Sam Darnold believes there’s something a lot different about the New York Jets these days.
Sure, the start of training camp breeds overwhelming optimism and positive chatter all around the NFL. But the second-year quarterback insists there’s more to it than just cliché-filled declarations.
This is real. Darnold can feel it.
“The whole building, you can kind of sense a … almost a rebirth,” Darnold said Wednesday as Jets players reported for training camp.
“I mean, I feel like the whole building is very energized, there’s a lot of energy within the building, a lot of good vibes,” he added. “For us, it’s just feeding off that and that happens naturally. We can already feel it in the building. … And I feel like as long as you have that good energy, we can win with that.”
Well, positive energy is sustained only by winning — something the Jets haven’t done very much of lately. They’re coming off a 4-12 campaign and haven’t made the playoffs since the 2010 season.
But, as far as the Jets are concerned, they aren’t far from putting that postseason slump — currently the NFL’s third-longest — behind them.
“We’re going to play meaningful games in the end of November and December,” coach Adam Gase said. “That’s what we’re going to do.”
It wasn’t the kind of bold declaration Rex Ryan used to routinely make headlines during his tenure as coach. But, Gase has allowed some of his personality to trickle out — unlike the mostly tight-lipped Todd Bowles, who was fired after failing to make the playoffs in his four seasons.
Gase was also briefly unemployed after the season, with the Dolphins moving on after one postseason appearance in three years. The 41-year-old coach has plenty to prove, and is charged with leading a franchise that has remained stuck on one Super Bowl appearance for the last 50 years.
Gase knows the dubious history since the glory days of Joe Namath and understands nothing but bringing home another Lombardi Trophy will be considered a success. He believes this group of Jets players, at the very least, is starting out with the right attitude.
“There’s some good juice in our building right now,” Gase said. “We’re ready. We’re 0-0. It’s going to be all about how we come together. We all know we’re starting at 0-0 and it’s time to go to work and see where the chips fall.”
Gase and new general manager Joe Douglas, who replaced the fired Mike Maccagnan in May, are working to put together a squad that can consistently be in the mix for a postseason spot.
It all starts with Darnold, of course, and how he develops this season after an up-and-down first year in the NFL. He said he’s in the “latter stages” of learning Gase’s playbook, and feels “much more comfortable out there” as he prepares for his second training camp.
Newcomers such as running back Le’Veon Bell, linebacker C.J. Mosley, wide receiver Jamison Crowder and offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele highlight a roster that has raised expectations within the Jets’ facility.
“A lot of wins,” Darnold said when asked what he thought the team could achieve this season.
That might seem laughable to some, especially considering New York has just 14 victories over the last three years. But that was then, and Darnold and the Jets are focused on the now.
“I think there’s enough talent on this roster to be a playoff contender,” Darnold said. “But for us, it’s one-week-at-a-time mentality. We’ve got to take it like that. If guys are looking too forward in the future, I feel like we could slip up here in the present.
“So you definitely have expectations of making it to the playoffs, and we definitely have the talent to do it. But I think the way that you get there is focusing one week, really, one day at a time.”
Safety Jamal Adams, wide receivers Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, tight end Chris Herndon and defensive linemen Leonard Williams and rookie Quinnen Williams are all expected to play major roles for the Jets this season.
It all has Gase giddy about the arrival of training camp — where the team can finally put on the pads and bring all those positive vibes out to the practice field.
“The last couple of days have seemed like forever,” Gase said. “Everybody’s just ready to get going.”
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