The Jets’ three-day mandatory minicamp begins Tuesday, and there are plenty of players and position groups to keep an eye on.
The Jets went 10-6 last season, a marked improvement from their 4-12 finish in 2014. But according to Brandon Marshall, their offense is “night and day” compared to where it was at this time last offseason under Chan Gailey.
Not only do the Jets still have an uncertain quarterback situation on their hands, but they’re trying to ease in new veterans (such as tackle Ryan Clady) and get young players (rookies Darron Lee, Christian Hackenberg and Jordan Jenkins, etc.) up to speed in their schemes.
The true test of this team won’t come until training camp begins in late July. But the next three days will be a continuation of the work put forth during OTAs and the final offseason tune-up before their month-long break.
Here are a few of the storylines and questions heading into minicamp:
Fitz phone home
The Ryan Fitzpatrick saga has lasted into mid-June, and it still is unclear when a resolution will come. As the Jets are so fond of saying, they like Fitzpatrick and want him back in the fold, but unfortunately for general manager Mike Maccagnan, there’s been no movement on the Fitz front. The Jets made their contract offer — a three-year, $24-million deal that carries a maximum value of $36 million and $15 million guaranteed — in March, but it wasn’t good enough for the Fitzpatrick camp. On Monday, NFL.com reported that nothing has changed on either side heading into minicamp.
Fitzpatrick’s locker remains unoccupied, though — a clear indication that ownership expects him to be under center in 2016.
It’s Geno’s time to shine
As long as Fitzpatrick remains far away from Florham Park, this offense belongs to Geno Smith. The presumptive starter (until Fitzpatrick returns home, of course) has looked sharp during OTAs. But therein lies the problem with trusting Smith: He always looks great in the summertime, but that accuracy and solid decision-making don’t always translate to the field during the regular season.
The past year was a trying one for Smith, who lost his starting job last training camp when his jaw was broken in a locker-room altercation with then-teammate IK Enemkpali. By the time Smith returned from surgery, the team had turned the starting quarterback job over to Fitzpatrick. But now that Fitzpatrick isn’t here, Smith can take full advantage of the first-team practice reps and continue to prove that he’s poised to lead the offense in his second year in Gailey’s system.
Another day, another expected no-show by Muhammad Wilkerson.
The Pro Bowl defensive end skipped last year’s OTAs before showing up for mandatory minicamp. That’s not expected to happen this year, though. Wilkerson, who was not present for any of the Jets’ 10 voluntary OTA sessions, is rehabbing a broken right leg. He was spotted in the locker room on Wednesday but didn’t speak to reporters.
Players under contract who skip all three days of mandatory minicamp are subject to a $76,580 fine ($12,765 for missing Day 1, $25,525 for missing Day 2 and $38,290 for the final day). But because Wilkerson has yet to sign his franchise tag ($15.7 million), he won’t be fined. The Jets have until July 15 to sign him to a long-term deal.
Will the Jets’ starting tight end please stand up?
Jace Amaro expects big things for himself in 2016 after returning from shoulder surgery, but Todd Bowles doesn’t share Amaro’s lofty expectations — at least not yet. While the second-round pick in 2014 said his goal is “to play three-down tight end,” Bowles pointed out that Amaro is “competing for a spot like everybody else . . . He’s still an H [-back]. He can play some Y, but he’s still an H. Just gotta see him out there healthy.”
The Jets’ tight ends were a non-factor last season, totaling eight catches. This season, they have six players at the position — Amaro, Zach Sudfeld, Wes Saxton, Brandon Bostick, Jason Vander Laan and Kellen Davis, their starter last year — along with wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, who contributed in the H-back role. Sudfeld (6-7, 260) not only has great size but is a major contributor on special teams. But he suffered an injury during minicamp earlier this month.
The starting tight end might not emerge until training camp, but the next few days are a good opportunity for candidates to open eyes.
Can Dee Milliner stay on the field?
Dee Milliner’s interception of Smith during last week’s OTAs was proof that the former Alabama cornerback has skills. The question is: Can Milliner stay healthy for an entire season? With star cornerback Darrelle Revis still sidelined by wrist surgery (he’s expected back on the field in training camp), Milliner has a chance to stand out alongside Buster Skrine and Marcus Williams. The secondary lost some veteran leadership when the Jets chose not to re-sign Antonio Cromartie, but his absence has opened the door for Milliner to get more playing time.
Athleticism and skill have never been his issue — it’s staying healthy.
Milliner, who was selected ninth overall in 2013 after the Jets traded Revis to the Bucs, had three interceptions in 13 games his rookie year but played in only three games in 2014 (torn Achilles tendon) and five games last season. Milliner underwent wrist surgery in August and was placed on short-term injured reserve. He was activated on Nov. 11.