A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Wishful shrinking: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, acquired last September at the low point of his career, is making a concerted effort to improve himself, personally and professionally. The Jets have witnessed a remarkable transformation over the last few months, as the veteran tight end has dropped about 25 pounds. His weight ballooned to the mid-280s last season, and now he’s down to 260, according to his agent, Brian Fettner. He was listed last year at 262, but that was just a rumor.
The slimmed-down Seferian-Jenkins jumped out in the first OTA practice, demonstrating the athleticism and receiving ability that made him a second-round pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014. He was a diligent participant in the offseason conditioning program and also trained with a fitness guru in Las Vegas, where he worked out three times a day and took a hot pilates class.
Oh, the irony: Some people go to Vegas to get crazy and over indulge; Seferian-Jenkins went there to get his mind and body right.
Fettner called it “a mental and physical lifestyle change,” adding, “The light went on, and he’s really dialed in.”
The Jets pulled Seferian-Jenkins off the scrap heap last September, claiming him on waivers after he was released by the Bucs following a DUI arrest. To make matters worse, an embarrassing police video surfaced, showing him making crude remarks in the back of the cruiser. Seferian-Jenkins, who also had a DUI in college, was suspended for the first two games of the season.
After a nondescript 2016 (10 catches in seven games), Seferian-Jenkins rededicated himself for the final year of his contract. This is potentially good news for the Jets, who have rediscovered the tight end under new coordinator John Morton. They’re actually planning to throw passes to the tight end! Seferian-Jenkins could be the ideal fit in Morton’s West Coast-based system if he continues his resurgence.
2. Brandon vs. Sheldon: The latest chapter in the feud between Sheldon Richardson and Brandon Marshall will add an extra layer of intrigue to the annual preseason game between the Jets and New York Giants. Maybe Richardson will volunteer to play linebacker. That way, he can drop into coverage and set his sights on Marshall. Knowing their volatile personalities, it’ll be a chippy game. Can’t wait! (Bart Scott voice.)
3. The “Odd” Couple: Matt Forte told NJ Advance Media that Chan Gailey’s running back usage last season was “odd, to say the least.” Forte had a problem with how he was used on third down — or wasn’t used. He has a point. We’re talking about one of the most prolific pass-catching backs in recent history, and he played only 43 snaps on third down, per ESPN Stats & Information. Bilal Powell got the bulk of the work (165 snaps). Forte said he’s confident new offensive coordinator John Morton will make better use of the personnel.
4. Taking it slow: One of the injured players that bears watching is tackle Kelvin Beachum, who sat out the first week of OTA practices. From what I understand, he’s experiencing some residual soreness on his surgically repaired knee. Mind you, the surgery was performed in 2015. The knee didn’t cause him to miss any games last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he was on the injury report every week over the second half of the year. From Week 7 to Week 17, he missed only two practices, but he was limited in 18 others, according to the Jaguars’ official injury reports.
On Friday, Beachum told SiriusXM NFL Radio that he started running at full speed the previous day, so maybe he’s close to practicing. The Jets have a lot invested in Beachum — a $12 million guarantee.
5. Looking for happy returns: Think you can return punts and/or kickoffs? Send your resume and a video to special teams coordinator Brant Boyer, who is looking for help at both spots. The most experienced returner on the roster is Jalin Marshall, who struggled last season, especially with ball security. And, by the way, he faces a four-game suspension for a PED violation. Other candidates are rookie running back Elijah McGuire and wide receiver Frankie Hammond. The auditions will continue until the regular season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Jets bring in a veteran at some point.
Boyer lost a good punt returning candidate Wednesday when rookie Brisly Estime (undrafted) ruptured an Achilles’ tendon in practice, ending his season. Before the injury, Boyer said, “I think he has a chance to be a player in this league.” What an awful break.
6. Ripped CB: Cornerback Buster Skrine, who spent the early part of his offseason working as an aerobics instructor to raise money for charity, cut his body fat to under three percent — rather remarkable, I’d say. He expects that number to increase now that he’s back to football training.
7. Same old debate: Once again, there seems to be a lot of chatter among fans about whether the Jets should switch to a 4-3 base defense. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the 4-3 was more effective than the 3-4 last season in these three categories: Yards per play (5.60 to 6.18), yards per rush (4.26 to 4.48) and yards per pass attempt (7.07 to 8.07). Curiously, the 3-4 prevailed by a wide margin in Total QBR — 68.1 to 84.2.
It’s a tough call. If you play a 4-3 with Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson and Richardson on the line, you have three defensive tackles on the field, sacrificing speed. If you play a 3-4, you have to use one of the Big Three out of position (i.e. Williams at nose tackle) or take one off the field. Clearly, they have to do a better job, because none of the aforementioned stats are very good.
8. Cutting corners: Reflecting on 2016, defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers admitted he underutilized cornerbacks Darryl Roberts (275 snaps) and Juston Burris (178). We all know the reason why: The Jets refused to sit Darrelle Revis even though he performed at a substandard level. That was a tough call for the coaches, who didn’t want to embarrass the former great. They could’ve scaled back his playing time gradually, making it less obvious, but they opted to keep him on the field for every down. In fact, Revis led the team with 889 defensive snaps.
On the flip side, Rodgers’ admission shows they think highly of Roberts and Burris. That may explain why they didn’t address cornerback in the draft until the sixth round.