Rex Ryan is going to have to be part coach, part chemist this season.
The Jets coach, whose team surprisingly came within a victory of the Super Bowl last season, let three locker-room fixtures go — Thomas Jones, Alan Faneca and Leon Washington — and made some high-profile and dicey additions, including Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie, LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor.
The football world will get an up-close view of what unfolds, as the Jets are the featured team on HBO's reality series "Hard Knocks." What's more, Ryan will have a biographer following him around all season.
Making things even more interesting, the Jets — along with the Giants — open a new stadium and are looking to garner more headlines than their New York NFL counterparts. Positive headlines, that is.
In six seasons of "Hard Knocks," the participating teams have gone a combined 47-49 the fall after they were featured. The only team to win a division title in the immediate aftermath of filming was last season's Cincinnati Bengals.
New York Jets
Mark Sanchez played well at the end of the season, but he also had 5 multi-interception games. Can he step up his game? Will Antonio Cromartie help bolster the pass rush in the back end of the defense? How much does Jason Taylor have left? How big of a gamble was it to let kicker Jay Feely go?
•VETERANS: Aug. 1 in Cortland, N.Y.
New England Patriots
Will the Patriots resolve their contract squabble with linchpin guard Logan Mankins? There is a youth movement, with 24 draft picks from the last two years expected to be on the roster. Wes Welker looks as if he'll return earlier than expected from his knee injury, but will he be the same player?
•VETERANS: Wednesday in Foxborough, Mass.
Is Chad Henne ready to step up his game and join the realm of top-shelf quarterbacks? Is Ronnie Brown healthy, and how much is Ricky Williams able to shoulder at this point in his career? With Joey Porter and Taylor gone, is there a pass rusher primed to pick up the sack-count slack? How long is Bill Parcells going to stay involved?
•ROOKIES AND VETERANS: Friday in Davie, Fla.
Who is going to be the starting quarterback? Can Chan Gailey pump some life into the offense? How hard will it be to cobble together an offensive line? Lee Evans is the No. 1 receiver, but who is his counterpart now that the Bills have parted ways with Terrell Owens and Josh Reed? Will the switch from the 4-3 to 3-4 defense be a good thing?
•ROOKIES AND VETERANS: Thursday in Pittsford, N.Y.