Jets training camp: Keep an eye on...

As always, there are several areas of the team that will be of interest as training camp dawns. How will a rookie kicker respond? Who is taking over at left cornerback? And, of course, is Chad Pennington healthy?

Kicker Mike Nugent: The first of two second-round picks in the draft -- and the Jets' first overall -- all eyes will be on the rookie kicker. A confident player who's ready to step in for veteran Doug Brien, Nugent will have every fan and reporter watching and charting every kick he makes all through training camp.

That's a lot of pressure on the new guy but the Jets are assured that Nugent can handle it. He had a penchant for making the big kicks at Ohio State and that's precisely what the Jets are looking for, especially after Brien missed two field goals late in the playoff loss at Pittsburgh last season.

Cornerback Ray Mickens: The 32-year-old Mickens missed the entire 2004 season to knee surgery, but he's going to get the first crack at the starting left cornerback job with Donnie Abraham retiring.

How long it will take Mickens to shed the rust in training camp is unknown, but the veteran has always yearned for a starting job after being pigeonholed as the Jets nickel back for so many seasons.

Mickens started 14 games in 2003 after Abraham suffered a shoulder injury and played well, making two interceptions. His age and last year's injury, however, may have slowed him just a bit.

When coach Herman Edwards was asked who his starting left corner was, he paused considerably before speaking Mickens' name.

Mickens, who stands only 5-8, will be competing with inexperienced players Pete Hunter and Derrick Strait so he's the favorite for now. The Jets are still looking at free agent Ty Law, who could be a mid-training camp signing for some team.

Cornerback Justin Miller: The second of the Jets' two second-round picks, Miller's talent is intriguing. While the team hopes he'll eventually take over as a starting corner, his role as a rookie will be to add some punch and excitement to the return game, both on punts and kickoffs.

Despite 13 interceptions and 31 passes defended in three seasons at Clemson, Miller is considered a very raw and somewhat undisciplined talent. His maturity level is also a legitimate source of concern.

In 2002, Miller plead guilty to a drunken driving charge and just a week before the draft, Miller spent the night in jail on charges of noise violation, resisting arrest and public disorderly conduct -- all stemming from a party he was throwing.

Coach Herman Edwards and defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson may have to play father figure as much as coach when trying to reign in Miller.

Quarterback Chad Pennington: As the franchise quarterback goes, so do the Jets. Coming off shoulder surgery, Pennington will be worked in slowly and he continues to build strength and endurance in his arm and upper body.

He hasn't thrown on consecutive days and it's conceivable Pennington won't do so until a week into training camp. Either way, he'll be limited to one practice a day early on as he gets closer to 100%. That's about 75-100 passes per day.

When he throws, Pennington doesn't feel as if he's had surgery. Instead, the "cranky" shoulder Pennington has now suffers from fatigue as he tries to build up muscles that support the shoulder, affecting his endurance in the long run.


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