AFC East: New York Jets

Jets camp report: Day 1

July, 24, 2014
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A review of the hot topics from Thursday at the New York Jets:

1. Sunglasses needed: Rex Ryan was fired up after the first practice, radiating enough sunshine to raise the tanning index to a 10. The coach said the Jets are "a zillion miles ahead of where we were last year" at this time, claiming this team is further along than any of his previous teams. He raved about Geno Smith, Michael Vick, Chris Johnson, Calvin Pryor, Antonio Allen and Kyle Wilson. Even rookie quarterback Tajh Boyd got some love. Said Ryan: "He's got a little magic in him." Sitting in the news conference, I thought for a moment that I was covering the '85 Bears. But you know what? This is who Ryan is. He's the enternal optimist, and it's one of the reasons why the players still like playing for him after five years.

2. Geno wins the day: On Day 1 of the pseudo quarterback competition, Smith outplayed Michael Vick, who threw an interception that wasn't entirely his fault. (Rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders ran the wrong route.) There will be more days like this, especially if Smith continues to receive three-quarters of the first-team reps. Vick is working with an inexperienced cast of characters, and that's bound to impact his performance. You'll be reading a day-by-day analysis of the quarterback situation (hey, it's what we do), but know this: To nail down the job, Smith needs to show up in the preseason games. In other words, he can't throw a pick-six on a screen pass on his first attempt. (See: Mark Sanchez, 2013).

3. Three-headed safety: Dawan Landry, Antonio Allen and rookie Calvin Pryor rotated with the starting unit at safety. It's not hard to read the handwriting on the wall: The Jets prefer a Allen-Pryor tandem, but they're not ready to abandon Landry, the wise head of the secondary. Ryan said he wants to keep Allen "really humming because I think he's really stepped up, and I'll try to put him out there with the 1s as much as possible." The same could be said for Pryor. Unfortanately, you can't play with 12 players.

4. Early glimpse at the receivers: Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson were the best receivers on the field. The others had drops at various points in practice, with rookie Quincy Enunwa (hip) taking an early seat because of an injury. No reason to reach for the panic button. Just stating the facts. Obviously, the Jets need one or two receivers to emerge from the pack.

5. Rex rocks the house: Several players, especially the rookies, were still buzzing about Ryan's speech to the team Wednesday night. Ryan knows how to bring it, especially on the eve of training camp. According to several players, he spoke about the playoffs, how the drought has lasted long enough. This is how Boyd described it: "I'm sitting in there and I don't know what to expect. He gets up there and he's very modest and he's talking, 'It's going to be a great camp, I'm excited.' Then he just flipped the switch five minutes into the talk. You could just feel the fire burning inside the guys. He made me want to run through a brick wall. I think he's got an opportunity to be a legendary coach one of these days."
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Jason Babin may have agreed to a two-year deal with the Jets on Wednesday, but the defensive end didn't sign on the dotted line until Thursday afternoon. What that meant was the former Jaguar missed the first day of the Jets training camp.

"He's supposed to report today," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "Hopefully we'll see him on the field [Friday]."

Babin
The Jets have needed a pass-rusher like Babin, and they won't need to wait much longer.

Tight end Jeff Cumberland, who has been excused from the start of camp for personal reasons, was also absent Thursday.

Pryor restraint: Part of rookie safety Calvin Pryor's game is his ability tackle with meaning. Both he and his coaches realize that what they see before he puts on the pads is just a shadow of his true abilities.

"From a physical standpoint we won't recognize him until we put a live drill out there," Ryan said. "Then we'll hear him play. I mean that's what happens, but he's a special guy that way. I think (Dawan) Landry has been a mentor to all of them, but he's certainly taken him under his wing as well. We expect huge things out of Calvin."

Asked if he was ready to hit, Pryor said yes, but he didn't want to hurt his teammates. He'd save that for actual games.

Decker <3's NY: Jets wide receiver Eric Decker was asked what he liked about New York, and the former Denver resident had nothing but good things to say about the food and the shows on Broadway.

"This is one of the best cities, if not the best city in our country," Decker said.

Now there's a man who knows how to win over the locals.

Ryan's job security: The Jets coach appears to have a little more job security this year than he did last, when new general manager John Idzik came in and agreed to keep him for the time being.

There's optimism around the team, and Ryan seems as secure as a coach in the NFL can be.

"I know you guys had that question for me, still working? Yeah, still here! I am still here. I don't know if there was a whole lot of confidence in that last year at this time, but still here."

Roommates: Michael Vick was asked about his first night with running back Chris Johnson and he said it went well, but they didn't get much sleep.

"We sat up and talked maybe a little too long last night," Vick said. "I'm kind of tired right now, but I think I let him get some rest. I was doing all of the talking."

Just like college.

Notes: Wilkerson is no holdout

July, 23, 2014
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- New York Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson arrived at the Jets facility this morning to take his conditioning test and make the trip to training camp despite ongoing negotiations toward a new contract.

