The New York Jets are gearing up for a successful season with the Super Bowl on their minds. With that as the team goal, every player is going to be jockeying for playing time and a spot on the 53-man roster. Below is a position-by-position breakdown of the Green & White as they finish up their early precamp at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center and pack up for the first practices of training camp at SUNY Cortland on Monday.
Returning starter and second-year man Mark Sanchez came on strong in the second half of last season, leading the Jets to the AFC Championship Game. Sanchez had offseason knee surgery but recovered in time to be a part of minicamp and even hosted his "Jets West" event in Southern California by flying his receivers out to practice with him. The Jets brought in elder statesman Mark Brunell to help guide Sanchez, as he did with Drew Brees in New Orleans last season during the Saints' Super Bowl run. Veteran Kellen Clemens has proven to be reliable in backup duty. Kevin O'Connell will get his chance in camp as well. Erik Ainge, who showed flashes in past preseason games, Thursday was placed on the Non-Football Illness list.
The Jets released Thomas Jones in the offseason and are fully confident in second-year RB Shonn Greene, who gained a league-high 304 postseason rushing yards. Another back in the mix is future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson. Coming over from the Chargers, the former NFL MVP is looking to make an impact, as is shifty rookie Joe McKnight. Veterans Chauncey Washington and Danny Woodheadwill also get some of the load. Blocking for them are fullbacks Tony Richardson— entering his 17th NFL season — rookie John Conner and veteran Jason Davis.
Jerricho Cotchery, one of the best possession receivers in the NFL, is the headlining veteran but two other popular names are in fold for the Jets passing attack. A huge target who arrived for Game 5 at Miami last year, Braylon Edwards joins Santonio Holmes, this season's acquisition and the former Super Bowl MVP, as major threats working down the field. Versatile playmaker Brad Smith will be working from multiple positions all over the field, and speedy veterans David Clowney and Aundrae Allison will also contribute. Other wideouts seeking roster spots are Larry Taylor, Britt Davis and Marcus Henry, in his third Jets camp. Also reported to be visiting today: former Jet Laveranues Coles.
Led by Dustin Keller, who will be a vital piece of the offense, the tight ends will look to cover a variety of roles. Veteran Ben Hartsock contributed solidly to the running game last season and Matthew Mulligan has also shown to be a promising blocker. Joining the group is speedy rookie free agent Jeff Cumberland.
One day after signing a long-term contract this offseason, left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson could be seen working out on the fields at the Jets' training complex. Brick, who played in his first Pro Bowl in February, will be joined by fellow veteran and Pro Bowler Damien Woody.
In the interior, Nick Mangold is the two-time Pro Bowl center and stalwart RG Brandon Moorewill be relied upon to help move the chains again as he did last year for the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack. After releasing veteran Alan Faneca, there's a hole at left guard that will be filled by second-year vet Matt Slauson or second-round draft pick Vladimir Ducasse. The battle will go on during training camp but head coach Rex Ryan feels comfortable with both players.
Returning contributors are tackle Wayne Hunter and guard/center Rob Turner. Also joining the O-line group are tackles Dan Gay, Michael Turkovich and undrafted rookie Aaron Kia, guards Marlon Davis and undrafted rookie Charlie Tanner, and center Robby Felix.
The big man in the middle is back as Kris Jenkins returns from season-ending knee surgery to take hold of the nose tackle position at his new svelte weight of 359 pounds that he weighed in at this morning. Sione Pouha and Mike DeVitotook over on the inside for Jenkins the second half of last year and played well. Shaun Ellis, now an 11th-year veteran, has been a standout at end and will continue to be a threat going after the quarterback. Back at end, where he starred at Ohio State, is former first-round pick Vernon Gholston. Other line veterans are Ropati Pitoitua and Rodrique Wright. Also in the group are Matt Kroul, Ty Steinkuhler and undrafted rookiesJason Lamb and Martin Tevaseu.
There shouldn't be too much of a shakeup at this position for Jets fans. Two of the best inside LBs in the league, David Harris and "the Madbacker," Bart Scott, will be giving opposing offenses fits all season, while on the outside, Calvin Pace — the Jets' leading sacker last season — and Bryan Thomas will be making plays on the outside. Pace and BT will be joined by former Jets tormentor Jason Taylor in the base and Taylor will pin his ears back while rushing the passer out of the sub defense. In reserve, the Jets will use veterans Kenwin Cummings, Jamaal Westerman and former Seahawks special teams captain Lance Laury. Joshua Maugaand rookies Brashton Satele, Cory Reamerand Kevin Basped round out the group, which is extremely deep and will be essential to the special teams.
Everyone knows aboutDarrelle Revis, the proprietor of Revis Island, where receivers get locked down and opposing passes get swallowed up. The Jets added another scary threat on the opposite side of the field in athletic marvel Antonio Cromartie and also brought in first-round draft pick Kyle Wilson to be their starting nickel back. Veteran Dwight Lowery returns as do Marquice Cole and Drew Coleman and undrafted Brian Jackson.
At safety,Jim Leonhard is a fan favorite and a hard hitter at only 5'8" and he will team up this year with newcomer Brodney Pool, who started for the Cleveland Browns last season, and holdovers Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo, who are are great guys in the locker room and leaders on the field. Also in the group are Bo Smith, Donovan Warren and newly signed Emanuel Cook, who was in Jets camp last year.
At kicker, the Jets have former Cowboy Nick Folk, who has performed well in the offseason. Punters Steve Weatherford and T.J. Conley will be taking care of the punting duties while Tanner Purdum will handle the long-snapping. Wilson has been taking lots of reps at punt returner with Leonhard and Cotchery also experienced there, while Brad Smith, McKnight and even Cromartie will be among the options on kickoff returns.