FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — After a lost decade that included seven losing seasons, five general manager and head coach tandems, five starting quarterbacks and zero playoff appearances — the longest active drought in the NFL — the New York Jets are starting over yet again, except this time there’s a fresh vibe at One Jets Drive.
So what’s new?
They have a new coaching staff with offensive and defensive systems that have been used by recent Super Bowl teams, instilling confidence in the players. Led by coach Robert Saleh, the staff is youthful and energetic. They also have made changes on an organizational level — some of them subtle — which will change the way the Jets do business.
Hey, why not? Business hasn’t been good since January 2011, when they reached the AFC Championship Game for the second straight year.
“We have a system that’s shown to work,” Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley said last week. “Our job as players is to come in every day and make sure we buy into the system, that we buy into the new way of the Jets — all gas, no brake — and we bring it to the field when it’s ready.”
That’s Saleh’s mantra — All gas, no break — and it appears throughout the team facility. Every coach has a motto. Rex Ryan had, “Play like a Jet.” Todd Bowles had, “One team, one goal.” Adam Gase had … well, he didn’t believe in catchphrases. Frankly, they’re meaningless unless the team can turn the words into a culture. Ryan came the closest, but his Rex-isms fizzled after a couple of promising seasons.
The early returns on Saleh are encouraging, as the Jets have averaged about 80 players at each voluntary practice. While some teams dialed back their offseason activities, acquiescing to the concerns of players, the Jets are proceeding with their schedule after a “good collaboration on both sides,” Saleh said. That says a lot about him and the support from the locker room.
“First day here, he brought the energy,” Mosley said. “That’s what you want from a head coach.”
It’s a different player experience, starting with the player-friendly Saleh, the first-round draft pick in quarterback Zach Wilson, and everything from a new-look weight room to a new approach to nutrition.
The Jets, coming off a 2-14 nightmare, tweaked parts of their infrastructure in an attempt to fix old problems and prevent new ones from popping up. Here’s a closer look at what’s new:
An athletic care and sports performance department. After getting crushed by injuries the past two seasons, general manager Joe Douglas decided to shake things up.
The department, which consolidates the areas of athletic training, strength and conditioning, nutrition and injury rehab, is headed by Dr. Brad DeWeese, the director of high performance. DeWeese, whose background includes training Olympic athletes, is emphasizing speed and power. They made four other hires, including strength and conditioning coach Mike Nicolini, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers.
The Jets dove into the area of sports science, creating a custom menu for each player that covers weight training, recovery and a meal plan. With regard to injuries, there were a few well-documented cases in recent years in which players such as Muhammad Wilkerson, Kelechi Osemele and Quincy Enunwa complained publicly about their care. The hope is having everything under one umbrella will streamline the communication and eliminate snafus.
“We feel like, at least from a physical standpoint, when they walk into this building, there’s 100% attention on each individual,” Saleh said.
In 2019, the Jets had a league-high 28 players on injured reserve, per Spotrac. It was more of the same in 2020 — 36 cases on injured reserve, tied for fifth.
A chief of staff. Yes, that’s an actual title in the team directory and it belongs to Steve Scarnecchia, who was hired as Saleh’s right-hand man.
Scarnecchia, the son of former New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, will lessen the load for Saleh by handling administrative jobs such as meeting and practice schedules. He could be an invaluable resource for Saleh, a first-time head coach on any level. Scarnecchia held a similar position the past six years with the Atlanta Falcons.
The Jets also hired game-management specialist Matt Burke, an Ivy League-educated former NFL assistant who becomes their version of Ernie Adams. Ernie Adams? He was the longtime confidant and football savant under Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who relied on Adams during games.
This isn’t a new role for the Jets — Matt Sheldon had the job under Gase — but they’re treating it differently. Gase never wanted to publicize Sheldon; Saleh was transparent, explaining the different ways in which Burke can help.
Burke, who works closely with the analytics department, meets with Saleh to discuss possible in-game situations. Saleh tells him what he’d do; Burke responds by sharing the “book” choice, based on recent data. This allows them to formulate a plan.
