Make three predictions for New York Jets training camp
Joe Caporoso – Offensively, keep an eye on UDFA WR Zach Rogers who I think will make an immediate impression and find himself in the mix for playing time sooner rather than later. There isn’t a better position to walk into on the Jets right now as an undrafted player than wide receiver. Rogers has the skill-set to take advantage of the opportunity and has a polished, well-rounded game that should quickly translate to the next level.On defense, Sheldon Richardson is going to consistently grab the headlines. He is a freak athletically who is going to be put in the position to consistently make plays by Rex Ryan. He is type of player who will jump out to observers of practice, so expect to see plenty of glowing Tweets about Richardson on your timeline.
Finally, I think the quarterback battle is going to be much closer than people think. Many are assuming Mark Sanchez will run away with the job because Rex Ryan will want to roll with a veteran since he is on the “hot seat.” The only problem is that Rex has made the AFC Championship Game with a rookie at quarterback. Don’t be surprised if Geno plays well enough this summer to merit strong consideration for the starting spot week one.
Mike O’Connor – To start, I have to touch upon the inevitable topic. I predict Geno Smith will indeed win the starting job from Mark Sanchez by about the third pre-season game. I actually think that Geno should be handed the starting job by the end of training camp even if he doesn’t overwhelmingly outplay Sanchez. For the sake of the franchise and heading in a new direction and leaving the Tannenbaum-era in its wake, I believe Sanchez must be left as a backup (barring any sudden drastic improvements from him in camp, obviously). However, I do think Geno makes strides and eventually convinces the coaching staff to give him the nod.
Second, I think there will be a surprise in which position battles will prove to be the closest and most interesting. Specifically, the corner position could very well be the most intriguing position to watch in training camp. I for one am mesmerized by the depth of the corner position this year. Yes, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is no longer occupying his island in New York, but Antonio Cromartie is still enjoying his prime and the Jets did an excellent job maintaining strong roots for the corner position in the future once they realized Revis would be departing. Dee Milliner was drafted, and the team invested late last season in Darrin Walls, which looks like it will pay off. Kyle Wilson, Ellis Lankster, Aaron Berry, and Isaiah Trufant are all returning with their respective talents that will butt heads in training camp to try and secure a roster spot. Not only will it be interesting to see how the roster spots are handed out to this group of capable players, but the depth chart after Milliner as the second corner is hazed with possibilities.Currently, I give the nod to Kyle Wilson to keep his spot as the team’s third corner, but his mediocrity will have him in a race to beat one of my favorite sleepers this year: Darrin Walls. I really liked the little I saw from Walls at the end of the season last year, particularly versus Jacksonville. I think Walls not only has the experience, but he still has the upside to run away with things from the rest of the middle-pack of corners. Next, I would keep Ellis Lankster around because of how he held up last year in Darrelle Revis’ absence. Lankster wasn’t exactly electrifying, but he held his own more than people give him credit for. His talents in both man and zone, along with his special teams efforts should allow him to snag the last cornerback spot over Aaron Berry, who will likely be close behind.
Lastly, how could I end my part in a RoundTable without inputting thoughts on roster cuts? Here are some blunt predictions of mine. I see Joe McKnight being a surprising cut with the team only needing to carry three running backs due to McKnight’s little value these days. I also think Tommy Bohanon will leave the Jets with no reason to keep the lowly Lex Hilliard around. Elsewhere, I see Vladimir Ducasse finally getting the boot that he has been lucky enough to avoid until now with the new-found depth at the guard position this year. Finally, in the most surprising roster cut, I don’t think Braylon Edwards will make the roster, even though he’s likely going to be signed sometime today or tomorrow as I’m writing this. I envision Zach Rogers, Ben Obomanu, and Clyde Gates shaping up the depth behind Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, and the returning Santonio Holmes. Edwards simply doesn’t make sense to me, as it sounds like a move that’s only purpose is to please fans with a fan-favorite (a Woody Johnson-like move). He has next to nothing left in the tank, and it was very evident in his brief stint with the Jets last year. Why steal reps and looks from Geno or Sanchez by incorporating a washed up, poor fit in the offense? I’d love to see Braylon prove me wrong, as I was one of his biggest fans in the 2010 glory days, but realistically that won’t happen.
Connor Rogers – On the offensive side of the ball, expect Geno Smith to form chemistry with Joe McKnight in the passing game. In college Geno had tons of success with shorter routes relying on precision to Tavon Austin, letting him catch the ball with space to work. McKnight has always had the potential to do this but has lacked the offensive coordinator and even arguably a quarterback who can successfully throw screens. McKnight brings much more to the table than Bilal Powell and this training camp along with preseason games will shut down that debate quite quickly.
On defense, I fully expect the safety competition to fluctuate week to week. Dawan Landry should offer some stability in the form that Yeremiah Bell did, but the other spot is an absolute free for all. While Antonio Allen has the potential to be an “impact” type safety in the form that LaRon Landry was last year, he’s a huge liability in coverage. Josh Bush has the coverage skills to play free safety, but he’s far from a proven commodity. Around the rumor mill there is talk of Dwight Lowery as a potential camp casualty in Jacksonville, could he be the starting free safety for the Jets on week 1? You heard it here first.Special teams were a letdown last year, but I fully expect some of the UDFA’s to come out hungry for a roster spot in training camp. If Rontez Miles can get healthy, he has the potential to be an absolute demon on kickoffs and punts. A hard hitter who plays with speed and tenacity, I fully expect him to make the team as a gunner.
Dalbin Osorio – I love training camp as an NFL fan because every fan is brimming with optimism for their respective team. As a Jets fan, training camp (at least before Rex) signaled the start of another dismal NFL season. However, 1 losing season in 4 years (the direct result of arguably the worst QB play in the league) and a situation very similar to 2009 has me feeling downright chipper. My first expectation is that Dee Milliner will beat out Kyle Wilson in training camp for the starting cornerback position. Idzik has no ties to Wilson, and Rex will play the player that gives his defense the best chance to be dominant, which will clearly be Milliner. Wilson, despite his shortcomings, is better suited to play in the slot, where he’ll face stiff competition from Aaron Berry and Darrin Walls.
My second expectation is that Kellen Winslow, Jr. will win the starting Tight End job over Jeff Cumberland, despite being on a limited reps count similar to Laron Landry last year. Winslow, Jr. (if healthy) is an upgrade over Dustin Keller and will help whoever the starting QB is tremendously.
My third expectation is that Mark Sanchez will beat out Geno Smith in training cmap for the starting QB’s job. Expectations for Sanchez have not been lower since his rookie year and, despite statiscally improving in every statistical category during his first three seasons, it is understandable for Jets fans to criticize his every move (the headband, the viral video, the empty promises) considering how poorly he played last year. However, Sanchez’s skills translate to the Jets new offense right now more than Geno Smith’s do. Smith will evetually be the Jets’s starting quarterback if he continues to improve, but I expect Sanchez to be the starter after training camp.
Cole Patterson – Kerley Lets the Haters Hate: Jeremy Kerley will prove himself a reliable number one receiver and thrive in Mornhinweg’s offense. Kerley’s 56 receptions, 827 yds, and two touchdowns in 2012 is not a stat line scoff at, particularly when the man throwing the ball is only the jittery shell of a once mediocre quarterback. Making his 2012 numbers even more impressive was the lack of talent around him that let defenses key on #11. With Holmes presumably starting on the PUP list, Kerley will step into the starting role and shine. He will line up as a flanker, split end, in the slot, rack up the YAC, and even perform some handiwork in the backfield. Don’t let his size or draft status fool you, Kerley is a number one receiver and he will show the world in 2013.
Hill Drops the Ball, Both Literally and Figuratively: Hill was a near non-factor after the home opener in 2012. Plagued by lower body injuries and the “dropsies” Hill had a slow rookie year. The Jets offensive effectiveness very much relies on Hill’s development into 2013. Hill will improve in his sophomore season, but not by much. If he can stay healthy, Hill will catch a few more touchdowns and establish himself a burner downfield. However, he will not prove to be a reliable target and his production will be limited. Hill has too much physical potential to not be taken into account but he is also very raw and learning his second new system in as many years.
Rex ALSO Lets the Haters Hate: The Jets will surprise people this year and you can quote me on that. Rex is going back to his defensive roots and there is an offensive coordinator in place who is far more capable than the last two (we hope). With some talent in place to create a stellar defense and effective offense the Jets will win the games they should and surprise in a few that they shouldn’t. All in all the Jets will have a winning record and just miss the playoffs. Rex will keep his job and prove himself a master motivator and defensive mind.
Mike Nolan– I’ll stick to the offensive side of the ball with my predictions. First are two offensive line predictions. My first prediction is that Brian Winters will win the 2nd guard spot over Stephen Peterman. Peterman is on the downslope of his career, while Winters has nothing but upside to become a solid physical presence on an offensive line that is trying to change their identity. My second predcition is that UDFA rookie Dalton Freeman will win a roster spot over Caleb Schlauderaff to be the back up to Nick Mangold; although the Jets could keep both.
Lastly, I predict that Tommy Bohanon will close out camp as the first string full back (Or at least the fullback who plays in more packages). He offers this offense so much more flexibility than Lex Hilliard as a Fullback/H-Back who can both block and catch the ball out of the backfield. He will be the first player nicknamed T-Bo (Pronounced Tebow) to start for the Jets.