The 2012 New York Jets have countless story lines and question marks surrounding them heading into this pivotal year for both Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez. Following the conclusion of today’s third, and final, mini-camp practice, the Jets will not be together in their entirety until the beginning of training camp at the end of July. A lot can be taken from the OTA’s and mini-camp period of the off-season, however, it is important to remember that the regular season is still months from kickoff and absolutely nothing is set in stone yet. For this week’s New York Jets Fact Or False, we’ll examine six of the most prevalent headlines as we begin the early transition from the offseason into the preseason.
1.) Santonio Holmes is still the team villain. Fact. While Santonio Holmes has gone through great efforts to stay out of the spotlight all offseason, while seemingly working to repair his fractured relationship with Mark Sanchez, as well as saving some time to visit with injured U.S. Military Troops in Germany, it took number 10 only one day of practice to grab the headlines in a negative way. After struggling to fulfill his desired number of reps during the first day of mini-camp, Holmes reportedly threw his helmet as he came off of the field, while expressing his disapproval for the workload he was expected to achieve in his first day back with the team.
While this was likely just a simple act of frustration from the ultra-competitive Holmes, Tone has to realize that everything he does will be under heavy scrutiny this season, particularly acting out like this in a practice session open to the media. It is certainly understandable that highly spirited athletes are often emotional, however Holmes is in a unique situation. The majority of media outlets are seemingly waiting for him to implode, so he needs to be smart about repairing his image, if he truly intends to do so. Until then, Holmes will remain portrayed as the villain of the Jets, and the majority of the moves he makes will be painted in a negative light, until he changes the perception of himself in the media.
2.) The more rigorous strength and conditioning program is the reason for the early hamstring plague. False. Among others, Holmes and rookie WR Stephen Hill each missed practice time this week due to tweaked hamstrings. Yesterday, ESPN’s Rich Cimini hinted at the idea that the cause for the ongoing hamstring issues in mini-camp were related to the more intense weight room regiment. While an increase in strenuous muscle activity could contribute to some types of injury if not conditioned well enough, this is the NFL. The players and coaches are professionals, and experts in their respective trades. An NFL level strength and conditioning coach is certainly capable of implementing stretching and flexibility techniques to decrease the risk of muscle related injuries.
While it is easy to assume that an increase in weight room intensity is an underlying cause for the recent run of hamstring issues, it is more likely a case getting back into playing shape. The most durable NFL players usually have the most strenuous offseason programs. During his time with the New York Giants, Tiki Barber was known for having one of the most intense weight room regiments out of any player in the league, and as a result, missed only six total games throughout the span of his ten year career, four of which came during his rookie season. Strength training does not increase the risk of injury, but more commonly reduces it.
3) Tim Tebow will be playing just about everything other than “traditional” Quarterback this season. Fact. While Tebow is the backup quarterback, he was not brought to New York for that reason. Conversely, he was not brought here to be the starter either. The Jets traded for Tebow to be the excellent football player they know he is. He has reported to mini-camp at a career high 249 lbs, and reports indicate that the Jets would still like him to add weight. By traditional standards, there aren’t any 250 lb athletes with the overall football skills of Tebow serving as pocket passers. The added weight will allow Tebow to serve more effectively as an all around football player, particularly in an H-Back, Running Back type role. Over his two seasons in the NFL, Tebow has rushed for 887 yards and 12 touchdowns, with a very impressive 5.4 yards per carry.
There will surely be a good amount of Wild Cat QB thrown in for Tebow as well, especially with the newly hired Tony Sparano’s knowledge of the system, coupled with Rex Ryan’s infatuation with it. In fact, since Ryan has come to New York, the Jets have the highest total yards per play out of the Wildcat in the entire NFL during that time frame, at 6.1 YPP. Expect Tebow to serve as a jack-of-all-trades for Gang Green this season, while seeing very little, if any, time as the regular quarterback.
4.) David Harris will finally get his much deserved recognition this season. False. Is there a more underrated defensive player in the NFL than David Harris? Since being drafted by the Jets in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Harris is averaging 102.8 tackles, 3.9 sacks, and 1 interception per season over his first five years in the league, while never being selected to a single Pro Bowl. Yes, he was a second team All-Pro in 2009, but has been snubbed by for the Pro Bowl in each year of his impressive NFL Career. In 2007, Harris’s rookie campaign, he tallied 127 tackles, including 90 solo, 5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. His AFC counterpart DeMeco Ryans was elected as the starter to the Pro Bowl that same season, although he registered only one more tackle than Harris, with three fewer sacks. Similarly, Ray Lewis was elected as the reserve at middle linebacker that same season despite notching seven fewer tackles and three fewer sacks than Harris. Sure, Ryans had collected over 150 tackles in the season prior, and Ray Lewis is, well, Ray Lewis, but this tells you all you need to know about how far under the radar Harris has flown since entering the league.
Although Harris has been the most consistent player on the team not named Darrelle Revis over the past few seasons, he still receives very little, if any, recognition. Although the Jets linebacker corps is one of the biggest question marks of the defense as we head into July, they have still received a fair amount of publicity during mini-camp. However, the spotlight has once again left the Hitman in the dark as the focus has been primarily on the revival of Bart Scott and the possible emergence of rookie DeMario Davis. Harris is a staple, not only of the defense, but also of the entire team, yet he often goes without mention when it comes discussing the vital keys to New York’s successes. Harris will likely rank in the top 2 in tackles among defensive players this season, yet few words will likely be printed about the 5 year veteran out of Michigan.
5.) The Jets have their defensive core of the next generation in Quinton Coples, DeMario Davis, and Josh Bush. Fact. The three of these rookies have all been heavily involved in mini-camp practices. Coples will be starting from day one, as expected, and according to reports out of practice, it is with good reason. Coples has been very impressive during his first early practices as a Jet, and the new scheme will surely maximize his skill set. The Jets were criticized for passing on Melvin Ingram, but now with their intentions to use more 46 and 4-3 looks this season, the move to select Coples is beginning to become more praised each day. The 16th overall selection out of North Carolina is out to prove the Jets organization right, and all of his many doubters wrong. Expect nothing less from Coples this season and beyond.
As for Davis and Bush, there was a good chance they would be playing a significant role this year due to the lack of depth at their respective positions. Bush is the only true free safety on the roster that is capable of playing the center field role in the secondary, and Davis is brings some much needed speed to the linebacker corps. Each of these players have been running with certain first team sub packages, and expect them each to play a heavier role as the season progresses, while serving on special teams.
The three of these young players certainly have the potential to fill as the core of the defense down the road. By the time they are entering the primes of their careers, Muhammed Wilkerson will be right there with them, while Darrelle Revis will likely still be the best corner in football and David Harris will be young enough to remain as a very important piece of the defense. If each of them can fulfill their potential, the defense will have the potential to be ranked among the best in the league for years to come.
6.) Chad Ochocinco will get off of Revis Island in 2012. False. To quote Ochocinco himself, “Child Please.” In his 6 career games against Darrelle Revis, Ochocinco has compiled only 16 catches for 289 yards, with no touchdowns. Those numbers average out to about 2.67 receptions for 48.17 yards per contest. With the artist formerly known as Chad Johnson entering the twilight of his career, coupled with the nightmare that is the Dophins’ quarterback situation, Ocho would be wise to set up his beach chair and lather up with sunscreen because Revis Island will be his residency for two of the sixteen weeks this season.