NFL Nation: Rex Ryan

You know the drill. The New York Jets' training camp opens Wednesday, which means there are questions. We've got answers.

1. When will Rex Ryan name his starting quarterback?

Smith
Technically, we've been waiting 11 months, but that is an old story and this is no time to look back. The conventional approach is to name the starter after the third preseason game (Aug. 22 against the New York Giants), but it wouldn't be a surprise if Ryan moves up the timetable. It all depends on Geno Smith, the front-runner. If he plays lights-out in the first two games and gets the nod over Michael Vick versus the Giants, it will be a fait accompli. Memo to Ryan: The health of your quarterback is more important than the Snoopy Trophy.

2. Are there any injured players that bear watching as camp opens?

Yes, three in particular: Running back Chris Johnson (knee), right guard Willie Colon (knee/biceps) and linebacker Antwan Barnes (knee). Obviously, Johnson's health is a big key to the Jets' season, so you can count on his surgically repaired knee being a topic of conversation throughout camp. The plan is to put him on a modified practice schedule, building toward the Sept. 7 opener. It will be interesting to see how they use him in the exhibitions. Johnson likes his touches; he's had anywhere from 19 to 33 carries in the preseason over the course of his career. It wouldn't be a shock if Colon and/or Barnes begin camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list as they work their way back into shape. It will be a breath of fresh air, not having to chronicle the "will-he-or-won't-he?" whims of Santonio Holmes and his damaged wheel.

3. Is there strength in numbers at wide receiver?

Decker
The Jets have seven receivers with NFL experience, including marquee newcomer Eric Decker, plus three draft picks. Not one of them, however, is a true game-changer. You can still win with solid, dependable receivers (look at the Seattle Seahawks), and the Jets have three in Decker, Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson. You will read a lot this summer about Stephen Hill, who almost certainly will make the all-Cortland team, as usual. The question, as usual, is whether he can sustain it for the regular season. If you are looking for a dark horse, keep an eye on veteran Greg Salas, who impressed the coaches in minicamp.

4. Which returning starters are in danger of losing their jobs?

Not counting Smith, who will be "pushed" by Vick (that is the oft-used company line), the players facing the most competition are Colon, tight end Jeff Cumberland and safety Dawan Landry. In each case, there is a young player in the picture battling for playing time. Chances are, the tight-end situation will be a time-share between Cumberland and second-round pick Jace Amaro, whose role will hinge on how quickly he can absorb the offense. Based on minicamp, it will take some time.

5. Is there anything to worry about on defense?

The secondary is the No. 1 concern. This probably will be the youngest defensive backfield of the Ryan era, with a second-year cornerback (Dee Milliner), a rookie safety (Calvin Pryor), a third-year safety (Antonio Allen) and a rookie cornerback (Dexter McDougle) projected to play prominent roles. Can you say "growing pains"? If veteran corner Dimitri Patterson gets hurt, which he tends to do, it will put a strain on this rebuilding unit.

6. What's the deal with all the playoff chatter? Is the optimism justified?

Sure, why not? 'Tis the season for happy talk. The Jets finished 8-8, added some talent and lost only two players that played more than 500 snaps last season -- right tackle Austin Howard and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who stunk. Expressing confidence is fine as long as it doesn't cloud their minds with unrealistic expectations.
Say this for Rex Ryan: He takes cool vacations.

One year removed from a trip to Pamplona, Spain, where he participated in the celebrated running of the bulls, the New York Jets' coach is vacationing in Brazil to check out the World Cup. Ryan was in Brazil for Sunday's United States-Portugal match. Not many NFL coaches are recognized around the world, but a picture of Ryan showed up on Twitter, confirming his whereabouts. Looks like he has pretty good seats, too.

Ryan got a chance to meet the Portuguese national team during their recent training sessions at the Jets' facility in Florham Park, New Jersey, but his game-day attire confirms his rooting interest. You might say he's a true patriot -- small P, that is.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets wrapped up minicamp -- and the offseason -- with a 90-minute practice Thursday in a light rain. A few takeaways:

Smith
1. Quarterback hiccups: One day after his coaches lavished praise upon him for a terrific offseason, Geno Smith ended on a down note, throwing two interceptions in team drills. One was an ill-advised throw, a pass into double coverage. He was looking for Eric Decker, who was covered by CB Dee Milliner, and it was picked off by rookie S Calvin Pryor. Later, Smith (2-for-6 in team drills) was intercepted by Milliner on a deep ball that went off the hands of Decker. It's important to keep this in perspective. Two turnovers on the final day of minicamp doesn't change anything. As Marty Mornhinweg indicated Wednesday, it's Smith's job to lose. Michael Vick was 2-for-7, with a couple of overthrows.

2. Young ball hawks: Turnovers are always a good news-bad news story in practice. The good news is that the secondary, which produced very few big plays last season, came up big. In addition to Pryor and Milliner, rookie CB Dexter McDougle made a big play, intercepting Vick in a 7-on-7 drill. (Vick seemed upset; there might have been a miscommunication with WR Jeremy Kerley). Afterward, Rex Ryan praised McDougle as one of the standouts in minicamp. This will be the youngest secondary of the Ryan era. The upside is the improved team speed on the back end; the downside is the lack of experience, which will inevitably lead to mental errors.

3. Another Hill to climb: WR Stephen Hill, who could be fighting for his roster spot, finished with a terrific practice. This was a positive offseason for Hill, who needed a jolt after a second straight disappointing season. He worked with the starting base offense, with David Nelson replacing him in some three-receiver packages. Nelson, too, looked sharp, hauling in two completions from Smith. Unlike past years, the Jets actually have some depth at receiver. It'll be interesting to see which players separate from the pack in training camp.

4. Dawan is da man: Veteran S Dawan Landry became the forgotten man in recent weeks, especially with Pryor and Antonio Allen working exclusively with the first team. After practice, Ryan tossed a bouquet to Landry, mentioning him as one of the standouts in minicamp. Ryan also revealed that Landry won an "Iron Jet" award for his exploits in the conditioning program, noting that he reported to the offseason program in superior condition. Funny how that works; they draft a safety in the first round and the aging incumbent shows up looking better than ever.

5. Attendance report: LB David Harris (hamstring tightness) and TE Jeff Cumberland (undisclosed) sat out. As expected, RB Chris Ivory (ankle) didn't participate. With Chris Johnson (knee) also out, Bilal Powell and Alex Green had busy days.

6. Have a nice summer: The offseason program is over. The team won't be together again until training camp. Reporting day is July 23 in Cortland, New York.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Notes and observations from Wednesday's OTA practice:

1. He-e-e-e-re's Dex: Third-round pick Dexter McDougle, who missed the final nine games of his senior year due to major shoulder surgery, made his practice debut for the New York Jets. After three weeks of wearing a red (non-contact) jersey, the rookie cornerback wore green with the rest of his defensive teammates and impressed Rex Ryan so much that the coach called him out in front of the team afterward. McDougle worked with the second-team nickel package and didn't seem tentative at all. This, of course, is good news for the Jets' revamped cornerback position.

[+] EnlargeEric Decker
AP Photo/Julio CortezThe Jets will be counting on receiver Eric Decker to produce in the red zone this season.
2. Rex comes clean: The Jets received mild criticism for taking McDougle in the third round, considering the time he missed at Maryland. Ryan admitted he, too, thought it was a risky pick, but others in the organization -- mainly defensive coordinat0r Dennis Thurman -- "eased my doubts" about McDougle. Ryan said Thurman, after watching McDougle on tape for the first time, came up to him and said, "I've got the guy right here." Ryan said they graded McDougle as one of the top "character" players in the draft. Assuming he has no setbacks, he will be able to participate in next week's minicamp.

3. Changing of the guards: 'Tis the time of year to experiment. With Willie Colon (arthroscopic knee surgery) sidelined for the remainder of the offseason, the Jets have been rotating players at right guard. On Wednesday, it was Brian Winters' turn. He traded places with Oday Aboushi, who moved to Winters' spot at left guard. No, this doesn't mean Colon is in danger of losing his starting job. Ryan acknowledged that Colon, who is expected to return for training camp, is a likely starter, but not necessarily at right guard. Interesting. Moving the players around in June creates competition and flexibility that could help in training camp.

4. Geno and Vick: There was a concentration on the two-minute offense and the red zone in practice. Both Geno Smith and Michael Vick looked sharp in the red zone, each quarterback completing four of five passes in team drills. Smith got most of the work with the starters. His best moment came when he stepped up in the pocket and found wide receiver Eric Decker in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Decker dominated in the red zone, one of the reasons why the Jets are paying him $7 million a year. Vick displayed his old form, scrambling for a touchdown. He also made a nice scoring pass to rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders.

5. Two-minute hiccups: Smith wasn't nearly as crisp in the hurry-up situation. He started off with a deep ball to Decker, but the drive stalled as he misfired on three of his last four passes. First-round pick Calvin Pryor came on a safety blitz to disrupt Smith on one play.

6. Rex on the QB competition/non-competition: Not surprisingly, Ryan spoke glowingly on the Smith-Vick battle -- even though it's not really a battle, if you ask Vick. "Both guys are sharp," Ryan said. "They're pushing themselves and pushing each other. That's exactly what we wanted to have happen. ... I've been really impressed with it."

7. Attendance report: Players that didn't participate in the voluntary practice included wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (personal), running back Mike Goodson (undisclosed), running back Chris Johnson (knee), running back Daryl Richardson (toe), wide receiver Jacoby Ford (undisclosed), Colon (knee), rookie wide receiver Shaq Evans (school obligation) and linebacker Antwan Barnes (knee). Ryan said he expects Goodson to show up for next week's mandatory minicamp. As expected, Johnson -- six months removed from knee surgery -- isn't expected to do much, if anything, in the minicamp. Ford will be full speed by next week.

8. Dee's cranky hammy: Cornerback Dee Milliner, who sat out last week's open practice, participated on a limited basis. Officially, the team is calling it hamstring "tightness," not a pulled hamstring. Got that? Ryan said they kept him out for precautionary reasons.

9. Odds and ends: Pryor continued to work with the starters. It was Pryor and Antonio Allen at safety, with Dawan Landry practicing with the second team. Landry already knows the defense; the plan is to let Pryor and Allen get as many reps as possible. ... The Jets are continuing their penalty/push-up tradition. When a penalty is committed, the entire team drops for 10 push ups. General manager John Idzik was among the non-players that did pushups. ... Matt Simms, battling rookie Tajh Boyd for the No. 3 quarterback job, threw an interception. ... Rookie tight end Jace Amaro, coming off a three-drop day last week, had another drop but looked much better catching the ball.

Jets offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the New York Jets' offseason moves:

Best move: The Jets doled out $7 million a year for Eric Decker, but he's an upgrade over the previous No. 1 receiver, Santonio Holmes, a diminished diva whose sour attitude won't be missed. Decker is a 6-foot-3 target whose catching radius will help Geno Smith, who struggled last season with his accuracy. No doubt Decker benefited from having the Broncos' Peyton Manning as his quarterback the past two seasons, but he's still a quality player who can help in a variety of ways. For instance: Decker had seven red zone touchdown catches last season, only one fewer than the Jets produced as a team.

[+] EnlargeDimitri Patterson
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeThe Jets hope Dimitri Patterson can fill the void created when Antonio Cromartie departed.
Riskiest move: They're counting on journeyman Dimitri Patterson, signed from the Dolphins, to replace Antonio Cromartie at cornerback -- a big gamble. Patterson, 31, has missed 33 of his past 48 games, so the Jets are taking quite a leap by thinking he will stay healthy. What's more, he's best suited for the slot, not one of the outside positions. General manager John Idzik mismanaged the cornerback market. Knowing the importance of corners in Rex Ryan's man-to-man system, Idzik should've made a stronger commitment to the position. He flirted with some big names but wound up with Patterson, who will be playing for his sixth team in 10 years. To exacerbate the issue, Idzik waited until the third round before drafting a corner.

Most surprising move: The Jets bill themselves as a young, ascending team, yet they allowed one of their ascending players to walk out the door -- right tackle Austin Howard, who signed with the Raiders. The Jets found him on the scrap heap, invested three years of development and watched him become an above-average player with upside. And then he was gone. Howard's replacement, Breno Giacomini, formerly of the Seahawks, is a comparable player -- and cheaper. Statistically, he's a better run-blocker than Howard but is not quite as adept in pass protection. Here's the big difference, though: Howard, 27, is two years younger than Giacomini, meaning he would've been a better fit in the long-term plan.

John the Deliberate: Overall, Idzik had a solid offseason, adding several new pieces on offense (let's not forget about running back Chris Johnson and quarterback Michael Vick) -- but the second-year GM didn't spend as much money as he could've. After dumping Holmes' and Mark Sanchez's contracts, the Jets were among the league leaders in cap space, but Idzik was relatively conservative in free agency, relying on a 12-player draft haul to upgrade the roster. Unlike some GMs, who overpay for second-rate talent, he refuses to deviate from his long-term plan. It's the right approach for a franchise previously obsessed with quick-fix moves, but it's not foolproof. The cornerback situation will come back to bite him.
Three years ago, IK Enemkpali made a big mistake -- "a young mistake," he called it. He was only 19, coming off a promising redshirt freshman year at Louisiana Tech. He was out one night in early April at Rabb's Steak House, an off-campus haunt in Ruston, Louisiana. There was a bar fight shortly after 1 a.m., and Enemkpali ended up striking an off-duty, undercover police officer who was working security at the bar.

Details are sketchy, but Enemkpali (pronounced: IN-em-PALL-ee) lost his temper in a bad way. A uniformed officer arrived on the scene and used pepper spray on him, but that didn't subdue him. Finally, the officer stunned Enemkpali with a Taser, reports said. He was arrested and charged with battery on a police officer and disturbing the peace/drunk, according to court records. He spent more than three hours in a holding cell at the Lincoln Parish Detention Center and was suspended indefinitely from the football team.

[+] EnlargeIK Enemkpali
AP Photo/Michael ConroyRookie IK Enemkpali is looking to help the Jets with his proven leadership and pass-rushing skills.
In the months leading up to the most recent NFL draft, Enemkpali was grilled about the incident by every team that interviewed him, including the New York Jets. There are dozens like him in every draft, players that step outside the law. Some let their misdeeds define them. Others try to use their transgressions to make them better people. Enemkpali wanted his prospective employers to know he belongs to the latter category. He made an impression on the Jets, who drafted the undersized pass-rusher in the sixth round.

"I was just being a young. [It was] a young, hot-headed decision," Enemkpali said at last weekend's rookie camp, looking back on his arrest. "I didn't think about everything. If I knew what I know now, I would've gotten myself out of that situation.

"I lost my cool," he added. "That's what it was. I didn't know he was undercover, which is no excuse, but ... Yeah, I lost my cool."

The charge was amended to simple battery and, on Jan. 25, 2012, Enemkpali received a suspended jail sentence and was placed on 13 months of probation. He was ordered to perform 32 hours of community service and to complete an anger management course, according to court documents. He also was fined $200. He never missed any games, as he was reinstated before the 2011 season.

Enemkpali rallied from the adversity, finishing with 17.5 career sacks (third on the school's all-time list) and making All-Conference USA as a senior. Perhaps his proudest accomplishment was becoming a team captain. In that role, he addressed younger teammates on the importance of staying out of trouble. He shared his experience, hoping they could learn from his mistake.

"I learned a whole bunch," he said. "I learned not to take this game for granted. I learned that even what I do off the field can look selfish. What I do affects my team and my family. I take a lot of pride in my last name and bringing good things to it. I kind of tarnished it a little bit."

An official from another team that checked into Enemkpali's background came away with the belief that the bar fight was "an isolated incident." The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Enemkpali "got hooked into it because he was helping somebody else out. I don't think he was the cause of it. ... He's a good kid, a really good student, a leader and a captain."

The Jets hope he can sack the quarterback. Jets coach Rex Ryan shared that sentiment in his first conversation with Enemkpali.

"When Rex called me on draft day, he asked if I'm ready to get after the quarterback," he said. "I'm not going to brag on myself, but that's what they called me in here for."

At 6-foot-1, 261 pounds, Enemkpali looks more like a fullback than an edge-rusher, but some of the league's top pass-rushers are undersized. He mentioned Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Hall of Famer John Randle, a 6-foot-1 defensive tackle who went undrafted out of Texas A&M-Kingsville. Enemkpali, who grew up in Austin, Texas, watched a lot of tape of Randle. He sees his size as a positive, not a negative.

"I feel like I've got power behind me, and I can turn my speed into power," said Enemkpali, learning to play outside linebacker in the Jets' base 3-4 defense. "If they over-set me, I feel like I have the ability to come inside. Low man wins in football. On the edge, if you don't give them a surface to hit, they really can't block. Those big O-linemen, they're not going to bend, so I've already got the advantage of being short. If you stay low, it's a win-win."

Enemkpali's speed came into question at the scouting combine, where he ran a disappointing 5.01 seconds in the 40. As one opposing scout said, "It wasn't bad, it was awful." No doubt, it contributed to his fall to the sixth round. The same scout was stunned because Enemkpali never seemed slow on the field, rushing the quarterback.

"He's not real fast, but, man, his play speed is good," the scout said. "He's got burst, he's got acceleration and his instincts are good enough."

A 40-yard dash doesn't always quantify a player's true ability. Enemkpali already has proven that he won't let a few bad seconds, acted out in a late-night bar fight, bring him down.
It came as no surprise Tuesday to hear that New York Jets owner Woody Johnson reportedly prefers an expanded playoff format -- a concept that was tabled Tuesday at the NFL spring meeting and pushed to the fall. Johnson's coach, Rex Ryan, is overwhelmingly in favor of playoff expansion. I asked Ryan about it at the league meeting in March and this is what he said:

“Absolutely, absolutely. When you look at the fact that bonuses are probably tied into it, absolutely (laughs). I think it’s a good thing anyway. It’s so special to get into the playoffs. It’s a great thing for the fans. I would be for it. I don’t think you want to do where it’s like hockey and basketball, it just seems like three quarters of the league is in it even though my Leafs struggle, I just don’t understand it. I really think it’s a good thing, tough. You think about how Arizona didn’t go to the playoffs and they were playing as good as anybody at the end of the year. Again, you don’t want to water it down to where it’s like, that team never deserved it. You always want it like, yeah, every one if these teams deserves it."

It's funny that Ryan mentioned playoff bonuses because, as you know, his new contract extension -- finalized in January -- is heavy on playoff incentives. There are some who believe this season is playoffs-or-bust for Ryan, who has missed the postseason for three consecutive years after back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game. I don't believe it's an absolute mandate -- there could be some wiggle room, depending on circumstances -- but he'd certainly be walking on thin ice if the playoff drought hits four years. And thin ice is dangerous, even for a man who has lost 120 pounds.

Obviously, it's too late to implement playoff expansion (from 12 to 14 teams) for the 2014 season, but it certainly sounds like 2015 is a strong possibility, based on Roger Goodell's comments. This is a money grab by the league, which can parlay the expanded postseason field into extra TV money. It's all about the money.

