New York Jets' 5 Players Facing Make-or-Break Training Camps
The New York Jets are less than two weeks away from training camp in Cortland, New York, which means the annual in-house positional battles are about to take flight. General manager John Idzik preaches competition—a mantra the Jets will continue to use in order to build the most formidable 53-man roster possible.
As the countdown to kickoff officially gets underway, some players on the Jets' active roster face relative uncertainty at their respective positions. This summer represents an opportunity for former highly-touted draft picks to showcase their abilities and prove to coaches they are worthy of claiming a high-ranking position on the depth chart.
The most glaring under-achievers the Jets boast on their current roster are wide receiver Stephen Hill and nose tackle Kenrick Ellis. A pair of under-the-radar offseason free-agent signings are also on the bubble, whereas converted down lineman Quinton Coples will attempt to prove himself capable of permanently manning an outside linebacking role.
The following slideshow examines five Jets players who are facing make-or-break training camps:
Jacoby Ford (WR)
The Jets took a flier on speedy wideout Jacoby Ford over the offseason, although his chances of making the final 53-man roster are slim. New York has invited 12 receivers to camp, nine of whom have a realistic chance of earning a spot on the depth chart.
Ford has been injury-stricken throughout his four-year career, missing the entire 2012 campaign with a Lisfranc fracture—an injury Jets fans are familiar with. Ford has primarily served as a kick returner in 38 career games, averaging 25.0 yards per return with four touchdowns.
Ford's speed is an undeniable asset, but his subpar receiving ability coupled with proneness to injury make his value average at best. The undersized wideout will likely have to overtake rookie receivers Jalen Saunders or Shaq Evans in order to claim a roster spot.
It's paramount for Ford to immediately impress the Jets coaching staff if he's going to accomplish that feat.
Ford has started just 13 games at wideout during his career, recording 57 receptions for 848 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 14.9 yards per catch. He'll compete for the No. 5 or No. 6 slot on the Jets' receiver depth chart in camp.
Daryl Richardson (RB)
Former St. Louis Rams running back Daryl Richardson faces a challenge similar to that of Ford. The 24-year-old back exploded onto the scene as a rookie in 2012, averaging a solid 4.8 yards per carry on 98 rushing attempts in 16 games.
Richardson recorded 638 total yards from scrimmage in his rookie season, but he also fumbled three times. He formed a mostly effective tandem with then lead back Steven Jackson, but he struggled mightily in 2013 upon his predecessor's departure.
The Abilene Christian product averaged a meager 3.1 yards per carry on 69 rushing attempts in seven games last season. He has never scored a touchdown in 23 career games.
The Jets will, in all likelihood, carry four running backs on their 53-man roster this season, which means Richardson will have the chance to compete with former Green Bay Packers lead back Alex Green for the final slot on the depth chart.
The former seventh-round pick is at a crossroads. A disappointing showing in camp will make it difficult for Richardson to make an NFL roster at any juncture this season.
3. Kenrick Ellis (NT)
The Jets had big hopes for Kenrick Ellis after drafting him in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft, but the 346-pound nose tackle has failed to impress coaches to the point of earning a starting role.
After the departure of veteran NT Sione Pouha at the conclusion of the 2012 season, Ellis was presumed to be the favorite to earn a starting job up front for the Jets before last season's training camp. The Hampton product was out-played by Damon "Big Snacks" Harrison in camp and throughout the preseason, though.
Ellis played in all 16 games in 2013, but started just one game.
At 26 years old, Ellis still boasts reasonable upside, assuming he can nail down his technique as a run-stopper in the middle of the field. Ellis has the size and strength to handle his position, but he isn't as talented as some might have assumed he would be.
As his former NFL.com draft profile notes, teams were forced to pursue extensive research in regard to Ellis' dismissal from South Carolina before the 2011 draft. Ellis previously faced felony charges for an on-campus altercation, an incident of which carried a maximum penalty of 20 years, according to FOXSports.com.
If Ellis continues to flash signs of slow development, it will call to question whether the fourth-year pro is truly deserving of a roster spot.
Ellis will face competition from second-year player T.J. Barnes, a 369-pound defensive tackle, in camp.
2. Quinton Coples (OLB)
Former first-round pick Quinton Coples won't face the pressure of potentially being cut this summer, but his ability to showcase capabilities as an effective edge rusher from the stance is a must.
If Coples in unable to prove himself capable of operating as an OLB in head coach Rex Ryan's 3-4 base defense, the Jets could be forced to pursue a possible replacement next season.
Coples' development as a stand-up edge rusher was cut short in 2013 due to a nasty ankle injury suffered in the preseason. The third-year player was able to start 13 games, recording 24 tackles with 4.5 sacks, three passes defensed and one forced fumble.
This season has the potential to be a breakout campaign for Coples, who recorded 5.5 sacks in just two starts as a down lineman in his rookie season.
Coples boasts versatility as a pass rusher who can both lineup in the point and from the stance, adding a certain type of dynamism to Ryan's defense that enables creative blitz schemes. His value is insurmountable, but he has yet to come close to his ceiling.
If Coples is able to come into his own in 2014, the Jets defense has the potential to be the best in the league.
1. Stephen Hill (WR)
Stephen Hill is on the verge of being labeled a hands-down draft bust. The former second-round pick was selected two picks ahead of Chicago Bears electric playmaking receiver Alshon Jeffery in the 2012 draft, a mistake the Jets couldn't have foreseen but are paying the price for nonetheless.
Hill flaunts outstanding vertical speed, but is a subpar route-runner who often has a difficult time finding open space to make plays downfield. That absolutely must change if Hill is going to prove himself worthy of reclaiming a role of importance on the Jets reinvigorated offense this season.
Hill's numbers have been lackluster through two NFL seasons. He's combined to record 45 catches for 594 yards with just four touchdowns, averaging 13.2 yards per reception in 23 career games.
The 23-year-old is drop-prone to the point of spurring memories of Rashid Hanon from the '90s feature film "Little Giants."
This is a make-or-break season for Hill in the biggest way. If he's unable to prove himself as a viable playmaker in Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense, he could potentially force himself onto the bubble.
This season could realistically be Hill's final campaign in a Jets uniform.
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