Sanchez's Saturday: Rookie Has Big Morning Practice

First a few updates:

1. I would have wrote an article last night about what we have learned through the first week of Jets training camp, but I got caught up in the 15 inning classic between the Yanks and Red Sox. What a game, and with the way CC is pitching as I type this (1 hit through 6 innings) it looks the Yankees might take the first three games of this series.

2. Movie Review of the Day – I saw “Funny People” during the week and I’d give it 2.5 out of 4 stars. There are some great 1 liners, the big guy from Superbad is real funny but the movie is wayyyy too long and the whole love plot line is very dull.

3. Abbreviated version of what we have learned from the first week of Jets training camp: Kellen Clemens can’t protect the football…Chansi Stuckey has been the Jets 2nd best receiver, behind Jerricho Cotchery…Wallace Wright has been their third best receiver…Marques Murrell is more active around the football than Vernon Gholston…the Jets secondary is going to be very, very good…Wayne Hunter is leading the battle to be the #2 tight end, ut oh…Shonn Greene is going to contribute on offense this year…Rex Ryan loves David Harris, Jamaal Westerman, and Dwight Lowery…Mark Sanchez is going to start week one against Houston unless there is a drastic turn of the events in the pre-season.

Sanchez’s Saturday: Rookie Has Big Morning Practice

Story of the Day: The Jets have decided to rotate their first team quarterback every other practice and today Mark Sanchez was under center with the 1’s and he didn’t disappoint. The rookie had his finest practice of training camp, going 10-19 and throwing two touchdowns, including a 40 yard post to Jerricho Cotchery over Darrelle Revis on the first 11 on 11 play. He then led a two minute drive that culminated in a 25 yard touchdown to Chansi Stuckey. Sanchez continued to show great command of the offense and the huddle and drew praise from numerous veterans after practice. Kellen Clemens continued to struggle, going 4-12 and throwing an interception. Regardless, Rex Ryan named Clemens the starter for the Jets pre-season opener against the Rams this Friday.

Opinion on Quarterback Battle: Ryan is giving Clemens the start only because he is the veteran. Unless Sanchez implodes, he will start the second pre-season game and every game after that. Sanchez has pulled ahead in the battle and it is doubtful that he will look back. He hasn’t turned the ball over as much as Clemens and is beginning to look comfortable in the offense, especially the two minute drill. More importantly, it appears the veterans are starting to gain some confidence in Sanchez.

A Vernon Gholston Sighting: #50 had a sack today! Gholston has been quiet all camp, being outplayed by Marques Murrell and Jamaal Westerman, hopefully he can start to turn it up in time for the Jets first pre-season game.

Rex Talks: Ryan was effusive in his praise of linebacker David Harris, who is having a very good camp. He also continues to talk up the secondary, which should have excellent depth. It will be interesting to see how the reps are divided up between Donald Strickland, Dwight Lowery, Eric Smith, and James Ihedigbo behind the four starters in the secondary.

Injury Updates: Keith Fitzhugh remains out with a shoulder injury but should be back by the end of the week. Shonn Greene rested his sore ankle today. Kris Jenkins is close to coming back. Bart Scott also has a sore hamstring, that I’m sure the Jets will be careful with. Tony Richardson remains out with a hip pointer.

Don’t Sleep on Wallace: Who would have thought that Wallace Wright would be in contention for serious reps at receiver? So far he has outplayed David Clowney, Brad Smith, and the recently hyped up rookie Britt Davis. Wright is a strong route runner, with decent enough size who has great hands, meaning he could be a quality option for reps at split end so they could slide Chansi Stuckey in the slot. Keep an eye on #15 this Friday.

Jets Positional Analysis: Safeties

First a few updates:

1. Yankees are one game out of first place because no matter what they can’t beat the Angels. The Mets would have a good shot of being in first place right now if they were in a AA league.

2. If you read the comments under the article on the home page entitled “End of the Weekend Jets Ramblings” you can find a prolonged debate between reader dmd13 and myself about Leon Washington. I am carving him up right now like Will Ferrell carved up James Carville in Old School.

