FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets open their training camp Wednesday at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
Biggest question: What is the biggest challenge facing quarterback Aaron Rodgers?
Assuming his subpar performance last season with the Green Bay Packers (a career-worst 39.3 QBR as a starter) was an outlier, Rodgers -- one of the great passers of this generation -- should galvanize an offense that lacked on-field leadership and competent quarterback play. But it may take time. While Rodgers already knows the offense and has a close rapport with new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, most of his teammates still are learning the playbook and the playcaller. Rodgers will need time and reps to build chemistry, especially with his receivers, most of whom didn't practice in the spring for various reasons. He's a demanding quarterback who plays the game at a graduate level. Will he get frustrated if some lag behind? There's an extra week of camp because they play in the Aug. 3 Hall of Fame Game, but it's the same number of practices as last year (21). The Jets opted for extra rest over extra reps.
Most impactful offseason addition (not named Rodgers): Hackett
Coach Robert Saleh raised some eyebrows by hiring Hackett, a one-year flameout as the Denver Broncos' head coach in 2022, but it could turn out to be a brilliant move. Hackett's presence lured Rodgers to New York, which has changed everything. Now it's on Hackett -- who experienced both success and failure in his three previous stops as a coordinator with the Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills -- to put it all together. He has the autonomy to operate the offense as he sees fit. No doubt, he will lean heavily on Rodgers. Hackett is an upbeat, player-friendly coach. That should boost morale, which was down after last season's disastrous finish under predecessor Mike LaFleur -- a six-game losing streak, including only 15 points scored in the final three games. There's nowhere to go but up; the Jets have finished 23rd or worse in scoring for seven straight years.
Potential training camp distractions: “Hard Knocks”
The Jets didn’t want to be chosen for the popular HBO series, but as Rodgers told a Bay Area TV station last week at a celebrity golf tournament, “They forced it down our throats and we have to deal with it.” Free advice: Embrace it. If they treat it like a distraction, it will become a distraction. Members of the 2010 Jets, featured on “Hard Knocks” that year, remember it as a positive experience. They reached the AFC Championship Game, the franchise’s last playoff appearance. The Jets will face intense scrutiny throughout the season, so “Hard Knocks” is an opportunity to get accustomed to the spotlight.
The winner gets the opportunity to snap the ball to a future Hall of Famer, something to share with the grandkids someday. McGovern is the incumbent, but that status doesn't carry a lot of weight. The Jets want to upgrade the position, which is why they used a second-round pick on Tippmann, an unusually big center (6-foot-6) who they believe has the mental makeup to handle the most cerebral position on the offensive line. It's Tippmann's job to win. McGovern is respected in the locker room, but he ranked near the bottom in ESPN's pass- and run-blocking win rates metrics He tested free agency, but returned on a modest one-year deal ($1.9 million) -- a team insurance policy if Tippmann isn't ready. Rodgers, who has played with rookie centers, probably will have some say in the matter.
Player with the most to prove: Offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, OT
Fans might not recognize Becton when they see him for the first time. He is down to about 340 pounds after weighing as much as 400. In a contract year, the 2020 first-round pick recognizes it's a crossroads season. The talent is there, but his career -- he has played 15 games in three seasons -- has been derailed by knee injuries and conditioning issues. He has missed 33 straight games, making him the ultimate wild card. The organization wasn't thrilled when Becton stated via a tweet he later deleted that he was a left tackle, his natural position, after a brief run last summer at right tackle. Whether he's playing left or right tackle, it's time to deliver. If not, he could be playing on another team.