The back end of the Jets defense just learned each other’s names a few weeks ago. They’re going to get a lot closer a lot faster over the next couple weeks.
The Jets secondary last year and this year looks nothing like each other. This offseason, the team traded star cornerback Darrelle Revis and it declined to bring back the Top-3 safeties from last year’s team, meaning the secondary is not only younger but also hasn’t worked together. To solve this problem, cornerback Antonio Cromartie is hosting several members of the unit in California over the next few weeks. The workouts will take the unit from the end of minicamp through training camp in late July.
The players will live and train together, hopefully accelerating their understanding on and off the field.
“Josh Bush and those guys came to me and said, ‘Hey, look, everybody is saying you’re in the best shape so we’re coming out there with you,’” Cromartie said.
Cromartie will have his personal trainer there to run the conditioning and the schedule has already been set for a month now. Monday will be the endurance session, including workouts such as pulling sleds and flipping tires. Tuesday is slotted for agility and field work day. Wednesday combines boxing with yoga. Thursday is on the field and Friday is running in the mountains or canyons of California.
The unit is hoping to build a camaraderie that can help them jell in training camp a month later. Part of that will be establishing leaders among the group.
Second-year safety Josh Bush has stepped up as one of those players. Bush played in all 16 games last season but made just 11 tackles. Those are not exactly the kind of numbers that point toward a starting role, let alone the making of a leader on the defense. But through the first two days of minicamp, Bush has been running with the first team and has been active in calling out the coverages.
“Last year I was getting reps with the first team too. Guys like Eric Smith, LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell had me out there learning because they said someday I’d be in that role,” Bush said. “I remember Eric Smith telling me that one day, that I’d have to be in his shoes and teach the younger guys. Eric played everything; he was the guy you wanted to ask if you had a question on the defense. He told me I needed to be that guy someday.”
Bush said that it was defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman who recommended he work out with Cromartie this offseason to get ready for training camp.
The final headcount for Cromartie’s camp is unknown but the secondary is buzzing about the workouts and the chance to get to learn the defense better. Wide receiver Stephen Hill is expected to join the unit to get some work in against the group.
The camp won’t be as high profile as the Jets West event run by quarterback Mark Sanchez but the mindset is clear cut.
“Team unity, working together, competing and just being together, that’s what it is all about,” cornerback Kyle Wilson said. “It’s really simple, to just be putting in that work before the start of training camp.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for live updates throughout team minicamp.