New York Jets: Eric Decker

Injury report: Decker practices, Dee doubtful

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
The New York Jets are officially listing cornerback Dee Milliner as doubtful, but the team expects the 23-year-old to miss his second game of the season Monday night against the Chicago Bears due to ankle and quadriceps injuries.

Now for some good news: Wide receiver Eric Decker, who did not practice Wednesday, Thursday or Friday due to a hamstring injury, was out there on a limited basis Saturday, the team said, and he is officially listed as questionable. Expect Decker to be a game-time decision.

Milliner missed Week 1 due to a high-ankle sprain he has been dealing with since Aug. 10. He returned and played 40 snaps in Week 2, but recently he developed quad tightness, which will likely keep him out of Week 3.

That means converted safety Antonio Allen and career backup Darrin Walls will once again be the starting cornerbacks, with Kyle Wilson manning the slot.

Bears wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall are officially listed as questionable. But both are expected to play, which could mean yet another long night for Gang Green’s secondary. All the pressure is on the front seven to force quarterback Jay Cutler into mistakes, which he has been prone to in the past.

Milliner, who referred to himself as the best cornerback in the NFL back in July, needed offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, and he also dealt with an Achilles injury during the preseason. The 2013 first-round pick rebounded nicely after being benched early in his rookie campaign, but so far, his young career hasn’t gone as well as he or the Jets had hoped.

Decker has been an extremely valuable addition on offense since he signed a $36 million, free-agent contract with the Jets in the offseason. Gang Green should use plenty of ground and pound against one of the NFL’s worst rush defenses, but quarterback Geno Smith has been developing a nice rapport with his favorite target, Decker, so the team is obviously hoping he plays.


Probable: LB Nick Bellore (hip), DB Josh Bush (quadriceps), OL Willie Colon (calf), LB Quinton Coples (probable), LB A.J. Edds (hamstring), RB Chris Johnson (ankle), OL Nick Mangold (shoulder)

Questionable: Decker (hamstring)

Doubtful: Milliner (ankle/quadriceps)


Probable: DE Jared Allen (back), S Chris Conte (shoulder), WR Josh Morgan (groin)

Questionable: Jeffery (hamstring), Marshall (ankle),

Doubtful: DE Trevor Scott (foot)

Out: C Roberto Garza (shoulder), LB Shea McClellin (hand), CB Sherrick McManis (quadriceps), DT Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), G Matt Slauson (ankle)

If no Decker, Gang to lean on ground game

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- If Eric Decker cannot go Monday night due to a hamstring injury, the New York Jets are probably going to have to turn to their ground game in order to beat the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium.

Granted, that may not be such a bad thing.

The Jets have rushed for the second-most yards (358) in the NFL through the first two weeks of the season, while the Bears possess the league’s sixth-worst run defense (320 yards allowed).

“It’s going to have a big impact,” Jets running back Chris Johnson said when asked how Decker's potential absence could affect the team. “Any time you’ve got a guy of his caliber, with the type of catches that he makes and the type of plays that he makes, out, that’s going to be a blow. But it just gives opportunities to other guys to step up and make big plays. I feel like we’ve got guys on this team who can step up and do those things.”

Johnson is coming off a Week 2 performance in which he rushed for just 21 yards on 12 carries. He feels he’s still getting used to New York's shotgun, zone-blocking offense. Johnson was in a more traditional pro set system his first six seasons with Tennessee. Johnson called the transition “a work in progress.”

The Jets struggled against the Packers after Decker went down.

“We just didn’t execute quite as well,” Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “And I’ve got to do a better job of putting guys in a position [to succeed].”

You also have to wonder whether this could be a breakout game for tight ends Jeff Cumberland and Jace Amaro, who saw just three targets, combined, from quarterback Geno Smith this past Sunday.

As for Smith’s progress, Mornhinweg said, “I think he was playing fantastic for much of the [Green Bay] game. There’s four or five plays there that I told him if we can minimize that to one or two plays, then we’ll be in great shape. And I’ve told him this. I flat out told him, ‘Look, we love the way you’re playing ball.’ Some of it’s experience. Some of it is more reps with that specific play. And I’m talking just a few plays a game. Otherwise, he’s playing at a high level.”

• Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman referred to Chicago’s big and tall receivers -- Brandon Marshall (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and Alshon Jeffery (6-3, 216) -- as NBA small forwards. (OK, so they need a couple more inches, but you get the point.)

That being said, Jets coach Rex Ryan still thinks “press” coverage is the way to go when covering the duo.

“I think press coverage is an ideal way to play because you can get your hands on them, and you’re not giving them free access down the field,” Ryan said. “So that’s probably an ideal way to play it. but again, if [one of them] gets on top of you, you’re in trouble.”

Practice report: Decker rehabs for third day

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker worked in the rehab area for a third consecutive day on Friday.

During the 30-minute portion of practice open to the media, Decker (hamstring), who again was not wearing pads, did some running and cutting off to the side.

The Jets will not put out their final injury report before Monday night’s matchup against the Chicago Bears until Saturday.

You have to wonder if the team will wait until game-time to make a decision on Decker, who is already an integral part of the offense.

Dee Milliner (ankle) was seen with the other cornerbacks in individual drills after a fairly long stint in the rehab area.

Linebackers/special teamers Nick Bellore (hip) and A.J. Edds (hamstring) spent some time in the rehab area before joining their teammates for individual drills. Edds missed the team’s Week 2 loss in Green Bay because of injury.

Decker won't engage in war of words

September, 5, 2014
Sep 5
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker elected not to engage in a war of words with ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth.

Schlereth called Decker a “marginal No. 2 at best” during an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM.

“I didn’t really have a reaction, to be honest,” Decker said Friday. “That’s his opinion, I guess. I’m not gonna get into a battle over who says what or how he feels. If I got into that kind of war, I’d probably stress myself out over worrying about what people say. I’m confident in my ability, I’m confident in this team, and really, I’m gonna let my talking be on the field.”

Decker signed a five-year, $36.25 million contract ($15 million guaranteed) with the Jets in mid-March after posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Denver Broncos in which he amassed a combined 172 receptions.

Schlereth used to play for the Broncos and has interviewed Decker in the past, the 27-year-old wide receiver said. Decker thought those interviews went well, and he had no idea that Schlereth had such an opinion about the receiver.

Observation Deck: New York Jets

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets signed Michael Vick to "push" Geno Smith, according to the company line. He's pushing, all right.

Vick sparked the starting offense to its only touchdown in a 13-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. Vick, who replaced Smith in the second quarter, led a 14-play, 80-yard drive in his only series with the first team. Vick's performance doesn't change the quarterback dynamic -- Smith still is the frontrunner -- but he's definitely keeping the pressure on. The rest of the offense? Ugly. It actually faced a third-and-42.

Here are some other thoughts on the Jets' first preseason game:
  • Smith (4-for-6, 33 yards) didn't do anything to hurt his chances, but he also failed to lead the offense to a touchdown in his two series. Rex Ryan said he wanted to see some production, meaning touchdowns. Smith & Co. came away with a field goal. The offense had some problems in third-and-long situations, ultimately stalling its first two drives. Smith found Eric Decker twice, connected with Jeff Cumberland on a nice 11-yard completion over the middle and ran for 10 yards on a read-option -- the highlights. There weren't any lowlights (no turnovers), but Smith didn't grab the job by the throat.
  • It was vintage Vick. He ran a little, threw a little and brought energy to the offense. He scrambled for 15 yards on a third-and-9 and converted third- and fourth-down passes to Jace Amaro and Tommy Bohanon, respectively. As expected, Vick (3-for-6, 17 yards) looked comfortable in Marty Mornhinweg's offense, seeing the entire field and following his reads. Things fell apart in his second series, but it came behind the second-team line, which struggled in pass protection. In practice, Vick has received only 20 percent of the first-team reps. It'll be interesting to see if the split changes in Week 2 of the preseason. It shouldn't; Smith needs as much work as possible.
  • The Jets' running-back depth, one of the strengths of the team, may have taken a hit. Chris Ivory suffered a rib injury in the first half and didn't return. Bilal Powell still is nursing a hamstring injury, leaving Chris Johnson as the only healthy, proven back. In his Jets debut, Johnson looked a bit rusty, frankly. He dropped a pass as the third-down back and lacked burst, rushing for only two yards on four carries. The former 2,000-yard rusher scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, cutting back on an inside run -- his signature moment. There's no reason to be alarmed. Remember, he's only seven months removed from knee surgery. Truth be told, the entire rushing attack was stuck in quick sand.
  • Biggest question mark entering camp? Cornerback. After one game, it's a bigger question mark. Dimitri Patterson didn't make anyone forget Darrelle Revis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or any of the other free-agent corners the Jets didn't sign. The well-traveled Patterson gave too much cushion on a couple of plays, allowed a 45-yard reception and was flagged for holding. This looms as a serious concern, considering the number of high-powered passing attacks on the early schedule. Dee Milliner played well, breaking up two pass plays, but you need more than one corner. Yes, the Jets are formidable up front, but opponents will spread them out and play dink-and-dunk. The first-team defense was shaky, allowing an 80-yard touchdown drive to the Colts' backups.

New York Jets training camp photos: Day 2

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
Here are some photo highlights from Friday's practice at New York Jets training camp at SUNY Cortland.

Eric DeckerAP Photo Wide receiver Eric Decker connects with a pass.
Chris JohnsonAP PhotoRunning back Chris Johnson runs a gauntlet of coaches bearing pads.
Jalen SaundersAP PhotoWide receiver Jalen Saunders gobbles up a pass.

Jets wake-up call: Day 1

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Here we go: Seven months after that wonderful and spontaneous locker-room celebration in Miami, where they partied after hearing Rex Ryan would return, the New York Jets are ready for business once again. The first training-camp practice of 2014 commences at 10 a.m. on the SUNY-Cortland campus.

Per CBA rules, the Jets won't be in pads, but there will be no shortage of storylines. A quick sampling:

• The big-name newcomers -- Chris Johnson, Eric Decker and Michael Vick -- are healthy and ready for action. You might have heard, Vick is competing with Geno Smith for the starting-quarterback job. Vick, who gave himself a C+/B- for his spring performance, knows he had to raise his grade to make Smith sweat a little.

• With Johnson and Decker, along with a lot of young blood at wide receiver, the Jets expect to be vastly improved on offense. It'll be fun evaluating the early stages of the rebuilding job.

• Newly-signed pass rusher Jason Babin is expected to make his Jets debut, joining one of the most talented defensive lines in the league.

• The defensive spotlight also will be on prized safety Calvin Pryor, who has received more praise than perhaps any rookie under Ryan. And that's saying something.
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.

Jets: Burning questions on eve of camp

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
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?

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?

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.

Training camp preview: Wide receiver

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, July 23:

Position: Wide receiver

Projected starters: Eric Decker, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley (slot).

Projected reserves: David Nelson, Jalen Saunders, Jacoby Ford, Shaq Evans.

Notables on the bubble: Clyde Gates, Greg Salas, Quincy Enunwa (sixth-round pick).

Player to watch: Hill. It seems like he's in this category every year, doesn't it? In this context, it's not a positive. This is Year 3 for the talented, but inconsistent Hill, which means it's time to earn his scholarship. He showed positive signs in the spring, and he'll probably have a solid training camp. The problem is maintaining it into the season. The former second-round pick tends to fade when the pads go on, resulting in a Mr. August reputation. It's all there for him. He could win a starting job with a strong camp or he could play his way out of a roster spot if he regresses.

Top storyline: The receiving corps is better than last season, but how much better? Decker replaces Santonio Holmes as the No. 1 receiver, giving the Jets a dependable, low-maintenance player from a winning program. He isn't the flashiest guy around, but he'll be there for Geno Smith and he won't drive the coaches crazy with moodiness. The question with Decker is whether he's a legitimate No. 1 receiver, but we won't know that until the regular season. For now, the challenge is to find a running mate for him. The Jets are hoping one of the others -- Hill, Kerley, Nelson or maybe a rookie -- can separate from the pack and nail down the No. 2 job.

Training camp will be a success if ... : The Jets aren't entering the season with all their eggs in the Hill basket, as they've done the previous two years. If they're not, it means at least one of the other receivers had a terrific camp, minimizing their reliance on the inconsistent Hill.

Wild card: Ford. As a rookie with the Oakland Raiders in 2010, he looked like a budding star, averaging nearly 19 yards per catch and scoring on three kickoff returns. But he faded away, in part, because of injuries. If healthy, Ford is an absolute burner, the kind of player that can change field position in the blink of an eye. Question is, will the Jets get the 2010 Ford or the '13 version?

By the numbers: The Jets need receivers that can make plays with the ball in their hands. The team finished 30th last season in yards after the catch (1,356), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Stephen Hill's job is at stake

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill is on notice. After two lackluster seasons and knee issues in each year, Hill has been surrounded by draft picks and free agents this year. It’s a clear message, and Hill doesn’t even presume to be a starter anymore.

“I consider myself as getting the job done,” Hill said. “So whenever coach feels like I need to be a starter or if he feels I don’t need to be one, it’s on him.”

Asked to detail some of Hill’s positive attributes, Jets coach Rex Ryan complied, but he only went so far before becoming realistic about Hill’s future.

[+] EnlargeStephen Hill
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsStephen Hill will enter training camp with plenty of competition for a roster spot.
“He’s got more experience so I think that’s going to help, obviously,” Ryan said. “I think he feels healthy so that’s positive, but he knows there’s nothing given. Nothing’s assured with guys' roles now, so he knows the competition’s on.”

The third-year player went down to Florida to work with quarterback Geno Smith during the offseason to hone their chemistry. Hill is still getting reps with the first team as the Jets' mandatory minicamp opened today, and he’s looked good during the spring. The issue with Hill, aside from a few high-profile dropped balls, has been fluid in his knee which has restricted his movement.

Hill didn’t have surgery this offseason, but said he spent the offseason strengthening the muscles around his knees and doesn’t expect the issue to reappear. It was Hill’s left knee last year, and both knees his rookie year. In both seasons, Hill was placed on the injured reserve because of knee injuries.

“My knee actually feels better than it did last year,” Hill said. “Because last year I didn’t take a lot of OTA reps and I went all through OTAs and now minicamp, so right now I feel strictly 100 percent.”

This year the Jets have options at wide receiver, more options than they have had in the past. Eric Decker was brought over from the Broncos and Jacoby Ford from Oakland, Jalen Saunders, Shaquelle Evens and Quincy Enunwa were drafted. Add to the group returners like Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson and Clyde Gates -- plus Saalim Hakim, Greg Salas and Michael Campbell -- and the position looks crowded.

“I think it’s a deep receiving group, as deep as we’ve had here in a long time,” Ryan said. “We’ll see the quality of that group as time goes on, but I think there is some quality there and it’s fairly deep ... Guys are fighting for reps and the [competition] should be really good, and you hope at the end of the day we come out of it with six or so really good receivers.”

Last year Hill had 24 catches for 342 yards and a touchdown. It was up from his rookie season, when he had 21 catches for 252 yards and three touchdowns. He has played in 23 total games.

All the while, Hill has heard increasing criticism from fans who think taking him in the second round of the 2012 draft hasn’t paid off.

“I don’t care what anybody says,” Hill said. “The only people I need to prove it to are the coaches and myself.”

Hill said he doesn’t read the criticism.

“Coming from Georgia Tech you have stuff like that,” Hill said. “Coming out of high school you have the same thing. Whatever people say that’s their opinion. But I got to go out there and run the routes, catch the ball it’s all on me. I’m basically my biggest critic.”

Practice notes: Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A few takeways from Day 1 of the New York Jets' minicamp:

1. What a mess: Let's let Rex Ryan describe the day: "It got ugly out there." Did it ever. The two-hour practice was filled with penalties and dropped passes. As usual, there were game officials at practice and they were told to crack down on defensive holding calls, according to Ryan. The last segment of practice resembled last year's game against the Buffalo Bills, when they set a franchise record with 20 penalties. Linebacker Garrett McIntyre was flagged for holding, negating an interception. Looking at the silver lining, it was a good day for fitness. That is because the entire team dropped for 10 push ups after every penalty.

2. Rookie yips: Rookie WR Shaq Evans, who missed the organized team activities (10 practices) because of school obligations, looked rusty and struggled mightily. He dropped two balls against air (no defense) and he dropped another in team drills. In between the mishaps, he made a nice sideline catch in a 7-on-7 drill. Not surprisingly, Evans, a fourth-round pick, was out of sync with the quarterbacks, resulting in miscommunications. Fellow fourth-round pick Jalen Saunders had a drop in 7-on-7s, but it was an overall solid practice. Sixth-round WR Quincy Enunwa, FB Tommy Bohanon and WR Eric Decker had one drop apiece.

3. Your QB update: Despite the overall sloppiness, Geno Smith and Michael Vick managed to avoid any major blunders, meaning turnovers. Smith completed six of 10 passes, with a sack.

Vick was 7-for-10, with a sack. He missed a couple of open receivers on deep throws, once underthrowing David Nelson with a fluttering pass that was nearly intercepted. Vick was intercepted in 7-on-7 drills, when he threw for Decker on a post route. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson made a great read and jumped the route. He's a cagey vet. Patterson figured out the route combination on that side of the field and knew Decker was going to break to the inside. On the positive side, Vick displayed some of his legendary mobility, scrambling away from pressure on at least two occasions.

Obviously, individual stats don't mean much in minicamp. The division of reps sometimes tells you more about a player's progress -- or lack thereof. In the first team period, devoted to third down, Smith worked with the starters for six out of eight reps. Vick got the other two reps. In the second team period, devoted to the no-huddle, Smith got all 10 reps with the first-team offense. Get the picture? If the reps are divided the same way in training camp, it will be tough for Vick to supplant Smith, as the coaches have indicated.

4. Impressive corner: Rookie Dexter McDougle, who got a late start in the offseason program because of a shoulder surgery from a college injury, continued to make plays. Working with the second-team defense, the third-round pick made at least two pass breakups. He's aggressive at the line of scrimmage, not afraid to engage with a receiver. "I think you saw a little of why we're so excited about him," Ryan said. McDougle and Darrin Walls were the second-team cornerbacks, behind Dee Milliner and Patterson.

5. Odds and ends: Nice day for rookie DT Kerry Hyder, an undrafted free agent from Texas Tech. He had a sack and interception. He picked off Matt Simms on a screen pass. ... This was another mediocre practice for Simms, who is battling rookie Tajh Boyd for the No. 3 job. ... Rookie Calvin Pryor and Antonio Allen continued as the starting safety tandem, with veteran Dawan Landry on the second team. ... It looks like rookie TE Jace Amaro already is ahead of Jeff Cumberland in pass-oriented personnel packages. ... Six free agents were invited to participate on a tryout basis, including former Oakland Raiders fourth-round pick Bruce Campbell, a tackle. The others: Punters Drew Butler and Jacon Schum, kickers Andrew Furney and Carson Wiggs and guard Ray Dominguez.

6. Injury report: As expected, RB Chris Johnson (knee), RG Willie Colon (knee) and LB Antwan Barnes (knee) didn't participate in team drills. Johnson, who had surgery in January, participated in individual drills.

WR situation: Decker and question marks

June, 16, 2014
Jun 16
Interesting battle brewing for the No. 2 job at wide receiver -- aka The Guy Opposite Eric Decker. Will it be Stephen Hill? David Nelson? One of the rookies? It certainly will be one of the things to watch this week during the New York Jets' three-day mandatory minicamp, which opens Tuesday.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Kerley
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesJeremy Kerley did much of his damage last season from out of the slot.
Based on experience and production, the job should go to Jeremy Kerley, who led the New York Jets last season with 43 receptions. But here's the thing: Kerley is more efficient in the slot. Like a lot of 5-foot-9 receivers, his efficiency declines when he lines up on the perimeter.

In 2013, 29 of his 43 receptions came from the slot, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Let's take it a step further: Kerley was targeted 47 times in the slot, giving him an impressive catch rate of 62 percent. All told, he ran 206 routes from the slot.

When lined up wide left or wide right, Kerley ran only 60 pass routes and was targeted just 21 times. The significance? Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg played to Kerley's strength, finding ways to get him the ball in the slot even though he was often considered the No. 1 or No. 2 receiver on the field because of injuries to Santonio Holmes, etc. Look for more of the same in 2014.

Now, in the interest of fairness, we have to point out that Kerley did well with his limited opportunities on the outside. In fact, he caught 14 passes on those 21 targets (67 percent), although many of those were short, high-percentage throws. He made seven catches on seven targets on throws to the right, but the average throw was only 4 yards.

We just threw a bunch of numbers at you, and we all know numbers don't always tell the entire story. Here's the bottom line: The Jets can use Kerley and Decker in two-receiver sets while putting Kerley in places where he's most effective -- i.e., the slot. Mornhinweg has a myriad of ways to attack, especially with the addition of rookie Jace Amaro, a "flex" tight end who can line up just about anywhere.

The idea is to put the best players on the field, so, no, the Jets won't force a receiver into action simply to have a traditional starting lineup. Chances are, it'll be a committee approach, with Decker and a host of role players -- unless, of course, someone steps up in training camp and blows away the competition.

Eight takeaways on Jets' OTA practices

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
The New York Jets wrapped up their organized team activity practices Thursday with a team trip to a local bowling alley. Thoughts and observations on the OTA phase of the offseason, which consisted of nine practices:

1. Growing up Smith: Quarterback Geno Smith, the likely opening-day starter, drew praise from teammates on two fronts: He was decisive in the huddle, communicating plays quickly and confidently -- a far cry from last season. They also said he was more assertive than his rookie year, demonstrating more vocal leadership. These are the progressions you'd like to see from a second-year quarterback. As for his actual play, it's hard to gauge in OTAs, but there was an obvious reduction in turnovers and sacks. Clearly, it's Smith's job to lose, even if Rex Ryan is reluctant to put it in those words.

2. Strength in numbers: Ryan likes to brag about the team's backfield depth, but depth is meaningless if half the unit is hurt. Chris Johnson (knee), Daryl Richardson (toe) and Mike Goodson (knee/no-show) didn't participate in the voluntary practices, leaving plenty of work for Bilal Powell, Chris Ivory and Alex Green, who thought he was a goner at one point. Johnson and Richardson should be ready by training camp, but given the amount of durability concerns (let's not forget about Ivory, who has a history of nagging injuries), the Jets should take a better-safe-than-sorry approach when they construct the final roster. In other words, load up on running backs.

3. The battle for No. 2: Since there's no competition at quarterback (in the words of Michael Vick), the most compelling battle is unfolding at wide receiver. Who's the 2? Don't be surprised if Stephen Hill (yeah, him) emerges as the starter opposite Eric Decker. Right now, I'd say the top candidates are Hill and David Nelson, figuring Jeremy Kerley will be in the slot. Clearly, this is a make-or-break year for Hill, who has yet to transfer his elite measureables into production. Hill did fine in the OTAs. but, remember, there was no press coverage (not allowed under CBA rules). Diminutive rookie Jalen Saunders got a lot of quality reps and demonstrated impressive short-area quickness, but again ... no press coverage. The wild card is Jacoby Ford, probably the fastest player on the team. He blew away teammates with his speed, but there are durability and consistency concerns.

4. Mr. Jessie James: Decker made headlines by skipping two days of practice to attend the CMT Awards with his wife, country singer Jessie James, which overshadowed his impressive work on the field. He's learning a new offense and getting comfortable in new surroundings, but their prized free agent appeared right at home. He's big and smooth, as advertised. You could tell he puts a lot of effort into his route running. A couple of times, he was off to the side, working on his footwork with receivers coach Sanjay Lal. Cynics will say Decker looked so good because there isn't much around him. There's an element of truth to that, but you don't catch 24 touchdowns over two years by accident.

5. Youth is served: Ryan put first-round pick Calvin Pryor on the fast track, giving him plenty of first-team reps at safety with Antonio Allen. Is the handwriting on the wall for Dawan Landry? The dean of the secondary was relegated to second- and third-team duty, but that was because the coaches wanted to give Pryor and Allen as much on-the-job training as possible. They still need Landry because of his leadership and knowledge of the defense, but Ryan, who recognizes the need for playmakers in the secondary, is intrigued by the speed and athleticism of the Pryor-Allen tandem. No doubt, Pryor will be a Week 1 starter. The only question is how they divide the other spot.

6. Musical linemen: Willie Colon's injuries allowed them to try different combinations at guard, with Brian Winters and Oday Aboushi working in both spots. Ryan said Aboushi looks better at left guard, meaning Winters could slide to right guard if something happens to Colon down the road. There's nothing wrong with experimenting, especially in June, but it doesn't mask the fact that the Jets have no experienced backups on the offensive line. And we're not counting Caleb Schlauderaff, whose experience consists of 14 regular-season snaps. They need to pick up a veteran at some point before the season.

7. Dee's cranky hamstring: It's probably nothing, but maybe it's something. Cornerback Dee Milliner was limited in recent practices because of what the team is calling "tightness" in his hamstring. Yeah, it's only June, but considering all the buildup surrounding Milliner -- coaches saying how much he'd benefit from his first injury-free offseason -- it was disappointing not to see him build on the momentum of last season's strong finish. This could be a moot point by training camp, but it's worth noting, especially since Milliner was beset with nagging injuries last season and played hurt throughout college with various ailments.

8. Jace not an ace -- yet: Rookie tight end Jace Amaro struggled with dropped passes, probably because his brain was overloaded with new terminology. This is a big transition for the second-round pick, who didn't play in a pro-style offense at Texas Tech. He came from a simple, no-huddle system that didn't require a lot of thinking on your feet. Clearly, he has talent, but his development will be dictated by how quickly he assimilates into Marty Mornhinweg's offense. Don't expect it to happen overnight.

Eric Decker, Rex Ryan put family first

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Eric Decker is back at the New York Jets' facility after a two-day trip to Nashville, Tenn., to attend a country music awards show with his wife, singer Jessie James. And, apparently, not a moment too soon. To listen to the critics, the Jets' new wide receiver lost invaluable time to bond with his team despite being months away from a preseason game, and the fact that the OTAs are optional.

“A marriage is give and take, any relationship is give and take,” Decker said. “It’s funny how this became a story.”

It is funny, and it’s funny that choices like this keep drawing the same, old antiquated ideas of what it means to be an athlete. You know who didn’t have a problem with Decker’s decision to support his wife’s career in country music? His teammates.

“People got to realize it’s a game in the end,” defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson said. “Family comes first. The sooner they understand that the sooner they understand why guys make the decisions that they make.”

This isn’t the first time a New York-area athlete has taken heat for putting family first. Mets player Daniel Murphy missed time earlier this year for the birth of a child and heard the wails of armchair critics who lamented the length of time Murphy chose to spend with his newborn.

“You have 162 games in baseball, [missing one for] the birth of a kid might be excusable,” said Jets coach Rex Ryan, who earlier in his career let work obligations trump being with his wife, Michelle, for the birth of his son Seth. “That was a stupid mistake I made and one that I regret."

There’s a lot of talk in sports that being on a team is like being part of a family. Yet, some players get criticized for treating their actual family like family. Ryan has set a tone, and generally if players are in good standing with the team, they get respect in return. Decker said that for him, that meant supporting Jesse to the same extent that she’s supported him.

“When your wife gives birth and goes through nine months of tough days to give you a child, you respect the woman a lot more,” Decker said. “And it’s important to me and her career is important to me. “

Decker also made sure his bosses were good with his absence -- and Ryan expressed nothing but support.

“If there was an issue, obviously I talked to Coach Ryan and let him know this was something that’s important not just for me but for my wife, and if he had an issue with it, we would have discussed it and figured out a solution,” Decker said.

Funny how that becomes a story, but it did. Decker is now back in the playbook, back in the meeting room with his fellow receivers on an offense that is an upgrade from what the Jets had last year. No matter the critics, Ryan will make the same call in the future, and it’s part of what makes him such a well-liked coach.

“Those things come up,” Ryan said. “There’s things that come up in family -- anytime someone has something come up dealing with family they’ll always be excused. ... Not that he needed my blessing but he had it.”