New York Jets: Willie Colon

Out-of-control Jets refuse to be bullied

August, 17, 2014
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CINCINNATI -- Rex Ryan didn't rip his team for its sloppy, penalty-laden performance, which included seven personal fouls. Just the oppposite, actually.

"The main thing is our guys are protecting each other," he said after the New York Jets' 25-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday night at Paul Brown Stadium. "Sometimes we have to look at [the penalties] and, did we cross the line a little bit? We'll look at it and address it. We want to be as physical a football team as we can possibly be within the confines of the rules. But we're not here to take anything from anybody. If a teammate's at risk, we're not going to take that."

Colon
Colon
Giacomini
The offensive line created most of the havoc. Right tackle Breno Giacomini had two personal fouls, as did guard Brian Winters, who surprisingly was replaced in the starting lineup by Oday Aboushi. (Winters had a total of three penalties). Guard Willie Colon added one personal foul. Even mild-mannered receiver Stephen Hill got into the action, earning one personal foul.

All told, the Jets were flagged 12 times for 133 yards. The Bengals were penalized 11 times for 92 yards. Ah, yes, preseason football.

Colon and Giacomini were the tone setters. First came a first-quarter interception by Terence Newman, who was down by contact after being tagged by wide receiver David Nelson. Giacomini apparently didn't hear the whistle because he tried to tackle Newman. In a nanosecond, Colon was on the scene, shoving Newman. Colon lost his helmet.

And so it began.

"I reacted like I felt I needed to," Colon said.

Ryan must have whipped his team into a frenzy because it was frothing. The Jets were humiliated by the Bengals last October, 49-9, and some players -- if you can believe it -- talked about payback. Sheldon Richardson said last week they "owe them one."

"We were fired up going into this game," Colon said. "Last time we stepped into this stadium, we got our butts handed to us. We got embarrassed the last time here -- no ifs, ands or buts. When we looked at that tape, that wasn't the Jets we want to be. They're a playoff team and we're trying to take that next step. We still have miles to walk, we understand that, but the preseason is a time to build that."

You can also fall into bad habits. The Jets suffered from penalty issues last season (hence, the penalty push-ups in practice), and now they were out of control in a preseason game. But there were no apologies from Ryan or his players. They're trying to build an attitude. They better hope they're not starting a trend.

It's a good thing the two teams didn't have joint practices, as had been discussed.

Jets: Burning questions on eve of camp

July, 22, 2014
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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?

Smith
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?

Decker
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: Offensive line

July, 17, 2014
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Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, July 23:

Projected starters: D'Brickashaw Ferguson (LT), Brian Winters (LG), Nick Mangold (C), Willie Colon (RG), Breno Giacomini (RT).

Projected reserves: Oday Aboushi, Ben Ijalana, Dalton Freeman, Dakota Dozier.

Notables on the bubble: Caleb Schlauderaff, William Campbell.

Player to watch: Giacomini. The Jets took a calculated risk in free agency, letting a young, ascending right tackle (Austin Howard) walk out the door and replacing him with the unheralded Giacomini. It wasn't a small contract, either, as Giacomini signed a four-year deal for $18 million, including $7 million in guarantees. He and Howard are comparable players, although the Jets expect Giacomini to contribute more in the running game than Howard did. He comes from a run-oriented offense, the Seattle Seahawks, but Giacomini must make the transition from a zone-based blocking scheme to a gap scheme.

Top storyline: The guards. Colon underwent two surgeries in the offseason (biceps, knee), opening the door for Aboushi to get first-team work in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp. Drafted as a tackle, Aboushi settled in at left guard, pushing Winters to right guard, where he's never played before. Colon is expected for training camp, so what we have here, folks, is an old-fashioned competition, with three players vying for two spots. Can't you just see John Idzik smiling? This could shake out a few different ways, but the prediction is they'll start the way they ended in 2013 -- Winters left, Colon right. But that won't be etched in granite.

Wild card: Aboushi. The former fifth-round pick, coming off a red-shirt rookie year (inactive 16 games), has a chance to crack the lineup. After struggling in pass protection at tackle (he was one of the players who missed a block on the Mark Sanchez injury), Aboushi was moved to guard in the spring. It's not an easy transition, as Winters proved last season. If Aboushi can succeed, it'll give the Jets more youth and athleticism at the position.

By the numbers: This may surprise some people, but the Jets finished third in pass protection, based on the percentage of plays in which the offense controlled the line of scrimmage on pass plays -- 52.7 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information. This isn't commensurate with their high sack total (47), an indication that other factors outweighed the pass blocking -- mainly inexperience at quarterback and the inability of the receivers to get open on a consistent basis.

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.

In Year 2, Brian Winters hopes to dominate

June, 12, 2014
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Brian Winters struggled as a rookie -- and that's putting it kindly. He allowed a league-high 10 sacks for guards and ranked 77th out of 81 guards in the league, according to ProFootballFocus. What people forget is that Winters, a tackle in college, was new to the position and missed most of training camp with an ankle injury.

That is all in the past. Now that he has experience as an interior lineman, Winters is looking forward to big things this season. He expects "to have an oustanding year," he said Wednesday after the New York Jets' next-to-last offseason team activity practice. "I want to be a guy they can rely on, be a reliable source and just have a dominating year."

[+] EnlargeBrian Winters
Al Pereira/Getty ImagesBrian Winters, a third-round pick in 2013, expects a smooth second season at guard for the Jets.
The Jets remain high on Winters, whom they drafted in the third round. He probably would have been a Week 1 starter last season, but the injury set him back, forcing them to play Vladimir Ducasse at left guard for the first four games. Winters was the weak link in a veteran line, but much like fellow rookies Geno Smith and Dee Milliner, he improved over the final few games.

"There were some ups and downs, but it was a big learning experience for me," Winters said. "I really enjoyed it, the opportunity to play. As the season went on, I got better and better each game. It's going to continue to improve and it's going to go up from here."

It's a big change, going from tackle to guard. You see players make that transition later in their careers, when they no longer have the quickness and agility to block speed rushers on the edge. But at least those guys have experience in the pro game, allowing for a relatively seamless slide inside. Winters had no experience to fall back on, quickly learning about life in the proverbial phone booth.

"The fight is right at your face," Winters said.

Things develop quickly on the inside, and the guys you're blocking are a lot bigger than on the edge. There is a cerebral aspect to it as well. Guards must be aware of slide-protection schemes and where their help is coming from. Winters expects to be better equipped to handle the nuances than he did as a wide-eyed rookie.

On Wednesday, the media saw Winters for the first time at right guard. With starter Willie Colon (knee/biceps) sidelined until training camp, the Jets have been trying different people at the position. The first shot went to Oday Aboushi. That apparently didn't go too well. This week, he was moved to left guard, where his play has picked up, according to coach Rex Ryan.

This is contingency planning by the Jets, and that is smart. If Colon goes down again -- let's face it, his durability is an issue -- they could move Winters to right guard, with Aboushi coming off the bench at left guard. There are no experienced backups on the bench, and that is a concern. No matter how it shakes out, Winters will be in the lineup, looking for redemption.

Jets notes: McDougle makes debut

June, 11, 2014
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Notes and observations from Wednesday's OTA practice:

1. He-e-e-e-re's Dex: Third-round pick Dexter McDougle, who missed the final nine games of his senior year due to major shoulder surgery, made his practice debut for the New York Jets. After three weeks of wearing a red (non-contact) jersey, the rookie cornerback wore green with the rest of his defensive teammates and impressed Rex Ryan so much that the coach called him out in front of the team afterward. McDougle worked with the second-team nickel package and didn't seem tentative at all. This, of course, is good news for the Jets' revamped cornerback position.

[+] EnlargeEric Decker
AP Photo/Julio CortezThe Jets will be counting on receiver Eric Decker to produce in the red zone this season.
2. Rex comes clean: The Jets received mild criticism for taking McDougle in the third round, considering the time he missed at Maryland. Ryan admitted he, too, thought it was a risky pick, but others in the organization -- mainly defensive coordinat0r Dennis Thurman -- "eased my doubts" about McDougle. Ryan said Thurman, after watching McDougle on tape for the first time, came up to him and said, "I've got the guy right here." Ryan said they graded McDougle as one of the top "character" players in the draft. Assuming he has no setbacks, he will be able to participate in next week's minicamp.

3. Changing of the guards: 'Tis the time of year to experiment. With Willie Colon (arthroscopic knee surgery) sidelined for the remainder of the offseason, the Jets have been rotating players at right guard. On Wednesday, it was Brian Winters' turn. He traded places with Oday Aboushi, who moved to Winters' spot at left guard. No, this doesn't mean Colon is in danger of losing his starting job. Ryan acknowledged that Colon, who is expected to return for training camp, is a likely starter, but not necessarily at right guard. Interesting. Moving the players around in June creates competition and flexibility that could help in training camp.

4. Geno and Vick: There was a concentration on the two-minute offense and the red zone in practice. Both Geno Smith and Michael Vick looked sharp in the red zone, each quarterback completing four of five passes in team drills. Smith got most of the work with the starters. His best moment came when he stepped up in the pocket and found wide receiver Eric Decker in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Decker dominated in the red zone, one of the reasons why the Jets are paying him $7 million a year. Vick displayed his old form, scrambling for a touchdown. He also made a nice scoring pass to rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders.

5. Two-minute hiccups: Smith wasn't nearly as crisp in the hurry-up situation. He started off with a deep ball to Decker, but the drive stalled as he misfired on three of his last four passes. First-round pick Calvin Pryor came on a safety blitz to disrupt Smith on one play.

6. Rex on the QB competition/non-competition: Not surprisingly, Ryan spoke glowingly on the Smith-Vick battle -- even though it's not really a battle, if you ask Vick. "Both guys are sharp," Ryan said. "They're pushing themselves and pushing each other. That's exactly what we wanted to have happen. ... I've been really impressed with it."

7. Attendance report: Players that didn't participate in the voluntary practice included wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (personal), running back Mike Goodson (undisclosed), running back Chris Johnson (knee), running back Daryl Richardson (toe), wide receiver Jacoby Ford (undisclosed), Colon (knee), rookie wide receiver Shaq Evans (school obligation) and linebacker Antwan Barnes (knee). Ryan said he expects Goodson to show up for next week's mandatory minicamp. As expected, Johnson -- six months removed from knee surgery -- isn't expected to do much, if anything, in the minicamp. Ford will be full speed by next week.

8. Dee's cranky hammy: Cornerback Dee Milliner, who sat out last week's open practice, participated on a limited basis. Officially, the team is calling it hamstring "tightness," not a pulled hamstring. Got that? Ryan said they kept him out for precautionary reasons.

9. Odds and ends: Pryor continued to work with the starters. It was Pryor and Antonio Allen at safety, with Dawan Landry practicing with the second team. Landry already knows the defense; the plan is to let Pryor and Allen get as many reps as possible. ... The Jets are continuing their penalty/push-up tradition. When a penalty is committed, the entire team drops for 10 push ups. General manager John Idzik was among the non-players that did pushups. ... Matt Simms, battling rookie Tajh Boyd for the No. 3 quarterback job, threw an interception. ... Rookie tight end Jace Amaro, coming off a three-drop day last week, had another drop but looked much better catching the ball.

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.

Twitter mailbag: Is Colon injury a concern?

May, 31, 2014
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Plenty of great questions this week. A sampling:

Analyzing mixed messages and bad news

May, 29, 2014
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No such thing as a dull day at One Jets Drive. A couple of thoughts on Wednesday's happenings:

1. The quarterback competition that might not be a competition: The irony here is that you actually have a player (Michael Vick) conceding a starting job and willingly (we think) accepting a backup role. How often does that happen? Vick is telling it like it is, not selling the company line. We all know the deal: Geno Smith is the preferred candidate and, barring injury or preseason meltdown, he will be the Week 1 starter. It seems pretty basic, but the Jets have muddied the situation because folks (mainly Rex Ryan) are fearful of saying the wrong thing, thus violating the Idzik Competition Commandment.

2. The real news of the day: Willie Colon's scheduled knee scope became a sidebar to the quarterback mess, but it's actually more significant in terms of its impact on the team. Colon wasn't participating in OTA practices anyway -- he's still rehabbing a surgically repaired biceps -- but now there's no chance of him returning by the June 17-19 minicamp. Look for him in training camp. This, of course, ruins any chance of Colon developing on-field chemistry with new right tackle Breno Giacomini. From a conditioning standpoint, Colon will be behind when he reports to camp because it will be difficult to do any kind of training as he recovers from upper- and lower-body injuries. The silver lining is that young players such as Oday Aboushi, William Campbell and others will see increased reps.

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.

Colon says chemistry 'different' from '13

May, 14, 2014
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The New York Jets are only three weeks into the offseason program, but Willie Colon senses a different vibe from a year ago: Better chemistry in the locker room.

"It's a real humble environment," the veteran guard said Tuesday night at the annual United Way Gridiron Gala in Manhattan. "The locker room is way different from what I saw last year. Guys are mingling, hanging with each other, and I think we're forming something good."

Colon
Colon
Colon wasn't on the team in 2009 and 2010, when the Jets reached back-to-back AFC Championship Games, but he's heard from the holdovers (mainly D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold) that the current chemistry is similar to that of those almost-championship teams.

"A lot of guys are talking that it's starting to feel like that again, so that's a step in the right direction," Colon said.

A few thoughts on Colon's remarks: The only key offensive players gone from last season's team are Santonio Holmes, Austin Howard, Mark Sanchez and Kellen Winslow, so I'm wondering if Colon is suggesting that life in the locker room is more harmonious without them. Playing mind-reader for a second, I'd bet that Holmes and Winslow are the least missed players among that group. They were "me" guys that caused friction in the locker room.

Asked if something was lacking with last year's chemistry, Colon replied, "Honestly, when I walked in here last year, it was different. It was different than what I was used to" -- a reference to his days with the Pittsburgh Steelers. "But right now, guys are always around each other, it seems like more of a family environment."

Obviously, the Jets have added some big names, Michael Vick and Chris Johnson, former mega-stars making a transition into smaller roles. In Vick's case, it will be really small if he's Geno Smith's backup. That always creates questions, wondering how high-profile imports will impact the team's chemistry.

"He's been awesome," Colon said of Vick. "He came in extremely humble, going to work. I haven't sensed any Hollywood out of him. I think he's going to fit in great with us."

Nothing divides a locker room quicker than a quarterback controversy, but Colon downplayed that as a possibility, claiming, "I don't get the sense that everybody's being cocky or there's some spitefulness going on. Everybody's just ready to get back to work, and I think it's healthy for us, I really do."

Hey, if you can't be optimistic in the spring ...

Jets draft preview: Offensive line

May, 2, 2014
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This is the fifth installment in a position-by-position analysis of the New York Jets as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Offensive line

Current personnel: D'Brickashaw Ferguson (signed through 2017), Nick Mangold (2017), Breno Giacomini (2017), Willie Colon (2014), Brian Winters (2016), Ben Ijalana (2014), Caleb Schlauderaff (2014), Oday Aboushi (2016), William Campbell (2016), Jacolby Ashworth (2015), Dalton Freeman (2016), Patrick Ford (2016).

Projected starters: Ferguson, Winters, Mangold, Colon, Giacomini.

Newcomers: Giacomini (Seattle Seahawks).

Departures: Vladimir Ducasse (free agent/Minnesota Vikings), Austin Howard (free agent/Oakland Raiders).

Highest cap charge: Ferguson, $11.7 million

Scouting report: The offensive line got a bad rap last season because the Jets allowed more sacks (47) than all but five team. But that stat is misleading because they played with a rookie quarterback who frequently held the ball too long and receivers who couldn't get open. In fact, the Jets were No. 3 in the pass-protection rankings, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Their pass-protection rate was 52.7, which is defined by the percentage of plays in which the offense controlled the line of scrimmage on pass plays. In addition, 24 percent of their sacks were deemed "coverage" sacks, 11th in the league -- an illustration of the receivers' inability to gain separation. The only new starter is Giacomini, who may be more physical than Howard but could be a downgrade in pass protection. We'll see. Right guard is a concern because of Colon's durability issues. Obviously, they need a better year out of Winters, who struggled as a rookie.

Last OL drafted: Tackle/guard Aboushi (fifth round) and guard Campbell (sixth) were "future" picks in last year's draft, as they basically redshirted as rookies.

Potential targets: This draft should tell us how much they believe in Aboushi and Campbell as heir apparents. If the Jets see upside with them, they shouldn't have to pick a lineman until the later rounds, if then. They haven't been linked to any of the top prospects, but they're showing interest in several late-round possibilities -- guard Ryan Groy (Wisconsin), guard/tackle Dakota Dozier (Furman), tackle Matt Feiler (Bloomsburg), center Gabe Ikard (Oklahoma) and center James Stone (Tennessee). Last year was a big-body draft. This year, the big fellas aren't a priority.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 4.

Still not time to tear down O-line

April, 16, 2014
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The New York Jets used to have one of the best offensive lines in the league. Now they need serious help, according to an article by Pro Football Focus Insider.

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Ferguson
The Jets are listed among five teams with "positional frailties" that should be addressed with high draft picks. In their case, it's the line. According to PFF:
"On the surface, this may seem a strange selection given that both D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold are still on board and the team replaced departed right tackle Austin Howard with Super Bowl winner Breno Giacomini.

"However, we are now close to the nadir of a group that was as recently as 2010 the best in football. Things started to go downhill with the departure of the remarkably underrated Damien Woody (who in a fairer world would at least be discussed as a Hall of Fame candidate) and this was exacerbated further by the loss of Brandon Moore and the decline of Mangold and Ferguson. It's just as well Chris Ivory is a tough runner (he ranked tied for third in yards after contact per attempt in 2013, with 3.0) because he got very little help from his linemen this past season: not a single one graded green as a run-blocker."

