Focus is on QB Zach Wilson as Robert Saleh’s Jets open camp
NEW YORK JETS (2-14)
CAMP SITE: Florham Park, New Jersey
LAST YEAR: In a word: awful. The Jets had a franchise-worst 0-13 start and finished with the second-worst record in team history. Quarterback Sam Darnold dealt with a shoulder injury and struggled through the worst of his three NFL seasons — and last with the Jets. Other injuries to key players kept the roster churning, the offense was inept while ranking at the bottom of the NFL in many categories, and the defense was inconsistent. That got coach Adam Gase fired after just two disappointing seasons.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Coach Robert Saleh, QB Zach Wilson (No. 2 overall draft pick), offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, G Alijah Vera-Tucker (No. 14 overall pick), WR Corey Davis, DE Carl Lawson, RT Morgan Moses, WR Elijah Moore (2nd-round pick), RB Tevin Coleman, RB Michael Carter (4th-round pick), WR Keelan Cole, DT Sheldon Rankins, LB Jarrad Davis, S LaMarcus Joyner, G Dan Feeney.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Gase, Darnold, WR Breshad Perriman, RB Frank Gore, LB Jordan Jenkins, LB Neville Hewitt, DE Henry Anderson, LB Tarell Basham, LB Harvey Langi, LB Frankie Luvu, CB Brian Poole, S Bradley McDougald, QB Joe Flacco.
CAMP NEEDS: The focus will be squarely on the development of Wilson, who hadn’t yet signed his rookie deal the day before the team was scheduled to report but is expected to start Week 1 — especially with no other experienced QB on the roster. The former BYU star had a predictably up and down offseason, but coaches raved about his ability to quickly absorb LaFleur’s playbook and not repeat mistakes. Wilson will need to continue his progress in training camp as his NFL education ramps up. A revamped offensive line will look to mesh and provide protection up front for Wilson. The new-look defense should get a boost from the return of middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, who opted out last season due to family concerns during the coronavirus pandemic. But depth at linebacker and in the secondary needs to be established.
KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: Right guard will be a spot to watch with incumbent Greg Van Roten expected to go up against Alex Lewis, previously the starter at left guard, along with 2020 fourth-rounder Cameron Clark and Feeney in the mix. The Jets enter camp with 12 cornerbacks on the roster and no clear-cut starters, although Bless Austin and Bryce Hall are considered the favorites. Javelin Guidry, Lamar Jackson, draft picks Michael Carter (5th round) and Jason Pinnock (5th round) and undrafted free agent Isaiah Dunn could all be candidates for significant roles. Coleman, La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Josh Adams and fourth-rounder Michael Carter (not related to the CB) will all be vying for snaps and establishing roles out of the backfield.
EXPECTATIONS: The first step for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in 10 years — the NFL’s longest active drought — was changing the vibe within the organization. And the Jets did that with the hiring of the high-energy and likable Saleh, who has experienced winning cultures as an assistant in San Francisco and Seattle. Several players raved about Saleh’s coaching style and philosophy, and the Jets need to carry that optimism into camp and transfer it to the field. While there are several questions throughout the roster, the defensive line should be a strength — and arguably one of the league’s best — with Quinnen Williams, Lawson and Rankins setting a physical tone.
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