OTA’s: First impressions

Florham Park, NJ – The Jets kicked off OTA’s yesterday, but today was the media’s first chance to get a look at the whole team together and as they say, ‘you never get a second chance at a first impression.’ Of course that puts too much pressure and/or emphasis on the first impression especially in a scenario such as this.

Yes, today was the media’s chance to get a first impression of the newly signed free agents, but what you see in OTA’s doesn’t necessarily translate to anything meaningful during the season. Still OTA’s are all we have for now and with no more media access until next Wednesday the first impressions are literally all we have to work with.

So, instead of getting ahead of ourselves and we start obsessing over quarterback competitions, who will be the number two receiver and cornerback, who will get cut and who could possibly be a breakout star let’s keep it simple and focus on today’s first impressions.

There were many good first impressions on the practice field for the Jets today, but maybe the biggest surprise was Stephen Hill who had a great day. Of course he's had great camps before so who knows if it means anything, but he looked great today. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

The first thing that jumped out today was free-agent receiver, Eric Decker. Everyone knows Decker from his days in Denver where he racked up extremely impressive numbers with Peyton Manning as his quarterback, but he sure didn’t look like a receiver who needs a Peyton Manning to be successful.

Decker showed off his great hands, flawless route running (one of the first thoughts that popped in my head is, ‘he needs to spend some time tutoring the rookie receivers and Stephen Hill because Decker’s technique is immaculate.’) and the ability to go get the ball and quickly turn up field for extra yards. Decker has some crazy strong hands, perfect hand placement and always uses his hands to make the catch, not needing to rely on his body to trap the ball. With all the speed the Jets added this year Decker doesn’t seem fast in comparison (certainly not slow though), but the way he works his way in-and-out of routes so quickly, suddenly and smoothly is a joy to watch. He showed off an excellent catching radius and caught every catchable pass thrown his way except for one (more on that later). It is just OTA’s, there was no hitting during 11-on-11’s and certainly no pressing by the cornerbacks, but regardless he put on clinic today.

On one play, Mike Vick hit Decker on a 10-15 yard out-route, Decker extended his arms down and out to snag the pass then dropped low and pivoted to stay inbounds and turn upfield right past Dee Milliner. On another play Decker hit a sharp comeback about 20 yards down field and Geno Smith threw a laser to Decker who had Dimitri Patterson draped all over him just trying to stick his arms in to deflect the ball, but Decker used his body to box Patterson out and make the catch.

The only thing Decker didn’t do today was catch a deep bomb over the top, otherwise he showed a bit of everything. Forget the concept of number one receiver, I’ve never been a fan of that term unless it’s in specific reference to who would draw single-man coverage against elite corners everything else is interchangeable based on the play call and Decker can line up anywhere, inside or out. Decker looked great today, just remember he’s still more of a possession receiver and his history suggests he has trouble against press coverage so as not to get carried away. Still it’s seems pretty clear Decker will get open a bunch and when he’s open he can be trusted to be where he’s supposed to and make the play, which is something this offense has lacked for awhile.

“Honestly, it felt very comfortable since day one when I walked in the building. The guys are very receptive, I just felt comfortable and to be on the field now, catching passes, really for the last couple of weeks. It hasn’t felt different, it hasn’t felt weird. It’s just a different environment.” Decker said, “It’s just a different team, different scheme, but again I feel like I fit in well.”

OTHER FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Vick – Vick looked calm and poised, showed confidence and comfort in his grasp of the offense and threw one beautiful spiral after another. (Sidenote: after year’s of watching training camps with Sanchez, Brunell, McElroy, Simms and Tebow it’s a pleasure to watch three quarterbacks (Vick, Smith and Tajh Boyd) almost always throw perfect spirals. Not always perfect passes accuracy wise but perfect spirals). Vick certainly didn’t look like he’s 34-years-old, he still looks mighty quick and can still turn on the burners.

Vick was accurate for the most part, had a few issues on deep balls and sideline passes, but overall Vick was impressive. This was to be expected. Vick will most likely look borderline amazing in mini-camp and training camp, he can’t be hit and he is a gifted athlete and talented thrower his problems have always been consistency and staying healthy. His consistency issues show up when he’s pressured and forced out of his comfort zone something that shouldn’t be an issue as long as he’s wearing a red jersey.

Smith looked good today as well. There will be no grading or comparing or charting of passes, but Smith certainly looked more comfortable and confident out there than anytime in camp last year, very noticeably so. He missed on a few passes here and there and made one bad decision to throw the ball all the way across field after scrambling outside, but most of the day he was dealing.

Breno Giacomini – First impression? That man is a giant. Watching him line up for stretches he looked like he was ready to hurt some people. Totally different vibe when he takes his helmet off, still huge but doesn’t look mean, but when the helmet is on he looks like he’s about to punish someone. The offensive line did all their individual and positional drills on the far side of the field so, we only got to get a good look at Giacomini during the team drills. When we did get to see him we got to see some of that nasty edge inflicted on the defense. He looks to be as aggressive and imposing as advertised.

Jacoby Ford – Really fast. We all knew he was fast, but in person he’s wow fast. Made a couple of nice catches, but mostly just damn he’s fast.

Jace Amaro – Okay, I’m cheating a bit here since we got our actual first impressions of Amaro during rookie camp, but today he showed off his speed on one play and he can move. He caught a short pass in heavy traffic today, turned upfield and flew past defenders leaving a few defensive players, and reporters, in awe at how someone so big could move so fast. Amaro is still focusing most of his time on lining up in a three-point-stance and blocking, but when he was running routes he was getting open and making catches.

“I think I can learn a lot from Eric Decker.” Amaro said, “He runs some really great routes and that’s something that I watched when he was out there and it really impressed me by how smooth he was. So, I think that’s something I would really like to take in, is how he runs his routes and it can better me for what I can bring to the game.”

FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE YEAR:

Stephen Hill – Some of you don’t even want to hear this, but Hill had an excellent day today. He looked to be running nice, clean routes. Got open constantly and only had one drop, which wasn’t a drop as much as he let David Harris swat the ball out of his hands as he was trying to complete a crossing route. Otherwise he caught everything, he made a lot of routine catches and a bunch of impressive ones, especially on sideline throws where he craftily executed the toe tap to stay inbounds. Most impressive was the way Hill used his extended hands to catch the ball and not his body. He even attacked the ball a couple of times instead of waiting for the ball to come to him and because of that he caught the pass.

Again it’s just OTA’s and Hill has looked impressive in OTA’s, camps and against the Bills in the past, but it’s a new year and Hill looks to be off to a good start. We’ll see if it lasts into and through the season.

Ras-I Dowling – There’s never been much doubt about Dowling’s talent, it’s his inability to stay healthy that’s plagued him and there’s no guarantee that won’t be a problem this year, but today he made a handful of spectacular plays. Including a play on a perfectly thrown deep ball from Vick to Decker that looked destined to be complete. But Dowling played Decker perfectly, sliding in front of him with his head turned around as he went up for the pick and all Decker could do was play defense and knock the pass out of Dowling’s hands. Dowling broke up a couple other passes, but the deep ball to Decker was the attention-grabber.

Kenrick Ellis – Just one play that needs to be discussed here. Smith was sliding around the pocket and took off to run and before he could get anywhere Ellis comes chasing Smith down and running him right off the field. Tremendous closing speed by Ellis on that play.

Damon Harrison – Same as Ellis, just one play. Vick threw a short dump off to the rookie fullback Chad Young and Harrison popped him and looked like he was about to have Young for a snack before he realized, ‘oh yeah, it’s just OTA’s. I can’t kill this poor rookie,’ and held Young up before letting him continue breathing.

Jeremy Kerely – As I tweeted on one play, Kerley did Kerley type things. Kerley was flying all over the field, running clean routes, as usual, and making all sorts of great catches. As with Hill the most impressive ones were near the sidelines. The coaching staff definitely put an emphasis on sideline throws and catches as all the receivers took turns trying to catch sideline passes and work the toe tap to stay inbounds and Kerley looked excellent in doing so. Rookie Jalen Saunders had a good day as well and also made a handful of acrobatic sideline catches.

Sheldon Richardson – This is really just an excuse to post these quotes. Richardson was asked if he feels more comfortable than this time last yeah and said, “I came in feeling comfortable. Just had a little pressure learning the playbook and I know that now so I can ease up a little bit. Just responsibilities got a little bit bigger.” Then he was asked what specific area he feels the most advanced from last year and in typical Sheldon Richardson fashion he said, “More advanced? Everything… Everything, (I’m) cold.”

NO IMPRESSIONS TODAY

- Willie Colon was out, he has to get his knee scoped. Rex Ryan had no timetable for his return.

- Calvin Pryor won’t participate all week, he has to get his wisdom teeth removed this week.

- David Nelson is sick and isn’t here for OTA’s.

- Shaq Evans is at UCLA finishing up his last semester so he can graduate.

- Chris Johnson did some individual and group drills, but will be held out of all team drills during OTA’s.

8 Responses to “OTA’s: First impressions”

  1. Nick Riggio Says:

    Thank you for this article- ( Kentucky Jet)

  2. Fishhunters Says:

    Outstanding article! Thank you for feeding the appetite today!!!
    Ed

  3. Joe (Joepnyj1) Says:

    Great article and very informative, only thing is I wouldn’t mind seeing the negative side as far as who did not perform well. Regardless, excellent job, now if you can replace the asshats known as Cimini and Mehta it would be all good!!

  4. danny Says:

    nailed the Stephen Hill line – nobody wants to hear it lol – guy is just never healthy therefore he cant practice meaning he cant improve.
    If he could ever stay healthy who knows but at the same time I don’t trust jets staff to develop young raw receivers, although I hope it happens. Its a make or break year for Hill and the worst thing would be to see him tear it up somewhere else for years to come.

  5. Erik (Smaxor5) Says:

    Great article as usual. Can’t wait to see this team in action!

  6. TG Says:

    It’s so refreshing to read something about what is actually happening on the field, and not some Daily News/ESPN trumped up speculation or drama piece. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  7. Tom Murray Says:

    Great article! Always nice to hear the positives.

  8. Nep Oznat Says:

    Great article for us thirsty Jets fans!

    Christopher, you are officially my favorite Jet columnist now that I’ve discovered your work. Keep it up!!