A heaping helping of July Whispers

Remember Matt Higgins, who was the spokesman for the Jets' West Side stadium project? Well, now with the stadium issue resolved, with the team moving to a new facility in New Jersey, Higgins' PR skills are now being used on the football side.

We hear he is working as a media consultant to Jets head coach Eric Mangini . . .

Good news for all you Jets fans based in New Jersey. We hear the team plans on having a nighttime practice in the Meadowlands during training camp. The date hasn't been announced yet . . .

CBS Sportsline reporter Pete Prisco recently put together his all-overrated and underrated team. While Prisco generally does good work, his Jets selections were way off the mark.

For the most-overrated Jet, he selected Curtis Martin, and here was his explanation:

"Running back Curtis Martin has been an all-time Jets great. But it's over. Martin is no longer an elite back and it showed last season when he rushed for a career-low 735 yards."

For the writer to point out Martin's 735 yards last year, and say that is why his days as an elite runner are over, is very unfair. First of all, Martin missed the last four games of the year with a knee injury, so that is part of the reason his numbers were down. Secondly, he hurt that knee in Week Two against Miami, and proceeded to play until the 12th game with this painful malady. Should he have played this long on a bad wheel? Absolutely not. But blame the coach for that one. Martin should have been put on the shelf a lot sooner, but the resilient runner attempted to rough it out.

The Sporting News, in a recent issue, also took a shot at Martin based on last season. "[Martin] showed signs of slowing down last year."

Both Prisco and TSN are being a little disingenuous with this assessment. Has he slowed down? Possibly, but how can you make that assessment based on a season where he was playing most of the campaign with a knee that required surgery. The year before he led the NFL in rushing.

Let's see what he does this season with a healthy knee, before we write him off.

Now, on to Prisco's most-underrated Jet. For this honor, he gave the nod to defensive end Shaun Ellis.

"Defensive end Shaun Ellis doesn't get a lot of attention, but he simply goes out and makes plays," wrote Prisco. "He should be comfortable playing end in the new 3-4 scheme."

This is the same Ellis who finished last year with just 2.5 sacks. He also had the lowest tackle total of his six-year career (48).

Ellis said after the season finale that he let the team down and admitted he had a bad year last season. So to call him underrated at this point isn't accurate.

We have to take exception to one more item that appeared in a recent Sporting News. We aren't sure who wrote it. It was about the Jets' tight end position.

"Chris Baker (blocking) and Doug Jolley (receiving) are one-dimensional players," wrote one of TSN's reporters.

While the assessment of Jolley is accurate, how can you possible call Chris Baker a one-dimensional player?

While Baker isn't much of a deep threat, he has soft hands and is an underrated receiver. In the Jets' opener last year at Kansas City he caught seven passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. It was the Jets' first 100-yard game by a tight end since Johnny Mitchell in 1995.

Baker's season ended prematurely in the Jets' eighth game, when he broke his leg against San Diego. But prior to leaving that game, he snuck behind the defense to grab a 47-yard pass from quarterback Brooks Bollinger.

Baker is a solid all-around tight end, and it was off-base for TSN to call him one-dimensional . . .

Getting back to Martin, if Cedric Houston hopes to grab some of Martin's playing time, he must improve his pass-protection skills. One of the biggest problems for rookie tailbacks entering the league is blocking, since they didn't do much of it in college. Martin, despite his size, is a very good blocker.

"That is the one thing about Curtis Martin that didn't get enough attention," said former Jets coach Herman Edwards. "He is a great pass-blocker." . . .

Center Trey Teague was seen recently in the Jets' complex with a large cast on his broken left leg. It's hard to imagine that he is going to be ready for the opener in less than two months. So it looks like the Jets' plan at this point is to start rookie center Nick Mangold. If Mangold struggles in camp, former San Francisco 49er Norm Katnik could emerge as the starter. The Jets are very high on Katnik, a USC product they claimed early last season . . .

Rookie quarterback Kellen Clemens has really impressed Jets brass with his tireless work ethic. On many nights, he's in the building until 10 p.m. While it's a long shot that he's going to play this year, with his tireless work ethic he could move up the growth curve faster than most rookie quarterbacks . . .

The Jets had 100 percent attendance in their off-season program, which was a big help to the coaches who are installing a new system. Two Jets opponents this year, who are also putting in new programs, had poor attendance – Green Bay and Buffalo. This should give the Jets a leg up on these two teams . . .

The Jets don't have much speed at wide receiver, so this could help the cause of rookie free agent Wallace Wright. The North Carolina product displayed excellent speed at the mini-camp. He's also a good kick returner. He handled the job for four years in Chapel Hill . . .

Starting wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Justin McCareins were hobbling around in mini-camp. McCareins suffered some kind of leg injury that eventually forced him to the sidelines. Coles, who has a chronic turf toe, was seen limping around on a few occasions.

"This bleep ain't easy no more," Coles was heard saying while running back to a huddle after a pass pattern.

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