HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Eric Mangini had quite a rookie season.
He went from being known as Bill Belichick's ingenious assistant to becoming the ``Mangenius,'' a successful and popular coach who could count Tony Soprano among his fans.
Clever nicknames and television cameos aside, the ever-focused New York Jets coach faces a big challenge following a 10-6 season and a surprising playoff appearance.
``Each year is its own entity,'' Mangini said early in training camp. ``You have to do the same things every camp, every step of the way, to achieve the same level that you did. Prior results don't predict future results, kind of like the stock market.''
While Mangini's waistline has been steadily shrinking since last year - he's lost at least 40 pounds - the hopes for this season are significantly higher.
``Every season, there are teams that were disappointing that suddenly had very good seasons and teams that expectations were high for that didn't,'' a guarded Mangini said. ``You see it year in and year out.''
Thomas Jones, acquired from Chicago in March, should play a major role in determining New York's fate. He helped make the Bears a Super Bowl contender, and the Jets are hoping for the same sort of impact from the veteran running back.
``Thomas has been a really positive influence and it goes back to what our research showed on him,'' Mangini said. ``Every team that he was on had great things to say about him and that has been our experience.''
Jones gives the Jets a true No. 1 running back after they struggled with a four-man rotation that contributed to their offense being ranked in the bottom portion of the league.
``This is a totally different team, totally different situation,'' Jones said. ``I'm the type of person to just play football. I don't get too much into people's personalities and how people coach. I just do what I'm asked to do.''
run.
``The running game is something we wanted to address,'' offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. ``The No. 1 thing was bringing in Thomas and just trying to get a feel for the second year in the system and the things we can do.''
Pennington bounced back from career-threatening injuries last year to being voted the league's Comeback Player of the Year after throwing for a career-high 3,352 yards.
``What we've done in the past has no bearing on the future,'' said Pennington, echoing Mangini's thoughts. ``It's a new season with so many changes in the league: new coaches, new players, free agency and drafts. You can't bank on what you did last season happening again. You have to start all over from scratch. New year, new team, new goals.''
And at some positions, new faces. After trading veteran left guard Pete Kendall to Washington last week after a bitter contract dispute, New York is giving rookie Jacob Bender, Adrien Clarke and Adrian Jones - and anyone else who can play the position - a shot at winning the job.
``We all know the NFL is about change,'' Pennington said, downplaying Kendall's departure. ``There's constant change and anytime you look or read or hear something, there's change going on.''
The Jets' defense was transformed last season as Mangini and coordinator Bob Sutton installed a 3-4 system. It got mixed reviews as Bryan Thomas and Victor Hobson thrived, while perennial playmakers Jonathan Vilma and Eric Barton struggled. The key will be getting those four linebackers, along with rookie David Harris and veteran David Bowens, on the same page to bolster the run defense and help a struggling pass rush.
``You don't get to start where you finished, good or bad,'' Sutton said. ``You can never count on things being exactly as you ended them.''
The secondary should be improved with the addition of speedy cornerback Darrelle Revis, drafted 14th overall. Following a long training camp holdout, Revis has already showed signs of being a potential game-changing playmaker. Combined with standout safety Kerry Rhodes, the Jets could have two of the league's most exciting defensive backs.
``It's the challenge that will face us every year, and that's being able to have focus,'' Mangini said. ``To focus on the task at hand, communication, have good finish in everything we do and build that trust between all the players.''

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