By ANDREW GROSS
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: September 5, 2007)
He's listed as a fullback and played quarterback in college. So it's a strong measure of the progress Stacy Tutt has made that the second-year pro is essentially the Jets' third-string running back.
"Yeah, I think (it is)," said Tutt, signed last year as an undrafted free agent out of Richmond. "At the same time, I just don't think I'm anywhere near where I should be. I know there's a lot I can work on. I think I can be a lot better."
The Jets open the regular season hosting the Patriots Sunday at the Meadowlands, and ex-Bear Thomas Jones is expected to play after a right calf injury sidelined him for the final three preseason games.
Second-year pro Leon Washington is next on the depth chart, but coach Eric Mangini surprised many by cutting undrafted free agent Danny Ware after Tutt rushed for a team-high 48 yards on 12 carries in the Jets' 13-11 win at Philadelphia in the preseason finale Thursday.
The Jets ranked 20th in the league in rushing last season with 108.6 yards per game, which served as the impetus for acquiring the 29-year-old Jones, who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in Chicago.
"Last year we had more running backs, less tight ends," Mangini said. "It just changes as you go. Brad (Smith) has run the football. Stacy's run the football. (Fullback) Darian Barnes ran the football. There's a lot of different candidates."
But Smith, despite an attempt to convert him back into a quarterback like he was at Missouri, will line up mainly as a wide receiver. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Barnes can catch a pass or bull through the middle, but his main talent is opening holes.
Through training camp and preseason practice, the 6-1, 233-pound Tutt displayed good running instincts and a burst around end.
"I'm happy with the way it came out, but to be honest, I really wasn't too concerned how it worked out," Tutt said. "As long as I was part of it. That was my goal since I've been here: to be part of the team and help out any way I could."
Tutt signed with the Jets after a stellar career at Richmond, where he ranks second on the school's all-time list with 6,872 yards total offense, third with 5,318 passing yards and fourth with 160 points.
The Jets signed Tutt to their practice squad after training camp last year, eventually signing him to the active roster for Week 15. He played against both the Vikings and Dolphins, but was inactive for the season finale against the Raiders and the AFC wild-card playoff at New England.
Tutt entered training camp this year as the only fullback retained from last season's roster.
"I think I've done some good things, but at the same time, I think I can do a lot better - understanding the offense even better, pass blocking, run blocking, running routes," Tutt said. "To be a complete player, I'm asked to do a lot of things. I need to be sharp doing everything."
Apparently, this season that will include contributing to what the Jets hope is an improved running game.
Note: The Jets signed offensive lineman Mike Elgin, the Patriots' seventh-round pick out of Iowa, to their practice squad yesterday. They also brought in released Patriots wide receiver Reche Caldwell for a free-agent visit to Weeb Ewbank Hall.