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As a coach, Rex Ryan lives on the edge.


His aggressive style earned the New York Jets trips to the AFC title game in his first two years. He'll blitz. He'll gamble. He'll even run with the bulls in Pamplona for a summer vacation.But Ryan faces his most dangerous challenge in 2013. The Jets, as a franchise, are in transition. They hired a new general manager, John Idzik. Offensive talent is down. Pressure is up.Ryan is under contract through 2014, but he might need to pull off a winning season to keep his job. Getting away from the bulls might be easier than the gauntlet he faces this season.


Here is what I learned at New York Jets camp.


1. Camp position battles: You start at quarterback. Even though it would be more logical to start veteran Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith has a chance to start. It was revealed over the weekend the decision isn't completely Ryan's, as Idzik and the organization have input. Clearly, the quarterback decision determines the Jets' present and future. A pretty good battle may be brewing at free safety, where Josh Bush, a sixth-round choice last year, is being pushed by seventh-rounder Antonio Allen, who shows a decent ability to make plays. Monday was an interesting day in setting the agenda for two key skill-position spots. Kellen Winslow, who practices every other day because of chronic knee problems, worked with the first team at tight end. He'll battle Jeff Cumberland for the starting job. Everything is up for grabs at wide receiver. Santonio Holmes doesn't know if he will play this season because of a bad Lisfranc injury suffered last year. The only certainty at receiver is that Jeremy Kerley is the slot receiver. Braylon Edwards, Stephen Hill and Clyde Gates are all battling for playing time. Hill is catching the ball better than he did in the offseason program and minicamp. Ryan is sorting out the guard position, but Willie Colon and Stephen Peterman should be the starters. The debate is which side they should play. The running back position is unsettled: Chris Ivory is slowed with a hamstring injury, and Mike Goodson hasn't reported to camp because of off-the-field problems. Ryan also has to decide whether he wants to start Kyle Wilson or rookie Dee Milliner at cornerback. Milliner ended a brief rookie holdout Sunday, but he's not ready to practice because of a shoulder problem.

Geno Smith's overall game needs time to develop, but his throwing ability is NFL-ready.


2. Geno can make all the throws: Getting Smith ready to be the opening-day starter might be adventurous. He's learning the West Coast offense, which is very tough for a rookie. The play-calling verbiage is lengthy and takes time to learn. Smith struggled in OTAs and minicamp getting the plays off. He's learning. The one thing that isn't debated is his throwing ability: He has a strong arm, and you can see he's improved his footwork since being drafted. Smith has a nice, over-the-top delivery and gets his legs into the throw, which improves velocity. In Monday's team drills, he completed five of 10 passes, but two were dropped -- this offense drops entirely too many passes -- and he was sacked twice. The sacks were due to Smith's adjustments to the pass rush and making decisions while in the pocket. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Smith made it through the early practices without throwing an interception. The first interception in team drills so far was thrown by Sanchez and that was toward the end of Monday's practice. Sanchez still looks to be the starter, but the clock is ticking. It's pretty evident he's around only because of his contract. It's only a matter of time before Smith will start -- even if he has to wait until next year.


3. Ryan's eye for defensive linemen: Before becoming a defensive coordinator and then eventually a head coach, Ryan was a defensive line coach. His specialty was getting the most out of sometimes limited talent. This might be the most athletic defensive line he's coached. Left end Muhammad Wilkerson is a future Pro Bowler. Sheldon Richardson is promising on the other side. Nose tackle Kenrick Ellis, who might not be Ryan's most agile defensive tackle, avoided a tackle Monday and came in clean in a pass rush. Ryan moved Quinton Coples to linebacker and had him drop his weight into the 270s, but he moves to the line on passing downs, giving the Jets three former first-rounders up front in passing situations. Good line play and top corner play are the keys to a Ryan defense.


4. "Ground and Pound" has a donut hole: A lot of defensive coaches prefer to have an offense that uses the run to set up the pass. Missing Monday was the ground and the pound. Ivory was limited by a hamstring injury and Goodson was nowhere to be seen. That left Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight and John Griffin to handle the load. To be honest, Griffin didn't look too bad, but this is the first Jets team since the pre-Curtis Martin days to not have a back with a 1,000-yard season on his résumé. This might sound silly, but the development of the backfield could determine the starting quarterback job. A running attack would make it easier for Smith to handle the starting job. No running threat puts more pressure on Smith to work a passing game. With the uncertainty at tight end and receiver, that's a lot to ask of Smith if he can't rely on the run.


5. A 24-hour AFC perspective: Over a 24-hour period, I watched practices of three AFC teams that combined for 17 wins last season -- Cleveland, the Jets and Buffalo. Of the three, the Jets probably have the best chance to get a little better, but not much. The Jets have the best defense of the three teams. The Jets have a formidable defensive line and are deeper than the other two teams at cornerback. They were a top-eight defense last year and should be in the top 10 this season. But they have a bottom-five offense, potentially the worst of the three teams. The Browns have the best defensive front seven of the three and should be able to run the ball well. Still, their road schedule will work against them for getting to seven wins. As far as offensive excitement is concerned, the Bills and Browns offer a better show. Both teams have good, talented receivers. The Browns have a premier running back (Trent Richardson). With new offensive head coaches in Buffalo and Cleveland, both franchises are building for the future. The Jets' offense needs time, and the clock is ticking on Ryan to win.


> http://espn.go.com/nfl/trainingcamp13/story/_/id/9521341/2013-nfl-training-camp-jets-face-uphill-battle

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  • 2 weeks later...

John Idzik hoping Geno Smith will win Jets starting QB job



The New York Jets open up their preseason on Friday night with a game against the Detroit Lions and veteran signal-caller Mark Sanchez will be lining up under center. While Sanchez is set to get the initial start for the Jets, the quarterback competition is wide open and rookie Geno Smith has a real shot at winning the starting gig.

If Jets general manager John Idzik gets his way, the team will kick off the 2013-14 regular season with Smith as the starter.

From the New York Daily News:

Although Smith didn’t get the start, it’s no secret that first-year GM John Idzik hopes his second-round pick wins the job. Idzik probably doesn’t have a No. 7 tattoo yet, but give it time.

If Smith turns into the franchise quarterback Idzik hopes he can be, anything is possible.

Smith hasn’t been told whether he’ll start the second preseason game against the Jaguars at Met Life Stadium on Aug. 17, but given the open nature of the competition, it’s likely he will.

Smith has been able to take care of the ball more than Sanchez throughout training camp and if he can continue his success during the preseason action then he has a real shot at earning the top spot on the depth chart.


> http://fansided.com/2013/08/08/john-idzik-hoping-geno-smith-will-win-jets-starting-qb-job/

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  • 2 weeks later...

NY Jets rookie GM John Idzik had a plan, stuck to it, and it is already in shambles Idzik was the point man pushing a two-man quarterback competition between Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez for the better part of three months. The inexperienced GM ruined his own master plan in the span of four days.



Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez are fighting it out in camp, but rookie GM John Izdik (l.) may be having the roughest time of any of the Jets so far as his master plan falls apart in four days.


Rookie general manager John Idzik programmed just about everyone in the organization to use simple talking points this offseason about how “competition” would be the mantra for the 2013 Jets. Everything was going to be an “open and fair” competition, especially at quarterback.


Idzik was the point man pushing a two-man quarterback competition between Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez (after his failed David Garrard signing) for the better part of three months.The inexperienced GM ruined his own master plan in the span of four days.Smith, who suffered a sprained ankle in the preseason opener last Friday night, may miss Saturday’s preseason game against the Jaguars at MetLife Stadium. Rex Ryan admitted on Wednesday that Smith’s right ankle isn’t “close to 100% right now,” an indictment of the team’s decision makers who put him on the practice field beginning Sunday.


Rather than give Smith a few days to rest his gimpy ankle, Idzik — who undercut Ryan early in training camp by proclaiming he’d have a “pretty big role” in the quarterback decision-making process and curiously refusing to say that the head coach had final say on the matter — green-lighted the idea to let the rookie practice early this week.Idzik, the de facto president of the Geno Smith Fan Club, unwittingly sabotaged the open and fair competition, which went from Smith’s to win to Sanchez’s to lose in four days, due to his myopic mind-set.Idzik let his desire for Smith to win the competition cloud the bigger picture. For a man who prides himself on making meticulous, well-reasoned decisions, the GM made a hasty one that may prevent his guy from winning.



