Jets' No. 1 obective: Determine if Sam Darnold is ready to start

The New York Jets open training camp on July 26 at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey. Here's a closer look at the Jets' camp:

Top storyline: Sam Darnold's development will be an every-day story in the quarterback-obsessed New York market -- and with good reason. After years -- no, decades -- in quarterback purgatory, the Jets finally have a legitimate blue-chip prospect at the most important position. Darnold, drafted third overall, has all the tools to be a terrific player. The coaches are particularly excited about his ability to improvise. They also like the way he's wired -- a demeanor that can be described as "SoCal chill." Perspective is important, though. Let's not forget Darnold, a mere pup at 21, had only three full seasons of quarterback experience in high school and college. There will be growing pains, but the Jets -- after two straight 5-11 seasons -- can't afford too many. This regime needs to show progress.

QB depth chart: It'll be Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater and Darnold, in that order, at the start of training camp, but it won't be a traditional depth chart. Bridgewater and Darnold will get a chance to win the starting job, as coach Todd Bowles attempts to stage a three-way competition while prepping his eventual starter for the regular season. Good luck. He tried it last year and it didn't work. McCown, who barely played in the preseason, wasn't comfortable until Week 3 and the team started 0-2. Look for Darnold to get the most preseason reps, followed by Bridgewater (trade bait?) and McCown. The feeling inside the organization is that Darnold has a legitimate chance to win the job. If his pre-season performance is on the same level as those of Bridgewater and McCown, it'll be hard to keep the rookie out of the lineup.

Bubble watch: With plenty of cap room, the Jets are under no pressure to dump high-salaried veterans. Those on the bubble include former draft picks who have disappointed, namely linebackers Lorenzo Mauldin and Dylan Donahue. Marginal veteran imports such as cornerback Rashard Robinson, running back Thomas Rawls and wide receiver Andre Roberts will be hard-pressed to make the roster.

This rookie could start: Defensive end Nathan Shepherd, drafted in the third round, will get a chance to fill Muhammad Wilkerson's old spot on the line. In the spring, Shepherd split first-team reps with former Indianapolis Colts starter Henry Anderson. Shepherd has the physical ability to succeed on this level, but he's not in Kansas anymore. We mean that literally. He played at Division II Fort Hays State, and it's a long way from the small central Kansas school to the NFL.

Defense needs an identity: Who are these guys? There's enough talent to be more than competitive, especially in the secondary, but the defense lacks a calling card. Here's a suggestion: Start making plays; that'll be the quickest way to build a reputation. The defense hasn't scored a touchdown since 2013, easily the longest drought in the league. It's time for defensive end Leonard Williams, linebacker Darron Lee and safety Jamal Adams -- former first-round picks -- to become disruptive players. Lee will call the defensive signals for the first time, a huge responsibility. The addition of $73 million cornerback Trumaine Johnson should help.

Bates motel: New offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates has one of the toughest jobs in the NFL. He inherits a unit that ranked 24th in scoring, doesn't have a clear-cut starter at quarterback and doesn't have a single Pro Bowl player, past or present. Bates is the third coordinator in four years under Bowles, who has run out of mulligans. If Bates fails to develop Darnold and can't get this unit moving in the right direction ... well, they'll all be looking for jobs next year.