JET PRESS EXCLUSIVE: Interview with WFAN Beat Reporter Chris Lopresti
Aug 9, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) looks to pass in the second quarter of a preseason game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Good afternoon Jets fans. In getting ready for tonight’s game against the Jaguars, we have a special treat for you. WFAN reporter covering the Jets in 2013, Chris Lopresti agreed to sit down for a brief interview with the Jet Press. Take a look at our conversation:
THE JET PRESS:What is the general vibe around the team heading into 2013? There is a lot of talk, as you know, about it being a rebuilding year. Does this team feel like a team that is ready to surprise people?
CHRIS LOPRESTI:The general vibe, at least at the beginning of training camp, was a fresh start. Everyone in the organization wants to forget about what happened in 2012 and get things back on track here in 2013. John Idzik inherited quite a mess from the departed Mike Tannenbaum back in January and, for the most part, I think he’s done a nice job of hitting the reset button and getting the Jets back to square one.
That being said, I don’t think the QB competition has gone as smoothly as they would have hoped (more on that later). That is, by far, the most important decision for Idzik, Rex Ryan and the coaching staff heading into the season opener. If they screw it up, things could quickly go south because you’re dealing with a VERY frustrated fan base. Most of them have had enough of Mark Sanchez and never want to see him start another game. Right now, Geno Smith’s development & health (or lack thereof) have prevented us from getting a good feel for how the competition will play out. Stay tuned!
TJP:What about the QB competition? They have been known to split locker rooms. Everyone is saying the right things, but in fact, is the locker room still united? Do you have a feel for who might be leading, despite the fact the team says nobody is?
CL:The QB battle is certainly all the rage among fans & media types. It gets all of the headlines and dominates Rex Ryan’s daily press conferences but, at this point, I don’t get the sense that it’s dividing the locker room. I’ve heard multiple players be very complimentary of both QB’s (and Greg McElroy too) but nobody has really stepped up and revealed a preference.
I think Sanchez is well-liked and well-respected by the players who have been around him for a few years. His on-field performance leaves a lot to be desired but he’s a good teammate, carries himself like a professional, and handles all of his media obligations with class & dignity. However, it’s easy to see why the Jets were so high on Geno and the type of long-term potential that he possesses. Some of the veterans have been very impressed with his physical skills, specifically his arm strength & accuracy. On top of that, any questions about his character/attitude/leadership seem to have been left behind at West Virginia. He hasn’t had any issues thus far. In fact, he seems to be fitting in well with his teammates and definitely earned some respect by fighting through the ankle injury this week.
Rex continues to say that the competition remains open and that they’re not ready to make a decision. I believe him when he says that but it seems pretty clear that Sanchez has separated himself from Geno…at least for now. The pick 6 against the Lions was absolutely horrendous but give Sanchez credit for bouncing back and finishing strong with an impressive TD drive at the end of the 1st quarter. He did the same thing in the Green-White scrimmage; played poorly at the start but finished with a bang, hitting Stephen Hill for a 57-yard TD pass on the final play of practice.
Again, Geno has been very impressive at times but is also dealing with some inconsistencies. That’s to be expected from a rookie QB and was really the only thing holding him back before the ankle injury. He didn’t miss a single rep in practice this week but the ankle was clearly bothering him and then he turned in his worst performance of training camp on Wednesday morning (4 INT’s).
I honestly have no idea if he’s going to play against the Jaguars tonight and the Jets have certainly done their best to keep it a secret. I disagree with those who say he shouldn’t have been practicing this week. The X-rays and MRI both came back clean. In fact, Geno said that the injury isn’t even considered a sprain. I’m sure he’s getting a ton of treatment and rest when the team isn’t on the practice field. They worked for about 2 hours each day and a lot of that time was spent installing plays/packages at half speed. Plus, Geno wasn’t taking every rep or experiencing any sort of contact from defenders. He needs the practice time if he plans on fully grasping this offense and giving Sanchez a run for his money.
Jul 31, 2013; Cortland, NY, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) looks on during training camp at SUNY Cortland. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
TJP:What’s your take on the Mike Goodson situation, with the limited info being shared by the team?
CL:Who the heck knows what to expect from Mike Goodson at this point. His off-season legal troubles have been well-documented but, according to the Jets, that’s not the reason he’s been absent from camp. Whatever it is that’s keeping him away, the Jets say they were aware of it and understand why he couldn’t attend. I’m not going to speculate on his whereabouts but I have a feeling we’re going to find out sooner or later. When all is said and done, I do expect him to return at some point…even if it’s not this season. He’s under contract for 3 years and the Jets only guaranteed him $1 million so it’s not like he’s costing them an arm & a leg.
TJP:Talk about how good the defensive line can be in 2013………
CL:In my opinion, the defensive line is the unit with the most potential for this season. That shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the draft picks that the Jets have devoted to d-line over the last few years. Muhammad Wilkerson has already established himself as one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL and will only continue to get better. Sheldon Richardson has showed off the athleticism and high motor that allowed him to standout on a mediocre Missouri team. I know Quinton Coples is now “listed” as an outside linebacker but I still expect him to play a lot of snaps with his hand in the ground. We’ve already seen that throughout camp and during the preseason opener. He’s a versatile player and I think Rex will look to line him up at different spots to keep opposing teams guessing. The depth chart at nose tackle is the biggest question mark. This is a make-or-break season for Kenrick Ellis. The team was pleased with his performance in Cortland but he went down with a back injury this week and might not be available for tonight’s game. If that’s the case, it should be a big opportunity for Damon “Big Snacks” Harrison. He is a locker room/coaching staff favorite who has made great strides over the last year or so. Antonio Garay also provides a solid veteran presence. He can fill in at multiple positions in a pinch. Overall, it should be a deep, young, athletic group that will finally cause some big problems for opposing QB’s.
TJP:Finally, give us some of the UDFAs or other lesser-known acquisitions that look good to you so far.
CL: I’ll give you four guys to keep an eye on during tonight’s game. WR Ryan Spadola, S Jaiquawn Jarrett, LB Danny Lansanah, P Ryan Quigley.
I feel like Spadola has already established himself with Jets fans. Undrafted out of Lehigh, he has made a big impact in camp. The Jets have a relatively young & unproven WR corps so Spadola has been given plenty of opportunities to prove himself. He has been solid in all aspects of the game and it earned him some 1st team reps against the Lions. He should see plenty of playing time tonight on offense and on special teams. His ability to play ST’s will likely decide whether or not he makes the final 53. If he does, get ready for the Wayne Chrebet comparisons.
Jarrett might not qualify as a “lesser known player” because he was a 2nd round pick of the Eagles back in 2011. However, he was a major bust in Philadelphia and basically got kicked to the curb early last season. Given a new opportunity with the Jets, he has played very well and earned praise from the coaching staff and his teammates. There’s an open competition between Jarrett and Antonio Allen opposite Dawan Landry at safety. Rex has been pleased with both players but Jarrett gets the start against Jacksonville tonight after playing 50+ snaps against the Lions last week.
I can’t tell you a whole lot about Lansanah but my pal Dennis Waszak Jr. from the Associated Press has a cool feature on him here. Lansanah has been solid throughout camp. With the addition of Coples and Antwan Barnes, the Jets have a pretty large LB corps. However, after David Harris and Demario Davis, there isn’t a ton of depth at inside linebacker. Josh Mauga ended up on IR last season and he’s been out with a back injury this week so Lansanah has another chance to step up and make his mark.
I know it’s not that exciting to watch the punters but Quigley should get a big opportunity to open some eyes tonight. Robert Malone was also sidelined by a back injury this week and might not play tonight. If that’s the case, Quigley will be the guy for 1st year special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica. Malone has a huge leg but Quigley hasn’t been over-matched thus far. If he puts on a good showing and Malone can’t get healthy, the Jets might have a new punter for 2013.