Smith’s motives to push through the pain are easy to understand. He felt that he was on the doorstep toward earning one of the 32 most coveted jobs in the NFL. However, Jets brass, led by Idzik, needed to take a wiser and more cautious approach.

The Jets had five practices between the first and second preseason games. Smith would have almost certainly started against the Jaguars if he hadn’t been injured in Detroit.

He still would have had ample time to prepare even if he missed the first two practices this week.

The Jets increased the odds that the sprain would linger by allowing him to try to push through it. It made little sense.

Anyone who has ever had a sprained ankle knows that the best remedy is rest.

Ryan shares some of the blame for playing Smith, who was “brutal” during his four-interception practice on Wednesday, according to the head coach.

“That was Geno’s worst day,” Ryan said. “Obviously, the ankle is part of it. Guys have bad days, but this was a really bad day for Geno.”



It shouldn’t have come as a shock. On Sunday, Smith hobbled around like a 40-something weekend warrior. On Monday, he looked slightly better. Although witnesses said that Smith appeared more fluid on Tuesday and Wednesday, Ryan's blunt assessment was a buzz kill for Geno supporters such as Idzik.

Idzik & Co. were so blinded by the desire for the rookie to beat out Sanchez that they didn’t realize that they were hurting their own cause. If Smith misses the game on Saturday night, then Sanchez will win the job unless he implodes against the Jaguars.

If Sanchez plays well on Saturday, Ryan won’t be able to justify starting Smith the following week. The third preseason game is usually the final dress rehearsal before the start of the regular season. The Week 1 starters typically play into the second half of the third preseason game, so starting Smith wouldn’t make any sense. (Ryan doesn’t play his key starters in the final preseason game).

The only scenario that can save Idzik is if Smith starts and somehow outplays Sanchez despite the gimpy ankle. It’s a longshot considering how the rookie has looked in practice this week.

Idzik said that the organization would involve everyone from coaches to front-office members to scouts before coming up with a “collective” decision on the Week 1 quarterback.

Somehow, all those people agreed that forcing the issue in early August with an injured rookie was a good idea.

Sanchez surely thanks them for it.


> http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/jets/mehta-idzik-plan-jets-shambles-article-1.1427324

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New York Jets general manager compares quarterback competition to Seattle Seahawks last year


The New York Jets aren’t ready to decide on a starting quarterback. Rookie Geno Smith will get his first preseason start this Saturday against their cross town rivals, the New York Giants.“I don’t know if it’s scientific, where you can map it out and say, ‘OK, by Week X, we’re going to pull the switch,’ ” Idzik said yesterday on WFAN’s Boomer and Carton show. “I think it’s a feel, from the organization standpoint, when the young guy is ready.”Idzik was working for the Seattle Seahawks when they decided to go with rookie Russell Wilson over the more veteran Matt Flynn.“They’re complete different players,” Idzik said. “The similarities are in the situation. Russell came into a wide-open competition.”


“We’re doing the same thing here.We’ll see how they react.Obviously, Russell reacted very well and very quickly. It was an open competition and I think it was pretty evident when the switch was made, and I think the same will be true here.”Smith on the other hand continues to say the right things.“I think we have a team here that has an opportunity to do some really good things this year,” Smith said, “and I just want to be a part of it.”He has an opportunity to show case his abilities and make a case for the starting job this weekend.“I don’t think one game completely defines who I am, but it is important to go out there and get a good showing,” Smith said.


The importance of this game isn’t adding extra pressure to Smith.“I never put pressure on myself,” Smith said. “It’s the game I love to do. I’ll just go out there and play football and have fun. I think if you put your mind in other places, it can distract you. That’s something that I refuse to do.”


>   http://fansided.com/2013/08/20/new-york-jets-general-manager-compares-quarterback-competition-to-seattle-seahawks-last-year/

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