Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be profiling some key performers heading into the season. We kick off this series with a look at cornerback Dee Milliner.

Milliner struggled throughout most of his rookie season, but the light bulb seemed to go on for him in December as he won the AFC Defensive Rookie of the Month award, intercepting three passes and helping the Jets win three out of their last four games. Heading into the 2014 season, the Jets will be relying on Milliner to continue to step up, especially after having released Antonio Cromartie.

Ever since the Jets drafted Milliner with the 9th pick in last year’s draft, comparisons to departing all-pro Darrelle Revis have been inevitable. While my sense is that these should be regarded with scepticism, their most useful function is to highlight differences between the two. Rather than a device to facilitate an accurate projection of how Milliner’s career will play out (which would be impossible) any such comparison should be seen as an indicator of where Milliner stands in terms of his learning curve with reference to where Revis was at the same point in his career. This allows us to evaluate Milliner against the benchmark of an elite cornerback and look at where in particular he still has to develop.

With all that in mind, I’ve been watching detailed footage from Milliner’s rookie season last year and Revis’ rookie season back in 2007. A comprehensive look into what this could tell us about where Milliner stands heading into his second season follows after the jump.

Introduction

Depending on your perspective, it’s not difficult to look back on Revis’ 2007 and portray it in such a way so as to suit any narrative. That’s whether you base your assessment on a seven-year old recollection of events, a look into the numbers or an assessment of the footage. In each case, it’s an inexact science. Here we’ll consider all three, with a main focus on potential for misinterpretations.

Perception of Revis’ rookie year

When people look back to Revis’ rookie year, they can highlight the fact that he started 16 games and was never benched. He also showed progress throughout the season, intercepting three passes in the last nine games after recording no picks in his first seven games.

There was a marked contrast between Revis and another cornerback who was a high draft pick two years before, Justin Miller. Miller looked embarrassingly out of his depth as a rookie, registering just two passes defensed despite starting eight games. This definitely helped fuel the perception that Revis was developing well. Revis looked smooth and under control from the start and, although he did have some negative plays against elite receivers, he held his own.

On the other hand, the Jets went 4-12 with Revis starting every game and their pass defense had issues all year. They ended up giving up 7.2 yards per pass play, 8th highest in the NFL or – if you prefer – the 18th ranked pass defense in the league per Football Outsiders.)

We obviously need to delve a little deeper to accurately contrast this to Milliner’s rookie year, but you can see how there’s enough ambiguity to play both the “Revis settled in right away as a rookie” and “Revis had his own struggles as a rookie” card.

Perception of Milliner’s rookie year

Milliner’s rookie year is a lot fresher in the memory. Initial struggles led to a couple of benchings with the year culminating in a late-season surge to end 2013 on a positive note. His offseason was impacted by injuries and the fact they didn’t manage to get his contract done before camp opened, which conspired to slow down his progress.

Milliner was beaten for several big plays including a handful of touchdowns as he was routinely letting his man get behind him during the first three months of the season. Perhaps even more disconcerting was the fact that he wasn’t making any plays on the ball. As it happens, the only pass defensed he had in the entire first half of the season actually should have been a forced fumble, although the replay booth in New England felt otherwise.

Milliner gradually started to break on the ball better over the next few games, but still continued to give up big plays. However, over the last month he settled down and really started to make plays on a regular basis, despite some tough matchups – notably Josh Gordon and Mike Wallace.

Are we overreacting to how bad he was at the start of the year though? Or how good he was at the end of the year? Or both?

The numbers

The next section compares the coverage numbers for each of them from their first season. Naturally there are weaknesses in a pure numerical comparison, but we’ll address those in the next section. In their rawest form, the numbers do make for an interesting and revealing comparison, especially if you divide them up between the first 12 games and the last four.

Through 12 games:

Revis - 49-70-638 yards (3TD, 2INT)

Milliner - 34-65-578 yards (6TD, 0INT)

Surprisingly, as badly as we recall Milliner’s performance over those first 12 games, his numbers are actually better than Revis in terms of completion percentage and yards per attempt. However, you can immediately see that Milliner gave up twice as many touchdowns and didn’t intercept any passes and that was the major difference between the two.

It is surprising to note that Revis gave up more yards and catches, although there are plenty of reasons behind this, which we’ll get to in the next few sections.

What about the last four games, though? How strongly did Milliner finish and how did Revis’ final month compare?

Last four games:

Revis - 9-24-109 (1TD, 1INT)

Milliner - 19-38-192 (1TD, 3INT)

This time, Revis actually has more impressive numbers than Milliner in terms of yardage surrendered and completion percentage. That translated to 27.3 yards per game – the kind of numbers you’d associate with the veteran Revis. Milliner cashed in with a few interceptions and only gave up one score but did give up more plays than Revis did in that final month. However, a 50% completion percentage and 5.1 yards per attempt are still pretty impressive.

Again, there are reasons behind why Revis gave up fewer yards over that period, but even so the numbers would suggest that each of them finished the year on an upwards curve.

Where the numbers lie

The trouble with just looking at coverage numbers is that they don’t take into account where a player gets beaten or otherwise makes a mistake but the play is still unsuccessful (due, for example, to a bad throw or a drop by the receiver). In fact, the defensive player effectively gets credit despite making a bad play. Similarly, if the defensive player has blanket coverage but the receiver makes an amazing catch, that counts the same as if the defender was badly beaten.

This is why sites like PFF suggest that you should pay attention to their grades, because they would give a player who gets beaten a negative grade even if the play was unsuccessful and a player would get a worse negative grade on a play where they were badly beaten than on a play with the same result where the defender did a good job but the pass was still completed.

Sure enough, PFF’s grades do align more closely to our original perspective than the final numbers. Revis was grading out negatively but his late surge pushed him into positive numbers. Milliner still ended up with a negative grade even in spite of his late surge, underlining the fact that he didn’t perform as well as Revis in the first three months of his career.

As we look at the final numbers, we can see that – other than the fact he gave up three more touchdowns – Milliner’s numbers compare favourably with Revis’ numbers. He even bests him in terms of yards per attempt (just) and completion

percentage (pretty comfortably).

Revis - 58-94-747 yards (4TD, 3INT)

Milliner - 53-103-770 yards (7TD, 3INT)

However, as noted, these numbers don’t account for near misses by the offense and Milliner did benefit from such near misses. In this recent profile on PFF, there’s a couple of examples. All told, Milliner was the beneficiary of seven drops which would have increased his completion percentage allowed from just over 50% to just under 60% (and obviously increased his numbers for yardage and touchdowns conceded).

That doesn’t mean Revis didn’t also benefit from being fortunate on a few plays where he got beaten, but the grades seem to reflect the fact that this was not as often.

Even the grades can be misleading at times. For example, even if a cornerback blankets his man with perfect coverage all day and doesn’t give up a catch, he could still theoretically end up with a negative grade because of mistakes he made as a tackler. Furthermore, if these mistakes happened on pass plays (for example if he came off his man to make a tackle in the flat, but missed that tackle) then this would go down as a negative play in the coverage category. So, the coverage grade won’t always just reflect how well a player covered his man. One such example involving Milliner was the long DeAngelo Williams touchdown where he failed to get off a block downfield and let Williams past him down the sideline.

In terms of missed tackles, it’s interesting to note that Revis had six, but none in the second half of the season. Milliner’s nine were spread more evenly over the course of the year.

Two other factors at play were the fact that Milliner missed three games, was benched in two others and operated as a nickel corner in one. This means he only played approximately 70% of the amount of snaps that Revis did in his rookie year. While that doesn’t affect the numbers for completion percentage or yards per target, it’s worth emphasising that Milliner likely would have given up much more yardage had he played the same amount of time as Revis. He did get targeted more than Revis though and again, there are reasons for this that we will get into.

The reality of Revis rookie year

The best way to analyse how well Revis played as a rookie is to go back and watch the footage from 2007, so I’ve been doing that since the end of the season. I’ll focus here on how well he played, but we’ll go into his role and situation further down.

Over the first four games, Revis was picked on a lot. He gave up a total of 21 catches, including eight for over 100 yards in week four against the Bills. To put that into perspective, he gave up 22 catches all season in 2010. He was also giving up a completion percentage of 75%, among the worst in the league at that time. Most of the damage was done on quick slants and plays where Revis was too far off and the receiver stopped his route and looked back for the ball. Obviously Revis was keeping things in front of him well to avoid any big plays (none of the 21 completions went for a touchdown), but this allowed the offense to take what he gave them and rack up yardage on him.

Over the next four games, he gave up fewer catches (15) but did have his first three penalties of the season. In week eight, I was fortunate enough to be in the house as Revis made his first career interception. However, he was also the victim of a freak play that led to him giving up an 85-yard touchdown to Lee Evans. You should be able to see this from the clip here but Revis had another interception in his hands, only for Abram Elam to collide with him and knock him off the ball, allowing Evans to spin away with the ball and go the distance. I had a perfect view of this play which unfolded right in front of me. The Jets lost 13-3.

Over the next four games, Revis did get beaten for two scores, but had two good games where he didn’t allow much damage. The Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys, while it ended in a humiliating 34-3 loss, was a watershed game for Revis as he matched up with Terrell Owens for much of the day and held his own for the most part. However, Owens got the last laugh, reaching over him for a 22-yard touchdown catch at the pylon. He had four catches for 52 yards on Revis in that game (6-65 overall). Still, that was somewhat reminiscent of the Jets throwing Milliner in at the deep end towards the end of 2013. In the 12th game, Revis intercepted his second pass of the year on a tipped ball.

The week 13 clash against Cleveland was one of the most interesting games all season. Braylon Edwards had three big catches on Revis, two of which you can see on this video at 1:52 and 3:08. As you can see, he gave up a 45 yard catch on a long bomb and a short touchdown. In each case, Revis was in a good position, but the much bigger receiver was able to make the catch over him, much like with the Owens touchdown a couple of weeks prior. Clearly the ability to shadow a much bigger and physical receiver was one limitation in his game at that stage of his career. The third catch he gave up was even more surprising than the other two as Edwards ran an out pattern and Revis never got his head turned around in time. It’s still quite jarring to see any deficiency in technique from Revis. Despite these three plays, Revis was impressive the rest of the way, with one perfectly timed pass breakup.

