Archive for May, 2012

Defensive Line Personnel Offers Versatility

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Versatile. It’s one of the best compliments that can be handed out to a player. If you ask a coach what they look for in a player, you’ll usually hear that word used multiple times. Looking ahead to the 2012 season, head coach Rex Ryan has a defensive line that is versatile in every sense of the word.

Having spent their last two first round picks on the line to infuse with defensive mainstays such as Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito, Ryan boasts perhaps the deepest defensive front in the league. The addition of defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, maestro of the masterful Vikings defensive line that featured Jared Allen and Kevin & Pat Williams, adds the sink to Ryan’s “everything but the kitchen sink” defensive schemes.

“We’re definitely versatile. Pretty much everyone can play anywhere on this line. The versatility we have is great. We’ve reached the point in our time together where we know each other’s strong suits and can wreak havoc,” Quinton Coples, the team’s 16th overall selection in this year’s draft, said.

Coples, of course, is a huge working cog with the interchangeable parts. Initially it’s been stated that he’ll be used in the three-technique, outside the tackle, and the wide-nine, outside the tight end purely pass rushing. On the other end of the d-line will be his former prep school teammate and first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson setting the edge and stopping the run.

Quinton Coples (above) is just one the interchangeable parts on the revamped Jets defensive line. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

With only three sacks in his rookie campaign, but a team-high 13 tackles for loss Wilkerson had no problem playing the supporting actor role. This past off-season, however, he’s worked hard on conditioning, footwork and overall speed to get that extra jump off the ball. Citing that this is a game of inches, Wilkerson hopes his off-season work equates to a higher sack total in 2012.

“I feel like I can contribute to this pass rush. I lost a few pounds [in the off season], hopefully I’ll be a little quicker and that’ll lead to more of a presence,” he said.

For Aaron Maybin, who’s looking to build upon a breakout 2011 season now having a full off-season to grasp concepts, having so many tough match-ups around him is a breath of fresh air.

“It’s really difficult when you have someone that has to be accounted for right next to you, you can’t get all the attention your way. Nothing has me more excited than [the defensive line] and how they’ve progressed because that’ just going to help us all as a defense,” Maybin said.

Thus far, players like Coples and Wilkerson have sung the praises of Dunbar and his expertise with defensive lines, citing his work with the Vikings as clear cut evidence to his work ethic.

“When you have a great coach in Dunbar it’s easy. With everything he’s been able to do with the Vikings, everyone is soaking up all his knowledge. We really feel this unit is going to be something special this year,” Wilkerson said with Coples saying that he brings “that tenacity we all saw with the Vikings” to this team.

Dunbar is a re-inventor of Buddy Ryan’s famed 46 defense, which is expected to have a bigger wrinkle in Rex’s 3-4 base defense this season.  ”Base”, however, is a term that is loosely used as ProFootballFocus.com published an insightful article last month stating that the Jets were among the bottom third of teams to use their base defense the fewest times (37%).

The article goes on to state that the team spent 17% of defensive snaps with 7+ defensive backs (an allusion to the spread offense fever) and but also went 6% of the snaps without a DB, second highest only to the Detroit Lions.

Truly a testament to Ryan’s love of versatility.

Yeremiah Bell: Jets were ‘right fit’

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — After spending eight seasons with the Miami Dolphins, four of which were under then-head coach Tony Sparano, Yeremiah Bell is happy to feel wanted by his team.

“When I visited here, they made me feel like I would be welcomed here. They took a big interest in me and it seemed like they really wanted me here. Taking input from Coach Sparano [was helpful]. Just him telling me what kind of system he thought I’d be successful in and things like that,” Bell said Thursday afternoon.

At OTAs this week, newly signed safety Yeremiah Bell made a great first impression with his new Jets teammates. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Bell was signed by the Jets last week shortly after the Dolphins released their former defensive captain and four-time leading tackler in an effort to not pay him his $6.2 million.

When asked about joining the other part of the historic rivalry Bell would only say that he’s “looking forward to playing the Dolphins”.

Looking forward to his new team, however, Bell offered high praise to the man he’ll presumably be taking the starting safety job from, Eric Smith.

“E-Smitty — that’s my guy. He’s awesome right now. He’s telling me what to do. He keeps quizzing me on every play, even when we’re on the sidelines. He’s been a great help for me,” he said.

The Jets also signed safety LaRon Landry, who is recovering from an Achilles’ injury, to seemingly pair off with Bell as the team’s starting safeties. According to Bell, there will be no “free” and “strong” safety labels on whomever is back there.

“In this system I think both safeties will play both sides. I don’t think there’s really a strong or a free safety,” he said.

Only three days into OTAs with his new team, Bell has already impressed — picking off a errant Tim Tebow throw in which he stated he caught Tebow “watching” his receiver and got in for a would-be sack a few plays later.

Freedom to rush the passer and leaning on veteran All-Pro players like Darrelle Revis as he takes this time to adjust to a new system is something he’s embracing.

“I’m already seeing first hand why he’s the best cornerback in the game. He’s a guy who you don’t have to tell him what to do or where to be. He knows how to play the game. It’s different coming from Miami – who had a lot of young corners that I had to stay on top of,” he said.

While citing his need to study up on the playbook, he envisions himself being a play maker in this defense.

“I see myself as a playmaker and a big contributor to this defense. I think I’m a real good fit. That was a huge factor for me. I know how good this defense is since Rex has been here. He’s a defensive guru. As a defensive player, you want to play for a coach like that,” he said.

Bell’s addition can solidify 46 defense

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

With the additions of Yeremiah Bell, LaRon Landry, Josh Bush and Antonio Allen late in the draft last month, the Jets have made a concise decision to put a stop team’s beating them with their tight ends.

In the past the Jets have been among the bottom in the league as far as defenses against the tight end — where their safeties have either been outweighed or outmatched against the surging trend of athletic tight ends. Now with Bell and Landry seemingly the team’s starting safeties, with Eric Smith filling in when needed, offers a tough-guy attitude to the defensive secondary with their shutdown corner tandem of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.

Bell, who led the Dolphins with 107 tackles and has done so the last four seasons, is an in-the-box defender who has no problem getting physical in the grill of  the more imposing tight ends in the league. Landry plays a similar style of game, however it remains to be seen how returns from an Achilles’ injury. He hasn’t been able to participate in the team’s voluntary workouts.

Buddy Ryan (above) was the innovator of the 46 defense, which his son Rex has since adopted. Will it work to stop teams like the Patriots? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Assuming that both are at full health come Week 1, they could be the missing link in new defensive line coach Karl Dunbar’s revamped 46 defense. The Star Ledger’s Jenny Vrentas wrote how utilizing a defensive front carousel of first-round picks Muhammed Wilkerson and Quinton Coples with savvy veterans Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha and others could wreak havoc on opposing team’s quarterbacks all season long. Something similar to the cross-town Giants’ “NASCAR defense” that led the team to their second Super Bowl victory in five seasons.

The 46 defense, as Vremtas puts it, is one variation of a 4-3 front, with four down linemen and eight men in the box. Dunbar has a long history with it, dating back to his days as a defensive lineman for the Arizona Cardinals from 1994-95, when Buddy Ryan was his head coach and Rex was his position coach.

Against teams like the New England Patriots, however, it will be the play of the safeties that will determine the success of the 46 defense. Many teams, like the Patriots, have a big portion of their offensive playbook dedicated to the spread offense and use the space and 1-on-1 coverage to attack defenses with their two-headed tight end monster — Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

Having Landry and/or Bell play in the box, in a bump-and-run type coverage on the line of scrimmage, will utilize the safeties in an area where they excel at, and presumably be able to knock of the timing of the tight ends. The luxury of trusting in the man coverage skills of Revis and Cromartie should allow Bell or Landry to devote their attention to the tight ends lined up in the box with the other playing center field, assuming their duty of covering the middle third of the field.

After playing against the Patriots twice — where the Hernandez/Gronkowski combination burned the Jets for 32 receptions on 419 receiving yards and three scores in the regular season — the Jets have Vernon Davis, Heath Miller, Antonio Gates and Mercedes Lewis among others to game plan for.

Hopefully for Ryan and the defense the addition of Bell, Landry and more of the 46 defense will improve their play versus the tight end.

Check out the informative video above from the Football Gameplan Network on how a 46 defense can defend a spread offense.

Namath Pro-Sanchez but not Anti-Tebow

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Two months ago Joe Namath put the New York Jets on blast after they traded for Tim Tebow in the off-season — a move the Hall-of-Famer called detrimental to the development of starting quarterback Mark Sanchez. Namath isn’t backing off that claim, however it’s clear Namath has had a change of heart regarding the quarterback tandem.

“First of all I’m a Mark Sanchez fan. I’ve also been a Tebow fan since his freshman year at Florida. When he entered the draft I said, ‘Somebody’s got to draft this kid’ because he’s only positive for the team, for anybody. He’s going to bring a lot of positive vibes. How will it all work out? I don’t know. That remains to be seen,” Namath said.

The man who brought the Jets their only Super Bowl title was quick to sing the praises of Tebow, but was even quicker to state that Sanchez was new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s best option as the team’s quarterback.

Mark Sanchez has the support of Joe Namath, who believes he's the better quarterback "without a doubt". (JetsInsider.com Photo).

“There’s no doubt about it. [I think] Mark knows he’s the better quarterback,” he said Tuesday.

He sympathizes with the sensitivity regarding Tebow and the media circus that comes with him and how it may cause troubles down the road, but continually stated that Tebow “is a positive. Any way you add him to the organization is a positive.”

Namath has recently found himself in a precarious situation with his former team, citing “bad vibes” between himself, Woody Johnson and Ryan after publicly criticized the team via his Twitter account and radio show appearances. He would go on to say that he and Ryan’s relationship has improved recently.

The rift didn’t stop Namath from stirring the pot as he rode the fence on the hot-button topic for ten minutes.

“There’s only four team to have used it in professional football and they were all because none of them had a quarterback. It’s only been used when you have a quarterback who isn’t executing the offense properly. However, having to prepare for it is a benefit. I’m sure Sparano knows what he’s doing,” he said.

When posed with the question of putting himself in Sanchez’s shoes, Namath didn’t waver for a moment. “Oh I’d be tickled to death, you kidding me?,” he chuckled out before stating that he ‘loved’ taking every snap with the first-team offense at every practice.

Namath in Sanchez’s shoes? Not a bad question. After all it’s Sanchez, in his fourth season, who’s trying to fill the big shoes of Namath. “Golly, I remember a team that won a Super Bowl with a quarterback in his fourth year. Hopefully, that’ll happen again.”

Weekend Wrap-Up: Rex & Tannenbaum Speak

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Jets head coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum were at MetLife Stadium on Saturday supporting owner Woody Johnson’s foundation Alliance for Lupus Research.

The coach and general manager caught up with members of the New York media prior to the start of the event, where sponsored teams represent those fighting Lupus on a 15K walk around the home of the Jets. Here’s a wrap-up of what went down.

Thoughts on Jets turning down HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ for the 2012 season:

Rex Ryan – Whatever, you know? I didn’t even know this is news to me. It doesn’t matter to me. We’re getting our team ready to play in the 2012 season. We’ll have a lot of fans come up to Cortland, which will be great, but we’re just excited about getting this season going.

Mike Tannenbaum 'doesn't foresee' any trip-ups with signing Quinton Coples (above). (JetsInsider.com Photos).

Mike Tannenbaum – That’s something that the league decides. The experience we had with Hard Knocks was great. They were all real pros — the people from HBO and NFL Films. It was a great experience for us. For us, it was a great experience and then on the field we had a great season. So I can only speak from personal experience, but it proved to be productive.

For us, we try to get professional guys that love football at the end of the day.  Like Rex says, we want guys who are gym rats. When you play professional football in New York, you’re going to get a lot of media attention. That’s just the day and age we live in. And that speaks to the popularity of our sport. We want guys who are focused on what we do because the attention comes regardless if Hard Knocks comes to Jets camp.

Thoughts on Revis’ comments about Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots:

RR — It just speaks to how fierce this rivalry is. I know one thing: we’re going to do whatever we can to beat them and vice versa. They’re an excellent football team. They won our division for the last three years. If we want to win our division we know we have to go through them. We’ll be excited for that opportunity.  We’re not intimidated by anyone in this league, including them.

Thoughts on Quinton Coples and the rest of 2012 rookie class signing:

MT — I would never comment specifically where we are, but I don’t foresee any problems with that. Barring any drastic events, I wouldn’t expect any hold up from any our rookies this year.

Jets Rookie Camp ‘12: The Fighter & The Future

Monday, May 7th, 2012

The introductory mini-camp for rookies has always offered a surplus of stories ranging from star-studded arrivals to just plain survival. From early round draft picks still beaming from the promise of millions and the glitz of Radio City Music Hall to those who were invited out for a shot at chasing their dream of playing in the NFL.

For Josue Ortiz-Santana, an undrafted DE/DT from Harvard, his reality is the latter.

At 6-foot-5 and 253 pounds Ortiz-Santana was invited out by Jets linebacker coach Mike Smith after the team attended his Pro Day and saw him perform at the team’s practice facility for the regional combine. He has accepted the tall task of having three days to impress Jets personnel while adjusting to a new position —  a pass-rushing strong side linebacker.

“It’s a bit of an adjustment where I played DE/DT at Harvard, so there’s a bit of a curve. But some of the veteran guys like Eddie Jones have been showing me the ropes,” Ortiz-Santana said.

Looking every bit like an intimidating NFL pass rusher, Ortiz-Santana has a pro-like brawn to match his Ivy League brain. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in Economics, not unlike fellow Crimson alum and current New York Knick Jeremy Lin. It’s easy to draw parallels between the two — the Ivy League background, undrafted underdog label, earning their way to league based off work ethic and hustle as opposed to reputation. Instead of bunking up on a fellow teammate’s couch, Ortiz-Santana shared his eight-by-3 locker with another Jets hopeful. Although the two were not close in their time together at Cambridge (Lin was one year ahead Ortiz-Santana), he finds solace in his supernova-esque burst to stardom.

“He’s definitely someone to look for inspiration – being undrafted and getting cut a couple of times only to explode on the scene. That’s what it’s all about in the business – being ready to seize your chance when it presents itself. You got to keep knocking on the door until you get your foot in and break through,” he said.

Rookie Stephen Hill (above) is all smiles for his introduction at a New York Jet. But for others there, it's an opportunity in a time of uncertainty. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Before the Linsanity swept a nation, Lin was in search of an opportunity in a sea of uncertainty. For Ortiz-Santana, the situation is no different. “I’m just playing it by ear right now,” he said when asked about his immediate future. After Jets rookie camp, Ortiz-Santana plans to head to the Chicago Bears rookie camp and then see if a team signs him or invites him out for training camp.

For second-round draft choice Stephen Hill, it’s more about the when than the if. When will he be a starter? When will he catch his first touchdown? When will he become that elite top-flight receiver? Relieved of the anxiety of simply making the team, the biggest concern for the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket is to go Beamer, Benz or Bentley.

While players like Ortiz-Santana are all business during the three-day camp session, Hill made sure to soak up the NFL spotlight — sporting an ear-to-ear smile as reporters and TV cameras flocked to him. After all, what’s not to smile about? He just signed a four-year deal with $2.7 million in guarantees and his coach has already likened him to one of the game’s more intimidating receivers, Calvin Johnson.

He answered questions about how he expects to be used during the season instead of how to make a name for himself.
“I’m in more of an offense where I can catch the ball a little bit more. And you know, catching the ball from Mark Sanchez is great,” Hill said. Answers like those are a luxury that players like Ortiz-Santana can’t afford. Not right now, at least.

Evidently on cloud nine without a foreseeable care in the world, Hill was free to go out and ball — which he did — and had a fun time fulfilling his childhood dream — which he also did. On the field his size and speed alone had everyone in attendance dropping their jaws in awe as he plucked every ball thrown his way out of the air. Off the field Hill’s charismatic personality and apparent love of the limelight was ever-present. Born in 1991, he playfully told reporters twice his age that he’s “old school” after humming along to the melodic tunes of Teddy Pendergrass from his iPod — his infectious smile visible from any point of the locker room.

On the other side of the Jets locker room while Hill exuded jubilation, Ortiz-Santana quietly sat on the stool in front of the locker he’s sharing — no more than 30 yards separated from each other. But as Hill preps for his life as an everyday NFL player, Ortiz-Santana prays to have a similar feeling of security.

“It is tough. All you can really do is give your best effort. It’s really about putting in the effort and looking mentally sharp and hustling your way into a spot,” he said.

Hayden Smith: Separate but Equal

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

As a former Australian rugby star, Hayden Smith is not your typical tight end. At 27, he’s not even your typical rookie. In a new country learning the nuances of a new sport, it’s Smith’s abnormal path to the NFL that may separate him from the current class of incumbent rookies.

Separated is one way to describe Smith early in his Jets career. Unlike his peers, who gathered at the Jets’ practice facility in Florham Park, NJ for their rookie camp seminar this weekend, Smith is still learning the basics of a game that, for many, have been a part of their lives since grade school. Even his locker is separated from the team — with all rookies conjuring in the center of the locker room where their collapsible lockers reside — he sits quietly in the corner underneath a locker that reads “Smith #82″ emblazoned in green and yellow.

But the way Smith sees it, he needs to be singled-out if he wants to be the next great crossover-sport tight end. “If I’m going to be successful doing this, there’s really no room for error. That’s how I need to look at it and that’s how I’m being coached,” he said.

Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano (above) has spent a lot of time getting Hayden Smith up to speed prior to the rookie's mini camp. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Offensive Coordinator Tony Sparano has been very hands on with Smith and vocal about his progressions during rookie camp, many times barking out his short comings while also pulling him aside for a little 1-on-1 coaching. Smith’s first impression of his new coach? “Coach Sparano has been great. He’s a hard coach and, obviously, with good reason.”

Sparano, a vocal guy by nature, has to push Smith even more as this is his first time seeing these once-foreign concepts played out on the field. After months of watching film and studying the terminology of the new playbook, Smith is just excited to get out of the classroom.

“It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve just been enjoying the whole process. So it’s great to finally be out on the field and see some of the concepts that I’ve been learning about,” he said.

While he’ll admit the time has been fun, he’ll also be forthright regarding the difficulties of getting up to speed with everyone else. He’s called the whole transition an “up and down process”, where somethings are harder to grasp than others. For example, on Saturday’s 7-on-7 team drills Sparano blew up on Smith who lost two yards on a simple drag route in the right flat. Sparano cited the slow timing of the route and the loss of yards as points of emphasis with a few “dang-its” sprinkled in.

The former rugby/basketball player has the size (6′6″ / 255 lbs.) to be menacing force up the middle and big target in the red zone. In the team’s 11-on-11 drills, Smith wowed personnel and media members alike when he created separation with his body, jumping up over the top of sixth round safety selection Josh Bush for a 25-yard gain over the middle. Another over-the-should grab in traffic shows the type of raw potential Sparano is working with.

Learning a new game and expecting to excel early is nothing new for Smith, who decided to play the sport competitively until 2008. Within weeks of starting he played for the All-American Team before being signed to play competitively.

With Dustin Keller offering more athleticism than blocking and Jeff Cumberland offering just the opposite, Smith has a chance to make a name for himself as a bruising blocker and play-maker. All he needs to do is separate himself from the competition.