There was some question whether he'd show up, if only because the Jets have had high-profile holdouts recently, notably former cornerback Darrelle Revis,

Wilkerson
"Holding out was never an option for me,” Wilkerson said. “I'm one of the leaders on this team. That wouldn't be a good thing to do. That's not the way a leader should lead his team. On the business side of things, everything will be handled when the time comes. Right now, if anybody has any other contract questions, I would say [Jets general manager] John Idzik is the man to ask."

Wilkerson, drafted in 2011, has two years left on his contract, making $1.2 million this year. Under the CBA, a player is subject to a $30,000-a-day fine if he stages a contract holdout.

At 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, Wilkerson is one of the best players on the team and anchors what is considered a strong defensive line with players such as Sheldon Richardson. His compensation however, lags when compared to others at his level. The Panthers franchised Greg Hardy this year for a little over $13 million.

PUP talk: Jets coach Rex Ryan commented on the two players added to the PUP list early in the day, DL Antwan Barnes and OL Willie Colon, saying that he wasn’t concerned about their availability later on despite the tag.

“Well, Antwan will be on PUP right now; we are going to be smart with him,” Ryan said. “In fact he passed his conditioning test. Willie Colon also will be on PUP, and he passed his conditioning test. We’re just going to be smart and we’ll see how it plays out.”

Rain on a parade: The Jets opening pep rally in Cortland got off to a damp start. The bus of rookies arrived a half-hour behind schedule, and just after they arrived a lightning storm had cleared out a lot of the fans who had come to say hello. After the deluge, about 150 fans were still around to greet Ryan and the players who rode up on the buses. Ryan put a good face on it though, saying he would take the rain as a good omen.

Long haul: Training camp is one place where grown men making good bank have to room with each other like they’re back in college. Some tolerate it, some dislike it, but just about everybody has a roommate.

This year, LB David Harris and LB Calvin Pace are in a room, while QB Michael Vick and RB Chris Johnson will share space. Asked who he is rooming with, rookie S Calvin Pryor said he’s with a kicker. “I know, I was pretty surprised too,” Pryor said.
CORTLAND, NY -- On the first day of NFL training there are 32 playoff teams and no one can disprove a single claim to the postseason. The New York Jets, of course, have done their fair share of talking this season.

Yet, as the team arrived at the SUNY College at Cortland campus for the start of training camp, some dialed back talk of playoffs and Super Bowls, starting with Jets coach Rex Ryan.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith, Michael Vick
Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY SportsQuarterbacks Geno Smith (left) and Michael Vick are exuding a quiet confidence as the Jets get ready to start training camp.
“We understand there’s so many steps we have to take to get there,” Ryan said. “We have to improve as a football team. If we could talk about it and get there it would’ve already been done.”

Ryan has been talking about the playoffs since the January 2009 day that he took the Jets head coaching position, when he predicted the team would meet just-elected President Barack Obama in the White House when he hosts the Super Bowl victor.

It hasn't exactly happened like that, but each season offers a new opportunity to say, like Jets WR David Nelson did to the New York Daily News, that the Jets are a playoff team.

Quarterback Michael Vick, who played for a Philadelphia Dream Team that didn’t turn out to be one, said he doesn’t think preseason talk is a problem. Those intra-squad pep talks are just a way of communicating.

“I don’t think there’s any danger in having confidence,” Vick said. “That’s an emotion that we all have, we all want to exuberate at some point -- this is the time to do it. In football you have to have confidence, you have to toe the line between confidence and arrogance, and this team has felt for a long time like they can get it done, and that’s the right mind set. That’s how we feel, and that’s how we want to approach the season.”

And the truth is that individual players on the Jets have noticed the chance in the atmosphere this year, privately saying that the offseason workouts produced a lot of team unity already.

Second-year quarterback Geno Smith, who will get about 70 percent of the snaps at training camp over the more-experienced Vick, isn’t one to join in the predictions, but he can appreciate it.

“I love the confidence, we all love confidence,” Smith said. “We’re confident in ourselves and we’re confident in our team, but today is day one. It takes step by step, you can’t take the elevator up.”

And this was how, on the eve of training camp, the Jets began to quiet the big talk and consider how it would translate into what they could do on the field in the next few weeks.

“We know we’ve got a pretty good team, but we know that we’ve still got to take one step at a time, and that’s getting training camp out of the way and start winning games,” running back Chris Johnson said. “We can’t just jump to the playoffs or straight to a Super Bowl. We’ve got to take it one game at a time.”

Passing the conditioning test Wednesday morning was just the start.
Rex Ryan showed his new boss last season that, even when speaking softly, he still carried a big enough stick to squeeze eight wins out of a team with modest talent. The New York Jets' coach received a well-deserved contract extension.

Now, with the Jets reporting to training camp Wednesday in Cortland, New York, for Year 2 of the Ryan-John Idzik era, we start to learn a lot more about the other half of the leadership tandem, the quiet man who prefers to stay out of the spotlight.

This is Idzik's time.

[+] EnlargeMilliner
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDee Milliner is one of John Idzik's draft picks that needs to produce for the Jets.
It's impossible to evaluate a general manager after one season, especially in a rebuilding situation, but the landscape changes after two drafts and two rounds of free agency. In the NFL, that’s enough time to get a team from the 6-10 mess that Idzik inherited into the playoffs.

Idzik's predecessors, Terry Bradway in 2001 and Mike Tannenbaum in 2006, reached the postseason in their first seasons as GMs. Go back further, and you will remember that Bill Parcells made it to the AFC Championship Game in his second year as the GM/coach.

Even though Idzik is operating on a long-term plan, evidenced by his emphasis on the draft and his deliberate approach in free agency, an 0-for-2 start wouldn't look good on his résumé. He shouldn't be on the New York Mets' Sandy Alderson timeline, meaning he has to move faster than a glacier. It's just the way of the NFL.

Idzik has been around long enough to put his stamp on the team. He signed, re-signed and drafted most of the projected starters. In fact, only seven starters can be considered true holdovers from the previous administration: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Muhammad Wilkerson, David Harris, Damon Harrison, Quinton Coples and Demario Davis.

It's easy to notice they're the best guys on the team, Tannenbaum guys. Idzik needs to get some of his guys on that list. He already has Sheldon Richardson. By the end of the season, the list of top homegrowns should also include Geno Smith, Dee Milliner and Calvin Pryor. If Smith and Milliner are missing, the Jets will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season, which won’t bode well for Ryan's job security.

Idzik has the Jets pointed in the right direction, and the strides they made last season can't be dismissed. But let's be honest: They overachieved. They were one of the softest 8-8 teams in history, and you can look it up. Their point differential was minus-97, the largest since the 1970 merger for any team with at least eight wins.

The talent base should be improved this season, especially with the additions of Eric Decker and Chris Johnson. Decker was Idzik's one big splurge in free agency, his one Tannenbaum-like move. Johnson and Michael Vick will be one-and-done players, worthwhile Band-Aids who won't ruin the master plan if they fizzle. The offseason proved, once again, that Idzik won't deviate from his script no matter how much salary-cap room he has at his disposal. For the record, there's about $22 million as of today.

Idzik is doing it the right way, avoiding the temptation of the quick fix. That will pay off in the long run, but there will be problems along the way. For instance: Failing to sign a top cornerback in free agency was a mistake that could be exposed early in the season, when they face several elite quarterbacks. The cornerback issue will be exacerbated if Milliner fails to develop as hoped.

The Jets believe Milliner, drafted ninth overall, will be a special player, basing much of their opinion on his strong finish. The same theory can be applied to the quarterback situation with Smith. They're placing a lot of weight on those last four games, and that can be dangerous when you consider the competition. They beat three also-rans, three teams with mediocre (at best) quarterbacks: the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins.

Now, after seven months of positive mojo, the Jets can prove it wasn't a mirage. If Idzik's investments mirror the stock market, they'll be a playoff team. If it goes the other way, he'll hear the criticism, good and loud. The honeymoon is over. This is Idzik's time.
You know the drill. The New York Jets' training camp opens Wednesday, which means there are questions. We've got answers.

1. When will Rex Ryan name his starting quarterback?

Smith
Technically, we've been waiting 11 months, but that is an old story and this is no time to look back. The conventional approach is to name the starter after the third preseason game (Aug. 22 against the New York Giants), but it wouldn't be a surprise if Ryan moves up the timetable. It all depends on Geno Smith, the front-runner. If he plays lights-out in the first two games and gets the nod over Michael Vick versus the Giants, it will be a fait accompli. Memo to Ryan: The health of your quarterback is more important than the Snoopy Trophy.

2. Are there any injured players that bear watching as camp opens?

Yes, three in particular: Running back Chris Johnson (knee), right guard Willie Colon (knee/biceps) and linebacker Antwan Barnes (knee). Obviously, Johnson's health is a big key to the Jets' season, so you can count on his surgically repaired knee being a topic of conversation throughout camp. The plan is to put him on a modified practice schedule, building toward the Sept. 7 opener. It will be interesting to see how they use him in the exhibitions. Johnson likes his touches; he's had anywhere from 19 to 33 carries in the preseason over the course of his career. It wouldn't be a shock if Colon and/or Barnes begin camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list as they work their way back into shape. It will be a breath of fresh air, not having to chronicle the "will-he-or-won't-he?" whims of Santonio Holmes and his damaged wheel.

3. Is there strength in numbers at wide receiver?

Decker
The Jets have seven receivers with NFL experience, including marquee newcomer Eric Decker, plus three draft picks. Not one of them, however, is a true game-changer. You can still win with solid, dependable receivers (look at the Seattle Seahawks), and the Jets have three in Decker, Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson. You will read a lot this summer about Stephen Hill, who almost certainly will make the all-Cortland team, as usual. The question, as usual, is whether he can sustain it for the regular season. If you are looking for a dark horse, keep an eye on veteran Greg Salas, who impressed the coaches in minicamp.

4. Which returning starters are in danger of losing their jobs?

Not counting Smith, who will be "pushed" by Vick (that is the oft-used company line), the players facing the most competition are Colon, tight end Jeff Cumberland and safety Dawan Landry. In each case, there is a young player in the picture battling for playing time. Chances are, the tight-end situation will be a time-share between Cumberland and second-round pick Jace Amaro, whose role will hinge on how quickly he can absorb the offense. Based on minicamp, it will take some time.

5. Is there anything to worry about on defense?

The secondary is the No. 1 concern. This probably will be the youngest defensive backfield of the Ryan era, with a second-year cornerback (Dee Milliner), a rookie safety (Calvin Pryor), a third-year safety (Antonio Allen) and a rookie cornerback (Dexter McDougle) projected to play prominent roles. Can you say "growing pains"? If veteran corner Dimitri Patterson gets hurt, which he tends to do, it will put a strain on this rebuilding unit.

6. What's the deal with all the playoff chatter? Is the optimism justified?

Sure, why not? 'Tis the season for happy talk. The Jets finished 8-8, added some talent and lost only two players that played more than 500 snaps last season -- right tackle Austin Howard and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who stunk. Expressing confidence is fine as long as it doesn't cloud their minds with unrealistic expectations.
Geno SmithGrant Halverson/Getty ImagesGeno Smith expects "big things" from himself in 2014, and the Jets will need that to be successful.
Geno Smith heard Michael Vick's name more than a few times last season in the New York Jets' offensive meeting room. Occasionally, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg used Vick as an example when explaining to his quarterbacks how he wanted a particular play to be run.

The name-dropping was understandable. After all, there was history between Mornhinweg and Vick. Smith soaked it up, taking copious notes as he navigated a winding rookie season.

This season, the real Vick, not the ghost, will be sitting alongside Smith in the meeting room. That can be a good thing -- Smith can learn straight from the source -- or a bad thing if he becomes unnerved by Vick's presence. If Smith is bothered by the situation, he's not letting on. He sounds like a proven veteran, not a second-year quarterback who endured one of the worst statistical seasons in recent times.

"I don't want to make any statements or put anything out there, but once the season comes, I mean, I expect big things," Smith told ESPN.com in a recent interview. "I believe fully in myself. I have the utmost confidence in myself. I know I have the ability to play in this league."

There are doubters, to be sure, but Smith's conviction was steeled by his encouraging finish last season. His teammates and coaches saw it in the offseason, with the decisiveness he showed in the huddle in spring practices and the self-confidence he demonstrated in the locker room. That was one of the biggest takeaways from the offseason: the New Geno.

It has to be a new Geno if the Jets hope to snap their three-year playoff drought. Right now, the Jets have eight-win talent, but that modest number jumps to double digits if Smith improves as much as they believe he can.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith, Michael Vick
Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY SportsWill Michael Vick's presence be a good thing or a bad thing for Geno Smith?
"We're not playing yet -- we're not in the stadium yet, people aren't in the stands -- but Geno is a strongly improved player at this point," quarterbacks coach David Lee said.

Thousands of words will be written and spoken this summer about Eric Decker and Chris Johnson, the Jets' marquee additions, but 2014 is all about Smith, whom the Jets expect to be their season-opening starter.

They say he's stronger and faster. As part of his offseason regimen, Smith trained with a speed parachute, proudly texting photos of himself to Lee.

They say his footwork now comes naturally. A year ago, he was so unfamiliar with the Jets' offense that he counted steps in his head.

They say his command of Mornhinweg's system has improved to the point where he's self-sufficient. As a rookie, Smith leaned heavily on center Nick Mangold, who did more hand-holding than a lovestruck teenager.

"It's gotten away from me telling him exactly what to do," Mangold said. "Now it's more of a two-way discussion."

They say Smith is more of a leader than last year. Let's be clear: He's not a fiery, in-your-face kind of quarterback, but there are indications that he wants to make it his team.

In March, when he learned of the Decker signing on ESPN's Bottom Line, Smith immediately texted general manager John Idzik, asking for Decker's number. He reached out to his newest receiver, welcoming him to the team, discussing places to live in New Jersey and asking Decker about his favorite pass routes.

Smith tried to do that with every newcomer, even draft picks, taking ownership in the team. A year ago, he kept to himself, trying to fit in.

"I didn't want to come in as that guy who thinks he knows it all," Smith said. "I feel like I had to earn my stripes, and I feel like I've done that to a certain extent.

"But I'm still learning, still growing. I still listen to the vets, but it's a different level of leadership from me. Last year, I was a vocal guy when I needed to be, but it wasn't as much as I'm going to show this year."

Smith threw 21 interceptions, and that was a source of frustration for coaches and players alike, but they maintained their support because they respected his work ethic and mental toughness. No matter how bad it got, he refused to fold.

"He went through everything a rookie quarterback could go through," guard Willie Colon said. "Now he's like, 'All right, it's time for me to step up.' He's embracing the challenge. We all know Geno is feisty. He's strong-minded. He has the ability to fight. We believe in him."

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsAs a rookie, Geno Smith passed for 3,046 yards with 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
Former Jets quarterback Brady Quinn, a member of the team for the first half of the season, marveled at Smith's resilience. He pointed to the early-season win over the Atlanta Falcons, when Smith rallied the Jets in the final two minutes on a Monday night stage -- one week after an absolute stinker against the Tennessee Titans.

"Every time Geno felt challenged, whether it was in the press or by anyone else, he usually responded and played a great game," Quinn said. "I think he had five come-from-behind wins. Those are powerful statements."

Quinn came away impressed with Smith, who he believes has "a ton of arm talent." Unfortunately, there wasn't much talent around that arm, resulting in one of the worst offenses in the league. That should change with Johnson in the backfield and Decker on the perimeter.

It's all there for Smith in Year 2, but there still are plenty of critics. In a recent ESPN.com poll of 25 personnel executives and coaches, he was rated the worst starting quarterback in the league.

Do the Jets know something that no one else does? Maybe they do. Mornhinweg and Lee are widely respected offensive minds, so their opinions carry weight. Their jobs, along with that of Rex Ryan, could be riding on Smith. If he backslides or fails to show improvement, it'll be a costly setback for the organization.

Smith's biggest challenge is reading defenses, according to people who have studied him on tape. He was a one-read quarterback at West Virginia, so it was a difficult transition to Mornhinweg's version of the West Coast offense, which is predicated on multiple reads and exact timing.

There were long stretches last season in which Smith showed questionable instincts for the position, making poor decision after poor decision. The Jets expect that to get better with experience.

The new variable for Smith is the Vick factor. This is a different ballgame for Smith, who didn't have to worry last season about losing his job. Even though Vick claims he will embrace the mentor role, he's a direct threat to Smith. One or two bad games, and the masses will be screaming for a change.

You could certainly argue that Vick, 34, is better than Smith and deserves a fair shot at the starting job, but the powers-that-be have decided to stack the competition in Smith's favor, making it his job to lose. They won't hand it to him. He'll have to earn it, staving off a player he grew up admiring. It's a fascinating dynamic, especially with the Mornhinweg factor. Smith is battling his role model for a role.

"I don't feel any pressure at all," Smith said. "Maybe, in the outside world, people might think that way. If I do hit a rough patch, I fully expect Mike to pick me up. If it was the other way around, I'd do the same for him because that's the way we are. We're friends and we're teammates."

They're close. Soon, we'll find out if it's too close for comfort.

New York Jets projected roster

July, 18, 2014
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Examining the New York Jets' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
Tough call between Boyd, a sixth-round pick, and Matt Simms, last season's No. 2 quarterback. Simms has improved a lot, but he could be fighting city hall. The Jets drafted Boyd based on Rex Ryan's recommendation, and we know how general manager John Idzik hates to cut draft picks. The ideal scenario would be to stash Boyd on the practice squad for a year, but he'd have to clear waivers.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Daryl Richardson, formerly of the St. Louis Rams, and Alex Green will bid to create a fifth spot. That could hinge on Johnson's surgically repaired knee. If he's not 100 percent, it might pay to carry an extra back as insurance. Bohanon is the only fullback.

WIDE RECEIVERS (7)

Yes, it's unusual to carry seven receivers. It might be unconventional in terms of roster management, but the Jets feel this is one of their deepest areas -- a dramatic change from last year. Ford sticks because of his kickoff-returning ability. Saunders could emerge as the punt returner. He and Evans are fourth-round picks, so they'd have to be terrible to get cut.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Cumberland and Amaro complement each other. Cumberland is an in-line tight end, Amaro is a "flex" tight end. They don't have a true blocker who can move people around in the running game, a deficiency that can be addressed via the waiver wire.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Winters, Colon and Aboushi are in a three-way competition for the two guard spots, with Winters and Colon likely to emerge. The Jets are counting on Winters to make a big leap after a rough rookie year. Colon, coming off two offseason surgeries, said he will be ready for camp, but his injury history is a concern. None of the backups have regular-season experience, so that's troubling.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (5)

Same five players as last year. Why mess with a good thing? Five seems low, but Quinton Coples -- the rush linebacker -- plays a lot in a three-point stance, when the Jets shift to their 4-3 front. Wilkerson, Richardson and Harrison form one of the better front threes in the NFL.

LINEBACKERS (9)

The big question surrounds Barnes, who underwent knee surgery last October and has been slow to recover. If Barnes can't get it done as a pass-rushing specialist, it'll create more opportunities for Cunningham. This is a huge year for Coples, a former first-round pick who hasn't fulfilled expectations.

CORNERBACKS (6)

Ryan likes to carry a lot of corners, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they keep seven, perhaps including Ras-I Dowling. It would mean cutting back at another position, probably wide receiver. Patterson is expected to start outside, but he could slide inside on passing downs, replacing Wilson, if another option emerges outside. McDougle could be that guy.

SAFETIES (4)

Pryor, their first-round pick, is expected in the opening-day lineup. The question is who will be his tag-team partner? Landry is the wise head of the secondary, but his role could be reduced if Allen continues to develop. The Jets want more speed on the field, and that doesn't bode well for Landry.

SPECIALISTS (3)

All set here.

Camp preview: New York Jets

July, 17, 2014
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NFL Nation reporter Rich Cimini examines the three biggest issues the New York Jets will face heading into training camp.

1. The pseudo quarterback competition: Michael Vick is right, it's not an open competition between him and Geno Smith. The Jets have stacked it in Smith's favor, as they plan to give him 70 to 75 percent of the first-team practice reps in training camp. There's nothing wrong with that -- as long as Smith performs well, building on his encouraging finish last season. The situation could turn volatile if Smith regresses and Vick, maximizing his limited opportunities, outplays the second-year quarterback. What, then?

Vick, 34, was mediocre in the spring, but it's not a stretch to think he could light it up in the preseason. After all, he has a background in Marty Mornhinweg's offense, so it should be a seamless transition. Publicly, Vick says he's cool with his role as the mentor/backup, but perhaps that will change if it becomes obvious he's the best man for the job. The Jets have been known to botch quarterback competitions (see Smith vs. Mark Sanchez). From the team's perspective, the best that could happen is Smith steps up and makes it an absolute no-brainer.

2. Integrating new faces on offense: After a brutal year on offense, the Jets expect to make a major improvement after acquiring wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Chris Johnson and drafting tight end Jace Amaro. The challenge is to get them up to speed in Mornhinweg's offense and to define their roles.

Decker is easy -- he's the No. 1 receiver -- but Johnson's situation is partly cloudy. Recovering from knee surgery, he didn't participate in the spring and could be on a modified practice schedule in camp. If healthy, he could make a huge difference with his home run ability as a runner. They'd also like to involve him in the passing game because he's so dangerous in space. They have two capable backs in Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, so the objective is to formulate a plan for the regular season. If healthy, Johnson should be the lead back.

Amaro has a steep learning curve, coming from a no-huddle, spread offense in college -- so don't expect overnight success. They have to find a legitimate No. 2 option in the passing game or else Decker, not accustomed to being a No. 1, will see extra coverage. You're not in Denver anymore, Eric.

3. The greening of the secondary: For the first time since 2006, the Jets don't have anyone named Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie on the back end -- and that's scary. This is a unit in transition, easily the youngest secondary of the Rex Ryan era.

They will have a second-year corner (Dee Milliner) and, in all likelihood, a rookie safety (Calvin Pryor) in the opening day lineup. The other starters could be corner Dimitri Patterson and safety Dawan Landry, both in their 30s, but they're keeping the seats warm for rookie Dexter McDougle and third-year safety Antonio Allen, respectively. In this case, change is good because the secondary was the weakest unit on the team in 2013, surrendering an inordinate amount of big plays and making only 11 interceptions.

They passed on some big-name corners in free agency, including Revis, opting to go with youth and speed. The downside is the inevitable growing pains. Ryan's defense relies heavily on communication and adjustments, and there are bound to be hiccups with so many inexperienced players.
Mark SanchezWilliam Perlman/USA TODAY Sports
Score: New England Patriots 49, New York Jets 19
Date: Nov. 22, 2012. Site: MetLife Stadium

The people have spoken. The voters picked the Butt Fumble as the New York Jets' most memorable play. My take? Give yourselves a round of applause.

"Memorable" doesn't mean the best, it means something that will be remembered. If the objective was to determine the best play, it would've been Joe Namath-to-Don Maynard in the 1968 AFL Championship Game or Ken O'Brien-to-Wesley Walker in the 1986 classic against the Miami Dolphins. Those were tremendous plays displaying great skill and poise under pressure. We could probably add a few more to a great-play list. Truth be told, the franchise's most iconic image is that of Namath, flashing the No. 1 sign as he trots off the field at Super Bowl III -- a picture that transcends a simple photo caption.

But like I said, we're talking memorable plays here, folks.

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The Butt Fumble will be talked about for years, decades probably. It will have a permanent place in blooper lore. Who knows? Maybe some day you will see it featured on an ESPN Films "30 for 30" documentary. The play contained the necessary ingredients to endure the test of time. You had a big-name player (Mark Sanchez), a slapstick moment (Sanchez crashing into the buttocks of guard Brandon Moore), a significant outcome (a fumble recovery for a touchdown), a national stage (Thanksgiving night, 2012) and two bitter rivals, the Jets and the New England Patriots.

The ramifications of the Butt Fumble were significant. It fueled an epic meltdown in the second quarter, which led to an embarrassing loss, which all but ruined the Jets' playoff hopes and led to the demise of general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

Oh, did we mention the hilarity of the play?

In many ways, the legend of the Butt Fumble was enhanced by the social-media landscape. It blew up on Twitter and YouTube, and ESPN contributed by playing it over and over and over. It topped the "Not Top 10" list for 40 consecutive weeks before it was mercifully retired. Of course, the fans voted, so don't place all the blame on us. The point is, if Namath had run into Randy Rasmussen's rear end in 1968, the fallout wouldn't have been anything close to the Butt Fumble.

I was there for the other two nominees, Dan Marino's fake spike in 1994 and Jumbo Elliott's improbable touchdown catch in 2000. The impact of Marino's play can't be overstated because it shattered the psychologically fragile Jets, who never won again that season, costing Pete Carroll his job. I was happy for Carroll when he won the Super Bowl last February at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where the fake spike occurred in the old Giants Stadium. Elliott's touchdown was a terrific moment, no doubt, but I don't consider it an all-timer.

Anyway, the fans got it right. It had to be the Butt Fumble. Anything else would've been a butt ... well, you know.

Jets' biggest key to success

July, 10, 2014
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Joe Namath won Super Bowl III 45 years ago, but he remains the most recognizable name and face in New York Jets history -- a testament to his star power and a commentary on the quarterback position. Nearly a half-century later, they're still looking for the next Namath, a true franchise quarterback who can elevate the franchise to a championship level.

Smith
That is the biggest key to the Jets' success over the next three seasons. The current hope is Geno Smith, who may or may not be the answer. He's 8-8 as a starter and shows intriguing arm talent and mobility, but he has yet to prove that he can be a consistent winner in the league. The Jets expect (hope?) him to take a giant step in 2014, surrounding him with better talent than last year. A lot is riding on Smith, because if he flat lines or regresses, they will be back to square one, looking to draft Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston or another young gun next spring -- along with a handful of other quarterback-needy teams.

Everything is set up for Smith to succeed, right down to the Jets' salary-cap plan. With only $1.9 million in quarterback money committed to 2015, a big reason why they have a ton of cap room in future years, they have the flexibility to give him a mega-contract in 2016. If it's justified, of course. That would complete general manager John Idzik's grand rebuilding plan. He already has a good, young defense with a handful of potential stars, and there are a few skill-position players that make you think the offense can improve. The missing piece is the quarterback.

Call it a curse. The Jets thought they had their franchise quarterback a decade ago, but Chad Pennington's career was ruined by shoulder injuries. After one year of Brett Favre, a move that showed their desperation, they drafted Mark Sanchez. He was anointed as the new golden boy, but his career veered off the rails after two promising seasons. That brought them to Smith, who carries the torch for the quarterback-starved franchise.
Mark SanchezWilliam Perlman/USA TODAY Sports
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is one of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in New York Jets history. Previously, we featured Dan Marino's infamous fake spike against the Jets in 1994 and Jumbo Elliott's improbable touchdown catch in 2000. Please vote for your choice as the Jets' most memorable play.

Score: New England Patriots 49, New York Jets 19
Date: Nov. 22, 2012 Site: MetLife Stadium

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The mere mention of the play -- "The Butt Fumble" -- causes people to smile. You can't help it; it just sounds funny -- unless, of course, you're a diehard Jets fan. Or Mark Sanchez and Brandon Moore.

On Thanksgiving night, before a national TV audience, the Jets staged a botched play that became an instant YouTube sensation, a blooper for the ages. After all, how many plays have their own Wikipedia page?

It was supposed to be an inside handoff to the fullback, Lex Hilliard, but Sanchez turned the wrong way as he stepped away from the center. Trying to salvage something, he tucked the ball and ran toward his right side of his offensive line. When the hole closed, Sanchez did the right thing: He slid. Incredibly, he slid into the rear end of right guard Brandon Moore, who was trying to fight off the Patriots' massive defensive tackle, Vince Wilfork.

Sanchez crashed into Moore's buttocks with such force that it jarred the ball loose. Naturally, Moore fell on top of Sanchez, almost completing the slapstick moment. But there was more: The ball bounced up for Patriots safety Steve Gregory, who made the scoop-and-score, returning it 32 yards for a touchdown. Sanchez later said the entire play was like "a car accident."

The short- and long-term ramifications were significant. The Jets entered the game with a 4-6 record, hoping to jump back into the race with a win against their top rival. It was scoreless after one quarter, but the Butt Fumble helped fuel an epic second-quarter meltdown. Gregory's touchdown made it 21-0, and it became 28-0 seconds later when the Patriots' Julian Edelman recovered a mid-air fumble on the ensuing kickoff and returned it for a score.

By halftime, it was 35-3. It was so embarrassing that "Fireman Ed," the Jets' celebrity fan, walked out on the game and his beloved team at the half. He has yet to return to the stadium for a game. The loss ruined the Jets' playoff chances, prompting owner Woody Johnson to fire general manager Mike Tannenbaum at the end of the season. Some people feel the Butt Fumble game sealed Tannenbaum's fate.

The play defined a lost season and the Jets' long and hapless effort to overtake the Patriots. It remained in the national consciousness, thanks to ESPN's "SportsCenter." Voted by fans online, the play led the "Not top-10" blooper reel for 40 straight weeks before it was mercifully retired.
Jumbo ElliottCorey Sipkin/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in New York Jets history. Previously, we featured Dan Marino's infamous fake spike against the New York Jets in 1994. Coming next is the unforgettable Butt Fumble on Thanksgiving night, 2012. Please vote for your choice as the Jets' most memorable play.

Score: Jets 40, Dolphins 37, OT
Date: Oct. 23, 2000 Site: Giants Stadium

Your first inclination is to ask, "What's the big deal about a lineman catching a touchdown?" After all, it happens every so often, a team scoring near the goal line on a tackle-eligible play. But Jumbo Elliott's catch ... well, it was the game, the night, the circumstances and the reaction that made it so memorable. And, of course, the opponent. Crazy things happen when the Jets and Dolphins play.

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For the record, Elliott caught a game-tying, 3-yard touchdown pass from Vinny Testaverde with 47 seconds left in regulation. The Jets won in overtime, 40-37. Those are the cold facts. What happened before Elliott's improbable touchdown made it one of the wildest games in NFL history. It will forever be known as "The Midnight Miracle."

Playing before a national TV audience on Monday night, the Jets embarrassed themselves by falling behind 30-7 at the start of the fourth quarter. Testaverde got hot and threw four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, surprising the Dolphins with a gadget pass to the 6-foot-7, 325-pound Elliott. With his hands heavily taped, Elliott -- a backup at that stage in his career -- made a bobbling, falling-down catch in the end zone.

"I caught it several times," he likes to joke. "I think I was the leading receiver that night."

There was a relay review and, when the call was upheld, there was Elliott's face -- with a big, goofy grin -- on the stadium's JumboTron. His reaction, some teammates said, was just as memorable as the catch. It took only five seconds out of a 14-year career, but it became his signature moment. To this day, he still gets stopped by strangers that ask him to autograph pictures of the play.

It was the first and last catch of Elliott's career. On TV, comedian-turned-analyst Dennis Miller cracked that the Jets "had their hands team in" and that opposing defenses "couldn't keep him down forever." More than anything, it sustained the Jets' historic comeback. The game finally ended at 1:20 a.m. in a half-empty stadium.

The wacky play overshadowed the importance of the game, as the Jets improved to 6-1 under first-year coach Al Groh. In retrospect, it was the pinnacle of the season. The Jets stumbled to a 9-7 record and Groh left the team to coach his alma mater, Virginia. For one night, though -- one crazy night -- they were unbeatable, thanks to a big, little catch by a man named Jumbo.

Last month, Michael Vick said the New York Jets are capable of getting to the Super Bowl this season, with Geno Smith at quarterback.

Apparently Smith agrees with him.

"I feel good about our team making a Super Bowl run," Smith told the NFL Network on Sunday, at a youth football camp he's hosting in Florida.

The QBs like the Jets' chances, but they're probably in the minority. Bovada currently gives Gang Green 66/1 odds to win Super Bowl XLIX, ahead of only the Buffalo Bills (75/1), Oakland Raiders (100/1), Tennessee Titans (100/1) and Jacksonville Jaguars (200/1).

And an anonymous survey of 26 NFL insiders, the results of which were published last week by ESPN.com, graded Smith as the worst starting quarterback Insider in the league.

But early July is the time to be optimistic, right? Training camp is still two weeks away, and the real games are two months away. Reality will set in soon enough.
Dan MarinoSimon Bruty/Allsport/Getty Images
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days we'll feature: Jumbo Elliott's improbable touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the 2000 "Midnight Miracle" and the infamous Butt Fumble on Thanksgiving night, 2012. Please vote for your choice as the New York Jets' most memorable play.

Score: Dolphins 28, Jets 24
Date: Nov. 27, 1994 Site: Giants Stadium

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Which is the most memorable play in Jets' history?

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It was a once-in-a-lifetime play and it took the Jets nearly a lifetime to recover -- or so it seemed.

With 22 seconds remaining in a critical AFC East game, Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino fired an 8-yard touchdown pass to Mark Ingram for the go-ahead score -- but this was no routine touchdown. Marino used a sleight of hand to trick the Jets. Behind center, he called for a "clock" play, giving the spike motion. The Jets relaxed, thinking Marino was going to fire the ball into the ground to stop the clock. That's what 20 players expected -- all except Marino and Ingram, both of whom performed their own ad lib. The ball was snapped and, against an unsuspecting defense, Marino found Ingram in the end zone for the game winner. They picked on rookie cornerback Aaron Glenn.

For the Jets, it was devastating on a few levels. For one, they lost a game they should've won. They should've finished the day in a first-place tie, but they blew a 24-6 lead in the final 16 minutes. In one of the most memorable games of his legendary career, Marino tossed three late touchdowns to rally the Dolphins. The psychologically fragile Jets never recovered, losing their final four games to finish 6-10. Their coach, Pete Carroll, was fired after only one season. The losing didn't stop, as they dropped 28 of 32 games under Rich Kotite, a sorry era that made the Jets a national laughingstock.

The Fake Spike was one of the turning points in team history, a demarcation point that separated hope and hopelessness. Finally, after two-plus years in the dark, the Jets got it right, hiring Bill Parcells, who resurrected the franchise. But the Fake Spike lives on, haunting those who were duped by Marino's chutzpah and creativity. Carroll still is asked about the play, and he doesn't particularly care to reminisce. He vanquished the demon last February, winning the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, the site of the old Giants Stadium -- wonderful symmetry. Sure enough, the Fake Spike came up in the Seahawks' post-celebration.

"Is this vindication for the 'spike' play?" Carroll asked rhetorically at his news conference.

Looking into the cameras, he continued, "Hey, Marino, you got a lucky freaking play, all right? It happened. That was a long time ago."

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