An emphasis out of the game against the Patriots a week ago tonight was not dropping as many passes. And one method of that emphasis was to put the spotlight on the issue, as head coach Rex Ryan has done almost every day he's talked with reporters since that 13-10 loss.
At today's news conference he referenced the drops once again.
"You can't afford to drop the ball that many times, there's no way. You're leaving a lot of plays out there," he said. "If we would have caught half of those balls we dropped, the outcome might have been a lot different."
How many passes did the Jets drop at Gillette Stadium? Rex has declined to put a number on it. My own charting, highly unofficial, shows six drops.
I'm a conservative marker — my view is that catching a rock-hard prolate spheroid coming at you at 55 mph with various spirals and wobbles is a lot harder than the network talking heads sometimes make it sound. Yet footballs do clank to the turf, so I've recorded our drops and our opponents' for every game since 1995.
And I hadn't seen a six-drop game for the Jets since the 1997 season finale at Detroit. The only time we had seven in a game: Game 13 of the 1996 season against Houston, as in the Oilers.
Certainly the second-half rain and the Gillette lights made the ball harder to catch (I had the Patriots for five drops of their own), but as Rex said, "You're an NFL receiver, you're paid to catch the football, and we certainly need to do it."
So how do we limit the drops two weeks into the season? Santonio Holmes' simple recommendation:
"Catch the ball. I don't see any other way to correct it."
Yet the Jets are reinforcing that directive with some concentrated physical and mental work. Every day after practice this week the receivers lined up to catch balls firing out from between the JUGS machine's rubber tires.
"At camp, catching balls from the JUGS machine was something we started off doing a lot," rookie WR Ryan Spadola said. With the team back at the Atlantic Health Training Center for the last month, he said, "We're trying to get back in rhythm after practice, taking an extra 15, 20 minutes to run through a little cycle as a group, catch the ball at different angles — straight on, side to side, low balls."
With the leather time come some mantras. One that WRs coach Sanjay Lal stresses: Eyes to the tuck.
"We're emphasizing the fundamentals," Ben Obomanu said. "Eyes always to the tuck, high and tight when you're carrying the ball, attacking the ball when it's in the air instead of waiting for the ball to come to you."
Obomanu also said the wideouts do their own video scorekeeping.
"We call it 'blind catching' when we don't necessarily look the ball all the way in, so who's having blind catches, who's carrying the ball loosely, we're writing those things down," he said. "Instead of the receivers coach or the OC talking to us about it, we have a chart that says we're going to be a little more accountable about who's doing what."
Drops happen, as even the head coach acknowledges, but none of the Jets' wideouts, young or old, used that as an explanation for their New England game.
"There's never an excuse for a dropped football," said Spadola. And Holmes replied: "This is the NFL. There should be no excuses to be made for anybody at this point in time."
Is it possible to catch the football better than you did the week before? We're about to find out Sunday at home against the Bills.
On our injury front, Holmes (foot) was a planned DNP today. Limited: LB Quinton Coples (ankle) (Rex: "He looks good out there, so we'll see"), DT Kenrick Ellis (back), DL Sheldon Richardson (shoulder) and TE Kellen Winslow (knee). And backup rookie T Oday Aboushi went down with a knee injury in practice. No report on the severity until Friday.