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New York Jets Post Draft Press Conference Transcript 4/30/11

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On Saturday New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, head coach Rex Ryan, and VP of college scouting Joey Clinkscales addressed the media regarding their 2011 draft class.  Here is the transcript courtesy of the Jets.

Opening Statement…

MIKE TANNENBAUM: Just a quick recap of the draft. (Thursday), we took Muhammad (Wilkerson). Then, we took this guy with great ball skills from Florida State. It wasn’t funny last night. I figured I’d try it again (and) get a few more giggles today (joking). Kenrick Ellis, obviously, from Hampton (we took) and then, today, (we drafted) Bilal Powell, a running back from Louisville. We’re really excited about him. We think he’s a three-down back (and can) run, catch and block. We’re really excited about his future. Then, in the fifth round, we were able to move up and take Jeremy Kerley, who is a guy that Coach Schottenheimer just worked out recently. He was a really productive player. We think he can help in the return game, as well, (he is) a very versatile player. We were excited to get him. We were running out of options at that position at that time and there were a couple of other things we were looking at so we were fortunate to move up to get him. Then, we came back. We had two sevens and we took Greg McElroy. He was a quarterback that we felt, if it was the right opportunity, we’d like to add a young one. Ron Wolf, who I think has been a great GM in this league, always talked about trying to add a quarterback every year. We felt really fortunate to get Greg. Then, in the last pick, we took Scotty McKnight from Colorado. Obviously, there was a relationship with Mark (Sanchez). We knew him well. He is Colorado’s all-time leading receiver (and) a self-made guy, a walk-on at Colorado. He’ll come in here and compete as well for a position at receiver. With that, we’d be happy to take any questions.

On what compelled the team to draft Bilal Powell…

TANNENBAUM: For me, it’s interesting. I go back to two years ago when we had Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, and Shonn Greene was the best player on the board. We feel good about our running back position between LaDainian (Tomlinson), Joe (McKnight), John Conner and Shonn (Greene), obviously. We just thought he (Powell) was the best player on the board and we just try to stay to the value of the board. It goes back to when Rex came here and said, “Hey, Baltimore always did a good job by sticking to the value of the board,” and we had him high on our list. The fact that he was available when he was, I think he went 126th overall, we just thought it was really good value for us.

On whether it is possible there can be five running backs on the roster next season…

REX RYAN: When you look at last year, we had five running backs. We actually had six, (until) the (Danny) Woodhead deal. I kind of wish we would have kept him (joking). You never really know what’s going to happen and what our roster is going to look like in the fall or anything else. To us, when Mike and I talk about putting this team together, give us the best players. Who are the best players? Those are the ones you keep. Obviously, there are things that happen during the season, (whether) we need a wideout, we need a tackle, whatever it is, you’re trying to move your roster. To start with, you just try to keep the best football players and that’s usually a good way to make your roster.

On whether all the running backs would be active during the regular season…

RYAN: I think the point is, last year, we had Tony Richardson and we had the Terminator (John Conner). I guarantee you there were a lot of teams with no fullbacks and we had two. The first year when I was here, we had four quarterbacks. I just think sometimes, when Mike puts the thing together, it’s like, “Who are our best players?” That’s what he always asks me. That’s what you do. Guys, you know the roster always changes. We had 11 DBs up to play New England in the playoffs. Then, there are times we’ve gone into games with just eight defensive backs. Whatever you think you need to get the job done, then that’s what it takes.

On how he feels today’s draft selections improve the offense…

RYAN: I think we go in there and we’re trying to get really good players, and I think that’s what we did. When you look at the talents that we already have on offense and defense, then you add some really good players. (Jeremy) Kerley is a guy that’s not only a fine returner, but we think he can be an excellent receiver. Time will tell. Scotty McKnight, all he did was be one of 10 players in NCAA history to catch a ball in every game he played throughout his career. He was Colorado’s all-time leading receiver. We knew a lot about him and, all of a sudden it was like, ‘Why don’t we take this kid and see what happens?’ We provide opportunities and, at the end of the day, you can’t have enough good players. It seems like it works out in the end, so I’m really excited about that. We got the big back (Bilal Powell) and you know how I feel about big running backs. Everybody looked at me. Well, the ideal thing is you keep pounding him and keep pounding him and you use as many as you can, those fresh backs, and not just for games, but the way the season plays out. I think we’ve had a lot of success with that the last two seasons.

On what Tomlinson’s role will be in the offense…

RYAN: I can tell you this, LaDainian was outstanding for us last year, not only as a runner, but what we really thought of was, ‘Here’s a three-down back, a guy that can run the football, but is a pass protector picking up blitzes and a guy that is a great receiver out of the backfield.’ I thought he did a tremendous job. He made some huge plays for us. Then, you combine his talents with Shonn Greene’s and the emergence of Joe McKnight, who I think is going to be an explosive talent. We saw what he can do against Buffalo with the 158 yards rushing and the special teams contributions. He might even be a punt returner or kick returner, who knows? Now, you just add this guy (Powell) to the mix. I almost felt like in the draft, other teams, they never wanted us to take this guy because, “Here’s a strength of their team.” Well, we just added another piece to it. We’ll see. It will be fun. I understand there is only one football but, it’s going to be fun. There is going to be a lot of confidence in whoever that back is back there.

On if the younger players will replace Tomlinson…

RYAN: I guess there are no certainties right now.

TANNENBAUM: I think on any roster decision or any hypothetical that goes back to the roster, we have to wait on everything in terms of what the rules are and free agency. We had what we thought was a good position and we made it even stronger. You cannot have enough good backs. That’s been the foundation since Rex has been here. He’s ground and pound. In my mind, it was a position of strength. I give Joey (Clinkscales) a lot of credit, when we are sitting there with Thomas and Leon and he said to add Shonn Greene. I was thinking, ‘no way should we do that.’ It turned out to be a really good decision. We have three really good running backs that we feel really good about. If you add a fourth, it just gives us a lot of versatility in that position. I’m glad we took a good position and made it even stronger. In my mind, it’s the identity of the team – a good offensive line to run the ball and a good defense. We have a core of backs that is going to get better and better. I like where we are with that. We’ve had four running backs since Rex has been here and I think that’s been good.

On if the Jets had their eye on Kerley…

TANNENBAUM: He was on our radar and Brian worked out a couple of receivers. His versatility, playing outside and inside, a really good route runner and he has some ability to return as well. He did some wildcat. He threw a touchdown pass to (Andy) Dalton in the Utah game. We’re really excited about him. He’s a really good route runner and has really good hands. He had a really good workout with Brian. It was just a position where we felt we could have one or two players just to have more depth there. That was something we were trying to accomplish.

On if the Jets felt Kerley would have been drafted by another team if they had not moved up…

TANNENBAUM: We were running out of options (laughing). I go into every round with a stack of five or six guys. Just to be clear, that is not five or six receivers, but five or six players. If any of them are there, we are happy. I get everyone to buy in that it is our happy list. If we have any of these five, we are happy right? Once we make that list, we are going to go from there. We went from five to one like that. It was like ‘oh boy.’ It was a long way to go to get where we wanted to go so that’s when we felt we had to do something quick.

On if the Jets feel Kerley will have a similar role to Brad Smith…

TANNENBAUM: (Kerley’s) versatility was something that enhanced his value to us. We think he is a very good receiver and a good punt returner. His versatility was something that was a positive. We love Brad. The opportunity to get a good player and a good fit for us (was great). When your coordinator goes down there, you have your reports that you feel good about and Brian puts his hands on him and says, “Here’s the exact fit,” then we feel really good that he will fit into this role.

On if Sanchez lobbied for McKnight…

RYAN: I think during the year he was doing his lobbying. I know he’s really close with Scotty. It kind of goes in one ear and out the other. I do the same thing with my kid (smiling). I’m always telling you guys about my son. When you look at (McKnight’s) numbers, it’s hard to take his (accomplishments) away from him. I don’t want to penalize him for being Mark’s friend. I think it helped him in this case because he knew him well. Kyle Wilson, two of his teammates were two receivers from Boise (State). Before, (when) we could talk to Kyle, I asked him about those two receivers. That’s what you do. We knew a lot about Scotty and we felt good about him. When he was there, we just said, “Let’s give this young man an opportunity.”

On if Scotty’s relationship with Sanchez contributed to the Jets decision to draft him…

RYAN: I would think so. I think the big thing is that he will have to learn the offense just like Mark had to learn the offense when he came here. The more similar it is, sometimes it’s harder for a guy to catch up speed-wise. When we bring guys in, it’s based on what system they’re familiar with and how comfortable they are. Is it by words or numbers? Clearly, he knows Mark and has probably ran thousands of routes with him so I’m sure that will help him. It helped Patrick Turner because he knew Mark when he was available. (He was) a guy we really liked that we were able to add last year. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

On not drafting a cornerback…

TANNENBAUM: We did, in the second round. Weren’t you listening (laughter).

RYAN: Mike is trying that with you guys, and he tried it with me (laughter). With the trade of Cromartie last year, I was all for that. When you look at the draft, the first two years we only took one defensive player. This year we have two players on defense. That’s a record for me being a head coach and drafting defensive players (laughter).

On if they have concerns about their depth at other positions…

TANNENBAUM: Organizationally, it’s a continuum. Our offseason did not end tonight. We’re going to wait for the next set of rules and we’ll be prepared. I promise we will be prepared whenever the next opportunity is to improve the team. Joey and his group deserves at least five or ten minutes off but I’ll be calling them on Monday. (laughter) Those are well-founded questions and concerns and we’ll just move forward. We’re just trying to match our own expectations in terms of we want to keep improving our team. We did get some things done. Was it a perfect draft? No. It’s never a perfect draft. There’s always ways you feel like you could tweak your team. Like you win a game and there’s always ways you’re looking to improve. We’ll continue to try to improve the next opportunity that we have.

On where Greg McElroy could fit on the depth chart…

TANNENBAUM: The depth chart will always be decided by Rex, but he has every attribute conceivable for a guy to be successful at the quarterback position. He won in high school, won in college, he’s smart, competitive, can make all of the throws. He’s a natural leader. What’s not to like about the guy. Where he pans out between Kellen (Clemens), Mark Brunell and Drew Willy and everybody else, who knows.

RYAN: Can we even talk about his test scores? This guy was ridiculous

CLINKSCALES: (His wonderlic score) was very high and he’s a Rhodes Scholar candidate and he had a GPA of 3.9 and he’s already in graduate school, obviously. If he were in this room today, he’d be the smartest guy in here (laughter).

RYAN: That’s not saying much (laughter).

On whether Bilal Powell can get playing time this year…

RYAN: I think so. We’ll see, the great thing is competition. We’ll find out. I said before, when we (picked) Shonn Greene, everybody said, ‘Why’d we take him?’, and remember he kind of got hurt in a blitz pickup drill in a, I call it the “Runover Drill”, the blitz pickup drill, and (hurt) his ankle and it’s like, ‘Is he going to be good?’ Last year, Joe McKnight had a forgettable preseason, let’s just put it that way, but all he did was (go up). He just ascended. We have the best running backs coach in Anthony Lynn. Those guys just get better and better and better. So I don’t ever want to say, we’re taking him in to be this type of back, we’re going to give him an opportunity. Shonn Greene to me is, ‘Wow’. I think he’s ready to be that bell cow and all that. But not at the expense of our football team. We have to have fresh backs as the year goes on. One of the reasons we do so well in December and January is we have fresh running backs. It’s tough. As the year goes on, you see teams that are good at run defense early in the season, and later they just get worn down. I know having to defend in this league forever, when you can fire a fresh back at them over and over and over, it gets harder to stop them as the season goes on.

On his impressions of Kenrick Ellis…

RYAN: I tell you, this young man, the first thing that jumps out at you is when he walks through that door and you’re like, “That’s what they’re supposed to look like.” But when you watch him on tape, it’s unusual to see a huge man move this well. The thing that jumps out at you is not necessarily the technique. He’s going to get better technique-wise, he has room for improvement. It’s his effort to the football. It’s a 350 pound man and he is flying. Wait until you see him on the practice field. This guy gets after it. You see him running down the field; 20 yards down the field he’s making tackles. It doesn’t say much for Hampton’s defense (laughter), but this young man was impressive. And you watch him in that All Star game he played in, Texas vs the Nation, which was a better game when my dad was coaching it, but either way, I’m just telling you this young man, you’re going to be surprised. I remember there was criticism of Haloti Ngata when he came out. We were laughing because he was a 350-pound man. What are you comparing him to a 220-pound man or a 250-pound man? He’s 350 pounds. That’s what this guy is. The effort, I’m certainly not comparing him to Haloti Ngata, but from a size and effort standpoint, he can hold his own.

On Ellis’ off-the-field issues…

RYAN: As I look at it, my job is to evaluate the player and all that. We brought him in and I talked to him and felt good about him as a young man. It’s part of the process, the other things. I just thought when you look at it, from my standpoint this is a guy, when I looked at him, I thought he was a good young man when I met him and as far as a football player, that’s where I evaluated him.

On Wilkerson’s impact on Shaun Ellis…

RYAN: Shaun Ellis has been a terrific player for this organization for many years. In fact, when you look at how he played last year, he might have been our best pass rusher or one of them. He did a tremendous job and he’s I think second on the all-time sack list in New York Jet history. I know I can’t comment specifically on guys coming back or whatever, I can just tell you what Shaun Ellis has meant to this franchise and what he’s meant to me over the past two years. He’s been a tremendous player and a big reason for our success.

TANNENBAUM: And Rex just to add to that point, looking at what we’ve done the last two years on defense, just the versatility up front. Shaun played a lot inside in that Patriot playoff game for example. Just to add another guy. I don’t think, especially on the defensive line, it’s not one for one. We just add another guy to the mix and everything has been so game-plan specific.

This Article Was Written By Tyson Rauch

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