Football in April? It sounds weird to even think about but because the Jets have a new coaching staff they get to start their voluntary practices a little earlier than most teams. With all the smokescreens and NFL draft hot takes today’s practice of actual football related activities couldn’t have come at a better time for my sanity.
If you’re hoping to get any concrete answers on the final 53-man roster, how the new offense will look or how dominate can this defense be, you’re about to be severely disappointed because there’s not a lot that can be gleaned from today’s practice.
“First day, nobody’s going to make the team in shorts and a tee-shirt,” Todd Bowles said. “So, there’s no promotions or demotions going on. It’s just a matter of learning the system offensively and defensively and we lined up today pretty good and we probably can function as a touch football league right now.”
With an entire new coaching staff in place it’s not only the media who has to feel out the changes, practices are all about installs at this point and of course nothing is really being run at full speed. But to give you a taste at what we saw today I’ll run through what stood out to me the most today.
Brandon Marshall is a big man. I mean, I knew he was big, everyone knows he’s a big receiver, but seeing him just a few feet in front of my own eyes gave me a different perspective of just how big.
Last year it was newcomer Eric Decker who I was so excited to watch because of how crisp and clean his routes were, we’ll it’s the same with Marshall but with a bigger and more powerful frame. And damn, Marshall is smooth with the way he glides in and out of his cuts.
Under Rex Ryan the Jets had so many penalties pushups in practice became a regular thing as Ryan tried desperately to coach the penalties out of them. Today I only saw one player doing pushups and it was Marshall. Drop a pass, do some pushups. Being subbed out and taking a break, hell do some more pushups. He’s a knuckles guy too incase you were wondering.
Marshall has a reputation for being a hard worker and that was clearly on display today. He also has a reputation as being a sort of social butterfly with his teammates and that was just as easy to see as he and his teammates were clearly having fun today.
Geno Smith did not have a good day. I tweeted this out earlier basically just to see how many people would respond with “cut him now” or something of that nature and of course the people did not let me down. I wasn’t lying, Smith didn’t look good, but I knew I was basically committing troll-entrapment with that tweet.
It was just one practice, with a new system being installed before our eyes (literally, we saw offensive coaches hand the quarterbacks play-sheets going into huddles) and it is only April. I’m not saying the Smith doubters shouldn’t remain skeptical but today’s practice should have zero bearing on that skepticism.
Smith made a few really nice throws but mostly he was all over the place, low, behind, over throws, under throws. Still with practice not running at full speed and the entire team learning the installs on the fly some of those bad throws could have easily been on the receivers and I wouldn’t know.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is still working his way back from his season-ending injury last year but he did do some light throwing and looked pretty good doing it but he was just throwing. There was nothing else to it so it’s impossible to take anything away from that.
Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie have returned. Let’s be honest this is what most of you really care about. As a fan of the sport of football, with a special affinity for defense, I admit it was good to see Revis and Cromartie back. Watching Ryan play mix-and-match with a patchwork secondary last season was hard for these beautiful, defensive loving, eyes to watch.
Cromartie had a bit more energy than Revis today, as he was frolicking all over the place, but Revis was plenty competitive himself and made a few standard Revis plays. Revis was late on one play against Marshall though, Marshall hit Revis with a sharp comeback and caught it as Revis tried to catchup and wound up draped all over Marshall’s back as he made the catch and turned upfield.
Marcus Gilchrist, Dexter McDougle and Dee Milliner didn’t participate in any team drills as they are all rehabbing injuries but Milliner is clearly taking this opportunity to learn from Revis and Cromartie. As Milliner was watching team drills from the sidelines he saw Revis and Cromartie coming off the field for a break and he hustled right over to them to pick their brains.
The offensive line is far from set. Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey are experimenting with a ton of different combinations on the offensive line. They rotated multiple players in with the first team guards and had Brian Winters play some center on the second team.
“We’ll move a lot of guys around early, incase of injuries,” Bowles said. “During the season a lot of injuries happen so there’s a lot of guys being moved across the line just to get some reps incase of an emergency.”
They’re trying to play some mix-and-match and see what happens and it’s a good thing they have months to sort those answers out because they’re going to need to get that right before they start playing actual games. They could also use a reinforcement or two from the draft but we’ll get into that over the next few days.
Muhammad Wilkerson wasn’t the only player not in attendance. As we all know, Wilkerson won’t be attending these voluntary practices as he tries to create leverage to get an extension, but he wasn’t the only player that wasn’t at practice. Sheldon Richardson, Calvin Pryor and Jeremy Kerley also were not in Florham Park today. None of those three are angling for new contracts or anything and Bowles said those payers have shown up at times during the offseason but, again, these are just voluntary workouts. Those three should be back soon, as for Wilkerson we’ll have to wait and see.
Speaking of Wilkerson ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier today that a couple of teams have called the Jets to gauge potential interest in trading for Wilkerson. That’s it, the report stopped there. Teams calling to ask about Wilkerson doesn’t mean anything, the Jets response is all that matters and since nothing was reported on that front I think we can safely assume those GMs heard the dial tone pretty quick.
Minicamp tryouts. Every year teams bring in unrestricted free agents to give them tryouts during minicamp. Teams get a quick look at them and see if anyone pops out as deserving of a longer look in training camp. This year the Jets brought in RB David Fluellen (Toledo), TE Sean McGrath (Henderson State), WR Aaron Mellette (Elon), QB Casey Pachall (TCU), DL Donte Rumph (Kentucky) and safety Lavelle Westbrook (Georgia Southern).
Quinton Coples wins quote of the day. Coples was asked how his role changes in Bowles system as opposed to Ryan’s system. Coples paused briefly, cracked a giant smile and said “Well, I don’t jam receivers anymore.”
After the laughter Coples added “Other than that, a lot more rushing (the passer). So, I’ll be going against the quarterback a lot. But I will be dropping (into coverage) a little bit as well, but a lot more going for it. They don’t need me in coverage no more as you guys can tell (laughs).”