New York Jets schedule: Why Week 2 looms particularly large

National eyes have turned to the New York Jets’ opening matchup in Charlotte, but the home opener against New England will be a true test.

For all its flaws, the NFL status as a genius marketing behemoth cannot be denied.

Its draft is no longer two days in April expanding into a year-round process, a major tenet of which involves a lot of Indianapolis-based spandex and bench presses. Preseason games whose box scores are immediately scorched when the clock hits all zeroes get ratings are given national priority alongside late-season baseball games.

Perhaps the most obvious sign of the NFL’s stranglehold on the American imagination is the release of its annual schedule. The question of “who” yields no surprises…14 of a given team’s 17 opponents are predetermined years in advance and 17 are solidified by the end of final week action…but the question of “when”, the mere attachment of times and dates to these matchups, causes We the People to lose our collective minds. Playoff races in basketball and hockey are cast aside on national highlights show to debate whether the Chicago Bears deserved the Thanksgiving treatment.

Despite the relative lack of surprises, the New York Jets did learn some intriguing info. Though bereft of prime time games, save for a November Thursday night’s excursion to Indianapolis, the Jets will nonetheless study abroad in London, facing off with Atlanta in October. But the matchup everyone’s talking about comes in the Jets’ Week 1 visit to Charlotte to battle the Carolina Panthers.

By now, everyone knows what’s at stake at Bank of America Stadium come September 12: the hope of the Jets’ present and future meets the ghost of all-too-recent football past in the form of Sam Darnold (and Robby Anderson, among others). Despite the combatants carrying over a combined six wins from 2020, many have pegged the interconference showdown as one of the most anticipated get-togethers of opening weekend.

Opening with Carolina works from a Jets perspective in the sense that they can remove Darnold from their list of early “distractions” and carry on with the rest of what’s sure to be a developmental year. But, to that end, their home opener in Week 2 may loom even larger.

For their 2021 home opener, the Jets will welcome the New England Patriots into East Rutherford for the first of their yearly pair. What happens for those precious three hours at MetLife Stadium could well set a permanent tone for what the Jets’ leadership triumvirate of Joe Douglas, Woody Johnson, and Robert Saleh are trying to build.

Put aside the fact that three Presidents of the United States have held office and 11 Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been released since the Jets have emerged victorious from a showdown with the Patriots. Zach Wilson’s presumed home opener will mean everything to a Jets team that must do everything in its power to get started on the right note.

It might feel like an eternity since the Jets had a winning record, but one only has to flashback to September 2018. A 48-17 win over the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football had the fanbase buzzing. The fact that Sam Darnold’s first NFL pass was a pick-six was offset by a strong defensive effort (five turnovers) and the run game run up 179 on the ground. Darnold even made up for his early gaffe with two touchdown tosses in the dominant effort.

However, things came to a crashing halt in the MetLife Stadium opener against Miami. Facing off against future boss Adam Gase, the Jets surrendered the first 20 points before making things somewhat respectable late in a 20-12 loss. It was a sloppy game whose final score was nowhere near indicative of just how one-sided it was.

Now, the Darnold/Gase era didn’t falter solely because they lost to the Dolphins in Week 2 of the former’s rookie campaign. But, in hindsight, it served as perfect foreshadowing of the struggles to come: they turned the ball over three times, saw their rushing protection fall to 41 yards on 17 attempts, and allowed Darnold to get sacked three times. Penalties were prevalent, with the Jets losing 50 yards on seven infractions. Three resulted in Miami’s first downs and a particularly embarrassing sequence

The Jets are still trying to pick up the pieces to this day. That loss signaled the beginning of the end of the Todd Bowles era, mustering a mere three wins after that before he was let go at the end of his third season at the helm. It placed the Jets on a collision course with the disastrous Gase era, a period whose strongest yield was probably the fact it led the hiring of a sound football mind like Saleh, whose arrival has garnered praise both domestically and abroad.

Miami was merely a microcosm of what was to come under Darnold, as it highlighted the issues that would plague his star-crossed New York career. Of the ten starting men that suited up for the Jets that afternoon, only one other (Chris Herndon) was on the team in 2020. The Dolphins were credited with only three sacks of Darnold, but he was nonetheless forced to run for his life, to the tune of five other quarterback takedowns.

Negligence on both the offensive line (featuring only one player chosen within the first day of the draft, the former Seattle Seahawk James Carpenter) and run game (Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell) was a hint of things to come. Current management has seen to counter these issues, using first-round choices (Mehki Becton/Alijah Vera-Tucker) to protect Wilson and bolstering the run game with a stopgap rusher who has been a vital cog in Super Bowl runs (Tevin Coleman).

This season’s home opener is also going to take on a special meaning. Improvements have been discussed ad nauseam but MetLife Stadium will be packed to the brim with fans for a Jets game for the first time since December 2019. We, the football-loving people, have been through a lot over the past year-plus. Fans of the Jets and 13 other NFL teams were denied the simple pleasure of spending Sunday in a parking lot, surrounded by 80,000 of their new best friends. With restrictions loosening across the country, it feels (knock on wood) like it’s only a matter of time before all 30 NFL facilities get the go-ahead to pack the house. No matter the result that day, the first spelling of Jets will be downright emotional.

A brilliant tone can be set for the team moving forward, or another distressing sign of things to come could emerge. What the Jets do in these early hours will mean the world.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets to open season against a familiar face

The New York Jets‘ Week 1 game has finally been released and it should be an interesting one. On Sept. 12, the Jets will travel to Carolina to face Sam Darnold and the Panthers.

Sam Darnold, who was dealt to Carolina after a subpar three seasons in New York, will be getting an early chance to show what they moved on from. For the Jets and Zach Wilson, it’ll be an early chance for them to show why they moved in a new direction.

Darnold isn’t the only former Jet on the Panthers’ roster, though. They also have WR Robby Anderson, S Justin Burris, OL Pat Elflein, RB Trenton Cannon and LB Frankie Luvu on their team.

As for New York, new additions on offense, including WR’s Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, will look to make it a better day for Zach Wilson than Sam Darnold.

The Jets haven’t defeated the Panthers since 2001, winning 13-12. However, they have been good recently in road openers, winning four of their last six. They’ll look to make that five of their last seven.

New HC Robert Saleh will look to start his era with a win on the road, and what better way to start than against the former “franchise quarterback.”

Facts and figures of the 2021 New York Jets schedule

As the 2021 NFL schedule leaks out, ESM has facts and figures for every happening involving the New York Jets.

As the New York Jets’ schedule emerges, ESM has everything you need to know about their 2021 slate…

(All times ET and subject to change for Weeks 5-17) 

Week 1: 9/12 @ Carolina

1 p.m. ET, CBS/Paramount+ 

Revenge is a dish potentially served early for Sam Darnold, as he won’t have to wait long to see his former employers. Darnold won’t be the only bearer of green involved in this Week 1 tilt, as other ex-Jets on the Carolina roster include Robby Anderson, Pat Elflein, Juston Burris, and Frankie Luvu. This marks the Jets’ first visit to Charlotte since 2013, and they’re 1-3 all-time at the establishment now known as Bank of America Stadium (the lone win coming in 2001). The Jets’ last two openers came against the Buffalo Bills and they open with an NFC opponent for the first since 2018 (a 48-17 win in Detroit).

Week 2: 9/19 vs. New England 

1: p.m. ET, CBS/Paramount+

The East Rutherford edition of the annual Jets-Patriots pair was part of ESPN’s Monday Night Football package in each of the last two seasons but shifts back to an early afternoon slot. Time will tell if it’s a matchup between first-round quarterbacks Zach Wilson and Mac Jones, but the Jets will still have plenty to play for. They haven’t beaten the Patriots since the 2015 overtime thriller in East Rutherford. Their last win over New England in regulation came in the Patriots’ first visit in 2010.

Week 3: 9/26 @ Denver

4:05 p.m. ET, CBS/Paramount+

The Jets’ furthest trip out west…as well as their lone scheduled game in the Sunday late afternoon timeslot…is a trip to the Mile High City. This will mark the fourth get-together between the Jets and Broncos over the last five seasons, the last two coming in East Rutherford. New York will likely look to avenge a 37-28 defeat suffered in an October edition of Thursday Night Football.

Week 4: 9/26 vs. Tennessee

1 p.m. ET, CBS/Paramount+

The first of six meetings against playoff participants comes in Week 4 against the Titans. While Mike Vrabel has had his share of success against the Jets (13-4 as a player, 1-0 as a coach), but the Jets have had the better of this series since the Titans left Houston behind, currently holding a 7-4 lead. Tennessee will visit East Rutherford for a Jets game for the first time since 2015, a 30-8 Jets win. Incoming receiver Corey Davis will face off against his former comrades for the first time.

Week 5: 10/10 vs. Atlanta (@ London)

9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network

The Jets will play their third regular season game beyond United States soil, previously topping Buffalo in Toronto in 2009 and Miami in London in 2015. They’ll serve as the road team in a game against the Atlanta Falcons, who will appear in their first international game since 2014. Atlanta is coming off a four-win season but enjoyed a significant offensive boost through the selection of Florida tight Kyle Pitts with the fourth pick of the recent draft. The game will be staged at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, home of the eponymous English Premier League team.

Week 7: 10/24 @ New England

1 p.m. ET, CBS/Paramount+

Granted the traditional bye after an international game, the Jets will have an extra week to prepare for the house of horrors that is Gillette Stadium. They’ll need all the help they can get, as they haven’t won a regular season game in Foxboro since 2008. In fact, the last one-possession game they had against New England on the road came back in 2015.

Week 8: 10/31 vs. Cincinnati 

1 p.m. ET, CBS/Paramount+

It’s probably appropriate that the Jets’ meeting with the Bengals comes on Halloween, as things turned horrifying the last time they met in 2019 through New York’s 22-6 loss to their 0-11 hosts at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati has won each of the last three meetings, dating back to 2013. If anything, this should be one of the more intriguing matchups in recent memory, as it will feature two recent first-round quarterbacks, Wilson and Joe Burrow, doing battle for the first time.

Week 9: 11/4 @ Indianapolis 

8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network/Amazon Prime

The loss of Sma Darnold, whose Jets career indirectly began with a trade between the Jets and Colts, perhaps dims the luster a bit, but that didn’t stop the powers that be at Thursday Night Football from scheduling this indirect matchup between former Philadelphia Eagles. After all, Joe Douglas was in the front office when the future Super Bowl champions drafted current Colt Carson Wentz with the second overall pick in 2016. The Jets will also be looking to avenge a 36-7 defeat at the hands of the Colts last year and end their bad luck on Thursday night, having lost each of their last three appearances.

Week 10: 11/14 vs. Buffalo

1 p.m. ET, CBS/Paramount+

The Jets are coming off their first sweep at the hands of the defending AFC finalist Bills since 2015. Even more shocking, they’ve lost three in a row at home, dating back to a 41-10 shellacking engineered by Matt Barkley.

Week 11: 11/21 vs. Miami

1 p.m. ET, CBS/Paramount+

New York will be looking to solve their problems against the Dolphins: Miami has swept the Jets in three of the last five seasons and they mustered only a single field goal against them last season (coming in a 20-3 loss in East Rutherford). Making these matchups all the more crucial? AFC East bragging rights. The Dolphins’ sweep created a 55-55-1 tie in the all-time series.

Week 12: 11/28 @ Houston

1 p.m. ET, CBS/Paramount+

Not too long, the idea of Deshaun Watson donning a Jets uniform seemed rather realistic. Several months later, there’s doubt that Watson, continuing to deal with sexual assault allegations, will even suit up for the 2021 season. The Jets have lost each of their last three meetings with the Texans (including the last visit to Houston in 2015), their last triumph coming in November 2010. This game is a bit of a homecoming for head coach Robert Saleh, who served in a variety of Houston defensive roles for six seasons (2005-10).

Week 13: 12/5 vs. Philadelphia

1 p.m. ET, CBS/Paramount+

The NFL’s new 17th game procedures moved up what was a quadrennial matchup between these green foes, but the Jets probably wouldn’t have minded waiting until 2023 to see the Eagles again. Philadelphia has been anything but sunny from a Jets standpoint, as the Eagles have won 11 meetings of a series dating back to 1973.

Week 14: 12/12 vs. New Orleans

1 p.m. ET, Fox

This series dates back to 1972, but the Jets and Saints will do battle for only the 14th time, New York holding a 7-6 advantage. New Orleans has won three of the last four matchups, though this will be the first without Drew Brees since 2005 when Aaron Brooks guided the team to a 21-19 road victory at Giants Stadium.

Week 15: 12/18 or 19 @ Miami

TBD

While the NFL has yet to confirm, it’s possible that the second matchup between the Jets and Dolphins could be flexed into a Saturday game, depending on the potential playoff implications behind it. The Jets’ have had a hard time taking their talents to South Beach in recent years, last winning at Hard Rock Stadium in 2015.

Week 16: 12/26 vs. Jacksonville

1 p.m. ET, CBS/Paramount+

Whether they like it or not, the careers of Wilson and Trevor Lawrence will be forever linked as the opening picks of the 2021 NFL Draft. Football fans get a belated Christmas gift in the form of their first on-field meeting…with they be proven naughty or nice? This is another reunion game for Saleh, who was Jacksonville’s linebackers coach for three seasons, as well as receiver Keelan Cole, who joined the Jets after four seasons.

Week 17: 1/2 vs. Tampa Bay

1 p.m, ET, Fox

The Tom Brady nightmare continues for the Jets, who welcome in the defending champions for their final home game of the year. Despite Brady’s stellar record against the Jets (29-7, his second-best win tally against any non-Buffalo opponent), he’ll have to help erase Tampa’s brutal history against green invaders: The Jets own a 10-2 advantage in the series, though the Bucs won the last matchup 15-10 in November 2017.

Week 18: 1/9 @ Buffalo

TBD

One can’t definitively tell the story of the Jets-Bills rivalry without bringing up a last-game-of-the-season meeting in Orchard Park. For their first Week 18 matchup, the Jets venture up to Western New York, where they’ve actually had some success at Highmark Stadium in recent times, winning three of their last five visits (albeit one being a different season finale tilt in 2019 with nothing on the line for either team).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: 5 games that could get the national TV treatment

When can New York Jets fans expect to see their team in prime time? ESM investigates with the official schedules on their way out tonight.

Nothing showcases the stranglehold that the NFL holds on the American imagination than the release of its annual schedule. The 2021 edition emerges on Wednesday, with early game reveals scheduled for the morning programs of Fox, CBS, and ABC (Fox & Friends, CBS This Morning, and Good Morning America respectively) before the full schedule is posted in prime time.

Contrary to the popular belief that performance dictates how “easy” or “hard” a team’s schedule is, there’s hardly any surprise involved when it comes to an individual team’s opponents. By the time we get to Wednesday’s reveals, everyone knows who their team is going to play in 2021. Heck, the NFL’s scheduling formula allows us to look to, say, 2049, and figure out all but three opponents for the year ahead. But the mere attachment of times and dates causes we, the football-hungry public, to break out into hysterics, a process and celebration that the league has now turned into an all-day affair.

The drama of schedule release day has been relatively benign for fans of the New York Jets. Trapped in a playoff drought that just hit double figures, the Jets have mostly been bestowed the comparatively mundane 1:00 p.m. ET timeslot in a majority of their contests. For example, they haven’t been a part of NBC’s Sunday Night Football package since 2011, seeing several other opportunities to appear on the peacock network erased by flexible scheduling.

But with the arrival of head coach Robert Saleh and offensive weapons, the young Jets could be worth watching and putting on a national stage again. Putting them in the playoff discussion might be a tad much, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that the Jets are in a much more intriguing spot than they were last year. Suddenly, there’s drama behidn the numbers again.

Which games could get the national call? ESM takes a look at five…

1. @ Carolina Panthers

There’s not much history between the Jets and Panthers. The teams have met only seven times and last faced off in Charlotte in 2013. But the Sam Darnold…and, to a lesser extent, Robby Anderson…factor changes everything. The new New York guard…Zach Wilson and Elijah Moore…going up against the old…Darnold and Robby Anderson…makes this a game the Jets could use as a barometer to see where they are in the latest chapter of their rebuild.

The Jets and Panthers may not be fighting for postseason position this year, but they’re in remarkably similar spots: trapped in a division with a powerful conference finalist that shows no signs of relenting, but equipped with hope through young offensive weaponry.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars

Whether they like it or not, Wilson and Trevor Lawrence are forever linked through their status as the opening two picks of the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite the Jets and Jaguars’ recent ineptitude…the two united for three wins last season…this will be an attractive game for the rookie throwers alone.  But there’s so much young talent from the past few drafts that the game should probably be called by Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. Wilson is aided by Moore, Denzel Mims, and Michael Carter, while the Jacksonville side is further repped by DJ Chark, Laviska Chenault, and Travis Etienne.

On top of it all, it well could feature Tim Tebow’s return to MetLife Stadium, the site of some of his most recent NFL regular season action. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

3. Buffalo Bills

The divisional rivalry loses a little luster with the loss of Darnold, Josh Allen’s fellow 2018 draftee. But Buffalo tightened its grip on the hearts of Empire State football with a downright historic season that ended in the AFC Championship Game. Divisional rivalries tend to get priority placement when it comes to the national TV schedule and the Bills would be the most attractive opponent to place in the slot with the New York connections in mind.

4. New England Patriots

The Jets-Patriots rivalry is at an interesting point in that both teams are reeling from losing seasons. But even in their unfamiliar squalor, the Patriots managed to sweep their yearly pair with the Jets last season. A new chapter of the rivalry begins with both teams boasting first-round quarterbacks: Wilson emerges for the Jets while the Patriots counter with Mac Jones.

New York-Boston rivalries always get national attention and the Jets-Patriots matchup has received a Monday Night date in each of the last two seasons. But the two teams’ status as AFC East also-rans, not to mention the uncertainty around the idea of Jones starting (you know Cam Newton won’t go down without a fight) could raise some red flags.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Just when you thought the Tom Brady nightmare was over, the seven-time Super Bowl champion returns for (at least) one last scare in the form of an interconference game with the defending champions. Networks have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with New York schadenfreude, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see Brady’s reunion with his old metropolitan buddies get the national treatment.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

There’s a “pretty good” chance that MetLife Stadium is fully open in 2021

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy was optimistic about capacity crowds returning to MetLife Stadium for New York Jets and Giants games.

New Jersey’s woebegone NFL squads have made some improvements this offseason and spectators may be able to witness the transformation in person.

In video provided by NJ.com, Garden State Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Tuesday that the “prospects are pretty good” when it comes to fans filling MetLife Stadium for the 2021 NFL season. The East Rutherford home of the New York Giants and Jets was one of 11 NFL stadiums that did not admit fans at any point last season.

“I’d say the prospects are pretty good,” Murphy said about the possibility in a briefing in Trenton, declaring that filling all 82,500 seats will be dependent on the promising declining numbers in regards to the ongoing health crisis. COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Jersey are at their lowest point since October. Social distancing at such games would by recommendations from the Center for Disease Control.

MetLife Stadium has not hosted a sporting event with fans since February 2020, when just over 12,000 attendees watched the XFL tilt between the New York Guardians and Los Angeles Wildcats. Its next scheduled event is a Guns N’ Roses concert on August 5. New Jersey’s outdoor venues can open to 50 percent capacity on Friday.

“If we blow through our objectives, there’s a lot higher likelihood the Jets and Giants can sell more tickets,” Murphy said.

The 2021 NFL schedule will be released on Wednesday night, with the season expected to begin on Thursday, September 9 with a game presumably hosted by the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tom Brady and Bucs will make a stop at MetLife to play the Jets later this season, as will the Jacksonville Jaguars, the latter game presumably setting up a matchup between Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, the first players chosen in the 2021 NFL Draft. Among the Giants’ most anticipated home matchups is their yearly divisional tilt with the Philadelphia Eagles, who visit MetLife Stadium twice this year (taking on the Jets as part of the NFL’s addition of a new game to the schedule).

As vaccines continue to be distributed across the country, fans are returning to outdoor venues in larger numbers. MLB’s Atlanta Braves opened to full capacity on May 7 in Georgia, while NASCAR events at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Daytona International Speedway, and Kansas Speedway will likewise be run in front of full crowds.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Tim Tebow is reportedly back in the NFL, and that’s perfectly fine

new york jets, tim tebow

Questions can be raised about Tim Tebow’s NFL comeback, but it’s fair to give him one last chance in a new role.

Tim Tebow more than likely won’t be getting a video tribute on the MetLife Stadium videoboards this fall. It remains to be seen whether Tebow will be on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 53-man roster when Duval County’s finest hit the road to battle the New York Jets. For now, however, it appears that the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, two-time college football national champion, and overall accoladed quarterback will spend at least a little time in teal and back.

Reports from Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reveal that the 33-year-old Tebow will attempt to resume an NFL career that fizzled out in 2015. Tebow reunites with his college coach Urban Meyer, the two previously having united for collegiate fireworks at the University of Florida, but plans to move to tight end while 2021’s top overall pick Trevor Lawrence assumes the franchise quarterback role.

Tebow has not partaken in a regular season football game since December 2012, when he played a single drive in an ugly showdown with the Jake Locker-led Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football. The 14-10 slog is perhaps best known for five Mark Sanchez turnovers and eliminating the Jets from playoff contention.

Tebow’s reported rearrival has sent shockwaves at a rare dull period on the football timeline. Per ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, “not everybody (in Jacksonville’s building is thrilled” about the potential Tebow deal. The debate has amongst observers and analysts.

Some are interested to see what Tebow can do at tight end, a transition that has been debated ever since Tebow was preparing for the 2010 draft. Others have had their fill of Tebow, including New York sports fans who have now seen him invade both their football and baseball circles, as Tebow’s new NFL beginning stems from the end of a minor league baseball career in the New York Mets’ system. More observers wonder why Tebow has been invited back to the NFL while another polarizing quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, has not.

One can fully wonder why Tebow, whose last official football action is a 2015 training camp stint in Philadelphia, was invited back. A common argument against the reinsertion of Kaepernick, having moved onto activism and a partnership with Nike, is that it would cause too much of a media frenzy, though Tebow’s signing has caused quite a stir as is…even without an official announcement from the Jaguars. These are all fair questions to ask, debates to be staged.

But when it comes to Tebow the individual, it’s fair to grant him what likely amounts to a final professional football opportunity.

For one thing, a regular season roster spot is anything but guaranteed. Jacksonville is currently equipped with five tight ends, including fellow two-sport star and former Carolina Panther Chris Manhertz (previously a three-year captain with Canisius’ basketball team), fifth-round pick Luke Farrell, and veteran re-signee James O’Shaughnessy. Tebow’s going to need to earn his way onto the Week 1 roster, and it’s an uphill battle in a role he has never played.

Succeeding in unfamiliar roles has been something Tebow had gotten used to during his baseball career. It’s fair to say that Tebow was never destined for Queens, but he managed to put up respectable numbers, particularly at the AA level in 2018 (.273, 6 home runs, 36 runs batted in). Those numbers could’ve been well inflated by the end of the year (on a roster that included current Mets slugger Pete Alonso) had Tebow not suffered a season-ending finger injury.

Those numbers did plummet once Tebow moved onto the AAA level. His most recent baseball travels…time in the Mets’ shortened spring training proceedings…weren’t pretty (.154, six strikeouts in 18 plate appearances), but he did manage to go out on a relatively high note, hitting a home run off MLB veteran Alex Wilson in a spring training tilt against the Detroit Tigers.

One could argue whether Tebow was used as a sideshow of sorts, a cog in the “Same Old Mets” machine. But the baseball player that hadn’t played competitively since 2005…his junior year of high school…made it clear to his observers that he was serious about this trial, no matter the challenges thrust upon him.

“What he’s doing and the strides I’ve seen him make from last year to this year, that’s impressive,” then-Binghamton pitching coach and 1988 Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola told Rob Centorani of The Press & Sun-Bulletin in 2018. “He doesn’t have to do this, but he chose to do it and he’s working as hard as anyone, if not harder. It’s a great story but very difficult.

“There’s so much instinctual stuff from baseball that you learn as a kid all the way up. When you take a hiatus like he did, it’s hard. He’s 30 years old, but he’s still trying to learn.”

Adding to Tebow’s current football cause, and why it shouldn’t matter on a broader NFL landscape, is that Jacksonville is a team with relatively little to lose. They’ve chosen in the top ten in all but one of the past 14 NFL Drafts, their one shining moment being a “stolen” Super Bowl appearance in 2017. If Lawrence doesn’t pan out, he simply lands in the same category as other false throwing saviors like Blake Bortles or Blaine Gabbert.

In other words, it’s the perfect place for Tebow.

Unlike his arrival to a Jets team on the decline in 2012, one mired with questions at quarterback at the end of the Sanchez era. That Jets squad was one tailor-made for the rise of the social media era, one packed to the brim with personalities, none more boisterous than their head coach Rex Ryan. It was there Tebow resided while at the height of his professional powers.

Tebow, of course, was coming off a year as the Denver Broncos’ primary quarterback after they chose him 25th overall in the 2010 selections. His box scores weren’t always pretty and he had the services of a budding defense featuring future Super Bowl champions like rookie Von Miller. He did however often manage to work with what the defense gave him and contribute to the final score in the process. That trend was prominently on display in a November win over Kansas City, when Tebow completed only 2-of-8 passes in a 17-10 triumph over the Chiefs. He was nonetheless responsible for two Denver scores, running in a seven-yard score before hooking up with Eric Decker for a 56-yard de facto winner in the fourth quarter.

Yet, Tebowmania grew through a series of uncanny, unconventional fourth quarter comebacks, one of which was achieved in a Thursday night thriller against the Jets. A jaw-dropping 95-yard scoring drive to end a nationally televised tilt served as Tebowmania’s outbreak and fueled Denver to the AFC West title. The Broncos even earned a playoff win over Pittsburgh…one that ended with Tebow finding Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard overtime score…before the New England Patriots did New England Patriots things in the Divisional round.

That season should’ve proven that Tebow had the skill and talent to serve as a capable, serviceable quarterback in the NFL…a Chad Pennington/David Garrard type. But when the legendary Peyton Manning became available, Denver had no choice but to make the switch and prematurely end Tebow’s days as a long-term franchise quarterback.

The subsequent trade to the Jets (sending two draft picks out to the Rocky Mountains) came at the worst possible time for a young quarterback…one already attracting caravans of cameras due to his collegiate career and public religious displays…trying to find his NFL place. What resulted was a volatile mix of coverage, silliness, and excess, trends only exacerbated by the rise of “embrace debate” culture that continues to dominate modern sports media.

To their credit, the Jets often spoke of using Tebow in non-conventional settings, almost becoming a Taysom Hill-type player before the latter left his mark on New Orleans and the league as a whole. Alas, the Jets were never able to implement Tebow the way they wanted to. He was used mostly on special teams and through the Wildcat offense, but it didn’t stop observers’ insatiable appetite for Tebow coverage.

Even though Tebow had fleeting flashes of New York brilliance…he converted a 23-yard fake punt using his trademark jump pass as a personal protector in a win over Indianapolis…the Jets failed to consistently work him into their system. Several players later anonymously ripped Tebow and eventually, it became too much trouble to keep a backup quarterback with that kind of baggage. He was released by the Jets the following year and failed to catch on to a 53-man roster after training camp stints with New England and Philadelphia.

Before Tebow left the NFL behind, former Jets coach Herm Edwards later told USA Today Sports that he didn’t understand the criticism.

“He’s done nothing wrong,” Edwards said to Jim Corbett. “All he’s done every day is come to work, and he’s working hard every day. And they blasted the guy. Like, really? I could see if he was playing.”

Now, the cycle begins anew in Jacksonville, an ideal place for Tebow to create something new of an NFL career. It’s downright peaceful compared to New York and he won’t be relied upon to win games or turn the tide. In addition to Lawrence, the Jaguars are packed to the brim with young talent acquired through drafts past and present.

Again, there are certainly questions to be raised about how and why Tebow will make it back to the NFL. But it isn’t fair to level those quandaries against him personally. One can certainly question the sense of cronyism that seems rampant through professional sports…just look at how many retreads appear in head coaching spots during the annual winter searches…but it isn’t fair to question Tebow’s work ethic and dedication to his craft. If the Jaguars’ biggest problem is having Tebow…whose foundation has been remained active in off-field issues like human trafficking…on their roster, that would bring about welcome normalcy to Duval.

Questions can be asked about the details of this situation, and rightfully so. But one look at Tebow’s sporting career shows that if he does make it Jacksonville for Week 1…and makes that appearance against the Jets in East Rutherford…it will be earned.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets announce the release of six players

In the aftermath of the NFL Draft, the New York Jets released six veteran players from their roster on Friday.

