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New York Jets season preview: Gaining ground

Around The NFL's season preview goes to the AFC East.

Change is a good thing

Sometimes change is a product of fate. The Jets were ready to take another ride on the GenoCoaster until a sentient trivia question named IK Enemkpali threw a right cross that will live in infamy in Gang Green lore. With Smith sidelined by a busted jaw, the starting job belongs to journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Punch was an unmitigated embarrassment for the franchise, but the Jets might be better off. Fitzpatrick is savvy, battle-tested and comfortable in Chan Gailey's offense.

Meanwhile, Darrelle Revis and the Jets made up. Contracts that include $40 million guaranteed have a way of thawing tensions. The Jets also brought back Antonio Cromartie and added Buster Skrine, remaking a secondary that was in desperate need of a facelift. New general manager Mike Maccagnan also acquired wide receiver Brandon Marshall, a move that allows Eric Decker to slide into his more natural fit as a No. 2 receiver.

Yeah, but what about ...

There's a reason Fitzpatrick is about to start a game with his sixth team. The Harvard grad is the ultimate bridge guy, but the Jets haven't figured out what's on the other side yet. Fourth-round pick Bryce Petty is a raw prospect and it's unclear how the team would react if Geno ever got another meaningful snap. (Support for Smith was suspiciously scant after The Punch.) Also, there is the chance that Marshall stirs things up in the wrong way. This has been known to happen, and a Marshall/Jets marriage almost feels destined for drama of some sort. And, oh yeah, Sheldon Richardson seems to be in the midst of a quarter-life crisis.

One guy to watch

The Jets dodged a bullet when results of an MRI on Leonard Williams came back negative. The No. 6 overall pick vowed to be ready for Week 1, and he's looked as good as advertised this preseason with 1.5 sacks, including a safety. If Williams develops into a star, the Jets will have the most loaded defensive line in football.

What we'll be saying in February

The Jets remain a quarterback away from being an AFC contender (what else is new?) and the window is closing fast with several foundation players on the wrong side of 30.

Predicted finish: No. 4 in AFC East, No. 11 in the AFC, No. 20 overall in Around the NFL's Power Poll

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