New York Jets: New York Jets

New York Jets Preseason Live

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
9:00
AM ET
Welcome to New York Jets training camp! ESPN.com reporter Rich Cimini has live updates and the latest news from Cortland, New York.

Jets wake-up call: Day 1

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
6:00
AM ET
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Here we go: Seven months after that wonderful and spontaneous locker-room celebration in Miami, where they partied after hearing Rex Ryan would return, the New York Jets are ready for business once again. The first training-camp practice of 2014 commences at 10 a.m. on the SUNY-Cortland campus.

Per CBA rules, the Jets won't be in pads, but there will be no shortage of storylines. A quick sampling:

• The big-name newcomers -- Chris Johnson, Eric Decker and Michael Vick -- are healthy and ready for action. You might have heard, Vick is competing with Geno Smith for the starting-quarterback job. Vick, who gave himself a C+/B- for his spring performance, knows he had to raise his grade to make Smith sweat a little.

• With Johnson and Decker, along with a lot of young blood at wide receiver, the Jets expect to be vastly improved on offense. It'll be fun evaluating the early stages of the rebuilding job.

• Newly-signed pass rusher Jason Babin is expected to make his Jets debut, joining one of the most talented defensive lines in the league.

• The defensive spotlight also will be on prized safety Calvin Pryor, who has received more praise than perhaps any rookie under Ryan. And that's saying something.

Jets camp report: Reporting day

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
9:30
PM ET
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A few hot topics from Wednesday at the New York Jets' training camp:

You can't have too many pass rushers: The Jets made a smart move, signing the well-traveled Jason Babin to a two-year contract -- assuming the money isn't ridiculous. Obviously, the 34-year-old Babin is on the downside of his career, but he led the Jacksonville Jaguars in two important categories last season -- sacks (7.5) and snaps among the defensive linemen (772). One of the Jets' goals this summer was to identify another edge rusher to add to Calvin Pace, Quinton Coples, etc. If healthy, Antwan Barnes would be that guy, but he's not close to returning from last year's knee surgery. Rex Ryan, explaining the importance of pass-rushing depth, mentioned two recent Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants. Yep, it's a copycat league. That the Jaguars cut Babin three months after giving him a $500,000 signing bonus is a bit curious, but that's hardly a concern for the Jets.

CJ2K is back: The most important development of the day, though not surprising, was Chris Johnson's proclamation that he's been cleared by Dr. James Andrews to participate in training camp. He spent the last month training in Orlando and showed up Wednesday in terrific shape, "flying" in the conditioning run, according to Ryan. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Of all the new additions on offense, Johnson is the one with the potential to make the greatest impact. When healthy, he's one of the fastest running backs in the league, and the Jets need speed in the backfield.

Where have you gone, Joe McKnight?: Apparently, there are no McKnights on this season's roster. You might recall that McKnight started to play his way off the team last summer by flunking the mandatory conditioning run. This year, no one failed the test, according to Ryan. That, he said, never happened before in his head-coaching tenure. Presumably, this means the Jets reported to camp in tip-top shape. Barnes and guard Willie Colon (knee) passed the conditioning test, yet they still landed on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Don't worry about Colon; he's not that far away from being activated. Barnes? That could take some time.

The anti-Revis: Not that there was any doubt, but defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson did, in fact, report to camp, backing up previous statements in which he vowed not to stage a contract holdout. He said he never considered a holdout for a second, claiming he wouldn't be acting like a team leader if he pulled a no-show. Truth be told, he doesn't have much leverage to get a new contract, considering he's signed through 2015 and the daily fine would've been $30,000. But give him credit for taking the high road, trying to be a team player -- something Darrelle Revis never did in the past. Now we'll see if Wilkerson's anti-Revis approach has any sway with the powers-that-be.

Notes: Wilkerson is no holdout

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
9:11
PM ET
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.

New York Jets' optimism is measured

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
8:09
PM ET
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.

Jets' camp brings position battles

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
10:00
AM ET
video
ESPN.com Jets reporter Rich Cimini says the competition between Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill and David Nelson to be the team's No. 2 receiver is just one position battle at training camp this week.
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.

Jets wake-up call: Reporting day

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
5:00
AM ET
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The New York Jets open their sixth training camp under Rex Ryan on Wednesday in the small upstate city of Cortland.

The Jets will arrive by bus (for rookies) and cars late in the afternoon, checking into their dorms on the SUNY-Cortland campus before 5 p.m. Their day begins in Florham Park, New Jersey, where they will take physicals and conduct the conditioning run before making the 200-mile trek to Cortland. The first practice is Thursday at 10 a.m.

Expectations are higher than a year ago, and they should be after an encouraging 8-8 season. The Jets added big names in the offseason, including Michael Vick, Eric Decker and Chris Johnson.

This will be the Jets' fifth training camp in Cortland, their home for the next three weeks. You think it's easy to move an NFL team to camp? In addition to 90 players, you're talking about 33 coaches, 139 staffers and 15 athletic trainers, according to the Jets. You're talking about 3,000 pounds of ice, 25,576 pounds of weights, 353 rolls of tape and 11 moving trucks.

Welcome back, football. We missed you.

Jets: Burning questions on eve of camp

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
4:15
PM ET
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.

Jaworski: Geno Smith ranks No. 30, but ...

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
12:30
PM ET
Rough offseason for Geno Smith in terms of quarterback rankings.

A few weeks ago, an ESPN.com survey of 26 NFL insiders (coaches, executives, etc.) ranked Smith as the worst projected starting quarterback in the league. How EJ Manuel finished ahead of him, I'm not sure, but whatever. The latest ranking comes from ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, who, in his annual Big Board, rated Smith 30th out of 32 quarterbacks, ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick (Houston Texans) and Matt Cassel (Minnesota Vikings). Smith certainly has more upside than a few of the players ranked above him, but, based on overall performance last season, I don't think Jaws' spot for Smith is too far off.

Smith
Despite the low ranking, Jaworski gave Smith a positive scouting report. Appearing on ESPN's "Mike & Mike" radio show on Monday morning, Jaworski said of Smith:

“After I went through the throws of Geno Smith last year, I saw a guy who got better every single week. The last quarter of the season, I thought Geno Smith looked like a much more polished NFL quarterback. And the people I am now speaking to in the Jets camp say that Geno Smith is clearly ahead of Michael Vick. So it looks like the improvement in Geno Smith -- the great job that [offensive coordinator] Marty Mornhinweg did with his development -- leads me to believe that he will be the starting quarterback Week One.”

Yes, Smith is clearly ahead of Vick. As Mornhinweg stated a few weeks ago, Smith will get about 70 to 75 percent of the first-team reps in training camp, which means he should nail down the starting job with a competent performance. If Smith starts losing reps to Michael Vick, we'll know the quarterback landscape is changing.
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.

While we were on vacation ...

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
10:30
AM ET
The three-week respite is over, and it's time to get back to football. Before we look ahead to Wednesday, when the New York Jets report to training camp in Cortland, New York, let's take a look back at what I missed over the last three weeks.

No news is good news: It was uneventful for the Jets, which, of course, is every coach's dream for the slow time before camp. There were no arrests and no off-the-field injuries (none that have come to light, anyway.) Nowadays, you can't take this stuff for granted. The Buffalo Bills (season-ending knee injury to LB Kiko Alonso) and the Baltimore Ravens (multiple arrests), for example, were in the headlines for the wrong reasons, creating problems and distractions. For Rex Ryan, it was blissfully quiet.

Smith
Happy talk: The optimism is flowing like Gatorade, which is what you'd expect in July. In recent interviews, Geno Smith said the Jets are capable of a Super Bowl run and Ryan all but predicted a postseason berth. Love the confidence (shades of the old Rex), but I think we need to tap the brakes just a bit, especially with the Super Bowl talk. The Jets are headed in the right direction, and they should be thinking playoffs after an 8-8 season (it's the next step, right?), but let's keep it real. They're still looking up at the New England Patriots and at least a handful of other teams in the AFC.

Andre the Jet?: I find it interesting that, whenever a star player becomes available (or might become available), there's a mad rush to see if the Jets are interested. The recent rumor involved Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, who is unhappy and may want out. First of all, I'd be surprised if the Texans trade him. If they decide to put him on the block, the Jets won't be interested -- at least that's the current feeling in the organization. Remember, John Idzik is the general manager, not Mike Tannenbaum, who was a big-name hunter. The Jets don't do business that way anymore. Idzik signed two free-agent receivers and drafted three others, so he's in no rush to junk his handiwork by trading for a 33-year-old receiver making $10 million a year.

Ah, memories: In case you missed it, ESPN.com conducted a fan survery during the break, determining the most memorable play for every team. By an overwhelming margin, the fans (not media) voted the Butt Fumble the Jets' most memorable play. In an NCAA-style bracket, the Butt Fumble lost in the first round to the Patriots' top play, the "Tuck Rule" game. Once again, the fans voted. But that's ancient history now. A new season is upon us, a time to create new memories and erase painful ones from the past.

Training camp preview: Secondary

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
8:00
AM ET
Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, July 23:

Position: Secondary

Patterson
Projected starters: Dee Milliner (CB), Dimitri Patterson (CB), Kyle Wilson (slot), Dawan Landry (S), Calvin Pryor (S).

Projected reserves: Antonio Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Dexter McDougle, Darrin Walls, Ellis Lankster.

Notables on the bubble: Josh Bush, Ras-I Dowling, Rontez Miles, Brandon Dixon (sixth-round pick).

Player to watch: Pryor. He was drafted 18th overall for a reason, and the reason is because the Jets believe he can be a great safety. Rex Ryan calls him an enforcer, comparing him to the late Jack Tatum. Ryan meant well, but he may have put a target on Pryor's back by putting him in the same sentence as one of the most notorious hitters in NFL history. He'll bring a physical, tough-guy element to the secondary, but what the secondary really needs is big plays -- interceptions, forced fumbles, anything. The secondary frightened no one last season.

Milliner
Top storyline: Did general manager John Idzik leave Ryan short at cornerback? It was one of the greatest cornerback classes in free-agent history and the Jets ended up with ... Patterson, a journeyman. Patterson, 31, with his sixth team, has natural ball skills, but he's never on the field long enough to use them. He has missed 33 of his last 48 games due to injuries. Ryan needs corners for his defense the way humans need water to survive. Milliner holds the key. If he becomes a legitimate No. 1 corner -- dare we say shutdown corner? -- it changes the face of the secondary. For the first time since 2006, the Jets don't have someone named Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie at corner. They need Milliner to ascend to that status.

Training camp will be a success if ... : Pryor is in the Week 1 lineup. The coaches say he's a smart cookie, but we'll see how he adapts when the pads go on and the playbook installation intensifies. It would be a major disappointment if he's not an immediate starter, considering his draft position and the relatively tame competition at safety.

Wild card: Landry's role. He played 98 percent of the defensive snaps last season, but he could lose his starting job if the Pryor-Allen tandem flourishes. Landry, known as "The Mentor," has value because of his smarts. But at what point does intelligence get trumped by youth and speed? It'll be a delicate balancing act in camp. The coaches have to get Landry ready while giving the Pryor-Allen duo a chance to develop chemistry.

By the numbers: The Jets' pass defense wasn't bad last season against three- and four-receiver groupings -- a 77.1 passer rating, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They struggled when it was only two receivers -- 103.9 rating.

Training camp preview: Linebacker

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
8:00
AM ET
Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, July 23:

Position: Linebacker

Projected starters: David Harris (MLB), Demario Davis (WLB), Calvin Pace (SLB), Quinton Coples (RUSH).

Projected reserves: Nick Bellore, Jermaine Cunningham, Antwan Barnes, Jeremiah George.

Notables on the bubble: Garrett McIntyre, IK Enemkpali (sixth-round pick), Trevor Reilly (seventh round).

Coples
Harris
Player to watch: Coples. The elements are in place for a breakout season. Position familiarity? Check. This is his second year at the rush-linebacker spot. Conditioning? Check. Coples said during minicamp that he dropped 15 pounds, putting him in the 270-275 range. The question is whether he can commit himself to being a dominant player. Some of his teammates will tell you that Coples is frustrating because he doesn't maximize his talent. Former Jets great Joe Klecko articulated the sentiment with his "Tarzan/Jane" comment. Said Coples: "I know this is a big year for me, stepping up and being a leader on this team and being more productive than I was the first two years."

Top storyline: Can the elder statesmen of the group, Harris (30) and Pace (33), maintain their production? It shouldn't be a problem for Harris, who enters a contract year and should be highly motivated. The big question is whether Pace can re-create what he did last season, surprising everyone with a career-high 10 sacks. He played with a chip on his shoulder after being cut and re-signed, performing well enough to land a two-year, $5 million contract. The Jets can't afford a drop off by Pace because, let's be honest, there's no heir apparent at his spot.

Training camp will be a success if ... : They can identify a third edge rusher to go along with Coples and Pace. Based on his track record, Barnes is the leading candidate, but he's coming off major knee surgery and could be limited in camp. Cunningham, a former second-round pick of the New England Patriots, is hoping to reboot his career with the Jets. He displayed some flash in minicamp, but he hasn't played in a game since 2012. The rookies, Enemkpali and Reilly, have a long way to go.

Wild card: Davis. He didn't produce enough big plays last season for someone who rarely came off the field -- one sack, one interception and no forced fumbles. Davis has the speed to be an effective three-down player, but some opposing scouts question his instincts. This will be his second year as a starter, so there should be a spike in production.

By the numbers: You can't blame the pass rush for the woes against the pass last season. It forced opponents to release the ball in 2.52 seconds, the sixth-fastest rate in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Training camp preview: Defensive line

July, 19, 2014
Jul 19
8:00
AM ET
Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, July 23:

Position: Defensive line

Projected starters: Muhammad Wilkerson (DE), Damon Harrison (NT), Sheldon Richardson (DT)

Projected reserves: Leger Douzable, Kenrick Ellis

[+] EnlargeSheldon Richardson
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesSheldon Richardson, the 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, still sees plenty of room for improvement.
Player to watch: Richardson. What can he do for an encore? After winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Richardson doesn't have to prove last year was an aberration -- it wasn't -- but he must become a more complete player in 2014. That means producing more as a pass rusher. He managed only 3.5 sacks in 509 pass-rushing opportunities last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Ordinarily, defensive tackle isn't a high-sack position, but Richardson isn't your ordinary defensive tackle. He's explosive and versatile, lining up in multiple spots. He should be able to do more damage now that a shoulder injury, which hampered him most of last season, is healed. Rex Ryan: "This guy wants to be great. He was probably disappointed in the fact that he was only rookie of the year."

Top storyline: Wilkerson's contract situation. He won't become a Darrelle Revis-type distraction -- Wilkerson vowed not to stage a holdout -- but the topic is bound to come up in his dealings with the media. He has two years remaining on his deal, making a ridiculously low $1.2 million in 2014. The Jets have time (and leverage) on their side, so they won't do a deal unless it makes sense for them. With more than $20 million in cap room, why not do it now? It would send a positive message, showing the organization is committed to keeping its own. That hasn't always been the case. See: Revis.

Training camp will be a success if: The top five avoid injuries. Obviously, this could apply to any position, but it's particularly important for the defensive line, which doesn't have much depth beyond the returning five. (It's six, if you count "rush" linebacker Quinton Coples.) The Jets were extraordinarily lucky last season with injuries, with the same five linemen playing in every game. What are the odds of it happening two years in a row? Keep an eye on rookie Kerry Hyder, an undrafted free agent. The coaches like his upside.

Wild card: Ellis. He was "Wally Pipped" last summer by Harrison, and now it's time for Ellis to step to the forefront. It's his last chance, as he will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. The big fella has the size and the raw talent, but he has been slow to develop. If he does, the defensive line will strengthen its hold as the best position group on the team.

By the numbers: Wilkerson had 10 sacks after 11 games, but only a half-sack in the final five. The coaches need to do a better job of preserving him early in the season, perhaps scaling back some of his reps.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider