New York Jets OTAs: Latest Player Reports and Analysis
With the heavy lifting of the offseason in the rearview mirror, the New York Jets can now see the team they have assembled in action for the first time with the start of organized team activities.
The productivity of OTAs from an on-field perspective is up for debate, but they do allow players and coaches to interact with the media for the first time in months, giving us a glimpse into new injuries, roster competitions and how the team will look headed into training camp this August.
Here are the latest reports out of Florham Park as OTAs get underway.
Chris Johnson Sidelined
It appears as if the Jets will have to wait a while longer to see their new one-two punch at running back in action. Chris Johnson revealed last week that he will sit out of OTAs while he continues to rehab his knee:
Obviously, the Jets have no reason to push their new running back through an injury at this stage of the offseason. He has begun straight-line running, but he is still too far away in his rehab to start making cuts and running as hard as necessary on the practice field.
The only slight concern the Jets may have is his availability for training camp. Signs point to him being ready for August, but the key is not to suffer any setbacks in his injury between now and then.
For now, Johnson just needs to focus on his rehab while becoming as accustomed to his new playbook as possible to ensure that he does not miss a beat in training camp.
Mixed Messages Within the Quarterback Competition
It was all but assumed that the Jets would bring in Michael Vick to directly compete with Geno Smith for the starting job, but recent comments by Vick himself suggest that the competition is over before it had a chance to get interesting.
Vick has admitted that he desires to start, but he has all but conceded the fact that the Jets intend to go forward with Smith as their starter:
Michael Vick: "Even though it’s not an open competition, we’re both competing every day." #nyj— Brian Costello (@BrianCoz) May 22, 2014
Even more surprisingly, Vick appears to be resigned to the fact that he will likely spend this season holding a clipboard:
Under general manager John Idzik, the Jets have adopted a mantra of constant competition at every position. If the Jets have predetermined the "competition" at the most important position on the team, it would go against everything they have preached over the past year.
Starting the 23-year-old Smith would be the "easier" decision, especially given his age and potential compared to Vick's. However, if it means the difference between making the playoffs and watching from home for the fourth consecutive year, the Jets need to keep Vick in the mix for the starting job.
Dimitri Patterson Getting the Early Nod
Speaking of forgoing open competition, the Jets already appear to have their new starter in mind opposite Dee Milliner, free-agent acquisition Dimitri Patterson.
The journeyman Patterson was brought on later in the free-agency period to start opposite Milliner. Patterson has played well in recent seasons, but there are two major risks that come with Patterson—he struggles to stay healthy and is better suited for the slot position, not on the perimeter where he will be forced to play.
While Patterson was the favorite to be the starter, the Jets have once again turned their back on their mantra of competition:
Rex, on WFAN, on Dimitri Patterson: "We expect him to be a starter." #nyj— Seth Walder (@SethWalderNYDN) May 15, 2014
Starting Patterson on opening day makes plenty of sense, but naming him the starter so early has no upside. Between Darrin Walls and third-round pick Dexter McDougle, the Jets do have some competition in place for Patterson.
If those two players do manage to outplay the 30-year-old Patterson in training camp, the Jets need to be willing to be bold and start the best player if they want to ensure their high-competition philosophy has any meaning behind it.
Jalen Saunders Standing Out
While the majority of the Jets rookies had a rather uneventful minicamp, fourth-round receiver Jalen Saunders has been the most eye-catching player so far:
It's hard to tell a lot from rookie mini-camp, but Jalen Saunders looked terrific - quick in and out of breaks, good hands, very confident.— Dan Leberfeld (@jetswhispers) May 16, 2014
A quick, explosive receiver who will excel in the slot, Saunders plays a lot bigger than his height (5'9"). Saunders was regarded as one of the best blocking receivers in the draft and is unafraid to go over the middle against bigger linebackers.
Saunders would provide excellent depth behind Jeremy Kerley, but if he continues to impress into training camp, the Jets need to find ways to get him on the field in more unconventional ways. He has a long way to go before he supplants a player of Kerley's caliber, but there is no reason why he cannot contribute in spot duty on offense or on special teams.
If the Jets peg Saunders as a "slot-receiver only" player, they will be limiting the potential of one of the best rookies on their team.
Antonio Allen Not Concerned with Playing Time
After using a first-round pick on Calvin Pryor to join Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen at safety, there will inevitably be an odd man out in the Jets' safety group who will pay a significant price in playing time.
Based on Rex Ryan's comments, it does not appear as if the veteran Landry will see much, if any, decrease in his role:
Rex says Dawan Landry is a 'vital' member of the secondary. Calvin Pryor's presence won't change that.— Kimberley A. Martin (@KMart_LI) May 17, 2014
By default, this leaves the up-and-coming Antonio Allen to see another (undeserved) drop in playing time. Allen was one of the few bright spots in the Jets secondary last year but was forced to the bench after the bye week to make room for Ed Reed.
Allen, however, does not appear to be worried about losing playing time to a rookie, no matter how high in the draft he was picked:
Jets safety Antonio Allen on if he's concerned Calvin Pryor will cut into his playing time: "Not at all, as far as I’m concerned." #nyj— Brian Costello (@BrianCoz) May 22, 2014
The 25-year-old Allen was the Jets' best antidote to opposing tight ends in 2013, and his youth suggests that he can only get better. It is unclear as to why the Jets have not embraced the idea of Allen as a full-time starter at this point, but they will need to eventually figure a way to mold specific roles for all three of their top safeties before the season starts.