Mangini Camp II opens today with its first two practices, set to begin at 8:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. Can it possibly be tougher than Eric Mangini's first training camp as the Jets' new head coach last year? Safety Kerry Rhodes has said the Jets are ready this time: "We know what to expect from him, and for the players who've been here, he knows what to expect from us."
To get you familiar with everyone in this camp, here's a breakdown by position of those players, new and old, whom Mangini and his staff will be watching closely this summer.
Players: Kellen Clemens (2nd year), Chad Pennington (8th year), Brett Ratliff (rookie – UDFA), Brad Smith (2nd year), Marques Tuiasosopo (7th year)
Summary: For the first time in four off-seasons, Chad Pennington wasn't rehabbing from an injury suffered during the previous season. Instead, Pennington looked sharp during spring practices as he mastered the nuances of coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's complex scheme and consistently hit his targets. All this after coming off the first 16-start regular season in his seventh year as a Jet and posting career highs in pass attempts (485), completions (313) and yards (3,352). But he also had highs in interceptions (16) and times sacked (30), numbers he's been working hard to bring down.
Kellen Clemens, who got 11 snaps from center and threw one pass as a second-round rookie, begins his second year of learning what goes into running this offense. Marques Tuiasosopo, the athletic signal-caller who got lost in the Raiders' recent black hole, will fight Clemens for the backup job. Brad Smith is listed at QB, having contributed there and at several other positions as a rookie after piloting Missouri's offense for four seasons. Brett Ratliff, who directed Utah's spread option out of the shotgun as a senior, signed as an undrafted FA.
Players: RB Alvin Banks (rookie – UDFA), FB Darian Barnes (6th year – MIA), RB Thomas Jones (8th year – trade, CHI), RB Curtis Martin (13th year), FB Stacy Tutt (1st year), RB Danny Ware (rookie – UDFA), RB Leon Washington (2nd year)
Summary:The talk of the off-season was the trade for feature back Thomas Jones. Two big reasons for the talk: his phenomenally muscled arms. A few more: His 1,335- and 1,210-yard rushing seasons for Chicago in 2005-06, the latter helping lead the Bears into Super Bowl XLI. He also can catch out of the backfield, doesn't fumble and shrugs off injuries. "He's a special player," Pennington said, "and I think he's going to take a lot of pressure off all of us."
Jones will succeed Curtis Martin, whose remarkable 12-year NFL career officially ended with his Thursday retirement announcement. Jones will share tailback time with Leon Washington, who started eight games and ran for 650 yards, becoming the first rookie to lead the Jets in rushing since Blair Thomas in 1990. Washington also averaged 10.8 yards on 25 catches. Cedric Houston, who chipped in 374 yards and led the team with five rushing TDs, left the team for personal reasons the day before camp opened.
At fullback, the Jets liked Darian Barnes' work with the Dolphins so much, they signed him as an unrestricted FA, and he and Jones played together at Tampa Bay. Also at the position is Stacy Tutt, the former Richmond QB who saw backfield action in two December games.
Players: Laveranues Coles (8th year), Jerricho Cotchery (4th year), Chris Davis (1st year), Tim Dwight (10th year), Frisman Jackson (5th year), Justin McCareins (7th year), Jesse Pellot-Rosa (rookie – UDFA), Evan Prall (rookie – UDFA), Chansi Stuckey (rookie – 7th round), Juan Wong (1st year), Wallace Wright (2nd year)
Summary: The Jets are staying with their hot hands from last season. Laveranues Coles had a career-high 91 receptions and the third 1,000-yard season of his career and extended his starting streak to 96 games. Jerricho Cotchery (82 catches, 961 yards) had a breakout season. They combined for 12 touchdowns and 173 catches — the most by two players in a season in franchise history.
Justin McCareins (23 catches, 347 yards) is coming back after enjoying a strong off-season of work. Tim Dwight, who's starting camp on the PUP list, is a proven receiver and kick returner when healthy. Frisman Jackson is eager to restart his career after spending his first four seasons with the Browns and sitting out last year. Wallace Wright contributed on special teams late in the season. Chansi Stuckey showed some promising moves for a late-rounder at minicamp.
Players:Chris Baker (6th year), James Dearth (7th year), Joe Kowalewski (1st year), Jason Pociask (1st year), Sean Ryan (4th year)
Summary: Chris Baker went into March as an unrestricted free agent but re-signed and remains an important figure in the offense as both blocker and receiver. Last year's 31 receptions and 300 yards were career highs, and three of his four scoring grabs were on 1-yard darts from Pennington — that gives him six 1-yard TD catches in his career, tying Anthony Becht for the most in Jets history.
Sean Ryan contributed the first catches of his career (six in all for 44 yards) after arriving via trade from the Cowboys. Dearth's value has been on special teams — he's been the Green & White's long-snapper for 96 straight games and has yet to make a blatantly errant snap. Jason Pociask, last year's fifth-round pick, and undrafted Joe Kowalewski both return for their second Mangini camp.
Players:OL Jacob Bender (rookie – 6th round), T Ed Blanton (1st year), T Marko Cavka (1st year), G Adrien Clarke (3rd year), T Anthony Clement (10th year), T D'Brickashaw Ferguson (2nd year), OL Na'Shan Goddard (2nd year), T Adrian Jones (4th year), G Pete Kendall (12th year), C Nick Mangold (2nd year), G Matt McChesney (2nd year), C Charles Missant (1st year), G Brandon Moore (5th year), OL Wade Smith (5th year), OL Robert Turner (rookie – UDFA), C Joseph Villani (rookie – UDFA), OL Andrew Wicker (rookie – UDFA)
Summary: The Jets begin Year Two of fortifying their offensive forward wall by Nick and by Brick. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, last spring's fourth overall draft choice, reprises his role as left tackle protecting the quarterback's blind side. Nick Mangold, 29th overall, steps back in at center, where he made few noticeable mistakes as a rookie. Both started all 17 games, including the playoffs.
Right tackle Anthony Clement and right guard Brandon Moore also started every game and return. Left guard Pete Kendall started all but two games and helped Ferguson and Mangold in their transitions to the NFL. Wade Smith and Adrian Jones are back, and 330-pound G Adrien Clarke is a newcomer with starting experience. Among the many new kids on the block: large, versatile sixth-rounder Jacob Bender.
Players: DE Darrell Adams (1st year), DE David Bowens (9th year – MIA), DE Kenyon Coleman (5th year – DAL), DE Mike DeVito (rookie – UDFA), DE Shaun Ellis (8th year), DT Zarnell Fitch (1st year), DE Bobby Hamilton (13th year), DE Michael Haynes (4th year), DE Eric Hicks (10th year – KC), DT C.J. Mosley (3rd year), DT Sione Pouha (3rd year), DT Dewayne Robertson (5th year), DE-DT Kimo von Oelhoffen (14th year)
Summary: The Jets are XL in experience across their front line. Shaun Ellis has become the consummate professional, notching five sacks to give him 48.5 for his seven-year career while adapting to 3-4 end, a position he hadn't played for five years. Dewayne Robertson isn't as massive as some fans would like at nose, but he's definitely appreciated behind the green doors. Kimo von Oelhoffen, entering his 14th season, is a well-respected locker room presence.
And many new, experienced names were added to the mix at end, such as Kenyon Coleman, the unrestricted FA who grew slowly but unmistakably in four Dallas seasons; former Dolphin David Bowens, ex-Chief Eric Hicks, and former first-round pick Michael Haynes, a Bear for three seasons before sitting out last season.
The inside has some interesting competition among C.J. Mosley, in the nose rotation last year; Sione Pouha, who missed the season with an injury, and Zarnell Fitch, who played solidly in NFL Europa. And Bobby Hamilton returns for his 13th season to do a little bit of everything — which could even include deep-frying some turkeys before the Thanksgiving game at Dallas.
