3 story lines entering Jets training camp
The Jets roll into training camp today with higher hopes than last year, a season that exceeded expectations but left Gang Green short of the playoffs for the third straight year. Rex Ryan said another 8-8 campaign will be a disappointment, and with talented additions from the draft and high-profile offseason signings, the sixth-year head coach is correct.
Here are some key developments to look for in camp as the Jets try to reclaim the reputation garnered in Ryan's first two seasons, when the Jets reached back-to-back AFC Championship Games.
Geno leaving no doubt
A fight for the quarterback position often is beneficial, keeping each candidate on their toes and inherently proving there are two worthy choices. Incumbent Geno Smith is the favorite to start this season over Michael Vick and draft pick Tajh Boyd but needs to prove it from the get-go to set the tone. Smith, 23, while far from perfect in his rookie season, gave a glimpse of his abilities inside the pocket and out.
Smith threw for 12 touchdowns and ran for six while earning 5.1 yards per carry. His 21 interceptions were not surprising for a fresh face in the league, but with more snaps and better decision-making, he can turn some heads as a sophomore. Establishing his role over a veteran with similar abilities in Vick and rookie Boyd, though, is no task to overlook.
Decker and Co. contributing
Eric Decker, the big offseason signing prior to Vick and running back Chris Johnson, will add a seasoned young receiver to a squad with few offensive weapons. The former Bronco put up more than 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons, combining for 24 touchdowns with Peyton Manning under center. Decker now has to prove his ability with Smith, a man who rides on potential, not five-time MVP merit.
No receiver has the No. 2 job locked up as Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson are all in the mix. With Kerley more likely reigning the slot position, the unproven Hill and Nelson will vie for the spot opposite Decker.
A questionable secondary
Once upon a time, the Jets boasted a defense anchored with the talented likes of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. With Revis Island's migration to Tampa Bay and now New England and Cromartie joining the Cardinals, the Jets can only hope for production beyond their solid front seven.
Top 10 draft pick Dee Milliner will return at cornerback after a shaky first year, while 2014 first-round safety Calvin Pryor will be joining the ranks. Ex-Dolphin Dmitri Patterson and hard-hitting Dawan Landry provide a veteran presence if they can stay healthy, and third-year safety Antonio Allen will most likely have to beat out Landry to start.