Come Sunday afternoon, Eric Mangini and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton will lead the Green & White against a compelling Tennessee Titans offense. As someone who has spent the bulk of his last 15 years plotting ways to defend an end zone, Mangini's first test in doing so as a head coach is certainly going to be a challenging one.
"I think they have three really excellent candidates at quarterback, and I've always been a big fan of David Givens and I'm a big fan of Drew Bennett," Mangini said Thursday. "I really like the way those guys play. I like their motor, their consistency and their toughness."
Linebacker Brad Kassell spent his first four professional seasons in Tennessee, facing the multi-threat Titan offense everyday in practice. The unrestricted free agent signed with the Jets in April.
Kassell was originally signed by the Titans as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2002 after being named the Sun Belt Player of the Year two years in a row while at North Texas. Thirty-two starts and 259 tackles later, Tennessee released the 6'3" linebacker in search of more quickness at the position.
"We just parted ways, no hard feelings," said Kassell, who started 28 games over the past two seasons. "They gave me my shot in the NFL and I probably wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for them. They were just looking to go in a different direction. They were looking for some speedier linebackers, and I'm not the speediest guy in the world."
With Kassell comes the intelligence and toughness in which Mangini looks for in his players. Additionally, Kassell played on flourishing defensive teams throughout his four seasons in Nashville, teams, he claims, that had the similar framework to his current squad.
"I have been around some successful teams in Tennessee and this has the make up of those teams as well," he said of the Jets. "It is a positive atmosphere around here. I think we can do some good things; it's just a matter of keeping focus and taking care of business week to week.
"I see us being a good defense. We have the talent, we have the discipline, and we have the coaching. It is just a matter of all the pieces coming together and as long as everyone's buying into what we're doing, then I'm sure we'll do just fine," he added.
A Jet on the opposite side of the ball who was once very familiar with the Titans offense is another player who began his career with the AFC South club. Wide Receiver Justin McCareins is returning back to his roots this weekend for the first time since latching on with the Jets in 2004.
"Being a young player in the league and coming out with Steve McNair, Eddie George, and Bruce Matthews, it was such an exciting thing," McCareins said.
McCareins has started 32 consecutive games for the Green and White and recognizes Titans coach Jeff Fisher and his staff as part of the reason behind his success.
"I was extremely lucky to get the opportunity to play with Coach Fisher, especially as a rookie coming into the league," McCareins said. "I learned so much and I owe those guys so much for helping get to where I'm at."
Coordinator Bob Sutton will call the defensive plays Sunday. "I will obviously have input. We have worked throughout the week on different ideas and we talked about the approaches in the different areas," Mangini said. "I'll work with Brian (Schottenheimer), with Mike (Westhoff) and just manage that process through the coordinators."… Bobby Hamilton, who has played under Mangini before, was well-received by the first-year head coach. "Here is a guy that just worked his way into the league and worked his way into the starting lineup. His trademark is that work ethic, toughness, energy and enthusiasm. And he's not a young buck any more, but you'd never know it. I think he's the only guy that's older than me on the team, so the old guy can still play. I like all of the characteristics he brings. I've never heard anybody describe Bobby as a specialist, but he is a special guy," said Mangini. "I love Bobby's fire. I love his passion; I love his toughness, his inherent toughness, his strength."… C.J. Mosley, a 6'2", 315-pound nose tackle acquired from Minnesota in last week's trade which sent Brooks Bollinger to the Vikings, is making the adjustment to a new team. "There is a little bit of a learning curve even from a coaching perspective to really identify their strengths within the system," Mangini… Rookie speedster Leon Washington, who had a couple of impressive returns in the preseason, continues to impress his head coach. When asked about the rookie class, Mangini said, "I was watching tape yesterday and he (Washington) was on the show team. He finished a run 30 yards down the field and he had great ball security on the play. To me that is how Leon's evolved. He struggled early, but he has just worked at it, and he worked at it, and he worked at it."… The Jets don't mind the label "underdogs" as this '06 season commences. "We're not taking that approach of 'why not us?' We feel we're a good team," said WR Laveranues Coles. "We are legitimately a good team and we can compete with everybody. To the media it may seem like we're coming out of the ashes but if we do get on a roll here, we expected that."
Thursday Injury Report Jets Out
: OL Trey Teague (lower leg)
Questionable: *CB David Barrett (hip) & *WR Tim Dwight (thigh)
Probable: *LB Matt Chatham (foot) & *OL Pete Kendall (foot)
Titans Out: TE Erron Kinney (knee) & DE Antawn Odom (knee)
Questionable: *T Jacob Bell (back), WR David Givens (hamstring), G Benji Olson (upper leg), *S Lamont Thompson (ankle) & RB LenDale White (ankle)
* Denotes players who practiced