As the preseason opener looms, ESM’s New York Jets experts name a veteran breakout candidate for the 2021 campaign.
The story of the 2021 New York Jets is one that could well be defined by the term “breakout”.
As ESM’s Gang Green experts discussed last week, asking the Jets to end their decade-long playoff drought is a little too much to ask for in an AFC packed with established contenders. However, with little to lose and minimal national expectations thrust upon them, several veteran players have big opportunities to enjoy breakout campaigns, ones that can prove they belong to stay for the potential good times ahead.
ESM’s Jets experts return to name their biggest emerging star from the Jets’ roster in 2021…
Geoff Magliocchetti: WR Corey Davis
The curious case of Corey Davis describes the Jets’ current landscape in a nutshell: he’s shown fleeting flashes of brilliance, but the football gods have loved to toy with the fifth overall pick of the 2017 draft.
A hamstring injury weighed down his rookie season. Despite relative consistency, Tennessee declined to pick up his fifth-year option. Even in the midst of a career-best season, divine intervention played a cruel trick: Davis spent two games on the COVID-19 list, denying him a chance to obtain his first 1,000-yard season (stopped at 984).
Davis comes in with the perfect ingredient for a breakout candidate: he has something to prove. Despite playing a sizable role in the Titans’ ongoing mini-football renaissance (only Kansas City, New England, and New Orleans have played more playoff games than the six Tennessee has seen since Davis’ entry in 2017), Davis’ work was buried under the electrifying on-field antics of Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown.
Brought into New York as one of the Jets’ more expensive arrivals ($37.5 million over three years, including $27 million guaranteed), Davis is a rare metropolitan rep who has had a taste of the NFL promised land. The Jets are also desperate for a big-play receiver to rise up. That becomes even more of a necessity with a new franchise thrower in tow. No one’s reached four digits in yardage since the Brandon Marshall/Eric Decker tandem in 2015.
Davis made his goals and endeavors clear when he signed with the Jets in March: he wants to prove to the league that he has lasting power as a primary target.
“I do consider myself a No. 1 wide receiver,” Davis said upon signing in March, per D.J. Bien-Aime of the New York Daily News. “My ability to get open, my speed, separation, releases, I feel like I could do it all. I’m a thousand-yard receiver. It’s just up to me to put in the work. Make sure that I’m healthy and can play a full season.”
Brendan Carpenter: S Ashtyn Davis
The Jets have an abundance of players who could be poised for a breakout season. One player, though, stands out above the rest in my eyes: his name is Ashtyn Davis.
First, before we get into the specifics, it’s important to point out that this selection is dependent on his health, obviously. Davis was placed on the PUP list due to a foot injury and is not expected to play Week 1. However, once he’s cleared, he should command the starting strong safety role.
The former third-round pick is a do-it-all safety who can tackle, trace some receivers, and move into the box when needed. He can also make an impact on special teams, as he was named the unit’s MVP twice at Cal-Berkeley. As a rookie last year, he played in just ten games, starting six. In those contests, he totaled 36 tackles (one for loss), one pass breakup, and one fumble recovery. If he stays healthy, he should surpass those numbers easily.
Davis can impact the game in so many areas. It’s hard to not be excited for what he’ll bring to the field this year. Barring any extensive time missed, Davis should be a major part of the Jets’ defense this season and is a prime candidate for a major breakout.
Dylan Price: DE Carl Lawson
The Jets added an impact player in Carl Lawson this past offseason. Although he’s the natural pick to be breakout player of the year, it’s truly the easiest pick to make.
Lawson consistently ranked in the top of the league in pressures and win rate. Now, he goes to a defense that will give him the opportunity to thrive and produce big numbers.
I’m not kidding when I say eight or nine sacks feels like the floor for Lawson right now.
Nobody can stop him in camp, and this weekend (as well as the trip to Green Bay) will be the best indicator of the level of dominance Lawson could assert on the league in this upcoming season. Expectations are high in Florham Park and East Rutherford but look for Lawson to break out as one of the most efficient pass rushers in the league.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags