The Jets have a great problem on their hands, as their win-now mentality is due to a loaded roster with very little flaws. It’s no secret that Gang Green has high aspirations this season, thanks to last year’s surprising 10-6 mark behind a journeyman quarterback. And with Ryan Fitzpatrick back in the fold, a revamped rushing attack, and a frisky defense, the Jets have engaged in some spirited training camp practices in hopes of further solidifying their mettle in anticipation of a successful campaign.
Having a lot of talent is clearly not a bad thing – especially in a retooled AFC East that may feel up for grabs for the first time in over a decade, thanks to the Tom Brady Deflategate fiasco. That talent has fiercely gone head-to-head since camp opened, last week. And while there won’t be too many open spots, there’s still competition abound for some key positions.
Metro will analyze one particular camp battle a week, and today’s spotlight focuses on the secondary – mainly, who will be the new neighbor on Revis Island?
Cornerbacks: Future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis will undoubtedly take care of his side of the field, but the other side will be up for grabs. Revis’s partner in crime from a season ago, Antonio Cromartie, was allowed to walk via free agency, which means the Jets will be looking inwards to find his replacement. The “next man up” mantra calls for Buster Skrine to fill that void, as he is coming off a season where he was the primary nickel back during his maiden campaign in New York. The former Cleveland Brown led all Jets’ defensive backs with 65 tackles, and showed his unselfishness by being relegated to backup corner, after a stint in Cleveland where he was the No. 2, alongside Pro Bowler Joe Haden. The Tennessee-Chattanooga product is itching for the chance to be a starter again, and will likely get the first crack. But at only 5-foot-9, does he have the necessary size to contend and be a regular starter again?
Skrine’s stiffest competition comes from Dee Milliner, who has yet to live up to his billing of being the ninth pick in the 2013 draft. The former Alabama product has the prerequisite size (6-foot, 200 pounds), but undergone a hellish career to date — which has led the Jets to decline to pick up the fifth year on his rookie contract, making him a free agent, next season. He showed flashes in his rookie campaign, including three interceptions, but since, he’s had a penchant for needing medical assistance more times than he, the Jets, and Gang Green Nation care to see. Milliner has noted that he’s turned to yoga in hopes of improving health and flexibility, and says he feels great. Green and white fans are undoubtedly hoping for him to finally hit his stride – and stay on the field.
Marcus Williams could throw a wrench in both Skrine’s and Milliner’s plans, however, as he was statistically the most accomplished Jets defensive back, last season. The third-year cornerback out of North Dakota State led the team with six interceptions and has totaled 17 passes defended in his first two seasons. His three game-sealing picks, last season, also showed he has that clutch gene and won’t panic in big moments. Whichever cornerback steps up and lines opposite of Revis, a spirited camp battle will only further steel the resolve of the winner, because opposing quarterbacks will most certainly throw their way far more often than that of the presumptive Hall of Famer.
Gang Green notes: – Other cornerback competitors include Dexter McDougle and rookie Juston Burris, out of North Carolina State. Both are considered long shots. – Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finally sheared his legendary locks.