JETS ACQUIRE CB PETE HUNTER

JETS ACQUIRE CB PETE HUNTER FOR CONDITIONAL DRAFT SELECTION

New York City – The New York Jets announced today the acquisition of cornerback Pete Hunter from the Dallas Cowboys for a conditional draft selection. The announcement was made by Jets Executive Vice President/General Manager Terry Bradway.

Hunter, 25, was originally drafted by the Cowboys in the fifth round of the 2002 Draft out of Virginia Union. The 6-2 212-pound native of Atlantic City, NJ has played in 30 regular season games, making five starts, and has recorded 43 tackles, one sack, three interceptions, nine passes defended and two fumbles recovered.

“I am excited about coming home and playing for the Jets,? said Hunter. ?I grew up watching the Green and White, this is a great opportunity. I’ve heard great things about playing for Coach Edwards and I’m really looking forward to joining my new teammates. I’m ready to get to work and contribute to the team.”
“Pete is a player we identified a few months ago as someone who will provide depth to our secondary,? said Terry Bradway. He’s a big, physical corner, who will contribute on defense and special teams. We believe he has upside, and that our coaches can put him in position to make plays.”

There are 86 players currently on the Jets roster. Players are scheduled to report for training camp on July 28, with the first practice scheduled for 8:45 a.m. on July 29.

Jones And Lewis To Retire As Jets

JETS SIGN MO LEWIS AND MARVIN JONES; BOTH LINEBACKERS TO RETIRE AS JETS
New York City –
The New York Jets today announced the signing of linebackers Mo Lewis and Marvin Jones. Both players will retire as members of the New York Jets organization on June 28. The Club will honor the two players at a Jets? home game in 2005. The announcement was made by Jets Executive Vice President/ General Manager Terry Bradway.

“The Jets are proud that Mo and Marvin are retiring as New York Jets,” said Terry Bradway. “Both players dedicated their lives to football, demonstrating a commitment to their profession. Serving as the pillars of the Clubs defensive units, the duo gave opposing offenses plenty of worries and gave Jets’ fans plenty to cheer. It’s rare today to have one player play his entire career with one team, and in this instance, the Jets have two and it’s a tribute to both gentlemen.”

Lewis, a native of Atlanta, GA, was the Jets third-round draft choice and No. 62 overall in 1991. He served as the Jets? defensive captain from 1997 through his final season in 2003. He played in 200 regular season games, which places him sixth on the all-time most career games played as a Jet, and recorded 103 consecutive games in the process. He chalked up 52.5 career sacks and ranks fourth among the Clubs all-time sack leaders. He recorded 1,370 career tackles (942 solo and 428 assists) which places him second on the Jets all-time tackles chart. Lewis recorded 32 double-digit tackle games over the course of his career. He also played strong-side, weak-side and middle linebacker and saw spot duty at both defensive end positions during his career. Lewis was just the second linebacker in Green and White history to be named to multiple Pro Bowl squads.

Jones was the Jets first-round draft choice in 1993, the fourth overall selection. He played in 142 games for the Green and White in his 11 seasons and started 129, including all 80 throughout his last five seasons. He ranks third in Jets? history with 1,200 tackles (811 solo), notching eight 100-plus tackle seasons. Jones also tallied nine sacks, five interceptions, 29 passes defended, 11 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries in his Jets career. The Florida State product also added 25 tackles on special teams for the Club.

Reggie Tongue Waived

NEW YORK JETS TERMINATE THE CONTRACT OF VETERAN SAFETY REGGIE TONGUE

New York City – The New York Jets announced today the termination of safety Reggie Tongue’s contract. The announcement was made by Jets’ Executive Vice President and General Manager Terry Bradway.

Tongue, 32, signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Jets on March 22, 2004 after having played the previous four seasons (2000-2003) with the Seattle Seahawks. The veteran of nine NFL seasons originally was a second-round draft choice out of Oregon State by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1996 and played four seasons with the Chiefs before signing as an unrestricted free agent with the Seahawks.

In 2004, Tongue started all 16 regular season games with the Jets and both of the Club’s postseason contests. In the regular season, he recorded 68 tackles along with four passes defensed, one interception returned for 23 yards, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Tongue recorded the longest interception return in Jets’ playoff history when he returned a Ben Roethlisberger pass 85-yards for a touchdown in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Pittsburgh on January 15 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

Jets Sign 6th Round Pick Cedric Houston

NEW YORK JETS SIGN SIXTH-ROUND PICK RB CEDRIC HOUSTON

New York City – The New York Jets announced today they have signed sixth-round pick running back Cedric Houston and released quarterback Bill Whittemore. The announcement was made by Jets Executive Vice President and General Manager Terry Bradway.

Houston, a 6-0, 220-pound University of Tennessee product, was selected in the sixth round of the 2005 NFL Draft with a pick obtained from the Oakland Raiders. Houston currently sits fifth all-time on the Volunteers leading rusher list with 2,634 yards and 17 touchdowns in 49 games played with 27 starts. He also recorded 39 receptions for 369 yards (9.5 avg.) and a score in his four seasons with Tennessee.

Whittemore signed with the Jets on May 23, 2005 after originally entering the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent on May 18, 2004. The University of Kansas product was waived by Atlanta on July 1, 2004 before spending a season with the Arena Football League?s Nashville Kats.

The Jets roster currently stands at 87 with training camp beginning on Friday, July 29, 2005.

Donnie Henderson Signs Contract Extension

JETS ANNOUNCE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR DONNIE HENDERSON’S CONTRACT EXTENSION
New York City –
The New York Jets announced today Defensive Coordinator Donnie Henderson’s contract has been extended. As per Club policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The announcement was made by Executive Vice President and General Manager Terry Bradway.

In his first year (2004) guiding the Jets’ defense, Henderson, 47, employed a defensive unit that allowed the third fewest points against in team history (16.3 per game), ranked seventh overall in the NFL in total defense and fifth-best against the run. Furthermore, the Jets tied for the fourth-most takeaways in the league (33) as they advanced to the AFC Divisional Playoff round. The Jets also posted an NFL-best seven second-half shut-outs last season.

“Donnie Henderson instilled a fire in our defensive unit that had an effect on the entire football team,� said Head Coach Herm Edwards. “His approach to coaching the defense set the tone at training camp last season, and it’s a credit to him and his coaching staff for making good players better, and giving our young players an opportunity to contribute. Donnie puts players in position to be successful and that’s the focus of us being a winning football team.�

Henderson joined the Jets on January 26, 2004, after five years coaching defensive backs with the Baltimore Ravens (1999-2003). His Ravens’ teams reached the playoffs three times in his five years with the Club, including winning Super Bowl XXXV which followed the 2000 season. Henderson’s secondary contributed to the League’s third-ranked defense in 2003 while his group led the defense to a fourth place ranking against the pass.

Prior to breaking into NFL coaching in 1999 with Baltimore, Henderson coached on the collegiate level for 16 years at five schools: Utah State (1983-88), Idaho (1989), California (1990-91), Arizona State (1992-97), and Houston (1998). Henderson was a standout cornerback at Utah State before being drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1980.

Ricky Ray Released

NEW YORK JETS RELEASE
QB RICKY RAY, RB LEONARD HENRY,
and TE JOSHUA NORMAN
New York City –
The New York Jets announced today the contracts of quarterback Ricky Ray, running back Leonard Henry, and tight end Joshua Norman have been waived. The announcements were made by Jets’ Executive Vice President and General Manager Terry Bradway.

Ray, a 6-3, 210-pound signal-caller out of Sacramento State, was signed by the Jets as a free agent on February 27, 2004. He dressed as the third QB three times during the 2004 regular season, but did not see game action.

Henry, a 6-1, 210-pound running back out of East Carolina, was signed by the Jets on April 6, 2005, after a three-year stint with the Miami Dolphins.

Norman, a 6-3, 240-pound tight end out of Oklahoma, was signed as a free agent on February 1, 2005.
All three players participated in the Club’s mini-camp, conducted last weekend.

Jets Announce Rookie Free Agent Class Of 2005

JETS ANNOUNCE ROOKIE FREE AGENT CLASS OF 2005
New York City –
The New York Jets announced today that the following players have signed rookie free agent contracts with the Club: K Xavier Beitia, LB Mondoe Davis, LB Dennis Haley, WR Eddie Jackson, OL Michael King, FB Austine Nwabuisi, LB John Pickens, OL Isaac Snell, T Henry Tellis and WR Jovan Witherspoon.

