By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Perhaps it was simply the culmination of the defense’s domination of the offense in Saturday’s Green and White scrimmage.
Or maybe Joe McKnight just got tired of defenders pushing him around.
Whatever the case, the fact that McKnight sparked a 20-player brawl Monday when he fired a football at D’Anton Lynn should be taken as a hopeful sign.
If nothing else, the offense is getting feisty. And heaven knows, it could use a little salt in its diet these days.
With right tackle appearing yet again as a soft spot, the wide receiver corps depleted through Santonio Holmes’ bruised ribs and Jeremy Kerley’s hamstring injury, and Tim Tebow clearly struggling, there hasn’t been a lot of good news coming out of Cortland lately.
But this fight, which started when safety Lynn rammed McKnight out of bounds on a swing pass, might be emblematic of an impending turnaround.
Or maybe it was just a way to shake out some frustration.
Who can argue, though, that a little emotion will go quite well with the renewed dedication to the physical style the Jets want to bring back to the offense? It may have shown up just in time, for Rex Ryan’s crew opens the exhibition season Friday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Although coaches don’t particularly relish their players getting into it one-on-one, and certainly not in a full-scale, over-the-sideline brawl where somebody could lose his footing and get trampled as Lynn did, incidents like Monday’s aren’t always scorned, either. They’re good for stirring the juices, especially after a sweaty but controlled week of training camp.
After Ryan, with an assist from Tebow, jumped in himself to untangle the gaggle of players, he told McKnight to “keep playing hard,” obviously impressed with the fire McKnight showed.
As for Lynn, the undrafted rookie out of Penn State was probably sent to bed without dinner by his father, Anthony, who just happens to be McKnight’s position coach. He got off easy, anyway, after having landed underneath the pile and losing his breath.
Ryan might have loved the fire, but Mark Sanchez, pacifist that he is, saw it as a useless exercise. Maybe he had his unit’s dwindling roster in mind, but Sanchez wasn’t delighted with either player’s conduct.
“There’s no excuse for it,” Sanchez told the media after McKnight later went out with a stinger, the result of another hard, but this time legitimate, hit. “There’s no throwing a ball at a teammate. There’s no shoving a guy out of bounds into the (advertising) signs. One, it doesn’t look good. And two, it sends the wrong message to our team. I get it, guys are competitive, guys are fiery.
“That’s nice, but you want to take it to the brink and compete to the last possible moment and always remember to protect your teammates.”
Lucky for the Jets, aside from sending one reporter’s voice recorder to its final resting place — probably at the bottom of a trash can — no serious injuries came out of the minute-long fracas. So Ryan’s group can look back and laugh now.
That’s how it usually goes with these things. Even with coaches who put a premium on player safety, like the Giants’ Tom Coughlin, tensions mount for various reasons. Grizzled guard Rich Seubert was always good for a couple or 10 fights per camp; small scraps that were quickly dispersed by one teammate from each side of the ball, just enough to make things interesting.
A full-scale brawl, though? That’s unusual.
But maybe that’s what the Jets’ offense needed after the defense sent Sanchez’ top target out with bruised ribs Saturday. Maybe they needed one of their guys to stand up and tell the defense what’s what.
McKnight did that, and maybe just in time.
The offense definitely needed something to fight for — and about.
Do you agree the brawl was a good sign for the Jets’ offense? Be heard in the comments below!