TURBULENCE OVER, JETS TIME FOR TAKEOFF?

Insane that the NY Jets 4-13 season could be looked at as a successful season, right? Well, that is not the craziest thing in the world to say when you look past the record. Coach Robert Saleh, was one of six first year coaches in the league won over his higher-ups and locker-room in a timely-manner. After being selected to coach the National team during the Senior Bowl, the NY Jets coaching staff not only picked up a win but was also praised for excellent management of Senior Bowl practices. Saleh spoke on how the advantages of coaching the senior bowl, especially for a team with 9 picks in this years draft and 4 in the first 38 picks. Coach Saleh is well-respected throughout the league and more importantly the locker rooms. Jets Linebacker and defensive leader, CJ Mosley was one of many to praise Coach Saleh by describing coach as “a person you want to be around”. Mosley went on to elaborate on the feelings towards Coach Saleh, saying that “He has that energy that brings people closer, that makes you want to go the extra mile for him, for your teammates and for your families.” Managing to keep a high player morale, get positive player feedback about the future of the team while showing improvements throughout a season that is not going how you planned is a testament to the job Saleh has done thus far. 

The Jets finished last in the AFC East with the worst overall defense in the NFL. The average age for the Jets week 1 defense was 25 years old. Seven of the 11 week 1 starters were 25-or-under. None of the remaining 4 being older than 30. In true Jets fashion the team was plagued with injuries throughout the season making an already historically young defense more vulnerable. The Jets lost Carl Lawson to a ruptured achilles tendon who was having an outstanding training camp with the team. Lawson have being arguably the best pure pass rusher to hit free agency this past offseason was predicted for a breakout season in his new-look Jets uniform. It was a huge hit to lose him right before the season while a fews weeks later going on to lose Safety Marcus Maye for the season as well. At one point the Jets top six linebackers were inactive on IR or doubtful causing them to sign B.J. Goodson who played one game with the Jets before deciding to retire. In the midst of injury central, the NY Jets were able to develop and discover pieces that will be vital to the Jets future success. However, it will be exhilarating for the Jets to have Carl Lawson lining up on the opposing side of John-Franklin-Myers. Franklin-Myers is an elite pass-rusher on the interior and elite run defender on the edge. Franklin-Myers tied for 18th among edge defenders with 53 pressures, the most ever recorded by a Jets edge defender in a single season since 2006. Although, this was a step down to the impact Franklin-Myers had in 2020 lining up in the interior where he ranked eighth among IDL with 51 pressures and did it on a astounding pressure rate of 14.4%, which ranked third-best among qualified IDL trailing only Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Donald which is pretty talented company. It will be interesting to see where Saleh & the Jets decide to place Franklin-Myer but do not be surprised to see him lining up both as an edge-rusher and IDL next season considering Jets still have consistently developing Quinnen Williams. Williams tied with outside DL John Franklin-Myers for the team lead with 6.0 sacks and was second with 12 QB hits to JFM’s 14.  Starting off the season with a foot injury followed by a shoulder injury and COVID Williams was stopped from having the season he hoped to have, ending the season with only 6 sacks. In his end-of-year conference Williams showed self-awareness that should make staff and fans feel good. Williams stated that, “I have games where I make big plays and I have games where I just do my job and I’m an above-average defensive tackle in the league” . Quinnen believes he has the ability to “dominate and take over games like Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox and those guys on the elite level” if he can work on his consistency. It may sound crazy for Quinnen Williams to compare himself to the likes of those players but it’s not and here’s why. In a healthy 2020 season Williams recorded 13 sacks and 26 QBHs, which may not be Aaron Donald numbers but still is game-changing numbers. Quinnen was not the only Williams to be in a Jets uniform this season and honestly he was not the best Williams in a Jets uniform this year. Quincy Williams, older brother of Quinnen Williams was acquired off waiver wire and took full advantage to the point the NY Jets front office have began to see Pro-Bowl potential in Quincy. He responded to his opportunity by recording 107 tackles, making big plays and having highlight worthy hits. Quincy had the second most tackles on the team while playing the 3rd most snaps on the team during his time playing beside his LB running mate CJ Mosley. CJ & Quincy were the first Jets to surpass 100 tackles each in the same season since LB Avery Williamson (120) and S Jamal Adams (115) in 2018. Jets are nothing less than thrilled of this breakout, but also because they finally got to see what they paid for with CJ Mosley.

