Jets training camp preview: What to watch for

Mark Sanchez is reportedly Rex Ryan's preferred starter in the fall. Credit: Getty Images
Rex Ryan’s fate is likely tied to the performance of his preferred starter in the fall.
Credit: Getty Images

Plenty is on the line for the Jets this preseason with a new general manager pacing the sidelines, looking to put his stamp on the team and the entire organization.

Ahead of his first training camp, the methodical and calculating John Idzik has pieced together a revamped defense, a new-look offensive line and has a true quarterback competition in the making. The team is younger and more athletic than in year’s past.

3 things to watch in camp …

1. Rex on the hot seat

After a promising start during his first two years with the Jets, head coach Rex Ryan now must right the ship. His team has missed the playoffs the past two years and his vaunted defense has been rather ordinary. It is a rather unusual position Ryan finds himself in, with a new general manager perhaps wanting his own man as head coach as opposed to a holdover from the previous regime. A league source tells Metro New York that “Idzik will be looking for a new coach if Rex doesn’t make the playoffs, guaranteed” but it might not be that easy for the new general manager. Ryan is a popular presence in the locker room and with the team’s fans, as well as owner Woody Johnson. Any improvement over last year’s 6-10 mark and there might be too much momentum for Idzik to ignore. But there has to be improvement, or else Ryan is as good as gone.

2. The receiving line

During offseason workouts and minicamp in June, the receiving corps was plagued by bad drops and poor route running. The team’s best wide receiver is Santonio Holmes, who might not be ready for Week 1 as he continues to heal from a Lisfranc injury early last season. Jeremy Kerley stepped up in place of Holmes but he has to stay away from the pesky injuries that derailed him, and last year’s second-round pick, Stephen Hill, must step up. An intriguing name to watch is Clyde Gates, a raw product with great speed but still very much a project at the position. His route running has improved but the former college basketball player is still a work in progress. An under-the-radar player to watch is Zach Rogers, the former Tennessee wide receiver who has great shiftiness and runs a good route. The undrafted rookie free agent has a good chance to make the team.

3. Sanchez’s job to lose

It is apparent from this offseason that despite the roar around second-round pick Geno Smith, this is still Mark Sanchez’s offense. Now entering his fifth year, Sanchez should be the starter from Week 1 given his showing this offseason and a West Coast offense better suited for his skillset. There is no denying Smith is a splashy player with a lot of physical intangibles, but he’s nowhere near polished enough at this juncture to be the starter. Sanchez can quiet the critics with a strong showing in camp and preseason.

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.


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