Clyde Gates is coming of age and a Jets offense lacking playmakers desperately needs his skillset.
Gates was a college basketball player at Abilene Christian and has the kind of ability that makes scouts drool. He is fast and has quick feet, not surprising considering his background on the hardwood. But he’s also very raw and far from savvy, in large part due to him picking up the sport just a few years ago in college.
Head coach Rex Ryan said on Sunday he was the standout player of training camp to date.
“It definitely helps me out a lot to know that I’m out here making a statement and making an impression on him,” Gates said. “So to me personally, it helps me out a lot to come out every day and continue doing what I’m doing.”
He joined the Jets late in preseason last year after being cut by the Dolphins. A fourth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Gates never showed much in Miami with just two catches in 15 games in 2011.
But in training camp with the Jets, Gates is performing at a very high level and is looking far more like a finished product. His route running, a severe weakness a season ago, has dramatically improved. He’s also rising up to reach the ball much better and is far less passive in his pass catching.
“Clyde has had some of the best practices I’ve seen out of him. I know we just got him last year and it was tough, it was later — really late in camp — I think we were already at the facility by the time Clyde came around,” quarterback Mark Sanchez said. “He’s hungry and he’s showing it. He’s showing that he wants to be on the field. He’s making his presence known. He’s going up and getting the ball; he’s running great routes. You can tell he’s really worked in the offseason.”
But while Sanchez and his head coach are singing his praises, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is cautious right now when talking about Gates. He wants to see him be more consistent, something that was a struggle for Gates last year. It was a growing year for Gates in 2012, but if he wants to haul in more than the 16 catches and score his first touchdown in the NFL, he must be more consistent.
“The biggest thing is consistency. I mean, you can’t come out one day, have a good day, then the next day just be mediocre,” Gates said. “I mean, it’s just not going to cut it on this level. So the biggest thing to me personally is consistency day-in and day-out every day.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for live updates from training camp.