New York Jets head coach Adam Gase has spurned sports science by increasing the New York Jets’ practice tempo this week.
Football players know the drill. Training camp practices always differ from in-season sessions. In-season sessions on Tuesday or Wednesday greatly differ from Friday. Each day showcases a purpose meant to help the team that coming weekend.
It becomes usual, familiar and structured. That’s why change to the schedule is so alarming for football players.
“Just kind of moving some stuff around (and) just trying to create some competition within practice, get us going faster,” Gase told reporters Thursday. “I thought it was good. The guys seemed like they liked the format that we kind of moved some stuff around, just got to get the blood flow going a little quicker than normal.”
Wednesday’s practice in Florham Park, NJ featured the first-team offense and first-team defense squaring up to get things started. All football players (active and former) know the usual in-season drill features positionals first and teams second. Not until the positional coach works with his group does the entire team get together to work on the installs for that specific week’s matchup.
To actually pit the first teams against each other is the other major change. For many, it’s a surprising and rare move for any football team in-season—no less an NFL squad. It’s also not recommended in this softer-than-old-school football era we’re all living in.
To hell with sports science; it’s time to win a damn football game.
“Not recommended by sports science, but at this point, we’re going to try anything we can to get our guys practicing the way we need them to practice day in and day out,” Gase added.
Jordan Jenkins is a fan. He told the media Thursday that he “loves” the new practice look. Come to think of it, what’s the point of abiding by sports science if everybody finds himself injured anyway?
For the second-straight season, the Jets have been hit with the injury bug in epic fashion. They led the NFL in Adjusted Games Lost in 2019 with a staggering 160.1, per Football Outsiders.
Twenty-twenty hasn’t been much kinder. While they’re not as brutalized as the San Francisco 49ers, for example, a great deal of the roster has missed time.
Sam Darnold hasn’t been with his expected top three wide receivers the entire season. Joe Douglas’s initial nine-man draft has spent more time on the shelf than on the field, and interestingly, this organization seems quicker to pull a banged-up guy than any.
In August, Gase pulled running back Le’Veon Bell from a training camp practice due to what he called hamstring tightness. Bell refuted his head coach’s words by telling the Twitter world there was nothing wrong with his hamstrings.
The last time we saw Bell on the field was Week 1 in Orchard Park, NY. He’s been on the shelf since exiting the game with a—yup, you guessed it—hamstring injury.
Those nagging hammies have been the cause for many a player to miss time in New Jersey. Young Denzel Mims missed most of training camp and every one of the four regular-season games due to his second hamstring injury as a pro. (He remarkably injured his other one leading up to Week 1.)
With nothing to lose, Gase is throwing stuff at the wall in the hopes it sticks. This includes overcommunicating with all involved.
“I will say this, I don’t remember ever having as many guys coming to me, making suggestions, talking through ways to get things fixed, how can we address certain things,” Gase said about potentially turning the tide. “The communication has been outstanding from our players.”
Communication coupled with healthy bodies is the obvious key. The good news is that a host of players have returned to practice.
The previously-mentioned Bell looks like his regular self out there on the practice field. Bell, Vyncint Smith, Blake Cashman and Jabari Zuniga were all designated to return to practice Wednesday after spending three weeks on IR.
Breshad Perriman, Sam Darnold and Mekhi Becton did not practice Thursday. Darnold’s status has already been made known and it doesn’t look good for the other two guys either. Denzel Mims, Cameron Clark, Arthur Maulet and Patrick Onwuasor remain on IR. Bryce Hall continues to ride the Reserve/Non-Football Injury train.
Perhaps sports science doesn’t know what it’s doing. After all, the old-school football heads continue to think less of everything equals disaster. Less tackling and contact in August means a sloppier game and more injuries in the long-run.
Judging by Gregg Williams’s defense four games in, how could anybody disagree? Then again, the critical concussion and health topic supersede the crispness of the game on the field for the league office.
No matter where the truth lies, Adam Gase better hope sports science has it wrong.