Ryan Spadola made one of the plays of Jets training camp at this morning’s SUNY Cortland practice. It could be that one play that propels him into the coaches’ consciousness as they start to trim down their wide receiving corps.
Spadola, the undrafted free agent from Lehigh, took off down the right side for the second offense in the practice-closing two-minute drill and made the diving fingertip grab of a roughly 50-yard fourth-down pass from Geno Smith, stepping up in the pocket, in front of Ellis Lankster.
“I was running for a while,” Spadola said. “I didn’t look back for the ball till I was 30 yards down the field, so I was really digging. I thought the ball was never going to come down. I laid out for it and fortunately it fell right in my hands and I was able to bring it in.”
Ryan Spadola knows he has to do more than just make one long reception on the sixth day of camp.
“Pretty much all eyes are on you when you have a deep ball like that,” he said. “Your receivers are supposed to be the playmakers and make big plays in big situations. So for me so far this camp, that was the highlight. But I’m not going to sit on that. I’ve got to continue to get better. I’m just taking that as one play to learn from and keep every single rep just like that.”
While you may not have heard of Spadola’s exploits before this, the 6’3″, 200-pounder from Howell, N.J., is no stranger to the long ball or lots of catches. He had his career year as a Lehigh junior with 96 catches for 1,614 yards (16.8-yard avg.) and 11 touchdowns. In his three varsity seasons, he had 232 catches for 3,611 yards (15.6) and 24 TDs.
“Going into my senior year, defenses used different matchups against me so it took away that vertical threat and we altered our offense a bit so I was more of a horizontal guy,” he said. “But early in my college career, I had a reputation for vertical plays and I feel comfortable going up and taking the ball in the air when it’s deep.”
Why the Jets? Spadola’s from Howell, N.J., down by the Jersey shore, and the Jets showed a lot of interest in him as a free agent addition. What’s more, as a kid, his father, Don, took him to Jets games. When Don died during Ryan’s high school years, he told lehighvalleylive.com earlier this year, “my dream [to play in the NFL] became our dream.”
It will take more than a dream for Spadola to make the Jets. A bundle of plays like today will be helpful.
Top draft pick Dee Milliner, in pads Wednesday, was in drills Thursday, getting some reps with the second defense in 7-on-7’s and then some snaps with the ones in the two-minute drill, during which he made a swipe on a pass that he tipped, didn’t deflect, but that was caught out of bounds. Head coach Rex Ryan wasn’t committing to it but said there’s a chance Milliner could participate in Saturday evening’s Green & White Scrimmage.
Greg McElroy had a strong two-minute drive, hitting Konrad Reuland, then K.J. Stroud twice, then RB John Griffin for the short TD. … Head coach Rex Ryan at today’s news conference mentioned two young offensive players who have “popped up” this camp: WR Vidal Hazelton and C Dalton Freeman. … Former Jets special teams guru Mike Westhoff was at camp today. One touching moment came during practice when Santonio Holmes, still rehabbing his foot, came over to Mike and gave him a hug. … Today’s attendance in the off-and-on rain: 662.
Tags: Dee Milliner, Ellis Lankster, Geno Smith, Greg McElroy, Mike Westhoff, Rex Ryan, Ryan Spadola
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