Adam Gase can't wait to see how this Jets puzzle all fits together. He's never coached a young quarterback quite like Sam Darnold, nor has he had a team with so many weapons seemingly in place.
The finished product won't be on display, of course, until the regular season opens, but he'll get a taste of everything over the next three weeks in the preseason, which opens for the Jets against the Giants on Thursday night. Here's a look at what he and everyone else will be watching for, as the Jets continue to get ready for what they hope will be a playoff run:
1.Is Le'Veon Bell still Le'Veon Bell, and will he be his old self by Opening Day?
That's one of the biggest mysteries of Jets camp. Bell says he's rested and in phenomenal shape and ready to go, and the Jets believe him. But the reality is he hasn't played in a game in 19 months.
The Jets have been understandably cautious with him in camp. They're likely to approach the preseason the same way. He won't play on Thursday night, and he's not likely to play much in the preseason at all. "It's a fine line with Le'Veon," Gase said. "He hasn't played in a year. At the same time, when's the right time? Is it this game? Is it the next one? Is it the next one? Do we just not play him this preseason? Do we go through the whole time and just give him reps? All those questions are what we keep talking about."
The last thing the Jets want to do is get Bell hurt before things get started. But they do need to know if he's the same, old Bell by the first game. They are counting on him being the same, two-way, dynamic weapon he's always been. Right now, though, there's just no way to know if he still is.
2.Can Sam Darnold really be an elite quarterback this soon?
Gase is in love, and he's made that clear over and over and over again. He sees Darnold as the young quarterback he's always wanted, but has never had. He views him as a perfect blank slate to help him run the most creative offense he's ever imagined. He thinks Darnold has already made a huge leap from last season, and that there's nothing he can't do.
So yeah, expectations are high. But right now it's based off film study and practice. Even Gase is anxious to see how all that promise plays out in games. Darnold likely won't get a ton of preseason action, especially on Thursday. But no one has to look too far in his past to see how much he's grown. His poise, confidence and ability to make quick decisions should all be on display the moment he steps on the field.
3.Can Gregg Williams get the most out of the underachieving Jets defense, and especially Leonard Williams?
There are a few new pieces to a defense that has been a shell of what it's supposed to have been in recent years. Linebacker C.J. Mosely and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams are pretty big additions. But the biggest is new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has brought an undeniable edge to practice this summer.
The hope is he can bring an edge and aggressiveness to games.
Obviously he's not going to unveil a lot in the preseason, but there might be flashes of how aggressive Williams plans to be. Maybe more importantly, once defensive lineman Leonard Williams returns, the world should get a quick look at what Gregg Williams plans to do with him. Leonard Williams (hip) won't play on Thursday, but once he gets going the hope is that the new scheme and new pieces will free him up.
The Jets really think that Leonard Williams will benefit from the new-look defense more than anyone else, and that he can finally become the pass rushing force everyone expects him to be.
4.How big a liability will the Jets' secondary be?
Cornerback Trumaine Johnson doesn't think it will be one. Then again, he wasn't exactly a huge benefit last year. And the Jets didn't exactly build a strong group around him. In fact, they may have gotten weaker now that a nerve injury to his surgically repaired shoulder means the return of safety Marcus Maye could still be weeks away.
The Jets do like the addition of veteran cornerback Brian Poole, but other than that this is the biggest question mark on the team. Their hope is that the front seven can become so dominant under Gregg Williams' direction that having safety Jamal Adams on the backend is more than enough. Given how much of a passing league this has become, though, that seems like a bit of a stretch.
Can cornerback Daryl Roberts and safety Rontez Miles get their jobs done? They'll likely be given a good long look this summer, though those jobs are clearly up for grabs.
5.Did the Jets do enough to fix their offensive line?
They certainly have tried, first with the acquisition of guard Kelechi Osemele, then with luring center Ryan Kalil out of retirement, and finally with the trade for guard Alex Lewis. Kalil still has to get on the practice field, but the addition of him and Osemele definitely improves a group that otherwise looks a lot like it did last year.
The 34-year-old Kalil is such a key to this rebuilding effort, though, that it will be hard to tell how it's working for another few weeks. He won't play on Thursday night, but the Jets hope to get him a little action in the second preseason game and then some significant time in the third. The more time he can be on the field with his linemates, the better off the line will be.
And the Jets do think it can be pretty good.