The New York Jets have had a long period of incapable management and coaching. In 2019, head coach Adam Gase was appointed before choosing general manager Joe Douglas. Douglas had to make do with Mike Maccagnan’s legacy: a bad 2019 NFL Draft and an equally bad free agency; For example, Le’veon Bell was signed on a monster contract.
It all looks a little different towards the 2021 season. The Jets don’t have a roster to scare you, but the failed marriage to Sam Darnold has ended and a talented head coach has been appointed with Robert Saleh. This time apparently in consultation with general manager Joe Douglas. For Douglas, 2021 and 2022 will be crucial years. He will have to surround rookie quarterback Zach Wilson with the players that will allow him to function optimally.
In free agency, Douglas brought in the highest-paid Jets player: defensive end Carl Lawson came over from the Cincinnati Bengals. Combined with Quinnen Williams, he forms a solid inside-outside combo in the Jets defense. New Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was provided with two weapons: wide receivers Corey Davis (Titans) and Keelan Cole (Jaguars). With draft pick Elijah Moore and the already present Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims, that means good news for Wilson. For the attack on the ground, running back Tevin Coleman (49ers) was brought in. Furthermore, the defensive line was reinforced with Sheldon Rankins(Saints) and the offensive line with Morgan Moses (Football Team).
The departing players are not a cause for concern in New York. The partnership with Sam Darnold (Panthers) was ended and the departure of defensive ends Tarell Basham (Cowboys) and Henry Anderson (Patriots) was adequately accommodated. That also applies to the departure of guard Pat Elflein. He joins the Panthers, but with Alijah Vera-Tucker drafting, the Jets are well occupied at left guard.
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With the second pick in the 2021 National Football League (NFL) Draft, the Jets chose quarterback Zach Wilson (BYU) to replace Sam Darnold. After Trevor Lawrence, Wilson seems to have the greatest arm talent – he is accurate and throws quickly – and loses only limited power once he moves out of the pocket. Nevertheless, there is still sufficient risk with this choice. Short in stature, Wilson had a stellar season against questionable opposition in a college season dominated by COVID. Joe Douglas could have brought in a lot of future draft capital by giving Darnold another chance with suitable support, but he chose Wilson. A crucial choice for the future of the franchise and with it its own position.
In the first round, the Jets had another pick. With the fourteenth choice they brought in Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC). Vera-Tucker was the top guard in this draft, and his pick means a first-round offensive lineman for the Jets for the second year in a row. So good news for Wilson. Especially because they chose a second gift for him in the second round: wide receiver Elijah Moore (Ole Miss). Dynamic, fast, and in just eight games, he scored 86 receptions, 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns.
With the choice of running back Michael Carter (North Carolina) in the fourth round, the series of offensive picks from the Jets came to an end. Carter will soon compete with Tevin Coleman, La’Mical Perine and Ty Johnson for snaps. With the last six picks, New York chose only defensive players. In the fifth round they were Jamien Sherwood (LB, Auburn), Michael Carter II (DB, Duke) and Jason Pinnock (CB, Pittsburgh). In the sixth round, New York went ahead of Hamsah Nasirildeen (LB, Florida State), Brandin Echols (CB, Kentucky) and Jonathan Marshall (DT, Kentucky). The choices for the two cornerbacks are especially striking. The depth at that position is great, but the Jets roster has no obvious starters.
Starting this season, the offense will be all about new signing Zach Wilson. He must perform to save the skin of his general manager and the near future of the franchise. That means he must be empowered in terms of weapons and protection to do just that. Wilson is not a certainty and with the trading of Sam Darnold – also not a certainty, but potential – and Wilson’s meager college results and experience, Douglas is taking a big risk.
However, some good steps have been taken in support of Wilson. For example, Mike LaFleur hired an offensive coordinator who plays with the quarterback-friendly West Coast system. Wilson has experience with this from his time at BYU. In terms of targets, things are looking good for Wilson too. Corey Davis was recruited and he will have to develop into a real WR1. Denzel Mims showed his potential in 2020 but needs to take a step to be useful to Wilson. Finally, draft pick Elijah Moore could prove a huge asset and pose a threat to veteran Jamison Crowder. The tight end position remains a question mark, but Chris Herndon has potential.
The offensive line remains a focus for the Jets. The left guard position is permanently occupied by draft pick Alijah Vera-Tucker, but right guard is only provided with quality in the short term with Alex Lewis and Noah Fant. Furthermore, the offensive line lacks the certainties a rookie quarterback needs, except for left tackle Mekhi Becton. Center Conor McGovern is not a star and a rookie QB needs a stable center. There is also uncertainty in the running back position. Tevin Coleman came over from the 49ers and is familiar with the LaFleur offense. It provides stability when the younger dogs, La’Mical Perine and Michael Carter, struggle to get going.
In terms of defense, Saleh is going for a big change. He will let the Jets defense play in a 4-3 instead of a 3-4 formation next season ; similar to the Seahawks. After all, Saleh once started under Pete Carroll. DE Lawson was recruited for this formation. A highly paid force, but the pass rush was seriously below par last season. Lawson combined with Williams is a threat to any offense.
The Jets also benefit from the return of middle linebacker CJ Mosley Last season, he dropped the season as a COVID opt-out. Thanks to the reinforced D-line, he will be more able to fulfill his role as an MLB rather than taking on offensive linemen. It will be a vital year for Mosley. In his first year he only played two games due to an injury, but he showed his qualities. His five-year contract worth $85 million requires performance.
The biggest problem in the Jets defense is the secondary; especially the corner backs. And that position is very important in a Cover 3 defense. New York has to make do with two starters with a lack of experience: Bryce Hall and Blessuan Austin together are good for 23 games. The final corner position is completely uncertain so the cornerback group is a headache for Saleh this season. A certainty in the Jets defense is free safety Marcus Maye. He is the best defender, but his contract is about to expire; a must to renew. The strong safety position is weakly occupied by converted free safety Ashtyn Davis.
The New York Jets have a 10-year playoff drought. That is twice as many as the next teams in the list: the Bengals, Cardinals and Broncos. The bad news is that the counter is almost certainly at eleven after this season. The Jets do not have a play-off roster and Wilson is not the Messiah. However, the roster does include a number of young, talented players that the Jets, regardless of Wilson’s development, can enjoy for many years to come. Whether Joe Douglas is a good GM and Zach Wilson a potential top QB remains to be seen this season. However, with Robert Saleh, a head coach with the right attitude and mentality has been appointed, so there is hope on the horizon, but the future remains uncertain.