Heading into his eighth season, linebacker Bryan Thomas is one of the longest-tenured Jets, and though he's been through many training camps, he's never been to one so far away from home.
"Sometimes you need a change. Sometimes change is good," Thomas told newyorkjets.com on a Jets Radio show. "It's a breath of fresh air. Being up in SUNY Cortland, you're here at training camp, you're doing the things you need to do. When we go back to New Jersey and Florham Park, it's almost like another breath of fresh air."
The former UAB star, who set numerous school and Conference-USA records while in college, has developed into a reliable competitor on this Jets defense for the past seven seasons. Last season, he increased his tackle, sack, and forced fumble totals from '07.
He's had a great camp this year and that's good news for the Jets, who need him to step up and help fill the void that will be left by Calvin Pace's suspension.
"I've talked to Vernon [Gholston] and we both know the situation about Calvin being out the first four games," he said. "It's going to be on us and we've got to bring our 'A' game to the table, the other nine guys out there on defense, of course. The offense, special teams and everyone else are depending on us. We have to make it happen and I'll try to help him out as much as I can for that first game in Houston."
Thomas and Gholston will be among those who fill the outside 'backer spots while Pace is out. The former end knows about putting his hand on the ground. Then in 2006, when the Jets changed to a traditional 3-4 defense under Eric Mangini, Thomas made the move from DE to LB and posted a career-high 77 tackles and 8.5 sacks.
"There are similarities but now you get to rush the passer more," he said. "Instead of both sides being balanced, you have one side who is a rush guy, who is rushing the pass all the time, and you have another side, which is Sam and you have to do a little more dropping and covering. In this defense you still have to know both positions so you can be a balanced team that when teams try to shift in motion on us we can be balancing the assets."
If there are any questions about certain plays or situations, the outside linebacker knows he can ask the weakside inside linebacker — Bart Scott.
"Bart has been in this system. He knows things," B.T. said. "He can help every single player manage that intensity out there. When we're out there and something's wrong, you can ask him, 'How did you guys play this last year?' Having him out there makes it a lot better."
If the first preseason game was any preview of what's to come, the defense carried over from Baltimore by head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine should cause problems for opposing quarterbacks. The Jets recorded four sacks vs. the Rams, including three of starter Marc Bulger.
No. 99 remembers the coaches' message to the team when they initially arrived to Florham Park in January.
"When he first came here he was showing us plays of how they want 11 guys to the ball every single play," he said. "The saying Mike Pettine uses most of the time is 'Play like a Jet.' Run to the ball, be active making plays, show all-out hustle every single play, just be a disruption. If you want to be successful you have to have 11 guys playing like a Jet every single time."
Afternoon Practice Notes
The afternoon session was a short full-squad practice, about 70 minutes, on the Cortland Stadium turf. The offense opens with some Wildcat work before individual work begins.
Mark Sanchez, with the second offense, has nowhere to go when LB Jason Trusnik comes unblocked up the middle in early 11-on-11 drills.
Then Sanchez tries to rifle a long out to Wallace Wright but CB Rashad Barksdale is lying in wait for the pick and return upfield.
But in 7-on-7's, Sanchez is on target with a leaping Britt Davis above CB Marquice Cole for a 35-yard connection.
DT Marques Douglas shows his O-line penetration skills by getting into the backfield for a "tackle" that would've resulted in a 5-yard loss for Brad Smith on a reverse.
Safety Nate Ness, the newest Jet, signed after a morning tryout to take the roster spot vacated when Keith Fitzhugh was released, is on the field wearing No. 37.