Jets conclude shocking offseason with many questions, few answers
All rights reserved by the respected photographers
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — After 13 offseason practices, the New York Jets scattered Thursday for a six-week break before training camp, July 28. A lot happened over the past few weeks. This is what we learned:
1. Management/ownership is all-in on the roster strip down. The plan was obvious in March and April, when they dumped several starters. At that point, you figured they’d call off The Turk, assuming enough was enough. But, no. That changed on Bloody Tuesday (June 6), when they said adios to David Harris and Eric Decker. It sent a clear message to the locker room that winning isn’t the priority in 2017. Clearly, the goal is to get the No. 1 overall pick.
2. The quarterback gap isn’t as wide as we thought. Christian Hackenberg performed a little better than expected and Josh McCown — aka the kindergarten teacher — wasn’t quite as sharp as anticipated, especially in minicamp. McCown remains the favorite to start, but it’s not an insurmountable lead. Hackenberg has to show he can perform in preseason games. Bryce Petty is running third. No matter how it shakes out, it won’t be pretty.
3. The receiving corps is scary young. If everyone is healthy — a big if, considering the way injuries have hit — the top three receivers on opening day probably will be Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson and Charone Peake. Jalin Marshall made strides, but he’s facing a four-game suspension. Relying on inexperienced players, in a new offense, isn’t a good formula.
4. The offensive line needs to get healthy. Right guard Brian Winters (rotator cuff surgery) missed every practice and swing tackle Ben Ijalana (knee scope) sat out the last two weeks. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum (knee) was limited throughout the spring. We’re not talking about an overly talented unit to begin with, so keeping them on the field is imperative.
5. They have tight ends and they can catch. It’s hard to evaluate tight ends in non-padded practices, but let’s take it at face value. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Eric Tomlinson and Jason Vander Laan made plays in the passing game. Rookie Jordan Leggett got off to a slow start, but he could be a factor once he learns the offense. Unlike previous years, the tight end position will be a key part of the passing attack.
6. The team speed on defense is improved. Gone are Harris, Darrelle Revis, Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor. They’ve been replaced by Demario Davis, Morris Claiborne, Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams, respectively — all of whom are faster than their predecessors.
7. Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are motivated. They’re both playing for contracts, and we all know how that can sharpen a player’s focus. If Wilkerson wants to see that $16.75 million salary next year, he’ll have to play a lot better than last season. If not, the team can escape his huge contract without severe cap ramifications. Richardson will be a free agent. He’s already on record as saying he needs stats to improve his low market value, so we know where his mind is at.
9. The revamped coaching staff has created a new vibe. Todd Bowles changed the dynamic of his staff by hiring high-energy coaches with street cred. Offensive coordinator Johnny Morton is vocal and demanding, the opposite of his predecessor, Chan Gailey. Hall of Famer Kevin Greene, who coaches the outside linebackers, exudes intensity. Secondary coach Dennard Wilson is young (35) and unheralded, but he could be a future head coach, according to Bowles.
10. They should stay away from musical festivals during the break. This goes double for Anderson and Darron Lee.