The New York Jets had an eventful Wednesday, making several adjustments to their active roster and naming their practice squad.
The New York Jets adhered to the NFL’s mandated cut down to a 53-man roster on Tuesday, but Wednesday saw them make several roster moves…
Unrelated Davis defensive pair, McDermott to IR
Defenders Ashtyn Davis and Jarrad Davis were placed on injured reserve with tackle Connor McDermott. Since the moves were after 4 p.m. on Wednesday, the trio is eligible to return after the third game of the season.
Ashtyn Davis spent all of training camp on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list and did not appear in any preseason games. Injury issues ate away at his rookie year, limiting him to 10 games. He earned 36 tackles, one for a loss, after the Jets chose him in the third round (68th overall) of the 2020 draft.
Meanwhile, Jarrad Davis was expected to take over one of the interior linebacker roles before he suffered an ankle injury in the second week of the preseason against Green Bay. Head coach Robert Saleh previously predicted that Davis would be unable to play prior to the Jets’ open date in Week 6. Davis inked a one-year, $5 million contract with the Jets in the spring after four seasons in Detroit.
McDermott was likewise injured in the preseason tilt against the Packers, sustaining a knee injury. He is set to enter his third season with the Jets, having entered the league as a sixth-round draft pick of New England. McDermott appeared in 15 games last season, starting one.
Tight Ends, Neasman return to active roster
Tight ends Daniel Brown and Ryan Griffin and safety Sharrod Neasman were all part of the Jets’ original final cuts but were re-added to the active roster on Wednesday. Brown and Griffin re-enter a tight end room that will be missing Chris Herndon after the fourth-year man was traded to Minnesota earlier this week. Neasman should help hold down the secondary fort while Ashtyn Davis heals. He previously worked with Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich in Atlanta.
Austin, Zuniga released
Two of the Jets’ more recent defensive draft picks were bid farewell, as cornerback Bless Austin (6th, 2019) and defensive end Jabari Zuniga (3rd, 2020) were both released.
Austin was expected to take one of the Jets’ starting cornerback roles alongside Bryce Hall. He gained a reputation as a strong hitter but struggled in coverage. Zuniga appeared in only one preseason game this summer (earning one tackle in the exhibition opener against the Giants) after dealing with a knee issue. Injuries were also a common theme in his rookie year, as a quad ailment limited him to a half-season with only eight tackles.
The Jets confirmed the arrivals of two players released from elsewhere on the waiver wire, adding former Kansas City defensive end Tim Ward and ex-Jacksonville linebacker Quincy Williams. Ward was tied for second amongst preseason defenders in sacks (3) while Williams is the older brother of Jets star Quinnen. The elder Williams made eight starts during his rookie season out of Murray State, chosen 95 picks after his sibling went third to the Jets in 2019.
ESM’s New York Jets experts believe Gang Green should spend the preseason finale accounting for their defensive absences.
Never mind Labor Day. For New York Jets fans, the unofficial end of summer arrives when the Philadelphia Eagles show up on the preseason ledger.
The Jets’ late-summer showcase with the Eagles resumes on Friday night at MetLife Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, WCBS). New York (2-0) has faced Philadelphia (0-2) in every preseason finale since 2001. The streak was interrupted only by the cancellation of last year’s preseason proceedings but resumes on Friday night in what goes down as the Jets’ only official home game of their 2021 exhibition showings (they were the designated road team in the opener against the Giants).
ESM’s Jets experts conjure up an attainable goal for Gang Green to fulfill as the preseason comes to a close…
Geoff Magliocchetti: Keep the Offensive Momentum Rolling
Losing Carl Lawson for the year (and Jarrad Davis for at least the first five weeks) shouldn’t awaken the Jets from their dreams of development this season, but the first showing sans the former Bengal wasn’t pretty. Missing Lawson wasn’t the biggest issue against Green Bay last weekend…missing tackles and lost coverage battles were far more troubling…but the top unit still looked out of sorts against a Packers offense resting most of its starters (including top throwers Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love).
The ultimate insult came when the Packer reserves ate up ten minutes of second quarter game time and embarked on a 19-play, 81-yard drive. Six of those plays were conversions on third or fourth down, including the touchdown that capped things off. Since that drive came with a good portion of the Jets starters on the field, the team faces some major questions.
The best defense could be…a good offense.
Even if their conquests have come against defensive reserves, it’s hard not to be enthused about the progress of the Jets offense, especially with Zach Wilson leading the charge. The team has drifted so far behind the times in this NFL dominated by offense: this is a unit that failed to reach a mere 300 yards in all but five of their games last season. Wilson has embarked on six drives this season: the Jets have scored on four of them and all but one has ended in opposing territory. The outlier produced a conservative punt on a one-yard fourth down at the Jets’ 49-yard-line.
Wilson has made the most of his summer opportunities. He has built chemistry with his receivers, namely Corey Davis (6 receptions, 88 yards) and Tyler Kroft (49 yards on a trio of receptions, including two touchdowns in Green Bay). He has responded well to adversity, erasing two deficits at Lambeau through responsive scoring drives.
Time will tell how the Jets, and their 31 NFL compatriots, approach the third preseason game under the adjusted, shortened summer format. Under the previous quartet, the third game was often treated like a dress rehearsal, with starters playing most, if not all, of the first half. Head coach Robert Saleh was vague on his starters’ playing time during joint practices with the Eagles this week but stressed his desire to see a lot of Wilson. It won’t be “more than a half”, per team reporter Ethan Greenberg, but Saleh believes that there’s a prime opportunity for the newcomers on offense to make of the most of the final tune-up of what’s been a successful preseason.
“I want to play (Wilson),” Saleh said in Greenberg’s report. “I do, so we’re talking about it. But right now, I’m leaning towards playing at least the starting offensive line, quarterback, and a majority of the defensive payers…We got a ridiculously young team and they are growing and learning and all of these experiences are so important to them. I feel like they’ve gotten so much better from the first day of camp until now and to pull off now, I think we’d be doing them an injustice.”
If the Jets emerge from this preseason feeling good about themselves, the offense is providing a majority of those good vibes. Keeping up the offensive is more important than ever with so many question marks filling up slots on the defensive depth chart.
Friday also presents a big opportunity for some players to secure premier roles on the team. Who will be the top rusher? Veteran and two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman is currently slotted in the top rushing role on the official depth chart but Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, and La’Mical Perine have each looked strong at different points of the summer. The backup quarterback debate has yet to be resolved as well. Mike White has been quiet if not consistent but sustained a rib injury in Green Bay last weekend. James Morgan has struggled and veteran Josh Johnson has yet to see the field.
Brendan Carpenter: Fill the Hole Jarrad Davis Leaves Behind
Well, it’s here. The final 2021 preseason game and, believe it or not, there is still one important question that needs answering: what’s going to happen at linebacker behind C.J. Mosley?
