What the Jets' offseason could tell us about the 2024 season

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets won't be appearing on HBO's "Hard Knocks" this summer -- been there, done that -- but they're still a reality show. After all, they have quarterback Aaron Rodgers, one of the most compelling figures in the NFL.

With a healthy Rodgers, the Jets fancy themselves as Super Bowl contenders. It's a win-now team that hasn't won in a long time -- 13 seasons out of the playoffs, the league's longest active drought. It is beyond hungry.

"I really want to hold that Lombardi [Trophy] up for the Jets," cornerback D.J. Reed said. "That's something that I really visualize and dream about."

The Jets will report to training camp on July 23 confident they made the necessary fixes in the offseason, which culminated last week with minicamp.

Here's a review of what they learned and how it might impact the 2024 season:

1. Rodgers is still Rodgers (on and off the field): Let's start with the football stuff. From all indications, he met every challenge as he continued his recovery from an Achilles tear. Rodgers wasn't limited in practice, which bodes well for training camp. The arm strength was still there, and he made every throw.

What we didn't see -- and what we won't know until the season starts -- is whether he has lost some mobility because of his injury. At 40, he doesn't move like he used to, which is to be expected. But can he quick-slide in the pocket to avoid a hard-charging pass-rusher? Can he follow through naturally on his surgically repaired left foot/heel or will he become a back-foot thrower?

It was difficult to make those evaluations in low-intensity, no-contact practices. Rodgers said the only way to recapture his feel and reflexes will be through repetitions in game-like conditions. He also said he feels physically fine and that all he needs to regain is "the confidence to do everything."

One area where Rodgers remained consistent was his uncanny ability to create drama. From the talk about a vice presidential run with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to his unexcused absence from minicamp, the polarizing quarterback provided plenty of fodder for his critics. He probably will continue to make headlines because he is who he is. But the Jets are willing to roll with it because he's the key to everything.

2. Trades can be tricky: On March 29, the Jets acquired their most accomplished edge rusher since John Abraham in 2004, picking up Haason Reddick from the Philadelphia Eagles. Reddick said he was thrilled to join the Jets: "I'm happy. I'm looking forward to it." What happened next was the business side of football; he skipped the entire offseason. The reason, sources said, is because he wants a new contract.

It's been a while since the Jets had a summer contract dispute with a player (Jamal Adams, 2020), but they have one now with Reddick, a no-show for OTAs and mandatory minicamp.

This sets the stage for a potential training camp holdout, although those don't happen as often as they once did because of the steep fine schedule. Any player under contract who doesn't report is fined a mandatory $50,000 per day, and it's non-waivable. The hold-in is an option that some players utilize.

Reddick, 29, is due to make a non-guaranteed $14.25 million in the final year of his deal and sees what pass-rushers such as Danielle Hunter are making. Hunter, who is the same age as Reddick with similar production, signed a two-year, $49 million contract with the Houston Texans this offseason.

The Jets don't seem to be fretting the possibility of a nasty holdout. Chances are, they will find common ground by sweetening his existing contract.

3. Offensive line depth matters: Burned by a spate of injuries last season, general manager Joe Douglas made the offensive line his No. 1 priority. He acquired three veteran starters -- Tyron Smith, John Simpson and Morgan Moses. Just when you thought he was done, Douglas used his first-round pick on Penn State tackle Olu Fashanu, who provides good depth. Fashanu will play left tackle behind Smith, but he could move depending on how things shake out at other positions.

On paper, the Jets are better equipped to withstand injuries, but we learned in the offseason this will be a work in progress. Moses (pectoral) and Alijah Vera-Tucker (Achilles) are expected to be cleared for training camp after rehabbing through the spring, but they could be on pitch counts. Smith, too, could have his workload managed. It means the line could be in a race against the calendar to be ready for the season opener on Sept. 9 against the San Francisco 49ers.

"I feel like we could be a dominant offense as long as everybody's on the same page," Smith said.

4. No more excuses on offense: The Jets will go into training camp with the same system and playcaller as last season, with coach Robert Saleh planning to run it back with Nathaniel Hackett as his offensive coordinator. There was some talk in the offseason about adding a senior-level coach, but it remains Hackett's gig despite a league-low 18 touchdowns last season.

The hope is that familiarity with Hackett and his playbook, combined with a healthy Rodgers, will lift the offense out of its funk. In the offseason practices, the offense made fewer mistakes than a year ago, according to Saleh. He said the operation -- everything from pass routes to blocking schemes -- was cleaner than last year.

"It's been fun to watch and go through," he said. "That is much improved."

5. Wrinkles on defense: This is an area where the Jets are consistently good -- No. 3 in yards allowed per game (292.3) -- but the coaches are always tinkering with new concepts. They used the minicamp and OTA practices to experiment. As Reed said, "The coaches definitely did some cool things in the offseason and we made it come to life."

The defense prides itself on simplicity, so don't expect any wholesome schematic changes. But with eight returning starters, all of whom have at least two years in the system, it's an opportunity to build on the foundation. In what ways?

"I can't really give away the sauce," Reed said.

And he wasn't referring to Sauce Gardner.