New York Jets Top 10 Tuesday: Veteran breakout candidates for 2021

As the New York Jets bide time before training camp, ESM looks at some veteran faces that could be poised for a breakout.

As we’ve officially reached a rare dead period on the NFL calendar, ESM presents Top 10 Tuesday, a weekly list series that will center on the past, present, and future of the Jets in a sortable format.

We’ll begin this series by looking at ten veteran players that could rise to the occasion come up big for the Jets as they embark on a new gridiron journey…

Oct 1, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets kicker Sam Ficken (9) celebrates his field goal with teammates during the first half against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

10. K Sam Ficken

Since Pro Bowler Jason Myers absconded for Seattle, the Jets have been through six different kickers. That’d be unacceptable in pretty much every football realm, but such instability is unacceptable for a team with a developing offense. Confidence can be built if points can be scored in as many drives that invade opponents’ territory as possible.

Ficken, set to enter his third season in green, seemed like he was on his way toward ending the constant turnover. He converted each of his first nine field goal attempts (five alone during a Thursday night tilt against Denver) but he lost the spark after missing several games with a groin injury. This time around, Ficken will compete with undrafted free agent Chris Naggar to get his job back. He can become a vital silver lining in the Jets’ expected growing pains if he’s able to capitalize on a career-best 86 percent success rate from three.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 13: Defensive Lineman Kyle Phillips #98 of the New York Jets makes a stop call against the Dallas Cowboys in the second half at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

9. DL Kyle Phillips

The versatile Phillips, entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee, was one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2019 season. Veteran injuries forced him into starting duties, but he made the most of his opportunity with 39 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Phillips was a consistent backfield invader in his rookie season, as his seven tackles for a loss were tied for fourth-best on the team and his quarterback pressures (6) were good for third amongst his fellow linemen.

Alas, an ankle injury prevented Phillips from building on the momentum from his rookie season. To make matters worse from a personal standpoint, the Jets spent the offseason bolstering their front seven with established veteran names that could leave Phillips in an awkward spot. He’ll certainly return with a vengeance in 2021 and will keep things interesting in the second halves of preseason games.

8. OL Dan Feeney

Perhaps no one in the NFL has increased their profile better than Feeney this offseason. The former Los Angeles Charger has gone viral for his goal celebrations at New York Islander playoff games, becoming the literal face of the Jets’ support for their blue and orange comrades on Long Island.

The surge in popularity has had many asking exactly what the Jets get in Feeney, who was mostly used as a depth option in Los Angeles. His experience at center could prove vital: Sam Darnold went through three different primary centers in three years and the Jets would love to establish some starting lineup stability for incoming franchise man Zach Wilson right from the start.

trevon wesco, new york jets

7. TE/FB Trevon Wesco

With Tyler Kroft arriving as an established goal-line option and strong potential behind undrafted free agent Kenny Yeboah (not to mention the return of starter Chris Herndon), the third-year, fourth-round pick faces an uphill battle to make an impact as a tight end. But he can make an offensive difference through the resurrection of the archaic fullback spot.

As we discussed last week, the days of Richie Anderson and Tony Richardson may be gone, but the Jets appear set to resume the Wesco experiment at fullback after injuries prematurely shut down the project last season. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur previously reaped the benefits of Kyle Juszczyk’s prescience in San Francisco and believes that Wesco’s bulkier size could allow him to do things that even the All-Pro fullback wasn’t capable of.

“(Wesco) is a bigger body, he’s longer,” LaFleur explained last week, per notes from the Jets. “He’s going to be able to play a little bit more inline, so we can use him in multiple ways, whether it be 21 or your typical 12 personnel formations.”

6. LB Blake Cashman 

One has to wonder if it’s now or never for Cashman, who enters his third NFL season in an unusual spot. The fifth-round pick from 2019 filled in serviceable when C.J. Mosley got hurt two years back, but injuries of his own have limited him to only 11 games in his career so far.

It’s always tough to condemn a player for getting hurt in the NFL. After all, football is a violent game and injuries happen. When they do, players should take all the time they need to heal up properly. But the NFL has proven time and time again that it’s willing to make business decisions that aren’t anything personal. Cashman appears to be a good fit in Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s defensive landscape, so it would be a shame to see his NFL career end before it truly begins.

Dec 20, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New York Jets running back Ty Johnson (25) scores a touchdown as Los Angeles Rams strong safety Jordan Fuller (32) defends the play during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

5. RB Ty Johnson

It’s a bit of a shame that Johnson’s mini-breakout was masked by the malarkey of Adam Gase’s final days at the helm. For example, Johnson made Jets history in a December tilt against the Raiders by earning the first triple-digit yardage game for the Jets in over two full calendar years. Not only did the Jets waste the historic tally through Gregg Williams’ ill-advised final blitz, but Johnson earned only 13 carries over the next three games (as opposed to 22 in the Las Vegas debacle).

Johnson has a decent chance to shine in the Jets’ new-look, minimalist approach at running back. The present focus has turned to newcomers Michael Carter and Tevin Coleman, but don’t let Johnson’s status as a holdover from the Gase era fool you: he’s capable of making an impact at moment’s notice. His speed and experience in lining up in the slot could also pay big dividends in LaFleur’s system, giving him a bit of an edge over the more north/south-inclined La’Mical Perine.

4. WR Braxton Berrios

With so many new receivers on their way in, it’s somewhat easy to forget about Berrios, one of the leading receivers from last year’s woebegone two-win squad. He faces a bit of a battle to make the roster, but the former Patriot got his season off to a great start in minicamp, emerging as one of the most pleasant surprises. It was enough to earn special props from Wilson.

“Braxton is a smart guy, that’s one of his best attributes,” Wilson said at the end of minicamp, per notes from the Jets. “He’s a slippery player, he gets in there and runs some great routes. He’s quick, but I think the best attribute is just knowing what’s going on. He’s got a great feel for the defense, he’s got great hands. He’s just been in those spots to make plays. We’ve got a lot of good playmakers and Braxton is doing a great job.”

Berrios might also be able to make an impact on special teams. During the 2019 season, he was one of two returners (min. 20 attempts) to average over 10 yards on punts.

Nov 17, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions middle linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) runs off the field after recovering a fumble during the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

3. LB Jarrad Davis

Coming off a brutal two-win season, it was going to be hard for the Jets to convince the truly elite free agents to join their cause. Their consolation prizes include Davis, a former first-round pick that previously repped Detroit.

Davis’ career got off to a decent start, as he earned All-Rookie team honors while working in defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s 4-3 system. However, Austin was let go with the rest of Jim Caldwell’s staff at the end of the 2017 season despite guiding the Lions to three winning seasons in their four campaigns. Detroit football hasn’t been the same since and Davis was an unfortunate part of the decline. He failed to adapt to Matt Patricia and Paul Pasqualoni’s set-ups and the Lions declined his fifth-year option prior to the 2020 season. Davis thus joined the Jets on a one-year, $5.5 million deal this offseason.

Davis’ finest performances have come in the 4-3 set that Saleh and Ulbrich are set to implement. He earned his first-round status through working with Geoff Collins at the University of Florida and worked well with Austin early on in Detroit. That knowledge can not only help him break out on a personal level but can also help him take on the role of a teacher of the 4-3 set.

Nov 29, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims (11) runs the ball ahead of Miami Dolphins defensive back Nik Needham (40) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

2. WR Denzel Mims

One thing that’s really unfortunate about Mims’ situation is that he will forever be connected to a fellow member of the green draft class of 2020. When the Jets drafted Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall pick…Joe Douglas’ first at the helm of general manager…it came at the price of passing on considerable receiving talents (i.e. Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, eventual Rookie of the Year Jerry Jeudy). But those concerns were supposedly alleviated when the Jets when Douglas and Co. were able to snag Mims out of Baylor in the early stages of the second round.

Becton’s early promise has somewhat masked the fact that Mims hasn’t been on the field much in the early going. It has mostly been a case of bad luck, as he dealt with injuries at the earliest stages of 2020 prep and was never really able to get into the swing of things. This time around, Mims missed voluntary workouts due to a (non-COVID-19) illness, causing him to lose valuable reps with Wilson. The spotlight has thus turned to another second-round pick, that of Elijah Moore.

But Jets brass and outside observers still appear to believe in Mims, who serves as a valuable big-play target. Former NFL receiver and current NFL Network analyst Nate Burleson listed Mims as one of his five receivers poised for a breakout, while LaFleur compared Mims to Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant.

“It looks like he has a wingspan like Kevin Durant. He’s got tons of range as long as that ball is anywhere around him. If the ball is anywhere in the vicinity, you expect them to get it,” LaFleur said in May, per Max Goodman of SI.com. “He’s eager, he’s a really cool dude to work with. But he’s just gonna have to get out there…it’s just going to be reps and just going and understanding the speed of the game.”

1. LB Carl Lawson

As the Jets seek to re-energize their pass rush…which becomes vital with a presumed pair of matchups against Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa in the foreseeable future…one of their biggest acquisitions was Lawson out of Cincinnati. Yet, hard-to-please fans and analysts expressed disappointment with his relatively low sack numbers. Lawson tallied 11.5 over the last two seasons, a drastic declined from the 8.5 he put up in his rookie year.

However, don’t let the relatively pedestrian numbers fool you: Lawson has been an agent of chaos in opposing backfields. According to ESPN’s Seth Walder, advanced stats indicated that Lawson was one of eleven defenders that “created” at least 10 sacks last season, even if he himself didn’t obtain it. In more conventional stats, Lawson also put up 32 overall quarterback pressures, good for second in the league behind only TJ Watt.

