AFC East: New York Jets

Jets Camp Report: Day 4

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Jets training camp:
  • The Jets received a scare when rookie tight end Jace Amaro went down with a knee injury and wasn't able to finish practice, but the word from the team is that he's fine and will be ready for Tuesday's practice. Proving the "Next-Man-Up" philosophy is alive and well, Zach Sudfeld capitalized on the extra reps, delivering a strong practice. He finished with a team-high three receptions in team drills, showing speed and separation ability. This tight end situation could get interesting. Quite frankly, Sudfeld has outplayed them all, including incumbemt Jeff Cumberland, who has been relatively quiet after reporting late to camp.
  • No surprise here, as right guard Willie Colon was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list. The big fella didn't do a whole lot in practice -- he stayed out of team drills -- but the plan is to ease him back gradually. It's important to build chemistry with new right tackle Breno Giacomini, whom they signed from the Seattle Seahawks. Remember, Colon missed the entire offseason, so he hasn't had any time to practice alongside Giacomini. They both have a history of being penalty prone, so continuity is imperative. They got some time together in positional drills, but nothing extensive.
  • One day after Geno Smith said he expects to be a top-five quarterback and Dee Milliner proclaimed himself the best cornerback in the league, linebacker Calvin Pace told the New York Daily News they have the best defense. Enough already. It's July.
  • Rookie quarterback Tajh Boyd is a former college star with a lot of charisma and the ability to throw a nice deep ball, but he struggles with short and intermediate throws. Sound familiar? Boyd's head is spinning as he attempts to learn a new offense, so that could explain some of his Tebow-esque throws. It'll be interesting to gauge his progress as the summer progresses. With every rep by Boyd, Matt Simms gets closer to nailing down the No. 3 job.
  • Rush linebacker Quinton Coples delivered another solid practice. Rex Ryan said Coples' last two practices were "off the charts," noting how it's "interesting" that Coples perked up once veteran Jason Babin arrived in camp. Hmm, very interesting, indeed. It's called competition, players pushing players, and somewhere general manager John Idzik is smiling.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The New York Jets' meandering search to replace cornerback Antonio Cromartie included flirtations with Vontae Davis (a rejection) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had the audacity to take an offer from the New York Giants. Despite some pro-Darrelle Revis sentiment in the organization, the Jets decided not to pursue Revis 2.0. In the end, they made Dimitri Patterson their Big Free-Agent Cornerback.

The response from Jets Nation?

A collective groan.

Patterson
Who?

Patterson understands the sentiment, but he has a message for the skeptics: I'm just as good as the big names.

"Fans like high profiles. I don't have a high profile, but my film is legit," he said during a break at training camp. "When the season comes, I'll show everyone why I've been in the league so long.

"Vontae and all those guys, they were first-round picks," Patterson continued. "That's all cool, but as far as ability and responsibility, are they asked to do more than I've been asked to do over nine years? No. Have they been more productive on the perimeter? No, that's not the case at all. My tape shows that it's just a matter of me coming out and showing fans, 'Hey, let me show you.'"

The Jets have an interesting pair of cornerbacks. Dee Milliner thinks he's the best in the NFL (child, please) and Patterson, with his sixth team in 10 years, believe he was one of the biggest steals in free agency. The Jets signed him for one year, $3 million. If they turn out to be right, they will have their best cornerback tandem since 2011, when it was Revis and Cromartie.

Patterson said he has no intention of tainting the Jets' reputation at corner.

"There's a lot of scrutiny at this position because you had Revis and Cromartie," he said. "They were consistently competitive, year-in, year-out, with those guys at corner, so there's a standard that has been set. That's what the fans are accustomed to, so it's only natural to be concerned. My message to them is, don't be concerned."

Patterson is one confident dude for someone who hasn't played much in recent years due to injuries. In fact, he's missed 32 games the last three seasons (the last two with the Miami Dolphins), but he believes in his ability and he believes he's an ideal fit in the Jets' man-to-man scheme.

"Jets fans aren't familiar with me -- they don't have game tape -- so they have to trust that John Idzik and Rex (Ryan) did their due diligence, researching me," Patterson said. "If my résumé said, 'Cover-2, zone corner,' I wouldn't be here."

To get a complete evaluation of Patterson, the Jets had to study his pre-2012 tape. They see a savvy corner with elite ball skills and versatility, capable of playing outside or in the slot. Opposing scouts say he's much better in the slot, that it might be a stretch to play him on the perimeter.

"The guy understands the game and he understands the big picture, and you don't find a lot of guys like that," secondary coach Tim McDonald said.

Ryan said they didn't sign Patterson because he was the last man standing in the free-agent pool, claiming he was on their radar from the outset. Idzik probably didn't want to spend money on a big name, so he took the cheaper route -- a one-year stop gap and a draft pick (Dexter McDougle in the third round). It's risky, considering all the top quarterbacks they face in the first two months of the season. If the Jets get torched, oh, boy, the decision makers will get criticized.

Don't worry, Patterson said.

"I'll show the fans," he said.

