The Jets have a pair of running backs who can hurt the opposition in a number of ways. Leon Washington and Thomas Jones electrified the Meadowlands on Sunday afternoon with brilliant performances, and the dynamite duo were honored by their head coach a day after the Jets defeated the Dolphins.
Washington, Eric Mangini's special teams player of the week, is always a threat to go off. His 98-yard second quarter kickoff return — the Green & White's first kickoff return for a touchdown since Justin Miller returned one 99 yards at Cleveland last October — gave his club a lead it would never relinquish.
"As a runner and a competitor, I feel like every time I touch the ball I'm going to score," he told reporters. "Mike Westhoff does a great job coaching us. You saw the play — it was wide open."
Washington also had seven carries, but the bulk of Sunday's rushing load was given to Jones. Behind an inspired effort from the offensive line, Jones ran for 92 second-half yards and totaled 110 yards on the ground, along with eight first downs, seven rushing. He was a battering ram down the stretch, displaying a bruising style the Jets haven't seen in some time.
"He's got an excellent tone that he sets in the way that he runs. He has an ability to bounce out or hammer it up the inside," Mangini said. "Offensive lines love to be able to run the ball multiple times and that helps to free up things in the play-action passing game. All of that is positive."
"Thomas ran real hard today. It was exciting to see that," said C Nick Mangold. "We'll keep working on it and keep improving on what we're doing."
With the lead at 11 to start the fourth quarter, Jones set up Chad Pennington's touchdown run by . He carried four times for 27 yards. His first carry of that final stanza, an 11-yarder, ended with an authoritative stiff-arm to Travis Daniels' head.
"On that drive we were moving the ball pretty well and I think we were wearing them down," Jones said. "That's just how that play went. The offensive line did a great job all day and we ran the ball well."
Cornerback David Barrett took home defensive honors following an eight-tackle performance. The starting right corner, who was also credited with a pass defense, covered well and kept receivers close. He wrapped up throughout the game and helped Bob Sutton's unit limit the Dolphins to a 33 percent conversion rate on third downs.
Practice-squad rookie LB Jason Trusnik was named the Jets' practice player of the week. The Ohio Northern product is the school's all-time career leader in both sacks (43) and tackles for loss (85).
"The practice player of the week to me is always the most important award we give out," Mangini said at today's afternoon news conference. "It's crucial. You've got to give the offense and defense the looks to give them the sense of what they're going to face Sunday. Jason did an outstanding job of mimicking Jason Taylor."
Mangini added that several practice squad players, such as Wallace Wright, Stacy Tutt and Joe Kowalewski, have graduated from the practice squad to the active roster.
"It's an important award to the team," the coach said, "and it's important to me personally."
The Jets have the opportunity to even their record at 2-2 and improve their mark in the division to 2-1 this Sunday at Buffalo. The winless Bills have been slowed by a myriad of injuries and their defense is yielding 177.3 yards per game on the ground. Things don't get any easier for them this weekend with Jones and Washington coming to town.