New York Jets Training Camp: Top Storylines to Watch On Hard Knocks
At 10 PM tonight, the new season of Hard Knocks on HBO begins.
Past seasons have covered the training camps of the Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, and Dallas Cowboys (twice).
This season, viewers will get an in-depth look at the training camp of the New York Jets.
Coming off a surprising berth in the AFC Championship Game in 2009-10, the Jets under second-year head coach Rex Ryan have gained a reputation as a colorful team with lots of personality.
After a busy offseason, the Jets' attempt to make a run at the Super Bowl will be chronicled by camera crews and the producers at HBO.
The Jets have high expectations going into the season. But controversy has a way of finding this team, which should make for a fascinating television show.
Let's take a look at some of the likely key storylines during this season of Hard Knocks.
No. 5 Position Battles: Left Guard, Safety, Fullback?
Hard Knocks loves to use the tension of position battles to build drama.
Luckily for HBO, the Jets will give them a solid amount of material this season.
Starting Left Guard Alan Faneca was cut this offseason, a move that will force the Jets to find a new starter.
The favorite in this competition is 2010 second round pick Vladimir Ducasse, a talented young player out of UMass. In fact, Faneca was cut immediately after Ducasse was drafted, implying that the Jets view him as the immediate successor.
But don't count out 2009 sixth round pick Matt Slauson. While Slauson is not as highly touted, he has a year of NFL experience, and a solid relationship with offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who he played under at Nebraska.
All reports out of Jets camp have hinted that the battle is wide open, and could be decided by their play in the preseason games.
In addition, there is also a battle between Brodney Pool and Eric Smith for the starting free safety position.
Pool is the heavy favorite in this competition, as Coach Ryan has stated that he prefers Smith to be used as a key backup and special teams player.
However, look for Smith to put some pressure on Pool throughout the preseason.
Finally, Hard Knocks executive producer Steve Sabol has hinted that the fullback battle between veteran Tony Richardson and rookie John Conner could be a focus of the show as well.
Hard Knocks will certainly not lack for conflict in the position battle area.
No. 4 New Faces: Tomlinson, Cromartie, Taylor, Holmes
Following their run to the AFC Title Game, the Jets did not simply sit back in the offseason and watch other teams improve.
In fact, they were the most aggressive team in the NFL during the silly season. Almost every week, it seemed like the Jets were picking up another big name.
Future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson.
Former Defensive Player of the Year Jason Taylor.
Former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes.
Former All-Pro cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
Loading up on big names seemed to be the Jets' modus operandi in the 2010 offseason.
And now, we get to watch these egos attempt to fit in to an already-successful roster.
Each brings some baggage.
Tomlinson is attempting to prove he still has juice left.
Taylor was once Public Enemy No. 1 in New York, as he made numerous comments bashing the team and the fanbase while a member of the rival Dolphins.
Holmes will be suspended for the first four games due to violating the league's substance abuse policy.
And Cromartie is coming off a playoff run where he was ridiculed for an apparent lack of effort.
It will be intriguing to see all of these star players try to overcome their issues on a team where they will not be stars, but merely pieces of a puzzle.
No. 3 Rex Ryan: The Man, The Myth, The Legend
Rex Ryan has been a sports reporter's dream since he was hired as head coach of the Jets.
He kicked off his tenure with the Jets by stating on a radio show that he "never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings", and started a one-sided war of words with the division rival Patriots.
He later called the Jets "the favorites" in the 2010 NFL postseason, despite their 50-1 opening odds to win the Super Bowl, and than backed it up by winning two playoff games, including an upset of the heavily-favored San Diego Chargers in the 2nd round.
Now, Ryan has guaranteed a Super Bowl victory in 2010-11, writing "Soon To Be Champs" on the ESPN Tour Bus.
He's even lost 20 pounds this offseason.
The man is basically a walking headline.
The producers of Hard Knocks have to be licking their chops to get the brash head coach on camera.
I give it five minutes before Ryan says something controversial.
No. 2 LT Vs. Shonn Greene: The Legend and The Kid
LaDainian Tomlinson will likely go down in NFL history as one of the greatest running backs to have ever played the game.
This year, however, he is simply fighting for playing time.
Tomlinson is coming off a season in which he scored 12 touchdowns, but also rushed for only 730 yards and had a 3.3 YPC, the lowest of his career.
LT seems determined to prove that he still is capable of succeeding in the NFL, and has even hinted that he believes he has a shot at earning the lionshare of carries for the Jets this season.
However, Shonn Greene will have something to say about that.
After backing up Thomas Jones during the regular season in 2009, Greene exploded for 304 yards in three postseason games.
Greene expects the starting job in 2010, and will likely get it.
It will be very interesting to see how Tomlinson reacts.
Following his departure from San Diego, he was criticized by former teammates Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates for being "touchy" about his workload.
And Tomlinson received far more touches in San Diego than he will likely receive in New York.
LT has long been known as a classy player. But if he reacts negatively in front of cameras to being the No. 2 RB in New York behind Greene, that perception could quickly change.
HBO will surely be actively looking for any sign of discontent from the future Hall of Famer.
No. 1 Darrelle Revis: The Saga Continues
The Darrelle Revis situation is arguably the highest profile contract dispute in the NFL right now.
Revis is one of the best players in the NFL, a true shutdown corner. And he's also vastly underpaid.
He wants a new contract, and the Jets want to lock him to a long-term deal. The problem is that the two sides are extremely far apart in negotiations.
Although Revis will likely not be on camera as long as he does not report to camp, the spectre of his absence will exist throughout the locker room.
Some of the most amusing scenes in Hard Knocks' history revolved around the holdout of Bengals' first round pick Andre Smith last season, as the veterans cracked jokes at his absence and his weight.
Due to Revis' status as a respected Jet, the same will not happen this season.
However, there could be tension in the locker room, as some players may be frustrated with his refusal to report to camp, or more likely, frustrated that the front office will not open the checkbook for such an important player.
Even Coach Rex Ryan has gotten into the act, recently attempting to broker a peace settlement between Revis and team management.
Ryan's father Buddy famously sent a limo to pick up Keith Jackson after the Pro Bowl TE ended his holdout in 1989, while he was coach of the Eagles.
Could Rex do something similar if Revis caves? Don't put it past him.
And rest assured, HBO will be there to capture every minute of it.