In case you're wondering, no, the Jets wouldn't have qualified last season as the third wild card. At 8-8, they finished in a four-way tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, but the Steelers would've grabbed the last spot under an expanded format.
Saturday's drops notwithstanding, Rex Ryan likes the look of his 2014 receiving corps. The New York Jets spent money ($15 million guaranteed for Eric Decker) and draft picks (three) to improve the weakest position on the team.

"From top to bottom," Ryan said, "it’s a much better group of receivers than we had probably at any point last year."

[+] EnlargeShaq Evans
Bill Kostroun/AP PhotoPerhaps rookie Shaq Evans could develop into the Jets' No. 1 receiver role this season.
Let's examine that statement.

The high point last year, if you could call it that, was the start of the season, when the Jets' top three wideouts were Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley. (Incredibly, the trio played only one game together -- the opener.) You could argue they ended the season in better shape, with the surprising David Nelson replacing the injured Hill. Either way, the narrative is the same: It was a deficient receiving corps that lacked speed, depth and a true No. 1, because even when Holmes was healthy, he wasn't really healthy. Clearly, he was a diminished player because of his surgically repaired foot from 2012.

You know what? For the sake of comparison, let's drop the "at-any-point" qualifier and look at the group as a whole. The top receivers last year, in my opinion, were Holmes, Kerley, Nelson, Hill, Clyde Gates, Greg Salas and Josh Cribbs, who really didn't play much receiver. The latter three are marginal NFL players.

The top receivers this year, as of now, are Decker, Kerley, Nelson, Hill, Jacoby Ford, Gates, Shaq Evans, Jalen Saunders and Quincy Enunwa. This time, the latter three are rookies with varying degrees of upside. Based on what I saw from rookie camp, and from talking to talent evaluators around the league, Evans has the best chance to make an immediate contribution among the rookies. His skill set is more complete than the others.

"We’ll see what kind of receivers we have," Ryan said, "but you could put out an unbelievable (4x100) relay team."

To me, Decker is an upgrade over Holmes, although there are many who question whether Decker is a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Beyond Decker, the top four could be the same as last year, with Kerley, Nelson and Hill filling out the top spots. The Jets still lack a home-run hitter, a need they failed to address in the offseason. Someone has to develop into that guy and crack the top four. Maybe it can be Hill -- if he's healthy and consistent. Maybe it can be Ford -- if he's healthy and can recapture the promise he showed as a rookie with the Oakland Raiders in 2010. Maybe it can be one of the rookies.

So, yes, I'd agree with Ryan's statement that it's a better overall unit than last season, but I wonder whether it's as good as it needs to be.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Calvin Pryor doesn't wear a mouthpiece because he doesn't want anything to restrict his yap. The New York Jets' No. 1 pick was a self-proclaimed trash talker in college, and he's not planning to hit the mute button now that he's in the NFL. The hard-hitting safety said Saturday he won't back down against the top receivers, not even against, say, Larry Fitzgerald.

"He's human, right?" Pryor said. "I would have no problem with it at all. ... With me being a rookie, that doesn't mean anything. I am who I am. I'm going to talk trash. If people don't like it, they're going to have to get used to it."

[+] EnlargeCalvin Pryor
AP Photo/Bill KostrounRookie Calvin Pryor has already earned praise for his smarts at Jets rookie minicamp.
Pryor is off to a fast start in rookie camp. Rex Ryan praised his mental aptitude, his ability to digest information and take it to the field. Ryan called Pryor the most impressive player in camp, which is what you'd expect from the 18th overall pick.

The cerebral aspect to the game is important, but Pryor made his name in college based on intimidation -- verbal and physical. He talked smack, and smacked opponents with bone-jarring hits.

"When you're out there and you can talk trash and get into a guy's head, it affects their game a little bit," he said. "That's the main reason why I do it. It's nothing personal against them. It's who I am as a football player.

"You talk trash and you go out there and play crazy and hit guys hard, it's an intimidation factor," Pryor continued. "It's like, 'This guy means what he says.'"

Presumably, Pryor will start at one safety spot, with Dawan Landry or Antonio Allen at the other position. Many have assumed that it'll be Pryor and Landry, the most experienced returning player in the secondary, but it sounds as if Landry could be headed to a reserve role. There had been some speculation after the draft that Landry's roster spot was in jeopardy. Ryan put that to rest -- he called him a "vital member" of th defense -- but he didn't commit to Landry as a starter.

"Landry is going to play a ton, whether it's a clear-cut starter or whatever you want to say ... he'll play," Ryan said. "He'll play in some capacity, and he might end up playing more than any of the other safeties."

One thing is clear: Pryor is the new top dog.

