The New York Jets have been leaving the Adam Gase/Gregg Williams era behind, but these defensive staples might be worth keeping around.
The New York Jets have taken spring cleaning to a new level this offseason.
A purge of the Adam Gase era unofficially began during his ill-fated second season, when a de facto fire sale ended the green careers of Le’Veon Bell, Avery Williamson, and future Super Bowl champion Steve McLendon. Gase himself was let go after an unceremonious 32 games, taking almost all of his coaching staff with him. Several big names from the era were likewise sent elsewhere, the further departures headlined by the trade of franchise quarterback Sam Darnold to Carolina. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins, the longest-tenured member of the team, absconded for Houston via free agency.
But not all remnants of the Gase era have been condemned to seek employment elsewhere. Marcus Maye, a former Gregg Williams pupil, was bestowed the franchise tag. Offensive representatives like Vyncint Smith and Daniel Brown, the latter’s signing announced yesterday, are likewise back for more. Ten former Jets currently remain on the open market.
Should anyone else be welcomed back? ESM has a couple of ideas in mind…
LB Neville Hewitt
The signer of three consecutive one-year deals, Hewitt has been one of the Jets’ undisputed defensive leaders. Formerly of the Dolphins and the Marshall Thundering Herd, Hewitt has earned 161 solo takedowns (13 for a loss) over the last three years. He has thus established himself as one of the more reliable depth defenders in the league and could help the team find a sense of veteran leadership with young help presumably coming through the draft.
The Jets’ linebacking corps has been racked by disaster, whether it’s through big-ticket disappointments (Darron Lee) or abysmal luck on the medical front (C.J. Mosley, Blake Cashman). Hewitt is likely seeking some more stable, but if the Jets are looking for a reliable depth option, they shouldn’t hesitate to offer Hewitt something longer. His passable skills on both pass rush and coverage could help soothe Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s expected implementation of a 4-3 set.
CB Brian Poole
Poole has built a solid NFL career after going undrafted out of Florida. But he has had apparent difficulty finding work after partaking in a career-low nine games due to shoulder and knee issues. He was one of the Jets’ more consistent defenders during the 2019 campaign and even appeared in Pro Football Focus’ Top 25 cornerbacks list at the end of the regular season. The former Atlanta Falcon was the highest-ranked slot specialist on that list, praised for his work in the nickel.
Bringing back Poole would provide an experienced secondary defender for a group that needs depth and guidance. Young projects like Bless Austin and Bryce Hall, each emerging as day three gems from the most recent drafts, are expected to take starring roles in Ulbrich’s new defense. Poole also holds championship experience, a trait the Jets have appeared to value if their signings from elsewhere are any indication. He was a part of Atlanta’s ill-fated trip to Super Bowl LI and had a game-high seven tackles in the NFC title game win over Green Bay.
It’s surprising that Poole has lasted this long on the open market. The Jets should take advantage before it’s too late.
New head coach Robert Saleh has plenty of questions to address when it comes to the New York Jets’ linebacking corps.
The Position: Linebacker On the Roster: C.J. Mosley, Blake Cashman, Sharif Finch, John Daka Free Agents: Jordan Jenkins, Tarell Basham, Neville Hewitt, Patrick Onwuasor, Harvey Langi, Bryce Hager, Frankie Luvu Reserve/Future: Noah Dawkins
The world was a lot different this time a year ago, unaware of the upheaval and interruption to daily life that 2020 was going to bring. It obviously pales in comparison to other items affected by the past year’s propensity for chaos, but the New York Jets’ situation at linebacker seemed to be trending in the right direction.
C.J. Mosley seemed destined to come back after an impressive debut in Week 1 of 2019, a year mostly most due to injury. Avery Williamson was establishing himself as a leader. Jordan Jenkins, fresh off a career-best eight sacks, was brought back on an affordable one-year deal at just under $4 million. Depth options Neville Hewitt and Blake Cashman were also returning through a new contract and new health respectively. The unit appeared to be trending in the right direction.
But things have drastically changed over the past year, with calamities brought on by both external sources and problems on the homefront leaving the linebacker corps in relative shambles. Mosley (understandably) opted out of the 2020 season due to the ongoing health crisis. Williamson was part of the Jets’ in-season fire sale in a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jenkins failed to build on the last two seasons and ended up injured reserve with Cashman, who was limited to three defensive snaps by another injury. Hope did emerge in the form of Tarell Basham, who set career-bests in a contract year, but nothing that would truly solidify the Jets’ outlook.
Joining the Jets as defensive coordinator is Jeff Ulbrich, a decade-long linebacker in San Francisco fresh off a defensive coordinator stint under Raheem Morris’ brief watch in Atlanta. Both he and head coach Robert Saleh (having overseen linebackers in Jacksonville for three seasons) have their work cut out for them as they seek to gain clarity on a team in upheaval.
Basham took the most of extended opportunities, setting new career-bests in tackles (36), quarterback hits (13), and sacks (13). He notably served as the main catalyst behind the Jets’ Week 16 win over playoff-participant Cleveland, forcing two fumbles of Baker Mayfield late in the game. At the right price, Basham can serve as a veteran, situational pass rusher.
Mostly working on special teams, injuries forced the veteran Hager to start the final two games of the season at linebacker, earning credit for half-a-sack (the first of his six-year career) in the season finale in New England. Brant Boyer’s return could grant him at least a camp opportunity.
Over the past three seasons, Hewitt has established himself as a very reliable depth option in green. Hewitt started all 16 games for the first time in his career last season, leading the Jets with 91 solo tackles (fourth in the NFL). While Hewitt has more than earned a new contract in New York, his strong showings off the bench may lead him to seek more permanent starting roles in a new locale.
Jenkins’ $3.75 million deal was seen as a steal, especially for a guy that earned 15 sacks over the prior two seasons. But subsequent shoulder issues stifled his 2020 endeavors, causing him to miss four games and earn only two sacks. Fresh off surgery, the Jets will probably let him walk, unless Saleh and Ulbrich view him as a veteran reclaimation project.
#Jets’ LB Harvey Langi (#44) whiffed on sacking Cam Newton TWICE, ended up on the turf, got back up, and still made the tackle 15 yards downfield.
A restrcited free agent, Langi was another backer who enjoyed career-best number after taking over for fallen comrades (60 tackles) before landing on injured reserve himself. His familiarity with the Jets’ special team works could certainly afford him a new opportunity.
Luvu has turned himself into a bit of a fan favorite over the past few preseasons, earning a roster spot through his tenacious pass rushing from the fringe. As an exlusive rights free agent, Luvu will probably gain another chance this summer in camp.
Injuries limited Onwuasor to a mere single game and eight snaps last season…none of which came on defense. The former Raven could get another chance in New York if the team wants to keep some veteran guidance in tow.
Will They Draft?
Depends on what the Jets glean from a sizably talented free agency class, but with so many potential departures, they’ll certainly do their due dilligence this offseason. The threat of seeing multi-talented quarterbacks like Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa (who could become Deshaun Watson if Miami convinces the Texans to bargain), outside edge help would likely be the way to go. It’s unlikely that the Jets will use the No. 2 pick on a linebacker, but options with the late first from Seattle could include Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah or versatile Zaven Collins out of Tulsa.
Matt Judon, Baltimore
Through Mosley and Onwuasor, it appears the Jets have studied the Ravens’ linebackers extensively. It’s possible they could return to Baltimore’s fountain of defensive prowess through Judon, who will likely be the most-sought after linebacker prospect on the free agent front. They could go after Yannick Ngakoue again, but considering Baltimore sent over two picks to get him, they’ll likely be all-in on his re-signing, leaving Judon to test the open market (especially with only one franchise tag). At 28, Judon has plenty left in the tank and can give the young Jets a taste of success. The cap hit (over $16 million in Baltimore last season) could scare some suitors off, but Jets certainly have the funds available.
De’Vondre Campbell, Arizona
A former fourth-round pick out of Minnesota, Campbell got his start under Ulbrich in Atlanta. Prior to Campbell’s departure for the Cardinals last offseason, Ulbrich discussed his appreciation for Campbell and just how personal their relationship grew during their shared time with the Falcons.
“He’s a guy where my daughter watches his kids, babysits his kids and we have a deep connection in that way,” Ulbrich said last March, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “To see him grow as a player and as a man, it’s a guy that I would love to continue on with.”
With Campbell hitting free agency again, Ulbrich may have a chance to reopen that opportunity.
Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay’s defense, one fresh off stifling the mighty Chiefs in the Super Bowl, is young enough that they could be poised to be a problem for a long time. But Barrett can be the threat off the edge the Jets have been seeking for a long time, a role he filled in brilliantly during Tampa’s championship run. Barrett can be particularly dangerous in the 4-3 set that Saleh desires.
The Jets have some big decisions to make at linebacker, a vital spot with defenseive masters Saleh and Ulbrich taking over. There’s certainly some changes to make in this area with so many names up for free agency. Focus has previously centered on offense, but the Jets have the necessary cap room (and could gain more with some releases) to make a play at some of the big names on the linebacking front. Either way, the relative stability they felt at the end of the 2019 toward the group seems like an attainable, if not vital, goal.
The New York Jets snatched defeat from the clutches of victory, as a long, late touchdown doomed them to an 0-12 fate.
The masochistic cult of New York Jets tanking efforts enjoyed an early holiday present in the late stages of Sunday’s action.
Derek Carr’s 46-yard touchdown pass with five seconds to go landed safely in the hands of Henry Ruggs, whose go-ahead touchdown gave the Las Vegas Raiders a 31-28 victory over the Jets at MetLife Stadium. Carr and Ruggs’ late-game heroics doomed the Jets to an 0-12 record, though they took another step toward securing the top overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Despite the loss, the Jets tallied a season-best 376 yards of offense and enjoyed a stellar rushing day from Ty Johnson and Josh Adams, who united for 178 yards on the ground after Frank Gore left the game with a concussion.
ESM has a trio of game balls to dispense in valiant, but short, effort…
Perhaps it says more about the modern Jets than it does about the veteran linebacker, but Hewitt has been one of the Jets’ most consistent contributors over the past three seasons. He has established himself as a strong depth option, and this has proven to be no exception. Hewitt has taken on a veteran leadership role as injuries continue to eat away at the secondary, and he rose to the occasion with 12 tackles and a sack of Carr. The tanking concept is completely irrelevant to guys like Hewitt, who might be playing for a long-term deal after joining the Jets on three separate single-year contracts.
As Jets fans clamor for the Endeavor for Trevor (Lawrence), Darnold made it clear on Sunday that he’s not going to relinquish his hold on the team’s franchise quarterback spot without a fight. His turnover problem (three on Sunday) continued to surfac, but he nonetheless came up big in leading the Jets back from a 24-13 fourth quarter deficit. Darnold also found Jamison Crowder for a pair of touchdown passes in the first half. These final hours will be crucial for Darnold to prove that he can still be the man of the future, perhaps under a new coaching staff. After all, the draft doesn’t begin or end with Lawrence or Justin Fields. Penei Sewell would perhaps be a strong blocking option in a high posting.
Johnson made New York Jets history on Sunday, earning the first triple-digit rushing yard game since Isaiah Crowell put up 219 against the Denver Broncos in October 2018. Claimed off waivers from Detroit earlier this fall, Johnson came up big when Gore was evaluated for a concussion. His 104 yards were a career-high since joining the league as a sixth-round pick out of Maryland last season, and he scored what probably should’ve been the game-winning touchdown just past the midway mark of the fourth quarter. If Gore is out for the remainder of the year, the development of Johnson and Adams (74 yards) should be an intriguing subplot to keep an eye on.
Sam Darnold returned to the field, but the New York Jets’ offensive spark did not, as they fell without a touchdown to the Miami Dolphins.
A relic of the New York Jets’ past put them one step closer toward their future.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 257 yards and two touchdown passes, guiding his Miami Dolphins to a 20-3 victory over the Jets on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. New York (0-11) welcomed back Sam Darnold to their lineup, but he failed to keep the offensive progress rolling, throwing two interceptions and only 197 yards in defeat. Miami (7-4), on the other hand, kept pace in the AFC wild card hunt, staying a game behind Buffalo for the division lead and gaining ground on the fallen Las Vegas Raiders in the wild car chase.
ESM does have some game ball to dispense for the Jets, mostly coming from the defensive side of things after yet another defeat…
The Jets’ future with Darnold looks a bit murky, but it’s abundantly clear that Mims has a bright future with this franchise. In the third of what could be dwindling opportunities with the current Jets thrower, Mims earned 67 yards on a quartet of receptions, the primary tally being a 30-yard gain that mostly consisted of yardage after the catch, a gain that brought the Jets out of the shadow of their own goalposts. If the Jets could earn Mims his first 100-yard day and his first NFL touchdown, that just might be enough to call this dreary final stretch a success.
A case against tanking comes in the form of Hewitt, who may be the type of player trying to impress both the Jets and other teams moving forward. Hewitt has risen to the occasion over the past three seasons as a reliable depth option, duplicating that process on Sunday against Miami. He gave the Jets some hope in the third quarter with a strip-sack of Fitzpatrick that situated the Jets in Miami territory. Hewitt has signed one-year deals with the Jets in each of the past two offseasons; he’s currently working his way toward a third…and possibly even longer.
Despite a year from the depths of the football underworld, Williams has taken a major step forward after a difficult season. He was perhaps in the Miami backfield more often than some Dolphin running backs on Sunday, earning a sack of Fitzpatrick and forcing a Matt Breida fumble that set up yet another failed opportunity for the offense. Williams also had a pair of pass breakups in defeat. Not only can the Jets be pleased with his development in a lost year, as Williams is one of the few Jets taking advantage of a season where there’s nothing to lose, but he’s starting to build a bit of a Pro Bowl case as well.
The Jets return to action next Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
New York Jets LB Neville Hewitt has worked mostly as a reserve, but the defender has come up big at certain points of his football career.
Neville Hewitt is used to his football jersey carrying shades of green. It began with the Thundering Herd of Marshall, where he earned Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2014. Such an honor failed to lead to a phone call during the NFL Draft. But Hewitt has since been carving a solid career for himself in the NFL.
Hewitt turns 27 on Monday, and he’ll have extra cash to spend courtesy of the New York Jets. The reserve linebacker was signed to a one-year, $2 million dollar earlier this offseason, welcoming him back for a third Jets season.
While Hewitt has mostly come off the bench, he has proven himself valuable on several occasions. In honor of Hewitt’s big day, we look back on the best moments of his NFL career to date…
12/17/16: Miami Nice
One of Hewitt’s first big NFL moments came at a Jets game at MetLife Stadium under the supervision of Adam Gase. But Hewitt wasn’t a member of the Jets just yet…he, Gase, and the Miami Dolphins were wrapping up the team’s first winning season since 2008 in a Saturday night showdown in East Rutherford.
In the final stages of the third quarter, Hewitt earned his first NFL sack, part of a five-tackle evening. Short-lived Jets starter Bryce Petty was the victim, and Miami took the game by a 34-13 final. They would earn a wild-card playoff berth with an overtime win over Buffalo the week after.
12/9/18: Hew Era Field
After three years in Miami, Hewitt joined the Jets in March 2018. Reps as a reserve and as a special teamer awaited him, but Hewitt was pressed into starting when calamities hit the linebacking group (i.e. a season-ending suspension to Darron Lee). Hewitt’s first Jets start came in a visit to Buffalo.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen tried to pick on Hewitt, throwing to his assignments nine times. Only three made it to their target, and Hewitt also tied for the team lead with eight tackles. He and Henry Anderson also united for a sack on Allen, one that helped stall a Buffalo drive in Jets territory. The Jets wound up winning the game 27-23.
12/23/18: Invading Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood
Hewitt had no problem working overtime for Christmas…or, at least, for Festivus. He wound up partaking in every single snap in the Jets’ 44-38 overtime defeat at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.
Despite the loss, Hewitt created a solid showcase. He tied a career-best with nine tackles and earned the first solo sack of his Jets career with a takedown of Aaron Rodgers. The star quarterback was forced into several other throwaways thanks to Hewitt pressure, but nonetheless got knocked down three separate times.
9/8/19: Just Joshin’
When will Josh Allen learn? Perhaps Hewitt heroics too often come in Jets losses, but the linebacker certainly played a role in the effort to prevent a 17-16 loss to the Bills on opening weekend last year by victimizing the Bills’ franchise man again.
Allen only targeted Hewitt assignments on four occasions this time around, but the defender made him pay on one such chance. His interception of Allen in the late stages of the second quarter gave the Jets a chance to build a two-possession lead just before halftime. Alas, Kaare Vedvik let Hewitt’s gift go to waste by missing a 44-yard attempt, one of the biggest differences in the narrow defeat.
Hewitt’s robbery was the second interception of his career. As a rookie Dolphin, he earned his first turnover with an interception of Tony Romo during a November 2015 tilt against Dallas.
11/17/19: Rude Washington Welcome
Interconference play seems to bring out the best in Hewitt. He set a new career-best with 11 tackles against Philadelphia in October, but he had a deadlier surprise in store for the Washington Redskins when the Jets hit up FedExField just over a month later.
A dire matchup between teams with a combined three wins was at least partly anticipated for one occasion. First-round pick Dwayne Haskins, the latest in an endless line of Washington franchise saviors, was making his first Landover start. Hewitt was happy to issue the first interception-induced home groans, as it was he that was responsible for Haskins’ first turnover on his new stomping grounds. It was one of several fireworks the Jets enjoyed in a 34-17 win, one that helped spark a 6-2 streak to end the 2019 season.
The New York Jets have signed ILB Patrick Onwuasor. Onwuasor has started 31 games in the past three years for the Baltimore Ravens. Onwuasor was seemingly the man who would take over for C.J. Mosley when he joined us last offseason. After playing 14 games and only starting 6, it was apparent that Onwuasor is better suited as a situational linebacker. Now he joins the New York Jets and will fit right into Gregg Williams’s defense.
How does he fit?
Onwuasor is a unique inside linebacker. He’s good against the run but a very below average coverage guy. He shines when he blitzes. Last season he had 3.0 sacks, 5 TFLs, and 6 QB Hits. He is a very good situational guy. Where Hewitt, Burgess, and Cashman can be depth pieces to fill in for Willamson and Mosley if they go down again, Onwuasor can be used in a multitude of scenarios.
Onwuasor can provide an inside pass rush, and that ability is something the Jets could use. Jordan Jenkins and Jamal Adams were their lead pass rushers last year. Jamal is a phenomenal player, so he often takes up double teams when he blitzes. Now Onwuasor can come in, in those situations, and capitalize off those double teams with a stable inside pass rush that could see him produce solid numbers. He is definitely a unique signing, but he will likely be a guy Gregg Williams has a lot of fun with this upcoming season.
What’s Next For Defense?
The Jets still need to improve their edge rush. Although they resigned Jordan Jenkins and will likely pick at least one edge rusher, the spot still could use a few more guys. Vinny Curry is a guy the Jets have targeted to bring a situational edge presence. The Jets could also still target Jadeveon Clowney, but it seems unlikely.
As for inside linebacker, the Jets are now loaded with talent. Mosley is the number one guy, Willamson is a talented number two. Burgess and Hewitt showed flashes of real production last year, and Cashman was a solid special teamer. With that said, Williamson would save the Jets some money if he was cut or traded, although he’s a fan favorite, with so much depth at inside linebacker, you have to wonder if his days are numbered.
The New York Jets’ free agent spending spree continues over the weekend, as the team added another lineman and welcomed back a defender.
The New York Jets have continued to adjust their roster over the weekend. New York has agreed to terms with offensive lineman Josh Andrews and has re-signed linebacker Neville Hewitt.
Agent Brett Tessler confirmed that Andrews would sign with the Jets.
Happy to announce that G/C Josh Andrews is signing with the New York Jets… 6-year vet spent his first four years with the Philadelphia Eagles and the last two with the Colts. He's excited about the opportunity to reunite with GM Joe Douglas in NY.
Andrews, a six-year NFL veteran, will reunite with Jets general manager Joe Douglas. It was Douglas, then the Vice President of Player Personnel with the Philadelphia Eagles, that helped give Andrews his first NFL opportunity. Andrews partook in two different tenures with the Eagles, first from 2014 through 2017 and then a stretch on their practice squad last season. Each of them partook in the Eagles’ victorious trek to Super Bowl LII.
The signing of Andrews appears to be one for depth. A Los Angeles native and Oregon State alum, Douglas has played 98 regular season snaps in his NFL career, including a career-high 61 with the Indianapolis Colts last season.
Andrews is the latest newcomer to the Jets’ offensive line, as the team previously added George Fant from Seattle and Connor McGovern from Denver. The team also brought back lineman Alex Lewis after acquiring him from Baltimore in a trade last summer.
Meanwhile, the Jets also opted to welcome back the veteran linebacker Hewitt, who is set to play his third year with the team. Hewitt set new career-highs with 75 tackles, five pass, deflections, three sacks, and two interceptions.
Formerly of the Miami Dolphins, Hewitt has risen to the occasion when injuries struck the defense over the past two seasons. He has put up 124 tackles and 4.5 sacks over his Jets career, which began when they signed him in March 2018.
Other Jets linebackers still up for free agency include Jordan Jenkins and Paul Worrilow.
Before this season even began and injuries bit the team incredibly hard. One injury started it all, that was the injury of Avery Willamson. Avery and C.J. Mosley were going to take the league by storm and become an elite linebacking duo. When Williamson went down for the season it immediately created a void someone would have to attempt to fill. That man surprisingly has become Neville Hewitt.
Background on Neville Hewitt
A former linebacker at Marshall University, Neville Hewitt broke into the league with a chip on his shoulder. That only grew when he went undrafted. Then Hewitt signed with the Miami Dolphins. Hewitt was mostly a rotational guy with some starting minutes for Miami. He wanted to explore other opportunities and he got the opportunity to just did that when he signed with the Jets.
His Career Prior To This Season
In his first season with Miami, he had 32 tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 QB Hit, 1 INT and 3 pass deflections. In his second season, he saw even more playing time and had a great season. He had 57 tackles, 4 TFLs, 1 QB Hit, 1.0 Sacks, 1 FR, and 1 Pass Deflection. Then despite his success in his first two seasons, he saw minimal playing time in his 3rd season. Then last season with the Jets he had 39 tackles, 1.5 Sacks, 1 TFL, 4 QB Hits and he started 4 games.
Breaking Out Filling In For Avery Williamson
Now, filling in for Avery Williamson, Neville Hewitt has broken out in a big way. He’s started all 3 games this season and has 18 Tackles, 3 TFLs, 2.0 Sacks, 2 Pass Deflections and an INT. Hewitt has become a leader and a big force this season. Hewitt has become one of the best moves of the old regime and when Mosley returns it may even free him up more. Hewitt has come alive and he still has 13 games to continue to impress.