SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Ross Tucker had to say about the Jets camp in New York.
The Jets are holding camp for the first time at Cortland State University, a state-funded institutions that's part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. It was important to new head coach Rex Ryan from a team-building standpoint to get away for camp, and so far Cortland has exceeded the Jets' expectations. The city sits between Ithaca and Syracuse, approximately four hours northwest of New York City.
The Jets put in a new grass field that they'll practice on often, but the effects of recent rain forced them inside for the practice I watched on Monday. The crowd on hand was small but vocal, including repeated chants of "Leon, Leon!" every time the Jets best playmaker, Leon Washington, either got or was about to get the ball.
1. The Kellen Clemens/Mark Sanchez show. Rookie Mark Sanchez has the huge contract and his No. 6 jersey is being hawked along with miniature stuffed bears bearing his name, but the Jets gave Clemens the majority of the reps with the first team on this day. He looked confident and comfortable making decisions in an offense he knows well, and delivered the football on time and with accuracy for most of the practice. One of the few miscues came on an interception by Darrelle Revis after outside linebacker Brian Thomas had tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage.
Sanchez struggled for the most part and spent an inordinate amount of time running around while trying to find an open receiver. He has to continue to work on seeing things faster and getting rid of the ball if nothing is available. If that internal clock doesn't start to go off soon, the preseason could get ugly. It should be noted that Sanchez is also working with the second unit for the most part, so the talent surrounding him is not nearly what it is for Clemens.
Therein lies the problem for the Jets. You have to believe they prefer that Sanchez shows he is ready to handle the job. And truth be told, I really like the way they are slowly giving him more reps with the first unit as opposed to thrusting him in from day one. But if Sanchez plays poorly in the preseason games and Clemens plays at a competent level or better, the Jets will be hard-pressed to start the season with Sanchez under center. Fortunately for Sanchez, it's still awfully early.
2. These Rex Ryan-led Jets are ornery. Real ornery. And he loves it. During the Jets inside run period in the middle of practice, two significant fights that became almost full-team skirmishes broke out. It started when veteran running back Thomas Jones got stood up by young defensive back James Ihedigbo and showed his displeasure by swinging a haymaker. Ihedigbo retaliated and before you knew it there was a whole lot of green and white jerseys involved in the fracas. Center Nick Mangold, at one point, was surrounded by four defenders as he continued to try to make his way towards Ihedigbo. A couple of plays later another round of fisticuffs unfolded, making it abundantly clear that these Jets are taking on the personality of their combative head coach.
Speaking of Ryan, I have a yet to meet a player or person in the organization who doesn't love the guy. No matter how much money guys are getting paid in the NFL, they can still take their game to another level or play just a little bit harder if they truly believe in and like their coach.
"Rex's approach trickles down to even the offensive guys," said wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. "You can just hear the hunger and passion in his voice every time he speaks. The other night he was talking to us in meetings and all of us just looked at each other and said, 'Let's go'. We were all ready to go out there and practice right then, and it was a night meeting."
3. Vernon Gholston is still not where the Jets want him to be, but they think he can get there. The team has seen enough of Gholston's raw natural ability to know he can be an elite player in the NFL. Whether it is the speed he shows running down and covering kicks or the power he shows in certain pass rush drills, Gholston has the physical tools to be a dominant player.
What's lacking at times is the fire and passion all elite rushers seem to have. The sense of urgency when Gholston is trying to get to the quarterback is not always evident, and one has to wonder if it will ever show up. In my experience, players either have it or they don't.
"How am I supposed to look?" asked Gholston when questioned about whether or not he has the killer instinct or a hunger to get to the quarterback. "I really don't even know what that means or what people want me to be doing. Am I supposed to run around and do cartwheels after I make a tackle or something? When I am out here, I am in work mode and I just don't see how jumping around helps that."
Of the former Ravens who followed Ryan from Baltimore to New York, inside linebacker Bart Scott belongs at the top of the list, but safety Jim Leonhard may turn out to be just as valuable. The former undrafted free agent is intercepting passes almost daily in practice.
The Jets had three draft choices, which gives them the smallest class of drafted rookies in the league. The one to keep an eye on, other than Sanchez, of course, is running back Shonn Greene from Iowa. He impressed Jets personnel with his workout regimen before camp and reported at a lean, yet powerful 223 pounds.
With talented running backs Jones and Washington already on the roster, it's unlikely Greene will have a huge impact as a rookie. His most likely role will be in either short-yardage situations or at the end of games, when the Jets are looking to run out the clock. That's when his bruising style can really wear down an already tired defense. His forte in the Big Ten was breaking tackles, which may be exactly what the Jets need.
When a third skirmish broke out near the conclusion of the inside running period, a couple of players nearby began to simply act like they were throwing haymakers at each other. But Darrelle Revis decided he wanted in. So he tapped his left elbow twice with his right hand and then dove on the pair of jostling Jets with a WWE-style flying elbow. It was all in good fun, and the message I took from it was that these Jets either get after each other, have fun, or both. I think that's just the way Ryan wants it.
1. The Jets are going to have one of the five best offensive lines in the league this year. Every one of their starters is in the top half of the league at their respective positions.
2.Dustin Keller is going to be a vital weapon. He caught passes running all types of routes in the practice I saw; nobody was able to cover him.
3. The Jets have a pair of hammerheads at inside linebacker in Bart Scott and David Harris. Linebackers who enjoy and are successful at taking on offensive lineman and still making plays are rare in the NFL, yet the Jets have a pair that offensive guards won't be too happy to see this season.
4. It looks weird to see Larry Izzo, the long-time Dolphin and Patriot, wearing a Jet uniform, but I watched the former Pro Bowl special-teamer running around the field making a couple of plays on defense and providing leadership on special teams.
5. How about the fact that 15-year veteran Tony Richardson is still getting the job done at fullback? It blows my mind that guys can play that long in the league, let alone at a position that demands so many neck-shortening collisions.
6. Washington deserves to be paid more than the fourth-year minimum salary this season based on his production last year and his anticipated contribution to the team this season. Both sides seem willing to try to work something out, but you never know when it comes down to money.
Check out all the NFL training camp postcards here.