New York Jets: What we learned

Game recap: What we learned

August, 25, 2013

Ten takeaways from the Jets' costly win over the Giants:

1. Geno Smith isn't ready: He made a lot of rookie mistakes in his first extended action, but guess what? He's a rookie. Smith saw a lot of things for the first time -- a six-man rush on his second interception and a defensive lineman in coverage on the third pick. The safety was inexcusable, just a mental lapse by a young player lost in the moment. Two things I noticed: He stared down receivers and held the ball too long. On the positive side, he completed his last six passes (five against the Giants' backups), showing the ability to drive the ball on intermediate routes.

2. Rex Ryan didn't trust his instincts: Yes, Ryan announced Thursday that Mark Sanchez would play in the game, but he should've altered the plan on the fly once he saw how the game unfolded. Because of Smith's struggles, it was clear that Sanchez would be the opening-day starter. Ryan shouldn't have played him unless it was behind the first-team line, not behind the likes of Caleb Schlauderaff and J.B. Shugarts. You have to wonder if Ryan was following orders from GM John Idzik.

3. Stephen Hill needs to grow up: He has a lot of talent inside that big body, but he tends to lose his cool. He took a swing at LB Jacquian Williams, resulting in a personal foul, and he lost a fumble a couple of plays later, failing to secure the ball. That he was in the game was another mistake by Ryan, who should've taught him a lesson by benching him after the dumb penalty.

4. They need Santonio Holmes more than ever: Aside from Hill's shenanigans, the Jets dropped three passes, shades of the daily drop-fests in minicamp. The best receiver was rookie free agent Ryan Spadola, who caught three passes for 110 yards. On the positive side, newly signed Mohamed Massaquoi got into the game and made two nice catches. If I'm Braylon Edwards, I'm worried about my roster spot. By the way, Holmes looked fine in pre-game warmups. You have to think he'll be ready for Week 1.

5. Perimeter run defense is still a concern: This was an issue last season, and it didn't look any better in this game -- see David Wilson's 84-yard TD run. Interestingly, the defense came out in a 4-3 look, with three linebackers stacked behind the line. It resembled the old Tampa-2 defense. The Jets seemed a bit confused by the Giants' twin-fullback look. LB Demario Davis got caught in traffic, S Antonio Allen blew his gap assignment, and CB Antonio Cromartie and LB Garrett McIntyre couldn't get off their blocks. In a heartbeat, Wilson was gone, too fast for anyone on the Jets' D.

6. The defense got mad: To its credit, the defense responded nicely after the Wilson TD. Despite bad field position, courtesy of Smith's three interceptions, the Jets held the Giants to three points on the next eight possessions, including a goal-line stand. They dominated the Giants' patchwork line, with DT Sheldon Richardson (one sack, two QB hits) and NT Damon Harrison (seven solo tackles) generating inside pressure. Richardson lined up in several different spots before leaving with an undisclosed injury. They have to be encouraged by their young linemen.

7. They miss Darrelle Revis: Kyle Wilson is entering his fourth year, yet he still makes the same mistakes he did as a rookie. He still lacks awareness when the ball is in the air. In this game, the result was three pass-interference penalties. This is why he was moved back to his nickel-back role as soon as rookie Dee Milliner reported to camp. Milliner didn't play because of an injury, but he hasn't lit it up. The Jets will be vulnerable against opponents with good No. 2 receivers.

8. Brian Winters really exists: The third-round guard, hampered by an ankle injury throughout camp, made his preseason debut. Winters replaced LG Vladimir Ducasse (leg injury) early in the game and ended up making a nice pulling block on Bilal Powell's two-yard TD run in the third quarter. Winters is the future at left guard. For now, it'll be Ducasse or Stephen Peterson, who played center with the second unit and allowed a sack.

9. Nick Folk keeps it interesting: Now we know why they keep importing competition for Folk. In overtime, he was wide right on a 39-yard FG attempt. A few minutes later, challenger Billy Cundiff won it with a 32-yarder. It looks like the kicking battle will last a little longer.

10. Mayday Malone responds: With his job in jeopardy, incumbent P Robert Malone had a fantastic game, putting all three punts inside the 20. Challenger Ryan Quigley, who had been having a solid camp, suffered a poor game. This could be over.

What we learned on Day 27

August, 20, 2013
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Observations from the sideline:

1. Run, Joey, Run: Joe McKnight, he of the failed conditioning test/dehydration/migraine/traffic arrest/head injury, returned to full practice and looked good. Perhaps sensing his roster spot could be in jeopardy, he ran with purpose and determination. He told reporters he expects to play Saturday night against the Giants in what would be his preseason debut. You'd have to expect his A-game. Maybe his recent adversity has served as a wake-up call for McKnight, whose inconsistency has been maddening for coaches.

2. Dee backs off: Top pick Dee Milliner took some heat for his passive coverage against the Jaguars, but it appears he was playing cautiously because of a pulled calf muscle. It happened up in Cortland, but he tried to play through it. On Tuesday, he was held out of practice, with Rex Ryan noting the calf didn't seem to be improving. Smart move, backing him off. Milliner is a vital part on the rebuilt defense and the Jets can't afford to lose him for an extended time.

3. When you have two free safeties, you have none: The Jets can't make up their mind -- Antonio Allen or Jaiquawn Jarrett? -- so they'll let the free-safety competition go for another two games. Allen will start Saturday against the Giants, Jarrett the following Thursday against the Eagles. I wouldn't get too hung up on the outcome of the competition, because I have a feeling Ryan will be using a lot of one-safety, three-corner packages, utilizing Kyle Wilson in a safety-type role.

What we learned on Day 20

August, 13, 2013

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Observations from the press box:

1. Still no QB decision: Rex Ryan declined to name a starter for Saturday night's game, raising the question: What's taking so long? If it's an open competition, it should be Geno Smith's turn, but Ryan said he may let it play out until the end of the week. No doubt, he wants to see how Smith does on his tender ankle, but why not just come out and say Smith will start, if healthy? I honestly think they don't know yet. This isn't a clear-cut decision, arriving at a Week 1 starter, and I'm sure there has been plenty of internal discussion on the matter. Neither Smith nor Sanchez has distinguished himself in camp. Nothing ever comes easy for the Jets.

2. Sensitive subject: Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg bristled a bit when the question of pass-run ratio was raised. It came up because of the imbalance in the first game -- 16 runs, 42 passes. Ryan said he'd like more of a pass-run balance, hardly an earth-shattering statement. Later, Mornhinweg asked reporters, "Who said you need to be balanced? You score points throwing the ball." He was known as a pass-happy play caller with the Eagles. From 2010 to 2012, the Eagles' pass-run ratios were 62 percent to 38 percent, 57 to 43 and 59 to 41. Obviously, this subject was brought up a lot during his time in Philly. Judging from his reaction, he'd rather talk about something else.

3. Special K: I think backup TE Konrad Reuland has earned a roster spot with a solid performance in camp. Frankly, I thought he was a bubble player at the start of camp, but he has value because of his versatility, highlighted in Tuesday's practice. He's a red-zone weapon (at least in practice) and he handles other jobs as well. Clearly, Mornhinweg is willing to try different things with him. I think Reuland sticks.

What we learned on Day 19

August, 12, 2013
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Observations from the press box:

1. Holmes wrecker: When Santonio Holmes suffered a season-ending LisFranc foot injury last season in Week 4, the Jets said he'd "make a full recovery and be ready to roll for next year." Uh, not so fast. On Monday, Holmes uttered these ominous words: "Right now, I can't run." If this were a 300-pound lineman, it wouldn't be cause for alarm. But a wide receiver who makes his living with stops and starts and sudden change of direction? It's a concern. Forget about opening day. The Jets need to start bracing for the likelihood their No. 1 receiver won't be back for some time.

2. No Mountaineer love: You won't hear Rex Ryan humming "Country Roads" anytime soon. Ryan, responding to a Pittsburgh-based newspaper article in which Geno Smith's former teammates questioned the leadership on last year's team, fired a salvo at the West Virginia football program. Ryan said he's glad he didn't send his college-age son, Seth, to West Virginia. Memo to Rex: If you're ever driving through that region of the country, you may want to avoid West Virginia. You won't be a popular guy on those country roads.

3. Aggressive O: The Jets don't have a ton of offensive talent, but you know what? They might be fun to watch. The minds of OC Marty Mornhinweg and QBs coach David Lee will keep things interesting. Mornhinweg runs the West Coast offense, but he likes to take more shots downfield than most of his West Coast brethren -- evidenced in Monday's practice. Lee brings the Wildcat and read-option elements into the offense, which should spice up the running game. And there could be some Pistol, too. If nothing else, it'll give the opposition a lot to think about.

What we learned on Day 13

August, 6, 2013
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Observations from the press box:

1. Sanchez to start preseason opener: The Jets made the chalk decision by announcing that Mark Sanchez will start Friday night in Detroit. In my opinion, they should've gone with Geno Smith just to get an early read on the rookie. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Sanchez "earned it" because of his "outstanding" camp. Whoa! This smells like a coach with an agenda. Sanchez has been solid, not outstanding. Methinks Mornhinweg was trying to bolster Sanchez's confidence while also sending a message to Smith that nothing will be handed to him. Coaches have been known to send messages, you know.

