8 Early Winners and Losers of the New York Jets Offseason

John Shea@real_johnsheaContributor IIIJune 20, 2013

8 Early Winners and Losers of the New York Jets Offseason

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    The quarterback battle is the most notorious headline surrounding the New York Jets this offseason, but other distinct stories outside of the signal caller saga have risen from the depths of OTAs and mini-camp.

    Jets' receivers have undergone hardship throughout offseason training sessions thus far, specifically Stephen Hill, who continues to fail to improve. Head coach Rex Ryan took to the media in voicing his frustration about the sophomore receiver's glaring issue to catch the football.

    Safeties Antonio Allen and Josh Bush have also begun to clash, fighting for the right to earn a spot on the first team defense. Allen was assumed to be the favorite before OTAs, but has since taken a back seat in the competition.

    Tailback Mike Goodson has flashed electric ability on offense, but is virtually crippled by legal issues, stemming from his unnecessary drive with a gun and marijuana in the backseat that led to his arrest in May.

    The Jets' defensive backfield was thought to be relatively deficient after former Pro Bowl stud Darrelle Revis was shipped to Tampa Bay, but nickelback Kyle Wilson has made strides, aiding a revamped secondary to the brink of reclaiming status as a dominant force.

    The quarterback battle has barely begun, but the Jets' depth chart is already starting to take shape.

    The following examines eight early winners and losers of the Jets' offseason:

Loser: Stephen Hill (WR)

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    The biggest dog in Jets' offseason activities through OTAs and mini-camp is former second round pick Stephen Hill.

    The second year wideout made himself famous in Week 5 last season when he dropped a potential game winning pass deep into the redzone against the Patriots in the final minutes.

    Since then, he's further enveloped himself into a fast receiver that can't catch the football. Head coach Rex Ryan recently blasted his receiving corps, namely Hill, for a lack of effort and concentration.

    The Jets entered the offseason dependent upon Hill to be a potential offensive playmaker. Now, it's questionable if he sustains the ability necessary to be a contributing factor.

    Hill fought through OTAs with a swollen knee, which slowed him down, but shouldn't have deterred him from reeling in catches, especially during walk-through activities.

    Veteran receiver Santonio Holmes has offered guidance to the struggling wideout, who understands that success isn't imminent in the NFL.

    If the Jets are ultimately going to be successful on offense this season, they need Hill to develop into a legitimate downfield target.

    He's been lackluster to showcase that kind of ability so far, though, and should be chalked as an offseason loser because of it.

Winner: Hayden Smith (TE)

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    Former rugby stud Hayden Smith is still learning the game of football, but it's possible that he could be the most athletic option the Jets have at tight end this season.

    If Smith continues to improve upon blocking technique and route running ability, he could potentially see a legitimate role in OC Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense.

    Smith arrived on scene last offseason with practically no organized experience on a football field. He featured raw talent and supreme athletic ability, which ultimately led to the Jets making a bold decision to sign a could-be success story.

    Since then, he's grown into a potential contributor on offense, demonstrating beastly blocking ability on the offensive line while also pulling down a few circus-like catches in OTAs.

    He spent a majority of 2012 on the Jets' practice squad and played just 17 snaps, but will likely be charted on the Jets' 53-man roster in Week 1 this season.

    The Jets feature a thin talent pool at tight end: Jeff Cumberland is currently slotted atop the depth chart ahead of Konrad Rueland, although it wouldn't be completely unforeseen for Smith to jump into consideration for significant playing time, especially if he continues to improve at a dramatic rate.

Loser: Mike Goodson (RB)

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    Tailback Mike Goodson buried himself into legal problems before ever taking the field as an official member of the Jets' roster, but he's been impressive in practice, regardless.

    The Jets attained Goodson as part of a simple concept to add an influx of speed to a roster that lacks explosiveness. The team arguably featured the least amount of true offensive playmakers in the NFL last season, which led new GM John Idzik to snag Goodson as a potential difference-maker on offense.

    Goodson will likely be the Jets' best receiving back in the team's new-look, offensive game scheme this season, given the inexperience that supposed feature back Chris Ivory has of catching the ball out of the backfield.

    Goodson's ability to quickly turn up field and find open space after the catch make him valuable to the Jets' offense. The only other player on the roster that sustains that kind of ability is Joe McKnight, who could potentially be mixed-in as a possible receiving target on screen passes.

    Rex Ryan has been impressed with Goodson's ability on offense through the early stages of offseason practice, likely because the Jets simply haven't had a formidable speed threat out of the backfield during his tenure as head coach.

    If Goodson is able to outlast his legal troubles and remain an active player on the Jets' roster, he'll certainly be a major component of the team's offensive game plan.

    Goodson's emphatically stupid puke-fest defines him as an early "loser" this offseason, though. He'll have to continue to showcase dynamic ability to prove to the Jets that he's worth the headache.

Winner: Antonio Cromartie (CB)

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    Jets' feature cornerback Antonio Cromartie has made significant strides as a team leader this offseason and is reportedly set to host an unofficial training camp for the team's defensive backs.

    The seemingly inevitable departure of Pro Bowl CB Darrelle Revis made several analysts question the Jets' ability to remain competitive against the pass, given a depleted core of safeties and the fact that rookie CB Dee Milliner should endure some growing pains.

    Cromartie isn't deterred, though. He's fully adopted a leadership role on defense, aiding in the development of guys like Milliner, Antonio Allen, Kyle Wilson and Josh Bush. Cromartie will even host his version of Mark Sanchez's "Jets West" next week in California.

    He helped solidify a defense that was seemingly destined for failure after Revis' career as a member of the Jets abruptly ended in Week 3 of 2012.

    The Jets ranked 2nd in the NFL against the pass last season, surrendering just 189.8 yards through the air per game, according to ESPN.

    Cromartie is arguably the Jets' biggest winner thus far this offseason, specifically because of his emergence as a team leader.

    The Jets' revamped defense features a ton of youth and inexperience, which consequently increases the critical importance of veteran leadership.

Loser: Mark Sanchez (QB)

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    Embattled quarterback Mark Sanchez has supposedly looked better than rookie Geno Smith in offseason training activities so far, although he's failed to create substantial separation from his so-called competition.

    The Jets' quarterback battle will hit full flight in training camp and it's expected that Sanchez will hold an early edge. That is surely to steadfastly change, though, given the Jets' could-be former starter's blatant issues with holding onto the football.

    Sanchez could easily be defined as a game-changer, but not in positive spotlight. He's committed 52 turnovers over the past two seasons, and has arguably aided the Jets in more defeats than wins in four years as the team's starter.

    The Jets' second-rate QB is up against his last chance to earn the team's title of starting quarterback, but his confidence is noticeably missing, consequently negatively effecting his play.

    Sanchez isn't the type of quarterback that can succeed without a dynamic, supporting cast that can create big plays downfield. The Jets have been relatively void of players capable of doing that on offense over the past two seasons, inevitably leading to Sanchez's demise.

    The Jets' QB battle headlines training camp for multiple reasons, but it's unlikely to be a fierce competition, regardless. Sanchez will predictably continue to regress while rookie QB Geno Smith flashes unparalleled athleticism that Sanchez couldn't dream of.

    It doesn't matter that Sanchez has appeared to be more efficient than his counterpart in OTAs and mini-camp. He'll probably flop in training camp and continuously struggle throughout the preseason.

Winner: Josh Bush (S)

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    Former late round pick Josh Bush has unofficially claimed first team responsibilities after impressive performances in OTAs and mini-camp.

    Bush underwent offseason shoulder surgery and reportedly wore a red non-contact jersey during Jets' OTAs.

    Still, he's overcome injury to rise atop the team's depth chart at safety, and is currently expected to take first team reps when training camp commences in Cortland next month.

    Bush, a former sixth-round pick, played in all 16 games for the Jets in 2012, rallying for 11 tackles in limited action. He's highly motivated to prove that he's capable of effectively manning the free safety position, but will have to continuously improve to stake his claim as a starting player.

    The battle between safeties is arguably wide open, although it's assumed that offseason acquisition Dawan Landry will land one of the team's two vacancies.

    Bush and teammate Antonio Allen are considered to be the team's two most prominent options to play alongside Landry, although Jaiquawn Jarrett is also considered to have an outside chance.

    Bush's tenacity to overcome injury to outplay his counterpart at safety in OTAs and mini-camp ultimately earn him "winning" status this offseason for the Jets.

Loser: Antonio Allen (S)

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    Antonio Allen was thought to be the front runner to land a spot as a Jets' starting safety this offseason, but has since relinquished that predisposed title after being outperformed by his aforementioned teammate.

    Allen is a former seventh-round pick that probably couldn't have dreamed of a starting role on the Jets' formerly formidable defense after being selected. A free agent reclamation project and offseason overhaul led to the potential for starting status, though.

    Allen began OTAs as the supposed favorite to play alongside Dawan Landry at safety for the Jets. He had been playing exclusively with the first team defense until the conclusion of the team's mandatory mini-camp last week.

    He recorded just six tackles in limited playing time in 2012, but has an opportunity to rise atop the team's seemingly depleted depth chart this offseason.

    Allen is expected to participate in Cromartie's offseason training program, held specifically for defensive backs, in an effort to continuously improve before training camp.

    The battle between safeties could be the most competitive contest this offseason for the Jets, although Allen has recently taken a back seat to teammate Josh Bush.

Winner: Kyle Wilson (CB)

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    Jets' nickelback Kyle Wilson has arguably been the Jets' most improved player this offseason, according to Matt Ehalt of ESPN New York.

    Wilson was ultimately effective opposite Cromartie at cornerback after Revis' suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

    Now, Wilson enters his fourth season as a pro and is reportedly highly motivated to maintain steady progress toward becoming a better player.

    He hasn't been deterred from the Jets opting to draft cornerback Dee Milliner and is simply trying to compete at the best of his ability. It's possible that Wilson could reclaim a starting role at cornerback, but it's presumed that he's better suited to play the slot, despite advanced experienced after last season.

    Milliner is considered the favorite to earn a starting spot opposite Cromartie in spite of Wilson's relative success in 2012, though. Still, Wilson won't back down, pointing towards the need to get better.

    The Jets' defensive backfield will undergo intense, in-house competition this summer to determine specific starting roles.

    Wilson is confident that he can effectively fulfill an apparent open void, but will have to dazzle the coaching staff in order to accomplish the feat.