New York Jets: Mark Brunell
Funny, but long before Brunell was brought here to help groom Mark Sanchez (2010-2011), he helped a young quarterback named ... Garrard. Small world, right? Garrard and Brunell spent two season together in Jacksonville, 2002 and 2003, and Garrard wants to pay it forward.
"When I was a rookie and everything was flying around, Mark Brunell was able to help me when I just got to the league," Garrard said. "I want to make sure I can return the favor."
At 35, Garrard is a football graybeard. He has seen a lot of things. He's a charismatic guy who wants to impart his wisdom to those around him. He'll be good for Smith, who could use a big-brother type to lean on. Sanchez has been a good sport, trying to help Smith, but he can't help him the way Garrard can. Besides, Sanchez probably won't be around the football stuff as much as he was before, now that he's recovering from shoulder surgery.
The Garrard move is all good -- unless he has to actually, you know, play. He hasn't taken a snap since 2010 and, even though he insists his surgically repaired left knee is fine, it's a bone-on-bone condition, and that never heals. It's the reason he retired in May. At the time, he gave Peter King of SI.com a rather candid explanation on why he decided to quit.
"I couldn't jog most days," Garrard told SI.com in late May. "I could barely walk around without it hurting. And we weren't even in the strenuous part of camp yet. I figured, 'No way I can just take every fourth day off.' I went to see Rex [Ryan], and I just told him I didn't think I could do it. He didn't want to hear it. But I just told him what the doctor said -- it's only going to get worse. And that was it."
The regular-season regimen isn't nearly as taxing as the offseason or training camp, especially for the No. 3 quarterback. So -- who knows? -- maybe Garrard's knee will hold up.
"If he's holding the clipboard, good," an AFC personnel executive said. "If he has to play, can he take contact? Is he durable? Could he play the rest of the season if it came to that? I guess we'll never know until then."
The Jets hope they don't have to find out.
What to watch:
• The Big O or the Big Oh-No? After last week's no-show, the Mark Sanchez-led offense will be under the spotlight. So far, the preseason numbers aren't good -- nine possessions, only one TD. Another stinker isn't going to prompt Rex Ryan to break out the color codes again, but you'd like to see some improvement, especially in the passing game -- specifically, screens and play action. You might notice that bulky brace on Sanchez's left knee; let's call it the Slauson brace, which leads us to ...
• Slauson vs. Ducasse. This is Round 3 in the left-guard battle. Matt Slauson, still the front-runner and the odds-on favorite to be the opening-night starter, will make his third straight start. He could've locked up the job last week, but he was schooled in pass protection on one play and nearly let a Panthers pass rusher crash into Sanchez's knee. Not happy about that, Ryan will give rookie Vladimir Ducasse some work with the first unit, a late audition.
• Holmes, Sweet Holmes. Santonio Holmes, who has appeared in eight of the 49 plays by the first-team offense, should get more opportunities against the Skins. This is a delicate situation for the coaches: They want to give Holmes a chance to learn the offense and play with the starters, but they realize every first-team rep is robbing another player of a chance to work with the first group. Remember, Holmes has to serve a four-game suspension, starting Sept. 3. They want him to leave in great shape, but they can't do it as the expense of another player.
• D-Line, S.O.S. As soon as Ryan heard that Ropati Pitoitua (Achilles' tendon) was out for the season, he walked over to Rodrique Wright on the sideline in Carolina and challenged him to make the team. The already-thin defensive line needs somebody to step up, presumably either Wright or Matt Kroul. If not, they will pick up a veteran on the final cutdown.
• Washington slept here. RB Chauncey Washington was a virtual goner before last week, but he made a huge hit on special teams and ran for some tough yards, playing his way back on to the roster bubble. He also lost a fumble, but Ryan was so excited about Washington's performance that he gave him the game ball. He's battling Danny Woodhead and Jason Davis for a spot in the backfield.
• The Revis Factor. With QB Donovan McNabb (ankle) out of the lineup, the defense should have a big day against Rex Grossman. It might even dominate, which will cause some fans and media types to declare, "Who needs Revis?" Don't buy that nonsense. If the Jets can't shut down Grossman without Revis, they've got problems. This is not an accurate barometer of life without their stud corner.
• Is there a punt returner in the house? Little Larry Taylor is a Mike Westhoff favorite, but he isn't running away with the job. Rookie Joe McKnight busted a 67-yard return (lousy coverage by the Panthers), so he warrants another look. Rookie Kyle Wilson? He was supposed to be the guy, but he already has a lot on his plate, learning two positions in the secondary. If all else fails, there's always Jim Leonhard.
• Off the Mark. Backup QB Mark Brunell is on scholarship, which means he'll be the No. 2 no matter what, but a first down and a couple of completions would be nice, no?
It didn’t take long for things to get chippy. Wayne Hunter got a few too many late hits from Kenwin Cummings and it was on. Pretty soon, Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and defensive assistant Bob Sutton were firing R rated words around.
“It’s going to happen in camp sooner or later,” said Hunter, “for us it happened sooner.”
He added that Cummings is a friend of his off the field, and he should have expected something knowing how competitive the backup linebacker can be. The backup tackle said he got the last word on the field, blocking Cummings on a blitz to finish in a tie.
This kind of back and forth makes Rex Ryan smile. After practice, the Jets coach noted that he was happy with the intensity level of today’s morning practice at Jets training camp in Cortland as opposed to Monday when everyone was relatively cordial. He even joked that he’d go through the league to request a fine for the cursing.
"There was a little competitive spirit out there, and it got a little sensitive, I thought. That's always great to see. You love watching it when coaches go at it and all that jazz."
The day offered a few dramatic plays to get the fans into it as well. David Clowney, a wide receiver who had his share of drops and misses, had a 30 yard catch from quarterback Mark Sanchez and would have run it in for a touchdown in a game situation. Clowney got a hug from Jerricho Cotchery as he jogged back upfield with the ball.
Marcus Henry had a nice one-handed catch from Kellen Clemens, who was very limited in practice after reporting with a calf injury. TE Jeff Cumberland got a hold of a ball over safety Emanual Cook — who also got a piece but Cumberland came down with it. In the press conference Ryan said he needed to do a better job of blocking.
Matthew Mulligan had some nice catches, two with Brunell and another with O’Connell. Brunell looked rusty, and would’ve been sacked three times in the scrimmage drills. He also threw away a few balls under pressure.
DE Vernon Gholston got reps with the first team defense, and Lowery knocked down a pass from Sanchez intended for Cotchery. Calvin Pace grabbed a ball popped up by Braylon Edwards, and Antonio Cromartie had a leaping pick on a ball intended for Clowney. Kris Jenkins (hamstring) didn’t practice for a second day.
Damien Woody said that the practice was good, and several players mentioned feeling sore after roughly five hours of practice on Monday. This afternoon is a special teams practice, so the veterans should get some rest.
“The first day, that’s probably the best you’re going to feel all year,” Woody said.
As far as Darrelle Revis’ holdout, veteran Bart Scott said it’s hard to miss him on the field right now because so much of the time is devoted to learning plays with newer parts.
“In games when guys catch a pass it counts,” Scott said. “Out here we just coach a guy up for what he did wrong and get better.”
More coaching up at 4:20 when special teams practice starts.
The Jets addressed their needs on offense through free agency in getting WR Santonio Holmes and RB LaDainian Tomlinson.
That won’t stop the Jets from drafting a running back and perhaps even a wide receiver.
The Jets have five picks in the 2010 NFL Draft, and they have a glaring need for a pass-rusher and a safety. That said, if the player they identify for those spots isn’t available at No. 29, it’s conceivable Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum could trade back and get a few more picks.
Last year the Jets got three players in the seven rounds. To get QB Mark Sanchez and RB Shonn Greene, the Jets traded away the store. Although the team has found gold in undrafted free agents before, like DT Mike DeVito, it’s not a good long-term strategy.
Extra picks would allow the Jets to address a pressing need at running back. You look at the roster and see Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson and Leon Washington, but which one of those players takes the preseason games?
The Jets aren’t going to exhaust their No. 1 back in Greene. Tomlinson isn’t at a point in his career where he needs the extra wear and tear. Washington is coming back from an injury so severe that few have even attempted a return. That leaves one Chauncey Washington for the bulk of four games.
Add to that contract issues. Tomlinson is here on a two-year contract but Leon Washington’s situation would change if the league and players association come to an agreement that makes the 2006 draft class free agents. Again, there could be a lockout next season which would render it all moot, but I’m assuming there is no lockout.
Getting a young back out of a lower round would protect the Jets’ top three running backs and allow Tomlinson’s mentoring potential to be fully used.
The Jets are set for wide receivers for this season, but next year could have a problem at the position. Both Holmes and Braylon Edwards will be free agents. Depending on how well they play, it will probably be too expensive for the Jets to pay them both. (Like with the lockout, I’m making the assumption here that Holmes doesn’t incur additional substance policy violations.)
That leaves you with Jerricho Cotchery as a solid returner. Also on the roster at the position are Brad Smith, David Clowney, Danny Woodhead, Aundrae Allison, Marcus Henry, Britt Davis, S.J Green and Larry Taylor. That’s a crowded field but, aside from Smith and Clowney (go ahead and debate), is there a lot of potential? Last spring Jets coach Rex Ryan was high on Davis, but he fizzled at camp.
There’s the offensive line. I’ll take a look at that in a future post. And lastly a backup quarterback. Ryan clearly doesn’t have a ton of faith in Kellen Clemens given the fact that they brought in veteran QB Mark Brunell earlier this spring, but that’s a need they are better off addressing through free agency.
If Jason Taylor decides to stick with the Dolphins, the Jets could use Jay Feely’s vacated spot to bring in Brunell or another veteran QB.
The Jets have five picks late 20s in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th and 7th rounds. The third went to Cleveland for Edwards and the fifth to Pittsburgh for Holmes. Although the defense is a bigger focus of Jets draft-watchers, there could be a few offensive picks as well.