3 tasks for the Jets at training camp

Mark Sanchez

Gang Green has already re-signed some big talent but they still have plenty of holes to fill thanks to cuts.

1. The defense will Go West-erman

With holes at defensive end and outside linebacker, the Jets will need to plug some positions with talent already on their roster.

Given the lavish contract already handed out to Santonio Holmes, they might need to find some bargains.

Third-year defensive end/linebacker Jamaal Westerman could be that player to plug in a couple different slots in the two-deep. The Rutgers product had a tremendous offseason in terms of strength building. 

“I’m excited to see Westerman, we need to give him an opportunity,” head coach Rex Ryan said.

2. Find a big target wide receiver

Now that the Jets have re-signed Holmes — a move that brings back their biggest offensive playmaker — other wideout needs exist.

But after spending big bucks to keep Holmes from testing the free agent market, the Jets still need to partner him with a possession-type wide receiver since Braylon Edwards is likely out of their price range now.

Can a practice squad player like Patrick Turner step up or would Randy Moss take a pay cut to play for a Super Bowl contender?

Identifying that big-body wide receiver is a must this training camp.

3. Do the offensive line shuffle

 A player to watch in training camp is right tackle Vlad Ducasse, the team’s second round pick last season.

He saw spot duty in his rookie season after showing up to camp in less than ideal shape and after months of dedicated workouts, Ducasse is much more physically ready for the NFL grind.The Jets just resigned the versatile Wayne Hunter to a long-term deal, meaning that the two will battle it out for the position vacated by Damien Woody’s recent retirement.

Sanchez steps up as leader

Sometimes, it is easy to forget that Mark Sanchez is in his third year as a starting quarterback.

Jets fans, meet one of your captains for the 2011 season.

Head coach Rex Ryan named the 24-year-old quarterback his offensive captain on Wednesday during a conference call.

It was a bit of a surprise move to name a quarterback so young and still
learning to take a leadership role on a team with Super Bowl ambitions.

The Jets are a veteran team with plenty of proven leaders, but Ryan said
the players’ response to Sanchez the last two seasons made it a natural
move.

“I see the way the guys are around him. This is really going to be his
team,” Ryan said. “I’m not big on giving out those captain [titles], but
we will put the “C” on his jersey this year because he truly is our
captain.”

From the moment he was taken with the No. 5 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Sanchez has become the face of this franchise, to the point that during his rookie season his teammates tagged him with the nickname “The Sanchise.” Orchestrating a playoff run with some gutsy performances due to a knee injury his rookie season, a series of late-game heroics in his second year and then this past January’s postseason push to a second consecutive AFC Championship Game ensures that Sanchez is more than just a marketing face to plaster on billboards.

He is in fact, the leader of this team’s offense despite being a little more than three months shy of turning 25 years old.

His leadership style can be flamboyant but is also quietly subtle. In the spring, Sanchez held a “Jets West” camp with the offensive skill position players in an effort to keep them sharp during the lockout. Then in June, over 40 players convened in Madison, N.J. at a local college as part of involuntary workouts put together in part by Sanchez.

“It can’t hurt, just those extra reps, throwing the ball around. Getting guys together just to see each other and hang out on-and off-the-field, is important,” Sanchez said. “Whether it’s from an X’s and O’s standpoint or a morale standpoint, and just a friendship/teammate standpoint, I think all of that stuff helps.”

Sanchez might still be that kid at heart, who pulls down the shorts of his offensive coordinator or jumps on the back of teammate Bart Scott and rides him around during offseason workouts, but underneath the “Dennis the Menace” grin of mischief lays a player who has earned his dues in three short years with the Jets. It might be easy to see Sanchez, wearing shorts and mismatched socks in December racing out of the locker room, late to an offense team meeting, as just a goofball and perhaps a player not yet seasoned enough to take on the role of being a captain.

Ryan and the coaching staff would disagree with that assessment.

“I’m really comfortable doing this now. Am I trying to drive up the jersey sales for Sanchez? Maybe that’s true,” Ryan said. “But I think seriously that he’s earned that and I’m excited to watch this young man grow.”

Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.



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