Football is finally back for Jets fans, with Thursday night's preseason game kicking off a season where the team seems pointed in the right direction.
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Last year's 8-8 record was a testament to a tremendous coaching job by head coach Rex Ryan, who earned a contract extension by exceeding expectations with a team projected by many to be among the worst in the league. He has a good core in place and some young talent that can step into prominent roles. Add in some solid free agent signings this past offseason and suddenly there's talk about this being a playoff team.
And while that might be optimistic for this team, it is clear they've done a good job overhauling the roster. If the Jets aren't postseason bound, at the very least they've improved the roster with more depth and flexibility down the road to add some high-profile free agents in the upcoming years.
The Jets will get a look at just how far along their rebuilding has come as the Colts come into town on Thursday night (7 p.m., CBS).
Three things to watch for ...
1. Time to Salas
Greg Salas left Hawaii as the college's all-time leader in receptions, but the same success hasn't followed at the NFL. He's been with four teams since being a fourth-round pick in 2011 and has just 35 career receptions. However, in training camp and at the Green and White scrimmage on Saturday, Salas has been a standout. He's a good route-runner with solid hands and he makes smart moves with the ball after the catch.
“I’m pretty happy with the opportunities I’ve gotten. I feel like I’ve made the most of them,” Salas said after the scrimmage. “This is what I do in practice. I make catches, I make plays in practice and I was glad I could come out here and do the same in this little scrimmage we had.”
Salas has yet to score an NFL touchdown.
2. Secondary is primary concern
First-round pick Calvin Pryor has suffered with a concussion through the start of training camp, making depth an issue at safety. Then there is the play of Dimitri Patterson, brought in as a free agent cornerback, who has struggled. Jets fans are still leery of Dee Milliner, who struggled for much of last year despite a solid close to his rookie season. The secondary will be tested against Colts QB Andrew Luck. One player to watch is Rontez Miles, who has had a good training camp.
3. Open ended
It was assumed rookie tight end Jace Amaro would ascend to the starting spot during training camp, but the Texas Tech product has struggled. His route-running isn't precise and his hands — the smallest among any tight end in this past May's NFL Draft — are not a sure thing. Jeff Cumberland has looked good throughout the offseason and Zac Sudfeld is someone who seems ready to take the next step. The Jets could benefit from Amaro coming along sooner rather than later but it seems like they have developed some promising options at the position.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.