The road to success in the NFL begins each year with the hard work and wide-open possibilities of training camp. As teams around the league gear up for the 2015 campaign, NFL Media reporters will be checking in from all 32 camps around the league. For our next stop, Albert Breer visits the New York Jets.
Where is NFL Media?
The Jets' state-of-the-art home facility in Florham Park, New Jersey. It's only the second camp the team has held here since the franchise moved from Long Island in 2008. Prior to this year, Gang Green spent every summer -- save for the 2011 post-lockout camp -- in upstate New York at SUNY Cortland.
1) The Jets spent big in the offseason, but can wiggle out of just about any of their big new contracts within two years (with Darrelle Revis being the key exception). So why did they spend? Given the realities of the market they play in, and how they want to bring players along, the new men in charge felt it was in their best interest to be as competitive as possible in Year 1. Also, a dry spell in drafting in some recent years left them without many players on the roster to reward with new deals, and the salary floor creates a use-it-or-lose-it reality. So most of the new guys' deals are, in essence, placeholders on the cap, with the hope being that young players will be drafted, come up through the system and take those big-money spots a couple years down the line. "You need some older guys coming in for the first few two or three years, while the young guys learn to become professional and learn the system. And you hopefully continue drafting well, hopefully you have a good nucleus for you ballclub," new coach Todd Bowles told me. "That's basically what we're trying to do."
2)The Sheldon Richardson situation isn't wholly a shocker for anyone here, and it's also little surprise that it happened near the cocoon of his alma mater, which has been home to a number of interesting football prospects over the last few years. He was dinged by plenty of teams coming out of Missouri in 2013 for a lack of maturity, and his instant success in the NFL didn't exactly force him to grow up any quicker. Now, he'll have to. As physical ability and potential go, Richardson might be the team's second-most-gifted player, behind only Revis. Thus, on the surface, you'd think he would be in line for a bank-breaking extension after this year -- if things had gone a little differently. Or a lot differently. With all that taken into account, no one should expect the Jets to let this lead to a massive about-face in their stance with Richardson's linemate, Mo Wilkerson. Multiple sources indicate they plan to stick to their guns in that negotiation. And that could make movement in the short term tough, especially if Wilkerson's reps look at Richardson's situation as a chance to seize leverage.
3)Devin Smith's injury stings, but it isn't any sort of back-breaker, no matter where he was drafted. Eric Decker has settled into the No. 2 role he's been accustomed to over the course of his career, and Jeremy Kerley is reliable in the slot. Brandon Marshall has come as advertised over the last few months. Even better, actually. The off-field questions are always going to be there with the former Bronco/Dolphin/Bear, but the brass here has been impressed by his effort not just to get himself right on the field, but do right by everyone else off it. And that, of course, primarily goes to how he's taken Geno Smith under his wing. Gotta give it time, of course, since those stints in Denver and Miami and Chicago started OK, too. But so far, so good.
Lorenzo Mauldin, OLB: I saw the Jets on their first day in pads, and while Leonard Williams cuts an imposing frame, this third-round pick stood out the most, immediately making his presence felt in pass-rush drills against the vets. And there's hope on the part of the staff here that, with the interior well-stocked, New York might have stolen a nice piece for the edge.
Darrelle Revis, CB: Sometimes the easy answer is the correct one, and that's the case here. It's not often that a team gets to make up for a mistake like the Jets did this offseason in getting another stab at bringing Revis back. He's still one of the two or three best defensive players in the game. And another very real benefit that Bowles has seen is the example of professionalism Revis has set for the young guys.
"Every team has goals. I don't view New England one way or the other. They're the Super Bowl champs -- that's all I know right now. I'm trying to build a team the way I need to build it. So right now, going forward, and they're not our first game, we're working on ourselves, we're working on getting better every day, and at some point our focus will turn to Cleveland (NYJ's Week 1 opponent). But right now, we're just working on the Jets and trying to become the best team we can be."
» The Jets are stocked at corner, but the safety spots aren't quite as nailed down. And that's why Jaiquawn Jarrett's performance at the team's first padded practice stuck out. Comfortable and confident in Bowles' defense, the former second-round pick made a jarring hit on one throw over the middle in team drills, and knocked a ball loose on another.
» Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's presence will be vital for Geno Smith here. One of the things Bowles loves about Gailey's offense is how flexible it is, and that means Smith will have a good shot at success and the Jets will get a clean evaluation. "He can coach," Bowles said. "And it's not just around the quarterback -- he's a very good offensive coordinator. He has his hands on everything and he understands exactly what everybody needs to be doing."