New York Jets: 2014 NFL Combine

Scouting combine: Final thoughts

February, 25, 2014
The NFL scouting combine wraps up Tuesday with on-field workouts for the defensive backs. We'll take this opportunity to put a bow on the combine, recapping it from a New York Jets' perspective:

1. Good hands people: This is one of those years where the Jets' top need marries with the strength of the draft. Everybody knows they want to rebuild at wide receiver, and the combine reinforced the widespread belief that receiver is perhaps the deepest position. Nearly all of the top wideouts performed well in drills, with Mike Evans (Texas A&M), Brandin Cooks (Oregon State), Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU) and Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) helping themselves the most. The Jets should be able to get a quality wideout with the 18th pick if they opt to go that route. The abundance of receivers could impact how they approach free agency.

2. Thin at tight end: The Jets may have to think twice about filling their tight-end need in the draft. North Carolina's Eric Ebron solidified his standing as the top tight end with a strong performance, but some of the other top prospects were limited by injuries. For players such as Jace Amaro (Texas Tech) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington), it means their pro days will carry greater importance. It's not a terribly deep position anyway.

3. Sanchez saga: The Jets met with Mark Sanchez's reps to discuss the quarterback's future. Nothing was settled, but Sanchez will be rehabbing in New Jersey this week, giving the Jets a chance to monitor his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder. One source said the chances of Sanchez returning are about 20 to 30 percent. Obviously, he'd have to accept a large pay cut. Look for this to play out until March 25, when a $2 million roster bonus is due -- or until they find his replacement.

4. Higher salary cap: The Jets aren't facing a cap squeeze, but it's always nice to have extra flexibility. The combine began with one report projecting the cap would increase to $130 million, up from $123 million last year. Then came another report saying it would be $132 million. The final number will be announced in the coming days. Either way, the Jets will have the ability to be aggressive in free agency. It'll be a departure from last year, when they were forced to bargain-shop.

5. Meet and greet: Teams were permitted to conduct 60 formal interviews at the combine. The Jets met with many of the top players, including Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles, but don't put too much stock in these sitdowns. It's called due diligence. They will conduct hundreds of player interviews by draft day. In some cases, the combine interview is just a starting point. Example: The Jets weren't blown away by Geno Smith last year, but they scheduled a follow-up on the eve of his pro day. That's when they became more comfortable with him.

Wake-up call: Combine, Day 6

February, 24, 2014
On Monday's schedule in Indianapolis:

New York Jets/Giants media availability: None. The prospects, too, are done with their media obligations. Ninety-five percent of the media have cleared out of Indianapolis, including yours truly.

Combine schedule: The defensive linemen and linebackers will be in Lucas Oil Stadium, participating in the 40-yard dash, agility stations and positional skill drills. ... The defensive backs will have psychological testing, the bench press and team interviews.

Players of interest: For very different reasons, the spotlight will be focused on two defensive ends -- South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Missouri's Michael Sam. Clowney, who told reporters his goal is to become one of the best players of all-time, could go No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans. His 40-yard dash will be a must-watch. After two weeks of intense scrutiny following his disclosure that he's gay, Sam finally can concentrate on football. Scouts are eager to see his speed and if he has the athleticism to play in space as a linebacker. He struggled in that area at the Senior Bowl.

Receiver-needy Jets see the future

February, 23, 2014
If your favorite team needs a wide receiver, like the New York Jets do, you've come to the right draft.

Most talent evaluators are calling this an exceptionally deep draft for receivers, a notion that was reinforced Sunday at the NFL scouting combine. It was speed day in Indianapolis -- the receivers, running backs and quarterbacks ran their 40s -- and the Jets had to walk away smiling at their scouting reports. If they can't find a quality wideout in the first or second round, something is wrong.

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonMarqise Lee's 4.52 40 time could mean he'll still be around when the Jets draft in the first round.
Clemson's Sammy Watkins solidified his status as the top receiver, running an official 4.43 in the 40 -- a time that surprised no one. Texas A & M's Mike Evans, a shade under 6-5, helped himself with a 4.53. With so many receiver-needy teams in the top half of the first round, it would be a surprise if Watkins (a possible top-5 pick) and Evans last for the Jets at No. 18.

The speculation will shift to USC's Marqise Lee, who did himself no favors by running a 4.52. A shade under 6-0, weighing 192 pounds, Lee was expected to run a sub-4.5. He'll get another shot at his pro day and private workouts. If he stays in the 4.5s, it could work to the Jets' benefit, perhaps ensuring he'd be there at 18. Everybody knows he can make plays -- he was the best receiver in the country in 2012 -- but teams obsess over 40 times.

Speed isn't always an accurate indicator of performance. The NFL Network threw out a cool stat (I hope I remember it correctly), noting that of the 15 receivers with the fastest 40 times in recent combines, only one (Mike Wallace) cracked the 1,000-yard mark in a season.

That said, a great 40 time is worth noting if there's on-the-field production to back it up. Such is the case with Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews, who raised his stock with an impressive combine. Not known for his speed, he ran a 4.46. The dude is 6-3 with the biggest hands (10.3 inches) of any receiver at the combine. Oh, and he's the all-time leading receiver in the SEC. What's not to like? He probably worked his way into the first round. I'm told the Jets were very impressed with him in their private interview.

Other notable 40s: Oregon State's Brandin Cooks is short at 5-9 3/4, but he ran 4.33, the fastest time for a receiver. LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. will draw first-round consideration after posting a 4.43. He also dazzled in various agility drills.

In case you're wondering, the fastest guy in Indianapolis Sunday was Kent State running back Dri Archer, who burned a 4.26 -- narrowly missing Chris Johnson's combine record (4.24).

Sunday notes: Heard around the combine

February, 23, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- Notes and observations from the NFL scouting combine:

1. Backs to the wall: This comes as a bit of a surprise, but I hear the New York Jets are exploring free-agent running backs -- namely Donald Brown (Indianapolis Colts) and Ben Tate (Houston Texans). Obviously, their greatest needs are wide receiver and tight end, with running back thought to be a secure position with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. But general manager John Idzik is a big believer in competition and depth. It also could mean that the troubled Mike Goodson is on thin ice. The bad boy from last offseason has legal issues, a surgically repaired knee and an upcoming $650,000 roster bonus. Why would the Jets pay that for a player in Goodson's situation? Both Brown and Tate have above-average running skills and they can catch the ball, a much-needed skill in the Jets' backfield.

2. Money to burn: When free agency opens March 11, the Jets should have at least $22 million in salary-cap space (not counting the anticipated veteran purge), but that doesn't mean they'll be spending like Kim Kardashian in a designer clothing store. Idzik still believes in building through the draft. "The draft is your lifeline," he said. "Free agency is phone-a-friend." That said, the Jets are expected to use the phone a few times. The feeling in the organization is they will sign a No. 2 wide receiver, a tight end (if they lose Jeff Cumberland), a veteran backup quarterback, a running back and a kicker (if they lose Nick Folk). They're optimistic about their chances of re-signing tackle Austin Howard. Yes, they have a fairly lengthy shopping list, but I don't see them breaking the bank for anyone with an $8-million-a-year-type deal. They will use the draft to find a potential No. 1 receiver and a pass-catching tight end, along with plugging some holes on defense.

3. QB quest: The Jets met with at least two quarterbacks, LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo. The 6-5 Mettenberger, in the final stages of knee-surgery rehab, is an interesting prospect. Idzik, who scouted him in person during the season, is looking to add a developmental quarterback at some point in the draft. Mettenberger could be just that in the late rounds. I see the Jets going to training camp with Geno Smith, Matt Simms, a new veteran backup and a rookie.

4. Off the Mark: If the Jets decide they want to retain Mark Sanchez (unlikely), they will try to get him to swallow a massive pay cut. The amount of their proposal will tell Sanchez just how much they really want him. If they try to slash his base pay from $9 million to $1 million, it would be insulting, a strong indication he'd have no chance to unseat Smith. If they offer in the $3 million-to-$5 million range, with a chance to make more money with incentives, it would show they consider him a viable starting option.

4a. Butt fumble revisited: Former longtime GM and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian believes Sanchez has been unfairly stigmatized by the "butt fumble." "Unequivocally, the butt fumble wasn't his fault," Polian told me. "It's been played ad infinitum. The guard (Brandon Moore) got driven into him. Perception is often times reality, and that's what people think. If you ask the average person what they think of Mark Sanchez, they'd say the butt fumble. It wasn't his fault."

5. Legal tampering: The combine is the place where agents and teams meet to discuss free-agent deals. Technically, it's not allowed, but no one says anything. Curiously, a number of agents told me that teams are reluctant this year to discuss specific dollar amounts. It's likely that teams, concerned about having their offers shopped around, are waiting for the March 8-11 exclusive negotiating period to get serious.

6. Seen around Indy: Former Jets colleagues Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini lunched together. Despite the awkward parting in 2009 (actually, Woody Johnson was the driving force behind Mangini's ouster), Tannenbaum and Mangini have remained close friends. Mangini, named last week as the tight-ends coach of the San Francisco 49ers, is working his way up the ladder on the offensive side of the ball. If he makes it to coordinator some day, he'll have the rare offensive/defensive coordinator on his résumé.

6a. Seen around Indy II: Rex Ryan and twin brother, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, took a break from the combine to eat at a local Hooters restaurant. Naturally, they ended up on Twitter, posing in a picture with a group of Hooters' waitresses.

7. Give that man a pair of ear plugs: Former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's experience in a circus-type environment (the Jets, 2009-2012) should serve him well in his new job as the Cleveland Browns' coach. He got the job after 23 people turned it down (only a slight exaggeration), saw the two men that hired him get whacked (Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi) and was hit Friday with the news that the Browns reportedly came close to hiring San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh before turning to him. Pettine called the Harbaugh story "noise -- and my goal is to quiet the noise." He recently held a staff meeting in which he used a Power Point presentation to underscore the challenge before them -- two playoff appearances, one playoff win and 141 coaches since 1991. Said Pettine: "To turn around a franchise, you have to be extraordinary." Here's wishing him luck; he'll need it.

8. Best and worst: I thought Michael Sam handled himself extremely well Saturday in his first news conference since sharing he is gay. Facing perhaps the largest news conference in combine history, Sam was confident, yet not cocky, projecting the image of a young man who just wants to play football. On the other side of the news-conference spectrum was Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who fumbled his way through a Q & A that focused on the bullying scandal. He was all over the place, accepting responsibility in one breath but pleading ignorance in the next. How they fired longtime trainer Kevin O'Neill, portrayed in a negative light in the Wells report, was a low-class move. The Dolphins flew him to the combine and then fired him, two days before he was to receive an award in Indianapolis as the league's top trainer. He didn't attend the ceremony, but received a standing ovation when his prepared remarks were read to the crowd.

9. Respect for JC: It was interesting to hear offensive linemen talk about South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, the possible No. 1 overall pick. Said Michigan tackle Michael Schofield: "I played a series against Clowney, and that was probably the hardest series of my life." Other linemen echoed similar sentiments. The Houston Texans, picking first, have a tough choice. They need a quarterback, but Clowney is the best talent in the draft.

10. Johnny Football speaks: Clearly, Johnny Manziel's mission at the combine was to shatter his image as a rock star-party boy quarterback. Asked to describe the difference between Johnny Football and Johnny Manziel, the former Texas A & M star shifted into third person. "Johnny Manziel is a guy ... I’m from a small town of Kerrville, Texas, 20,000 people. People make me out to be a big Hollywood guy, (I'm) really just still a small-town kid" -- who jets off to Vegas to party with the rich and famous.

Wake-up call: Combine, Day 5

February, 23, 2014
On the schedule Sunday in Indianapolis:

New York Jets/Giants media availability: Completed.

Combine schedule: This is the most interesting day from an on-the-field perspective, because the so-called glamor positions -- quarterback, wide receiver and running back -- perform before NFL scouts and coaches. The players will be timed in the all-important 40-yard dash, and there will be agility stations and skill drills. The 40 always attracts the most interest. Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins said his goal is to run "something crazy, maybe break the combine record" -- a 4.24 by Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson. Two of the top three quarterback prospects, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, have said they're not planning to throw at the combine. ... The defensive linemen and linebackers will have psychological testing, the bench press and team interviews. ... The defensive backs have measurements, medical exams, team interviews and a media session.

Players of interest: Both the Jets and Giants have a need at receiver, so this should be a compelling day. Watkins will be off the board by the time the Giants (12th) and Jets (18th) pick, but USC's Marqise Lee and Texas A&M's Mike Evans could be available for one or both teams. Lee was scheduled to meet Saturday with Jets officials; Watkins met with them Friday night. Evans, a former basketball player who measured a shade under 6-5, said, "There are a lot of great receivers in this draft, don't get me wrong, but I feel I'm the best one." ... With David Wilson's future uncertain, the Giants are in the market for a running back. There's no running-back value at No. 12, but there are second- and third-round candidates, including Auburn's Tre Mason, who claimed he's been running in the 4.3s. The stopwatch never lies; players do.

Ebron headlines impressive TE group

February, 22, 2014
Both the New York Jets and New York Giants are in the market for a tight end. They saw some good ones Saturday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, including an impressive performance by North Carolina's Eric Ebron, the consensus No. 1 tight end in the draft.

Ebron checked in at 6-foot-4 3/8, 250 pounds and blazed the 40 in 4.6 seconds, the second-fastest time among his position group. He has big hands (10 inches) and did 24 reps on the bench press, which is considered average. Simply put, he has all the right measurables. Texas Tech's Jace Amaro, another potential first-round pick, didn't run as well as Ebron at 4.74 seconds, but he's a big man -- 6-foot-5 3/8, 265 pounds. He had the smallest hands of all the tight ends (nine inches), which could be a concern for teams.

Here's a list of the top-10 40 times for the tight ends:

1. A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State: 4.50

2. Eric Ebron, North Carolina: 4.60

3. Colt Lyerla, Oregon: 4.61

4. Trey Burton, Florida: 4.62

5. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: 4.74

6. Reggie Jordan, Missouri Western: 4.77

7. Anthony Denham, Utah: 4.77

8. Jake Murphy, Utah: 4.79

9. Arthur Lynch, Georgia: 4.82

10. Marcel Jensen, Fresno State: 4.85

Ebron draws interest from Jets, Giants

February, 21, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- The New York Jets and New York Giants have the hots for the same player -- Eric Ebron, North Carolina's ultra-athletic tight end.

If they both covet Ebron, the advantage goes to the Giants, who own the 12th overall pick -- six spots ahead of the Jets in the first round.

The Giants are so intrigued by Ebron (6-4, 250 pounds) that general manager Jerry Reese and vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross scouted him during the season and filed reports. The team's top two decision-makers don't do that unless there's a high degree of interest in a player. Ebron scored high grades and will be a consideration with the 12th pick.

The Giants have a glaring need, as do the Jets, who would love to pair Ebron with Jeff Cumberland, a free agent-to-be whom they're trying to re-sign.

Ebron (62 catches, 973 yards, three touchdowns last season) is the consensus top tight end in the draft, ahead of Texas Tech's Jace Amaro, whom the Giants interviewed Thursday night at the scouting combine. Ebron is a new-breed tight end, meaning he can split out as a receiver, creating a mismatch. He once said his speed is "illegal," and he told reporters that he can't be jammed at the line of scrimmage. College opponents didn't try, he said.

"I think why teams don't press me is because they can't," he said. "I will not be pressed at the line of scrimmage. That's a prideful thing of mine. It'd be best to leave the play to cover y'alls' back."

Ebron said he patterns his game after Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers. Why?

"Because [of the] similarities," he said, comparing himself to one of the best. "His speed, he's powerful, he's very strong at the line of scrimmage. Love everything about him."

Ebron isn't shy on confidence. Asked to describe his play, he replied, "Fast. I play fast. I'm a little bit faster than most."

Scouts are eager to see his time in the 40. Ebron is far from a finished product. His blocking needs work, he's had some drops and some question his toughness over the middle. But the tight end position has changed, and the good ones are deployed like wide receivers.

"I just do different things than other tight ends do," Ebron said. "If you watch film you'll probably say the same thing."

Jets believe in Geno ... they have no choice

February, 21, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- At the risk of being flagged for a delay-of-name penalty, the New York Jets refuse to anoint Geno Smith as their starting quarterback. It's just semantics, of course. Whether they declare it or not, they expect him to begin 2014 as the starter.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneThe Jets have plenty invested in Geno Smith, but they'll be at the combine looking for another quarterback next year if he doesn't take a step forward in 2014.
You don't need to be a detective to figure that out. The Jets' hierarchy has used the NFL scouting combine as a pro-Geno platform, expressing optimism -- publicly and privately -– in the second-year quarterback.

But let's face it: The Jets are stuck between a Roc Nation and a hard place. If Jay Z's client backslides this season, they will return to the combine next year with a new coach and a quarterback-needy general manager.

With limited options, the Jets are embarking on a Geno-or-bust journey in 2014. This is the situation that John Idzik has created. The second-year GM handpicked Smith, and you can bet he'll do everything he can to help him succeed.

He'd better be right. If not, the Jets will be in the Marcus Mariota sweepstakes next year, just another draft-lottery team desperate for a franchise quarterback. No team wants to be in that predicament. For the Jets, it would be yet another do-over at the most important position.

So, yeah, they have a lot invested in Smith. They're gambling that those final four games were a harbinger of a bright future, not simply a mirage. It's risky business, placing significant weight on three wins over mediocre competition, but the Jets believe he matured down the stretch.

"He had some rough spots, as the rest of us did as well, but I like the way he finished," Rex Ryan told the national media.

Ryan showed up at the combine armed with research. He mentioned how Smith engineered five game-winning drives in the fourth quarter, second only to Tom Brady, and he noted that Smith's QBR over the final four games (78.9) was second-best in the league. Just recently, Ryan took great pleasure in describing how Smith advanced by "a million miles" through the course of the season.

"We were encouraged by the way we, as a team, finished 2013, in particular how Geno finished," Idzik said. "He finished on a strong note. There were a lot of positive signs."

Former longtime general manager Bill Polian, now an ESPN analyst, agreed with that assessment. But he said of Smith, "Now he's got to make a jump as a professional quarterback. That means fewer interceptions. That's the bottom line."

Polian, reaching into his past, noted how Peyton Manning also struggled in his rookie season, 1998, but that "the arrow was up for the last six games, so we felt good going into the offseason. I'm sure the Jets feel good about [Smith]. His arrow was up for the last four games."

The Indianapolis Colts weren't about to ditch Manning after one year because he was a No. 1 overall pick, so it's not really an apples-to-apples comparison with Smith. He doesn't have that kind of long-term security, but he'll get another season to prove himself as a franchise-caliber quarterback.

What choice do the Jets have?

They own the 18th pick in the draft, high enough to select a quality playmaker to help the offense, but not high enough to take one of the top three quarterbacks. If they draft one, it'll be a developmental player in the later rounds.

Free agency? The market will be filled with short-term fixes, former starters who now project as backups. The Jets probably will sign a David Garrard type, presumably one with healthy knees who can actually get on the field. Maybe it'll be Michael Vick, 33, but he'd be a Band-Aid, not a solution.

How about a trade? The most logical possibility no longer is possible. The Washington Redskins reportedly have no intention of dealing Kirk Cousins, whom many thought would be dangled in trade talks.

Mark Sanchez? Idzik didn't want to go there last year, so there's no reason to think he'll change his thinking, especially with Sanchez coming off shoulder surgery.

Somehow, Idzik must fortify his depth chart with a seasoned quarterback.

"You have to have a quality backup; I'm living proof of that," said Polian, who got burned in 2011 when Manning sat out the season with a neck injury. "If we had one, I'd be talking to you in a different capacity. The bottom line is, you have to have that guy. Who it is isn't as important as what it is."

So true, but the Jets aren't going to land a future starter -- unless they find a winning lottery ticket in the dumpster. The upcoming season is all about Smith, his ability to improve and lead the team to the next level -- the postseason. He's out of mulligans.

If Smith regresses, Idzik will be back in Indianapolis next February, looking for a new quarterback to pair with his new coach.

Jets huddle with Eastern Illinois QB

February, 21, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- On Thursday night, the New York Jets met with a fast-rising, small-school quarterback -- Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois.

"I have talked to them ... and had a good conversation and everything, and we were rollin' from there," Garoppolo said Friday at the NFL scouting combine.

Garoppolo called it an informal meeting. Still, it's always interesting when a team meets with a quarterback. Garoppolo has generated a lot of post-season buzz, improving his draft stock with an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl. Evidently, the Jets took notice. Quarterback isn't a pressing need, but they could be looking for a developmental player in the later rounds. Some scouts say Garoppolo could go as high as the third round.

Unlike Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, who decided not to throw at the combine, Garoppolo is planning to perform all the drills.

"I wanted to come out and showcase my talent against the other best quarterbacks in the nation," he said. "That’s what the combine is all about."

Wake-up call: Combine, Day 3

February, 21, 2014
On the schedule for Friday in Indianapolis:

New York Giants/Jets media availability: New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin is scheduled to speak with reporters at 12:45 p.m. Among the topics sure to come up are his contract situation, new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and his potential impact on Eli Manning, impending free agent Hakeem Nicks and plans to fix the offensive line. The New York Jets are finished with their formal media availability.

Combine schedule: Place-kickers and special-teamers work out for NFL personnel at Lucas Oil Stadium. They will join offensive linemen and tight ends for the bench press, psychological testing and team interviews. ... Quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs are measured, take medical exams, participate in team interviews and meet the media. ... Defensive linemen and linebackers arrive in town for a medical pre-exam and X-rays, plus an orientation and team interviews.

Players of interest: Because the Giants and Jets share a wide receiver need, the media sessions for Clemson's Sammy Watkins, USC's Marqise Lee and Texas A&M's Mike Evans will be of particular interest. But, make no mistake, the spotlight will belong to Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, arguably the most popular player in college football and the potential No. 1 overall pick. Manziel already has said he won't participate in throwing drills, saving them for a personal pro day, but he will be the headline of the day based simply on what he says.

GM John Idzik able to joke about Revis now

February, 20, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- One year ago, John Idzik showed up for his first scouting combine as the New York Jets' general manager and he was pelted with questions about Darrelle Revis trade rumors.

He was asked every which way about the possibility of a Revis trade, and Idzik did more dancing than a Rockette.

On Thursday, Idzik was reminded of last year's Revis frenzy. He smiled.

"Who?" he asked, playfully.

Idzik could afford to joke. Yes, he traded one of the best cornerbacks in football, incurring criticism, but he turned the draft-pick compensation into Sheldon Richardson. He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

"Who" did well in his new home, making the Pro Bowl and making $16 million from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sanchez will be ready, but for whom?

February, 20, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- Mark Sanchez is progressing well with his shoulder rehab and has resumed throwing, according to New York Jets officials. But they clammed up when asked if Sanchez will be doing his throwing for the Jets in 2014.

The former starter is expected to be a salary-cap casualty in the coming weeks, and neither Rex Ryan nor general manager John Idzik said anything Thursday that indicated otherwise. They wanted no part of a Sanchez discussion, with Ryan refusing to give a basic overview of the quarterback position.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesThe Jets owe Mark Sanchez a $2 million roster bonus if he's still on the team March 25.
"I prefer not to," Ryan told reporters at the NFL scouting combine. "We’ll just say this: Let's talk about where Geno [Smith] left off."

And he proceeded to praise Smith for his strong finish. It's not hard to read between the lines here, folks.

Sanchez has a $13.1 million cap charge in 2014, including a $2 million roster bonus due March 25, and there's no way he will be on the roster at that number. The only question is whether the Jets will try to retain him by offering to restructure his contract -- i.e. a massive pay cut. If the Jets were to take that route, they'd probably offer Sanchez an incentive-laden deal with base pay in the $2 million-to-$3 million range for the coming season, according to a longtime personnel executive. His current base pay is $9 million.

It's quite possible the Jets will simply cut bait, making no effort to keep him. It's also possible that Sanchez would reject a pay cut, forcing his release by March 25. His agents are expected to meet with Idzik here at the combine.

Ryan gave his stock answer, saying he'd "absolutely" like to have Sanchez back. He says that about every player whose status is uncertain. Idzik declined to comment. Quite frankly, his non-answers were eerily reminiscent to those from last year's combine, when he dodged questions about trade rumors involving Darrelle Revis. Of course, we all know how that turned out.

"We tend to let things play out," Idzik said of Sanchez's situation. "We still have some time there. We know he’ll be ready (for the season). We’ll just let that take its course."

Economics aside, the big factor is Sanchez's surgically repaired throwing shoulder. He's four months into what was initially projected as a four- to five-month process. Both Idzik and Ryan praised Sanchez's diligent approach, repeating the sound bites they used last February for Revis and his knee rehab.

"His whole focus -- and I know he’s doing a great job of this – is rehabbing, getting that shoulder back to where he’s throwing right now," Ryan said of Sanchez. "I know he’s doing whatever he can to get back."

Added Idzik: "We’re assuming Mark is going to be fine with his shoulder."

Of course, the Jets are best served by giving a glowing medical report. They need to enhance Sanchez's market value, assuming they try to trade him. Good luck with that.

League observers expect the Jets to replace Sanchez with another veteran, possibly Michael Vick, a free agent. Smith is the odds-on favorite to start, although Idzik continued to spew his semantic approach to the quarterback situation, refusing to name Smith the starter.

"We don't anoint starters in February, and we don't anoint them in March," Idzik said.

There will be another quarterback competition, because everything is competition in Idzik's world -- just don't expect Sanchez to be part of it. They won't acknowledge it publicly, but the Jets want no part of the egg-on-face possibility of Sanchez beating out Smith in training camp. Idzik said Sanchez still can be a starter in the league, but he measured his words carefully.

"We know Mark Sanchez," Idzik said. "He’s been a productive player in this league, a productive starter in this league. We know how he works, we know how he’s going to put everything into his rehab. We know how he’s going to be ambitious in his career. What would lead you to believe he wouldn’t (be a starter again)? That’s who Mark is. He’s competitor and he’s done it before."

And he hopes to do it again, but probably not with the Jets.

Wake-up call: Combine, Day 2

February, 20, 2014
On the schedule for Thursday in Indianapolis:

New York Jets/Giants media availability: New York Jets coach Rex Ryan (2:45 p.m.) and general manager John Idzik (3 p.m.) are scheduled for news conferences. The hot topics will be the futures of Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie; the draft and free agency; and the organization's first public comment on former Missouri DE Michael Sam. The New York Giants' media availability begins Friday.

Combine schedule: Placekickers, special teamers, offensive linemen and tight ends will undergo medical exams, measurements and team interviews. They also will be available to the media. ... Quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs arrive in town. They will have a medical pre-exam, X-rays, orientation and team interviews.

Players of interest: The Jets (18th overall pick) and Giants (12th) both have a need at tight end, so North Carolina's Eric Ebron -- the consensus top player at the position -- will be a focal point among the New York reporters. Ebron has the ability to light up the combine -- on and off the field. He's confident and entertaining, once bragging that his speed should be "illegal." He will be asked about his weight in light of a recent report that he put on extra pounds in an effort to become a better blocker. ... The Giants need help at offensive tackle, so Thursday's media session will offer a chance to meet first-round possibilities, namely Michigan's Taylor Lewan. We know how the Giants love those Big 10 linemen.

Combine watch list: New York Jets

February, 19, 2014
Looking at the scouting combine from a New York Jets' perspective, a few players that bear watching:

Mike Evans, Texas A&M, wide receiver: He has great size (6-foot-4) and ball skills, but scouts are curious to test his speed -- if he runs the 40-yard dash. As we know, some of the top prospects wait until their pro day to run the all-important 40. Evans could be in play for the Jets with the 18th pick. If he runs in the 4.4 range, he could challenge Clemson's Sammy Watkins for top receiver, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. Insider.

Odell Beckham Jr., LSU, wide receiver: As noted on the watch list Insider, scouts are starting to get excited about Beckham Jr. as they watch tape from his late-season games. A strong combine could push him into the first round. ESPN's Todd McShay thinks Beckham could clock the fastest 40. Insider

Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech, quarterback: He has Colin Kaepernick size (6-5) and athleticism, but his throwing mechanics are unpolished. The Jets could be looking for a developmental quarterback in the later rounds.

Eric Ebron, North Carolina, tight end: The Jets are desperate for tight end help, and they have their eye on Ebron. Chances are, he'll light up the combine, which would be a bad thing for the Jets. He'd never last until the 18th pick.

Dee Ford, Auburn, defensive end/outside linebacker: He's an explosive edge rusher, and those are hard to find. It's not a pressing need for the Jets (it takes a back seat to their many needs on offense), but Ford would be hard to pass in the second round.

Andre Williams, Boston College, running back: It's not a huge positional need for the Jets, but we know they're not afraid to stockpile backs. Williams isn't generating any buzz, but he was one of the best players in the country last season and a Heisman finalist.

Combine primer: We're off to Indianapolis

February, 19, 2014
In 1996, I sat down with Keyshawn Johnson for a one-on-one interview at the players' hotel. The following year, I was invited up to Bill Belichick's hotel room to interview him during his brief run as the coach of the New York Jets -- a few days before they received permission to hire Bill Parcells. Unless he was acting, Belichick looked and sounded like he was ready to dive in as HC of the NYJ.

Those were the days when the NFL scouting combine wasn't a major media event, when one-on-one interviews were possible and everything wasn't orchestrated by the league. Now the combine is a mini-Super Bowl, with live television, a "radio row" and wall-to-wall news conferences. You might say it's less intimate than the old days, but to use one of Belichick's pet expressions, it is what it is.

The fun starts Wednesday in Indianapolis. For the record, is scheduled to be on the ground late Wednesday, providing updates through the weekend.

Wednesday's combine schedule:

Placekickers, special teamers, offensive linemen and tight ends arrive. There's a medical pre-exam, X-rays, orientation and team interviews. No formal media sessions are scheduled.

One of the most laughable aspects of the combine is how teams fall in love with prospects based on how well they run and jump and lift weights, forgetting the most important part of the evaluation process is ... you know, how they play football. You will hear coaches and team officials insist they don't place added emphasis on the combine, but they're all guilty of it, including the Jets, who unwittingly provided the rest of the league with the cautionary tale.

Vernon Gholston.

Gholston blew up the combine in 2008, running the 40 in 4.67 seconds after weighing in at 266 pounds -- freakishly fast for a man that size. He also did 37 reps on the bench press and, just like that, the Jets were smitten. They picked him sixth overall and you know the rest. Right now, I can say I have as many sacks as Gholston, whose career flamed out after three years.

The Jets learned a hard lesson, but they did it again in 2012 with Stephen Hill. His measurables were off the charts -- a 6-4 wide receiver and a 4.36 time in the 40, the 40th-fastest 40 in combine history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Seduced by those numbers, the Jets' scouts bet on Hill's potential, overlooking his limited production in college. He was given a mid-first-round grade and selected high in the second round. You know the rest.

So here we go: In Indianapolis, a city famous for speed, the mantra for the week will be, "Gentlemen, start your stop watches."