There are just about six weeks between the end of minicamp and when the rookies check in for training camp. During this time the players are studying their playbooks, training and getting some vacations in before it’s go time. With rookies checking in next week, football season is literally right around the corner.
Much will happen before the Jets face off against the Detroit Lions in their Week 1 matchup. There are cuts, preseason games, joint practices, etc. So let’s take a look at each key date this summer and what to expect on each.
Rookies first day of training camp (July 24)
The first day of mandatory practices and the rookies get their very first taste of an NFL training camp. We finally get to see Sam Darnold on the field again after a long month and a half, as long as he signs his contract. Assuming that happens, the third overall pick will have most if not all eyes on him from the second he steps onto 1 Jets Drive. As exciting as it is to be able to watch Darnold, we can’t forget about the other rookies that will be fighting for either a spot on the roster or playing time. There’s Nathan Shephard, Chris Herndon and others but the one I may be most excited to see is Parry Nickerson. He will be fighting to be one of the depth spots at cornerback but could get some legit playing time if Buster Skrine goes down with an injury. Nickerson did not play in the slot very often in college but many are speculating that he will have a shot to be the nickel back of the future, which in today’s NFL is very important to have.
Veterans report to training camp (July 26)
Everybody is back together once again as there aren’t expected to be any holdouts of any kind. There will be the annual, “Player X is in the best shape of his life” reports that rarely actually mean anything, but this is still a great time as every team starts working towards the ultimate goal. While the Jets may have to look at some more realistic goals, like ending with a winning season or grabbing a wild-card spot, this is where it starts with every person in the building together.The new free agent acquisitions, rookies, and young guys ready to take that next step are usually the ones that get all of the attention at this time and I honestly can’t really disagree with it. If I had to pick three players I am most excited to see they would be Sam Darnold, Jamal Adams and Trumaine Johnson, each of which fit the three descriptions. As a whole, you get to see the units working together, veterans helping out the younger players and all of these guys giving everything they have to make sure we get to enjoy watching them 16 to hopefully 20 times a year.
Green & White Scrimmage (Aug. 4)
The annual Green & White scrimmage will be held at Rutgers University at 7:30pm for the first time this year. There are full pads, real game scenarios and our first real taste of what the starting lineups will look like heading into the first preseason game. If you want to attend, tickets are free at www.newyorkjets.com/camp
Joint Practice with Washington (Aug. 12-14)Every year a couple teams practice together the week of their matchup, usually from different conferences. The Jets decided to join Washington this year after not participating in one since 2005 when they practiced with the Giants. Practicing together will give each team some much needed reps against different players than the ones they’re used to seeing every day.
Throughout these three days, there are a couple matchups that I am particularly interested in seeing. The first being Jets right tackle Brandon Shell matching up against edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan is one of the best and most underrated pass rushers in the game. If Shell is able to hold his own against that type of talent, it would be a big boost in confidence for the 3rd year tackle.
The other matchup(s) that sticks out is Jamal Adams/Marcus Maye lining up on Washington’s tight end Jordan Reed. As good as the duo looked last year as rookies, their coverage against tight ends were both a bit spotty. When Reed is healthy, he is a top 3 mismatch at the position. With tight ends such as Gronkowski, Delanie Walker, Jimmy Graham and Kyle Rudolph on the schedule, getting to practice against Reed should only make them better for when it counts.
Preseason Games (Aug. 10, 16, 24, 30)
As great as it is to get any kind of football action going on, August 10th is the date many Jets fans are looking to. This is the first time we get to see Sam Darnold in live action against an opposing team. While we don’t expect him to play with starters or face a starting defense right away, it still gives the fans a sneak peek of what to expect as early as Week 1 in Detroit.
This year the Jets will take on the Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, in addition to Washington as mentioned. Wins and losses won’t particularly matter but nevertheless, you want to see your team dominate as much as possible. To me, seeing your backups control the game can make a world of difference. A 53 man roster never stays fully healthy, so being able to get some fill-in starts at some positions without much drop-off could be the difference in a couple games. Which in turn could be the difference between competing for a wild-card or having a top 10 pick, again.
Most fans will obviously be looking forward to seeing the starters, if so, they’ll mostly be on the field in the second and third games. In those games, hopefully we’ll see how our safeties and linebackers line up against Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley. Or how they intend to use Trumaine Johnson and if he’ll follow a number one receiver such as Odell Beckham Jr.
At the end of the day, the record won’t matter, it will just be great to see these players back on the field.
Roster Cutdown from 90-53 (Sept. 1)
During last year’s offseason, the NFL owners decided to eliminate one of the deadlines to cut players. Before last season, there were cuts to go from 90 to 75 and then from 75 to 53. Now it skips the cutdown to 75 and goes straight to 53 after the preseason ends. This will allow players fighting for their dreams of playing in the NFL a better chance to show their worth as they will likely play in all of, if not 95% of the final game.
When this day comes, there will be many questions to answer. For instance, does the front office want to keep two or three quarterbacks? Do they go with a proven veteran or a young guy with the slightest amount of promise for depth? Which fullback will they keep? These questions along with tens of others will be asked leading up to September 1st.
My first series with Turn On The Jets went over many of the positions that are in question. If you want to get an idea of which players I’m leaning for over others, I recommend taking another look.