Jets Open Training Camp with Less ??? Than Last Season
Heading into his first training camp as a head coach in 2006, Eric Mangini faced many questions. The first one was about him and what would be expected of the Bill Belechick disciple in his maiden voyage. There was a four-way quarterback competition with incumbent Chad Pennington returning from shoulder surgery. Curtis Martin was out indefinitely with a knee injury and the backfield was a mess. Lastly, the offensive line was in a transition period with two high draft picks expected to start.
We all know how last season turned out. Mangini was more than adequate as a rookie head coach, leading the Jets to a 10-6 regular season record and a Wild Card playoff berth. Pennington started all 16 games for the first time in his career. A running back by committee was surprisingly effective, and D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold held their own in the trenches.
Since camp opened on July 27, there have only been two real issues at hand: first round draft pick CB Darrelle Revis' contract holdout and OL Pete Kendall's unhappiness with his contract situation.
Revis, the 14th overall selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, is unsigned and has not reported to camp. Mangini commented on the rookie missing practice, "Anybody that is not here is really missing opportunities to get better and compete for what I'm sure they all want - playing time. We are going to focus on guys that are here. We are going to focus on those guys, get them better and collectively get better."
Kendall was the veteran of the offensive line a year ago and was instrumental in helping develop Ferguson and Mangold. He has gone public with his frustration on his existing contract and would like to be traded or released.
"Any of the contract situations, those discussions are internal," said Mangini, in his usual coy manner. When asked about the situations with Revis and Kendall, Mangini answered, "There's so much going on with the rest of the group, which is a huge group of guys that are working extremely hard for us to get better. That's where my focus is, on those guys."
Kendall feels that the organization is trying to make an example of him. "I think so," he said. "That's my belief. I think I'm leaving; it's just a matter of when."
In the backfield, Martin announced his retirement recently and the number one running back will be Thomas Jones, who was acquired in a trade from the NFC champion Chicago Bears.
"Thomas has been a really positive influence and it goes back to what our research showed on him," Mangini said. "Every team that he was on had great things to say about him and that has been our experience. We brought him here and outside of his abilities there is character and you see that manifest itself on the field and the way he is in the classroom."
On taking over the job that Martin held down for nine seasons, Jones said, "To be able to play the same position he played on this team is an honor. He's one of the best backs to have played in this league and I have a lot of respect for him."
Pennington enjoyed a healthy campaign in 2006 after so many injury frustrations. The product from Marshall University passed for 3,352 yards with a quarterback rating of 82.6.
"We believe that the previous season doesn't have any bearing on the next season," Pennington said. "What we've done in the past has no bearing on the future. It's a new season with so many changes in the league; new coaches, new players, free agency and drafts. You can't bank on what you did last season happening again. You have to start all over from scratch. New year, new team, new goals."
Those goals need to include qualifying for the playoffs once again, and possibly making it into the next round. "Last year we had a good year, but it was not good enough," said WR Jerricho Cotchery.
The Jets started out in 2006 up and down. Once the season moved along, the team improved and won five out of their last six games to qualify for the postseason. Traveling to face the AFC East champion New England Patriots on January 7, the Jets played tough and trailed by a touchdown heading into the locker room at halftime. The fourth quarter was all Pats as they scored two touchdowns en route to a 37-16 victory.
After surprising and sneaking up on a few teams in year one, every opponent on the Jets 2007 schedule will know what to expect. And they open against none other than New England on September 9 at the Meadowlands.