It may genuinely seem a lifetime ago, but Brett Favre was in the midst of his first game as New York Jets quarterback. He faded back to the pass, and almost immediately found himself under heavy pressure from a Miami sellout blitz. In desperation, Favre lobbed a pass in the general direction of the end zone. Three Dolphins defensive-backs surrounded the scene, and yet, a New York Jet leapt and corralled the pigskin for six points. It could have been described as a fortuitous fling, a positive omen. But the Jets collapsed in 2008, and the actual answer may be a bit more obvious. Chansi Stuckey, a budding playmaker, made it happen. “That’s a great label to have,” said the former Clemson star after practice.
Stuckey, considered a question mark by pundits before the season, is coming into his own. Snagging Favre’s circus throw last year remains his defining play as a Jet, but Stuckey seems intent on providing more highlight reel material for the present. “You want guys to say, ‘Stuck’s going to do something, Stuck’s going to make a big play for us,’ continued the third-year man in the third-person.
Securing a starting spot proved difficult for Stuckey. After an impressive collegian career, the Jets grabbed him in the seventh round. Jerricho Cotchery, then a blossoming pro, had similarly slipped in the draft after a record-setting tenure at N.C. State. But Cotchery was a fourth round choice, while Stuckey nearly dropped completely off the radar, tabbed in the seventh. If that wasn’t discouraging enough, a foot injury derailed his rookie campaign, costing him valuable learning experience. Like Cotchery, Stuckey wouldn’t break out immediately. He didn’t even have the chance. “It was definitely frustrating,” says Stuckey, while recollecting that malady. “But everything happens for a reason. I just kept working.” That he did. Stuckey showed enough talent and drive in the aftermath of his setback to be entrenched in the slot as training camp began in ’09. But he wasn’t satisfied being branded exclusively as an inside man.
Did it personally bother Stuckey being judged so early in his career? “Not really,” he responded. “Just as a player you want to be diverse. The more things you can do the more pressure you can put on the defense. Now I can go outside and inside.”
Stuckey has taken advantage of his opportunity. He recorded four receptions in each of the first two weeks, solid support for Cotchcery. “I’m still waiting for that real big-game,” said Stuckey, reflecting on his first two weeks. “But as long as you’re winning, [it’s fine].” Stuckey then attested to feeling more comfortable on-field with each passing rep as a starter. “I feel like I’m getting open,” he added.
Stuckey has stepped up in ’09.
While eight catches in two games represents a solid performance, Head Coach Rex Ryan, who anointed Stuckey a starter, was positively thrilled with the reciever’s intangible contributions. “Outstanding in both games,” said Ryan, who would elaborate. “It’s not just necessarily the receptions… it’s what he does away from the ball… he’s a great team guy… he’s making plays. He made one catch, he’s got ten yards to get the first down, he keeps moving, he gets the first down. He’s been a real clutch guy for us.”
Teammates are well aware of Stuckey’s importance, as well. “He took a big role, being named starter,” said Cornerback Darrelle Revis, when queried about Stuckey. “He really just needed to wait his turn. We had Coles, who was the other big receiver for us. But with him gone, we had a hole that need to be filled. We really needed him to step in and make plays.”
Stuckey has been making plays so far. But one can tell, just in conversation, that he’s aiming to be a consistent game breaker. “You never want to be satisfied,” he said, while summing up his performance so far. The Jets would love nothing more than Stuckey to gain a sliver of some satisfaction this Sunday against the Titans.
Rex Ryan discussed a few pressing issues at his daily conference.
Donald Strickland will probably be out Sunday, and Lito Sheppard did not participate in practice. Neither has practiced this week. “If a guy can go, he shows up on Sunday and we think he’s ready to roll, we’re going to go with him,” said Ryan, addressing the less certain situation involving Sheppard. In the event of a worst case scenario, where neither defensive-backs are able to play, and this is a definite possibility, Ryan had faith in the depth, especially Drew Coleman. “We’ll be fine there… those guys can play. We have no excuse… [Coleman] has great man-cover skills. He’s quick, he’s fast, and he’s a lot tougher [than his size indicates]. I’m excited about him.”
Ryan is aware the Titans will be desperate. ‘They’re going to bring everything they’ve got… they’re not going to leave anything in the tank. But neither are we… this is going to be one of those old-fashioned games, physical games… It’s going to be a fun one to watch.”
The head coach remains high on Dwight Lowery, praising his advanced field acumen. The corner knocked down Tom Brady’s final pass in the victory against New England. “It’s funny, the first thing that popped in his mind was to go for the interception, but then he said ‘Ah, I just got to knock it down… He knew the game specifics.”
Dwight Lowery continues to earn rave reviews
More trash talk this week: This time the opponent is the aggressor. Titans’ fullback Ahmard Hall accused Bart Scott of excessive talking and taunting between the white lines. Ryan responded, with comedic touch, that, “Nobody likes Bart Scott. Except his teammates.” Keith Bullock has also publicly stated the Titans’ intention to rattle Mark Sanchez. “He’ll be up to the task this week,” responded Ryan, defending his signal caller.
Ryan on Chris Johnson: “He’s the fastest running back I’ve ever seen.”
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