After a long offseason, football is back in Florham Park, N.J.
The Jets open a three-day rookie minicamp Friday, with eight draft picks, 10 undrafted free agents and at least 23 non-roster players expected to participate. This is Football 101, with no contact, but it's always interesting to get a first glimpse of the rookies.
What we'll be looking for :
1. At 6-foot-6, 284 pounds, first-round DE Quinton Coples should jump out among his peers. The biggest question about Coples is his hot and cold motor. Chances are, we're not going to find out too much about that in basic drills. What should be on display is his overall athleticism, especially his burst off the ball. Is he going to be a run-stopping 3-4 DE or does he have the explosiveness to rush the passer?He'll be working under new DL coach Karl Dunbar, formerly of the Vikings.
2. We know second-round WR Stephen Hill is big (6-foot-4) and fast (4.31 in the 40), but what about his hands? He didn't get many opportunities at Georgia Tech, an option attack that completed only about five passes per game. Route running is another area that bears watching.
3. Curious to see the speed of sixth-round RB Terrance Ganaway. Obviously, he produced monster numbers at Baylor, but he ran only a 4.65 at the scouting combine (although he improved to 4.56 at his pro day).
4. The Jets tried to address their safety issues by taking Josh Bush in the sixth round and Antonio Allen in the seventh. Bush finished his career at Wake Forest as a safety, but he has played cornerback, so we'll keep an eye on where he lines up.
5. The most compelling story on the field might be TE Hayden Smith, 27, a former professional rugby star attempting to make it in the NFL. He's from Australia and has never played a down of organized football. He's a terrific athlete (ran in the 4.7s), but big, fast and tough doesn't mean he'll be a guaranteed success. If nothing else, he'll be fun to watch. He may need some time to get used to the helmet and pads.
6. Been hearing a lot of talk the last two weeks about Tony Sparano's loud, no-nonsense coaching style. The new offensive coordinator makes his debut in the rookie camp, and I have a feeling it's going to be night and day from Brian Schottenheimer.
Mike Mayock, the NFL Network's well-respected draft analyst, commented on the Jets' draft during an appearance on "The Rich Eisen Podcast."
"(Quinton) Coples is boom or bust, and I’ve said it from day one," Mayock said of the Jets' first-round pick. "Rex Ryan will get the most out of him. Mike Pettine, who I highly respect, is their defensive coordinator. If you get what you can out of Coples, you got a big player. Stephen Hill is another height/weight/speed freak."
Mayock disagreed with the notion, presented by ESPN analyst Bill Polian, that the Jets drafted players from option offenses to help with their Tim Tebow packages."I think we’re reaching a little bit there as far as we’re drafting for Tim Tebow," he said. "They’re drafting for the New York Jets. The Tim Tebow package, or however they incorporate him in, I like it because it causes defensive coordinators angst. Every defensive coordinator I’ve ever met in the National Football League has been spoiled by what little they have to prepare for in the run game.
"The pass game is crazy and it’s sophisticated as hell. But the run game in the NFL is unimaginative except for the teams that run a little Wildcat. So the whole option thing defensive coordinators hate. If the Jets have that, it is a weapon; I don’t care what anybody says. I like that the Jets offense will have that. Just because Stephen Hill was a wide receiver at Georgia Tech, which ran option, doesn’t have anything to do with why they drafted him other than he’s a height/weight/speed freak that, if you throw the ball up in air in the redzone or outside the numbers, he might come down with it. He’s special."
The Jets' rookies (a total of 55 draft picks, undrafted free agents and tryout players) practiced for more than two hours in Florham Park, N.J.
Thoughts and observations :
1. Second-round WR Stephen Hill shined. He demonstrated explosiveness off the line of scrimmage and didn't drop any passes. He made a circus catch in 7-on-7s. There was one borderline drop on a deep route down the left sideline, on a nice throw from QB G.J. Kinne, but Hill later said it was out of his reach. New O.C. Tony Sparano chided him once for "choppy" steps in a particular route, but the overall first impression of Hill was positive.
2. It was difficult to get a read on first-round DE Quinton Coples -- linemen are harder to evaluate in non-contact drills -- but the things that jumped out were his size and power. Afterward, Rex Ryan estimated that Coples had "about six sacks" in the practice. Not sure about that, but he definitely was flying to the football. Of course, that's what you'd expect of your No. 1 pick in this type of setting. Much like fellow DE Muhammad Wilkerson, I can see Coples being a better interior rusher than on the edge -- and that's how they plan to use him.
3. At 6-foot-2, 239 pounds, third-round LB Demario Davis looked a bit on the slender side for a traditional inside linebacker in the Jets' 3-4 scheme. But the tradeoff is his speed. He displayed his coverage ability in the 7-on-7s, showing the ability to turn and cover. Everybody knows the Jets could use that on defense. He also showed some leadership, taking control and instructing teammates. Afterward, Ryan raved about Davis' leadership qualities, saying they remind him of Ray Lewis :cool3:.
4. Sixth-round RB Terrance Ganaway is shorter than his listed height of 6-foot (at least that's the way it appeared when I stood next to him in the locker room). No matter; he's definitely all of 240 pounds, with a Shonn Greene-body type. He didn't catch that many passes at Baylor, but actually looked pretty smooth coming out of the backfield.
5. Sparano coaches as advertised, which is to say he's a no-nonsense guy -- and loud. He was constantly barking, emphasizing the importance of maintaining fast pace by getting in and out of the huddle. He definitely brings a different vibe to the field, as compared to his predecessor, Brian Schottenheimer. Sparano wasn't shy about scolding players, but he also took them aside for one-on-one instruction.
Quinton Coples had just finished his first practice with the New York Jets when he walked to the sideline while everyone else headed toward the locker room.The first-round draft pick strolled over to the man waiting for him, shook his hand and smiled. It was new team president Neil Glat.
Good move, kid. Talk about a great first impression.And he wasn’t too bad on the field, either.
“Coples was passing guys up on that pursuit drill,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said Friday after the team’s first rookie minicamp practice. “I know it’s not an official stat and I don’t know how many sacks he had last year, but he had about six today.”Coples was drafted No. 16 overall last week after an impressive career at North Carolina. Ryan has already deemed him a possible starter on the defensive line, and Coples did little to change that thought as the coach praised the young player several times.“I didn’t really notice, but it’s always good to get compliments from the head coach,” Coples said with a smile. “I’m pretty happy about that.”Coples wasn’t the only one singled out by Ryan. Second-round pick Stephen Hill, a wide receiver from Georgia Tech, and third-rounder Demario Davis, a hard-hitting linebacker from Arkansas State, also impressed their new coach during the 2 1/2-hour practice.“Some of the guys just jumped out at you,” Ryan said, “when you look at Coples and you look at Hill, the way they can run, and Davis. It’s kind of fun to watch.”The 6-foot-6, 290-pound Coples has the size, speed and athleticism to play all along the defensive line and he’s ready to make an impact for a Jets defense that welcomes his ability to rush the passer on a regular basis.
While New York ranked fifth in overall defense, its 35 sacks put the Jets in the middle of the pack. Coples, who opened eyes as a junior in 2010 with 10 sacks, could be an impact player for Ryan immediately.“I’m excited about being a part of his defense,” Coples said. “And I’m excited about him coaching me and helping me to become great.”Added Ryan: “We want him, and we want anybody, to have the desire to be great. He’s got the God-given ability to be great.”Coples is coming from a defensive system at North Carolina that predominantly used a 4-3 scheme, while the Jets run a 3-4 base defense. That won’t be a problem, he insisted. After all, he got the playbook last Friday and was given a 10-DVD set of films showing the Jets’ defensive fronts against their opponents last season. He watched them all and was feeling pretty good about himself.“The defensive scheme, the majority of it is based off of what we got today,” Coples said, “so I grasped the majority of the defensive playbook today.”
Ryan smiled when told of Coples’ confidence.“We love the fact that he thinks he has it down,” Ryan said. “This is one practice. He’s got like four defenses in and our library’s a little more extensive than that. ... I like his confidence. The great thing is we will hold him to it now.”Hill had some nice catches, flashing the speed that had the Jets so excited they traded up four spots in the draft to make sure they got him. The most impressive came when he made a circus grab of a twice-deflected pass during 7-on-7 drills.
Some quick takes on the second practice of the Jets' rookie minicamp :
1. It was another big day for second-round WR Stephen Hill, who was the best player on the field -- at least from my perspective. In 7-on-7 drills, Hill was a huge presence over the middle, making several grabs on in-cutting routes in the 15- to 20-yard range. In team drills, he made a nice, over-the-shoulder catch on a sideline route. This was a long way from game conditions, so let's not put him in Canton just yetbut the Jets have to be thrilled with Hill.
2. Third-round LB Demario Davis has something the Jets' other LBs don't have -- speed. He recorded a "sack" in team drills, blitzing up the middle. Okay, he was unblocked, but you could see the burst. He also drops smoothly into coverage. Message to Bart Scott: You'd better be on your game when camp opens.
3. The safeties -- Josh Bush (sixth round) and Antonio Allen (seventh) -- worked as a tandem, alternating in the free and strong roles. Allen looks more comfortable in the box, which is no surprise. At South Carolina, he played what they call the "spur," a hybrid safety/linebacker. Bush is undersized -- looks like a corner -- so I wonder how he'd hold up as an every-down player.
4. There's an interesting mix of quarterbacks in camp -- G.J. Kinne (Tulsa, UDFA), Matt Simms (Tennessee, tryout) and Dan DiLella (Albany, tryout). Kinne performed the best on Day 1, but the gap closes. Simms, son of former Giants QB Phil Simms, can really zip the ball. But he was erratic with his accuracy and he also needs to develop some touch. Afterward, Simms spoke to a few reporters. (The resemblance to his dad is uncanny.) He was as polite as could be, hoping he can show enough in this camp to earn a contract.
5. I like "Aussie" -- er, I mean TE Hayden Smith. He's doing a nice job for someone who never played football. The former rugby star made a terrific catch over the middle between two defenders. I'm sure he's running some wrong routes and making some mental errors, but all things considered, he doesn't look out of place. Well, except for one thing: He's the only player wearing white knee socks. Must be a rugby thing.
6. Of the undrafted free agents, the one that jumps out to me is CB Ryan Steed (Furman). He made a nice pass-breakup, closing quickly on a short route. The Jets have depth issues at corner, so they need someone to step up.
1. IN TONY WE TRUST :
The Jets are taking an enormous gamble, opting to stand pat at the right-tackle position. If Vladimir Ducasse doesn't step up, they'll go with the embattled Wayne Hunter, much to the chagrin of Jets fans. Suddenly, we're starting to hear stuff from Rex Ryan about Tony Sparano's system, how it will suit Hunter better than the previous system. In a radio interview last week, Ryan said Hunter was "isolated, one-on-one, for the majority of the time (last season) and I don’t know how many tackles hold up down after down that way." Two thoughts: If Sparano's system can protect suspect right tackles, how come Marco Columbo was a turnstile for the Dolphins? Didn't Ryan always praise Bill Callahan as the best OL coach in the league ?
2. SLIM PICKINGS :
One well-respected scout told me there were only two legitimate defensive ends in the draft -- Quinton Coples (Jets, 16th pick) and Chandler Jones (Patriots, 21st). The scout said highly-publicized 'tweeners Melvin Ingram (18th, Chargers) and Courtney Upshaw (35th, Ravens) were too short and too short-armed to be effecive pass rushers, and that they were overvalued because of the paucity of true DEs. Obviously, the Jets felt the same way.
3. LUCKY BREAK :
Contrary to a report, the Jets had no interest in taking West Virginia DE/OLB Bruce Irvin with the 16th pick -- so they claim. You'd like to believe them because, despite tremendous speed-rushing ability, Irvin is a bit of a head case. An opposing scout, pulling information from his team's report on Irvin, said the player refused an opportunity to become a full-time starter (he started six games last season). According to the scout, Irvin basically told his coach, "I don't want to start, I just want to rush the passer." The Seahawks took him with the 15th pick. Said the scout: "Pete Carroll may have done the Jets a favor."
4. BOY AMONG MEN :
Coples discovered at an early age what it's like to play against the big boys. He attended Hargrave Military School in Chatham, Va., and played on their post-graduate football team -- at the age of 17. "He was playing against 21-year-old men," said Hargrave coach Troy Davis, who served as Coples' defensive coordinator. "He grew up real fast and it fueled his confidence." Coples and current teammate Muhammad Wilkerson were the starting DEs for Hargrave in 2007, but they didn't go undefeated. They lost to the University of Tennessee jayvee team.
5. NEW-AGE JETS :
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, discussing why the Jets placed an emphasis on speed in the draft, made an interesting point. To build a defense in today's pass-happy NFL, he said, "You have to work backward," starting with your third-down package. In other words, get pass rushers and coverage people. It makes perfect sense, except for this quirky stat: Opponents threw against the Jets a lot less last season than 2010. The percentage of pass plays was 54.6, down from 58.3.
6. MORE MAYHEM :
OLB Aaron Maybin said he's up to 240, having gained eight pounds in the offseason. He'd like to put on a few more pounds, with the hope of increasing his role on defense. He'd like to find a niche in the base package. The Jets could use him because they're awfully thin at OLB.
7. FREE-AGENT SIGNING OF THE YEAR :
Kudos to Greg Schiano and the Bucs for signing former Rutgers DL Eric LeGrand. They did it right, even distributing a press release that included his college stats. How can that not put a lump in your throat?
8. SPYGATE :
Former Jets coach Eric Mangini, now an ESPN analyst, said on the air last week that he regrets blowing the whistle on the Patriots for their illegal videotaping in 2007. "If there's a decision I could take back, it's easily that decision," he said. "Never in a million years I wanted it to go this way." It ruined his relationship with Bill Belichick. If that hadn't occurred, he'd probably be the Patriots' defensive coordinator.
9. BOUNTY GATE :
I think NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came down too hard on Jonathan Vilma. He penalized the soldier as harshly as the generals.
10. SNL REVIEW :
I'm sorry, but Eli Manning is just not funny.