2. The Marty Factor: The overlooked aspect of last week's John Idzik-Rex Ryan brushfire (who will pick the QB?) is the role of Mornhinweg. After listening to Mornhinweg discuss the quarterbacks Tuesday in a press-box chat with reporters, I came away convinced he will have a large say in the final decision -- really large. After all, it's his offense. He will tell Ryan which quarterback he believes will function best in his system. I find it hard to believe Ryan, a defensive guy all the way, would go against the wishes of his offensive coordinator. One note about Mornhinweg: In 12 seasons as a coordinator and head coach, he's never gone into a season with a rookie at quarterback.

3. Joe McDiva: If I were Joe McKnight, I'd send a nice thank-you note to former special teams coach Mike Westhoff for making him a kickoff returner in 2011. His ability as a kickoff returner -- one of the league's best -- is the reason he's still around. McKnight is a high-maintenance player who can drive coaches crazy with his lack of focus. His latest episode, an arrest for failing to pay $320 in traffic fines, shows his immaturity. In the big picture, it's a small thing, but small things add up. The dude has talent, he just needs to grow up. And to think, this is a contract year.

What we learned on Day 12

August, 5, 2013
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Observations from the press box:

1. A new workhorse: Unless Chris Ivory and his cranky hamstring get on the practice field real soon, the Jets' No. 1 running back to open the season will be Bilal Powell. Many figured he'd be No. 3 in the pecking order, behind Ivory and Mike Goodson, but Ivory is injured and Goodson is nowhere to be found. Powell is capitalizing on his chance. Mark Sanchez called him "one of the most underrated players in the league. ... He's lighting this camp on fire." Powell has always been a Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none kind of back. This summer, he's changing the perception.

2. Moving on up: Rookie CB Dee Milliner has been practicing for less than a week and he already is listed as a starter on the first official depth chart, released late Monday. Nothing against Milliner, who has terrific potential, but this is more of a reflection on Kyle Wilson than anything else. This is Wilson's fourth year and he hasn't lived up to expectations as a first-round pick. If the Jets felt comfortable with Wilson as a starter, they wouldn't have drafted Milliner at No. 9 overall. Wilson is where he should be -- a nickel back.

3. Can't count on Winslow: According to Rex Ryan, TE Kellen Winslow didn't practice because of The Plan -- his scaled-back regimen, designed to save on wear and tear. But this marked three straight days of rest, and that should raise the reg flags. What does it say that he didn't practice after two consecutive off days? The "pitch count" helps Winslow, but it hurts continuity on offense.

What we learned on Day 9

August, 2, 2013
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Observations from the press box:

1. Gotta go to Mo: From a media standpoint, DE Muhammad Wilkerson is having a relatively quiet camp. Most of the attention has focused on the quarterbacks, the running backs and the quotable pass catchers, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. But on the field, Wilkerson is making plenty of noise. On Friday, he dominated the point of attack in a live goal-line drill. He tends to get overlooked because he doesn't say a whole lot, but Wilkerson is one of the best players on the team and a rising star in the league. Hopefully, he doesn't become one of those take-him-for-granted players.

2. Safety in numbers: The other starting job at safety -- the guy not named Dawan Landry -- still remains up in the air. Antonio Allen has been taking most of the reps with the first unit, but he hasn't put a stranglehold on the position. On Friday, we saw Jaiquawn Jarrett get a lot of work with the starters, including the starting nickel package. Jarrett is an interesting guy. He was a second-round pick of the Eagles in 2011, but he was cut in 2012. It's unusual for a second-rounder to get dumped that quickly. The Jets signed him to a reserve-future contract the day after the '12 season ended, so technically, he was discovered by the Mike Tannenbaum regime. Landry may be the only starting-caliber safety on the roster, but Jarrett is getting a chance to show he belongs.

3. Saturday night's all right: The Jets will hold their annual Green & White scrimmage Saturday night at SUNY Cortland, and you can already tell there will be too much attention focused on the performances of Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. It's only a scrimmage, folks. The quarterback doesn't get hit, and you can't evaluate a quarterback until he faces the prospect of getting bashed in the mouth. Yes, we might learn a thing or two about Smith, but let's remember to keep it in perspective.

What we learned on Day 3

July, 27, 2013
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Observations from the press box:

1. Foot in mouth: GM John Idzik is so concerned with presenting the organization as a democracy that he unwittingly sparked a brush fire by saying the quarterback decision will be a collaborative effort. In fact, it's Rex Ryan's call, as it should be. He's the coach and he decides who plays and who doesn't, but Idzik refused to say Ryan has the final say. Result: A big, unnecessary headline. It also creates the perception he's usurping Ryan's power. It's admirable that Idzik wants to create a sense of teamwork, but this is one case where he should've said, "We'll give him a lot of input, but it's Rex's decision." Idzik also spewed the collaborative-effort mantra before the draft, but he acknowledged it was his job, as GM, to hand in the card. Now Ryan gets to hand in the lineup card, and everybody should know it's his decision.

2. See Geno run: I think the Jets will be tempted to use Geno Smith as a change-of-pace quarterback -- if he doesn't win the job. Ryan mentioned it as a possibility in minicamp, and he noted Saturday that Smith looked terrific on a read-option run in practice that resulted in a long gainer -- and the biggest roar of the day from the crowd. This is a slippery slope. Smith isn't a running quarterback, per se, but he obviously has good speed. Frankly, I don't think he loves the idea, but he's a rookie and won't make waves. The downside is the potential for injury. It'll be interesting to gauge this as camp progresses.

3. Just for kicks: The so-called competition between incumbent PK Nick Folk and challenger Billy Cundiff didn't get off to a rousing start. Cundiff, a recent pick-up, missed three of five field goals in practice. Folk went 4-for-5. Unless Cundiff emerges from his funk, it looks Folk's job will be safe.

What we learned on Day 3 of minicamp

June, 13, 2013

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Thoughts and observations from the final day of the mandatory minicamp:

1. A cry for help: For the second straight day, Rex Ryan bemoaned the performance of his receiving corps. This time, it wasn't unsolicited, but he took the question and ran with it, saying, "It has to get better" -- along with a lot of other stuff. It almost seemed like he was trying to send a message to GM John Idzik, the man in charge of finding players. This has to be the No. 1 item on Idzik's agenda. He's way off base if he thinks he can win with the current group, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Santonio Holmes.

2. The Lee factor: Practice was an ode to QBs coach David Lee, the real mastermind behind the Wildcat. (What, you thought it was Tony Sparano?) The Jets devoted an entire team period to the Wildcat, delivering a loud message: Tim Tebow is gone, but who cares? Make no mistake, it will be part of their offensive package, and they'll run it better than last year. It couldn't be worse.

3. What an arm: This might have been Geno Smith's best day of throwing since his Pro Day at West Virginia. I've said this before: When he sets his feet, he can really spin it. He also did a lot of spinning after practice, trying to explain his way out of the "Jets West" controversy.

4. Studs and duds: The players who jumped out to me over the three-day camp were OLB Ricky Sapp, CB Aaron Berry, TE Hayden Smith and RB John Griffin. On the flip side, the players who struggled were WR Stephen Hill, WR Jeremy Kerley and S Antonio Allen.

What we learned on Day 2 of minicamp

June, 12, 2013
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A few takeaways from Wednesday:

1. Winslow a keeper: Free agent TE Kellen Winslow, Jr., attending minicamp on a tryout basis, has done enough to earn a contract. No one is saying he's ... well, Kellen Winslow, Sr. -- or a young Junior, for that matter -- but he's a functional tight end with some receiving skills. That's good enough for this team. Interesting scene: Winslow and QB Matt Simms, sons of football royalty, have side-by-side lockers and chat every day. They could probably tell some stories.

2. Edge, Sanchez: Listening to QBs coach David Lee reaffirmed what I believed (and wrote) after last week's OTAs: Rookie QB Geno Smith, learning an entirely new offense, has a ways to go. Lee called it an even competition, but there's no doubt Mark Sanchez would start if the season started today.

3. Holmes alert: Maybe Santonio Holmes was just being stubborn, which tends to happen when he faces the media, but it sure sounded like he won't be ready for training camp. He described rehab from foot surgery as "learning to walk again." Will he be ready for the regular season? That's the real question. He wasn't too expansive on that topic, either, but the sense is that he'll be ready by Week 1.

4. MartyBall: OC Marty Mornhinweg took a break from his pass-happy approach to concentrate on the running game in practice. They ran out of various formations, including some gimmick runs. It's hard to get a feel for new RB Chris Ivory, a physical runner who should excel once the pads go on.

5. Down Hill: Maybe he's still feeling the effects of knee surgery. Maybe he's thinking too much, struggling with a new offense. Those would be legitimate reasons for Stephen Hill to be dropping so many passes. But this is a no-excuses business, and he's not winning the confidence of the braintrust as the offseason comes to an official close Thursday with the conclusion of minicamp.