New York Jets Training Camp: Week 2 Stock Report
With the first preseason game just a few days away, the depth and quality of the New York Jets' 2014 roster is starting to come into focus. Now that the first official depth chart has been released, via the team's official website, coaches can no longer hide behind cliches to cloak their true feelings about their players.
While some young players have impressed, the Jets' draft class has been a disappointment after the first week. None of the draftees have stood out, but veterans on the verge of losing their jobs have stepped up in their place.
Here is the Week 2 stock report for Jets training camp.
Stock Up: Greg Salas
Most of the Jets receiving corps has been underwhelming, but journeyman Greg Salas has been among the few to have flashed some playmaking ability.
A member of an otherwise-anemic offense during last Saturday's scrimmage, Salas led the team with five catches and 54 yards. Despite his one drop, his performance turned heads of everyone in attendance, including head coach Rex Ryan, per Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press:
All Salas does is catch the football—except that one drop...It's funny, but that's what he does. He's not a blazer by any means, but he certainly gets the football. He gets open and he competes as a blocker, so those are all encouraging things.
The unfortunate reality for Salas is that he faces long odds to make the roster no matter how well he plays. Unfair or not, the Jets are going to look for every excuse to retain their three drafted rookies, leaving little room for Salas (or anyone else) to fit onto the roster.
Still, there is no doubt that Salas' odds of making the team have improved dramatically over the last week and could force the Jets to keep an extra receiver on the roster.
Stock Down: Dee Milliner
After drawing unwanted attention with his brash statements regarding his place in the cornerback hierarchy to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, Dee Milliner has yet to show that he has the ability to back up his bold statements.
Former special teams coach Mike Westhoff, with no reason to hold back his true thoughts on the Jets' prized prospect, was hardly impressed with Milliner through the first week of camp:
Ex-Jets special teams coach Westhoff on Milliner: "I'm not sure he’s the best CB up here in Cortland. And I might include the University."— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) July 31, 2014
Westhoff is not the only person to notice Milliner's lack of productivity. Rich Cimini of ESPN noted that none of the cornerbacks have stood out so far, including Milliner.
Outside of Geno Smith, the Jets are as reliant on Milliner to make big strides in his sophomore season as anyone else on the roster. Simply improving upon a disappointing rookie campaign will not be enough; Milliner needs to become a star within the next few weeks.
Milliner has time to turn his game around in time for the season, but he has a long way to go if he is struggling to deal with the likes of Clyde Gates.
Stock Up: Rontez Miles
While the cornerbacks have had an underwhelming camp, the Jets are getting quality production and development out of their suddenly deep safety group, highlighted by none other than Rontez Miles.
After sticking around the facility on the practice squad last year, Miles has exploded onto the scene in his second training camp with the Jets. According to Rich Cimini of ESPN, Miles "blew up" the scrimmage on Saturday, making him a sudden favorite to steal one of the precious few safety spots.
If Miles does wind up missing the cut, it will be for no other reason than a numbers game. The immense depth at other positions on offense will force the Jets to cut from the defensive side, starting at safety. Beating out Jaiquawn Jarrett for the fourth and final spot will be nearly impossible, especially considering that Ryan has pointed out how well Jarrett has played.
Even if the Jets do part ways with Miles after training camp, continuing to put on a show in preseason games should set him up to get picked up by another team.
Stock Down: Jace Amaro
The Jets latest draft class has had a disappointing start as a whole, but Amaro has had the most difficult offseason among all of them by far.
Amaro's spring struggles have carried over into camp, as Rich Cimini of ESPN notes that he has "struggled with the offense." He has also apparently had his share of untimely drops as well. He told Cimini that his struggles are more due to the transition in terminology than anything else:
Most of Amaro's growing pains are rooted in the X's and O's. At Texas Tech, he played in a relatively basic passing attack that used a numbering system, deployed almost exclusively as a flexed-out tight end. With the Jets, it's a sophisticated offense in which he's often required to be an in-line tight end. The systems, he said, are as different as Chinese and English.
Compounding Amaro's struggles is a case of knee tendinitis, which cost him precious reps in training camp.
Amaro still has time to recover fully in time for the season and eventually pick up the new terminology and concepts, but for now, the goal for Amaro is to prevent his head from spinning in his new environment.
Stock Up: Geno Smith
So far, Geno Smith's on-field performance in his second training camp has been largely forgettable—but he has still been able to do enough to get the starting nod for this week's preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts.
To nobody's surprise, Rex Ryan officially announced that Geno Smith will be Jets starting QB vs Colts in preseason opener on Thursday. #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) August 4, 2014
This comes as no surprise, as it is no secret that the Jets want their young, ascending quarterback to start out of the gate. Smith has been getting majority of the first-team reps all camp long and has done nothing to lose a job that was handed to him.
Smith's stock may be up because he is officially the starter (for the time being), but his work has yet to begin. His performance in preseason games (as well as Michael Vick's) may not change the Jets' mind in terms of who starts on opening day, but it could stir up a quarterback controversy.
Now, the task for Smith is to play well enough in the preseason to put any suggestions that Vick should start to rest.
Stock Down: Shaq Evans
As the Jets receivers have underwhelmed so far in camp, no one exemplifies that more than fourth-round rookie Shaq Evans.
According to Seth Walder of the New York Daily News, Evans has been the worst rookie receiver in camp, dealing with both injury and performance issues.
All the rookie wide receivers have struggled, but none more than Evans. When he’s been healthy, Evans has had issues with drops and has rarely made plays. Now, after dealing with a shoulder injury, Evans isn’t even able to get on the field. He also missed Saturday’s scrimmage.
Because he was a fourth-round pick, Shaq Evans will be given the benefit of the doubt over some of the other young receivers when trying to find a spot on the roster. However, with so much competition for so few spots, the Jets may not have the luxury of hanging on to a player simply because he was drafted.
With a wide-open receiver spot in the starting lineup opposite Eric Decker, Evans had a chance to make an immediate impact as a rookie. Now, expectations have lessened to Evans showing enough promise to justify saving a spot on the roster for him.
Stock Up: Oday Aboushi
One of the few John Idzik draft picks that has turned heads in camp is second-year offensive lineman Oday Aboushi. Since making the anticipated transition from offensive tackle to guard, Aboushi has transformed himself from being a inactive-list regular into a potential starter.
According to Rich Cimini of ESPN, Aboushi has impressed with his second-level blocking and ability in space. Aboushi was too slow to survive outside at tackle, but on the inside where space is at a premium, any kind of athletic ability is magnified.
It will still be difficult for the former firth-round pick to usurp third-round pick Brian Winters or veteran Willie Colon for one of the starting jobs, but the idea is much more of a possibility than most envisioned it being.
If nothing else, Aboushi is setting himself nicely to take over for Colon after this season or even replace Winters if he continues to struggle as a sophomore.
Stock Down: Dexter McDougle
Continuing on the theme of disappointing starts for the rookies, third-round cornerback Dexter McDougle has cooled off since his red-hot start to the spring practices.
Seth Walder of the New York Daily News notes just how much the OTA star has fallen off since putting on the pads for training camp, only being mentioned by his coach in the injury report:
The only reason Ryan mentions McDougle is because of his groin injury, which kept him out of Saturday’s scrimmage. It’s been a rough camp for McDougle, who has drawn a comment from defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, who rarely criticizes his players.
“Well, he is not playing as well as he can play, but the expectation is that he will continue to work to get better,” Thurman said.
It is very likely that McDougle's groin injury is to blame for his sudden struggles, but injuries have plagued him going back to his days at the University of Maryland—a shoulder injury sidelined him for the bulk of the 2013 season.
The key for McDougle going forward is to maintain a level of good health. When McDougle is off the injury report, he will get back to drawing praise from his coaches.
Stock Up: Stephen Hill
No player has been more of a beneficiary of the struggling rookie class than third-year receiver Stephen Hill. On the verge of losing his job after disappointing in his first two seasons, Hill is playing just well enough to stay above water and retain his spot near the top of the depth chart—at least for now.
Currently listed as the No. 3 receiver (behind Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley), Hill has shown just enough improvement to maintain a slight edge over David Nelson, who passed him on the depth chart by midseason last year.
Hill generated one of the few big plays during Saturday's scrimmage according to Cimini, reminding the Jets of why the previous regime moved up to draft him in the second round.
The work has just begun for Hill, who still has three weeks to hold off the young rookies before they start to get the hang of the NFL game. As long as he can continue to progress and produce in the preseason games, Hill should be able to stick around for one more year.
Stock Down: Cortland, New York
Perhaps the biggest "loser" of the week is none other than the site of Jets camp since 2009—Cortland, New York.
ESPN's Rich Cimini reports that the Jets have taken SUNY-Farmingdale under serious consideration as a future training camp host. In fact, the Jets are serious enough in their considerations that they have already checked out the digs on Long Island.
As Cimini notes, this is a decision that has both football and business implications. After spending decades at Hofstra University for camp, the Jets have a rooted fanbase in Long Island that they would be able to reconnect with.
At the same time, Cortland offers a better way to isolate the team from distractions and build a strong chemistry. The only time the Jets did not stay in Cortland for training camp in Rex Ryan's tenure—after the lockout in 2011—they dealt with major locker room dysfunction during the season.
The people of Cortland have welcomed the Jets with open arms every year, but the NFL is about bottom lines, not feel-good stories. If a move to Long Island generates more buzz and subsequent ticket sales, that may very well be the direction they go.