Eatman Not at Loss for Words

NEWSDAY

For a team with an empty win column, the New York Jets sure know how to fill up the joint with tough talk. Much of it comes from Bruce Coslet, he of the bold prediction and the "we're-pretty-damn-good" statement. Some of his players, when properly motivated, also can provide catchy sound bites.

Take Irv Eatman, the Jets' right tackle. Eatman, who was whipped last week for two sacks by the San Francisco 49ers' Tim Harris, will face another top pass rusher, Kevin Greene, in Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams in Anaheim. But is Eatman the least bit concerned?

Cue the sound bite:

"He's a good player," Eatman said Thursday after practice, "but he's no Bruce Smith, that's for damn sure. There's only one of those, thank God."

Then came this dose of bravado: "I don't care who they put out there -- even if it's King Kong. It doesn't matter. But I don't plan on enhancing (Greene's) reputation, that's for sure."

Actually, Greene already has quite a reputation. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound linebacker has been a scourge of quarterbacks throughout most of his career, compiling 49 sacks in the previous four seasons. That's even more impressive considering last year was a washout. The Rams tried Greene at defensive end, and he responded with only three sacks. "A blown assignment for me, totally," Greene said.

Enough of that experiment, the Rams finally decided. Greene was moved back to linebacker -- he plays left end on passing downs -- and he already has four sacks, fifth in the National Football Conference. "A very special player," Coslet said. "And it's not like he gets to rush the quarterback every down. He has a very high percentage of productivity."

Which means Eatman will have to be at his best. A repeat of last week's jail break just won't do.

"He kicked my (butt). What can I say?" Eatman, usually a reliable pass blocker, said of Harris. "It's the first time I can remember being beaten for two sacks in a game."

Obviously, keeping quarterback Browning Nagle upright is high on the offensive line's priority list -- particularly because Nagle is returning from an injury -- but the line also wants to establish a running game. If it does, it will be the first time this season.

The Jets, the NFL's fifth most productive rushing offense last season, currently rank No. 22 with a paltry 81.3 yards a game. You fall behind 17-0 and 31-0 in two of your first three games, and that's what happens. Playing catch-up most of the time isn't conducive to fat rushing statistics.

Maybe this week is when the Jets get their running game untracked. If not, they're in trouble. The Rams, with two rookies (Sean Gilbert and Marc Boutte) starting at defensive tackle, have allowed more rushing yards than any other team in the league (163 per game).

"We certainly want to exploit it against them," Eatman said, referring to the Rams' soft run defense. "That's not a secret."

If Eatman can back up everything he says, the Jets should enjoy their trip to Disneyland. If not, he and his teammates will look goofy.

Nagle, apparently recovered from his bruised index finger, was upgraded to probable on the injury list.

DE Jeff Lageman, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee 12 days ago, underwent reconstructive surgery Thursday at Lenox Hill Hospital.

Lageman's replacement, Marvin Washington, sprained his left hand Thursday in practice, but should be OK.

Rams Coach Chuck Knox, fired by the Seattle Seahawks after last season, on why he wanted to remain in coaching: "I don't feel that, after 30 years in the NFL and 38 years of coaching, I'm ready to sit down someplace and play cards."

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