In his final news conference in Cortland, N.Y., Rex Ryan did some reflecting on the first three weeks of training camp. When asked about the most improved aspect of the team, the New York Jets' coach replied without hesitation: Mark Sanchez.
"If you had to pick one thing, that's where we've improved the most," Ryan said. "(It's) everywhere, every facet of the game -- his knowledge of the offense, being able to read defenses, knowing where the 'hots' are, knowing how to check the ball down. I think he's definitely improved his game. His accuracy has always been a strength, but it's even better now."
Sanchez should be the most improved player on the team. After all, he was the weak link last season. In most games, the Jets won in spite of him. He showed positive signs in the pre-season opener, although his first-pass interception basically cost them seven points. Give him credit for rebounding, though.
Ryan was asked how he has improved as a coach.
"I think my language is better," he cracked.
But, seriously, he said he does a better job of delegating to his assistants and "staying out of the way."
Other Rex-isms from the last hurrah in Cortland:
1. Ryan outlined the team's plans for Thursday night. It will hold the annual rookie show, followed by the "King Ugly" contest and a game of "Jeopardy." Ryan also has a magician coming in to entertain the players. It'll probably make for a funny scene on next week's "Hard Knocks." No, there won't be any Xs-and-Os talk. The players have a late curfew. Ryan said he doesn't care what the players do -- even drink beer, he mentioned -- as long as they do it in a group.
2. In case you're wondering, the starters will play only about one quarter Saturday night in Carolina.
3. Because it's Thursday, there was some "Hard Knocks" fallout. Ryan discussed the scene in the show when he assigns backup C Rob Turner to purposely pick a fight with DE Vernon Gholston on the practice field. "You like to see if a guy will fight back," said Ryan, indicating he was pleased with Gholston's response.
That's an old-school approach used by many coaches. I remember former New York Giants coach Bill Parcells, in preparation for Super Bowl XXV against the Buffalo Bills, telling Lawrence Taylor to fight LT Jumbo Elliott. The hope was to rile up the mild-mannered Elliott before his showdown with DE Bruce Smith. It worked.
4. Ryan raved about NT Kris Jenkins, saying the big fellas has improved from a fundamental standpoint. "He's a better technique player, which is scary for the league," Ryan said. Jenkins also dropped serious weight, reporting to camp at 359 pounds.
5. It day wouldn't be complete, of course, without a Ryan boast about his defense. Here goes: "This is a top-notch defense. Is it a Super Bowl defense? A lot goes into that. I don't know if this a Super Bowl defense, but I know one thing: Is there a defense in the league better than this defense? You'd be hard-pressed to find one."