Beitia, a 5-10, 198-pound kicker from Florida State, led the Seminoles in scoring the past four seasons (2001-2004) and made 67-of-92 of his field goals (72.8 %) and connected on 173-of-177 extra points (97.7%) on the collegiate level. The native of Tampa, FL attended the acclaimed Jesuit High School before matriculating to Florida State.

Davis, a 6-1, 225-pound product of NCAA Division I-AA powerhouse Delaware, played in 49 collegiate games and recorded 342 tackles, nine sacks, eight forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. A Newport News, VA native, Davis was a junior Olympian All-American wrestler on the prep level.

Haley, a 6-1, 247-pound linebacker from Virginia, played in 32 collegiate games for the Cavaliers and finished with 103 tackles, five passes defensed, four sacks, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. A product of Roanoke, VA, his father, Kenneth, played collegiate football at Bluefield State (WV), the same school Jets’ QB Chad Pennington’s father played for.

Jackson, a 6-4, 225-pound receiver from West Virginia, originally began his collegiate career at football power Coffeyville C.C. in Kansas, before heading to the University of Washington, where he caught 16 passes for 152 yards in 2002. He then decided to transfer to WVU and played in 10 games, making five starts in 2004, and had 18 receptions for 246 yards for a 13.7 average in the Mountaineers’ run-oriented offensive system.

King, 6-3, 298 pounds from Northwestern (LA) State, played in only 10 games as an offensive lineman as a collegian, having battled through a stretched brachial plexus injury as a junior. The native of Natchitoches, LA, who majored in criminal justice at school, is also the owner of a Christian musical recording studio. King opened eyes at Northwestern’s Pro Day earlier this spring by running a 4.62 and 4.71 in the 40-yard dash.

Nwabuisi, a 6-1, 235-pound product of the University of Kansas scored six career touchdowns, including three his senior season. He had just 17 carries his first three years, and rushed 25 times for 98 yards his senior year, including touchdown runs against Toledo, Texas and Missouri. Nwabuisi, from Houston’s Episcopal High School, was a college teammate of Jets’ right tackle Adrian Jones. (pronounced WA-boo-see)

Pickens, 6-2, 240, from The Big Ten’s Northwestern, is a Ramapo, NJ native. The linebacker played in 44 collegiate games, making 29 starts, and recorded 292 tackles, six sacks, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Pickens was a high school teammate of current Tampa Bay Buccaneers back-up quarterback Chris Simms.

Snell, 6-6, 288 pounds, hails from North Dakota State, having played four seasons for the Bisons, recording 109 tackles, seven sacks, nine passes defensed and one fumble recovery from the nose tackle position. Snell will attempt to make the transition from collegiate defensive lineman to a professional offensive lineman, the same route that current Jets starting guard Brandon Moore made. Snell’s position coach at NDSU was Pat Perles, a son of former Michigan State head coach George Perles.

Tellis, a 6-6, 308-pound product of Troy State, played in 39 games and made 22 starts in his four-year career. The native of Montgomery, AL was one of seven Troy State players to sign free agent contracts following the 2005 NFL Draft.

Witherspoon, 6-3, 210 pounds, comes to the Jets from Central Michigan. He originally began his collegiate career at Notre Dame after a standout prep career at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, IN before transferring to William Rainey Harper College in Palantine, IL before transferring to CMU.

Jets Waive Doug Brien

JETS RELEASE K DOUG BRIEN

New York City – The New York Jets announced today that K Doug Brien, who will be entering his 12th NFL season in 2005, has been released. The announcement was made by Jets’ Executive Vice President/General Manager Terry Bradway.

“Doug Brien did a great job for us in the two years that he was here and wore our uniform,� said Head Coach Herman Edwards. “At this point in time, we feel that making this move gives Doug some freedom in his options in terms of continuing on in his career. We, as an organization, wish him nothing but the best and thank him for his contributions.�

Brien, a veteran of 152 games, served as the Jets’ place-kicker the past two seasons, and, with an 81.1% conversion rate over the course of his career, ranks as one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. With the Jets, Brien converted 83.6 % of his field goal attempts (51-of-61) and was 57-of-58 on extra points (98.3 %).

In the postseason, Brien owns a 70% career field goal percentage on seven-of-10 field goals. With the Jets, Brien converted three-of-six postseason field goal attempts, all taking place after the 2004 regular season, and hit a game winning 28-yard field goal in overtime at San Diego on January 8, 2005 in an AFC Wild Card game.

With the Jets in 2003, Brien’s 84.4% conversion percentage on field goals ranked third all-time in Club annals, while his 82.8% in 2004 ranked fifth all-time in the team’s record books. The former San Francisco draft choice in 1994 out of Cal-Berkeley kicked as a rookie with the 49ers before hooking on with the New Orleans Saints midway through the 1995 season. He performed for the Saints through the 2000 season, finishing as the second most accurate kicker in Saints’ history (82.6%). He ranks second all-time in Saints history in points scored (513) and FGM (123). He kicked for both the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001 and in 2002 with the Minnesota Vikings before joining the Jets in 2003 as an unrestricted free agent.

For his career, Brien, a native of Oakland and the famed De La Salle High School in the Bay Area, has scored 905 points.

Josh Evans Retires

JETS’ ANNOUNCE DT JOSH EVANS RETIREMENT FROM PRO FOOTBALL
New York City –
The New York Jets announced today the retirement of defensive tackle Josh Evans. The announcement was made by Jets’ Executive Vice President/General Manager Terry Bradway.
Evans, 6-3, 280 pounds, would have been entering his 10th NFL season in 2005. He re-signed with the Jets on Aril 5, 2005 while recovering from a back surgery that cost him the final 15 regular season games of the 2004 season. Evans underwent surgery and has cited his slow recovery from the back injury as the major reason behind his retirement.

“I just felt like it was time,” Evans, 32, said. “Physically I wasn’t able to do a lot of the things that I used to be able to do.” “I feel like I’m going out on a good note,” Evans continued. “I played in a Super Bowl and had a great game. That was a dream of mine since I could remember dreaming. I was blessed enough to experience that. There’s 100 million people growing up wishing to experience something like that, and fortunately for me, I got that chance.”

The native of Langdale, AL played in 93 regular season games throughout his career and made 53 starts, while accounting for 301 tackles, 21.5 sacks, seven passes defensed, four fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. He entered the league in 1995 as a rookie free agent with the Houston Oilers (1995-1996), moved with the team to Tennessee (1997-2001) and joined the Jets as an unrestricted free agent in 2002.

2005 Jets Schedule: A Closer Look

With the release of the NFL Schedule on Wednesday, NFL fans everwhere could smell the blood in the water. It is time. Time to start planning tail-gates. Time to break out the jerseys. Time to stock up on the beer. Sure, the games are still months away, but the schedule is out this week. Super Bowl dreams start now. With that in mind, JetNation offers a sneak peek at what we can expect this season, whenever it gets here. Weeks 1-4, the first part in a three-part series, below:

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Week 1: @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, September 11, 1:00 on CBS
Sportsline.com power ranking: 17
2004 Finish: 7-9

chiefs

The Skinny: Last season the Chiefs couldn’t stop anybody through the air and they weren’t too hot at stopping people on the ground, either. Bringing in Gunther Cunningham to run the D couldn’t compensate for the extreme lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball. Slow linebackers, combined with a physical, but undisciplined secondary, led to the Chiefs’ dead-last ranking against the pass in ’04. Though the front four can bring the pressure, the Chiefs could not mask their inability to cover receivers on any part of the field, and that led them to a 7-9 finish despite having the top offense in terms of yards-per-game, in the league.

On offense, the Chiefs are explosive, if inconsistent, ranking 1st overall in 2004 despite the lack of a true #1 wide receiver. Johnny Morton and Eddie Kennison, with Dante Hall in the slot, do not scare too many secondaries as a unit. However, TE Tony Gonzalez (102 receptions in ’04) and Priest Holmes (892 yards in 9 starts) continue to rewrite the history books at their respective positions. QB Trent Green, a talented but enigmatic passer, is dynamic one week, stupefyingly erratic the next. Last season he threw 27 TD’s, but also tossed up 17 INT’s–often putting an already struggling defense in bad positions on the field at inopportune times with his careless throws. The Chiefs real strength on offense is clearly their offensive line, with LT Willie Roaf, RG Will Shields, C Casey Wiegmann, LG Brian Waters and RT John Welbourne combining to dominate in both the running and passing games.

Additions/Subtractions: The Chiefs are desperately looking to patch holes in that porous linebacker corps and in the defensive backfield. They paid big bucks to ILB Kendrell Bell (Steelers) whose back may or may not be healed completely. Also, the team added the aging and slow playmaking SS Sammy Knight (Dolphins) and DE Carlos Hall (Titans) to help with the pass rush. The Chiefs are rumored to be the front runners to end up with soon-to-be-traded Dolphins CB Patrick Surtain, whose help in the secondary is needed.

Losses include back-up RB Derrick Blaylock, who filled in admirably for Priest Holmes with 539 yards in only 5 starts when Holmes went down with injury. Blaylock signed with the Jets as a UFA. The Chiefs also cut ties with disappointing DE Vonnie Holliday, who subsequently signed with the Dolphins.

Draft Position: 15th overall, first round
The DraftDaddy.com Mock Draft Pick:
Carlos Rogers, CB, Auburn~
Adding Surtain and Rogers in the same off-season would be a coup for the Chiefs, and will allow Gunther Cunningham to get back to his aggressive blitzing roots, knowing that his corners are capable of running with any receivers in the league. The Chiefs might also draft a WR with some size and speed on the first day, and then seek help at OLB and S. They need defensive speed in the worst way.

If the Jets hope to win this game: Jon McGraw, in his new role as designated TE stopper, will have to stick to Tony Gonzalez all over the field. McGraw’s size and speed make him a perfect fit for this assignment, and all credit goes to DC Donnie Henderson for finally figuring out what to do with McGraw’s unique talents. Chad Pennington, assuming he’s back from shoulder surgery, should find it relatively easy to break in his new arm against the Chiefs, even if they do add Surtain and Rogers. The Chiefs are a long way from establishing a cutthroat mentality on defense, and new Jets OC Mike Heimerdinger should have an easy time working in new sets against them.

Match-up to watch: The Jets defensive line versus the Chiefs offensive line~ This will be a great test for Dewayne Robertson, Sean Ellis and, if he’s still with the team, John Abraham to send an early message to the rest of the league that they have come out not only to play, but to dominate. Playing big against the Chiefs’ O-Line, widely considered the best group in the league, will give this Jets group a ton of confidence moving forward into the season.

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Week 2: MIAMI DOLPHINS
Sunday, September 18th, 4:15 on CBS
Sportsline.com power ranking: 30
2004 Finish: 4-12

dolphins

zach

The Skinny: The best thing you could say about the 2004 Dolphins is that they didn’t just all-out quit. Their dramatic Week 16 win against the Patriots in Miami under interim coach Jim Bates was inspiring and gave Dolphins fans hope for the upcoming season. Unfortunately, all the hope in the world is not going to help the Dolphins win any games next season. One can only hope that new HC Nick Saban received all of that Huizenga money up front because he is in for the rebuilding job of his life. Saban’s specialty was taking hopeless college teams and turning them around. Someone better tell Nick that it’s a little harder to do that in the AFC East than it is in the SEC or Big Ten.

The defense in 2004 played hard, but couldn’t overcome having to be on the field for most of the game as a result of a pitiful Dolphins offense that couldn’t stay on the field. MLB Zach Thomas and DE Jason Taylor will return to camp to try and learn new positions in Saban’s hybrid 3-4 alignment. This transition will be the story of the Dolphins season, as Saban is known as an arrogant guy who doesn’t relate well to veteran players. If Taylor or Thomas don’t take well to the 3-4, which neither player is well-suited to play, things could get testy in South Florida early on

The dramatic retirement of Ricky Williams right before camp opened last year ruined any chances the Dolphins had of competing on offense. It served Dave Wannstedt right for trying to build his offense and his team around a renowned flake like Williams. While Williams was off in the bush getting high, his offensive teammates were watching the 2004 season slip by. Jay Fiedler was replaced by A.J. Feeley early on and struggled, then was injured, and returned to struggle again. The few legitimate stars on offense–TE Randy McMichael and WR Chris Chambers–are hoping somebody emerges, whether it be Feeley or a high draft pick, to throw them the ball.

Additions/Subtractions: Saban has been scurrying, adding as many bodies as he can to try and change the losing atmosphere around the Dolphins facilities. Unfortunately, he hasn’t added any true impact players. The big name signing was Tennessee’s Kevin Carter, who comes in with a big price tag and will be expected to help shore up the inside of that defense. Carter’s best days are clearly behind him, but he can still be a steady, serviceable player when motivated. Adding OT’s Damion Cook (Cleveland) and Stockar McDougle (Detroit) as FA’s won’t do much to help a pathetic offensive line that couldn’t get out of its own way last season. Although replacing Todd Wade and John St. Clair at the tackle slots would be a smart move, neither McDougle nor Cook are significant upgrades.

