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REX: Great Day of Practice for the Defense

Posted Dec 26, 2013

Transcript of the Jets head coach's news conference on Thursday afternoon.

Today, we had a great practice, about as good as we’ve had defensively since I’ve been here, I think. Sometimes off of a holiday, a little time down, sometimes that focus isn’t there, but it was certainly there today. That was great to see. Guys were feeling good, communicating and flying around, so a really good practice.

Guys that did not practice today: Ellis Lankster with his jaw. I know he was out there, but no helmet on. Ed Reed, that was not injury-related. Then Kellen Winslow was sent home with an illness today. Guys that were limited: Quinton Coples, shoulder, Antonio Cromartie, hip, Santonio Holmes, foot and hamstring and then Sheldon Richardson, finger and shoulder. Everybody else was good to practice.

On the chances the limited players will not play Sunday…

I think we’re good. I think we’re ready to roll.

On if Lankster broke his jaw…

No, what happened, I think he had a tooth pulled or something and then maybe a little bone or something in there, so we’ll see. It’s just more pain, I think, than anything else, so we’ll see how it goes.

On which Jets he thinks deserve to make the Pro Bowl…

I’m sure several guys will get some votes, I hope. I think there are a lot of guys deserving. The guys that jump out at you, your usual suspects with Brick [D’Brickashaw Ferguson] and Nick Mangold. I think Nick “Folk Hero” should get some for sure. The one kid [Justin Tucker] made a 61-yarder, I know he’s not getting any of our votes [joking]. There are some guys who have had some great years, but it’s hard for me to believe there have been any better than his, so I think him. Obviously, Mo Wilkerson, the type of year he had. I think Calvin Pace deserves it. I’m not sure if he’ll get any [votes]. I would think maybe even Sheldon. I think we should have a few guys on there for sure.

On if he had any expectations at this point that Woody Johnson or John Idzik would inform him whether or not he’s returning to the team next season…

No, the only expectation I know that I have and that we’re fulfilling is getting ready for Miami. That’s been the theme all year and that’s the way it is. We just focus on this week and that’s it. So as far as expectations, that’s where my expectations are, that we’re getting ready to play this game and I think our guys, we’ll see, the proof being the pudding on Sunday, but I think our guys are going to play well.

On if he has been uneasy thinking about his future…

No, shoot, I haven’t thought about it. Again, I know what the job at hand is and what’s right in front of us and that’s Miami.

On whether his comments that this is an ascending team has to do with individuals improving or something else…

Certainly, I see some individuals improving. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s more just the way this team is, the way the chemistry is, the way the practice is. We talked about it today, the attention to detail, everything, it’s more that this is how we do things, so I feel great about that. I see us really improving in that aspect in particular, and again, we’ll see how it plays out on Sunday where we’ve improved. I think that’s going to be a good mark for us being how Miami really put it on us about a month ago and we’ll see how true that statement really is. Obviously, they have the playoffs to play for, so we’re definitely going to get their best shot, but they’re going to get ours as well. We’ll see at the end of the day how much we’ve improved or if we have improved at all.   

On the players he would consider being a part of the team’s ascending nucleus…

I just think when you look at the young guys in particular, it’s not a surprise that some guys would really be taking off. I think you’re starting to see that. In particular, I like the way obviously the young defensive line is playing, but Dee Milliner I think has really stepped it up and you see that. It started just like anything else. Anything good that happens on Sunday happens on the practice field and that’s where you really notice it. All the young guys really have come around. As far as the veteran guys, it’s more getting used to playing with each other, and I’ve seen that come around as well.

On how clear a picture he thinks he has of Geno Smith’s potential and future…

Let us finish out the year and then we’ll really look at it because I can’t tell you. Right now, it’s more about how we’re looking against Miami. Has he improved? I absolutely think he’s improved.

On what stood out to him about how Smith bounced back from the three-game losing streak…

He has bounced back and I think our team bounced back. That spoke about the character of this football team, I thought. So I think that was big. But his play in particular, it’s just he had to get better. You’ve got to hit every step. It’s not an elevator. You can’t just push a button and get there. He had to just keep climbing step-by-step and we did as a team as well. But I think he’s been up to that challenge and obviously I think the results speak for themselves. 

