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Inside Jets' new world

BY RICH CIMINI

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Friday, December 12th 2008, 1:58 AM

Derer/AP

Jets practiced indoors Thursday at their facilities in Florham Park, N.J., which opened in September.

The news spread among the players about 20 minutes before the start of Thursday's practice. Suddenly, the Jets' locker room turned giddy, players reacting with genuine disbelief.

"I'm shocked, totally shocked," tackle Damien Woody said.

Bonus checks in their Christmas stockings? Not exactly. Instead of practicing in the bone-chilling conditions of a December rainstorm, Eric Mangini broke with a long-held coaching belief, opting for the dry comfort of the sparkling field house at the Jets' new training facility in Florham Park, N.J.

When the going gets tough, the tough go inside.

Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a big deal, even if it was their first indoor practice since Week 2, but it underscored a change in approach this week by Mangini, who faces perhaps the most important game of his coaching career Sunday against the Bills.

On the verge of a full-blown crisis after two straight losses, Mangini has adopted his own "flex" schedule. Not only did they work indoors - this from a coach who believes that nasty weather toughens a team - but he adopted a back-to-basics philosophy.

"Almost a training-camp mentality," Mangini called it - except the practices have been 30 minutes shorter than usual.

Considering the amount of mental errors the Jets made in last week's loss to the 49ers, it could be argued that they need more field work, not less. But Mangini, trying to save the season from disaster, is thinking outside the box. He's hoping that fresher bodies and fresher minds will yield better results on Sunday.

The Jets (8-5) can't afford another slip-up. One more loss could cripple their playoff chances, and a non-playoff season would cast a damning light on Mangini, whose contract will have to be addressed after the season. He's in the third year of a four-year deal, and the Jets, like most teams, don't want a lame-duck coach.

One of Mangini's mentors, Bill Parcells, was known for cranking up the intensity for the stretch run. But Mangini, continuing a trend that began in training camp, has gone the other way, lightening the load. Tom Coughlin took the same approach last season with the Giants, and look what happened.

Laveranues Coles, a past critic of Mangini's taxing practice regimen, laughed when asked if his coach had gone soft.

"I wouldn't call it soft," he said. "With time, he's gained a better understanding of the guys. If y'all could be in our team meetings, you wouldn't say he's soft."

Thursday, Mangini was approached by the captains, who asked him to consider the field house - a cavernous, multi-million dollar structure that basically remained empty.

It wasn't an immediate "yes." He told them he'd think about it. Not a chance, they figured. That's why they were stunned by the final verdict.

"From what guys told me about years past, this is something totally, totally new," said Woody, who arrived last offseason as a free agent. "It's great. I'm feeling the aura right now."

Mangini went outside in, but if the Jets lose to the Bills, his season will have turned inside out.

SMITH SITTING: WR Brad Smith has a concussion, Mangini confirmed, and probably won't play Sunday. He missed practice for the second straight day. Speedster David Clowney could be active for the first time in his place. ... QB J.P. Losman will make his second straight start for the Bills. Trent Edwards (groin) sat out another practice. ... S Eric Smith, out six games from multiple concussions, is expected to return for the Jets. He could play in the third-down package.

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THIRD-DOWN FLOPS KILLING JETS' ATTACK

Comments: 2Read Comments Leave a Comment By BRIAN COSTELLO

FAVRE FROM ALL RIGHT: Quarterback Brett Favre can't escape the rush of the 49ers' Roderick Green during last Sunday's loss in San Francisco, the second straight bust by the Jets' offense.

Last updated: 6:57 am

December 12, 2008

Posted: 3:07 am

December 12, 2008

Someone should contact the Nashville police to see if they can put out an APB for the JetsNew York Jets offense.

The last time anyone saw the Jets' "O," it was moving up and down LP Field against the Titans. Since then, the offense has been as effective as a row boat in a hurricane.

The Jets have been searching for answers this week on how to regain the form with which they scored a combined 115 points during Weeks 10-12 before going into a shell the last two weeks.

Coach Eric Mangini said the first place to start improving is third down.

"I don't know what our third-down conversion rate is over two games, but it's not very good," Mangini said. "You can't get very many drives and if you can't get very many drives you can't get very many points. That to me is an area that we need to be better at."

In the losses to Denver and San Francisco, the Jets converted 19 percent (4-of-21) of their third downs. The culprits were plentiful last Sunday against the 49ers. Rookie tight end Dustin Keller dropped a pass on a third-and-2 play, the right side of the offensive line collapsed on a third-and-1 and Chansi Stuckey ran an 8-yard pattern on third-and-9.

"We haven't been as crisp on third down, which is not allowing us to stay on the field, which is not allowing us to score the points that we were scoring," tackle Damien Woody said. "We were like leading the league in long drives. The past couple of weeks we weren't doing that. That's what we need to get back to doing, converting on third down and sustaining those long drives to score points. If we do that, we'll be all right."

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Mangini must take some of the blame with their play-calling. Of the 20 third downs, nine of them came with 4 yards to go or less and they only ran the ball once. Quarterback Brett Favre seems to always be looking to the same targets on third down, too. Of the 17 third-down passes he has made in the two games, five were directed at Keller and four at Leon WashingtonLeon Washington .

Favre has looked to Laveranues ColesLaveranues Coles only once in that situation. If third down is problem No. 1 for the offense, the lack of production at wide receiver is 1A. Coles and Jerricho Cotchery had one catch apiece this week. This after Coles was held to two catches by the Broncos.

"I'm not frustrated," Coles said. "(When I was younger) I was equating getting the ball with being successful, but at this point in my career I know you don't have to have the ball to still be effective. I think I help my team out by just lining up on Sundays."

The deep ball has become a memory for the Jets. Favre has not connected on a pass of more than 40 yards since Cotchery's amazing catch against New England. His last pass over 30 yards was a short pass to Washington that the speedster turned into a big gain.

Favre threw up a few long balls the last two weeks. Twice he was intercepted and the other times he and the receiver did not connect. Favre's not worried, though.

"People want to say, well they figured out the short passing game or you guys can't throw deep," Favre said. "No one's figured out anything. It's a matter of execution."

brian.costello@nypost.com

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KELLER'S BIG DROP DRAWS IRE OF MANGINI

Comments: 3Read Comments Leave a Comment By BRIAN COSTELLO

Last updated: 6:58 am

December 12, 2008

Posted: 3:07 am

December 12, 2008

For the second straight week, Eric Mangini expressed displeasure with one of his rookies.

A week after criticizing linebacker Vernon Gholston, the JetsNew York Jets coach made it clear yesterday he was upset with tight end Dustin Keller's third-down drop on the first series in last Sunday's loss in San Francisco.

"I said a lot of things to Dustin after the game and on Monday," Mangini said. "The rookie period is over. We've graduated. Their season is basically done in college football. You're a Jet, you've been here a long time, and, at this point, that rookie stuff is over. When you play a significant amount, you have to perform at a consistent level."

Mangini did praise Keller for his production this season. The first-round pick from Purdue has 42 catches for 474 yards and leads the team with 29 catches over the last five games. Against the 49ers, Keller got into trouble on the third-and-2 play when he tried to run before securing the catch.

"He's made a ton of really good catches," Mangini said. "The starting point with a play like that, the drop that he had, is looking it into the tuck. That goes back to technique. Sometimes you want to run before you catch it, but put your thumbs together, look the ball in and tuck it in, then turn and run."

Keller was not the only player Mangini berated this week. Apparently the coach dealt out several tongue-lashings on Monday.

"It's kind of like the angry father," linebacker David BowensDavid Bowens said. "He yells at his kids, but he doesn't hate his kids and wants his kids to do well. He can only say so much and then something has to be done. I guess it's gotten to the point where he sees so much potential that we're not playing up to it just frustrates him."

*

The Jets practiced indoors yesterday for just the second time this season. Mangini also shortened practices this week in an effort to keep players fresher. . . . It's looking more and more like S Eric SmithEric Smith will return from his concussion this week. . . . WR Brad Smith missed his second straight day of practice, and is a longshot to play Sunday against Buffalo. Mangini confirmed Smith suffered a concussion.

*

Bills QB Trent Edwards (groin) missed practice again yesterday, meaning J.P. Losman will start. DE Aaron Schobel (foot) was put on injured reserve and is done for the season. WR Josh Reed (back), S Donte Whitner (illness) and DT Marcus Stroud (hip) returned to practice yesterday.

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JET D WILL PASS TEST

Comments: 1Read Comments Leave a Comment HORSEPOWER: Blezow, 10-2-1 in his Locks, likes Jay Cutler and the Broncos as underdogs in Carolina.

Last updated: 6:56 am

December 12, 2008

Posted: 4:07 am

December 12, 2008

THE JetsNew York Jets likely need to win all three of their remaining games to charge into the playoffs through the front door as AFC East champions. With the spread at a full touchdown, have to guard the back door Sunday vs. the Bills. But Buffalo has lost six of seven and scored just three points vs. both the Niners and Dolphins the past two weeks. With J.P. Losman under center and Josh Reed likely out, this is a chance for the Jets' porous secondary and disappearing pass rush to reassert themselves.

The pick: Jets, -7.

Giants (+3) over COWBOYS: While 'Boys deserve respect for the first 50 minutes of the Steeler game, the collapse at the end could be the death knell for their season. Marion Barber's gimpiness would hurt Dallas more than Brandon JacobsBrandon Jacobs ' absence would hinder the G-Men, and this is a bad week to be playing Big Blue - off a loss with two more prizes left to clinch.

JAGUARS (+21/2) over Packers: Can't justify giving points on the road with a Packers squad that has lost five of six. The Jags have just a win at Detroit to show for the last seven games and it's time for them to show a little pride.

Lions (+17) over COLTS: Seven of Detroit's last nine losses have fallen under this number, so we'll take and pray the 0-13 Lions get NFL-quality quarterback play, with or without Daunte Culpepper (shoulder, doubtful).

BENGALS (+7) over Redskins: Can't embrace the 'Skins as full-TD road dogs without their bookend offensive tackles Chris Samuels (on IR) and Jon Jansen (knee, unlikely to play).

FALCONS (-3) over Bucs: NFC South is a home-team haven this season, though the Bucs D will be better after getting stiff-armed and steamrolled to the tune of 300 rushing yards by the Panthers.

DOLPHINS (-61/2) over Niners: Second East Coast trip in three weeks will be tough on Niners. Shaun Hill, who strafed the Jets' secondary, won't have it as easy here, especially if Frank Gore (ankle) can't go. Peter Tocco/Odd Couple Pick of the Week.

Seahawks (-3) over RAMS: Seattle has won the last seven meetings between these two 2-11 teams, including a 37-13 romp in Week 3. And Seneca Wallace (8 TDs/1 INT) has been better than Marc Bulger (8 TDs/12 INTs).

Titans (-3) over TEXANS: Texans, riding a three-game winning streak, are a little out of their league here against a 12-1 Titans team that still needs a win and a Steelers loss to clinch the top seed in the AFC.

Chargers (-5) over CHIEFS: Chargers had the extra three days, and thus far those teams are 10-2 ATS the next week (one of those losses came in last week's Cowboys-Steelers game, when the trend applied to both).

CARDINALS (-3) over Vikings: While Cards have clinched the NFC West and Vikes, with the same 8-5 mark, still have work to do in the NFC North, Minnesota is iffy at quarterback after Gus Frerotte twisted his back vs. Detroit last week.

RAVENS (-2) over Steelers: Another rocky day ahead for Ben Roethlisberger, who was sacked five times by the Cowboys. Ravens have given up 10, 10, 13, 10, 7 and 10 in going 5-1 at home.

Broncos (+71/2) over PANTHERS: Carolina looks bulletproof after a 300-yard rushing game vs. the tough Bucs D, but it's a tough sell to give a TD-plus to Jay Cutler and Mike Shanahan.

RAIDERS (+7) over Patriots: Raiders surprise you every once in a while and are the other 10-days-rest team this week. Pats needed a late TD to beat Seattle, are injured all over the defensive front seven, and QB Matt Cassel is dealing with the death of his dad this week.

MONDAY

Browns (+14) over EAGLES: Ken Dorsey was in an impossible spot, making his first start in three years last week in Tennessee. He did OK, completing 22 passes for 150 yards vs. the NFL's best team, and will be just good enough vs. a Philly team that doesn't warrant full-two-TD fave status.

BEST BETS: Broncos, Titans, Browns.

LAST NIGHT: Saints. (Push)

LAST WEEK: 8-8.

BEST BETS: 2-1.

dblezow@nypost.com

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Opponents may have figured New York Jets' offense out

by Dave Hutchinson/The Star-Ledger

Thursday December 11, 2008, 9:12 PM

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Walt Harris of San Francisco intercepts this pass intended for Laveranues Coles, who says other teams seem to know what the Jets are doing on offense.Brett Favre said it with such defiance that you almost believed him: The Jets' malfunctions on offense the past few weeks are simply a "matter of execution."

"People want to say, 'Well, they figured out (how to defend) the short passing game,'" the Jets quarterback said this week. "Or, 'The guys can't throw deep.' No one has figured anything out."

But then, you look at the numbers.

After averaging 33.8 points during a five-game winning streak, the Jets have scored just 31 points total in their past two games. After converting 34 of 64 third-down situations (53.1 percent) during the win streak, the Jets have made good on just four of their past 21 third-down opportunities (19.0).

Suddenly, the short passing game that Favre expertly orchestrated (73.6 completion percentage during the streak) has been grounded, shot down by opponents who have studied it and game-planned successfully to stop it.

As the Jets (8-5) prepare to play the Bills (6-7) Sunday at the Meadowlands, Favre and Co. have repeatedly explained away their offensive woes by pointing to their own mistakes.

But CBS broadcaster Phil Simms isn't buying it.

Simms, who has worked nearly a half-dozen Jets games this season, including the Titans and 49ers games, says opponents have indeed figured out the Jets' short passing game -- featuring screens to the running backs and wide receivers and quick passes to tight end Dustin Keller -- and it's now up to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to make a counter move.

"I think teams have decided to just play the Jets a little more aggressive and see what happens," Simms told The Star-Ledger. "And when teams do that, you have to show them that you're capable of doing something else.

"That's why I find these last three weeks of the season so intriguing. I want to see how the Jets handle it, how they react to these past two losses. What do they do schematically to get themselves back on track?

"I'm not saying they have to reinvent themselves, but they have to change. Do they throw the football down the field more? Will the wide receivers be the first read and give them more chances to make plays?"

Former Giants coach and current Westwood One radio analyst Jim Fassel agreed.

"With the numbers they were putting up, it's pretty hard to keep that up," he said. "Everybody in this league has tendencies and teams work on trying to take them away."

One thing the Jets could do is get wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery down the field more. The pair combined for just two catches for 15 yards against the 49ers last Sunday. Keller, who had 27 catches in the previous four games, had just two for 14 yards.

Coles and Cotchery had been outstanding in getting yards after the catch, but defenses are now playing them tighter and looking for the bubble screens and quick slants. Coles has just three catches for seven yards in the past two games.

In effect, opponents are daring Favre to beat them deep -- as incredible as that is to believe.

"I think teams have penciled in on what we've been doing," said Coles, parting from the company line. "They've done a great job and you have to give them credit. I think our coaching staff, now, is trying to make some adjustments."

Coles said he's not frustrated because he feels he helps his team every game by simply lining up and attracting double coverage.

