New York Jets: 7 Jets Impressing in Training Camp

Rocco ConstantinoContributor IAugust 2, 2012

New York Jets: 7 Jets Impressing in Training Camp

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    Well, the New York Jets made it through one week of training camp without any major controversies.

    Sure, there was the minor rift between Antonio Cromartie and Chaz Schilens and Tim Tebow did take his shirt off and run around in the rain but, if those were the only stories the media could drum up, the Jets are doing pretty well.

    There have been two major themes of training camp so far.  First, it's Rex Ryan's annoyance at the excess of "soft-tissue injuries" that is keeping his active squad limited.  

    Second, Tony Sparano is operating at a frenetic level as the new offensive coordinator.  He has the offense on a 25-second play clock and screams "tempo!" all day long in an effort to get the offense to operate with urgency.

    Although only one week has passed, there have been a number of players who are standing out.  Nothing dramatic has happened yet, but some players are clearly ahead of others according to reporters following the team.

    This slideshow takes a look st seven Jets who have impressed in camp thus far.

Aaron Maybin

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    The one player who is showing up in just about every positive report from training camp is Aaron Maybin.  Maybin isn't just making plays all over the field, but he has also been a very vocal leader and impressive presence on the field.

    Maybin has put on weight in the offseason and looks like he will be able to play an expanded role in 2012 as a result.

    Jets reporter Jane McManus from ESPN New York wrote an article about Maybin's mayhem after just two days of camp, and he hasn't slowed down since.

    In Thursday's workout, Maybin had two more sacks and, according to Jets reporter Rich Cimini, almost took out Mark Sanchez on the play and was chided by Darrelle Revis for it.

    In addition to creating havoc as a pass rusher, Maybin has even been working as a gunner on punt coverage. Think there are many defensive backs who can contain Maybin while he's flying down the field in punt coverage? I don't think so.

Mark Sanchez

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    Mark Sanchez hasn't stood out particularly with his play during camp, but his intangibles have been exemplary.

    First, Sanchez showed up to camp looking noticeably bigger, especially in the lower body as he was probably preparing to survive another season of Wayne Hunter at right tackle.

    Above all, though, Sanchez's handling of the Tim Tebow situation has helped quell any speculation of a rivalry.  

    Sanchez started by inviting him to his Jets West camp and has been complimentary of Tebow every time he has talked about him. In fact, it sounds like Sanchez has been taking press conference tips from Tebow.

    Sanchez's play on the field has been uneven thus far in camp as he is trying to develop a rapport with an ever-changing receiving corps. The list of healthy wide receivers is dwindling daily and it seems that Sanchez is spending his time working with rookies or players who are new to the team.

    Sanchez has even said all the right things about Tebow taking over the offense in the red zone. In an article by ESPN New York's Matt Ehalt, Sanchez addressed the idea of that.

    "He better put it in the end zone and he will," Sanchez said with a laugh. "We'll have the right plan and do it at the right time and I trust Coach Sparano with that and the scheme. The most important thing is winning games and if Tim can come here and get us even two more first downs in one game, he helps." 

    Perhaps Sanchez's best day came on Saturday in a day that was marked by steady rain and torrential downpours. Sanchez went six-for-eight in 11-on-11 action and three-for-eight in seven-on-seven work despite the deluge. His work drew praise from Ryan.

    People may have missed the news on Sanchez's nice practice as the big news that day was that Tebow ran through the rain with his shirt off.

    Sanchez is at an early crossroads in his career and he has to show signs of improvement this year. He seems to have made the progress he needed to off the field, and the jury remains out to see if he'll do the same once the season starts.

Nick Folk

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    It may not be the news Jets fans want to hear, but it seems that Nick Folk is winning the kicking competition. It's not that Josh Brown is kicking poorly, but Folk has been nearly flawless in camp so far.

    In kicking drills held on Friday, Saturday, Monday and Wednesday, Folk was a perfect 17-17, including multiple kicks from beyond 50 yards.

    On Monday, the team ran an ineffective two-minute drill and had to settle for a 51-yard field goal attempt from Folk. He nailed that, too.

    If Folk really has improved this much in the offseason, that would be terrific.

    Whether Folk remains this consistent under game-time pressure is yet to be determined.

    The kicking competition isn't over yet, but Folk has spent the first week of camp making sure he hangs on to his job.

Stephen Hill

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    If the very first live play of training camp is any indication, Stephen Hill will have no problem getting deep in the NFL.  

    On the play, he hooked up with Mark Sanchez to beat Darrelle Revis on a 40-yard diving catch. Revis had excellent coverage on the play and even tipped the pass, but Hill was able to adjust, keep his concentration and make the catch.

    It was the type of athleticism we were promised when the Jets traded up to draft Hill.

    He doesn't just land on this list for that one play, though.

    Rex Ryan has been vocal about the soft-tissue injuries and lack of conditioning in his wide receivers group. Neither of those apply to Hill, who is cementing his spot by simply being able to practice fully.

    On Wednesday, the team conducted red-zone drills for the first time and Sanchez hooked up with Hill for the only touchdown in the drill.

    Perhaps the best story around Hill was that he was receiving extra help from unlikely sources on a regular basis during training camp. It seemed that at just about every opportunity, Revis and Antonio Cromartie were giving pointers to the rookie.

    A typical play would see Hill run his route against Revis or Cromartie, then the defensive backs would consult with Hill instead of their own defensive unit if time provided.

    It looks like Revis and Cromartie know that Hill will need to get up to speed as fast as he could to help the team. It's the kind of teamwork between units that will help this team overcome the locker room strife of 2012.

    Hill also made waves when Ryan noticed a block that he threw knocked a defender to the ground. It turned out the player that was sent to the turf was Revis.

Bilal Powell

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    There hasn't been much buzz about the Jets' running backs this camp, but if one runner has stood out so far it's Bilal Powell.

    Powell had some impressive runs early on in camp and seems to be running with more authority than he did as a rookie.

    Most people assumed Joe McKnight would slide right into the third-down and backup role without any competition. That's not the case, according to running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

    In an article on NJ.com, Lynn said the job is wide open and the leading candidate will emerge as camp and the preseason games go on.  

    It appears that the unit is starting with a clean slate with new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who has been very vocal and demanding. Powell is taking this opportunity and making the best of it, trying to play with the style that Sparano is looking for.

    On Thursday, Powell continued to get reps with the first team, which is a fantastic sign for him. After practice, Jets beat reporter Jane McManus tweeted that Rex Ryan said he was happy with the way Powell ran the ball and he has been impressive. 

    Whether this translates to success during the preseason games remains to be seen, but Powell looks like he could be a contributor this year.

Antonio Allen

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    Antonio Allen was drafted in the seventh round and profiled as a special teams player who might develop into a safety, and would maybe get sporadic playing time to help with run defense.

    If there were any questions about his game, it was his cover skills.

    However, Allen's name has popped up a few times during training camp for jumping routes to pick off passes.

    It first happened on Sunday when he picked off passes from Matt Simms and Greg McElroy.

    Then, on Wednesday, Allen picked off Tim Tebow in 11-on-11 drills.

    If Allen is able to continue to display these type of ball-hawking skills to go with his strong physical play, he could be a bigger factor than first expected.  

    There certainly is playing time to be had at safety, and Allen is surely staking a claim to it.

Rex Ryan

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    Rex Ryan has vowed to be a changed man after being humbled by a miserable end to the 2011 season and revelations about discord in the Jets locker room.

    So far, so good for the most part.

    Although Ryan had a brief lapse back to his previous behavior when he declared himself the best defensive coach in the NFL, he has avoided the type of bluster that made his team the villains of the NFL.

    As far as actual football is concerned, Ryan is said to be very active this training camp. With the players, he is back to being the old Rex Ryan, which means he is as hands-on as he was during his first season.

    Ryan is making himself so involved that he has said he will take a bigger role in calling the defense and, according to Bart Scott, that's probably the way it should be. In a New York Post article, Scott praised his head coach: 

    “It’s Rex’s defense,” Scott said. “Nobody can teach your defense the way you can. He’s the defensive version of ‘Rain Man.’ He sees things that others don’t see. I’m sure everybody chuckles when he said he’s the best defensive coach in the league, but I dare you to check over a 10-year period what defensive coordinator’s been.”

    Not many people have questioned Ryan's defensive mind, but he did draw huge criticism when he admitted to losing the pulse of the locker room in 2011. He vowed that would change and he is more on top of things for sure.

    The first early blip came when Santonio Holmes questioned whether a two-quarterback system would work. Ryan met with Holmes personally to clear the air and also joked in the media that Holmes wasn't hired as an offensive coordinator.

    The second incident came when Chaz Schilens took exception to Antonio Cromartie's claim that he was the  second-best receiver on the team. Again, this incident was cleared up in person and then joked about in the media when Ryan said he was surprised Cromartie didn't say he was the best receiver (h/t Jane McManus).

    They may be minor incidents and if they happened in Seahwaks camp, for example, they probably wouldn't make news at all.  But, because it's the Jets, it's a big deal.

    The final area Ryan has done well in is diffusing any quarterback controversy. He has done this through his actions on the field. Tim Tebow has had a very limited number of reps with the first team, thus showing a true commitment to Mark Sanchez as team's starter.