The linebacking situation seemed set. It was going to be Mosley and Jarrad Davis manning the main two inside spots. However, with Davis going down for about two months, there’s a hole. The news wasn’t wanted by anyone, but with the injury comes new opportunities for other players. These opportunities could be exciting too, as rookies Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen will have prime chances to impress.
Sherwood, Nasirildeen, and the veteran depth at linebacker (i.e. Blake Cashman, Noah Dawkins) need to help create some post-Davis clarity on Friday night. If the Jets linebackers can show some ability to make impactful plays and stand tall with the added adversity, it’ll end the preseason on a relatively high note. Well, as high as it could be now.
Expect the linebackers to rotate in and out frequently and to get a glimpse of everything they have to offer. Hopefully, they will be able to achieve the goal of clarity somewhat quickly.
Ending the New York Jets lengthy postseason drought is still a tall task, but early injuries have raised the pressure on the new boss.
For New York Jets fans, hiring Robert Saleh was like getting that one Christmas gift your parents insist they’re not getting you.
Saleh was one of the most sought-after coordinators during the NFL’s search for head coaches in 2021. He was an anomaly in the lens of modern American football in that his prior duties have centered around defense, a new arrival in the brotherhood of NFL head coaches at a time when stats like 30 points or 400 yards appear on more losing box scores than ever. Of the seven new hires, Saleh was the only one with a background primarily in defense.
He nonetheless earned interviews with all but two of the teams looking to fill headset vacancies. His eventual hire by the Jets earned positive reviews both domestically and abroad. A football fan landscape that uses any simple Jets mistake as a guaranteed punchline almost didn’t know what to do with itself.
Jets supporters would’ve taken any average football mind after the harrowing two years under Adam Gase’s watch…something along the lines of the mediocrity on display with say, Eric Magini would’ve been downright euphoric. Getting Saleh, the coveted coordinator from San Francisco, could’ve been classified as the closest feeling the Jets have had to a postseason triumph since their visit to the AFC title game at the start of the prior decade. Saleh’s mantra of “All Gas, No Brake” has been more quoted than lines from the scripts of The Sopranos…no easy tasks in Northern New Jersey.
Despite the praises hoisted upon Saleh (and a strong refurbishing of the team’s depth chart), the Jets’ issues didn’t instantly vanish. No one was booking trips to Inglewood for Super Bowl LVI. MetLife Stadium probably won’t have to reschedule any events in January. The feeling of being a savior, a prophet amongst metropolitan football fans, has to feel good. But it’s going to take a lot of work to keep that trust.
Jets fans were understandably patient: Gase’s antics over the last two seasons left the franchise in shambles. “Trusting the process” has become a parody of itself…especially since such a strategy has produced nothing greater than heartbreak in the conference semifinals for the concept’s originators in Philadelphia…but Gang Green’s worshippers had no choice. Merely improving from last year’s disaster would be viewed as a genuine step in the right direction. The veteran additions they made this offseason were strong markers in that path back to respectability.
The trigger fingers of NFL decision-makers are quicker than ever: Gase’s two-year tenure was the shortest in Jets history to end via firing since Rich Kotite’s cursed 32 games in 1995-96 (Al Groh resigned after a single season in 2000). But, perhaps a completely winless campaign notwithstanding, Saleh isn’t getting fired if/when the Jets miss the playoffs this year.
But Saleh probably thought he’d at least get to enjoy the spectacle of opening kickoff before dealing with his first true test.
Saleh’s first games as an NFL head coach are going to held without the services of two of his top defenders after a costly business trip to Green Bay. Carl Lawson is done for the year after rupturing his Achilles while linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle) is out for at least the first five games after leaving the exhibition showcase that concluded the trip. The football gods continued to show no mercy as the Jets prepare for their final preseason contest on Friday against Philadelphia (7:30 p.m. ET, WCBS); former Eagles Vinny Curry will miss the reunion with his former team and all 17 regular season games after that after he was diagnosed with blood clots.
Saleh has also been left to finish cleaning up the mess the prior regime left behind. The incompetence of the last two seasons created so many holes that it was a near guarantee that some area on the roster was going to be neglected. New York’s secondary appears to be the odd group out: inexperienced raw talent reigns at the top of the cornerback depth chart (Bless Austin and Bryce Hall). The new, experienced arrivals upfront could’ve helped the Jets get by, especially in the early going. Now, Saleh is dealt his first major crisis before the calendar flips to September, to the point where the team is planning to seek out more help in the pass rush before the season starts…an endeavor that would ignore holes like backup quarterback and the aforementioned secondary. He’ll have to work through his first games with a relatively thin group on the defensive front.
In other words…the showcase that got Saleh hired continues.
If one’s criteria for hiring a new head coach stopped at a quick glance at the standings, Saleh’s status as a former 49ers assistant likely would’ve eliminated him. San Francisco followed up an NFC title with a 6-10 showing that sank them to the bottom of the NFC West. But the standings often rarely tell a team’s full story.
Since Gase, among others, was doing a fine job of upending the Jets’ fortunes on his own, the football gods might’ve left the Jets alone during the 2020 season. They instead turned their focus to the Bay Area, where several key ingredients were forcibly removed from the 49ers’ Super Bowl recipe. Saleh’s unit was no exception: the defensive injury list resembled a Pro Bowl ballot. Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Dee Ford, and Richard Sherman missed significant time, while Emmanuel Moseley, Jimmie Ward, and K’Waun Williams were also medical departures. San Francisco was extensively also affected by the COVID-19 issues that invaded the NFL last season; local restrictions forced them to relocate to Arizona for the last portions of their season.
Saleh responded to the challenges head-on. Whereas some new hires (i.e. Arthur Smith, Tennessee offensive coordinator-turned-Atlanta head coach) earned their promotions through on-field results, Saleh earned his job through adaptation.
Despite the front seven losing a good part of its bite, San Francisco’s defense managed to keep its pressure at a consistent rate, forcing hurries on 11.2 percent of opposing quarterback dropouts (fifth-best in the league). In more conventional stats, Saleh’s ragtag group of defenders allowed 350 yards or less in six of their final games. One such effort allowed the Washington Football Team’s offense to put up 193 yards…in a game the 49ers lost 23-15. Washington’s points were primarily earned through a Chase Young fumble return touchdown and Kamren Curl pick-six and two other drives totaling 42 yards that led to Dustin Hopkins field goals. Their longest drive of the day, a 72-yard trek to open the second half, also produced a Hopkins triple.
Under Saleh’s watch, depth man Kerry Hyder got back to numbers (49 tackles, 18 quarterback knockdowns, 8.5 sacks) not reached since his sophomore season in Detroit, which was followed by a torn Achilles that cost him his whole 2017 campaign. He was rewarded with a three-year deal from Seattle.
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw said that Saleh’s composure helped the 49ers keep their composure in a time of distress.
“(He made) sure that every guy is doing their job 100 percent of the time, as good as they can, hard as they can,” Greenlaw said per Shayna Rubin of The Mercury News. “Saleh said if we bring that every week to the game, we’re going to be one of the most dominant teams. Having the mentality he has, the mindset he has, it carries to us on defense. I don’t know where he’s going to go from here, but I know that mentality will stick with us.”
Now, Saleh has to deal with that adversity right from the get-go. He’s not looking for sympathy…he’s looking for players to step up.
“The NFL train stops for nobody,” Saleh said after last weekend’s 23-14 preseason win over Green Bay per Randy Lange of the team website. It was Saleh’s first public comments after the dire Lawson diagnosis. “When someone falls off the train…it’s another opportunity for someone to jump on the train. A lot of men at that defensive end spot are chomping at the bit for the opportunity, and they got it. We’ll work our tails off to get them ready, and I know they’ll work their tails off to reciprocate.”
The New York Jets have been a franchise that has had to deal with adversity, a team that has been forced to adapt to landscapes changed through both self-inflicted calamities and issues bestowed from parties from abroad. Fortunately, they’ve found a head coach that earned his biggest opportunity to date through overcoming such issues.
This time, however, it’s time to do it in green gear.
The New York Jets undoubtedly became a better team over the past eight months. But are they a playoff team? ESM’s experts discuss.
The 2020 New York Jets left the franchise’s immediate and long-term future in a rare state of optimistically macabre: after the Jets sunk to the depths of the football underworld…plummeting to dubious valleys that even the cursed Rich Kotite era managed to avoid…any move the team made in the offseason could’ve been seen as an improvement.
With both the Stanley Cup and Larry O’Brien Trophy…not to mention every medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo…earned and bestowed, it’s officially socially acceptable to start forecasting the 2021 NFL season. The metropolitan arrivals of so many elite new faces, of both the rookie (Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore) and veteran (Carl Lawson, Corey Davis) variety have gotten fans excited, as has the hiring of head coach Robert Saleh.
But the ultimate question lingers: after a two-win season and now ensnared in the NFL’s longest active playoff, just how much improvement will the Jets show in the one place it matters…the standings, namely the win column?
ESM’s Jets experts ponder this quandary as the preseason opener against the New York Giants looms on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC)…
To take a page out of another New York sports decisionmaker Brian Cashman, let’s view Joe Douglas’ New York Jets from the perspective of the Death Star.
Ignoring the fact that the Star Wars-based superweapon is destroyed in each of its incarnations, Douglas does have a Death Star at his disposal. But it’s not the behemoth seen in A New Hope (and, by extension, Rogue One), nor is it the partially constructed but “fully armed and operational battle station” from Return of the Jedi. Rather, the Jets’ Death Star resembles the infantile version Vader and Palpatine look over at the end of Revenge of the Sith.
The Jets began this offseason with the hiring of head coach Saleh. In contrast to the Adam Gase hire, a transaction praised exclusively by modern hot take artists, the Saleh move was lauded by on-field participants both domestically and abroad. New York was and is by no means a football destination yet…one needs to establish a victorious on-field prescience before they become that…but the Jets were able to attract several names with championship experience, winners that were attracted to what Saleh was trying to build.
Douglas and Co. could’ve stood pat on the pass rush, a rare 2020 silver lining after the breakouts of Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers. They instead bolstered the unit by bringing in rising pressure artist Lawson and NFC postseason staples Sheldon Rankins and Vinny Curry. Elsewhere on defense, they prepared for Saleh’s reimplementation of the 4-3 with the arrival of linebacker Jarrad Davis, whose finest defensive days came in Florida and Detroit’s similar formations.
On offense, newly minted quarterback Zach Wilson’s arsenal appears to contain more firepower than anything Sam Darnold had to work with. Two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman is ready to work with potential day three draft gem Michael Carter in the backfield, while the upgraded aerial attack features Davis and Moore uniting with returnees Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims. Mekhi Becton returns on the line with Alijah Vera-Tucker on Wilson’s blindside.
Yet…the playoffs remain a pipe dream.
The AFC East already appears to be under the control of a new potential dynasty in Western New York, so capturing the quartet for the first time since 2002 appears to be out of the question. The North could well send three teams to the postseason, while the West’s mighty Kansas City Chiefs show no signs of slowing down, even with the Los Angeles Chargers rising fast with Justin Herbert. Even with an extra playoff spot, it’s asking a lot for the Jets to establish themselves in the crowded conference.
Even if the AFC wasn’t packed to the brim with contenders, the Jets aren’t fully completed just yet. There were so many holes so fill, so much damage to repair from the Gase era that it was a guarantee that some area of the roster was going to be neglected. One look at the current depth chart shows that the secondary got the raw deal, as inexperienced options like Bless Austin, Ashtyn Davis, and Bryce Hall are set to assume primary roles. On offense, there are plenty of players that can become major contributors (Carter, Moore, Davis), but they lack the experience in the primetime situations they’ve been called upon.
Until Saleh’s group proves otherwise on the field, their dire straits are more indicative of just how poorly the Gase era went. Gase might be gone, but the dark spirits of his tenure will linger over the Jets’ facilities until the fruits of Saleh’s process appear in the win column. A good season in 2021 would be to at least double the two-win tally from last season and perhaps earn an upset win over an elite opponent, a similar process to what the Chargers went through last year with Herbert.
Record Prediction: 6-11
The New York Jets have a lot of hype leading into the season and for good reason: rookies Wilson and Moore highlight a revamped offense. Lawson adds a much-needed pass rush to a defense that needs it with unproven corners.
The Jets, however, are not a playoff team just yet. Aside from their own play, they find themselves in an increasingly brutal AFC East. Each team is improving, but, at the moment, Gang Green finds themselves behind Buffalo and, most likely, either New England or Miami…maybe even both.
Yes, the future is bright and fans should be excited. All of the excitement should be taken with a grain of salt, though. There need to be reasonable expectations for this season. So, realistically, look for this team to win about 6 games of the newly-implemented 17 game schedule.
Record Prediction: 6-11
As the Jets head into a season filled with promise, I want to make one thing clear before I begin: I do NOT expect the New York Jets to make the playoffs.
I expect the team to take a significant step up and approach the 7-9 win territory. With that said, I foresee hiccups along the way: Wilson will likely experience significant growing pains early as he leaves Brigham Young University and acclimates to the bright lights of Broadway. I firmly expect struggles from both sides of the ball early as they look to establish a new identity under a new coaching staff. Lastly, I have a bad feeling about the secondary, but guys like Hall and Michael Carter II will likely get better as the season progresses.
On a lighter note, I foresee a strong debut in green and white for Lawson, Rankins, and Davis. Lawson is a legitimate threat to finish in the top ten in sacks, while Rankins and Davis will likely be impact contributors if they can stay healthy. Finally, look for rookies, Michael Carter (the running back) and Alijah Vera-Tucker to make names for themselves early, although the story will be Moore, the budding star receiver.
