New York Jets: Ranking the offseason needs by position

The New York Jets have plenty of positional problems to solve on both sides of the ball. But which issues should take priority?

If 2020 proved anything, it’s that the New York Jets have plenty of problems to solve.

But, even with the second-highest cap space in football, the Jets probably won’t be able to solve all these issues thie offseason. So, with March’s free agency festivities approaching, which position groups should they prioritize with the cap space surplus?

ESM investigates…

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

1. Offensive Line

One could argue that the Jets must resolve their quarterback situation before embarking on new offseason endeavors. But think of it this way…if the Jets were to gain, say, Deshaun Watson, while failing to address their blocking corps, the Clemson alum would more or less be stuck in the same situation he faces in Houston: running for his life in an attempt to pull off miracles in what likely amounts to a lost cause.

It’s impossible to fully grade Joe Douglas’ tenure as the Jets’ general manager, but his willingness to address the offensive line is admirable and cannot be denied. Douglas’ first moves at the helm were to convince Matt Kalil out of retirement and to bring Alex Lewis in through a trade with Baltimore. In his first draft, Douglas passed on name-brand receiving talents to take Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall pick. The Louisville product became the first blocker chosen with the Jets’ top pick(s) since the legendary combo of D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold in 2006. Douglas also went splurging on blocking help through free agency, namely in the form of Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and George Fant, among others. The veteran haul proved mixed results, but most of them have single-season outs (with only McGovern in a secure state for 2021). It’ll be interesting to see who stays and goes as the Jets prepare for what will likely be an offensive overhaul.

Becton was a great start as we clearly saw last season, but more is needed to truly fortify the wall in front of the quarterback, be it Watson, Sam Darnold, Russell Wilson, or a draftee.

Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws on the run against the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

2. Quarterback

Even if it means sticking with Darnold. the Jets need to resolve their quarterback situation as soon as possible. Expanding on why that’s important would be regurgitating almost every football cliche in the book, but the Jets need to gain clarity one way or the other.

As of now, the only guarantee is that the situation is guaranteed to be settled by April 29…the first day of the 2021 NFL Draft, where the Jets own the second overall pick in the NFL Draft in Cleveland. Many assume such a pick will be used on one of the quarterback prospects the Jacksonville Jaguars don’t take, and yet, the Jets have seemingly been connected to every disgruntled elite quarterback that wants a change of setting. The Jets are nowhere near a mindset where they can improvise on draft day. Having a concrete plan is so crucial moving forward for a team so embedded in a perpetual rebuild. Whatever the Jets do, be it Darnold, a new franchise man through free agency/the draft, or even a stopgap thrower like the Colts did with Phillip Rivers, they have to have a plan.

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

3. Wide Receiver

Obviously, the Jets should not aim for a roster setup that serves to please the fantasy football owner. But, the fact of the matter is, the modern NFL is one that does embrace high-scoring games, as stat ledgers occasionally rival Arena Football League contests. Since Brandon Marshall left after the 2016 season, the Jets have mustered only 15 occasions where a receiver has hit triple digits in receiving yards. Eight of those tallies were earned by Robby Anderson, who was allowed to leave the metropolitan area without much of a fight. Draft Becton was obviously the right move to make, but it came at the cost of passing on elite receiving talent. Shortly after the Becton choice, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Justin Jefferson found their respective homes.

Even though his rookie season was plagued by injuries, the Jets have high hopes for second round choice Denzel Mims, but he can’t do it alone, and the Jets could use some veteran assistance to help oversee his first NFL seasons and his presumed ascension to the top of the receiver depth chart. There’s plenty of elite veteran help available this offseason, and the Jets should not only focus on getting some big play assistance but on gaining some catching continuity as well. To put things in painful perspective…no wide receiver from Darnold’s rookie season was on the roster last season.

Cole Beasley of Buffalo and Marcus Maye of the Jets make contact after Beasley made a catchin the second halfÊas the Buffalo Bills met the New York Jets at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on October 25, 2020.
The Buffalo Bills Vs The New York Jets At Metlife Stadium In East Rutherford New Jersey On October 25 2020

4. Secondary

The secondary is by far by the Jets’ most desperate defensive area, one that may be glad that the Jamal Adams saga is over, but has a long way to go in terms of filling the talent void left behind in his wake. All signs seem to point toward the team franchise tagging Marcus Maye, but it’ll take far more than an expensive tryout season under Robert Saleh to fully fix the unit. There is a lot of young potential to work with, like that of Bryce Hall, Ashtyn Davis, and Bless Austin, but medical absences prevented them from making a true impact last year.

New York Jets, C.J. Mosley
Sep 8, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (57) celebrates after a fumble recovery during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

5. Linebacker

Right from the get-go, it was clear that last season was going to a problem for the Jets, as C.J. Mosley (understandably) opted out and hopeful sophomore Blake Cashman endured another injury-riddled season. Several depth options came up big (Neville Hewitt, Tarell Basham), but they’re up to hit the open market. Mosley’s (presumed) return should help soothe the blow a little bit, but the Jets still need to do their due diligence, particularly on their edge rush that’s likely dealing with Josh Allen (and possibly Tua Tagovailoa) twice a year for the foreseeable future.

New York Jets, Chris Herndon

6. Tight End

The Jets are certainly inspired by the re-emergence of Chris Herndon and hope he’ll be able to emerge as a top target for whoever the quarterback may be next season. They could certainly use some refreshing in the area, especially with blocking option Daniel Brown hitting the market, but unless they find some themselves in a comfortable spot to take Kyle Pitts early (potentially through a draft day trade?), they’ll probably hope that Herndon’s rebirth was not a fluke, but rather a return to form.

Oct 25, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets running back La’Mical Perine (22) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Ryan Griffin (84) during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

7. Running Back

If there’s one guarantee about the aftermath of the Le’Veon Bell saga, it’s that it’s going to be a long, long time before the Jets shell out a big contract to a running back. They likely view La’Michael Perine as a bit of a long-term project, but upcoming free agents Ty Johnson and Josh Adams proved their NFL mettle in the latter stages of last season…provided when their carries weren’t being taken by Frank Gore. Had the Jets given Johnson and Adams a brighter shot, the running back slot could’ve ranked lower on this list. Now, they have to scour both the free agent wire and the latter days of the draft to bolder the current package.

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

8. Special Teams

With an offense trapped in renovations, special teams are crucial for the Jets moving forward, whether it’s to provide good starting field position, to end a drive with points via reliable field goal kickers, or to pin the opponent deep when the drive fizzles out. The Jets might have two of those three areas settled through Braden Mann punting and a combination of Braxton Berrios and Corey Ballentine returning, but they need to resolve their kicking situation after Sam Ficken struggled after an injury last year.

Sep 13, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New York Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins (48) and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (95) combine to sack Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) during the second quarter at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

9. Defensive Line

Even with the release of Henry Anderson, the Jets are relatively set on their front group, energized by the redemption season of Quinnen Williams, though this area could quickly shoot up the last if the former No. 3 pick’s biggest nightmare comes true and the Jets opt to ship him off in an aforementioned quarterback hypothetical. The departure of Anderson is soothed by the potential return of Kyle Phillips, who impressed as an undrafted rookie but missed all of last season with an injury.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Should the New York Jets pursue star New England offensive lineman in free agency?

New England Patriots, Joe Thuney

Heading into last offseason, one of the hottest commodities projected to hit the market was two-time Super Bowl champion and all-pro offensive guard Joe Thuney. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins were reportedly set to back up the brinks truck to Thuney in hopes he would anchor his offensive line. Then, the Patriots threw a wrench in those plans by tagging Thuney. Now, Thuney will reportedly be allowed to seek a new home this offseason. With Mekhi Becton as the solidified anchor of the offensive line at left tackle, here is why Joe Thuney can give the Jets one of the best tackle/guard combos in football.

Who is Joe Thuney?

Joe Thuney grew up in Ohio and was one of four children. Thuney was not a stranger to success early in life, he was a member of two state championship football teams, he was named offensive lineman of the year in the Greater Catholic League, and was class president in his senior year of high school. Thuney was well-liked on and off the gridiron, and this led to an opportunity to play at NC State. At NC State, Thuney played all over the offensive line taking snaps at center, both tackle spots, and guard during his time with the program. Thuney graduated NC State in three years and received All American honors.

After a successful beginning to his football career, Thuney was selected with the 78th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. In five seasons, Thuney has played every single game, not only that, but he has been a team-first guy being adaptable this past season and making the switch to tackle with Marcus Cannon opting out and creating a void. Thuney has been both a depiction of stability and success, winning two rings during his tenure with the Pats.

Why The Jets?

Thuney will command a monster deal this offseason. As one of the most reliable and consistent linemen in the game, he will be paid as such. Now, Joe Douglas has been rather set in his evaluations of certain players in the past, but offensive linemen have been his most focused entity in his brief tenure as general manager to this point. The potential of having two beasts on the offensive line for the long-term future in Thuney and Becton is something the well-traveled exec may not be able to pass up. Not only that, but as we saw just a few weeks ago with Patrick Mahomes, if you don’t have protection, the entire rhythm of the game plan is thrown out the window.

On a relatively young team, Thuney would slot in as a leader and building block for the future. We are talking about a durable, smart, and versatile piece that fits the mold of everything Douglas seems to look for in the guys he wants to fill out his roster with. Add all that into the fact that he is successful no matter the stop. Thuney could be used anywhere on the line, but the idea of Becton and Thuney anchoring the left side could be too much to pass up. No matter where you put him on the line, Thuney would be a massive addition to the team and someone the Jets should not let slip away.

New York Jets positional preview 2021: Offensive line

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

No matter who plays quarterback for the New York Jets in 2021, they’re going to need someone blocking for them.

The Position: Offensive Line
On the Roster: Greg Van Roten, Conor McDermott, Connor McGovern, Jimmy Murray, Mekhi Becton, Cameron Clark, Chuma Edoga, George Fant, Alex Lewis
Free Agents: Pat Elflein, Josh Andrews
Reserve/Future: N/A

If Joe Douglas made one thing clear upon taking the New York Jets’ general manager spot, it was that he was going to work on an offensive line that Mike Maccagnan mostly neglected.

Save for choosing Chuma Edoga with what became the final day two pick of his tenure, Maccagan avoided building the line with his early selections. Prior to Maccagan using one of his final picks on Chuma Edoga in 2019’s third round, Brian Winters was the last blocker chosen within the draft’s first three sessions in 2013. The last premiere choices were the legendary D’Brickashaw Ferguson/Nick Mangold haul during the 2006 selections.

Once Douglas got to work in the late stages of summer 2019, he quickly let everyone know that the Jets were under management by getting to work on the line. He sent a late draft pick to Baltimore to bring in Alex Lewis and convinced Carolina mainstay Ryan Kalil to delay his retirement. While the results have been mixed…the Kalil experiment blew up and Lewis has been in and out of the starting lineup…Douglas had a plan to build the offense up.

He kept things up last season, as Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and George Fant joined the team through free agency. During his first draft, Douglas bypassed name-brand receivers like Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Justin Jefferson to take Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton. The veterans struggled, but Douglas appears to have chosen a keeper in Becton, who served as a rare silver lining during his debut campaign. Douglas didn’t stop there, taking Charlotte football’s longest-tenured player Cameron Clarke with the last of three fourth-round picks.

Becton appears to be a long-term asset in New York, but many of the deals have opt-outs after a single year. In fact, the only free agent in the entire 2020 free agency class with a dedication beyond last season is Connor McGovern. Some cap saving moves…the release of George Fant would save the team over $5 million, for example…may lead the Jets to a complete retooling of their blocking for the second straight season…with the exception of Becton at the blind side, of course.

Questions plague the Jets’ quarterback situation, as many question whether Sam Darnold will get a fourth year in the franchise thrower role. But no matter who’s throwing, the quarterback’s endeavors will be meaningless if he has no protection. There’s a long way to go to finish building the wall.

Free Agents-to-be 

G Josh Andrews

Andrews was a career-long depth man who earned a Super Bowl ring with Douglas while serving on Philadelphia’s practice squad. He was initially part of the final training camp cuts, but he returned to partake in all but one game. He even started four, including the final three when Van Roten went down, the first starts of his career.

G Pat Elflein 

Bid farewell from Minnesota in November, Elflein was a bit of a peace offering for Adam Gase when the departed head coach Adam Gase butted heads. Since Lewis has been a rare consistent prescience in the Jets’ blocking corps, it’s likely that Elflein will likely ship off in search of new opportunities.

Will They Draft?

It’s a very strong possibility. Douglas knows the importance of picking a lineman and likely won’t hesitate to use an early pick to find either an immediate contributor or a depth option that could raise the heat on any returnees. If the Jets resolve their quarterback situation prior to the draft, many have pegged Oregon standout Penei Sewell to at No. 2. Sewell skipped the entire 2020 campaign but his breakthrough sophomore showing a season prior will not be soon forgotten. But with Sewell lining in the same blindspot as Becton, the Jets will likely seek help on the right side. Thus, choosing Texas’ Sam Cosmi or the versatile Rashawn Slater of Northwestern with the Seattle pick at No. 23 or their regularly scheduled second-round choice at No. 34 seems a lot more realistic.

Veteran Possibilities

G Joe Thuney, New England

Lewis has been serviceable at left guard, but if Thuney presents himself, the Jets would likely be in the running. The Jets targeted Thuney during the last free agency period, but the Patriots put the franchise tag on him. It’s likely that Thuney is going to look for some long-term stability this time around, and the Jets certainly have the cap space to afford such a premier blocking talent.

G Brandon Scherff, Washington

Over the past few tumultuous seasons of Washington football, Scherff has been a rare consistent silver lining…when he plays, that is. The four-time Pro Bowler hasn’t played a full season since his sophomore season back in 2016 but has been a dominant prescience in the nation’s capital. Bringing him in would be the true definition of a high-risk/high-reward situation.

T Daryl Williams, Buffalo

Signed to a relatively cheap one-year deal as a depth option, Williams came up big for the Bills when injuries hit their blocking corps, namely Cody Ford. He partook in over 95 percent of Buffalo’s offensive snaps and became a generally reliable piece alongside fellow free agent Jon Feliciano on the right side. A former All-Pro, Williams will likely seek a bigger contract this time around, but he can be looked upon as not only a solid contributor but as a provider of veteran guidance the Jets desperately need.

Outlook

A poor offensive line can sink even the most potent of offenses. Look no further than what happened to the Kansas City Chiefs during Sunday’s Super Bowl festivities. With Eric Fisher out, Patrick Mahomes was left running for his life constantly thanks to a relentless Tampa Bay rush ordered by Todd Bowles. The onslaught undoubtedly played a factor in the Chiefs’ eventual 31-9 defeat. New York, of course, is miles further from returning to the Super Bowl, so far away that the journey is probably going to take several years. The process should with building up the blocking. Draft Becton was a good start, and it certainly seems like the Louisville product is here to stay. But there’s a long, long way to go when it comes to protecting the quarterback on a reliable basis. Not matter who’s under center, the Jets need to bolster the wall in front of him. Douglas has gotten off to a good start in filling this dire need. Further change is undoubtedly coming, but whether it’s through the draft or free agency remains to be seen.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

20 names in New York sports that made 2020 tolerable

In 2020, we learned just how small sports were on the grand scale. Even so, these New Yorkers brought hope and joy to the beleaguered area.

Ah, 2020…we knew ye too well.

“Auld Lang Syne” will hit a little differently this New Year’s Eve, as the country and the world entire prepares to bid farewell to one of the most brutal 366-day cycles in recent memory. The year even took away sports at one point in time, which might’ve almost been seen as a merciful act considering the modern endeavors of New York sports. Metropolitan athletics have consistently fallen far short of their inflated expectations. Save for the New York Islanders’ surprise trip to the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals, each of New York’s teams either endured early postseason exits or missed out entirely.

Yet, there were several names in the sports world, before and after the period of pause and reflection, that gave the metropolitan area hope in this brutal season. ESM bids farewell with 20 legends…

Josh Allen

So brutal were metropolitan affiars this season that we had to turn to our friends in Western New York. But, unless you’re a Jets who has two annual meetings with Allen to dread for the foreseeable future, it’s hard not to appreciate what Allen has done for the Bills’ franchise, defying draft day expectations out of Wyoming and playing a vital role in ending their 17-year playoff drought and turning them into Super Bowl contenders. Entering Sunday’s regular season final against Miami (1 p.m. ET, CBS), Allen has broken Jim Kelly’s record for most touchdown passes in a single season of Bills football (34) and is within striking distance of Drew Bledsoe’s yardage record of the same variety. Allen has also taken home six Offensive Player of the Week Awards in his career (four this season), second only to the ten earned by the aforementioned Kelly.

Mathew Barzal

As the New York Islanders go through a period of both transition and prosperity…being one of the rare metropolitan teams to experience postseason success in 2020…Barzal has evolved into a face of the franchise, taking over from the Toronto-based John Tavares. Appropriately, it was Barzal that informed the hockey world that the Islanders were going to be a problem in the bubble, scoring the game-winning goal in the their 2-1 win over Washington in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal round, a tally that gave the Islanders a 3-0 lead in the series. Ironically, Barzal’s moment of glory came in Tavares’ current stomping grounds of Scotiabank Arena.

Mekhi Becton

The New York Jets have a lot of questions to answer once the calendar officially flips. But Becton, the Jets’ first-round choice (11th overall) out of Louisville is crossing one need off their offseason shopping list. Called upon to protect Sam Darnold’s blindside, Becton has become one of the most dominant young blockers in football, ranking at or near the top of several analytical rookie lists. The Jets aren’t quite sure who their quarterback is going come next September. They do know, however, that Becton will be serving as his security.

James Bradberry

Formerly under general manager Dave Gettleman’s watch in Carolina, Bradberry came to New York with relatively little fanfare. He has since gone on to become one of the biggest reasons why the Giants have a shot at anotherwise inexplicable playoff spot. Bradberry has done his part to make sure that Big Blue is at least well represented in the SportsCenter Top 10, making several acrobatic interceptions that led to his first Pro Bowl nomination.

Steve Cohen

A lot of adjustment was required to make it through 2020, but the Mets remained their same disappointing selves, tying with the defending champion Washington Nationals for last place in the NL East. But, thanks to new owner Cohen, there’s legitimate hope in the organization for the first time in ages. The Great Neck-born hedge fund manager has immediately endeared himself to fans with promises to use his surplus budget in free agency (which manifested early with the signing of James McCann), his willingness to clean house shortly after his arduous purchase was completed, and his lighthearted interactions with supporters on Twitter.

Gerrit Cole

The shortened seasons denied Yankees fans the full Cole experience in the early going, but it’s safe to say the newly minted $324 million man lived up to the hype. He saved the best for last, earning a 1.00 ERA over four starts in September and later struck out 13 without a walk in the Yankees’ Wild Card Series win over Cleveland. Such a feat had been accomplished since Tom Seaver’s endeavor in the 1973 NLCS.

Stefon Diggs

The trade for Diggs feels like it happened years ago, as do all the tweets and thoughtpieces that claim the Bills gave up too much for the former Minnesota Viking. But the Minneapolis Miracle worker has made the four-pick exchange worth it, even erasing the fact that the Bills missed out on rookie sensation Justin Jefferson. Like Allen, Diggs is rewriting the Bills’ record book, breaking Eric Moulds’ former marks for single-season for receptions (120) and yardage (1,459). Both of tallies lead the NFL entering the final week of the regular season.

Kevin Durant

Brooklyn Nets fans received a bit of a special Christmas gift this year, as they were finally treated to Kevin Durant’s debut in black and white. Teamed up with Kyrie Irving, the ten-time All-Star hasn’t lost a step, putting 28.3 points and 5.8 rebounds over his first four games. Durant apparently saved the best for first, torching his former compatriots from Golden State for 22 points on opening night before scoring 29 in a Christmas win over Boston.

Sabrina Ionescu

The draft lottery has turned into a cruel custom for the blue and orange hardwood representatives in New York, but the Liberty hit the jackpot with the drafting of Ionescu in April. The city didn’t get the full Ionescu treatment in her rookie season, with an ankle injury limiting her metropolitan antics to three games. But the Oregon alumna is on pace to be a true face of women’s sports in the area, with her jersey sales ranking fourth in the WNBA this season. Ionescu gave her new Brooklyn fanbase something to be excited about before fate stepped in, scoring 33 points in only her second career contest.

