Washington extends for the line
A day after clinching a spot in the AFC playoffs, Jets head coach Eric Mangini announced his Players of the Week. Anthony Clement, Shaun Ellis, Eric Smith, and Wade Smith each earned awards for their preparation and performance in Week 17.
Clement, a 6'8", 320-pound left tackle, was named Offensive Player of the Week for his work against the very talented Raiders' defensive front. The Oakland defense entered Sunday's match-up ranked fourth in the league, and the Jets' protection was stout enough to allow quarterback Chad Pennington to complete 22 of 30 pass attempts. The Raiders front line of Warren Sapp, Anttaj Hawthorne, Tommy Kelly and Derrick Burgess were held to just 15 tackles and one sack combined.
"Yesterday was another good, collective team effort with all three phases contributing," Mangini said Monday afternoon. "We talk all the time about finishing, whether it is finishing a play in practice, finishing a period, finishing the practice itself, a meeting, whatever the case may be - and how important that is and yesterday was about finishing the regular season for us."
Shaun Ellis accounted for a team-high five solo tackles and was awarded the Defensive Player of the Week award. With the Jets leading by 10 points midway through the third quarter, Ellis stopped quarterback Aaron Brooks on a fourth and one keeper to force a turnover on downs at the Jets' 45 yard line. The offense took the ensuing driving all the way down field, culminating on running back Leon Washington's fourth touchdown of the season.
"I was proud of the way that the guys worked all season and proud of the way that we finished the season and earned the opportunity to play this week," Mangini said of the Jets' tenth win of the year. "That is what we've been working for a long time and they earned it."
Rookie safety Eric Smith earned special teams recognition after partially blocking a Shane Lechler punt with just over two minutes remaining in the first half. Even though the Green and White turned that drive into a field goal seconds before intermission, Smith's play on defense was equally impressive. With ten minutes to go in the game, Smith virtually sealed the contest following his second interception of the season.
The Practice Player of the Week distinction – the most important according to Mangini because of his emphasis on team preparation – went to offensive lineman Wade Smith. According to Mangini, the fourth-year lineman is old reliable on the practice field.
"Our Practice Player of the Week, which is always our most important award, is Wade Smith," Mangini announced. "This guy probably takes more reps than anybody at practice. Wallace Wright was pushing him for a while when he was working on both sides of the ball."