The End of Camp is Just the Beginning

FLORHAM PARK–Training camp 2011 is officially over. The Jets held their final walk-through and padded practice, and will now downshift to just one practice per day, although calling walk-through a practice was a stretch anyway.

With the delayed training camp starts for the players who re-signed or re-structured, plus the injuries to guys like Plaxico Burress, it’s been interesting to try to get a real handle on what the team is going to look like. In addition, this team has almost no position battles; everything was already pretty much spoken for by the time camp started.

Here’s my takeaway. The starters all look solid although the offense has been pretty erratic, which is somewhat normal, but exacerbated by the late arrival of Burress and Derrick Mason, their injuries (although minor) as well as the lack of offseason training and workouts. The loss of Rob Turner is going to make for some maneuvering since Vlad Ducasse is still…finding his way. There may still be a veteran signing yet to come for this unit — and it needs to be someone who can snap the ball. As for Turner’s status, Ryan said they are not going to put him on injured reserve quite yet. They will wait a few weeks to see how things go.

According to Santonio Holmes, the offense still needs a lot of work on its red zone productivity as well as on reducing penalties and third down conversions. If this sounds familiar it’s because it’s the same things that plagued them last year that have been a priority since coming into training camp this year.

The defense looks good. Kyle Wilson is looking more comfortable and is putting up a good challenge to Donald Stickland and Dwight Lowery to be the leading nickel/dime guy, but this is a team that sometimes puts seven defensive backs on the field at the same time, so there is probably room for everyone.

Burress has some soreness in his lower back, which both he and Ryan said is nothing to be concerned about. “[It’s] part of football,” he said. “It’s not badminton, so you expect to have a little soreness here and there.” He then added another analogy, “It’s not like walking into a 7/11 and buying a slurpee. It’s a little more physical than that.”

The Jets face Burress’ former team, the Giants, on Saturday night and he still has not said whether or not he ever received an offer from the Giants, but did say that he had met with members of the organization. “I went more to have some closure to the whole situation,” he said. “It was a great meeting. We had some laughs, some great memories.”

However, he did add, “Personally, I think I needed a fresh start. I feel like I’m in the rigth place. I’m happy here

Burress said he still has friends with the team whom he is in contact with. “It’ll be fun to get out there and see some of the guys on the field,” he said of Saturday’s game.

Interestingly, Burress said he had other “multiple-year offers” from other teams, but wouldn’t elaborate. By the way, he didn’t appear to have any problem in practice and worked with the ones.

Burress had a little fun at practice, stepping in front of Joe McKnight and catching a punt.

Mark Sanchez has some concerns about the Jets getting into too many second and longs. “We were in second and long all night,” he said, referring to the Bengals game. “Second and long is hard. It really handcuffs the offense and lets the defense do whatever it wants.”

Logan Payne is having a great camp and Mark Brunell stopped to make sure I knew this as he headed into the locker room and saw me chatting with Payne. Consider Payne on the roster. Heading into his fifth year, with one year in the Jets system under his belt, he is feeling his most comfortable. “I’ve made the most of my opportunities in training camp,” he said. “(Mike) Westhoff sees me as a utility guy on special teams, rover on kick-off return, personal protector on punts and flyer (gunner) too.” Payne has also rotated in with the first unit and will continue to do that when the Burress, Holmes or Mason need a break. In fact, Payne has been learning all five of the receiver positions: x,y,z,f and h. It will be curious to see what happens with Patrick Turner – if they keep six receivers or not.

Another guy to keep an eye on is CB Ellis Lankster. An Alabama native, who played at West Virginia, he was drafted by the Bills in 2009 and then spent some time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL in 2010. Lankster is loving being with the Jets. “This is the best camp I’ve ever been in,” he said. He likes playing for both Ryan and DB coach Dennis Thurman because of the freedom the system offers. “As long as you get the job done, they don’t focus that much on your technique,” he said. The two people who do focus on the details with him are Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, who he said, “Fuss at me every day.”

He’s also happy to be part of the Jets special teams unit. “I always want to play special teams,” he said. “Mike Westhoff just wants me to use my speed and get to the ball as fast as I can.” He just laughed when the subject of Westhoff’s famous swearing came up.

Muhammad Wilkerson participated only in individual drills, not team, due to an unspecified illness.

The players who will be out on Sunday in addition to Turner are: Mark Brunell (right calf) and Trevor Canfield (left knee). Jeff Cumberland (hamstring) did not practice, which likely means he will not play.

Derrick Mason (left knee) will probably play on Sunday, as will Courtney Smith (right ankle). If I had to bet, I would say that Sione Pouha (left knee), Marcus Dixon (left knee) and Calvin Pace (left groin) will play as  well.

Nick Folk and Nick Novak each kicked a 62-yard field goal at the end of practice. More impressive because there was a pretty strong wind.

Anecdote of the Day: “We will be traveling with our cheeseburgers on the bus this year,” Ryan said. He was of course, referring to tomorrow’s practice at Hofstra. Last year the DBs were caught eating cheeseburgers on the field as the practice was starting, after having sent a rookie to a nearby McDonald’s and Ryan was not pleased.

The team will hold hold a practice at Hofstra on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. It is open to the public.

The Jets play the Giants at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.  The team then has to cut its roster down to 75 by Tuesday, August 30th.