Robert Saleh on the Jets’ offensive struggles, team identity after the bye

robert saleh, jets

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh laid out what’s to come in his first public statements since taking off for the team’s bye week.

The New York Jets enjoyed one of the most lucrative Sundays they’ve had in a long, long time. By perhaps no coincidence, Gang Green didn’t play a down, as they embarked on their annual bye week.

Gridiron affairs tilted in the Jets’ favor for a change during Sunday’s action: their divisional rivals from Miami and New England each lost heartbreakers while further misfortune in Carolina and Seattle allowed New York to shoot up the draft board through imported picks. Entering Monday night action, the Jets own four slots among the first 46. MetLife Stadium might as well be painted green for the time being, as the Jets (1-4) are the kings by default after the Giants’ humiliating showing against the Los Angeles Rams.

Robert Saleh is hoping the Jets can start to make their own luck as they make their return.

The Jets’ head coach made his first public comments since departing for the league-mandated break on Monday, unofficially beginning preparations for their Week 7 showdown against the New England Patriots. Sunday’s visit to Foxboro (1 p.m. ET, CBS) will conclude the annual season series between the two; the first meeting was a listless 25-6 loss on Sept. 19 at MetLife Stadium. That defeat was one of two games where the Jets failed to reach the end zone over their five-game, pre-bye slate , the other being a 26-0 shutout shellacking in Denver.

The bye week was anything but a break for Saleh, who spent time with his staff trying to solve the team’s offensive problems. A 1-4 start has been granted life through slow offensive efforts that take too much time to find their footing. The Jets have scored only one first half touchdown over the first games and have held a lead in only one: their Week 4 contest against Tennessee eventually won in overtime.

“(Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur) and his staff did a really good job digging in deep in terms of what the offense is having success at, what we’re not having success at, what the quarterback is having success at versus what he’s not having success,” Saleh said on Monday, per notes from the Jets. “I feel really good about the soundness of the things that we’ll be doing over the course of the week. The one thing that I thought was very important was that we didn’t just make things up and do things just to do things.”

The Jets’ offense has made some progress after the depressing doldrums of the Adam Gase era: Alijah Vera-Tucker has vindicated the faith bestowed in him when the Jets sacrificed one of the picks gleaned from the Jamal Adams trade to get him while fellow freshman Michael Carter has started to establish a hold on the primary carries in the run game.

But, perhaps unfairly, the offensive progress from a broad perspective will be primarily judged by new franchise quarterback Zach Wilson’s results. While Wilson has shown flashes of brilliance, his four-touchdown, nine-interception output has left much to be desired.

Saleh, however, spoke highly of the rewatch value Wilson’s mistakes can hold.

“(He has to) continue to grow from the things (that), not only that he’s done well, but the things that he did not do very well,” Saleh said. “It’s not easy being a rookie quarterback, but at the same time, there are steps that we can be taking every single week to get better so we can be there in the second half looking for a play or two to win a football game.”

An early bye, often granted to those who partake in the NFL’s international games (as the Jets recently did, losing to the Atlanta Falcons in London), means that the young Jets must now play a dozen games uninterrupted. But Saleh believes that the required time off did both Wilson and the team some much-needed good. He encouraged his young quarterback, a notorious film buff, to temporarily step away from practice, review, and game prep, if only for a short while.

“I was like, ‘Hey dude, just make sure you go to sleep. Just relax, just lay off a little bit and just relax.’ He’s such a competitor, he’s just constantly thinking about it,” Saleh said. “I think coaches, players, the organization, even for you guys, to step away and watch somebody else for a minute. It’s a good refresher and a chance to come back and see if we can finish this thing strong.”

The bye week also gave Saleh a chance to ponder what sort of identity the Jets are trying to establish as they work through yet another new chapter in the seemingly perpetual rebuild. He expressed solidarity with general manager Joe Douglas in defining green endeavors in how they play in the trenches upfront. While the offensive line’s veteran acquisitions have struggled, the Jets’ defense has been a pleasant surprise thanks to the efforts of a potent pass rush that has tallied 13 sacks so far. The rate of 2.6 per game is the sixth-best tally in the league.

“I think we all stand in lockstep with Joe (Douglas), in terms of we’re going to be identified upfront,” the first-year head coach said. “Our o-line has played very well here over the last few weeks, and we anticipate them to continue to play well. Our d-line has been extremely effective, very, very good playing with a lot of energy, a lot of just overpowering teams, overpowering their opponent.”

“I think it’s starting to get established,” Saleh said of the team’s evolving identity. “I know it’s hard to see right now, but I think in the trenches, I feel like we’ve been the better team, with the exception of those first couple of weeks, but it’s been coming along, and I think our guys are starting to understand where we’re going to make hay and where we’re going to win football games.”

Saleh used his public availability to provide updates on some of his injured players: defenders Jarrad Davis and Marcus Maye were labeled “day-to-day”. He cautioned that further updates could come later in the week, but labeled their medical progress “promising”. Blocker Mekhi Becton, on the other hand, remains a “few weeks away” from returning.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Now’s not the time to worry about Denzel Mims

The receiver’s predicament is worth keeping an eye on, but the New York Jets have bigger, broader things to worry about.

For all the talk about the New York Jets’ perpetual search for a franchise quarterback, metropolitan football has been equally bereft of a homegrown big-play receiver.

It has been nearly 15 seasons since a receiver that originally began his career with the Jets reached four digits in yardage (Jerricho Cotchery in 2007). The Jets have had some offensive teases since then: Robby Anderson was a diamond in the rough of the undrafted, but the Adam Gase era caused him to “lose his love” for the game. Day three Quincy Enunwa came close but saw his metropolitan career eaten away by injury.

Denzel Mims was supposed to end that streak during 2020’s virtual draft. Brought in from the offensive Valhalla that is Baylor, Mims’ arrival was the sweetest of consolation prizes: the Jets passed on several elite receiving talents to draft offensive line anchor Mekhi Becton. While the offensive line required undeniable assistance, it left the Sam Darnold era without the talents of a high-profile receiver. Jamison Crowder had done well in the slot but Darnold’s top options by conventional means consisted of first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman) and antiques from New England (Chris Hogan).

When Mims fell into their lap at 59th overall, Joe Douglas appeared to have pulled off an Ocean’s-style heist: he not only got Darnold his protection but topped it off with weaponry, a potent talent that contributed 28 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards to Waco’s gridiron cause. His name is frequently mentioned in the offensive chapters of the Bears’ record books, appearing alongside collegiate legends like K.D Cannon, Corey Coleman, Tevin Reese, Terrance Williams, and Kendall Wright. That group brought Baylor football to unprecedented modern heights: Mims’ senior squad, for example, went to Sugar Bowl and finished 13th in the final Associated Press poll, the program’s best showing since 1960.

Through the Waco experience, Mims knew what it was like to prop up one historically downtrodden green football franchise. Many expected him to do so with another up north. Alas, Mims has instead become the latest victim of whatever gridiron demon has refused to loosen the grip it has held on the Jets for the last five decades.

True to metropolitan form, Mims’ professional career was beset by factors behind his control. Issues with each of his hamstrings kept him out of training camp activities already handicapped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such ailments cost Mims nearly half of his 2021 season but he left an impact in his limited time: his 357 yards were good for fourth on the woebegone 2020 Jets despite his early absence with 106 of that haul tallied after the catch. The 15.5 yards earned per catch was seventh amongst rookie receivers with 20 catches.

Mims’ mini-emergence didn’t stop the Jets’ new powers that be on the coaching staff from revamping the receiver’s cabinet. They added Corey Davis and Keelan Cole through free agency and used another second-round pick on Elijah Moore. The emergence of the newcomers shifted Mims into the background during training camp and his role has been furthered reduced in the infantile stages of the regular season.

By now, anyone with a passing interest in Jets football knows that Mims partook in only three snaps of the Jets’ opening weekend loss in Carolina. Mims carried on the theme of taking advantage of making the most of whatever scraps were offered to him: his 40-yard reception in the fourth quarter set up the Jets’ final touchdown of a 19-14 final.

Asked about the brewing controversy as the Jets prepare for Sunday’s home opener against New England (1 p.m. ET, CBS), head coach Robert Saleh addressed the Mims restriction. He first blamed the Jets’ stagnant pace in the first half but a far more blunt reveal awaited.

“In that first half, (there were) a lot of three-and-outs, a lot of short drives…Because of it, those (starting) receivers were able to play,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “You roll with your top three guys and if they need a break, that’s where the other guys step in.”

“Mims (has) been doing a good job getting himself a little bit better every day but, he’s got to know, when you’re not one of the main guys, you got to know all three spots and you’ve got to know it at a high level so you can step in and take advantage of all those opportunities,” Saleh continued. “If the Z, the F or, the X needs a break, you’re the first one that goes in because you know all three spots, you can execute at a high level and you can roll.”

Saleh continued to insist that the timing of the game was the primary reason behind Mims’ de facto benching, but his comments suggested something slightly more troubling: Mims simply hasn’t earned extended opportunities.

To that end…there’s little issue.

 Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After the sad circus atmosphere of the Gase era, one no doubt exacerbated assistants like Gregg Williams, Jets fans yearned for accountability from the team’s new boss. Todd Bowles, reborn in Tampa Bay, was beloved by his players but his stoic to a fault personality ran its course. Gase spent half of his public comments insisting that he wasn’t verbally sparring with the franchise’s more renowned faces.

Now, a new coach comes armed with a quotable promise: All Gas, No Brake. If a player isn’t living up to those requirements, it stands to reason that the offender will not earn prime opportunities. It just so happens that a well-invested, supposedly indispensable part of the eternal rebuild’s latest chapter is the subject this time around.

Isn’t this form of accountability that Jets fans wanted and yearned for?

It’s fair for frustration to linger, especially when one looks back at the post-Mims draft board: Carolina safety Jeremy Chinn and Washington rusher Antonio Gibson were among those chosen in the immediate ten picks after him. Mims’ situation is definitely worth monitoring for the rest of the season. But the Jets have far greater, immediate issues to worry about.

If the Jets’ biggest issue was a receiver at an early crossroads in Week 2, they would be very, very lucky. Alas, that’s not the New York way. There are far bigger issues to worry about at this point in time, including how the offensive line is going to tread water until Mekhi Becton comes back…and the group is already reeling from a performance that saw them let up six sacks with Becton in town. The Jets’ defensive issues are also broadly on display through a lack of experience in the secondary, and those issues don’t even account for the vital financial decision looming around Marcus Maye’s future.

The soothing about this situation is that there’s plenty of time for Mims to restabilize his infantile NFL career and his attitude has never been a problem. He’s had every reason to curse the football gods for his current predicament…a chance to prove himself during training camp was partially erased by a bout with food poisoning…but he’s been ready to embrace all opportunities presented to him.

“You always got to battle each and every day no matter where you’re at,” Mims said during camp, per Max Goodman of SI.com. “You can be starting at X or (be the) number one receiver, you gotta battle each and every day because you slack and someone else can come take your spot.”

“I just got to focus on my job and just continue to be myself and focus on my craft so I can get better. If you worry, you won’t get (any) better.”

The apparent experiment in discipline isn’t to say that Saleh and his staff are infallible. If anything, this further shortens a metropolitan honeymoon that’s never lengthy. The pressure particularly rises on offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who must find forge a role for a pricey, talented target.

But this is nowhere near the Jets’ largest issue. If only, many inside and outside the organization likely believe, that was the case.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Now what? Solutions to the New York Jets’ injury woes

mekhi becton, jets

The New York Jets’ injury report resembles the top of its depth chart. What can they do to hold down the fort in the early going?

There are growing pains, and then there’s what Robert Saleh has had to deal with within his first 24 hours of being a ledgered head coach of the New York Jets.

In his comments from the aftermath of a 19-14 defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers, Saleh’s injury updates resembled the unveiling of the Jets’ starting lineup seen shortly after kickoff during Sunday broadcasts. The headliner is offensive tackle and 2020 first-round pick Mekhi Becton, who’s out for at least four weeks after dislocating his kneecap on the Jets’ first scoring play of the afternoon.

For Saleh, adaptation after intervention from the football gods is nothing new. He had to work through several medically-induced absences during his final year as the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator last season, posting respectable results after losing Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, K’Wuan Williams, and Richard Sherman, among others, to injuries. He hinted that help from abroad may be on the horizon.

“There’s going to be talks, obviously,” Saleh said per notes from the Jets. “(General manager Joe Douglas) and his staff getting together and gathering names, but there are going to have to be some additions.”

The Jets have four games left prior to their Week 6 sabbatical, starting with Sunday’s home opener against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS). ESM looks at each affected area and ponders the Jets’ next moves…

Offensive Line

Of Saleh’s subtractions, none may be more glaring that than the loss of Becton, the Jets’ anchor of the offensive line and their top pick from the 2020 draft. The Jets’ Sunday protection looked scary enough with Becton there: Zach Wilson was sacked six times and Jets rushers put up less than three yards a carry.

Saleh claimed that Becton’s departure may not be a death blow in part due to his limited prep time going into the 2021 season: injuries limited the Louisville alum to two practices in the “two or three weeks” leading up to game day in Carolina. Saleh confirmed that George Fant will assume Becton’s duties on the blindside while Morgan Moses will fill in for Fant on the right, as was the case on Sunday afternoon in Carolina. Becton is not expected to undergo surgery, but that could change if a second opinion recommends such a measure.

The Jets’ blocking depth took a hit before the season started: Connor McDermott and Becton’s fellow 2020 selection Cameron Clark linger on injured reserve and won’t be eligible to come back until Week 4. Jimmy Murray, Isaiah Williams, and undrafted rookie Grant Hermanns were part of the Jets’ final cuts from training camp but were retained on the practice squad. A promotion or two may be in the cards.

But simple promotions haven’t been the Douglas way: in making up for the blocking negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era, Douglas has left no stone unturned, no matter how seasoned that stone may be. His first moves upon taking office were to trade for Alex Lewis from Baltimore and convince Ryan Kalil to postpone his retirement. The trend continued this offseason when the team added Moses in the latter stages of the pre-training camp slate.

