The New York Jets, after sputtering like a wet fuse for the past several seasons, finally look like they're ready to live up their nickname again.
Credit goes to new head coach Walt Michaels, the latest Paul Brown product to direct a National Football League team.
The former Cleveland Browns All-Pro linebacker, who replaced Lou Holtz after the 13th game last season, hoards draft choices like a man faced with emmediate famine. He has built in one spring the youngest team in the league. Only three Jets have passed 30 birthdays: guard Randy Rasmussen, who, at 32, is the grand old man of the club; defensive end Richard Neal and quarterback Marty Domres, both 30.
The oldest unit on the Jets who play the Redskins Friday at RFK Stadium, is the offensive line, a battle station that usually benefits the most from experience. Line coach Bob Fry is justifiably proud of what his troops have accomplished for a newborn running game.
Michaels, sticking to the proven Paul Brown ball-control philosophy, has emphasized a storng ground game this preseason. Second-year quarterback Richar Todd appears to be a coutious, steady performer, although he clearly lacks the style Jow Namath portrayed in his early years with the-Jets. [LINE ILLEGIBLE] the Michaels mark. He has a stable of promising running backs, among them rookie Charlie White of Bethune-Cookmaan College, who has gained 169 yards on 49 attempts. Workhorse Louie Giammona, in his second year, accounted for 151 yars on 38 carries.
Giammona strained a knee ligament in the Jet's victory over the New York Giants last week and will probably be held out of the Redskins game. He is expected to be ready for the opener against Houston the following week.
Clark Gaines, another second-year man who barely made the club as a free agent out of Wake Forest stepped into the lineup last season when Ed Marinaro (cut Tuesday) injured his foot in the sixth game. So far, Gaines has produced 106 yards on 33 carries.
The Jets, who stand 3-3 in preseason play, are counting on the continued ignition from another free agent surprise, rookie Bruce Harper, out of Kutztown State (Pa.). In 25 carries, Harper has covered 129 yards for respectable 5.2 average. But it is on the special teams that he has flared like a rocket. His 14 punt returns for 147 yards and a 10.5 average, together with nine kickpff returns for 256 yards and an astounding 28.4 average, mark No. 42 as a man to be watched.
What Friday's final matchup offers Washington fans is a view of a George Allen team of veteran players against a Walt Michaels team that is still cooing in the cradle. The Jets worry that their weakest point is youth, but it would appear that Michaels has lured into his training camp men who will be known by their statistics, not their age.