The missing piece for the Jets finally seems to be in place, now that Sam Darnold has arrived as the young, franchise quarterback they've been dreaming of for decades. And that's what this summer is all about for the Jets: The growth of Darnold, and how quickly he'll really arrive.
That process begins on Thursday, when the full team is due to report to camp -- assuming Darnold has signed his rookie contract by then. Everything else around the Jets is window dressing, part of the slow, steady rebuilding effort with an eye on maybe contending next season.
Darnold, though, is the key.
So how will he do, and will the rest of camp go for the Jets? Here are five bold predictions for what to expect between now and Opening Day...
1. Sam Darnold will do just enough to win the Opening Day starting job
The Jets will never publicly say it, but that's their hope. For now, Josh McCown will run the first team and Teddy Bridgewater will run the second, but you can expect Darnold's reps will not be limited to the third team. He will see some time with the starters, possibly even in preseason games.
Now, there's no doubt that McCown probably gives the Jets the best chance to win right away. But he's 39 and just a placeholder now until Darnold is ready. If he shows any signs of being ready, the Jets will be inclined to give him his shot, to get what likely will be some rookie struggles out of the way early.
The sooner he's thrown into the fire, the sooner what they hope will be a long and successful Darnold Era can begin.
2. Trumaine Johnson may not be Darrelle Revis, but he'll start to turn the Jets' secondary into one of the best in the league
The Jets' secondary was good last season, and they have a potentially great base at safety with Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. The big-money addition of Johnson, though, is a huge improvement at cornerback. He's no Revis, but he's 28 and one of the best corners in the league. His presence alone will help take the pressure off the likes of Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine on the other side.
And that will become increasingly evident as the summer goes along. In the heyday of Revis, opposing passing games were essentially operating on half a field against the Jets. It won't quite be that way with Johnson, but quarterbacks are likely to have a much smaller window to find open receivers this year.
3. The (brief) days of the Jets featuring the tight end in their passing attack will basically be over
Last year with the Jets, Austin Seferian-Jenkins had 50 catches for 357 yards as then-offensive coordinator John Morton tried to reintroduce the tight end as a weapon in the Jets' attack. It always felt like ASJ was underused.
Those might be remembered as the glory days for recent Jets tight ends, though.
The Jets have a lot of hope for rookie Chris Herndon (fourth-round) and last year's fifth-rounder, Jordan Leggett, whose rookie season was undone by injuries. But 50 catches seems like a stretch for either one, or anyone else on the tight end roster. This looks like a position that will remain uncertain and somewhat patchwork all season long.
4. By Opening Day no one will be worried about the Jets' receivers anymore
The Jets actually think they have a couple of good young receivers out of their draft class from last year -- ArDarius Stewart (who reportedly is facing a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs) and Chad Hansen. But even in front of them, this receiving corps has the potential to be better than average.
First, Quincy Enunwa is back. And while he won't remind anyone of Odell Beckham Jr., he did have 58 catches for 857 yards as a third receiver in 2016 before he injured his neck last summer. The Jets have real high hopes for Robby Anderson, who started to break out last season (63-941-7). And veteran Jermaine Kearse (65-810-5) is as reliable as they come.
That's not a bad start before they get to the two kids, or the flier they took on veteran Terrelle Pryor. There may not be a Pro Bowler there, but there's enough there to keep the offense moving and to help Darnold grow.
5. The Jets' lack of a pass rush (and an edge rusher) will loom over them all summer long
Leonard Williams feels primed for a breakout season, but the odds sure seem stacked against him. That's not a reflection of his talent. It's a reflection of the lack of obvious talent around him. Gone are Sheldon Richardson and Mo Wilkerson (who wasn't much of a recent help anyway). Now it's Williams and … what, exactly?
One of the Jets' biggest offseason needs sure seemed to be an edge rusher, but they never filled that role. They seem to hope OLB Jordan Jenkins can fill it, but he has 5 ½ sacks in two seasons. They like their third-round pick, Nathan Shepherd, but he's a rookie who has to make the jump from tiny Fort Hays State.
So mostly, Williams will be on an island, dealing with constant double-teams. And unless a surprise candidate emerges, the Jets will spend the summer wondering why they didn't fix this in the offseason when they had the money and the chance.