Kyrie Irving

Irving’s 2020 heroics likewise required patience. He partook in only 20 games during the shortened 2019-20 campaign (none of them during the Nets’ endeavor in Disney World) but managed to drop 54 points (on 19-of-23 shooting from the field) in a January win over Chicago. Irving likewise emerged as one of the most vocal voices in social change alongside his basketball brothers and sisters. He was more than willing to carry on his basketball antics on the court once he was ready to get rolling again, torching the Celtics for 37 points on Christmas.

Jazmine Jones

Perhaps no one defined the 2020 New York Liberty sense of resiliency and development better than Jones. Bookending the first round of the 2020 WNBA Draft with Ionescu, Jones took full advantage of relatively consequence-free basketball, making herself essential when the Liberty’s plethora of veterans potentially return in 2021. The Louisville alumna took over point guard duties after Ionescu went down, resuming a role she last played during her high school days at Florida A&M University’s Developmental Research School. She put up 10.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game, earning a spot on the league’s official all-rookie team.

Brock Nelson

Signer of a six-year deal to remain an Islander before the season started, Nelson became one of the team’s most reliable and clutch performers during their run to the conference finals. He scored three game-winning goals and finished second on the team in postseason points with 18.

New York Guardians Defense

The second attempt at XFL feels like an endeavor from years ago, but briefly took over the February calendar with a slate that wound up lasting five games. It allowed MetLife Stadium to enjoy at least some form of victorious football, as the local Guardians won each of their two games at the venue. Their defense was particularly strong, as Cavon Walker led the league in sacks (4.5) and six different defenders earned at least one interception.

Artemi Panarin

If there was ever a year to not take risks, 2020 was certainly at, or at least near, the top of the list. Despite Panarin’s many talents, many saw the Rangers’ seven-year, $81.5 million deal with the former Blue Jacket (a smaller price tag after Panarin spurned the Islanders) as too much dedication to a single player. But Panarin lived up to the massive deal, finishing off the shortened season with a career-best 95 points (good for a third-place tie on the NHL ledger).

Logan Ryan

As a Rutgers alum, New Jersey native, and the man who took Tom Brady’s final New England throw back for a touchdown, Ryan seemed destined for a metropolitan collaboration. The Giants took the plunge shortly before the season began, and Ryan has rewarded them with a strong showing that has included good coverage, 91 tackles, and an interception that clinched the season sweep against Washington (which will come up big if the two sides tie for the NFC lead after Sunday). It has been an emotional season for Ryan, whose wife Ashley endured an ectopic pregnancy. Ryan later inked a three-year deal to stay with the Giants on Christmas Day.

Kailen Sheridan

The National Women’s Soccer League was the first North American team sports league to make its return this summer, staging its annual Challenge Cup festivities in Utah. Sky Blue FC, their debut season at Red Bull Arena pushed back due to obvious reasons, had struggled in recent years but put on a strong showing with a fourth-place finish. Sheridan was the driving force behind the effort, winning the tournament’s Golden Glove award to the tune of three shutouts. Sky Blue also had a respectable showing in the NWSL’s fall showcase, earning a matching fourth-place mark.

Tom Thibodeau

Wishing someone association with the James Dolan-owned sounds like a punishment one would avoid giving their worst enemy…at least their worst hardwood enemy. Thibodeau, however, returns to the ranks of head coaching to face what’s his toughest challenge yet. But, unlike his predecessors, it appears Thibodeau has a plan for the Knicks moving forward, seeking to change the culture and build a team-centered atmosphere. So far, it’s played in the Knicks’ favor. The team has played competitively in the infantile stages of the season, sitting at 2-2 after the first four games (including a dominant win over Giannis Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee). They’ll have chance to end the season on the right note on Friday night against Toronto (7:30 p.m. ET, MSG).

Semyon Varlamov

The jokes against Islander goaltending officially ended, or were at least put on hold, through Varlamov’s efforts. He came up with several big saves during the playoff trek and was one of only six goalies inside the Canada bubbles to record multiple shutouts. His 2.14 goals against average was also fourth amongst goalies with at least 10 playoff starts.

Quinnen Williams

Williams retook control of the narrative surrounding his career, as many felt he was destined to be a bust after struggling in his rookie season (and with Pro Bowler Josh Allen going shortly after him). But Williams responded with a stellar sophomore season, leading all interior defensive linemen in both traditional and analytical categories as one of the most consistent backfield invaders in the league.

Mika Zibanejad

Zibanejad is perhaps responsible for the most dominant one-man effort of the 2020 sports season, tallying a jaw-dropping five goals, including the overtime winner in a March win over the Capitals. The yield from one of the biggest robberies in New York sports memory (the biggest loss being Derick Brassard to Ottawa in the trade), Zibanejad again put up his best numbers despite a shutdown, scoring 41 goals (fifth in the league) in 57 games.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The New York Jets won a game…and that’s completely fine

The New York Jets committed a mortal football sin on Sunday: a win in Los Angeles. But Gang Green has nothing to apologize for.

Christmas morning came about five days early for New York Jets fans.

Week 15 action saw two of their wildest fantasies become a reality, a pair of gifts that would generate a reaction forever immortalized in home movies. The early window of Sunday action saw the New England Patriots’ postseason streak finally end in a loss in Miami. On the other side of the country, the Jets perhaps prompted toasts of Zima amongst members of the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns. Their 23-20 win over the Los Angeles Rams…a team in legitimate contention for an NFL postseason spot…ended a franchise-worst 13-game losing streak and helped the Jets avoid 16-game imperfection.

For Jets fans, topping a team that could well be playing into February after watching the Patriots get erased from the playoff picture could’ve created rare tidings of comfort and joy. It was a feeling of watching your worst enemy have his gift of a PlayStation 5 taken away, but not before you get to use it for a couple of hours.

But, this being the year 2020 A.D., the sweetest of Sunday feelings, denied to the green New York fandom until the penultimate week of this cursed 366-day process, was viewed as the worst thing that could happen to an already star-crossed franchise.

The Jets’ victory in Los Angeles proved to be, in the eyes of some fans, an early Festivus miracle, as their feat of strength set off an airing of grievances unlike any other. Their triumph came at a price, the charge being lost real estate on the draft board in Cleveland. New York’s name now appears in the second slot, behind only the Jacksonville Jaguars, their compatriot in the brotherhood of 1-13 ledgers. Creating the imperfect, unholy trinity with the Lions and Browns has been no concern to the Jaguars, who have lost 13 in a row after winning on opening day. Their latest defeat was a listless 40-14 showing in Baltimore and they certainly won’t be favored in their final contests against Chicago and Indianapolis, each of whom harbors playoff dreams (the latter game could help the Colts win the AFC South). Jacksonville holds the tiebreaker with a worse strength of schedule.

The fear amongst Jets fans is that Jacksonville now has the inside track for Trevor Lawrence, who perhaps broke the hearts of two green teams in the span of a weekend. Saturday saw the Clemson quarterback solidify his status as the consensus top pick, torching Notre Dame for 412 total yards and three scores in a 34-10 victory in the ACC title game. Jets fans were willing to accept inclusion on the list of winless teams in NFL history in exchange for the glory of Lawrence. Now, Lawrence appears bound for Jacksonville, a five hour drive from Miami, where many believe he and the Tigers will be on January 11 for college football’s national title game.

But…it’s shocking it needs to be said, but hey, it’s 2020…what’s done is done. There’s no use crying over spilled Gatorade. The Jets won a game…and that’s perfectly all right.

Tank the Tank

The notion of tanking is ludicrous in all walks of life, particularly in a profession where you can be one of the 32 best people at your job in the entire world, and observers and supervisors alike will call for your axing.

To their macabre credit, the Jets rarely seemed to buy into the concept. Sure, there have been incidents where they might’ve been better off staying home…the brutal visits to Indianapolis, Miami, and Seattle come to mind…but one can look at the Jets’ 2020 schedule and find instances where, on paper, they should’ve come out with a win. Nothing more needs to be said about the ill-advised final blitz against Las Vegas, but they had control for a majority of prime time contests against Denver and New England. Even their first visit to SoFi Stadium could’ve gone worse, as they played the Chargers to a 34-28 decision.

Members of the modern Jets have been clear where their priorities lie. Spoiler alert, they’re not on the draft board.

“I don’t put my body through this, I don’t think anybody on the Jets puts their body through it, to lose,” offensive lineman McGovern said prior to the departure to Los Angeles, per Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “It might be easy for somebody sitting on the couch, eating pizza, chips, and dip, to say they should keep losing, but if they’ve ever strapped the pads on, that sounds like an impossible thing for me to do. I’m going to do whatever I can to win.”

Mekhi Becton, a rare Jet who has a spot on this roster beyond 2020, advocated that those rooting for losses should turn in their New York fan credentials.

“You ain’t really a fan if you didn’t want us to win, honestly,” Becton told Jeane Coakley of SNY. “I mean that in the nicest way possible. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. But I mean, if you wanted us to lose, you’re not a real fan, honestly.”

Even before the losses began to pile up, the Jets were made up of players who needed to prove their worth to build a long-term NFL future. That was apparent in general manager Joe Douglas’ free agent haul this offseason, where all but one signee (McGovern) was granted a contract worth one year or contained an affordable exit after 2020. To ask these players to toss away their final chances to impress, not only for the Jets but for the 31 other NFL squads as well, for the sake of a “reward” they maybe not even be around to witness is out of touch. For these players, these final hours could be the difference between another NFL paycheck or waiting for the XFL to come back in 2022.

Some of those holdovers are carving spots for themselves on a future roster. Midseason acquisition Ty Johnson earned the first 100-yard rushing game from a Jets rusher against Las Vegas and scored a touchdown on the opening drive against the Rams. Neville Hewitt is working his way toward another New York contract with 122 tackles. One can even point at Sam Darnold’s case as to why the Jets shouldn’t be tanking. He has, from at least a team standpoint, consequence-free opportunities to convince the Jets that he deserves to maintain his hold on the position.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that people will go to great lengths to keep their livelihoods when they’re on the line. The Jets shouldn’t be faulted for doing so in a relatively harmless fashion.

Hold that Tiger

Lawrence mastery on Saturday might’ve been just enough for even the staunchest Jets supporter to consider wearing blue, cream, and yellow in support of the Rams the next day. There’s no doubt that whoever is getting Lawrence is getting an incredible talent on and off the field. His prowess on the gridiron speaks for itself and he became a strong voice of unity and leadership elsewhere. Along with Sugar Bowl opponent and likely fellow first-rounder Justin Fields of Ohio State, Lawrence was an advocate for both societal equality and safely finding a way to play the 2020 college football amidst the ongoing health crisis.

But for all his magic, for all his powers…even Lawrence is not a be-all, end-all, fix-all solution to the New York Jets franchise.

Sure, there’s plenty of time for the Jets to tidy up and make their organization attractive to a sought-after newcomer, be a rookie like Lawrence or a veteran free agent like Allen Robinson or JuJu Smith-Schuster. But it’s going to take a lot of work. The Le’Veon Bell case perhaps set the Jets’ transactional affairs back further than they could’ve imagined. What high-ticket free agent is going to look at the way the Bell situation played out, becoming a saga plagued by infighting amongst the team’s decisionmakers and leading to the post-draft firing of a general manager, and look to replicate that? The Jets certainly have a strong budget to work with (just below $73 million and potentially counting if they cut pricey veterans like Henry Anderson and George Fant), but they’ll need to do a better job building relationships.

At the very least, Douglas has made it clear that he has a plan, leaving traces of his blueprints across his transactions, even if they haven’t fully played out. When the quarterback needed blocking, Douglas traded for Alex Lewis and convinced Ryan Kalil to come out of retirement. With Darnold low on weapons, Douglas signed Breshad Perriman and found a day two gem in Denzel Mims in the draft. Noe everything has panned out on the field…Kalil failed to play up to his Pro Bowl form and Perriman has been inconsistent…but it at least showed that Douglas knew how to chase down a need position.

There’s definitely hope on the horizon. Mims has shown flashes of brilliance despite bouts with injury and Becton has been everything the Jets could’ve asked for. But this group, particularly the offensive line, is very much a work in progress. Putting Lawrence behind the current blocking unit would be only asking for trouble. There’s time to improve between now and the spring, but, if things stay the way they are, the Lawrence era probably wouldn’t be that much different from Darnold’s.

But, contrary to popular belief amongst the pro-tank crowd, the draft does not begin and end once Lawrence’s name is called. At least 224 men will be added to NFL rosters in Cleveland, and the Jets will be choosing quite often. Cincinnati’s shocking win on Monday night over Pittsburgh, perhaps another victory seen as ill-advised by those who wish to tank, ensured that the Jets would choose no later than second overall come April. There’s plenty of other needs that can be immediately satisfied with the No. 2 pick, even if Lawrence is donning a Jaguars cap and jersey. The non-Lawrence quarterback would be well protected with the combined efforts of Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater. He can throw to Ja’Marr Chase or Devonta Smith. The yearly couple against Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa would be easier to bear pass rushers Kwity Paye or Jayson Oweh if they trade down. Others from those positions (i.e. Azeez Ojulari, Wyatt Davis, or Terrace Marshall) could be available when the Jets choose later on day one with Seattle’s pick, obtained from the Jamal Adams trade.

It’s fair to mourn the loss of Lawrence in the early going…and even more so when rewatching the film from Charlotte on Saturday…but it’s a potential loss they can overcome with the right brand of drafting and scouting ingenuity.

New York Jets, Adam Gase
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Change is Still Coming

The Jets might’ve been on the right side of the scoreboard after Sunday’s affair, but there were still plenty of reminders as to why they’re long eliminated from the NFL playoff picture. Inspiring and fun as the win may be…former Super Bowl offensive coordinator and Jets head coach Adam Gase remarked per The Post that “I don’t think I’ve seen a group more excited after a game than what I saw (Sunday) when talking about the postgame reaction…it’d be silly to believe that it’ll serve as the deciding factor as to whether some veterans stay or go.

From a playcalling standpoint, for example, there’s no reason to waste consequence-free games on giving the ball to Frank Gore 23 times a game while Johnson carried it only thrice (returning rookie La’Mical Perine didn’t get any). There was a chance for the Jets to build on a 13-0 lead going into the halftime break, but opted for short runs that allowed Los Angeles to get the ball back and add a triple. The defense took a notable step backward when an injured Quinnen Williams was forced to leave the game, giving up three consecutive scoring drives in the second half.

Another asterisk came in the form of the opponent. Rams rusher Cam Akers, fresh off a career-best 171-yard performance against New England, was affected by an ankle injury they stripped him of his true impact (though two long Akers runs, including a touchdown, were called back due to penalties in the second half). Even if the Jets did buy into tanking, Los Angeles almost wouldn’t allow it. Five of the first six Rams possessions ended in a punt, one of which was blocked by J.T. Hassell. The outlier in that group resulted in a Bryce Hall interception.

So, unless Johnson or Gore helped you win your fantasy football semifinal, only true football die-hards are going to remember this win. Change is still coming with to the Jets. Previews of the purge have been plentiful…just ask Bell, Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, Pierre Desir, or Gregg Williams…but it should begin in earnest this offseason. If the Jets are truly on the fence about Gase, a December win against an opponent that was clearly not operating at top speed shouldn’t be enough to sway the pendulum back in his favor.

Douglas has a plan, picks, and prosperity through cap space. One win, even at the cost of one potential quarterback, shouldn’t be the force of destruction that upends it all.

It’s rare enough that the Jets earn a thrilling December victory in this day and age. If you’re a fan, you should feel no reservation toward celebrating it.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Jets’ Mekhi Becton continues to impress, leads AFC tackles in Pro Bowl votes

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

Amid all of the negatives surrounding the New York Jets this season, offensive tackle Mekhi Becton has been a positive. The rookie leads all AFC offensive tackles in Pro Bowl votes with 65,930 so far. That amount of votes is more than impressive, especially for a rookie, but how he got to this point is impressive as well.

Through the team’s 11 games, Becton has played in nine, starting eight. Additionally, he has been on the field for just 60% of the team’s offensive snaps. So, with playing just over half of the team’s snaps, leading the conference in Pro Bowl votes is astounding.

Offensive linemen are assessed, and voted for, based on a few statistical categories. These include penalties, sacks allowed, pass blocking and run blocking. Becton has been solid in reference to these, and every facet of his game, to say the least.

Penalties and sacks allowed

Becton has been extremely impressive when it comes to penalties, or lack thereof. With 407 snaps played, he has been called for just four penalties. That means he has been called for a penalty less than one percent of the time, 0.98% to be exact.

Those four penalties don’t rank him in the top-tier of offensive tackles in this category, but it’s impressive for a rookie.

He’ll have to continue to improve, as fellow rookie tackle Andrew Thomas has more snaps played, but fewer penalties, for the Giants. So, comparatively, penalties haven’t been his most impressive area. However, the small-enough amount of them is a welcomed sight.

As a team, the New York Jets have allowed 30 sacks thus far. Mekhi Becton has allowed 3 himself. That number isn’t fantastic, but it isn’t bad either.

Pass and run blocking

Penalties and sacks allowed are advanced stats that analysts look at, but in terms of on-the-field play, Becton’s blocking has been great. In fact, over the last two games specifically, against the Chargers and Dolphins, he has been outstanding. This is what he’s done over those games:

  • 72 pass-block snaps
  • 1 QB pressure allowed
  • 0 sacks

One word can summarize those numbers: great. Those are the numbers that aren’t necessarily realized while watching games but help show how dominant he can actually be.

When it comes to run blocking, Becton is perhaps even better. During games, the announcers seem to always be saying the Jets should “run behind big number 77.” When they do, they tend to get a positive gain of some kind. Becton’s ability to get the primary block, release, and get to the second level shows, and is a welcomed sight.

Here are some of his best block of the season thus far:

Overall, Mekhi Becton has been a very good player for the Jets this season. The rookie may very well be the best player on the team and is on his way to representing the Jets on the Pro Bowl roster, even if the game is only happening virtually in Madden 21.

4 players the New York Jets should be thankful for

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

Happy Thanksgiving, Jets fans! Unfortunately (maybe fortunately for our appetites) the Jets do not play today. At 0-10, the Jets are in the midst of one of their worst starts in franchise history.

Here are four New York Jets players to be thankful for:

Mekhi Becton LT

Mekhi Becton has been the biggest bright spot for the Jets this season. The eleventh overall pick has broken out immediately and asserted himself as one of the top tackles in the league.

Becton is already leading the Pro Bowl votes for offensive tackles. Becton has been an absolute force this season with a PFF grade of 73.9 and easy handling of premier pass rushers like Joey and Nick Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Frank Clark, among others. Becton has emerged as a franchise left tackle throughout this season, and he provides a huge (literally) building block for the future. The Jets struck gold on Mt. Becton.

Braden Mann P

Braden Mann being selected was viewed by some as a curious pick in the 6th round when the Jets had such a need at receiver. However, the former college star has been a breakout piece. Now, purely off stats, Mann has a 44.8 average in terms of a yard per punt, which only ranks 19th in the league, but his sample size is the largest in the league at 50, which is an excessive amount for punters. With a floundering offense, Mann gets a lot of work, and the fact that as a rookie, he already is in the pro bowl consideration and being a consistent punter is very impressive. Special teams do matter, and the future for the Jets groups is all the brighter with Braden in it.

Denzel Mims WR

Denzel Mims was out for the first 6 games this season, despite that, he has broken out in a big way. Mims currently sits at 13 receptions for 217 yards, with an average of 16.7 yards per reception. He has averaged around 54.3 yards per game and been a consistent producer for the Jets with their QB issues. Mims has made some really spectacular catches, though, that have really opened eyes. His beautiful sideline catch against the Chargers Sunday was just another example of his phenomenal hands. What the Jets offense needs to do is maximize his catch radius and start throwing him more targets in the red zone. Despite missing time, Mims figures to still put up above-average numbers this season, and he figures to be a great piece for the future.

Quinnen Williams DT

Arguably the biggest breakout star of the Jets season is the former third overall pick, Quinnen Williams. Last season Williams had 28 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 TFLs, 6 QB Hits, and a FR. This season, in only 10 games, Williams has 34 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 7 TFLs, 7 QB Hits, and a FF. Williams has already exceeded his rookie campaign in only nine games that he has played in this season. Williams still has six games to continue to build onto his breakout season. Williams has displayed a real visible growth in his play as well. Last season he seemed a lot weaker and less developed. He still has a long way to go, but he has looked much quicker and more refined this season, and that is a huge thing to be thankful for in the trenches in the future.

