New York Jets: Eric Decker

Stephen Hill's job is at stake

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
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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
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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.

Smith
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
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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
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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
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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.

Decker
Ryan
“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.”

Twitter mailbag: Was Coples trade bait?

June, 7, 2014
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Decker skips OTA for CMT Music Awards

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Eric Decker was not on the field with his New York Jets teammates Wednesday morning, but we'll all be able to see him later on this evening.

Decker skipped the Jets' latest OTA to be a presenter at the 2014 CMT Music Awards in Nashville, along with his wife, country singer Jessie James Decker.

The wide receiver tweeted the news himself Tuesday:



Jets coach Rex Ryan was asked about Decker's absence following practice Wednesday.

"Well, speaking as a married guy, [I] absolutely recommend it that you would go to that, OK," Ryan said, smirking. "So that would be recommended I think. You know, you ask for their support, you need to support them, too."

Decker signed a five-year, $36.25 million contract with the Jets back in March, with the expectation of becoming the team's No. 1 wide receiver. The OTAs are technically voluntary, but almost the entire team was present Wednesday.

"This is really voluntary camp, there’s no doubt about it," Ryan added. "Things like this pop up, this is the time to do it, it’s not like it happened during the season. But again, certainly we support Eric and things, and he’d be treated no different than any other teammate regardless of how much they’re making."

Jets notes: QB job should be 'open'

June, 1, 2014
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Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets:

1. Another QB question to ponder: With everyone engaged in a semantic debate on whether the Jets' quarterback competition is open or closed (let's call it semi-closed), let me pose this question: Why not make it a truly open competition and bill it as such?

Yes, Geno Smith showed promise at the end of last season, but he doesn't have enough pelts on the wall to be granted front-runner status. True, Michael Vick arrived in town with baggage (age, durability and turnover concerns), but his body of work warrants a 50-50 shot at the starting job. Not only would an open competition eliminate confusion, but it would create a "best-man-wins" scenario.

The Jets are traveling down a slippery slope by tilting it in Smith's favor, because there's a good possibility Vick will outplay him in the preseason. Then what? Everybody knows the expression, "You can't have your cake and eat it, too." It applies to the Jets' quarterback situation. In their case, you can't have your competition and have a predetermined favorite, especially when the other guy might be better. You're just asking for trouble.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
AP Photo/Julio CortezMichael Vick has proven to have the respect of his Jets teammates during offseason workouts.
2. Low-budget signings: The Jets didn't exactly break the bank with their undrafted free agents. Teams were allocated to spend up to $80,362 in signing bonuses, but the Jets doled out only $4,000, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Defensive end Anthony Grady ($2,500) and fullback Chad Young ($1,500) were the only UDFAs to receive a signing bonus; the other five got zilch. The size of the bonus often indicates the quality of the player. When multiple teams are bidding, top UDFAs have been known to land more than $10,000. Two years ago, nose tackle Damon Harrison received a $7,000 bonus from the Jets. Because of their unusually large draft class (12), the Jets placed less emphasis on the UDFA market. Basically, it was an afterthought.

3. Rex tweaks Tim: Ryan took a veiled shot at Tim Tebow the other day. Trying to defend Eric Decker against the perception that he's a Peyton Manning creation, Ryan reminded us that Decker caught touchdown passes from Tebow in 2011. "I think that's pretty impressive," Ryan said, thinking it was eight scoring catches (it was actually four). The inference was clear: If Decker scored with the scatter-armed Tebow, he can score with anyone. Ryan neglected to mention that Decker had no receptions and two drops in five targets when he and Tebow faced the Jets in that same season.

4. Where's the depth?: Right guard Willie Colon (arthroscopic knee surgery) is expected to return before training camp, so there's no reason for the Jets to panic, but the injury casts a harsh light on their offensive line depth. Their nine backups have played a combined total of 14 regular-season snaps -- all by center/guard Caleb Schlauderaff. That's a bit troubling, no? Considering Colon's durability issues (four surgeries in the last four years), the front office should sign some veteran insurance. Never thought I'd say this, but ... where's Vladimir Ducasse when you need him?

4a. New kind of surgery: Loved this tweet from one of my followers, @MisterRoberts, who refers to Colon's surgery as a "Colon-oscopy." Brilliant.

5. From enemies to comrades: Four months ago, Decker and Breno Giacomini played on opposite sides of one of the most lopsided Super Bowls in history. Giacomini's Seattle Seahawks embarrassed Decker's Broncos, 43-8. Now they're teammates. I asked Giacomini if they've talked about the game. A little trash talking, perhaps? He said there was a brief lunch-room conversation. Giacomini said he asked Decker about the first play of the game, the errant shotgun snap that resulted in a safety. Decker chalked it up to the noise generated by the pro-Seattle crowd at MetLife Stadium. And that was the end of the conversation. Touchy subject, obviously.

"I didn't want to say anything else to him," Giacomini said. "That's behind us, we're teammates now. Hopefully, we can reach it again -- together -- and win another one."

6. The Fridge, Part II?: You have to love Sheldon Richardson's candor and sense of humor. Asked if he hopes to continue in his role as a goal-line running back, Richardson said, "It was a fun experience. Hopefully, they call my number again." He quickly added, "Hopefully not, because it means the offense is doing what they're supposed to do."

There's some truth in his humor; this was a problem area last season. Richardson (two) and Geno Smith (six) combined for eight of the 12 rushing touchdowns. For all his power, Chris Ivory scored only one touchdown on six attempts on goal-to-go runs from the 5-yard line or closer, per ESPN Stats. That's not Chris Johnson's forte, either. He received only one such carry last season (a 3-yard touchdown). Be ready, Sheldon.

7. Respect for elders: Ryan has been around football for his entire life, which means he has seen and heard just about everything. One day recently, though, he heard something from the offensive huddle that struck him as unusual. Vick told one of the young fullbacks to run a certain pass route and the player (Ryan wouldn't identify him) responded with, "Yes, sir." They have only two fullbacks, so it was either Tommy Bohanon or Chad Young. Said Ryan: "I don’t know if I’ve heard that in a long time with a teammate talking to another teammate. [Vick] certainly has that kind of respect in the locker room."

8. Pinocchio Island: Did anyone check to see if Darrelle Revis' nose was growing when he spoke glowingly the other day about Bill Belichick and the Patriot Way? Once upon a time, Revis called Belichick a "jerk." Yes, free agency makes for strange bedfellows.

9. Broadway Joe to Hollywood Joe: A movie on the life of Joe Namath is in the early stages of development. James Mangold, who directed the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line," already is on board as the director, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Here's hoping they get Ann-Margret to play herself.

10. The Mo, the better: Kudos to Muhammad Wilkerson, who will present five student-athletes from New Jersey and Long Island with $1,000 college scholarships. Wilkerson, giving back to his local roots, grew up in Linden, N.J. He's making the donations through his T.E.A.M 96 Foundation.

11. Futbol and football: Portugal's national soccer team, led by global superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, will train at the Jets' facility from Tuesday through June 9 in preparation for the World Cup. The team's stay in the area will be capped by a June 10 exhibition against Ireland at MetLife Stadium. Paulo Bento, the Portugal coach, already has visited the Jets' facility in Florham, N.J., declaring "the pitches are very good." With the World Cup approaching, I wonder if Bento still has open competition for each starting job.

Practice report: Geno vs. Vick, Round 1

May, 28, 2014
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets held their second OTA practice (first open to the media) Wednesday. A few thoughts and observations:

Vick
Vick
Early look at the QB competition (or is it a competition?): Rhetoric and semantic nonsense aside, the quarterbacks -- Geno Smith and Michael Vick -- performed well in the two-hour practice. Smith, in particular, was sharp, completing eight of 10 passes (plus two sacks) in team drills. One incompletion came when he intentionally "dirted" the ball. Vick completed only three of seven, but he was victimized by two drops. Watching him up-close for the first time, the aspect of his game that jumps out is how effortlessly he can throw the long ball. He can really spin it, as they say in the biz. Smith worked ahead of Vick in the rotation, but they basically shared the reps. By my count, Smith got 14, Vick 12.

Decker
Receivers, new and old: Plenty of interesting developments here. As you would expect, Eric Decker stood out, impressing with his route running, his hands and his overall size. This is a new offense for him, but you can tell he knows where he needs to be. He connected once with Smith, once with Vick. The other newcomer that impressed was Jacoby Ford, who hooked up with Smith a couple of times. Ford is fast, we all know that, but you don't realize how fast until you witness it in person. He could be a real wild card in the competition at receiver.

