It’s awfully quiet here at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
The Jets’ 2012 training camp officially kicks off with player check-in day next Thursday, but that will take place 200 miles to the northwest at SUNY Cortland. Anticipation is building and you wonder which players are going to make some noise this summer.
“I think you need to watch out for Joe McKnight. People ask me and he’s my sleeper for the team,” said TE Dustin Keller. “Obviously nobody is low on Joe, but I think he has so much more upside than people even realize. He’s a great running back, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and he can do so many different things for you. He’s a good special teams guy, returning punts and kickoffs, whatever. He’s definitely a major X-factor for us.”
Keller, who has led the Green & White in receptions each of the past two seasons, says the Jets are going to become more reliant on their ground game than they were in 2011. Last year they rushed the ball 43% of the time (443 rushes in 1,030 plays). In Mark Sanchez’s second season, the team had an almost even balance at 49% (534-1,087). And in Rex Ryan’s first season as head coach and Sanchez’s rookie campaign, the Jets kept on the ground on 59% of their plays (607-1,030).
“I think the identity of Coach Sparano’s offense is obviously ‘Ground and Pound.’ That’s something he wants to instill in the team, that we are a run-first team, but we definitely can still throw the ball,” Keller said. “We have a lot of weapons out there. We went and made some things happen in the draft with Stephen Hill, obviously Santonio is there, Patrick Turner and Jeremy Kerley — so many guys that can make big plays out there. Just to think, with those types of guys at the receiver position and it’s still our secondary option, it kind of has to make you excited for what’s coming up in the season.”
The element of explosion was often absent from the Jets offense last year and a lot of teams dared them to beat them down the field. So in response, the Green & White picked up Chaz Schilens in free agency and then happily moved up to get Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill in the second round. And with LaDainian Tomlinson moving on into retirement, McKnight is going to get more opportunities carrying the rock and running pass patterns down the field. Kerley, coming off a solid first pro season, has dynamic feet and should be a handful in the slot.
More speed and more quickness on the field should equate to more space to roam.
“I think with the addition of Stephen Hill and you already have Jeremy Kerley, guys that can stretch the field and put that pressure on a defense way down the field, that’s going to make things a lot easier for guys such as myself working the middle of the field or guys like Santonio on the outside,” Keller said. “It’s going to draw a little bit of attention away and hopefully we can get those 1-on-1 matchups and take advantage of them.”
Jets TV will air our full exclusive 1-on-1 with Dustin Keller next week here on newyorkjets.com. We visited with Dustin on location down in South Carolina where he owns a number of McAlister’s Delis and that television feature, focusing on his restaurant business, will be seen during the season on “Jets Flight Plan,” which will air again on WCBS-TV.
Tags: Chaz Schilens, Dustin Keller, Jeff Cumberland, joe McKnight, Rex Ryan, Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, SUNY Cortland, Tony Sparano
Posted in Eric Allen | 38 Comments »