After the recent Jets’ OTAs ended in mid-June, the positive feelings weren’t just about top pick Sam Darnold.
With a rash of free-agent signings and other draft picks, hype and optimism have reached levels that haven’t surfaced in quite some time.
It will be a training camp beginning in late July that will dictate plenty of attention and promise for a team that could easily push itself back into the AFC playoff picture.
Yet, it will all center on Darnold.
For the first time since the mid-1960 with Joe Namath, many believe the Jets have another franchise quarterback. Head coach Todd Bowles has stated that he has “penciled in” veteran Josh McCown as the starter, and then also is Teddy Bridgewater as an insurance policy.
This spring, Darnold has checked all the boxes. Darnold has appeared calm in the huddle after he came out of shotgun at his days at USC. He has showed his arm strength and can thread the needle. Darnold also apparently has gained the confidence and respect of his teammates, primarily the offensive line.
“When you’re young and you come into a huddle with a lot of older guys it can be intimidating,” said guard Brian Winters. “But he takes control and he does well.”
Winters battled through an injury-riddled season last year, and he will look to anchor a line that matured throughout the season.
Spence Long was signed as a free agent at center and he could be an upgrade there.
Isaiah Cromwell is a hard runner signed from the Cleveland Browns and his style parallels Bilal Powell. They can be interchangeable or give the Jets a sense of their former ground-and-pound style. Elijah McGuire showed flashes last year, and the Jets remain high on him.
Tyrell Pryor and Charles Johnson join the ever-crowding wide receiver position. Quincy Enuwa, who was targeted as the No. 1 receiver before a season-ending injury last year, is back. Robbie Anderson, despite his off-the-field issues, continues to emerge as a game-breaker, and Jermaine Kearse has established his presence.
Trumaine Johnson will bring a stronger sense of continuity to the secondary, and it will be further solidified with Morris Claiborne’s return. With Jamal Adams and Marcus in the fold, they have the potential for one of the best secondaries in the league. Buster Skrine will add depth and sixth-round pick Parry Nickerson could be a sleeper.
Avery Williamson provides the Jets at linebacker with a veteran and secure presence. It will also allow Darron Lee to continue his development without any added pressure.
The signing of veteran kick returner Andre Roberts fills a huge void and gives the Jets a viable option they haven’t had for a while.
Will they all mesh? That’s the questions that will be answered in training camp.
“We’re still jelling, we’re still blending,” said Bowles during the recent OTAs. “We’re working on chemistry with some new pieces over there, obviously, with Avery [Williamson] and Trumaine [Johnson] and a couple of other guys, so we don’t have an identity yet. Until we get to camp and get the pads on and get through the everyday grind, we don’t have one yet.”
Whatever the case, Darnold and his new teammates surely will make the 2018 season an interesting one.