This week’s mailbag column will address the latest from organized team activities (OTAs), longshots that could make the 53-man roster, the kicker competition, and the franchise’s next move in free agency. First, links to our most recent mailbags:
- Week 42: Breaking down the 2022 schedule, plus final free agency targets.
- Week 43: Summer recruitment pitches, upcoming extensions & dark horse predictions.
- Week 44: Shocking cuts, year 2 leaps/regressions & the free safety battle.
- Week 45: Top offseason storylines, surprise starters/benchings.
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Reports From OTAs
Zero. We are in June and while it would be cool to see him practice for the first time this offseason, it truly doesn’t matter. I’ll be worried if we are talking about this in training camp or preseason games.
Right now, the Jets are being precautious as they were with Carl Lawson — who is coming off of surgery. The Jets have made a direct and transparent decision to play things light until camp to try and curtail injuries and we’ll have to wait and see if that strategy works.
Becton is a critical piece to the puzzle and on June 13, the Jets will get their first in-person look at him for a pre-camp physical. I’m sure we’ll hear how things look at that point.
I’m not too worried yet but I’m not willing to put it at a zero either. I feel like that would be ignoring all the prior history and concerns with the big man.
You can slot me in at a three or a four on the barometer, and that’s based strictly on the mystery surrounding the entire situation. How was his 2021 injury seemingly misdiagnosed by so many months? How is there anything other than 100% health being reported in June?
To me, the Riley Reiff sighting just adds to the uncertainty. Make no mistake, I think Joe Douglas should go ahead and sign the veteran offensive tackle right now, and that just goes to show that there is some level of worry.
2. Zach Wilson has thrown a few early interceptions at OTAs. What do you make of the spring mistakes and is any part of you that’s happy that the secondary seems to be improving?
See that is always the full form that no one talks about. While you don’t want to see interceptions from your franchise quarterback, that is also a tip of the cap to the newly improved secondary who is already impressing. As we often say in the offseason, the defenses are normally ahead of the offenses.
A quick aside on the Wilson struggles: I’d much rather see these mistakes now during practice when it doesn’t freaking matter. Practice is about learning from your errors and as Wilson has said previously, finding out what you can and can’t get away with it.
On top of that, the Green & White are incorporating a lot of new pieces to the offensive equation and that is going to take time to gel.
I cautioned some fans the other day on overreacting when it comes to OTAs. Just think back to last spring when Elijah Moore looked like an immediate All-Pro at the same practices and Wilson was shredding up what ended up being the worst-ranked defense in the league.
Competition matters and the Jets’ secondary may have turned into their greatest strength overnight — especially when Ashtyn Davis and Jason Pinnock are making plays at free safety.
If Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed Jr. and Jordan Whitehead are out there on the field, I’m confident that this unit will be strong in 2022. The unfortunate byproduct is that Wilson and the offense may not always look as special, but they could end up being better prepared in the long run.
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3. Name one longshot that you are pulling for to make the Jets’ 53-man roster and explain why.
This is a perfect opportunity for me to pound the very table I did a month ago for wide receiver turned tight end, Lawrence Cager. I want to make this clear that I tweeted this back in May and obviously, I feel even better about it now that he is making plays during OTAs.
As Connor Hughes noted, this is on the third-team offense versus the third-team defense and it is essentially a passing camp right now. However, you have to be impressed with the youngster who is making things interesting in the tight end room.
It is going to be difficult because three guys are automatic locks — Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah and Jeremy Ruckert. Although, if you squint, there is a fourth gig available and he’ll have to beat out Trevon Wesco and Kenny Yeboah. Cager has the traits and some blocking prowess from his college days that could come back in his newfound role.
It might sound crazy to consider this player a longshot but the number of edge rushers on the roster puts his status somewhat up in the air. That’s former undrafted pass rusher Bryce Huff, who has impressed when healthy over the years.
For the first time possibly ever, the Jets roster has too many disruptors at defensive end and D-tackle. The only guarantee on the inside at this moment is Quinnen Williams, but one can assume that John Franklin-Myers and Micheal Clemons will also play some DT based on different coaches’ statements.
Free-agent addition Solomon Thomas would likely play a similar dual-threat role and the combination of Lawson, rookie Jermaine Johnson II and Jacob Martin should account for three of the EDGE roster spots. Crunching the numbers, that doesn’t leave too much space with eight to 10 D-linemen most likely making the 53.
Players like Huff, Vinny Curry, Tim Ward, Jabari Zuniga, Hamilcar Rashed Jr. and Bradlee Anae will be in direct competition for a job, and I’d like to see Huff earn one of those roles.
4. Who ends up winning the kicker job for the Jets in 2022 – Eddy Pineiro, Greg Zuerlein or a mystery candidate?
I wrote a piece last week about the Jets having a first-world problem at kicker, seemingly two very viable options. That was immediately crushed by Connor Hughes on the beat who says the “neck-and-neck” comment from special teams coordinator Brant Boyer is only because no one has separated themselves in a good way.
I’ll stick by my take and say regardless of who wins the competition between the two, the Jets will be in a good spot. Pineiro was perfect in his short stint with the Jets last year and people love him.
I’m a little concerned with the small sample size of five games and prior to that hadn’t kicked in the NFL since 2019. I’ll bet on the vet, Greg ‘The Leg’ Zuerlein, winning the job and providing some consistency in the room.
It’s got to be “Eddy Money.” Zuerlein is 34 years old and has not had a truly top-notch season since his All-Pro year in 2017. The campaign that followed was decent but it’s been downhill from there.
This is a guy that was a major hindrance for Dallas in 2021, while Pineiro did everything and more as a Jet. Health has always been the problem for the former top prospect so it’s never bad to have options, but the 26-year-old Pineiro is the man I’d prefer to see win the job.
5. It feels like the Jets will still make a veteran addition, who does Joe Douglas sign next?
My gut tells me it is an offensive tackle. There are two I really like in Eric Fisher, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts, and the aforementioned Reiff who they worked out last week.
Either would be a phenomenal upgrade because they currently don’t have a reliable guy beyond Becton and George Fant. Reiff is probably the leader in the clubhouse based on his wealth of experience and versatility playing both the left and right side.
Although, don’t count out the former No. 1 overall pick who is a proven commodity coming off a really solid season for the Colts. They need to protect Wilson at all costs and that should be the top priority over another linebacker or a run-stuffing defensive tackle.
While I’ve been banging the drum for that extra defensive tackle to replace Sheldon Rankins or Nathan Shepherd, I’ll agree with my partner that Douglas’ next signing is an offensive tackle.
I mean, the blueprint is already there from 2021 when the Jets signed Morgan Moses, and how perfectly did that work out? Sure, Becton getting injured in Week 1 shouldn’t be described as perfect but the contingency plan was a dream.
The Jets GM had Reiff in the building watching practice so all that’s left might be putting the old pen to the paper. It’s time for Douglas to find his Moses 2.0.