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12 thoughts on tomorrow night’s Green and White Scrimmage…
1 – Go Get It – The Jets have not been shy about throwing Sam Darnold right into the mix after missing the team’s first three practices. Neither Josh McCown or Teddy Bridgewater have done anything to show they have a stranglehold on the starting job, leaving a gaping window open for Darnold to seize it with a strong camp and preseason. Nothing is going to be weighed more than the first three preseason games but Saturday’s scrimmage stands out (along with the upcoming joint practices) as particularly important days for the rookie quarterback to show he is close enough to the veteran quarterbacks to claim the job. It was always logical to start Darnold out of the gate and with each passing day, it is starting to feel closer to being a reality. It will be interesting to see how he handles a game type environment and if he can show a handle on the playbook, while protecting the football.2 – Receiver Opportunities – Quincy Enunwa is going to be out 1-2 weeks with a thumb injury (BOO!), which is going to open up more reps to a recently returned from injury Terrelle Pryor and second year receiver Chad Hansen. Robby Anderson is the team’s clear cut lead receiver at the moment, Jermaine Kearse is basically locked into as a veteran staple in their three receiver sets, who will be asked to work the slot. Outside of that, how the reps will be divided up, particularly when Enunwa is out, is up for grabs. Another player who has consistently flashed this summer is Tre McBride. Let’s see who can stand out and make a few plays down the field and if Hansen can get back to making the noise he was this spring.
3 – Speed Kills – Rookie running back Trenton Cannon has consistently turned heads with his speed this summer. An injury to second year back Elijah McGuire has opened up more reps for him and a likely path to a roster spot, particularly with Thomas Rawls missing yesterday’s practice with an undisclosed injury. If the Jets are going to keep another running back besides their presumed top three (Isiah Crowell, Bilal Powell and McGuire), Cannon is going to get the nod if the competition with Rawls is remotely close. He is also battling it out with veteran Andre Roberts for the return job. Would the Jets keep Roberts as their primary returner, while also still keeping Cannon as a fourth running back and somebody who contributed on other special teams units?
4 – Tight End Cluster – Jordan Leggett has missed the past couple of practices with an injury, an alarming sign after missing his entire rookie season. Recent fourth round pick Chris Herndon has flashed and is basically guaranteed a roster spot, along with blocking ace Eric Tomlinson. As it stands now, it feels like Leggett is not just behind them but also behind Neal Sterling who had a few eye opening moments for the team last season and veteran Clive Walford. If Leggett doesn’t play Saturday, he is going to have a big hole to dig himself out of starting in the preseason opener next Friday against Atlanta. Keep an eye on Herndon who has a good opportunity to have a bigger than usual role for a rookie fourth rounder.
5 – Maye Day – Marcus Maye is back to practicing without a non-contact jersey. He should be full go on Saturday, an encouraging sign for a young Jets secondary. In his absence, veteran Doug Middleton has impressed and will be battling Terrence Brooks and JJ Wilcox for reps in the the Jets three safety looks. It would not be all that shocking if the team carried five safeties, considering Todd Bowles’ affinity for defensive back heavy looks. Middleton is a guy who seems to always have a strong camp but then a fairly quiet preseason and/or is impacted by injuries. Could this be the year Middleton breaks through with a regular role on the team’s defense?6 – Defensive End Rotation – If healthy, Henry Anderson is a more than capable starter opposite of Leonard Williams but it is third rookie Nathan Shepherd who appears to be the front runner as of right now, although it is likely to be a heavily rotated position. Let’s see how the reps are divided up tomorrow night and if Shepherd can make a few plays that pop. As such an old rookie, the Jets are counting on him to make an immediate impact at a position of need.
7 – Young Cro? – A premature nickname but considering his build, athleticism and that he is being coached by Antonio Cromartie, second year cornerback Derrick Jones is generating that type of buzz at camp. Jones is a converted receiver who stuck around last year thanks to a few flashes in the preseason and by all accounts, he has been one of the most impressive players at a position that is wide open once you get past the starters. Jones is an outside corner who could be a player the Jets look towards if Morris Claiborne gets injured again. Elsewhere in cornerback news, rookie Parry Nickerson is unlikely to play tomorrow night due to a hamstring injury, a frustrating road bump on what had been a positive start to camp.
8 – New Day – The Jets are not likely to have a substantially better record than last season (as of today, I’d peg them as a 7-9 team) but the optimism and positivity around them is substantially higher than last year. A quarterback can do that for you. There should be a bigger buzz around this year’s scrimmage than we’ve seen in recent years, driven by fan’s desire to see Darnold and to a lesser extent marquee free agent signing Trumaine Johnson and second year safety Jamal Adams, already the emotional leader of the team.
9 – WR1 – A silly and generally subjective term. Outside of a few teams in the NFL, nobody has what is universally deemed a “TRUE NUMBER ONE RECEIVER.” The goal is to build a diverse and talented group of pass catchers, with one or two players capable of drawing double teams because of their ability to consistently create big plays. Robby Anderson (and potentially Quincy Enunwa) are on that trajectory. Anderson is one of the best young vertical receivers in the NFL and showed signs of expanding his game last season. 2018 should be the first of multiple years he exceeds the 1,000 yard mark.
10 – Roster Bubble Watch: A few notable names (AKA mostly recent draft picks) who are battling for roster spots: Lorenzo Mauldin, Dylan Donahue, ArDarius Stewart, Charone Peake, JJ Wilcox and David Bass.
11 – New Kicker: Cairo Santos will be replacing Chandler Catanzaro, who was pretty good last season. If healthy, Santos should be an upgrade, particularly if he can show the range he did during the 2016 season in Kanas City. The Jets are in desperate need of an upgraded performance from their special teams and it starts with the kicker.
12 – Other Tidbits: How well is Teddy Bridgewater moving around? Can he have a notable performance that helps drive his prospective trade value? How much will Jamal Adams yell? Can Darron Lee carry over an encouraging start to training camp and show more consistency in pass coverage? Who are the top backups at offensive tackle and offensive guard? How much will we all overreact to positive and negative performances in a scrimmage?