New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Indianapolis Colts

The New York Jets’ lone scheduled prime time game for the 2021 season comes in Thursday night fashion against Indianapolis.

The Opponent: Indianapolis Colts
The Date:
Week 8, November 4, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network (@ IND)
The Series: 
Colts lead 43-32 (last meeting: 2020, 36-7 IND)

Much like the original cast of another metropolitan staple, Saturday Night Live, the modern New York Jets could well be described as “Not Ready for Prime Time Players”.

The Jets’ only prime time game of the 2021 season (discounting a morning game against Atlanta in London) is a Thursday night contest against the Indianapolis Colts. Former division rivals will square off for the second straight season: the Jets will be seeking revenge for a 36-7 shellacking they endured at Lucas Oil Stadium, one that showed how far they had fallen since the 2018 trade that put Sam Darnold on a green path.

Both the Jets and Colts have made changes at quarterback since last season’s showdown: no trade was necessary for the Jets to choose Sam Wilson second overall in April while the Colts have opted for another veteran in Carson Wentz after Phillip Rivers’ retirement.

The Skinny On the Colts

The Colts have managed to make the most out of meandering in franchise quarterback purgatory after Andrew Luck’s infamous abrupt retirement. That’s been made possible by a reliable offensive line anchored by Quinton Nelson, one that has protected its stopgap throwers like Rivers and Jacoby Brissett. Running back Jonathan Taylor has likewise flourished, as the rookie broke through for 1,169 yards last season. A fearsome defense is headline by three-time All-Pro Darius Leonard.

Indianapolis has built its consistency through the draft, an endeavor that partly started through its fateful deal with the Jets. The picks sent to the Colts eventually yielded horseshoes for several vital contributors, including primary blockers Nelson and Braden Smith, defenders Kemoko Turay and Rock Ya-Sin. Rusher Jordan Wilkins, the final portion, has also proven to be a reliable depth option, working with Taylor, Nyheim Hines, and Marlon Mack (who missed nearly all of last season with a torn Achilles).

Eight Indianapolis starters have been acquired over the last three drafts prior to 2021. At least one more should be added to that tally with Michigan pass rusher Kwity Paye arriving at 21st overall last spring. NFL agents recently named Colts general manager Chris Ballard the best talent evaluator and in a poll conducted by Ben Standig of The Athletic. Both Ballard and head coach Frank Reich were recently granted contract extensions that will keep them in Indianapolis through the 2026 season, high honors for the first-time GM and lead headset man.

Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay was proud to keep continuity in Indianapolis in addition to the sense of consistent stability that could’ve been lost in the wake of Luck’s franchise-altering departure.

“When you bring in two people like Frank and Chris who had never been general manager-head coach before, you invest in their growth,” Irsay said, per team reporter JJ Stankevitz. “You invest in the fact they’re going to mature and become better than they were when they started…that’s what continuity does, it brings the day where you can read the growth of a person’s professional track as they grow.”

“They’re outstanding men in our community, they’re the type of men that our players can look up to and truly see as mentors where they know their feet go where their words go. That means a lot to me.”

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New In Indianapolis?

The new hope for the Colts is Wentz, who’s seeking to reclaim the narrative on his NFL career after the good times in Philadelphia fizzled out. Indianapolis was perhaps the best place for him to land: the Colts have let up only 52 sacks over the last two seasons…in comparison, Wentz was sacked 50 times alone in 2020, and he missed four games after he was benched for Jalen Hurts.

Indianapolis lost of one of its blocking staples this offseason through Anthony Costanzo. The Colts made up for the loss through the signing of Eric Fisher, Kansas City’s top overall pick from 2013, but he’ll be out for the team’s Sunday opener against Seattle (1 p.m. ET, Fox). Paulsboro, NJ native and recent signee from Houston Julien Davenport is scheduled to take over. The rest of the group is otherwise the same. Both Nelson had late foot issues that were addressed, but each is scheduled to be a full-go for Week 1.

Right guard Mark Glowinski once against spoke about how important Colts chemistry and continuity was in another report from Stankevitz. It’s exactly what Wentz needs to gain some long-sought protection and for Taylor to keep up the momentum from his freshman campaign.

“We still find ways to learn from one another and make it interesting,” Glowinski said. “We’re still able to use the same jokes and still laugh and stuff like that. It’s kind of funny being able to be together for this long but we’re just working. Like I would say every year, you’re working on the same blocks and everything. You just find another way to get better at those and you can keep developing new ways to do your job. It’s pretty cool to be able to be with all those guys for that long though.”

While Reich was made a staple on the Colts’ staff, several assistants departed, some joining former offensive coordinator and new Philadelphia boss Nick Sirianni. Quarterbacks coach and three-time CFL champion Marcus Brady takes over in Sirianni’s wake, while the Colts were able to keep defensive boss and popular head coach interviewee Matt Eberflus. The arrival of Paye partly settles pass-rushing quandary: the departures of Denico Autry and Justin Houston cost the Colts 15.5 sacks from last season.

How To Beat Them

-Corral the Pass Rush

Indianapolis’ pass rush was hit or miss even with Autry and Houston in tow. DeForest Buckner fulfilled expectations in his first season in blue while inside man Grover Stewart played his way into an expensive extension. Mekhi Becton will likely get first dibs at the legendary Leonard. The group will have to step it up in the early going, as Rutgers alum Kemoko Turay will miss Sunday’s opener.

But even with the Costanzo-sized on the offensive line, the Colts felt that needed to address the area through the selection of Paye out of Michigan. Thus, it’ll be up to the Jets’ blockers to keep sowing doubt when they meet up for their nationally televised matchup.

“Kwity pops off the tape, one, with his athleticism and his speed, but also with his effort,” Ballard said of the choice to draft Paye over a lineman, per Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. “This kid, he already plays the way we want to play. He’s going to fit in pretty quickly.”

-Wentz Turnovers Cometh

Part of the reason why Philadelphia moved on from Wentz was his increasingly troubling turnover issues: his 15 interceptions were a league-worst in 2020 and he fumbled 10 times…the latter mark was an improvement after putting 16 on the grass last season.

