One player is a potential Hall of Fame running back with six consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons under his belt, the other is a second-year wide receiver simply full of potential. But Curtis Martin and Laveranues Coles have something in common: They are recognized by Herman Edwards as keys to the Jets' offensive game plan in 2001 and the first-year coach will do whatever he can to make sure neither player is overworked.
Every year the Jets say they want to reduce the wear and tear suffered by Martin, who has averaged 351 carries a season as a Jet. This time, though, the Jets believe they've got the perfect compliment to Martin in rookie Lamont Jordan, who Edwards believes "…can give us a very good short-yardage guy" but will also get the chance this year to spell Martin as an every-down back.
"Curtis is the guy, no doubt about it, but even in training camp we're counting how many snaps he takes everyday," Edwards said Thursday. "If he's touching the ball 30 to 40 times in practice—running or catching the ball—that's probably too much."
Coles, meanwhile, is battling for a starting wide receiver job and the number one punt returner job vacated by Santana Moss, and Edwards has to resist the temptation to play him too much. "His role is not limited to just the offense," Edwards said. "What we have to do is define his role. We want him to do a lot of things—we want him to play offense, we want him to play special teams. I think we'll draw some conclusions when the preseason is over as to what his role will be."
AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT: Coles came out of Florida State with world-class speed—so fast that his time in the 40-yard dash was the fastest in school history, faster even than Deion Sanders. Now, with a year of NFL play under his belt, Edwards believes that speed is finally translating to game conditions.
"He's starting to play fast [and] use his speed," Edwards said.
Asked whether Coles was as fast as Moss, the coach grinned. "Maybe in the off-season we'll have a little race," Edwards said. "It would be fun."