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Edwards has Jets flying high after fast start

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) - For the last three years, Herman Edwards spent his bye week working long hours, trying to fix the problems that plagued his slow-starting New York Jets.

He showed up to work alone on weekends while players and coaches took a break, refusing to rest until he figured out how to save the season. It worked in 2001 and 2002, when the Jets rallied to make the playoffs.

Another slow start last season turned into a disaster. After opening 0-4, the Jets went 6-10. So Edwards hatched a plan. He would make his team younger. He would make training camp harder. He would will his team to 2-0.

So at the first team meeting six months ago, the coach announced his short-term goal.

"We only had two games in September," Edwards said. "I could load up my ammunition, everything for two games. It's just like that was the season for us, for at least two games. We got to come out of here 2-0."

After wins against Cincinnati and San Diego, the Jets are 2-0 for the first time under Edwards and the second time in 11 years.

Now Edwards can take the bye weekend off. His reward? Going to the Nevada-San Diego State game to see his son, Marcus, play receiver for the Aztecs.

"I actually get to see my son play a football game, which is pretty special for me," Edwards said.

This season could turn into something special as well. The next three games are against winless teams: Miami, Buffalo and San Francisco. It is possible the Jets could be 5-0 before their game at New England on Oct. 24.

But no one is thinking ahead right now. Edwards is just pleased he accomplished one of his goals.

"We've never done that around here," Edwards said. "We've never had games in the bank. We're always using a credit card trying to get out of debt. Credit card's paid in full now. I'm looking at the 14-game season, and now what can we do? That's what we have to look at, see how many we can win."

Before presenting his 2-0 plan to the team, he met with several team leaders to explain exactly what he wanted to do. Everyone was on board. From that moment on, every Jets player knew they had to start 2-0.

"Every person, if you can ask them one thing that they remember from the beginning of offseason training to now - I think everybody had 2-0 in their heads," running back Curtis Martin said. "His focus became our focus, and that's what makes good teams."

It also helped that Edwards decided he needed to rely more on Martin, who leads the league in rushing after two games with 315 yards. Chad Pennington is healthy and started his first career season opener against the Bengals, making it easier for the Jets to get continuity with their quarterback.

The defense is entirely revamped under new coordinator Donnie Henderson. Edwards dumped aging veterans Mo Lewis, Marvin Jones, Sam Garnes and Aaron Beasley and has infused youth everywhere: rookie Erik Coleman starts at safety, rookie Jonathan Vilma will start at linebacker in place of the injured Sam Cowart, and second-year player Victor Hobson also starts at linebacker, while rookie Derrick Strait is the nickel back.

With all the new faces, the attitude of the team is different. Martin constantly says the leadership is much better this year. After losing seven games last season by seven points or less, the Jets have won both their games by close margins this year.

"With the new attitude we have, we expect to win," Pennington said. "We don't expect to sit back and say, 'Here we go again.' There is a greater expectation that when adversity does strike, it is not the time to put your head down and sulk. It is time to do something about it."

Even young players are allowed a voice, and have pumped up the enthusiasm with their exuberance.

"The veterans, the coaches, they accepted us and they told us they expect us to play and they expect us to compete," Vilma said. "They said we're not rookies after a couple games, we're going to go out there and keep playing ball. Now we're one of them."

The Jets have started 2-0 seven previous times in team history. Only once did they make the playoffs - in 1968, their Super Bowl winning season. Edwards knows they have a long way to go before the season ends.

So what is the next short-term goal? Edwards refuses to say. But one thing is clear: the fast start could be huge.

"We got 14 games left now to find out what kind of team we are," Edwards said.

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