CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Positives and negatives after four days of practice:
1. The young receivers: Stephen Hill and Clyde Gates have improved their route running, pass catching and separation ability, allowing the brass to feel a bit better about the wide-receiving situation. It looked bleak after minicamp, which turned into a drop-fest. There were some drops Monday, but the arrow is pointed up. Rex Ryan doesn't want to jinx it. Asked about Hill, he said, "I'm not going to comment on Stephen because he's doing so well." I think Ryan's fingers may have been crossed.
2. A real QB competition: Based on the early returns, rookie Geno Smith will make this a tough decision for Ryan, John Idzik & Co. If Smith can take it to the pre-season games, he just might win the job. But there's a long way to go and Smith needs to do a better job of getting rid of the ball under pressure. But, hey, at least the competition is legit.
3. Improved depth: A year ago, G Vladimir Ducasse was battling for a starting job; now he's a certain backup. The illustrates the improved depth on the offensive line, especially at guard. Veteran Willie Colon, formerly of the Steelers, has jumped out and likely will land one starting job. Ex-Lion Stephen Peterman is the leading contender for the other guard spot, but he'll be pushed by rookie Brian Winters. The depth at cornerback also has improved. Antonio Cromartie called it the deepest group they've had in recent years.
1. Empty stable: The current running-back situation isn't good. Chris Ivory (hamstring) still hasn't practiced, Mike Goodson isn't in camp (no one is saying when or if he'll show up) and Joe McKnight seems to develop a daily ailment, leaving Bilal Powell and John Griffin. Actually, Griffin has demonstrated some cut-back ability, but they'll need the big dogs to make this running game go.
2. Tone time running out: WR Santonio Holmes continues to rehab his surgically repaired foot, but people in the organization are losing confidence that he'll be ready for Week 1. This is troublesome, although not unexpected.
3. Q's transition: Quinton Coples, a down lineman his entire college and pro career, is learning to play on his feet as an outside linebacker in the base defense. As expected, he has encountered some hiccups. Ryan noted that Coples stepped up his aggressiveness in Monday's practice, perhaps a sign that he's turning the corner. "You move a guy to a different spot, sometimes you're thinking too much," Ryan said. "It's hard to be physical if you're thinking a lot."