With all the big name acquisitions the Jets made during the offseason it’s easy to forget the rookies, but after watching a few days of practice it’s even easier to see why their teammates are paying close attention.
Just how much attention are they drawing? Well first round pick, cornerback Kyle Wilson, has made such an impact that one of the guy’s competing with him for the nickelback position, [should Revis return] Dwight Lowry, actually suggested that Wilson should practice with the first team opposite Antonio Cromartie today.
Rex Ryan said, “It’s funny because Dwight’s the one that said he [Wilson] should be starting. That was interesting… It surprised us, he never told me, he told Dennis [Thurman, defensive backs coach.] …Yeah it surprises me, but he sees that he [Wilson] needs the work. He needs the reps, the kid’s got rare ability.”
Ryan went on to talk about Lowry and his unselfishness and his ever expanding role in this defense. Ryan said, “Dwight does so much for us, he’s even learning safety, nickel, dime, X, corner, you know he is doing all that stuff. And he’s gonna play like a starter anyway, but that just shows you, that this is a team. These guys know.”
When asked if, assuming Revis still hasn’t joined them by the first preseason game a week from today, he would start Wilson opposite Cromartie when they line up against the Giants, Ryan said, “Right, yup. Absolutely.”
Wilson is a tough physical defender with excellent ball skills, it’s no wonder he’s fitting in so nicely with this Jets defense. Often times you hear about a player getting drafted in the perfect possible situation and if that were to ever be true it would seem to apply here. With the Jets drafting 29th overall most people were expecting the Jets to address their pass rushing, but GM Mike Tannenbaum decided to bolster up their secondary even more when he was surprised to see Wilson still available. After watching how the Jets lost that AFC Championship game to Peyton Manning and company it was impossible to argue with the selection. Adding a talent like Wilson to play behind and learn from guys like Revis equals a win-win for the Jets and Wilson.
With Ryan continuing to talk about using Lowry in an ever changing role it appears that Wilson will be the Jets starting nickelback during the season. Being the nickel in the Jets defense will mean getting a ridiculously heavy workload during games, but Wilson feels he is ready for the challenge. When asked about playing with Revis and Cromartie, Wilson said, “It’s great. Being on the field with those guys means I’ll probably see a lot of action (half joking). I’m definitely looking forward to doing my job out there and making some plays as well.”
Wilson is fully aware of how lucky he is to enter the league in his rookie season with two established guys like Revis and Cromartie to learn from. Wilson said, “I’m really just picking their brains. Those guys are pretty smart and they always find themselves around the ball. If I can figure out how they learned and learn the stuff that they understand from being in the league. I’ll try to take that from those guys.” Between his play and his attitude and approach to the game, one can really start to understand why his teammates and coaches are so excited about what he can bring them.
If your a Jet fan you had probably heard about Wilson, being a first round draft pick and all, but there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of, one of the other rookies who has stood out so far this training camp, undrafted tight end Jeff Cumberland.
Jeff Cumberland is quite the physical specimen at 6′-4″ 249 pounds tight end with blazing speed, with an impressive 4.47 40 time under his belt. Watching him fly down the field making catch after catch makes one wonder how this kid didn’t get drafted. Watching him block clears that up immediately. The kid is extremely raw and has a long way to go before he is able to be a consistent tight end in this league, but his playmaking ability is unquestionable. If he can smooth the rest of his game out he can eventually turn into another dangerous offensive weapon for Sanchez to work with.
Fans who went to Cortland for practice last week came away asking, ‘Who is that guy?’ Cumberland continually impressed the fans creating a buzz in the crowd. Cumberland however, didn’t notice the buzz he was generating in the crowd, saying, “I was too into the practice, I didn’t notice the crowd too much.”
The fans weren’t the only ones who noticed, his coach Rex Ryan also liked what he saw from the rookie. He praised his playmaking ability, but made sure to remind everyone the focus for him right now is on blocking, this is something Cumberland was very aware of. When asked about his focus on blocking Cumberland said, “Pretty much that’s [blocking] what I’m focused on. Pretty much the whole camp is about showing them I can block and getting my blocking better. Getting my technique down, coming off the ball fast, shooting my hands, getting them inside. So that’s my main focus, getting my blocking down and getting the plays right.”
Adding a bit extra to Cumberland’s motivation is the fact that he went undrafted, Cumberland said, “I mean during the time I was thinking, Wow! I didn’t get drafted, but things happen and it just causes me to come out here and work harder and harder. That’s all I’m doing, showing them that they got a steal and I’m going to come out here, work hard, make plays and help the team out anyway I can.”
Both these rookies, Wilson and Cumberland are generating a lot of hype around training camp, but neither of them is content with training camp praise and the Jets expect this display of talent to continue well into the season. So Jets fans might want to start getting acquainted with these names now.
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