FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Doubted by many, mocked by some, the New York Jets will take the field Tuesday morning for their first 2017 practice.
This is the start of phase three in the offseason program, when they begin actual football, albeit non-contact. It'll be the media's first glimpse of the rebuilt Jets, who are being treated like a green and white pinata by experts.
A quick recap:
The most recent ESPN power poll ranked the Jets at No. 30.
Their quarterback situation is the worst in the league, according to league insiders.
Peter King of The Monday Morning Quarterback says they're the worst team, period.
By now, the Jets should be brandishing a chip on their shoulder the size of the MetLife Stadium scoreboard.
"We're just going to let them talk, and we're just going to let our play dictate how we'll go -- and we'll shut them up with our play," linebacker Jordan Jenkins said last week.
We'll get a good look at the team during the next month -- three weeks of OTA practices, followed by a mandatory minicamp. Only six sessions are open to the media. Aside from the quarterback competition, which we explored Sunday, the Jets have other key storylines.
Five things I'll be watching on Tuesday:
1. Sheldon Richardson: Will he show up? These practices are voluntary, so he can't be fined for skipping. Inquiring minds want to know how Richardson, who missed about half of the workouts last offseason, feels about the trade rumors and his future with the team. He has been under a cloud of trade speculation since last October, when the team shopped him before the deadline. Perhaps not coincidentally, that's when his season started to go south.
2. Calvin Pryor and the rookies: The Jets have made it abundantly clear Pryor isn't in their long-term plans. They declined his fifth-year option for 2018 and drafted safeties in the first two rounds, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, respectively. Pryor has a choice: He can embrace the competition and convince team brass he still has value or he can sulk and wind up like Dee Milliner, a former first-round pick who got cut before his fourth season. It's possible that Maye, coming off a fractured arm last fall, could be held out of team drills as a precaution.
3. Musical offensive tackles: Both jobs are up in the air. Kelvin Beachum and Ben Ijalana have been splitting reps at left tackle, Brandon Shell and Brent Qvale at right tackle in the early drills. The Jets gave Beachum a free-agent deal that includes a $12 million guarantee, so he has to play somewhere, probably left tackle.
The key question is whether Shell can nail down a starting job. He showed promise in the final three games, but let's tap the brakes, please. That was a bit deceiving because the coaches tailored the protection schemes to give him plenty of help. Ijalana also has the ability to play right tackle. If he ends up the odd man out, he'll be one of the highest-paid backups in the league ($5 million in 2017).
4. Eric Decker: He's returning from two surgeries last fall (hip and shoulder), so you have to wonder about his condition and how he fits into the young receiving corps. Decker has 385 career receptions; the others on the roster have a combined 228. Unless Decker has totally lost it, he should have a prominent role on the team.
5. Cornerback concerns: The post-Revis era begins (again). Every player comes with a question mark. Buster Skrine (undersized) and Morris Claiborne (injury prone) are the favorites to start, with Skrine likely moving inside to the slot when they play nickel. Who joins Claiborne on the outside in the nickel? Take your pick: Marcus Williams (mediocre in '16) and Juston Burris (inexperienced) are the top candidates.