Quarterback. New free agent and trade additions. The rookies. We know many of the storylines that will dominate discussion around New York Jets training camp, which kicks off in less than two weeks. What is being overlooked as critical issues surrounding the team? We crack open a fresh 12 pack to investigate…
1. Offensive Line – The Jets backup offensive line is roughly laid out as follows:
- LT, Ben Ijalana: Zero relevant NFL snaps since 2011
- RT, Brent Qvale – Zero relevant NFL snaps
- C, Wesley Johnson – Struggled immensely when given chance last year
- LG, Jarvis Harrison – Zero relevant NFL snaps
- RG, Dakota Dozier – Zero relevant NFL snaps
- OT, Brandon Shell – 5th round rookie
Their current starting left tackle has barely played over the past few years, their current right guard finished the season strongly but is still generally a question mark and their current right tackle kind of stinks. The Jets need to stay healthy here and need more depth because one or two injuries could turn this unit into a disaster.
2. Next Step – Many are anxious to see Jace Amaro back on the field, which is understandable but do not sleep on the potential value and increased role of starting H-Back Quincy Enunwa. There is a higher ceiling for him in this offense because of his athleticism and blocking ability. Chan Gailey is creative enough to utilize both players but if everything breaks right for Enunwa over the next few years he could turn into Delanie Walker or Jordan Reed Lite.
3. Cornerback – Darrelle Revis missed a little time last season and it isn’t crazy to expect that may happen again in 2016. Whether he is out there or not, the Jets run a corner heavy scheme which is going to give extended opportunities to Marcus Williams, Buster Skrine and yes even Dee Milliner. Williams is the most likely player to spend the bulk of his time on the outside opposite of Revis but if Milliner can stay healthy (a major if), he will have a chance to make some noise. It will be also interesting to see if Dexter McDougle, Juston Burris or Daryl Morris can play their way into any sub or dime packages.
4. The Start – We are going to learn a ton about the 2016 New York Jets right out of the gate. Can they protect their home turf and beat another AFC Contender in week 1 against the Bengals (who will be without Tyler Eifert and Vontaze Burfict)? Can they get revenge on a team they are better than but who has owned them recently in week 2 in Buffalo? Can they beat a legitimate playoff contender on the road in week 3 in Kansas City?
5. The Defensive Young Pups – How quickly acclimated will first round pick Darron Lee and third round pick Jordan Jenkins get to the Jets defense? Jenkins has a clear path to start week 1, while Lee will probably begin playing situationally with more reps coming in each passing week as the Jets “Moneybacker.” There will be a ton of talk about the player drafted between both of them, quarterback Christian Hackenberg, but both Lee and Jenkins will have a bigger impact in 2016.
6. Hackenberg Microscope – Regardless of what happens with Ryan Fitzpatrick, there will be a microscope on every movement from Christian Hackenberg, who struggled with accuracy throughout the spring. In the unlikely event that Fitzpatrick is not back, the speculation and pressure to rush Hackenberg on the field will be magnified that much more (spoiler, he should sit all this season no matter who the starting quarterback is). Hopefully, Hackenberg can flash in the pre-season and show gradual improvement throughout the month of August before absorbing as much as he can throughout the season.
7. Wide Receiver Depth – The Jets are a Brandon Marshall or Eric Decker rolled ankle away from having Kenbrell Thompkins and Jeremy Ross/Charone Peake in their starting three wide formation. Hopefully, Devin Smith is back and ready to roll at some point in the pre-season but that is far from a given at this point. Peake is an intriguing rookie but the Jets could be overreaching by expecting him to play more than 10-15 snaps per game right out of the gate. Ross is more of a special teamer. Thompkins is competent but having him as a secondary target to Decker or Marshall is a scary proposition.
8. The 3rd Back – Matt Forte and Bilal Powell are going to split lead back responsibilities and probably be the 3rd and 4th option in the passing game but free agent addition Khiry Robinson will have a role on the offense and likely turn heads with his running style. He is a nice change of pace from Forte and Powell his violent, physical running style and should be a weapon in short yardage and red-zone situations.
9. The Other Young Pups – We know Lorenzo Mauldin, Calvin Pryor and Leonard Williams will be grabbing headlines as young players “taking the next step” in camp but don’t sleep on nose tackle Deon Simon, guard Jarvis Harrison and pass rusher Deion Barnes. All three second year players start as backups or third stringers on the depth chart but all have impressed the coaching staff with their raw talent. Simon could eventually push Steve McLendon for playing time, same with Harrison to Brian Winters and Barnes as a situational player on 3rd downs.
10. Kick Battles – Can Ross Martin show enough to let the Jets cut Nick Folk, which would save them a little cash? There is a risk in going into the season with a rookie kicker on a team who is likely to lean on their defense heavily and hope to win its share of lower scoring, close games.
11. The Wrinkles – Last year, Chan Gailey made two savvy offseason adjustments: moving Eric Decker into the slot and moving Quincy Enuwa to H-Back. What will he come up with this year? Three things to watch are how he finds ways to utilize Forte and Powell in the same formation, how he can get Enunwa/Amaro on the field at the same time and if we get more Brandon Marshall in the slot or in motion this season.
12. CLASSIC TRAINING CAMP TALKING POINT ARTICLES! Look for these old reliables:
- “Maudlin Taking Game To Next Level In Year Two”
- “Sky Is The Limit For Williams In Year Two”
- “Hackenberg Feeling Comfortable In New Offense”
- “Petty Says Game Is Moving Slower In Year Two”
- “Forte Feeling Young Again In New Offense”
- “Underrated Powell Ready To Make Name Known”
- “Grizzled Veteran Harris Keeps On Ticking”
- “Revis Hears Doubters, Looking For Big 2016”
- “Milliner Knows This Is Final Chance”
- “Pryor Says Sky Is Limit”
- “Richardson Says Jets Have League’s Best D”
- “McLendon Ready To Fill Snacks’ Shoes”