Earlier this week, the Jets signed free agent fullback/running back Lex Hilliard. Jets fans might not know too much about Hilliard, so I’ve been looking at game footage in detail to investigate what he could bring to the table.

Hilliard spent the preseason with the Vikings before being cut, after which he signed with the New England Patriots, although he didn't see much playing time in two games with them before being let go again. Prior to that, he had been with Tony Sparano's Miami Dolphins, who drafted him in the sixth round in 2008.

After the jump, I look in detail at footage from Hilliard's time in the league to evaluate some of his strengths and weaknesses.

Who is Lex Hilliard?

While he is mainly considered as a fullback now, Hilliard was a tailback in college at Montana. There he rushed for over 4,000 yards - including over 1,300 in 2005 - and caught 57 passes. In 2006, he suffered an achilles injury and missed the entire season and although he bounced back with another 1,000 yard season in his senior year, that may have robbed him of some speed. He only ran a 4.66 at the combine, although he did post impressive numbers in the short shuttle (4.03), vertical jump (36.5 inches) and broad jump (over 10 feet), so clearly he had some explosiveness and agility. Miami drafted him in 2008 and he spent his rookie year on their practice squad.

In 2009, he saw some action on special teams but finally started seeing regular action towards the end of the season - then as a backup tailback. He had a breakout game in Week 16, catching nine passes for 74 yards and a touchdown and rushing for another score. However, in 2010, he didn't play much, touching the ball just once on a three yard catch, but he did see regular action as a backup fullback and occasional halfback in 2011. When New England signed him in 2012, it was purely as a fullback, although he only played nine snaps in two games. It's assumed that's the role the Jets have in mind for him, but with their running backs struggling, maybe he can contribute at the tailback position too.

He is listed at 228 pounds so fits into that hybrid back mold that perhaps the Jets saw in Terrance Ganaway. He's not a 250 pounds pure blocking back like John Conner, but lacks the speed to be a conventional tailback. However, he should be able to run with some power and bring some versatility to the backfield.

The Numbers

Four seasons (plus one on Miami's practice squad)

50 games

Four starts, all in 2011

40 carries, 132 yards, two touchdowns (3.3 ypc)

26 catches, 210 yards, two touchdowns

93% catch rate

No drops or fumbles

One kick return for 14 yards

25 special teams tackles, including 14 in 2009 and nine in 2010, two missed tackles, one penalty (neutral zone)

One offensive penalty committed (false start)

Zero 20+ yard plays

One fumble recovery

One blocked punt recovery for a touchdown

Observations

Based on all the regular season footage I watched, here was my take on what Hilliard brings to the table, divided into categories:

Usage - As noted, Hilliard was mostly used as a tailback in 2009, but has been employed mostly as a fullback since 2010. While he isn't your classic lead-blocking fullback, Hilliard has been mostly used in that role over the last few years. The Dolphins under Sparano also occasionally used him in three back sets, typically in short yardage situations or the wildcat package. They would sometimes employ three backs with two fullbacks and one tailback in the backfield (and even employed the Wing T at one point). However, from that formation, either fullback was often an option to carry the ball too. In their wildcat package, they would often have Ronnie Brown taking the snap with a back either side of him. One would then run to the outside to make a block for Brown to follow and the other would go straight up the middle, sometimes getting the ball from Brown on the handoff. The Dolphins also employed him at times in a dual back set in passing situations, thereby giving one or both backs the option to stay in to pass block.

The most common assumption in the media is that Hilliard has been acquired to fill in temporarily for John Conner (and if he does well, maybe the possibility exists that they'll stick with Hilliard and get rid of Conner). That's probably true, but there's also a chance that adding Hilliard will bring about some versatility to the running game, perhaps with Conner in the game at the same time, or with Hilliard taking his place in certain packages, but Conner still operating as the main lead blocker. They could certainly run three back sets with both at fullback and I would suggest that Hilliard might be better equipped for some of those wildcat plays, because he should be more mobile in terms of getting to the outside. His versatility in general could be a positive thing for those packages and he'll obviously be familiar with the playbook, having played with Miami for the last few seasons.

