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5 New York Jets players set to face a high-stakes training camp

La'Mical Perine needs a strong 2021 NY Jets training camp.
La'Mical Perine, NY Jets, Getty Images

These 5 New York Jets players will have a lot to prove come training camp, needing great performances to earn snaps or make the roster.

RB La’Mical Perine

As a fourth-round pick of the current general manager who is only in his second season, La’Mical Perine‘s roster spot should be safe, but he could find himself buried on the New York Jets‘ running back depth chart if he has a lackluster camp and preseason.

Perine is in an unfavorable position on the totem pole entering Jets training camp despite his advantage as a second-year homegrown player. The Jets made two big additions to the position, bringing in a veteran with experience under Mike LaFleur (Tevin Coleman) and drafting another fourth-round running back (Michael Carter). Plus, Ty Johnson and Josh Adams return after a season in which they were substantially more efficient than Perine over a small sample of opportunities.

While Adam Gase gave Perine a criminally low number of opportunities (64 carries and 15 targets in 10 games) as he cruelly forced him to play second-fiddle to the prehistoric Frank Gore, Perine did not prove worthy of a bump in playing time when he did get the rock. Out of 96 qualified running backs, he ranked 76th in yards per carry (3.6) and 81st in yards per target (4.2).

Johnson and Adams received only 54 and 29 carries, respectively, but they played far better, averaging 4.7 and 5.4 yards per carry.

It seems to be extremely unlikely that Joe Douglas decides to cut Perine this early in his career, but with four intriguing players in the room for him to compete against, the possibility has to be at least considered. Perine may not be a complete lock to make the roster. A strong training camp and preseason would eliminate any sliver of doubt.

The more realistic concern for Perine is where he ends up on the depth chart. Most likely, he will make the team, but if he fails to stand out from the pack, he could be relegated to the third or fourth spot on the running back depth chart to begin the season. He has a lot to prove after a lackluster rookie year.

TE Chris Herndon

Most fourth-round tight ends who produce under 800 yards over their first three seasons do not get a chance to enter their fourth season with a chance to be their team’s primary starter. Chris Herndon has been given that rare opportunity.

Following a promising finish to his 2018 rookie season in which he ranked eighth among tight ends in receiving yards (455), fourth in receiving touchdowns (4), and fourth in yards per target (9.3) over the final 12 weeks, Herndon’s 2019 season was decimated by injuries. Herndon returned for 16 games in 2020 but played poorly. He dropped five passes and fumbled twice while posting only 287 receiving yards, barely more than half of his 2018 total (502).

Despite Herndon’s struggles, the Jets did not place a premium on the tight end position in the offseason. Their only notable additions were blocking specialist Tyler Kroft and undrafted free agent Kenny Yeboah.

Herndon has an unobstructed path to leading the tight end unit in targets and snaps if he can forge an impressive training camp and preseason. He probably will not get this opportunity again if he fails to maximize this one, at least not with the Jets.

CB Bless Austin

Like Herndon, Bless Austin has the rare opportunity to go into a season as a favorite to start despite being a late-round pick who has not had much success in the league over multiple seasons.

Austin played seven games as a rookie and showed promise as he allowed a 92.4 passer rating on throws into his coverage (for reference, the cornerback average was 98.8 in 2020) and committed only one penalty.

Over a larger sample of 11 games (10 starts) in his second season, Austin failed to deliver on that promise as he allowed a 103.0 passer rating, committed eight penalties, missed 11 tackles, and posted a 51.4 Pro Football Focus grade.

With only 16 career starts, Austin is the most experienced cornerback on the Jets’ roster, which is an advantage that very few third-year players get. Most of Austin’s competitors for playing time are rookies, and all of the competitors who are not rookies have less than half as many career starts. Second-year man Bryce Hall‘s total of seven starts ranks second in the position group.

Austin needs to seize control of his experience edge and put together a strong training camp and preseason to tighten his grip on a starting role. If he fails to do that, he will quickly fall out of favor with this regime due to the fact that he is the only cornerback on the roster who was not acquired during Joe Douglas’ tenure.

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WR Denzel Mims

Denzel Mims’ roster security is not in doubt. However, as a member of one of the deepest wide receiver rooms in football, he needs to make a convincing argument to the Jets’ coaching staff that he is deserving of a starting role.

As he prepares to fulfill his Julio Jones-esque potential (as described by former Jets cornerback Marcus Coleman), Mims will need to battle for targets against Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Jamison Crowder, Keelan Cole, and Braxton Berrios.

An illness held Mims out for a portion of the team’s OTAs period in June, which relegated him to second-team reps upon returning (not due to performance). Robert Saleh and his coaching staff showed that players will quickly tumble down the depth chart if they are not available.

Mims not only needs to stand out when he is on the field, but he needs to consistently stay on it. While that is obviously not something he has much control over, it will play a big role in determining his fate.

OL Cameron Clark

Cameron Clark has hardly made a peep since he was drafted by Douglas in the fourth round last season. Little is known about how he has performed on the practice field or what the Jets’ plans are for him.

There are a variety of places Clark can end up on the Jets’ offensive line depth chart. He was projected to switch from tackle to guard in the NFL, so he could earn a prime backup role at guard or even push Greg Van Roten for the starting right guard job. At the same time, Clark could remain at his natural tackle spot and provide depth there.

Clark will finally get a chance to put the pads on and compete against NFL opponents once the preseason rolls around (he, like all players, was robbed of that chance last year). Regardless of how he may have performed on the practice field up to that point, the preseason will be the opportunity to shine that Clark has been waiting for.

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2 years ago

Now that Steven Nelson has signed with the Eagles for a bargain basement rate of 4 million, and the Jets dodged a major bullet by not signing with Richard Sherman. We look at this major gamble, that Saleh, Ulbrich and Tony Oden can develop Bless Austin into a competent CB. Bless has all the tools, but he is mistake prone, seems to get lost in Zone coverage, just can’t see it. Expect Dunn to take over by game 4

2 years ago

Competitive Training camp. At running back much like SF last year the Jets will carry only 3 RB ‘s on the 53. Tough choices, I thought Coleman was a lock, now not so sure. Perine ‘s Performance in Training camp is crucial, but he gives the Jets a solid inside running presence that Coleman doesn’t provide. Therefore it’s Carter , Johnson & Perine. On the Offensive Line, the Jets will carry nine, 5 starters, plus Fant, Feeney, Cam Clark and controversially Edoga. It’s Cam Clark Over Lewis, it’s a bet on the future. Chuma Edoga has not played well , but he is a great fit for this Offense, some similarities to the USC Offense, last chance. McDermott has very limited movement skills.