New Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini runs his first official practice today. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
The official start of the Eric Mangini era began this afternoon as the Jets held their first minicamp for rookies only.
To begin the day the Jets announced that a total of 40 players would be participating in the weekend camp which consisted of 10 draft picks, 14 signed undrafted free agents and 16 tryout players (see complete list of UDFA's and Tryout players in the tidbits below).
The team and coaching staff were very excited to finally get out of meeting rooms and class rooms and actually play some football.
“Today was a very important day,” head coach Eric Mangini said. “After spending countless hours preparing for the draft, setting up schemes, and looking at free agents it was just great to get out there and actually work on football.”
Mangini has made it clear that the young rookies can put their collegiate careers behind them now; he does not care what they have done to earn a spot on the Jets, now it is time to get down to work and find a way to contribute. He has stressed hard work and fitting in to the first timers at mini-camp.
“I want to have a smart, tough, hard-working, and competitive team,” Mangini said. “Everyone has to find where they fit in on this team and how they can contribute positively on the field.”
Whether the player is a first round draft pick, like left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, or a recently signed, undrafted free agent, like defensive lineman Darrell Adams, every player must go through the same learning process. Although Mangini said the practice went as expected today, he wants to see the team, especially the rookies, make progress every single day. The first year head coach is looking to instill a culture of hard work and competition around the team.
There were some bumps in the morning, which are to be expected when you have a group of guys in both players and the coaching staff that are working together for the first time, Mangini said. The team looked much better in the afternoon progress.
“The tempo and the effort were there, but the results could have been better,” Mangini said. “The rookie must continue to work hard. They should understand what it takes to play in the NFL by the time the veterans report to camp.”
The media access to practice was very limited today where the press was not invited to the morning session and only allowed to view 40 minutes of the hour and a half afternoon practice where it was mostly agility drills. There were no 7 on 7 or 11 on 11 drills where you could see actual football being played. Furthermore, top pick Ferguson was practicing at the far corner of the lower field where you needed a high powered telephoto lens to even see what he was doing.
Although Mangini said he did not want to single out any player who shined or flopped their first day in the NFL, he did admit that quarterback Kellen Clemens displayed some strong leadership qualities in the afternoon session. When guys were misaligned on the line of scrimmage, the second round draft pick would direct them where to go.
Another positive was fourth round draft pick Brad Smith. Smith, a quarterback at Missouri in college, began his transition to wide receiver today. He looked sharp for the most part but did have his struggles, including one play where he slipped on a cut in his route then had the ball fly over his head as he fell.
Still, Smith seems to have bought into everything Mangini has said about finding a role on the team. Though he wears the number of a familiar Jets quarterback, Vinny Testaverde’s 16, Smith says he is prepared to come in and work hard to make the switch to wide receiver.
“I am willing to do whatever the coaches ask me to do,” Smith said Friday. “I just want to contribute to the team being competitive.”
Smith has not struggled with the mental part of the transition. As a former quarterback, the rookie is used to learning full playbooks. It is the on the field route-running and such that Smith must continue to work on. Although Smith looked pretty good in the first day of practice, even he realizes it is far too early to start Antwaan Randle El comparisons.
You may have noticed that the Jets two first round picks are conspicuously absent from this article so far. The reason for this is because this camp does not feature players in pads. That means there is no big hitting. The big men like Ferguson and former Ohio State Buckeye Nick Mangold, the 29th overall pick, have not been doing heavy blocking drills, only working on hitting their assignments on each play.
“It is hard to really appreciate the big guys right now,” Mangini said. “They are working hard to learn their assignments but you’ll appreciate the impact they have a lot more when we put the pads on.”
Thus far the rookie class has also gelled well as a unit. Several players told stories of the team sitting around joking about movie quotes during down-time on Thursday night. From Ferguson, to Mangold, to linebacker Anthony Schlegel the players say they are having a great time working with one another.
Mangini noticed the synergy between the players during Friday’s afternoon session.
“This afternoon I saw 11 guys playing together on offense and 11 guys playing together on defense,” the head coach said in his Friday press conference.
The other big news of the day was QB Chad Pennington's declaration to the media yesterday that he will be 100% and ready to go when training camp comes in July. Mangini respects Pennington's optimism.
"To me, that's one of the things I love about Chad and I respect about Chad," said the Coach. "He's competitive, he's hard working, he's determined. That's what I'd expect from any player who's gone through the things he's gone through. He's exceeded my expectations in terms of the way that he approaches things and his professional attitude. I expect those things from a competitor of his nature."
He didn't though give any indication that Pennington will be the number one QB going into camp.
"I think, you know, Chad, Patrick (Ramsey), Brooks (Bollinger), Kellen, they're all in the mix," said Mangini. "They all need to compete. Whoever does the best job, that's the guy that's going to play."
While Mangini admitted that many of the players were probably slightly “shell-shocked” from their first NFL experience, he and the rest of the team will look to forward as mini-camp continues through this weekend.
Here is the list of the 14 undrafted free agents signed by the Jets today and short bios (courtesy, NY Jets).
DL Darrell Adams (Villanova), DT/OT Tui Alailefaleula (Washington), WR Maurice Avery (Memphis), DE/LB Craig Bailey (Nevada-Reno), T Ed Blanton (UCLA), LB Michael Brown, Jr. (Howard), LB Blake Costanzo (Lafayette), P/K D.J. Fitzpatrick (Notre Dame), WR Deqawn Mobley (Texas A&M), RB DonTrell Moore (New Mexico), DT Brennan Schmidt (Virginia), S Jamie Thompson (Oklahoma State), LB Will Thompson (Georgia) and QB/WR/RB Stacy Tutt (Richmond).
Adams (6-5, 282), is a native of Bay Shore, NY and a graduate of Islip High School on Long Island. He went on to start 38 times over four seasons at Villanova and collected 153 tackles with 13.5 sacks for minus 90 yards, 44 stops for losses of 161 yards and 25 quarterback pressures.
Alailefaleula (6-4, 350), was a four-year letterman for the Washington Huskies, splitting time over the course of his collegiate career between the offensive and defensive lines.
Avery (6-1, 208), was a record-setting wide receiver at Memphis, who unselfishly moved from receiver to quarterback midway through the 2005 season after the Tigers’ first two quarterbacks suffered injuries, and guided the Tigers to a 5-2 record as the starting quarterback and a bid to the Motor City Bowl. He also was a contributing member to the nationally ranked Memphis basketball squad.
Bailey (6-4, 265), was a four-year letterman for the Nevada Wolf Pack. He played in 40 career intercollegiate contests, starting 25 of the games, and registered 83 tackles, 18.5 tackles for losses, seven sacks, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and an interception that he returned for a touchdown.
Blanton (6-9, 330), was a three-year starter and four-year letterman for the UCLA Bruins. He was the undisputed leader of the Bruins’ nationally ranked squad in 2005, started 36-of-37 games over the last past three seasons and helped Maurice Drew rush for over 1,900 yards in that span.
Brown (6-4, 250), was a four-year letterman for the Howard Bisons and was a mainstay for the nationally ranked Howard program that competes on the NCAA 1-AA level. He played in 35 career games and collected 89 tackles, 31 tackles for losses and 11 sacks.
Costanzo (6-1, 235), is a native of Ramapo, NJ and a graduate of Lafayette College. He was a second-team All-Patriot League selection in both 2004 and 2005 and completed his career for the Lafayette Leopards with 307 tackles and 18 sacks.
Fitzpatrick (6-1, 208), was one of the top dual kicker/punters in college football for Notre Dame. He also earned the starting punter duties midway through the 2003 season and finished his career as one of the most prolific scorers in Notre Dame history with 205 points.
Mobley (6-2, 210), is a native of the Bronx, NY and DeWitt Clinton High School, played in 22 games for the Texas A&M Aggies after transferring from City College of San Francisco. During his two seasons with the Aggies, he made 35 receptions for 546 yards for a 15.6 avg. and three touchdowns.
Moore (5-10, 208), owns University of New Mexico and Mountain West Conference records with 4,973 yards rushing, ranking 13th in NCAA Division 1-A history. He became only the sixth Division 1-A runner to gain over 1,000 yards rushing in each of his four seasons, joining Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh (1973-76), Amos Lawrence of North Carolina (1977-80), Denvis Manns of New Mexico State (1995-98), Ron Dayne of Wisconsin (1996-99) and Cedric Benson of Texas (2001-04).
Schmidt (6-3, 290), was a four-year starter and two-time team captain (2004-2005) at Virginia who started every game of his career on the collegiate level. He became the first player in school history to start 50 games, starting 51 games in his career and tied an ACC record for most career starts with N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers and Maryland guard C.J. Brooks.
Jamie Thompson (6-0, 192), was a three-year letterman for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He began his collegiate career at Butler Community College in Kansas before transferring to OKSU. He finished his collegiate career with 181 career tackles, seven-and-a-half sacks, five passes defensed, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Will Thompson (6-3, 255), played in 50 games on the collegiate level for the perennially ranked Bulldogs. He made 37 starts and collected 107 tackles, 24.5 tackles for losses, 14.5 sacks for 110 yards along with an interception, a pass defensed and recovered fumble.
Tutt (6-2, 235), departs the University of Richmond as one of the most explosive offensive players in school history. His 6,872 yards of total offense rank him second all-time in school annals. He finished his career with 5,318 passing yards—the third most in school history, while his 160 points are fourth on the Spiders' career list.
The Jets also invited the following undrafted players in for tryouts this weekend:
DB Omowale Dada (Washington State), QB John Davis (NC State), DE Tearrius George (Kansas State), RB Nick Hartigan (Brown), DB Rolando Humphrey (SMU), DB Jovon Johnson (Iowa), LB Anthony Jordan (Toledo), TE Joe Kowalewski (Syracuse), DB Pierre Lee (Virginia State), OL Kevin McAlmont (Western Carolina), LB/DE Justin Parish (Kent State), DL Sam Segond (Rutgers), C EZ Smith (Penn State), TE Brian Watje (San Jose State), LB Bryan White (Virginia), WR Wallace Wright (North Carolina).
None of the tryout players are guaranteed contracts.
Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com for all the latest minicamp news!
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