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Jets LB Vernon Gholston is looking to make the most of his opportunity with Calvin Pace out the first month of the season. (JetsInsider.com Photo)
And than that happened
No doubt about it, Kellen Clemens was having a great morning. He
looked comfortable in the pocket and was dispersing the ball superbly
between his receivers and running backs. The two high notes were a
perfect fade thrown to a diving Dustin Keller near the sideline as
pressure clamped the pocket, and a long completion to Jerricho
Cotchery, beating double coverage on the play. Unfortunately for
Clemens, his performance was sullied by two interceptions as the
session concluded. The second turnover could be credited to offseason
signee Jim Leonhard. “Jim’s great at disguising coverage,” said Rex
Ryan afterward, in defense of Clemens, who he praised for having
excellent rhythm and tempo.
The Sanchez Chronicles
It was another inconsistent day for Mark Sanchez, who continues to
force passes into tight coverage, especially in the middle of the
field. Rex Ryan commented afterward it was only logical that his
competition, Kellen Clemens, would be exhibiting a finer grasp of the
offensive system, being that he’s operated within it since his rookieseason. That can’t be counted against Sanchez, who is sure to progress through training camp and into the regular season. Even still,
Clemens’ advanced acclimation represents a major point in his favor.
Had the Jets cut ties with Clemens after drafting Sanchez and bought
in a veteran unfamiliar with the intricacies of Brian Schottenheimer’s
game plan, this variable would not have benefited the rookie’s
opponent. As it stands, if Clemens wins the job, this factor could be
a major reason why.
The Jets ran two plays out of the Wildcat today, both resulting in
Thomas Jones drops, as he attempted to field wobbly passes on the move
from Leon Washington. One wonders if this formation will see the
light of day in the regular season. Not that there isn’t potential…there always is when Washington has the ball in his hands.
Shonn Greene has an engine. Rex Ryan singled him out, crediting the
rookie running back for absorbing some wicked hits in the exercise he
jokingly dubbed “the run-over” drill. Greene kept battling, which Ryan
“I think it’s a great coaching staff and the players are great.
Everybody looks after one another. It’s like a brotherhood.” – Greene
on being a Jet.
Jim Leonhard may have denoted the Jets’ new defensive philosophy after
his interception in the morning practice. After nabbing the turnover,
Leonhard pitched the ball backward to corner Lito Sheppard. It was a
play that may have boiled the blood of many coaches, but one that Rex
Ryan endorsed whole-heartedly. “I don’t know if Jets fans have seenthat. I’ve played with Ed [Ravens’ safety Ed Reed] for a year and
we’re going to put it in the end zone however we can. We have a lot of
fun, especially in practice… you might see that on Sunday. It’s a
little Ed Reed… now I know Lito has the hands, so I have one guy to
pitch it too. “
Chansi Stuckey is an interesting case. A quick, diminutive pass
catcher, he’s your typical flea, perfect for causing chaos out of the slot. Two years ago, Stuckey was a sleeper coming into camp, a seventh round gamble who had a distinguished career at Clemson.
a foot injury placed him on injured reserve on September 12th,
rendering his rookie campaign barely a pro baptism. These difficult
circumstances have sent many a young receiver with a similar profile
into permanent purgatory, waiver wire fodder. But Chansi persevered,
overcoming his injuries to become a threat, grabbing 32 passes and
scoring three touchdowns. It was a welcome development to be sure,
but now, the Jets may be asking for more. And should they continue
with the gambit, forgoing options like Matt Jones, they could be
asking for too much.
After the Jets and Laveranues Coles divorced for the second time this
past offseason, they left themselves without a proven number two
receiver on the depth chart. [Coles entered 2008 as option A. but had
clearly ceded that role to Jerricho Cotchery by December] They will
attempt flanking their new number one with a cast that will
undoubtedly condemn him to double-coverage. The Jets will leave this
task to good stories, like Stuckey, projects with tantalizing talent,
such as Brad Smith, and cult heroes of preseason’s past, like David
Clowney. Each of them must realize that this training camp may
represent the best chance they ever get to establish themselves as
starting caliber players. Stuckey, for one, isn’t changing his
approach. When queries about his mind-set amid what will surely be a
heated competition, “Nah,” Stuckey said, “I’m just going to go out and
make plays.” He reiterated this point often, “Just make plays.”
Someone will have to.
Ultimately, this call will belong to Rex Ryan. Cotchery is the
absolute essential factor in this equation, but even he may be a bit
of a mystery to the mainstream segment of the football population.
This fact wasn’t lost on Ryan. “He’s had a thousand yard seasons. I
saw him up close and personal in Baltimore, when he almost beat us by
himself. We couldn’t cover him. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t boast or
brag…” Really though, Cotchery’s star status is an immaterial concern
for the Jets. The coaching staff is aware of his importance, and,
should he shine with a limited supporting staff, perhaps a few
endorsements will come around too.
The real questions concern Stuckey and company. “Stuckey’s great in
the slot,” said Ryan, before smiling and deadpanning, “Well, why move
him out of the slot?” Perfect reasoning of course, but that still
leaves a hole across from Cotchery.
“Brad Smith could be the number
two guy,” said Ryan. “He’s a tough guy, real tough guy. He can catch.
Has size. He really has everything. So why can’t he play?” Indeed,
Smith possesses all the measurable qualities, capable of feats for the
highlight reels, his jumping, swirling, juggling grab against the
Titans on the Opening Sunday of the 2006 season particularly
memorable. Smith’s development has been a long-term venture, not a
shock considering he was a quarterback during his celebrated collegian
career. Smith is now entering his fourth season however, and is still
defined by momentary flashes.
Perhaps the Jets are hoping for an
ascension similar to Cotchery’s, who was notoriously underutilized byHerm Edwards in favor of the disappointing Justin McCareins. When
Mangini took over, one of his first maneuvers was to install the
heretofore-unknown Cotchery as a starter. Mangini remarked, almost
nonplussed, that Cotchery always looked great on tape, and was
surprised he had not been given a chance to shine. As Rex Ryan spoke
of Smith, his tone was similar. With a coach who truly believes in him
and consistent reps, perhaps Brad Smith could finally breakout.
Ryan eventually moved on to discuss Wallace Wright, his stock
seemingly falling after a rough first day. “Wallace had a great
minicamp. Sometimes you have to step back to step forward.” Whether
the Jets’ receiving depth can step-up could determine their season.
The best catch of the morning practice belonged to Jerricho Cotchery.
Kellen Clemens found him streaking down the sideline. Cotchery caught
it in stride, a noteworthy play because he was well covered by two
defensive backs. This image may become familiar.
Jets LB Vernon Gholston has been watched very carfeully by the media these first two days of camp. Throttled in the spotlight due to the suspension of Calvin Pace for the first four games, Gholston has been annointed the starter by Ryan. Does he feel the heat? If he is, you can't tell. he was cool as a cucumber answering questions from the media today.
Gholston said today his focus is learning the system and really that has been his biggest challenge since he was drafted the #6 player in last year's draft. Even though he had an extremely disappointing rookie season where he had just 5 tackles and no sacks and at one point he didn't even dress for a game, he fell under the radar last season mostly due to the Brett Favre hoopla. However, this season everyone will be watching very carefully to see if this physical specimen can live up to his hype of 2008.
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