New York Jets 2018 Training Camp Preview & Predictions

Joe Caporoso with a 2018 training camp preview and predictions…

The New York Jets will take the field for their first practice of 2018 training camp today. Despite currently having the third longest playoff drought in the NFL and coming off back to back 5-11 seasons, there is a renewed optimism and positivity around the team. It only takes a quarterback…or the hope of having a future at quarterback to change the narrative around a NFL organization. Let’s break down what to watch for this summer, give a few predictions and of course take a shot at a 53 man roster. Football is back, friends.

It Is The Quarterback, Stupid

As of writing this, Sam Darnold is not currently under contract. Let’s hope that matter is quickly resolved, considering he is one of two players out of 256 picks that are unsigned. Putting that not so tiny matter aside, the hope around the Jets organization is that the rookie will impress enough to start week 1 against Detroit. This will be an “open” competition but with the majority of the first team reps gradually going to Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater. We already saw last season how the Jets feel about the need to play Josh McCown in camp and the preseason. In this competition, the tie goes to Darnold and even close to a tie goes to Darnold. We discussed why at length here.

The return of Bridgewater will be another interesting storyline to follow. How close can he come to looking like the starter he was in 2015 and is camp/preseason enough to convince another team he is worth trading a draft pick for? Will the Jets be content holding on to him into the season and hoping to move him at the deadline or could Bridgewater look good enough to seize the starting job? The Jets only have him under contract for one year and Darnold is the unquestioned quarterback of the future, making this a fairly unique situation. How is Todd Bowles going to divide up pre-season first team reps?

Much Bark, Now Bite?

The Jets secondary led by Jamal Adams has not been shy this offseason talking up their capabilities. Adams had an inconsistent but generally impressive rookie season, while fellow safety Marcus Maye will look to build on a surprisingly steady rookie year for a second round pick. At cornerback, Trumaine Johnson was the big ticket free acquisition and will be counted on to be the Jets first true lockdown corner since Darrelle Revis for the first half of the 2015 season. Outside of those three, the team will be counting on Morris Claiborne to stay healthy, and Buster Skrine to avoid penalties…both risky propositions. Keep an eye on rookie Parry Nickerson to push for playing in the slot and for safety Terrence Brooks to have a consistent role in Todd Bowles’ defensive back heavy scheme.

Dude, Where Is My Pass Rush?

The Jets are banking on a blitz heavy scheme to compensate for a lack of pass rushing talent at linebacker and hoping Leonard Williams has a breakout season with support upfront from players like Henry Anderson and rookie Nathan Shepherd. At linebacker, reps opposite of Jordan Jenkins on the outside are wide open with recent draft picks Lorenzo Mauldin and Dylan Donahue both firmly on the roster bubble. At inside linebacker, the organization is praying Darron Lee can take a major step forward but if he doesn’t veterans Kevin Minter and Kevin Pierre-Louis could start pushing him for playing time sooner rather than later. Avery Williamson should be a steady, two down thumper next to Lee.

Let Them Sleep

The chronically underrated Jets skill position group will be looking to silence preseason rankings that have them among the worst in the NFL. Robby Anderson is one of the best young vertical receivers in the NFL and should be on track for his first 1,000 yard season. Quincy Enunwa was on the same trajectory before a neck injury caused him to miss last season. There is potential for this duo to be here and highly productive for a long time. The depth is solid with veterans Jermaine Kearse and Terrelle Pryor, along with spring standout Chad Hansen.

At running back, the Jets need to figure out the division of work between newly added free agent Isaiah Crowell, always underused Bilal Powell and second year pass catching back Elijah McGuire. It is doubtful there will be one primary “bell cow” but Crowell is the favorite to lead the way on early downs, with Powell providing a change pace and leading the way as a receiver out of the backfield with support from McGuire.

At tight end, Eric Tomlinson will stick because of his blocking but outside of that reps are wide open on a position that could be somewhat minimized in Jeremy Bates’ offense, particularly if Enunwa spends time at H-Back. Rookie Chris Herndon and second year player Jordan Leggett are vying for targets as the primary pass catching option in the group.

12 Predictions

  1. Sam Darnold will be under contract by the end of this weekend and will end up starting week 1.
  2. Bilal Powell, Josh McCown, Steve McLendon and Morris Claiborne will barely play this summer, particularly in the preseason.
  3. Chris Herndon is going to consistently flash at tight end.
  4. Chad Hansen will build on a strong spring and be one of the stars of camp.
  5. Thomas Rawls will lead the Jets in preseason carries but not make the 53 man roster.
  6. Kevin Pierre-Louis will play a bigger role on defense than most anticipate.
  7. Henry Anderson will cement himself as the starting defensive end opposite of Leonard Williams.
  8. Recent draft picks Dylan Donahue, Charone Peake and ArDarius Stewart will not make the 53 man roster (even post suspension).
  9. Darron Lee will have a strong camp but struggle with consistency in the preseason.
  10. Andre Roberts will win the return job.
  11. Draft pick Folorunso Fatukasi will be put on the practice squad and not make the final 53.
  12. Recent signing Courtney Upshaw will not make the 53 man roster.

53 Man Depth Chart (with understanding Jets will pick up players off waivers at end of camp so this cannot possibly be right)

QB: Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater (traded before deadline), Josh McCown

RB: Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, Eli McGuire, Dmitri Flowers

WR: Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, Terrelle Pryor, Chad Hansen, Andre Roberts

TE: Eric Tomlinson, Chris Herndon, Jordan Leggett

OT: Kelvin Beachum, Brandon Shell, Ben Ijalana, Brent Qvale

OG: James Carpenter, Brian Winters, Dakota Dozier

C: Spencer Long, Travis Swanson

DE: Leonard Williams, Henry Anderson, Nathan Shepherd, Xavier Cooper

NT: Steve McLendon, Mike Pennel

ILB: Darron Lee, Avery Williamson, Kevin Minter, Kevin Pierre-Louis

OLB: Jordan Jenkins, Josh Martin, Lorenzo Mauldin, David Bass, Brandon Copeland

CB: Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne, Buster Skrine, Parry Nickerson, Daryl Roberts, Derrick Jones, Jeremy Clark

S: Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Terrence Brooks, JJ Wilcox

ST: Thomas Hennessy, Cairo Santos, Lachlan Edwards

The David Clowney Award: For Irrelevant Excellent In The Preseason 

Charles Johnson – Catches two touchdowns in fourth quarter of Giants preseason game but still doesn’t make the final 53…

Thomas Rawls – Runs for 120 yards and 2 TDs in the preseason finale against the Eagles but still doesn’t make the final 53…

The “This Guy Really Gets It Now Award” – For Multiple Headlines About A Playing Really Getting It Even Though Camp Practices Are Kind Of Meaningless

Darron Lee – A logical target pick for a breakout player this year but we won’t know if Lee has really taken the next step until week 1. He has a game built to pop in practices but not always carry over to game day.

Lorenzo Mauldin – One of the most well known names in the outside linebacker muddle and a fairly recent third round pick, who will still probably top out as a situational pass rusher.

The “Who Are These Guys” Awards For Most Random People On The 90 Man Roster:

  • Tre McBride
  • Darius James
  • Thomas Mychealon
  • Terrell Sinkfield
  • Dakoda Shepley

Enjoy camp everybody and follow for live updates here!

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports