|Miller's replacements hoping for many happy returns for Jets|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 21 September 2007 12:34|
Out for the season after injuring a knee last weekend at Baltimore, the speedy Pro Bowl kick returner navigated his way through the New York Jets' locker room earlier this week with ease.
``We've got some big shoes to fill,'' wide receiver Wallace Wright said Friday. ``It's going to be hard because he went to the Pro Bowl, but we've got to move on in some kind of way. The season must go on, so we're going to do our best to fill his shoes.''
Miller is one of the NFL's best kick returners when healthy, capable of taking the ball from one end zone to the other. He led the league last season in yards per kickoff return and had two touchdowns, but injured his right knee during a 22-yard return early in the second quarter of New York's 20-13 loss at Baltimore on Sunday.
The Jets plan to use at least four players to replace him: Wright, Leon Washington, Brad Smith and Darrelle Revis.
``It's a big loss,'' Smith said. ``He's just a great returner and he made some great plays for us, so it's going to be tough. Whoever's back there has got to step up and make some plays.''
Coach Eric Mangini and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff think they have the players to make them.
``All of those guys will have opportunities different weeks,'' Mangini said. ``Like the offensive and defensive game plan, you may want a certain type of runner based on the return you have or certain type of runner based upon the coverage pattern they have. Having those four different options there, it gives you some flexibility.''
The Jets got a taste of life without Miller in the preseason, when he was sidelined for all four games with a strained hamstring.
``With Justin not being available for a block of time, we were able to work different guys there,'' Mangini said. ``Leon presents some problems. Brad Smith has a certain style. Wallace Wright has worked back there, and Darrelle has worked back there.''
After Miller was injured, Wright returned his first NFL kickoff 29 yards.
``I like the ball in my hands, so the idea of 11 guys coming for me, it's not really that big of a deal,'' Wright said with a big grin. ``If I get another one this week in the game, I'll try to make the best of it. If I take it to the house, well, hey.''
The bulk of the work, at least at first, is expected to fall on Washington. The elusive running back was the primary kickoff and punt returner in the preseason, and has five kickoff returns for 114 yards. He also returned six kickoffs for 79 yards last season.
``I don't want to compare myself to any other player, but what Justin does, he does well and what I do, I do well, too,'' Washington said. ``The bottom line is that we're both runners and, obviously, I play running back, so I'm used to running the ball. But Justin, he's a Pro Bowl guy. It just comes down to making plays and relying on your teammates as well.''
As the primary backup to running back Thomas Jones, Washington thinks playing that position helps him see the entire field and find holes easier.
``I'm used to running through cluttered spaces all the time, so that's an advantage for me,'' he said. ``I did kickoff and punt returns in college, too. It's just a matter of preparing myself and naturally making plays.''
Smith, a former quarterback at Missouri who was converted to wide receiver last season as a rookie, is looking forward to his first chance to return kickoffs in the NFL.
``Anytime you're on the field and have the ball in your hands, it's a great opportunity,'' he said with a smile. ``I relish that. I don't know what my style is. Whatever needs to be done, I'll just get it done.''
Wright had plenty of experience returning kickoffs at North Carolina, where he brought back 29 kicks for 624 yards.
``Leon's one of the quickest guys in the NFL, in my opinion,'' said Wright, in his second NFL season. ``Justin, he's a strong runner who breaks tackles and runs through tackles. Me, I'm somewhere in between. I'm a long-stride kind of guy, a fast guy, so I might cover 5 yards in two steps or 1 1/2 steps, so we're all different types of runners. We all have to try to pick up where Justin left off.''