For all the good the Jets have done throughout the offseason, the next thing needed is patience.
The Jets have had a great offseason and most importantly there’s a plan that could lead the Jets to playoff contention. Gang Green hired Robert Saleh, who’s full of energy and appears to be a leader of men, the opposite of former head coach Adam Gase, who had a derivative personality. And they improved various units throughout the roster led by major signings in wide receiver Corey Davis and defensive end Carl Lawson.
Davis, signed to a three-year, $37.5 million deal with $27 million guaranteed, had 984 yards on 65 receptions in 14 games last season. He missed two games — against the Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills — after contracting COVID-19. He would have cracked 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career if he didn’t get sick. The goal should be for him to become a No.1 wide receiver.
Lawson, signed for three years, $45 million with $30 million guaranteed, didn’t have a lot of sacks during his time with the Bengals, but he was a pressure maniac in 2020. Lawson had 32 quarterback hits, which was second in the NFL behind Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (41), and he also had 64 total pressures. He also had a 23.4% pass-rush win rate which only trailed Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa and Watt.
The Jets made other quality signings in free agent defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, linebacker Jarrad Davis, defensive end Vinny Curry, running back Tevin Coleman and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner.
The Jets also crushed the draft.
They secured their future franchise quarterback, Zach Wilson. They followed that up by doing the opposite of what they did with Sam Darnold and drafted players to build around Wilson. The selection of offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, wide receiver Elijah Moore and running back Michael Carter should be commended. Joe Douglas did what needed to be done.
What Jet fans need to do now is give a little more patience. Gang Green is still rebuilding (again).
The buzz around the league on Saleh is positive. Players and coaches have spoken highly of his coaching capability and energy. But it’s Year 1. There will be some turbulence in his first year.
Saleh took over a 2-14 team with the worst offense in football. They finished last in points scored (15.2) and yards per game (279.9). Defensively it wasn’t much better, either. They were 26th in scoring defense (28.6) and 24th in total defense (387.6).
With the offseason additions, both units should be vastly improved just off the talent alone, but it will take time for both sides to fully develop. The offense will learn Mike LeFleur’s west coast offense and the defense will learn Saleh’s 4-3 scheme.
The offensive group should be better compared to Gase’s atrocious offense. For starters, LeFleur’s offense will be more quarterback friendly. Former players who spent time in San Francisco have raved to me about how smart he is to me. LeFleur, however, has never called plays before. So that’ll be an adjustment.
And as talented as new offensive draftees, Moore, Wilson, Carter and Vera-Tucker are, the quadruplets are younger than 23 years old. The adjustment to NFL competition doesn’t just happen overnight. There’s always the possibility that some pop early and make a major impact in Year 1, but that shouldn’t be the expectation. The focus should be to see something comparable to Mekhi Becton’s performance last year. Becton wasn’t a pro bowler, but his talent was evident.
Wilson will have a plethora of weapons in Davis, Moore, Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims, which should make his job easier. But again, he’s a rookie. The offensive line is slightly improved, and it’ll take time to mesh in a new wide zone run scheme.
And the defense should be better, but it won’t come together in year one. The Jets have a mammoth of a defensive line, featuring Quinnen Williams, Carl Lawson, Folorunso Fatukasi, John Franklin-Myers, Rankins and Curry. That’s arguably the best unit in the entire AFC East, but, the rest of the unit still has questions.
It’s yet to be seen whether C.J Mosley can return close to his Baltimore Ravens form. Saleh believes in Mosley, but he hasn’t played much football in the past two years due to injuries in 2019 and opting out in 2020 amid the first COVID-19 season. The Jets are high on Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen’s aptitude to translate to linebacker, but they’re playing a new position.
Other than Marcus Maye, the secondary is still questionable, especially at cornerback. The Jets still have Bryce Hall, Bless Austin, Lamar Jackson and Javelin Guidry, who all struggled. With a new defensive scheme, they could improve. The team drafted Jason Pinnock, Brandin Echols and Michael Carter II and signed undrafted free agent Isaiah Dunn to a full guaranteed deal. So, there’s more talent in the group, but they will still have their struggles because of their lack of NFL experience.
It’s another rebuild year, Jets fans. Deep breaths.