New York Jets: What key positions are of concern after home-run offseason?

new york jets, zach wilson

With the conclusion of 2021 NFL Draft on May 1st, the New York Jets have officially completed the first major step in rebuilding their ailing franchise. Allocating their second overall pick toward one of the brightest prospects entering the league, in quarterback Zach Wilson, the Jets made grand strides in the draft to put their offense back on track with young, cornerstone players that have the ability to put this team on a path to greatness.

That being said, the Jets by no means were able to patch up all the holes they needed to offensively, despite selecting four straight offensive players with their first four picks in the draft. Coming off a season where they had the worst offense in the league and averaged a total of 15.2 points per game, the Jets did just about everything they could in the draft to address most of their key concerns, but even then, still have several spots that could use more depth and improvement.

Naturally, both the quarterback and wide receiver positions do not consist of these concerns for the Jets anymore. After drafting Wilson second overall to patch up their biggest hole at the quarterback position, the Jets decided to bolster an already stacked wide receiver unit (that consists of Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, and Denzel Mims) by drafting the impressive Ole Miss wideout in Elijah Moore with their third pick in the draft.

But with these two positions stocked full with talent, the looming question that remains is which of the other offensive positions require the most improvement for the Jets to become the dominant, playoff team they once were over a decade ago? In short, there are only three other positions to focus on. However, prioritizing does matter and needs to be taken into account if the Jets aim at taking that next big step towards becoming a winning team again. So, on that note, here are the top three positions the Jets need to improve on before the season kicks off in September:

3. Tight End: Though this is the position that requires the least amount of attention, it’s still one that could use an injection of talent. With Chris Herndon leading the pack followed by Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffin, and then Daniel Brown, the Jets have all the depth they need at the tight end position; but the overall skillset and promise from this group is still pretty low.

Brown hasn’t really seen a lot of playing time over his entire career and has been predominantly pigeonholed as a backup (ESPN). Griffin, who’s a seasoned eight-year veteran in the league, brings solid run blocking and has proven he can be a good red-zone threat for the Jets (ESPN). But with that comes half-decent route running and a slow pace that has made it difficult for him to become a reliable target. Kroft, who’s a new addition from the Buffalo Bills, does bring great hands but, then again, hasn’t been able to reproduce the same offensive success he once had in Cincinnati back in 2017 (ESPN). Lastly, there’s Herndon, who the Jets are planning to start.

Though he’s only 25 and is their most athletic tight end, Herndon hasn’t had a whole lot to show for in two full seasons and has struggled with consistency. And despite having a positive rookie campaign, Herndon hasn’t been the same since. Whether any of these players will rise to the occasion has still yet to be determined. But this mixed bag of talent and role players could use a little help. And with a variety of affordable options still available on the free-agent market, the Jets should consider acquiring another strong, tight end before the start of the season (Spotrac).

2. Running Back: Ever since the departure of Le’Veon Bell, the Jets have had no real solution when trying to fill the shoes he left behind. Despite signing Tevin Coleman over the offseason and drafting the exciting UNC prospect in Michael Carter, the Jets don’t have a great setup with their running back position. For starters, Coleman has struggled to stay healthy over his last two seasons, and there’s no guarantee that will change all that much this year. If he goes down, that leaves the Jets with Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine, and the rookie Carter.

Outside of the fact that the Jets offensive line is still a work in progress, none of these young running backs have proven they can be legitimate starters yet and bring a variety of differentiating skillsets to the table. Naturally, the Jets could rely on a committee backfield if Coleman does have any setbacks, which could prove to be pretty effective. But when you have a brand-new rookie quarterback, it just makes a huge difference to have an anchoring, consistent presence in the backfield that will allow them to establish that vital rapport with their new running back. And although Carter does have the tools to be that kind of a running back within the next two years, it’s unlikely the Jets will grant him that kind of a role this season due to his unfamiliarity with the league and their system.

