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July 30, 2013

 

Battles under way in the trenches

JetsBob Ellis/staff photographer
New York Jets offensive lineman Willie Colon (right) puts a strangle hold on Muhammad Wilkerson during a drill Monday at SUNY Cortland.

By TOM VARTANIAN
Staff Writer

Most eyes are on the starting quarterback battle as training camp continued Monday for the New York Jets under sunny skies at SUNY Cortland, but the big guys on both sides of the ball are working hard to make each other better as well.
The offensive and the defensive linemen, as well as linebackers, are pushing each other hard.
“Each and every day we emphasize what it takes to be great, individually and collectively,” defensive end Quinton Coples said. “The sky’s the limit. We just have to continue to work hard and continue to make sure we work on the things that it takes to be great.”
“You have to be physical on both sides of the ball,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. “You look at the guys we brought in, we brought it three guards. Willie Colon, we bring in (Stephen) Peterman from Detroit and we draft (Brian) Winters and they’re all the same kind of mentality. Tough, road-grader type guys. That also says something about the mentality of your team. You bring in those guys because that’s what you want in your team. So, I like the way those guys are built. You have a great tackle in D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Another guy that will come off of with a flat back, even though he’s 6-8 or 6-9, is Austin Howard. We should be able to knock that line of scrimmage back a little bit.”
Coples is in his second training camp and is more comfortable with his role after being the Jets’ first selection in the 2012 draft out of North Carolina.
“The coaches are talking to me and they want to make sure I stand out as one of the leaders of the team,” Coples said. “They also want us to get to the ultimate goal, which is to win. So at the end of the day that’s a part of my job now, to make sure that I get people going and make sure I hold everybody accountable like they held me accountable as well.”
Coples think the Jets have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Ryan may agree, but he wants to see more before he feels comfortable with that statement.
“I think we’ve got a long road before he can say that. How about we play a couple of games,” Ryan said when told of Coples statement.
“But, they certainly are a talented group. It’s a talented group, there’s no question about it,” he added. “You want your guys to have that kind of confidence and take that kind of pride and all that. But to be the best, you’ve got to show up and you’ve got to do it every single day and you have to have that kind of mentality.
“Certainly we feel great about Mo Wilkerson, the thing about Mo is he doesn’t think he’s arrived so he keeps working, you know? Antonio Cromartie, that’s what’s so rare about Cro, he’s at a high level but yet he tries to get better and that’s what all these D-linemen, these young D-linemen have done. And it will be interesting to see this group grow together because we’ll see. Could it be the best? Hey, if they keep working like that, I certainly hope so.”
Wilkerson has had a good camp and is pushing the offensive linemen to pick up their game.
“He’s having an excellent camp,” Defensive Coordinator Dennis Thurman said. “The expectation for a guy like him who was drafted in the first round is that he’ll become a big time player for you and be there for 10 year or longer. So yes, we expected Mo (Wilkerson) to continue to get better.”
On Sunday, Kenrick Ellis was the dominant force for the Jets defense and the offensive linemen took that to heart.
“Kenrick Ellis decided to totally dominate the nine-on-seven period yesterday,” Ryan said. “I think we made sure we blocked him today. I don’t think there was any doubt about that, whether we were doubling him, whatever it was. But sometimes that happens. You get a guy just having an unbelievable day, the next day that offensive line decides we’re going to make sure we block this kid today. But it’s good competition over there. Guys are getting after it.”
“Mo’s a big athlete, man,” guard Willie Colon said of lining up against Wilkerson. “Every day he earns my respect. I hope I’m earning his. We compete. He’s going to be one of the premier guys out there soon if not this year. I definitely believe it. Best of luck to him and glad he’s on our team.”
Colon joins the Jets after seven seasons as a Pittsburgh Steeler. He joins veteran linemen D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold and could team on the same side of the O-line with tackle Austin Howard to protect the quarterback and to open holes for the running backs.
“I think with D’Brick (Ferguson) here and Mangold, we all came out in the same draft class,” Colon said. “They have the credentials and just as much experience as I do. If anything, I just try to bring my ruggedness, try to be the spark and try to be the bell cow so to speak. Hopefully we can add the chemistry and bring it all together.
“I’m just doing my job,” he added. “I’m not going out there doing anything special. I’ve got to make my blocks and make my reads and get it done. Being able to communicate is the biggest thing. That’s the biggest thing of any offense, being able to talk and be where you need to be and make sure everybody’s on the same page and that just comes with the job.”
“The guys that jump out at me on the offensive line, you had Willie Colon and Austin Howard,” Ryan said in his Monday press conference. “They came down on a double team today and you saw the whole line cave back about three or four yards. I’m like, ‘I might have been able to run behind that.’ But that’s what they can do, those big powerful guys. That’s what you’ve got to have on those third-and-ones. You want to have a type of team to where it’s like OK we’re going to run behind. We’ll use those two guys, we want to run behind Willie Colon and Austin Howard. It’s third-and-one, you know it’s coming, and we’ve still got to be able to get it. Now, we’ve had that in the past, we had Brandon Moore and we had Damien Woody. We actually had that. I can’t tell you how many third-and-ones we converted behind those two, but I like to have those types of guys.”
It was not as good a day for quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith on Monday. Smith was 5-for-10 with two drops and two sacks. Sanchez was 3-for-6 with one sack and the first interception by either in 11-on-11 drills. Smith has had the reps with the first team the past two days. Sanchez will take first-team, snaps when practice resumes Wednesday after a day off today.
Ryan admits it has been different to have a rookie quarterback not throw an interception in team drills in the first four days of training camp.
“It probably tells you about our coverage,” Ryan said with a chuckle. “I think he can throw the football, there’s no doubt. He’s accurate with the football. I think the big thing with him now, like he took a couple of sacks today and I said, ‘We’ve got to get rid of the ball.’ Like, don’t throw the picks but obviously we’ve got to get rid of it. If it’s not there, we don’t want to be taking sacks. So I think that’s something where I think he can improve his game, but I have been impressed with the fact that he has not thrown a pick. That’s certainly a real positive thing.”

 

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