Seven months removed from their crushing Week 17 loss to Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills, the New York Jets return to work on Wednesday for the start of training camp. They're looking forward, yet they can't forget what happened on that miserable day in Orchard Park, New York, where the Jets were eliminated from the playoff race. It motivates them in an unfinished-business kind of way.
"Of course it does," safety Calvin Pryor said. "But at the same time, we can't look back at last year. It's a new team, a new season and a fresh start."
With a new set of questions:
1. Will quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ever show up? He's not expected for the start of camp, but that won't be the end of this silly stalemate. Oh, no. The Jets appear willing to let it linger into the preseason. Hello, distraction. Prediction: Cooler heads will prevail, and they'll strike a deal before the second preseason game.
2. What happens to Geno Smith? He's the nominal starter, knowing the gig will be over if Fitzpatrick walks through the door. Smith won't be happy, because he feels that he's ready to be the starter. One thing Smith doesn't have to worry about is his roster spot: He's safe, no matter what happens.
3. If the Jets jump into the quarterback market, is there a name to watch? Coach Todd Bowles indicated recently that they might sign a veteran if they move on from Fitzpatrick. The obvious name is Nick Foles, whom the Los Angeles Rams deem expendable. A dark horse could be the Houston Texans' Tom Savage, who was drafted when Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan was a Houston executive.
4. Are there any pressing injury concerns? The biggest question is wide receiver Devin Smith (knee), who likely will begin camp on the physically unable to perform list and might not be ready for the Sept. 11 opener. Other players returning from injuries include defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (leg), cornerback Darrelle Revis (wrist), tackle Ryan Clady (knee) and running backs Khiry Robinson (leg) and Zac Stacy (leg). Wilkerson probably will spend some time on the PUP list.
5. Who will be a couple of the early stars in camp? Second-year linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin will have everyone buzzing. He made nice strides in the offseason, and he's poised to claim a starting job. Also keep an eye on tight end Jace Amaro; it's now or never for the former second-round pick.
6. Who is the most important newcomer? Matt Forte has a tough assignment, replacing 1,000-yard rusher Chris Ivory, but Forte needs no introduction. He has had a terrific career. Training camp might offer some glimpses as to how the Jets plan to use him, especially in the passing game.
7. Will Bowles coach differently in his second year? He's planning to loosen up a little bit, delegating some of the policing to the players. He reportedly will pick a leadership council, comprised of veterans. (Ryan did the same thing during his tenure, calling it the "Steering Committee.") Bowles will stay with the defense, letting Chan Gailey run the show on offense. They have a new special-teams coordinator for the fourth straight year, Brant Boyer.
8. Any familiar names on the roster bubble? Second-year quarterback Bryce Petty could be in some trouble if he fails to progress in camp. Blocking tight end Kellen Davis, coming back from offseason thumb surgery, also isn't a lock to make the team.
9. How about a sleeper to watch in camp? Remember this name: Robby Anderson. He's a 6-foot-3, 190-pound undrafted wide receiver from Temple, Bowles' alma mater. He has big-time speed and could compete for a roster spot, especially if he develops as a kickoff returner. He had a hamstring issue in minicamp, but he should be good to go.
10. Will Bowles get tired of answering Fitzpatrick-related questions from the media? Yes, but such is life as a head coach in the big city. It's one of the hottest stories in the NFL.