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Thursday, June 26, 2014
Jets' rebuilt secondary goes green

By Rich Cimini

Two of the MICs (most important coaches) in training camp will be defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman and secondary coach Tim McDonald. They're charged with the responsibility of guiding a young group through its formative stage, trying to minimize the growing pains along the way.

This won't be easy. In the post-Darrelle Revis/post-Antonio Cromartie era, the secondary is in transition. In fact, there are five players -- all of whom have a good chance of making the team -- who are new to the Rex Ryan defensive system: veterans Dimitri Patterson, Ras-I Dowling and Johnny Patrick, and rookies Calvin Pryor and Dexter McDougle.

It'll be summer school in Cortland, N.Y.

Dimitri Patterson
Dimitri Patterson has impressed in his brief time with the Jets.
"(The) lack of experience that shows up at times, but the talent is there," Thurman said. "We know that we have guys that can play. We just have to make sure that we communicate the things that we are supposed to do. If we do that, I think we’ll be fine."

Ryan's system isn't easy because it's predicated on communication, players communicating with teammates before the snap. The beauty of the system is that it's not rigid; it gives players the flexibility to make pre-snap adjustments. But the players have to know what the heck they're doing before the defense can perform a graduate-level curriculum, as Ryan might say.

One of the reasons why his defense has thrived with older players, vets thought to be on the downside of their careers, is because he can tap into their vast experience, providing game plans that younger players can't handle. Who knows? Maybe Patterson, 31, becomes one of those guys.

"A guy who knows how to play," Thurman said of Patterson. "(He) brings knowledge and depth to our secondary. He can play nickel as well, so right now we are very pleased with Dimitri."

The oldest member of the secondary is Dawan Landry, 31, whose background in Ryan's system will make him a proverbial coach on the field. Thing is, he might not be on the field as much as last season because of the young talent at safety. Pryor, drafted 18th overall, is a virtual lock as an opening-day starter.

"We'll answer that after training camp, but he’s a talented kid, we drafted him No. 1," Thurman said. "We feel like he can bring a lot to our secondary, so we’ll see."

By the end of the season, perhaps sooner, McDougle could have a prominent role. The Jets are high on their third-round pick, who impressed during the final two weeks of the offseason program. He missed most of the offseason, still recovering from shoulder surgery last fall.

"I think he is everything we thought he was going to be," Thurman said. "He's a young, talented kid, he is very serious (and) he loves football. There are some guys that you look at them and you say, 'All right, he was built to play this position.' He was built to play corner."