TOJ Roundtable – Training Camp Storyline Edition

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What do you think will emerge as the biggest storyline and/or surprise at New York Jets training camp?

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Joe CaporosoA paralyzing amount of over-analysis of the quarterback battle will be the primary storyline. It remains to be seen if this is a legitimate three way battle or if it is basically “give Christian Hackenberg enough opportunities to look somewhat close to Josh McCown so we can give him the job.” Expect 7 on 7 stats, bold proclamations after every interception and 14 yard completion in practices without equipment, with a final decision not being announced until after the third preseason game (McCown is still the favorite).

Outside of quarterback, there is more competition and open starting positions than on any Jets team in recent memory. This team is completely absent of proven veterans who have already “earned” their roles, meaning we will see more than a few surprises across the board on who is earning playing time. Offensively, we also don’t know yet how John Morton plans to use his collection of young receivers and tight ends.

Dalbin OsorioI think you’re going to see a bunch of headlines that do not mean much really in the grand scheme of things. Things like:

Team Is Hungry to Prove Doubters Wrong

Hackenberg Struggling An Indictment on Maccagnan

Hackenberg Making Maccagnan Look Like A Genius

(We’ll probably get the last two back to back)

For me, the biggest storyline is going to be who emerges from Maccagnan’s 9 draft picks to seize very real playing time outside of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Does a guy like Derrick Jones push Buster Skrine off the roster? Can Elijah McGuire steal snaps from Matt Forte? Is Jordan Leggett the man to watch at TE over the newly sober Austin Sefarian-Jenkins? Most of the young guys have veterans standing in front of them, and they won’t be comfortable with being backups. How do the veterans handle the competition? That’s going to be key, because Bowles has shown he is allergic to benching veterans for younger players and his job depends on him getting out of that funk ASAP.

The biggest surprise will be the aforementioned Elijah McGuire. I really believe he’s going to end up being the team’s starting running back by the end of the year, and he will mesh well with Bills Powell to give the Jets a good 1-2 punch early on. McGuire’s the kind of back that does not have to come off the field, and with the Jets most likely breaking in a young QB they’re going to lean on the running game. McGuire will be the beneficiary.

Ryan MarconeI think the biggest story lines will center around the quarterbacks (because they always do) and Maccagnan’s most recent draft class.

The rookies’ play on the practice field will be over-scrutinized for sure, but I think we’ll see an emphasis on lots of “between snap moments” that will give a look into the state of the locker room. Stories about how Jamal Adams is dominating defensive huddles, or where the new receivers are fitting in. And because it’s the Jets, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the beat writers push a narrative of “young alpha males causing locker room rift with veterans” because conflict is what gets clicks.

We saw a lot of coverage of coaches as well during OTA’s. How guys like Morton and Greene comported themselves got almost as much attention as every pass Hack threw. I think we’ll continue to see more of that as we try to figure out what Morton’s offense will look like and continue to see if Greene can turn around the careers of some of these young linebackers.

Scott MasonI could say that Dylan Donahue will turn some heads and push Lorenzo Mauldin for playing the. I could say Juston Burris & Darryl Roberts will have a competitive battle for the second starting CB job opposite Morris Claiborne. I could say Brandon Shell will start to emerge as left tackle of the future.

It is likely all of these things will make interesting training camp storylines.

But let’s not kid ourselves: there’s only one storyline that will dominate training camp and it revolves around the QB.

Whether or not Christian Hackenberg can rise to the occasion and win the starting QB job is THE storyline. Everything else is just white noise to everybody but the most hardcore fans. Maybe it shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

Joe MalfaThe battle for playing time in the secondary will become a major storyline in training camp and throughout the preseason.

All of the focus appears to be on the quarterbacks, receivers and defensive front, but the secondary will yield competition as well.

Morris Claiborne appears to be a lock as one starter on the outside, and Buster Skrine is a lock to start in the slot. The starting spot opposite Claiborne will be up for grabs among Marcus Williams, Juston Burris and Darryl Roberts.

Whether it’s seven-on-seven or one-on-one, the media always seems to pay extra close attention to passing drills. As media members begin to live-tweet practice and constantly provide information on pass breakups and interceptions — which will occur frequently with McCown, Hackenberg and Petty throwing the ball — the cornerback battle will draw more and more attention every day.

I’ll go the extra mile and dish out a prediction here in this roundtable:

Juston Burris will emerge from camp as the starter opposite Claiborne, but Darryl Roberts will end up playing a higher percentage of snaps than Burris in the regular season (barring injury).

Kevin Zielaznicki: I think the biggest storyline that we will hear about is how well fourth year cornerback Darryl Roberts looks. In 12 games last season, including two starts, Roberts had 19 tackles, six pass deflections and recovered one fumble. In a deep dive by Pro Football Focus, they found that Roberts was elite in his limited sample size, surrendering catches on only 41.2% balls thrown his way. With the Jets having a wide open gap on the cornerback depth chart, there’s a good chance that he can steal a starting job if he keeps up with his excellent performance.

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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 EVP of Content at Whistle Sports