New York Jets: La’Mical Perine backs Sam Darnold as QB

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Perine, poised to be the New York Jets’ top rushing option, expressed his support for the incumbent quarterback on NFL Network.

New York Jets running back La’Mical Perine appears to have a future in the organization. He hopes the guy who handed him his first NFL carries has one as well.

With calls for Sam Darnold’s departure reaching a bit of a fever pitch with both Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson potentially seeking new homes, Perine put his support behind the incumbent starter when it comes to the team’s future during an appearance on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football.

“No disrespect to any of the quarterbacks within the draft, but I actually had a chance to play with Sam and was able to be in a backfield with him. I know what he brings to a team,” Perine said in a response to co-host Nate Burleson. “He’s a great leader…We’ve just got to put good weapons around him, and he can very well succeed and be one of the top quarterbacks in this league.”

“He’s a great vocal leader, a great guy to be around, competitive and I’m ready to look forward to him,” Perine said. “I hope he’s on our team this year…being my starting quarterback.”

Perine joined the team as a fourth-round pick out of Florida last season, shortly after earning MVP honors in the Gators’ Orange Bowl victory over Virginia. Injuries and a late bout with COVID-19 limited Perine to 10 games, during which he tallied 232 yards on 64 carries, two of which went for a touchdown. With Le’Veon Bell already gone and Frank Gore and Ty Johnson up for free agency, Perine is set to be the Jets’ top returning rusher.

The 120th overall pick of April’s draft praised his chemistry and training with Gore, saying he hopes the fellow Florida collegiate legend dons a reflective green chrome helmet as well.

“Coming into the NFL, you just try to find that routine. A guy who’s played 16 years, he has his routine,” Perine responded to Kim Jones. “I just tried to learn everything I can, whether it’s watching film, watching his routine, seeing how he’s such a great player. Honestly, I can tell why he’s played 16 years in this league, just by the way he takes care of his body, how he moves in day in and day out. I’m hoping he can be on the Jets as well.”

Set to enter his second season, Perine is likewise excited to welcome in head coach Robert Saleh and his new gang of assistants. He addressed the new regime in an opening question from Peter Schrager, recalling their Week 2 showdown with Saleh’s 49ers back in September.

“They had a ton of energy,” Perine recalled. “I feel like he can bring that energy toward the Jets. We need that, that great positive energy to have, to be a successful team this here.”

See the full interview here.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Quinnen Williams would be “disappointed” if dealt from the New York Jets

Quinnen Williams, New York Jets

After a breakout season in the midst of a brutal year for the New York Jets, Quinnen Williams wants to stick around for the long haul.

Armchair general managers of the New York Jets have routinely shipped off Quinnen Williams in hypothetical trades that often end with Deshaun Watson…or, after Thursday, Russell Wilson…wearing green (or, at least in Wilson’s case, a different shade of it).

But Williams made it clear this week that he would be the first to veto such a trade.

Appearing on The Zach Gelb Show on CBS Sports Radio, Williams expressed his wishes to keep wearing a Jets helmet after his breakout sophomore season.

“I’d be disappointed…I really want to be a Jet for life. I like New York, and I want to play in New York,” Williams told Gelb. He referred to Watson as an elite quarterback but reiterated his desire to play in Robert Saleh’s defense. Williams was one of the first players to praise the hire of Williams, joining his former San Francisco pupil Richard Sherman. The Jets’ top pick in the 2019 draft (third overall) understands a potential trade is a business decision out of his hands. But the praise for Saleh continued on Gelb’s program.

“I just handle what I can handle, just control what I can control. Just go out and work hard as I can for any team that I’m on. Hopefully, it’s the Jets so I can play with Coach (Robert) Saleh, but any team I’m on, I just work my hardest so that when that comes around I can be the best player I can be.”

“To get the chance to see that scheme and that front four and just the different things Coach Saleh brought to that defense, I can’t wait to get around him and pick his brain and get him to bring that to the New York Jets,” he continued. “You can tell he brings passion to the game, passion to where he’s coaching, just passion…You have to bring passion, you got to bring love and dedication to your job. So you could see he brings all of that into coaching.”

This isn’t the first time Williams has found himself in the middle of speculation. His name was previously the subject of rumors during the 2019 trade deadline, but the Jets opted to stand pat. Their patience paid off. In the midst of a brutal 2-14 season, Williams established himself as one of the top interior defensive linemen in football. He led the Jets with seven sacks and ten tackles for a loss.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills offseason preview 2021: Running backs

Just because the Buffalo Bills have figure out their passing game doesn’t mean their offense should fully rely on it.

The Position: Running Back
On the Roster: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss
Free Agents: T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones
Reserve/Future: Antonio Williams, Christian Wade

The Buffalo Bills have solved their long-lingering passing problems through Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and other aerial talents. That doesn’t mean they should solely rely on such talents to win games.

It was rare to find disappointments on the Bills’ roster, particularly on the offensive front, but the run game’s decline. The team seemed to be set for the future with day two gem Devin Singletary (775 rushing yards, fourth-best amongst rookies despite missing four games) entering his sophomore season and using another third-round choice on Zack Moss last spring. Moss replaced the Florham Park-bound Frank Gore, who united with Singletary to create the eighth-best rushing attack in football in 2019.

But despite some brief flashes of brilliance…Moss had two touchdowns in a November win over New England…their run tally was mostly anchored by Allen. As a whole, the Bills dropped to 20th in rushing yards per game…right behind the Saquon Barkley-free New York Giants. No Bills rusher reached triple digits in yardage last season. The mistrust in the run game was apparent in the playoffs. During the Divisional victory over Baltimore, one that Moss missed with an injury sustained in the Wild Card tilt with Indianapolis, Buffalo running backs earned only nine carries, with Allen forced to carry the load with 46 touches (37 passes, 9 carries).

“We’re gonna do what we think we need to do to win, whether it’s run it or pass it,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said of his unit, per Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “You try to do both of them well. How that sorts itself out and how the game’s going or the direction we want to take it, that’ll all be played out.”

Free Agents-to-be

T.J. Yeldon

Yeldon, struggling to live up to the promise he displayed during his first years in Jacksonville, has spent the last two seasons playing sparingly with the Bills. He did take some more snaps once Moss was lost for the postseason.

Taiwan Jones

Working through his second stint with the Bills, Jones is far more well known for his work on special teams, notably recovering a Mecole Hardman fumble during the AFC title game.

Will They Draft?

There’s probably no use in drafting a running back so early on, especially with needs on the pass rush far more pressing. Considering their top two current options are consecutive third-round picks, it’s hard to see them picking another rusher on day two. Options in the third round and beyond could include Chuba Hubbard. The Oklahoma State star’s relatively small size and struggles with blocking could well push him to day three, but small school options in the draft’s latter stages could include Trey Ragas (Louisiana-Lafayette) and Spencer Brown (FCS Northern Iowa).

Veteran Possibilities 

Mike Davis, Carolina

Singletary and Moss can be labeled as bruising, smashmouth options. Their young, workhorse ethic can be complimented and honed with an experienced speedster like Davis, who is well known for running a 4.38 in the 40-yard-dash, a highlight that will probably be played often with no combine this season.

Marlon Mack, Indianapolis

If the Bills want to go the three-headed monster route at running back, Mack would work well with a similar skillset to the incumbent Moss and Singletary. He’ll likely be searching for a new home after Jonathan Taylor’s breakout and is come off a torn Achilles. If the Bills can ink him to an affordable short-term deal, it could be worth giving him a chance to earn the permanent rushing job.

Nick Bellore, Seattle

The fullback is a dying art in today’s NFL, but the idea of Allen working with a fullback could be most intriguing. A man of many talents, the linebacker-turned-fullback Bellore earned his first Pro Bowl nomination through some strong blocking and performance on special teams. Bellore ranked third in the NFL last season with 14 tackles on kickoffs and punts.

Outlook

Overall, the Bills appear to be satisfied with their rushing corps despite their struggles. General manager Brandon Beane exonerated Singletary and Moss during his season-ending statements.

“I think it’s unfair to look at the running backs to point blame on the running game,” Beane said, per Matt Bove of WKBW-Buffalo. “Running the football is very complex. It’s the offensive line, it’s the tight ends, it’s the receivers. If one guy doesn’t make his block, the play is probably dead.”

If they’re willing to let both Yeldon and Jones walk, and neither of them is going to top the offseason priority list, they could go after a veteran rushing name. But it’s more likely that Beane will try to replenish the blocking corps before he tinkers with the Singletary-Moss duology.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Jets home games ranked by prime time probability

New York Jets fans are set to be welcomed back to MetLife Stadium this fall. Can they expect any primetime games? ESM investigates…

The New York Jets learned of a major offseason acquisition late Monday morning.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced on WFAN’s Moose and Maggie program that MetLife Stadium would welcome fans at a 15 percent capacity rate starting March 1. Social distancing will likely be enacted, but Murphy hinted that the percentage could rise as football season approaches.

Jets fans will doubt relish their first opportunity to spell out the team’s name, especially with new head coach Robert Saleh in tow, as well as some potential new faces through both surplus cap space and draft picks.

In celebration of the spectators’ upcoming return, ESM looks ahead on the eight teams set to visit East Rutherford’s green setting this season and ponders their potential primetime posting…

1. Buffalo Bills

The annual Bills-Jets pair used to be Thursday night fodder, a matchup to fill primetime quota for each team. But with the Bills capturing the hearts of many in the Empire State, a rivalry could be brewing for the Jets to keep their territory. Last season, Buffalo earned their first sweep in the series since 2015…a year best known for the time they ended the Jets’ last realistic shot at the postseason.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Just when the Jets thought the Tom Brady problem was over, the arguable GOAT returns to a green MetLife Stadium in 2021. The rivalry between Brady and the Jets, who inadvertently gave life to his NFL journey in 2001, has often resembled that of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, with Brady owning a 30-8 record against Gang Green. The quadrennial meeting between Tampa and New York has produced some thrillers in the past. Wayne Chrebet and Curtis Martin silenced Keyshawn Johnson with some game-winning trickery in 2000, while Nick Folk booted a late 48-yarder to win the last MetLife meeting in 2013 (Geno Smith’s first NFL start).

3. New England Patriots

National networks have, for whatever reason, taken a liking to the Jets-Patriots rivalry. Even with the allure of Brady gone, last season’s get-together at MetLife earned the Monday night treatment for the second straight season. The networks could be willing to revisit this matchup with each team chasing Buffalo and potentially featuring a new quarterback matchup.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

Last season, such a meeting between New York and Jacksonville could’ve served as the de facto play-in game for the top spot in this spring’s NFL Draft. But a meeting between the top two picks, potentially a Sugar Bowl rematch between Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, could draw the attention of the league’s national TV partners. Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield notably did battle on a Thursday night during their rookie year in 2018 (though Mayfield did not start the game).

5. Miami Dolphins

Miami proved last season that it wasn’t quite ready for primetime, though networks tend to flirt with divisional matchups. An extra layer of intrigue could be added if one of these rivals convinces the stubborn Texans to trade Deshaun Watson.

6. Cincinnati Bengals

If Joe Burrow is ready to go, networks could be attracted to 2020’s top overall draft pick engaging in a battle with 2021’s number two, especially if it’s also a quarterback.

7. Tennessee Titans

There could be some attraction to this matchup due to the Titans’ status as defending AFC South champions could draw some viewers, but without much history between these squads, there’s little national appeal.

8. New Orleans Saints

The same problems that befall the Tennesse tilt could apply with this matchup, and the interconference setting certainly doesn’t help matters.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

How J.J. Watt’s “mitochondria” tweet invokes the Buffalo Bills

New York Giants, JJ Watt

Watt’s Tuesday morning science lesson sent Buffalo Bills fans into hysterics as the prized defender seeks his next destination.

The day elementary school science teachers prepared us for finally came on Tuesday morning.

Superstar free agent J.J. Watt set football Twitter ablaze with a cryptic posting that simply read “Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell”. Watt, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, offered no context for his scientific observation. Such labeling of mitochondria is common in biology textbooks and the phrase gained a bit of notoriety in 2013, when Tumblr users mocked the supposed uselessness of this information being taught in schools. Mitochondria are found in the cells of most eukaryotic organisms (whose cells contain a membrane encased nucleus).

With Watt set to move on from the rebuilding Houston Texans, fans and analysts couldn’t help but wonder if the prized defender was hinting at his new destination. The organelle held particular meaning for fans of the Buffalo Bills, as some fans pointed out that Buffalo is home to the Mitochondria Research Society. The MRS is described on the National Organization for Rare Disorders’ (NORD) site as “a non-profit, international organization of scientists and physicians. The purpose of MRS is to find a cure for mitochondrial diseases by promoting research on basic science of mitochondria, mitochondria pathogenesis, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment throughout the world”.

Buffalo fans were hardly alone in trying to decipher Watt’s tweet in their favor. Syracuse.com’s Ryan Talbot jokingly pointed out mitochondria’s bean-like shape, facetiously declaring that Watt was negotiating with Bills general manager Brandon Beane. Talbot’s mentions were quickly filled by overzealous fans of the Chicago Bears, who insisted that Watt was referring to the Windy City’s Cloud Gate sculpture, commonly referred to as “The Bean”. None of the league’s fanbases were truly without guilt in this endeavor, each stretching their own theory further than the last. Only Bills fans, it would appear, were able to find a local landmark to strengthen their case. 

Watt, 31, requested his release from the Texans after a decade in Houston. While a bittersweet breakup, the split appeared to be mutual, with Watt’s wish fulfilled by owner Cal McNair. Watt has earned countless accolades in his NFL career and departs Houston as the Texans’ all-time leader in sacks (101), tackles for a loss (172) and All-Pro nominations (5). He earned 52 tackles and five sacks, as well as the sixth touchdown of his career (and first since 2014) last season, as he partook in all 16 games after his 0219 campaign was mostly lost due to a torn pectoral. 

Despite Watt’s apparent hint, don’t expect the former Texan to make a decision any time soon. He indicated as such when responding to an impatient follower on Sunday night.

“I scroll through door dash for like an hour before I pick a restaurant man…” [sic] Watt told the fan. “You’re gonna have to give me a second to choose a new team and city.” [sic].

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The New York Jets have a decision to make on Jamison Crowder

Crowder has been one of the most reliable weapons the New York Jets have had over the last two years, but a major decision looms.

Even before the nightmarish two years of the Adam Gase era, the New York Jets and offensive firepower have been like oil and water. In a modern NFL ruled by fantasy football, the Jets’ struggles on offense and low win totals are no coincidence.

Jamison Crowder, however, has been a welcome exception to the hard times. After four seasons in Washington, where he made an immediate impact by breaking a rookie receptions record previously held by Art Monk, Crowder joined the Jets on a three-year deal worth $28.5 million. As the team faltered, Crowder has developed himself into one of the most reliable slot receivers in the NFL. He is one of only 36 receivers throughout the league to earn at least 1,500 cumulative yards, a number not only achieved with four different quarterbacks in tow but one that could’ve been much higher had Crowder not missed four games wth an ankle injury last season. His 699 yards and six touchdowns still managed to lead the team in 2020.

With the horrors of last season behind, the purge of anything related to the prior regime has been well underway. All but one of the fired Gase’s assistants (special teams coordinator Brant Boyer) were bid farewell, and an in-season fire sale put Steve McLendon and Le’Veon Bell on a collision course for the Super Bowl (Avery Williamson was likewise involved). On the offseason front, 25 Jets are up for free agency, but save for a select few (Brian Poole, Marcus Maye) there’s no one the list that screams priority re-sign.

Crowder, however, is ensnared in a tricky situation as a new unit, one that could include yet another quarterback, starts to assemble. He is under contract for another season, but, with the aforementioned contract guaranteeing $17 million, Crowder could be bid farewell if the Jets are looking to send a a few further millions to an-already healthy cap situation. If Crowder is removed, be it through trade or outright release, the team would save just over $9 million.

What are the Jets to do? ESM investigates…

The Case To Keep

When you’re a team like the Jets, a team that failed to pass the 14-point plateau in nine games last season, are you really in any position to turn down any source of firepower? Never mind four digits in yardage; Crowder and free-agent-to-be Breshad Perriman were the only ones to crank out 500 yards on the New York roster last season…and Perriman only broke the threshold by five taillies.

No matter who starts under center for the Jets in 2021…be it Sam Darnold, Deshaun Watson, or a spring draftee…they’re going to need weapons to work with. Drafting Mekhi Becton was a good start, even if it meant passing on some of the name-brand receiver talent available at No. 11. But, if the Jets were to release Crowder and let Perriman walk, the top returning receiver would be Braxton Berrios (394 yards last season). Sure, there’s cap space to add a talented slot option like Chris Godwin, JuJu Smith-Schuster, or Curtis Samuel. But if you keep the reliable Crowder, a team with a ridiculous amount of holes to fill has one less spot to worry about. The quarterback will also have a guaranteed, established weapon to work with rather than relying on a big score in free agency.

Crowder’s status as a seasoned veteran and one of the rare Jets on the current roster with playoff experience (earning a trio of receptions in Washington’s loss to Green Bay in the 2016 Wild Card round) could have a calming effect on some of the younger names on the roster like Denzel Mims, whom the Jets envision as a long-term, big-play option.

The Case To Cut

Crowder has established himself as a serviceable receiver and a reliable slot man. But if Jamison Crowder is your top receiver, that might say more about the state of your team than it does the receiver.

The Jets are not the proverbial “one move away” from the Super Bowl. In fact, they’re several moves from merely sniffing Wild Card weekend. They can use all the help they can get. Sure, their circa $68 million cap space is a wonder to behold and gives the team some solid funding to work with this offseason. But any little bit can only help this team carry on into the future. The Jets have to ask themselves if a potential top ten slot receiver is worth keeping as they move on. Samuel, for example, could step in as the slot man while the Jets take their semi-replenished funds and go after an elite big-play name like Chicago’s Allen Robinson, who has held no secrets about his thoughts on the Jets’ offseason endeavors.

Many hypothetical trades for, say, Watson also seem to center of the Jets’ surplus draft capital. But with the same cap relief afforded to Jets if they include Crowder in a deal, they may be able to keep a precious pick if you include the receiver in such a deal.

Crowder has undeniably served as a silver lining during the latest stages of the Jets’ perpetual rebuild. Is that really worth keeping him around for the potential good times ahead?

The Verdict

No matter how many opportunities the Jets have to stock up on offensive weaponry this season, they’re in no position to refuse help that’s already available to him. This New York makeover, now overseen by Robert Saleh in addition to Joe Douglas, can not afford to focus on one area. It’d be great if the path back to contention required only replenishing the offensive weaponry. But the Jets have further questions to answer with their run game, the non-Becton blocking, their defensive back seven, and their kicker. There’s no use in adding slot receiver to that last when a name like Crowder is already there.

If the Jets are able to persuade Houston in a trade for Watson…and there’s no indication the stubborn Texans are willing to budge just yet…then trading Crowder would wind up being wise if it saves them an excess first-rounder. Otherwise, let him stick around and provide reassurance to a returning Darnold or the new guy.

Keep Him 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

New England Patriots, Joe Thuney

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

Who is Joe Thuney?

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

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

Why The Jets?

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

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

Best offensive playmaker options for the Giants to target in the draft

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts

The New York Giants ranked 30th overall in total offense in 2020. Averaging approximately just 17 points per game, the offense needs a major overhaul if they want to be competitive in 2021. Adding more playmakers, whether it is through the NFL draft or free agency, is imperative to improve their offensive production. The Giants currently hold the 11th overall selection, so there will be a bevy of viable options to choose from.

1. Kyle Pitts: TE, Florida

Kyle Pitts is my personal preference for the Giants’ first-round selection, and if he is available, Dave Gettleman should pull the trigger without hesitation. A 6’5, 239-pound perfect blend of speed and athleticism, Pitts is the quintessential tight end/wide receiver hybrid that is perfect for today’s NFL. Pitts has been compared to Raiders’ star tight end Darren Waller, and if the Giants could implement him into their offense, his production could be very beneficial. Now the question for most fans would be, “but why would they draft a tight end when they have Evan Engram?” The answer goes beyond the fact that Pitts is just simply a better prospect than Engram was. The best move for the Giants, or any team that drafts Pitts, would be to cross-train him as a receiver and a tight end to maximize his value. His presence on the field will do much more for that offense than I think most people realize. In my opinion, drafting Pitts is the Giants’ best-case scenario.

2. Jaylen Waddle: WR, Alabama

Waddle is another extremely enticing prospect that the Giants should very much consider if he is available. At 5’10, 182 pounds, Waddle is a speedster with dangerous twitch. Somehow overshadowed by his Alabama teammates Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and 2020 Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, Waddle was still incredibly productive in his tenure with the Crimson Tide. Only playing in four games in 2020 before fracturing his ankle, which resulted in surgery in October, Waddle still managed to log 28 receptions for 591 yards and four touchdowns. He is an incredibly dynamic receiver that could open up a lot of opportunities for Daniel Jones and the offense in 2021. Maybe Joe Judge’s Alabama connections can land the star receiver in New York.

3. Rashod Bateman: WR, Minnesota

Bateman is one of the most electrifying prospects in the draft. A very impressive route runner, I think Bateman could be one of the best players to come out of this draft class. Ball skills, along with the toughness and grit to play on the outside, is just the type of weapon that could propel the offense. Bateman has tremendous awareness and speed that will help Jones.

There are several theories as to why the Giants’ offense stalled throughout the season. Barkley missing the season with an ACL injury, doubts about Daniel Jones’ abilities, and Jason Garrett’s play-calling can all be reasons to be debated amongst the fanbase. One thing is for sure, adding playmakers to this offense will benefit the production immediately.

MetLife Stadium set to welcome back limited fans on March 1

Governor Phil Murphy announced on Monday that fans will be welcomed back to football games and concerts at MetLife Stadium starting March 1.

With the NFL’s free agency period set to get underway soon, the New York Jets and New York Giants may have earned some big pickups before the players start to move.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced on Monday that relaxed COVID-19 restrictions will allow MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford to welcome in fans at 15 percent of its capacity starting March 1. With a listed capacity of 82,500, this would bring in 12,375 fans to the stadium.

Murphy made the announcement on WFAN’s “Moose and Maggie” program, also announcing that indoor venues could welcome fans at a 10 percent capacity, which would open Newark’s Prudential Center to just 2,000 fans of the New Jersey Devils and Seton Hall Pirates men’s basketball team.

Though social distancing and face coverings would still be required, pre-admission COVID screenings would not, in contrast to a similar order from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to reopen his state’s venues.

The Giants and Jets released a joint statement with the stadium to acknowledge Murphy’s comments…

As the months go on, we are hopeful that the data will continue to be positive and the number of people allowed into MetLife Stadium will steadily increase. The health and safety of our fans, players, staff, and those in our communities remain our top priority and we will continue to follow the guidance of Governor Murphy and state health officials.”

“We missed seeing our loyal fans at stadium events this past year and are excited to welcome them back in 2021.”

MetLife Stadium’s next scheduled event is slated for August 5, a Guns N’ Roses concert rescheduled from last July. Lady Gaga’s Chromatica Ball is set to visit two weeks later, as is Kenny Chesney and his Chillaxification Tour two nights later.

The last sporting event held at the stadium came last February when the New York Guardians hosted the Los Angeles Wildcats for an XFL tilt. NFL schedules for 2021 have yet to be released, but the Jets’ home slate will feature a visit from the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Giants fans will no doubt await the Philadelphia Eagles’ annual visit after their Week 17 passiveness played a role in costing Big Blue a playoff spot.

As for the indoor venues, the first Devils game that would welcome fans would be a March 2 visit from the New York Islanders. Seton Hall has only one March home game on its schedule and that March 3 matchup against Connecticut would mark the team’s Senior Day festivities. Meanwhile, in Piscataway, Rutgers women’s basketball has a March home game schedule for March 5 or 6 against Ohio State, but the school has shown no signs of deviating from current Big Ten policies that allow a maximum of four family members to attend games in person.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: A fullback could create new offensive avenues

Employing a fullback would be a familiar way for the newly minted New York Jets coaching staff to find an offensive spark.

The modern NFL is one ruled by “Big Offense”, an athletic denomination ruled by a deity known as fantasy football. Scoring four touchdowns in a losing effort has become more common and no less frustrating. Three of the seven highest-scoring games in NFL history have come in the last decade.

These phenomena and more have made the New York Jets’ offensive ineptitude all the more impressive from a macabre standpoint.

Enough has been written about how the Jets have lacked a true franchise quarterback solution since the Nixon resignation, but last year’s edition hit astonishing new lows. They failed to break the 300-yard plateau in all but five of their games last season. The two-touchdown threshold was crossed only seven times. New York has been victimized for two of the six shutouts tallied over the past couple of seasons.

In short, the Jets’ offense could use whatever help it can get. New assistance can spawn from the annals of NFL history if they’re willing to try. Reviving old properties appears to be good enough for Hollywood, so why can’t it work for the Jets? No one’s saying, of course, that the Jets have to go too far…so don’t expect to see, say, the T-formation or goalposts in the middle of the end zone at MetLife Stadium next season. But the team could be well-served by employing the services of a fullback as they start to traverse a new era.

Now, the fullback hasn’t fully gone the way of the single-bar facemask just yet, but it’s certainly an endangered species. We’re certainly far beyond the days where the man in the role was a household name on a championship team like Daryl Johnston, Mike Alstott, or even William “Refridgerator” Perry. But there appears to be a correlation between teams that employ a fullback in their modern roster and recent success.

“Not every team uses my position,” Derek Watt, then of the Los Angeles Chargers, told Nick Wagoner and Eric Williams of ESPN in 2019. “But teams that do, at least a handful that remained in the playoffs late last year, a majority of them had a fullback on the roster. I’m not saying that correlates to anything, but those teams that made it deep in the playoffs did have a fullback. That’s just an observation.”

Watt, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was sixth-round pick of the Chargers in 2016 and worked his way into the lineup during the 2018 season. A year after, Watt earned 10 touches (7 carries, 3 receptions), all but three of which went for first downs. To his point about fullbacks and postseason endeavors, three of the eight Divisional round participants (Baltimore, San Francisco, Minnesota), used a fullback on over 30 percent of their offensive (Patrick Ricard, Kyle Juszczyk, and C.J. Ham respectively). Others, Tennessee, have used tight ends (like Jonnu Smith) in the spot. The tournament’s Super Bowl champion, the Kansas City Chiefs, has kept 2014 All-Pro Anthony Sherman on retainer for the past eight seasons.

The Jets are no strangers to fullback endeavors, as the turn of the century has seen them employ crucial contributors like Richie Anderson and Tony Richardson. Names from the past include Brad Baxter, Roger Vick, Mike Augustyniak, Clark Gaines, and future Super Bowl MVP and Hall of Famer John Riggins. New York has mostly eschewed the concept since the end of the Rex Ryan era, when he tried to replace the retiring Richardson with Lex Hilliard and John “The Terminator” Conner. XFL draftee Tommy Bohanon was briefly considered during Todd Bowles’ time with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.

Adam Gase attempted to turn 2019 draftee Trevon Wesco into a bit of a power option, and the concept somewhat paid off during his rookie season. Wesco earned three first downs on four touches during his debut campaign, but Gase mostly abandoned the concept when a fullback gambit failed to yield a first down in an early crucial juncture of the Jets’ loss to Arizona last October.

With the Gase era mercifully over, you’d think the Jets would be wise to cut off all ties from the previous regime, include those established in the starting lineup. But the Jets are now armed with a coaching staff that knows how to work the position and how to tinker with it to achieve maximum firepower.

If the Jets are to reintroduce a fullback to their lineup on a consistent basis, their timing will likely never be better. Robert Saleh and his San Francisco (including new offensive boss Mike LaFleur) imports know what it’s like to reap the benefits of a fullback’s work, having played witness to the rise of Juszczyk (pronounced YOOZ-check) over the past four seasons in the Bay Area. Each has ended in an invite to the Pro Bowl, including the virtual edition held last month. Those in Baltimore previously saw what Juszczyk was capable of when he first joined the team as a fourth-round pick in 2013. But Juszczyk truly began to hone his powers with the 49ers, his dominance perhaps summitting last season. Not only did Juszczyk score a career-best six touchdowns, but his blocking helped pave the way for a rushing unit decimated by injuries. Two of those rushers, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., earned at least 4.8 yards per carry with triple-digit carries. In the aforementioned 2019 playoff run, Juszczyk became the first fullback since Alstott to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

During his opening statements, Saleh hinted that the Jets hope to emulate the offensive gameplans Kyle Shanahan has established. In addition to the work he put in with Juszczyk over the past four seasons, Shanahan would also utilize Patrick DiMarco as a receiver during his time in Atlanta under Dan Quinn.

“Mike LaFleur has been with Kyle for I think he’s going on eight years now of professional football, which has been his entire career and nobody in the world knows it better than he does,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “To be able to have him and to get John Benton along with us as run game coordinator, we’re really excited about them being able to install the system and implement the vision that we all want to see.”

Wouldn’t you know it, a certain 49er is up for free agency.

Juszczyk is set to hit the open market following the expiration of a four-year, $21 million deal inked in 2017. Nothing more needs to be said about the Jets’ blessed cap space situation, so a slightly larger deal would definitely be something worth investigating. The work Juszczyk did with his blocking last season would also help soothe some concerns the Jets have about their primary run game, which is out of sorts after the highly publicized Le’Veon Bell departure. His blocking can bestow confidence to a rushing attack that’s currently poised to be led by 2020 fourth-rounder La’mical Perine.

Taboo as the position may be, it’s a risk the Jets almost can’t afford not to take. Even if they miss out on Juszczyk, the upcoming draft provides several attractive backup plans like Senior Bowl standout and Cotton Bowl Classic MVP Rhamondre Stevenson out of Oklahoma, who could be worth looking at with one half of their third-round pair.

The modern NFL’s focus on offense makes the Jets’ ineptitude all the more shocking. It may be time to go against the trend in a more positive, refreshing way.

“When you look at the teams who are doing well, particularly late in the season, they typically have a power formation—or what I call ‘big-boy football,'” Earnest Byner, a former fullback and three-decade NFL veteran as a player and coach. told Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report in 2016. “When it comes down to it, those teams are going to get you into a box and beat you up.”

“this sets the tone for a comeback of two-back offenses. When you need him, you better have a guy who can put a helmet on the linebacker to get the runner to the second level.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags