Archive for August, 2013

Trimming Down to 53

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Today is cut day in the NFL. You know the drill: By 6 p.m. tonight the Jets have to get the roster down to 53 from 75. The list will be updated throughout the day.

Here are the final cuts:

RB Mike Goodson

He isn’t cut, just moved to the Reserved/Suspended list to serve his 4-game suspension.

S Rontez Miles

Miles was a good special teamer. He is a candidate to make the practice squad if he clears waivers.

WR Mohamed Massaquoi

A former second-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, Massaquoi was signed when Braylon Edwards was having trouble getting on the field. He didn’t make much of an impact, and with Ryan Spadola and Ben Obomanu ahead of him, he was likely the odd man out.

QB Greg McElroy

Another cut that would have been more shocking earlier in camp. With his nagging injury, and the emergence of Matt Simms this became apparent. The only question was would the team keep 4 quarterbacks like Rex Ryan suggested after Thursday night’s game. But even that seemed like a long shot.

K Dan Carpenter

Carpenter was signed just before the fourth and final preseason game. There was a chance he could unseat incumbent Nick Folk, but not much. Not a big surprise to see him released.

NT Antonio Garay

Might’ve been a shock earlier in training camp, but with the emergence of Damon Harrison and Leger Douzable he was expendable.

DB Royce Adams

LB Jacquies Smith

LB Troy Davis

DL Lanier Coleman

OL J.B. Shugarts

OT Jason Smith

TE Chris Pantale

WR Michael Campbell

DL Lanier Coleman

RB Mossis Madu

DL Tevita Finau

C Erik Cook

CB Mike Edwards

LB Jojo Dickson

DL Junior Aumavae

A New Fan Favorite Emerges

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – “You never know.”

That’s a fitting way to describe Ryan Spadola’s chances of making the team at the start training camp this year. It’s also the words the undrafted rookie receiver out of Lehigh used to describe his uncertainty over his job status coming into work today, with the Jets looking to cut the roster down to 75 players.

Some have compared undrafted free agent WR Ryan Spadola to another Cinderella story, Wayne Chrebet. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

But after a game in which Spadola pulled in three catches for 110 yards and a touchdown, it would’ve been a shock if he had to clean out his locker. The rookie has been turning heads all camp, and was part of the focus of Rex Ryan’s game tape at today’s press conference.

“I don’t think anything is ever unrealistic,” said Spadola. “I think you need to push yourself, and work as hard as you possibly can, and I think everything kind of filters through itself.”

Hard work has carried him a long way. He picked Lehigh as much for its academics, as he did for its football program. Money certainly wasn’t an incentive. Lehigh is part of the Patriot League that didn’t give out athletic scholarships at the time.

At Lehigh the largest crowd he played in front of was maybe 18,000, but it usually didn’t top 10,000. Now he’s playing in front of crowds of 80,000.

“I wake up every morning with a smile on my face,” said Spadola. “I’m living a dream that tons and tons of kids look to do.”

Spadola doesn’t have to look too far back to remember what it’s like to be on the other side of the fence. For the last few years he has been an observer at the Eagles training camp. An experience he believes prepared him for this opportunity.

“I think the biggest thing [I learned from Eagles camp] is you know how important executing everything is,” said Spadola. “You go 110 percent. You get evaluated on every single thing you do, whether it’s coming back from a catch—if you jog or walk in—if you’re a backside route are you going 100 percent or are you taking the play off. So I guess that’s the most important thing, is giving it your all on every route.”

That mentality has helped the New Jersey native draw favorable comparisons to another undrafted receiver from the Garden State, Wayne Chrebet. In fact, the two have recently exchange emails, and the former fan favorite has given Spadola plenty of advice.

“Obviously when he started his career he went through a similar process that I did,” said Spadola. “So, I took all of his tips and kind of embraced that, and just continue to work hard. Never sit back on anything you’ve achieved up to date”

The final cuts will be made August 31. If Spadola is still on the team, he knows how he’ll celebrate. Just don’t expect anything too flashy.

“Obviously a lot of the stuff I’m going to do is with my family. They’ve been the biggest guidance throughout my entire football career.”

Oh and he’ll probably pay off his student loans.

You Play to Win the Game?!?

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

East Rutherford, NJ – “I’m not apologizing for it. We’ll take the win. Do we have to correct a lot of things? Absolutely, but I’d much rather do it after a win.”

That was part of the statement uttered by the “winning” coach Rex Ryan during his press conference. Sure the Jets took home some nice hardware, but in what world did this constitute a win?

Rex Ryan made a curious decision letting Mark Sanchez take snaps in the fourth quarter of a preseason game.

Preseason records mean NOTHING once the season starts. A victory is walking out without injuries and that didn’t happen tonight.

Before the game even started I was asked of the possibility of Mark Sanchez getting snaps in the fourth quarter, with Geno likely getting to play the first three. I literally laughed out loud. What would be the purpose of seeing Sanchez with players fighting for roster spots, going up against a Giants defense littered with players fighting for roster spots? And worse, what if he got injured playing behind an unproven offensive line?

Well wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly what happened. But at the end of the day I acknowledge there is probably a reason Rex is the one patrolling the sidelines, and I’m watching the game from the press box as an intern. In short, I want to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. There had to be some reason Mark was playing that I hadn’t thought of.

“We’re there to win,” said Ryan. “We had our starting offense out there for three quarters because we’re trying to win the game. That was what we wanted to do.”

I…I guess that was something I hadn’t thought of. But that is not a particularly good reason. Unless Woody Johnson demanded Rex bring him the Snoopy trophy, in what world is winning a preseason game a priority?

*****

Brief side note/conspiracy theory: It was interesting that Tom Coughlin also made a strange coaching decision in the interest of winning the game. With his team down by three and less than a minute on the clock, the two-time Super Bowl winning head coach sent his field goal kicker out to tie the game. In overtime he lost cornerback Laron Scott to injury. His decision was also made to win this preseason game. So basically…what private wager did John Mara and Woody Johnson have going on this game? Never in my life have I seen two coaches try so hard to win a preseason game. I’ll admit I’m 99.999999% kidding…but there is that 0.000001% of me that thinks maybe.

*****

Now maybe Mark gets an MRI tomorrow and it’s revealed there is no major damage. Maybe he is even able to practice this upcoming week. But for right now, Sanchez’s health is in question, and Geno Smith did nothing to give the organization or its fans much to be confident about. To risk your season to win a preseason game…and go into the press conference boasting of that victory is just mind boggling to me.

Do what you have to do when the games count, but in August just put the 4th stringer in there.

Double the Trouble for Kicker Nick Folk

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – Excuse Nick Folk if kicking is not the only thing on his mind these days. No, next year’s World Cup is not what’s on the soccer enthusiast’s mind. Though, if you were looking for some in-depth analysis on the United State’s chances he’d be a good guy to talk to. He likes what he’s seen so far if you were curious.

Nick Folk has plenty going on both on and off the field

Folk’s distraction comes in the form of twin baby boys named Gage and Davis. Just before the preseason game in Detroit, Folk traveled back to be with his wife as she gave birth to the pair, the couple’s first kids.

“I left on Tuesday afternoon,” said Folk. “My wife had our babies on Wednesday night, and I flew on Thursday on a commercial flight to Detroit. I got there late, and then I flew back, right after the game to go back home to see my kids. So, a lot of unique circumstances for me, but hopefully we can get into a groove, and get the feeling the next couple preseason games and get ready for week one.”

But while Folk can’t help but think of the two now that he is back with the team, he’s not taking his job lightly. Disappointed with the drop in his performance over the course of last season, Folk has adjusted his offseason conditioning.

“I did some things to stay stronger for longer hopefully because I think the first six games I kicked off pretty well, and then kind of tinkered off,” explained Folk. “I just didn’t have the strength, so trying to stay stronger longer throughout the course of the season.”

While Folk has been a fairly reliable field goal kicker for the Jets, his kickoffs haven’t been spectacular. He was near the bottom of the league in both kickoff average (23rd for kickers with at least 60 att) and touchbacks (29th).

This season Billy Cundiff was brought in to compete with the California native. Cundiff averaged over a yard more per kickoff than Folk, and had six more touchbacks in less than half the attempts. Folk has embraced the challenge.

“Competition should bring out the best in anyone,” said Folk. “Whether it be at the quarterback position or the kicking position. If you can’t compete against the best of the best, then you’re not going to make it.”

Competition is nothing new for the seven-year veteran. There has been another kicker with Folk in camp every year he has been with the team. He has won the job all three years.

If he wins the job Folk says he believes adjusting his in-season routine could help as well.

“My first couple years [my days were] Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, so there was that day off in between,” said Folk. “My third year it was Wednesday, Thursday, so I had two days off before the game. Then when I got here it’s been Wednesday, Thursday, Friday with a day off before the game. So we’re trying to build into it with a somewhat better routine for all of us.”

He went on to compare his kicking routine with that of a pitcher, noting how important it is to find the right routine to stay in a rhythm. He then continued his comparison to other major sports, bringing up golf this time.

“If I’m not in a groove, I’m going to have to fight,” said Folk. “It’s like golf. If you’re in a good groove in golf, you’re going to hit it in the fairway, you’re going to hit it on the green, you’re going to make putts. You hear Tiger talk about he has to scramble for a round all the time, where he is fighting for pars. But he’s making those pars, so some days you’ve got to do that.”

But the 28-year-old admits his wife probably has the harder job.

“It’s tough,” said Folk. “The hardest part is I want to be able to do stuff. Help my wife out, but at the same time she’s the one with the goods to feed them, so I can’t do much there. I could do diaper duty and get them to sleep and stuff, but her mom has been helping her out.”

For right now Folk will focus on his kicking, because on the field he is the one with the goods.

Despite Lack of Defensive Intensity Jets Beat Jaguars 37-13

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

East Rutherford, NJ - Last preseason the focus was on a sputtering offense that couldn’t get the ball into the end zone. The same can’t be said this year.

A week after Mark Sanchez found Jeff Cumberland all alone for a 26-yard touchdown pass, the two connected for a score once again. This time a 23-yard catch on the opening drive against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and  the Jets went on to win 37-13.

But it was not all smiles when the game ended. Probably because it’s only week two of the preseason, and the final score doesn’t mean much. Especially when the presumed starter at quarterback once again made a questionable decision that resulted in an interception. This one wasn’t returned for a touchdown, but occurred in the end zone ending a scoring threat for Gang Green, but we’ll have more on Sanchez’s performance later tonight.

Rex Ryan was not pleased with the play of his defense tonight

It also didn’t help that the defense came out far from energized. Blaine Gabbert made it look easy tonight, carving up the Jets secondary. Missed tackles sure didn’t help New York’s cause either. The Jaguars are far from a juggernaut offensively, yet they only punted once in the first half.

“Our defensive intensity in the first half I thought was not up to Jets standards,” said Rex Ryan. “You can tell. When the intensity is there we’re gonna tackle, run to the ball, we’re gonna do all those things that epitomize the New York Jets defense. And quite honestly we struggled with that. There’s no question about it.”

Dee Milliner looked like a rookie tonight. He was picked on early and often. This isn’t too shocking, though. Cornerback is a hard position to adjust to in the NFL. Darrell Revis didn’t light the world on fire when he first came in. Tonight was a learning experience for the neophyte, and luckily it came in a preseason game.

“For [Milliner] it’s a learning experience,” said Antonio Cromartie. “For this game, it’s the second preseason game for him and we expect more from him than we saw tonight. That’s something he needs to learn from and he has to come out with a great attitude and get ready for the next week when we get ready to play guys like Hakeen Nicks and Victor Cruz.”

Cromartie didn’t have his best night either, and David Harris looked about as slow as he did last season. Quinton Coples continues to look lost in space. He made his presence known when he had a hand on the ground, but got hurt after batting down a pass and left the game with a leg injury. They’ll run tests tomorrow to see the extent of the injury, but Ryan didn’t have an update on injury after the game.

Granted 37 points probably means there were some positives. Probably the biggest news is the improved play of the offensive line. They looked worlds better than they did last week. There was definitely a drop in the talent level of their opponent, but they looked lights out opening up running lanes, protecting the quarterback, and avoiding the penalties that bogged down the offense last week.

“I liked the way we ran the ball,” said Ryan. “There is no doubt about it. I thought we did a good job running the football, and I liked our protection on offense. Obviously the penalties was another plus. We did a much better job there. We emphasized that, and that was good to see.”

The line opened up plenty of holes for Bilal Powell. He had another big run–a 37-yarder this time–and averaged over 4 yards per carry on his other six carries, which included some looks in the wildcat. He also split out as a receiver on a few plays, and drew a penalty on his one target.

Chris Ivory made his Jets debut tonight. He was far from spectacular, but even getting him on the field is a positive at this point. It wouldn’t be hard for him to improve on this performance next week against the Giants.

At receiver no one really stood out. Clyde Gates was borderline invisible as a receiver, though he had two nice kickoff returns to start the game. Stephen Hill had a nice grab, but then dropped a third down pass…again. Jeremy Kerley was solid, and as previously mentioned Cumberland scored again.

The receiver who stood out the most was probably Braylon Edwards, but he saw very little time with the first team. When did get his opportunity in the second half he made several nice plays.

The most interesting decision of the game was to leave the first-team offense and defense in for the entire first half. The first-team defense even made an appearance to start the third quarter, and Mark Sanchez played until the start of the fourth. Maybe they’ll play the whole game next week.

The Jets (1-1) will look to win back the Snoopy Trophy in the MetLife Bowl next week against the Giants (1-0) back at MetLife Stadium next Saturday at 7.

Dark Clouds on the Final Day in Cortland

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Cortland, NY – Dark skies overcast SUNY Cortland this morning as the Jets took the field. Reminiscent of a morning in October, a chill swept through the facility and rain shortly followed. Unprepared for such temperature in the middle of August, Rex sent for more appropriate attire. Yes, practice started with an ominous tone.

The rain clouds must’ve been following rookie quarterback Geno Smith, or that’s at least how it seemed.

“This was a really bad day for Geno,” said Rex Ryan. “Today was a bad day today. There is no other way to put it. “

“You’re not going to have the best days every single time,” said Smith. “That’s what practice is for. We want to get every single look, every single scenario, and we want to continue to just work hard and progressively get better as an offense.”

Geno Smith had arguably his worst day at camp today.

Smith threw several interceptions, and had the look of a rookie in over his head. To his credit he is playing on an injured ankle that has him far from 100%.

“You can see it out there,” said Ryan. “He is not able to move like he normally does, he is not able to drive the ball like he normally does.”

Since the first week, Mark Sanchez has slowly taken the lead in the competition. Maybe not enough to be named the week one starter, maybe not even enough to start Saturday against the Jaguars (with it being an open competition and all). But it’s been apparent to those following the team, whether the coaches want to admit it or not.

Smith is facing an uphill battle and he’s doing it on a bum ankle. Don’t be surprised if Smith and that ankle are firmly planted on the bench when the Bucs come to town.

This does not mean Smith won’t turn into a franchise quarterback for the Jets, or that he won’t make an appearance under center during the season. In fact, while his performance has been far from perfect, he has managed to impress his coaches this week.

“He is not using [the injury] as an excuse,” said Ryan. “To me that’s a good thing. That’s a positive thing.”

“I can’t make any excuses. I won’t make any, and if I’m out there Saturday, I’m giving my all,” added Smith.

But simply put, more than ever, it seems like Sanchez is a lock to start week one.

The competition will continue and the coaches will continue to evaluate for as long as they can. But if I were a betting man, I would not take those odds.

*****

Clyde Gates returned to practice and was wearing a non-contact jersey. He showed no ill effects from the head injury that kept him out the last two days, and made some nice catches.

Stephen Hill had a couple more highlight-reel catches, but once again dropped a pass in the end zone. The ball literally banged off his hands, an unacceptable play for a player trying to put the drops behind him.

*****

The team released their depth chart today. Both rookie first-round picks, Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson, were listed with the first team. Bilal Powell was listed as the first-team running back, with Chris Ivory backing him up. But for those of you hoping to get some insight into the quarterback competition, the Jets were one step ahead: Geno and Mark were both listed on the first-team.

Stephen Hill: “I Don’t Drop Balls”

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Cortland, NY – Stephen Hill raced down the sideline brushing past the corner in front of him. Within seconds Mark Sanchez released a pass that spiraled through the air before landing on the chest of the second-year receiver. But in an all too familiar sight the ball makes a thud as it hits the ground.

Stephen Hill looks to put last season behind him

There was a lot of hype surrounding the second-round pick out of Georgia Tech last year. The injury to Santonio Holmes added to the expectations of the rookie receiver, but he finished the year with only 252 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers were comparable to Holmes’ production in just four games last season.

Drops were one of the main issues. Hill was charged with five last season even though he only registered 21 catches. A critical drop on third down against the Patriots still burns in many fan’s minds.

But Hill is working to make sure that issue remains in the past.

On the very next play during drills, Hill ran the same route and Sanchez threw it up once again. This time the former Yellow Jacket came down with the pass.

“I told him to throw it again because I don’t drop balls,” said Hill when asked why Sanchez felt comfortable going back to him.

But drops are just one facet of his game that he is looking to improve.

“[I’m working on] everything that I can work on, and anything that I need help on,” explained Hill. “I ask coach as much as I can to see what he saw on film the previous day. I just make sure I work on that the next day. Make sure I perfect my craft.”

What’s changed the most for Hill?

“I feel like I’m better mentally. I always had the physical tools; I just needed to make sure I understand what is going on on the field. That’s definitely been a plus for me this year.”

Going up against Rex Ryan’s defense each day certainly helps. So does lining up against Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie.

“Our number one thing coming here to Cortland and when we were in OTAs is build competition,” said Hill. “And when you’re competing as hard as [Cromartie] is, it’s making you get better. It’s making your craft get even better. So I’m definitely looking forward to taking more reps against him.”

The veteran corner has made strides to be more of a leader, and his advice hasn’t just been to the defense.

“He talks to me, probably, after every rep we go against each other,” said Hill. “I ask him something, and he’ll tell me. Or if he sees something he’ll just tell me to make sure I don’t do that again.”

Hill has had a strong camp so far, and followed that up with a pretty solid performance Friday against the Lions. He only finished with two receptions for 16 yards, but the coaches were pleased with his performance, and more importantly, he didn’t have a drop.

Brian Winters Adjusting to Life with the Jets

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

Cortland, NY – A lot has been made of the new-look offensive line. Veterans Willie Colon and Stephen Peterman were brought in, and Brian Winters was drafted out of Kent State in the third round.

Colon has all but locked up one spot at guard, but it was Peterman starting on the opposite side Friday in Detroit. That isn’t an indication of Winters’ play, but rather injuries the rookie has had to deal with.

But even on the sideline Winters has had some adjustments to make.

“I thought Cleveland was overwhelming so when I went there [NYC], it’s definitely something else,” said Winters. “I’m kind of a hometown small boy so it’s a lot different moving to the city…or well outside the city. Ya know I come from a small town. It’s a little different. Obviously I have to make the transition, but it’s not too bad.”

Lucky for Winters the Jets hold training camp in Cortland, an area that should make the Ohio native feel right at home. His roommate and 5th round pick, Oday Aboushi, has helped too.

“He and I go way back,” said Winters. “We played together on the USA team. He’s a great player. And we both ended up playing for the same team which is a blessing really. So it’s crazy how things work out.”

The two rookies have helped each other pick up the terminology and technique required of the offense. The veterans on the team have taken notice.

“Brian is doing a good job,” said Nick Mangold. “He wants to learn and he asks all the right questions. That’s a good thing. When you get a guy who comes in and starts asking right field questions, where is your mindset? But he asks little things, and that gets you to understand that he knows the concept of the play, and now wants to get into the smaller things. As long as he continues with that he can be a pretty good player in this league.”

Those words aren’t lost on Winters, who is excited to learn from the two pro bowlers.

“Nick’s definitely helped me a lot,” said Winters. “Playing between Nick and Brick it’s definitely a big thing. A big honor really. I’ve watched them play since I was young. It’s a great opportunity.”

What Rex loves most about him is his physical play, and when asked the type of player he is, that’s the first word Winters brings up.

“I like to play physical,” said Winters. “I’m a physical player. I love the game. I’ve got heart for the game.

Winters is still a little nicked up, but he has looked good in the opportunities he has been given. Like Mangold said, if he can keep it up it looks like he has a bright future ahead of him.

Geno Smith leaves early as Jets lose 26-17 in Detroit

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Detroit, MI – The Jets dropped their first preseason game tonight, 26-17, to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. On the Jets first drive Mark Sanchez threw a pick to Detroit’s first-round pick, Ziggy Ansah, which the rookie promptly returned for the first score of the game. The Lions never relinquished the lead.

Rex Ryan got his first look at his team in game action

But that wasn’t the story of the game. In fact, Sanchez regrouped and led the team on an 80-yard touchdown drive just a couple of possessions later. No, the story of tonight’s game was injuries and penalties.

A trend that started at the Green and White Scrimmage less than a week ago reared its ugly head once again. Offensive penalties—including holdings and false starts— hindered the Jets progress. The Jets are not a strong enough offensive team to be able to consistently overcome these issues. Perhaps it’s just a new group of guys getting used to each other, but it is a situation worth monitoring. It’s been a problem to start the season.

On the injury front, John Griffin, and more importantly, Geno Smith, were taken out early.

Griffin is another name to add to the questions at running back. So far Mike Goodson has yet to report, Chris Ivory is still dealing with hamstring issues, and Joe McKnight is recovering from a head injury.

Bilal Powell has been getting the majority of touches at running back. Tonight he was a little underwhelming, but managed to have some nice plays. While he has been having a nice camp so far, the Jets really need the guys above him on the depth chart to get back and contribute.

For Smith, the injury doesn’t appear to be too serious. It’s even possible he’ll be ready to practice when the team returns to Cortland on Sunday. Problem is, he didn’t show a ton in the time he was given.

Smith started camp out strong. The last week, however, has been a challenge for the former Mountaineer. He didn’t look much sharper tonight, and if the injury causes him to miss any practice time the starting job is probably going to go to Sanchez.

As for Sanchez, once he got settled and had time to throw he looked solid. He completed 10-of-13 passes for 125 yards to go along with the touchdown and interception.

He clearly has a stronger grasp of the offense, but the interception is still a problem. Sure he outplayed Smith, but the pick makes you worry because of the turnover issues the guy has had throughout his career. It also gives credence to the idea that he struggles to handle pressure. With the rush bearing down on him Sanchez once again made a foolish mistake. He looks better than Smith at this point, but is he ready to put last season behind him?

Sanchez’s touchdown pass was snagged by tight end Jeff Cumberland. Cumberland was wide open on the play, but didn’t have a catch the rest of the game. Kellen Winslow dressed and had two catches of his own. It’s no secret that if he stays healthy for the Jets, he will be the starting tight end come week one.

Clyde Gates continued his strong play. He had three catches in this game while mostly playing with the first team. He isn’t the second coming of Santonio Holmes, but he continues to stand out for Gang Green this season. While it’s hard to gauge him against the better receivers in the NFL, he has arguably been the Jets best receiver so far in camp.

Defensively the team looked strong. They held Matthew Stafford to 3-of-8 passing for 58 yards, and only gave up a field goal to the first team.

Going up against a team without a strong offensive line, you’d hope the defensive line would’ve had a bigger impact. Quinton Coples still looks a little lost at linebacker, and Sheldon Richardson was barely noticeable in his first NFL game.

The other first-round pick, Dee Milliner, had a nice play to break up a pass in the end zone. Overall, though, he still has work to do. He missed an open field tackle, and gave up a long pass. He looks solid for a rookie corner, but it’s a reminder that he isn’t here to replace Darrell Revis.

The Jets (0-1) return home next Saturday to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at 7:30.

Training Camp: Day 11 Update

Monday, August 5th, 2013

JetsInsider.com reporter Ashley Iaconetti gives a brief update on Monday’s practice at SUNY Cortland.