I didn’t think the New York Jets could improve their defensive front seven, but I wasn’t counting on Jason Babin.
The Jets signed free agent Babin to a two-year contract on Thursday, the team’s first day of practice after reporting to Cortland, N.Y. for training camp Wednesday. Babin has made 62.5 sacks in nine NFL seasons, including a remarkable 18 in 2011 and 12.5 in 2010.
Babin is known as a defensive end, but the Jets will presumably use him as an outside linebacker in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 base defense. His 6’3, 267-pound frame is strikingly similar to Calvin Pace’s 6’4, 265 pounds. Babin said he “had a lot of work early in my career standing up, so whatever is needed from me, we will get it done.”
Babin, 34, doesn’t have to be a starter, in my opinion: I see Rex and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman rotating him and Antwan Barnes in to relieve presumed starters Quinton Coples and Pace. Babin has never recorded fewer than seven sacks in a season this decade, but even if he only makes five sacks in a back-up role, it’s five sacks the Jets didn’t have before.
It is the journeyman’s seventh different NFL team, but after his first Jets practice Friday, Babin said he still has a learning curve.
“For me right now my only focus is to learn this defense and just to get better every day,” he said, while admitting that “it wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be, but that’s to be expected.”
Babin wasn’t the only new Jet talking about his first New York training camp experiences. Wide receiver Eric Decker told reporters how it felt being with a new team on day one of camp.
“You get a little anxious, nervous – you don’t know what to expect,” he said. “But once you get out here, ball is ball. It might be a different jersey, it might be a different team, but you figure it out.”
“Decker runs great routes. I mean the top of his routes are unbelievable,” Michael Vick told the media. “He knows how to create space. You can just tell that him working with Peyton [Manning] over the last couple of years has helped him blossom as a receiver.”
Meanwhile, rookie tight end Jace Amaro dropped some passes in practice yesterday, something the team wasn’t used to seeing him do.
“Some of them were tough catches, but Coach Marty [Mornhinweg] is expecting me to make all those catches and do all those things,” said Amaro, “and that’s why they picked me up and that’s why I got drafted here, to catch the ball, so I’m expecting to do it.”
News and Notes: First-round draft pick Calvin Pryor left Saturday’s practice with a head injury, one the team was careful talking about. “Whether it’s a concussion or not, I’m not sure. We’ll see how that progresses,” Rex Ryan told the media after practice. Pryor was taking plenty of first-team reps at safety before the injury.
~Also injured are Antwan Barnes and guard Willie Colon with knee issues. The Jets placed both players on the active physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list to start camp. They can be activated as soon as they receive medical clearance.
~New teammates Michael Vick and Chris Johnson are also new roommates at camp. Reporters today were interested in whether Vick thought he could beat Johnson in a foot race. “I’m not racing Chris,” he said. “Wasn’t he on TV racing a cheetah or something a couple of months ago? Yeah, no, I’m not doing that. To even have the courage to do that, man…”