The Jets move one step closer to the 2018 season on Monday, when the players convene in Florham Park for the beginning of the team’s offseason program.
There will be plenty of new faces as the team has signed 16 free agents over the past five weeks. Phase One, which begins Monday, is just strength and conditioning work and lasts for two weeks. The most serious portion of the spring program does not begin until May 22, when organized team activities (OTAs) start. This is a fancy name for a football practice. Everything is voluntary until the mandatory minicamp, which is June 12-14.
As the Jets’ offseason program begins, here are five pressing questions:
1. How do the injured guys look?
The spring is the time to get a feel for how far along guys are who had serious injuries the previous season. The central attraction at Jets camp this spring will be quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He is two years removed from a very serious left knee injury, but there are questions about his health. He would not commit to when he will be on the field. Coach Todd Bowles said he expects Bridgewater to throw this spring, but that could mean he is not going through team drills during OTAs. Training camp will be much more important for Bridgewater, but this will be our first clue about his knee.
The other Jet to watch closely here is wide receiver Quincy Enunwa. He suffered a season-ending neck injury last year. The Jets expect him to be back fully this year. This will be the first step.
2. Do the Jets turn the page from last year?
The Jets are coming off a 5-11 season, just like they were last year at this time. Last year, Bowles stressed turning the page to his team. He did not even want them talking about 2016. The 5-11 season in 2017 felt different, though. There were some positive vibes at the end of the season. I’m curious to see if there is an emphasis again on moving on from last year or if they try to build upon some of the positives.
At the NFL meetings last month, Bowles said he expects the tone to be set by some of the veterans on the team.
“It shouldn’t just come from me this year,” Bowles said. “It should come from them and they take ownership of their own team.”
3. How does the quarterback competition look?
At the moment, we’re not even sure who the quarterbacks will be when OTAs begin. Josh McCown and Bridgewater will be there, but will Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty? The quarterback room is expected to get a new resident in next week’s NFL draft.
If the Jets take a quarterback at No. 3, as expected, will that mean the end for Petty and/or Hackenberg? Petty appears to be a definite goner. There are still some people in the organization clinging to the hope of getting something out of Hackenberg, but he will be the fourth quarterback in a four-man group if he survives the next few weeks.
Once the team is on the field, how will reps be divided? The rookie clearly is going to need a lot of work. If Bridgewater is sidelined still, will it be McCown and the rookie getting the bulk with Hackenberg getting the scraps? Or do the Jets give the veteran McCown some rest?
4. How many wide receivers does one team need?
The Jets have 16 wide receivers on their roster entering the offseason program. They could run some spread offense. Some of them are mainly returners, but plenty of them are fighting for roster spots. It will be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates manages a rotation this large in the spring.
5. What can Bowles do to cut down on penalties?
The Jets had the eighth-most penalties in the NFL last year. Many of those penalties were at huge moments in the game, and they drove Bowles crazy. He made it clear last month at the league meetings that it will be a point of emphasis this spring.
“There’s a lot of things I have planned to address it as soon as they get back in the building,” Bowles said. “It was a big deal.”