LAST YEAR: Came within win of making playoffs in coach Todd Bowles' first season, but fell to former coach Rex Ryan and Buffalo Bills in season finale. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick took over as starter for Geno Smith, who had jaw broken in training camp by then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali, and set franchise record with career-best 31 TD passes. WR Brandon Marshall had team-record 109 catches for 1,502 yards and 14 TDs, while Eric Decker had 80 receptions for 1,027 yards and 12 TDs to form one of NFL's top receiving duos. DE Muhammad Wilkerson set career high with 12 sacks while anchoring stout D-line.
Article continues below ...
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: RBs Matt Forte and Khiry Robinson, LT Ryan Clady, DL Jarvis Jenkins, NT Steve McLendon, LB Bruce Carter, WR Jeremy Ross, rookies LB Darron Lee, QB Christian Hackenberg, LB Jordan Jenkins, and special teams coordinator Brant Boyer.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, NT Damon Harrison, RB Chris Ivory, CBs Antonio Cromartie and Darrin Wells, LB Demario Davis, WR-PR Jeremy Kerley, P Ryan Quigley, TE Jeff Cumberland.
CAMP NEEDS: Biggest question is whether Fitzpatrick, locked in contract stalemate with Jets, will re-sign before camp opens. After solid offseason, Smith will get another chance at starting if Fitzpatrick doesn't return. Can Forte, coming off career-low 898 yards with Bears, replace Ivory as three-down lead back? Clady coming off torn ACL that sidelined him for 2015 with Broncos, but expected to be ready to replace retired Ferguson. Buster Skrine and Marcus Williams will compete for spot opposite CB Darrelle Revis, who should be back from offseason wrist surgery. Wilkerson, signed to five-year contract extension two weeks before camp, still working back from broken right leg suffered in regular-season finale.
EXPECTATIONS: Both Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan insisted overall team speed was key need and addressed it in draft on defense, in particular, with selections of Lee and Jenkins. Uncertain status of Fitzpatrick makes it difficult to gauge potential of Jets, who have difficult start to regular season with games vs. Bengals, at Bills, at Chiefs, vs. Seahawks, at Pittsburgh and at Arizona – which will set tone for whether New York takes next step or huge step back.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL