The New York Jets are back in the swing of training camp. With a few practices in the book, here are a few early observations…
1. Mike Maccagnan publicly said the New York Jets 2016 season would not use the playoffs as a barometer for success, which is standard media posturing and politics. It understandable he would not throw down a “playoffs or bust” line to reporters in July but make no mistake, the Jets paid Ryan Fitzpatrick 12M dollars for one year because of an internal belief they should be a playoff team. It is very much a failure if they fall short of ending their five year drought this season, even though you could say it is silly they are pinning those beliefs on a quarterback who has never played in a playoff game in 10+ NFL seasons.Regardless, this is a 10-6 team who returned all of their key pieces and added depth, speed and versatility throughout the roster. The expectation should be playoffs. If you let enough seasons pass where not making the playoffs is acceptable…well, then you are just Buffalo.
2. Undrafted UDFA Jalin Marshall has been the early star of training camp, showing an ability to play both inside and outside, while drawing praise from his veteran teammates. It is always an uphill battle for UDFAs but if Marshall keeps making plays, he may stick on his merits as a receiver rather than just as a returner. The Jets could opt to keep him over Jeremy Ross or potentially keep both players, while Devin Smith recovers from injury. The performance of Marshall may also push 7th round pick Charone Peake to a more likely practice squad candidate than making the final 53.
3. While Quincy Enunwa is likely to remain the primary H-Back, the Jets have been experimenting with him outside the numbers more frequently, When he moves out there, it allows Jace Amaro to slide into the H spot and gives the Jets a basketball look of Brandon Marshall and Enunwa on the outside with Eric Decker and Amaro in the slot. Yes, that is a match-up nightmare.
The best part of Enunwa’s game is his versatility. He is a good enough blocker to the play the H but fast enough to handle the vertical and clear out work outside the numbers at X.4. If he continues to stay healthy, Dee Milliner is very much going to be in the mix at corner. He is the most talented player at the position outside of Darrelle Revis. Milliner could find himself splitting work with Marcus Williams on the outside and also utilized in the slot in certain personnel packages. A healthy, productive Milliner would be an unexpected gift to an already talented and deep Jets defense.
5. If Ryan Fitzpatrick does hit some regression this season, the Jets may have the defense and special teams in place now to pick up the slack. Both units should be improved from last season. The defense has a chance to be one of the league’s best, due to an infusion of depth and speed this offseason, along with increased familiarity with Todd Bowles system.
6. I don’t think we will be seeing too much of Matt Forte in the pre-season. Bernard Pierce feels like the type of back who will get at a ton of work and then potentially get cut due to the numbers game. It is about staying healthy in August and I’m not sure how much the Jets are going to push Forte and Khiry Robinson.
7. It is still early but it is concerning to see both Breno Giacomini and James Carpenter on the PUP list. The Jets are t-h-i-n on the offensive line. Hopefully both players, especially Carpenter will be back sooner, rather than later. Outside of Nick Mangold, he remains the most sure thing on the Jets offensive line.8. It would still be poor roster management to keep four quarterbacks. By all accounts Geno Smith is far and away the second best quarterback in camp. Christian Hackenberg is getting a red-shirt year. Bryce Petty should be moved to the practice squad, even with the risk of losing him. He is the same age as Smith and it is concerning that he isn’t close to surpassing him on the depth chart. Sometimes you need to cut your losses rather than have to potentially lose a promising young receiver like Marshall or Peake, or one of the young linebackers who could take up that 53rd spot on the roster.
9. You can’t overstate how impressive it is for a third round rookie to walk in and start from day one. The Jets may have found some steal in Jordan Jenkins at outside linebacker.
11. It wouldn’t be surprising if Ryan Fitzpatrick played less than he did in the 2015 pre-season. The Jets will have three other quarterbacks to roll through and want Hackenberg to see substantial action since he will be inactive all season. I’d look for one or two series in week 1, one quarter in week 2, one half in week 3, while being inactive in week 4.
12. Y TE, tackle and safety remain potential spots for outside additions after league wide training camp cuts begin trickling through.
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