The Jets underwent a seismic overhaul after last season that was felt throughout their building. The offense, defense and football operations have new leaders who are making sure they never hear the words “Same old Jets” again.
The Jets also made big personnel moves. They added talent on both sides of the football, including potential game-changers in four-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and three-time Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell, who quickly will become second-year quarterback Sam Darnold’s best friend.
All of these changes have led to a feeling that the team is about to ascend under general manager Joe Douglas, coach Adam Gase and fiery defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. It all starts Wednesday when the veterans report for training camp, and Gase will hold his first practice Thursday.
It’s hard for the Jets to go anywhere but up. They went 4-12 last season and have missed the playoffs for eight straight years — the third-longest drought in the league -- and had a record of 14-34 the last three seasons under coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan.
The new regime is on a culture-changing mission. Douglas won Super Bowls with the Ravens and Eagles, Gase reached one with the Broncos as an offensive coordinator and Williams won one as the Saints’ defensive coordinator.
All throughout OTAs and minicamp, Williams challenged and fired up the defense while Gase did the same with the offense. The two coaches are intense and driven, and Douglas wants to carry over his success to the Jets. Can they build something sustainable where few before them have? That’s the plan.
“I didn’t come here to hang out for a couple of years and leave,” said Gase, the former Dolphins coach. “I came here because I really enjoyed my time with [CEO] Christopher Johnson, the roster that was already in place, Sam ... there were a lot of pieces here. Going against these guys the last three years, playing their defense, was a nightmare.”
That sounds like hyperbole, but it’s what the Jets want to become. They have pieces that can give opponents fits, especially if Darnold takes a big step forward. It was a positive sign that he got some teammates together for private offseason workouts in California.
Gase has a reputation as a quarterback guru and was brought in to elevate Darnold’s game. He expects Darnold to go through some bumps as he learns a new offense, but he has more weapons than last year, starting with Bell, who was a matchup nightmare with the Steelers.
Bell skipped the OTAs to train on his own, but he promised he would be ready for camp. He’ll be arriving with a huge chip on his shoulder to prove he still can be a force after sitting out last season in a contract dispute.
The Jets haven’t had a back as talented as Bell since Curtis Martin ran and caught passes for them more than a decade ago. Bell grew up a Martin fan.
“When he’s out there, the defensive coordinator doesn’t know where he’s going to line up, doesn’t know what’s coming his way,” Darnold said. “With Le’Veon out there, we’ve become a little bit more unpredictable.”
The Jets’ offense will be a work in progress but potentially explosive with Bell, Ty Montgomery and a receiving corps that features Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder and Quincy Enunwa.
Unlike during the Bowles era, the Jets have an offensive coach who will be creative and open things up more.
On defense, Williams is an aggressive play-caller who uses multiple fronts and blitz packages to create confusion. Facing that every day also should help Darnold and the offense rapidly improve.
Mosley and third-year safety Jamal Adams, who made his first Pro Bowl last year, will lead the defense. But end Leonard Williams, playing for a new contract and for someone who could bring out the best in him, could have that breakout season everyone has been anticipating.
Cornerback Trumaine Johnson had his best season playing for Gregg Williams with the Rams. The Jets and Johnson, last offseason’s big free-agent signing, are hoping he can bounce back after a disappointing year.
The Jets also hope No. 3 overall pick Quinnen Williams can have an impact. A calf injury limited the nose tackle during offseason workouts, and Williams has yet to report with the other rookies while his contract still is being worked out. Reportedly, the snag has to do with Williams’ signing bonus.
“I like a lot of pieces that we have right now,” Gase said. “I’ve competed against most of these guys. They’ve made it tough on teams that I’ve been on. We’ll just keep trying to get these guys better.”