Against the 49ers, Favre did throw a combined five deep balls to Coles and Cotchery, but four were incomplete and one was intercepted late in the game. On those plays, however, neither Coles or Cotchery got much separation from the defender.

"The Jets did throw deep but they were all balls down the sidelines," said Simms. "What I consider deep balls is having the wide receiver run a deep in-cut, deep outs, making a double move. You have to set up your receivers by giving them more opportunities."

While working the Jets-Titans game, Simms said he remembers teasing Jets fans on the air, asking how do they like Brian Schottenheimer now as the offense rolled up yardage and points.

"Now, here we are a couple of weeks later and it's like, 'What are the Jets going to do?'" he said.

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New York Jets: The day at practice

by Dave Hutchinson/The Star-Ledger

Thursday December 11, 2008, 7:39 PM

William Perlman/The Star-Ledger

Brad Smith's concussion has opened the door for David Clowney to be activated for the first time this season Sunday against Buffalo.CLOWNEY GETS TO PLAY SUNDAY

Jets WR David Clowney has played Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin, Chad Johnson and Lee Evans, among others, on the scout team this season, helping the secondary prepare for an opponent's top receiver.

This week, David Clowney is playing, well, David Clowney.

With WR Brad Smith (concussion) out for Sunday's game against the Bills, the speedy Clowney will be activated for the first time this season, according to a person with knowledge of the team's thinking. He requested anonymity because he's not authorized to speak for the club.

Clowney, a first-year pro and former Packers draft pick, was the Jets leading receiver in the preseason with eight catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns (70 and 71 yards) before injuring his collarbone against the Redskins on Aug 16.

"I'm excited," Clowney said Thursday. "I've been itching to get out there since coming back from my injury. Of course, I was hoping to play a lot sooner but we're winning and I'm a team guy. I've just been doing everything I could to help my team win by giving them a good look in practice on the scout team."

Clowney, one of the fastest players on the team, should be able to stretch the field and help a passing game that has ground to a halt.

"David's been really great," said coach Eric Mangini. "Always pressuring the defense with the way he practices. I've been looking for a way to get him up for quite some time now. I have no problem with David being on the 45-man (roster) and playing. I anticipate that he'd be able to contribute."

Clowney said his speed is his greatest asset but he just wants to help the team in any way he can.

MANGINI TALKS TO KELLER

Surprisingly, Mangini was extremely upset with TE Dustin Keller for a third-down drop in the opening possession against the 49ers, although the rookie has been excellent this season with 42 catches for 474 yards and three TDs, including a clutch third-down catch in OT against the Patriots.

"The rookie period is over," Mangini said. "When you play a significant amount, you have to perform at a consistent level."

Mangini spoke with Keller about the play.

"He talked to me but I took it all as positive reinforcement," Keller said.

QUICK HITS

Mangini confirmed a report in Thursday's Star-Ledger that he has shortened practices. "As it gets later in the season, you try to scale some things back as much as possible," he said.

The Jets avoided the freezing rain Thursday and practiced in the bubble for only the second time (during media availability) this season. Players celebrated when they heard the news.

The Jets rank next-to-last in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 251.2 yards per game. Only the 2-11 Seahawks are worse (264.8 ypg).

QB Brett Favre (880,833 votes) and LG Alan Faneca (343,531) won at their positions in the fan voting for the AFC Pro Bowl squad. In fact, Favre is the second-leading vote-getter overall behind the Saints' Drew Brees (951,246). LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson is second among tackles, NT Kris Jenkins and C Nick Mangold are third, RB Thomas Jones is fourth (despite leading the AFC in rushing), but CB Darrelle Revis didn't make the top five at his position.

The Jets are holding Fan Appreciation Day on Sunday and fans are encouraged to wear their Jets green to create a "Green Out" effect.

INJURIES

WR Brad Smith (concussion) missed his second straight practice and is out. ... Bills QB Trent Edwards (groin) threw on the side but J.P. Losman is expected to start. DE Aaron Schobel (foot) is out. CB Jabari Greer (knee) was limited and is 50-50 to play.

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