By Greg Sulik @GregSulik on July 7, 2014
The New York Jets surprised a lot of people with their 8-8 finish last season, and they are looking to build on that in 2014. The Jets remain one of the youngest teams in the league, and they certainly have some talent deficiencies. They will need some players to step up in training camp and make an impact, and these are five dark horse candidates to make the 53-man roster.
Reilly (9) was the Jets’ seventh round pick, and he has a shot to stick as a special teamer and situational pass rusher. Reilly was very productive in college, recording 20 sacks over the course of his career. However, he is old for a rookie at 26, and he has had knee issues in the past. The outside linebacker competition is going to be fierce, and Reilly will likely be either the last player to make it or the first one cut.
Barnes (90) spent last season on the practice squad, and he is looking to make the final roster this year. At 6’7”, 364 lbs, the former Georgia Tech run stuffer makes Damon Harrison look like a normal size person. Barnes impressed in minicamp, and with Kenrick Ellis entering the final year of his contract and the Jets needing a little more defensive line depth, he has a real chance to make the cut.
Richardson is probably the biggest name on this list, and he showed some flashes with the St. Louis Rams over the last over the last two seasons, particularly as a rookie in 2012. Richardson is a physical back who would be a nice backup for the somewhat injury prone Chris Ivory. He is the fourth string back on the Jets’ roster right now, but if he impresses in the preseason there is a good chance the team will keep him around.
Freeman almost made the team last year before he injured his ankle and was relegated to the practice squad. However, he has reportedly been very impressive this offseason and is forcing his way past Caleb Schlauderaff for the backup center spot. The Jets would be in huge trouble if Nick Mangold ever went down, but Freeman is certainly a promising backup and insurance policy.
It seems weird to call a former second round pick a dark horse, but injuries forced the New England Patriots to give up on Dowling after two years with the team. He spent last season on the Jets’ practice squad, and he has shown the talent that made him a high draft pick this offseason. The Jets are absolutely desperate for help at corner, and don’t be surprised if Dowling not only makes the team, but plays a fairly significant role.
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