Turn On The Jets sent staff writer Chris Gross up to Cortland yesterday to report from New York Jets camp. Here are his observations. Feel free to submit those miles for reimbursement from the TOJ headquarters office Chris –
After visiting the New York Jets next-to-final practice in Cortland this past Tuesday, not only did I come away with several observations, but I also got a much better feel for the identity of both the team, and a number of particular players. When observing the team this closely in person, a few things stand out right from the start as strikingly evident. Others revealed themselves throughout the course of the practice, many of which I was surprised with, some of which I expected.
As physically talented as Stephen Hill appears on film, it really does him no justice until seeing him play in person. Hill is extremely gifted and it is obvious just in the way he moves, runs, or does anything athletic. In One on One Wide Receiver/Defensive Back drills, Hill beat Darrelle Revis deep for a Touchdown on each of his first two reps. Seemingly irked by this, Revis finished the remaining two reps of the drill by buckling down and being extremely physical with Hill, not allowing him to get deep, while breaking up each of the two underneath passes thrown at him. This matchup seems like it is developing into a very nice practice rivalry and should be extremely beneficial to both players.
Hill is getting experience each day against the best Cornerback in all of football, while Revis is getting reps against a big target with great speed who can stretch the field at any moment. Hill showed great poise and confidence, as he did not shy away from Revis once. He seems to realize the opportunity to improve by going up against the All-World Cornerback, and watching him, you really get the sense that he is eager to challenge himself with this matchup. While Hill likely respects the stature of Revis, he is certainly not intimidated by him. He has a long way to go, but Hill can be an absolute star in this league, sooner rather than later.
Offensive Line Coach Dave DeGuglielmo is a perfect fit for this team. I stood about five feet from the Offensive Line during individual drills and one thing evident about DeGuglielmo is that he holds everyone accountable, including Pro Bowlers like Nick Mangold and D’Brichashaw Ferguson. He coaches his group up on every rep whether it be in live action or running plays on air. He is constantly tentative to footwork, technique, and most importantly, execution.
Vlad Ducasse is as advertised. Ducasse is very physically gifted, and passes the eye test as an NFL Offensive Lineman for sure, however one of his main problems is his inability to play low. Even when simply hitting the sled, usually a time to exaggerate technique with no live competition on the other side of the ball, Ducasse would sprout right up. While running through drills in the chutes, Ducasse hit his head on the top more than once, and was reprimanded by DeGuglielmo for his lack of technique. To me, Ducasse’s consistent inability to play low shows laziness, and unless he fixes both of these issues quickly, he will likely remain on the sidelines on Sundays.
Robert T. Griffin has improved greatly since we evaluated his college game film following the draft. Griffin is one of the biggest guys on the field and seems to be extremely coachable, which is likely the reason for his early improvement. His technique is greater than what you’d expect of a sixth round rookie, and he really seems to focus on all the little things like stance, steps, footwork, etc. His potential can be very high due to his physical tools and coachability.
The Defensive Line and Secondary are the strengths of this team. This should really comes as no surprise to anyone, but as a unit, the Defensive Line seems to have the best cohesion out of any other group on the team. Combined with the immense talent across the board on the defensive front is a very strong work ethic. Karl Dunbar does an excellent job as both a teacher and motivator. During run read drills with the Offensive Line, Dunbar was heard belting out plenty of excitement for his guys, while stressing all of the little things, like DeGuglielmo. First round pick Quinton Coples and Aaron Maybin were moved all around in various fronts, and it should be very interesting to see how each of these guys are used this year, considering their immense talent and potential.
As for the secondary, this is probably the most talented unit on the team. It is really amazing to see the immense skill of Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Kyle Wilson in person. The new safeties seem to mesh well with these guys, and they all communicate with each other while on the field. You can feel the veteran savvy of LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell patrolling the back half of the defense. They seem extremely comfortable out there.
The biggest thing I took away from practice on Tuesday was the impression made by Mark Sanchez. The 4th year pro out of Southern California looked terrific, not only in his throws, but in his heightened level of command, his improved demeanor, and his overall leadership ability. He shows a level of confidence that he has yet to express since coming into the league, and certainly seems to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder. While watching him, not only play, but communicate with his teammates, you can just feel his attitude, that this is his team, his offense, and things are going to be done his way. His chemistry with Tight End Dustin Keller is uncanny, and it shows on the field. To me, this has been a bit overlooked, but their relationship seems to go beyond any other relationship on the team. Their timing is flawless; seemingly sharing the same train of though on nearly every play. Because of this, Keller is poised for a breakout season.
Tim Tebow is physically gifted. Tebow is extremely big in person, particularly in his lower body. He was among the first players on the field prior to practice, as he was warming up with some of the receivers and tight ends. One thing I noticed about him, though, is that his long throwing motion is exaggerated. While his wind-up is certainly longer than that of the average NFL Quarterback, it is not nearly as bad as people make it out to be. His arm strength is very good, but in terms of accuracy, he is not on par with Mark Sanchez. Tebow will certainly contribute this season, mostly as a runner, but also as more of a passer than most people are expecting. However, after watching both of them in person, I would not expect Tebow to dethrone Sanchez as the starter at any point this season.
The Running Back situation is a serious cause for concern. While Shonn Greene got the most reps with the first unit, with Bilal Powell working in, and Joe McKnight getting in some situational work, none of these backs truly stand out. Not one of them demonstrates the tools or ability to be a feature back. While this group is certainly not terrible by any means, each of these players are average at best. A move to add a veteran like Ryan Grant needs to be made.
The Rest of the Rest:
Rookie WR Jordan White got extended reps with Santonio Holmes, and eventually Stephen Hill, being out of practice. With these reps, I thought White practiced very well. He had an amazing back shoulder catch on the sideline with Darrelle Revis on him during team drills, prompting a chest bump from Sanchez. Revis had great coverage on the play, but the ball was thrown perfectly, and White made a great play on it. White’s work ethic is very obvious and he seems to take pride in every drill that he does.
Josh Baker looked very good and he will likely be used in a number of various roles this season. He is certainly one of the more versatile weapons on the offense, and it will be interesting to see how Sparano utilizes that.
Rookie Linebacker DeMario Davis played in a lot of nickel and third down sub packages, and seemed to be grasping the defense a little at a time. His athleticism is fantastic, but mentally he still seems like he has a bit to get down.
Marcus Dowtin was very impressive in limited action. The undrafted rookie out of North Alabama saw reps at both Safety and Linebacker, and obtained a sack on Greg McElroy on a blitz right through the middle, where he came through untouched. He reminds me of a heavier version of James Ihedigbo, and if he makes the roster, he could be used as a situational player on third downs, either as a blitzer or in coverage.