Mickens accepts challenge

Although Ray Mickens has forged a reputation as a situational cornerback, this is not the role he envisions playing for the rest of his career. <p>

The eighth-year pro from Texas A&M has started 10 games this season, at left cornerback. He has been the starter since Donnie Abraham got injured in Week Two against the Dolphins.

For most of his Jets career, Mickens has primarily been used as the team's nickel back. Prior to 2003, Mickens played in 110 games and started only 22 of them.

However, he relishes the challenge of starting in the National Football League. The fire inside his 5-8, 185 pound frame burns deeply to accomplish this goal.

"I enjoy playing every down," said Mickens. "Ever since my rookie year, this year is the most work that I have gotten. I enjoy playing every down, and I enjoy playing the game. I would not be the best at what I do if I did not desire to play every down.

"Playing in the slot is something that has created a niche for myself. There are not too many guys that like to go inside and play slot corner. I developed into one of the better ones in the game."

The next step now is finding a way to become an every down player.

With Donnie Abraham penciled in at left corner in New York for the foreseeable future, and the Jets likely to add another corner through free agency, or the draft, his chances of starting as a member of Gang Green's secondary are not good.

However, the team would almost certainly welcome him with open arms in the nickel back role he began the season in.

But entering his ninth NFL season in 2004, time is running out to fulfill the dream of being an every down player.

One of the potential reasons why Mickens has not started since Herman Edwards was named head coach is because playing in a zone is something he had not done before Edwards arrived.

Edwards brought a zone coverage with him from Tampa Bay, and that is what the Jets have been playing for the past three years.

There was a period of adjustment for Mickens.

While in college, at Texas A&M, he almost exclusively played in man coverage.

He excelled in this role, as he was a starting cornerback for the final 34 games of his college career.

Mickens also set himself up nicely in the Aggies record books, as he ranked fourth in passes defended, in school history. He also tallied nine interceptions.

The cornerback was selected by the Jets in the third round (62nd overall) of the 1996 NFL Draft.

Once he arrived in New York it was much of the same, scheme-wise.

Under Bill Parcells and Al Groh, Mickens, was used in man and bump coverage, and hardly ever played in a zone.

"Before Herm was here, we just played man-to-man and a lot of bump coverage," said Mickens. "So we never really had a chance to read routes and read coverage. You just had that receiver that you had to take care of.

"We seldom played cover two in college," Mickens continued. "Our base defense was a man-to-man defense. In college and the same way with Parcells and Belichick. Now we are now more zone-orientated. I have taken an onus to learn it and be as good as I can be."

Mickens is not complaining. He likes this defense.

However, he does feel it took a while for him to learn, given the fact that he had played only man up until Edwards arrived.

"It is a good system, but you just have to learn how to do it," he said.

Now, with knowledge of both schemes, man and zone, he might be able fulfill his dream of one day becoming a starter either with the Jets or elsewhere.

But time is running out.

NOTES:

The win on Monday night was the Jets first win this season over a team with a winning record…

The Jets and Titans each had 19 first downs. Tennessee was 50% converting on third downs, while New York converted 44%. The Jets were out-gained in total yards 343-320…

For the second straight week the Jets got two turnovers, this time both came off interceptions. Against Jacksonville, Aaron Beasley had an interception and a fumble recovery, and against Tennessee both Tyrone Carter and Sam Garnes had interceptions…

John Abraham is listed as doubtful for the game in Buffalo, and David Young is out…


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