Rookie minicamp is in the books. OTAs have come and went. Minicamp is officially wrapped. Spring football is gone for good (Amen), meaning the next time the New York Jets are on a football field, it will be for training camp. What did we learn this spring and what does it mean for this summer?
The reactions around spring football are generally cyclical and repetitive. A good microcosm of that was demonstrated by Christian Hackenberg, the most debated player on the roster, over the past few weeks.
If you think Hackenberg is the future at quarterback, you hung your hat on a solid minicamp according to most accounts. You are pointing to Jeremy Bates’ quotes about his accuracy and you are savaging reporters for nitpicking on randomly inaccurate passes. You also ignored his struggles in OTAs, any of his turnovers and the fact that he is still clearly behind Josh McCown on the depth chart because this is just the spring, right?
If you think Hackenberg is destined to be the Jets next second round bust, you shook your head at his continued accuracy issues, minimized minicamp’s value and think public quotes from the coaching staff are useless because what else are they going to say?
What is the right verdict? Spring practice is fairly meaningless. It is always better to play well, rather than not play well but you do not learn much about any player from non-contact, non-padded practices that are regularly in walkthrough mode. For a player like Hackenberg, the best you are hoping for is that he is carrying himself like a veteran and is showing comfort with the terminology and motions of his new offensive system.
Putting all of that aside, is there anything that was concerning or exciting? On the concerning side, ArDarius Stewart missing all of OTAs and minicamp because he had thumb and groin surgery is a little troubling. He is already 23 and Alabama players regularly leave Nick Saban’s system with some serious miles on them. Stewart should have an opportunity to receive early playing time but if he cannot stay on the field, he could get lost in the shuffle of the other young talent at the position. Fellow rookie Chad Hansen also missed a little with a knee injury. Jalin Marshall is already suspended four games and Quinton Patton was cut after an injury. Hey, at least this guy is still around.
Exciting? There is a vibe of a young, hungry team who is aware of the ridicule they are facing heading into the season. You have to squint a little bit but if things break right, there is an intriguing crop of talent under 26 years old, among them Quincy Enunwa, Leonard Williams, Robby Anderson, Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins and Deon Simon. It is also nice to hear Austin Seferian-Jenkins lost 20+ pounds and seems to have changed his outlook on the game of football. Words are cheap but considering how weak tight end is for the Jets, he will have an opportunity to be a playmaker this year and his head seems to be in the right place for it.
If the Jets are going to be bad, let them be a high effort, young bad not a loafing, overpaid, disinterested bad, like they were in 2016.
As for the summer, there is not going to be much set in stone. If you are a young player at just about any position, if you can get hot for a few weeks in August, you are going to get a chance for some meaningful reps in September. This situation should make for a highly competitive, more unpredictable than usual camp.
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