Ulbrich noted Lawson’s dedication to the game in some of his first statements as the Jets’ defensive boss.

“(He’s) obsessed with the game,” Ulbrich said of Lawson, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. “He wants to become the most technical pass-rusher in the league.”

Lawson admitted in Dunleavy’s report that he does want his sack numbers to return to the levels he knows he’s capable of. He believes the Jets’ bolstered interior defense, led by 2020 breakout man Quinnen Williams, can help him get there.

“I have the mindset that no matter who is around me I should win my 1-on-1,” the signer of a three-year, $45 million told Dunleavy. “That’s a great thing to have, great interior players, but the way I think of it is to produce no matter what the situation because what if everybody got hurt? Could I use that as my excuse for (fewer) sacks? No.”

What other Top 10’s do you want to see? Let Geoff know on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: A history of multiple first round picks

New York Jets, Joe Namath

Barring any shocking trades, the New York Jets will have multiple first-round picks for the ninth time in franchise history.

For the ninth time in franchise history, the New York Jets fill out at least two draft cards during first-round action at the NFL Draft…barring any unforeseen developments, of course. New York holds the second overall pick in this year’s draft (one all but confirmed to be used on their next franchise quarterback), while they also hold the 23rd overall choice obtained from Seattle in last offseason’s Jamal Adams deal. The process is currently on pace to repeat itself next year.

How did the Jets and those picks of years gone by fare? ESM takes a trip down draft memory lane…

1965 (AFL)

  • QB Joe Namath, Alabama (1st)
  • RB Tom Nowatzke, Indiana (4th)

Namath was the subject of an AFL-NFL bidding war and was drafted by both leagues in November 1964. True to his larger-than-life form, Namath made some high-roller requests from his NFL employers, the St. Louis Cardinals (who chose him 12th overall). When the Cardinals made a request of their own (asking him to sign immediately, which would render Namath ineligible for the upcoming Orange Bowl against Texas), Namath turned them down and joined the Jets. He’d take his revenge against the NFL in the most iconic way possible, the legendary Super Bowl III triumph that changed the course of professional football.

The Jets had Denver’s pick in that same draft and took Nowatzke, a Big Ten rushing champion out of Bloomington. Nowatzke was the opposite of Namath, turning down the AFL to play in the NFL, chosen 11th by the Detroit Lions. He moved onto the Baltimore Colts, the Jets’ Super Bowl victims, in 1970 and wound up scoring the team’s lone touchdown in their Big Game triumph over Dallas two years after Namath’s guarantee.

1972

  • WR/TE Jerome Barkum, Jackson State (9th)
  • LB Mike Taylor, Michigan (20th)

Barkum quietly built one of the longest and successful receiving tenures in Jets history as both a receiver and a tight end. He reached a Pro Bowl in his second NFL season and stands as one of only four Jets to catch at least 40 touchdowns in green (Don Maynard, Wesley Walker, and Wayne Chrebet are the others). Barkum also ranks eighth in team history in career yardage (4,789) and ninth in receptions (326).

Taylor’s tenure wasn’t so prosperous. The consensus All-American lasted only two seasons in the NFL, opting to join the short-lived World Football League’s Detroit Wings after that.

1984

  • CB Russell Carter, SMU (10th)
  • DE Ron Faurot, Arkansas (15th)

Carter, another All-American nominee, had a strong start to his NFL career, earning four interceptions in his debut year. He notably earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors during Week 15 action in December through two sacks and an interception in a win over Buffalo. Alas, Carter never earned another NFL interception and lasted only four seasons in New York before partaking in two years with the Los Angeles Raiders to end his career. Making the Carter dropout all the more painful was the fact that Wilbur Marshall went to Chicago at No. 11. Marshall would join the Jets for his final season in 1995…after reaching three Pro Bowls and earning both a Super Bowl title and the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Year title.

Meanwhile, Faurot, acquired with a pick from New Orleans in exchange for former franchise quarterback Richard Todd, saw his career derailed by injuries and was released before the midway mark of his sophomore season.

1995

  • TE Kyle Brady, Penn State (9th)
  • DE Hugh Douglas, Central State (16th)

It’s probably not officially draft day until the networks roll the clip of horrified Jets fans booing the choice of Brady, who was chosen three picks before Warren Sapp (and Sapp’s fellow future Pro Bowlers Mark Fields and Ruben Brown) with their regularly scheduled first-round choice. Brady was serviceable over a 13-year NFL career spent mostly with Jacksonville, but New Yorkers never got over the rejection of Sapp.

The Jets later used the 16th pick acquired from Arizona (for receiver Rob Moore) to take NAIA standout Douglas. He burst onto the scene with 10 sacks and Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, but the Jets nonetheless dealt him to Philadelphia in a process that netted them three picks after his sack total dropped to 4.5 by his third season. A separate deal with Pittsburgh made it four picks gained from the Douglas trade. That quartet eventually became Dorian Boose, Kevin Williams, Eric Bateman, and Casey Dailey…none of whom left a sizable New York impact. Douglas apparently took the deal personally and put up two All-Pro seasons in a different shade of green, notably leading the league in tackles for a loss twice.

2000

  • DE Shaun Ellis, Tennessee (12th)
  • LB John Abraham, South Carolina (13th)
  • QB Chad Pennington, Marshall (18th)
  • TE Anthony Becht, Virginia (27th)

The cost was great…namely losing future Super Bowl champions Bill Belichick and Keyshawn Johnson…but the Jets managed to get four consistent contributors that set them up for a solid decade. Ellis and Abraham united for 126 sacks with a green oval on their helmet, while Pennington took over the franchise quarterback role by 2002, working with a reliable red zone target in Becht.

Between 2000 and 2005 (when Abraham departed for Atlanta through a trade we’ll get to in a minute), the Jets earned four winning seasons and won a pair of playoff games. Ellis became a franchise staple through 2010 and reached two Pro Bowls as a Jet. On the other side of the ball, Pennington earned the league’s Comeback Player of the Year honor in 2006, helping the Jets get back to the playoffs after missing a majority of the prior campaign with an injury. When the Jets moved on from Pennington in 2008 in favor of Brett Favre, he dealt revenge in the most painful way possible: a division title with the Dolphins with the finishing touches dealt at Giants Stadium.

2006

  • T D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia (4th)
  • C Nick Mangold, Ohio State (29th)

By far the most collaboratively productive of the multi-first round classes, Ferguson and Mangold became cornerstones of the Jets’ offense, paving the way for the consecutive visits to the AFC title game in 2010-11.

The idea of Jets fans booing D’Brickashaw Ferguson seems downright absurd today, but it was a reality upon his drafting in 2006. Supporters desperate to see USC legend Matt Leinart come out to the east coast gave Ferguson a not-so-friendly welcome, but the Freeport native was able to silence his doubters 160 consecutive starts, three Pro Bowls, and a single missed snap later.

Meanwhile, Mangold arrived through a trade that sent Abraham down south and more than made up for the defender’s departure. His blocking intensity was matched only by his personality, one that continues to show itself through appearances at local sports events, namely New York Rangers games at Madison Square Garden.

2008

  • DE Vernon Gholston, Ohio State (6th)
  • TE Dustin Keller, Purdue (30th)

Blessed with another multi-pick first round two years later, the Jets again attempted to mine talent out of Columbus but came up horrendously short with Gholston. He was supposed to make a major difference in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 set, namely through his edge-rushing abilities. Gholston, unfortunately, failed to record a single sack over three seasons in green before he was unceremoniously released in 2011. Among the Pro Bowlers passed in favor of Gholston were Jerod Mayo, Ryan Clady (who played his final season with the Jets in 2016), and Jonathan Stewart.

A pick obtained from the Packers (sending over their second and fourth-round picks) was far more lucrative, even if his NFL time was unfortunately cut short. Keller was a reliable target and for four seasons before injuries took over his career.

2013

  • CB Dee Milliner, Alabama (9th)
  • DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (13th)

After a rocky rookie season, Milliner seemed to have some momentum going into his sophomore campaign with three interceptions over his final pair of games. Alas, he became another victim of the injury bug and wound up playing only eight more NFL games over the next two seasons.

The Jets didn’t miss out on much between Milliner and their pick obtained from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Darelle Revis, with Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker, and D.J Hayden going in that span. Richardson was the eventual honoree in the 13th slot and enjoyed some good gridiron memories before legal issues caused the Jets to seek out a trade. He narrowly beat out Buffalo’s Kiko Alonso for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award and also stands as the only defender in Jets history to earn two rushing scores (briefly lining up as a fullback in goal-line situations). Richardson was traded to Seattle in 2017 and is currently a free agent after wrapping up a two-year stint in Cleveland.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Jets: 8 Robert Saleh/Joe Douglas quotes (and what they mean)

New York Jets, Joe Douglas

Firmly established in their roles with the New York Jets, Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas addressed the offseason ahead.

With their traditional media meetings at the NFL Scouting Combine kiboshed by the ongoing health crisis, Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas, the respective head coach and general manager of the New York Jets took to Zoom on Wednesday to discuss the team’s upcoming offseason. The activities officially got underway with the release of three-year defender Henry Anderson on Tuesday night.

ESM highlights X quotes from Douglas and Saleh, and ponders their meaning, as the teandem’s fateful first offseason together looms large on metropolian calendars…

(Quotes via notes provided by the Jets)

“In terms of Marcus, we have had productive conversations with his representatives. Similar to the last question I answered, our stance on Marcus hasn’t changed as well. Marcus is a valuable member of this organization, someone that started his career here, who’s been a pro’s pro. Smart. He’s been reliable and he’s provided outstanding leadership. Our plan hasn’t changed. We are in the process of working to have Marcus be here long term.”-Douglas on Marcus Maye

What It Could Mean: The release of Anderson attracted the attention of Erik Burkhardt, the co-head of Select Sports Group, LLC and agent to Marcus Maye, by far the Jets’ most prized free agent this offseason. When ESPN’s Field Yates noted the Jets’ $8 million expansion (through Anderson’s release) to their already-healthy cap space situation allowed them “the resources to try and acquire..(a)ny player available”, Burkhardt brought up the Jamal Adams saga and strongly hinted that Maye would follow in his fellow safety’s footsteps.

Douglas’ quote, however, should put Jets fans at ease, at least those who wish to see Maye re-don New York green next season. He further addressed Burkhardt’s comments, passing them off as “business”. With Maye a prime target for the franchise tag, the capital earned through Anderson’s release could pay off a majority of the one-year such a disgnation would offer him (circa $10-11 million).

“With regards to the roster, the one thing that’s very, very clear is the character of the individuals that put uniforms on for this Jets organization, they’re fantastic. They’re made of the right stuff. They’ve got the right mindset, they’re good young men who strive to get better. Obviously with every situation, when you study the roster and you try to make things fit with regards to what you do schematically, there’s always discussions to be had. Those are the things that we’ve been working on over the last month and we’ll continue to work on all the way up until the draft.”-Saleh on the current Jets roster

What It Could Mean: It feels like Anderson won’t be the first veteran to go, as the Jets have several other cap casualties that could find new homes fairly soon. Particularly intriguing is the case of Jamison Crowder, the team’s most consistent offensive weapon over the last two season, who would save over $10 million upon his removal. Beyond Maye, 25 other players are up for free agency, and there’s probably not a tight cause to keep any of them.

But Saleh’s words after roster analysis seem to indicate that he likes what he sees from the roster, particularly the younger pieces. Plenty of Adam Gase’s former proteges (including Ryan Tannehill and Kenyan Drake) have gone on to enjoy breakouts elsewhere. Saleh’s quote indicates that perhaps he’s not interested in a complete fire sale, but rather sees the talent that Gase left behind as clay ready for the molding.

“I feel like we’re well positioned. I feel like this isn’t going to hurt us in terms of free agents. Like I said, I feel like our evaluations, especially with the coaching staff, that’s been the main thing that we’ve been focusing on. For the remainder of this week, we’re going to be on the phone with the agents of our own current players that are hitting for agency. I really don’t feel like that’s going to affect our free agent plans or player free agent plans as it pertains to us.”-Douglas on how the Sam Darnold rumors affect the rest of the team moving forward

What It Could Mean: The only certainty of the Jets’ current quarterback quandary is that it will be over by April 29, opening day of the NFL Draft. While many have clamored for Douglas to settle the passing situation as soon as possible, Douglas indicated at several times that he is in no rush to settle the situation. One in favor of haste could argue that potential free agents would be scared away by the uncertainty under center, but Doglas appears willing to let the evaluation process, both on the free agency and draft fronts, play out. All in all, Douglas was relatively bureaucratic when it came to the Darnold conversation on Wednesday, praising his talents and contributions to the team thus far while re-confirming that he would indeed accept calls about his availability.

“There’s always comfort and familiarity. It’s almost human nature to gravitate to people you’ve worked with and people you’ve been around, but there’s still a process at which you go to. There’s a fit, there’s a value. There are all those different things, a lot of moving parts that go into it. While yeah, it’d be great, it’s not the main determining factor on whether or not we can get those people into the building, those players.”-Saleh on if he’ll target former 49ers in free agency

What It Could Mean: Don’t expect a San Francisco rebranding.

Countless offseason previews have situated former 49ers into the 2021 Jets’ roster. A popular choice has been Richard Sherman, who has been vocaly supportive of Saleh’s hire and has credited him with helping him refind his game in San Francisco. But with their cap space surplus, the Jets can’t afford to spend all that money in a single source. If they can bring some of Saleh’s former pupils over, it’s obvious they won’t complain, but they’re not just going try to assembles a San Francisco-style Avengers and call it a day.

“Joe’s made it very clear that he wants collaborative communication. He wants us to be all in this together, scouts, coaching staff, everybody within the organization speaking the same language and having a great amount of communication with regards to everything that happens in this building. Free agency and the meetings that we had, he alluded to it earlier were unbelievable. Got a lot accomplished over the course of that week. We’re going to continue to do that. There’s the old saying, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I think Joe believes that, and he’s been practicing and preaching that since the day we walked into this building.”-Saleh 

“I would say both Woody and Christopher, they want to win. They want to create the best culture and support system for that to happen. They’ve both been very supportive of the processes that we’ve had in place and continue to have moving forward. It’s been great having Woody back. I feel like the communication has been outstanding. The number one thing is that they both want to win.”-Douglas

What It Could Mean: In this instance, Douglas and Saleh each gave a look at what the communication has been like in the post-Gase era, one defined by endless rumors of in-fighting and power struggles. Eager to move on, the Jets have created a collaborative workspace, one where Woody Johnson, back on the right side of the Atlantic Ocean, has seamlessly reconfigured (all while delighting fans with his new found prowess for being a Twitter historian). Christopher Johnson said several years back that he would not be up for hiring a coach that demanded “total control” but Saleh sounds satifised with his role in the current organization.

“We’re better positioned than we were this time last year. I would say that our philosophy and stance has not changed however. I think our goal and our plan is to be, like I said earlier, a team that really builds this through the draft and hitting on draft picks, obviously using free agency to supplement our roster. If the opportunity and the value meet, that’s going to be the point where we’re going to be aggressive and get someone that we feel good about, helping this team not only on the field, but with the culture and inside the building. While we are positioned better, I think our philosophy has stayed the same.”-Douglas on the draft

What It Could Mean: Every armchair/desk chair/beanbag chair general managers in the tri-state area has the Jets sharing some of their expanded draft capital, almost always in an attempt to land Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson. But the general manager of the Jets doesn’t sound quiet ready to part with his picks just yet. Sure, it wouldn’t be shocking in the slightest to see the Jets make a deal, and any potential Watson/Wilson offering would more than likely include either the second overall choice or the pick obtained in the Adams trade from Seattle. But Douglas’ words indicate that he won’t be as trigger happy as Jets fans may expect him to be.

“We’re going to get better. We’re going to win championships here. To give you a timeline, I wish I knew, I’d go to Vegas. But we’re excited about the opportunity that we have in front of us. We’re excited about what Joe and his staff have been able to accomplish since they’ve gotten here. Now it’s just a matter of being able to piece the whole thing together and have fun doing it.”-Saleh on 2021 expectations

What It Could Mean: It’s not exactly Joe Namath’s guarantee, but Saleh’s promises of championships…with an s…should be enough to make any Jets fan run through a brick wall. But, as he iterated in his opening statements…patience will be the key.

One way or another, the 2021 offseason is going to be one to remember, for better or worse. It’s a year where the decade truly begins for the Jets. But Saleh, while hopeful, is realistic. There’s a major chance to take a step forward, but the time to judge will come September. For now, it’s time to get to work and for the fans to enjoy the ride…the football gods know they’ve paid the token.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: 9 quotes from Robert Saleh (and what they could mean)

New York Jets, Robert Saleh

Robert Saleh made his first appearance as the New York Jets’ head coach on Thursday. ESM has the big takeaways.

A new era officially dawned for the New York Jets on Thursday, as Robert Saleh made his first public appearance as the head coach of the New York Jets. Saleh appeared alongside Jets CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson and general manager Joe Douglas to make his first statements as New York’s green football boss.

“When we met with Robert (Saleh), I was struck by his presence,” Johnson said, per video provided by the Jets. “He displayed an ability to engage with us in a virtual interview. He also clearly communicated a vision of this team that aligns with ours. When we met in person, it validated everything we believed following our initial meeting. Robert has shown through his journey here that he is a leader, one that will engage the entire team and will partner with Joe (Douglas) to continue building the culture of a winning organization.”

What can we gather and glean from Saleh’s first statements at the helm? ESM has the big takeaways from his first showing under the New York spotlight…

“For our organization, get used to the mantra, “All gas, no brake.” When we talk about, “All gas, no break,” we’re not talking about effort on the field, we’re talking about the process at which we do things. We’re talking about the way we prepare, the way we wake up every single morning, the way we rehab, the way we communicate, the way we speak to one another. 

What It Could Mean: Had it not been for Dan Campbell’s propensity for devouring kneecaps in Detroit, Saleh’s “All gas no brake” mantra could’ve been the quote of the day. These words from Saleh show he has little interest in a lengthy rebuild. It’s a tough love mindset that exudes a sense of intensity without taking to the extreme, almost absurd, lengths Campbell went to in his opening presser with the Lions. Saleh appears to be searching for intense competitors high in character and intensity, but without the baggage of say, a Gregg Williams. That process has begun with surrounding himself with familiar faces from his days in San Francisco, including Mike LaFleur and Miles Austin, each of whom will help oversee the offense.

To our fans, we embrace your passion, we embrace your expectations. We cannot wait to go on this journey with you. Please understand, we understand that we have a lot of work to do. But make no mistake that our goal is to win championships. And so again, I cannot wait to get through this journey with all of y’all. It’s going to be an exciting time, and I promise that you’re going to love what y’all see.

What It Could Mean: In other words…be patient. We’re only at the start of the NFL offseason…heck, it technically hasn’t begun yet with three games to go on the playoff docket…but it’s difficult to imagine the Jets will be able to make enough changes to re-enter the AFC playoff picture in 2021. Saleh’s gentle welcome back to the fans, however, is a decent sign of goodwill and will likely attract a few who might’ve been on the fence about his hire.

