Matt Simms can rest easy. Based on Rex Ryan's comments Friday, it sounds like the first-year quarterback has a place on the 53-man roster.
Simms"This young man has really improved now ... oh my goodness," Ryan said. "He always had that big arm. Clearly, he has the arm talent to play in the league. Quite honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anybody make the improvements he’s made. ... He's been absolutely outstanding in the preseason games."Simms has made huge strides since last year, a credit to him and new quarterbacks coach David Lee. The son of Phil Simms has harnessed his arm strength, improving his accuracy. His final preseason numbers jump off the page -- 44-for-59 (74.6 percent), 478 yards, one touchdown and a 103.6 passer rating. The most important stat -- no turnovers.
In Thursday night's preseason finale, he was the best quarterback on the field, outplaying Eagles backups Nick Foles and rookie Matt Barkley. Simms competed 33 of 44 passes for 285 yards. He wasn't flawless (there was a safety, two fumbles and two near-interceptions), but he probably did enough to win a backup job.The Jets have five quarterbacks on the roster -- Simms, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Greg McElroy and Graham Harrell. Ryan didn't discount the possibility of keeping four. Ryan was asked if Simms played his way into the quarterback competition with Sanchez and Smith. Ryan didn't dismiss it, but Simms isn't a realistic option because he's never played with or against first-stringers at this level."I certainly see where you could make a case for it," Ryan said of Simms, trying to keep it positive. "He did have a tremendous preseason. He looked absolutely tremendous. He really elevated his stock, I would think."
But not enough to be considered for the starting job.
SIMMS, DUCASSE FINED: It hasn't been a perfect preseason for Simms. He was fined $7,875 by the league for unsportsmanlike conduct in last Saturday's game against the Giants. He gave a gun simulation during a celebration and that's a no-no. LG Vladimir Ducasse was fined the same amount for a leg whip.
ROSTER CUTDOWN: The Jets have to cut 22 players by 6 p.m. Saturday. The most interesting decision is the kicking battle between Nick Folk and challenger Dan Carpenter. Other notable vets on the bubble are offensive tackle Jason Smith, receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and receiver Ben Obomanu. Draft picks on the bubble are offensive tackle Oday Aboushi (fifth round) and guard Will Campbell (sixth).
POSITIONAL BATTLES: Safety (Antonio Allen vs. Jaiquawn Jarrett) and left guard (Brian Winters vs. Vladimir Ducasse) remain open. Ryan reiterated that he could have a safety platoon, basing the weekly starter on the opponent. The Jets haven't been very good at settling competitions this summer, have they?
REX PULLS A BELICHICK: Ryan, who used to mock Bill Belichick's secretive approach to injuries, has turned into a chip off the old Bill. In a conference call with reporters, he mentioned at least a half-dozen times that reporters would have to consult next Wednesday's injury report (the first day reports are required) to get their updates. What happened to bonus coverage?
This is how the Jets wanted Geno Smith to win their quarterback competition: by shining all summer long, by dominating during the preseason, by proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the team’s best option for Week 1. They wanted him to earn it.This is how Smith, it appears, will win their quarterback competition: by default. Smith soared, and then he dipped, hurt his ankle and threw three interceptions against the Giants. Mark Sanchez hurt his shoulder, while Smith is still upright.
The four-month battle had to end like this, without a real resolution. The Smith era had to begin like this, with an air of anticlimax. It is, after all, the Jets. Despite a regime change, they are still confronting underlying issues, issues illuminated by this quarterback saga.There is the unfulfilled promise of Sanchez, whose guaranteed $8.25 million salary for 2013 — settled as part of the contract extension brokered between 26-turnover seasons — served as a thoughtful welcome gift to the new front office. And there are the expectations for Smith, whose ascent would validate General Manager John Idzik’s decision to draft him.There is the decision-making of Rex Ryan, whose questionable call to play Sanchez behind the backup offensive line late against the Giants was followed by a shoulder injury to Sanchez.There is also Idzik’s input in the selection of the starting quarterback, which has cast into question Ryan’s voice when it comes to on-field matters.
It has been a swift decline for the Jets, who have lost 13 of their last 19 games. With hardly an intermediate phase, they went from being an A.F.C. force into a team in rebuilding mode, a transitional stage that could last beyond this season.“They could compete with anybody, but now they’re not quite at that point,” said Charley Casserly, an NFL Network analyst and a former personnel executive for the Houston Texans and the Washington Redskins. “To say this team can beat the Patriots and be in first place or contend for a playoff spot is unrealistic. But if you sit there and think that this could be the beginning of a new run for them, then that’s a possibility.”
The Jets’ future is haunted by their past. Not unlike the Mets of five years ago, the Jets seemed to focus on solving the previous year’s problems without correctly forecasting those that would bedevil them next. Chief among them: trading for Tim Tebow, trusting Aaron Maybin (and Shonn Greene and Wayne Hunter and Bart Scott) and hiring Tony Sparano as offensive coordinator. The effects of a major miscalculation — presuming that Sanchez was ready to take over the offense, while simultaneously divesting the offense of talent around him — still reverberate.
“Mark Sanchez was a viable part of what we did, but only a part,” the former special-teams coach Mike Westhoff said. “And then all of a sudden, it was Mark’s team to win or lose. It’s just not going to happen. We weren’t there. It was too much pressure on him.”
There is no quick fix, not at quarterback, not in most areas. For every perceived solution, a potential problem awaits.
Idzik has formulated a long-term plan to rejuvenate the franchise, but at present he still has Ryan, who wants to win in 2013 to improve his chances of coaching the Jets in 2014. Ryan is a tremendous defensive tactician and a superb motivator, but in each of the last two off-seasons he admitted that his offensive philosophy had failed. The new coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg, is creative, adept at developing quarterbacks and a proven play-caller, but he is surrounded by unproven and inexperienced players at every position.
If Sparano could build a cinder block wall, Mornhinweg is capable of designing that dream home on the water. He just might not have the hammer and nails to do so yet. To compensate, Mornhinweg is likely to take advantage of Smith’s speed, which, he said, makes the rookie “quite a little bit more dynamic” than Sanchez, while mixing in deception and cunning: read-option tendencies, some Wildcat with running back Bilal Powell and perhaps even the Pistol formation, which the Jets used a few times against the Giants.
In the preseason Mornhinweg has revealed an aptitude for designing concepts that create favorable matchups for receivers, especially in the middle of the field, where Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland and (a healthy, productive) Santonio Holmes would seem to benefit most.
“On offense, they’re a bit limited,” Westhoff said, “so if they’re going to win, they have to be a dominating team on defense. And I don’t mean just in a couple statistics. I mean everywhere.”
Dominating — unlikely — but the Jets have a far better chance of doing so on defense than on offense. Already, Ryan has boasted that the Jets’ defense will rank among the five best in the N.F.L. He seized control of it early in the off-season, when he abandoned his failed plan to get more involved on offense. Ryan leads meetings and has reclaimed play-calling duties, much as he did in 2009, his first year in charge.
It would be a damning indictment of him, then, if the defense struggled. And it would not be because of a lack of talent. He is a master of disguising pressure and mixing up fronts, and he has much to work with: their defensive line, anchored by the first-round picks Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, a budding Pro Bowler, could be one of the best in the A.F.C., and linebacker Demario Davis should prove an asset in pass coverage. They face upheaval in the secondary, starting two new safeties for the third consecutive season and a rookie, Dee Milliner, at cornerback opposite Antonio Cromartie after trading Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay.
In one week the Jets will see Revis, in their season opener. Some issues, like their 53-man roster, will be sorted out by then. Others will loom, for another week, maybe two, maybe 16, without resolution.
Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's news conference following the Jets' Monday afternoon practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center:
First off, with the quarterback situation, obviously nothing new there. What I can tell you is that Mark [Sanchez] did not practice today. As far as injuries are concerned, I just prefer to discuss the injury updates on Wednesday when we’ll announce them then. Mark did not practice today. Santonio [Holmes] did get some work in today, which is good to see. With that, it was a bonus really in preparation for Tampa Bay, and we did not put in a whole lot of the game plan on either side of the ball or special teams but did get a few things in, some unusual things that they do offensively, defensively, just got some early looks at them, and that’s really what we focused on. For that, it was good.
They flew around pretty good. We started outside and then I had to move it inside when I guess lightning was in the area. One other thing, we did add a few new players. You guys have that list because there’s no way I’m going to try to pronounce big Ben [Ijalana]'s last name, so you guys figure that one out. But this is something I’ve talked about with John on improving the roster. If we feel there are some guys out there who can help us and improve our football team, then we’re certainly going to look at that. This is probably an example of that, adding four players to our football team.
On if signing Brady Quinn indicates Sanchez will not be ready for the opener…
You can look at a lot of different things to try to build the best team you can have. We might be heavy in some positions, we’re obviously light in other positions. Just looking at them from a numbers standpoint, I can understand where you’re coming from, but when you look at them, you just try to get the best 53 that you can find that’s out there to help your team. That’s what we’re trying to do.
When you look at our situation, I think we only had three outside linebackers. There are some spots we’re extremely heavy at and there are others where I think we’re a little light by traditional NFL numbers. Again, we’re focused on trying to put the best group that we can out there and fielding the best team we can. Could that change? Absolutely, it can change. But that’s really how we’re approaching this football team.
On if it is realistic Sanchez can practice enough on Wednesday to be considered to play on Sunday…
The one thing we know about Mark is that he does have a really good grasp of our system. He’s been involved in meetings and walkthroughs. It’s just he hasn’t physically been able to practice since the injury occurred.
On if Sanchez can practice on Wednesday…
We’ll see how he progresses in these next days. As we know, I said he never practiced today. But we’ll see. In a couple of days, we’ll see if he’s able to practice.
On if the public can read into Sanchez’s status due to the acquisition of Quinn…
We’ll look at all those factors as we move forward, but again, [people are] looking into more than what it is, it was just an opportunity for us, as we feel, to get a good football player, and that’s kind of where we are with it.
On why he is not sharing injury information until Wednesday…
I just think it will be more accurate and a complete injury update instead of just speculating on this player [or] that player. I think it would be better to get the correct information I would assume than to throw something out there that comes back and maybe necessarily isn’t the case. I think if I have more accurate information, it would probably be the best thing to do.
On if Smith will be named the starter if Sanchez cannot practice on Wednesday…
Let’s just let this thing play out and we’ll see number one, if Mark can practice. I don’t want to assume anything. We’ll lean on the trainers and the doctors, and if Mark can practice or if Kenrick Ellis can practice, or if this player can practice then maybe our answers will be different on Wednesday than [they] will be today.
On if there was a directive from above telling him to be less forthcoming in press conferences…
No, there’s no directive from above saying this, that or the other. There’s not. I think sometimes through experiences, before, I know I’ve said, ‘Oh, this guy will play,’ and all of a sudden he doesn’t play, ‘Oops.’ Something else, being my fifth year, maybe there are some things that maybe I’ve learned, timing of things might be better, not making assumptions and things like that. I’ve probably learned a little bit from that through the years maybe.
On how he used to question coaches who would not make guarantees or decline to talk about injuries…
I know, certainly, people have made fun of me for making a guarantee [joking]. So, now I’m going to make fun of everybody for not guaranteeing, or guaranteeing, or whatever [joking]. I can tell you one thing. I plan on winning. I plan on winning this game, the next game, whatever. That’s never going to change. My approach changed a little bit on making guarantees when I found out, it’s been well-documented, that I said it put added pressure on our players. I think that’s why I changed. Do I expect to win? I always expect to win. No matter what it is, I always expect to win.
On his gut feeling on Holmes’ availability for Sunday…
I’ve said from day one, I hope he plays. I think Holmes is a difference-maker as a player. I don’t think there’s any doubt he is. I’ve said all along that I hope he plays. That’s it. My opinion really doesn’t matter. Until the doctors and trainers give you a thumbs up, yes he’s ready to go or he’s not. I can tell you that I hope he plays. I guarantee I hope he plays. How’s that for a guarantee [joking]?
On his gut feeling on Holmes’ availability…
I do [hope Holmes plays], I want him out there. Like I said, today he was able to do a few things. That was encouraging to me.
On if he was at Clemson on Saturday…
Yes, I was.
On people asking why he wasn’t at the Jets facility on cut day…
Almost all of our moves were made Friday evening, when I was here. I talked to several of the players that we were going to release. I don’t think it was official until, we actually never made our moves until later that evening and that’s why the report came out when it did the next day. It came out Saturday. But certainly I spoke with most of our guys that were released just like I’ve done every year. I was very aware of our situation.
This was an opportunity to go see my son play his first college game. I think "played" is probably not very accurate [joking]. I saw him stand there [laughter]. But it was a great deal. Obviously, it’s not like I’m going to be able to go to another game. It just so happened I could make that one. It was a night game. That’s really what I did. I took advantage of it. It was great. I just played dad there for a day. That was a lot of fun.
On if Sanchez could end up on injured reserve…
That’s not what we’re looking at right now. That’s not it.
On if he has to make adjustments if Smith starts…
I think when you speculate if this, if that, whatever, I’m not really going to touch it. I will say that all the quarterbacks, with the exception of Brady Quinn obviously, have been in the system the entire spring and everything else. Will there be specific things you do against certain opponents? Absolutely. Are there things that you won’t do against certain opponents? Sure, there’s no doubt. Do you implement the “Revis Rule”? I don’t know because he’s Tampa’s corner now.
Those are the things that every week you do specific things against a specific opponent. Maybe it’s based on what they play defensively or even their personnel. Whether Geno’s the quarterback or Sanchez is the quarterback or somebody else is the quarterback, it’s more sometimes specific about your opponent.
On if Quinton Coples has been ruled out for the game…
He hasn’t been ruled out this week but we’ll address it on Wednesday.
On if Sanchez is week-to-week or day-to-day…
I don’t know. You said you heard from Mark specifically that he’s day-to-day. I don’t know about that.
On information getting lost in translation from an earlier question about Sanchez’s health…
Maybe I did.
On if it is a consideration for Sanchez to be placed on injured reserve…
No. Right now, clearly, if that was the case, if we felt as an organization that he should be placed on IR then Mark would have been placed on IR. Can things change? Absolutely, things can change. I remember seeing Kyle Boller go through pat-and-go and next thing I know he’s on IR because something happened to his shoulder. You don’t want to get into those types of things but, and I’m just using that as an example, things do change. What we said that he’s day-to-day, that’s a long way from saying he’s going on IR.
On if Sanchez has started throwing at all yet…
Well, the only thing I’ll say, specifically, he has not practiced. Has he thrown a football? I think you should probably ask him. If he wouldn’t say, then I’m certainly not going to say. But he hasn’t practiced with our offense. He has not practiced with our offense.
On if he can say with certainty that when healthy Sanchez will be an active member of the team…
Again, there’s a lot of factors that go into all those types of things. If Mark’s healthy, then yes I would say he would be, to finish your question, a part of this football team.
Rex Ryan gets ripped for being a good football father
Rex Ryan comes from a strong football family that includes his father Buddy and brother Rob. So it would only make sense that he would see his own son, Seth, a walk-on wide receiver for Clemson, play in his first college football game.Being that Rex Ryan is also head coach of the New York Jets, everything he does positive off the field in 2013 is tied into something negative regarding his team's current disaster on the field.While Ryan was watching the Tigers beat Georgia in a huge game in 'Death Valley', it happened to be the day the Jets and every other NFL team were making their final preseason roster cuts. On Monday, he told reporters exactly why he made the decision to attend his son's game instead:
"Almost all of our moves were made, Friday evening, when I was here,” Ryan said. "I talked to several of the players that we were going to release. ... We actually never made our moves until later that evening and that’s why the report came out when it did the next day. It came out Saturday. But certainly I spoke with most of our guys that were released just like I've done every year. I was very aware of our situation."
If that wasn't enough of a good explanation, here's how Ryan sealed the deal in his justification:
"It was a great deal," Ryan said. "It's not like I’m going to be able to go to another game. It just so happened I could make that one. It was a night game. That's really what I did. I took advantage of it. It was great. I just played dad there for a day. That was a lot of fun."Although Ryan speaks his mind and shoots straight, doubt has crept in about whether he's simply playing out the string in coaching the Jets in what is set up to be another mighty struggle of a season. From the New York Daily News' perspective, it was deemed another sign that Ryan has "lost influence and interest" in the team.
Here's another take: Coaching an NFL team is a highly stressful job just about every day of the year. Multiple that times a gazillion when you're coaching the drama-filled big-market Jets.Given football is so much in the Ryans' blood, how could Rex not take advantage of the opportunity to see his son in a once in a lifetime moment? If it were any father in America who made that commitment to take just a little time from his job, he would have been applauded.Sure, Ryan may not have more than one more season as coach of the Jets. But he will be Seth's father forever, and it's unfair to assume that what he chose to do on Saturday will have a huge effect on how he works on Sundays. The Jets' lack of stable quarterback play and overall offensive talent is still the big issue there.
Besides, when the Jets think about drafting Clemson's Tajh Boyd as their franchise QB next year to help solve those issues, they can count Rex Ryan's breakaway as a fine advance scouting trip.
Rex Ryan had this to say about going after Darrelle Revis: "I don't see that happening."
Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis is coming off major knee surgery and hasn't played a football game in nearly a year. At his position, a player can be exposed if his reaction time is a split-second slower than usual.
So will the Jets test their former star Sunday at MetLife Stadium? What say you, Rex Ryan?
Ryan listened to the question, smiled and shook his head.
"We know him well," Ryan said Thursday. "That might be some team's philosophy, but I don't think it's going to be our philosophy. I can't even lie and say, 'Oh, yeah, no, absolutely, we're attacking him.' I don't see that happening.
"If I had my way, he'd rest it one more week," Ryan added, smiling. "I think that would be the best thing for him."
Revis, who didn't play in any preseason games, is expected to start for the Bucs even though it hasn't been made official. The Jets expect to see the Revis of old, the one that made four Pro Bowls from 2008 to 2011. But he's bound to be rusty. After all, he's human, supposedly. They should test him, in the air and on the ground, seeing if he reacts tentatively on a power sweep.
Wide receiver Stephen Hill seemed disappointed to hear they wouldn't attack Revis (if Ryan is to be believed).
"I wouldn't mind going after him. Why not?" Hill asked. "But that's the head man, so we're just going to definitely ... If that's what he wants, we're going to do what he wants. But other than that, I wouldn't mind. I'm not going to back down from competition."
Obviously, the Jets don't have any current tape of Revis to study, but their top four receivers are familiar with his game, having practiced against him last season, longer in the cases of Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley. In meetings this week, receivers coach Sanjay Lal told his players, "You must be perfect" against Revis, whom the Jets traded last April.
"As a receiver, there's no margin for error," Lal said. "If you tip it off slightly, he's going to jump the route. He's the best I've seen at doing that."
Revis has uncanny instincts, which could allow him to compensate for any loss of quickness due to the injury. But the Jets expect him to be at full strength.
"If they're putting him out there for 70 plays, they must feel he's 100 percent or close to it, because he's a huge investment to them," Lal said.
The Bucs have a different defensive scheme than the Jets, so it'll be interesting to see how they use him. The Jets play man-to-man, and often left Revis on an island (hence, Revis Island) against the No. 1 receiver. The Bucs use a lot of Cover 2, a zone with safety help over the top. A pure Cover 2 would seem to minimize Revis' man-to-man skills.
Ryan called Revis a "once-in-a-how-many-years type player. He's a tremendous player." Five months after the divorce, Ryan still sounds like he wishes he never left.
A Few Questions for Your 2013 New York JetsGang Green Chin-Scratchers
The New York Super Delightful/Stressful Pro Football Jets Experience begins its 2013 World Tour this Sunday. Because they are the Jets, and this is New York, we figured there are some loud questions. So here we go :
Why is there such obsessive and obnoxious media coverage of this football team? Aren't the Jets coming off successive seasons of 8-8 and 6-10? Wouldn't it be a remarkable accomplishment for them to simply make the playoffs? Why is there such focus on a team that may not be terribly good ?
You must be new around here. This is New York City. We love the crazy and inexplicable. Talking about the Jets isn't even that crazy and inexplicable. There are people in this town sleeping on the sidewalk for croissant donuts.
So what is it then? Are the Jets funny to people ?
Are you kidding ? They should play at least two home games at Caroline's.
Has head coach Rex Ryan pledged to make a Super Bowl this season ?
Come on. Not sure if you're serious or joking. Jets Super Bowl predictions are so 2010, like vuvuzelas and the Situation. Rex doesn't make Super Bowl calls anymore. Rex has evolved. Rex is only predicting that the Jets will play a football game Sunday. But please double-check that.
Whom do they play ?
The Buccaneers of the Bay of Tampa.
Is this a worthwhile game ?
They're all worthwhile now! It's the regular season. Not one of those grim vending-machine cheese sandwiches the NFL tries to serve you in the preseason. Come on. Game starts at 1 p.m. When you finish shampooing the dog, watch a little bit. If it doesn't go well, return to shampooing the dog.
Anything to focus on ?
On the dog or the game? On the game: You're supposed to be revved up that it's the Jets vs. Darrelle Revis, a former team star now with Tampa Bay. You remember Revis. He's the guy whom Rex said would be remembered one day as "the best Jet in the history of the New York Jets franchise." In the off-season he was traded. Cue your favorite sad instrument sound effect here. That is how Jet life goes.
Wasn't there some story about Revis maybe telling Tampa Bay all the Jets' secrets ?
Yes, including, embarrassingly, the fact that the Jets watch an entire episode of "Mad About You" in the locker room at halftime.
What is Rex in trouble about this week ?
Not a lot. There was a minor stink earlier about Rex attending his son's college football game on the weekend of final cuts, but even on the Index of Meaningless Jets Scandals (™), this hardly rated. It did allow for some loud debate about life priorities, but come on. What would you rather do: fire Jets, or go hang out with your kid?
So who is the quarterback ?
The new guy! Geno Smith. Rookie out of West Virginia. Drafted in the second round. Wasn't happy about that draft position. But he's probably happy about starting for the Jets, though we should ask him again after the end of the first quarter.
And what's the deal with Mark Sanchez ?
Out. Hurt. Got his shoulder injured late during one of those grim vending-machine cheese sandwiches.
So who is going to be the backup for Geno ?
It appears to be Matt Simms, and after that, Brady Quinn, the former Cleveland Brown/Kansas City Chief/Seattle Seahawk whom the Jets just signed. Joe Namath has reportedly been seen stretching his arm and running up stairs. Also: Rex is planning to do a big shop on Friday at Restoration Hardware, so he might come up with a couple more alternatives.
What is a legitimate expectation for the Jets this season ?
A Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.
That's not a real answer.
That is a real answer. Have you watched the Jets? It's a crime they haven't been nominated.
Why do you dislike this team so much ?
You have to be kidding me. I adore the Jets—just for the material! If it were up to me they would play 12 months a year. I wish they played baseball and hockey also.
What do the New York Giants think about all this craziness ?
The who ?
The Giants. Another NFL team. Dress in blue. Won a Super Bowl a couple years ago. Classy outfit. Not the circus like the Jets.
Never heard of them. Do they play in the Hamptons ?
Jets general manager John Idzik said he had no problem with coach Rex Ryan leaving the team last weekend during cutdown day to visit his son, a freshman walk-on at Clemson.
Listen to the complete interview:
"That was surely overblown," Idzik said Friday on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike." "I have a son playing. That time is special. ... It doesn't last, and you've got to take advantage of family time whenever you get it."
Both Idzik and Ryan said the final cuts already had been discussed, and that Ryan didn't need to be in the office last Saturday. They remained in communication throughout the day."For him to get a chance to see his son in his first collegiate game, I think, was really special," Idzik said. "It was a Saturday night game, we did most of our work Friday night and Saturday, and he stayed in touch with us. So it was commendable that Rex was able to do it."
Idzik's son, Brad, is a wide receiver at Wake Forest, so he can relate. Ryan also has received public support from owner Woody Johnson.
Guys that often get overlooked are the coordinators. We don’t hear from them very often, so when we do, they are always ready with some interesting tidbits.
Ben Kotwica is in his first year as the Jets’ special teams coordinator, after taking over for a retired Mike Westhoff. Who was on his lips at his press conference yesterday? Everybody’s favorite UDFA, Ryan Spadola:
I think that was an element of it. He did an excellent job during the training camp, specifically in his blocking roles. You look at the qualities out of that fifth wide receiver spot or fourth wide receiver spot or a guy that’s going to make the roster and he had the opportunity to cover some kicks in the preseason. But, what I really highlighted with him was in the punt return game and kick return game, as far as his blocking skills. And there’s a carry over there. Obviously as a wide receiver who stalk blocks and has got to be able to block on the perimeter. I would say that yeah, that contributed to him making it and he’s done a nice job for us.
Special teams play is always a big key for any rookie making a team. It’s clear that this was true for Spadola as well. The kid worked so hard in all aspects of the game, no wonder he made the team.
Here are Ben’s thoughts on Robert Malone :
Rob’s been here now, going into his second year and he’s striking the ball as well as I’ve seen him. I attribute (that to) Louie Aguiar who came in to help me out. Louie, being a former punter, (has) really helped harnesses his technique. He’s a big legged guy. He’s done a tremendous job. He’s also done a great job, especially in practice. We didn’t have a lot of opportunities in the preseason, but in his pooch punting part of the game, getting the ball down inside the 10. And field position is going to be huge, especially for us this year. He’s done a great job. He won the competition and I’m looking forward to seeing him this year.
One day during training camp, Geno Smith, the Jets' rookie quarterback, threw the sort of pass that gives football coaches the vapors.
Running back Bilal Powell took off on a wheel route—a pass pattern in which he runs in a parabola out of the backfield and down the right sideline. Smith did not plant his feet before making the throw; he released the ball as he was fading backward, looping it toward a spot on the field that Powell had yet to reach. A cornerback was at Powell's left hip. A safety was closing in. And the football still fell into Powell's hands, for a 25-yard completion, as cleanly as if Smith had dropped a coin into a vending machine.
To see that throw was to understand why the Jets selected Smith in the second round of this year's draft, and though the moment was a fleeting one, in retrospect perhaps Smith and the Jets ought to have cherished it. Three weeks later, he threw three interceptions in a preseason game against the Giants, tempering the expectation that he would claim outright victory in the team's quarterback competition with Mark Sanchez. Instead, Smith will start Sunday's regular-season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of necessity, thanks to Sanchez's injured right shoulder. The Jets will not commit to him as their starter beyond this game—at least not publicly—which makes Smith the most conspicuous emblem of the team's new direction this season under first-year general manager John Idzik.
Over the previous four years—Rex Ryan's first four as head coach and Mike Tannenbaum's last four as GM—the Jets earned a reputation as a franchise willing to make splashy moves to fill holes in their roster while in pursuit of a Super Bowl. The approach earned them two appearances in the AFC Championship Game, but it also pushed their payroll to the salary cap's limit and contributed to a swift decline (13 losses in their last 19 games) and Tannenbaum's firing.
Now, for the first time in Ryan's tenure, the Jets are acting as if their long-term future matters as much, if not more, than their short-term prospects. The NFL's sixth-oldest team last year, they're the seventh-youngest team this year. They're rebuilding, even if Idzik despises the word.
"I use the term 'building,'" he said. "In the National Football League, you're always building. You're always pushing what you have forward. Rebuilding to me gives the connotation that you're ripping something apart, your ground-up type deal. We don't look at it that way."
Under Tannenbaum, the Jets framed each season in a similar manner; his term for the team's goal was "sustained success." But it's difficult to dispute that he and Idzik so far have taken different tacks toward that end. Tannenbaum sent three players and two draft picks to the Cleveland Browns to move up in the 2009 draft, then selected Sanchez with the fifth overall pick. He acquired Santonio Holmes from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010; pursued the top cornerback on the free-agent market, Nnamdi Asomugha, in 2011; and of course made the controversial and misbegotten decision to trade for Tim Tebow in 2012.
Idzik has opted for what ESPN analyst and former Jets offensive lineman Damien Woody called "low-risk, high-reward" moves, such as signing right guard Willie Colon, trading for running back Chris Ivory and, yes, drafting Smith.
"They're not necessarily tied to Geno," Woody said. "It's not like he was a first-round, top-five quarterback. If they get a high draft pick next year and there's a 'franchise quarterback' available, don't think they won't pick a quarterback."
Those circumstances alone draw a sharp distinction between this year and the last time the Jets began a season with a rookie starting at quarterback. Not only had the Jets traded up to get Sanchez in 2009, they made him the starter on a team that would finish No. 1 in the NFL in overall defense and in rushing offense. Their mandate for Sanchez was simple: Don't mess this up, kid. Their mandate for Smith is the opposite: Show us what you've got. Prove to us that you should be our guy.
Considering how little action Smith saw in the preseason—he sprained his right ankle in his first game and didn't play at all in two others—how he'll perform Sunday and thereafter is anyone's guess. Statistically speaking, he had a remarkable senior season at West Virginia University, completing 71.4% of his passes and throwing 42 touchdowns and just six interceptions. But the consensus among NFL scouts and evaluators is that Smith will need much more seasoning than any of the three quarterbacks who excelled as rookies last season: Indianapolis's Andrew Luck, Washington's Robert Griffin III and Seattle's Russell Wilson.
"You're going to see flashes of the talent that gives you hope—in other words, making some big-arm, special-type throws," said former executive Charley Casserly, who analyzes the league for the NFL Network. "But in college, he tended to hold the ball. He tended to go through periods of inaccuracy, which you saw [against the Giants]. He has to solve those things."
He will have time to solve them, a little bit of time, anyway. Put aside the playoffs or Ryan's past guarantees of Super Bowl glory. If the Jets accomplish nothing else this season, they need to find out whether Smith really does represent their future. "It's not about 2013," Woody said. "It's about 2014 and beyond."
Jets coach Rex Ryan is taking a more hands-on role with his defense this season, just like he did during the AFC Championship Game seasons of 2009 and 2010. (John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger)
Rex Ryan walked into the Jets’ defensive line meeting room one day during training camp and saw something amusing – one of his linemen slowly rocking his head back, then down, beginning to nod off, fighting the oncoming sleep.
“Oh, keep fighting!” Ryan wise-cracked, as he playfully punched the lineman in the arm.
This season, at a critical juncture of his coaching career, Ryan is again witnessing the good, the bad and the funny moments from his defense.
He spent the past two seasons focusing more on offense than he did in his first two years as the Jets’ coach, in 2009 and 2010, when they reached back-to-back AFC Championship Games. When the Jets saw defensive coordinator Mike Pettine depart for Buffalo after last season, Ryan promoted defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman to coordinator, and Ryan decided to take a more active role in the unit.
“It is easy,” Ryan said. “It’s our system. It’s like riding a bike.”
Starting with Sunday’s opener against Tampa Bay, Ryan will call the defensive plays – a return to his roots that stretch to 1989, when he first became a defensive coordinator, at New Mexico. Ryan landed the Jets job by shining as Baltimore’s coordinator from 2005-08, when the Ravens ranked fifth, first, sixth and second in the NFL in yards allowed.
When Ryan hired experienced offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg during the offseason, and also had to replace seven defensive starters, he decided to be more hands-on with the defense, as he was in 2009 and 2010. The Jets’ defense has always been solid during Ryan's tenure, ranking first, third, fifth and eighth in the league. And the unit will need to excel again early this season, as rookie quarterback Geno Smith finds his way.
“I think that makes more sense with me doing that,” Ryan said. “(The past two years), I felt I’d be in more of the head coach role, and we all know where that got us.”
With Ryan being less involved in the defense the past two seasons, and attempting to have a broader reach, the Jets went 8-8 and 6-10. Now, Ryan’s job security teeters, in a year when the turnover among his defensive players will test his coaching chops.
Few have ever questioned Ryan’s ability as a defensive coach. He obviously wants to remain as the Jets’ head coach, but even if he gets fired in spite of succeeding with a defense that will start two rookies, cornerback Dee Milliner and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, Ryan will be an attractive candidate for coordinator jobs, at least.
If Ryan does get sent packing after this season, he will leave having tried to emphasize his long-time coaching strength in his final season.
“I don’t think he’s going to go,” Richardson said. “But if that’s the case, that’s how Rex is – going down swinging, baby.”
At the Jets’ complex in Florham Park, the team’s entire defense meets in the defensive backs room, because it is the largest position group room. Defensive backs sit in the first two rows of seats, linebackers in the next two and linemen in the back two. A long, table-like desk covers each row. Position coaches sit interspersed with the players. The lights are dimmed and the players look toward the front of the room, where video flickers across a projection screen. Ryan stands before them and lays out the plan.
Star Ledger reporters talk about Jets decision to start Geno SmithStar Ledger reporters Darryl Slater and Michael Fensom talk about the Jets decision to start Geno Smith at quarterback.
This feels natural to Ryan, installing his 3-4 defense’s schemes and coverages, as he did in 2009 and 2010. It looks similar for players like rush outside linebacker Antwan Barnes, who played for Ryan in Baltimore, except “the only thing that’s different is he’s lost weight,” said Barnes. It sounds familiar to Jets veterans such as middle linebacker David Harris, who learned over the past few years that Ryan’s meetings sometimes last longer because of his thorough, big-picture teaching style.
“He expects each player on that defense to know everyone’s job,” Harris said. “It’s a comfort level seeing him (installing), because nobody knows the defense better than Rex.”
Ryan’s instruction differs from Pettine’s because Pettine took a narrower, position-focused approach, said rush outside linebacker Garrett McIntyre. Ryan wants linemen to understand defensive backs’ responsibilities, and vice versa. For McIntyre, this made learning pass coverages easier, because he must know the duties of players around him.
“Which forces you to kind of step out of your comfort zone at your own position and know that: OK, the safety is doing this on this play, so what am I doing because of that?” McIntyre said. “It gives you just a new look at the defense.”
Jets don't plan on testing Darrelle RevisJets coach Rex Ryan says the tram does not plan on testing former teammate Darrelle Revis when they play the Buccaneers on Sunday. (video by John O'Boyle)
During training camp, the Jets had eight to nine installation sessions. In each session, the players learned a base package of plays and a nickel package – between five and 20 plays total. Players said Ryan spends part of installation asking players for feedback, and sometimes making changes based on their suggestions, which is different from last year.
Comparing Ryan and Pettine, cornerback Kyle Wilson said Ryan has “probably a little more interaction with the players’ input, as far asking what we like, what we don’t like.”
In his early years with the Jets, Ryan established a more bombastic, candid public persona than the typical NFL coach, robotic and secretive. Ryan has toned down his bravado significantly this season, but only in front of reporters.
“What you used to see on TV is what he does now in the meeting rooms,” Barnes said.
There, he will still crack a joke and “make fun of the offense or something” as he walks into the room, Richardson said. There, he still tells players salty, wildly concocted stories behind why a play is named after a female’s first name, as a way to remind the players what do on the play. Richardson would say no more about this, and giggled as he remembered Ryan’s ad-libbed story.
“What funny stories can we use for Rex Ryan in the meeting room that are PG-13?” Richardson asked linebacker Danny Lansanah in the locker room this week.
“None,” Lansanah said with a laugh.
Thurman, the Jets’ new coordinator, knows Ryan’s style better than most. They have worked together since 2002 in Baltimore. Though Ryan installs the defense now, Thurman still has important duties. With the players, he reviews practice film in the defensive meeting room. With Ryan, he serves as a filter for his play-creating impulses.
“He’s the mad scientist in the lab,” Thurman said. “And I’m the guy that says, ‘Dude, we can’t do that, OK?’ He comes up with some stuff that, it’s a little out there. You have to reel him back in. You have to learn to think along with him.”
Ryan, for years, has walked the line of defensive players enjoying his presence, and still succeeding. Can these Jets flourish with that duality?
Lansanah likes seeing Ryan don an orange skull cap that special teams players wear during practice, and then run down the field on kickoff coverage with his players. Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, a new Jet, loves that “there’s never a dull meeting” with Ryan. But will Jarrett be able to capably cover downfield when rotating with starter Antonio Allen?
For now, optimism abounds, despite seven new starters. Linebacker Demario Davis, one of the fresh faces, called Ryan “the greatest defensive coordinator in the game.” End Muhammad Wilkerson, the defense’s best player now that cornerback Darrelle Revis plays for Tampa Bay, said the unit “could be something special” and “if we have to carry the team, the defense is willing to do that and put it on our backs.”
And at the front of this defense, again, is Ryan, coaching for his job, going down swinging with what he’s always done best.
“It’s like I tell my kids: It’s different when Mom tells you something than when Dad tells you something,” said defensive line coach Karl Dunbar. “When Dad tells you something, it carries a little bit more weight. And he’s the Dad of this team.”
Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's news conference following our Monday afternoon practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center [video was used for portions of Ryan's opening statement]:
All right, we still won the game. That was good. When I went to sleep last night that wasn’t in doubt. But no, it was good. I’m going to show you a few plays. I was real happy with a few of these things. I might as well just show them right now. A guy we don’t talk a whole heck of a lot about is Ellis Lankster because he’s not a starter at a corner, but he plays a ton for us — one of the premier special team players in the league. You see him up at the top here, they’re bringing two guys to block him, he splits it. This thing right here, this is one heck of a tackle right there by him. He’s one of those guys that shows up every week as a difference-maker, as a teams guy. It just gives you an example of what he does.
I’m taking an end zone shot of this. This is the first pass, the first play with Geno [Smith] back there, his first play. It’s going to start with the protection. We’re going to look, we’re going to try and throw the ball down the field. We got shifts here, doubles here with [Bilal] Powell and [Jeff] Cumberland and [Jeremy] Kerley is going to get part of the action as well. He’s coming in here and trying to chip a little, get a little hit and then release. We’re trying to isolate him. We’re trying to get the ball down the field, but its starts with the protection. You can see the good chip blocks here by Powell. In theory, it’s a six man protection but we have two chips as well. That’s kind of how it’s set up there, time to throw the ball and we’re able to put it on the money to Kerley. Even though on paper it looks like a six man protection, but there’s really six true blockers and two chip guys.
All right, this is the interception. You’re going to see how with our defense, pretty multiple here. When we’re on the same page we’re in pretty good shape here. A guy that is unselfish here is Antwan Barnes. Obviously Barnes is a tremendous pass rusher, we brought him in to do that, but there are other things that he does. We’ve always said, “Hey look, you draw this block, then we should be home free on the blitz,” which we are. It’s only a five-man rush but we’re able to get there. They have six guys in protection so the numbers don’t work, but the execution works here. Now the tough part about this is we’re putting it on our corners here. This is tough on our corners but they hold up, do a great job and then we’re kind of packing the inside here with the coverage. You can see the guy air-mails it to Landry here. By the way, the noise of our crowd really helps as well, it’s hard to change the protection.
We’re going to eat up these two blockers here with these two, even though they’re dropping. That’s going to allow us to get the free run. You kind of change the map on them a little bit, try to get some double coverage underneath here and then he sends it to us. You see the job that Barnes does. Obviously, you've got to be thinking that you’re going to block Barnes with somebody because of the kind of pass rusher that he is. These two do a great job, they worked this all week long. They changed it up a little bit. It’s something those two worked on during the course of the week.
We've got one more thing here. Here’s what happens when you blow a coverage. Again, this is on me. I did not communicate it well enough. But we turn a guy completely loose — you would think we would cover 83 [Vincent Jackson], we might think to turn somebody else loose. That kid's a heck of a player. Obviously, we have to get the guy down, he makes a great move on [Dawan] Landry here.
The one thing I want you to see is that the guy is not in there until he’s in there. This thing saves the game right here for us. Look at the effort and just the speed of Demario Davis. I mean, he’s coming from the far hash. He’s actually on the line of scrimmage here, off the far side, facing this direction. He doesn’t break on the ball until the ball is thrown. He’s closing ground on one of the fastest guys in the league. That will tell you the kind of speed this kid has. I’m not sure there’s many linebackers with his speed in the league. That’s something we’re always encouraged with, some of our young players, and that’s a guy that’s really popping off the tape for us. And you can see, obviously, it ends up being a huge play in the game. Now we just have to kick a field goal to win the game.
That was it, some of the plays. We’re getting it out of our guys. Obviously, when you make a mistake on defense, that kind of error, a communication error, it can really kill you. You can play great the whole game, then something like that happens. We have to get that corrected. We’ll be pretty good as long as we eliminate those kinds of mistakes. The effort, chasing down things, can overcome a lot as you saw there.
On if Landry pulled up on Jackson because of previous personal foul flags in the game…
No, I think the big thing there, is he is the last line of defense. He’s looking at it that he’s just trying to get the guy down. The kid makes a great move. He really came up and wrapped them up and pressed his hip and everything else. You’re not anticipating the guy to spin out of that when he’s running full speed at you. He just made a great run, unusual. When you tackle somebody in the open field, you’re trying to face him up and you’re trying to wrap him, which is what he did. At the end of the day, you try to press your hip on the side. I know most guys, “Hey, you hit through the guy." Yeah, absolutely. But in the open field you just try to square him up and get him down. You don’t care if they run you over, you've just got to get him down.
The kid makes an unbelievable play and spins out of it. Landry is an outstanding tackler. Obviously, there we need to do whatever we can and knowing your guys are coming behind you. Clearly, we blow the coverage. We put him in a terrible situation where he’s in space with a good football player. But we’re just fortunate Demario is able to run him down.
On what it is about Smith that he doesn’t let his mistakes get him down...
You have to play the position that way. If you’re worried about the previous play or something like that, you’re not going to be effective. Quarterback and corner back are the same way. If you give up a touchdown you have to go right back as a corner. The same thing as a quarterback. [It’s] like the old saying, “you got to be able to draw the arm back.” You see it in different sports. You see it in guys having to make free throws to win games. You see it with the golfers, you got a five foot putt, most hacks like myself are out there like, “Oh man”, and you miss it or whatever. The true pros handle it exactly like he handles it.
On the six seconds that ran off the clock before the final timeout of the second half…
I’m not going to get into exact things. I just need to do a better job communicating. That’s what happened.
On if the guys on the field were aware a timeout needed to be called…
No, everybody was very aware of it but it just didn’t get executed the way it needs to.
On whom he needs to do a better job communicating with…
I’m not going to get into it. I think they had a similar situation happen before the half, between 12 and 15 seconds ran off, I think. Right before the first half as well, I’m not sure why. You can go back and look at that as well.
On if he thinks the defense played well or if part of it was Josh Freeman’s mistakes…
You guys figure it out. I mean you have an excellent running back. He had a 17-yard gain on a draw play which we should have hit in the backfield. Other than that, I thought we did a good job stopping the run. I think they were eighth in the league last year in offense, they have some weapons. We’ll be pretty good on defense.
On if they started preparing for New England before the Tampa Bay game…
Again, there’s things you do even during the course of training camp and things that you don’t necessarily say this is specifically for New England. Their team is different now when they had the two tight ends. We did prepare for them, but again you might be facing something completely different. They’re now using more the [Danny] Amendola and [Julian] Edelman, so you’ve got two of those slot guys that they are using very effectively. That may be a little different than it’s been in the past. But again, it’s New England. It starts with [Tom] Brady. They’re running the ball much more effectively than they have in the past as well.
On how they simulate the tempo…
No. It’s tough to do that’s for sure. There’s ways to do it. One way that’s an effective way, normally if you’ve got to get a certain look from your scout team then we won’t signal the defense in. We won’t even get them in a huddle, we’ll have guys down. We’ll give the scout team the look, the card, they’ll come to the line of scrimmage and then we give them the call. That’s one way to simulate it as well. Even though there’s a break, but as far as the conditioning part of it and all that type of stuff, it’s really hard to simulate it.
On if the rivalry with New England is still the same…
Again, they’re the ones, clearly, you have to beat. If you want to win your division you have to beat these guys. They’ve won it every year. Since I’ve been here, they’ve won it every year. I think the one year they didn’t win it was when Brady got hurt, probably over the last 10 years. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I think it’s like nine out of 10. If that’s one of your goals, they’re the ones that you are gunning for.
On if he is committing to Smith being the starter for the season.
He’ll start this game. Mark [Sanchez] won’t play this game. Actually, with Mark’s situation were going to take this time, not that he had a setback or anything else, we’re going to take this time to go get a different opinion and things like that, just to make sure that everybody is very comfortable where he is at. With a short week like this, Geno will be the quarterback. And again, I don’t think we’re looking past New England. I have a feeling that they’re 100 percent of our attention.
On if he is concerned about Sanchez…
He’s still day-to-day with us. I just think he’s not going to play this game. It’s a short week, he’s not going to play this game. This is a mutual thing between the team and Mark, let’s go find out exactly where he is, maybe a different opinion and see. He hasn’t had a setback or anything else. He’s been doing a good job with his rehab. The situation that he is clearly not going to play this week, so let’s just make sure we are one hundred percent confident in what we think we have.
On if this is as vulnerable New England has been since he’s been here…
I would not say that. I don’t know what they ran the ball for yesterday, but they ran the ball against a good defense like 150 or 160 yards or something as well. It’s a very talented offense. They’ve been together for a while. They do have a couple of new guys but they’re very similar. When you take Amendola and Welker, they’re similar. Edelman has been there forever. It’s going to be a huge challenge without question.
On what a win in New England would mean for the team…
I just hope we get to find out. We have a ton of work to do, we have a ton of improving to do before we get down there.
On his altercation with the fan at halftime during last season’s Thanksgiving night game against New England…
Actually, I don’t think I got into it that game with the fan, did I? I thought that was a different game [laughter]. I’m serious. A different Patriots game. But you’re probably right, I probably did with somebody [laughter], also, you know.
On Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson…
I think without question, with Damon, he’s a guy that’s improved so much. And he should take the credit for it, because he allows coaching to improve him. Coach [Karl] Dunbar’s a tremendous coach. And he just works his tail off. That’s the guy you should credit, though. There's some guys that are coachable and those are the guys that improve the most. I see that in him. He’s in good shape. I mean, he’s 350 pounds, whatever, but he’s in good shape. Just a big man, but he’s got good movement skills and he plays hard.
And then Sheldon Richardson, we knew what we we’re getting when we got him, as far as an athlete. We challenge him mentally. We do a lot of different things with him and he’s done a tremendous job for us. So I think that whole group, obviously headed by Mo [Muhammad Wilkerson], is really a good group. Now Kenrick Ellis played a little bit, which was good to see because he really hasn’t been able to practice a whole lot. Hopefully we’ll be able to get him back to where he was and so that should be a strong group for us.
On if there were any plays Smith made Sunday that stood out to him…
There were a couple. One where it’s like you got to stand in there and you've got to take it. There’s times where he’s standing in there, not rattled, knows he’s going to get hit and still makes the throw. That’s big. You sense it, it’s coming and he’s going to take a big hit, but he still makes the throw. But that was something that jumps out at me. The other thing was his vision down the field. He sees guys are covered and yet makes plays with his feet. And that drives a coordinator crazy because you can have it really defended well. You know you get decent heat on the quarterback, you have great coverage down there, but it’s hard to defend against the running quarterback. Just six yards, seven yards, that’s huge compared to zero. If you throw a ball or throw it away you get nothing, but he was able to make some plays, have some awareness and makes some plays. He protected himself when he needed to. I was impressed with that as well. Like I [said], hopefully this is something that he can really grow from.
Now, this is what we saw early and you guys saw, you were there in Cortland as well, until he had the ankle injury. So, it’s not surprising that he would have success, some success but again, he’s feeling healthy now. Now is he going to be challenged this week going up against New England on a short week? Yeah. There’s probably easier opponents to face than New England on a short week. But again, we've got four days and here we go.
On what it means for the Jets to be 1-0 after some reporters ranked them 32nd in the NFL…
Well, we never ranked ourselves 32nd. We said that from day one. We’re a confident football team and we know that the preparation, work, all that stuff, that we feel good about us. Outside, is what it is. Maybe we’ll be 31st this week [laughter]. So we just keep working our way. We’ll see.
Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's news conference following the Jets' Tuesday midday practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center:
We have guys that did not practice today: [Quinton] Coples, with his ankle, Jeremy Kerley, concussion, and [Mark] Sanchez, shoulder. And then these players were limited today: [Jeff] Cumberland, chin, Kenrick Ellis, back, Santonio Holmes, foot, Nick Mangold, elbow, Sheldon Richardson, shoulder and Kellen Winslow, knee. Those guys were limited and everyone else was full today.
Jeremy Kerley’s deal was he was cleared during the game to return, and then after the game he was cleared, but then when he came in on Monday, the trainers looked at him and things like that, got another evaluation of him and determined that it was a concussion that he has, so he did not practice today.
On if Kerley will be out for Thursday’s game and if that was the reason for re-signing WR Ben Obomanu…
Well, you have to be prepared for that scenario, but we’re not going to officially announce anyone being out until tomorrow.
On New England’s tendency to start slow in the beginning of the season…
No. I hope you’re right. But again, no. They've still got Tom Brady back there.
On if New England is more vulnerable this season…
With us, we’re just focused on our team. Obviously, we’ve got to defend against them. Does it make a difference if you don’t have [Rob] Gronkowski or somebody? Of course. But it’s a team game. As long as they have Tom Brady back there and [Bill] Belichick on the sideline and big Vince [Wilfork] in the middle of their defense, they’re probably pretty stout. Again, we’re going up there, we’re excited to play them. Obviously, it’s a short week. You’re going against a Hall of Fame quarterback. We’re going up there and putting everything we've got out there. So we’ll see what happens.
On how he compresses a week’s worth of work in three days…
Obviously, it’s a big challenge. Now, did you work some of these things you’re getting ready for during training camp, whether the players knew it or not? Yeah, that’s what you do. The preparation for coaches started earlier as well. But again, it’s tough, there’s no doubt, when you’re going up there, especially when the teams are so different. Your opponents are different than the first opponent that you played. So yeah, it’s definitely challenging.
It’s about mental preparation more than it is about physical preparation. If you can’t get it down mentally, you’re not going to play very physical anyway. That’s where it starts against this team. Certainly, they give you a lot of different challenges. With their roster, whatever with the injuries, who knows what they’re going to come out with. We just know that there will be five eligibles. They’re a very multiple offense.
On if he goes back to see what past New England team resembles this year’s team the most…
Yeah, you’ll do all that stuff. The good thing about having Belichick there for 100 years [joking], if there is a good thing, is that you played against him. They’re pretty darn good. But yeah, you’ll definitely look at some different things. Did they heavy it up? They put the big tackle in at tight end, they brought in another tight end in, a lot of different things you can anticipate, but you have to be ready for everything with him. Certainly, we think we’ll be ready.
On Kellen Winslow…
I remember Kellen back when he was just coming out in the Cleveland days and having to go against him. I had some of those nightmares. As soon as the name pops out, you’re intrigued. But then when you get here you realize, “Hey, this guy still has great receiving skills.” He’s smart, he’s a warrior, to quote himself. That’s kind of his mentality. There’s no question. Is he as good as he once was? Maybe not, but he’s pretty darn good.
On success hitting Tom Brady being a constant in his three wins against New England…
We’ve been successful three times. How many times have we been beat? We’ve been beat six times by them. Obviously, you have to try and disrupt him, whether it’s the timing of his routes, whether it’s you get some hits or fly-bys on him. [He’s] a great quarterback. You have to challenge him. You have to challenge him mentally also. You always try to do that against him. Sometimes you’re more successful than others. We’ve been on the wrong end of it. Obviously, twice as many times as we’ve won.
On how a win on Thursday could give the team momentum…
I hope we have that problem, after the game. It’s based on how it’s going to be. Hopefully, I can answer that question then. We have a ton of work to do before that happens. We know the challenge that’s in front of us. We’re excited about it.
On preparing for Brady’s tempo in a short week…
It’s tough, there’s no question it’s tough. They talk about the Eagles being fast or whatever, but if anybody is faster than New England, I sure haven’t seen it and I’ve been around football a long time. They definitely challenge you with their tempo and he runs several different tempos. He can go super-fast, he can go just fast or he can slow it down a little. He does different things. They’re very good at it.
Their personnel, they’ll run different personnel groupings on. You have to be sharp. They’ll hold their calls to try to get you to signal in your call late so they can see what you’re in. They do a lot of things that challenge a defense. It is hard to replicate on the practice field, it absolutely is. But there are things you can do. As I mentioned before, you show the card, you let them break the huddle and as they’re breaking the huddle you signal in your defense. Those are some of the things we’ve done.
On Santonio Holmes not getting many throws his way Sunday…
Well, again, you don’t know really what the plays were. I think it’s good that he got that first game in and hopefully now he can even just take off from there. So that’s what we’re hoping.
On if the defensive success will lead to confidence against New England…
That first series, New England, I don’t know what their rate is of scoring but it’s always the highest in the league. That’s a huge challenge. We’re going to show up there and both of us will have plans. They’ll have their plan, we’ll have ours [and] we’ll see what happens.
On if he can use conventional rushes with his front seven…
Yeah, I think we have some guys that can rush the passer. I don’t think there’s any doubt. Conventional or otherwise, it’s always key to try to get a pass rush. I remember the first game, you talk about sacks, sometimes sacks tell the story, sometimes [they don’t.] That first time we ever played New England, we hit Brady 23 times and had zero sacks. So if you just go on sacks alone, "They never even got a sack, must play nothing but coverage." Well, no, we were coming after him, we were hitting him. So I think sometimes it doesn’t tell the story.
On what he can take from played fast-paced teams in the preseason to get ready for the Patriots…
There’s really no simulating New England’s speed. You can do it on scout team, you can try, you can do this, you can do that. It’s just different. It really is. Our guys [are] familiar with it. We have two new players that played for me in Baltimore so they’re used it. Again, we’ll get out there but we’ll be lined up, we’ll have our hand in the dirt ready to play.
On if this game has more significance than other regular season games…
Well, I think any time you play New England, it’s special. There’s no question because that’s the one you’re gunning for. You’re not gunning for second place. You’re gunning for first place and that team’s won our division the four years I’ve been here. So I think that clearly would make it a special game and a big game.
On the Patriots defense that showed up Sunday against the Bills causes him concern…
Well, they’ve had some good players over there, there’s no doubt about that. A concern? No, not a concern. We’re aware that they have good players but to say we’re concerned? No. We’re going to go out and we’re going to play and we’ll have a good plan on both sides of the ball and on special teams and now it comes down to executing and we’ll see what happens.
On how tough the learning curve is for Sheldon Richardson and Dee Milliner on a short week…
Again, how much new stuff do you have in or whatever, I don’t know. They’ve been with this team now all the way through minicamp and training camp and things. But the tempo might be a little different.
On if the tempo is the biggest adjustment for rookies…
You’ve got to be cognizant of the tempo but you’ve got to be cognizant of what you’re seeing and the communicating and things like that.
On if Holmes is the Jets' No. 1 wide receiver…
I think any time he’s out there, he’s your No. 1 receiver. That’s why you saw so many times with Revis on him and everything else. Obviously, he’s going to draw No. 1 attention.
On people saying the Philadelphia Eagles offense is faster than the Patriots offense…
Were they? I don’t know. I’ll stick with the Patriots. I think when it’s all said and done we’ll see. It’s just hard to fathom a team being faster than them.
He’s doing great. It’s really only been, what, three weeks. So, we’ll see. He’s been attacking this rehab now. I can tell you that much. He wants to get out there in the worst way. We’ll see what happens with him. Hopefully, he’ll be out there in the very near future.
On if he has to adjust his defense against a faster offense…
You’ve got to be quick with your calls. You have to be dialed into your game, into your game plan. Down and distance certainly is part of it and so is their personnel. Sometimes you get your call in too quick and that allows them to react. You never want to give up a black piece on the chessboard, so to speak. You want, on defense, the advantage that we have, is that we get to make the last move. And I think that’s something that you never want to give up no matter how fast their tempo is because sometimes they’ll slow it down on purpose to get you to make your call. And then all of a sudden they’ll give you a different look. So that’s part of the gamesmanship as well on it. But certainly you’ve got to be on top of it.
On if Winslow is at a point in his career where he’ll be limited in practice but play on Sunday…
Well, that’s what we’re hoping for. We kind of did the same thing with LaRon Landry last year you might recall. He was coming off some major injuries and that worked out pretty well. So, we’ll lean on our trainers as far as the amount of physical work that he does. Now I will say this, mental preparation and all that, he’s dialed in.
It took me two days to drive up to New York from Texas and 27 years to get here, but I have finally arrived! Jets Nation, it is official, I am now a staff member of the Green & White. I will be working alongside Eric Allen to bring you everything Jets, all the time.
My time here has not been long, but I can tell you, it has certainly been eventful.
Last Friday I made my way to Hoboken for Fan Fest at the Pier. The view was incredible (there's really nothing more majestic than the New York City skyline) and it was my first outing as a Jet. Between the larger-than-life Jets cake and the Flight Crew breaking down the place, the party was on point.
Of course a party wouldn't be a party without the most important detail: the people. Fans of all ages gathered to support their favorite team and paint the town green. That's when I really understood the magnitude of this job.
I've been a football fan my entire life. Growing up in Texas (no, I am NOT a Cowboys fan), football truly is a way of life. Sundays are dedicated to watching games and Thanksgiving meal is eaten around the games. It means a lot to me and my family and now I get to be a part of the sport I’ve loved for as long as I can remember.
Sunday arrives. Gameday. Finally.
Grills are out, beers are popped open and fans are ready for a team they’ve been deprived of since last December. Tailgating was taken to the next level this year with the addition of the Aviators, the New York Jets drumline. Fans were taken by surprise as the beats marched through the entire parking lot, adding a college football element to the NFL.
But out of the other 31 teams, ESPN’s power rankings placed the Jets dead last, 32 out of 32. This particular game was the chance for us to quiet critics and answer questions with action.
And what a way to answer them.
I was in the pressbox the majority of game, and although the view is crystal clear and the accommodations are topnotch, the emotion of the game is more or less removed. It's difficult to hear fans and impossible to hear hits.
Several minutes before the end of the game, EA and I went down to the field. Instantly the energy was overpowering. Jerseys filled the stands and the game was within our grasp. Geno Smith rushed, the penalty flag was thrown, and the kick was good.
The crowd erupted. We were still perfect, 1-0.
But like all things, this season won’t be perfect. It will be full of challenges, joys and disappointments. I’m excited and prepared to face them as part of a team filled with history, tradition, innovation and determination: your New York Jets.
Why Rex Ryan shouldn't worry about his job, why Chip Kelly should slow down, 10 things to consider before kickoff on Sunday and introducing a new pass-rush stat that will make sacks seem as outdated as leather helmets
When Rex Ryan stepped to the podium after his Jets fell to the Patriots, 13-10, on Thursday night, he looked as if somebody had just punched him in the gut. The Jets have lost 23 regular-season games in his four-plus seasons at the helm, but none sting more than those at hands of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
“It’s a divisional opponent; New England is one of the great teams in this league,” linebacker David Harris told The MMQB. “It’s kind of a measuring stick for him and for us.”
This one hurts Ryan to his core for a couple of reasons. Foremost, this was a golden opportunity to steal one against a Patriots team—the AFC East bullies the past 13 seasons—that isn’t operating from a position of strength. Brady’s targets were so vaunted that Julian Edelman, he of 69 career receptions entering the season, drew double and triple coverage in the end zone. If there was a time to knock off the Patriots, it was Thursday night, when Brady completed just 48.7% of his passes (his lowest mark since December 2002) and they managed just nine first downs, converted 22% of third downs and gained a putrid 3.6 yards per play. The Pats were ripe for the taking, and the Jets knew it.
“I think so,” said cornerback Antonio Cromartie in the bowels of Gillette Stadium. “We gave them seven points because of a blown coverage, we didn’t know the personnel that was in, and that’s seven points there. We felt like they couldn’t move the ball on us—they couldn’t run the ball or they couldn’t throw the ball on us, especially to the outside guys.”
The perception is that the Jets are a mess. This is the undeniable reality about the Jets: Rex Ryan and his staff can flat-out coach.
The other reason why Ryan was so despondent? This is the second straight season in which Ryan and his coaches took an undermanned and outclassed team to Gillette as double-digit underdogs, with Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith at quarterback, and put together a tremendous game plan, only to see the players fail to execute in crucial spots and lose by three points each time.
This is where perception meets reality. The perception of the Jets is that they are a mess. You have an owner, Woody Johnson, who doesn’t know which end is up on a football (OK, that part is true). There’s a new general manager, John Idzik, who had coach Rex Ryan forced upon him and is counting the days until he can install his own coach. You’ve heard there’s a disconnect between the kind of players Ryan needs to win, and the kind of players Idzik has given him. And that Ryan ultimately doomed himself by inserting Sanchez into the fourth quarter of an exhibition game, only to suffer a potentially season-ending shoulder injury.
As the narrative goes, Ryan is a dead coach walking. But the great thing about football is that perception doesn’t matter and reality plays out on the field for all to see. And this is the undeniable reality about the Jets: Ryan and his staff can flat-out coach. They just don’t have enough players yet. And haven’t, really, since he’s been the Jets’ coach. For years this coaching staff inflated how good they really were; it wasn’t until last season when they truly struggled to make something out of nothing.
Last year was torture. Up by three, the Jets had two opportunities deep in Patriots territory with less than 2:15 remaining to either add a score and seal the win, or leave little time and no timeouts for the Patriots to drive the field and force overtime. But receiver Stephen Hill dropped a wide-open pass at the 12-yard line, and then receiver Jeremy Kerley slipped on a route beyond the first-down marker, forcing Sanchez to take a sack. That latter really hurt. A first down conversion would have left the Patriots with almost no time to take the game to overtime, but Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 48-yard field goal to cap a six-play, 54-yard drive and force OT as time expired. In overtime, the Jets held the Patriots to a field goal and were driving when guard Brandon Moore whiffed on a pass block, and Sanchez didn’t secure the ball on a sack, leading to a game-ending fumble.
Jets QB Geno Smith threw three interceptions, this one to Alfonso Dennard in the fourth quarter, and finished with a 27.6 rating. - (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
On Thursday night, the Jets had five possessions to either tie or take the lead with the Patriots leading 13-10, and went punt, interception, punt, interception and interception under an avalanche of dropped passes and poor throws by Smith.
“We’ve got to hang onto the football,” Ryan said Thursday night. “What you are paid to do is catch the football, and obviously we have to do a better job of that.”
He might as well have thrown in staying on your feet, blocking the guy in front of you and not throwing the ball to your opponent. All are part of the job descriptions that Jets players have increasingly failed at. Two games. Two times that Jets coaches put their players in position to stage a big-time upset over a hated division rival. Twice, Ryan and his staff were let down by players who failed to execute the basic elements of football. On Thursday night, Ryan didn’t say it outright but his defeated look conveyed the thought: What more can we as coaches do?
He’s right. Whatever you think is going on with the Jets, whatever your perceptions are, it has nothing to do with the coaches and the current personnel department. The players, right now and last season, are/were not good enough and failed to execute. And that’s on the previous general manager, Mike Tannenbaum, and his personnel staff. Sure, they got the Jets to the AFC Championship game in 2009 and ’10, and they should be commended for that. But they also allowed the Jets to get old and slow in too many spots too quickly. Many of them lost their jobs because of that, and now it’s Idzik’s job to rebuild the roster. He’s off to a good start, but it’s not going to happen overnight—especially with the cap jail the previous administration put the Jets in. And anyone who pretends that change should happen instantly has played too much fantasy football, because that thinking isn’t grounded in reality.
The Jets have a solid offensive line. Wideouts Santonio Holmes (when not pouting) and Kerley (when not injured) are good offensive pieces. They have a potentially outstanding young defensive line with Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison and Kenrick Ellis. Inside linebackers David Harris and Demario Davis are very good. Antonio Cromartie is a good cornerback, and there are a couple more promising players in the secondary.
But that’s it. The running backs and outside linebackers are average at best. There aren’t enough weapons. Even if Sanchez were healthy, he’d still be a below-average QB who might seem better than that because of how green Smith is. Those positions will be improved or overhauled next year, and the Jets will be on better footing.
The media-driven soap opera will tell you Ryan has little chance of seeing that come to fruition. Their appearances the past two seasons at Gillette Stadium, and what actually transpired between the white lines, should tell you that’s not reality.
Introducing a New Pass-Rush Stat*
One of biggest indicators of success for NFL defensive coaches is the ability to affect the quarterback.
Sure, that means sacks, which are an official NFL statistic. And quarterback hits, which are also tallied in press boxes. But affecting the quarterback, making him feel pressure, has several other factors, most of which aren’t officially tallied (though NFL teams do them internally).
*Name That Stat
What should we call our new pass-rush statistic? Give us your suggestion on Twitter at #themmqbpassrush and we may use it.
We at The MMQB thought long and hard about finding a better way to evaluate quarterback pressure, both from individual and team standpoints. We’ve developed our own formula, which we think will highlight players who aren’t getting the glory stats (sacks) but are still affecting the quarterback just as much.
To be up front about it: This formula is far from a finished product. There could be tweaks along the way, and we welcome any feedback you might have.
The two statistics that we’ll be tabulating are sack assists and drawn holds. The latter is self-explanatory. Pass rushers are sometimes held by offensive lineman before they can sack the quarterback. Those plays aren’t official plays for the NFL. But they can be nearly as damaging. It’s a 10-yard foul, although there is no loss of down.
A sack assist is given to a player who allows a teammate sack to get a sack. You see it all the time. One player comes flying at a quarterback, causing him to bolt, and the QB winds up in the arms of a different defender. Sometimes the sacker didn’t do very much, yet he still gets credit for the sack. The player who actually caused the sack gets nothing. We’re going to change that.
Here’s how the formula works.
Because not all sacks are created equally, we have divided up sacks into three categories: solo, assisted and easy.
Solo sack (1.25 points): For the player who beats a blocker and gets the sack on his own. These are the real sack masters; they should be rewarded for their standout individual effort.
Assisted sack (.75 points): Given to the player who officially receives a sack but had help from a teammate in taking the quarterback down.
Easy sack (.75 points): An official sack that falls into one of the following categories: coverage sack (quarterback held the ball longer than 3.3 seconds because the coverage was so good); unblocked, usually because of a schemed blitz; offensive miscue, such as the quarterback tripping after getting stepped on by an offensive lineman; or garbage-time sack, which we have defined as a sack when the offense is trailing by more than two scores with four minutes or less remaining in the game.
Sack assist (.5 points): As described above, this is when a player aids in the sacking of a quarterback. The official sacker will get an “assisted” or “easy” sack (.75 points), and the disrupter gets a “sack assist.”
These three categories—drawn holds, hurries and hits—are not official statistics, but they’re extremely important. A team can have zero sacks, but if they accumulate hurries or hits, they’re making life extremely uncomfortable for a quarterback. The hurries and hits were shared with us by our friends at ProFootballFocus.com. Our hits and hurries include plays wiped out by penalty.
Drawn hold (.75 points): The player who draws a holding penalty on a pass play. Only tabulated if the penalty results in a “no play.” If there is holding on a sack and the sack counts, there is no drawn hold—although that player could get a sack assist.
Hurry (.5 points): When the actions of a defender causes the quarterback to alter his throw or footwork. This is what defenses call “moving a quarterback off his spot.”
Hit (.5 points): Recorded after or as the quarterback releases a pass and goes to the ground as a result of contact with a defender.
Once the film is graded, we come up with Pressure Points. We feel this is a much better way to evaluate what kind of quarterback pressure a player or team is generating. We will divide the performances by edge rushers (ends and outside linebackers), interior rushers (tackles and inside linebackers) and by team. Individually, we will handout two awards.
Top Edge Rusher of Week 1: Cameron Wake, Miami
In a close race, Wake (2.5 sacks) edged two players (Robert Quinn of the Rams and Justin Houston of the Chiefs) who each had three solo sacks. Why? In addition to his sacks, Wake had another eight quarterback disruptions. That’s as many as Quinn and Houston had combined.
Unsung Edge Rusher of Week 1: Dwight Freeney, San Diego
If you look at the official statistics, Freeney had one assisted tackle, a half sack and three hits. A closer look shows that Freeney had a total of nine quarterback disruptions. That’s doing some work.
Top (and Unsung) Interior Rusher of Week 1: Ndamukong Suh, Detroit
According to the official statistics, Suh had zero tackles, one hit and one pass defensed. That’s not even close to the true impact that he had. Suh directly caused two sacks with sack assists, and had nine other quarterback disruptions.
Here are two examples of Suh (circled in yellow) causing sacks, one for Nick Fairley, and the other split between Fairley and Ziggy Ansah. Each time, Suh’s pressure created the opportunity for his teammates.
The ranking of the interior rushers:
All 32 Teams
Eagles coach Chip Kelly knows only the gas pedal, but will the wear and tear be too much for his own players? - (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The impressive debut of Chip Kelly’s offense in the Eagles’ opening win against the Redskins sent tongues wagging around the NFL because of its fast tempo. It certainly was something to see. And less time between plays has been on the rise the past couple of seasons, so it’s only natural to think that’s going to increase. Watch just about any college football game, and you’re going to see fastbreak offenses. But I’m not ready to say that what you saw from the Eagles in the first half is the start of some revolution in the NFL. The biggest reason is the impact that injuries might have. The pro and college game is completely different in this regard, with college having much more rest built in. Most college teams play 12 regular season games with two bye weeks. They are limited to four hours of football work daily and 20 hours per week, including practice, classroom work and training. They have rosters up to 105 players. Some NFL teams play 13 straight weeks, including short weeks with one Thursday night game. The only limit on football time is three hours for the 14 padded practices. There are only 46 players available on game day. Those are major differences, and almost make full-time run-and-gun offenses unrealistic. And the other factor is that the hurry-up offense fatigues the offense just as much as it does the defense. The Patriots ran over 80 plays in three games last season: against Denver, Seattle and San Francisco. In all three games they were gassed in the fourth quarter, and there was a hangover. After Denver, the Patriots lost to Seattle. After playing the Seahawks and 49ers, the Patriots played poorly against the Jets and Jaguars. There might be a revolution in the offing, but we need to see more data first.
… and 10
1. The thing that stood out to me most during Week 1 was how much bad football was being played league-wide. I think we should get used to this early in seasons under the new collective bargaining agreement. With so much practice time being cut back in the preseason, including padded practices, teams just aren’t getting as much work as they used to—and it shows. The first couple weeks are now basically full-squad preseason games. The “real” season will probably start in Week 4.
2. The Ravens’ lack of receiving targets was at the forefront of their blowout loss to the Broncos, but just as concerning was the play of safety Michael Huff. He was brought in from the Raiders to help ease the pain caused by Ed Reed’s exit, but Huff was brutal against the Broncos, both in coverage against Julius Thomas and taking bad angles on each of Demaryius Thomas’ long receptions. It’s a huge drop to go from Reed and Bernard Pollard to Huff and James Ihedigbo. If a defense isn’t strong up the middle, it’s going to struggle. The Ravens are trying to get first-round pick Matt Elam ready. They need to move quickly.
Michael Huff (29) proved to be an immediate concern in a Ravens’ secondary once patrolled by Ed Reed. - (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
3. Related to that, it was amazing to watch how deep the Ravens’ safeties played against Peyton Manning. They must have bought the hype about Manning’s arm being better. The Ravens played at a depth of about 15 yards. Last year, the Patriots were at 10 yards, daring Manning to throw deep. He couldn’t. Manning’s arm strength is better this season, but only marginally. The game plan should still be to make him throw deep to the corners of the field. He completed two of five passes in those areas, with touchdowns to Andre Caldwell and Thomas. Both were plays on which the receiver clearly beat the cornerback off the line with a long single-high safety. Manning tops out at about 30 yards.
4. Yes, I still think the Broncos are overrated. I never read too much into Week 1, especially now (remember item No. 1?), but I have to admit that some new blood is helping Denver in some previously weak spots. Right guard Louis Vazquez was an underrated signing from the Chargers. He’s never been a road grader in the run game, but he’s an excellent pass blocker. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton was freed from purgatory in Jacksonville and instantly upgraded an average tackle group. And second-year undrafted safety Duke Ihenacho is the Broncos’ best safety by far. They were terrible at safety last season.
5. There has to be something going on injury-wise with Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. He’s never going to wow with quarterback pressure, but he has been elite at taking on double teams and holding his gap against the run. Wilfork struggled mightily with that in the first two games, to the point that Jets guard Vlad Ducasse completely handled him on Thursday night. This is something to watch because the Patriots are basically playing a three-man tackle rotation with Wilfork, Tommy Kelly (who also tired against the Bills) and undrafted free agent Joe Vellano. That’s all the Patriots have.
6. There was a fairly questionable call with 8:38 left and the Lions leading the Vikings, 27-24. On 3rd-and-5 from Minnesota’s 27-yard line, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford appeared to throw an uncatchable ball to Calvin Johnson—the ball hit six yards beyond Johnson near the edge of the six-foot white border line—but Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes was called for pass interference. Big call, as the Lions went on to score and seal the game. I saw NFL’s vice president of officiating Dean Blandino at the Patriots-Jets game on Thursday and asked him about it. He said a pass has to be blatantly uncatchable—at least outside that white stripe—for it to be deemed an uncatchable ball. Another question I have from that game: why was referee John Parry yucking it up with the Lions after a few plays, including that one? I’m sure the Vikings were thrilled Parry was giggling while announcing a big penalty in the game.
7. Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald must feel like he’s been busted out of jail now that he has a real quarterback throwing to him. And Carson Palmer was very good for three quarters, but he was shaky in the fourth and showed many of the problems that have plagued him late in his career. He showed no pocket awareness, despite left tackle Levi Brown being a turnstile the entire game, especially when Robert Quinn blew around the corner to execute a sack/strip. The next series ended when Palmer rushed his throw and didn’t come close to connecting with Andre Roberts. Then on 3rd-and-2 after the two-minute warning, the Cardinals had a beautiful wheel route called for running back Andre Ellington—and a big play was there to be had—but Palmer threw it way too early and wide. So while Palmer’s an improvement over previous Cardinals quarterbacks (who wouldn’t be), he’s not yet a complete one.
8. The Patriots didn’t inquire about former receiver Brandon Lloyd. If anything, they called him to set up their emergency list like they do at every position to see who might be available should the worst happen. The ship has sailed on Lloyd and the Patriots. He was released because he wasn’t a fit in the locker room, not because of money. I never say never on player acquisitions. Desperation makes people do all sorts of things, but the Patriots aren’t that desperate yet.
Brian Cushing victimized Philip Rivers for a pick-six in the fourth quarter last Monday night by ignoring his keys and relying on instinct. - (Gregory Bull/AP)
9. When I first watched Philip Rivers throw a game-tying pick-six to Texans linebacker Brian Cushing midway through the fourth quarter on Monday night, I thought it was another example of Rivers making a bone-headed decision that hurt his team. It seemed like a fairly basic pressure by the Texans. When running back Danny Woodhead motioned out of the backfield, a safety rotated down to cover it. Rivers should have known Cushing would be reading his eyes in the middle of the field against a five-rush man that the Chargers didn’t have protected well. But after watching the coaches’ film, I’m mostly going to credit Cushing. It appeared that he was supposed to cover tight end Ladarius Green, who crossed underneath and away from where Rivers was throwing. Instead of moving toward Green, Cushing relied on instincts (and great pressure from linebacker Whitney Mercilus) to make a beeline for Woodhead and a tremendous diving interception. Rivers said he could have thrown a hot route against the blitz to Green as well. Cushing’s lucky Rivers didn’t do that—Green was wide open. But good players guess right, and Cushing did.
Cameron Wake - (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
10. While most of the focus this Sunday will be on the 49ers-Seahawks and Manning Bowl III (Broncos-Giants), I’m fairly interested in the Dolphins traveling to Indianapolis. For Miami, this starts a stretch in which they will face five playoff teams from last season (Colts, Falcons, Ravens, Patriots and Bengals) and the Saints in a span of seven games. The Dolphins’ pass rush was by far the best in the league in Week 1, and no quarterback was hit more last season than the Colts’ Andrew Luck. Miami showed their “speed” rush package by having Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan on the field at the same time. The Colts are going to need a much better game out of left tackle Anthony Castonzo than they got against the Raiders.
Rob Malone, the Jets punter, has offered a boost to the Jets offense when striking the ball well. (Rich Barnes/USA Today Sports)Print By Michael J. Fensom/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger
Jets links: E.J. Manuel, Stevie Johnson orchestrate last-second victory for BillsPunting of Rob Malone could become a subtle weapon for JetsNFL Week 2: 49ers, Seahawks ready for primetime, and the NFC East is worth watching Jets links: Looking back on the good times and bad for Mark SanchezMark Sanchez Jets timeline: Some giddy highs, some dreadful lows All Stories | Even on a football field, where brute force is requisite to accomplish nearly all tasks, there are certain skills that demand graceful execution. Punting, for instance.
“You don’t want to overswing because the biggest balls are when you’re swinging 75 percent,” said the Jets punter Rob Malone. “You want to be real smooth with it. When you’re confident, things are going to go well.”
Malone’s mechanics and confidence dovetailed at a fortuitous moment. With help from Jets assistant special teams coach Louie Aguiar -- who himself punted for 26,802 yards during a decade in the NFL, including a stint with the Jets -- Malone emerged the winner of a preseason competition with Ryan Quigley. Entering opening weekend, the special teams coach Ben Kotwica said Malone was kicking the ball better than he ever had in two seasons with the Jets.
Through two games this season, Malone has, at times, been excellent. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one punt traveled 84 yards, the second-longest kick in Jets history. Other moments have demonstrated the subtlety of punting a football: A mis-hit of even an inch can cede yards to an opponent.
Punters spend hours, during the marathon practices of training camp and all game long on a back corner of the sideline, repeating their kicking motion -- catch, step, release, swing. The goal is to render the human body robotic. Despite an array of variables -- weather conditions, field position, the threat of the opponent’s punt return unit -- execution must remain precise during the two second window between when the ball leaves the hand of the long snapper and touches the punter’s foot.
Punters want to strike the ball when it is a foot or a foot-and-a-half off the ground, or about when the ball is dropping just below their knee.
“If you hit it too high, you’re not getting any kind of distance,” Malone said. “If you drop it low, you’re going to get distance but not a lot of hang time. There is definitely a sweet spot.”
When that sweet spot is nailed, the ball twists in a spiral and arches down the field in a parabolic flight pattern. The ball hangs in the air long enough for the punt coverage team to race underneath it, tracking the opponent’s punt returner to time a tackle at the moment the ball arrives.
As the Jets offense integrates a number of new players, including the rookie quarterback Geno Smith, into a new scheme, Malone’s job comes with added significance.
On nine of 15 possessions against the New England Patriots, the Jets ran three plays or fewer. Malone punted the ball nine times. Too often, however, he let the ball fall too low before striking it. Hang-time decreased, and Julian Edelman had space to elude the Jets’ coverage unit. Edelman returned six of the kicks for 72 yards, and Malone’s net punting average was 36.6 yards despite blasting each kick an average of 44.6 yards.
Malone also struggled on “pooch” punts, when the punter changes the spin on the ball to drop it deep in the opponent’s half of the field. After successfully keeping three punts inside the Buccaneers’ 20-yard line in Week 1, Malone could only once do so against the Patriots. Still, on that kick, he demonstrated how a punter can act as a weapon on offense.
After a failed third down, Malone pooched the ball from the New England 40-yard line. The ball landed on the field at the 17, then rolled gently to the 4-yard line before stopping. The Jets defense quickly stuffed the Patriots, leading to a Ryan Allen punt. The Jets offense took over 58 yards from the end zone -- its best starting field position of the game -- and nine plays later scored its only touchdown
Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's news conference following our Monday afternoon practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
Today, we get that bonus practice and you’re looking at new calls, trying to get your team familiar with a new opponent, so I think that’s good. We got a head start on tape with our team, so I think that was pretty good. Obviously, we won’t really get the entire game plan in until Wednesday but we do have a head start. So we did a lot of that, in particular on defense, emphasize the red zone and some personnel groupings, so that’s kind of what we did. Then offensively, we did a little blitz pickup, then we did a seven-on-seven and some other things. I think we got a good start, even on special teams. So we used it to get a jump on Buffalo and hopefully that helps us. Injury-wise, we’ll have a full injury report on Wednesday for you so anything I can give you now is probably incomplete but I think we’re getting healthy.
On if Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Jeremy Kerley will be able to play Sunday…
I don’t know about all of those guys, but we’ll see how it goes. Certainly, they’re getting closer. I can see they’re definitely getting closer. Again, I think when you’re looking at Kerley’s situation, obviously he had the concussion, so there are a bunch of different hoops that he’s got to go through, different doctors and all that kind of stuff. With Quinton, he just had surgery like three weeks ago but I know he has been doing an unbelievable job in his rehab. That would be something if we can get him back. I’m not sure how possible that is, but we’ll see. I think the list on Wednesday will give guys time because guys are pushing it. We’ll see how they do, how they come in on Wednesday, but like I said, I think for a team that just played two games in five days, I think we’re doing pretty decent, though, health-wise.
On what Coples was able to do in practice…
Well, he wasn’t really with the team. He was with our trainers, with our strength and conditioning guys. I think he did some individual drills though. Not with the group, but by himself.
On Wilkerson practicing fully with an ankle injury…
I wouldn’t say that he’s 100 percent back but I certainly hope he’s ready to roll.
On what he would like to see from Dee Milliner…
Just progress through practice and get it down. Sometimes you’re going to get beat physically. That’s the nature of the business. We’ve got to be sharp. Whether it’s Dee or anybody else, we’ve got to be on top of what our job is and the technique we need to use and things like that. Basically, it’s the experience but just go out, work hard. He certainly has the talent. We’ll progress him that way through the week.
On if he wants to see Geno Smith run more…
I just think sometimes when you’ve got the defense’s back to you a lot of times that rush is coming, sometimes there are some plays to be made out there. Obviously, you go through your progressions, you’re trying to throw the ball down the field, but if it’s taken away from you, then it’s not a bad deal to take off with it.
On the downside to naming Smith the starter for the foreseeable future with Sanchez injured…
I think you get in trouble when you put dates on things instead of just focus on the one week, and that’s for our team. We want everybody to make sure that they understand this is where our focus is. It’s not going past one week. I think you look down the road, you don’t take care of your business. With us, everything we do is focused on Buffalo and that’s where it should be. For us to comment or for me to comment about things past that, I don’t think it’s good for our team. Everything we do, every bit of our focus is on the present, on our situation right now which is playing Buffalo and preparing for Buffalo. That’s where it is. Anything beyond that, we’re not looking at.
On if naming Smith the starter for the foreseeable future would give him confidence…
He’s the guy this week. So is David Harris, so is whoever. That’s what we’re looking at. A lot of things can happen. To us, we just handle our business this week, and then after that we’ll handle our business the next week. We need to take that approach each week as a team and that’s certainly where our focus is.
On if he’s made the mistake in the past of looking too far ahead…
Yeah, I think I get it more. I think I get it more now where it’s like hey look, our fans and everybody else need to know it’s about the moment. It’s not about anything else. It’s about the present and the team that we’re up against. I think that’s where certainly there’s no reason to look past this opponent.
On if it was a mistake to insert Milliner into the starting lineup right away instead of making him earn the job…
Well, no, I think when you look at it, we were comfortable with him physically and there was no question we were. Now did he miss a lot of time? He absolutely did, but we thought he could handle it. Again, it’s not that I’m "Oh hey, he’s failed." No, that’s not the case. We’ve got to correct a few things. From a physical standpoint, this young man can play. There’s no doubt. What I’ve been really proud of is the way Kyle [Wilson] has responded. The way really all the guys have stepped up, [Darrin] Walls in particular. He’s had to bail us out here and he’s done a nice job for us also.
On if he’s decided if Milliner is going to start against Buffalo…
No, I haven’t. I just want to let this week play out and then we’ll put the guy in there that we think will give us the best chance to play well.
On if the mental side of playing cornerback is the biggest challenge in transitioning from college to the NFL…
Well, I think the physical side of it, you'd better have a certain skillset or you’re not going to play in this league. That’s a given. But the mental part, even just like the nuances of a certain coverage. Maybe in a book it looks a certain way, yet there are some tags that go along with it. And that goes with the experience playing with a guy. So I think those are the things that we’re really having to sharpen up on. Like I said, when he gets it down, I think he’s got a chance to be a really good one. I don’t think there’s any doubt. It’s just speeding him along, but at the same time, we have to do what’s best for us and puts us in the best situation to win this game.
On incident involving Nick Mangold at the end of the New England game…
I know that when Nick went to make the tackle, his intent was to get the guy on the ground. He had no malicious intent. That’s for sure. But as it played out, I can understand because the hit ends up being, as the guy goes out of bounds, his back turns to him, so he hits him out of bounds. So I understand the penalty, but it wasn’t intentional by any stretch.
On if he expects there to be fines or suspensions…
Again, that’s probably a league matter. But like I said, a lot of times things happen in the heat of the battle especially in a situation in a tight game, emotions are running high and things like that. But I’ll say this, there’s no way Nick’s hit was intentional. No way was it supposed to be a cheap shot, by any stretch.
On New England head coach Bill Belichick yelling at Mangold on the sidelines…
I’ve gotten after several of his players and everybody else’s players because you don’t want to see your guy ever take a shot. Again, I’m sure he realizes that it wasn’t an intentional hit, but at the same time, you don’t want to see your players get hit. It was a hard-fought game and things happened in that game. There’s no question. Against rivals, sometimes the intensity picks up.
On getting Kerley back…
Hopefully Jeremy is playing because he’s a weapon for us as a slot receiver primarily. It gives you some matchup issues because he has quickness and change-of-direction skills. The other thing is he’s an excellent punt returner, so I think that helps also.
On getting over losses as a coach…
You have to go on. You have to get past it, but it’s not easy by any stretch. As a coach, you always do a little second-guessing yourself and I think that’s good because it gives you more preparation for the next time you play it, or maybe a situation comes out where you play things differently. But you also have to move on from it. We’ve said before, you can’t let one loss get you beat twice. So you have to put it behind you and move ahead. The fact we had a couple of extra days, it kind of weighs in there. But now, shoot, you’re ready to move on to Buffalo and that’s the way it has to be.
On facing Mike Pettine…
I don’t like Pettine, that’s a given [joking]. But no, it is going to be interesting. I’ve never done it before. He’s kind of a brother, but I’ve faced my twin brother many times, so I think I’m ready for it. Maybe I'll give him a shot before the game [joking].
On coaching the offense to play against Pettine’s defense and Pettine giving the Bills offense advice…
Yes, that’s true, there’s no question you’re going to do that. But again, when that ball’s snapped, a lot of things happen. It can be something new. There can be something old, something old that looks new, a lot of that type of stuff. So I just don’t think it’s that easy. You can help on things, what we do on defense is sound, so it’s not like you’re coming up with a trick play here or there. We have like six of them in [joking, laughter]. You’ll try to do that, there’s no question. There’s a little bit of that gamesmanship involved, but it’s just going to come down to execution and things like that. I guess with Bob Sutton now over there [in Kansas City], you have [Vic] Fangio in San Francisco, so there are guys that are doing really well and it’s kind of neat to see those guys are doing well.
On how schematically similar the Bills defense is to the Jets defense…
Well, I think the big thing is what Mike, I know has learned, and I think everybody has, is you put a system together that will feature your players and focus on what they do best and put your players in a situation where they can be successful. It’s not that you’re going to run the fire zone. You’re going to look at what your personnel has, what they can do, and make adjustments to your defense. It’s about your players, not about the scheme necessarily. Everybody that’s been with me and everything else knows that’s how you start.
On if he has found that the defense has schemed less over the first two games…
I don’t know about that. We did some different things, both weeks. I think we’ve done some different things. Again, it’s driven through your players. That’s where the main focus is. You’re always trying to put them in a situation to give them a chance to be successful.
On releasing Robert Malone…
I think with Robert, it’s just the consistency. That’s the thing that bothered us. Let’s face it, he had one of the best punts in Jets history in Week 1 and then he had some others where the hang time wasn’t where we wanted to be. With [Ryan] Quigley, it was a tight competition before, but we did think he gives a little more consistency.
On EJ Manuel and the Bills offensive weapons…
He did a great job, obviously, bringing them back to win that game. That was impressive. He has a nice touch on the deep ball. He’s a big, good-looking guy who can really throw the football. That’s the main stuff we’re seeing. 13 [Stevie Johnson] is a really good player, Johnson is a tremendous player. Then you got the two-headed monster in the backfield with Fred Jackson and [C.J.] Spiller. Those are some pretty darn good weapons right there. Those are the guys you really have to be mindful of, those three in particular. Then you've got the rookie receiver who's done pretty well also, [Robert] Woods. We know it’s going to be a challenge to us.
This Sunday will be a first for Rex Ryan for his professional career. So far, as we know, his only interaction with coach Mike Pettine has been on the same staff, either in Baltimore or here in New York. Well, Pettine is now in Buffalo, coordinating their defense, so Rex gets to gameplan against him for the first time. Is he ready?
I don’t like Pettine (joking). That’s a given (joking). But no, it is going to be interesting. I’ve never done it before. He’s kind of a brother, but I’ve faced my twin brother many times, so I think I’m ready for it. Maybe (I will) give him a shot before the game (joking).
He talked about helping the offense plan for Mike’s defense, and the idea of Pettine giving his team advice:
Yes, that’s true. There’s no question you’re going to do that, but again, when that ball’s snapped, a lot of things happen. It can be something new. There can be something old, something old that looks new, a lot of that type of stuff. So, I just don’t think it’s that easy. You can help on things, what we do on defense is sound, so it’s not like you’re coming up with a trick play here or there. We have like six of them in (joking) (laughter). You’ll try to do that. There’s no question. There’s a little bit of that gamesmanship involved, but it’s just going to come down to execution and things like that. I guess with Bob Sutton now over there (in Kansas City), you have (Vic Fangio) in San Francisco, so there are guys that are doing really well and it’s kind of neat to see those guys are doing well.
It should be an interesting chess match to watch on Sunday afternoon.