As with so many other areas of their horrid 2020 season, the Jets struggled to force turnovers, picking up only 19. Upping the pressure on Wentz could lead to those struggles resurfacing and the Jets have the front seven to do so, even with the oft-cited red flag of Carl Lawson forced out for the year.

This time around, Wentz’s turnover issues could be partially cast aside by the idea that the Colts have the additional weaponry to get by, namely the multi-pronged run game. The Colts were 1-3 when Taylor, Hines, and Wilkins were held to under 100 yards rushing

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three New York Jets records in danger of falling this season

michael carter, jets

The playoffs might still be a pipe dream, but several New York Jets have the potential to make history this season.

Last year’s New York Jets team made history…albeit by sinking to depths that even the cursed Rich Kotite era managed to avoid (i.e. a 13-game losing streak to open the season). This time around, the Jets have a prime opportunity to earn some more positive accomplishments thanks to a lucrative offseason that brought in several talented names and the addition of a 17th game to the traditional NFL schedule.

Which chapters of the green record book should prepare for a rewrite? ESM investigates…

Zach Wilson: Rookie Touchdown Passes (18) and Passing Yards (3,046)

Current holders: Joe Namath (1965)/Geno Smith (2013)

The Jets’ star-crossed history with quarterbacks is often apparent right from the get-go. No freshman thrower in franchise history has thrown more than 20 touchdown passes and only Smith has eclipsed 3,000 yards.

There’s a prime opportunity for Wilson, who healthily passed the aforementioned yardage plateau in his last season at BYU (3.692), to set freshman history in New York. As a whole, subpar quarterback play has been one of the many reasons why the Jets have failed to keep pace with the rest of the league: NFL passers averaged just over 240 yards a game last season (third-best tally in league history) but the Jets mustered only 194. Those same passers averaged just over 27 touchdown passes while New York could barely earn over half of that (16).

Early indications, particularly the pair of preseason games overseen by Wilson, hint that the Jets won’t hesitate to let their new franchise savior air it out. If all pans out, Wilson could realistically have these marks beat by Christmas (possibly Thanksgiving, but the kid has enough expectations placed on him as is).

Elijah Moore: Rookie Receptions (66) and Receiving Yards (844)

Current Holders: Wayne Chrebet (1995)/Keyshawn Johnson (1996) 

Injuries cost Elijah Moore a chance to create some later summer fireworks, but there’s no doubt that the Jets have big plans for him. As it stands, the Ole Miss alum is the closest thing the Jets have had to a homegrown big-play threat since Santana Moss.

Moore’s training camp showings gave off anything but rookie vibes, according to head coach Robert Saleh, indicating that he will take on a large role in the offense immediately.

“He is so deliberate in the way he goes about his business,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “He’s kind of like an old soul, he’s been here for five or six years already…When you have that ability, especially at such a young age, he’s impressive. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice, he’s a quick learner, he’s always trying to find an edge.”

“He’s set a bar for sure and we’re just excited to see him grow through the season.”

Jamison Crowder’s cloudy forecast for Sunday’s opener in Carolina (due to placement of the COVID-19 list) should only give Moore a bigger chance to make an impact in the Jets’ offense.

Michael Carer: Rookie Rushing Touchdowns (7)

Current Holder: Tony Paige (1984)

The Jets are in the midst of enjoying a bit of a rushing surplus: the team added redemption-seeking Super Bowl alum Tevin Coleman on an affordable one-year deal while effective depth men Ty Johnson and Josh Adams are back.

But many envision rookie Michael Carter eventually earning the primary rushing duties before the year lets out. Carter was chosen in the fourth round out of North Carolina and was able to contribute in both the Tar Heels’ rushing and aerial endeavors. That made him a perfect fit for new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system.

The Jets’ presumed rushing attack by committee in the early going should keep Matt Snell’s long-standing freshman yardage record (948) from 1964 safe for yet another year. But Carter has some potential in the red zone, as the scorer of 28 six-pointers during his time in Chapel Hill.

“Michael’s got great vision as a runner,” UNC head coach Mack Brown said of Carter during Senior Bowl prep in Mobile, per Eric J. Wallace of the Pensacola News Journal. “He can catch the ball, but he’s got the speed to go score and run over people.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets unveil captains for 2021 season

zach wilson, jets

Five New York Jets have earned captaincy patches for the 2021 season, including three newcomers to the fold.

The New York Jets unveiled their five new captains for the 2021 season on Wednesday, as Corey Davis, Foley Fatukasi, Justin Hardee, C.J. Mosley, and Zach Wilson will have a C stitched to their jersey. Davis and Wilson will lead the offense while Fatukasi and Mosley represent the defense. Hardee received the honor on special teams.

“The best-coached teams are the teams that coach themselves and have especially veteran leadership to step in and voice their opinions and have a thought on how they can make things better,” head coach Robert Saleh said in a statement on the Jets’ website by Randy Lange. “I think that’s always important. It’s a machine, and they’re a big, big part of it. Obviously, I would always appreciate their voice.”

What’s particularly interesting about this new crop of captains is their relative lack of experience in a New York uniform. Fatukasi accounts for 30 of the 32 games in green among them, with Mosley accounting for the lingering pair. The Jets did retain two of their captains from 2020 (keeping tackle George Fant and safety Marcus Maye) but their titles did not return.

Wilson’s inclusion, coming days before his official NFL debut, likely shows the effect and impact he has had on the New York locker room in the early going, as captains are named based on results via a player vote. The early accolade was no surprise to Saleh, however.

I think it’s more of a testament to him and the way he’s been able to conduct himself here,” Saleh said in a report from Brian Costello of the New York Post. “If you go to the cafeteria, he’s hanging out with his O linemen. He’s got an infectious personality. It’s a credit to him and the way he’s handled himself so far.”

The other captains’ lack of games in green are likely offset by their extensive playoff experience: Mosley and Davis were respective AFC playoff staples in Baltimore and Tennessee while Hardee established himself as one of the league’s best special teams coverage names during New Orleans’ recent postseason runs.

Meanwhile, Fatukasi is coming off a breakout season that saw him set new career-highs in tackles (42) and sacks (2). The fourth-year pro is reminding some of the previous defensive captain Steve McLendon, who was dealt to Tampa Bay at last year’s trade deadline.

“He’s been a tremendous friend, mentor, brother to a lot of people. I was fortunate, we were fortunate as players, as friends, to have him around. But as he would tell me, the show’s still going, you have to keep going,” Fatukasi said of McLendon in another report from Lange. “I feel pretty confident, pretty good about us,” he said. “We understand we have a lot of work to get done, we have to keep sharpening our tools. But I feel like we’re coming along, taking the right steps. You know all the guys in our room, I could list all their names, but they’re all selfless. We all care about each other so far and the amount of progress that we’ve made in such a short time knowing each other has been good.”

The Jets will open their season against one of their former captains, quarterback Sam Darnold, when they take on the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Who Ya Got Wednesday: New York Jets at Carolina Panthers

Will the New York Jets’ first game of the Robert Saleh era bring about immediate change on the scoreboard or further heartbreak?

  • What: New York Jets at Carolina Panthers
  • Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
  • When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET
  • Watch: CBS

new york jets, robert saleh

Geoff Magliocchetti

The New York Jets undoubtedly became a better team this offseason. On paper, the arsenal that the Jets have surrounded Zach Wilson with is better than anything Sunday’s aerial opponent Zach Wilson ever had. Head coach Robert Saleh was a hire praised by on-field constituents both domestically and abroad, rather than the hot-take artists.

But Jets fans must realize something, especially in the early going: Saleh and Wilson have been brought in as long-term project overseers, not miracle-workers made to bless the metropolitan area with an instant fix. The Jets’ somewhat dire 2021 outlook, one where making the playoffs remains a tall task, is more of an indictment of the Adam Gase era than anything else. It’s simply asking a lot for this team to take out several established contenders in what’s ultimately an ill-fated attempt to reach the AFC postseason bracket. That also applies against a Carolina team that wasn’t as garish as its 5-11 mark from 2020 indicated.

The powers that be, true to their nature, did little favors for Gang Green: the first game of the Saleh era comes in Carolina, where ex-Jets Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson can prey on an inexperienced Jets secondary. Carolina as a whole is looking to make a statement of sorts, one that will remind observers not to forget them as they try to make noise in a division ruled by Tom Brady until further notice. Eight of the Panthers’ 11 defeats from last year came by eight points or less. Most of those games were staged without the services of star rusher Christian McCaffrey, who is set to make his return on Sunday. Granted a home opener against a Jets team lacking defensive clarity (thanks to the inexperienced secondary and Carl Lawson’s injury), the Panthers’ offense has a prime opportunity to state its intentions for 2021.

As it stands, the Jets aren’t a team that can waltz into another team’s home and steal a momentum-shifting win. It’s very possible Saleh can mold them into such a squad by the end of the year, but asking them to do so in Week 1 is, again, a little too much to ask for at this point on the franchise timeline.

Panthers 23, Jets 17

New York Jets, Quinnen Williams

Brendan Carpenter

Who better for the New York Jets to faceoff against than the Carolina Panthers to open the 2021 NFL season?

Zach Wilson and Sam Darnold in a 1 p.m. ET matinee will surely be a sight to see. Darnold’s unit is ahead of Wilson’s in the preseason power rankings, but that could easily change Sunday. The season-opening result will rely heavily on the Jets’ defensive front. They have to pressure the quarterback because the young corners could get torn apart all game. The Panthers will be missing their starting right guard, John Miller, so Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins need to push the inside. The matchup to watch will be, without a doubt, Carolina’s blockers vs the Jets’  defensive line.

Jets 24, Panthers 20

robby anderson running a touchdown against the carolina panthers
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Dylan Price

Well, here we are Jets, the game we’ve all been looking towards since last season ended. On Sunday, the Jets fly to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers. The game holds extra weight as the team faces their demons of the past: the Panthers are coached by former Jets target Matt Rhule while Sam Darnold, Robby Anderson, and Frankie Luvu are among the former bearers of green on the current roster.

The Panthers will undoubtedly be looking to make a statement out of Gang Green and spoil the debuts of Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson. Ultimately, this game is a hard one to predict, but the Jets have a fresh start and a decent amount of momentum coming out of the preseason. I expect the team to come out fast out of the gate and to start the season strong. It’s going to be a tight game, but I think the Jets have what it takes to emerge victoriously.

Jets 27, Panthers 21

Best of the Rest 

Magliocchetti Carpenter Price
Dallas @ Tampa Bay (Thu.) Buccaneers Buccaneers Buccaneers
Arizona @ Tennessee Titans Titans Titans
Jacksonville @ Houston Jaguars Jaguars Jaguars
LA Chargers @ Washington Chargers Chargers Football Team
Minnesota @ Cincinnati Vikings Vikings Vikings
Philadelphia @ Atlanta Falcons Falcons Falcons
Pittsburgh @ Buffalo Bills Bills Bills
San Francisco @ Detroit 49ers 49ers Lions
Seattle @ Indianapolis Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks
Cleveland @ Kansas City Chiefs Browns Chiefs
Denver @ NY Giants Giants Broncos Giants
Green Bay @ New Orleans  Packers Packers Packers
Miami @ New England Patriots Dolphins Dolphins
Chicago @ LA Rams Rams Rams Rams
Baltimore @ Las Vegas (Mon.) Ravens Ravens Ravens

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Bryce Hall ready to become veteran statesman among CBs

jets, bryce hall

Bryce Hall is about to enter his second NFL season…which makes him a relic amongst New York Jets cornerbacks.

In Star Wars terminology, Bryce Hall is the NFL equivalent of a Padawan learner, an apprentice in layman’s (or people with a social life’s) terms: the fifth-round pick from Virginia has appeared in eight professional contests and is set to enter his second official season of service. The games on Hall’s infantile ledger were mostly irrelevant affairs in the grander sense of the NFL’s standings, though he made the most of the opportunity, recording 36 tackles and his first career interception.

By the New York Jets’ current cornerback standards, however, Hall is a seasoned Jedi Master.

Hall’s rapidly-gained seniority is part of the Jets’ efforts to eradicate almost every prescience of their garish two-win campaign from 2020. Of the 22 men listed in the Jets’ starting lineup from their most recent Week 1 contest (a 27-17 loss at the hands of the future AFC finalists in Buffalo that was nowhere near as close as the final scoreboard indicated), only eight are still with the team.

