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NY Jets training camp bold predictions: Big trade rocks the offense

NY Jets Training Camp, Bold Predictions, Jeremy Ruckert
Jeremy Ruckert, New York Jets, Getty Images

It’s the most highly-anticipated New York Jets training camp in years

As the New York Jets report today for training camp, here are five bold predictions for what will go down throughout the next few weeks. Remember, the key word here is bold. These things are not supposed to be likely to happen.

Jeremy Ruckert will overtake C.J. Uzomah as TE2

With the way he performed in 2022, I thought C.J. Uzomah left the door open for someone to take his spot. His blocking was highly disappointing, which is troublesome considering he barely contributes as a pass catcher. As a tight end with 21 catches in 15 games, you need to be a fantastic blocker to justify making $8 million per year, and Uzomah was not that. Uzomah allowed far too many stuffs in the run game.

Jeremy Ruckert is in line to usurp Uzomah. As a third-round pick in 2022, Ruckert is no small investment by the Jets. They chose him with a relatively high selection in the draft and will be eager to get him more snaps in 2023 after he played only 46 offensive snaps as a rookie.

Ruckert shined in the Jets’ season finale against Miami, showcasing blocking dominance that soared well beyond anything Uzomah showed throughout the season. It’s only one game, so Ruckert still has to prove it was the real deal. But as the younger option who has a higher ceiling as both a blocker and a receiver, I can see a scenario where Ruckert overtakes Uzomah as the Jets’ TE2 if he has a stellar training camp.

The Jets will not re-sign Kwon Alexander and will roll with Jamien Sherwood as the LB3

I think there is still a very real chance that Kwon Alexander returns to the Jets. Remember, last year Alexander didn’t sign with the Jets until July 28. This year, there is reason to believe he could wait even longer than that, as he has already played a full season in the system.

Clearly, Alexander wants to find a team that will give him a bigger role than the one he played with the Jets last year. Alexander played 49% of the Jets’ defensive snaps as their third linebacker. Considering he performed well in the role, was a longtime starter before 2022, and is a former Pro Bowler, Alexander rightfully believes he should be starting.

I believe Alexander is planning to wait it out and see if a starting spot opens up due to injury or underwhelming training camp performances, and if something doesn’t open up, he will eventually return to the Jets. It’s possible that Alexander and his camp have communicated this to the Jets and there is some sort of handshake agreement in place.

However, considering the nature of the NFL, it seems likely that some team out there will find itself needing Alexander in a starting role at some point. Whether it’s an injury or a disappointing camp from a projected starter, I think Alexander will get the opportunity he’s been waiting for.

That leaves Jamien Sherwood as the favorite to take over for Alexander. Some have speculated that the Jets could use a safety to fill Alexander’s shoes – either Jordan Whitehead or Adrian Amos – but my hunch is that the Jets’ coaches are fond of Sherwood and believe he can step up. As long as Sherwood enjoys a smooth training camp, I feel he will be playing Alexander’s role come Monday, September 11.

Jermaine Johnson will not receive a massive bump in snaps

Some are expecting Jermaine Johnson to play a significantly larger role this year. While that sounds like a great idea in theory, I just don’t see where those snaps are coming from. All of the key edge rushers are back and the Jets only further muddied the lineup by adding Will McDonald into the mix. Where are the vacant snaps for Johnson to take?

My prediction is that as training camp progresses, it will become clear that Johnson’s role isn’t going to be that much different than the role he played last year, and it will send some Jets fans into a tizzy.

I do think Johnson will see a slight uptick in early-down snaps. John Franklin-Myers and Micheal Clemons (specifically Clemons) are poised to see an increase in snaps on the interior due to the Jets’ lack of depth at that position. Franklin-Myers and Clemons are early-down players on the edge, so if they translate some of those early-down edge reps into interior reps, it will open up more first and second down reps for Johnson.

However, I don’t think Johnson will receive any more third down snaps than he did last year. Bryce Huff and Carl Lawson dominated the third down reps on the edge and both players are back. Plus, this is the situation where McDonald is likely going to get the majority of his snaps in year one. Any third down snaps that are taken from Lawson or Huff will probably go to McDonald instead of Johnson.

Earlier this offseason, I laid out my ideal snap-count distribution plan for the Jets’ defensive line. I had Johnson playing 45% of the Jets’ defensive snaps. That is an increase of 11% over the 34% ratio he played in 2022. As we discussed earlier, I think these vacated reps will come on early downs due to Franklin-Myers and Clemons playing more on the interior.

For me, I think that is a significant boost and very fair considering the circumstances, but it might be underwhelming to some Jets fans out there who envision Johnson blossoming into a star this year. I don’t think Johnson is going to soar into the sixties or even hit the 50% mark (to begin the year – it could change if he starts hot).

Whether or not my prediction is actually “bold” depends on what your outlook for Johnson is, but I do know some Jets fans have extremely high hopes for him, so to those fans, it might be considered bold to say Johnson will play 45% of the snaps.

Mekhi Becton gets traded

If the Jets are lucky enough to reach the end of August with a healthy Mekhi Becton, I can absolutely envision them trading him. Do I think it’s likely? No. But I think it’s very much on the table.

Even if Becton stays healthy throughout training camp – or the entire regular season, for that matter – his durability track record is already so porous that it would still be impossible for the Jets to trust him long-term after this season. To this point, Becton has played 100% of the Jets’ offensive snaps in 8-of-50 games (16%) over his first three seasons. So, even if he has a perfect season in 2023, he’ll be 25-of-67 (37%) going into his fifth season.

Can you trust that player for the long haul? Especially after a season that may have been fueled by the motivation of a contract year?

The Jets may have already decided that they have no plans of sticking with Becton beyond 2023 regardless of how this season plays out. If that is the case, and Becton makes it through training camp and the preseason in one piece, I could see the Jets counting their lucky stars and selling Becton off to a desperate team in late-August or early-September – rather than potentially losing him for nothing if he gets hurt again in the regular season.

This is speculation, but I also get the feeling Becton’s off-field actions have rubbed the Jets the wrong way. Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh have placed a heavy emphasis on culture since coming to Florham Park. Becton’s constant Twitter ramblings – especially those regarding his role with the team – probably do not sit well with the team’s higher-ups. Saleh certainly didn’t seem pleased with Becton when the media asked him about the fourth-year tackle’s Twitter declaration that he “is a left tackle”.

It all comes down to how the Jets feel about their other tackles. They have a nice group of competitors from which one starter-worthy player could potentially emerge. Veteran free agent Billy Turner, 2022 fourth-round pick Max Mitchell, and 2023 fourth-round pick Carter Warren give the Jets three shots at the dartboard.

If none of those players prove they are starting material, the Jets will probably just cross their fingers and roll the dice on Becton provided he is healthy. But if someone steps up to the point where New York sees a minimal drop-off in performance (or they even outplay Becton, which isn’t totally impossible considering Becton’s rust), I think they’ll take what they can get for Becton and move forward with the more durable and less dramatic option.

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Jonathan Richter
10 months ago

I don’t think any of these are farfetched. I think Ruckert definitely wins the spot ahead of Uzomah. Uzomah starting the year on the PUP list just gives Ruckert more chances to shine in practice. Agree that they are hoping Sherwood steps up. CJ Mosely seems very high on his prospects, but depth is still an issue and I think they will sign Kwon. You predict JJ’s snaps don’t go up, then predict they’ll go up by 33%. I agree. He won’t make it to 50% but that’s because we’re so freaking deep. On Mekhi, I think they keep him. I agree they have issues with his attitude, but his weight loss was a real eye-opener. If he stays healthy and plays well they can tag and trade him next year, or just get a compensatory pick if he leaves. His trade value is pretty low right now.

Jets71
Jets71
10 months ago

I have been saying a Becton trade for a while now. Clearly they don’t like his mental focus, and I do think there is something in the mix about how he hasn’t lived up to what he’s told them through the draft process. If anybody shows they can play RT and they feel ok with Billy Turner/AVT/Warren or someone else as the swing OT they will trade him. (Side note: is George Fant done? Is the knee that bad? He’s a FA, might he be someone they reach out to and perhaps fill the backup OT role? Thinking a Becton trade.)

You have been saying Ruckert for a while now, I still think Uzomah stays above him on the depth chart. It’s a vet thing with him and Rogers.

Here’s one to add, Huff gets traded. I don’t think his value will ever be higher, and if we are being honest they have to be hoping they can get the same production and more from 2 first round draft picks. Keeping Huff while a good piece is a “progress stopper” for JJ, and McDonald. Oh…and the Huff trade will send “some Jets’ fans into a tizzy.”

Lastly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Corey Davis is not on this team. They have done nothing with his salary, and with the additions of Lazard, Hardman, and Cobb he could be the odd man out. I think they would love to trade him but I’m not sure they will. It may end up they just let him go outright. My guess, they hope some team needs a WR because of some injury and they can get something for Davis.

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