ever had one kick to make, Matt would be my guy.

Q: What were you thinking when Buffalo's Scott Norwood lined up for the 47-yarder at the end of Super Bowl XXV?

A: I didn't think he was gonna make it because he hadn't made any on grass that long. What I thought was gonna happen did happen: He overkicked the ball. I was thinking before the kick, "Ya know, it's gonna be a shame if we lose this game." We outplayed those guys pretty much the whole way. I think the best team won, but a lot of people wouldn't say that.

Q: Was the euphoria the same or different from the first championship?

A: Pretty much the same. (Buffalo) was The Offense of the '90s and it was modern-day football against the Neanderthal approach. That game is testament that there are ways to win any game if you just implement the proper strategy and get it executed.

Q: Best motivational job you did?

A: Before the San Francisco game in '91. I told my players early in the week, "We're goin' to San Francisco and we're gonna have one week for the Super Bowl so pack everything for two weeks." A lot of 'em have told me that really helped everybody's confidence.

Q: When did you realize you had this gift to push buttons?

A: I'm just myself. Everybody says it's all this contrived stuff ... you just react.

Q: Wayne Chrebet Day?

A: He was a spunky, little guy. I used to tease him about being a "Mascot" player. Joe Morris was kinda that. They get to be the fan favorite, they're the underdog. Dave Meggett was like that. I have a lot of respect for Wayne. He was very competitive when the ball was in the air, very good quickness, the ability to separate, a physical player for his size.

Q: Commissioner Roger Goodell's law-and-order crackdown?

A: You're preaching to the choir now. I'm happy to see he's taking a good stand on these things. Ninety-eight percent of these kids are really good, achievement-oriented, highly motivated, good kids that want to be productive citizens, that are willing to give back to the community. We don't ever read about those.

Q: Michael Vick?

A: You're just saddened by it. You don't like to see that kind of treatment to animals. They're God's creatures, why would you want to hurt them? It happened to such a marquee guy in the NFL that it affects people's opinion on a whole group of people and not just one or two. That's what I don't like about it.

Q: What made Curtis Martin Curtis Martin?

A: He's one of the very, very special players, and people, I've ever met. He's what pro football should be about.

Q: Did you envision Chad Pennington having this career when you drafted him in 2000?

A: A lot of things happened to this kid. A lot of people who weren't as mentally tough would have folded it up.

Q: If Peyton Manning had left Tennessee a year early when you had the No. 1 1998 overall pick, would you have drafted him?

A: Oh yeah.

Q: But you never relayed that to Team Manning.

A: You have to remember what the rules were in those days - you were prohibited from doing anything like that.

Q: They never had an inkling?

A: Of course they had an inkling.

Q: You might still be coaching the Jets if he had come out.

A: You never know. If he had come out, he might have gotten hurt and never played again.

Q: Which young coach today reminds you of the young Bill Parcells?

A: I wouldn't want to characterize anybody that way. They might not take it as a compliment.

Q: Your relationship with Bill Belichick?

A: I'd say very good. I don't know what he'd say. This summer we played golf together. I'm happy for his success. I have a vested interest there, too. My daughter (Dallas, married to Pats' GM Scott Pioli) is there. I want her family to do well.

Q: Brandon Jacobs?

A: Big, strong kid with toughness. But these runners are like quarterbacks. You gotta go two, three, four years before you find out what you got, because they're gonna get beat up and they're gonna have to get back to that huddle every week.

Q: The Eli Manning-Philip Rivers-Ben Roethlisberger draft?

A: I thought all had a good chance to be successful.

Q: Why has Eli struggled?

A: He got thrown in there early. So did Roethlisberger, but Roethlisberger had a better cast around him. Rivers sat and got to learn for a year or two. Eli's gonna be OK. The expectations were distorted. Unless he was an instant star, people would start to wonder. I don't think he's played that badly.

Q: The Vince Young-Matt Leinart-Jay Cutler draft?

A: Our (Cowboys) scouting staff preferred Cutler.

Q: Michael Strahan needs one sack to break the tie with LT and become the Giants' career sack leader.

A: Lawrence didn't get to count one of his years (1981 rookie season, 9

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September 9, 2007 -- In the hour or so before today's Jets season opener against the Patriots, the Meadowlands locker rooms will be buzzing with anticipation.

The stereotypical scene of the NFL player before a big game is of him pumping himself up with some loud, head-banger music and perhaps slamming his helmeted head against his locker.

Jets safety Kerry Rhodes takes a completely different approach. He listens to some slowed-down R&B and even some classical music on his iPod. Rhodes opts for the chilled sounds of Donell Jones instead of the serious metal or rap that a lot of his teammates prefer.

"It gets me mellow, so I'm not bouncing off the walls," Rhodes said. "I'm different from everybody. A lot of people like to listen to music to get you bouncing off the walls. I like to be under control. It calms me down before a game, because you're always going into the game with an intense anticipation.

"There are going to be a lot of emotions before the game. It's the first game that counts and there's a lot of anticipation from the past year. You're going to be emotional. You're going to have a lot of energy and you don't want to expend too much energy early. You want to try to conserve some of that energy and try to maintain it for four quarters."


The Jets' first-round draft pick, CB Darrelle Revis, will make his NFL debut today and figures to play a lot. It's possible he could start in place of Andre Dyson, who's nursing a foot injury. Revis surely will at least play nickel, meaning he'll match up with Pats WR Wes Welker.

"He's a pretty good corner," Patriots QB Tom Brady said of Revis. "I know Coach (Bill) Belichick thought a lot of him coming out of college, and from what I've seen in the preseason, he looks like he's a big guy, he's got good speed and he's very physical. He looks like he's going to be a good pick for those guys."


Home sweet home? The Jets have opened their season at home 12 times in 47 years entering today. They're 5-7 in home openers. . . . Belichick has coached the Patriots to a 124-84 overall record, including three Super Bowl titles and a 13-3 postseason record. . . . Seven members of the Jets' coaching staff are former Patriots' coaches, players or staff members, beginning with head coach Eric Mangini and including assistant DL coach Bryan Cox, QBs coach Brian Daboll, offensive quality control coach Andy Dickerson, assistant DBs coach Jerome Henderson, RBs coach Jimmy Raye, and assistant strength coach Rick Lyle.


Brady is 10-2 against the Jets; Chad Pennington is 2-5 against the Patriots in career starts. Pennington has eight TDs and 10 INTs.

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Let's Get It Started

Posted by Bob Bullock September 09, 2007 12:55AM

Categories: 2007 Schedule

The preseason is in the books, Pete Kendall is gone, Thomas Jones has recovered from his injury and the Patriots are in town for the first REAL game of the 2007 season. That's where we are right now, after months of drafting players, making trades, mini-camps and training camp this is YOUR New York Jets. The roster is set for the most part, now it is about what happens between the lines. None of the ridiculous opinions we've heard over the last few weeks matter one bit at this point. We'll get a feel for what the Jets will really be like this season and if they can really be competitive in the AFC East at around 1:00 p.m. this afternoon.

You couldn't ask for a better team to match-up against than the Patriots if you want to gauge what kind of team you have. After all, the Pats are most people's pick to win the Super Bowl this season...AGAIN. The Jets, well I've seen everything from 10-6 and a playoff berth, to 3-13 as predictions for this team. That is quite a bit of a difference if you ask me.

The bottom line is that nobody really knows what to make of the 2007 Jets.

Will this be the team that is led for 16 games by Chad Pennington again or will Kellen Clemens be the quarterback at some point during the season because of a Pennington injury or fall off in performance?

Will the left guard position really be that much of a factor?

How much of an impact will Thomas Jones have on the Jets rushing attack?

Will the defense be the unit that finished last season on the upswing, or will they revert back to the early season form of 2006?

Those are just a few of the key questions facing the Green and White as they head into yet another season with many stones left unturned.

In this bloggers humble opinion, this is a better team than the one that hit the field last season. The second year of the Mangini system, a new stud running back, a year of experience in the books for Leon Washington, Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, as well as, adding at least two very talented rookies in Darrelle Revis and David Harris. Add the fact that the coaching staff always has this team prepared and ready to work hard. The players are put in positions to succeed. That is one factor that has been continually left out when discussing the fortunes of this Jets team. I can also throw in that Gang Green will have one of the top special team units in the league, with an explosive return game, excellent coverage units and probably the best special teams' coach in the business in Mike Westhoff. Remember this, special teams can win you at least two games every season.

The schedule is tougher, there is no question about that, with the likes of New England twice, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Dallas just to name a few. I do believe that this team is ready to meet those challenges though. I believe that Chad Pennington can again lead this team successfully as he has so many times in the past. Finally, I believe that this team will again make the playoffs with a 10-6 record, missing out on the division by one game to the Patriots.

One last belief heading into 2007; that the Jets will again play New England three times this season. This time the Jets win two out of three.

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Not Quite An Even Playing Field

Opening On Artificial Turf Suits Brady

By DAVID HEUSCHKEL | Courant Staff Writer

September 9, 2007

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The two games represent the most lopsided and most excruciating losses in Bill Belichick's seven years as Patriots coach.

The first was a 31-0 pasting in the 2003 opener in Buffalo. The other, 38-34 in January to the Colts at the RCA Dome.

What do these games have in common? They are the only ones Tom Brady has lost on artificial surface since becoming the starting quarterback six years ago.

Brady is 23-2 (.920) in regular season and postseason games on artificial turf. That includes a 6-0 record against the Jets at the Meadowlands, a streak he and the Patriots will attempt to extend today against their AFC East rival in the opener.

It marks the second time in the past six seasons the Patriots will open on the road; in the last they were blown out by the Bills, a game in which Brady threw four interceptions.

Perhaps because the Patriots beat the Jets in the opening round of the playoffs in January, Brady made no attempt to downplay the significance of the first meeting in 2007.

"Once you get the schedule, you're looking at that one, especially against the Jets," he said.

Brady should be just as enthused to play seven of eight road games this season on artificial surface. There might not be a quarterback in the NFL tougher to beat on artificial turf than Brady. He has completed 65.1 percent of his passes with 45 touchdowns and 20 interceptions, good for a 96.0 passer rating.

His numbers on grass, while impressive, are not as good. Brady has a 60.7 completion percentage with 122 touchdowns and 67 interceptions to go with a 59-24 record (.711) and an 85.8 passer rating.

The statistical comparison supports what Brady has said about playing on artificial turf, that it lets him plant his feet better, allowing him to throw with more accuracy. And he has plenty of targets this season.

Jets safety Kerry Rhodes and the other defensive backs will have their hands full as Brady attempts to hook up with new receivers Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker and Kelley Washington.

The Jets have big-play receivers, too. Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery combined for 173 receptions last season, the most by a Jets receiving tandem in history. Coles had a career-high 91 and Cotchery caught 82 in his first full season as a starter. Cotchery also led the NFL with the most third-down receptions for first downs (26) and Coles was tied for fourth (23).

With dangerous receivers on both sides, pass coverage will be key.

"I think what they've done pretty much speaks for itself. They did it against us, too," Belichick said. "We definitely have to be aware of them, not only on the long passes but on the short passes that can turn into big plays by losing leverage and missing tackles and just not keeping them contained."

If the Patriots didn't know much about Cotchery going into last season, they do now. He had 12 catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns, one covering 71 yards, in the two regular season games the teams split. In the AFC wild card game, Cotchery's 77-yard touchdown from Chad Pennington gave the Jets a 10-7 lead in the opening minute of the second quarter.

The Patriots secondary will be tested with safety James Sanders filling in for Rodney Harrison, who begins his four-game suspension for taking a banned substance. Another question is cornerback Asante Samuel, who might not be up to game speed. He missed training camp and all four exhibition games because of a contract dispute.

"I've got a lot catching up to do, but I feel pretty good," said Samuel, who tied Denver's Champ Bailey for the NFL lead with 10 interceptions last season.

If the Patriots are looking to exploit a mismatch, it might be on the line where Jets rookie Jacob Bender, who played at Division I-AA Nicholls State, will play at left guard.

The Jets, however, return four starters on the offensive line. After failing with a four-back rotation last season, they will try to open holes for new running back Thomas Jones, who rushed for 1,210 yards with the Bears. Jones has been recovering from a strained calf and his participation in practice last week was limited, but he is expected to play. Assuming Jones plays, there's a good chance the Jets' biggest offseason acquisition will meet up with the Patriots' biggest, linebacker Adalius Thomas.

The Patriots have injuries to contend with as well.

The defensive line will be without five-time Pro Bowl end Richard Seymour (knee), who can stuff the run better than his replacement, Jarvis Green. And Moss returned to practice last week after missing most of the preseason with a pulled hamstring.

Contact David Heuschkel at


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Jets' Rhodes, aka Hollywood, dreams of Honolulu

By TOM ROCK | tom.rock@newsday.com

September 9, 2007

His football teammates call him "Hollywood" because of his acting pursuits. But safety Kerry Rhodes would like to be associated with some other city that starts with the letter H. Maybe ... Honolulu?

A year after a breakout season in which he had 13 pass disruptions, five sacks, four interceptions and three forced fumbles but did not make the Pro Bowl, Rhodes has declared a trip to Hawaii as one of this season's highest hopes.

"That's a goal of mine that I've had since I came here," Rhodes said. "It's not going to be any different now. That'll be a goal of mine from here on out."

Rhodes said he didn't pay much attention to his snub, mostly because the Jets were in the middle of a playoff push. But after looking back, he felt he "had a year that was worthy of it." The safeties who went to the Pro Bowl - Bob Sanders, John Lynch and Troy Polamalu - all had name recognition to go along with their stats. Now that Rhodes is becoming a known commodity, his path to the all-star game should be easier.

Or perhaps not.

"The better you get, you're more of a focal point for the other teams," Rhodes said. "They're going to take into account where you are and what you're good at and what you're trying to do. They're going to try to counter you. Your game has to evolve more as they scheme around you."

The toughest part of a breakout year is following it up. Rhodes' good friend on the Jets, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, went through it early in his career.

"Everyone asked me after my first year, after I was Rookie of the Year, how was I going to come back the next year?" Vilma said. "Fortunately, I went to the Pro Bowl. For Kerry, I'm expecting big things."

Rhodes spent much of his offseason working on his secondary career: acting. He has roles in two upcoming films and also took part in several magazine, fashion and album cover shoots as a model. While Rhodes has been loath to discuss his movie career since training camp began - "I'm here to play football," he says - there is some film work he openly credits with the surge in his career.

As a rookie, Rhodes tried to keep up with Vilma's near-obsessive study of video from games. But as the Jets' record plummeted, Rhodes' interest in dissecting opponents waned.

"I don't think he was really ready," Vilma said. "I don't think he understood what it meant to be a pro and do it week in and week out. He kind of slacked off at the end, but it was his first go-round and he was a rookie. I understood."

When Rhodes wanted to return to breaking down video with Vilma at the beginning of 2007, Vilma told him that they would do it together, but it had to be for the entire season.

"It's just easier when you know what to expect from the other team and know what possibilities they have in certain formations," Rhodes said. "It can narrow the situations and it won't be so much on your mind, so that you're just out there playing."

And perhaps he'll be playing in mid-February. Under the bright Pacific sun.

"I've never been to Hawaii," he said. "And I won't go until I'm invited."

Jets' 2007 draft picks and their impact:

Round 1 (14th pick overall)

Darrelle Revis, cornerback

Despite missing the first three weeks of camp in a contract dispute, Revis could be the starter in the opening game. If he's not, he'll certainly have the job by October.

Round 2 (47)

David Harris, linebacker

A pure inside linebacker for the 3-4 scheme who has the strength to dispatch offensive linemen and has shown surprising ability to play in open space. He'll see some action in the middle.

Round 6 (177)

Jacob Bender, offensive line

The Jets appeared to take a flier on this run-blocking tackle from I-AA Nicholls State. Now he could be their starting left guard. At 6-6, 315 pounds, he's solid on running plays but needs to develop pass protection.

Round 7 (235)

Chansi Stuckey, receiver

A steal in the seventh round, the foot injury that caused Stuckey's draft status to plummet is behind him. At a crowded position, he could become a third-down slot receiver and the Jets will use him on special teams.

- Tom Rock

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Mangini and Coughlin: 2 very different story arcs

Bob Glauber

September 9, 2007

One coach is at the beginning, coming off a stunningly effective season with a bright future filled with possibilities. The other is close to the end, coming off a controversy-filled year that nearly cost him his job; he might have just months to go before he's out.

Eric Mangini and Tom Coughlin. You can't find a more diametrically opposed set of circumstances to be played out in the next 17 weeks in the same town, same stadium. It will be one of the central themes of both the Jets and Giants, with Mangini, at 36, attempting to build on a playoff run that no one expected and Coughlin trying to hold on after barely getting into the postseason with a bickering team wracked by dissension.

How each man deals with his situation will go a long way toward determining how far the Jets and Giants go.

Does Mangini follow last year's 10-6 season with an even better one, even though the pressure goes up a notch because they won't sneak up on anyone the way they did last year? Or do the Jets take a step back like a lot of rebuilding franchises that often need three or four years to become a consistent winner?

Does Coughlin buckle under the weight of last year's madness, when it seemed there was some new controversy every week, be it Tiki Barber's retirement talk, or Michael Strahan berating a female reporter, or Jeremy Shockey telling writers to print that the Giants were outcoached?

This much is certain: What happened last year has gone a long way toward reshaping the methods both coaches will use to prepare their teams for what lies ahead. For Mangini, much of what happened last year offered reinforcement for his teaching methods, offering an important foundation for the future. For Coughlin, the insanity of 2006 led to an unprecedented offseason of soul-searching that he believes can transform his approach. Not that he will be a different guy, but he has gone about things with a softer, more human approach than before.

"Coach Mangini has a plan, and he's a guy who will demand excellence," Jets quarterback Chad Pennington said. "He's a great leader, he's a great teacher, and if you do the things he teaches, you'll be successful."

The Jets do indeed believe in Mangini, whose grueling practices in training camp once were met with skepticism and complaint; after the success of last year, they are now viewed as essential to their preparation.

"It's the hardest camp I've ever been in," Jets receiver Laveranues Coles said. "They wear you out." To the point that Coles has said Mangini's methods might actually take years off the receiver's career because of the wear and tear. But Coles is willing to accept the hard-driving approach if it means playoff success and - ultimately - a Super Bowl championship.

Mangini's understated, modest personality runs counter to his punishing practices, but the players have embraced him nonetheless. They've nicknamed him "the Penguin," although he is no longer the portly figure he was as a rookie head coach. And they regularly praise his relentless attention to detail, something the players believe directly contributes to the winning record.

Coughlin hasn't enjoyed that kind of popularity in his own locker room, largely because his militaristic personality simply doesn't allow for warm-and-fuzzy feelings. But after three seasons of his hard-driving approach, Coughlin realized he needed to adapt lest he lose his team completely.

He was stung by the criticism that he was an unfeeling, unfair and ineffectual coach, to the point that he actually solicited the opinions of beat reporters and columnists to see if there was a more effective way he could present himself to the public.

"I think it says a lot about a guy who's willing to look at himself and admit that he might have made some mistakes," center Shaun O'Hara said. "You really don't see that in this business too much."

Coughlin did it as much for survival reasons as anything; if he doesn't win this year, he's out. And if being portrayed as a more sincere, more caring individual would help his players trust more in him, then he'd try and loosen up a little. Having known Coughlin for nearly 20 years, I can tell you that he really is a good man. But because of his training as a no-nonsense coach, he felt there was no room to let people see his softer side because it might be seen as weakness.

But today's players don't respond the same way to the dictatorial coach, so Coughlin realizes it's now in his best interests to pat guys on the back more, to smile. Sure, he'll still holler, but he'll also mix in some levity.

Will it all work?

Check back in four months. The won-loss record will tell you whether he stays or goes.

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Q&A: New back Jones should give Jets big boost


September 9, 2007

Will Thomas Jones have a third straight 1,200-yard rushing season?

Truth is, he won't need to. The Jets traded for Jones to run for big yardage, yes, but he's also there to make other teams think the Jets will run. Jones will have a solid season despite being slowed by a preseason calf strain, but the Jets still have Leon Washington to scamper and catch passes. Just having Jones as a threat will make the entire offense tougher to defend. This isn't the one-dimensional Bears.

Can Jonathan Vilma find his groove in the 3-4 defense?

He led the team in tackles with 116 but saw a 38 percent drop-off from the previous year as he adjusted to his new role in the new scheme. This year, expect coordinator Bob Sutton to get creative and find ways to get the fourth-year inside linebacker more involved. If Vilma struggles, though, the Jets might be faced with a tough decision after the season: Do they keep the player or the system?

Is the Jets' offense surprising anyone this season?

In the NFL, you're only as surprising as the video of last week's game. Yet the Jets and their no-huddle, constant-motion, position-flexible system seemed to catch most opponents off guard. Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said the Jets have been working on a few wrinkles, but after a year of opposition analysis, it may be time to put up rather than put on.

Will Darrelle Revis be as good as advertised?

He could be better. The cornerback, who missed three weeks of training camp with a contract impasse, has looked like a star in his abbreviated preseason and is an early candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Even though he was the seventh defensive player drafted in April - the Jets traded up to snag him at No. 14 - none of the previous four ROYs have been taken in the top nine of the draft (including Vilma, who won in 2004 after being selected with the 12th pick).

Who will play left guard?

Not Pete Kendall, who was traded to the Redskins after a rabble-rousing summer of discontent. Short-term, he probably was their best option, but they picked up good long-term value in the deal. Adrien Clarke and rookie Jacob Bender were unimpressive during the preseason, leaving the Jets searching for a veteran who still can play at a starting level. But even if they pick up someone, it will take time to get him up to speed, meaning the Jets likely will open with Bender. The Pats' Vince Wilfork's stomach is growling. TOM ROCK

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Patriots at Jets at Giants Stadium, 1 p.m.

The Line: Patriots by 6.5

TV: Ch. 2 (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)

Radio: WEPN 1050-AM (Bob Wischusen, Marty Lyons). In Spanish on 1280-WADO-AM (C.L. Smith Muniz, Alfredo Bejar). Nationwide on Westwood One (Bill Rosinski, Dan Reeves)

Forecast: Isolated thunderstorms. High of 83.

