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Locker-room altercation shines light on Jets' team chemistry

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Tension mounting: One of Jets coach Todd Bowles' biggest challenges over the final 10 games -- other than, you know, finding a way to score points -- will be keeping the locker room together. The Brandon Marshall-Sheldon Richardson altercation in Kansas City was downplayed, with all parties calling it an isolated, heat-of-the-moment incident. We'll see. Losing causes cracks.

The makeup of the roster makes you wonder if the team can remain unified. There's a generation gap -- a lot of old players (13 in the 30-plus category) and a whole lot of young players (17 in their first and second seasons). Not many in the middle group are high-profile, except for Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson. The team has a handful of dominant personalities, some of whom are known to be volatile. The team leader, Ryan Fitzpatrick, just lost his job, removing a galvanizing element from the equation.

One source told me he sensed a bad vibe around the team as far back as training camp. An opposing personnel executive offered this observation after watching the Jets get blown out by the Arizona Cardinals: "The defense has no confidence in the offense. They're giving up. That's what I saw against Arizona. Some of the players looked like logs in a river, bouncing side by side."

Bowles might not be loud, but I believe he still commands the respect of his players. But there's a weird feeling around the team. The whole is definitely less than the sum of the parts. Asked if he likes the team chemistry, he said, "I do, I do. I like the chemistry. We've still got some different pieces we're trying to fit into the puzzle, but I like it."

2. Something in the BBQ sauce? The Jets tend to get frisky with each other in Kansas City. In the 2005 opener, a 27-7 loss, nose tackle James Reed went Enemkpali on linebacker Jonathan Vilma, punching him in the face on the sideline.

3. New eyes in the sky: In an attempt to improve the defense, Bowles quietly made a change in the game-day operation. Coordinator Kacy Rodgers, usually at his side during games, went upstairs to the coaches' booth on Monday at Arizona.

"Kacy can see the game better and, from a call standpoint, he can better communicate with me, as opposed to both of us standing on the sideline, seeing the same thing," Bowles told me. "Now we've got eyes up high and eyes down low."

Basically, Rodgers switched places with outside linebackers coach Mark Collins, who worked from the field. Did the new arrangement work? Well, they eliminated the big plays in the passing game, but they sprung a new leak -- shoddy run defense.

In case you're wondering, Bowles said he calls about "half" the defensive plays. That had always been somewhat of a mystery.

4. The Fitz blitz: Fitzpatrick said he's not second-guessing himself for not taking the Jets' long-term offer during the offseason. If you recall, they offered three years, $24 million, including $16 million guaranteed. He bet on himself, taking the one-year, $12 million proposal. It's hard to imagine the Jets bringing him back, so the gamble cost him $4 million. Oh, by the way, the Jets will get stuck with $5 million in dead money next year.

5. A sad microcosm: Fitzpatrick's red-zone interception in Arizona, which could turn out to be his last pass as a Jet, showed everything that's wrong with the offense.

The protection was poor, as Fitzpatrick was under immediate duress. The design was poor; they spread the field with receivers, leaving no tight ends or running backs to block. The decision was poor, as Fitzpatrick telegraphed a pass to Marshall in the end zone. He has done that a lot. The Cardinals told ESPN's Jon Gruden that, in their preparation for the game, they noticed Fitzpatrick always locks on to Marshall in third-down situations -- a nugget he shared on the telecast. On this particular play, Robby Anderson was open at the first-down stick.

6. He said what? This puzzled me about the Arizona game: Despite their inability to block the Cards' edge rushers, the Jets rarely used a tight end in pass protection. Kellen Davis and Brandon Bostick played only nine snaps apiece. Why not use a tight end to help? I asked that question to offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, and he said they didn't want to put them in that role because they didn't practice it during the week. I kid you not.

So let me get this straight: The Jets have a bunch of blocking tight ends, but none of them can block. Genius.

7. Decked by Decker: Injured wide receiver Eric Decker believes Geno Smith will have a chance to succeed because his cast of receivers is better than it was in 2014, his last year as the starter. Decker, on his weekly spot on ESPN New York radio, said: "To be quite honest, the year I got here (2014) was maybe the least overall consistently talented room I've been in at any time in the NFL."

It wasn't a good group. Aside from Decker, who signed a big free-agent deal that year, it included Jeremy Kerley, Percy Harvin, Greg Salas, David Nelson ... shall I go on? No, you get the point.

8. Second home: On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens will play their second straight game at MetLife Stadium after facing the New York Giants last week. The last team to play back-to-back games at the same visiting stadium was the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007 (Giants Stadium), according to Elias. Ah, but there was a bye week in between. The last team to do it, sans bye week, was the Chicago Bears in 2006 (Giants Stadium).

9. Farewell, Dennis: There has been a lot written and said about the great Dennis Byrd, whose memory will be honored Sunday at MetLife -- eight days after he was killed in a car crash. Mostly, you've heard about his inspirational comeback from a broken neck and his kindness off the field. Here's an anecdote you haven't read or heard:

Byrd was easygoing off the field, but he was no wallflower. He wasn't afraid to get physical, especially if it meant standing up for an underdog. One day in the locker room, he noticed one of his teammates bullying an equipment staffer. Byrd interceded, pinned the player against the wall and told him he'd come after him if the bullying didn't stop.

It stopped.

10. Bad year for '92 Jets: One of Byrd's best friends in his final season was kicker Cary Blanchard. He and his wife became close with Byrd and his wife, especially during Byrd's grueling recovery. On Sept. 6, Blanchard died of a massive heart attack. He was 47.