“When you look at the plan and what we have in place with regards to scheme, offense, defense, special teams and the mindset at which we’re going to do it, there’s an investment that’s going to be made to one another – coaches to players, players to coaches, organization to everybody – and there’s an investment that’s going to be reciprocated. But understanding that the all gas, no brake mentality that we’re going to have with how we wake up in the morning, how we rehab, how we prepare for meetings, how we take the practice field, how we’re deliberate in everything we do will lead to the results that you’ll see on Sunday. It will take time, but everything we do is going to be designed to win championships in the future.”

What It Could Mean: The Adam Gase era was likely the furthest thing from Saleh’s mind on Thursday, but it doesn’t take much stretching to see this as a bit of a jab at the environment his predecessor created in New York. Enough has been written about the phenomenon of Gase’s former proteges going on to find success away from his watch, but his negative effects were highlighted with former Jets receiver Robby Anderson admitted he was “was losing (his) love for football” in New York without mentioning Gase’s name. Gase’s strained relationships with Jamal Adams and Le’Veon Bell were also frequent talking points and led to each star’s respective departure. Saleh seems to have relative open-door endeavors in mind, seeking to make sure each player is used to the best of his abilities with a matter of respect involved. The theme of reciprocation was a strong buzzword in Saleh’s debut, as he brought it up in three separate discourses.

“What I can tell you with regards to Sam (Darnold) is that he’s got an unbelievable arm talent. There’s a reason why he was the number three pick in the draft. He’s fearless in the pocket, he’s got a natural throwing motion, he’s mobile, he’s extremely intelligent and he’s tough as nails. His reputation in the locker room is unquestioned, so just that in general, there’s a reason why he was the third pick in the draft and you can see all those qualities on tape and around the building and the way people speak about him.”

What It Could Mean: It was perhaps too much to ask for Saleh to have a concrete answer about Sam Darnold’s future on Thursday, as he said things were “premature” when it came to such an effort. But there seemed to be a hint of moving on to his comments, especially in his references to game-planning for Darnold and hyping his status as the third overall pick of the 2018 draft. It’s early in the process, but the non-commitment, necessary as it may be in a debut press conference, is only going to fuel speculation.

“With regards to a collaboration mindset, with regards to our communication with Joe and his staff – whether or not, who has control, all those different titles, what’s been made clear is that Joe and his staff want to be collaborative and they want to communicate at all levels. So, every conversation that’s had obviously with the staff and with Joe’s staff, there’s going to be a lot of discussions, there’s going to be a lot of different things are talked about. So, obviously Joe will always have final say, but I really see it in the way he’s communicating. I think when you communicate at the level that we have here, who has final say is irrelevant.”

What It Could Mean: In another, likely unintentional, jab at Gase, Saleh has dedicated himself to a working relationship with both Douglas and Johnson. This would contrast the brief, icy relationship Gase had with Mike Maccagnan, as their power struggle led to the latter’s post-draft firing in 2019. It’s safe to say that Saleh is looking for smoother relations this time around. He has also made it clear that while it appears that Douglas will have the final say in roster decisions, a system has been presented to him where having the final say would prove merely symbolic.

“I do believe that there’s a lot of talent on this roster. How those different pieces fit to the schemes that we’re about to deploy is going to be decided here in the coming weeks, but like I said, there’s a collaborative effort being made, obviously starting with Christopher Johnson and how he wants things to be run.”

What It Could Mean: While there’s no doubt that change is coming to the New York Jets, the fact that Saleh pointed out that he likes some of the names on the current ledger is intriguing. After all, one of the most common complaints of the Gase era was that he was unable to help holdovers from Bowles’ tenure reach the next level of their developments. The Jets’ defense is full of strong potential, including safety Marcus Maye, who took on a strong leadership role after Adams was shipped to Seattle. Those seeking to take that next step could be inspired to stay since Saleh appears to allow for some turnover from the team’s prior incarnation.

“I’m not going to be handling play calling duties on defense, got the utmost respect and confidence in Jeff Ulbrich to be able to do that…This is an organization that has to work locked in arms and work together and to ensure that the messaging and the way we want things done all the way across the board is there and maintaining that connection throughout, whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, business to football, somehow, some way, everyone’s got to find their connection to the player and with the mindset that we’re going to get these guys better every single day. And to be able to have that focus and ensure that the entire organization is moving in the direction that we want, I won’t be calling plays.”

What It Could Mean: The Jets announced the hiring of former San Francisco linebacker Jeff Ulbrich as defensive coordinator shortly before Saleh took to the podium. He got one of the brightest burning questions out of the way fast, announcing that Ulbrich will be calling plays on defense. It’s a bit of an early risk…the Atlanta Falcons let up over 398 yards a game in Ulbrich’s first and only seasons as a coordinator…but it shows that Saleh is willing to be hands-on in every facet of the game. That’s especially promising considering the prior season showed that nearly every major position is in desperate need of guidance.

“I’m going to be like me. And that was a challenge that Pete (Carroll) gave us when we were young assistance, was it’s easy to pick from different people and try to emulate what different people are, but in moments of adversity, your true character will always reveal itself. And so, the challenge was to identify with yourself and be who you are first because then when adversity hits, your authenticity will shine. And so, to tell you who you’re going to get, you’re going to get me. And this entire organization and what we’re going to try to get done is to be designed to win championships.”

What It Could Mean: Jets history has maintained an antiquated sense of “finding the next ____________”. They’ve been searching for the next Joe Namath ever since the legendary thrower fulfilled his promise at the Orange Bowl in Super Bowl III. Any slot receiver from a small school blessed with a catch has to endure Wayne Chrebet comparisons. Adams got out of New Jersey just before the Darrelle Revis analogies popped up. Saleh, however, is seeking to start completely fresh. He certainly thanked those that helped him get to where he is now…Carroll, Kyle Shanahan, Kris Richard, among others…but he’s not interested in being a new, say, Bill Parcells or Weeb Eubank. He wants to be the first Robert Saleh, a unique coach that leaves his own mark on New York. Saleh even mentioned in an earlier response that the perception of the Jets was “unfair, clearly”. Time will tell if Saleh can make that mark.

 “Players really want two things from a coach, I’ve always felt this way, one, they want to know that you care about their wellbeing, everyone says it’s a business, I get it, but it’s not, this is a personal investment to people. And the most important people are the ones who strap up on game day and step between the lines. And obviously, can you help them make plays on Sundays so they can get paid as much as possible and that is the goal of every single coach and everybody who has some type of impact on the players or has a connection to the players and that is going to be the goal of this entire organization, is to make sure we do everything we can to connect to their wellbeing and to help them make plays on Sunday so they get paid as much as possible. When you look at the connection part with these players, there’s an investment that has to be made, you got to sell everything you can, you got to give them everything you can and when you do, like I said, the reciprocation happens and when it does, it becomes personal, and that’s all you can ask for, to get this to a personal level where everybody’s has everybody’s back and everybody feels accountable to one another.”

What It Could Mean: The year 2020 was a year of reflection and reckoning, and the sports world was no exception to the phenomenon. Participants made it clear that they were human, not emotionless athletic machines, a realization many should’ve probably realized long ago. It’s great to see that Saleh understand such a concept. This is a coach that appears to truly care for his players in the early going, and that’s only going to make the Jets a better team. New York is a team that desperately needs unity after the Gase era left so many hurt feelings. When Bowles was let go after 2018, there was a true sense that players were not only losing a teacher but a friend as well. When Gase was hired, the strongest cheerleaders were perhaps the hot take artists like Colin Cowherd. But with Saleh, the tones of player appreciation have been on display ever since he was first connected to the Jets. Richard Sherman, one of his pupils in San Francisco, immediately sang his praises, as did Quinnen Williams. Getting these strong vibes of camaraderie back into the organization would go a long way, and it appears Saleh has started that process

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: 3 facts about interim DC Frank Bush

New York Jets

Frank Bush will oversee the New York Jets’ defense over the final four games of this brutal season after Gregg Williams’ firing.

Frank Bush’s tenure as New York Jets defensive coordinator will likely be lost in One Jets Drive’s archives in an effort to purge the horrendous memories made from this season that emerged from the depths of the football netherworld.

A long-time NFL assistant, the 57-year-old Bush has the thankless and unenviable job of mustering something resembling football cohesion from the Jets’ defense over the final four weeks of the season. Bush has served as an assistant head coach and inside linebackers boss over two seasons with the team. He will now feature as the team’s defensive coordinator after Gregg Williams’ ousting in the wake of a highly questionable play call at the end of the Jets’ latest loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Bush’s tenure begins with the Jets’ visit to Seattle on Sunday afternoon (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Even if Bush’s time with the Jets (0-12) will be quickly erased shortly after the final second of the 2020-21 season ends, the longtime NFL veteran isn’t taking anything lightly. Contrary to the tanking efforts Jets fans have demanded over the final stretches, Bush wants to go all out and earn a win before this year lets out.

“We’re trying to put them in position to win,” Bush said of his players and the test ahead, per Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com “So all the things have been set up to try to put these kids in position to be confident going on the road, into a tough environment, and confident knowing they have a chance to come out of this thing with a win.”

ESM has four facts to know about the Jets’ new defensive boss as his tenure is set to get underway…

His Promising Playering Career Was Cut Short

Bush originally entered the NFL in 1985 after a strong four-year career at North Carolina State. Chosen by the Houston Oilers in the fifth round, Bush earned three sacks and fumble recoveries each during his rookie season. He notably brought down John Elway twice in the Oilers’ October visit to Denver.

Unfortunately for Bush, his playing career was cut short by a narrow spinal canal diagnosis after starting the first three games of his sophomore season. But he wound making the most of the hand dealt to him, returning to Houston eight years later as the team’s quality control coach for two seasons. Ironically, he helped oversee the Houston linebackers with Williams, the man he will replace in New York.

“It opened some doors for me. It’s allowed me to be in the league for over 30 years,” Bush said in a 2018 reflection with The Palm Beach Post during his Miami days. “I’m not sure if that would have happened if I would have taken another path. I’ve made some great friends. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve grown up a lot. I always tell some of my players and some of my friends I’m kind of the epitome of the NFL: You try hard, keep doing what you’ve got to do and you’ll have a long career.”

He Has Collaborated With Adam Gase Before

It made perfect sense that Bush would get the nod to oversee the defense over the final four games. Not only is he the most tenured coach on the Jets’ ledger, but he and Gase collaborated for two seasons in Miami prior to their New York arrivals. Bush served as the linebackers coach for two seasons. Among his proteges were Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan.

Gase said this week that he knows Bush’s long-accumulated expertise will help when dealing with this tough situation the Jets face in the final quarter of the season.

“Frank has been in this league for a long time, he’s done this job before. That side of the ball, they’re really well organized as far as who does what,” Gase said in notes provided by the Jets. “They had to make a couple adjustments as far as job duties and things like that, but I’m going to do whatever they need me to do to help them. We talked about that early on in the week. There are a couple things that we just talked about possibly doing and playing certain guys, and making sure that we have certain guys playing in certain spots and that’s about the extent of that right now. I mean, whatever I can do to help that side of the ball I’m going to do.”

In another ironic connection, Bush has a special connection to the head coach on the other sidelines as well. Seattle boss Pete Carroll served as the North Carolina State defensive coordinator on Monte Kiffin’s staff during Bush’s freshman and sophomore seasons.

He Has Won the Super Bowl…Twice

The Super Bowl should be the farthest things from the minds of Jets fans, but Bush is a rare New York representative that knows that championship feeling.

Bush was the staff of the Denver Broncos during their run at back-to-back Super Bowls at the turn of the century. The unit was headlined by Bill Romanowski and John Mobley, who united to lead the champion Broncos in sacks over their two victorious seasons. His group, joined by Glenn Cadrez, led Denver in tackles over those fateful campaigns.

“Mike and all those guys in Denver, they’re really close to us. I really have a lot of friendships up there,” Bush, then with the Houston Texans, said while recalling his time with Denver on the former’s website in 2007. “They have a very high standard on how they do things and we’re trying to push that standard here.”

In addition to his time with Denver, New York, Miami, and both Houston franchises, Bush has also served in Arizona and the Los Angeles Rams’ organizations.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: The best moments in the throwback uniforms

The Buffalo Bills’ beloved throwback uniforms returned on Sunday against Los Angeles. ESM looks back on their finest hours.

With championship dreams approaching this winter, the Buffalo Bills and their fans are ready to party like it’s 1965…the last year the team won an official league championship.

It turns out, the Bills are happy to dress for the occasion as well.

For their Week 12 home tilt against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Bills opted to break out their classic throwback uniforms, an aesthetic more or less defined by the simplified buffalo logo on their helmets. This blast from the past is meant to replicate the team’s look worn from 1962 through 1973, when the “streaking” buffalo was introduced. The Bills’ modern full-time uniforms strongly resemble their throwbacks, but Buffalo completed the look on Sunday with the adjusted helmets.

The gambit paid off. Josh Allen scored through both the air and ground, while Cole Beasley trickery led to a touchdown toss to Gabriel Davis. Buffalo (8-3) took the game by a 27-17 final, allowing them to keep a one-game lead over Miami for the AFC East division lead.

In honor of the Bills’ trip down memory lane, ESM looks to do the same, looking back on when relics from the past previously led to good times in the present…

9/11/05: Carr Wreck

The Bills broke out the throwbacks for the first during the 2005 season opener against the Houston Texans. In a performance that would make Tom Sestak, Mike Stratton, Booker Edgerson, and Georga Saimes proud, the Buffalo defense dominated the day, allowing only 120 yards and earning five sacks and turnovers each. Troy Vincent intercepted Texas quarterback David Carr twice, while Aaron Schobel had two sacks. Chris Kelsay and Takeo Spikes each forced a fumble in the effort as well. On the scoreboard, Rian Lindell booted five field goals to slowly break the Texans’ will, while the lone Buffalo touchdown of the afternoon came on J.P. Losman’s one-yard pass to a then-second-year blocker Jason Peters. The Bills earned a 22-7 victory to kick off the second year of the Mike Mularkey era.

Buffalo wore the throwbacks on the road a week later in Tampa Bay, but the good vibes didn’t come with them in a 19-3 defeat en route to a 5-11 seaso and Mularkey’s eventual resignation.

12/9/07: Royal Entrance

In the midst of a playoff push, the Bills put away notions of a trap game against the 0-12 Miami Dolphins away in the early going. A pair of Robert Royal touchdown receptions from Trent Edwards kickstarted a 24-point first quarter for the Bills, who also enjoyed a separate pair of scoring grabs from Lee Evans. The rookie Edwards completed only 11 passes on the afternoon, but his four touchdown passes were a career-high. Elsewhere, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch each reached triple digits in rushing yards (uniting for 222 on the ground) while Donte Whitner and Terrence McGee each earned interceptions in the 38-17 win.

Alas for the Bills, that would be their final win of the 2007 season, losing their final three games to drop out of the postseason race.

9/21/08: Edge of 17

The Bills got off to a 4-0 start in 2008, an opening kept alive through a gutsy effort in the throwback against the artists formerly known as the Oakland Raiders. Buffalo’s defense was mostly taking care of business, limiting Oakland to 10 first downs, but turnovers and short drives forced the Bills to face a 23-14 deficit past the halfway mark of the final frame. Through big-gain collaborations with Evans and Josh Reed, Edwards narrowed the gap with a 14-yard scoring pass to Roscoe Parrish, capping off a drive that took just over two minutes. The defense then forced a three-and-out, leading to two more big gains from Parrish and Evans. Lynch would tick off the final yards, situating Lindell from 38 yards out to boot the game winning field goal in a 24-23 triumph.

11/29/09: Defeat Occurs in Real Time

Buffalo introduced the contemporary white version of their throwback during their 50th anniversary season in 2009, coinciding with the American Football League’s 50th anniversary. Matchups with former AFL brethren were marked with special throwback schemes, though the Bills lost these matchups to New England and Tennessee. They broke out the blue version for a visit from the Dolphins, reeling after the firing of head coach Dick Jauron. Happy times briefly returned to The Ralph, however, as the Bills once again used a 24-point quarter to their advantage. Miami led 14-7 entering the final 15 minutes, but Jackson opened the closer with a three-run scoring run to tie it. Most of the tally came over the final 3:35 of game time. Lindell’s 56-yard boot, a career-long, gave Buffalo the lead for good before Drayton Florence’s interception got them the ball back. Terrell Owens cashed in on the very next play with a 51-yard scoring grab from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Another turnover, this one being a Whitner interception, allowed Jackson to add some final insurance, a seven-yard run by Jackson that gave interim head coach Perry Fewell the first of three victories.

9/15/13: He’s the Manuel

Bills fans may well be somewhat spoiled with Josh Allen in town, as some may have already forgotten the failed franchise quarterbacks that preceded his arrivals. Florida State’s EJ Manuel was one of those final attempts. For a brief moment, clad in the white throwback, it truly felt like Manuel was going to be the man to lead the franchise into the future.

Engaged in a back-and-forth thriller with the Carolina Panthers, the Bills trailed 23-17 with 98 seconds remaining. Manuel’s arm accounted for every single yard of the ensuing 80-yard drive that led to victory, capping things off with a two-yard touchdown pass to Steve Johnson…ironcially caught with two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter…that sent Western New York into hysterics over a 24-23 victory. Alas for Manuel, longevity was not to be. He suffered an LCL injury less than three weeks later during a Thursday night game and was never the same upon his return.

9/14/14: Carpe 3’em

The Bills got off to a strong start in 2014, topping the Bears in overtime before opening their Orchard Park slate with a visit from the Dolphins. It turned out to literally be a special victory, as Dan Carpenter booted five field goals and C.J. Spiller brought a kick back 102 yards. On defense, Leodis McKelvin also had an interception, while Jerry Hughes, Kyle Williams, Stefan Charles, and Mario Williams each had a sack in the 29-10 final.

9/13/15: Lucky 27

2015 was the introduction of the Bills’ trippy “Color Rush” uniforms, but the throwbacks kept their early season slot. The aesthetic allowed Buffalo to start the Rex Ryan era off on the right note, scoring the first 24 points in what became a 27-14 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Tyrod Taylor likewise enjoyed a strong debut in Western New York, tallying 195 yards through the air and 41 on the ground. His first Buffalo touchdown was a 51-yard toss to Percy Harvin on the final play of the first quarter. Karlos Williams and Anthony Dixon scored on the ground, complementing a defensive performance that saw interceptions from Ronald Darby and Aaron Williams.

12/31/17: Miami Nice

The Bills’ first playoff appearance in nearly two decades is unusual in that everyone seems to remember the finishing touch: Andy Dalton’s comeback against Baltimore that fulfilled the postseason caveat. But Dalton’s shining moment wouldn’t have meant anything if the Bills didn’t take care of business during their Week 17 visit to Miami. Each team ended the year in a time machine, with the Dolphins likewise clad in their 1970s-inspired throwbacks.

Buffalo responded in perfect fashion, building a 19-0 lead through a strong game from every side of the ball. Taylor kicked off scoring with a 26-yard touchdown toss to Nick O’Leary before allowing Steven Hauschka to take over with three field goals in the onslaught. In the interim, six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams lined up as a fullback and scored on a one-yard push to help put Miami away. Buffalo took the game 22-16 before returning to the locker room to watch Dalton work his magic.

11/25/18: Revenge is Best Served Old

Ten months after the Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars played to a 10-3 victory for the latter in the AFC wild card playoffs, each team’s return trip was more or less canceled, the two sides saddled with losing records in late November. But Buffalo did earn a quantum of revenge in the rematch, topping the Jaguars in a 24-21 tilt in their vintage threads. It was one of the earliest displays of power from Josh Allen, as the rookie quarterback scored through both the air (Robert Foster being the lucky recipient from 75 yards out) and ground for the first time in front of a Western New York crowd. Isaiah McKenzie had the lone non-Allen touchdown, while Poyer and Matt Milano had interceptions.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Henrik Lundqvist: His 30 greatest saves as a New York Ranger (Video)

New York Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist

As Lundqvist’s legendary reign with the New York Rangers comes to an end, ESM looks back as his finest metropolitan moments.

Accounting for his regular season, shootout, and postseason stops, Henrik Lundqvist made 27,482 saves as a member of the New York Rangers.

ESM looks back on the 30 best from No. 30…

10/8/05: The Reign Begins

Little hype surrounded Lundqvist’s debut, as the seventh-round pick was giving veteran starter Kevin Weekes a rest during an early visit to East Rutherford to battle the New Jersey Devils. Things almost ended before they even truly began, as Lundqvist allowed the Devils’ only first period shot, this one from Alexander Molgilny, to go in. But He held his own over the final two frames, stopping 24 of 26 shots over the next two periods and overtime. His first save was a stop of Viktor Kozlov in the early stages of the second period. Lundqvist and the Rangers fell 3-2, but he helped turn the tide in the New York-New Jersey rivalry. His final ledger in New York against the Devils was 38-18-8 in the regular season, his best win tally against any single opponent.

11/26/05: Alley-No

One of the earliest starts of Lundqvist’s career was the famous 15-round shootout against the Washington Capitals. Marek Malik’s clinching goal remains the endearing image, but Lundqvist got things off to a strong start by making a stop on a fellow rookie…Alex Ovechkin.

12/29/06: Motion Denied

Ten months after collaborating on a Swedish gold medal at the Torino Olympics, Lundqvist and Daniel Alfredsson reunited for a show stopping sequence in Ottawa, albeit to the detriment of Alfredsson’s Senators. Lundqvist denied his fellow countryman and future Eastern Conference champion twice in a shorthanded opportunity.

10/20/07: Oh, Denied, Marc

Around the same time Kevin Garnett started issuing rejections at TD Banknorth Garden, Lundqvist started to make some big ones of his own against the Boston Bruins. The Rangers fell in a 1-0 shootout, but Lundqvist at least made sure it got to overtime with this glove save on Marc Savard.

4/9/09: Talk About Playoffs

Engaged in a wild battle for the final Eastern playoff spots, the Rangers held a 2-1 lead on their rivals from Philadelphia, who were looking to do anything to awaken the Rangers from their postseason dreams. Sustained by first period goals from Ryan Callahan and Markus Naslund, Lundqvist took care of the rest with a wild save on future teammate Dan Carcillo in the third period. With no further incidents, the Rangers clinch their fourth consecutive playoff berth with the win.

2/6/10: Unlike Mike

One of Lundqvist’s most underrated stretches is perhaps the end of the 2009-10 season. It was the only time the Rangers missed the playoffs in his so-called “prime”, that the Rangers missed the playoffs, but Lundqvist made it sure it took all 82 games to dispose of them. Forced to make all but one start over the final 26 games, the stretch featured a shutout streak of over two full games against the New Jersey Devils, headlined by a rebound denial on Mike Mottau in a 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden.

11/15/11: Soccer-Style

MSG Network perhaps loved Lundqvist’s propensity for indirect cross-promotion of their New York Red Bulls coverage. Lundqvist made several header saves throughout his time in the tri-state area, one of the earliest instances being a matchup against the New York Islanders. A 31-save night in a 4-2 win in Uniondale was headlined by a penalty kill sequence in the second period, in which he stopped a Mark Streit shot with his head, before getting knocked down by a teammate. Lundqvist nonetheless stopped a follow-up chance by P.A. Parenteau before covering up.

12/31/11: Florida Man Steals Defenseman’s Stick

Lundqvist never got to score a goal in New York, but he did get to handle a skater’s stick in securing a penalty kill during a New Year’s Eve visit to Florida. In the chaos of the Panthers’ rush, Lundqvist lost his stick but got a souvenir from his trip to the Sunshine State from Michael Del Zotto, who handed his own over. Lundqvist managed to deflect a shot from Walt Garrison away to preserve a 4-1 lead.

1/2/12: Citizens Hank Park

Citizens Bank Park, home of MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies, played host to a different brand of saves when the Rangers did battle with the Flyers in the 2012 Winter Classic. No bullpen was necessary for Lundqvist to make the biggest one of the afternoon, coming with 20 seconds to go and the Rangers nursing a 3-2 lead. Awarded a penalty shot after Ryan McDonagh covered the puck in the crease during a Philadelphia rush, Danny Briere tried to send things to extra innings, but Lundqvist slammed the door shut. Lundqvist went undefeated in four outdoor games, winning the latter trio in New York’s respective professional baseball parks (two at Yankee Stadium, one at Citi Field).

2/1/12: Oh Boyes!

Olympic heroes Lundqvist (Sweden) and Ryan Miller (United States) staged an epic battle at First Niagara Center just over two years after the Vancouver Winter Games. 65 minutes, 63 saves, and no goals later, the tilt moved to a shootout, where Lundqvist made a strong diving stop to kick off a 10-round ordeal eventually won by Callahan.

1/19/13: Boston Stewin’

The start of the 2012-13 NHL season was delayed due to a lockout, but Lundqvist showed little rust in the Rangers opener in Boston. New York fell by a 3-1 final, though Lundqvist did his part with 31 saves, including a jaw-dropping glove robbery of David Krejci during a Rangers penalty kill.

5/12/13: Capital Robbery

One could perhaps made a list of Lundqvist’s best saved solely against the Capitals and still come up with 30 videos. One of the most memorable was a frantic final sequence in Game 6 of the 2013 conference quarterfinals. With the Rangers clinging to a 1-0 lead, Lundqvist forced a decisive final matchup with a flurry of saves to secure the win. Another shutout awaited him back in Washington, as the Rangers secured the series with a 5-0 finale.

5/19/13: Baba Jagr

Lundqvist will be forever linked with Jaromir Jagr. The two will forever be seen as two of the best European players in hockey history and played huge roles in the rebirth of New York hockey during the earliest years of the post-lockout era. Lundqvist gave his fellow energizer and former roommate a thank you gift during the 2013 postseason, stopping Jagr, then a Boston Bruin, on an exquisite blocker save during the conference semifinals.

3/14/14: Unscheduled Landing

There’s playing out of position, and then there’s what Lundqvist did in a March visit to MTS Centre. When a turnover on a Rangers power play allowed two Winnipeg Jets to skate unguarded into the zone, Lundqvist moved up and denied them the opportunity, allowing his teammates to move the puck out of harm’s away. That same night, Lundqvist earned the 301st win of his career, tying Mike Richter atop the Rangers’ victory list.

5/13/14: Pittsburgh Stealer

Two years before the Cavaliers and Warriors made it cool in the NBA, Lundqvist was making 3-1 the most dangerous lead in hockey. The Rangers fell behind to the Pittsburgh Penguins by that margin in their 2014 Eastern Conference semifinal matchup, but Lundqvist allowed only three goals over the final three games to secure the series. His magnum opus was a flurry saves made with just over five minutes left in Game 7, even briefly using skater teammate Brian Boyle’s stick to withstand a late Pittsburgh rush. The Rangers took the game by 2-1 final, primarily thanks to Lundqvist’s 35 stops.

5/29/14: Sacre Bleu-shirt!

When Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final rolled around, the Rangers owned a 3-2 series lead over the Montreal Canadiens. But after Montreal chased Lundqvist in a 7-4 defeat in Game 5 at Bell Centre, many predicted that the winner of the penultimate match at MSG would take the series, especially if it had to return to Quebec. Lundqvist needed only 18 saves that night, but a crucial, acrobatic stop on Thomas Vanek in the latter stages of the second period permanently shifted momentum to the Rangers’ side. Just over three minutes later, Dominic Moore scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory that propelled the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup visit since 1994.

6/11/14: Snow Problem

Lundqvist was hardly to blame for the Rangers’ coming short in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. In the Rangers lone win in Game 4, Lundqvist stopped all but one of 41 Los Angeles shots, including all 15 in the third period (the Rangers mustered only one shot in the final frame). He had some help on the most memorable, as a patch of snowy buildup helped stopped the puck’s progress in the penultimate minute. Taking away a tough Game 3, Lundqvist stopped 167 of 179 attempts from the Kings (.933 save percentage).

1/31/15: Down, But Not Out

The star-crossed nature of Lundqvist’s Rangers career was perhaps best on display during a 2015 showdown against Carolina. An errant stuck from Ryan McDonagh left Lundqvist’s neck exposed on a hard shot attempt, downing the Rangers goalie for several minutes. While the services of Cam Talbot were required in the weeks that followed, Lundqvist remained in the game to tally 31 saves in a 4-1 triumph.

