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July 27, 2013

 

Jets camp debut has Rex revved

Singles out receivers as offensive bright spots

JetsBob Ellis/staff photographer
Geno Smith throws a pass during the first day of Jets camp.

By TOM VARTANIAN
Staff Writer

With those traditional Chuck Taylor sneakers snug on his feet, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan led his team through their first day of training camp practice Friday at SUNY Cortland.
There were mostly bright spots for day one, as Ryan was pleased with what he saw overall.
“It was a great day,” Ryan said, whose footwear is an opening day coaching habit. “The offensive MVP was (Clyde) Gates. We saw that great speed. It’s only one day but it was encouraging. We saw him making strides last year and that speed he has is impressive. Stephen (Hill) made some nice catches as well. That was good to see. Kellen (Winslow) made a great catch near the end of the team session.
“On defense, it was the usual suspects,” he continued. “Calvin (Pace) and David (Harris) stood out the most to me as did Mo (Muhammed Wilkerson), but that’s an everyday thing of course with him.”
Wide receiver Gates hauled in a long bomb from quarterback Mark Sanchez with a great diving catch early in the seven-on-seven drills.
Hill’s best grab was on a ball thrown over the wrong shoulder by rookie QB Geno Smith. He made the adjustment and made the reception.
New tight end Winslow’s diving grab of a Sanchez pass was the highlight of his two catches.
On the day, Sanchez completed seven-of-10 passing attempts with the first team offense. Smith completed four-of-seven passes working with the second offense. Even though Smith had one fumble late in practice, both were pleased with their first Cortland workout.
“It was awesome.” Sanchez said. “I thought the weather was perfect, (the) campus is always great, the fields look good. I thought the competition was heated, it was fun, exciting atmosphere. I thought the defense and offense, special teams looked great. Exactly the way we want to start. We’ll just keep improving, keep on simulating game-like atmosphere’s and keep playing well.
“It was nice just to get back into it, to start speaking the language again with the players and to see how much guys retained,” he added. “I’m proud of the way guys came back and have studied during this break. It was obvious because we said some things, we got into some intricate situations and guys were right on top of it. And that’s what we expect with getting veteran leadership, especially that interior line with (Nick) Mangold and (Stephen) Peterman and Willie Colon, so those guys really did well today.”
“I felt pretty good,” highly-touted rookie Smith said. “I think things went smoothly today in practice. Everyone was out there working hard. That’s always a good sign. We competed well, both offense and defense made some good plays. On my behalf there was some good plays and some plays I can learn from, but overall I think we had a really good practice.”
One of the points Ryan spoke of in the team meeting Thursday night was to work together as a team. Compete, but know that everyone is working toward the same overall goal. That was certainly evident with Sanchez and Smith who are in the battle for a starting spot. Sanchez is the incumbent, but was seen offering advice to Smith.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Sanchez stated. “I think you’ve got to be a pro no matter what you’re doing. I think when I came in as a rookie Kellen Clemens and I were competing, but Kellen wasn’t shy. If I were to ask him a question (he’d) help me out and that’s the way I learned. I guess that’s just kind of the way I was brought up in this league and I think it’s the right thing to do. Maybe not everybody does it, but that’s me.”
“It speaks volumes about his character,” Smith said. “Like I said, Mark’s a great guy. He’s always helping me. He’s always willing to help me. From my knowledge he’s always helped everyone, including Greg (McElroy), including Matt (Simms). And that’s the relationship we all have inside the quarterback room and I think that breeds a good room and it helps for good competition.”
It was Winslow’s first official practice after signing his contract. The veteran tight end was invited to mini-camp to have a chance to compete for the starting assignment in opening day after being out of football last year.
“There’s competition every year, you’ve got to prove yourself every year,” he said. “The whole tight end group is competing. We’ve got a lot of playmakers on this team, and that’s what training camp is about.
“I know from experience that you can’t always pay attention to what you see or you read,” he added on being a Jet. “I know Rex (Ryan) and I played against him when I was with the Browns. One of the best defensive coaches I’ve ever been around. I hated playing against him, so, I know he brings it and he’s real passionate and he means what he says and that’s how I am, and then that’s how this team is going to be. It’s going to reflect Coach Ryan. I love him.”
Winslow is also reunited with a former Cleveland Browns teammate, Braylon Edwards.
“That’s my brother from another mother,” Winslow replied. “Love that guy. He’s one of the best I’ve seen, and it’s good, we were in Cleveland together and then we were in Seattle together. Didn’t work out there for me, for whatever reason, but it’s full circle now and we’re back.”
There was one skirmish, but not the true first fight of training camp. Second-year offensive tackle J.B .Shugarts took issue with Smith getting “knocked down” on a play and took a few swings at eighth-year linebacker Antonio Garay.
While most everyone was in good spirits after the first practice, there would be the upcoming afternoon film session where the coaches and players would dissect the practice session and prepare for Saturday, another conditioning day before the pads go on and the tackling begins Sunday.

 

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