Notes: Sparano adds to his rep(s)

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
5:00
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Quick thoughts on the Jets and the NFL for Week 2:

1. Practice makes perfect: This isn't what you'd call reinventing X's and O's, but OC Tony Sparano has instituted a new approach to practice that already has paid off. Instead of practicing every play in the game plan only once, maybe twice during the course of a week, a la Brian Schottenheimer and most coordinators, he will identify certain plays he expects to call in the game and will rep them three or four times. Mind you, every rep is important because practice time is limited.

QB Mark Sanchez loves it because he gets a "live look" at how the opponent might defend a particular play -- sometimes multiple looks on the same play. "He wants us to take a picture in our mind of that specific look, store it and, when it comes up in the game, you have to be able to recall it," Sanchez told me.

He attributed the success of two third-down plays in last week's game to the extra reps in practice. Sparano is so meticulous, he said, that they ran a "just-in-case" rep for one of those plays in a walk-through. Sure enough, the play unfolded in the game exactly the way he saw it on the practice field. Said Sanchez: "I knew exactly where to go with the ball."

Clearly, the Sparano method has increased Sanchez's comfort level with the offense. When the QB is comfortable, everybody is comfortable.

2. Attacking the perimeter: One of the things that jumped out about Sanchez's performance last week was his success on passes outside the numbers. He completed 10 of 15 for three TDs (a career high on such throws), averaging 11.1 yards-per-attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In 2011, his completion percentage was only 49.8 and his YPA was just 5.5 on throws outside the numbers. It helps that he has more speed on the perimeter, with rookie Stephen Hill replacing Plaxico Burress.

3. Best vs. best: In training camp, Rex Ryan called himself "the best defensive coach in the league." If he had made that comment in Pittsburgh, it would've sparked a riot. Steelers DC Dick LeBeau, a Hall of Famer, is widely regarded as the best. It sets up a great matchup Sunday in Pittsburgh. I asked Ryan if this is a personal challenge. He downplayed that angle, but he didn't back down from his claim.

"I think, statistically, it's proven, and I do feel that way," he told me. "Maybe it's in my blood. You put my dad right there, obviously, as the best of all time. I came from pretty good stock. Dick LeBeau, whether he knows it or not, I look at him as kind of a mentor. I've studied what he does and I have the upmost respect for him." When Ryan coached at Morehead State in the early 1990s, he visited LeBeau (a Bengals assistant) to pick his brain.

4. Better to be lucky ...: It looks like the Jets made a smart move by signing S LaRon Landry, but it easily could've turned out differently. As it often does in the unpredictable world of free agency, timing played a huge role. Their safety wish list consisted of Landry, Reggie Nelson (Bengals) and Brandon Meriweather (Bears). Meriweather signed quickly with the Redskins. There was an immediate market for Nelson because the Bengals wanted him back, so the Jets had to act quickly. They got deep into negotiations before losing him. At that point, they ratcheted up talks with Landry, signing him to a one-year, $3.5 million contract. In retrospect, the Jets have to be happy they lost the recruiting battle with the Bengals.

5. Money ball: If the Jets implode Sunday without Darrelle Revis (concussion) in the secondary, you can bet they'll hear a lot about it in the offseason at the bargaining table. The cornerback's agents will use it as leverage, trying to show how much he means to the team.

6. Patriot games: Just what the Jets didn't need -- another weapon in Tom Brady's arsenal. As if Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker were enough of a headache, they also have to deal with second-year RB Stevan Ridley. In the opener, he rushed for 125 yards, including six carries of 10-plus yards, per ESPN Stats. The last Patriot to do that was Corey Dillon in 2004.

7. A Ryan shame: One of the great mysteries of the NFL is Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Since signing a seven-year, $62 million contract in the middle of last season, he has thrown a league-high 20 interceptions. Are the Bills having second thoughts? Please. They're already on third thoughts.

8. Perspective, please: In his first career start, he passed for 366 yards and two touchdowns. Are we talking about Robert Griffin III? Nope, it's Browning Nagle, who did it for the Jets in 1992. RG III posted similar numbers last Sunday. I'm not saying he'll be a flop like Nagle, just be careful not to anoint a player after one game.

9. Ball hogs: The 49ers have gone six straight regular-season games without committing a turnover, the second-longest streak in NFL history. You know what I have to say about that? It's meaningless. They didn't hold on to the ball when it mattered most -- Kyle Williams in the NFC Championship Game.

10. Mirror images: Andrew Luck's NFL debut for the Colts -- 23 completions, 309 yards, 1 TD, 3 interceptions. Peyton Manning's debut for the Colts in 1998 -- 21 completions, 302 yards, 1 TD, 3 interceptions. Both lost. Weird, huh?

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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