Every year, that same landscape is littered with the husks of teams that thought they had it all together, only to see it all fall apart.
The Jets, set to report to their Cortland, NY, training camp Wednesday, are about to give hints on which kind of team they are.
"The good thing about what's going on here is you can see it right now," the fifth-year wideout told me when we sat down outside the weightroom a few months ago to talk about his latest good work in Haiti.
"I've been around teams that as soon as offseason workouts were over, guys were out of there. We finished our workouts at 12 o'clock and here it is 2 o'clock and not only are guys playing ping-pong and hanging out with each other but they're also in the training room getting better, taking care of their bodies."
It's more than just each player tending his own garden.
"We're getting better as a team as well," Nelson said. "When we're working out, yeah, we're competing, but we're also encouraging each other. Guys who you don't usually hear being vocal, they're speaking out. You're seeing a lot of stuff happen. It's really been fun for me to be a part of this."
Nelson was very much a part of last year's rebound story. Arriving Oct. 2 on a unit that had continuity, injury and drop issues, he was our only wideout to play in all of the last 12 games and led the WRs in that span in several categories, including five 20-yards-plus receptions that were tied with
"I'm more excited about this upcoming season than I've ever been," he said this offseason. "My first year in the NFL, I was just happy to be here. My second year, I really burst onto the scene and had a solid year. My third year, I tried to take that next step into being one of the guys — and tore my ACL. And so that year and a half was just a lot of weird things happening, trying to catch on with a team, trying to get healthy again, trying to figure out if I could still play.
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"So last year was kind of my way to prove that I still belong, I still can play. I really felt like at the end of the season I had built up enough momentum, started to play, started to get healthy again, started to feel comfortable, so I'm really excited about the opportunity that lies ahead of me with this team we have."
The part of the roster that Nelson likes best is, not surprisingly, wideout. He said of Kerley, "He's our leader, our rock. I think he's one of the top 10 receivers in the league, but not a lot of people are talking about him."
And he loves the addition of
"Yeah, Eric's got the attention and he's got the reality show," Nelson said, "but at the same time he's got a tremendous approach to the game. It's really cool that we added a key piece that's going to bring a great statistical aspect to what we do, a gamechanger, but also a guy that fits in with the aura and the vibe of our room, which is a bunch of hardnosed guys, 'Hey, we're going to block you, we're going to run hard, we're going to be aggressive, and we're going to be violent.' "
It all sounds great, but we all know about talking the talk and now Nelson and his receiving buddies have to walk the walk starting up in Cortland. No predictions or guarantees from David, just a positive vibe.
"Yeah, we've got some key pieces," he said. "Collectively, I'm excited to see what we can do."