Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sanchez Signed. Plus Minicamp Day 2 Notes

Let's start off with the big news.

First round pick Mark Sanchez has been signed to a contract, making him the second first rounder to agree to a deal. Terms have not been disclosed, but getting Sanchez in camp on time was the number one priority for Mike Tannenbaum, and he's definitely done that. Rod Boone of Newsday reports the deal is five years for as much as $60 million total, $28 million guaranteed, though Dave Hutchinson of the Star Ledger has the deal at $50 million total. With this signing, Tannenbaum continues his track record of getting his first round picks in camp.

Also, the Channing Crowder-Rex Ryan war of words is only getting juicier. Crowder responded to Ryan's comments in the Miami Herald, and Ryan did not back down. Bill Bellichick also had a response to Ryan, though he was not interested in talking trash.

Finally, punter Eric Wilbur was released, and last year's punter Reggie Hodges has been re-signed. Wilbur's problem was inconsistent hands. In other words, he fumbled too many snaps.

Now, onto today's afternoon practice.

These stats are unofficial, but here's how I calculated the quarterbacks.

In 7 on 7 drills, Clemens was 5-6, throwing primarily short routes. Sanchez was 5-9.

In 11 on 11 situational drills, Clemens was 5-8, and Sanchez was 4-6.

Judging by one mini-camp practice, I would rate Clemens as still having an edge over Sanchez. The fourth year quarterback clearly has a better handle on the offense, as the ball leaves his hands on time almost all the time, normally taking what the defense was giving him. He was far from spectacular, except for a pinpoint pass down the sideline to Thomas Jones for a touchdown, and one other beautiful throw to Jerricho Cotchery through double coverage. Most of his passes were short and pretty accurate. At this point, he would be a much better game manager than his rookie counterpart.

That isn't to say Sanchez didn't have his moments. He made a number of nice reads and throws, usually looking for deeper pass rather than the checkdown. However, too often he held the ball too long in 7 on 7's. It's easy to spend time in the pocket and wait for the open receiver without any pass rush, but he won't get nearly as much time to throw during real games. He acclimated himself pretty well on 11 on 11's, too, and he had a few nice passes as well. Still, he got intercepted twice, one on a tip ball hauled in by Eric Smith (who had three interceptions yesterday) and once by Dwight Lowery.

No receivers really stood out. In 11 on 11's with Clemens (who played with the first team), Jerricho Cotchery was clearly the number one weapon. He made one nice catch in double coverage as I mentioned earlier, but he also had a terrible drop on an all-out blitz that Clemens read, reacted to, and made a good throw. Rookie TE Jack Simmons and Dustin Keller also got a bunch of work in the passing game, though Keller had a bad drop on what would have been a touchdown.

I also watched the new punting battle a little bit. Neither punter had a phenomenal day, but there weren't any really bad shanks either. While I was watching, Hodges punted six times for a 42.8 yard average (unofficially), while Conley punted four times for a 46 yard average. Conley had been having a significantly better go of it until Hodges's last two punts went about 48 and 55 yards respectively. Conley's long was 55 yards as well.

As for players who impressed me, tight end J'Nathan Bullock had really impressive athleticism. As a former basketball player, it's not surprising to see him quick in and out of cuts, but he caught the eye of many fans with his speed and agility. Simmons got a lot of work, too.

Dwight Lowery has a new uniform number (#21), but he's just as impressive as he was last year. It just seemed like he was always around the ball, making a number of pass break-ups, including one interception.

I didn't see a whole lot of the defense except for in team drills, but there was a lot more blitzing than in previous years. Even Vernon Gholston got in the action, with a couple of pressures early on.

Finally, I spoke briefly to Kerry Rhodes at the end or practice during the autograph sessions. He did not back down from his boast that the defense would be the best in the league. I then asked him if he would be blitzing more this year from the safety position. He smiled and said, "Oh yeah." With Abe Elam gone, Rhodes is again the best blitzing safety on the team, so he'll get some opportunity to show his skills in that regard.

UPDATE (2:55 AM)
: Multiple outlets are reporting that the deal is indeed worth $50 million over the five years.

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