Green and Growing
On a humid Saturday morning, the Jets concluded their first mandatory mini camp with interesting offensive drills, hurry-up situations, and a little bit of laughter. After all, today marked the finale of what turned out to be a first for many involved in the new-look franchise.
A handful of veterans and dozens of rookies took part in their first drills this weekend in a Jets uniform. With all rehab and positional competition stories aside, the focus off of the field today was the team's top two draft picks, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, and their adaptation to the professional level.
"They're extremely mature and their approach is great," said Coach Eric Mangini of his latest duo of offensive linemen. "Their attitude is outstanding. I'm happy with where they are in terms of their effort, performance and progress. They're seeing a lot of things they've never seen before, dealing with a lot of things they've never dealt with before, in a whole new world, at whole new level. They're ready for the challenge, they're excited about the challenge, and they're embracing the challenge. They're really, really working hard at it, which is great. But at the end of the day, they're rookies."
Mangold, the team's second overall selection this year, finds his personal adjustment to be going relatively smooth so far - especially with the help of a couple fellow linemen who happen to be at completely different stages of their careers. To his near left, he has Pete Kendall, a proven veteran with years of successful experience under his belt.
"When I got here the guys have been great – Pete Kendall has been unbelievable just trying to help me out and help me learn for myself," said Mangold. "It's been a great experience for me so far. The players have been unbelievable."
Flanking Kendall's left side happens to be one of the hottest linemen to hit the draft board in decades, in Ferguson. These three players saw plenty of work together throughout the three days of camp.
"Having a guy whose come in with you at the same level that has the same ideas and everything, it's definitely helped," said the long-hair, bearded center from Ohio State. "It's nice because you can talk back and forth and you're not doing things alone. So it's definitely been a help and I'm real glad that we came in together."
At the conclusion of practice, Coach Mangini offered a positive sendoff for his troops, who have about a month off before the start of the official camp in July. After a few series of two-minute drills, Shaun Ellis put his punt returning skills on the line, following a deal between the Coach and the entire team. Luckily, for all 90 players, Ellis cleanly fielded Ben Graham's punt.
"I had two schedules, the schedule we had and the magic schedule," joked the first-year coach. "He won the magic schedule."
Coach Mangini had a few notable speakers come in over the last few days to talk to the team, who he referred to as "three very good people and good friends of the Jets." The speakers included former players Roman Phifer and Ray Lucas, as well as former U.S. Olympic athlete Dan O'Brien.
The majority of Saturday's practice involved two minute situations. While all four quarterbacks led a series a piece, it was Kellen Clemens' 20-yard cannon to Laveranues Coles in the end zone that took highlight honors, right in front of Chad Pennington's 40-yard connection to Reggie Newhouse – who leaped up and reached over the heads of two defenders for the grab.
Sitting out today was Ed Blanton, Justin McCareins (foot) and Jamar Enzor.
Coach Mangini also cited a conversation that he had with former Jets equipment manager Bill Hampton, the father of current Jets Director of Operations Clay Hampton. "I spoke to Mr. Hampton today; he was in town for Father's Day. He talked about the team as green and growing. I think that's kind of where we are. I think we're green and growing in the sense that we're all new; this is a new system both offensively and defensively. We're learning, but we're growing."