Worth noting is the fact that the long pass in this game and the freak collision with Abram Elam were the only plays of over 30 yards that Revis gave up all season. As noted, he had more of a tendency to keep things in front of him. Of course, this may have been for strategic reasons with Eric Mangini's penchant for bend-but-not-break.

The next game was the game in New England where the Jets were 35-point underdogs against the undefeated Patriots. Revis almost pitched a shutout, although it’s worth noting that he wasn’t covering Randy Moss, who caught five passes for 79 yards, very often. He did get penalized once – his sixth and final penalty of the season – but made up for that with his third interception.

Against the Titans in week 16, Revis gave up one first down catch but also had another nice pass breakup. The final game saw him give up three first down catches on seven targets (although one was incorrectly spotted short of the marker). Dwayne Bowe entered the game needing just 18 yards to get to 1,000 on the season, but was held to just 13 yards. However, Revis was mostly on Jeff Owens. A couple of times, Owens got away from Revis coming back to the ball but Revis got lucky with an inaccurate throw, but again he had kept things in front of him well.

As noted, Revis wasn’t benched. However, the situation was slightly different to that of the 2013 Jets. First of all, the 2007 Jets fell out of contention pretty quickly, whereas the 2013 Jets were still in mathematical contention right up to the penultimate week of the season, so the 2007 Jets had nothing to lose by leaving Revis in the lineup in the second half of the season. However, if Revis was going to be benched at any point it most probably would have been in that first month while they were still in contention.

Another factor was that the 2013 Jets had other options on the bench that they could rely on to do just as well as Milliner, if not better, in the short term (Darrin Walls, Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster). On the 2007 team, the other options were Hank Poteat, David Barrett and Drew Coleman and it would be difficult to rely on one of those guys outperforming Revis, let alone two. This also may have factored into Revis not being targeted as regularly as Milliner was. With plenty of exploitable matchups all over the defense, teams didn’t have to go after the rookie to attack the 2007 Jets. The 2013 Jets had fewer weaknesses defensively and therefore Milliner was targeted more regularly all season.

You could also say that Revis was at a disadvantage in comparison to Milliner because of the Jets’ porous pass rush back then. The 2007 Jets only had nine sacks in the first nine games and, although that picked up over the second half of the season, part of that was a by-product of teams knowing they had time to sit in the pocket and let routes develop.

The reality of Milliner’s rookie year

Milliner was first benched in the week two game, after which he was used as the nickel cornerback (playing on the outside) in the third game of the year. He then missed three games (including the week four blowout against the Titans where Darrin Walls struggled in his place) with a hamstring injury, making his return to the starting lineup for the week seven win over the Patriots. He was benched again the following week against the Bengals.

One thing worth re-emphasizing is the fact that Milliner didn’t have a single penalty called on him. The fact he managed to get away with some physical coverage is encouraging but this also has a lot to do with the fact he was playing off his man quite a lot.

As noted, Milliner was targeted more, even when he was playing well. In the Browns game in week 16, he was targeted 18 times, giving up 10 catches for over 100 yards, but at a respectable 6.3 yards per target. He followed that up by holding Mike Wallace to four catches for 29 yards on 10 targets.

The biggest improvement he made was his ability to read, react and jump on a route. While this translated to his first three interceptions – all in the last two games – it had an even more noticeable effect on his passes defensed as I pointed out after the final game:

At the midseason point, Dee Milliner had ONE pass defensed. He ended up the season with 20, which puts him in the top 10 for NFL cornerbacks and 12th overall. His 19 in the second half of the year must have led the league. Alterraun Verner, who led the NFL with 28, had just 12 in the second half of the season.

Underscoring a major difference in not only how they performed but how they played, Milliner actually gave up six plays of thirty yards or more – three times as many as Revis did in his rookie year. However, further emphasizing the growth he made at the end of the season is the fact that all six of these came in the first 11 games and none in the last five.

Differences in role

So we’ve evaluated and added context to the numbers and how they performed. However, there’s still some important differences between their respective roles during their rookie season that need to be discussed.

In Mangini’s defense (or maybe it should be attributed to defensive coordinator Bob Sutton), the Jets played a lot of cover two. Despite the fact that both Abram Elam and Eric Smith have reputations as in-the-box safeties, that was their role as they effectively split time as Kerry Rhodes’ counterpart. That meant Revis nearly always had coverage support.

In terms of the Rex Ryan Jets, you can’t really generalize because they mix up their coverages so much from game to game and even series to series. However, while they usually line up with both safeties deep, they have a tendency to leave one corner with no support. This is certainly something they do more often than the 2007 Jets and it’s designed to create one-on-one matchups for their linemen (by enabling a safety to pick someone up underneath, freeing up a linebacker to blitz and occupy a would-be double-team blocker). This didn’t affect Milliner much early in the season, because it was usually Cromartie that was employed in this manner. However, Milliner did find himself in that position at times down the stretch.

