FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Todd Bowles has made no bold statements, outrageous guarantees or back-page headlines in his first few months with the New York Jets.
These are certainly toned-down times for the recharged franchise.
Gone is the popular Rex Ryan, whose results never quite lived up to his bluster. The low-key Bowles has taken over, charged with returning the Jets to respectability after a 4-12 season that cost Ryan and GM John Idzik their jobs.
“I don’t think I’ve tried to do anything special,” Bowles said. “I just try to be myself and coach football. … There are a lot of successful coaches and they all do it their own way. I have to make sure that I stay true to who I am and make sure the guys see that so they can relate to that.”
The Jets consistently had one of the NFL’s top defenses under Ryan, and they should be in good hands with Bowles, the former NFL defensive back who was the AP Assistant Coach of the Year last season with Arizona.
With training camp set to open at the team’s facility — the Jets traveled to SUNY Cortland in Central New York for five of six summers under Ryan — the players will get a chance to truly get familiar with how Bowles wants to do things.
And, so far, he has left a favorable first impression.
“I love the way he goes about his business,” quarterback Geno Smith said. “I love the way that he treats us as men, holds us accountable.”
Here are five story lines to follow as the Jets open training camp on Wednesday:
Despite two mostly shaky seasons to start his career, Smith is being given every opportunity to show he’s the quarterback of the present — and possibly future.
Smith will get the snaps with the first-team offense when camp starts, and it’s up to him to keep it that way. Otherwise, well-traveled veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick could seize the job. New offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has liked what he has seen from Smith, who needs to cut down on his mistakes — 34 interceptions in 30 games — and improve his ability to read defenses.
“As the quarterback,” Smith said, “my game has got to be on point every single week.”
Owner Woody Johnson loved having Ryan as his coach, but felt it necessary to make sweeping changes. He hired Mike Maccagnan as his general manager, bringing aboard someone with deep experience in player personnel — a frequent criticism of Idzik. Next up was the hiring of Bowles, who won a Super Bowl as a player in 1988 with Washington and has steadily risen through the coaching ranks. This is Bowles’ first chance as a full-time head coach — he went 2-1 as Miami’s interim coach in 2011 — but Johnson believes he has found the right combination to build a team that might someday compete for its first Super Bowl appearance since 1969.
‘BATMAN AND ROBIN’ RETURN
After the Jets struggled with an injury-filled and inconsistent secondary, they brought back free-agent cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, who teamed for New York from 2010-12.
Revis nicknamed the defensive duo “Batman and Robin” — Revis is Batman — and returns after a bitter divorce in 2013 sent him to Tampa Bay. Then he won a Super Bowl with rival New England last season. Cromartie is back after playing one season in Bowles’ defense in Arizona.
Add in fellow free-agent signings cornerback Buster Skrine and safety Marcus Gilchrist and the Jets’ secondary is suddenly a strength.
The defensive line was also bolstered by the addition of first-round pick Leonard Williams. And though Sheldon Richardson will be suspended for the start of the season, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is expected to report to camp on time as he seeks a new contract.
Maccagnan kicked off an aggressive offseason by acquiring wide receiver Brandon Marshall and a seventh-round draft pick from the Bears for a fifth-rounder. The talented but sometimes-controversial receiver gives New York a legitimate No. 1 target for Smith despite Marshall falling short of 1,000 yards receiving last year for the first time since his rookie season in Denver in 2006.
Marshall, who’ll complement Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley, roomed with Smith in the offseason and the two often worked out together.
“We’re happy having him on the squad,” Smith said. “He brings so much to the table for us.”
UP FOR GRABS
Oday Aboushi was solid at left guard last season, but the Jets signed James Carpenter in free agency to stabilize the spot. So Aboushi will likely compete with veteran Willie Colon, Brian Winters, Brent Qvale and fifth-rounder Jarvis Harrison at right guard. The No. 4 spot at wide receiver could go to second-rounder Devin Smith, but T.J. Graham, Chris Owusu, Walt Powell, Saalim Hakim, DeVier Posey, Shaq Evans and Quincy Enunwa will be competing for just one or two other spots.
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