Jets minicamp wrap up: Whose stock is up? And down?

Tight End Jace Amaro
Tight End Jace Amaro has some work to do in training camp.
Credit: Getty Images

Minicamp is done for the Jets, who will regroup in a month’s time in Cortland, New York for the start of training camp.

There was a lot for the Jets to do, including assimilating several new pieces into the offense and beginning to get a look at how their 12 draft picks can potentially blend into the team.

The team has high expectations this year, and the talent — in particular on the offensive side of the ball — appears to be better. It will come down to quarterback Geno Smith and how much he progresses in his second year as the Jets’ starter.

The building blocks are there, as is a nice mix of veteran talent. Now it’s up to the Jets to return to the postseason after a three-year drought.

“[An] 8-8 [record] was good, but I wasn’t satisfied, that’s for sure. We’re not satisfied unless we go further than that,” owner Woody Johnson said last week. “But our expectation is we’ll work very, very hard and diligently. This is our second year with the QB [Geno Smith]. This is the second year with [offensive coordinator Marty] Mornhinweg, so I think we’re going to be more comfortable with the playbook. That always helps the guys react faster and quicker and it’s a quick game and it’s a fast game so that helps you. You don’t want to have to think. You want to just see something and do it instinctively and instinct takes time to put in.”

Metro New York talks the biggest surprises, disappointments and winners and losers from last week’s minicamp.

Biggest surprise: Stephen Hill

It isn’t a popular pick among Jets fans — many of whom want the former second round pick off the team — but Hill had a solid minicamp. He looks stronger and played that way as the bad drops of his rookie year are a thing of the past. He has no complaints of the hamstring and knee injuries that ended his first two NFL seasons prematurely; even his route running has improved. Hill could have a good role on this team, especially in the red zone. Minicamp was something for him to build off of and he did just that.

One defensive player on Hill: “He looks more complete now — looks like he can take the next step.”

Biggest disappointment: Jace Amaro

There are some whispers around Florham Park that Amaro is progressing a bit slower than expected. His blocking is better than advertised, but equally shocking is that he isn’t as solid a pass catcher as expected. He body catches and doesn’t come up with as clean of a catch as one might hope for. He has small hands — the smallest of any tight end at the NFL Combine — and he will have to better his technique over the next month if he’s to be a reliable outlet this year. The good news is Jeff Cumberland and Zak Sudfeld both had good minicamps. There seems to be some depth at the position, but a top-end tight end could take this offense to another level.

One offensive player on Amaro: “There’s a lot there to work with. Young rook will come around.”

Name to watch for training camp: Markus Zusevics

While Dexter McDougle earned plenty of praise at minicamp, the most under-the-radar player so far has been Markus Zusevics. Deployed mainly at right tackle, he impressed as a tryout player at rookie minicamp and showed flashes of why the Patriots signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent two years ago. He’s looked technically solid and appears to have strengthened his lower body since entering the league. While he won’t be a starter, he’s a name to watch to make the practice squad.

One offensive player on Zusevics: “Definitely strong and fundamentally sound.”

Ellis Lankster
Ellis Lankster, right, was one of the better performers in minicamp.
Credit: Getty Images

Who took the next step: Ellis Lankster

While guard Oday Aboushi earned praised from head coach Rex Ryan for his development, Lankster looked like a more complete player this minicamp. Lankster has been a special teams standout who occasionally had a role in certain defensive looks. But he showed more confidence on the field with a number of nice pass breakups. He could become an important part of the depth at cornerback for the upcoming season.

One defensive player on Lankster: “He doesn’t get a lot of recognition but I thought [Ellis[ had a good [mini] camp.”

Biggest loser: Michael Vick

Vick was relatively solid and made relatively smart decisions, but it is clear the Jets want their young quarterback to start. Mornhinweg said Smith will get “70 to 75 percent of the reps with the one’s [starters].” So while Vick could make a push to start, especially if he shines in preseason, the Jets clearly don’t see him competing with Smith as the starter. They may not even give him a chance to.

One offensive player on Vick: “He has a lot of respect in that huddle and in this locker room and we know he can help us, no matter what his role is.”

Biggest winner 1: Rex Ryan

The Jets head coach handled the playbook scandal perfectly on Thursday as he stuck up for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in a classy manner. “The times that they’ve beat us, they outperformed us,” Ryan said. “And it’s as simple as that.”

He also took the high road in regard to former assistant Mike Pettine, who insinuated the Jets’ playbook was given out “like candy.” Ryan was calm, composed and obviously well-coached by the Jets media relations department. He didn’t take the bait from the press in handling a difficult situation.

Biggest winner 2: Eric Decker

Because a head coach can’t really be the Biggest Winner, the real on-field winner of minicamp was Decker. He showed over three days why the Jets spent big money this offseason on the wide receiver. He was dangerous in the red zone and his route running is exemplary. One young wide receiver told Metro, “He’s like having another coach out there with all the teaching he gives us.”

One veteran defensive player on Decker: “Watch him play, Peyton Manning didn’t make him good or that offense out there. He’s just flat-out good.”

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.


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