Transcript of offensive coordinator Tony Sparano's news conference following the Jets' Tuesday afternoon practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center:
On how he feels about the offense…
I feel like we made some progress in a lot of areas. Honestly, at the end of the game, we looked at a bunch of areas that we made improvement in and some areas that we needed improvement to be made. It's probably about 10 or 11 things that we felt we did really well in that game and there's four or five things that we felt like we needed to improve on. Obviously, we need to take care of the football. That's something that is the first thing that jumps out to me. For us to be where we want to be at the end of this whole thing, us taking care of the football and not turning it over is going to be critical. The way we turned it over the other night, I would put those players in those situations a hundred times and I think that they would fare pretty well. We need to do a better job on third down.
I felt like in this ballgame one of the things that we did really well was first down. First down, we were 5 yards a play on first down in this game — that's pretty good. Where we got hurt is second down in this game. We put ourselves behind the chains again on second down and had to catch up on third down. We had some third-and-uncontrollables, to be honest with you. You can't get into those kind of situations, not after averaging 5 yards per play on first down. Those are some things that I thought we needed to do better. Our red zone efficiency needed to be better down there. We had 14 plays in the red zone. We just have to do a better job down there. There was just one little thing on each play. We just missed one here, we just missed one there and I think that just comes with getting guys together and playing together a little bit and continuing to do that.
I wasn't discouraged at all. I actually came out of that feeling really good about some of the things that we made progress with. Our run game, I felt like we took another step forward. We were 61 percent efficient in the run game during the course of this thing, that's all runs during the course of the game. We had eight explosive plays in this game, which equaled over 150-something yards. Those were some good chunks. That was about 11.5 percent of the plays called in this game that were explosive plays. I was pleased with that, particularly after we had suffered a few injuries there because in doing that, you had to juggle a lot of things out there early on in that game. By the 20th play of the game, we were down two tight ends.
On how Austin Howard played…
I was pleased with what Austin did. He has a long way to go, but he'll get there. The one thing I liked about what he did in this game is he competed. He played against a good player and he competed really hard in this game. There's a couple of plays on that film, and it isn't only Austin, there's not a couple, there's several plays on that film where the double teams were just tremendous. Some of the things that were going on in there in the run game, I mean, I ran the same play three times in a row, just repeated it and it went 8, 7, 7. I think when you can do that up front, with some of those guys, Austin was involved in that, I think those are good problems. We have to do a better job of eliminating minus plays. Austin has to continue to grow in that area, which he's getting better at.
On the risk of not practicing the whole playbook during the preseason…
That's a good question. It's twofold. Who are we going to play against? No disrespect to anybody out there, I think the people that we play against [in practice] are pretty good and I've felt that for a long time. They're a pain in the neck to prepare for and they're good. We're out there playing against the corners and these linebackers and this front. Again, I say that with all due respect to our opponents as we get ready to go. I just believe that this group is a heck of a group.
For me to go out there and put something out on the field and give somebody a month to prepare for it, no disrespect but you guys [the media] can figure that out in a month. I might have a chance to figure your job out in a month. It's a month, that's a long time. I'm not interested in that. I'd rather just go out there and deal with Bart Scott every day.
On the discussion between him and Coach Ryan about how to use the Wildcat…
Rex and I just had a long discussion. That's assuming that we're even doing any of this stuff and when we're going to do it and how we're going to do it. Just because we have a player in the building here that has some history running the football, not really in the Wildcat, by the way, doesn't necessarily mean that that's exactly what we're going to do. All that being said, we know there's going to be some version of something, I think that's been said.
With that being said, we just had a good discussion about it. We talked about the pros and cons, putting it out there or not putting it out there. If it is something that we're going to do, should we put it out there? If it's not, why waste time putting it out there? We have other things that we need to rep right now. This is a new offense. If we were in year two, you wouldn't care. The team went out there the other night, they took the ball from center with the quarterback that they've got, then they turned around and they did this little thing that made it look like they were reading something, but they really weren't. They were handing the ball off every single time. They weren't showing anything, either, is my point.
On how much the decision not to show the Wildcat had to do with playing the Bills, who have experience running it, in Week 1…
No, listen, with David Lee, if we were going to do the whole thing, I mean, shoot, David, he knows it. I believe Rex told you guys that. They're going to do some version of it. There's no question about it. They have Brad Smith and David Lee, they've got some parts. They're going to do some version of it. David knows what's going on. It's not a secret. That way there, it had very little to do with whether or not we were going to put it out there, not put it out there.
It just has to do with reps. We need reps in a lot of things and there's only so many reps. These players, they've gone through a good grind right now to get themselves prepared to learn the things that they have to learn that are the large portion of the game plan, if you will. Because when it comes right down to it, I don't care who you are running this stuff, if you're going to run it, it's a small amount of your package when you're through. At the end of the season when you add up the snaps you get about 1,100 or so. Only 100 something of those snaps end up being in the Wildcat. You do the math, that percentage isn't very much.
So to spend all of that time doing something like that when we really have a lot of things that we need to cover, we need to get better in third down, we need to get better in the red area, we need to get better in throwing the ball downfield, protecting the passer, these are things that we wanted to work on and we made strides doing that in some areas this week and that's been a positive thing for us.
On the meeting he had with Coach Ryan on the offense and the Wildcat …
I don't know. It was a couple of weeks into my deal here. We just talked about different phases of the offense. Of course, Rex played against us and this topic came up. Why and how come? They've had some success here running a version of this stuff in the past and the conversation came up. So we just had a little conversation about it.
Obviously, after we got Tim [Tebow], we had another conversation, how much you're going to do, what you're going to do, what needs to be done with Tim. One of the things we decided is that we had to do a lot of work with Tim to get him ready to be a quarterback and that is something that's important. I watched the game the other night. I realized you guys watched the game. I don't mean any disrespect by this, but you see one thing, you see 4-of-whatever he was, 4-of-12 or -13. He has a two-minute drive in there. He was dealt a poor hand. If you have a two-minute drive at the end of the game like that, you're not going to throw a lot of completions in that thing. You're hoping to hit a chunk somewhere.
I saw three things happen in that game when I watch it. I see him come off read-one to two to three and throw the ball to [Joseph] Collins on the sideline out there on a rope. I see him throw the ball up and down in the middle of the field to Dedrick Epps on a throw that I'm sure a lot of people didn't think Tim can make. There it was again, up and down in the middle of the field. Then I see him, in a hard play-action in a pro-style offense, sink the ball into the running back's stomach, come off and throw a 15-yard hook to Jordan White.
There are three throws there, of his four completions, when I watch the film, I see something a little different than I think maybe most people who watch it see. The ball came off in really good rhythm, so that's progress to me. Those are the things that we need to be working on. That's where we are right now.
On the importance of having long drives.…
It's huge. We had four drives in the game of nine-plus plays. I believe we had a nine-play, a 10-play and two 11-play drives in there. Really, we scored. Again, it's field goals, we want touchdowns. There's no question about it. Make sure you put that in the headlines: We want touchdowns, not field goals.
All that being said, my point is that the first group went out there and they scored, three possessions. They scored on the first drive of the game, answered. They scored on the first drive of the half, which are statistics in our league, they are important statistics, whether or not you're taking it or deferring. They had an interception on a play where, if we catch the ball, it's a 20-yard gain, it's another explosive play. So we have an interception there and a missed field goal. Coulda-shoulda-woulda.
If we scored a touchdown or two, which we obviously didn't, but the deflating part comes in when you have it for that long and then it's one play that kills you and puts you into that third-and-11. That happened a few times. Tim runs a naked boot out there. We're in and around the 18-yard line and Tim ran a naked boot. There are two things that went wrong on that play. They are two young players, but two things go wrong. Never mind who, but they happen in the preseason.
That being said, it's now third-and-9, it's not first-and-goal at the whatever. That's the thing that's a little bit deflating when you're doing it, but at the same time, it's deflating to the guys on the other side when you run the same play three times in a row and it goes for 8, 7 and 7 right at you. There's something good about that when the boys are out there slapping fives and flexing their muscles a little bit.
On his opinion on players having outside help during the offseason…
It's a great question, assuming I can answer the question. I have an opinion on it, OK? I think the game has obviously changed. What I mean by that is, the amount of time that we actually have the players and the amount of time the players are gone, away from the building, right now is greater.
With that said, it brings into play the personal-trainer aspect and all those things. From my end, I always felt like the best place to get the answers was in your own building. We have outstanding strength coaches here and we have outstanding trainers here. I mean, this training group we have here is one of the best I've ever been around. And I think that those things are here for the players.
But the rules are the rules, everybody plays by the rules, so it brings into play this other element. Your personal trainer and my personal trainer and somebody else's, it could be three total different things. So I just don't know. So my opening line, never mind.
On what he is really pleased with from Sanchez.…
The pace of the ball, the way it's getting out of his hand. In the preseason right now, he's held one ball and it ended up being a sack the other day and it was not his doing. That sack ended up being an add-on sack. They had a tight end man-to-man, we kept a tight end in, he kind of had it on around and we just needed to create a little bit better.
Other than that, the ball has come out in good rhythm. He's made really good decisions. I've tried to beat him up over his decision grade as much as I can do that, to make sure we're doing all the things we need to be doing that way. His footwork's really good right now so the ball's coming out with good velocity. He's throwing to a good location. Like I said, he's 61 percent the other night with two drops. We've had a couple of those, two drops. He throws one in bad location there to Dedrick on a little deal there.
But other than that, I don't know what he is right now, 75 percent, 74 percent for the preseason. That's pretty good, I guess.
On if it bothers him that they have not scored a touchdown in the preseason…
It bothers me for them. Again, I just would like to see one of those little Jet things and that celebration thing happen for them, honestly. I'm not being funny. I really would like to see that part of it. But I think the guys are realistic. I think they understand what's going on. I think they see themselves getting better.
We had a good film session today. We watched second and third down combined today. Just second and third down. In other words, what I just told you, second down led to third down. Then some of the things we did there. Then we watched just exclusively the red zone, then we watched all the "goods." I think the guys can see the improvement, they can see how close they really are right now. I think getting Tone [Santonio Holmes] back out there, and [Jeremy] Kerley back out there, and all the experience right now that Stephen [Hill] has gotten and Jordan White and Pat Turner and our tight end group, I just think that's been valuable. With one practice a day right now, which is what everyone's been doing in training camp, with those young players, you could never get those kind of reps for them. I think that's been a real positive, that Mark has been able to do what he's done throwing the ball to different people all the time.