FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Every NFL team is at square one with its 31 other competitors on the first day of training camp. For the New York Jets, Saturday might be the only day all season in which they are on par with everyone else.
But one thing is clear about the Jets as they embark upon what appears to be the mother of all rebuilding projects: All the skepticism about them outside of Florham Park will be used as motivational fodder.
“The standard and belief we have within these walls is high, and that’s what we’re chasing,” quarterback Josh McCown said upon reporting to camp.
Cue the Jim Mora impersonators: “Playoffs?”
“Everybody else is entitled to their opinions,” McCown added.
Any hope the Jets have of stunning the world – one site has the Jets with a 2.4 percent chance of making the playoffs and a 16 percent chance of “earning” the first pick in next spring’s draft – likely rest on the ability of the 38-year-old McCown to stay healthy and fend off Christian Hackenberg by turning back time and playing like he did three years ago for the Chicago Bears.
The first day of camp did nothing to dissuade the notion McCown is going to win the starting quarterback job, albeit by default. McCown saw 22 reps and was 9-for-12 with an interception, but Hackenberg, who didn’t play a down last season despite being a second-round pick, was just 4-for-9 in 14 reps. Likely third-stringer Bryce Petty (6-for-9 in 12 reps) looked the best but is going to get the smallest opportunity to win the job.
Of course, the Jets have many more holes to fill than quarterback, so even if McCown performs well, there are plenty of other potholes to navigate with a roster that was completely torn down over the offseason. But at least players are speaking optimistically about the task ahead.
“I look at this thing like a puzzle,” said defensive tackle Steve McLendon, one of only four 30-something players under contract. “You’ve got a 1,000-piece puzzle. If you can put everything together, if you can put everyone together … we’re going to be a beautiful piece in the end.”
ROOKIE TO WATCH
–SS Jamal Adams. The Jets – and their fans – might feel as if there is light at the end of the tunnel that is this mammoth rebuilding project if Adams can emerge as a legitimate playmaker and defensive leader as a rookie. Adams looked up to the task during OTAs, but the big test will come once the preseason games start. Working in Adams’ favor is the frightfully low bar set by Jets strong safeties over the last decade. Anyone feeling fond about the memories engendered by the likes of Calvin Pryor and LaRon Landry?