FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - Joe McKnight remembers looking at the New York Jets' new playbook for the first time a few weeks ago and noticing a major difference.
It was simple and a lot easier to wrap his head around.
"Everybody had a sigh of relief," the running back said Wednesday, "when we didn't have the same amount of plays we had last year."
That's one of the biggest differences new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano brought to the Jets after replacing Brian Schottenheimer, who agreed to part ways with New York a few months ago and is now in the same position with St. Louis. While Schottenheimer had success at times with the Jets, one of the knocks on him was that his system was too complicated and that led to confusion and poor performances at times.
It's still early in offseason workouts, but Sparano has already made his mark on his new team.
"It's a different mentality with Coach Sparano," McKnight said. "He's the type of person that's like, if you can't stop him, he'll keep doing it. That's the kind of mentality, I think if we had last year I think we could have done better. We were just thinking so much last year."
Sparano, who was fired as Miami's head coach during last season, has made it clear that he is committed to a run-first style of offense - exactly what coach Rex Ryan likes. Schottenheimer got away from that approach early last season as the Jets tried throwing more with Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason in the mix. When that didn't work, the Jets tried to get back to the run - and the backs and offensive line had trouble with consistency.
"With Tony, that's the type of coach he seems to be, start on the ground and take it from there," said Greene who ran for a career-high 1,064 yards and six touchdowns last season. "I wouldn't be mad about it."
With Tim Tebow on board as the backup quarterback to Mark Sanchez, Sparano will certainly use a wildcat-style offense in spurts - as he did with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams a few seasons ago in Miami.
"It's going to be clear to the defense who's going to get the snap," McKnight said. "It's just who's going to get the ball after the ball is snapped."
McKnight, who could also play a much bigger role in the offense as the backup to Greene after leading the NFL in kickoff return average, packed on 15 pounds this offseason by eating a lot of McDonald's food.
"I just wanted to come back and not be labeled just as a specialty back, catching and receiving out of the backfield," said McKnight, who weighs a muscular 216 pounds. "I could spread the defenses out more and show people I can run between the tackles."
The players say Sparano has a fiery presence on the practice field, barking orders at his players with a no-nonsense approach, telling them all that they need to be accountable for their actions on the field.
"He yells and screams, but I'm used to it," said wide receiver Stephen Hill, the second-round pick out of Georgia Tech. "That's how they raise us in Atlanta. I definitely respond better when someone is on me."
New offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo fits right in with Sparano and Ryan in that he speaks his mind, no matter how bold or brash. DeGuglielmo was coached by Sparano at Boston University, and was on his staff the last few years in Miami. He followed his former boss to New York, where he is in charge of helping an offensive line that was inconsistent last season despite having lots of talent.
He expects all five of last year's starters to do so again this season, and that includes embattled right tackle Wayne Hunter.
"Until they ship him out of this building or until they shoot me dead in my office, that son of a gun's going to be the starting right tackle, and he's going to play well," DeGuglielmo said, adding that he believes "this is his year" and people would be hard-pressed to find a better player at the position.
"They should strap shields to this guy and put him in The Coliseum," he said.
DeGuglielmo replaces Bill Callahan, the popular assistant who went to Dallas in the offseason after developing the Jets' line into one of the best in the league. No pressure there, right?
"You don't make it in this league unless you know what you're doing. The difference between me and Bill: I have a Super Bowl ring, and he don't," said DeGuglielmo, who won with the Giants as an assistant offensive line coach in 2008. "Whether that means anything, it probably doesn't. He's a great football coach. ... I coach like
Guge.' That's what I do. As I told Rex when I interviewed:I'm not worried about the ghost of Bill Callahan ... nor should he be worried about the ghost of Hudson Houck down in Dallas, who won some Super Bowl rings."'
DeGuglielmo praised his group of linemen and even said it has "the makings of being the best line in football" - as it was considered by many to be a few years ago when the Jets went to consecutive AFC title games.
"I'm not going to compare them to what they did two years ago," he said. "Two years ago, I was 230 pounds and now, I'm 290. So, you could say, `Hey, Guge used to look good in that suit,' but right now I can't put one leg into it. It doesn't matter what I was like two years ago. I fluctuate 60 here, 60 there. Whatever. It's like peeing in a pool. Nobody knows the difference."
NOTES: NT Kenrick Ellis, the team's third-round pick last year, is facing a trial for a malicious wounding felony charge from an incident while in college at Hampton University. He's scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Thursday and jury trial next Tuesday. "I don't know right now," Ellis said when asked if he could miss time with the team. "It's a legal issue, still pending, an open case. I don't want to comment on anything about it." Ellis could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. ... C Nick Mangold made a surprise appearance on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" on Tuesday night, taking part in a skit in which he had his chest waxed. Mangold said he had tickets for the show and producers approached him a few hours before taping. "Like an idiot, I said yes," Mangold said. "And the rest is on film." ... LB Bryan Thomas and TE Jeff Cumberland, both coming back from Achilles injuries, expect to be ready for training camp.