Heading into training camp, the New York Jets had several key personnel related questions to answer but after just three days of practice, the team received some promising news on Sunday and ended their first weekend in Cortland, New York on somewhat of a high note.
After missing the first three days of practice, first-round draft pick (No. 9 overall), and likely replacement for the departed Darelle Revis, cornerback Dee Milliner, agreed to a four-year $12.66 million contract with the Jets on Sunday afternoon, putting to rest any further concern that the former Alabama star would extend his absence into the second week of training camp.
After all, during a week filled with rumors, in-house power struggles and relentless questions surrounding the starting quarterback job, the signing of the franchise’s top draft pick should come as a welcome distraction.
Earlier in the week, first-year Jet’s general manager John Idzik, unintentionally began a completely new controversy when comments he made regarding who exactly within the franchise was the final decision maker in choosing the Jet’s starting quarterback, dominated NFL headlines. While both Idzik and head coach Rex Ryan seemed to now agree that it will be a “collective” decision, the quarterback competition between incumbent Mark Sanchez and second-round draft pick Geno Smith, continues to spark debate throughout the media and across the league.
Missing the playoffs for the second straight season, 2012 was a disappointing year for the (6-10) Jets and after an off-season that included the departures of all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis, tight end Dustin Keller, leading rusher Shonn Greene, and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, New York’s other football team can’t afford any further distractions.
Replacing Sparano as the team’s new offensive coordinator, the Jets acquired the services of Marty Mornhinweg who is known league-wide for his pass-heavy offenses. After finishing the 2012 regular-season ranked 30th in passing yards, the Jets are expected to utilize both Smith’s ability to scramble and create, as well as Sanchez’ ability to operate in the pocket.
Of course, in order for either quarterback to be successful, Gang Green will need to have their leading receiver Santanio Holmes, healthy and on the field for week one, which at this point is far from guaranteed. While last year’s leading receiver Jeremy Kerley (56 rec, 827 yards), is expected to have a role in the new offense, second-year wideout Stephen Hill (21 rec, 252 yds, 3 td), is the Jet’s preferred number two receiver behind Holmes while veteran receiver Braylon Edwards (18 rec, 199 yds, 1 td), was acquired last week to add some much needed depth at the position.
While numerous questions concerning the Jet’s offense remain unanswered, the off season acquisition of running back Chris Ivory (40 att, 217 yds, 2 td), has helped to solidify New York’s backfield. Unable to display his full potential as a member of a crowded Saint’s backfield in 2012, it is widely believed that Ivory possesses the talent needed for a successful NFL career and was brought in to replace Shonn Greene (276 att, 1063 yds, 8 td).
Unfortunately for Mark Sanchez, the absence of tight end Dustin Keller who now plays in Miami, has left the USC alum without his favorite target and frequently used security blanket. Gone are the days that Sanchez can rely on Keller to bail him out on a “busted” play, leading some to speculate that he won’t be the same quarterback and leaving the window of opportunity open just wide enough for rookie Geno Smith to climb through.
This time last year, Jet’s training camp was the top story throughout the NFL due in large part to the arrival of backup quarterback Tim Tebow. On a daily basis, reporters and cameramen from every corner of the sports media fought their way through crowds made up mainly of their colleagues in order to get a momentary glimpse of the greatest quarterback who never plays.
During the opening week of camp however, the absence of Tebow, coupled with the Jet’s recent struggles on the football field, have led to a much quieter start to training camp and far less traffic in Cortland. As always, the Jets are surrounded by controversy but at some point, someone other than the assistant coaches and coordinators will be forced to pay the price for this team’s inability to win football games.
This season, if the Jets continue their recent struggles, that someone will more than likely be Rex Ryan.