10/10/15: Henrik Takes a Dive

One can only imagine just how much more could’ve fit onto Lundqvist’s already impressive resume if not for a few more blue bounces of the puck. Fate, alas, had other plans, but Lundqvist was at least able to stop one of them in an early-season matchup against Columbus. With the puck taking an eccentric bounce right to the stick of Ryan Johansen while Lundqvist tried to play it behind the net, a timely dive preserved a Rangers lead and denied the Blue Jackets a wide-open opportunity. It was part of a 37-save night in a 5-2 New York triumph.

10/23/15: King Stops the Duke

The common trope amongst Rangers fans is that former Blueshirts always seem to score when they come back to MSG in enemy colors. Lundqvist made sure that one took a temporary leave with a diving stop on Anthony Duclair, one of the final touches of a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

11/21/15: Florida Man Takes a Puck To The…

Another painful save in Lundqvist’s career came during a November 2015 penalty kill against the Florida Panthers, when he took a Nick Bjugstad shot to the groin in the second period. Lundqvist was examined by trainers but stayed in the game to secure a 5-4 overtime win.

1/11/16: The Scorpion King

Lundqvist’s scorpion kick save on Maxime Talbot preserved a tie game in the third period against Boston at MSG. It came big in the latter stages of the game, as Jesper Fast scored in the penultimate minute to secure a 2-1 win.

4/22/17: Hab We Done This Before?

Fellow New York sports legend Yogi Berra would say that Lundqvist experienced deja vu all over against during the 2017 playoffs. The Rangers were clinging to a 3-2 series over the Canadiens. Though this bout came in the conference quarterfinals, the Rangers were on pace to wrap the series up at MSG in Game 6. Montreal made a monstrous final effort, but Lundqvist’s pad save on Tomas Plekanec gave the Rangers the confidence they needed to once again eliminate their Original Six rivals up north. Derek Stepan’s empty-netter gave them a 3-1 win, good for Lundqvist’s most recent playoff series win.

5/9/17: Vetoed

The Rangers’ loss to the Ottawa Senators in the 2017 conference semifinals remains one of the more baffling and frustrating defeats in recent memory, but Lundqvist at least managed to make a showstopping highlight before all was said and done. As if proving goaltending was easy he could do it sitting down, he made a big stop on fellow Swede Erik Karlsson in the early stages of Game 6 while in a seated position. Alas for Lundqvist, the save was part of what became his final playoff game at MSG.

3/2/18: Nifty 50…on His 36th

A trek to Alberta proved historic in several ways for Lundqvist. He celebrated his 36th birthday and earned 50 saves in a regulation win, posting half-a-hundred stops for the second consecutive game. The most crucial denial came in the early stages of the second period, turning away Mikael Backlund shortly before Pavel Buchnevich permanently gave the Rangers the lead.

1/26/19: Going Streaking

Though the more recent seasons featured little in terms of postseason success, Lundqvist made one more splash in the national level at the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition in San Jose. In a 12-save performance, Lundqvist earned the title in the Save Streak competition, securing the title with a stop on Auston Matthews. Lundqvist would later made 13 saves on 15 attempts in the All-Star competition, including a six-stop shutout in the victorious final for the Metropolitan Division.

2/2/19: The King’s the Captain Now

The reigning Stanley Cup champions were constantly a thorn in Lundqvist’s side, though he did muster a 15-11-5 record against the Bolts. Tampa Bay and New York did a lot of business together in their respective quests for the Cup, so Lundqvist came face-to-face with a lot of former teammates over the years, ones that helped him kickstart the Rangers’ rise to power. During one memorable reunion at MSG, Lundqvist stopped former captain Callahan on a breakaway in the third period of an eventual 3-2 loss.

3/27/19: Boston Red Stops

The latter stages of Lundqvist’s career forced him to deal with the Rangers’ latest rebuild, one that forced the aging goaltender to deal with lapses from a blueline trying to find itself. Though he didn’t match the numbers of his prime, Lundqvist did manage to provide some vintage moments, including this denial of Chris Wagner in a 2019 visit to Boston.

11/27/19: Rock You Like a Hurricane

The Rangers’ 2020 playoff cameo perhaps allowed the Carolina Hurricanes to dispatch some long-awaited revenge toward Lundqvist, who earned 33 wins against the artists formerly known as the Hartford Whalers in his career (3rd-best tally, behind only New Jersey and Philadelphia). He did manage to quell the storm one last time in November, when he made a whopping 45 saves, including this robbery of Martin Necas, in a 4-2 win.

2/1/20: One Last Ride in the Motor City

Fate denied Lundqvist a Derek Jeter-like farewell moment at MSG. The closest things Rangers fans will get likely came in February in Detroit, when he made 33 saves in a 1-0 win over the Red Wings. He sealed the deal with a final stop on Dennis Cholowski with an extra man on, providing the fateful clearing as time expired.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Which New York Jets have played out Patrick Mahomes’ contract?

If all goes according to plan, Patrick Mahomes will be in Kansas City for the next 12 years. How many New York Jets have lasted that long?

Earlier this week, Patrick Mahomes earned himself a mighty surplus of ketchup funds.

The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback made financial history on Monday, inking a 10-year contract extension with the potential to reach $503 million. It’s the first half-billion-dollar deal in American potential sports history.

Save for their scheduled matchup this November, the New York Jets perhaps have little to worry about when it comes to writing such a check. They’re a rebuilding squad and are still searching for an identity as they enter a new decade of football. It’s certainly enticing for Kansas City fans to envision at least a dozen more seasons of Mahomes antics under center (counting the two left on his original rookie deal), one can certainly wonder if Mahomes play the contract out to its fullest. A dozen more seasons equates to a whopping total of 192 regular season games.

Just how hard is it to reach that plateau? ESM looks back on the rare Jets who managed to put up that number in a green uniform…

K Pat Leahy (250 games)

Leahy didn’t even play college football, have starred on the soccer pitch at Saint Louis University (even earning All-American honors as a Billiken). After two training camp stints with the local Cardinals, he signed on with the Jets after Bobby Howling’s 1974 injury and didn’t look back for nearly 18 years. By the time he retired in 1992 (only departing due to a sciatic nerve condition), Leahy owned pretty much every meaningful scoring and kicking record in the Jets’ history books. He remains the all-time points leader in Jets history at 1,470, which is currently good for 26th in NFL history (fifth among players who spent their entire career with one team).

(Photo by Fred Roe/Getty Images)

G Randy Rasmussen (207 games)

As the last player to retire from the Jets’ legendary 1968 squad, Rasmussen is the last Jets Super Bowl champion to partake in an NFL game. Save for an eight-game stretch in his penultimate season, Rasmussen was incredibly durable during his run, missing just three games outside of that outlier campaign in 1980. Rasmussen even earned a touchdown during his NFL career, recovering a fumble in the end zone during a 1972 loss to Miami at Shea Stadium.

LB Kyle Clifton (204 games)

No one in New York has earned more takedowns than Clifton, who put up 1,468 solo stops in his NFL career. He led the league in tackles on three occasions ranks 10th in NFL history in the combined variety (1,484). Current free agent Antoine Bethea is the closest active player to knocking him out of the spot (1,333).

LB Mo Lewis (200 games)

Lewis is perhaps best known for his indirect role in NFL history, as he’s the one whose tackle of Drew Bledsoe gave way to Tom Brady in 2001. But his mark on Jets and the NFL, in general, goes far beyond that single play. Along with Clifton, Lewis is one of two Jets with at least 1,000 tackles (1,232) and he also reached the Pro Bowl three times. Lewis was named to the Jets’ 40th anniversary squad, as well as the first 1998 All-Pro team en route to the Jets’ AFC Championship Game appearance.

T Winston Hill (195 games)

The late Hill’s legendary career finally got the ending it rightfully deserved in January, as the Super Bowl starter was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Joe Namath’s entire career saw Hill protect his blindside, as the pair event spent one non-Jets season as members of the Los Angeles Rams. Winston Hill’s Ribs & Stuff, a barbecue restaurant Hill formed decades after his retirement, continues to operate in Littleton, Colorado.

(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

G/T Dan Alexander (192 games)

Alexander was drafted in the eighth round of the 1977 draft out of LSU and carved out a 13-year career in New York. He was, in fact, drafted as a defensive lineman but was switched to the other side of the ball in the midst of his first training camp. Alexander also partook in seven playoff games and didn’t miss a game until his 11th year on the job.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Fun Facts and Analysis of the New York Jets’ 2020 Schedule

New York Jets, New York Giants, Daniel Jones

Times and dates have been attached to the New York Jets’ 20 preseason and regular season matchups. ESM reveals what you need to know.

As if you didn’t need more of a reason to stay inside, the NFL just gave you 256 goals to work toward.

The league attached times and dates to its 2020 regular season matchups on Thursday, while preaching caution in the wake of the current health crisis. Nonetheless, the event gave fans a welcome reprieve as they continue to work their way through these trying times.

Here’s what you need to know about the Jets’ slate…

Preseason

Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

TBD: NY Giants (TBD, WCBS)

The annual Snoopy Bowl stays in the Week 1 slot it found itself in last season, even though the Jets and Giants will not play each other during the regular season. Big Blue took last season’s matchup by a 31-22 final.

August 20: @ Detroit (8:00 p.m., ESPN)

The Jets will play a nationally televised preseason game for the second time in three years, the last matchup being a 2018 visit to Washington, which was also on ESPN.

TBD: Pittsburgh (TBD, WCBS)

Pittsburgh will return to the site where their playoff hopes more or less died, as a Marcus Maye deflection game the Jets a 16-10 win.

