Transcript of Jets head coach Rex Ryan's news conference Thursday afternoon:
First off, I'd like to thank our fans for attending these practices. We never had exactly ideal weather, especially today. But it really is good to see our fans out here. I wasn't sure how it was going to work, but man, it was great. Yesterday it was packed. It seemed like everybody had a good time. I really want to make sure that they know how much we appreciate them coming out because it adds to our practice, it really does. It's always great to see our fans out there.
The other thing, obviously, this will be our last press conference for a long time. Wish you guys, if you get a little time for vacation, I hope you have a good one. I'm going to have a good one, I'm sure. If you need to get a hold of me, good luck [laughing]. But, hopefully you guys get some time. I know it's a long season and everything else for you guys as well.
The guys that stood out today were the guys I'm sure that stood out to you guys as well. Sanchez, number one. Wow, what a day. It's neat to see — he really came back in that last drive. Quite honestly, I wanted it to end a little early, but I'm like "Man, he's rolling. Let's let it go. Let's see if he can put one in there." And he did. That was fun to watch.
I like the way both those quarterbacks, [Kellen] Clemens and Sanchez, are really battling. It's going to be a great competition. I knew this was going to be a dogfight. Now, you can tell, it really is going to be a dogfight. We probably wont' know until … who knows? We'll see. Whenever it becomes obvious to us, that's when we'll make that decision on who will be the guy. Obviously, you would prefer to have it sooner than later. I just don't think that's going to happen. We'll see, but I just think both of them have really been good and they challenge each other, yet they are very supportive. That's good to see.
I thought Wallace Wright had a heck of a camp. That's Bart Scott's favorite guy. When in doubt, throw it to Wallace. That's [Scott's] solution to everything. As an offensive coordinator if you're playing Madden, you're start with Wallace Wright and you'll be OK with Bart. We all know Wallace is a great special teams player, but he's made some strides, I think, as a receiver. That's encouraging.
On defense, I think [Marques] Murrell stood out to me, besides the obvious, Eric Smith, who had five interceptions two days or something like that. That's pretty good also. And then he pulls a hamstring. I hope it's nothing big, but it looked like he kind of grabbed it with a hamstring. We'll see later. He's probably questionable for the softball tournament or whatever he has scheduled. But I don't think it's that big of a deal. You hate to see that, especially last day, this late. I looked over to Thomas Jones and was like "Oh, yeah, I already know what you're going to do. Take a knee [and say] go ahead, kid, you got it.'
You really do hate to see that, but he's had as good a camp as anyone. It was Eric Smith/Ed Reed. That's what it reminded me of. But he's really pushing, he really is. When you look at it on paper, you've got Jim Leonhard and Kerry Rhodes — that's a heck of a safety combination. We also have [James] Ihedigbo and Eric Smith. The depth is really something there. We also got two young kids. They're struggling a little bit mentally with some of these free agents that we got, but I think they have a chance as well. I'm excited about the depth of our safety. I thought they had a good camp.
But, Murrell was the one that I think really jumped out at me, using his hands well. [Mike] Pettine and Bob Sutton decided to move Murrell to Sam linebacker, kind of switching him and [Jason] Trusnik around. Hopefully you can flip both of them. But, he's really taken off. He's a good athlete. I don't think he can run the ball the way his brother [Adrian Murrell] … was it his brother? Yes, it was. It's amazing because I ask that question, because there is no way he doesn't catch the ball that well and he certainly doesn't run like his brother. But man, he looks great. He's using his hands. He's working hard on his pass rush. He's another guy that just jumps out and I really never knew a whole lot about him but now he's been really impressive.
On if he knew this time last year that Ravens QB Joe Flacco was head and shoulders above the competition…
I just thought he was head and shoulders above because of the way he could throw the football. I had a lot of respect for Troy Smith. I thought he was a great competitor, a little shorter guy. [Kyle] Boller has a bazooka for an arm and things like that. I like Kyle, but I just thought that this guy was the better quarterback, the best quarterback. I thought that before we ever went to training camp.
On if the starting QB is more of an open question than it was this time last year…
I think we've got two real good quarterbacks. I don't mean to slight Erik Ainge or anything like that, but really, I'm looking at the two guys. I think Erik had his moments in these camps, but I look it as a two-horse race for that spot. I feel good about it. I really do.
On if he feels pressure to play Sanchez because of his contract deal and the fans…
I understand that with him getting the money, but the job as a coach is you've got to play the best guys. What gives you a chance to win? I'm judged on wins and losses. I have to do what's best for our football team. If that means that we play a rookie at quarterback, then so be it. If that means Kellen Clemens is our quarterback, that great.
The one thing I always say is that the guy is going to have to earn that job, whether it's Kellen or Mark. Somebody is going to have to earn it. That's what's great about this competition. This is working exactly how you would want it to work, where it's not a slam dunk one way or the other. It's a great competition because both of them have really looked good. If they both looked terrible, then you'd really be in trouble.
