Rex Ryan presided over his first minicamp practice as head coach of the Jets this morning. And he liked what he saw.
"This is a good football team. We expect to win," Ryan said at his midday news conference after an animated first practice at his first voluntary veterans minicamp under a beautiful blue North Jersey sky. "I think our tempo in practice should be reflective of that."
Rex thought the tempo was good and he liked a lot of the other wrinkles he saw as, clad in his black sweatsuit and white Jets hat, he bounced from one drill to another and presided over "all three phases" for the first time.
On OC Brian Schottenheimer's offense: "This is the fourth year a lot of these players have been in this system. The first day you don't usually see multiple shifts, motion, empty backfield. That was great to see, so we're far ahead of where most teams are with that system."
On DC Mike Pettine's defense: "This is a smart group. They're way ahead of where we normally are. Usually there are so many mental mistakes, but it was well-coordinated out there."
Ryan also had words of praise for Mike Westhoff's coaching presence with the special teams and strength coach Sal Alosi's work with the players for about a month in the off-season strength and conditioning program: "We're not in football shape now, but we're ahead of the game."
But the Jets aren't a complete team yet by any means. Ryan was asked about a few topics, prime among them the absence of RB Thomas Jones and QB Erik Ainge from the proceedings.
On Jones, he said, "You're probably better off talking to him. This is a voluntary camp and he's volunteering not to show up. I've talked with Thomas before. But hey, guys, I'm focused on the people here. This team is what my focus is on. I'm proud to have everyone out there flying around and having fun."
"Erik has a personal issue," Ryan said. "He's going to have an opportunity to compete here. We've said going in our quarterback situation is 1 and 1A with [Kellen] Clemens and [Brett] Ratliff, and Erik will have an opportunity as well."
Ryan was also asked about three veterans who were at the camp but were not practicing: DE Shaun Ellis and G Brandon Moore, who worked the stationary bikes, and TE Dustin Keller, who stayed on the side in a sweatsuit.
"Brandon's coming off sports hernia surgery," Ryan said. "Shaun had a little knee thing that he fixed up. He's doing outstanding. If we had to play tomorrow, he'd probably be out there. Keller? He's got the sniffles."
Ryan was also asked for the first time publicly about his desire to take this summer's training camp on the road. The camp's location has still not been finalized, but he explained his reasoning for seeking a venue some distance from the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center:
"I've had a vision for this football team, or for any team I was going to be head coach of," he said. "I like having training camp away from your facilities. The reason I want to do this has nothing to do with our facility or getting out of Florham Park. It's about getting away from the comfort of this place and the surrounding areas, where the players' homes are and all that, and putting them in a camp situation where all they've got is each other.
"We're trying to build the chemistry of our team in training camp. That's the No. 1 thing I see that is a huge plus for us if we're able to do that."
Eric Allen will write about Bart Scott's animated first practices in the middle of the Jets' reimagined defense, and I'll have a piece after the afternoon practice about the competition between QBs Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff and how many of their throws wound up in the hands of the new No. 87, David Clowney.