We conclude our jaunt through the AFC East with perhaps it’s most improved team, the New York Jets. After missing the Playoffs for a third consecutive season, the Jets have finally initiated the overhaul that they should have began years ago, firing Head Coach, Todd Bowles, and replacing him with Adam Gase. Armed with a wealth of Draft Capital and Cap Space, Gang Green attacked the Offseason with the aggressive fervor of a new regime. However, at the center of their project lies Sam Darnold, who must make significant strides if New York is to truly threaten the New England Patriots and end their decade-long reign over the Division. With that said, will the new faces come together? Will Gase be able to unlock Darnold’s considerable potential? Read on to see what 2019 has in store for the Jets…
Keeping it in the Division
After three years of diminishing returns on the offensive side of the football, the Jets ultimately made the shrewd decision to replace the aforementioned Bowles with Adam Gase, who had spent the previous three seasons leading the Miami Dolphins. Renowned around the league as one of it’s brightest offensive minds, particularly when it comes to mentoring Quarterbacks, the 41-Year Old was a logical choice to be the man to lead their rebuild. Entertaining Introductory Press Conference aside, Gase worked wonders with an aging Peyton Manning in Denver, got more out of the mercurial Jay Cutler than anyone else to date, and took the Dolphins to the Playoffs for the first time since 2008. With Sam Darnold entering his second season in the league, his development is priority number one for Management, and this guy is certainly capable of seeing that through. However, there are a number of things to consider with Gase. First and foremost, he wasn’t necessarily a beloved figure in the Miami locker room, with a number of conflicts with players coming to light; after all, Pro Bowlers such as Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry were jettisoned via trade after drawing his ire. Secondly, he hasn’t always enjoyed a cordial relationship with Management, which has already been evidenced by the firing of General Manager, Mike Maccagnan, with the timing of his dismissal coming into question. If you were going to remove your General Manager from power, wouldn’t you do it BEFORE spending over $100 million in Free Agency and procuring a new Draft Class? We’ll say this about him: the guy can coach, but the newspapers won’t get tired of him.
Show them the Money
Few teams were armed with a war chest of Cap Space comparable to the Jets this past Offseason, who by and large spent the majority of it in an attempt to address their many needs. After all, when you’re coming off a 4-12 campaign, odds are that you have plenty of them, which was certainly the case here. And so it went, as their Owner, Woody Johnson, cut a myriad of checks in a short amount of time. So let’s run down some of the new faces, shall we? Most prominent among them is Le’Veon Bell (321 CAR, 1,291 YDS, 4.0 Y/C, 9 TD in 2017), the former All-Pro Tailback who sat out the entirety of the 2018 season in a prolonged contract impasse with the Pittsburgh Steelers. With the market for his services only lukewarm, he ended up signing a 4-Year, $52.5 Million Contract with Gang Green, with $27 Million guaranteed, ironically parlaying into a cheaper annual deal than what was reportedly on the table in Pittsburgh. Furthermore, C.J Mosley (105 TKL, 6 TFL, 2 QBH, 0.5 SK, 1 INT, 5 PD) was added to booster the Linebacker Corps for a whopping $85 Million over the course of Five Years, while former All-Pro Guard, Kelechi Osemele, was acquired via trade with the Oakland Raiders (inheriting the final Two Years of his $58.5 Million Contract, though no guarantees remain). Lastly, Jamison Crowder (29 REC, 388 YDS, 13.4 Y/R, 2 TD) provides Gase with a versatile weapon in the Slot, further fleshing out one of the league’s worst passing attacks. And then there was the Draft, which netted arguably the best player in the Class, Defensive Tackle Quinnen Williams out of Alabama. Versatile and disruptive, he figures to be a major force along the Defensive Front for years to come. However, the most important selection may just end up being Jachai Polite, who fell to the Third Round after absolutely bombing the Scouting Combine. Despite addressing many of their weaknesses in Free Agency, New York failed to adequately address their need at Edge Rusher, which the Florida Product’s tape suggests he’s capable of doing. After all, good luck toppling the Patriots without a Pass Rush.
Sam the Man
Of course, all of those reinforcements won’t amount to much more than an expensive mess if the Jets’ young Quarterback, Sam Darnold (57.7%, 2,865 YDS, 5.99 NY/A, 17 TD, 15 INT, 47.9 QBR), doesn’t make a sizable leap in his Sophomore Season as the Starter. New York is clearly following the blueprint laid by the 2013 Seahawks and 2017 Eagles before them, in surrounding a young Quarterback on a cheap, Rookie Contract, with premium veteran talent in the hope that they’ll finally return to the Playoffs for the first time since 2010. Only 22-Years Old, the Signal-Caller endured a difficult Rookie Campaign, though showed some serious flashes late in the year after returning from injury. In Weeks Fourteen through Seventeen, Darnold stepped up in a major way, completing 64.0% of his passes for 931 Yards, Six Touchdowns and just One Interception. Provided they stay healthy, both Bell and Crowder should help him immensely in further fleshing out the Passing Game, while Osemele still has enough gas left in the tank to keep the Pocket clean enough to step up in. Early word coming out of Jets’ Camp is that he’s really taken to Gase’s Playbook, with the potential of steep second-year improvement a probability. If that’s the case, then Gang Green may finally have the Franchise Quarterback they’ve long searched for.
2019 Forecast: 9-7
For the first time in quite a while, there is a true, positive feeling around the Jets. After all, they’ve got a sharp, offensive-minded Head Coach developing a promising, young Quarterback, surrounded by some serious star power on both sides of the football. Could they finally bring an end to the Patriots’ Dynasty? While that remains to be seen, the schedule is arguably the easiest in the league, particularly come the middle of October, and easy schedules oftentimes provide the necessary soil needed for serious growth. If Darnold makes the leap in Year Two, then New York should be commanding positive headlines in the The Post for a change, not to mention playing meaningful football in January for the first time in nearly a decade.