August 1, 2013
Camp debut for top pick
Eager rookie Milliner kept out of team drills
Dee Milliner made his first on-field appearance ... sort of ... as a member of the New York Jets Wednesday during the fifth practice session of training camp at SUNY Cortland.
The cornerback from Alabama, the Jets’ first pick and ninth overall selection in April’s NFL Draft, was a holdout until agreeing to terms Sunday. He had surgery in March on a torn labrum and subsequently missed both OTAs and mini-camp in the spring. He saw limited action Wednesday, taking part in specified position drills and walk-throughs, but was held out of team drills.
“Man, it was good,” he said of his first day. “(To) get back out here on the field, get through the drills, get back out there with the team. It felt good the whole time I was out there, just (doing) what the trainers asked me and just moving on and progressing. I did a couple of walk-throughs and installs with the ones (first team) so I could get there and some hands-on and know what I was doing. I felt good doing all the things that I was doing. I had no problems. I did a couple of tackling drills, so I was fine. I was just out there with Cro (Antonio Cromartie) and Kyle (Wilson) and all the other veterans just teaching me.”
As for how the trainers are handling him, Milliner said “They told me that if I feel good, do things. They don’t want to get me out there, throw me back in trying to knock people out. The veterans have told me that it will be a long camp and to just keep my body right, learn the play book, always stay a day ahead and you’ll be all right.
He noted that he wasn’t sure when he’d be able to take part in team drills.
“You’ve still got to go in there and do rehab all the way until you’re back out here doing everything,” Milliner said.
ON THE FIELD, meanwhile, the ongoing competition for the starting quarterback spot continued as incumbent Mark Sanchez worked with the first team and went 3-for-10 with one touchdown and one interception and rookie Geno Smith was 5-for-6 with two sacks while working with the second team.
Smith looked good for having such limited experience, including the use of a hard count with the defense showing blitz to gain back five yards lost on the previous play when an offensive linemen jumped on another blitz look.
“It was good,” Sanchez said in summing up his day. “We had some good competition with the defense. I know when we had that little move-the-ball period we got a couple of first downs, they stopped us a couple of times. We had the fourth-down, got-to-have it-period. Those are a last play of the game, keep the drive alive kind of thing. I think we had one of three of those with the first unit. We want to be on the winning edge of that. But we’ll come back tomorrow and get ‘em.
“I feel good. I feel comfortable. My arm feels good, I feel strong, my legs are working. (Quarterbacks coach David Lee) has got us conditioning like crazy, so I feel like I’m in good shape. I’ll just keep pushing, keep competing and control what I can. Everything’s under scrutiny, there’s a ton of pressure, but that’s why you play the position, and it makes it fun,” Sanchez added. “At the end of the day of course you want your numbers to be high, but there are always specific circumstances that lead to things being the way they are.”
“I feel pretty good,” Smith said when asked about his performance, in particular his ability to read coverages. “I’ve been doing pretty good with that. I haven’t put us in any bad spots as far as turning the ball over (with none so far in camp). I try to keep the ball out of the defense’s hands as much as possible and give my teammates an opportunity to make plays on the ball. I’ve done pretty good with that so far, but we’ve still got many practices ahead and I’ve got to continue to stay on that and stay disciplined in my reads.
“It’s challenging, especially for a young quarterback. Every single (defensive) look I get in practice is different. One day it’s one thing, the next day it could be the same look but a completely different defense and a completely different scheme. It takes a lot of film study, and that’s something I’ve been staying on top of. I go in early and stay late, and just try to read my keys and get little tips that I can find in the defense to help me out on the practice field.”
The subject of Smith’s conditioning came up earlier this week when it was questioned by Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network.
“That’s his opinion,” Smith said Wednesday when asked for his reaction. “My coaches are the ones who evaluate me. I haven’t heard anything from them, so I don’t have anything to say to that.
“I feel great, I feel strong. My wind’s there, I’ve been running good in practice, getting back to the huddle, spitting the plays out, getting on and off the field. So I feel pretty good.”
“I’d like to see the numbers higher than that, but it’s kind of good news/bad news,” Ryan said in evaluating Sanchez’s day. “The good news was that the defense won on seven of those. Specifically, one was I know a third and longer situation and Mark just threw it in there, gave it a chance and I thought that Cro (cornerback Antonio Cromartie) just made a great break on the football in man coverage. It was a fight for the football and Cro just came down with it.
“Mark certainly has a good enough arm to play in this league; he’s done it.
“Geno, it does pop off that, ‘Wow, he can really throw it.’ But like I said before, I don’t know if he has as strong an arm as (Jay) Cutler or the kid from Detroit (Matt Stafford). Those guys have bazookas for arms. But he can really throw it, probably with anybody in the league.
“Obviously the big thing that you have to see, holding the football concerns me a little bit, you’ve got to get rid of it. Pointing to the negative, we’re going to take some hits. But he’s got confidence and poise and he’s very accurate with the football, so he has been impressive. For the most part I thought it was great competition. Both sides were getting after it. The offense had their moments, and the defense had their moments.”
Asked his take on Smith’s conditioning, Ryan smiled slightly.
“It sounds like if we’re training for the Olympics or something or if he’s going to run whatever, the marathon, we might be in trouble,” Ryan said. “I haven’t seen that in him. He seems fine to me. He looked good when he ran for 80 yards that one play (in team drills).”
RYAN SAID IN HIS post-practice remarks that the Wildcat formation is an NFL fixture, despite the Jets not utilizing it much last year with Tim Tebow on the roster.
“I think it’s here to stay for the simple fact that guys are getting these quarterbacks now, these mobile quarterbacks (with) the size, speed and all that type of stuff, so I do think it’s here to stay. It does give you the numbers back. Sometimes on defense you’re playing with plus-one, but it’s a great equalizer and that’s what I was saying when we were putting it in with Brad (Smith) and Leon Washington and Tebow or whoever.”
Lee was instrumental in bringing the formation to the NFL while with the Miami Dolphins, and asked if his team would use the formation more this season Ryan smiled before answering.
“I would say we probably would because you guys (media) say we never used it, so I would say yeah,” he said. “But no, I think that’s part of what we do.”
That would seem to be an advantage for Smith and his superior read-option abilities, and when asked about going with the run-option Sanchez had the line of the day.
“I mean, if it’s fourth and three, I can get the three,” he said. “If it’s fourth and four, I’ll probably get three. No, I’m sure I could do that. It’s not too bad.”
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