New York Jets: 5 Storylines to Watch at Jets' Minicamp
Even without the added drama of the Hard Knocks film crew following the New York Jets around this preseason, there are still plenty of items of interest; holdouts, quarterback controversy, high profile draft picks and the always boisterous Jets head coach Rex Ryan.
For any other team, this may be a particularly noteworthy lead up to the preseason but, for the New York Jets, this is just the beginning of another season. Here are some of the most compelling stories.
Holdout of Darrelle Revis
From the time that the Jets drafted him with the 14th pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Darrelle Revis has been an indispensable member of Gang Green's defense.
His 2009 campaign was arguably one of the best single seasons any NFL cornerback has ever had, solidifying his place as one of the NFL's elite shutdown corners and validating the moniker "Revis Island."
In a story all too familiar to Jet fans, Revis has threatened to hold out of training camp if the Jets do not approach him with a revised contract offer. The corner has said he is looking for an extension and a long-term commitment from the team, but the heart of the issue may be the annual compensation.
Revis' last holdout ended after the two sides agreed to a four-year $46 million contract. This front-loaded contract paid the corner $32.5 million over the first two years, but only pays a total of $13.5 million over the final two years.
The All-Pro has referred to this previous contract as a "band-aid" deal, or a temporary compromise until a team can agree to a long-term deal with a player.
He explained to NJ.com in an interview:
"People think I’m mad or unhappy. I’m not mad or unhappy. It’s a thing where some things were said, and I think that’s what people are really focusing on. It was a Band-Aid type of contract, and they were going to redo it or renew it, and it hasn’t happened yet."
The Jets' front office feels Revis benefited from the early payout of his contract and is looking to renegotiate now that he is playing for the team at a discount.
While a second holdout may have fans worried, if it is up to No. 24, he will stay a Jet. He summarized it in the same interview with NJ.com:
“I want to retire here, I think Mike (Tannenbaum) knows that. I think Rex (Ryan) knows that. (The Jets) drafted me, they gave me a chance, so yeah, I want to be here and never play for another organization again. If they feel that, if Mike feels that I’m that type of person to be here, then they will compensate me. If not, then it’s the business of it."
Tebow vs. Sanchez
Anyone who casually follows the Jets knows that, as far as the depth chart is concerned, there isn't an open competition between the two.
The Jets made it abundantly clear even before they taped names on the lockers for minicamp that Sanchez was the starter.
Head Coach Rex Ryan said in an interview with USA TODAY in March:
"Mark is our starting quarterback. There's no doubt about it. Will we have some things for Tebow each week? Yeah, absolutely. Tim is an outstanding football player. We'll use him obviously in our Wildcat package. And I think we'll take it to another level this year. I think Tim's obviously an outstanding teammate. Everybody says that about him. And I love his competitiveness. He'll fit right in with the guys we already have."
If hearing it from Rex Ryan wasn't persuasive enough, this offseason the team offered their franchise quarterback an extension that also restructured his contract. Set to make $20.5 million over in 2012 and 2013, Sanchez would be an expensive backup.
Even though the Jets have made their intentions clear, it is still going to be one of the biggest stories of Gang Green's mini camp and the regular season: Sanchez will be receiving first team reps, and Tebow will be used as the backup-in-waiting and gadget play athlete.
Because it involves New York and Tim Tebow, the media (guilty here) won't be able to help themselves.
Development of Stephen Hill
Last year, the surprise signing of Plaxico Burress gave the Jets the big receiver their offense had been missing. When it became apparent the team wasn't going to resign Burress, the Jets turned to the draft to fill that slot.
Enter Stephen Hill, a 6'4" wide receiver who wowed at the combine, running a 4.30 40-yard dash.
Hill has the size and speed to take the top off the defense and spread the field. While at Georgia Tech in a run first offense, he averaged 29.3 yards per catch.
His NFL.com draft profile reads:
"He consistently runs past corners on deep routes and is impressive at the point of the catch, as he is able to lay out for the ball or rise above his defender. Hill is a very good blocker who uses his length well and surprisingly doesn't get off-balance often, something that is usually evident of players with his frame."
His blocking prowess, something that will definitely be utilized in the Jets ground and pound attack, is no doubt a product of playing in GT's offense.
The main issue with this talent is his sheer lack of experience. The routes he ran at Georgia Tech were many simple streaks, and he was able to beat college corners on his size and speed alone.
This is noted in the weaknesses section of his profile, where he is described as:
"He ran a very basic route tree at Georgia Tech that didn't allow him to showcase many skills. Outside of catching jump balls, he struggles to read coverages and understand how to find holes in a zone. Hill looks uncomfortable with the ball in his hands and resembles a lengthy track star on the field instead of a football player."
If Hill is able to make the transition to NFL route running, his presence on the field will give QB Mark Sanchez a "go up and get it" receiver, and force defenses to respect the deep threat, opening up the Jets run game.
Will Rex Ryan Stay off the Back Page?
The 2011 NFL season had to be a humbling one for Jets head coach Rex Ryan.
He was ridiculed after the Jets failed to make the playoffs following his preseason prediction that the team would bring the Super Bowl trophy back to New York.
"Sure there's a lot of talk back and forth, most of it driven by me. But you know what, I’ll stand by everything I’ve ever said. I didn’t come here to be anybody’s little brother. I came here to win."
The Giants beat the Jets, effectively ending their playoff hopes. They then went on a playoff run, ultimately ending in a parade in New York.
After the season, Rex answered the criticism surrounding his predictions and his bravado, telling ESPN:
"When I guaranteed we'd get it done this year, I thought the bull's-eye was going on my back. That's where I wanted to place it. What I didn't anticipate was, I put added pressure on our players when I wanted to put the pressure on myself. That's something I obviously have to learn from."
A focused Rex Ryan is a great NFL coach, but his soundbites and controversy seem to always add distractions to a team that is already under enough scrutiny.
Did Rex really learn, or will he revert back to irreverent old ways as soon as the cameras are on?
What Will the Tony Sparano Offense Look Like?
After years of draw plays on third and long, the Jets finally severed ties with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer this offseason.
As a former head coach, Tony Sparano understands how the offensive strategy fits into the overall game plan, a mental approach that has wide receiver Santonio Holmes excited. He explained the transition from Schottenheimer to Sparano to NFL.com.
"It makes things a lot easier. It makes communication easier. Makes the play-calling easier...Players see things differently, because a head coach has to deal with offense, defense, special teams. But when you only have one guy who deals with a group of guys, now you see the difference in how they react to situations."
Sparano was, no doubt, at least partially chosen by Rex Ryan. Having "his guy" calling offensive plays rather than Schottenheimer, the OC he inherited from Eric Mangini's staff, should lead to a return to ground and pound football and a more unified vision for the coaching staff.
Fans are perhaps most eager to see how Sparano will incorporate mobile quarterback Tim Tebow into the "wildcat" option offense he ran in Miami using running back Ronnie Brown.