With the first Jets practice of the summer almost here, take a look at five issues that fans should be paying close attention to heading into training camp:
1 There’s a quarterbackcompetition . . . again
For the second straight year, the Jets will open camp with an experienced veteran and young signal-callers who have plenty to prove. Josh McCown has replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick as the new calming force in the huddle and QB room. But like Fitzpatrick, the 38-year-old McCown has little upside. He’s a stopgap until Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty (or someone else) emerges. The question is: How long will McCown be under center? He’s the clear favorite to start the season unless Hackenberg breaks out.
2 Hackenberg needs to show signs of growth
We’re about to find out if this is the year Hackenberg takes a much-needed leap forward. In keeping with the organization’s plan, the former Penn State quarterback spent his rookie season on the sideline. Year 2 is his chance to shine, but that depends on how quickly the 22-year-old can show a command of the offense and improve his accuracy. Each one of his OTA and minicamp throws was heavily scrutinized, and the spotlight will intensify as training camp gets underway.
3 Rookie responsibilities
The Jets’ future potentially could be bright, but there will be plenty of growing pains. The front office believes it upgraded the secondary by drafting safeties Jamal Adams (No. 6 overall) and Marcus Maye (a second-round pick). But adjusting to the NFL isn’t easy for most rookies, let alone rookie starters. With the Jets in transition and dealing with a leadership void, the development of players such as Adams and Maye is even more crucial (especially with David Harris gone and second-year inside linebacker Darron Lee shouldering more responsibility).
4 Will the real Muhammad Wilkerson please stand up?
With three talented linemen in Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, you would think there wouldn’t be a shortage of sacks or quarterback hits in 2017. Wilkerson, however, is coming off a disappointing season in which he recorded only 4 1⁄2 sacks (compared with a career-high 12 two seasons ago). That drop in production came after Wilkerson signed a five-year, $86-million deal. He’s now more than a year removed from leg surgery, and the defense is desperate for the 2015 Wilkerson to re-emerge.
5 Did Todd Bowles get his coaching staff right?
Gone are the days of Chan Gailey’s predictable offense, but will his replacement, first-time offensive coordinator John Morton, prove to be any better? From the sound of it at least — Morton’s booming voice can be heard all over the practice field — his style is quite different from Gailey’s. But Morton must revamp an offense that never featured tight ends and now has no clear quarterback and no proven No. 1 receiver. Hall of Famer Kevin Greene, a force during his playing days, will be charged with developing rookie linebacker Dylan Donahue and getting 2015 third-rounder Lorenzo Mauldin to become an impact player. Adams, Maye and the rest of the Jets’ secondary will be under the watchful eye of new defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson, who is just as loud and fiery as Morton and Greene.