New York Jets position group evaluations: Tight Ends

New York Jets, Chris Herndon

As the season looms, I decided to take a deep dive into each New York Jets position group within the organization and grade each group. Today’s group is one of the most encouraging groups on the roster. That is the tight end room. From a highly anticipated bounce back tight end to a standout veteran, to a potential diamond in the rough, this group is one of the best on the roster. So let’s get into it.

TE 1: Chris Herndon

Without a doubt, the most anticipated return on this roster is Chris Herndon. Last season, Herndon entered the year with very high hopes. After a suspension and an upper buddy injury, Herndon’s sophomore season was a bust. Now, he’s back, and he’s been a star of camp. Reporters have been consistent across the board in their lauding of how he will be the critical piece to Sam Darnold’s success. With the lack of receiver depth, Herndon will be counted on to play a significant role. As I previously wrote, Herndon will either be the X-Factor of the offense and the key reason Darnold takes the next step or the reason Darnold has nobody to turn to when the play breaks down.

TE 2: Ryan Griffin

Last season, without Herndon, many analysts wondered who’d step up at tight end. Those questions were quickly dispelled with the impressive play of Griffin. With 34 catches for 320 yards and five touchdowns, Griffin proved to be a huge red zone threat. If Herndon can be the dynamic threat over the top and outside (when need be), then Griffin will be able to play a huge role in red zone success. As long as both guys can stay healthy when the Jets put out two tight end sets, they could be a force to be reckoned with. Griffin does tend to struggle with consistency, though, so as long as he doesn’t become a non-factor, he’ll be a great piece of the offense.

TE 3: Trevon Wesco

The West Virginia product was a curious selection by the former front office regime when he was picked in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. Wesco wouldn’t have been a controversial pick if he was known as a dynamic threat in the red zone or over the middle like the two other tight ends in the room, but he was traditionally known as a blocking tight end. Then, this offseason, he became a much more well-rounded athlete as Adam Gase has stated, and he’s found a real rhythm in camp reportedly. If Wesco can show in-game that he can be a weapon, that would only make the offense all the better.

Grade: A-

This group is FAR from a proven group. With that said, the way Douglas and Gase have built this group, they have potential to complement each other very nicely. Not only that but with the lack of depth at receiver, these guys will be counted on to step up. I truly believe this group has potential to shock some people this year and mask some of the Jets offensive inadequacies. 

New York Jets Position Group Grades: Running backs

New York Jets, Leveon Bell

As the season looms, I decided to take a deep dive into each position group within the New York Jets‘ organization and grade each group. Today’s group is the running backs. Headlined by a thinner and motivated Le’Veon Bell, the ageless wonder that is Frank Gore, and the dynamic rookie in LaMical Perine. It’s a good group with a lot of potential, but how much can potential carry this group, let’s take a closer look.

RB 1: Le’Veon Bell

Without question, Lev Bell is the lead back for the 2020 campaign. Bell is determined to prove that last season’s poor performance was a fluke. He set a record for the lost YPC in franchise history, and I’m sure that doesn’t sit well with him. Bell is lighter than last year, has more quality linemen blocking for him and a coach taking accountability for his poor usage. Still, how much of that is fools gold. Bell is still struggling to keep frustrations quiet, and we know what happened last time a Jet did that. The offensive line could fail to gel and prove to hinder the offense early on. Most of all, Adam Gase may decide to take more of a committee approach and not give Bell the reps he truly deserves. I think Bell will be more improved this year, but I can’t say have I have the same confidence in Adam Gase to use him properly.

RB 2: Frank Gore

Fresh off another year of not looking like he’s slowing down. The 37-year-old running back is being counted on to play two roles this season. After jumping to #3 on the all-time rushing yard rankings, Frank Gore has continued to be an aggressive and productive back. He’ll be counted on to get meaningful reps early.

Gore is also being counted on as a leader and mentor to the younger backs in Perine and Bell. Gore is going to have his hands full trying to keep Bell quiet and still mentor Perine as a rusher. If anyone can do it, though, Gore can. Gore has been touted as one of the most impressive rushers in camp, and I’m genuinely excited to see his impact with the squad. I just hope Gase doesn’t overuse him in lieu of Bell.

RB 3: LaMical Perine

Perine suffered a low-grade ankle sprain that had potential to be A LOT worse. I and Jets fans everywhere feared the worse upon the report he was carted from practice. Now, Perine will hopefully be back quickly and able to contribute by Week 2 at the latest. Perine has the potential to be a change of pace back that really compliments the punch you in the mouth rushing style the other two backs have. Perine has flashed his impressive speed early and often in camp, and I’m excited to see him take the field as well. Perine needs to get some reps early to see if he is capable of being the long term back for this team. I’m weary of his durability and overall productivity, but ultimately I’m hoping for the best.

Grade: B

I really like this group. It’s one of my favorite position groups on this roster as a whole. I think the combination of potential with veteran presence is something that could really benefit the team as a whole. Plus, the value Bell brings as a pass-catcher adds another dimension to the offense. I have high hopes for this team. My biggest fear is Adam Gase is the reason I get let down. 

New York Giants: Best & Worst Case Scenarios For The 2020 Season

New York Giants, Daniel Jones, Lorenzo Carter

Football is almost here. The 2020 NFL season is set to kick off in just a little over a week from today. The New York Giants are entering the new season with a brand new coaching staff and a revamped roster.

Much has been said about the Giants’ offseason moves. They put a heavy emphasis on the defensive secondary and offensive line, but there were other positions they did not address with as much priority.

Regardless of the team’s roster-building strategies, there are two ways that this season can go: good or bad. But what does good and bad look like for the 2020 New York Giants?

Best-Case Scenarios (GOOD)

Obviously, the best-case scenario for any NFL team is to win the Super Bowl. But, realistically, the Giants are not likely to get that far, coming off of a 4-12 season with a new coaching staff implementing new schemes in the middle of a world pandemic. So there is the best-case scenario where the Giants add their fifth Lombardi Trophy to the locker room, and then there is the realistic best-case scenario.

Realistically, the Giants competing for a playoff spot in December is their best-case scenario. New York has been eliminated in November for years now, never truly competing for a playoff spot throughout the season. That needs to change in 2020.

Giants fans are tired of losing. Giants players who have been on the time for more than one season are tired of losing. Losing has become the new normal for the New York Giants, despite being one of the most historic franchises in the NFL.

In order for the Giants to be a competitive team during the final weeks of the season, a few things need to happen. Firstly, the team needs to end the season with seven or more wins. That has not happened since 2016, four years ago, nearly half a decade ago.

Secondly, the Giants need to see their second-year quarterback develop. Daniel Jones showed a lot of promise and potential in his 2019 rookie campaign. But, he was a rookie, and he made plenty of rookie mistakes. Hopefully, Daniel and Jason Garret iron out those mistakes and mold a more polished quarterback in 2020.

Thirdly, the Giants’ defense simply has to be better. They were really bad defensively in 2019. Just be better. Seeing some improvement in the secondary and out of the pass-rushers will be a big step in the right direction for this young Giants football team.

Worst Case Scenarios (BAD)

The best-case scenarios are not completely realistic for the Giants this year. This is not a team that anyone should expect to see win the Super Bowl. But the worst-case scenarios, on the other hand, are considered by some to be very realistic.

I am a believer in Daniel Jones. I think he will improve this year. But not everyone is a believer in our team’s young quarterback. And, I’m never wrong, but what if I do turn out to be wrong about this one? What if the nonbelievers are right? If Daniel Jones goes through a sophomore slump, the Giants are going to be put in a really awkward position.

If for whatever reason, Daniel Jones actually plays worse this season, there is a good chance the Giants, given the state of the rest of the roster, could end up with the top pick in next year’s draft. Now, no one wants to see Daniel Jones fail (except for Pro Football Focus). We all want to see him succeed with the Giants and be the next face of the franchise. But the Giants are in a tricky position this year.

A hectic offseason impacted by COVID-19, a general manager (who drafted Jones) on the hot seat, and a young roster with plenty of injuries scares already piling up. That is what the Giants are dealing with heading into 2020. If all of this culminates into the perfect storm, the Giants could somewhat realistically see their season go straight down the toilet. In this worst-case scenario, New York could find itself with the first overall pick in 2021.

The first overall pick in 2021 will be Trevor Lawrence, no matter who is picking, as long as he declares. If the Giants end up with that pick, that likely means Daniel Jones played really poorly in 2020 and Trevor Lawrence will probably be too good to pass up next offseason. Lawrence is the next generational quarterback prospect, according to most analysts. Those are so rare- Joh Elway, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck are the only collegiate quarterback prospects that consistently receive the “generational” tag. In this worst-case scenario for the Giants, there is no choice but to move on from our beloved Danny Dimes.

Good thing this is just a scenario. This will not happen, I am certain of it (though there are some people pretty convinced that this will happen). The Giants are an improved team with an improved coaching staff this season. I expect to see them have a season closer to the best-case scenario than to the worst-case scenario.

New York Giants And 4th Overall Pick Andrew Thomas Agree To Terms

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants have agreed to terms with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, offensive tackle Andrew Thomas. The Giants and Thomas are in agreement on a four-year, fully guaranteed $32.345M contract with a $21.1M signing bonus, according to Ian Rapoport.

Andrew Thomas, the three-year starter out of Georgia, is the fourth top-five pick to get his deal done. Thomas will take a physical today then sign the contract.

The New York Giants desperately needed an upgrade at offensive tackle this offseason. Last season, the Giants’ starting offensive tackles allowed a combined 96 pressures. Nate Solder accounted for 56 of those pressures and also allowed 11 sacks on the season. Andrew Thomas is now in a contractual agreement to be the Giants’ left tackle of the future.

Andrew Thomas played 1,075 pass-block snaps in his collegiate career. On those snaps, Thomas allowed only 37 total pressures. He also has not allowed more than 2 pressures in a game since 2017 (his freshman season at right tackle).

The Giants report to training camp tomorrow. New York is working to get its entire rookie draft class under contract. Sixth-round pick Cam Brown signed his rookie contract earlier today. Seventh-round pick Tae Crowder has also signed. TJ Brunson, Matt Peart, and Darnay Holmes have also agreed to terms with the Giants. There are only a few rookies left for the Giants to sign, including second-round pick Xavier McKinney. Expect to see the Giants complete these deals with their rookies very soon.

Did the New York Jets win the Jamal Adams trade?

New York Jets, Jamal Adams

Earlier today, I wrote a piece highlighting why New York Jets GM Joe Douglas held all the cards in the Jamal Adams negotiations. Then today, he did something I heavily doubted. He pulled the trigger. Jamal Adams is now a Seattle Seahawk. The Jets have acquired A 2021 1st Rounder, 3rd Rounder, a 2022 1st Rounder, and a temporary fill in with Bradley McDougald.

On the surface, Joe Douglas continued his masterful performance this offseason with the return. However, this deal is contingent on three things, and none of them concern Jamal Adams.

Why The Picks Will Decide The Deal

The Jets needed to get rid of Jamal Adams at some point. It’s something I didn’t want to admit and tried to deny. Despite that, the Jets were able to get a MASSIVE haul for a disgruntled safety.

The Jets will have four 1sts in the next two years and now an extra 3rd. They also picked up a safety with 52 tackles, .5 sacks, and 5 INTs over the last 3 years. He’s a 29-year-old Safety in the final year of his contract. The Jets needed to right the ship in terms of the floundering culture. By adding new picks, they will have the opportunity to add four blue-chip pieces to the organization in the next few years.

This will give the team the opportunity to establish a new identity. Part of that identity may include a new head coach in the future as well, but that remains to be seen.

At this point in time, the picks sound GREAT. Unless the Jets hit on them though, this trade will be useless. If they hit on all of those picks, that’d be the biggest way the Jets could stick it in Jamal Adams’ face. Jamal will undoubtedly have success elsewhere and likely get handed a rich deal for his contributions.

That’s all great for him, but for the Jets, this now represents a true new era. It’s time for the Jets to rebuild this team in the identity that Joe Douglas wants, and Jamal Adams was holding that back. So, farewell Jamal, you’ll be greatly missed, but now it’s a fresh start. 

New York Jets sign Ashtyn Davis, complete rookie class signings

New York Jets, Ashtyn Davis

The New York Jets rounded out the signings of their freshman class by agreeing to terms with the Cal safety/return man.

The New York Jets have signed every member of their 2020 draft class, having confirmed the final inked contract on Thursday night. Cal-Berkeley safety Ashtyn Davis was the pick in question, but the team confirmed the official addition of April’s 68th overall pick.

“I think I can contribute anywhere they put me. I’m comfortable on the outside and inside, whatever the case may be,” Davis said in a statement on the team’s website. “After my first year of playing safety, I wanted to know every position and not just my responsibility. That way if someone went down they could put me in.”

Davis was indeed a man of many talents with the Golden Bears. Doubling as a hurdler on the track and field squad, Davis earned 166 tackles to go with seven interceptions on the gridiron. Davis also made a name for himself as a returner, averaging 22.9 yards on kickoffs. The 26.2 yards he averaged during the 2018 season were good for second in the Pac-12.

All-conference team honors awaited Davis in both his junior and senior campaigns, with first-team accolades coming in the former.

“Ashtyn brings speed, ball skills and versatility,” general manager Joe Douglas said in the same statement. “You can see him line up and cover a slot receiver and cover him in man coverage, you can see him line up as a high safety and range over to the sideline to make a play on the ball, you can see him attack the alleys in the run game, you can see him blitz.”

The pick used to draft Davis was obtained from the New York Giants in exchange for defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Davis was one of two third-round picks for the Jets, the other being Jabari Zuniga 11 picks later.

New York is set to open training camp on July 28 at Atlantic Health Jets Training Facility.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Did the New York Jets get an offensive line steal in UDFA Jared Hilbers?

New York Jets, Jared Hilbers

The New York Jets invested money into a lot of positions during free agency. Their biggest investment in the offseason was on the offensive line. They also spent two picks on the line as well. As they enter 2020 with a revamped line, they added another piece who was not drafted, and he may have the most potential of any UDFA. Jared Hilbers is that guy.

Strengths

The athletic tackle from Washington has a lot of potential. He caught the eyes of a lot of scouts at the East-West Shrine game and earned a lot of respect from scouts league-wide. Although he stood out, he didn’t earn a combine invite. The 6 foot 6, 270-pound swing tackle has a basketball background, which further depicts his overall athleticism. Hilbers is a moldable talent at tackle who has the ability to play anywhere on the line. If Hilbers continues to develop, he could provide immense versatility on the line. At Washington, he sat and developed behind two draft picks, Kaleb McGary and Trey Adams. He was able to shift all over the line wherever need be, and he played really well whenever he was on the field. His athleticism makes him a valuable piece to mold on the line.

Weaknesses

Lack of significant on the field reps is the only real qualm I have with Hilbers. Hilbers is a raw prospect as well who will need to be molded at the next level. The Jets depth at offensive line is plentiful as well. With Cameron Clark and Mekhi Becton also joining the Jets as rookies, Hilbers is going to have to compete for every rep. If he has one bad game, that could be it. Overall though, there aren’t a ton of flaws in Hilbers game, just need to see more reps to identify true issues, and that could be the reason the Jets don’t keep him.

General Outlook

Overall Hilbers projects as a swing tackle at the next level. Adam Gase loves his athletic linemen, and Hilbers fits the bill. If he excels in his opportunities on the field, expect him to stay as a depth lineman. He was a draftable prospect, and the Jets knew that. He got the second biggest bonus with 62,000 dollars. Hilbers is obviously someone the Jets staff likes, and if given the opportunity, he could be a steal. 

What are the New York Jets getting in UDFA CB Lamar Jackson?

New York Jets

The New York Jets signed Lamar Jackson! No, not the electric QB/RB that’s coming off an MVP campaign. Instead, the Jets got a corner (who played QB in High School) who was projected to be a late-round pick. Lamar Jackson, a CB from Nebraska adds versatility and continues to add more depth to the secondary. He could be a solid pickup, so let’s breakdown his skill set.