The New York Jets announced the release of the following veteran players on Friday morning:

CB Kyron Brown-Brown signed as an undrafted free agent out of Akron after the 2019 draft but spent all of last season on the physically unable to perform list after suffering a quad injury. He partook in three games in green, including one starts, all during the 2019 campaign.

TE Connor Davis-A Stony Brook alum, Davis didn’t partake in any Jets regular seasons games with the Jets but had previous professional experience in the AAF (Birmingham Iron) and XFL (St. Louis BattleHawks.

WR Josh Doctson-The former first round pick out of TCU signed with the Jets last season after four years between Washington and Minnesota but opted out of the 2020 season.

C Leo Koloamatangi-Another 2020 opt-out, Koomatangi had been on and off the Jets’ active roster but did not appear in any regular season games. He previously spent time on Detroit’s practice squad, entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of Hawaii.

K Chase McLaughlin-It appears the Jets’ kicking competition will come down to incumbent Sam Ficken and undrafted free agent Chris Naggar from Southern Methodist. McLaughlin, who appeared on the roster of six other teams before his New York arrival, converted two extra points in the Jets’ season finale in New England.

WR Jaleel Scott-A former fourth-round pick in Baltimore, Scott was added to the Jets’ practice squad after he was part of the Ravens’ final round of camp cuts. He appeared in one game with New York last season, earning a 16-yard reception in the Jets’ December loss to Seattle.

In addition to the cuts, the Jets also place safety Saquan Hampton on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. Hampton joined the Jets in December and partook in a single game, during which he ruptured his Achilles tendon. The Hamilton, NJ native was a sixth-round pick in New Orleans during the 2019 selections.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets claim former San Francisco WR Matt Cole

New York Jets

Cole, the newest New York Jet, partook in his first NFL action alongside Mike LaFleur in San Francisco last season.

The New York Jets announced the claiming of former San Francisco receiver Matt Cole on Wednesday. Cole, 24, reunites with Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who served as the 49ers’ passing game coordinator last season.

Cole emerged from Division II McKendree, where he earned a reputation as a superstar in yardage. His total tally of 3,583 all-purpose yards over four seasons was good for fourth all-time in program history. He ended his career by setting single season marks with 939 receiving yards and 12 touchdown receptions.

That senior season was also punctuated by a strong showing in the return game, where Cole had 208 yards on 26 returns. He also registered 18 tackles on special teams, earning the Great Lakes Valley Conference’s Special Teams Player of the Year honor, as well as an appearance for his receiving efforts on the all-conference team.

The Chicago native began last season on the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad. As an undrafted free agent, he was the first McKendree alum to appear in an NFL system. He remained on the Dolphins’ practice squad for most of the season, save for a stint on the COVID-19 list in November. The 49ers signed Cole to their active roster in December and he made his regular season debut in their final game of the season just over a week later. In a narrow loss to Seattle, Cole had two special teams tackles. San Francisco released Cole on May 4 but he has now been claimed by New York.

Cole joins a Jets receiving corps that added veterans Corey Davis and Keelan Cole as well as rookie Elijah Moore through the draft. Incumbents Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims likewise return. He could well compete for the Jets’ primary returning duties, likely set to compete with incumbents Corey Ballentine and Braxton Berrios.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets DL Quinnen Williams out for OTAs and minicamp (Report)

New York Jets, Quinnen Williams

Per NFL Network, the New York Jets’ 2019 first-round pick is set to miss considerable time with a foot injury.

Per Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, New York Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams will miss 8-10 weeks after breaking a small bone in his foot while working out at the team’s Florham Park facility. The injury effectively wipes out Williams’ participation in OTAs and minicamp.

According to Garafolo, Williams was doing on-field work when the injury occurred. Both reports from Pelissero and Garafolo indicate that Williams should be ready to go for training camp in August as well as the Jets’ Week 1 contest in September.

Nevertheless, the injury is a hard blow for a Jets team coming off the good vibes of a sizable yield at the NFL Draft in Cleveland. Williams, chosen third in the 2019 proceedings, enjoyed a breakthrough season last year, putting up 55 tackles, including seven sacks, and forcing two fumbles. As a rare silver lining in the Jets’ disastrous 2020 season, Williams received an All-Pro vote from the Associated Press for his efforts.

Under new head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, the Jets are expected to implement a 4-3 defense for the first time since the Herman Edwards days. Williams moved from tackle to end in 2020 and could be replaced on the first team by incoming veterans Vinny Curry and Sheldon Rankins. An opportunity could also be presented for Kyle Phillips, who returns after missing most of last season with an ankle injury. Phillips made the 2019 squad as an undrafted free agent and earned 39 tackles, nine for a loss, during his debut campaign. The Jets mostly focused on the secondary during their defensive splurge in the final day of the draft on Saturday but did welcome in tackle Jonathan Marshall with their final pick of the sixth round.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

What’s next? A post-NFL Draft checklist for the New York Jets

New York Jets, Brian Poole

Draft weekend is over, but the New York Jets still have several needs to fill before they take to the practice field.

