Jets Step Into the Past With Their Uniforms

Ryan thought about it. He decided Jones-Drew was a little like , who spent most of his career with the Boston Patriots (and was actually 6 inches taller and 25 pounds heavier than the 5-foot-7, 209-pound Jones-Drew). But wait. Ryan said Jones-Drew was also like , the 5-foot-11, 195-pound ex-Jet.

“We’re in throwback mode,” Ryan said. “We’ll go back a little bit.”

Nance and Boozer stopped roaming gridirons more than 30 years ago, but the A.F.L., in which Ryan’s father, Buddy, coached, is never too far away. This week, to hear Ryan tell it, the early days of the A.F.L. will come back to haunt fans in the guise of throwback uniforms.

For the first time in two years and the only time this season, the Jets will wear replicas of the blue and gold uniforms worn from 1960-62 by their predecessors, the Titans of New York, when they host Jacksonville on Sunday. Ryan said Wednesday that he knew what most fans thought of that idea.

“I know with our fans there is some grumbling with us wearing the Titans’ stuff, the blue,” said Ryan, who happened to be wearing a blue Titans hooded sweatshirt at the time. “Let me just explain it to you this way: We are 4-1 in those blue uniforms. So anything for a win.”

He continued: “It doesn’t matter if it was purple, we’d be wearing the purple. Anyway, I think our players kind of like it. The fans, I understand, are not really happy by it, but just bear with us for just this one game. Let’s make it 5-1, and we’ll all be happy.”

Reader comments about the throwback uniforms on the Jets’ Web site this week have been decidedly negative. Blue and gold are Cub Scouts colors, one wrote. Another wrote the uniforms should be buried in the Meadowlands with Jimmy Hoffa.

Ryan is correct. The Jets have won four of five games since introducing the blue throwback jerseys in 2007. (They are 1-1 in white Titans jerseys.) If the Jets wear throwback uniforms, the fans say, they should use the green uniforms and helmets from the 1980s.

But Ryan is also correct about something else: His players like the throwbacks.

“I love them,” said this week. “They give us some sweet gear and sweatshirts and all that. It’s really cool. I love those jerseys.”

They are, the players say, a nice change of pace. They do not seem to hamper the Jets’ ability to win games. The Jets practiced in their blue helmets Thursday and Friday, tight end Dustin Keller said, and no one appeared to be confused.

“Everybody likes a little throwback every once in a while,” defensive tackle Sione Pouha said.

When told that the Titans were not a very good or popular team, winning only 19 of 42 games in their three seasons, Pouha said: “I don’t know that much about them. I know they used to be the Titans. It adds a little scenery, a little color.”

Keller had heard that the Titans were not good. They finished 7-7 in each of their first two seasons, then were 5-9 in 1962. The team was renamed the Jets in 1963 and adopted green and white as their colors. Weeb Ewbank became their coach, and they won the six years later.

“You’ve still got to pay your respects to the past,” Keller said of the Titans era.

Keller likes the throwback uniforms, too. So does the 37-year-old receiver Derrick Mason, who played for the Tennessee Titans, whose forerunners were the Houston Oilers, then spent six years with the Baltimore Ravens, who used to be the Cleveland Browns. “I like these colors — I wish we’d wear them all of the time,” Mason said. “Baltimore didn’t have throwbacks, but that’s good, because the uniforms they used to wear were ugly.”

He said of the throwback uniforms, “It’s history, a tradition.”

Told that the Titans of New York were not such a good team, Mason smiled and said: “I know. But, luckily, we are.”


Rex Ryan said linebacker David Harris (toe), receiver Santonio Holmes (knee and quadriceps muscle) and safety Eric Smith (ankle) were limited in practice Friday and were questionable for Sunday’s game. “I do feel good about David,” he said of Harris’s chances of playing, but he was not as optimistic about Holmes and Smith.

Tights Ends Have a History of Shredding the Jets’ Defense

The Jets know that such plays are coming. With Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, two superb cornerbacks on the outside, teams often test the Jets toward the middle of the field. Preventing them has become a weekly challenge, as it will again on Sunday, when another elite tight end visits MetLife Stadium. Marcedes Lewis of Jacksonville is as big (6 feet 6 inches) as Witten, 10 pounds heavier at 275, and, according to Ryan, faster.

The Jets feel that they can concentrate on stopping and the dynamic running back Maurice Jones-Drew, a luxury they did not have when preparing for the Cowboys, who also have two elite receivers and running backs with receiving skills. Lewis did not practice again Thursday because of an injured calf, but the Jets are preparing as if he will play.

The Jets want to be physical with Lewis, but not to the point of vicious collisions off the snap. Mike Pettine, the defensive coordinator, said he would tell his players not to crash into Lewis because players of that size and strength bounce off. A good shove off the line of scrimmage, by a linebacker or a defensive end, should work, helping the player actually assigned to cover Lewis.

While watching tape on Monday morning, Pettine noticed that the Cowboys lined up Witten at receiver, a change that curtailed the defender’s ability to disrupt his route. He expects the Jaguars to do the same with Lewis.

“Anytime you play a tight end like that, they don’t want you putting your hands on them,” safety Brodney Pool said. “It messes with guys if you bump them, rough them up, so they don’t run freely.”

Pass-catching tight ends present matchup nightmares for defenses. Deploying a cornerback to cover a Witten or a Lewis might appear an easy solution, but on rushing plays the tight end, bunched closer to the line of scrimmage and in full blocking mode, has a size and strength advantage.

So the Jets, like many teams, prefer a linebacker or a safety, players who in theory can cover them while holding their own in run support. On Witten’s big play Sunday, that responsibility fell to safety Eric Smith, who was left alone in coverage. Witten juked him off the snap, beating him inside, and gained separation about 5 yards from the line as he ran a seam route.

The Jets’ troubles with tight ends date to last season, when some of the league’s best — Todd Heap, Ben Watson, Aaron Hernandez — shredded them for long gains and touchdowns; in all, 10 posted catches of at least 20 yards against the Jets.

That list included Joel Dreessen of Houston, who is not considered an elite tight end, but amassed 106 yards and a touchdown. Rough games against the Patriots, whose tight ends combined for 19 catches and 286 yards in the teams’ three meetings, accentuated the problem.

Yet, there exists a chance that their shortcomings might be at once overstated and misleading. According to game charting by Football Outsiders, in 2010 the Jets ranked ninth in defending tight ends, down from fourth in 2009, allowing 44.8 yards per game. That figure could be as low it is because of a stroke of good fortune; they faced teams like Green Bay and Denver at points in the schedule when their top tight ends were unavailable.

Even so, a week after allowing 110 yards to Witten, the Jets are aware of their perceived deficiencies and are determined not to let Lewis have similar success. For starters, they know what Jacksonville intends to do.

“They’re going to try to get the ball to Marcedes in the middle of the field,” Revis said.


Linebacker David Harris sat out practice for a second consecutive day because of a toe injury, but Coach Rex Ryan said he expected him to play Sunday.

Jets’ Defense Removes All Doubt Against Jaguars

But over by the far bank of lockers, where Darrelle Revis resides, there was a brief lecture given in Trash-Talking 101.

It was one thing that his coach, Rex Ryan, and the team’s defensive staff had challenged the unit to improve after a leaky game last week, to match expectation with performance. It was quite another for a Jaguars backup receiver, Jason Hill, to insinuate that Revis did not deserve his reputation as the best shutdown cornerback in football. Revis said he was “so sad, so sad, so sad” that Hill did not play Sunday because of a hip injury.

“I guess he got the New York Jets flu,” Revis said.

If so, Hill must have spread it among his teammates. The Jets’ defense, when it harasses, pesters and swarms as it did Sunday, has that effect on teams. It can make them sick. On a day when offset two touchdown passes with two interceptions, he looked like Joe Namath compared with his Jacksonville counterpart, Luke McCown, who was sacked for a safety and completed nearly as many passes to Jets defenders (four) as he did to his own players (six). McCown’s quarterback rating was 1.8 — the lowest ever against the Jets.

“That’s not my personal record, but we’re working on it,” Ryan said.

Next week, perhaps? Through two games, the Jets are 2-0, just as they expected, just as they planned, heading into a stretch of three difficult games away from MetLife Stadium — at Oakland, Baltimore and New England.

They are 2-0 despite a modest showing by Sanchez, who after throwing for 182 yards flogged himself for committing two more turnovers, and an ankle injury to the All-Pro center Nick Mangold, who hobbled around in a boot and on crutches. X-rays were negative, but a magnetic resonance imaging test is expected Monday.

“Just blocking, I got rolled up on,” said Mangold, who declined to speculate on his status. “And then, pain.”

When they review the game tape Monday, the Jets are bound to identify several trouble spots, among them Sanchez’s interceptions, their seven penalties and an offensive line that worked to gain continuity after Mangold was replaced in the first quarter by Colin Baxter.

But on first blush, Ryan said he was pleased, pleased that both areas that had been isolated for improvement — first-quarter efficiency and defense, as a whole — had rewarded him.

During their team meeting Saturday night, Ryan challenged his offense, which had not produced a first-quarter touchdown in 16 games. If the Jets won the coin toss, he said, he would defy his standard philosophy of deferring to the second half. We’re taking the ball, he told them.

“He mentioned it,” right guard Brandon Moore said, allowing a brief smile as he expressed an understatement.

So when the Jets, represented at midfield by the entire offensive line and fullback John Conner, as if to punctuate Ryan’s point, did win the toss, Sanchez responded by directing a 65-yard drive capped by Santonio Holmes’s leaping 17-yard catch in the end zone. On the play, Holmes beat Drew Coleman, who had about as good a day as the Jacksonville secondary’s other former Jet, Dwight Lowery, who later delivered a late hit on Sanchez.

Sanchez popped up then to continue that third-quarter drive, which ended with Dustin Keller’s 11-yard touchdown catch, but left with the score 32-3 after being struck on the hand by Matt Roth on his final pass attempt.

Sanchez bemoaned his failed conversions and missed opportunities, lamenting how the Jets should have scored more points — and more often — than the two second-quarter field goals by Nick Folk. But the Jets could afford to live with such inefficiency because of a defense that took exception to yielding 390 yards last week to Dallas and, to a lesser extent, being reminded all week of how Jacksonville manhandled it during the teams’ last meeting, in November 2009.

“Constantly,” said Calvin Pace, who added of Ryan: “He’s always hard on defense. Rex doesn’t really give us a lot of love. It’s always not enough. It keeps us in the right mind frame.”

Antonio Cromartie had two interceptions, nearly returning one for a touchdown, and also averaged 42.5 yards on two kickoff returns. Eric Smith settled for one interception, though he could have had three. Muhammad Wilkerson, two games into his Jets career, has already produced more sacks than Vernon Gholston, the team’s last first-round pick at defensive end. It was Wilkerson who in the first quarter grabbed McCown at the Jaguars’ 1 and tossed him into the end zone like a sandbag. The safety gave the Jets a 9-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.

“Obviously, at that point, you’ve got them on their heels,” safety Jim Leonhard said. “You can start getting more aggressive and coming after them, and that’s what we did. We didn’t let up today. With the talent that we have, if we execute the game well and don’t make mistakes, we can do this to teams.”

By Ryan’s convoluted math, conference games are worth a game and a quarter in the standings, and so their next nine games will carry extra importance. At times, they played sloppily on Sunday. At times, their offense sputtered, though it did gain 101 yards on the ground.

But an overmatched opponent is no match at all for the Jets, whose fans recognized as much. Pockets of empty seats began forming early in the second half, and grew bigger as the fourth quarter started. Those who did stick around ostensibly did so to revel in a blowout, as rare around these parts for the Jets as steak tartare. It tasted just as good, too.

“When we watch the film tomorrow,” Revis said, “it should be all hoorays.”