REX: QB Competition's in the Early Stages

Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's news conference following Thursday's midday OTA practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center:

Today's practice, really what you guys saw today is kind of how it's been going. Some of the practices you have missed and all that. Guys flying around, taking care of each other, but the competition has been good. I like the speed with how we're playing, in particular on defense. I think we look fast, and obviously the physical skills of our players are one thing, but I think the communication — and it should be this way being the fifth year in the system, albeit five or six new guys out there — but I like the way the communication is going on defense.

We did have one major hiccup. I think we turned a guy loose. Other than that, it's going really well. We got a lot of stuff in on defense and I think we're really ahead of the game that way and they're playing fast. That's where I really want to return to our roots, playing fast, the type of tempo we play with, the type of mentality, and dictate more to the offense than the other way around. I think at some point I felt that we kind of worried about matchups more than having the offense worry about the matchups we present on defense, so we're trying to do that a little bit more.

Also, it's not like we're the most vanilla team on offense either. We have a ton of different personnel groupings out there, four-wides, five-wides, a tight end, two tight ends, two receivers. There's all kinds of stuff out there. So that's been fun.

The competition's been good. This is the first day we were in the red zone in the 7-on-7. The good news is we threw the two touchdown passes. The bad news is both were deflected. We'll take that for whatever it's worth [laughing].

But you expect the defense, obviously, to be ahead right now. They are. We have some of our receivers sidelined, obviously [Santonio] Holmes. Stephen Hill came back, so that's good to see. Hopefully we'll have [Clyde] Gates back soon because he was looking good. Jeff Cumberland had a baby, so that's good. He wasn't out there today.

Other than that, things are going pretty well. We're progressing along. We're firing a lot of stuff at them. The challenge to these guys is as you install you have to remember. You can't install something and it goes through one ear and everything else goes out the other. It's not about the three or four plays that you're putting in, but you have to remember all the other ones. I think they've done a pretty good job of that.

On David Garrard's retirement and its impact on the dynamic of the quarterback competition…

I don't know how much it changes the dynamic, I guess with the one major exception, with the reps he was going to get are shifted out differently now. It was something that, obviously, with David, that he had two years off. But when we brought him in for the workout, the physical, we thought, "Let's give this a shot."

Obviously, we knew he wasn't going to be the same guy that he was eight years ago, but he was impressive. In the workout, he was impressive. There's no question. We were excited about him. For him to get in there and compete, we thought that would be a good thing. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. It's just one of those things where sometimes before the skill level leaves you, it's the fact it's harder to recover. When you get older, obviously, it's harder to recover and I kind of think that's what it was compared to everything else.

I certainly appreciate what David did in the short time he was with us. He's really a tremendous person. I remember competing against him. He was an excellent quarterback and a great competitor. But I certainly appreciate him, his professionalism and everything else he showed when he was here.

On if Garrard was expected to vie for the starting spot…

There was always going to be competition. That's the thing. We weren't going to say, "He's going to start." And that fact hasn't changed. There's competition. Were we bringing him in to compete? Sure, certainly, but it's not like we're surprised that there would be a chance that this would happen, that he wouldn't be able to get through. It wasn't that we were blindsided by the fact he felt he couldn't play anymore.

On Mark Sanchez playing with the first-team offense and if Smith will have an opportunity…

We've actually flip-flopped some days. We actually had Geno [Smith] running with the ones a day you guys weren't out there. Again, there is going to be competition for this job, there's no doubt. It's not clear-cut that this guy is the starting quarterback. The guy is going to have to earn it no matter who it is. And that's at all positions. With that being said, we have flipped those guys in earlier practices.

On his evaluation of the quarterback competition…

Again, it's so early in it, there's really no "This guy is clearly going to win the job" and all that. We don't even have the pads on, anything else. Clearly, it's the early stages right now.

On Sanchez saying he has excelled this offseason and feels confident in his accuracy…

I think he's done a nice job this offseason. I think he's in great shape. Is he more accurate with the football? I'm not sure what the numbers will say. I really don't know. But I feel he has a confidence about him. I feel his confidence, I don't know how much left him, but last year I think it's safe to say maybe some of his confidence was shaken a little bit. But I think he's feeling good about himself. If he makes a statement like that, I think it's an indication of how he feels about himself.

On the impact Sanchez's confidence has on his ability to perform…

I think at that position, confidence is huge, I don't think there is any doubt. I think there is only one other position where you'd better be as confident as at quarterback, maybe a couple, kicker being one, corner being another one. I think if you're short on confidence, you're going to struggle.

I feel really all the quarterbacks we have are confident guys. I don't think there's any doubt about it. But again, we'll see how it goes. We know we have to improve on accuracy at the position. We have to improve eliminating turnovers and things like that. Obviously, I don't know if you could ever eliminate them but that's certainly the goal, to eliminate them. We have to do a great job at protecting the football. That's something we've got to keep working on.

I think we saw a little bit of it because sometimes just throwing an incompletion isn't a bad thing to do. Sometimes that defense is going to be ahead of you and you're going to get rid of it. Live to fight another down. It's OK to punt. We've got to make sure that we understand that.

On if Sanchez has spent time with anyone to improve his confidence…

It wasn't driven through the team. You would have to ask him. I don't know if he is seeing somebody or not.

On how RB Mike Goodson has looked the last two practices…

I think you see the speed that he has. That's what jumps out at me anyway. He had the ball in the open field a couple times. You see that acceleration he has, so that's been impressive. Again with all the backs it's like the big [Chris] Ivory kid, you sit back saying. well, we'll get the pads on the kid and we'll actually run the ball. It seems like we're throwing it and throwing it and throwing it. So I don't know how much you can evaluate the backs yet.

But I watch him. He does a good job. He actually does a good job running some direct-snap stuff as well. Obviously he's good out of the backfield as we know with his recent past with Oakland. He had 18 targets and 18 catches or something. So we know he can catch a football out of the backfield. His speed just jumps out at me.

On if Goodson seems distracted…

I haven't seen anything that would indicate that he is.

On Sanchez's statement that he doesn't plan on losing the quarterback job and Smith's statement that he would not consider being a backup a disappointment…

Well, again, that doesn't mean Geno is not going to try to compete for the job. I think the big thing is being good teammates. You'll have to ask Geno about it, I guess, but being supportive in whether if he wins the job, great, if he doesn't, then that's fine. But the guy's going to have to win the job. Whoever it is is going to have to win it and earn it.

I think that's where it's at, just like there's competition at other spots. There's competition at safety, there's competition at corner, at this, at that. The good thing about this football team, I see this team really helping each other and encouraging each other and I think that's a good thing. But at the end of the day from a competitive standpoint, yeah, you want to be the guy that gets the nod. And I don't think there's any doubt, whether Geno said that or not, I'm pretty sure he wants to win the job.

On Sanchez helping Smith out because he is confident in his ability…

I don't know, I just see it as it's a new system. Guys help each other. Greg McElroy helps everybody. That's just the way it should be. We bring in [D-lineman] Antonio Garay to compete for a starting job. He hasn't been able to practice. We know that. We draft a guy in the first round, well, he's the 13th overall pick. All right, he's in there almost until he proves otherwise. Yet I see him working with guys and all of them working with each other. You've got Kenrick [Ellis]. I put in a fast team, but the next day he's picking it up.

There's competition amongst each other as well. We've got, and I always kid "Snacks" [D-lineman Damon Harrison] and Kenrick. Snacks beats him in a race, he wanted me to know it. He says, "Hey, by the way, I beat Kenrick in a race and here's the proof of it, here's the picture to prove it." But there's always that competition and you always drive each other, but you absolutely want 11 Jets that are out there. That's the group you want to see succeed.

On how reassuring it is to see Calvin Pace out there…

Oh, man, that was a big signing for us because it's not just that he's kind of like the glue. We're doing a lot of different things with him. We're moving him all over the place. I don't know if you guys saw him, he was playing corner on one play. He had plenty of depth, though. And then we threw an incompletion in the flat. That was good to see. So I'm like I don't know how long it's doing to take Calvin to take the deep third up here to make the tackle [joking].

But we're taking advantage of the fact that we have Calvin. He knows our system. Have we tweaked it? Absolutely. But we're using him and it's some of the techniques that you teach and all of that stuff he knows. You don't have to say anything and that is reassuring, there's no doubt.

On if rookie CB Dee Milliner will participate in minicamp…

I don't know about minicamp. Certainly by training camp I anticipate him being out there. But I think in my personal opinion in the minicamps that would be too quick coming off the injury. I know he's doing a great job in the training room, he's doing a great job in the class room and all that. And the kid can't wait to play.

On if he has noticed if rookie free-agent D-lineman Jake McDonough has stood out…

No, I have not ... no, I'm just kidding. In a way it's true, I called him DeVito one time, so if that means anything. But no, the thing you look at, you recognize the size, the length of the kid. He certainly looks the part. He's being coached by the best D-line coach in the league, in my opinion, and we're really starting to see that.

I think you're seeing all our D-line starting to take off under Karl [DL coach Karl Dunbar]'s tutelage, and I'll throw Jeff Weeks in there also because it's his birthday. He's 51 — all right, he looks 21 with all the acne and stuff that he's got, but anyway he's 51 [joking].

But really, this young man, I like him. He's tough, he competes. If he doesn't make the team, it's not because of his work ethic or anything else. He's a hard-playing kid.

On if Goodson's off-field issues caused red flags before signing him…

You know what, I really, and I've mentioned it before, I'm not really comfortable talking about the young man's past and all that. I think letting everything sort out that way is probably the appropriate thing.

On Goodson's past…

Again, we do our due diligence, so I'm sure we know about all of our players, not just Mike but all of our players.

On the defense being ahead of the offense and if that hurts Sanchez…

Well, again, that's going to happen no matter who you're out there with. You could have an entire team of Pro Bowlers but if our defense is playing the way it should be playing, which it is, we hope that our quarterbacks are, even on the practice field, not the only quarterback feeling the same thing. I think there's a lot to be learned by that. Throwing the ball away is not a bad thing. It's an incompletion but it's certainly better than taking a sack or fumbling or throwing an interception. So I think you can learn a lot.

And again, you're working together, offense and defense. Our defense is not going to be a scout team, because we're implementing a new system. Every year you try to improve what you've done and I think that's what we're doing on defense.

Now, are there times when there are specific coverages you're going to run? Absolutely. You want to see it versus this? You'll see it. But for a full body of practice, it's not going to happen. But again, I think just because you're not hitting, he's not throwing a completion or the quarterbacks aren't completing every pass, a throwaway is not a bad thing.

On the relationship between the Jets organization and Joe Namath…

The thing I will mention about Joe Namath, not only with the Jets organization but the National Football League, he was huge, I think, for the popularity of our sport, with, obviously, the Super Bowl III victory. That was great. He was great for the game and things like that. Joe, just like anybody else, has the right to his opinion. For me personally, I've always respected and admired Joe Namath, as I'm sure every Jet fan has.

Does it upset me that he will make comments or whatever? I mean, I don't always agree with his comments, that's it. But he has a right to them and who am I to tell Joe Namath that you shouldn't say this or you shouldn't say that about us or any other topic? I'm certainly not that guy.

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