With the conclusion of 2021 NFL Draft on May 1st, the New York Jets have officially completed the first major step in rebuilding their ailing franchise. Allocating their second overall pick toward one of the brightest prospects entering the league, in quarterback Zach Wilson, the Jets made grand strides in the draft to put their offense back on track with young, cornerstone players that have the ability to put this team on a path to greatness.
That being said, the Jets by no means were able to patch up all the holes they needed to offensively, despite selecting four straight offensive players with their first four picks in the draft. Coming off a season where they had the worst offense in the league and averaged a total of 15.2 points per game, the Jets did just about everything they could in the draft to address most of their key concerns, but even then, still have several spots that could use more depth and improvement.
Naturally, both the quarterback and wide receiver positions do not consist of these concerns for the Jets anymore. After drafting Wilson second overall to patch up their biggest hole at the quarterback position, the Jets decided to bolster an already stacked wide receiver unit (that consists of Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, and Denzel Mims) by drafting the impressive Ole Miss wideout in Elijah Moore with their third pick in the draft.
But with these two positions stocked full with talent, the looming question that remains is which of the other offensive positions require the most improvement for the Jets to become the dominant, playoff team they once were over a decade ago? In short, there are only three other positions to focus on. However, prioritizing does matter and needs to be taken into account if the Jets aim at taking that next big step towards becoming a winning team again. So, on that note, here are the top three positions the Jets need to improve on before the season kicks off in September:
3. Tight End: Though this is the position that requires the least amount of attention, it’s still one that could use an injection of talent. With Chris Herndon leading the pack followed by Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffin, and then Daniel Brown, the Jets have all the depth they need at the tight end position; but the overall skillset and promise from this group is still pretty low.
Brown hasn’t really seen a lot of playing time over his entire career and has been predominantly pigeonholed as a backup (ESPN). Griffin, who’s a seasoned eight-year veteran in the league, brings solid run blocking and has proven he can be a good red-zone threat for the Jets (ESPN). But with that comes half-decent route running and a slow pace that has made it difficult for him to become a reliable target. Kroft, who’s a new addition from the Buffalo Bills, does bring great hands but, then again, hasn’t been able to reproduce the same offensive success he once had in Cincinnati back in 2017 (ESPN). Lastly, there’s Herndon, who the Jets are planning to start.
Though he’s only 25 and is their most athletic tight end, Herndon hasn’t had a whole lot to show for in two full seasons and has struggled with consistency. And despite having a positive rookie campaign, Herndon hasn’t been the same since. Whether any of these players will rise to the occasion has still yet to be determined. But this mixed bag of talent and role players could use a little help. And with a variety of affordable options still available on the free-agent market, the Jets should consider acquiring another strong, tight end before the start of the season (Spotrac).
2. Running Back: Ever since the departure of Le’Veon Bell, the Jets have had no real solution when trying to fill the shoes he left behind. Despite signing Tevin Coleman over the offseason and drafting the exciting UNC prospect in Michael Carter, the Jets don’t have a great setup with their running back position. For starters, Coleman has struggled to stay healthy over his last two seasons, and there’s no guarantee that will change all that much this year. If he goes down, that leaves the Jets with Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine, and the rookie Carter.
Outside of the fact that the Jets offensive line is still a work in progress, none of these young running backs have proven they can be legitimate starters yet and bring a variety of differentiating skillsets to the table. Naturally, the Jets could rely on a committee backfield if Coleman does have any setbacks, which could prove to be pretty effective. But when you have a brand-new rookie quarterback, it just makes a huge difference to have an anchoring, consistent presence in the backfield that will allow them to establish that vital rapport with their new running back. And although Carter does have the tools to be that kind of a running back within the next two years, it’s unlikely the Jets will grant him that kind of a role this season due to his unfamiliarity with the league and their system.
When all is said and done, Carter was the long-term fix but certainly not the short-term solution at the running back position. And with the season only getting closer, the Jets should consider targeting Todd Gurley or bring in another dependable running back to strengthen this unit (Spotrac).
1. Offensive Line: Even after drafting Alijah Vera-Tucker 14th overall with their second pick, the Jets offensive line is still the biggest concern for this offense. Over the last two years, the Jets drafted two standout offensive linemen in Mekhi Becton and Vera-Tucker, really reinforcing and revitalizing the blindside of their unit. But from the center position all the way down the right side of the O-Line, the Jets still have Conor McGovern at center, Greg Van Roten at right guard and George Fant at right tackle, three O-Lineman who all started over 12 games last season but couldn’t garner much protection across the board.
Just to give you an idea, Sam Darnold was sacked a total of 35 times last year, finishing in 8th in that category despite only playing 12 games (ESPN). Furthermore, Joe Flacco was sacked an additional 7 times in the 5 games he played. And then, on top of that, outside of Darnold, Johnson, and running back Josh Adams, no one could muster a per-carry average of 4 yards or more.
In short, this offensive line is far from being where it needs to be, and the Jets have to find a way to provide much better protection. The depth is certainly there, but considering how feeble this offensive line was just a season ago that so happened to involve four of their current five starters, the Jets have some serious thinking to do and should look to go after another strong guard or tackle before the season commences (Spotrac).