New York Jets: Demario Davis

Rex Ryan showed his new boss last season that, even when speaking softly, he still carried a big enough stick to squeeze eight wins out of a team with modest talent. The New York Jets' coach received a well-deserved contract extension.

Now, with the Jets reporting to training camp Wednesday in Cortland, New York, for Year 2 of the Ryan-John Idzik era, we start to learn a lot more about the other half of the leadership tandem, the quiet man who prefers to stay out of the spotlight.

This is Idzik's time.

[+] EnlargeMilliner
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDee Milliner is one of John Idzik's draft picks that needs to produce for the Jets.
It's impossible to evaluate a general manager after one season, especially in a rebuilding situation, but the landscape changes after two drafts and two rounds of free agency. In the NFL, that’s enough time to get a team from the 6-10 mess that Idzik inherited into the playoffs.

Idzik's predecessors, Terry Bradway in 2001 and Mike Tannenbaum in 2006, reached the postseason in their first seasons as GMs. Go back further, and you will remember that Bill Parcells made it to the AFC Championship Game in his second year as the GM/coach.

Even though Idzik is operating on a long-term plan, evidenced by his emphasis on the draft and his deliberate approach in free agency, an 0-for-2 start wouldn't look good on his résumé. He shouldn't be on the New York Mets' Sandy Alderson timeline, meaning he has to move faster than a glacier. It's just the way of the NFL.

Idzik has been around long enough to put his stamp on the team. He signed, re-signed and drafted most of the projected starters. In fact, only seven starters can be considered true holdovers from the previous administration: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Muhammad Wilkerson, David Harris, Damon Harrison, Quinton Coples and Demario Davis.

It's easy to notice they're the best guys on the team, Tannenbaum guys. Idzik needs to get some of his guys on that list. He already has Sheldon Richardson. By the end of the season, the list of top homegrowns should also include Geno Smith, Dee Milliner and Calvin Pryor. If Smith and Milliner are missing, the Jets will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season, which won’t bode well for Ryan's job security.

Idzik has the Jets pointed in the right direction, and the strides they made last season can't be dismissed. But let's be honest: They overachieved. They were one of the softest 8-8 teams in history, and you can look it up. Their point differential was minus-97, the largest since the 1970 merger for any team with at least eight wins.

The talent base should be improved this season, especially with the additions of Eric Decker and Chris Johnson. Decker was Idzik's one big splurge in free agency, his one Tannenbaum-like move. Johnson and Michael Vick will be one-and-done players, worthwhile Band-Aids who won't ruin the master plan if they fizzle. The offseason proved, once again, that Idzik won't deviate from his script no matter how much salary-cap room he has at his disposal. For the record, there's about $22 million as of today.

Idzik is doing it the right way, avoiding the temptation of the quick fix. That will pay off in the long run, but there will be problems along the way. For instance: Failing to sign a top cornerback in free agency was a mistake that could be exposed early in the season, when they face several elite quarterbacks. The cornerback issue will be exacerbated if Milliner fails to develop as hoped.

The Jets believe Milliner, drafted ninth overall, will be a special player, basing much of their opinion on his strong finish. The same theory can be applied to the quarterback situation with Smith. They're placing a lot of weight on those last four games, and that can be dangerous when you consider the competition. They beat three also-rans, three teams with mediocre (at best) quarterbacks: the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins.

Now, after seven months of positive mojo, the Jets can prove it wasn't a mirage. If Idzik's investments mirror the stock market, they'll be a playoff team. If it goes the other way, he'll hear the criticism, good and loud. The honeymoon is over. This is Idzik's time.

Training camp preview: Linebacker

July, 20, 2014
Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, July 23:

Position: Linebacker

Projected starters: David Harris (MLB), Demario Davis (WLB), Calvin Pace (SLB), Quinton Coples (RUSH).

Projected reserves: Nick Bellore, Jermaine Cunningham, Antwan Barnes, Jeremiah George.

Notables on the bubble: Garrett McIntyre, IK Enemkpali (sixth-round pick), Trevor Reilly (seventh round).

Player to watch: Coples. The elements are in place for a breakout season. Position familiarity? Check. This is his second year at the rush-linebacker spot. Conditioning? Check. Coples said during minicamp that he dropped 15 pounds, putting him in the 270-275 range. The question is whether he can commit himself to being a dominant player. Some of his teammates will tell you that Coples is frustrating because he doesn't maximize his talent. Former Jets great Joe Klecko articulated the sentiment with his "Tarzan/Jane" comment. Said Coples: "I know this is a big year for me, stepping up and being a leader on this team and being more productive than I was the first two years."

Top storyline: Can the elder statesmen of the group, Harris (30) and Pace (33), maintain their production? It shouldn't be a problem for Harris, who enters a contract year and should be highly motivated. The big question is whether Pace can re-create what he did last season, surprising everyone with a career-high 10 sacks. He played with a chip on his shoulder after being cut and re-signed, performing well enough to land a two-year, $5 million contract. The Jets can't afford a drop off by Pace because, let's be honest, there's no heir apparent at his spot.

Training camp will be a success if ... : They can identify a third edge rusher to go along with Coples and Pace. Based on his track record, Barnes is the leading candidate, but he's coming off major knee surgery and could be limited in camp. Cunningham, a former second-round pick of the New England Patriots, is hoping to reboot his career with the Jets. He displayed some flash in minicamp, but he hasn't played in a game since 2012. The rookies, Enemkpali and Reilly, have a long way to go.

Wild card: Davis. He didn't produce enough big plays last season for someone who rarely came off the field -- one sack, one interception and no forced fumbles. Davis has the speed to be an effective three-down player, but some opposing scouts question his instincts. This will be his second year as a starter, so there should be a spike in production.

By the numbers: You can't blame the pass rush for the woes against the pass last season. It forced opponents to release the ball in 2.52 seconds, the sixth-fastest rate in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Jets draft preview: Linebacker

May, 6, 2014
This is the eighth installment in a position-by-position analysis of the New York Jets as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Linebacker

Current personnel: David Harris (signed through 2014), Demario Davis (2015), Quinton Coples (2015), Calvin Pace (2015), Antwan Barnes (2015), Nick Bellore (2014), Garrett McIntyre (2014), Jermaine Cunningham (2014), Tim Fugger (2016), Troy Davis (2015).

Projected starters: Harris (MLB), Demario Davis (WLB), Coples (Rush linebacker), Pace (SAM linebacker).

Newcomers: None.

Departures: None.

Top salary-cap charge: Harris, $7.0 million.

Scouting report: There are hidden needs at both inside and outside linebacker. The return of Pace, who signed a two-year, $5 million contract after recording a career-high 10 sacks, is a positive step. But it doesn't change the fact that the Jets are a middle-of-the-road pass-rushing team. They recorded sacks on only 4.6 percent of third-down dropbacks, lowest in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Their conventional rush was underwhelming. In fact, only the Houston Texans (two) intercepted fewer passes than the Jets (six)when using four or fewer pass rushers. They need a big season out of Coples and they need Barnes (ACL surgery) to return to his pre-injury form, which may be asking a bit much. The depth at inside linebacker is sketchy, with no proven players behind Harris and Demario Davis. Harris is heading into a contract year, so they have to prepare for the possibility of losing him next year.

Last LB drafted: Demario Davis was taken in the third round of the 2012 draft. Coples, a first-round pick that year, was originally selected as a lineman.

Potential targets: Look for them to draft at least one inside linebacker; whether they select an outside linebacker will depend on value. The pool of edge rushers isn't deep. There's a considerable dropoff after Khalil Mack (Buffalo), who will be long gone by the 18th pick. Anthony Barr (UCLA) could last, but it would be a surprise if they go in that direction. Barr, with only two years experience on defense, is talented, but raw. One name to watch in Round 2 is Demarcus Lawrence (Boise State), a hybrid player who visited the Jets. At 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, he has the right dimensions to make the conversion to outside linebacker. He recorded 20 sacks over the last two seasons, mostly as a down lineman. Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech) and Kyle Van Noy (Brigham Young) are players of the same ilk. Undersized Kevin Pierre-Louis (Boston College), who also visited, is a late-round possibility. So is tweener Larry Webster (Bloomsburg), the son of former NFL defensive lineman Larry Webster. At 6-5, 252 pounds, he ran a 4.58 40 at the combine. The only defensive lineman with a faster time was Jadeveon Clowney.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 7.

Practice report: Geno struggles

August, 19, 2013
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Jets may have moved training camp to a new venue for Monday’s practice, but the quarterbacks were beset by the same issues. Mark Sanchez again outplayed Geno Smith, who didn’t seem hampered by the ankle that kept him out of Saturday night’s game against the Jaguars.

Sanchez, playing for the second-team offense, was 7-for-10 passing, with a sack, a drop and a fumbled snap. The bonus about that for Sanchez, at least on Monday, was that he wasn’t throwing the ball to WR Stephen Hill.

Hill had two drops playing with Smith, both on deep, well-thrown balls. But even those drops didn’t account for the 1-for-6 performance, which included a sack and an interception by DeMario Davis. Smith started well enough, but his play went downhill as practice wore on.

Even though Smith’s ankle seemed better, the rookie didn’t advance his case for the starting job in the Jets' quarterback competition, and time is running out. The team had hoped to have a settled starter for the Giants game this Saturday, but has extended the competition.

That extension doesn’t mean much if Smith continues to play like he has when given opportunities with the first-team offense.

COPING WITHOUT COPLES: Quinton Coples will have a medical procedure Tuesday on his injured ankle and will be out indefinitely. He was not at practice, and although Antwan Barnes is technically listed as his backup, Garrett McIntyre was used at outside linebacker in his place.

Also on the defensive line, Kenrick Ellis missed practice, presumably with the back issue he’s been dealing with. Damon Harrison filled in for Ellis.

FIRST ON SECONDARY: Safety Antonio Allen was back with the first-team defense after Jaiquawn Jarrett was tapped to start last Saturday against the Jaguars.

ATTENDANCE REPORT: Ellis and Coples were out, C Dalton Freeman, WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow Jr. rode the stationary bike. Joe McKnight wore a red jersey.

Take 5: Breakout players for 2013

July, 8, 2013
Continuing out "Take 5" series ... here are our top breakout players for the coming season:

1. NT Kenrick Ellis: After two nondescript seasons, it's time for Ellis to bust out. The former third-round pick was slowed in his first two seasons by injuries and legal issues that hung over his head, but he has matured and should be ready to take a giant step. He has the size (6-foot-4, 346 pounds) to be an exceptional run stuffer.

2. LB DeMario Davis: The second-year player is slated to replace Bart Scott in the base package. Davis got a good taste of the NFL last season, playing in 308 defensive snaps (29 percent). He probably will play in nickel and should excel in coverage, adding speed to a perennially slow linebacking corps.

3. TE Jeff Cumberland: Because of Dustin Keller's injuries, Cumberland played a lot last season -- 592 offensive snaps (55 percent). That ratio should increase into the 70s now that Keller is gone. Cumberland has limitations, but his receiving skills should be enhanced in a West Coast-style offense. Plus, it's a contract year.

4. DE/OLB Quinton Coples: You don't find too many former No. 1 picks on a "breakout" list, but we're including Coples because he only scratched the surface last season as a backup. He led the team with 5.5 sacks, but that was hardly a monster rookie year. The plan is to make him a rush linebacker, which should create more sack opportunities. He has the raw talent; the question is whether he wants to pay the price for greatness.

5. S Josh Bush: After playing only a handful of defensive snaps as a rookie, Bush is the favorite to win the starting job opposite Dawan Landry. The former sixth-round pick is known for his coverage ability, which should make him a nice complement to Landry. Bush is raw, but his skill set translates to the pass-happy NFL, so he should have chances to make plays.

Quarterly playing-time report: Defense

December, 8, 2012
Here we are, at the three-quarter mark of the season. Here's a breakdown of the defensive snaps from the third quarter of the season, games nine to 12 (based on 262 snaps):

Muhammad Wilkerson -- 219 snaps/84 percent
Mike DeVito -- 152 snaps/58 percent
Quinton Coples -- 103 snaps/39 percent
Sione Pouha -- 81 snaps/31 percent
Kenrick Ellis -- 18 snaps/7 percent
Damon Harrison -- 2 snaps/1 percent

Analysis: Remember draft day, when Rex Ryan anointed Coples as a starter? How's that working out? DeVito answered the challenge and is having a solid season while Coples has made no impact as a rookie. Po'uha continues to battle a bad back. Wilkerson keeps getting better.

David Harris -- 262 snaps/100 percent
Calvin Pace -- 243 snaps/93 percent
Bryan Thomas -- 164 snaps/63 percent
Bart Scott -- 117 snaps/43 percent
DeMario Davis -- 91 snaps/35 percent
Garrett McIntyre -- 79 snaps/30 percent
Ricky Sapp -- 42 snaps/16 percent

Analysis: The Scott-Davis situation is curious, changing week to week. Clearly, the coaches like Scott's toughness, but they're intrigued by Davis' athleticism. This unit will have a completely different look next season.

Yeremiah Bell -- 262 snaps/100 percent
LaRon Landry -- 262 snaps/100 percent
Antonio Cromartie -- 261 snaps/99 percent
Kyle Wilson -- 250 snaps/95 percent
Eric Smith -- 145 snaps/55 percent
Ellis Lankster -- 128 snaps/49 percent
Donnie Fletcher -- 5 snaps/2 percent
Josh Bush -- 1 snap/1 percent
Isaiah Trufant -- 1 snap/1 percent

Analysis: Bell deserves a medal; he hasn't missed a snap all season. Trufant had assumed the nickel-back role, but suffered a season-ending injury, giving Lankster a reprieve. Smith, finally healthy, is back to a consistent role in the sub groupings.

