Updating New York Jets Key Position Battles Early in Training Camp
The New York Jets kicked off training camp just a few days ago, but there's still plenty of news going around about the early performances of several players.
Yes, bold statements by Geno Smith and Dee Milliner have attracted the most headlines, but their exuberant comments are much less significant than what's happening on the field.
Just last week, I predicted the winners of the Jets' biggest positional battles heading into training camp. Did anything occur in the first few days of camp that would make me change my mind on certain competitions?
Let's take a look at how some of the players at New York's most unsettled positions fared over the first week in Cortland.
No. 3 Quarterback
Rookie Tajh Boyd and veteran Matt Simms are competing for the third and final quarterback spot on the roster, behind Geno Smith and Michael Vick.
While Boyd is the favorite to win the job, the sixth-round pick hasn't come out guns blazing in training camp.
According to Darryl Slater of The Star-Ledger, Boyd looked "sloppy" in several drills last weekend. The Clemson product got several play calls wrong, and he was picked off by safety Josh Bush on a bad throw.
Slater did compliment Boyd's upbeat and personable attitude after the rough practice, though. Boyd certainly has the mindset and the confidence to make it to the NFL, but he needs to get a better grasp of the playbook and the pace of the professional game.
As for Simms, he's mainly just sliding around without making a major impression. But as Boyd continues to struggle, Simms gets closer to winning the spot.
Rich Cimini of ESPN New York even went as far as to put Simms ahead of Boyd on his final projected depth chart just days after predicting Boyd would claim the job.
This is an interesting battle to watch, and it really all depends on how well Boyd can pick up the NFL game over the coming weeks.
No. 2 Cornerback
The No. 2 cornerback battle will be one of the most engrossing and significant competitions in recent memory, as it plays a major role on how the Jets defense will look in 2014.
Veteran free-agent signing Dimitri Patterson has long been considered the favorite to win the job and, by all accounts, he's backing up that belief in the first few days of training camp.
According to Darryl Slater of The Star-Ledger, New York's coaching staff has been surprised and impressed by Patterson's ease at learning the defensive scheme.
Patterson has not only been impressive in both man and press coverage sets, but he's also emerging as a leader of the young secondary.
As for Patterson's competition, Dexter McDougle and Darrin Walls, they are competing for more reps in the second- and third-team units.
McDougle had a good start to training camp, registering a pick on the last play of the first practice. Walls, on the other hand, hasn't really done anything to stand out just yet.
Even if McDougle and Walls manage to put together great training camps, they're unlikely to even come close to winning the job as long as Patterson continues to shine.
No. 2 Wide Receiver
However, the No. 2 job is still very cloudy, as third-year man Stephen Hill, veterans David Nelson and Jacoby Ford and rookies Jalen Saunders and Shaq Evans are all competing for the job.
Hill has frequented as the favorite to win the job, as his physical ability is unmatched by the rest of the competition. However, the Georgia Tech product has been yet to translate his immense natural talent into production at the NFL level.
Hill's off to an up-and-down training camp. According to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, the 23-year-old was one of four receivers who were scolded by offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg for dropping easy passes on Saturday.
However, Hill's also had his moments. He responded to a group of heckling fans with a nice catch, according to Jane McManus of ESPN New York.
Hill needs to show more of the latter if he's going to claim the No. 2 job.
Nelson and Evans were among the aforementioned receivers who had a case of the dropsies. Ford's also had some questionable hands thus far.
None of the receivers has really lit up training camp over the first few days, which isn't a good sign if you're a Jets fan.
Hill's still in the driver's seat to win the spot, but both the coaching staff and fanbase would have more confidence in him if he put together a consistent camp.
No. 1 Tight End
Jace Amaro is coming off one of the best tight end seasons in college football history, but he's not quite ready to make a major impact for Gang Green.
Amaro needs to adjust to the NFL game, while improving his run blocking and route running significantly in the process.
Well, the Texas Tech product isn't off to a great start in training camp, as he hurt his knee during practice over the weekend, per Rich Cimini of ESPN New York.
Thankfully, Amaro isn't expected to miss any practice time. Nonetheless, it's something to watch down the line.
Amaro's main competition for the No. 1 job, Jeff Cumberland, missed the first few days of training camp following a death in the family. However, Cumberland returned to practice last Friday without a hitch, according to Darryl Slater of The Star-Ledger.
Cumberland's ability in run blocking is currently the difference between the pair of tight ends, but it'll be interesting to see how the competition heats up as Amaro continues to adapt to the offensive system.
Backup Free Safety
The Jets haven't had the start at safety that they were wishing for, as rookie Calvin Pryor suffered a concussion over the weekend.
The injury is a blow to New York's secondary, but it allows some of the backups to showcase their ability in major reps.
Josh Bush, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Rontez Miles have been competing for the backup free safety position throughout the offseason, and each player has been good so far in training camp.
Bush has made the most big plays of the trio thus far. He had a nice interception in seven-on-seven drills and laid out Jacoby Ford on a pass across the middle over the weekend, per Slater.
However, Jarrett has seen time with the second-team unit, and he had a nice interception on Michael Vick last Thursday. J.P. Pelzman of NorthJersey.com called it the "Play of the Day."
Miles has also been solid in his reps. The former undrafted free agent recorded a sack on Saturday, and he impressed Rex Ryan so much that he will earn additional playing time on special teams, per Rich Cimini of ESPN New York.
With each player performing well, it's difficult to predict a winner as of now. Jarrett still has to be considered the favorite, though, as he is the most well-refined of the trio.
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