New York Jets: Wayne Hunter
Antonio Cromartie and Nick Mangold landed on the same team for Sunday's Pro Bowl in Hawaii -- Team Rice, in case you're wondering. Offensive linemen weren't part of the actual draft, so Mangold was spared a lengthy stay in the green room, which wasn't a room at all. It was an outdoor tent on the grounds of a swanky resort.
As it turned out, Cromartie lasted until the 11th round, four rounds after former teammate Darrelle Revis was picked. At least Cromartie maintained a sense of humor, tweeting, "All I know is 4 Corners have gone n front of me right now. Feels like 06 draft all over again. Dieon (sic) n Jerry Rice r on something lol."
In a far more interesting development Wednesday, former Jets offensive-line coach Dave DeGuglielmo was hired by the New England Patriots to replace Dante Scarnecchia, who is retiring after 30 years with the franchise. DeGuglielmo was fired by the Jets after one season, 2012.
"Guge," as they call him, actually did a decent job as a coach, but his abrasive personality chafed people in the organization. He also created an adversarial relationship with the media; he spoke with reporters only three times, I think.
He made headlines when he professed his belief in embattled right tackle Wayne Hunter, declaring before the season that "until they ship him out of this building or until they shoot me dead in my office, that son-of-a-gun is going to be the starting right tackle."
Hunter was traded before the season. There was no bloodshed in Guge's office.
In training camp, Guge threatened to spit tobacco juice on reporters if they didn't take a step back during a crowded interview session. During the season, he engaged in a combative session with reporters, once again creating a headline. He basically accused the front office of forcing the coaches to play Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse in a platoon at left guard, making it clear he wasn't happy with the arrangement.
DeGuglielmo sat out the 2013 season and was hired a week ago by Maryland, but he bailed when Bill Belichick came calling. Guge is a Boston native, so he probably views it as a dream job.
Memo to reporters in Boston: Check on Hunter's availability and watch your shoes if Guge is chewing tobacco during an interview.
The tackle, sometimes used as a jumbo tight end, was crisp and definitive when asked about the trade that brought him to New York.
“I’m a Jet, happy to be a Jet,” Smith said.
Asked what stands out from his time in St. Louis, Smith seemed to follow the rule, if you can’t say anything nice ...
“I know what shoes to wear on the turf,” Smith said. “I know that the ground’s real nice. Other than than I’m happy to be a Jet, be part of what’s going on here. I’m not concerned with any other football team.”
Smith was the No. 2 overall pick of the 2009 draft, a high spot for a Baylor product, at least until Robert Griffin III equaled the feat by going to Washington at No. 2 this year. Smith signed a six-year deal with St. Louis worth $33 million in guaranteed money. He played right tackle his rookie year until he sustained a concussion.
Smith never reached his potential in St. Louis, as evidenced by the pay cut the Rams asked him to take, followed by the trade to the Jets for scapegoat right tackle Hunter.
The Jets haven’t inserted him into the offensive line, despite the fact that current right tackle Austin Howard has struggled at times in his new role. But he is used as an eligible receiver several times a game generally.
And he’s happy to be a Jet.
"So the (wide receivers) can make plays, and it's just a matter of getting the football to them," Fisher said.
The Jets' wide receivers have come under fire this year for failing to make big plays. That's part of the problem when a group is as raw as the Jets' unit, but the quarterback hasn't been helping them either.
Sanchez is completing just 52 percent of his passes, a career low for the fourth-year player. While it could certainly be argued that his receivers aren't creating space for Sanchez to throw to them, the heat always falls on the quarterback for not making plays.
While it's rare for an opposing coach to criticize a team it's playing in an upcoming week, Fisher seemed higher on the Jets' receivers than most.
"They're productive. Young, but productive with different types of abilities," said Fisher, who specifically praised Jeremy Kerley and rookie Stephen Hill. "You've got guys with a run-after-catch ability, you've got good route-runners, and I think that they've probably been unfairly criticized because this is a group that can make plays."
HERE'S SCHOTTY: The Jets will face former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer on Sunday. He now serves in that role for St. Louis.
Schottenheimer served as the Jets' offensive coordinator from 2006-11 before leaving the team following the end of the last year's 8-8 campaign. His play-calling and offensive schemes came into question last season as it seemed Sanchez regressed.
"What I was excited about was that he was available," Fisher said about hiring Schottenheimer. "What happened in the past is the past. Brian's moved on. We've moved on together. We have a great staff that has a great working relationship and we expect to have a lot of success in the future."
Fisher added: "He's done an outstanding job thus far. I was very excited when I found out that he was available. We hit the ground running. He's a big influence, I say, to this early turnaround of this football team."
WAYNE WATCH: The Jets will also get to see former right tackle Wayne Hunter, who they traded for tackle Jason Smith in August. Hunter drew the fans' ire for his poor play before the team sent him to St. Louis. He has been replaced by Austin Howard, and Smith is an extra tackle who plays sparingly.
Hunter has played in seven games for St. Louis and has battled a back injury.
"This was a good deal for all four parties," Fisher said. "For Jason, for Wayne, for the Rams and the Jets. And that's why we did it."
"They're like sharks," Hunter told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, commenting for the first time since he was traded last week to the Rams. "They let you know (their feelings) right off the bat. And even if you're doing good, they may just not like you for the heck of it. It's brutal over there. Those fans, they know what they want and they pretty much demand it. So if you don't give it to them, they'll let you know."
Hunter said he couldn't put into words what it was like to play in New York.
"No, I can't," he said. "There's no words to describe it. If you can handle the 'Concrete Jungle,' you can handle anywhere. I've been through it all."
Hunter welcomed the change of scenery.
"I think it's what I needed," he said. "I think it's what we both needed, from what I heard. It'll be interesting. So I wish him the best, and I'm going to make the best of this opportunity over here. We're going to fill this stadium up."
Hunter harbors no animosity toward the Jets.
"There's no chip on my shoulder. The New York Jets treated me so well," he said. "I had the best four years over there. We had a great run with two AFC championships. I've got nothing to complain about. I love those guys, I wish 'em the best but it's time for me to move on."
1. Austin Howard, welcome to the spotlight. Rex Ryan finally pulled the trigger on Thursday, demoting starting right tackle Wayne Hunter and elevating Howard. As Rich Cimini wrote, it was the right move -- but is Howard, with four NFL regular-season starts under his belt, ready for the big show? All eyes will be on him Sunday night against the Carolina Panthers.
2. Things are looking up at wide receiver. Santonio Holmes participated in practice, albeit in a limited fashion, for the second straight day, and said he hopes and wants to play on Sunday. When Holmes first went down with a rib injury, there was speculation he would miss the entire preseason. If he can get out on the field against the Panthers in three days, that should provide a big boost to the Jets' struggling offense.
3. Tim Tebow isn't worried about the Wildcat. More specifically, he is not worried about the fact that the Jets aren't planning to unveil the Wildcat in either of the team's final two preseason games, according to Ryan on Thursday. "It's fine," Tebow said Thursday. "We had a few live reps in practice, but I've ran that stuff before so I've had reps in my life at it."
Before practice, coach Rex Ryan revealed that Wayne Hunter has lost his starting job at right tackle in favor of Austin Howard.
After practice, Santonio Holmes declared himself fit to play Sunday night against the Carolina Panthers.
In between, the Jets worked out for 2½ hours Thursday afternoon in front of a few hundred fans as training camp winds to a close. They got to see Howard take all the reps with the first unit, and Holmes get a few live reps as well -- wearing a red no-contact jersey -- as he continues to recover from a rib injury.
In terms of other practice observations:
INJURY REPORT: RB Joe McKnight, who missed Wednesday's practice with shin splints, was back on the field, but limited. S LaRon Landry was also limited for precautionary reasons. ... TE Jeff Cumberland, WR Patrick Turner, WR Chaz Schilens, DT Sione Pouha, CB Ellis Lankster and LB Ricky Sapp did not practice.
GROUND AND POUND: The Jets worked extensively on their running game Thursday. Gang Green averaged just 1.8 yards per carry in Saturday night's preseason loss to the Giants, gaining 58 yards on 32 totes.
OPPOSITE SIDES: The first-team offense and first-team defense rarely matched up against each other Thursday. The Jets were likely preparing for Sunday night's game against the Panthers, having the first-stringers face scout teams.
THE HIGHLIGHT? Mark Sanchez completed a beautiful pass over the middle to Royce Pollard on one of the few plays when both the first-team offense and first-team defense matched up against each other, in 11-on-11 drills. Pollard went high to reel in the ball, in between safeties Yeremiah Bell and Josh Bush. Sanchez was fired up after the play.
On the day, Sanchez completed four of seven passes against the first-team defense. Tim Tebow went 2-for-3 against them, with a sack.
In 7-on-7 drills, LB David Harris dropped a gimme interception thrown by Tebow. But he made up for it with a nice pick on a pass thrown by Greg McElroy. Rookie LB Demario Davis also had an interception late in practice, in 11-on-11 drills.
THE KICKING GAME: Nick Folk nailed all three of his field goal attempts at the end of practice, including one from 53 yards away. Josh Brown also connected from 53 yards, but missed a shorter attempt.
REMEMBER ME? Former Jets offensive tackle Damien Woody, now an ESPN analyst, visited practice on Thursday, along with his two sons. Kind of ironic, considering this was the day the Jets made a switch at Woody's former position.
“That [injury] has actually gotten worse,” head coach Rex Ryan said of Hunter. “That shin is kind of swelling and it’s gone into the knee, so he’s going to be back here getting treatment.
“At the beginning of the week, I thought Wayne would go, but they say he’s gotten worse, not better.”
Hunter’s injury makes it all the more peculiar that the team waived offensive tackle Patrick Brown on Thursday. Brown would have been able to slide into Hunter’s backup role, but now that responsibility will fall to Ducasse.
While Ducasse played left tackle at the University of Massachusetts, he has been practicing at guard for the Jets, and battled for the starting left guard spot during the preseason with Matt Slauson. It doesn't help the team either that center Nick Mangold is battling injury, meaning that Rob Turner, who is the backup at right guard and center, could have to focus primarily on center if Mangold can't stay in the game.
Hunter also served as an extra tight end during "jumbo" formations, and Ryan said that Ducasse will serve as the backup tight end as well as he fills in for Hunter.
Before Ryan announced the news Friday, Ducasse said he had not been informed of his status for the game. He said that even with Hunter nursing his injury, he’s been preparing the same way.
“It’s the same thing because every week we practice you just gotta be ready any time,” Ducasse said. “That’s what we practice for, to get better and get ready, so any time your name is called you have to be ready to go.”
DID NOT PRACTICE
OT Wayne Hunter (shin) -- will not travel to Miami
LB Calvin Pace -- out vs. Miami
CB Darrelle Revis -- out vs. Miami
LIMITED IN PRACTICE (QUESTIONABLE FOR GAME)
C Nick Mangold -- expected to play
LB Jason Taylor -- expected to play
It didn’t take long for things to get chippy. Wayne Hunter got a few too many late hits from Kenwin Cummings and it was on. Pretty soon, Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and defensive assistant Bob Sutton were firing R rated words around.
“It’s going to happen in camp sooner or later,” said Hunter, “for us it happened sooner.”
He added that Cummings is a friend of his off the field, and he should have expected something knowing how competitive the backup linebacker can be. The backup tackle said he got the last word on the field, blocking Cummings on a blitz to finish in a tie.
This kind of back and forth makes Rex Ryan smile. After practice, the Jets coach noted that he was happy with the intensity level of today’s morning practice at Jets training camp in Cortland as opposed to Monday when everyone was relatively cordial. He even joked that he’d go through the league to request a fine for the cursing.
"There was a little competitive spirit out there, and it got a little sensitive, I thought. That's always great to see. You love watching it when coaches go at it and all that jazz."
The day offered a few dramatic plays to get the fans into it as well. David Clowney, a wide receiver who had his share of drops and misses, had a 30 yard catch from quarterback Mark Sanchez and would have run it in for a touchdown in a game situation. Clowney got a hug from Jerricho Cotchery as he jogged back upfield with the ball.
Marcus Henry had a nice one-handed catch from Kellen Clemens, who was very limited in practice after reporting with a calf injury. TE Jeff Cumberland got a hold of a ball over safety Emanual Cook — who also got a piece but Cumberland came down with it. In the press conference Ryan said he needed to do a better job of blocking.
Matthew Mulligan had some nice catches, two with Brunell and another with O’Connell. Brunell looked rusty, and would’ve been sacked three times in the scrimmage drills. He also threw away a few balls under pressure.
DE Vernon Gholston got reps with the first team defense, and Lowery knocked down a pass from Sanchez intended for Cotchery. Calvin Pace grabbed a ball popped up by Braylon Edwards, and Antonio Cromartie had a leaping pick on a ball intended for Clowney. Kris Jenkins (hamstring) didn’t practice for a second day.
Damien Woody said that the practice was good, and several players mentioned feeling sore after roughly five hours of practice on Monday. This afternoon is a special teams practice, so the veterans should get some rest.
“The first day, that’s probably the best you’re going to feel all year,” Woody said.
As far as Darrelle Revis’ holdout, veteran Bart Scott said it’s hard to miss him on the field right now because so much of the time is devoted to learning plays with newer parts.
“In games when guys catch a pass it counts,” Scott said. “Out here we just coach a guy up for what he did wrong and get better.”
More coaching up at 4:20 when special teams practice starts.