Adam Gase joked that he doesn’t know the Jets defense’s depth chart because he’s not even going to try to keep track of all the different personnel groupings Gregg Williams is throwing at the offense.
Of course, Gase knows. But one of the early takeaways from training camp is how Williams, the defensive coordinator, has his group playing and how much he’s mixing everything up. It’s led to some hotly contested team sessions that seem to have lifted the level of competition.
Gase believes second-year quarterback Sam Darnold and the offense will be better prepared to face any defense after seeing what Williams is dialing up each day.
“I haven’t experienced this much variety of things that Gregg does whether it’s pressure, coverage, type of coverages he does, the disguises he does,” Gase said. “They’re not having busts on defense. You don’t see guys running wide open. They’re executing what he asks them to do.
“I’ve never experienced where we’re seeing as much as we do this early. It’s good for our guys. Our guys need to see it all. Every week’s a different deal for us.”
The Jets, who had their first off day of camp Tuesday, are still more than a week away from preseason games and a month from the regular season. But they’re keeping score at practice.
Players are talking about who won that particular day — offense or defense. Gase, who runs the offense, is challenging Williams with his various weapons and multi-dimensional offense. Williams is challenging Gase. And they’re both challenging their players.
“I love the competition,” defensive end Leonard Williams said. “It starts with the guys up top, the coaches. They’re coming out fired up every day and it’s trickling down.”
Receiver Jamison Crowder had a strong day when camp opened last Thursday. The next day, the defense made a conscious effort to limit Crowder, and Gase tried to utilize other weapons.
One day, the running backs were featured and performed well. Le’Veon Bell and Ty Montgomery beat the defense in the run and passing games.
The offense won that day.
“If you have one side of the ball that’s dominating the other side there’s probably going to be an issue somewhere,” Gase said. “It’s good that the other side of the ball responds. We’ll see what happens the next day.”
The next day, Williams took away the running game.
In a red zone drill Sunday, the Jets’ defense stopped the offense.
Linebacker Brandon Copeland had a pass breakup. Nose guard Steve McLendon bottled up Bell, and linebacker Jordan Jenkins came in untouched for a would-be sack on Darnold.
Later in team drills, Leonard Williams had a sack, Trumaine Johnson broke up a pass for Robby Anderson and Bell was stopped for no-gain, then a loss.
The defense won that day.
“I love the defense,” Jenkins said. “The way he can run it, all the different stuff we can do, it’s really something you’d want to be a part of as a young developing player when you see the possibilities of the defense if you can put in the work and each cog in the machine runs it right.
“There’s so many different interchangeable parts that we can have different schemes. The sky’s the limit for the amount of combinations of people we can throw out there.”
The person who may benefit the most from this is Darnold. Seeing all these different fronts and schemes and having to make his reads and progressions on the fly while playing in no-huddle is invaluable for his development, Gase said.
Darnold has looked very sharp, as he seems to have picked up the new offense quickly and has adjusted to everything Gregg Williams is doing to try to confuse him.
“We’re getting great feedback from our defense, in terms of what we’re doing is good, they’re having a hard time with it,” Darnold said. “But at the same time our defense is doing a great job of stopping us sometimes, too. So it’s a really good competition out there.”
The true measure of how much the defense is helping the offense and vice versa will be known when the Jets open the season Sept. 8 against Buffalo. But they will continue to try and sharpen each other’s skills until then.
“It’s great for all of us,” Gase said. “It’s challenging. It’s competitive every day. It’s challenging mentally.
“I like the fact that we’re going back and forth like this.”
Crowder cleared. The Jets received some good news on Crowder, who left practice Monday with a foot issue. The team said Crowder has been medically cleared and is expected to return to practice Wednesday.