Three days of Jets minicamp is here and with it, the silliest season of all is set to descend on fans of the green and white.
While the talk should be focusing on the personnel from a team that finished an underwhelming 8-8 last year, it instead will inevitably focus on Tim Tebow and the perceived quarterback battle with Mark Sanchez. Here’s a primer for minicamp that has nothing to do with “Timsanity.” OK, we lied.
Three Questions Heading Into Minicamp
1. How Good is this Offensive Line? — Last year, the league’s 13th worst offensive line gave up a startling 40 sacks and 70 quarterback hits, a shockingly bad number for a unit with two Pro Bowl selections. In the previous three seasons, the Jets had prided themselves on their offensive line giving quarterback Mark Sanchez time in the pocket to make smart, safe decisions and open up holes for the running game. Now with the no-nonsense Tony Sparano as offensive coordinator, the line should get better and the fast tempo the offense showed during OTAs should wear down opposing defenses. Expect the offensive line to look better and more cohesive. The talent is there so it might have been simply a matter of scheme last year.
2. Is Stephen Hill Ready? — As hyped as Quinton Coples is coming into minicamp as the team’s first-round pick, it is the player taken a round later that might be more important to the team. Hill is a raw product at wide receiver, having played in an option offense at Georgia Tech that used his playmaking skills sparingly. But during rookie minicamp and for the last three weeks during OTAs, Hill has shown that he combines size and speed and is an outstanding downfield blocker. Given the lack of a big-name free agent signing at receiver, the development of Hill during these three days is crucial. If Sanchez can get a big target to stretch the field in Hill, then the entire offense benefits. He needs to work on his route running and has never had a playbook with such a comprehensive passing offense, but the talent is there.
3. Is the Secondary Settled? — Drafting Coples will help the pass rush and create all sorts of match-up problems for other teams, but the real question mark of this Jets defense is in the secondary. Starting safeties Eric Smith and Brodney Pool struggled in pass protection and with only Smith returning, the Jets are hoping that a bevy of draft picks and free agents are the answer. LaRon Landry is still out with an Achilles injury suffered last year — he didn’t attend OTAs — but help did come several weeks ago with the signing of veteran safety Yeremiah Bell. Rookies Josh Bush and the highly touted Antonio Allen, who showed good pursuit during OTAs, will be counted on to add depth behind Bell and Smith. Then there is the inconsistent play of cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson last year and the potential holdout from the team’s best player, cornerback Darrelle Revis. In short, there are more questions than answers here in the secondary.
Three Players to Watch During Minicamp
1. DaMarcus Ganaway — The undrafted rookie free agent out of Kentucky Wesleyan has shown raw potential at wide receiver and minicamp is a time for him to show that he can play at this speed. He needs to add weight and clearly has never played anywhere near this level, but a strong showing here can help position him for a shot at the practice squad.
2. Vlad Ducasse — With Matt Slauson rehabbing during OTAs, the third-year player got snaps with the first team offensive line at left guard. Ducasse, a former second-round pick, is at a crucial time that will make or break his future with the Jets. Now with his first full offseason with the team — last year’s lockout ruined that opportunity for him — Ducasse needs to show that he has taken the next step physically as well as mentally. Penalties killed him last year and he must show more discipline.
3. Isaiah Trufant — The cornerback made some good plays during OTAs while getting time with the second team and the special teams player is perhaps angling for a spot in the two-deep. He also has looked sharp getting downfield on punts, creating a good chemistry with punter T.J. Conley on downing the ball inside the 20-yard line.
Three Storylines That Shouldn’t Be Storylines
1. Tebow vs. Sanchez — For now, Sanchez is the starter until proven otherwise. Doing well in minicamp (which means actually going to his second and — gasp! — third read) would silence critics who are manufacturing a quarterback controversy. Well, at least until training camp.
2. Santonio Holmes’s Fitness — Holmes made headlines last week for taking a knee during OTAs, but perhaps it is understandable. Holmes made just a handful of OTA sessions due to a commitment in Germany to meet American soldiers, and he was noticeably gassed. He had to sit-out the tail end of Thursday’s OTA session due to his lack of conditioning. It shouldn’t be a surprise or even a story, but it will be scrutinized.
3. The Revis Holdout — If Revis sits out a single play in OTAs, it will be played up every which way. During an offseason when the Jets tried to heal their locker room rifts, a Revis holdout won’t help matters and the constant speculation will only deter from the progress made in uniting the team.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for news and photos from minicamp.