Cortland, NY– The change was evident all throughout OTA’s. Last season the Jets lacked the intensity and excitement that the team has become known for, this year they are back to being themselves and the difference is impossible not to notice.
Whether it was the entire offense erupting in wild cheers as Mark Sanchez used a hard count to draw rookie Quinton Coples offsides or Tony Sparano, seemingly simultaneously, barking out both instructions and praise, the energy level has been ratcheted back up to the level of a few years ago. Maybe it was the lack of OTA’s last season, maybe the team just never gelled for some other mysterious reason, but last year’s practices were quiet and flat in comparison with this year, not to mention practices of two years ago.
“Two things that I noticed [today], number one was the tempo of practice. I think the tempo of practice, to be able to get through the scripted plays and yet, we doubled up the reps almost and in a couple of periods we actually doubled the reps.” Rex Ryan said, “And that’s good for the three’s, we try to see what they can do and you add the reps on to those guys at the end. So that’s good and I just think Tony [Sparano] is always stressing tempo, tempo. Get them in-and-out of the huddle, all the time and you see that on the practice field. And the thing I like most about that, is we will be a team that’s in shape. There’s no doubt we will be in shape. Because that offense is going to force us that way.”
If you’ve ever watched Sanchez play, you already know he plays better at a faster pace when he can just react, but the change in tempo is about helping the entire offense, not just Sanchez. The offensive line had their own well documented struggles last season and Ryan thinks the faster tempo can help give them a leg up on opposing defenses, but he made sure to stress that the lineman better know exactly what they’re supposed to do at all times otherwise the faster pace could very well backfire on them.
“Well I think you better know what you’re doing, because you’re playing at that quick tempo sometimes the defense might not even be lined up. Because the guy gets the communication and all that and kind of puts the defense on their heels.” Ryan said, “So as an offensive lineman you got to love it, but there’s responsibility there as well, you better know what you’re doing and it is quick and that’s what we talk about all the time. We’re not waiting for the defense, we’re going and if it snaps before they’re ready, that’s great. It’s kind of like the New York Islanders on a power play, you better get out there quick.”
With the tempo kicked into high-gear, the competition ramps up as well. Healthy competition is always good for building a team and it certainly helps make training camp practices that much more exciting.
“The competition was fierce, I think on both sides of the ball.” Sanchez said, “Special teams guys were really flying around, but that same attitude that we’ve had all offseason, that really showed today so that was encouraging.
“I think it’s just our attitude – that extra work we’ve put in and a different mentality to our approach – that’s what’s really bringing this offense together. We worked a lot on communication during the off-season and we looked great [today]. [Tone] was really jumping off the line, getting to ball, making all his cuts and really setting a good example for the younger guys we have.”
But there was something else that jumped out at every observer at SUNY Cortland today, the Jets were actually throwing the ball down the field. Last season they hardly ever attempted to throw passes of over 15 yards and whether that was because of the struggles of the o-line, the lack of a downfield threat or just Schotty play-calling is irrelevant. For whatever reason they didn’t stretch the field, but that will change this season as Sparano loves to ground-and-pound to open up the field deep and make the defense pay.
“The other thing you’ll notice, we had a first and second-down emphasis today.” Ryan said, “You see a lot of runs, play-action and the ball is going down the field … When you look at Tony’s [Sparano] history, wherever he’s been his receivers, and I know you guys will do the research, I believe the receivers, from the tight-end to the X, Z all those guys averaging about 15 yards a catch or more and I think that’s where you get that from and you’re starting to see here.”
Of course all this sounds wonderful, but it’s not as simple as it may sound. Which is why these players are thrilled to have Sparano leading this offense. Not only do the players like where he is trying to take them, but they also love and respect how he plans on getting them to their final destination.
“Coach Sparano wants to keep the defense off-balance – that’s also involving the run game, the run-action stuff, then throwing the ball down field.” Sanchez said, “Hopefully it’ll be balanced and guys will make plays [like Hill’s TD catch on Revis] all the time. Some coaches do better coaching from the film room than the field, but not Tony. He never takes a down off.”
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