Thursday was the Jets' sixth practice but the first that felt — and sounded — like training camp. The defense was extremely sharp in the team's first day in full pads after two practices in only shoulder pads.
"When you're the play-caller, the competitive side of you wants to win every day," Coach Adam Gase said. "But for our team, that would never be good because that means we're struggling on one side of the ball. One day one side of the ball wins and then the next day the other side of the ball really steps it up and they have a really good practice. Sometimes you have one of those practices where it's like a tale of two halves. I feel like what we had going on so far out there has been good because it's been a back-and-forth type of deal. Some days it's been the offense and some days it's been the defense."
The defensive backs were impressive Thursday, led by safety Marcus Maye. Maye, who has been referred to as the glue of the secondary, has consistently made plays throughout camp.
"Marcus brings a lot of versatility," Gase said. "He's extremely sharp, he's able to help guys get lined up and make things look like one thing and get to something else. He's one of those guys that there's nothing you can say that he doesn't do well."
Maye played more single-high safety in his first three seasons with the Jets. Jamal Adams, who is now with the Seahawks, typically played closer to the line of scrimmage. Maye recently said he anticipates defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to deploy him differently this season, with Adams on the West Coast. Thursday perhaps offered a glimpse of that as Maye, 6-0, 207, came scorching off the edge and had a would-be sack of QB Sam Darnold.
"It's challenging in the aspect of you're not really sure what he's going to do when he's lined up," Gase said. "You don't know if he's coming, if he's going over the middle of the field, if he's going to the half-field. You don't know if he's going to play underneath coverage. Marcus has very good awareness, especially in zones. He's really good in man-to-man coverage. He has the ability to break up balls in man-to-man coverages, which you notice out here. He gets a lot of hands on the ball. He has a pretty tough matchup in Chris Herndon every day. When those guys go at it, it's fun to watch when you're either a coach or a spectator. That's a good matchup. Those two guys are two good players going at it."
See the Best Photos from Practice No. 6 at Training Camp
Cornerbacks Nate Hairston and Quincy Wilson played well in coverage on Thursday as they continue to receive more first-team reps because of injuries. Pierre Desir (hamstring) and nickel Brian Poole (dehydration) have yet to practice.
"We're taking this slow because it was a situation where a lot of us got pretty nervous about the way things happened after practice," Gase said of Poole. "I think it caught everybody a little off guard. Our guys handled it well. He's getting better, we're just taking it slow. We have to find a way to make sure he's in a good place and we can get him out on the field, progress things the right way where he can finish practice and get him in the kind of shape he was when he hit the season last year."
Players who did not practice Thursday: WR Braxton Berrios (personal), ILB James Burgess (lower back), OL Cameron Clark (shoulder), CB Pierre Desir (hamstring), WR Denzel Mims (hamstring), CB Brian Poole (dehydration) and DL Jabari Zuniga (quad). … S Matthias Farley (hamstring) and DL Jordan Willis (knee) sustained injuries in practice. … OL Conor McDermott is week-to-week with a knee injury after he had an MRI on Wednesday. … The Jets concentrated on situational work. QB Sam Darnold marched the offense down the field, but Brett Maher missed a 40-yard field goal that would have given the offense the lead. … CB Nate Hairston broke up a couple passes, including one intended for Chris Herndon near the goal line. … DL Quinnen Williams got into the backfield twice in a hurry for a would-be sack and a run stuff. … K Sam Ficken connected on all four of his field goal tries, including a 53-yarder. … WR Jamison Crowder made a nice adjustment getting low to reel in a pass from Darnold with LB Blake Cashman in coverage. … RB Le'Veon Bell scored on a short run. … QB Mike White connected with new WR Chris Hogan near the back of the end zone with rookie CB Lamar Jackson in coverage. Hogan did a nice job of keeping two feet in bounds.