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August 13, 2013

 

Jets’ Ivory flashes his potential

Former Saints RB impressive in first contact drills

JetsBob Ellis/staff photographer
Running back Chris Ivory runs through footwork drills Monday during the New York Jets camp at SUNY Cortland.

By TOM VARTANIAN
Staff Writer

As the practice days wind down at SUNY Cortland this week, both sides of the injury train were present at the New York Jets training camp Monday.
On the positive side, running back Chris Ivory took the big step back from recovering from hamstring woes by participating in running back drills Sunday.
Ivory then moved into the contract phase Monday and looked good doing it. The former New Orleans running back carried the ball on the first two plays on the team drills, flashing a glimpse of that speed and power he is known for. While nothing suggested he was ready for a full load of carries, it was progress toward a possible debut against the Jacksonville Jaguars Saturday night in the Jets’ second pre-season game.
“I hope he does play Saturday and it’s not even funny,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. “He looked excellent. I mean, that’s a big, powerful man. That’s the guy we’ve been waiting for. I think every Jet fan has been looking forward to seeing this guy run and today we got to see it some. I was encouraged by it to say the least.”
The negatives had wide receiver Clyde Gates (head) sitting out after a collision in practice Sunday. Fullback Lex Hilliard (ribs) saw his second straight day in a red shirt, but the bigger concern was all-pro cornerback Antonio Cormartie banging his elbow.
Cromartie jammed a wide receiver at the line of scrimmage on the first play of team drills. He got up from the play with his left arm limp at his side, but stayed on the field for two more plays before heading to the sidelines. After being checked out by trainers, Cromartie returned to action with a sleeve over his elbow.
“It was one of those things where I’m not sure what the extent of it is, or whatever but he’s a tough guy and I don’t know if he actually even came out a play,” Ryan said. “I think he stayed in there. The fact that he stayed out there and finished the practice was a good sign.”
Ankle injuries plagued rookie guard Brian Winters and third-year quarterback Greg McElroy. Winters hurt his ankle and he was carted off the field, but he did return before the end of practice. McElroy rolled an already injured ankle from the Detroit game. McElroy had a sleeve on the lower leg for practice.
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McKnight Goes Down
The most camp drama focused on running back Joe McKnight.
The fourth-year man from the University of Southern California returned to limited duty Sunday, but things boarded the crazy train again Monday for many folks are now wondering if there should be a roster spot for the oft-injured runner.
As McKnight traveled across the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex White Field toward the practice field, he took a knee not once, not twice, but three times. The second and third times saw members of the training staff ran to his aid. The final time was next to the garbage can on the far side of the White Field.
Did he throw up? It wasn’t clear, but was he given some water. McKnight got up and continued to the practice.
Not 45 minutes into the practice, McKnight went down trying to catch a pass during individual drills. He was helped to the medical tent and received treatment, including oxygen. As McKnight climbed into a cart for a trip to the locker room, he kept the oxygen mask on.
There was no official team statement on his condition after practice though McKnight did mention a migraine, a problem he was experienced often, as he went back out to talk with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg as practice wound down.
“I saw Joe go down, but there was no contact,” Ryan said. “He just fell down and stayed down but I have no update on his situation. I saw him outside actually after practice with Marty.”
Is Ryan concerned that there is a more serious medical problem with McKnight?
“Well he would never be out there if the trainers felt that he was at risk,” Ryan replied.
Then came the question about McKnight making the final roster.
“We’ll see how everything plays out,” Ryan said. “There is still a long way to go before we make the final decisions. Joe’s led the league in kick return average. He has plenty of talent, but durability ... there is a concern about durability. Durability is a big thing in this league, so there’s no question about it. Has Joe had his moments here, absolutely he has. Joe can be a good contributor for our football team. But right now we’ve just got to get him healthy.”
To recap, McKnight’s medical issues, it goes back to his first mini-camp when he vomited. As for 2013, McKnight failed the conditioning test. He insisted he wasn’t out of shape, blaming it on dehydration.
Ryan defended McKnight by saying the running back suffers from “anxiety” when taking conditioning tests, but there have also been the repeated migraines and the head injury that have slowed the progress of running back/kick returner.
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Switch to QB Rotation
This was a wrinkle in the quarterback rotation Monday with Mark Sanchez seeing a majority of first team snaps over the still hobbled Geno Smith.
Sanchez’s numbers weren’t earth-shattering in team drills as there were running plays with Ivory, Bilal Powell and Chad Spann, but he did complete two-of-three chances with one touchdown pass. Sanchez’s TD pass in team drills came on an over-the-middle pass to Powell, who broke tackles and raced into the end zone. In the 7-on-7 drill, Sanchez was really solid. He threw a pair of 50-yard touchdown passes on back-to-back plays. The first went to rookie Ryan Spadola on a stop-and-go with Cromartie covering. The second went to Stephen Hill who froze Cromartie with a hard pump fake. Sanchez completed five of seven in the period, including a terrific sideline pass to tight end Kellen Winslow Jr.
Smith was six-for-seven with a touchdown pass and a sack in team drills. Smith rolled out and threw a nice pass to tight end Konrad Reuland in the corner of the end zone. There were a couple of blemishes in Smith’s day. Cornerback Isaiah Trufant picked off a Smith pass in seven-on-seven drills. There was an aborted play in team drills because of a muffed handoff between Smith and rookie running back Tommy Bohanon.
“Marty had talked about that before, moving Mark in more with the ones (first team) today,” Ryan said of the change-up in the rotation. “You know we had Geno (Smith) with the ones yesterday. So we may have altered the plan a little bit, but both guys are still going to work with the ones.
“Marty came to me yesterday and told me how he was going to rotate the guys and so it’s not a surprise that we didn’t miss it before any practice, even yesterday,” he added.
Ryan has noticed that Sanchez has been on a bit of a roll.
“He’s strung some good days back-to-back-to-back, so that’s been encouraging,” Ryan stated. “The one day when everyone had a bad practice, he had a great one, so that was good.”
While Sanchez is on a roll, Ryan says no starter has been named for the Jacksonville game yet.
“I think we’re just going to let this thing play out and see how we are at the end of the week,” the head coach said. “Then we’ll make that decision.”
Ryan also commented on the reports from West Virginia that the Mountaineers lacked leadership in 2012. While Smith wasn’t officially named the cause of the problem, but there was the hint that he was the problem.
“I don’t get that,” Ryan said. “Geno was a tremendous player for West Virginia. I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them but I certainly don’t get that. When somebody leaves your school, I guess that’s up to them, you’ll have to ask them.”

 

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