Herman's highlights

New York coach Herman Edwards talks Jets and 49ers:

Q: What's it meant for your team to start 4-0?

Edwards: It's a little different for us. Usually we are always trying to dig ourselves out of a hole and obviously we got off to a better start and that's a tribute to the players and the coaching staff.

Q: Is there any chance the 49ers might catch you looking ahead to next week's New England game?

Edwards: No. I think when you watch San Francisco, coach Erickson has really done a great job getting his players competing very hard. They have lost two games by three points and they just won a nail-biter last weekend and came back down by 16. Our team understands that every week is a new week and it's very, very difficult to win. Even when you lose teams are in the game. These guys are always in the game. Seattle was a little bit of one of those where they turned the ball over and played up there. They are playing hard. I think, defensively, they play very, very hard. They have some good tacklers over there. They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They don't give up a lot of big passes in the passing game. I can see that right away. I think they have given up only two passes over 20 yards. That says a lot about what they are doing on that side of the ball. Offensively, I think their quarterback is very smart. He's going to take what you can give him. He's throwing at 60-something percent. So they have a way of moving the chains. For us, we know we are going to be in a fight. And they just won a game and then came back. Every time you win a game that gives you confidence. So we are anticipating a good football game.

Q: Do you see some similarities between Tim Rattay and Chad Pennington?

Edwards: Yeah. Tim's been coached since he was young and he's been in football all his life. He makes good decisions with the ball. Obviously he knows how to use the tight end. He knows how to use the dump off pass and the check off pass just to get the chains moving and to keep him out of third and longs. I think that's very, very smart on his part and very smart offensively. Obviously they have some wideouts that can make some plays down the field. They have one of our former guys, Curtis Conway, and I really enjoyed the year he spent with us. He's a pro. He comes to work every day. He's a hard-working guy, a class guy and they have other receivers that can catch the football. They can move the ball offensively; there is no doubt about it.

Q: What can you tell us about Conway leaving the Jets after only one season?

Edwards: Well, for us, he had a good year for us. We kind of went in a different direction. Our football team did. We have 20 new players on this football team that weren't here last year. Nine or 10 of those guys being rookies or first-year players. Some of those guys we acquired in free agency. Curtis did a great job for us. He's a class act and I'm glad he is working out for those guys.

Q: What are your impressions of the 49ers' defense?

Edwards: They do a great job of pursuing the ball and tackling. They are good tacklers. They make plays in space. That's what you have to do in this league. You have to have linebackers that can run and make plays and those guys do a good job. Their secondary is tough. They make plays on the ball and fly around. We respect what they do and the coaches are doing a great job. You can see that in the way they play.

Q: Why are tight ends getting more balls thrown to them this season?

Edwards: Well, obviously the way you play football in this league now, you spread everybody out. And the middle of the field, if you are playing in zones, is always open at the end of the day. The throw in between the hashes, there really is no zone that you can create in where some (defender) is in the middle, basically. Teams that are smart will use that to their advantage and obviously San Francisco is doing a great job and taking that dead zone in the defense and applying it and throwing it to the tight end. And then having enough patience to do that. You have to have patience to do that. A lot of teams don't have patience to take that little three-yard throw and maybe become five, because when you really think about it, it's a run. When you throw a three-yard pass it's basically a run. Instead of starting with negative yards behind the backfield you are now throwing it across the line of scrimmage and gaining three yards when the guy catches it and, if he breaks a tackle, maybe it's seven or 10 yards. That's basically what it is. It's a short way of getting (yards) instead of your back getting beat up. You throw it to the tight end to the middle of the hashes and that's a dead spot and the tight end is open.

Q: What kind of value do you place on the play-action pass?

Edwards: Well, Chad is very good at that. What helps you to do that is you have to run the ball. We have been able to run the ball with Curtis and we've been able to with him and, obviously, our offensive line has done a great job of blocking so that's kind of the thing with us.

Q: Do you see defenses giving tight ends more double-coverage now?

Edwards: If tight ends start catching it like (Johnson) then they are going to have to. He's got what, like 41 catches or something? I told our guys today he's going to break the NFL record if someone doesn't cover him. He's going to have about 200 balls. All those wideouts are going to be mad. They are going to have to redo his contract at the end of the year. He's catching all those passes. It's not just the little ones too. He's got some ability. He can get downfield and he walls guys off and he goes up with his hands. He's a tough guy that can catch it in traffic. They use him really well.

Q: How much do those short passes really hurt a defense?

Edwards: After a while, you have to stop that. The tight end is an effective weapon in this league if you use him correctly and San Francisco is using him very well. They are getting him the ball where there is a high completion throw and if you miss a tackle it becomes a 10-11 yard gain.

Q: What has been the reaction in New York to your fast start?

Edwards: It's been good because we have the Yankees and Giants in New York and the Yankees have won, I don't know how many World Series' they have won, and the Giants are doing great so we don't really worry about that. I don't read it and don't listen to it so we just focus on winning.

Q: How good is this Jets team?

Edwards: I've been asked that before. When you get to Week 8 you can get a true evaluation of what type of football team you have because then you look at the schedule and who has played everyone and your common opponents and you get a good idea. We have a young team that is similar to San Francisco. That's kind of the direction we wanted to head to. We went to camp with only 16 players with 6 or more years experience and the rest of the 71 were five or less. We have been fortunate enough to get off to a nice start, but we are still a team that is learning over time as we play.

Q: How has your top draft pick, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, been fitting in?

Edwards: He actually started two weeks ago and he'll be an excellent football player. He'll be everything they said he would coming out of the draft. He's quietly becoming a leader on defense. He's very, very smart and very, very good in space. That's what you need in this league when you have linebackers. You need guys good in space because everyone spreads you out so much. He's a good signal caller and he's a confident guy and the players, when they go in the huddle, they have confidence in the guy. He's the complete package.

Q: What are the reasons your run defense has been so effective?

Edwards: We have a little different style. Donnie Henderson has brought a different face and attitude to this defense. The players have bought into it. They play the run pretty solid and that's good. You don't want to make offenses two-handed. You like for them to be one-handed. At least this gives you a chance to see what they have to do, rather than sit back and say ‘now we are defending both.'

Q: Why have you had so much success to start off this season?

Edwards: We've got, probably, better players. We've got good chemistry. Our coaches have done a good job of focusing in on what our players can do well and put them in the position to do that. And we have been fortunate to win every game. We've made the plays that we needed to make to win the game and that's kind of important. See, last season we lost six games by seven points or less. This year we are finding a way to win those games that we didn't win last year. That has a lot to do with it too.

Q: What kind of difference has it made to have Pennington healthy this year?

Edwards: Well, obviously when one of your best players gets hurt that affects you. His presence helps us. He's a guy that orchestrates our offense and gets it going. When you have a guy like that at quarterback you always have a chance to win the game.

Q: How difficult is it for a quarterback to come in halfway through the season, like Pennington did last year after he was injured in the preseason?

Edwards: Well, it's difficult because you lose the rhythm. And then the guy coming back, it's no different with what happened to Chad last year, he really tried to do too much. That's what happens. When you lose a quarterback it's always tough. There is a reason he's a starter and that's a big-time position in this league.

Q: How's former 49ers kicker Doug Brien been performing for you?

Edwards: Doug's having a heck of a year. He kicked two big field goals for us. He kicked a 53-yarder at Miami at the half that got us up and then, obviously, he kicked at 38-yarder to win and it was in the wind so it was like a 50-yarder. He's done great. He's a Cal guy. There are two Cal guys, and we were watching the Cal game last weekend against USC so we were watching that together. He's done a great job. He's been a very, very consistent kicker for us.

Q: Do you think most people at this point are surprised by the success your team is having?

Edwards: The only thing we are thinking is that was have to play the 49ers. Writers can write what they want to write. One thing about this football team is that we don't really worry about that. We know that we are in a spot where it took a lot of work and preparation in the offseason to get to. My hat is off to the coaches and the players for getting to this position. Now what we have to do is try and win games. The most important game is this week and I think our players know that.


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