The Camp of Hard Knocks
New York Jets
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Last summer, new head coach Rex Ryan brought his Jets up to Cortland to get away from distractions and to give his team a chance to bond. While the Jets had their ups and downs on their way to the AFC Title game, it certainly turned out to be a good decision.
“It was great to get there last year and we’re looking forward to many more experiences with them,” said Ryan of the team’s partnership with SUNY Cortland. “We got out of the gates fast with a 3-0 start (last season) and a lot of that was due to the way we came together as a football team during our time in Cortland.”
One year later, Ryan will gather his troops, again in Cortland, with the bar raised in terms of expectations.
“I think we’re going to have more people at our camp,” said Ryan. “We went to the AFC Championship game last year. I think the fans identify with the type of team that we are. I expect a big crowd at our practices. “
After an off-season of high profile and controversial moves, the Jets are being picked by many experts to go to the Super Bowl and some are even predicting that Commissioner Roger Goodell is going to hand the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Jets owner Woody Johnson.
While predictions are all well and good, there is still a training camp to go through and there is a season to be played. Championships are not won on paper and there are several questions regarding the Jets heading into training camp.
Gang Green may appear to be loaded but let’s take a look at some of the issues surrounding the Jets. Some may be answered during camp while some may have to wait until the regular season.
How will the Darrelle Revis situation play out?
That’s a great question that will begin to be answered sometime this week. Darrelle Revis is not happy that he doesn’t have a new contract and his actions and mini-camp spoke volumes about how ugly this could get.
The Jets certainly played a role in this sticky mess by going to Revis after the season and telling him they wanted to discuss a long-term deal. Ryan also put his two cents in every time he Canton-ized Revis during a press conference or interview.
So the question remains as to whether or not Revis will be checking into the dorms at SUNY Cortland with the rest of his teammates on Sunday. He is contractually obligated to be there. Guard Nick Mangold, also upset with his contract, has made the decision to report because he wants to be there for his teammates.
Revis is going to eventually get his money but he has to decide if he is going to step on the field without a new deal for a million dollar salary in 2010. He has not been a troublemaker and is one of the leaders on the team. Given that, conventional wisdom would dictate that he reports.
I’ve been on record, even as early as this past Saturday morning when talking about it with Tony Paige, saying that I thought that something would be worked out and that Revis would report. I hate to straddle the fence on this, but after thinking about it and talking with some people about it, I don’t think he will be there on Sunday morning.
While I do think he will eventually get his deal, I think a holdout is inevitable at this point. It’s been pretty quiet in terms of leaked information from Revis’ people so it appears as if the Pro-Bowler will have to take a stand. If I’m him, there’s no way that I step on that field with a $1 million salary. I understand that he has a contract, but business is business.
The saga will eventually turn into a happy ending because there’s no way that I can see this ending up with Revis an ex-Jet.
The Jets and Revis both know that the dream of winning a Super Bowl will turn into a nightmare if he’s not on the field.
The Battle for Left Guard
One of the advantages that the Jets have had in recent years was the chemistry on their offensive line. They had a cohesive until that was considered by many to be the best in the NFL.
With the release of Alan Faneca, the Jets have created a big question mark for 2010. How do they fill the void?
The competition for the left guard spot in camp will be between 2nd year player Matt Slosson and 2nd round pick Vladimir Ducasse. This could be one of the most intriguing storylines of the summer. Ducasse is considered the eventual starter, if not in 2010 then in 2011 (if there’s a season).
Ducasse figures to have somewhat of an edge going into camp. He was the team’s second round pick and don’t think for a second that it could play a role in the decision. Ducasse would inject some youth into the line.
However, keep this in mind. There is an intangible about Slosson that could become a big factor in the competition. Slosson played college ball at Nebraska.
Who recruited him to the Cornhuskers?
You guessed it….Bill Callahan who is now the Jets Assistant Head Coach and in charge of the offensive line.
Still, I think Ducasse will be named the starter by the third pre-season game.
Does Tomlinson Have Anything Left?
I have to admit that I still can’t figure out why the Jets released Thomas Jones and replaced him with Ladainian Tomlinson. I understand that Jones wore down a bit late in the season, but this move is risky at best and could turn out to be an unmitigated disaster.
I don’t like to use the term “washed up” but that’s the label that Tomlinson achieved during his final couple of seasons in San Diego.
Is it possible that he could be rejuvenated behind the Jets offensive line?
Possible but I’m going to guess no.
Could he be a bit of a threat catching passes out of the backfield?
Now that’s where he could give the Jets something that Jones couldn’t. Maybe. Big maybe.
Can he be happy playing second fiddle to Shonn Greene?
He has no choice. Greene is going to be the starter.
It would make for an interesting story if Tomlinson is able to find the fountain of youth and resurrect his career with the Jets, but the smart money is that this signing will become a colossal flop.
The bright side will be that the Jets will sell a few “21” jerseys here and there.
Will The Bright Lights of Hard-Knocks Be A Distraction?
This has been one of the most talked about issues regarding the Jets during the off-season. Gang Green will be the subject of the HBO series “Hard Knocks” during training camp and there are two completely different views that one can take.
You could view the Jets being on “Hard Knocks” as a good thing if you think that an all-access pass inside training camp will be entertaining.
However, there are many who think that nothing good can come of this and that it will be a major distraction to a team that has Super Bowl aspirations.
I think this is going to be a good thing for the Jets. They have a lot of players with personality and a coach that has cornered the market on speaking into a microphone and making a spectacle of himself. In that regard, I think this has a chance to be the most entertaining season of “Hard Knocks”.
Factor in the Revis situation and you have a mouth-watering storyline for the ultimate in reality television. During a conference call to promote the show on Wednesday, Ryan told me that he really didn’t have a problem with “Hard Knocks” following a contract dispute.
“It’s a depiction of who we are as an organization,” said Ryan. We hope that we don’t have any holdouts, but if there is than that’s just part of doing business.”
As far as it being a distraction, I just don’t see that happening. Truthfully, is a general manager or a head coach going to allow something to affect the way they prepare for the season?
“I can’t speak for any of the other teams, but when we really don’t have anything to hide, that’s who we are,” said Ryan. By showing the country who we are and all of that kind of stuff, that’s a positive thing for us.”
Now, if Ryan pulls a player out of a meeting to send him over to an HBO producer for an interview, then that’s a problem. But if this “access” is within the context of training camp and it doesn’t take the players or the coaches away from the task at hand, then it will not become a problem.
Does Mark Sanchez Avoid The Sophomore Jinx?
I think so. And the Jets have been taking all of the necessary steps to prevent it from happening. They have surrounded him with more weapons like Santonio Holmes and the pass catching ability of Tomlinson. Also, this week, the Jets brought in veteran signal caller Mark Brunell to be the backup to Sanchez.
His experience and leadership will be extremely valuable to Sanchez and don’t forget that Brunell, in a backup role, won a Super Bowl ring as a Saint last season. Let’s just say that Sanchez would be wise to absorb as much information from Brunell as possible.
There’s many other storylines that we’ll pay attention to during training camp. The fun starts on Sunday when the team reports and the first practices are set for Monday.
As the Jets are saying, “It’s go time!”
Time for me to get ready to take a ride up to Cortland!