A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:

1. Up, up and away? What the defense did last season was historic. It slashed its points per game by 11.0 from the previous season, the second-largest turnaround in the NFL in the past 45 years. In terms of rankings, it went from 32nd to fourth.

Now the Jets want to climb three more spots.

“The goal is to be the No. 1 defense in the NFL,” defensive tackle Quinnen Williams said on the first day of training camp.

“Why not?” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “We put in the work. So why not go for the best? Why not try to be the best?”

With nine returning starters out of 12 spots (counting nickelback Michael Carter II), and with two first-team All-Pros in Williams and cornerback Sauce Gardner, the Jets certainly have the talent and continuity to build on last season’s dramatic turnaround. It’s the same coaching staff and same system too.

But it won’t be easy. History tells us that giant leaps are followed by a step back — a few steps, in some cases.

Look at the five biggest one-year turnarounds since 1978 (based on points per game), per Elias Sports Bureau. The 2001 St. Louis Rams, the 2002 Indianapolis Colts, the 1986 Atlanta Falcons and the 1981 New York Giants all responded by giving up more points the following season.

In Atlanta’s case, it was a major regression — an increase of 9.8 PPG. For the Giants, it was just a hiccup (1.6 increase) in a strike-shortened ’82 season. It was the early stage of the Bill Parcells-Lawrence Taylor era, the beginning of defensive dominance.

The 2022 Jets are proud members of that top-five list. Soon we will find out if they can be a trend-buster.

2. Q’d up: It’s hugely important to have a happy and healthy Quinnen Williams in camp. The main reason for his huge performance last season, according to the coaches, was his full participation in camp. In 2021, he missed time due to offseason foot surgery and it affected him. Some players need the repetition and rhythm of camp to sharpen their game; Williams is one of those players.

The Jets made him happy with a four-year, $96 million contract extension, including the largest guarantee ($66 million) in franchise history. Williams vowed to continue his ascent, saying he took his offseason training “to a whole new level” and claiming, “I haven’t even scratched the surface on what I can do.”

Williams’ impact on the defense is undeniable, especially as a pass-rusher. When he was on the field, the opponents’ Total QBR dropped by 10 points and the Jets’ sack rate nearly tripled, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He also changed the way they played defense. Counting on his inside pressure, the Jets had the lowest blitz rate in the league.

3. Attracting an audience: Something unusual happened during Williams’ first news conference after signing the big contract. Many non-football staffers — from the business and marketing departments — left their desks and walked outside to the second-floor patio at the team’s facility to watch him. A very cool moment. It illustrated how well Williams is regarded around the building.

4. Farewell, Mims: Denzel Mims arrived with so much promise — a 2020 second-round pick from Baylor with the size (6-foot-3) and speed (4.38 seconds in the 40) that make scouts go gaga. It never worked out.

After three disappointing seasons, Mims’ trade request finally was granted, as he was sent to the Detroit Lions for a pittance. The teams swapped 2025 late-round picks, with the Jets acquiring a sixth-rounder and giving up a seventh-rounder. Both picks are conditional on his making the Detroit roster.

Mims’ time with the Jets was … well, odd. Anybody remember the food poisoning incident?

He left with this ignominious distinction: the most receptions (42) by any wide receiver in Jets history without a touchdown.

“Sometimes a change of scenery is always good, it’s good for everybody,” coach Robert Saleh said — quite a telling statement.

Mims was drafted when Adam Gase was the coach and never clicked with Saleh’s staff. His route running, a question when he came out of Baylor, never satisfied the coaches. As a result, he was buried on the depth chart, getting chances only when others were injured.

In a span of four months, the Jets dealt away two disgruntled wideouts who made trade requests — Mims and Elijah Moore. They’re hoping for better chemistry in the receiver room.

5. Terrible 2s: Maybe the Jets should put a moratorium on drafting pass-catchers in the second round. Consider some of their selections: Elijah Moore, Devin Smith, Jace Amaro (tight end) and Stephen Hill. None of them lasted more than two years with the Jets. You have to go back … back … back (Chris Berman voice) to Wesley Walker in 1977 to find a second-round receiver who worked out.

6. The Rodgers factor: Jets fans lucky enough to score training-camp tickets can watch practice in style. The team got rid of the uncovered metal benches and installed stadium seating with a roof that protects spectators from the unforgiving sun. The Jets held their first open practice Saturday.

7. Breakout players? Players know players. That’s why it was interesting to hear Mosley and Williams single out linebacker Jamien Sherwood and defensive end Jermaine Johnson, respectively, as breakout candidates.

Sherwood is getting first dibs on the outside linebacker position vacated by Kwon Alexander (free agent). He’s a former college safety who made the transition to linebacker in 2021. Johnson was a 2022 first-round pick who was limited to only 312 snaps because of a deep rotation on the defensive line.

“Jermaine looks awesome,” Saleh said. “He’s packed on some really good weight. He looks strong, he looks fast, he looks really powerful, so I’m really excited about him going forward.”

8. Backfield update: The Jets remain optimistic about Breece Hall‘s chances of being ready for Week 1, with Saleh saying Hall hit 23 mph on the GPS while running on the side. For now, he’s on the physically unable to perform list as he continues his ACL rehab, but he can be activated at any point.

Which brings us to free agent Dalvin Cook. Publicly, the Jets continue to show interest. Saleh said, “You never want to say no to a great player,” but he made that comment Thursday — before new revelations about an alleged domestic violence incident. The Jets always say they put an emphasis on character in player acquisitions. How this impacts their thinking is unclear. Cook does have interest in the Jets, a source close to the situation said.

The Jets like their running back group, which includes Michael Carter, Zonovan Knight and rookie Israel Abanikanda.

9. Smart move: In his first offseason meeting in 2019, new Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur tried a team-building exercise. He asked all the players to switch seats. Allen Lazard, a first-year wide receiver, noticed Aaron Rodgers sitting by himself.

“Me being me, if I want to get close to anyone, it probably should be this guy,” Lazard recalled. “That probably started our relationship right there.”

It has worked out nicely. Lazard signed the biggest wide receiver contract of the 2023 offseason — $22 million guaranteed — and now he’s reunited with his quarterback.

10. The last word: “There was probably an eight-hour period of time where I was like, ‘What the f—, bro?’ He was like, ‘It’s going to happen.'” — Lazard recalling a moment of apprehension during the prolonged Rodgers trade talks.


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