All eyes on Darnold’s progress as Jets begin camp

NFL

NEW YORK (AP)NEW YORK JETS (7-9)

CAMP SITE: Florham Park, New Jersey

LAST YEAR: Adam Gase’s first year as Jets coach got off to rough start, headlined by quarterback Sam Darnold’s bout with mononucleosis that sidelined him for three games. Linebacker C.J. Mosley was hurt in regular-season debut and missed all but two games with core muscle injury. Offense struggled for much of season, but Darnold played better down stretch and Jets turned 1-7 start into surprisingly respectable 7-9 finish by taking advantage of weak late schedule.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: First-round pick OT Mekhi Becton, second-round pick WR Denzel Mims, S Bradley McDougald, WR Breshad Perriman, CB Pierre Desir, C Connor McGovern, RB Frank Gore, QB Joe Flacco, LB Patrick Onwuasor, CB Quincy Wilson, OT George Fant, G Greg Van Roten, OL Josh Andrews, third-round pick S Ashtyn Davis, sixth-round pick P Braden Mann.

IMPORTANT LOSSES: S Jamal Adams, WR Robby Anderson, CBs Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, LT Kelvin Beachum, LB Brandon Copeland, RB Bilal Powell, RB-WR Ty Montgomery, WR Demaryius Thomas, OT Brandon Shell, P Lachlan Edwards.

PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: Offensive line could have five new starters – Becton, Fant, McGovern, Van Roten and LG Alex Lewis – from Week 1 of last season, so lack of on-field time together could play into how quickly they jell.

CAMP NEEDS: GM Joe Douglas has preached competition and that will play out at several positions, including offensive line, cornerback, wide receiver and linebacker. Darnold going into third season and will be expected to take next step in development. Being in Gase’s system for second straight year helps, but Darnold needs to develop rapport with new WRs after departures of Anderson, Montgomery and Thomas. Status of disgruntled Adams was settled with stunning trade to Seattle after he requested deal as sides were locked in contract standoff. McDougald likely moves into Adams’ starting spot and will have to catch on quickly to Gregg Williams’ defense.

EXPECTATIONS: Gase’s future with team likely directly tied into how Darnold performs this season. Jets have difficult schedule and could take slight step back record-wise, but Gase could be safe if Darnold consistently plays like franchise QB that New York expects him to be. Despite loss of Adams, defense should be solid again under Williams especially with returns of healthy ILBs Mosley and Avery Williamson and revamped CB group.

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