Predicting the Winners of the New York Jets' Biggest Training Camp Battles
The New York Jets may possess one of the youngest and most inexperienced rosters in football, but the team doesn't have many starting jobs that aren't locked down.
Many youngsters emerged as solid starters last season and helped Gang Green win eight games in a surprisingly strong campaign.
Nonetheless, Rex Ryan and Co. do have several spots, both in the starting lineup and deeper down the depth chart, that are question marks heading into 2014.
Multiple players will compete for these jobs in training camp in what is sure to be intense battles.
With that said, here are my predictions for New York's biggest training camp battles.
No. 3 Quarterback
The Competitors: Tajh Boyd vs. Matt Simms
The Pre-Training Camp Favorite: Matt Simms
The Predicted Winner: Tajh Boyd
Second-year man Geno Smith will, in all likelihood, be the starter once again in 2014 and free-agent addition Michael Vick will be his primary backup.
But the final quarterback spot on the roster is anything but certain.
Rookie Tajh Boyd and Matt Simms will compete for the No. 3 job, and a spot on the final roster, in training camp.
Simms has to be the early favorite to win the spot, as he's been decent in limited playing time in the preseason and the regular season.
The 25-year-old's a hard worker who the Jets have liked enough to keep around the last couple years, despite the presence of other decent signal-callers such as Greg McElroy and David Garrard.
However, Simms lacks the natural talent that Boyd possesses, and for that reason I see Boyd winning the job.
Boyd's inaccuracy and lack of size were the reasons he fell to the last round of the draft, but he was incredibly productive in college and has some notable physical strengths, such as an ultra-powerful arm and top-notch athleticism and mobility.
It also helps that Boyd is just 23 and has room to grow at the NFL level. Simms has likely reached his ceiling.
No. 2 Cornerback
The Competitors: Dimitri Patterson vs. Darrin Walls vs. Dexter McDougle
The Pre-Training Camp Favorite: Dimitri Patterson
The Predicted Winner: Dimitri Patterson
The Jets surprised a lot of people by bypassing many of the No. 1 cornerbacks available in free agency, including the likes of Vontae Davis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Alterraun Verner, as well as ignoring the position until the middle rounds of the draft.
The team instead opted to replace the departed Antonio Cromartie with cheaper, less-hyped options.
Dimitri Patterson was the choice in free agency. Patterson, 31, has a lot of starting experience, but he's dealt with nagging injuries throughout his career, and he can sometimes be beat by faster wideouts. However, he's a playmaker, as he recorded four interceptions a year ago in Miami.
The other potential starters are in-house option Darrin Walls and rookie Dexter McDougle.
Walls has little to no buzz around him, but he was surprisingly solid when he was on the field last year. The 26-year-old has good size and above-average speed, but he will need an extraordinary training camp to separate himself from the pack.
McDougle, a third-round selection this offseason, lacks ideal size, but he's a hard-nosed player with great speed and elusiveness. His lack of experience should wind up costing him the No. 2 spot opposite Dee Milliner, but he should see a lot of time in the slot.
The Jets signed Patterson with the intent of him starting this season, and it should be no different at the end of training camp as long as he stays healthy.
No. 2 Wide Receiver
The Competitors: Stephen Hill vs. David Nelson vs. Jacoby Ford vs. Shaq Evans vs. Jalen Saunders
The Pre-Training Camp Favorite: Stephen Hill
The Predicted Winner: Stephen Hill
The Jets have waited a couple years for Stephen Hill to develop into the dangerous receiving threat he has the potential to be, but the team has hope this could be the season where everything comes together.
So far, there's only been good news about Hill's progress. He told Metro that he's grown both physically and mentally this offseason, and he's ready to take the next step.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said in late May that Hill looked terrific in practice. Granted, those sessions are without pads, but his success is a good sign nonetheless.
The main reason for the confidence in Hill is because of the Jets' lack of other options to play opposite Eric Decker on the outside.
David Nelson is a hardworking player with good size, but his subpar speed and explosiveness limit his ability to make an impact.
Jacoby Ford has blazing speed, but he's never been able to emerge as a dangerous receiving threat due to his limited size and questionable hands.
Shaq Evans and Jalen Saunders have decent potential, but they are both mid-round rookies who need to develop considerably before being able to compete for the starting job.
Hill's combination of great speed and colossal size is a rare gift. If the Georgia Tech product can show any signs of progress in training camp, he should easily secure the No. 2 spot.
No. 1 Tight End
The Competitors: Jace Amaro vs. Jeff Cumberland
The Pre-Training Camp Favorite: Jeff Cumberland
The Predicted Winner: Jeff Cumberland
The Jets obviously have a ton of confidence in the long-term potential of Jace Amaro, as they drafted him in the second round of the draft over several talented wide receivers and cornerbacks.
Amaro is coming off one of the most productive tight end seasons in the history of college football, and he possesses great size and hands, along with above-average speed.
However, the 22-year-old needs to fix his flaws before he can make a major impact in the NFL.
Amaro is going from a simple Texas Tech offensive system to a complex Marty Mornhinweg one, so his route running and blocking need to improve dramatically.
Mornhinweg has gone on record saying Amaro needs to make a "host" of adjustments to the NFL game, and ESPN New York's Rich Cimini has stated that the tight end looked "lost" when taking reps with the first team in practice.
To sum it up, Amaro shouldn't and won't be the team's starting tight end in Week 1, but he has the ability to be a franchise player a couple years down the line.
That leaves Jeff Cumberland with the starting job in 2014. Cumberland has great speed and decent route-running ability, but his production has been limited so far in his career.
However, with Eric Decker and a healthy Jeremy Kerley drawing defenses attention, Cumberland should be able to find open space on a consistent basis.
Backup Free Safety
The Competitors: Jaiquawn Jarrett vs. Josh Bush vs. Rontez Miles
The Pre-Training Camp Favorite: Josh Bush
The Predicted Winner: Jaiquawn Jarrett
Most of the Jets' safety depth chart is already set in stone.
First-round pick Calvin Pryor will start at strong safety, with veteran Dawan Landry backing him up and seeing a good amount of playing time. Meanwhile, third-year man Antonio Allen will see the majority of snaps at free safety.
However, Allen's backup is still very much of the question.
Jaiquawn Jarrett, Josh Bush and Rontez Miles will all compete for the job, with the losers in danger of being left off the final 53-man roster.
Jarrett, a second-round pick back in 2011, is a fierce competitor with good tackling ability, but his lack of pace is worrying. Jarrett is best utilized as an in-the-box safety as opposed to one who spends the majority of his time in coverage.
Bush, a 2012 sixth-round selection, has failed to make much of an impression since joining the team. He has some decent physical traits, but his chances of winning the job are all but dependent on him having a lights-out training camp.
Miles has to be considered a sleeper to win the job. Miles is still relatively raw, but he's a powerful hitter with the ability to make game-changing plays at any given moment. However, he can often make mistakes in coverage, and his straight-line speed isn't anything to brag about.
I think Miles will really impress in training camp, but Jarrett will come out on top. Jarrett is the most-refined player, and he serves as a good complement to Antonio Allen.