Sunday, June 16, 2013
Sunday notes: A 'different brand' of defense
By Rich Cimini
A post-minicamp check on the Jets:
1. Bringing the heat: One of the reasons why Rex Ryan has resumed control of the defense is because the Jets want to get back to their ultra-aggressive style from 2009 and 2010. There was a feeling in the locker room that they got too conservative under former coordinator Mike Pettine, whose role expanded over the previous four years to the point where he was heavily involved in play calling in 2011 and 2012. He left after the season in a mysterious lateral move to become the Bills' DC.
"We're going to do a lot of blitzing and getting after people," LB David Harris told me the other day. "There should be a different brand of football than you were used to seeing the last couple of years." Asked about last season's philosophy, Harris said, "We played more coverage. It wasn't like '09, that's obvious. That's all I'll say about that."
The statistics don't lie. Here's a breakdown of the Jets' blitz percentage (5+ pass rushers) over the past four seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information: 52.4 percent in '09 (first in NFL), 44.7 percent in '10 (third), 32.8 percent in '11 (12th) and 34.0 percent in '12 (11th). Detect a trend? In fairness to Pettine, he lost the top corner in football, Darrelle Revis, which may have caused him to become more cautious. Yet when I mentioned that alibi to two players, they shot it down, saying Antonio Cromartie capably replaced Revis as the No. 1 corner. I'll say this: The defense will be fun to watch in 2013.
2. Special K: The Kellen Winslow, Jr. signing is a low-risk acquisition, but it seems like expectations are getting out of control. Yes, he impressed at minicamp, but the man has endured at least five knee operations since his motorcycle accident in 2005, including a reconstruction in '05 and microfracture surgery in '07. A year ago, he told the Boston media -- during his cup of coffee with the Patriots -- that he plays in constant pain. Winslow said he felt great during his three-day tryout with the Jets, but what did you expect an unemployed player to say?
"I think it's a lot like [David] Garrard," an opposing personnel executive said of Winslow. "He'll be fine in a workout, moving and running, but taking a hit, the grind of training camp and a full, 16-game season will be the litmus tests. ... I'd watch him closely to see if they manage his reps and practice time."
3. Secret weapon: The future of RB Mike Goodson remains up in air, with his case headed to a grand jury. That could take a couple of months, but my sense is there will be a plea deal before then. If the gun charge is dropped and he cops to possession of marijuana, the outcome could be a one-game suspension by the NFL. In 2009, Shaun Ellis received a one-game suspension and a $100,000 fine from the league after he was arrested for possession of marijuana. I can tell you this: Goodson has impressed with his explosiveness, and people in the organization are rooting for him, perhaps selfishly, because they believe he can be a dynamic player.
4. Who needs help?: Some teams, in an attempt to get a better handle on defending the read-option, have consulted with college coaches. Not the Jets. Ryan said they don't need help. He said, "I’m not being arrogant about it, but ..." -- and he went on to mention his long-ago coaching experience in the Big 12. He also noted that LBs coach Brian VanGorder has a college background, including last season as the Auburn defensive coordinator.
"I think we've got a pretty good handle on it," Ryan said. They didn't last year, as they were shredded by Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. Just saying.
5. Unique competition: QBs coach David Lee is a straight shooter. The question is, will his quarterbacks follow suit? Lee, coaching with his fourth team in nine NFL seasons, said he's never been around a quarterback competition this tight. Previously, he coached Quincy Carter (Cowboys), Vinny Testaverde (Cowboys), Drew Bledsoe (Cowboys) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (Bills). In each case, the starter was clear-cut, he said. Now he has Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, neck-and-neck as they head into training camp.
"It’s never been like this, no, sir," Lee said. And to think, the fun hasn't really started yet.
6. Speak up, kid: Lee said Smith's "delivery in the huddle has to be more consistent." By that, he meant the way Smith relays the play call to his teammates. This is one aspect of the quarterback's job that no one ever talks about. The quarterback must speak clearly and decisively, almost as if he's selling the play to the rest of the huddle. If there's hesitation or doubt, it creates a bad vibe. From what I'm told, Smith botched a few during recent practices. Hey, he's a rookie, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. No one will remember his minicamp hiccups if he blows away everyone in training camp with how much he's improved.
7. Still paying for Tebow: Tebow's contract with the Patriots is a two-year deal for $1.36 million, according to ESPNBoston.com. There's no signing bonus, no guaranteed money, just the minimum salaries and a $25,000 workout bonus in 2014. The Jets aren't paying Tebow anymore, but they're still paying money to the Broncos -- $1.53 million, per last year's trade agreement. In other words, the Jets are paying more for a ghost than the Patriots will pay over two years for the actual player -- if he makes the team. That's hardly a lock, although owner Robert (We Love His Spirituality) Kraft is pulling for him. Tebow is "the real deal," according to Kraft. You can never have too much Tebow. Oh, wait, somebody already said that.
8. Making a mountain out of a Hill: Aside from the quarterbacks, the player under the most scrutiny in training camp will be WR Stephen Hill, who followed a disappointing rookie year with a drop-filled minicamp. The Jets gave him a surprisingly high draft grade and, if DE Quinton Coples hadn't been available, they may have considered Hill with the 16th overall pick last year. (Ryan might have tendered his resignation if that happened.) Now it's time for Hill to produce.
9. Tone talk: Santonio Holmes, who would rather wash dirty locker-room towels than speak to the media, provided details of his Lisfranc foot injury in an interview last week with the Jets' official web site. He said it was diagnosed as a Grade 4 injury (the most serious kind), meaning a muscle tear and joint separation in his mid-foot. Screws and a plate were removed in a follow-up surgery in March, but he said two screws will remain in his foot permanently. He said his "target date" is the first day of training camp, but that seems overly ambitious, considering he still isn't running and cutting. Between Holmes and Hill, the need for a receiver is so blatantly obvious. GM John Idzik needs to spend the next two to three months looking to make a deal or else he's giving the offense no chance.
10. Cortland's coming: Only 39 days until training camp. And no Revis watch. It won't be the same.