2006-06-02 / Sports

Jets' New Coach Rebuilds Squad With Numerous Young Talent

By Brian Bohl


HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - Coming off a 4-12 season, it was evident the Jets had multiple holes to fill on both sides of the ball to regain the type of post-season contender status they enjoyed in recent history.

With the number four pick and multiple early round draft selections, new general manager Mike Tannenbaum went to work on plugging in some young talent to fortify the deficiencies, with a focus on rebuilding the offensive line in last month's NFL Draft.

Only time will tell if the youth movement will pay off, but rookie head coach Eric Mangini is making sure they get an early start on learning the new system and adjusting to the speed on the game at the professional level.

Over 40 rookies were in minicamp last weekend, getting a sampling of what life will be like under Mangini, a disciplinarian who cut his coaching teeth under Bill Belichick.

Among those in attendance was D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the mammoth offensive lineman taken with the team's number one pick. Though projected to be the man that steps in the anchor the left side of a depleted line, Mangini stressed patience with the 6-6, 313 pound Freeport native.

"He was finding his way," Mangini said to reporters after the first day of the camp. "The calls were new, the adjustments and those type of things were new."

Also in camp was quarterback Kellen Clemens, who was taken in the second-round out of Oregon. With Chad Pennington's return still in doubt after a second surgery on his arm this off-season, the early reps Clemens receives could put him ahead of newly acquired Patrick Ramsey when training camp starts.

"He did have some moments in the afternoon practice where I really did see the things that I expected to see," Mangini told reporters.

While much of the attention has been focused on the minicamp and the performance of the rookies, the Jets ensured they will continue to have the services of a second-year pro, re-signing punter Ben Graham to a six-year contract extension Friday.

Though only entering his season NFL season, Graham does fit the profile of his fellow teammates with short service time. He is 32 years old, coming over last year to the United States after spending the previous 12 seasons playing Australian Rules Football.

In adjusting to a new league, Graham had some struggles but performed well overall. The lefty kicker punted 74 times for a gross average of 43.7 yards and a net average of 37.9 yards, numbers which were good for sixth-best in the AFC.

"The Jets have been an outstanding organization from the moment I arrived," Graham said. "The team made an offer and we just said, 'We'll take it.' I'm excited that I'm going to be punting for the New York Jets in the best city in America."

Mangini will be a happy man if he does not have to employ Graham extensively when the season starts. Last season, the Jets ranked ninth in the AFC with 75 punts.

Full squad minicamp will be June 12-14.

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