New York Jets: 5 Players Whose Stock Is on the Rise After OTAs
The New York Jets aren't expected to compete at a high level in 2013, relegating previous Super Bowl aspirations to a tumultuous rebuilding process.
New GM John Idzik has led the charge, signing several low-cost, high-reward free agents that were essentially discarded from their former teams.
The new boss in town preaches competition, stemming from his hard-nosed background as a prodigious believer in clashes between teammates.
The Seahawks' quarterback battle last offseason serves as a prime example, when Matt Flynn, Tavaris Jackson and Russell Wilson fought through training camp and the preseason to claim title ownership of the starting QB role.
Wilson won out, leading Seattle to a triumphant playoff push that enabled a previously dormant franchise to compete against the league's most superior forces, like the San Francisco 49ers.
Idzik brings the same approach to New York's camp, where several key positions, including starting QB, are virtually up for grabs. OTAs have steadily granted insight into which players are ready to climb atop the ranks at their respective positions to claim a chokehold as a contributing element on a team in transition.
The following slideshow highlights five Jets players whose stock is on the rise after OTAs:
5. Hayden Smith (TE)
Former rugby stud Hayden Smith is making strides in Jets camp, despite minimal experience on a football field. It's unlikely that a 6'6", 255-pound tight end will transform into a substantial contributor for the Jets this season, but it's possible that he'll earn a specific role on special teams.
Smith reeled in one catch for 16 yards in his only target as a pro last season. He made the incredible jump from rugby to the NFL without the benefit of amateur experience.
He's still in the process of learning the game, but has made steady improvement from a fundamental standpoint since being picked up.
The Jets have a dire need for a pass-catching tight end in new OC Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense. Jeff Cumberland is slotted atop the depth chart, but it's unknown how effective the former backup will be in his first full season as a starter.
Can Smith rise toward the top of the Jets' TE depth chart to earn significant playing time?
It would be a monstrous achievement, and isn't entirely implausible. Smith is already destined to see increased action this season, considering his raw talent.
The Jets need several players to virtually overachieve, or reach their full potential sooner than expected, if they're going to contend in 2013.
4. Jeremy Kerley (WR)
Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley is going to be a pivotal element in the Jets' new-look West Coast offense. The sleek wideout proved himself capable of being a reliable target last season. Now, he's ready to upgrade his game to the next level.
Kerley lacks breakaway speed, but is ultimately an efficient route-runner that can spread the field.
He caught 56 pass attempts on 96 targets for 827 yards and two touchdowns in a performance that some consider to be a breakout effort.
The 24-year-old still has room to improve, though. 2013 could prove to be revealing for Kerley, who could see upward of 10 targets per game in the Jets' supposed short-passing scheme.
The Jets are relatively void of playmakers on offense, creating a serious opportunity for Kerley to excel. He's flashed consistent signs of improvement in organized team activities, and has further distinguished himself within the offensive huddle as a constant receiving target, especially in clutch situations.
Kerley pulled down 31 catches for first downs in 2012, averaging nearly 15 yards per reception.
3. Chris Ivory (RB)
Feature back Chris Ivory jumped from could-be contributor in New Orleans to front-stage talent in New York when Idzik pulled the trigger on a trade that brought the former backup RB to the Green and White.
Ivory was a virtual non-factor with the Saints, totaling 40 carries for 217 yards and two touchdowns last season.
The Jets consider Ivory to be a perennial Pro Bowl-talent. His receiving prowess is questionable, given minimal experience as a pass-catching running back. So far, Ivory has exhibited relentless exertions of confidence. He perceives himself as a starting-caliber back and can't wait to flash his talents to the football world.
The 220-pound back is durable, capable of handling 20-plus carries per game. He's been touted as a power back, but also has the speed to beat defenders downfield. He has excellent footwork, which allows him to elude should-be tacklers.
The Jets believe they've acquired a dynamic, game-changing type of player in trading for Ivory. His seeming explosiveness has never been showcased before. That'll change this season, as Ivory has steadily emerged as the clear-cut favorite to land feature back responsibilities for the Jets.
2. Mike Goodson (RB)
Tailback Mike Goodson has dug himself deep into legal issues that could promptly lead to his demise as a running back in the NFL.
Still, he's showcased lightning-fast burst ability and elusive cut-back agility throughout an impressive performance at OTAs. His future is vastly unknown because of the aforementioned off-the-field issues, however, the Jets are desperate for players with game-changing speed, like Goodson.
The troubled 26-year-old veteran would be a solid fit in Mornhinweg's West Coast offense, given the opportunity.
Dubbing Goodson a "player on the rise" could be an overzealous statement, although his brigade of personal struggles shouldn't transpire into ineffective gameplay.
Goodson appears motivated. Jane McManus of ESPN New York reported last week that he received praise from the Jets' coaching staff, including Rex Ryan, who stated, " I haven't seen anything that would indicate that [he is distracted]."
If Goodson continues to compete at a high level in offseason training activities, he sustains a legitimate chance to earn a significant role this season. Goodson, like Ivory, has never seen consistent playing time.
That could change if the Jets ultimately decide that his upside overrides his legal problems.
1. Geno Smith (QB)
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith is full flight into an offseason position battle with incumbent Mark Sanchez. Smith has arguably already gained an edge over his predecessor, flashing significant improvement of fundamental gameplay in OTAs.
He still needs to advance his footwork and become more comfortable under center, according to Conor Orr of The Star Ledger, but is steadily developing the skill set he needs to succeed in the West Coast offense.
Smith has begun taking snaps with the first-team offense. He features dynamic, athletic ability that would aptly fit the team's revitalized offensive concept. His biggest attribute could be awareness in the pocket, the ability to quickly read the defense and react in time to create a positive play.
Smith was 8-of-9 with a sack at OTA practice last on May 30. He showed off his arm strength, delivering a 30-yard strike to receiver Joseph Collins, and also showcased improved ability to audible at the line of scrimmage.
The Jets need an influx of playmaking ability on offense. The steady improvement of Smith, combined with Sanchez's inconsistent performances in practice, grant a serious advantage toward the Jets' second-round pick.
Smith is rising toward becoming the main signal-caller for the Green and White in 2013, but the quarterback battle is far from over.