Jets Camp Report: Day 3

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Jets training camp:
  • Top pick suffers possible concussion: Calvin Pryor came to the Jets with a reputation for delivering punishment, but he was on the receiving end Saturday in the first full-pads practice. The hard-hitting safety was knocked out of the first contact practice before getting a chance to strut his stuff on defense. He suffered a head injury while blocking as the personal protector (Tim Tebow's old spot) on the punt team. The team said Pryor was being evaluated for a possible concussion. I'm no doctor, but I think it's a good sign that he returned from the locker room to watch the rest of practice. You never want to see a player sustain a concussion, especially someone at a position involved in so many collisions. With Pryor on the sideline, Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen worked as the starting safety tandem. Allen delivered a nice hit on running back Chris Ivory, knocking him out of bounds on an outside run.
  • And on the third day : Chris Johnson rested. It wasn't a total day off -- he participated in positional drills -- but he was kept out of the heavy stuff. He'll probably get a break every third day. It's a smart move. It makes no sense to push a player of Johnson's stature, coming off knee surgery, in the early stages of training camp. It doesn't matter what he does in Cortland in late July. The objective is to have him humming on all cylinders Sept. 7, the season opener.
  • Slick Vick: Michael Vick, who admitted he was mediocre in the offseason camps, has raised his game in training camp. He completed 14 of 17 passes over the last two practices, working primarily with the second team and facing mostly the second-team defense. It's too early to make any definitive statements, but the quarterback situation is working out exactly the way the Jets had hoped. Vick is keeping the pressure on Geno Smith, who has responded nicely. Now, if it stays this way for the entire season, it'll be a controversy-free team. But what are the chances of that happening?
  • On guard: In terms of positional battles, quarterback and safety are getting the most pub, but what about guard? Oday Aboushi continues to impress the coaches, shining in a 9-on-7 drill. What happens when Willie Colon returns to action, which should be any day? Ryan all but handed a starting job to Colon (no shock there), meaning Aboushi and Brian Winters could be competing for left guard. The edge goes to Winters, but don't write it in ink just yet. Rookie Dakota Dozier appeared on the radar screen with a strong practice, so there's that.
CORTLAND, N.Y. – Rex Ryan said he is impressed with the depth of this year’s New York Jets wide receivers, and thinks this could be his strongest overall group since he became the head coach in 2009.

Ryan was asked to confirm – he thinks is the best group he’s seen?

“Well top to bottom, I have,” Ryan confirmed.

This offseason, the Jets have added some veterans at the position in Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford in addition to tenured Jets David Nelson and Jeremy Kerley and rookies such as Shaq Evans and Jalen Saunders.

In 2009, Ryan inherited Jerricho Cotchery, and the team had Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes during his tenure.

“Maybe when we had Braylon and we had 'Tone, there were a couple of guys who looked awesome, but I don’t know if we were that deep,” Ryan said. “Right now I would say so, (Clyde) Gates looked like he’s all the way back, Stephen Hill has had his moments and it’s just all of them, there’s no easy out out there. Whether it’s one-on-ones or team, we’ve got some legitimate receivers out there.”

Ryan, a defensive guy, hasn’t always been lauded for his decisions when it comes to skill positions on offense. The Jets have also gone through three offensive coordinators under Ryan, with Brian Schottenheimer and Tony Sparano in the role before the Jets landed Marty Mornhinweg. But Ryan thinks he has something this year.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Takeaways from Saturday's practice at New York Jets training camp:

1. Big names sit: Rookie safety Calvin Pryor suffered a head injury early in practice and didn't finish. He's being evaluated for a possible concussion. He was involved in a collision while blocking as the personal protector on the punt team. Running back Chris Johnson didn't participate in any team drills. This was hardly a surprise, considering the Jets are being cautious with his surgically repaired knee. Afterward, Rex Ryan hinted that Johnson will rest every third day as part of the team's plan for him in camp.

2. Break out the pads: The Jets practiced in full pads for the first time, which made for spirited competition in the 9-on-7 and pass-rushing drills. Safety Dawan Landry and nose tackle Damon Harrison delivered big hits in the 9-on-7 drill, which features the running game. Without Johnson, Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell got the bulk of the reps. Ivory impressed with his ability to get to the outside. Daryl Richardson, battling for a roster spot, showed some giddy-up. Right guard Oday Aboushi stood out, according to Ryan, who gave the second-year lineman a shout-out for his improvement since the end of last season.

3. Double-D: Rookie guard Dakota Dozier, a fourth-round pick, jumped out in the pass-rushing drill. It's always fun to watch this drill because it's one-on-one, in pads, with offensive and defensive players cheering on their teammates and talking smack to the other side. Dozier got beat on one play, but rebounded on the next two, handling bull rushes. That caught the coaches' eye. I remember talking to an opposing scout after the draft about Dozier, and the scout said he considered Dozier is a finesse player who'd struggle with the transition to guard after playing tackle in college. He didn't struggle in this drill.

4. Ebb and ebb: One day after general manager John Idzik said there would be an ebb and flow with the distribution of quarterback reps, Geno Smith received 16 of 19 first-team reps. After three practices, Smith's rep count is 42, Michael Vick 12. I guess we're still waiting for the ebb to turn into a flow. Anyway, both quarterbacks performed well in practice, especially Vick, who completed six of seven passes in team drills. His best throw came in a 7-on-7 drill, a 50-yard touchdown pass to Clyde Gates, who beat Dee Milliner down the sideline. Smith (3-for-5) didn't get many opportunities, as they took advantage of the padded practice to concentrate on the running game. He was almost intercepted. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson jumped an 'out' route and broke up a pass to Eric Decker; it would've been a pick-6 if he held on.

5. Babin moving up: In his second practice, Jason Babin got some work with the first-team nickel. He rotated with Quinton Coples. Speaking of Coples, he recorded a "sack" for the second straight day.

6. Sleepers: After practice, Ryan gave a shout out to two unheralded players, safety Rontez Miles and linebacker Troy Davis. They've impressed the coach so much that Ryan, trying to give them a good opportunity to make the team, will play them with the starters on special teams. Davis plays "100 miles per hour," according to Ryan. Miles recorded a sack on a safety blitz.

7. Medical report: Rookie wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, a sixth-round pick, missed practice for the second day with a hip injury. Linebacker Tim Fugger (ankle) and defensive end Zach Thompson (shoulder) sat out.

8. Odds and ends: Right tackle Breno Giacomini, oft-penalized throughout his career, was flagged for a false start and sat out a play. ... Rookie receiver Shaq Evans caught a 50-yard pass from rookie Tajh Boyd in a 7-on-7 drills. Boyd throws a good deep ball, but he struggles with his accuracy on short and intermediate throws. ... Rookie tight end Jace Amaro, off to a quiet start, caught two passes from Vick in a two-minute drill.

Jets Camp Report: Day 2

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A review of Friday's developments at New York Jets training camp:
  1. Babin makes debut: Two days after agreeing to terms, veteran pass-rusher Jason Babin found his way to training camp and participated in his first practice, providing a glimpse of how he might help the defense. Working primarily with the second team, Babin moved around, playing left and right end, standing up in a two-point stance and even dropping into coverage. Officially, he's listed as a linebacker, but we all know he'll be a situational pass-rusher. His versatility makes him a nice fit in coach Rex Ryan's defense. Ryan called Babin a "proven commodity," saying he never would've been available if he had been a few years younger. Ryan, no doubt, recalls how Babin abused right tackle Wayne Hunter in 2011, when the Jets were embarrassed by the Philadelphia Eagles.

  2. Two-dreaded monster: Encouraging news in the backfield: Chris Johnson, who is seven months removed from knee surgery, practiced for the second straight day. That might not sound like much, but there was talk before camp about him being on a modified practice schedule. That still could happen; it'll be interesting to see if he takes a rest Saturday, the first day in pads. Chris Ivory, who tweaked a hamstring during an offseason workout (sound familiar?), made it through practice without any complications one day after sitting out with his cranky hammy. With Johnson and Ivory, it's all about staying healthy.

  3. Special K: Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, whose importance was highlighted last season when the Jets went 0-4 without him, is off to a fast start in camp. On Friday, he led all pass-catchers with three receptions, including a long touchdown. He took a short pass from Geno Smith, found a seam in the defense and raced up for the sideline. Kerley tends to get overlooked when pundits discuss the wide receiver situation, but the dude can play. It was the play of the day. Later, Smith tainted an otherwise solid day by the offense by throwing an interception, his first turnover in camp.

  4. GM speak: John Idzik, addressing reporters in one of his periodic state-of-the-team chats, was bombarded with questions about the pseudo- quarterback competition. He refused to give any edge between Smith and Michael Vick, even though it's obvious to everyone in Cortland that Smith is the presumed starter. Even the customers at the iconic Doug Fish Fry know it's Smith's job to lose. Nevertheless, Idzik insisted, "I don't think it's tilted at all." He probably thinks the Tower of Pisa is straight.

  5. Q's time to shine: This is a huge season for linebacker Quinton Coples, who jumped out early in practice by blowing past the right tackle and sacking Smith. Later, Ryan defended Coples to a certain degree, disagreeing with Joe Klecko's harsh assessment of the former No. 1 pick. In the offseason, the Jets legend said in a radio interview that Coples "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane." Ryan noted that Coples recorded a team-high 50 quarterback hits last season. That's fine, but he had only 4.5 sacks. He has to be better than that.

  6. Should Wilkerson get "Mo" money? Ryan was uncomfortable when asked if defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson deserves a contract extension. He called Wilkerson an "ascending player," but he didn't go full gush, as he used to do with Darrelle Revis. Wilkerson told the New York Daily News that he feels underpaid ($1.2 million this season), but he said he won't squawk about wanting a new deal. Here's the bottom line: Yes, he's underpaid, but he's signed through 2015. There's no sense of urgency to lock him up. If they do it now, they would set a precedent that could come back to bite them in 2016, when Sheldon Richardson is in the same boat.

Jets camp report: Day 1

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A review of the hot topics from Thursday at the New York Jets:

1. Sunglasses needed: Rex Ryan was fired up after the first practice, radiating enough sunshine to raise the tanning index to a 10. The coach said the Jets are "a zillion miles ahead of where we were last year" at this time, claiming this team is further along than any of his previous teams. He raved about Geno Smith, Michael Vick, Chris Johnson, Calvin Pryor, Antonio Allen and Kyle Wilson. Even rookie quarterback Tajh Boyd got some love. Said Ryan: "He's got a little magic in him." Sitting in the news conference, I thought for a moment that I was covering the '85 Bears. But you know what? This is who Ryan is. He's the enternal optimist, and it's one of the reasons why the players still like playing for him after five years.

2. Geno wins the day: On Day 1 of the pseudo quarterback competition, Smith outplayed Michael Vick, who threw an interception that wasn't entirely his fault. (Rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders ran the wrong route.) There will be more days like this, especially if Smith continues to receive three-quarters of the first-team reps. Vick is working with an inexperienced cast of characters, and that's bound to impact his performance. You'll be reading a day-by-day analysis of the quarterback situation (hey, it's what we do), but know this: To nail down the job, Smith needs to show up in the preseason games. In other words, he can't throw a pick-six on a screen pass on his first attempt. (See: Mark Sanchez, 2013).

3. Three-headed safety: Dawan Landry, Antonio Allen and rookie Calvin Pryor rotated with the starting unit at safety. It's not hard to read the handwriting on the wall: The Jets prefer a Allen-Pryor tandem, but they're not ready to abandon Landry, the wise head of the secondary. Ryan said he wants to keep Allen "really humming because I think he's really stepped up, and I'll try to put him out there with the 1s as much as possible." The same could be said for Pryor. Unfortanately, you can't play with 12 players.

4. Early glimpse at the receivers: Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson were the best receivers on the field. The others had drops at various points in practice, with rookie Quincy Enunwa (hip) taking an early seat because of an injury. No reason to reach for the panic button. Just stating the facts. Obviously, the Jets need one or two receivers to emerge from the pack.

5. Rex rocks the house: Several players, especially the rookies, were still buzzing about Ryan's speech to the team Wednesday night. Ryan knows how to bring it, especially on the eve of training camp. According to several players, he spoke about the playoffs, how the drought has lasted long enough. This is how Boyd described it: "I'm sitting in there and I don't know what to expect. He gets up there and he's very modest and he's talking, 'It's going to be a great camp, I'm excited.' Then he just flipped the switch five minutes into the talk. You could just feel the fire burning inside the guys. He made me want to run through a brick wall. I think he's got an opportunity to be a legendary coach one of these days."
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Jason Babin may have agreed to a two-year deal with the Jets on Wednesday, but the defensive end didn't sign on the dotted line until Thursday afternoon. What that meant was the former Jaguar missed the first day of the Jets training camp.

"He's supposed to report today," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "Hopefully we'll see him on the field [Friday]."

Babin
The Jets have needed a pass-rusher like Babin, and they won't need to wait much longer.

Tight end Jeff Cumberland, who has been excused from the start of camp for personal reasons, was also absent Thursday.

Pryor restraint: Part of rookie safety Calvin Pryor's game is his ability tackle with meaning. Both he and his coaches realize that what they see before he puts on the pads is just a shadow of his true abilities.

"From a physical standpoint we won't recognize him until we put a live drill out there," Ryan said. "Then we'll hear him play. I mean that's what happens, but he's a special guy that way. I think (Dawan) Landry has been a mentor to all of them, but he's certainly taken him under his wing as well. We expect huge things out of Calvin."

Asked if he was ready to hit, Pryor said yes, but he didn't want to hurt his teammates. He'd save that for actual games.

Decker <3's NY: Jets wide receiver Eric Decker was asked what he liked about New York, and the former Denver resident had nothing but good things to say about the food and the shows on Broadway.

"This is one of the best cities, if not the best city in our country," Decker said.

Now there's a man who knows how to win over the locals.

Ryan's job security: The Jets coach appears to have a little more job security this year than he did last, when new general manager John Idzik came in and agreed to keep him for the time being.

There's optimism around the team, and Ryan seems as secure as a coach in the NFL can be.

"I know you guys had that question for me, still working? Yeah, still here! I am still here. I don't know if there was a whole lot of confidence in that last year at this time, but still here."

Roommates: Michael Vick was asked about his first night with running back Chris Johnson and he said it went well, but they didn't get much sleep.

"We sat up and talked maybe a little too long last night," Vick said. "I'm kind of tired right now, but I think I let him get some rest. I was doing all of the talking."

Just like college.

Notes: Wilkerson is no holdout

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- New York Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson arrived at the Jets facility this morning to take his conditioning test and make the trip to training camp despite ongoing negotiations toward a new contract.

There was some question whether he'd show up, if only because the Jets have had high-profile holdouts recently, notably former cornerback Darrelle Revis,

Wilkerson
"Holding out was never an option for me,” Wilkerson said. “I'm one of the leaders on this team. That wouldn't be a good thing to do. That's not the way a leader should lead his team. On the business side of things, everything will be handled when the time comes. Right now, if anybody has any other contract questions, I would say [Jets general manager] John Idzik is the man to ask."

Wilkerson, drafted in 2011, has two years left on his contract, making $1.2 million this year. Under the CBA, a player is subject to a $30,000-a-day fine if he stages a contract holdout.

At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, Wilkerson is one of the best players on the team and anchors what is considered a strong defensive line with players such as Sheldon Richardson. His compensation however, lags when compared to others at his level. The Panthers franchised Greg Hardy this year for a little over $13 million.

PUP talk: Jets coach Rex Ryan commented on the two players added to the PUP list early in the day, DL Antwan Barnes and OL Willie Colon, saying that he wasn’t concerned about their availability later on despite the tag.

“Well, Antwan will be on PUP right now; we are going to be smart with him,” Ryan said. “In fact he passed his conditioning test. Willie Colon also will be on PUP, and he passed his conditioning test. We’re just going to be smart and we’ll see how it plays out.”

Rain on a parade: The Jets opening pep rally in Cortland got off to a damp start. The bus of rookies arrived a half-hour behind schedule, and just after they arrived a lightning storm had cleared out a lot of the fans who had come to say hello. After the deluge, about 150 fans were still around to greet Ryan and the players who rode up on the buses. Ryan put a good face on it though, saying he would take the rain as a good omen.

Long haul: Training camp is one place where grown men making good bank have to room with each other like they’re back in college. Some tolerate it, some dislike it, but just about everybody has a roommate.

This year, LB David Harris and LB Calvin Pace are in a room, while QB Michael Vick and RB Chris Johnson will share space. Asked who he is rooming with, rookie S Calvin Pryor said he’s with a kicker. “I know, I was pretty surprised too,” Pryor said.
CORTLAND, NY -- On the first day of NFL training there are 32 playoff teams and no one can disprove a single claim to the postseason. The New York Jets, of course, have done their fair share of talking this season.

Yet, as the team arrived at the SUNY College at Cortland campus for the start of training camp, some dialed back talk of playoffs and Super Bowls, starting with Jets coach Rex Ryan.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith, Michael Vick
Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY SportsQuarterbacks Geno Smith (left) and Michael Vick are exuding a quiet confidence as the Jets get ready to start training camp.
“We understand there’s so many steps we have to take to get there,” Ryan said. “We have to improve as a football team. If we could talk about it and get there it would’ve already been done.”

Ryan has been talking about the playoffs since the January 2009 day that he took the Jets head coaching position, when he predicted the team would meet just-elected President Barack Obama in the White House when he hosts the Super Bowl victor.

It hasn't exactly happened like that, but each season offers a new opportunity to say, like Jets WR David Nelson did to the New York Daily News, that the Jets are a playoff team.

Quarterback Michael Vick, who played for a Philadelphia Dream Team that didn’t turn out to be one, said he doesn’t think preseason talk is a problem. Those intra-squad pep talks are just a way of communicating.

“I don’t think there’s any danger in having confidence,” Vick said. “That’s an emotion that we all have, we all want to exuberate at some point -- this is the time to do it. In football you have to have confidence, you have to toe the line between confidence and arrogance, and this team has felt for a long time like they can get it done, and that’s the right mind set. That’s how we feel, and that’s how we want to approach the season.”

And the truth is that individual players on the Jets have noticed the chance in the atmosphere this year, privately saying that the offseason workouts produced a lot of team unity already.

Second-year quarterback Geno Smith, who will get about 70 percent of the snaps at training camp over the more-experienced Vick, isn’t one to join in the predictions, but he can appreciate it.

“I love the confidence, we all love confidence,” Smith said. “We’re confident in ourselves and we’re confident in our team, but today is day one. It takes step by step, you can’t take the elevator up.”

And this was how, on the eve of training camp, the Jets began to quiet the big talk and consider how it would translate into what they could do on the field in the next few weeks.

“We know we’ve got a pretty good team, but we know that we’ve still got to take one step at a time, and that’s getting training camp out of the way and start winning games,” running back Chris Johnson said. “We can’t just jump to the playoffs or straight to a Super Bowl. We’ve got to take it one game at a time.”

Passing the conditioning test Wednesday morning was just the start.
Rex Ryan showed his new boss last season that, even when speaking softly, he still carried a big enough stick to squeeze eight wins out of a team with modest talent. The New York Jets' coach received a well-deserved contract extension.

Now, with the Jets reporting to training camp Wednesday in Cortland, New York, for Year 2 of the Ryan-John Idzik era, we start to learn a lot more about the other half of the leadership tandem, the quiet man who prefers to stay out of the spotlight.

This is Idzik's time.

[+] EnlargeMilliner
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDee Milliner is one of John Idzik's draft picks that needs to produce for the Jets.
It's impossible to evaluate a general manager after one season, especially in a rebuilding situation, but the landscape changes after two drafts and two rounds of free agency. In the NFL, that’s enough time to get a team from the 6-10 mess that Idzik inherited into the playoffs.

Idzik's predecessors, Terry Bradway in 2001 and Mike Tannenbaum in 2006, reached the postseason in their first seasons as GMs. Go back further, and you will remember that Bill Parcells made it to the AFC Championship Game in his second year as the GM/coach.

Even though Idzik is operating on a long-term plan, evidenced by his emphasis on the draft and his deliberate approach in free agency, an 0-for-2 start wouldn't look good on his résumé. He shouldn't be on the New York Mets' Sandy Alderson timeline, meaning he has to move faster than a glacier. It's just the way of the NFL.

Idzik has been around long enough to put his stamp on the team. He signed, re-signed and drafted most of the projected starters. In fact, only seven starters can be considered true holdovers from the previous administration: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Muhammad Wilkerson, David Harris, Damon Harrison, Quinton Coples and Demario Davis.

It's easy to notice they're the best guys on the team, Tannenbaum guys. Idzik needs to get some of his guys on that list. He already has Sheldon Richardson. By the end of the season, the list of top homegrowns should also include Geno Smith, Dee Milliner and Calvin Pryor. If Smith and Milliner are missing, the Jets will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season, which won’t bode well for Ryan's job security.

Idzik has the Jets pointed in the right direction, and the strides they made last season can't be dismissed. But let's be honest: They overachieved. They were one of the softest 8-8 teams in history, and you can look it up. Their point differential was minus-97, the largest since the 1970 merger for any team with at least eight wins.

The talent base should be improved this season, especially with the additions of Eric Decker and Chris Johnson. Decker was Idzik's one big splurge in free agency, his one Tannenbaum-like move. Johnson and Michael Vick will be one-and-done players, worthwhile Band-Aids who won't ruin the master plan if they fizzle. The offseason proved, once again, that Idzik won't deviate from his script no matter how much salary-cap room he has at his disposal. For the record, there's about $22 million as of today.

