Monday, August 3, 2009

Early Camp Storylines

Since I'm not up at camp, I figure it's pointless for me to just compile everyone else's stories when I'm not there to make my own judgments. So for the first few days of camp, here are five of the biggest stories so far in the early days of 2009 Jets' training camp.

1. Kellen Clemens vs Mark Sanchez
The problem with Clemens appears to be a propensity to throw interceptions. Six interceptions in six practices is not a way to win a job from a highly touted rookie quarterback, though this morning, he had his best practice despite the one interception.

Still, even if he shows a better command of the offense, he really needs to distance himself from his rookie counterpart, and he has yet to do that. It's early, and preseason games will likely end up being the deciding factor, but Clemens needs to run the offense crisply and turnover-free because if it's close, logic dictates Sanchez wins the job, despite having just 16 college starts under his belt.

2. The Vernon Gholston saga
Gholston came into camp with countless questions to answer, the most important of which being can he step in and be a serviceable starter in the first four weeks without Calvin Pace. So far, coaches have praised him, and by all indications, he is light years ahead of where he was last season. Unfortunately, he still has proven nothing on an NFL football field, and some have questioned his desire to get better.

But the physical tools are all there, and he has made more plays this camp. Whether or not that translates into being a competent NFL outside linebacker remains to be seen.

3. Injuries and injury scares
When Kris Jenkins went down the second day of camp, everyone involved with Jets football held their breath. Fortunately, his calf injury doesn't appear to be serious, though it will likely keep him out at least a week.

Shonn Greene also suffered a scare when he rolled an ankle, but he returned to practice the same day. RB Danny Woodhead, S Keith Fitzhugh, and TE Richard Owens (who was released today) have been among those who have gotten nicked up at times. Woodhead is back at practice, while Fitzhugh may have a separated left shoulder.

4. Rex Ryan's first camp
From candid press conferences to more open injury updates, Rex Ryan's first training camp as a head coach has been off to an interesting start. But today, things got chippy for the first time as Thomas Jones, James Ihebdigo, Howard Green, Brock Christopher, Ahmad Carroll, Nevin McCaskill, and others had a pretty big brawl at practice.

Rex Ryan, Bart Scott, and others have preached having a physical, hit-you-in-the-mouth defense. He probably did not mean it literally with his own players, but there are no hard feelings, and it shows part of the difference between Ryan and Eric Mangini. Nothing to worry about here.

5. Non-quarterback position battles
Believe it or not, there are a number of key position battles that don't involve Mark Sanchez and Kellen Clemens. Brad Smith, Chansi Stuckey, and David Clowney are in a battle for playing time at receiver, with the first two having a leg up on the speedy but inconsistent Clowney. Kareem Brown is trying to become the team's #2 tight end in his first year at the position, with fellow tight end newbie J'Nathan Bullock and rookie Jack Simmons pushing for playing time as well. It's also possible that Bubba Franks is resigned at some point, and the Jets have just signed former Rutgers and Carolina Panther TE Kevin Brock for competition.

One of the more underappreciated camp battles will likely be between T.J. Conley and Reggie Hodges, but it will be vital to the Jets' success. Field position will be key this season with a good defense and a ball control offense, and both punters have their pluses and minuses. Hodges didn't do a great job with the Jets last year, and the team originally opted not to bring him back, but he's been booming the ball in training camp. The rookie Conley has been impressive as well, and Mike Westhoff likes his potential. The winner should receive a lot of work, so keep an eye during preseason.

Thanks for reading. The big NFL story today has been Plaxico Burress's indictment and likely jail sentence. Burress has been linked to the Jets several times this offseason, and many fans have speculating bringing him in, including myself. This indictment, I would imagine, ends pretty much any hope of Burress playing again anytime soon. I'm still in favor of bringing in Matt Jones, another tall, talented, but troubled wide receiver, but Burress is done.


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