Another week has passed by this summer, having us fans even more so on the edge of our seats awaiting Jets’ training camp on July 26th. This means that the players I’ll be going through today are under an increasingly bright spotlight to outperform their competition to ensure that they can grab a roster spot for the final cuts of the off-season. If you haven’t checked out Part 1 of these training camp overviews, I highly recommend you give it a brief look to grasp what I’m going for with this sort of scale and these rankings.
In short, however: (Scale of roster safety: The higher the grade given from the 1-10 scale, the “safer” the player is of making the team).
5- Worthy players whose fate could go either way depending on their pre-season performances:
Ellis Lankster, CB
Ellis was critiqued often and quite harshly by a lot of Jet fans throughout the season. Frankly, I don’t think most of the flak he received warranted. Lankster might have frustrated fans with his inconsistent ball skills, but he still held his own enough to not make him a liability as the Jets’ third corner. In fact, Kyle Wilson was picked on more often at crucial times than Lankster was. Yet, his play still wasn’t consistent enough to cement himself a spot on this year’s team, especially considering how deep the depth at corner has gotten. Lankster will be starting from scratch to outperform Aaron Berry, Darrin Walls, and others. He is certainly on the top of the food chain in terms of momentum here, but the others have undeniable talent, as well.
Greg McElroy, QB
It is fair to argue that McElroy should have gotten a higher safety rating, but I found it really difficult to do so. McElroy showed us next to nothing in his game and change of playing time when fans called for Mark Sanchez’s head, and what he did show is only erased by the annoyance he can be around the locker room. While none of us have the inside sources necessary to make such claims facts, it is a definite that McElroy has spoken out about the locker room atmosphere in a negative manner at least once, when he really doesn’t have the credibility to do so. When it comes down to it, the Jets will carry three quarterbacks. But don’t be surprised if that third guy is Matt Simms. All Simms has to do is match McElroy’s performance in camp so that the Jets have a fair excuse to rid of the outspoken McElroy.
Rogers headlines a fantastic crop of undrafted free agents that the Jets reeled in after the 2013 NFL Draft. The hard working, explosive receiver was more reliable and consistent than standout Tennessee teammates Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter at times. While not the most physically gifted player, Rogers exemplifies what you want out of a backup wide receiver: smarts, catching ability, and precision route running. However, Rogers surprised some when he didn’t attend Jets West camp this past week. Sure, it was just a conditioning camp with teammates, but fellow UDFA receiver Ryan Spadola attended.
While it’s not known why Rogers wasn’t in attendance, it would have been nice to see him there. I don’t see both Spadola and Rogers making the team, so Spadola’s good call on attending the camp gives him a bit of a boost. In the end, I still prefer Rogers, though. He brings explosiveness that will be valuable from a fringe roster receiver.
Damon Harrison, NT
Harrison is an interesting case for a roster spot. He received a lot of hype as a camp body last year, and rode a strong camp performance on to the active roster. Harrison even got playing time in five games during the season, and played extensively versus Indianapolis in Kenrick Ellis’ absence. I remember noting how promising the mammoth tackle looked in these snaps versus the Colts, as he consistently had good leverage when plugging the A-gap (in between the opposing guard and center).
There’s one important detail with Harrison, however. He resembles a true nose tackle more than any other lineman on the 2013 Jets’ roster. Kenrick Ellis has the quick twitch and fast feet to slide down to the three-tech rush position. Antonio Garay is also an effective three-tech rusher. With Rex Ryan drafting towards an even more rotational defensive line than usual, Harrison’s fit could either be detrimental to his success or it could help him. If Rex wants to slowly make the transition towards a front which runs a primary 4-3 defense, Harrison’s roster spot could be in total question. He will need to have an impressive camp, regardless.
Nick Bellore, ILB
The Jets’ special teams ace over the past couple of years has always provided some depth at the inside linebacker position outside of his special teams efforts, but nothing else. The Jets might keep him just for his excellent efforts on special teams, but in reality, many guys out there will give it their all on specials to ensure themselves a roster spot. With underrated depth at inside linebacker in JoJo Dickson and UDFA standout Troy Davis, the Jets might cut Bellore in hopes to get more upside in linebacker depth while still getting stable special teams play. Assuming Bellore doesn’t shock the world in camp with his play on actual defense, it really comes down to the mentality from the coaches and front office if he makes the active roster.
