CORTLAND – Despite scoring just six points (all on field goals), porous protection by the offensive line, and several miscues on defense, Rex Ryan said there were positive takeaways from their 17-6 loss to the Bengals.
Ryan began his press conference Sunday by highlighting the efforts of two offensive linemen: Vladimir Ducasse and Austin Howard.
“They might have had some mistakes in the game,” the coach said, “but they jumped out at me. They’re coming off the ball, knocking people off the ball.”
Ryan – who was especially complimentary of Howard – evaded the topic of a potential right tackle competition between Howard and incumbent Wayne Hunter (lower back stiffness).
But his effusive praise of Howard leads one to believe there could be a shakeup down the line, especially if Hunter is slow to recover fully.
“Ooph, he was a load back there,” Ryan said of the third-year right tackle. “We’ve seen it on the practice field and he took it over to the game field. Played a lot of snaps, into the third quarter.
“…Anybody that plays like that deserves to play.”
After spending the weekend reviewing film, Ryan openly admitted there is room for improvement on both sides of the ball. But he emphasized protecting the quarterback above all else.
The Jets offensive line allowed five sacks Friday night – including Rey Maualuga’s takedown of quarterback Mark Sanchez on the first series of the game. The Cincinnati linebacker – and former USC teammate of Sanchez – went untouched on the left side, sacking Sanchez for a 9-yard loss.
To be fair, said Ryan, the Bengals “dialed up a pretty good blitz – which I’ll steal. And one we really hadn’t worked on. So you have to give them a check mark on it.”
Ryan also highlighted the play of running backs Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell.
“We all know he’s got a great deal of talent,” he said of McKnight, who churned out 32 yards on seven carries and caught 34 yards on three receptions. “But also being able to pick up all the different things he was asked to do – I thought Joe did a nice job.”
Ryan also said Powell went toe-to-toe with a defensive end on one of the Jets’ protection plays -- and stood his ground. “He’s a tough kid,” the coach said of the running back. “I’m encouraged by him.”
The Jets starting defense had six three-and-outs in 10 Cincinnati possessions, but to Ryan’s dismay, the Bengals finished 44% on third-down conversions. “That’s way too high,” he said. “That area has to improve.”
One example was Bart Scott’s poor coverage on an 18-yard run by Benjarvus Green-Ellis on third-and-10 from the Jets’ 44.
“Bart’s been with me 100 years and he lets the guy inside,” Ryan said. “That’s the one thing you can’t do. He’s trying to get a good hit on the guy, lets the guy cross his face – he’s going to get separation anytime that happens in two-man (coverage). …On third-down, you can’t have that. Especially in a third-and-10 situation.”
Other Rex tidbits: The head coach called his wide receivers’ blocking downfield “encouraging”…there weren’t many mental mistakes on offense and defense during the game, just “technique” ones, Ryan said. …Despite Marvin Lewis’ phone call asking not to see the Wildcat in Friday’s preseason opener, Ryan said the Jets had no intentions of using the trick play. Since their acquisition of Tebow, Ryan has said he’s hell bent on forcing opposing defenses to focus on the Wildcat during their game preparation – and it appears, his plan is working. “Some people think the Wildcat has come and gone,” he said. “No it hasn’t.” …Speaking of the Wildcat, Ryan mentioned he had been interested in former Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick back in 2011 to make up for the loss of Brad Smith. Kaepernick, however, was taken 36th overall by San Francisco. …Ryan said he liked the way Tebow (4-for-8, 27 yards) threw the ball against the Bengals. As for his third-quarter interception, the Jets coach called it “a poor route” by tight end Jeff Cumberland. “With that said,” he added, “Tim’s gotta make a better throw than that.” …Asked about DL Quinton Coples, Ryan mockingly joked the rookie was a bust just like his detractors said. After a few minutes, the coach said confidently: “To say the least, he’s the guy we thought he was.”