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Sunday, September 15, 2013
Sunday notes: All rookies not created equal

By Rich Cimini

A Sunday without Jets football doesn't mean a Sunday without notes:

1. Double standard: In Idzik World, every player is in a week-to-week competition. (Note: See QB Geno Smith.) Okay, we get it, but how does he explain this? Despite missing the entire offseason because of shoulder surgery, and showing up a few days late to training camp because of his contract, rookie CB Dee Milliner (No. 9 overall pick) was elevated to a starting role after three days of practice. He replaced veteran Kyle Wilson, a serviceable player. He also got the job ahead of veteran Darrin Walls, who was praised by Rex Ryan for his play in camp. Milliner was hardly stellar, but he remained a starter even though he missed two preseason games, playing in only 84 defensive snaps.

Milliner
Clearly, he wasn't ready. Milliner was uneven in the opener, allowing a touchdown pass, and he struggled so much against the Patriots that he was benched at halftime. He may have busted the coverage on the Patriots' only touchdown, and he was saved by replay on what appeared to be another touchdown. Frankly, I'm surprised Ryan responded with a quick hook (not usually his style), but good for him. It teaches accountability. The day after the game, he wouldn't commit to Milliner as a starter for next week, letting the rookie twist in the wind. Maybe Ryan realizes they erred in anointing Milliner so quickly. It was very un-Idzik-like.

2. Positive signs: The Jets may not win a lot of games, but they will be competitive. With good defense and a solid running game, they can overachieve as long as they get game-manager performances out of the quarterback position. All Smith had to do was throw two interceptions, not three, and they might have upset the Patriots.

3. Johnny Scout: Idzik was in College Station, Texas, Saturday to check out the Texas A&M-Alabama game, according to the New York Daily News. A lot of talent and big names in that game, starting with Johnny Football. But maybe Idzik was there to scout more than Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron & Co. Could it be that he also had his eye on Alabama coach Nick Saban?

4. What's up with Brick?: This has been an uncharacteristic start for LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson. He already has two penalties (only three in 2012) and he has allowed one sack and seven quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. A year ago, he surrendered two sacks and 19 hurries. But the most atypical moment was his ejection for throwing a punch during the end-of-game melee in Foxborough. It was stunning because Ferguson is one of the most even-tempered players I've ever met. His outburst, clearly born of frustration, reminded me of Shaun Ellis flinging his helmet in the final seconds of a home loss to the Patriots in 2008. Sometimes you just can't take it anymore.

5. Another stunner: I'm trying to figure out which was more shocking, Ferguson throwing a punch or LG Vladimir Ducasse pancaking DT Vince Wilfork on Bilal Powell's touchdown run? I'll say this for Ducasse: He played a nice game against one of the best interior lineman in the league.

6. Hidden gems: Interesting note about the Jets' starting lineup. They have almost as many former seventh-round picks and undrafted free agents (six) as former first-round picks (eight). The undrafted group consists of RT Austin Howard, TE Jeff Cumberland, NT Damon Harrison and LB Garrett McIntyre, and the seventh-rounders are S Antonio Allen and FB Tommy Bohanon. That's a tribute to former GM Mike Tannenbaum and his staff. At the same time, it could be a knock because it didn't do better with first-round picks.

7. Mark of class: Mark Sanchez has displayed an occasional lack of maturity over the years, most recently with the embarrassing half-naked home video that made the Internet in July, but he has handled ShoulderGate with total professionalism. He has every right to question the organization for its missteps along the way, but he's taking the high road, saying all the right things.

8. Welcome to Mark's world: Patriots QB Tom Brady got a taste of what it was like for Sanchez last season, throwing to a bunch of backups and no names. One of the best quarterbacks in history was held to Tebow-esque numbers, proving that even the great ones need help. But there was one thing Brady didn't do that Sanchez did 26 times last season -- he didn't commit a turnover.

9. Colorful solution: Look, we all know the Jets' receiving corps has drop issues, dating to last spring, but you can't say they've been avoiding the matter. Receivers coach Sanjay Lal created a practice drill to help with concentration. He painted the tips of footballs with different colors, and the receiver is required to shout out the color as soon as he identifies it. Maybe they should try to sneak some paint brushes into the huddle on game day.

10. Pee-Week rivals: C Nick Mangold and QB Brady Quinn go back a long way. They played against each other in the fifth grade, when Quinn's travel team in Columbus, Ohio, made the 70-mile trek to Dayton to take on Mangold's team. Quinn said his team was so loaded that it had to leave the Columbus area to find worthy opponents. It found one in Mangold & Co., a team that also included Packers LB A.J. Hawk. Quinn lost. Twenty years later, their lockers are side by side. Kind of cool, huh?