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FLYING HIGH AGAIN
JETS' EDWARDS CHANGES THINGS UP WITH SOLID RESULTS

Herman Edwards blows away the stereotype that an NFL head coach needs to be a tyrant to run a disciplined, tight ship.

The New York Jets coach has made a reputation as a favorite of his players, yet he still gets his team to march to his drumbeat.

"There's a few things that are my pet peeves," Edwards says. "Obviously, one of them is don't turn the ball over. The next one is don't commit foolish fouls. I think our players understand how important it is. We stress it."

Talk about walking the walk: The Jets are the least-penalized team in the NFL over Edwards' 3 1/2 -year tenure and they have committed the fewest turnovers over that period.

Edwards has the Jets following his wishes to the letter heading into Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium. New York is tied for the best record in the AFC at 6-1.

"He's a real players' coach type guy," Jets defensive end John Abraham said on a conference call. "He does things that help the players, more than anything. He doesn't ask too much out of a player or too much out of a person. He knows what a person does best and what we need, and I think that's why he's able to succeed -- because he's been a player."

Edwards apparently knew exactly what the Jets needed after last year's 6-10 finish. Many of his changes are working out.

The biggest was overhauling a defense that ranked 21st in yards allowed and 28th against the run. Edwards fired coordinator Ted Cottrell, with whom he did not always philosophically see eye to eye.

After interviewing a half-dozen replacement candidates, he hired Donnie Henderson, who was not on his early wish list. Henderson, 47, came from Baltimore, where he was defensive backs coach. Henderson, nevertheless, has produced results with a more blitzing style than Cottrell used or Edwards used when he was working on defense at Tampa.

The Jets stand ninth in yards allowed and eighth against the run. They are second in the NFL in sacks.

"The first thing he brings is energy," Edwards said of Henderson. "He has a lot of energy. He makes players accountable. He's a very vocal guy on the practice field and in the classroom. I think that it's something I felt we needed. He's brought in a different style, more of an attack style probably than we had in the past."

The scheme is aided greatly by improved players. The entire back seven of the defense is different from last year, thanks to acquisitions and players returning from injury. No. 1 draft pick Jonathan Vilma, free-agent signee Eric Barton and Victor Hobson have excelled at linebacker. Defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson, the fourth overall pick in 2003, is playing much better.

"I think our linebackers are much faster now and doing a great job of playing in space," Edwards said. "In today's game, because the way people spread you out now, if you can still stay in your base defense and play, that gives you an edge."

Edwards has made smaller changes that seem to have helped, too.

He had been second-guessed for running an easy training camp in the past. He worked starters a bit more this summer, and the added preseason action apparently helped running back Curtis Martin get off to a fast start.

He also appointed offensive assistant coach Dick Curl to be his game management specialist. Edwards had been criticized for various clock mix-ups and wasting timeouts the previous two years. Curl spent all offseason studying clock management. He stands next to Edwards on the sidelines and offers advice.

"Sometimes a head coach can get caught up in a lot of things depending on where his focus is as the game's going on," Edwards said. "I wanted a guy to make sure he helped me along with certain situations."

The Jets worked the clock perfectly at the end of the half Monday night against Miami. They ran four plays in 20 seconds and kicked a field goal to take a 10-point halftime lead. It was another small example of good team discipline.

"Some people think discipline is when you holler, scream, rant and rave," Edwards said earlier this year. "That's not discipline. That's hollering. Discipline is what you try to teach. You live your life that way. Your players see it, and you coach it the same way. That's something I take pride in, and the players know it."
e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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