Not everything has worked out, but that’s probably not going to deter the proactive Douglas. Most available names have shown a preference for the right, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Douglas nonetheless inquire. Asking for a name like Russell Okung might be a stretch, but the team could possibly take a waiver on someone like veteran Ricky Wagner or Chaz Green. An intriguing journeyman to watch could be Corbin Kaufusi, a former metropolitan practice squad rep (2019-20) whose time at BYU overlapped with Zach Wilson’s by a year (2018).

Linebacker

A rare sign of good medical news in the linebacking corps…that in the fact that C.J. Mosley was finally able to complete a game for the first time in his Jets career…was immediately offset by further calamities. Blake Cashman has return to the injury report with a hamstring issue while Jamien Sherwood sprained his ankle in his NFL debut. Each is expected to miss two weeks.

New York was already missing one potentially sizable contributor in Jarrad Davis, who was lost in the preseason visit to Green Bay. Del’Shawn Phillips filled in serviceably on Sunday, earning a team-best dozen tackles in defeat. Formerly of Buffalo, Phillips should remain on the active roster after his recent promotion from the practice squad.

The signing of Quincy Williams after cuts toward the original 53-man rosters feel particularly timely. He was inactive for Sunday’s game but he should be ready for the home opener. The older brother of Quinnen, the Jets renowned third-year defender, has starting experience from his two seasons in Jacksonville but, perhaps more importantly, has a long-term NFL case to prove.

“We care about winning football games. That’s all that matters to us. He is not just Q’s brother. We want to win,” Quinnen said, per team reporter Jack Bell. “Whether he’s my brother or not, we play football games to win, not to lose. He needs to come in and put (his) best foot forward every day, and we need to hold each other accountable.”

Despite the emergence of Phillips and the potential arrival of the elder Williams, the Jets will likely look to practice squads and free agency for assistance. Several former Jets linger on the latter front, including Avery Williamson and James Burgess.

Safety

Enough has been written about the Jets’ problems and lack of experience at cornerback, but the makeshift group held its own on Sunday. Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, Michael Carter II, and Javelin Guidry united to allow only 77 yards and four first downs.

The true issues lied at safety, where some inopportune deep balls led to the Jets’ demise. Lamarcus Joyner was forced to leave the game early with an elbow issue, which Saleh as since diagnosed as torn tendons that will keep him out for remainder of the season. Sheldrick Redwine, a final cut from Cleveland, took over in Joyner’s wake. Alas, his lasting mark from Sunday’s game was getting victimized by the long scoring hook-up between Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson that helped Carolina break the game open.

Joyner was already standing in for Ashtyn Davis, who’s stuck on injured reserve (along with another safety, Sharrod Neasman). Neither will be back until Week 4. It’s thus inevitable that the Jets will seek further assistance elsewhere. Adrian Colbert, another recent practice squad promotee, is likely on board to stay.

Punter

The Jets will be without sophomore punter Braden Mann for 4-6 weeks, suffering a knee injury on his second attempt of the day. Mann made several trips in and out of the medical tent and was later seen pacing the sidelines in a knee brace on his left leg. According to Saleh, Mann’s situation is not expected to require surgery.

One almost wouldn’t blame the Jets if they stood pat at punter: Matt Ammendola stepped in and wound up amongst the league’s Week 1 leaders. The 65-yard boot on his second attempt was the best individual effort amongst Sunday competitors. But there’s no use in wearing down Ammendola, especially with kicker being such a vital role for an offense in transition. Saleh declared that the Jets will work out several legs.

It’s a surprisingly opportune time to be searching for a punter from a Jets standpoint, as several veteran names linger on the open market. Thomas Morestead is a former Pro Bowler from New Orleans while two entries from the Colquitt punting dynasty (Britton and Dustin) are also available. Chris Jones recently wrapped a decade-long stretch as Dallas’ fourth-down man. The Jets probably aren’t looking for a long-term solution here, as they have a little something invested in the sophomore Mann, a sixth-round choice from 2020.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Four skill player final cuts for the New York Jets to consider

New York Jets

The New York Jets continue to tinker with their roster after setting their original 53. Who could they target amongst the recent departees?

The New York Jets’ unveiling of their 53-man roster has been anything but final.

Joe Douglas and Co. have continued to tinker with the Jets roster as their Sept. 12 opener against the Carolina Panthers looms. New York wasted little time in attacking the waiver wire, primarily focusing on defensive replacements in the wake of several medical absences. Tim Ward came over from Kansas City on the line in hopes of replacing some of Carl Lawson and Vinny Curry’s production. Meanwhile linebacker Quincy Williams joins his brother Quinnen after two seasons in Jacksonville and can hold down the interior linebacker spot while Jarrad Davis heals. Reports have also linked the Jets to former Cleveland safety Sheldrick Redwine, though no official announcement has been made.

The active nature of Jets management suggests the team isn’t done making moves, even as the countdown to Carolina reaches single digits. ESM has compiled a list of final cuts from elsewhere that would improve the Jets’ immediate fortunes in the skill positions for the better. Some have been claimed for practice squads, but are eligible to be added to an active roster.

QB: Garrett Gilbert, Dallas

Gilbert enjoyed a lucrative run as the quarterback for the Orlando Apollos, the class of the short-lived Alliance of American Football. The Buffalo native played his AAF success into backup gigs with Cleveland and Dallas, performing respectably in a single start with the Cowboys while filling in for Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton last season. Dallas opted to go with Cooper Rush and waiver wire addition Will Grier as the backup for Prescott’s return. Gilbert has since been signed to the New England Patriots’ practice squad, where he and Brian Hoyer are the prime candidates to backup Mac Jones.

The Jets’ backup situation has been the subject of much scrutiny: the team opted to go with Mike White (he of a passable preseason but zero NFL regular season pass attempts) as their primary name behind Zach Wilson while keeping the well-traveled Josh Johnson amongst their own practice corps. Obviously, the Jets hope no backup will be necessary this year. Robert Saleh has made it clear that the team wasn’t going to add a veteran backup for the sake of having one on the roster with Wilson. But the Jets should no better than anybody about the importance of a reliable name in the second slot: no green quarterback has started a full season’s worth of games since Ryan Fitzpatrick went all 16 in 2015. Gilbert would a great addition that could fill in in case of a Wilson emergency.

alfred morris, new york giants

RB: Alfred Morris, NY Giants

Frankly, the Jets are very well equipped in their run game and might be better off exploring a trade involving their rushing surplus. Rookie Michael Carter is obviously off-limits but offering Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, or La’Mical Perine to a team in need of rushing (i.e. Jacksonville and/or Baltimore after respectively losing Travis Etienne and J.K. Dobbins to season-ending injuries) is an endeavor worth investigating.

If the Jets were to scour the rushing help from elsewhere, however, Morris (a bit of an early cut, as he was part of the Giants’ initial departures) would a strong candidate to help solve their woes in short-yardage situations. The veteran and three-time 1,000-yard rusher proved to still have some NFL mettle last season, averaging 4.3 yards per carry with the Giants (second-best on the team behind Wayne Gallman). New York has tried to address its short rushing game. One such step includes the continuation of the fullback experiment with tight end Trevon Wesco. If they want to go a more traditional route, Morris would be the best option from abroad.

WR: Keke Coutee, Houston

True to their nature, the football gods have thrown another wrench into the Jets’ best-laid opening day plans: reports from this week indicate that Jamison Crowder has tested positive for COVID-19 in an isolated case. Crowder has been the Jets’ most potent and consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons and has established himself as one of the most reliable slot targets in the league.

On the current roster, this seems like a big opportunity for rookie Elijah Moore to make a name for himself. But if the Jets want to add someone with a little more experience in the short term, Coutee would be the way to go. The experienced slot man was part of Houston’s final cuts but was quickly added to the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad.

A fourth-round selection in 2018, Coutee had a roller-coaster career with the Texans but was capable of athletic plays (including offensive trickery) and making himself open. Coutee’s catch rate of 82.5 percent (33 receptions on 40 targets) was good for ninth in the league amongst qualified receivers.

TE: Richard Rodgers, Philadelphia

The Jets have granted TE1 duties to Tyler Kroft, solidifying the move by trading Chris Herndon to Minnesota. Formerly of Piscataway, Kroft has been a reliable red zone option in Cincinnati and Buffalo but it’s been a while since he held full-time primary tight end duties. Kroft and Wesco were the only tight ends kept amongst the original 53, but the Jets later re-added Daniel Brown and Ryan Griffin.

Speculation has surrounded one tight end from the City of Brotherly Love, as some have implored the Jets to trade for Zach Ertz. Those rumors have been quelled by Ertz himself (who insisted he wishes to retire in Philadelphia) But the Eagles also released a reliable veteran target, one capable of making big plays and is used to an expanded role in the starting lineup.

Rodgers previously worked with another Rodgers…the unrelated Aaron. In fact, Richard (no relation) is the recipient of one of Aaron’s most famous touchdowns (seen above). His career sputtered with consecutive years on injured reserve, but he filled serviceably when both Ertz and Dallas Goedert went down. During a three-game stretch in November (two starts), Rodgers tallied 161 on nine receptions, two of which went for touchdowns (his first since the 2017 season).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets’ surprise departures send an intriguing message

The New York Jets may have nothing to lose in 2021, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to hold their players accountable.

The start of September is a time to confront some uncomfortable truths, many often centered around regrets from the dying summer.

That’s hasn’t been the problem for the New York Jets; they have accomplished a lot over the past three months, as they’ve won the faith of their long-suffering fanbase back through a busy offseason and respectable preseason showings. But a harsh reality lingers: the only reason the Jets will be playing deeper into January is the mere extension of the NFL’s regular season to 17 games.

Gang Green’s dire immediate forecast isn’t an indictment of general manager Joe Douglas’ time at the helm (even if his first draft looks a little iffy with Jabari Zuniga and James Morgan already gone). It’s rather living proof of just how far the last days of Mike Maccagnan’s oversight and Adam Gase’s doomed two-year tenure set the team back in an AFC landscape packed with worthy, established contenders…one of whom resides in their own division and the state represented in the New York Jets moniker.

But that shouldn’t preclude the Jets from embarking on a year of maturation, 18 weeks of de facto field research and development of its current roster. Barring a winless disaster, this season is going to be an improvement over last year’s two-win horror show. There are opportunities to grow and evolve on the football field. If they manage to shock the football world and pick up an upset win or two along the way (i.e. the matchups against the indirectly aforementioned Buffalo Bills), even better.

Frankly, it’s not much different from the Jets’ 2020 outlook. But Douglas and his front office compatriots have set them up in a far more desireable situation. The hire of head Robert Saleh has been unanimously appreciated in both domestic and abroad circles, in contrast to Gase’s arrival cheered only by the hot take artists. In the best-case scenario, Sam Darnold’s eventual final season as the Jets’ franchise quarterback was equipped with first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman), New England antiques (Chris Hogan), and undrafted journeymen with rushing relics of football past behind him (Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore). Douglas’ offseason negotiations have situated Zach Wilson with valuable weaponry that doubled as playoff staples in recent postseasons (Corey Davis, Tevin Coleman, Tyler Kroft). Each team was/is macabrely blessed with a sense of having nothing to lose in the immediate future, but there’s a clear difference between the Jets’ two most preseason auras.

jets, bless austin

But that doesn’t mean that the Jets are going to sit idly by while this season plays out. The team’s most recent departures serve as a warning that just because there’s nothing to lose, it doesn’t mean that players won’t be held accountable for their on-field output…or lack thereof.

This week’s initial reveal of 53-man rosters has been no roadblock for the Jets’ continued insistence on tinkering their lineup as the countdown to Sept. 12’s opener in Carolina (1 p.m. ET, CBS) enters single digits. New York has continued to try and fill the Carl Lawson-sized hole created by the injury bug, signing waiver wire defenders Tim Ward and Quincy Williams (ex-Cleveland safety Sheldrick Redwine doesn’t appear to be far behind). They’re replacing some familiar faces, rare remnants of the Maccagnan era. Those leftovers are vanishing from the Jets’ ledgers faster and in higher volume than Thanos and his army after Tony Stark’s sacrifice.

The most prominent of the departures have been two recent staples at the top of the Jets’ depth chart: tight end Chris Herndon was dealt to Minnesota during the purge down to 53 men while cornerback Bless Austin was outright released. Austin had been penciled in as the Jets’ starting cornerback for months while Herndon was one of the closest things the Jets had to a staple: only two players (Marcus Maye and Thomas Hennessy) had longer green metropolitan tenures than Herndon, who was set to enter his fourth year with the team.

New York Jets, Chris Herndon
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

At first glance, the 2021 Jets provided the perfect environment for Herndon and Austin to work through. A team with nothing to lose could’ve granted the young veterans a chance to gain some football clarity and reclaim the narrative on their professional careers. Each had shown flashes of NFL brilliance before: Herndon is just three years removed from being one of the NFL’s most illustrious rookie receivers (11th overall with 502 yards and leading all freshman tight ends with 39 receptions) and Austin developed a reputation as a strong hitter, fighting his way back from injuries at Rutgers into a starting opportunity in an NFL lineup.

But the Jets have once again made it clear that, in writing their own story of redemption, they don’t have the time or effort to co-author anyone else’s. There are some low-profile exceptions (i.e. late arrival Shaq Lawson) but the team is making it clear that if a player isn’t contributing toward the pavement of the path back to gridiron redemption, they don’t have a place in New York.

Herndon’s previous heroics, overshadowed by injuries, a suspension, and general inconsistency, held no value in the Jets’ current plans. Austin seemed born to succeed as a metropolitan difference-maker as a Queens native and Rutgers alum. Such a cinematic set-up went by the wayside.

It’s also not like the Jets have replacement readily available in Herndon and Austin’s respective roles. Kroft has been a reliable red zone prescience (which the Jets learned the easy way this preseason) but hasn’t TE1 duties since 2017. The Jets’ official cornerback depth chart, as of press time, literally has a blank space where Austin’s name once stood. Draft weekend Saturday arrivals Brandin Echols (6th round) and Isaiah Dunn (undrafted) sit behind it.

Both Douglas and Saleh expressed gratitude toward Herndon and Austin. Per notes from the Jets, Douglas said Minnesota aggressively sought a tight end after losing Irv Smith for the year while each concurred that they wanted some of their younger defenders to take on bigger responsibilities. But these departures offering a lingering sense that no New York veteran is safe. Sure, there might be some exceptions…it’s highly unlikely that they’ll give up on, say, Corey Davis, after a single season. But letting go of two key pieces less than two weeks before kickoff weekend is an interesting, if not necessary, method of starting a new era.

The 2021 New York Jets serve as a football laboratory whose experiments could change the pigskin world. They’re in a classic spot where they don’t have anything, so there’s nothing to lose. But the farewells of Herndon and Austin prove, for the betterment of the team, that that’s only going to apply from an organizational standpoint.

They’ve tried everything else. What’s one more trip to the drawing board?

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: 3 reasons why the Carl Lawson injury isn’t a total disaster

The New York Jets will undoubtedly miss their new pass rusher after Thursday’s painful news, but not all is lost.

The football gods were feeling bored on Thursday and thus engaged in one of their oldest and most cherished pastimes: toying with the New York Jets.

Carl Lawson, one of the NFL’s rising pressure artists, with the Jets in March, was injured in a joint practice with the Green Bay Packers on Thursday afternoon. The Jets later announced that their $45 million man ruptured his Achilles tendon during a blitz on a team drill and would miss the entire 2021 season. Zane Lewis, an undrafted freshman in the secondary, was likewise lost for the year through a sprained MCL and a torn patella tendon.

The Jets have little time to truly process this unfortunate turn of events. An exhibition contest against the Packers lingers on Saturday late afternoon (4:25 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network), their penultimate preseason game under the new shortened format. Lawson was expected to bolster a pass rush that has had trouble creating pressure in the backfield in recent seasons. This season alone, the team faces matchups against elite passing talents like Josh Allen and Tom Brady, as well as young rising stars like Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence, Jalen Hurts, and Tua Tagovailoa.

Pessimism over the coming Jets season has become as prevalent of a metropolitan summer tradition as Macy’s 4th of July fireworks and the New York Mets’ collapse combined. Lawson’s injury has done little to alleviate concerns from a fanbase that now has to deal with the NFL’s longest active playoff drought. 

But Jets fans should know…not all is lost with Lawson done for the year:

Return on Investment 

Don’t let the Jets’ garish two-win campaign blur the fact that their front seven enjoyed several breakout campaigns. The team has recently welcomed back Quinnen Williams to their trenches. Williams is coming off a breakthrough year that saw him lead the team in sacks and vindicate his status as the third overall pick in the 2019 draft. He believes that the arrival of head coach Robert Saleh will allow him to reach his true NFL potential, especially considering the pass rushers that the former San Francisco defensive boss has turned into household names. Williams has spent the offseason going over their film.

“I’ve been watching every tape (for) about two years now. When they had DeForest Buckner), (Arik) Armstead, Nick Bosa, man them guys were rolling,” Williams told Steve Serby of the New York Post. “That year when they went to the Super Bowl, I was watching their tape, how much fun those guys were having…Kwon Alexander was there, one of my good friends. (I was) watching those guys ball, watching those guys get off, watching those guys dominate that year.”

Elsewhere in returning trench talents, John Franklin-Myers and Foley Fatukasi will also look to build on breakthrough years. Another returnee, Bryce Huff, has been one of the most pleasant surprises in camp, drawing rave reviews after a two-sack performance in last weekend’s preseason opener against the Giants.

“The more we watch him, he’s just winning,” Saleh said of Huff’s Saturday showing, per Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “He’s one of those guys, at first, we were like, ‘Man, how are we going to hide this guy in the preseason, he’s going to end up with like 10 sacks.’ It got to the point where we were like, ‘How are we going to keep him off the first unit?’”

It comes with a painful sacrifice, but Saleh may no longer have an answer to that question.

Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

They Studied Abroad

It’s clear that Lawson figures into the Jets’ long-term plans. With the team potentially facing a pair of annual matchups against multi-talented quarterbacks like Allen and Tagovailoa for the foreseeable future, addressing the pass rush was vital.

But even sans Lawson, the Jets have built their backfield invasion force to a strong level. Lawson perhaps made them an elite unit, but there is still plenty to work with. The former Bengal wasn’t the only entry from abroad on the defensive depth chart: the Jets also welcomed Sheldon Rankins and Vinny Curry to the fold as affordable, serviceable options that have championship experience.

The Jets dodged a bullet when it came to Rankins. He also left Thursday’s practice in Wisconsin early thanks to a knee injury, but the Jets have since labeled him day-to-day. Earlier this month, Rankins, a playoff participant in each of the last four seasons as a member of the New Orleans Saints, didn’t single anyone out when it came to his praises of the defensive line. He feels that the pass rush can instill fear in offenses through a team effort.

“I’ve played with some good dudes. But the dudes I’m playing with now, in this scheme, I feel the sky’s the limit,” Rankins said in a report from Rich Cimini of ESPN. He was clear that the Jets’ backfield assaults wouldn’t end with the first teams, perhaps retroactively prophesizing that one lost cog, no matter how expensive that piece is, won’t break down this machine. “Whoever we roll out there, teams better, excuse my French, buckle their s***. We’re coming. And when that group gets tired, the next group is coming. We expect to do that for a full 60 minutes of a football game and dominate games.”

Curry, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles will likely miss the Jets’ opening weekend contest in Carolina but has refused to hide his enthusiasm for donning a new shade of green. The 33-year-old defender compared the modern Jets to the 2016 Eagles, a team that finished with a losing record but planted the seeds for a Super Bowl run the following season. Like the Jets, Philadelphia was working with a first-year head coach (Doug Pederson) at the time. Current Jets general manager Joe Douglas was serving in the Eagles’ front office as the Vice President of Player Personnel.

“I’ve seen this ship before. When Coach Pederson took over in Philadelphia, so I’ve seen this ship before and I just wanted to be a part of it, so no hesitation at all,” Curry said in his opening statements as a Jet, per Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Just the relationship with Joe and just to see what he was building, it was kind of like too good to pass up. The excitement around the building when I met some of the staff members. I met a couple of my teammates that I knew just down the road. It was just like a great fit for me, a very exciting opportunity so I just had to do it.”

Lawson’s injury also opens up a big opportunity for late signing Ronald Blair, a disciple of Saleh’s systems in San Francisco. Despite Blair’s relatively unsung status, Saleh has spoken highly of the fifth-round pick from 2016 during their shared tenure in the Bay Area.

“If you like winning, you like Ronnie Blair. If you don’t like winning, you don’t like him,” Saleh said in 2019, per Kyle Posey of Niners Nation. “I love him to death. He can do no wrong in my book. He’s got great versatility. He’ll play nickel if you ask him to, and he’ll know what to do, and he’ll execute.”

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t Talk About Playoffs

Jets fans have every right to be upset about Lawson’s injury. But they must face an uncomfortable truth: Lawson’s prescience didn’t thrust them into the playoff discussion. 2021 was never going to be the Jets’ year, frankly.

Perhaps nothing short of a full-team swap with the Kansas City Chiefs was going to put the Jets into this winter’s bracket. Competing for a division is out of the question for the time being with the Buffalo Bills at full strength. There are simply too many established contenders in the AFC to compete for the wild card…the AFC North might send three playoff teams alone. That predicament isn’t meant to be a critique of Douglas: it simply goes to show just how far backward the Adam Gase era set back the Jets’ fortunes.

Of course, one never wants to say never when it comes to NFL postseason fortunes…the greatest moment in Jets history is based on the first-ever Super Bowl upset after all. But there’s no denying that the odds are stacked against them. Appearing in the “In the Hunt” column once the networks breakout the playoff charts come the holiday season would be a respectable and attainable goal for the Jets. Lawson or no Lawson, the postseason was a tall ask, even with expanded real estate to work with.

Lawson’s forced departure shouldn’t depress the Jets. A prime opportunity still stands on the horizon, one to foster development and figure out who will be part of the potential good times ahead. Getting an upset win at some point in the season over one of those established contenders would also serve as a great throat clearing gesture, one that would put the rest of the NFL on notice. That Philadelphia team mentioned by Curry, for example, earned wins over Steelers, Falcons, and Giants teams that went to the playoffs (they also topped a top-seeded Cowboys squad that was resting starters in Week 17).

But Lawson’s injury shouldn’t derail any goals or endeavors put forward by a Jets team embroiled in a desperate search for stability. Part of that is a mental struggle, but the Jets and observers both domestically and abroad appear to believe they have the right man to help them work through it in Saleh.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Why the New York Jets should be all-in on CB C.J. Henderson

cj henderson

The New York Jets’ secondary situation is already packed with question marks. They might as well add one with a little potential.

Could the New York Jets find one last present under the offseason Christmas tree?

According to a report from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Jacksonville Jaguars may be ready to deal cornerback C.J. Henderson after a single season in Duval County. Henderson, set to turn 23 in September, was drafted ninth overall in the 2020 draft and earned 36 tackles and an interception over eight games in his rookie year.

Several teams are likely set to inquire about Henderson’s services, with New Orleans emerging as an early collaborator. But Henderson and the Jets could be a match that improves the metropolitan outlook in both the short and long-term.

The Jets’ road to recovery from the 2020 season was graced with a cap space surplus. But while Gang Green spent that money wisely…using the funds to noticeably upgrade their receiving corps and pass rush…last year’s two-win effort conjured from the depths of the football netherworld made any kind of instant fix impossible. Even with the windfall, it was a guarantee that some area on the depth chart was going to get the short end of the offseason stick.

One doesn’t need to look at the depth chart too long to see that the secondary, particularly the cornerback slots, was the sacrificial lamb. The Jets are set to go into the season with Bless Austin and Bryce Hall in the top spots (alongside Javelin Guidry in the Nickel) with a hodgepodge of journeymen (Corey Ballentine, Lamar Jackson, Elijah Campbell) and draft weekend Saturday additions (Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, Brandin Echols, Isaiah Dunn) set to back them up.

Henderson could already be a crucial turning point of his NFL career: chosen in the top ten of the virtual draft, the Florida alum was expected to fill the void that Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye left behind. He lived up the hype early on, earning an interception and three pass breakups in the Jaguars’ opening weekend win over Indianapolis. But after inconsistency and injuries swallowed up the rest of his freshman campaign and Jacksonville may already be cleaning house from the Doug Marrone/Dave Caldwell era.

If Henderson were to move on from one new regime (Urban Meyer/Trent Baalke) to another (Robert Saleh/Joe Douglas), he’d give his new tri-state area employers some strong man coverage experience. Henderson’s targets drew a sub-75 passer rating in three of his first five contests (including 24.1 in the aforementioned debut against the Colts). Saleh’s new schemes are set to put a focus on zone endeavors, but a little diversity never hurt.

The Jets are packed to the brim with questions at the cornerback spots. Henderson doesn’t solve the Jets’ experience issue at cornerback…special teams ace Justin Hardee is the only one listed with at least four years of NFL experience…but there’s a healthy amount of proven potential around him from his days with the Gators. With the unproven Saturday picks Austin and Hall (23 starts over a combined three NFL seasons) set to play major downs, the Jets could use someone with a little bit of upside, especially one with the potential to contribute in both the short and long-term future.

For one thing, it’s not like character issues or unreasonable demands are playing a role in Henderson’s possible departure. Unlike many early divorces between a team and its primary picks, there appears to be no ill will between him and the Jaguars. Henderson’s Jacksonville career could become a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the Meyer-Baalke duology might simply be purging big picks from the Marrone-Caldwell cabinet (especially because they used a second-round choice on Tyson Campbell). Entering his second season and with a decent enough rookie season (he was tied for fourth amongst rookie cornerbacks with six breakups despite missing half the year), Henderson’s early semi-redemption story is one that the Jets can afford to ghostwrite.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

If the Jets do opt to enter the potential Henderson sweepstakes, the question then turns to the price tag. Including Jamison Crowder in hypothetical trades went out of style after restructuring his deal, but the Jets’ stockpiling of future assets could come up big if they’re looking to make a late summer splash.

Douglas has built a solid savings account over his three years as the Jets general manager. The Jets currently occupy 13 spots on the 2022 draft board, but quantity doesn’t always equal quality…the Jets learned this less the hard way through the (John) Idzik dozen.

Ideally, the Jets will see several individual breakout seasons that leave several roster holes filled for their long-term future, thus making several of those choices expendable.

The Jets, unlike other suitors, have plentiful draft capital to work with, football currency that can be used immediately. The unusual situation of trading a top ten after his debut year could raise the price tag, but that still works in New York’s favor: seven of those picks come in the first four rounds. Dealing away the last first-round choice gleaned from Seattle’s Jamal Adams deal is probably off the table, but the extra second-round choice from Carolina (in exchange for Sam Darnold) could come up big.

Henderson isn’t the proverbial “one move away” to a playoff appearance, but is an affordable piece (just over $16 million left on his rookie deal over the next three seasons) that is blessed with big-play potential. The team is still in the midst of a rebuild, but late moves have raised the immediate promise of this group. A playoff appearance would still be too much to ask for…especially with the budding divisional dynasty brewing in Buffalo…but adding Henderson would definitely push them a few steps forward. They were able to do that on offense when they addressed the neglected right side of the offensive line and signed Morgan Moses in July. Henderson can help the Jets feel better about one of the more exposed areas on the roster.

It’s rare the Jets can take advantage of an early parting between a top ten pick and his original employers. They have the resources and the need…now’s the time for action.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: A training camp battle at every position (Offense)

As the New York Jets inch closer to training camp, ESM looks at the offensive roster battles to watch at every position.

Competition has always been a staple at summer camp. But if you’re headed to Florham Park, leave the archery materials at home.

The New York Jets are eight days away from descending upon One Jets Drive for their training camp activities. Once camp commences, they’ll have several positional struggles to solve before Week 1 kicks off in Carolina. ESM takes a look at each spot on the depth chart, sizing up a major battle that should be solved over camp practices and the coming trio of preseason games.

Our primer begins on offense…

 Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Backup QB: James Morgan vs. Mike White

Barring an epic disaster, the Jets will go into Week 1 with second overall pick Zach Wilson as their quarterback. Sitting the star rookie behind a veteran for a year has become a lost art in the modern NFL, even if Kansas City’s Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes transition kept the concept alive for a few more years.

The Jets, though, are apparently planning to go in the completely opposite direction: no one in their quarterback cabinet has thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game. Immediately thrusting Wilson into the starter’s role is one thing, but backing him up with two veteran questions marks is another entirely. But head coach Robert Saleh apparently doesn’t see an issue.

“If you just bring in a veteran who doesn’t know anything about your scheme, he’s learning just like the rookie is,” Saleh told Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “There’s a match that has to happen. There’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen.”

That, of course, begs the question why the Jets didn’t go after someone like fellow former 49ers Nick Mullens, but it’s probably redundant at this point. Until further notice, the backup job comes to Morgan and White.

Morgan probably has the inside edge, if only due to his status as a Joe Douglas draft pick. Chosen in the fourth round of 2020’s virtual draft, the Florida International hasn’t even worn a game jersey yet due to the cancellation of last summer’s preseason. White entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018 and has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad over the last three years. By going with someone inexperienced, it’s clear the Jets aren’t going with the “mentor” route for their backup quarterback. The winner will be judged on late summer showings and their performance in preseason games could be particularly intriguing.

 Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Spell RB: Ty Johnson vs. La’Mical Perine vs. Josh Adams

The primary rushing duties could become a battle as the season goes on. Veteran newcomer Tevin Coleman will probably at least start as the top option before giving way to rookie arrival Michael Carter. It’s fair to assume that Coleman, who worked with new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco, has the early edge though Carter has reportedly impressed New York brass during his first spring sessions.

In training camp, however, there are more immediate, desperate matters to attend to, namely answering the question of who will be the third back.

Behind the Coleman and Carter tandem lies a trio of young projects that could’ve gained more clarity had Adam Gase not become obsessed with a Frank Gore farewell tour. Though injuries and a late placement on the COVID-19 list turned Perine’s rookie season into a wash but Johnson and Adams, spare parts from Detroit and Philadelphia respectively, impressed when called upon, uniting for 411 yards on 83 carries, good for an average of nearly five yards an attempt.

The battle between this trio isn’t a matter of playing time, but will determine roster spots. Even though he’s a Douglas draft pick (also chosen in the fourth round), Perine could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His north/south style may not fit in  LaFleur’s preferred systems that value agility and athleticism, creating a wrong place at the wrong time situation. Meanwhile, the re-signed Adams has worked with Douglas before, sharing a single season with the Eagles.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Top Slot WR: Jamison Crowder vs. Elijah Moore

Over the past two seasons, Jamison Crowder has been far and away the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon. Through that endeavor, he has become one of the NFL’s most reliable slot options. But does the fact he’s been a reliable weapon in woebegone New York say more about Crowder or just how dire the Jets’ situation has become?

Douglas and Co. spent the offseason upgrading their receiving corps and that included the slot depth chart. Drafting Moore with the second pick of the draft’s second day was seen as a steal by many and he seemingly arrived at the perfect time. The Jets were due some sizable cap savings upon Crowder’s release or trade and they could’ve easily had Moore take over. Instead, they restructured the final year of Crowder’s deal to focus on guaranteed money and will keep both of them in tow for Wilson’s first deal.

Crowder faces a bit of an uphill battle to get his snaps back, as he missed almost all spring activities during his contract dispute. There should still be an opportunity for him amongst the Jets’ revamped receiving corps but it’ll be tough to hold off the rise of a touted rookie.

. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Starting TE: Chris Herndon vs. Tyler Kroft 

Entering his fourth year in New York, Herndon is a rare relic in green. Nothing, however, has lived up to the production of his rookie season (502 yards on 39 receptions) as the more recent stages of his career have been beset by a suspension, injuries, and inconsistency.

Though Herndon somewhat began to resemble his rookie self in the latter stages of last season, the Jets sent him a message this offseason. While they avoided the pricier options on the free agent market (i.e. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry), they added goal line option Tyler Kroft from Buffalo and re-upped with Daniel Brown. During minicamp, Herndon saw his first team reps go to Kroft and Ryan Griffin. Connor Hughes of The Athletic claimed that Herndon “struggled” to adjust to the new offensive playbook, playing a role in his demotion.

It’s been a while since Kroft was the primary option at tight end, last doing so in Cincinnati during the 2017 campaign. The Rutgers alum re-established himself as a reliable short-yardage and red zone target last season in Buffalo. Time will tell if the Jets turn over the full-time tight end reins to Kroft, or even give Griffin, Brown, or undrafted rookie Kenny Yeboah (11 touchdowns over the last two seasons at Temple and Ole Miss). But If Kroft’s signing even merely lights a fire under Herndon, it will have been well worth it.

 Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line: RG Greg Van Roten vs. Newcomers

A Long Island native (Rockville Centre, to be precise), Van Roten was destined to make a difference in New York. While he endured a bit of an up-and-down season in terms of production, he partook in literally every snap over the Jets’ first 11 games and emerged as a leader and voice of reason when the team’s 2020 affairs became particularly dire.

With the Jets’ left side fortified with Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, the focus turns to the right. Morgan Moses is a reliable one-year solution on the outside, while Van Roten appears to have a good grip on the interior. But the Jets brought in some interesting depth options, including the New York Islanders’ most celebrated new fan, Dan Feeney. Incumbent top left guard Alex Lewis is also set to move over to the right side, while one also can’t forget Cameron Clark, a 2020 fourth-rounder who spent last season preparing to make the transition from tackle to guard.

But Van Roten, who has shockingly tallied only a single accepted penalty in his NFL career, believes that the arrival of Saleh and LaFleur should help provide stability.

“They hire Saleh and it just feels like a weight has been lifted and hope has come back into the building,” Van Roten said, per team reporter Jack Bell. “All we ask for is a fresh start in this league and no one is happier than the Jets. Now we’re on page one, so let’s write this year’s chapter.”

Which offensive training camp battles will you keep an eye on? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

New York Jets: Three aftershocks from the Marcus Maye franchise tag

Maye will officially play the 2021 season on a franchise tag. How will that affect the New York Jets’ ongoing rebuild?

Tag, Marcus Maye is it.

Thursday marked the deadline for Maye and the New York Jets to come to a long-term deal. With the 4 p.m. cutoff long breached, Maye will play the 2021 season on a franchise tag worth over $10 million.

While the tag has Maye listed as the sixth-richest safety in football, there seems to a lingering sense of iciness between the safety and the team. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has claimed that tensions rose long before Thursday’s final horn, saying that the Jets’ offer went drastically lower than what Maye would be offered with the tag. Thus, 2021 has the makings of a lame duck season for Maye, who is coming a career-best campaign.

How does this affect the Jets this season and beyond? ESM investigates…

ashtyn davis, new york giants

Ashtyn Can’t Butcher An Opportunity

After the Jamal Adams saga ended in a fruitful trade, Maye stepped up and perhaps created this whole controversy in the first place. A similar opportunity awaits Ashtyn Davis, a second year strong safety who is projected to line up next to Maye this season.

Davis, a third-round pick out of Cal during the virtual draft of 2020, went from walk-on to projected day two choice, perhaps falling out of the second round due to surgery following his senior campaign. His rookie season was a bit of a wash, as he struggled when thrust into action after Adams was traded and Seattle arrival Bradley McDougald was lost to an injury. Davis likewise fell victim to a foot injury that ended his year after six games (one start).

Praised for his athleticism and physicality, the Jets hope that Davis can enjoy a breakout campaign similar to what Maye experienced last season. Beyond him, the secondary depth chart is disturbingly thin: Las Vegas import LaMarcus Joyner, 30, brings experience but will need a truly impressive season to factor in the Jets’ long-term plans. At cornerback, the Jets stockpiled project defenders like Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, and Brandin Echols. Starters Bless Austin and Bryce Hall have a lot of upside, but are no guarantee.

Needless to say, a Davis breakthrough would definitely give their defense a clearer path toward the future.

New York Giants, Jabrill Peppers
Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Safety First

There’s plenty of time for Maye and the Jets to change each other’s minds and it’s probably far too late in the offseason to consider a trade. But all signs currently point to a separation come next spring, so the Jets have to start planning now.

Both the 2022 free agency and draft classes have some strong names to keep an eye on. Marcus Williams, with whom Maye is tied in 2021 salary, should be one the marquee names, followed by Jabrill Peppers. The incoming rookie class is headlined by Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton (who could very well be a top ten pick) while redshirt sophomore Brandon Joseph could be an intriguing pick with the latter first round pick from the Seahawks. New York is currently projected to work with over $71 million in cap space in 2022, third-best in the league behind Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.

Frankly, the potential Maye exit always applies a certain amount of pressure of the offense. The past offseason saw the Jets in such dire straits that it was a near guarantee that at least one area was going to be neglected. A majority of the Jets’ offseason resources were shifted toward the offense and front seven, including free agency dollars (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, Carl Lawson, Jarrad Davis). Their primary draft picks were dedicated to the offense, as each of their first four choices (Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore, and Michael Carter) have been hired to put points on the board. If the anemic offense shows no signs of improving the season, the  secondary could wind up woefully neglected again.

New York Jets, Joe Douglas
Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

Off-Broadway Joe

It doesn’t do anyone much good to write Maye’s New York farewell song just yet. But, if these next 17 games make up his final hours in green, it continues two disturbing trends in recent Jets history.

With Maye’s New York future in doubt, the 2017 draft class is officially an endangered species. Nothing more needs to be written about top pick Adams, but the class has been a scourge on not only the Jets, but the league as well. Three of the nine picks (including third-round receiver ArDarius Stewart) are already out of football and only one beyond the safeties (Texan-turned-Lion Chad Hansen) appeared in 2020 regular season action.

The Jets have not only had trouble drafting, they’ve had troubling keeping the homegrown talent that appears to have a future. Maye appeared to be on pace to break that trend, but the past few weeks have only commenced a countdown to his departure.

Could this serve as a commentary on the Joe Douglas era?

It’s easy to view this situations from both sides: Douglas and company want to see how Maye performs in year two of the post-Adams era and they save some money in the short and long-run (maybe the immediate savings could go toward secondary help and a backup quarterback…?). Maye believes he’s a top ten safety and wants to be paid as such.

No one can deny that Douglas knows the team’s needs and can work with an offseason budget, at least on paper. But there could be a lingering side effect of free agents being scared away by Douglas’ unwillingness to deal pricy long-term deals?

Simply put, there’s a little more pressure on the 2021 Jets to perform now, to showcase visible signs of improvement. Again, asking them to make the postseason leap seems like a little much: they’re trapped in a division with America’s powerful football sweethearts in Buffalo and there are too many established contenders to leapfrog for the wild card. But there has to be at least some semblance of hope out there, a “throat-clearing” year of sorts, something similar to what the Los Angeles Chargers did with Justin Herbert in tow.

Entering Herbert’s rookie year, there wasn’t much to be excited about from an LA perspective. They seemed destined for a rebuild period and were struggling to attract fans even when they were allowed to play in front of a crowd. But the Chargers went on to surprise a lot of people. Herbert had an exemplary rookie season and the team won seven games. Even their losses were impressive: they took Kansas City and New Orleans to overtime and sheer bad luck probably kept them away from a winning record.

Seven of the Chargers’ nine losses came by single digits and they won each of their final four games following a December shellacking from New England. Los Angeles is now everyone’s NFL preview dark horse and the good vibes attracted new starters like Corey Linsley, Oday Aboushi, Matt Feiler, and Jared Cook to the cause.

Patience has paid off in the early stages of this New York rebuilding stage. But in certain regards, the time is now.

How do you think the Jets’ plans will be affected by Maye’s franchise tag? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and keep the conversation going.

Long-term talks stall between Marcus Maye, New York Jets (Report)

According to Ian Rapoport, there appears to be no long-term agreement in the near future between Maye and the New York Jets.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, no long-term contract deal is expected between the New York Jets and safety Marcus Maye.

According to Rapoport, the Jets “not responded to his last proposal and that offer has been pulled off the table”. The safety was franchise tagged by the Jets in March, signing the one-year tender worth just over $10.6 million two weeks later. Maye’s tag makes him with sixth-highest safety for the 2021 season, tied with Marcus Williams of New Orleans. He will play on that tag unless a long-term can be reached by Thursday.

Both sides have equal footing in the argument for Maye’s long-term deal. Maye has been labeled one of the better safeties in the NFL, boasting an 82.1 Pro Football Focus grade in 2020 (fourth-best amongst safeties). The Jets, on the other hand, may be reluctant to offer a safety that’s set to turn 29 next March a long-term deal.

Shortly after the NFL Draft ended in May, general manager Joe Douglas said that re-upping with Maye was a “priority” after the selections.

“It’s still a priority to keep Marcus here long term,” Douglas said, per Max Goodmanof SI.com. “We have had productive texts back and forth with his agent and we’re hoping to really dive into this now that now that the draft’s over.”

In that same month, head coach Robert Saleh said he understood Maye’s side of the story, but reiterated that Douglas and the front office were working “relentlessly” on a long-term deal.

“I think these kids have earned the right to ask for whatever they can, especially when they do things the right way like (Maye) has,” Saleh said, per Adam Maya of NFL.com. “We had a really nice discussion and obviously him and his agent are working with Joe on trying to get his deal done, and hopefully that happens soon.”

Maye skipped organized team activities but attended the Jets’ minicamp proceedings in June. He’s coming off a season that saw him earn a career-best 88 tackles (4 for a loss, including a pair of sacks) and 11 pass breakups.

Will this reported stall between Maye and the Jets affect the team moving forward