Chasing the alltime rushing mark, Martin is 10 for 10 in 1,000-yard seasons.
at Kansas City
at New England
Adrian Jones, a fourth-round draft pick in 2004, wasn't part of the offense last year. But after free-agent right tackle Kareem McKenzie left for the Giants in the off-season, Jones was plugged into that spot. "Really light on his feet," center Kevin Mawae says of the 6'4", 303-pound converted tight end. "His toughness? Well, every day in practice he goes against Shaun Ellis, and that'll toughen a guy up in a hurry." Says Jones, "I'd rather protect the quarterback than catch his passes."
Chad Pennington's tender shoulder ... a big hole at nosetackle. ... Such pivotal issues will decide whether this club goes far in the postseason
Here are four reasons why the Jets will go deep into the 2005 playoffs:
• Chad Pennington is back and throwing. Not only that, he's throwing to his favorite receiver again, Laveranues Coles. Two years ago Coles went to the Redskins in free agency and no one groaned louder than Pennington: Of his 39 third-down passes to Coles in 2002, 28 were caught -- all for first downs.
Also, Pennington will be working out of new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger's system, which allows, according to the quarterback, "more audibles, more freedom to control the game. No knock on [former coordinator] Paul Hackett, but his idea was to let the system work for you."
For a guy like Pennington, who's brainy as well as courageous, it's a perfect setup. The club also has longtime Dolphins starter Jay Fiedler as backup, the best for the Jets since, oh, how about Babe Parilli?
• The offensive line is the finest in the division. Nothing undermines a team's production more than a shaky O-line. Kevin Mawae is the best center in the league. Left guard Pete Kendall brought the running package together last season. There's a new right tackle, second-year player Adrian Jones, a streamlined 303-pounder with dancing feet.
• Curtis Martin, who ranks fourth on the NFL career rushing list, is showing no signs of slowing down. He has run for more than 1,000 yards in each of his 10 seasons in the league. At this rate he'll break Emmitt Smith's record of 18,355 yards in '09. At age 36.
• Impassioned defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson has lit a fire under his unit. End Bryan Thomas, a 2002 first-round draft choice once considered a bust, proved to be a highly skilled and technically proficient run-stopper in the base 4-3, so much so that Henderson is considering starting him and turning a Pro Bowl player, John Abraham, into a situation rusher. At the other end is Shaun Ellis, a pocket collapser and another Pro Bowler. Jonathan Vilma was an explosive and instinctive middle linebacker as a rookie last year. And in August the Jets added another reliable pro to the roster, cornerback Ty Law.
Here are four reasons why the Jets won't go deep into the 2005 playoffs.
• Pennington will tell you that his throwing shoulder is fine after off-season surgery, but nobody knows for sure. He toughed it out through the playoffs last season with a torn rotator cuff. "It wasn't that it hurt so much," he says. "It's just that every throw felt different, one great, one not so great. Fighting the doubt and inconsistency, that was the biggest challenge."
• There are additional medical concerns. Let's face it, Law's a gamble, coming back from a broken foot that sidelined him for the second half of the Patriots' season in 2004. That's why the club built all those provisions into his contract. Then word got out that promising third-year defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson has an arthritic left knee. There's little or no cartilage; it's bone against bone. The team's position is that everyone knew about it before the Jets traded up in the first round of the '03 draft to get him. "No big deal," coach Herman Edwards says. "I played with the same thing." Yeah, Herm, but you weighed 194 pounds and Robertson goes 315.
• The Jets won't be the same without nosetackle Jason Ferguson, a free agent who left for the Cowboys. He's one of the league's best. He kept blockers off the undersized Vilma. "He did the dirty work," Vilma says. "I got the glory." The dirty work will be done by committee now.
• The Jets will struggle with clock management. Last year they were so concerned about it that they turned one of their assistants, Dick Curl, into a clockologist, a time-study specialist. He stood next to Edwards on the sideline, and they still butchered the clock. They also made some weird crunch-time decisions, most of which involved playing it safe, being satisfied with a field goal rather than trying to win a game boldly, aggressively, the way a young team should. In the divisional playoffs against the Steelers, the Jets took a knee to set up a 43-yard field goal -- and missed -- instead of going for the winning touchdown, or at least a closer shot for their kicker. Whew!
The Jets can't help but be good, given their personnel. But which is it going to be? Very good, or pretty good?