Davis considered “walking away” from football, but the New York Jets’ call has afforded him a chance to reclaim the narrative on his career.
No matter their genre, fictional characters have embarked on new quests by hiring an expert in the field in question to complete their goals. Peter LaFleur brought in dodgeball legend Patches O’Houlihan to save Average Joe’s Gym. Norman Dale enlisted the services of former Hickory Husker Wilbur “Shooter” Flatch to help capture Indiana high school basketball glory.
In the real world, linebacker Jarrad Davis is in a similar position as he arrives in Florham Park for his first New York Jets training camp. Entering his fifth season out of Florida, Davis is a noted practitioner of 4-3 defense, which is set to make its return to New York under new head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.
The 4-3 has played host to Davis’ finest gridiron hours: his work under Geoff Collins and Randy Shannon’s system at the University of Florida made him a first-round pick of Detroit Lions (21st overall) in 2017. He was a strong fit for a similar system overseen by Teryl Austin, earning all-rookie team honors.
Davis returned to the 4-3 on Wednesday when he partook in the opening camp practice on One Jets Drive. He offered a positive review of what Saleh and Ulbrich had to offer in his first post-practice comments.
“The defense is so layered. On the front end, we have to cause havoc, stress quarterbacks out, get them off the spot,” the new front seven member said of the defense, per video from the Jets. “Linebackers, we need to help protect the middle of the field. We got to make sure our reads are sharp, our keys are where they need to be, eyes are where they need to be on our keys. We just got to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can do to take care of our jobs.”
“This defense, as with almost any other defense in the league, it’s about all 11 doing their job. If there’s somebody out of position, then it’s going to make somebody in the backend look bad, someone who may have done everything perfectly, because the timing isn’t there. It’s all about everybody just doing their job, just simply put.”
Though Austin was dismissed through the controversial firing of head coach Jim Caldwell, Davis enjoyed a productive sophomore season under Paul Pasqualoni (100 tackles, 10 for a loss, 6 sacks), even earning on-field playcalling duties. But Davis, like many, fell victim to the Matt Patricia cesspool in the Motor City. Injuries ate away at his 2019 season and he spent most of last season in a rotational role, playing a career-low 330 snaps over 14 games. Detroit declined to pick up his fifth-year option as they went back to the drawing board.
Faced with an uncertain football future, Davis entered a period of “soul searching”. What made his Detroit demotion so painful, he said, was the fact that he was “making the game everything”.
“I was making myself the game. And when I was doing that, it just, it just didn’t feel right,” he said. “This is such a competitive sport at this level. You have to put your everything, you have to put your all into it. But there has to be balance. I had a personal life but it wasn’t as important, I didn’t really care. If my personal life got in the way of football, it couldn’t exist. Living like that, I burnt myself out.”
As a result, Davis admitted that he seriously contemplated “walking away” from football. Instead, he began a new offseason endeavor.
“Living like that, I would burn myself out,” Davis said of his relative all-or-nothing approach. “I had to go do some things to take care of myself personally, mentally, and emotionally and get back right.”
To that end, Davis met with a Super Bowl champion: Denver-based sports psychologist Dr. Rick Perea, Ph.D.
Davis previously worked with Dr. Perea during the 2017 draft process. This time around, the linebacker learned how to “revalue” things moving forward.
“Football was top of the top (of my values), nothing could knock it down. Nothing could knock down the foundation that football was standing on,” David recalled. “But we personally just cleared it. We just took it off the radar, like took it off my list. It’s just something I do now. It’s not who I am anymore.”
Don’t let the wording fool you: Davis believes that his revaluing process will make him a better player on the field. For example, a mistake that would haunt him for the rest of practice is forgotten by the next down.
“If I mess up in practice, I mess up in practice. I can bounce back from that and come back and make a better play the next play now,” he said. “Before, I messed up, now I think about that all practice. I can’t even focus on anything else. I can’t even see the fullback taking me to the gap I need to go to anymore because I’m thinking about this play that happened 20 minutes ago.”
The Jets’ call meant more for Davis under a new focus. New York inked him to a one-year deal worth $5.5 million in March, reuniting him with fellow former Gator Marcus Maye. The safety was chosen 18 picks after Davis in the 2017 draft, just three months after they capped off their Gainesville careers with a 30-3 over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
An opportunity to return to a familiar scheme drew Davis to the metropolitan area.
“To get that phone call early in free agency from the Jets, it was a blessing to know that I had such an opportunity as this to come in and really get back to work,” Davis said. “I’m coming back to the scheme, the familiarity. We did stuff similar to this in college and being able to play fast and just be myself out there just excited me.”
Davis is one of many athletes who have shared their struggles with mental health in recent times. His discourse coincided with decorated American gymnast Simone Biles’ highly publicized withdrawal from several events at the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo due to such concerns.
Though Davis admitted he was not up to speed to comment on Biles’ situation, he hopes that his own situation will remove stigmas and inspire his teammates to ask for help if they need it.
“Why do we have to think getting help and not being okay, and saying that you’re not okay is a cool thing to do before you can actually say it?” Davis rhetorically asked. “If you’re not okay, you’re not okay, and it’s okay to ask for help. I guess it’s a very simple question, but it’s a powerful one.”
“People do need to understand that. When we do, we’ll be able to build and grow in life.”
There would be, perhaps, no better way for the New York Jets to open a new era than by ending their losing streak against the Patriots.
The Opponent: New England Patriots The Dates: Week 2, September 19, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NY)/Week 7, October 24, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NE)* The Series: New England leads 69-54-1 (last meeting: 2020, 28-14 NE)
Year one of the post-Tom Brady era was a merciless kick back to reality for the New England Patriots. Yet, one tradition lingered from Brady’s historic tenure: beating the New York Jets.
For all the Patriots’ faults in 2020, they managed to keep their winning streak against the Jets alive, sweeping the annual pair for a fifth straight season. The Jets haven’t earned a sweep against New England since 2000…one year before Mo Lewis’ hit on Drew Bledsoe inadvertently shifted the course of NFL history. New England’s ten-game winning streak is the longest in the series that dates back to the days of the AFL, breaking a nine-game tally the Jets had between 1966 and 1970.
The Jets came close to ending the streak last season in a Monday night showdown in November at MetLife Stadium. New York, in fact, owned a two-possession lead entering the final quarter, but surrendered 13 points over the final six-plus minutes en route to a 30-27 defeat.
New York and New England also met in the final week of the season. Meaningless finales between the Jets and Patriots have been nothing new since the NFL instituted an all-divisional matchup slate for the last week, as New England would often rest starters going into the playoffs. This time, though, mere pride was on the line and the Patriots sent the Adam Gase era note out on an appropriate thud, topping the Jets 28-14.
The Skinny on the Patriots
Bill Belichick is burdened with a load he hasn’t had to deal with in a long, long time: something to prove.
