With training camp approaching, the New York Jets once again have a lot of question marks heading into it. After trading up with the Indianapolis Colts for the third overall pick in the draft, and paying big in free agency for Trumaine Johnson, Teddy Bridgewater, Terrelle Pryor Sr., Isaiah Crowell, among other free agents, the Jets are hoping to take some steps in the right direction.
The Jets are entering their fourth year under head coach Todd Bowles, and coming off back-to-back 5-11 seasons, but the only similarity of those seasons has been the record. Two years ago, the Jets were expected to be playoff contenders, but were eliminated by early December. Last season many analysts such as Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd went as far to say as the Jets would go winless. Instead, the Jets went 3-2 after five weeks, and played competitively for much of the remainder of the season.
That being said, if 5-11 is considered better than what many people expected, there’s still a lot of work to be done because that will not win a Super Bowl. With the new acquisitions brought in this offseason, and key veterans still on the team, the Jets are hoping these guys can bring them back into relevancy. Here are five players to keep an eye on in Jets training camp.
- QB Teddy Bridgewater
The Jets made the quarterback position a priority this offseason. They lost out on Kirk Cousins to the Vikings, but brought in Bridgewater, to a one-year, $5 million contract, re-signed Josh McCown to a one-year, $10 million deal, and traded up to draft USC’s Sam Darnold with the third overall pick.
Bridgewater has certainly played well with the Vikings, putting up a 64.7% completion percentage, 6,150 passing yards, and 28 touchdowns in three seasons. However, what is concerning is that he has only played one game after a brutal injury, when he dislocated his knee and tore his ACL in training camp with the Vikings in 2015.
Bridgewater is coming to a new team, coming back from the worst injury of his young career. It will be interesting to see how the injury will affect his play, although Bridgewater has been impressive at minicamp according to reports, but we will see how comfortable he gets as the season goes on.
- CB Trumaine Johnson
Johnson was the Jets’ biggest free agent signing of the offseason, paying the former Ram $72.5 million for five years. It’s easy to see why as Johnson racked up 18 interceptions, including three he took back for touchdowns in 85 career games with the Rams.
Johnson was definitely confident when he signed his new contract with the Jets, who run a similar defensive scheme to the one the corner played with in St. Louis and Los Angeles. The 28-year-old will also get a familiar face on the coaching staff with secondary coach Dennard Wilson, who was a big factor in his signing, according to Johnson.
Last season the Jets gave up 3,749 total passing yards, so adding Johnson to their secondary is certainly a smart move, but because he is coming to a new team after playing for one for six seasons, it will be interesting to see how Johnson will adjust to the expectations of New York.
- RB Elijah McGuire
If running backs coach Stump Mitchell is right, the Jets have a hidden gem in the 24-year-old out of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Mitchell compared McGuire to former Jet and Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson.
McGuire showed some of his potential in his rookie season, rushing for 315 yards on 88 carries. He also caught 17 passes for 177 yards and scored two touchdowns, one rushing and the other receiving. Mitchell clearly has high expectations of McGuire, who currently sits third on the depth chart, behind Crowell and veteran Bilal Powell.
- SS Jamal Adams
The 22-year-old out of LSU certainly didn’t disappoint in his rookie year, as Adams racked up 63 tackles, six pass defenses and even forced a fumble, but he is still looking for his first career interception. Now, with a year of experience under his belt, and some extra help from the aforementioned Johnson, the Jets are hoping Adams can grow in his second season.
Adams has been getting a lot of praise throughout minicamp. He’s been more organized defensively, as he’s picking up plays a lot quicker, and is focused on becoming a better player, according to Bowles.
- QB Sam Darnold
This is almost a no-brainer, since Darnold has earned praise from Jets CEO Christopher Johnson. The Jets traded up to get who they are hoping will be their franchise quarterback, and many pundits went as far as to say he was the best quarterback in the draft. NFL Network’s Rich Eisen’s even said the Jets won the draft by selecting Darnold.
It’s easy to see why: Darnold certainly has a lot of upside to his game, as the 21-year-old threw 26 touchdowns, 4,143 yards and had a 63.1% completion percentage last season. Darnold has also shown good mobility, accuracy, good arm strength. He also has a very good physique for a QB at 6’3″, 220 lbs, and has a good football IQ. His coach at USC, Clay Helton, even went on to say that Darnold shows you what it’s like to be a pro.
That’s the good side of Darnold, but he is not a perfect finished product. Darnold threw 13 interceptions and committed 12 fumbles, along with some inconsistency issues last year. Also, some analysts wonder if he can become a star after many other USC quarterbacks, including former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, failed to do so. Jets fans are certainly hoping that Darnold can break that “curse.”
In addition to those five players, here are some honorable mentions.
QB John McCown
McCown is going to be a mentor to the young Darnold. He’s 39, and has played on 10 different teams. Despite his career record of 23-50, he has plenty of experience and is a good teammate. He has plenty of knowledge to share with the Darnold.
LB Darron Lee
In his second season, the 23-year-old out of Ohio State did improve significantly, as he racked up 79 tackles, which was second on the team but did struggle in coverage. Now in his third season, he will be getting play-calling responsibilities. It’s a risky move by the Jets, so we will see how Lee handles the role.
DE Leonard Williams
Williams has certainly impressed so far in his three-year tenure with the Jets. But with Muhammad Wilkerson gone, will Williams become the leader to the defensive line? Williams only had two sacks last year, but hit the quarterback 25 times, which put him at third overall in the AFC.
WR Quincy Enunwa
Like Bridgewater, Enunwa is coming off a neck injury that cut his season short last year. He participated in individual drills in minicamp, but won’t be a part of team drills until training camp.