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Blaylock Has Big SHoes to Fill


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He has big shoes to fill

Former Chiefs back Blaylock steps in as backup for Martin and Jets hope he can plug the hole left by Jordan

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August 2, 2005

Derrick Blaylock had heard plenty about Curtis Martin from teammates and friends around the league when he signed with the Jets as an unrestricted free agent in March. Oddly enough, he heard just as much about Martin's popular and productive backup, LaMont Jordan.

When Jordan left the Jets for the Raiders for the opportunity to be a featured back, he left a gaping hole on the depth chart behind Martin.

Jordan, a fan favorite, will be remembered more fondly than perhaps any other Jet in recent memory who never started a single game.

"I knew he was a popular guy, because any time you're a backup guy who can come in and rush for 600 yards, that's a big thing," Blaylock said yesterday during a break in two-a-days at Hofstra.

"But as far as me, I'm not worried about filling somebody's shoes."

Although Jordan never got the playing time he craved, he was perhaps the team's most valuable backup. He was one injury away from carrying the load for a future Hall of Famer. With Martin's enduring greatness and stamina, that wasn't going to happen. Martin won the rushing title at age 31 with 1,697 yards, the highest total of his career.

But if the Jets hope to close the gap after falling inches short of the AFC Championship Game last season, Blaylock is one of several prominent offseason acquisitions who must excel.

"I like Blaylock," Martin said. "I like his attitude more than anything. I think he has the ability. He has that breakaway speed that LaMont had, also. But he's a different type of back. He's not necessarily a run-you-over-type guy like LaMont is, but he's a little quicker. I think we complement each other well."

With Jordan, there was never any doubt that the Jets' offense would be in good hands if Martin faltered. But at several points when the offense was struggling, Jordan lobbied for more carries. Blaylock, who backed up Priest Holmes in Kansas City, understands his role and accepts it.

"In this league, you're given a role and have to play that role," Blaylock said. "Right now, I'm comfortable with that."

One of the issues that led directly to offensive coordinator Paul Hackett's firing was his inability to find creative ways to get Jordan on the field as a running and/or receiving threat. Hackett's replacement, Mike Heimerdinger, will have a different challenge.

Blaylock is a more willing backup than Jordan and a better special-teams player, excelling in punt and kickoff coverage and as Dante Hall's lead blocker on kickoff returns. But at 5-9, 205 pounds - 25 pounds lighter than Jordan - Blaylock lacks ideal size for a lead back if he's ever needed in that role.

He also won't be able to fill Jordan's role as a short-yardage back; fullback B.J. Askew must emerge in that specialty.

"When it's my time to go in, I'll go in," Blaylock said. "I'm a patient guy. All I'm worried about is when I get in there, I'm going to do something big."

Notes & quotes: Not surprisingly, the first day in full pads yielded the first fight of camp, between G Brandon Moore and DE Shaun Ellis, an accomplished training-camp brawler. Coach Herman Edwards has the Jets in the midst of three straight full-pad practices . . . No one has made any noise yet in the strong safety battle, which is wide open because Jon McGraw still isn't 100 percent after abdominal surgery . . . S Rashad Washington (headaches) and CB Pete Hunter (knee) were held out of both practices . . . QB Chad Pennington listed Hackett and Bucs coach Jon Gruden among "a few dinosaurs in the league" who refuse to use the shotgun, a formation he's gladly becoming reacquainted with in Heimerdinger's scheme. "As a player, you take what the coach says and try to make it work," Pennington said.

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