Running Ability - The first thing that stands out about Hilliard's stats is his poor yards per carry average. However, this is somewhat misleading because he was used so much in short yardage situations. On the basis of all the footage I watched, I've calculated his success rate in short yardage situations to be 80%. That happens to be somewhere that the Jets have been struggling - to the point where they've been reluctant to even try running the ball in those situations. However, there were several examples of Hilliard driving the pile in short yardage situations, so he was able to get a first down even when there wasn't a hole. He even converted a short yardage situation earlier this year with the Pats, so although they hardly used him, clearly they saw his worth in that area.

What Hilliard doesn't bring as a runner is any breakaway ability. He has never had a 20-yard play (as a runner or a receiver) in the NFL. Having said that, he did have a 39-yard touchdown run in preseason in 2009. He does flash the ability to get to the second level though. On his first ever carry, on 3rd and 15, he broke two tackles and drove the pile downfield to pick up 18 and a first down. That remains the longest run of his career, although he averaged just 3.2 yards on the rest of his carries that year. He did have a respectable 2.9 yards per carry after contact though. Other than as a short yardage back, he's pretty limited as a runner, although he scored one touchdown on a Jet Sweep out of the wildcat formation. His other touchdown came as the Dolphins had first and goal from the eight yard line and just gave it to him three times until he scored (although, after it clearly looked like he broke the plane on second down, it actually looked like he didn't on third down). On just 40 career carries, he has broken nine tackles, although that may be a little misleading because only one of them came since the end of the 2009 season and his move to fullback.

Run Blocking - Conner's biggest problem since getting in the league has been that he is sometimes inconsistent with sustaining his blocks. Often that's a product of trying to "light up" a guy in the hole, which - with NFL players - often means they just bounce off you and make a play. Hilliard, being a little smaller also sometimes lets guys get off his blocks to make plays, but it's usually more to do with him getting overpowered or losing the leverage battle. However, his lack of size doesn't necessarily stop him from making conventional fullback blocks. I saw one play where he met a linebacker in the hole and drove him out of the play. He also handled Muhammad Wilkerson last season, to set up a huge lane for a 28-yard Steve Slaton run. As you'd expect, he does look better than Conner at getting out on the move to make a block in space, although he did sometime miss his target at the second level.

He's not a dominant blocker by any means, but he didn't seem to blow too many assignments and there were only a few plays where guys threw him aside to make plays - the worst of which was in his own end zone and led to a safety.

Pass Protection - Hilliard had some issues in pass protection in 2009, giving up two sacks, two hits and one pressure in 39 pass block sacks. Both sacks were by Lamarr Woodley in the last game of the regular season. He also got beaten for a hit that led to an interception. Since then, he's only given up two pressures and no sacks or hits in 38 pass blocking snaps. That may be a product of him becoming a fullback and perhaps improving his strength because on some of those 2009 plays, he was driven off his spot and didn't keep a strong base. Conner has never looked that good in pass protection, so Hilliard could be an upgrade here too.

Receiving Threat - As a receiver, Hilliard was useful as a safety valve out of the backfield. Looking at the footage, it was basically the same play over and over again - he ran a diagonal to the flat, then caught the ball and turned upfield. On a few occasions, he had the speed to beat the linebacker to the outside and turn it into a decent gain, although his longest play was only 18 yards (on two occasions). One of these came as the quarterback scrambled around on 3rd and 13 and he found a soft spot for a dump off, which he caught in stride to get the first down. He also had two touchdowns in consecutive games at the end of the 2009 season on the same dump-off play - one where he dived for the pylon and another where he was wide open for a walk-in score.

Hands - Another impressive stat that jumps out is that Hilliard caught 20 passes on 20 targets in 2009. Since then, he's caught six of eight. Having said that, all of these were dump-offs, as he has never been thrown to more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Still, that's a good sign of how reliable he is in the short passing game, which might be a good way to get Sanchez into a rhythm and create holes for the running game by stretching the defense. There was one play where he juggled the ball and was tackled for no gain, but otherwise, he was very sure handed. He also has zero fumbles in his NFL career.

