A quick look at 12 players and positional battles to keep a closer eye on at training camp…
1 – Trevon Wesco/Daniel Brown – With Chris Herndon now out for four weeks due to a suspension, it will be critical for the Jets that one of their young tight ends steps up to be serviceable to start out the season. Yes, they can move Quincy Enunwa inside to H-Back at times but that just stresses the limited wide receiver depth and while Ty Montgomery is a nice backup for Le’Veon Bell who catches the ball well, the overlap between the type of routes Herndon would run and Montgomery would run isn’t really there.
Wesco was drafted more for his blocking (he only had 28 receptions in college) and Brown has been a journeyman the past few years with only 35 receptions spread across four NFL seasons. Herndon’s value is that beyond being a dynamic pass catching threat, he can hold his own as a blocker allowing him to be a tendency breaker for his playcaller. It is unreasonable to expect Wesco to hit the ground the running in September but hopefully a combination of him, Brown and Enunwa can hold the fort adequately.
2 – Derrick Jones – Daryl Roberts is expected to start opposite of Trumaine Johnson but you can’t assume that job status is in permanent marker. Jones lacks experience but had an intriguing showing last preseason and has a superior athletic skill set. If Jones can replicate what he did last summer, he won’t only lock down the top backup spot at outside corner, he could conceivably push Roberts for playing time early in the season if he struggles.3 – Deontay Burnett/Deonte Thompson – Josh Bellamy is going to make the roster for special teams purposes but it is wide open who the team’s “#4 WR” will be and thus be one injury away from starting in the Jets base three wide, which is Adam Gase’s go to personnel. Burnett had a few nice moments last season but is still very raw while Thompson is only two seasons removed from a year he started 10 games and had 555 yards receiving with a pair of touchdowns.
4 – Chuma Edoga – The Jets most intriguing backup offensive lineman is Edoga, who was selected in the third round this past year. Ideally he will be become the team’s long term right tackle but in camp, he may have the opportunity to immediately push Brandon Shell who is coming off a shaky season and if something happened to Kelvin Beachum, Edoga is likely to be the first guy up.
5 – Trumaine Johnson – The Jets desperately need Johnson to bounce back from a brutal 2018 season to stabilize their cornerback position. Age and durability will be lingering concerns about him that can hopefully be calmed somewhat by a strong summer.
6 – Greg Dortch – The yearly fan favorite UDFA, Dortch will stand out thanks to his diminutive size combined with his speed. He will need to make an impression at returner if he wants to stick on the roster but fortunately for him both the punt and kick return job are wide open with Andre Roberts no longer here.
7 – Foley Fatukasi – On a shorter rope with Mike Maccagnan no longer around, Fatukasi was a weekly inactive during his rookie year and unless he flashes this summer, he is more likely to be released than be part of the defensive line rotation.
8 – Brandon Bryant – The Jets third safety spot is still open and a quietly critical role on their defense with Marcus Maye’s injury history and how frequently Jamal Adams moves around the formation. Both Rontez Miles and Doug Middleton feel like they have been around forever and neither have shown themselves capable of handling the role. Bryant was signed as UDFA last year and spent most of his season on the practice squad after an impressive career at Mississippi State.
9 – Nathan Shepherd – Read what I wrote about Fatukasi, although cutting Shepherd would sting more since he was a third round pick.
10 – Jachai Polite – There are already bigger than usual expectations around Polite due to the surprise of him being available in the third round and the Jets desperate need at edge rusher. Despite his production and talent that had most of us thrilled with him dropping to the third for the Jets, there is a reason he fell so far. It will be interesting to see how quickly he can get up to speed in the NFL and whether he is slowly brought along or can immediately push for a starter’s role.
11 – Elijah McGuire – Closed 2018 as the Jets starting running back and is now fourth on the depth with the addition of Le’Veon Bell, Ty Montgomery and the return of a Bilal Powell. McGuire will need a big summer for the new offensive staff to stick around because he isn’t a returner and has limited overall special teams value.
12 – Blake Cashman – With the trade of Darron Lee, Cashman has a chance to be the top backup at inside linebacker and player who provides more range/pass coverage ability than the two starters in front of him. There are concerns on if can stay healthy and he’ll also need to beat out veteran Neville Hewitt to be the top backup.