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The JN Interview with the Star Ledger's Dave Hutchinson

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Dave Hutchinson has covered the Jets for over a decade, and he was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his busy training camp schedule to answer some questions for JetNation.com. Our thanks go out to Dave for doing a great job covering the Jets, and for the interview. Thanks also to Gang Green Girl, cub reporter extraordinaire. Be sure to check out Dave’s new column in today’s Newark Star Ledger, or click on the link at the bottom of the page. Thanks again Dave!

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JetNation: How is Dinger adjusting to the Jets personnel? In Tennessee he had the strong-armed Steve McNair and a very aggressive straight-ahead power running game. Here, he has the not-so-strong armed duo of Fiedler and Penny and a more finesse-style running game. Have you seen any significant differences in Dinger’s philosophy?

Dave Hutchinson: Dinger is the first to admit that Chad doesn’t have the arm that McNair has. He says he’s going to play to Chad’s strengths. I think that’ll mean that he won’t throw long quite as much as he did with McNair, but he will take shots. Look for Dinger to bank on guys getting yards after the catch and he’ll use the tight end quite a bit. Patterns to the tight end are ones that Chad throws best. As for the running game, the Jets will be fine, although I think their short yardage situation is still up in the air. B.J. Askew and rookie Cedric Houston are options. [As for the power running game in Tennessee], Eddie George just has a different style than [Curtis] Martin.

JN: The Jets drafted two guys this year to try and win the strong safety spot, but so far through camp we haven’t read a lot about either Maddox or Rhodes. Are those guys still contenders to land the starting role, or will we be looking at Oliver Celestin this year?

Hutch: The Jets really like Rhodes, especially in coverage. He showed the organization a lot with his big hit on Giants WR Willie Ponder. That’s something they wanted to see from him. Maddox is more of a ‘work in progress’. You’re right, I think Oliver Celestin is the starter [right now]. Donnie Henderson really likes him. Rhodes, though, is closing the gap. It’ll be interesting to see how Jon McGraw fits into the mix. The Jets are increasingly frustrated with his inability to stay healthy.

JN: Every year people count Curtis Martin out, and every year he produces. The Jets took a gamble by letting Lamont Jordan walk and signing Derrick Blaylock, who filled in admirably for Priest Holmes last season, but is
not really a full-time back. Do the Jets seem comfortable with their stable of backs for this season, especially the back-ups?

Hutch: I really like Derrick Blaylock. He and Curtis have similar styles, but Blaylock is the real deal. And don’t forget Houston. Despite his thyroid condition, he gained over 1,000 yards at Tennessee last season and there’s no telling what he can do at 100 percent.

JN: Herm Edwards: Year Five. Is Herm walking the tightrope a bit here, or has he really earned the benefit of the doubt from Woody? Herm’s delivered him the playoffs three out of four years, but he’s had some classic, embarrassing meltdowns as well(i.e. Baltimore, Pittsburgh). Hackett is gone, Ted Cottrell was gone the year before; it seems like the finger of blame now points only at one man should the Jets not advance this season, and that’s Herm. Is he conscious of the pressure attached to this season, more so than in years past?

Hutch: Yes, Herm is clearly in the line of fire. He has gotten rid of both of his coordinators, and quite frankly, I think he has the best trio in the league in Dinger, Henderson, and Special Team coach Mike Westhoff. The pressure is on Herm but he’s not worried. He’s going to give it his all and I think the Jets will be right in the mix. As much as people want to question Herm’s game-day coaching, he didn’t miss two field goals versus the Steelers in the playoffs last season.

JN: I’d like to combine the obligatory Ty Law/John Abraham issues into one question, as these topics have been drilled to death on our message board. Both are premium players who want premium money to suit up for the Jets. Abe, we assume, will be in camp at some point to collect his $6.7 mil, but Law is a different story altogether, as it seems like he’ll jump at the highest bid. The question is, when does Abe get to camp and will Law ever be in camp as far as you can tell? [ed. note: Law signed with the Jets the day after this interview was sent to Dave.]