Losses include QB Jay Fiedler (Jets), LB Morlon Greenwood (Texans) and SS Sammy Knight (Chiefs). Losing Fiedler could come back to bite the Dolphins if, as expected, they end up drafting RB in the first round and A.J. Feeley turns out to not be a #1 QB. Greenwood received an obsene amount of money to leave for Houston, and it’s a shame, as he is just the type of young, developing player that Saban could have used. Knight’s loss won’t be felt so much from a performance standpoint, rather, the Dolphins will miss his leadership. Still, his lack of speed hurt them at times last season, so all in all, it’s not a tremendous loss.

Draft Position: 2nd overall, first round
The DraftDaddy.com Mock Draft Pick:
Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn~
Picking up a back like Brown will be an absolute necessity for the Dolphins if they hope to win anything next season. Brown is big, fast and has great hands, so he has every chance to be an excellent player for them, even if the offensive line takes some time to gel. Brown can runn effectively outside or inside, though he’s not a great creator on the move. Still young backs have done well coming into the league running behind less-than-ideal talent blocking for them. LaDanian Tomlinson immediately comes to mind. If new OC Scott Linehan is smart, and he is, he’ll make sue to move Brown around alot on offense to keep him from getting pounded early on.

If the Jets hope to win this game: Their offensive line is going to have to keep Jason Taylor off of Chad Pennington’s back. If, as Herm Edwards predicted, Adrian Jones opens the season as the starter at left tackle, Jason Taylor could give young Jones an education in how to get beat like a rug. Jones struggled terribly in limited pre-season action last season against speed rushers, and if he draws Jason Taylor in his second outing, Jones, and the Jets, could be in for a long afternoon.

Match-up to watch: MLB Jonathan Vilma versus RB Ronnie Brown~ Brown is a 230 lb. sledgehammer when he gets a head of steam going, and he could cause some problems for the smaller Vilma, particularly if the Jets defensive line proves vulnerable after the loss in free agency of DT Jason Ferguson. If Fergy’s replacements can’t shield Vilma from getting hung up in traffic, Brown could have a field day against the Jets D.

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Week 3: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Sunday, September 25th, 1:00 on CBS
Sportsline.com power ranking: 10
2004 Finish: 9-7

jags

The Skinny: Mirroring their Head Coach, the Jaguars are a tough, gritty, if unspectacular team. Jack DelRio has them headed in the right direction, with a combination of good young players and heady veterans. That said, the Jags are going to have to find a way to stay healthy in key spots, as well as hope that Byron Leftwich continues his progress towards becoming a Pro Bowl quarterback.

On offense, Leftwich struggled mightily at times against complicated blitzing schemes. While he finished the season completing over 60% of his passes, Leftwich was exposed a few times as being incapable of checking down to his 3rd and 4th reads. Adding some quality receivers will help, to be sure, but the key on offense is Leftwich. RB Fred Taylor contributed his usual performance in ’04, splitting time between flashes of greatness and stays on the injured list. If he was ever able to put a full season together, Taylor could be an All-Pro back, but that seems to be wishful thinking at this point. 87 year-old Jimmy Smith is still plugging along and still getting open, but outside of Smith, there’s little else for Leftwich to throw to. ’04 rookie wideouts Ernest Wilford and disappointing first round pick Reggie Williams struggled to adjust to the speed of the pro game, and left Leftwich on his own looking for them downfield, but with no luck. Any improvement in Williams’ and Wilford’s ability to get open with their great size, will help Leftwich immeasurably.

Defensively, the Jags have the best defensive tackle combo in the league with John Henderson and Marcus Stroud teaming up inside to stuff running games and get great pressure. The linebackers have great potential, and are young, fast and tough in Daryl Smith and Akin Ayodele leading the way here. Although they struggled at times with over-aggressive play, DelRio is committed to molding a hard-nosed and hard-hitting unit. The weakness on the Jags’ defense is in the secondary, where Rashean Mathis is a solid, ball-hawking corner, but outside of him, there’s little else. Stalwart SS Donovin Darius, upset at the state of his contract, is committed to getting himself traded out of Jacksonville before the draft, and ownership seems willing to oblige him, but only for the right deal. If Darius is gone as expected, there could be three new starters in teh Jaguars’ secondary. Last year’s starters at the other corner slot, Dewayne Washington and Juran Bolden are no longer with the team, and help is desperately needed here in order to make DelRio’s system work. FS Deon Grant, one of Jacksonville’s big ’04 free agent signings, was a major disappointment and could be replaced. Still, the Jags finished 10th overall in yards allowed on defense, due mainly to great play by their interior defensive linemen.

Additions/Subtractions: There’s nothing much of note on this front. The big news would be the potential trade of Darius to anyone willing to take on a big contract for a declining, limited strong safety in exchange for a Day One draft pick–not very likely. The Jags signed CB Terry Cousin (Giants) and DB Kenny Wright (Texans), possibly to man a safety slot. Gone are CB’s Juran Bolden and Dewayne Washington, who were both terrible for the Jags in ’04.

Draft Position: 21st overall, first round
The DraftDaddy.com Mock Draft Pick:
Adam “Pac-Man” Jones, CB, West Virginia~
Getting a value pick like Jones this late in the first round would bring alot of cheers in the Jags’ War Room on Draft Day. Jones’s value was hurt when he ran in the 4.5’s during his pro day after it was widely believed that he would run a sub-4.4/40. Still, Jones is a great competitor and a quick, tough corner who will complement Mathis’s skills well in the Jags defensive backfield. DelRio may also look at a pass-rusher like Matt Roth, if he’s available, to work alongside his horses at defensive tackle in Henderson and Stroud.

If the Jets hope to win this game: OC Mike Heimerdinger will have to come up an answer for Stroud and Henderson inside. The Jags ranked 10th overall against the rush last season because they controlled the middle of the field with their defensive tackles. The Jets will have an easier time dropping back and passing and letting Coles and McCareins run after the catch against what promises to be a porous secondary group, even with the addition of Pac-Man Jones. On defense, the Jets and DC Donnie Henderson will switch things up to confuse Byron Leftwich, making him have to think about where he needs to go with the ball. The Jags offensive line struggled to protect the immobile Leftwich last season, so Sean Ellis and John Abraham could have monster games against Mike Pearson and Ephram Salaam. This will be the Jets’ home opener, so they should be able to cause Letwich all kinds of problems.

Match-up to watch: RB Derrick Blaylock versus OLB Akin Ayodele~ Ayodele is one of the most athletic OLB’s in the league, and if the Jets are forced to stop pounding it inside with Curtis Martin, Blaylock, with his speed and quickness, could get the call to try the outside of that Jacksonville front seven. In that case, Ayodele’s ability to track Blaylock might become the difference in the game. Providing that change of pace to Curtis Martin is exactly why Blaylock was signed away from Kansas City. He might get the chance to prove he can do it here.

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Week 4: @ Baltimore RavensSunday, October 2nd, 4:05 on CBS
Sportsline.com power ranking: 5th
2004 Finish: 9-7
>ravens logo

ralew

The Skinny: If the brain-trust of Brain Billick, Jim Fassel and Rick Neuheisel, all offensive masterminds, can’t make Kyle Boller into a serviceable quarterback by the time the second pre-season game rolls around, they should eject Boller into outer space immediately thereafter. The Ravens can shut people down on defense, but offensively, they follow Boller’s lead, and that was enough to earn them the dead last ranking in the passing yards-per-game category. Not that the Ravens aspire to throw the ball all over the ballpark, but in order to compete for a championship, Boller has to do better than 13 TD’s to go along with 11 picks. Now in his third year, Boller is going to have to step up and be “the guy.” Jamal Lewis continues to pound on opposing defenses, but the plan would seem to be to take some pressure off of him by opening up the offense, particularly by throwing it to TE Todd Heap. Heap, injured for much of last season, is a dynamic weapon when healthy and will make life easier for everyone around him if he can avoid injury. Young WR Clarence Moore is a huge target who came on late last year, but the Ravens desperately need a legitimate game-breaker at the wideout slot. Having been rebuffed in their attempts to trade for Terrel Owens last season and Randy Moss during this off-season (neither wanting any part of reeling in Boller’s frisbee tosses), the Ravens will have to find some luck in the draft to fill that hole.

Defensively, the Ravens return what may be the scariest unit, man for man, in the league. It all starts with MLB Ray Lewis, of course, but add in DE Terrell Suggs, OLB Peter Boulware, SS Ed Reed, CB Chris McAlister and free agent pick-ups OLB Tommy Polley and CB Samari Rolle, and there isn’t an offene out there that they can’t match up with effectively. With the loss of DC Mike Nolan to San Francisco, the Ravens will switch back to the 4-3, where Lewis is more comfortable, and where Suggs can go back to his more natural position at DE. While they were still a tough group, the Ravens D lost a little bit of its swagger in the 3-4, as it seemed they each spent too much time reading and reacting instead of attacking. This season, the dogs will be let loose, and the rest of the league is on alert.

Additions/Subtractions: The Ravens had some pretty significant losses in ILB Edgerton Hartwell (Falcons) and CB Gary Baxter (Browns), not to mention starting wideouts Travis Taylor (Vikings) and Kevin Johnson (Released). However, Ozzie Newsome moved quickly to replace them with WR Derrick Mason (Titans), OLB Tommy Polley (Rams) and CB Samari Rolle (Titans). The WR losses won’t hurt too much, as both Taylor and Johnson were ineffective anyway, and the position needed to be re-worked regardless. Mason is a good start towards that.

Draft Position: 22nd overall, first round
The DraftDaddy.com Mock Draft Pick:
Mark Clayton, WR, Oklahoma~
Clayton, though lacking elite size, might be the most polished WR in the draft after Mike Williams. Clayton has experience playing with talented, yet flaky, QB’s, considering he played with Jason White for four years at Oklahoma. Clayton is quicker than he is fast, which is saying something considering Clayton runs a 4.4/40. His route-running is pristine, and his hands are immaculate, which will help Boller immeasurably. The guy that Clayton is most often compared to is Colts WR Marvin Harrison, not just because of his similar size, but also because of their playing styles, which reflect a ‘sixth sense’ towards getting themselves open at any time. Now, if Boller can just borrow some of Peyton Manning’s brain cells…

If the Jets hope to win the game: They’re going to have to find a way to control Ray Lewis and keep the football out of Ed Reed’s hands. The Jets actually match up well with the Ravens, as they don’t get rattled by the Ravens’ physical style. However, the Jets have to find ways to close out these games coming down the stretch and come away with the win. Seemingly every Jets-Ravens game is won by the Ravens lat in the fourth quarter. Sure, this is a product of the Ravens not scoring a ton of points, but you have to give the Jets credit for not backing down to Ray Lewis and crew. If the Jets are going to win this game, they are going to have to continue to put the clamps on Boller, and they’re going to have to get into the end zone at least three times, whether it’s on a kick return or on interception/fumble returns. With Fassel calling plays and with Neuheisel coaching up Boller, that Ravens offense may come out and surprise next year. Also worth noting is that the Ravens will be coming off of a Week 3 Bye for this game while the Jets will be coming off of two very physical back-to-back games against the Dolphins and the Jaguars.

Match-up to watch: Herm Edwards versus the NY media. Herm and Dick Curl were embarrassed last season when they butchered the clock management at the end of the Ravens game, after which Herman tried to blame everyone from Quincy Carter to Quincy Jones for the screw-up. Even though OC Heimerdinger will be running the clock operations this season by himself, the media could be looking to pick at the scab of 2004’s humiliation. Particularly if the team is off to a rough start, this could be the first Herman blow-up of the year. Hw he handles it could set the tempo for the rest of a tough season. Flava Herm will have to be ready for the onslaught of barbs, or his team could fracture in front of him.

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Coming soon:October 9th (Sunday) TAMPA BAY – 1:00 pm (FOX)
October 16th (Sunday) at Buffalo – 4:15 pm (CBS)
October 24th (Monday) at Atlanta – 9:00 pm (ABC)
October 30th (Sunday) – BYE
November 6th (Sunday) SAN DIEGO – 1:00 pm (CBS)
November 13th (Sunday) at Carolina – 4:05 pm (CBS)
November 20th (Sunday) at Denver – 4:15 pm (CBS)
November 27th (Sunday) NEW ORLEANS – 8:30 pm (ESPN)
December 4th (Sunday) at New England – 4:15 pm (CBS)
December 11th (Sunday) OAKLAND – 1:00 pm (CBS)
December 18th (Sunday) at Miami – 1:00 pm (CBS)
December 26th (Monday) NEW ENGLAND – 9:00 pm (ABC)
January 1st (Sunday) BUFFALO – 1:00 pm ( CBS)