Once Ed Reed signed, comments were made that the Jets were playing more cover two, but that didn’t necessarily seem to be the case, as Reed was often single-high. However, as I noted down the stretch, the addition of Reed had a massive positive effect on Milliner:

Milliner just looks like a completely different player than he did earlier in the season. He appears so much more confident, his technique is light years ahead of where it was in September and he’s jumping routes and showing good ball skills. A massive part of that is that Reed has been giving him safety support and I would imagine has been working closely with him so that they both know their responsibilities. Virtually every time Milliner made a play on Sunday, Reed was not far behind – ready to clean up if Milliner made a mistake or potentially intercept a pass that was overthrown or tipped into the air.

Sure enough, the fact that Milliner absorbed a lot from working with Reed has been discussed in recent weeks. In those last two games, it’s telling the three biggest plays Milliner gave up were all plays where he wasn’t supported by Reed. One 21-yarder against Miami came with Reed in the box. Against the Browns, Josh Gordon had two 24-yarders – one with Reed out of the game (Landry shifted the coverage away from Milliner before the snap on this play) and the other with Reed on the opposite side and Josh Bush supporting Milliner. Eliminating those plays, he gave up just 25 yards on three catches to Gordon on 11 other targets.

So, should we be concerned that Milliner might regress without Reed? I don’t know if there’s still a chance that Reed could return but I hope the Jets are considering it. At the same time, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that they drafted a player in the first round who seems to have excellent range and coverage abilities.

Another key difference was who they were covering. As noted, Revis drew the assignment on Terrell Owens, but a lot of the time he specifically wasn’t matched up with the other team’s top target. I do wonder, however, if that had more to do with the limitations of David Barrett rather than Revis' own strengths. Barrett always seemed to do well against bigger receivers, but would struggle with smaller, shiftier guys. That would explain why Revis might not match up with a Randy Moss or Dwayne Bowe in those two late season games. Still, had Revis stepped up and taken the number one receiver more often, it likely would have had an adverse effect on his numbers. Occasionally they would just get their cornerbacks to stick to a side.

Leaving his cornerback on either side is something Rex Ryan doesn’t do very often. However, they did do it in week 17. But wait…isn’t that the game where Milliner was matched up against Mike Wallace? Yes, it was…but Miami is one of the rare teams that actually lets their receivers stick to a side. Wallace played 869 of 964 snaps wide right in 2013, so leaving Milliner on the left was a deliberate ploy to match him up with Wallace. Even more interesting is that during their previous meeting, Milliner played on the right, so he was deliberately kept away from the Wallace matchup. Furthermore, on one of the rare occasions when they ended up matched up on one another in that earlier game, Wallace beat him for a 28-yard touchdown. The fact that he shut Wallace down four weeks later is a further indication of his growth.

The only other game where Milliner stuck to one side was the game in week three where he only played on the sub-package.

Revis development in year two and beyond

So, how did Revis develop over the next few years? While we can’t guarantee that Milliner’s development will follow the same path and on the same timescale, it at least sets a benchmark for him to shoot for.

In 2008, Revis was targeted slightly less and saw incremental improvements in his completion percentage, yards per attempt and quarterback rating when targeted. Again he was a beneficiary of other weaknesses on the defense, because there was no need to target him when it was so easy to move the chains by picking apart the soft underbelly of the Jets. With Abram Elam’s regression, an injury-plagued David Harris bulking up to 260 and the likes of Eric Barton and David Bowens one year older, young and inexperienced quarterbacks like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shaun Hill and Matt Cassel were able to rack up huge yardage by attacking the intermediate zones and exploiting mismatches.

2009 saw the arrival of Rex Ryan and Revis making the leap to elite status in his third NFL season. Revis only saw a slight reduction in the number of catches and yards he gave up (from 49-510 to 48-502) but the amazing part was that he was targeted 43 more times! That came about because Rex Ryan baited teams into throwing Revis’ way by rolling coverage away from him and sending overload blitzes from the other side on passing downs.

By 2010, teams had learned their lesson and basically stopped targeting him anywhere near as often, although he still kept up his incredible low numbers for percentages and yards per attempt.

The steeper learning curve for a Saban-coached corner

One aspect that has seen lots of play since Revis was drafted was the fact that Alabama cornerbacks always take some time to adjust to the NFL because Saban teaches a slightly different technique. You can read more on that here.

In terms of recent cornerbacks coached by Saban, the best examples are two other top-20 picks – Kareem Jackson (2010) and Dre Kirkpatrick (2012). Kirkpatrick barely got on the field as a rookie before settling into a backup role last year. The Bengals will be hoping he can make the step-up to being a starter in 2014. Jackson really struggled as a rookie, but settled down towards the end of his first season. He was average in season two, but had a good 2012. There are signs therefore that Alabama corners will be well-prepared and continue to improve once they make that adjustment to the NFL-style.

For a bit of an insight into that from the PFF feature linked to above, check out this GIF – one of those plays where Milliner is beaten and gets bailed out that I mentioned earlier.

As you can see, Milliner displays less than ideal technique at the line. However, it’s not all bad. He recovers well and does a good job of locating the ball – something that was apparent throughout his collegiate game-tape. However, he allows the receiver to outmuscle him with a crafty push-off to create some separation without drawing a flag. Again, this is an area where Milliner should hopefully develop naturally now that he’s in a full-time NFL weights program but it will also help him to not be operating from a position of weakness due to having been beaten at the line.

Conclusion

At this stage I have to reiterate while this is a comprehensive comparison of the rookie seasons from Revis and Milliner, there are no guarantees that Milliner will follow the same path. Jets fans will be hoping that Milliner continues to make strides, but the improvement made by Revis between 2007 and 2009 was virtually unprecedented. The good news is that if Milliner is never as good as Revis, that doesn’t mean he’s failed. He could still be a great player in his own right.

In Milliner’s rookie season, we eventually saw a tantalizing glimpse of his capabilities and potential. At times, maybe our expectations for him were too high because we’ve become accustomed to the high level of play we saw from Revis. However, it was also apparent that Revis wasn’t the finished article when he arrived and suffered a few growing pains in his first year too. This hopefully confirms that Milliner’s struggles were not a sign he would never become a good player, especially in light of the fact he came from a Nick Saban school. The strong finish to the season gives further comfort.

At one point over the last year, I speculated whether the Jets wanted Milliner to be their Revis. That didn’t mean I was suggesting they were relying on him to become a talismanic all-pro leader, I hastened to add, just that they might be planning for Milliner to eventually take over Revis’ role in terms of being the guy who tracks the number one receiver and operates without safety support. Maybe it’s not completely out of the question that he could strive to become the former rather than the latter, but surely it would be too much to hope for if we’re expecting the team to develop another once-in-a-generation level talent.

Or would it…?

I wasn’t just watching Revis as I reviewed those games from 2007. They’ll also feed into more articles from this series. We’ll be looking at Quinton Coples from a different perspective next.

Tags: bentdouble, BGA, Bent Double

Nov 12, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA;New York Jets wide receiver Chad Hansen (16) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Nov 12, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA;New York Jets wide receiver Chad Hansen (16) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

Chad Hansen is looking to impact the Jets more in his second season, which is why he linked up with his former college quarterback who had great success in his second year.

Rams QB Jared Goff and Hansen played together at Cal, and they both spent time in Southern California working together in preparation for next year. Goff, who had a shaky rookie season, shined in his second year as he led his team to a NFC West division title. 

Hansen wants the same success as his former teammate in his second season, and he thinks he can do so in any role with the Jets. 

Tags: Chad Hansen, Scott Thompson
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New York Jets running back Elijah McGuire runs with the ball as Cleveland Browns middle linebacker Joe Schobert and outside linebacker James Burgess bring him down during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. (Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets running back Elijah McGuire runs with the ball as Cleveland Browns middle linebacker Joe Schobert and outside linebacker James Burgess bring him down during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. (Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports)

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | ArchiveThe never-ending rebuilding loop that the Jets always seem to be stuck in finally seems to have an end in sight. And they will have plenty of high hopes for the future when the full team reports for training camp on July 26.

Here is Part 1 of what to look forward to when Jets training camp begins, which will be followed by Part 2 on Thursday...

The rise of Sam Darnold

Tags: ArDarius Stewart, Buster Skrine, Darron Lee, Elijah McGuire, Jamal Adams, Jordan Leggett, Josh McCown, Leonard Williams, Marcus Maye, Robby Anderson, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Ralph Vacchiano
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New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold works out during the team's NFL football organized training activities, Tuesday, June 5, 2018, in Florham Park, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold works out during the team's NFL football organized training activities, Tuesday, June 5, 2018, in Florham Park, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)

Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold has the eighth-best selling jersey in the NFL, ahead of Patriots QB Tom Brady, who comes in at No. 9.

Giants rookie RB Saquon Barkley tops the list, which was released by the DICK's Sporting Goods Jersey Report.

Tags: Saquon Barkley
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Nov 12, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) tries to get out of the grasp of Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson (22) during the second half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports (Robert Hanashiro)
Nov 12, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) tries to get out of the grasp of Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson (22) during the second half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports (Robert Hanashiro)

Over the course of the offseason, the Jets have brought in a dizzying number of players. In addition to their six draft picks and several undrafted free agents, the Jets have acquired 24 veterans since the league year began. Let's attempt to rank each of those additions in terms of their importance for the upcoming season.

24. PK Nick Rose - Rose was brought in as competition at the placekicker position but was replaced four weeks later before he even got a chance to practice with the team.

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New York Jets running back Bilal Powell leaps over Jacksonville Jaguars free safety Tashaun Gipson during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. (Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets running back Bilal Powell leaps over Jacksonville Jaguars free safety Tashaun Gipson during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. (Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports)

Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter

Over the next few weeks, we're going to break down each position in terms of which players are fighting for those final roster spots. Who is in danger of being cut? Who has a chance to earn themselves a bigger role? We start with a look at the running back position.

Probable roster locks

Anything is possible, but the expectation heading to camp is that Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell will assume the top two spots. Powell is the incumbent veteran and a Todd Bowles favorite, so he's certainly expected to at least begin camp as the No. 1.

Tags: Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire
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Washington Redskins wide receiver Terrelle Pryor runs with the ball as Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills attempts to make the tackle at FedEx Field. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)
Washington Redskins wide receiver Terrelle Pryor runs with the ball as Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills attempts to make the tackle at FedEx Field. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

The Jets and Redskins will have joint practices from Aug. 12 to Aug. 14 ahead of their preseason game on Aug. 16, and Washington's defense seems to be ready to go after current Jet wide receiver Terrelle Pryor.

Redskins linebacker Zach Brown called out Pryor, who signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal with New York after one year with the Redskins, by saying other members of Washington's defense "have it out for him."

"That's going to be something right there," Brown said on "Inside the Locker Room" on Team 980, according to NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay. "The boys are gonna have it out for him. We can put hands on him now ... [head coach] Jay [Gruden] ain't here to protect you anymore."

Tags: Washington Redskins
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Jamal Adams (center) Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)
Jamal Adams (center) Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

Jets S Jamal Adams has never liked to lose, and his father -- former NFL RB George Adams -- gave the perfect anecdote to explain why. 

"As a G.A. Giant, we didnt' lose," George told The Post's Steve Serby as he referenced Jamal's Pop Warner days. "I gave the ball to J., he got the first down, and they came out and measured and then they said, 'No, no, no. We gotta remeasure.' So they didn't give us a first down, so they got the ball and they scored and we lost.

"He cried like a baby. So what I told him, I said, 'That's life. That's football. You're gonna get some people to say one thing and it's another, but the thing is, I'm teaching you how to lose.' And that really just didn't set with him, because he just don't like losing."

Tags: Jamal Adams, Scott Thompson
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Sep 10, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (11) (Geoff Burke)
Sep 10, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (11) (Geoff Burke)

This offseason, the Jets signed QB Teddy Bridgewater, drafted QB Sam Darnold and re-signed QB Josh McCown. Regardless of who gets to be the starting quarterback, they're going to need someone to throw to. 

WR Terrelle Pryor, who signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal in March, certainly believes he can be that guy, after having 'minor' ankle surgery recently.

"Right now I'm healthy and I'm ready to get back to form and have a dominant year," Pryor said...

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General overall view of MetLife Stadium Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports (Kirby Lee)
General overall view of MetLife Stadium Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports (Kirby Lee)

Former Jets TE Kellen Winslow Jr., who was just arrested for suspicion of burglary last week, has even bigger problems with the law in his latest arrest. 

Winslow was arrested on Thursday and faces two counts of forcible rap, two counts of forcible sodomy and one count of forcible oral copulation, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. He also faces charges of kidnapping with the intent to commit rape, residential burglary and indecent exposure. 

It is unknown whether or not Winslow's arrest last Thursday corresponds to this arrest...

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New York Jets cornerback Derrick Jones runs a drill during organized team activities at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. (Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets cornerback Derrick Jones runs a drill during organized team activities at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. (Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports)

Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter

Over the next few weeks, we're going to look back at last year's rookies in an effort to assess what their role will be in 2018 and where we can expect them to make improvements on what they brought to the table last year.

Derrick Jones was considered a bit of a long-term project when the Jets selected him with their final pick in 2017's draft. He's a terrific athletic with excellent size and length, but was considered raw having spent much of his collegiate career as a wide receiver, starting just eight games in total. The Jets carried him on their active roster all year, but he only suited up for three games and didn't get any defensive reps.

Tags: Derrick Jones, Robby Anderson
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Josh McCown (15) Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)
Josh McCown (15) Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

A lot will change between mid-June and September 10th, the day of the Jets season opener, but if they were to play that week one game against the Lions tomorrow, Todd Bowles knows who his starting quarterback would be: Josh McCown. 

Bowles also confirmed that Teddy Bridgewater is the current backup, leaving rookie Sam Darnold as the third-string. But all three will have ample time during training camp to change his mind, when "a lot of things count."

"Josh will start come training camp and we will see what happens at the end of training camp," Bowles said after minicamp...

Tags: Josh McCown
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New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg works out prior to an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) (Bill Kostroun/AP)
New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg works out prior to an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) (Bill Kostroun/AP)

Former Jets QB Christian Hackenberg visited the Patriots on Thursday, according to Field Yates of ESPN.

The Patriots currently have Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and rookie seventh-round pick Danny Etling. NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reports that the Patriots aren't expected to sign Hackenberg, though he remains an option going forward...

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Elijah McGuire the new LT? 00:01:58
Marc Malusis and Jon Hein discuss Jets running backs coach Stump Mitchell saying that Elijah McGuire could be the next LaDainian Tomlinson.

Entering his second season in the league, Elijah McGuire is expected to make an impact on the Jets in 2018.

The running back had 377 rushing yards in 2017 but those within the organization see something more in the 24-year-old-- they see one of the best running backs ever: LaDainian Tomlinson.

"He has the skillset to be a LaDainian Tomlinson, if he was given that opportunity," Jets running backs coach Stump Mitchell said...

Tags: Elijah McGuire
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See the Jets in minicamp action 00:00:59
SNY captures the highlights, routes and deep throws at New York Jets minicamp Thursday.

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive: The Jets are heaping praise on the shoulders of their prized rookie quarterback, but to them it's more than just dreamy hype. They're not just trying to sell everyone on the promise of Sam Darnold. They believe it. In fact, so far he's been even better than they expected.

That's why he has "a real chance" to be the opening day starter, according to a team source.

The 21-year-old Darnold has been that good since the Jets took him with the third overall pick in the NFL Draft. They've been giving him regular first-team reps throughout the spring and through this week's three-day mini-camp. And given how well he's handled them, this summer he can expect even more.

Tags: Josh McCown, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Ralph Vacchiano
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New York Jets strong safety Jamal Adams (33) lines up against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)  (Jack Dempsey/AP)
New York Jets strong safety Jamal Adams (33) lines up against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) (Jack Dempsey/AP)

If there is one player Jets S Jamal Adams would like to emulate in his career, it would certainly be one of the best to ever play the safety position. 

Former Steelers S Troy Polamalu, an eight-time Pro Bowler and four-time First Team All-Pro member, changed how safeties were perceived in the NFL. Polamalu wasn't just a ballhawk as his position was normally asked to do, but he was relentless on the blitz as well as run defense. 

Adams says it was Polamalu's smarts along with his physicality that makes him his role model now that he is in the NFL...

Tags: Jamal Adams
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May 22, 2018; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson (11) runs after a catching the ball during organized team activities at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)
May 22, 2018; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson (11) runs after a catching the ball during organized team activities at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

This offseason, Jets WR Robby Anderson has been battling numerous legal issues. He has been arrested twice in nine months, but the Jets have had his back throughout this process. 

That doesn't mean the NFL will. 

Anderson, who has one of his two legal cases still in the works, knows the NFL has the jurisdiction to suspend him for his run-ins with the police...

Tags: Robby Anderson
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Darnold impresses at Jets camp 00:03:04
Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates breaks down the performance of rookie QB Sam Darnold at the team's minicamp on Wednesday.

Jets QB Sam Darnold may be a rookie, but his new team isn't treating him like one. 

The No. 3 overall pick hasn't been eased into his new role with the Jets, but rather, the team is throwing everything they can at him. Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said the entire playbook has been thrown his way during the team's three-day mandatory minicamp. 

The reason? Bates says that's how you see what Darnold can truly handle.

Tags: Josh McCown, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater
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Josh McCown (15) Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)
Josh McCown (15) Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

With all NFL talk revolving around the new national anthem policy, Jets QB Josh McCown wants people to focus on the work behind the scenes that doesn't get as much recognition. 

McCown, who is a member of the Players' Coalition, has been a big supporter and advocate for social justice reform. For one, he was one of a few Jets members that signed a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other officials calling for bail reform in the country. 

It is work like that letter that McCown wishes got more attention than the anthem policy...

Tags: Josh McCown
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 (Noah K. Murray)
(Noah K. Murray)

Over the last few weeks, we've been looking back at last year's rookies in an effort to assess what their role will be in 2018 and where we can expect them to make improvements on what they brought to the table last year.

Jeremy Clark spent virtually the entire 2017 on the injured list, which was something the Jets must have anticipated when they drafted him. Clark was recovering from a torn ACL when the Jets selected him in the sixth round, presumably on the basis that he'd have gone much sooner had he been healthy. He was unable to practice at training camp and his rookie season was essentially a redshirt year. However, the Jets were able to activate him at the end of the year and he made his NFL debut in the season finale.

Preseason Stats: Did not play.
Regular Season Stats: One game played.
Projected Role: Back-up cornerback.

Tags: Jeremy Clark
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New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the New York Giants Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)
New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the New York Giants Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)

Former Jets QB Christian Hackenberg was waived by the Raiders on Tuesday.

Hackenberg was traded last month for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2019 -- a pick the Raiders will now get to keep. 

"I was disappointed in not really giving Christian the opportunity to go to camp," Raiders coach Jon Gruden said after Tuesday's practice, per ESPN. "We felt like we needed to add a couple defensive linemen. We ran out of numbers, and that's not good at that position heading into camp."

Tags: Christian Hackenberg
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Sam Darnold on adjustments 00:00:32
Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold explains the challenges he's facing while making the adjustment to calling plays in the huddle in the NFL.

Jets QB Sam Darnold on Tuesday shed light on the learning curve he has experienced during his transition to the NFL.

"It hasn't been super easy to adjust but it's all the same plays," Darnold said on the first day of the Jets' mandatory minicamp. "It's just getting used to the different terminology... being able to picture the play in my head when it's called makes it easier to call it in the huddle."

Darnold, the Jets' first round pick this year, earned roughly 20 first-team reps, according to Newsday. QB Josh McCown led the pack with around 20 first-team reps, while Teddy Bridgewater also had a handful of first-team snaps.

Tags: Sam Darnold
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Jets QB's throwing deep 00:00:33
See Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown throwing darts to their receivers at New York Jets minicamp on Tuesday.

Check back here for highlights from the Jets' first day of mandatory minicamp...


The first day of the Jets' three-day mandatory minicamp kicked off on Tuesday, and rookie QB Sam Darnold continues to get some reps with the first-team offense. Throughout the day, Darnold bounced around the depth chart by taking most of his reps with the third team to go along with his few throws with the first team. 

CLICK BELOW TO SEE THE VIDEO

Tags: Quincy Enunwa, Sam Darnold, Terrelle Pryor
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Sep 10, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; General view of a New York Jets helmet on the field before a game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports (Rich Barnes)
Sep 10, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; General view of a New York Jets helmet on the field before a game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports (Rich Barnes)

Last Thursday in San Diego, California, ex-Jets tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was arrested on suspicion of burglary at a mobile-home park, reports NBC San Diego's Rafael Avitabile.

