The NY Jets have had a number of players stand out thus far in training camp.
The NY Jets are officially two weeks away from the start of the 2020 regular season. An abbreviated training camp has already reached its midway point and teams are gearing up for Week 1.
That includes the Jets who are doing their best to prepare for a season that promises to be like no other before. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been an easy offseason for them or really any team.
The lack of a preseason, minicamp, and OTAs has meant that training camp — a shortened one at that — has been the only opportunity for teams to practice on the field together.
While virtual meetings are better than nothing, they’re hardly a substitute for on-field reps.
That’s made what happens on the field in training camp all the more important. Unheralded players are looking to make the most of their limited opportunities while returning starters are looking to establish their roles on the team in 2020.
That being said, some have obviously fared better than others.
The Jets have certainly had their fair share of training camp duds, but for the most part, it’s been encouraging to see a large number of players step up and improve their stock.
Some players who you won’t find on this list who have also impressed are cornerback Quincy Wilson, wide receivers Breshad Perriman and Lawrence Cager, running back Frank Gore, and tight end Trevon Wesco.
Now with the honorable mentions out of the way, let’s take a look at the Jets’ three biggest studs from training camp so far.
Next: 3. Blessuan Austin
3. Blessuan Austin, CB, NY Jets
Blessuan Austin burst on to the scene starting six games down the stretch after missing the first half of his rookie season. And in those six games, he made quite the first impression.
Austin was the catalyst for a much-improved cornerback group in the second half of the year and finished with a very respectable 71.4 Pro Football Focus grade. Not bad for a sixth-round pick who many didn’t even expect to play in his rookie season.
Hopes were high for the former Rutgers star heading into 2020, but he certainly wasn’t going to be handed anything.
A late-season benching temporarily landed him in Gregg Williams’ doghouse and the Jets brought in plenty of competition for the No. 2 cornerback spot opposite free-agent pickup Pierre Desir.
But throughout training camp, Austin has made it very clear that it’s his job to lose. And based on his performance so far, he isn’t going to lose it.
With Desir sidelined, Austin has stepped in as the de facto No. 1 cornerback and he’s excelled in that role. His standout training camp has featured multiple pass breakups and a highlight-reel one-handed interception of Sam Darnold last week.
At this point, he’s all but guaranteed a starting role even when Desir returns. And given what we saw from him last season, expect a huge sophomore season for the Queens native provided he stays healthy.
Next: 2. Chris Herndon
2. Chris Herndon, TE, NY Jets
It’s been well-documented at this stage, but the Jets desperately missed Chris Herndon last year. After a promising rookie season, many expected 2019 to be the year that Herndon truly broke out and established himself as a bonafide top-10 tight end.
Instead, he missed all but one game (one quarter of that game at that) dealing with a four-game suspension and multiple injuries that ended up landing him on the injured reserve.
2019 was a season to forget for Herndon. But in 2020, he’s back and prepared to show the NFL what could have been last season.
The chemistry he developed with Darnold in each of their rookie campaigns has returned in full force this summer with the two clearly making up for lost time.
Through the first couple of weeks of training camp, Herndon has been Darnold’s favorite target with the talented duo hooking up for countless touchdowns in practice.
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Given the injuries at an already-thin wide receiver position, Herndon’s role in 2020 will be even more crucial than first anticipated. His versatility will allow him to shine as both an in-line blocker in the running game and as a target (perhaps split out wide) in the passing game.
And if his performance this summer is any indicator, he should be up to the challenge.
Look for Herndon to take establish himself as the Jets go-to target this season.
Next: 1. Marcus Maye
1. Marcus Maye, S, NY Jets
The loss of Jamal Adams would be a major blow to any defense — there’s no sugarcoating that. Adams is among the best defensive players in the NFL and the value he brought to the defense over the past couple of seasons is nearly impossible to measure.
But while the Jets can’t exactly replace Adams, they can certainly do their best to alleviate the loss. That’s where Marcus Maye steps in.
When the Jets acquired veteran Bradley McDougald in the Adams trade, many assumed that he would step in and fill the prototypical strong safety role that Adams had occupied.
But that hasn’t been the case at all. Instead, it’s been Maye who has stepped right into the Adams role and excelled more than anyone could have anticipated.
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The former Florida star was typically found roaming 20-30 yards off the ball in the defensive backfield last season. A staple of Gregg Williams’ defenses, it allowed him to make the most of his center-field range and deep zone abilities.
And that’s primarily what Maye did while in college as well — roam the defensive backfield as a center-field-style free safety. But this summer, he’s showing that he’s capable of so much more
Williams has Maye playing everything from traditional safety to linebacker. He’s been tasked with rushing the quarterback, sitting back in zone coverage, and even playing linebacker at times.
Maye has become the Jets’ do-it-all safety that Adams has been for the last few seasons. And no one could have predicted that he would perform as well as he has.
Perhaps no one on either side of the ball has outplayed Maye this summer and he’s well on his way to earning a contract extension in the offseason.
It remains to be seen if his summer success will translate into the regular season. But based solely on training camp production, no one has shined quite as bright as Marcus Maye.