With the New York Jets one month away from training camp, let’s take a look at a few things to expect when the action picks up in Cortland.
1 – Geno Smith: Starting Quarterback – Marty Mornhinweg has already confirmed Smith will be taking 70-75% of the first team reps throughout camp, which shouldn’t have been a surprise to anybody. There has been endless misconceptions perpetuated about the Jets quarterback position throughout this offseason. There was never a chance Mark Sanchez was coming back. There was never consideration given to selecting a quarterback on day one or day two of the draft. After the way Geno Smith finished the season, the decision was to ride with him as the likely starter but to provide a stronger insurance policy than Sanchez or Matt Simms gave last year. Mike Vick fit the role of a capable veteran, who knew Mornhinweg’s offense and could step in off the bench if needed. The team also believed his skill set would push Smith an appropriate amount this offseason and that it would prevent any type of “coddling” mindset that plagued their handling of Sanchez.
So be prepared for Smith spending most of his time with the first team offense in practice, starting the first preseason game and unless an injury or an unexpected meltdown occurs, starting week 1 of the regular season. I’m sure there will be a time in the preseason when Vick torches a second string defense and there will be loud calls for him to start but ultimately Geno should hold on to this job.
2 – Plenty of Jeff Cumberland – The coaching staff remains high on Cumberland’s potential and his role in the 2014 offense will demonstrate that. Jace Amaro is going to be a Swiss Army knife for Mornhinweg, lining up in the slot, at split end, in the backfield and at the traditional tight end spot. Cumberland will see plenty of reps as the in-line tight end and also get his reps split out or flexed to H-Back. Get used to seeing Cumberland and Amaro sharing the field. In the passing game, the team’s top four targets are likely to be Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Chris Johnson and Amaro. Cumberland is the most likely to be the fifth option after them, not a wide receiver.
3 – David Nelson: On the Roster – Nelson gets limited buzz and interest from many fans because he isn’t a burner and is not known as a “big play” guy. Regardless, he is easily the team’s third best wide receiver behind Decker and Kerley. There is no reason to cast off a 6’5 27 year old who was the team’s best receiver the final four games of 2013, has demonstrated chemistry with Geno Smith and has a 60+ reception season under his belt in the NFL. Nelson saw a nice chunk of first team reps in minicamp and while there is limited targets in a run heavy offense behind the five players mentioned in point #2, Nelson will be on the team and should see a decent amount of playing time throughout the season.
4 – Heroes of Spring – I’ve been amazed by the level of hype around Jacoby Ford, who was a veteran minimum signing the team brought in this offseason. The speed is eye catching, particularly with no equipment on and yes, he was a terrific kick returner…in 2010. Few people seem to remember Ford has really done much of nothing in the NFL since then. Was he worth taking a cheap flier on? Sure. Could he impress enough in the summer to force his way on to the roster as the primary kick returner and a depth wide receiver? It isn’t impossible. However, it is more likely he won’t make the team, than stick on the final 53.
Ras I-Dowling is another player generating excitement, although his chance of sticking on the final 53 is better than Ford, it is worth tempering expectations for him. Dimitri Patterson should start opposite of Dee Milliner until Dexter McDougle is ready for an expanded role. If Patterson can’t stay healthy and Dowling himself can stay healthy, he could push for playing time along with Darrin Walls, who has a jump of already knowing the defense on him.
Stephen Hill received his share of glowing practice reviews, which isn’t new to his career. We will hold off getting all that excited until the games start. Hill is probably going to make the final 53 but has a bigger uphill battle than many may think.
5 – Questions Worth Watching…
– If Antwan Barnes can’t get back healthy for training camp, could he lose his roster spot to Jermaine Cunningham?
– Will Willie Colon be full go for camp? And if not, will Oday Aboushi see 100% of the starting reps in his place or will Dakota Dozier get a look?
– Will Shaq Evans or Quincy Enunwa get a phantom “injury” if it appears they aren’t going to make the final 53, so they could be placed on IR and stashed for next season?
– How long can veteran roster longshots like Greg Salas, Clyde Gates, Alex Green and Matt Simms hold on to a spot?