Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange and Caroline Hendershot will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: What is your must-watch training camp battle?
EA: The two position battles that first come to mind are left tackle and kicker. Mekhi Becton, who had "Big Bust" written on a T-shirt he wore at minicamp, said outside criticism has added fuel to his fire. His talent is undeniable, and Jets HC Robert Saleh said that Becton can be "transcendent" if he takes care of his business. He'll compete against George Fant, coming off a breakthrough season at LT with 15 starts, who is going to do everything he can to stay there. Fant (6-5, 322) is a young 30 while Becton (23) could be a game-changer. The Jets are set on the interior with Pro Bowl LG Laken Tomlinson, second-year stud Alijah Vera-Tucker at RG and a steady force at center in Connor McGovern. If Becton and Fant have strong camps, it's a win-win at both tackle spots. Greg Zuerlein, who hit on 82.8% of his field-goal attempts the past two seasons for Dallas, will try to take the kicking job. Known for his leg strength, Zuerlein had a touchback percentage last season of 80%. For his career, he is 79% on field goals from 40-49 yards and 55% on FGA from 50-59 yards. But Eddy Piñeiro, only the second kicker to convert his first eight FG tries as a Jet, returns and he is a perfect 3 of 3 from 50-plus yards in the NFL. And while people pencil in numbers for their roster predictions, special teams can be a decider come decision time.
EG: The answer here is Mekhi Becton and George Fant competing for the left tackle job. Both played well holding down the blindside -- Becton in 2020 as a rookie and Fant in 2021. Fant's Pro Football Focus numbers were impressive last season when he had a pass-blocking efficiency number of 98.3 and the third-lowest pressure rate (3.03%) among left tackles. HC Robert Saleh referred to Becton as a "transcendent" as the big man has a rare blend of size and athletic ability. Luckily for the Jets, both players have experience playing right tackle. The last time anyone has seen Becton take live reps was against the Panthers in Week 1 last season. How will he look in training camp? This is the must-watch battle, but kicker is the classic training camp battle and Eddy Piñeiro and Greg Zeurlein enter camp after impressive springs. Below the surface (starters in this case), keep an eye on tight ends and safeties. Both are crowded rooms and while the top of the depth chart may seem easy to project, who will make the cut?
RL: Positions such as CB and K are certainly the favorites but I'm going to watch the running back position closely. Six strong RB candidates will be competing for three or four positions on the 53-man roster. Michael Carter, as a rookie, became the tailback starter by Game 3, started 11 games in all and led the Jets in rushing yards and the backs in receptions. Tevin Coleman is the graybeard of the group with 777 rushes over seven seasons and he had been one of the NFL's top RB receivers (although that didn't show up last season). Ty Johnson's 12 third-down conversions (8 on receptions) led the team and forget about those three drops vs. the Saints — his 10.9-yard average on 34 catches were the best by an NFL back in the past four seasons. La'Mical Perine in his third pro season is fighting to get his Jets career on track by showing some of the outstanding things he did as a Florida senior. Then the rookies: Breece Hall should be exciting to watch, considering his last two years at Iowa State he averaged 5.7 yards/carry, 8.2 yards/catch, 1,762 scrimmage yards and 23 scrimmage TDs. And free agent Bam Knight, besides being rock-steady for N.C. State's offense, averaged 30.8 yards/kickoff return with three TDs. Lots to see here.
CH: The training camp battle I can't wait to watch is in the cornerback room. At present, there are nine CBs competing for spots with the Green & White (Michael Carter II, Isaiah Dunn, Rachad Wildgoose, Brandin Echols, Sauce Gardner, Javelin Guidry, Bryce Hall, Justin Hardee, and D.J. Reed). Last season, Hall led the group with 1,126 snaps in 17 games, 79 tackles, and 16 passes defended. This season, the competition is going to be much higher. Not only did the Jets acquire D.J. Reed, who played in 14 games last season with the Seahawks for 78 total tackles, 2 interceptions, and 10 passes defended, but they also add rookie Sauce Gardner into the mix. HC Robert Saleh has reiterated that Gardner "has to earn his right to play football. Just because you were drafted in a certain spot it doesn't mean anything." With nine CBs competing for spots, training camp is going to be a "prove it" atmosphere for all of them.