While training camp will conclude this week as the New York Jets prepare for their first preseason game Friday versus the Cincinnati Bengals, we will take a look at some players that have stood out during camp. Most of these players are not household names, and may not even be recognized by casual Jets fans, but they have gotten off to a solid start in making great contributions to the team this upcoming season.
Running Back Bilal Powell since being drafted in the fourth round before last season Jets fans were expecting more out of Powell last season. He wound up being inactive more often than not. Now he has come into camp with a purpose and to show coaches and his teammates he deserves a shot at more carries in 2012. Especially with LaDainian Tomlinson now retired, the Jets need a third down multi-purpose back who can block, catch out of the backfield, and break tackles to gain the needed yardage to keep drives alive. Powell may be ahead of even Joe McKnight for the role, but the preseason games will see who accepts that position.
Tight End/Full Back Josh Baker is another player who can accept multiple roles with the team. He generally plays tight end, mostly throwing blocks to help open up holes for the running back contingent, but he can do the same from the backfield at full back. During camp he has improved his pass catching skills allowing him to become more of a threat on offense, very possibly in the Tim Tebow lead package on the goal line/short yardage as well as wildcat plays.
Guard/Tackle Vlad Ducasse seems to finally be having his best training camp in his three years with the Jets. He is settling in at guard, and competing with Matt Slauson for the starting spot on the left side of the line. While we doubt he will supplant Slauson, it is good to know that he may finally be living up to his potential and should an injury befall Slauson or even Brandon Moore, he could step in and the line may not miss a beat.
Cornerback Ellis Lankster after Darelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson it can be said the Jets are a little inexperienced at cornerback, but after bringing aboard Lankster last season after being cast off by the Buffalo Bills (sound familiar?) he helped the Jets with contributions on special teams. Mike Westhoff expects more of the same, but Mike Pettine also will be utilizing Lankster's speed and skill set on blitz packages as well as four wide receiver sets by the opposing offenses the Jets will be facing.
Safety Antonio Allen was drafted mostly to help improve the speed and depth at the safety position, but the Jets coaches have liked what they have seen already so far in Allen's ability to play well in space and make tackles in many one-on-one situations, something he needed to improve upon. It seems the Jets have gotten themselves another LaRon Landry already, so expect Allen to see much playing time in the preseason to work out the wrinkles and continue sharpening those skills.
These are just some of the many names that could be stand-outs during the preseason as the New York Jets expect more from everyone that will make the final cut down to the 53-man roster prior to week one versus Buffalo. We can only hope that injuries don't beset any of them or the team in general, but should that occur the depth the Jets have at many positions will allow them to overcome any such injuries better than at any time during Rex Ryan's tenure as coach.
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