FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — This Sunday the Jets and their playfully named receiving core, the Flight Boys, will be cleared for take off against the Dallas Cowboys in front of a packed home crowd at MetLife Stadium. But are they really ‘boys’ anymore? At 27 entering his sixth season in the league, Santonio Holmes is the youngest of the big three receivers. And with the additions of Plaxico Burress, 34, and Derrick Mason, 37, — who may be young at heart, but are hardly considered ‘boys’ — it’s time for the Jets’ receivers to re-introduce themselves.
They are the Flight Men.
And that is no knock on the receiving core, either. The amount of experience this receiving core has — let’s not forget one of Mark Sanchez’s favorite targets Dustin Keller, who is entering his fifth year in the league — should alleviate the inconsistencies this offense showed last year. And with Holmes being the longest tenured receiver on this team [albeit one year], he’s taking it upon himself to ensure that his newly acquired teammates will be up to speed and produce early on.
“I’m pretty much teaching the guys about our system. Every time the coach goes to correct those guys, I tell the coach, ‘I got him’. He can probably learn moreso hearing it from his fellow wide receiver,” Holmes said.
It’s going to take that extra work with his fellow savvy veterans to avoid a poor opening game like last season, a game Holmes was not a part of. It’s going to be important to start off fast offensively, while not shooting themselves in the foot once they enter the red zone.
“Obviously, we didn’t play very well. I don’t know whether we were pressing. I know we missed some plays early. We had a fumble early that kind of caught up off-guard. We didn’t play very well and we didn’t coach very well. I don’t think that’ll be ” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said of last year’s opener against the Baltimore Ravens.
Last year’s game did have former Jets wideout Braylon Edwards, who was one of the leaders of the Flight Boys and also had his fair share off-the-field drama, who is now no longer with the team. Whether it was his DUI case or lawsuit stemming from a Cleveland bar fight that involved members from LeBron James’ entourage, it could be argued he took away from his and the offense’s on-the-field successes.
That is not the case this year, given the maturity and veteran presence of this team, when the opening kick-off is returned (or maybe downed is more likely) they will be focused on the task at hand.
“You know you’ve got a task at hand. Take the time out to give respect to those who lost their lives, to those who were [affected by 9/11], to those who volunteered and everything else,” Derrick Mason said about dealing with the emotions of September 11th on Sunday. “Give your time and your prayers and then after that, you have a task at hand and that’s to go out there and play football.”
And staying focused on producing on offensive side of the ball is the top priority for this team. Despite a revamped Cowboys defense — thanks to Rex Ryan’s twin brother, Rob, taking over as the team’s defensive coordinator — the Jets should take advantage of a hurting Dallas secondary. Both starting cornerbacks for Dallas are currently injured, with Mike Jenkins limited in practice this week due to neck and knee injuires and Terrance Newman unable to practice due to a groin injury, spelling for a mismatch in the favor of the Jets — on paper at least.
“We’re aware of everything that is being reported. We have our plan. We’ll go into the game plan with what we want to do, and then we’ll adjust from there. Fortunately for us, looking at all the preseason film, the guys that probably are going to line up and play, played. In this case, we can actually say, ‘OK, here’s this guy covering this route. Here’s how he handles motions,’ so that’s a benefit for us,” Schottenheimer said.
Having that type of preparation coupled with facing a banged up or second string secondary will only help an already potent receiving core get an extra leg up on their competition.
“Some teams want to try to shove the coverage and get up over the top. If you do that, you isolate someone on the backside, whether its the tight end like Keller or Mason or somebody like that. That starts this week and it will continue to grow throughout the course of the next couple of weeks, but game plan-specific, that hasn’t changed and we’ll try to feature some [favorable] match-ups,” Schottenheimer said.
Last season, the Flight Boys were about flash and style. The Flight Men? Well, like Mason said, they’re about just focusing on the task at hand. And the task at hand now? Making a strong statement Week 1 against a banged up Cowboys defense.
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