Hutch: Abe and his people are extremely disappointed in how the Jets are treating them. Abraham, after all, has made the Pro Bowl in three of his five years. He’s perfectly willing to sign the one-year tender if the Jets promise not to put it on him next year and give him a long-term deal if he has another big year. He really wants to be a Jet for a long time. Initially, I thought he’d be in after the second pre-season game. He still might, but the Jets courtship of Law has upset him, especially with Law coming off of a foot injury. The Jets claim they don’t want to pay Abe because of his injury history and then they go and sign Law.

JN: You were recently the only guy who stepped up and said that Chad’s arm looked weak at camp, rightly pointing out that he under-threw two 40 yarders. How scared should Jet fans be right now that their QB can’t get a football 40 yards down the field?

Hutch: Yeah, Chad did look shaky early on, but he has come on a bit lately. I think the rest after five straight days of throwing really helped him, and he said on Tuesday that he finally feels his arm feeling like normal. I think he’ll be fine.

JN: Also, stemming from the last question, the Jets seem to have developed a hair trigger for media criticism lately (as Rich Cimini can attest to). Has there been any backlash from your article from the Jets or Chad, and, if so, how do you as a veteran reporter deal with it in terms of either mending fences and/or sticking to your guns?

Hutch: Good question. I did take a little heat for writing what I saw. Frankly, I was surprised the other beat writers didn’t point out that Chad was struggling. Perhaps I jumped the gun a little, but I just reported what I saw. Fortunately, the Jets and the players know I’ve always been fair.

JN: The AFC East seems pretty wide open this season. Weis and Crennel are no longer in New England, the Bills have an untested QB starting for them, and the Dolphins are in a serious state of flux. The Jets have every reason to be confident coming into this season that they can take the division pretty handily if everything breaks right. Have you seen that at camp this summer so far? Vilma and Chad recently made statements that would lead one to believe that the Jets are developing a little bit of a swagger. Have you gotten that impression at all being around the players, and, if so, are the Jets perhaps getting a little ahead of themselves?

Hutch: You need a little swagger to win, and the Jets are developing it—especially on defense. It’s fun to watch, to be honest. The Jets haven’t had it in the 10 years I’ve covered the team. I’d like to see some of it on offense. Perhaps Coles, who has a little attitude, can bring some. It’s a good thing.

JN: Woody Johnson’s bid for the West Side Stadium was beaten back in the final stages after it looked pretty good that he was going to succeed. Has there been any hangover from that? Woody has stated that part of his vision for this franchise was getting it its own complex, and that hasn’t materialized. Down the line, if Woody doesn’t get a stadium deal somewhere, can you foresee him cutting bait with the Jets and selling the team, or does he seem committed for the long haul?

Hutch: Oh man, Woody isn’t going anywhere. He’s like a kid with a new toy. He absolutely loves owning the Jets and appears open to building a new stadium in New Jersey with the Giants

A few short answer questions:

JN: Favorite Jet to interview all time?

Hutch: Wow. Curtis Martin is the best guy I’ve interviewed in any sport.

JN: Toughest Jet to interview of all time?

Hutch: Tackle Jeff Criswell (I think that’s his name) was a tough interview.

JN: Most bizarre behind-the-scenes moment you’ve witnessed?

Hutch: QB Glenn Foley, during his battle with Vinny for the starting job, said there were things going on behind the scenes that he couldn’t talk about. I think that comment spelled the end for him.

JN: Fact about Dave Hutchinson that few fans would know?

Hutch: I pride myself on being fair and not taking cheap shots at the players, coaches, or the Jets organization.

Check out Dave’s new article at
http://www.nj.com/sports/ledger/index.ssf?/base/sports-0/112365299136540.xml&coll=1, and stay tuned for more GGG interviews as the season rolls on! Thanks, Dave!

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