So it’s finally May and every football fan is starting to have that spring fever. No, not because of the sun but we can smell football right around the corner and we are itching for our team to make the big jump. If you are a Jets fan you are more than anxious about this season coming. I would say there is an atmosphere of anxiety and excitement around Jets nation.
This year is an interesting scenario, it has both the feeling of a new chapter and a win now mentality. We get to see the growth of our second year QB Sam Darnold under a new head coach Adam Gase, a revamped defense with major acquisitions like CJ Mosely, and a new look with our Gotham Green Jerseys. This article will dive deep into the Jets roster and with Mike Maccagnan’s office just cleaned out I will predict how much the Jets will improve in 2019.
The biggest acquisition for the Jets this offseason was easily Le’Veon Bell formally from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Before his year in the rap studio, Bell was a top 5 running back in the NFL. In 2017, he was second in the league in rush yards, top 5 in rushing TD’s, and was top 10 in the league in receptions. Folks, he’s a running back and was top 10 in the league in receptions. That is unheard of. He has the skills of a lethal receiver as well as a rusher. He is one of those all-around running back talents that can fit in any system and can make something out of nothing. The best part about this acquisition is the combo with him and Sam Darnold. It is well known in the NFL that a good running gain helps a young QB tremendously. Sam is coming off a good rookie season and having Bell as his support can only help him grow.
Break Through Player
My breakthrough player for this season is second-year franchise QB, Sam Darnold. Sam Darnold is a young talent with an emphasis on young. Being the youngest QB to ever start a snap in NFL history, Sam took on the challenge and I think lived up to expectation. His first few weeks were tough growing pains but as the season progressed Darnold’s play had only gotten better. There were some games where he had impressed every analyst with his performance. Against a playoff powerhouse in the Colts, Sam took the game into his hands and dominated. Going 24-30 80% completion percentage 2 TD 1 Int 280 yards. After his injury, Sam Darnold averaged 64% completion percentage throwing 6 TDs and only 1 Int in 4 games. His performance by the end of the season showed me that he was learning to be a professional and getting better every day. His biggest flaws as a rookie were his footwork and timing of his throws. When he had the correct footwork his throws were beautiful. Under the QB guru Adam Gase, I can only assume these small issues will be fixed and Sam Darnold will have a breakout season being a hidden gem that will spark the Jets success.
Potential Team Strengths
When looking at the strengths of this team you could check off on certain position groups that have gotten big boosts in talent that should increase their productivity. I believe the Jets Defense all around will see a boost. Specifically, the front 7 is the best aspect of the Jets defense this coming season. The interior D-line with Anderson, Leonard Williams, Quinnen Williams, and Steve Mclendon provide a stable rush defense and all around strength on the inside. Jets scouts are hoping that Quinnen Williams can have a break out season being paired along side these other monsters in the trenches and if you are a fan of the big fella so are you. The Jets two inside LB’s impress me. Avery Williamson had a good season with the Jets being ranked by PFF as the 18th best inside LB in the NFL and adding pro bowl LB CJ Mosley only deepens a good core of players. The X factor in the front 7 has to be newly drafted edge rusher Jachai Polite. The Jets had lacked an elite edge rusher for many years and Polite can be the catalyst that changes the success of the Dline. The Jets were 15th in sacks with 39, hopefully adding Polite can boost these numbers.
Team Question Marks
The Jets have a strong team heading into 2019 but there are still some groups on the team that give me concern. For starters, the offensive line scares me. I can agree that both Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell are both average tackles in the NFL being ranked by PFF in the 62-65 range. But the unstable section of the O-line comes from the interior specifically in the center and right guard positions. Jonotthan Harrison and Brian Winters are the Jets biggest weakness in the trenches. PFF had rated Harrison as the 3rd worst center in the NFL. Winters had a more favorable rated by PFF but had still only been posted in the average category. Even adding Kelechi Osemele creates some concerns due to his poor season last year with the Raiders. With a team that had the second most in cap space unable to add more to the O-line was a big mistake for previous GM Mike Maccagnan which could be seen as a catalyst for his firing. The Jets will rely on their O-line quite a lot this season and my fear is they will not hold up.
My second biggest question mark for this Jets team is their secondary. The Jets have a pro bowl Strong Saftey in Jamal Adams but the rest of New Jack City leaves me in distress. I really like Marcus Maye as our free safety but my concern is that he is not on the field long enough to make an impact with his injury problems. The Jets need him to stay healthy and have a breakout season. Trumaine Johnson had a tough season in 2018 and did not live up to his contract. He needs to have a bounce-back year or I believe he will be traded. Johnson being paired with Brian Poole and rookie Blessuan Austin does not give me enough confidence to claim that the Jets secondary was back to full strength, in fact, I believe this position group weakens the young defensive unit.
My bold take for the Jets this year is that the young Sam Darnold will make the pro bowl this season. If you look back in NFL history you can always see a big difference between a QB’s rookie season and their second year in the league. I believe Sam Darnold will have a great second season and establish himself as a force to be reckoned with. As I mentioned before, he has shown signs of that elite talent in games against the Colts and the Bills. After his injury, he was very efficient throwing the ball. Throwing 6 TD’s with only 1 INT in 4 games. In the final 4 games of the season, Sam Darnold had the same completion percentage as Baker Mayfield, beating out the other rookies in his class. Mayfield was on both a better team and system. Sam Darnold was surrounded by average weapons so by looking at this year’s team you can only expect that Darnold’s productivity will increase. Le’Veon Bell will be a reliable option in support situations, but receivers like Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, Jamieson Crowder, and breakout Tight End Chris Herndon will only help Sam grow into the star New York needs him to be. I expect Sam will live up to the hype and more, they found a gem when they drafted him and I can see him being added to the pro bowl roster.
I predict that the Jets will go 8-8 based on their roster strengths, holes, and schedule. The beginning and end of the Jets season are the toughest. The first 5 games of the season they have a really tough stretch, they open with the Bills at home, home against the Browns in prime time, at the Patriots, at the Eagles and home against the Cowboys. I believe that for them to make a run at the wild card they need to come away from this stretch either 3-2 or 4-1. The middle of the season is very manageable. The best part about their schedule is that even when they have away games they are never leaving the east coast. The Jets need to win the sure in games against the Raiders, the Dolphins and the Jags in order for them to have any chance for a playoff berth. Lastly, the final 3 games are tough to close out. Going to Baltimore on Thursday night football can be a challenge due to their defensive prowess. Having back to back AFC North opponents in the Ravens and Steelers will be difficult but if they can come away either winning both or at least one. The final game is against the Bills in Buffalo which I believe the Jets could win if they play them right. The Jets are that type of team that could show up the day of the game or still is in the locker room by the time the 4th quarter starts. I think in order for them to move into the right direction they must be consistent with their play. Hopefully, under the leadership of Adam Gase, the Jets could have a winning season and better yet make the playoffs.