Pro-bowl Linebacker CJ Mosley being active for a majority of the season after missing two seasons meant enormous amount to not only the Jets fans but the organization as a whole. To the standards of CJ Mosley, some fans were disappointed in his season saying he looked ‘washed’ and some fans were pleased with his performance. Between not being able to build chemistry with the defense because of the injuries and returning from a two-year hiatus CJ Mosley showed disappointing lows such as 17 missed tackles and unusual bad pass coverage. However, the Jets defensive captain CJ Mosley was no slouch and showed he still has plenty left to give the Jets defense tallying 168 tackles for the season, which placed 3rd in the league. Between filling the gaps, making open field tackles or just making clutch stops for the Jets, Mosley was his vintage pro-bowl self. It will be interesting to see a healthy CJ Mosley, Carl Lawson, Franklin-Myers, Quincy Williams and Quinnen Williams lead this Jets defense next year. Potential breakout talent does not stop there for the Jets while have high hopes for 23 year old edge rusher Bryce Huff who missed half the season with injuries. Huff, a 2020 UDFA went on to play 14 games registering two sacks, 16 tackles, four tackles for loss, and four QB hits in his rookie season while playing around 26 percent of defensive snaps and becoming a regular in the front-seven rotation. Huff was named potential breakout player for the 2021-22 season seeing that Saleh’s 4-3 scheme was more fitting for Huff opposed to the 3-4 scheme the Jets ran prior to Saleh. Other than Quincy Williams the Jets breakout player turned out to be the emergence of second-year cornerback Bryce Hall. Jets made a big get with Hall making him CB1 and it paid off. Hall finished with 79 tackles (66 solo), 16 passes defensed which tied Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard at 6th for passes defended. Although needing to work on his ball-hawking skills, Bryce Hall has exceeded expectations and is well on his way to becoming a top flight cornerback in this league. Hall was not the only bright spot in the cornerback room, rookie corner Brandon Echols had an outstanding year. Echols who started all 14 games for the Jets certainly had his lows with the occasional tendency to give up big plays. Otherwise Echols more than held his own, even recording a pick six against Tom Brady in one of the best games from any Jets corner which resulted to winning rookie of the week. Echols showed that he deserved a spot in NYJ cornerback room next year.

Unfortunately someone who will more than likely not be in the DB room is Marcus Maye. Marcus Maye’s season and possibly time as a Jet came to an halt after he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in an October game versus the Colts. He is set to hit the free agent market this summer unless Saleh and the Jets organization decide to bring him back, which will not be an easy task. Negotiations did not go well between Maye and the Jets last summer and Maye’s injury could make things more difficult or end up a blessing in disguise for the Jets. Jets may be able to get Maye back on a discounted price seeing that he is coming off of his achilles injury depending on whether or not Maye is in the Jets future plans. Jets have four picks within the first 38 picks, that is huge. It is difficult to put together many scenarios that don’t end in the Jets going defense for the one of the first two picks if not both picks.

Some defensive names that have been tied to the Jets draft board include; DT Demarvin Leal, CB Andrew Booth Jr, CB Derek Stingley Jr., Safety Kyle Hamilton, LB Nakobe Dean or pass rushers Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Jets landing any of those names will be great additions to the returning Jets defenders along with the names they can attract throughout the offseason and it will be intriguing to see how the Jets capatlize on this opportunity of a franchise shifting offseason. The real question that people want the answer is about Zach Wilson. Is he the one to turn this Jets offense into a consistent threat? Unfortunately the jury is still out on that because of Wilson’s rollercoaster season. Wilson finished the year completing 55.6% of his passes for 2,334 yards, 13 total TDS and 11 INTS w/ a 69.7 quarterback rating. Clearly these numbers will not change a teams season for the better. Wilson, needing to improve on his decision making, consistency and accuracy managed to do that on the backend of the Jets season. Wilson’s connection started strongest with WR Corey Davis. Former Titans WR, Corey Davis had a rough season with uncharacteristic drops and ultimately spending the final month on IR with a core muscle injury. Davis will be back in a Jets uniform again next year and looking to re-establish himself as a pro-bowl WR. Alongside him will be the 2nd year WR Elijah Moore, who in his rookie season let everyone know the player he has the potential to become after a slow start the season. In 11 games Moore had 43 catches for team-leading totals of 538 receiving yards and five receiving TDs and 1 rushing TD. Twenty-five of his catches went for first downs, also the best on the team. It will be very exciting for the Jets to see if a Moore can be a emerge as a superstar WR. With the disappointing output from Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims and Keelan Cole the Jets decided to the increase the usage of Braxton Berrios. He became the Jets lead returner, while holding on to punt return duties and becoming an high usage WR because of injuries. Braxton Barrios took full advantage of his opportunity, Berrios was announced as 1st Team All-Pro as a Kick Returner and Pro bowl reserve. Berrios became the first Jets player to make the first-team AP All-Pro since S Jamal Adams in 2019. Unfortunately for the Jets, Berrios days with the Jets are likely coming to an end after reported that he is expecting a multi-year contract averaging $9M per season. While Berrios had a fantastic season, the Jets would be insane to give Berrios $9Mil when the chances are high of finding another player who offers the same production for much cheaper. It would be surprising to see any of Keelan Cole, Denzel Mims or Jamison Crowder back in a Jets uniform next year. It can be argued that the Jets are more likely to trade for or pursue an established WR rather than bringing players back. It is important that Davis and Moore stay healthy considering those will be the players Zach Wilson has the most chemistry with. It is much expected for the Jets to spend a draft capital creating depth with another playmaker at that WR or TE position. The Tight end position was a place that the Jets struggled in a major way. Which will make the Jets followers feel good that the Jets have been tied to some of the top TE names such as Trey McBridge, Jeremy Ruckert and Jake Ferigson.

The Jets are still celebrating the amazing 2021 draft they were able to have, especially the potential steal of the night. The Jets drafted Michael Carter, the former UNC running back late in the fourth round. In 14 games Michael Carter finished by leading the Jets with 639 rushing yards on 137 carries (at 4.3 yards/carry) and 964 scrimmage yards . He also topped the team in both rushing (29) and total first downs (46). Michael Carter can well be on his way to consistent 1,000+ yard seasons. Which speaks volume to the terrific job by the Jets OL . The Ny Jets’ offensive line ranked just outside the top-10, which is amazing considering Mehki Becton played only week 1 before sitting out rest of the year. During the absence of Mehki, George Fant not only replaced Becton but managed to have a breakout year while doing it. Fant gave up just one sack in 889 snaps at left tackle. You can very much expect to see George Fant and Becton starting at the tackle positions. Jets left guard, Alijah Vera-Tucker was named to the PFWA’s All-Rookie team. AVT led the Jets offense in total snaps in 2021 with 1,026. Missing only game during his rookie season to COVID-19. Vera-Tucker was charged with only two sacks on the season which includes a 14-game streak with no sacks allowed, being that his only two came in Weeks 1 and 18.  All in all, the New York Jets are trending in the right direction with so many bright spots from this previous season. How many teams can say they received solid production from eight out of 10 draft picks in 2021 draft? The Jets can and has the ability repeat that with the position Jets have been put in to have a great offseason. If the Bengals have taught us anything, it is that a strong off-season under strong leadership followed by a healthy roster can completely change your season. New York Jets are so close yet so far.

J-E-T-S

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