After nearly six months, football is finally back.
Wednesday afternoon, members of the Jets present 90-man roster will report to Florham Park as the team begins its preparation for the upcoming 2015 season. With the team’s first practice scheduled for Thursday, what players should you keep your eyes on?
Leonard Williams, Defensive Tackle
Shortly after the Jets broke the team’s mandatory minicamp in June, the NFL announced that Pro Bowl defensive end Sheldon Richardson would miss the first four games of the regular season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Richardson’s absence from the Jets lineup opens the door for the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft Leonard Williams.
Regarded by many as the most talented defensive player in the NFL Draft, Williams (6-5, 291 pounds) earned such a reputation during his three-year career at USC. As a Trojan, Williams recorded 218 tackles, 21 sacks and 36.5 tackles for a loss. Training camp will be the first opportunity for the rookie to show he can play at the NFL level, and if he can help hold the fort down until Richardson returns.
Stevan Ridley, Running Back
The Jets were one of the league’s most active teams during free agency, and one of the more intriguing signings made was that of former New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley.
Ridley, 26, was once considered one of the NFL’s up-and-coming running backs after rushing for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. But after the breakout campaign, Ridley fell out of favor with the Patriots coaching staff due in part to his issues holding on to the ball. In his first three NFL seasons, Ridley fumbled nine times.
In 2014, Ridley finally seemed to have worked himself back into a featured role in the Patriots backfield, but things came to abrupt halt when he tore both his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) against the Cincinnati Bengals on October 5. Ridley was a limited participant during the Jets offseason workouts, but is expected to be ready for the start of camp. The question now is if he can return to the player that once ran for nearly 1,300 yards.
Chris Owusu, Receiver
When the Jets acquired former Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall via trade in March, he gave the Jets quite the 1-2 punch at receiver with he and Eric Decker. The question now is who is going to round out the unit’s three, four and five spots on the depth chart.
Enter Chris Owusu, a journeyman wideout who received a solid amount of first-team reps during the Jets minicamp.
With Decker one of the Jets best route runners, the team experimented with he, and several others, at slot receiver. When Decker moved into the slot, Owusu was one of the players that got reps with the starters outside.
Now in his fourth NFL season, Owusu made his way to the Jets midway through last season after being cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In five games, Owusu caught four passes for 58 yards. The Stanford product has size (6-2, 200 pounds), speed, solid hands and runs good routes. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to impress New York’s coaching staff and earn additional first-team reps when it counts in preseason games and the regular season.