Rex Ryan, channeling Billy Martin, feels strongly both ways about turnovers during Organized Team Activities.
On the one hand, the practices now are OTAs. Older offensive players are getting acquainted with new, all are learning Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast scheme. This is the time of year to make mistakes.
On the other hand …
“I’d rather not have him turn the ball over once,” Ryan said of QB Mark Sanchez, who turned the ball over three times in today’s practice session open to the media at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “These are the OTAs, but that’s the pressure we’re putting on him. You flat tell him we can’t have these and all that stuff, and he knows.”
No. 6 sure does know. He threw a pass down the middle that was snagged on the slide by No. 37 — no, not Yeremiah Bell but rather Jaiquawn Jarrett, the former second-round pick of the Eagles fighting for the safety job that Bell left open when he departed for Arizona — and slapped his side with a hint of frustration.
Another pick went to Damon “Snacks” Harrison, yes, the 350-pound second-year DT who was sent into space by Ryan and coordinator Dennis Thurman in a particular look that worked well for the defense but gave Sanchez a Randy Starks flashback.
There were two other offensive giveaways this day, and so Ryan was spreading his pointed talk and tough love around to the entire ball-security operation.
“I think it’s a huge issue for our football team,” he said. “Obviously in that position [QB] you have to protect the ball. You’re going to have the ball in your hand every snap. But it’s more than that. We evaluate the punt returners the same way, the kick returners the same way. Those are areas we know we have to improve in. Joe McKnight led this league in kick returns but Joe’s probably the first one to tell you, ‘I’ve got to protect it to help this team.’
“So,” the head coach said in bringing the subject back to the position at hand, “that’s going to weigh into the decision of who’s going to play quarterback.”
Rex and Jets fans don’t need any anecdotal or statistical evidence to back up the importance of ball security, but for those who do, here is one factoid:
Five NFL teams have averaged 2.0-plus giveaways per regular-season game for the past two seasons: the Eagles (75 GAs), Jets (71), Cardinals (66), Chiefs (65) and Bills (64). Their combined record: 60-100, a .375 winning percentage, with no playoff appearances.
Then there’s this, which hints of the Green & White problem and its cure:
The 2011-12 Jets and ’11-12 Cards are the only two teams since 2009 to have averaged two-plus giveaways one year and not improved on their turnover total the following year. So on the one hand (Billy the Kid one more time) the Jets have been a hard case in improving their turnover tendencies. But on the other, with a sense of urgency and focus, 16 other 2.0-turnover teams since ’09 have improved their showing the following year, by an average of 10 fewer turnovers.
There’s no time like the present to stress ball security. Even if the time is at an OTA in the middle of May.
“The defense is much further ahead than the offense,” Ryan said of the units getting back into the swing at this week’s OTA start. “We’re kind of throwing the kitchen sink at the offense. You don’t put up one coverage or one front [on defense] — that’s not realistic in the National Football League. We’re going to throw a lot at them, and hopefully when we get to the real games it’s all going to look easy to them.”
Another mitigating circumstance for Sanchez and Geno Smith in the offensive showing was a group of missing WRs. Ryan thinks Santonio Holmes’ return to full practicing “will probably be more training camp than minicamp.” Stephen Hill was sidelined with some knee swelling, although it’s not considered serious. Clyde Gates and Jordan White also sat out. … On the possibility of adding another QB to the Sanchez-Smith-Greg McElroy-Matt Simms competition, Ryan answered generally: “Any player we think can help this team, we would be open to.”
Ryan, speaking for the first time on QB David Garrard’s retirement and RB Mike Goodson’s legal issues, didn’t go into detail. On Garrard: “There’s still some paperwork that needs to be done. We understand he’s put in for retirement and all that. I would like to comment on him at the appropriate time.” On Goodson: “The organization’s already issued a statement on Mike so I will just leave it at that.”
Tags: Damon "Snacks" Harrison, David Garrard, Geno Smith, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Mark Sanchez, Mike Goodson, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 18 Comments »
The Jets have several job openings on offense. One is for youthful competition at quarterback. And they may well have a spot for a young, up-and-coming wide receiver.
Any Volunteers? Why, yes we do. Two, in fact.
“It’s a small football world,” said Matt Simms.
Simms is the first-year QB with North Jersey roots who spent his last two college seasons with the University of Tennessee, then worked his way onto the Jets roster last offseason. Now he’s back for a second go-round in green and, like all the QBs on this roster, learning a new offense in coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast scheme.
And one of the wideouts he’s playing pitch and catch with these days is Zach Rogers, the 6’0″, 177-pounder out of Nashville who was viewed by more than a few draftniks as one of the top undrafted wideouts available following the end of Round 7 last month.
“Coach Ryan and Mr. Idzik were very passionate about me coming here,” Rogers told me in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room recently. “They preached open competition and that’s really all I want. I wanted a shot to make a name for myself and try to make an impact on this team.”
And where did Rogers play his college ball? Tennessee, of course. In fact, he and Simms teamed up on several occasions in the 2010 and ’11 seasons, most notably on a 72-yard touchdown catch-and-run early in the Vols’ 32-29 OT win over Alabama-Birmingham in 2010.
“It’s good to be back teammates with Matt again. He’s a good guy,” Rogers said. “He’s very intelligent. I learned a lot from him. And he’s still got a cannon.”
Simms returns the compliments.
“Zach’s definitely a fast guy, he plays fast, and he’s a really smart guy,” he said. “There’s not too much on the field that he’s not aware of.”
The two didn’t have a lot of connections on the field, only 13 catches in those two seasons (but for 212 yards, a 16.3 average per catch). That’s because Rogers didn’t play a lot in ’10, both were limited in ’11, and last year Simms was gone. Before he departed for the pros, he recalled a business course the two had together. After one class, the two got to talking and Rogers said he was taking his education very seriously because he didn’t think the NFL would be in his future.
“You have the talent,” Simms told him then. “You never know what’s going to happen. It’s a long season.”
Last season at Tennessee, Rogers, despite divvying up passes from Tyler Bray with a pair of top draft picks-to-be — Cordarrelle Patterson went 29th to the Vikings, Justin Hunter 34th to the Titans — Rogers finished with 32 catches for 491 yards (15.3 avg.) and seven TDs, which attracted the attention of the aforementioned Rex Ryan and John Idzik.
“The Rogers kid, we expected him to look good, and he was a tremendous player at Tennessee, albeit he never started because of the other two guys,” Ryan said. “But he was very productive there and he really did a nice job of running routes and catching the football.”
“I was always hoping to get drafted,” Rogers said, “but at the same time this was the hand I was dealt so I’m trying to make the most of it. I was blessed to play with those big-time receivers, though. I learned a lot from them.”
“Remember that story you were trying to tell me?” Simms told Rogers when they were reunited in North Jersey. “It proved to be wrong. It just goes to show that a year or two can really make the difference.”
Now for the disclaimer. Rogers has a long road ahead to get onto the Jets’ regular-season roster, being that he’s one of 13 wideouts, with five of them veterans. And Simms, even though he’s now in a four-man QB competition after David Garrard apparently withdrew due to his ongoing knee issues, knows the field is still crowded.
“But right now I’m just going to take it day by day, improve on one thing at a time, and just go from there, really,” he said. “I’m going to keep my head in the playbook and just keep working.”
Same thing for Rogers, a volunteer no more, who worked a lot out of the slot during the rookie minicamp.
“I’m trying to learn as much as I can. Coach [Sanjay] Lal is teaching me little technique things that maybe I didn’t think about in college,” he said. “I think it’s going pretty well. I’m just trying to learn the offense the best I can and work with my new teammates. It’s a great opportunity for me and really I’m just trying to make the most of it.”
Tags: Cordarrelle Patterson, John Idzik, Justin Hunter, Matt Simms, Rex Ryan, rookie minicamp, Sanjay Lal, Zach Rogers
Posted in Randy Lange | 38 Comments »
Football is about a lot of things — the spectacle, the TV, the money, the trophy, the rings. But it is built on a lot of other things, such as great personalities and great stories. One of those people with one of those quintessential football stories is new Jet Lanier Coleman.
Whodat? Coleman is someone most fans have never heard of before, the 6’4″, 322-pound defensive tackle from New Orleans and Louisiana-Lafayette. Less than a week ago he went from longshot tryout at the Jets’ rookie minicamp to newly signed undrafted free agent.
But that only begins to scratch this story’s surface. Coleman was a longer shot than most tryouts in part because he’d been out of the game for three years. Well, out of the game but not far from it. As the friendly, intense big guy told me as we walked down the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center first-floor hallway last Saturday, when he was still an unsigned tryout, he’d spent those three years well in investing for his future by moving into the ranks of college strength and conditioning coaches. This past season he was one of the nation’s youngest strength coaches at the University of California.
“In my job, a lot of guys I work with and a lot of the mentors I have, they say to the guys they work with, ‘What do you desire? What do you want most in life?” he told me this week from his new spot in the Jets’ locker room. “When I look back on everything, in my youth, as a strength coach, my desire, my passion obviously is to help motivate and mold guys. But also, it was to still play football.
“So coming back into it was a huge thing on my part. I told some of my athletes I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t get back and give it a shot.”
Coleman was “in it” in the first place for his decent career for the UL Ragin’ Cajuns in 2007-08, which got him on NFL draft radars only to the extent that he received a tryout with Minnesota in ’09. And that may have come about due to the scouting of another product of Bayou country, then-Vikings D-line coach Karl Dunbar.
“Coach Dunbar is legendary in my part of the country in South Louisiana, for not only the type of coach he is but the type of man he is,” Coleman said. “When it comes to anything in sports, before we walk through those doors, we’re men first, in the community and as leaders. He’s one of those to me, somebody I’ve always looked up to and a lot of the coaches I’ve worked for and worked with have felt the same, that he’s a great man.
“The story goes that Coach Dunbar was at LSU’s pro day, his alma mater, and he just came down I-10. When he saw me at my pro day, he was pretty impressed and told my position coaches he was pretty interested in me,” Coleman said, adding of the trip north, “It didn’t work out. I felt like I had done a lot, I had done everything I could, and when they told me they weren’t going to give me another opportunity, that was pretty tough to deal with.
“Not that I used the three years to recover from it, but it really took me a while to refocus my emotions back from football. It was a very difficult thing to deal with at the time. But I came out of it OK, I guess,” he said with a chuckle.
Coleman began his post-football career path, first with UL, then Rice for a year and a half, then Cal. But he kept in touch with Coach Dunbar, who texted him to “Keep on fighting for it, find a way in.
“It was not a big speech, nothing overly motivational,” Coleman said, “but it was just something that was enough for me to keep on fighting for this goal I had for this coming season.”
Dunbar, of course, moved on in his career path, from the Vikes to the Jets before last season. Fast-forward to this offseason. The Jets brought 61 players to their rookie minicamp: their seven draft picks, 29 undrafted free agents, 25 first-year players. The odds are prohibitively against any tryout player making any NFL roster.
But Coleman showed head coach Rex Ryan, coordinator Dennis Thurman and Dunbar that he could stay play the game. And after the release of signed undrafted FA Roosevelt Holliday, Coleman found his way in.
“It was such a huge victory, so to speak, for me, my family, my loved ones, my support system,” he said. That support system is large and includes his mom and dad, Ané and Larry, his girlfriend Alyssa, and strength coaches Rob Phillips (Tulane), Rusty Whitt (Louisiana), Jared Kaaiohelo (Rice), his coaches at Cal and coaches Chris DiSanto and Derek Keyes with the Cleveland Browns.
And he’s got a bunch of friends and well-wishers from down home and around the country who are now with him on his dream ride.
“Some of my friends are like, ‘Your goal is to go out there and be a Hall of Famer.’ Ultimately, yeah, you want to be the absolute best you can be,” he agreed. “But right now my goal is to be in the best shape I can be coming into training camp. My goal now is to go have a good lunch, go have a good meeting with Coach Dunbar, then come back and have another great day on Friday.”
Lanier Coleman may have taken some time to fight his way off that writer’s block he had, but now he’s begun writing one of those fine NFL stories, and there’s no last page in sight.
Tags: Dennis Thurman, Karl Dunbar, Lanier Coleman, Rex Ryan, rookie minicamp
Posted in Randy Lange | 46 Comments »
Is Geno Smith a gymrat? Seems that way. But he’s definitely a bookworm.
The anecdotes continue to collect, like three-hole-punch pages slipping onto the rings of a playbook binder.
The one impressive predraft tale was told by ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, who runs the Elite 11 passing camp pairing up top college quarterbacks with top high school QBs. The six college signalcallers last year each got a 90-page playbook three weeks before the start of the camp.
“Geno showed up, and on day one, he could’ve taught it,” Dilfer said. “He didn’t just know it. He owned it.”
Tale No. 2 is one that I observed on Thursday. Smith was literally the first rookie to come through the football entrance after noon to check in for this Jets rookie minicamp. He had some time to kill before he headed from the hallway to the locker room, so he opened up something — his playbook. And he was studying it.
Could that have been for show? I suppose so. But there weren’t any news cameras or reporters in the hallway, just a few Jets personnel. Maybe he took a few minutes to refresh his memory about a play or two because that’s who he is.
Then came these two practices Friday and today. They’re all rookies and first-year players, so be wary of the single anecdote, but Rex Ryan remembered one particular play that impressed him as a defensive coach and head coach. It was an adjustment that wasn’t in the playbook yet but Geno made a good anyway.
“One time when Geno was back there, we had a run called,” Ryan said. “With Marty [Mornhinweg], we all know how rare that is, especially when we’re in these no-pad days. But the run was called to the tight end, and the way the formation was set up the defense gave us a crazy look. The outside linebacker was lined up two removed and there was no edge [blocker] there.
“We don’t even have a checked play in. But Geno checked out of it anyway. Obviously he’s got some awareness.”
“I try not to make mental mistakes in practice,” Geno said this afternoon in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room. “I try to be sound in the huddle, to saying the cadence, to going out there with the proper footwork, the proper depth on my drops and doing my reads. I’m trying not to make mental mistakes.”
Mornhinweg, the OC, and QBs coach David Lee, Smith said, “do a great job of allowing us to improve. I’ve got a long way to go, I know that. We all do. I think that goes for every single rookie that comes into the NFL, every single quarterback — probably the toughest position in the league. So there’s a lot on my plate. It’s just about how you handle it. I’ve been doing my best to just study my playbook, stay up late, come in here early, do all the things necessary to be a good quarterback.”
Ryan has stressed twice the better second offensive line that’s lining up now. With draft picks Brian Winters, Oday Aboushi and William Campbell and free agent All-America C Dalton Freeman, Ryan said, “It’s a good-looking group, there’s no doubt. That’s impressive to me.”
The dark-horse candidate is Will Campbell, the Michigan DT who’s lining up at guard. “He’s the kid that really intrigues me,” Rex said. “Mike Devlin’s an outstanding coach, but I’m surprised Campbell’s not making mistakes. He seems like he’s been doing it his whole life.”
Ryan gave passing praise to first-round D-lineman Sheldon Richardson again, free-agent LB Troy Davis out of Central Florida. And he did not name one defender who missed his turn on a play. “The defense was so good, they decided to line up with 10 today,” the coach said. “I can never figure that out. If I’m [on the field], I’m going to know where I am on the depth chart.”
Tags: David Lee, Geno Smith, Marty Mornhinweg, Mike Devlin, Rex Ryan, rookie minicamp, Trent Dilfer, Will Campbell
Posted in Randy Lange | 176 Comments »
Rex Ryan seems to enjoy this time of the NFL year quite a bit. The first practice of rookie minicamp gives the Jets head coach a chance to impress on his young charges the adaptations that will have to take place for them all too succeed at the pro level, while at the same time allowing him to admire some of the skills of the individual players who have taken the Jets practice field for the first time.
Today’s first practice of the 2013 rookie minicamp was no different.
“I always like to challenge guys mentally when they get here,” Rex opened his news conference this afternoon, “to let them know the process speeds up quite a bit. Wow! We made a few busts today on both sides of the ball. Either way, we’ve got a long way to go.”
But as far as the talent on hand? Wow again. Ryan was first asked about second-round QB Geno Smith.
“I liked the way Geno threw the ball. He looked pretty impressive to me,” the coach said. “He can really spin it, no surprise there. … But you kind of listen to the huddle and all that kind of stuff. Some guys can’t spit it out. He certainly can. The way he conducts himself, eyes up and all that stuff. And you want to see the ball come out with some kind of rhythm.
“Obviously a lot of things have to get better, but for the most part I thought he did throw the ball on rhythm pretty well and he was fairly accurate with it, so it was good.”
Smith spoke in the locker room earlier (we’ll provide a transcript of his remarks later this afternoon) and wasn’t saying he aced his first exam.
“My first goal is to prove myself to the team here,” he said before a large group of pads and pens, microphones and cameras. “I’ll let the coaches do the grading. If I was giving myself a mark, I’m a tough grader so I’d say an F. I need to get better every day.”
The Jets’ pair of first-rounders were also around. The top pick of the draft, CB Dee Milliner, stayed on the sideline or on the stationary bike due to his shoulder.
“It’s not all the way, 100 percent, healed,” he said. “It’s a couple of months’ process before you get back to normal. I just know to listen to what the trainers tell me, go out there and do what they tell me to do. Until they clear me to get out there, I’m going to be over there doing rehab.”
But. he was adamant that he’d be on the field in full pads sooner rather than later. Will he be ready to roll by the start of training camp? “Yeah,” he said, “I’ll be ready.”
Ryan wasn’t worried that the player considered the top corner on most everyone’s draft big board might fall behind.
“Dee’s got to nail down the mental part of it because he’s not going to get out there right away physically and do it,” the coach said. “Clearly he showed in college that he’s familiar with a lot of coverages. Several of the coverages Alabama plays are our coverages, too.”
The other first-rounder is Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson, and here Ryan’s eyes lit up.
“Sheldon was good. I don’t want to put expectations to high, but he was impressive, to say the least,” Ryan said. “We move them around, we can have a guy at nose, 3-technique, 5-technique, but there’s several different things he can do. One thing we saw today was his explosiveness, another is his effort to the football. He loves to play, you can already tell that. You could’ve doubled that practice and he’d've been fine.”
Richardson explained that his 6’3″, 294-pound size helped turn him into the football personality he is today.
“I was always the chubby kid in class that everybody picked on,” he said, “and I played with a chip on my shoulder. I still feel like I’m the same kid. I like to do what skinny guys do. Dunk a basketball? I want to jump as high as him and dunk a basketball. I happen to be able to dunk a basketball because of it. I have fun. I’m a kid out there.”
Ryan will have more comments on all his players over the coming weeks and months, but he singled out a few more players today for different reasons.
“One guy who stood out was the receiver from Tennessee, Zach Rogers,” the coach said of the undrafted FA. “He caught a lot of balls out there, he was a slot receiver, you saw him return punts. And he did a good job in the special teams drills.”
Ryan also gave some kudos to free-agent center Dalton Freeman — “That All-American from Clemson looked really impressive to me” — and even touted a tryout player, former Rutgers CB Mason Robinson — “He was playing some nickel. The coaches at Rutgers said nobody wanted to fight this guy. That’s pretty good for a little [5'10", 185] corner.”
The Jets rookies will conduct the second day of their “swimming lessons” on Saturday with a schedule very similar to today’s before conducting a closed third and final day of camp on Sunday and then heading home or to the phones to call home and wish their moms Happy Mother’s Day.
Tags: Dalton Freeman, Dee Milliner, Geno Smith, Mason Robinson, Rex Ryan, rookie minicamp, Sheldon Richardson, Zach Rogers
Posted in Randy Lange | 59 Comments »
The next chapter of the Jets’ 2013 offseason is being written beginning this week. The Green & White rookie class arrived at the Atlantic Health Training Center on Thursday, and today’s first practice of the camp is under way on the grass fields in Florham Park, N.J.
The arrivals couldn’t begin until noon Thursday, and by early evening everyone was checked in, had gone through the indoctrination process as a new Jet, and rested up in their hotel rooms for this morning’s breakfast, their first team meeting with head coach Rex Ryan and staff, and their first practice set to start around 10 a.m.
The stations each player stopped at included a visit to the doctor for a physical, equipment manager Gus Granneman’s equipment room to be fitted for a helmet and receive his initial jersey and new number, a stop with head strength and conditioning coach Justus Galac’s weightroom, a chat with director of player development Dave Szott, a stay with the media relations team, and a quick couple of headshots with the always ebullient team photographer, Al Pereira.
Among the earliest to run this pro pigskin gauntlet was second-round quarterback Geno Smith. He came through the double glass doors of the players’ entrance at 12:01 p.m. and began his check-in process. On his way to the locker room, Smith was greeted by a couple of veteran Jets WRs: Santonio Holmes, recently returned from his degree work at Ohio State, and Stephen Hill, last year’s second-rounder. Holmes, Hill and the rest of the Jets’ established pass catchers will begin to catch Geno’s passes at the June, when Smith joins the rest of the team’s quarterbacks at the full-squad minicamp.
The other five draft choices arrived in short order. In rough order of appearance they were seventh-round FB Tommy Bohanon and fifth-round OL Oday Aboushi came in the next wave, followed by first-round CB Dee Milliner, sixth-round OL Will Campbell, third-round G Brian Winters and first-round DL Sheldon Richardson.
The 15-member band of undrafted free agents, plus some minicamp invitees, were also among the new Jets on hand. Among those registering in the early afternoon were TEs Mike Shanahan of Pitt and Chris Pantale of Boston College, wideouts Zach Rogers of Tennessee and KJ Stroud from Bethune-Cookman and C Dalton Freeman from Clemson.
Shanahan, who confirms for any who doubted it that he’s not related to Washington head coach Mike Shanahan, was stopped between stations for a hallway chat with senior personnel executive Terry Bradway and pro scout Aaron Glenn.
This is not an all-inclusive list. We’ll have a report on all the rookies and first-year players who are at the camp plus new uniform numbers when everything becomes official on Friday.
Speaking of new unis, the drafted Jets are reported to have received their initial numbers. These could still change but at the moment Granneman and his staff have distributed the following numbers to the draftees:
27 — Dee Milliner
91 — Sheldon Richardson
7 — Geno Smith
67 — Brian Winters
75 — Oday Aboushi
65 — Will Campbell
40 — Tommy Bohanon
The minicamp is closed to the public. A more complete list of the participants in this camp, which includes all the Jets draft choices, 2013 undrafted free agents, 2012 first-year free agents signed prior to the draft, and tryout candidates, will be available later today. The minicamp will continue through Sunday, with media availability on Friday and Saturday, including open locker room and Rex Ryan news conferences both days.
Tags: Aaron Glenn, Brian Winters, Dee Milliner, Geno Smith, Rex Ryan, rookie minicamp, Sheldon Richardson, Terry Bradway
Posted in Randy Lange | 24 Comments »
Parting is such sweet sorrow, not just in Shakespeare but in football. But today’s going-away celebration was necessary for JoJo Wooden to take the next step in his desired career path.
“I was not looking forward to it at all,” Wooden, the Jets’ assistant director of player personnel, said of the small party thrown by the team’s football and business sides at the Atlantic Health Training Center as congratulations for JoJo moving 3,000 miles away to become the Chargers’ director of player personnel.
“Leaving is really, really hard, you know?” he said, still feeling the emotion of the moment. “It’s about the people.”
Wooden knew a lot of folks and wore lots of hats during his 16 seasons in the Jets’ front office. He began on the pro personnel side as an assistant, a pro scout, a senior pro scout for the AFC, assistant director of pro scouting and then director of pro scouting before getting his most recent title and adding college duties to his résumé in 2006.
“I’ve had the chance to be involved in both, and maybe the last three years or so it’s been a lot more college than pro, but I still had my hand in both,” he said this afternoon in his now in-transition office. “This is an opportunity to become the director of player personnel, overseeing both the college and pro departments, so that’s going to be exciting.
“It’s a great step. My ultimate goal, I want to be a general manager, and I think this was the next logical move for me.”
San Diego and new GM Tom Telesco were in need of a new director after Jimmy Raye, son of the well-traveled former Jets assistant coach, departed the job to saddle up with the Colts.
The Chargers offered Wooden a great opportunity, and it had to be great for him and his wife, Sarah, and two daughters to undo their ties with the Northeast. He was born and raised in Connecticut and was a two-year starter at OLB for Syracuse University.
“I’m excited, the family’s excited. They’re on board, which is big,” JoJo said. “It’s a new chapter in our life and we’re looking forward to it.”
But in keeping with his status as a Jets employee for one more day, he used the first person plural to talk about the state of the Green & White. Asked about his highlights during his Jets tenure, he offered a nod toward the Jets’ AFC Championship Game appearances in 2009 and ’10.
“Those are the biggest things, just the wins. Pittsburgh and Indianapolis … it’s hard just to get yourself in that position as an organization, and to be fortunate enough to do it two years in a row was good.”
And the team he’s leaving behind?
“I love the direction the team’s heading in now with John [Idzik] and Coach Ryan,” he said. “I feel very good about the draft, the guys we acquired. You like the direction this place is heading … and so now you’re sad that you’re jumping off ship.”
But there are plenty of tall ships in San Diego, plus the start of a new program under first-year head coach Mike McCoy. It’s tough to see Wooden head west, but it’s great to see this young man and great guy get to take that next career step. Here’s a proverbial NFL toast, JoJo: Best of luck in all you do against 30 of the NFL’s 31 other teams.
No. 1, Part II
We asked several questions Tuesday, after uniform No. 1 became free with the waiving of WR Thomas Mayo, about that non-crooked number in Jets uni history. Here are the answers:
■ Who was the last Jets player to wear No. 1 during training camp? Last year WR Raymond Webber was “the one.” The year before, P Chris Bryan wore it. Neither made it to the regular season wearing the number.
■ Who was the last Jet to wear No. 1 in a regular-season game? That was K Mike Nugent’s number from the time he was drafted in 2005 through his free agency departure following the ’08 season.
■ Who was the last non-kicker to wear No. 1 in a RS game? The only non-kicker to wear the Big Green One was RB Mike Adamle, who played for the Jets in 1973-74.
As for who if anyone will inherit the one this season, we don’t have any rookie uniform number information yet. But we will post the winning numbers as soon as we are cleared to do so this week.
Tags: Chris Bryan, director of player personnel, John Idzik, JoJo Wooden, Mike Adamle, Mike Nugent, Raymond Webber, Rex Ryan, San Diego Chargers, Thomas Mayo
Posted in Randy Lange | 39 Comments »
Updated, 2:10 p.m. ET
No need to worry about Demario Davis getting back into the swing of things, easing into a new leadership role, feeling his way. Double-D’s already got his focus locked onto the job ahead like a laser.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, a lot of energy, a lot of athletic ability and speed,” Davis told me at the Atlantic Health Training Complex during a Phase 2 session of the Jets’ offseason strength and conditioning program. “The main thing is just all of us learning what to do, learning the best we can, understanding the concepts of the defense and being in harmony with a lot of communication, everybody being on the same page. We can be very effective. I’m very excited what this group of guys can potentially do.”
But surely every player and every team in the NFL has some extra energy at this time on the calendar?
“It’s not just regular energy. It’s a special energy,” Davis said, deadly serious. “There are some very big things, I think, about to take place, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a part of this unit. I’ve just got a feeling that some special things are about to occur. I’m not feeding into the negative being talked about. I view it, I see it every day. I know the pieces are aligning and the stars are aligning for a very big year of the Jets.”
Wow. An impressive take on these Jets. But with all of the comings and goings under new GM John Idzik, with all the work that must be done to come back from last year’s campaign, might that be a little on the optimistic side?
Davis doesn’t see it that way. The second-year linebacker’s laser is scanning his role for the coming season, and he sees great prospects for himself and his teammates.
“My approach is the same as always. It’s to get better every day, go out and be ready to contribute as much as possible,” he said. “I know my coaches are looking for me to step into that starting role and for me to be a leader. Coach Ryan’s personally issued the challenge, in front of the defense, so it’s all about me stepping up and taking advantage of that and making the most of that opportunity.”
Davis isn’t speaking out of school. The mantra under Idzik has been “competition, through and through,” so no one has a clear path to a starting gig and gobs of playing time yet. Leadership is a funny thing that doesn’t just happen. Yet head coach Rex Ryan was equally optimistic for Davis during the March conference call with Jets season ticket holders.
“Right now Demario’s the No. 1 Will linebacker on our depth chart,” Ryan said. “As John has talked about several times, you try to bring in as much competition as you possibly can, but clearly Demario is a guy that we feel really good about, we felt great about drafting him last year and he’s a guy that’s going to play a ton of football for us.”
Coming in as the third-round pick out of Arkansas State last season, Davis quickly racked up playing time. He was on the field for 371 special-teams plays, the most on the Jets, and 680 plays in all, 10th-most among defensive players and 18th on the team. He got his most action on defense late in the first half of the season, at New England and home for Miami, as Bart Scott worked on his injured toe, but outside of those two games averaged a little more than a dozen snaps a game.
This year it’s time to increase the reps under new coordinator Dennis Thurman, whom Davis met with at the start of the offseason program.
“I asked him when camp started what he wanted out of me. To be very specific, he said he wanted me to be able to fix my eyes, have a great understanding of eyes and concepts, to be physical and be a three-down linebacker,” Davis said. “He also issued the challenge of just understanding coverage at my position. So those are the big things I’ve been working on, focusing on, studying film, studying the game, being in the weightroom every day.
“I don’t think I can be more prepared for taking this opportunity than I am right now with the work I put in to this point, physically and mentally,” he said. “You can never have the attitude that you’re great. You always have to have the attitude that you’re just good. That keeps you working. You always have something to chase after.”
Davis is ready for the chase. And he’s planning on his laser helping to guide the Jets for the challenging season ahead.
Weeb Would’ve Been CVI Today
Happy birthday to Weeb Ewbank, the great Jets head coach who would have celebrated his 106th birthday today. Weeb, of course, died at the age of 91 in 1998, but memories of his teams linger on — the NFL championships won by his Baltimore Colts in 1958 and ’59, and that grand January day 44 years ago when his Jets beat his former Colts, 16-7, in Super Bowl III. He was the first Jet inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in 1978, and was in the inaugural class of the New York Jets Ring of Honor in 2010.
Tags: Bart Scott, Demario Davis, Dennis Thurman, Rex Ryan, Weeb Ewbank
Posted in Randy Lange | 44 Comments »
Updated, 4:35 p.m. ET
“The plan” was hinted at by Rex Ryan a few months ago and has been referred to a few times since then.
And today, with the Jets veterans working out at the Atlantic Health Training Center during a Phase 2 practice of their offseason program and then meeting with reporters at midday, a little more of “the plan” was revealed in the locker room:
Q will be playing some OLB.
“Yeah, I definitely think it’s going to open up opportunities for me,” the always affable Quinton Coples said with a bigger smile than usual of rushing the quarterback from a standup position. “It’s going to help me get to the quarterback very efficiently.”
There are questions with “the plan,” of course. Coples thinks he’ll still play in the range of 280 to 285 pounds. While that’ll be a load for opposing tackles, tight ends and backs to handle, will it be too big a load for him to carry for 60 minutes a game? Will it take too long to get familiar with playing the run or playing in coverage from a two-point stance? Is Q permanently a ‘backer or will he be a hybrid?
All these things remain to play out and work on throughout the offseason, next month’s full-squad minicamp and Cortland training camp. But one thing Coples repeated today was that it didn’t seem to him that “the plan” was just hatched by the Jets this year.
“I think he had a plan for me, not knowing if he was going to draft me,” Coples recalled of the predraft workout that Ryan put him through at North Carolina’s pro day in 2012. “The workout he had for me at Carolina, I think he had a plan for me as far as playing outside linebacker from there. I think things worked out well. I fell down to 16, he picked me up, so it worked out perfect. Last year was a trial year to see how things went, and now we’ve got more depth on the defensive front, so it’ll be a perfect time.”
To be sure, Ryan and coordinator Dennis Thurman are not declaring a position change. Ryan has reminded that the Jets coach a multiple defense with multiple roles for many of the players in that unit, and Coples, with his versatility, flexibility and athleticism, is one of those players. Coples said today he will still be putting his hand in the dirt quite a bit, depending on the call.
But Ryan gave a greater hint of his thinking during his February remarks at this year’s combine.
“I see Quinton as a guy that can maybe be more of an edge presence than he was that first year,” Ryan said then, “but having him go through that, putting him over a guard, putting him over tackles, even over centers, I think it’s good because when you put him over tight ends, it’s a lot easier to knock those guys back and you have a lot of confidence when you face those double-teams. That was kind of what we did with him, but I’m expecting big things from him. Like I said, I think he’s just now scratching the surface.”
Coples had another way of talking about the implementation of “the plan.”
“Things,” he said, “are starting to develop.”
Hayden’s Continuing Higher Education
Hayden Smith made it through year one as a “cross-training” athlete, someone who wasn’t changing positions but whole sports. The tight end who hails from “Down Under” as well as “a Mile High” and “from Across the Pond” said he’s getting more comfy with the surroundings in this neck of the woods, even though in his second year in the NFL he’s already learning his second offense from new OC Marty Mornhinweg.
“I feel a lot more comfortable the second time around,” Smith said. “I don’t have to spend so much time on the details of the game itself, so at least all that’s kind of taken care of this time so I can just focus on the offense itself. There’s new things to learn there, but there’s a lot of common threads, and that’s just knowing football. So there’s a lot less on my plate from that standpoint.”
That was apparent to at least one interested observer this afternoon.
“Hayden looks sharp for a second-year football player,” QB Mark Sanchez said. “He looks awesome.”
Helping Smith with the transition is coach Steve Hagen, who comes to the Jets this year off of his four-year stint as Cleveland’s TEs coach. He’s in his ninth NFL campaign (the first eight came in two four-year hitches with the Browns) and spent two decades in the college coaching ranks besides.
” ‘Details make you dangerous’ — that’s one of his sayings,” Smith said. “He’s fantastic. The tight ends room is already littered with quotes from him. He’s a very intense guy with a great message and he’s delivering his message well.”
Familiar Voices, New Choir
Mike Westhoff, the Jets’ venerable special teams coach who just retired after last season, and Ray Lucas, the former Jets QB who’s been a mainstay of SNY’s Jets postgame shows for five years, have been added to ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s pregame show, joining host Don LaGreca and analyst and former Jets LB standout Greg Buttle.
“Our radio broadcast is an integral part of our fans’ game-day experience,” said Jets president Neil Glat. “We’re confident that adding two veterans, Ray Lucas and Coach Westhoff, to our already strong roster of on-air talent should enhance our fans’ knowledge and enjoyment of our games.”
Westhoff and Lucas will also make regular appearances on ESPN’s studio programming throughout the season, and Lucas will continue in his role with SNY.
Holt from Downtown … Colorado Springs
Speaking of a Rocky Mountain high (Smith played college hoops for Denver’s Metropolitan State) reminds me we want to wish a fantastic career to John Holt, who was our intern and reporter for most of the last year.
John had a great sports background and writing experience from North Carolina and Ole Miss, and he put that to good use from last year’s training camp all the way through doing the lion’s share of the work on our eight-part predraft position-by-position series. But John’s love is basketball and he’ll get the chance to pursue that goal with USA Basketball’s Web site. Hopefully, he and his dad have safely and successfully concluded their two-thirds-of-the-country drive from Newark to, yes, snowy Colorado Springs.
It wouldn’t surprise us to find a great rivalry spring up in the next few years between John and Nick Gallo, our previous intern/reporter who for the last two seasons has been working with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
All the best out West, Holty.
Tags: Dennis Thurman, Hayden Smith, John Holt, Mike Westhoff, Quinton Coples, Ray Lucas, Rex Ryan
Posted in Randy Lange | 99 Comments »
Nine-and-13. If that refers to a major league team’s record after 22 games, it’ll put you off the early pace of the division leader. If the subject is a horse owner’s Derby post positions or a race team’s Indy post position, you’d probably like better.
But positions in the NFL Draft? Now we’re talking.
That’s just what the Jets have at the moment in Thursday night’s first round of the draft at Radio City Music Hall. Their own pick at No. 9 and the No. 13 they acquired from Tampa Bay in the Darrelle Revis trade give them a prized position among the 32 teams, most of which will be spending one pick in Round 1 and none of which have two picks in the top 13 as the Jets do.
We mentioned the other day that the Jets have had that distinction, spending two picks in the top 13 in one draft, just once before since the start of the common draft in 1967. That was 2000, the draft of the “Four Aces,” when DE Shaun Ellis was tabbed 12th and DE John Abraham 13th (ahead of QB Chad Pennington at 18th and TE Anthony Becht at 27th).
But what is the track record of the entire league with two picks in the top 13 of a given draft? There aren’t a lot of examples, but generally those teams that do spend two such high picks fare fairly well in the coming season.
Interesting enough, the last NFL team with this distinction was … those same Jets in 2000 (with an asterisk). In the past 12 drafts, no team wound up using those two picks once it came time to push the chips forward in Round 1.
The asterisk I refer to above is that the Jets weren’t alone in that ’00 selection meeting with two high picks. The Redskins, you may remember, held Nos. 2 and 3 and went for LB LaVar Arrington and T Chris Samuels. Then the Ravens (with a younger Rex Ryan on that coaching staff) spent Nos. 5 and 10 on two offensive players, RB Jamal Lewis and WR Travis Taylor, who weren’t nickel-and-dimers.
Since 1990, that two-in-the-top-13 situation came up 10 times. And a trivia note about those 10 teams is that in the season after they spent those picks, they posted an average improvement in their previous season’s record of 2.5 wins. Eight of the 10 improved their previous record, four made the playoffs (Atlanta ’91, Dallas ’91, Miami ’92 and Baltimore ’00), and the ’92 Colts in part used their 1-2 punch of top pick Steve Emtman and LB Quentin Coryatt to improve eight games, from 1-15 to 9-7.
Splitting the 9 from the 13 for the moment, Since 1990, players selected at No. 9 (… No. 9 … No. 9 … ) have fared pretty well. Not every nine was a winner, but T Richmond Webb (Miami, ’90), RB Fred Taylor (Jacksonville, ’98), LB Brian Urlacher (Chicago, ’00), DT Kevin Williams (Minnesota, ’03) and RB C.J. Spiller (Buffalo, ’10) are among the best.
As for players who were plucked at lucky 13, there are TE Tony Gonzalez (Kansas City, ’97), LB Takeo Spikes (Cincinnati, ’98), John Abraham by the Jets in ’00, WR Lee Evans (Buffalo, ’04), and LB Brian Orakpo (Washington, ’09).
Clearly, this is no guarantee that the Jets will hit a two-run homer with both their picks or improve anywhere from 2.5 to eight wins over last year’s 6-10 mark. And if they trade one of those picks and move out of the top 13, then all of this trivia is for naught.
But the Jets have a good, experienced college draft team now led by long-time scout Jeff Bauer, and a new man at the top in GM John Idzik who has said that this draft and every draft will be a lifeline to how the team does in the season(s) ahead. And their 9-13 exacta could be just the ticket for the next favorable development on the road to the 2013 season.
Tags: Darrelle Revis, Jeff Bauer, John Abraham, John Idzik, NFL Draft, Rex Ryan, Shaun Ellis
Posted in Randy Lange | 163 Comments »