Training camp practices start tomorrow and as always there are plenty of storylines that everyone is either obsessively focused on, plenty that will be obsessed over eventually and some that will fly under the radar all camp. So I'll answer a few questions from fans and touch on some of the more intriguing storylines of training camp present and future.
Darron Lee is going to eventually sign, most likely sooner than later. Obviously it would be nice to get this contract done but it absolutely will get done. The hangup is in the amount the Jets want to guarantee Lee in the fourth-year of the contract. ESPN's Rich Cimini says they are $600,000 apart on that. But again, don't worry about it. He will be signed and signed soon.
Everyone has been pretty vague on the timetable for Devin Smith's return, we'll likely have more information on that tomorrow. But my guess is he will start training camp on the PUP list but won't be on the PUP list to start the season unless the Jets feel extremely confident in all their other receivers besides just Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Remember if he starts the season on the PUP list he can't play for the first six games, he should be ready before that and if everyone else is healthy the Jets could go with one less receiver for a couple of games.
Either way I wouldn't expect him to contribute heavily right off the bat. Because of his speed and ability to catch the deep ball, once he's healthy, he could easily contribute a big play here and there, but considering how much time he missed last year — even before the injury — and how limited his route tree was coming out of college it's going to take him a bit to develop into a consistent receiver. Best case scenario is he starts to develop into a more consistent overall receiver in the last two to four games of the season, but the Jets are deeper at receiver this year so they have more options available until Smith does come around.
You are correct, neither Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg are ready to start and honestly neither of them are ready to be the backup and be just one injury away from having to play. The Jets will do everything possible to ensure Hackenberg doesn't start this year, ideally they'd like him to sit for at least two years, so he can't be the QB2. Neither can Petty though which is why if Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't return I expect Petty will be cut (maybe traded for a seventh-round pick?) and the Jets would get a Nick Foles or Josh McCown type vet to backup Geno Smith. But let's be honest the only way the Jets have a decent season is with Geno or Fitzpatrick and for more honesty they could still have a bad season with either Geno or Fitzpatrick.
And now, my thoughts on some of the most intriguing storylines and of course the obligatory will Fitzpatrick sign or not discussion.
What will be the most interesting camp battle?
There will be a bunch of interesting position battles and players battling to make the bottom of the roster and practice squad, but I'll touch on that below. The most interesting camp battle is not one anyone would expect, but that's part of what makes it so fun and intriguing, and that's the battle between the punters Lachlan Edwards and Tom Hackett. The Jets punting game has been nothing short of atrocious for years and now they have two incredibly talented rookie punters battling it out for one job. Both punters have vastly different styles and skill sets as a punter which, if both perform equally as well, will test people's preferences in their punters. Would you rather a punter have a crazy strong leg that can constantly crush punts deep and with a lot of hang time (Edwards), or would you prefer one with more accuracy and who excels at directional punting which can completely neutralize opposing teams return game (Hackett)?
And if that's not enough both of these Australian punters have a delightful personality and a great sense of humor. But to be honest I should admit my bias in who I'm rooting for to win the job, and I suspect most media members will be pulling for, is Hackett. The guy is a gold mine of hilarious quotes just waiting for us reporters to tap, so yeah sometimes it's okay to be selfish as long as I understand that the job goes to the better punter, not the funnier punter.
Who are the players to watch in camp?
There's no need to mention the obvious names that we can all expect to perform not only in camp but also during the season but we're talking about players who could have make or break years, who could play a pivotal role this season if they step up and what players fans should be concerned about whether or not they are up to the task that will be asked of them.
I'll start with Dee Milliner. I know most of you don't care, you've already written him off as a bust, but if — and obviously it's a gigantic if — Milliner can stay healthy he will probably see a lot of playing time and could even end up starting as the number two corner opposite of Darrelle Revis. Milliner is an extremely gifted cornerback, save your he's "trash/a bust" comments for someone else I'm not having it. Yes, Milliner struggled his rookie year but that's pretty standard operating procedure for rookie cornerbacks. The talent is there and he was very impressive in OTAs. Milliner has taken measures, such as taking yoga and eating healthier, with hopes of staying healthy and if he can stay healthy it will be fun to watch how good he can be and how much playing time his talent demands he gets. With Marcus Williams and Buster Skrine currently ahead of him on the depth chart Milliner has to really show out to claim that number two corner spot.
Brian Winters and Breno Giacomini - I still maintain that thenJets biggest weakness is the offensive line and really Ryan Clady and Brent Qvale should be mentioned here as well. If Clady can stay healthy and play to his old form the Jets will have upgraded at left tackle, and there's no reason to worry about Nick Mangold or James Carpenter. So that leaves Winters and Giacomini needing to improve greatly this season. If I had to guess only one of them could improve to a satisfactory level it would be the younger Winters, Giacomini could be a huge liability for the Jets if he has to start this year which is why it will be important to keep an eye on Qvale who could snag Giacomini's job with a strong camp/preseason and also provide a backup option if Clady can't stay healthy.
Quincy Enunwa and Jace Amaro - The Jets need to find a reliable third option in the passing game, luckily having Forte and Powell will give them that but they still need another target or three to step up and make plays. Can Enunwa build on last year and not only give the Jets an extra downfield blocker in the running game but also become a more consistent target in the passing game? Can Amaro bounce back from his injury and take advantage of the coverage flocking to Marshall and Decker?
Who are some under the radar players to watch for?
I'll start by sticking with the receivers, pay attention to Charone Peake and Jalin Marshall both looked very promising in OTAs and could certainly start to carve out roles for themselves this year. Don't expect them to light up the league or be consistent receivers year one but they could give fans plenty to be excited about for the future.
With the concerns I have about the offensive line one player I'm going to keep a close eye on is Jarvis Harrison. Harrison is a talented and powerful blocker who just needs to add some polish to his game. He showed flashes in training camp last season and if he can improve on that he could potentially steal Winters' job if Winters struggles. Dakota Dozier will be another name to watch on the line as he could be called on to fill in at guard or at center if Mangold gets injured.
So, what about Fitzpatrick?
Fitzpatrick still hasn't signed and we know the Jets have presented him with multiple options to choose from so far none of them are good enough for the 33-year-old journeyman quarterback and it appears he's going all-in betting that Geno Smith won't have a good enough camp/preseason and the Jets will be forced to give him more money. That's the only way the Jets raise any of their offers, Geno either has to look bad or get hurt otherwise the offer will stay the same until the finally pull it and tell him to kick rocks.
The Jets continue to say there's no set deadline but one would imagine there has to be a point where they can't justify bringing him back and just handing him the starting job unless Geno implodes or gets hurt and if they can't justify handing him the job then they certainly can't justify raising their offer. The longer Fitzpatrick continues this stare down the more he risks being exposed as bluffing with his two-seven off suit.
Chris Nimbley is the editor-in-chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)