8 Encouraging Signs Heading into New York Jets' 2012 Season

Rocco Constantino@@br_jets_reportContributor IJune 19, 2012

8 Encouraging Signs Heading into New York Jets' 2012 Season

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    The 2011 NFL season ended as bitterly as any Jets season in recent memory.  

    Not only did the team collapse on the field, but in the weeks after the season ended, stories came out that painted the Jets as a splintered franchise in utter disarray.

    While the Giants romped through the playoffs to yet another Super Bowl, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan and Santonio Holmes were under attack in the media.

    It seemed like the only way for the Jets to fix the situation was to blow it up and start over.

    However, funny things started happening as the offseason wore on.

    Sanchez and Holmes started hanging out together, Ryan disappeared out of the public eye and new assistant coach Tony Sparano became the loudest voice in camp.

    Things have changed around the Jets, and they have changed for the better.

    Gone is the boasting about how good their defense is, gone are the Super Bowl predictions and gone is the strife that tore apart the locker room in 2011.

    There's a lot to look forward to in 2012 for the Jets and here are the most encouraging signs that the team is back on the right track. 

Tim Tebow Has Taken a Back Seat

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    When Tim Tebow signed with the New York Jets, it was easy to predict that there would be an immediate circus. However, to the surprise of most, the hoopla died down pretty quickly and all has remained quiet since.

    Upon first being acquired by the Jets, Tebow addressed the media in a somewhat controversial press conference and talked about becoming the Jets' starting quarterback.

    Every day the media tried to play some kind of angle to paint this acquisition as a total disaster and it appeared Tebow would dominate the headlines throughout the summer.

    However, that simply has not been the case.

    Tebow has been operating in anonymity so far and worked almost exclusively with the second team during the Jets' recent minicamp. Even when he took a couple of snaps with with first team, it was a non-issue.

    Tebow is a smart person and a polished interviewee. He has mastered the art of speaking in cliches and will always be supportive of his teammates through the press.

    Things will surely change when the Jets open training camp, but for now the team has shown that it can operate for long periods of time with Tebow out of the headlines.

Tony Sparano Is Very Visible

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    When Tony Sparano took over for Brian Schottenheimer, it gave the fans a sense that the grownups were now in charge of the offense.  

    Rex Ryan preached a ground and pound approach during his first three seasons, but in reality the offense was a mish-mosh of changes based on their opponent on any given week.

    Sparano was brought in to give the Jets offense an identity and to instill discipline in a unit that was marked by sloppy play in 2011.

    So far, the marks on Sparano's tenure as a Jets assistant have been outstanding.

    The straight-forward, high-energy Sparano has been a disciplinarian, and having such a detail-oriented coach should greatly diminish the pre-snap penalties that grounded the offense last year. 

    In an article by James Walker on ESPN.com, wide receiver Jeremy Kerley gave great insight into the change Sparano has brought to the club.

    "He’s a lot more hands-on than what we’re familiar with, but I definitely think it will work,” Jets receiver Jeremy Kerley said. “His approach to the game is an aggressive approach, which is something I need and hopefully something all the guys need. He’s hungry about his job. That’s one thing, as players, you feed off that.”

    The quote was doesn't just throw praise towards Sparano, but also speaks volumes on the difference between the way this year's offense has been run as compared to what Schottenheimer did. 

Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine Will Use the 4-3 Defense

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    For three years, Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine have done a solid job scheming their way through the schedule in their 3-4 defense.  

    However, with the league catching up to their "exotic blitz packages," Ryan has admitted that he will get away from the 3-4 base and play more of a 4-3.

    The switch shows that Ryan and Pettine have grown as coaches and are willing to take risks in order best maximize the talent on the roster.  

    With an infusion of young players like Quinton Coples, Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis along the defensive line, it has become evident that the defensive line is a stronger unit than the linebackers.

    It makes perfect sense to make the switch.

    Too many coaches in the NFL (Eric Mangini comes to mind specifically) would rather try to fit square pegs into round holes just to stay in a scheme they feel comfortable with.

    By going out on a limb, Ryan and Pettine show that they really are the forward thinkers and respected defensive minds they are made out to be. 

The Key Rookies Signed Early

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    After not making much of an impact in the free-agent market, the Jets are counting on their 2012 rookie class too have a major impact.  

    Specifically, Quinton Coples is expected to be their premiere pass-rusher, Stephen Hill will be asked to be an immediate weapon on offense and Demario Davis needs to inject explosiveness into the aging linebacking corps.

    The good news for the Jets is that all three have signed without a fuss and have been working with the team from the start.

    Only seven first-round picks signed sooner than Coples and Hill signed even earlier.

    Sixteen first-round draft picks still remained unsigned, but the Jets have already signed every one of their draft picks.

    The current structure of the NFL salary guide for rookies makes signing draft picks a little easier, but the fact that the Jets have everyone locked up means there is that much less of a distraction moving forward this summer.

Mark Sanchez Is Acting Like a Veteran

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    When the Jets' disastrous slide at the end of the 2011 season finally came to its ugly end, perhaps nobody was under the gun more than Mark Sanchez.

    Not only did Sanchez's play regress, but his fortitude was questioned as well. Unnamed players spoke out, claiming that Sanchez was coddled and lazy.

    Not long after that, the Jets had flirtations with Peyton Manning and ultimately traded for Tim Tebow.  

    Multiple times over the past few months, Sanchez had the opportunity to speak negatively on any of those developments.

    Instead, he has said all the right things in the press and has gone about his business like the veteran leader he needs to become.

    The first step in Sanchez's offseason maturity came when he took the initiative in healing the relationship between himself and Santonio Holmes.

    After that, Sanchez spoke positively when the Jets traded for Tebow. He not only welcomed him onto the team, but also invited him to his "Jets West" camp.  

    As the Jets wrapped minicamp last week, Sanchez continued to praise Tebow and things seem to be running smoothly.

    Whether Sanchez's maturity helps his development or continues through training camp remains to be seen.

    But he is off to a good start.

Darrelle Revis Has Been Present

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    Darrelle Revis might not be happy about his current contact situation, but it hasn't kept him away from workouts yet.

    If Revis plays under his current contract, he would be the 17th highest paid cornerback in the NFL in 2012.

    Regardless of what Revis made the past two seasons, that doesn't seem fair at all.

    There is a clause in Revis' contract that if he misses any mandatory workouts, a team option for two additional years will be triggered.  

    Revis has been generally quiet this offseason, but has had brief moments in which he addressed his situation.

    Revis was noncommittal in April when asked whether he would hold out, said he wanted to retire as a Jet in early June and this past week said that "talks have to happen."

    Nobody knows where this will all lead, but the one positive thing about the situation is that Revis has been with the Jets every step of the way, working out like everyone else.

Santonio Holmes Has (Mostly) Changed His Tune

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    Santonio Holmes' meltdown against the Dolphins in the 2011 season's final game was a fitting exclamation point to a monumental disaster.

    His actions on the field were not only deplorable, but also were the starting point in exposing the dissent that tore apart the Jets locker room in 2011.

    Without the meltdown, the true scope of the division in the locker room may not have come to light.

    In the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, fans, media and even Jets teammates piled on Holmes and some questioned whether he and the Jets could coexist.

    Holmes' contract probably made the point moot, but he stayed with the Jets nonetheless.

    After a brief cooling off period, and after Mark Sanchez's Valentine's Day overture went unanswered, Holmes and Sanchez began to take steps to repair their relationship.

    Sanchez flew to Orlando to meet with Holmes and participate in workouts and things have gone swimmingly since.

    To return the favor, Holmes has agreed to fly out to California to participate in Sanchez's Jets West workouts.

    Since his blowup, Holmes has done everything he needed to do to build the perception that he and Sanchez are fine.

    Aside from a brief gristle about being overworked in one of the Jets' minicamps, Holmes is behaving properly.

Rex Ryan Has Been Quiet

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    It's already mid-June and there hasn't been a Super Bowl guarantee yet.

    There haven't been any proclamations about his defense, haven't been any shots taken at the Patriots or Giants and no explicit photos of the Jets head coach giving the middle finger to a single Dolphins fan. 

    Meet the new and improved Rex Ryan.

    Ryan has ditched the brash and bold act and has been nothing but business so far.  

    Ryan has admitted his Super Bowl boasts may have been a mistake, and he should be given credit for changing his ways.  

    There have been many opportunities for Ryan to pop off, but he has remained quiet for months. Ryan hasn't even talked about the success of his offseason weight loss program which helped him lose 90 pounds.

    One major change Ryan has made is that he switched his media time from 2:30 p.m. to 10 a.m., leaving the rest of the day open for team activities.

    The Jets are hoping that the team takes Ryan's lead in this matter. The franchise needed Ryan's brash tactics in order to change the attitude around the organization, but now that time has passed and a reserved Ryan is what the team needs now.