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New York Jets Minicamp Observations: They Could Be Nothing—or Everything

Angel Navedo@NamedAngelSenior Writer IJune 12, 2009

The New York Jets have wrapped up their mandatory minicamps, triggering the period for preliminary roster evaluations prior to training camp on July 31.

Needless to say, three days of practice in June should be considered too premature for any declarations on anyone's future. But there are areas that require prompt attention before the regular season kicks off in Houston.

The defense appears to be making all the strides advertised, while the offense is en route to validating every issue that's been discussed at length throughout the offseason.

While the Jets are expected to be a run-heavy team, the concerns with the passing game cannot be ignored.

Wide Receivers

It was fun to entertain the notion of playing through 2009 with the current crop of wide receivers, but reality may have different plans.

It's difficult to assess if the issues were caused by a phenomenal defense, or if every receiver is really struggling to make a play. Outside of Jerricho Cotchery, no other receiver managed to find open space on a consistent basis.

Lining up as the No. 2 receiver, Chansi Stuckey was not gaining separation at the line of scrimmage. After the snap, Stuckey would disappear as the play took shape.

Realistically, it could be because Rex Ryan's defense is overactive and physical. And then again, Stuckey's ability to make a clean break off the line of scrimmage was a concern coming out of college.

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It appeared as if Stuckey wasn't on Kellen Clemens' radar as he progressed through his reads.

Typically, Clemens looked to Cotchery first. His next read was to tight end Dustin Keller, with a running back in the flats as the third option.

On Wednesday, rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez made one of the better throws when he found special-teams ace Wallace Wright for a touchdown.

Rex Ryan had good things to say about Wright during the final minicamp press conference, saying, "We all know Wallace as a great special-teams player, but he’s made some strides as a receiver. That’s encouraging."

Finally, the only potential dark horse in the unit is Huey Whittaker, formerly of the Arena Football League. At 6'5", he could be the big target the Jets have coveted for years.

There is still room for improvement as he needs to become more reliable if he hopes to make the team.

But he proved his worth in red zone drills, making a tough grab when everyone knew a fade route to the corner of the end zone was coming.

Quarterbacks

"Right now, you can tell it's really going to be a dogfight," said Ryan about the competition between fourth-year veteran Clemens and the team's first-round draft pick, Sanchez.

However, nothing has changed. This competition will be decided when Sanchez shows he looks good enough.

With this being Clemens' fourth time going through minicamps and working in the offense, he has no business being in "a dogfight" with a rookie. Since being drafted, Clemens has been through competitions for the starting job and hasn't inspired confidence.

He may be playing slightly better and with a little more efficiency, but Clemens is not looking like the experienced veteran that should have no trouble dispatching of a rookie.

Clemens is still indecisive in the pocket, patting his feet, and holding onto the ball longer than he should.

For Clemens to have a chance at the job, he has to be more than efficient. He has to be phenomenal enough to make the Jets question ever drafting Sanchez.  

Despite Clemens keeping it close, Sanchez is struggling to close the gap as he continues going through his rookie woes.

Most importantly, Sanchez has to make better reads against the defense. Perhaps he's taking chances because it's only minicamp. Or maybe he's telegraphing his throws and making it easier for defensive backs to pick him off.

Whatever the reason, the Jets have to feel confident that he won't be a liability before handing him the keys to the organization.

However, he does have a stronger arm than Clemens.

When the two quarterbacks ran their simultaneous throwing drills, the receivers Sanchez hit were already turning to run after the catch when Clemens' throws arrived to his targets.

Sanchez isn't afraid to run out of the pocket either. It's difficult to tell how his running would work in a game situation, but he's mobile enough to make a defense hesitate when he starts moving.

As for the third string quarterbacks, it's going to be tight between Harvard's Chris Pizzotti and Erik Ainge. But don't be surprised if Pizzotti is kept over Ainge—he looks more confident and throws with more power and precision.

Specific Players and Their Performances

Vernon Gholston spent most of his time as a defensive end with with the first unit—a spot that should allow him to return to his collegiate comfort level—but he still needs work.

Gholston is very quick off the snap, but it's his next move where he hesitates. He's not stringing combinations together, allowing himself to get tangled up with blockers as the play develops.

With all of his strength, he should show more natural ability at shedding blocks to make plays.

Lining up with the second unit was Marques Murrell, who was much quicker after the snap and more confident in his reads at the line of scrimmage. Murrell disrupted Sanchez' timing on a few occasions.

Kareem Brown, the defensive end turned tight end, looked very athletic in his new role. Initially, the decision to move him to offense was met with hesitation as it was clearly done out of desperation. But he does look to be adjusting well. Training camp will be critical for him.

Third-round draft pick Shonn Greene showed significant improvement as a receiver out of the backfield after being criticized during rookie minicamps. He had a great burst after the catch and looks like he's going to be a load to bring down when he does see the field.

With the wide receiver situation looking so bleak, many Jets fans have high hopes for Dustin Keller as the No. 2 receiving option, and rightfully so. He impressed as a rookie and should only improve in his second season.

But there is a reliability concern.

Keller had some significant drops in 2008 and disappeared in a few games. The disappearing act could be credited to a faulty game plan, or perhaps his inexperience as a rookie.

However, Keller must become a sure-handed target for the quarterback if the Jets are going to have any aerial success without a top-flight wide receiver.

Otherwise, it was only minicamp. so it's probably not worth reading too deeply into any of the observations.

Realistically, the Jets could look completely different by July 31.

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