New York Jets: What’s next for Mekhi Becton in 2020?

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

Mekhi Becton has an undeniable future with the New York Jets. But with injuries interrupting, what should they do upon returning?

A lot of uncertainty surrounds the 2020 New York Jets. Mekhi Becton is far from that firestorm.

For all the faults of the modern Jets (0-9), Becton is perhaps as far removed from the gridiron cesspool as one from New York possibly can. Chosen 11th in April’s draft, the blocker will forever go down as the first pick of the Joe Douglas era. Thus far, Becton has fulfilled the hype that caused Douglas and New York decisionmakers to pass on several high-profile receivers. He has earned positive reviews from both his teammates and the coaching staff. Becton recently went viral for a big block laid down in the Jets’ recent showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs, when he lifted the 260-pound defender Frank Clark off his feet in making a block.

“I don’t care who you are, he’s going to try to finish you,” running back Frank Gore said of Becton, per Rich Cimini of ESPN. “He’s an old-school lineman, a Larry Allen-type guy. Larry Allen, that’s a Hall of Famer. I don’t want to speak too fast because he’s a young player, but he’s got a chance to do special things.”

“With Mekhi, he’s so big, he’s so powerful,” head coach Adam Gase noted, per Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com. “Once he gets his momentum going and he has his hands on you, it’s hard to redirect and it’s hard to get off him.”

But even Becton isn’t fully immune to the Jets’ struggles. Injuries have taken their toll on Becton in the early going, including a chest injury in the early stages of Monday’s 30-27 loss to the New England Patriots. The ailment, which limited him to only 15 snaps in the nationally televised showdown, follows a shoulder injury sustained during the Week 3 defeat in Indianapolis. Just four days later, Becton was held out of the starting lineup in a Thursday night game against Denver but nonetheless dressed and entered the tilt when his replacement, sophomore Chuma Edoga, was lost to an injury of his own. Becton appeared to reinjure his shoulder against the Broncos and missed the Jets’ next two games entirely before returning for their home tilt against Buffalo in Week 7.

Heading into their bye, the Jets have been somewhat mum on Becton’s status moving forward, listing Becton as questionable after he visited the medical tent before going back to the locker room. Perhaps the best update has come from Becton himself, who mentioned that he was “good” and thanked fans for inquiring about his condition on Twitter.

But the Jets have an uncomfortable question…well, one of many uncomfortable questions that they’ll need to answer going forward: would they just be better off putting Becton in storage and waiting for happier times in 2021?

There are no indications that the Jets plan to make such a move, nor has Becton stated that he wants or would sit down the final seven games of this woebegone campaign. But there are certainly reasons why such an approach would be understandable.

Becton is perhaps far too great a competitor to buy into such a concept, but his injuries certainly give the Jets and their medical staff something to think about. The team already somewhat tempted fate by letting him into the Denver game, and this New England issue sounds somewhat more concerning.

According to head coach Adam Gase, Becton’s injury “caused him to have difficulty breathing”, per notes provided by the Jets.

“We went through all kinds of things to make sure that he was good,” Gase said. “Really at the end of the day, we decided not to put him back in the game, just making sure that he was okay. We were concerned that maybe there was something there we couldn’t figure out. We just wanted to make sure our trainers and doctors did everything they could to rule out any issues there. It’s no kind of muscle injury or anything like that, so we’ll take this next week to really kind of keep looking at that and hopefully get to a point where he’ll be ready to go for the next game.”

Gase didn’t want to play doctor but mentioned that the team medical staff didn’t say it was a lung or heart-related issue. He reiterated the team is “trying to put him in position to where he can play the next game”.

Becton is in a rare spot where his status in 2021, and likely beyond if he keeps playing at the current rate he’s created, is in no question. He’s one of the silver linings of this team and is ready to protect the franchise quarterback for years to come…be it Sam Darnold, Trevor Lawrence, or an unnamed third party.

There’s something tempting about giving Becton seven more consequence-free opportunities at game speed, just to truly hone his skills in his rookie campaign. But there have already been three occasions (Indianapolis, Denver, New England) where Becton has had to miss time due to injury. Sure, it’d be great for Becton to develop more chemistry with the offense…whoever sticks around for 2021, anyway…but at what point do you pull the plug on trying to salvage a lost season through him? When is the risk too great to keep the damage confined to this season alone?

Again, there’s no indication that any side has considered a Becton shutdown. If anything, Douglas indicated in comments made prior to Monday that his original draft pick wants to get in as many downs as possible before the year is out and that he wants to help the Jets put together anything that could be considered a positive or progress in 2020.

“He truly cares, and he truly wants to help,” Douglas said in notes provided by the Jets. “I think he is a player that is going to help us long-term. We’re excited about working with him every day, because you’re talking about a young man that loves football. He’s very smart, he’s tough as nails, and has a rare size and athleticism. And still, he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do physically. There’s a lot of desire from him to want to be the best player that he can be, so we’ve made it our mission to sort of bend over backwards to try to help him reach his goals.”

The Jets return to action on November 22 against on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The only players the New York Jets should not trade at the deadline

New York Jets, Quinnen Williams

The New York Jets have already been an active player in the trade deadline and the rumors surrounding it. Sitting at 0-7, the organization is not expected to be in contention any time soon, so with the opportunity to accumulate some draft capital before the end of the season, it is expected the Jets will continue to jump on those opportunities.

As for the guys the Jets should not answer calls on, well, there are not many. Still, the Jets should not answer calls on some of these key pieces for the future because not only are they building blocks, but they are guys who can draw in a new head coach.

LT Mekhi Becton

Becton has been a wild success to this point. He has been a mauler in the run game and been a reliable piece of the pass blocking attack as well. Joe Douglas said he would build this team through the trenches and this pick has become a key part of the offense already.

Whoever becomes the new head coach should take solace in knowing that the left tackle spot would be solidified with Becton. You can make the case that Becton still has a small sample size, but a quick look at the film shows that this monster of a man has been everything the Jets bargained for. A franchise left tackle could fetch serious draft capital, but it makes no sense to trade Becton or even entertain the idea.

DL Quinnen Williams

Quinnen may not be everything the Jets thought he would be when they picked him with the third selection, but he has stepped up mightily this year. This season in seven games and seven starts, Williams has 28 tackles, 5 TFLs, 3.0 sacks, and 1 FF. Those numbers have already exceeded his numbers from his rookie campaign, but that hasn’t been the impressive part.

Williams has shown a capability of dominance in bull rush scenarios as evidenced against guys like Trent Williams in San Francisco among others. Williams is still very young and he is only going to get better with time and a new coach. This is another guy who can be a building block in the trenches like Joe Douglas wants.

QB Sam Darnold

This is a controversial one. Darnold currently has a 58.4 completion percentage, 912 yards, 3 TDs, and 6 INTs. Darnold has also rushed for 117 yards and a TD this season. Those numbers are mediocre at best. Now, factors like Adam Gase, poor supporting cast, and injuries have really hurt his development. With Trevor Lawerence available and the team continues to lose, rumors have run rampant. Darnold deserves another shot, but maybe not in New York. Still, if Lawerence is on the board, the team must think long and hard about who gives them the best chance to win.

Honorable Mentions: Ashtyn Davis, Kyle Phillips, Bryce Huff, Cam Clark, LaMical Perine and Denzel Mims

All of these players provide examples of guys who hold a lot of long term value. The team is probably not going to field offers on these guys, but if they do, there is no reason to trade these guys when they have long term potential. The three guys above though are the ONLY guys the team should not trade unless they are wowed, and even then, Becton should still remain on the roster no matter the price.

New York Jets: Emergence of rookies provides incentive for hope and fight

The New York Jets’ draft class is making its way to the field. Their prescience should fuel the team and fans over a trying ten weeks.

Even when adhering to social distancing, autumn in New York…and New Jersey, for that matter…is blessed with enough open space that one has the luxury of choosing Sunday activities beyond football. Sure, it’s a time-honored tradition for many households in the metropolitan area, but with one of their teams seemingly destined for NFL infamy (and the other really isn’t much better), a healthier fall activity is strongly encouraged in these trying times.

After all, why raise your blood pressure? The New York Jets are 0-7, the lone winless team left in the NFL. They probably won’t be favored in any of their final nine games, and a 19.5 line against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) somehow seems like if too low. Even if the Jets somehow earn a win, they’ll lose, fall in the endeavor for Trevor (Lawrence) standings. Sure, tuning into the Kansas City showdown might go along with the theme of watching horror movies on Halloween weekend (with Le’Veon Bell perhaps playing the role of the threat back from the dead to wreak havoc), but there have to be better ways to spend one’s time in this area.

Perhaps the most brutal aspect…or merciful, depending on your point of view…of this most recent chapter of the Jets’ perpetual rebuild is the fact that none of these games appear to be truly close, their average margin of defeat coming by three possessions. No one said this was going to be the Jets’ season…even one of the extra wild card berths seemed like far too much to ask for…but they could at least provide hope for the future by giving opponents all they could handle and at least make the quest for the win difficult. Last week’s 18-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills’ might’ve fit the criteria of such a constructive defeat, but the Jets offset any good that might’ve emerged by earning a mere four yards in the second half…a figure made all the more depressing by the fact they earned a 13-yard rush on their first drive of the segment.

But, those who are dedicated to this team, those opt for, need the three-hour escape that is Jets football…salvation may be on the horizon.

The Jets’ final weeks may become football’s ultimate example of “trick or treat”. With this brutal 0-7 ledger, one that has the Jets further from the AFC playoff picture than driving from East Rutherford to Kansas City, a macabre gift arrives in the form of nine free weeks of research and development. Risks can be taken, assessments can be made…all in the name of playing relatively consequence-free football from a team standpoint.

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton
Credit: Joe McManus

It’s time for the Jets to unleash the rookies.

The modern New York draft class is a bit of an uncanny situation for general manager Joe Douglas. Overseeing his second full season with the team, Douglas is still working with his inaugural draft group obtained in April. Adding to the discomfort of the situation was the fact that the general manager was in an awkward position at 11th overall, one that gave the Jets a perfect opportunity to fill one of their most crucial needs: protection for Sam Darnold or get him a receiver. The fact the Jets had that many needs to fill with that single pick just goes to show where they were as a franchise. If Douglas satisfied one need, he would anger supporters of the other. It came to pass that when he opted to use the selection on Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, he passed on several talented receivers, such as Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, and CeeDee Lamb. For all intents and purposes, it seems like Douglas let the right one in with Becton (the same could probably be said about sixth-round punter Braden Mann) and he was able to whet the appetite of the pro-receiver crowd by opening the day two proceedings with the selection of Denzel Mims out of Baylor.

In typical Jets fashion, their 2020 draft class appears to be a star-crossed group, done in by factors both in and beyond their control. Injuries have plagued the class, Becton was controversially inserted into the Jets’ primetime game against Denver despite dealing with a shoulder issue suffered against Indianapolis a week prior. Mims injured both of his hamstrings and missed most of training camp, as did Jabari Zuniga. Even the Jets’ handling of their healthy rookies left something to be desired. With Bell injured and later released, the time seemed perfect to hand over the rushing reigns to touted fourth-round project La’Mical Perine, but the Florida alum has been forced to share carries, and even sit behind, a 37-year-old Frank Gore.

But rookie reinforcements are coming in. It’s time for the youth to revolt. These youngsters, even if it comes merely through the fact they’ve been dealt few snaps than their veteran compatriots, are the least guilty parties in the Jets’ early demise. It’s players like these that will shape the future and will be counted on to lead the potential glory days. Even if these players aren’t the answer, they deserve to at least get a chance to prove otherwise rather than sticking with veterans who clearly aren’t working. T

Such a strategy played in the Jets’ favor last Sunday. With offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains calling plays, Perine and Mims (making his NFL debut) earned extended opportunities. The receiver wound up being the Jets’ top aerial threat (42 yards on four receptions) while Perine (11 carries for 39 yards) wound up scoring the team’s only touchdown. They would unite on that play, as Mims’ crucial block afforded Perine the necessary yardage to give the Jets a short-lived 10-0 lead.

Speaking with Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com after the game, Perine expressed his excitement in taking the field with fellow premier picks Becton and Mims and seems quite keen for such endeavors to become more regular.

“It was great to see Mims out there just because he hasn’t been out there the whole season, he didn’t have a training camp. For him to be as confident as he was, I wasn’t surprised but it was just good to see. And Mekhi, he’s a great dude, a great player who’s always going to work hard and be the guy he is. They drafted him in the first round for a reason and he’s putting everybody on notice.”

Out of these darkest hours, a golden opportunity has emerged in the form of a silver lining. The Jets must wisely seize it while it’s still on the table.

Hand it off to Perine. Target plays for Mims as much as possible. Run to Becton’s side. Allow Zuniga an opportunity to rush the passer.

Some of these opportunities could well become necessities, as the Jets are dealing with several injuries leading into their dire deposition against Kansas City. For example, Ashtyn Davis could see a bigger role with Bradley McDougald down. It’s an opportunity that head coach Adam Gase has noticed. Developing talent in the rookie class could well be the last chance Gase has to truly save his position, if he’s not too far gone as is.

“I know (Douglas) is excited to see these guys play,” Gase said this week, per Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “We’ve been waiting. I think we were one week where it was like Perine might have been the only guy that was available, and that’s frustrating because we really like this draft class and we feel like these guys can help us a lot. For us to have injuries or whatever it’s been at the beginning of the year, to get all these guys out there that’s a step in the right direction.”

The Jets season, or what’s left of it, is going to be a draft no matter what lies ahead. One of the few ways to prevent this endeavor from truly becoming a waste is to prepare for the future…in the dreary present.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags