A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Are you ready for some football? Nearly five months after one of the worst seasons in team history, the Jets return to the field Tuesday for the start of OTAs. They have 10 noncontact practices during the next three weeks, followed by a mandatory minicamp. The big story is the quarterback competition -- specifically Christian Hackenberg, who has been removed from bubble wrap.
This will be a slow process for Hackenberg, who, quite frankly, isn't a great fit in John Morton's offense -- a West Coast-style system, assuming he sticks to what he knows.
The West Coast scheme is predicated on timing and accuracy, especially on short passes. Accuracy is an issue for Hackenberg, whose adjusted completion rate (counting drops, spikes, etc.) was 64 percent in his final year at Penn State, according to Pro Football Focus. That ranked 120th in the nation. The previous year, he was 104th. I talked to an opposing scout who studied him in pregame warmups for one game last season and was taken aback by how many off-target passes he threw.
This is Hackenberg's fourth system in five years, dating to his freshman year, so it would be understandable if his head is spinning. He studied West Coast concepts in the offseason under his personal coach, the California-based Jordan Palmer, which should help. But now he has to perform in the crucible of competition. The Jets aren't expecting miracles; they just hope he shows improvement.
Coach Todd Bowles would like to identify a presumptive starter before training camp, and the reason is because he believes in giving one quarterback the starter's share of the reps to prepare for the regular season. He's calling this an open competition, but it would be an upset if Josh McCown doesn't prevail over Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. It's hard to imagine one of the young quarterbacks overtaking the grizzled vet, especially with the limited amount of practice time.
The more realistic question for Hackenberg: Can he beat out Petty for the No. 2 job?
2. Fitz gets (most of) his Bucs: Ryan Fitzpatrick bet on himself when he accepted a one-year, $12 million contract from the Jets last July, rejecting a three-year, $24 million deal on the table. Now that he has a new job, we can tally up the totals.
Fitzpatrick's new contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is for one year and $3 million, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Assuming he collects the full $3 million, it would bring his 2016-17 earnings to $15 million. If he had taken the Jets' three-year offer, it would have been $18 million over the two years, assuming he remained on the team. If they cut him, he still would've had a $3 million guarantee in 2017.
In the end, Fitzpatrick recouped the $3 million guarantee he left on the table.
3. Going-away present: Fitzpatrick's deal with the Bucs has no bearing on the Jets' salary cap. In fact, he will count more on the Jets' cap ($5 million) than the Bucs' cap ($3 million). File that under "Life in the Salary-Cap Era."
In case you're wondering about that $5 million ... it's the pro-rated portion of the $10 million signing bonus he received last July. To reduce the cap numbers, the Jets wanted to spread it out over two years with a two-year contract, which voided after the season.
4. In search of sacks: Jordan Jenkins has made a concerted effort to improve his pass-rushing skills. The second-year outside linebacker spent 2 1/2 months in Atlanta working with former NFL player Chuck Smith, who has been described as the sack whisperer. Smith, who recorded 58.5 sacks from 1992 to 2000, runs a pass-rushing camp that attracts many current players.
"I was never really taught pass-rushing at any level, high school on up," Jenkins said last week. "I didn't realize how much I was missing until I started working with Chuck."
The Jets are counting on Jenkins to make big strides in his second season. Known more as a run defender than a pass-rusher, he managed only 2.5 sacks as a rookie, but they came in the final four games. He hopes to build on that momentum. He's also excited to be working under new outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, a Hall of Fame player.
"He's done it; he's got the jacket," said Jenkins, alluding to the Pro Football Hall of Fame blazer. "When you think of pass-rushing and you think of an outside linebacker, you think of K.G., Kevin Greene. Watching some of his old clips, he's a guy that did it. He wasn't a finesse guy; he was a power guy. That's something I get excited about. He physically dominated cats back in his time. You just want to soak up as much info as you can."
5. Slamming the Louisville slugger: NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell, one of the smartest Xs-and-Os guys in the business, shared his thoughts on the Jets' decision to draft safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye and how it might have an impact on incumbent Calvin Pryor, a holdover from the previous regime.
"I didn't love Pryor coming out of Louisville, and obviously they don't, either," Cosell told "The Midday 180" on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, co-hosted by ESPN's Tennessee Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky. "Todd Bowles is a defensive guy where safeties are important in his defense. In his mind, Pryor clearly was not up to the task. When you draft safeties, one and two, and you have a lot of needs on the team, you're basically telling your present safeties they're not good enough."
Marcus Gilchrist already has been released. In my opinion, it makes sense to keep Pryor as insurance, especially because he has a relatively low cap charge ($2.7 million). Adams and Maye might have high ceilings, but it's a big ask to expect two rookies to click from Day 1 at such a cerebral position.
6. Tuna helpers: Bill Parcells' influence is spreading in the AFC East. Former Jets scout Brian Gaine, who got his start under Parcells, is the new vice president of player personnel for the Buffalo Bills. Gaine started with the Jets (2000), and followed Parcells to the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins. He worked most recently with the Houston Texans. Former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum, another Parcells protege, is the Dolphins' VP of football operations. And, of course, there's New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose ties to Parcells need no explanation.
7. Boss Jet in holding pattern: As of mid-week, President Donald Trump had formally nominated nine people for ambassadorships and not one of them was named Woody Johnson, according to USA Today. Trump announced in January he was planning to make the Jets' owner the ambassador to the United Kingdom, fueling speculation on the immediate future of the Jets. Four months later, nothing has changed.
8. The last word: Defensive leader David Harris on second-year linebacker Darron Lee: "I expect him to grow into the player everybody expected him to be coming out of Ohio State. ... He has turned the corner as far as seeing things. He's starting to get it and I think he's going to have a huge year this year."