New York Jets: 6 Players Whose Stock Is on the Rise After OTAs
Organized team activities (OTAs) hardly resemble "real" football with all of the players in shorts, but this is the first time we have a chance to take a look at the revamped roster in action with all of the free-agent and rookie additions on display.
A huge draft class (12 players) will only elevate the level of competition on the team, making each session of OTAs and training camp vital to the individual success of players. For players on the roster bubble or in direct competition for starting positions, they are scraping and clawing for every ounce of momentum they can get from OTAs to take into training camp.
Here are some players whose stock is on the upswing at the conclusion of OTAs.
It is impossible to judge a year's worth of development in a quarterback in just a few OTA sessions, but Geno Smith's stock is on the rise simply because the supposed "competition" between him and Michael Vick is beginning to look more and more like a fallacy.
The Jets may have brought in Vick to push Smith, but it appears as if the Jets are ready to start Smith in Week 1 if the "competition" is remotely close. His teammates agree that the job is Smith's to lose:
But Jets' Michael Vick insists quarterback battle with Geno Smith is 'not an open competition.' http://t.co/kOGE3Xm6JN— Darryl Slater (@DarrylSlater) May 29, 2014
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's comments only add fuel to the conspiracy fire, confirming that this job is Smith's to lose. He said, per Seth Walder of the New York Daily News, that "there is competition. Now it may not quite be like the competition we had last year where everything was 50-50."
From the Jets perspective, it comes to no surprise that they would look for every excuse to start Smith given his age and upside. However, rigging the competition before it has a chance to begin goes against general manager John Idzik's mantra of constant competition, regardless of pedigree.
Not having to bench their young starter from last season would be a much simpler situation, but the way the Jets appear be going about handling this "competition" is highly hypocritical.
In what could be a make-or-break summer for the disappointing second-round pick, Stephen Hill is showing signs of a turnaround so far in OTAs, impressing his offensive coordinator:
Raw talent has never been the issue with Hill. Despite his incredible combination of size and speed, he has yet to harness his physical gifts to transform into a consistent player.
While he has flashed the ability to make big plays for the Jets, he has appeared downright timid on the field at times, ignoring proper technique that is required to thrive and reverting back to his known methods that he was able to get away with in college.
A revolving door at quarterback has not helped his cause, but Hill needs to find a mental comfort zone where he can forget about his past mistakes and simply try to be the best player he can be.
As maddening as Hill can be to watch, it is important to remember that he is still only 23 years old with just two years of experience. His roster spot is far from 100 percent secure, but he should get one more chance with the Jets if he can at least show maturity and constant improvement in his third season.
Talent was never the question with cornerback Ras-I Dowling. Instead, the former second-round pick from the 2011 draft has never managed to stay healthy for more than a couple of weeks at a time.
The Jets' willingness to clean up the New England Patriots' trash is starting to look like a huge payoff, as Dowling is showing the coaches the type of player he is capable of becoming if he can stay healthy. Brian Costello if the New York Post notes: "On Wednesday, Dowling was all over the field making plays. He showed strong coverage skills and good ball awareness."
If there was ever a year in which the Jets needed an unexpected star to emerge, it is this year. As of now, the Jets will be relying on second-year pro Dee Milliner and oft-injured slot specialist Dimitri Patterson to assume the starting roles on the outside.
The real test for Dowling will be his ability to stay healthy through training camp. If he continues to play this well and stay away from the trainer's table, Dowling could emerge as a key player for a beleaguered Jets secondary that will need as much help as it can get.
Dowling was not the only Patriots castoff to shine during the Jets' OTAs. Linebacker Jermaine Cunningham is proving his former team wrong as well, making his presence known this spring.
Brian Costello of the New York Post notes that Cunningham was getting a lot of reps with the second unit and looked the part:
Cunningham is only 25 and could help the Jets’ pass rush. On Wednesday, he worked with the second unit mostly, but you can see his speed and he looks the part. The Jets once got something out of Aaron Maybin for a brief time. It’s possible Rex Ryan could figure out how to do the same with Cunningham.
Cunningham may have had a disappointing run with the Patriots, but the fact they released him at such a young age (he is just 25 years old) was surprising. As Costello notes, Rex Ryan has a track record of getting some production out of castoff linebackers. Heck, he even found a part-time role for Vernon Gholston back in 2010.
Working against Cunningham is the amount of competition he will see at outside linebacker after the Jets added two draft picks, Ik Enemkpali and Trevor Reilly, to the position. The fact that he is already working with the second group gives him a head start headed into training camp, but the battle is far from over.
Perhaps the only thing harder than making an NFL roster as an undrafted free agent is doing it as a backup defensive lineman for the Jets.
Boasting one of the deepest, youngest and most talented defensive lines in football, the Jets won't be looking to do a whole lot of tweaking to what is the core unit of their team—but Texas Tech product Kerry Hyder is going to make it as difficult as possible to justify cutting him.
According toBrian Costello if the New York Post, Hyder was already running with the second team and fit in perfectly.
The 6-foot-2, 280-pounder was second-team All-Big 12 last year and he showed flashes why on Wednesday. He was very active and seemed to be around the ball a lot. It’s hard to judge linemen in non-contact OTAs, but Hyder looked as if he was holding his own.
He also saw a lot of time with the second team, which is impressive for an undrafted free agent in May.
Hyder is not the most physically imposing player at the defensive tackle position, but he is excellent with his hands—a rarity for most young defensive lineman. It will be difficult to find him a spot on the roster as a backup with Leger Douzable coming back, but he can at least secure a spot on the practice squad with this type of play.
Sometimes, all players need to excel is an opportunity to showcase their skills with the top competition. With Willie Colon sidelined for the spring (h/t Dan Hanzus of NFL.com), last year's fifth-round pick, Oday Aboushi, will get plenty of opportunities to show that he is capable of being a starter.
Listed as a backup tackle last season, a move to guard was already in the works for the former Virginia standout.
Marty Mornhinweg said moving Oday Aboushi from tackle to guard was planned before Willie Colon hurt his knee. http://t.co/8Tb4k0svvp— Darryl Slater (@DarrylSlater) May 29, 2014
Moving Aboushi to guard makes plenty of sense given his skill set. While he played tackle in college, his slow feet would be exposed in the NFL if he stayed on the outside. Making the transition to guard will give Aboushi a change to use his strength and power without getting exposed by his slower feet.
According to Slater, the Jets are "hoping" that Colon will be ready for camp and that Aboushi won't see a snap on offense this season. Either way, there is no doubting that Aboushi's presence will be much more valuable this season given the uncertainties surrounding the guard position this year.