NFL Nation: Rex Ryan

Jets get defensive -- after the game

August, 17, 2014
Aug 17
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CINCINNATI -- From the first whistle to the final tape-recorder click in the postgame interviews, the New York Jets were the New York Bullies. Still smarting from last year's 40-point blowout loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, they went into Paul Brown Stadium Saturday night with an attitude seldom seen in the preseason. They played like hockey goons, offering no apologies for seven personal-foul penalties. They defended their beleaguered secondary with a "How-dare-you-question-us?" chippiness.

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Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsBengals receiver Mohamed Sanu's 43-yard score on what Rex Ryan called blown coverage was but one example of the Jets' secondary struggles.
Rex Ryan was so prickly in his postgame news conference that it made you think, "Wow, who poured lemonade in his Skyline chili?"

The Jets beat the Bengals, 25-17, but forget about the outcome. Their starting defense -- specifically, the secondary -- was torched by Andy Dalton & Co. That was the most important takeaway from the game -- that, and the way they reacted to the postgame inquisition. Clearly, Ryan used the occasion (the scene of last year's debacle) and the adversity (patchwork secondary) to instill an attitude in his team -- a method to the madness, if you will.

"I won't be answering any questions about the secondary," Ryan said at the top of his presser. "Dalton looked like a $100 million quarterback."

It was a lighthearted comment, but then came the snark. He wondered why anyone wanted his opinion on the secondary because the stories already were written, meaning: The secondary stinks, the Jets are in trouble.

There's certainly cause for concern. With a safety playing cornerback (Antonio Allen), and two backups in the staring lineup (safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and cornerback Ellis Lankster), the Jets made Dalton look like a young Boomer Esiason. He completed all eight of his passes for 144 yards and a touchdown, leading the Bengals to 17 points in three series. Allen allowed a 35-yard pass to A.J. Green, who got away with a push. Kyle Wilson got beat for a 43-yard touchdown by Mohamed Sanu, although Ryan claimed it was a blown coverage and not Wilson's fault. The only bright spot was rookie safety Calvin Pryor, who recovered a fumble and broke up a pass with a big hit.

"Obviously, we've got work to do," Ryan sniffed. "How do you evaluate Calvin Pryor? Do you give him a plus? I don't know, I think he forced two fumbles and knocked some dudes out. I guess we were right about that one. We'll be right on our corners, too. We'll sort it out."

Right now, five cornerbacks are hurt, but the biggest names are Dee Milliner and Dimitri Patterson, the projected starters. Patterson should be back soon, but his injury history suggests he won't make too long before the next ailment. Milliner could be back by opening day. This was an issue before training camp because they failed to adequately address the position in free agency, and now it's glaring.

Ryan was asked if they have to acquire a veteran corner.

"I don't think Willie Brown is out there," Ryan snapped. "Maybe he is, but he's 60 years old."

The Hall of Famer is actually 73 years old. If Ryan's pass defense doesn't improve, he'll feel that old by the second quarter of the season -- the Missiles of October. That's when they face Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive weeks.

Worried? Not Ryan.

"I rely on what I know, which is 20-something years of experience," he said. "That gives me plenty of confidence."

Linebacker Demario Davis bristled when it was suggested the team doesn't have "elite" corners.

"Who said they're not?" he asked a reporter.

They're not, he was told.

"You can say that after one game?" Davis replied.

Allen played the entire first half with the starters but was tested only once by Dalton -- the long completion to Green. All things considered, it wasn't a bad debut for Allen, but let's not be naive: If it had been a regular-season game, the Bengals would've attacked him. Allen said he wasn't intimidated by having to cover Green, one of the best.

"I was just thinking, it's going to be an all-out fight, me and him, best man wins," Allen said.

Allen's physical attitude spread through the entire team, which crossed the line on several occasions. Most of the personal fouls came from the offensive line, with Brian Winters and Breno Giacomini incurring two apiece. At times, the Jets looked undisciplined. Ironically, the secondary wasn't penalized -- a stunner, considering the current climate in the league. Maybe the corners couldn't get close enough to foul.

Go ahead, laugh. Allen said the secondary is aware of the criticism, and is planning to use it as fuel.

"It motivates us a lot," he said.

No doubt, the Jets came to Cincinnati with something to prove. That they approached a preseason game with such attitude might be foolish, but maybe it's not a bad thing. Ryan is trying to set a tone for the season.

