AFC East: Training Camp 2013

Cro to Jets' offense: 'Don't cry, play ball!'

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
2:21
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- These guys are teammates, right?

Things got interesting at New York Jets practice Wednesday afternoon when cornerback Antonio Cromartie put a strong hit on receiver Stephen Hill during a two-minute drill.

Quarterback Geno Smith completed a pass to Hill near the goal line and Cromartie immediately put a high hit on Hill, near the helmet.

The hit appeared to come from Cromartie's forearm.

After the collision, there was a mini-skirmish involving members of both the offense and defense. Some players, including center Nick Mangold, appeared to be upset with Cromartie.

At one point, after the skirmish dissipated, Cromartie could be heard yelling, "Don't cry, play ball!"

Hill returned for 7-on-7 drills later in practice.

Coach Rex Ryan addressed the hit later Wednesday, saying he was "disappointed" because the hit was over the top.

"There's 'thud' and then there's like over-the-top 'thud.' I was disappointed because we have to protect each other. Stephen was running full speed and all that. Cro actually came off of his coverage and made the hit. Again, it wasn't ... I don't think he intended to certainly hurt Stephen. But still, you've got to be smarter. You're in great position, just let it go. I think that's what we need to do."

Hill said he had no problem with Cromartie's hard hit. He was surprised by the outsized reaction to the collision.

"That's competition," Hill said. "I expected that. So, I mean, we're out here playing football, that's what it is: It's a collision sport."

Cromartie was involved in another potentially dangerous play in 7-on-7s. He met wideout Michael Campbell in the air and broke up a pass, then Campbell landed awkwardly on his back and stayed on the ground momentarily. Cromartie hung around after the play to make sure Campbell was OK.

Jets place Hilliard on IR

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
12:44
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Fullback Lex Hilliard, who played in 12 games last season for the Jets, will have season-ending surgery next week to repair a fractured shoulder blade, a league source confirmed Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeLex Hilliard
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesLex Hilliard's second season with the Jets will be spent rehabbing an injured shoulder blade.
The Jets placed Hilliard on injured reserve Wednesday and signed wide receiver Marcus Rucker.

"That's really unfortunate because Lex is a tremendous player and also a tremendous person," Rex Ryan said.

Hilliard, who missed the first two preseason games due to a rib injury, left the practice field Tuesday in severe pain. Afterward, Rex Ryan mentioned a possible shoulder dislocation.

Even if he had remained healthy, Hilliard would've been hard-pressed to retain his roster spot. Rookie Tommy Bohanon, a seventh-round pick from Wake Forest, has impressed the coaching staff and is in line to win the starting job.

Ryan said the Jets would keep their options open but he was complimentary of Bohanon after Wednesday's practice.

"He's been impressive," Ryan said. "I've been very pleased with Tommy."

Hilliard was one of the few unrestricted free agents that new GM John Idzik decided to retain. Hilliard signed a one-year, $780,000 contract, including a $65,000 signing bonus. The Jets picked him up last season because of his background with former offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. Hilliard rushed eight times for 31 yards and made four receptions for 23 yards in 2012.

He played in only 25 percent of the offensive snaps last season, a total of 271, but he was a steady contributor on special teams (203 snaps).

Bohanon said that he's confident that he can handle the starting role, if necessary.

"I definitely think that I'll be able to go out there and do everything they asked me to do," he said. "That's why I'm out there before practice and after practice working on my technique."

Quick takeaways from the Jets' announcement Thursday morning that Mark Sanchez will start Saturday night against the Jaguars:

1. No surprise: Clearly, Rex Ryan was leaning this way Wednesday when he ripped Geno Smith for his "brutal" practice. One thing I found interesting: In announcing the starter on Twitter, the Jets made no mention of it being Ryan's decision. It was presented as a team decision. This is noteworthy in light of GM John Idzik declaring early in camp that he will have "a pretty big role" in the picking the quarterback -- an ill-advised statement that did nothing but undercut his coach's authority.

2. Sanchez, likely winner: Unless Smith plays like Aaron Rodgers next week against the Giants -- assuming he plays -- the Week 1 starting job will go to Sanchez. Jets Nation won't be happy.

3. The ankle boo-boo: The Jets dropped the ball by making Smith practice all week on a tender ankle. Now there's a chance he won't play at all against the Jaguars, likely forcing them to extend the competition another week. Why didn't they give him a couple of days off? Two reasons: It was only a minor ankle sprain, I'm told, and Ryan didn't want to create the perception that Smith was being coddled, a la Sanchez. I think Ryan wanted to give Smith a chance to show his toughness to his new teammates. I can see where he's coming from, but it would have been better to err on the side of caution.

4. What now? Ryan will address the matter on a 3 p.m. conference call with the media, but from all indications, it looks like the competition will be extended to the third preseason game. That would hurt the overall development of the offense.

Instead of using the Giants game as a final tuneup, playing the starters for about three quarters, the Jets would still be evaluating their quarterbacks. So let's say Smith starts and plays the first half and Sanchez plays a quarter. That would rob Sanchez -- the likely Week 1 starter -- of two quarters of reps. That's a considerable chunk of time considering Ryan doesn't play starters in the preseason finale. The issue would be magnified because it's a new offensive system, so every rep is important.

5. Geno fan club: If Ryan gives Smith a shot against the Giants, it shows how badly the organization wants to replace Sanchez. It's waiting ... waiting ... waiting for Smith to give them something -- anything -- to validate making him the starter.

6. Nothing comes easy: If anyone expected this quarterback competition to go smoothly, you haven't been paying attention for 40 years. Forget 40 years; how 'bout the past 17 months? Just Google "Tim Tebow" and "debacle" and you'll understand.

Practice report: Oh, no, Geno

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
12:38
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- It was a rough day for Geno Smith.

As expected, Smith took the majority of the first-team reps Wednesday, but the rookie quarterback was out of sorts, throwing three interceptions in team drills and another in 7-on-7. A few other passes were knocked down by defensive backs.

Both Smith and Mark Sanchez faced the scout-team defense, so this wasn't your typical starters-versus-starters situation. As a result, the intensity level was down. Nevertheless, Smith struggled with his accuracy and made a couple of bad decisions. He was picked off by Royce Adams, Jacquies Smith and Bret Lockett in team drills. Rontez Miles made an interception in 7-on-7, grabbing a pass that went off the hands of receiver Ryan Spadola.

Smith didn't seem affected by his tender ankle. His worst moment came at the end of a two-minute drill, when he was intercepted in the red zone by Lockett. Unofficially, Smith was 10-for-21.

It was a workmanlike day for Sanchez, who completed seven of 11 passes with no interceptions.

Rex Ryan still hasn't named his starter for Saturday night against the Jaguars. He might wait until Friday. Sanchez appears to have created separation in the quarterback competition, based on the past week to 10 days, but Smith still hasn't received a prime opportunity in a game. It would make sense to start him this week, but Ryan has been playing it coy.

ATTENDANCE REPORT: RB Joe McKnight (head), NT Kenrick Ellis (back), LB Josh Mauga (back) and P Robert Malone (back) didn't practice. McKnight didn't make an appearance on the field until the end of practice . ... TE Kellen Winslow didn't practice. His wife is having a baby. ... WR Clyde Gates (head) returned on a limited basis. He wore a red jersey, per league protocol on head injuries.

LITTLE MAC: Third-string QB Greg McElroy, apparently still bothered by an ankle injury, was limited to only scout-team work. Matt Simms was the No. 3 in team-related drills. McElroy probably has showed enough to nail down the No. 3 job, but his status for Saturday night remains uncertain.

O-LINE SCHUFFLE: The Jets did a lot of rotating of personnel on the offensive line. LG Vladimir Ducasse, LT J.B. Shugarts and recently signed C Erik Cook got a few reps with the first team. Ducasse also worked a bit at right guard. Obviously, they're still in the evaluation stage, trying to figure out the sixth, seventh and eighth spots on the depth chart. Rookie Brian Winters hasn't been able to compete for a starting job because of an ankle injury, so it looks like Stephen Peterman will emerge as the starting left guard.

