Jets quarterback battle shapes up as most interesting ever

The Jets wrapped up OTAs on Thursday and now will hold their three-day mandatory minicamp this week before taking a break before training camp.

There were 10 OTA practices for the Jets, with three of those open to the media. Here are some things that stood out to me watching the OTA practices:

1. The QB competition

The Jets have had plenty of QB battles through the years, but I can’t remember the last one as interesting as this. The Jets have three legitimate quarterbacks. When is the last time you could say that? The situation only got more interesting to me watching the OTA practices because of how much better Teddy Bridgewater looked than I expected.

Bridgewater showed no limitations as he returns from the devastating knee injury that cost him the past two seasons with the Vikings. He moved well, made some beautiful throws and looked like his old self. Now, the true test will come in the preseason when he faces live tackling for the first time, and he will no longer be wearing the red no-contact jersey.

As for rookie Sam Darnold, the feeling I get is the Jets are going to give him every opportunity to win the starting job in training camp. He is already taking some first-team reps in practice, and you can sense the organization’s excitement about the 21-year-old they chose with the No. 3-overall pick.

Despite the optimism surrounding Bridgewater and Darnold, I would still put Josh McCown as the favorite to start against the Lions in Week 1. McCown looks ready to pick up where he left off before last year’s injury. He has more of a command of the offense than the other two quarterbacks, which should help him early on in training camp. The thing to watch with McCown will be how many reps he gets in camp. It makes sense to give Darnold (a rookie) and Bridgewater (rusty) more reps. Will that hurt McCown in the long run? The Jets did something similar last year with McCown in camp and it looked like it took about six quarters before the offense clicked.

2. Mac’s first class

Mike Maccagnan is lucky he landed Leonard Williams in the 2015 draft or his first draft class might have been a complete bust. Williams has become one of, if not the, best players on the Jets. The rest of the class? They could all be gone by the time the season starts. Looking around the practice field this spring, it jumped out at me how bad this class was.

Second-round pick Devin Smith is recovering from his second ACL surgery and won’t be ready until training camp. Smith faces an uphill battle to make the team with a deep wide receiving group fighting for roster spots. Smith showed flashes as a rookie but injuries have derailed him.

Third-round pick Lorenzo Mauldin is buried on the depth chart right now at outside linebacker. A back injury cost him his 2017 season, but he had taken a step back in 2016. Mauldin still has a shot, but he is going to have to impress the coaching staff in August to make the team.

Fourth-round pick Bryce Petty and fifth-round pick Jarvis Harrison are already off the team. Seventh-round pick Deon Simon showed some promise in 2016 but is now way down the depth chart on the defensive line. It would be surprising if he made the team.

That would leave Maccagnan 1-for-6. Not good.

3. No pressure

Maccagnan filled some roster holes this offseason, but the most glaring remains outside pass rusher. It looks like coach Todd Bowles will be holding tryouts in training camp to see who emerges at outside linebacker. Keep an eye on Brandon Copeland. The former Lion has gotten a lot of playing time in OTAs and has made some nice plays. He was an under-the-radar signing in March who could have a bigger role than you expect this fall.

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