Quarterly report: Playing time for D

October, 8, 2012
A playing-time breakdown for every player on defense through the first four games (284 snaps):


Muhammad Wilkerson -- 238 snaps, 84 percent

Mike DeVito -- 164 snaps, 58 percent

Sione Po'uha -- 128 snaps, 45 percent

Kenrick Ellis -- 110 snaps, 39 percent

Quinton Coples -- 104 snaps, 37 percent

Marcus Dixon -- 57 snaps, 20 percent


David Harris -- 284 snaps, 100 percent

Calvin Pace -- 274 snaps, 96 percent

Bart Scott -- 234 snaps, 82 percent

Garrett McIntyre -- 128 snaps, 45 percent

Aaron Maybin -- 48 snaps, 17 percent

Bryan Thomas -- 42 snaps, 15 percent

Josh Mauga -- 39 snaps, 14 percent

Demario Davis -- 16 snaps, 6 percent


Yeremiah Bell -- 284 snaps, 100 percent

LaRon Landry -- 272 snaps, 96 percent

Antonio Cromartie -- 266 snaps, 94 percent

Kyle Wilson -- 226 snaps, 80 percent

Darrelle Revis -- 93 snaps, 33 percent

Ellis Lankster -- 61 snaps, 21 percent

Eric Smith -- 55 snaps, 19 percent

Isaiah Trufant -- 9 snaps, 3 percent

Joe McKnight -- 2 snaps, 0.7 percent

Analysis: The biggest story here is Maybin's lack of playing time. You knew he'd fall short of his goal of becoming a full-time player, but 12 snaps per game is on the low side. DC Mike Pettine said Maybin will see more time Monday night, which means they could have a special package for him ... Look for Ellis and Coples to see increased playing time ... Davis is a surprise. He figured to be more involved in sub packages. They could use his speed on the field ... Tremendous durability by Bell and Harris.

Playing time: Invisible Mayhem

October, 2, 2012
A breakdown of the defensive snaps from Sunday's game (based on a total of 72):


Muhammad Wilkerson -- 64

Mike DeVito -- 45

Sione Po'uha -- 45

Quinton Coples -- 41

Kenrick Ellis -- 39


David Harris -- 72

Calvin Pace -- 71

Bart Scott -- 61

Bryan Thomas -- 33

Demario Davis -- 10

Garrett McIntyre -- 7

Josh Mauga -- 2

Aaron Maybin -- 2


Yeremiah Bell -- 72

LaRon Landry -- 70

Antonio Cromartie -- 65

Kyle Wilson -- 63

Eric Smith -- 16

Ellis Lankster -- 12

Joe McKnight -- 2

Analysis: As expected, the Jets played more 4-3 than usual, resulting in higher play counts for the defensive linemen. No. 1 pick Coples played a season-high in terms of snap percentage ... Maybin played a season-low two snaps, in part, because he's not used in run-oriented packages -- and the 49ers spent most of the game running the ball ... McKnight made his 2012 debut, a cameo as a blitzing slot corner ... McIntyre's PT dropped way down with the return of Thomas ... No. 3 pick Davis played a season high ...

Film study: Anatomy of a dud

September, 18, 2012
After breaking down the tape of the Jets' 27-10 loss to the Steelers, a few things jumped out:

PLENTY OF BLAME: Immediately after the game, the prevailing explanation for the utter ineptitude of the passing attack was how the wide receivers failed to handle the Steelers' aggressive press coverage. After watching the tape, I think that was a bit overblown. A myriad of factors contributed to Mark Sanchez's 10-for-27, 138-yard day.

I categorized his 17 incompletions into five different categories:

Off-target passes -- 5
QB under pressure -- 4
Drops -- 3
Miscommunications between QB and receiver -- 3
Pass breakup/good coverage -- 2

DEEP THOUGHTS: Adhering to Tony Sparano's vertical philosophy, Sanchez made an attempt to push the ball downfield, perhaps eschewing safer throws. Overall, he attempted 10 passes of 10-plus yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information -- but he completed only two. In Week 1, it was a completely different story, as Sanchez went 7-for-11 with two TDs on such throws.

PROTECT AT ALL COSTS: One of the questions that emerged after the game was, why didn't Sanchez utilize his backs in the passing game? He had no completions on two RB targets. A big reason for that was pass protection, as Sparano often kept in a back to block.

The Jets were so concerned with the Steelers' pressure that they over-emphasized pass protection. For the most part, they kept Sanchez upright (sacked only twice), but the cost of operating that way is that it takes a potential target (or two) out of the passing game. When you do that, and your wideouts can't win their one-on-one matchups, and your tight end is home rehabbing a hamstring injury, the passing attack gets choked to death. And that's what happened.

Here's a breakdown on how the Jets blocked the Steelers (most of the five-man protections came on the final possession, when they passed on every down):

Five-man protections: 9
Six-man protections: 14
Seven-man protections: 4
Eight-man protections: 1

IF ONLY HE KEPT IT: On Tim Tebow's third and final play at QB, a 6-yard loss by Shonn Greene, the Jets tried a misdirection run. RG Brandon Moore and RT Austin Howard pulled to the left, Greene ran right. If Tebow had faked the handoff and kept it himself, following Moore and Howard, he would've had a nice gain. In that case, he probably would've stayed on the field instead of getting pulled on 2nd-and-16. And who knows how things would've turned out?

RADICAL REX: We all know how much Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine like to use defensive backs. Against pass-happy teams, they've been known to dress 10 defensive backs. This time, they departed from their usual philosophy. Without CB Darrelle Revis (concussion), they dressed eight DBs and played only six. Really, it was just a five-man defensive backfield, as S Eric Smith had only seven snaps. Incredibly, they went the entire game with only three corners -- Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster.

By my count, the corners were responsible for 11 of Ben Roethlisberger's 24 completions. Breakdown:

Cromartie -- Five receptions for 77 yards, one TD.
Wilson -- Three for 41.
Lankster -- Three for 26.

BEN BUT DON'T BREAK: Concerned with the Steelers' big-play ability, the Revis-less Jets took a more conservative approach, playing more zone than usual. Roethlisberger did a nice job of finding soft spots in the underneath zones, exploiting the lack of speed at linebacker. LB David Harris allowed four completions for 44 yards (including a TD). At times, the Jets used a two-deep safety look, with Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry lined up on the hashmarks. Ordinarily, the Jets don't use a lot of two-deep looks. This was another adjustment to life without Revis.

BIG MAC: OLB Garrett McIntyre, who started for the injured Bryan Thomas and recorded two sacks, was praised for his production -- and deservedly so. But McIntyre is a limited player -- not good in space, as Ryan noted -- and his shortcoming was exposed. McIntyre missed three tackles in space, resulting in a couple of long gainers. It almost seemed like the Steelers made a concerted effort to pick on McIntyre whenever the opportunity was available.

NOT-SO-GREAT-SCOTT: LB Bart Scott might have experienced a moment of deja vu in the fourth quarter, when RB Isaac Redman ran through him for a 2-yard TD. Scott defeated his block and was positioned in the hole to bring down Redman at the 1- or 2-yard line, but he failed to get it done. Sound familiar? Scott also whiffed on a tackle in the 2010 AFC Championship Game, resulting in a 1-yard TD run by the Steelers' Rashad Mendenhall. Same field, different end zone.

ODDS AND ENDS: At one point, Sanchez had seven straight incompletions, the longest drought of his career, according to the CBS telecast. ... Rookie LB Demario Davis had a nice outside rush on the Jets' first sack, forcing Roethlisberger to step up. ... I counted at least four plays in which the Jets had a free runner at Big Ben and failed to bring him down. Harris had a shot at him on the 37-yard TD pass to Mike Wallace. ... Ryan went easy on Cromartie for giving up the Wallace TD, saying he had great coverage but misplayed the ball. But that's like a center fielder dropping a gimme fly ball after tracking it down in the gap. If you get there, make the play. ... The Jets made the Steelers burn a timeout when they lined up Tebow on a wing in punt protection. Great nugget from Phil Simms in the TV booth: He noted that one of the Steelers' assistants saw Tebow catching a pass in the pregame warmups, and he immediately told another assistant coach.

Three up, three down

August, 31, 2012
PHILADELPHIA -- A look at positives and negatives from the Jets' 28-10 loss to the Eagles:

[+] EnlargeGreg McElroy
Eric Hartline/US PresswireGreg McElroy was 12-for-17 for 90 yards and a TD.

1. Greg McElroy. He was surrounded by chaos, backups at almost every position on the field, but the second-year quarterback never lost his poise. He showed good command of Tony Sparano's offense, never appearing rattled even though he was running for his life at times. He led the offense to 164 yards and 11 first downs in the first half. In short, he looked like he belonged. Backup QB controversy, anyone?

2. Nick Folk. The man made a 58-yard field goal. That's impressive whether it's in the preseason or the regular season. Rex Ryan called it the highlight of the night. Truth be told, it might have been the highlight of the preseason.

3. The End. The best moment of the Jets' summer occurred at 9:38 p.m. -- when the preseason came to a merciful end.


1. The pass defense. The starters didn't play, so there's no reason to panic, but the second- and third-teamers left a lot to be desired. They made third-string QB Trent Edwards look like Michael Vick. Edwards, whom the Jets tried to claim on waivers last year, competed 22 of 32 for 197 yards and two touchdowns. He also showed surprising mobility, running four times for 36 yards.

2. John Conner. On a third-and-1 in the third quarter, the Jets sent in their big back to pick up the conversion -- but he was stuffed. It was the third time he was stuffed in short yardage this preseason. In fairness to Conner, he didn't play in the first half and came in cold.

3. Demario Davis. Remember when Ryan compared Davis' leadership skills to Ray Lewis? That was back in April during the draft, and it made for a headline, of course. Davis finished a quiet training camp with another quiet performance. He started and played most of the game, but he was credited with only one tackle. Early in the game, he missed a couple of tackles, plays in which he was fooled badly. He has a ways to go. It would be a surprise if he contributes early in the season in the sub packages.

Practice report: Tebow shines, Hill drops

August, 12, 2012

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Tim Tebow was a rock star Sunday at practice. He had a small cheering section in the bleachers, with one female fan holding a banner that said: "Tim, you put the stud in bible study."

Tebow didn't disappoint his admirers, enjoying one of his better practices. In team drills, he was 9-for-12 (two drops), plus a 25-yard TD run on a designed rollout from under center. He did, however, make a couple of mental errors in a "Gotta have it" drill at the end of practice.

On a fourth-down play in the red zone, with the game clock winding down, Tebow completed a ball to WR Patrick Turner, but it was well short of the end zone. He got an earful from coordinator Tony Sparano.

QB Mark Sanchez struggled a bit with his accuracy (7-for-15, one drop), especially in a two-minute drill. On a fourth-down play, Sanchez was intercepted by nickel back Kyle Wilson (his second of the day). The ball was intended for rookie WR Jordan White, and there may have been a miscommunication.

KIDDIE CORPS: It was a tough day for rookie WR Stephen Hill, who had a key third-down drop in the preseason opener. This time, he dropped a fourth-and-5 pass from Sanchez, a blantant case of a receiver trying to run before he caught the ball. In that situation, he needed to show better awareness. Possession was more important than yards-after-catch. On the very next play, Hill ran the wrong route on an audible by Sanchez.

This is some of the stuff that happens when you're dealing with an experienced receiving corps. Hill had a nice moment in a 7-on-7 drill, hauling in a 50-yard TD pass from Tebow. But he beat LB Josh Mauga on the play, so don't get too giddy.

INJURY REPORT: WR Santonio Holmes (rib), NT Sione Pouha (head/back), WR Chaz Schilens (ankle), LB Ricky Sapp (ankle) and RT Stephon Heyer (undisclosed) didn't practice. Curiously, Pouha wasn't even on the field. A team spokesman said his absence was injury related, but he declined to say whether it was due to the stitches he received in his forehead about 10 days ago.

WR Jeremy Kerley, who admitted afterward that he's recovering from a slight hamstring tear, was on the field to field punts, but that was it.

WOE IS JOE: Tough camp for RB Joe McKnight. He got in a fight, suffered food poisoning after eating at a local restaurant and sustained a stinger in one practice. On Sunday, he left practice with an apparent ankle injury. He rolled his ankle while cutting into a hole. He limped off the field and received attention from the training staff. No word on his status.

WAYNE'S WORLD: RT Wayne Hunter (lower back) returned to practice after missing a few days. He shared reps with Austin Howard, but Hunter was limited because of the injury.

ODDS AND ENDS: Nice practice for DT Marcus Dixon (two sacks). ... Two interceptions for Wilson, who caught one off the hands of RB Bilal Powell. ... This might have been QB Greg McElroy's best practice of camp. He hit WR Wes Kemp on a 47-yard post route (beautiful throw) and he showed good arm strength on a nice sideline completion to Powell, who beat LB Demario Davis. ... WR Dexter Jackson dropped a well-thrown deep ball by Tebow. ... WR Eron Riley beat CB Ryan Steed for a 60-yard TD, a nice throw by McElroy. ... A lot of the practice was devoted to situational stuff -- fourth downs, red zone and two-minute.

Three up, three down

August, 11, 2012
CINCINNATI -- Examining some positives and negatives from Friday night's 17-6 loss to the Bengals:


Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesQuinton Coples

1. Quinton Coples. He played like a No. 1 pick should play when facing primarily backup players -- he was dominant at times. Showing his strength at the point of attack, the rookie DE recorded a sack, a forced fumble a tackle-for-loss and a batted pass. This should quiet the critics already saying the Jets blew it by passing on OLB Melvin Ingram and OLB Chandler Jones -- for now, anyway.

2. Joe McKnight. This is a huge preseason for McKnight, who is fighting Bilal Powell for playing time as Shonn Greene's understudy. McKnight finished with 66 yards from scrimmage -- 34 receiving, 32 rushing. He showed some giddy-up, and the Jets could use that on offense.

3. Demario Davis. The rookie LB made an early appearance, playing in the first sub package. Clearly, the Jets think he can be an immediate contributor in pass coverage and as a blitzer. Davis finished with four tackles (one for loss), plus he made a tackle on special teams.


1. Pass protection. The Jets' three QBs dropped back a total of 29 times -- and they were sacked five times. That ratio stinks. If it weren't for Tim Tebow's elusiveness in the pocket, it might have been seven or eight sacks. There's a lot of work to do in this area.

2. Underneath pass coverage. Yep, that old bugaboo from last season showed up early. LB Bart Scott and OLB Calvin Pace got beat on 18- and 19-yard pass plays to RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis and TE Jermaine Gresham, respectively. The Jets struggled last year against certain backs and tight ends last season, but they're hopeful that improved team on speed will remedy the problem. Not so far.

3. Punt protection. It was jailbreak city at the end of the first half, when T.J. Conley's punt deep in his own end was blocked by Dan Skuta and recovered in the end zone by Cedric Peerman. See what happens when Tebow isn't on the field as the personal protector?

Jets-Bengals: 5 things to watch

August, 10, 2012
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireIt'll be Tebow Time tonight in the Jets' preseason opener.
CINCINNATI -- This will be the Jets' most compelling preseason opener since 2009, when Mark Sanchez made his NFL debut against the Rams. This time, the spotlight will be on Sanchez's backup, Tim Tebow, one of many storylines Friday night against the Bengals.

What to watch for:

1. Tebowmania. Strange phenomenon here: The TV ratings could actually spike when the starters leave the game. When Sanchez & Co. are done, it'll be Tebow Time -- America's first look at the Jets' backup QB/Wildcat QB/personal protector. Tebow probably will play the second and third quarters in a conventional offense, perhaps making a cameo as the up-back on the punt team, but the burning question is: Will the Jets give the rest of the league a look at Tebow in the Wildcat? That seems unlikely. New offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said it'll be a vanilla game plan.

2. The Mark and Tony Show. Tebow's debut will provide the flash, but the most substantive storyline is Sanchez and the new offense. Sanchez appears to have a strong grasp of Sparano's system, but what about everybody else? There will be growing pains, for sure, which is why Sparano will try to keep it basic in the first dress rehearsal. The Jets want to establish a Ground-and-Pound mentality, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they come out with a power-running approach. That would send a message. The Bengals will be a good test; they have a big, physical front seven.

3. Offensive auditions. There's a lot of fluidity on offense, more than usual. Consider: Who will be the No. 2 running back, Joe McKnight or Bilal Powell? Third-down back, McKnight or Powell? Who's the No. 2 tight end? Can someone challenge the injured Jeremy Kerley for the No. 3 WR job? Is rookie WR Stephen Hill ready to start? Can RT Austin Howard, who has the size and run-blocking potential to fit Sparano's scheme, push incumbent Wayne Hunter? There are a lot of moving parts, not an ideal situation when you're installing a new system.

4. Meet the rookies. The focus will be on Hill and DE Quinton Coples, their No. 1 pick. Coples hasn't shown much in camp, but it always takes a while for the big fellas to get acclimated. Rex Ryan anointed him a starter as soon as the draft was over, but now it appears that Coples' playing time will come in the 4-3 and sub packages, not the 3-4 base. You'll also get an early look at LB Demario Davis, who will play in the first sub package. They haven't counted on this many rookies since the blockbuster 2006 draft.

5. Safety in numbers. The biggest free-agent acquisition -- former Redskins S LaRon Landry -- makes his Jets debut. He has impressed on the practice field, especially at the line of scrimmage and behind the line as a blitzer, but he still has to answer questions about his coverage ability. Ditto, Yeremiah Bell, the former Dolphin. Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham is fast enough to threaten a secondary, so this will be a good, early test for a pass defense that struggled last season against athletic tight ends.

Slow start for Ground & Pound

August, 4, 2012
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- So much for Ground & Pound.

The Jets' top three running backs combined for only 23 yards on 11 carries in Saturday night's intrasquad scrimmage, hardly a grand debut for Tony Sparano's run-oriented attack.

Shonn Greene (six carries for 5 yards) and Bilal Powell (three for 7) were held in check. Joe McKnight (two for 11) broke a 15-yard run, but he fumbled on the play. McKnight has had fumbling issues in the past, and he can't afford mistakes because he's battling Powell for the No. 2 job and the third-down position.

Powell helped his cause on a third-down play, hauling in an 8-yard pass from Mark Sanchez for a touchdown.

The running game, no doubt, was hurt by the absence of three starting linemen -- RG Brandon Moore (in Canton for Curtis Martin's Hall-of-Fame induction), C Nick Mangold (at the Olympics to see his sister compete) and RT Wayne Hunter (back). They were replaced by Vladimir Ducasse (false-start penalty), Caleb Schlauderaff and Austin Howard, respectively. The first-team line allowed three sacks, but had great pass protection on the TD pass.

Schlauderaff, a natural guard, had a rough night at center -- two fumbled snaps and a high shotgun snap. The Jets need to find a true center to back up Mangold.

DEFENDING TIM: Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine made a sly strategic move. With Tim Tebow at quarterback, the defense played a two-deep safety look, with man coverage underneath. The Jets almost never show that look in a game, especially not with a running quarterback like Tebow, but Pettine knew he wouldn't get burned because the quarterbacks weren't "live" ballcarriers in the scrimmage. On one play, he actually used NT Marcus Dixon as a "spy."

"I gave him a hard time at halftime," Tebow said. "We were laughing about it, but you know it would be fun to see (in a regular-season game)."

LONDON CALLING: Rex Ryan said he's glad Mangold finally decided to make the trip to London to watch his sister, Holley, compete Sunday in weightlifting.

"The fact his sister is in the Olympics, competing in the Olympics, is an amazing thing," Ryan said. "So, yeah, I’m happy that he’s going, no question."

KICKING COMPETITION: Incumbent Nick Folk gained a slight edge in the competition. He was 3-for-3 in FG attempts, while Josh Brown was 3-for-4, missing from 40 yards.

SIMMS TRACKER: Rex Ryan opened his postgame news conference by mentioning the "quarterback controversy." Let's explain.

"Obviously, (there's) this quarterback controversy with Matt Simms," Ryan said, unsolicited. "Was it Matt Simms or Phil Simms? I don’t know, but he looked pretty darn impressive."

Phil's kid, the fourth-stringer, completed both passes, including a 31-yard TD strike to WR Raymond Webber. Wonder if Greg McElroy is concerned?

BRINGING HEAT: Against the first- and second-team offenses, the defenses recorded four sacks -- LB Calvin Pace, LB Demario Davis, LB Garrett McIntyre and DE Jay Richardson ... Rookie DE Quinton Coples disrupted a run on the very first play of the scrimmage, but disappeared after that ... Rookie WR Stephen Hill had no receptions ... Looking for a positive from the QBs? No turnovers ... Former Jets S Jim Leonhard signed with the Broncos.

Practice report: Holmes sits, D dominates

August, 3, 2012
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- WR Santonio Holmes, experiencing what he described as general soreness, missed practice for the second straight day. He was limited to individual and positional drills, but he took a seat for team drills.

Observations from the Jets' seventh practice, which was closed to the public:

COUNTING CRO: The defense dominated the day, but the offense got the last laugh. On the final play of the final period -- a two-minute drill in the red zone -- WR Patrick Turner caught a five-yard TD pass on CB Antonio Cromartie. It was a big moment for the receiving corps because it came against Cromartie, he of the "I'm the second-best receiver" comments. Turner was mobbed by his offensive teammates, one of whom yelled out a reference to the controversial remark.

Afterward, Cromartie said Turner pushed off on the play.

OFFENSE STRUGGLES: Otherwise, it wasn't a good day for the offense, which wore black jerseys for the first time as a reward for outplaying the defense Thursday. The offense shouldn't get comfortable in black because it didn't do anything to warrant another day in the coveted jerseys. The passing game, in particular, was out of sync. There also were several penalties.

Mark Sanchez was 5-for-12 with one TD pass and a sack in team drills. He missed four of his first five passes before hitting Shonn Greene on a check-down. In the red zone, Sanchez missed three straight before hitting Turner for a TD.

Tim Tebow, working exclusively with the second team, was 3-for-6. Sorry, no Wildcat news to report. He showed some rare frustration after a few incompletions, although you'd be interested to know he didn't curse.

DOUBLE-D: Rookie LB Demario Davis, who began camp on the PUP list with a pulled hamstring, practiced for the first time in pads. He was thrown immediately into one of the starting sub packages and was matched up against TE Dustin Keller a couple of times. Davis will be an interesting guy to watch in camp. As everybody knows, the Jets could use help with their tight-end coverage.

Rookie WR Jordan White (foot) also practiced in pads for the first time.

INJURY UPDATE: NT Sione Pouha (stitches in forehead) didn't practice. Ditto, WR Jeremy Kerley (hamstring). ... WR Chaz Schilens (groin) returned and participated in some team drills.

BILAL BE SEEING YOU: Second-year RB Bilal Powell delivered another solid practice. In fact, he got some good work as the third-down back. Clearly, he's in a battle for that job with Joe McKnight. Powell isn't a flashy back, and he doesn't have McKnight's explosiveness, but he doesn't make many mental errors and he's good in pass protection.

BIG-MOUTH BART: LB Bart Scott was in vintage form, trash talking the third-string offense. Standing on the sideline, Scott launched a verbal assault on QB Greg McElroy, who had another shaky day. Scott was so hard on the offense that it looked like coordinator Tony Sparano was going to explode, but he held his tongue. At least Scott backed up his words. A few minutes later, he threw Greene to the ground on a sweep.

QUICK HITS: After a fast start, rookie WR Stephen Hill has been quiet in recent days. ... You have to like TE Josh Baker. He has a knack for getting open in the underneath zones. ... Austin Howard got reps at right tackle in the two-minute, replacing Wayne Hunter. ... The QB buzzer was used in practice, with the hope of forcing the QBs to get rid of the ball faster. But it's the sorriest-sounding buzzer you've ever heard.