Injury Impact

The Pats are without two of their defensive stars. DE Richard Seymour begins the season on the PUP list with a knee injury and SS Rodney Harrison is serving the first game of a four-game drug suspension. CB Asante Samuel, meanwhile, is just getting back in shape after a holdout and WR Randy Moss (hamstring) will see his first game action. RB Thomas Jones has been limited in practice with a calf injury but will make his Jets debut. CB/KR Justin Miller (thigh) is less than 100%.

Feature Matchup

LG Jacob Bender/Adrien Clarke vs. DE Jarvis Green, NT Vince Wilfork and the blitz: The Pete Kendall soap opera leaves Bender, the Jets' sixth-round draft pick from Nicholls State, helping D'Brickashaw Ferguson protect Chad Pennington's blind side. If there's anything Bill Belichick does well it's exploit a weakness. Wilfork is a horse, and Green - an able replacement for Seymour who had 7.5 sacks last year - will be running stunts to try to get inside Bender, who played in a run-oriented offense in college. There is a chance free-agent pickup Clarke could see action or even start.

Scout Says

"Jones upgrades the Jets' running attack but he may not be able to take on a full load this week. In any case, the Jets must attack the Patriots through the air. They had success last year by putting Chad Pennington in a shotgun and using motion with their wide receivers to force matchups. That also allowed Pennington to see the field and get slightly more time against the pass rush. New England's offense is pretty scary and will use the pass to set up the run with (Laurence) Maroney, a tough, hard runner. The Patriots are using a zone blocking scheme up front this year, which puts the onus on the backers, particularly (Jonathan) Vilma to shoot the gaps."


Just when it looked as though the Jets were closing the gap on the Pats last year, the Pats went out and made themselves into a Super Bowl favorite. Yet all is not perfect in New England, where the mood has slipped because of injuries and Harrison's suspension. A lot depends on how the Jets start. It's critical that they don't allow Brady and Co. to get going early because all that talent at the skill positions can snowball - just ask the Saints. Of course, there's always the Bill Belichick-Eric Mangini dynamic. Lukewarm handshake or man hug? The imagination runs wild.


Patriots Brady gets his MVP campaign off the ground, 31-17

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For Jets' openers, it's Mangini-Belichick Part IV




Sunday, September 9th 2007, 4:00 AM

How will the Jets do this season? Join the discussion

Read Rich Cimini's The Jets Stream

For months, the Jets have been hearing and reading about the retooled and re-focused Patriots, how Bill Belichick turned a very good team into a very, very good team. Need a new receiver, Tom? Here, take an entire receiving corps.

After a two-year Super Bowl drought, the Patriots appear to be approaching 2007 with a Gibraltar-sized chip on their shoulder - a notion that brought a smile to Jonathan Vilma's face.

"It's been like 32 years for us," the Jets' linebacker said of winning a Super Bowl, "so we have a bigger chip than them."

Like, maybe, the size of the moon.

For the record, it has been 38 years for the Jets, who begin the second year of the Eric Mangini era today at the Meadowlands against those same Patriots - the team that bounced them from the playoffs last January and the team they've been chasing since Bill Parcells left town.

Unlike the Patriots, the Jets were relatively quiet in the offseason, making only one splashy move, trading for Bears running back Thomas Jones. Instead of spending their salary-cap room, they opted for continuity, placing their faith in Mangini and the intelligent, strong-willed team that overachieved last season.

They're not big talkers, these Jets, but they exude a quiet confidence. After a brutal training camp - to a man, they say it was tougher than last year - they feel like they've worked too hard to fail. No doubt, there are questions (is there a left guard in the house?), but it's a solid team that will learn a lot about itself after three hours with the Patriots.

"Our expectations are always high," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "When you have a great group of competitors like we have, we expect great things out of ourselves. After the hard work we put in, we expect to go out and do well. We won't settle for anything less."

In recent years, they've been cursed by great expectations. Big things were predicted in 2003 and 2005, but the Jets, doomed by injuries to Chad Pennington, were major flops. A year ago, they shocked the league and narrowed the gap on the Patriots, perhaps motivating Belichick & Co. to acquire wide receivers Randy Moss, Donte' Stallworth and Wes Welker and defensive end Adalius Thomas.

"They've dominated this division - there's no way of sugar coating it - and with the weapons they added, it makes them potentially deadly," guard Brandon Moore said.

With 17 returning starters, the Jets still have the core of last season's 10-win team. They should be better in all areas, save the offensive line, where the Pete Kendall trade could haunt them. Their most valuable commodity might be Mangini, 36, who could be a younger version of Belichick, his mentor-turned-adversary.

Mangini outcoached Belichick last season in a regular-season upset, their second meeting, but Belichick schooled his former prot

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Patriots are ready - or not

Openers can be extremely tricky

BILL BELICHICK More variables

By Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff | September 9, 2007

The opening game of the season brings plenty of excitement for Patriots fans, players, and coaches alike, but today's game against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium also brings an air of uncertainty for those who will be playing and coaching.

| "I'm sure there will be a lot of things that you can't really predict or anticipate, and we need to be ready for that type of a game, as you always need to be ready for on opening day," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "But probably even more so with a team like the Jets that knows us as well as we know them."

Although it is probably the most anticipated game of the season, the season opener is also one of the most difficult to prepare for. Teams have had an entire offseason to tweak their systems, incorporate new players, and devise a game plan. It's the most time any coaching staff will have all year to prepare for a game, and like the preparation, the possibilities seem endless.

"You don't know what a team has changed or what they've added or what they've taken out of the offense, defense, or special teams," said Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin. "We can only wait till the kickoff and that first or second play, and then as you go to the sidelines in between series, say, 'This is what they're doing. This is what they're trying to do.' Hopefully, you can make the adjustments and come out on top."

Facing the Jets and former New England defensive coordinator Eric Mangini only further clouds the equation. Under Mangini, the Jets, like the Patriots, create game-specific plans, changing what they do from week to week. A team must prepare for the Jets' or Patriots' entire playbook, not knowing what percentage of it they'll actually face. That negates part of the advantage the Patriots would have from playing the Jets for the fourth time in their last 20 games - and vice versa.

"You can get a lot of this or a lot of that or a little bit of everything," said Belichick. "You work on everything, but you have to commit more time to something and less time to something else. Those are the decisions you make in your preparation.

"It's opening day. Every team in the league is going through that. There's a lot more variables, and once you see a team play two or three or four games, then they're going to settle into something, whatever that is, and it's probably a lot less than what you've prepared for on opening day."

Both the Patriots and Jets have tried to gain insight into each other's game plan by bringing in former players. The Jets hosted recently released Patriots receiver Reche Caldwell and on Friday the Patriots returned the favor with Tim Dwight, who spent last season with the Jets and was released during training camp.

Any x-factor that can be eliminated is helpful, but even with X's-and-O's virtuosos like Belichick and Mangini, the best-laid (game) plans quickly can fizzle on the field of play.

The Patriots found that out last year, when they opened at home with a 19-17 win over the Buffalo Bills. The first offensive snap of the season delivered calamity - Buffalo linebacker Takeo Spikes came unblocked on a blitz and leveled Tom Brady, causing him to fumble. London Fletcher-Baker picked up the fumble and returned it for a touchdown and New England trailed just 12 seconds into its season.

So, expect the unexpected.

"The funny thing about the first game in every season is that we don't know what's going to happen," said Patriots linebacker Junior Seau. "All we can do is practice what we know best and kind of tone down on the mistakes that have happened in the past.

"We can give you a game plan as to what is going to go on [today], but we really don't know. We really don't.

"With the Jets being a tough team every year, there is a rivalry here and we can dramatize it, but the fact is your guess is as good as ours. We're going to go out there and play Patriot ball and hopefully that's good enough."

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Jets fans' fantasy: more equal footing



(Original publication: September 9, 2007)

College applicants, learn from the Jets' mistake. Apply to only one school, and you could end up living with your parents for the next 40 years.

The Jets put all their eggs in one basket - a new stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. They ran to the mailbox every day waiting for that official reply. One day it came - the dreaded thin envelope that can only mean rejection. Tails between their legs they slinked home, unpacked their beanbag chair and told the Giants they'd be sticking around.

Scoff as they might at the suggestion of an unbalanced power dynamic, there's no denying who's the boss in the Meadowlands. Look no further than the marquee. The proof is up there against a blue background: Giants Stadium.

"It comes with being a Jets fan," Yonkers resident Simon Marques said. "You're used to being a second-class citizen."

The Giants have been around longer, have more history, more Super Bowl appearances. It's hard enough for the Jets to catch up in popularity without having to play home games in a blue bowl. Nick Eisenberg, a Jets fan and bartender in Pleasantville, estimates that Giants fans outnumber Jets fans three to one among bar patrons.

"It's like the Giants are the landlord and we're just renting," said Kate Dunphy of Suffern. "We're like a minor-league team over there, playing in someone's else's stadium."

When the Manhattan stadium proposal fell through, the Jets agreed to go in with the Giants on a new dual-use palace adjacent to Giants Stadium. Although it nixes hopes of independence for the length of the contract, at least Jets fans can take solace in a name change that will, at least officially, put the teams on equal footing.

"The Jets always would've been the second team in New York if they stayed in Giants Stadium," Dunphy said. "Maybe now they'll start to get equal attention and equal respect."

No more draping green banners over the blue facade during Jets home games in a futile attempt to make the place feel like home. No more power imbalance.

As happy as they were to shed the stadium name, some people are wary of what the new name will be.

"I hate corporate sponsorship of stadiums," Marques said. "If they ever called Yankee Stadium 'Barnes & Noble Arena' I think I'd have a heart attack."

Said Eisenberg: "I'd rather have a regular name than a corporate name any day because it's got more character."

Even if that means carrying over the old name?

"At least there's a little bit of history there," he said.

Mark Leis of Hawthorne isn't loyal to either team. And he's not sympathetic to Jets' fans griping.

"I think they should just leave it like it is. Just call it Giants Stadium," he said.

Ironically, one guy who didn't mind the prospect of "Abercrombie & Fitch Stadium" or "iPod Field" is Giants season ticket-holder Michael Whiting of Ossining. Selling the naming rights will only bring in more revenue, he figures. What bothers him is how construction has wiped out half the parking spaces.

"During the two years (it's being built), it's not going to be worth it, but after that, we're going to forget all about it," he said. "Ask me in three years, yeah, we're going to be excited."

Reach Jake Thomases at jtthomas@lohud.com or 914-696-8578. E-MAIL ARTICLE | PRINTER-FRIENDLY FORMAT | E-MAIL ALERTS

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With Pennington healthy, Jets might be able to think big



(Original publication: September 9, 2007)

Regardless of what happens this season, Chad Pennington has already had a fantasy-fulfilling offseason. Each morning, he woke up knowing he could go through a full workout that day, not just worry about rehabbing an injured shoulder.

The Jets' quarterback hadn't had an offseason like that since before the 2004 season. Now, if Pennington can remain healthy again for the second straight season, the Jets could reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2001-02.

"After going through two shoulder surgeries, I have realized the finality of a football career," the 31-year-old Pennington said. "It's not a normal career where you can plan out your next 10-15 years or where you want to be in 15 years. You can be here one day and gone tomorrow based on injury or based on team needs."

Pennington started all 16 games for the 10-6 Jets last season for the first time since being selected 18th overall in the 2000 draft. The Jets have gone to the playoffs in each of the three seasons in which he's started at least 12 games.

But more than the numbers, it was the command he showed in offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's complex system that solidified his place as the Jets' unquestioned leader. Pennington had the opportunity for the first time in his career to audible freely, and he often came to the line with multiple play options.

"His approach stays the same and his work ethic stays the same," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "He's just very focused at having everything as precise as possible."

Mangini took the unusual step, at least for him, of declaring Pennington his starter in February. Last year, he subjected Pennington to an open competition for the starter's job before Pennington clearly outdistanced Kellen Clemens, Patrick Ramsey and Brooks Bollinger.

Pennington completed 313 of 485 passes for 3,352 yards - all career highs - as the Jets earned an AFC wild-card berth. His 17 touchdowns were the most he's thrown since 2002, though his 16 interceptions were also a career high.

"I don't think anyone had any doubts, so it wasn't too big a surprise for me," wide receiver Justin McCareins said. "It's just how he carries himself. He's the ultimate leader, professional. He's just that type of guy that I don't think anyone doubted him being our starter or performing at a high level."

That support from Mangini and the players hasn't wavered one bit despite Pennington struggling somewhat this preseason.

After not throwing a pass in the Jets' preseason opener, Pennington had two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the first quarter of a 37-20 loss to the Vikings on Aug. 17.

"Just because the preseason games haven't gone as well as we would have liked, I don't think we need to push the panic button," Pennington said.

Overall, Pennington was 12 for 21 for 129 yards with one touchdown and the two interceptions, sparking some unfounded speculation that Clemens, a second-year pro, might be pushing Pennington for the starter's job.

"I think Chad's had an outstanding camp," Mangini said. "There were a couple of throws that he would like to have back, (that) I would like him to have back. Chad is a good decision maker. I'm really comfortable with that (February) decision."

It'll look even better if Pennington starts this season the same way he did last season, when he recorded the first back-to-back, 300-yard passing games of his career.

"I can't really compare it too well from previous seasons," McCareins said. "He's always looked sharp to me. But he looks extra sharp. He's just like having another coach on the field for us. We have all the confidence in the world in him."

Reach Andrew Gross at apgross@lohud.com and read his Jets' blog at www.jets.lohudblogs.com. E-MAIL ARTICLE |

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Jones gives Jets' backfield some muscle



(Original publication: September 9, 2007)

HEMPSTEAD - Second-year running back Leon Washington's locker at Weeb Ewbank Hall literally places him in the middle of the Jets' past and future. To his right is the recently retired Curtis Martin's stall, still filled with practice jerseys and cleats, seemingly just in case the future Hall of Famer wanted to join practice.

To Washington's left sits Martin's replacement as the team's No. 1 running back, former Bear Thomas Jones. Their lockers are so close that Washington can't help but notice Jones' Herculean biceps.

"Thomas, in a sort of sense, reminds me of Curtis - not so much on the field but more things off the field and how he carries himself," Washington said. "I get a chance to see those guns so it can motivate me more in the weight room, so I can work on my arms."

The 29-year-old Jones, entering his eighth NFL season with his fourth team, was acquired in March as part of an exchange of second-round picks after he recorded consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Chicago. He injured his right calf on Aug. 12 and missed the Jets' final three preseason games, but he is expected to start today's regular-season opener against the Patriots.

The 34-year-old Martin, who ranks fourth on the league's all-time rushing list with 14,101 yards, retired on July 26 after spending all of the 2006 season on the physically-unable-to-perform list with severe cartilage damage to his right knee.

"To be able to play the same position he played on this team is an honor," Jones said. "He's one of the best backs to have played in the league, and I have a lot of respect for him. I'm one of the guys on the team, and that's my mentality. I'm not the only running back here."

True enough, but the Jets desperately need a lead back.

Last season, the Jets' rushing game - Washington, the since-departed Kevan Barlow and the since-retired Cedric Houston - ranked 20th in the league with an average of 108.6 yards per game.

"When you can do a lot of things, not just only do a lot of things but do a lot of things well, I think that helps out a lot," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "Last year, we passed the ball pretty well, but the running game wasn't where we wanted it to be. Down the line, teams kind of focused on the passing game, and they were able to make us a little bit one-dimensional."

The Jets believe they've acquired more than just a running back in Jones.

Like Martin, Jones doesn't seek attention, preferring to lead quietly by example. And, like Martin, Jones' dedication to his weight training has impressed more people than just Washington.

Plus, Jones' new teammates can't help but respect his Super Bowl appearance with the Bears, even if - like Martin in his only trip to the title game - his team did not win.

"He's a guy that went to the big dance before," Washington said. "He knows the sacrifice it takes to get to the Super Bowl, which is all of our dreams."

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

His efforts were obviously frustrated in training camp, as his on-field participation was limited after Aug. 12 to working on the sideline and doing leg-stretching exercises. Jones had 27 yards on eight carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run, in the Jets' 31-16 win over the Falcons in their preseason opener on Aug. 10.

But coach Eric Mangini said he's not worried about his new No. 1 running back being rusty once the regular season kicks off.

"With veteran guys who have that experience to draw from, they have got a real edge over, say, if a young guy had been hurt early in camp and then had to come back in," Mangini said. "With Thomas, he's been through a lot of games. So we are pretty comfortable with the combination of his experience, what he's been doing in the meetings and his ability to come back and contribute effectively."

Reach Andrew Gross at apgross@lohud.com and read his Jets blog at www.jets.lohudblogs.com. E-MAIL ARTICLE | PRINTER-FRIENDLY FORMAT | E-MAIL

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Fans in New York dream of a Giants-Jets Super Bowl



(Original publication: September 9, 2007)

When the 2000 Mets dispensed with St. Louis and the Yankees beat Seattle, New York revved itself up for a Subway Series. All eyes on New York, jam-packed sports bars, passion in the streets - it was like a fantasy come true.

Then the Mets lost, four games to one, and suddenly Mets fans didn't feel like it was such a hot idea after all.

Either local football fans didn't take notes or they don't mind the fallout, because both Giants and Jets fans love the concept of an all-New York Super Bowl. Not that they think it's around the corner. But with both teams making strong showings recently - the Jets have made the playoffs in four of the last six years and the Giants four of the last seven years - it's a possibility they can at least dream about.

"That would be crazy," said Matthew Cato of Spring Valley. "I'd root for the Giants, obviously. But I still wouldn't hate the Jets. That would be a good thing for New York.

"New York is kind of a baseball town with the Yankees. Maybe it would start turning to a football city if the two teams met like that."

Baseball has a pretty firm grip on New York's heart, but perhaps the fervor over a Jersey Bowl would start to tip the scales.

"I think it would be awesome," recent Pace graduate Nick Eisenberg said. "It'd be great for New York sports. It would create friendly rivalries in bars and places like that."

"Friendly" isn't a word commonly associated with the Mets-Yankees rivalry. Mets fans hate the Yanks, and Yankees fans hate the Mets fans for hating them. But when it comes to football, the green and blue don't seem to mind each other. Most people come down on one side, yet still want the other to do well.

"I root for the Jets, but I also root against them because a lot of my friends are Jets fans and they all bag on the Giants, so I have to retaliate against them," said Pete Crossett of Hawthorne. "But I'm a New York fan."

In the event of a New York-New York championship, fans would have to get on each other's case more. Two weeks of hype before the big game would be plenty of time for everyone to annoy everyone else with trash talk, and for the tabloids to froth the diehards into a mania.

"It's the best thing in the world when you're sitting next to your best friends going back and forth, taking shots at each other," White Plains resident Joe Tassone said. "It makes half the crowd happy, half the crowd miserable. You can't ask for anything better than that. That's what sports is all about."

Tassone sees his Giants going 10-6, which would make them a virtual lock for the playoffs. Crossett figured on a more modest 8-8. Jets fans were a little more optimistic than Giants fans, tabbing their team for nine or 10 wins. While both should be hovering around playoff contention, neither is a Super Bowl favorite.

For all the fans' excitement over the idea, no one sees it happening this season.

"I don't think so," said Jay Tessono of Spring Valley.

"I don't know if it's possible," said Michael Whiting of Ossining. "The Jets are pretty young. Their offensive line looked bad when the Giants played them (Week 3 of the preseason)."

In baseball, big-money clubs can remain competitive year after year by buying talent. Football teams, with their hard salary cap, can't. There's a good chance we'll see another Subway Series before the Giants and Jets ever meet.

"The thing with parity in the NFL - they call it parity, I call it mediocrity - everything shifts from year to year," Yonkers resident Simon Marques said. "The odds of our two teams being consistent enough and good enough to make it to the Super Bowl aren't very high."

As in 2000, interest around the country for an all-New York title game would probably be low. Here, it'd be brother against brother. Everywhere else there'd be yawns.

But if you think that's apathy, just ask a New Yorker how he feels about them not caring.

Reach Jake Thomases at jtthomas

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Five questions for the Jets: Pennington's preseason, run defense among the issues

(Original publication: September 9, 2007)

Five questions for the Jets

Are Chad Pennington's preseason struggles a real concern?

Two factors leave the arrow pointing at "probably not." First, Pennington traditionally has not been great in preseason games, and still the Jets have reached the playoffs in all three seasons in which he's started at least 12 games. Second, the Jets' preseason games are secondary to their practices in terms of actual regular-season preparation. The best omen for this season was that Pennington was able to spend the offseason preparing, not rehabbing a shoulder injury.

Will the Jets be able to stop the run?

For all the Jets' offseason free-agent acquisitions - defensive linemen Kenyon Coleman and Eric Hicks; linebacker David Bowens; and second-round pick David Harris, a linebacker out of Michigan - they didn't look any better in the preseason than they did in 2006, when they were 24th in the NFL against the run. While nose tackle Dewayne Robertson is unfairly singled out for much of the line's deficiencies, he's not a traditional run-stuffer.

How important was acquiring Thomas Jones?

General manager Mike Tannenbaum getting a No. 1 running back to replace the retired Curtis Martin in an exchange of second-round picks with the Bears was hailed as the league's best offseason move. Jones is coming off consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Chicago, and there's no reason to doubt he'll reach that mark with the Jets. Defenses no longer will be able to ignore the Jets' running game in an attempt to shut down their passing game.

Will trading Pete Kendall sink the season?

Not necessarily, but the Jets erred in believing they had the veteran left guard's replacement already on the roster. Sixth-rounder Jacob Bender needs more time to make the conversion not only from Division I-AA football but from tackle to guard. But former Eagle Adrien Clarke was the big disappointment for the team in training camp. He was literally handed the job, and he quickly proved unequal to the task.

Is Eric Mangini really a Man-genius?

It's way too early in the coach's career to make that assessment, a 10-6 rookie campaign that included an AFC wild-card berth notwithstanding. He has taken hold of the team with a strong vision and a lengthy set of rules, but his team could very well balk at his intense ways if it starts slowly. He came from New England, where he was the defensive coordinator, but the Jets' defense has been the team's weakest unit. Mangini's real test might come when offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who has installed a complex and brainy system, leaves to become a head coach, quite possibly after this season.

Andrew Gross

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Quartet of rookies could have major impact for Jets



(Original publication: September 9, 2007)

The NFL's annual April rookie showcase could be considered a fantasy draft. Teams invariably leave the building believing they've done a good job, even if things go horribly awry sometimes.

And the Jets have certainly had some clunkers. Guards Randy Thomas and David Loverne and defensive tackle Jason Wiltz were their first three picks in 1999, though the Jets didn't have a first-round selection that year. Ditto for 1998, when the team's first three selections were defensive end Dorian Boose and defensive backs Scott Frost and Kevin Williams.


"Little lumps are expected when you are a rookie, coming in and learning the system," said David Harris, the former Michigan linebacker who was the Jets' second-round pick this year.

But the Jets have reason to be optimistic in 2007. Not only have all four of their draft choices - Harris, Pittsburgh cornerback Darrelle Revis, Nicholls State offensive lineman Jacob Bender and Clemson wide receiver Chansi Stuckey - made the final roster, they all might make significant contributions as rookies.

"It's the ultimate - everybody's goal when they're a kid is to get to the NFL," said Stuckey, a seventh-round pick who is likely to be fifth on the depth chart and be used in the slot for short, precise routes. "It's kind of surreal once you get here. It's, 'OK, I have a grand opportunity.' If everything works out, you just feel so blessed to have the opportunity to do something you've always dreamed of."

Revis, selected 14th overall, likely will start at left corner despite missing 20 days of training camp due to a contract holdout.

Harris has been impressive at inside linebacker, and Bender, a sixth-round pick, might start at left guard by default following the trade of veteran Pete Kendall.

"It doesn't matter what competition you played against," Bender said of his Division I-AA background. "You are in the NFL, so somebody thought you were good enough to make it here. I'm going to work my hardest and show everyone what I have."

Now all they have to do is produce like veterans.

"This whole year is going to be a learning curve for me," said Revis, who declared for the draft following his junior season at Pittsburgh. "I'm a rookie, and I'm still young. This whole year is going to be a whirlwind, and I have to be patient, be focused and be a teammate first."

The Jets traded up to snag both Revis and Harris, and both showed indications in the preseason that the moves were justified.

Revis displayed physical coverage skills and solid play recognition despite his long absence from training camp. Plus, he might wind up as the team's punt returner.

Harris quickly cracked the linebacker rotation, and he will push Eric Barton and possibly Jonathan Vilma for playing time at inside linebacker.

"He does a nice job of going up and taking on the guards," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "He's got a good, physical presence against those guys but yet, he's fluid in space, which I like. You look for that with the inside linebacker's spot, to be able to have the ability to go hit the guy with some pop, power and block out."

Bender, who played mainly tackle in college, and in a run-oriented system at that, was thrust into the spotlight when the Jets dealt Kendall to the Redskins. Former Eagle Adrien Clarke hadn't been able to secure the left guard spot earlier in training camp, so Bender, despite his limited pass-blocking experience, was given the opportunity.

It's fair to say that it hasn't exactly been a smooth transition. But, at 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, Bender has the size and strength to develop into a solid NFL lineman.

"I've been working hard on my pass blocking, as well as everything else," Bender said. "I'm taking corrections from Coach, working hard and keeping at it."

If all the picks come through the way they might, general manager Mike Tannenbaum might have been the best fantasy player of all at the 2007 draft.

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Talented WR Coles finally feels like he belongs

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Star-Ledger Staff

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Laveranues Coles had to wonder: I came back for this?

Prior to the 2005 season, he had been traded back to the team that drafted him, but he and the Jets floundered through a 4-12 campaign that threatened to turn a burgeoning superstar into a marginal player and a playoff contender into an AFC also-ran.


Coles' 73 catches for 845 yards and five touchdowns struggled to justify the five-year, $25-million contract extension ($8 million guaranteed) the Jets had given him. Meantime, Santana Moss -- sent to the Redskins in exchange for Coles -- posted career-best numbers (84 catches, 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns) and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl.

Shortly after the dismal season, then-Jets coach Herman Edwards -- one of Coles' staunchest supporters -- bolted for the Kansas City Chiefs.

"It was a rough year," Coles said. "We suffered through a whole lot of injuries. I lined up with guys I didn't even know. I was traded for Santana, and Santana had a great year. People were saying the Jets made a mistake by bringing me back. ...

"Those things wore on me, but I went out and continued to work hard and play hard and things have turned out great for me."

As the Jets open this season today against the New England Patriots, Coles seems to be in the perfect place:

Last season, he had a career-high 91 catches for 1,098 yards and six touchdowns as the Jets reached the playoffs under first-year coach Eric Mangini.

Coles, who has a love-hate relationship with his hard-driving coach, was voted the team's offensive MVP.

He had a contentious relationship with reporters during his first stint with the Jets and didn't win many friends by acknowledging that the Redskins' big-money offer was what lured him away as a restricted free agent in 2003.

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He had a contentious relationship with reporters during his first stint with the Jets and didn't win many friends by acknowledging that the Redskins' big-money offer was what lured him away as a restricted free agent in 2003.

But he's become a media darling this time around. "The city has opened its arms up to me once I got a relationship with the media," he said. "I always felt the media was bad."


And last week he was voted an offensive co-captain.

"Having the chance to come back and mature and grow with everybody has been great," Coles said.

Coles, 29, isn't just a good player, Mangini says, he's a genuine person. It took Coles years, it seems, to overcome the stigma of being kicked off the Florida State football team following a shoplifting incident at a department store.

"The one thing that I respect so much about him is the caring that he has for his teammates," Mangini said. "He's a selfless guy. He's one of those guys that if you're stuck at the airport, you could call him. ... Another thing that you got to love about L.C. is he says what he thinks, what he feels. I like that."

Though Coles, who spent his first three seasons with the Jets, was the most vocal of players last season speaking out about Mangini's unrelenting style and punishing practices, he was among the hardest workers and toughest players.

He was knocked out during a Christmas night game against the Dolphins and was in a fog for two weeks, although the Jets refused to say he sustained a concussion. Coles didn't miss a game. He and Jerricho Cotchery formed the most dynamic pass receiving duo in club history, combining for 173 receptions.

"He has always done a very good job of performing," said quarterback Chad Pennington, who pushed for the Jets to reacquire Coles and offered to have his salary reduced to help the deal get done. "His work ethic is tremendous. He's the type of receiver that if you throw him the ball, you know you have a chance because of his toughness, ball skills and strong hands. When the ball is in the air, he believes it's his."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has watched Coles for years, including last season when Coles turned a short pass into a 46-yard touchdown in the first meeting between the teams.

"He's a very hard guy to defend," Belichick said. "He has good size. He's strong. He's excellent after the catch. He's a good inside receiver, a good deep receiver. He can get away from tight coverage."

Coles' forte, however, is his fearlessness. He says he'll continue to play hard and won't regret a thing because football has enabled him to provide a better life for his family. But he did draw the line in Washington, forcing a trade because he was concerned about taking vicious shots over the middle in the Redskins' offense.

He made the Pro Bowl after the 2003 season, but saw his average catch the following season drop more than 4 yards.

"It wasn't that me and coach (Joe) Gibbs didn't get along," said Coles, an eighth-year pro. "I just didn't see myself fitting into that system. I probably ended up taking more big shots ... there than I had in my whole career. Guys around the league told me that if I wanted to play in this league for a while, I needed to get out of that system. I had to look out for Laveranues."

The Jets were interested, and Coles has found his football utopia -- on the second try. He loves his teammates; he and Pennington are particularly close. The city, the fans, the offense suits him just fine. Football is still fun, despite the grueling workload and big hits he still occasionally takes.

Coles acknowledges his football mortality and the fact it could be closer than one might think because of his style of play. During the off-season, he sometimes wonders what damage he's done to his body. But whenever the end comes, he knows where he hopes he'll be.

"I want to be here," he said. "I like the relationship with the fans. If you're playing well, they're going to praise you. If you stink, they're going to let you know. That's what motivates me. I would love to sign a lifetime contract with the Jets and finish my career here."

Dave Hutchinson may be reached at dhutchinson@starledger.com

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Jets-Patriots preview

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Star-Ledger Staff


That the Jets did as well as they did last season with barely any running game to speak of was a testament to QB Chad Pennington and the WR tandem of Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery. Pennington produced 17 touchdowns in his healthy return, 16 of which went to Coles, Cotchery and TE Chris Baker. Add in RB Thomas Jones (2,545 yards and 15 touchdowns the past two seasons combined), and the Jets might well have enough firepower to give defensive mastermind Bill Belichick and the Patriots pause -- at least for a little while.



After leading the Patriots to the AFC title game with a ho-hum cast of receivers, QB Tom Brady has the goods this season in newcomers Randy Moss (only one 1,000-yard season in the past three), Donte' Stallworth (more than 19 yards per catch) and safety valve Wes Welker (career-highs of 67 catches and 687 yards in '06). Rookie CB Darrelle Revis and the rest of the Jets' secondary could be busy. The Patriots have a top-notch offensive line, and RB Laurence Maroney (six rushing TDs last year) knows his way to the end zone.


Jets K Mike Nugent has bulked up and added some distance to his kickoffs and field goals. P Ben Graham shanked a couple of punts in the preseason, but there appears to be no cause for alarm. Revis and Chansi Stuckey will help Pro Bowl KR Justin Miller (28.3 yards per return, 2 TDs). Patriots K Steve Gostowski (20 for 26 on field goals) is working to make Adam Vinateri a distant memory. Welker will bolster their return game.


Jets lead the all-time series, 48-44-1. But they're 6 1/2-point underdogs and haven't beaten the Patriots at Giants Stadium since 2000. This is the fourth time the Jets have played New England in their past 17 games. The team split in the regular season and the Patriots won, 37-16, in a first-round playoff game.

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Jets’ Revis Applies Mother’s Lesson in Fighting Off Fear


Published: September 9, 2007

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., Sept. 7 — His mother pulled up to the curb and stopped the car, but 10-year-old Darrelle Revis would not get out. He gazed out the window at all the freakishly tall players who were streaming into the gym and started to cry.

Diana Gilbert told her son Darrelle Revis to overcome his fear and play with bigger boys.

Diana Gilbert tried nudging Darrelle, her firstborn, out the car door for the first day of a basketball camp in Memphis. “I don’t want to,” he told her. “Those kids are bigger than me.”

Gilbert’s first instinct was to hug him, but because she knew how he felt, she did not. Steeling her voice to give it a razor-sharp edge, Gilbert said recently, she delivered the speech that she wished she had heard at the same age, the one that would almost certainly have set her life on a smoother course.

She recalled telling him: “It doesn’t matter how big you are, what size you are, where you come from. You can accomplish things in life. You can overcome things. You go to that camp, and you show what you’ve got because I know you can play.”

Darrelle dried his eyes. With an assist from Gilbert, he was on his way.

“I had fun and won a trophy and made the all-star game,” he said this week.

Revis, now a 22-year-old rookie cornerback for the Jets, is expected to start in Sunday’s season opener against New England at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will surely try to torment Revis, who was a high school sophomore when Brady won the first of his two Super Bowl Most Valuable Player awards.

Patriots receiver Randy Moss will probably also try to pick on Revis, who was in the seventh grade when Moss was the N.F.L. offensive rookie of the year for 1998.

Revis, who is 5 feet 11 inches and 204 pounds, says he is not afraid of the challenge the Patriots’ passing offense presents. When the competition is tough, he thinks back to that day in Memphis.

“That speech was very motivational,” he said. “It was just a hump she helped me get over, being nervous about going up against bigger guys and older guys.”

Gilbert, 40, can be as blunt as a butter knife, but her homespun wisdom comes wrapped in honeyed laughter. She is the kind of person to whom people confide their personal stories five minutes after meeting her.

Her story is cautionary. Gilbert could outrun boys, and a teacher in fifth grade suggested that she run track. But Gilbert did not believe in her gifts, and nobody in her family encouraged her to unwrap them.

Her younger brother Sean became a first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams and a defensive lineman for 11 N.F.L. seasons. In a telephone interview, he acknowledged that Diana, the oldest of five, was the best athlete.

“She was fast,” Sean Gilbert said. “Really fast. You could see the potential there. I raced her when I was a teenager, and she beat me.”

But in Aliquippa, Pa., where the Gilberts and Revis spent most of their lives, the emphasis was on football. The boys like Gilbert, Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett and Ty Law, who were able to use it as a springboard, received all the attention.

“Where we grew up, the focus is on the males who make it out,” Sean Gilbert said. “You don’t focus on the females who even get to college and go on to do successful things.”

As a high school junior, Diana Gilbert started dating Darryl Revis, a fullback. He was her first love. That year, she went out for the track team and became infatuated with running. Racing at distances from 100 to 400 meters, she quickly earned the nickname Gold Shoes.

Pounding her feet on the track was fun and cathartic, providing a release for all the pent-up anger she had once unleashed by pounding her fists in schoolyard fights.

Around that time, she told her mother the root of her rage: Gilbert said she had been sexually molested by relatives from age 6 to 15.

Although her track coach offered to help her pursue an athletic scholarship to the University of Texas, Gilbert refused the baton.

“I didn’t think college was for me,” she said. “I was Darryl Revis’s girlfriend, and that meant everything to me.

“I was in love with him, and I wasn’t looking at the things I could do. My goal was to have Darrelle. I thought that was my purpose.”

Thirteen months after she finished high school, Gilbert gave birth. The labor was long, and complications arose.

“Darrelle was a blessing,” she said. “I almost died having him.”

Gilbert never married Darryl Revis, who attended college in Indiana on a football scholarship. Revis grew up spending some summers with his father, who told stories of Gilbert’s athletic prowess.

“He said they raced a couple of times and she was faster,” Darrelle Revis said. “I definitely get my speed from her.”

In 2004, Gilbert watched on television as Lauryn Williams, who grew up in the neighboring town of Rochester, raced to an Olympic silver medal in the 100 meters.

“When I saw her run,” Gilbert said, “I thought, That maybe could have been me, you know?”

Most of what Revis knows about his mother’s running career, he learned from his father, uncles and aunts. Gilbert never talked about it, but it informed her every move in rearing Revis and his siblings: DéAudra, 19, and Terry, 16.

“She’s been through so many things in her life that I wouldn’t have been able to imagine,” said Revis, who played three seasons at Pittsburgh.

He added, “Just to see my mom overcome stuff like that and still raise three children and be loving and just make sure we’re on the right path, I know I can overcome anything as well on the football field and off.”

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