Florham Park, NJ– Today marked the third and final day of voluntary OTAs that the media was able to watch and the last day of media presence until next week’s mini-camps starts.
The receiving core continues to be ravaged by injuries as the top three receivers, Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley all had to sit out of team drills. Kerley and Hill both participated in position drills, but were both held out of team drills with minor injuries as a precaution. Both quarterbacks competing for the starting role continued to show their teammates and coaching staff signs of improvements and third-year cornerback Darrin Walls emerged from today’s practice as the standout player of the day.
“Stephen (Hill) should be back, him and (Clyde) Gates will probably be back next week. Stephen actually had some swelling in his knee so it’s kind of a precaution that we (held him out). You know he dove for a ball, sometimes we talk about taking care of each other, you got to take care of yourself too, no sense doing that.” Rex Ryan said, “So he had some swelling in the knee, we’ll bring him back, and then Clyde Gates had a little hamstring (and) tried to come back, but we’ll bring him along and hopefully get him out there next week and as far as Jeremy (Kerley), Jeremy hasn’t missed anything (but) today he had a little bit of a heel issues so we ended up backing him down. Of course Santonio (Holmes), he’s doing a decent job, but we’ll see how he’s doing for training camp, there’s a possibility maybe he starts out on PUP, I’m not sure but he seems to be doing well here.”
For the receivers who were able to fully participate in practice, it was a long day filled with lots of screaming from their wide-receiver coach, Sanjay Lal. Thomas Mayo and Vidal Hazelton were the two receivers who heard the brunt of Lal’s barking, Mayo had a few footwork issues in drills, but it was Hazelton who really drew the ire of his coach both in positional drills and during seven-on-seven drills, including allowing Geno Smith to throw an interception when Walls was able to easily jump his route and make a play on the ball.
At the running back position health isn’t an issue, right now anyway, but Mike Goodson missed practice with an excused absence. Ryan said he fully expects him to be able to take part in next week’s mini-camp and he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from Goodson so far and is looking forward to seeing more.
“Well he’s actually done a good job, mentally with some things and we’ve seen when he’s out here the explosiveness that he has, which everybody knows about it’s no surprise he averaged over six yards a carry, so I think we anticipate that, we see the great speed and all that.” Ryan said, “Obviously today he had something that I was aware of, so he wasn’t out there today, but again we’ll see how it is, but the guy does have the physical talent that really impresses you.”
As for the quarterback competition those of you who are looking for a quick decision, as well as those who just want Sanchez gone, are going to have to develop some patience because if Ryan is leaning toward one guy or the other he certainly did a great job of hiding it today. When asked about a report from a few weeks ago that the team was hoping to come to a decision sooner rather than later on the starter, Ryan strongly debunked the notion that they’re close to making a decision.
“I don’t believe that’s the case, I don’t think we’re close to that right now and obviously the process is you don’t have to make that move, but until we feel 100 percent comfortable with that decision then we’ll just leave it to competition.” Ryan said, “It’s way too early to say. Some days this guy looks good, some days this guy looks good.
“For me to make the decision to say that the competition is over, it’s going to have to be 100 percent clear to me and if it’s not we’re going to keep competing all the way until whenever.”
Ultimately it will be Ryan’s call on who will be named the starter and when they’ll name him, but he said he’ll certainly lean on his offensive coaches and hopes the decision will be fairly unanimous, but if there’s a split he will be the tie-breaker.
“Yeah that’ll be my call.” Ryan said, “I’m sure it won’t be just me saying, ‘no it’s this,’ and that’s it. It won’t just be my evaluation but at the end of the day I guess it will be if there’s a split camp or whatever then I will make that decision.”
Neither quarterback looked as good as they did last week, but they definitely both looked much better than two weeks ago and Ryan said he’s been pleased with the progress of both quarterbacks and has been encouraged by what he has seen from them both lately.
With Sanchez Ryan pointed out the strides he has made in protecting the ball and throwing it away instead of trying to force things and with Smith Ryan has been incredibly impressed just by the way the rookie has carried himself and everything he has been able to absorb in such a short amount of time, and oh yeah he also clearly enjoys watching Smith spin it and really it’s hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t.
“I saw it even today in the red zone and that’s why I said, ‘hey look it’s not there (and) you made a good move by not trying to force the issue,’ and I think he did that a few times. So that is encouraging to me, an incompletion is not the worst thing that can happen to you, as we know, we have to eliminate those mistakes down there in the red zone, those turnovers and that’s clear, to not just me, but to everybody.” Ryan said of Sanchez limiting his turnovers, “So I was encouraged by some of those things, the defense did a great job on some coverages that they did so get rid of it, don’t make it a horrendous down.
“Geno I think, first off, sometimes you want to see when a young quarterback comes in, is it too big for him? I don’t think it’s too big for him, because there’s a lot on your plate. You come in, you learn 50 plays, or something like that, almost immediately, you learn different protections and I think he’s doing a great job, he’s on top of that. And I think the way he throws the ball, obviously you notice his physical skills, I mean he can throw it with anybody, so that’s been impressive as well.”
For all three OTA practices the media was allowed to watch Matt Simms has been the third string quarterback and Greg McElroy has been the fourth, but Ryan said that McElroy and Simms have been rotating as the third and fourth string quarterbacks just as Sanchez and Smith have been rotating days as the first and second string quarterbacks.
As is normally the case this time of year the defense continues to stand out above the offense, but Ryan said it hasn’t been total domination throughout these past three weeks. Ryan said there’s been some ups-and-downs and times when the offense has gotten the best of the defense, but he admits the defense has been winning most of the battles and that’s okay by him because he seems to be falling in love with this defense.
“The defense, I think, you can see the speed of the defense, I think it’s pretty obvious. The talent, the improvement, some of the young guys have really made some strides. I know the busts, the draft busts, I read all those things about Demario Davis, we’ll see if he’s a bust. We’ll see if Coples is too, because I have a funny feeling they’re not. I have a funny feeling they’re exactly what I said they were and I think we’re starting to see it.” Ryan said, “I think we’re seeing double A, Antonio Allen, come around, so a lot of these young guys are stepping up a little bit. (Darrin) Walls, was eighth on the depth chart, now he’s running with the first group of the sub team. So I think there are some guys who are really making some strides, obviously you’re going to know a lot more about your team when the pads come on, but to this day there are some guys who have really done some nice things out there for us.”
After last year’s brutal season members of the media thought Ryan looked like a beaten down man at times and had a look and sound of defeat about him during the unraveling of the season and even during the offseason, but all that appears to have flown out the window as Ryan is back to his old boisterous self.
“I just feel great.” Ryan said, “I do feel great about this team, I feel great about getting back and doing what I know to do and obviously it’s not just (that) I have a lot of faith in the coaches, I always have, but for me I think it’s better that I do what I do and that’s coach and teach everyday, same thing in the meetings and I think I feel good about, maybe the guys aren’t learning as much (joking), but I feel good about it.”
Ryan attributes the change to his optimism for this year’s team and for his decision to be more hands on in directly coaching the defensive players and this change isn’t lost on the players as they are gaining a new and improved appreciation of their head coach.
A reporter hit Ryan with a follow up question about the change in his demeanor, saying that a defensive player said that since Ryan has been so involved with the defense that he now sees what he called Ryan’s genius.
“That dude is starting.” Ryan joked. “I don’t care who it is, he’s starting.”
When told the player was Aaron Berry Ryan said, “There it is, Aaron Berry, so Aaron’s starting (joking, sort of).”
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