The wide receivers put in a little extra work at the end of a rainy practice this morning with their coach, Henry Ellard.
With all the hype at the quarterback position, some have overlooked the competition at wide receiver. A group of young wideouts being guided by Ellard, who spent eight seasons with the Rams working with greats Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt before coming to the Jets, are battling for quality spots on the depth chart behind No. 1 wideout Jerricho Cotchery.
"Like the Sanchez-Clemens competition, the best man is going to win," said Wallace Wright after the practice.
Wright, one of only three receivers on the roster with three or more years NFL experience, is ready to make the transition from special teams ace to quality receiver.
He hasn't caught a pass since Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens were throwing to him in 2007, but he's amassed 48 special teams tackles in his career, including 26 last season.
But now under Ellard and with Laveranues Coles having left for the Bengals, the opportunity is there for Wright in '09.
"OTAs were a starting point for me," Wright said. "I've been here. This is my fourth season but I really haven't had the opportunity to cross over from the special teams to wide receiver. That's the goal for this training camp and into preseason."
Don't expect Wright to give up his "teams" duties completely. It's a role he likes to play.
"I'm always going to have the special teams thing under my belt. I don't ever want to stop doing that — that's how I got here," he said. "I don't want to be one of those guys that switch things up. I enjoy it. I enjoy going in every week and being one of those guys they have to look out for and they have to account for and see where I'm at because they don't want me to make the play. I enjoy that and just playing receiver, adding some more things to my résumé."
Considering all of the skill on teams and the veterans the unit brings back, Wright can't disagree with kicker Jay Feely's recent "tweet" that "We are going to have the best special teams unit in the NFL this year."
"We have probably the best coach in the NFL in Mike Westhoff," said Wright. "He's been doing it for so many years, over 20, so he definitely knows what he's doing. It's just a matter of plugging the right people in the right spots. We have Leon [Washington], a Pro Bowl kick returner, and really the same guys up front and blocking for him, so there really shouldn't be any change there.
"Myself, I take tremendous pride, they say, as a special teams ace, but I don't really look at it like that. I just go out there and do whatever I need to do to help my team win. I want to be the best, but like Jay said, we want to be the best as a unit. As long as everyone wants to be good, wants to be great, I expect nothing less than to be the best out there."
Just as head coach Rex Ryan, Wright is happy with the Jets' group of wide receivers, which also include Chansi Stuckey, Brad Smith and David Clowney.
"Jerricho is the No. 1 receiver. He's the veteran guy in the group," said Wright. "The rest of us four, we're just out there working and trying to get better. We're really just feeding off of each other. It's a competition, but at the same time we're all friends so it's a little friendly competition. We see who has the best day every day, whoever catches the most balls and things like that, but it's all love in the group and we're just trying to work and get better."
The NFL doesn't have rain delays, so today was a great test for them catching balls on such a wet day.
"You're going to have games like this, so it's good to get work in with the quarterbacks in the rain like this," said Wright. "Catching the ball in the rain is tough but you have to grind through and keep going and play football."
It's also good to get in work against such a tough secondary. Darrelle Revis and Jim Leonhard had interceptions this morning, and along with Lito Sheppard, Kerry Rhodes and the talented depth, they continue to push the quarterbacks and wide receivers to play better.
"We talk a little junk at practices and during the daytime," said Wright. "It's good to have the bragging rights at the end of a practice to see who catches the most balls and see how many interceptions and knockdowns they have. It's a competition. We're all out there trying to get better. They're making us better and we're making them better also."
Wright has also been the main contributor at making Mark Sanchez better early on. He's one of the rookie QB's favorite targets.
"You definitely want to be on his side," said Wright. "He's a good player, he's making progress, he's learning the offense and to go through his reads quicker. We're still all learning. This is my fourth season coming up. You never can stop learning, you never can stop getting better, and he's definitely improving day by day, practice by practice.
"It's been a faster transition for him than a lot of us thought — he's getting it going. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do when he has everything 100 percent down and he's out there playing."
Preseason will really be the time for Sanchez to show the progress he's made. But having been there, Wright is eager about the beginning of the regular season.
"Preseason is preseason," he said, "but we're getting ready to play Houston in Week 1, ready to get things going."