Edwards drops right into line
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Brian Schottenheimer dismissed the first part of the question, about all those dropped passes in the past, waved it off as if it didn’t matter anymore. Which, at least to the Jets, it doesn’t.
While fans of the Cleveland Browns might harken back to the near-constant problems Braylon Edwards had with drops, that hasn’t been the case in New York. Edwards has, instead, been a combination of steady and brilliant, teaming with Santonio Holmes to form a pass-catching duo that many quarterbacks would envy.
He has built a new reputation with a new team. And though he didn’t start well (recall that Edwards was charged with drunken driving back in September), the wide receiver is doing his best to put the focus back on the field, doing his best to be focused on the field.
That last part is what Schottenheimer, the Jets’ offensive coordi nator, chooses to address.
“He’s been practicing so well these last five or six weeks,’’ Schottenheimer said. “I don’t know what it is, but his focus in practice has been great. He’s been playing really well, I think, because of that. And I told him the other day, I’ve never seen him work this hard, just finishing plays and working in the perimeter in practice and fighting for reps and wanting even to take stuff on the scout team.
“It speaks to his level of commitment, of how he knows we’re getting closer, he knows that you win or go home. It’s been neat to see because a lot of the guys, so many of the young guys especially, look up to him. They look up to him and they see a guy that’s got those credentials working like that. It’s great for us as a staff to be able to use that.’’
And while it has extended beyond the practice field, it has been in those moments when Schottenheimer has taken note.
“I just notice a different practice tempo,’’ Schottenheimer said. “Not work ethic, but practice tempo. Usually this time of year people are tired, they’re sore, they’re breaking down, their legs are going. This guy has been fighting through it, he’s been working through it. If he and Mark [Sanchez] miss something, he’s over there, ‘Hey Mark, let’s throw that route again, let me get a feel, I didn’t like my release there.’ ’’
Edwards has been reliable since coming to the Jets, making good on the promise he demonstrated coming out of Michigan in 2005, erasing fears that he would continue to disappoint, as he had with the Browns. Edwards put up 904 yards on 53 catches during the regular season, for 17.1 yards per reception, the highest number of his career. He has exceeded that number of yards only once, when he had 1,289 yards on 80 catches in 2007.
“The detail that [wide receivers coach Henry Ellard] is always throwing at him has definitely made him focus a lot more and be a leader by example, which is not having dropped passes and knowing that in any situation Mark’s going to find him and he’s going to be there to make a play,’’ Holmes said.
“Every time we get out on the field we’re competing against ourselves because we want to know who can make a play for this team at the right time, and I think that affects the way both of us play,’’ Holmes added. “It helps us tremendously because we’re competing for an edge against ourselves, but also to help our team, show that we’re big-play capability receivers.’’
Holmes has shown that. Edwards has shown that. And they’ve shown that they can work together.
“He’s a faster guy, quicker, especially off the ball, off the line of scrimmage,’’ Edwards said of Holmes. “So I’ve tried to take some of his techniques and use them in my game, especially top of routes, getting in and out of routes is what he’s good at. At the same time, I’m a much stronger receiver, taller, bigger. So some of the things that I do, even him being smaller, he can still use, too.
“He’s fed off of me and done that, and I’ve fed off of him, some of his things, and had some success this year. He and I definitely can work together. We’ve proven that at times this season.’’
So that relationship has worked out well for the Jets. Although Edwards has done it without the bumps, without the drops, on the field, it hasn’t exactly been easy. There was that aforementioned DWI arrest, when Edwards was stopped coming back from a teammate’s charity function, and recorded a 0.16 on the breathalyzer, double the legal limit. It’s something Edwards still has to deal with, his court date having recently been moved to March 7.
And as good as this season has been for Edwards, that arrest has perhaps overshadowed what he has done for the Jets. It has turned what might be considered one of his best seasons into something a little less.
So he continues to work, especially in practice. He continues to demonstrate his desire to his teammates and coaches. He continues to impress, including the offensive coordinator who can’t rave about his practice tempo enough.
“That’s just something that I haven’t seen from him consistently,’’ Schottenheimer said. “So the thing I said to him is, ‘Look how well you’re playing.’ Some of the huge plays he’s made for us these last couple weeks have just been outstanding. And it looks like he’s having fun.’’
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.