David Harris had a small smile crease his lips across the vertical beads of sweat still trickling from the Jets' goal line drills this morning. It may have had something to do with the Green & White's emerging run defense.
"I thought it went good. I especially thought the defense did very well," the Jets' middle linebacker assessed. "We didn't allow one touchdown run on us. We let one pass get in, but stuff happens so fast on the goal line that you've just got to react to it."
Head coach Rex Ryan noted the same thing about the last period of practice at SUNY Cortland.
"I thought the offense had the upper hand in the short-yardage period and the defense had it in goal line," Ryan said. "Big Mo [Muhammad Wilkerson] was impressive to say the least down there. But really, all the guys on the D-line were. You've got to create a new jump line, a new line of scrimmage or you're not going to be able to stop people. Last year we struggled where teams were able to run the ball on us down there. Hopefully today was an indication we'll be stronger."
"The way we played the run last year was no good. I think we finished as one of the bottom 10 teams," Harris said. "That's the difference. A great defense starts with stopping the run first. You can't be a great defense if you allow so many yards. We came up with an aggressive mindset, attacking, and it was a fun day today."
Harris was right on with the ranking — the Jets were 26th in rushing yards allowed per game, 21st in yards per rush. And while red zone is not all goal line, Rex was right in that the Jets allowed 14 red zone rushing TDs last season, their most since '05.
But that defense was not in evidence today, admittedly against a thinned running game. Three runs by Bilal Powell were stopped by the first unit, then three more by John Griffin were stoned by the twos and threes.
"There was a lot of banging. We went to the ground for the first time today. We're starting to learn about some players here," Harris said, anticipating more of the same at Saturday's Green & White Scrimmage (6 p.m. ET start, ESPN New York 98.7 FM). "Each day, more and more, we can't wait to get to that first game. It's good going against teammates and all, just being competitors. But we're getting better every day."
The Tights Were Loose
The offense wasn't shut out on the goal line. Rookie Geno Smith, with the ones, hit TE Konrad Reuland with a TD on the first play that was nullified by a penalty, so Smith and Reuland teamed up again three plays later. Then Mark Sanchez rolled right on fourth down and whistled one to Hayden Smith for a TD for the second offense and Matt Simms scrambled in vs. the threes.
"It's nice to get in," Hayden Smith said. "We just installed that yesterday, so it was good to get out there and execute some stuff. It was a fairly good day for the tight ends. We'll look at the film. It's never as good as you might think. So we'll have a good look at it and I'm sure there's plenty to work on."
In the short-yardage portion of the full-contact work today, Geno Smith had two nice completions to Powell, and LB Ricky Sapp had "a tremendous day," Ryan said, estimating that his OLB had "four or five that would've been sacks."
Ryan praised WR Stephen Hill, who had another strong day: "Stephen had some illness. If it was anything like what I had the other day, I'm really proud that he came back from that." ... Rex didn't know the condition of undrafted free agent C Dalton Freeman, who hurt his right knee on the last play of goal line, or of RB Joe McKnight, who left practice early. The coach continues to love the ebullience of G Willie Colon: "There's a certain presence he has out there. You're glad he's on your side. He's certainly a confident guy and he's a guy you'd want in a foxhole with you. ... It'd have to be a big foxhole." Colon, of course, is 6'3", 315. ... Attendance: 1,320.