Cotchery's Keeping His Eyes on the Prize

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Cotchery works through the Packer defense

The Jets have been listed as a heavy favorite over the St. Louis Rams and many of their fans expect a convincing win before next Thursday night's divisional showdown in New England with the Patriots. But Jerricho Cotchery says his team is only thinking about Sunday's challenge.

"We're a close team. When you're talking with the guys, sometimes they don't even know who they're playing next week," he said today outside the locker room at the Atlantic Heath Training Center. "That's the focus that this team has and that's the focus we want to try to keep."

Cotchery, who leads the Jets in both receptions (42) and receiving yards (492), has never played on a division winner in his four previous seasons. At the halfway point, J-Co and the Jets find themselves in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East with the Pats and the Bills at 5-3. The Dolphins are only a game back themselves, so the division is there for anyone's taking.

"It feels good right now, but it's the middle of the season," he said of the standings. "It matters more who's in first place at the end of the year. We're not really looking into that. We just know we made a huge step last week and we're just trying to build off of that."

The Jets feel good about themselves but they are in no way complacent. Sunday's 26-17 triumph over the Bills in Buffalo was a complete team effort and it was a game the Jets had to have in order to reach their goals.

"I've liked the focus the entire year. The thing was, we just needed a win of that caliber — we needed to be able to see what we can accomplish if we play complementary football," said Cotchery, who caught six balls for 62 yards against the Bills. "All three phases made plays and fed off one another. We were able to put that together and we were able to see that. We know how good we can be now, so it's up to us to be that team consistently every week."

The Jets can count on a consistent Cotchery. Despite being limited in practice last week with a shoulder injury, his 35-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter set up their only offensive touchdown, a 7-yard Thomas Jones run.

Cotchery also converted a couple of critical third downs, including a tide-turning reception on the Green & White's defining final drive. After Jabari Greer's interception return of a Brett Favre pass cut the Jets' lead to just six, Favre went to Cotchery over the middle three plays later as the Jets got 6 on a third-and-3.

"You're just trying to step up and make a play for the team and try to keep the chains moving. It's something we work on a lot in practice — we have a whole day that's focused on third down," he said.

Offensively, the Jets have become a strong running team. They're averaging 4.5 yards a clip, fourth in the NFL, and Thomas Jones (601 yards, five rush TDs) and Leon Washington (168 yards, two rush TDs) are a solid duo. Cotchery thinks if they can continue to develop their passing game, they "can become a special offense."

The Jets have a luxury because they don't have a No. 1 receiver — they have two top targets for Favre. Laveranues Coles is right behind J-Co in receptions (40) and receiving yards (473), and LC's five receiving TDs are tops on the team.

"There are going to be times when they try to take away Laveranues and there will be times when I have to try to take advantage of that," Cotchery said. "And there will be times when they try to take away me. That's the reason the numbers are so similar."

That's why this Jets offense, averaging 26 points a game, is so dangerous. Bracket a guy over top with a safety and then one of these guys is going to make you pay. They also are willing blockers when coordinator Brian Schottenheimer keeps the ball on the ground.

"When the running backs see that, they appreciate you more," Cotchery said. "And we appreciate them when we see them stepping up in the hole and picking up a blitz. They allow the quarterback more time to throw it to us. It's just something that you admire about your teammates and you just feel good about them. That develops that chemistry throughout the team."

With people like Cotchery in the locker room, the Jets' chemistry is good. The talent is there as well and we're starting to see it all come together. But J-Co reminds everyone that the Rams are next and they're not to be taken lightly.

"We can be very good, but we can't look it that way. We have to continue to put in the right amount of work," he said. "If we consistently do that, then we'll be OK. We can't go off potential."

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