Rontez Miles smiled widely as he sat in front of his locker, reflecting on the past 24 hours.
“Compared to (Friday, I felt) way more comfortable,” the undrafted free-agent safety said with a laugh Saturday. “Yesterday was the fastest day of my life. The first day of practice felt like the first day of high school practice all over again. But today was a lot smoother.”
As is the case every year, rookies are currently trying to strike a delicate balance between patience and full-speed intensity – and guys like Miles know they have a limited amount of time to stand out in an expansive field of players.
The good news for the Jets’ rookie class is the second day of practice was far easier than the first, they said.
“I felt good,” said second-round pick Geno Smith, who gave himself an “F” after Friday’s practice. “I was able to get in and out of the huddle a lot more smoothly than yesterday. I think overall as an offense, we had some good moments and we had some not-so-good moments. It’s still a work in progress. Every single one of us is out there learning and just trying to better ourselves and just trying to make the team.”
Smith, who helped organize a Thursday night meeting with his offensive linemen, looked much sharper during Saturday’s practice. Rex Ryan noted the QB “made some nice throws today,” and also complimented Smith’s awareness after the rookie called an audible on a run play during practice.
There were about four penalties to start the team period, including three false-start flags. But those miscues come with the territory, the players said.
“Everybody’s still just getting on the same page, assignment-wise, formation and things like that,” said fifth-round pick Oday Aboushi, who will be used as a swing tackle, according to Ryan. “There’s a lot of thinking going on and people aren’t able to play as fast as they can.”
Smith said there were several reasons for the false starts, “but overall, I think it’s just something that doesn’t need to happen,” he said. “As an offense, you never want to have penalties or negative plays. If there’s a false start, no matter who it is, it needs to be corrected.”
For Aboushi, the speed of the game has been one of the hardest adjustments. The others? “Learning how to practice full-speed with no pads on,” he said. “Everything being just fast and furious. Knowing your assignments, knowing the tempo. Just trying to take as much in and spitting it out.”
Sixth-round pick Will Campbell is in a unique situation, moving from defensive tackle to guard. The former Michigan lineman said the toughest challenge is picking up the terminology, perfecting his footwork, and trying to work on double-teaming guys instead of beating a double-team.
“But it doesn’t make me nervous at all,” he said of the position switch. “I just came in ready to play football. Whatever I need to do to make the 53-man roster, I’m going to do it.”
Perhaps no one’s plate is as full as Smith’s, though.
The former West Virginia QB said his focus for Day 2 was simple: No mental mistakes.
“I try to be sound in the huddle saying the cadence going out there,” he said. “Proper footwork, proper depth on my drops, knowing my reads. So, just trying not to make mental mistakes, and that’s just the biggest thing: execution and operation.”
“…Coach (Marty) Mornhingweg and coach (David) Lee do a great job of allowing us to grow. Like I’ve said all along, I’ve got a long way to go. I know that. And we all do. I think that’s for every single rookie coming into the NFL, every single quarterback. It’s probably the toughest position in the league so there’s a lot on my plate, but it’s just about how you handle it. And I’ve been doing my best to just study my playbook – I’m up late – come in here early. Do all the things necessary to be a good quarterback.”
In the short window of rookie minicamp, there isn’t time to take plays off. But there also is danger in going to fast.
“It’s very difficult because you just want to do the best you can and you want to take everything in and go out there and show the coaches you can perform,” said Aboushi. “You try to go a million miles per hour, but sometimes when you don’t know your assignment or you’re not 100 percent on things, you really can’t play full-speed. So it’s a little frustrating, but it’s just rookie minicamp and we have to be patient.”
Despite the stress that comes with learning a learning a new offense and adjusting to the NFL, Miles said he doesn’t feel any pressure to perform.
“It does feel like everything’s being rushed, but it’s the pros,” said the former California (PA.) defensive back. “They want to see how fast you learn, if you’ll fold under pressure. So I expected it to be this way. I wouldn’t say I’m under pressure. …I’m more in a rush to learn everything and I want to get it all down so fast. ...I’m just anxious to get going.”