The Jets returned to the business of football on Tuesday with hopes of building on consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances.
They are — despite many potential holes due to free agency — a leading contender for the Super Bowl. For two straight years they’ve fallen a game short of a chance at the Lombardi Trophy, but there is a sense from the Jets that this is the year they get over the hump.
“Well, we have been there twice and they say third time is a charm so hopefully. We feel very strongly that we can do that and we feel the same way,” tight end Dustin Keller said. “As Rex said, we are going to win the Super Bowl and we have all the ability in the world to do it. It’s just a matter of getting over that hump, winning that game and hopefully winning a Super Bowl for the second time, but we definitely have the ability to do that.”
The offseason proved to be a stumbling block towards building that Super Bowl-caliber team. Due to the lockout and the restrictions on using team facilities, there were no offseason workouts, organized team activities or a mini-camp. This meant that the Jets were in the same position as every other team in that they needed to police themselves and form their own offseason plans independent of the team.
Mark Sanchez held a “Jets West” camp in California during the spring, bringing together the offensive skill position players for three days of workouts and bonding. Nose tackle Sione Pouha organized some workouts in western New Jersey for the defensive line, including rookies Mohammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis. And about a dozen players worked out together for several weeks at TEST Sports Clubs in Martinsville, N.J. in an effort to be physically ready for the season — whenever that was.
While they couldn’t put on pads, the Jets are confident that physically they’re entering camp some of the best shape of their lives.
“I think guys will be in, probably in some the best shapes of their lives. Will they be in football shape? No, because even in past seasons when we had offseason workouts, as soon as you go to football camp and put the pads on, it’s totally different,” guard Brandon Moore said. “Football shape’s a little different. There’s so many facilities and performance centers, and all of these different coaches out then there was in the past. So, guys are going to come in, probably in better shape than they were.”
Despite big pieces potentially leaving the team via free agency — names like Antonio Cromartie, Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes — there is a sense that this is the same Jets team coming back as years past. Most of the marquee pieces remain in place, and with head coach Rex Ryan returning for his third year with the team, the Jets have less rebuilding to do than most teams. That could be a potential advantage in this condensed offseason.
“I think that given that we haven’t had a full offseason, it is pretty important,” cornerback Dwight Lowery said. “Whatever situation we have had we always adjusted well so I think who we put out on the field will be ready and be able to play football and everything will take care of itself.”