Players: Eric Barton (9th year), Matt Chatham (8th year), Blake Costanzo (1st year), David Harris (rookie – 2nd round), Victor Hobson (5th year), Brad Kassell (6th year), Lawrence Pinson (1st year), Anthony Schlegel (2nd year), Cody Spencer (4th year), LB-DE Bryan Thomas (6th year), Jason Trusnik (rookie – UDFA), Jonathan Vilma (4th year), Andre Wadsworth (4th year)
Summary: Jonathan Vilma led the Jets in tackles again last season, although his 116 takedowns were a career low as he transitioned from 4-3 MLB to 3-4 ILB. But Mangini remains a major supporter. "Jon's a very consistent guy," the coach said. "He's got a lot of pride in what he does at work and his craft, and you see that."
Vilma also is known as "The General" for making sure all the defenders, including LB mates such as Bryan Thomas, Victor Hobson and Eric Barton, are lined up properly play after play. Speaking of those other 'backers, Thomas (team-leading 8.5 sacks, 77 tackles) and Hobson (6 sacks, 100 tackles) had career seasons, while Barton also contributed 100 tackles, a team-high five for loss.
They'll be joined by seasoned veterans such as returnees Matt Chatham (on the PUP list to begin camp) and Brad Kassell, plus feel-good story Andre Wadsworth, the third overall pick of the 1998 draft who's missed the past six seasons with multiple injuries. Two youngsters also loom large: second-round rookie David Harris and second-year holdover Anthony Schlegel.
Players:CB David Barrett (8th year), CB Drew Coleman (2nd year), S Erik Coleman (4th year), CB Andre Dyson (7th year), CB Alphonso Hodge (3rd year), DB James Ihedigbo (rookie – UDFA), CB Rayshaun Kizer (rookie – UDFA), CB Justin Miller (3rd year), CB Hank Poteat (7th year), DB Darrelle Revis (rookie – 1st round), S Kerry Rhodes (3rd year), S Eric Smith (2nd year), S Jamie Thompson (1st year), S Raymond Ventrone (2nd year), S Rashad Washington (4th year)
Summary: Kerry Rhodes is a rising star, and not just because "Hollywood" worked on his second movie in the off-season and is on three fall magazine covers. His five sacks set a franchise record for a DB and his four interceptions equaled Andre Dyson's Jets-leading total. He and Erik Coleman also played alongside each other for the second straight season and had 90-plus tackles in run support. Eric Smith, a third-round rookie last year, also figures in the equation for the deep middle.
At cornerback, the competition should be as hot as last summer's Hempstead sun. Five players — Dyson, David Barrett, Justin Miller, Hank Poteat and rookie Drew Coleman — made starts, and all five are still on the roster. Then throw into the scrum first-round rookie Darrelle Revis, whom many analysts called the best cover corner in the draft and the Jets traded up nine spots with Carolina to grab with the 16th overall pick.
Players: K Justin Ayat (rookie – UDFA), P Ben Graham (3rd year), P Jeremy Kapinos (rookie – UDFA), K Mike Nugent (3rd year)
Summary: Mike Nugent put a so-so rookie season and a shaky 2006 season opener at Tennessee far behind as he provided the kind of placekicking that spoiled Ohio State fans. "Nooge" hit his first NFL game-winning field goal from 30 yards out with 10 seconds left to beat the Dolphins on Christmas night; drilled his first two pro 50-yarders, including a 54-yard shot vs. Houston that was a yard off the franchise record, and takes a streak of 18 consecutive FGs (not including 3-for-3 in the playoff loss) into this season.
Ben Graham continued to supply thunder from Down Under. The 33-year-old third-year punter from Australia bettered his rookie gross average with a 44.2-yard mark, virtually matched his net at 37.8, and combined with his coverage unit as the Jets were the only team in the league not to allow a punt return of 20 yards.
Mike Westhoff will be looking for talent from the Green & White's rookie/first-year class to augment solid contributions from returning veterans such as Justin Miller, whose kickoff return skills (league-leading 28.3-yard average, two TDs) earned him a Pro Bowl berth, and Rashad Washington, who led the Jets for the second straight season with 22 kick coverage tackles.