Mangold
My thoughts? I'd be surprised -- no, stunned -- if the Jets used a first- or second-day draft pick on a lineman. Ferguson and Mangold, both 30, may not be what they once were, but they're still in the top third of the league at their respective positions. Ferguson's cap numbers are so high that he can't be released without serious cap ramifications until 2016. For Mangold, who has less contractual security than Ferguson, that time occurs next year. But I still don't think it's time to start looking for their replacements; they're still two of the better players on the team.

The Jets gave Giacomini a $7 million guarantee, so they expect him to be around for at least a couple of years. At left guard, they suffered through Brian Winters' rookie growing pains, but they remain high on his future. If they were to draft a lineman, it likely would be a right guard. Willie Colon is back on a one-year contract, but there's no heir apparent -- unless you count William Campbell, a former defensive lineman who didn't get close to the field last season as a rookie. Campbell and tackle Oday Aboushi were the "future" picks in John Idzik's first draft. Evidently, they're still down-the-road prospects.

But do you want to know the biggest reason why the Jets won't use a high pick on a lineman?

Too many other pressing needs.

Colon: Vick vs. Geno would be 'arrows up'

March, 19, 2014
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The New York Jets' interest in Michael Vick, reported here eight days ago, has turned into a visit.

Vick
Vick
Smith
On Friday, he'll meet with team officials in Florham Park, a source confirmed. They want to sign the free-agent quarterback to mentor and compete with Geno Smith. It would be a good fit for many reasons, which I presented in a column three weeks ago on why Vick-to-the-Jets makes sense.

Willie Colon apparently has the same view. The veteran right guard, speaking to reporters on a conference call Wednesday after signing his new contract, gave a thumb's up to Vick.

"Vick speaks for itself. His resume in itself is amazing," Colon said. "He is an outstanding athlete and what he can bring to the table in coach [Marty] Mornhinweg's offense [is impressive]. Obviously, they have that rapport, they have that relationship that was established in Philadelphia. It's all arrows up when it comes to that situation. Competition helps everybody. Bottom line, anytime you have two guys competing for the same spot, all it does is heighten the team's effort. It will play out how it is going to play out."

The Jets have refused to name Smith the starter, a strategic choice. One of the reasons why they haven't committed to Smith is because they wanted to make the position more attractive to free agents. Obviously, the preference is to stick with Smith, John Idzik's hand-picked quarterback, but if he struggles or gets hurt they'd have a capable replacement in Vick.

Colon praised Smith for the way he finished the season, saying he looked like a different quarterback from early in the season, but he didn't sugar-coat his answer when asked about increased expectations for Smith in year two.

"Not only do I expect it, I think he has to be [better]," Colon said. "I think for us to be successful, [we can't have] the turnover struggles that we had. We have to be more efficient on first and second down. We have to be a more efficient offense all together, and that starts with the quarterback. I think he knows that. We understand that as a unit. I think he is going to do everything the entire offseason to get it going and to be a better quarterback."

Thoughts on Willie Colon's return

March, 19, 2014
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A few takeaways on right guard Willie Colon returning to the New York Jets:

Colon
Colon
1. Another elder statesman: Colon falls into the same category as linebacker Calvin Pace, 33, who re-signed Sunday: They're hold-the-fort guys. Ordinarily, you want to stay away from too many 30-and-older players, but it's OK to have a few on the roster. Colon, going on 31, is a strong leader and brings an element of toughness to the offensive line, and there's value in that. Plus, the money was right -- a one-year, $2 million contract.

2. Continuity: The Jets lost right tackle Austin Howard to the Oakland Raiders, so they wanted to avoid having to replace the entire right side of the offensive line. Colon doesn't know Howard's replacement, Breno Giacomini, but he'll have the entire offseason to get acquainted and start the process of building chemistry. The on-the-field rapport, though, will get a late start. Colon is recovering from biceps surgery and won't be ready for football activities until June, he said.

3. What about the kids?: General manager John Idzik used the bottom of the 53-man roster last season for player development -- specifically, guard/tackle Oday Aboushi, guard Will Campbell and tackle Ben Ijalana. In fact, all three players were inactive for 16 games -- basically, a red-shirt season. That they chose to sign Colon so quickly leads me to believe the kids (mainly, Campbell, who worked exclusively at guard) aren't ready to compete for starting jobs -- and that would be a disappointment. Campbell was a sixth-round pick, Aboushi a fifth.

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