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Two Rhodes Diverged: Is Jets Safety Kerry Rhodes Still Missing the Message?

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Two Rhodes Diverged: Is Jets Safety Kerry Rhodes Still Missing the Message?
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

"I shall be telling this with a sigh..." -- Robert Frost, 1920.

New York Jets safety Kerry Rhodes sent a message on Sunday that didn't take 140 characters or fewer against the Carolina Panthers

The avid tweeter replied to a demotion with a two-interception performance, aiming to place the final exclamation point on a tumultuous week that saw the fifth-year safety replaced in the Jets' base 3-4 package.

Yet, Rhodes still didn't say enough. Making Jake Delhomme, a turnover-plagued quarterback, look like a turnover-plagued quarterback doesn't signal the long-awaited return of the playmaking superstar. 

But if you ask Kerry, he'll imply that coach Rex Ryan's decision was the match needed to reignite his fires.

"The message was sent," said Rhodes, briefly after Gang Green's 17-6 win against the Panthers. "Now I am moving on...You saw Kerry today and that is what you will see."

A peculiar notion, to say the least. The Jets' 2008 defensive captain shouldn't need a message to become the blitzing ball hawk who was snubbed in Pro Bowl voting, following strong 2006 and 2007 campaigns.

And he definitely shouldn't have needed a message after an offseason he peppered with expectations of performances akin to that of Baltimore Ravens five-time All-Pro safety Ed Reed.

Former Jets quarterback Ray Lucas and NFL analyst Adam Schein discussed Rhodes' performance on SNY after the game, and they agreed on something fans believed was missing from Rhodes' preparation all season: he played like a man who studied the film on Delh-"Oh my God! Where are you throwing?" and took advantage.

If Lucas and Schein were right about Rhodes improving his preparation with more film study, then that speaks to a much bigger problem with the player who's posted more than 7,100 messages to his Twitter profile.

Nonetheless, the intention here is not to vilify Rhodes for his extracurricular activities—that would be inappropriate. But his motivation is not beyond reproach.

When former Jets coach Eric Mangini shipped Jonathan Vilma to the New Orleans Saints in 2008, he also shipped the defensive leader who kept Rhodes in the film room. The result: David Harris emerged as the quiet leader where Vilma once stood, and Rhodes regressed to a playmaker by prior reputation.

As it stands, fans have to wonder if Ryan should consider making the demotion stronger than just a message. Perhaps it could bring about a real change.

Granted, Rhodes' success on Sunday could have been a result of added determination after the embarrassment of a public demotion. Or his performance could also be the result of less responsibility in his new role. 

Finding the field in nickel packages didn't require Rhodes to have sideline-to-sideline range in the defense against the Panthers. He played a support role and waited for Delhomme to toss one of those errant passes he's become infamous for since January.

Rhodes is more athletic than Eric Smith, the safety who replaced him, but one has to wonder if he's diagnosing plays with the efficiency needed to be the deep safety in Rex Ryan's defense. 

Nonetheless, consider these the cracks in the wall that separate fan from journalist:

  1. I own an authentic Kerry Rhodes jersey.
  2. Kerry Rhodes' autograph is permanently Sharpie'd onto another jersey of mine.

It'd bring me great joy to declare the end of Rhodes' two-year regression. But in the spirit of responsibility, it must be understood that such a declaration would be premature. 

Until then, I'm looking down the road as far as I can, hoping the demotion made all the difference.

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