Adjusting to Favre
It is evident that Chad Pennington was their leader and was an inspiration to his teammates, possibly to none more than receiver Laveranues Coles.
Coles has been reticent in his views on the Jets' bold move for Favre and the dumping of Pennington. But he is not alone in struggling with the end of his playing relationship with Pennington and absorbing the cold, hard, swift business realities of pro football. Nothing against Favre, it seems. But plenty against the family and loyalty aspects preached to teams and the brutal, stinging realities that can bury those traits when sticky personnel decisions are made.
It happens in one fashion or another every day across the league. But not quite like this. For those Jets players laboring with it, this is understandable. But not for long. Favre makes his debut as a starter vs. Washington on Saturday in a Jets home game. The Giants and Eagles follow in preseason action. The season-opener is Sept. 7 at Miami -- likely vs. Pennington.
Receivers must increase alertness
It has long been one of the best in the NFL in strength and power. This compared to the softballs that Pennington pitched. Thus, the Jets receivers are breaking from their routes and finding the football zipping up on them. They are striding down field and learning that a false step can easily lead to a throw they cannot reach because Favre slings the ball high and long with zest. This is all chemistry and timing. For the Jets receivers, it is like switching from a horse-and-buggy ride into a racecar.
"The ball comes out hard, fast, straight and long," said Jets coach Eric Mangini of Favre's throws. Mangini was grinning widely when he said it.
This ability at quarterback allows deadly, zipping throws all over the field and now opens up Mangini's offense in exciting ways. But the Jets receivers must adjust to the fastballs.
"It is going to take each and every day to get up to the type of speed we would like between quarterback and receivers," said Jerricho Cotchery, who led all Jets receivers a year ago with 82 grabs. "I think you get it most in practice. Then it shows in the games. We have to develop it enough in practice where it is expected in games."
Offensive line is a cornerstone
The Jets offensive line -- D'Brickashaw Ferguson at left tackle, Alan Faneca at left guard, Nick Mangold at center, Brandon Moore at right guard and Damien Woody at right tackle -- possesses the experience and talent to be one of the league's best. Hard to imagine that when Favre was examining his options and considering which team was the best fit for him, that he did not find this offensive line a major plus that helped swing things the Jets' way.
Mangini said he likes the way the group is working together and the second group that supports them. He sees them working to complement each other in run- and pass-game blocking and working together to thwart defensive linemen stunts, spin moves and other line games. Ferguson enters his third year, Faneca his ninth and his first with the Jets, Mangold his third year, Moore his sixth and Woody his 10th and first with the Jets. The Jets have invested plenty in this crew and seek dividends immediately. Favre can help accomplish that.
"We've got a new outlook, a new quarterback, but the job description does not change," Ferguson said. "We've got to keep guys off our quarterback and open running lanes for our backs. That simple. You gotta make it work. We can't waste time getting there."
The Kerry Rhodes factor
Safety Kerry Rhodes stands out at Jets practices. He has solid size (6-3, 220 pounds) for a safety and his stature and movements reminds me of former Denver Broncos spectacular safety Steve Atwater. Actually, their listed playing heights and weights are exactly the same.
Atwater came to the Jets at end of his career. Rhodes started his with the Jets as a fourth-round pick from Louisville in the 2005 draft, the 123rd pick overall. Now, we all know, an absolute steal. Rhodes has started every game since he was drafted, all 48 plus one playoff game. Thus, he is durable. He led the Jets in interceptions last season with five. He is mobile and quick enough to blitz from safety and has found success finishing off quarterbacks with sacks on those blitzes. He is only 26 years old and enters his fourth season. He has a commanding presence in Jets practices as part of their last line of defense and he gives the Jets defense a player offenses must particularly account for on nearly every play. He looks ready for a big season, his best season.
Rhodes said: "I learned from Curtis Martin that nothing is guaranteed, that you have to work every day like it is your last one in this league because, you know what, it could be. That's the kind of pro I'm trying to be."
The Thomas Jones factor
His last game with Bears was a Super Bowl XLI loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Afterward, Jones jumped to the Jets last season. And though he rushed for 1,119 yards, his team finished 4-12. Jones keeps looking for things to click. With quarterback Brett Favre stretching defenses deep, this season could provide just what Jones seeks.
"Last year wasn't the season we wanted or the record we wanted," Jones said. "It's a whole new situation now. I see great possibilites."
I see, easily, with an energized offensive line and Favre in tow, a 1,200-plus rushing yardage season for Jones. One for Jones full of difference-making long runs and big plays.