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Jets Notebook | In a Punting Pinch, Matt Ammendola Comes Through

Robert Saleh 'Fortunate' Green & White Have Depth at T With Mekhi Becton Sidelined


On Sunday, kicker Matt Ammendola did not attempt an extra point after the Jets' two touchdowns. Ammendola did not attempt a field goal in the loss at Carolina.

What the first-year player out of Oklahoma State did was step in for injured punter Braden Mann and display a talent that the Lansdale, PA, native had only practiced.

"I've never punted in a game before," Ammendola told reporters on Monday. "No, I never punted in high school, never in college. It was icing on the cake, my first NFL game to go out and punt, it was definitely a changeup for sure."

Mann sustained an injury to his left knee -- which head coach Robert Saleh said on Monday would sideline him 4-to-6 weeks but not require surgery -- midway through the first quarter when a Carolina player was blocked into him. Officials called a holding penalty on the Jets and, as Mann limped to the sideline, the Panthers put Ammendola to the test immediately when they elected to have the Jets kick again.

"No one ever wants to see a teammate get hurt," Ammendola said. "But at the end of day you have to step up. If they need you they need you. At the end of the day, you're just trying to do a job, punting, kicking whatever. You have to step up."

That first punt surprised everyone, Ammendola among them, when it traveled 50 yards. He later boomed one 65 yards ("kind of surreal," he said) and finished the game with six punts for a 48.5-yard average while also planting a couple inside the Carolina 20-yard line.

Ammendola won the place-kicking job after the Jets let go of Chris Naggar following the preseason opener against the Giants. Ammendola responded by converting all three of his field-goal attempts, including a 54-yarder, in the Jets' preseason victory at Green Bay.

"With kicking, it's all about placement of the ball, where your foot makes contact," he said. "With punting a lot of it is in the drop [of the ball]."

Saleh had nothing but praise for Ammendola, but also said on Monday that the team expects to work out some punters in this week ahead of Sunday's home opener against New England.

"Oh, man, terrific job by him," Saleh said. "I thought he punted the heck out of it for not really practicing it. Showed no pale face or anything, he just stepped right in and did a really good job. So hats off to him. Wish we could have gotten him a field goal opp in there, somewhere."

Ammendola said: "With kicking and punting, I've been studying the technique for a long time. You never know when you're going to have that pop quiz and have to be ready."

Shuffling on Offensive Line
The dislocated kneecap injury sustained by Mekhi Becton on Sunday forced the Jets to shift George Fant from starting LT to RT and insert the veteran Morgan Moses in at RT.

"It's like I said the other day, I feel fortunate that we have three legitimate starting tackles," Saleh said. "George on the left, Morgan on the right and Mekhi is a heck of a talent. That we have two vets is beneficial."

Yet in the 19-14 loss at Carolina, the offensive line was tested as it struggled to protect rookie QB Zach Wilson. Wilson was sacked 6 times and the Panthers totaled 10 QB hits.

"We did not play well up front yesterday," guard Greg Van Roten said. "Everybody is pretty frustrated based on how we have performed in camp and in the preseason. We came up short of where we want to be. We didn't do a good job keeping Zach clean. He hung in there and made the plays when he could."

In addition to the pressure up front, the Jets' running game was limited to 45 yards rushing.

"This is a prove-it league," Van Roten said. "Until you can prove you can stop it you'll keep getting it. In the NFL, you either win or you learn.

"It's going to be a process but it can be corrected quickly. We need to execute the details better than we did. We have the guys up front and the coaches to correct so we'll get corrected."

Cornerback Bryce Hall played every single snap on defense (64 in all) on Sunday, mostly paired with rookie Bradin Echols (46 snaps, 72%), with Michael Carter II (35, 55%) at nickel, and Javelin Guidry (22, 34%) saw a lot of time. The group played hard and it played fast.

"I thought we did our jobs well," Hall said. "Obviously there's a lot we can improve on. We'll get comfortable and continue to grow with more games and more reps. I thought the effort was there, we played well and can play a lot better. We'll continue to build chemistry learning, through the mistakes.

"We played hard."

Hall is the "grand old man" of the Jets' cornerback corps in terms of NFL starts (8) ... he's in his second season while being surrounded by a group of promising rookies and veteran Justin Hardee, who is primarily a special-teams player and one of the team's five captains.

"The fact is it's really not about the opponent, for me, it;'s about me doing my job and executing my technique at a high level," Hall said. "If I do that it doesn't matter who I go up against. I feel I can match up against anybody. Don't feel comfortable where I'm at now. We just trust the process, keep improving and let results take care of themselves."

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