~ ~ 3. Climbing the Hill top: It's still early, but WR Stephen Hill is the most improved player on the team. The former second-round pick has impressed with his improved mechanics and route running, so much so that receivers coach Sanjay Lal highlighted a particular play in Wednesday's receivers meeting. Hill could be the No. 1 receiver, because it doesn't appear that Santonio Holmes will be ready for Week 1.
Mark Sanchez will lose his job to rookie Geno Smith, it's just a question of when
If Smith clearly outplays Sanchez in the preseason games and in the rest of training camp, Ryan will have to start him against Tampa or he will lose credibility in the locker room. You can’t fool the players.
Mark Sanchez starts in the Jets’ preseason opener Friday night in Detroit, based on seniority and not because he’s been the camper of the year in Cortland, and he may even get the opportunity to start — and throw a pick six to Darrelle Revis — in the season opener if Geno Smith is not ready to play.But the only reason Sanchez is still around is former GM Mike Tannenbaum gave him an $8.25 million guaranteed salary for 2013 that will turn out to be a heckuva golden parachute and certainly conflicts with new GM John Idzik’s desire to transition to Smith as quickly as possible.The real quarterback issue for the Jets is when Rex Ryan — perhaps even with some input from Idzik, who really wants to be known as a football expert and not just a cap expert — finally turns his back on Sanchez and switches to Smith in an attempt to buy time and save his job.
My prediction: Smith starts Game 3 at home against the Bills.Now if Smith clearly outplays Sanchez in the preseason games and in the rest of training camp, Ryan will have to start him against Tampa or he will lose credibility in the locker room. You can’t fool the players.Even so, it’s in the Jets’ best interest for Sanchez to open as the starter, just as Tom Coughlin started Kurt Warner for the first nine games of the 2004 season until he thought Eli Manning was ready.
While he is the darling of the fans now, Smith had better prove he can play by the end of this season.
It’s not going to take as long for Ryan to bench Sanchez and start Smith as it did for Coughlin to make Manning the starter, but the Jets are so lacking in talent that putting Smith on the field right away could actually be a detriment to his development. That’s one of the reasons Coughlin didn’t start Manning in the opener. The Giants let Warner take the early-season hits — he was Manning’s stunt double until Coughlin felt the Giants were good enough to support Manning.
Keep in mind that Smith is not going to be given years to develop. If he doesn’t show he can be the quarterback of the future by the end of this season, then the Jets’ financial investment in Smith is so manageable they could draft a quarterback in the first round in 2014, especially if they have a top five pick (which is possible) and if Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater has another elite season.
The issue becomes when is it logical for Ryan to put Smith in the huddle ?
The Jets open at home against Revis and the Bucs. That’s one of the few games you look at and figure the Jets have a pretty good chance to win.But not if Sanchez keeps giving the ball away. His 52 turnovers the last two seasons probably contributed to Ryan’s weight loss almost as much as his lap-band surgery; it’s hard to keep food down when the quarterback plays like Sanchez.
Sanchez might be the most scrutinized quarterback of this preseason.
If Sanchez was upset about getting booed in Cortland, he might as well just head back to California if Revis picks him off and takes it to the house.
After the Jets play the Bucs, they have a Thursday night game in Foxborough. In a short-yardage situation, isn’t it a given that Tim Tebow scores? This is New England’s home opener, it’s in prime time and the last time the Jets played under the lights at Gillette Stadium they lost, 45-3, in 2010. The last time they hosted the Pats in prime time, Sanchez starred in the Butt Fumble.If the Jets open 0-2, the fans will be furious, and there will be a lot of pressure on Ryan to put the rookie in. They will have 10 days off before playing the Bills at home. That seems like a soft landing spot for Smith: Jets Nation ready to embrace him, inferior opponent, 10 days to prepare. That’s followed by a road game in Tennessee, another game against a team about as bad as the Jets.
After helping the Jets get to the AFC title game his first two years, Sanchez should have been secure in his job and a franchise quarterback by now. But instead he’s fighting to save his Jets career against a quarterback who went from a top-10 pick in the first round to a top-10 pick in the second round.For the first time in his career, Sanchez is not being enabled by the organization. The game plan is simple: If Sanchez is the starter, it won’t be for long unless he finally figures things out, which doesn’t seem likely.
“I got to keep playing well to stay on the field and that’s the plan,” Sanchez said.
Every throw he makes against the Lions will be charted and dissected. It wasn’t supposed to be this way for Sanchez. Not in his fifth year. It feels like he just got here and now it feels like he won’t be here much longer.
In Wednesday morning's wide-receiver meeting, Sanjay Lal highlighted a video clip from the previous day's practice -- Stephen Hill catching a long TD pass in a one-on-one drill. Hill beat the cornerback so badly that the defender wasn't even in the frame at the time of the catch.
Lal, the receivers' coach, picked that play to show his players because he believes it demonstrates two areas in which Hill has improved from his rookie year:
Stephen Hill is one of the most improved players at Jets camp.
1. His release from the line: On this play, Hill ran a stutter-and-go, beating press coverage -- an issue last year. "He was sudden with his press release," said Lal, describing Tuesday's play. "He showed good change of direction, kept his shoulders down. It wasn't a casual, lazy stutter, out of control. It was sudden."
2. His body mechanics: A year ago, Hill had a tendency to turn his shoulders on vertical routes, causing him to lose speed. On Tuesday, Hill kept his shoulders square, something Lal pointed out with two different camera angles -- upper and rear views. "His body plane was parallel and he didn't lose any form," Lal said. "I tell the players it's like track. You'd never run 60 meters with your shoulders pointed sideways."
Hill, coming off a disappointing rookie year, is one of the most improved players in camp because he has refined his fundamentals. Because of his college background in a triple-option offense at Georgia Tech, he arrived with little knowledge of a pro-style passing attack.
"Compared to last year, he's really starting to understand why," Lal said. "Last year was getting him from A to B -- and everything in between was new to him. With his God-given gifts, he can do things other guys can't. He's finally starting to use his suddenness and his burst within a route. It's clicked to him the last couple of weeks that, 'Hey, if I do this, look what happens to the DB.'"
Hill acknowledged, "I feel like a different receiver," saying he feels quicker in and out of his breaks. As a long strider, it can be difficult to run some of the routes in a West Coast offense. For instance, there's a triple-move route that requires quick, choppy steps. Hill went to Lal with a question, wondering how he can cut down his stride lengths. Lal suggested that he drop his hips on the second move.
"He's starting to understand his body," Lal said. "He's starting to understand what he can do with his tools."
On Friday night, Hill will be on the same field as fellow Georgia Tech alum and Lions star Calvin Johnson, arguably the best receiver in the sport. The Johnson comparison came up last year when the Jets picked Hill by trading up in the second round -- a move that caused some grumbling in the organization. On draft day, former VP of college scouting Joey Clinkscales was asked about Hill and Johnson.
"He's a 6-foot-4 kid that's 215 [pounds] and runs a 4.32. He's a unique athlete, he really is," he said of Hill. "I mean ... Calvin Johnson, maybe. I'm not going to put that label on him, but from a height, weight, speed [standpoint] ... he's just a unique athlete."
A more realistic comparison might be Demaryius Thomas, another ex-Tech receiver. He caught only 54 passes in his first two seasons with the Broncos, but exploded last season -- 94 receptions for 1,434 yards. Of course, going from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning might have had something to do with that.
Chris Ivory is inching ever closer to taking snaps with the Jets offense.
In fact, the running back told reporters after this morning's training camp practice at SUNY Cortland that he expects to play in the Jets' next game, their home preseason opener on Saturday night against Jacksonville.But as Chad Pennington would say, it's still a process. Ivory was in full pads today and got to carry the ball a bit in air drills, but he and his hamstring still weren't cleared for a full-go yet."I'm staying in my playbook," he said, "hearing the calls, watching the plays. Just getting mental reps."
"I'm over that right now," said Ivory, who's been sidelined and working with the Jets trainers since the start of camp. "Right now I'm just thinking about getting healthy and, once I get back, just remaining healthy for the rest of the games."
He did say he hasn't felt tightness in his hamstring for two days, which is a good sign and a prerequisite to taking a full load in the offensive backfield again."I feel like the coaches know what I'm capable of," he said, "but I'm not going to say I feel like my spot on the team is secure."So he'll continue to stay with the program, but from the sounds of it, the new No. 33 in green and white will make his debut for the Jets and their fans at MetLife Stadium in August, either Saturday vs. the Jaguars, the following Saturday "on the road" at the Giants, or Thursday, Aug. 29, vs. the Eagles.
Add in Joe McKnight, who stayed out of today's practice with his head injury, and rookie QB Geno Smith said that bodes well for the Green & White."Yes, we love those guys and we hope they can contribute," Smith said. "We expect a lot out of those guys. To get Joe back, to get Chris back, along with other guys who have been nicked up, is going to really help us out as an offense.""It's gradual, I'll just see where I am. I'll continue to make these steps and then go have a full practice," Ivory said, adding optimistically, "I'm feeling better."
Smith, two days after injuring his ankle on a third-quarter scramble, was back taking full reps at today's practice. He and head coach Rex Ryan said he was cleared to practice by the trainers. "Of course I was slower. My ankle isn't back to full strength yet," Geno said. "But I was pushing it, I pushed through it and I had a pretty good day of practice." Click here for a transcript of Smith's news conference after today's practice.In 11-on-11 goal line passing drills, Smith hit Jeff Cumberland twice past Calvin Pace for touchdowns. Mark Sanchez responded with a TD strike to rookie free agent TE Chris Pantale, who made a leaping sideline snare for perhaps his most impressive catch of camp. ... Free agent CB Mike Edwards jumped a Matt Simms pass for an interception in 7-on-7 drills. ... Ryan, impressed with Jaiquawn Jarrett's play at safety on Friday night, said of a start for him vs. Jacksonville on Saturday: "Yeah, that’s a possibility, we’ll see, but that’s a possibility."The Jets announced late this afternoon that they have released RB John Griffin with an injury and have signed RB Kahlil Bell and WR Rahsaan Vaughn. Bell (6'0", 219) was the two-year Bear who played three games with the Jets last year. He had no carries, one catch for 2 yards, and one lost fumble against the Cards. Coincidentally, the Jets were 3-0 in the games he played. Vaughn (6'2", 198) is an undrafted free agent out of Oregon
Joe McKnight's eventful training camp continued Sunday. The enigmatic running back spoke to reporters for three minutes without actually saying anything. He refused to comment on his head injury and refused to comment on his recent arrest for traffic violations. If he had been asked to name his favorite TV show, he probably would've offered a "no comment" on that, as well.
Seven times he responded with, "I'm not going to get into that." As for actual news, McKnight returned to practice on a limited basis.
It has been a bizarre summer for McKnight, who flunked the conditioning test at the outset of camp.
Hey, Joe McKnight, what do you think about ... aw, never mind.
For your entertainment purposes, here's Sunday's Q&A with reporters. Drink it in :
Q: How are you feeling?
McKnight: I'm not getting into that right now, but I feel good to be back out on the field.
Q: Do you know when you'll be cleared to be full go?
McKnight: Like I said, I'm not getting into that right now. I'm going to wait until the doctors tell me I'm cleared. It feels good to be back on the field.
Q: Has it been tough to be on the sideline, watching?
McKnight: It’s been tough, but just happy to be on the field with my team.
Q: Do you regard today as a big step forward or just a small one? How encouraging was today?
McKnight: Like I said, I was just happy to be back on the field with my teammates.
Q: Did you go through a period of time when you felt out of it or woozy?
McKnight: I'm not getting into that right now.
Q: How did you get hurt?
McKnight: I'm not getting into that right now.
Q: Did you have to be cleared by an independent doctor to be out here?
McKnight: I'm not getting into that right now.
Q: Do you anticipate playing on Saturday?
McKnight: I'm not getting into that right now.
Q: What can you talk about?
Q: When you're healthy, what do you feel like you can bring to this team, when you get back to 100 percent?
McKnight: I don't really know. I'll have to [wait] when I get back to 100 percent.
Q: You were arrested on the off day. What can you tell us about that?
McKnight: I'm not getting into that right now.
Q: Do you feel like you've lost anything missing this time? Were you able to go through classroom work?
McKnight: I'm just getting back in the flow of things. When the doctors clear me, I can get back into the flow of things.
Q: Joe, are you meeting with the medical staff daily?
At the end of the riveting session, McKnight was asked about the dispute between Time Warner and CBS. He turned to a Jets PR official and asked incredulously, "This guy asking me about Time Warner and CBS right now? You serious?" To which the PR official replied, "He's not getting into that one."
The Jets have three more practices before training camp ends Thursday, exactly three weeks after it began. They play their second of four preseason games Saturday night at home against Jacksonville. And there is still no resolution to their quarterback competition between Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith, nor an indication from coach Rex Ryan about who will start against the Jaguars.
“We’re just going to let this thing play out, see how we are at the end of the week and then we’ll make that decision (about Saturday’s starter),” Ryan said Monday.
Before Monday, the Jets rotated the quarterbacks so that Sanchez got two days with the first team, and then Smith got two days with the starters. Smith worked with the starters Sunday, but instead of Smith getting a second straight day with that group, Sanchez lined up with the first unit Monday.
Ryan said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told him before Sunday’s practice that he wanted to approach the rotation this way for these days.
Both quarterbacks looked sharp in Monday’s team periods. Sanchez completed two of three passes for a touchdown. His incomplete pass was batted down at the line. Smith, still a bit gimpy after rolling his right ankle in Friday’s game at Detroit, completed six of seven passes for a touchdown, and was sacked once.
Sanchez has responded well after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown on his first drive at Detroit.
“He’s strung some good days back-to-back-to-back,” Ryan said. “That’s been encouraging.”
** Strange times continued Monday for running back Joe McKnight, who has been arrested for unpaid vehicle tickets and suffered a head injury during training camp. He returned to practice Sunday in a red (non-contact) jersey – his first time practicing at all since Aug. 2. He wore a red jersey again Monday.
McKnight spoke to reporters Sunday and responded “I’m not getting into that right now” to questions about his playing status and arrest. Monday, he stopped thrice to kneel while walking to the field before practice. A trainer approached him and gave him a bottle of water, which McKnight sprayed on his own head.
McKnight went through position drills, but soon thereafter, he fell down without being hit. The trainers helped him off and he did not return. After practice, he sat in a golf cart with trainers, wearing sunglasses. Ryan said McKnight walked through some things after practice with Mornhinweg. Ryan wasn’t sure immediately after practice about McKnight’s status, or what exactly went wrong.
“He would never be out there if the trainers felt that he was at risk – ever,” Ryan said. “For whatever reason he stopped (practicing), that’s fine.”
McKnight ran for six yards per carry last season, but carried just 30 times. Since entering the NFL in 2010, his career high for carries in a season is 43 in 2011, when he ranked second in the league with 31.6 yards per kickoff return. He was seventh last year (27.5).
The Jets are replacing Shonn Greene, but Bilal Powell has impressed in camp and Chris Ivory took contact Monday for the first time in camp. A sore hamstring had nagged Ivory, who expects to play against Jacksonville. Ivory moved well Monday.
“I was encouraged by it, to say the least,” Ryan said, smiling.
So where does McKnight fit in? He is in the final year of a four-year contract. He counts just $755,250 against the Jets’ salary cap this season. The Jets must trim their roster to 75 players by Aug. 27 and to 53 by Aug. 31. Will McKnight make the cut?
“We’ll see how everything plays out,” Ryan said. “There’s still a long way to go before we make the final decisions. He has plenty of talent, but there is a concern about durability. Durability is a big thing in this league. Has Joe had his moments here? Absolutely, he has. But right now, we’ve just got to get him healthy.”
McKnight declined to speak with reporters Monday.
** Wide receiver Clyde Gates suffered a head injury Sunday and didn’t practice Monday. … Tight end Kellen Winslow got a scheduled day off Sunday and returned Monday. … Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, one of the team’s best players, banged his left elbow on a teammate during team period – a scary moment for the Jets. He met with trainers, but returned to finish practice, which Ryan called “a good sign. Cromartie later tweeted: "I want to let #JetNation know that I'm fine." ... Ryan said safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, now practicing with the first team, will start against the Jaguars, after Antonio Allen started against Detroit. That position battle isn’t resolved yet. … Ryan was asked about a report in which West Virginia players criticized the leadership on last year’s team, but didn’t mention any names of poor leaders. Smith was West Virginia’s star last year. Does the report give Ryan any pause about Smith? “No, but it tells me I’m glad my kid never went there (to West Virginia),” Ryan said. “I can tell you that much. I don’t get that. Geno was a tremendous player for West Virginia.”
Seriously, completely agree with this. I mean look at our OC's we've had...Schitty and Sparano...I remember when the Jets hired Sparano and the first thing I thought was wtf? But I was optimistic. Then Namath came out and basically said WTF?! And the rest is history.
Don't forget the absolute disaster that Paul Hackett was.
-- Braylon Edwards hasn't been a productive player since 2010, but he still believes he can be an "elite" receiver in the NFL. You have to admire his confidence. We all know the Jets could use some swagger on offense.
"I'm starting to get into camp shape, that groove, that vibe," Edwards said. "Now is the chance to really go after it and really show these guys I still have it and that I can play at an elite level to help this team win games."With Santonio Holmes still on the mend, Edwards is their most accomplished receiver, no contest. He might not be the player he was in 2007, when he was one of the best receivers in the league, but he still has enough to offer at the age of 30. He's a gamer, and the Jets need gamers.
Curiously, it seems like he's fighting for a roster spot. He played 27 offensive snaps in the first game, an unusually high number for a nine-year vet. When a veteran still is playing into the fourth quarter of the first preseason game, it can be an ominous sign."I can't think about what's going on with the depth chart, one to six," Edwards said. "I need to worry about one-seven" -- meaning his number, 17.Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley are locks to make the team, and Clyde Gates probably will stick, too. After that, it's Edwards and rookie Ryan Spadola, an impressive free agent. Edwards wouldn't say he's a shoo-in -- he's been around this business long enough to know there are very few gimmes -- but he likes his chances because of GM John Idzik.
Idzik, a former Seahawks executive, saw Edwards up-close last season in Seattle. Edwards felt he was the team's best receiver at the start of the season, and he believes Idzik recognizes his ability."The talent is there, that's what people need to realize," Edwards said. "John Idzik was in Seattle. If he saw a diminished player, I don't think he would've brought me here."
If Idzik is smart, he'll keep him here because Calvin Johnson isn't walking through the door.
While Marty Mornhinweg saw a number of positives in the offense’s preseason debut against Detroit, the Jets first-year offensive coordinator wants more explosion plays and more points from his unit.
“I believe we had eight including penalties, but six without the penalties that I call explosive plays,” he told me. “However those explosive plays were 20-something and we’re looking for the 40, 60 or more yards. We want to score, so there’s the next step. Four to eight of those a game and you will typically win the game.”
Mark Sanchez’s final drive against the Lions featured three chunk plays through the air — Kellen Winslow for 24, Jeremy Kerley for 24 and Jeff Cumberland’s score for 26 — in addition to an 11-yard run from Bilal Powell. Greg McElroy also hooked up with reserve wideout Ben Obomanu for 20-yard and 24-yard gains respectively on the Jets’ second TD drive and RB Chad Spann got into the act with 23 more on a pass from G-Mac.
The quarterbacks got off to an accurate start, hitting on 69% of their passes for 292 yards. But Sanchez’s errant screen toss in the first quarter resulted in a pick-six and a Lions strip sack of McElroy led to another three for home club.
“We have to score more points than that period and we gave ‘em 10 points. We didn’t score enough points,” Mornhinweg said. “That’s the big picture look at it and then we get into all the details how we’re going to get that accomplished.”
Of the Jets’ 11 penalties, six were committed by the offensive line. Both veteran G Willie Colon and rookie T Oday Aboushi were flagged for holding and false start infractions.
“The false start and the holding calls — we just have to get that corrected,” Mornhinweg said. “It's very difficult in this league to overcome too many penalties. We only overcame two of them.”
Among the great signs Mornhinweg saw in the preseason opener was the play of both Stephen Hill and Clyde Gates. There were huge question marks at both wide receiver and tight end at the conclusion of minicamp, but both positional groupings — led by Sanjay Lal and Steve Hagen respectively — have taken a leap forward.
“I’ve seen a great progression with both of those spots,” said Mornhinweg. “Now we have to stay healthy there and we have to keep after it every day mentally.”
Gates suffered a head injury this week in practice and may be questionable for Saturday’s matchup with the Jaguars. Santonio Holmes continues to rehab from his Lisfranc injury and would be a huge boost for this West Coast attack.
Slightly disappointed in a rush offense that amassed 37 yards in Detroit, Mornhinweg featured two-back sets on 13 of 16 attempts. The Jets got a lift this week with the return of Chris Ivory (hamstring) to full contact and Powell has had an excellent camp.
“You have to give him great credit. He has taken that thing and ran with it,” said Mornhinweg. “He had one just outstanding run where he made one man miss and broke a tackle. He’s just excellent in the pass protection as well as the passing game. He’s done a heck of a job.”
If anyone was going to represent a departure from the last four years of “Ground and Pound”, it was Marty Mornhinweg. The West Coast offense, in and of itself, is based more on short passes than it is on running the football. It’s a concept that actually bases running off of the pass, rather than the other way around.
Marty himself, has a reputation for throwing the football more often than running it, despite having top flight running backs in his backfield like Shady McCoy. Marty addressed that reputation yesterday after practice:You score points throwing the ball. I mean, now you’re getting into a philosophical situation here. Look, we don’t care how we get it done, running, passing, we don’t care who gets the credit, whatever it takes to win the next ball game. There are going to be times that we game plan and we’re going to run the football quite a little bit in that game if we can and if the situation dictates (it). And then there are going to be other times where we’re going to throw the football. It’s just that simple. Every game is different. I’m talking game planning.Every game’s different, how you go into it and what the circumstances are. We were down by two scores, and then we cut it, and then we’re down by six, and then we get a sack fumble, and then we’re down by two scores again. So, we were tempoing and hurrying up, and even (running the) two-minute (offense) quite a little bit in the fourth quarter. So, you’re not going to run the ball quite as much.
It was an interesting way to address the question. You saw a real insight into his theory by the first sentence, then he kind of backtracked to talk about gameplanning. Of course, if they are losing they will throw more, and if they are winning they will run it more. That is just logic. But the idea of scoring by throwing, is actually a departure for this team, which should be exciting to watch.
Incidentally, here is what Marty had to say about the success against the Lions :
Well this is a player’s game. Ultimately players win ball games. So it’s a detail which is played, players at times played with great detail, and it looked just terrific. (And) then you saw the game, we had four holding calls, and eight offensive penalties, and we were beaten to the punch a couple of times, that bothers me just a little bit. We want to use our snap count as an offensive weapon, and we used it against us a couple of times. You saw the game. So there it is, that’s our starting point. I’m pleased with quite a little bit of it, I was disappointed in a couple of things. Not too many things surprised me, I think the fellas played reasonably well in those situations that we put them in and wanted to see them in. Getting back to the running game, that disappointed me just a little bit. We had I believe six big plays, one in the running game. That’s not good enough, we’d like a few more than that. Those big plays now were twenty-something yards, looking for a little bit more. Let’s catch and run, let’s drive the ball down the field just a little bit more.
Sanchez Will Start Saturday, but He's Not Leading the Competition. Smith May Play but Definitely Won't Start. Questions ?
So here's where the Jets' quarterback competition stood as of Thursday afternoon, with their second preseason game just two days away. Pay attention. This could get confusing.
Mark Sanchez will start Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also started the Jets' preseason opener last week, a loss to the Detroit Lions in which he overcame an early interception to complete 10 of 13 passes and throw a touchdown. He's practiced well all camp, and Jets coach Rex Ryan said Thursday in a conference call that Sanchez would play the first half of Saturday's game.But Ryan also said Sanchez is not leading the competition.Geno Smith will not start Saturday against the Jaguars. Everything else is about his status at the moment is a bit murky. Smith sprained his right ankle against the Lions, and his condition is apparently so severe that Ryan said it would prevent him from starting against Jacksonville. Despite the injury, though, Smith didn't miss a practice this week, and according to Ryan, Smith still might play Saturday in relief of Sanchez.
We told you this could get confusing.
Boiled down, the situation really is simple: The Jets haven't made a decision yet about who their No. 1 quarterback will be when their regular season begins Sept. 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and despite his role as the team's chief spokesman, Ryan isn't much of a hoofer when the questions start to fly at him. Based on what Ryan and general manager John Idzik have said since training camp began, the Jets are willing to take as much time as possible before choosing Sanchez or Smith."Every day is part of the competition," Ryan said. "But the competition's not complete, and when we feel that it is, that we have enough information, then we'll make our decision."
Smith's sprained ankle and a few other developments have complicated matters. Given that the Jets selected Smith in the second round of this year's draft—and given that Idzik was the Seattle Seahawks' vice president of football administration last year when rookie Russell Wilson won their starting QB job—Smith would have seemed to have a natural advantage in the competition. The Jets went 6-10 last season, and Sanchez's career with them appeared to have cratered; he was benched twice and committed 26 turnovers. But the $8.25 million he is guaranteed this season, per NFL Players Association records, made it prohibitive for Idzik to trade him. So back Sanchez came, to battle Smith for the starting spot he had manned since the Jets took him in the first round of the 2009 draft.
Despite that egregious interception against the Lions—rookie lineman Ziggy Ansah returned it for a touchdown—and all the similar errors from his past that it conjures, Sanchez has taken well to new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast system. Meanwhile, after Smith got off to a fast start at camp, his improvement has slowed, even stagnated, over the past two weeks as Mornhinweg has installed more of the offense and exposed Smith to more of the playbook. That regression, combined with Smith's injury, has jeopardized what had to be the Jets' hope: that Smith would overtake Sanchez quickly and make the team's decision easy.
He hasn't, and Ryan was so disappointed with Smith's performance at practice Wednesday (even on a tender ankle) that he publicly criticized the rookie QB—a tack Ryan rarely takes with any player."Geno was cleared to practice," Ryan said. "Our trainers were comfortable with him practicing. That's why he's out there.…My comment, it was reality."Will the ankle keep Smith from playing Saturday? "Nothing has been determined yet that Geno will play in this game or not," Ryan said. "Let's be clear on that.…I know Mark will be out with the first group, and we'll see how it goes."
On to Saturday, then, where there will be more waiting—and perhaps less confusion.
One noticeable difference in the Jets’ offense last week was that wide receivers and tight ends were actually getting open.
In 2012, open Jets receivers were an extinct species. But new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has always been good at getting guys open and that was the case against the Lions.“It’s part scheme, part how Marty teaches it and part the receivers doing a really good job with it,” wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal said.Against the Lions, Jeremy Kerley got wide open on the team’s first touchdown drive. Lal said that was a perfect call by Morninweg. Kerley went in motion then reversed field when the ball was snapped and cornerback Bill Bentley was left in the dust.
“You have a play-caller that can anticipate,” Lal said. “That play was designed to beat that coverage. It was the perfect call at the perfect time. That play was designed to beat that coverage. It worked.”No one is disparaging former offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, but the longtime offensive line coach did not have the same feel for the passing game Mornhinweg has shown.Lal said his receivers are taught an answer to every look they see on every route. Lal said it is “black and white” for the receiver, something he has never experienced before.
“Marty has a quote: ‘The success of an offense is the precision with which it’s coached and the precision with which it’s executed.’ This is the most precise coaching I’ve been a part of,” Lal said. “I just love it as a coach.”
* Veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie said he likes what he has seen from rookie Dee Milliner, the team’s first-round draft pick.“He’s been very impressive,” Cromartie said. “Our whole thing is to make sure that he’s running the defense. We know what he can do on the field. We just want to make sure that when he goes on the field, he doesn’t have to think about anything, he just can go out there and play football.”
* Lions linebacker Travis Lewis was fined $15,750 for his horse collar tackle of Jets running back John Griffin last week. Griffin broke his leg on the play and is out for the season.
The NY Jets could use some better targets at wide receiver. As things stand now Stephen Hill will line up wide on one side. Either Clyde Gates or Braylon Edwards will likely line up wide on the opposite side, with Jeremy Kerley in the slot. Of those guys, only Kerley has shown he belongs anywhere near a starting NFL lineup in 2013. Hill has great measurables but can't catch a cold and is still very raw. Gates is hyper fast but probably even more raw than Hill, despite being 27 years old. He reportedly has had an excellent camp and has made some strides towards becoming something more than a one dimensional speed burner. However, at age 27 NFL receivers rarely make large jumps in abilities or performance, so the praise for Gates coming out of Jets camp is probably wisely tempered with a healthy dose of skepticism. Edwards is... well, Edwards. Injury prone and too slow by half, he just doesn't seem capable anymore of performing at a starting WR level. After watching the Jets first preseason game, the WR I was most impressed with was actually newly acquired Ben Obomanu. He looked smooth and precise in his routes, created separation, looked fast enough, if not a speed burner. He caught everything thrown his way. I was admittedly not familiar with him prior to last Friday, but from the little bit of him I saw in that game, I am intrigued. He looks like a legitimate NFL receiver. That is of course a bit of damning with faint praise, but with this underwhelming bunch at the position, it may be as good as we can expect right now. I'll have to see more of him against the opponents' first string defenders, but I'm not so sure Obomanu doesn't deserve to start opposite Hill.
Given this state of affairs, and assuming that Santonio Holmes will never return to his former level of play (a reasonable if not surefire guess), it might be wise for the Jets to cast an eye around the league for possible roster cuts who could play a big role with the Jets. Along those lines I suggest the Jets consider Carolina wide receiver David Gettis. Gettis may or may not become available when the last cuts are made. Coming into camp he was running with the 3rd and 4th stringers. Ahead of him on the depth chart and locks to stay that way are Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. Also ahead of him but possibly not for long are Tedd Ginn Jr. and Dominik Hixon. That currently leaves Gettis, a 2010 6th round draft pick out of Baylor (where he was one of RG III's favorite targets) battling it out with 2010 3rd round pick Armanti Edwards and 2012 4th round pick Joe Adams, among others, for the 5th WR spot on the roster. Hixon has not been healthy, and that has left an opening for Gettis which he has taken full advantage of. He has been Carolina's leading receiver in each of the first 2 preseason games (Clowney Award anyone?), and seems to be making a push for the 3rd WR spot. If he succeeds in doing so, we can safely cross Gettis off the list of potential Jets acquisitions. But at this time that is far from a done deal.
So who is David Gettis? Braylon fans, you really ought to love him. Physically he is a Braylon clone, with nearly exactly the same 6' 3" height and 215 weight. Gettis is however faster than Braylon, running in the mid 4.4s for the 40 yard dash, and he has huge hands, at 10 inches. Gettis is a big, strong, fast target in the young Braylon mold, but he only turns 26 at the end of August, making Gettis 4 1/2 years younger, cheaper and with a whole lot more upside than Edwards. Like Edwards he comes with injury risk. Gettis was out all of 2011 with an ACL tear, and started the 2012 season on the PUP due to a hamstring injury. After making it back to the 53 man roster in mid November last year, Gettis spent the remainder of the year on the sidelines, inactive for most of the remaining games. Consequently Gettis does not have a single catch since 2010. So why should the Jets be interested?
Well, his performances in the first two preseaon games should dispel any notion that Gettis is still not healthy. He has caught 8 passes for 138 yards in the first two games, more than doubling any other Panthers' receiver's output. Still, just because he's healthy and somewhat of a physical specimen doesn't mean he can perform at a high level in the NFl, right? Well, yeah. For that evidence we have to go back to the 2010 season. In 2010, as a rookie 6th round draft pick, Gettis worked his way into the starting lineup with Carolina opposite Steve Smith by Week 2 of the season. He remained there the rest of the way, missing one game due to injury and ending up catching 37 passes for 507 yards and 3 TDs in 14 games for the year. Not so impressive you say? OK, fair enough. But consider that he was a rookie. For rookie WRs those are some pretty good numbers. The rookie receiver that comes into the NFL and dominates right away is a very rare commodity.
Still not impressed? Fair enough. Then consider this. That 2010 Panther team was one of the few teams in recent memory that made the 2012 NY Jets passing attack look potent. That Panthers team, featuring the likes of Jimmy Clausen, Matt Moore and Brian St. Pierre starting at QB, passed for a grand total of 2635 yards and 9 TDs for the year. This was an epically bad aerial attack, and it made all Carolina receivers look bad. One comparison stands out in particular. That year Steve Smith, 5 time Pro Bowl and 2 time All Pro wide receiver, 2 years removed from a 1400 yard season, played 14 games for the Panthers, just like Gettis. Smith's numbers: 46 catches out of 99 targets for 554 yards and 2 TDs. Gettis had nearly as many yards as Smith in the same number of games. Gettis caught a much higher % of balls thrown his way, 55% compared to 46%. Gettis caught more TDs, 3 to 2. Gettis had more 90 yard games, 2 to 0, and more 100 yard games, 1 to 0. And Gettis had a better yards per reception number, 13.7 compared to 12.0. It is not inaccurate to say Gettis performed like the best receiver on the Panthers in 2010.
Now, consider this. As soon as Smith got a real QB throwing him the ball again (Cam Newton) in 2011 and 2012, Smith returned to his Pro Bowl form, racking up nearly 1400 yards in 2011 and another nearly 1200 yards in 2012. It is perhaps fair to speculate, given how Gettis outperformed Smith in 2010 as a rookie, and given his likely improvement trajectory in his 2nd and 3rd years, that Gettis may well have achieved back to back 1000 yard seasons in 2011 and 2012 if his health had not failed him. It is an intriguing possibility, one well worth taking a flier on if Gettis should find himself on the unemployment line in a few weeks.
Of course, given his strong performances so far this preseason, albeit much of it against 3rd and 4th string players, it may well be that Gettis will make the Panthers. If he does, he still might be available for a rather small price. If he manages to secure the WR3 job, then he probably will be too expensive to acquire. However, if Hixon and/or Ginn relegate Gettis to the back end of the roster, given his injury history and the plethora of recent draft choices who are also options for the WR5 spot, the Panthers might be persuaded to give Gettis up for a low draft pick, say a 6th or 7th. If so, then I think the Jets should go out and make the deal. It's the kind of low risk, high potential reward, cheap, talented young guy with upside kind of deal Idzik loves. Gettis could obviate the need for Braylon Edwards, as he is a physical match, and is faster, younger and with substantially more upside. Best case scenario: we steal a perennial 1000 yard receiver who fell through the cracks due to early injuries. Worst case: we spend a low round draft pick on a WR who even at his worst is probably as good as any WR on the roster other than Kerley and a healthy Holmes. This is a move that could, if everything goes right, transform the Jets receiving corps from close to or at a league worst level to something more like NFL average. And if things don't go well, all we lose is at most a low round pick.
So what do you think? Should we make a move for this guy? I'll leave you with a link to a video showing Panthers receivers Brandon LaFell and Gettis. Gettis is highlighted in the second half of the video. Take a look, see for yourself, then let me know, should we go get Gettis?