Jets receivers coach Sanjay Lal working hard to fill gaps, help David Nelson catch on
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The whiteboard in Sanjay Lal's office contains all the answers.
Each week, the Jets' wide receivers coach scribbles his plan for the passing game in black, red, green and blue marker. He starts by writing the names of available receivers in their positions, and then, after surveying the open spots left to fill, he turns his attention to possible replacements.
"You say, 'Is [Jeremy] Kerley best suited to go play 'X' now? Is Clyde [Gates] better suited to go play 'Z'? Is the new person best suited to this?' And then you try to shuffle all the pieces to maximize each guy's skill set," Lal explained during a sit-down interview with Newsday on Friday evening.
Lal spent much of 2012 game-planning without his two top receivers, Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill, and his receiving corps again was in flux this past week. Holmes, who spent the entire offseason recovering from foot surgery, will be sidelined for at least a few weeks with a hamstring injury, and a cloud of uncertainty hung over Hill. The 22-year-old receiver suffered a concussion against the Titans in Week 4.
It's easy when you're replacing an "X'' receiver, such as Holmes, with another "X'' receiver, Lal said. "When it gets hard is 'this guy may be out, this guy may not be out.' And there's two of them. Then it's hard."
Two days after his "light headaches" dissipated, Hill wore a red non-contact pinnie in practice Friday. But while Holmes was ruled out Saturday, Hill -- out of Georgia Tech -- was listed as probable on the injury report, an indication that barring a setback, he'll play Monday night against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
"In his mind, he has to be out there," Lal said. "This is an important game, not only for the team but also for him. This is his home. And it's on a national stage. He wants to be out there."
Desperately in need of depth, the Jets signed free agent David Nelson on Tuesday. Despite not having played in the regular season since Week 1 of 2012 -- a game in which he tore his ACL against the Jets -- the former Buffalo Bill likely will see significant time Monday. But getting him up to speed has been no easy task.
After arriving in Florham Park late Tuesday, Nelson spent four to five hours working with Lal on Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast system. "The goal is for the offense to not skip a beat," Lal said. "But it really is six weeks of teaching honed into six days."
Lal, who joined the Jets' staff in January 2012, is no stranger to teaching in-season signees on the fly. Last year, the Jets brought in Mardy Gilyard and Jason Hill after the season started, plus Lal had only five days to work with Braylon Edwards before their Monday night game against the Titans.
And now the stakes are high for the 2-2 Jets, who fly into hostile territory to face the Falcons (1-3) and their high-octane offense. The pressure, to some degree, will be on Lal, too. But he's confident that his newest receiver will be ready.
"He'll be better than OK, because we won't let him out there if he's not," Lal said with a smile, referring to Nelson. "I won't rest until he is more than OK. And he seems, to me, very detailed, and he's taking a big burden on himself. He won't go out there until he's ready. So together, by Monday at 8:30 [p.m.], we'll be ready."
Notes & quotes: Mike Goodson (four-game suspension) was moved to the active roster and is probable, as is Chris Ivory (hamstring). Clyde Gates (knee) and Kellen Winslow (knee) are questionable and Dee Milliner (hamstring) is out . . . The Jets promoted WR Michael Campbell from the practice squad.