May 25, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty (9) during OTA at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets entered their organized team activities with a few question marks surrounding the team on both offense and defense. Here are the top five key observations so far.
The New York Jets entered the offseason as one of the teams with the biggest question marks in the NFL regarding player contracts and managerial decisions. The buzz around the city that never sleeps was primarily surrounding the teams beloved players.
Will the Jets re-sign quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick? Will they extend the contract of defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson? Who will be re-signed and who will be shown the door? During the course of the offseason, the Jets witnessed free agents such as Damon Harrison, Chris Ivory, Demario Davis, and Stevan Ridley leave Gang Green to pursue their NFL careers elsewhere.
Despite their financial situation which was the prime reason for their free agent departures, the Jets countered by filling gaps with guys such as Matt Forte, Khiry Robinson, Steve McLendon, Jarvis Jenkins, Bruce Carter, CFL star Freddie Bishop and re-signing key players such as Bilal Powell, and Erin Henderson.
We’ve truly seen it all this offseason from the loss of key players to the addition of impact players, all the way to questionable decisions in the 2016 NFL Draft. Let’s not forget long time offensive lineman D’Brickashaw Ferguson, retired after 10 seasons with Gang Green. The Jets addressed the void by trading a fifth-round pick to the Denver Broncos in exchange for offensive lineman Ryan Clady and a seventh-round pick.
Despite the acquisitions, the team still finds themselves searching for answers. Fitzpatrick is still a free agent and is still favored to eventually re-sign with the Jets. Wilkerson still has not seen a contract extension that he’s been promised for quite some time now. While it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not Wilkerson or Fitzpatrick will be with the Jets for the foreseeable future, the Jets have their eyes set on their current roster during their teams OTA’s. A lot of brand new faces are in attendance such as rookies Christian Hackenberg and Darron Lee. Despite the new faces in Florham Park, the main topic of discussion surrounds the players whose faces are not seen at practice.
Without further ado, here are the top five observations so far during OTA’s.
Next: 5. The return of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker
oDec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker (87) and New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) celebrate Marshall
5. The return of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker
OTA’s are not mandatory so Decker and Marshall skipping the first week of practices is not out of the norm or against team rules. However, when the teams arguably best offensive players skip practice, voluntary, or not, it creates a certain buzz around the Jets fan base and media.
Marshall’s absence reportedly had nothing to do with Fitzpatrick’s contract negotiations. Decker on the other hand reportedly was frustrated and upset with the Jets for not re-signing Fitzpatrick which led to his absence.
Now that the Jets star receiver tandem is back at practice, it gives both wide outs the valuable opportunity to work with quarterback Geno Smith, as he’s currently the teams favorable option as the No.1 quarterback on the depth chart.
At the end of the day, it’s not a major deal they skipped the first week or so of OTAs. Both have returned and are already working with Smith in first-team reps.
Next: 4. Jace Amaro stepping up for increased role
Nov 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets tight end Jace Amaro (88) against the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
4. Jace Amaro stepping up for increased role
A former second-round selection of the Jets back in 2014, Amaro is entering his third-season in the NFL. The young tight end missed all of 2015 with a shoulder injury which could very much affect his roster spot with the Jets from here on out.
Before offensive coordinator Chan Gailey can feel confident in relying on Amaro in the passing game, we must see whether or not he has surpassed his drop issues that occurred during his rookie season.
Tight ends Kellen Davis and Jeff Cumberland were the mainly featured tight ends for the Jets last season. The team decided to part ways with Cumberland and pair up Amaro with Davis for the 2016 season. With Decker and Marshall seeing the bulk of the passing game, Amaro must make the most of every football passed to him this offseason if he wishes to continue his career in green and white.
This could very well be a make or break season for Amaro as he hopes to rekindle his past success from college where he was a red-zone threat and kept those chains moving.
Next: 3. A possible role change for Buster Skrine
Dec 19, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Jets defensive back Buster Skrine (41) on the field before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
3. A possible role change for Buster Skrine
Defensive back Buster Skrine played nickel corner for the Jets last season and recorded eight passes defended, one interception and 65 total tackles. There’s a vacancy across from cornerback Darrelle Revis in the defensive secondary with the departure of cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
The Jets are looking to fill that gap with Skrine, as he’s been taking reps at outside rather than inside during OTA’s. Head coach Todd Bowles will more than likely have Skrine start out at cornerback for the Jets once training camp comes in July.
The Jets released Cromartie during the offseason and failed to add a viable replacement during free agency. With the Jets adding a cornerback in Juston Burris during the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s pretty obvious that Gang Green will hold an in-house competition with Skrine as the front-runner for the vacant spot.
If Skrine can develop his defensive skills to successful have a role change in his career, it could turn out to be a brilliant move by Bowles to add a nice dimension alongside Revis.
Next: 2. An already tough transition for Christian Hackenberg
May 25, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) during OTA at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
2. An already tough transition for Christian Hackenberg
The Jets second round draft pick in this year’s draft, quarterback Christian Hackenberg, has worked mostly on their second field which consists mostly of rookies and younger players. The Jets want to develop Hackenberg and feel that allowing the young rookie to sit and learn will be extremely valuable for him in the near future.
Hackenberg has faced accuracy issues at OTA’s so far. He’s thrown several passes that have coasted well over the heads of his receivers along with failing to hit targets with his passes. He’s also thrown two interceptions so far.
One interception fell into the hands of linebacker Josh Martin and the other, a tipped ball that resulted into an interception by Darryl Morris. Hackenberg will be a project for the Jets, but they already knew that heading into the offseason.
It’s expected that Hackenberg will face some bumps and obstacles in his rookie season. Which is why, just like what the Jets did last year with quarterback Bryce Petty, will more than likely have him primarily learn from the sideline this upcoming season without seeing any action on the football field.
Next: 1. Geno Smith showing major improvement
1. Geno Smith showing major improvement
With Fitzpatrick still unsigned, Smith is now the front-runner, and current No.1 option at quarterback. Smith showed off his impressive arm strength and his accuracy improvement by repeatedly throwing solid sideline passes along with accurate short passes as well.
According to Media Relations Department of the Jets, Bowles has praised Smith’s maturity and capability to learn the new offense as he has grown nicely since last season. Smith did however throw one pass into double coverage which Skrine was able to intercept.
Other than that, Smith continues to impress the coaching staff and is by far the best option the Jets currently have as their No.1 quarterback for the moment.
While it’s only been two weeks of offseason practices, the youth movement on the Jets continues to show promise as guys such as Lorenzo Mauldin, Jordan Jenkins, Skrine, Smith, and many others are impressing the coaches and fellow teammates. While training camp is still a month away, it’ll be interesting to see how the Fitzpatrick saga plays out, and who will be the projected starters heading into the remainder of the offseason activities. So far, Smith is ready to deliver for the Jets are their next starting quarterback.