Top 4 Position Battles Heading Into OTA’s and Training Camp
The 2014 New York Jets have high expectations coming into this season. Not really from the so-called experts around the league, who mostly predict the Jets to only win seven or eight games this season, but from the green and white faithful who are desperate for a winning season. The Jets have missed the playoffs for three straight years, but Rex Ryan and his staff have been saying all offseason that this squad will be a team to be reckoned with. Rex has even been quoted as saying, “no one is going to want to play us this season.” Rex could be right. By adding a bunch of key weapons on offense and defense from free agency and the draft, the Jets could be primed for an explosive season. But before we get into how many wins or losses the Jets may or may not have this season, there is still a lot of work to be done before the opening kickoff at MetLife stadium on September 7th against the Oakland Raiders. Organized team activities have just begun and training camp is only two months away. With just a few months to go before preseason begins, here are the top four position battles to watch out for heading into OTA’s and Training Camp.
There are really only two horses in this race: Geno Smith and Michael Vick. Smith, the second-round pick from a year ago, is the incumbent starter and the most likely to win the job this upcoming season. However, the Jets did Geno no favors by adding veteran playmaker, Mike Vick, to the roster to push Geno through this offseason.
My Take: It will be Geno’s job to lose. He is the future of this franchise even though most do not want to admit it. It will take some type of injury or really bad play by Geno to lose the job to Vick. Even though Vick probably knows the offense better because he spent a few years under Marty Mornhinweg in Philadelphia, the job is Geno’s, unless he really does not want it.
Everyone knows who the number one is, Eric Decker, but besides him, there are a lot of question marks at the receiver position. The Jets have brought in a number of receivers in the draft and free agency. But who will emerge as the starter opposite Decker come week one? With the Jets taking three receivers in the draft to go along with the veterans they already have, it is going to get a little crowded up in Cortland.
My Take: Decker is the clear-cut number one. He is the most talented and the highest paid out of all the wide receivers. Jeremy Kerley and Jalen Saunders, the fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma, will battle for the slot position. I give the edge to Kerely because he has had some success the last two seasons at that spot and Saunders may take some time to develop because of his size. The number two spot will go to either David Nelson or Shaq Evans. Nelson is a returning starter from a year ago and developed some good chemistry with Geno Smith toward the end of last season. Evans, the fourth-round pick out of UCLA, is a young guy who might be able to turn some heads if he is able to learn the offense quickly. I’m going to give the job to Evans based on what I saw at rookie mini camp. The rookie is fast, has a good frame, and can make some spectacular catches. Based on that, he wins the number two job at wide receiver.
The Jets are heading into 2014 with corner back being their thinnest position. Kind of unusual as the Jets were spoiled with corner backs in years past with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie manning the left and right side of Rex Ryan’s defense. However, this year it is going to be tough for Dennis Thurman to get his young group of corner backs ready to go for this upcoming season.
My Take: Dee Milner has to be number one on the depth chart. He is last year’s number one overall pick and clearly the most talented. Even though he struggled early in the year, Milner came on strong late last season as things started clicking for him. The number two corner back is a real big question mark. The Jets have Kyle Wilson, a former first-round pick, who has never really lived up to his potential. They also signed veteran Dmitri Patterson and drafted Dexter McDougle in the third round. The edge goes to Patterson. Wilson is mainly the nickel cornerback and McDougle just won’t be ready to play mentally as we saw with Milner last year — it takes time to develop.
Guard is a little bit less competitive then the other positions on this list. Willie Colon, the veteran-returning starter, will most likely man the right side. However, the left side is up in the air. Brian Winters, the third-round pick from last year, is the most likely. However, struggling at times last year left the door open for someone else to take the job.
My Take: Winters will end up winning the job. However, he will be pushed by a couple of guys in the process. William Campbell, a late-round pick a year ago, never suited up last season, but the coaching staff must see something in him because he still has a spot on the roster. The other player that could give Winters a run for his money is Dakota Dozier. Dozier, an offensive tackle in college, will be moved on the inside to help “beef up” the offensive line. If Dozier can pick up the offense, Winters could be looking at some stiff competition for the left guard spot.