After inclement weather forced a delay to the Jets' first pads practice of training camp, the sun came out Sunday afternoon and the hitting began moments before 4:00 PM. The opening drill was 9-on-7 and both lines exploded off each snap like a pack of crazed dogs.
"It's the first time you put pads on. The defense is talking smack and the only way to shut them out is to just hit them in the mouth," said veteran G Willie Colon. "We're both trying to do that to each other, but also be professional and safe. I think it was a good day of practice and we have a lot more ahead of us."
Hybrid defender Quinton Coples, one of the D's captains of smack, didn't mind the wait. The dry stadium turf at SUNY Cortland stadium gave both sides equal footing.
"Well the Lord blessed the offense with a little bit of rain and we wanted to make sure they had no excuses," Coples said. "We didn't want them to say it was slippery or anything, so we came out on the turf at SUNY Cortland and we took action."
The Jets defensive line could be a handful for the rest of the NFL. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has All-Pro potential, the versatile Coples has elite athleticism and rookie Sheldon Richardson is consistently getting penetration up the field.
"I feel great being part of this defense. There is a whole bunch of talent out there on the field," Wilkerson said. "We have three first-rounders on the D-line. The whole defense is working hard, trying to make plays out there and having fun."
"Those guys are extremely athletic," added Colon. "You have Coples, Big Mo, a lot of those guys that really can move around. The young kid Richardson is showing up each and every day."
With rookie Geno Smith receiving 1st-team reps for the first time in camp, the defense greeted the rookie and all the quarterbacks with a lot of heat.
"Coach has emphasized reacting to the pass and playing the run first," Coples said. "It was a successful day, but we have to continue to get better."
"It's nothing new for me. It's controlled chaos," said Colon. "It looks like chaos, but once we get on the same page and we start getting our chemistry today and getting our communication together — it's another day at the park."
But Sunday afternoon didn't have a friendly park atmosphere. Wilkerson, who told me Saturday night that he was eager to get the hitting underway, delivered a passionate speech to the defense before the first team snap.
"We had the pads on, so we could do a little more," he said. "You had the shells on the past couple of days, so there really wasn't that much physical-ness. But today we got everything going."
It was real football for the first time in training camp. Hitting and trash-talking were music to everyone's ears.
"My emotions can get the best of me," Colon admitted. "I try to think I've matured in that aspect, but I like to stand up for me and my guys so sometimes I can get a little mouthy."
"It felt great," Mo said. "We got out here, got the pads thumping in the trenches and got after the offense."