Breaking Down the New York Jets' 5 Biggest Training Camp Projects
Apart from a few established veterans such as Nick Mangold, David Harris and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the Jets will mainly be relying upon young players with just two or three years of experience at the professional level in 2014-15.
Many of these youngsters have already had some decent success in the NFL, though, as they helped lead New York to a surprising eight wins a year ago.
There are some youngsters who should play major roles this season, but whether they can contribute remains a serious question mark.
These players need a lot of attention from the coaching staff during training camp and must show signs of development this offseason.
Click through to see five project players to watch when training camp kicks off in two weeks.
Stephen Hill, WR
Everyone knew Stephen Hill was a project when the Jets drafted him in the second round of the 2012 draft out of Georgia Tech.
However, New York definitely hoped he'd have developed a lot more than he has in his first two years in the league.
Hill has battled injuries and ineffectiveness thus far in his NFL career, recording just 42 catches and 594 yards in 23 career games.
Hill's main problems lie with his inconsistent hands and subpar route-running ability. If he can improve in these two areas, he has a real shot at becoming a big-time playmaker.
There's already been good news with Hill this offseason, as it was reported by Metro that the 23-year-old has grown considerably over the last year—both physically and mentally.
If Hill can show signs of legitimate improvement in training camp, he will be considered the favorite to win the No. 2 wide receiver job opposite Eric Decker.
If the third-year man fails, though, he could see himself being cut loose before Week 1 arrives.
Brian Winters, OG
Brian Winters was undoubtedly rushed into the starting role as a rookie last season, so it's no surprise that he really struggled.
The extent of Winters' struggles was troubling, though, as the third-round pick allowed a league-high 10 sacks along with 15 quarterback hurries from the guard position.
Moreover, Winters was equally terrible at run-blocking.
The 23-year-old needs to refine his technique and footwork this offseason if he's going to improve in his second year.
According to Darryl Slater of The Star-Ledger, Winters is confident he can turn it around. With an entire offseason to improve his game, he has a good shot of doing so.
Last year, the Kent State product dealt with an ankle injury throughout training camp, which prevented him from adjusting to the NFL game.
With Winters fully healthy, he should be able to improve on his play from a year ago.
Jalen Saunders, WR
The Jets surprisingly waited until the fourth round to address one of the roster's main concerns: the receiving corps.
The first wideout Gang Green selected was Oklahoma product Jalen Saunders.
Saunders is a capable route-runner with good hands as well as elite speed and elusiveness. At just 5'9" and 165 pounds, though, he probably doesn't have the size or strength to compete with bigger cornerbacks on the outside.
That means Saunders would probably work better in the slot, where he can use his athleticism to find open space.
There are several areas in which the 21-year-old needs to improve in before he can make much of an impact.
Saunders is an incredibly weak run-blocker, mainly due to his lack of strength. In a Jets offense that depends upon the success of the ground game, that's a huge deficiency.
Saunders has to get stronger and improve upon his blocking technique, while also getting used to lining up mainly in the slot.
His impact will probably be limited in his rookie season, but with Jeremy Kerley due to become a free agent after this season, he could be one of the offense's most important players in the coming years.
Saunders needs a successful training camp in his rookie season to help prepare him for that role.
Dakota Dozier, OT
The third of the Jets' fourth-round picks this offseason, Dakota Dozier has a real chance of contributing early on in his career if he can make the necessary adjustments.
Dozier played tackle at Furman, but he's probably best suited to switch to guard at the NFL level.
Dozier's size (6'4", 313 lbs) and strength allow him to dominate smaller opponents, and he's already a capable—if unspectacular—run-blocker.
However, he needs to improve upon his technique and footwork in pass protection if he's to compete for a starting job in the first couple years of his career.
The 23-year-old needs to show that he can alter his blocking style while also maximizing his strength and size.
Dozier is a project in every definition of the word. He has the natural talent to be a solid starting guard, but it'll be up to him and the coaching staff to steer him toward his ceiling.
Dexter McDougle, CB
New York shocked many by bypassing another of its biggest needs (cornerback) until the third round of the draft.
The Jets also surprised a lot of folks by taking Dexter McDougle with that pick, as he was projected to be a late-round pick by NFL.com.
The Jets may have reached on McDougle, but there's no doubt that the Maryland product is a speedy and athletic player who tackles well and can cover a lot of ground.
However, McDougle's main weakness is something he has no control over: his size. At 5'10", he's on the shorter range of cornerbacks at the NFL level.
To make an impact early in his career, McDougle needs to mask his height through brute physicality with opposing receivers. He let wideouts get off the line of scrimmage too easily in college, and he sometimes played too far off his man.
The 23-year-old has to get stronger in training camp in order to compete with bigger receivers on the outside, and he has to learn to play a more bump-and-run kind of coverage.