When all is said and done, Carter was the long-term fix but certainly not the short-term solution at the running back position. And with the season only getting closer, the Jets should consider targeting Todd Gurley or bring in another dependable running back to strengthen this unit (Spotrac).

1. Offensive Line: Even after drafting Alijah Vera-Tucker 14th overall with their second pick, the Jets offensive line is still the biggest concern for this offense. Over the last two years, the Jets drafted two standout offensive linemen in Mekhi Becton and Vera-Tucker, really reinforcing and revitalizing the blindside of their unit. But from the center position all the way down the right side of the O-Line, the Jets still have Conor McGovern at center, Greg Van Roten at right guard and George Fant at right tackle, three O-Lineman who all started over 12 games last season but couldn’t garner much protection across the board.

Just to give you an idea, Sam Darnold was sacked a total of 35 times last year, finishing in 8th in that category despite only playing 12 games (ESPN). Furthermore, Joe Flacco was sacked an additional 7 times in the 5 games he played. And then, on top of that, outside of Darnold, Johnson, and running back Josh Adams, no one could muster a per-carry average of 4 yards or more.

In short, this offensive line is far from being where it needs to be, and the Jets have to find a way to provide much better protection. The depth is certainly there, but considering how feeble this offensive line was just a season ago that so happened to involve four of their current five starters, the Jets have some serious thinking to do and should look to go after another strong guard or tackle before the season commences (Spotrac).

New York Jets land CB Brandin Echols out of Kentucky

brandin echols, jets

The New York Jets continue to spend the back half of their draft providing weapons for Robert Saleh. Brandin Echols, a 5 foot 11, 178-pound corner from Kentucky, is the latest addition. Echols played alongside day two selection Kelvin Joseph and had success in his two seasons down south. The receiver converted to corner and began his career on the JUCO route. After being named a JUCO All American, Echols transferred to Kentucky and quickly earned a starting role.

Echols debuted in his Junior season playing 13 games and racking up 54 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1.0 sack, 9 PDs and 2 FFs. Echols caught some eyes and expectations rose going into his senior season. Up against some of the top receivers in the country, Echols held his own, and finished his season with 54 tackles, 2.0 TFLs and an INT.

Echols progressed as a corner and given he is still relatively new to the position he still can grow. He has great fluidity and excellent speedrunning a blazing 4.30 forty. He is a superb athlete who can hang with some of the burners in the league. The expectation is he and Carter Jr. will likely compete for playing time in the slot and in various packages. Echols has shown more in coverage to this point but both players are exceptional athletes.

One thing to note with Echols is that he does have the size to play outside if need be. His game may not fit there as well as Jason Pinnock, but if he can utilize his speed on the outside he could earn playing time there as well, and relatively quickly. This is another high upside swing on a defensive back as the Jets look to round out their secondary.

New York Jets snag Pittsburgh cornerback Jason Pinnock

The New York Jets continue to look to round out their defense and establish depth in the secondary. This time in the form of 6 foot, 200 plus pound corner Jason Pinnock. Pinnock was a part of a talented high school football squad where he excelled at corner but also had 1,000 plus receiving yards and 15 TDs. Pinnock committed to Boston College originally before rescinding his commitment and choosing between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. After picking Pitt, Pinnock never looked back.

Despite battling injuries early in his career, Pinnock showed flashes in his first three seasons, Pinnock still played in 21 games racking up 34 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1.0 sack, 3 INTs, 14 deflections, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. He played a bulk of his snaps as a rotational corner and on special teams for those years before taking over as a starter last season.

Pinnock put up good numbers last season with 20 tackles, 3 INTs, and 1.0 TFL. Pinnock then put on a show at his pro day with a sub 4.50 forty and impressive vertical numbers. The physical makeup is there to be a good corner, but Pinnock needs to develop his football IQ rather than rely on physical skill. If he can developmentally, he can be potential outside corner option.

