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New York Jets among favorites -- to win top draft pick

By Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange
New York Jets among favorites -- to win top draft pick
Todd Bowles and his New York Jets will be looking to prove the many doubters wrong. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles is notorious as a man of few words, but he didn't need to say much to convey his message to players when OTAs ended June 15.

"We got a lot of work done, but we have a lot of work to do when we get back," Bowles said.

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Boy, do they ever.

The Jets will convene for training camp on July 28 with a roster almost universally regarded as one of the three worst in the league. For the first time under owner Woody Johnson, the Jets - with no quarterback, a barren wide receiver corps and a rebuilt offensive line and secondary - begin a season in full-on rebuilding mode and with no delusions of grandeur about competing for the franchise's first championship in 49 seasons.

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Instead, the Jets are widely expected to vie, along with the tanking San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns, for the top pick in the 2018 draft, when several franchise-caliber quarterbacks are expected to be available in the first round.

Of course, Bowles can't say that, and nor can he coach the season with 2018 in mind - especially when he's on the hot seat following a 5-11 campaign in which he seemed to lose control of the locker room. Instead, he'll attempt to do the impossible: Turn a ragtag bunch into a cohesive unit that has every right to declare it's going to try and shock the world.

"My expectations are high and the team's expectations are high and that's really all that counts," Bowles said.

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"I'm trying to get to the playoffs and win a Super Bowl. It's no different than any other year."

TOP THREE TRAINING CAMP GOALS

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--Find a quarterback. Whomever wins the quarterback competition will be an underwhelming choice, but the identity of the victor will be telling. If it's Josh McCown, it means the Jets will want to maintain a veneer of competitiveness in the early going, as well as that Christian Hackenberg remains incapable of starting for an NFL team. A victory by Hackenberg won't mean he's suddenly competent - that sub-50 percent completion percentage in the PRESEASON last year is hard to forget - but will indicate the Jets see a longer-term upside in taking their beatings and getting a higher 2018 draft pick than by pretending there's a chance they can compete this season.

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--Build positive chemistry. The Jets went 5-11 last year because most of their older good players got old and not so good in a hurry. But a toxic locker room culture and the perpetual distraction created by Ryan Fitzpatrick's bizarre offseason-long holdout didn't help. Now, with the locker room free of older underachievers as well as the divisive presence of Brandon Marshall, head coach Todd Bowles can go about building a "why not us?" culture with the young and overlooked players that will comprise the 2017 squad.

--Develop the offensive line: If the Jets are going to be better than awful this year, they'll need a mostly new offensive line to protect the quarterback, whomever he is, and open some holes for running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. The quintet of C Wesley Johnson, RG Brian Winters, LG James Carpenter, LT Kelvin Beachum and RT Ben Ijalana has never played a single down together, so expect to see the first-team line plenty during exhibition play.

PROJECTED CAMP DEPTH CHART

QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Josh McCown. Backups - Christian Hackenberg,Bryce Petty.

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RUNNING BACKS: Starter - Matt Forte. Backups - Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire, Brandon Wilds, Jordan Todman, Romar Morris, FB Julian Howsare, FB Anthony Firkser.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Backups -Jordan Leggett, Eric Tomlinson, Brian Parker, Jason Vander Laan.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, ArDarius Stewart. Backups - Marquess Wilson, Charone Peake, Chad Hansen, Myles White, Jalin Marshall, Devin Street, Frankie Hammond, Deshon Foxx, Chris Harper, Gabe Marks, KD Cannon.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - C Wesley Johnson, RG Brian Winters, LG James Carpenter, LT Kelvin Beachum, RT Ben Ijalana. Backups - G/C Dakota Dozier, T Brandon Shell, T Brent Qvale, G Craig Watts, OL Alex Balducci, OL Chris Bordelon, OL Ben Braden, OL Jonotthan Harrison, T Jeff Adams, T Javarius Leamon.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- DE Muhammad Wilkerson, NT Steve McLendon, DE Sheldon Richardson, DE Leonard Williams. Backups - NT Deon Simon, DL Lawrence Thomas, Anthony Johnson, DL Mike Pennel, DL Brandin Bryant, DL Patrick Gamble, DL Claude Peron.

LINEBACKERS: Starters - ILB Demario Davis, ILB Darren Lee, OLB Lorenzo Mauldin, OLB Jordan Jenkins. Backups - LB Freddie Bishop, LB Bruce Carter, LB Corey Lemonier, LB Josh Martin, LB Julian Stanford, LB Frank Beltre, LB Dylan Donahue, LB Connor Harris, LB Spencer Paysinger.

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DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - CB Morris Claiborne, CB Buster Skrine, FS Marcus Maye, SS Jamal Adams. Backups - CB Marcus Williams, CB Juston Burris, CB Dexter McDougle, CB Darryl Roberts, CB Jeremy Clark, CB Xavier Coleman, CB Derrick Jones, CB Bryson Keeton, DB Corey White, S Rontez Miles, S Doug Middleton, S Ronald Martin, S Shamarko Thomas.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Chandler Catanzaro, K Ross Martin, P Lachlan Edwards, KR/PR ArDarius Stewart, KR/PR Jalin Marshall, LS Tanner Purdum.

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