Before New York Jets wide receiver Ben Obomanu goes to bed at night, he turns off all the lights in his bedroom except for his television set. Obomanu then lies flat on his back on his bed, and tosses a football up into the air.
The simple exercise might seem like a scene from a teenage movie, but for a Jets team that has struggled to catch the ball this season, every bit of focus is needed to turn drops into receptions.
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“It helps you concentrate, to see the ball and really focus on it— not make ‘blind catches’ where your head is already turned as if you made the catch— really focus and follow the ball from touch to tuck,” Obomanu told Metro New York. “I’ve been doing that for a while now. It helps that the television light fluctuates and sometimes for commercial, it goes black for a moment. That helps because you do lose the ball in the lights sometime.”
Moving the ball and scoring points was always going to be a struggle for the Jets this year, with a revamped offensive line and two new running backs added to the rotation. But the fact that the Jets keep dropping passes has just added to the misery.
In last Thursday’s 13-10 loss at the Patriots, the wide receivers had six drops, three of which came from Clyde Gates.
“You can’t afford to drop the ball that many times, there’s no way,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “You’re leaving a lot of plays out there. If we would had caught half the balls we dropped, the outcome might have been a lot different. Clearly you’re an NFL receiver, you’re paid to catch the football and we need to do it. Not saying that drops won’t happen, [but] we have to reduce that number.”
Wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal has placed an emphasis on the team’s focus this week. Players will call out other players for turning away and heading down field before a catch is made. In film sessions, they do the same thing. They don’t worry about hurt feelings, just making catches and maintaining focus.
The point of emphasis is driven home by their post-practice routine. The Jugs machine fires out balls at all angles, with the receivers told to imitate a reception based on a certain route or a catch made at a specific part of the field. They do sledgehammer walks and carry 25-pound bricks around to strengthen their hands.
In the post-practice workouts in the gym, bands are used to help their grip. It is their usual regimen— nothing has changed this week despite the increase in drops— but the point is clear.
“We know it is a matter of focus and that we need to go out there and make plays,” rookie wide receiver Ryan Spadola told Metro New York. “Nothing has changed this week, we’re just focused in on it and wanting to make improvements.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.