Jones, Ground Game Seek a Giant Spark

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At the first-quarter mark, Thomas Jones' statistics appear very similar to his line last year at the same point.

Through four games last season, Jones, then the Chicago Bears' top back, had rushed for 284 yards and averaged 3.3 yards per carry. He had yet to hit the century mark on the ground but did produce a 98-yard, two-TD effort in Week 4 against the Seahawks.

Fast-forward a year and Jones has run for 254 yards and averaged 3.4 yards per carry. He powered his way through the Dolphins for 110 yards in just his third game as a Jet.

"It's a long season. We have only played four games and we have 12 games left," Jones said after today's practice. "All we can do is focus on each game individually and that's what we're working on this week — not only with the running game but our whole team in general — just being consistent as we can be."

Jones' receiving numbers also have been consistent. He has seven receptions, the same number he had after four games in '06.

The challenge this week for Jones and his offensive teammates is a suddenly hot Giants defense. Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's unit has allowed only one field goal in the last six quarters and they racked up 12 sacks in the win Sunday night over Philadelphia. Osi Umenyiora produced a team-record six sacks himself.

"Osi got a couple of texts (messages) from Thomas Jones saying he is going to get chipped a lot this week," said DE Justin Tuck in a Daily News article. "We know guys are going to do a lot more to keep us off of Pennington this week and every other quarterback."

Jones, who is friendly with Umenyiora, denied sending those messages.

"I don't know where that came from. That's not what I was doing," he said following Friday's practice. "It might have been another guy but that's not what I was doing."

The thought of the 5'10", 215-pound Jones has to conjure up some bad memories for the Giants and possibly a few tall tales.

Big Blue held a 13-3 lead over the Bears last November at the Meadowlands when Jones turned the game around with a 26-yard gain on a draw, allowing the visitors to get a first down on third-and-22. That led to a touchdown before the half and the Bears completely dominated the final half. Jones was a workhorse during that prime-time affair, rushing 30 times for 111 yards en route to his 1,210-yard season.

"We got off to a slow start and then we had a couple of big plays before the half and got some momentum. In the second half, we came out and executed and played the way we were capable of playing," he said. "We were definitely happy to get the win, but that was last year. It's a whole new year, a whole new team, a whole new season."

That home loss for the Giants started a four-game slide. These Giants enter Sunday's contest on a two-game win streak and Jones complimented their defense.

"They have the same players. They read the run well, they read the pass well," he said. "They have some really good athletes, they have some great defensive ends. I have a lot of respect for their defense."

The Giants love to get up the field with Umenyiora, future Hall of Famer Michael Strahan and the aforementioned Tuck, so the Jets would like to get Jones going this week. He could help neutralize the pass rush by having success up the middle and on the edge. Screens also might used to take advantage of the Giants' aggressive play.

"Each game is different. I'm pretty sure they are happy about what they did last week but each week is different," he said. "We have our game plan and that's what we're focused on."

Jones is not one to peer too far in the rearview mirror. But this was the time last year when he broke out with four 100-yard rush days over six outings. If the Green & White get similar production from the former Bear, they'll be rolling.

"If you keep on running the same things or you try different things or you tweak little things, then it pops," said LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson. "When it pops, then momentum comes and then you're an unstoppable force and then nobody can stop you."

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