FLORHAM PARK, NJ - The Jets took to the practice field for the first time since their poor performance in Detroit and Todd Bowles made sure they went live to put a heavy emphasis on tackling. The sound of shoulder pads popping and helmets cracking cranked up the intensity of practice which is exactly what this team needed.
Fans have been asking a lot about Jeremy Kerley and except for the fact that he was seeing second-team reps there hasn’t been much to talk about. But that changed today as Kerley was the star of the day. Kerley was still mostly running with the second-team though he did see a lot of action with the first-team whenever the offense went into a four-wide formation.
Kerley’s demotion was surprising in itself at first but with the team drafting Devin Smith it at least made sense to try and get Smith as many reps with the first-team as possible and Smith’s particular skill set of being a deep-threat was exactly what a receiving core built around Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker needed. But when Smith broke his ribs it was Chris Owusu, not Kerley, who saw himself get the first-team reps which was, again, surprising but it also made sense considering Owusu’s speed and deep-threat ability plus Owusu was having an outstanding camp at that point. But when Owusu suffered a concussion and had to miss time recovering under the concussion protocol it was Quincy Enunwa getting the first-team reps with Kerley still firmly stuck with the twos.
This was mind-boggling and today Kerley showed the coaching staff why everyone else seemed so confused that Kerley seemed to be such an after-thought. Kerley showed off his speed, his crisp route-running ability and his strong hands, making one catch after another. In fact the most impressive catch of the day wasn’t actually a catch. Kerley made a leaping one-handed catch on a fade route in the end zone, covered by Antonio Cromartie, and even though he was only able to stick one foot inbounds he made such an impressive grab as he went to the ground that the failure to tap the second toe can be overlooked for training camp purposes.
Speaking of Cromartie, Jets fans have been hearing about him getting beat all training camp and you will hear those stories again today but he also made an incredible interception, diving in front of a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass, as well as deflecting a couple other throws. However if you’re looking for a standout on defense from today it was Calvin Pryor. Pryor had himself an interception and broke up multiple other passes, he constantly stepped up to fill rushing lanes and it just seemed like no matter where the ball went Pryor was right there to make sure it wouldn’t go any further down the field.
On top of his performance on the field Pryor could be seen/heard barking orders and assignments to his secondary teammates from the sidelines. Pryor knew exactly where everyone was supposed to be and was quick to hold his teammates accountable when they made the wrong read and explain to them what they did wrong. Pryor made plenty of mistakes himself last year and made a few more in the preseason game against the Lions but today he was making plays on the field and acting as an extra coach on the sidelines.
One of the main positives from the Lions game was the way the Jets offense was able to run the ball and today we saw more of that as the offensive line was able to consistently get good push and open up holes for the running backs.
And of course we can’t have a practice report without taking about the quarterbacks. With Geno Smith out with the broken jaw Ryan Fitzpatrick becomes the first-team quarterback and Bryce Petty jumps up to the second-team. Both quarterbacks came out strong, looking like they were well on their way to having their best practices of camp, but they both faded as the practice continued.
Petty still had his best practice of camp but he threw a horrible looking interception to Marcus Williams and a few of his other passes sailed way off target but overall he looked fairly good today. When he was at his best he was on the move, rolling out and letting the ball rip. Petty has a strong arm but he tends to throw with just his arm, not using his legs or hips to drive the ball, but when he is on the move he is forced to use the momentum from his legs at least a little and it’s clear he can be more effective when he does so.
Fitzpatrick will obviously hold on to the starting job at least until Smith’s jaw heals but as excited as a large segment of the fan base is to “move on from Smith” they probably shouldn’t get their hopes up. Fitzpatrick is a safer option than Smith, mentally he has a better grasp on running an offense but there’s a reason why this is his sixth NFL team and it’s because he can’t make all the throws.
There just isn’t a lot of zip on his passes and too often the placement and accuracy is there but the ball just hangs in the air and takes too long to reach it’s target allowing defenders to knock it down, intercept it or watch the receiver run himself out of the play.