While the Jets first regular season game is still close to five months away, head coach Todd Bowles had a clear message for his team as the Green & White kicked off Phase One of their offseason program.
“His message was it all starts today,” said veteran wideout Jermaine Kearse during a conference call with reporters. “We can’t wait until the summer, until training camp, to try to prepare to have a championship mindset throughout the season. His message was it starts today.”
Kearse, who was acquired last September from a Seattle club that had made the playoffs each of his first five seasons, yearns to fight for a title once again next January.
“We can’t just procrastinate our decision to try to turn it on,” he said. “We have to turn it on right now because the great teams, they’re going to do things right — right now and that’s what we have to do too.”
The 28-year-old Kearse is one of 16 wide receivers on the roster. It’s a group that includes Quincy Enunwa, who is returning after neck surgery, and Terrelle Pryor, who had an 1,000-yard season with the Browns just two seasons ago.
“I’m excited about his game, I love watching him play,” Kearse said of Enunwa. “And adding someone like Terrelle Pryor, with the size and the athletic ability that he brings to the table, is a great addition. And just building off of the season I had from last year and the season that Robby (Anderson) had from last year, we’re not trying to stay complacent. I’m focusing on to improve my game and get better and try to elevate our room and I’m sure everybody else in the room is doing that.”
Elevation was also on veteran Leonard Williams’ mind. Still just 23, Williams is entering his fourth pro season and is the team’s longest-tenured defensive lineman.
“I think it’s definitely time to step up and take it to the next level. It comes with a lot and it’s not just my play on the field,” he said. “It’s my leadership, how I approach work, how much time I’m putting in outside of the mandatory hours and into my craft, my game and my teammates. I wouldn’t be a teammate if I’m the only one not working hard.”
After pacing the Jets with 28 quarterback hits in 2017, Williams doesn’t want to be close anymore. He talked today of working on his get-off and foot placement with Jets assistant defensive line coach La'Roi Glover, a six-time Pro Bowler who racked up 83.5 career sacks.
“We think that first step is a big key in the way we play and it all starts with that first step,” said Williams, who was held to two sacks last season. “The faster I can get off the ground and into the backfield, I’m that much closer to the sack. It’s just small details like that and it’s something I’ve been working on.”
General manager Mike Maccagnan continues to work on the roster as he has signed 16 new players in free agency. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson was the headliner of the group, but inside linebacker Avery Williamson will also have a pivotal role on the defense.
“There was a lot of good energy in the building,” said the former Tennessee Titan. “I was definitely excited about finally getting to see everybody.”
As per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each NFL club will have a voluntary nine-week offseason program that is conducted in three phases. After more than 100 days off, the Jets got Phase One — two weeks of activities limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation — underway Monday in Florham Park, NJ. The players donned tee-shirts that read: Blame Nobody, Expect Nothing, Do Something.
“Although this isn’t mandatory, this time period is where you build team bonding, chemistry and competitiveness. We want to be champions and that starts today,” Williams said. “We can’t wait until fall camp, preseason or the season to begin to try working on being a champion. It starts now with this team with the guys we have in the building. I think the guys definitely understood that and they’re ready to go to work.”