Camp Countdown '08: Safeties
The Jets made sure to get their star safety Kerry Rhodes locked up for the foreseeable future during the offseason. Rhodes is the best player on the Jets defense providing a triple threat on defense as a pass rusher, run stopper, and coverage specialist. He had a slow start in 2007 and will need to have a bigger impact early on while the new pieces get acquainted to the defense. He is the one player the team can count on to have a chance to make game changing plays every week.
There are a number of players who have make enough of an impression on the coaching staff to get to line up alongside Rhodes in 08. Eric Smith was drafted in the third round in 2006 and has shown steady improvement in his two years as a Jet while Abram Elam gave the Jets a great effort once signed in 2007. Both players will look to nail down the starting job in training camp. Artrell Hawkins is trying to find his way back onto an NFL team. Hawkins played the majority of his career as a corner as a Bengal before making the transition to safety. He did not play in 2007, but has experience and could find his way into the mix in 2008. Cameron Worrell has found a home as a reserve player in the NFL doing duty both as a safety and special teamer. He tore his ACL last season and couldn’t pass a physical with Miami, but the Jets are giving him a chance anyway. If he is healthy he is the kind of player the Jets would like to keep around as he plays hard and accepts his role as a backup. There is limited experience behind these players. James Ihedigbo was a member of the Jets last season and they liked him enough to store him on the injured list for all of 2007. His strength should be giving strong support towards stopping the run, but he will need to improve in coverage. Darnell Bing was, at one time, a decent prospect out of USC but has been unable to find a position in the NFL. He has been trapped between playing corner, linebacker, and safety in the NFL. The Jets took a chance that he can contribute. Etienne Boulay was a CFL standout that can play free safety while Nate Lyles is an undrafted free agent that has limited athletic ability, but was strong in run support in college and never takes plays off.
Expect the Jets to keep 4 safeties on the team. Rhodes is a given and Smith should be as well. The staff likes Elam and after the production he gave the team its likely he makes the roster in September. Everyone else looks to have a legit chance to be the fourth player to make it. If he can prove he can stay healthy and play at a high level Worrell would be the leading candidate to make the squad. If not, Hawkins’ experience could see him back in the NFL in 2008. Ihedigbo will make a claim if he shows some balance between productively playing the pass and stopping the run. Lyles is a good candidate to make the practice squad if he works hard and shows a good motor in camp while Boulay can make a claim if he makes plays on the ball in camp and in the preseason. Bing is the longest shot as he has to find a position before he can hope to make a team.