Special Teams - Hilliard has been a good contributor on specials teams. He was productive as a tackler, especially in 2009 and 2010, and also contributed in other ways, for example as a blocker on the kick return unit and on the punt return unit where he scored a touchdown on a blocked punt in 2011.

Attitude - Hilliard seems to have a positive attitude, as summed up by this quote, which perhaps is the sort of positive example it makes sense to add to the team:

"I'll play whatever. It may have to be on special teams. I'm ready to go. I'm ready to do whatever it takes to help the Miami Dolphins win."


(Obviously, replace "Miami Dolphins" with "New York Jets" within that quote).

I didn't see too many brain cramps and missed assignments by Hilliard, although there was a miscommunication on a draw play which indirectly led to Chad Henne's season ending injury last year and there was also one play where he recovered a muffed kickoff at the one and took a knee in the endzone, which should have been a safety, but he got lucky with the call.

Conclusions

This might be exactly what everybody says it is - a temporary move to replace an injured starter - but Hilliard may bring some things that the Jets currently lack and therefore end up making a positive contribution. He's not a great blocker, but might be more consistent than Conner. He's not a dynamic runner, but might be a better short yardage option than anyone on the roster. He might also give them a bit of backfield versatility that could allow them to run certain packages more effectively, including the wildcat. Indications are that he'll also provide a positive attitude and a good understanding of the playbook.

Let's hope he brings something...however long he's here.

Tags: BGA, Editorial Aside, Bent Double

 (Kirby Lee)
(Kirby Lee)

Jets GM Mike Maccagnan ignored speculation to draft Saints RB Alvin Kamara as he didn't want to take the risk, reports NY Daily News' Manish Mehta

Kamara is turning heads as the rookie has shown out in his two preseason games with the Saints so far this year. Mehta says the Jets wanted to make a push to draft Kamara this year, but Maccagnan decided to stay where they were on the draft board as he viewed Kamara as too much of a risk.

The Jets drafted WR ArDarius Stewart at No. 79 overall in the third round, but now they are seeing what they could have possibly gotten with Kamara in their backfield. The 5-foot-10, 194 pound back has totaled 118 yards and a touchdown on just 10 touches in two preseason games. 

Kamara is shaping up to be a difference maker if he can continue the pace he is on, and the Jets could certainly have used his talents. However, head coach Todd Bowles believes there are playmakers already on his roster...

Tags: ArDarius Stewart
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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Jets head coach Todd Bowles believes his team will perform better than anyone is expecting them to this season, per ESPN's Rich Cimini

Bowles spoke to Mike Francesa on WFAN radio at camp Monday, and gave the Jets' fan base an encouraging message. 

"I would tell them that we're not going to be a terrible team," Bowles said. "We're going to come out there and fight, and blood, sweat and tears will go out to the city and our fans, and we're going to win more games than everybody ever expected."

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Jeane Coakley on Jets camp 00:01:55
Jeane Coakley reports from Jets training camp where Todd Bowles wants more consistency and hopes to name a starting quarterback soon.

 

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Aug 12, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles coaches against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter of a preseason game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Aug 12, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles coaches against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter of a preseason game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Jets head coach Todd Bowles said he will "probably" name a starting quarterback next Monday.

Bowles said on Monday that he wants to first watch film of Saturday's game against the Giants before making an announcement. The Jets will conclude their preseason schedule with a matchup against the Eagles at home on August 31.

Tags: Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg, Josh McCown
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Jan 1, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets owner Woody Johnson on the field before a game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Jan 1, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets owner Woody Johnson on the field before a game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Jets owner Woody Johnson has passed on the duties of team chairman and CEO to his brother, Christopher Johnson, the team announced on Monday.

The anticipated move came after Woody Johnson was sworn in as US Ambassador to the UK and Northern Ireland on Monday.  

Earlier this month, Woody Johnson was confirmed by the Senate to serve in the role.

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 (Jim O'Connor)
(Jim O'Connor)

Jets fans took to Twitter after Sunday night's episode of HBO's Game of Thrones to jokingly suggest the Night King should be their quarterback.

Warning: Episode spoilers below!

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December 11, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams (92) and outside linebacker Darron Lee (50) celebrate after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. The Jets defeated the 49ers 23-17 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports (Kyle Terada)
December 11, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams (92) and outside linebacker Darron Lee (50) celebrate after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. The Jets defeated the 49ers 23-17 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports (Kyle Terada)

The NFL has cleared Jets players Darron Lee and Leonard Williams of any violations of league rules after an investigation into an incident at a New York music festival in June turned up a lack of evidence.

The incident involved Williams dragging Lee away from what Jets coach Todd Bowles later described as "an argument with his girlfriend" during the Governors Ball on Randalls Island. The argument and the aftermath were caught on video and posted to social media.

The Twitter user who posted the video said the woman was "shaken and in tears" after the incident. The user also described Lee as "aggressive" and claimed the Jets linebacker "started to manhandle" the woman, "grabbed" her, and "started dragging her away."

Upon announcing that the league's investigation was closed, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email "Following a review, we concluded there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that there was a violation of the personal conduct policy."

Tags: Darron Lee, Leonard Williams, Ralph Vacchiano
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (right) poses for a photo with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith prior to Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (right) poses for a photo with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith prior to Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is close to getting a five-year contract extension to remain in his position atop the league, according to multiple reports.

According to the Sports Business Journal, Goodell will earn close to what he is during his current contract, which is set to end in 2019. Goodell has presided over the NFL since 2006 since he took over for Paul Tagliabue. The extension would keep him on as commissioner until 2024.

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 (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

After losing some veterans on the offensive line, the Jets are looking for some answers and reliability in the trenches as they march toward the regular season. 

The offense struggled as a whole in Saturday's loss at the Lions, producing just 85 rushing yards and six total points. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg only went 2-of-6 for 14 yards in the first half. Head coach Todd Bowles attributes that to some issues on the line. 

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In the latest episode of The Jet Stream, Jonas Schwartz and Willie Colon look back at the eight sacks the Jets' D laid on the Tennessee Titans, as well as Christian Hackenberg's performance. Later, the guys discuss the wide receivers, offensive line, and their expectations for this week's matchup with the Detroit Lions.

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Aug 12, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Dexter McDougle (23) breaks up a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Darius Jennings (15) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)
Aug 12, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Dexter McDougle (23) breaks up a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Darius Jennings (15) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

This preseason, I'll be spotlighting an under-the-radar player who impressed me in each game and assessing that player's chances of making the team. Today, we'll look at one of the top performers in the Jets' 16-6 loss to the Lions, cornerback Dexter McDougle.

Who is he?

Tags: Dexter McDougle
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Aug 19, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports (Tim Fuller)
Aug 19, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports (Tim Fuller)

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

Remember all that progress that Christian Hackenberg appeared to make in the Jets' preseason opener? Well, by Week 2 it was gone.

Hackenberg, getting a surprise start over veteran Josh McCown, gave an ugly and unproductive performance in the Jets 16-6 loss to the Lions at Ford Field in Detroit. He was a miserable 2 of 6 for 14 yards, with both completions coming on dump-offs to running back Bilal Powell. In a full half of action he led the Jets to just two first downs and a total of 43 yards.

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Aug 19, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) drops back to pass to running back Bilal Powell (29) during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports (Tim Fuller)
Aug 19, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) drops back to pass to running back Bilal Powell (29) during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports (Tim Fuller)

Christian Hackenberg could only complete two passes, the Jets' defense failed to contain Matthew Stafford, and the Lions beat the Jets, 16-6, in the second preseason game.

Hackenberg was sacked twice and completed two of his six passes. During the Jets' opening drive, Hackenberg fumbled after he was hit by Detroit's Cornelius Washington, but the Jets recovered. Bryce Petty completed 15 of his 24 passes for 160 yards and threw an interception for the Jets, who were 4-for-13 on third down.

Myles White led the Jets in receiving with three catches for 43 yards, while Jordan Leggett hauled in two catches for 40 yards. Bilil Powell carried the ball nine times for 32 yards as the Jets were unable to get much going in the running game.

Darron Lee and Morris Clairbone had five tackles to lead the Jets on defense, while Demario Davis, Josh Martin, and Corey Lemonier each had a sack. >> Box score

Tags: Christian Hackenberg
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 (William Hauser)
(William Hauser)

Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson has become more of a vocal leader this season as he has taken it upon himself to fill that void in the locker room.

Linebacker David Harris was the voice in the Jets' locker room for years. Now that he is gone, Wilkerson is the next man in line and he is embracing the new role. 

"I've been here for a long time now," Wilkerson told The Post's Brian Costello, "I always looked up to older guys who are no longer here. I stepped into the footsteps into being a leader. I wasn't vocal [before], but I've always been a leader on this team. David Harris isn't here anymore, so I took it upon myself to speak up more and get out of my comfort zone." 

Tags: Muhammad Wilkerson
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 (Dennis Schneidler)
(Dennis Schneidler)

The Jets are undefeated, which at the moment is insignificant. But really, given all the predictions of doom and gloom, some people probably thought they wouldn't even end up with one preseason win.

They did, but it wasn't pretty (7-3 over the Tennessee Titans at home last Saturday), and they barely answered any of the many, many major question marks surrounding their season and long-term future. Maybe their game in Detroit against the Lions on Saturday night will provide a few more clues about the direction they're headed.

In the meantime, here are five things worth watching at Ford Field tonight:

Tags: Bilal Powell, Christian Hackenberg, Dylan Donahue, Robby Anderson, Ralph Vacchiano
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Daily News Live: Hack Attack 00:02:52
As the Jets get ready for their second preseason game, the panel discusses if a good game from Hackenberg can win him the starting job.

 

Tags: Christian Hackenberg
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JRSportBrief: NFL work stoppage? 00:01:54
In the latest installment of JRSportBrief on SNY.tv, JR talks about the idea of an NFL work stoppage in a few years.

In the latest installment of JRSportBrief on SNY.tv, JR talks about the idea of an NFL work stoppage in a few years.

 

 

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New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown watches as quarterback Christian Hackenberg warms up before a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images)
New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown watches as quarterback Christian Hackenberg warms up before a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images)

While New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles did name a starting quarterback for Saturday's preseason game against the Detroit Lions, he is expected to give Josh McCown more playing time.

McCown, who did not get receive any reps at Thursday's practice when the Jets did game-plan prep, according to ESPN's Rich Cimini, played the opening drive last week in New York's 7-3 win over the Tennessee Titans, but Christian Hackenberg then played the following eight possessions.

Bowles said he didn't anticipate any lineup changes, but left the door open to it by saying, "we'll discuss it."

Tags: Christian Hackenberg, Detroit Lions, Josh McCown
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New York Jets outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin in action against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the preseason game at MetLife Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin in action against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the preseason game at MetLife Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

New York Jets linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin tweaked his back and sat out practice Thursday, leaving him uncertain for the preseason game at Detroit on Saturday night.

Mauldin had been dealing with a back issue earlier during training camp, but returned to the field Wednesday. Coach Todd Bowles said the third-year linebacker was inside receiving treatment during practice Thursday.

Bowles added that he was unsure how long Mauldin would be sidelined, but said that he would likely not play against the Lions.

Tags: Bilal Powell, Detroit Lions, Lorenzo Mauldin, Matt Forte, Quincy Enunwa
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GEICO SportsNite: Jets camp 00:03:01
Jeane Coakley talks to Muhammad Wilkerson about being one of the older, vocal leaders in the locker room at Jets camp.

 

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Daily News Live: Bowles' future 00:04:48
The Daily News Live panel discusses what Todd Bowles can do to save his job and if he is the right coach to lead a rebuilding effort.

 

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 (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Looking to gain a physical edge on the field, Jets linebacker Darron Lee gained nine pounds heading into training camp. 

Lee, who was 227 pounds after minicamp ended, is now 236 at training camp. 

"On my conditioning test, everybody was like, 'You look noticeably bigger,'" Lee said, according to the New York Daily News. "Hey, I put in that work."

Tags: Darron Lee
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Bowles rewards team during camp 00:02:29
Jeane Coakley and Ralph Vacchiano report from Florham Park where Todd Bowles allowed his team to remove pads during practice on Wednesday.

 

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 (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
(Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Jets linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin showed up to a Manhattan court on Wednesday for his alleged assault of a Queens man, but the case has been delayed because prosecution wasn't ready to file paper work, according to multiple reports

Mauldin had turned himself in to authorities in late June for his alleged role in the nightclub attack that took place on April 2. The New York Post reported on June 21 that Mauldin had been charged with misdemeanor assault, which carries a maximum sentence of year in jail.

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New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles answers questions from media at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles answers questions from media at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

Ralph Vacchiano, SNY.TV:

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - In the wake of the ugly riots in Charlottesville, Va., there's a possibility that more NFL players will decline to stand for the national anthem during preseason games this weekend, joining a protest started by Colin Kaepernick last year. So far there's no indication any Jets players will join them.

But if they do, their coach will have their back.

"We don't have a rule book on what's right to protest and not protest," Bowles said at Jets training camp on Wednesday. "You don't know those things until the course of time, whether it's sitting for the anthem, whether it's raising your fist, wither it's speaking out, a walk to Washington -- who's to say whose protest is good or bad?"

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New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. (Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. (Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports)

Ralph Vacchiano, SNY.TV:

John Morton seemed to like everything he saw with Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg on Saturday night. He liked his poise, his decisiveness, the decisions he made. It was clearly a step in the right direction.

But was it a big step toward Hackenberg getting the starting job?

That's a question that Morton, the Jets new offensive coordinator, wasn't willing to answer on Tuesday. In fact, Morton made it sound like Hackenberg still has a long ways to go.

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Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Lucky Whitehead (13) during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Cowboys won 35-10. (Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports)
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Lucky Whitehead (13) during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Cowboys won 35-10. (Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Jets WR Lucky Whitehead, who suffered a broken foot during Monday's practice, will have surgery for the injury, head coach Todd Bowles said on Wednesday.

Prior to deciding on surgery, Whitehead was expected to miss four-to-six weeks, SNY's Ralph Vacchiano confirmed.

Whitehead joined the Jets after he was released by the Cowboys on July 24. He returend two punts and a kickoff in the Jets' preseason opener. Serving primarily as a returner, he caught three passes for 48 yards for the Cowboys in 2016.

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GEICO SportsNite: Jets camp 00:01:46
Jeane Coakley reports from Jets camp, where Todd Bowles was pleased with his team's response to his criticism.

 

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Jets Training Camp report 00:01:37
SNY's Jeane Coakley reports from Jets training camp where head coach Todd Bowles was not pleased with the team's most recent practice.

 

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New York Jets running back Matt Forte is tackled by Miami Dolphins corner back Tony Lippett during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images)
New York Jets running back Matt Forte is tackled by Miami Dolphins corner back Tony Lippett during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images)

Jets running back Matt Forte is missing time in the preseason and training camp due to a hamstring injury for the second year in a row, but told NJ.com's JJ Conrad he feels he is close to returning to the field.

"I'm feeling good, but not good enough to be in full practice yet," Forte said to Conrad on Monday. "I'm just going through what the trainers tell me, easing back in. I don't want to go back out there immediately and get injured again."

Forte, who did not play in Saturday's 7-3 win over the Tennessee Titans in the Jets' preseason opener, said he the trainers are being cautious with him given the nature of hamstring injuries and the fact the veteran running back underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus at the end of last season.

Tags: Matt Forte
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