David Harris had a small smile crease his lips across the vertical beads of sweat still trickling from the Jets' goal line drills this morning. It may have had something to do with the Green & White's emerging run defense."I thought it went good. I especially thought the defense did very well," the Jets' middle linebacker assessed. "We didn't allow one touchdown run on us. We let one pass get in, but stuff happens so fast on the goal line that you've just got to react to it."
Head coach Rex Ryan noted the same thing about the last period of practice at SUNY Cortland."I thought the offense had the upper hand in the short-yardage period and the defense had it in goal line," Ryan said. "Big Mo [Muhammad Wilkerson] was impressive to say the least down there. But really, all the guys on the D-line were. You've got to create a new jump line, a new line of scrimmage or you're not going to be able to stop people. Last year we struggled where teams were able to run the ball on us down there. Hopefully today was an indication we'll be stronger."
"The way we played the run last year was no good. I think we finished as one of the bottom 10 teams," Harris said. "That's the difference. A great defense starts with stopping the run first. You can't be a great defense if you allow so many yards. We came up with an aggressive mindset, attacking, and it was a fun day today."Harris was right on with the ranking — the Jets were 26th in rushing yards allowed per game, 21st in yards per rush. And while red zone is not all goal line, Rex was right in that the Jets allowed 14 red zone rushing TDs last season, their most since '05.But that defense was not in evidence today, admittedly against a thinned running game. Three runs by Bilal Powell were stopped by the first unit, then three more by John Griffin were stoned by the twos and threes.
"There was a lot of banging. We went to the ground for the first time today. We're starting to learn about some players here," Harris said, anticipating more of the same at Saturday's Green & White Scrimmage (6 p.m. ET start, ESPN New York 98.7 FM). "Each day, more and more, we can't wait to get to that first game. It's good going against teammates and all, just being competitors. But we're getting better every day."
The Tights Were Loose
The offense wasn't shut out on the goal line.Rookie Geno Smith,with the ones, hit TE Konrad Reuland with a TD on the first play that was nullified by a penalty,so Smithand Reuland teamed up again three plays later.Then Mark Sanchez rolled right on fourth down and whistled one to Hayden Smith for a TD for the second offense and Matt Simms scrambled in vs. the threes."It's nice to get in," Hayden Smith said. "We just installed that yesterday, so it was good to get out there and execute some stuff. It was a fairly good day for the tight ends. We'll look at the film. It's never as good as you might think. So we'll have a good look at it and I'm sure there's plenty to work on."
In the short-yardage portion of the full-contact work today, Geno Smith had two nice completions to Powell, and LB Ricky Sapp had "a tremendous day," Ryan said, estimating that his OLB had "four or five that would've been sacks."
Ryan praised WR Stephen Hill, who had another strong day: "Stephen had some illness. If it was anything like what I had the other day, I'm really proud that he came back from that." ... Rex didn't know the condition of undrafted free agent C Dalton Freeman, who hurt his right knee on the last play of goal line, or of RB Joe McKnight, who left practice early.
The coach continues to love the ebullience of G Willie Colon: "There's a certain presence he has out there. You're glad he's on your side. He's certainly a confident guy and he's a guy you'd want in a foxhole with you. ... It'd have to be a big foxhole." Colon, of course, is 6'3", 315.
Josh Bush was listed as the starting free safety after mini camp and came into training camp the starter but after less than ten days not only is he not the starter but Rex Ryan said this week he isn’t even in the running. Bush will backup Dawan Landry at one safety spot while Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett will compete for the other spot. What happened to Josh Bush over the summer ?
Brian Costello of the New York Post wrote an article on Friday about Bush accepting this demotion readily including this quote :
“I’m a smart guy. I know my role,” Bush said today. “I know Jaiquawn and Antonio, they’re better at certain things than I am, and I’m better at certain things than they are. It fits the best. I SHOULD be Landry’s backup. We call him ‘mentor’ for a reason, so I want to study behind him anyway.” (NY Post 8/2 Brian Costello article)
I don’t like this quote at all. If you are a competitor there is no way that you can come to camp as a starter, lose your role, be told you are the backup and be completely accepting of this in a week’s worth of practices. He says that there are some things Allen and Jarrett do better than him and vice versa but he doesn’t elaborate. Unless Allen and Jarrett’s things they are better at include playing football and Bush’s thing he does better is writing music I can’t understand why he would say this.I think Josh Bush has a skill set that can really help the Jets. He is a safety who can play center field or cover. He was a cornerback who converted to safety at Wake Forest and had good ball skills there. He played a bit last year as he learned the defense and did well in the spring. Then something happened. Whatever happened, Bush needs to get back on track or his starting role might not be the only thing he loses his roster spot could be next.
Nick Bellore eyeing more defensive snaps for New York Jets
Nick Bellore has become an established special teams standout since signing with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan in 2011.
But now he’s working on becoming a difference maker on defense.
Bellore generated a turnover when the former Chippewa picked off rookie Geno Smith in the red zone during one of the early practices of training camp.“It’s always nice when you can make a play down there in that short space,” Bellore said to Randy Lange of newyorkjets.com. “You’ve got to kind of put it behind you, but it’s always nice to get those. Of course, I would’ve liked to take it 100 yards for a score.”
He hopes that leads to more defensive opportunities for the former Chippewa. Bellore played in 336 special teams last year compared to only five defensive plays all season.“It’s a process every day,” Bellore said. “I really need to be ready to step in at any number of positions. I want to be ready for when my name is called to get a shot to do it, and the key to that is just staying on top of all the players, whether it’s Mike or Will or dime, whatever, because guys get injured, it’s kind of the nature of the game.”
The Jets essentially traded LaRon Landry for his older brother, Dawan, this offseason, hoping in the process that their strong safety position won’t be any worse for wear because of it.“We never talk about stats or compare anything,” Dawan Landry said of his more well-known sibling yesterday after a Jets training-camp practice at SUNY Cortland. “I’m just happy he did so well as a Jet last year, and I’m just hoping to build on that this year.”
Dawan Landry certainly has a lot to live up to in that department, considering the Pro Bowl comeback year LaRon enjoyed in 2012 before the Colts lured him away with a four-year, $24 million deal (including $14 million guaranteed) new Gang Green general manager John Idzik wasn’t prepared to match.Letting Laron Landry walk continues to be one of Rex Ryan’s least-favorite topics — “He’s a great player, no question, and we’re going to miss him,” the Jets coach said yesterday — but Ryan sounds confident that the potential dropoff won’t be severe.“They’re different people, no doubt about it,” Ryan said. “They’re both passionate about the game and just love to play, but they are a little different. LaRon’s a little more reckless, while Dawan is just the opposite of that. He’s going to do it right, while his brother is, ‘Whoo, [there] he goes!’ ’’
Ryan was referring to LaRon’s penchant for borderline and even blatantly illegal hits that earned him a headhunter reputation as well as thousands of dollars in fines from the league.Dawan Landry, who at age 30 is two years older than his brother, doesn’t share LaRon’s taste for questionable hits or media boasting. Dawan is considered the more cerebral player, one who can be counted on to know the scheme and be in the right place more often than not.The Jets are definitely going to need that at safety, considering a couple of inexperienced players — Antonio Allen and Brooklyn native Jaiquawn Jarrett, an Eagles washout — are dueling for free safety.“He does so many things well that go under the radar,” Ryan said of Dawan, who spent the past two seasons with the Jaguars. “He’s one of those guys that maybe you don’t appreciate because he isn’t a flashy player at all. But he’s just consistent, smart, lines it all up, and he’s a good football player. He’s very effective.”
Ryan is in better position than most to judge Dawan, considering Landry was a fifth-round pick by the Ravens in 2005, spent five seasons there and enjoyed his most productive days as an NFL player with Ryan as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator.That connection is what attracted both parties to each other last winter after Jacksonville released Dawan Landry in a salary-cap move.In fact, Dawan said yesterday he talked LaRon into signing as a free agent with the Jets last year by talking up Ryan in glowing terms.“I wanted to see LaRon have some fun [under Ryan] like I had,” Dawan said. “He came here and loved it. Rex is a player’s coach, and I had a lot of success under him in Baltimore. I knew I would have the chance to do the same here.”
The Jets can only hope Dawan makes as much out of that chance as his brother did.
At 32, Calvin Pace is having a "monster" training camp, according to Rex Ryan. Pace credits a new outlook. Two months of unemployment can change a man's perspective. He keeps his termination letter as motivation.
"I had to be real with myself and it was the hardest thing in the world," the veteran linebacker said Wednesday.
Calvin Pace is entering his 11th NFL season, and sixth with the Jets.Coming off a disappointing 2012, Pace was released in February with other high-priced veterans. His production (three sacks) didn't come close to maching his salary, an $11.6 million cap charge. He was crushed. "Last year wasn't good enough," he said. "It wasn't just absolutely awful, but I got fired, you know what I'm saying? It wasn't like a bunch of teams were beating my door down. It was an extremely humbling experience. ... You're living your dream for a team you love to play for, an awesome city. All of a sudden, it's, 'Thanks, but no thanks.'
"You're looking at your termination letter and it says you weren't as good as everybody else. It's something that stuck with me and will always stick with me. Even on days where I don't want to see these guys, coming out here for practice, I think about that. I don't ever want to feel like that. I didn't want my career to end on a mediocre year."Pace keeps his official termination letter in his book bag. He glances at it from time to time, a reminder of the dark side of the NFL. He likes this side better. He rededicated himself in the offseason and feels rejuvenated by the youth that surrounds him on defense. Ryan believes Pace can duplicate 2009, when he recorded a career-high eight sacks. To that, Pace said: "I plan on it." He's not making huge dollars anymore (the $940,000 minimum, plus a $65,000 signing bonus), but he's not about the money at this stage of his career.
"I still have more left in the tank," he said. "I just didn't want my career to end here with somebody telling me I couldn't play, people saying what I couldn't do and me knowing what I can do. "This is where I want to finish, hopefully on my terms, when I can say, 'It's been a pleasure, time to say goodbye.' I didn't want it to end like that."
NY Jets will need CB Antonio Cromartie in future, and extension for cornerback makes salary cap sense
Cromartie, of course, will have to prove that last year’s Pro Bowl season wasn’t an aberration. Despite missing Revis for much of the season, the Jets finished second in the league in pass defense in 2012.
New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie will be relied on more than ever this season.
John Idzik’s master plan remains a mystery, but his radical reconstruction needs to include Antonio Cromartie. The rookie Jets general manager must be pro-active with one of his most indispensable players amid all the turnover.
But does Cromartie want to be a Jet for life?
“Oh, yeah... that’s the God’s honest truth,” Cromartie told the Daily News on Tuesday. “That’s something I’d love to happen. My family is enjoying it and I’m enjoying it here. We’re settled. This is where I want to finish my career.”Cromartie is entering the third year of a four-year, $32 million deal. He did a simple contract restructure this offseason to give the Jets some salary-cap relief, but Idzik needs to extend him after the 2013 season for a couple of reasons.
1) Cromartie comes with a team-high $14.98 million salary-cap charge in 2014 ($4.3 million base salary plus $5 million roster bonus plus other bonuses). Although it’s not ideal, the Jets could carry Cromartie at that price. (Idzik would free up more than $16.5 million by releasing Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes). It makes more sense to extend the Pro Bowl cornerback and spread a lower annual cap charge over a few years.
2) If the Jets don’t extend Cromartie after this season and make him play out the final year of his deal, they risk losing him to free agency. The problem with retaining him in 2015 by using the franchise tag? The franchise number for cornerbacks in 2015 will be $17.74 million. It’s unlikely that Idzik (or owner Woody Johnson) would be willing to pay that price for a defensive back after they refused to sign Darrelle Revis to a multi-year deal in that neighborhood this offseason.
Cromartie, of course, will have to prove that last year’s Pro Bowl season wasn’t an aberration. Despite missing Revis for much of the season, the Jets finished second in the league in pass defense in 2012 thanks, in part, to Cromartie’s ability to be an elite No. 1 cornerback.Cromartie ranked in Pro Football Focus’ Top 5 in coverage rating and quarterbacks completion percentage last season. He was sixth in passes defensed. Cromartie doesn’t believe that the Jets are in “rebuilding mode,” but he realizes that nothing is guaranteed with a new GM.“Everybody is still interviewing,” Cromartie said. “All 90 players are still interviewing. We got a new GM. I have this year and one more year. I’m still interviewing and that’s how I treat it.”
Cromartie may not be concerned with his contract situation, but Idzik certainly has a plan for what he wants to do even though there are so many unknown variables. Although Cromartie, easily the most athletic player on the roster, believes he has “five or six years left,” he will turn 30 after this season, which must be a serious consideration for a franchise that dismantled its roster this offseason with an eye toward the future.
When Cromartie took over as the number one cornerback last season, many of us were concerned. Antonio’s career to date had been littered with inconsistency. Bad beats were there to equal any great play he ever made. However, to his credit, he became full-time ”Good Cro” and led the defensive backfield, and it barely missed a beat after Revis went down.
Now Darrelle is gone, leaving the leadership role to Cromartie, and Cromartie, to his credit, is embracing his role :
I don’t know about making me feel good (laughing). I’m just going along with it, honestly. I love what I’m doing and trying to be the leader that I am, and just going out and having fun basically.
OK, maybe not “embracing”. He seems to be enjoying it, which is causing him to do a good job at it. And that, is a great sign for this defense. He has a good feel for the entire defense, which is the sign of an adept leader.
Here is what he had to say yesterday on the defense as a whole :
I think honestly we’re coming together pretty well. I think, you know when you add our front seven, the physicality of what our front seven is doing, I think we’re probably going to have one of the best front sevens. We added a guy, Sheldon Richardson, who’s coming out here and playing tremendously. So you got a dominant guy in Muhammad (Wilkerson) and also in Quinton (Coples). So you just look forward to that and hopefully we can get to the quarterback and make him throw bad throws.
His role has not gone unnoticed. Here is Kyle Wilson talking about Cro as a leader :
He has definitely taken over the leadership role and I will say he is doing everything he should be doing. (He’s) taking control of the group, speaking to us, holding us accountable, and we’re holding him accountable too. So he’s taken everybody under his wing to make sure that we are performing the way we want to perform to be a dominant defense and we take a lot of leadership definitely in the secondary so we’re definitely taking everything from him.
This is a great job out of Cromartie. It will only help our defense.
The Jets’ defensive line is filled with first-round picks, but the man in the middle tonight against the Lions in the first preseason game will be Kenrick Ellis, the third-year player from Hampton, who seems to be hitting his stride.Ellis does not have the high profile of Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples or Sheldon Richardson, the first-round crew, but his role is just as important. Ellis, a third-round pick in 2011, is the starting nose tackle, replacing Sione Po’uha. The Jets’ run defense was a weakness last year. Ellis hopes to be a big part of changing that.
Ellis has had some good moments in training camp, and he said he feels comfortable in the system entering Year 3.“It’s just night and day,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, I know where I need to be and I know how to get there now. I try not to make any mental mistakes and I try to be as physical as possible. It’s second nature now. It’s less thinking and more reacting.”
The Jets let Po’uha go as a cap casualty and allowed defensive tackle Mike DeVito to walk in free agency. That has left a bunch of young pups to play in the defensive front.“We have some great vet guys that left, but it’s just an opportunity for some young guys to step up and fill that void,” Ellis said.
* Coach Rex Ryan grew annoyed Wednesday afternoon during the final practice before tonight’s game when rookie linebacker Troy Davis tackled tight end Chris Pantale in a non-contact drill. Ryan called Davis over and chewed him out, then said, “That’s it. Practice is over.”
“[Davis is] an aggressive guy and things like that,” Ryan said. “I think he’s just a young man like a lot of guys are trying to make an impact, make a name for himself and things like that ... I can’t wait, I’m really excited to see him play [tonight] because he is a very physical, aggressive player and that’s great to see. The big message is just to make sure we’re taking care of each other, though.If it’s a live scrimmage situation, that’s great. If it’s not, we’ve got to practice like a pro. And sometimes, and not just picking on Troy, a young player sometimes you say it, and you say it but they need to understand that no, no it’s unacceptable.”
* The following players did not travel to Detroit: WR Santonio Holmes (foot), RB Chris Ivory (hamstring), RB Joe McKnight (concussion), G Brian Winters (ankle), C Dalton Freeman (ankle), WR Titus Ryan (hamstring) and FB Lex Hilliard (reason unknown).
It was a dreary morning at SUNY Cortland, gray clouds shrouding any sunshine and rain hovering over the mountains in the distance. It was a fitting scene for the Jets' last practice before their preseason opener, a time that is always a little bit quieter and filled with a bit more angst than days prior.
For third-year linebacker Garrett McIntyre, the timing of the Jets' game at Detroit on Friday night could not be better.“I think by the time the first game rolls around, it’s at that point in training camp where guys are getting a little anxious,” he said. “We're all ready to go and start playing for real. I think it comes at a perfect time for us.”McIntyre understands the value of performing well in preseason games, using them as a platform to display some of his abilities that can sometimes be suppressed in a more controlled environment during practice.“Yeah, I’m definitely excited. We’re all getting pretty tired of hitting our own guys and we're kind of chomping at the bit to get out there. Getting a chance to hit other people is going to be fun,” he said. “Games are where you can show what you can do, put a good showing on film, for the coaches and for teams. What you do in practice is obviously important, but games are where you show the finished product.”
As for any personal preference as to who he is looking forward to meeting head-to-head on the field, “Anybody with a different colored jersey” was his immediate response. That is exactly what the Jets have come to expect from Garrett McIntyre, a guy who is simply out there to do his job without the flair or bravado that is so common at his position.After floating around in the Canadian Football League for a few years following a short stint in Arena Football, McIntyre was picked up by the Jets and has shown an innate ability to improve his game with each passing year. Even battling it out with the best players in the world did nothing to slow his development as he racked up Jets highs of 39 tackles and 3.5 sacks last year while playing in all 16 games.
Heading into this season, McIntyre has set his mind on transitioning from more of a pass-rusher and run-stopper into a more complete linebacker.“Coverages, definitely, getting a feel of where to be and getting there at the right time,” he said. “It’s been a little bit of a transition into more of a dropback guy, so I’ve needed to develop that part of my game.“For the always motivated Fresno State alum, perfecting coverages is but the corkscrew in the Swiss Army knife that McIntyre would like to ultimately become.“This year has been more of a transition year for me,” he said. “I’ve been molding my game from someone who mostly rushed the passer or broke up run plays to more of a complete player who can drop back a little more and be on the field for more plays. I think my main focus is to show that I can be a guy that does it all. I want to do a little bit of everything to help this team win.”
The list of disappointments in the Jets 2012 season is numerous. One important player that did not meet expectations was inside linebacker David Harris -- and he knows it.
Once a solid centerpiece of the Jets stalwart defense, Harris was played poorly in 2012. ProFootballFocus ranked him as the 48th best inside linebacker in the league; Football Outsiders ranked him as the 75th best linebacker against the run in 2012. Those aren’t flattering numbers, particularly considering Harris carries the largest cap number for the Jets in 2013.
“I didn’t have as many impact plays as I did the year before,” the linebacker said. “I didn’t get my hands on as many balls. I have to try to be more of a threat in the passing game.”
Asked why he had a down season, Harris couldn’t put a finger on it.
“I have no idea, I have no idea. I just didn’t find myself by the ball. I didn’t have as many pass defensed,” he said.
Teammate and fellow linebacker veteran Calvin Pace said there were only a handful of players on the defense that played well last season.
“When we look back at last year defensively, it really wasn’t that bad of a year statistically, but I just think guys have done better,” Pace said. “I think the consistency wasn’t there. With the standard for Rex, every play is about domination. Don’t me wrong, they (oppoenents) get paid to play too. Sometimes you play against Pro Bowlers, you play against great offensive coordinators. Really if you look at it, the only people who had truly outstanding years was Muhammad (Wilkerson), Cro (Antonio Cromartie), and (LaRon) Landry. That’s just not good enough.”
In 2013, Pace and Harris are the old men in a unit that now carries two second-year players in Demario Davis and Quinton Coples.
“He’s taking a lot more ownership of the team, a lot more ownership of the defense Not that he hasn’t done that in the past. He’s taken that up definitely a couple levels,” Davis said. “You can see it in his work ethic, the way he attacks practices, it brings a lot of intensity, and pushing the linebackers doing the same.”
Harris is generally on the quiet side, but he said he’s trying to take more of a leadership role with the linebackers this season.
“He holds more people accountable this year,” Davis said. “We set a standard for the team, and he holds guys accountable to that standard. How we approach meetings. How we come to practice, different things. He holds a lot of guys accountable to that.
On paper, this Jets defense has a chance to be dynamic, and may just have enough talent to return the Jets to one of the elite defenses in the league.
The defense's soft opening came Friday night when the Jets took on Detroit in their first preseason game of the year.
The Lions present a formidable matchup for any team, running an offense that features QB Matthew Stafford, the newly acquired Reggie Bush and Megatron, a.k.a. Calvin Johnson.
The Jets were up for the task, however, holding the explosive Lions to just one offensive touchdown on the night.
"I thought the first-team defense challenged them,” head coach Rex Ryan said, “Our guys stepped up and I actually liked the way the first team competed. We put them in some tough situations and I thought they played fairly well.”
DE Muhammad Wilkerson, a key factor in the defense, shared similar sentiments about his squad’s performance.
“We just want to come out and be physical up front,” he said, “in the secondary we wanted to be tight on Calvin. We know he is a great player. Overall I think the defense did well coming out there with the ones.”
Wilkerson wasn’t pulling any punches early, getting to backup QB Shaun Hill for a sack, despite being held by LT Riley Reiff, as time wound down in the first quarter.
Linemate and physical anomaly Quinton Coples added a sack of his own minutes later, once again bringing down the embattled Hill after LB Antwan Barnes had him by the jersey.
The line was explosive and was able to show flashes of a serious pass rush, something the Jets have severely lacked over the past few seasons.
Stuffed in the middle of Coples and Wilkerson, first-round draft pick Sheldon Richardson was playing in his first NFL game.
“Great effort,” Wilkerson said of Richardson’s performance, “He is agile and athletic and was finishing plays, not giving up. That is what we ask from him and if he keeps doing that, there will be great things from him.”
Richardson said he had no butterflies, "none whatsoever," as he showed some of the focus he has for his team.
"First things first — we didn’t win,” Richardson said. “But as a defense we were solid. And I'm glad they took Stafford out in the first quarter. We got there a few times."
Richardson finished the evening with three tackles and did not seem intimidated playing under the bright lights of Ford Field. Coples finished with four tackles, his sack, another tackle for loss, and a pass defensed in the backfield.
The biggest eye opener on defense was S Jaiquawn Jarrett, who racked up five tackles and made some terrific plays in the secondary. The second-year man caught Ryan's attention.
“Some guys stepped up in the second half. Jaiquawn Jarrett, without question,” Rex said. “Talk about 'play like a Jet’ — that guy was in there and he did a tremendous job of hitting and communicating. I really liked the way he stepped up.”
Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson did not need anyone to tell him what safety Jaiquawn Jarrett was capable of doing.
