It was not completely the first year in green that Matt Chatham was looking for.
The linebacker came down from Foxboro, Mass., to Hempstead, N.Y., a year ago looking to claim an NFL starting job and also to help soften the culture shock of working under first-year coach Eric Mangini, who was a New England defensive coach all six seasons that Chatham played in that defense.
"It was meant to be a dual role, contributing on the field and serving as a conduit for Coach Mangini's system for the players who were here," Chatham said this week. "The on-field element I was a little disappointed about."
Chatham ran into two holdover Jets, Bryan Thomas and Victor Hobson, who became so energized as 3-4 outside linebackers in the scheme that Mangini and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton installed that they had career years. He also battled a foot injury that had him listed on the injury report before all 17 games.
But Chatham loves football and he's a cerebral guy — among his post-football aspirations are law school and magazine writing — and those traits came to the fore all season. Mangini said one arena where Chatham excelled was in the meeting rooms when players were called on to give scouting reports on upcoming opponents.
"Matt being in that room, he sets a nice high bar," Mangini said during the season. "He's probably the best example of what you're looking for in terms of opponent study, the way he breaks it down. Tight ends are his specialty. He's an interesting guy, he's a good guy, and he's been great in helping other people learn the system as well as in his contribution on [special] teams and across the board."
In September, Chatham was voted special teams captain, which Mangini noted "is a pretty big accomplishment when you come to a new team, especially one in the division." And ST coach Mike Westhoff said during the bye week: "A lot of times he's in the mix. Some of the things he does cause others to make plays. Matt has done a fine job."
Chatham's numbers were modest. He had 19 total tackles on defense, most coming once he began averaging 20 plays a game rotating in behind Thomas and Hobson after the midseason bye, and six on kick coverage.
Yet his knowledge of the program and its philosophy helped see him and his new teammates through the tough training camp and the bumps along the way to the 10-6 season and the playoff game at New England.
"My personal view is that you really don't get anything without hard work, and if you do, it's probably a fluke," he said after the season. "I won't make any predictions, but we've got some great veteran leaders and good young players on this team. The foundation needed to be laid."
Chatham was a member of the bricklayers last season. And he's eager to improve on his individual numbers and to continue to work on that solid team structure in Year 2 as a Jet.