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New York Jets

Stadium: MetLife Stadium | Coach: Todd Bowles
Team RankingOverallRushingPassing
Offense17th112.0 (14th)239.2 (19th)
Defense5th91.6 (3rd)231.4 (11th)

Sanchez leads 'Jets West' workouts

The Sports Xchange
Notes, Quotes · Strategy And Personnel · Sanchez leads 'Jets West' workouts

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has been surrounded by about 13 teammates this week in California as they work on the team's offense. The workouts have been dubbed "Jets West."

"It's just assuming command," Sanchez said. "Understanding that I'm leading this entire group along with (coach) Rex (Ryan), and when Rex can't be with them, I'm the guy. I'm the coach on the field, and it's my job to coordinate things like this.

"If you have a rookie quarterback who has never learned the system, there's no way you could put on a camp like this. If you don't know who's going to be your starter, it's very difficult to put on a camp like this. We're fortunate that way. We're trying to take every advantage we can and try to win one more game.

"If this helps us win one playoff game, get one game at home in the playoffs, whatever it takes, then it's really paid off."

The five-day passing camp is being held at his high school in Mission Viejo and includes film work and a one-hour practice. Sanchez also has personal trainer Todd Norman on hand for those that want to do more individually. The trainers at the school have helped with ice tubs.

"We're going over protections, formations, shifts, motions, pretty much in that order," Sanchez said. "Then we get into play concepts, runs, and pass concepts. We go through any questions, talk about things that we need to, crack a few jokes in the middle, and then come out on the field and work on it."

One of those helping is the school's football coach, Bob Johnson.

Said Sanchez, "Just seeing Coach Johnson every day, he's in there making sure we have an overhead projector, throwing guys water during the meetings, passing out pencils, and he doesn't have to do any of that. So we're pretty fortunate to have him helping us."

Among the group of players are running back LaDainian Tomlinson, tight end Dustin Keller, fullback John Conner, wide receiver Brad Smith and three draft picks: receivers Jeremy Kerley and Scotty McKnight and quarterback Greg McElroy.

Said Tomlinson, "We hear about a few teams (working out), but there's not a lot of them and I tell you what: the teams that are doing it, it will get them a win or two next year. So if that means we win 13 games next year, we hope so."

Observers noted that Sanchez ran the drills like a coach, and worked closely with the rookies who were getting their first exposure to the offense.

Sanchez also had help from friends from the high school and family members, who arranged for meals, Gatorade and even an overhead projector to view plays.

Sanchez said, "It's that kind of leadership that has really taken this to the next level in becoming more than just a quarterback on the field."

It was an accomplishment to have the rookie there just a few days after they were drafted.

Said Sanchez, "The toughest part with this lockout is trying to get phone numbers. We can't call anybody (from the team). We're going through agents, going through other agents that know somebody's uncle, reminding them that we have Jets West going."

Tomlinson is impressed with how Sanchez is taking charge. He said, "He sounds like a coach in the meeting room, telling everybody what to do and what to expect. Even watching the film, he sounds like a coach.

"And really that's what your quarterback is."

--For the second consecutive year, the Jets drafted a defensive player from a non-BCS conference. Was that what they wanted to do all along?

It's hard to tell.

Muhammad Wilkerson, a defensive tackle from Temple, was taken by the Jets with the 30th overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday night as the usually trade-happy Jets stayed put in the first round for the second straight year. Wilkerson, who is 6-41/2 and 305 pounds, came out for the NFL draft after his junior season with the Owls.

The Jets took Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson with the 29th overall pick last season. Both Wilkerson (Linden) and Wilson (Piscataway) are natives of central New Jersey.

Cleveland traded up six spots to No. 21 to get Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor, perhaps beating the Jets to the punch. The Jets are believed to have coveted Taylor as their future answer at nose tackle, despite concerns about a chronic foot condition.

Once Taylor was out of the picture, the Jets passed on such players as UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers, Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed and Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who slipped out of the first round entirely because of injury concerns about his knee.

Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum sidestepped questions about other players they could have taken with the pick, instead choosing to laud Wilkerson's ability, work ethic and long wingspan. His arms have a reach of 85 1/4 inches.

Wilkerson certainly sounds like a Jet.

In a conference call with reporters, he said, "I think I can come in and help the defense be more destructive than it is."

Maybe he can.

Wilkerson had 9.5 sacks last season and seven in 2009, and projects as a defensive end in the Jets' base 3-4. He also can play inside when the Jets go to four-man fronts. Wilkerson also is a good run-stuffer, something that smashmouth-oriented coach Rex Ryan considers a must for his defensive linemen. The Jets' rushing defense slipped a bit last season, and Pittsburgh's Rashard Mendenhall had 121 yards on the ground in the Steelers' AFC championship-game victory over the Jets.

"I think Muhammad really fits what we want to do defensively," Ryan said. "He was an excellent player in college, but we think he's got more to give. We're going to push him and push him and coach him up to play the way that we play, play like a Jet."

Wilkerson said he is versatile enough to play any line position, and downplayed concerns that he played in the Mid-American Conference as opposed to a BCS league, saying the competition "was just as good as any other league."

The Jets were tied for eighth in the NFL with 40 sacks last season, but that number was far from efficient considering the amount of times the Jets used blitzes. In the last two years, six of the Jets' seven draft picks have been offensive players, so it was believed all along that the Jets would go for defense with their first-round selection.

Minnesota made what was considered a major reach at No. 12, selecting Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. That may have impacted the Jets because many draft experts believed he was one of the quarterbacks that still would be there when the Jets were on the clock. That meant some teams might have been tempted to trade with the Jets to select Ponder, allowing the Jets to get an extra pick out of the deal and move out of the first round.

Tannenbaum said there were some "very cursory" phone calls about possible trades, but "nothing really heated up."

--The Jets stayed true to the organizational philosophy of drafting the best player available, even in the later rounds, but only were able to fill one of their two most pressing needs because of it.

Yes, they did get younger on the defensive line with Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson and Hampton's Kenrick Ellis, but they still are lacking a young 3-4 edge pass rusher who can cause sleepless nights for opponents. They passed on Fresno State's Chris Carter in the fifth round, for instance. They also didn't add to their depth on the offensive line, and it's unclear who their starting right tackle will be on opening day. Too many needs went unfilled.


Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson: Fits the Jets' defensive schemes very well, and has a chance to start right away. He also can provide a pass-rush push both in the 3-4 and as a tackle in the 4-3, something the Jets desperately needed.


Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley: Was a premier special teamer in college, and with the tutelage of special teams guru Mike Westhoff, he should get even better. Also could be a better than average slot receiver.

A closer look at the Jets' picks:

Round 1/30 -- Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, 6-4 1/2, 305, Temple

Wilkerson, who came out after his junior season, had 16.5 sacks the last two seasons. However, none came against teams from BCS conferences. He projects as a 3-4 end in the Jets' base defense, but also can play tackle when Jets line up in a 4-3.

Round 3/94 -- Kenrick Ellis, NT, 6-5, 338, Hampton

Major character concerns made Ellis fall to almost the end of the third round, and he still has an assault charge (and trial) pending. But the Jets felt they couldn't ignore his combination of size and quickness that makes him a prototypical 3-4 nose. Still, he could have tough adjustment to speed of pro game.

Round 4/126 -- Bilal Powell, RB, 5-10, 204, Louisville

He rushed for 1,405 yards in 2010, the second-best single-season total in school history. He can run inside the tackles and has speed to outrun defenders once he gets to the second level. Jets envision him a potential three-down back, but he must improve both pass-catching and blitz pickup.

Round 5/153 -- Jeremy Kerley, WR/KR, 5-9, 188, Texas Christian

Was the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year each of the last two seasons for his work on kickoff and punt returns, and could be the replacement for versatile free agent Brad Smith if he isn't re-signed. Kerley even threw a touchdown pass last season.

Round 7/208 -- Greg McElroy, QB, 6-2, 215, Alabama

He doesn't have a big arm, but has many other good attributes for a quarterback, such as accuracy (completed 70.9 percent of his passes last season), intelligence (a Rhodes Scholar candidate) and pocket poise and presence. Should compete immediately for No. 3 job.

Round 7/227 -- Scotty McKnight, WR, 5-11, 185, Colorado

He began his career at Colorado as an invited walk-on and finished it as the school's all-time leader in receptions (215) and touchdown catches (22). It certainly doesn't hurt that he is close friends with quarterback Mark Sanchez, and thus should be able to pick up the offense quickly. Likely candidate for practice squad.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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