FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Good thing there are names on the back of their jerseys.
These New York Jets are awfully tough to recognize after a massive offseason roster overhaul.
Gone are familiar faces such as Darrelle Revis, Sheldon Richardson, Nick Mangold, David Harris, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker as general manager Mike Maccagnan cleared out high-priced salaries of big-name players.
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Coach Todd Bowles enters this season with a largely inexperienced roster that has many fans and media expecting a long season, with some struggling to find legitimate possibilities for victories.
”It’s extra motivation, (but) it’s not the motivation,” Bowles said of all the gloomy predictions. ”Obviously, you’re motivated and we’re trying to win a Super Bowl anyway, no matter what. … Is it extra added incentive for some people? Yes, it is. But motivation is because we didn’t play well and we’re trying to win anyway.”
After a 10-6 season in his first year as coach, Bowles’ bunch struggled to a 5-11 finish. The pressure is on to turn things around as the Jets face a seventh straight season without a playoff appearance.
But the focus in the organization is firmly on the future and building a foundation that could win going forward. That puts Bowles, who’s signed through next season, in a potentially tough spot. But with all the moves to rid the roster of experienced veterans, there’s been talk of tanking for a potential No. 1 overall pick next spring.
”From my standpoint, when we analyze where we’re at, I’m looking at doing things that will help move this team forward to the vision we have for it,” Maccagnan said. ”But I will say this: We’re no different than any other team out there. Players want to go out there and be competitive. We’re in a competitive business.”
Here are some things to know as the Jets embark on what will be a rebuilding season:
QB SHUFFLE: Journeyman Josh McCown will open the season as the starting quarterback after easily beating out Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty for the job. But the 38-year-old McCown is merely a placeholder at the position, and the Jets will likely want to give Hackenberg and/or Petty a look to further evaluate them before heading into the offseason.
McCown’s injury history and recent win-loss record – he’s 2-20 over the last three seasons – could prompt New York to pull him sooner rather than later.
”I’m looking forward to playing the best ball I’ve ever played and that’s my mindset,” McCown said. ”In order to do that, you can’t look at that as 16 weeks. You have to look at it as one week at a time. That’s the only way you can look at it. So, that’s my goal.”
GREEN RECEIVERS: The Jets acquired wide receiver Jermaine Kearse last Friday from Seattle for Richardson, giving themselves a veteran presence in an inexperienced group.
Robby Anderson caught 42 passes for 587 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie and quickly moved up the depth chart with the departures of Marshall and Decker, and Quincy Enunwa being lost for the season to a neck injury. But beyond Kearse and Anderson, there’s uncertainty. Plus, Jalin Marshall is suspended the first four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancers.
Running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell could see lots of passes come their way.
LEAKY LINE: The Jets tinkered with their offensive line in the offseason, and the group struggled quite a bit in the preseason. Wesley Johnson replaces Mangold at center, Kelvin Beachum takes over at left tackle, and Ben Ijalana and Brandon Shell could end up rotating at right tackle. Left guard James Carpenter and right guard Brian Winters are solid, but the unit needs to improve its communication – and fast – or the offense will be an even bigger mess than expected.
POWER UP FRONT: Even without Richardson, the defensive line remains the strength of the team with Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Steve McLendon leading the way.
After a subpar season, Wilkerson is healthy and motivated to re-establish himself as one of the top defensive ends in the game. Williams made the Pro Bowl in his second season and is a rising star. McLendon is a solid nose tackle, and recently acquired Kony Ealy could play a big role.
”We know we can be great,” Wilkerson said, ”as long as all of us put in the work each and every day and push each other like we’re supposed to.”
REVAMPED SECONDARY: The Jets will have three new starters among their defensive backs, including cornerback Morris Claiborne and rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye .
Opponents exploited New York’s secondary last season, especially with Revis on the downside of his career. Claiborne should be an upgrade – as long as he can stay healthy, and that’s a big if. Adams, a first-rounder, and Maye, a second-rounder, add leadership and an aggressive attitude.
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