New York Jets: Three positional battles for training camp

Training camp inches closer. The New York Jets hold their first training camp practice of the year two weeks from today, on July 24 at SUNY-Cortland. Forget the idea of competition at every position: At this point in the calendar year, we can safely say that last year’s front seven starters will remain starters, at least, and that Jace Amaro and Jeff Cumberland will be the Jets’ top tight ends.

Oh, if only every position were so neat.

There are still plenty of starters to be named during training camp. It’s time to look at the biggest positional battles entering the new season:

1. Quarterback: Geno Smith v. Michael Vick

Geno  Smith and Michael  Vick are most definitely in a quarterback competition for the New York Jets.

I can smell the competition from here.

Did you expect anything else? These are the Jets, after all. No matter who said what between April and June, this is a quarterback competition. It will carry a magnitude and media interest not quite rivaling, but reminiscent of, Mark Sanchez v. Tim Tebow. I think Geno has the edge, but it’s a true toss-up for now. (Also worth watching is if the SUNY-Cortland students who petitioned against their school hosting Vick will show up and picket practices.)

Too early prediction: Smith wins the starting job, as long as Rex Ryan doesn’t send him into the fourth quarter of a preseason game to be a sitting duck behind a practice squad-caliber O-line.

2. Cornerback: Battle Royale

Darrin Walls is temporarily practicing with the first team at CB2. Dee Milliner is the presumed CB1 and the cornerback on the roster with the most raw talent, but I don’t think he’s guaranteed a starting position, either. Before breaking out in December, Milliner really struggled in his rookie campaign, and the Jets have some more options now. I’m confident in journeyman free agent signing Dimitri Patterson because he’s confident in himself. Third-round pick Dex McDougle should be a contributor as well, and Kyle Wilson is likely to stay the nickel.

Too early prediction: Milliner and Patterson start, with McDougle rotating in frequently.

Can Dee  Milliner start his sophomore NFL season the way he played last December?

Can Dee Milliner start his sophomore NFL season playing the way he played last December?

3. Offensive guard: Willie Colon v. Brian Winters v. Caleb Schlauderaff v. Dakota Dozier

I was relieved when the Jets re-signed Colon in March, as he was their only starting-caliber guard in 2013. I don’t expect him to anywhere but starting – the question is, at left or right guard? Colon started at right guard last year, opposite Brian Winters, but there’s been talk this season of switching them to each other’s old sides. I personally want to see what rookie tackle Dakota Dozier can do at the guard position before anointing Winters a starter, but that’s what camp is for.

Too early prediction: Colon starts at left guard for the season, Winters at right guard for a few games, later to be replaced by Schlauderaff or perhaps Dozier.

Bonus – Fullback: Tommy Bohanon v. Chad Young

As a seventh-round pick in 2013, Bohanon beat out Lex Hilliard for the fullback position last year. This year, his competition will be undrafted free agent Chad Young. Young is a bowling ball at 5’10, 240 pounds, while Bohanon is three inches taller but with a similar frame. Bohanon took 17 carries for 62 yards in his rookie year, but the battle will more likely come down to which player is a better blocker.

Too early prediction: Young in the not so surprising upset. The Jets have gone through new fullback after new fullback since Tony Richardson’s retirement.