For Vilma, preparing for a new coordinator is much like preparing for a season opener
As if preparing for each game wasn't intricate enough for the New York Jets coaching staff and scouting department, the Cleveland Browns went ahead and made their work a bit more difficult. Browns offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon resigned Monday, throwing a curve into normal weekly preparations for both teams. With Carthon out and former offensive lines coach Jeff Davidson filling the void, the Browns hope to receive a boost.
"I believe we can still get something done. Because there was a change, I think some of them may be reinvigorated and might think we can do more," said Cleveland head coach Romeo Crennel this week.
Eric Mangini, the Jets first-year head coach, isn't about to write off the Browns offense either. Led by his close friend Crennel, Mangini believes the Browns organization is fully equipped for success. That being said, the always balanced Mangini is going to head into this game like he has been all season – prepared for anything and everything. Mangini got to know Davidson in New England as both men served as assistants together under Bill Belichick from 2000-'04.
"I think the system will remain pretty much intact," Mangini said of the coordinator change. "There may be some new plays mixed in but that's true every week with the offense that you face. Each coordinator has a fingerprint and the fingerprint changes, so you have to adjust a little bit and understand the flow of the game."
While many fans in Cleveland are excited about the transition, those who may have the most accurate grasp of the new Browns coordinator are Davidson's offensive linemen. Tackle Kevin Shaffer said that Davidson's reaction to the team upon being named offensive coordinator was uplifting, which is crucial for a team which ranks 32nd in the NFL in total offense, averaging just 245.2 total yards per game.
"It's a clean thing, trying to keep our spirits high," said Shaffer. "Everybody's happy. Jeff came in and said, 'Hey, let's go now. This is our time. Let's do it. We've got a little different system. Just follow me.' "
Prior to the Monday shuffle, there were many internal questions regarding Carthon's play calls and direction. The Browns current slide down the AFC North ladder cannot be blamed entirely on Carthon, but the team hopes they can get a spark from Davidson.
"I think it was just friction, as far as difference of opinion on the way the offense was being run," guard Cosey Coleman said. "We need a spark. Hopefully, this is a spark, the right type of move to get us going."
The Browns linemen have been open about their desire to run the ball more, so the Jets should expect to see a healthy does of Reuben Droughns.
"I know those offensive linemen are excited because their coach is the guy in charge now. And it all starts with those guys," said quarterback Charlie Frye. "If they're out there blowing guys up, Reuben's going to have a good day and if they're giving me time, we're going to have it good on both ends of it."
For those who know personally know Davidson – there is indeed a handful here at Weeb Ewbank Hall – they know that he can bring that spark that is desperately needed in the Rock and Roll Capital.
Davidson, a 12-year coaching vet, was an assistant offensive line coach in New England from 1998-2004 under the highly regarded Dante Scarnecchia. Mangini says Davidson will run a similar offensive system to the one he saw with the Patriots, but the recently promoted coach will have to adjust to his personnel.
"It's different in the sense that there are different players; that definitely plays a part in it," Mangini said. "The way you may have approached it one area might is different in another area because of the types of guys you have running the routes, running the ball and blocking. There will be similarities, but there is also built-in differences based on personnel."
Veteran defensive lineman Bobby Hamilton is another member of the Jets roster who has experience facing Davidson's lines. Hamilton practiced against the Patriots offense when he was in New England from 2000-'03. The Jets 12th year defensive end concurs with Mangini about Davidson.
"I've been with Jeff from when he was in New England, and I know what type of coach he is. He's going to have those guys ready," said Hamilton, who has 16 tackles this season. "It doesn't matter who's going to be their coach - we still have to get ready to play. We can't look at who the coaches are, and we just have to worry about what we do."
Helping Hamilton stop the Browns' reinvigorated offense will be defensive co-captain Jonathan Vilma. The third-year middle linebacker leads the Green & White with 61 tackles.
"For us we have to go by what we know and what we know is what we've seen the last seven games from them so we can go with that, but whatever he does come up with we'll adjust," said Vilma. "You can sort of compare it to the first game of the season. You don't know what to expect, but after that you go after tendencies and keep playing ball."
Cornerback David Barrett has played in four games this season and collected two interceptions. Barrett, who missed last week's game with a hip injury and did not practice in teams drills Wednesday, is listed as questionable on the injury report. "He is making progress," Mangini said of Barrett. "Depending on how it goes today and tomorrow and if he has no setbacks, I think there is a good opportunity." Mangini said the prognosis is similar for two other questionable players - RB Cedric Houston (knee) and C Trey Teague (ankle)… For the second time this season, Mangini took time to praise the work of Steve Scarnecchia, the first-year Jets video director, and his tireless staff. "One of the reasons I hired him - I worked with at the other place - is he is another guy that is always trying to stay ahead of the curve," Mangini said of Scarnecchia. "He does a great job of constantly researching what's the latest technology - whether it's the latest technology in how to film practice or the latest technology in how to cut up practice or games or how to get the information to the players. He has been helpful in terms of acquiring clips we can teach off of. He has done a great job with that and he is constantly bringing up ideas that we incorporate to help the players."… Mangini and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton have been paying close attention to Browns tight end Kellen Winslow this week. Winslow leads all NFL tight ends with 33 receptions. "He is explosive," Mangini said of Winslow. "He runs like a wide receiver, he catches the ball really well whether in traffic or in space, and he can run after the catch. All those same qualities which you saw in college, which were sidetracked there by the injuries, they are there."
Thursday Injury ReportJets
Questionable: FB B.J. Askew (foot), CB David Barrett (hip), WR Laveranues Coles (calf), WR Tim Dwight (thigh), RB Cedric Houston (knee), & OL Trey Teague (ankle)
Probable:*RB Kevan Barlow (calf), *LB Matt Chatham (foot), *T Anthony Clement (back), *DE Shaun Ellis (back), *DL Bobby Hamilton (knee), *LB Brad Kassell (thigh), *OL Pete Kendall (thigh), *CB Justin Miller (hip), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *S Kerry Rhodes (thigh), *DL Dewayne Robertson (hand), *WR Brad Smith (thigh) & *DL Kimo von Oelhoffen (knee)
Questionable:CB Leigh Bodden (ankle), *S Justin Hamilton (ankle), WR Dennis Northcutt (ribs), *S Brodney Pool (hamstring), S Brian Russell (ankle), T Ryan Tucker (illness), FB Lawrence Vickers (elbow), *TE Kellen Winslow (knee)