Perhaps the most interesting story out of Rex Ryan’s daily news conference at SUNY Cortland today was the head coach’s handicapping of his left guard matchup between second-year man Matt Slauson and second-round man Vladimir Ducasse.
Asked if he thought Slauson was ahead in perhaps the highlight position fight of camp, Ryan said that would be accurate.
“It’s anybody’s battle there, but what I want to see in Vlad is I want to see him finishing,” he said. “Your technique might not be perfect right now, but just the mentality and the attitude, if you don’t have that, you really don’t fit in with the other linemen.
“You look at Brandon Moore, Damien Woody, Nick Mangold — and D’Brickashaw’s in a league of his own anyway — whoo, you’re gonna stick out like a sore thumb if you don’t have that mentality.”
Ryan wasn’t saying Ducasse doesn’t have it or can’t get more of it but that there is a little rookie hesitation going on at the moment.
“Vlad, he’s going, then he’s looking back to see ‘Did I do that right,’ all that kind of stuff. Just finish, guys,” the coach said. “I challenged Vlad and I saw a little of that today, shoving guys. That’s not a glamour position. You’ve just got to get down and get after it.
“Slauson has that. That’s why I think I’d put Slauson ahead of Vlad right now. He’s just a tough, nasty guy. Vlad is also, but Bill [Callahan]‘s gonna coach you after the play. Don’t worry about looking back. Just knock the heck out of the guy in front of you and we’ll figure it out after.”
And Speaking of Fights
Ryan had the first brawl squall of camp toward the end of the morning’s practice.
“The fight was what we thought it would be — Rob Turner,” Ryan said about his backup interior lineman. “But everybody had the odds favoring ‘Dig’ [James Ihedigbo] getting into it. But no, it was Jamaal Westerman. That was newsworthy. … But it wasn’t really that big a deal. Both guys were smiling afterwards.”
So were the side combatants to that big mass of padded humanity. Jason Taylor and Mark Sanchez looked as if they were auditioning for when the pro wrestling circuit passes through the Finger Lakes region. Taylor “plowed into” the QB from behind, “threw” him to the grass and then applied what looked like perhaps an atomic knee drop on the redshirted No. 6.
“If the HBO cameras weren’t around, I would’ve decked him,” Taylor said, channeling John Cena, in the media tent afterward. “I think we’re ready for the WWE. We looked pretty good.”
Of course, even pro wrestlers get hurt. But the Taylor-Sanchez match was tame stuff and Ryan wasn’t going to overthink the dangers of horseplay on the ring apron. “That,” the coach said, “is just the fun part of the game.”
He Felt Strongly Both Ways
Sanchez was involved in another episode that conflicted the coach. In the first units’ two-minute drill, Sanchez “won the game” by hitting Brad Smith, who got past the secondary and caught a 40-yard pass in stride for the touchdown.
“I will admit I jumped our defense,” Ryan said. “That’s what I’m talking about, closing out games, something we’ve got to do better at. I thought we addressed that issue. I don’t care whether it’s practice, who it is, you can’t give up those points. Maybe that’s the defensive coordinator in me. I was not pleased with that. I’ll always win in that situation [as a head coach], but I felt like I lost. We’ve got to do better than that.”
Crystal Clear Image
One last topic was the coach addressing those critics who think he’s jumping the gun by encouraging Super Bowl talk. It never gets old listening to Rex’s latest spin on why what those critics say just doesn’t matter.
“I believe we’ll do it so why wouldn’t we say it? Why wouldn’t we go for it?” he said with that Ryan edge about reporters who think he should “wait until he’s won something” before bragging on himself and his Jets. “I’ve won a lot more than that person writing that, I can promise you that.
“The first step is if you don’t believe it yourself, your team darn sure won’t. I’m not apologizing. My crystal ball, I’m seeing a Super Bowl trophy in there. I could be wrong but that’s what I see. I’m not embarrassed to say I believe it’ll happen. The great thing is we get to prove it soon. That’s the beauty of it.”
Ryan said hot-hands rookie TE Jeff Cumberland was doing well again until he “got his bell rung” and was held out of the last couple of periods of practice. … G Marlon Davis (knee) sat out today’s practice. … The prognosis is good for LB Brashton Satele, who’s been having a good camp, but Ryan said it doesn’t look as if Satele can make it back in time for Saturday night’s Green & White scrimmage. … WR David Clowney was excused from practice to tend to a personal matter but is expected back for tonight’s meetings.
Tags: Jamaal Westerman, Jason Taylor, Mark Sanchez, Matt Slauson, Rex Ryan, Rob Turner, Vladimir Ducasse
Posted in Randy Lange | 30 Comments »
It may be NFL summer, but Bryan Thomas has a spring in his step.
It must be the number.
“Yeah, I feel a little lighter on my feet wearing No. 58,” said the ninth-year Jets linebacker, who took the field again this morning sporting his new numerals. “It was funny. At first when I went to my locker, I went to No. 99. It kind of threw me off. I was so used to looking for that number.”
More on BT’s digit deal with JT — Jason Taylor — in a moment. But Thomas has other reasons for feeling frisky at his advanced football age of 31.
“You know what I did this year that helped me out a lot? I ran all three fields plus the turf field,” Thomas said, referring to the array of 100-yard pitches at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., at this moment almost 200 miles away from Cortland, N.Y.
“I did that a lot during OTAs and minicamp and then after everybody left for the offseason. I would start off with three times around all the fields, then rest for five minutes, then two or three more times.”
How long is that? “I really don’t even know myself,” he said. By my rough calculations, a lap around all the fields is about 600 yards, meaning that BT’s five or six laps, after a practice or a workout, at LB speed, would be from 1.7 to more than two miles at a clip. All of which got him ready for that iconic conditioning run on Sunday and the first practices of camp Monday and today.
“It really helped my wind,” he said. “I could tell when we ran the conditioning test. Usually I’ll be all slumped over and tired after the last [section of the run]. This time I was standing, walking around and still had my wind.”
Wind is one of those big little four-letter words for this Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine defense as it attempts to better last year’s impressive performance. Ryan has talked about generating more sacks, especially in fourth quarters when a few opponents last year had successful closing kicks. This year the idea is to kick those opponents while they’re down.
So far so good. Thomas said of this year’s camp start: “Guys are running around out there with fresh legs, running to the ball, making the plays they should make. There’s a couple of things here and there that we need to correct, but that’s part of the first days of camp. Just watching the guys out there running around, it looked pretty good.”
That included BT watching JT running around in his old number. The two worked out a deal the week before camp in which Thomas passed that No. 99 that he wore since his rookie season of 2002 to Taylor, who wore that number for all except his one season in Washington since his Miami rookie year of 1997.
“I started out with 91,” Thomas recalled. “Then Josh Evans took it from me and they just gave me 99 and I rolled with it, being a rookie at the time. But I knew Jason wanted it. He’s done so much in that number. You’ve just got to respect it. There was no pressure to give it to him. It was a mutual agreement.”
But which number to wear? BT’s original thought was 46 — “That was the number I had in college” at UAB — but NFL rules restrict linebackers during the regular season to the 50s and 90s. Josh Mauga had 58 but Thomas and Mauga swung a side deal and now Mauga is 53 and some more numbers are aligned for the Jets to reach their ultimate Super goal.
And as the professional and newly conditioned Thomas said, “I look at it as a new number and a fresh start.”
A.M. Practice Notes
It was a great exchange of plays in the live-tackling period late in the morning session. CB Antonio Cromartie was a little late to the party on a Mark Sanchez pass over the middle to Dustin Keller. DC Mike Pettine from the sideline barked: “C’mon, Cro, compete!”
The next play Cromartie competed bigtime in an area some thought he wasn’t strong at: the running game. LaDainian Tomlinson got the call, tried to cut off right guard — and was met in the hole by No. 31.
“He picked him up and knocked him on his back,” head coach Rex Ryan crowed at today’s midday news conference. “Whooo, that was a nice tackle. They could’ve used that in that playoff game.” “They” likely referred to Cromartie’s previous team, San Diego, and “that playoff game” to the Chargers’ loss to the Jets.
“Funny,” Rex said, “a lot of guys will hit when they come to the Jets.”
There was one other huge hit when LB Kenwin Cummings crushed RB Joe McKnight after a short middle pass from Mark Brunell. And in early 9-on-7 running drills, practice was spirited with Cummings and Wayne Hunter going at it hard, Rob Turner getting into a scuffle, and coaches Brian Schottenheimer and Bob Sutton were fired up.
Ryan liked the tempo. “I thought it needed to pick up from yesterday,” he said. “Today they kind of were barking at each other, and that plastic hitting, you love to hear that as a coach.”
Other highlights: Interceptions by LB Calvin Pace — the D’s first takeaway of camp — and an acrobatic Cromartie, both off of Sanchez, and Drew Coleman off of Brunell, but also a long Sanchez-to-David Clowney deep sideline completion when the ball got through S Brodney Pool’s hands.
The kicking game will be on display at this afternoon’s special-teams-only practice, but it continued to look sharp this morning. Nick Folk finished the practice with flawless field goal work under an uptempo rush, drilling all five of his kicks (all from under 40 yards). Ryan liked what he saw.
“I want to go on the record, officially I’m not worried about our Pro Bowl kicker anymore,” he said, referring to Folk’s PB campaign as a Dallas rookie in 2007. “Nick is back to form. I was a little worried, I don’t mind telling, at that first [OTA] practice — ‘Ooof, you kiddin’ me, Nick?’ But he had to get used to that holder and that snapper, and he really does look good.”
Special Teams Practice
Nick Gallo reports that this afternoon’s special-teams-only was a halfspeed affair, which didn’t prevent ST boss Mike Westhoff from being fiery and vocal during the hour-long session.
Six players returned punts: Brad Smith, Jim Leonhard, Aundrae Allison, Kyle Wilson, Joe McKnight and Larry Taylor, with Leonhard showing many of his sure-handed skills last year, when he started out as the Jets’ main PR man.
In the punting competition, Steve Weatherford and T.J. Conley punted, with Weatherford appearing to get the leg up in the battle despite both having to kick through some strong gusts in the Cortland afternoon.
Tags: 58, 99, Bryan Thomas, Jason Taylor, Josh Evans, Josh Mauga
Posted in Randy Lange | 18 Comments »
Darrelle Revis’ absence from the first day of camp is obviously the major topic of the arrival of the Jets for their second training camp at SUNY Cortland this afternoon. But there were many other themes as well, including the nature of the team’s arrival itself.
The city of Cortland had a parade. And the Jets, in their bus-shaped floats, were the guests of honor.
Unlike last year, when the team’s two-bus caravan pulled up to their dorms on the hill on campus, this year the buses detoured slightly for the “Jets touchdown Event” put together by the Cortland Downtown Partnership. Owner Woody Johnson and head coach Rex Ryan got out to speak to the townsfolk and fans, and then the buses proceeded to the Glass Tower dorms, where they arrived around 3:43 p.m.
Before and after the buses pulled up, most of the Jets veterans arrived in their own vehicles, trucking TVs and pillows, suitcases and boxes up to their rooms. Some spoke with the assembled reporters before they went up, some after they came down. And whatever any of them thought of training camp, all here seemed to be happy to be back in Cortland.
“Clearly coming up here, it exceeded our expectations,” Ryan told reporters in the Cortland Stadium pressbox this evening. “We thought it’d be good and it was way better than that. … We became a team here. We think we carried that all the way through the season.”
Here are some of the other storylines explored by reporters, players and coaches today:
Jets fans and football fans won’t see any “Hard Knocks” footage until Aug. 11, but members of the NFL Films/HBO team were visibly at work, with their camera people all wearing Hard Knocks T-shirts and trailing and shooting players as they reported to the dorms.
The players are still excited about the prospect of starring in the show but not worried about the D-word — distractions — because of it.
“I think it’s good,” tackle Damien Woody said. “I’ve watched it before. It’s going to be different to experience actually being in it. Here we don’t shy away from media attention. You’re going to get a lot of insight into what guys truly are like behind the scenes.”
“Some guys, and I include myself, at times you want to get in front of the camera, you want to maybe say something funny or do something spectacular on the field. But at the same time they’re going to get lost in the shuffle after a while. So much goes on in training camp. I’ve got to worry about my situation.”
Who will the stars of the series be? Fullback Tony Richardson had some thoughts.
“Two guys obviously are Kris Jenkins is going to have his day in the sun, and Bart Scott,” said T-Rich, the second-arriving veteran at camp behind only Jenkins. “Those defensive guys like to jaw a little bit. It’s an entertainment business and they entertain me so it’s going to be fun.”
Ryan again insisted he’ll be only a supporting player in the five-episode series.
“We’ve got way too many personalities,” the coach said. “All love to play, all are characters in their own right, all are committed to the same thing — winning a Super Bowl.”
That brought up another theme today, which are the expectations surrounding this Jets team, which began before Hard Knocks came aboard.
“A lot of the pressure comes to me — and that’s good,” said Mark Sanchez, in his first summer as the unquestioned QB starter. “Now we’ll get a chance to show our stuff, so it’s going to be important these next couple of days to really get our timing down, to focus. That’s what this camp’s about, coming closer as a team, see how we do, and getting ready for that first game.”
“It’s exciting that people are excited,” said center Nick Mangold. “Now we’ve got to live up to that.”
The New Old Guys
Some themes we’ll be diving into in the coming days and weeks are how the new Jets with the multiple NFL seasons under their belts are faring. LaDainian Tomlinson, for one, had the air of a future Hall of Famer who couldn’t wait to get to work for his new employer in a new summer camp.
“Absolutely, it is a fresh start,” said the former 10-season San Diego Charger. “I think every year you have something to prove. … I’ll do whatever the coaches want me to do, whatever this team needs me to do.”
Laveranues Coles, just signed Friday, came up on the bus caravan and seemed happy to be in Cortland and to see some familiar faces, but the 11th-year wideout just beginning his third tour of duty in green and white wanted to wait to talk with reporters until practices begin.
But Jason Taylor, settling into his new colors after wearing the aqua and coral of the Dolphins for so long, was eager to get at it and show what he’s got left in the tank.
“Ideally, I’ll have double-digit sacks and some big plays,” said Taylor, the last Jets vet to arrive. “The things I’ve been doing my whole career, I hope to continue doing them.”
And JT confirmed that he’ll be doing those deeds in his old number 99 after concluding successful negotiations with the former 99 wearer, fellow linebacker Bryan Thomas.
“I won’t get into the terms, but it was very fair for Bryan,” Taylor said. “He’s had the number for a little while, too. I wasn’t going to press the issue but he came to me.”
BT will now wear No. 58 and LB Josh Mauga will go to 53. And Coles, after wearing No. 87 in his seven previous Jets seasons, will sport 85 with a possible change down the road.
There were plenty more angles from all the players who checked in today. We’ll be exploring more of them every day beginning with reports on Monday’s first two practices of camp. Keep in mind that the morning practice is closed to the public and the afternoon session is open.
Tags: Braylon Edwards, Bryan Thomas, Darrelle Revis, Jason Taylor, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Tony Richardson
Posted in Randy Lange | 18 Comments »
Do you believe in miracles? Yes.
OK, Al Michaels already owns that call. But on a (much) smaller scale, and without all the exclamation points, Matt Slauson’s triumph as the Jets player on the Drinker Biddle team that won first prize at the seventh annual New York Jets Charity Golf Classic today was an upset for the record books as well.
For instance, Matt, how many rounds of golf have you played in your life, counting today?
"This was the third time," the Jets’ second-year guard said after chatting with Eric Allen and Jets TV while holding his twin prizes: a crystal trophy and a dangerous-looking Cobra Zero Limit driver. "And my last time out was a lot better out than this time. My teammates actually used just two of my shots all day long."
Those familiar with the best-ball-of-fivesome format employed at today’s 18-hole event at Trump National GC in Bedminster, N.J., know exactly what that means.
Also amazing was the quality of the competition he and his Drinker Biddle teammates — Richard Goldman, Art Corsini, Michael Nachamkin and Jason Budnick — had to beat out to grab the top prize. Running back Danny Woodhead, the Nebraska links whiz from way back, was this event’s defending champion, and his Tzell Travel team from last year returned intact. LB Jason Taylor is a pretty fair golfer who’s held his own charity golf event in the South Florida area for as long as the Jets have held theirs.
And then there was Nick Folk. Placekicker and quarterback have traditionally been the NFL positions that produce the best golfers. In fact, Folk and his team appeared to have the title wrapped up when they held an 8-under lead with three holes to play while everyone else was bunched at 6-under.
But several teams remained on the beautiful par-72 Trump "Old Course" today in the blue-sky, breezy conditions. And one of them was Slauson’s group, which moved from 6-under to 9-under in three holes and into a one-stroke lead before Team Folk knotted it on its final hole. Slauson/Drinker Biddle won the title on a match of cards.
"We had no idea of the score until the last two holes," said Slauson. "But the other guys on the team were on the stick all day long. They were just killing it."
Slauson coincidentally won his new driver just days after buying a new driver at a great savings from Golfsmith just for the occasion. But his woods didn’t stand him in as good stead as his approach game — he made one saving shot from a bunker to within three feet of the pin in the first nine to help set the stage for this remarkable comeback.
I asked Matt if he believed, not in miracles but in omens, such as that today’s win might be an indication of how the battle between him and second-rookie Vlad Ducasse for the starting left guard spot might turn out this summer.
"Maybe," he said with an impish smile. "Vlad is an incredible player, just a great athlete, amazing feet, lots of power. Of course the competition’s going to be tough. I hope I win it. But whoever wins it, I just want to win a Super Bowl."
Slauson and his Jets teammates, about 28 others of whom were involved in the tournament, not to mention head coach Rex Ryan and some members of his staff, plus GM Mike Tannenbaum and his front office and personnel people, all took part in today’s event for charity. On Tuesday they return to the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center to resume their work on a Super goal that, while not miraculous, would be a different sort of victory for the ages.
Also in the Hunt
QB Erik Ainge and his Bank of America team surged late as well to finish third at 8-under. … The teams led by Woodhead, Eric Smith (SNY), LaDainian Tomlinson (Pepsi 1) and Michael Turkovich (Fly Comm) finished tied at 6-under. … QB Mark Sanchez also played in the tournament but he didn’t hit any fairway shots, only putted, no doubt to keep stress off his left knee.
The Jets rookies and the Jets Flight Crew were in attendance to help make the tournament a success once again. … More than 100 amateur golfers took part in the event and in the breakfast, dinner and live auction, along with the Jets. That helped the Jets Charity Classic, which had generated more than $1 million for the New York Jets Foundation in its six previous tournaments, to raise about $270,000 today by one early estimate.
Matt Slauson, Richard Goldman, Art Corsini, Michael Nachamkin, Jason Bundick
Nick Folk, Tony Reilly, Si Anthony,Tom McCarthy, Steve Kennedy
|3rd||Bank of America||
Erik Ainge, Michael Brown, Charles Britton, Charles Brown, Frank D’Ambrosio
Tags: Danny Woodhead, Erik Ainge, Jason Taylor, Jets Charity Golf Classic, Matt Slauson, Nick Folk, Trump National
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Rodrique Wright is an intriguing defensive line candidate who flew to the Jets under the radar after spending last season on his sofa.
"I learned a lot last year," Wright (whose first name is pronounced ROD-rick and who also goes by the quick-hitting RodWright) told me following Thursday’s OTA practice. "I had workouts with seven different teams. Fans don’t realize that every Monday during the season, there’s a bunch of guys going to teams to work out, trying to get on the field. I was one of those guys."
There are some good reasons to hope Wright will be a key guy along the Jets’ D-line in 2010. He has NFL experience from three seasons on Miami’s roster. He has the size at 6’5" and 300 pounds to play the end/tackle spots on either side of the nose. He’s a smart guy. And he’s got outstanding strength.
In fact, strength is one of the reasons Rex Ryan and the Jets were attracted to him after his lost ’09 season.
"The first thing Rex said to me is he went all the way back to the combine," said Wright of the NFL’s 2006 workouts at Indianapolis. "He said the thing he remembered was that I had a shoulder issue but that I did the bench press 30-plus times."
Thirty-one reps, actually, a fine number for a D-end, especially for a draft prospect who put up that number despite a presurgical shoulder tear that he played through during a solid career at Texas.
From there Wright experienced what he called his "long roller-coaster ride" of an NFL career. He was the Dolphins’ seventh-round pick in ’06 but missed his rookie season following the surgery.
In ’07 he became a contributor, starting nine of the last 12 games of their 1-15 season. He even had his career game to date — one sack, another QB pressure, two tackles for loss or no gain, five solo tackles — in the ‘Fins’ only win, against Rex’s then team, the Ravens.
The next year he had surgery on his other shoulder, and then the Bill Parcells/Tony Sparano team came to South Florida. Wright made the roster but was inactive all 16 regular-season games (yet did play in the playoff game against, of all teams, Ryans’ Ravens again). Then his September release and his couch trip.
While with Miami, Wright met Jason Taylor. And JT is another reason Rod has a shot with the Jets.
"Jason was like a big brother to me when I was coming in," Wright said. "When he came back to the Dolphins [in the '09 offseason] I was doing curls or something and he said, ‘Man, I swear things never change. You’re still in here doing curls, trying to get ready for the beach.’ Then he came to the Jets and saw me again and said, ‘Man, every time I’m in the training room, you’re in here, too.’ We go back and forth all the time."
Wright also is thriving under the coaching from new DL coach Mark Carrier, DC Mike Pettine and Rex, who he says is everything he’d heard about "to the 10th power."
Now it’s up to Rod Wright to carve out a niche for himself on the Jets. He seems to be that kind of player who’s ready to restart his pro career, not in aqua and coral this time but in green and white.
"What I went through last year being out of the league, I’m hungry," he said. "I’m going to do anything it takes. If I have to play nose guard or cornerback, tell me where to go and I’m going there and I’m going full speed.
"Last year on Sundays I was on the couch watching the games on DirecTV. So now, anytime I feel like I’m aching or going to start complaining, I just envision back to when I was on the couch. And I don’t want to go back to that couch again."
Tags: Bill Parcells, Jason Taylor, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 31 Comments »
It was a bit of a buffet for writers who hadn’t talked to the slimmed-down Rex Ryan in a few weeks, and the head coach broached many subjects, such as Mark Sanchez’s physical status, Antonio Cromartie’s long striding and the upcoming Super Bowl vote by the NFL owners next Tuesday.
But Ryan led off his news conference today following the midday OTA practice with some pointed comments on his placekickers.
"If you didn’t notice our field goal kicking, we had the guys kick with the other foot today," the coach started out.
He was kidding. Both Nick Folk and Clint Stitser were kicking with their right feet, which were their correct feet. But neither was having much success during the red zone and two-minute drills that ended the practice.
"That was ugly. It’s a little bit concerning. Like I told those guys, I’m not the sharpest guy, but if the first nine kicks all went right of the upright, I think you might want to adjust a little bit. I might have to miss left before I miss another one to the right. I think Nick made a few but I don’t think the other kid made any."
A consensus of reporters had Folk, the former Cowboy, at 2-for-5 from about 33 to 49 yards while Stitser was 1-for-4 from 33 to 41 yards.
After his critique, the coach had some words of encouragement for his kickers.
"I know there’s a long time before we play a game, but yeah, it concerns you. When it comes down to it, you’ve got to make those kicks. That’s all you do," he said. "You might not be at the top of your game right now. Matt Stover, down in Baltimore at this time of year, I don’t think he could make a kick, but when the season started, he never missed.
"I think Nick’s going to be fine. The other kid’s got to make a couple there or we’ve got to find another kicker. … I think we’d all feel a lot better if they decided to make ‘em."
This opening led to a question about the decision to let unrestricted free agent Jay Feely go to Arizona. Ryan repeated his admiration for Feely’s kicking skills and the possible risk the Jets face in trying to replace him. But he stressed the variety of variables that went into making that call back in March.
"Obviously it’s a business deal," he said. "I’ve got a lot of confidence in Jay, and in Nick as well. But a lot of factors go into making decisions. If Jay’s here, then Jason Taylor’s not here [due to the "Final Four" rule]. There’s that part of it, the financial part of it, all kinds of things you’ve got to weigh."
But he came back to a strong vote of confidence for Folk, who had a strong first 2½ NFL seasons before struggling and being released by Dallas late last season.
"Nick is the guy. Didn’t he make two 50-something-yard field goals to win a game against Buffalo?" Ryan said, referring to the 2007 game when Folk hit from 47 yards and then from 53 with no time on the clock to lift the Cowboys over the Bills, 25-24. He definitely has the ability to go out and get it done. … I just think we’d all feel better if he was 100 percent on those practice kicks."
Staying the Course with Sanchez
Mark Sanchez is back from his state dinner at the White House on Wednesday night and for the third time this week took part in limited drills at the OTA. Might he be turned loose in 11-on-11 drills during OTAs or at the full-squad minicamp in mid-June as his left knee continues to improve?
"I’m asking every day," Sanchez said. "It’s a stern ‘No’ immediately. But that’s the kind of mentality you want your coaches to have in protecting you, and that’s the mentality they want me to have, being aggressive. It’s not worth the risk. We’re just taking it slow, being smart."
Ryan echoed his signalcaller’s analysis about not jumping into team drills just yet.
"I don’t feel that comfortable right now," the coach said. "I don’t want to risk that right now. You’ve got bodies flying around. … Stay the course. In due time he’ll be out there. We all know he’ll be ready to roll. We don’t want to have any setbacks with him for sure."
Cromartie the Kick Returner?
Antonio Cromartie is already having some nice 1-on-1 battles with Jerricho Cotchery — he won one with a leaping PD of a Sanchez pass to the corner of the end zone for J-Co in 7-on-7′s. And AC also showed some eye-catching moves in returning kickoffs.
"I’ve been doing it since high school," Cromartie said. "I think it comes natural. We have a great special teams coach and I’m just looking forward to it, looking to help out as much as I can. Anything this organization needs me to do I’m going to try to do."
Ryan referred to that ST coach, Mike Westhoff, when he said of Cromartie back for kickoffs, "If the game’s on the line, you might see him. Westhoff thinks he’s getting him the whole time. His strides are only about 5 yards long. … I’ve never seen a stride like that. Secretariat in the stretch, maybe. It’s amazing when he gets out there. Wasn’t a bad pickup, I don’t think."
Speaking of Taylor, Ryan explained the Jets training staff is bringing him along slowly in the wake of the shoulder procedure he had after Miami’s 2009 season. "Yesterday we had him out there, he lights somebody up and I got a little excited," he said. "But yeah, we want to slow him down, proceed with caution, teach him the defense first. But he’s itching to go. He’ll be ready for training camp without question."
Ryan said rookie RB Joe McKnight had this practice off to attend an NFL-sponsored trading-card event. But he said McKnight "has been practicing, he’s been in meetings, and he and "No-Neck" — I mean John Conner — are watching tape together and all that stuff." … Nick Mangold joined NT Kris Jenkins on the sidelines. Rex said Mangold had a quad injury that the Pro Bowl C blamed on RB Shonn Greene running into him.
Rex said of the NFL owners voting next week on the New Meadowlands Stadium to host the 2014 Super Bowl: "I would think they would. I mean, you got the best city in the world. Why wouldn’t you want to hold the Super Bowl there? There’s been some pretty historic games [in bad weather] — the Ice Bowl. I’m not saying the weather’s going to be like that, but everybody remembers it. I think it’d be a great thing."
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Clint Stitser, Darrelle Revis, Jason Taylor, joe McKnight, John Conner, Mark Sanchez, Nick Folk, Rex Ryan, Super Bowl
Posted in Randy Lange | 27 Comments »
Jason Taylor is becoming more the New Yorker/New Jerseyan all the time. He and his family have moved to the big city, and he’s planning a New York "chapter" for his impressive charitable foundation.
And on Tuesday, Taylor participated in his first OTA practice with all his new teammates.
"Well, your first one with a new team is always special," Taylor told me. "You’ve got to find your way around, figure out when the horn blows where you’re supposed to go. And my helmet didn’t fit when I first got out there, so I had to get my helmet adjusted a little bit. Little things like that.
"But it was great. The atmosphere here is outstanding. It’s very conducive to winning, and guys are relaxed yet focused. I think it’s a perfect mix."
And it’s a pretty good defense he’s now a part of, I suggested.
"Yeah, it is," he replied. "A darned good defense."
Taylor’s first OTA was Tuesday because he was down Miami way on Monday wrapping up the seventh annual Jason Taylor Celebrity Golf Classic, which raises money for children’s charities through the Jason Taylor Foundation. But as much as that is a South Florida institution, he’s even preparing to open a beachhead in the New York market for his programs.
"A few things we have in South Florida we’re going to do here," he said. "We do a thing called ‘Big Screens, Big Dreams,’ where we have movie premieres of films that are coming out — this is a perfect place to do that kind of thing. We have end-of-summer shopping programs for underprivileged kids, and we’ll probably do that here. So yeah, we’re going to have some programs in this area."
The golf classic, as he said, is "bigger and better every year." The dinner on Sunday night at Martorano’s in Fort Lauderdale was attended by 500 and the next day 18 foursomes teed off at Grande Oaks Golf Club, all to benefit the JTF.
"We haven’t tallied it up this year but we’ll probably do north of $200,000 for sure," he said. "The economics have changed a little bit but we’re grinding it out. We’ve been open for seven years and we’ve raised about $3 million."
In between topics, Jets owner Woody Johnson was in the hallway and came by for, as it turned out, an introduction.
"Hi, Jason," Johnson told Taylor. "Nice to see you. Great to have you here."
"Good to be here," Taylor replied. "I’m enjoying it. The guys are great, the place is great."
Yes, just as it sounds, the two had never met face-to-face before this.
"We talked on the phone a lot, though," Taylor said later.
I couldn’t leave Jason on this occasion without checking to see if he’s paying attention to ABC’s "Dancing with the Stars." He is.
"I’m supporting Chad," as in Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco, Taylor said. "I’m hoping Chad goes all the way. He’s up against stiff competition, though. Nicole and Evan are just ridiculous dancers."
If you haven’t been keeping up with the show’s 10th season, he was referring to Pussycat Dolls member Nicole Scherzinger and Olympic gold medal figure skater Evan Lysacek, who along with their partners were tied atop the leaderboard after Monday’s dances. Ochocinco and partner were in fourth, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews and partner in third. Ochocinco was eliminated before Tuesday’s semifinals continued and this season’s show wraps up next week.
Taylor, as you may remember, was the runnerup along with partner Edyta Sliwinska during the show’s sixth season, which concluded two years ago Tuesday. But these days he’s an interested observer while he’s confining his dancing to brief pas de deux with left tackles as he prepares to get to opposing quarterbacks in his 13th NFL season and his first with the Jets. His and the Green & White’s next OTA begins later this morning.
In case you were wondering about that No. 27 carrying the ball in Al Pereira’s practice slideshow earlier this week, it’s of course Danny Woodhead. For those who are scoring at home and might’ve lost track, this is Woodhead’s fourth uniform number since becoming a Jet after the 2008 draft. He began as No. 35, returned from IR for the 2009 season as No. 22, switched to 83 in October, and is wearing 27 at the moment.
Woodhead won’t be wearing a number but he’ll have a target on his back when he and the rest of the Green & White family tee it up on Monday, June 7, at the New York Jets Golf Classic, the annual charity tournament being held for the second year at Trump National GC in Bedminster, N.J. Woodhead, who’s played golf since he was an 8-year-old back in Nebraska, was the player on the winning best-ball fivesome at last year’s event.
Tags: Chad Ochocinco, Danny Woodhead, Jason Taylor, Woody Johnson
Posted in Randy Lange | 21 Comments »
The Jets had a change of venue but another solid OTA practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center today.
Due to the rain that started in the morning and still hasn’t let up, head coach Rex Ryan brought the troops into the fieldhouse for the practice. And one of the players was participating in his first full-squad practice with new teammates.
Linebacker Jason Taylor, wearing uniform number 95 for now, was on the field today following two days of charitable work in South Florida as one of the organizers of the seventh annual Jason Taylor Celebrity Golf Classic on Sunday and Monday.
Taylor practiced on a limited basis. So did QB Mark Sanchez, who for the second straight day threw the ball some in pat-and-go, individual and 7-on-7 drills. CB Marquice Cole also was limited.
NT Kris Jenkins, LB Ezra Butler, S Brannon Condren and rookie CB Brian Jackson all also remained out of practice working on the sidelines with either rehab or injury issues.
There will be no practice on Wednesday. Then the players engage in their third and final practice of OTA Weeks 1 on Thursday, a media availability day, during and after which we’ll have blogs and stories from the Jets’ practice fields and locker rooms.
Tags: Jason Taylor, Kris Jenkins, Mark Sanchez, Marquice Cole
Posted in Randy Lange | 15 Comments »
It’s no secret that quarterback Mark Sanchez has been making progress in the rehab from his knee surgery back in February. But maybe there is a little pleasant eye-opening that No. 6 threw the ball today during the first OTA practice of the offseason at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
Sanchez’s participation in the practice was limited. He took part in some pat-and-go, individual and 7-on-7 drills, bouncing back from center and firing the ball to his receivers.
Not shocking, considering he has graduated from jogging in water to terra firma treadmill to pulling weights and moving this way and that attached to bungee cords. Still, encouraging news for those who thought Sanchez might not get back on the field with his teammates until the start of training camp.
As for Sanchez’s continued practicing during OTAs, he’ll undergo day-to-day evaluation by the medical staff.
Virtually the entire Jets roster participated in today’s practice. Two big names didn’t. NT Kris Jenkins worked on the side in his measured return from last year’s knee injury. And LB Jason Taylor is in Miami finishing up hosting with his wife, Katina, the seventh annual Jason Taylor Celebrity Golf Classic. The event began Sunday and concludes today. Taylor is expected to be in attendance for Tuesday’s OTA session.
Also today, CB Marquice Cole was limited and S Brannon Condren, LB Ezra Butler and rookie CB Brian Jackson rehabbed injuries on the side.
Mark Involved in a Bidding War?
Here’s a reminder for No. 6 fans that Mark Sanchez will be appearing in Manhattan on Thursday night in partnership with Development In Gardening (DIG) to present REAP LIFE. DIG, a cocktail event benefitting DIG’s work using sustainable community agriculture as a response to the global AIDS crisis.
Drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be served at this event, and silent and live auctions, featuring world arts, crafts and photography along with local items from artists and New York businesses, will be held. We’re One of the items we’re hearing will be up for bid: dinner and a show with him with Sanchez himself.
The event runs from 8-10 p.m. at the Tribeca Grill, 375 Greenwich St. (at the corner of Franklin Street). For more information visit www.reaplifeDIG.org, call (619) 274-7218 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moore’s Charity Golf Marathon
Guard Brandon Moore is getting ready to tee off the first Brandon Moore 65 Golf Marathon at Crystal Springs Resort & Spa in Hamburg on Wednesday. The event benefits the Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation, which provides memory opportunities for children with a parent diagnosed with late-stage cancer. Appearances by teammates Sanchez, Nick Mangold and Jerricho Cotchery are scheduled.
Green & White Drop By at Fort Dix
The Jets made a special trip on Friday to Fort Dix in Burlington County, N.J., to meet some National Guard troops and see how the Guard trains. One of the soldiers the Green & White met was Brian Smith, 27, who has been in the National Guard for 10 years and served in Iraq last year. Proud dad Steve Smith told us a little about Brian last week.
"Brian has been a fan of the Jets since he was 4 years old and we used to have front row seats on the 6-yard line," Steve said. "He has a Mark Sanchez jersey that he hopes to have signed, but if not, I’m sure just getting to meet the team will be an experience.
"Thank you," Dad concluded, "for taking time to see what our soldiers do for us all."
And thanks to you, Brian and Steve, and all the other brave, young people and proud parents who serve our country.
Tags: Brandon Moore, Jason Taylor, Kris Jenkins, Mark Sanchez
Posted in Randy Lange | 24 Comments »
Matt Slauson does not look at all like a man on the hot seat. The second-year guard stood in the middle of the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room on his way to the shower (tastefully clothed, of course) and talked calmly and coolly about the opportunity that could be ahead for him in the coming season.
"Right now I’m listed as a starter-slash-backup because I’m competing for a starting job, obviously with Vlad," said Slauson, "Vlad" being second-round rookie Vladimir Ducasse and "job" being the left guard spot vacated with the departure of veteran Alan Faneca. "I don’t know how things are going to play out, but I know know this opportunity and I plan to make the most of it."
But shouldn’t this young man be nervous? The Jets’ offensive line, which had been intact for two full seasons, gained recognition in 2009 as one of the NFL’s best units as it helped pave the way for the league’s No. 1-ranked rushing offense. And now there’s an opening.
Yet Slauson’s quiet confidence has several sources. The 6’5", 315-pounder isn’t exactly new to surviving and being adaptable in the football spotlight, having started 32 games combined at three different positions (RG, RT, LT) at Nebraska.
And his head coach for his first three seasons at Nebraska is the same as his line coach for his two seasons as a Jet: Bill Callahan. "He’s the best in the business," Slauson said. "I know how he works, he knows how I work."
Then there was his rookie NFL campaign, when he saw limited action on the line but got a lot of guidance from starting guards Faneca and Brandon Moore.
"I learned a lot playing behind Alan and Brandon," he said. "I was able to pick their brains and see how things were supposed to be done."
Slauson has a good idea how things need to be done off the field. He was named the team’s sixth Hampton Award winner, which goes to the rookie "who acts most like a pro in the locker room" and is friendly, courteous and neat.
And on Wednesday he just made his first "solo" hospital visit to see the kids at the Goryeb Children’s Hospital at Morristown Memorial near the team complex.
"I really enjoyed that a lot. I just love visiting the kids," he said. "When I was growing up, I’d kill to meet a football player — college, pro, it didn’t matter. Big, mean, nasty guys. But then I found out that most offensive linemen are nice guys off the field."
So Slauson’s got the split personality part down, because he seems to be nasty and mean enough on the turf to make a big run at this opening in the starting lineup.
"I’m very confident. As long as I do what I can do, I know I have a really good chance," he said. "The cards are going to fall where they will, and hopefully I’ll be on top of the deck."
Revis Up Front in Leadership Role
Darrelle Revis noted the loss of two top locker room men this year in Faneca and Thomas Jones. So have his coaches, who are suggesting strongly that No. 24 step boldly into the breach.
And this is no problem for Revis, although he said he’s working on finding a leadership balance that suits his personality as well as the needs of the team.
"I’m still working on being more vocal," he said at his locker. "My thing is I try to lead by example. But i think it’s more of a demand from the coaches for me to be vocal. … We’re all grown men here. I don’t want my teammates to look at me as a guy who harps all the time. I always try to lead by example."
Revis is getting some work as a leader this offseason since he assumed the captaincy of one of the four "teams" in coach Sal Alosi’s strength and conditioning program.
"The first week we were negative 300 points," he said. "One reason was Kris Jenkins was talking back to Sal. I met with Kris and said, ‘Let’s just be accountable. You’ve got to help me, too. You’ve been playing for nine years and this is my fourth year. Help me do my job better.’ He hasn’t been talking back to Sal since."
Thus, Team Revis has shot back up the standings.
Both Revis and center Nick Mangold said their agents are in preliminary talks with the Jets about contract extensions. Revis said today his agent has been speaking to the Jets "for a while," while Mangold said his representatives "talked last night and we’re moving forward with the process."
And Jason Taylor’s Number Is …
A lot of football fans on either end of I-95 are curious to know what uniform number LB Jason Taylor, the longtime Miamian, will line up in as a Jet, since Bryan Thomas has almost as much tenure as the Jets’ 99 as Taylor had as the Dolphins’ 99.
We hear JT will, perhaps appropriately, don No. 95 for the Jets’ OTA practices that begin next week at the AHJTC. However, Taylor is only taking this number out for a test drive. His number is not yet etched in stone and he could change it before training camp.
Tags: Alan Faneca, Bill Callahan, Brandon Moore, Darrelle Revis, Jason Taylor, Kris Jenkins, Matt Slauson
Posted in Randy Lange | 49 Comments »