I have been a Jets fan for about twelve years now. For all but three years, it has been a repetitive kick in the groin. The first year under Rex Ryan, 2009, the New York Jets defeated the Bengals and Chargers in the playoffs. Eventually they lost to the Colts in the AFC Championship game. The future looked very bright, the ground and pound offense combined with a stifling defense provided some hope. In 2010, the same Gang Green group defeated Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back weeks in the playoffs. Sexy Rexy and Co. then lost to Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers. That loss to the Steelers, in the AFC Championship game, sent the Jets into the never ending abyss. Since then, they have had one season over .500, which occurred in 2015. After losing to the Bills in Week 17, due to two fourth-quarter interceptions by Ryan Fitztragic, the Jets failed to make the playoffs. I was not able to stand that season, but surprisingly, I have been able to stomach is this season.
Why We Can Endure This Season
This underwhelming season has featured a team that possesses veterans far past their prime; and young players who have two or three more years until they hit their prime. They have 38 year-old Josh McCown at quarterback–who had a career record of 2-24 as a starting quarterback coming into the season. They have a duo of rookies at safety–Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Their anticipated bright spots are two former All-Pro defensive lineman, who have more combined interceptions than combined sacks this season. To cap it off, their best receiver, Quincy Enunwa, was sidelined for the season in August. They were projected to win zero games this season, even with the lowly Browns on their schedule.
Eight Games In, and the Results Are…
At the halfway mark for the season, the Jets have won three games. One of those victories was against the Jaguars, who are the leaders of the AFC South at 4-3. The next was against their division rival Miami. The most recent win, in Week 5, was against the winless Browns. The Jets have exceeded expectations. They are rebuilding a franchise with a solid core of young talent. The green and white possess a GM that has drafted efficiently in his first two NFL Drafts. He and the scouts choose by determining who is the “best” player at what pick they are given. They retained all players they had chosen in the 2016 or 2017 draft, on either the active roster or their practice squad. Of those fourteen picks between 2016 and 2017, about eight and a half have made contributions to the team. The half being Jordan Leggett, who has been bothered by a knee injury for the majority of the season. Despite the injury, he has a good upside, given his large frame (6’5″, 258 lbs) and promising ability, to both block and catch the football.
Where to Go From Here
Where do the Jets go from here? They sure as hell should NOT tank. It is such an easy way to give up on yourselves, and is poor for team morale and the franchise in general. Jordan Jenkins, Coach Todd Bowles, and others claimed early in the season, that tanking was not on the agenda. So far, their words have been true. Three of the five losses have happened when they have had at least ten-point leads on teams. This is poor showing, they seem to have an inability to keep leads and close out games. This problem can be contributed to the inexperience of the defense, and the lack of clutch talent on the offense. Those losses against the Patriots, Dolphins and the Falcons, who are all more experienced, and more talented teams than the Jets. To fix these issues, they need three things: a quarterback, a young early-down running back, and a slot receiver. All of these can be acquired through the 2018 NFL Draft.
Addressing the Running Back
Bilal Powell will turn the haunting age of 30 after this season. Matt Forte is past the age of 30. Elijah Maguire has potential, but he should be used as a third down running back. I think they need to take a running back in the second round. If I were Coach Bowles and Mike Maccagnan, I would look at Nick Chubb out of Georgia. He provides the ability to be a workhorse back, and as of right now, holds an early second round value. Another running back that may fly under the radar for a third-round pick is Kalen Ballage out of Arizona State. His size (6’3″, 230 lbs) will compliment the smaller, shiftier Elijah Maguire in the backfield. Ballage has had a down season this year compared to his 2016 campaign. In 2016, he totaled 1,005 offensive yards, and fifteen touchdowns for the Sun Devils. Ballage could reach his potential as a big-time back after a year or two of experience in the NFL.
Addressing the Quarterback
The quarterback scenario is dire, and it is quite obvious that Christian Hackenberg, nor Bryce Petty, are the answer. This needs to be the first thing the Jets address in this year’s draft. The obvious choices are Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, but if the Jets slip out of the top 10, these options won’t be available. In the case that Darnold and Rosen are not available, Ryan Finley, Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson should be available. I really like Lamar Jackson, especially the athletic similarity Jackson has to Michael Vick.
Addressing the Wide Receiver
To fit wide receiver needs, I would look to Deebo Samue,l out of South Carolina; Deontay Burnett, out of USC; or Antonio Callaway, out of Florida. All are six-feet tall or smaller, ideal for the slot. All reportedly run a sub-4.50 40-yard dash, according to walterfootball.com. Walter Football also projects all receivers to be drafted in the second round or later. This is a perfect value, for a solid receiver, to play at a WR3 or WR4. Right behind Robbie Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Jermaine Kearse.
The future for the New York Jets looks bright, despite what has been a poor season thus far. The tandem of Jamaal Adams and Marcus Maye, should mirror that of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, in a year or two. The receiving core is young and explosive. They possess a young, talented but relatively inexperienced linebacker core. With a quarterback, additions of an early-down running back and another solid wide receiver, the future looks bright for the Jets.
Cover image: CBS Sports
Lamar Jackson image: SI.com