It’s sad for me to only give Miles a 5 on the scale. I was a huge fan of his in the pre-draft process, and gave him a fifth round grade. As you can imagine, I was as thrilled as anybody when the Jets nabbed him after the draft. Unfortunately, the injury bug seems to have attacked Miles early this summer. He wasn’t healthy during OTA’s, so it would be biased to give him a higher grade if it isn’t clear when he’ll be healthy enough to perform in the pre-season. Thus, it’s a difficult ruling with the versatile safety. I can only hope that the Jets hang on to him even if he doesn’t rid of his injury bug sooner than later, but it’s a cruel league that doesn’t offer many second chances, especially to undrafted free agents.
Aaron Berry, CB
Many fans were excited when the Jets snapped up Berry off waivers from the Lions mid-season last year, and the excitement was well-warranted. Berry was once a stable, on-the-rise number two corner in Detroit before his off-the-field incidents tripped him up enough to get he boot. Next, Berry dealt with a lingering wrist injury throughout the year, and rarely saw the field outside of being a special teams gunner at times. It is so unclear which Aaron Berry will show up to camp, which is why it would be wrong to place him anywhere else on the safety scale. Regardless, the race between Berry, Lankster, and Walls should be a thrill, assuming the Jets only keep five corners on the active roster.
Getting younger is always a good option when it comes to running a football team. That is, unless, a position has one significant veteran. Santonio Holmes is the only Jet receiver with more than three years of experience outside of Obomanu. He can supply depth and experience to back up the overwhelming youth at the position. However, he’ll still need to outplay the likes of the Jets’ UDFA receiver corps, as there are quite a few of them who would certainly like to erase the purpose of having experience at the position.
Clyde Gates, WR
Another receiver checking in as a five on the scale is Gates, who was dealt to New York after his tenure with the Dolphins. Gates managed to stick around for all of last year with the injuries at wide receiver, and his speed actually granted him with superb separation for Mark Sanchez to find him. However, Gates really isn’t a capable, complete receiver. He’s a sloppy route runner, incomplete pass catcher, and isn’t physical enough to be counted on. His speed sets him apart from the rest of the youth at wide receiver, but he’ll need to show some improvement in camp to lock up a roster spot as a depth player.
Ricky Sapp, OLB
Sapp has been a hyped player who has been on and off the active roster ever since the Jets scooped him up from waivers from the Eagles. His speed, bend, and athleticism has made it frustrating that he hasn’t developed into anything noteworthy as a pass rusher. Some still see great things in Sapp’s future, however. His camp should be very imperative for deciphering if the Jets should give him one more chance to develop into a useful pass rusher on a team that’s thirsty for more consistent pressure on the quarterback.
Garrett McIntyre, OLB
While he’s the total opposite of Ricky Sapp, McIntyre is battling for a backup outside linebacker spot that could very possibly turn into a starting spot if there’s an injury or either one outplays the lowly Calvin Pace. McIntyre really doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher besides effort and brute-style bull-rushing, which is typically ineffective due to its predictability. However, McIntyre does a nice job sliding and moving laterally to hold the edge against the run. While he is a limited, low-ceiling player, “The Hammerhead” can stick around because of what he does well.
Nick Folk, K
A beloved, depended on starting kicker this low? What a debacle! I can see your frustration, but Folk is on another one year deal with the Jets, and Nebraska’s Brett Maher was brought in as a UDFA, who was arguably the best kicker to not be selected in the draft. Maher could surely match Folk’s play in camp to the point where the coaching staff thinks they have something special in a younger, cheaper talent.
4- Players who’ll need to seriously challenge their superior competition in the pre-season to make the team:
Brett Maher, K
Like I said, Maher is really a stud. If Nick Folk wasn’t nervous about his job already with how the Jets always challenge him in the off-season, than he surely has to be now. Folk will have the inside lane on this thrilling kicker standoff (sarcasm, but not really!), but all Maher has to do is out-kick the guy to get the spot.
Matt Simms, QB
Another simple case of “outplay the other guy, and you’ve got it.” Simms hasn’t been impressive in his last year of hanging around the Jet roster, but neither has his opponent Greg McElroy when he was given playing time. The Jets won’t hesitate to give Simms the third quarterback spot if he hangs around with McElroy in camp, because like I said earlier, McElroy has the ounce of locker room-baggage.
From what I’ve noticed, Spadola has been a favorite for Jets fans to tag high expectations on, despite him just being a UDFA. Personally, I prefer fellow UDFA Zach Rogers, but there’s no reason not to like Spadola, either. He’s another smart receiver who gets open underneath with his speed an quickness. padola isn’t in a situation like the previous two players above in which he has one opponent to beat out for a job; he simply must perform well enough and show his tools where the coaching staff thinks it will be worth their while to keep him around for the long or immediate future. However, that will be no easy task given all of the young competition that will be present in camp at wide receiver. May the best men win.
Jordan White, WR
White’s camp will definitely be important, but so will the coaching staff’s patience. White did not look adjusted to NFL speed when he was given snaps late last season. To use his extra year as an advantage over the new crop of receivers fighting for a spot this year, White should have improved his catching ability and discipline as a receiver considerably this off-season. If he hasn’t, White’s possession receiver-like skillset might not appeal to the Jets as much as it did at the end of the 2012 draft.
Isaiah Trufant, CB
Trufant is a strangely curious case this summer. He has done an excellent job at using his very specific skillset to single-handedly lock down Wes Welker in the recent past. Unfortunately, Trufant suffered a season-ending injury last year versus Seattle. Now, you’re left with a 30 year old corner with a skillset that could be looked at as limited, and it’s not clear how effective he’ll be in his return. Though Trufant plays very well on special teams, many fringe-roster corners are willing to give it their all on special teams to save them a roster spot. Trufant’s fate lies in the hands of the coaching staff, but it should also depend on how well his corner competition plays in camp. But at this point, it doesn’t look good for Trufant.
Joe McKnight, RB
I have been critical of McKnight in his efforts to win himself back on to the roster this summer, but he still does have a realistic chance. First of all, if the Jets only decide to carry three running backs on the active roster, McKnight is basically excluded already, since he surely won’t outplay Bilal Powell. Second, Royce Adams is a notable kick returner, and return men are very replaceable as it is. The story here is that McKnight just doesn’t offer much value anymore. He will have to show some heart this camp and play at a high level to convince coaches otherwise.
Jaiquawn Jarrett, S
Jarrett, a second round pick from 2011, has already found himself scrapping for a roster spot due to a poor fit in Philadelphia with the Eagles, but also because he was knowingly overdrafted as a role-specific player. Jarrett is a safety who essentially makes his living in the box, where he can blitz and stick his nose in running lanes where he can lay the wood with his hitting ability. However, he doesn’t understand coverage very well and struggles to stay with receivers due to his overall speed and hip fluidity. While some fans have labeled Jarrett as a lock to make the roster based on how bleak the depth at safety is, I’m not convinced. Other players are more likely than Jarrett to step up their game and fit the scheme.
Troy Davis, LB
It might be surprising to see Davis, another talented UDFA from this year’s class, so high on this list. Davis has found himself in a very promising opportunity. The former UCF pass rusher is versatile and looks more like an inside linebacker in the NFL. If he can look good as a hybrid, sort of like Demario Davis in his rookie year, than Rex Ryan and company might see more upside in him than the likes of Josh Mauga and Nick Bellore.
Caleb Schlauderaff, C/G
Though he’s obviously not the next Victor Cruz that Mike Tannenbaum once claimed, Schlauderaff has been good enough backing up Nick Mangold to be the primary backup for the last two years. He’s only so low on the list because of Dalton Freeman, another UDFA, who will battle him for his spot. The winner of the job in camp will be guaranteed a roster spot, for the team will need its backup center.
William Campbell, OG
The Jets’ 2013 sixth round pick is facing a Brandon Moore-like position change; he’s moving from a defensive tackle to a defensive tackle’s worst enemy: a guard. As an offensive guard, Campbell will have to adjust to his new position, but not necessarily quickly. It’s rare that he learns the position fast enough to outplay other backup guards, but he’s highly likely to be stashed on the practice squad for a year unless he grasps the position quickly.
Mark Popek, OT
Another guy who’s frankly unknown, yet has his fair shot at a roster spot is Popek, who’s yet another UDFA from this class. Popek was brought in as a UDFA from USF, and he’s caught on and reportedly impressed Ryan in OTAs. While OTAs aren’t very telling, Popek doesn’t have much competition to outplay. If the Jets want a backup left tackle and right tackle, Popek could be the fit at right tackle. He will have to prove himself, but not over much competition.
3- Players facing an uphill battle in training camp who’ll need to stand out more than they likely can:
Ryan Quigley, P
Quigley only has to beat out one guy, but that one guy is the almighty Robert Malone. Malone punted extremely well for a guy that came into Jets camp nearly a week before the season as the starter. While nothing is really known on Quigley, it’s unlikely he’ll beat out Malone.
Vladimir Ducasse, OG
At this rate, the front office and coaching staff in Cortland will probably want an excuse to have Ducasse out of the picture just as much as us fans do. He has disapointed Jet fans from his rookie year and onward. He hasn’t learned very well, there were better prospects on the board where he was taken in the 2010 draft’s second round, and he has shown time and time again that he doesn’t have much room to grow with his physique and ability. With the 2013 draft’s influx of guards that were brought into camp, this likely spells the end for the drastically underwhelming Ducasse.
Dennis Landolt, OG
Landolt has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad for about two years now, and nothing has indicated any improvement from that. Landolt still offers youth as depth inside at guard, but he’s not very athletic and might be pushed off the map by the new uprising in New York at the guard position.
Marcus Davis, WR
When you thought the Jets brought in enough talented UDFA wide receivers, here’s another one for you. Davis was once considered a mid round talent with his raw ability, athleticism, and physicality. The fact of the matter is, Davis isn’t a very good wide receiver. He struggles in running routes and getting consistent separation from defenders, and his catching ability and discipline is atrocious. I would be genuinely surprised if he can beat out a few of the receivers in the crop like Spadola, Rogers, White, and Obomanu to make the roster.
Lex Hilliard, FB
Hilliard is another guy who’s lucky to only have one man to beat. Hilliard’s competition is Tommy Bohanon, who’s likeliness to make the roster over the lowly Hilliard was explained in Part 1. In short, Hilliard was pretty bad in his time here as a starter last year, and his versatility offers nothing when he can’t perform and block like a fullback. I was shocked when he was resigned on a miniature deal this off-season, but that really doesn’t matter. The Jets will probably cut ties with him and give the job to Bohanon.
Hayden Smith, TE
Some Jet fans out there are all over Smith and the upside he offers as a former standout rugby players. I am not one of those people. Smith is already 28, and didn’t show fans anything last year to have optimism about. Not to mention, the depth chart at tight end is already pretty full. The Jets are likely to only carry three tight ends on the active roster, and those are Cumberland, Winslow, and Reuland. Reuland will stay as a blocker, and it’s far-fetched to think that Smith could beat out the first two. nd if that weren’t enough weighing Smith down, Mike Shanahan is a very similar kind of tight end than Smith, and has loads of upside.
Eric Crocker, DB
There’s a lot to like about Crocker. First, we had him on the TOJ Podcast a few weeks ago, and he was a well-spoken athlete who sounded intrigued by the opportunity to play a lot of man to man in Rex Ryan’s defensive schemes. Also, Crocker is versatile coming from the Arena Football league, and can play safety, too. I am certainly rooting for him during camp, but he faces a steep climb of competition. The depth at corner is already flowing over the brim, and he will have to adjust to playing free safety well and early this summer. Let’s hope Eric comes through against the odds.
Jake McDonough, DT
Rex loves guys like McDonough who are very rotational on the defensive line because of their quick feet and lateral abilities. Like I mentioned earlier, McDonough fits the scheme that looks to be changing frequently between 3-4 and 4-3 fronts. In the end, however, McDonough will likely have to beat out a player ranked much higher on the depth chart than he currently is, whether it’s Damon Harrison, Antonio Garay, or even Kenrick Ellis. We know Rex loves his lineman, so McDonough surely has a fair shot, but he will have to be frankly unstoppable in camp.
Vidal Hazelton, WR
Hazelton is a fan favorite who I broke down in June. He offers a wide range of skills and has come a long way through a road with multiple unfortunate events and circumstances. I’m rooting for Vidal, but realistically, there’s just so much young talent on the Jets this year at wide receiver. To make the team, Hazelton will require a superb pre-season performance, and will probably have to outplay every receiver outside of Hill, Kerley, Holmes, and Gates.
Royce Adams, CB/KR
Adams made some noise in Jets’ camp last year before he was placed on IR before the season due to a devastating knee injury. Because of the depth at corner this year, Adams will have to compete with those three I mentioned earlier to try and make it as a fifth corner: Berry, Lankster, and Walls. If he can’t beat one of them out and the rest of the competition, Adams will have to blow Joe McKnight out of the water returning kicks to offer enough value for the Jets to take another corner into the season. It’s unlikely this happens, but Adams might have the skill to make it a realistic goal.
2- Players at the bottom of the depth chart who face an unrealistic climb to make the team:
Thomas Mayo, WR
Mayo is a talented athlete who has found himself in the thick of this wide receiver stand-off this summer. The former Raider shows a lot of promise on tape, but I don’t see him outplaying the top of the UDFA receiver crop or Jordan White. Therefore, he’s not finding another entrance.
Titus Ryan, WR
Another wide receiver lost in the jungle is Ryan, who has bounced around literally everywhere in the NFL over the years. The journeyman is now 29, and has never latched on with any roster. With the countless receivers younger and more talented trying to make the roster this year, things don’t look like they’ll change for Ryan.
John Griffin, RB
The UMass product made some noise last year in Jets’ camp after performing just as well as Joe McKnight was for quite some time, but that died out eventually. Now, Griffin has to not only outplay McKnight considerably, but he’ll need to pray that the Jets keep four running backs. The combination of both of these factors falling through seem highly unlikely to me.
Mike Shanahan, TE
The former Pitt wide receiver is a big-framed athlete who can make some pretty spectacular catches within his large catching radius. Unfortunately, the UDFA faces a steep depth chart, and he’s unlikely to play well enough to make the team, assuming they only carry three tight ends. Hopefully, the Jets will keep Shanahan around on the practice squad so we can see how he develops in the future.
Bret Lockett, S
I admittedly know nothing about Lockett, besides the fact that he’s quite the catch off the field as an actor and model. To be blunt, I don’t see how Lockett makes the roster with not all of his focus on football, even considering the poor depth at both safety positions.
Donnie Fletcher, CB
Fletcher is a guy that hung around last year after signing with the Jets after the 2012 NFL draft as a UDFA. Fletcher plays primarily zone coverage, and doesn’t press receivers very well. In fact, his different skillset makes me wonder how he’s even still getting a shot in camp since he’s a seemingly awful fit in Rex Ryan’s man-heavy defense. Fletcher is facing steep competition at corner, anyways.
1- The rest of the pack who need a miracle to make the squad:
Jacquies Smith, OLB – A pass rusher who hasn’t adjusted to the professional game since he got into the league.
Joe Collins, WR– Hasn’t shown any strides since last year’s camp; faced with a heavy wide receiver depth chart.
Chris Pantale, TE – A talented TE from Boston College (UDFA) who will try and serve primarily as a blocker.
Mike Edwards, CB – Another solid UDFA from this year, but yet another corner trying for so few available spots.
The rest: Trey Gilleo (OG), Junior Aumavae (DT), Lanier Coleman (NT), Sean Progar (OLB), Danny Lansanah (ILB), JoJo Dickson (ILB), KJ Stroud (WR).