New York Jets, Jamison Crowder could be working toward pay cut (Report)

Per a report from ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the New York Jets want to keep the reliable slot receiver but are asking a big favor.

The New York Jets’ Jamison Crowder saga has apparently taken another turn, as a report from ESPN’s Rich Cimini claims that the team has asked the veteran receiver to take “at least a 50 percent pay cut”. Crowder is set to enter the final season of a three-year deal inked in 2019, returning on a non-guaranteed $10 million salary.

Over the last two seasons, Crowder has likely become the Jets’ most potent offensive weapon, earning 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, 12 of which went for touchdowns. Each of those marks is good for the team lead. Crowder, formerly of Washington, has established himself as one of the NFL’s more reliable slot receivers in that span.

However, questions about Crowder’s future have surfaced in the third and final year of his deal. The Jets are set to save over $10 million in cap space if they move Crowder through a release or trade. As the financial stalemate continues, Crowder has removed himself from organized team activities. He did not attend the voluntary workouts in Florham Park earlier this month and his status for this week’s mandatory portion remains uncertain.

In anticipation of the arrival of a rookie quarterback, later revealed to be Zach Wilson, the Jets spent this offseason bolstering their receiving corps. Former Tennessee Titan Corey Davis was added on a three-year, $45 million deal, while accoladed rookie Elijah Moore was chosen early in the second round (34th overall) in last spring’s draft. Their prior second-round choice, Denzel Mims, is expected to take on larger responsibilities in his sophomore season. The Jets also added another slot standout, Jacksonville’s Keelan Cole, while 2020 returnee Braxton Berrios earned positive reviews in taking the reps for an absent Crowder during the voluntary workouts.

Per Over the Cap, the Jets currently rank third in available cap space (behind Jacksonville and Denver) at just over $27 million. While they technically don’t need the extra money that would stem from Crowder’s departure, they still have lingering holes that could prove costly. The backup quarterback slot remains drastically understaffed, while the team is also reportedly still interested in former Washington blocker Morgan Moses.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three lessons the New York Jets can learn from their Islander friends

The New York Jets have been staples of the Islanders’ postseason tour on Long Island. Perhaps they can learn a thing or two along the way.

In following the New York Islanders’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, the New York Jets have traded in green and white for blue and orange. They’ve engaged in (Bud) light debauchery and have gone viral in the process as the Islanders are halfway through their quest for a fifth Stanley Cup hoist.

The next step of the journey begins on Sunday afternoon when the Islanders battle the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena (3 p.m. ET, NBC). Nassau Coliseum will host the third, fourth, and (if necessary) sixth games of the series, and it’s very likely that members of the Jets will attempt to take their usual seats for those contests. 

Is it possible that, in their fun, they might actually learn a thing or two along the way?

Class is in session, courtesy of ESM…

Have Depth Stars

On Long Island: Save for Mathew Barzal (appearances in the last two exhibitions), the Islanders are not a team of perennial All-Stars. John Tavares’ absconding for Toronto was supposed to be their downfall, but they’ve responded with playoff series victories in three consecutive seasons while the Maple Leafs have been relegated to opening round exits.

The Islanders are a team that has gotten by with a group of gritty, skilled players whose union has worked wonders. Nothing showcases their depth and consistency better than the grouping of Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Matt Martin, a trio of bottom-six forward staples since 2014. Nicknamed the “Identity Line”, NYI head coach Barry Trotz says that the group sets the tone for what they’re trying to accomplish on the ice.

“They give you impact. When they are playing the right way, they give you a little of that bite that you want,” Trotz said after a dominant January 2019 over Tampa, per Cory Wright of NewYorkIslanders.com. “They give you sort of that determination and speed on the puck and sort of an Islander identity. If there’s a line that’s sort of an identity line, well that’s the best way to describe them better than a fourth line because they give us an identity.”

In Florham Park: The Jets tried to go the big-spending route over the last few seasons, but marquee signings have not panned out. Right now, they’re actively paying Le’Veon Bell and Trumaine Johnson to keep their distance, for example.

Blessed with one of the highest offseason budgets in the NFL, it would’ve been easy for the Jets to fall to temptation and spend big money on a blockbuster talent (i.e. J.J. Watt). But once it became clear that the big names wanted to move on to contenders, the Jets bolstered their depth so more parts of the depth chart provide production and security.

This offseason has still seen some big contracts bestowed…Carl Lawson and Corey Davis are a combined $26 million cap hit…but many others signings have been about providing depth. They’re not the flashiest arrivals by any stretch, not the type of names that one can put on a parking lot light pole’s banner, but they’re the type of depth options the Jets needed at this point in time.

Jarrad Davis is a redemption-seeking first-round pick whose success in the 4-3 sets of the Florida Gators could come up big. At receiver, Davis is one of several names with the potential to become a No. 1 target. Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder return from last year’s team, while Elijah Moore was drafted in the second round. Uncertainty lingers at tight end and in the secondary, but the Jets’ thriftiness could pay big dividends, as undrafted free agents Kenny Yeboah and Isaiah Dunn could come up big.

Make Sure Special Teams are Special

On Long Island: Since Trotz took over in 2018, the Islanders have improved by leaps and bounds in almost every major statistical category with the exception of their power play. New York ranked 20th in the final regulars season rankings with a man advantage, though they were the only team in the NHL that did not allow any shorthanded goals.

The Islanders, however, rose to the occasion on the penalty kill, coming home sixth in the category over the regular season. Doing it in the postseason has been a work in progress…they’ve killed off only 61.5 percent of their infractions…but the power play came to life in spectacular fashion in Monday’s Game 5 showdown in Boston. Facing a Bruins squad that led the league with an 86 percent kill rate during the regular season, the Islanders scored three power play goals that forever changed the course of the series. Barzal scored on a chance in the first period, while Kyle Palmieri and Jordan Eberle earned extra-man tallies in the second.

The power play success not only provided the difference in the goal category but more or less shifted the entire course of the game. Taking advantage of the opportunities allowed the Islanders to not only withstand a late Boston rush, but they were able to earn a momentum-shifting victory on a night where they were outshot 44-19.

In Florham Park: There’s major hope for the Jets entering the 2021 season, even if reaching the playoff is still a tall task for the time being. But there’s no doubt that they’re still developing, still a work in progress, particularly on an offensive end that’s debuting a new quarterback and receiving corps. Thus, special teams must be addressed.

Confidence for a developing offense can be built by getting points on as many drives that end in opposing territory as possible. That comes through reliable field goal kicking, an area where the Jets have fallen woefully short since Jason Myers left for Seattle. Chris Naggar has been brought in to compete with incumbent Sam Ficken for that role. General manager Joe Douglas has shown that he’s not afraid to use valuable assets to address special teams. He used the last pick of his first draft to pick up punter Braden Mann and has tried to fill in the Jets’ Andre Roberts-sized void at returned through additions in the 2021 draft (i.e. Michael Carter).

Perhaps the most telling sign of Jets management’s willingness to bolster the special unit came through the retaining of coordinator Brant Boyer, who has now survived the purges of both Todd Bowles and Adam Gase’s doomed staffs.

It All Starts at the Head

On Long Island: Again, no one expected the Islanders to be in his position three years ago. This, after all, was a team that just lost the face of its franchise, perhaps the one thing it had going for it since the immortal early 1980s.

The hire of Trotz in 2018, however, may go down as one of the most fateful moves in franchise history.

Trotz had already developed a reputation as a strong nurterer of young talent and helping woebegone franchises find their path. He put the Nashville Predators on the NHL map as the franchise’s original head coach (serving 16 seasons at the helm after their 1998 inception). He then moved on to Washington, where he helped the Capitals removed the playoff monkey from their backs. Only under Trotz has Alex Ovechkin been able to reach hockey Nirvana in the Stanley Cup Final.

Once Trotz was voted out of Capitol Hill due to a contract dispute, the Islanders pounced and have been reaping in the benefits ever since. Under Trotz, the Islanders have won playoff rounds in three consecutive seasons for the first time since their quartet of Cup hoists (1980-83). Trotz’s status as a players’ coach that is nonetheless willing to hold his guys accountable has been a delightful contrast to the recent slew of also-rans. Doug Weight’s animated style, for example, was refreshing when he first took the reins but it quickly ran its course.

Trotz credits his success to looking at his status as a head coach as not a position of superiority, but one that leads to a partnership with his players.

“I look at coaching, my time, as I’m in a partnership with the players,” Trotz told Mollie Walker of the New York Post in March. “We’re in a partnership to win hockey games. The other partnership is to make you the best version of yourself, whatever that version is.”

In Florham Park: There’s no doubt that, despite the nine-win ledger, that the Jets had some talent on their roster over the last two seasons, better known as the Adam Gase era. Look no further than the names the Jets gave up on before him: Robby Anderson, Avery Williamson, Le’Veon Bell, and Steve McLendon accounted for only part of the list. But help has arrived in the form of Robert Saleh,  whose hiring has been universally praised.

The difference between the arrivals of Saleh and Gase are best contrasted by player reaction to the news. While Gase’s landing was met with mostly indifference…and whatever honeymoon there was quickly ended when he won a power struggle against Mike Maccagnan…Saleh’s arrival has been praised by players both domestically and abroad. It’s created an energy field in Florham Park not seen since, arguably, the Rex Ryan days.

“You have to give him an unusual amount of credit, and I don’t think he’s getting enough credit not only here but in the league, in general,” former Saleh pupil Richard Sherman said of his potential as a head coach in December, per the Associated Press. “He’s able to rally men. He’s a leader of men and that goes a long way.”

As the Gase era showcased all too well, talent means nothing when the right man isn’t in charge. Though vital downs have yet to be played, it’s safe to say the Jets feel that they have found the perfect curator and developer in Saleh.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three reasons why the New York Jets will be fine without Julio Jones

New York Giants, Julio Jones

Some were disappointed that the New York Jets removed themselves from the Jones sweepstakes, but adding the former Falcon wasn’t their fight.

Julio Jones will sing a new tune in the Music City. The accoladed receiver has shed his Atlanta Falcon wings and has moved on to Tennessee, where he joins a Titans squad already blessed with the offensive talents of Derrick Henry and AJ Brown. Thus ends a saga that ignited with a fateful phone call on live television by Fox Sports’ Shannon Sharpe.

In the aftermath, the eventual price for Jones has been hotly debated. Tennessee sent over two mid-round picks, one each over the next two drafts, the highest being a second-round choice in next year’s selections. It seems like a relatively low charge for one of the most accomplished receivers in recent NFL memory, one that gains some context when a hamstring injury suffered last season is taken into account.

Still, as Jones prepared to don Titans blue, fans of the 31 outliers are left with the lingering inquiry of “what if?” and “why not”?

At first glance, many New York Jets fans have every right to ask those questions. After all, if that was all it took for Jones to leave his Atlanta-based nest, the Jets could’ve spared the necessary parts to bring him in. They have an extra pick in both the first and second rounds of next year’s draft stemming from the Jamal Adams and Sam Darnold departures. One could even argue that adding Jamison Crowder (and getting back over $10 million in cap space with Jones) to the mix might’ve sweetened the deal.

But the Jets are more than capable of surviving the lack of Jones in their lives, as consolation lies all around them…

The Jones Privilege

Adding Jones has given the Titans the dreaded title of “offseason champions”, as amateurs and experts alike will probably list them as their Super Bowl champions. They likely inherit the title from the Arizona Cardinals, who were burdened with expectations after acquiring DeAndre Hopkins in a one-sided trade with Houston. Arizona began the year 6-3 but dropped five of their final seven in missing out on the playoff entirely.

Time will tell exactly how Tennessee handles the pressure, but it’s hard to be too cynical about their chances, at least on paper. The Titans are, after all, only two years removed from an appearance in the AFC title game and are coming off their first division title since 2008. They’re tied for the seventh-best record in the NFL over the last two seasons. During his unscheduled on-air conversation with Sharpe, Jones insisted he wanted to be dealt to a contender, ruling out Undisputed co-host Skip Bayless’ Dallas Cowboys…and, by process of elimination, the Jets.

Acquiring Jones is a first-world problem of sorts, a privilege bestowed to those who are the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl. The Jets are a few moves away from merely fighting for a wild-card berth, never mind The Big Game. Even if they undoubtedly got better this offseason…if only because there was nowhere to go but up after the Adam Gase era…emerging from a crowded AFC pool packed to the brim with established contenders seems like a tall ask. There’s thus no use in taking the uncertainties of post-injury Jones, who turned 32 in February, not to mention the financial obligations that come with it (over a $63 million cap hit over the next three seasons).

No Co-Authorship

One of the primary focuses of this New York offseason has been establishing a new identity, leaving a signature on a new exhibit. Through the hiring of new head coach Robert Saleh, the Jets have managed to do that. The former San Francisco defensive coordinator’s mantra of “all gas, no brake” has already been quoted ad nauseam by Jets fans and Saleh’s entry has been complemented by the arrival of several touted entries who are looking to take the next steps in their respective careers (i.e. Zach Wilson, Corey Davis, and Sheldon Rankins, all of who were chosen in the first round of their respective drafts).

But if one brings Jones into the conversation, suddenly a new identity emerges. Through no fault of Jones, this latest, most hopeful iteration of the Jets’ rebuild gets boiled down to the “Julio Jones Era” and would’ve rendered a great deal of offseason work meaningless.

There’s no doubt that Jones is fully capable of responding to this challenge and will seek to silence any doubters, particularly his former employers that thought he was “only” worth a second-round choice at best. But the Jets are seeking to scribe their own NFL story and identity, as well as write a comeback story that’s a decade in the making. They don’t have the time or resources to worry about ghostwriting someone else’s.

Good Reception

Obviously, in a perfect world, the Jets snag Jones, and he, at the very least, provides some entertainment during another year of rebuilding where progress won’t always show up on the scoreboard.

But if this year is truly the latest stanza of a seemingly eternal rebuild, the Jets must do what they failed to work during last year’s nightmare: take advantage of a bittersweet and gift and turn things into a year of development.

Simply put, anyone who’s watched a minute of NFL football over the last decade knows what Jones is capable of. If this hamstring issue is the first step of the twilight of his career, it’s better for that discovery to be made on a contender rather than a team in desperate need of answers. Once it became clear that the Jets weren’t going to do anything in 2020, Gase and Co. had a prime opportunity to audition a rushing triumvirate of La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams. They instead decided to give Frank Gore a retirement tour, creating questions about the run game that lingered into the offseason.

The Jets have a group of receivers that, while talented, have yet to show they can handle the duties and burdens that comes with the status of a top target. Corey Davis worked behind Brown in Tennessee. Crowder has been a reliable slot option. There are high hopes for second-round brothers Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims. The receiving depth chart is packed to the brim with potential, but the Jets need more proven certainty to truly contend in the modern league. Rather than going with an option like Jones, who isn’t going to immediately shift the team’s fortunes in a lucrative direction, the Jets should instead focus on developing the attractive alternatives that are already in tow.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: The case for (and against) Julio Jones

New York Giants, Julio Jones

Accoladed receiver Julio Jones wants out of Atlanta; should the New York Jets inquire for his services? ESM investigates…

Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones is ready to recolor his wings. A shade of green could well be in the cards.

Jones declared he was “out of” Atlanta during a candid, impromptu phone call shared by Fox Sports host Shannon Sharpe during Monday’s edition of Undisputed on FS1. There’s been no confirmation over whether Jones knew he was on air but, in perhaps an attempt to interrupt the rare lull on the NFL calendar, hypothetical trades involving the fantasy football godsend have resurfaced. Jones

The accoladed receiver’s de facto trade request serves to end his decade-long tenure in Atlanta. Several teams will undoubtedly embark on a full assault for his services and the crowded resume that comes with it.

Should the New York Jets be among them? ESM investigates…

For: Fantasy Football

Jones has been a staple of the early portions of fantasy football drafts for years. When’s the last time Jets fans were able to choose their favorite players with legitimate dreams of a fantasy title in mind. The last realistic options were probably Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker prior to the star-crossed 2015 campaign.

Now, the Jets shouldn’t base their entire lineup around who wins fantasy football championships; if that were the case, they might as well made a move for Derek Carr. But the fact they haven’t had any fantasy stars in recent years is rather telling about where they are as a franchise. Where are the reliable big play targets? Who does the rookie quarterback turn to in the clutch? Who will teams double cover on the last drive of the game?

This offseason, the Jets used the free agency process to stock up on weaponry for the new franchise quarterback, who turned out to be Zach Wilson. The current depth chart-toppers (Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Keelan Cole, and rookie Elijah Moore) are undoubtedly upgrades from last season, but they have yet to prove themselves as consistent, reliable top options. Bringing in Jones would make him one of the Jets’ top playmakers of the past decade, and he might not even have to play a single down to prove that. Plus, the confidence Wilson would have with Jones there to greet him could prove invaluable not only in 2021 but for years to come.

Against: Julio’s Woes

The sophomoric nature of the internet and social media have perhaps made the Jets unwilling to take risks or make high-profile moves. Any move they make is going to be accompanied by satirical scrutiny that’s threatens everything they’re trying to work with in the latest stage of their perpetual rebuild.

Jones, through almost entirely no fault of his own, is going to bring some baggage with him. He’s no doubt keen to stick it to a Falcons that has apparently given up on him, and the Jets do have a high-profile matchup with the Dirty Birds that apparently did him dirty (Atlanta will “host” the Jets in London in October). Jones is also trying to emerge from one of the NFL’s most unfair stigmas: returning from an injury. Hamstring issues limited him to nine games in 2020, but he still managed to tally a respectable 771 yards.

These factors make Jones a perfect candidate, perhaps even the favorite, for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award. Alas, that’s a quest the Jets truly can’t concern themselves with at this point. They have their own comeback/redemption story to write. It’s part of the reason Sam Darnold was let go. Sure, it was entirely possible that a green-clad Darnold could’ve benefitted from the coaching staff shake-up, but the Jets were at a point where they couldn’t base their immediate future on that “if”. The same could apply to Jones and his current endeavors.

For: They Can Help

Coming off three straight losing seasons (including a brutal 4-12 campaign that cost long-tenured Dan Quinn his job), the Falcons need a de facto bailout. As it stands, they’re currently of three teams with under $1 million in cap space (joining Chicago and New Orleans). Even so, they’re obviously going to want a decent return if they’re sending away one of the most prolific names in team history. Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports projects that any potential suitor would have to send at least a second-round pick.

The Jets have expendable assets to help the Falcons out. They own five picks in the first three rounds of next spring’s draft and could even include someone like Crowder (who becomes over $10 million in cap savings upon his departure). If the Falcons are going to trade Jones, something has to capture their fancy, make the deal truly worth their while. The Jets are one of the rare teams with both present and future assets Atlanta potentially covets.

Against: Anything But One Move Away

The Jets have improved by leaps and bounds this offseason, if only because there was little room to plummet further after 2020. Even so, making the playoffs is still going to be a tough ask. They’re trapped in a division with the defending AFC finalists and the other sections are packed with established contenders.

There’s no doubt that Jones can carry the load of a top receiver on a contender. He’s been part of a fairly consistent Atlanta team, but his prescience alone isn’t enough to secure a playoff berth. If he’s serious about moving, he’s likely going to choose a more established destination, not one where a majority of the starting lineup is undergoing a makeover.

Additionally, whoever trades for Jones is going to literally pay a hefty price. His 2021 cap hit exceeds $23 million, with $15 million guaranteed (per Over The Cap). The Jets are one of 11 teams that can handle Jones’ guaranteed salary with their current cap space, but there are other needs that need to be fulfilled before Week 1 kicks off. They’re in desperate need of a backup quarterback (preferably one that can double as a mentor for Wilson) and could certainly use another upgrade in their blocking and secondary areas. Jones, a 32-year-old due over $37 million over the next three seasons, is a luxurious acquisition that doesn’t fit the Jets’ current landscape.

The Verdict: Stay the Course 

If this was a year or two into the Robert Saleh era, adding Jones would be a lot more feasible. There would be time to showcase what Saleh and his staff are building, a few contests to develop momentum in what the Jets hope is their last extensive renovation for a long time.

Recent history suggests that maybe the Jets would be a bit better off in bypassing redemption-seeking superstars, at least for the time being. New York is still picking at the wounds left behind in the wake of the Le’Veon Bell era. The ghost of Bell shouldn’t haunt the Jets forever, but things are still a bit too fresh to justify and work through the growing pains of a superstar seeking to prove to himself and the football world that he’s still capable of an NFL workload.

If the Jets were on the cusp of the contention red zone, they would be right to go all out. But, right now, they’ve picked up a few first downs, but probably haven’t even reached midfield in the stadium of NFL fortune. If they were closer to the Super Bowl, investing a substantial sum into a 32-year-old receiver…one who has taken quite the pen to the NFL record books…would be a relative risk worth taking. But when progress would be possibly defined as an appearance in the “In the Hunt” column seen on the networks’ playoff charts come the holidays, adding Jones is not something you can do and would be an endeavor that would merely leave everyone bitter.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The New York Jets’ most vital improvements may be on special teams

The New York Jets’ special teams improvements will vital in taking their first steps toward their leadership’s vision.

When an NFL team comes off a two-win season and adds a second digit to its playoff drought, a macabre gift is offered in the form of an offseason where almost any move made will push the organization in the right direction.

Even if the New York Jets weren’t coming a season considered garish even by their own star-crossed standards, they certainly had one of most productive offseasons in the NFL.

The hiring of Robert Saleh brought rave reviews domestically and abroad. The end of April saw them find their newest franchise quarterback (Zach Wilson) and finish creating what could be one of the deepest receiving corps in the league (draftee Elijah Moore joining veteran newcomers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole). Defensively, they stocked up on veterans of 4-3 sets that Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich are projected to implement.

While the playoffs still sit out of reach for the Jets, trapped with a divisional juggernaut and established AFC contenders, there’s no doubt they’ve improved on paper on both offense and defense. They’re packed with newcomers that are going to help them improve both immediately (Tevin Coleman/Jarrad Davis) and in the long term (Davis and Carl Lawson, each a signer of a three-year deal).

But the true difference after this offseason could well be on display on the Jets’ special teams.

It feels like an eternity since the Jets were able to breathe easy about their specialists, even though it’s only been two full seasons since they sent both their kicker (Jason Myers) and primary returner (Andre Roberts) to the Pro Bowl. The turnover in the kicker’s spot has been particularly troubling: since Myers absconded to Seattle after his all-star season, six different kickers have appeared in the Jets’ role in either a regular season or exhibition contest.

It’s not just the kicking game where the Jets have struggled. Last season, they ranked 25th and 27th in opposing kick and punt return respectively and alternated between Corey Ballentine and Braxton Berrios as their own kickoff man.

New head coach Robert Saleh made it clear from the get-go that special teams adjustments would be part of his ongoing renovations, even if he wouldn’t take an immediate hands-on role. To that end, he retained longtime special teams coordinator Brant Boyer on his staff after an extensive research process. Boyer has now survived the purges of Todd Bowles and Adam Gase’s respective staffs as he enters his sixth season on the green staff.

“So many people have called on his (Boyer’s) behalf,” Saleh said per team reporter Ethan Greenberg. “He’s held in such high regard.”

General manager Joe Douglas has concurred, demonstrating his dedication by drafting punter Braden Mann with the final pick of his original draft in 2020.

The kicking solution isn’t fully solved, with incumbent Sam Ficken battling with undrafted free agent Chris Naggar. While Naggar might not have had the notoriety of first-year prospects like Evan McPherson or Jose Borregales, but he did lead the AAC in conversation rate (94 percent) and points during his final year at Southern Methodist.

“(We’re) very excited about him, giving him a chance,” Saleh said about Naggar, per Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “(We’re going) to give him the opportunity to come here and compete for that job. That’s a real deal and it’s gonna be fun to watch.”

That’s the type of reliability the Jets need in the kicker spot, especially with an offense still lingering in its development stages. With new quarterback Zach Wilson in tow, the maturation process will probably start all over again (though Wilson has a far stronger arsenal to work with in his first year than Sam Darnold probably ever did). What’s going to be huge in boosting a young offense’s confidence is if they can end drives that reach opposing territory with any points whatsoever.

They nearly had that in Ficken last season, as the Penn State-based veteran hit his first nine field goal attempts (five alone in an October prime time game against Denver) before sustaining an injury that forced the Jets to turn to Sergio Castillo and Chase McLaughlin at several points.

Likewise, the Jets need to shore up their return game with Roberts long gone. Darnold’s rookie season was barely blessed, but he did have the relative stability of Roberts, currently a Houston Texan, setting him up with solid starting field position.

If anyone knows about strong starting field position, it’s one of Boyer’s new positional assistants in Leon Washington. Sure, the prescience of Washington, a 2006 New York draftee, may make Jets fans feel old, but that’s a minuscule price to pay for having his expertise on the roster. Washington has spent four of the past five seasons

Upon his arrival to the Jets’ staff, Washington expressed a desire to carry on in the footsteps of his own special teams as a player, the long-tenured Mike Westhoff.

“You think about the history of the Jets. They were always known for special teams going back to Mike,” Washington, the Jets’ all-time leader in kick return touchdowns, said in another team. “Brant does a great job. He’s in that Mike Westhoff mold. He can really get guys to play hard for him.”

Among those looking to follow in Washington’s footsteps may be Moore, who filled in on both receiving and punt return duties in a solid fashion at Mississippi. Another offensive choice from Cleveland’s draft, as North Carolina rusher Michael Carter spoke about the idea of handling kickoffs with Jack Bell on the team website.

“I’ve been returning kicks all my life,” Carter said. “I did in college last two years. I don’t know what the future has in store, but I’m sure the Jets have a good plan for me.”

The Jets’ free agency offerings seem to indicate that they’re interested in the smaller, less-heralded aspects of special teams as well. Their coverage issues often set opponents up in strong situations and several touchdowns were perhaps saved by Mann, who earned four tackles last season. Sure, it’s always great to see the team’s reaction when the punter earns a takedown, but the fun wears off when the opposing offense needs a mere 40 yards for six points. This offseason has seen them take steps to combat that problem, wisely allocating their excessive offseason capital toward those goals.

Justin Hardee, well known for his coverage exploits, was signed from New Orleans, while sixth-round choice Hamsah Nasirildeen has been seen by some as a steal for his potential to provide strong specialist coverage. Post-draft endeavors saw them take undrafted rookie Jordyn Peters from Auburn. The safety became well known for becoming a new kind of backfield prescience, blocking four punts during his time as a Tiger.

One can certainly argue that the NFL appears to be chopping at the impact special teams have on the game: longer extra points encourage two-point conversions, the kickoff gets moved up by a few yards more often.

But if the Jets ignore their special teams exploits, Robert Saleh’s “All Gas, No Brake” mantra is going to go for naught and lose its meaning. So far, the Jets are doing what they can to prevent that reality.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: 5 games that could get the national TV treatment

When can New York Jets fans expect to see their team in prime time? ESM investigates with the official schedules on their way out tonight.

Nothing showcases the stranglehold that the NFL holds on the American imagination than the release of its annual schedule. The 2021 edition emerges on Wednesday, with early game reveals scheduled for the morning programs of Fox, CBS, and ABC (Fox & Friends, CBS This Morning, and Good Morning America respectively) before the full schedule is posted in prime time.

Contrary to the popular belief that performance dictates how “easy” or “hard” a team’s schedule is, there’s hardly any surprise involved when it comes to an individual team’s opponents. By the time we get to Wednesday’s reveals, everyone knows who their team is going to play in 2021. Heck, the NFL’s scheduling formula allows us to look to, say, 2049, and figure out all but three opponents for the year ahead. But the mere attachment of times and dates causes we, the football-hungry public, to break out into hysterics, a process and celebration that the league has now turned into an all-day affair.

The drama of schedule release day has been relatively benign for fans of the New York Jets. Trapped in a playoff drought that just hit double figures, the Jets have mostly been bestowed the comparatively mundane 1:00 p.m. ET timeslot in a majority of their contests. For example, they haven’t been a part of NBC’s Sunday Night Football package since 2011, seeing several other opportunities to appear on the peacock network erased by flexible scheduling.

But with the arrival of head coach Robert Saleh and offensive weapons, the young Jets could be worth watching and putting on a national stage again. Putting them in the playoff discussion might be a tad much, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that the Jets are in a much more intriguing spot than they were last year. Suddenly, there’s drama behidn the numbers again.

Which games could get the national call? ESM takes a look at five…

1. @ Carolina Panthers

There’s not much history between the Jets and Panthers. The teams have met only seven times and last faced off in Charlotte in 2013. But the Sam Darnold…and, to a lesser extent, Robby Anderson…factor changes everything. The new New York guard…Zach Wilson and Elijah Moore…going up against the old…Darnold and Robby Anderson…makes this a game the Jets could use as a barometer to see where they are in the latest chapter of their rebuild.

The Jets and Panthers may not be fighting for postseason position this year, but they’re in remarkably similar spots: trapped in a division with a powerful conference finalist that shows no signs of relenting, but equipped with hope through young offensive weaponry.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars

Whether they like it or not, Wilson and Trevor Lawrence are forever linked through their status as the opening two picks of the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite the Jets and Jaguars’ recent ineptitude…the two united for three wins last season…this will be an attractive game for the rookie throwers alone.  But there’s so much young talent from the past few drafts that the game should probably be called by Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. Wilson is aided by Moore, Denzel Mims, and Michael Carter, while the Jacksonville side is further repped by DJ Chark, Laviska Chenault, and Travis Etienne.

On top of it all, it well could feature Tim Tebow’s return to MetLife Stadium, the site of some of his most recent NFL regular season action. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

3. Buffalo Bills

The divisional rivalry loses a little luster with the loss of Darnold, Josh Allen’s fellow 2018 draftee. But Buffalo tightened its grip on the hearts of Empire State football with a downright historic season that ended in the AFC Championship Game. Divisional rivalries tend to get priority placement when it comes to the national TV schedule and the Bills would be the most attractive opponent to place in the slot with the New York connections in mind.

4. New England Patriots

The Jets-Patriots rivalry is at an interesting point in that both teams are reeling from losing seasons. But even in their unfamiliar squalor, the Patriots managed to sweep their yearly pair with the Jets last season. A new chapter of the rivalry begins with both teams boasting first-round quarterbacks: Wilson emerges for the Jets while the Patriots counter with Mac Jones.

New York-Boston rivalries always get national attention and the Jets-Patriots matchup has received a Monday Night date in each of the last two seasons. But the two teams’ status as AFC East also-rans, not to mention the uncertainty around the idea of Jones starting (you know Cam Newton won’t go down without a fight) could raise some red flags.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Just when you thought the Tom Brady nightmare was over, the seven-time Super Bowl champion returns for (at least) one last scare in the form of an interconference game with the defending champions. Networks have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with New York schadenfreude, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see Brady’s reunion with his old metropolitan buddies get the national treatment.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets select shifty UNC running back Michael Carter, what to know

jets, michael carter

The New York Jets have selected RB Michael Carter from the University of North Carolina with the 107th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. After drafting QB Zach Wilson from Bringham Young University, IOL Alijah Vera Tucker, and certified weapon from Ole Miss Elijah Moore. Now, the plan to put Zach Wilson in the best position possible continues. The Jets drafted a talented back in Carter.

In High School, Carter ran for over 2,500 yards in his senior season. The explosiveness carried over to Chapel Hill as he had 3,404 yards in his time with the Tarheels. That number puts him in the record books with the fourth best total in the school’s history. His burst and athleticism is evident in all facets of his game.

Last season on the ground, he rushed for a whopping 8.0 yards per carry, which was fifth in the NCAA last season. He also had 684 yards before contact, which was fourth best in the college ranks last year. On top of that, he had 267 yards receiving and 11 total scores last season. Oh yeah, and he did this alongside fellow draft pick and now Bronco running back Javonte Williams.

His talent is apparent, and he’s an even better guy off the field. He was voted team captain, and despite the fact he and Williams could’ve been at odds competing for reps, he was happy taking whatever role possible to benefit the team. Carter projects as a top-tier change of pace back at the next level, and he will slot in with Tevin Coleman, La’Mical Perine, and Ty Johnson as the backfield committee looks set heading into the 2021-22 season. This should allow the pressure on Zach Wilson to continue to ease while providing Mike LaFleur even more weapons in his first season as Offensive Coordinator.

New York Giants could target electric receiver in 2nd round

New York Giants, Elijah Moore

The New York Giants are still looking for offensive support this off-season, whether it comes through the NFL draft or free agency. One way or another, they need to offer quarterback Daniel Jones more weapons on offense, otherwise, he will struggle once again to get things going in the passing game, and his protection may be lackluster for the third season in a row.

As we know, the Giants had the 31st ranked offense in 2020, averaging 17.5 points per game and had the worst-rated pass-blocking OL in the NFL. Coordinator Jason Garrett also developed poor route concepts but put together a decent running game that the Giants were forced to rely on. Opponents simply played cover-0 and cover-1 for most of the contest, forcing the Giants to get rid of the ball quickly and make the receivers beat man-coverage. Ultimately, their plan worked for the most part, but the Giants’ defense rose to the occasion and helped them extract a few improbable wins.

Now, the Giants are looking toward this off-season to help Jones, and there’s one receiver in the second round that could fit the bill.

Should the New York Giants target Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore?

While Moore has a mid-second-round grade, if a team likes a player for their scheme, it is never too early to make that selection after the first round. Traditionally, taking the best player available is the most efficient thing to do in the first, but the Giants have the 43rd overall pick and can draft an immediate impact player to help their offense. There are several options that meet the eye, including Rondale Moore from Purdue or even Terrace Marshall from LSU if he happens to drop.

Moore, though, had a fantastic 2020 campaign, posting 1193 yards and a touchdown over just eight games. He averaged 13.9 yards perception, a career-high. In fact, all three of these categories were highs for him at Mississippi, and now he’s preparing to make the transition to the NFL. As a former four-star recruit, Moore is 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds but plays with fantastic strength and elusiveness in the open field.

Moore has the ability to align inside and out, but his dynamic style of play is what makes him so attractive. He has fantastic agility and the ability to stop on a dime and change direction. He isn’t the most refined route runner, he has fantastic speed and the ability to break tackles in the open field. He is a big-play threat at any given moment, which is something the Giants desperately need to help Jones in the short/intermediate range of the field.

One of the major attractions when it comes to Elijah is his ability to separate — which the Giants struggled with considerably in 2020. I see him as a stellar receiver in the 0-15 yard range, which is exactly what the Giants need for Jones, especially if the OL is going to be lackluster in pass protection again. Jones needs to get the ball out quickly, and having a receiver who can create separation and present a reliable target is a positive. The problem, he is small and isn’t much of a contested catcher but rather utilizes his speed and agility to get open.

While I likely wouldn’t select him with the 43rd overall pick, if the Giants executed a trade back and acquired another selection in the 2nd, I would consider him a few spots back. He has the ability to make an impact right away, and he would fit the Giants’ game well in the slot to replace Golden Tate.

New York Giants: Potential draft replacements for Golden Tate

New York Giants, Amari Rodgers

The New York Giants are revamping their offense this offseason. The Giants averaged a putrid 17.5 points per game in 2020. Dave Gettleman and John Mara promised to add playmakers to New York’s offense this offseason. However, the Giants are tight on salary cap space and have begun cutting players to make room.

This week, the Giants released veteran wide receiver Golden Tate after two years with the team. Cutting Tate freed up $6.2 million in salary cap space. But now the Giants’ offense, which already lacked playmakers, is without its starting slot receiver. New York is already expected to target outside wide receivers in free agency and the draft, but they will need to find a new receiver to man the slot.

Thankfully, the 2021 NFL Draft is loaded with wide receiver talent. There are talented wide receivers for the Giants to target on the outside or in the slot. In the middle rounds, New York might be able to find a gem of a slot receiver to replace Golden Tate.

Slot receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft

Amari Rodgers

Golden Tate’s key strength throughout his career in the NFL has been his ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. He was touted as a “YAC King” because of his playmaking ability. Clemson’s Amari Rodgers is a gym rat whose game mirrors Golden Tate’s in multiple ways.

Rodgers topped 1,000 receiving yards in Clemson’s offense this season along with 7 touchdowns on 77 receptions. He is a shorter wide receiver at 5 feet 9 inches but he has a surplus of strength and size at 211 pounds. Amari Rodgers moves like a running back but is aggressive at the catch point and has the ball skills of an outside wide receiver.

Amari is an exciting slot receiver prospect. He has reliable hands and solid athleticism, combined with his stocky build and physical playing style. Rodgers looks like a young Golden Tate clone at times on the field. In the 2021 NFL Draft, Amari Rodgers is expected to be drafted in the later rounds, making him a perfect target for the Giants to take a chance on as an additional slot receiver.

Amon-Ra St. Brown

USC has been churning out talented wide receiver prospects on an annual basis. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Michael Pittman Jr., and now, Amon-Ra St. Brown. The brother of the Green Bay Packers’ Equanimeous St. Brown, Amon-Ra, is entering the NFL this year. While he played primarily on the outside in college, St. Brown could find himself playing a slot receiver role at the next level.

Amon-Ra is a 6 foot 1 inch, 195 pound wide receiver that the Giants could consider targeting in the second or third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. St. Brown is skilled at the catch point and demonstrated versatility in college. He lined up in the slot and outside and made plays from both positions. St. Brown was a playmaker for USC, recording 13 touchdowns in his final 19 games along with 1,520 receiving yards.

His experience in the slot and outside could make St. Brown an enticing prospect for the Giants, a team that needs help at both wide receiver positions. His experience at both positions also gives Amon-Ra a full route tree at his disposable to unleash in his rookie season. Amon-Ra St. Brown might not be that dominant primary receiving threat the Giants are hoping to find, but he could be an excellent complimentary piece in Jason Garrett’s offense.

Elijah Moore

The Giants could target an exciting slot receiver prospect out of Ole Miss in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Elijah Moore is the next best receiver prospect to enter the league out of Ole Miss. Of course, DK Metcalf and AJ Brown are Ole Miss products that have turned into dominant primary receivers for their respective NFL teams.

Elijah Moore is projected to be a prototypical slot receiver in the NFL, despite playing his fair share of snaps on the outside in college. Moore is a tough receiver that is not afraid to make ugly plays over the middle of the field. He runs some impressive routes and has some of the most reliable hands in the draft class. Moore only dropped 2 passes in his 2020, per PFF.

He did line up outside sometimes, but Elijah Moore only faced press coverage 38 times. Elijah looks plays like a young Cole Beasley and should make an impact immediately in the NFL as a slot receiver.

New York Giants: One potential first round wide receiver who isn’t getting enough attention

New York Giants, Elijah Moore

The New York Giants have been linked to players like Jaylen Waddle, Kyle Pitts, and a bevy of other wide receiver options in the 2021 NFL draft. It is expected that the Giants will utilize a premium draft selection to acquire a player at the position, as quarterback Daniel Jones desperately needs help in the passing game.

This past season, Jones threw just 11 touchdowns compared to 24 in 2019, showing a tremendous drop off in production. However, while Jones deserves some of the blame, the wide receivers were unable to create separation and get open downfield. It is also fair to lump Jason Garrett into the equation, considering his route concepts were lackluster didn’t push the field vertically.

The Giants could wait until the second round to acquire a WR, though, and one underrated player isn’t being talked about enough. Mississippi receiver Elijah Moore is just as talented as any option in the first round, and he’s a player they could slip as a 5-foot-9 and 185-pound receiver. Thanks to a fantastic Lane Kiffin offense at Ole Miss in 2020, Moore saw his statistics skyrocket.

In 2019, Moore posted 850 yards and six touchdowns but logged 1193 yards and eight touchdowns this past season as Mississippi’s primary offensive weapon. As a former four-star prospect, Moore has always been a highly-touted receiver, and he finally hit his stride this past year. His professional comparison is Steve Smith, formerly of the Carolina Panthers.

How would Moore help the New York Giants?

While Moore is primarily a slot receiver, he has the athleticism and speed to create separation and make incredible plays after the catch. His ability to stop and start is unparalleled, and with a healthy blend of great route running and explosive athleticism, he’s a player that has an incredible ceiling.

The Giants could desperately use a dynamic receiver, and there are other receivers who offer similar traits, including Waddle, Rondale Moore, and Kadarius Toney.

Elijah is a player who could slip to the second round right into the Giants’ lap with the 43rd overall pick, so even if they do end up taking a defensive player like Micah Parsons or Patrick Surtain, they can find fantastic value at the WR position later on. If they are looking for playmaking talent that can create separation and make plays in the open field, Elijah Moore might be their guy.