Lost in all of the play-by-play coverage of New York Jets minicamp last week was a Mark Sanchez touchdown pass to wide receiver Royce Pollard in the first practice last Tuesday. Royce Pollard latched on with the Jets as an undrafted free agent following the 2012 NFL Draft. He played at the University of Hawaii and is competing for the fifth wide receiver spot, but does he have a realistic shot at making the active roster?
The New York Jets took a flier on Hawaii wide receiver Royce Pollard, who had an extremely productive senior season. Royce Pollard racked up 71 receptions for 1,011 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior in 2011. He's not a physical standout at 6-1, 175 pounds, but Pollard does have some qualities that make him an interesting prospect.
As much as Royce Pollard's ability will carve out his path, his immediate fate with the Jets is tied to the depth chart ahead of him. It's stacked. The first four wide receivers on the depth chart have already nailed down roster spots: Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens. That leaves one more slot for a wide receiver, and there's plenty of competition for it.
Included in that competition are: Patrick Turner, Scotty McKnight, DaMarcus Ganaway, Dexter Jackson, Eron Riley and Jordan White, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Patrick Turner played for the Jets last year, mainly in bunch formations as a blocker. McKnight is Mark Sanchez's best friend and spent the season on the practice squad – the team felt he was starting to come on until he injured his ACL. Riley was on the roster last season, Jackson was on the practice squad last season and Jackson was signed in mid-January, released and re-signed.
The only player that Royce Pollard has a leg up on to start is fellow rookie Jordan White, who has missed time with a broken bone in his foot. Of course, the Jets did use a draft pick on White and just signed him to a contract.
Not that this is a new situation for Royce Pollard. He entered the program at Hawaii as a walk-on and ended up as a captain for his senior season, an extremely impressive campaign during which he posted the numbers we gave you above. But can he make the Jets?
Barring injuries or something unexpected, it seems pretty unlikely. Pollard is going to have to outshine all of the players outside of the top four, including players the Jets have already invested time and money in. With his size, he's not going to beat out Patrick Turner as a blocker. His only real shot is to catch the eye of Mike Westhoff on special teams coverage units, or completely tear things up as a receiver. Even then, he would probably land a spot on the practice squad.
While that may seem like a gloomy outlook, he still has a great opportunity with the Jets. As long as Royce Pollard can hang with the Jets he will get to play in preseason games. That gives him a chance to impress the team he's playing against as well as have other teams see him on tape. There are a lot of jobs out there, especially on practice squads around the league. The wide receiver depth chart might be stacked with the Jets, but there are other landing spots available.
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