Jets’ AFC East opportunity is there to finally be seized

It is only June, minicamps are ending and a long, hot summer awaits the Jets. Who can hear opportunity knocking: the AFC East is truly up for grabs this season. 

“The division’s gonna be good, obviously,” D.J. Reed was saying on Wednesday. “Miami’s gonna be good, obviously Buffalo lost some key pieces but they’re still gonna be good, they got Josh Allen over there. 

“But I definitely feel like the division is winnable. I feel like we have a great team to win a lot of games here.” 

Jets cornerback D.J. Reed speaks to the media after practice. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

No mention, for the first time in forever, of the Patriots, coached by Jerod Mayo and not Bill Belichick. The Dolphins are a warm-weather offensive team with speed that has yet to prove it can beat the Big Boys. Allen keeps the Bills — AFC champs four consecutive years — contenders but rookie Keon Coleman will be tasked with replacing Stefon Diggs and the secondary has lost key veterans. 

Once Aaron Rodgers returns from Mars, or wherever he is, he owes the Jets and their fans their first division title since 2002. 

His unexcused absence from mandatory minicamps aside, Woody Johnson and Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh put all their green-and-white eggs in Rodgers’ basket, and he is the one entrusted with making sure they do not become scrambled, the way the last 13 seasons without a playoff berth have left the yolk on the Jets. 

History keeps reminding us that nothing is ever etched in stone with the Jets, home of Murphy’s Law, where anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Not even Rodgers — four snaps, one torn Achilles — was immune in his first Jets experience. 

Hope springs eternal every June for 32 franchises, and Reed craves what Broadway Joe Namath gave Jets fans on Jan. 12, 1969. What every Jets GM, coach and player had been chasing ever since. 

Jets’ Aaron Rodgers during an OTA practice. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

“I really want to help us win the championship here,” Reed said. “That’s why I train every day, why I make all these sacrifices away from my family. 

“I really want to hold that Lombardi up for the Jets. 

“That’s something that I really visualize and dream about.” 

Reed will be entering his third season with the Jets following two seasons in San Francisco and two in Seattle. 

“Winning in New York is different,” he said. 

As is losing in New York. Reed is 14-20 as a Jet. 

“I remember my first year here, I think we started off like 5-2 or something like that, and just the environment, the energy in New York … just winning in New York is different to be honest with you from all the other places I’ve been in just with the media, just with the fans. … Man, that will mean everything just to win here.” 

The Jets universe revolves around the 40-year-old future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback remembering how to be Aaron Rodgers and staying upright at least long enough for backup Tyrod Taylor to hold the fort. 

“What he does, it can’t be duplicated,” Reed said. “He literally makes everybody around him better, it’s something I really never seen before. When A.R.’s at quarterback, even the receivers feel a little bit better, the tight ends feel a little bit better, the running back … everybody just ups their game when he’s here. The confidence he has, but also the talent. He’s very talented, very smart, very calculated. It’s the reason why he’s going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.” 

Jets coach Robert Saleh talks with owner Woody Johnson at minicamp. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

IF Rodgers can stay healthy (and flush the B.S. out of the locker room) and perform the way no rusty 40-year-old quarterback off a torn Achilles has. … IF injury-plagued 33-year-old LT Tyron Smith can stay healthy. … IF injury-plagued WR Mike Williams can stay healthy to open things up for Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall. … IF injury-plagued RG Alijah Vera-Tucker can stay healthy. … IF Haason Reddick’s contract situation becomes a distraction. Plenty of IFs.

But IF Rodgers, above all else, can stay healthy, with that defense and that kicking game, there should be no excuses anymore for hot-seat twins Douglas and Saleh. 

Asked about Rodgers’ absence, Reed said: “Saleh said that A.R. had something important that he had to attend, and that’s our quarterback. If it’s important to him it’s important to us. It’s really not a big deal.” 

Jets players work out in front of spectators during minicamp. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Perhaps Rodgers has everyone in the building hypnotized. Beggars, of course, can’t be choosers. The Jets made the bed. Ending the 55-year Super Bowl drought would be a bigger deal, of course. That’s a bridge too far for now. 

End the 13-year playoff drought. 

End the 21-year division championship drought. 

If not now, when?

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