There was some hard hitting out near the goal line Tuesday as players had their first opportunity to square off on the grass field at SUNY Cortland.
"Whenever you get on grass, you can take a load off," said defensive end Marques Douglas after Tuesday's afternoon practice. "Obviously guys are going back to their roots because we all started on grass fields."
Douglas is one of many recent acquisitions by the Jets, coming over with head coach Rex Ryan from Baltimore as an unrestricted free agent in this year's offseason. The ninth-year veteran has played a big role in helping Ryan and coordinator Mike Pettine teach their 3-4 hybrid scheme to the Jets' talented defensive line.
The other two starters, Shaun Ellis and Kris Jenkins, have made strides in picking up the important pieces through OTAs, minicamps and into the first few days of training camp. Though they've pretty much got it down to this point, players still come up to Douglas each practice to get a little insight if there is something they're not sure of.
"Guys have taken ownership of the scheme, so whenever you have that, those questions will die down," he said. "But at the same time, I do get one or two questions maybe every practice, but it's a lot less than when we first started."
Though Douglas doesn't frequently come up in conversations about the best defensive lineman in the league, his stats over his career beg to differ. In four of his last five seasons as a starter, he's totaled more than 75 tackles and three sacks. One of his best years was in 2007 with the 49ers, when he started all 16 games and amassed 100 tackles and three sacks.
Last year he went back to the Ravens and played a backup role behind veteran DEs Justin Bannan and Trevor Pryce. Coming over to the Jets gives Douglas, a guy who's always excelled as a starter, the opportunity to be atop the depth chart once again.
The 6'2", 290-pounder was highly touted by Ryan earlier this week.
"Marques came from a small college, but we all know why nobody talks about him. Nobody can believe it. When you see him, you're like, 'How can that guy be that good?' The young man is an excellent football player. That signing went really under the radar for us. That was just like 'OK, they added some depth.' "
Douglas likes to hear things like that from his coach, who was with him for five years with the Ravens. He also doesn't mind that his name doesn't come up in talks around the league.
"It makes me feel good," he said. "I might be under the radar because I'm an undrafted guy from a smaller school, but at the same time when you look at my stats, I'm right up there with everybody."
"When you look at it, Douglas will tell you what the stat is, but he's first or second in tackles for loss for a defensive lineman over a five-year period," said Ryan. "It's not by accident this guy makes plays."
Douglas unofficially has 41.5 tackles for loss since 2003, which is third-most in the NFL in that span and second-most among D-linemen behind only the Vikings' Pat Williams.
"His energy is always up, so he's one of those guys who can always pick a practice up," said Ryan. "The offensive guys can't stand him because he's always talking to them and challenging them. What you will see is when we go to play somebody, our offensive guys are going to be his biggest cheerleaders, his biggest support. That's what happens."
Having been on some great defensive teams over the years, Douglas is optimistic about the upcoming season and the potential of this defense.
"I think we can be very good if we keep working, if we stay humble, and if we come to work every day," he said. "I don't see why we wouldn't contend and be one of the top defenses."
Douglas will make sure to do his part to assure they are at least in the conversation. He's been such a hard worker for his whole career, and he doesn't plan on stopping now.
"When he came to Baltimore, he had little chance," said Ryan, "and I told him flat-out, 'You have less than a 1 percent chance of making this football team. The only chance of you making it is you can't have any friends and you have to play every single snap like it's your last.'
"You can have the same speech with other people. He's one of the only guys who has really ever taken me up on it, and now he's going on his 10th season."