If the New York Jets’ organised workouts on Tuesday are any indication, it may be another long season.
After a miserable 5-11 outing in 2016, several comments from both current and past players hint at a contentious locker room last year and potentially contentious one this year.
One of the biggest stories was the absence of safety Calvin Pryor. While workouts were voluntary and Pryor reportedly attended past team workouts, his absence on Tuesday was noteworthy because he is playing for a contract.
Earlier in May, the Jets opted not to pick up Pryor’s fifth-year option, making him a free agent after this season. This came after the Jets drafted two safeties, namely LSU’s Jamal Adams with the sixth overall pick. While head coach Todd Bowles was mum on Pryor’s absence, NJ.com’s Connor Hughes reports Bowles once said of a player missing OTAs, “If you’re afraid of competition, you don’t need to be here.”
Other players, however, seemed relieved by certain absences at the workouts. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson told reporters the atmosphere was better this year. When asked why it was better, Richardson said, “Let’s just say I’ve got 15 reasons why it’s better.” Former wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who signed with the Giants this offseason, wore No. 15 last year. It’s debatable whether it’s beneficial for a locker room to have a player calling out a widely popular former teammate so soon into the season.
Shots about last year’s team also came from former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, now a backup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Asked about leaving the Jets, Fitzpatrick told reporters, “It was a game of musical chairs, and they pulled the chair out from under me.”
Of course, many were quick to point out that Fitzpatrick was benched after four-game span in which he threw 10 interceptions to three touchdowns in four straight losses, including one six-pick game. This came after a contract dispute that held Fitzpatrick out until training camp.
However, the current quarterback situation doesn’t look much more promising. The Jets said during workouts on Tuesday that Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg will all be competing for the starting job. According to Hughes, during 11-on-11 first-team play, neither McCown or Hackenberg, the team’s 2016 second-round pick, were particularly efficient or impressive:
“McCown went (unofficially) 11 of 14 with an interception and a sack in team drills. Hackenberg (unofficially) went 9 of 14 with an interception in the portions observed by NJ Advance Media. Petty’s statistics were incomplete.”
Not helping matters, Hughes posted a video of Hackenberg — who an unnamed coach once said couldn’t throw a rock into the ocean — overthrowing a receiver during a drill (the receiver’s effort didn’t help either).
Hughes further elaborated on Hackenberg’s day, saying certain aspects of his game, like his footwork and deep throws, looked good, but accuracy was still a big issue: “When the guy misses, they are back-breaking misses. Just horrific throws … Hackenberg will wow you one second, then wow you in the other sense with his very next pass.”
The Jets are clearly a team in transition, and few expect any of their current quarterbacks to be their long-term solutions. However, in the meantime, it could be a long year if perhaps their best options at quarterback are a 37-year-old journeyman with a career 78.2 passer rating, or a third-year quarterback who’s thrown three touchdowns to seven interceptions in his six career games.
Perhaps the best case for the Jets this season is that they’re a surprisingly competitive, drama-free team that earns a high draft pick next May. Early evidence suggests, however, that there may be plenty of storylines to follow this season.
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