During the season, Burke will meet with the coaching staff to analyze specific scenarios, allowing the coaches to work them into the practice script. On game day, Burke will be in the booth, communicating with Saleh as game- and clock-management issues develop.
“He’s a tremendous asset,” Saleh said of Burke, 45, who had a similar job with the Tennessee Titans several years ago.
Two new turf fields at the facility. Cosmetic changes count, too.
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) June 2, 2021
New power structure. Saleh’s hiring in January coincided with the decision to revert to the traditional organizational setup, with the coach reporting to the GM, who reports to ownership.
The Jets got away from that structure in 2015, when owner Woody Johnson tried to appease all parties during the clumsy hiring of GM Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles, virtual strangers. He put them on the same level of the food chain, having them report directly to him. And that’s the way it stayed for the next six, turmoil-filled seasons, through more hirings, firings and Johnson’s temporary departure.
While Douglas and Saleh downplayed the structure, saying they will collaborate regardless of boundaries, it eliminates gray area and sends a symbolic message Douglas is in charge.
A new old owner. After three years as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, Johnson is back as the Jets’ chairman. He didn’t miss any high points during his time across the pond. In four seasons with younger brother Christopher Johnson running the team, the Jets went 18-46, tied with the New York Giants for the league’s worst record.
Woody Johnson isn’t new to the New York sports landscape — he purchased the team in 2000 — but he’s new to the players. Safety Marcus Maye, drafted in 2017, is the only holdover from Woody 1.0, which is remarkable in itself. Since returning in January, Johnson has been visible at the facility, notably during the draft. He has been tweeting up a storm, but has yet to speak with the media.
Johnson left behind a mess in 2017, a roster gutted to the point where the Jets were accused of tanking. Four years later, they’re still rebuilding, but this time feels different.
Fantasy Football cheat sheets – Updated 2021 player rankings, PPR, non-PPR, depth charts, dynasty
If you’re seeking a one-stop shop for updated 2021 fantasy football rankings and cheat sheets throughout the summer, you’ve come to the right place. Below, you will find them for PPR and non-PPR formats, as well as dynasty leagues.
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Non-PPR positional cheat sheet
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Non-PPR top-300 cheat sheet
This sheet features 300 players in order of overall draft value, with positional rank, salary-cap value and bye-week information. Download »
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NFL team depth chart cheat sheet
Fantasy depth charts for each NFL team: top two QBs, three running backs, four wide receivers, two tight ends and a kicker. Prioritized by fantasy value in PPR leagues rather than role defined on a traditional NFL depth chart, includes players’ positional ranks. Download »
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From Liberia to the Ravens: How Gus Edwards’ journey came full circle – Baltimore Ravens Blog
“What’s crazy is that my father is actually in Liberia right now,” Edwards said. “He was like, ‘I’m at the house right now.’”
Edwards lived in Liberia until he was five years old, when he immigrated to the United States with his mother. Edwards’ aunt was fortunate to go to America after winning a lottery as part of the Diversity Visa program, and the family decided Edwards’ father and sister would be the two members who would accompany her. A few years later, Edwards joined them, escaping the country during the Second Liberian Civil War.
Edwards, 26, doesn’t remember much about his time in Liberia, outside of taking his farewell pictures on his last day there. On Monday, he posted a picture on Instagram of his father standing in front of his childhood home, which showed the crumbling concrete steps and the deteriorating cinder block walls. Edwards then signed his new deal with Baltimore, which gave him a $3.75 million signing bonus as well as a sense of his journey coming full circle.
“It was just fantastic — just seeing everything come together,” Edwards said. “It’s been a blessing.”
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 7, 2021
Edwards is a punishing downhill runner in the only NFL offense to ever total more than 3,000 yards rushing in consecutive seasons. He’s often been overlooked, maintaining a low-key personality while playing behind the likes of Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins.
But few players have been as efficient as Edwards. Of the 31 players who have run the ball at least 400 times over the past three seasons, only two have averaged more yards per carry than Edwards (5.20): former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson (6.0) and two-time Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb (5.23).
“He deserves a lot more credit than he gets,” tight end Mark Andrews said at the end of last season. “He’s the heart and the soul of our team with everything he does, the way he runs the ball. He breaks tackles left and right. He’s a beast.”
