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Happy Rookie Reporting Day
What a fine morning it is as well. Today the Jets rookies will head to Florham Park to report for training camp, it’s the first real step towards football season being back. OTA’s are fun, but it’s only when training camp rolls around that I feel as though the season is on the horizon. We’re still 54 days away from Baltimore, but with things to talk about that will tick away quickly.
There’s a lot of talk around Bengals safety Jessie Bates at the moment. The free safety isn’t happy about getting franchise tagged and according to multiple NFL reporters, he has no intention of reporting for camp. If the Bengals can’t placate him, would they look to trade him? Some Jets fans are living that dream and there’s a world where I could see that happening, but my understanding has always been that the Jets genuinely love LaMarcus Joyner and think he has pro-bowl potential at safety. Unless the deal is an absolute bargain, I can’t see it.
Alex Ray of Bleacher Report but out a bold prediction recently which had the Jets trading tackle Mekhi Becton to the Steelers for 2nd and 4th round picks: "While Becton may not be in peak form right now, he did have a promising 74.4 PFF grade as a rookie. HE could be an ideal buy-low candidate to improve Pittsburgh’s offensive line as it prepares for life without longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger." - Becton looked in great shape in several social media posts recently, and I just can’t see the Jets selling low with the depth we have at tackle.
As the rookies roll into Florham Park to get weighed, measured poked, and prodded I thought it would be a good time to take stock of the situation and look at the questions each of them is facing as we head to training camp.
Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner
As I wrote yesterday, right now Sauce is #3 on the depth chart. How long will that last? That’s the key question here, Saleh has stated that he’ll need to earn and win that outside corner spot. Chances are he’ll do that relatively quickly.
I’m a big Bryce Hall fan, but Sauce’s talent is on another level, and you don’t bring in D.J Reed to play backup minutes. I think we’re all expecting Sauce to be starting outside when we face off against Baltimore.
Another key question for Sauce is his discipline in terms of contact. He’s a physical corner and he likes to get hands-on receivers, outside of the quarterback I think receivers are the most protected players in the NFL. He was only called for 2 penalties last year but got tagged with 7 the year before.
We’ve seen him practicing with mitts on, something he said he’s done for a while now. Part of that is controlling the grabbing which gets called in the NFL at a high clip. Defensive holding and defensive pass interference are two of the most called penalties in the NFL, during training camp teams have officiating crews on hand to simulate an accurate environment…so that’s something to keep an eye on.
I can’t wait to see how Mike LaFleur deploys all his weapons this year, for the first time in a long time I feel as though our offense is loaded with game-breaking options at every skill position.
My big question around Garrett Wilson is, where does he line up the most? Over the course of his three-year career at Ohio State, he spent 31.3% of his snaps in the slot, but his most productive year (2021) came with him spending 82.9% of his snaps out wide.
Zach Wilson will have a lot of mouths to feed and if the Jets do want to play more 12 personnel with two tight ends on the field, that adds further complexity to the receiver position.
Corey Davis is an outside guy but both Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson have positional flexibility to move inside and out. It’s going to be fun to watch when the Jets do line up with four wide receivers with Davis, Moore, and Wilson on the outside and Berrios inside.
I also want to see if Wilson can translate his 61.5% contested catch number in his final year at Ohio State to the pros, that would make him the best outside contested catcher on the Jets roster.
The questions surrounding Johnson are nearly exclusively on production. He was one of the most productive pass-rushers in college football last season with 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for a loss, how does that translate to the pros in year one, that’s the key.
Johnson was also one of the most dynamic athletes in the draft at the position, how does that look against NFL-caliber talent. The battle between Johnson and Fant/Becton will be one of the more entertaining ones in camp and we’ll learn quickly if Johnson has what it takes to be a premier rusher at the pro level.
One thing I’ll be keeping an eye on through pre-season is how well he sets the edge in terms of run support, he improved significantly during his time at Florida State but he did show some real inconsistency there. Johnson is already a very impressive athlete but if Jets defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton can hone the technical side of the game…he’s going to be very special.
The big question around Breece Hall won’t be answered this week, because the main question is how are the Jets going to split carried between him and Michael Carter? I’m fully expecting it to be a 60-40 split in favor of Hall to start, with that potentially growing through the season.
I love Michael Carter, I think we were extremely fortunate to get him in the 4th round (I had him as a 2nd round player), but Hall is a different caliber and more rounded in terms of his rushing, receiving, and blocking. I think they’ll complement each other very well, but Hall should earn a bigger share of the carries through camp.
Joe Douglas did a tremendous job in transforming the Jets’ tight end room from one of the weakest positional groups to one of the strongest. But, that does mean that if Conklin and Uzomah stay healthy, Ruckert could struggle to see a significant amount of action in year one.
Ruckert was never a high-volume receiver at Ohio State but he was always an extremely reliable option. I have absolutely no concerns about his receiving ability and he’ll get some looks this year. But it’s his blocking that could lead him to more playing time.
Not only was Ruckert a good overall blocker at Ohio State, but he was also a good move blocker. The Jets like their tight ends to be able to block out in space and his athleticism will allow him to do that, and his willingness to do the hard work will get the coaches on side.
The biggest question surrounding Max Mitchell is how pro-ready is he? That’s it in a nutshell and it’s a really key question the Jets will need answering through the first few weeks of camp.
We have Becton on one side who has failed to stay healthy for a full-season over the course of his first two years, and we have Fant on the other who wants a new contract and sustained an injury himself last season.
Last season he was graded as the best tackle in college football by PFF who credited him with allowing just 13 pressures over 430 pass-blocking snaps, that’s impressive…yet he fell to the 4th round for a reason.
The Jets obviously like Mitchell’s potential but would they trust him to start in year one? That’s the big question.
I wrote a story yesterday for Jets X-Factor on Micheal Clemons and the questions surrounding his role this season.
Where will Clemons line up through camp? Aaron Whitecotton has already stated that the Jets see him as an inside-out player, much like John Franklin-Myers. But Clemons really hasn’t played inside, he had 34 total snaps at defensive tackle over the course of his college career.
The Jet’s defensive tackle depth is pretty barren and it’s an area the Jets couldn’t improve during the off-season. I don’t think Clemons is the answer to the run defense that was exploited frequently last season, but his internal pass-rush is going to be interesting.
The Jets have some outstanding depth at defensive end, so seeing how much the Jets use Clemons inside will be a key storyline to watch.
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