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Position Battles: Who wins ’em?

By Ken Swarthout

LG: Vlad Ducasse vs. Matt Slauson

My Take: In my mind, Ducasse has already won the job, and its not really going to be close. Ducasse was targeted at # 29 in the draft before the Jets took him in round 2, and he’s been getting the lion’s share of the first-team reps in practice.

Also, the more “creative” solution, putting Slauson at LG and prepping Ducasse for RT after Damien Woody leaves, just doesn’t seem to be in the Jets’ plans. Slauson may be Bill Callahan’s boy, but his role on this team seems to be to be a capable backup and a guy who can help incoming linemen make the transition.

Projected Week 1 Starter: Ducasse

FB: Tony Richardson vs. John Conner

My Take: It appears that John Conner is definitively the fullback of the future for the Jets, and Rex is raving about him. However, does this translate into an immediate starting role? I can’t imagine so.

For one, Richardson, while showing some signs of decline, is still an adequate starter who knows the offense. Also, the Jets probably don’t want to cause any locker-room issues if they can avoid it.

However, this doesn’t preclude Conner from earning the starting job at some point in 2010. Whether it be injury or a more pronounced decline for Richardson, who some thought would retire after 2009, I expect Conner will see the field for some significant playing time next season.

Projected Week 1 Starter: Richardson

# 5 WR: David Clowney vs. Aundrae Allison

My Take: While not a particularly important position battle, many Jets fans may find the final WR spot on the Jets’ roster a statement on whether or not the Jets think David Clowney has ANYTHING to offer to the Jets other than some fine performances in August.

Allison, a former 5th rounder out of East Carolina, tore an ACL in his final preseason game in 2009, and will be hungry to try to make the team. Clowney had better watch his back.

Projected Winner: Allison

DE: Mike DeVito vs. Vernon Gholston

My Take: It doesn’t get too much different when it comes to these two players, both on and off the field. While DeVito strikes you as a blue-collar, likeable player with a solid understanding for the game coupled with a giant frame whose best attribute is clogging running lanes, Gholston is a highly-paid, somewhat aloof personality with questionable football IQ but extremely high athleticism to go with a more sleek frame.

What brings them together is that both are competing for playing time at the DE spot. Seeing that DeVito is more of a “Rex guy”, he certainly has the edge when the season gets started. In addition, Gholston may find more time on the field giving Ellis a breather than replacing DeVito.

However, expect Gholston to be in there on lots of passing downs, playing a substantial role in the defensive line rotation. There may be time for him to turn his career around after being a colossal bust at the OLB position.

Projected Week 1 Starter: DeVito

# 5 CB: Drew Coleman vs. Marquice Cole

My Take: The last image New York Jets fans have of Drew Coleman is getting completely and utterly abused in the AFC Title game against the Colts. While not necessarily a fair outcome for a corner who was called into action thanks to several injuries in the secondary, it would not be unfair to say that, if he sees the field in 2010, the Jets are in trouble.

Cole was a long-shot to make the team in 2009, but the undrafted free agent out of Northwestern did so anyways. While he was cut to make room for previously injured Shaun Ellis, he’s back in camp trying to reach the roster again. With the Jets likely set to carry 5 safeties, its improbable that both he AND Coleman can make the roster.

Projected Winner: Cole

5th Safety: James Ihedigbo vs. Donovan Warren

My Take: Ihedigbo, an important piece to Mike Westhoff’s coverage unit, has not been asked to take on an expanded role with the Jets as of yet, but he may just have to if he wants to keep his job. Undrafted free agent Donovan Warren has impressed the coaching staff after making the transition to safety.

While Eric Smith is not entirely immune to getting released, that is a possibility as well. However, for these purposes, Ihedigbo is in greater danger because of Smith’s place on the depth chart last season (he backed up Kerry Rhodes and will likely backup Brodney Pool as well).

Projected Winner: Warren

K: Nick Folk vs. The Field

My Take: Few have had a more up-and-down start in OTA’s than Folk. After not being able to hit the broadside of a barn in his first audition in front of Rex, he spent the next day making 7 straight 50+ yard kicks. Then, he returned to the form of day 1.

Its early yet, but uncertainty at the kicking position is, surprisingly, becoming a pretty significant concern for the Jets, and one that could be addressed with another change later in the off-season. Two unrestricted free agents that could be available after July 22 when the final 4/8 rules get lifted are Matt Stover and John Carney, while Denver’s Matt Prater remains an unsigned restricted free agent. Expect those names and others to be floated around next month.

Projected Week 1 Starter: The Field

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This Article Was Written By Phil Sullivan

Phil Sullivan

I started JetNation in 2005 and have been a New York Jets season ticket holder since graduating from high school. My dream is to see the New York Jets win the Super Bowl. Until then, I will be right here on JetNation writing, dreaming and talking NY Jets football.


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