The New York Jets obviously need to get a quarterback, but some holes are more vital to fill than others after the second overall choice.
The New York Jets are in a macabre yet inspirational spot as the NFL Draft commences on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC/NFL Network): the past two seasons were so bereft of hope and good vibes that it’s almost impossible to end draft weekend on a sour note.
Hope will undoubtedly stem from whomever the Jets choose second overall in the opening round through a pick that more than likely will be used on a quarterback. But no matter which of the non-Trevor Lawrence passing picks hears their name called…be it Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Mac Jones, or otherwise…they’re not going to transform this franchise single-handedly. Further help is needed and there’s no better place to gain it than by assembling a strong class of his 2021 peers.
What should the Jets’ primary, non-quarterback objectives be? ESM investigates…
Make No. 2 the No. 1 Priority
Unless the Jets make the jaw-dropping decision to start James Morgan or Mike White…or, make the more optimistic but equally shocking choice to wait until later in the draft to choose a thrower…the Jets are taking the new face of their franchise at second overall. Expecting him to completely turn the franchise around is cruel and unusual football punishment. Every move they make from there on out must be centered on making the new quarterback’s metropolitan life easier.
One could assume that means loading up on offensive talent, but that view is misguided. For one thing, the newcomer has several new, knowledgeable weapons to work with (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, Tevin Coleman). Sure, further offensive adjustments are needed (more on that in a minute) but general manager Joe Douglas knows that a balance through all sides of the ball must be struck to help the team move forward. It’s not exactly beneficial if the quarterback has to constantly play from behind, after all.
“Youâ€™re trying to build the best team you can possibly build,” Douglas said in video provided by the Jets. “Thatâ€™s offense, defense, and special teams. There also is an importance to really doing everything we can to provide what we can to make a young quarterback successful. There is a balance that goes into that.â€
Upgrade the Blocking
Had they not traded Sam Darnold, the Jets’ first choice at second overall (or perhaps a trade down) could’ve allowed them to address their dire blocking situation. Despite some big names on the open market, the Jets did little to address their porous offensive line issues. If the season started tomorrow, they’d likely go into Week 1 with the same starting lineup they had in front of Darnold during their opening weekend loss in Buffalo last year. The Jets let up 43 sacks last season, fourth-worst in the AFC. That also did a developing run game no favors, especially for a running back who waits for the hole like Le’Veon Bell.
Douglas has made an effort to address the blocking negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era. His first moves in office were to trade for incumbent starter Alex Lewis and convince All-Pro Ryan Kalil to come out of retirement. He used his first New York draft pick on Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton, passing on name-brand receiving talent after spending most of last year’s offseason budget on veteran blockers. Only the Becton move appears to be working out thus far, but Douglas has made it clear he views a revamped offensive line as a vital part of the Jets’ potential resurgence.
The management’s failure to make an impactful blocking addition via free agency is a bit surprising considering the importance they’ve placed on blocking endeavors. But this week, and the plethora of picks that come with it, gives the Jets a chance to make up for lost time.
Fortify the Aerial Defense
The Jets can’ just worry about their own quarterback situation…they have to stifle the progress of others. Even if one can say this is a rebuilding season for New York, the foreseeable future likely guarantees a yearly pair with Josh Allen. Another first-round thrower might to go to New England at No. 15. The Jets need to something, anything, to make their defense scary again. Their most recent playoff trips were defined a good blocking foundation and a dominant pass rush. Neither has been the same in the ensuing years of futility.
Passing can’t harm the Jets (who let up 4,409 yards last season) when the opponent can’t get them off in the first place, but the pass rush has been dormant, even with Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers breaking out last season. The interior linebacker situation will enjoy an upgrade with both C.J. Mosley and Blake Cashman set to return while Jarrad Davis brings 4-3 experience. If the Jets do opt to go defense with their other first-round pick (23rd overall), they should use on a 4-3 pass rusher like Zaven Collins. The Tulsa linebacker has shown a great pass rushing ability and strong athletic abilities that will have him off the board by early Friday at the latest. Collins’ work in the Golden Hurricane’s 4-3 set only strengthens the match between them.
New York could also potentially benefit from adding another early name or two to their secondary situation. Young projects like Bless Austin, Bryce Hall, and Ashtyn Davis currently top the depth chart and while there’s potential, it’s fair to question the Jets’ comfort over their potential as Week 1 starters. Prime talent within the first two rounds (perhaps the Jets’ third choice at No. 34) could raise some heat in secondary drills at camp and put the coaching staff at slighter ease.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags