Recovering from an ankle injury has been a grind for Jets safety Brodney Pool. For the last week he's tried to keep a positive attitude as he was relegated to the stationary bike, but he's anxious to be back at 100 percent. Finally on Friday and Saturday, he was allowed to practice although head coach Rex Ryan said that he was "limited" during team drills.
Regardless, Pool and his teammates at safety are eager to get into the action on Monday against the Baltimore Ravens.
"We just basically want to mix things up and not make it easy on them," Pool said. "The biggest thing we have to do is stop the big plays and not let them get easy completions. It's going to be a big game and we expect to play well."
If Pool can't get healthy enough for the training staff's liking by Monday, veteran safety Eric Smith will take his place in the starting lineup. Smith has started 14 games in his four seasons with the Jets, including four games last year. In total, the Michigan State product has four interceptions and 102 tackles during his career.
"Right now I'm preparing like Brodney's not going to play," Smith said. "If he can play, that's great, that's a bonus. We'll just have to wait and see. We definitely have a lot of personnel groups, a lot of guys in the secondary rotating in situations."
Whether or not Pool is the starter, Smith will see plenty of time on the field, and cornerback Dwight Lowery has been used in multiple situations, including safety — just one more example of Ryan's and coordinator Mike Pettine's creativity.
"A lot of that is attributed to the talent we have," Lowery said. "I'm sure that a lot of defensive coordinators would like to do the things that we do, but they don't have the personnel to be able to do it. We have the personnel to be able to do a lot of different things and we take advantage of it."
While the talent is a natural resource that the coaching staff has at its disposal, it definitely takes hours of scheming and planning. Pettine said Friday that teams always overprepare for their opening game because it's the next one on the schedule throughout the summer, but it should be a special contest for him and Ryan as they square off against the team they coached on together for seven years.
To increase the odds of victory against his old squad, Pettine plans on using his deep secondary to his advantage.
"I think that's a solid group and as deep a group as there is in the NFL," Pettine said. "We have six corners and four safeties, so if we have a guy that can't go, we have enough interchangeable parts that we can do some different things."
With safeties swarming, showing blitz and dropping back into coverage, Ryan and Pettine plan again to make facing the Jets defense an unenviable task for opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators.
"These coaches put a game plan in week in and week out," Pool said. "They try to give us the ability to mix it up and I think all the guys bring something different to the table and once you have that you make it a lot harder on the quarterback. He can't key in on one guy."
One who may get a big opportunity Monday is James Ihedigbo, the Massachusetts product who has been known to pack a mean punch when attacking quarterbacks, running backs and receivers. If he's featured in the game plan, it will be in a way that plays to his strengths, like the coaching staff does with every player in their secondary.
"That's why we're a dominant group," Ihedigbo said. "We have so many versatile players. We're looking on Monday to make a statement to the league as to how dominant we are."