Strengths

Lamar Jackson adds a few key things the Jets like. Durability and leadership. He was the defensive MVP in 2019 after a breakout season. Besides that, he was a 3-year starter. Jackson is an accountable corner capable of being left on the island. He has an excellent size which makes him a very physical press corner. Do you know who likes corners like those? Gregg Williams. Lamar Jackson will fit very well in Williams scheme and has the potential to be an impact player at some point. He played his best football last season when he put up 40 tackles, 4 TFLs, 3 INTs, and allowed a 55.7 passer rating. Lamar is capable of being left on an island and is a player overall capable of being a starter at some point at the next level.

Weaknesses 

As much as I raved about Lamar, he does have weaknesses. Although he’s a lockdown corner against physical receivers and in the red zone, in the vertical game he leaves much to be desired. He lacks speed to hang with some of the speed threats at the next level. He lacks a strong football IQ as well. He’s a more matchup specific player who would excel in 1v1 matchups. If he can’t prove his worth on special teams and doesn’t draw the eye of any of the higher-ups, he won’t stick on the roster.

Overall Outlook

Lamar Jackson has some of the most potentials of not just the UDFAs, but even some of the draft picks. The issue is, he also is flawed in his game. Ultimately, the scheme fit is going to benefit Lamar’s chances of sticking on the roster, but he’s still going to need to develop his IQ and speed if he wants to be a long term NFL player.

New York Jets: UDFA Breakdowns, Lawerence Cager

New York Jets, C.J. Mosley

Over the coming weeks, I plan to breakdown the little known additions to the New York Jets, the UDFAs. The Jets added a couple of new players with varying levels of potential and talent at a few positions of need. The Jets have had UDFAs turn into key contributors in previous years like Robby Anderson, Damon Harrison, and even the legend, Wayne Cherbert. The first UDFA breakdown is Lawerence Cager, WR, Georgia.

Strengths

Lawerence Cager is a very unique player with his build. Similar to Quincy Enunwa, Cager is a speed threat with the body of a tight end. He’s dynamic with the ball in his hands and can be a good fit in quick throw and bubble screen packages that Adam Gase likes to run. Cager has got a lot of heart, if you look at his track record, Cager has been a leader and willed his way onto the field despite injuries in the past. Lawerence Cager has the physical and mental makeup to be a contributor at the next level. With good coaching, his talent could be harnessed into a formidable outside option or a depth receiver.

Weaknesses

Although I mentioned the dynamic aspect of Cager’s game, he also lacks a developed route tree. He’s got very good hands and he’s a crisp route runner, but at times he relies on his natural abilities to make up for lack of advancement in turns of his route tree. Natural ability may work in college, but at the next level, it won’t be as easy. Cager needs to develop more in that aspect. Cager also has a talented outside threat opposite him in George Pickens. That drew a lot of guys towards Pickens and freed Cager up more. This gave Cager more capability to succeed against lower-level corners. That’s a minor note that could be something to watch though. Lastly, injuries may have been something Cager could overcome at times, but he still missed the end of last season with a serious ankle injury. It may not be that much of an issue on the surface, but deeper damage could’ve hurt the dynamic aspect of his game and slowed him down a bit. That will remain to be seen.

Overall Outlook

Lawerence Cager was a worthwhile flyer in a free agency. There are definitely good reasons for Cager to not get drafted. The concerns in his game and injuries are justified. Ultimately, Cager is not going to be counted on to contribute right away. If Cager wins a spot on the roster, Hines Ward will likely be a key guy to watch in his development. If Ward sees potential in Cager or any other young receivers, his eye will be trusted. Cager could be a Quincy Enunwa prototype at best, but at worst this was just a camp body. 

How Giants’ Joe Judge and Ravens’ Jon Harbaugh Approached Their First Drafts and Why It Matters

New York Giants, Joe Judge

Head coaches are selected from factors such as philosophy, the ability to hire excellent staff, and strong leadership. Once in a while, these coveted strengths are found in special teams coaches, including New York Giants coach Joe Judge and the last special teams coach to make the leap, Baltimore Ravens’ current head coach John Harbaugh. Let’s examine their first forays into the NFL draft as head coaches.

 

  1. QUARTERBACKS AND OFFENSIVE TACKLES

 

The two coaches both had to face their first NFL drafts as unproven head coaches, and their approach couldn’t be more different. In 2008, the Ravens were not comfortable with who they had under center. In 2007, starter Kyle Boller only started 12 games and threw a paltry nine touchdowns. The Ravens spent their first-round selection (pick #18) on Joe Flacco, a quarterback from the University of Delaware. Flacco has gone on to bring home a Super Bowl.

The New York Giants already began 2020 with a quarterback in Daniel Jones, but like the Ravens, they knew the importance of shoring up the offense by drafting offensive tackle Andrew Thomas from Georgia. Judge and the Giants continued to bolster the offensive line taking Matt Peart (third round/pick #99).

The Ravens wouldn’t draft a tackle until Oniel Cousins from UTEP in the third round (pick #99). Cousins was waived in 2010 after playing both the guard and tackle positions in very limited capacities for the Ravens. They also drafted David Hale (fourth round/pick #133) another OT late in the draft. He played eighteen games before being cut in the 2010 preseason.

The Giants already spent elsewhere (including Solder, Zeitler, and Tate), so bolstering the offensive line in the draft was necessary to stay under the cap and give Jones some added protection.

 

  1. THE PERCEIVED VALUE OF RUNNING BACKS

 

The second round of the 2008 draft would also prove interesting for the Ravens, and while not comparable directly with Judge the Raven’s pick would showcase their similarity with the current Giants front office. They used their second pick (#55) on running back Ray Rice. The Ravens would release Rice in 2014 while on suspension for domestic violence. Prior to his released, he amassed 3 Pro-Bowl selections, 37 touchdowns, and over 6,000 rushing yards.

This selection is undoubtedly reflective of Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman and his staff after selecting Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the 2018 draft. In just two seasons, Barkley has tallied one Pro-Bowl selection and 2,300 rushing yards. Both front offices believed in the value of running backs and what they bring to the offense. Whether or not Barkley’s value continues to satisfy the Giants’ front office and coaching staff remains to be seen, but the current evidence certainly suggests he’s doing his part to keep the offense running.

 

  1. DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO THE LINEBACKER PROBLEM

 

In the third round, the Ravens selected Tavares Gooden, a linebacker from Miami. Gooden struggled to stay healthy and was released in 2011. Judge refrained from drafting a linebacker so early in the draft, but the Giants already used some of their financial capital in March when they signed Blake Martinez, a proven linebacker, to a three-year 30 million dollar contract. Judge still valued drafting a linebacker and took Cam Brown late (sixth round/pick #183). The Ravens felt more confident than the Giants in taking a linebacker in the draft, but both organizations still nabbed one. At the same time, the Giants ultimately placed more value on a proven commodity in Martinez.

 

  1. SAFELY DRAFTING SAFETIES

 

Harbaugh used two picks in 2008 on safeties. Tom Zbikowski from Notre Dame (third round/pick #86) and Haruki Nakamura from Cincinnati (sixth round/pick #206) were both expected to be real contributors. Zbikowski played 56 games for the Ravens, including 14 games as a starter. Nakamura was a solid player but never became a standout before signing with the Panthers in 2012.

The Giants did its best to improve the secondary by drafting safety Xavier McKinney (round two/pick #36) from Alabama. He was First Team All-SEC in 2019 and recorded 82 tackles as a senior.

 

  1. TAKEAWAYS

 

There are a few takeaways from comparing the two drafts. It’s incredibly clear that the draft is impossible to get right. Most of the picks the Ravens were counting on didn’t last more than a few years. And Ray Rice may have had impeccable NFL stats, but his domestic violence charges made him rightfully impossible to keep. The only success story the Ravens had was Joe Flacco, but if you can hit on a quarterback, you’ve had a successful draft. What happens with this 2020 Giants draft is impossible to declare at this point.

Both coaches, though clearly placed value on offensive tackles, linebackers, and safeties, whether in the draft of free agency. They both clearly wanted to invest in protecting the quarterback, supporting the defensive linemen, and bulking up the pass coverage. These three things have been an anemic deficiency in the Giants scheme for years. Hopefully, Judge and Gettleman solved this problem through the 2020 draft, but only time will tell.