Players reported today to the Atlantic Health Training Center for Saturday's first practice of training camp speaking of chemistry and belief in each other.
As always those qualities are important for all players and all units on all NFL teams, but none more so than this Jets offensive line, which needs to bond quickly and surely to keep all the quarterbacks upright, give them time to find their young receivers, and open holes for the veteran running game.
So far, said tackle Ben Ijalana, so good.
"I'm really happy about the unit so far this year," said Ijalana, the cleanup hitter of the six players who spoke with reporters today. "I feel like a lot of guys came in a little bit lighter, we're faster, we've done a lot more running, so I'm excited."
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Ditto, guard Brian Winters, even if this July is unlike the previous 11 Julys in that center Nick Mangold is not among them.
"You lose some of the names that have been here for a while like Mangold and all that," Winters said. "but we still have a goal and our goal is to win and that's our expectations; to continue to win. You lose those names, but we're going to still continue to build success around the building."
Those two aren't the only leaders on the line, but they'll be expected to supply leadership as the offense seeks its way post-Mangold with a new coordinator in John Morton. Ijalana, entering his seventh season and his fifth as a Jet and coming off most action as a pro, said he believes he'll be starting out camp at left tackle, the position he finished at last year. Winters, who signed an extension last season, is a fixture at right guard.
"This is obviously the team that drafted me and I wanted to stay around. I'm trying to build something here," Winters said. "And the leadership role that I feel like I have is getting bigger and bigger each year."
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Both linemen also are coming off surgeries, Winters, off his December shoulder operation, said he's full-go from day one tomorrow. Ijalana, off a knee scope last month, thought he might be "a little limited" at the start.
But both are ready to rock and roll, for themselves and for their unit.
"It's just good see all the guys because everyone understands it's time to get back to work," Ijalana said. "We are football players and it's now time to play football."