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Backed into corner ,Mickens fights for job


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Backed into corner ,Mickens fights for job



Ray Mickens (l.) shows he can keep pace with running back Derrick Blaylock.

Mickens isn't fazed by Jets' courting of ex-Patriot standout Ty Law.

Ray Mickens has survived a 1-15 season, three head-coaching changes and annual challenges from the Johnny Come Lately at nickel back. For nine seasons with the Jets, he has been an immovable object, a 5-8 block of granite.

"One thing about Ray Mickens: He has outlasted them all," Herm Edwards said yesterday at Hofstra.

This summer, the veteran cornerback faces the fight of his football life, as he competes against a hot-shot rookie (Justin Miller) and the ghost of a red-hot free agent (Ty Law).

The specter of Law is looming over the organization. If the Jets sign the former Patriots star - they met last night with his agent in Manhattan - it would turn the depth chart upside down. It would cloud the future for Mickens, who could go from starter to nickel to dime. Or worse.

Mickens knows the Jets have an interest in Law, a four-time Pro Bowl player and a three-time Super Bowl champion, and he's prepared for anything. "There's no buzz in the locker room (about Law), but I'm not living under a rock," Mickens said. "I understand this is a business, and you're always trying to make your team better.

"Do I think Ty Law is better than me? He's accomplished a lot more things than me in his career. Whatever happens, happens. I've seen it happen time and time again. In my experiences here over the last 10 years, I've seen it happen to a lot of guys."

Be replaced, that is.

Currently, Mickens is the starter at left cornerback, a job that became available when Donnie Abraham retired last month. Mickens is being pushed by Miller, a second-round pick. The former Clemson standout makes his share of rookie mistakes, but his ballhawking ability is obvious. He already has intercepted several passes in training camp. "The guy is a first-round draft pick who lasted until the second round, and he shows that every day," defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson said. "He's got ball skills and he's got confidence, and you can't teach either one of those. His issue is being consistent."

Yesterday, Miller showed his inexperience, getting beat by Jonathan Carter on a fade pass into the end zone. On the previous play, Mickens read a play perfectly and intercepted a pass from Brooks Bollinger. Mickens, 11 months removed from major knee surgery, still plays like a savvy veteran. Of course, if Law signs, the competition is over. It would be Law's job, period.

"I'd love to have him," Henderson said. "He can only make us better."

Law's arrival would create a domino effect in the secondary. Miller would play behind Law. Mickens probably would go back to the nickel, where he would compete against second-year corner Derrick Strait. The Jets are high on Strait, hoping he can nail down that job.

Interestingly, Mickens played some nickel back yesterday, covering receivers in the slot, his forte for so many years. At 32, he's the elder statesman of the defense. He's the second-longest tenured Jet, behind Wayne Chrebet (10 seasons).

"I'm playing for the fun of the game now," he said. "I just enjoy competing. Competition is a part of me."

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Cut this guy and lets move on. Law (since all signs point to him as a Jet), Barrett, Miller, Strait, Hunter. We don't need any more old, slow, midgets cloudy up the depth chart.

I have serious doubts Law will be a NY jet

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