It was one of those proverbial tale of two cities for the Jets' defense at tonight's Green & White scrimmage at SUNY Cortland.
In the "first half" of the Jets' third scrimmage on the Cortland campus in four years, the Jets' first and second defensive units faced six series against the offense's ones and twos, most of the drives starting from the O's 30-yard line, and yielded just two first downs and no drive across midfield.
"It's early in the season and we don't have everything in, obviously, on offense," head coach Rex Ryan said. "But did I expect the defense to dominate the scrimmage? I did, just because we had a lot of guys out and the defense doesn't really care who they face. They're going to go out and play."
It also didn't hurt the ones that center Nick Mangold was in London to watch his weightlifting sister perform at the Olympics, Brandon Moore was in Canton, Ohio, for Curtis Martin's enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Wayne Hunter was sitting out with a sore back.
"Anytime you look across the line of scrimmage and see that Nick Mangold isn't there," said linebacker Aaron Maybin, "it definitely makes things a little bit easier."
On running plays, LBs Bart Scott and Calvin Pace and DE Muhammad Wilkerson were flowing to Shonn Greene, keeping him contained. Joe McKnight had the best run of the practice, a 14-yarder against the ones, yet coughed the ball up at the end of it, with David Harris pouncing on it.
And Tim Tebow was contained in his series with the second offense, rushing for 14 yards on four carries but missing on two passes.
But the offense responded with "touchdown drives" on the first and last series of the "second half" to at least make the argument for a draw in this 90-minute competition between the guys in green and the dudes in white before almost 10,000 (actual: 9,420) fans on Cortland Stadium's new A-Turf field.
That first drive of the second half of the scrum was a thing of gritty beauty for Mark Sanchez and the first offense. Sanchez completed seven of nine for 57 yards, including 4 yards on third-and-3 to WR Patrick Turner, 7 yards on fourth-and-3 to TE Dustin Keller, 18 yards on a step-up to Turner on third-and-4, and a scrambling 8-yard TD to second-year RB Bilal Powell on third-and-7.
"Obviously, we'd like to start faster," said Keller, who led the offense with four receptions for 36 yards and might've had the TD himself except for a high Sanchez throw in the end zone. "But finishing is the thing we want to do more than anything."
Finishing is what the third defense didn't do when the offense's threes, headed up by undrafted free agent rookie Matt Simms, wrapped up the scrimmage with a 31-yard touchdown strike to WR Raymond Webber over just-signed CB Devon Torrence.
Nevertheless, Ryan liked what he saw from the D.
"I feel great about the defense," the coach said. "I think getting LaRon [Landry] into the mix a little bit more as we get going will help. You're seeing that [Demario] Davis is finally healthy, away from the hamstring, so he's getting reps and things. I think we have a deep football team. On defense, I think our secondary's pretty well loaded, and I like the depth on our defensive line, linebackers as well."
"I think we have to learn to work on it and learn how to respond in any kind of situation," said Scott. "I think we can do better, and we will do better. This is just a first step There are a lot of good things today, a lot of things to learn from."
No official statistics or unofficial statistics were released by the team, but unofficial numbers from one observer showed that the defense held its own, especially against the run, as Shonn Greene was limited to 5 yards on six carries and the offense overall had 44 yards on 23 carries. With Maybin buzzing the pocket all night, the defense also totaled four sacks, two of Sanchez, one of Greg McElroy and one of Simms.
Sanchez did most of the passing and was sharp short: 11-for-16 for 89 yards and the TD. Tebow and McElroy both went 0-for-3 and Simms was 2-for-2 for 44 yards and his TD. After Keller, WR Santonio Holmes had three catches for 27 yards and Turner was 2-for-22 for the receiving leaders.
Holmes suffered a rib injury possibly on his last catch, a 12-yarder on third-and-15 to set up Keller's fourth-down conversion, but the Jets reported tonight that X-rays were negative, no broken ribs, and Tone is day-to-day, with Sunday an off day for the players before the Jets return to practices Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, then head to Cincinnati on Thursday for their preseason opener against the Bengals on Friday night.