"There will be a lot of jerseys sold with Pryor's name on the back, because I have a feeling he'll become one of the more popular Jets," Ryan said.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets practiced for two hours Saturday under sunny skies. A few takeaways from Day 2 of rookie camp:

Pryor
Good to the last drop: In the what has become a rite of spring around the Jets, the receivers struggled with drops throughout practice. All three draft picks dropped at least one pass -- Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans and Quincy Enunwa. Not even tight end Jace Amaro, a sure-handed pass-catcher, was immune. Many of the drops came against "air," which can be attributed to a lack of concentration. It was a particularly tough day for Saunders, who dropped a long ball and a well-thrown pass on a crossing route. The dropsie epidemic strikes the Jets every spring. This time, coach Rex Ryan wasn't critical. He chalked it up to rookies being rookies. "Their heads are spinning," he said. The Jets need one of these rookies to stand out from the crowd, emerging as a contributor.

Calvin a quick study: First-round pick Calvin Pryor didn't make any eye-catching plays (remember, these are non-contact practices), but he continued to impress the coaches with his knowledge of the defense. Ryan praised the hard-hitting safety for being a quick study, calling him the most impressive player in camp. Specifically, he said the former Louisville standout has "great pattern recognition." Pryor definitely has a swagger, admitting afterward that he loves to talk trash. Nothing wrong with that; the Jets could use a little more of that attitude on defense.

Boyd can relate to Geno: Tajh Boyd is experiencing what Geno Smith went through a year ago, learning a pro-style offense after playing almost exclusively in the shotgun in college. The footwork is different. So is the timing of the pass routes. It's not an easy transition, which explains why Boyd has struggled with his accuracy in this camp. There were some hiccups on short and intermediate routes, but say this for Boyd: He throws a good deep ball. He was victimized by a couple of drops on long passes. Speaking to him afterward, Boyd came across as confident and charismatic. It's easy to see why he was considered such a good leader at Clemson.

Odds and ends: Safety Rontez Miles, who spent most of last season on the practice squad, is attending the camp, but he's still not 100 percent after offseason hip surgery. ... Running back Alex Green remains on the roster. On Friday night, he sent out a tweet that suggested he had been released. He apparently thought he was toasted after the Jets acquired Daryl Richardson on waivers. Ryan said Green made an incorrect assumption. ... Ryan felt they were "loaded at running back" before picking up Richardson, but he believes that Richardson upgrades the position. They have five veterans at running back. ... Pryor switched his number, changing to 25.
Brash Rex made a brief appearance Thursday. Well, let's say it was Brash Rex Lite.

On the eve of rookie camp, Rex Ryan spoke confidently about his team, saying he expects the New York Jets to be a playoff contender. That's hardly an outlandish statement, considering they finished 8-8 last season. But Ryan, a guest on WFAN radio, made a borderline comical remark when he said, "I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not so sure there’s too many teams that want to play us."

Ryan
Oh, really? There aren't many teams that don't want to face a second-year quarterback who threw 21 interceptions as a rookie? Aren't too many teams that don't want a face a pass defense that allowed nearly 4,000 yards? Interesting. Consider this: The Jets were outscored by 97 points last season, the largest negative point differential for a .500 or better team since the merger in 1970. In other words, they were a soft 8-8.

Obviously, they made several high-profile acquisitions in the offseason, so maybe they can turn weaknesses into strengths. Maybe Chris Johnson can turn back the clock a couple of years. Maybe Eric Decker will show he's not a Peyton Manning creation. But questions remain, especially at quarterback and cornerback.

Sticking to his talking points on the potentially volatile quarterback situation, Ryan reiterated that Geno Smith will "be hard to beat out, and I truly believe that. Just seeing him throw the ball around here, he’s got a much better understanding of what we want at that position. He knows the offense forward and backwards and he is really throwing the football well."

To cover his bases, Ryan also said Michael Vick "definitely" has a chance to win the job in the preseason.

Cornerback is a concern, too. Ryan predicted that former No. 1 pick Dee Milliner will be "special," also acknowledging that free-agent pickup Dimitri Patterson is expected to start opposite Milliner. That hardly solves the issues at the position.

The coach who hasn't reached the postseason in three consecutive years believes his team will be in the hunt.

"I’m not going to guarantee playoffs or all that, but absolutely, I know what our goal is and I believe we can reach it," said Ryan, the eternal optimist.

No one sells tickets better than him.
Leftover "sound" bites from draft weekend, with general manager John Idzik, Rex Ryan and senior director of college scouting Terry Bradway discussing some of the New York Jets' second- and third-day draft picks:

Amaro
Idzik on whether second-round tight end Jace Amaro can block well enough to be used in-line or flexed out as a receiver: "I think we can do both, really. He hadn’t been in-line as much. He did do a little bit of that at (Texas) Tech. He certainly has the size and he has the will, too. You see him get after it as a blocker. I think he has the size and now it’s just a matter of getting a (few) more reps at doing it. We’re not concerned that way.

Ryan on third-round cornerback Dex McDougle: "When we watched him, we saw a guy that we think has versatility, can play outside, can play inside as a nickel possibly. Obviously, we like his cover skills. But we think he’s a complete corner. We think he can tackle. We know he can tackle. He’s aggressive. He’ll challenge you at the line of scrimmage. He’s got good ball skills. And, obviously, we feel good he can run. But (he’s) a very aggressive player as well. And the thing that I thought was impressive."

Bradway on fourth-round wide receiver Jalen Saunders, listed at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds: "I think he’s played both inside and outside. You’re right, he is smaller in stature, but he’s as tough as they come. You go watch him play ... no fear. He’s blocking bigger guys. He’s breaking some tackles. He’s a dynamic playmaker with a ball in his hands, too. He brings that return element. It was really an attractive pick for us."

Ryan on sixth-round cornerback Brandon Dixon: "He’s coming from a small school (Northwest Missouri State). So I get that, that there’ll be some developing there. But at his school, wow, it was zero coverage or cover-1. So, he’s got the guts, I’ll tell you that. He’s played it. The measurables, he’s got size, he’s got speed, and the thing that I was impressed with when you saw all the scouts’ grades and the coaches’, it was competitiveness. This young man is a competitor, and I think that’s what he’s going to bring. How quick he learns the system and all that, we’ll have to determine that at a different time. But I love the competitiveness and obviously his God-given size-speed combination is rare."

Ryan on fifth-round linebacker Jeremiah George, only 5-11, 234 pounds: "I like having the flexibility of playing a 'Mike' linebacker or a 'Will' linebacker. ... So here, he fits a role. We’ll try to teach him both. We’ll flip both those guys. That’s what you want to have, that kind of flexibility. We love the fact that he’s a run-hit guy, loves to play. He’s got great passion for the game. You mentioned the production. We saw all that. We really like him. ... Sometimes (size) can be overrated. Zach Thomas was one of the best linebackers in the league and he was much smaller in a 3-4."

Idzik on whether linebacker Trevor Reilly's age (26) dropped him to the seventh round: "That may be a factor. The bottom line is, what do you think of him as a player and a person? Again, he fit that way for us."
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Twelve hours after hearing his name called at Radio City Music Hall, safety Calvin Pryor stopped by the New York Jets' facility Friday to meet his new coaches, take a tour and, oh yes, chat with the media.

A few highlights from his session with reporters:

Pryor
On his knowledge of the Jets: "I've had a chance to watch the Jets play over the years. ... (Former Louisville) Coach (Charlie) Strong, he's real good friends with Coach (Rex) Ryan, so he told me a lot about Coach Ryan when I told him I had a visit with the Jets. That's the reason I went to Louisville, because Coach Strong, he's a defensive coach. He was like, 'You're getting the same guy.'"

Similarities between the Louisville defense and the Jets' defense: "Our basic coverages. We ran a lot of cover-6 and fire zones in college, and I feel like they do the same thing here. They mix a lot of things up, different adjustments. But, for the most part, it's the same thing."

On his coverage skills: "I'm very confident in my ability, first and foremost. I feel like I have the complete package as a safety. Most people know me as a hard-hitting safety because I had a few hard hits in college. But when you watch my film, you see that playmaking ability that jumps out at you, a guy that's flying around and has a passion for the game."

On whether he worries about the NFL's strict rules on helmet-to-helmet contact: "I'm not. Coach Ryan said, 'Just be yourself.' In college, I had clean hits, I used my shoulder pads and I don't lead with my helmet. So if I continue to do the same thing, I'm pretty sure we won't have a problem."

On whether he noticed the Seattle Seahawks' secondary intimidating the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl: "I did. The Seahawks have a great secondary. You've got Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, (Richard) Sherman, all those guys. I believe when you're flying around like that and everyone's getting to the ball, and just playing physical and having an impact on defense, you can create intimidation and put fear into opponents."
If the extra two weeks of waiting made you anxious, imagine how the New York Jets feel. They've been waiting 16 months.

John Idzik's rebuilding plan, set in motion when he was hired in January 2013, is built largely around the draft -- this draft. He accumulated four compensatory picks and acquired a future pick from the Darrelle Revis trade, giving him a total of 12 selections -- tied with the St. Louis Rams for the most. Idzik was relatively conservative in free agency, using only about half the salary-cap space -- a tactic that raises the stakes even higher.

The fun starts Thursday night. The Jets own the 18th pick -- for now. What to watch for:

1. Biggest needs: The Jets need a lot of things, but cornerback should at the top of the list. Their pass defense was dreadful, allowing nearly 4,000 yards, and the only thing they did in free agency was replace a descending Antonio Cromartie with an injury-prone journeyman, Dimitri Patterson. Rex Ryan's defense is predicated on cornerback play, and his current secondary will get shredded against a "Missiles of October" schedule -- Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in a 12-day span. Idzik doled out $30 million in guarantees to sign outside free agents, with only $1 million going to the defense. As one longtime personnel executive said, "Feed the defense. The only way the Jets win is if they dominate on defense." Obviously, the other glaring need is wide receiver. If you need an explanation, you must have slept through last season.

2. Moving up: Yes, the Jets are interested in trading up, according to a league source. Presumably, their target is Odell Beckham Jr., a smooth, explosive and versatile wide receiver. If this is the plan, they'd better get ahead of the New York Giants (12), who also covet the former LSU star. Based on the draft value chart, they'd have to surrender a third-round pick and two fourth-rounders to switch places with the Tennessee Titans (11). You'd have to question the wisdom of such a move. It's a deep draft, and they could land a comparable player at 18. The Jets have eight tradable picks (compensatory selections can't be dealt), affording Idzik flexibility if he wants to step out of character and ... you know, be aggressive.

3. Names to watch: Wide receiver Brandin Cooks is a popular mock-draft choice for the Jets. Good prospect, solid character, but some scouts wonder if he can be more than a slot receiver because of his size (a shade under 5-foot-10). Wide receiver Marqise Lee also is in the conversation, but this would require a leap of faith, essentially betting he'd be the 2012 version and not the 2013 Lee. The top corners are Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert, although it's quite possible one or both could be gone. Dennard is the better scheme fit, but Gilbert has more upside because of his elite ball skills.

4. Outsider's view: This is how a rival personnel director sees the Jets' situation at 18: "They have two specific team needs -- wide receiver and cornerback. It's a tough decision, but it would be a more difficult decision if there was no value at those position at that point in the first round. But that won't be the case. There will be value at those spots. I also wouldn't dismiss the tight end (Eric Ebron). They're also living with two safeties (Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen) that are borderline starting caliber, so I wouldn't be surprised if they go Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor."

5. Perspective, please: As you're watching it unfold, remember this: The Jets aren't a couple of players away, or even one draft away, from being a legitimate championship contender. They finished a soft 8-8, and before you take issue with that description, consider this: They were outscored by 97 points, the largest negative point differential for a .500 or better team since the merger in 1970. This draft is just another step in the process, albeit a big step.
This is the ninth and final installment in a position-by-position analysis of the New York Jets as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Secondary

Current personnel: CB Dee Milliner (signed through 2016), CB Dimitri Patterson (2014), CB Kyle Wilson (2014), S Dawan Landry (2014), S Antonio Allen (2015), CB Darrin Walls (2014), S Jaiquawn Jarrett (2014), CB Ellis Lankster (2014), CB Ras-I Dowling (2015), CB Johnny Patrick (2014), S Josh Bush (2015), S Rontez Miles (2016), CB Nick Taylor (2015), CB Lowell Rose (2016), CB Jeremy Reeves (2016), S Brandon Hardin (2014).

Projected starters: Milliner, Patterson, Landry, Allen.

Newcomers: Patterson (free agent/Miami Dolphins), Patrick (waivers/San Diego Chargers), Reeves (college free agent).

Departures: Antonio Cromartie (cut/Arizona Cardinals), Ed Reed (free agent), Isaiah Trufant (free agent/Cleveland Browns).

Top salary-cap charge: Milliner, $2.88 million.

Scouting report: The secondary needs help. The Jets allowed 15 pass plays of 40-plus yards, the fourth-highest total in the league. They surrendered 3,947 passing yards, the most by the franchise since 1986. A broken-down Reed made three interceptions in seven games -- and that was good enough to tie for the team lead. Need we go on? In free agency, they made only one significant move, essentially replacing Cromartie with Patterson. When healthy, Patterson is a playmaker, especially in the slot, but he hasn't been healthy in recent years. Cromartie played poorly last season, so maybe they figure anything they get out of Patterson is an upgrade. That's a risky way to do business. Rex Ryan needs at least three good corners to play his style of defense, and there are no sure things on the roster. Milliner capped an otherwise bad rookie season with a strong finish, but does that make him a legit No. 1 corner? If Milliner doesn't make a big leap, it's trouble.

Last DB drafted: They picked Milliner, ninth overall, last year.

Potential targets: There's a decent chance they could pick a corner in the first round (18). No fewer than seven corners made pre-draft visits to the Jets' facility, including the top four -- Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State), Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) and Bradley Roby (Ohio State). Dennard is the best scheme fit because he played a lot of man-to-man in college. Gilbert is a freakishly talented athlete with terrific ball skills, but he's not physical -- a younger version of Cromartie. Fuller can play in any scheme. Roby has "boom or bust" written all over him. Dennard, Gilbert and Fuller would be good value at 18. Keith McGill (Utah) is a possibility if they want to wait until the second or third round. Dex Mcdougle (Maryland) is a third-day option. The could use a cover safety, but Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) won't last until 18. Ryan's defense doesn't value safeties as much as other teams, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they wait until Day 3 to draft one, if then. Dez Southward (Wisconsin) is a late possibility.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): CB -- 10; S -- 7.

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