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Jets Training Camp 2018: Five Position Battles to Watch

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NFL: New York Jets-Minicamp Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It is reporting day at Jets training camp. Practices begin tomorrow. The start of camp means we will see position battles take shape. Here are five to watch for the Jets this year.

Quarterback

Competitors: Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold

It has not been unusual for the Jets to have a competition for the starting quarterback job in recent years. What is unusual this year is there are quality options. This year is very different from 2017 when Christian Hackenberg was one of the options.

This year, the Jets have incumbent starter Josh McCown, who impressed the powers that be with a surprisingly solid 2017. They also have their blue chip prospect Sam Darnold whom the team traded up to pick third overall. The team also has a high upside wild card in Teddy Bridgewater whose career was looking promising before suffering a 2016 knee injury. Bridgewater looked very good during the offseason program by most accounts.

Possible edge for McCown: The coaching staff likes him and feels very comfortable with him after his 2017 performance.

Possible edge for Darnold: He is the face and future of the franchise.

Third Wide Receiver

Competitors: Jermaine Kearse, Chad Hansen, Terrelle Pryor

Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa have locks on the top two receiver spots as long as they are healthy. The team’s most frequent personnel grouping had three receivers on the field last season so that presumably leaves one starting spot.

Kearse put together career highs of 65 catches and 810 yards last season after being acquired from Seattle in the Sheldon Richardson trade as a salary dump. Hansen is a 2017 fourth round pick who didn’t contribute much as a rookie but was reportedly a standout of the offseason program. Pryor is a wild card. A converted quarterback, he put together a quality 2016 season with the Browns but had a disastrous 2017 season in Washington.

This is a pretty big competition because while the Jets used a number of three receiver sets last season, they had four wide receivers on the field for less than 10 snaps in the entire season.

Tight End

Competitors: Clive Walford, Eric Tomlinson, Jordan Leggett, Chris Herndon

The tight end competition is in many ways the anti-quarterback competition. While the Jets have plenty of quality and upside at the most important position on the field, it is difficult to see where the production will come at tight end. Walford has a pedestrian history. Tomlinson contributed as a run blocker a year ago but didn’t flash much ability as a receiver. Leggett and Walford are day three picks who have yet to suit up for a regular season game. Even if they do eventually turn into good players, it is a lot to ask for them to bring much to the table this season.

Slot Cornerback

Competitors: Buster Skrine, Parry Nickerson

Skrine is the incumbent, but he has rarely played well with any consistency in his three Jets seasons. He also carries a hefty $8.5 million cap hit, only $2.5 million of which would be dead money if he was cut before the season. Nickerson was the team’s sixth round pick out of Tulane this spring.

Skrine likely has an edge in this battle. He is the known commodity, and the team seems to like him. It also is a lot to ask of a sixth round pick to come in and contribute as a rookie. A lot of people think the Jets got good value taking Nickerson on day three and that he can develop into a good player. He still might need a year or two of development before he’s ready to help the team, though.

Kicker

Competitors: Cairo Santos, Taylor Bertolet

Tampa Bay gave Chandler Catanzaro a contract that was too rich for the Jets’ blood so the team will try to find a new kicker in this camp battle. Santos had a successful run in Kansas City that ended mainly due to an injury and his replacement doing a quality job. Bertolet was an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2016.

Possible edge for Santos: Santos is the more established NFL kicker of the two. In training camp last year, Cantanzaro was bested by Ross Martin in virtually every objective measure. The Jets kept Catanzaro, however, presumably because of his NFL track record. If that trend holds, Santos might have a leg up.