6 Players Who Might Find Themselves on New York Jets Practice Squad in 2014
Not everyone is going to make the 53-man roster—in fact, the vast majority of "bubble" players have almost no chance to be on the final depth chart.
However, that does not mean these players have nothing to gain from an offseason's worth of practices. Many of the Jets' 12 drafted rookies and undrafted free agents will be competing for the eight spots on the practice squad.
Practice squad players make significantly less money (although they are still handsomely compensated) and are not given the prestige of attending games. However, such players can develop in an NFL environment in hopes that they will get an opportunity at some point down the line—whether it be with the Jets or another NFL team looking for added depth where the Jets have a surplus of talent.
It is important to remember that the practice squad is reserved for youngsters. Specifically, only players with less than one year of accrued experience in the NFL (or being on an active roster for six games) are eligible for the practice squad.
Here are some of the most likely candidates to land on the Jets practice squad in 2014.
If Kerry Hyder finds a spot on the practice squad, it won't be because of his shortcomings as a player. According to Rich Cimini of ESPN, Hyder has been one of the few standouts at minicamp, snagging an interception and recording a sack in practice.
He has also been getting work with the second team, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post, and looking the part.
He is simply unlucky in that he is a member of one of the deepest, youngest and most talented defensive lines in the NFL. Between players like Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison and Kenrick Ellis, the defensive line is the last place the Jets will be looking to store excess talent.
Assuming Hyder can carry his impressive spring performances over into the preseason, he should get some interest from other teams that have greater needs along the defensive line. At the worst, he should be a high priority to keep on the practice squad.
One of three drafted receivers in a receiving corps that added two more pass-catchers in free agency, sixth-round pick Quincy Enunwa is going to have a hard time sculpting out a role that deems him valuable enough to retain a spot on the 53-man roster.
Even if he finds himself on the outside looking in after final cuts, the Jets used a draft pick on him for a reason. His 6'2", 225-pound frame gives him a ton of upside as a red-zone specialist who is certainly worth developing.
Keeping him on the practice squad would allow the Jets to continue to develop their draft pick without having to give up a precious roster spot to do so.
The Jets need a lot of help at the receiver position, but they are going to have a hard enough time keeping their veterans on the roster, never mind a late-round rookie. If Enunwa is going to stick around on the roster, he needs to have a stellar training camp and prove his worth on special teams.
The formula for Tajh Boyd winding up on the practice squad is simple, as it depends directly on whether he wins or loses his battle with Matt Simms for what is presumably going to be the third and final quarterback job.
It is far too early to decide on a winner of this competition, but winning the job will be far from an easy task for Boyd based on his rather slow start in rookie minicamp:
Boyd struggling with mechanics a bit, an elongated release. Accuracy issues. Still early in the day, may settle in. #nyjets— Kristian Dyer (@KristianRDyer) May 16, 2014
Should he lose out on the job to Simms, he still offers a lot of value to the Jets with his upside alone. It was not long ago that Boyd was considered by some to be a first-round pick following his junior season because of his arm strength and mobility.
The fact that he was a teammate of Rex Ryan's son at Clemson does not hurt his job security either.
With so many other rookies to squeeze on to the roster, keeping four quarterbacks around is an inefficient use of resources. Stashing Boyd on the practice squad to develop and compete for the No. 3 job again next season makes much more sense, should he lose to Simms.
One of the more underrated battles of training camp is at the backup linebacker position between two late-round draft picks—IK Enemkpali and Trevor Reilly.
Selected a whole round ahead of Reilly (sixth), Enemkpali has a bit more natural pass-rushing talent than the Utah standout. However, because of Reilly's age (26), maturity and versatility, he makes more sense for the Jets in the short term for special teams purposes.
If the competition comes to a draw by the end of training camp, it would make more sense to stash Enemkpali on the practice squad to develop his game while using Reilly as a more dependable and versatile special teams ace.
One of the fastest players at the NFL combine (4.41 40-yard dash), Brandon Dixon offers a ton of upside at a position where the Jets need plenty of help.
However, making the transition from playing cornerback at Northwest Missouri State to the NFL includes an incredibly steep learning curve that will take Dixon some time to adjust to.
Based on his performance so far in rookie minicamp, Dixon still has a long way to go before he gets used to the increased speed of the NFL.
Vick another nice deep ball ... but dropped by Hakim. Rookie Brandon Dixon beat badly in coverage. #nyj— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) May 28, 2014
The only realistic way he is going to make the roster is through the special teams route, where his speed and athleticism will come into play. However, with veteran players like Ellis Lankster and Darrin Walls expected to make the roster, finding room on a crowded depth chart for Dixon will not be easy.
The practice squad is not just reserved for leftover rookies. After being inactive for every game of the 2013 season, last year's sixth-round pick William Campbell could find himself demoted—but still employed—for 2014.
Campbell was a complete nonfactor last year, but he has a legitimate excuse: He was making a dramatic position change after playing defensive tackle throughout his career at Michigan.
If he makes the transition from defensive tackle to guard, it would not be unprecedented. The Jets can point to the recently retired Brandon Moore as a successful case study of an ordinary defensive tackle becoming an outstanding interior offensive lineman.
Still, time is a luxury that Campbell cannot afford. The Jets using a fourth-round pick on offensive lineman Dakota Dozier signals that their confidence in Campbell is not particularly high.
The odds of him earning a meaningful role on the roster this year appear small, but he does deserve at least one more season to develop on the practice squad before the team cuts ties with him completely.