Jets Open Training Camp at SUNY Cortland
Far from Hofstra University, the New York Jets opened training camp on Thursday at SUNY Cortland. New digs, a new quarterback and a new coaching staff. That all sounds great during two-a-days and 90-plus degree heat. But let's see what happens when December rolls around.
"We really have everything here and we can set out to accomplish everything that we have to do and make this a close-knit football team and get better," said Rex Ryan, who is taking over for Eric Mangini as field boss. "I think it is so important that when you come out from training camp three-and-a-half weeks from now, we are going to be a really good football team, an excellent football team."
Much of that depends on who is over center on opening day. After the Brett Favre one-and-done, the Jets are letting Kellen Clemens and rookie Mark Sanchez battle it out for the starting quarterback position. Heading into camp, Ryan has placed Clemens first on the depth chart, but that can change quickly.
Sanchez has looked towards the man who he is trying to put on the bench and has come out of it with a lot of respect for Clemens. "He'll go out of his way and talk to me about a read or individual play I was on," the former USC standout said. "You learn a lot from a guy that's been around for four years. There is a lot of experience there. That's important to me to respect him and obviously compete."
Clemens, who started eight games in 2007, has felt confident all along that he would come out on top, but also realizes that he will accept what is best for the team. "Right now, the situation is that it's an open competition and the best player is going to play," he said. "At the end of the day, this is a business that is concentrated on one thing and that is winning football games."
Another important aspect is the absence of Leon Washington, who is holding out for a better contract. "Everyone knows that Leon is a huge member of this football team," Ryan said of the talented running back/kick returner. "He is somebody that finished top-10 in punt returns, top-10 in kick returns. Obviously we want Leon here and we'll see what happens.
"Leon is under contract," Ryan continued. "Have there been some conversations among us and his agent? Yes, there have. I can't tell you the particulars right now but you never know what can get done."
With the quarterback decision and an unhappy backfield (starter Thomas Jones is also unhappy with his contract situation but reported to camp on time), Ryan has his work cut out for him in the early going. How the rookie head coach handles those two delicate situations will go a long way in the team's success out of the starting gate.
After last season's brutal finish, a fast start would be the best way to really make this a fresh start. December comes mighty fast in the National Football League.