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New York Jets season preview

INTRODUCING...

When Bill Parcells announced his retirement at the end of last season, the Jets were hoping for a smooth transition to Bill Belichick. However, Belichick balked at becoming a head coach, and the Jets eventually chose to anoint Al Groh, the Jets' linebacker coach and long-time Parcells aide who shares many of the same philosophies.

Groh, who served as an assistant on the New York Giants' 1990 championship squad and the Patriots' 1996 AFC champions, shares many of the same coaching philosophies as Parcells. Thus far, Groh has been running a tight ship and appears to be providing the Jets with the discipline they need.

Parcells remains in the picture as the team's director of football operations, but has ceded all on-field control to Groh. In addition, eight of the Jets' assistants from last season return, giving the team a measure of stability in spite of having a new man in charge. A new presence is also present above Groh and Parcells - owner Robert Wood Johnson IV.

ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL...

The Jets entered the 1999 season with high hopes, but they were dashed in the first half on opening day when quarterback Vinny Testaverde ruptured his Achilles' tendon and missed the rest of the season. Testaverde appears to have made a complete recovery as the Jets look to bounce back. However, the two-time Pro Bowler incurred a toe injury in the Jets' 10-0 preseason loss to Baltimore on Aug. 12. He'll miss the rest of the preseason but should be ready for the Sept. 3 season opener.

Until injuring his toe, Testaverde had shown progress in his first two games, something which was evident in the first quarter of the Jets' preseason clash with the New Orleans Saints on July 29. That night, he led the Jets on one lengthy drive that ended when running back Robert Farmer - since cut - fumbled inside the Saints' 10-yard-line, and two possessions later, he hit Wayne Chrebet on a 75-yard touchdown pass.

NFL INSIDER POWER RATINGS

Ratings based on analysis of 1999 team and individual statistics, offseason personnel moves and feedback from respected experts (from NFL Insider's Season Preview issue) Rushing offense: 8.2 Passing offense: 8.8 Rushing defense: 8.6 Passing defense: 7.8 Special teams: 8.4 Coaching: 6.8 Intangibles: 6.9 TOTAL: 55.5 Scale of 1-10; Perfect score=70

IMPACT NEWCOMER...

Laveranues Coles, a wide receiver from Florida State drafted in the third round, should see considerable action this year. Coles, who had a 25-yard reception to set up the winning score against the New Orleans Saints in the preseason opener, saw a lot of passes in the Seminoles' wide-open offense in college and has looked good in camp. The rookie is battling former Dolphin Yatil Green for the right to step into Dedric Ward's spot as the third receiver in passing situations.

DON'T OVERLOOK...

Dennis O'Sullivan, who was on the practice squad last year, will take over the long-snapping duties from John Hudson, who did not have a bad snap in four years with the Jets. O'Sullivan had a bad snap in the Jets' opening preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, but bounced back with a perfect performance against Green Bay.

"If the last game was any indication, we're on the right path," punter Tom Tupa said. "Some guys' eyes get a little big in certain situations. Dennis was poised and self-confident. That's good."

BREAKING THROUGH...

Ward was named by Al Groh as starting wide receiver opposite Chrebet, the popular kamikaze specialist. Ward has been impressive in camp, and will be asked to replace Keyshawn Johnson. Prior to this season, Ward had been a big part of the Jets' offense as the third wide receiver, but this year he will be doing up against tighter coverage and will have to work harder to get open.

JETS AT A GLANCE

Head coach: Al Groh (first year as head coach) 1999 record: 8-8 (4th in AFC East) 1999 rankings: Offense - 25th overall (297.0 yards/game), 11th run (122.6), 28th pass (174.4) Defense - 21st overall (336.2 yards/game), 17th run (106.4), 24th pass (229.8).

KEY COMINGS

DT Shane Burton (Bears) DE Anthony Cook (Redskins) WR Yatil Green (Dolphins)

KEY GOINGS

S Steve Atwater LB Chad Cascadden (Patriots) TE Eric Green WR Keyshawn Johnson (trade to Bucs) RB-KR Leon Johnson QB Rick Mirer DE Anthony Pleasant (49ers)

TOP DRAFT CHOICES

DL Shaun Ellis (1st round) LB John Abraham (1) QB Chad Pennington (1) TE Anthony Becht (1) WR Laveranues Coles (3) WR Windrell Hayes (5)

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING...

736: That's how many times Curtis Martin carried the ball in the last two years; his season numbers of 367 and 369 are the two highest in franchise history by a wide margin (Adrian Murrell previously held the single-season mark with 301 rushes in 1996). Martin has not shown any signs of wear and tear and could continue his 23 carries per game this season ... 6-2: That was the Jets' record the second half of the 1999 season. New York hopes that momentum carries on through this season ... .604: Parcells' winning percentage in three seasons with the Jets. He is the only coach to end his Jets tenure above .500; Sammy Baugh achieved a 14-14 record when the team was nicknamed the Titans in 1960-61.

CAN'T MISS...

Monday night, Sept. 9: New England at New York. This rivalry just keeps getting better. After Belichick spurned the Jets, he wanted to go to the Patriots. Problem was, he was under contract with New York. The dispute ended when Parcells broke the ice and called Pats owner Bob Kraft. After the Jets were awarded draft picks as compensation. Belichick was cleared to take the Pats job.

This will be his first trip back to the Big Apple, and on Monday Night Football.. The other game to watch for is also in prime time when the Jets travel to take on the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Nov. 12. The Colts won the AFC East last year, and swept the Jets. New York will be looking to make a statement when the two squads meet this season.

TO BE ANSWERED...

How will Groh work out as a head coach?

This is Groh's first head coaching stint in the NFL; he compiled a 26-40 record in six seasons (1981-86) at Wale Forest. Pete Carroll and Ray Handley both struggled trying to replace Parcells when the Tuna vacated the Pats in 1996 and the New York Giants in 1990. Groh, who served as a Parcells assistant at all three of his NFL stops - Giants, Patriots and Jets - is hoping for better results.

How much will the Jets miss Keyshawn Johnson?

The Jets sent the talented Pro Bowl wideout to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for four draft choices. New York elected not to sign a veteran receiver, instead opting to elevate Ward to starter. Can the Jets' defense match last year's performance? With Belichick as the defensive coordinator, the Jets harassed the likes of Drew Bledsoe and Peyton Manning into some of their worst games of the season. Groh is a defensive specialist as well. However, cornerbacks Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman have struggled in the preseason, putting more pressure on the pass rush.

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