Rookie minicamp is never easy for offensive linemen. But both Brian Winters, a third round-pick from Kent State, and Will Campbell, a sixth rounder out of Michigan, attacked their first professional weekend with good attitudes.“It’s a lot of plays. When I say that, that’s what I mean,” Winters told me Friday on our “Jets Talk LIVE” rookie special. “I don’t even know where to start. We have probably over 100 plays that we’ve installed already and I’ve just been studying, studying and studying.”While Winters lined up at left guard at camp, Campbell manned the right guard position. After playing the majority of his collegiate career at DT, Campbell has made the move across lines.“Being an offensive lineman, you have to be more passive I guess,” he said on our JTL set. “You can’t just be aggressive — you can’t just always go forward and try to hit something. Run blocking you can, but pass blocking you have to be more patient. That’s the biggest difference to me.”
It is awfully difficult for an offensive lineman to make an instant impact on rookie weekend. Contact is limited because players are in helmets and shorts.“It’s a little different — really not used to it,” Winters said. “We didn’t really do much of that. We were always in pads. But it’s hard not to hit someone when you don’t have pads on, so that was the one thing that was kind of a transition for me.”
“This is going to be a solid guy that is going to look better when he puts the pads on and he can throw people down,” said head coach Rex Ryan of Winters.
Campbell didn’t look like a fish out of water as Ryan said it seemed like he’s been playing guard “his whole life.”
“The toughest part will probably be the playbook because there are a lot more checks and a lot more things that can happen before the play,” Campbell said. “Once you’re on defense, you have something to stop and you have to stop it. On offense, you can see something and the quarterback can yell, “check, check” and snap the ball. I have to get it down, so as soon as he checks — I need to do it, so I can flip it either way it goes.”
Even before they stepped on the field for Friday’s first workout, the young linemen had a classroom session with their rookie quarterback at the hotel.“Me and Oday (Aboushi) are roommates and we’ve been getting some of the guys together and just working together, trying to get everything figured out,” Winters said. “We met with Geno (Smith) and worked the snap cadence out beforehand, so we didn’t go out there all blind. We were just doing things to prepare ourselves for this practice.”Campbell’s roommate on this first weekend was the quarterback he protected on the field.“Great guy. All the stuff is on his back right now and he’s handling it perfectly,” Campbell said of Smith. “He came off to me as a leader as soon as I started to talk with him… He came in and helped me out with my playbook, helped me transition.”
Jets offensive line coach Mike Devlin worked on technique throughout camp with his group.“He is really big on quick feet and quick hands,” Winters said of Devlin. “There are a lot of things you can get away with in college, but everyone in the NFL is a great player. So first it’s your hands.”The Jets addressed their line in a big way on draft weekend, signing FA guard Stephen Peterman and selecting Winters (D3, No. 72), Aboushi (D5, No. 141) and Campbell (D6, No. 178).“I just want to show the coaches that I came to compete,” Campbell said. “I came to show them that I’m not here to play around. I’m ready for this transition, ready to go and ready to play like a Jet.”
Rookie minicamp first impressions
By John Clayton | ESPN.com
~ ~ • Geno Smith is a work in progress with the Jets, but he has a chance. Smith showed he prepared well for the minicamp; decision-making was a problem, but that was understandable. If the defensive alignment was new to him, Smith would double-clutch, but he can work his way through that. Smith's showing doesn't guarantee Mark Sanchez will be with the team, although Sanchez remains the favorite to be New York's starting quarterback
~ ~ ~ From the inbox
Q: I am having a hard time understanding the Power Rankings. You and everyone else have the Jets as one of the worst teams in the NFL. Are we rebuilding? Yes, I would say so, but this is still a team with a lot of talent with one of the best defensive coaches in the game, who just drafted two first-round defensive players that I think will make an immediate impact. I feel Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples will also have a big impact. As long as we don't turn the ball over (whoever starts at QB) and Chris Ivory stays healthy, we can easily win eight games this year.
Frankie in Strat City, Conn.
A: Of course the Jets are rebuilding. They traded Darrelle Revis. Gone are Sione Po'uha, Bart Scott, Eric Smith, Yeremiah Bell, Mike DeVito, Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, LaRon Landry, Brandon Moore, Matt Slauson and Bryan Thomas. Sanchez is barely hanging on. They've invested no more than $2 million a year on any replacement on the roster. That's rebuilding, and that puts the Jets, who were the ninth-worst team last year, as one of the worst in the rankings this year.
The Jets patched some holes in free agency and they drafted as many as four players who could contribute immediately, but they still have several holes on the roster. Here's an analysis of the top three :
1. SAFETY -- They lost LaRon Landry (Colts) and Yeremiah Bell (Cardinals) in free agency, filling one spot with Dawan Landry. The top in-house candidate for the other starting job is Josh Bush, but that would be a leap of faith. He played only 17 defensive snaps last season as a rookie. Fellow second-year safety Antonio Allen (72 snaps) also is in the mix, but Bush would be a better complement to Landry -- a "box" safety -- because he's better in pass coverage. The coaches may want to evaluate OTAs, which begin next week, before making a decision. In the end, it wouldn't be a surprise if Eric Smith is re-signed. Free-agent options: Charles Woodson, Quintin Mikell, Abe Elam (ex-Jet).
2. TIGHT END -- The Jets should've tried harder to re-sign Dustin Keller (Dolphins). Now they're left with a No. 2 (Jeff Cumberland), an H-back (Konrad Reuland) and a project (Hayden Smith). Seventh-round pick Tommy Bohanon, listed as a fullback, has some H-back skills and could fit into the picture. The bottom line is, the current cast of tight ends has a combined total of only 44 career catches. They also don't have an accomplished blocker in the group. This is a serious concern because the free-agent market is virtually barren. Free-agent options: Dallas Clark, Kellen Winslow, Chris Cooley, David Thomas.
3. WIDE RECEIVER -- With Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley filling the top three spots, the Jets need a No. 4/No. 5 receiver with the ability to step into a prominent role, if necessary. Let's face it, Holmes is a question mark, coming off foot surgery. He's expected to be ready by opening day, but if there's a setback along the way, they need veteran insurance. They can't afford a repeat of last season. They still have Clyde Gates, but he's hardly a grizzled vet. The team is showing interest in ex-Brown Josh Cribbs, but he'd help more on special teams than at receiver. Free-agent options: Braylon Edwards, Ramses Barden, Brandon Lloyd, Steve Breaston.
Twenty months ago, a week before the 2011 season, Garrard was Jacksonville's starting quarterback. Out of the blue, two hours after he was introduced at the team's fan luncheon as the starter, then-coach Jack Del Rio called him in and cut him, preferring to go with rookie Blaine GabbertNine months ago, before the 2012 season in Miami, Garrard was leading in the quarterback derby with rookie Ryan Tannehill until the veteran QB needed arthroscopic knee surgery. Rather than wait for him to get well, Miami cut him, handing the job to Tannehill.Last week, again looking like he had a good chance to be a starter, this time with the Jets, his balky knee kept ballooning after even slightly strenuous workouts. With a wife and three young children back home in Jacksonville, Garrard decided to stop fighting his physical shortcomings. He quit.
Three seasons, three teams, three chances to be the starter. And nothing.
"You a little heartbroken?'' I asked him Saturday.
"Absolutely!'' he said over the phone from Florida. "How could I not be? Talk about an emotional roller coaster in the last couple of years. I experienced the highest of highs, thinking I was going to play for all three teams. Then I was down and out."But Garrard was an adult about it. "You always hear, 'Play 'til the wheels fall off,' '' he said. "Not me. I've got a wife and three beautiful kids who rely on me. I want to be there for them, and as healthy as I can be. I knew if I kept trying to play, it wouldn't end well. I knew it was going to come to an end sometime -- now is just earlier than I thought. But it's tough.''
Other than the obvious, Garrard has one other regret. He said, unlike the perception from last August in Miami, he didn't injure himself at the pool with his kids. He said he was struggling with his knee during Dolphins training camp, and his needing arthroscopic surgery -- which caused the Dolphins to cut him -- was from normal wear and tear of training camp, exacerbated by a pivot on the deck of the pool. That's his version of the story."I was home, resting by the pool, and I turned to see my son, and by just pivoting around, I aggravated it,'' he said. "It's not true at all that I was in the pool, playing with my kids. I guess being on Hard Knocks, or whatever, with all the attention we had, some version of the story that wasn't true got out.''This year, Garrard said his knee -- which was already missing much of its cartilage, causing bone-on-bone friction -- just never felt right. "I couldn't jog most days,'' he said. "I could barely walk around without it hurting. And we weren't even in the strenuous part of camp yet. I figured, 'No way I can just take every fourth day off.' I went to see Rex [Ryan], and I just told him I didn't think I could do it. He didn't want to hear it. But I just told him what the doctor said -- it's only going to get worse. And that was it.''
Garrard said Ryan told him he'd make a great coach, and he's thinking about interning on the coaching staff this summer at camp. "I was excited to be able to work with Geno and Mark,'' Garrard said.
Lots of Jets fans were hoping he'd actually beat out Geno Smith, the rookie, and Mark Sanchez, the very shaky incumbent, and start the season. As was Garrard."I knew I was going to play great,'' Garrard said. "I knew I would have proven I was a good starting quarterback in the NFL."Now it's Sanchez and Smith, perhaps with an interesting summer tutor. That's not the summer job David Garrard had in mind.
Jets fans, don't despair. I know you had your hearts set on a healthy David Garrard to be the bridge between 2013 and Geno Smith taking over the job in 2014. But this is the year -- or at least the summer -- of Mark Sanchez. It's doubtful Smith will do enough to win the Jets' starting job before camp breaks in August. Comparing what might have been (the last two years of Garrard, playing for the Jaguars in 2009 and 2010) to what Sanchez produced in his last two years for the Jets :
The New York Jets have picked up a cast off from their cross-town rivals.
The Jets claimed wide receiver Marcus Davis off waivers from the New York Giants on Tuesday. Davis signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent but was released by the team on Saturday. Davis racked up 105 catches for 1,827 yards and 13 touchdowns during his collegiate career at Virginia Tech including 51 catches for 953 yards and five touchdowns last season...
Davis was a quarterback and receiver in high school (while also playing defense), and dipped his feet into both positions in his first year in Blacksburg. He moved from quarterback to receiver in order to make an instant impact, rather than sitting on the bench behind starter Tyrod Taylor. Unfortunately, a right shoulder injury during preseason practices forced Davis to redshirt the season. He managed only five catches for 125 yards the following year, including an 80-yard touchdown against Boston College. Davis’ role grew a bit in 2010, starting two of the 14 games he played and catching 19 passes for 239 yards and two scores. He took another step forward in 2011, getting the call for eight starts in 14 contests (though he missed significant parts of two games with a sprained right foot), finishing third on the team in receiving (30-510, 5 TD). As a senior, Davis totaled 51 catches for 953 yards (18.69 yards per catch) and five touchdowns.
Possesses prototypical size and speed combination to be an outside NFL starter. Smooth runner off the line and turns on a second gear downfield that allows him to separate. His size overwhelms smaller cornerbacks, can fight through their advances and go over the top to take away the jump ball. Uses his body to shield corners on slants. Flashes the footwork to stop and separate on out routes after pushing his man upfield. Good concentration to track the ball over his shoulder on deep balls. Can be a bullish runner after the catch, also capable of spinning away from tackles after a stop route then turn on the jets. Has the size and length to dominate corners in the run game.
Still learning the position, must take advantage of increased opportunities and experience as a senior and show scouts he can handle the complexity of NFL offenses. Body-catches passes thrown into his frame. Want-to as a blocker is severly lacking. Does not attack targets or lock onto smaller defenders often enough, will throw a shoulder instead of using his hands. Has lapses in concentration. Must consistently run out his routes, even when he knows he’s not the primary target.
NFL Comparison : Tommy Streeter
This former quarterback has an elite combination of size and speed, but has only flashed those skills. Davis' combine performance could considerably boost his draft stock, even though he isn't overly refined as a receiver at this point. Even though he lacks in various aspects of the game, it's hard to imagine a team not taking a chance on him in the middle rounds.
Senior fullback talks about his football career past and present
Oct. 29, 2012
This article was originally published in the Oct. 25 edition of Kickoff, the official gameday magazine of Wake Forest football.
Q: What is your earliest memory of playing football ?
A: My earliest memory playing football was when I was five years old. My cousins played football so I just wanted to get out there in Pop Warner. I remember going to practice and having to run and everything, and I just hated it. It was flag football--it wasn't anything too big. I loved to play, but practice was the worst thing.
Q: When did you first realize you could play at the major college level ?
A: I think when I first realized it was my freshman year of high school. I got called up to varsity and was starting. It was a cool experience, and then I was excelling my sophomore year and my junior year so I thought I could play then.
Q: Describe the recruiting process and how you ended up at Wake Forest.
A: When I was recruited, I looked for a variety of things. I looked for a team that could play at a major, high level as well as a great academic school. That's why I ended up here because we are playing in the ACC and playing at a high level there, along with being one of the best schools in the country.
Q: Were you always one of the better players on the field growing up ?
A: Yes, I think so. I played a variety of different positions. I played offensive line when I was younger. Once they put me back at fullback it was kind of a sticking point and that was where I excelled at.
Q: What area of your game have you had to work the hardest to improve upon ?
A: The area of my game I've tried to improve is obviously my blocking and my receiving because that's mainly what I do. I have to block well and catch the ball out of the backfield and do all those type of things so I work hard at that.
Q: Is there an area of your game that just comes natural to you ?
A: I would say running with the ball because that's what I did from a young age and that was the easiest thing for me when I was younger. I think that was an easy thing that came to me.
Q: What is the best memory of your high school career ?
A: We went into overtime and it was a back-and-forth battle. They had scored a touchdown; we had scored a touchdown. And I ended up scoring three touchdowns in overtime to win the game.
Q: Has there been a coach or mentor who has had a great impact on your career ?
A: I would say my Pop Warner coach, Coach Cartmill, because of the fact that he saw the player that I could be, and he pushed me more than any other coach did to try to get that level out of me.
Q: What do you plan to do after your football career is over ?
A: Obviously I want to go to the NFL and hopefully that happens, but afterwards I want to own my own strength and training facility.
Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson can’t help but smile. Richardson, a Missouri product who was selected No. 13 overall in April’s draft, is playing the game he loves and the calendar is racing toward his NFL preseason debut in August.“Pro football has been great. It’s just a wonderful experience,” he told me on our most recent “Jets Talk LIVE” installment. “I mean I’m in the NFL — that’s what kids dream about. I’m living it out right now, embracing the moment.”At rookie minicamp, Rex Ryan called out Richardson for his impressive play. But the competition has been elevated throughout OTAs as veterans have joined the mix.“You have your ups and downs, roller coasters,” Richardson said. “The playbook is getting there. They’re picking up their offensive scheme a lot faster. Geno is getting a lot faster with his calls and stuff. Bullets are flying out there, but for the most part — I’ve been getting (to) where I need to be at.”
Many pundits questioned Richardson’s fit with the Jets, deeming the 6’3”, 294-pounder was best suited to be a one-gap lineman in a 4-3 front. But Ryan promised that Jets will employ multiple fronts and move Richardson around. And they have done just that this spring.“Everywhere,” he said when I asked him where he was being used. “A little end, a little three tech(nique), a little nose, shade, all that… The only thing I haven’t done yet is play rush, so I pretty much have my hand in the dirt.”After totaling 112 tackles (54 solos), six sacks and four forced fumbles in two seasons at Mizzou, Richardson spoke about the most difficult aspect of the pro transition.“Adjusting from a 4-3 to a 3-4, playing nose and learning the terminology,” he said. “You get set in your ways in college and it’s like a second language for you. It’s like breathing almost and it’s kind of repetitive. You just have to get used to what the coaches are saying and understanding what they mean and pick it up fast because it’s the NFL. You don’t have time for mistakes, shorter reps.”
Richardson possesses rare athleticism. In a game against Texas A&M last season, the Missouri coaching staff had Richardson spy future Heisman Trophy Winner Johnny Manziel. The Aggies won in a rout, but Manziel didn’t go crazy on the ground as he was held to 67 yards on 12 carries.“I told him I’ll do the job, but I wanted to rush him,” said Richardson of the task of keeping an eye on the 6’1”, 200-pound QB. “I wanted to get after him a little bit more than what I did, but somebody said he had one of his top two worst rushing games in his season. I did my job, but it was a blowout so I don’t even look at what my stats were. We didn’t win and it was worth nothing to me. If you don’t win in the end, I’m all about winning. I want to be labeled as a winner.”
Nicknamed “Boss Hogg” when he was played high school ball at Gateway Technical in St. Louis, MO, Richardson returned kicks & punt returns on special teams and played slot receiver, tight end, fullback, running back and middle linebacker.“I played everything. I was a hog out there on the field. I ran over kids that were bigger than me and smaller than me — it didn’t matter,” he said. "I just ran everybody over. I was determined to win. I still am to this day and I just take it and run with it. I make sure that drive is still with me wherever I go in life.”
The rookie has gained a new responsibility this offseason and it involves a little additional lifting.“They have me on helmet duty right now, so I had to bring in like four or five helmets today,” said Richardson. “It’s just been great. Mo (Wilkerson) and Q (Coples) are helping me out a lot — Mo more so than Q. Just watching his film and seeing how he moves and getting his technique down. I just have to learn and pretty much make it my own like I always do.”
New York Jets' 'Big Snacks' Harrison Might Make a Big Impact
COMMENTARY | Damon Harrison, the not-so-tiny nose tackle whose teammates call him 'Big Snacks,' is an under-the-radar player who could make a major difference for the New York Jets in the coming season. Room on the depth chart has been cleared for this powerful player to earn playing time and make an impact for the first time in his pro career.
Why Big Snacks?
Why do they call the big man Big Snacks? According to Ricky Doyle of MaineNewsSimply.com, Harrison earned his nickname shortly after being signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Jets last year. Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar apparently would leave Rice Krispie Treats on his desk to motivate Harrison to lose weight and improve his speed.Harrison looked solid in the 2012 preseason but ultimately did not see a whole lot of playing time during the regular season. He and his nickname, however, stuck around throughout the season as he held his roster spot. Though he is not yet on the national radar, he is becoming popular in some Jets' fan circles.
Defensive nose tackle is a physically demanding position. The nose tackle in a 3-4 defensive set generally lines up against the offensive center and faces an extremely high number of double teams. Massive size to handle offensive centers is required as well as the athleticism to deal with double teams and to close line gaps more quickly than running backs can reach them.
Is 2013 His Year?
Rex Ryan's defense is very much a hybrid defense now, and he is not as reliant on 3-4 formations as he has been in the past. Especially with the move of Quinton Coples to rush linebacker, there should be increased usage of plays with four defenders playing with their hands on the ground.Nonetheless, 3-4 sets are sure to be part of the scheme, and the Jets need a solid nose tackle. Sione Pouha, who used to be one of the best in the business, was released as a salary cap casualty.Then Mike DeVito was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs. DeVito was a mix between a defensive end and a defensive tackle, but Ryan often made use of his ability to play nose tackle.
The result is that a top-heavy depth chart at nose tackle is suddenly wide open. Certainly Kenrick Ellis and Antonio Garay are in the mix. However, with both of them being unproven, there is nothing to stop Harrison if he can demonstrate his own abilities on the practice field.Will Noble of OneJetAtATime.com sees possibilities for Big Snacks. Noble argued, "Let me note how well Big Snacks did in the first day of open-to-the-media OTAs... Harrison will make [an] excellent substitute... Hungry is the definition of Damon Harrison in every sense."Harrison is not a name that will be heard too much just yet in the national media. He is more of a local name and is still a developing player. He plays an unsung role and still needs to prove that he can help the team win. Hopefully for Big Snacks his career path will continue to head upward and not downward.
As for Jets fans, now is the chance to hop on the Big Snacks bandwagon before the rest of the country catches on.
If that was our opening day roster we would definitely need to see some strong play from our young guys. You have to imagine that there will be several more veterans added to this mix. Idzik has talked about competition through and through so I don't think he is done yet.
Young guys to watch on defense:
DeMario Davis, Ricky Sapp, Dee Milliner, Josh Bush, Antonio Allen, Sheldon Richardson, Kenrick Ellis, Quinton Coples
Young guys to watch on offense:
Stephen Hill, Brian Winters, Oday Aboushi, Jeff Cumberland, Konrad Reuland, Clyde Gates, Jordan White, Tommy Bohanon
These are the players that need to take the next step this offseason and also stay healthy. Some might not all make the team but I don't see us releasing many of these players moving forward. All have careers that are looking up and now is the time to get them in a role where they are confident. This is a great foundation of young players to build on competition for the future.
Add Hayden Smith to the mix. he's been tearing it up in camp
- Learning all the intricacies of the different positions on the defensive line has Jets first-round pick Sheldon Richardson feeling like he's back at the University of Missouri."It's like college a little bit, but way more intense and a whole lot faster," Richardson said Wednesday. "I'm adjusting to it on the fly and I'm starting to get a little more fluid out there. The game's starting to slowly come into my own, but it will take a while. It's coming along good, though."
Promising defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson says his time at Missouri prepared him for the demands of OTAs.As the Jets prepare to wrap up organized team activities and begin their three-day minicamp starting June 11, Richardson's versatility has been put to the test as the team has used him in various positions. Richardson played defensive tackle in college and projects to be an inside pass-rusher for the Jets."It's always a challenge at first," said Richardson, the 13th overall pick in this year's draft. "It's repetition to get it right, for me anyway. That's how I learn -- through our repetition."In their base package, the Jets run a 3-4, which would project to have Kenrick Ellis as the nose tackle, and Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson serving as the ends.
Since the Jets use multiple fronts and will switch to 4-3 packages, Richardson has to be able to move around. In a 4-3, the team would likely make him one of two interior pass-rushers alongside Wilkerson.Richardson said he's catching up on the various calls and checks the team uses for the different spots on the defensive line, and has noticed they come faster than what he has experienced. He added there's a lot more to remember, but embraces the challenge.
The first-rounder primarily played in a 4-3 with Missouri, but he also saw time in a 3-4, including at nose tackle. He credits the Tigers with helping him transition to the NFL."My preparation to the NFL was pretty legit at Mizzou. They prepared us well, even though the season didn't go where we wanted, but they got us right," Richardson said. "I came here, I was in shape, I followed my training and stuck to my work ethic and pretty much everything I learned at Mizzou: Start fast and finish strong. And that's how I plan on doing throughout my career."
In his short time with the Jets, Richardson has already made an impression on head coach Rex Ryan with the zeal he has displayed during the voluntary practices."It's not hard to recognize a guy that plays with that kind of energy, that kind of enthusiasm," Ryan said. "We talk about it here, playing like a Jet. Nobody likes that term, but it's a huge term to us. And sometimes when you go out, you send scouts out, you talk about that we shouldn't have to teach desire and effort and all of that type of stuff. Certainly this is a guy you don't have to worry about."
He added: "It's not surprising that we're seeing what we're seeing. He just jumps in there. You put him all over the place and he's just hitting and he's going 100 mph."
With OTAs over and voluntary minicamp set to begin, let’s take a look at some guys who had some of the better under-the-radar performances during the Organized Team Activities that could unexpectedly lead to them getting a bigger role than previously anticipated. Keep in mind, the media was only allowed to attend one practice each week, meaning they have no idea how guys performed when they were not around. Thus, after speaking to a variety of sources, here’s some guys who separated themselves, albeit in shorts, during this period.
1. TE Hayden Smith - Everybody I’ve talked to has absolutely raved about Hayden. The progress he has made from year one to year two is nothing short of phenomenal. If you think about it, this time last year he was just learning to put on a helmet for the first time. Now, he’s getting ready to be make a major impact for this team. In his West Coast offense, the two-tight end set is very common, so it’s more than likely we will see Hayden out there with Jeff Cumberland a majority of the time. While Konrad Reuland is a formidable player, he’s not as versatile as Hayden. People at the practices have raved to me about his route running, improved blocking, and overall understanding for the game. It’s been a while since the Jets have had a legitimate pass catching threat at the TE position. Maybe one might classify Dustin Keller as one, but he would show up for five games than disappear. Hayden is here to stay. This is a guy to watch closely as camp rolls around.
2. WR Zach Rogers - Overshadowed by Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter at Tennessee, Rogers has been lining up everywhere during OTAs. I’m told in addition to playing slot receiver, Rogers has been handling the duties as a punt returner and kick returner as well. In fact, he was the reason the Jets cut Royce Pollard after minicamp. Rogers, who caught 32 passes for 491 yards and seven touchdowns last season, performed so well that Pollard, who spent the entire season on the practice squad, was suddenly let go. Right off the bat Rogers clearly has a leg up on a guy like Titus Ryan in terms of making the team just due to his versatility. Rex has taken notice has well, “Rogers was very productive there and he really did a nice job of running routes and catching the football. He stood out. He caught a lot of balls out there, he was a slot receiver, you saw him return punts. And he did a good job in the special teams drills.” Rex, who is notorious for not knowing undrafted free agents names, clearly has his eye on Rogers. As should you.
3. LB Ricky Sapp - Let’s start off with something that has been reported yet. Last year, Ricky found out in the middle of the season that he was playing with a stress fracture in his right ankle, which was causing him unbearable pain. As such, Rex decided to make a bold decision. He made Ricky inactive for the latter part of the season. With the season pretty much over and Rex looking ahead, he decided to “hide” Ricky. He didn’t want to get him on tape, and also felt it necessary to let his ankle heal. After the season ended, Rex asked Ricky to add on some weight, but not so much that it will affect his speed. He did, and came into camp in the best shape of his life. While the team has said Quinton Coples will be starting at one of the OLB spots, the media has labeled Calvin Pace the starter. Not so fast. They should know on the days they weren’t there, Ricky was receiving a TON of reps and was playing with the first team. I can see a scenario in which Antwan Barnes and Pace end up in more of a situational role with Ricky and Quinton starting. Barnes is probably best suited for that kind of role anyway, and Calvin is getting up there in age. Kristian Dyer said of every single defensive player on the field last week, Ricky “looked the best.” With his ability to drop back in coverage and also get after the QB, will will be playing a lot this season. I can promise you that.
4. RB John Griffin – Like Ricky, Griffin was lighting it up in camp last summer, but suffered a high ankle sprain and was ultimately let go. After being resigned to the practice squad late in the season and activated for the Week 17 game vs. Buffalo, he’s back in camp turning heads once again. RB Coach Anthony Lynn said, “he was really raw when he got here at first but I’m expecting John to really compete, not just be a camp guy but compete for playing time. He’s a big back … He’s fast, he’s quick, he can make people miss inline and he does some really nice things that I like.” The problem is, the Jets are extremely loaded at the running back position, with Mike Goodson, Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight. Interestingly, however, I’ve been told Griffin has the best hands out of the aforementioned group, something that is a necessity in a West Coast Offense. Griffin has been making the most out of his reps, and if he continues to shine, he might just push one of these guys off the roster…
5. DB Eric Crocker - First and foremost, from all of us here at TJB, we send our condolences to Eric, who left OTAs this week to return home to California to be with his family following the loss of his father. Signed by the Jets in March, he went attended University of Arkansas at Monticello. After going undrafted in 2012, he joined the San Antonio Talons last season, where he finished the year with 70 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and 3 interceptions. Crocker, 6’2, 190lbs., has been making a name for himself during OTAs. The Jets coaches feel he has a real shot to make the team, I’ve learned. He has shown a ton of toughness and ability to match up with receivers during practice. Furthermore, I’ve been told they “can’t wait” to get him in pads. His ability to run down the field and make plays on special teams will also help his cause. He reminds me a lot of Marquice Cole, who like Crocker, was signed by the Jets to a reserve/future contract. Quice became in instant star on special teams while slowly showing he had what it took to play in Rex’s complicated defense as well. Crocker has been working one-on-one with Dennis Thurman and Tim McDonald to better himself every day.
Hayden Smith arrived a year ago, a former international rugby star with no experience in organized football. He never wore a helmet, never put on shoulder pads, never ran a pass route. The most basic aspects of football -- i.e. mastering the quarterback cadence -- were a challenge.Hayden Smith could be a factor for the Jets this coming season."If you've never played football, it's hard to sit on the line," Smith recalled of his not-so-long-ago neophyte days. "You have to know what the cadence is and you don't want to jump and be edgy."
Smith has come a long way in a relatively short time. The 6-foot-6, 255-pound Australian was one of the bright spots during OTAs, impressing with his dramatic improvement. Instead of worrying about where to line up and trying to remember his assignment on each play, Smith actually made plays, including a couple of acrobatic receptions."Coming in the second time around, not having to worry about the game of football itself, it takes a lot of the thinking out of it," he said. "That was always going to be the challenge early on, getting comfortable with the sport. Now I feel like I'm at the stage where I can just concentrate on execution rather than the bigger things."
Smith, 28, spent most of his rookie year on the practice squad, seeing some playing time late in the season. He played a total of 17 snaps on offense, plus 15 snaps on special teams. Basically, it was a redshirt year, but now he's ready to make a name for himself."I feel like I'm at the stage where I can contribute," he said. "My primary goal is to help the Jets win football games."
He's already mastered the veteran cliches.
But seriously, he should get a good look, considering the downtrodden state of the tight end position. Jeff Cumberland and Konrad Reuland are the only experienced tight ends on the roster, so we're not talking about Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez here. Maybe, just maybe, "Aussie" -- his nickname -- can make a move up the depth chart. He has gone from Down Under to under the radar. Who knows what's next ?