The Jets' rookie minicamp doesn't officially wrap up until Sunday, but media availability ended today at the Atlantic Health Training Center. Here are some storylines you'll be hearing about in the coming weeks heading into head coach Todd Bowles' fourth training camp as the Green & White head coach.
The Nathan Shepherd Story
Today the focus in the locker room was on the defensive players, so Nathan Shepherd spoke, and Bowles spoke about him and especially his long and winding football road, from Ajax, Ontario, to Simon Fraser U. to earning money at odd jobs so he could return to school, then to Fort Hayes State all the way to becoming the third-round pick of the Jets.
"It says a lot about the man," Bowles said. "He's determined to succeed no matter what he does. He carries himself, he works that way, and I can appreciate that. ... You always hear about the bad stories. Anytime somebody has a story like that, along with his play — obviously his play comes first and then you find out his journey — you can appreciate the man more."
In Pursuit of Sacks
An early Shepherd angle will be if he can provide a sack boost to the Jets defense, which is last in the NFL in 2016-17 combined with 55 sacks. Bowles would love that kind of production from all around his D but he hasn't changed his statistical stress.
"It's not imperative to get more sacks, it's more imperative to stop them from getting first downs. Be it sacks or pass breakups, it doesn't matter," the coach said. "We're not worried about stats. We're worried about winning games.
Pressed on if he nevertheless would still like to see improvement in sack production, he answered more pointedly: "I want to see an improvement in wins. Sacks is not my concern if we're winning ballgames."
Top Snapshots at Saturday's Rookie Minicamp Practice
Hack's New Attack
Offensive questions still came up for Bowles, including one regarding a report that QB Christian Hackenberg has been working on altering his throwing motion. What has Bowles seen in the offseason program?
"It's only a small sample," he said. "We just started getting out on the field. As the weeks go on, you'll be able to tell. Right now it's early. I'm aware of it. ... We haven't been on the field enough for me to say it's natural or not natural. Only time will tell."
Division of Coaching Labor
Jeremy Bates has drawn notice this weekend in his new role as offensive coordinator. "He's enthusiastic," Bowles said. "He's getting a feel for all the guys, but he's a great teacher, he can relate to guys very positive, and he has a great football mind."
Bowles said he kicked some options around regarding a quarterbacks coach before deciding Bates would handle both the OC and QB jobs. But the HC was asked about what it means to add Rick Dennison as run game coordinator to the Bates mix.
"They've worked together before," Bowles said. "Anytime you have an offensive line coach, he's heavily involved in the run game regardless. And the fact that Rick was a coordinator before helps him and Jeremy jell together a little bit more."
The bottom line: "Jeremy is the offensive coordinator designing everything. He listens to ideas from everybody else. It's not a 'co-' title or anything like that. It's Jeremy, and it's Rick as the run game coordinator, and it's everybody else, but Jeremy's in charge of everything."
Father & Son Camp
A free agency story down the road is how first-year free agent S Kacy Rodgers II, son of DC Kacy Rodgers, is faring. So far, so good. One thing Bowles has noticed so far is parental pride.
"I look at Kacy's face sometimes, every time his son makes a play or gets out there, and I can see the father-son situation," Bowles said. ". Just to be in camp with your dad is probably pretty cool."
Some Injury Issues
On Friday Bowles said fourth-round TE Chris Herndon, still rehabbing a knee injury, will be "week to week and then we'll take it slow with him. We're trying to get him ready for training camp." As for QB Teddy Bridgewater, the coach said he couldn't say for sure there will be limitations, "but I expect him to throw and to be out there throwing and competing with everybody else. ... He's been working out with us."