Photo Credit: Noah K. Murray- USA Today
The New York Jets enter training camp with many questions about what players will end up starting in their select positions. The Jets brought in many players who will battle for the starting role such as quarterback Mike Vick or running back Chris Johnson.
The five major battles entering training camp are:
Quarterback: Geno Smith versus Mike Vick: Geno Smith entered last year as the starter, but as the year went on, he began to struggle. He could not hold on to the football, fumbling seven times. He also threw 21 interceptions as opposed to his 12 touchdown passes (and six rushing touchdowns). Granted, Smith had the weakest – and frequently injured – receiving core in the NFL, which factors into how he struggled to get in the red zone as well as forcing passes that ended up with a turnover. However, it seems as though the Jets were not happy with Smith’s performance, as they signed veteran Mike Vick. Vick is a health risk, as he played in just five games before getting hurt; he later lost the starting job to Nick Foles, finishing the year with just seven games played (and only six games where he had at least one pass attempted). This battle has attracted the most attention, as it remains unknown which quarterback will strap-up and start week one. Though Vick expects to be the back-up heading into week one, head coach Rex Ryan says the question will remained unanswered and will decide after the battle “plays out.”
Prediction: Geno Smith will outplay Mike Vick and become the week one starter
Running Back: Chris Ivory versus Chris Johnson: Chris Ivory has always been a solid running back, but after being traded to the New York Jets last offseason, his true potential was shown when he stole the starting job from Bilal Powell. In 15 games, Ivory rushed for 833 yards, or 4.6 yards per carry. He was a ‘bruiser halfback’ running through defenders and gaining extra yards often. He only managed to score three rushing touchdowns, but he finally proved to the critics that he could become a reliable running back in the NFL. With Ivory’s breakout year, the Jets still brought in Chris Johnson, signing a two-year, $8 million dollar deal in the offseason. Johnson had a breakout year in 2009, but began to slowly decline over the next few years. He did manage to accumulate over 1,000 yards each year, but his touchdowns declined from 14 in 2009 to 6 in 2013. He is dominant because of his speed, swiftly operating through defenders. He was also a solid passing threat, scoring four touchdowns and 345 receiving yards last year.
Prediction: Chris Johnson will be the starting running back but Chris Ivory will be the goal line back and possibly a third down back
Wide Receiver: David Nelson versus Stephen Hill versus Jalen Saunders vs Shaq Evans: Although this battle is not for the number one receiver (Eric Decker has that locked up), David Nelson and Stephen Hill will battle for the second wide receiver position – assuming Jeremy Kerley lines up in the slot, his usual position. Nelson was an average wide receiver on Buffalo before he signed with the New York Jets in the middle of the year. He played in 12 games, accumulating 423 yards on 36 receptions (an average of 11.8 yards per catch). He became a reliable receiver for Smith while Hill has struggled in his two years as a Jet. Hill was selected in the second round, but in 23 games, he has just 594 receiving yards. He has been a let down for the Jets, dropping passes and not converting in the red zone. Also in the mix are two rookies – Shaq Evans and Jalen Saunders – who have turned heads in training camp thus far. Saunders, the former Oklahoma Sooner, accumulated over 700 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2013. He is more of a slot receiver unlike Hill and Nelson, but Rex Ryan may decide to play him at the wide receiver two slot because of how well he has played so far. Evans finished with one more touchdown and a little less yards than Saunders at UCLA. Although he has been solid, it will be too hard to become the starter for the upcoming season.
Prediction: David Nelson wins the second wide receiver position while Stephen Hill and Shaq Evans fight for the third spot. Saunders will periodically be on the field but will not have a definite starting job entering week one.
Tight End: Jeff Cumberland versus Jace Amaro: Jeff Cumberland has been a solid tight end for the New York Jets in the last two years, but with a new rookie tight end in Jace Amaro, he may not be the starter in 2014. Though Cumberland split time with Kellen Winslow Jr. last year, he was the more reliable option for Smith. He was just two yards shy of 400 yards last year, but he did score a career high four touchdowns. Amaro on the other hand, broke out in 2013 for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He amassed 1,352 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Though Texas Tech’s offensive scheme is different than the Jets – which has setback Amaro – he has a ton of potential and is set for a breakout.
Prediction: The two tight ends will share some time like Winslow and Cumberland did in 2013, but Amaro will become the primary target at the tight end position
Safety: Dawan Landry versus Antonio Allen: With the Jets selecting safety Calvin Pryor in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen are now left to battle for the second safety position. Landry was brought over from the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013 and was consistent yet again, posting 100 combined tackles – 62 total and 38 assists – as well as one interception and one sack. Allen is the younger safety who accumulated 63 combined tackles – 42 total and 21 assists – with one interception and one sack, like Landry. Allen has been lining alongside Pryor often, but Rex Ryan shrugged off questions, saying Landry knows the system and doesn’t need as much practice as Allen. There are also reports that the Jets may be using different defensive packages which would allow them to play Landry, Allen, and Pryor all at the same time. If this does happen, Landry and Allen will only battle for when the Jets use a defensive package where two safeties will line up on the field.
Prediction: When there is are two safeties in the defensive package, Dawan Landry will win the starting job and will line up with Calvin Pryor to start the year