FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
Ward, hired as a coaching intern in training camp, arrived on Monday and gravitated toward Anderson, a talented, but still-developing wide receiver. In Ward, he has a personal tutor who played with attitude, toughness and intelligence — a role model who has succeeded in his post-football life.
The Jets already have a well-respected receivers coach in Shawn Jefferson, a fine receiver in his day, but general manager Joe Douglas reached out to Ward, hoping he could bring another perspective.
“It’s a great resource,” Anderson said of Ward. “He’s done it at a high level consistently. He’s a future Hall of Famer. Like, what else can I ask for?”
This is a huge year for Anderson, who will be a free agent after the season. If he can find consistency, he can set himself up for life. He’s displaying signs of maturity — no trouble in the offseason for a change — and he can cement his future with a big season.
Ward was a physical player — some called him dirty — and he can help Anderson develop some nasty. He needs some of that in his game. He also needs to expand and refine his route tree. Ward, 43, who retired after the 2011 season with 1,000 receptions, was a masterful route runner.
“I’m picking his brain,” Anderson said. “He’s telling me more than I’m asking him. He’s staying on top of me, just trying to find ways to get me better each and every way.”
2. Help wanted: Douglas’ first big challenge as GM is fortifying the cornerback position. It won’t be easy because teams usually don’t part with quality corners. For Douglas, it will be like trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat.
“We have a lot of young guys and a lot of guys with no experience,” coach Adam Gase said. “We’re thin. We need guys to develop quickly and we need guys to play well in the preseason.”
Gase said he will have to rely on his two veterans, Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts. He didn’t include Brian Poole in his veteran group, but Poole didn’t distinguish himself by showing up in less-than-stellar condition. Beyond them, they have:
Get the picture? Asked if this poses problems for the defense, Gase said, “That’s why Gregg Williams is here.”
Williams is a good defensive coordinator, not a magician.
3. The heat is off: Gase is scoring major points with the players by holding practice at 8:25 a.m. instead of 1:30 p.m., the starting time under previous coach Todd Bowles. It’s considerably cooler in the morning, which agrees with the players. The downside: The afternoon heat was a natural conditioner. In other words, it got the players in shape for the season.
Gase will compensate by having conditioning drills (read: gassers) in the morning. He never had to worry about this in Miami, where the temperatures were sweltering in the morning. He always felt his players were in top condition by the start of the season — not that it helped their late-game performances. The Dolphins’ fourth-quarter point differential was minus-68, worst in the league. The Jets weren’t much better at minus-56.
4. Cruel summer: This will be a tough camp for Chris Herndon because he knows a four-game suspension is looming. When the preseason ends, he’s gone for a month, the price for a 2018 drunk-driving arrest. The plan is to give him plenty of work before the suspension. He’s still a young player, and the coaching staff recognizes the importance of each rep. They expect him to be a big part of the offense when he returns in Week 5. Sam Darnold will miss him. Their chemistry, which began to form last season, was evident in early practices.
5. Call him Kevin Ma-cry: Ex-Jets great Kevin Mawae will head to Canton later in the week for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The actual ceremony is Saturday night and, of course, he will deliver an acceptance speech. As a perennial Pro Bowl center, he could block pretty much anything. When he’s at the podium, he won’t be able to block his emotions.
He knows it, and he’s already waving the white flag — or is that a Kleenex?
“You’ve been around me long enough to know I’m an emotional guy to begin with,” Mawae told me in a recent interview. “It’s not a matter of whether I’ll finish it, it’s just a matter of how soon into it I’ll start crying. All bets are off. I’ll be the one who boo-hoos as soon as he takes the stage. My strategy is to thank my family first and get the tears out of the way, so I can get through the rest of it. Hopefully, I’m not a mess and there will be coherent words thrown together.”
Mawae played with passion, and it helped make him one of the best ever. I think it’s great when former athletes get choked up when reminiscing about their careers. It humanizes them, especially football players, who perform behind a mask.
6. The Notebook: Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone is planning to be in Canton to support Mawae. Marrone was the Jets’ offensive-line coach from 2002 to 2005 and became lifelong friends with Mawae. Years ago, Mawae gave him one of his old notebooks. As a player, Mawae was known as a copious note taker. To this day, Marrone uses the notebook as a teaching tool.
“I’ve shown a lot of players over the years, saying, ‘Hey, listen, when you say you want to be a pro, well, this is how a pro takes notes,'” Marrone told ESPN. “I’ve always used that as an example. Kevin took the best notes. He started every year like he was starting over, which was pretty incredible.”
Another of Mawae’s old notebooks is displayed at the Hall of Fame.
7. Plenty of yap: The 2010 Jets had a lot of good players, which allowed them to come within one game of the Super Bowl. They also had a lot of good talkers.
Retired quarterback Mark Sanchez, hired this week as a college-football analyst for ABC/ESPN, became the latest to land a job in the media. Others: GM Mike Tannenbaum, coach Rex Ryan, LaDainian Tomlinson, Damien Woody, Jason Taylor, Bart Scott and Mark Brunell. Braylon Edwards and Mike DeVito also have dabbled in broadcasting.
Move forward to 2012. The quarterbacks that year — Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy — all work as college-football analysts in the ESPN family of networks. Who knew the quarterback room was a broadcasting boot camp?
8. The last word: “Honestly, being labeled as, quote-unquote, the fastest player in the NFL, I didn’t grow up and want to be that. That’s not on my goal sheet. That’s not a motive to me. If I did win that, yeah, I would’ve won a million dollars, but like I said, I’m focused on a lot of millions of dollars, not just one.” — Anderson on why he withdrew from the recent “40 Yards of Gold All-Star Speed Tournament” after beating Alvin Kamara in the opening round.