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NFL 2019: New era, vibe as Gase, Douglas seek playoff return

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.

AP Pro Football Writer

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Adam Gase can't stand to lose at anything. The New York Jets coach despises it, even when it comes to practice.

So, squaring off every day at training camp against defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has stirred up the competitive juices for both men. And it has turned each morning into a chess match on the field between Gase's offense and Williams' defense.

With some shouting and, uh, colorful language mixed in.

"I think it's great," Gase said. "There are so many things that (Williams) does that we're learning every day. There's a little thing he does different each day that our guys have to adjust to. They have to figure out and we've got to figure it out on the fly sometimes. That's a good thing."

It's all part of a noticeably more intense and rejuvenated vibe throughout the facility as the Jets look to snap an eight-year playoff drought with some new faces in charge of a hungry franchise.

Gone are coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan, replaced by Gase and Joe Douglas - two buddies from their days in Chicago. Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson took the unconventional approach of firing Bowles right after the season and then waiting a few months to analyze things before also showing Maccagnan the door.

The move drew lots of criticism for its timing, but the team believes it ended up in a better spot. The games will ultimately determine all that, of course. For now, though, everything sure "feels" right around the Jets.

"The energy out here has been unbelievable," Douglas said, "and I think when you have a guy with the energy that a coach like Adam Gase brings, you see these guys out here competing every day, you can't help but get excited."

Second-year quarterback Sam Darnold is a big part of that, too, and he has built off a solid finish to his rookie season with a terrific camp and preseason. Darnold has been throwing with more zip and confidence, a product of getting stronger in the offseason and increasing the flexibility in his hips.

"I'm ready to roll," Darnold said. "I'm excited and I think this team's poised to do great things this year, but it really starts one week at a time, one day at a time, so that's our mindset right now."

Some things to know about the Jets heading into the season:

BELL TOLLS

All eyes will be on running back Le'Veon Bell as he plays in a game that counts for the first time in nearly 20 months.

He sat out last season in a contract dispute with Pittsburgh and signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with New York in March. The Jets kept him out of preseason games as a precaution, but the 27-year-old Bell is eager to show he's still the versatile, game-changing superstar he was before last season.

"I think I'll still be able to do what I'm able to do," he said. "I mean, I go out here and practice the same way I practiced two, three years ago, and it feels the same. It actually feels slower now, for whatever reason. I just think I understand the game better."

MORE OPTIONS

Bell's presence will obviously benefit Darnold, but the free agent signings of running back/wide receiver Ty Montgomery and wide receiver Jamison Crowder were somewhat under-the-radar moves that could have big-time impacts.

Montgomery is a versatile complement to Bell who could line up in the backfield or split out wide - keeping both on the field at the same time and posing challenges for defenses.

"In the backfield, you don't know if they're going to run a route or get a handoff," Darnold said, "so it makes it hard on a defense and it's really good for us as an offense to have those weapons."

Crowder gives Darnold and the Jets a solid slot receiver whose skills play well with the speed of Robby Anderson and toughness of Quincy Enunwa.

OTHER NEW FACES

The Jets talked center Ryan Kalil out of retirement and addressed one of their biggest question marks heading into the season. He'll anchor an offensive line that includes free agent addition Kelechi Osemele at left guard.

C.J. Mosley was New York's second-biggest signing in free agency after Bell, and gives the Jets a respected leader and prime playmaker at inside linebacker.

No. 3 overall pick Quinnen Williams has a chance to make an immediate impact on the defensive line.

CORNERBACK CONUNDRUM

The Jets appear to be heading into the season with their cornerback situation shaky, at best.

Trumaine Johnson was dealing with a hamstring injury with no clear timetable for a return, leaving New York without its top player at the position. Darryl Roberts, mostly a career backup, is the other starter along with nickel back Brian Poole, but the Jets will need someone else to step up - or opponents might go to the air early and often against them.

FOR STARTERS

The tone will be set early, with a tough stretch of games to begin the schedule.

The Jets open at home against Buffalo and then take on Baker Mayfield and Cleveland in a Monday night showdown. New York is at New England, followed by an early bye-week break and then games at Philadelphia and home against Dallas and New England.

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Updated August 22, 2019

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