The two were college teammates at Temple, and both were taken in the first two rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft. While Wilkerson has flourished with the Jets, Jarrett spent one full season with the Eagles, who took him in the second round, before getting cut.
The Jets signed Jarrett at the end of last year on a futures contract, and he has turned heads in training camp. Yesterday, he was with the starting defense after a strong game Friday night in Detroit.
CAMP CLASH: Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett (left) battles with Jets teammate Josh Bush during practice at training camp.
“In the game, guys on the sideline [were yelling], ‘Hey 37 coming up hitting,’ ” Wilkerson said, referring to Jarrett’s jersey number. “Everyone recognized it in the game.”
For Wilkerson, it was a reminder of the player he knew at Temple. The Jets actually had Jarrett rated highly on their draft board, but the Eagles took him first. In Philadelphia, Jarrett never lived up to his reputation as a hard hitter and sure tackler. Before last season, they let him go.“It’s always difficult,” Jarrett said about spending a year out of football. “You always go through obstacles in life, so getting cut, it was just so surreal. It made me understand and realize how the business is, so I was just thankful for the opportunity that the Jets organization has given me.”
Jarrett is competing with Antonio Allen for the starting safety spot opposite Dawan Landry, and appears to be in the lead right now.“Here’s a guy that from Day 1 has made the most of his reps and his time,” defensive backs coach Tim McDonald said. “He’s gotten better and better every single practice. He’s done an excellent job of learning the defense, understanding what we’re expecting. He’s really done a great job of doing what he’s supposed to.”
McDonald said the job has not been won yet and expects the competition to be close.“Who’s going to be the guy? Who’s going to be the guy that steps up and says, ‘Hey, look, I want to be on the field?’ ” McDonald said. “I want to be the guy in the lineup. I don’t want to count the other guys out. [Allen] made some great plays. He’s made some great strides. I think it’s going to go down to the wire with those guys.”
Quarterbacks aren't to be touched. This is a sacrosanct rule of all NFL practices, be they during training camp or the regular season, and it was the only reason that Jets linebacker Antwan Barnes didn't shatter Geno Smith into a thousand shards on the SUNY-Cortland turf here one day earlier this month.
Barnes hates this rule. How often does he envision driving a quarterback—even one on his own team—into the ground for a sack? "Every day—every day," he said. "I get kind of mad when I can't."
So he came surging off the right edge in that 11-on-11 drill, and no one was close enough to block him, and Smith dropped back and planted his right foot and rooted his body directly in Barnes's path, offering an inviting target. But all Barnes, who stands 6 feet tall and weighs 240 pounds, could do was breeze past Smith and suppress his anger until a later date.
On a defense that generally demands and rewards versatility, Barnes has a single mission: take the shortest route to the opposing quarterback and arrive with terrible intentions. He was so eager to carry out this assignment during the Jets' 26-17 preseason-opening loss to the Detroit Lions on Friday night that he jumped offsides on the game's second play, then did it again during the Lions' second possession. Early in the second quarter, he finally delivered the sort of play that the Jets envisioned from him when they signed him to a three-year free-agent contract in May, bull-rushing a Detroit lineman to collapse the pocket and create an easy sack for teammate Quinton Coples.
"He has the ability to beat one-on-one blocks, and that's crucial," Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said. "Being disruptive is what you're looking for in great pass-rushers. We feel like Antwan is one of those."
Rex Ryan, the Jets' head coach and defensive maharishi, has based much of his tactics on the requirement that several players must be capable of lining up at multiple positions and serving multiple functions. It is a particularly challenging season for Ryan to implement such a strategy, given that the Jets have just four starters returning from last year, and Barnes, 28, is the most conspicuous exception to it.
After recording 11 1/2 sacks for the San Diego Chargers in 2011, he had three in 11 games last season. The regression made him a cost-effective acquisition for Jets general manager John Idzik. The team will pay Barnes just $3.15 million in base salary for the duration of his deal, according to NFL Players Association records. But a deeper look at Barnes's performance suggests that his ostensible decline wasn't nearly as dramatic as it might have seemed.
Data collected by the scouting and statistical firm Pro Football Focus shows that Barnes's "pass-rush productivity"—the number of times he sacked, hit or hurried an opposing quarterback per the number of times he rushed an opposing quarterback—was a still-excellent 10.3 last year, down from 13.8 in his breakout 2011 season. That year, though, Barnes rushed a quarterback 265 times, more than twice as often as he did in 2012 (131 times). "Once I get a certain amount of plays," he said, "I'm going to get a certain amount of production."
The Jets plan to afford him plenty of opportunities; they had just 30 sacks last season, tied for the 25th-most in the NFL.
Drafted by the Baltimore Ravens out of Florida International University in 2007—at the time, Ryan and Thurman were assistants under Ravens head coach Brian Billick—Barnes was already familiar with the Jets' defensive system when they signed him. That understanding made him the perfect upgrade from pass-rushing specialist Aaron Maybin, who struggled to master the Jets' defensive schemes and was cut after failing to record a sack in eight games last season.
Barnes's knowledge of Ryan and Thurman's system will keep him on the field in the Jets' base defense, but he's under no illusions about what his primary role is. "You cannot say, 'Oh, I might, or I might not,'" he said. "When your number's called, it doesn't matter what happens. I've got to get to the quarterback."
Somehow, Rex Ryan got it into his mind that second-year LB Demario Davis was labeled a bust. Hey, sometimes coaches take a perceived slight and turn it into a rallying point. On Monday, Ryan delivered a strong defense of Davis, predicting a big season for the former third-round pick.
New York Jets
0"Really, okay, we'll see if he's a bust," Ryan said. "Now he gets to prove it. The guy can cover, he can run, he can blitz, he can do all. ... He is everything we thought he was, but that will be proved out as this year goes on. That will definitely be proved out.
Davis, who backed up Bart Scott last season, is slated to start at inside linebacker. He will get more preseason reps than other starters because he needs game experience.
NO GUSHING: Other than his horrendous interception for a touchdown in the opener, QB Mark Sanchez has played reasonably well over the last week to 10 days. Reminded of that, Ryan gave a positive, if not enthusiastic evaluation of Sanchez.
"He's had some good days, and he's strung some good days back-to-back-to-back, so that's been encouraging," Ryan said. "The one day when everyone had a bad practice, he had a great one, so that was good."
And that was that.
CUP OF JOE: Ryan was asked if he's exasperated by Joe McKnight various issues -- dehydration, traffic arrest, migraines, etc. Ryan gave a tactful answer, but it wasn't hard to read between the lines: His lack of dependability could cost him.
"These are young men and ... some things come up," Ryan said. "There's nobody that's perfect. But where he's at from a reliability standpoint ... durability is a big thing in this league, so there's no question about it. Has Joe had his moments here? Absolutely he has. When you look at it from a statistical standpoint, Joe averaged over six yards a carry last year, has led this league in kick return [average]. So we know when he's healthy, Joe can be a good contributor for our football team. But right now we've just got to get him healthy."
J.J. GETS A SHOT: Ryan didn't hand the starting free-safety job to Jaiquawn Jarrett, but he said Jarrett will start Saturday against the Jaguars.
"He'll start this week, but I'm not talking about for the season," Ryan said. "I mean, there's some great competition there, there's no doubt. Both those guys played well, but Jaiquawn, I'm like, 'You know what? Let's put him out there, let him work with the [starters] as well, where he gets communication with [Dawan] Landry, and then Antonio [Allen] will get communication with [Josh] Bush and we'll just see what happens.'"
The Jets have erased LaRon and penciled in Dawan as one of the two starting safeties for this season, but the competition for who will be named the starter opposite Landry continues to be a hot topic in training camp.
With Josh Bush expected to back up Landry, a pair of second-year safeties, Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett, have been fighting for reps with the ones.
Allen, a seventh-round pick of the Jets last year, played in seven games while spending the rest of the season on the practice squad.
Jarrett was a second-round pick for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 but failed to remain with the team past the first week of the season last year. Getting cut was “surreal,” he said.
“It made me understand and realize how the business is,” Jaiquawn said, “so I was just thankful for the opportunity that the Jets organization has given me.”
Regardless of where they were drafted or what they’ve done so far in their young NFL careers, it’s an open competition at SUNY Cortland between the two safeties.
“It’s back and forth between me and him,” Allen said. “One guy has to pull off, so I’m trying to do that. Pull off so I can lock down a position and be one of the legit players on the 11-man roster.”
It appeared that Jarrett pulled ahead of Allen following head coach Rex Ryan's comments in Detroit that Jarrett would be running with the ones during this week’s practice.
“What he showed Friday night was what we thought we would bring to the table,” Rex said. “A guy that is extremely physical, and a great tackler, and that’s exactly what he did.”
Allen said that after reviewing the film, Jarrett’s performance stuck out to him as well.
On a third-and-10, for instance, Jarrett blitzed up the middle and laid a back-breaking hit on QB Kellen Moore as he heaved the ball downfield. The throw missed the receiving target, forcing a three-and-out as the punt unit took the field.
“We were just executing the call as a unit,” Jarrett said. “That front seven was getting after them, and everyone was doing their job.”
But the head coach made it clear during Sunday’s news conference and again today that his praise of Jarrett was far from an indictment of Antonio Allen.
“Antonio Allen, also, you go back and watch the tape,” Ryan said. “He played extremely well. That’s going to be a great competition.”
Allen agrees that he played pretty well in the preseason opener, but he made one “unacceptable” mistake when he was supposed to be a deep safety and instead blitzed on a play.
“I just missed the call,” he said.
Luckily, his mental error on the play didn’t cost the team any yardage. “But it could have,” he said. “I’ve just got to be in better position.”
Allen feels as though his second NFL training camp has been “going pretty well,” but it has also come with a fair dosage of “little things” that he needs to work on correcting.
“I just need to learn the defense,” he said, “get it down and take control.”
Whether he starts or not, Jaiquawn Jarrett says his approach on the practice field will be “to do whatever is necessary for me to become a better individual player. No matter where I’m at on the depth chart, I want to make sure I continue to prepare."
As for the next game, against Jacksonville in MetLife Stadium on Saturday, Allen hopes to eliminate any mental lapses and “come out and try to have a better game than [Jarrett] did.”
Antonio Garay has “a lot of history with the New York Jets,” and that’s not referring to his brief stint on the team’s practice squad in ‘09 or to his time as a Jet in the early goings of the ‘13 season.“All my family members went to Hofstra, so I was always around Jet practices,” Garay said. “My older cousin, Carlos, played quarterback and Wayne Chrebet was his receiver. So throughout all my high school years I was always going to Jet games supporting Wayne.”
On Saturday, he’ll play for his hometown team at MetLife Stadium for the first time in green and white.“I come from a very prideful family and community,” the Rahway, N.J., native said, “so being able to come back home and play in my backyard, I’ve got to take a lot of ownership and a lot of pride in everything I do every day.”
As the 33-year-old defensive lineman prepares to enter his eighth season in the NFL, he has taken pride in something that he believes holds the key to winning games: communication.There could be as many as seven new starters on defense this year, head coach Rex Ryan said, making communication even more important this season.“We need to understand that we can play alongside one another and maximize everyone’s abilities,” Garay said, “and once we start to get a better understanding of how to play off one another, I think that there’s a lot of promise and potential in what this defense could do.”
The chemistry along the defensive line has been strong, he said, and continues to get stronger as training camp dwindles down to its final days.“From Mo [Muhammad Wilkerson] to Q [Quinton Coples] to Kenrick [Ellis], Shelly [Sheldon Richardson], Snacks [Damon Harrison], everyone, we’ve all been very insightful with each other," he said. "When you’re able to communicate on the field and get an idea that we all ride for one another, we all play for each other, we have great relationships off the field, and it’s something that grows every day on and off the field.”He’s not a “rah-rah kind of guy,” but Antonio Garay’s “been around the block a little bit” so he does what he can to provide insight to his less-experienced teammates.
At times, however, the veteran teacher often turns to his disciples and becomes a student of the game himself. He’s trying to learn a new system with the Jets, after being away from the team for a few years, and the coaches have been using him at a variety of D-line positions outside of his regular spot at nose tackle.
“It’s kind of like we’re feeding off each other,” he said.
It’s important to understand the assignments of all position groups on defense, not just your own, Garay said.“We all know what the objective is and that’s to stop the opposing team,” he said, “but when you get an idea and an understanding of what the other 10 guys around you are going to do, it makes your job that much easier.”Their understanding of what everyone else on the defense is doing is so strong that “certain guys could play any one of the 11 positions out there,” he said.
OK, so maybe lining the 6’4”, 320-pound Garay at cornerback might not be the best idea. But he and most other guys on this defense would know what their task was supposed to be when the call came in, and that’s important for the defense’s ability to work as one group.Strong communication combined with a “big, strong, physical, athletic team” has Garay excited to see just how successful this Jets squad can be.
Of course, growing up a follower of the Green & White himself, he understands that not all Jets fans share his optimism.
“We’re not worried about what everyone else thinks and plans for us to do at the end of this year,” he said. “We have our own plans, we have our own goals, and I’m pretty confident that we’ll fulfill all those.”
Dennis Thurman, the Jets’ defensive coordinator, has been impressed with the way inside linebacker Demario Davis has performed during training camp. Yet Thurman is trying to persuade Davis to keep his own expectations at a reasonable level.Davis wants to improve in several areas — to become a successful leader, to make big plays and to have a calming influence on his teammates — in his new role as a projected starter. But Thurman wants Davis, a second-year player, to understand that he will still be learning this season.
“He expects himself to get there probably quicker than he is probably going to get there,” Thurman said, adding, “He’s beginning to start to put it together.”
The task is made all the more daunting for Davis, 24, because he is replacing Bart Scott, the boastful linebacker with the booming voice who was his mentor last season. In stepping into his new role, Davis can often be more critical of himself than Thurman, and even Coach Rex Ryan.“I often beat myself too much because I’m trying to understand the game like a seventh- or eighth-year guy,” Davis said. “Some things you have to only learn with the experience, and that frustrates me.”During camp, Davis has shown his speed and athleticism in pass coverage, dimensions many Jets linebackers in recent seasons have lacked. He has deflected passes, from both Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, when covering running backs and tight ends.He has also spent considerable time studying film, going over Ryan’s complex blitz packages, and he has made it a point to ask extra questions in meetings.
“He’s doing a tremendous job,” Ryan said. “He’s everything we thought he would be.”
But Davis still needs experience in games. He wants to get better at reacting to running plays to shed the blocks of offensive linemen.What he does have is the charisma to lead. Davis, who might not be as vocal and as boisterous as Scott, said he knew he needed to speak up more. He said he planned to lead by making the right decisions and building close relationships with teammates, making sure they are all accountable to one another.“I’m not going to be the guy who is at the parties encouraging them to do wrong stuff, or even the guy who drives them home or carries a guy out of a bar, because I’m not going to be there,” he said. “I’m going to be the guy there when a guy is struggling in his marriage, with his kids or in football.”
Davis said his career, and his life, changed in 2008 when he was a sophomore at Arkansas State.“My life was spiraling out of control,” he said. “Though I was a very good athlete, I had very little respect for my coaches, and they had very little dependability on me. Though I had the talent, I was often leading guys in the wrong direction.”He became involved with an on-campus Christian organization, which he said made him respect his talent and his commitment to his team more. In 2011, Davis was a leader on the Arkansas State team that won a Sun Belt Conference title.
That combination of talent and leadership attracted the Jets, who selected Davis in the third round in the 2012 draft. Last season, he played in every game, recorded 36 tackles (15 on special teams) and recovered a fumble.Cornerback Kyle Wilson said Davis brought energy to the veterans on defense with his play and his leadership.“He’s getting better and he wants to be great,” Wilson said. “He’s big on inspiring the guys through his work.”
Running back Chris Ivory, who missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury, participated in his second consecutive practice Tuesday. Ivory said he might play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. ... Rex Ryan and the offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg would not say who was leading the quarterback competition between Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. ... The Jets released tackle Dennis Landolt, signed offensive lineman Patrick Ford and put running back John Griffin on the injured reserve list.
Antonio Allen has a simple mantra whenever he has a question relating to his safety position: ask Dawan.And Allen is not the only safety on the Jets’ roster who thinks that way about Dawan Landry, who is entering his eighth N.F.L. season.
“We all look to him as he’s the guy,” Allen, a second-year player, said. “He’s a good mentor to us.”
The strategy, at first, may seem a bit odd: Landry spent last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.But even if Landry, 30, does not have full comprehension of the playbook, he has far more experience than his fellow safeties. It makes for added responsibility. Landry is not only studying his responsibilities in the secondary; he is making sure he knows Allen’s and everyone else’s.“You always have to think about the team more than yourself,” Landry said. “I have to make sure we get on the same page.”Landry remembers when he was the one seeking advice. After the Baltimore Ravens selected him in the 2006 draft, he asked questions and received wisdom from Ed Reed, Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, all Pro Bowl performers.“I see it as a blessing,” Landry said. “I’m trying to do the same thing those guys did for me.”It helps that he has played in Coach Rex Ryan’s system. Ryan was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator during Landry’s first three seasons in the league, when he compiled five interceptions and four sacks in 34 games. Landry joined the Jets in April, less than a month after his younger brother, LaRon, fresh off his first Pro Bowl selection, left the team and signed a four-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts.
The brothers, while playing the same position, have vastly different personalities. Dawan is soft-spoken and does not seek attention away from the field. LaRon, 28, is known for his rowdy antics, his bulging biceps and his pet, a spider monkey named Mr. Gucci.Last summer, Dawan Landry advised his brother to play with the Jets because of his own experience under Ryan. LaRon responded with 100 tackles, 4 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions last season.Now, many Jets fans want to know if Dawan can match that production. Many have approached him at camp and asked which brother is better.“It depends on who you ask,” he said with a big smile. “If you ask me, I’m going to say me.”Mark Sanchez, competing for the starting quarterback job, praised Landry on Wednesday when he was asked about how the defense had performed in camp. Sanchez said Landry could be the Jets’ best off-season acquisition on defense.
“He’s a tough guy and a rangy guy,” Sanchez said. “He plays really well, and I know Rex loves him.”
In a move to improve communication on the field, Landry has let Allen call out the signals and audibles in the secondary on many plays in practice. Landry wants Allen to see what he notices on the field to make sure the secondary does not have any blown assignments. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie said he had developed such a good rapport with Landry that they could communicate on the field solely through eye contact.After losing Darrelle Revis and LaRon Landry, the Jets’ secondary will be at its best this season when each player knows what the others are doing, Dawan Landry said.
“We have to be the tightest group on defense,” Landry said, “because we are the last line of defense.”
Coach Rex Ryan said the rookie quarterback Geno Smith had his worst practice in camp on Wednesday, the Jets’ last in Cortland, N.Y. Smith, who sprained his right ankle in Friday’s preseason game, threw four interceptions, including three in the 11-on-11 scrimmage. “That was brutal,” Ryan said. “Obviously, the ankle is part of it, but he had way too many picks. He did not look comfortable today. We’ve seen guys have bad days, but this was a really bad day for Geno.”
From the moment the Jets signed Antwan Barnes on March 19, his placement in the defensive puzzle has been clear.
“My role is just to get after the passer,” the seventh-year linebacker said. “That’s been my role since they got me here and I understand that, so I’m just coming in and doing that.”It’s a role that Barnes has proven to be more than capable of fulfilling. Despite just five starts and limited playing time throughout his NFL career, he has 23.5 sacks. He’s just two seasons removed from recording 11 sacks with the San Diego Chargers, the first and only time that he played in all 16 games.
The Jets hope the veteran LB will be able to repeat the number of games played in that career-best 2011 season. For now, however, they’ll be asking him to contribute as a fresh body coming off the bench.“I don’t think starting was part of it,” Barnes said about signing with the Jets. If someone goes down, or when his number is called to give someone a breather, he’s ready to do what he does best.“Just going out there and getting after the passer,” he said. “If I have to drop in coverage, drop in coverage. Make no mental mistakes, and go out there and be a Jet.”
He used training camp to improve his overall game, not narrowing his focus to just one or two aspects.
“I tried to improve on everything,” he said, “and just got better at my craft and just got better with Rex [Ryan]’s scheme. I worked on being a better pass rusher, a better run protector, a better teammate, everything.”While many first-year Jets struggle with learning Ryan's defense, Antwan Barnes has an advantage of having played under his head coach before. Ryan served as Barnes’ defensive coordinator in Baltimore during the 2007 and ’08 seasons.“Once I came in here,” Antwan said, “the scheme and all of the name calls were the same so when I came in, that light just turned back on.”
Mark Sanchez is happy to know that he’s out of harm’s way, as he’ll watch one of the league’s effective pass rushers go after any quarterback not wearing green and white.“I know Rex was fired up about getting Barnesy in here,” Sanchez said. “That’s another big pickup for us that can help our pass rush.”
When you watch rookie Sheldon Richardson doing anything, he is having fun. Whether it is on the field or off, Richardson carries himself with a youthful exuberance that seems only natural for a 22-year-old living his childhood dream.Even the nerves that are natural for any rookie playing in his first professional game were no match for the exuberant defensive tackle Friday night in Detroit.“I was out there having too much fun to have any pressure on me,”Sheldon said.“I’ve been playing football for a while and I’m just embracing the moment.”
Saturday night the Jets welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars into MetLife Stadium for the second game of the preseason. This game will have a slightly different feel, however, as Jets Nation will be getting its first sight of their beloved Gang Green under the bright lights of their home ballpark.“It’s going to be exciting, man — first home game!” Richardson said. “Get to put that green jersey on, I can’t wait. I just hope we get a big fan base to come out and get us started.”
The past three weeks have been a series of ups and downs for everybody on the Jets roster, each practice complete with its own laundry list of impressive plays and some not-so-impressive ones.Richardson did not feel it was his place to gauge his performance through the entirety of camp.“I don’t really have an overall say,” he said, “I worked hardy every day, got better. That’s for the coaches to decide. I just know I give 100 percent every play.”While the Missouri product may not have much to say about his own play, his performance during camp has caught the eye of his coaches and teammates. Antonio Cromartie, one of the most valuable members of the Jets defense, had nothing but praise for the rookie defensive tackle.“I love the way he carries himself.” Cromartie said after the final camp practice Wednesday. “He’s a guy that can make a lot of plays for us. He has the confidence in himself to go out and play at this level.”
The daily grind of an NFL training camp coupled with the pressure associated with being a first-round draft pick has the tendency to wear on a player over time. But even as the Jets broke camp early Thursday and headed home to the Atlantic Health Training Center, Sheldon Richardson is not allowing himself any deep breaths.“You have to stay full; you have to stay focused, man, pedal to the metal,” he said. “This is only the preseason. I know it’s a whole other animal when the season rolls around. I have to make sure I’m ready for that. For me, there’s no pedaling down.”As impressive as Richardson had been throughout the Jets' time at SUNY Cortland, he also made it clear that that he’s got a lot more in store for opposing offense as well as fans of the Green & White.“My pass rush moves?” he said with his ever-present grin. “I got a few more up my sleeve.”