CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Observations from Sunday at training camp :
1. Quarterbacks use the binky in Cincy. The "binky," according to coordinator Tony Sparano, is the play-sheet wristband. He doesn't want his QBs to get attached to the binky, so they went the first two weeks in camp without it. That way, Sparano figured, it would force them to learn the verbiage of his system. For the preseason opener, the QBs went to the binky for in-game reference. Sparano said they haven't decided yet if Mark Sanchez will use it in the regular season. He said he'd leave it up to Sanchez.
2. They will stand pat at safety. The Jets are listing Eric Smith as day-to-day with a sprained MCL, but he's still likely to miss the rest of the preseason. Even so, they're not planning to add a veteran safety, according to Rex Ryan. In a weird way, Smith's injury might not be such a bad thing for the secondary. You might say he's the "binky" for the rest of the safeties -- the only one who knows Ryan's system. Without him, it'll force the other safeties to learn it quickly. Yeremiah Bell made the secondary calls in the opener and, from all indications, he didn't blow any calls.
3. The power of Austin -- yeah, baby. Ryan is known for gushing about players, so you have to take everything with a grain of salt, but he sure delivered a compelling evaluation of RT Austin Howard. Part of that could've been to send a message to incumbent Wayne Hunter, who, miraculously, returned to practice after missing a few days with a lower-back injury. But I still say Hunter is the opening-day starter. Howard shows potential, especially as a run blocker in Sparano's system, but he's inexperienced (four NFL games, one start) and still prone to mental errors.
1. If the Jets run a Wildcat play and no one is there to see it, it still makes "SportsCenter." Hey, this was big news even though the Jets, operating within the league rules, placed restrictions on what we could report with regard to the Wildcat. I'd love to provide the juicy details, but it will have to remain top-secret since it was closed to the public. All I can tell you is this: Rex Ryan is dead serious about this whole Wildcat thing. To him, it's not a gimmick; it will be a key part of their offense and he's confident it will work. I'm skeptical. It might catch teams by surprise early in the year, but I don't think it can carry them an entire season.
2. The Wildcat provided a jolt to the offense. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but the offense's most efficient 7-on-7 drill of camp occurred after a Wildcat period. Coincidence? Maybe not. The offense got off to a shaky start in practice, but it came to life, perhaps energized by the novelty of the Wildcat. You should've seen Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow: They completed 14 straight at one point. Interesting.
3. It really bugs Ryan that media types questioned the Quinton Coples pick. For the second straight day, the coach referred to the "bust" predictions that surfaced when the Jets used their No. 1 pick on the defensive end. This is a good time for Ryan to gloat because Coples played a terrific game in the preseason opener, but let's not put him next to Curtis Martin in the Hall of Fame just yet. From all indications, Coples isn't a good practice player. Ryan did him no favors by likening him to Jason Pierre-Paul. Mind you, Ryan didn't say Coples is as good as JPP -- he said "hopefully" -- but that's not how it will play in the media.
1. Nose tackle could be an issue. Sione Po'uha claimed he's "100 percent" confident his ailing back won't hamper him during the season, but that might be wishful thinking. He's 33 years old and he plays the most physically demanding position on the field. The coaches could reduce Po'uha's playing time to save wear and tear, but here's the problem: His backup, Kenrick Ellis, isn't ready for a significant role. There is one silver lining: The nose tackle won't have to play a lot in the season opener. The Jets will be in nickel and dime all day because of the Bills' spread formations.
2. Get ready, tight ends. Dustin Keller, Jeff Cumberland and Josh Baker made several catches in team drills, perhaps a harbinger of what the offense might look like early in the season. With all the injuries at wide receiver, coordinator Tony Sparano might have to incorporate more tight-end packages into his early game plans. All three have the ability to make plays in the passing game.
3. The sixth offensive lineman. Mark this down: RT Austin Howard will have a role on offense. He won't unseat RT Wayne Hunter, at least not soon, but he'll be involved in the "Jumbo" package as an extra blocker/tight end. That could do wonders for the running game, which didn't have a good "Jumbo" last season. Howard is fairly nimble for a 330-pound man, so he can be used in motion. Line coach Dave DeGuglielmo called Howard "a very rare talent" in terms of pure power at the point of attack.
1. The Jets are desperate for a home-run hitter. Why else would they be infatuated by Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps, the former Florida RB? Demps can fly (duh), but we're not talking about a blue-chip talent here. One personnel executive told me Demps would've been a seventh-round pick if he had declared for the draft instead of pursuing the Olympics. In four seasons at Florida, he rushed for 2,470 yards and a 6.7 per-carry average. He didn't do much as a kick returner, but he had a 99-yard kickoff return last season. He could be a good situational player, but that's about it. If the Jets sign him, they'd have five running backs. If I were Joe McKnight, I'd be worried.
2. Love the confidence, but ... Mark Sanchez was as relaxed and confident as I've ever seen him, his "It's my huddle" quote already making headlines. Yeah, he's taking charge of the huddle, but look who's in it: rookie Stephen Hill, rookie Jordan White, his good friend Patrick Turner, etc. You'd certainly expect your starting QB to take charge in a huddle filled with neophyte receivers. The real challenge will occur when Santonio Holmes returns and starts complaining about not getting the ball. That'll test Sanchez's leadership.
3. No one cares about the Giants. This is Jets-Giants week, but there wasn't any buzz -- at least not in the Jets' camp. Reasons: It's only the second game, so the starters won't play more than a half. It seems anti-climactic after the Christmas Eve showdown. Lastly, the Jets have so many other issues, they haven't had time to think about the defending Super Bowl champs.