"We're not here to take anyone's stuff," Ryan said, bristiling. "Period."
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The New York Jets' meandering search to replace cornerback Antonio Cromartie included flirtations with Vontae Davis (a rejection) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had the audacity to take an offer from the New York Giants. Despite some pro-Darrelle Revis sentiment in the organization, the Jets decided not to pursue Revis 2.0. In the end, they made Dimitri Patterson their Big Free-Agent Cornerback.

The response from Jets Nation?

A collective groan.

Patterson
Who?

Patterson understands the sentiment, but he has a message for the skeptics: I'm just as good as the big names.

"Fans like high profiles. I don't have a high profile, but my film is legit," he said during a break at training camp. "When the season comes, I'll show everyone why I've been in the league so long.

"Vontae and all those guys, they were first-round picks," Patterson continued. "That's all cool, but as far as ability and responsibility, are they asked to do more than I've been asked to do over nine years? No. Have they been more productive on the perimeter? No, that's not the case at all. My tape shows that it's just a matter of me coming out and showing fans, 'Hey, let me show you.'"

The Jets have an interesting pair of cornerbacks. Dee Milliner thinks he's the best in the NFL (child, please) and Patterson, with his sixth team in 10 years, believe he was one of the biggest steals in free agency. The Jets signed him for one year, $3 million. If they turn out to be right, they will have their best cornerback tandem since 2011, when it was Revis and Cromartie.

Patterson said he has no intention of tainting the Jets' reputation at corner.

"There's a lot of scrutiny at this position because you had Revis and Cromartie," he said. "They were consistently competitive, year-in, year-out, with those guys at corner, so there's a standard that has been set. That's what the fans are accustomed to, so it's only natural to be concerned. My message to them is, don't be concerned."

Patterson is one confident dude for someone who hasn't played much in recent years due to injuries. In fact, he's missed 32 games the last three seasons (the last two with the Miami Dolphins), but he believes in his ability and he believes he's an ideal fit in the Jets' man-to-man scheme.

"Jets fans aren't familiar with me -- they don't have game tape -- so they have to trust that John Idzik and Rex (Ryan) did their due diligence, researching me," Patterson said. "If my résumé said, 'Cover-2, zone corner,' I wouldn't be here."

To get a complete evaluation of Patterson, the Jets had to study his pre-2012 tape. They see a savvy corner with elite ball skills and versatility, capable of playing outside or in the slot. Opposing scouts say he's much better in the slot, that it might be a stretch to play him on the perimeter.

"The guy understands the game and he understands the big picture, and you don't find a lot of guys like that," secondary coach Tim McDonald said.

Ryan said they didn't sign Patterson because he was the last man standing in the free-agent pool, claiming he was on their radar from the outset. Idzik probably didn't want to spend money on a big name, so he took the cheaper route -- a one-year stop gap and a draft pick (Dexter McDougle in the third round). It's risky, considering all the top quarterbacks they face in the first two months of the season. If the Jets get torched, oh, boy, the decision makers will get criticized.

Don't worry, Patterson said.

"I'll show the fans," he said.

Jets camp report: Reporting day

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A few hot topics from Wednesday at the New York Jets' training camp:

You can't have too many pass rushers: The Jets made a smart move, signing the well-traveled Jason Babin to a two-year contract -- assuming the money isn't ridiculous. Obviously, the 34-year-old Babin is on the downside of his career, but he led the Jacksonville Jaguars in two important categories last season -- sacks (7.5) and snaps among the defensive linemen (772). One of the Jets' goals this summer was to identify another edge rusher to add to Calvin Pace, Quinton Coples, etc. If healthy, Antwan Barnes would be that guy, but he's not close to returning from last year's knee surgery. Rex Ryan, explaining the importance of pass-rushing depth, mentioned two recent Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants. Yep, it's a copycat league. That the Jaguars cut Babin three months after giving him a $500,000 signing bonus is a bit curious, but that's hardly a concern for the Jets.

CJ2K is back: The most important development of the day, though not surprising, was Chris Johnson's proclamation that he's been cleared by Dr. James Andrews to participate in training camp. He spent the last month training in Orlando and showed up Wednesday in terrific shape, "flying" in the conditioning run, according to Ryan. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Of all the new additions on offense, Johnson is the one with the potential to make the greatest impact. When healthy, he's one of the fastest running backs in the league, and the Jets need speed in the backfield.

Where have you gone, Joe McKnight? Apparently, there are no McKnights on this season's roster. You might recall that McKnight started to play his way off the team last summer by flunking the mandatory conditioning run. This year, no one failed the test, according to Ryan. That, he said, never happened before in his head-coaching tenure. Presumably, this means the Jets reported to camp in tip-top shape. Barnes and guard Willie Colon (knee) passed the conditioning test, yet they still landed on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Don't worry about Colon; he's not that far away from being activated. Barnes? That could take some time.

The anti-Revis: Not that there was any doubt, but defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson did, in fact, report to camp, backing up previous statements in which he vowed not to stage a contract holdout. He said he never considered a holdout for a second, claiming he wouldn't be acting like a team leader if he pulled a no-show. Truth be told, he doesn't have much leverage to get a new contract, considering he's signed through 2015 and the daily fine would've been $30,000. But give him credit for taking the high road, trying to be a team player -- something Darrelle Revis never did in the past. Now we'll see if Wilkerson's anti-Revis approach has any sway with the powers-that-be.
Rex Ryan showed his new boss last season that, even when speaking softly, he still carried a big enough stick to squeeze eight wins out of a team with modest talent. The New York Jets' coach received a well-deserved contract extension.

Now, with the Jets reporting to training camp Wednesday in Cortland, New York, for Year 2 of the Ryan-John Idzik era, we start to learn a lot more about the other half of the leadership tandem, the quiet man who prefers to stay out of the spotlight.

This is Idzik's time.

[+] EnlargeMilliner
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDee Milliner is one of John Idzik's draft picks that needs to produce for the Jets.
It's impossible to evaluate a general manager after one season, especially in a rebuilding situation, but the landscape changes after two drafts and two rounds of free agency. In the NFL, that’s enough time to get a team from the 6-10 mess that Idzik inherited into the playoffs.

Idzik's predecessors, Terry Bradway in 2001 and Mike Tannenbaum in 2006, reached the postseason in their first seasons as GMs. Go back further, and you will remember that Bill Parcells made it to the AFC Championship Game in his second year as the GM/coach.

Even though Idzik is operating on a long-term plan, evidenced by his emphasis on the draft and his deliberate approach in free agency, an 0-for-2 start wouldn't look good on his résumé. He shouldn't be on the New York Mets' Sandy Alderson timeline, meaning he has to move faster than a glacier. It's just the way of the NFL.

Idzik has been around long enough to put his stamp on the team. He signed, re-signed and drafted most of the projected starters. In fact, only seven starters can be considered true holdovers from the previous administration: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Muhammad Wilkerson, David Harris, Damon Harrison, Quinton Coples and Demario Davis.

It's easy to notice they're the best guys on the team, Tannenbaum guys. Idzik needs to get some of his guys on that list. He already has Sheldon Richardson. By the end of the season, the list of top homegrowns should also include Geno Smith, Dee Milliner and Calvin Pryor. If Smith and Milliner are missing, the Jets will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season, which won’t bode well for Ryan's job security.

Idzik has the Jets pointed in the right direction, and the strides they made last season can't be dismissed. But let's be honest: They overachieved. They were one of the softest 8-8 teams in history, and you can look it up. Their point differential was minus-97, the largest since the 1970 merger for any team with at least eight wins.

The talent base should be improved this season, especially with the additions of Eric Decker and Chris Johnson. Decker was Idzik's one big splurge in free agency, his one Tannenbaum-like move. Johnson and Michael Vick will be one-and-done players, worthwhile Band-Aids who won't ruin the master plan if they fizzle. The offseason proved, once again, that Idzik won't deviate from his script no matter how much salary-cap room he has at his disposal. For the record, there's about $22 million as of today.

Idzik is doing it the right way, avoiding the temptation of the quick fix. That will pay off in the long run, but there will be problems along the way. For instance: Failing to sign a top cornerback in free agency was a mistake that could be exposed early in the season, when they face several elite quarterbacks. The cornerback issue will be exacerbated if Milliner fails to develop as hoped.

The Jets believe Milliner, drafted ninth overall, will be a special player, basing much of their opinion on his strong finish. The same theory can be applied to the quarterback situation with Smith. They're placing a lot of weight on those last four games, and that can be dangerous when you consider the competition. They beat three also-rans, three teams with mediocre (at best) quarterbacks: the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins.

Now, after seven months of positive mojo, the Jets can prove it wasn't a mirage. If Idzik's investments mirror the stock market, they'll be a playoff team. If it goes the other way, he'll hear the criticism, good and loud. The honeymoon is over. This is Idzik's time.
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.

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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
10:00
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

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.

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