A stout defense, questions at quarterback, and just a little bit of drama. Jenny Vrentas reports from Floram Park as the Jets try to move past the punch heard 'round the NFL.
Site: New York Jets Headquarters, Florham Park, N.J.
What I Saw: Afternoon practice Wednesday, Aug. 20, moved indoors into the fieldhouse because of storms. It was mostly a “cards” practice, with the Jets running scout-team plays off cards in preparation for their second preseason game.
Player I saw and really liked: WR Quincy Enunwa, a sixth-round pick last year, has been working a lot with the starters. The coaches seem to like using his bigger build (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) in the slot in certain situations, over fifth-year receiver Jeremy Kerley.
Three things you need to know about the Jets:
1. Ryan Fitzpatrick laughs off the criticism of his so-called “noodle arm,” but there’s something to it. The 32-year-old quarterback does not throw the ball with great velocity, which was put into sharp contrast as he rotated with rookie Bryce Petty slinging balls into the end zone in 1-on-1 drills. Now, Fitzpatrick is a smart, savvy veteran who is thoroughly familiar with Chan Gailey’s offensive system, and for that reason, some people in the league say they would have rather faced Geno Smith than Fitzpatrick early in the season. Whatever limitations Fitzpatrick’s arm has, Gailey will plan around them, but don’t expect a robust deep passing game for the Jets with Fitzpatrick as the starter.
2. Todd Bowles has done a good job leading his team past the punch heard ‘round the NFL. The new Jets head coach acted quickly and decisively when he heard that IK Enemkpali had broken Geno Smith’s jaw by punching him in the locker room, moving to cut Enemkpali and turn the page to Fitzpatrick as the starting QB. There are still varying accounts of what exactly happened that day--curiously, CB Darrelle Revis continued to say, “guys have been very supportive on both sides, on IK’s side and on Geno’s side” — but Bowles never flinched in moving forward and that seems to have served the team well.
3. The defense may not be as stocked as it looks on paper. Muhammad Wilkerson, the anchor of the defensive line, has been out for two-and-a-half weeks with a hamstring injury, and the Jets are still waiting to hear whether or not Sheldon Richardson will miss more than his four-game drug suspension after a summer charge for resisting arrest. Antonio Cromartie has struggled during camp, too, raising questions about if the 31-year-old cornerback has reached the cliff of his career. Bowles knows how to scheme around personnel deficiencies, something he did to great success with a Cardinals defense thinned by injuries and suspensions last season, but still, it’s concerning for a unit that will be relied on to carry the team this season.
What will determine success or failure for the Jets: Besides the obvious question of quarterback play, one thing I noticed about this team is the number of cornerstone players over age 30: Revis, Cromartie, Brandon Marshall, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, David Harris, etc. The Jets are counting on these guys not sliding down the backslope of their career.
Five dot-dot-dot observations about the Jets: You have to appreciate Bowles’ honesty when discussing why they signed QB Matt Flynn: “He was the only one available,” he said matter-of-factly. Flynn, who never played a snap during his brief training camp stint with New England, still isn’t ready to play because of a lingering hamstring injury. But the Jets can pick his brain about their division rivals, at least. … The Jets may have to carry four QBs on their 53-man roster early in the season if they decide not to put Smith on IR with a designation to return. Given the timetable of his recovery, it probably makes sense to leave Smith on the active roster, but they will have to compensate at another position. Petty, the fourth-round pick from Baylor, is still too raw for NFL action, which is why the Jets had to add Flynn as a veteran back-up for Fitzpatrick while Smith is sidelined. … RB Stevan Ridley, who tore his ACL and MCL last October with the Patriots, is still on the physically unable to perform list. His availability when the season begins is looking more and more doubtful. … Look for Eric Decker to move around the field more this season. During practice, he was taking snaps in the slot and ran a reverse. Last year with the Jets, Decker was mainly confined to the outside as he tried to fill a No. 1 receiver role, but the addition of Marshall via trade this offseason will allow Decker more flexibility. … Bowles’ defense is still being installed, which is normal for a complicated system with a lot of moving parts, but that reinforces why it’s important not to have a knee-jerk reaction to anything that happens early in the preseason. “We just had an install of seven plays the day before,” Revis said. “Todd is giving us increments of his defense as we go. I’m sure by the third preseason game, we’ll have the whole defense.”
One name I’d forgotten about: Jason Babin, the veteran pass rusher who is with his eighth NFL team. He played in all 16 games for the Jets last season, and his odds of sticking on this year’s roster were, oddly enough, improved with the release of Enemkpali.The thing I’ll remember about Florham Park, N.J.:
Gut feeling as I left camp: They’re starting over with a new regime, but these Jets will face the same old problem—as stout as the defense might be, will the offense be able to score enough points to compete?