FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – With results like these, the Jets should schedule Steve McLendon to blow up every other practice – maybe some time between jumping jacks and team drills.
It was McLendon, after all, who Wednesday took aside the defense and, he said, “blew up” at them for being lethargic and sloppy. And even though the 32-year-old lineman rested for the latter part of practice on Thursday, his spirit lived on – in an amped up effort that culminated in spirited full-contact goal line drills. The offense was into it, the defense was into it, and who won? “We did,” Jamal Adams said jokingly. “Nah, honestly, it was a good matchup and we compete hard on both sides.”
Adams, who even as a rookie last year was an outspoken leader for the Jets secondary, said the defense immediately responded to McClendon’s reproof. And the safety – not shy, by any stretch – also felt it his duty to add on.
“I called everybody up after practice [Wednesday] – the defense – I called everybody up,” Adams said. “Big Steve called us out and there’s a standard. That’s what we preach. We have a standard. We want to be a great defense. It has to be an everyday thing – all assignments on the field. All the guys running to the ball being mean and aggressive and having that mindset.”
Although practice seemed a touch disjointed from the outside looking in – the result of lightning that chased the Jets to their indoor field halfway through – there was a notable uptick in energy when they started playing live for the first time this training camp. Leonard Williams looked explosive – as he has all camp, even during drills – and Jordan Jenkins had a massive hit on Bilal Powell. On the other side, Sam Darnold flashed signs of his promise, on touchdown passes to Dimitri Flowers and Clive Walford. Stops were celebrated with guttural yells from the defense, and touchdowns, with equally loud screams.
“I did” see an immediate improvement, Adams said. “Yesterday’s practice, we finished strong. It was a great practice for the defense. We finished all of the periods, all of the situations. Each day, we want to continue to get better. Being consistent, that’s our main objective . . . We’re doing well. We’re communicating. We’re flying around but we just gotta be more consistent.”
It helps that some pieces are finally clicking into place. Marcus Maye (ankle) finally took off his red no-contact jersey, though the Jets are easing him in to action. Linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin, who hit a sophomore slump after a strong rookie campaign, and then missed all of 2017 due to back surgery, has also shown marked improvement, Todd Bowles said.
“He’s healthy,” Bowles said. “I think he’s a little stronger than when he [first] came back, so as the season progresses and the preseason, it will be good to see him in games and see what he can do . . . He’s got his feet under him so he’s playing decent.”
There’s still plenty of work to do, though. Entering the preseason, defense seemed likely to be more of a liability than an asset. And with a number of new pieces and position battles ongoing, one good practice won’t cut it.
“It’s just building trust and that’s on and off the field,” Trumaine Johnson said. “You talk to your fellow DBs and how their style of play is, and you tell them how your style of play is, what they’ll see in the game . . . It’s a daily thing, it really is, building chemistry.”