NEW YORK JETS (5-11)
OPEN CAMP: July 26, Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, Florham Park, New Jersey
LAST YEAR: Rebuilding Jets finished 5-11 for second straight season under coach Todd Bowles, but exceeded expectations by many who predicted New York to have trouble winning more than couple games. New York was competitive in nearly every game, and team credited Bowles’ culture change for improved attitude around facility. Both Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan received two-year contract extensions after season. QB Josh McCown had career year at 38, setting personal bests with 2,926 yards passing, 19 TD passes and five TD runs before missing final three games with broken left hand. His exceptional leadership was also praised by teammates. WR Robby Anderson emerged as legitimate deep threat with 63 catches, 941 yards and seven TD receptions. Defense struggled to get to QBs, but solid play by rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye was big positive.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Rookie QB Sam Darnold, CB Trumaine Johnson, RB Isaiah Crowell, QB Teddy Bridgewater, WR Terrelle Pryor, LB Avery Williamson, C Spencer Long, C Travis Swanson, DE Henry Anderson, S J.J. Wilcox, K Cairo Santos.
CAMP NEEDS: Familiar theme for Jets and their fans: all eyes on QBs. But this summer will be particularly intriguing with Darnold – No. 3 overall pick out of USC – being given every opportunity to win starting job in competition with McCown and Bridgewater. Darnold will have to show he can operate system of new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, promoted from QBs coach after John Morton was fired. WR Quincy Enunwa (neck) and Pryor (ankle) coming back from injuries that ended seasons early. Long, coming off knee injury, will be looked at to anchor O-line after not practicing in offseason. Finding consistent pass rusher at OLB will also be key, with recent draft picks Lorenzo Mauldin, Dylan Donahue in mix of players needing to prove themselves.
EXPECTATIONS: Acting owner Christopher Johnson has made it clear playoffs are not mandatory this season, although Jets have failed to reach postseason for last seven years. Team made lots of key moves in offseason, with selection of Darnold re-energizing fan base waiting for legitimate franchise QB for decades. Still, progress will be expected from team with sights set on making even more noise next season – especially with New York expected to have NFL’s most salary cap room heading into 2019 offseason.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL