FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- There are 32 optimistic NFL teams in June but, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the New York Jets' offense.
The Jets now have two offensive players from teams that reached the Super Bowl in WR Eric Decker and OL Breno Giacomini. The team lost OL Austin Howard, but offseason acquisitions such as Chris Johnson and draft pick such as TE Jace Amaro give fans every reason to think this year’s offense is an upgrade over last year’s.
“Hopefully this is going to be one of the best offenses in the league -- explosive with those type of players," Giacomini said. “We just have to put in the time, explosive with those type of guys. We’ve got to go to work every day, you don’t just become good. The coaches have been doing a good job with us and the only ones who are going to stop us, is us.”
Even second-year quarterback Geno Smith noted there’s a huge difference between this year and last. "Night and day," Smith said of the offense.
WR David Nelson is one of the returning receivers who had a prominent role in the offense and has seen the progression.
“Geno already has a base in the offense,” Nelson said. “Last year he was swimming with all plays and all the defenses and all the offenses and he couldn’t really focus on his receivers and chemistry with receivers.”
Running back Chris Ivory echoed that.
“I think we’re ahead this year,” Ivory said. “We’re not trying to learn. We’ve got more a grasp on the offense. It’s more natural now.”
Any team with a rookie quarterback is going to struggle. Smith secured the starting job only when incumbent Mark Sanchez sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in a preseason game. The Jets jettisoned Sanchez this offseason.
But there's one thing Nelson wants to see the Jets keep from last season: momentum.
“I think a lot of [the optimism] is attributable to the way we finished the year last year, winning three out of the last four games -- being essentially one game away from the playoffs,” Nelson said.
The group looks a little different this year. Free agent Santonio Holmes was not re-signed. Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley is one of the few holdovers who played a significant role, while Steven Hill starts his third season with some serious question marks. The Jets also have to work in new pieces like free-agent signees Jacoby Ford and Decker and draft picks Jalen Saunders and Quincy Enunwa.
“We’ve got a young group in there, but we’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of raw talent," Decker said. "It’s about kind of finding your identity and for a lot of these guys, this is the time to do it. Through practice and through my experiences I hope to help.”
Nelson adds that those players have a real stake in the Jets' future.
“You see a bunch of young guys trying to establish a culture within that room and it’s really great to be a part of,” Nelson said.