Former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach was at SUNY Cortland this week, taking in a few Jets practices. Leach, who led the Red Raiders to 84 wins in 10 seasons and had a quarterback pace the nation in passing eight of those years, likes the camp environment Jets head coach Rex Ryan has created in upstate New York.
“One thing that’s impressed me about this camp out here, and I’ve been to a lot of NFL camps over the years, is just the enthusiasm of the players and the coaches and everybody,” he said. “They’re having fun being here and they’re having fun playing here, which is not always the case. Sometimes it’s like going to work, but not here.”
While Leach and Ryan never served on the same coaching staff (Ryan was Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator in 1998 and Leach OU’s offensive coordinator in 1999), the pass-happy Leach sees similarities in their approaches to football.
“I like the way Rex plays defense, always have. They’re kind of like we are on offense. We’re trying to get the ball in as many people’s hands as possible and they’re trying to hit the quarterback with as many people as possible,” Leach said. “So I think it’s a shared philosophy, different side of the ball. I’m excited to see what they’re doing and I’m watching defense here to see what I can pick up. The Jets have been great as far as embracing me and letting me come out and watch.”
A matchup between Leach and Ryan isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, but I asked how the offensive wizard would challenge the defensive scientist.
“The biggest thing is you have to sort it out quick, that’s the challenge. They disguise it and then they’re going to try to get a piece of you at key times. There are always just 11 players and what you worry about is can you recognize it quickly enough,” said Leach, who coached Jets defensive assistant Brian Smith at Tech and coached against Jets assistant head coach Bill Callahan when Cally was the head coach at Nebraska. “You don’t care what you do, but your ability to recognize it quickly enough, that’s the challenge they give you. And then just the mentality.”
After Thursday’s morning session, Leach was set to visit with the Jets’ coaching staff a little bit more and review some film.
“I’m going to go watch and listen and steal as many ideas as I can and write little notes to myself. Yeah, I’m going to see what I can pick up,” he said. “Besides the fact that they do good things, just listening to people talk football gets me thinking, too, so between it all, maybe I’ll come up with something.”
Taylor Sharpening the Sword
Veteran OLB Jason Taylor, entering his 14th NFL season but his first with the Jets, says the Ryan defense is the most complicated system he’s had to learn in his professional career.
“It’s just different. There are so many moving parts and variables. I don’t know why, but this has been a little bit tougher for me to learn,” said the 35-year-old. “Right when I feel like I learn one thing, then we go to something else and I try to focus on that and I forget the old one. It’s just about getting the repetitions — not only physical reps on the field but mental reps, watching tape and watching other guys on the field.
“It’s starting to add up, but this training camp was important for me learning-wise. The physical part of it none of us like, but the mental part I need.”
The 6’6”, 250-pound Taylor, who has been slowed a little bit by a sore groin, is working on his technique as well as system comprehension.
“You work on some takeoff things and get rid of the false step on your takeoff,” said the former Jets nemesis, who racked up seven sacks and three forced fumbles last season for the Dolphins. “Obviously you learn the defensive system, and I really need to get to the point defensively where I’m playing the game and not thinking it. When you truly absorb the defense and understand it, then you can just read and react and kind of play more aggressively.”
Tags: Bill Callahan, Brian Smith, Jason Taylor, Mike Leach, Rex Ryan
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