The New York Jets’ work in Cleveland is done. Nine names were added during last weekend’s NFL Draft proceedings and several others have been penciled in through rookie free agency.

But the Jets’ work is nowhere near complete.

That, unfortunately, is the macabre cloud that hangs over anything the Jets do until they start winning games again. The team has earned positive reviews for their draft weekend proceedings, one headlined by the offensive additions of Zach Wilson and Alijah Vera-Tucker. But it means nothing until they at least get back into the “in the hunt” column in those NFL postseason charts that emerge on game broadcasts circa the holiday season. General manager Joe Douglas has made it clear that he has a vision, but the on-field execution awaits.

The time is ripe for making further additions, as Monday marks the end of any compensatory pick matters when it comes to free agents. What else do the Jets need in the post-Mr. Irrelevant era of the offseason? ESM investigates…

Backup Quarterback

The Jets’ current quarterback group (Zach Wilson/James Morgan/Mike White) has a grand total of zero NFL regular season passes among them. It’s great that Wilson is there as the anchor, the latest name to fill the star-crossed role of franchise quarterback. But the Jets needs to bring someone in as both a veteran mentor and someone to have in case of an emergency. They had the right idea in the final year of the Sam Darnold era through signing Joe Flacco, but he’s in Philadelphia now. Darnold attributed the success of his rookie season to working with Josh McCown and it would behoove the Jets to find a similar solution.

Alex Smith might’ve been the most attractive option in both of those regards, but he opted for retirement. Nick Mullens, he of 16 starts over three seasons under offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco, is also available, but, at 26, he might not be able to provide the veteran mentorship Wilson needs in his debut season. The best current option might be Brian Hoyer, who was brought in for a visit in April. Hoyer, set to enter his 13th NFL season, spent last season in New England, his third stint with the Patriots, and credits his mentorship skills from working with Tom Brady.

“I learned so much and whenever I had a question for him, he was there to give me an answer,” Hoyer said in 2017 prior to a pre-LaFleur stint in San Francisco, per Chris Biderman of Niners Wire. “For me, the best way to be a mentor…was just watch somebody do it and do it the right way. And then when they ask you questions, you give them straight-up honest answers.”

Experienced Defensive Help

Anyone complaining about the lack of defensive additions over the first two days of the draft was roundly silenced when the Jets spent all but one of their Saturday selections on defenders. But the Jets are already packed to the brim with young projects at the top of their defensive depth chart, particularly in their secondary. Rookies Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, and Brandin Echols are set to join Bless Austin, Bryce Hall, and Javelin Guidry. The franchise-tagged Marcus Maye is set to work next to sophomore Ashtyn Davis. New York even found some solid pass rushing additions through the undrafted front, including Hamilcar Rashed Jr. out of Oregon State. There’s certainly plenty to be inspired when it comes to the defensive haul, but there’s no guarantee any of them can be day one starters.

The team could use some veteran help and the current free agent bank has plenty of options. Steven Nelson, one of the stronger man-to-man coverage guys, is still around after two seasons in Pittsburgh. Inviting in Richard Sherman, who endlessly praised the hire of Robert Saleh, for at least an interview would almost be a no-brainer. The Jets could also bring back Brian Poole as a reliable nickel prescience, one that remains on the open market after injury issues last season.

The Jets emerged from the weekend with several building blocks to groom and develop. But if they’re looking to contend in the immediate future…the playoffs still seem like a pipe dream but a decent opportunity to reenter NFL relevancy…they’ll have to add some veteran defenders that can come in and contribute immediately.

Blocking Depth

The Jets must be careful with their blocking moving forward. It’s great to see they’re anchoring Wilson’s blind side with back-to-back first rounders, as Vera-Tucker will presumably be working alongside Mekhi Becton. But they took only one lineman in the weekend’s proceedings, going with box score contributors after moving up to take Vera-Tucker. Undrafted yields like New Mexico’s Teton Saltes could make some headway but some veteran finds would turn the pressure up on an offensive line that’s set to retain three starting members from a unit that ranked 29th in Pro Football Focus’ annual offensive line standings.

It’s a hole the Jets have slightly dug themselves into, curiously opting to add veteran depth options (like Dan Feeney and Corey Levin) before the draft rather than after it as other elite talents came and went. Many of the names left on the free agent front are up there in age but can serve as stopgaps or provide some extra training camp heat. Former Green Bay Packer Rick Wagner could work on the right side while the Jets solve their center woes by putting Connor McGovern up against another veteran like Joe Looney this summer until they can find a more permanent solution for Wilson. Center was among the biggest problems during the Sam Darnold era, so any form of consistency they can with the newcomer, even if it’s only temporary, can start steering this ship in the right direction.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags