10 questions facing the Jets this season
Will Rex Ryan's lame-duck status affect the team?
Ryan is working in the last year of his contract and may appear to be a shell of his former boisterous self, but behind closed doors, he remains just as fiery and competitive, players say. He's still seen in the locker room as a players' coach, the type of guy they'll gladly "run through walls for.'' But the Jets, at least on paper, don't appear to be talented enough to save Ryan's job if it comes to that.
Is Geno Smith the answer?
The rookie quarterback provides Jets fans the one thing
they desperately need: hope. They've grown tired of Mark Sanchez's buttfumbling ways and his penchant for coughing up the football at the most inopportune times. And thanks to the veteran Sanchez's lingering shoulder injury, the Jets' front office has a built-in excuse to start Smith Sunday in the season opener against the Bucs. But if he falters, Jets Nation could turn on him quickly. (At that point, the calls for Matt Simms will be deafening.)
Where does that leave Sanchez? Will we see him at all?
Maybe holding a clipboard. If Geno Smith gets off to a good start, Sanchez could be banished to the sideline for good. But things will get really complicated if the rookie struggles and emulates Sanchez in the turnover department. Then the Jets could be forced to go back to Sanchez (if he's still on the active roster) or (GASP!) Brady Quinn. True, Sanchez makes mistakes fifth-year quarterbacks shouldn't. But during this preseason he's at least shown that he can bounce back.
Is Marty Mornhinweg the X factor?
The Jets' offense was in need of a major overhaul after finishing 30th in the league in 2012. Even if Mornhinweg doesn't produce a top 10 offense this season, the Jets' switch to the West Coast system could benefit their quarterbacks because it's predicated on short passes and timing routes. Barring injury, Jeff Cumberland -- who Ryan says finally is a "complete" tight end -- expects to have a big impact this season.
Who can Jets fans root for?
Need something -- or someone -- to get excited about? Try nose tackle Damon "Snacks'' Harrison. He was the only undrafted free agent to make the team in 2012 and stands to see a lot more playing time if Kenrick Ellis' back injury lingers. At this time last year, Harrison was praying to make the roster. Now Ryan is showing off video tutorials of "Snacks" to the media.
Will Mike Goodson be any good?
The Jets finally got their speedy running back in uniform, but Goodson has to wait until Week 5 to see action. At the moment, he's not even in football shape. But he has no doubt he'll bring a "spark" to the Jets. "Given four weeks to prepare for something, I think I'll be pretty explosive and ready to play," he said.
What about the running game?
Bilal Powell had one of the best training camps of any Jet. With Goodson, Chris Ivory and the recently released Joe McKnight sidelined because of a variety of reasons, Powell proved he's durable and dependable. The Jets, however, want a physical running game. If Ivory (hamstring) can stay healthy and the offensive line can create some holes, the Jets are sure to finish better than 26th in rushing yards per game, their ranking last season.
Will the Jets miss Revis Island?
The Jets' defense is part Buddy Ryan, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan and Rex Ryan, defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said. In short: Its essence is derived from the schemes and not one player. With Darrelle Revis sidelined with a knee injury, Antonio Cromartie had a Pro Bowl year. So the defense will be the least of the team's problems.
Will Dee Milliner be a stud?
Milliner has had one of the quietest offseasons of any ninth overall pick. After arriving late to training camp because of a contract impasse, the rookie cornerback struggled against the Lions and Jaguars before injuring his calf before Week 3 of the preseason. There will be growing pains with rookies, of course. But the Jets are banking on Milliner -- long, rangy and "cat-quick," according to secondary coach Tim McDonald -- to be an upgrade opposite Cromartie.
Will 'Summer of Vlad' extend into Autumn?
Fans already may have labeled former second-round pick Vladimir Ducasse a bust, but the Jets were so pleased with him that they released veteran Stephen Peterman. "From top to bottom, you name it," Ryan said of Ducasse's areas of improvement. "Mentally, instincts, physical. This is where you wanted him when you drafted him.'' And with that, "Summer of Vlad'' continues. But rookie Brian Winters still is aiming for the starting left guard spot.