Both of them have looked good, so you know this is what you want as a coach. It's going to make them much better. I think it already has. You see Kellen and all that. Maybe it's just me, it's made him better already. Clearly, it's going to push Sanchez as well. They both are competitive. They both want to be the guy under center opening day. And they'll tell you that. They'll tell you that to your face. They'll tell the other guy that. They also know and I think they trust in the fact that the best player will play in our opinion. I think that they appreciate that.
On if legitimate competition brings out the best in both Clemens and Sanchez…
It has to because you know you got a guy that's right there. He's pushing you. You could be the starter at any position. You can look at the safety. How does Smitty [Eric Smith] sit back and not give him a chance. He had five interceptions in two days. As good as Jim Leonhard and Kerry Rhodes are, they got to be like "Man, Smitty is playing great." Ihedigbo is playing great.
So, that's good. That's what you want. We want a whole team of competitors. And they pull for each other. It's not like they wish something bad for somebody because it's not. It's not what's good for me. It's what's good for us and the team. And that's that we put together as many good football players together as we possibly can regardless of the position.
On the teammates' ribbing of Sanchez after he signed his contract…
Our guys just couldn't wait until they got here. Because you know you're going to get it anyway. You're a first-round pick. You know you're going to get it. But the fact that he's a quarterback, he's going to get it more so. I saw it happen last year to Joe Flacco as well. They would make fun of Joe Flacco. I saw myself doing it. He was a good-natured kid. With Mark, I think it drives him. He doesn't want to disappoint himself, number one, but he doesn't want to disappoint his teammates. He's taking this ribbing but he wants to show them like "Hey, I got you, you can say what you want to me, but watch this when I put a touchdown on you." It's good, it really is.
On Sanchez's impressive last touchdown drive at practice…
It's amazing how that happened, isn't it? His poise and his competitive competence, where he's sitting back there and he's like "All right, it's on right now." The last drive, he wanted that thing to continue. He wasn't wanting to stop, he was wanting to score. He was wanting to be the guy under center in that situation. The whole team saw it.
I mean, he was down on himself yesterday. It wasn't as good a day. He knows the way you guys [media] write. You'll put the stats in there. Some of that stuff is funny. When you look at that, what were the stats? Who's got them? On that drive? [5-for-5] OK, there you go, Hutch [Dave Hutchinson, The Star-Ledger]. It's no surprise you would have them. That's good. Look how impressive, though. And he's putting it in there now. They're trying to stop him on D. This wasn't one of those orchestrated things where it's like "All right, we're playing three deep on this one. The out is going to be open." This guy has got to figure it out as guys are flying around him and all that. He's shown that poise.
The thing that I was impressed with also in this camp, Brian [Schottenheimer] and Matt Cavanaugh talk about that pocket presence. I see our quarterbacks, all of them, doing a good job of seeing, "Here comes a guy flying off this edge, step up and avoid it." They know the protection. They're getting a grasp of the protection. That's encouraging to me because I don't think you can play quarterback in this league if you don't have that. We touched on that a little bit the other day. I sit back there. Man, that stuff is flying around you and you've got to focus down the field. That's pretty impressive when you can do that.
On the specific situation of the last drive…
It was a no-huddle situation. We were just wanting our guys to up the tempo and it was a move-the-ball-type situation. At least that's what it ended up. It might not have been scripted that way, but that's certainly how it ended up. Just keep on going, keep going, let's see what happens.
I did that for a few reasons. Number one, you have us offsides. We wanted to see the guy. He was rolling. You wanted to see that. But on the defense, you wanted to see, hey look guys because this happens. It's not always going to be three-and-out. It's not always that you're going to get a takeaway. Sometimes you have to get a stop and I don't care, just stop the bleeding. No one is going to get you off the field unless you get yourself off the field.
In that situation you've got to rise up. You've got to go back to your fundamentals and focus and get off the field. Find a way. They're not in until they're in. Well, that was it, where you saw the offense really stepped up in that particular spot. Unfortunately the defense didn't. But it was kind of a neat thing to see, the way that young man [Sanchez] responded.
On if Sanchez was more vocal today…
Yeah, it's good. I felt like he wanted to come back today. We all know that he signed a contract for probably what all of us in this room make, I'm sure. But that wasn't it for him. He couldn't wait to get here today so he had an opportunity to compete again. That's what drives him. That's what he wanted. I think he wanted that opportunity to finish this thing out.
Everybody saw it. It's his offense. That group right there, that unit, against this defensive unit and the scheme, so it's as hard to figure out as any in this entire league. He knows that Mike [Pettine] and DT [Dennis Thurman] are going to fire everything at him. Notice I never included myself there, since they weren't successful. In a game they're just the opposite. But that was neat. It was neat to see.
On if he wants the team to take on his outspoken personality…
You know, shoot, I hope they do when it comes down to those situations. We look at it as that's an opportunity for us to win a football game. Like, man, you want it in your hands. As a defensive coordinator, I wanted to be on that field every single time and I wanted players that wanted to be there also. That you can look out there and you know in their eyes and in their faces, like that baseball guy: "Hit the ball to me". That great basketball player: "I want to take the last shot."
As a coach, as a position coach and coordinator, that's definitely what I wanted. So to that, I absolutely hope so. We have confidence. We want the game on the line and I have confidence that no matter who we're playing against, you can put our defense out there and we're going to stop them. And I also have that same confidence that we're going to score with our offense. It's all going to be proven in the end, but I certainly have that confidence right now. Again, he has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with the belief I have in our football team.
On the wide receivers…
Again, we don't have the pads on, but there's been times that guys have been impressive. You guys saw Brad Smith today. I don't know if I've ever seen that kind of catch before. You guys know, this is an amazing athlete. His hands are probably this big. When you throw that arm out like this, it's not supposed to stick like it does. He made an unbelievable one-handed catch. He made a great catch yesterday in the red zone running a route and he got both feet inbounds. mean it was like "Wow, all right, the kid's coming." I mean, he really is.
Chansi Stuckey, we all know he's hard to stop in the slot. Wayne Chrebet was the toughest guy I ever saw in the slot. The [Wes] Welker kid's that way in New England. But this kid, you'd better have two on him because he's got that special trait. He can make you miss. He's got that wiggle. He can shake you outside, inside, break your ankles. That's encouraging to me.
I think [David] Clowney has had his moments. He's also had his inconsistencies. I will say this, practice is over, it's been over for about an hour, and I see him out there on a JUGS machine with a helmet on catching passes. So that's encouraging. He knows what we need. He knows we need him to be able to make those catches consistently. He's out there trying to get better.
On if the defense wants to steal the spotlight from the quarterbacks…
The defense can't wait to play. You can already tell that. They'll want to see an opponent where they can just turn it loose. They appreciate the opportunity competing with our offense every day. They love having that kind of competition. They're feeding off of that. Right now, instead of having that unit out there, we should have been out there, the first group and all that kind of stuff. We certainly have a lot of competitive guys over there and I think they're looking forward to training camp.
On if his feelings on the QB situation have changed…
I could still say I have that feeling on how it'll end, but, wow, I don't know if I knew how competitive. You get a sense of how competitive these guys are, but man, it is great. Both these guys have their moments and it's fun to watch. I mean, you guys are seeing the same thing I'm seeing. If we could vote — we won't do it now — I bet there would be half one way, half the other way on how it was going to go. I guess my vote is the only one that matters [laughter] so we'll go on.
On if this minicamp accomplished what he wanted…
Yeah, it really did. I probably could have done a little less sparring with [Channing] Crowder, but that was fun, too. The kid's going to be hunting me. Oh, great, I'm going to appreciate that trip. But it is funny. I know the kid, I'm sure he was approaching it like I was.
This thing has been fantastic. You guys see the energy that I see out there on the practice field. They're having fun out there, yet they're working their tails off. They're working to get better. They're competing with each other and that's what you want. That's the only way you're going to get better. If you go out there every day giving anything less than 100 percent, you're not going to get better. I think you see it out there and I also think you see the pride in the units. That's what I want to see.
That offensive line, I watched them today and was like "Wow, these guys really are a proud group.' And it is a unit, headed by their coach, Bill Callahan. He's really done a great job with these guys. They know what each other is going to do. They play off each other. It's an outstanding group. That's what you want. If somebody gets beat, they'll try to pick each other up.
Same thing on defense. It doesn't work any other way. If you don't play as a unit, you have selfish guys, individual guys, that pulls from the unit. You'll never have a great defense if you have guys that are selfish. I'm seeing that group really come together so there are a lot of encouraging things that I see. I can't wait to get going in training camp. I know I have some time off, but it really can't get here fast enough.
On not having a pass rusher that teams will necessarily gameplan for…
I think we have some excellent players. When you look at the outside skill guys, when you've got a Calvin Pace, you have Bryan Thomas, you have a Shaun Ellis, and then you've got a [Vernon] Gholston, a young guy who we think a lot of, and Murrell — I think we've got those edge guys.
If I'm looking at facing us, though, the one that I'm definitely looking at is, you better know where Kris Jenkins is. There are times when I look at Pett and I go "Get him out." "What do you mean?" "Take him out. He's going to mess our practice up." That's really a bellcow. We haven't even put him in those situations. We don't need him to push the pocket, push somebody back into the laps of our quarterbacks. We don't really need that right now so we just got to cut him out of the drills. I'm like "Hey, big guy, you know you're going to be in there when it comes real time. Yeah, trust me, we're not that dumb. You're going to be out there."
On Jenkins' history of injuries…
You do want to have depth there and you do want to roll those guys. Bill Walsh used to say, "You've got to be able to rush the passer in the fourth quarter and win games." If that means resting some of the guys, taking reps from Kris during games, then absolutely. We don't put them out there every snap.
When I was a young coach, I really never knew that. I had a great player in Eric Swann in Arizona. I played him all but two plays the whole season. I don't know what I was thinking. He just kept playing, but it's the wear and tear on him. Obviously, we feel good about our depth at the D-line with [Sione] Pouha, with Howard Green, with guys like that. You feel really good about that. There's no reason that he has to play every snap here.