The New York Jets have a ton of starting jobs up for grabs in OTAs, but the one creating the most intrigue is the spot opposite of Carl Lawson.
We all know the former Cincinnati Bengals superstar is holding down one of those starting gigs. He signed a record-breaking three-year deal worth over $45 million with 66 percent of the contract guaranteed.
The other spot open in this 4-3 scheme is one of the juiciest storylines of the Jets offseason.
So Who’s Going To Start Opposite of Him?
Gang Green defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said the answer to that question is “still to be seen.”
While there’s still plenty of offseason left to go with voluntary offseason training activities, mandatory minicamp, training camp, and then a new-look three-week preseason someone has separated themselves early.
“Bryce Huff has flashed a little bit early,” Ulbrich said during his availability with the media. “He has earned more reps. I’m so excited about what he can become in this system.”
The 23-year old was a priority free agent add for the Jets following the 2020 NFL draft. Many analysts expected Huff to hear his name called, but he surprisingly went undrafted.
Despite those humble beginnings, Huff not only rose above his undrafted free agent start to his career but made the final 53 man roster. While he didn’t start a game during his rookie campaign, Huff made a huge impact with his limited opportunities:
- Two sacks
- Four quarterback hits
- Four tackles for loss
An undrafted free agent making a final 53 man roster would be impressive any year. Although overcoming the odds in 2020 is flat our remarkable.
We were in the middle of a world pandemic. NFL teams had strict roster requirements and fewer opportunities to impress. There was no true offseason and the preseason was eradicated because of COVID.
With so few opportunities the fact that Huff made the team is an inspiration considering those circumstances.
Evaluating the Level of Competition
There’s no question that Huff is the dark horse in this competition.
He’s one of the most inexperienced players on the roster. The former Memphis star has only 295 professional snaps during his short time in the NFL.
While Huff lacks some battle scars, he’s not the only youngster in this group:
- Hamilcar Rashed Jr out of Oregon State is a Huff clone. Another talented undrafted free agent pass rusher trying to break through and make the final 53.
- Jabari Zuniga was a third-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft. He was highly thought of but didn’t end up realizing his full potential due to injury. The former Florida Gator played only 103 snaps as a rookie.
- Kyle Phillips is another undrafted free agent who has defied the odds. In his first year with the Jets, he played a ton of snaps (over 550), but last year only played in seven contests.
The competition however will be fierce. On top of all the young guns, there’s an array of seasoned veterans looking to snag the starting spot.
Vinny Curry is entering his 10th year in the NFL and is a proven player in this league. Ronald Blair has multiple years of experience in this system. John Franklin-Myers was recently named the most “underappreciated” player on the Jets roster and he’s overflowing with potential.
The good news is with so many talented players along the green and white’s defensive line there will be plenty of opportunities to go around. The San Francisco 49ers system requires more bodies in the trenches because they rotate guys to keep the machine well oiled.
Although there can only be one true starter opposite of Lawson. Huff may not be the first guy you think of in this competition, but you’d be naive to disregard him in this heated battle.