A burglary call was made at around 2:30 p.m. by a neighbor in the Park Encinitas Mobile Home Park.

According to Winslow's publicist, Denise White, "An over-reactive neighbor called police after she saw Kellen walking around a mobile home." Winslow was later arrested and charged with first-degree burglary as well as being held on $50,000 bail. 

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Five Things for the Jets 00:00:33
SNY NFL Insider Ralph Vacchiano reveals the five most interesting things to watch for during this week's New York Jets minicamp.

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

The next few weeks and months are all about one thing for the Jets, really - the preparation for The Sam Darnold Era. It's going to begin at some point. The Jets believe it will be glorious.

The only question is: When?

Tags: ArDarius Stewart, Chad Hansen, Dylan Donahue, Jordan Jenkins, Jordan Leggett, Josh McCown, Leonard Williams, Lorenzo Mauldin, Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Terrelle Pryor, Ralph Vacchiano
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New York Jets offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson (60) walks off the field following training camp at SUNY Cortland. (Richard Barnes)
New York Jets offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson (60) walks off the field following training camp at SUNY Cortland. (Richard Barnes)

Former Jets OL D'Brickashaw Ferguson still gets asked if would kneel during the national anthem despite being out of the NFL today. 

Well, he broke that silence on Monday when he penned an article addressing that exact question. Ferguson began his piece by noting his thoughts about the anthem protests reached its peak while watching the Jets against the Dolphins last season.

He saw how the entire team locked arms on the sideline, and wondered what he could do. 

Tags: D'Brickashaw Ferguson
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New York Jets running back Elijah McGuire lunges for yards defended by Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander during the second half at MetLife Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets running back Elijah McGuire lunges for yards defended by Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander during the second half at MetLife Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter

Over the next few weeks, we're going to look back at last year's rookies in an effort to assess what their role will be in 2018 and where we can expect them to make improvements on what they brought to the table last year.

Elijah McGuire had what looked like being a breakout performance against the Jaguars in Week 4, when he racked up 131 yards on 12 touches, including a spectacular 69-yard touchdown run. However, that breakout never fully materialized as he struggled to produce much over the rest of the year, other than the occasional flash. Will he be able to earn a more significant role in 2018?

Tags: Bilal Powell, Brian Winters, Elijah McGuire, Matt Forte, Wesley Johnson
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Sep 17, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; New York Jets linebacker Dylan Donahue (49) before the game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports (Stan Szeto)
Sep 17, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; New York Jets linebacker Dylan Donahue (49) before the game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports (Stan Szeto)

Over the next few weeks, we're going to be looking back at last year's rookies in an effort to assess what their role will be in 2018 and where we can expect them to make improvements on what they brought to the table last year.

Dylan Donahue will be hoping to bounce back after a rookie season that was cut short by injury and an offseason which saw him dealing with off-field issues. The coaching staff has been high on his potential, but he didn't really get much of a chance to deliver on that yet.

Preseason stats: Three games, four tackles, 0.5 sacks
Regular-season stats: Four games, five tackles
Projected role: Situational pass rusher

Tags: Dylan Donahue
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Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson (22) in action during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo) (Kelvin Kuo/AP)
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson (22) in action during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo) (Kelvin Kuo/AP)

After the Jets missed out on QB Kirk Cousins in free agency this offseason, the team almost had more cap space than they knew what to do with. 

They gave some of that money to QB Teddy Bridgewater, but they handed the most to CB Trumaine Johnson, who inked a big five-year, $73 million contract with the Jets. 

Johnson played for the Rams his entire career but was free to leave this offseason after the team acquired Aqib Talib, Sam Shields and  Marcus Peters. As the top corner on the market, he had options. But he chose to sign with the Jets to win games...

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New York Jets players and coaching staff lock arms during the national anthem before the game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets players and coaching staff lock arms during the national anthem before the game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | ArchiveThe NFL as a whole would prefer to have its players standing at attention during the national anthem, with no more player protests. For some owners, that's a patriotic gesture. For others, it's simply business. Mostly, though, NFL owners just really want this whole anthem/protest controversy to go away.

That's why it's so bizarre that the league has instead managed to make it infinitely worse.

The NFL knows it too, which is probably why Commissioner Roger Goodell remained so silent when President Donald Trump and the Philadelphia Eagles managed to turn the traditional visit to the White House by the Super Bowl champs into a political football earlier this week. Most of the Eagles weren't planning to go, so the president loudly cancelled the event.

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New York Jets acting CEO Christopher Johnson on the sidelines before a game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets acting CEO Christopher Johnson on the sidelines before a game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

The Jets are continuing to try and impact the community, as Jets CEO Christopher Johnson, along with QB Josh McCown, LT Kelvin Beachum and former Jets LB Demario Davis, sent a letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling for bail reform.

The letter was not only addressed to Cuomo, but also to the speaker of the house and the senate president. It brings up several points that the Jets hope lawmakers will take into account.

 

Some of the points raised are...

Tags: Demario Davis, Josh McCown, Kelvin Beachum
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