A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Next man up? Interviews for the general manager vacancy are underway and, barring any glitches, the team could have its man by the end of the week. There are four known candidates with confirmed interviews, none of whom has previous GM experience. They're all from NFC teams that made the playoffs last season, so the Jets are looking in the right places. The key is finding an executive who is compatible with new head coach Adam Gase, whose personality isn't for everybody.
That they're hiring the GM after the coach -- yet another arranged marriage -- makes it an especially slippery slope. Many league insiders believe Gase's recommendation will be rubber-stamped by ownership. What could go wrong?
I spoke to five people in the scouting/personnel community to formulate a scouting report, if you will, on each of the candidates. Here's how I would rank them:
Joe Douglas, Eagles vice president of player personnel: The presumptive favorite received high marks for his ability as a talent evaluator. No one had anything negative to say about his football acumen, not even competitors -- which is a rarity in the business. A former associate said Douglas, 42, is "a quality option" for the Jets. Another called him "a scout's scout." He was a member of two Super Bowl winners with the Ravens and another with the Eagles. Now, after three seasons of running the Eagles' personnel department and managing the scouts on a day-to-day basis, Douglas is looking to run his own shop, friends say.
Douglas knows Gase better than any of the other candidates, which gives him an advantage. They spent 2015 together with the Bears, and they also have the same agent, Jimmy Sexton. (Don't think for a second that isn't a factor.) Described as quiet and easygoing, does Douglas have the personality to command an entire organization? Could he coexist with the high-strung Gase?
Douglas worked his way up the scouting ladder in the Ravens' organization, learning from Ozzie Newsome. Fun fact: In 2001, while working for the Ravens as a low-level personnel assistant, Douglas was the "Turk" in HBO's "Hard Knocks," which featured the Baltimore training camp.
Scott Fitterer, Seahawks co-director of player personnel: This isn't his first rodeo; Fitterer interviewed for previous GM openings with the Colts, Chiefs and 49ers. The consensus among our five-man panel is that Fitterer, 45, is ready to make the jump. Specifically, he was praised for his expertise in college scouting. He doesn't have much experience on the pro side, which could be a concern. One person called him a "foot soldier" in the Seahawks operation. He has no background with Gase, but friends say they became acquainted on the NFL's off-season circuit -- scouting combine, Senior Bowl, etc.
Born and raised in Seattle, Fitterer has worked for his hometown team since 2001 -- a double-edged sword. He has been around a lot of winning, and he has observed one of the most successful coach-GM tandems in the league in Pete Carroll and John Schneider. On the flip side, he knows only one way of doing things. Fitterer "doesn't have a big personality, but I think he has enough moxie to handle the New York scrutiny," one rival scout said. Fun fact: Fitterer was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Champ Kelly, Bears assistant director of player personnel: He has the "it" factor. One scout said of Kelly, "You're not going to find a better person. He'll know everybody's name in the building after a week." That's worth noting, because CEO Christopher Johnson has said he wants more than a talent evaluator; he covets a "strategic thinker" who can galvanize the organization.
Actually, Kelly has known Gase longer than anybody on this list, as they overlapped for six seasons with the Broncos (2009 to 2014) and one with the Bears (2015).
There's some talk in league circles that Douglas, if he gets the job, could try to pry Kelly from the Bears to be his right-hand man. They have a good relationship. Kelly, 40, has spent most of his career in pro scouting; his work on the college side is limited. With his charisma, Kelly would win the introductory news conference, but some wonder if the jump from assistant director to GM is too big. Fun fact: Kelly has a master's degree in business and worked for IBM as a software engineer.
Terry Fontenot, Saints director of pro scouting: His presence on this list puzzled some because he has no obvious connection to Gase. Two prominent Jets assistants, Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt, are familiar with Fontenot because they spent time with the Saints. Fontenot, 38, is considered an up-and-comer in the business, but his credentials are thin at this stage of his career. He started with the Saints after college, and he has spent the past 16 years in the organization, working mainly in pro scouting -- yet another candidate with limited exposure to the college side. He is a long shot.
George Paton, Vikings assistant general manager: Still no word on whether he will take the interview. The Jets were spurned in previous attempts, 2013 and 2015, and it would surprise no one if they go 0-for-3.
2. Leonard ready to cash in: One of the first big items on the new GM's agenda is to make a decision on the long-term future of Leonard Williams, who is entering a contract year. Basically, the new boss has four options: Sign Williams to an extension, use the franchise tag (an estimated $18 million), let him walk as a free agent or trade him.
The problem with hiring a new GM this late in the game, not to mention having to work with a new coach, is that he probably will want to use the season to evaluate Williams. It's risky, because if Williams delivers a career year, it'll cost the Jets at the bargaining table. (See: Muhammad Wilkerson, a massive contract the Jets quickly regretted.) If Williams has a productive year, he will look for something north of $18 million per year.
Williams downplayed his contract situation, but he admitted "it definitely feels a little bit different than all of the other years." He said he "definitely" wants to remain with the Jets, adding, "I feel like I'm a loyal type of player. I never thought about transferring when I was in high school or college. It's like kind of the same now. I want to stay on the team if I have the opportunity to."
Quite frankly, Williams needs to be better to warrant a huge extension. His pass rush win rate was only 16 percent last season, five points below the NFL average for his position, according to NFL Next Gen Stats data. The previous coaching staff always tried to mitigate his low sack numbers (seven over the past two seasons) by claiming he drew an inordinate number of double-teams.
When pass-rushing from the 3-technique position (lined up on the outside shoulder of a guard), Williams was double-teamed 63 percent of the time in 2018. The league average for the position was 54 percent. If rookie Quinnen Williams develops quickly, he might be able to reduce the pressure on Leonard, resulting in fewer double-teams. Which should be a huge boost to his bank account.
3. Studying Peyton: This shouldn't come as a surprise, but Sam Darnold has been studying old Peyton Manning video in an effort to familiarize himself with Gase's offense -- and, of course, to see how a great quarterback played the position.
Stylistically, Darnold is different from Manning in that he can play outside the pocket, but Darnold still can pick up some nuances with regard to footwork, protection schemes and route concepts. Manning played under Gase from 2012 to 2014 with the Denver Broncos, so there are more than 3,000 plays at Darnold's fingertips on his computer tablet.
"I don't think he's trying to overanalyze it," Gase said. "I think he's trying to take some of those finer points of some of the things Peyton did and implement those, but at the same time, be himself. ... It's really about putting his spin on the entire offense."
4. Dangerous corner: My biggest takeaway after watching two practices: The cornerback situation is precarious.
The position was suspect last season, and the Jets didn't do much to improve it. They said goodbye to penalty machine Buster Skrine, overpaid to re-sign backup Darryl Roberts, made a low-level signing in Atlanta Falcons castoff Brian Poole and used a sixth-round pick on the injury-prone Blessuan Austin, who probably will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list. The Jets still have Trumaine Johnson, but the previous administration concluded after only one season that he was a bad signing.
How is this possible? The Jets haven't drafted a good corner since Darrelle Revis in 2007. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is a smart dude, but there's no scheme that can camouflage shaky corners.
5. The last word: "I can say this, and it might be speaking very loud right now, but I think (Le'Veon Bell) probably will retire a Jet because of the fact that him and Jamal [Adams] together, on opposite sides of the ball, they're going to make each other better. He's going to make everybody better." -- Jets nose tackle Steve McLendon, reunited with the former Pittsburgh Steelers star after four years apart.