With training camp on the horizon, the New York Jets will prepare for a bounce-back season in 2018. Luis Tirado Jr. of The Jet Press sits with Christa Levitas of Locker Room Update to discuss their top 10 training camp predictions.
Training camp sure is a great time for all. Players, coaches, and fans all prepare and build excitement for what awaits over the next few months. From positional battles, preseason football, and the eventual start of the regular season, it’ll be another fun summer for the New York Jets.
Anything and everything can and will happen but for the most part, positivity is in the air for what should hopefully be a better season than last year. The Jets are coming off two straight losing seasons in which they ended at 5-11 but have a lot of hope for a brighter future. One that features a stout defense, a top-notch offense, and a new young franchise quarterback ready to push the envelope for many years to come.
Every offseason, I sit with Christa Levitas of Locker Room Update to do a sitdown on various topics involving the Jets. This time around, I wanted to focus on our top 10 bold predictions for training camp.
We will each be sharing our top five predictions and discussing them together. Besides writing about the Jets, she also does amazing interviews with future prospects heading into the NFL. I’m a huge fan of her work and recommend to everyone to please check out her Facebook author page as well as her awesome interactions on Twitter.
10. Two WRs with over 1,000 yards
LTJ: Hey Christa! Thanks so much for sitting with me for another one of our sitdowns! Alright, since as always, it’s ladies first, let’s hear your first training camp bold prediction for the Jets!
LTJ: Wow! Okay, so I take it you believe that Anderson will stick to having his name in the headlines solely for football purposes and that Enunwa will be just fine after coming back from a severe neck injury? Do explain!
CL: Last year, Robby Anderson was on his way of getting at least 1,000 receiving yards. Unfortunately when McCown went down, so did his stats. Now that the Jets have an improved QB room compared to last year with McCown, Bridgewater, and the Jets future QB with Sam Darnold, Robby will easily get his 1,000 yards he was just shy of last year. I added Quincy as well simply because I believe the Jets will use him more than just a WR. The option to use him as a TE since they’re in a West Coast offense will play to his advantage. Before Quincy got hurt, he was a legitimate good wide receiver for the Jets. They have been cautious with him during minicamp which I believe was the right decision.
Next: 9. The Week 1 starter under center
9. The Week 1 starter under center
CL: I’m going right into the hottest topic all summer long and that’s what will happen at quarterback! My prediction is that Sam Darnold will be the Week 1 QB.
LTJ: Nice! Okay, what do you think will happen with the open competition at quarterback? You think Sam Darnold is going to play lights out football?
CL: I think it’s going to a close QB competition, to be honest. Each may have their ups and downs and the Jets are giving Darnold every opportunity as possible to earn the starting spot. But I believe Darnold will play well and good enough to the point where they will name him as the Week 1 starter. The Jets offense caters to his strengths and I believe he will do well with this West Coast system.
LTJ: Very interesting! Presuming Darnold is the Week 1 starter, who do you believe will be his top receiving target on offense as he begins his rookie season in such conditions?
Next: 8. A surprising UDFA makes the final roster
8. A surprising UDFA makes the final roster
CL: I’m predicting that a surprising undrafted free agent will make a name for himself all training camp long. That’s right, Brandon Bryant, the safety the Jets just got as an UDFA after the supplemental draft, will make the final 53 man roster.
LTJ: Talk about making an immediate impact! I know the Jets are pretty stacked at safety but we all know Todd Bowles loves to have more defensive backs on his roster. What is your reasoning as to why he’ll make the final cut?
CL: The Jets have two very good young safeties in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. The Jets were at Bryant’s pro day so they saw that he has good speed, potential, and athleticism that tackles extremely well. I believe he has the tools and intangibles that Todd Bowles likes in a safety and although the Jets have two very good safeties, Bryant brings a lot of potential. I believe the Jets see him and view him as someone who can help contribute on this defense immediately in 2018.
Next: 7. Buster Skrine gets demoted mid-season
7. Buster Skrine struggles in training camp
CL: Buster Skrine had a lot of problems last season due to reckless penalties. My next bold prediction is that Parry Nickerson will replace Buster Skrine in the slot midway through the season. Skrine will likely be kept once training camp is in the books but I don’t see him keeping a starting spot all season long as he’ll get demoted.
LTJ: I totally agree with you there, Christa. A part of me feels that Skrine lost a step since last season and contributed more bad than good. I think he’s going to once again be a problem with coughing up too many penalties. What makes you think Skrine will get demoted?
CL: Buster Skrine did pretty good towards the second half of the season. Penalties are a concern but it is an overall team concern as well. My reasoning is simply because Parry Nickerson is a guy I believe is extremely talented. He’s a ball hawk whose pretty good in coverage as I think he will prove himself early in training camp. Nickerson will also prove to the coaching staff he’s ready to start sooner than later.
Next: 6. A wide receiver standing out from the rest
6. A wide receiver standing out from the rest
LTJ: I can honestly see that happening since I’m not sold at all on Terrelle Pryor. He didn’t have much activity during organized team activities or mandatory minicamp so he’s still one big question mark. What makes Hansen special in your eyes?
CL: Pryor brings a different element to the Jets offense and he is a good red zone target. I know it’s only minicamp but we read reports where Hansen has shined. Yeah, there’s no physical contact allowed but it’s nice to hear. Plus, he has been working on with his chemistry with Sam Darnold. Last year was a learning experience for him and I believe the game is slowing down for him. With an improved QB room, we will see his potential. He has the size and speed to be something special for the Jets.
Next: 5. Wide receiver corps will be a huge letdown
5. Wide receiver corps will be a huge letdown
LTJ: Alright Christa, my turn! I just don’t see the wide receiver corps of the Jets being anything special this upcoming season. I see it as a lot of hope that doesn’t translate into reality. While I think Anderson will be the Jets top weapon on offense, he can’t do it all on his own. I think this unit will regress again this upcoming season, making it a top priority to address next season. As a whole, do you think this unit will overachieve, underachieve, or just be somewhat decent?
CL: I think now that the Jets have an improved QB room, we will see a huge change in this offense. Having a good QB makes a huge difference. I get the concern but I honestly believe the Jets not only have potential but more than enough talent at wide receiver. Having a healthy Enunwa will be a huge benefit to the Jets. Anderson has a ton of potential and like I mentioned before, he was just shy of getting 1,000 yards. If McCown never got hurt, he would have easily reached that mark. Jermaine Kearse is a good consistent veteran to have, while Pryor is a good red zone target. The Jets may not have a legitimate No. 1 WR but there’s talent and potential with this group. It’s also very possible the Jets could be looking for #1 WR next offseason but I really believe this a decent WR core that’s underrated.
LTJ: I see what you mean but my main concern revolves around health, reliability, and execution. I hope Enunwa comes back healthy but reality says to me he might not be the same player we saw a few years ago. Anderson has to not only regain the trust of the Jets but of fans as well, I hope he turns a page and focuses strictly on his football career but who knows after several off-the-field arrests. The rest of the Jets receiving corps have promise but again, when it’s regular season time, I think opposing teams will shut down Anderson and the rest will be exposed against top-tier defenses. As always, time will tell what happens with this positional group.
Next: 4. Sam Darnold will have growing pains
4. Sam Darnold will have growing pains
LTJ: I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for Darnold and everything he brings to the table. Once again, I’m all about reality and realistic expectations. I know Darnold did pretty well during organized team activities and mandatory minicamp but that’s all done in t-shirts and shorts. I think Darnold will have growing pains in training camp as he adjusts to life in the NFL. The Jets, like they’re known to do, will likely keep him on the bench before rushing him too soon. I see the Jets going with McCown to start the season which gives Darnold a little more time to develop. Once he’s ready at some point this season, I can see the Jets making the quarterback switch, especially if McCown struggles or gets hurt. If McCown starts and Darnold does well in training camp, will the Jets keep or trade Teddy Bridgewater?
CL: That’s reasonable to think that and it’s possible that could happen. A lot depends on how training camp pans out. Even though in my eyes I could see Darnold starting, any of these QBs could very well be the starter come Week 1. A lot depends how training camp pans out and who wins the starting QB job. A lot also depends on preseason in regards to Bridgewater. If a starting QB from another team goes down and Bridgewater is doing well but he’s not the starter, I could see the Jets entertaining a trade. Especially if it’s a good offer like a draft pick or possibly a pass rusher. There’s also another scenario where I could see the Jets keeping Bridgewater until the trade deadline and then trade him like the Pats did with Jimmy Garoppolo.
LTJ: I ultimately think the Jets will keep all three quarterbacks heading into the regular season due to the uncertainty of both veterans. McCown got hurt last year and he’s been known to get hurt more often than not. If he gets hurt a week or two into the regular season and all the Jets have on the roster is Darnold, that could be catastrophic if they trade away Bridgewater prematurely. At least with Bridgewater, they have someone that has experience and can hold the fort in case Darnold needs a bit more time. I know this will likely be McCown’s last season with the Jets and probably in the NFL but how cool would it be if he retires and Gang Green is able to keep him as a special quarterbacks coaching assistant or something of that nature? You know, to continue Darnold’s development over the next few years?
CL: Honestly, my thought process is that after this year and his contract is up with the Jets, he will join the Jets coaching staff as their QB coach. Currently, Bates holds the position as Offensive Coordinator and QB coach. It wouldn’t surprise me if McCown joined and accepted the position next year if it were to happen. It’s not a crazy thought at all in that scenario. I definitely get your point and see the benefits.
Next: 3. Isaiah Crowell will be the top running back in training camp
3. Isaiah Crowell will be the top running back in training camp
LTJ: I think Bilal Powell was out of the starting running back conversation once the Jets acquired Isaiah Crowell via free agency. He’s going to be one of the brightest spots this upcoming season as I see him being the top running back once training camp is in the books. How do you see him doing in training camp compared to the rest?
CL: I love Bilal Powell. Part of me still believes he’s the Jets best running back on our roster but I agree. Crowell brings a different element to the Jets RB core. He’s a bruiser similar to the style of play Chris Ivory is.
LTJ: Awe man, I miss Ivory! I definitely see the similarities between the two and see Crowell being a huge part of the Jets offense since he’s a dual-threat that can hurt opposing defenses in multiple ways. Where do you see Elijah McGuire fall in all of this? Does he take a step in the right direction in training camp to bump up on the depth chart or will he end up being the third or fourth-string running back?
CL: I believe he will be the 3rd running back on this roster. From everything I read and heard the Jets really like McGuire. RB coach Stump Mitchell made an interesting comparison by comparing him to LaDainian Tomlinson. I believe the Jets will utilize the RBs similar to how they did last year. I believe McGuire has a bright future on the Jets.
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Next: 2. Bilal Powell gets traded due to overcrowded situation
2. Bilal Powell gets traded due to overcrowded situation
LTJ: I know this will likely get many Jets fans upset for the mere thought of it, but I just don’t see Powell making it to the start of the regular season. The truth of the matter is, the Jets need a pass rusher bad or at the very least, another pick or two in next year’s draft. I ultimately see the Jets trading Powell since they have Crowell, McGuire, Cannon, and even Thomas Rawls. If the Jets do trade Powell like I predict they will during training camp, what do you think they can get in return for him?
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CL: I’m honestly not sure, I think he’s more valuable to the Jets than anyone else. He’s a free agent next year and although he doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear, he will be 30-years-old soon and will be a free agent next year. He might not be worth a lot back in return to the Jets but if they were to get a draft pick I would say a late rounder like 6th at most?
LTJ: Yeah, I totally agree, it’s not like he’s worth a first-round pick or anything. I think the Jets will trade him for a pass rusher, maybe not of the highest quality but possibly a young player with plenty of upside. Powell could be useful for a team in need of an experienced running back that can do damage on the ground or through the air. How many running backs do you think the Jets will have on the depth chart heading into the regular season?
CL: I believe they will have 3 including a fullback.
Next: 1. Josh McCown wins the QB training camp competition
1. Josh McCown wins the quarterback training camp competition
LTJ: As much as fans want Darnold to start and break the mold of starting yet another regular season with an aging veteran quarterback, I boldly predict McCown will win the open quarterback competition in training camp. The Jets are investing $10 million in him due to his huge season last year to not only start but hold the fort until Darnold’s ready to take over. McCown obviously has the most experience compared to anyone else and puts the Jets in a good position to win some football games early on in the season. McCown will also be Darnold’s main mentor as he transitions to the pros. If this happens, do you think the Jets will make the quarterback switch when Darnold is ready or only when McCown struggles or gets hurt?
CL: I believe the Jets will make a switch once Sam Darnold is ready. Like you mentioned, not only is McCown a QB option but he’s also a mentor who is helping coach up these young guys. It’s not strange to think McCown or any of these QBs could start. May the best man be our Week 1 starter!
LTJ: Christa, thanks again for spending time with me and getting this done. Let’s end this with a bold prediction leading into the regular season! How many wins are the Jets ending with in 2018? I have them going 6-10. You?
CL: Anytime, Luis! My pleasure! Thank you again for your time and for the opportunity! I have them going 7-9. See you all at training camp!