Jets Positional Analysis: Safeties

Over the next 6 weeks, I am going to go through all of the Jets positions and assess each player, continuing today with the safeties:

1. Kerry Rhodes #25, Last Season: 84 Tackles, 1 Sack, 8 Tackles For Loss, 5 Passes Defensed, 2 Interceptions

History: Rhodes has been starting for the Jets since his rookie season in 2005, after the Jets selected him in the fourth round. He had a breakout season in 2006 and was robbed by not being selected to the pro-bowl for a season that saw him record 5 sacks, 4 INTs, 3 Forced Fumbles, 13 Passes Defensed, and 98 tackles. His numbers dipped slightly the year after and even further this past season. Many people blame Rhodes lack of big play production on Eric Mangini/Bob Sutton’s poor use of him and him lacking a partner at safety with range to cover and stop the run. The Jets signed Jim Leonhard this season to allow Rhodes to have more freedom and make plays for the defense.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Rhodes becomes New York’s version of Ed Reed and is constantly creating big plays in Rex Ryan’s attacking scheme. He makes his first pro-bowl appearance and establishes himself as one of the elite safeties in the game.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: His numbers continue to decline, making it look like 2006-2007 were fluke seasons for Rhodes.

Prediction: I think Rhodes is going to thrive in Rex Ryan’s system and he will be greatly aided by having Jim Leonhard, someone with strong pass coverage skills, next to him. Expect his numbers to be very similar to what they were in 2006.

2. Jim Leonhard #36, Last Season: 69 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 Tackle For Loss, 6 Passes Defensed, 1 INT, 1 Touchdown

History: Leonhard didn’t do much his first two seasons in the NFL but did an excellent job of stepping in for an injured Dawan Landry last season, showing his ability to play at this level. His play improved as the season went on and he had a huge impact in Baltimore’s playoff run. He is comfortable with Rex Ryan’s defensive scheme and should help Kerry Rhodes make plays in the same way his abilities helped Ed Reed make plays.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Leonhard builds on last season and gives the Jets consistent play at safety opposite Rhodes for the first time in years. He helps teach Ryan’s defense to the entire secondary, easing their transition to a new scheme.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Leonhard struggles adjusting to becoming a full time starter for an entire season. He eventually loses his job to Eric Smith, meaning the Jets wasted money signing him in the off-season.

Prediction: Leonhard will be a steady, consistent player in the Jets secondary. I dont’ expect tons of big plays from him but definitely a major improvement in pass coverage from Abram Elam last year.

3. Eric Smith #33, Last Season: 32 Tackles, 1 Tackle For Loss, 4 Passes Defensed, 1 INT

History: Smith was drafted by the Jets in 2006 and had a pretty good rookie season. He has struggled with injuries the past couple of season and didn’t seize the starting job last year when given the opportunity. However, he did have a good mini-camp/OTA’s recording numerous interceptions and impressing Rex Ryan.

Chance of Making Roster: 100%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Smith develops into a valuable role player on defense and continues to play well on special teams. If Jim Leonhard or Kerry Rhodes gets hurt he is able to step in and do the job adequately.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: Smith struggles to find a role on the defense and doesn’t provide any valuable reps to the unit.

Prediction: Smith will be a quality third safety for the Jets and contribute in some nickle and dime packages, while also playing special teams.

4. James Ihedigbo #44, Last Season: 8 Tackles, 1 Killer Holding Penalty on Special Teams

History: Ihedigbo has bounced around the Jets practice squad and inactive roster the past couple of years. However, he was active for a few games last season but unfortunately his most memorable play was a holding call that brought back a Leon Washington kick return touchdown against the 49ers. Rex Ryan did say he liked what he saw from him during OTA’s as the Jets #4 safety.

Chance of Making Roster: 75%

Best Case Scenario for 2009: Ihedigbo is the Jets #4 safety and a core special teams player.

Worst Case Scenario for 2009: He gets cut because he is beat out by one of the Jets UDFA’s.

Prediction: I expect him to make the roster and be the number 4 safety.

The Rest of the Guys:

5. Emanuel Cook #38 – A UDFA who probably should have been drafted but has some character issues. He has some talent and has been compared to Abram Elam because of his hard hitting style of play.

6. Keith Fitzhugh #37 – Another UDFA who will compete for a roster spot as a special teams player and reserve DB.

Overall Position Analysis: Rhodes and Leonhard will be the starters, with Smith providing a quality backup to both spots. Ihedigbo should be the fourth safety but keep an eye on Cook during training camp.

Highlight of New Jets Player of the Day: Safety Jim Leonhard records a sack and has a nice punt return on consecutive plays last year: