Eyes On The Jets

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Sam Darnold is entering his second season as the Jets franchise quarterback and will look to make a big leap with the offense relying heavily on the pass. (Photos by Chris Birsner)

It’s a new era in New York as former Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase begins his second stint as a head coach in the NFL. Despite his 23-25 record and sole playoff appearance, Gase has been given another chance to prove he can lead a team while continuing to develop franchise quarterbacks like he did as an assistant. Jets certainly want to see improvement from Sam Darnold as he enters his second year with the organization.

While Darnold is the main part of the story, there are many aspects of the team that make this year’s Jets, at the very least, intriguing. Expectations are higher for them, but problems still lurk. Keep an eye out for the Jets to be competitive deep into the regular season.

The Evolving Offense

If you’ve been to training camp, you would’ve noticed that the offense is going to rely heavily on the pass. That’s because Darnold is expected to make a leap and he has a plethora of weapons to throw to. Of course, there’s Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, who have been the team’s leading wide receivers for a few seasons now. Then, there’s the addition of Jamison Crowder, who will take the role of the slot receiver. The team also expects second-year tight end Chris Herndon to be heavily involved, but will have to wait to see him due to a four-game substance abuse policy suspension.

Then, there’s Le’Veon Bell. We know from his career with the Steelers that he will be utilized both as their primary back and as a pass catcher. The question remains whether he can play at the level he was at before sitting out a year due to contract disputes. The team has insurance behind Bell as well, with third-year player Elijah McGuire and receiver-turned-back Ty Montgomery getting the most work. Bilal Powell is also back with the Jets after nearly retiring due to a neck injury.

What’s going to be important for the team is protecting Darnold as he operates. The depth on the offensive line is not great, but there are a few notable names. Firstly, the team traded for former All-Pro offensive guard Kelechi Osemele. He had a down year in 2018, but he still only allowed three sacks according to Pro Football Focus. Then there’s longtime Carolina Panther center Ryan Kalil, who came out of retirement to play for the Jets. The five-time pro bowler began to fall off near the end of his Panther career, but was still considered one of the best interior linemen in the NFL. Since both of these players are north of 30, the team will need to start building a younger line for the future.

And let’s not forget the kicker. After Chandler Catanzero retired following a poor camp showing, the team has signed Salt Lake Stallion kicker Taylor Bertolet to try to solve the Jets woes.

Quinnen Williams was the third overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and will be a force on the defensive line once he gets his footing in the pros.

Additions On Defense

Another big offseason move was the drafting of Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams. While he has gone viral for blessing and thanking himself after sneezing or telling reporters that he is going to “play with himself” on Madden, the charming 21 year old is known for being a disrupter and he will look to wreak havoc on NFL offenses.

“I’ve learned a lot of lessons, just from going against [Osemele] every day with the ones,” said Williams. “I ask the ones about the different tricks they do in the NFL and the different things they do off the field to get their bodies ready. It’s amazing to have great veterans around on both offense and defense to help you out as a rookie. I also know I have to earn their trust, so I have to come out here and work hard to show that I can be the best player for myself and this team.”

Steve McLendon is starting in front of Williams for now while fifth-year player Leonard Williams and surprise 2018 standout Henry Anderson will start at defensive end, but will have a lot of pressure to get after the quarterback. As for the linebacking corps, new addition C.J. Mosley was an upgrade on the inside, but losing Avery Williamson to a torn ACL hurts. Expect Neville Hewitt and rookie Blake Cashman to step up.

With Jamal Adams becoming one of the NFL’s best strong safeties, the rest of the secondary is looking bleak. Free safety Marcus Maye has been a solid talent for the team, but injury issues keep him off the field. Starting cornerback Trumaine Johnson had an awful first year with the team and he, too, is dealing with injury. Behind him is Darryl Roberts, who got better last year, but has not proven much yet. Free agent acquisition Brian Poole will likely play as well, but no one has stood out enough to get the Jets out of cornerback purgatory.

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