Although some have wondered why the Jets waited to invest in the secondary, the reports have stated Robert Saleh wants to go after late round guys and develop them to his liking, a la K’Wuan Williams and Akello Witherspoon. If he can get half that production out of Pinnock or Carter Jr., that would be a success.

New York Jets land durable Duke safety Michael Carter

No, you’re not seeing double, the New York Jets selected Michael Carter Jr, but this one plays on the other side of the football. The Duke corner is 5 foot 9 1/2 and 186 pounds. The 4 year player at Duke did everything the right way. Carter waited in the wings, but quickly earned starting reps. His growth in his Sophomore season earned him the Willis Aldridge Award for best defensive back in the Blue Devils program. He then repeated as the winner in his junior year as well. Carter played the most snaps on the team in that season while taking reps at kick returner as well.

Carter has versatility and athleticism that will allow him to take reps at safety if needed, but more than likely slot in nicely as a corner for a team with minimal depth at the position. Carter runs a 4.30 40 yard dash and can keep up with some of the best burners at the next level. He also adds a dimension to Brant Boyer’s special teams unit given he could compete for the returner role.

Carter has had production at the defensive back position posting 41 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 2 INTs and 8 passes defended last season. He also ranked in the top 10 in the ACC in passes defended and was a third-team All-Acc recipient.

Off the gridiron Carter is exceptional as well. Continuing the trend of high character additions, Carter was team captain his senior season and well regarded by the entire Blue Devil team. He’s got maturity and leadership traits that you long for in a developmental player. Carter may earn reps early due to a lack of depth, but his potential at slot corner (a position the Jets don’t have an answer at right now) is very tantalizing.

New York Jets select shifty UNC running back Michael Carter, what to know

jets, michael carter

The New York Jets have selected RB Michael Carter from the University of North Carolina with the 107th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. After drafting QB Zach Wilson from Bringham Young University, IOL Alijah Vera Tucker, and certified weapon from Ole Miss Elijah Moore. Now, the plan to put Zach Wilson in the best position possible continues. The Jets drafted a talented back in Carter.

In High School, Carter ran for over 2,500 yards in his senior season. The explosiveness carried over to Chapel Hill as he had 3,404 yards in his time with the Tarheels. That number puts him in the record books with the fourth best total in the school’s history. His burst and athleticism is evident in all facets of his game.

Last season on the ground, he rushed for a whopping 8.0 yards per carry, which was fifth in the NCAA last season. He also had 684 yards before contact, which was fourth best in the college ranks last year. On top of that, he had 267 yards receiving and 11 total scores last season. Oh yeah, and he did this alongside fellow draft pick and now Bronco running back Javonte Williams.

His talent is apparent, and he’s an even better guy off the field. He was voted team captain, and despite the fact he and Williams could’ve been at odds competing for reps, he was happy taking whatever role possible to benefit the team. Carter projects as a top-tier change of pace back at the next level, and he will slot in with Tevin Coleman, La’Mical Perine, and Ty Johnson as the backfield committee looks set heading into the 2021-22 season. This should allow the pressure on Zach Wilson to continue to ease while providing Mike LaFleur even more weapons in his first season as Offensive Coordinator.

New York Jets ink versatile offensive lineman Corey Levin

The New York Jets have added more depth to the offensive line in the form of 26-year-old Corey Levin. Levin, a former sixth-rounder from Chattanooga, was a competent lineman for the Chattanooga squad before staying in Tennessee with the Titans. Levin now joins the Jets as a depth piece for next season.

How Does Levin Fit?

Levin has become somewhat of a journeyman in his brief career. After being waved by Tennessee, he’s found homes in Chicago, New England, and Denver all briefly. Now he finds a home in New York as a versatile depth piece moving forward.

Levin has yet to register a substantial amount of playing time in any of his last three spots, but he did dress for all 16 games his rookie year, playing snaps on special teams and rotating in at center and guard for one game.

Although there is not a lot to go off with Levin, one preseason evaluation from 2019 was encouraging as the Titan-sized site on SB Nation reported, “Offensive lineman Corey Levin was also a standout player. Levin could get some run at center this season, and he has the versatility to play elsewhere on the offensive line.” For a team that needs more bodies in the room, the addition of the young lineman is intriguing as the team fills out the roster before the draft.

New York Jets: Drafting Zach Wilson goes beyond talent

zach wilson, new york jets

Just a few days ago, the world saw BYU QB Zach Wilson produce one of the most memorable pro days in the past decade. Wilson caught the eye of so many that he’s viewed as a virtual lock to the New York Jets. Wilson’s performance may have booked him a ticket to MetLife for some, but others were less than enthused about his performance in shorts and drew comparisons to Sam Darnold’s past performances. The reality is that although Wilson is unproven, sometimes it’s better to take a shot at contention than aspire to toil in mediocrity. That shot is trading Sam Darnold and selecting Zach Wilson.

The case for trading Darnold goes beyond just the bad outweighing the good; since the day Darnold came out of USC, there has always been concern about his turnovers and decision making.

In two seasons as the quarterback for the Trojans, Darnold had 57 TDs to 22 INTs. Darnold also had a completion percentage of 64.9% in college, which is above average, but not a number that jumps off the page. For comparison, Zach Wilson had 56 TDs to 15 INTs. Not only that, but his completion percentage was over 3% greater than Darnold.

The eye-opening season that vaulted Wilson above Darnold in these categories was last season. After spending his offseason with John Beck, Wilson saw a jump from around a 64% completion percentage in his first two seasons to 73.5% last season. He also saw his interceptions drop from 9 in the season before to 3. Not to mention his pass attempts went up by over 25, his yards per attempt went up by nearly 4 yards and his touchdowns went up by an astronomical 22 touchdowns. Wilson refined his game and had a jump on par with that of Joe Burrow. Wilson’s decision-making is evidently better than Darnold’s was at this point, and there is an argument to be made Wilson has grossly exceeded where Darnold was when he came out of college.

The problem for Darnold is that his biggest issue was never talent, everyone knows he is talented. Darnold needed to see a jump in key categories like completion percentage and his touchdown to interception ratio, and it’s just not there. Darnold had a completion percentage of 59.8% throughout his three seasons to this point, along with a touchdown to interception ratio of 45 to 39. His touchdowns barely outweigh his interceptions, and his completion percentage ranked below nearly every quarterback who started a game last season. Darnold lacks confidence, and that stems from a lack of development. He doesn’t trust himself, and when he does, he tries to overcompensate with poor decisions.

It has been beaten to death how bad of a supporting cast he had, and that is true. I legitimately cannot think of a worse offensive line or wide receiver room than the Jets trotted out last season. Not to mention the utter incompetence of head coach. Darnold has not had help, and he has not seen any legitimate progression to this point. Sam Darnold is capable of making throws like Zach Wilson, and he has proven it, but Darnold has not developed, and with a new head coach, new offense, and a new future for the Jets, it may be best for parties to separate. It’s an unfortunate reality that, once again, a Jets quarterback has not worked out, but Darnold has not developed enough to earn the keys to the kingdom, and Wilson at least gives the Jets a chance to start fresh and the front office personnel a chance to take their guy.

Jets add veteran RB Tevin Coleman: How does he fit?

New York Jets potential free agency target Tevin Coleman.

The Jets have added another playmaker on the offensive side of the football. Joining La’Mical Perine, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams in the backfield next season will be Tevin Coleman. Coleman joins the team on a one-year deal worth $2 million dollars. Coleman played for the Atlanta Falcons for four seasons before inking a deal with San Francisco just two years ago. Now, Coleman, after two seasons with the 49ers, reunites with Mike LaFleur in the Big Apple.

How Does Coleman Fit?

Tevin Coleman is going on 28 years old and joins a group of young backs. Coleman has started games in the past, most notably 14 in 2018. A season where Coleman also had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 9 touchdowns. Coleman has had productive seasons in the past, and he joins an offense he has played and thrived in, in the past.

Coleman will be both a good veteran presence in a locker room of young backs by showing them how the system works, but he will also be a weapon on the field. Last season, in the Shanahan offense, Coleman was unable to get going with only 28 carries for 53 yards, totaling up only 1.9 yards per attempt.

Despite those career worsts last season, in his first season with San Fran, Coleman had 137 carries for 544 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also added 180 yards and 3 touchdowns, receiving on 21 receptions. That level of production is something the Jets hope he can get back to in this upcoming season. Ultimately, Coleman will not be a bell-cow back, but in a running back room that is relatively inexperienced, Coleman provides stability.

Not only that, but if the Jets do opt to draft another back into the fold as a bell cow, Coleman can be a great complementary back. Overall the addition is not going to be as headline-grabbing as a trade for a premier back or an attempt to sign someone along the lines of a Leonard Fournette or James Conner, but the move is a low-risk high reward add for Douglas as he looks to fill out the offense with more pieces after a disastrous 2020.

New York Jets land DE Vinny Curry: What does he bring?

The New York Jets have now added a former Super Bowl champion in former Eagles edge rusher Vinny Curry. Curry joins the Jets on a one-year, $1.3 million dollar deal. Curry garnered interest from the Jets last offseason but ultimately returned to Philadelphia, now with Robert Saleh in the fold, Curry becomes another piece for Saleh to play with on defense. So, how will the veteran rusher impact the team?

Last season, Curry put up 3.0 sacks, 3 TFLs and 10 QB Hits as a rotational edge rusher for the Eagles. In three seasons before that, Curry had a total of 10.5 sacks, 90 tackles, 20 TFLs, 37 QB Hits and a forced fumble. Although he is north of 30 (will be 33 by Week one), the New Jersey native brings productivity and experience to the edge spot as a rotational presence.

Curry has had exceptional seasons in the past with 9.0 sacks and 4+ forced turnovers just a few years ago, but if Curry can at the very least replicate what he did last season he will be an asset to the team.

The Jets will still likely need to add another edge in the draft, but it is clear Joe Douglas is not messing around with making additions to the defense. By adding Carl Lawson, Sheldon Rankins, and now Curry, the team continues to make the defensive front a point in order to built a legitimate presence heading into the Robert Saleh era.

In analyzing the way this defense is being outlined, it is already being formulated similarly to the 49ers Super Bowl front with Buckner, Bosa, Thomas and others. If the Jets can institute even a semblance of that they are on their way to success.

What are the New York Jets getting in TE Tyler Kroft?

The New York Jets have added another offensive playmaker to the fold. This time in the form of 28-year-old former Bills tight end Tyler Kroft. Kroft has been with Buffalo as part of their tight end room for the past two seasons totaling 18 receptions for 190 yards and 4 TDs. Kroft now joins the Jets, where he will likely walk into a decent-sized role.

What does this mean?

The former Rutgers product joins the green and white after two seasons in Buffalo, where he did not play as well as he did in his original home of Cincinnati. After being selected with the 85th pick in the 2015 Draft, Kroft spent four years in Cincinnati.

In that time, Kroft played some pretty good football, but his best year came in 2017, his lone year as a starter. In that season, Kroft started all 16 games putting up 42 receptions for 404 yards and 7 scores. Kroft was an animal in the red zone and provided a key threat to that Bengals offense. When given a chance to show what he can do, Kroft has shown flashes of starting-level talent.

Now, as the Jets enter a new season with a new offense and potential new quarterback, the tight end position is all the more important. The Jets will hope for a resurgence from former breakout star Chris Herndon, but they will now have Kroft in the mix to compliment him. Kroft will bring another good red zone threat into the fold while also providing some experience for Herndon to lean on. Kroft will be a nice addition for gang green as it is a one-year deal.