NFL Wire News

New tone set by Jets head coach Bowles


The Sports Xchange

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — As is usually the case for the New York Jets, there was plenty of chaos surrounding the franchise during training camp. But the Geno Smith and Sheldon Richardson headaches aside, the Jets enter the regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium in the process of carving out a new identity under the new regime of head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan; one of no-nonsense accountability that was often missing under former head coach Rex Ryan and ex-general managers Mike Tannenbaum and John Idzik.

Bowles began setting the tone July 31, the day after news broke of Richardson’s arrest following a high-speed car chase in Missouri. The Jets found out about the incident, in which he was charged with resisting arrest and other traffic violations after being clocked at 143 mph, via news reports hours after Richardson, who was suspended for four games by the NFL earlier in July following repeated failed marijuana tests, reported to training camp.

While Bowles expressed great concern for Richardson’s well-being – “Right now I’m just worried about getting him help” — he also made it clear the Jets weren’t going to wait around for the third-year defensive end to get his life in order.

“We can win without him,” Bowles said. “It would probably be more fun with him, but we’re prepared to win without him.”

Bowles further put his stamp on the Jets following the most embarrassing moment of the summer: the locker-room fight Aug. 11 in which Smith had his jaw broken in a locker room fight with former linebacker IK Enemkpali over money Smith owed Enemkpali.

Hours later, Bowles — as understated behind a podium as Ryan is verbose — said plenty without saying a lot.

“The whole thing was childish,”? Bowles said. “It was tit for tat. He say, she say. Some high school stuff they could have handled better than they handled it.”

Jets players followed Bowles’ lead in decrying the role of both players in the incident. There was none of the winking “boys will be boys” attitude so regularly exhibited by Ryan, whose new employer, the Buffalo Bills, claimed Enemkpali off waivers less than a day after he was dumped by the Jets.

“My answer is to not let it get to that situation,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “Obviously, to get to that point, something had to be going on. Gene and IK should’ve handled themselves as men.”

Later in August — after a pair of fight-filled practices and a 30-22 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 21 in which the Jets committed 17 penalties — Bowles instituted a new policy: The Jets would run “gassers” if they are penalized more than five times in a practice.

“I know professional guys don’t want to run,” Bowles said.

Ryan’s solution to sloppy practices? Having everyone in and out of uniform do pushups. And when his response was decidedly different than Bowles’ when the Jets committed a franchise-record 20 penalties in a win over the Bills on Sept. 22, 2013.

“I love the fact that our team found a way to win,” Ryan said, “Take away all the other stuff; we found a way to persevere and we won and that is really encouraging to me.”

Of course, it remains to be seen if the new approach translates into the regular season. And there is still potential for chaos within the ranks. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall has specialized in generating distractions throughout a nine-year career in which he’s played for three teams, none of whom have made the playoffs.

But with Ryan Fitzpatrick, with none of Smith’s tools but all the maturity the 25 year old lacks, behind center and Richardson out of sight and out of mind as he begins serving what will be at least a four-game suspension, Bowles has made it clear: The adults are in charge now.

“We’re not where we want to be yet,” Bowles said. “But we’re not where we were, so we’re making good progress.”

–After spending the final three weeks of the exhibition season looking for a more experienced backup quarterback than rookie Bryce Petty, the Jets’ backup quarterback to open the regular season will be … Bryce Petty.

Neither transaction was a surprise. Matt Flynn, who had a hamstring injury when he signed with the Jets on Aug 18, nor Josh Johnson who signed Aug. 27, saw game action until the preseason finale against the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday. The Jets could choose to sign Flynn, Johnson or another veteran following the regular-season opener, after which salaries are not fully guaranteed.

Still, there is an element of risk involved in rolling with Petty as the backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick, even just for one game. There was little evidence during the preseason — when Petty was 27-of-45 for 260 yards and one touchdown — that the fourth-round pick was ready to handle any sort of regular-season action.

Such rawness from Petty, who is transitioning into a pro-style offense following his collegiate career at Baylor, was expected when the Jets selected him last spring.

“We are trying to develop him,” head coach Todd Bowles said May 2. “Obviously when he gets in here you have to change foot mechanics and different schemes.”

Now the Jets have to hope Petty’s development doesn’t get dramatically hastened.

–The day after final cuts is always the cruelest day for those who believe they made the opening-week roster, only to lose their spot during what ex-Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum used to call “the mini-draft.” But even by those standards, the twist of fate experienced over the weekend by safety Rontez Miles seemed particularly unkind.

Miles, who played one game with the Jets in 2013 and suffered a freak leg injury two days after being promoted from the practice squad last December, appeared to make the Jets as a backup safety after leading the team with 23 preseason tackles and scoring a touchdown on a fumble return. He even Tweeted his appreciation later Saturday.

But Miles was cut Sunday, when the Jets claimed safety Ronald Martin off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks. Miles still has practice-squad eligibility, so could re-sign with the Jets if he clears waivers.

“Whatever happens, I just thank the Jets and the coaching staff for even letting me play,” Miles said following the preseason finale against the Eagles. “(I had the) second-most reps this preseason. In the previous two years, I barely got half of that. So the fact that I got this many reps, I’m comfortable. I’ve got tape and I know I can play.”

–The day after cutdown day was considerably kinder to wide receiver Chris Owusu, who was released Saturday by the Jets but re-signed Sunday after he cleared waivers. Owusu, whose exhibition season was interrupted by a concussion, will likely serve as the Jets’ final wide receiver and kickoff returner. He had five catches for 72 yards and a touchdown in the preseason and averaged almost 32 yards per kickoff return.

Oft-injured cornerback Dee Milliner will begin the season on injured reserve, designated for return.

Milliner suffered a broken right wrist during practice on Aug. 6. The designation means Milliner must sit out until at least the ninth week of the season, when the Jets host the Jacksonville Jaguars. By that point, he will have missed 23 out of 39 games as a professional.

Milliner, who underwent five surgeries prior to being drafted by the Jets in the first round of the 2013 draft, suffered a high ankle sprain last summer that cost him the season opener before tearing his Achilles tendon on Oct. 12.

About The Sports Xchange

Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business