Cornerback Bless Austin was the latest casualty, as the Rutgers alum was surprisingly released in the aftermath of 2021’s first 53-man roster unveiling. Left behind is a hodgepodge of names who heard their names pressed into NFL service during the annual Saturday portions of the draft, be it through outright selection like Hall (158th overall) or post-Mr. Irrelevant free agency.

“I was surprised that they cut (Austin). He was working with the ones, so I didn’t have any knowledge of what was going on,” Hall said of the surprising transaction, per Peter Botte of the New York Post. “But that’s the nature of the business and you just have to keep going. You have to take it day by day and appreciate every opportunity that you get here. And the ball keeps rolling.”

Both head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas have publicly stated that the release of Austin was made to afford more snaps to the Jets’ younger defenders in the secondary: the team drafted Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, and Brandin Echols and also kept undrafted rookie Isaiah Dunn. Another undrafted invitee, Javelin Guidry, returns for his second season in New York while his comrade Lamar Jackson lingers on the practice squad.

The release of Austin made Hall the most experienced NFL veteran in the Jets’ cornerback department. Justin Hardee is technically speaking the elder statesman…the 27-year-old is entering his fifth professional season…but he’s far more renowned for his special teams endeavors.

Thus, Hall is left to lead the Jets secondary into an uncertain future: everyone’s already aware of Marcus Maye’s franchise tag situation while Maye’s veteran partner at safety, Lamarcus Joyner, is likewise inked for only a single season in green. Guidry, he of 11 games in 2020, likewise has Hall slightly beat, though he’s expected to primarily handle the slot. Austin’s vacancy next to Hall has yet to be filled on the Jets’ unofficial depth chart.

Unexpectedly thrown into the New York spotlight, Hall isn’t looking for excuses for any shortcoming the Jets might face in what could be a trying yet optimistic 2021 season. The slate begins on Sunday afternoon as the Jets face the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Carolina’s aerial attack is headlined by the former metropolitan connection of Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson and their receiving corps are further bolstered by DJ Moore and rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. Star running back Christian McCaffrey, who is set to make his return from an injury that erased most of his 2020 campaign, has proven to be an equally dangerous aerial threat.

“You grow up quick in this league,” Hall said in a report from Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “There’s no excuse, no explanation, you just got to come in here and work. I think it’s good because it’s challenging me to step up into a leadership role to grow faster. That’s what I need and that’s what I want.”

If anything, Hall’s ascension up the Jets’ tenure ledgers is a prime opportunity for him to prove that some early hype was well-earned. Entering the 2019 draft, Hall was seen by some as a first-round talent as his junior season ended in Charlottesville. He led the nation in pass breakups en route to All-American honors.

Hall’s decision to return to Virginia was brought upon by a situation remarkably similar to the quagmire the Jets find themselves in: the history of Cavalier football has often been defined by a one step forward, two steps back struggle in which they’re forced to deal with a more renowned in-state rival (Virginia Tech). Hall’s junior year antics helped UVA earn its first postseason win in 13 seasons, as the Cavaliers earned a 28-point shutout over South Carolina in the 2018 Belk Bowl. He didn’t wait long to disrupt the 2019 mock drafts, announcing his decision to return hours after the Cavs demolished the Gamecocks.

“I feel like I want to finish what I started here,” Hall said of his decision to return, per David Teel of Daily Press. “This program gave me so much, and before I leave I want to give everything I have to them. I want to develop also as a leader, and when that next phase of life comes, I want to be prepared.”

(Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

Virginia indeed took things to the next level upon Hall’s return: they won the ACC’s Coastal Division (their first such title since 1995) and topped the hated Hokies (for the first time since 2003) en route to the conference title game and an appearance in the lauded Orange Bowl.

Alas, Hall was unable to reap the spoiled of his return. As the Cavs, ranked 20th in the Associated Press poll, battled Miami in Coral Gables, Hall endured devastating injuries to both his left leg and ankle. He missed the final eight games of the season and saw his draft stock plummet. Lingering effects from the injury cost him his first professional training camp, as well as the first half of his debut campaign in green.

But the experience allowed Hall to develop skills that will help define the rest of his football career. Though Hall’s name was missing from UVA’s lineups, he remained a reliable gameday prescience. He was granted a headset for the Cavs’ home games and commandeered positional meetings as the postseason dream became more realistic.

The process also allowed Hall to find clarity in his personal life: he realized that he would marry UVA field hockey player Anzel Viljoen, who remained by his side after his devastating ailment. He successfully proposed to Viljoen shortly after the Jets called his name at the draft and the couple welcomed its first child this offseason.

“(The injury) was huge. I felt like, usually, I am a guy who leads by example, but when I got hurt all I had was my voice and all I had was the experience that I had,” Hall said, per Joey Chandler of NJ Advanced Media. “I tried my best to help out the new guys, so I definitely feel like that has helped me as a leader to relate to the guys. Especially guys who are hungry and want to receive the knowledge that I have. I think that has trickled down into this system and this opportunity.”

Thus far, a roller-coaster career has culminated in Hall leading the Jets into a season that’s expected to be defined by development. Two of his most important football seasons have been gnawed at by circumstances beyond his control. But in a tumultuous time for unproven leftovers on the New York Jets timeline, Hall has made himself essential and figures to be one of the pillars supporting the team’s quest to make it back to the NFL’s playoff conversation.

Simply put…The Force is strong with this one.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Cincinnati Bengals

joe burrow, bengals

Star-crossed franchises do battle on Halloween, as the New York Jets welcome Joe Burrow and the Bengals to East Rutherford.

The Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals
The Date: Week 7 (Sunday, October 31), 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NYJ)
The Series: Jets lead 17-10 (last meeting: 2019, 22-6 CIN)

The New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals are living up to their respective reputations as two of the NFL’s scariest franchises in the modern standings. Entering the 2021 season, the teams are the owners of the longest playoff droughts in football. New York has a sizable margin at ten years, while the Bengals are at five seasons alongside the Cardinals and Broncos. Cincinnati is also nursing the longest active streaks between conference title game appearances (32 years) and playoff victories (30).

It’s thus only appropriate that these doomed squads go head-to-head on Halloween.

If anything, these franchises whose respective timelines have been dominated with tricks appear to have a pair of treats working with them under center. Cincinnati is set to welcome back Joe Burrow, the top pick of the virtual draft in 2020, while the Jets are set to counter with Zach Wilson, the second overall pick from the most recent selections.

The Skinny On the Bengals

The Bengals’ rebuild has entered the stage where they’re eradicating the remnants of the closest thing Queen City has had to professional football glory days since a rare Super Bowl appearance a majority of their fanbase has only seen on YouTube.

Andy Dalton, Andrew Whitworth, Rey Maulaga, and Domata Peko had already vanished. More Cincinnati jerseys became outdated this offseason, as the team bid farewell to Geno Atkins, A.J. Green, Gio Bernard, and Carlos Dunlap. Only tight C.J. Uzomah is left over from the Bengals’ last playoff trip, 2016’s meltdown at Paul Brown (Stadium).

The operation is being overseen by head coach Zac Taylor, who is entering the all-important third year at the helm. Cincinnati is a historically patient franchise: Taylor is only the 10th man to wear the headset for the franchise in their five-plus decades and his predecessor lasted 16 years in the spot without a single playoff victory.

Cincinnati’s fortunes were expected to be reversed by the arrival of Burrow. The standings left much to be desired…the Bengals won twice in Burrow’s ten starts…but reached heights unscaled by not only Cincinnati quarterbacks but legends of the entire league. Burrow became the first NFL freshman to throw for 300 yards in three consecutive games as well as the first to tally 400 passing yards, three passing scores, and a rushing six-pointer in a single contest.

This being the Bengals, however, the good times weren’t made to last. Burrow suffered a devastating injury during a November loss in Washington and was forced into an extensive rehab. Time will tell if Burrow returns to his dominant form that earned him the Heisman and a national title at LSU. But he found ways to turn his rehab process into a building block for his potentially game-changing career. The procedure, he believes, afforded him a chance to fix some of the flaws that perhaps hid beneath the glitz and glamour of his football career to date.

“With my knee, it felt the same. But I tweak my throwing motion every offseason and tweak my base. It was actually kind of beneficial for me, because I really started from the beginning and was able to refine some things that needed refining,” Burrow told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer about his offseason. “I’d like to be more explosive. And I think I was really good in quick-game situations. On fourth down, we were really good. Empty, we were really good. But we need to be more explosive with play-action passes. All of our downfield passing needs to improve.”

In addition to losing Burrow, the Bengals also lost top rusher Joe Mixon to a foot injury. The next generation of Cincinnati weaponry has presented itself through Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, who united for 1,749 yards and 10 scores last season.

What’s New In Cincinnati? 

In addition to the high-profile arrival of receiver Ja’Marr Chase (chosen fifth in April), the Bengals had to spend their offseason accounting for the loss of several defensive starters, including pressure artist and Jet-to-be Carl Lawson…who, alas, will not partake in the reunion with Cincinnati due to injury.

Cincinnati signed Trey Hendrickson after a breakthrough season in New Orleans in the hopes of replacing Lawson’s pressure production. A revamped secondary welcomes depth options Ricardo Allen, Eli Apple, Chidobe Awuzie, and Mike Hilton, while Trae Waynes is a de facto newcomer after a pectoral injury cost him the entire 2020 season.

The Bengals’ revamped top defense looked good in the “take-it-with-a-grain-of-salt” summer sessions, allowing no points in two contests. Hendrickson was enthused by what he learned from defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, who prides versatility in his front seven.

“It’s looking very unique of anything I’ve ever played before,” Hendrickson said of the defense to Ben Baby of ESPN after his first practices with the team in June. “I think it’s playing to both the defense and what I can bring to the table.”

How to Beat Them

-Make Them Pray for Penei

One of the most shocking twists of the draft was the Bengals’ curious decision to leave accomplished Oregon blocker Penei Sewell on the board in favor of Chase, one of Burrow’s favorite targets during the Tigers’ national championship run.

There’s no doubt that Chase has the potential to be an elite, big-play talent and that his victorious chemistry with Burrow could come up big as the team tries to drag back to mere football relevancy. But the Bengals learned the hard way that they need to find further protection for Burrow. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to pounce (pun intended) on the draft’s most powerful blocker, especially with one with experience on the blindside? Even when taking his season-ending injury into account, Burrow was still tied for ninth in sacks allowed.

The Bengals partly made up for passing on Sewell with the signing of Riley Reiff (who replaces the ineffective former Giant Bobby Hart) but the left side is guarded by tackle Jonah Williams and guard Quinton Spain. Williams is a first-round pick from 2019 that has had trouble staying healthy while Spain takes on larger duties after losing a competition against Cody Ford and Brian Winters in Buffalo.

The Jets won’t have the services of Lawson but it’s going to be crucial to attack Burrow’s blindside and make the Bengals regret their fateful decision. It’ll be a particularly big chance for those lining up on the outside, ready to attack the already vulnerable Bengal backfield.

carl lawson, new york jets

-Do It For Carl

One of the Lawson-centric metrics Jets fans are probably sick of…or can’t get enough of…seeing is the fact that Lawson was one of only 11 defenders to reach double-figures (10.5) in the “Sacks Created” advanced category. That number becomes downright jaw-dropping when a look at the defensive rankings reveals that the Bengals earned a mere 17 sacks last season…the worst output in the league.

There would be, perhaps, no better tribute to Lawson than to make the Bengals realize just how much they miss Lawson. That’ll come down to the offensive line working against Cincinnati’s adjusted pass rush. The Bengals also drafted Texas’ Joseph Ossai in the third round (29 tackles over the last two seasons), but he’s starting the season on injured reserve and could be out the whole year. Much like the Bengals will look to take advantage of the Jets’ fledgling, developing secondary, the Jets must take advantage of a Queen City pass rush searching for clarity and momentum.

If anyone knows just how deadly a Cincinnati pass rush attack can be. In their last get-together in November 2019…when the Jets fell to an 0-11 Bengals squad…Sam Darnold was sacked four times and knocked down nine more: six times alone by Dunlap and one further time by Lawson himself. The Bengals’ visit with a new quarterback to protect is a big chance to show how far they’ve come.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

5 New York Jets who could make the leap into the NFL Top 100

new york jets, zach wilson

Corey Davis, an active New York Jet, appeared in NFL Network’s annual late-summer rankings. Who’s on pace to join him?

As a team struggling to gain traction and stability on the national football scene, the New York Jets will take any form of visible signs of improvement and stability. NFL Network’s annual countdown of the best 100 players from the prior season provided some welcome advancement.

In the annual rankings hosted by the network and determined by the league’s players, Jets receiver Corey Davis came home 91st. Last year’s postings, annually released in late August, featured no active Jets; their lone representative (safety Jamal Adams) had been traded to the Seattle Seahawks by the time the rankings were unveiled.

Who could potentially earn the respect of their peers next to Davis in 2022’s list? ESM investigates…

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

OT Mekhi Becton

One of Joe Douglas’ most fateful moves to date has been the choosing of Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall selection of his first draft. The selection was called controversial at the time…the Jets left several elite receiving prospects on the board…but Becton has provided a solid foundation and has become a reliable anchor for an offensive wall set to protect treasured skill players.

The lack of conventional, numerical statistics makes it hard for offensive linemen to leave their mark in the Top 100. This year’s list featured only a dozen blocking representatives, the highest being Indianapolis guard Quinton Nelson at No. 33. But the arrival of Becton could commence a green offensive resolution in New York, even if his contributions won’t appear in the box score. Such contributions cannot and should not go unnoticed.

(Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

S Marcus Maye

In the midst of metropolitan chaos, Maye emerged as a leader in the secondary and, at the very least made sure the Jets made regular appearances in SportsCenter‘s Top 10. His efforts were rewarded with the Team MVP award named after Curtis Martin.

Maye, however, is still left with something to prove enter the 2021 season: a long-term contract was not to be, a franchise tag bestowed in its place. At only 28, Maye is an elder statesman in New York circles as the longest-tenured Jet entering his fifth season). He looks downright ancient in the secondary after the Jets’ recent transactions bid farewell to third-year man Bless Austin in an effort to highlight rookie selections. If Maye can succeed in a larger role, he can earn not only the expensive, lengthy contract he desires but a spot amongst the Top 100 as well.

elijah moore, jets

WR Elijah Moore

Could Moore join his fellow New York newcomer Davis in the Top 100? It’s certainly possible if he lives up to the hype that followed him from Mississippi.

It’s been a long time since the Jets had a consistent, lasting, homegrown, big-play threat. In fact, there haven’t been many efforts in finding one: at 34th overall, Moore was the highest receiver who heard his name called by the Jets since Santana Moss went 16th in 2001’s opening round.

Moore is expected to become one of the biggest faces of the Jets’ offensive makeover. He already has an Offensive Rookie of the Year vote from former collegiate teammate A.J. Brown. The Tennessee Titans star appeared in the 62nd slot in the most recent list.

“I (saw) him working out, I know what he wanted to do. I know the dreams he has. He’s going to go crazy this year with the Jets,” Brown said in an appearance on the Raw Room podcast earlier this summer. “He’s a real sleeper. I would put my money on him for Offensive Rookie of the Year over anybody. I ain’t even discrediting the guys who went in front of him, but yeah, ain’t nobody messing with him … Nobody that came out (of the draft is) messing with him.”

New York Jets, Quinnen Williams

DT Quinnen Williams

Carl Lawson would’ve been a prime candidate to appear on 2022’s Top 100 list, but the football gods had other plans. The deities of the gridiron continued to toy with the Jets’ front seven after Lawson was lost for the season, likewise taking away Vinny Curry for the whole year and Jarrad Davis for the five-week slate prior to the Jets’ open date.

Thus, Williams has a prime opportunity to put the “V” in MVP, as he’ll take on a leadership role while the Jets’ defenders try to tread water. The third overall pick of the 2019 draft enjoyed a breakthrough season with a team-best seven sacks last season. If the Jets’ defense is able to hold opposing offenses in check while Lawson heals, it’ll no doubt come with a healthy dose of Williams’ antics.

Williams remembered a special source of inspiration toward his sense of leadership going into the 2021 season: late NBA star Kobe Bryant.

“The No. 1 thing he told me: Nobody’s going to follow someone who’s not doing their job,” Williams told team reporter Jack Bell in March. “And that was the main thing that stuck with me. You got to set in stone that you’re a dominant player first. You got to go in there and take over and make sure everybody knows like whenever Q says something or whenever this person says something, they’re going to automatically follow because they see you doing the right thing, they see you doing everything first.”

zach wilson, jets

QB Zach Wilson

If one were ranking a Top 100 players of the 2021 NFL preseason, one would undoubtedly have to consider two crucial factors: first, seek help, because you’re ranking 100 players from the NFL preseason. But if you were to continue such a fruitless endeavor, Wilson would undoubtedly appear in the top ten, maybe even the first three or five slots.

The indifference and irrelevance bestowed toward preseason statistics notwithstanding, it’s hard not to at least be excited over Wilson after his summer slate. New York scored on four of Wilson’s six preseason possessions (all but one of which ended in opposing territory) and his passer rating of 137.7 would’ve led all passers had he partaken in the final exhibition game against Philadelphia.

We’ve seen first-year quarterbacks immediately launch themselves into the players’ Top 100 through awe-inspiring freshman showings. Chargers selection Justin Herbert (No. 56) was the revered rookie this time around, following in the footsteps of recent entries Baker Mayfield (2019), Dak Prescott (2017), and Robert Griffin III (2013).

Perhaps unfairly, the Jets’ long-awaited turnaround is going to be judged by the performance of Wilson, the latest entry to the team’s everlasting audition to replace Joe Namath. Even with the undeniable improvements from the rock-bottom endeavors of 2020, making the playoffs is going to be a tall task for Gang Green. If Wilson starts his career on the right note, his peers must take notice.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four skill player final cuts for the New York Jets to consider

New York Jets

The New York Jets continue to tinker with their roster after setting their original 53. Who could they target amongst the recent departees?

The New York Jets’ unveiling of their 53-man roster has been anything but final.

Joe Douglas and Co. have continued to tinker with the Jets roster as their Sept. 12 opener against the Carolina Panthers looms. New York wasted little time in attacking the waiver wire, primarily focusing on defensive replacements in the wake of several medical absences. Tim Ward came over from Kansas City on the line in hopes of replacing some of Carl Lawson and Vinny Curry’s production. Meanwhile linebacker Quincy Williams joins his brother Quinnen after two seasons in Jacksonville and can hold down the interior linebacker spot while Jarrad Davis heals. Reports have also linked the Jets to former Cleveland safety Sheldrick Redwine, though no official announcement has been made.

The active nature of Jets management suggests the team isn’t done making moves, even as the countdown to Carolina reaches single digits. ESM has compiled a list of final cuts from elsewhere that would improve the Jets’ immediate fortunes in the skill positions for the better. Some have been claimed for practice squads, but are eligible to be added to an active roster.

QB: Garrett Gilbert, Dallas

Gilbert enjoyed a lucrative run as the quarterback for the Orlando Apollos, the class of the short-lived Alliance of American Football. The Buffalo native played his AAF success into backup gigs with Cleveland and Dallas, performing respectably in a single start with the Cowboys while filling in for Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton last season. Dallas opted to go with Cooper Rush and waiver wire addition Will Grier as the backup for Prescott’s return. Gilbert has since been signed to the New England Patriots’ practice squad, where he and Brian Hoyer are the prime candidates to backup Mac Jones.

The Jets’ backup situation has been the subject of much scrutiny: the team opted to go with Mike White (he of a passable preseason but zero NFL regular season pass attempts) as their primary name behind Zach Wilson while keeping the well-traveled Josh Johnson amongst their own practice corps. Obviously, the Jets hope no backup will be necessary this year. Robert Saleh has made it clear that the team wasn’t going to add a veteran backup for the sake of having one on the roster with Wilson. But the Jets should no better than anybody about the importance of a reliable name in the second slot: no green quarterback has started a full season’s worth of games since Ryan Fitzpatrick went all 16 in 2015. Gilbert would a great addition that could fill in in case of a Wilson emergency.

alfred morris, new york giants

RB: Alfred Morris, NY Giants

Frankly, the Jets are very well equipped in their run game and might be better off exploring a trade involving their rushing surplus. Rookie Michael Carter is obviously off-limits but offering Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, or La’Mical Perine to a team in need of rushing (i.e. Jacksonville and/or Baltimore after respectively losing Travis Etienne and J.K. Dobbins to season-ending injuries) is an endeavor worth investigating.

If the Jets were to scour the rushing help from elsewhere, however, Morris (a bit of an early cut, as he was part of the Giants’ initial departures) would a strong candidate to help solve their woes in short-yardage situations. The veteran and three-time 1,000-yard rusher proved to still have some NFL mettle last season, averaging 4.3 yards per carry with the Giants (second-best on the team behind Wayne Gallman). New York has tried to address its short rushing game. One such step includes the continuation of the fullback experiment with tight end Trevon Wesco. If they want to go a more traditional route, Morris would be the best option from abroad.

WR: Keke Coutee, Houston

True to their nature, the football gods have thrown another wrench into the Jets’ best-laid opening day plans: reports from this week indicate that Jamison Crowder has tested positive for COVID-19 in an isolated case. Crowder has been the Jets’ most potent and consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons and has established himself as one of the most reliable slot targets in the league.

On the current roster, this seems like a big opportunity for rookie Elijah Moore to make a name for himself. But if the Jets want to add someone with a little more experience in the short term, Coutee would be the way to go. The experienced slot man was part of Houston’s final cuts but was quickly added to the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad.

A fourth-round selection in 2018, Coutee had a roller-coaster career with the Texans but was capable of athletic plays (including offensive trickery) and making himself open. Coutee’s catch rate of 82.5 percent (33 receptions on 40 targets) was good for ninth in the league amongst qualified receivers.

TE: Richard Rodgers, Philadelphia

The Jets have granted TE1 duties to Tyler Kroft, solidifying the move by trading Chris Herndon to Minnesota. Formerly of Piscataway, Kroft has been a reliable red zone option in Cincinnati and Buffalo but it’s been a while since he held full-time primary tight end duties. Kroft and Wesco were the only tight ends kept amongst the original 53, but the Jets later re-added Daniel Brown and Ryan Griffin.

Speculation has surrounded one tight end from the City of Brotherly Love, as some have implored the Jets to trade for Zach Ertz. Those rumors have been quelled by Ertz himself (who insisted he wishes to retire in Philadelphia) But the Eagles also released a reliable veteran target, one capable of making big plays and is used to an expanded role in the starting lineup.

Rodgers previously worked with another Rodgers…the unrelated Aaron. In fact, Richard (no relation) is the recipient of one of Aaron’s most famous touchdowns (seen above). His career sputtered with consecutive years on injured reserve, but he filled serviceably when both Ertz and Dallas Goedert went down. During a three-game stretch in November (two starts), Rodgers tallied 161 on nine receptions, two of which went for touchdowns (his first since the 2017 season).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder tests positive for COVID-19 (Report)

Crowder’s status for the New York Jets’ opener on Sept. 12 in Carolina likely comes down to his vaccination status.

Per Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, New York Jets receiver Jamison Crowder has tested positive for COVID-19.

Crowder, set to enter his third season in green, had not appeared in any practices this week. Head coach Robert Saleh said he was dealing with a groin issue and was labeled day-to-day, per notes from the Jets. The Jets reportedly believed that Crowder’s diagnosis is an isolated incident.

With just over a week before the Jets’ season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 12 (1 p.m. ET, CBS), Crowder’s kickoff weekend status will come down to his vaccination status. NFL health policies introduced this season have incentivized vaccinations. If an unvaccinated player tests positive, they must sit out a minimum of 10 days before return to the team. Vaccinated players, on the other hand, can be welcomed back to team activities with two negative tests in a 24-hour span.

Crowder is the Jets’ top returning receiver and has likely been the team’s most consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons (137 receptions, 1,512 yards, 12 touchdowns). Formerly of Washington, Crowder restructured the final season of a three-year deal inked in 2019 this summer. It’s an adjustment that sliced his $10 million base salary in half but now centers on guaranteed money ($4.5 million).

The Duke alum played sparingly in the preseason, earning only a single four-yard reception. He is nonetheless expected to reprise his role in the slot alongside a revamped New York receiving corps. The Jets welcomed in Corey Davis and Keelan Cole through free agency and drafted Elijah Moore in the second round of April’s draft. Crowder is joined by fellow active roster returnees Denzel Mims and Braxton Berrios.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets’ surprise departures send an intriguing message

The New York Jets may have nothing to lose in 2021, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to hold their players accountable.

The start of September is a time to confront some uncomfortable truths, many often centered around regrets from the dying summer.

That’s hasn’t been the problem for the New York Jets; they have accomplished a lot over the past three months, as they’ve won the faith of their long-suffering fanbase back through a busy offseason and respectable preseason showings. But a harsh reality lingers: the only reason the Jets will be playing deeper into January is the mere extension of the NFL’s regular season to 17 games.

Gang Green’s dire immediate forecast isn’t an indictment of general manager Joe Douglas’ time at the helm (even if his first draft looks a little iffy with Jabari Zuniga and James Morgan already gone). It’s rather living proof of just how far the last days of Mike Maccagnan’s oversight and Adam Gase’s doomed two-year tenure set the team back in an AFC landscape packed with worthy, established contenders…one of whom resides in their own division and the state represented in the New York Jets moniker.

But that shouldn’t preclude the Jets from embarking on a year of maturation, 18 weeks of de facto field research and development of its current roster. Barring a winless disaster, this season is going to be an improvement over last year’s two-win horror show. There are opportunities to grow and evolve on the football field. If they manage to shock the football world and pick up an upset win or two along the way (i.e. the matchups against the indirectly aforementioned Buffalo Bills), even better.

Frankly, it’s not much different from the Jets’ 2020 outlook. But Douglas and his front office compatriots have set them up in a far more desireable situation. The hire of head Robert Saleh has been unanimously appreciated in both domestic and abroad circles, in contrast to Gase’s arrival cheered only by the hot take artists. In the best-case scenario, Sam Darnold’s eventual final season as the Jets’ franchise quarterback was equipped with first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman), New England antiques (Chris Hogan), and undrafted journeymen with rushing relics of football past behind him (Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore). Douglas’ offseason negotiations have situated Zach Wilson with valuable weaponry that doubled as playoff staples in recent postseasons (Corey Davis, Tevin Coleman, Tyler Kroft). Each team was/is macabrely blessed with a sense of having nothing to lose in the immediate future, but there’s a clear difference between the Jets’ two most preseason auras.

jets, bless austin

But that doesn’t mean that the Jets are going to sit idly by while this season plays out. The team’s most recent departures serve as a warning that just because there’s nothing to lose, it doesn’t mean that players won’t be held accountable for their on-field output…or lack thereof.

This week’s initial reveal of 53-man rosters has been no roadblock for the Jets’ continued insistence on tinkering their lineup as the countdown to Sept. 12’s opener in Carolina (1 p.m. ET, CBS) enters single digits. New York has continued to try and fill the Carl Lawson-sized hole created by the injury bug, signing waiver wire defenders Tim Ward and Quincy Williams (ex-Cleveland safety Sheldrick Redwine doesn’t appear to be far behind). They’re replacing some familiar faces, rare remnants of the Maccagnan era. Those leftovers are vanishing from the Jets’ ledgers faster and in higher volume than Thanos and his army after Tony Stark’s sacrifice.

The most prominent of the departures have been two recent staples at the top of the Jets’ depth chart: tight end Chris Herndon was dealt to Minnesota during the purge down to 53 men while cornerback Bless Austin was outright released. Austin had been penciled in as the Jets’ starting cornerback for months while Herndon was one of the closest things the Jets had to a staple: only two players (Marcus Maye and Thomas Hennessy) had longer green metropolitan tenures than Herndon, who was set to enter his fourth year with the team.

New York Jets, Chris Herndon
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

At first glance, the 2021 Jets provided the perfect environment for Herndon and Austin to work through. A team with nothing to lose could’ve granted the young veterans a chance to gain some football clarity and reclaim the narrative on their professional careers. Each had shown flashes of NFL brilliance before: Herndon is just three years removed from being one of the NFL’s most illustrious rookie receivers (11th overall with 502 yards and leading all freshman tight ends with 39 receptions) and Austin developed a reputation as a strong hitter, fighting his way back from injuries at Rutgers into a starting opportunity in an NFL lineup.

But the Jets have once again made it clear that, in writing their own story of redemption, they don’t have the time or effort to co-author anyone else’s. There are some low-profile exceptions (i.e. late arrival Shaq Lawson) but the team is making it clear that if a player isn’t contributing toward the pavement of the path back to gridiron redemption, they don’t have a place in New York.

Herndon’s previous heroics, overshadowed by injuries, a suspension, and general inconsistency, held no value in the Jets’ current plans. Austin seemed born to succeed as a metropolitan difference-maker as a Queens native and Rutgers alum. Such a cinematic set-up went by the wayside.

It’s also not like the Jets have replacement readily available in Herndon and Austin’s respective roles. Kroft has been a reliable red zone prescience (which the Jets learned the easy way this preseason) but hasn’t TE1 duties since 2017. The Jets’ official cornerback depth chart, as of press time, literally has a blank space where Austin’s name once stood. Draft weekend Saturday arrivals Brandin Echols (6th round) and Isaiah Dunn (undrafted) sit behind it.

Both Douglas and Saleh expressed gratitude toward Herndon and Austin. Per notes from the Jets, Douglas said Minnesota aggressively sought a tight end after losing Irv Smith for the year while each concurred that they wanted some of their younger defenders to take on bigger responsibilities. But these departures offering a lingering sense that no New York veteran is safe. Sure, there might be some exceptions…it’s highly unlikely that they’ll give up on, say, Corey Davis, after a single season. But letting go of two key pieces less than two weeks before kickoff weekend is an interesting, if not necessary, method of starting a new era.

The 2021 New York Jets serve as a football laboratory whose experiments could change the pigskin world. They’re in a classic spot where they don’t have anything, so there’s nothing to lose. But the farewells of Herndon and Austin prove, for the betterment of the team, that that’s only going to apply from an organizational standpoint.

They’ve tried everything else. What’s one more trip to the drawing board?

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags