With the fourth and final preseason game next on their ledger and camp in Cortland receding deeper into the memory bank, the Jets are rapidly approaching a finished product.
Practice today typified that notion. The desperation so evident on the field only a week or so prior is giving way to a new groove keyed by routine, the depth chart solidifying, roster spots cemented. There are still eighty players here in Jersey, but according to Ryan at his presser, only six or so are really on the bubble, fighting each other for a shot to contribute to the ’09 Jets.
The matchup with Philadelphia will determine those vital reserve roles, but the heavy lifting has been done. The team is just about ready for week one, and should be in full frenzy as that day draws nearer.
Nothing today summarized the notion of impeding stability quite like the Mark Sanchez press conference.
Back in seventh grade or so, my class had to read works by Shakespeare, which predictably flew right over our still developing brains. [Mine definitely] It was strange reading a play out of a book, and the bard’s colorful usage of the English language was straight up baffling. For some reason though, despite my befuddlement, I enjoyed the reading, and to me, the coolest section could be found at the beginning of each work. Each major character was introduced to the reader, signaling their status as a key “player”.
Well, if the Jets were a Shakespearean tale, and why not considering their history, today best represented Sanchez’s introductory moment. Sure, there was his exciting performance against the Giants, his fling downfield on the run to a wide-open Chansi Stuckey for an eye-popping touchdown, but that was Sanchez the football player, just one part of his required persona as franchise quarterback. His role as the story on a pretty quiet practice day cements the fact that this is his team, ready or not. More time is needed, a whole lot more, to determine whether Sanchez is prepared to lead on-field. But on the mic? There’s no doubt.
He strode to the podium and started with a joke, kidding the press corps about hazing a sole member of the Boston media who had visited Jets camp today. The crack garnered a healthy laugh from the assembled media before the serious questions would begin.
Sanchez was asked if there were many adjustments he had to make while undergoing this transition from college to the pros. “A million,” he said in response. “The locker-room is obviously more mature than college. The typical conversation in college was who’s throwing a party this weekend,” more laughs for that, “Or what test you were taking,” he continued with a smile. “Now it’s my kids are switching schools…”
The tone of his voice seemed to reveal a welcoming, or at least acceptance of this more mature realm. This became undoubtable as he discussed the defining aspect of his work. “The speed of the game on-field is so much faster,” he said, before acknowledging the supreme athleticism and intelligence of professional defenses. “I think the most important thing is trying to get into a routine. Everyone’s been great about helping me out with that, the coaches, Kellen… watch film on these days, practice on these days… make sure I’m not worn out by the end of the week… there’s constant rehab on the arm. I want to make sure I still have a live arm in Janurary.”
Sanchez seems to be approaching his career with reasoned urgency. He isn’t close to resting on his college laurels, pointing out an acceptable throw for USC could be picked at this level. He is calm and composed and really details every answer. “Carson Palmer told me you’re so blessed to be playing this game,” Sanchez said after being asked about the best advice he had garnered during his NFL intitation process. “After every game I always give myself a minute to take a deep breath,” he breathed deep, mimicking his routine, “Ok… that was awesome.”
Sanchez went on to harshly assess his performance against the Giants, admitting to be his own toughest critic. At one point, while talking about a potential touchdown pass he believed was fired from his hand too late, Sanchez said he could hear his old high school coach, chiding him that the throw would have been better, “an hour-and-half ago, dude.” So on he went, from high school to college and now to the Jets. The conference was a solid spoken summation of his career.
Mark Sanchez has taken to his part quite well. Jets fans will be hoping he doesn’t exit stage right anytime soon.
Practice notes and Quotes
The day’s practice began with the players dividing into two sides and crossing the sidelines, back and forth. They took to yelling an elongated “heyyyyyyyy” while passing each other by.
While they had the time, a few players, including Kerry Rhodes and Lito Sheppard, hung out with a New Jersey high-school football team watching practice intently from the sidelines. Sheppard, who had a rough game against the Giants, was particularly amiable.
Glenn Pakulak booted a few impressive punts. The battle between him and Reggie Hodges will most likely be determined by the Eagle game, an absolutley pivotal game for the small cluster of players with a legit shot still fighting to make a team. Ryan suggested that an impressive performance in week four could elevate even a potential afterthought.
The Wisdom of Mangold
With the marked difference in style between Rex Ryan and Eric Mangini, I was curious whether the team was sporting a different mental mindset going into week one, as opposed to recent seasons. Nick Mangold gave a realist response. “I think every year, you’re always prepared,” he said after practice. “That’s why you play the season,” before offering that the team “was excited.” But Mangold definitely has a point. Of course Rex Ryan and Eric Mangini are studies in contrast, but that doesn’t mean this team was mentally weak under the previous regime. Getting the locker-room fired up shouldn’t be difficult, if one actually sits back and thinks about it. A coach unable to cope with that task should be fired immediately. Consider it… these guys play football all their life. It’s what they love. Most probably realize their career span could be short. In some way they must treasure every day of fulfilling an ambition dreamed of by millions, but achieved by a fortunate few. Rex Ryan isn’t going to win because his guys are fired up… everyone is fired up, at least through the first three or four games of the season. It’s going to be about execution. And the Jets’ offensive attack will very desperately depend on the offensive line, anchored by Mangold. “The O-Line is a major facet of any team,” Mangold said, before dropping in simply, “We’re the only group where you have five guys on the field at the same time.” Indeed. What could be more important?
The Daily Rex
In his daily meeting with the press today, Head Coach Rex Ryan confirmed that the offensive starters would only play one series. When told that Mark Sanchez was hoping to play “a lot”, Ryan sardonically replied, “Oh, he’ll play a lot. On the first series.”
Ryan also implied that Kris Jenkins may get extra reps to make up for his missed time earlier in the preseason. He didn’t seem enthralled at the prospect of facing Michael Vick, but the coach thought the experience could serve his second-half defense well in the long-run.
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