Sunday morning notes to digest as you prepare for your Memorial Day barbecues:
A visit from Chucky. Former Bucs coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden made a three-day visit to the Jets this past week. This wasn’t a TV assignment; he was invited by the team to observe a couple of practices and interact with coaches, players and front-office types. Give GM Mike Tannenbaum credit; he’s always thinking outside the box, soliciting different perspectives from people outside the organization. Example: Last Sunday night, he, along with Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson, dined with NBA legend Magic Johnson. This may sound geeky, but Tannenbaum actually took notes during the 2 ½-hour dinner.
After hanging around Gruden for a few days, Tannenbaum learned that Chucky and Ryan share a common philosophy when it comes to team-building: The importance of having players that are passionate about football. Gruden reeks of passion, even in the TV booth.
Braylon’s strong offseason. WR Braylon Edwards was named by Ryan as one of the two most impressive players this offseason. (The other, in Ryan’s opinion, is LB Kenwin Cummings.) In some ways, Edwards took too much criticism last season for some dropped passes. According to Pro Football Focus, he had only four drops. In fact, his drop rate was better than that of Santonio Holmes.
Edwards dropped four of the 70 balls thrown to him – one per 17.5 throws, according to Pro Football Focus. Holmes, playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, dropped eight of 127 – one per 15.9 throws. Edwards caught a lot of flak because his drops came in big spots. (In case you’re wondering, Jerricho Cotchery had only two drops in 93 chances (46.5). That’s what you call sure handed.
This is a huge season for Edwards, who is playing on a one-year, $6.1 million contract. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2011, with a chance for a major score if he plays like a Pro Bowl receiver. He apparently is off to a good start, as Ryan commended his work ethic. Edwards is learning the Z (flanker) receiver spot after playing almost exclusively in the X (split end) spot last season.
“He’s really learning our system now,” Ryan said. “I just love the way he’s competing with those corners. He can’t wait. He was calling them out the other day, ‘Come on out, we need more reps.’ It’s great to watch.”
Defensive chemistry. LB Bart Scott gave an insightful explanation on the benefit of having a year’s experience in Ryan’s system. With nine returning starters, seven of whom were new to the system last season, the defense should be able to make changes on the fly, according to Scott. The scheme is structured in a way that allows for ad-libbing. Example: If the ‘Mike’ linebacker is supposed to blitz on a particular play, he might tell the ‘Will’ ‘backer to take his blitz while he drops into coverage. Scott said the coaches don't mind as long as the result is positive.
“The players can understand situational football and we can use more tools,” Scott said. “We were doing everything last year straight by the book. Now we can improvise, we can switch it up based on formations and strengths. Now, all of a sudden, 10 defenses will look like 50 to the opposition.”
Scott believes the familiarity with the system will help in tight, late-game situations. That was a problem last season, as the Jets failed to close out a handful of games. “Growing pains,” said Scott, blaming those hiccups largely on miscommunications.
A sleeper. One player turning the heads of his teammates is backup S James Ihedigbo. He’s an aggressive defender (sometimes too aggressive) who excels on special teams. He’s probably not an every-down safety, but he has enough versatility (can line up as a linebacker in the dime) and blitzing ability to play in certain sub packages.
Big man on campus. NT Kris Jenkins (knee surgery) is on schedule and, as expected, should be ready for the June 14-16 minicamp. That was the plan all along with the big fella, whom the organization is in no rush to get back on the field. He will be limited in training camp as well.
Quiet on the negotiating front. From all indications, no deals are imminent with Darrelle Revis, the four draft picks or any significant free-agent signings.