Published July 23, 2013
NEW YORK – Darrelle Revis is long gone. So is Tim Tebow. Same for several other players from last year's dismal New York Jets team.
After a 6-10 finish, there's a new general manager and a handful of other new faces in the front office and on the coaching staff. But after an offseason of changes, Rex Ryan is still here.
And the trimmed-down head coach expects to stay a while longer despite being on a simmering hot seat.
"I want to be here and I want to be a world champion as the New York Jets head coach," Ryan said. "That's never going to change. That drives me."
Owner Woody Johnson fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum and replaced him with John Idzik, who spent the past six seasons in Seattle's front office. But Johnson kept Ryan, who will try to rebound without his best player in Revis and try to settle his quarterback situation with the maligned Mark Sanchez and the hotshot rookie Geno Smith competing for the job.
That said, here are five story lines following the Jets into training camp in Cortland, N.Y.:
1. REVIVED REX? Ryan's future with the Jets largely depends on how he meshes with Idzik, who said after minicamp in June that working with him has been "a joy." The real test will be during the season, of course, with Ryan charged with winning games despite having a roster devoid of superstar talent. But Ryan must be feeling a bit lucky, especially after being retained by Johnson — his contract runs through next season — and going unscathed while running with the bulls — twice — in Spain a few weeks before camp. Some fans and media are convinced Ryan's fate as a "lame duck" is sealed, however, because it's rare that new GMs retain incumbent coaches. A few unexpected wins could have them all believing in Ryan again.
2. QB QUANDARY: All eyes will be on the quarterbacks. Again. But unlike a year ago when Tebow's presence was all the talk in Cortland, Sanchez vs. Smith should make for an intriguing camp competition. Sanchez was in no real jeopardy to lose his job to Tebow, now in New England, but Smith is very much a possibility to start as a rookie. Sanchez helped lead the Jets to consecutive AFC title games in his first two seasons, but has an NFL-leading 52 turnovers — including the Thanksgiving night "butt-fumble" from last season — the last two years. So, when Smith, a record-breaking star from West Virginia, slid in the draft from the first round to the second, the Jets jumped at the chance to snag the man who could replace Sanchez as soon as this season.
3. REPLACING REVIS: Just a few months on the job, Idzik traded away one of the best players in franchise history. It wasn't a popular move, but Revis is coming off a major knee injury and was looking for a huge payday. Idzik shipped him to Tampa Bay for a few draft picks. Antonio Cromartie is now the team's No. 1 cornerback. New York used its first pick to take former Alabama star Dee Milliner. But Milliner is recovering from shoulder surgery, so Kyle Wilson could be in line to start.
4. MAGIC MARTY? After 10 years in Philadelphia, Marty Mornhinweg has a major task on his hands. Besides figuring out a quarterback, he'll have to make due with a group that lacks many explosive playmakers, an offensive line with two new starters and a revamped backfield with Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson leading the way. The wide receiving corps is a major question mark with Santonio Holmes still recovering from a major foot injury and Stephen Hill trying to bounce back from an injury-plagued rookie season. After losing Dustin Keller to Miami, the Jets hope Jeff Cumberland and a healthy Kellen Winslow Jr. can be consistent threats at tight end.
5. THE LINE STARTS HERE: The biggest strength could be their big men up front on defense. Despite allowing veterans Mike DeVito (signed by Kansas City) and Sione Po'uha (released) to leave, New York's defensive line coordinator Dennis Thurman excited because of its overall athleticism, particularly from its trio of first-rounders. Muhammad Wilkerson could be the team's breakout star after a solid second season. Quinton Coples, last year's first-round pick, will alternate between the line and outside linebacker with his focus on sacking the quarterback. The Jets used the No. 13 overall pick — the one they received from the Buccaneers for Revis — to take Sheldon Richardson, a beefy but speedy lineman.
Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org