Jets are rebuilding team chemistry -- with help from military

Jets coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Johnny Morton, right, keep watch over OTAs. Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports

A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Team harmony? There are two ways to improve locker room chemistry: Get rid of the bad apples and create a positive, team-first environment. The Jets are attacking the issue from both angles.

In addition to shaking up the roster, coach Todd Bowles is trying to change the culture by exposing the players to outside voices. Guest speakers have addressed the team this offseason, including an Army unit that conducted team-building exercises with the players.

Bowles declined a request to talk about it, and players were hesitant to give away specifics on who and what, but it sounds like the new approach has been well received.

"A lot of times, when somebody from the outside comes in, you're kind of like, 'Man, I don't know,' but everybody he brought in had a good message," cornerback Buster Skrine said. "I think everybody who took part in those workouts and certain meetings really appreciated it, and we learned a lot -- how to be a team, how to lead."

Safety Rontez Miles said, "You see the change from last year. People are really serious about this. We're holding each other accountable, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes."

Kudos to the coach for taking steps to eradicate the bad karma that enveloped last season's team.

2. Candid coach: The Jets held their annual town hall last week, drawing more than 100 season-ticket holders to the team facility for a Q&A with Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan. It wasn't open to the media, but I got wind of a few things that were said.

Bowles was asked by one fan about the quarterback competition, and he was quite a bit more forthcoming than usual. From what I hear, he left the distinct impression that Josh McCown will be the opening-day starter. Bowles didn't come out and say it, but he told the crowd he has a pretty good idea of how it will turn out. He said McCown has an advantage over Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty because of his familiarity with the West Coast offense. But he also noted that he expects Hackenberg to play at some point.

These weren't groundbreaking comments -- Bowles stated what people have been reporting for weeks -- but he gave more context than his usual coachspeak at news conferences.

3. A deal for the ages: The Calvin Pryor-for-Demario Davis swap was a rare player-for-player trade. In fact, it was the Jets' first since they unloaded Wayne Hunter in 2012, according to Randy Lange of the Jets' official website. That's when they exchanged tackles with the St. Louis Rams. The Jets got Jason Smith, the Rams got Hunter.

Maccagnan has made several player trades during his three-year tenure, but the Pryor deal was the first time he dealt away a player. Why were the Jets so hell-bent on unloading him to the Cleveland Browns? It was a combination of factors, on and off the field. His fate probably was sealed when safety Jamal Adams unexpectedly slipped to the Jets with the sixth pick in the draft.

Those in Pryor's camp could point to the following stats, which show the pass defense was significantly better last season when he was on the field ... but apparently not enough to alter the Jets' plans:

4. Scouting report on Johnny Mo: Former Jets coach Eric Mangini held his annual youth football camp Saturday in Hartford, Connecticut, drawing more than 700 campers and dozens of pro and college coaches. One of them was the Jets' new offensive coordinator, Johnny Morton. Mangini and Morton were together for the 2013 and 2014 seasons on the San Francisco 49ers' staff, so Mangini witnessed up close how Johnny Mo -- as his friends call him -- operates.

"Johnny is really smart, really disciplined," Mangini told me. "He's not afraid to be multiple, he's not afraid to attack weaknesses. He's not afraid to use guys in different spots. I always liked that about him: his willingness to try new things. Sometimes that's hard for coaches -- to get out of their comfort zone.

"And he's tough," Mangini continued. "He's going to be demanding of the players. He's going to hold them accountable. I think he's going to be a really good hire."

5. Adjusting the books: The Jets gained $6 million in cap room Friday as Marcus Gilchrist's salary officially came off the books. Because they released the safety last month with the post-June 1 designation, the Jets had to wait until June 2 until his money was cleared. The post-June 1 route allowed them to spread the remaining prorated portion of his bonuses over two years ($1.375 million in each) instead of absorbing the full hit ($2.75 million) this year.

6. Money for nothing: While we're on the subject of the salary cap, it's worth noting that 10 percent of the Jets' total cap is devoted to players no longer on the roster -- about $16 million in "dead" money. They have a $1.14 million charge for Pryor. The biggest charges are Darrelle Revis ($6 million) and Ryan Fitzpatrick ($5 million).

7. Weight watchers: A week ago, I wrote about tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and how he dropped 25 pounds since the end of last season. He's not the only player who has lost serious poundage. Miles told me he's down to 200 pounds, a 26-pound loss from last year. He's back to his college weight, and he believes it'll help his movement skills, especially in pass coverage.

8. Help wanted: One position that has fallen between the cracks for the Jets is fullback. Remember the fullback? They didn't carry one last season, as they ran one-back sets out of Chan Gailey's spread offense. Morton will use some two-back sets in his West Coast-based system, and the only fullbacks on the roster are the unproven Julian Howsare and undrafted rookie Anthony Firkser. The Jets flirted with a few in free agency, including former Minnesota Vikings fullback Zach Line (still unsigned). It wouldn't be a surprise if they address it in the near future.

9. OTA observations: Juston Burris is getting a lot of reps; he's working as an outside cornerback in the starting nickel package. He's a player to watch. ... Brandon Shell and Brent Qvale are splitting reps at right tackle. Ben Ijalana continues to hold down left tackle as Kelvin Beachum deals with knee soreness. ... Is there a punt returner in the house? I could list the candidates, but you probably haven't heard of any of them. ... Dylan Donahue, the small-school pass-rusher from West Georgia, worked with the starting nickel package last week. He's relentless. ... Seferian-Jenkins continues to turn heads. ...

10. Calendar: The Jets have one more week of OTAs (four practices), followed by a mandatory minicamp (June 13-15).