Ryan familiar to his foes

While Oakland's 32nd-ranked offense is inept, the Raiders' fourth-ranked defense is not. And New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini is quite familiar with Oakland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

"They are very good defensively, very opportunistic," Mangini said. "I worked with Rob for four years in New England. He's a close friend. What I've always respected about Rob is how innovative he is, how well he adjusts to things and how good he is at honing in on tendencies. That was one of his jobs there in New England, and he brought a lot of things to the system that weren't really a part of it prior to him getting there. He brought the whole '46' family into that scheme. He does an excellent job, and I have nothing but respect for him. You can see that in the way that they play and the way that the players have played for him."

There was speculation that Ryan was the one Mangini had targeted for the Jets' defensive coordinator post before promoting Bob Sutton. Ryan instead was retained by Oakland, despite its change in head coaches.

Mangini said, "No, I didn't interview him. He was under contract when I had the position, so it wasn't a situation where it could be asked for."

Oakland coach Art Shell hasn't decided whether Aaron Brooks (neck) or Andrew Walter will start at quarterback, although he said Brooks will start if he is physically ready.

"It doesn't make it more difficult," LB Jonathan Vilma said of the uncertainty. "It just requires a little more work for us. We've seen film on both the quarterbacks, so we have to get ready for both of them. Whoever does play, we have to be ready for them."

Somewhat lost in the playoff speculation has been the fact that when QB Chad Pennington takes the first snap on the Jets' first offensive series Sunday, he will accomplish a first for him. Pennington has never started all 16 games in a season, and should do it one year after having two shoulder surgeries in the span of eight months.

"No matter how many games I play, my primary focus is always winning and making sure that I'm doing everything I can to put our team in a successful position," he said, and he added, "but to be able to make it through a season and persevere through a lot of difficult challenges does mean a lot, and I'm excited about the 16th challenge. I'm excited about the 16th game, to be able to have the opportunity to play another game.


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