Jets QB Kellen Clemens runs 11 on 11 drills after a sloppy start. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Old fashioned coaching tactics paved the way to salvage a very physical practice that started slow for Gang Green.
After a long period of time in which the Jets’ offense looked sloppy, missing assignments and being run over by the defense, Coach Eric Mangini figured sending the crew for the lap of shame might snap them back into place.
It did just that.
Shortly after Kellen Clemens entered the offensive team on 11 on 11 drills, Alvin Banks, the team’s running back on the specific play, was missing from the backfield. Clemens noticed the absence and, seeing only five seconds left on the play clock, began shouting for Banks to get in the lineup.
Banks, clearly unsure of what his role was for the play, hesitated in getting in on the play. This set Mangini off, as he yelled to the offense “You can’t get a guard in, you can’t get a running back in; go, just go.”
Sure enough, the entire offensive team embarked on the most attended lap around the field in recent memory, punishment for being outmatched by the defense for the first two hours of practice. Mangini noted that the offense needed a reality check.
“[The lap] was a combination of two or three things, and I explained to the team after practice, we have all day. We have all day to practice, and I’m perfectly content to stay out there all day.”
Perhaps living up to the title of “Mangenius,” the dreaded lap ended up turning the practice around for the offense. After another short set of 11 on 11 drills that included some Hail Mary passes, the team moved up to the goal line for six plays between the offense and defense. For the first time all practice, the offense came out on top, four to two.
“What I was pleased about was that the offense at that point had not been having a good practice,” Mangini said. “It got down to a competitive live drill - it was a game.
It was the difference between three and seven, and the offense won it.”
Jonathan Vilma, the core of the Jets’ defense, felt that just as much as the offense may have won the drill, the defense also lost it.
“We lost, so I didn’t really take much away from it,” Vilma said. “I was mad.”
Next to Vilma on occasion, and also working with the second team, has been the second round Michigan product David Harris. The linebacker has tapped into Vilma’s mind for football help throughout the offseason, and it appears to be helping.
“All of the veterans help out the rookies any chance they get, and we try to soak everything in,” Harris said. “[Vilma] gives me a heads up on runs and different plays before the [ball] is snapped.
Harris has yet to perfect his role as a linebacker, though. While his enthusiasm on the defensive side of the ball is something Mangini and other coaches alike love, sometimes the second rounder becomes over zealous.
“I think David’s done a nice job to this point, [but] I think he and I had an understanding yesterday on the importance of staying onsides,” Mangini said. “The enthusiasm needs to be tempered until the ball is snapped.
Jumping offsides on occasion is something that the coaches can help Harris fix in training camp. The team’s highest profile draft pick, Darrelle Revis, remained off the field for the ninth practice due to his contractual holdout, though. Harris has had a first hand experience of how important the first training camp practices are for rookies.
“Football is hard,” Harris said. “A lot of stuff gets thrown at you, and you have to be able to adapt and get through it.”
The other favorite off-the-field drama for media outlets has been the Pete Kendall saga. Reaching day five, Kendall was again on the exercise bike, a tactic that has not been strategically employed by the offensive line and the Jets’ front office to keep his body healthy and his trade stock high.
“I don’t think anybody is keeping me off the field,” the lineman said. “I have an injury.
Mangini did not want to comment on Kendall, feeling as though all questions about the scenario had been completely exhausted.
With the first three fourths of the morning practice belonging to the defense, the offensive side made a statement, getting the last laugh with a final surge stemming from a team lap. This afternoon’s 5:45 practice should prove whether or not the offensive momentum will continue to blossom, or if Vilma and the defense can get back on track.
Smith Running Quadruple Duty?
Everybody knows that QB turned WR turned QB Brad Smith has been seen in the pocket throwing passes, on the wings receiving passes, and down the field returning punts. Today, though, Smith added a new angle to his arsenal: the running game.
While running 11 on 11 drills, Smith shifted from the wide receiver the tailback position more than a few times, getting the handoff from Pennington or Clemens.
“Those guys [running backs] are tough, and I enjoy getting back there and getting it done, trying to get some yards.
It appears evident that Smith’s usage as a utility player is something Mangini has decided to take advantage this season, meaning the Missouri product will have an important role in New York this year.
Who would have thought that the most popular topic after Revis and Kendall would be the choice of music for team practices?
Once again, each player at practice was asked about the tunes selected by Mangini for the drills, with varying responses coming across the board.
Kerry Rhodes, on one hand, hated the soft rock the team was playing.
Justin McCareins, on another hand, said he zones out the music, utilizing it solely as a noise distraction.
Quarterback Chad Pennington, however, seems to be the biggest proponent of the system.
“As long as he plays one country song for me, I’m good to go.”
Ware’s the Answer
With Cedric Houston an afterthought in the Jets’ running scheme, 22-year-old Danny Ware, a rookie out of Georgia, has emerged as a favorite to be the Jets No. 3 back.
Showing flashes of brilliance at practice on running plays in full team drills, Ware has been acknowledged by Mangini as a pleasant surprise in camp.
“I think with both Danny and Alvin [Banks], there’s really good, young competition there,” Mangini said.
As long as Ware can continue to blossom in return drills, according to Mangini, he will have a spot on the Jets’ roster come opening day.
No Doubt About It: Chad’s No. 1
Last year, questions across camp were whether or not Chad Pennington would be the team’s starting quarterback. One year later, Mangini has absolutely no doubt about it.
“There’s not much I dislike with Chad,” Mangini said. “I liked today when things were not going the offense’s way, Chad was able to get those [offensive] guys, refocus them, and change the way things are going; change the momentum.”
Pennington had a strong practice today, hitting Jerricho Cotchery for the catch of the day in the back corner of the endzone for a touchdown early in practice.
All signs point to him keeping this play up, except perhaps his touchdown dance.
“He needs to work on his celebration a bit,” the head coach joked.
Condolences for Walsh
Former San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Bill Walsh’s passing has rattled throughout the NFL as one of the saddest stories in recent memory. Both Mangini and Pennington acknowledged the pioneer’s death, portraying how dearly he will be missed.
“He was just such an amazing coach and an amazing person. He really changed the game,” Mangini said. “He is someone that will be missed personally and professionally.”
“That’s a shock,” Pennington added. “A name like Bill Walsh, a guy like Bill Walsh; you just think a guy like that is going to live forever.”
The team returns to the field later today for a 5:30 aftenoon session. Be sure to check back to JI for a complete report!