Heading into the first training camp of the John Idzik era, Rex Ryan and the New York Jets will be taking a new approach in 2013. This year, no players (not even Pro Bowl players) will enter camp guaranteed a starting job.
While it’s easy to expect guys like Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson to be out there, Idzik’s approach has been all about improving the roster from the inside out, with as much internal competition as possible.
Some positions on the Jets’ roster are obviously deeper than others, but the theme of constant competition will be present throughout the practice fields. There will be plenty of storylines to watch for come July and August.
However, it’s safe to say that no competition at any position will be watched more closely than the quarterback competition, as incumbent starter Mark Sanchez has what is likely his last stand in a New York Jets uniform.
Sanchez will be competing with three or four other quarterbacks in training camp, including rookie second-round pick Geno Smith and free agent addition David Garrard, who could very well be competing for his NFL career.
The 35-year-old Garrard has been in the league since 2002, and spent the bulk of career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He won a playoff game and made a Pro Bowl with the Jaguars, but a lot has changed since then.
Garrard was released by the Jaguars days before the start of the 2011 season, and he had surgery on a herniated disc as a free agent and ended up missing the entire 2011 season. The injury bug has been tough to shake.
He signed with the Miami Dolphins in March of 2012, and seemed to be the likely favorite to win the starting job, before a minor knee injury in August led the Dolphins to release him and hand the job to rookie Ryan Tannehill.
Now fully healthy, David Garrard has his sights set on the Jets’ starting quarterback job. The promise of open competition means Garrard feels good about his odds, despite not playing in a regular season game since 2010.
“It shouldn’t be any politics,” Garrard said. “It should be the best guy playing. With that, if I’m going at it and I’m giving you my all, and I’m healthy and you beat me at it, then that’s great for the team [too].”
Even at his age, Garrard’s experience gives him a significant advantage over the other quarterbacks in Jets camp. Of those quarterbacks, only Geno Smith is guaranteed to be on the roster when the Jets break camp.
However, if Garrard stays healthy, which is admittedly a big hypothetical at this point in time, he’ll have an excellent chance of being on the 53-man roster. If he is healthy, there’s no doubt in my mind he can win the job.
There’s also no doubt that Garrard’s résumé gives him a significant advantage over his competition, as arguably all of Sanchez’s four NFL seasons pale in comparison to any of Garrard’s. He’s simply a better quarterback.
I think the most ideal situation for the Jets would be Garrard earning the starting quarterback job to start the season, as Geno Smith learns from the sideline and uses the majority of his rookie year to develop as a player.
Garrard won’t give the Jets Pro Bowl-caliber play, but he doesn’t have to. All he needs to do is take care of the football and run the offense efficiently, and the Jets defense will take care of business on that side of things.
David Garrard might not be the so-called “quarterback of the future” for the Jets, but the younger signal callers could learn a lot from a veteran like him. Don’t be surprised if Garrard ends up being the guy come Week 1.