When you cover a football team long enough, you think you know everything there is to know about the roster.
You start to understand which training camp battles are most important and who is fighting for those precious few starting gigs. Or at least you think you do.
On Thursday we received a rude awakening from New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh about assuming and knowing what we say about people who assume.
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A Surprising Name Has Jumped Into the Mix
They aren’t who we thought they were and we almost let them off the hook. The late Dennis Green probably would’ve said something like that following Thursday’s presser.
A reporter was setting up a question asking coach Saleh about how he felt about the slot cornerback position. In his setup, the reporter mentioned Michael Carter II and Javelin Guidry as the guys who have stood out the most in that race then coach interrupted and jumped in:
“You can throw Elijah Campbell in there too [as someone else who is in that race and has had some nice moments]. That nickel spot, I’m very excited about that group. That’s a very good group. They’re all battling out there showing different traits and all of those are winning traits in this league. I’m going to continue to give them that opportunity to continue to battle throughout camp. That’s going to be a fun one to watch.”
That’s the proper response from that reporter, fans listening back at home, and really anyone in that media room.
Elijah Campbell is a fourth-year defensive back from Northern Iowa. The 25-year old has prior experience playing mostly safety during his run in college where he played for three different organizations in Iowa Western Community College, Northern Illinois, and Northern Iowa.
Since college, he has had a similar path in the pros where he has bounced around between the NFL (Cleveland Browns), AAF (Birmingham Iron), and the XFL (DC Defenders).
After all that moving around, it seems like he has finally found a home.
Campbell, despite most of his history playing safety, is competing for the starting slot role in this defense. His main competition is Guidry, a second-year speedster who started two games last year, and MC2 a rookie out of Duke who also has a ton of experience at safety.
It should be a fascinating battle, but the fact that Saleh went out of his way to make sure Campbell got some love in the media is very interesting. This is certainly something to keep an eye out for as we progress through camp.
The Rotation Will Stop Once We Get to the Season
There are a lot of positions that are a game of musical chairs right now during training camp.
In the running back room, five or six guys are getting different combinations with the ones. The same situation exists in the wide receiver room where a lot of different guys are getting their chances. That is also happening right now with the Jets’ array of cornerbacks, but that won’t last for much longer.
While Saleh is a huge proponent of giving every player on the 90-man roster an opportunity to earn their place on the team, that’ll change once we get to the regular season.
“Just from a defensive standpoint, I believe those guys need to get into a rhythm. There is definitely a game within a game. I’ve been a part of rotations where you pull a guy and then add a guy where they rotate series. I feel like that has always messed guys up more than it has helped them. It’s a little different than some of the other positions like running back where you can work with a lot of different guys in there. So hopefully we can find three guys that separate themselves.”
There’s the annual green vs white scrimmage on Saturday, three preseason games, and a series of joint practices to determine who will be the starting three cornerbacks on this team Week 1 vs the Carolina Panthers.
As you’re putting together your projections for who will ultimately take what job in the secondary. Don’t count out Campbell as a legitimate option in the slot, if you do, you’ll regret it.
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