Cortland, NY – Whether fair or not, there is not as much fanfare around the Jets this offseason. Several big names have been shown the door following a 6-10 debacle of a season, and analysts are picking the Jets to finish near the bottom of the league.
But what the turnover and lack of gaudy expectations has done is it’s led to more competition in training camp this year.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation or a camp where so many of those things, those spots, are really up for grabs,” said Rex Ryan. “I think that is going to make for an interesting camp. That is probably a little unique from situations I’ve been in in the past.”
Safety, cornerback, guard, quarterback, and the list goes on. With camp just getting started here is a preview of the competitions headlining camp:
Running back has already been discussed on the blog, but staying with the offense one of the biggest question marks is at tight end.
Dustin Keller is no longer a part of the offense after signing with the Dolphins this offseason. In his place are Jeff Cumberland, Kellen Winslow, Konrad Reuland, Hayden Smith, and rookies Chris Pantale and Mike Shanahan.
Cumberland filled in for Keller when he was injured last season, and is a favorite to win the starting job this season. His strongest competition likely comes from Kellen Winslow. Winslow put up some nice receiving numbers as early as 2011 for Tampa Bay, but they found him expendable and he has yet to catch on with a team.
Both Smith and Reuland are young and could have an impact this season, but it’s much more likely they find themselves in reserve roles if they make the team.
Pantale is coming back from a broken foot that caused him to miss eight games last season for Boston College. He is seen as more of a blocker who has yet to develop as a receiver, and there are questions about his speed in the NFL.
Shanahan is an intriguing prospect. He was a wide receiver at Pitt, but is making the switch to tight end. He’ll have the chance to shine in camp, but he will have to pick up blocking technique quickly if he expects to see the field much this season.
At the top are Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. Holmes most likely won’t make an appearance at camp, and his status for the regular season is still up in the air. Edwards should be one of the starting wide receivers as long as he stays healthy.
Stephen Hill looks to rebound from a disappointing rookie campaign
Behind them are Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates, Stephen Hill, Zach Rogers, and Vidal Hazelton.
Kerley was a big part of the Jets passing attack last season. He led the team by far with 56 receptions and 827 yards with Keller, Holmes, and Hill all dealing with injury issues.
Gates, and Hill have yet to distinguish themselves, but Hill is the more high profile of the two. He was the Jets’ second round pick a season ago, but injuries and drops limited his production.
Gates has shown tons of speed during his time with the Jets, but not a ton else. That might change this season. So far he has been one of the standouts in camp, showing much better route running and play recognition. He is someone to keep an eye on as camp progresses.
Rogers and Hazelton are both more under the radar. Rogers is an undrafted rookie who performed well during minicamp earlier this year. Hazelton struggled during minicamp, but has begun to show signs of progression so far in camp. He even showed some fight, getting into a scrum with Antonio Cromartie after some physical play from the corner during drills.
The offensive line used to be a strength for the Jets, but has faltered the past two seasons. But a new group of guards might turn that around.
Headlining the group is former Steeler Wille Colon. Colon was one of the better offensive linemen in the league, inking a 5-year $29 million contract with the Steelers back in 2011. A triceps injury that sidelined Colon for all of 2012 was enough for the Steelers to part ways. However, if he can prove he is healthy he will be a big addition for the Jets.
Brian Winters is the other big name of the group. Winters was a third round pick this year, and the team loves his potential. They’d love him to win one of the starting spots for week one.
The biggest competition for the two comes from Stephen Peterman who spent last season with the Lions. Peterman was a solid lineman last season, but was brought in more as insurance for Colon and Winters, than to be an impact starter.
Then there is former second-round pick Vladimir Ducasse. Ducasse has potential but has yet to show it. This is going to be his fourth year, and the general manager that drafted him, Mike Tannenbaum, is no longer with the team.
Dennis Landolt, and this year’s sixth-round pick, William Campbell, rounds out the group. Both should be considered more of a project than a potential starter. Landolt went undrafted in 2010 and has bounced around the league a little, while Campbell is switching from the defensive line.
Later on we’ll preview the battles on the defensive side of the ball.
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