TBD: @ Philadelphia (TBD, WCBS)

Should it happen, 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Jets and Eagles meeting annually in the preseason. The Jets took last year’s meeting at MetLife by a 6-0 tally

Regular Season

New York Jets, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

September 13: @ Buffalo (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

For the third time in four seasons, the Jets will open their regular season against the Bills. Buffalo has taken each of the first two openers in that span thus far, but Sam Darnold has yet to lose at New Era Field, having bested fellow 2019 first-round pick Josh Allen twice thus far. The Jets have dropped their Week 1 matchup in three of the last four seasons, the lone exception being 2018’s Monday night visit to Detroit.

September 20: San Francisco (1:00 p.m. ET, Fox)

The Jets’ will welcome the defending NFC champions for their first East Rutherford visit for AFC business since the 49ers administered a 34-0 shellacking in 2012 en route to that season’s Super Bowl. New York’s last home opener win came in 2017 against Miami, but they have likewise gone 1-3 over their past four tries in such a game.

September 27: @ Indianapolis (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)

The Jets are 3-1 at Lucas Oil Stadium since it opened in 2008. Alas, the lone exception is the 2010 AFC Championship Game. New York’s previous visit was a 20-7 Monday night triumph in 2015. Overall, the Jets have taken four of the past five meetings with their former AFC East brethren since that postseason match.

October 1: Denver (8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network)

A previous Thursday night meeting with the Broncos didn’t go so well, as Tim Tebow’s 20-yard touchdown run gave Denver a 17-13 win at Mile High. Their 34-16 win over Denver ended a three-game losing streak in the series. The Jets are 2-5 on Thursday night games since the NFL made them a full-time phenomenon in 2012.

New York Giants, Lorenzo Carter
Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

October 11: Arizona (1:00 p.m. ET, Fox)

No matter what happens between the Jets and Cardinals, the quarterback matchup between Sam Darnold and Kyler Murray will definitely be more exciting than the last time they met at MetLife Stadium. Back in 2012, Greg McElroy relieved Mark Sanchez and guided the Jets to an ugly 7-6 victory. The Jets have won six of the last seven meetings, but fell in the last showdown in Glendale in 2016.

October 18: @ LA Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)

Depending on health progress, the Jets are set to make their first two trips to SoFi Stadium, the site of Super Bowl LV this season. The Jets’ last game against a team with a Los Angeles moniker came back in 1993, when they fell to the Raiders at the Coliseum. More recently, the Jets dropped a 14-7 decision to the Chargers in their last meeting at home on Christmas Eve 2017.

October 25: Buffalo (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

The Jets will be looking to end a two-year losing streak at MetLife Stadium to the Bills, who are 4-2 at the relatively new establishment in East Rutherford after dropping their first four. This will mark the first time the Jets end their yearly pair with the Bills by the end of October since 2007, a Buffalo sweep.

Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

November 1: @ Kansas City (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Kansas City ended their five-decade plus Super Bowl drought. Are the Jets next? Time will only tell, but the first two AFL champions will meet at Arrowhead Stadium for the first time since 2016. The Jets’ last Kansas City masterpiece came in 1998, when John Hall’s 32-yard field goal as time expired gave them a 20-17 victory.

November 9: New England (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN)

After two appearances last season, the Jets get one showing on Monday Night Football, thought the MetLife meeting with the Patriots gets such a treatment for the second straight season. The Jets will look to end an eight-game losing streak in the rivalry and also seek their first Monday night win since the aforementioned Week 1 tilt against the Lions in 2018.

November 15: @ Miami (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)

With the expanded AFC playoff picture, could these matchups with Miami hold major implications? The schedulemaker certainly seems to think so, as this is the first time a Jets-Dolphins game starts beyond the 1:00 p.m. ET timeslot since December 2016, when a Miami squad led by Adam Gase beat the Jets 34-13 in a Saturday primetime game.

November 22: Bye Week

The Jets’ bye week comes in Week 11 for the second time in the last three seasons.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

November 29: Miami (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

In this de facto home-and-home series with the Dolphins, the Jets will look to win after their bye for the first time since 2015, when they followed up a London win over Miami with another triumph against Washington. The Jets’ last-second win Miami last December, courtesy of a Sam Ficken field goal, ended a four-game losing streak against the Dolphins.

December 6: Las Vegas (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

The Jets finished their stretch against the Oakland Raiders with a 9-11 mark, but they were able to end things on a dominant note with a 34-3 win at MetLife Stadium last season. Las Vegas’ new franchise has not won in East Rutherford since 1996 and is 0-3 at MetLife Stadium.

December 13: @ Seattle (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)

The Jets haven’t beaten the Seahawks since 2004, and their last win in Seattle came at the since-demolished Kingdom in 1997. Their prior matchup a 27-17 defeat at MetLife Stadium.

December 19/20: @ LA Rams (TBD)

Over the last two weeks of the season, a dozen matchups have been nominated to potentially appear in a trio of Saturday games. The Jets’ penultimate two games are a pair of such choices, including the latter half of their SoFi split.

Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

December 26/27: Cleveland (TBD)

Thus far, Baker Mayfield has gotten the better of Sam Darnold in the two meetings between 2018’s first two quarterbacks. Darnold, however, was unable to take part in last year’s Monday nite tilt, as his illness forced Trevor Siemian and later Luke Falk to oversee a 23-3 defeat in East Rutherford.

January 3: @ New England (1:00 p.m., CBS)

The Jets are still looking for their first win at Gillette Stadium since their epic divisional playoff wince in 2011, but they were at least able to snap the touchdown hex in their last visit. New England and New York last ended their regular seasons against each other in 2018, a game that served as the end of the Todd Bowles era.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

 

 

 

 

Now What? What to Expect from the New York Jets on Day Two

New York Jets

The New York Jets added another stone to their blocking gauntlet in the form of Mekhi Becton. What comes next in Friday’s pair of rounds?

One pick down, seven to go. 

The virtual draft fun has just begun for the New York Jets, who will be on the board three times when the second and third rounds commence on Friday night (7:00 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2/NFL Network).

Many felt the Jets got off to a good start with the selection of Louisville offensive lineman Mekhi Becton at No. 11 overall, the team knows there is still work to be done.

General manager Joe Douglas knows about the big opportunity the Jets have on Friday. New York was allotted the 48th and 79th selections on the draft board and also own the 68th pick, obtained from the New York Giants in a trade for Leonard Williams.

“I don’t take this opportunity lightly,” Douglas said before the draft, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “We’ve got eight picks and four in the top 79. We have to do our best to get the right type of player, the right type of person that’s going to come in here and turn things around and get us going in the right direction. We’ve seen impact drafts make a real difference in a short time.”

What should Jets fans expect in the draft’s first post-Becton stages? ESM has three possibilities…

Catch A Receiver 

Becton’s name was called before any of the draft’s renowned receiving corps. Shortly after, the catchers flew off the board. Henry Ruggs was first chosen by Las Vegas immediately after the Jets’ choice. Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb respectively went to Denver and Dallas at Nos. 15 and 17.

Though the latter stages took out three more (Jalen Reagor, Justin Jefferson, and Brandon Aiyuk), plenty of viable options are still on the board and should be available by the time the Jets choose at No. 48. Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Baylor’s Denzel Mims might not make it there, but Michael Pittman and his strong hands could be a viable option. The sizable Laviska Shenault of Colorado is another intriguing Pac-12 product, while the small but speedy Chase Claypool of Notre Dame will draw suitors as well.

Though veterans will return (Jamison Crowder and the injured Quincy Enunwa) and they added Bredshad Perriman in free agency, the Jets are in need of explosive receiver help. Such an option can indeed be found on day two. Second-day yields on the receiver front from the past five drafts alone include Michael Thomas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin, and Courtland Sutton, among others.

Defensive Struggle

This day two defensive struggle comes in the sweetest form: there are so many viable depth options for the Jets that it’s going to be hard to make a decision, even if a little extra capital is headed their way after the Williams trade.

While the Jets shored up their blocking on Thursday and will probably address their receiver situation at some point in the draft’s middle portions, the team must emerge from Friday’s proceedings with pass rush and secondary assistance. The former took on added importance during the first round, as Miami’s first selection means the Jets are going to have to deal with the arm and legs of Tua Tagovailoa twice a year in the near future.

The Jets dealt one of their premiere pass rushers to earn an extra pick, so it would perhaps be poetic to welcome in a replacement. It might be a little too much to hope for to see both Zach Baun and A.J. Epenesa to fall into the Jets’ grasp, but their comrade Yetur Gross-Matos might be well on his way. Bradlee Anae and Curtis Weaver have each made appearances in ESM mock drafts. In the secondary, Jaylon Johnson and Bryce Hall should be watched on the cornerback front.

Don’t Block the Idea of Another Blocker

The Jets’ offensive line has featured more renovation than an afternoon block of HGTV programming. Some saw Becton has the finishing touch, set to join a unit that already welcomed in George Fant, Greg Van Roten, and Connor McGovern (among several other depth additions) in through free agency proceedings.

But if Joe Douglas has made one thing clear, its that he views blocking as indispensable. His regime has done away with the blocking negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era and has instead brought it to the forefront of offseason concerns. Day two could be a day to stockpile depth on the line, ones who can stoke the fires of potential training camp competition.

Boise State tackle Ezra Cleveland is probably the top lineman available on Friday, but the Jets will probably look to bolster their interior units. Michigan’s Ben Bredeson would be an intriguing option in round three, as his experience on the left side could give returnee Alex Lewis some competition. LSU’s Damien Lewis could also put some heat on veteran Brian Winters.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags