Training camp preview: Jets and Bears

To get you fully prepared for the unofficial start of the 2012

NFL season, we’re ranking every team from worst to first in the

weeks leading up to the opening of training camps.

Every day, we’ll be previewing two teams, one from each

conference, analyzing them from top to bottom and giving you all

you need to know to be an informed fan. What’s the major storyline

heading into camp? What’s the key training camp battle to watch?

Who’s the young guy to watch? Is there any hope?

Today’s two teams: the New York Jets and the Chicago

Bears.

No. 18. New York Jets

Training Camp Site: SUNY Cortland, Cortland, New

York

Training Camp Start Date: July 26

BetOnline Preseason Super Bowl Odds: 28-1

What I Like About You: There’s a hint of

“must win” desperation surrounding the Jets this year,

from the top with general manager Mike Tanenbaum to the coaching

staff to the quarterback.

What I Don’t Like About You: Drama. Drama.

Drama. And that was just with Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez. Add

in Tebow? Oh boy. And Wayne Hunter! Wayne Hunter as the starting

right tackle — I don’t like that. At all.

Burning Question: Can the Tebow experiment

actually work? Sure. Listen, the Jets didn’t exactly give

away the farm to acquire the third-year left-handed quarterback.

They gave up a Day 3 draft pick. Whether from under center or in

the backfield, Tebow brings a very unique skill set that will

require defensive coordinators to stay up late at night

constructing game plans to stop him. The issue, of course, is

whether Sanchez struggles early on. The Jets fans aren’t

exactly a patient lot. They’ll want to see their shiny new

toy.

Key Training Camp Battle To Watch: right tackle, Wayne

Hunter vs. Vladimir Ducasse: Hunter’s terrible and

Ducasse hasn’t been much better in his first three years in

the league. I thought the Jets would draft an offensive tackle,

addressing this need with their first round selection, but they

went pass rusher instead. So, it’ll be Hunter and Duccasse.

Or, the lesser of two evils.

The New Veteran in Town:

Laron Landry, free safety: Tebow wasn’t the

biggest offseason addition; Landry was. When healthy, he’s

tremendous and worthy of the sixth overall selection that he was so

many years back in Washington. Alas, he’s rarely healthy.

Still recovering from a torn Achilles, there’s no guarantee

he’ll be ready for the start of the season. As insurance, the

Jets got Yeremiah Bell from Miami, too.

Young Gun to Watch: Jeremy Kerley, wide receiver:

After Santonio Holmes, the Jets’ wide receiver depth chart is

wide open. Former Raider Chaz Schillens was brought in to compete,

Stephen Hill was drafted in the second round and Patrick Turner

showed promise last season. But Kerley’s the guy to put the

gold star on. A gamebreaker at TCU, Kerley had some big plays in

2011 and is expected to play an even bigger role in 2012.

Schrager Prediction: The Jets still have a giant

hole at right tackle and that scares me very much. Tebow and

Sanchez will get the headlines and TMZ-esque coverage all season,

but there are questions on the line, at receiver, and the defensive

backfield, too. I just don’t see Gang Green as a playoff team

in 2012.

Final Prediction: Third place, AFC East

No. 17: Chicago Bears

Training Camp Site: Olivet Nazarene University,

Bourbonnais, Illinois

Training Camp Start Date: July 25

BetOnline Preseason Super Bowl Odds: 28-1

What I Like About You: Jay Cutler being reunited

with Brandon Marshall, a healthy defense, and a new offensive

scheme. Phil Emery nailed it at the NFL Draft. Lots of good things

in Chicago this season.

What I Don’t Like About You: Matt

Forte’s still not happy and the offensive line is still

spotty. The line let down Cutler in 2010, was worse in 2011 and

doesn’t appear to be much better (on paper, at least) in

2012.

Burning Question: Is the offensive line going to

be able to keep Jay Cutler upright? Cutler was under constant

duress all last season and though his season-ending injury

didn’t come as a result of a sack or pressure, he was

fortunate to even get 10 games in. The Bears were 7-3 when Cutler

went down, only to finish the season losing five of their last six

games without him. The line, which has given up a mind-boggling 105

sacks over the past two seasons, added just one new player —

journeyman Chilo Rachal — to the unit. If I’m Cutler,

I’m not exactly doing flips over what’s been done to

protect me this offseason.

Key Training Camp Battle to Watch: Left tackle, Chris

Williams vs. Ja’Marcus Webb: Mike Tice, who’s

making the move from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator

this season, took Ja’Marcus Webb and installed him as the

left tackle a season ago, which would make him the assumed choice

to start the season there. But Williams could be the guy. Drafted

in 2008 to play tackle, he’s moved around the line in his

first four years in Chicago. Gabe Carimi will start at right

tackle, barring a surprise in training camp. It’ll likely be

Webb or Williams at the other bookend. Neither is exactly Jon Ogden

or Orlando Pace.

The New Veteran in Town: Brandon Marshall, wide

receiver: Marshall’s the elite receiver the Bears

have long been seeking for years, including swings and misses with

Roy Williams and Mushin Muhammad. Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, and

Earl Bennett are nice complementary pieces and second round pick

Alshon Jeffery has tremendous potential, but Marshall’s the

real deal. And he’s the real deal now. He had 81 catches for

1,214 yards and six scores in Miami last season and caught 100

balls twice from Jay Cutler in Denver. They’re friends and

they’re both happy. Chicago had to make this trade.

The Young Gun to Watch: Shea McClellin, defensive

end: Though he might not start right away, big things are

expected for McClellin, the first round pick out of Boise State.

Lining up in the same front seven as Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher

and Julius Peppers will only help the 22-year-old in the long run.

He’ll play with his hand down to start, but could move to the

outside linebacker spot if needed, too. McClellin led the Broncos

with seven sacks a season ago. Look for him to do some damage in

Chicago this year.

Schrager Prediction: The Bears were riding high at

7-3 before Cutler went down with his injury last season, only to

falter and finish the season with a .500 record. They made upgrades

across the roster, but seemed to ignore the offensive line in yet

another offseason. I know I’m harping on this point a bit

— trust me, I get it — but I just don’t see this

unit magically coming together in 2012. Assuming Forte’s back

in the lineup come opening weekend, this team’s going to

compete. I don’t, however, see them making the playoffs.

Final Prediction: Third place, NFC North