Idzik is doing it the right way, avoiding the temptation of the quick fix. That will pay off in the long run, but there will be problems along the way. For instance: Failing to sign a top cornerback in free agency was a mistake that could be exposed early in the season, when they face several elite quarterbacks. The cornerback issue will be exacerbated if Milliner fails to develop as hoped.

The Jets believe Milliner, drafted ninth overall, will be a special player, basing much of their opinion on his strong finish. The same theory can be applied to the quarterback situation with Smith. They're placing a lot of weight on those last four games, and that can be dangerous when you consider the competition. They beat three also-rans, three teams with mediocre (at best) quarterbacks: the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins.

Now, after seven months of positive mojo, the Jets can prove it wasn't a mirage. If Idzik's investments mirror the stock market, they'll be a playoff team. If it goes the other way, he'll hear the criticism, good and loud. The honeymoon is over. This is Idzik's time.
You know the drill. The New York Jets' training camp opens Wednesday, which means there are questions. We've got answers.

1. When will Rex Ryan name his starting quarterback?

Smith
Technically, we've been waiting 11 months, but that is an old story and this is no time to look back. The conventional approach is to name the starter after the third preseason game (Aug. 22 against the New York Giants), but it wouldn't be a surprise if Ryan moves up the timetable. It all depends on Geno Smith, the front-runner. If he plays lights-out in the first two games and gets the nod over Michael Vick versus the Giants, it will be a fait accompli. Memo to Ryan: The health of your quarterback is more important than the Snoopy Trophy.

2. Are there any injured players that bear watching as camp opens?

Yes, three in particular: Running back Chris Johnson (knee), right guard Willie Colon (knee/biceps) and linebacker Antwan Barnes (knee). Obviously, Johnson's health is a big key to the Jets' season, so you can count on his surgically repaired knee being a topic of conversation throughout camp. The plan is to put him on a modified practice schedule, building toward the Sept. 7 opener. It will be interesting to see how they use him in the exhibitions. Johnson likes his touches; he's had anywhere from 19 to 33 carries in the preseason over the course of his career. It wouldn't be a shock if Colon and/or Barnes begin camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list as they work their way back into shape. It will be a breath of fresh air, not having to chronicle the "will-he-or-won't-he?" whims of Santonio Holmes and his damaged wheel.

3. Is there strength in numbers at wide receiver?

Decker
The Jets have seven receivers with NFL experience, including marquee newcomer Eric Decker, plus three draft picks. Not one of them, however, is a true game-changer. You can still win with solid, dependable receivers (look at the Seattle Seahawks), and the Jets have three in Decker, Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson. You will read a lot this summer about Stephen Hill, who almost certainly will make the all-Cortland team, as usual. The question, as usual, is whether he can sustain it for the regular season. If you are looking for a dark horse, keep an eye on veteran Greg Salas, who impressed the coaches in minicamp.

4. Which returning starters are in danger of losing their jobs?

Not counting Smith, who will be "pushed" by Vick (that is the oft-used company line), the players facing the most competition are Colon, tight end Jeff Cumberland and safety Dawan Landry. In each case, there is a young player in the picture battling for playing time. Chances are, the tight-end situation will be a time-share between Cumberland and second-round pick Jace Amaro, whose role will hinge on how quickly he can absorb the offense. Based on minicamp, it will take some time.

5. Is there anything to worry about on defense?

The secondary is the No. 1 concern. This probably will be the youngest defensive backfield of the Ryan era, with a second-year cornerback (Dee Milliner), a rookie safety (Calvin Pryor), a third-year safety (Antonio Allen) and a rookie cornerback (Dexter McDougle) projected to play prominent roles. Can you say "growing pains"? If veteran corner Dimitri Patterson gets hurt, which he tends to do, it will put a strain on this rebuilding unit.

6. What's the deal with all the playoff chatter? Is the optimism justified?

Sure, why not? 'Tis the season for happy talk. The Jets finished 8-8, added some talent and lost only two players that played more than 500 snaps last season -- right tackle Austin Howard and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who stunk. Expressing confidence is fine as long as it doesn't cloud their minds with unrealistic expectations.
Geno SmithGrant Halverson/Getty ImagesGeno Smith expects "big things" from himself in 2014, and the Jets will need that to be successful.
Geno Smith heard Michael Vick's name more than a few times last season in the New York Jets' offensive meeting room. Occasionally, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg used Vick as an example when explaining to his quarterbacks how he wanted a particular play to be run.

The name-dropping was understandable. After all, there was history between Mornhinweg and Vick. Smith soaked it up, taking copious notes as he navigated a winding rookie season.

This season, the real Vick, not the ghost, will be sitting alongside Smith in the meeting room. That can be a good thing -- Smith can learn straight from the source -- or a bad thing if he becomes unnerved by Vick's presence. If Smith is bothered by the situation, he's not letting on. He sounds like a proven veteran, not a second-year quarterback who endured one of the worst statistical seasons in recent times.

"I don't want to make any statements or put anything out there, but once the season comes, I mean, I expect big things," Smith told ESPN.com in a recent interview. "I believe fully in myself. I have the utmost confidence in myself. I know I have the ability to play in this league."

There are doubters, to be sure, but Smith's conviction was steeled by his encouraging finish last season. His teammates and coaches saw it in the offseason, with the decisiveness he showed in the huddle in spring practices and the self-confidence he demonstrated in the locker room. That was one of the biggest takeaways from the offseason: the New Geno.

It has to be a new Geno if the Jets hope to snap their three-year playoff drought. Right now, the Jets have eight-win talent, but that modest number jumps to double digits if Smith improves as much as they believe he can.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith, Michael Vick
Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY SportsWill Michael Vick's presence be a good thing or a bad thing for Geno Smith?
"We're not playing yet -- we're not in the stadium yet, people aren't in the stands -- but Geno is a strongly improved player at this point," quarterbacks coach David Lee said.

Thousands of words will be written and spoken this summer about Eric Decker and Chris Johnson, the Jets' marquee additions, but 2014 is all about Smith, whom the Jets expect to be their season-opening starter.

They say he's stronger and faster. As part of his offseason regimen, Smith trained with a speed parachute, proudly texting photos of himself to Lee.

They say his footwork now comes naturally. A year ago, he was so unfamiliar with the Jets' offense that he counted steps in his head.

They say his command of Mornhinweg's system has improved to the point where he's self-sufficient. As a rookie, Smith leaned heavily on center Nick Mangold, who did more hand-holding than a lovestruck teenager.

"It's gotten away from me telling him exactly what to do," Mangold said. "Now it's more of a two-way discussion."

They say Smith is more of a leader than last year. Let's be clear: He's not a fiery, in-your-face kind of quarterback, but there are indications that he wants to make it his team.

In March, when he learned of the Decker signing on ESPN's Bottom Line, Smith immediately texted general manager John Idzik, asking for Decker's number. He reached out to his newest receiver, welcoming him to the team, discussing places to live in New Jersey and asking Decker about his favorite pass routes.

Smith tried to do that with every newcomer, even draft picks, taking ownership in the team. A year ago, he kept to himself, trying to fit in.

"I didn't want to come in as that guy who thinks he knows it all," Smith said. "I feel like I had to earn my stripes, and I feel like I've done that to a certain extent.

"But I'm still learning, still growing. I still listen to the vets, but it's a different level of leadership from me. Last year, I was a vocal guy when I needed to be, but it wasn't as much as I'm going to show this year."

Smith threw 21 interceptions, and that was a source of frustration for coaches and players alike, but they maintained their support because they respected his work ethic and mental toughness. No matter how bad it got, he refused to fold.

"He went through everything a rookie quarterback could go through," guard Willie Colon said. "Now he's like, 'All right, it's time for me to step up.' He's embracing the challenge. We all know Geno is feisty. He's strong-minded. He has the ability to fight. We believe in him."

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsAs a rookie, Geno Smith passed for 3,046 yards with 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
Former Jets quarterback Brady Quinn, a member of the team for the first half of the season, marveled at Smith's resilience. He pointed to the early-season win over the Atlanta Falcons, when Smith rallied the Jets in the final two minutes on a Monday night stage -- one week after an absolute stinker against the Tennessee Titans.

"Every time Geno felt challenged, whether it was in the press or by anyone else, he usually responded and played a great game," Quinn said. "I think he had five come-from-behind wins. Those are powerful statements."

Quinn came away impressed with Smith, who he believes has "a ton of arm talent." Unfortunately, there wasn't much talent around that arm, resulting in one of the worst offenses in the league. That should change with Johnson in the backfield and Decker on the perimeter.

It's all there for Smith in Year 2, but there still are plenty of critics. In a recent ESPN.com poll of 25 personnel executives and coaches, he was rated the worst starting quarterback in the league.

Do the Jets know something that no one else does? Maybe they do. Mornhinweg and Lee are widely respected offensive minds, so their opinions carry weight. Their jobs, along with that of Rex Ryan, could be riding on Smith. If he backslides or fails to show improvement, it'll be a costly setback for the organization.

Smith's biggest challenge is reading defenses, according to people who have studied him on tape. He was a one-read quarterback at West Virginia, so it was a difficult transition to Mornhinweg's version of the West Coast offense, which is predicated on multiple reads and exact timing.

There were long stretches last season in which Smith showed questionable instincts for the position, making poor decision after poor decision. The Jets expect that to get better with experience.

The new variable for Smith is the Vick factor. This is a different ballgame for Smith, who didn't have to worry last season about losing his job. Even though Vick claims he will embrace the mentor role, he's a direct threat to Smith. One or two bad games, and the masses will be screaming for a change.

You could certainly argue that Vick, 34, is better than Smith and deserves a fair shot at the starting job, but the powers-that-be have decided to stack the competition in Smith's favor, making it his job to lose. They won't hand it to him. He'll have to earn it, staving off a player he grew up admiring. It's a fascinating dynamic, especially with the Mornhinweg factor. Smith is battling his role model for a role.

"I don't feel any pressure at all," Smith said. "Maybe, in the outside world, people might think that way. If I do hit a rough patch, I fully expect Mike to pick me up. If it was the other way around, I'd do the same for him because that's the way we are. We're friends and we're teammates."

They're close. Soon, we'll find out if it's too close for comfort.

New York Jets projected roster

July, 18, 2014
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Examining the New York Jets' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Tough call between Boyd, a sixth-round pick, and Matt Simms, last season's No. 2 quarterback. Simms has improved a lot, but he could be fighting city hall. The Jets drafted Boyd based on Rex Ryan's recommendation, and we know how general manager John Idzik hates to cut draft picks. The ideal scenario would be to stash Boyd on the practice squad for a year, but he'd have to clear waivers.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Daryl Richardson, formerly of the St. Louis Rams, and Alex Green will bid to create a fifth spot. That could hinge on Johnson's surgically repaired knee. If he's not 100 percent, it might pay to carry an extra back as insurance. Bohanon is the only fullback.

WIDE RECEIVERS (7)

Yes, it's unusual to carry seven receivers. It might be unconventional in terms of roster management, but the Jets feel this is one of their deepest areas -- a dramatic change from last year. Ford sticks because of his kickoff-returning ability. Saunders could emerge as the punt returner. He and Evans are fourth-round picks, so they'd have to be terrible to get cut.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Cumberland and Amaro complement each other. Cumberland is an in-line tight end, Amaro is a "flex" tight end. They don't have a true blocker who can move people around in the running game, a deficiency that can be addressed via the waiver wire.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Winters, Colon and Aboushi are in a three-way competition for the two guard spots, with Winters and Colon likely to emerge. The Jets are counting on Winters to make a big leap after a rough rookie year. Colon, coming off two offseason surgeries, said he will be ready for camp, but his injury history is a concern. None of the backups have regular-season experience, so that's troubling.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (5)

Same five players as last year. Why mess with a good thing? Five seems low, but Quinton Coples -- the rush linebacker -- plays a lot in a three-point stance, when the Jets shift to their 4-3 front. Wilkerson, Richardson and Harrison form one of the better front threes in the NFL.

LINEBACKERS (9)

The big question surrounds Barnes, who underwent knee surgery last October and has been slow to recover. If Barnes can't get it done as a pass-rushing specialist, it'll create more opportunities for Cunningham. This is a huge year for Coples, a former first-round pick who hasn't fulfilled expectations.

CORNERBACKS (6)

Ryan likes to carry a lot of corners, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they keep seven, perhaps including Ras-I Dowling. It would mean cutting back at another position, probably wide receiver. Patterson is expected to start outside, but he could slide inside on passing downs, replacing Wilson, if another option emerges outside. McDougle could be that guy.

SAFETIES (4)

Pryor, their first-round pick, is expected in the opening-day lineup. The question is who will be his tag-team partner? Landry is the wise head of the secondary, but his role could be reduced if Allen continues to develop. The Jets want more speed on the field, and that doesn't bode well for Landry.

SPECIALISTS (3)

All set here.

Camp preview: New York Jets

July, 17, 2014
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NFL Nation reporter Rich Cimini examines the three biggest issues the New York Jets will face heading into training camp.

1. The pseudo quarterback competition: Michael Vick is right, it's not an open competition between him and Geno Smith. The Jets have stacked it in Smith's favor, as they plan to give him 70 to 75 percent of the first-team practice reps in training camp. There's nothing wrong with that -- as long as Smith performs well, building on his encouraging finish last season. The situation could turn volatile if Smith regresses and Vick, maximizing his limited opportunities, outplays the second-year quarterback. What, then?

Vick, 34, was mediocre in the spring, but it's not a stretch to think he could light it up in the preseason. After all, he has a background in Marty Mornhinweg's offense, so it should be a seamless transition. Publicly, Vick says he's cool with his role as the mentor/backup, but perhaps that will change if it becomes obvious he's the best man for the job. The Jets have been known to botch quarterback competitions (see Smith vs. Mark Sanchez). From the team's perspective, the best that could happen is Smith steps up and makes it an absolute no-brainer.

2. Integrating new faces on offense: After a brutal year on offense, the Jets expect to make a major improvement after acquiring wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Chris Johnson and drafting tight end Jace Amaro. The challenge is to get them up to speed in Mornhinweg's offense and to define their roles.

Decker is easy -- he's the No. 1 receiver -- but Johnson's situation is partly cloudy. Recovering from knee surgery, he didn't participate in the spring and could be on a modified practice schedule in camp. If healthy, he could make a huge difference with his home run ability as a runner. They'd also like to involve him in the passing game because he's so dangerous in space. They have two capable backs in Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, so the objective is to formulate a plan for the regular season. If healthy, Johnson should be the lead back.

Amaro has a steep learning curve, coming from a no-huddle, spread offense in college -- so don't expect overnight success. They have to find a legitimate No. 2 option in the passing game or else Decker, not accustomed to being a No. 1, will see extra coverage. You're not in Denver anymore, Eric.

3. The greening of the secondary: For the first time since 2006, the Jets don't have anyone named Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie on the back end -- and that's scary. This is a unit in transition, easily the youngest secondary of the Rex Ryan era.

They will have a second-year corner (Dee Milliner) and, in all likelihood, a rookie safety (Calvin Pryor) in the opening day lineup. The other starters could be corner Dimitri Patterson and safety Dawan Landry, both in their 30s, but they're keeping the seats warm for rookie Dexter McDougle and third-year safety Antonio Allen, respectively. In this case, change is good because the secondary was the weakest unit on the team in 2013, surrendering an inordinate amount of big plays and making only 11 interceptions.

They passed on some big-name corners in free agency, including Revis, opting to go with youth and speed. The downside is the inevitable growing pains. Ryan's defense relies heavily on communication and adjustments, and there are bound to be hiccups with so many inexperienced players.

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