Few can question the impact and legacy…more a path of destruction…that Belichick has left behind. But last season created the closest thing to a smear one can make on Belichick’s New England ledger: Brady moved on to Tampa Bay and immediately won another Super Bowl with Belichick over 1,300 miles away.
Belichick isn’t like Michael Jordan: he won’t publicly declare that he “took that personally”. But Brady’s instant success in a new locale has to be eating at him a little. Every eye in the football world will turn to Foxboro on October 3, when Brady and the Buccaneers arrive for a Sunday night visit. But the Patriots will have a spotlight on them all season after last season’s flop.
Despite the departure Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and recent retiree Julian Edelman, the Patriots still have leftovers from their most recent glory days. Sony Michel’s third season was cut short by bouts on the COVID-19 list and injured reserve, but he performed well over the final three games of last season (287 yards on 40 touches). Devin McCourty returns for his 12th season, flanked by cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson (the latter earning nine interceptions last season).
What’s New in New England?
Belichick did what any supposed villain would do after getting wronged: he spent a lot of money in an attempt to get revenge.
New England spent over $316 million in free agency endeavors this offseason, a project headlined by swiping the top two available tight ends. The post-Gronkowski situation was even more garish, as Ryan Izzo and Devin Asiasi united for only 238 yards on 15 receptions last year.
New England remedied this issue by brining in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, dedicating over $12 million in 2021 cap space to the former AFC foes. The Patriots have never been hesitant to use two tight ends, routinely pairing Gronkowski with names like Brandon LaFell, Martellus Bennett, and Aaron Hernandez. Expect to see them reemploy more 12 personnel sets with two elite names in tow.
On defense, the Patriots brought in two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Matthew Judon. He’ll join returnees Kyle Van Noy and Donte Hightower will re-don the Flying Elvis after one-year absences. Van Noy returns after one year with divisional rival Miami while Hightower opted out of last season in the midst of the health crisis. Speaking of front seven additions, the Patriots also added former Jet Henry Anderson, who never lived up to the $25 million extension granted to him in 2019.
No discussion about the post-Brady Patriots would be complete without looking at the quarterback situation. Cam Newton got off to a hot start but was never the same after missing an October game in Kansas City on the COVID-19 list. The 32-year-old Newton is projected to be the opening day starter but the Patriots used April’s 15th overall selection on Alabama thrower Mac Jones.
When it comes to the quarterback’s targets, the Patriots appear to be moving on from first-rounder N’Keal Harry. Jakobi Meyers returns for his third season after a breakthrough year in the slot (729 yards), while team added Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor from the west cost.
How to Beat Them
-Wow, What a (Pass) Rush
The home opener against the Patriots will be an early test for the Jets’ revamped pass rush.
Even Brady finds himself flustered by a strong backfield invasion; if not for that of the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, for example, he might have a Super Bowl ring for every finger. The Jets played a rare role in a Brady denial during their most recent playoff triumph: on that magical evening in January 2011, the Jets took down the arguable GOAT five times.
No matter whom the Jets face under center, they have to up the pressure. Newton can still move around as he gets deeper into his 30s…he scored two on the ground in the first meeting last season…but this isn’t the same Newton we saw during his Carolina heyday. New England was 3-6 when teams blitzed on at least 25 percent of Newton’s snaps last season. The pressure situation should only increase with Jones in tow, as there would probably be no better way to welcome the national champion to the NFL than a relentless rush.
The Jets know just how important pressure will be. Their most impactful 2021 contract is Carl Lawson’s three-year, $45 million deal that lured him away from Cincinnati. Enough has been written about how Lawson has made a defensive impact despite pedestrian sack totals. The early showdown with the Patriots will give him a perfect opportunity to back the early praise up.
-Push the Patriots off the Pedestal
The horrors that the Patriots have subjected the Jets to could qualify as the stuff of urban legends at this point. November’s aforementioned Monday night loss, for example, was a positive in mere sense that it was the Jets’ first one-possession loss since the infamous Austin Seferian-Jenkins incident in 2017.
Nothing would symbolize a new era of Jets football better than taking down the hated Patriots. So desperate is the metropolitan area for a sports celebration…the Canyon of Heroes has been vacant to local affairs since the Giants’ parade in 2011 (the United States’ World Cup champion women’s soccer team in 2015 and 2019 notwithstanding)…that plans for a Robert Saleh statue could be submitted if the Jets take that Week 2 tilt. The fact that fans will be welcomed back to MetLife Stadium for an NFL regular season game for the first time since December 2019 only adds to how much the Patriots’ will mean.
But the Jets can’t go in with that mindset. A win is a win, no matter who it comes against. The Patriots are the Patriots…they’re a football team not a boogeyman. New York shouldn’t buy into the increased hype just because it’s been a while since they’ve enjoyed a win over a certain divisional rival.
Saleh walked through MetLife Stadium for the first time in June. Unlike, say, Rex Ryan, the newly minted Jets boss wasn’t looking to create bulletin board material for the New England locker room. Instead, his focus lingered only what a win would mean for the New York area. He hoped to create a similar atmosphere seen during late spring’s postseason endeavors at Madison Square Garden and Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, where he witnessed the respective playoff runs of the New York Knicks and New York Islanders.
“I’m really excited to get it going and get that stadium filled where that thing becomes live again like it’s been in the past,” Saleh said in a report from team writer Eric Allen. “New York fans are extremely passionate. They love their home teams, they’re rabid to a sense and it’s awesome. It comes from just absolute love for their teams. But like everything else in the world, you got to earn it.”
“We’re excited about all the work we’re putting in. We’re excited to get the opportunity to earn the same response at MetLife stadium and let the fans light that place up.”
How important is it for the Jets to end their losing streak against New England? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.
It won’t be easy…but it can happen. ESM has three ways the New York Jets can pull off the unthinkable in 2021.
The world was a different place the last time the New York Jets partook in an NFL playoff game. It was a freezing January evening in Pittsburgh, as the Jets fell one step short of their Super Bowl dream for the second consecutive season in the AFC championship contest.
At that time, MetLife Stadium didn’t exist…well, the building itself was there, but it was free of corporate sponsorship under the identity of New Meadowlands Stadium. A basketball team called the Nets was no longer stationed at the arena next door…then known as Izod Center…but they still played under a Garden State branding. At the cinema, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a mere three movies old and the idea of expanding the Star Wars galaxy was merely fanfiction.
In short…it’s been a while. The Jets’ playoff drought now stands at a decade, a record inherited when the Cleveland Browns clinched a spot last season. What’s scarier is that the second-most dire active drought has made to only five years, a dubious distinction shared by Arizona, Cincinnati, and Denver.
Conventional wisdom suggests that the trend isn’t ending any time soon. The Jets are trapped in a division where one reign of terror in New England gave way to another in Buffalo. Their conference’s wild card landscape isn’t any more forgiving, as established contenders pepper the other divisions. Even their own rivals in the East, Miami and New England, will be back with a vengeance. Combine that with a first-year head coach and franchise quarterback working with a mostly new cast and it’s difficult to see the Jets make major headway in the win/loss columns. Many observers agree that the Jets got better this offseason…but it comes with the caveat that the 2020 season was so brutal that there was nowhere to go but up.
But…ESM is going to look at things a little more optimistically. We have three ways the Jets’ improvements can lead to a long-awaited postseason revisit:
Not Sorry, Wilson
This time last year, the Jets were going into the 2020 season with an offensive cabinet that left much to be desired. Year three of the Sam Darnold era was expected to rely upon a first-round washout (Breshad Perriman), a Le’Veon Bell who was constantly denying that he was arguing with Adam Gase, and an assortment of veteran reserves in the skill positions. A rare silver lining of hope, Denzel Mims, missed almost all of the summer preparation with hamstring issues. Darnold was also working with his third different center in three NFL seasons. Needless to say, the Jets’ offense played a major role in their two-win downfall and Darnold posted the worst numbers of his career.
Granted the second overall pick in April for their troubles over the fall, the Jets opted to start from scratch (again). Before they used that premier pick on one of the touted quarterbacks of the draft…later revealed to be BYU’s Zach Wilson…management did all they could to retroactively atone for the mistakes of the Darnold era. What they’ve assembled for Wilson is, at least on paper, is better than anything Darnold had to work with.
Corey Davis, coming off a career-best year in Tennessee, is the projected top target. Free agency endeavors also brought in Keelan Cole, who tallied 2,242 yards over the last four seasons despite endless quarterback turnover in Jacksonville. They’ll welcome back Mims and reliable slot target Jamison Crowder and when Elijah Moore fell to their grasp with the second pick in the second round at the draft, they immediately pounced. At running back, they found a potential day three draft gem in Michael Carter and signed Tevin Coleman a two-time Super Bowl participant with something to prove, to a one-year deal. Though questions linger at tight end, vis a vis Chris Herndon, they did add red zone option Tyler Kroft to the fold as well.
Wilson will also be able to take in the benefits of a revamped offensive line. Mekhi Becton was well worth the risk of passing on several elite receiving talents last season. He’s now joined by USC protector Alijah Vera-Tucker, who indirectly comes from a pick used in the infamous Jamal Adams trade (a pick acquired from Seattle was traded to Minnesota to move up the board). New York enjoyed a late-offseason surprise in the form of the consistent tackle Morgan Moses, who is expected to take over on the right side.
The depths to which the Jets sank on offense last season (only six games over 300 yards, nine games with 14 points or less) should be impossible to reach at the NFL level. But those called upon are reliable names with championship panache. If the newcomers rise to their potential, the Jets could reopen the scoring floodgates and repopulate East Rutherford’s end zones.
Perhaps no intermission interview during a hockey broadcast is complete without the phrase “pucks on net” being uttered, to the point it’s become a bit of a meme. The football equivalent could be “pressure the quarterback”.
The NFL is undoubtedly a league ruled by offense, evidenced by its inflated scoreboards. But, every so often, we’re reminded that defense wins championships. MetLife Stadium’s turf knows about the concept better than anyone, playing host to the Seattle Seahawks’ 43-8 dismantling of the historically explosive Denver Broncos offense in Super Bowl XLVIII. Even the might Patrick Mahomes isn’t immune to the dangers of a strong pass rush. The Kansas City Chiefs are 44-10 (including postseason) with Mahomes as their starter; half of those losses (a 7-5 mark overall) have come when he’s sacked at least three times. One of those losses came against Todd Bowles’ relentless rush in last year’s Big Game.
The Jets’ downfall has only been exacerbated by a lack of pressure. They’ve applied pressure on only 21.4 percent of opposing dropbacks over the past two seasons, ranking 25th in the league in the category last season…a bit perplexing for a unit overseen by Gregg Williams. When you’re trapped in a division that bestows you two guaranteed matchups with Josh Allen for the foreseeable future, having a fearsome pass rush will be vital.
New York plans to start from scratch again with head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich in tow. The team is set to run a 4-3 base for the first time since the Herm Edwards/Donnie Henderson days. They spent the offseason bolstering the front seven in an effort to prepare for the transition.
For better or worse, the Jets’ most impactful free agency signing for not only the coming season but for the next few years could likely become Carl Lawson. The narrative behind Lawson is that his on-field influence goes far beyond the number in his sack column (no more than 5.5 after 8.0 in his debut campaign out of Auburn in 2017) and he has the less conventional numbers to prove it.
Though the Jets recently announced some their defensive breakouts won’t be available for the start of training camp, it’ll be interesting to see what Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers can do for an encore with a little extra help. The transformation in the front seven further continued with the arrival of Jarrad Davis, whose finest gridiron hours have come in 4-3 sets with the Florida Gators and Detroit Lions. While Davis has struggled to live up to his first round billing since Teryl Austin and Jim Caldwell were dismissed from Detroit, he has kept his pressure numbers consistent. A return to a familiar 4-3 setting could help him up the ante not only as a backfield invader but as a a leader as well. Championship contenders Sheldon Rankins and Vinny Curry have likewise joined the fold.
Questions, of course, still linger in the secondary. For example, Marcus Maye and Ashtyn Davis (the latter recovering from surgery) are respectively on the Non-Football Injury and Physically Unable to Perform lists, further depleting a safeties group desperate for answers. But the Jets are going to make life a heck of a lot easier for themselves if they can make quarterbacks feel uncomfortable again.
Meet the New Boss
Say what you will about the Todd Bowles era: its final chapters were penned in poignancy, as players were disappointed not for themselves, but that they let a strong football mind and a man of great character down. They sang of Bowles’ praises to the very end and many were upset to see him let go after the 2018 season.
Those warm feelings didn’t seem to translate to the ousting of Bowles’ successor. When the woebegone Gase was let go after two disastrous seasons, there was an aura of “good riddance”. The players’ relative silence on the matter spoke volumes, though fans were more than happy to chime in.
The hiring of Saleh, most recently the overseer of the lauded San Francisco 49ers’ defense, comes at an interesting time on the pro football timeline. It’s a move made as the league values offense, posting scoreboards that flirt with those from the defunct Arena Football League. One would also foresee an offensive mind coming in with a new franchise quarterback to mold and develop.
Yet, the players’ response to what Saleh is advertising could slowly signal the return of good vibes to Gang Green football.
Saleh had a tall task to deal with upon his arrival: convince outsiders and prospects that a two-win team that the internet turned into a football meme bank had something to work with, something that hinted at a championship climb. What he did was immediately get to work, adopt a catchy yet inspirational mantra that quickly caught on to players and fans alike, and slowly got momentum back on the green side of the New York football bridge.
What Saleh (along with general manager Joe Douglas) did this offseason was from a free agent unit of not exactly what the Jets were looking for, but finding parts that they needed. Lawson brings pressure, Davis brings knowledge of the 4-3. Saleh mostly avoided stocking up on former Bay Area pupils but the major holdover (running back Tevin Coleman) brings knowledge of offensive boss Mike LaFleur’s system and what it takes to compete for a championship. Wilson’s offensive cabinet is stocked with no true No. 1 receiver, but a series of skill players eager to proves themselves…which could well describe the state of the Jets as a whole in this point in time. Financials likely played a large role, but Saleh’s plan was apparently able to convince Jamison Crowder (by far the most consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons) to stick around for at least one more season.
Saleh himself has admitted on several occasions that his New York restructure and tenets are going to take some time to fully install. Votes for Coach of the Year might be more realistic at this point…after all, it won’t take much to improve upon the horrors of 2020. But faith in the right coach is capable of doing some incredible things.
Do you think the New York Jets can overcome the odds and end their postseason drought? If so, how can they do it? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.
No one’s expecting much from the 2021 New York Jets, who thus have little to lose. These defenders, however, would beg to differ.
The symptoms of dealing with the New York Jets’ endless search for a franchise quarterback have often been treated with a healthy dose of defense.
Mark Sanchez’s early struggles were offset by the disruptive weather patterns on (Darrelle) Revis Island while the early days of Joe Klecko helped them survive the Richard Todd era. More recently, Jamal Adams gave Jets fans a reason to stay tuned during the first two years of Sam Darnold’s reign before a highly publicized divorce that saw Gang Green earn two first-round assets in the settlement.
This offseason brought about an interesting irony: the Jets appear to have their new franchise man in Zach Wilson under a defensive-minded head coach in Robert Saleh. While they surrounded Wilson with plenty of talented, developmental pieces through both free agency and the draft, the defense is a relatively muddled hodgepodge of veterans both arriving and returning. After all, the Jets waited until the fifth round of the draft to address the defense, using the 146th overall pick on Auburn secondary man turned linebacker Jamien Sherwood.
Though New York has relatively little to lose in 2021 as a team…few expect them to rise out of the AFC East cellar…the defense is full of veterans looking to prove themselves, justifying their metropolitan existence for the potential good times ahead. ESM has a player from each position group to keep an eye on in that regard…
For offensive players in a make-or-break situation, click HERE
Defensive Line: Kyle Phillips
Phillips was one of the green breakout stars of the 2019 season. During the Jets’ second half mirage…a long-forgotten 6-2 stretch earned mostly against teams in even more dire straits…the undrafted Phillips was particularly impressive as a run-stepper.
Pro Football Focus graded him 17th amongst edge rushers in run defense and Phillips earned further notoriety when he picked up a crucial sack in a win over Pittsburgh in the Jets’ home finale (to date, their last game with fans at MetLife Stadium). His pass rushing skills left much to be desired, but the Jets were very satisfied with the value found in the rookie free agency pile.
Unfortunately, Phillips was unable to capitalize on his rookie success, as he partook in only six games last season due to an ankle injury. In his place, the Jets’ front seven enjoyed a few breakout years amidst the chaos of Adam Gase’s last stands. Most of the attention went to Quinnen Williams but John Franklin-Myers held down the fort in Phillips’ absence.
Phillips is an interesting situation, but the arrival of Saleh and his 4-3 tendencies should provide some stability. While Phillips moved around a lot in Gregg Williams’ 3-4 looks, he should be seen in his traditional role on the line at end more often. But with the Jets bringing in veterans Vinny Curry and Ronald Blair through free agency, immediately getting his primary duties back is no guarantee.
Linebacker: Jarrad Davis
Conventional wisdom says that the New York linebacker most desperately facing a make-or-break season is C.J. Mosley, who has appeared in two games over his first two New York seasons due to medical absences. The former Baltimore Raven already faces a tall task as one of the final marquee signings of the Mike Maccagnan era. But even if this year doesn’t work out for Mosley (who nets the Jets $13 million if they trade him after this season), his previous resume (four All-Pro nominations) shouldn’t make it hard for him to find another job elsewhere.
Davis, the Detroit Lions’ 2017 first-round pick (21st overall) doesn’t have quite that luxury just yet. His NFL career got off to a decent start under the reliable watch of Jim Caldwell and Teryl Austin but fell apart amidst the toxicity of the Matt Patricia era. A one-year “prove-it” deal bestowed by the Jets has given him a chance to get his career back on track…and the 4-3 gives him the perfect opportunity to do so.
Davis’ best showings have come in the 4-3, first under Geoff Collins as a Florida Gator before working in Austin’s system in the Motor City. It provides a chance to not only post some strong stats but showcase his leadership skills, as his experience in Saleh’s preferred set can be used as a safety blanket. But if he struggles this time around, it will probably become difficult to extend his NFL career further.
Cornerback: Bless Austin
For all intents and purposes, Queens native and Rutgers alum Bless Austin was born to succeed as a New York Jet. He overcame injury issues in Piscataway (limiting him to five games in his last two seasons as a Scarlet Knight) to become an NFL draft pick and did well for himself when some veterans ahead of him weren’t up to snuff. He partook in 11 games last season, the most since a sophomore season that saw him finish second in the Big Ten in pass breakups.
Over his first two NFL seasons, Austin has developed a reputation as a strong hitter but has struggled in coverage. Those issues could prove especially deadly in year one of Saleh and new defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich’s watch, as the duo have been known to run zone schemes. Austin has fared slightly better in man sets, but hasn’t shown anything to suggest he’s ready for full-time starting duties at the NFL level.
The Jets were in such a macabre situation after last season that they had to sacrifice some areas in their 2021 renovations. Cornerbacks are by far the most exposed group. Free agent arrival Justin Hardee is expected to contribute more on special teams while returnees Corey Ballentine and Bennett Jackson are low on experience. The Jets did spend a majority of the draft’s final day on secondary help, bringing in Jason Pinnock, Michael Carter II, and Brandin Echols, not to mention the undrafted Isaiah Dunn.
Austin is currently set to be the top man next to Bryce Hall. While the second-year Hall has time to develop, Austin is facing a more desperate situation with younger prospects behind him.
Safety Marcus Maye
Once the necessary Adams divorce was finalized, Maye was tasked with not only being a defensive leader but for keeping the ensuing season at least somewhat tolerable. Maye did that and then some, enjoying a strong season that at least kept the Jets in the SportsCenter Top 10. The 2020 campaign also ended with his name on the Curtis Martin Team MVP Award.
The issue with accolades, especially club-based honors, in a two-win season is the question of whether the award says more about the honoree or the team. It seems like Maye has the talent and skillset to remain an NFL staple for the foreseeable future. Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson in fact ranked Maye as the seventh-best safety in football entering 2021…three spots ahead of Pacific Northwest-dwelling friend and former teammate.
Jets management apparently still isn’t convinced that Maye, one of only two Maccagnan draft choices slated to start on defense this (Austin is the other), is the future. Long-term contract talks appear to have broken down and there have been no developments with the deadline eight days away. In the meantime, Maye’s desire for a big payday has been temporarily satisfied through a franchise tag granting him just over $10 million, making him the sixth-best paid safety this season (tied with Marcus Williams in New Orleans).
A big season thus lies ahead for Maye, who will be looking to prove to both the Jets and their 31 brothers that he can be a vital contributor on a respectable NFL squad. If he carries on the promise of last season and makes MVP endeavors the new normal, he won’t have to worry about the desired money and stability for a long time. But if he falters, his price tag could take a slashing.
Who else is facing a make-or-break season? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags
The New York Jets’ draft and free agency classes all received their metropolitan numerals for the 2021 season.
The New York Jets’ free agency and draft classes received their official numbers for their first seasons in green on Monday. ESM looks at what the newcomers will be rocking once the season gets underway…
No. 23 Tevin Coleman
Coleman wore 26 in prior stops in Atlanta and San Francisco, but it’s probably best for the Jets to avoid rushers wearing No. 26 for a while after the Le’Veon Bell debacle.
Notable No. 23’s in Jets History: RB Shonn Greene, DB Shafer Suggs
No. 25 Brandin Echols
Echols, a sixth-round pick appears to be sharing No. 25 with rusher Ty Johnson, as the 26 he wore at Kentucky is taken by fellow defensive back Elijah Campbell.
Notable No. 25’s in Jets History: S Kerry Rhodes, RB Scott Dierking, S Calvin Pryor
No. 29 Lamarcus Joyner
Joyner will be wearing a number previously borne by fan-favorite rusher and returner Leon Washington, who’s now on the Jets’ coaching staff.
Notable No. 29’s in Jets History: WR Bake Turner, RB Bilal Powell, RB Adrian Murrell, RB Leon Washington, DB Donnie Abraham
No. 30 Michael Carter II
Another former bearer of 26, Carter takes over the 30 worn by Bradley McDougald last season. He’ll also have the Roman numeral “II” on the back of his jersey to separate himself from the offensive Michael Carter.
Notable No. 30’s in Jets History: RB Brad Baxter, DB LaRon Landry
No. 32 Michael Carter
Running backs are allowed to wear single digits under the NFL’s new uniform mandates, but Carter opted to multiply it four. He follows in the footsteps of Super Bowl champion and green rusher Emerson Boozer.
Notable No. 32’s in Jets History: RB Emerson Boozer, RB Blair Thomas, RB Leon Johnson
No. 34 Justin Hardee
It’s a tough break for anyone who hoped the Jets would bring back Brian Poole, but the special teams standout Hardee will keep the number he had during his prior endeavors in New Orleans.
Notable No. 34’s in Jets History: RB Johnny Hector, RB LaMont Jordan
No. 41 Jason Pinnock
Pinnock’s No. 15 from Pittsburgh has been taken over by someone he’ll presumably cover come training camp, receiver Lawrence Cager. His new digits were worn by Matthias Farley last season and best known from a Jets standpoint as the numbers Matt Snell wore in the Super Bowl III triumph.
Notable No. 41’s in Jets History: RB Matt Snell, S Buster Skrine
No. 43 Del’Shawn Phillips
Phillips wore No. 46 in his first season in Buffalo but moved on to 43 last season. He’ll apparently stick with those numerals as he moves on to another New York football journey.
Notable No. 43’s in Jets History: DB Michael Brim
No. 44 Jamien Sherwood
With 44 last worn by the New England-bound Harvey Lagni, the defensive back-turned-linebacker Sherwood takes a traditional number as opposed to the single digits now available.
Notable No. 44’s in Jets History: RB John Riggins
No. 45 Hamsah Nasirildeen
Another converted secondary member who made the move to linebacker, Nasirildeen also makes the move to 45, as the 23 he wore at Florida State was taken by Coleman.
Notable No. 45’s in Jets History: DB Earlie Thomas, CB Otis Smith
No. 52 Jarrad Davis
The new Jets’ linebacker’s number from Detroit and his college days in Florida (40) is now worn by Javelin Guidry, but there’s a strong group of both linebackers and lineman that have previously repped his new digits.
Notable No. 52’s in Jets History: LB David Harris, C John Schmitt, C Mike Hudock, LB Pepper Johson
No. 58 Carl Lawson
Lawson may be changing from tiger stripes to green and black, but he’ll be wearing a familiar number leftover from his Cincinnati days.
Notable No. 58’s in Jets History: LB James Farrior
No. 65 Corey Levin
Levin is one of the newcomers on the Jets. If/when he takes the field in an NFL regular-season game for the first time since 2018, it’ll be in a different number, as he wore 62 during his time in Tennessee.
Notable No. 65’s in Jets History: OL Joe Fields, G Brandon Moore
No. 67 Dan Feeney
Undrafted rookie Teton Saltes has Feeny’s No. 66 from his days as a Charger, so he moved one up, perhaps indirectly emulating some other notable veteran blockers in Jets history.
Notable No. 67’s in Jets History: OL Dave Herman, T Kareem McKenzie, OL Damien Woody
No. 81 Tyler Kroft
In his return to New Jersey football, Kroft won’t have the No. 86 he wore at Rutgers (his Piscataway number now on fellow tight end Ryan Griffin) but he retains the number he’s worn in his first two NFL stops (Cincinnati and Buffalo) and it’s a number that has made a New York impact on both sides of the ball.
Notable No. 81’s in Jets History: DE Gerry Philbin, TE Dustin Keller
No. 84 Corey Davis
Davis will keep the number he wore at both Western Michigan and Tennessee. That’s rather appropriate, as the most famous wearer of 84 in his new team’s history is in fact a New York Titan.
Notable No. 84’s in Jets History: WR Art Powell
No. 88 Keelan Cole
With Davis taking over the No. 84, Cole’s moves four digits up to 88, emulating some of the more productive receivers in New York history.
Notable No. 88’s in Jets History: WR Al Toon, TE Rich Caster, TE Anthony Becht
No. 96 Jonathan Marshall
Henry Anderson’s old number wasn’t gone for long, as it’s been taken over by the former Arkansas captain who became the final pick of the Jets’ 2021 draft proceedings.
Notable No. 96’s in Jets History: DT Muhammad Wilkerson
No. 98 Sheldon Rankins
Undrafted standout Kyle Phillips wore No. 98 but he’s moving onto 93 to allow Rankins to keep the number he had during his six years in New Orleans.
Notable No. 98’s in Jets History: LB Anthony Pleasant, DL Kyle Phillips
No. 99 Vinny Curry
Curry has had a pretty accomplished NFL career, and he’s going to take over the numerals of some of the most storied defenders on the team.
Notable No. 99’s in Jets History: DE Mark Gastineau, DE Bryan Thomas, DT Steve McLendon, DE Hugh Douglas
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.
No worries, Dan Feeney will take care of both the 1st and 2nd level blocks to make this touchdown happen. pic.twitter.com/qahddFSx8p
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.