And let's give some props to Stephen Hill, who appears recovered from his knee injury and demonstrated sure hands. There was a borderline drop on a crossing route (tough to tell from our angle on the sideline), but it still was a solid practice for Hill, who faces legitimate competition for the first time. On the downside, Jeremy Kerley and Saalim Hakim dropped well-thrown long passes by Vick.

Medical report: Players who sat out included RG Willie Colon (knee/biceps), RB Chris Johnson (knee), S Calvin Pryor (toothache), RB Daryl Richardson (lingering turf toe), rookie CB Dexter McDougle (shoulder), rookie WR Quincy Enunwa (undisclosed) and LB Antwan Barnes (knee). WR David Nelson (illness) wasn't at practice. Remember, these sessions are voluntary. RB Mike Goodson (knee) also didn't attend. Rookie WR Shaq Evans had a school obligation.

Zach and Jace: Zach Sudfeld, a slightly taller, slightly thinner version of rookie Jace Amaro, will be an interesting player to watch over the next few months. Sudfeld (6-foot-7, 260) has the ability to make plays downfield, and he showed it with a nice catch on an intermediate crossing route. The key for him is staying healthy, a problem throughout his college career. Amaro (6-foot-5, 265) made one mental mistake, failing to turn on a seam route in a 7-on-7 drill drill. He ended up getting doinked by a Vick pass.

On guard: The Jets have an issue at right guard. Colon (knee scope) is out until training camp, and there is no clear-cut replacement on the roster. Second-year tackle Oday Aboushi, who saw no game action last season, practiced for the second straight day at Colon's spot. He "looked pretty good," according to Rex Ryan. At some point, perhaps in the preseason, they might have to import an experienced guard because they are thin at that spot. Colon is in a tough spot because he will be rehabbing two injuries -- the knee and his surgically repaired biceps, hampering his ability to do upper- and lower-body conditioning in preparation for camp. Tough break.

Odds and ends: The rookies that received the most work were Amaro, WR Jalen Saunders, LB Jeremiah George and OLB IK Enemkpali. QB Tajh Boyd split a handful of reps with Matt Simms. CB Brandon Dixon and LB Trevor Reilly came in late. Dixon was promptly burned on a deep pass. ... DE Leger Douzable had a sack. ... CB Ellis Lankster made a nice pass break-up. ... Ryan on OTAs: "It's not football yet, but it's close, closer than what we've had." He said he challenged the players to not only improve individually on a daily basis, but to help make their teammates better.

Chris Johnson: Let's get Andre Johnson

May, 27, 2014
May 27
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Running back Chris Johnson sent New York Jets fans into a Twitter frenzy Tuesday night, tweeting that the Jets should trade for disgruntled Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson.



A Johnson & Johnson attack for the Jets? Catchy. For obvious reasons, owner Woody Johnson probably likes the sound of it, but this is strictly fantasy football chatter at this point.

It's highly unlikely the Texans would trade Johnson, their best offensive weapon and arguably the most accomplished player in franchise history. As promised, he skipped a voluntary practice Tuesday, intensifying the speculation about his future in Houston. Johnson, reportedly unhappy with the direction of the team, recently wondered if he's still a fit.

The Jets spent big money to sign Eric Decker, but they could still use another quality wideout -- and they don't come much better than Johnson. Despite a terrible quarterback situation, he caught 109 passes for 1,407 yards last season. Johnson is a pro's pro and would help the Jets on many levels.

But keep dreaming, Jets fans.

The cold reality is that Johnson turns 33 in July and he's still owed $33.5 million over the next three seasons -- a huge number even for the Jets, who have about $23 million in cap room. For cap purposes, it makes no sense for the Texans to trade Johnson. Also remember that new coach Bill O'Brien is a Bill Belichick disciple, which means he probably won't be eager to accommodate the selfish desire of one player if it hurts the team. And a trade would hurt the Texans because there's no way they'd get fair-market value in return for the effective, but aging, receiver. If they did decide to move him, it would make sense to send him out of the AFC.

Wednesday's Jets practice is open to the media, which means Johnson can expect a lot of questions about his tweet. It also wouldn't be a surprise if he receives a message from John Idzik, who may tell Johnson to leave the GMing to him. After all, Johnson's job is to accumulate yards, not players.

Five burning questions as OTAs begin

May, 27, 2014
May 27
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The next phase of the New York Jets' offseason begins Tuesday -- organized team activities. Or, as we like to call them in the biz, OTAs. Five questions facing the Jets as they start three weeks of practices before the mandatory minicamp:

Smith
1. Can Geno Smith hold off Michael Vick? We already know how Vick feels about the subject, as he stated his belief that Smith will be the opening-day quarterback. Vick probably is right, but Smith needs to eliminate any doubts. He can start by building off his promising finish to last season, which means taking control of the offense in OTAs. Smith has impressed teammates with his improved command of the offense, but it's one thing to be that way in a walk-through and quite another to demonstrate it against a live defense.

2. Is Eric Decker worth the money? The Jets, no longer big spenders in free agency, made an exception for Decker, giving him a five-year, $36 million contract. For that kind of loot, they expect him to be more than a nice No. 2 wide receiver. This could be culture shock for Decker, who goes from Peyton Manning to Smith/Vick. Then again, he caught passes from Tim Tebow in 2011, so he should be prepared for anything.

Amaro
3. Can Jace Amaro find an immediate niche? The Jets didn't use a lot of two-tight-end packages last season, but that could change with Amaro joining incumbent Jeff Cumberland at the position. The second-round pick is a big dude (6-foot-5, 265 pounds) with the ability to basically line up as a wide receiver. It will be interesting to see how coordinator Marty Mornhinweg incorporates Amaro into the passing attack.

4. Is Calvin Pryor as good as Rex Ryan thinks? Ryan always gushes about his rookies, but he's positively smitten with his first-round pick. He already has compared Pryor to one of the most notorious safeties in history, the hard-hitting Jack Tatum. It will be interesting to see how Ryan juggles Pryor, Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen in the safety rotation -- if there is a rotation. We're talking about three players with similar skill sets -- i.e. strong safety-types.

5. Is it Milliner time? Taking Smith out of the equation, the most improved player on the team has to be cornerback Dee Milliner. If not, the defense will have problems because it's counting on him as the No. 1 cornerback. Milliner has to be the rock in the post-Cromartie/post-Revis era. Last year's top pick, who missed the 2013 off-season because of a shoulder injury, saved a poor rookie year with a strong finish. Now he needs to build on that. Just being on the field, as opposed to rehabbing an injury, will help immensely.
Your questions, my answers on the New York Jets:

 

Jets offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the New York Jets' offseason moves:

Best move: The Jets doled out $7 million a year for Eric Decker, but he's an upgrade over the previous No. 1 receiver, Santonio Holmes, a diminished diva whose sour attitude won't be missed. Decker is a 6-foot-3 target whose catching radius will help Geno Smith, who struggled last season with his accuracy. No doubt Decker benefited from having the Broncos' Peyton Manning as his quarterback the past two seasons, but he's still a quality player who can help in a variety of ways. For instance: Decker had seven red zone touchdown catches last season, only one fewer than the Jets produced as a team.

[+] EnlargeDimitri Patterson
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeThe Jets hope Dimitri Patterson can fill the void created when Antonio Cromartie departed.
Riskiest move: They're counting on journeyman Dimitri Patterson, signed from the Dolphins, to replace Antonio Cromartie at cornerback -- a big gamble. Patterson, 31, has missed 33 of his past 48 games, so the Jets are taking quite a leap by thinking he will stay healthy. What's more, he's best suited for the slot, not one of the outside positions. General manager John Idzik mismanaged the cornerback market. Knowing the importance of corners in Rex Ryan's man-to-man system, Idzik should've made a stronger commitment to the position. He flirted with some big names but wound up with Patterson, who will be playing for his sixth team in 10 years. To exacerbate the issue, Idzik waited until the third round before drafting a corner.

Most surprising move: The Jets bill themselves as a young, ascending team, yet they allowed one of their ascending players to walk out the door -- right tackle Austin Howard, who signed with the Raiders. The Jets found him on the scrap heap, invested three years of development and watched him become an above-average player with upside. And then he was gone. Howard's replacement, Breno Giacomini, formerly of the Seahawks, is a comparable player -- and cheaper. Statistically, he's a better run-blocker than Howard but is not quite as adept in pass protection. Here's the big difference, though: Howard, 27, is two years younger than Giacomini, meaning he would've been a better fit in the long-term plan.

John the Deliberate: Overall, Idzik had a solid offseason, adding several new pieces on offense (let's not forget about running back Chris Johnson and quarterback Michael Vick) -- but the second-year GM didn't spend as much money as he could've. After dumping Holmes' and Mark Sanchez's contracts, the Jets were among the league leaders in cap space, but Idzik was relatively conservative in free agency, relying on a 12-player draft haul to upgrade the roster. Unlike some GMs, who overpay for second-rate talent, he refuses to deviate from his long-term plan. It's the right approach for a franchise previously obsessed with quick-fix moves, but it's not foolproof. The cornerback situation will come back to bite him.
Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets' most prolific draft in 16 years:

1. Cheaper by the dozen: The history books will show that the Jets and San Francisco 49ers tied for the most selections -- 12. In terms of volume, this was the Jets' biggest haul since 1998, when Bill Parcells was running the show and drafted 12 players. They'd better hope this one turns out better than '98, which produced only one quality player -- tackle Jason Fabini.

2. Balanced attack: The Jets selected six players on offense, six on defense. So everybody in the building is happy.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun"I think we have a lot of excellent football players here, and I know our organization's excited about these players," said Rex Ryan about the Jets' draft.
3. Needy Jets: They always talk about taking the proverbial "best player available," but this smacks of a "need" draft. Basically, the Jets devoted half the draft to their two biggest needs, picking three defensive backs (two corners and one safety) and three wide receivers. The last time they took three receivers was 1990, when they drafted Reggie Rembert (traded before the opener), Terance Mathis and Dale Dawkins.

4. Enough speed? The prevailing thought going into the draft was they needed to pick a burner at wide receiver, a home run threat to play opposite Eric Decker. It's still an issue, as they passed on the high-profile prospects. Who are the starting receivers? Decker and ... Jeremy Kerley? He's better in the slot. Stephen Hill? Come on. The Jets are hoping one (or more) of their three receiver picks can develop into that kind of player. Jalen Saunders (fourth round) is small and shifty. Shaq Evans (fourth) had five touchdown catches of 54-plus yards in his career. Quincy Enunwa (sixth) set a Nebraska single-season record with 12 touchdowns, including a 99-yarder in the Gator Bowl. So we'll see.

5. John the deliberate: There were 27 trades during the draft, but the Jets were one of only seven teams that didn't get involved. General manager John Idzik took a passive approach, letting the draft come to him, as they like to say. That's unfortunate, because the Jets -- armed with eight tradable picks at the outset -- wasted an opportunity to jump up and grab players they really liked. You're not going to have 12 rookies on your opening-day roster, so why not use some of the picks to improve your draft position? Instead of attacking, they played a read-and-react style. I wonder if everyone in the draft room was comfortable with that strategy.

6. Mission impossible: We live in a world of instant analysis, so draft experts and folks like me are required to assign grades as soon as the draft is complete. In most cases, it's a pointless exercise. For the record, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Jets a B, same grade as last year. The Jets received generally favorable reviews from the so-called gurus, yet it's interesting to note that only two picks (Calvin Pryor and Jace Amaro) appeared in the pre-draft top-100 lists of Kiper, Todd McShay, Mike Mayock and Scouts Inc. As a matter of fact, eight of their picks were ranked 200 or lower on the Scouts Inc. list. Hmm.

7. Rex the restrained: Rex Ryan, who famously gloated last season that the 2013 draft was an "A-plus" for the Jets, refrained from making any over-the-top declarations -- well, kind of. "To say it's an A-plus now, I’m not going to do that," he said. "But I think give us the season, let that thing run out, then I’ll be more than happy to. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's an A-plus again because I think we have a lot of excellent football players here, and I know our organization’s excited about these players." Last year's draft produced five starters; that won't happen this year.

8. Coach Mac attack: The happiest guy in the building might have been new special teams coach Thomas McGaughey. Except for quarterback Tajh Boyd, the draft is filled with prime candidates for special teams. That should help improve the overall athleticism on a unit that showed signs of decay last season. The most dynamic addition is Saunders, who scored on two punt returns last season and averaged 15.4 yards.

9. I.K. is OK: I never thought defensive Michael Sam was a serious possibility for the Jets because, at 6-foot-2, 261 pounds, he's not an ideal scheme fit in Ryan's base 3-4. But in the sixth round, the Jets drafted defensive end I.K. Enemkpali, who is 6-1, 261 pounds. Not only is Enemkpali slower than Sam, based on their reported 40-yard dash times, but his level of competition in college doesn't match that of Sam -- Louisiana Tech and Missouri, respectively.

"I don’t know that we’ll get into guys that we would have considered and comparing them against ours," said Idzik, when asked why he took Enemkpali over Sam. "Obviously, we felt very good about I.K. and he has a chance to fit a role here, come in and compete." The Jets did Sam a favor by not picking him. The media attention in New York would've been crazy, a major distraction for him and the team. Sam landed in the ideal place. Kudos to the St. Louis Rams.

10. Character issues: At least three of the 12 picks were arrested in college. Enemkpali was arrested in the spring of 2011, and charged with disturbing the peace and battery of a police officer. He received a school suspension. In March 2012, Amaro was arrested on felony credit card fraud; the charges were eventually dropped. In December 2012, Saunders was arrested for marijuana possession. The charge was dropped when a teammate took responsibility.

11. Two firsts: Enemkpali became the first player from Louisiana Tech drafted by the Jets. Ditto for cornerback Brandon Dixon, from NW Missouri State.

12. Different strokes, different folks: Under Idzik, the Jets have drafted 19 players in two years. His predecessor, Mike Tannenbaum, selected 21 players in his last four drafts.

13. Matty Iced: If I'm Matt Simms, I'm feeling a bit concerned about my job security. Ryan made it quite clear he was the driving force behind the Boyd selection.

14. The Black Holes: I found it interesting the Jets used their first two picks on positions in which they haven't had much drafting success -- safety and tight end. The last drafted tight end to make the Pro Bowl was Mickey Shuler (1978, third round) and the last safety was Erik McMillan (1988, third round).

15. Quote of the draft: From Ryan's post-draft news conference: "Did we get everybody we wanted? As far as you guys know, we did."

Jets draft preview: Wide receiver

April, 29, 2014
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This is the second installment in a position-by-position analysis of the New York Jets as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Wide receiver

Current personnel: Eric Decker (signed through 2018), Jeremy Kerley (2014), Stephen Hill (2015), David Nelson (2014), Jacoby Ford (2014), Clyde Gates (2014), Greg Salas (2014), Saalim Hakim (2015), Michael Campbell (2014), Dwight Jones (2016).

Projected starters: Decker, Kerley.

Newcomers: Decker, Ford.

Departures: Santonio Holmes (cut), Josh Cribbs (free agent).

Top salary-cap charge: Decker, $4 million.

Scouting report: We could provide a stream of negative statistics, underscoring the bleak state of the position, but that would be piling on at this point. Well, OK, just one: Kerley's 43 catches were the fewest by the Jets' leading receiver since 1979. They partially addressed the need in free agency, giving Decker a $7 million-a-year contract, but they don't have a reliable speed receiver on the perimeter. Hill was supposed to be that guy, but he hasn't put it together for a variety of reasons. They're in big trouble if they don't add a dynamic playmaker. Another factor to consider is the long-term outlook. Decker and Hill are the only veterans under contract in 2015, so building depth has to be a priority. It would be a shock if they don't draft at least two receivers.

Last WRs drafted: The Jets picked Hill (second round) and Jordan White (seventh) in 2012.

Potential targets: Assuming they stay put in the first round, the player to watch with the 18th pick is Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU), an all-around talent whose stock is creeping up. He has the skill set to catch passes on all three levels of the defense and he returns kicks. The Jets love his game and his character. Brandin Cooks (Oregon State) and Marqise Lee (USC) are possibilities, too. Cooks is the fastest of the three (he blazed the 40 in 4.33 seconds at the combine), but he's a shade under 5-10. Some scouts see him as a slot receiver. Lee is a fluid athlete, but he's coming off a pedestrian year filled with drops. He'd be a slight reach at 18. Because of the depth at the position, the Jets could find a quality receiver in the second or third round. Cody Latimer (Indiana) and Paul Richardson (Colorado) are nice-sized receivers that fit in a West Coast system. John Brown (Pittsburg State) is a late-round possibility.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 10.

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