Seven Things to Watch for During Jets OTAs

E_SZP_0578-darnold-thumb

As the Jets continue their search for a general manager, the team will move into Phase 3 of offseason workouts Tuesday at the Atlantic Health Training Center. Over the next four weeks, the Green & White are scheduled to have 10 voluntary OTAs (organized team activities) in addition to a mandatory three-day minicamp from June 4-6.

For the first time this spring, team drills (offense vs. defense) will be permitted but there will continue to be restrictions on live contact and one-on-one drills. There are many on-the-field storylines to follow before the team breaks in mid-June and they include:

1. Darnold Emblematic of a New Day
The Jets appear to have found their long-term and short-term answer at quarterback in Sam Darnold. The second-year passer, who will turn 22 during OTAs, thrived late last season. But he is learning his third offense in as many years, so all this spring work will be invaluable for the signal-caller who has already thoroughly impressed his head coach.

“I like the way he works and I love the way he studies. The way he throws the ball is very impressive,” said Adam Gase of Darnold. “He just naturally, when he rolls out of bed, he could sling that thing, and it is fun to be around how intense he is every day trying to make sure he gets better. I think really, for us, it is going to be about how far can we take it. Can we keep all of our guys healthy that he is working with? Can we keep building chemistry? And if we do that, then that's going to give us a really good shot to have a good year.”

2. Growing Into a Leadership Role
Despite operating a new offense under Gase and offensive coordinator/QB coach Dowell Loggains, you can expect Darnold to take more command on the field and in the locker room. He proved his mettle as a rookie, displaying blue-collar gritty qualities in the way he battled. Darnold is a gamer who knows the lay of the land after coming in fresh out of USC. Don’t confuse the California cool with the passion that rages in the hyper-competitive SoCal native.

“I think for me it's continuing to do it my style, in my way, and how I feel comfortable doing it,” Darnold said of leadership. “It's just anyone who has been in the same locker room for a couple of years, they know the guys. It's a lot easier to lead that way rather than coming in your rookie year and really not knowing anyone. It's really just trying to make friends and who's who. It's definitely the second year, knowing most of the guys in the locker room helps a little bit in terms of that. But for me it's just going to be the same thing — just continuing to do it my way and making sure that it's very natural.”

See the Green & White on the Field During Week 6 of the Offseason Program

3. The QB of the Defense
With one star in place in the defensive backfield, the Green & White went out and added another one at linebacker with the signing of Mike ‘backer C.J. Mosley. Jamal Adams was overjoyed when he heard about the Mosely acquisition and Gase thought it was imperative the organization get someone who could help the Jets change the culture.

"I think C.J.'s experience, being a four-time Pro Bowler, a guy that has great leadership skills, he's only going to rub off on our crew of young guys," Gase said. "And really, that's what we need. We need that locker room to be strong."

Mosley will call signals on the field this spring and send them in the locker room and beyond.

4. Opportunity for Harrison
After not addressing the center position in free agency and the draft, Jonotthan Harrison has a great opportunity to be the man in the pivot. The athletic Harrison, a six-year veteran who has never started more than 10 games in a season, has impressed the coaching staff with both his approach and communication.

“I think Jonotthan has done a great job. I think he really, really does a good job with leading that group,” Gase said. “I think that Sam (Darnold) feels very comfortable with him and I think that that group is coming together well. Just watching them work day in and day out together, it's very encouraging. I like the attitude those guys have. I love the work ethic they have.”

5. Rookie Introduction
The Jets’ rookie class, headlined by No. 3 overall selection Quinnen Williams, did not take the field at rookie orientation. That will change during OTAs as the exuberant Williams and the rest of the pro first-timers will get in their work with the veterans.“He’s not a gigantic, huge, overpowering guy, but the rest of it is perfect for this day and age of football,” Williams’ college coach, Alabama’s Nick Saban, told NFL Network. “I go back to the initial quickness and the use of his hands. This guy is a really smart, instinctive player.”

With Williams in the fold, the Jets are going to create a lot of pressure up the middle on opposition quarterbacks. They may have added a steal on the edge in third-rounder Jachai Polite, one of the nation’s best pass rushers who can put a forgettable spring behind him with a positive start to his professional career.

“Speed,” he said when asked for a self-scout. “I’m quick-twitched, flexible, have a little bend. And I’m a dawg.”

See the Green & White on the Field During Week 6 of the Offseason Program

6. Expect Bell at Mandatory Camp
If you have followed Le’Veon Bell on his social channels, you know he has kept himself in excellent condition. The running back has stated that he’s on a mission and Gase expects him back with the team for the mandatory sessions.

“He said he was going to be here for that, so I don't expect him to not show up for that,” Gase said of Bell. “I know that when we get a chance when we get him in town, we can cover some things. I know that he will come in, he'll get what he needs to get and then he goes and gets ready for the season.”

If Bell is absent from the voluntary sessions, he will have the three mandatory camp workouts before training camp. Hall of Famer Curtis Martin, the NFL’s fifth all-time leading rusher, believes Bell can be a game-changer for Darnold and the offense.

“He could be a tremendous asset,” Martin said of Bell. “When you have a running back who is just as good as a receiver and he can run the way Le’Veon runs, it changes the game.”

7. Progression of Maye and Shell
The plan for both safety Marcus Maye (shoulder) and right tackle Brandon Shell (knee) has been to bring them along slowly. With training camp still two months away, the Jets have time on their side so the expectation is they will continue to err on the side of the caution.

“We just want to make sure we don't have any setbacks. I think those guys work extremely hard to make sure that when the time comes, they'll be one hundred percent. I don't think they're there yet. They're probably not even close,” Gase said during the team’s first minicamp. “That's part of their process that they're going through right now, but they're pushing it to try to make sure that they're going to be available when we need them.”

Advertising