Just like he fights for every yard, Edwards had to battle for his spot in Baltimore after being the team’s No. 5 running back three years ago. Undrafted out of Rutgers in 2018, Edwards was cut before the regular season, as the Ravens kept Alex Collins, Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon at running back.
Edwards was signed to the Ravens’ practice squad, but he had to bide his time. When Dixon went on injured reserve with a knee injury after the season opener, Baltimore promoted De’Lance Turner instead of Edwards to replace Dixon.
It wasn’t until Turner hurt his hamstring in early October that Edwards was placed on the 53-man roster. And it wasn’t until Jackson took over as the starting quarterback midway through the season that Edwards got a shot to start.
Meshing instantly in Baltimore’s new read-pass option attack, Edwards produced 654 yards rushing in the final seven games of 2018, which ranked behind only Saquon Barkley and Derrick Henry over that span.
“He’s a guy who we all root for,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I think he’s a really good fit in our offense, and he understands that. He’s just a really good fit, also, in our personality as a football team. We appreciate him and the way he plays, and the way he carries himself. He’s just really the most deserving guy.”
In each of the past two years, the Ravens have added to the backfield, signing Ingram in free agency in 2019 and drafting Dobbins in the second round in 2020. But Edwards has kept plowing ahead, gaining a first down on an NFL-best 30.9% of his carries since 2018.
“That’s one person, for sure, when you’re in the hole with [him], you’ve got to brace yourself and get ready, because Gus is ‘Gus the Bus’ for a reason,” Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen said. “He earned that money.”
A restricted free agent, Edwards could have tested the market after the season. Instead, he struck a deal with Baltimore that places him among the top 20 highest-paid backs in the league in average per year.
Staying at a place that feels like home, especially with the path Edwards has taken, means a lot to him.
“I feel like I have unfinished business here,” Edwards said. “I’m comfortable here, I’m happy here and it works for me. In one way or another, I was hoping to stay. I’m just blessed.”
Tim Tebow won’t be the first NFL training camp sideshow
It seemed outrageously unacceptable that the Jaguars would devote a training camp roster spot to a 33-year-old who hasn’t played football in six years and is attempting to transition from quarterback to tight end. It wasn’t hard to feel cynicism toward the Jaguars and Tebow, especially when his jersey quickly jetted to the top of the NFL’s sales list.
There is, however, another way to view the training camp sideshow coming to Jacksonville later this summer, one that is decidedly less angry and more in line with NFL history. As it turns out, lots of NFL teams have used summer roster spots for less-than-super-serious purposes. They just came at a time when there was less scrutiny on every personnel move.
Some of those experiments worked out, most of them did not. But all of them have provided lasting wrinkles in the story of pro football. What follows are a handful of notable examples, all reminders that football is supposed to be fun and that some teams don’t take the 90th roster spot as seriously as you.
No one laughed when Lesnar started telling people that he wanted to try pro football. At 26, he was eight years removed from his last high school game. But he had rare physical traits, as a 286-pound professional wrestling champion who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds and had a 35-inch vertical leap. He also benched 475 pounds, squatted 695 pounds and had delivered a convincing mean streak via his WWE character.
The Vikings were a natural landing spot, given his history as an All-American wrestler at the University of Minnesota. Coach Mike Tice was hoping to spice up camp, if nothing else, and owner Red McCombs knew a winning sideshow when he saw one.
Wearing No. 69, Lesnar appeared in preseason games as a defensive tackle and a cover man on kickoffs. His most notable moment, though, was getting involved in a series of fights with Kansas City Chiefs offensive linemen during a joint practice. At one point, Lesnar ripped the helmet off a Chiefs player and, after being sent to the sidelines, stirred nearby fans into a frenzy.
Ultimately, the learning curve proved too steep. Lesnar went back to wrestling and kept pushing for new areas to dominate. He found one a few years later and won the undisputed heavyweight championship in the UFC.
1963: George Plimpton in Detroit Lions camp
Plimpton, 36 at the time, was a writer who helped pioneer immersive sports journalism. In other words, he figured that a good way to report on something was to participate in it. So he started pitching NFL teams on a training camp invite as a “last-string quarterback” to give him material for a book. Plimpton found a taker in the Lions, who hadn’t been to the playoffs in five seasons and wouldn’t go back for another eight.
The book was called “Paper Lion,” in which Plimpton demonstrated the wide gap between amateur and professional athletes. Coaches and team executives were aware of the bit, but Plimpton asked them not to tell players because, he wrote, “I’d like to be thought of as just another rookie.”
Wearing No. 0, Plimpton got a handful of snaps in an intrasquad scrimmage — the offense moved backward on each play — and had hoped to play in a preseason game before commissioner Pete Rozelle barred it, according to later reports. But the experience was rich enough to spawn a book that led to a movie starring actor Alan Alda, who received a Golden Globe Award nomination for his performance. The Lions went on to 5-8-1 record, missing the playoffs, but their issues went far deeper than a pretend backup quarterback.
Five decades later, Plimpton’s book spawned a similar project. Author Stefan Fatsis convinced the Denver Broncos to let him kick in their 2008 camp and later published a book titled, “A Few Seconds of Panic.”
NFL teams had been pursuing track stars for decades by the time Nehemiah entered the scene. But Nehemiah, who had set a world record in 110-meter hurdles the year before, generated a frenzy among NFL squads when he expressed a desire to play in the NFL. Washington figured it had the inside track on signing him, given Nehemiah’s time as a University of Maryland student, but the 49ers swooped in with the first contract guarantees in franchise history to secure him as a training camp receiver.
In reality, those guarantees ensured that Nehemiah would make the team — even though it had been five years since he played football. Given his speed, it made sense to put him on the field if for no other reason than to stretch defenses.
Like his track/football predecessors, he struggled with drops. For a time, his name was synonymous with the idea that elite speed can’t paper over inexperience with the game itself. But the real turning point in his career, he later told Sports Illustrated, came when he was knocked unconscious by a hit in 1983.
In 40 games over three seasons, Nehemiah caught 43 passes for 357 yards and four touchdowns.
1969: Jimmy “Oops” Hines in Miami Dolphins camp
A gold medalist at the 1968 Olympics, Hines was the first man to break 10 seconds in the 100-meter dash. That was more than intriguing for NFL teams, who had also pursued fellow 1968 star Tommie Smith and would later do the same for John Carlos. The Dolphins, who were in their third year of existence and had a combined 7-21 record in their previous two seasons, drafted Hines in 1968. Based on his 100 time, Hines qualified as the fastest player in the history of the NFL at that point.
But he had never played football before, and let’s just say Hines earned his nickname during training camp. After assigning him the No. 99, the Dolphins found out that he couldn’t catch the ball with any consistency. They didn’t give up on him, however. After all, you can teach people to catch, but you can’t teach speed. Or so they thought.
Hines spent the 1968 season on a taxi squad. He made it onto the field for nine games in 1969 for the Dolphins and one for the Chiefs in 1970. He finished his NFL career with two receptions for 23 yards, one 7-yard carry and a 22-yard kickoff return.
1965: “Bullet” Bob Hayes in Dallas Cowboys camp
Some of these unorthodox experiments have actually worked. To be fair, Hayes had more football experience than most of the other track stars that NFL teams later tried to convert. He had been recruited to play football at Florida A&M, where he also developed into an Olympic-level sprinter.
The Cowboys and Denver Broncos both used future draft picks to secure his rights in 1964, after which he went to the Olympics and won two gold medals. He joined the Cowboys in the summer of 1965. No one knew what to expect, but his impact was immediate: Hayes’ speed was the talk of camp.
“It was like he was melting, he was so fast,” fellow receiver Frank Clarke reportedly said.
He could catch, too. Defenders couldn’t stay with him, and they lost ground on even the shortest routes. Hayes led the league in touchdown receptions in both 1965 and 1966. His speed changed the game, requiring defensive coaches to sharpen zone defenses and sparking an intense scouting search for speed from any source.
Hayes was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, having finished his career with a telling average of 20 yards per reception.
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