Sixth round pick OL Jacob Bender stretches out before his first NFL practice today. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Prior to draft day, making the assertion that the Jets would have one of the biggest rookie names at minicamp may have been farfetched. Not too many high profile players usually slip to the No. 25 pick of the draft (including Brady Quinn).
However, after making the first big deal on draft day, the Jets saw themselves locked in with the No. 14 pick on draft day, selecting Darrelle Revis with what would be one of their four eventual selections for the entire day.
As a result, when the rookies stepped onto the field for practice on the first day of minicamp, it was easy to see why the cornerback out of Pittsburgh drew nearly all the hype.
Revis drew a whirlwind of excitement from the crowd during the 45 minute media session, fielding punts and drawing praise from coaches, at one time getting a “Good job Darrelle” following a defensive run through.
The cornerback probably felt relieved to get on the practice field, noting that the events following his selection have left him in a daze.
“My head’s been spinning everywhere. I’m getting a lot of phone calls from endorsements and everything,” Revis said. “Today I’m excited to be here and learn the system.”
Mangini felt that Revis was adapting to the new system well in his first day of practices, impressed by the cornerback’s day.
“I’ve been pleased with his work ethic, [and] its what I expected in talking to him and talking to people that knew him,” the coach said. “I think he worked real well today.”
Mangini echoed Revis’ comments as well, saying that it will take the Pittsburgh alumnus some time to get used to the system.
Although Revis may have garnered all of the preseason excitement, other rookies, undrafted free agents and other hopeful players were looking to make a splash in front of head coach Eric Mangini.
Perhaps the most visible addition outside of Revis, linebacker David Harris from Michigan stood out among the hopefuls. The six-foot-two, 243 lb. second round selection, Harris was looking to prove to coaches and fellow rookies that his uncanny run stopping ability will continue on the next level.
“I’m just trying to do my job,” Harris said, referring to his expectation to be a run stuffer in the next level.
“Anytime you play football, expectations are high, because everyone is trying to win. That’s my only objective,” he added.
Harris showed why he was worthy of a second round draft pick during the afternoon session, being quite vocal during the practice. His leadership qualities are not the only thing Mangini is excited about for the upcoming season, though.
“I really liked his inherent leadership, his presence,” Mangini said, adding he played “very fluid in the passing game” during numerous run throughs.
The team’s other two selections, offensive tackle Jacob Bender from Nicholls State, and wide receiver Chansi Stuckey from Clemson, teamed up with a plethora of other rookies looking to stick out as much as the two early round defensive selections. Coach Mangini acknowledged the two fellow rookies, and other roster hopefuls, believing that they can make as much of an impact as Revis and Harris can.
“I think part of this process when you’ve got as many guy as we have try out is getting to know them, and the best way that they can help themselves is flash on the screen or flash in the classroom,” Mangini said. “We found a lot of positive players through this last year.”
A couple of other rookies actually did manage to gain some attention, showing that big names aren’t the only players with a shot at making the opening game roster. Jesse Pellet-Rossa, a former basketball player from Virginia Commonwealth University, lined up opposite Stuckey during offensive run throughs, perhaps suggesting he is the No. 2 choice of Mangini next to Stuckey. Pellet-Rosa also encouraged his fellow wide receivers numerous times during practice, showing that he will look to step up as a leader over the next three days.
Xavier Lawson-Kennedy, a defensive lineman from Oklahoma State, stood out as one of the most impressive lineman at the practice, gaining the praise of numerous coaches that oversaw his work.
In addition, hard-hitting Matt King, a linebacker from Maine, managed to knock over a couple of guys during non-contact one on one and three on three drills, (albeit perhaps accidentally), showing that he is at the minicamp to compete.
Perhaps the most essential part of the minicamp, though, was the idea of team-building and camaraderie enhancement. Each rookie appeared to be gelling with one another, despite the unspoken feeling of competition between all of the players.
“We’re all rookies here and we’re here for the same reason,” Revis said. “We’re all friends here and its been great.”
Harris echoed Revis’ sentiments, acknowledging the competitive angle as well.
“You know, we’re all competing, but we’re all trying to build relationships with each other,” Harris said.
Regardless of any sort of competition that occurs during minicamp, though, it is plain to see that come season time, the 48 rookies that debuted on Saturday will be playing to be part of the opening day team, once again working toward a playoff run in the AFC East. And despite the preseason competition betwixt one another, as Revis said, when all was said and done, the best part of opening weekend on September 9 will be playing as a team against the Patriots.
“I love wearing green,” the cornerback said. “Green and white is for me.”
-The Next Chrebet?
Sure, Chansi Stuckey’s selection in the seventh round may have been more of a special teams selection. Besides, his return skills have undeniable upside with a 40-yard dash time of 4.34.
However, the supposedly undersized, injury-riddled Clemson wide receiver may be the next Wayne Chrebet, and step up as a new option for Chad Pennington.
Stuckey had the talent of a third rounder, but saw his stock plummet due to externalities such as bulk and durability. The predictions of experts have no bearing on Stuckey’s confidence, though.
“You can’t be intimidated anymore, you’ve just got to go out and play,” Stuckey said. “When you get an opportunity, you’ve just got to grasp it.”
After seeing the success of an undersized Wayne Chrebet, and the unexpected breakout season of Jerricho Cotchery, fans may be hearing more about Stuckey than just as a kick return specialist by the end of the season.
-A Different Taste of Pittsburgh
While all hype surrounds Revis, another player with ties to Pittsburgh has received the opportunity to try and earn a roster spot. However, in Jesse Pellot-Rosa’s case, the ties are a little bitterer.
Pellot-Rosa, mentioned above as a dark horse to get some time at wide receiver, was a member of the Cinderella Virginia Commonwealth team that nearly made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Division I Basketball Championships. The basketball standout received a call immediately following a second round loss to Pittsburgh University from the Jets. Originally intending to pursue basketball at the next level, the former high school wide receiver embraced the chance to play for an NFL organization.
“Once I got the phone call, I said hey, this is another great opportunity for me,” Pellot-Rosa said.
Regarding his emotions after the phone call, though, Pellot-Rosa still couldn’t shake the Pittsburgh outcome.
“I was still mad about the loss,” the wideout said. “I was ready to play UCLA.”
Jets’ General Manager Mike Tannenbaum announced the signing of 14 rookie free agents earlier in May to participate in the rookie minicamps. Among the players added to the preseason roster were eight offensive players and six defensive players.
Offensive players of note that were signed were running back Alvin Banks out of James Madison, who finished third in career rushing at JMU with 2,694 yards, quarterback Brett Ratliff, who succeeded San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith at Utah, and running back Kyle Steffes, the first North Dakota State back to rush for over 1,000 yards three times in his career.
On the opposite side of the ball, defensive end Matt King out of Maine, a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the nation’s best Division I-AA defensive player, and Wisconsin’s Mark Zalewski, a middle linebacker who led the team with 90 tackles last season, were also signed.
Other signings included fullback Jesse Allen from Virginia Tech, defensive tackle Mike Devito from Maine, defensive back Caleb Hendrix from Southern Miss, offensive lineman Dominic Moran from Western Michigan, wide receiver Dustin Osborn from Colorado State, safety Leonard Peters from Hawaii, offensive lineman Nick Smith from San Diego State, defensive end Jason Trusnik from Ohio Northern and offensive lineman Andrew Wicker from Mississippi.
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