On the difficulty involved in projecting the potential of an NFL quarterbacks based on one season…

That’s probably difficult because you’re right, there are so many different variables and things happen along the way. Like I said, we’ll get through it and hopefully we’ll have a good idea for you. But each guy is different. Like you mention, some guys light it up and struggle for whatever reason and some guys are just the opposite of that, it just takes them a little more time. Back in the day, it would take five or six years, then you groom a quarterback. Well that’s not the case, obviously, anymore. That position in particular is a tough one to evaluate, but it is a critical position. I understand that.

On if he felt it was going to be a bumpy ride this season with Smith’s transition from his college offense to a pro-style offense…

We were confident. I was confident and we all were. He had a really good training camp and then he had some moments. Once he had the injury, then it went down. Obviously, we had the bad game against the Giants and things, but we were confident if he could regain what he had in training camp, that we all saw, that we’d be okay. I think that’s where we were.

On how he would describe Smith’s learning on and off the field since he became a Jet…

Obviously, it would be challenging for everybody, but especially when you come here it’s different than when you go to other clubs, other teams or whatever, because it is, and it’s a good thing, the media is so much more here than it is [other places], your commitment. They say it’s the same, but it’s way different, I think, from other teams that I’ve been around. I think he’s done a really nice job that way. He’s a stand-up guy.

I think as far as his play, he’s come a million miles. This is a guy that was in shotgun his whole time [at West Virginia]. He had to learn how to take a snap. He had to set up, three-step, five-step, seven-step drops, learn not just our offense, but try to learn the defenses as well that he’s facing and obviously that’s a great challenge because you’re not facing the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints on defense in college. You’re not. Obviously, that’s a big adjustment.

The fact we’ve had a lot of different bodies in there at receiver, we weren’t exactly the healthiest during the year, so that I’m sure has been a challenge. But the young man never flinched. He just keeps going, works every day to get better. Obviously, I think that the tutelage that he’s had with David Lee in particular and Marty [Mornhinweg] running that show on offense has been spectacular as well.

On if he has to grade Smith on a curve this season due to the challenges of running a new offense and having different receivers throughout the year…

No, I’m just trying to answer the question. I haven’t graded him on anything yet. My thing is has he learned? I think he’s learned a great deal. That’s to be commended I think.

On if Coples has exceeded his expectations in run defense…

No, he hasn’t exceeded my expectations. I think he has more to give. Obviously, I like the way he’s playing. I think he’s playing hard. He’s doing those types of things, but I still think he’s not to where he could go. In the system, some small things, but through experience, I think he’s going to get there, recognizing blocking patterns a little quicker, those type of things. It’s different when you’re playing an end as compared to outside in space. So those are things that are a little more challenging I think. I think he’s done a really good job. I just don’t think he’s where he’s going to be. I really don’t. He’s playing hard and obviously he makes plays. I’m not saying he doesn’t make plays, he makes a lot of plays and some big plays, but I have a funny feeling he’s going to even get better.

On if there is something to be said for finishing with eight wins as opposed to a losing season…

I’d much rather have eight than have seven [laughing]. There’s no question about that. However that is, I’d definitely rather have eight wins. There’s no question. Like I said, we’re excited to go there for other reasons. We’re going to measure how much we’ve improved or have we improved and I think we’ll all see it. I think that’s big. You have a non-losing season, maybe in the big picture it’s one game, but it sure sounds better to be 8-8 than it would be 7-9.

On if he thinks it’s fair for people to criticize him for not building a consistent offense in his tenure…

Everybody has a right to their opinion and that’s fine. Again, I’d rather focus on the Miami deal and then face that later, but I certainly understand how everybody has a right to their opinion. It’s not like “Survivor” where I’m trying to get their vote or something like that [joking] [laughter]. Hey, you have your opinion and I’m not here to change it.

There are a lot of people who have a great deal of knowledge in the game. That’s super. And there are some who maybe with not quite as much, but fans have the right to have their opinions and that’s one of the beautiful things about this league, especially the positive opinions about me [joking] [laughter]. 

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