7 Offseason Stars

Sorry for the lack of posts recently guys, on vacation in Greece with my family. However, I’m here now to take a look at players that really impressed during OTA’s and Minicamp. Forget about Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold etc. Those are obvious. Here are some other guys that really stood out that you should be keeping an eye on during training camp. I introduce you to a few friends, an inspiration, and a comeback kid.

WR DaMarcus Ganaway – Yeah, yeah, I know what you guys are thinking, “There goes Steiny with Ganaway again.” That’s fair, but I’m putting my friendship with him aside to write this article. Ganaway is the real deal. While all websites (including the Jets official website) have Ganaway listed at 6’2, 185lbs, the truth is, Ganaway, 25, hasn’t weighed that since High School. In fact, he is currently at around 198-202lbs. Let me introduce you to Ganaway. In 2010, Ganaway graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan, a Division II school that has never sent a player from their program to the NFL. Sitting out of football for the 2011 season, through AWP Sports Performance, he trained with the likes of former NFL WR Torrance Smalls and Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald during the lockout in Minnesota. His brother, University of Minnesota QB MarQueis Gray, let him sleep on the floor of his dorm. However, once the lockout ended, he was left alone. He returned home to workout, getting up at 7A.M. and working out deep in to the night. He took breaks during the day to take care of his children while his girlfriend went to work. Perseverance. He worked out for the Jets during their bye week in October, and they signed him to a contract in January. They released him to make room for Hayden Smith, but resigned him right away once the rosters expanded to 90 players. Now that you know his back story, it will be very easy for you to root for him.  Ganaway, who runs a 4.3, 40yd dash, has been creating a ton of buzz during OTA’s and Minicamp. He is impressing coaches and fellow players alike. Santonio Holmes has taken him under his wing, spending every practice with him, teaching him what it is like to be a receiver in the NFL. He is a tall, physical, fast wide receiver. Is it a coincidence word came out recently that the Jets don’t want Braylon Edwards after seeing their wide receiver’s perform during Minicamp? That answer is no. The team likes what they have, and that is lead by DaMarcus Ganaway. He has all the potential in the world. He has the heart. He is going to be something special.

PK Josh Brown – Nick Folk might be in big trouble, folks. Brown, a former 7th round pick of the Seattle Seahawks back in 2003, consistently preformed better than Folk in Minicamp and OTA’s. In addition to barley missing any field goals, Brown, 33, also handled the kickoff duties, while Folk was on the sideline out with a injured hamstring. Sure, it is still early. And yes, Mike Westhoff was not present to witness Brown’s dominance during OTA’s and Minicamp. (He was recovering from leg surgery. Assistant special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica handled Westhoff’s duties in his absence. Westhoff will return to coach special team July 26, 2012, when the Jets report to Cortland for Training Camp). Thus, Josh Brown, the man who received Pro Football Writers Association’s Golden Toe Award in 2006 while a member of the Seahawks, has a legitimate chance to win the job. As Rex Ryan put it, there will be “a great competition” between Brown and incumbent Nick Folk this summer.

LB Ricky Sapp – Talk about a comeback story. Sapp was one of the top college players during his time at Clemson University. However, in 2008 he suffered a torn right ACL in the first half of a game at Virginia. He had ACL surgery, but never fully recovered. Ricky came back for his senior season and although he never missed a game, played at about 65%. He risked his future in the NFL to help his team win. That should tell you all you need to know about Ricky. As he was getting ready to play in the Senior Bowl, the pain proved to be too much, and he missed the game. He spent a bunch of time rehabbing, and was finally healthy, but due to concerns regarding his knee, his stock plummeted and he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. Ricky was ready to show the NFL what he was made of. But unfortunately, as luck would have it, Ricky suffered a knee injury during the preseason of his rookie year and was stashed on IR a few days later. He underwent successful arthroscopic knee surgery in September 2010. Sapp returned to the Eagles, but his frustration finally got the best of him when he went of the field and his knee continued to give him problems. He left the team on August 4, 2011, and was waived a day later August 5. Many people in Philadelphia claimed that Sapp quit on the team, but that was not the case at all. As he explains it, “I would never in my life just quit. I’ve just been dealing with this knee for a long time and I bust my behind to get it back right and it just gives me more problems.” After his release Ricky worked his butt off to get his knee right. Finally, after months of hard work and training, Ricky succeeded. His knee no longer gave him problems and he was ready to roll. Sapp was signed to the New York Jets’ practice squad on October 31, 2011. He was released on November 21. When he was re-signed to the practice squad on November 28, he never looked back. Sapp was promoted to the team’s active roster on December 29 and the rest is history. Now completely healthy, Sapp is excited and having fun again. Like Aaron Maybin did last season, Ricky is motivated and ready to show doubters that he can truly live up to his potential. Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine envisions big things for Ricky this upcoming season. “He’s a guy that’s come out and definitely increased our team speed up front,” said Pettine. Ricky was a phenomenal pass rusher in college. While in camp with the Eagles, they converted him to outside linebacker (he played defensive end in college). With the Jets, Sapp will be an outside linebacker as well. In fact, when Calvin Pace missed practice recently, who started in his place? Look no further than the comeback kid, Ricky Sapp.

DE Quinton Coples – When the Jets drafted Coples in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, many people were nervous that Coples would be the next Gholston. Let me tell you this straight up. He is not the next Gholston. Period. Coples has been extremely impressive during OTA’s and Minicamp, blowing over offensive lineman, getting multiple “would-be sacks” (you can’t touch quarterbacks) every practice. He has a relentless motor, and has great size and wingspan. He will be the starter from day one, and will likely make an impact early and often. In short, many people called this draft “boom or bust” for the Jets and Mike Tannenbaum. I’m going “boom.”

CB Ellis Lankster – The Jets were interested in signing Drew Coleman after he was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, that was before they saw Lankster compete during OTA’s and Minicamp. After Lankster impressed with his speed, versatility (can play defense and special teams), and his improvement since last season, the Jets announced that Lankster was going to be their fourth CB this season. Lankster, 25, was a 7th round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2009. He is an inspiration to millions, as he is currently suffering from stuttering. While, Lankster could easily have given up, he has done quite the opposite, working with young kids to help them cope with their stuttering problems. The Jets are expecting Lankster to play a big role on defense this season, so he is definitely someone to keep an eye on during training camp.

DB Royce Adams – As with Ganaway, Adams is a guy that I know well and like a lot, but will put that aside to explain why he impressed. Adams played both WR and DB during his time at Purdue University. As former Purdue Wide Receivers Coach Brian Rock put it, “Adams is one of our hardest workers … brings a physical and athletic presence.” After going undrafted, Adams played eight games with the Pittsburgh Power during their inaugural Arena Football League season last year before leaving for an opportunity with the UFL. Adams, 24, sent his tape to pretty much every NFL team. When the Jets received it, they workout him out on December 26th and ended up signing him to a reserve/future contracts on January 6, 2012. Fast forward to Friday, June 15th. Manish Mehta of the Daily News said Adams was a rookie “that impressed Jets coaches this offseason … keep an eye on [him in] training camp.” Adams saw time on both special teams and defense during OTA’s and Minicamp, including work in sub-packages. In a defense as complicated as Rex Ryan’s, it is not common for an undrafted free agent to get work with the defense during camp, which is why Adams is a prospect to watch. He has been working endlessly to get the playbook down, and obviously all the time put in and the hard work in the classroom has begun to pay off. Look for Adams to continue to impress the coaching staff during training camp in Cortland, as he fights to make the 53-man roster.

RB John Griffin – Last, but certainly not least, Griffin, 23, is a guy I’ve had the opportunity to get a to know, and I’m really pulling for him big time. Griffin spent three years at Northeastern, where he was a first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection as a junior after rushing for a conference-leading 1,009 yards in 2009. After that season the school dropped football, leading Griffin to transfer to the University of Massachusetts. After the lockout ended, Griffin was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals. However he didn’t make the team and was released. He didn’t give up his dream of plying in the NFL. Griffin signed with Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League in an effort to better his game. And all his hard work payed off. Griffin worked out for the Jets in November, and ultimately signed with the team to a reserve/future contracts. After he signed, Griffin returned to Northeastern — still on scholarship — taking four classes, which left him two shy of earning a degree in sociology. He also trained with the Huskies’ strength and conditioning coach and the track team in preparation for when OTA’s started. Griffin has really impressed coaches and media alike this offseason. Kristian Dyer who covers the Jets for Metro New York put it best, “Griffin has good speed and feet and has shown some nice cutback ability. With the Jets looking for a change of pace back after Shonn Greene, Griffin’s ability to change directions and catch balls out of the backfield has created a bit of a buzz around Florham Park.” The Jets RB group is very crowded, but Griffin has a chance to stick if he keeps up his impressive work. Something to keep in mind: Mike Tannenbaum knows Griffin better than most players, as Tannenbaum attended UMass, and often saw Griffin play. In closing, Griffin is definitely a guy to watch as camp opens.