Why the New York Jets must draft offensively at No. 23

New York Jets

It’s a foregone conclusion that the New York Jets will draft a quarterback at No. 2. But what will they do with their latter Thursday choice?

If this is the most pressing of problems the New York Jets have for the remainder of 2021, they’ll be one of the most, if not the most, blessed teams in all of professional sports.

The Jets have a welcome dilemma when the first round of the NFL Draft is held in Cleveland on April 29 (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/NFL Network). They’re one of a handful of teams with multiple first round picks, first choosing in the second slot before reaping the fruits of the Jamal Adams trade at 23rd overall. Though the second pick is more than likely spoken for…barring a jaw-dropping pre-draft surprise, the Jets will undoubtedly be taking a quarterback…there’s a major decision to be made in the latter station, a place where this draft’s predictability should be long gone.

When you’re a team like the Jets…coming off a two-win season, one even more brutal than this star-crossed franchise’s usual standards…

 Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Make the quarterback as comfortable as possible

When it comes to the second overall pick, the Jets have answered the question of what. Unless they plan on starting James Morgan, their 2020 fourth-round choice who has yet to wear an NFL game jersey, they’re drafting a non-Trevor Lawrence quarterback, be it Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, or an unknown third party.

Whoever it is, he’s going to need help, whether it’s through protection or weaponry (more on each of those in a minute). One of the things that doomed Sam Darnold’s New York career was the lack of stability on his end of the ball. By the time his third season began, no receivers from his rookie season (with the exception of tight end Chris Herndon) remained on the New York roster and his starting offensive line was completely different from even the year prior. The Jets need homegrown talent to help their new, young franchise man get used to the NFL game in a hurry.

The draft is also a more attractive option for the Jets to find offensive help because their last few big-ticket offensive arrivals from elsewhere (i.e. Le’Veon Bell) haven’t worked out. If they can build through the draft…and there’s a prime opportunity with 21 picks over the next two years…they can lay a foundation and rebuild a winning culture.

 Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Big plays are here again

So the Jets need offense, but that decision begets a decision: should they take a box score contributor or build the wall in front of Wilson/Fields/Other?

In the case of the former, it’s been a while since the Jets have had a truly explosive offense. It’s only been five seasons since Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker put up dueling 1,000-yard tallies during the bittersweet 2015 campaign, but that might as well be an eternity in football years. Making matters worse is that the Jets made little effort to keep Robby Anderson, the closest thing they had to a consistent playmaker. He posted career-best number in Carolina last season and now reunites with Darnold.

The Jets have assembled a decent core of veterans with Corey Davis and Keelan Cole joining the fray alongside incumbent slot man Jamison Crowder and sophomore Denzel Mims. But while drafting Mekhi Becton was a move no one could truly quarrel with, the Jets passed on name-brand receiving talent like Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and future All-Pro Justin Jefferson. This supposed sin can be rectified at No. 23, where names like Rashod Batman, Kadarius Toney, Terrace Marshall, and Tutu Atwell should all be available. Sure, the receiving class is deep enough that the Jets could find a receiver at No. 34…the second pick in Friday’s drawings…but the lack of offensive firepower has reached crisis levels in New York. Over the past five seasons, have the Jets have reached the four-touchdown/extra point plateau in 16 games, a mark besting only four teams (Chicago, Washington, Denver, and the Jets’ blue roommates in East Rutherford). That lack of production is ridiculously unsustainable in today’s NFL, and it shows: that group, including the Jets, has failed to win a playoff game over the last half-decade.

Many have theorized that the Jets could take a running back in the slot, but the Jets have resolved that issue, if only temporarily, through an affordable one-year deal with Tevin Coleman and a trio of young projects (La’mical Perine, Ty Johnson, Josh Adams). Besides, the recent first-round running back crop…especially when it gets to the later stages has shown it’s not worth it, at least not for their needs. It’d be great to bring in a, say, Rashaad Penny (drafted 27th by Seattle in 2018), but they can’t afford to use a first-round pick on a reliable spell option with a first-round pick. If they do address rushing, a power option like Rhamondre Stevenson could be a valuable latter-day steal.

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton
Credit: Joe McManus

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General manager Joe Douglas has had a small habit of having his football cake and eating it too, even if the dessert isn’t fully baked yet. When he took Becton with his first draft pick last season, he filled the big-play receiving potential slot with Mims, a Big 12 star from Matt Rhule’s Baylor Bears.

This offseason, Douglas has noticeably improved the team’s offensive chances through skilled talents that should at least keep fantasy football players’ eyes on Jets games (Davis, Coleman, Cole). He addressed the defense as well through 4-3 talents that will fit the preferred scheme of Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich. But the Jets remain understaffed on their blocking despite Douglas opening his checkbook for Connor McGovern, George Fant, and Greg Van Roten. Their quarterbacks were still on the run and little has been done to rectify that this offseason. Dan Feeney is high in personality but low on analytical rankings. Corey Levin hasn’t partaken in a regular season game since 2018.

Thus, it might help to continue building their fortress around the new thrower and improved rushing attack. Blocking draftees rarely send the draft parties into a frenzy…legendary blocker D’Brickashaw Ferguson was booed by a fanbase lusting after Matt Leinart…but no one’s complaining when the quarterback has time and the rushers have room to move.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

College teammates the New York Jets should consider for their new QB

The New York Jets are likely set to take a quarterback with the No. 2 pick this month. Adding one of his teammates could work wonders.

For the New York Jets, the easy part ends on draft day.

With the trade of Sam Darnold, it’s all but assured that Gang Green and general manager Joe Douglas will choose a quarterback with the second overall pick of April 29’s NFL Draft proceedings. But then comes the dirty work: grooming him and developing him into a reliable franchise man.

That’s something the Jets have had major trouble with. Their quarterback problems have been well-documented, the franchise slot changing hands more often than the roundball at a New York Knicks game. Darnold joins a list of endless false saviors, a list grown through injuries (Chad Pennington), age (Brett Favre), or simply general inconsistency (too many examples to list). It’s great that Douglas has yielded an embarrassment of draft riches, but he knows that it’s imperative that the right choices are made in those slots.

“We have a lot of opportunity in front of us, 21 picks in the next two drafts, including 10 in the first 3 rounds,” Douglas said of the Jets’ draft future, per notes from the team. “But with that opportunity, we know we have to make the most of it and hit on these picks.”

One way the Jets can smooth out the transition to a new quarterback is to perhaps find some of his teammates, familiar faces in a strange new locale. Though the general consensus appears that the Jets will choose Zach Wilson with their top pick, ESM goes over some of the top throwers and their alma maters to find perfect matches…

If they draft Zach Wilson from BYU

T Brady Christensen

BYU’s offensive fireworks were allowed to commence thanks to stellar protection. Three of their starting blockers, including Christensen, Chandon Herring, and Tristan Hodge, each opted for early entry. Christensen, a consensus 2020 All-American, worked primarily as a left tackle, a spot the Jets did fill in reasonably well with Mekhi Becton, but has been complemented for a strong football IQ that could allow him to make the shift to right. If the Jets don’t address their blocking woes with their extra first-rounder, Christensen could be worth looking into during the Friday session.

TE Matt Bushman

Adding Bushman, whose 2020 was washed away after an injury, would not only put some hit on the current crop of tight ends (namely starter Chris Herndon) but provided a familiar target for Wilson. Their last collaboration came in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve 2019, uniting for 91 yards on six hook-ups. Though lack of his speed and aggressiveness has attracted criticism, Bushman could wind up becoming a serviceable day three find, be it through the draft or free agency afterward.

WR Dax Milne 

Wilson’s favorite 2020 target was Milne by far, a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy (awarded to the nation’s most outstanding walk-on). Milne burst onto the scene with a stellar junior year, respectively ranking seventh and fourth in FBS play with 70 receptions for 1,188 yards. He probably would’ve been better off with an extra year in Provo, but a friendly face could help Wilson learn the offense more quickly, which could prove vital in a shortened preseason (down to three exhibitions after the addition of a 17th regular season game).

If they draft Justin Fields from Ohio State

G Wyatt Davis

Another unanimous All-American (in a season he nearly missed out on, originally declaring for the 2020 draft before the Big Ten opted-in to football antics), Davis should be a target for the Jets at Nos. 23 or 34 whether they draft Fields or not. No matter which thrower the Jets draft at No. 2, he’s going to need protection. A dominant, smart mind like Davis, who brings forth a lot of upside, can help that transition. Davis knows what it’s like to be called upon in unusual situations. His Big Ten debut came in the conference’s 2019 title game and he later partook in the ensuing Rose Bowl win over Washington over his first two collegiate starts.

RB Trey Sermon

In the rare cases that Fields struggled, perhaps the most notable instance coming in December’s conference title game, Sermon had his back. The rusher surged up draft boards during the collegiate postseason, torching Northwestern for a jaw-dropping 331 yards before earning 193 in the Sugar Bowl upset win over Clemson. If the Jets draft Fields, they could look to create some further heat in their running back room, joining fellow young projects like La’mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams.

If they draft Mac Jones from Alabama

C Landon Dickerson

One (of many) thing(s) Sam Darnold was never blessed with in New York was a truly reliable center, often working veteran castaways from elsewhere (I.e. Spencer Long/Jonotthan Harrison). Should the Jets go with the surging Jones (ranked third to San Francisco in Mel Kiper’s latest mock), Dickerson can help him avoid such a conundrum while putting some heat on incumbent Connor McGovern. He hauls a sizable trophy case to his professional destination, including the Rimington Trophy as the best center in college football.

G Deonte Brown

While the Crimson Tide’s skill players may be gone by the time the Jets are on the clock, they have valuable blocking assets that Jones or another can work with. Known for his power and strong run blocking, Brown might have to wait until day three due to length issues and mobility. But he has been know to open holes for the Crimson Tide’s run game and earned rave reviews for his in-line blocking, which would make him invaluable as a goal-line escort.

If they draft Trey Lance from North Dakota State

OL Dillon Radunz

Don’t let the small-school nominee Radunz get lost in a tackle noticeably sized in talent. Radunz got an opportunity to impress amongst elite talent at Mobile’s Senior Bowl. Some scouts have questioned his work ethic, though having a steady leader like Lance to potentially help him out could prove to be grounding. His strength and initial burst have earned positive reviews, and his raw power and talent could propel him to day two status.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The New York Jets must fix their kicking situation now

The New York Jets have been through six different legs since Jason Myers absconded to Seattle. The next one must last.

Even with a decent free agency haul, the New York Jets still have holes to fill with the NFL Draft looming large. Contending in a crowded AFC…one whose East division likely belongs to Buffalo for the time being and one packed with established contenders…might be difficult anyway even if all those needs are satisfied.

The Jets’ first choice, second only to Jacksonville on April 29, will undoubtedly be used on a quarterback, many presuming the choice to be BYU’s Zach Wilson. Afterward, however, there’s a lot of flexibility, especially with nine further picks in a surplus gained through trading Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, Sam Darnold, and Jordan Willis. The Jets can thus upgrade areas of major need, such as the gaps in their blocking and secondary.

But there’s one underrated area where the Jets are in desperate need of help: their kicking game.

One could be excused in overlooking the current situation. The Jets, losers of ten games decided by at least two possessions, didn’t drop any games because of a missed kick, after all. But having a reliable leg at this point of the franchise timeline is supremely vital.

For one thing, having this much turnover in a position that often takes up a single slot on the gameday depth chart is troubling. Since 2019 Pro Bowl nominee Jason Myers absconded to Seattle, the Jets have gone through a disturbingly jaw-dropping six kickers, including those who appeared only in preseason games. But the biggest reason why the Jets need to settle this is the sake of their offense.

In a modern NFL that worships a fantasy football deity, the Jets have lagged behind. In the highest-scoring season in NFL history (teams averaged 24.8 points per game, breaking a record set in 1948), the Jets ranked dead-last at an average of 15.2. New York was also dead-last in another vital category: only 16 of their (again, league-low) 38 visits to the red zone ended in a touchdown.

Time will only tell if the Jets will be able to raise any of those numbers this season. But, even with the potential of Wilson (or another rookie party like Justin Fields), there’s no doubt it’ll be tough to build on it with a freshman thrower in tow. But this year of building must end with an offense full of confidence as they try to end this perpetual rebuild. The perfect way to build that poise and assertiveness is by ensuring that drives that end within the opponents’ 20-yard-line yield points. When you’re a team that has had issues…and might continue to have issues…getting balls in the end zone, a good kicker is a must.

Right now, it’s debatable as to whether the Jets have that. They have two kickers on the roster, the most recent pair of the aforementioned six. A competition is all but assured to assume once training camp commences this summer. Each one returns from last year’s roster, with Sam Ficken, the two-year incumbent, coming back on a future/reserve contract and Chase McLaughlin being retained from the Week 17 trip to New England, meaningless if not for being the final stand of Adam Gase.

Both Ficken and McLaughlin could stick around in the NFL for a while. Ficken has floated around in gameday rosters since 2015, while McLaughlin has racked up frequent flier miles as an injury replacement since entering the league four years later. Though McLaughlin has a minuscule sample size (converting two extra point attempts in the aforementioned futile Foxboro visit), Ficken established a new career-high by converting just over 86 percent of triples (13-of-15). The Penn State alum well could’ve been the Jets’ long-term solution, but a groin injury sustained in November could prove concerning.

What the Jets need right now is a reliable, proven leg, one where fans don’t have to hold their breath as long when his name is called. It’s probably too late to turn to free agency to solve that problem. The most reliable available name, Ryan Succop, re-upped with the defending champions while veteran Matt Prater moved from Detroit to Arizona. What’s left is a group of names past their prime (Dan Bailey/Stephen Gostkowski) or inconsistent (Brett Maher/Zane Gonzalez).

Thus, the means toward a solution may come from an unusual source: the NFL Draft.

It’s true that the Jets could probably scour the undrafted free agent wire to add to the special teams festivities at camp. Four of the five most accurate kickers last season (the exception being Mason Crosby) were, after all, UDFA finds. But the Jets need to be confident in the name they have going forward, unlike the 2019 season. The team scooped up former Minnesota preseason hero Kaare Vedvik mere days before their season opener against Buffalo. Vedvik lasted just one game in green, missing an extra point and a field goal, the indirect difference in a 17-16 loss to the Bills.

In this era, the Jets need a proven name that has succeeded at a high level of football, and this year’s selection pool has some strong names to work with. Reigning Lou Groza Award winner Jose Borregales perhaps headlines the class out of Miami, while his fellow finalist Evan McPherson hails from Florida. Senior Bowl standout Riley Patterson from Memphis could also hear his name called during the four-round, final day process on May 1.

Drafting a kicker often gains your team only postmortem mockery in the immediate aftermath. Tampa Bay’s aforementioned Super Bowl triumph may only now finally end the Roberto Aguayo jokes after they chose the Florida State booter in the second round in 2016. The Jets themselves endured some of this the last time they opted for a leg in the draft, shockingly choosing Mike Nugent with their second-round choice (47th overall) in 2005 (passing on future Pro Bowlers like Nick Collins, Vincent Jackson, and Frank Gore).

This time around, though, the Jets can afford such a risk. That’s part of the gifts that come with ten draft picks, a surplus gained through trading several franchise staples. Quantity, as the Jets found out through John Idzik’s doomed dozen in 2014, doesn’t always equal quality, so they have to make the most of the extras granted to them. Drafting a kicker might be a great way to do that. There’s obviously no need to go the Nugent route…there are far greater holes to fill…but using one of their later picks could be a good way to find an immediate contributor and gain some consistency at a position where there’s been endless turnover.

Using a draft pick on special teams and valuing the group isn’t unheard of in this new era of Jets football. In his first draft at the helm, general manager Joe Douglas used his final choice on punter Braden Mann and special teams coordinator Brant Boyer is a rare survivor of the purge of Gase’s coaching staff, having also survived that of Todd Bowles’ group. Douglas knows that football is a three-pronged game, and getting the right guy at the vital positions is going to be crucial to building what he and Robert Saleh are trying to build.

Drafting a kicker’s an unusual situation in any NFL era. But desperate times, times that would welcome even the simplest form of football stability, call for unusual measures.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: A seven-round, post-Sam Darnold mock draft

With Sam Darnold having moved on, ESM envisions how the New York Jets’ replenished draft haul will look come April/May.

Sam Darnold is gone, resolving the question of his New York Jets fate. Now, another rises in his place: now what?

Following Darnold’s dealing to Carolina earlier this week, the Jets now hold ten picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, which begins on April 29. The last came from the Panthers along with two further choices in next year’s selections.

With Darnold’s New York term ended, how should the Jets spend this surplus? In the immediate aftermath, it’s a terrific note on Douglas’ resume that he has earned the Jets double-figure offerings in a single draft. But draft day quantity, of course, is never a guarantee of quality. The Jets learned that lesson the hard way during the 2014 proceedings. Then-general manager John Idzik held a dozen picks in the final draft in New York, but none of them remain on the Jets’ current roster and, in fact, only one (fourth-rounder Dakota Dozier, now a starting blocker in Minnesota) partook in NFL action last season.

How can the Jets make the most of their excess choices, especially in the wake of the Darnold news? ESM investigates through a full New York mock…

1st Round (2nd overall): QB Zach Wilson, BYU

One of the biggest wins of the Darnold trade was that the Jets now have an official deadline for their current quarterback controversy: the evening of April 29, after they make their second pick. Deshaun Watson is out for obvious reasons and they certainly won’t entrust Week 1 starting duties to Mike White or James Morgan. Thus, it’s a near-certainty that they’ll choose a non-Trevor Lawrence thrower with the second overall choice.

With a New York triumvirate (Joe Douglas, Robert Saleh, Mike LaFleur) in tow for his pro day in Provo, it’s beginning to look like a Wilson-based future for the Jets. ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter took it a step further, flat out texting Wilson “Welcome to New York” after the Jets-Panthers deal was completed. With this move, Douglas has officially solidified the Jets as his “own”, as the modern Jets will work with a head coach and quarterback exclusively chosen by the current GM.

1st Round (23rd overall): C/G Landon Dickerson, Alabama

So the Jets have traded Darnold, the latest of several offseason moves that have made them a better team on paper (if only because there’s nowhere to go but up after a 2-14 campaign). But their offensive line negligence has only gained a brighter spotlight. Dan Feeny and Corey Levin are acceptable options for depth, but they’re not guys that are going to push the Jets’ offensive needle in the right direction.

Dickerson, on the other hand, can be a difference-maker. Going 23rd would almost be an injustice to the 6’6, 325 lb. national champion, who was injured on a scoring play during the SEC title game. It was the last of several injuries he endured in Tuscaloosa, which has served as a red flag in several teams’ draft preparation. But Dickerson’s loss in position could be the Jets’ gain, as he brings an impressive resume that goes beyond his championship ring. He’s the current holder of both the Rimington and Jacobs Blocking trophies (sharing the latter with teammate Alex Leatherwood) and was a unanimous All-American last year.

2nd Round (34th overall): LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa

The hullabaloo around a new quarterback…as well as some shrewd offseason maneuvering from Douglas and Co…has somewhat masked the fact that the Jets still have some defensive renovations to make. One of the smarter moves of Douglas’ winter was bringing in Carl Lawson and Jarrad Davis, both of whom have extensive experience with the 4-3 defense that Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich are set to install in New York.

Don’t be surprised if the Jets take a similar approach on draft weekend. Collins is among the top, if not at the top, of the 4-3 linebackers in the coming class. He likewise brings in a sizable trophy case to his NFL destination, one that includes the AAC Defensive Player of the Year Award (guiding the Golden Hurricane to an undefeated regular season in conference play) and the Chuck Bednarik Award (whose previous three winners include Minkah Fitzpatrick, Josh Allen, and Chase Young). Critics feel like Collins would have to improve his physicality to move into the first round proper, but he’s the type of day two pic that can contribute immediately.

3rd Round (66th overall): CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford

As the post-Jamal Adams carries on, the Jets are still relatively thin in their secondary. Their safeties are on relatively solid ground…having franchise-tagged Marcus Maye and working on Ashtyn Davis as a project. But they’re still understaffed in the cornerback spots, where the current top options are veteran newcomer Justin Hardee (who’s primarily used on special teams) and raw, young talents like Bless Austin and Bryce Hall.

Thus, it’s worth exploring some cornerback options on day two, some more proven potential that can contribute immediately. Perhaps unfairly, Adebo has seen his stock fall after opting out of the 2020 season. He was previously projected to be among the first safeties to go in Mel Kiper’s 2020 draft board. He’s thus another project, but he has at least has some proven potential to work with (primarily as a player with the “ballhawk” classification) and could insert himself into a starting lineup fairly quickly.

3rd Round (86th overall): T Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa

The Jets have a perfect opportunity to make up for their relative inactivity in terms of upgrading their protection through the extra picks gained on the first two days. Their thrower’s blindside is protected through the first-round arrival of Mekhi Becton last season, but their questions on the right side. George Fant appears to be back in the starting lineup with Chuma Edoga behind him.

Brown, an FCS standout, could provide the proper heat to a veteran like Fant on the right side. His 2020 showcase has been thrown into disarray with uncertainty in what was Division I-AA football, but Brown managed to impress at both the Senior Bowl and UNI’s pro day. He has earned particularly strong reviews for his pass blocking and, in lieu of partaking in UNI’s ongoing shortened year, has been training with former All-Pro blocker (and Saleh’s fellow San Francisco alum) Joe Staley.

4th Round (107th overall): RB Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma

The Jets have an interesting running back situation. Signing Tevin Coleman can not only give the offense a proven weapon both on the ground and through the air, but also take the pressure off the new quarterback. Behind Coleman is a trio of projects who have raw potential: La’mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams. It wouldn’t be surprising for the Jets to add an upstart rookie to create a training camp competition. The addition of Coleman allows the Jets to address other areas over the first few rounds.

A failed drug test suspension kept Stevenson, a former JUCO star at Cerritos College, out of the Sooners’ College Football Playoff trek at the end of the 2019-20 season, as well as the first five games of last year’s campaign. He nonetheless led the Sooners with 665 rushing yards (6.6 average carry), capped off by a dominant 186-yard showing in OU’s dominant Cotton Bowl victory over Florida. Stevenson’s build (230-240 lbs.) could also allow the Jets to reestablish a fullback role, especially with Saleh and LaFleur knowing the benefits of such a position, having worked with Kyle Juszczyk in San Francisco. The Jets toyed with tight end and 2019 draftee Trevon Wesco in the spot over the last two seasons, but more or less abandoned the project last year.

5th Round (146th overall): WR Shi Smith, South Carolina

At receiver, the Jets did a solid job of upgrading their receiving weaponry for the incoming quarterback. In addition to Coleman (111 receptions from 2016-19 with Atlanta and San Francisco), they added promising young veterans Corey Davis and Keelan Cole to a group that already includes Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder. But the third day of the draft would be a good time to find some depth.

Smith could be a potential project, especially one in the slot with Crowder due to hit free agency next year. His development in Columbia was slightly hampered by the Gamecocks’ unstable quarterback situation, but he still garnered some professional looks for his speed and athleticism (which could allow the Jets to establish the screen). Smith’s 57 receptions earned last season were good for fifth in the SEC’s shortened 2020 season. He can also add a little heat to the Jets’ return situation, currently headed by Corey Ballentine and Braxton Berrios, as he was second in the conference with a 21.9 kick return average during the 2019 campaign (albeit on a 12-return sample size).

5th Round (154th overall): S Ar’Darius Washington, TCU

As Brian Poole remains unsigned, the Jets could use a nickel/dime upgrade while potentially working on a safety project. While Washington’s size (5’8, 178 lbs.) is a concern, his ball skills make him an intriguing prospect to work with in the secondary. The underclassman has constantly defied odds, not only working his way through a tough size situation but also making an immediate Fort Worth impression by winning the Big 12’s Defensive Freshman of the Year Award. Working with Hardee could also allow him to make an impact on special teams.

6th Round (186th overall): TE Matt Bushman, BYU

At tight end, Chris Herndon is the one player left over from the Jets’ new uniform showcase in the early stages of 2019. While they did add Tyler Kroft…who will be a decent goal line option…Herndon still appears to be the top man in the position. Adding Bushman would not only put some heat on Herndon but also give Wilson a friendly face to work with in his NFL debut. Though Bushman missed all of the Cougars flirtation with a New Year’s Six bowl with an injury, he was their top receiver in 2019, notably uniting for 91 yards on six receptions in their final collaboration in the Hawaii Bowl.

6th Round (227th overall): K Jose Borreagales, Miami (FL)

The current pick gained from the Panthers in the Darnold trade can allow the Jets to address one of their most problematic areas: kicking. With an offense still struggling to consistently visit the end zone, having a reliable kicker will be vital if they want to remain competitive. Since the Pro Bowler Jason Myers left for Seattle two offseasons ago, the Jets have gone through six different kickers. The most recent pair (Sam Ficken and Chase McLaughlin) remain on the roster, with a competition potentially set to ensue. Last year’s draft showed that they wouldn’t hesitate to use a pick to bolster their special teams, using their last on Texas A&M punter Braden Mann.

New York needs a reliable name as their leg, and the primary boot in this draft is Borreagales. A native of Venezuela, Borreagales established himself as a South Beach kicking legend, first starring at Florida International before spending a fifth season with The U. Mirroring Mann’s Ray Guy Award, Borreagales would bring a Lou Groza trophy with him as the current holder. He was successful on all 35 of his extra point attempts last season and was 18-of-20 on field goals. One conversion was a 57-yard boot in a September win over Louisville, a primetime showdown that saw him score 17 points in a 47-34 win.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets LB C.J. Mosley speaks after vaccination

New York Jets, C.J. Mosley

The New York Jets linebacker, who sat out last season due to health concerns, shared a message on Instagram after receiving his vaccination.

New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley announced through Instagram that he has been administered the first of two COVID-19 vaccinations. According to his post, Mosley has received the Janssen vaccine and is due for a second shot at a date to be determined.

In his message announcing the news, he encouraged others, including his critics to seek out their own shots.

“Let’s get back to normal, let’s be happy, let’s feel the love from our family and friends…LETS GET VACCINATED! [sic]” Mosley wrote in his caption. “ps if you got time throw in a football joke, you have enough time to type in your info to register to get vaccinated.”

The former Baltimore Raven opted out of his second season in green citing concerns about the NFL season proceeding in the midst of the ongoing health crisis. A four-time All-Pro nominee, Mosley signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the Jets in March 2019, but injuries and last season’s opt-out have limited him to two games in a New York uniform.

Upset fans inevitably filled Mosley’s post, facetiously hoping that Mosley’s vaccination means he’ll be able to partake in the upcoming season. Mosley responded to his detractors in stride.

“I’ve never said check my stats…. but check my stats!” Mosley said told one. “I’ve missed two years and my stats still up there with the best. This post is about the health and well being of myself and others. If you disagree, then all good brotha. BUT pleaseeeeeee spare me talking about some career games. [sic]”

Because I’m part of the 1% in this profession, not you. So just 🤫 until them gates open up at METLIFE! Then it’s go time.” [sic]

Mosley won’t be the only vaccinated one returning to MetLife Stadium this season. With vaccinations well underway across the nation, it’s highly anticipated that fans will be welcomed back to Jets and Giants games. The pair were two of 19 teams whose home games remained closed to fans.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING NEWS: New York Jets trade QB Sam Darnold to Carolina (Report)

Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the New York Jets are trading quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for three picks.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the New York Jets are trading quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers. In exchange, the Jets get three picks from Charlotte: two 2022 choices (second and fourth) as well as a sixth-round pick in the upcoming draft in April.

[UPDATE: 4:50 p.m. ET]: The Jets have confirmed the trade in a team statement.

“I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets. He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose NFL story has not been written yet,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas said in the team-issued declaration. “While all these things are true, this move is in the short and long-term best interests for both this team and him. We thank Sam for all of his work on behalf of this organization and wish him well as he continues his career.”

The 2021 pick sent over from Carolina will be the 227th overall pick (226th if accounting for the forfeited 77th choice from New England).

Thus ends Darnold’s tenure as the New York Jets’ franchise quarterback, a stretch that began as the third overall choice out of USC in the 2018 draft. Darnold was part of a highly publicized quarterback draft class that also included Baker Mayfield (1st overall), Josh Allen (7th), Josh Rosen (10th), and Lamar Jackson (32nd). While his New York career featured flashes of brilliance, he was never able to establish any consistency. His Jets career ends with a 13-25 record as a starter, going along with 8,097 yards and 45 touchdown passes, those marks both good for eighth in team history.

It was tough for Darnold to establish his mark as a Jets starter due to the numerous turnover in the Jets’ starting lineups. Only one receiver (tight end Chris Herndon) remained on the Jets’ roster from his rookie campaign. He was nonetheless able to display fleeting flashes of brilliance in green, his best showing being a December 2018 battle with Aaron Rodgers during his rookie season. Darnold earned personal bests in passer rating (128.4) and yardage (341) in a 44-38 overtime defeat at the hands of Green Bay. Another classic Darnold moment came in October 2019, when he returned from a bout with mononucleosis to tally 338 yards and two scores in a win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Darnold also had trouble staying healthy during his time with the Jets, failing to start a full season through injuries and illness.

Carolina should present a stable situation for Darnold, who reunites with Robby Anderson, his former favorite target in green. The Panthers also have a strong rushing situation (headlined by Christian McCaffrey) and strong offensive minds like head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Darnold will likely compete for the starting job with Teddy Bridgewater, the Panthers’ incumbent starter who worked with him during the 2018 preseason.

With the trade of Darnold, the Jets will more than likely use the second overall choice in April’s draft on a quarterback, namely BYU’s Zach Wilson or Ohio State’s Justin Fields.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three ways a 17-game schedule affects the New York Jets

With the NFL set to introduce a 17-game schedule next season, ESM ponders how the New York Jets will be affected in the immediate aftermath.

The NFL season got a little longer this week, as league owners approved the addition of a 17th game to the yearly schedule. This new game will a fifth interconference battle based on divisional finish the year before. For example, the New York Jets and their AFC East brethren will battle their NFC counterparts in the 2021 debut, with the Jets taking on their fellow fourth-place finishers from Philadelphia.

What sort of unique challenges does the new schedule present? ESM investigates…

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It’s An Extra Game of Experience

Even with some valuable veteran additions in tow, the Jets are still a young team at heart. Only eight players on the current roster have more than five years of NFL experience (not counting ongoing free agents like Bradley McDougald and Neville Hewitt) and all signs point to them sending out a rookie quarterback for their Week 1 contest in September.

Perhaps nothing could’ve stopped the carnage that last season wrought, but the Jets were one of the teams more drastically affected by the lack of a 2020 preseason. There were simply too many new faces that could’ve benefitted from consequence-free opportunities. With Robert Saleh in tow, the Jets are preparing to enter a new era. While there are many newcomers in on one-year deals, there’s hope for longevity through the new contracts bestowed to guys like Corey Davis and Carl Lawson (three years each).

Though the Jets have gotten better through their offseason additions, asking them to compete for a 2021 playoff spot is still a tough ask. Buffalo has apparently inherited the AFC East throne from New England, who spent big this offseason to reclaim. Established wild card contenders pepper the outlook elsewhere. Thus, the 2020 season will be about building continuity and chemistry. If they insert themselves into the playoff conversation, that’s an added bonus. But an extra game gives them a chance to develop the big pair of c’s for their future.

New York Jets, Robert Saleh
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Perfect For a New Coach

Robert Saleh has a good chance to make a first impression with a shortened preseason on its way.  But now he, as well as the other six new head coaches in the league, has an extra regular season game to further establish his vision and start to make things right.

In his opening statements, Saleh expressed his desire to establish a new culture in New York but stressed that fans would have to be patient.

“There’s an investment that’s going to be made to one another, coaches to players, players to coaches, organization to everybody, and there’s an investment that’s going to be reciprocated,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “(It’s an) understanding that the all gas, no brake mentality that we’re going to have with how we wake up in the morning, how we rehab, how we prepare for meetings, how we take the practice field, how we’re deliberate in everything we do will lead to the results that you’ll see on Sunday. It will take time, but everything we do is going to be designed to win championships in the future.”

The caveat of patience is still extremely necessary, but an extra game of regular season work is a godsend to Saleh and Co.

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

The Jets-Giants Rivalry Could Finally Become a Thing

The Jets own countless acres of real estate in the heads of New York Giants fans, and vice versa. Yet, it’s hard to truly classify the battle of Bergen County as a true rivalry as the teams’ quadrennial meeting doesn’t stem enough animosity. One can only get so amped from a preseason tilt as well.

Obviously, the Jets won’t face an NFC East opponent every year under the new format. But the gap between metropolitan meetings could steadily decares if things play out. Heck, if things go the way each side is hoping they will, it could become a battle of local division champions, as the 17th meeting will matchup teams who finished in the same spots. Even if things don’t work out, it can become a battle of rebuilders, and give their long-suffering fans something to battle and brag about.

The Giants-Jets clash is never going to become the Subway Series. But if the 17th game allows them to meet more often than once every four years, it could at least gain a little traction and become a must-see event on the national level.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Ranking the New York Jets’ March Madness by 2021 impact

New York Giants, Corey Davis

With the free agency frenzy relatively pacified, ESM looks back on the New York Jets’ March signings and ranks them by their 2021 impact.

The third month on the calendar has been filled with realized dreams, jaw-dropping surprises, and, quite simply, madness.

We are, of course, referring to the NFL’s free agency proceedings…what were you thinking?

Even in its dormant stages, the gridiron has matched the hardwood in drama and intensity through its annual transactional period. We’ve seen the metropolitan football landscape shift as both the New York Jets and Giants seek to claw their ways back to respectability.

From the former’s green standpoint, perhaps anything short of a perfect offseason renovation was going to be able to loosen the current stranglehold the Buffalo Bills have on the AFC East. But the Jets have had a solid, methodic offseason that has at least laid down the groundwork for the team’s potential redemption.

But which newly-minted Jets can have the biggest impact in 2021, in the short term future? ESM looks back on the Jets’ March signings and investigates…

1. RB Tevin Coleman

After the Le’Veon Bell debacle, it’s going to be a long, long time before the Jets break open the bank for a running back. Even so, a strong rushing attack can help remove some of the offensive burden from the quarterback, whether it’s a Sam Darnold desperate for stability or a rookie looking to get off to a good start. There’s potential in the La’Mical Perine-Ty Johnson-Josh Adams triumvirate, but veteran assistance was definitely needed.

Coleman was a rare carry-over from San Francisco for Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur. He struggled last season, dealing with a sprained knee for a majority of the year, but earned some vital carries during the 49ers’ run to the Super Bowl the year before. Coleman’s offensive firepower, capable of earning yards and scores through both rushing and receiving antics, is something the Jets have sorely lacked, as a shortage of big-play talent has stifled any progress they’ve been trying to make in the modern NFL.

2. WR Corey Davis

The Jets were without a big-play receiver after letting Robby Anderson walk to Carolina without much resistance and Denzel Mims’ NFL debut was delayed. Time will tell if Davis is capable of becoming a No. 1 receiver, a billing he never truly lived up to in Tennessee. But, for now, he grants further offensive stability and is a proven talent that knows how to play in big games, having partaken in three playoff treks in Nashville.

Despite falling just short of four digits in yardage, forced to the reserve/COVID-19 list, Davis is nonetheless coming off a career-best season (65 receptions, 984 yards, 5 touchdowns). Getting a young talent on the upswing was vital for this offense, and Davis was perhaps one of the better options available in that realm.

3. LB Jarrad Davis 

While Saleh and the Jets avoided splurging on former 49ers, they were nonetheless able to acquire personnel that can seamlessly fit in what the new head coach is trying to do.

Davis never lived up to first-round billing in Detroit but was very successful in a 4-3 set under co-coordinators Randy Shannon and (current Georgia Tech boss) Geoff Collins. Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich have had success in the set before and will bring it over to New York. Having a relative expert in the field like Davis will help the transition.

4. DE Carl Lawson

Perhaps overshadowed by Geno Atkins in Cincinnati, Lawson has a prime opportunity to shine in New York. He couldn’t have arrived at a better time, as the Jets are faced with the prospect of two yearly meetings with both Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa, necessitating a strong pass rush. His versatility should allow him to contribute on the edge as both an end and a Linebacker. Lawson is particularly excited about working with what Saleh has to offer.

“I looked up some stuff on YouTube about Coach Saleh and I heard some stuff around the league,” Lawson said in his introductory statements, per team reporter Randy Lange. “Listening to some interviews, I came away with how impressive he was. Even in a video, he felt like he was talking to me. And then there was availability at the spot [on the D-line], so those were the first two things that really attracted me here.”

5. WR Keelan Cole

One can debate whether the Jets have a true “No. 1” receiver right now. But with Cole, Davis, and the returning Mims and Jamison Crowder, there’s some strong potential and a sizable arsenal for the quarterback to worth with. The arrival of Cole is just another weapon to work with and helps the Jets start the season with a far more experienced receiving corps. Making Cole even more valuable is the fact that he has carved a strong NFL path for himself despite a carousel of quarterbacks working their way through Jacksonville.

6. DT Sheldon Rankins

Rankins should be an instant starter on the Jets’ defense and is another versatile option that has lined up as an end, tackle, and nose. The revamped front seven can benefit from that flexibility and experience. Ranking, the 12th overall choice of New Orleans in 2016 should also serve as a great mentor to Quinnen Williams, who appears ready to follow in the Louisville alum’s footsteps.

“I watched the true impact defender that (Williams) really is, watching him flourish last year, but he’s really only scratching the surface,” Rankins said of his potential mentorship role, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “He’s still doing a lot of things of just being better than a lot of people. I think once you fine-tune some things…I’ve been around this game going on for six years now. I’ve seen a lot, been through a lot. I can give him some nuggets here and there.”

7. S LaMarcus Joyner

The Joe Douglas era has been relatively bereft of long-term deals, and Joyner’s one-year offer ($3 million) was no exception. He should probably take over the primary strong safety spot alongside Marcus Maye as the 30-year-old searches for some long-term roots after spending the last two seasons with the migrating Raiders.

If anything, Joyner can be a strong mentor to previous third-round choice Ashtyn Davis, who enters a de facto second rookie season after his original was marred by injuries.

8. TE Tyler Kroft

When’s the last time the Jets have had a reliable red zone target? Scoring has been a major concern in the first place, but they could use someone able to create the necessary red zone separation. There was hope Chris Herndon could be that scorer, but he hasn’t matched the firepower of a strong rookie season.

Kroft probably isn’t going to challenge Herndon for the top spot just yet, but he can be that option for a quarterback in desperate need of stability. Each of the Rutgers alum’s dozen career touchdown receptions has come from 20 yards or fewer, including three from Josh Allen last season, including the game-winner in a September win over the Rams. Kroft has also earned positive reviews for his blocking, indirectly addressing an area of need that has unfortunately been otherwise neglected.

9. G Dan Feeney 

Going into the offseason, the Jets’ most pressing need was not the quarterback, but the protection in front of him. Thus far, the Jets have done little to remedy the situation as Feeney, high in personality but low on the analytical ranking lists, is the only offensive line acquisition they’ve made thus far, thrusting a brighter spotlight upon him.

It’s unknown exactly where Feeney will fit in on the Jets’ official depth chart. The best estimation right now probably has him backing up Greg Van Roten at right guard. But, at least until the Jets add some protection through the draft, he’s the only difference from last season and he might get called upon to make some changes, especially in the interior.

10. CB Justin Hardee

Hardee is officially listed as a cornerback, but it’s far more likely he’ll bolster the Jets’ coverage units. When you’re a team like the Jets, one that struggles to score, pinning the opponent deep on kickoffs and punts remains vital. Hardee, a mainstay amongst the top special teams tackle leaders, should help the Jets improve on their punts, as they allowed 11.7 yards per return last season (27th in the NFL), a number that could’ve been higher if not for some crucial stops by Braden Mann.

11. DE Vinny Curry

Curry has had his moments of NFL glory, but no one’s expecting the nine-sacks, four-forced fumble season he earned in 2014. Last season in Philadelphia showed that the 33-year-old still has some power left in the tank, so he can serve as a reliable depth option, which could’ve come in handy last season when Jabari Zuniga and Kyle Phillips went down. It’s more likely, though, he’ll be used in more of a mentorship role for Williams and Foley Fatukasi.

12. LB Del’Shawn Phillips

The former JUCO star has an inspiring story, working his way into a Big Ten school (Illinois) after academic ineligibility ended his original Division I dreams at Western Michigan. Even with the Jets’ issues at linebacker, Phillips likely faces an uphill battle to reach the Week 1 lineup.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets’ debut 17th game comes against Philadelphia

The first-ever 17-game regular season will feature a matchup between the New York Jets and their cross-conference green rivals.

The NFL confirmed plans to move forward with its first-ever 17-game regular season on Tuesday afternoon. League owners voted in the new change, which also trims the preseason slate from four games to three.

Under this new format, which will take effect immediately, the Jets will host a ninth home game, this debut edition coming against the Philadelphia Eagles.

A 16-game schedule had been an NFL staple since 1978, with exceptions in the strike-shortened 1982 and 1987 seasons. These newly minted extra games will apparently be interconference matchups, corresponding to the matching divisional finish with another quartet. For example, under the first year, the squads of the AFC East will battle those in their NFC equivalent.

By virtue of their fourth-place finishes, the Jets (2-14) will battle the Eagles (4-11-1) at MetLife Stadium. Division champions Washington and Buffalo will square off in Orchard Park while the Miami Dolphins will make a second visit to East Rutherford to battle their fellow runner-ups, the New York Giants. The matchups are rounded out by a battle between the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots in Arlington.

The Jets and Eagles have met quadrennially since the league switched to the current eight divisions in 2002. Alas for the Jets, the matchup has proven torturous as they have lost all 11 regular season meetings, the last being a 31-6 shellacking at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019. The teams have met annually in the preseason since 2001, a get-together that has proven far more lucrative for New York, who owns a 13-6 advantage.

In further NFL news, the 2021-22 season will open on Thursday, September 9 in a game that will likely involve the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the extra game on the schedule, the playoffs will begin on January 9 with Super Bowl LVI scheduled for February 13 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The Pro Bowl is set to return after being forced to virtual settings last season, with the 2022 edition set to be held at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

How the NFL Draft shuffle affects the New York Jets

The New York Jets remained rooted in the second overall slot, but chaos erupted behind them on Friday. Where does that leave them?

Never mind the Super Bowl shuffle…the draft board boogie aired at full blast on Friday afternoon.

The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets respectively remain in the top two slots, but the landscape behind looks drastically different. At the cost of two future firsts, the San Francisco 49ers will now choose in the third slot. The Miami Dolphins, recipients of those Bay Area picks, dealt the No. 12 they gained to Philadelphia, officially situating themselves at sixth overall. 

How does this affect the Jets, still the ongoing holders of the No. 2 choice? ESM investigates…

No Way, Darnold

Many assume that the 49ers, like the Jets before them in 2018, are trading up to the third pick to select a quarterback. Trevor Lawrence remains the consensus top choice to Duval, while many believe the Jets will take BYU passer Zach Wilson after team brass attended his pro day on Friday.

Despite being firmly entrenched in the rookie passer discussion, San Francisco has no imminent plans to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. But this move more or less eliminates them from the Sam Darnold conversation. If the 49ers are apparently comfortable with a lingering quarterback controversy between Garopoolo and, say, Justin Fields, there’s no way they would add a third name to that list.

This week has been one of the roller-coaster variety for Darnold. Corey Davis mentioned that he was under the impression that Darnold would be his thrower come September in his first New York statements. But the New York prescience in Provo dictates that the Jets are still exploring other options. If the Jets are ready to officially close the book on Darold, likely only one potential destination remains: the Carolina Panthers. 

Tua Time

Miami owned the third pick through one of the earliest chapters of the downfall of the Houston Texans: the trade for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills. After Friday, the Dolphins have essentially turned Tunsil (who fell to their grasp at 13th overall in 2018 after the bizarre social media hacking) into six first-round picks over the next three drafts.

But the cold truth is that draft quantity means nothing without quality, and major questions surround a high-profile choice in quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 in 2020).

While many have pegged the Dolphins as a surprise playoff team this season after winning ten games, questions hovered around their quarterback position, especially after the Ryan Fitzpatrick safety net went to Washington. Trading out of the third slot essentially says they’re not looking for a quarterback. Even with the sixth choice, the best passers, including FCS stud Trey Lance, will probably be gone. With Atlanta rounding out the top four and possibly looking to prepare for the post-Matt Ryan era, we well could see quarterback taken with the first four picks.

From a New York standpoint, the upgrades to their front seven through Vinny Curry and Sheldon Rankins look even wiser right now. It’s possible they could use their latte first-round choice (the Seattle pick at No. 23) to further shore up their edge game, though cornerback options have also been analyzed.

Would the Jets be willing to trade too?

San Francisco elevator ride up the draft board ensures that they can get one of the three or four most-talked-about passing names in the draft. Could that inspire other teams to give the Jets a call in an attempt to find further passing stability?

Carolina’s passing conundrum is anything but solved in the eighth choice, their current depth chart topped by Teddy Bridgewater and P.J. Walker. Denver could be trying to put pressure on incumbent Drew Lock. Stifling the tough of such a deal is the fact that neither potential partner has much to offer in terms of future picks (the best in terms of a surplus amongst each of them is day three picks in 2021). Either way, this shift will possibly have other quarterback-hungry teams trying to work their way through, so Joe Douglas might have some extra calls to field as draft day in Cleveland approaches.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags