Heading into Jets' training camp

Chad Pennington must be under center

With just under two weeks left before the Jets take the field for training camp, there are a couple of key questions that need answers for the squad to compete for a playoff spot and a shot at the Super Bowl.

Three goals the Jets have heading into training camp:

Get Chad Pennington's arm in shape:

February shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff put Pennington on ice for over four months. He only started light tossing in June and will start training camp very slowly. It's likely the Jets will limit Pennington to just one practice a day at the start of camp and maybe throughout the entire camp, giving backup Jay Fiedler a lot more work with the first team.

Pennington, however, will need as much time as possible under center while the Jets learn a new offense under new coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. Despite his high intellect and feel for the game, Pennington can only learn so much with a playbook, he's going to need to be on the field.

Building strength in the shoulder is a priority and Pennington will need it as Heimerdinger's offense will call for downfield passing more often and plenty of deep throws, which could be an issue early in the season.

Pennington has proven to be a quick healer in the past, coming back early two years ago after breaking his left wrist in the preseason and missing just three games with the shoulder injury last season when most predicted he'd be out a month.

"Once the season starts up, when Chad gets back, I know he's the guy," said backup Jay Fiedler. "I'm going to help him out, push him as hard as I can, you know, try and make him the best quarterback he can be as well as doing, you know, what I can to make myself the best quarterback."

Figure out right tackle:

Kareem McKenzie held down the fort last year and was an excellent run-blocker. The Jets figured they would lose him to free agency - he signed with the Giants – and go into the situation with the same feeling they did when Ryan Young left a few years back.

Jones, in just his second year, has very little experience as a tackle and even less playing on the right side. The former tight end barely even practiced there last season. At 6-foot-4 and 297 pounds, Jones is also undersized for a right tackle.

The Jets are convinced Jones can make the same successful transition McKenzie made in 2002, when he was installed as the starter in just his second season and took to the job quickly.

The move is certainly risky, using such an untested player when the Jets will be relying on the running game even more early in the season as Pennington's shoulder becomes adjusted to playing conditions. The right side is where Curtis Martin gained many of his 1,697 yards last season and McKenzie's blocking was a major part of that.

Learn the new offense:

Mike Heimerdinger is brining in a wide-open offense that will utilize more players, a far cry from the conservative offense of Paul Hackett that virtually ignored certain players.

Rarely using the tight end last season - starter Anthony Becht had just 13 catches for 100 yards - Heimerdinger will have new starter Doug Jolley catching 40-50 balls this year.

Backup running back LaMont Jordan averaged just six carries a game but new backup Derrick Blaylock should expect twice that. The Jets will also get their third and fourth receivers involved more, particularly veteran Wayne Chrebet.

One player who remains unhappy about his contract and possible role with the team is Jerald Sowell, who held out of an offseason minicamp for a day. While Sowell has been an excellent option as a receiver out of the backfield and a key blocker in the Jets' successful running attack, his role will be reduced in the offense. Instead of utilizing the fullback, the Jets will throw more to the tight end and use more three and four-receiver sets.

Offense was clearly the Jets biggest problem the past few seasons but the unit has to step up and match the efforts of the defense, which carried the team at times. But learning a new offense takes time, and with Pennington coming off shoulder surgery, the process could take a bit longer.

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