ODDS AND ENDS: Braylon Edwards, battling for a roster spot, had a nice practice. He caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez. ... RB Chris Ivory, coming off his hamstring troubles, made it through his third straight practice without incident. ... WR Ben Obomanu had a drop.

ADIOS, CORTLAND: This was the final open practice in Cortland. The team will practice Thursday and break camp, moving the operation back to Florham Park, N.J.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A strange scene involving Joe McKnight -- who else? -- unfolded at the start of practice Monday.

McKnight, who has made headlines in training camp for dehydration, a traffic arrest, a migraine, a head injury and a bizarre interview with reporters, struggled to make it to the field. He stopped three times on the walk from the locker room to the field, each time dropping to one knee. On the third time, he stayed down for a couple of minutes, adjacent to a trash can. He was in vomiting position, although there was no official confirmation on whether he actually lost his breakfast. As this was occurring, Kellen Winslow breezed by McKnight on his bicycle, heading to the field -- a funny scene.

A member of the training staff came over. McKnight took a water bottle and poured some water over his head. He jogged on the field to begin warmups with his teammates.

McKnight lasted only 45 minutes in practice. He got up slowly after diving for a pass in a one-on-one drill and was escorted to the locker room by trainers.

As a rookie in 2010, McKnight infamously vomited during a minicamp, a moment he never lived down. He appeared to be out of shape when he got to this training camp, flunking the conditioning test. He insisted he wasn't out of shape, blaming it on dehydration. Rex Ryan said McKnight suffers from "anxiety" when taking conditioning tests.

Chris Ivory expects to play Saturday

August, 11, 2013
8/11/13
6:46
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Chris Ivory is getting closer. No, really, he is. That's what he says, anyway.

The veteran running back, who still hasn't practiced because of a pulled hamstring, said Sunday he expects to play for the New York Jets next Saturday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Ivory, in pads on Sunday, increased his workload slightly, participating in positional drills. The next step is getting some work in live team drills.

Ivory, acquired in a trade with the Saints, said he has gone two days without tightness in his hamstring. But he's proceeding with caution.

"I'm getting better," he said. "I'm just going along with the plan."

The injury-plagued backfield could be a lot healthier by the end of the week. Joe McKnight (head) returned on a limited basis, as did FB Lex Hilliard (ribs).

"You kind of have a MASH unit over there right now, but you hope to get them back and certainly we hope to get those guys back sooner than later," coach Rex Ryan said.

JOHN B GONE: Tough business, the NFL. Two days after suffering a season-ending broken leg, RB John Griffin was waived with an injury. Chances are, the Jets will add him to their injured-reserve list when he clears waivers. Griffin was hurt on a horse-collar tackle in the preseason opener.

To replace him, they re-signed RB Kahlil Bell, who played with the team last season. They also signed former Oregon WR Rahsaan Vaughn.

NEW-LOOK QB: Mark Sanchez, channeling some Joe Namath, is sporting a fu manchu.

PENALTY PALS: Ryan said the "highest priority" this week is fixing the penalty problem, as the Jets were penalized 11 times against the Lions. They had four holding calls on offense, prompting an emphasis on blocking technique in Sunday's practice. OL coach Mike Devlin stressed proper hand placement.

The guilty parties:
• LT Oday Aboushi -- holding, false start, illegal use of hands (declined);
• RG Willie Colon -- holding, false start;
• LG Stephen Peterman -- holding;
• LG Vladimir Ducasse -- holding;
• WR Braylon Edwards -- pass interfence;
• LB Antwan Barnes -- two offsides (one declined);
• LB Garrett McIntyre -- illegal block on special teams.

Read into this what you will:

Several of Geno Smith's former teammates at West Virginia blamed last season's collapse on a lack of leadership, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

No one singled out Smith by name, but he was the quarterback and a team leader, along with receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

"Last year we didn't have, you know, a lot of leadership," junior RB Dustin Garrison told the newspaper.

The Mountaineers blazed to a 5-0 start, but finished 7-6. Smith absorbed a lot of criticism for the second-half skid, but the defense allowed 50 points per game during that span.

Another damning quote came from junior OL Quinton Spain, who said: "What's different this year is we're more a team. There ain't no I's; we don't depend on nobody. We just depend on all of us at once as a team. So I think this year will be better than last year. There wasn't no team. I could say there was a team early, but once we started losing we saw the I's come up, so it just hurt the team worse."
Rex RyanLeon Halip/Getty ImagesRex Ryan saw enough of the game to know what he didn't like.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Rex Ryan took a lot of heat for his unusually candid remarks after the first preseason game, when he admitted he was so focused on the defense that he didn't see Mark Sanchez's interception and many of Geno Smith's plays. It fueled the perception that Ryan is a defense-obsessed coach who doesn't give a hoot about offense. It also furthered the notion that he's not making the final decision in the quarterback competition.

On Sunday, Ryan responded. At first, he cracked a joke, saying he still hadn't seen a tape of the offense. Then he got serious.

"I see every single play -- every special teams play, every offensive play, every defensive play," he said, meaning his film review.

When Sanchez was intercepted for a touchdown, the coach's back was to the field as he huddled with the defense.

"The truth is, did I see the interception? No," Ryan said. "I heard the interception, the fans going crazy. I looked up and saw the big dude from BYU [Ziggy Ansah] running with the football into the end zone. I said, 'Oh, shoot' -- or something with an S."

Ryan claimed every head coach misses a play here and there, saying the only difference with him is that he wasn't afraid to admit it. He insisted that his defensive-minded approach won't hurt his ability to manage the entire game -- i.e. calling timeouts, making fourth-down decision, etc. Ryan mentioned the 2009 and 2010 seasons, when he ran the defense and still managed to succeed as a game manager.

CHALK TALK: As a changeup, Ryan opened his news conference with a video presentation for reporters. Holding a remote in front of a wide-screen TV, Ryan highlighted four plays from the first game, including two by TE Jeff Cumberland -- a key block on a running play and his 26-yard touchdown catch. He praised Cumberland's improvement as an all-around player, adding: "We need him to be a complete tight end."

Ryan also showed two defensive plays in which the defense showed nice pursuit on plays to the perimeter.

"I see the defense running to the ball like I've always envisioned," he said.

ON GENO'S ANKLE: Responding to questions about the wisdom of having Geno Smith pracgice only two days after he suffered a mildly sprained ankle, Ryan said the rookie was cleared by the medical staff. Clearly, Ryan is getting tired of injury-related questions. Last week, he was grilled by reporters on Joe McKnight's head injury, refusing to call it a concussion even though McKnight was being evaluated on the NFL's protocol on concussions.

LUKEWARM ON SANCHEZ: Ryan commended Sanchez for "a lot of positives." He also lamented a couple of potential big plays that got away.

"I thought we had a chance to make a couple big plays down the field, yet the kind of protection broke down a little, we slid one way or the other, maybe never had the vision down the field a little bit," Ryan said. "[He] clearly made a mistake on the interception. You have to get rid of that ball and we practiced it today, the same scenarios. We went over for the corrections."

ON GAME 2: Ryan declined to name a starter for next Saturday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, hinting that he might not follow through with his original plan. Presumably, the original plan was to smart Smith in the second preseason game.

ON J.J.: Ryan continued to gush about S Jaiquawn Jarrett, one of his new favorites.

"Just a guy that is really dedicated to learning the defense, obviously a brand-new defense for him," Ryan said. "[He] spends a ton of time doing that. He's worried about where he is at, he's worried about how he plays when he gets out there. He just keeps walking his tail off."
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Joe McKnight's eventful training camp continued Sunday. The enigmatic running back spoke to reporters for three minutes without actually saying anything. He refused to comment on his head injury and refused to comment on his recent arrest for traffic violations. If he had been asked to name his favorite TV show, he probably would've offered a "no comment" on that, as well.

Seven times he responded with, "I'm not going to get into that." As for actual news, McKnight returned to practice on a limited basis.

It has been a bizarre summer for McKnight, who flunked the conditioning test at the outset of camp.

[+] EnlargeJoe McKnight
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsHey, Joe McKnight, what do you think about ... aw, never mind.
For your entertainment purposes, here's Sunday's Q&A with reporters. Drink it in:

Q: How are you feeling?

McKnight: I'm not getting into that right now, but I feel good to be back out on the field.

Q: Do you know when you'll be cleared to be full go?

McKnight: Like I said, I'm not getting into that right now. I'm going to wait until the doctors tell me I'm cleared. It feels good to be back on the field.

Q: Has it been tough to be on the sideline, watching?

McKnight: It’s been tough, but just happy to be on the field with my team.

Q: Do you regard today as a big step forward or just a small one? How encouraging was today?

McKnight: Like I said, I was just happy to be back on the field with my teammates.

Q: Did you go through a period of time when you felt out of it or woozy?

McKnight: I'm not getting into that right now.

Q: How did you get hurt?

McKnight: I'm not getting into that right now.

Q: Did you have to be cleared by an independent doctor to be out here?

McKnight: I'm not getting into that right now.

Q: Do you anticipate playing on Saturday?

McKnight: I'm not getting into that right now.

Q: What can you talk about?

McKnight: (Silence).

Q: When you're healthy, what do you feel like you can bring to this team, when you get back to 100 percent?

McKnight: I don't really know. I'll have to [wait] when I get back to 100 percent.

Q: You were arrested on the off day. What can you tell us about that?

McKnight: I'm not getting into that right now.

Q: Do you feel like you've lost anything missing this time? Were you able to go through classroom work?

McKnight: I'm just getting back in the flow of things. When the doctors clear me, I can get back into the flow of things.

Q: Joe, are you meeting with the medical staff daily?

McKnight: Yes.

At the end of the riveting session, McKnight was asked about the dispute between Time Warner and CBS. He turned to a Jets PR official and asked incredulously, "This guy asking me about Time Warner and CBS right now? You serious?" To which the PR official replied, "He's not getting into that one."

Roster re-check: Jobs on the line

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
4:00
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Rex Ryan said there's more roster uncertainty than he's ever experienced, so predicting the final 53 is tougher than usual. Here's a breakdown of where it stands as the Jets prepare to open the preseason Friday night in Detroit:

QUARTERBACK

Safe Bets: Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Greg McElroy

Bubble: Matt Simms

Analysis: The starting job remains up in the air. Simms' arm strength still intrigues the coaches.

RUNNING BACK

Safe Bets: Bilal Powell, Chris Ivory, Joe McKnight

Bubble: Mike Goodson, Lex Hilliard, Tommy Bohanon, John Griffin, Chad Spann, Mossis Madu

Analysis: Goodson's future in football is a huge question mark. Bohanon, a rookie, is giving Hilliard a run for the fullback job. McKnight will stick because of his return ability. Griffin is challenging for a spot.

WIDE RECEIVER

Safe Bets: Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Braylon Edwards, Clyde Gates

Bubble: Ben Obomanu, Ryan Spadola, Joseph Collins, K.J. Stroud, Titus Ryan, Zach Rogers, Michael Campbell

Analysis: A lot hinges on Holmes' availability. The odds of him being ready for Week 1 are remote. They will have to decide whether to carry him on the 53 or place him on PUP (six games). There's a spirited battle for the fifth/sixth job. Special-teams ability will be the deciding factor.

TIGHT END

Safe Bets: Jeff Cumberland, Kellen Winslow

Bubble: Konrad Reuland, Hayden Smith, Chris Pantale, Mike Shanahan

Analysis: Because of his knee, Winslow falls between "safe bets" and "bubble." They don't have a true blocking tight end. Keep in mind that Bohanon can play tight end as well.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Safe Bets: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Stephen Peterman, Nick Mangold, Willie Colon, Austin Howard, Brian Winters, Vladimir Ducasse, Oday Aboushi

Bubble: Caleb Schlauderaff, Dalton Freeman, Will Campbell, Dennis Landolt, J.B. Shugarts, Trey Gilleo, Erik Cook

Analysis: The starting lineup is pretty set -- unless Winters comes on strong to challenge Peterman. The key question is backup center, as Schlauderaff struggles with his shotgun snaps.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Safe Bets: Muhammad Wilkerson, Kenrick Ellis, Sheldon Richardson, Antonio Garay

Bubble: Damon Harrison, Tevita Finau, Leger Douzable, Junior Aumavae, Lanier Coleman

Analysis: It's a thin, four-man rotation at the top. They need another player or two to step up. Quinton Coples will play on the line even though he's listed as a linebacker.

LINEBACKER

Safe Bets: David Harris, Demario Davis, Quinton Coples, Calvin Pace, Antwan Barnes, Garrett McIntyre, Nick Bellore

Bubble: Ricky Sapp, Josh Mauga, JoJo Dickson, Danny Lansanah, Jacquies Smith, Troy Davis, Sean Progar-Jackson

Analysis: Great competition for the backup jobs. Sapp, finally healthy, is having a terrific camp and has a good chance to stick. They could end up keeping nine.

SECONDARY

Safe Bets: Antonio Cromartie, Dee Milliner, Kyle Wilson, Dawan Landry, Antonio Allen, Darrin Walls

Bubble: Ellis Lankster, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Josh Bush, Isaiah Trufant, Bret Lockett, Donnie Fletcher, Royce Adams, Rontez Miles, Mike Edwards

Analysis: There haven't been this many questions in the secondary in a long time. The sleeper here is Jarrett, who could push an unspectacular Allen out of a starting job. They will go five or six deep at corner.

SPECIALISTS

Safe Bets: Nick Folk (PK), Robert Malone (P), Tanner Purdum (LS)

Bubble: Billy Cundiff (PK), Ryan Quigley (P), Pat Scales (LS)

Analysis: Cundiff got off to a slow start, but he's coming on and could make it interesting. Quigley punted well in the scrimmage.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Mark Sanchez seems to have gained confidence after the New York Jets' decision to start him in the preseason opener in Detroit on Friday.

"I feel like I'm putting together a good camp and think I earned the right to start in this first game," Sanchez said. "We'll see how it goes from there, but I have to keep playing well to stay on the field and that's the plan."

That confidence extends to his team, which Sanchez said can reach the playoffs despite personnel issues and widespread doubt from outside the organization.

"I think you have to have that mentality that this team is built to last," Sanchez said. "That we're built to make a strong run, to get hot at the right time, to sustain some injuries and then move on from them. Get guys healthy as soon as possible. I mean, it's natural, it happens every year.

"But I feel like we have the talent to make that happen and now it's about realizing that talent on the field and going out and playing well."

Sanchez was told he got the nod in the quarterback meeting on Tuesday. Geno Smith, the rookie quarterback also vying for the starting job, had a subdued response when asked about being the first backup, at least on paper.

"I don't have any reaction toward it," Smith said. "The competition is still open. I'm just continuing to work and to grow."

Smith said he hasn't been told if he will start a preseason game, and when coach Rex Ryan was posed the question, he said he is just waiting to see how things develop. The competition is still too close to call, and despite some growing pains, Smith has impressed with his arm and his accuracy.

Still, Sanchez said he never doubted that he would start the first game.

"No, I just don't think about not playing ever," Sanchez said. "That really doesn't affect the way I approach things, the way I practice, the way I play."

Jets center Nick Mangold said Sanchez has his eye on the regular season starting job.

"He seems pretty focused in what he's doing," Mangold said of Sanchez. "Anytime I peak in the room, he's studying or watching film or getting his own little rehab in. I think he's focused and he's got a desire to win the job, and they're putting together a pretty good competition so far."

Getting a preseason starting job is just the first step, but Sanchez seems to have gained confidence from the role.

"Felt like the natural thing and something I've been used to," Sanchez said.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- At 32, Calvin Pace is having a "monster" training camp, according to Rex Ryan. Pace credits a new outlook. Two months of unemployment can change a man's perspective. He keeps his termination letter as motivation.

"I had to be real with myself and it was the hardest thing in the world," the veteran linebacker said Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeCalvin Pace
William Perlman/The Star Ledger/USA TODAY Sports
Coming off a disappointing 2012, Pace was released in February with other high-priced veterans. His production (three sacks) didn't come close to maching his salary, an $11.6 million cap charge. He was crushed.

"Last year wasn't good enough," he said. "It wasn't just absolutely awful, but I got fired, you know what I'm saying? It wasn't like a bunch of teams were beating my door down. It was an extremely humbling experience. ... You're living your dream for a team you love to play for, an awesome city. All of a sudden, it's, 'Thanks, but no thanks.'

