It was a typical Wednesday practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center this afternoon.
Yet from an outsider’s perspective it never appeared that way.
Two days of uncertainty regarding who the Jets’ starting quarterback at Jacksonville would be came to an end this morning when head coach Rex Ryan announced that he would be sticking with Mark Sanchez.
“It wasn’t too big of a shock to the guys,” wide receiver Jeremy Kerley said.
“It really was no news to take in,” right tackle Austin Howard added. “Personnel decisions are made by Rex, the GM and the owner. They’ve been here a long time to make those decisions.”
Just three days ago, as the Jets were facing the Arizona Cardinals, Ryan decided in the third quarter that it was the appropriate time to pull Sanchez from the game. The QB had struggled mightily all afternoon, throwing three interceptions in his first nine pass attempts, and also was sacked three times. The benching proved to be the first time the fourth-year QB had been taken out of a game as a pro.
“I think quarterbacks get a lot of the blame for everything, good or bad,” Kerley said. “But I think it falls a lot on his shoulders, good or bad. But we’re an offense. We don’t point fingers. We take the blame for what we put out there.”
With backup quarterback Tim Tebow unavailable to go due to broken ribs, third-stringer Greg McElroy entered the game and led the Jets to the come-from-behind 7-6 win.
“I think for Greg, it just gives him the confidence,” tight end Konrad Reuland said. “Whenever his number is called in the future, he has the confidence to go out there, and he knows he’s led a comeback victory already in his career, threw a touchdown pass on his first drive. So I don’t know how you wouldn’t have confidence after the way he played. I think in the long run, it might make this team stronger, because now we have three quarterbacks that have experience what it’s like to lead teams to comeback victories and win games in the NFL.”
On Monday, Ryan said he needed more time to make his decision and he wanted to make sure to get feedback from several of his coaching counterparts before announcing anything.
“It was Rex’s decision,” cornerback Ellis Lankster said. “We’re not mad or anything. We’re just going to follow Rex’s decision and going to play behind him.”
The players had the previous two days off from practice, but that didn’t mean the QB chatter wasn’t heard around them.
“I was walking into stores and people were asking me about it,” Lankster said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t been to practice or anything yet.’ So I didn’t know what it was going to be.”
Other players simply ignored the matter.
“I don’t really pay much attention to it,” guard Brandon Moore said. “It’ll get figured out. That’s why Rex is the head coach and he makes those decisions. I’ve got to worry about the game plan.”
While the decision wasn’t an easy one for Ryan to make, it’s clear that year four for Sanchez hasn’t been as smooth as many anticipated it would be. The Jets offense ranks 31st in the NFL and No. 6 has thrown 13 interceptions and had 18 turnovers through the team’s 12 games this season.
“I think everybody does the best job they can,” rookie WR Jordan White said. “Nobody goes in there and wants to mess up at any position. You just do the best you can. Some things might not go your way sometimes, but what can you do but come back to work the next day and get back to it. That’s what everybody’s done.”
The issue with Sanchez has never been his drive. Many of teammates say he’s one of the most dedicated people inside the locker room.
“Mark’s a very hard worker,” fullback Lex Hilliard said. “Week in and week out, he’s here constantly, sometimes till 10 or 11 o’clock at night.”
Reuland, who also was Sanchez’s teammate at Mission Viejo High School, described a story of when their school lost in a California Interscholastic Federation championship game during Sanchez’s junior year and how that loss inspired the QB.
“They didn’t have a state championship in California back then,” Reuland said. “But it was basically as far as you could go. It was a big loss and he bounced right back the next season and led us to a No. 2 ranking in the country, undefeated [season]. He bounced back from that.
“That was definitely an adverse situation because we were expected to win it all. But I don’t think he would be here, at this level, if he didn’t know how to overcome adversity. Look at his career at USC. He battled for three years before getting a chance to start. As soon as he did, he took advantage of it.”
The players were going to support Ryan’s decision either way. But now that it’s been made, everyone was pleased it didn’t drag out.
“I think the clarification is good on all parts, receivers, tight ends, running backs,” Kerley said. “The whole offense, we needed that.”
And what seemed to impress Sanchez’s teammates most was the way the quarterback processed the situation he’d been dealt.
“Hats off to Mark,” Howard said. “He handled it like a pro.”
“He was very supportive of Greg,” Reuland said. “And I know it was tough for him, but at the same time he was very supportive. I feel like Mark just wants to win like all of us. Obviously deep down, it’s got to hurt a little bit. But at the same time, I think he did a good job of cheering us on and I feel like he’s going to bounce back.”
While many probably have lost belief in Sanchez, the people who truly count most have not.
“I got a lot of faith in him,” Lankster said.
“He’s going to put his best foot forward and give the team the best shot he’s got,” Hilliard said. “So that’s all you can really ask for.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Sanchez performs Sunday in Jacksonville. But one big question was answered today and people have to accept it one way or another.
“I think with Mark, it’s literally just he’s a couple of great plays away from being right back to where he’s been in the past,” Reuland said. “Everyone in here has been through a time where they were a little down on themselves or whatever and all it takes is one or two plays to get right back out of it — ‘Oh, wait, yeah, I can do this.’ So I think that’s going to happen. I think that’s going to happen in this game.”
Wednesday Injury Reports
The Jets’ injury list is at 22 players today. New to the list: WR Stephen Hill didn’t practice with a knee injury, DT Mike DeVito (shin) was full-go and so was FB Lex Hilliard (finger). Two other DNPs were WR Clyde Gates (concussion) and TE Dustin Keller (ankle). Four limited players: RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle/ribs), G Brandon Moore (hip), NT Sione Po‘uha (back) and QB Tim Tebow (ribs). The Jets’ full injury list can be found here.
The Jaguars listed eight players who didn’t practice today, among them RBs Maurice Jones-Drew (foot), Greg Jones (thigh) and Rashad Jennings (concussion), centers Brad Meester (foot) and Michael Brewster (hand), WR Cecil Shorts (concussion), CB Aaron Ross (calf) and DE George Selvie (concussion).
Limited were CB Derek Cox (hamstring) and DE Austen Lane (foot). Full were DT Tyson Alualu (calf) and CB Rashean Mathis (groin).
The Elias Sports Bureau has revised the scoring of three plays, all of them sacks, in the Jets-Cardinals game. The Cards’ final offensive play of the game was originally scored a split sack between DE Muhammad Wilkerson and LB Bart Scott, who swarmed rookie Ryan Lindley, but upon further review, the full sack has been given to Wilkerson, which lifts him past Bryan Thomas’ 2.5 sacks and into the team lead with 3.0 sacks.
The other two sack revisions were both on Arizona takedowns of Mark Sanchez. The early-second-quarter sack split between LB Sam Acho and DT Darnell Dockett now goes fully to Acho. And the late-second-quarter sack divvied up between S Adrian Wilson and DT David Carter now goes all to Wilson.
Tags: Austin Howard, Brandon Moore, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jeremy Kerley, Jordan White, Konrad Reuland, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan
Posted in John Holt | 70 Comments »
The quarterbacks held court one last time at Cortland after this morning’s final practice of the Central New York phase of Jets training camp. And both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow are feeling good about where they and the offense is and is heading.
“Some days obviously are better than others, but overall this was probably my most consistent camp,” said Sanchez. “The least amount of turnovers by far, I’m sure. I thought the running game looked good, I felt comfortable with my checks, I felt comfortable throwing the ball down the field, I thought my accuracy was there. I thought the receivers made great plays and I thought Dustin [Keller] really stands out to me as having a great camp.
“Now it’s a matter of getting guys healthy and moving on, but overall I think we did well.”
Sanchez got to weigh in publicly for the first time on LB Bart Scott’s assertion Wednesday that No. 6 is ready to “take the next step to being one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league.”
“Thanks, Bart,” he said with a laugh, but he didn’t shy away from the pressure such an expectation brings.
“That’s nothing new around here. Each year as a quarterback and an organization, you’ve got to get better and learn from your mistakes,” he said. “It’s my job to deliver it, to be the triggerman this team needs, and I’m ready to do that. I’m excited about our team and our potential.”
Tebow expressed similar feelings about the offense in general and his progress in all his many roles in particular.
“I feel good as an offense and individually I feel good,” he said. “We have a long ways to go, I have a long ways to go. … I feel it’s going pretty well.”
No. 15 was asked about his adaptation to the many hats the Jets are providing for him to wear this season.
“Besides the personal protector stuff, the rest has always been pretty natural and easy, and it’s stuff I’ve done the last, gosh, probably 10 or 12 years. That really wasn’t an adjustment,” he said. “Some of the personal protector stuff was. I never ran down on special teams in my life, so that was a first. But it really didn’t take too much of an adjustment.”
Head coach Rex Ryan said he didn’t have the exact percentage but said that Tebow’s completion percentage has risen as his passing mechanics have improved under the tutelage of coordinator Tony Sparano and QBs coach Matt Cavanaugh.
“It was in the 60s for sure. I don’t know if it was 65 [percent] but it was close, in team drills and 7-on-7s,” Ryan said. “I think Tim’s doing well.”
Another Cover QB
Four years after one new Jets quarterback got the nickname of GQ for his predraft photo shoot in 2009, Tebow responded for the first time to questions about his just released GQ cover turn
“Probably most of y’all knew I was on there before I knew. It was kind of a shocker for me,” he said, adding about the photo spread, “That was something I did maybe six years ago in college. Honestly, the first time I heard it was when we were in the cafeteria and it was on ESPN. That’s when I found out.”
Gator on the NFL Radar
The Jets had no comment on their interest in Jeff Demps, the Olympic silver-medalist and former Florida star who rushed for 2,470 yards and 23 touchdowns in his college career, after reports said they were one of a number of teams showing interest in him after he announced that he wants to play in the NFL this season.
“You know what? I really don’t want to talk about him,” Ryan said at his late-morning newser. “Mike Tannenbaum’s on top of any available players.”
Tebow, who was Demps’ UF quarterback said he wasn’t starting a Demps-to-the-Jets lobby but still gave a glowing reference.
“Jeff is a great guy and a great player. He’s someone I was proud to play with in college,” Tebow said. “He did a great job for us, and I feel wherever he goes, he’ll work hard at it and do a good job for that team.”
Cort(land)’s in Recess
The QBs and the head coach were among the Jets who lauded their third training camp in four years in the Central New York countryside.
“Overall, I have a lot of positive feelings about camp,” Sanchez said. “We’re really excited to break camp and get home and get back to our facility, but we can’t thank SUNY Cortland enough. The people around town have been great and the fans coming out to practice, it’s exactly what we needed. Then on the field, the football side of it, I think it was the best camp I’ve been a part of.”
“It was a lot of fun being here,” Tebow said. “The fans were wonderful. I know they came from all over and from here. We really appreciate their support.”
“It’s terrific here. The university as always was amazing,” Ryan said. “Everything went off without a hitch. The weather, except for one day, was tremendous. The fields, the cafeteria, everything — Cortland blew me away. It’s a great place to have training camp. We’ll see if our string continues.”
That trend Ryan referred to, of course, is that in two years of Cortland camp, the Jets went deep into the playoffs. Last year, with camp in North Jersey, well, we know what happened. It’s not a large sample to draw any predictions off of, but it certainly hasn’t hurt the Jets taking their summer show on the road.
A new WR addition to the walking wounded is rookie WR Jordan White. “He had some knee swelling,” Ryan said. “It remains to be seen if he plays” against the Giants on Saturday night. Among the other injured players, the coach said today that S Eric Smith (shoulder/knee), WR Santonio Holmes (rib), WR Jeremy Kerley (hamstring). Yesterday he said he didn’t believe WR Chaz Schilens (ankle) will play. NT Sione Po‘uha also is out and LB Ricky Sapp has also been sidelined. But Ryan feels RT Wayne Hunter (back) will play.
Expect most starters to play the first half vs. the Giants. Two exceptions, Ryan said, might be RG Brandon Moore and S LaRon Landry, who might come out early in the second quarter, not for any new injury situations. “Sometimes with some veteran players, you just want to back those guys down a little bit. Just being smart.”
Today’s practice was shorter, with the players in shoulder pads and shorts. Tonight is the team’s “rookie show.” Friday morning the Jets’ buses and cars roll down I-81 and back home.
Tags: Brandon Moore, Dustin Keller, GQ, Jeff Demps, Jordan White, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, SUNY Cortland, Tim Tebow, training camp
Posted in Randy Lange | 226 Comments »
Updated 8:42 p.m. ET
Jordan White is not full-go yet, but the seventh-round rookie WR from Western Michigan has come off the Active Physically Unable to Perform list and later this week will be able to show a little of the skills that made him one of only six players in NCAA history believed to have caught 140 passes in a season, which he did for the Broncos last year.
“I feel fine. I’ll be ready to go this week,” White, who broke a bone in his foot during OTAs, said after today’s morning training camp practice at SUNY Cortland.
White’s quietly confident he can hit the ground running on Wednesday and Thursday, when he’ll be on the field but not in full pads, and Friday, when he can put the pads back on and let things fly.
For one, he said coordinator Tony Sparano and receivers coach Sanjay Lal have been on top of him and the rest of the WRs to get the mental reps wherever you can.
“Physically, we may not be running out there and catching balls,” he said, “but at the end of the day we’re still getting our mental reps.”
White also learned that through his own personal injury history, which included two seasons, 2006 and ’08, lost to knee injuries. He kept focused and as a result put up mind-numbing numbers his junior and senior seasons: 234 catches, 3,289 yards and 27 TDs in 25 games.
Then there is the company he keeps at Western. Greg Jennings, Green Bay’s Pro Bowl WR, is also a WMU product. During last year’s lockout, Jennings returned to the upper Midwest and hooked up with his fellow Bronco for workouts.
“Me and Greg, we built a relationship,” White said. “We spent two months on speed, conditioning and route-running. He still gives me insight into what to expect, inside football as well as outside football. Surprisingly, he told me that I have what it takes to play in this league.”
The Jets thought so, too, when they took him with the 244th pick of April’s draft, making him the franchise’s only Western Michigan draftee and its first since 1971. Soon it’ll be up to him to show what he’s learned and that he belongs.
The Rest of the Injury Picture
White was one of three young PUPs who were activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list today. Third-round LB Demario Davis finally got to ace his conditioning test and was cleared, as was free agent G Terrence Campbell. The new CBA stipulates injured players get phased back into full pads, so all three were on the field but in T-shirts today for a conditioning practice, then will get the next two practices to dress but not pad up. Finally the pads go back on Friday (which is a practice closed to the public).
Also on the good health news front, CB Darrelle Revis returned after sitting out Sunday’s 9-on-7′s and team drills due to his hamstring tightness.
But WR Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) remains sidelined for several more days, and head coach Rex Ryan has noted that WR Chaz Schilens has had some hamstring and groin issues, and other players have felt the early stages of tightness. So Ryan has combined with head trainer John Mellody and head strength coach Bill Hughan to come up with a slightly revised schedule for training camp going forward.
Instead of an 8 a.m. start with a shorter stretching period, Ryan said: “We’ll start practice at 8:30 and we’re going to have a 20-minute stretch warmup period. We’ve had a lot of hamstrings and those type of deals, and if we can prevent them, our strength and conditioning staff and trainers feel that’ll give us a better chance of being more successful with the hamstrings.”
Ryan also had one other clock issue on his mind. Although Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow came on a little stronger today than with their Sunday passing, they both may be holding onto the ball a little too long in the pocket, perhaps an understandable reaction to trying to make the correct reads and throws in Sparano’s new system. The answer: The horn is back.
“I read something that Green Bay did where they’re putting that little clock on the quarterbacks,” Rex said. “We’ve got to get that ball out. I’ve talked to Tony about doing that again. We did that last year a little and it drove everybody crazy. We’re going to go back to that. I just think we need to get the ball out of our hands a little quicker.”
Sanchez hooked up with WR Santonio Holmes on several crisp throws, the most impressive perhaps a laser on an intermediate slant that eluded defenders’ fingertips and found Holmes in stride. … Greg McElroy connected with rookie WR Royce Pollard for a downfield left sideline long ball, slightly underthrown but one that Antonio Cromartie couldn’t get back in time to defend. … The FG battle goes on. Today’s kick-off wasn’t a long-range one, with Josh Brown hitting his last two tries from 38 and 40 yards and Nick Folk getting the longest tries and putting both through from 42 and 44 yards.
DB Royce Adams was waived/injured. … Today’s attendance: 1,820. … No practice, players’ day off on Tuesday. They return for open practices Wednesday and Thursday. Friday’s practice is closed. Saturday night is the Green & White practice.
Tags: Bill Hughan, Demario Davis, John Mellody, Jordan White, Mark Sanchez, PUP, Rex Ryan, Terrence Campbell, Tim Tebow
Posted in Randy Lange | 47 Comments »