Don't think for a second that Todd Bowles hasn't noticed what's been going on up in New England this offseason. The Super Bowl champs have had one of the finest offseasons in the NFL. The rich have gotten much richer, and the gap between them and the Jets is as wide as it's ever been.
But at this point Bowles can't -- and doesn't -- see the Patriots as competition. Yes, if the Jets are ever going to be serious contenders again they'll have to dethrone the monsters of the AFC East. They just have bigger problems at the moment -- getting their own franchise turned around.
"We have to take care of us to make sure we get better as a team," Bowles said on Tuesday morning during the AFC Coaches Breakfast at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. "We'll deal with that (bridge) when we cross it. It's already tough anyway. But I don't worry about the Patriots in March. I'm worried about my guys, not their guys."
That's good, because if he thought the Patriots were worrisome before, they may be more trouble than ever now. Fresh off the fifth championship of their dynasty years -- and their second in the last three seasons -- they signed the best cornerback on the free-agent market (Stephon Gilmore), traded for a dazzling young receiver in Brandin Cooks, traded for a strong tight end (Dwayne Allen) to replace the departing Martellus Bennett, and they re-signed linebacker Dont'a Hightower after the Jets tried to lure him away.
That all had to catch Bowles' attention at least, right?
"They won the Super Bowl so that's what really catches your attention," Bowles said. "They didn't need to make any moves, so I don't worry about it too much."
Not yet, anyway. First the Jets have to get themselves back on track and figure out who their franchise quarterback is going to be. Once they get back to respectability then they can think about contending, and then maybe they can think about really fighting the Patriots for control of the AFC East.
That could take a while, though, which is why the worst news out of New England this week was the revelation by Patriots owner Robert Kraft during the NFL owners meetings. He said Tom Brady has told him he intends to play another "6-7 more years."
Mo's bad season was injury-induced
Wilkerson, like so many of his teammates, was a disappointment last season, with just 4 ½ sacks and having little impact. Then came a recent report that he is startlingly out of shape this offseason. Bowles seemed unconcerned by that report, though he admitted he hasn't seen his star recently.
He also believes Wilkerson's bad season had everything to do with the difficult recovery he endured after breaking his leg late in the 2015 season, which led to an ankle injury last season.
"I'm sure he played hurt most of the year," Bowles said. "Usually those things take about a year and a half to come back from. He came back early. He gutted it out. Showed the kind of warrior he is. Hopefully he's gotten better and he can go back to being himself."
Marshall may have blown his big chance
Whatever chance Jalin Marshall had of cracking the Jets' lineup this season may be gone -- at least in the short-term.
Bowles made that pretty clear this week when he talked about the 21-year-old receiver who will miss the first four games of the season due to suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. He will be able to practice with the Jets this spring and summer. But at some point, Bowles said, the Jets have to work with the players who will be there in September.
And if that costs Marshall his job … oh well.
"He'll get the reps early on, but obviously as a coach you understand that he's not going to be around the first four games and those guys are going to get more of the reps," Bowles said. "And you open a door and give a guy a chance to play, if he takes his spot he takes his spot."
Devin Smith? Remember him?
The field was already crowded among the Jets' young receivers - a promising group that includes Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, Charone Peake and Marshall. And oh, there's one more guy, too. Remember Devin Smith, the Jets' second-round pick in the first Mike Maccagnan draft? After missing most of last season while rehabbing a torn ACL, he could be a factor this season.
"I'm hoping he comes in healthy and stays healthy, No. 1," Bowles said. "And because we have a new offensive coordinator, everybody's starting from scratch. Everybody's on Square 1 and has to prove themselves. We'll see who rises to the top. I expect Devin to be in that mix."
No timetable for Johnson & Johnson transition
Jets owner Woody Johnson was at the NFL Owners meetings with his brother, Christopher Wold Johnson, who will eventually be taking over the day-to-day operations of the Jets. Woody Johnson, of course, has been tapped by President Donald Trump as the next Ambassador to the United Kingdom -- though he's still awaiting Congress to get around to confirming him.
Both Johnsons declined interview requests, but a source said there is no apparent timetable for the confirmation process or for the transition at the top of the Jets' power structure. Everyone is downplaying the significance, though. There is confidence that not much will change when Christopher Wold Johnson takes over. He will likely get a lot of assistance in his new role from team president Neil Glat.