"You're looking at your termination letter and it says you weren't as good as everybody else. It's something that stuck with me and will always stick with me. Even on days where I don't want to see these guys, coming out here for practice, I think about that. I don't ever want to feel like that. I didn't want my career to end on a mediocre year."

Pace keeps his official termination letter in his book bag. He glances at it from time to time, a reminder of the dark side of the NFL. He likes this side better. He rededicated himself in the offseason and feels rejuvenated by the youth that surrounds him on defense.

Ryan believes Pace can duplicate 2009, when he recorded a career-high eight sacks. To that, Pace said: "I plan on it." He's not making huge dollars anymore (the $940,000 minimum, plus a $65,000 signing bonus), but he's not about the money at this stage of his career.

"I still have more left in the tank," he said. "I just didn't want my career to end here with somebody telling me I couldn't play, people saying what I couldn't do and me knowing what I can do.

"This is where I want to finish, hopefully on my terms, when I can say, 'It's been a pleasure, time to say goodbye.' I didn't want it to end like that."

Jets: What we learned on Day 14

August, 7, 2013
8/07/13
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Observations from the press box:

1. Not lacking in confidence: Mark Sanchez, commenting for the first time since Rex Ryan revealed his quarterbacks plans for Friday night, said he "earned the right" to start the preseason opener. I wouldn't get too comfortable if I were him because this quarterback competition is far from settled. If Geno Smith comes off the bench and plays well in Detroit, he will start the second game with a chance to nail down the starting job.

2. Chaz not a Sanchez fan: Chaz Schilens' most memorable moment as a Jet came last training camp, when he took umbrage to CB Antonio Cromartie telling ESPN he'd be the second-best receiver on the team if afforded the opportunity to play the position. One year later, the veteran receiver still is making news with his mouth, this time with the Lions. He told the Detroit Free Press he has "nothing good to say" about Sanchez, so "I'm not going to say nothing." Schilens is doing a lot of talking for someone who could be out of a job in a couple of weeks.

3. Climbing the Hill top: It's still early, but WR Stephen Hill is the most improved player on the team. The former second-round pick has impressed with his improved mechanics and route running, so much so that receivers coach Sanjay Lal highlighted a particular play in Wednesday's receivers meeting. Hill could be the No. 1 receiver, because it doesn't appear that Santonio Holmes will be ready for Week 1.

Best camp battles: Running back

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
5:34
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Quick takeaways on the Jets' running back competition:

Who is involved: The better question might be, who isn't involved? The Jets have five backs vying for playing time: Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight, John Griffin and Mike Goodson, who didn't report to camp for an undisclosed reason. The team won't say when or if he will return, but that is the hope.

[+] EnlargeChris Ivory
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsChris Ivory joined the Jets after three seasons with the Saints.
What are the stakes: Let's be honest, the Jets don't have a true No. 1 back. Not one running back has a 1,000-yard season on his career résumé, and that hasn't happened to the Jets since 1994. In all likelihood, it will be backfield-by-committee. That could change if someone separates from the pack, but don't bet on it. Privately, the staff is hoping that Ivory, acquired in an offseason trade with the Saints, can be a 15-carry-a-game runner. But he has never played a full season, so it's a bold projection.

How the job will be won: It might not be "won," per se, but roles will be defined. Chances are, Ivory will emerge as the lead back. The Jets want to have a physical running game, and Ivory is a big, physical back with the ability to make yards after contact. The Jets say he has natural hands, but he has no track record as a pass-catcher, meaning he's not an every-down back. Goodson has the skill set to be the third-down back -- he's the most explosive of the group -- but his mysterious absence is hurting his chances.

Powell has value because he can play on any down. McKnight remains an enigma, physically talented but inconsistent. Griffin, taking advantage of increased reps, has opened eyes with his vision and cutback ability. He's on the bubble.

Projected winner: If healthy, Ivory will be the lead back. Powell will be the No. 2, spelling Ivory in the base offense. Powell also is the leading candidate to be the third-down back until Goodson returns -- if he returns.

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